Israel at Warby Rabbi Jeff Clopper
I’m struggling. And I know I am not the only one.
For the past few weeks, I have been walking around in somewhat of a daze. Caught up in report after report on the war, I have, at times spiraled into dark places. I want to remain hopeful; the louder voices in my head keep telling me, “The People of Israel will live and carry on – Am Yisraeil Chai.” Yet, my heart, often at a breaking point, is not so sure about my head.
The descriptions and images readily available on social media are beyond belief. I made the conscious decision to avoid them to a great extent. I know the atrocities happened; I don’t need to see them and have those lasting pictures in my mind. On the faces of journalists, non-Jewish friends, the family members who have lost loved ones, it is easy to see that this is very, very real. And deeply painful.
I feel for those who have lost so much:
- Residents of Nahal Oz, Kibbutz Be’eri, Moshav Netiv Ha-asarah, and many other Southern locations faced who the unthinkable. Those who survived are displaced throughout the country, dealing with the pain of October 7th, unsure of when, or even if, they might return home.
- People like guide Amit (z”l), who I met on a recent trip to Israel, or the hundreds of young people who set out to enjoy good music who will never return.
- Soldiers now called to arms, fighting for what seems like the very survival of the state of Israel. Many of them are kids, just 18 or 19, shouldering an immense responsibility… some giving their lives for it.
- Each and every Israeli, especially the children, who will carry the trauma of the vicious attack.
- The constant barrage of missiles fired on a daily basis and the thought of hundreds of hostages still languishing somewhere in Gaza.
- And innocent Palestinians in Gaza. I don’t know what is in everyone’s hearts, but I have to believe that there are those who feel trapped between the cruelty of Hamas and the mistrust with which the State of Israel views all who live there. To all the innocents caught up in the war, my heart is heavy for them as well.
As if all of that were not enough, the weariness is multiplied by the constant barrage of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic outbursts we are seeing all over the world. Even here in our own backyard, the rhetoric, anger-filled protests, and the threats being made against the Jewish community have raised our fear to unprecedented levels.
Even here in New York, it is easy to encounter the backlash, most especially on college campuses. I feel for all college students who are struggling to feel safe, let alone to find their way towards understanding the gravity of what is happening. The swirl of misinformation and competing narratives can make it so overwhelming.
All of this is a lot to take in. Sorting through our own feelings and wading through the overwhelming information seems like a luxury, one we cannot afford to indulge. We have always been a people associated with hope. So even now, with all that weighs us down, with the world falling apart around us, hope is what we need.
I have been asked what we might do to help. There are ways to donate and opportunities to assist those in financial, psychological, and/or emotional need; watch for emails from TBE on ways to help. In addition, I would ask two things:
- Be together: We have always found strength in working together as a community. And even when we find ourselves in moments of disagreement, there is a comfort knowing that a roomful of people is struggling with the same challenges. (That has been the most amazing element of this war. Israel was completely divided before October 7th, yet they have set all of that aside and banded together.)
- Be kind: The thought of being kind might seem cliché, but what we are fighting for is not just about a strip of land on the Mediterranean or a war against an enemy. There is value to be found in the history and the heritage which are ours. Judaism calls on us to be strong when necessary, yet also always to show compassion and kindness.
It is hard to know how long this war will continue; even after Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza the fighting will not end completely. There is much uncertainty ahead yet we should try and hold on to our hope – Hatikvah.
Am Yisrael Chai – the people in Israel and all of us, the people of Israel, WILL live. Hopefully, one day there will be peace and quiet and contentment. As it is written in the Book of Isaiah, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And all shall sit under their vine and their fig tree and none shall make them afraid.” We pray that day will come soon, for us, for the Palestinians, and for ALL peoples. Hopefully, it will be in our lifetime.
