Friday, December 8, 2006

December 8, 2006 – Kislev 18, 5767

December 8, 2006 – Kislev 18, 5767


Rabbi Joshua HammermanTemple Beth El, StamfordConnecticut


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Last weekend, nearly 140 people enjoyed our Progressive Dinner and Murder Mystery. This weekend, approximately 160 will come together for our Synaplex Shabbat and Sisterhood Cookbook Celebration. And NEXT week is Hanukkah, with lots of special events.

 The celebrations keep on happening at TBE!



L to R: Matt Kasindorf, Michelle Piskin, Allan & Roni Lang, Scott Piskin,

and Jeannie Kasindorf enjoy dinner before the TBE Murder Mystery


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Metallic Blues


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



"Borat essentially works as a tool.  By himself being anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice, whether it's anti-Semitism or an acceptance of anti-Semitism. 'Throw the Jew Down the Well' [a song performed at a country & western bar during Da Ali G Show] was a very controversial sketch, and some members of the Jewish community thought that it was actually going to encourage anti-Semitism. But to me it revealed something about that bar in Tucson. And the question is: Did it reveal that they were anti-Semitic? Perhaps. But maybe it just revealed that they were indifferent to anti-Semitism.


"I remember, when I was in university I studied history, and there was this one major historian of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw. And his quote was, 'The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference.'  I know it's not very funny being a comedian talking about the Holocaust, but I think it's an interesting idea that not everyone in Germany had to be a raving anti-Semite. They just had to be apathetic."


-Sacha Baron Cohen, in his Rolling Stone interview

(see link at bottom of this Shabbat –o-Gram)





Here’s what’s happening Friday night: 


 Synaplex & Sisterhood Family Shabbat Dinner,

Services and Program

Honoring New Members

December 8, 2006


Services 6:30 pm


Please join us in the main sanctuary as we welcome Shabbat together and honor our new members. 

There will be a Tot Shabbat for our children starting at the same time with Nurit.


Dinner 7:30 pm


Share in the Sisterhood’s celebration of the all new (first ever!) TBE cookbook.  Enjoy a dinner made from cookbook recipes that were contributed by our own TBE family.  Hear about the beautiful two-year journey of over 120 Sisterhood members who contributed their hearts and kitchens to create this beautiful keepsake for all to enjoy.


If you are interested in purchasing the cookbook, please order using the RSVP (on the opposite side of this page).  The proceeds will be donated to TBE’s kitchen renovation project.


Program 8:30 pm


We are honored to have Elise Klein, UJF BRIDGES Program Director, join us to share with us how each of us can become part of our TBE community and what we can do to make it stronger.


Working together, we will discuss ways in which to create a community that all want to be part of and which all can share in – respecting our differences and celebrating our commonalities.  By strengthening bonds we create a strengthened, enriched community: opening and welcoming to all who wish to be part of TBE’s wonderful congregation.


There will be children’s programming at this time, with Nurit here for the younger children and a Scrabble tournament for older ones..


Other announcements regarding Friday night:


We have approximately 155 people signed up for this Friday night's Synaplex Sisterhood dinner!!


While reservations are closed for the 7:30 dinner, everyone is most welcome to come, without reservation, to the services at 6:30 (the main service and Tot Shabbat) and to Elise Klein's presentation at approximately 8:30.




-- as with all Synaplex events, dress is casual.


-- The Cantor and I have been working together to develop a Kabbalat Shabbat service that will be different and exciting, with a focus on congregational singing and reflection.  Many of the melodies will be relatively new, but most will at least be somewhat familiar to those who have attended Kabbalat Shabbat here over the years. 


-- Unlike Shabbat Unplugged, the only instrument will be keyboard...and Cantor Littman will be accompanying herself. 


-- When you arrive, after being greeted at the door, come right into the sanctuary, where you will have the choice of sitting in the center section pews or in a number of chairs that will be set up on the bima.  We've had bima sitting before (primarily on rainy Fridays in the summer), but this will be a chance to create a real feeling of intimacy and embrace.  Please fill in the chairs on the bima first!  Of course you are free to sit below if you prefer.


-- Seats for the dinner will be assigned so that we can all meet new people.  As soon as the service is over, we'll go right into the social hall for the blessings and the meal.  The program being prepared by our cookbook committee is simply going to be incredible.


-- After dinner, please stay for Elise Klein's presentation.  She is truly an expert on community building and we need to hear what she has to say.  The older kids will have a board game tournament ,with the help of our youth advisor Edoe and the Silver family (and a special thank you to Beth, who  has done a spectacular job of co-chairing this entire evening), and the younger ones will hang out with Nurit.


-- As we did after October's super Synaplex premier, we will develop a survey to assess this program, but please don't be shy!  The cantor and I will be especially interested in your reactions to the service, as it could become a model for future Friday nights. Let us know what you think !






Friday Evening 

Candle lighting: 4:08 pm on Friday, 8 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


Synaplex Shabbat Evening service: 6:30 PM – in the sanctuary (casual dress)


Tot Shabbat: 6:30 – in the Kindergarten room on the lower level


Shabbat Morning: 9:30 AM– on Shabbat, we celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Duoglas Weisman.  Mazal tov to Douglas and to his parents David and Dara! 


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 Vayishlach
פרשת וישלח


Genesis 32:4 - 36:43 – Jacob’s Wrestling Match and Reunion with Esau

1: 35:16-26

HaftarahHosea 11:7 - 12:12


If you liked Storahtelling, you’ll LOVE Storahtelling’s new weekly blog about the Torah portion Find it at  ORT Navigating the BibleRashi in EnglishBibleGateway: Useful for comparing different translations: Note- this is a Christian site.
What’s Bothering Rashi (Bonchek) Each week, one example from the parashah is deconstructed. See a weekly commentary from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at  Read the Masorti commentary at  University of Judaism,  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  Also, try  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  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 Tuesday December 12 and Sunday, December 17.  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


Zac Krowitz’ Commentary on Nov. 17th portion: Hayye Sarah



   Everyone who knows me knows that sports is a huge part of my life.    I play it whenever I can, I’ve watched ESPN almost every day since I was in preschool, and I can recite teams’ and players’ statistics, especially when we’re talking about Fantasy football and basketball leagues.  My folks know that we can’t go on vacation without bringing a ball for me to throw.  You should see all of the pictures of Andrew and me throwing a ball in WashingtonD.C., on mountains in Jackson Hole and even in London near Buckingham Palace.


