Friday, January 10, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram, January 10, 2003 and Shevat 8 5763

Shabbat-O-Gram, January 10, 2003 and Shevat 8 5763

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut





Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (  For “E-mail from the Front,” go to






As things continue to heat up heading toward the Israeli elections and the conflict in Iraq, I will be showing the Israeli Broadcasting Authority’s nightly 30-minute English news, direct from Jerusalem to our library (via satellite and videotape), on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 PM.  I’ll also be showing other Israeli programming as time permits, including the fascinating (and often funny) campaign commercials.


Meanwhile, for a more personal take on events, I continually update the “E-mail from the Front” series that began last week.  Check out the dispatches from my sister Lisa, who lives on the West Bank, at





Don’t forget our Tu-B'Shevat Seder, next Thursday




Tu B'Shevat celelebrates the New Year for trees, the joy of the earth's rebirth, and reminds us of our continuing involvement in the natural world.  Join us as we feast on the fruits of Israel and recreate this kabbalistic celebration through prayer, discussion, reflection, and song.





A note regarding Tot Shabbat:


After much discussion, we have decided to move our always-popular Tot Shabbat program from the current time of 7:15 to a new time of 6:30, effective this week, the 12th.  Tot Shabbat will then take place on the 24th of the month (not the 17th, as previously scheduled), again at 6:30 PM.

The new time will allow Tot Shabbat to remain in the main lobby, with its warm, “living room” feel, close to the parking lot and easy to find for the many young families for whom Tot Shabbat is their first chance to pass through our doors.  The new start time will be more convenient for younger children especially, and will allow us to avoid conflict with the main service, which now begins at 7:30 (and is often held in the lobby as well).  The new time will also allow Cantor Jacobson and myself to visit the Tots more frequently.  So spread the news to those with young children:  Tot Shabbat – THIS week, at 6:30!


Friday Night:

Candles: 4:28 PM 

Tot Shabbat at 6:30 PM, in the lobby

Kadima Dinner (6,7,8th grades) at 6:00 PM (then joining the main service at 7:30)

Kabbalat Shabbat services at 7:30 PM, in the lobby

Shabbat morning:

Service: 9:30 AM, Children’s services: 10:30 AM, ( jr cong. hosted by the 4th grade)

Torah Portion: Bo (the Exodus story continues)

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:  Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries:  For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to

Morning MinyanDaily at 7:30 AM, Sunday at 9:00 AM in the chapel

Reminder of our “No School No Shul” policy: On days when Stamford public schools are cancelled or delayed, morning minyan is also cancelled.  On Sunday, when our religious school is cancelled because of weather, minyan is also cancelled.   Friday night and Shabbat morning services are never cancelled, but people are asked to use their own good judgment (we call it “sechel”) on days when the weather is very bad. 



Spiritual Journey on the Web












            Last Tuesday at our board meeting an interesting discussion took place regarding qualifications for leadership.  It so happens that we have a superb board, one that is representative of the congregation’s marvelous diversity yet able to function and work as a unit.  In addition, the nominating committee has not lacked for solid candidates to interview for future board positions.  Plus, many of these solid candidates have been positively inclined, this at a time when it’s hard for anyone to find volunteers for anything (for evidence of this dearth of civic responsibility in America, see the now classic tract “Bowling Alone,” at  So it would seem that we are triply blessed.


            Still, the question needs to be asked: what makes one qualified to serve on a synagogue board?  And a corollary question would be, what makes a synagogue board different from any other type of board?  Is not a synagogue, after all, just a business? 


            Since you pay me to help set the tone for organizational life here (that’s MY fiduciary responsibility), here is a brief journey into the sacred world of synagogue leadership.  Sacred?  Absolutely.  Because the work we are all doing is God’s work.  Every single day, I have contact with people whose lives have been changed profoundly – saved even – because of their involvement with one aspect or another of this congregation’s efforts.  It is a humbling experience: This child has been galvanized by Tot Shabbat, that one loves our Shabbatons; this adult’s life-path was transformed when she learned to read Torah; that one’s life was saved by the network of supportive congregants and professionals who supported him during an illness.  Sacred work?  Darn straight!