Finding Comfort in Times of Crisisby Cantor Alison Levine
I don’t have the words. There are no words for the horrible terrorist attack that happened to our people in Israel on our holiday of Simchat Torah. I have been addicted to the news and all of it is awful and heart breaking. I have found myself “doom scrolling” on my phone for hours at night and flipping endlessly through the channels watching the 24-hour news cycle. But while it is important to be informed and to bear witness to all that is happening, it is also important to turn off the television and put down our phones to take care of ourselves. Here are a few ways I have found to seek comfort during these dark times.
- Spend time with friends and family, including your pets: Reconnecting with old friends and spending time with my family helped to bring me to the present moment and appreciate the people in my life. If you have one, spend some time with your adorable pet.
- Spend time with your Jewish community: It is at tough times like these that we need to be together. We are Am Echad, one people. Come to the temple for Shabbat or programming or host a Shabbat dinner at your house.
- Give yourself permission to feel all the emotions: We are feeling stress, anxiety, grief, worry, anger, fear and more. Give yourself time to process all of these emotions and grace to not be okay for a while. Take care of your mental health and talk to someone.
- Take care of yourself: Be good to yourself. Move your body. Take walks and get fresh air. Eat healthy, delicious food. Drink water. Try to get enough sleep, even if it is hard. Spend time meditating or taking a few deep breaths.
- Take care of others/engage in activism: Help Israel through donations, attending fundraising events to aid Israelis or rallies in support of Israel. Or closer to home, give back to our local community either through the temple’s many social action programs or through other organizations. Focus on ways you can help and support others. Find purpose in lifting others up and being the light.
These are just a few ways to find comfort during this crisis. For more ideas see the Kveller article written by Lior Zaltzman “Being on Social Media Feels Awful Right Now. Here’s What You Can Do Instead.” And also keep in mind the words we say as we finish chanting each book of the Torah, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazeik”. Be strong, be strong, and may we strengthen one another.
2023 President’s Kol Nidre Speechby Patti Kresner, President
I’m Patricia Kresner, Temple Beth El’s new President for the next 2 years. I can’t believe I’m really President! How did I get here? It all started years ago when I agreed to bring apple juice to a temple event. Then, one thing led to another. But I must give credit to my late brother-in-law Howard Schneider, whose gentle touch and encouragement steered me along the path to temple leadership. I also wish to extend my thanks and gratitude to our all our past Presidents on whose shoulders I stand. Most especially to our recent past President, Mitch (Golf Outing) Kittenplan, whose selfless commitment to the temple, along with his leadership and support, have been invaluable.
My theme today concerns relationships. In thinking about how best to introduce myself, I decided it would be simplest to go to a place that’s all about relationships: the dating app J-Date. Here’s a sample from my J-Date profile. I’m a divorced Huntington resident of a certain age. I enjoy cooking, traveling, and gardening. I’ve been a temple member for over 20 years. I think it’s time to update my profile to include TBE President.
Typically, I use the High Holy Days to meditate on my relationships. And this year is no exception. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you and our relationship. Specifically, Temple Beth El’s relationship with you. As with any relationship, it takes both parties to make it work. It’s the old story of getting out of it what you put in.
I’m reminded of a famous quote from JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I’d like to switch it up to make it more relevant. I’d like to change the “Ask Not” to “Ask”, as in “Ask what your temple can do for you.”
Yes, the temple is here just waiting to be of service to you. Should you fall sick or need encouragement during a difficult time, our Caring Community is ready to drop by with a freshly baked challah and some homemade soup. Are you looking for a place to recharge, engage in some spiritual renewal? Join us at Friday night services. Maybe you’d like to give back to the community; our Social Action committee supports many worthwhile endeavors from feeding the hungry to providing toys in our Birthday Wishes program and so much more. In search of something more intellectual? There’s Bible Diving with Rabbi Jeff on Saturday mornings and a whole host of Adult Education programs offered throughout the year. Do you like to sing or are you musical? There’s our wonderful Adult Choir led by Cantor Alison and our upcoming Chutzpah Repertory Theatre production of 1776 to consider.