I’ve been playing baseball since I was a little kid, first here as a member of the Temple Beth El Matzoh Balls team and then for the past several years in National Lione Little League.   I’ve been mostly a pitcher and shortstop.   I’ve put in countless hours of practice in order to succeed and it has really paid off.  My team made it to the championship game all four years I was in Little League and even though we lost every time (sorry Coach Mike) it was an amazing experience.  I’ve also pitched in All-Star games and now have started playing Babe Ruth baseball.


I also love to play tennis and this past summer earned a gold medal in the Stamford Maccabi games.  I also love to play basketball and ski, and I’m a big fan of the Mets, Jets and Knicks (OK, supporting these teams every year does build character but that’s for another speech). 


   I’ve learned that being good at sports doesn’t happen by itself, just like becoming Bar Mitzvah doesn’t happen by itself.  Each thing involves lots of time, dedication and commitment.  But most of all, it involves hard choices.   Do I practice again after school, making another hundred throws from short to first, or hitting hundreds of backhands and forehands, even if it means I have to give up a lot of free time?  Do I give up trips to the beach just because we have another set of weekend games? These decisions may not rise to the level of the decisions faced by Sandy Koufax when he chose not to pitch a World Series game because it took place on Yom Kippur or by Abraham and Kind David in the portions I just chanted, but I’ve discovered that we are all the product of the choices that we make.


   My portion’s name is Chayyay Sara, which means “The Life of  Sarah.”  Actually, the word for life is plural in Hebrew, so the literal translation of the name is “The LIVES of Sarah.” 


   Sarah dies at the beginning of the portion, but we discover that in many ways she is still very much alive.  We also discover that when crucial choices are made, a life can change dramatically.  Some commentators believe, in fact, that Sarah died immediately when she heard that her son Isaac had nearly been sacrificed by Abraham.  Had Abraham made a different choice, Sarah might have survived.  So by calling the portion “The LIVES of Sarah,” we are alerted not only to the life she lived, but to the life she could have lived had she not died then.


In my portion, Abraham sends his servant out to choose a wife for Isaac, once again denying Isaac the chance to choose his own destiny.  Isaac is very happy in the end with the bride chosen for him, Rebecca, but you have to wonder how it affected him, never getting to make big decisions.  Who knows what choices he would have made. 


Both Sarah’s and Isaac’s lives were the product of Abraham’s choices.  I know that up until now, my parents have made most of the big decisions for me, but that I’ve gotten some good practice at making key decisions as well. 


It’s not just about sports or learning a haftarah.  Recently I’ve made other important choices.  For instance, for my mitzvah project, I decided to raise money to help Israeli soldiers and their families by supporting the Friends of the IDF.  I also chose to have an Israeli twin, Moshe Mahar, who was born in Ethiopia.  I will be helping to fund his bar mitzvah and school supplies, which he desperately needs.  So it’s like a little of him is here with us right now at my bar mitzvah and a little of me will be there with him at his.


Another reason for choosing these mitzvah projects is that I think it is very important today to support Israel.  In my Torah portion, it is very important to Abraham that he own the land where Sarah is buried and as Jewish people we know how important it is for us to have a homeland.  I have never been to Israel and honestly am a little nervous about the idea of going there because of all of the violence.  But I also know that is very important that we support Israel and that we make sure that all Israelis, including Israeli soldiers, know how much we support them.  


I realize that as a Bar Mitzvah I’m now responsible for most of my decisions, and every choice I make, no matter how big or small, will have an impact on the rest of my life.  So, just as with Sarah, there is the life that I will live, and the millions of potential lives that I leave behind at every fork in the road.  And I also know that, as with Abraham, the choices that I make can have a profound impact on others.  So every time I make a tough decision, I know that have to consider the impact it will have on me and on my family and friends.  And I know that my family and my friends will always be there to help me with those choices, as I will be there for them whenever they need me.  My friends and I are all entering an important time in our lives, when we will have more freedom but also more responsibility, when the choices we make (whether it is about where we go to college or where we hang out) can have a huge impact on our lives.  I made many important choices that led to my standing up here right now and I think they have helped to prepare me for the work I will do in the future.



David Katz’ Commentary on Dec. 2 portion: Vayetze


(also catch David’s Bar Mitzvah video montage at – and look for my cameo performance at David’s bris!)



            Those of you who know me know that I am especially interested in table tennis…in other words, Ping Pong.  It all began when I was about 7 and I started to play every day at Long Ridge camp.  We used to play “winner stays on,” which motivated me to get better and better.  Eventually, my dad brought out an old ping-pong table and we would play a lot.  I thought I was pretty good, so one day we went to a table tennis club and I got a rude awakening.  That only made me work harder.  So I’ve kept practicing and playing and now I am one of the top players in the state – including adults. 


            I’ve learned lots of lessons from my table tennis experiences over the years – and it turns out that some of the same lessons can also be learned from my portion.


            The first lesson is that hard work pays off.  Jacob had to work for 7 years to marry Rachel, but then he found out that he had been deceived and married her sister Leah instead.  Talk about a rude awakening!  So Jacob then had to work for seven more years before being allowed to finally marry Rachel. 


            Jacob was a very hard worker and his work did pay off – he ended up with lots of sheep and lots of kids.


