The Buzz

Friday Night Live!

by Rabbi Jeff Clopper

Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night!   I have heard that opening line so many times.  I can remember marveling at the comedic genius of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” They were giants in their day – Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi (z”l*), Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, and of course Gilda Radner (z”l*).  Such remarkable talent!

Each week, along with millions of others around the world, I watched their live telecast.  Though I admired them, with all my high school theater productions, I never thought my talents would lead to live performances like Saturday Night Live.  As they say, “Never say never!”  Though a far cry from the NBC standard, Cantor Alison and I will have the chance to appear in your home, or on your phone or computer screen.  Through the wonders of modern technology, we are launching our own Friday night live.  Beginning March 1st, you can catch our Friday evening services live-streamed.  For the first three Fridays of the month – the first Friday family-friendly service (March 1st) at 7:00 p.m., the second Friday regular Shabbat service (March 8th) at 8:00 p.m., and the third Friday Torah Shabbat service (March 15th) also at 8:00 p.m. – you can be a part of services, even if you are not able to be in the building.  No matter where you are, you can welcome Shabbat with your clergy and your temple family.  We’ll send out a link and all you have to do is just click it.

Many have asked if I am concerned that this might affect our attendance.  If you can be a part of services but do it from your own couch in pajamas, will that keep people from coming out?  Perhaps, although I like to think if we inspire people to welcome Shabbat, that’s a good thing! 

I do believe you cannot replace the feeling of being there in person.  However, for those living in Florida year-round or in winter months, anyone on vacation, the many recuperating in hospitals or at home from illness or surgery, or for whatever reason, all of them can be “with us” and that is wonderful!

My thanks to the many people who are making this possible.  There were very generous donations from Robin Grass and Una Warde, and Cheryl and Ira Richman.  Additionally, there were MANY hours put in by Jason Gillet, Jacob Gillet, Daniel Eig, Jonathan Mont, and Howard Schneider.  I am so grateful to all of you for giving this community a way to stay connected.  

I know our Friday nights together might not be on comedy par with the greats mentioned above.  However, Cantor and I will do our best to make it meaningful, uplifting and a spirit-filled way to welcome Shabbat.  Live…from Beth El…it’s Friday night!

(* z”l stands for Zichrono Livracha = May Their Memory Be a Blessing)

Jewish Leap Year

by Cantor Alison Levine

February is here!  A new month and we begin our rhyme:

Thirty days hath September
April, June, and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February, which stands alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

February is the shortest month at only 28 days, but as we know every 4 years, we get a leap year.  This extra day helps to compensate for the fact that a period of 365 days is shorter than a tropical year by almost 6 hours.  The tropical year is the time that the sun takes to circle and return to the same position in the cycle of seasons.   For example, the time from vernal equinox to vernal equinox, or from summer solstice to summer solstice.

But what you might not know is that the Jewish calendar also has leap years!  Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is based on a solar cycle, the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle.  The beginning of the New Month (Rosh Chodesh) begins when the crescent of the moon can be seen in the sky.  In ancient times, this new month was determined by observation.  When people observed the new moon, they would notify the Sanhedrin, the assembly of Rabbis that made up the tribunal of each city.  When they heard testimony from 2 independent reliable witnesses that the new moon had occurred on a certain date, then they would declare Rosh Chodesh and send out messengers to tell people when the month began. 

The problem with a solely lunar calendar is that there are 12.4 lunar months per solar year.  This causes a problem because the holidays can then drift out of their designated season due to the fact that a 12-month lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than a solar year and a 13-month lunar calendar is about 19 days longer.  To compensate for this drift, the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month calendar with an extra month occasionally added.  For example, the month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for 2 to 3 years and then jumps forward 30 days to even everything out.  In ancient times, this month was added by observation of the weather, crops, and livestock to see if they were sufficiently “spring like.”  If not, they added a month to make sure Passover, also know as Chag he-Aviv, the Festival of Spring, would actually occur in spring.  Sort of like an original Groundhog Day!

