Friday, November 19, 2004

November 19-26, 2004 and Kislev 6-13, 5765


November 19-26, 2004 and Kislev 6-13, 5765

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut

Shabbat Shalom


Happy Thanksgvinig

Send your friends and relatives the gift of Jewish awareness

a Shabbat-O-Gram each week, by signing them up at


Shabbat Shalom


There will be no Shabbat-O-Gram next week – also please note that some work will be done on our server next week, so e-mail communication with TBE will be sporadic at times, impossible at others.  If you need to reach us, the good ol’ phone might be the best way.  We appreciate your patience.


Some other jottings…


n     I had a rather bad cold earlier in the week, which gave me the excuse to sit down and read Philip Roth’s new novel, “The Plot Against America,” cover to cover, in about a day and a half.  It is a fascinating exploration into the soul of America, with some terrifying “What ifs?” and “Could it happen heres?” involving the Holocaust.  I also found the book to be very timely, following an election campaign filled with fear, where so many – of both parties – voted on the basis of their fears rather than their hopes.  Come to think of it, I don’t know ANYONE who voted on the basis of hope and a vision for the future, because neither party offered one! More comments on Roth in this week’s sermon….


n     This has been a particularly bad week for our morning minyan.  On most days we come close – so it’s just one or two people that we are “short.”  The good news is that part of the reason for this is that relatively few are saying Kaddish at the moment.  The bad news is that it shouldn’t matter how many are saying Kaddish.  A synagogue this size should have a minyan every day.  A couple of weeks ago, our Ritual Committee chair sent out an impassioned plea for greater attendance.  Many people loved the letter – a few actually heeded it, but we are back at square one. “Square one,” BTW, is defined by Websters as “an impassioned plea by the rabbi.”  I made more than one during the High Holidays, and it made a difference – for a couple of months, anyway.  We need to look for a more permanent solution, one that the congregation can buy into; we are obligated to take care of our own and without a viable morning minyan that cannot happen.  Again I plead with each and every congregant to choose one day a month, any day, to be here.  Thank you.


n     Last night we had our preliminary meeting for those interested in a TBE Israel Adventure.  We have the foundation for a viable group (at this point, approaching 30) and the temple leadership has expressed its support, so “it’s a go.”  Last night the group made some basic decisions involving itinerary and dates.  It looks like we’ll be departing sometime around the second week of August, a little later than previously announced, in order to accommodate camp schedules while also returning home well before the beginning of school. As soon as an itinerary is available, I will send it out to the congregation. You can read sample itineraries at our tour coordinator’s web site, you are interested, please contact me at


n     Undoubtedly you are aware of the heightened security concerns in our area involving children. Children have been approached by a green minivan or sport utility vehicle occupied by a white male and a white female who appeared to be in their 30's.  The most recent incident occurred this past Wednesday in the City of Rye: three middle school age boys were approached by these individuals and thank God they were not harmed. There have been four other similarly reported incidents - two in Rye and two in Greenwich.  Please have a conversation with your children, particularly if they walk around your neighborhood unaccompanied by an adult. The Rye police department is encouraging parents to reinforce the following basic safety precautions:


  • Do not talk to strangers
  • Never enter a vehicle with someone you don't know
  • Walk in open, public areas whenever possible; try to walk in groups
  • If approached by a stranger, seek safe haven in a store, house, or other safe place
  • Try to remember the license plate number of any suspicious vehicle
  • Call 911 immediately regarding any suspicious behavior



Happy Thanksgiving!



THIS Saturday night


CCJE of United Jewish Federation

In partnership with the JCC and the Board of Rabbis



A Community Celebration of Jewish Learning


November 20, 2004

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm


at the Jewish Community Center (JCC)




THIS Sunday…

Hanukkah is just around the corner!



for kids & adults of all ages!

Join us for the TBE


November 21st

8:45 AM - 2:00 PM

(upstairs in the triple classroom)


All students will have a chance to browse during Religious School with their class.  A schedule will be sent home so you can be there when your child visits the Book Fair…  You can also, of course, check out the selection at drop-off and after pick-up!


Take advantage of this great opportunity to express your appreciation of our teachers by purchasing books on their wishlists!


All proceeds from the Book Fair will benefit the Temple Beth El Religious School! 




Friday Evening Candles: 4:14 PM EST.  for candlelighting times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on

Kabbalat Shabbat: 6:30 PM in the chapel. 

Tot Shabbat – Thanks to this week’s Tot Shabbat hosts, Dora and Dave Salm, and their children, Nathan, Elena and Daniel!

Shabbat Morning: 9:30 AM

Mazal tov to Erica Miles, who becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat morning!