            Every meeting (board, committee or staff) should begin with some reminder of the very sacred nature of this work, of how awesome this responsibility is and how amazing this opportunity.  A blessing or some simple Torah study can help in this regard.  Go to for some ideas as to how to do that.  A meditation (Kavanah) preparing ourselves to do sacred work is found at CLAL also has a meditation on building a pluralist community at, which is a nice thing to contemplate before any meeting.


            But the place where this journey really begins and could easily end is with the guide: Managing the Sacred: A Guide for Synagogue Board Members.  If you read nothing else, read this. It’s found at the Reform movement’s page of resources foe synagogue management, at  If you want to be a Macher, spend some time looking at all the good stuff there.   


            To be a good board member at a Conservative synagogue, you’ve also got to know something about our own movement, and so a great extent, “buy into” the program.  The movement’s vision was articulated in an address  “The New Conservative Compact” by Rabbi Jerome Epstein last spring at the USCJ Convention.   It was somewhat controversial in that Rabbi Epstein emphasized the least common denominators, making the movement appear more accessible to many but watered down to others.  Also see, “The Ideal Conservative Jew,” at and the USCJ’s Standards of Synagogue Practice at   We needn’t agree with every point, but board members of a Conservative synagogue need to understand these principles, much as an NFL referee needs to understand the rule book (sorry, Giants fans) – what’s most important is that a Conservative Jew be understood as one who is always striving to grow Jewishly.


            And any prospective leader of Temple Beth El also has to know about our own shul’s history, mission and vision. All can be found at our Web site, specifically at  You should also look around at what is working elsewhere.  There are some super Web sites out there from other synagogues.  Go to the most extensive database of synagogues that I know of, from all over the world,, and go to town.  Conservative synagogues are specifically found also at

Also check out to see what’s going on at Synagogue 2000 – lots of fascinating articles on what’s working out there.  And take a look at their latest book, “The Self-Renewing Congregation,” at


            One congregation that has become a model for self-renewal for us (and many others) is New York’s B’nai Jeshurun.  Their web site, recently redesigned, is found at  There are lots of other great synagogue web sites out there. BTW, it’s not such a bad thing to explore church Web sites as well.  The great model for this is the Willow Creek Community Church just outside of Chicago, one of the premier “Mega-Churches.” It’s at


            In this week’s portion, Moses is told by God to “Come unto Pharaoh” (“Bo el Par’oh”).  Commentators wondered why it says “come” rather than “go.”  One response was to imagine God standing over Pharaoh’s shoulder while saying this, acting like a parent would while coaxing a child to take her first step.  Remember, Moses was a reluctant leader who didn’t think he could accomplish the enormous task at hand.  God wanted to instill in Moses a confidence that yes, he can!  The same is true for synagogue leaders.  Few of us feel fully competent in all areas of Jewish leadership or synagogue life.  But if we are willing to grow along with everyone else (including the rabbi), there are few opportunities in life that provide for as many ways to make a real difference. 


            So you want to be a Macher?  Then, in the words of the sage Hillel, “Tze U’lemad.” “Go and learn.”


            * Macher” means, in Jewish vernacular, “Big Shot.”



Required Reading and Action Items







For my latest Jewish Week article… Tough Questions About NJPS

Go to


As a journalist, rabbi and child of the Watergate era, I’m a skeptic at heart. Jews are encouraged to pose tough questions from the very first time they participate in a Passover seder. Yet somehow, regarding a matter that hits closest to home, we’ve forgotten how to ask. When the long-awaited results of the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey were not ... (see the article for more)





To see a list of the names of victims of last Sunday’s double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, plus photos, bios and information on what you can do to help terror victims and their families:

A Bomb's Echoes - Editorial
Sunday's twin bomb attacks on civilians in Israel were as despicable as any in the past. But this time, there was a difference: The attacks at a Tel Aviv bus station have clearly hurt Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority in several serious ways. Arafat's struggle to establish a Palestinian state may have suffered its severest blow in this latest attack. His ability and will to end the bombings are even more seriously in doubt. (Christian Science Monitor)

How to Hit Back Without Hurting U.S. - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz) The Tel Aviv terror attack left a vexing dilemma for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his colleagues in the security-political cabinet. How might they respond forcibly at a time when the U.S. is mobilizing forces for an offensive in Iraq and when an Israeli delegation is in Washington asking for special security and economic assistance?

Exploiting the Palestinians - Max Boot
Surely anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the Middle East knows that the plight of the Palestinians isn't "the" issue. Even if Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, this would not affect in the slightest the tensions between Islamic fundamentalists and secularists, between rich Gulf kingdoms and their poor cousins, between Shiites and Sunnis, between democrats and dictators, or the countless other fault lines that run through the House of Islam. All of the dead in the Arab-Israeli wars of the past half century amount to only a tiny fraction of the million killed during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, the 100,000 killed in Algeria's civil war since 1992, or the 100,000 killed in Lebanon's civil war from 1975 to 1990. (Weekly Standard)


U.S. Special Forces, CIA Operating Inside Iraq - John Donnelly (Boston Globe)
    About 100 U.S. Special Forces members and more than 50 Central Intelligence Agency officers have been operating in small groups inside Iraq for at least four months, searching for Scud missile launchers, monitoring oil fields, marking minefield sites, and using lasers to help U.S. pilots bomb Iraqi air-defense systems.


Weissglass: U.S. Aid Likely to be Faster than Usual - Ran Dagoni
"Approval of the U.S. loan guarantees is likely to be faster than usual, thanks to the administration's great understanding of Israel's economic distress caused by the security situation and war against terrorism," Prime Minister's Bureau director Dov Weissglass said Tuesday. "The negotiations with the U.S. about Israel's aid request have opened well. We have no reason not to be optimistic," said Ministry of Finance director general Ohad Marani. An Israeli delegation presented Israel's request for $4 billion in direct aid and $8 billion in loan guarantees to the Bush administration officials this week. (Globes)

Saddam Hussein will "Fight to the Death" Rather than Leave Iraq - Douglas Davis (Jerusalem Post)
    An intimate friend of Saddam's family for the past 15 years, recently granted asylum in Britain, said he sees no chance that either Saddam or his favored son, Qusai, will leave Iraq under any circumstances.   Based on his knowledge of the family, he was convinced that there was "no chance" Saddam would voluntarily leave. "He will fight to the death. I have no doubt about that," he said.  See also Arabs Ask Hussein to Go Quietly - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor) A senior Saudi official visited Baghdad in secret last month to assess whether Mr. Hussein would be willing to step down and live in exile, according to Arab diplomatic sources, but among Arabs and diplomats who know the Iraqi leader, there is little optimism that the 11th-hour bid will succeed. "They are dreaming if they think this man will leave," says Abdullah Bishara, head of the Diplomatic Center for Strategic Studies in Kuwait. "He will bring down the walls like Samson."

Analysis: - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post) When the inner security cabinet decided after Sunday's terror atrocity to prohibit Palestinian Authority officials from traveling to London for a meeting on PA reform, they knew full well the move would not only punish the Palestinians, but also start a fight with the British. See also Israeli Fury Over British "Arms Ban"  Israel has accused Britain of imposing a covert arms embargo that could compromise its air defenses in a war against Iraq. Israel protests that Britain has delayed the export of key spare parts without which Israel may have to ground its fleet of Phantom fighter-bombers. (London Times)

Manual for Poisons and Chemical Gases Published on Hamas Website (IDF)
A manual published on the official Hamas website, titled The Mujahadeen Poisons Handbook, details for terrorists how to prepare various homemade poisons, chemical poisons, poisonous gases, and other deadly materials for use in terrorist attacks against Israelis, Westerners, and anyone else who stands in the way of an Islamic Jihad.  James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, address given last November at the National War College