By the 4th century, Hillel II established the fixed calendar we have now that is still in use.  The extra month was decided to be Adar because it is considered happy and lucky.  In a leap year, an extra month is added called Adar Aleph, Adar Rishon or Adar I.  This is followed by Adar Bet, Adar Sheni or Adar II.  The first Adar is considered the “extra” month.  Adar IIis considered the “real” Adar and is the one in which we celebrate Purim, mark yahrzeits for Adar and in which a 13-year-old born in Adar becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.   

The Jewish leap year, or Shanah Me’uberet (literally pregnant year in Hebrew) occurs 7 times every 19 years, with years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19 of the cycle being leap years.  This means it occurs every 2-3 years.  It may sound complicated, but by using this system the Jewish calendar only deviates from the solar year by 1 day in 216 years. 

This year, we are in a leap year.  Adar Ibegan on February 5th at sunset.  Purim Katan, the festive day in Adar I, was on February 19th.  Adar IIbegins on March 7th at sunset.  We celebrate Purim on March 20th.  So, if you have ever wondered why Rosh Hashanah (or insert any Jewish holiday here) is so early or so late this year, I hope this explains why!

Welcome our new Partnership Liaison!

by Lisa Tricomi, Partnership Liaison

Hello Temple Beth El friends, I am excited to introduce myself as your new Partnership Liaison!  I’m sure I have a lot in common with many of you.  I am a busy wife and mother, and currently hold down two jobs.  Additionally, I’m in an Interfaith marriage.  But even after juggling many different responsibilities, I have found my work on behalf of Temple Beth El to strengthen and grow our already awesome community satisfying and rewarding.

I wasn’t always involved in temple life.  As a congregant for 18 years, it wasn’t until 5 years ago that I stepped into temple leadership. It all began with a call from the Nominating Committee. My name came up as someone who might be interested in serving on the board of trustees. I thought the call was odd since I was not that involved in temple activities. I rarely came to Friday night services and didn’t volunteer much.  The one thing I did do was participate with my kids at their religious school events, something that gave me great enjoyment.  When the opportunity presented itself to be on the board, I thought why not? That’s when temple life really took off for me. A year later I found out that it was Rabbi Clopper who had nominated me – he saw my future here at Temple Beth El.

As I embark on this new adventure as Partnership Liaison, my mission is to help youfind your place here at Temple Beth El.  After a number of conversations with congregants, I’ve noticed that many just don’t know where to begin; daily life has so many distractions, or folks simply don’t know how to get involved.   That is where I come in. I want to help you be a part of this vibrant, fantastic, and welcoming synagogue in a manner that fits with your schedule and needs.

There is always something happening at the temple.  Check our website at www.tbeli.organd look in the Month in Action that is mailed to your home.

Are you confused about the temple’s Sustaining Partnership ‘dues’ structure? Another part of my responsibility is to assist new Gift Members and current Partners with questions you may have concerning your Sustaining Partnership pledge. Remember, you can always reach out to me as I can help.

As someone who has worked in the service industry for over 30 years, I’m a people person.  I hope you will pick up the phone when I call to introduce myself. Please take some time to consider how Temple Beth El can best meet your needs.  When you’re at temple, feel free to stop by my office and say hello.  Together we can continue to enjoy and grow our wonderful temple community.  Thank you for your support and commitment to Temple Beth El!

Love and Passion in Hebrew School

by Diane E. Berg, RJE

Over the years, there have been many instances when I was asked what I do for a living. After the initial shock when I say I am a lifelong Jewish educator, the reaction has been a shake of the head and the usual response, “I guess you couldn’t get a real job!” I often think I was born to try to make Jewish learning better for children. The truth is, I love what I do. What I do is what I am. I am an R.J.E.; a Reform Jewish Educator. There are many reasons why a person like me becomes a Jewish educator. Most usually have to do with finding a purpose that brings passion and purpose to their life.

