Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006 – Kislev 25, 5767

December 15, 2006 – Kislev 25, 5767


Rabbi Joshua HammermanTemple Beth El, StamfordConnecticut


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Please join TBE for our Annual

        Chanukah Celebration 



Creative Chanukiah Contest

Chanukah Candle Lighting

Dreidel Spinning Contest

Junior and Senior Choir Performances

Delicious Jelly Donuts and Latkes


December 17th 10:45 am

In the Social Hall


(Hebrew School students will already be here – Parents, please plan go straight to the sanctuary at 10:45

Day School students’ Semi- Final Dreidel Contest Spin-offs will take place in the Social Hall at 10:30 AM)


Guests at the home of Wil Brewer before the TBE Murder Mystery


Check out for

our extensive library of photo albums,

articles, sermons, info about the temple,

Shabbat-O-Grams and links to the Jewish world.


Contents of the Shabbat O Gram:

(Click to scroll down)


Just the Facts (service schedule)  

The Beth El Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary (new)

The (Occasionally) Ranting Rabbi

Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunities

Ask the Rabbi

Spiritual Journey on the Web   

Required Reading and Action Items (links to key articles on Israel and Jewish life)

 Announcements (goings on in and around TBE)

TBE Youth Programming

Joke for the Week




Quote for the Week



Holiday Distinctions Finally Explained (with a little humor…)


(From Koach e-zine)


1. Christmas is one day, same day every year: December 25Jews also love December 25thIt's another paid day off workWe go to movies and out for Chinese food and Israeli dancingHanukkah is 8 daysIt starts the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that fallsNo one is ever sureJews never know until a non-Jewish friend asks when Hanukkah starts, forcing us to consult a calendar so we don't look like idiotsWe all have the same calendar, provided free with a donation to either the World Jewish Congress, the kosher butcher or the local Sinai Memorial Chapel (especially in Florida) or other Jewish funeral home.


2. Christmas is a major holidayHanukkah is a minor holiday with the same theme as most Jewish holidaysThey tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat.


3. Christmas is a time of great gift-giving pressurePeople expect special giftsJews are relieved of that burdenNo one expects a diamond ring on Hanukkah.


4. Christmas brings enormous electric billsCandles are used for HanukkahNot only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good about not

contributing to the energy crisis.


5. Christmas carols are beautifulSilent Night, Come O Ye Faithful.... Hanukkah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and dancing the horahOf course, we are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful carols were composed and written by our tribal brethren. And don't Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond sing them beautifully?


6. People have fun baking Christmas cookiesPeople burn their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkes on Hanukkah. Another reminder of our suffering through the ages.


7. The players in the Christmas story have easy to pronounce names such as Mary, Joseph, and JesusThe players in the Hanukkah story are AntiochusJudah Maccabee, and Matta whateverNo one can spell it or pronounce itOn the plus side, we can tell our friends anything and they believe we are wonderfully versed in our history.


8. In recent years, Christmas has become more and more commercializedThe same holds true for Hanukkah, even though it is a minor holidayIt makes senseHow could we market a major holiday such as Yom KippurForget about celebratingThink observingCome to synagogue, starve yourself for 27 hours, become one with your dehydrated soul, beat your chest, confess your sins, a guaranteed good time for you and your family. Tickets a mere $200 per person.

Better stick with Hanukkah! 





Friday Evening 


Candle lighting: 4:09 pm on Friday, 15 December 2006.  For candle lighting times, Havdalah times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on  To see the festivals of other faiths as well, go to


Light Hanukkah candles first, before Shabbat candles

Click here for instructions on how to light Hanukkah candles

Shabbat Evening service: 6:30 PM – in the chapel

Tot Shabbat: 6:45 – in the LOBBY (SPECIAL HANUKKAH SNACK!)

Shabbat Morning: 9:30 AM– on Shabbat, we celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of Samantha Wise.  Mazal tov to Samantha and to her parents Lisa and Steve! 

Children’s services: 10:30 AM – (jr. congregation service in the chapel, Tot Shabbat morning downstairs. 6th and 7th graders are expected to be in the main sanctuary)



Our Torah Reading for Shabbat Morning

Parashat Vayeshev
פרשת וישב

Genesis 37:1 - 40:23– The Joseph story begins

1: 39:1-6
Numbers 7:1-17 (for Hanukkah)

Haftarah: Shabbat Chanukah / Zechariah 2:14-4:7)

If you liked Storahtelling, you’ll LOVE Storahtelling’s new weekly blog about the Torah portion Find it at  ORT Navigating the BibleRashi in English; BibleGateway: Useful for comparing different translations: Note- this is a Christian site.
What’s Bothering Rashi (Bonchek) Each week, one example from the parashah is deconstructedSee a weekly commentary from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at  Read the Masorti commentary at  University of Judaism,  JTS commentary is at: Torah Sparks can be found at: UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: your Parasha I.Q.:’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 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  Also, try  To see the weekly commentary from Hillel, geared to college students and others, go to 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  Guided meditations for each portion by Judith Abrams at For online Parsha quizzes from Pardes in Israel, go to Torah for Kids:  Weekly Lesson of Popular Israeli Rabbi Mordechai Elon - and his parsha sheets:   From Bar Ilan University:



100 Blessings: Download information about the grace after meals (see Birkat Ha-mazon explained in Wikipedia and in the Jewish Virtual Library)  The actual prayer can be downloaded at Birkat Hamazon [pdf]


Morning Minyan

7:30 Weekdays, 9:30 Sundays

We’ve had Guaranteed Minyan requests for yahrzeits on Sundays, December 17 and 24.  If you can make it, please take a moment to sign up at the Rosner Minyan Maker at




We’ve had several people coming lately who are saying kaddish following recent deaths in the family.  We want to make sure we have a minyan each day. Your presence any morning is greatly appreciated!

Please sign up at the Rosner Minyan Maker at



The Beth El Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary


Doug Weisman’s Commentary of December 9: Parshat Va-Yishlach


Those who know me know me, know that I love to snowboard more than just about anything else.  I’ve been doing it since I was seven.  The first time I did it I was at Sterling Forest.  I was in a big group of snowboarding beginners.  I stepped on the board and before I knew it, I was going really fast, straight down hill!  Whenever I tried to stop, I fell.  Even so, I was not afraid.  I was going so fast, I guess, that I didn’t have time to think about being afraid.


In my portion, Jacob twice had to overcome fear, just like I did.  The dangers he faced, though, were very different from sliding on a snowboard, and he responded in different ways.


Before he met Esau, he was terrified that his brother would kill him and his family.  In verse 32:8, the Hebrew says that Jacob was “greatly frightened” and then it adds “and anxious.”  One commentator said that Jacob was frightened that Esau would harm his family, and that he was anxious that he might harm Esau in return.


But the key here is that Jacob was able to overcome his fears and come up with a plan.  First, he divided his family into two camps; then he sent gifts to his brother, and then he also prepared for battle, just in case.  It’s OK to be afraid, as long as you can make calm decisions and be able to plan ways to overcome the danger.


Overcoming fear is also important when you are dealing with injuries and wipeouts.  Once when I was snowboarding, I was hot-dogging – standing up with one foot in the buckleThen the snowboard slipped and my ankle twisted.  It was very painful.  But I was back on my snowboard five minutes later. 


I’ve had a number of crashes.  Once I hit some ice with my knees and began sliding down the mountain.  I was trying to grab onto the snow.  But instead of panicking, I just tried to think of ways to dig my snowboard into the snow.  It worked, and my dad came a few minutes later.


The night before Jacob went to meet up with Esau, he had a strange wrestling match with an unidentified being – a man or an angel.  It lasted until dawn.  It’s interesting that the river he crossed at that time was the Yabok, and his name was Ya’akov – both come from the Hebrew word that means “to struggle.”  Then, during the fight, Jacob was injured and begin to limp.  He still prevailed and was given the new name “Israel,” which means God wrestler.


Snowboarding is a risky thing – much like God wrestling.  But sometimes you have to take the leap into the unknown – as long as you are careful not to be too risky.  By doing something like snowboarding  - or fighting an angel – we learn how to overcome our fears.