Let’s not forget the need for social engagement; Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Chai Club all offer a multitude of programs throughout the year and a chance to meet some wonderful people. There’s something happening every week, from ROMEO lunches to Mah Jongg, from book clubs to thought provoking programs. The temple even welcomes you to share your experience and expertise if you’re so inclined.
Looking to pass on our wonderful Jewish traditions and Biblical teachings to your children, or maybe you have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in the future? The temple’s Religious School is second to none. We are so pleased to welcome our new Religious School Director Lauren Chizner who, with our teaching staff, provides a first-rate Jewish education.
Last, but not least, Temple Beth El is a welcoming shelter amidst the storm of antisemitism so prevalent in the news today.
Yes, ask what the temple can do for you, and you’ll get an ear full. But then, there’s the flip side, and here’s the pitch: ask what YOU can do for the temple. As you reflect on this past year, include thinking about your relationship with Temple Beth El. We’re here for you in so many ways, both large and small. We’re always looking to improve, to meet your needs, and to help and support our greater Huntington community. As with any relationship, it takes some effort. Dip your toe in and volunteer. Don’t know where to get started? Reach out to our Partnership Liaison, Lisa Tricomi, who can offer guidance, or touch base with me and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
When you come to the temple look around. There’s no doubt your gaze will fall upon one of the many volunteers and staff who are dedicated toward keeping the temple running. Whether it’s our clergy and educators, tech team and office workers, building maintenance and operations experts, committee chairs and board members, or our financial gurus and philanthropic leaders – we are so thankful to all who work hard on the temple’s behalf. They deserve our appreciation and thanks.
But those efforts alone are not enough. That’s why we have the Kol Nidre appeal. The Kol Nidre appeal is our traditional annual fundraising campaign. Elana Goodridge is this year’s Kol Nidre chair, and she has already reached out asking for your participation. These donations represent a significant, I’d say even critical part of our budget, and go directly towards our annual operating expenses. I’ve been told that some temples even read the names and amounts of each donation out loud in front of the congregation. Not to worry, we won’t be doing that at Temple Beth El. But I’d like you to think about making a difference to the temple this year when you fill out your Kol Nidre card. It should have come in the mail, or you can pick one up at the temple. We ask that you approach this with consideration. That you keep in mind all the temple does for us individually, for our congregation as a whole, and for the greater Huntington community. There is much to feel good about, to be proud of, and to balance the scales when we reflect and repent.
One final note. After hearing the Rabbi’s sermon on Rosh Hashanah morning, I’m happy to confirm that this entire speech was written by a human being. Myself!
I extend best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year from my family, my sons and daughters-in-laws Michael and Jessica, and Alex and Melanie, my sisters Weslie and Miriam, and nephews Evan and Jordan.
I look forward to seeing you in shul over this next year!
Keeping Up With The Brotherhoodby Ian Weitz, Brotherhood President
The Temple Beth El Brotherhood are the guys who help around TBE. We are also the guys who listen to your stories and complaints and are genuinely interested. Come to a meeting and learn how you can be an active temple member. Come up with a plan for a project and/or a get-together and the Brotherhood will try to make it happen. Join a temple and your kids will be Jewish; participate and your grandkids will be Jewish.
Brotherhood’s ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) continues to meet in person at the temple once a month on a Monday from 12:00 to around 1:30 p.m. over lunch to enjoy the company of one another. Dates and times to be announced. Remember that socialization keeps the brain active!
In October, Brotherhood hosted the Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ) meeting, which is the umbrella group for Reform Jewish Brotherhoods. The guest speaker was our own Dr. Mike Dannenberg who discussed Men’s Health. The presentation and the dinner were well received.
Brotherhood’s Beautification Committee welcomes Barry Schwalb to the executive committee and thanks him for cleaning up the stone by the temple entrance and ensuring that most of the outside lighting is working.