One of our beloved long time teachers, Cecile Gruer, reluctantly had to retire mid-year. Most don’t realize that Cecile was a child during the Holocaust. Along with her family, Cecile survived brutal winters in Siberia. Because she is a Survivor, Cecile committed her life to teaching Jewish children to love Hebrew and being Jewish. In dedicating herself to this purpose, she helped ensure the survival of the Jewish people. Cecile needed to teach. I believe she lived to teach! She became energized every time she walked through her classroom door. Her students thrived under her nurturing instruction. We will always be grateful for her many years as a master Hebrew teacher. Although she will be missed her students will always remember her Hebrew lessons as they read from the prayer book.

Several of our teachers told me why they chose Jewish education as their career path. After her children got older, our second grade teacher, Robin Faiguenbaum, found herself thinking that she needed a change. “I found myself wondering what could I do that combines my love of Judaism with my love of children? I did not have any formal Jewish education. I felt it was the best midlife crisis I could have ever had.” After attending the Morasha Teacher Training Program and getting her first teaching position, she was hooked. “I love what I do! I hope to find ways to continue sharing knowledge to all willing to learn. Being able to pass on our culture,Torah, and history has become life’s greatest blessings.”

Our seventh grade Adventures in Judaism teacher, Ilene Davis, responded, “There is nothing better than having one of my students realize they’re stronger and more resilient than they ever thought possible.”

Jamie Moses, one of our Hebrew team teachers, recounts, “When I was a kid, everyone hated Hebrew School. I wanted to go. I asked my mom to sign me up and I think I liked it but the teachers were so old and mean.” She also attended the Morasha Teacher Training program. It transformed her. “I made it my life’s mission to make it fun and entertaining. It has been a great journey. Being back at a synagogue after many years brings me joy. I love that there are still passionate Jewish families. I love teaching Hebrew and I love when the kids are successful.”

Martin Flaster, one of our fourth and sixth grade Judaic teachers, remembers his “best recollection of Hebrew School was being sent to the Cantor’s office; he was a retired Army Chaplain. I had to sit on the radiator and listen to him yell at me. This was the highlight of my education. I have come full circle now. I teach at a wonderful temple. I want to make what I teach useful, fun, vibrant, and relevant. I want to involve all of my students in what is being taught. I find teaching Judaic subjects challenging for my students but I find them very receptive to new and old ideas. I believe they can see the necessity and relevance of a Jewish education. When I inspire students and see and hear their positive responses, I am inspired to give more.”

The right teachers can make all the difference in how a child views Judaism. Our teachers share their passion and love for Jewish learning with our students. Their being at Temple Beth El is the greatest gift they could give us.

Congregational Meeting News

by Peter Chiacchiaro, President

Some of you might not know it, but twice a year the entire congregation is invited to meet at – what else – a Congregational Meeting.  It is an opportunity for everyone to hear from, and ask questions of, the clergy and officers of the Board of Trustees and of the Temple Arms (Sisterhood, Men’s Club Brotherhood, and ChaiClub).  It is also an opportunity for Temple partners to vote for officers and trustees of the board, to hear about the important issues we face, and to vote on important matters such as contracts for clergy and professional staff, and our annual budget. 

On Sunday, February 10th, 62 partners and gift members from 52 households gathered in the Social Hall for Temple Beth El’s Mid-Year Congregational Meeting. We needed fifty members in attendance to form a quorum. They heard our clergy, religious school principal and lay leaders discuss the successes and challenges of the 2018-2019 year.  Among these were updates on the gift membership program, which continues to exceed our expectations, not only in the number of households that have signed on, but also in the numbers that continue to stay on after the gift year has ended. At a time when religious institutions of all beliefs are struggling to survive, Temple Beth El now has 400 households, a number we doubted we could ever reach again.  Also discussed was the sustaining partnership, which has caught on to the point where it would be difficult to imagine that we would ever go back to a traditional dues model. That said, we also learned about the challenges we face maintaining an aging facility, with major expenses for repairs and renovations, as well as enhanced security measures. 

We also elected a group of partners who, along with several board members, will soon take on the responsibility of selecting a list of nominees for positions on the Board of Trustees, including the officers.  The slate they decide on will be presented for a vote at the next congregation meeting, which will take place on Wednesday, May 8th. 