Children’s services: 10:30 AM

Torah Portion: Va-yetze  Genesis 28:10 - 32:3

1: 28:10-12
2: 28:13-17
3: 28:18-22
4: 29:1-8
5: 29:9-17
6: 29:18-33
7: 29:34-30:13
maf: 30:9-13

Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 - 14:10

See a new weekly commentary now available from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at  Read the Masorti commentary at JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.: CLAL’s Torah commentary archive:  World Zionist Organization Education page, including Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries: For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist/Orthodox perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to For some probing questions and meditations on key verses of the portion, with a liberal kabbalistic bent, go to or, for Kabbalistic commentaries from the Zohar itself, go to To see the weekly commentary from Hillel, geared to college students and others, go to For a Jewish Renewal and feminist approach go to .  For a comprehensive Orthodox viewpoint from the Israeli rabbi, Yaakov Fogelman, go to the Torah Outreach Program at


Morning Minyan: Sundays at 9:00 AM, Weekdays at 7:30 AM – IN THE CHAPEL



We usually, but not always have a minyan of ten at our morning services. If you have a yahrzeit coming up and wish to ensure that there will be at least ten present, drop the rabbi an email at and he will e-mail to the congregation a “Guaranteed Minyan” request.  Indicate the date of the yahrzeit and whether it would be OK to use your name in making that request.




Minyan Mastery


Now you can become more comfortable with our minyan, and find out all about it at…






Rob Zabronsky, one of TBE's very own, has been appointed to the US Masters Soccer Team for the upcoming Maccabi Games in Israel this summer.  The masters athletes raise money to support the participations of junior athletes at the Games.  Rob's team is sponsoring a raffle.  The grand prize is a trip for two to the Galapagos Islands, or a Polar Bear photography tour.  Raffle tickets are $20.  Help us support the games and the involvement of more teens.  If you would like to buy raffle tickets, please contact Rob at  The raffle is limited to 1000 tickets and ends in December.




Required Reading and Action Items


Prof. Jonathan Sarna’s landmark book “American Judaism” has been named  the 2004 National Jewish Book Award's Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year.  Sarna will be our scholar in residence here at TBE on the weekend of April 8-10, in honor of the 350 anniversary of American Jewry.  SAVE THAT WEEKEND!!  A recent review of his book and an interview from the Jerusalem Post can be found at

The Jewish Family Service web site is up and running. Check it out at


New Database of Holocaust Victims - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post) Yad Vashem on Monday will inaugurate the on-line Central Database for Shoah Victims' Names - an Internet database listing the names of three million Jewish victims of the Holocaust


More on Arafat – see this excellent article by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:


Arafat-Mania - Tom Gross
For the Guardian, Arafat was to be compared to "Moses." On CNN, he was described as a "revolutionary romantic figure comparable to Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela." Much of the Western media is still being taken in by the Stalin-like cult of personality Arafat nurtured for himself over the past 40 years. In scores of reports on both BBC and CNN, acts of terrorism were left completely unmentioned. (Jerusalem Post)
    See also The Moral Sickness of the World - Melanie Phillips
The reaction of the free world to Arafat's death, along with the opprobrium heaped daily upon his victims in Israel, illustrates the decadence that now rewards evil and punishes those whom it terrorizes. It is a horrifying indication of a world that has simply lost its fundamental understanding of right and wrong. All who value life, liberty, and justice should take careful note and shudder at this moral - and mortal - sickness. This is the way a civilization dies. (

Arafat's Troubled Legacy - David Makovsky
For the world, Arafat's success is about what he gained, territorially and economically. But for Arafat, success was about what he did not give away so as not to be accused by Arab history of undue compromise. He preferred the politics of grievance over the politics of governance. His strategic refusal to equate peace with reconciliation gutted any hopes that a deal between governments could be transformed into a more meaningful - and lasting - peace between peoples. This failure was critical, for arguments over the permanence and legitimacy of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East remain at the very heart of the Arab-Israel conflict. The writer is senior fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Chicago Tribune)
    See also A Window of Opportunity - David Makovsky
President Bush's decision in 2002 to make clear that Arafat was beyond American diplomatic engagement since he was incorrigible in support for terrorism was the correct decision. The U.S. challenge is to support Abbas without giving him a made-in-America "bear hug." (San Francisco Chronicle)


Window for War - Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
President Bush has qualified his readiness to endorse a Palestinian state on the premise that such an entity will be democratic and willing to live in peace with its neighbors. Yet the Palestinian Arab community has been subjected for three generations to the most coercive and hateful mass indoctrination known outside of North Korea. While there are surely Palestinians willing to live side-by-side in peace with Israel, they know that to say so publicly is to invite swift retaliation, if not summary execution as a collaborator with the Jewish state.
    In the absence of genuine democratic institution-building and socialization in the practice of representative government that is respectful of minority rights, the Palestinian elections will amount to little more than one-man, one-vote, one-time. The writer is president of the Center for Security Policy. (Washington Times)


