The Buzz

Getting on Board

by Peter Chiacchiaro, President

During our Installation Service several weeks ago, I spoke about the dedication of the many temple partners who give freely of their time to provide governance for our congregation. With 400 families and a million dollar budget, it would be no small task for any organization, let alone one that relies solely on volunteers.  I also shared some quotes from our board members about why they take on this responsibility, and what they hope to achieve.  One quote summed it up: “Getting everyone on board with supporting TBE.”

On July 17th, we held our first Board of Trustees meeting of the new fiscal year.   As always, we welcomed our new Board members, and gave our best wishes to members who were taking on new roles.  This year, however, we had a special agenda as well, one that I believed would help us work towards that goal of “getting everyone on board.”

Most of you know our fellow congregant Rob Fishman as the talented musician who, among other things, directs the pit when we put on a show.  What you may not know is that Rob is also a skilled sales coach and management consultant.  To help us get the year off on the right foot, Rob led us in an exercise called “Team Storm.” We focused on a “problem statement” that was formulated by the Executive Committee the week before: “How to help partners connect with the temple community.” With Rob facilitating the discussion, the group spent almost an hour generating ideas about different ways of achieving that goal.  Everyone offered suggestions, filling up flip chart pages that were hanging on the wall.  Each member then took a marker and checked off their five favorite suggestions.   When the votes were tallied, we had a prioritized list of projects to work on for the remainder of the year.

In the months ahead, we will be reporting back to you on what we are doing to operationalize those suggestions.  We ask that you, in turn, give us your feedback about what we’re doing, as well as any suggestions that you have about ways in which we can “get everyone on board.”

Making Your Way Back

by Rabbi Jeff Clopper

It must be hard being a judge on American Idol.  Deciding who goes on and whose journey to stardom ends in an abrupt, heartbreaking fashion cannot be easy.  For some acts, a no-vote must seem rather obvious, while for the special few, they destined for greatness.  Yet, it is those in-between acts – those with uncertain potential – for which it must be difficult to choose.

As we enter into the High Holy Days season, the topic of judging is on my mind.   After all, our liturgy reminds us that God will be judging our worthiness and hopefully granting us yet another year. Thinking about it raises some uncomfortable questions: What if someone has been trying hard all year, but slipped up recently?  Will that mean disqualification from the Book of Life? And what if God is in a particularly bad mood this time around? Could it mean this time might bring an extra “no-vote” or two?

In reality, I don’t worry too much, mostly because my own theology shies away from the idea of God sitting on a chair in some heavenly office making these decisions.  But just in case, we all can rest assured because the steps to insuring a “thumbs-up” to move on to the next round from God are clearly established.

The great Jewish scholar and physician Moses ben Maimonides (a.k.a. Rambam) about a thousand years ago elaborated on the steps to take for teshuvah. Often mistranslated as repentance, teshuvah is Hebrew for “return to the straight path”.  Once we have deviated from that path God has laid out for us, we need to make our way back. To do that, Rambam says it’s just three easy steps:

  1. Own up to your mistakes
  2. Express regret at the bad choices you have made
  3. Determine a plan to make sure you don’t make those mistakes again.

By following this simple, clear step-by-step procedure, we are supposedly guaranteed a trip to the next round!  Of course, there are few guarantees in life.  However, knowing this simple formula makes the work we must do at the high holy days much easier to master.

So warm up your voices and brush up on your footwork.  Know that what we will do as individuals and as a community at the high holy days will not only help us improve ourselves, but will also make for a better world.   And that’s the way that we all can say we are winners this time.

May your teshuvah be genuine and meaningful, and may the new year ahead be filled with sweetness, with triumph and with much success.

The Start of a Great School Year

by Diane E. Berg, RJE

We have so many new and exciting additions to our already remarkable curriculum. Our students will be so thrilled to hear that:

  • We will have at least one young Israeli on staff to bring the language, food, music, geography, culture, and history to our students and families on Sunday mornings.  Each grade will have a family experience to bring Israel right to them. If a family would like to host an Israeli for 4 months let me know and I will provide details. It would be a wonderful opportunity!
  • Our primary grades will have several events with our librarian, Sandy Crain. She will be taking an element from each grade’s curriculum and then introduce a story or book that will help the students further explore the topic. Students will enjoy a creative project with her as well.
  • Cantor Alison will be teaching our students wonderful new songs and melodies during the school year. These will help to teach contemporary songs and enrich prayers.

We welcome three new teachers to our Faculty Family. Each of these Master Teachers joins us after decades of successful teaching at other Synagogues. We are very fortunate to bring them here:

  • Hilary Kalb, who has been teaching in our Hebrew High for many years, will be our new third grade teacher. Wendy Isaac has moved to level one Hebrew.
  • Jamie Moses and Brenda Reiss will be part of our Hebrew Team in levels two and three.