All in all, it was a pretty good meeting.  So why do I feel it was less than a success?  Let’s look again at the numbers: 400 households on the books; 52 households represented at the meeting.  Not exactly an inspiring ratio.  We as a community benefit when we as individuals participate, not only in the services, programs, and activities, but also in the hard discussions and decisions that are so important to assure our future.  We’ve all become part of Temple Beth El because it meets some need within each of us.  Whatever that need may be, I ask that you take out your calendar and scroll or turn the pages to May, and enter “Congregational Meeting” on Wednesday, May 8th.  Working together we can assure that Temple Beth El will continue to be there for us. 

Chai There!

by Debi Fallenberg, Chai Club Co-President

Welcome new Partners!  In case you didn’t know, our Chai Club is an auxiliary unit of Temple Beth El comprised of adults who have been members of one or more Jewish congregations for a total of 18 years or more…but who’s counting?!  If you are affiliated with our temple, please join us for social and welfare events.  We are not a fundraising arm; our dues are self-sustaining.  We support and patronize temple-wide events, along with our own!

Our monthly newsletter, Chai Lites, keeps you posted.  For example, in February we headed to the Tilles Center (after dinner – always a meal) for a performance by the Israel Philharmonic.  Recently, we gathered locally for lunch and a (free) musical recital at the Harborfields Library.  Jointly with the Sisterhood and Men’s Club, we organized a tour of Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill.  Movie showings and lectures are held both at the temple and at Cinema Arts Centre.  Docent tours of museums have been arranged and an outing to part of the Long Island Spy Trail was enjoyed.

And there’s plenty going on right here at home.  Day and evening book clubs, in conjunction with Sisterhood, are ongoing, as is Mah Jongg.   The ChaiClub invited LINC (Long Island Network for Change) to hold its social action meetings regularly at our temple.  We arrange four wonderful dinners a year: two are catered and two are augmented byChai Club member cooking talents (with vegan and gluten sensitivity).  During the summer, we either barbeque at the beach or gather at a congregant’s pool.  And of course, we sponsor a summer lay-led Shabbat service.

Come join us and make new friends!

Kol Nidre

by Surelle Heiberger, Chairperson

Here we are again, awaiting the arrival 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 High Holy Days and goes on until we have reached out to everyone.  Part of our annual fundraising, the Kol Nidreappeal and our spring special event together constitute a major portion of our temple’s income and helps to keep our Sustaining Partnership suggested amount as low as possible.

Our goal has always been total participation of our member households (there are now over 420) as Kol Nidredonors.  Last year, with fewer households, we had 63% participation.  This year, with the increase in partner households, that percentage fell to fewer than 60% and we fell several thousand dollars short of our income projection.  Perhaps our newer partners were not aware of the purpose of the Kol Nidre appeal and how much it is an important part of our (and most other) synagogues.

For those who did donate this year (see the Kol Nidre Honor Roll), please accept sincere thanks and appreciation.  Your gift helps to assure a successful year and lays the groundwork for future growth.

Remember, our goal is participation by all at whatever amount you are comfortable with and, if everyone gives a little bit more next year, we will be on our way to financial stability.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me through the temple office.

Special thanks to those who worked so diligently with the Kol Nidre Committee in making phone calls to those who may have forgotten to return their Kol Nidre pledge cards:

Patti Kresner, Linda Braun, Mike Heiberger, Stephen Levy, Mark Goldman, Cora Brettler, Stephanie Kellerman and Barbara Schenk                                    

As always, we couldn’t have done anything without our diligent office staff.  Thank you Irma, Lisa and Elaine.

Wishing all a very Happy Passover!

An Oasis for Life-Long Enrichment

by Ellen Gray, Continuing Education Chair

Temple Beth El is your oasis for life-long enrichment. Whether it be for an insightful film, interesting book discussion, enjoyable musical performance, enlightening social-political conversation, graceful dance performance, or history lesson, TBE’s Continuing Education Programs will enhance your mind, body and spirit.