            Another lesson from ping-pong is what goes around comes around – literally.  Sometimes no matter what you do, the ball just keeps coming back, over the net.  In last week’s portion, Jacob was the deceiver.  In this week’s he was the victim of deception.

I’ve learned this lesson in another way.  It’s important not to take any opponent lightly. When I have a lead, I have to keep putting in 110 percent effort.  When you start to fool around, that lead can disappear just as easily as it came. 


            Also, the name of my portion, “Vayetze,” means “and he left.” The portion begins with Jacob leaving his home country and it ends with his return.  Life, like a ping pong ball, is filled with comings and goings.  This idea is also shown in Jacob’s dream, with the angels going up and down a ladder, in constant motion.  In life, sometimes you need to go far away in order to appreciate coming home.  That’s one reason why I like camp so much.   It’s interesting to know that when Americans began to explore the other side of the world, it was ping-pong diplomacy that opened the door to China.


            Closer to home, ping pong has helped me discover exotic places like SheltonConnecticut. Of course I wouldn’t mind going to China – but Chinatown is good too! J


            So I hope you can now see just how much my portion and my hobby have in common. 


            For my mitzvah project, I have collected food to be donated to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.  They especially need food at this time of year.


            I would like to thank my mom for forcing me to practice my Hebrew and I’d like to thank my Dad for helping me to perfect my table tennis game.  I’d also like to thank my sister, Dana, for her part in the clothes shopping.  And, I’d like to thank Bracha Moshe for encouraging me to take on four Torah portions, Cantor Littman for her time and the candy, and the Rabbi for helping me with my speech.  I’d also like to thank all my past Hebrew teachers. I couldn’t have done it without all of your help. Thank you all for coming to share this day with me.







Ranting Rabbi



A Crossroads for Conservative Judaism


Here is the press release from the Rabbinical Assembly on Wednesday’s Law Committee decision: 


New York, NY, (December 6, 2006) – The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly concluded its two-day meeting on the subject of Homosexuality and Halakhah, or Jewish Law, this morning. The discussions and teshuvot of the CJLS reflect a deeply shared commitment to halakhah, Jewish Law and the Torah principle of kvod habriot, the God-given dignity of all human beings. 


The Rabbinical Assembly is the international professional association of Conservative rabbis. The CJLS is the central halakhic authority for the Conservative movement, which represents more than two million Jews worldwide.


The following statement was drafted at the conclusion of the meeting:


Founded in 1927, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards is empowered to deal with, and rule on, halakhic issues within the Conservative movement.  The role of the CJLS is to issue rulings shaping the practice of the Conservative Jewish community. As such, it is an advisory, not a judiciary body. Parameters set by the committee guide all of the rabbis, synagogues and institutions of the Conservative movement, but within these bounds there are many variations of practice recognized as both legitimate and essential to the richness of Jewish life. As a result, there have been instances when two or more responsa, representing conflicting viewpoints, are validated by the committee. When that happens, the local rabbi determines which of the responsa to follow.


At the CJLS meetings, five specific teshuvot were extensively discussed in a spirit of collegiality and open-mindedness. Two teshuvot -- one authored by Rabbi Joel Roth and the other authored by Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner -- obtained clear majority support.  Rabbi Roth’s responsum “Homosexuality Revisited” reaffirmed the prior position, which denied ordination as clergy to active homosexuals and also prohibited same sex commitment ceremonies or marriage. In contrast, Rabbis Dorff, Nevins and Reisner, while retaining the Torah’s explicit prohibition, as understood by the rabbis banning male homosexual intercourse, argued in “Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah” for the full normalization of the status of gay and lesbian Jews. Under this ruling, gay and lesbian Jews may be ordained as clergy and their committed relationships may be recognized, although not as sanctified marriage.


A third teshuva accepted by the CJLS, written by Rabbi Leonard Levy, which upheld the traditional prohibitions, argued that homosexuality is not a unitary condition and urged the development of educational programs within the community to achieve understanding, compassion and dignity for gays and lesbians. There was also some support on the committee for a more comprehensive repeal of the prior ban against homosexual relationships. All authors of teshuvot shared a universal appreciation for the principle of kvod habriot and the welfare of gays and lesbians in our community.


During its deliberations the CJLS did not discuss – nor do any of the papers reflect – any determination regarding gay marriage.


The meeting of the past two days on the issue of homosexuality and halakhah reflects a wide diversity of ideas and opinions. These distinct and divergent opinions may be used by rabbis, synagogues, institutions and individual members of the Conservative movement as a guide in welcoming gays and lesbians in our movement.


The teshuvot may also serve to determine the extent to which gays and lesbians may be admitted into our seminaries and guide the clergy of our movement on the question of whether to initiate commitment ceremonies for gays and lesbians.


The CJLS is united in its concern for the unity of the Conservative movement worldwide. The diversity of opinions issued today reflects an essential strength of the Conservative movement – namely, its very pluralism. Indeed, a multiplicity of approaches to halakhah has been a key feature of the Conservative movement since its inception.


The CJLS is composed of 25 rabbis and 6 non-rabbinical members (who are non-voting) and who serve on a rotating basis for a period of at least 5 years. The Rabbinical Assembly, founded in 1901, is the international association of Conservative rabbis. The Rabbinical Assembly actively promotes the cause of Conservative Judaism, publishes learned texts, prayer books and works of Jewish interest, and administers the work of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards for the Conservative movement.


From:     Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein, International President     

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President                    


And this from the USCJ:


RE:  Committee on Jewish Law and Standards: Ordination of gays and lesbians and same-sex commitment ceremonies


Within the past few hours, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards completed its deliberation on five responsa that considered whether Jewish law may allow the ordination of gay men and lesbians and same-sex commitment ceremonies. The debate and the deliberation, which took place over many sessions, was serious, passionate, and at times heated. The issue has been treated with great sensitivity by everyone involved.


