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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

July/August 2014
Tammuz/Av/Elul 5774

The History of the Jews in Bath
Sunshine Committee
Beth Israel Annual Meeting
Parting Words and Wishes
Stained Glass Windows Mark Ten Years
News from the Hebrew School
Birthdays and Anniversaries

NOTE: It is our policy that no personal telephone numbers, email addresses or mailing addresses be contained in the web version of our newsletter. If you need to get in touch with one of our members please email us at

The History of the Jews in Bath

by Marilyn Weinberg

Sunday, July 20
10:30 a.m. reception
11:00 a.m. "Stories of Bath" presentation
Beth Israel Synagogue

Set aside July 20 for a very special presentation of the Jewish History of Bath. There will be fascinating stories and information about the Jews who settled in Bath from the late 19th century to 1960. How did our synagogue begin? What role did all these people play in our community? Don't miss it. Feel free to invite friends and family.

In addition to a series of informational panels about Bath, additional panels from the Jewish museum in Portland will be on display.

Sunshine Committee

by Lenore Friedland

We are in the process of forming a Sunshine Committee. This entails a phone tree of people willing to lend a hand to someone in our synagogue at a time of need. It might involve dropping off a meal to someone who is not well or recuperating from surgery, or helping someone who may need a ride to a doctor, etc. There are so many people in our synagogue who already do this when we know of someone in need. All of us on the Chai committee have already joined the list, but we need more. In order to do this, we also need to hear from those who need the help. So, if you are willing to join our list and do a mitzvah once in a while or you are in need of receiving one or know of someone who might need some help, please let us know.

Beth Israel Annual Meeting

by Marilyn Weinberg

Twenty-six Beth Israel members gathered at the synagogue on Sunday, June 15 for our annual congregational meeting. We started with a hearty brunch, prepared by our board, and followed with a d'var Torah by Cantor Daniel Leeman.

Robert Gersh presented the annual budget. It was his last duty as treasurer. Ed Benedikt will be taking on this challenging job immediately. Many thanks were given to Robert for the excellent job he has done over the last four years.

Barbara Leeman reported on the activities of the religious school over the last year and Lenore Friedland reported on the activities of the Chai committee.

New members were then elected to the board. Retiring this year were Maurie Libner, Lee Leiner, Robert Lenox and Denise Tepler. Newly elected to the board were Marilyn Weinberg, Lenore Friedland, Rachel Connelly and Sharon Drake. Andy Haggler was elected to his second 3-year term. Appreciation was expressed for all departing members with special thanks to Lee Leiner for his work on the building committee and Maurie Libner for the time and hard work he has put in as president of the board for the last two years.

The meeting then turned to the proposal for a strategic planning initiative. Denise Tepler and Gary Stern made a presentation on the process and benefits of the plan and this was followed by a series of questions for him. Gary Stern left the meeting, and a robust discussion ensued. When it was time to end, it was unanimously decided to give the Board authority to enter into a contract with him to proceed with his proposal, provided that the Board first undertake a due diligence review of his strategic planning work for three other Jewish congregations. There will be more to follow in upcoming newsletters.

Parting Words and Wishes

by Maurice Libner

Moses got to stand on top of Mount Nebo and look into the Promised Land before he died; he gave the children of Israel a long lecture summarizing their history (Deuteronomy) before climbing that mountain. Since my Hebrew name is Moses, I feel justified in leaving you with the following more succinct reflections, in line with the example of my namesake.

I am not sure at this point when I began serving on the board of directors for our congregation. It seems like it was at least ten years ago; probably it was less. I served two full three-year terms, and then I served two one-year terms as presidentI think. I first agreed to serve on our board in response to Ed Benedikt's invitation. Ed was leaving the board at that time. He didn't know me, but saw that I attended an annual meeting and I think that was enough for him to pounce. The first meeting I can remember attending was a potluck dinner (which I probably contributed little to) on Janice Povich's screen porch, in August. The weather was lovely. I can't remember anything else, except that I barely knew any of the other board members, most of whom were the long time female stalwarts who keep our shul running: Marilyn Weinberg, Peggy Brown, Lenore Friedland, Janice Povich, and Rea Turet. Ah yes, Irwin Brodsky and Stan Lane! I would get to know them a little bit better over the course of the next couple years. Eventually, their terms expired, they departed to serve on the Chai Committee or in other ways, and I was left to get to know and work with new board members: Andy Hagler, Robert Gersh, Monica Blatt, Lynn Frank, Lee Leiner, Bob Lenox and many others.