In fact, program attendance has been very healthy, reflective of congregants’ and area residents’ strong interest in cultural, historical, and entertaining events.  Highlights from the upcoming Spring’s Continuing Education programs include: A Special Scholar-In-Residence Weekend featuring Comic and Author Rabbi Robert Alper; Hollywood in The White House; Abraham Lincoln: A Mensch Among the Jews; The Life and Legacy of Primo Levi; The Long Island Gold Coast in the Movies, and Movie Night: “A Serious Man.” Please join us by embarking on this educational and empowering journey.

Keeping Up with Men’s Club

by Ian Weitz, Men's Club Brotherhood President

The Men’s Club Brotherhood – a group of guys who listen to your complaints and are interested.

In November, the Men’s Club Brotherhood members got together for a trip to Sagamore Hill, which was organized by Sisterhood, for a tour of the estate and home of Teddy Roosevelt. What a great President and humanitarian he was and a friend to the Jews in the United States and Europe.  Special to this tour was the opportunity to take the test for Advanced Junior Ranger, which a number of us took, passed and received certificates for, as well as badges and the privileges so associated.   

In December, the Men’s Club Brotherhood participated at the temple’s annual Chanukah Bash. We ran the Dreidel Table, providing a chance for the kids to play dreideland providing chocolate coins to everyone, along with lots of other candy.  To see the smiles on the kid’s faces while playing dreidel brought back the memories. You should have been there!

In January, we had our monthly meeting with bagels and not just a shmear, but with lox, whitefish salad, onions, tomatoes and jelly-filled munchkins. Business was actually discussed, along with the typical enjoyable schmoozing, and a committee to undertake a Men’s Club Brotherhood Super Bowl Party was formed.

February was the Super Bowl Party at a comfortable venue, a tremendous television screen, and all the “not so healthy” food and drinks one could want – though thanks to the presence of the wives, we did have some healthy foods.

Future activities include:

  • Sunday, March 10th – monthly meeting with bagels and schmear followed by a presentation at 10:00 a.m. by Diane Berg on Jewish Superstition
  • Sunday, April 7th – French Toast Breakfast followed by Rabbi in the Hot Seat, the annual “ask the Rabbi” get together 
  • May: Comedy Night – The Borsht Belt Comedians on film with appetizers and dessert
  • June: Annual Charlie Meyer Award Reception in the Atrium with wine and cheese

There may be a meeting or two in between, as well as the annual summer bash.  Be part of something good! And to get on the Men’s Club Brotherhood email list (or have your wife taken off) contact our corresponding secretary at michaelwidawsky@yahoo.com.   

Hope to see you guys.  Come with a suggestion – we’ll try to make it happen.

Sisterhood

by Louise Spangle, Sisterhood President

Sisterhood of Temple Beth El is a member of the Women of Reform Judaism, linking us to other Reform Sisterhoods. Our goals are to provide social, emotional and spiritual support to women at Temple Beth El, as well as service and financial support to the entire Temple Beth El community. This year, Sisterhood pledged a total of $10,800.00 in temple support, plus a $2,000.00 donation for the upcoming Community Celebration.

Our activities include:

  • Shalach ManotWe recently sent out information about how to send PurimGreeting Cards to your friends. This year, instead of filling bags of treats for friends in the temple, we will be having a meal-packaging event on June 2nd. This will be a hands-on service project for families with children 5 and up, teens, and adults. In two hours, our team of 40 to 50 temple volunteers will package more than 10,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger (an international hunger relief organization).
  • Make Hamentashen with Sisterhood – Sunday, March 10th at 10:00 a.m.
  • Women’s Seder – Thursday, April 11th, in the evening.
  • Spring Rummage Sale – Sunday and Monday, April 7th and 8th, with setup the week before
  • Sisterhood Dinner and Shabbat Service – Friday, May 10th
  • Judaica Sales – see our new Passover displays outside the Great Room
  • Monthly Monday Luncheons – in the Great Room
  • Knitzvah Group – meets the first Thursday of every month in the library
  • Morning and Evening Book Clubs – each group meets once a month.  We love new faces – join us!
  • Weekly Mah Jongg – every Thursday night in the Atrium

Join us for an activity that meets your interests and schedule. Make a new friend, engage in meaningful work, and have fun!  Email me at sisterhood@tbeli.org for more information or with any questions.