Although the full texts of the responsa will be made available in due course, we want to inform you as soon as possible that the committee has endorsed papers both reaffirming the status quo and affirming change. The status quo, as you know, has been that the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians was not allowed, and rabbis who performed same-sex commitment ceremonies did so without the Law Committee’s sanction. The result of the committee’s vote means that rabbis, synagogues, and other Conservative institutions may continue not to permit commitment ceremonies and not to hire openly gay or lesbian rabbis and cantors. On the other hand, rabbis, synagogues, and institutions can perform or host those ceremonies and are free to hire openly gay rabbis and cantors. The halakha of the Conservative movement, as voted by the Law Committee, now allows both positions. Both are considered valid.


Although we have the greatest respect for the Law Committee’s decisions, we do not agree with the recommendations of the third paper it accepted, which said that gay men and lesbians are best advised to find “restorative therapy” to change their sexual orientation.


One of the basic tenets of the Conservative movement is that each rabbi who is the spiritual leader of a congregation is the mara d’atra, or final decisor of Jewish law, in that congregation. Therefore, the decisions of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, while important, are advisory. Reached after serious scholarship, thought, and debate, the decisions provide guidance and support to congregational rabbis, who must make their own decisions.


Another basic truth of our movement is its diversity. We draw strength from the differences in practice and commitment that mark Conservative congregations, even as we celebrate our common bonds and shared values. Today’s decision is another example of the wide range of Conservative Judaism. If we work together, we can show that strength in action.


No matter which path a rabbi and congregation may take, which halakha it chooses to follow, all of our rabbis and congregations share a concern for the dignity of all human beings. No matter what a rabbi and congregation chooses to do about hiring gay and lesbian rabbis or commitment ceremonies, all must show respect and sensitivity to all Jews, no matter what their sexual orientation may be. All Jews must be welcome in all our congregations.


Given the Law Committee’s decision today, Rabbi Epstein, who is United Synagogue’s mara d’atra, has told United Synagogue’s leadership that he sees no reason why we should not revise our hiring policies. Based on this conclusion, we may consider applicants for United Synagogue jobs no matter what their sexual orientation. United Synagogue’s leadership will discuss the issue at its next scheduled meeting.


We know that some congregations will face tensions and challenges as they grapple with this issue in the weeks, months, and years ahead. As with the larger Conservative movement, each congregation must find ways to bridge its differences and strengthen the bonds that unite it. It is part of our mission to help each congregation cope with the challenges. That is why over the past few months we sponsored several sessions throughout the country where we explained both the halakhic process and the issues. A video of one of the sessions is on our website – go to and click on the links at the item on the top left of the bulletin board. Study guides are available on the website as well.


As we face the implications and possibilities inherent in the Law Committee’s decision, we continue our commitment to help each congregation. We offer personal consultation and guidance to each of our member congregations. Rabbi Epstein has convened a meeting of senior staff for tomorrow. They will meet an expert in consultancy and organizational change to begin planning the strategy to help each congregation in concrete ways. On January 2 and 3, the entire United Synagogue staff will meet for intensive training. We are committed to stand by your side as each congregation works through the process in its own time, using its own agenda.


In this week’s Torah portion, we are told that Jacob wrestled with God. As a result of that encounter, Jacob became Israel and evolved into a stronger human being. We share with your our heartfelt prayer that as a result of our wrestling with the issues we confront, we, too, will become stronger in our commitment to Jewish living and to our fellow Jews.


So now, what does this mean for our congregation and for Conservative Judaism as a whole? 


The statements have all been confusing and it might appear as if nothing really has changed.  Two diametrically opposing opinions?  Amazingly, each opinion gained 13 (not 14) of 25 votes (a majority), meaning that at least a couple of people voted for BOTH!  I’ve heard several comments from congregants to the effect of, “How wishy-washy can you get???” 


Don’t be fooled.  It does sound confusing, but in fact, this was an earthquake.  Each Conservative entity can decide which opinion to follow, and now, for the first time, it is 100% halakhically OK for a Conservative rabbi to perform commitment ceremonies or, once the seminaries deal with this, for an openly gay Jew to be ordained as a rabbi  - or have any position of leadership for that matter.  The movement has, essentially, come out of the closet.  See above what Rabbi Epstein has already done in changing the USCJ’s hiring practices. 


For the movement, there will undoubtedly be turbulence as this thing shakes out.  Just as happened with women’s ordination a quarter century ago, some traditionalists will leave the movement.  Some have already resigned from the Law Committee.  But just as happened with the influx of female rabbis, there will be an energizing effect that will enable the movement to reach many more Jews with warm outreach and a renewed creativity. 


And what of TBE?  Nothing will change on the surface.  The rulings will have no impact on our services or programs, in the short run and no commitment ceremonies have been requested.  As soon as the teshuvot (responsa) are made available for general release, I plan to share them with you so that we can spend some time learning them together.  It is my hope that the ritual committee will be an important element of this conversation, as we explore the local implications of the CJLS rulings  and, more generally, how Conservative rabbis and synagogues translate CLJS opinions into halakhic policy. 


Most of all, what I intend to do is listen – to anyone who has a question or an opinion.  It is no secret that both the cantor and I are actively involved in our movement’s more inclusive wing (see on this issue.  As such, and as a staunch pluralist, I am thrilled at the possibilities raised by this ruling. But in my role as leader of this congregation, I also have an obligation to listen to your concerns, which is exactly what I intend to do.  Sessions at the next two Synaplex Shabbats (Jan. 20 and Feb. 10) will be devoted specifically to studying and reflecting more about this issue.


There were many winners and probably a few losers on Wednesday, but I strongly feel that this will be seen someday as a positive watershed moment for Conservative Judaism.  And if that is the case, given the decades-long decline in Conservative affiliation, that will be a very good thing for Temple Beth El.