Huge thanks to the members (and honorary members) of Brotherhood who helped out during the High Holy Days and Sukkot:
Ushers: Art Mont, Mike Dannenberg, Scott Dinstell, Mitch Kittenplan, Mike Heiberger, Mike Widawsky, Jonathan Widawsky, Mark Goldman, Larry Silverman, Harley Kudler, Ian Weitz, Steve Karp and his daughter Sophie Karp
Tech Team Members: Even Schneider, Jason Gillet and Jacob Gillet
Members of the Choir: Tom Cohn, Andy Pinals, Peter Chiacchiaro, Doug Gilman, and Rob Fishman
Shofar Blowers: Barry Schwalb with assistant Mike Heiberger
Sukkah Builders: Evan Schneider, Mike Baez, Barry Zusman, Mike Widawsky, Shelly Dietz, Peter Wayne, Mitch Kittenplan, Mark Goldman, Neal Rotter, Bob Zucker, Art Mont, Mike Heiberger, Rob Seiler, Barry and Marcia Schwalb and Cora Brettler.
Sukkah Take Down Crew: Ian Weitz, Mike Widawsky, Art Mont, Howard Stern, Mitch Kittenplan, Bob Zucker, Scott Dinstell, and Mark Goldman
To get involved, please join the mailing list: email Mike Widawsky at email@example.com.
Sisterhoodby Jen Freed, Sisterhood President
Every year, TBE’s Sisterhood provides the opportunity for partners to reach out to the entire temple community, spanning the nation, to send Rosh Hashanah greetings. This year, approximately $10,500 in greetings were purchased and 575 packages to recipients delivered. Many thanks to the capable team of Jen Freed, Beth Feinman, Fran Silverfish, Margaret Roche, Mimi Rosen, Beverly Wayne, Susan Goldman, Linda Mont, Paula Edelman, Vicki Wilson, Sandy Masnick, Liz Winokur and Janet Widawsky! What a wonderful way to begin Rosh Hashanah!
After the recent events in Israel, we hosted Kehillath Shalom Synagogue, Huntington Jewish Center and Chavurat Emet for a Kabbalat Shabbat Community gathering on Friday, October 13th. As a result, we had to ensure space for additional congregants and our Fall Rummage Sale had to be dismantled. With very limited time, we were able to donate a number of items to Tri-CYA, thereby assuring that some of our rummage sale goods were put to good use. None of this could have been accomplished without the extraordinary contributions of our wonderful custodians Jimmy, Harold and Darrell. Other volunteers who helped with setup and breakdown were Robin Zucker, Robin Faiguenbaum, Sherry Eckstein, Janet Widawsky, Rita Anilionis, Paula Edelman, Elana Goodridge and Fran Silverfish. A huge thank you to Elaine Eig, who never fails to provide expertise, enthusiasm and energy to this endeavor. We hope that we’ll be able to help our local Huntington community with another Rummage Sale in the near future.
The Annual Sisterhood Membership brunch will take place on Sunday, December 3rd at the Crab Meadow Golf Club Restaurant. This fun event will feature a wonderful brunch with a mimosa bar, raffles, a beautiful view of the Long Island sound, and a fashion show from Francine’s Fashion Boutique with temple members as our models. The cost is $50 for members of TBE Sisterhood and $55 for non-members. Save the date and watch the mail for your invitation to this special event! We cannot wait to see you!
Food Pantry Tipsby Carol Werblin and Sue Seiler, Social Action Chairs
There have been a few posts going around on social media about how best to donate food. Every food pantry has different factors to consider. For our TBE pantry, the following guidelines are the most relevant. If you choose to donate elsewhere, you can always ask them ahead of time.
- We always need cereal and instant oatmeal packets. Our community prefers it sweet, so bring flavored oatmeal or Honey Nut Cheerios, not plain.
- Snacks, juice, juice boxes and condiments (especially mayo if you are donating tuna) are always enjoyed. No glass jars or bottles, please!
- Everyone donates pasta sauce and dry pasta; also consider items like Chef Boyardee, Spaghetti-o’s, etc.