Now the Legacy - Ehud Ya'ari
Arafat's legacy is a mixture of the chaos he encouraged, the commitment to continuing the struggle, and the rejection of a settlement, while shrinking the PA to proportions that just about allowed it to exist alongside armed and independent terror organizations. It may yet end up that Arafat's legacy is even stronger than Arafat in the flesh, and that Arafat's memory will be enshrined in the monument of an ongoing intifada. (Jerusalem Report)


Shootout in Gaza - Editorial
Gaza needs to be opened up to the legitimate Palestinian Authority, and that requires disarming of the various armed groups that act as mini-states where violence and racketeering are twins. According to most estimates, there are more than a million weapons in Gaza for a population of 1.8 million. A full disarmament, therefore, may not be achievable in the immediate future. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)


Arafat's Legacy - Charles Krauthammer
If Arafat was such a great leader, how is it that he left his people so destitute, desperate, wounded and bereft that only his passing gives them a hope for a fulfillment of their deepest aspirations? He signed interim deals to get a foothold in Palestine, but always with the objective of continuing the fight from a better strategic position, never to conclude a lasting compromise or real peace with Israel. Arafat founded Fatah in 1959 - eight years before Israel acquired the territories. His objective then, and until the day he died, was a Palestinian state built on the ruins of an eradicated Israel. Arafat didn't just reject any settlement that would leave Israel intact, thereby setting a precedent that any successor dare not violate. He also raised a new generation to ensure that rejection. (Washington Post)


Arafat Died an Uncontrite Terrorist - Alan Dershowitz
Arafat changed the nature of terrorism forever, by killing on a wholesale rather than a retail scale, by internationalizing it, and by employing it as a tactic to gain recognition for a cause. He proved to the world that terrorism can be made to work. By showing a willingness to kill so many innocent people, he managed to persuade naive world leaders that, exitus acta probat, his cause must be compelling and just. The message that so many leaders sent to other would-be terrorists with religious or political ambitions was that important people will deal with you, recognize you, even praise you while you are still engaging in terrorism.
    If the Palestinians become the only disenfranchised people to achieve statehood because they used terrorism, while other equally deserving groups are ignored because they eschew terrorism, then Arafat's way will become the way of the future. (Forward)


Peace Activists Rip Arafat Legacy - Joshua Mitnick
Criticism of the Palestinian leader was particularly acute among Israeli doves who believe he discredited peace activists in the eyes of the public. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli intelligence official turned peace activist and a fellow at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, this week dismissed Arafat as a political chameleon who switched identities depending on his audience. Arafat ultimately bore much of the responsibility for discrediting the Israeli peace camp, said Yariv Oppenheimer, spokesman for Peace Now. "He didn't supply what he promised - an end to terror," he said. (Washington Times)


A Collective Sigh - Dina Ezzat
Relief is perhaps the best way to describe the private reaction of most Arab officials to the death of Arafat. In public, these same officials laid on a red carpet funeral. But beyond a brief state funeral, Arafat received very little recognition from his fellow Arab leaders. Official statements eulogizing the Palestinian leader sounded more like a simple notification of another death, rather than any genuine outpouring of grief at the loss of a revolutionary hero.
    Certain Arab diplomats, in particular those from countries with direct borders with the Palestinian territories and Israel, were explicit in expressing their relief at the death of Arafat. For them, his passing marks the end to the obstacles he had thrown up on the road to a settlement with Israel, largely for the sake of his own glory. Some diplomats are breathing a sigh of relief at the demise of a leader they considered too self-centered to really care about the misfortunes of his own people. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)


The Old Man - David Remnick
After half a century of armed struggle and tactical diplomacy, the figure Palestinians called "the Old Man" died - not in Jerusalem but in Europe. After a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco, Arafat told the killer's family, and, by extension, the Palestinian people, that the young man "who turned his body into a bomb is the model of manhood and sacrifice for the sake of Allah and the homeland" - seven years after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. Rarely has a leader blundered more and left more ruin in his wake. (New Yorker)


Arafat's Squalid End - Christopher Hitchens
Has any national movement ever been so appallingly led? Arafat managed to be both a killer and a compromiser, both a Swiss bank-account artist and a populist ranter, both an Islamic "martyrdom" blow-hard and a servile opportunist, and a man who managed to establish a dictatorship over his own people before they even had a state.
    In cold fact, Arafat was protected from "martyrdom" at Israel's hands, as he well knew, by an edict of President Bush to Sharon. The charming conclusion of this drama is now the widely spread rumor that the chairman was martyred after all, having been poisoned by the Jews: a rumor itself perhaps designed to pre-empt any discussion of his AIDS-like symptoms at the end. What a squalid and ignoble terminus, to a life of steadily diminishing returns. (Slate)