For the kids (and the inner Israeli child in all of us) – try out the Falafel game online, at


From Honest…

HonestReporting is closely following the claim of responsibility by members of Arafat-affiliated Fatah, specifically the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, for this week's double-suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. See the actual Arabic announcement and translation at:


The Palestinian Authority made an arrest in connection with the murders, but it's not what you might think. PA security forces arrested al Jazeera's Gaza correspondent, Seif al Din Shahin, whose report on the Fatah claim of responsibility led to charges of "inflicting damage to the interests and reputation of the Palestinian people and their struggle." (The PA later claimed that it held the reporter for "failing to reveal a source" -- not exactly legitimate grounds for arrest.).

Witnesses said that 20 members of PA General Intelligence raided the offices of the Qatari TV station to arrest Shahin, the Jerusalem Post reports, and that PA security officials said Shahin was arrested on direct instructions from Arafat's headquarters. Shahin was released after 18 hours.  Another Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip said PA security officials warned him and his colleagues that they, too, would be arrested if they reported on the Fatah claim of responsibility. "They told us that the Mossad was behind the Fatah statements claiming responsibility for the Tel Aviv explosions and that any journalist who reports this will be severely punished," said the journalist. Read the full Jerusalem Post report at


Meanwhile, the French group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement this week criticizing the PA for detaining the journalist, and then hypocritically praising the PA for "actively combating organizations that sow terror and death in Israel."


Reporters Without Borders conveniently offers no proof of the PA "combating terror." Recall that in November, Reporters Without Borders ranked the Palestinian Authority as having more respect than Israel for freedom of the press.


And this…


Time magazine's special year-end edition includes "Best Photos of the Year," featuring 7 photos relating to the Mideast conflict. The photos and captions reveal a pattern of bias, heavily suggesting that Israel is the aggressor and Palestinians are the victims.


Here are the 7 photos:


(1) Time depicts Israeli aggression and Palestinian victimhood with a photo of Palestinian women mourning in Jenin after "Israeli tanks leveled the area."


(2) Time depicts Israeli aggression with a photo of Israeli soldiers "engaging in a fire fight" in Ramallah.


(3) Time depicts Israeli aggression and Palestinian victimhood with a photo of Palestinians "defend[ing] against a possible Israeli incursion."


(4) Time depicts Palestinian victimhood with a photo of a Palestinian boy who "lost his father and grandfather" in a gun battle.


(5) Time depicts Israeli aggression and Palestinian victimhood with a photo of Yasser Arafat "after Israeli tanks had besieged his compound."


(6) One semi-exception is a non-emotive photo showing a tagged Israeli arm, after a Palestinian suicide attack.


(7) And finally, a photo of Ariel Sharon carries the pejorative heading, "Old Man Alone." Sharon is dubiously depicted as "surviving three no-confidence votes and buying more time to repair his tattered coalition."


Time presents no background or context to give readers a sense of why Israeli tanks were in Jenin, or why Israeli soldiers were shooting in Ramallah.


Comments to:  FAX - (212) 522-8949 PHONE - (212) 522-0833



Opening Day of Israel Education Month:

Jewish Agency's Department of Education is pleased to invite you to join a live, interactive Tu B'Shvat Seder.

When: Wed. Jan. 15, 2003, and Thurs. Jan. 16, 2003

Israel Education Month comes at a time when the education community in North America is challenged with the need to infuse positive interest and excitement about Israel in educational settings. The image of Israel in the media, and the growing number of people who refrain from visiting Israel, has created a dangerous threat to the relationship between North American Jews and Israel.

Israel Education Month is intended to re-ignite the spark and yearning for meaningful engagements with Israel (people, land and state) on all aspects of education: affective, cognitive and behavioral. IEM intends to enhance the educational discourse about the place of Israel in North American Jewish life, in the hope that the project will be a starting point for an essential process of deepening the educational engagement with Israel. IEM will be launched immediately after Tu B'shvat on Sunday, January 19, 2003 and conclude Sunday, February 16, 2003.