While this subject is a difficult one to discuss at services, some of the principles surrounding it are not, in particular the principle of pluralism.  Many are asking, for example, how a movement can adopt two completely contradictory positions and remain a unified movement.  I will be addressing these matters to some extent this Shabbat and in coming weeks.


See also:

The Conservative movement’s highest legal body moved to allow commitment ceremonies for gays and the ordination of gay rabbis. (JTA)

Conservatives OK Gay Ordination

Landmark decision comes though ban upheld in separate position paper; 4 law committee members resign. (Jewish Week)




Forty-Eight (Rabbinic) Hours


People are often fascinated by the life of a rabbi.  All too often, I find myself so immersed in my work that I fail to appreciate the impact that each event has on people’s lives.  It is truly a gift to be able to compress so many meaningful, life-changing moments into a few short hours.  Several times during a given weekend, I have the privilege of taking part in events that people will remember for the rest of their lives.  During this season of sharing, I share with you a “typical” such weekend – just a few weeks ago.


November 18-19 was already going to be busy, but soon after I came downstairs on Shabbat morning, “typically busy” morphed instantly into hyper drive. 


8 AM - A congregant calls to inform me of the passing of her mother that morning.  The death is not unexpected, but in an instant, everything that has been planned for my weekend is thrown into a state of chaos.  If the family were to want to do the funeral on Sunday, with burial in WoodbridgeNew Jersey, a total of seven events would be impacted, some of which cannot be moved or cancelled.  Yet I am reluctant to push the funeral off until Monday, since the custom is to bury as fast as possible, IF possible, and because Sunday is often more convenient for families.


Let’s take a step back and look at how this fairly typical fall weekend sets up.  On Shabbat morning: services and a bar mitzvah; Saturday night, an out of town wedding; Sunday, teaching two adult ed classes and two Hebrew School grades, followed immediately by a local baby naming, then hop the train to chaperone our USYers in New York City to see the play Jewtopia.   So as I speak to the bereaved congregant, I’m juggling these events in my mind to figure out what the scheduling possibilities are


9:30 –  I update the Cantor regarding the funeral and then services begin.  Zac Krowitz does a terrific job and the service is upbeat and spirited, as we always hope they will be.  Zac becomes the first bar mitzvah in Beth El history to have a toss with the rabbi on the bima while he is being charged.  And Zac goes error free.  The sermon is a particularly challenging topic, the Jewish purity laws, a subject rarely touched by rabbis in this setting but one of increasing relevance.  I feel good about taking that risk.  The service clicks on many levels, including a nice, communal, extended Kiddush.  Before embarking on an hour-long schmoozathon, I quickly call the bereaved family to see how things stand for Sunday, so I can make plans with the cantor and begin laying out the week, the shiva, etc.  I find out that a close relative won’t be able to make it back until Sunday evening, so the funeral will have to be Monday.   I make plans to see the family on Sunday evening.


Now that the logistical end is taken care of, it’s all about the experience and the emotions. The gift of being a rabbi has nothing to do with being so busy hopping from one life-changing event to another, it’s all about being part of those events and immersed in the lives of those families.  Before Zac Krowitz was tossing balls at me, and before his parents were members here, I had been at his Pidyon ha-ben, slogging up their driveway through a snowstorm.  And before I stood under the huppah with David Miller and his bride on Saturday night in Rockland County, I had stood atop Masada with him and his family, on our 1994 Beth El trip.  And what a wedding it is – the works: the traditional “tish,” public ketuba signing and bedeken. Several TBE families are there.  Hazzan Rabinowitz is also there and it is a pleasure to work with him under the huppah again.   


Sunday morning - and a chance now to impact more lives. 


9:00 – my prayer class; we discuss the meaning of Jewish blessings, taking the motzi apart, word by word – each word projecting a universe of Jewish values.  This class consists primarily of people who have were in my basic Judaism class last year, so they are very comfortable with one another and the discussion is always fascinating.  Just as important, they always bring coffee – and they know how I like it. 


At 10, I shift quickly into Hebrew School mode.  Eran has planned my every minute on Sundays, to maximize my opportunity to work with each grade in the school.  His organizational skills are astounding; so, precisely on schedule, the entire third grade comes to visit my office.  I give them the tour of all the important sites – my Hebrew letter clock, my mizrach, various Jewish artifacts, I show them a page of the Talmud, my photos of Jerusalem, the basketball hoop and my Johnny Damon baseball.  They ask me some great questions.  One child asks what I like least about being a rabbi.  I speak about the difficulty of finding time to spend with family – but then add that my family has solved that problem by being in the building as much as I am.  And then, by popular demand, I lead them out through my secret passage way, the side door to the chapel bima that always amazes kids who must think it is some portal to Narnia or something.  In this case, we walk into the chapel just as Harry Romanowitz is explaining to our 7th graders in graphic detail what is a brit milah.  One of those priceless moments that you’ll never see on a MasterCard commercial.


I whisk the 3rd graders out just as the 4th graders are arriving with Debbie Morgenthaler for their half hour long visit.  One of the kids asks my what I like most about being a rabbi. I look at them for a second and respond, “this,” thinking also of how Zac Krowitz and David Miller once sat where they were sitting.


It’s 11 and time for my “Judaism for Everyone” class where I go over the timeline of Jewish history.  I make it from Creation to the destruction of the second temple when I see that is noon.  I rush off to the naming of the new daughter of Mike and Marni Handel.  Mike grew up here, but was bar mitzvah somewhat before my time, so my experience of him has been primarily as an adult.  I’ve seen him through the perils of singlehood, and the blessing of his meeting and marrying Marni.  I also look forward to seeing his parents and sisters, who do not live locally.  Only one problem – Mike lives in Chesterfield, which is only a few blocks and a whole lot of helium filled balloons from where my car is.  Somehow I get there, avoiding that pre-Thanksgiving parade, as does the cantor, and the naming is just wonderful.  It’s hard to imagine happier new parents. 