Arafat: The Father of Modern Terrorism - Andrew C. McCarthy
He was a thug. One of the most cunning of all time for sure, but quite simply a ruthless, thoroughly corrupt, will-to-power thug. While he is singularly responsible for the failure of a Palestinian nation to emerge, his credentials as the "Father of Modern Terrorism" are solid. His expertise, and thus Fatah's, was the sneak attack on soft Israeli targets, the better to maximize carnage and fear.
    By 1969, Arafat was the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization that had a single purpose: the destruction of Israel. The PLO was also a fabulously profitable criminal enterprise. British investigators concluded that Arafat's wealth stemmed from sidelines his organization maintained in "extortion, payoffs, illegal arms-dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering, and fraud" that yielded billions. (National Review)


Culture of Secrecy - Editorial
Arafat is not the only world leader to be regarded as a kleptocrat. Mobutu and Ferdinand Marcos also amassed vast personal fortunes that took years to track down and repatriate, if only in part. The new Palestinian leadership needs to foster a culture of transparency in which the public treasury is not regarded as part of the leader's personal fortune. The leadership should publish details of whatever deal it may have made with Arafat's family and keep the public informed about whatever investigation it has ordered into the late leader's financial dealings. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)


Gaza Litmus Test - Amir Oren
"A Proposal for Governance of the Gaza Strip in the Context of the Announced Israeli Withdrawal" is the result of workshops and deliberations held jointly by Israelis and Palestinians with the participation of foreign experts under the auspices of the Madrid-based Toledo International Center for Peace. The central aim of the Toledo plan is "to facilitate the development of a reliable Palestinian structure of governance that would create the conditions for a peaceful and successful execution of the withdrawal plan." That structure is meant to take the form of a temporary Palestinian Authority for Gaza, which will be a laboratory in which to prove the Palestinians' ability to rule themselves: That was also the rationale for the "Gaza first" aspect of the Oslo Accords.
    As Abbas and Dahlan discovered first-hand this week when they came to Gaza to mourn for Arafat, the Palestinian community is fragile and violent, declining to accept the new order submissively, and we are in for some rough struggles before Abbas is anointed rais, as well as afterward. (Ha'aretz)


A Test for the New Palestinian Leadership: End the Incitement
- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Sharon said Thursday:

  • What will be the test of the Palestinian leadership? We must not relinquish the demand for the collection of weapons and dismantling of terror organizations. But, of course, this is a much more complicated process.
  • At the same time, the true intentions of the new leadership will be revealed and examined in light of their action or inaction with regard to two primary tasks which can be easily and immediately carried out:

A.       Cessation of the virulent propaganda and ongoing incitement in the Palestinian television and media.

B.       Change and transformation in the Palestinian education system, cessation of the incitement and demonizing of Israel, Israelis and Jews; replacement of inciting textbooks and a ban on all lessons, plays, and children's summer camps which incite against Israel.

  • The venomous propaganda in the Palestinian media and education system is the root and foundation of the expansion of the suicide terrorism phenomenon. The Palestinian education and propaganda are more dangerous to Israel than Palestinian weapons. These two important tasks will be the test which will show the intentions of the Palestinian leadership.
  • I do not intend to waste time, and it is my intention to explore every avenue - once the new Palestinian leadership is ready to begin contact - to start advancing our relations with the Palestinians.



Israel Apologizes after IDF Mistakenly Kills Three Egyptians Near Egypt-Gaza Border - Amos Harel
Prime Minister Sharon apologized to Egyptian President Mubarak on Thursday after an IDF tank mistakenly killed three Egyptian policemen near the Egypt-Gaza border. "We must find ways to ensure it won't happen again," said Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim. The tank crew believed the three to be terrorists planting a bomb. (Ha'aretz)
    This region is characterized by frequent terrorist attacks against IDF forces and Israeli communities nearby, as well as by infiltration attempts and weapons smuggling into Israel to and from Egypt. (IDF)



'One of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation,' 'a man of courage and conviction,' 'committed to the peace of the brave,' 'a powerful human symbol' who was the 'Palestinian Abraham Lincoln.' Such were the pronouncements of statesmen and news editors to mark Yassir Arafat's death.

The most widespread media representation of Arafat's life focused on his 'unrealized dream' of an independent Palestinian state. The LA Times, for example, spoke of the state that Arafat 'dedicated his life to winning,' and Reuters emphasized his '40-year quest for a state.' 

The fact is that Arafat rejected the offer of statehood ― what Bill Clinton called 'a colossal error.' Arafat's primary motivation was maintaining his self-identity as the driver of conflict. As Dennis Ross concluded, 'Arafat could not accept [the offer at] Camp David... because when the conflict ends, the cause that defines Arafat also ends.' Apparently, most editors still can't accept this unfortunate truth.