- Canned vegetables, tuna, and soup are fine; please think about adding a can opener. Pop-tops are preferable.
- Oil is a luxury and needed for things like Rice-a-Roni, which is also plentiful.
- Tea bags and instant coffee packets (not pods) are always good.
- Rice and beans are in big demand for our communities.
- Sugar and flour – especially tortilla flour – are welcome.
- Dish soap for the sink (not the dishwasher) is always appreciated
- All hygiene products are a luxury and greatly appreciated.
What Do Cooking, Knitting and Gift Wrapping Have in Common?by Sarah Lichtenstein
It all started innocently enough. When my husband and I moved to the Huntington area and joined Temple Beth El in 2001, I reached out to the Ritual Committee (having been on the Ritual Committee of my former New York City temple). One thing led to another and I eventually found myself on the Board and later chairing the committee.
Beyond the “seriousness” of the Board, one activity in particular caught my eye: the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. I liked to cook and Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday. How meaningful would it be to provide a Thanksgiving experience for those in our community of limited means? I became part of the kitchen team. A number of years later when our kitchen leader moved away, I agreed to lead the kitchen crew and have been doing so ever since.
Having dipped my toes into the kitchen, I next asked about Project Hope (Helping Other People Eat) which I had been reading about so often. I learned that at the time, a team (starting to get the sense of a theme here?) of dedicated volunteers met once a month on a Friday in the TBE kitchen to do a preliminary food prep to feed approximately 125 people at the Moose Lodge in Greenlawn on Sunday. I reached out and became part of the back of the house – finishing the cooking and plating for our grateful neighbors. Now, we cook and package the dinners monthly in our updated kitchen at TBE and deliver them to approximately 30 seniors and 25 families.
Meanwhile, after a hiatus of many years, I had started knitting again when my first grandchild was born in 2015. So, I became intrigued to find out more about Knitzvah (whose clever name I always admired!). I discovered a group of crafters making projects (some joint and some individual) to donate to local recipients in need (interspersed with personal projects, too!). Meeting periodically at the temple, this group of congregants shares knitting tips and patterns and fosters nothing but camaraderie.
Birthday-in-a-Duffle, under the auspices of Birthday Wishes, more recently piqued my curiosity. A group of congregants meets monthly to wrap age-appropriate birthday gifts for children and teens, packed into a gift duffle along with birthday cake mix and frosting, candles and party supplies. These recipients, from five local school districts, mostly live in transient homes or motels which limit the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays. I was again warmly welcomed to join in the festive wrapping events despite being artistically challenged!
Although my husband and I moved “out East” three years ago, we remain committed partners at TBE – a community devoted to making a difference in people’s lives; a place where doing what you love with other like-minded people can also be a mitzvah. How can you beat that?
Grateful for Communityby Rabbi Jeff Clopper
It felt like déjà vu, but it was real.
Just last summer, mere days before leaving for the Jewish summer camp I frequent each year, I received a call. After years of struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, my mother had died. Rather than heading to camp, my wife, kids, and I headed to Massachusetts for a funeral and the shivah that followed.
Flash forward to this summer – once again I was ready to head to camp. Once again, I received a call, only I knew this one was coming. My grandfather who had in May reached 108 years old had just died. Rather than packing the car for camp, Carol, my kids, and I gathered our things to head back to Massachusetts. Another funeral, another time to gather and share a sense of loss and grief.
Some may immediately think, “Perhaps Rabbi Jeff, you should consider retiring from camp before losing another family member.” But that thought would never cross my mind.
Being in camp was healing. Among the joy of being with campers and staff and the camaraderie of fellow rabbis, cantors, educators, and Jewish professionals who, like me, dedicate weeks in the summer to be at camp, I found a lot of strength and solace. I could carry my mom’s and my grandfather’s spirits and use them to propel me into each new day. And every now and then, I could share a story or a memory and know they were with me in spirit.
