The Buzz

The Cantor’s Husband

by Brian Levine

When Alison and I got married, I knew the role I was stepping into.  From here on out, I would be called/named/referred to as, “the Cantor’s Husband”.  Most of the time, I say “I’m the Cantor’s Husband” whenever I am asked.  But why wouldn’t I just say, I’m Brian?  Here are some interesting facts to get to know me:

  1. I was born in New York but my family moved to Miami when I was seven months old, and that’s where I grew up.  I love warm weather and boating!
  2. I am one of four children, and am the only boy.  I always got outvoted 3-1.
  3. My birthday is on the 4th of July, and yes, the fireworks are for me.
  4. I grew up in a conservative Jewish household, and attended services weekly.
  5. I graduated from Florida State University where I received a degree in Sports Management, and had an almost 20 year career, post college, working in professional sports.
  6. I do not consider myself musically inclined; however, I can read music, play guitar, and try to harmonize with Alison on
  7. Since I grew up in house with all girls, my dad and I bonded with sports.  The best sporting event I attended with my dad was a 2003 World Series game between the Marlins and Yankees.  My dad grew up a Yankees fan, and I am a Marlins fan.
  8. I enjoy spending time on the golf course; in fact, when Alison and I were engaged, we made each other a promise: I teach her how to play golf, and she teaches me how to ski!  That said, I now go down black diamond trails and she plays 18 holes.
  9. After these last two years, I can truly understand what every single Bar/Bat Mitzvah child has gone through. My own Bar Mitzvah on September 5, 1992 was exactly twelve days after one of the worst hurricanes to hit Miami: Hurricane Andrew.  While some of my best friends were living in FEMA trailers as their homes were destroyed, and my own temple  having been damaged by the storm, I had no idea what I should do about my Bar Mitzvah. I had a meeting with my   Rabbi, and I chose to move forward with the service in my temple’s religious school building with no electricity, and if    anyone doesn’t know how hot it is in September, try leading a 3 ½ hour service in a three-piece suit without air conditioning!  I opened up my service up to anyone in the community of any faith who needed to pray.  I was the first prayer service in my community after the hurricane. While the service went on, I canceled the post service festivities (party) and wanted to make sure my community was in a better place before I could celebrate. Eventually, the party was  held almost a year later at my temple, after it had been remodeled from the impact and damage caused by the storm.
  10. To me, there is nothing more important in life than family!  I am extremely close with my mom and my three sisters. Unfortunately, I lost my father in 2006, but his memory remains a big part of my family to this day. As Jewish tradition tells us, from generation to generation, which is why our son Dylan’s Hebrew name is בצלאל אהרון, (Betzalel Aharon)  named after my dad.

Until we meet again…

(No, not the Cantor’s husband, but) Brian

Sisterhood: Connection, Community and and Comfort

by Beth Feinman, Sisterhood President

During challenging times, we seek to find grace, guidance, and the comfort of dear friends. For the women of Temple Beth El, the answer lies in the Sisterhood. It is within Sisterhood that we can realize our better self: one that is rooted in faith, generosity and love. From the daughters of Zelophehad to modern day, we can see this legacy in women like Judith Kaplan Eisenstein, the first to become a Bat Mitzvah in 1922, and women like Sally Priesand, one of the first women to be ordained as a Rabbi in 1973.  Like the women who came before us, we pray that God will imbue us with the strength and compassion to follow in their footsteps and support all women who seek to realize their Jewish identities in new and powerful ways.

This year, I am proud to say that our Sisterhood Executive Board has grown to include friends of Sisterhood who we welcome to all our events.  From our Juliet dinners at local restaurants, morning and evening book clubs, to our educational and fun cooking and art parties – both zoom and in person – Sisterhood is an opportunity to meet new friends and connect with the community while nurturing your spiritual self through volunteer work and helping those in need. Hopefully you stopped by our Olive Oil Tasting table or fun Photo Station during the Chanukah Bash or perhaps you will join us when mah jongg resumes. Or just “Zoom by” one of our online get-togethers. Whether in person or online, we hope to see you soon!

