Friday, December 19, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram for December 19, 2003 – Kislev 25, 5764


Shabbat-O-Gram for

December 19, 2003 – Kislev 25, 5764


Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut


(This will be the last “official Shabbat O Gram until after New Years – there’s enough here to keep you busy!)


Shabbat Shalom

And Happy Hannukah


The Shabbat-O-Gram was recently called “perhaps the most famous of rabbinic e-mail commentaries” by the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, which added, “All the news that’s fit to print…along with weekly teaching and links to educational sites.” We now have over 900 on our e-mail list – send your friends and relatives the gift of Jewish awareness – a Shabbat-O-Gram each week, by signing them up at


My Hanukkah gift to you is the chuckle you will have when you go to




Sunday, December 21st at 4:00 p.m.

Led by Cantor Deborah Jacobson

featuring our TBE Adult & Jr. Choirs and YOU!

Potato latkes, sufganiyot, candle lighting, dreidel tournament, raffles, prizes, A SPECIAL GIFT FOR EVERY CHILD TO TAKE HOME, special guest appearances, FUN FOR ALL AGES!


(for those day school students who wish to partipate in the dreidel contest, preliminary spin-offs will be held on Sunday morning at 10:15 AM.  Contrary to prior announcements, these spin-offs are open to all grades, K-7)




Spiritual Journey on the Web I

The December Dilemma: In Stamford, Modi’in and France


It is once again rearing its controversial head, that old December Dilemma thing, with exchanges of angry letters in the Advocate, complaints about decorations in public buildings like the government center (where our junior choir will be lighting Hanukkah candles on Monday at 2, BTW) and school “holiday” celebrations.  You can read some of my reflections in my column in this week’s New York Jewish Week, “The Litmus Tree,” at

In that article I challenge all of us to examine closely the lines we draw at this time of year and why we draw them. I also refer to our annual Christmas Eve programs at area homeless shelters, which once again we’ll be doing next week, thanks to the efforts of Beth El Cares.  It’s a wonderful mitzvah that we do, but one fraught with uncomfortable questions (if we are truly honest wit ourselves). We’ll have an open and frank discussion of these matters this Shabbat morning during services.  Please join us.  We’ll be in the lobby this week, a locale more conducive to open dialogue than our sanctuary.


If you plan on attending, it would be a good idea to read that column ahead of time, and also to take a look at the three prime historical sources that we have for the Hanukkah story, for first two books of Maccabees and the account of the historian Josephus.  They can be found online at a fabulous resource for Jewish source material, Jewish Gates, whose index is found at Book of Maccabees source is at,

and the excerpt from Josephus at  These accounts will add some insight to our discussion of contemporary events.  As you will see, not much has changed.


So I leave you with this troubling question.  The December Dilemma and the festival of Hanukkah are all about Jews taking pride in who they are, even at great risk.  So how does that tie in to what is going on in France right now? This is a country where: 1) Jews are being encouraged by their own religious leaders not to wear kippot in public for fear of being attacked; and 2) If the French president has his way, Jews will not be allowed to wear kippot in French schools (nor will others be allowed to wear religious garb).






IMPORTANT WEATHER ALERTOur main services on Shabbat morning and Friday evening are never cancelled, regardless of weather conditions.  Please use your better judgment when deciding how and whether to get here. Tune to WSTC radio for announcements on Tot Shabbat and religious school.  On weekday mornings when Stamford public schools are cancelled or have delayed openings, or on Sunday mornings when religious school is cancelled, the morning minyan is also cancelled for that day.


Healing Service at Stamford Hospital (every 1st and 3rd Friday): 2:30 PM – at the second floor chapel, or on the hospital’s channel 46.  The next one will be this week, on this Friday, December 19.  If you know of anyone in Stamford Hospital, please let him or her know.