Snowboarding has helped me to do that – I’m not afraid of heights (it’s REALLY high up).  I’m not afraid of falling – we all fall down at times (whether on the slopes, or at school… or in life).  And I’m not afraid of getting hurt.  Just like Jacob, whose hip socket was injured, you have to be able to shake it off.


Come to think of it, Jacob would have made a cool extreme athlete.


And come to think of it – becoming Bar Mitzvah could be a cool extreme sport.  It’s hard, you need lots of practice and  determination to succeed, and we wear this cool protective crash helmet (point to yarmulke)And most of all, like becoming bar mitzvah, Snowboarding really makes me feel alive. 


Saving lives is also the purpose behind my mitzvah project, Pups for Peace.  This organization trains dogs in Israel to detect explosives and fight terrorism.  Talk about bravery…some of these animals could give their own lives to save countless people.  This project will help make the world a safer place for all of us.







Ranting Rabbi



A Crossroads for Conservative Judaism


The landmark responsa on are now available for all to read on the Rabbinical Assembly website.

They are lengthy and quite technical in places, but we will have ample opportunity to discuss them over the coming months.


Information about the Law Committee and the Current Papers
A Brief History of the CJLS
"The CJLS and Multiple Opinions" by Rabbi David Fine
"Thoughts on the CJLS Teshuvot on Homosexuality" by Rabbi Perry Rank


Teshuvot on Homosexuality:
"Homosexuality Revisited" by Rabbi Joel Roth
"Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah" by Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner
"A New Context: The Halakhah of Same-Sex Relations" by Rabbis Myron Geller, Robert Fine and David Fine
"Same-Sex Attraction and Halakhah" by Rabbi Leonard Levy
"A Concurring Opinion to Rabbi Leonard Levy's Teshuvah, 'Same-Sex Attraction and Halakhah'" by Rabbi Loel Weiss
"Halakhic and Metahalakhic Arguments Concerning Judaism and Homosexuality" by Rabbi Gordon Tucker


The first two Teshuvot are the ones of greatest importance here.  Both passed with a majority of 13 of the 25 Law Committee votes and they reflect opposite positions.


Here is my column in this week’s Jewish Week:


Gay Vote Reflects ‘Passionate Centrism’

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


Conservative Judaism is taking a beating from friends and foes alike for the confusing nature of last Wednesday’s decision by the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and StandardsAs a Conservative rabbi and vocal supporter of gay rights, I’ve fielded the pleas of exasperated congregants begging for just a little bit of clarityHow is it possible, they ask, for the committee to adopt two diametrically opposing positions, both by a majority voteThat result required some people to have voted for in favor of eachIt’s the equivalent of voting for Bush and Gore, with or without the butterfly ballot.

What kind of wishy-washy movement is this that flips while it flops?

It is a movement, I contend, that looks like America.

Conservative Judaism revels in creative tension rather than moral clarityIt lives in the real world of tough questions and thrives on the unresolved conflicts that force us to confront paradox and imperfection.

The middle is an uncomfortable but dynamic place to liveWhile other movements often offer easy responses, Conservatives look for the kind of dialectic that has been central to rabbinic Judaism since Talmudic times, and that’s the kind of religion America needsMost Americans agonize over complex issues like abortion, capital punishment and sexual orientationTheir religion should, tooThere is no such thing as a knee-jerk Conservative response to anything, and that is how it should be, because what people yearn for is a religion based on the humble assumption that no human entity possesses the entirety of Truth.

In rabbinic literature, the schools of Hillel and Shammai disagreed on almost everythingIf one of them had said, “tastes great!” the other would have said “less filling!”

There was one point of law that they were arguing about for three yearsFinally a voice from heaven cried out, “These and those are the words of the living God,” one of the most important maxims in all of Jewish literatureBut the law went according to Hillel because the followers of Hillel were modestNot only did they study the rulings of Bet Shammai, they mentioned Shammai’s rulings before their own.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching moral relativism hereThere are absolute truths in the world — we just don’t own themWe read in Deuteronomy that “the hidden things belong to God.” The truths we perceive are partial, flawed and obscuredThis Conservative ruling, then, is not based on timidity and indecision, but rather a passion for humility. And its brilliance is that, rather than seeking the path of watered-down, least-common-denominator compromise, it allows for the totality of both positions to be reflected and followed.

In the Talmud, there are no fewer than 319 passages where a legal discussion ends with the expression tayku, or “let it stand,” which means that the rabbis essentially agree to disagree, acknowledging that no human being really knows the right answerThe term is actually an acronym for an expression meaning that the prophet Elijah will resolve the difficult casesSince Elijah is, according to Jewish tradition, the one who will usher in the messianic era, the implication of tayku is that these questions will remain unresolved for a long, long timeThe rabbis were in no rush to bring the Messiah.

While the tayku solution could be called a cop-out, it reflects the rabbis understanding that in certain situations compromise simply is not possibleI attended part of the Law Committee’s deliberations last week and was impressed by the desire of so many on the committee to listen intently to all argumentsSeveral compromise positions were floated, some intending to delay or avoid a vote altogether while attempting to affirm the legitimacy of all sidesBut in this case, no watering down of the positions was possibleAlthough some will call this solution wishy-washy, it was a mark of true boldness for the committee to recognize that there was no middle in which they could meet, and a mark of true love for the other that neither side pushed for total victory.

Although we sometimes can’t meet in the middle, we can still shake hands across the divide.

But now, on both sides of that divide, there is dignityThe days of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” have endedNow each synagogue and each rabbi will have to begin grappling with issues that most have avoided to this pointWe will all have to confront, head on, the agonizing loneliness of disenfranchisement that has been felt by so many, on the one hand, and the stark and unyielding language of Leviticus on the otherUltimately it will come down to the question, as it always does when we ponder life’s ultimate choices, “What does God really want?” And the answer will now be, “We don’t really know, and we’ll be working it out for a long, long time … but now we want to work it out with youSo hold my hand, across the divide.”

Being a passionate religious centrist means never being afraid to say tayku, while affirming that even diametrically opposing positions can be the words of the living God.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman is spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Stamford, Conn.



The Sisterhood Cookbook Presentation

Barbara Gold’s moving presentation from last week’s Sisterhood Synaplex Dinner


Looking back at the cookbook creation,
I think we were like a secret sisterhood society
Over 40 volunteers and 80 contributors took part in the creation of this cookbook.

We worked at all hours, night and day, cooking, tasting, creating, editing, writing,
keyboarding, illustrating, and designing.  We met in groups – two, threes, and more –
in committees, sub-committees, by telephone, and by email. 


If email could speak, it would tell the tale of our cookbook creation, from when we fretted that we had only 60 recipes, and then suddenly we had over 100, then over 150, and before we knew it, almost 250 which was our goal. 

We laughed at our corny jokes, like the one …  “Now we’re cooking!”


We communicated by email constantly with the subject line, “TBE Cookbook”.

And just like the movie, “You’ve got mail,” I began to look forward to having
my morning cup of coffee while enjoying a fresh batch of cookbook emails.  Around
5 p.m., I’d send and receive more emails.  It was not uncommon to have email discussions at 10 and 11 at night, going back and forth between 4 and 5 women. 

On Friday evenings, emails disappeared from our computers,

but then as if by magic, they reappeared early Sunday morning.

When we began the cookbook process in June of 2004, we had a blank page,
an empty puzzle to fill.
         We worked with a cookbook publisher whose target markets were groups just like ours.  We had free reign in preparing the book, but its content had to conform to their mold.  We were allowed so many pages up front, so many divider pages, and so many words per page.

We needed answers to many questions.


We divided into committees to tackle every phase of the book’s production, including:

1. The book contents.

What would we name our food sections,
would there be sub-sections,
what was the recipe order,
what content to use for the introductory pages,

what art work to include; and –

Of course, we needed a title for our cookbook.  We had many candidates for titles and went back and forth until we found the one that fit with the message that was in our hearts. “From our table to yours, a medley of family recipes.”