Over the years, we dealt with recurring issues such as leaky roofs, high heating bills, faulty alarm systems, irritated congregants, personnel matters, contracts, budgets, investments, the content of religious services, ideas to drum up new members, ideas to retain existing members, and always, how to collect more revenue. For most of the time I served on the board, I found myself learning more than I was able to contribute: learning about the personalities that make up our fascinating community, the issues that matter to us, and how decisions are made by the board. I learned how much a small organization like Beth Israel disproportionately depends on a small nucleus of committed employees and volunteers for its effectiveness and continued existence.

It is a truism that people usually only notice something happening when stuff goes wrong. The continued smooth daily functioning of Beth Israel Congregation, the religious school, religious services, the holiday festivities, the life cycle events, and special social events sometimes seem to create a few good memories that linger briefly, then flicker and disappear. In contrast, an angry parent or disgruntled congregant too often will harbor a petty grievance or a perceived slight in perpetuity. Most of us who have to deal with similar trials and tribulations feel life is too short to be overly concerned about such matters; I would suggest that some folks just learn to "get over it"; no one is perfect.

I leave the Board without knowing who its new leaders will be, but confident that the experienced voices sitting around the table will do a fine job, and probably improve upon what we tried to accomplish in recent years. I would encourage them to get to know and trust one another, and to listen more than talk, which is not always easy. In closing, I appreciate the honor of serving as a board member and past president, and I look forward to seeing what changes the coming years will bring.

Stained Glass Windows Mark Ten Years

by Barbara Leeman

In honor of ten years of faithful service by Cantor Daniel Leeman to Beth Israel Congregation, a donation was made to commission an artist to create stained glass windows for the front of the Minnie Brown Center. These windows have been installed, and were dedicated at the annual meeting. The designs and windows were a year in the making, and were beautifully created by Jeffrey Duncan of Topsham. The three designs represent three different Torah portions in the Bible: Shelach Lecha, Chayei Sarah, and Behaalotcha.

In Shelach Lecha Gd commanded the Hebrews to wear tzitzit, fringes, on the corners of their clothes. Each tzitzit would include a string of t'chelet, the royal purple-blue color (like the stripes on the flag of the modern-day State of Israel). The tzitzit were to serve as a reminder to observe all the commandments and to be holy to Gd. The midrash illustrates this with a story: A person is thrown from a boat into the sea. The captain stretches out a rope and tells him to take firm hold of it, for his life depends on it. The rope is like the tzitzit, and the captain is like Gd. The tzitzit provide a lifeline.

During the search for a suitable wife in Chayei Sarah, Rebecca was found. Eliezer had prayed to Gd to make his job successful. He traveled to the City of Nahor. He waited outside the gates, at the well, and waited for the young women to come with their water buckets. He decided the best characteristics of generosity, kindness and compassion would be if a young woman offered him water, and also offered water to all his camels. The very first young woman that Eliezer found, did exactly what he was hoping and praying for. She was someone who was clearly kind to strangers. That young woman was Rebecca.

The Menorah is one of the most familiar symbols in Judaism. In fact, the seven-branched Menorah, together with the olive branches is the seal of the modern State of Israel. At the beginning of Behaalotcha, Aaron was lighting the Menorah. Some may think this was a simple task beneath the honor of the Kohen Gadol, or High Priest. Aaron took this task to heart and did it lovingly. According to the Vilna Gaon, Aaron went to the Tabernacle faithfully day after day, year after year, and lit the Menorah. Aaron's spirit and loving attitude about doing this simple task each day, never changed. This was not true for those in the desert who questioned G-d's authority by wanting to return to Egypt. This parasha has the famous quote "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit". It shows that as Aaron observed the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah with a full heart, so should we do good things with love and care so that by our spirit we will create a better world.

The three Torah portions of Shelach Lecha, Chayei Sarah, and Behaalotcha have special meaning to Cantor Leeman as they were the Torah portions that each of his three children recited at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

There are additional half circle windows all around the social hall in the Minnie Brown center. All are available for others to commission. Please contact Barbara Leeman at: for more information.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Our school is currently small, but we are proud of what each of our students is learning and accomplishing. As we finish this school year, we send three more students off to begin individual study toward their Bat Mitzvah. These three were barely walking when we moved to Bath. Time marches on. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please consider sending those along to:

Shabbat Service Featuring Our Graduates

On May 23, Julia Pols, Abigail Sreden and Zoe Sreden led the younger students and the congregation by creating their own Shabbat service from many of the prayers that they studied over the last several years of Hebrew school. They made commentaries on different prayers, and gave thanks for the many years of learning.

We enjoyed a delicious Shabbat meal prior to the service, with traditional candle lighting, hand washing, Motzi (blessing over the bread) and Zmirot (Shabbat melodies). Our teachers Alina Shumsky, Marina Singer, Susan Horowitz and Cantor Daniel worked diligently with our students to prepare them. Mazel Tov to all our students, but especially to our graduates!