Friday Evening – Shabbat Hanukkah I


Candles: 4:11 PM – (light the Hanukkah candle first, with all three blessings, then Shabbat candles).  For more of the how-tos regarding lighting Hanukkah candles, see some of the Hanukkah sites below

(for candlelighting times, other Jewish calendar information, and to download a Jewish calendar to your PDA, click on

Services: 6:30 PM, in the chapel -- Theme service, with the theme of, guess what…HANUKKAH!!!  We’ll sing some Hanukkah songs and discuss some aspects of the holiday.

Tot Shabbat: 6:45 PM, in the lobby


Shabbat Morning and the first day of Hanukkah



Service: 9:30 AM – in the lobby 


We’ll be having a discussion on the “December Dilemma.”


Children’s services: 10:30 AM (for younger children in the Kindergarten room, for grades 3-6 in the chapel; 7th graders should be in the main service




Torah Portion – Va-Yeshev – the Joseph story begins - Genesis 37:1 - 40:23


Our reading is from the third triennial cycle (with slight adjustments). Click on these to see the text in the original and translation and to hear it chanted.

1: 39:1-6
2: 39:7-10
3: 39:11-18
4: 39:19-23
5: 40:1-8
6: 40:9-15
7: 40:16-23
maf: 40:20-23

See a new weekly commentary now available from the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, at

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

Morning Minyan: Daily at 7:30 AM IN THE CHAPEL, Sundays at 9:00 AM (9:05 when there is Religious School).  On Major Federal holidays, such as Dec. 25 and Jan 1, minyan is held at 9:00 AM

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR MINYAN!  Many of our regulars will be away over the next couple of weeks.  If you are home, we need YOU!!





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

A nice loose, translation can be found at


"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 going. Deliver me from every enemy, ambush and hurt that I might encounter on the way and from all afflictions that visit and trouble the world. Bless the work of my hands. Let me receive divine grace and those loving acts of kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all those I encounter. Listen to the voice of my appeal, for you are a God who responds to prayerful supplication. Praised are you, Adonai, who responds to prayer."

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




Spiritual Journey on the Web II

Hanukkah Exotica

On the Origin and Development of Some Hanukkah Customs

by Prof. David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Read the full article online at


Most of the laws of Hanukkah are related to the lighting of the menorah or hanukkiya1 and are described in detail in the tractate of Shabbat and in the standard codes of Jewish law.2 In this article we shall describe some of the customs of Hanukkah. The main difference between laws and customs is that laws stem from rabbinic interpretations of the Torah and Talmud which then filter down to the Jewish people, while customs usually start with the people and filter up to the rabbis. Through customs, the Jewish people have shown their love for God and tradition and immeasurably enriched all aspects of Jewish observance.3

We shall begin with one well-known Hanukkah custom and then proceed to describe four lesser-known customs. In each case we shall try to trace the origin of the custom and some of its permutations throughout Jewish history.

I) The Dreidl4

The dreidl or sevivon is perhaps the most famous custom associated with Hanukkah. Indeed, various rabbis have tried to find an integral connection between the dreidl and the Hanukkah story. The standard explanation is that the letters ,'נ'ג'ה'ש which appear on the driedl in the Diaspora, stand for "נס גדול היה שם"  "a great miracle happened there". In Israel the dreidl says ,'נ'ג'ה'פ  which means "a great miracle happened here". One nineteenth-century rabbi went one step further; he maintained that Jews played with the dreidl in order to fool the Greeks if they were caught studying Torah which had been outlawed.5

Others figured out elaborate gematriot6 and word plays for the letters 'נ'ג'ה'ש. For example, 'נ'ג'ה'ש in gematria is 358, which is also the numerical equivalent of משיח or Messiah! 'נ'ג'ה'ש is also the gematria equivalent of the sentence "God is king, God was king, and God will be king"!7 Finally, the letters 'נ'ג'ה'ש are supposed to represent the four kingdoms which tried to destroy us: N = Nebuchadnetzar = Babylon; H = Haman = Madai; G = Gog = Greece; and S = Seir = Rome.

