It’s the Gift That Keeps on Giving…by Rabbi Jeff Clopper
Even after all these years, I find myself captured by the glistening silver and gentle jangle of the small bells. Regardless of how large or small, the weight is both considerable and light as a feather. And when deep diving in the rich waters of stories and statutes, I always find a dusty old treasure or sparkly new gem.
By now you might have guessed I am thinking of Torah, a natural line of thought for a rabbi. However, it not just rabbinical school that brought me to appreciate our ancient scroll. It’s somewhat ironic, given that English class was not my forte. In my teenage years, I always preferred the pure logic of those STEM classes (math and sciences) to the seemingly arbitrary interpretive approach of literary discussions. I still recall the angst I would feel in trying to decode let alone provide personal reflections, especially when it came to often-read classics like Steinbeck, Hemingway, and the granddaddy of them all Shakespeare.
Yet now, most math equations have fallen away, scientific principles lay dormant resurfacing only rarely. But one of my greatest joys is taking a piece of text from Torah, wrestling with it and pulling it apart like taffy – stretching and turning and spinning until you press it together and have a go at it again and again.
Torah is an incredible gift, and it truly does give to us constantly because with each passing year, the experiences we have and changes in the world around us can bring new understandings. Each time we encounter a story, a conversation or even what seems like the most archaic law, we see it through a different lens.
One of my favorite stories on Torah is told by a rabbi I knew and worked with in Massachusetts. One day, he met with a group of younger children in the Sanctuary. As they say before the closed Ark, he asked them what lay behind the curtain. Immediately, hands shot straight in the air. A few knew the answer right away – the Torah scrolls. One or two others offered cute answers that youngsters might dream up. Then one thoughtful child raised her hand and said, “A mirror.”
Torah is a mirror for us. Though we sometimes might struggle to find meaning in strange tales and obsolete commandments, there are still powerful ways we can see ourselves in the text – examples and non-examples of ways to live, ancient thoughts that dealt with safety and security as well as spirituality, and so much more.
If you have never had the opportunity to encounter Torah and see yourself in it, I invite you just once to try. The major festival holiday of Shavuot starts Saturday, June 4th. Though perhaps lesser known than sister festivals of Sukkot and Passover, Shavuot is said to correspond to the date Moses received the gift of Torah. Traditionally, an all-night study session is held to honor this gift and to immerse in as many areas of Jewish teaching as possible. At Temple Beth El, we don’t study all night, but we do take the opportunity to share a little bit of Torah and find our own sparkling gems in these ancient words.
So, take it from this former STEM guy – this is one gift you want to unwrap. I hope you will join Cantor Alison, myself, some of our adult choir members, and a host of others as we do what so many Jews have done for generations going all the way back to ancient times – celebrate the gift of Torah.
Temple Community Celebration: An Overwhelming Successby TCC Committee
Temple partners gathered in the Social Hall on Saturday, May 7th for the temple’s annual fundraising celebration. This year’s theme of Serving Our Community was exemplified by our honorees, Sandy and Burt Masnick, and Harriet and Norman Copel whose devotion and dedication to service on behalf of Temple Beth El set a standard for us all. Special Recognition went to restauranteurs Kelley and Nino Antuzzi for their commitment over the years to feeding those in need in our greater Huntington area.
TCC Co-Chair Karen Bernstein served as emcee and kept the evening’s program moving along. After a beautiful prayer led by Cantor Alison and welcoming remarks and a blessing by Rabbi Jeff, Karen kicked things off with our first of five raffles. Sue Seiler introduced a video by Kelley and Nino Antuzzi, who were busy that Saturday night manning their restaurants and couldn’t attend in person. Jan Singer lauded Harriet and Norm Copel, and Jen Gillet spoke lovingly about her Aunt Sandy and Uncle Burt Masnick. The entire presentation ceremony was live-streamed on the special TCC YouTube channel and can be found on the TCC website available now to those who missed it on May7th or who want to relive that exciting event again.
“The evening was a huge success in every way,” exclaimed TCC Co-Chair Patricia Kresner. “Seeing our temple friends in person after the long pandemic shut down was wonderful. I must commend the event committee for the beautiful room set-up and decorations. The food was a delight, Northport Deli really went all out on our behalf. Our own temple partners pitched in to provide a dazzling array of cookies for dessert.”