Emergency Appeal Not Working!


Hospital Patients Need Blood Donors IMMEDIATELY!


(Farmington, CT)  -- The American Red Cross Connecticut Blood Services Region rang in the New Year with a warning bell to Connecticut citizens.  The state’s blood supply has dropped to critically low levels and continues to plummet.


The emergency appeal launched Monday has not had the impact that is desperately needed.  Tuesday, the American Red Cross was only able to fill 50% of hospital orders.  If blood collections do not increase immediately, elective surgeries may be canceled.  ALL BLOOD TYPES ARE NEEDED!  “The blood supply is dangerously low,” stated Ritchard Cable, M.D., Medical Director for the Connecticut Regional Blood Services.  “The main tanks are empty and the reserve tanks are critically low.  Blood donations fell short by more than 3,000 units of blood since the holidays and treacherous weather began, which has drastically eaten away at the overall blood inventory.   Bradford Sherburne, M.D., Director of the Blood Bank and Transfusion Service at Hartford Hospital, explained that at the start of a new year, operating room schedules return to their busy pre-holiday schedule, yet, at the same time, there is a tremendous fall off in collections due to the holidays.  To make up for this shortfall, Connecticut had been importing blood from other Red Cross regions.  This is no longer a viable option, however; as these regions are faced with the same challenge of rebuilding their own supplies due to low donor turnout during the recent holidays and treacherous weather.


“This is a very critical situation that requires an immediate response from blood donors,” remarked Dr. Cable.  “Connecticut citizens are the only ones now who can help.  For anyone who has ever considered becoming a blood donor, we are asking you to turn the thought into action and make your first donation today.  Those who have given in the past are encouraged to donate again as soon possible.  The time is now.”



Donors must:

·         Be in generally good health;

·         Be at least 17 year of age;

·         Weigh no less than 110 pounds;

·         Have NOT received a tattoo within the past year;

·         Have NOT donated whole blood within the past 56 days.


The public is strongly urged to call 1-800-GIVE LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or visit for a listing of local blood drives. ALL BLOOD TYPES ARE NEEDED!



Quotes of the Week: 

 “I am sorry that I cannot stay here with you, but you all heard about the attack in Tel Aviv tonight. But because of what happened tonight, it was especially important for me to see you. We see again today the severe nature of the things that the State of Israel is facing. Our goal is to stop the brutal terror and to achieve calm and quiet…[O]nly then, will we be able to start peace. All attempts to reach a cease-fire…have failed, due to the Palestinian leadership that continues to support crime and initiate terror. We want you to make aliyah to Israel. Everything we are doing now, is to enable you and your children to settle here…We are a unique and wonderful people—a people with a future. The answer to what we see here in Tel Aviv is our Zionist way and aliyah. We want you to come to Israel. We need you here now, more than ever…”—P.M. Ariel Sharon addressing a visiting crowd of American youths participating in the Birthright Israel program, following the deadly 5 January attack by Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades that killed fifteen Israelis and seven foreign nationals, and wounded one hundred and twenty. (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6)


“Even as British P.M. Tony Blair takes a principled stand against Saddam Hussein, he betrays an inexplicable readiness to court Yasser Arafat and Bashar Assad…And even as he demands that Israel mute its response to terrorism, he condemns the muted response…Given that [Sunday’s double suicide-bombing] atrocity was the deadliest since the Pessah massacre in March, one would have expected a firm military response. Yet the government elected instead to adopt a series of symbolic measures…Chief among [them] was a decision to bar the Palestinian delegation from participating in London’s [PA reform] conference. This did not sit well with the British government…Britain’s handling of this entire affair raises serious questions about its overall approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [I]f defeating Islamic terror requires broad, frontal military assault on al-Qaeda and now Iraq, surely Hamas and Islamic Jihad must also be targeted…”—Editorial (Jer. Post, Jan. 8)