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby cites two other examples of what he calls 'flights of nonsense from Western journalists':

Derek Brown wrote in The Guardian that Arafat's "undisputed courage as a guerrilla leader" was exceeded only "by his extraordinary courage" as a peace negotiator. But it is an odd kind of courage that expresses itself in shooting unarmed victims ― or in signing peace accords and then flagrantly violating their terms.

Another commentator, columnist Gwynne Dyer, asked, "So what did Arafat do right?" The answer: He drew worldwide attention to the Palestinian cause, "for the most part by successful acts of terror." In other words, butchering innocent human beings was "right," since it served an ulterior political motive. No doubt that thought brings daily comfort to all those who were forced to bury a child, parent, or spouse because of Arafat's "successful" terrorism.

CNN International typified the coverage by selecting a glamorous, calligraphic font for its homepage tribute, then linking to Arafat coverage with the blurb: 'Arafat Story: Leader's battle for peace.' (screen captures at right)

CNN's summation of Arafat's life as a 'battle for peace' was supported by this single, supposedly representative Arafat quote, boldly printed at the top of the page: 'The battle for peace is the most difficult battle in our lives.'

CNN also featured a series of 'Arafat quotes,' where he calls himself a 'freedom fighter,' describes his commitment to peace and democracy, and labels the IDF the 'real terrorists.' Conspicuously absent are forty years of Arafat's praise of terrorists and calls for jihad.

Missing from all other coverage was this tidbit from the London Evening Standard:

[Arafat] did not smoke, drinking only tea or water. His morning cornflakes were soaked in tea and honey. An insomniac who would not finish work until 4am, his only diversions were comics and Tom And Jerry cartoons.



Jewish and Israeli Links…




Israel Defense Force,
Israel Government Gateway, links to Government Ministries,
Israel Knesset,
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Israel Prime Minister's Office,
Israel Central Bureau of Statistics,
Israel Tourism Ministry, North America,
Buy Israeli Products,,
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies,
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies,
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
One Jerusalem,
Twenty Facts about Israel
Myths & Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Jerusalem Archaeological Park,


Israel Info Center - Israel Activism Portal,
US White House,
US State Department,
US Senate,
US House of Representatives,
THOMAS (search for US Legislation),
United Nations Watch,
Embassy of Israel - Washington, D.C.,

Media-Related Links:

Jerusalem Post,
Jewish Telegraphic Agency,
Ha'aretz English Edition,,
Independent Media Review and Analysis,
Maariv English Edition,
Middle East Media Research Institue (MEMRI),
Palestinian Media Watch,
Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre,
Israel Insider,
Jewish World Review,
America's Voices in Israel,
@The Source Israel,


Other Jewish Sites


The best Jewish kids' site on the Web is , with games, virtual tours and “J-Pod” downloads, kids of all ages will LOVE it. 


Another superb educational site is -- you can be a self-taught “maven” on all things Jewish!


See the contents of nearly the entire Babylonian Talmud, in translation at


A Jewish Guide to the Internet:


On Jewish Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: (hey, you KNEW I’d put this one in)


How many Jewish hockey players are there? (None right now…there’s a lockout).  Find out at


Glossary of Yiddish Expressions:  )Please be patient, this page is farshtopt with information)


You can find an online Hebrew dictionary at


Nice Jewish parenting site  Jewish Gates is an amazing site, filled with material on Jewish history, ritual and culture. Go straight to the linked index at and go to town!  The Jewish Super Site; a similar site is and my personal all-time favorite,


The sourcebook for Jewish history (all periods) can be found at

Online Texts Related to Jewish History.  All the primary sources “fit to print.”


Israel Campus Beat – to get all the latest information on Israel relevant to students on college campuses




Spiritual Journey on the Web


Step By Step to Jewish Growth


In this week’s portion we read of the famous dream of Jacob’s ladder, an image that has become part of our general culture.  If you run a search on Jacob’s ladder, you’ll come across anything from a “total body exerciser” ( to an Israeli folk music festival being held THIS WEEKEND ( In each case the idea is that we are ever striving to go onward and upward.  And this is exactly the approach that the Conservative Movement takes regarding our spiritual growth as Jews.  With the proliferation of 12-Step programs as well as the popularity of the “For Dummies” and “Complete Idiots” guides, more people have come to understand that step-by-step approaches to Judaism are necessary.  It is an approach actually made popular decades ago by the philosopher Franz Rosenzweig, who, when asked if he wore tefillin, replied, “Not yet.”  Read his biography at  Rosenzweig recognized that this and other rituals are part of Jewish law, but saw himself as being on a personal trajectory where he was not yet ready to observe them.  What makes his story so dramatic is that he nearly followed the majority of his family in converting to Christianity before his steep climb began one year on the High Holidays.