The Temple Community Celebration is TBE’s annual philanthropic event. This year we raised in excess of $100,000, thanks in no small part to our generous sponsors. In addition to donations to the Scroll of Honor, money was raised through the sale of raffle tickets and business listings. Please consider patronizing those business that support our temple; they can be found on the TCC website. Our beautiful Scroll of Honor, documenting all who donated to the event, is being readied for permanent display. You can view the heartfelt tribute messages from those who donated featured on the TCC website.
Proceeds from the TCC are earmarked for the temple’s annual operating budget and will help cover costs associated with running and maintaining the building, supporting the Religious School, and other budget lines.
An event such as this could not have happened without the work of many dedicated and selfless individuals. Co-Chairs Karen Bernstein and Patricia Kresner wish to acknowledge and thank all who contributed to the TCC’s resounding success.
TBE’s Erev Purim Players Strike Again!by Barry Zusman
Early in 2013, Margo and Barry Zusman met with Rabbi Clopper and Cantor Zeitlen to ask whether they had any specific plans to augment reading the Megillah on Erev Purim. They did not. At that point, the Zusmans sang two parody lyrics that might be incorporated into the evening’s festivities. The rabbi’s response: “Can you give us 40 minutes?” Thus, the Purim Players were formed, featuring Rabbi, Cantor, Diane Berg and the Zusmans singing with Steve Widerman on piano.
The cast has changed over the years. The 4th and most recent performance was on March 16th, again featuring song parodies using Broadway and Beatles tunes. Two original members sang – Rabbi and Barry – and were joined by Cantor Alison and choir members Scott Blond, Linda Braun and Ilene Davis. Rob Seiler was at the keyboard. As always, Barry wrote the parody lyrics, and Margo prepared the piano accompaniments and conducted.
Five Stephen Sondheim songs were performed to honor the memory of the musical-theater giant who passed away last November. For example, West Side Story’s “Jet Song” lyrics were changed from “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way,” to “When you’re in Beth El, you pay and you pay.”
Lisa Bennett was graphic designer for the promotional materials and the accompanying “Purimbill” cover art. Because of COVID-19, about 75 people attended in person. Another 69 computers were logged on for remote livestream viewing. TBE’s tech team was represented by Evan Schneider on video and Jason Gillet on the sound board.
What Is the Chai Dinner?by Marcia Schwalb
Did you ever wonder, what is the Chai Dinner? Here is a little history. Temple Beth El of Huntington was founded in 1952. In 1977, Charlie Mayer (z”l), a member at the time, organized and held a dinner to honor those families who had been members of Temple Beth El for 18 (chai) years or more. We have continued to honor these members (partners) with a dinner each year, thus becoming the long-standing tradition of the Chai Dinner. We also recognize those families who are reaching certain other milestones of membership/partnership – 25, 36, 45 and 50 years. Once a family has achieved 60 years of membership, we honor them each year and each household being recognized receives a certificate of appreciation. Isn’t this wonderful? Through Charlie’s thoughtfulness and the establishment of the Chai Dinner, the Chai Club was created and is still active and strong.
Here are a few statistics: we currently have four families who fall into the 60+ years of membership/partnership category. Also currently, 168 families have been members for 18 years or more, which is 42 percent of our partner households. After a two year hiatus due to the challenges of the COVID-19 virus, Temple Beth El will once again recognize our households who have reached 18 or more years of membership/partnership, a little differently but certainly with just as much gratitude and love for our long-time temple families. We hope you will join us for Friday night Shabbat services (either in person or live-stream) on Friday, June 3rd at 7:00 p.m. as we show our “Chai” appreciation and recognition for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022 with a special blessing given by Rabbi Jeff and Cantor Alison. L’Chaim – to life!
We Kinda Need You. Really, We Do.by Mitch Kittenplan, President
There was a memorable World War II poster titled “Uncle Sam Needs You”. The modern update to that poster, as it pertains to Temple Beth El, might read: “We Really Don’t Want To Bother You… No Guilt or Pressure… But We Could Use Your Help.”
The point I’m making here is that in addition to our dedicated staff, Temple Beth El runs on an army of volunteers. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is just how many people give so much of their time to make our temple the incredible place it is.
