Jul 16 2015

UNVEILING for Millie Wasserlauf

This coming Sunday, JULY 19, 2015

AT 1:00 PM

At the Congregation Temple Beth-El Cemetery

North side of 17B; just before (East of) Happy Avenue.

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Summer Is Here!

Jun 04 2015

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, June 26 at 8:00pm and Saturday services  at 9:30. We are happy to announce that Rabbi Susan Elkodsi will be returning as our spiritual leader.  The rabbi has a beautiful voice and interesting commentary. We had a wonderful summer last year and look forward to another just as nice.

Also, 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:

  • Services resume:   Fri June 26th, 8:00 PM;   and Saturday  June 27th 9:30 AM  
  • Annual membership meeting: Sunday, July 12 – 10:30  (Bagels, cake and coffee)
  • Shabbat Dinner: Friday, August 7 – Details to follow
  • Erev Rosh Hashanah: Sunday, September 13, 2015 – 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 92nd 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, call Mary-Ellen Seitelman at 518-371-1104 or send an e-mail  to meseitel (at)

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

Your Synagogue Board of Directors

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Dues Notice for 2015

Jan 03 2015

January, 2015
Dear Friends,

We hope this letter finds you in good health and spirit for the New Year. We wish to again thank all of you who participated and otherwise helped in preserving a traditional Jewish presence in Bethel during our 91st year of continuous operation.

2014 was a year of growth for our congregation, as new families joined us from all parts of the county. It was marked by a well attended 4th Annual Shabbat Dinner, minyan level attendance for most Friday and Saturday services, and a full house for High Holiday services officiated by Rabbi Susan Elkodsi and Cantor Lenny Zimmerman. Many new families have commented on the warmth and charm of family and friends (as well as our lip smacking Kiddushim) that make our synagogue so special!

Of course, the New Year brings new challenges, and we need to continue maintaining, upgrading, and building upon that which came before. With that in mind, we hope you will again find it in your hearts to renew your membership for 2015, and find the time next summer to attend a few Shabbat services, keeping the tradition alive. If you feel really motivated, please e-mail me at “lhsjimi at”, Mary-Ellen at “meseitel at”, or call (518) 371-1104), to find out how you can volunteer for one or more of our activities this year. The schedules for services, activities, and holiday services will be circulated when available, and posted on our web site

**DUES REMAIN AT A VERY REASONABLE 125.00/ FAMILY. It is your dues and donations which sustain our historic synagogue. We would very much like to add handicap access, replace broken windows and worn seat cushions, as well as other necessary restorations. Your dues and additional contributions will make that possible. Please call Mary-Ellen (518) 371-1104, or e-mail “meseitel at” with any questions.

** Includes cemetery privileges as specified in the bylaws.

Please return your $125.00 check to:

Congregation Temple Beth-El
c/o Mary-Ellen Seitelman
10 Sandalwood Drive
Clifton Park, NY 12065

Very sincerely,

Larry Seitelman, President

P.S. Please let us know of any changes to your address(es), phone numbers, e-mail, etc.

Click here for a downloadable/printable version of this letter.

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Updates From The Rabbi

Sep 23 2014

Shalom all!

I’m very much looking forward to our High Holiday services this year at The Lake! It will be wonderful to celebrate the holidays with those of you whom I met over the summer, and meeting plenty of new friends.

The calendar, and the times for our services are listed online and have also been emailed or mailed to everyone. There are a couple of things I’d like to mention specifically.

First, we will join together on Thursday afternoon at 5:45pm at the state beach parking lot for a special Tashlich service.

On Friday night we will end Rosh Hashanah and usher in Shabbat with a special Healing Service that will include singing, chanting and Shabbat prayer; please join me at 7:00pm. Kiddush will follow.

We will have services as usual on Saturday morning beginning at 9:30 and followed up Kiddush.

It is customary, for a variety of reasons, to visit the graves of our departed loved ones before or during the High Holidays. We will meet at the Temple Beth El Cemetery at 10am on Sunday, September 28 for a brief memorial service and opportunities for reflection.

Yom Kippur: On Saturday, October 4, at 3:45pm, I will lead a study session and discussion about Judaism and Organ Donation. Miincha will follow.


May we all be inscribed and sealed for a sweet year of health, happiness, peace,  prosperity and blessing.

Shana tova,

Susan Elkodsi

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Sweet Remembrances of Rosh HaShanah in Kauneonga Lake

Sep 23 2014

I wanted to wish you all a Healthy and Sweet year.

I was up in Kauneonga Lake but just for a very short time. And idd not get to go to the shul.

However,  I did write a new blog about celebrating Rosh Hashanah at Beth El when I was a child.

So I am sharing it with you.

Have a wonderful year.

Ellen Portnoy

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Good News!! Summer is NOT Over

Sep 01 2014

Dear Friends,

Good news! 

In response to requests by a number of congregants, Congregation Temple Beth-El’s Shabbat Services at the synagogue will be extended one more weekend past Labor Day, to include Fri and Sat, Sept 5th and 6th.

As is customary, a kiddush will follow. Our rabbi, Susan Elkodsi, will conduct the services.


Also, if you have not yet sent in a request for High Holiday seats, please do so by September 12th. This link will take you to a printable form at our web site.

Larry Seitelman, President

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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,


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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!



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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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