2. The book format:

Would we select soft cover or hard cover, a ring binder or a comb spine,
dividers with or without tabs, paper color, recipe style, the font for the text,
and even the ink color. 

No, we could not use green ink because its dyes were not kosher.


3. Recipe testing:

Our standards were high and we were a determined group including one amazing teenager, Dana Katz.  Dana loves to cook and is a very good cook; somehow despite an already busy high school schedule, she fit in testing about 20 plus of our cookbook recipes. 

Recipes were tested and rated according to written guidelines.

Recipes were even re-tested to be sure they were prepared correctly and that they were easy to follow. 

Our husbands were eating very well!!


I heard about one young woman who was cooking and testing well after her children were asleep.  When she realized that she needed an ingredient for her recipe, she sent her husband out to the store at two o’clock in the morning to find it for her.

4. Recipe editing:

We established check off forms for editing our recipes. 

We were fortunate to have experienced editors among us who insisted our recipes read consistently and grammatically and meaningfully correct. 

            We were turning our grandmother’s words into written recipes.

… and watch out for incorrect punctuation, or extraneous words like  “the” or “a”.  They were not getting by one conscientious editor.


5. Recipe keying:

Recipes were keyed on-line to our book publisher’s website.

Agents at the book publisher were very helpful, however their software was often a challenge.

… But not for our sisterhood IT women!

One very computer savvy member did so many pickups and deliveries to review edits at my house, she often conducted her real estate business in my kitchen.

6. The creative:

One gracious member invited us to shoot photos of table settings at her homeThese photos were beautifully re-created as illustrations for our cover by a very talented sisterhood member, who then delighted us with more illustrations for each food sectionCombined with bible quotations supplied by one member, our cookbook was now becoming unique and personal.

            By the way, notice in the meat section of our book, the illustration

            of our Jewish cow, named Bossy, who only offers kosher cuts of meats.  


7. Advertising and marketing:

Our sisterhood members put on yet another hat and became salespersons selling ad space and cookbook pre-sales.

To date we have sold over 460 cookbooks and have reprinted 250 more books to satisfy the demand.

Our advertising efforts have completely paid for the book costs and every book sold was profit that will be donated to help renovate the kitchen.

 In fact, we have already made almost $9,000 profit and when we sell the remaining inventory, we will have made $13,000.

8. Highest standards

Our recipes were going to be the best we could present. 

We went through the recipes time and again. 

We checked and re-checked.

Were all ingredients listed in the order to be used? 

Did we include serving amounts?  Was the word confectioner’s spelled with or without the apostrophe?  Should we use a capital letter on Worcestershire sauce?  For recipe A13, we need the number of borekas in the package.  For recipe I8, do we write “jelly roll pan” or can we use “any flat pan”?  For H42, do we cover the pot while simmering

Ah the answer  – cover the pot only partially while simmering!


All of our TBE sisterhood members are very proud of the cookbook that we have simmered so carefully

And as for me, I will miss those secretive, late night emails where I bonded with so many talented and giving women.


Barbara Gold




Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunties




Beth El Cares
Cathy Satz (968-9191;
Cheryl Wolff (968-6361;
BETH EL CARES co-chairs
This year, Beth El Cares will be continuing a long-standing tradition of serving dinner 
at St. Luke’s and Pacific House on Christmas Eve. 
We need two team captains, one to head up the volunteers at each location, 
and we need volunteers to donate the following to make these dinners a success:
Cooked turkey 
Cans of Gravy
Cranberry Sauce (cans or homemade)
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Casseroles
Tossed Salad with Dressing on the Side
Cooked Vegetables
Fresh Fruit
Rolls and Butter
Breads (Banana, Cranberry)
Coffee, Tea, Sugar, Artificial Sweetener and Milk
Paper Goods (plates, silverware, hot and cold cups, and napkins)
If it’s easier for you, make a Monetary Contribution towards the above items 
and we’ll do the shopping.  
Make your checks payable to Temple Beth El Cares 
and note in the memo area “Beth El Cares/Xmas Eve dinner.”  
Please send your checks to the office by Thursday, December 21.




Dalet Class Mitzvah Project


Winter Weather

Clothing Drive


Help the less fortunate and

Donate winter clothing.



We are excepting coats, jackets, hats, gloves,

Socks, thermals, and other warm clothing.



The items will be distributed at St. Lukes

on December 17th.


Please bring items to TBE by December 17th




On Sunday, December 17th,

the Kindergarten, First and Second grade classes will be

Performing a Hanukkah concert at Brighton Gardens.

We will be leaving the Temple at 9:15 AM. 

The program will be between 9:30 and 10:30 AM.


After the performance please join us back at the

Temple for our Hanukkah Celebration.


Parent Volunteers are needed to provide transportation.

Please contact Joanna in the school office to volunteer.

322-6901 ext. 306


AmeriCares HomeFront

AmeriCares HomeFront is a non-profit humanitarian organization that helps community members whose physical and financial limitations prevent them from maintaining their homes.  HomeFront is currently accepting requests for assistance and will be interviewing candidates through DECEMBER 16, 2006.

To request an application, call HomeFront at 1-800-887-HOPE (4673).  Homeowners are selected on the basis of need. 

Repairs may include carpentry, painting, plastering, weatherproofing, window replacement, cleaning and yard work. 

HomeFront promises to keep all applications confidential.  Selections will be made around March 2007

 and the repair work for selected homeowners will be done in May 2007.


Speaking of the repair work, AmeriCares HomeFront is also looking for volunteers to make the repairs. 

Since the repair work will be done on Shabbat (Saturday, May 5, 2007), Temple Beth El cannot sponsor a team. 

However, any congregant who is interested in participating should contact HomeFront at 1-800-887-HOPE (4673). 

AmeriCares is also happy to accept financial contributions which are tax deductible.


For more information, go to www.americareshomefront.orgor call 1-800-887-HOPE.


Adult Babysitter Needed

We are looking for an Adult Babysitter for the weekendsWe have one child, age 3.  If someone is interested they can reach me during the day at 212-733-4990.







Why No Hanukkah Tree?


I received this e-mail question recently:



Dear Rabbi:


I'm wondering if it is not ok to have a tree during Chanukah decorated with Chanukah stuff.....Jews have been decorating with Chanukah lights a lot more over the year a la Xmas so why not a "Chanukah tree?"  Is that a no no?  If so, why?  And if so, should we not be using lights either?


Thanks for letting me know.


Dear _____


Thanks so much for the question!  I am reluctant to answer it in an e-mail because I suspect that it will be better for us to have a longer conversation about it over the phone.  But here’s a first try (and btw, I feel that others also have the same questions and would like to print some of this in my shabbat o gram, anonymously, if it’s OK by you).


The most important thing to state up front is that I never look down on what anyone is doing as a parent or a Jew – we are all acting in good faith (here literally) and trying to do what we think is right.


Anyway, I do see some common roots between the menorah and Christmas tree (in ancient practices, including pagan ones), and there are certainly common themes between the holidays.  The theme of light is one that both holidays share.  Publicizing the miracle is central to Hanukkah, so placing lights in the window is an important custom.  The menorah likely has roots, literally, in a type of seven-branched tree found in the land of Israel.  But that’s about as far as it goes.  We both publicize miracles with lights, but the miracles themselves are very different.


The Christmas tree has come to be seen as a prime symbol of a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of their Messiah.  It also has numerous religious associations for Christians that really can’t be duplicated without mocking their holiday or seriously diluting its meaning.  I know many Christian clergy who are saddened at this dilution, even among their own parishioners.  The wreath is a prime example, symbolizing Jesus’ crown of thorns.  If a Jewish home were to have a wreath, the symbol would be drained of its power.  The tinsel represents angels’ hair, and there are many more associations.  Decorating a tree simply has no historical association with Hanukkah.  We get to decorate a Sukkah instead – and eat in it!  And we celebrate trees on Tu B’Shevat, in a few weeks.  But we plant them then – rather than uprooting them.


