Letter From Our President

Aug 18 2014

Dear Friends,

The summer is flying by.  We have had the pleasure of having Susan Elkodsi serve as our spiritual leader.  Her melodies and Torah interpretations have brought  renewed appreciation to the services.  If you haven’t had a chance to hear her, she will be leading remaining Shabbat services  and the High Holidays.  Shabbat services have been attracting folks from surrounding areas, and are typically followed by an enjoyable  Kiddush and socializing. These weekly Shabbat services are needed for the shul to remain vital, and for us to ‘be there’ for our neighbors when needed!

At our annual congregation meeting, President Marc Lerner’s resignation was regretfully accepted. Marc has sustained, maintained, and guided the congregation for as long as anyone can remember, and was recognized with a lifetime of service award at our 90th anniversary gala last year. He remains chairman of the Congregation’s Perpetuation Trust, and will hopefully remain active as ‘President Emeritus’ for many years to come. Larry Seitelman was elected as President and Ira Shechter as Vice President.  Secretary Henne Altman and Treasurer Mary-Ellen Seitelman were re-elected.  Susan Zimmerman joined the board and Marvin Epstein became a Trustee.  An immensely generous gift has provided for much needed electrical service upgrades, and we are still working on improving handicapped access, new seat cushions, synagogue windows, and other items.

The 4th annual Shabbat Dinner was a huge success.  Just about 40 people came together for food, schmoozing and services, making for a wonderful Shabbat.  Many thanks to all of our volunteers.

On a sad note, the congregation mourns the passing of three long time supporters and friends;  Blanche Feller,  Arthur Grodner and Millie Wasserlauf.  Blanche, a former president of the shul, and Millie, a director, were both active in every aspect of the congregation’s affairs, and recognized at the 90th anniversary gala as members of original founding families of the shul, sustaining it since their families helped build it.  The Grodners have been supporting members for many years.  Our sincerest condolences go out to these three families.

We look forward to observing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with all of you. The entire board extends its warmest wishes to you and your family for a very happy and healthy New Year.

Click here for High Holiday tickets.

L’Shana Tovah,

 

Larry Seitelman,  president

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This Sunday Morning 10am: Sharing our thoughts and feelings

Aug 01 2014

Shalom all,

Judaism teaches the sanctity of human life, no matter whose it is. Today is day 26/27 of Operation Protective Edge, the name given to Israel’s war against Hamas. As truces and ceasefires are violated and violence continues, the death toll rises on both sides.

Here in the US we can talk about the situation, we can pray, and we can hope that there will soon be an end to this war. We can write to our congressmen and urge their support for Israel. We can also let media outlets know when their reports of the events are biased.

I would like to invite everyone to come to the shul on Sunday morning at 10am to talk and share our feelings in a safe, non-political space. I apologize for the short notice, but hope you’ll consider joining me, and please feel free to bring others who might want to share. In addition to having an outlet for our feelings, we’ll have a  brief time for prayer and appropriate songs.

Our tradition and our teachings offer us tools to cope with difficult situations; I hope we can come together to support each other.

Wishing you a shabbat shalom,

Susan

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Tisha B’Av and the Jewish responses to suffering

Jul 30 2014

Shalom all!

It’s hard to believe it’s the end of July, and I’ll be coming up for my fifth weekend st the Lake! The synagogue is truly in a beautiful setting, and I can see why you return summer after summer.

This Friday night, in advance of the observance of Tisha B’Av, I will be speaking about Jewish responses to suffering.

Yasher koach to everyone who has joined us for Shabbat services; the strong commitment you have to the congregation is evident. Participation on Shabbat morning has been great, and I appreciate your beginning your day with us in prayer and song.

Some additional attendance on Friday nights, however, would be helpful and much appreciated. We have congregants who are saying kaddish for a loved one, and many who observe yahrzeits during this time. Still others have the custom of reciting kaddish for individuals who have no one to remember them.

One of the many impressive aspects of Congregation Temple Beth El is its strong sense of community, which extends to supporting each other, and this includes ensuring that we have a minyan at services, so those saying kaddish may properly do so.

I know Friday nights aren’t always easy; there’s traffic to contend with and other activities that come up. And not everyone is in town every weekend. We have 5 or 6 shabbatot left for the summer…. please consider making a commitment to attending at least one or two, if you’re not already.