There’s never any pressure for you to volunteer, but there’s always a need. That’s why I titled this article “We Kinda Need You. Really, We Do”. The beauty of our temple family is that you can do as little or as much as you’re comfortable doing and there’s never any judgment. But I’m asking you to consider helping out.
I’m already looking ahead to ’22-’23 and all our committees that could use your help:
- Annual Giving
- ARZA/Israel Affairs
- Budget & Finance
- Caring Community
- Continuing/Adult Ed
- Endowment Fund
- Facilities Beautification
- Facilities Management
- Families w/Young Children
- Health, Safety & Security
- Music & Arts
- Religious School
- Restricted Tribute Fund
- Social Action
- Social Justice
- Strategic Planning
Whew! And this list doesn’t even include the temple arms: Sisterhood, Brotherhood, and Chai Club. Why not look over the list. There’s got to be an area of interest to you. Please think about sharing your expertise in an area that you’d like to help. You’ll get a lot of satisfaction, meet some great people, and travel the world (okay, I fudged the last part). Reach out to let me know at email@example.com. We kinda need you… really, we do.
The March of Dimes and Temple Beth El (Really!)by Burt Masnick
The March of Dimes was founded by President Franklin Roosevelt as the Warm Springs Foundation on January 3, 1938 as a response to U.S. epidemic of polio. Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921. The Foundation was an alliance between scientists and volunteers, with volunteers raising money to support research and education efforts.
The name “March of Dimes” – a play on the popular “March of Time” radio show – was coined by the Jewish entertainer Eddie Cantor, who some of us are old enough to remember. He inspired a nationwide fundraising campaign. Lapel pins were sold for ten cents each; special features were produced by the motion picture studios and radio industry; nightclubs and cabarets held dances and contributed a portion of the proceeds. 2,680,000 dimes or $268,000 were donated in what the press called “a silver tide which actually swamped the White House”. Ultimately, the March of Dimes funded the research that got the vaccines that eliminated polio and subsequently changed its focus to healthy pregnancies.
What’s the point of this and what does it have to do with Temple Beth El? Polio wasn’t defeated because the 1938 version of Bill Gates funded the effort. Millions of people making modest donations changed the world by eliminating polio. Similarly, Temple Beth El is not funded with a vast endowment but supported by contributions small and large, all welcome and all significant.
A new style of contributing has become a staple of charitable fundraising over the past few years. “Requests for Legacy” giving, providing a gift or bequest via a will or other suitable arrangement, is now a staple part of the non-profit world. Some people respond to these legacy requests with a thought like, “Hey, I’m not Bill Gates. Nothing I do like that could make a difference.” No single dime donated to the March of Dimes eliminated polio. But together with other dimes, it effectively did. No single bequest in a Will is going to fund Temple Beth El in perpetuity. But many people remembering to include Temple Beth El in their estate planning could make the future of Temple Beth El brighter. And that is something that is worth considering. Virtually every responsible adult does some estate planning, typically a will. And most people with a will review them every few years with an attorney or estate planner to accommodate changing circumstances and/or new laws. Perhaps the next time you go through that process, Temple Beth El could be in your thoughts. In future articles, we will talk about some people who have already made that decision.
If you have questions about legacy giving and Temple Beth El you can contact either Mike Heiberger, V.P. of Philanthropy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Burt Masnick, member of the Philanthropy Committee at email@example.com.
Keeping Up with the Brotherhoodby Ian Weitz, Brotherhood President
Brotherhood has purchased the makings for a Kindness Garden, a haven for butterflies and quiet contemplation, to be planted in the front of the temple. Keep an eye out for more information.
Our event wrap up:
- Purim Carnival on Sunday, March 13th: Brotherhood assisted the Religious School Committee by providing and serving food at the carnival and prizes for the participants in the costume contest. Proceeds went to the Religious School. Thanks go to: Harley and Karen Kudler, Mark Goldman, Mitch Kittenplan and Ian Weitz.
- Brotherhood In-Person Meeting on Sunday, April 3rd: The meeting was well attended by 23 guys and went until 2:00 p.m. Bagels with all the fixings and desert were served. Business was discussed. The Charlie Meyer Award for Meritorious Service winners were selected: Mazal Tov to Mark Goldman, Linda Schatten and Mike Widawsky.
- “Antiques Road Show” Event on Sunday, April 10th: Brotherhood “manned” the food table. Thanks go to Rob Seiler and Mitch Kittenplan.