One change we sadly had to make is to abandon our bagel sale on Sunday mornings. We could not find a parent volunteer to come early to sell them. Please make sure your children have breakfast before coming to school on Sunday mornings.

This is going to be a fabulous year. I am so excited and I hope your children are too. We look forward to providing them, once again, with an absolutely amazing educational experience!

Beiteinu: What Is It and What Does It Mean For You?

by Burt and Sandy Masnick

We are Beiteinu (Hebrew for Our House).  We were temple members, concerned that TBE was shrinking and wanting it to thrive. Sandy Masnick’s cousin belonged to Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. They had 400 families in 1999 and were shrinking. Today, it’s over 1,150 families and growing. Sandy’s cousin led a group dedicated to making the synagogue more vital to supporting their members’ Jewish identity and more responsive to their members.  There was no single magic thing that made their synagogue more successful. It was one hundred things. They did it by really listening to their members, and then suggesting ways to make their synagogue better.

We formed Beiteinu hoping to replicate that reversal of direction. We meet, we discuss, and when we have an idea we feel might improve something, we suggest it to temple governance, be it the temple board, the temple committees, arms, leadership, or staff. So what is Beiteinu?

  • A group of concerned partners seeking to better Temple Beth El.
  • A listening post to gather your thoughts, your needs, your views.
  • A conversation about what we love here (and how it could be improved).
  • Eyes and ears to capture things that don’t live up to TBE’s ideals.

What have we done so far? We felt the Friday night Order of Service was a stale and unfriendly format for too long. With extensive consultation with the Rabbi, we submitted a proposed update that was adopted. We felt there should be an explanation of the structure of the Shabbat services available in the pews. We created a sample, discussed it extensively with Rabbi, Cantor, temple Educator, and temple leadership, and then submitted a revised version to the Ritual Committee.  Those yellow laminated sheets are now available in the pews. We felt name tags at our services would facilitate more conversation among those who attend and we brought this idea to the membership committee who made it happen. We have more ideas brewing.

What does this mean for you? If you want to become a member of Beiteinu, please let us know. It won’t cost anything but the time to tell your thoughts. We don’t meet often, have excellent nosh available and our meetings last 90 minutes. No time, but still have thoughts on how to make TBE better?  Share them with us and become a Consulting Beiteinu member.  We know you have terrific ideas.  Temple Beth El is your Jewish home. Together we can make it even better.

If you want to join us, if you have an idea, if you just want to keep tabs on Beiteinu, please contact Sandy Masnick at or (631) 271-3943.  We hope to meet you soon.



Social Action and You

by Paula Klein

The Social Action Committee and its generous volunteers have been busy serving the community in many ways. Most recently, TBE hosted about 150 guests at our summer barbecue, complete with a beautiful boutique coordinated by Lucy Raskin, and a raffle drawing – fun for all!  Thank you to all of our volunteer servers, drivers, and cooks, and a big special thank you to Peter and Jenny Shore who spearhead this effort each year.

Coming up in September, we will hold our annual High Holy Days food drive for those in need. This year, it will be led by Emily Viesta for her Bat Mitzvah community project. As usual, we will hand out bags for non-perishable food goods on Rosh Hashanah, and collect them on Yom Kippur.

Now is a good time to remind everyone that these and other efforts to help community members in need throughout the year are only possible because of you and caring volunteers like you. The Social Action Committee has a dedicated core group who are very open, welcoming, and in great need of new helpers and leaders.  Please join us!

To make it easy to sign up, we will kick off the Jewish New Year with a Social Action Committee Fair on the first day of Religious School on Sunday, September 23rd at 9:00 a.m.  What better way for you and your family to get involved in tikkun olam and mitzvot? Long-time members and newcomers alike should stop by our tables to learn more about each project: H.I.H.I., Thanksgiving Dinner, the Purim Baby Boutique, and all of our volunteer opportunities. Sue Seiler will have a B’nei Mitzvah table set up for community service projects for students and youth.

You may also be aware that in May, the temple Board approved a motion for TBE to become a short-term respite or “sanctuary congregation” for immigrants who fear imminent deportation. Citing our Jewish values and teachings to “welcome the strangers” among us, temple leaders supported this concept as our moral responsibility.  A task force researched the feasibility for more than a year, and we held two town hall meetings before board approval.  TBE is working with the Huntington Rapid Response Network, Jobs with Justice, other local congregations, and social service agencies in the community that might refer someone to us.  Our guest(s) would stay in the Youth Lounge for up to 3 days while seeking legal help and making decisions with family members from a safe space. Thank you to everyone who helped make this important resource available to the community, and to our team of volunteers who will make it a reality. If you’d like to help, please let us know.

Fortunately, we have outside donors who support our efforts, too. We are happy to announce that Project H.O.P.E., which serves dinner to between 125 and 140 guests each month, was awarded a $5,000 grant by Dentists for a Better Huntington so that we can continue to have these dinners.

How will you make a difference in our community and our world this year?  The Social Action Committee is a great place to start!  Welcome!