Wishing you a sunny rest of the week, and hoping to see you on Shabbat!

b’shalom,

Susan

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A Shabbat/Independence Day Message

Jul 11 2014

July 4, 2014
Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago today, the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, and in addition to stating a litany of grievances against tyrannical British rule, they declared the 13 Colonies to be an independent union, the beginning of the United States of America. It’s well know that history is written by the victors, and my British friends tell me that what they were taught growing up was that the colonies were too difficult to govern from across the pond, and they gave us our independence. If only it had been that easy. If only Pharaoh had let the Israelites leave Egypt the first time Moses asked.

Giving birth is rarely easy but for most mothers, the pain of childbirth pales in comparison to the brand new life they’ve just brought into the world. For most first time parents, this awesome moment is immediately followed by fear and trepidation. We do our best–considering advice from our parents, family members and experienced, well-meaning friends–and pray that our best will be good enough.

Giving birth to a nation is similar; a government is formed, discussions are held about who will do what and who gets to participate, documents are drawn up, and declarations are made. Those who will be in charge need to figure out how to integrate the various groups that make up the society. Infrastructure needs to be created, and laws need to be established.

In colonial America, many of these rules were set down in the Constitution and other documents. Shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, the Torah was revealed to them from Mount Sinai. We publicly read the Aseret haDibrot, usually translated as the Ten Commandments, three times during the year; in the winter when we read parashat Yitro, on Shavuot, and during the summer, in parashat Va’etchanan when Moses reiterates them with a few minor variations. The prayer “Lecha Dodi” comes from one of those variations, but that’s a discussion for another time.

When we think of the Declaration of Independence, we usually think of the phrase, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This declaration became a “call to arms” for civil rights and was the cornerstone for Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and his policies while in office.

While this certainly isn’t a direct quote from Genesis, it parallels the idea that God created humans b’tzelem elo-him, in the Divine image, and that we are all descended from one Supreme Creator. The Talmud asks, “Why was only a single specimen of man created first? In order that no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, ‘Our father was born first’; and to give testimony to the greatness of the Lord, who caused the wonderful diversity of mankind to emanate from one type.”

The emerging union that was fighting for its independence and for the right to self-government, was made up of a multitude of diverse populations and communities. For more than a century people had been making the journey across the Atlantic to the New World. Many were escaping poverty and famine in Europe, hoping to find greater economic opportunity and new markets. Others left their homelands to escape religious persecution, but many found that this persecution followed them.

In 1776 there were approximately 2,000 Jews living in various parts of the country. Although a smattering of individual Jews and families had been here for years, the first significant Jewish immigration to these shores occurred in 1654 when Spain defeated the Dutch and recaptured Recife, Brazil, bringing the Inquisition with them. Twenty-three Sephardic Jews who left Recife and sailed north from landed in New Amsterdam. Let’s just say they weren’t warmly welcomed, and had it not been for pressure from the Dutch West India Tea Company, which had many Jewish investors, they’d still be sailing up and down the coast. It was ironic that a country such as ours, founded on principles of religious freedom, was intolerant of religions other than those of our founders. Jews were prevented from entering certain professions and living in certain areas, but fared much better than Catholics who had immigrated here.

Even though there were many laws restricting the rights of Jews and other non-Christians in the colonies, there was a significant Jewish presence during the Revolutionary War and the years leading up to it. Haym Solomon, a Polish immigrant of Sephardic descent, provided significant financial support for the war efforts and was active in both Jewish and US political affairs. Francis Salvador, the first Jew elected to public office in the colonies, was also the first Jew to die fighting from American freedom. Mordecai Sheftall of Savannah, Georgia was the highest ranking Jewish officer of the colonial forces. Almost all of the adult Jewish males in Charleston, South Carolina fought in the war.

The settlers who first came to this country wanted the freedom to practice their version of Christianity, which was at odds with the Church of England, and being devout in their beliefs, wanted to build a country whose society would operate based on the Hebrew Bible. These immigrants saw themselves as re-enacting the Exodus from Egypt. Instead of fleeing Pharoah in Egypt, they were fleeing a tyrannical king in England. The Atlantic Ocean was the Red Sea, and America was their Promised Land.