While Hanukkah bushes were somewhat popular a few decades ago among Jews who wanted to fit in more as Americans, there’s no problem with fitting in today.  Today the problem for most children is exactly the opposite – to re-discover their Jewish identities.  So the real question is not so much “why not have one?” but “why?”  Why confuse two holidays that, despite their common roots and themes, are in fact celebrating very different historical events.  Hanukkah celebrates religious freedom – the right to be different, not the obligation to conform.  Christmas celebrates the birth of a savior that Jews don’t believe in. 


It all comes down to which practice best nurtures a child’s Jewish identity and pride.  While no two kids are alike (and in interfaith homes there are a whole variety of side issues to consider), I’ve generally found that it troubles Jewish kids to see their Jewish friends having Christmas trees – even if they call them Hanukkah trees or Chrismukkah or whatever – as if to say that their Jewish observances aren’t good enough.  Even for very assimilated families, the Christmas tree has become sort of a litmus test of Jewish loyalty.  It may not be fair to see it as such, but it has become a typical response for many who feel social pressures to conform at this time of year.


Personally, I never had a problem with Christmas songs, TV shows, most decorations etc., outside the home.  I’ve been known to take a peek at Rockefeller Center at this time of year and when I was in high school I  sang some Christmas songs with my choir, just leaving out a word or two here and there, whenever the subject of the Lord’s progeny came up. But the world I grew up in was far less confusing than today’s, and identities far more clearly defined.


I hope that helps to answer your question.


Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Temple Beth El, Stamford CT

(203) 322-6901 X307


"We are God's stake in human history"

                             -- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel




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The December Dilemma - Issue 197: December 5, 2006



Why the Jelly Doughnuts,

and other (C)Hanuk(k)ah questions…


I received the following “ask the rabbi” question:


Rabbi, Perhaps you can answer a Hanukkah question that came up last night as we were eating doughnuts.  What is the significance of "jelly" doughnuts versus any other type of doughnut?


This question must be going around, along with the old “Hanukkah” vs. “Chanukah” spelling conundrum.  I’ve heard both from lots of people lately.  Indeed, why do the sufganiot, that popular Israeli doughnut treat, have to include jelly?  Why not butternut, chocolate or glazed?  Why not Boston Creme, for crying out loud?  I thought about it and responded:


And so I ask, why the applesauce with the latkes?  I think in both cases it comes down to sweetness.  But then, why the sour cream?  Dairy foods are also customary on Hanukkah.  The word sufgania is from the Talmud and means "spongy dough."  Doesn't sound as appetizing as "Krispy Kreme."  Try having spongy dough without something inside to sweeten it up.  The Talmud says nothing about jelly -- or that the doughnut should even have a hole, for that matter.  It needs more investigation.  A dissertation could be written on this!


Well, maybe not a dissertation, but more investigation for sure.  Does the jelly symbolize sweetness, fruitfulness, stickiness, or what?  Why the jelly?


We begin with an argument based on the implicit connection between certain foods that are traditional on this holiday.


We start the journey at a fascinating Web site explaining Jewish symbols, written from a refreshingly liberal perspective (created by the Jewish Women’s project, Kolot, at the JCC of the Upper West Side):  Go to to find Chanukah (they are “CH” people, evidently)Click on “Judith” (or go directly to the summary of this apocryphal tale at and see how the story of Judith ties into this festival and provides it with a unique feminist twist – and also connects it to cheese and dairy products.  To see that connection directly, the entire book of Judith is translated at, and you’ll find a reference to cheese in chapter 10.  Basically, Judith got the evil Holofernes thirsty with the cheese, drunk with (sweet) wine and then cut off his head and saved the Jews.  Anyone know if Saddam likes cheese?


So we now have drawn the line connecting Hanukkah to cheese; but cheese is salty, no?  Well, if you believe this, you haven’t had a cheese blintz lately.  Interestingly, one of the recipes found at the ritualwell site is a Sephardic formula for phyllo triangles with sweet ricotta filling.


Dairy products are frequently tied directly to sweetness.  How often is Israel called the land “flowing with milk and honey?(see Numbers 13:27 and elsewhere)  In a land where water is so scarce, the taste of milk takes on an even greater sweetness.  Commentators often interpret this as an expression for fertility and fruitfulness.  A super article on milk and honey as fertility symbols can be found at   Interestingly, the prophet Joel (4:18) draws a direct parallel between milk and fruit juice, saying: “fruits pure as milk and sweet as honey.”  The connection is clearly made: sweetness = fruit filling = dairy + honey.  Hence, doughnuts without filling just wouldn’t be complete on Hanukkah.  Eating a mouth-watering strawberry glazed doughnut is the gastronomical equivalent to splashing around in a land flowing with milk and honey. 


Here’s a possible historical argument: In ancient times, the doughnuts had no holes.  Dunkin Donuts wasn’t even invented until 1950 (  But even “DDs” does not have the distinction of inventing the uniquely-shaped delicacy.  Go to (“A Short History of the Doughnut) and you’ll find that…

“…In a house in RockportMaine there is a plaque that recognizes Mason Crockett Gregory with the invention of the doughnut hole, in 1847The reason whyHe hated doughnuts with an uncooked center(Or perhaps he was just particularly impatient-they cook much quicker without a centerSkeptics point out that Gregory was a sea captain, however, and may well have encountered the jumble version of the confection on his travels, and brought the idea home with him(This would seem to be the truth behind the legend of a sea captain placing the doughnut on the wheel of his ship for safe-keeping, and then just becoming enamored of the idea.Even if Captain Gregory came up with the idea, John Blondell was awarded the patent for the first doughnut cutter in 1872Blondell's version was made of wood, but an 'improved' tin version with a fluted edge was patented in 1889.”

No matter how you look at it, the doughnut hole came many centuries later than Talmud, so when the ancient rabbis spoke of the spongy Sufgania, they couldn’t possibly have been thinking of doughnuts as we know them, the ones with a hole.  And if the doughnut has no hole, we all know that it is most likely going to be filled with jelly.  Find more about the history of the doughnut at

Some final facts about jelly doughnuts are warranted.  It is been pointed out that JFK made a grammatical error in his famous speech where he ostensibly said, in German, “I am a Berliner,” but really said, “I am a jelly doughnut.”  This is actually an urban legend (see, but what a great tie in to the Maccabees’ own fight for freedom, were it true!  And finally, go to, where you will read what seems the most plausible explanation for the Sufgania’s jelliness:

Polish Jews adopted a local lekvar (prune preserves) or raspberry jam-filled doughnut, called ponchiks (paczki in Polish) as their favorite Chanukah dessertAustralian Jews, many of whom emigrated from Poland, still refer to jelly doughnuts as ponchiksWhen the jelly doughnut made its way to Israel, however, it took the name sufganiyot, after a "spongy dough" mentioned in the TalmudSufganiyot subsequently emerged as the most popular Israeli Chanukah food, sold throughout the eight-day festival at almost every bakery and market.

So where did the jelly doughnuts on Hanukkah idea originate? In Poland, of all places, the homeland of that holiest food around: the bagel.  Makes perfect sense.  Or at least as much sense as the spring like weather that’s happening outside my window right now.

If you are sorry you asked…next, you can explore the superiority of the Latke over the Hamentash

As for Hanukkah (h, 2ks) vs Chanukah (Ch, 1k), it’s all about having a total of eight letters.  Eight letters – eight CRAZY nights. 


A Festival of Virtual Lights: The Best Menorahs Online - the Israeli Emblem -- why does it include the menorah? - from a medieval Spanish illuminated manuscript, a depiction of Zechariahs messianic menorah described in this weeks haftarah. - a chair menorah, from Eastern Europe - beautiful antique menorahs, see also - (Updated daily at 3) NoteRabbinic authorities agree: you can't fulfill the Mitzvah by looking at a computer screen!

Then take a look at the real thing at early menorahs were simple oil lamps with seven holes in them!

For a modern artists take on these ancient treasures, see

A menorah inscription from ancient Rome


"May it be Your will, Adonai, My God and God of my ancestors, to lead me, to direct my steps, and to support me in peace.