“Legitimizing the sham reform efforts of Arafat’s regime will, in effect, legitimize a Palestinian leadership compromised by terror. Not only has the Palestinian Authority failed to fight terrorism, Arafat’s own Fatah and Tanzim forces proudly took credit for [Sunday’s] savage attack and from many other atrocities over the last two years.”—F.M. Benjamin Netanyahu announcing Israel’s decision to bar PA officials from attending the upcoming London conference on Palestinian reform organized by Britain. [Arab states and the members of the Quartet were invited to the London conference, while Israel was banished and its representatives were forbidden to attend even as observers.] (Israel Foreign Ministry, Jan. 6; Ha’aretz, Jan. 8)










For those remaining in Stamford, Hazzan Rabinowitz will be back leading services that weekend, including a special musical celebration of Shabbat Shira (the Shabbat of Song) on Friday night



Tu B’Shevat Seder


at Temple Beth El


Thursday, January 16th at 7:00 p.m.


Tu B'Shevat marks the New Year of the Trees. The name of this holiday comes directly from the date on which it is celebrated - the 15th day of Shevat.  According to the Talmud, it is the time of renewal of budding in the trees.  Throughout history, Tu B'Shevat became a date to focus on our connection with the Land of Israel; celebration took the form of eating fruits grown in Israel.  Medieval Kabbalists connected Tu B'Shevat to the concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world.  In the 16th century, Kabbalists living in Safed created a Tu B'Shevat seder modeled loosely on the Passover seder.


Join us (and help us to welcome our local Young Jewish Professionals group, who will be here as our guests) as we drink red and white wine, and taste the fruits and nuts of Israel as we celebrate our Tu B'Shevat seder.



Join us for the popular monthly “Learning and Latte" series at Borders – a fascinating interfaith discussion of the stories of the book of Genesis, led by Rabbi Hammerman and Rev. Douglas McArthur.

Next session:

Tues. Jan 28th at 7:30 PM

Topic: The First Murder - Cain and Abel





United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien's Annual Super Sunday event will be held on February 2, 2003 at the JCC in Stamford. Volunteers are needed. Please call the UJF office at 321-1373 Ext.108.







Reading Between the Lines:

Variant Readings on the Bible

with Barb Moskow


In this class we will reinterpret the stories of our ancestors through the use of modern ideas of medicine, sociology, and psychology.


DATES: January 23, 30 February 6, 13

TIME: 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.



What’s all the Fuss About

the new Conservative Humash?”

with Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


We’ll look closely at how our new Humash brings the philosophy of Conservative Judaism to the general public unlike anything before it, and why that was such a shock to people. We’ll closely explore how the commentaries frame the weekly portion and Haftarah in comparison to other biblical commentaries. We’ll also examine closely several of the essays found in the back of the book, written by major thinkers within the movement.


DATES: January 23, 30 February 6, 13

TIME: 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.



Torah Cantillation Class

with Cantor Deborah Jacobson


Offered Sundays, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

An eight-week course starting January 26th

Hebrew reading skills required.


Youth Activities


Kadima (Grades 6-8)

Shabbat Dinner and Service

Friday, January 10th

6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.


ATID (Grades K-2)

Havdalah and Movie Night

Saturday, January 11th

6:00 p.m.


KESHER (Grades 3-5)

Family Trip to see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Sunday, January 12th


KESHER (Grades 3-5)

Snow tubing

Monday, January 20th

8:00 a.m.


USY (Grades 9-12)

Sunday, January 26th

To Be Announced





The Web link for this week's Shabbat-O-Gram is - - The site is continually updated during the week with corrections and additions.  Feel free to forward this link to your friends. People can subscribe to the weekly Shabbat-o-Gram at   I also send out mailings to college students, Gen Xers and teens, so let us know if you wish to be placed on any of those lists.  If you wish to unsubscribe, contact  


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