As a matter of fact, all of these elaborate explanations were invented after the fact. The dreidl game originally had nothing to do with Hanukkah; it has been played by various people in various languages for many centuries. The permutations of the dreidl game are outlined in the chart which follows8:


Name of the Game

Take All 

Take Half 

Put in More 

Do Nothing 

England, Ireland
ca. 1500

(in Latin)





England 1801




P=Put down


France 1611






Sardinia, Italy







Torrel, Trundel



S=Stell ein


Hebrew or Yiddish






Furthermore, even among the Jews, this game has been called many different names. The Jews of medieval France and Italy seemed to have called this game - which was apparently not connected to Hanukkah - תם וחצי = whole and half; תם וחסר = whole and missing; or תם וכס = whole and half.9 In German, the spinning top was called a torrel or trundl and in Yiddish it was called a dreidl, a fargl, a varfl [= something thrown], shtel ein [= put in], and gor, gorin [= all]. When Hebrew was revived as a spoken language, the dreidl was called ,גלגלן, חזרזר, כרכר גלגלון and סביבון, and the latter name is the one that caught on.

Thus the dreidl game represents an irony of Jewish history. In order to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah, which celebrates our victory over cultural assimilation, we play the dreidl game - which is an excellent example of cultural assimilation! Of course, there is a world of difference between imitating non-Jewish games and worshipping idols, but the irony remains nonetheless. ------------
V) The Scroll of Antiochus31

There is one custom which we would expect to find on Hanukkah which is missing - the reading of a scroll in public. After all, on Purim we read the Scroll of Esther every year in order to publicize the miracle. Why don't we read a scroll on Hanukkah in order to publicize the miracles which God wrought for our ancestors in the days of Matityahu and his sons? The result is that most Jews only know the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil (Shabbat 21b) and not about the actual military victories of the Maccabees.

The answer is that, in truth, there 
is such a scroll which was read in private or in public between the ninth and twentieth centuries. It is called "The Scroll of Antiochus" and many other names and it was written in Aramaic during the Talmudic period and subsequently translated into Hebrew, Arabic and other languages. The book describes the Maccabean victories on the basis of a few stories from the Books of the Maccabees and Shabbat 21b with the addition of a number of legends without any historic basis whatsoever. The scroll is first mentioned by Halakhot Gedolot, which was written by Shimon Kayara in Babylon ca. 825 c.e.: "The elders of Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel wrote Megillat Bet Hashmonay [=the scroll of the Hasmonean House]...".32 Rav Sa'adia Gaon (882-942) calls it "kitab benei hashmonay", the book of the sons of the Hasmoneans, and he also translated it into Arabic.33 Rav Nissim Gaon (North Africa, 990-1062) calls it in Arabic "the scroll of the sons of the Hasmoneans".34

Furthermore, we know that this scroll was read in public at different times and places. Rabbi Isaiah of Trani (Italy, ca. 1200-1260) says that "in a place where they are accustomed to read Megillat Antiochus [=The Scroll of Antiochus] on Hanukkah, it is not proper to recite the blessings [for reading a scroll] because it is not required at all".35

In Mahzor Kaffa, which was published in the Crimea in 1735, the Scroll of Antiochus is printed in Hebrew and preceeded by the following instructions: "It is customary to read Megillat Antiochus during minhah [=the afternoon service on Shabbat] after kaddish titkabbel [=the reader's kaddish] in order to publicize the miracle [of Hanukkah]...".36

Rabbi Yahya ben Yosef Zalih, who was the leading rabbi in San'a, Yemen ca. 1715, says "that some read Megillat Antiochus on Shabbat [of Hanukkah] after the haftarah. This is not required; it is only a general mitzvah to publicize the miracle among the Jewish people".37 But Rabbi Amram Zabban of G'ardaya in the Sahara Dessert viewed this reading as a 
requirement. In his Sefer Hasdey Avot published in 1926, he states:

Megillat Antiochus according to the custom of the holy city of G'ardaya, may God protect her. The cantor should read it in public in the synagogue after the Torah reading on the Shabbat during Hanukkah. And he reads it in Arabic translation so that the entire congregation should understand [in order to] publicize the miracle which was done to our holy ancestors, may their merit protect us...translated from the Hebrew from Siddur Bet Oved of R. Yehudah Shmuel Ashkenazi [Livorno, 1853].38

This is a fascinating passage. Rabbi Zabban translated Megillat Antiouchus from Hebrew into Arabic in 1926 so that the entire congregation would understand it. He seems unaware that Arabic translations already existed. He also presents this custom as a required activity, despite the fact that he seems to have made it up! Perhaps he had heard that this was an accepted custom in other communities and wished to imitate them.

The Jews of Kurdistan, on the other hand, used to read the Scroll of Antiochus at home during Hanukkah.39 Rabbi Yosef Kafah (1917-2000) reports that his grandfather Rabbi Yihye Kafah (1850-1932) used to teach it to his pupils in Yemen in the Aramaic original along with the Arabic translation of Rav Sa'adya Gaon.40

It would seem that there is no point in reviving the specific custom of reading the Scroll of Antiochus in public, because that work is legendary in nature and not a reliable source for the events of Hanukkah. But we do possess such a source for those events -- the First Book of Maccabees, which was written in Hebrew in the Land of Israel by an eyewitness to the events described therein.41 Therefore, we should thank Rabbi Arthur Chiel who published the First Book of Maccabees, Chapters 1-4 as a separate booklet over twenty years ago under the title "The Scroll of Hanukkah".42 It is intended for reading in public or in private during the holiday. We should adopt this beautiful custom and begin to read those chapters in public every year on the Shabbat of Hanukkah after the haftarah. By so doing, we will be reviving the custom of reading a "scroll" on Hanukkah but, more importantly, we will thereby disseminate the oldest surviving account of the "miracles and triumphs" which God performed for the Jewish People "in those days at this season".



Required Reading and Action Items


My column in this week’s New York Jewish Week, “The Litmus Tree,”

The Growing Threat to Israel's Qualitative Military Edge - MK Dr. Yuval Steinitz
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Israel Shipyards Readies Olympic Patrol Vessel

 - David Ratner (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Shipyards have unveiled the first coastal guard vessel built for the Greek government to be used to boost security during the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens, one of three such vessels ordered by Greece.
    The vessels are identical to the Israeli Navy's Sa'ar 4 missile boats.

Dichter: The Fence for the Existence of Israel

 - Bradley Burston
Israel security service chief Avi Dichter Tuesday told the Herzliya Conference, "It is critical to accelerate the building of the [security] fence in Judea and Samaria and the 'Jerusalem envelope' far as I'm concerned it can be called the 'Fence for the Existence of Israel.'" The sections of the barrier already built have hampered, slowed, and redirected would-be suicide attackers to the extent that security forces have seized three bombers laden with explosives en route to attacks within Israel in the last 10 days alone, the Shin Bet chief said.
    Dichter also said: "I do not expect dramatic changes from the PA with respect to battling terrorism." However, he voiced belief that the proponents of democratic reforms within the PA had the power to institute them, if they acted on their will. (Ha'aretz)

Israel Eases Conditions for Palestinians

 - Margot Dudkevitch and Arieh O'Sullivan
In Hebron, where restrictions have already been lifted, public transportation runs between the city and Bethlehem, there is unrestricted access to and from the city, hundreds of truckloads of goods transfer their provisions, and laborers are permitted to enter Israel to work, said a senior IDF officer. "Today things there are different," he said. "While there are pockets of terror, we are able to control the situation, and therefore the local population benefits. Those living in Jenin can see what happens when there is no terror - that is the carrot, the light at the end of the tunnel. Hebron residents realize that if they allow the terror to resume, the situation there will change." The most problematic areas in the West Bank remain Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm, he said. "One of our problems is bringing about a change in the Palestinian leadership....Ahmed Qurei is a straw man, Arafat's mask," he added. (Jerusalem Post)