Lead me in life, tranquil and serene, until I arrive at where I am goingDeliver me from every enemy, ambush and hurt that I might encounter on the way and from all afflictions that visit and trouble the worldBless the work of my handsLet me receive divine grace and those loving acts of kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all those I encounterListen to the voice of my appeal, for you are a God who responds to prayerful supplicationPraised are you, Adonai, who responds to prayer."

And if your only traveling will be on your computer, here is Tefillat Haderech for Web surfers






 (transliterated)You can also download it to your Palm at PocketYid

A nice loose, translation can be found at





Required Reading and Action Items



Let’s begin with GOOD NEWS from Israel 21c, and other sources


Israeli wheat gene discovery offers chance of better nutrition for world's undernourished   
We've all heard of wild rice, but wild wheat is a new conceptIt turns out that an ancient strain of wild wheat growing in Israel may be the key to helping address malnutritionAn American-Israeli team of researchers has identified a gene found growing in the wild wheat that raises the grain's nutritional contentAnd together, they have been able to introduce the gene into the cultivated wheat that we consume, boosting its protein, zinc and iron contentThe scientists now plan to distribute the seeds freely to farmers throughout the world through international public seed agencies.  More...


Technology | Israeli optical breakthrough poised to change the world of mobile entertainment   
Mobile phones and ipods with video features are great, but the picture leaves a lot to be desiredNow, Israeli-developed 'designer' eyeglasses with proprietary optic lenses promise to make the squint problems passéLumus-Optical's lightweight, fashionable video eyeglasses provide users with a personal high tech video displayAvailable to US consumers next year, the unobtrusive eyeglasses feature a large see-through screen floating in front of the viewer's face that projects their choice of movie, TV show or video gameMore...


Technology | Pentagon-level security for your laptop  
Most companies worth their salt have top-notch computer security systems, but when their employees decide to grab their laptop and head for the local Starbucks, all bets are offNow Israeli company Yoggie Security Systems has created the 'Gatekeeper' - a miniature computer that hooks up to portable computers and enables mobile and remote users to work online with the same security enjoyed by their counterparts in the corporate networkWhether you're a high level programmer or a leisure time web surfer at your favorite coffee shop, the Gatekeeper will keep your data secure.  More...


Profiles | Rami Meiri - from Israel with love  
Rami Meiri's colorful, character-filled, larger-than-life murals have been part of the Tel Aviv landscape for years, with his bright, acrylic works mirroring Israel's lighter side, portraying pub culture, nightlife and images of beachgoers lazing in the sandLately, the rest of the world has been discovering Meiri's unique talents, and the self-styled urban artist has been globe-trotting to BeijingBuenos Aires and the United States, spreading his Israeli-bred style and graceMore...


Culture | Riding in tandem - Israeli blind and sighted bike riders teach each other a few things



now for the rest


Prime source: Daily Alert of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

See also


"An alarming attrition rate post bar/bat mitzvah" - Jewish Ledger Article


Iran's Denial of Holocaust Harms Arab Cause, Palestinian Activist Tells Ahmadinejad - Angus McDowall
On the eve of the conference on the Holocaust starting Monday in Tehran, Mahmoud al-Safadi, a Palestinian recently freed after 18 years in an Israeli jail, wrote an open letter to Iranian President Ahmadinejad calling his stance on the Holocaust a "great disservice to popular struggles the world over."Perhaps you see Holocaust denial as an expression of support for the Palestinians," he writes"Here, too, you are wrong....Our success and our independence will not be gained by denying the genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people.Safadi says that reading the works of Arab intellectuals helped convince him that the Holocaust was a historical fact(Independent-UK)
    See also Holocaust Deniers Ban Dissenting Voice - Michael Theodoulou
An outspoken Palestinian lawyer was hoping to challenge Holocaust deniers during a provocative conference that opens in Iran MondayBut Sunday Khaled Kasab Mahameed learned from the Iranian Foreign Ministry - which had invited him to speak - that he would not receive a visaMahameed lives in Israel, where he has established the Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education, the Arab world's first Holocaust museum, in Nazareth(Times-UK)


Protest Crowds Surge in Beirut - Anthony Shadid
Hizballah and its allies turned out the biggest crowds yet in downtown Beirut, sending hundreds of thousands of followers to the gates of the government headquarters Sunday in a feat of mobilization and discipline described by some leaders as the last mass protest before the 10-day campaign escalates(Washington Post)
    See also Lebanon's Shiites Grapple with New Feeling of Power - Anthony Shadid (Washington Post)


  Iranian President Urges Hamas Leader to Keep Fighting - Dudi Cohen
Iranian President Ahmadinejad urged visiting Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh on Saturday not to bow to pressure to recognize Israel and to keep fighting the Jewish stateHaniyeh, on a four-day visit to one of the strongest backers of his Hamas government, thanked Iran for its support and vowed not to cede to Western demands that it renounce violence, recognize existing interim peace accords, and recognize Israel.
    "The Iranian nation will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Palestinian people until Jerusalem is liberated," Ahmadinejad told Haniyeh"America as the main supporter of this fake regime (Israel) is deteriorating and becoming weak and the conspiracies of the enemies of Islam to break the resistance of the Palestinian nation will fail," he said(Ynet News)
    See also Hamas PM in Tehran: Iran Gives Us "Strategic Depth" - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    See also Haniyeh: This Generation Will Liberate Palestine - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)

  Palestinian Gunmen Kill PA Official's Children at Gaza City School
Palestinian gunmen killed three sons of a Palestinian intelligence chief loyal to PA Chairman Abbas in Gaza on Monday after shooting at a car dropping the children off at an elementary school, police and hospital officials saidAn adult bystander was also killed(Reuters/Ha'aretz)
    See also Armed Mourners Storm Gaza Parliament Compound
Mourners firing automatic weapons stormed into the compound of the Palestinian parliament in Gaza on Monday during a funeral procession for three boys who were earlier shot dead by unidentified gunmen(Reuters)
    See also PA Police in Gaza March on Parliament
On Saturday, more than 2,500 members of the PA security forces, many loyal to Abbas' Fatah movement, marched on the parliament building in Gaza City, firing in the airThe marchers alleged that Hamas was paying its own militia while neglecting the members of the regular security forces(AP/Jerusalem Post)


Abbas' Election Threat - Danny Rubinstein
The possibility of holding new elections has been raised often recently by associates of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as a way to get rid of the Hamas governmentAccording to Abbas loyalists, the chairman can dissolve the government, resign himself, and then call new elections at the earliest opportunity, which is March 2007But according to Hamas spokesmen, the chairman cannot dissolve parliament, and most Palestinian legal experts concurIn other words, Abbas can only dismiss himself, and then elections would be held only for the presidency.
    The idea of holding new elections is Abbas' way of threatening Hamas, on the assumption that the Hamas government is weakBut Hamas leaders are not frightened; they feel strongThe money arrives in suitcases, mainly from Iran, to pay some salaries; Hamas organized a large demonstration in Gaza this weekend that urged Haniyeh not to resign; and the Palestinian public talks about how the rest of the world is getting used to the PA's government of Islamic zealots(Ha'aretz)
    See also Hamas Threatens Violence If Abbas Calls Early Election - Eric Silver
Hamas has threatened to resort to violence if Mahmoud Abbas calls early electionsIsmail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, said during a visit to Iran: "Holding early elections is the start of the creation of disorder in PalestineThey do not want the formation of a national-unity governmentThey want to expel Hamas from the governmentThey want the authority and government to be entirely in the hands of non-Hamas people.The Hamas leader added after meeting hardline Iranian President Ahmadinejad: "We support the Palestinian people's right to resistance and its right to cancel the cruel agreements that we signed in the past with the occupation regime."  (Independent-UK)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S.UK, and Israel):