Unfortunately, for many Jews, the ascent to spiritual heights is nearly as difficult, even once the desire to climb has been established.  Judaism is so complicated that at times it seems as if we are stuck on Jacob’s treadmill, screaming a la George Jetson for Jane to “stop this crazy thing!”   At those times hopefully we can all experience some of the small successes that help us to retrain our sights on the goal – because once we climb that ladder, the view is incredible from the top:


Here are some introductory books that you can order to help you and your family make that thrilling climb. I’ve used them all and recommend them highly:  By clicking on the links, you’ll end up at the Amazon site that describes their contents.  They all make great Hanukkah gifts.


Jewish Literacy, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

It's a Mitzvah! by Brad Artson

The Art of Jewish Living: The Shabbat SederHanukkah by Ron Wolfson

A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice by Isaac Klein

Living Judaism, by Wayne Dosick

To Life! by Harold Kushner

The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary by Michael Strassfeld

Jewish Family and Life by Yosef Abromowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman

Back to the Sources edited by Barry Holtz

Choosing a Jewish Life, by Anita Diamant

New Jewish Wedding Book, by Anita Diamant


This year, the leadership of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism established a “Compact for Conservative Commitment,” designed to guide families who wish to take those first tentative steps.  Find it outlined at

The USCJ Web site is very helpful in taking those steps in a number of areas, including Top 10 Tips for Taking Jewish JourneysShabbat I (Why Shabbat?),  Kashrut I (Connecting the Physical to the Spiritual), Kashrut II (Kashrut and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebratory Meal), and  Choose Judaism for Your Family!  Speaking of Kashrut, for many people, that is the most intimidating climb of all, but also potentially the most rewarding.  Making the switch to Kosher is not as hard as you might think. is a site that can help you on your way.  As with everything else, this can’t be seen as an all or nothing proposition.  A very nice step-by-step Web site for Kashrut comes out of a Conservative synagogue in Margate, Florida, at (they also have a superb Web site).  The National Jewish Outreach Program (the people who gave us Shabbat Across America) have all you need to make your home kosher at  You can also order a new CD on the subject at the USCJ site.  For those still “hungry” for information, there’s more background at, and a mother lode of questions answered at, where you can find out just what foods are kosher and what are not.  Armed with all this information, it is my hope that more people will come to see the beauty in all these rituals and how they can enhance the spirituality that imbues our lives.


As you sit with your families this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, why not take a few moments to see how you (collectively and personally) might find new ways to ascend, like those angels on Jacob’s ladder, toward a more enriching Jewish life.



A Long Way to go for a Falafel!


By Barbara and Marvin Gold


(TBE members Barbara and Marvin Gold left for Israel recently.  Here is the latest installment of their voyage)



From the Ben Gurion airport we take a cab to our hotel in Tel Aviv.  Our driver weaves in and out of bumper to bumper traffic at much too fast a speed.  As he drives, he takes both hands off the steering wheel to passionately explain why it's good for Israel that Bush was elected.  "This is Bush's second term.  He does not have to impress anyone.  He can just do the right thing."


The driver drops us at the City Hotel located on Rehov Mapu and Rehov Ben-Yehuda.


It's unseasonably hot.  The newspaper describes it as "Sharav".  Ruby calls it "Comsine," a period of hot weather blowing in from the desert.


Later that day, we buy waters at Super Sol.  I get my first taste of having my purse checked by the guard at the door.  The newspaper ("Ma'ariz") headline takes Ruby's eye.  She translates "United States has chosen George Bush.  The friend remains."


Ruby eyes the Israeli cucumbers and remarks how much she likes them  A man on the checkout line tells us that we can get the cucumbers cheaply at the Carmel Market.  "If you go in the afternoon", he says, "you can buy 5 kilos for one shekel."  yes, he acknowledges that this was the market in which an incident took place earlier this week.  "But, it's O.k.", he says, he goes there every day.



On Friday, we visit the home of the first cousin of Marvin and Ruby's mother - Joseph Karpus (known always as just "Karpus") who died just this year.  So Marvin never got to meet him.  But we will see Rivka, Karpus' wife. Rivka's daughter, Hanah, her granddaughter, Alona, and another second cousin, Lola, are there to greet us.


Since Rivka is in her late 80's we arrange to visit at 10:30 a.m. so that she will not have to prepare lunch.  We are wrong.  The table is set and we are served "only a light meal", Rivka's home made gefilta fish, Israeli salad, and wine.  Just when we think the meal is complete, out comes Rivka's cheese blintza's, yogurt, amazing chocolate cake, and a light & fluffy cheese cake.  We must try everything and weakly we refuse second portions.


During lunch Hanah explains why Bush is good for Israel.  "Sharon is strong", she says.  "Even though there are arguments in the cabinet, in the end the others will go his way.  And Bush will let Sharon do what he wants, ...and then maybe we will have peace."


There is much discussion of how Joseph and Rivka left Russia for Poland, were Resistance fighters (Partisans) during World War II, gave birth to Hanah in the woods, found a Jewish boy wandering in the woods who they raised as their own, and how they pretended to be Ukrainians to hide their Jewish identities. 