Wine Ideas for the Holiday Season

by Dave Mullen, Sommelier

The holiday season stretches from November straight through the beginning of January, and typically means get-togethers that include wine.  After another year with COVID-19 and an endless stream of challenging events, we deserve the opportunity for a bit of celebration!  What better way to set a festive mood than with a bottle of “bubbles?”  While champagne is the king of bubbles, also consider affordable options such as a French Crémant, or a Prosecco or Franciacorta from Italy, or Cava from Spain or a US sparkling wine.

These wines are made using the same method as Champagne, but from a region outside of Champagne yet drink similarly to Champagne, at an accessible price.  Here are a few ideas for pairing food and bubbles:

  • If serving cheese, such as a brie, a bottle of non-vintage brut will play off the creaminess of the cheese.
  • Bubbles pair nicely with a dinner of roast turkey or chicken with a savory stuffing.
  • Try your sparkling wine with potato chips. The combination will surprise you at just how good it is.
  • Not serving any food. That’s ok, champagne shines just fine on its own.

Headed to a party and want to take wine along? Most experts agree that if you are buying a bottle to bring to a party, $20 to $35 should be your target range.  You really can’t go wrong with sparkling wine, especially if you aren’t sure what types of wines your host prefers.  Additionally, keep in mind that the bottle you bring may not be opened and considered a gift. Many wonderful Champagnes and Sparkling Wines may be obtained at Bottles and Cases.  In speaking with Mark Herman (the proprietor), we recommend:

  • Bella Notte Prosecco, $14.99
  • Marcel Pierre Epernay Brut Champagne, $29.99
  • Deveaux Augusta Brut Champagne, $36.99
  • Boizel Brut Reserve Champagne: $37.99

Sustaining Temple Beth El

by Mike Heiberger, VP of Philanthropy

The Kol Nidre Fundraising Appeal is a Jewish tradition that has become essential to the financial health of most every synagogue community.  As a part of our annual fundraising, the Kol Nidre appeal and our spring special event constitute a major portion of our temple’s income and helps to keep our Sustaining Partnership suggested pledge contribution as low as possible.  Once again this year, our congregants have been generous and understanding and we will meet and even most likely exceed the projected income for this program once all of our partners have responded.

A special thank you to all of our donors (click here for the list).  You responded to the call even in this second year of COVID-19 restrictions and hungering to get back to more normal in-person activities.  The list is current as of the end of December so, as you read this, other names will no doubt have been added.

As we approach the end of the calendar year, we again await the arrival of winter and then of spring with its promise of growth and renewal.  It also marks the conclusion of this year’s Kol Nidre fundraising – a Jewish tradition that starts at the High Holy Days and goes on until we have reached out to everyone.  Your gift helps to assure a successful year and lays the groundwork for future growth.

Kol Nidre Committee: Rob Fishman, Chair; Noreen Fremed, Mike Heiberger and Mike Widawsky

Random News, Note and Semi-Important Stuff

by Mitch Kittenplan, President

NOBODY’S PURR-FECT… Get it, “purr-fect”, coming from a “Kitten-plan”? Okay, okay, so it’s a very poor play on words… but it’s the thought that counts. Anyway, I always talk about our Temple Beth El family. Families love each other, but families aren’t perfect. Families also squabble or annoy each other from time to time.  If there’s ever something on your mind, whether it’s a gripe, a suggestion or simply a question or comment, PLEASE let me know.  Email me at I really would like to hear from you.

ROCK ON… For those of you who attend Shabbat services, but especially for those of you who normally don’t, I suggest you mark your calendars for Friday, April 29th. What’s so special about April 29th?  It’s the 5th Friday of the month.  So then what’s so special about the 5th Friday of the month? It’s T.G.I. S. (Thank God It’s Shabbat). If you’ve never seen that service, you don’t know what you’re missing. The TBE band is on the bimah, and they’re fronted by the Rabbi, the Cantor, and members of the choir. It’s my favorite service, and it absolutely rocks. Don’t miss it.

I DIDN’T KNOW THAT!  I bet you didn’t know that temple Board Meetings are open to all our partners. (If you knew that, you’re better than me. I only found this out last year!) Anyway, you’re more than welcome to join us each month at our meetings. They’re usually held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00. During this time of COVID-19 we’ve been holding hybrid meetings (both in-person and via Zoom). Just email me, and I’ll send you the Zoom link.