A Tryst with Destiny - Yehuda Avner
Politically and diplomatically we are very much back in the 1930s as we watch a focused, defiant, and fanatic Teheranian dictator, fired by a nihilistic ideology, facing down the mumbling, shuffling, and procrastinating appeasers of the EU and the UNJust as the enlightened world didn't take the Nazis seriously then, enlightened Europe is largely not taking the Islamists seriously nowWhere is the sense of irrepressible outrage, the uncontainable fury emanating from the deepest depths of a people's soul, bled white century after century, and threatened now, once more, with obliteration by an insane foe?
    It must be hammered home to the Iranian people by means fair and foul that the distance from Tel Aviv to Teheran is exactly the same as that from Teheran to Tel Aviv, with all that that impliesGovernments must be convinced of Israel's incalculable unpredictability if pushed too far, so that their own best interests are better served by counter actions initiated by themselves firstThe writer, a veteran diplomat, was a member of staff for five prime ministers(Jerusalem Post)


Educated Palestinians Leaving PA - Sarah El Deeb
Driven by fear of civil war and increasingly bleak economic prospects, Palestinians are fleeing their violence-wracked lands in growing numbersMany are skilled and educated, and are leaving behind an increasingly impoverished and fundamentalist societyThe brain drain reverses a trend of the 1990s when, fueled by peace hopes, thousands of well-to-do Palestinians returned from the diaspora to the West Bank and Gaza, building homes and setting up businessesMore than 20 factories have moved out of Gaza in recent months.
    Some 10,000 Palestinians emigrated between June and October and another 45,000 have made preparations to leave, said Ahmed Suboh, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry officialA recent poll indicated that the number of young Palestinians willing to leave if given a chance has jumped from 25% to 44% over two yearsTwo popular destinations for Gazans are Canada and CubaThose with tourist visas to Cuba often get off in transit at a European airport(AP/Washington Post)


Whose War CrimesEvidence from Lebanon about How Terrorists Use Civilians - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

  • Mohammad Abd al-Hamid Srour moved missiles across southern Lebanon under cover of a white flagHussein Ali Mahmoud Suleiman used the porch of a private home to fire rocketsMaher Hassan Mahmoud Kourani dressed in civilian clothes, hid his Kalashnikov in a tote bag, and stored anti-aircraft missiles in the back of a green unmarked VolvoThe three men, all members of Hizballah, were captured by Israel during last summer's war.
  • Their videotaped interviews form part of a remarkable report by retired Lt.-Col. Reuven Erlich of Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information CenterRelying heavily on first-hand evidence, the report shows how Hizballah put innocent civilians at risk by deliberately deploying its forces in towns and often private homesIt is Hizballah, not Israel, that is guilty of war crimes here.
  • Beyond the war in Lebanon, these images suggest how Islamists seek to use the restraint of Western powers against themThey shoot at our civilians from the safety of their own civilian enclaves that they know we are reluctant to attackThen if by chance their civilians are killed, they call in CNN and al-Jazeera cameras and wait for the likes of Human Rights Watch to denounce America or Israel for war crimes.
  • None of this means the U.S. shouldn't continue to fight with discrimination and avoid civilian casualties. But it means our political leadership needs to speak as candidly as Israelis now are speaking about this enemy strategy, so the American people can understand and be steeled against this new civilian battleground.


Criminal Denial: Iran's Posturing on the Holocaust Is an Affront to History and to Humanity - Editorial
As even embarrassed Iranians realize, the conference is a disgrace, a grotesque attempt to relativize, if not deny, a crime against humanityThe more thoughtful Palestinians have already understood that the refusal to acknowledge the wartime persecution of the Jews gives credibility to the assertion that critics of Israel are motivated by anti-SemitismIran's president simply proves the pointIranian Foreign Minister Mottaki has revealed the real intention: "If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt.(Times-UK)


When Words Are Futile - Robert Rozett
My colleagues and I at Yad Vashem - The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Israel - can verify and recount the Holocaust in great detail, based on the 110,000 published titles and the 70 million pages of documentation in our collection, and the personal records of a sizable percentage of the individual Jews who were murderedCalling the Holocaust into question can only be likened to questioning if the earth rotates around the sun, or if humans need to breathe to liveThe writer is director of the Yad Vashem Libraries. (Jerusalem Post)


Getting at the Truth - Charles Fried
To even mildly educated people, Ahmadinejad's conference is like having a conference about whether the world might be flat after allThe real victims of this minor latter-day outrage are the Iranian people and rational discourse everywhereAhmadinejad tells us that his pursuit of advanced nuclear capabilities is for peaceful purposes only: power generation, medical applications, and not as part of a weapons programWhy would a rational person put faith in any assurance from a man so contemptuous of truth or even think there is any point in negotiating with himThere is such a thing as truth; that is why Holocaust deniers are fools or liarsThe writer is a professor at Harvard Law School. (Boston Globe)


Bad News Baker - Yoav Fromer
By incorporating Israel into five of its 79 recommendations, the Iraq Study Group's report has forced Israel into center stage in the Iraq debateConsidering Baker's problematic relationship with the Jewish state, most Israelis shouldn't have been surprised with the proposalsAny way you look at it, Baker-Hamilton spells bad news for IsraelWhether due to wishful thinking or selective memory, the proposal for an "unconditional calling and holding of meetings" in a Madrid-like style, between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Syrians, disregards a fairly major point: At this point at time, Israelis simply don't have anyone to talk to.
    Hamas' refusal to accept Israel's existence is not some bump in the road dealt with by parenthesesIt's the heart of the problemThe democratically elected Hamas government is in charge - not the moderate Mahmoud Abbas - and, as long as that is the case, this premature call for negotiations would leave Israelis talking to a handful of people who lack a public mandate to implement potential agreementsAnd, if anyone believes that the Shia and Sunnis are blowing themselves up to free Palestine or avenge the Arab defeat of 1967, they are conveniently forgetting the fact that they had been at it well before Zionism ever came into being(New Republic)


Iran Grows Strong, the World Yawns - Editorial (Ha'aretz)

  • It is possible to make fun of the conference of Holocaust deniers in TehranIt is also possible to view this as yet another symptom of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that has afflicted the West in the face of rising Islamic extremismThe conference is another sign that anti-Israel sentiment has long since turned into open anti-Semitism.
  • The repeated calls for Israel's eradication that emanate from Iran - especially when accompanied by nuclear weapons, but even without them - should have generated an active and effective worldwide frontInstead, we are gradually seeing the problem become Israel's problem alone.
  • It is too early to say the world is remaining silent in the face of the threat to destroy Israel, but it is not too early to say that the world is apathetic and yawning.
  • Ahmadinejad does not recognize the 1967 borders - or any borders - for a Jewish stateHe uses Holocaust denial to eradicate the moral basis for Israel's existence, and even says so openly.
  • To counter this, it is necessary to create a moral, diplomatic, political, and even military front - one that will be activist rather than sleepy and apologetic, and that will make the discussion of Israel's destruction unprofitable for the Iranians even before any discussion of the goals of the nuclear capabilities they are developing.


As Islamists Take Over Somalia, Ethiopia Prepares for War - Scott Baldauf (Christian Science Monitor)
    A new front in the global struggle for Islamist rule is emerging in Africa and there are worrisome signs that battles in Somalia might soon engulf the entire Horn of Africa in a regional war.  As the Islamists take town after town in Somalia and march closer to its border, Ethiopia is gearing up for all-out war, while Eritrea, Djibouti, and Sudan are eyeing the conflict and taking sides.




Israel: Myths and Facts


MYTH #245

"The Golan has no strategic significance for Israel."


Syria — deterred by an IDF presence within artillery range of Damascus — has kept the Golan quiet since 1974. But during this time, Syria has provided a haven and supported numerous terrorist groups that attack Israel from Lebanon and other countries. These include the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)HizbollahHizballah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). In addition, Syria still deploys hundreds of thousands of troops — as much as 75 percent of its army — on the Israeli front near the Heights.

From the western Golan, it is only about 60 miles — without major terrain obstacles — to Haifa and Acre, Israel’s industrial heartland. The Golan — rising from 400 to 1700 feet in the western section bordering on pre­-1967 Israel — overlooks the Hula Valley, Israel’s richest agricultural areaIn the hands of a friendly neighbor, the escarpment has little military importanceIf controlled by a hostile country, however, the Golan has the potential to again become a strategic nightmare for Israel.