As I whip out my new digital camera, I better understand its purpose, and shoot a picture of this re-united and smiling family.


We begin to leave and I try to soak in the picture of this apartment, full of old family photos, Jewish artifacts, hand crocheted doilies, and lace curtains.  Before leaving, Rivka gives Ruby a package containing two white tablecloths, one for each of us - "for Shabbat," she tells us.


For me, I cannot imagine a better history experience than the one we have just left in Rivka's apartment.


In the evening and on the next day, we visit with friends of Ruby and cousins of Gene.  In both cases, these young married couples, have been in the army.  Both mothers and fathers now work and the children go to full day care.  We're eating pitas, hummus, and baklava. 



On Saturday, we walk along the Tel Aviv beach with the beautiful Mediterranean Sea on our right.  On the left we pass Mike's Place, a sports bar and restaurant, the scene of a serious incident several years ago, now rebuilt and open for business as usual. 


Tomorrow we head for Haifa.


Barbara & Marvin











Temple Beth El’s

Gift Shop


Hanukkah begins Tuesday, December 7


Between now and Hannukah the normal gift shop dates and hours will be:


Sunday, November 21           10:30am – 1pm

Tuesday, November 30         4pm - 6pm

Thursday, December 2          4pm – 6pm

Sunday, December 5              10:30am – 1pm


Along with the Religious School, the Gift Shop will be closed on Tuesday, November 23 and Sunday, November 28.  This only leaves 4, count them 4, regular shopping days until Hannukah or please call Mia Weinstein at 595-0528 if you would like to set up an appointment.


Visit the Gift Shop for all of your holiday needs

at 15%-20% off of retail prices!!!


menorahs:      modern, traditional, juvenile

brass, silver, electric (great for college kids)

candles:          assortment of different styles

dreidles:         plastic, wood, musical, toy

chocolate gelt:       50 cents a bag

party supplies: decorations, grab bag ideas, crafts


and for all of your gift needs:


                collectible menorahs: sports, bears, crystal, decorative

                collectible dreidles:           crystal, silver, wood with decorative box

                toys, music, crafts:     Hanukkah and general themes

                books for all ages:     Hanukkah, coloring books, coffee table

                hostess gifts:               Hanukkah candles in a basket,

candy dishes, keepsake boxes, frames, wine coasters




Hanukkah Gifts for College Freshman and Sophomores


Our sisterhood wishes to send Hanukkah gifts for college freshman (and sophomores since last year we sent them an IOU because Hanukkah was during winter vacation). Please submit college freshman and sophomore addresses to Denise Greenman at or phone:  329-8594.  Please send both the snail mail and e-mail addresses, so we can be sure to include all students on our college e-mail list as well.



Enthusiastic and Energetic Volunteers Needed!!


To create a kosher keepsake Cook Book for our Beth El family and friends using our very own recipes.


Please join our cookbook team and bring your special ideas and talents to the team. 


All are welcome!!  No experience is necessary, just your interest in the project!


Call Beth Silver at 967-8852 or email: if you are interested. 


Profits will be donated to the kitchen/ballroom renovation projects.


Sponsored by the Temple Beth El Sisterhood.


Please join us for a kick-off meeting on Sunday, December 5th at

11:00 a.m. at the Synagogue. Stop by on your way if volunteering for Super Sunday or call to join the committee.  Please call Beth, 967-8852, to R.S.V.P. 



This year, Super Sunday, our Annual Community Campaign, is December 5.  When your phone rings please “pick it up” and give generously.  The gift you pledge, no matter how big or small helps Jews in our own community, around the state, as well as abroad.  Giving tzedakah is a mitzvah and to know you may help a child attend summer camp, provide lunch services to a senior, or help an Ethiopian family in Afula/Gilboa is a great feeling.


You are an integral part of making Super Sunday a success.  Volunteers are still needed to make calls and to help with other tasks on that day.  Please find volunteer application forms in the lobby or call the United Jewish Federation office.  Thank you.





Kadima PB JAM:  A Tzedakah Experience.  Come make Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches to be donated to the Interfaith Nutrition Network in HempsteadNY.  Monday night, November 22nd, 2004 6:00-7:30 pm  RSVP by Sunday the 21st.


Kesher goes Bowling:  Sunday, November 28th, 2004 2:00pm-4:00pm. Meet at Rip Van Winkle Lanes- 701 Connecticut Ave, Norwalk.  $10 for Members, $15 for non-members.  RSVP is a MUST for this program by Monday, November 22nd


USY Night at the Movies: Tuesday November 30th, 7:30-9:30 in the Youth Lounge.  Come watch new releases on our NEW DVD Player!!!