E pluribus unum, the motto adopted to appear on the Great Seal of the United States, is usually translated to mean “Out of many, one.” Initially, it probably meant that many colonies or states would form one country, but in keeping with the concept of the melting pot, which is what many consider the US to be, it can also mean that out of a number of diverse ethnic, religious, racial and political groups, we have one united, homogeneous society. The reality is that unlike a melting pot, where a variety of ingredients blend together to create something uniform, American society is more like a stew, or as one of my teachers put it, cholent. Separate and distinct components each lend their special flavor to the dish, but they still retain their unique shape and character.

We are told in the Torah that an “erev rav,” a mixed multitude, left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. In addition to the Israelites, there were many Egyptians and others who chose to join them. Our tradition teaches that every Jew, and every convert to Judaism, present and future, witnessed the revelation at Sinai. We can’t really say the same for the American Revolution, but I think we all share a sense of awe and pride to be living in a country that, while it isn’t perfect, allows us to live openly and freely as Jews, and where our ability to exercise our right to practice our religion is guaranteed.

Concluding his letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, then President George Washington expressed the ideal relationship among the government, its individual citizens and religious groups. He wrote, “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” This last phrase comes from the book of the prophet Micah, Chapter 4, verse 4: V’yashvu ish tachat gafno v’tachat t’aynto v’ayn macharid.  The verse before, Lo yisah goy el goy cherev, lo yilm’du-od milchama, is part of the prayer for our Country, “national shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

The ancient Israelites struggled for independence from Egyptian slavery, and struggled many more times through various wars and the destruction of both Holy Temples. Centuries of struggles, along with the commitment of many visionaries, led to the modern day State of Israel, and while she has made remarkable progress in becoming a modern nation, continues to struggle to secure safety and security for her citizens.

Today we celebrate the struggles of our founding fathers, the visionaries who believed that a self-governing republic on our shores was possible. We stand on their shoulders while we reap the benefits of what they have sown. May we see the day in our land when people of all races, religions and nationalities can live together, where no one needs to fear his neighbor, and where all are willing to work together to keep the United States of America truly “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Shabbat Shalom

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An unspeakable horror; a time for strength; a hope for peace

Jul 02 2014

Friends,

Our hearts break for the families and loved ones of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, whose bodies were found two weeks after their kidnapping in the West Bank. We pray that their souls will find eternal rest with God, that God comfort and strengthen their parents and families, and that precious memories–although all too few–will bring some solace.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netnanyahu, speaking at their funerals, said,

“A broad moral gulf separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death, we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion. That is the secret of our strength.”That is also the foundation of our unity. Throughout the history of our people, we have proved time and again — in view of the horrors that we have experienced, the grief and sorrow — the force of life that pulsates within us overcomes the forces of death.”

This tragedy has united Israelis from all over the country, and has bridged both political and religious divides. We share their grief and pray that calm and order will prevail on both sides.

May the memories of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal be for blessing, and may we look forward with hope to the day when we will live in a world at peace.

Zichronam livracha.

Shalom,

Susan Elkodsi

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Shabbat Services Resume Friday July 4th

Jun 29 2014

Shalom to All!

I know Mary-Ellen sent you an email introducing me, so I’d like to take this opportunity to again tell you how excited I am to be your rabbi for the summer and High Holiday Seasons. Everyone I’ve met so far has been warm and welcoming, and I look forward to meeting more of you this coming Shabbat.

A synagogue is more than just a building, it’s a community made up of people who are committed to keeping Judaism and Yiddishkeit alive and thriving. While it may appear that most of what a rabbi does is lead services, that’s only part of the role. While I will primarily be at The Lake for Shabbat (Friday-Sunday), I will be extending some of my weekends, and I hope that we can find opportunities to get together; whether we have study sessions, discussions, meals or social activities, or simply relax by the beautiful lake.

My bio mentioned that I love to knit. I also enjoy relaxing walks and hikes, and learning about the history of the area and the congregation. I enjoy a variety of musical styles and love to sing. I also enjoy teaching and leading discussions, so please let me know if there are topics you’re interested in.

I will be also available for pastoral visits and counseling, or just chatting.

I look forward to meeting you Friday night; we’ll usher in Shabbat as we celebrate  Independence Day. My husband David will be joining me for this first Shabbat as well.   

b’shalom,

Susan Elkodsi

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Sweet Memories All The Way From Kansas

Jun 20 2014

The following story came from a member of the Amsterdam family (longtime supporters of our synagogue) who posted this on the Amsterdam family blog. Read and enjoy the memories.