Before the SixDay War, when Israeli agricultural settlements in the Galilee came under fire from the Golan, Israel’s options for countering the Syrian attacks were constrained by the geography of the Heights. Counterbattery fires were limited by the lack of observation from the Hula Valley; air attacks were degraded by well-dug-in Syrian positions with strong overhead cover, and a ground attack against the positions...would require major forces with the attendant risks of heavy casualties and severe political repercussions,” U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Irving Heymont observed (Anne Sinai and Allen Pollack, The Syrian Arab Republic, NY: American Academic Association for Peace in the Middle East, 1976, pp. 130-131).

When Israel eventually took these risks and stormed the Syrian positions in 1967, it suffered 115 dead — roughly the number of Americans killed during Operation Desert Storm.

For Israel, relinquishing the Golan to a hostile Syria without adequate security arrangements could jeopardize its early-warning system against surprise attackIsrael has built radar systems on Mt. Hermon, the highest point in the regionIf Israel withdrew from the Golan and had to relocate these facilities to the lowlands of the Galilee, they would lose much of their strategic effectiveness.

This article can be found at

Source: Myths & Facts Online -- A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard.


Who Speaks on Behalf of the Palestinians?

The Palestinian crisis of representation constitutes one of the main reasons for the weakness of the Palestinian political system and for the absence of a Palestinian political address.

Israel and the international community should demand clarity from the PA regarding which body has the authority to take part in the political process.

Click here for the full article.   (from the Re’ut Institute)







Please join TBE for our Annual

Chanukah Celebration 



Creative Chanukiah Contest


Chanukah Candle Lighting


Spin the Dreidel Contest


Junior and Senior Choir Performances


Delicious Jelly Donuts and Latkes


December 17th 10:45 am

in the Social Hall


(Day School students Semi- Final Dreidel Contest

will take place in the Social Hall at 10:30 AM)



Come to Our

Junior Choir

Chanukah Performances


Sunday, December 17th

Chanukah at TBE - 11:00-12:30 PM

Monday, December 18th

Stamford Government Center - 3:30 PM

Tuesday, December 19th

Agudath Shalom - 7:00 PM

Thursday, December 21st

Sterling Glen  4:00 PM


Save the Date for our next spectacular

Synaplex Weekends


Jan 19-20





 [Dr. Benjamin Gampel ] Benjamin Gampel is the Dina and Eli Field Family Chair in Jewish History at The Jewish Theological SeminaryHe teaches courses in medieval and early modern Jewish history, with a special focus on the medieval Sephardim, and lectures widely on the entire range of Jewish history.

Dr. Gampel spent close to a year doing research in local archives in Spain for his first book, The Last Jews on Iberian SoilAfter a great deal of painstaking work compiling materials for the project, Dr. Gampel was able to recreate some of the long-forgotten history of the Jews of the Iberian peninsulaHe also edited the volume Crisis and Creativity in the Sephardic World, which was published by Columbia University Press in 1998At present, he is writing a book on the pogroms and forced conversions of 1391 in the Iberian peninsula, and the effects of those events on the course of Jewish history.

An energetic scholar and teacher, Dr. Gampel is dedicated to bringing the history of the Jews to a broad public audienceHe has addressed synagogues and lay groups, organizations of all stripes, and scholarly conclaves.

Dr. Gampel received his doctorate from Columbia University.

Scholar’s Lecture Topics:

Friday Night:

“Judaism and the Rise of Islam”


Shabbat Morning:

 “Sex, Food and Lush Garden: Religious Piety Confronts Sensual Pleasure”


Saturday Afternoon:

“Gazing into the Countenance of the Divine.

Confronting the Riddle of Jewish Apostasy”






o       Shabbat Unplugged with Cantor Littman, Friday at 7:30– note the time.  Sponsored by an anonymous donor.  Followed by Scholar-in-residence presentation, sit down oneg and Rebbe’s Tish.  Plus Tot Shabbat

o       Meditative service with Dan Klipper, Traditional Service, Learner’s Service for adults with Rabbi Hammerman. Special Junior Congregation presentation with Jonathan Cahr, Teen Service, including “No Hate but Harmony.”  

o       Programs for kids and teens

o       Havdalah Under the Stars, presented by our Youth Commission, 5:30-7:30



And Coming February 9-10…

Synaplex features…



Sisterhood Shabbat

February 10, 2007


Including Miriam’s Minyan at 9:30am

Sisterhood Shabbat (beginning with Torah service) will begin at 10:30am


Please join us for a Synaplex weekend and annual Sisterhood Shabbat.

Members of Sisterhood will lead the service, with the d’var torah delivered by scholar-in-residence Dr. Burton L. Visotsky.  A luncheon will follow.


If you are interested in participating in this wonderful event, please contact us with your name, phone number and email address.  Our contact information is below for your convenience. 

There are English readings, Hebrew/torah readings and non-speaking parts available.

We look forward to hearing from you and together sharing another beautiful Shabbat experience at Temple Beth El.


                               Denise Greenman                                        Linda Hempel Braun

                               329-8594                                                         975-7352




Plus Scholar in Residence

Rabbi Burton Visotzky [Dr. Burton L. Visotzky]

BURTON L. VISOTZKY serves as the Nathan and Janet Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he joined the faculty upon his ordination as Rabbi in 1977He has served as the Associate and Acting Dean of the Graduate School (1991–96), as the founding Rabbi of the egalitarian worship service of the Seminary Synagogue, and as the director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at JTS.

Prof. Visotzky has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University, a visiting fellow and life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, as well as a visiting faculty member at Princeton Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, and the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow (where returned to teach in May, 2006)Dr. Visotzky is also Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary, New YorkIn Spring, '04 he was Visiting Professor of Religion and Judaic Studies at Princeton UniversityRabbi Visotzky has been chosen to serve as the Master Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, during Spring, 2007.  Dr. Visotzky received his B.A. with honors and highest distinction from the University of Illinois (Chicago), a Masters in Education from Harvard University, and his M.A., Rabbinic ordination, and Ph.D., and D.H.L. (hon.) from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Prof. Visotzky's articles and reviews have been published in America, Europe, and IsraelHe is the author of eight booksVisotzky's popular volumes include: Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text (1991), The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis leads us to Moral Development (1996), The Road to Redemption: Lessons from Exodus on Leadership and Community (1998), and From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature (1999)In addition to these popular works and his scholarly monographs, Visotzky is currently completing A Delightful Compendium of Consolation: A Novel, set in eleventh-century North Africa.

With Bill Moyers, he developed ten hours of television for PBS on the book of Genesis, serving as consultant and a featured on-screen participantThe series, "Genesis: A Living Conversation," premiered in October, 1996. Visotzky was also a consultant to Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks for their 1998 film, "Prince of Egypt".

Visotzky sits on the Board of Advisors of the Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham Law School, the Steering Committee of the New Israel Fund Rabbinic Council, and served on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of CancerCareHe is active in Jewish/Christian/Muslim dialogue internationally, most recently in Cairo and DohaQatar.

Rabbi Visotzky is active as a lecturer and scholar-in-residence throughout North America, Europe, and IsraelHis study groups and books have been hailed on radio, television, and in printHe is married to an attorney, Sandra EdelmanThey make their home in New York City and KentConnecticut.


Scholar’s Lecture Topics (for portion of Yitro):


Friday night:

“What is God’s Place in the Synagogue?”


Saturday Morning (in honor of sisterhood Shabbat):

“Three Mothers: Mother of all life, Mother of all Jews, Mother of all Prophets:

Portraits of Eve, Sarah and Miriam.”


Saturday afternoon:

“Who Spoke the Ten Commandments?  

Word of God or Hand of Moses?”