Your children can be made "members" of Atid, Kesher, Kadima, and USY for $36 per child, for the school year.  As a member of the Temple Beth El Youth Group, they will receive free admission to many programs that takes place in the temple.  In addition, they will receive a discounted rate on most outside programs.  For teens in the Kadima or USY Program, becoming a member will enable you to attend Hanefesh Regional events and exciting activities with other teens from Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.  As a member, Temple Beth El will pay Regional and International dues on your behalf, and you will receive the International age-appropriate Magazines.  Joining the Temple Beth El Youth Group also entitles your child to the "official" TBE Youth Department light-up pen.  Let the TBE Youth Department light up your child's life- make them members TODAY!


A Zillion Hanukkah Links – Guaranteed to Last for Eight Nights (and then some)!

Nice articles on the spirituality of lighting the candles: and

Listen to (and watch, via streaming video)) Israel’s song in the 2002 Eurovision contest, “Light a Candle,” sung by Sarit Hadad.  It’s half in English and half in Hebrew, and in its simple yearning for hope captures beautifully the mood in Israel today:

CLAL Holy Days: Hanukah By Joseph Telushkin 

This Ritual Life CLAL Faculty on Rededicating Your Home at Hanukah

Links and lots of material:

Educator Cherie Kohler Fox's eight ways to celebrate Hanukkah meaningfully:

Chanukah educational links, coloring books, songs, etc

Hanukkah @ JTS

Virtual Jerusalem - Chanukah Megasite Real Audio (blessings, classes, songs)

Chanukah Fun & Coloring Book (Torah Tots)

Kidskourt Hanukkah Coloring Pages

Kid's Domain Chanukah Coloring Pages

My Hebrew Dictionary - Chanukah Related Words

Akhlah for Kids (includes blessings)

Everything Jewish: Hanukah

Being Jewish: Chanukah Gateway Chanukah

Jewish Holiday Consumer - Chanukah

Project Genesis - On-Line Menorah

ORT's Hanukkah section

Torah From Dixie Chanukah Articles

NCSY: Chanukah Articles

Neveh Zion Chanukah Pages

Halacha sheet for Chanukah

Darche Noam Chanuka Page

Israel Museum: Galleries of Menorah (English & Hebrew)

Machon Chagim: Chanukah (English)

Machon Chagim: Chanukah (Hebrew)

Jewish Agency: Chanukah (Easy Hebrew)

Judaism 101: Chanukkah

Chanukah Gateway

JIS: Online Chanukah Course

Chanukah on the Net

Nishmas: Customs of Chanukah

For Every Jew: Chanukah

DundaWare ShockDreidel (req. Shockwave)

CleverMedia: The Hanukkah Dreidel Game (req. Shockwave)

ZigZag Hannukah Lights (req. Java)

Chanukah Word Search (req. Java)

Not Just for Kids: Hanukkah Certificates

Hanukat: Celebrate Hanukkah with the Kids

It's not your Father's Hannukah (Yet it is...)

Billy Bear's Hanukkah

Surfing the Net: Hanukkah Coloring Book

History Channel: Amazing Hanukkah Feats (largest...)

Hanukkah in CyberSpace

ICJI: Chaunkah

Misrash Ben Ish Hai (Sepharadim customs)

WZO - Holidays with a Twist (Humor, 1996)

Virtual Chanukah (Russian, 1999)

Clipart for Hanukkah Clipart

Free Graphics Chanuka Graphics

Bitsela Hanukkah Clipart

Hanukah - Jewish Agency Pedagogic Center

JOI Hanukkah Activities

Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song (Humor)

Chanukka Midi Music

Chanukka Humor

RFCJ: Hanukah Recipes

Epicurious: Chanukkah Recipes

Blue Mountain Animated Greeting Cards

Care2 Animated Greeting Cards

123 Greetings

Sealing Wax Greeting Cards

Awesome Animated Greeting Cards

Judaic Greeting Cards by Raz

Greetz Greeting Cards Greeting Cards



Time for a Joke


I’ve received this from a few people… “Yiddish With Dick and Jane.”

Also, some time-tested Jewish jokes can be found at -- for example (on this big rivalry football weekend):

A young Jewish lad entered Notre Dame to play football. At the end of the season, he returned home.

As luck would have it, he ran into his Rabbi at the airport. The Rabbi asked, "Are they trying to convert you at South Bend ?"

The youngster said, "Of course not, Father !"



Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (



The Web link for this week's Shabbat-O-Gram is - - The site is continually updated during the week with corrections and additions.  Feel free to forward this link to your friends. People can subscribe to the weekly Shabbat-O-Gram at, where you can also find some of my other writings and sermons. You can also check out my recent books, : Seeking God in Cyberspace and I Have Some Questions About God.  I also send out mailings to college students, Gen Xers and teens, so let us know if you wish to be placed on any of those lists.  If you wish to unsubscribe, contact