The naming is over – no time for a bagel – as I dash out to the door, bypassing the helium balloons on my way to the train station.  Edoe has gone into the city with the13 teens, where they’ve had lunch at Kosher delight.  My train gets me into Grand Central at 2:45, just enough time to make it to the theater in time for the 3 O’clock curtain.  As I pass Times Square, I look up for the football scores, but, alas, nothing on the Patriots.  The kids love “Jewtopia” and I’ve relieved to see that it has some redeeming value, is pretty funny and not the kind of thing where most parents would say, “The rabbi let you see that?”  After the show, our youth advisor Edoe walks with us to the train station and once we’re on the train, I take them back.  It’s nice catching up with the kids on the train, seeing what they are up to.  It so happens that sitting in our car is Hope Sackin, a Beth El thirtysomething whose mother just passed away recently.  The kids seem a little surprised when I introduce Hope to them.  It’s a small world – they realize – and a big congregation.


We get back at about 7 – I drop a couple of kids off and head home. It’s been a great, upbeat\, day, the kind of day that itself is the answer to that child’s question, “What do you like about being a rabbi?”  Days like this.  Weekends like this – they never seem to end. And in fact this one was not over yet either.  At 9 PM, I pull up at the home of Janice and Stanley Rosenstock to help plan the funeral of Janices’ mother.


After an hour of reminiscing, consoling and discussing, I say good-bye and drive back to TBE, where, at 10:30 or so, I send the e-mail announcement of the funeral to the congregation.  Now, finally, my day is over. My weekend is over.


The final score – I then find out – Patriots 35, Packers 0…One funeral prepared, one wedding, one bar mitzvah, two adult classes, two Hebrew School classes, one teen program, and untold informal conversations. Maybe a few e-mails.  And did I mention Tot Shabbat on Friday night?


And one exhilarated rabbi.






Mitzvah/Tzedakkah Opportunties




Beth El Cares
Cathy Satz (968-9191;
Cheryl Wolff (968-6361;
BETH EL CARES co-chairs

Religious leaders urge weekend of prayer for Darfur

Religious leaders (including those of the Conservative movement) in the Save Darfur Coalition urged prayer the weekend of Dec. 9-10 to call attention to the ongoing atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan. “Nobody knows the exact number” of those killed in the conflict, said David Rubenstein, executive director of the coalition, although he estimated 400,000 have died in the violence. “There are people dying every day, and at risk of death every day,” Rubenstein said during a Dec. 5 conference call with reporters.


Click here to sign up to participate in the Weekend of Prayer and Action for Darfur.

Also see and

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 or call 1-800-887-HOPE.



Adult Babysitter Needed

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







What is the origin of “On One Foot?”


Vicci Buchman asked me for a clarification of this oft-utilized expression and it made me realize how strange it might sound to people.  What does this mean, “On one foot?”  Are we speaking about a bunch of storks or flamingoes?  Do Jews specialize in three legged races?  Are we supposed to hop around the sanctuary with the Torah?  I don’t know, but when you go to Google there are 522,000 references to the phrase, nearly one for every Israelite who stood at Sinai! 

So here is the story…. (see and, which is quoted here.


Hillel and Shammai

These two great scholars born a generation or two before the beginning of the Common Era are usually discussed together and contrasted with each other, because they were contemporaries and the leaders of two opposing schools of thought (known as "houses"). The Talmud records over 300 differences of opinion between Beit Hillel (the House of Hillel) and Beit Shammai (the House of Shammai). In almost every one of these disputes, Hillel's view prevailed.

Rabbi Hillel was born to a wealthy family in Babylonia, but came to Jerusalem without the financial support of his family and supported himself as a woodcutter. It is said that he lived in such great poverty that he was sometimes unable to pay the admission fee to study Torah, and because of him that fee was abolished. He was known for his kindness, his gentleness, and his concern for humanity. One of his most famous sayings, recorded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, a tractate of the Mishnah), is "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" The Hillel organization, a network of Jewish college student organizations, is named for him.

Rabbi Shammai was an engineer, known for the strictness of his views. The Talmud tells that a gentile came to Shammai saying that he would convert to Judaism if Shammai could teach him the whole Torah in the time that he could stand on one foot. Shammai drove him away with a builder's measuring stick! Hillel, on the other hand, converted the gentile by telling him, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it."

We don’t know all the facts about the schools of Hillel and Shammai , as is mentioned  by Dr. Louis Jacobs and found at -

“…Much has been made of the Talmudic story (Shabbat 31a) in which Hillel, when asked by a prospective convert to Judaism to teach him the whole Torah while he stood on one leg, replied: "That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor.  This is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go forth and study."  Theologians, Jewish and non-Jewish, have compared this version of the Golden Rule, stated in negative form, with that of Jesus, in the positive form. There is a total failure to appreciate that this story is told, in Babylonian Aramaic, at least two hundred years after Hillel and probably much later. Moreover, in the same set of stories related in a Midrash, the hero is not Hillel at all but Rabbi Joshua. Similarly, when it is said of Hillel and other key figures that they lived for 120 years, it is as obvious as can be that this is not factual but a way of saying that these teachers followed in the footsteps of Moses who was 120 years old at his death (Deuteronomy 34:7). Yet while there is little authentic information about Hillel and Shammai themselves, the Mishnah and Talmud are full of the great debates between the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai, Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai.”

So when we say “On One Foot,” we are saying, in a very Jewish way, “concisely and to the point.” But in Judaism, nothing is concise and everything is complicated – Shammai was write in that sense.  And Hillel agreed – that oft forgotten punch line, “Now go and study,” is an essential part of Hillel’s statement.

Thanks Vicci!