[Editor’s note: The mention of handing tools to Abe Wagner in this story brought back a poignant memory of a young boy eager to assist Mr. Wagner while he was working beneath our home. I tripped over a shrub, frightened a skunk and got us both sprayed thus ending a budding career as an apprentice plumber.]

 

 

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More Memories

Jun 20 2014

And speaking of the Wagners, here are some excerpts from an article appearing in the March 4, 1965 issue of The Republican Watchman regarding the goings-on in Kauneonga. The author? Clara Wagner.

On attending winter sports events on the lake with her grandsons Wayne and Bruce Wagner…

“Constable Abe Wagner with the help of Ralph Liff parked our car near the old White Lake School on Rte. 52. On the car we found an application from the White Lake Cabana Club for summer membership. If you are interested, call White Lake 71.”

It was hard to think about joining the Cabana Club when the lake was frozen.

It was hard to think about joining the Cabana Club when the lake was frozen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telephone service back in the day. Do you recall your pre-Bell telephone (party line?) number?

Remember our first radio-equipped Cadillac ambulance?

“President Stanley Liese asks you to please note that after the Dial Change is made in our Telephone Service on March 21st in order to call the Bethel Volunteer Ambulance Corps you will have to dial 483-5111. Please record this number for future use.”

The Ladies Auxiliary was active.

“How many of you have donated unneeded used clothing or dishes or other white elephants hanging around the house, to the Rummage Sale going on in the area? Right now the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Temple Beth-El is running a sale in the old Hecht Bakery Shop in Monticello. A call to White Lake 76 or 203 will help to pick-up your discards if you can’t get to the store yourself.”

Improvements to the synagogue were underway.

“Bernie Greisberg’s Plumbing Shop is doing the necessary piping in the new kitchen being added to the Talmud Torah of the Temple Beth-El in Kauneonga Lake. Martin Fries is the carpenter on the job.”

And plans for a new firehouse in Kauneonga were on the drawing board!

“How many of you are cognizant of the proposed plans for a new North White-Lake Firehouse where the Empire Hotel now stands in Kauneonga Square? Sketches of the building are on display in the Kaueonga Lake Post Office. A meeting will be held in the near future for all taxpayers in the fire district who are interested in these plans. There will be a referendum put before the taxpayers for approval, I understand. It seems to me that if all three Town of Bethel fire – fighting groups merged, we could have an even better association of firemen than anywhere in the county. “In unity there is strength,” and we have some wonderful firemen in the North White Lake, Smallwood – Mongaup Valley, and White Lake Ass’ns. right now. How about this kind of improvement, with one central firehouse?”

Now THAT opinion sure stirred up a ruckus!

And that’s the way it was in Kauneonga on March 4th, 1965.

 

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Welcome back!

Jun 13 2014

Dear Friends,

Welcome back! We hope you all had a wonderful winter and look forward to seeing you very soon.

The synagogue is re-opening with services beginning Friday, July 4, at 8:00pmSaturday services are at 9:30. This summer Rabbi Susan Elkodsi, highly recommended by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov, will be our spiritual leader.  She has some wonderful ideas for Shabbat services and a beautiful voice.  Please come to enjoy services and to make her feel welcome.

It is important to remember that a minyan is needed for those who wish to say kaddish.  Your presence at services is vital. We may be able to arrange a ride if you need one.

Dates to remember:

  • Annual membership meeting: July 20 – 10:30  (Bagels, cake and coffee)
  • Shabbat Dinner: Friday, August 8 – Details to follow
  • Erev Rosh Hashanah: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 – Ticket info to follow

We are in great need of volunteers.  The entire Jewish community benefits from the presence of the synagogue.  We are now in our 91st year and some who have cared for our temple over time are not able to continue to do so.  Perhaps you can show your support in one way or another. Please let us know how you would like to help.

Also, please send any outstanding dues to the above address.   If you have any questions, please call Mary-Ellen Seitelman at 518-371-1104 or send an e-mail meseitel@aol.com.

Wishing everyone a wonderful summer and looking forward to seeing you at the synagogue.

Your Synagogue Board

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Sullivan County Democrat Covers 90th Anniversary

Aug 27 2013

From the July 26th, 2013 issue….

90th in SC Dem 2013088

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