- Yom Hashoah Service on Tuesday, April 26th: Brotherhood along with Sisterhood and the Chai Club provided the Religious School students and their families with candles of remembrance.
- Temple Community Celebration on Saturday, May 7th: Brotherhood assisted by setting up the computer databases, graphics and making deliveries of information to both our current and potential advertisers, and preparing invitations for mailing. Thanks go to Mark Goldman, Mitch Kittenplan, Mike Widawsky and Ian Weitz.
So, hang with the Brotherhood of Temple Beth El. To get on our mailing list, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We meet via Zoom or live, when safe, most Wednesdays from noon until about 1:30 p.m. over lunch to enjoy the company of one another and to share jokes, humorous stories, funny video clips and an occasional educational segment. All are invited regardless of gender or age.
An Easy Way To Make A Difference!by Sarah Lichtenstein
Now we can all begin to make a difference from the comfort of our own homes; from our desk tops, laptops, notebooks or smartphones. On a series of related websites sponsored by Greater Good, when a person clicks the yellow CLICK TO GIVE button, sponsors of various causes fund food for people, animal welfare, health care, education and other important causes. It takes literally seconds. Formerly, one could click only once a day. Now anyone can click again after only 3 hours! The sites are: Animal Rescue, Breast Cancer, Veterans, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Literacy, Autism, Rainforest, and Hunger. Simply go to www.thehungersite.greatergood.com and click on the yellow CLICK TO GIVE button on the right. Then, you can click on all of them in under than a minute! It takes such a minimal effort, so please, let’s all try to make this a daily habit or at least whenever we log onto our computers. Every click helps!
Baby Boutique 2022by Pam Lawson
he Social Action Committee hosted this year’s Baby Boutique on Sunday, February 27th. With the help of social service communities of Huntington, the word was spread. Families arrived, encouraged to gather necessities for their infants and young children. Many expectant moms arrived, thrilled to be provided with diapers, wipes, and formula. While the parents filled their needs, the children had fun picking out toys. One child exclaimed it was better than Christmas! Just about everything we had to offer was taken. We had an abundance of supplies provided through generous donations. Collections occurred through various drives hosted by our temple community, our Religious School, nearby school districts, neighboring temples and community members. This event was possible because of the generous donations and support of our volunteers working together to make it happen.
Closing Out Another HIHI Seasonby Paula Klein, HIHI Coordinator
The end of March marked the close of the 2021-22 HIHI respite program. The Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative has offered homeless individuals in Huntington a safe, warm place to spend the night during the winter months for nearly 20 years. From December 1st to March 31st, more than 35 local congregations provide housing, clothing, breakfast, lunch, and dinner to participants in collaboration with the Family Service League (FSL).
As in the past, TBE volunteers this year rose to the occasion and jumped right in despite personal challenges, stormy weather, and ongoing COVID-19 concerns. More than 15 families and individuals generously prepared bagged meals, with sandwiches, soft drinks, fruit, and healthy snacks, to drop off at a central location on Wednesdays. Some folks even took on more than one week or changed dates at the last minute when asked; thank you so much for your flexibility and generosity! A special shout out to Randee Epstein for stepping up whenever needed.
We shared our Wednesdays with our two dedicated temple partners: Huntington Jewish Center and East Northport Jewish Center. Many thanks to them and their enthusiastic congregations for their invaluable help and support. Due to COVID-19 again this year, no in-person hosting of meals was allowed. Unfortunately, many of the men have health issues exacerbated by their time spent outside in the cold; they also missed the personal contact our volunteers have offered in the past. Nonetheless, guests were very grateful to know that they were still being cared for and supplied with so much good food and other necessary items from their local neighbors.
In addition, donated gift cards gave the men an opportunity to warm up and buy hot coffee or snacks at area restaurants and delis. Thanks to many generous donations, we were also able to provide, coats, boots, assorted clothing, toiletries, soup and linens, in addition to the meals and gift cards.
As FSL said: “We could not close out HIHI without extending our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who made this challenging season possible.” For our TBE volunteers, I echo that sentiment and thank everyone who contributed in any way to this important effort. While you enjoy the warm weather, please continue to think of those less fortunate and contact the Social Action Committee’s Carol Werblin at email@example.com to see how you can help.