Spiritual Journey on the Web


Two really cool sites: – Internet Megaphone: Find out what instant actions you can take to get Israel’s message out to the world. - From Atlanta – top quality Jewish features.  From the website:

Leader Publishing, a small company specializing in niche publishing, founded Atlanta Jewish Life magazine in the spring of 2001. After cultivating the publication for four years, Leader sold the magazine to Genco Media in January 2005. The new owners hoped to take the magazine to the next level with a declared purpose of making it even more relevant and, in their words, transforming it into a "Jewish Rolling Stone." The public took notice, as just a few months later the publication was named the best magazine in Atlanta by Creative Loafing. When Genco took ownership, they realized that Jewish communities all across America would enjoy the innovative national content and cutting-edge design that they were now producing. Indeed, no such Jewish magazine exists on such a level. So, in September 2006, Genco Media officially changed the name and scope of the publication to American Jewish Life magazine.

This isn't your grandmother's Jewish publication. It's more like Esquire or GQ grew a beard and donned a yarmulke. We strive to be the best journalistic offering in the Jewish market pairing provocative stories with inspiring and intriguing profiles of Jewish people making a difference. Whether it's a hot Jewish celebrity or a former wrestler turned Orthodox auto mechanic, we've got you covered in the "Where did they find that?" story department. We're quite sure your grandmother would be proud.

Our regular coverage includes book and music reviews, plus author interviews. We also have essays on subjects both serious and light-hearted, compelling profiles of Jewish celebrities, quirky members of the tribe, and other Jews of note, and features on hot trends and provocative issues. Plus you don't want to miss our Answer Maven, food stories, and culture awards.



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







Required Reading and Action Items



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


Israeli startup transforms sewage sludge into fuel  
Sewage sludge is a major problem as a pollutant, with over 5.3 million metric tons of being produced in the US each year. Now an Israeli start-up company is working to turn the problem into an opportunity to create energy. Biopetrol's patented technology is able to extract oil out of the sludge and convert it into petroleum products. With plans to begin testing the process at a sewage treatment plant, the Biopetrol technique is aimed at making the plants self sufficient in their power needs while reducing the sewage sludge on our landscape. More...

Culture | Israeli scientist identifies 'missing link' in elephant history  
A 27-million-year-old fossil unearthed in Eritrea could be the 'missing link' between modern elephants and their ancestors, according to new research by a team of scientists led by Jeheskel Shoshani, an Israeli-born scholar. Shoshani moved to Eritrea in the north east of Africa to study a unique population of elephants who had been isolated from other members of the species, leading to inbreeding and genetic mutations. More...

Health | Stroke rehab in a glove  
Writing, cooking, driving - they all depend on hand function, a crucial element in maintaining quality of life, and one of the hardest for victims of strokes to overcome. But now, Israeli company MediTouch has developed the HandTutor - an innovative new exercise device that can help rehabilitate stroke patients suffering from impaired hand functions, and also children born with motor or developmental disorders that impact hand functionality. More...

Global Democracy | Working together - Israelis help Palestinian veterinarians fight avian flu  
Deadly viruses like the avian flu know no borders or politics, and Israeli researchers are making sure their neighbors are acquiring the knowledge and tools needed to deal with the threat. Last week four veterinarians from Gaza spent five working days with counterparts at The Israeli Agriculture Ministry's Division of Avian Diseases laboratories near Tel Aviv, studying techniques for diagnosing and dealing with the disease among animal populations. Due to their cooperation, the two sides are confident that a bird flu epidemic is unlikely. More...

Jew Da Maccabi

Jew Da Maccabi recently immigrated to Israel with his family to further pursue his blossoming music career. He joins the ranks of the up and coming religious Jews making successful forays into popular music like reggae (Matisyahu) and hip-hop. We wish him the best of luck and success.  We grabbed some background info from his myspace for your reading pleasure:

Amnon Arama aka JewDa , Executive Producer of Kosher Productions, was born on June 20th, 1976, in Reshon Le TzionIsrael. JewDa is the youngest of four children born into a family of musical prodigies. Albert Arama, JewDa’s father, was a famous trumpet player, who played in the Israeli Air Force orchestra as well as a member of the group, The Cabarets. At the age of ten months, JewDa’s family moved from Israel to New York City, the city of stars. When JewDa was twelve years old his family moved to MiamiFlorida. Seeing JewDa’s passion for music, his father felt it important for JewDa to learn how to play a musical instrument. JewDa, who enjoyed watching his father play, decided to follow in his footsteps and learn the trumpet… Continue reading Jew Da Maccabi…


‘Travel Blogs’ Brings Us the Old & New of Akko


Eran Davidov is a fellow blogger who we enjoy reading. He sent us a link to one of his posts on Akko, and well, we couldn’t have written it better ourselves. So here you go:

It’s amazing how “historical” changes meaning depending on where in the world you are. For example, the Sun campus in which I work is on the grounds of what used to be the loony bin (ok ok the care facility for would-be-napoleons) in Santa Clara. When Sun built the campus, they were forced by the local government and the historical society to keep the old hospital building and the old governor’s mansion intact. Any change to them, like adding wiring, repainting, fixing doors, had to be approved by a committee. The hospital is now the Sun auditorium and the governor’s mention is a set of executive meeting rooms. The buildings are less than a 100 years old.

Then you get the other historical. In my home town in Israel, on the way to the beach, there was this open space that had some semi-erect walls though the ceiling was long gone. There was a wire fence around it though I didn’t understand why until one day I found it in a guide book to Israel - it’s a 3000 years old Canaanite temple.

Continue reading ‘Travel Blogs’ Brings Us the Old & New of Akko…


now for the rest


David Grossman's address at Yitzhak Rabin's memorial, and a Syrian writer responds to the author, calling on Arabs to take his words seriously.