Nablus Remains a Terrorist Haven

 - Margot Dudkevitch
Nablus remains the terrorist haven of the West Bank. Terrorists there attempted to launch 13 suicide attacks inside Israel and five against targets in the West Bank. There were five attempts by the terrorist infrastructure in Jenin to launch attacks, and four attacks stemming from Bethlehem were thwarted, as were two from Tulkarm and two from Hebron. (Jerusalem Post)

    See also

Nablus, Byword for Crime in Palestinian Territories

 - Ezzedine Said
According to the mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Al-Shaka, strings of revenge killings and vendettas have left 33 "innocent" people dead since September 2000, including the mayor's brother, a Jordan-based businessman gunned down on November 25. "The security services are strong enough to take action if they are ordered to do so," said Hazem Zhokan, who heads the ruling Fatah party's branch in the Balata neighborhood. Zhokan admits that a large proportion of the crime in Nablus was the work of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a radical offshoot of Arafat's Fatah. (Middle East Online-UK)


The Geneva Accord: A Shaky Foundation

 - Asher Susser
Supporters of the Geneva Accord have raised four main claims: Israel is recognized in the accord as the state of the Jewish people; they do not hold out the right of return of refugees to Israel; it is Israel that exclusively decides on the entry of refugees into its territory; and the accord makes it possible to close the refugee file, enabling the end of the conflict. A close reading of the accord shows these statements are not exactly true. The refugee chapter is a shaky foundation for the accord, and it is more reasonable that it will be a source of discord and strife in which Israel will often find itself in splendid isolation. The writer is head of the Dayan Center for Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
    For a contrasting view, see

Read It Before You Criticize It

 - Ron Pundak The writer is executive director of the Peres Center for Peace and was one of the authors of the Oslo and Geneva Accords. (Ha'aretz)


Here's something new and exciting from HonestReporting: Take a moment to view a compelling

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This Day in Israels History - December 18

A conference of the Agricultural Workers
 Federation of Judea adopted a decision to establish a sick fund, which eventually grew into the mass Kupat Holim Klalit (General Sick Fund) health insurance network.

The Ruslan ship arrived at Jaffa from Odessa with 671 returning residents and new immigrants. This event marked the beginning of the Third Aliyah.

The modern city of Netanya was founded as an agricultural community by the Bnei-Binyamin association, which consisted of second-generation farmers.

Speaking of Netanya, look for a special segment on the Channel 12 News on Dec. 20 or 21 featuring 
our own Jan Gaines, who lives for much of the year in Netanya. 
The program is aired at 5 and – I believe – repeats at 10.



Tzedakkah idea: masorti

The Masorti Movement is working tirelessly to help Jews in Israel find meaningful answers to today's challenges and is a leading force in the struggle for religious freedom in Israel. Please take a moment to open the link below.  You can help us spread the word about Masorti's vital mission with just a few clicks of your mouse.  Make sure to select the "Spread the Word" link on the left side of the "Friends Asking Friends" page.  If you have not yet made a contribution to Masorti this year, please consider doing so by selecting the "Donate Now" link.  We need your help and support more than ever!



The Highest Level of Tzedakkah

For many months we have been posting job information and situation wanted blurbs on behalf of congregants seeking to change their professional situation. We are now going to be taking our concern to the next level, with the creation of a job bank jointly with Temple Sinai.  The committee will be kept intentionally small, with one person from Sinai and one from Beth El administering it, along with the rabbis.  The goal will be to enable congregants and others to post resumes, queries and job openings where they will get maximal exposure.  I will also continue to use the Shabbat O Gram and individual e-mails to help match people with job opportunities.  If you would like to be the Beth El lay representative on this project (the Sinai person is already in place), please e-mail me ASAP. Below is the initial blurb promoting the Job Bank.