WHERE WERE YOU IN ’52?  Okay, you don’t have to answer that.  But I can tell you that in 1952, Temple Beth El was founded. And if the math they taught me at Stuyvesant is correct, that means we’re going to be celebrating our 70th Anniversary (cue the music and balloons). Look for 2022 to be a year of celebrating our big Seven-Oh.

SPRING FORWARD… Already looking forward to the spring of ’22. End of winter, flowers in bloom, days getting longer… and Temple Beth El has some major events on the calendar. Look for the Chutzpah Repertory Theater’s long-anticipated production of “Bye Bye Birdie”, followed by the 2022 Annual Temple Community Celebration. Can’t wait!

2021 Chanukah Bash – A Success!

by Patti Kresner, VP of Partnership

On Friday, December 3rd, Temple Beth El was filled with people celebrating Chanukah in person! Fun was in the air as we gathered together to worship and light our menorahs.  Rabbi Jeff and Cantor Alison led a meaningful service filled with the story of Chanukah and wonderful songs.

There was something for everyone from building a giant menorah to creating your own dreidel courtesy of Samara Rossi, Religious School Director, as well as the Religious School committee.  There were Sisterhood’s oil tasting, Brotherhood’s annual dreidel table, Chai Club’s Chanukah Mad Libs, Ruth Fuller’s STEM craft table, photos opportunities by Sisterhood, and a preview of an upcoming beading class by Liz Winokur.  There were goody bags of cookies and donut holes and of course latkes, latkes, latkes, and delicious homemade desserts.

This program, brought to you by the Partnership Committee, was headed by the superlative Debbie Jarmon.  A successful event such as this could not have happened without the combined efforts of many people.  Thanks must go to:  Daniel and Lynne Eig, Myra Feeney, Beth Feinman, Ruth Fuller, Jen Gillet, Jacob Gillet, Sue and Mark Goldman, Lois and Mitch Kittenplan, Marjorie and Stephen Levy, Margret Roche, Miriam Rosen, Evan Schneider, Sue and Rob Seiler, Fran Silverfish, Sharon Simon, Louise Spangle, Beverly and Peter Wayne, Ian Weitz, Janet and Mike Widawsky, Liz Winokur, and Robin Zucker.

Special recognition to Lisa B. in the temple office for keeping all the moving pieces together and for her creative labels and signs, to our wonderful custodial staff Jimmy, Harold and Alex for set-up and cleanup, and to Lisa Tricomi, our Partnership Liaison, for her welcoming engagement.

Keeping Up With The Brotherhood

by Ian Weitz, Brotherhood President

The Brotherhood is a group of guys among whom there is fellowship and a desire to serve the temple and community.  We listen to your stories and complaints and are genuinely interested, and we share a common experience and understanding.  If you have a plan for a project or a get-together, we’ll try to make it happen!  We’re always looking for a reason and a venue to get together and projects to do around the temple. We welcome suggestions and hope to see you at a meeting.

The Brotherhood meets on Zoom or live, when safe, on Wednesdays from 12:00 to 1:15 p.m. over lunch to enjoy the company of one another. We share jokes, humorous stories, funny video clips, and an occasional educational segment. All are invited regardless of gender or age.

On Wednesday, December 1st we went to the Lido Beach Deli in Lido Beach for a lunch of pastrami, corned beef, knishes, and Dr. Brown’s soda. It’s an old-time Jewish deli and should be experienced and a good time was had by all. Pictured below:  Mike Heiberger, Barry Mildener, Mitch Kittenplan, Jan Singer, Harriet and Norman Copel, Mike Widawsky, Jay Elzweig, and Ian Weitz.  The next planned outing is Flushing for falafels. For more info and to be a part of the Brotherhood’s email list, email

On December 3rd, the Brotherhood Dreidel Table once again appeared at the Chanukah Bash with Peter Wayne, Ian Weitz, Mark Goldman, Mitch Kittenplan and Mike Widawsky. There was Chanukah gelt for all, the good chocolate from Belgium; the Brothers like to splurge.  Prizes were won and a good time was had by all.  We’ll see you again next year!

Come hang with the Brotherhood, be a part of something good and help out around the temple. Help by becoming a dues-paying member. As the saying goes: join a temple and your kids will be Jewish; participate in Brotherhood and your grandkids will be Jewish.  We extend our condolences and deepest heart-felt sympathies to all who have suffered and have suffered a loss during these trying times. If the Brotherhood can be of assistance, please let us know.