Plus …

First-ever Havdalah Unplugged with Cantor Littman



o       Friday night service at 7:30, followed by scholar in residence lecture and Rebbe’s tish

o       Shabbat morning features the return of Yoga, meditative and learner’s Shacharits and “Miriam’s Minyan” for women

o       Children’s and teens services and programming

o       Sisterhood book discussion

o       Afternoon discussion of Conservative Law Committee decisions

o       Israeli Movie Night: “Walk on Water”





Many thanks to Penny and Michael Horowitz for their sponsorship of our Scholar in Residence presentations,

in memory of Bessie Silver and Millie Reiss

to an anonymous donor family for sponsoring January’s Shabbat Unplugged,

and to Allen and Beverly Kezsbom for their sponsorship of Havdalah Unplugged



Save the Date: Saturday, February 3rd, 2007
Temple Rock Café

Announcing the ALL NEW Temple Beth El annual fund raising eventThis year we have an exciting and fresh approach!

Break out your blue jeans, your dancing shoes and your checkbook and join us for a fun evening of drinking, dancing and good friends for all adults. All this while you peruse the unbelievable items up for bid at the Silent Auction.

Kick off Super Bowl weekend with some rockin’ music, awesome activities, fantastic food and cool companyMark your calendars for the Temple Beth El Annual Fund Raising “extravaganza”.

What: Temple Rock Café
When: Saturday, February 3rd, 7:30 p.m. to midnight
Where: Temple Beth El Social Hall
Cost: Only $90 per person
Food: Buffet food and drinks
Entertainment: Dance to the tunes of "The In-Laws" Band playing Rock n Roll and Pop music spanning the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's
RSVP: or call (203)322-6901 Ext: 304

Looking forward to partying with you on February 3rdThis event is the key fundraiser for Temple Beth El. Bring your checkbook and enthusiasm – there will be plenty of opportunities for you to support the Temple.




The Many Demensions of Jewish Prayer”

with Rabbi Hammerman

meets select Sunday mornings 9:00-10:00 am


Bimah 101:

Prepatory course for Adult Bar/ Bat Mitzvah

With Cantor Rachael Littman

Meets weekly Sunday mornings 10:00-11:00 am


                                                     Judaism for Everyone

An Introductory Class for Dummies, Smarties

and Those Who Don’t Know How to Ask

With Rabbi Hammerman

Meets weekly on select Sundays 11:00 am-12:00 pm

(A prerequisite for those who wish to join

the Beth El Adult Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Class.)

Fee: $50 for materials


Beginners’ Hebrew class

Instructor: Eran Vaisben, Education Director

Take advantage of this beginner/ class to:

Become familiar with the Hebrew alphabet

Improve your Hebrew reading fluency

Delve into a bit of modern Hebrew

Come explore the Hebrew language in a relaxed group setting!

Meets weekly on Tuesday evenings at 7:30– 8:30 p.m.



Learning and Latte at Borders

Stamford’s long-running monthly interfaith “tri-alogue”

featuring Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Rev. Douglas McArthur and Dr. Behjat Syed

This year’s topic:

“Moral Dilemmas for a World in Crisis”

Join us as we engage in friendly dialogue about some of the hot-button issues of the day.  

Meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 7:30-8:30 PM, October-May


Topics (subject to last-minute adjustment to keep up with the headlines)


Jan. 9 –  When does life begin and what happens to the soul after life ends?

Feb. 13 -  Can other religions be “true?”  How can pluralism work for the believer?

March 13 – Is sexuality good, evil or neither?  What are the worst “sins” for our traditions?

April 10 – What are different ways of imagining God in our traditions? How does God show love?

May 8 – What is the future of religion in America?  The world?  Is religion a source of evil?







Are you interested in having more Kosher food options in Stamford?

Whether you have requested the survey, or are hearing about this for the first time, please take a moment to complete the survey. Thank you.


Support our Temple Gift Shop! 

Our featured item: 

The Sisterhood Cookbook 

Delicious Recipes! Kosher! Family Favorites!

Already a TBE Best Seller!

Are you going to a party? Some suggestions for hostess gifts:  Wine bottle or wine glass coasters, small jeweled boxes, pretty serving dishes, decorative dreidels... 


Shopping hours: Sunday mornings, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Weekday shopping by appointment.

To schedule an appointment, please call Mia Weinstein at 595-0528.

Attention all TBE Members!


The 2006-07 Torah Fund Pin Has Arrived!


Do your part for Jewish Continuity!  Click here to view the beautiful pin and for more information:


The Torah Fund Pin makes a great gift for every Jewish woman.  Your donation helps support The Jewish Theological Seminary, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, which train Conservative Jewish rabbis, cantors, educators and leaders.


Call 322-8842 to order now, and receive your pin in time for Hanukkah!


Thank you for your generosity!


Karen Hainbach

Vice President of Torah Fund, TBE Sisterhood




Temple Beth El Gift Cards!  Our gift card program is back in full swing.  Order forms can be obtained at the school office.  Any questions, please call Stuart Nekritz at (203) 322-0872.  Please get yours today!



COLLEGE STUDENTS!  Rabbi Hammerman would like to keep in touch with you throughout the school year.  Please send your e-mail address to to be included in his college list.




Save the date –Jan 21 at 9:00 AM


Movie and discussion from 9-11 AM, open to all. 

Followed by a reunion for TBE Israel Adventure groups from 2004 and 2005. 

Our guest will be Peter Abelow of Keshet Tours,

who has been our guide on the most recent two TBE Israel trips.


The movie:



Elidad Schneid usually got nervous before major games of the Gush Katif inter-settlement basketball leagueAs a member of the Netzer Hazani team, the winner of most of the league's championship trophies, he should have been particularly nervous hours before the tournament final against Neve DekalimBut he wasn'tHe was too busy planning for another battle scheduled for the same day: the battle over his home.


Schneid is one of the few basketball players interviewed in Home Gamea new documentary following the struggle of the Netzer Hazani community to hold on to its Gaza Strip homes in the days before the fateful August 2005 implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.  The documentary was produced by Peter’s son Avi Abelow, who developed the idea for the film after taking a leave from his Tel Aviv consulting job to support the Gush Katif settlersAfter infiltrating Netzer Hazani two weeks before the disengagement began, he used his digital camera to document what he hoped would not be the Gaza settlements' final daysDespite having no previous experience in the film industry, he assembled his footage to create a short film to help raise money for Gush Katif residents after their evacuation, offering donors a longer version as a bonusThis longer film eventually evolved into a full-fledged documentary.


Home Game's insider footage includes teenagers painting the settlement in orange, the color associated with the anti-disengagement movement; a near violent encounter between young settlers and border police; the settlers' return of their weaponry to the IDF; emotional meetings in which settlers discuss painful decisions about how to prepare for their evacuation; the heart-wrenching day of the evacuation itself; and, of course, the final home game.



Youth Programming





For our USY teens….



A Hanukkah Party









When: Saturday, December 16th, 2006

Where: Temple Beth El, Stamford CT

Time: 7:00 p.m. – 10 p.m.

What: Come Celebrate your favorite holiday with Jewish teens

Feast on some delicious latkas

Make edible dreidels

Grab bag

Watch 8 Crazy Nights

Donate old books!!!!

Cost: $8- if you bring no book

$5- if you bring one book

FREE- if you bring 10 books!!!



They will be donated to St. Lukes Life Works






Perfect for Hanukkah!

(thanks to Sue Plutzer for this one)

An old Jewish man lived alone in the countryHe wanted to dig his potato garden but it was very hard work as the ground was hardHis only son, Sol, who used to help him, was in prison for Insider trading and stock fraudThe old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

"Dear Solly:

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my potato garden this yearI'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plotIf you were here, all my troubles would be overI know you would dig the plot for me.

Love, Papa”

A few days later the old man received a letter from his son:

"Dear Papa:

For heaven's sake Pop, don't dig up that garden, that's where I buried the money & stocks.

Love, Solly.”

At 4 am the next morning, a team of FBI agents and local police arrived at the old man's house and dug up the entire garden area without finding any money or stocksThey apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son:

"Dear Papa:

Go ahead and plant the potatoes nowThat's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Your son”


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

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