One kind of mitzvah is giving a person something to eat. Helping a person to find a job so that he can provide his own food is even a greater mitzvah. 


Many Temple Beth El members are looking for jobs. We want to help. We are prepared to advertise “jobs wanted” and “positions available” in the monthly Bulletin, Shabbat-O-Gram and on the TBE website.


If you are interested in participating, please send no more than a 5-sentence description (longer descriptions will be shortened at the discretion of the Editor) of your skills or the job you are looking for, or of a position you have available, via e-mail to

 You may also include a more detailed 3-paragraph resume or description for posting on our website.


If you know of any job possibilities that fit one of more of the résumés at any time, please call Rabbi Hammerman. He will relay your phone number to the appropriate party so they can follow-up with you directly if they choose.


A similar program is being done at Temple Sinai.  We plan to join together with them so that your ad will get exposure in their newsletter as well.




A Word About Day Schools and Jewish Camping


As many of you know, I am an advocate of Jewish day schools as an important factor in the growth of Jewish life in America. I do know that day schools are not for everyone (and I have also very impressed with our local public schools and support them as well), which is why I place great importance on our maintaining a top-notch Religious School here.  But day schools have a proven, positive impact, especially when we have excellent ones, as we do around here.


I have long been a solid supporter of the BI Cultural Day School and continue to be impressed by BCDS’ phenomenal growth, superb facilities and excellent faculty.  My own children love it.  This is a time of transition at BCDS, as a search for a new headmaster is well underway.  I join with the rest of the community in expressing our gratitude to Walter Shuchatowitz for the high standard of excellence he has sustained for so many years.  Beth El will continue to support BCDS through this transition into the future. For more about Bi-Cultural, go to



I had the pleasure of delivering a d’var Torah today (Thursday) to the students at the WFHA (Westchester/Fairfield Hebrew Academy).  The school, now located in Greenwich, is thriving and provides an exciting an option for families looking for a day school with an egalitarian philosophy compatible with the Conservative movement. The curriculum is modeled after the Heschel School in New York.  The school is most definitely “here to stay,” adding grades each year (the oldest group is now in 6th grade) and demonstrating some bold initiatives in curriculum development.  There are a growing number of Stamford and Greenwich students now attending there.  I was thrilled to be welcomed there so graciously, following in the footsteps of rabbis of all denominations who have made guest appearances, teaching Torah to the students.  For more, go to



It is wonderful that there is now “something for everyone” in our community, as this will undoubtedly encourage more Jews to move to this area.  In addition, the new Solomon Schechter High School, which is officially tied to our movement and located near White Plains, is growing at a phenomenal pace.  This year, over 20 teens from Stamford are attending there, primarily BCDS graduates (but Schechter is also actively recruiting children who did not go to day school – call me if you have some interest).  In the coming years, this growth will surely continue, and the presence of Schechter could have a huge long-term impact on our community and our own congregation.   This is a good thing.  For more on this, go to



For those who choose not to opt for day school and/or Jewish high school (or those who do), Jewish camping is a superb option.  I am especially an advocate of Camp Ramah, the camping arm of the Conservative movement.  My son Daniel goes there and all I can say is that the place is beyond wonderful.  The pure joy of being Jewish comes out of every pore of ever camper and staff member.  It’s not inexpensive (like many camps), but there is scholarship money available from the camp and from our community foundation.  I implore you to look into it – and if you want to see this year’s Camp DVD, I’d be happy to share it with you.  If there is interest, we could show it for parents some Sunday morning during Religious School.  I guarantee you will not just be impressed – you will be amazed.  In the meantime, surf on over to



It has been proven statistically that these two elements: day school and camping, combined with Jewish youth group involvement and Israel travel, are THE keys to Jewish continuity for our children.  Our job as parents and grandparents is to mix and match these items to suit the needs of each child.  Our job as a synagogue (and mine as a rabbi) is to make these opportunities available to our families and promote them to the hilt.  That is what we do.  That is why I am providing an Israel option for families this summer and why we have superb youth programs (USY, Kulanu, Jr Choir, school aides, teen Torah readers, etc.) for our teens to take advantage of.