Report: IDF Soldiers Captured by Hizballah Were Badly Hurt - Amos Harel and Jack Khoury
According to an Israel Defense Forces report that was cleared for publication Wednesday, both Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are thought to have been seriously injured during their abduction last July by Hizballah forces. One of the soldiers is thought to have sustained critical injuries, while the other's injuries are thought to have been serious. The IDF Spokesman repeated that the army's working assumption remains that the soldiers are still alive and emphasized that the IDF is continuing its efforts to bring about their return. (Ha'aretz)

Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Despite Cease-Fire - Shmulik Hadad
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel Wednesday that landed near a kibbutz in the western Negev. (Ynet News)

Hamas Smuggled $66M in Eight Months - Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas officials have managed to smuggle more than $66 million in cash through the Rafah border crossing in the past eight months, a member of the Hamas-led PA government said Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)

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

The Iraq Muddle Group - Editorial
The Iraq Study Group's proposal to negotiate with Iran and Syria is a very old idea that isn't likely to go anywhere. The report argues that because both Iran and Syria have an "interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq," they will want to cooperate in some larger regional settlement. Come again? Iran's leadership proclaims its satisfaction with the U.S. troubles in Iraq on an almost daily basis. They seem to believe their interest lies in bleeding the U.S. so much that no president will ever contemplate regime change anywhere else for a very long time. (Wall Street Journal)

The Iraq Study Group Report - Editorial
Securing U.S. objectives involves seeking simultaneously to ensure that Iraqi politicians place national interests above sectarian spoils, convincing rogue states in Damascus and Tehran to be reasonable without rewarding their past misbehavior, and aspiring to secure some progress between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, despite the very malign influence exercised over the Middle East peace process by Hamas and Hizballah in recent years. (Times-UK)
    See also Lack of Palestinian Leadership Frustrates New Peace Talks - Bronwen Maddox:
In calling for new meetings between Israel and Palestinians, the Baker-Hamilton commission does not address the obstacle currently frustrating that goal - the lack of Palestinian leadership with which to negotiate. (Times-UK)

Martyr - Cynthia Ozick
Rachel Corrie was in Gaza as a member of the International Solidarity Movement. The ISM is a front: a creature of the PLO, and under its vigilant supervision. In the U.S., recruits are encouraged, partly funded, and trained by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Though the ISM is touted as non-violent, in reality it acts not merely as a shield for violence but as its proponent. Every Friday, the ISM organizes riots at Israel's security fence, erected to deter infiltration by suicide bombers.
    Once in Gaza, the new recruits are called on to stand as human shields before arms caches or shooter hideouts. If through some mishap a young foreigner should be hit, all the better: fuel for international outrage. For the opportunistic leaders of the ISM, Rachel Corrie's death is neither piteous nor pointless: it is pure bonanza. (New Republic)

Baker Report: Israel Must Prepare for a Different Reality - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)

  • "Israel will have to prepare for a completely different reality," says former UN Ambassador Dore Gold in response to the submission of the Baker-Hamilton report. "Within two years American presence in Iraq will be minimal." The majority of the report deals with Iraq, but a significant portion addresses the Israel-Arab conflict, which the report sees as the heart of Mideast unrest.
  • "The very willingness of the reports' authors to start a dialogue with both Iran and Syria is an alarming development. It's alarming because the United States isn't requiring any preliminary conditions for this dialogue, and there is no mention of the Iranian nuclear program which continues to advance."
  • "The recommendation in this report to talk to Syria and Iran, despite the fact that they're responsible for the growing instability in Iraq, will only encourage them to continue employing their policies."
  • "The report proves that Israel has been unsuccessful in conveying a clear message to the U.S. elite regarding the Iranian threat. How can the United Stated see Iran as a stabilizing force in Iraq when Iran is funding and supplying arms to terror factions, both in Iraq and in Lebanon?"
  • "In the immediate sense, the U.S. will try to renew the political process as part of a general regional strategy." "Will the U.S. demand that Syria stop supporting terror? Will Israel be dragged into negotiations with those who will not even recognize it? Will America come to terms with the Iranian nuclear program?"


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

See also - This site was advertised



Israel: Myths and Facts


MYTH #243


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)







Metallic Blues



In Israel, more than in any country in the world,

culture reflects society. Israeli film, poetry and art

serve as accurate barometers for social change and

the country’s external and internal conflicts. Over

the course of several Saturday evenings, we will be

presenting a series of old and contemporary Israeli

films. The screenings will be followed by a discussion

to be facilitated by Rabbi Hammerman or Eran

Vaisben, the Education Director.

The film screening will take place at the main lobby

on selected Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m.

(refreshments and popcorn will be served):


December 9, 2006: Metallic Blues (2004)


Two Israeli losers head to Germany with dreams of turning a quick buck on a 1978 Lincoln stretch limo – but comedy turns to bittersweet revelation, as the two must find their way out of a land rife with the ghosts of the Holocaust.





Next weekend!!!


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





a six-session series presented by

The Israel Task Force Education Committee of the

United Jewish Federation (UJF) of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien


December 10:   Session Three: 1948-1966: War & Peace: Survival and Nation Building

January 7:         Session Four: 1967-1979: War & Peace: Territories and Settlements

January 21:       Session Five: 1980-Present: Terrorism and Israel’s Quest for Peace



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 (Meets this week at 9 AM)

(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

This coming Tuesday!!!

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)


Dec. 12 – What comes first, loyalty to one’s country, or loyalty to one’s faith?


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!








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


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.




Youth Programming





For our USY teens….




















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











When: Saturday, December 9th

Bus Leaves Temple Beth-El at 5:30 P.M.


We will return around 11:00 P.M.


Who: Kadima (6th-8th graders) & parents and siblings are invited! (younger siblings must be accompanied by a parent)


We'll also open this up to other congregants as space permits!


Cost: $50


To ensure your tickets:

You must RSVP to Edoe Cohen at and bring / send check to Temple Beth-El Hebrew School office.




The Man Behind The Mustache

In his only interview as himself, Sacha Baron Cohen talks about growing up kosher in London, inventing a new kind of comedy with Ali G and conquering Hollywood with Borat

See quote above…



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

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