The kids have been bringing in Tzedakah coins and dollars all year. During the month of May, they voted to send this charity money to ZAKA. ZAKA was originally founded in 1989 in Israel and was formed to respond to terror attacks. Now ZAKA has grown into a world-renowned humanitarian organization, assisting local authorities in the retrieval, identification, transportation, and burial of the deceased.

There are over 2,800 volunteers based in fifteen countries, and they provide quick response and deployment on short notice, providing their expertise and equipment where needed. As a result of recognition from the UN in 2005, ZAKA has since been assisting at natural disasters (like those in Japan, Haiti, New Orleans and Thailand), at plane crashes (like those in the USA and Mexico) and at terror attacks (like those in Mumbai, Mombasa and Istanbul).

Yom Hashoah Observance

On Wednesday, April 30, Thyle Shartar, a member of our congregation and daughter of a survivor, spoke to our students about how memories of the holocaust affected her as a child. What was planned as a short gathering, turned into an incredibly informative and interesting lengthy discussion as Thyle fielded many questions from our students. We are very grateful for her willingness to come, and help give some personal insight of this dark time in history to our young students.

Israeli Dancing

In honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut (Israel Independence Day) Lisa Tessler ran an educational Israeli dancing session on May 7. Lisa is a long time member of our congregation and the dancing is always one of our students' favorite activities. All who joined us had a fun time. Thank you Lisa, for bringing new dance steps to our students.

Lag B'Omer and Last Day of Schoo

The weather couldn't have been better on May 21 for our Lag B'Omer celebration. Hannah and Sam Leeman ran outdoor games following Hebrew school on the Patten Free library lawn. Some of the games included: carry the ice cube without dropping it, run with a tennis ball between your knees, see how well you can wrap a team mate in toilet paper, and more. An ice cream party ended the day as we celebrated the end of our school year. Thank you to Susan for making sure all the sundae trimmings were ready for everyone to enjoy.

New Students

We are always happy to welcome new students. If you find that your son or daughter is ready for Hebrew school or you know someone that may be interested in additional information regarding a Jewish education, please contact us at

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Listing the birthdays and anniversaries of those in our immediate family creates a wonderful opportunity for our community/shul family to have an excuse to celebrate with each other. We have listed the few that we have. If you notice that someone in your family isn't listed, please send along all information to Barbara Leeman so that they can be included with the next issue of the newsletter.

July Birthdays July Anniversaries
4 Hannah Leeman   13 Maurie Libner &
8 Linda Silberstein     Sharon Bouchard
9 Aaron Greenwald   22 Joe & Jill Cooper
13 Matt Filler   23 Steve & Marina Singer
13 Michael Hagler   26 Jay & Lenore Friedland
17 Adaia Shumsky   27 Lou Ensel & Jennifer DeChant
18 Judy Weisman      
21 Marina Singer      
22 Jay Friedland      
31 Cecily Cooper      


August Birthdays August Anniversaries
12 Joe Cooper   11 Bob Lobis & Judy Wolfe
14 Lou Ensel   17 Ed & Ruth Benedikt
16 Arielle Leeman   20 Mort & Evelyn Panish
31 Marilyn Weinberg   31 Aaron & Liza Greenwald


Many thanks to the following people for their donations to Beth Israel Congregation

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Steve and Marina Singer in loving memory of her brother Sam Shapiro and her father, Victor Shapiro
  • Jerrold Lurie in loving memory of his father, Phillip Lurie
  • Donald and Mara Giulianti in loving memory of his father, Nicholas Giulianti
  • Mort and Evelyn Panish in loving memory of their friend, Bertyl Metz
  • Jay and Lenore Friedland in loving memory of his father, Edward Friedland
  • John and Marilyn Darack in loving memory of her mother, Marion Darack
  • Robert and Barbara Lenox in loving memory of his mother, Milly Lenox
  • John and Peggy Martell in loving memory of her mother, Lucille Hershenhart
  • Lynn Frank in memory of her sister, Cheryl Milkes Moore and Marilyn Weinberg's Mother, Ann Isacoff
  • Sharon Drake in loving memory of her father, Edward Kravitz
  • Stanley Lane and Norma Dreyfus in loving memory of her mother, Dr. Rose Goldberg
  • Moriah Moser and Daniel Morgenstern in loving memory of his father, Frederic Morganstern
  • Richard and Julianna Gerrity

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Sheila Lucente in support of the Hebrew School Scholarship Fund, to celebrate Shavuot and in appreciation of the Beth Israel Congregation
  • Nathan Cogan in support of the Beth Israel Congregation Jewish History project