The rest, as they say, is up to you…



Along those lines, the WFHA has asked me to pass along the following announcement:


“The WFHA will be having an Open House on Sunday, January 11th from 2:00-4:00PM at the school located at 300 E. Putnam Avenue in Greenwich.  WFHA is committed to excellence in general and Judaic studies and currently serves K through 6. (Grade 7 begins in 2004, adding a grade per year through 8th). Learn about this unique integrated laptop middle school curriculum and meet some of the WFHA families. WFHA welcomes children from all branches of Judaism. Transfer students always welcome. For more information, an appointment or a private tour, call 203.863.9663 or visit the website at









Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Long Anticipated Speech at the Herzliya Conference.  December 18, 2003 (speaking especially about his plans for unilateral disengagement with the Palestinians). Highlights:

"The Roadmap is the only political plan accepted by Israel, the Palestinians, the Americans and a majority of the international community. We are willing to proceed toward its implementation: two states Israel and a Palestinian State living side by side in tranquility, security and peace."

"The government under my leadership will not compromise on the realization of all phases of the Roadmap. It is incumbent upon the Palestinians to uproot the terrorist groups and to create a law-abiding society which fights against violence and incitement."

"Concurrent with the demand from the Palestinians to eliminate the terror organizations, Israel is taking and will continue to take steps to significantly improve the living conditions of the Palestinian population."

"...If in a few months the Palestinians still continue to disregard their part in implementing the Roadmap then Israel will initiate the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians."

"The purpose of the Disengagement Plan is to reduce terror as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. The process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of life, and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. The unilateral steps which Israel will take in the framework of Plan will be fully coordinated with the United States.""The Disengagement Plan will include the redeployment of IDF forces along new security lines and a change in the deployment of settlements, which will reduce as much as possible the number of Israelis located in the heart of the Palestinian population. We will draw provisional security lines and the IDF will be deployed along them. Security will be provided by IDF deployment, the security fence and other physical obstacles. The Disengagement Plan will reduce friction between us and the Palestinians."

" In the framework of a future agreement, Israel will not remain in all the places where it is today. The relocation of settlements will be made, first and foremost, in order to draw the most efficient security line possible, thereby creating this disengagement between Israel and the Palestinians. This security line will not constitute the permanent border of the State of Israel, however, as long as implementation of the Roadmap is not resumed, the IDF will be deployed along that line. Settlements which will be relocated are those which will not be included in the territory of the State of Israel in the framework of any possible future permanent agreement. At the same time, in the framework of the Disengagement Plan, Israel will strengthen its control over those same areas in the Land of Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement." "I would like to emphasize: the Disengagement Plan is a security measure and not a political one. The steps which will be taken will not change the political reality between Israel and the Palestinians, and will not prevent the possibility of returning to the implementation of the Roadmap and reaching an agreed settlement." "The Disengagement Plan does not prevent the implementation of the Roadmap. Rather, it is a step Israel will take in the absence of any other option, in order to improve its security. The Disengagement Plan will be realized only in the event that the Palestinians continue to drag their feet and postpone implementation of the Roadmap."

Full Text of the PM Ariel Sharon's Speech




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


Judaism 101, at gives all you need to know about the candle blessings

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





Have you sent your reservations in yet?