Around that same time, I began to hear from many of the TBE temple family. Some reached out by email, others sent beautiful cards and heartfelt wishes. From the office, I learned that many had made donations to various temple funds. Even 150 miles away, I felt a gentle stream of love from so many.
In the shadow of these two heartbreaking losses, I am reminded that I am so lucky. I have two incredible communities – Crane Lake Camp and my Temple Beth El family – who so readily wrap their arms around me, giving me a sense of hope and comfort.
I am thankful to everyone who has expressed sympathy and condolences (and I am working to get out those thank-you notes). And I hope that everyone who reads these words, all who are part of Temple Beth El, will know that love and support is ready for you, too. That is what it means to be part of a community – to give of our hearts and love as we can and then to receive the same when we need it. That is one of the core values I believe we embrace as a synagogue.
When you need, please reach out. We do not always know what is happening in the lives of our community members. However, there is a lot of love and kindness and support here. And it is here for you, too.
What Is Sisterhood?by Jen Freed, Sisterhood President
It is my hope that you are comfortable and feel welcomed every time you walk through the doors of our temple. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate firsthand the enrichment of Sisterhood’s events. The Sisterhood of Temple Beth El means so much to me as the women are my friends, and are a vital part of our congregation.
Sisterhood is itself a member of Women of Reform Judaism which links us to all other Reform Sisterhoods through the regional WRJ Northeast District and national Women of Reform Judaism. The goal of our organization is to provide spiritual, emotional, and social support to our members, along with service and financial support to the entire temple community. We work for social justice in the community and world at large. We support Jewish learning on all levels and the social justice positions of WRJ.
Our Sisterhood is a group of multi-generational women who join together for friendship, mitzvot, socializing, learning and networking through educational, cultural and community programs. We believe this inspires true friendship among women of all backgrounds and ages. For example, in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, we packaged greeting cards, apples, and honey to send out to our temple families welcoming the Jewish New Year. Sisterhood uses the profits from such fundraisers to help finance Religious School, temple programs, and an exciting, new opportunity for young adults to engage with Rabbi Jeff.
We hope you will think about joining us if you share the common thread of love for our temple, as Sisterhood supports all aspects of temple life. As a Board, we want to gather all the women of our community together through social events and stimulating Jewish programs. Keep an eye out for information about monthly events, scheduled luncheons, and opportunities for engagement.
In October, we will host our annual Fall Rummage Sale, so start gathering those donations! We will also be having our membership brunch off-site in December and are looking forward to gathering as a community.
We have an open monthly meeting and all Sisterhood members are able to attend. Please check the temple calendar for dates and times. We would love to have you join us in any or all of our activities. Please let us know what you would enjoy, and if you are willing to assist planning an event or have expertise to share with our membership! Should you have suggestions, concerns or questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the Board will get back to you.
Meet Lauren Chizner, our New Religious School Directorby Lauren Chizner
Hello! I have just returned from two months in the Berkshires where I have spent the past 17 summers as the Director of Jewish Life at URJ Crane Lake Camp. I love spending my summers with friends breathing in the Berkshire air, watching the sunsets, the storms rolling in, and just living camp life. But what I love most is watching how Judaism and Jewish values play out on the fields and courts, in the bunks, in the friendships. Our camp song speaks about Jewish pride! I feel this sense of Jewish pride throughout the camp, from the campers to the staff, and it is this pride that I hope to instill within each of our TBE students.
Our goal, for this upcoming school year, is to instill within our students a feeling of belonging and a sense of pride in being Jewish, all while nurturing their love of Judaism. We want our students to understand that they are part of something greater than the Temple Beth El community; to understand that there are Jews around the world who say the same prayers we do. Jewish pride comes in understanding our holidays, rituals, and traditions. I want our students to find meaning in our Torah stories and understand how the decisions we make in our lives are based on our values…our Jewish values.
I am excited for our upcoming year. I look forward to meeting everyone and welcoming our students and families back to school in September!