Temple Beth El Congregational Shabbaton – Jan. 16 – 18

At the now completely renovated

Nevele Grand Resort

(the place now looks really great)

 Theme – Dreams: The Spiritual Quest

Guest Scholar: Rabbi Seymour Rossel

Here are some of the highlights:

Friday night - d'var Torah: "Religion, Magic & Meaning"

Saturday morning: a brief d'var Torah about the parashah, plus a talk after services:

Title: "A Stairway to Heaven"

Saturday, late afternoon - topic: "Wrestling with Angels"

Saturday evening, following Havdalah, a brief talk entitled: "Dream Gifts"

Sunday morning: wrap-up talk entitled: "Awakening Your Dreams"

Plus plenty of time for family activities, winter sports, swimming, etc.

And of course, more great food than Bubbe could ever make!


Save the dates for these two VERY IMPORTANT events:





with Nigel Savage of Hazon





January 30, @ 7:30




Dear TBE Seniors,


Winter is upon us and with inclement weather surprising us with beautiful snowstorms,

we thought it would be better to have a break in our winter programming and resume again in the Spring.

Have a healthy and safe winter.  Happy New Year (2004)!

Be on the lookout for a postcard in March when we will meet again.


Stephanie and Sheila




Lunch and Learn Series

Led by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


Judaism, Business and Ethics for Our Time –


Using rabbinic sources, the group will explore the ethics of the marketplace, including deceptive advertising, employer-employee relations, consumer rights (and wrongs) and insider trading.


Meets Monthly, next one is on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 12:30 -1:30


At Benjamin and Gold, P.C., 350 Bedford Street 4th floor

Parking in rear of building (at corner of Pedigree Ski Shop), or metered parking on the street in front of building and also behind Baby and Toy Superstore, across the street.

(many thanks to Dan Benjamin for providing the space)





TGIS (Thank God it’s Shabbat)


A rotating series of Friday night experiences

For all tastes and all ages

At 6:30 PM

Week 1 --- in the chapel, a traditional Beth El Service

Week 2 --- in the Sanctuary, Family Friday

Week 3 --- in the lobby: a creative Theme services


Week 4 --- a Carlebach-style service, featuring Hasidic nigunim and joyous meditation.


Plus our ongoing Tot Shabbat series (weeks 1 and 3 at 6:45, and Tiny Tot Shabbat on week 2 at 4)








On February 1, 2004 at 10am, Sisterhood will present special guest speaker 

Rabbi Alan Silverstein,

renowned lecturer on Jewish Continuity

 and author of It All Begins With a Date: Jewish Concerns About Intermarriage  and Preserving Jewishness in Your Family After Intermarriage Has Occurred.  

Learn how to raise your children to value Judaism and to date within the faith, as well as how to preserve Judaism within interfaith marriages. 

For parents of children of all ages.  RSVP to 322-6901, ext. 306.  Admission Free.




Time for a Joke


The Jewish Samurai

There once was a powerful Japanese emperor who needed a new chief samurai. So he sent out a declaration throughout the entire known world that he was searching for a chief.

A year passed, and only three people applied for the very demanding position: a Japanese samurai, a Chinese samurai, and a Jewish samurai.

The emperor asked the Japanese samurai to come in and demonstrate why he should be the chief samurai. The Japanese samurai opened a matchbox, and out popped a bumblebee. Whoosh! went his sword. The bumblebee dropped dead, chopped in half.

The emperor exclaimed, "That is very impressive!"


The emperor then issued the same challenge to the Chinese samurai, to come in and demonstrate why he should be chosen. The Chinese samurai also opened a matchbox and out buzzed a fly. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh! The fly dropped dead, chopped into four small pieces.

The emperor exclaimed, "That is very impressive!"

Now the emperor turned to the Jewish samurai, and asked him to demonstrate why he should be the chief samurai. The Jewish Samurai opened a matchbox, and out flew a gnat. His flashing sword went Whoosh! But the gnat was still alive and flying around.

The emperor, obviously disappointed, said, "Very ambitious, but why is that gnat not dead?"

The Jewish Samurai just smiled and said, "Circumcision is not meant to kill."




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