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

Jul 02 2014


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.


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.   


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

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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High Holiday Services Schedule

Aug 11 2013

The schedule of 2013 High Holiday services is as follows:


Erev Rosh Hashanah    Wednesday  Sept. 4 th

Candle Lighting             7:07 pm

Maariv                               8:00 pm

Rosh Hashanah   1st day  Thursday, September 5th

Morning Service            9:00am

Tashlich at Lake             6:00pm

Mincha-Maarev              6:30pm

Rosh Hashanah    2nd Day Friday, September 6 th

Morning Service              9:00am

Mincha-Maariv                6:30pm

Erev Yom Kippur  Friday, September 13th

Kol Nidre                            6:30 pm

Candle Lighting                6:52 pm


Yom Kippur           Saturday, September 14th

Morning Service                  9:00am

Yizkor (Approximately) 11:00 am

Mincha  (Book of Jonah)   6:00 pm

Neilah                                        6:50 pm

Shofar                                        7:54 pm

Join us immediately following services to break the fast.

We hope you are planning to join us.

If so, please call Mary-Ellen Seitelman @ (518) 371-1104 to reserve your seats.

Annual Family Membership:  ……. 125 dollars

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Hanukkah 5774 and Thanksgiving 2013 together – never before or again

Aug 10 2013

The first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, on 11/28/2013. It  turns out that it has never happened before…and it will never happen again.

Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is 11/28. 11/28 is also the earliest Hanukkah can be.

The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a
7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19×7  = 133 years. Looking back, this is approximately correct – the last time it  would have happened is 1861. However, Thanksgiving was only formally  established by President Lincoln in 1863. So, it has never happened before.

Why won’t it ever happen again?

The reason is because the Jewish calendar  is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29.

The last time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be a Monday). Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving.

Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Hanukkah could again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811.

So pass the cranberry sauce AND the latkes, please.

NOTE: The 79811 date is accurate, but was meant to be tongue in cheek. Jewish law requires Passover to be in the Spring.  Therefore, the Jewish calendar will have to be adjusted long before it loops all the way around.

Thanks to Jonathan Mizrahi for this delightful mathematical analysis.

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Former Sudanese Slave Speaks About Racism & Slavery

Jul 20 2013

These are the words of Simon Deng, once a Sudanese slave. He was addressing the Durban Conference in NY.

Simon Aban Deng is a Sudanese human rights activist living in the United States. He is a victim of child slavery. A native of the Shilluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, Deng spent several years as a domestic slave in southern Sudan. A Sudanese refugee, he was enslaved at the age of nine[2] when his neighbor asked Deng to accompany him on a trip. Deng was given as a “gift” to the neighbor’s family. Having escaped slavery and emigrated to the United States, he now travels the country addressing audiences which range from the United Nations to middle school students. His speeches focus on education and the anti-slavery movement. Deng now works as a lifeguard at Coney Island.

“I want to thank the organizers of this conference, The Perils of Global Intolerance. It is a great honor for me and it is a privilege really to be among today’s distinguished speakers.

I came here as a friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I came to protest this Durban conference which is based on a set of lies. It is organized by nations who are themselves are guilty of the worst kind of oppression.

It will not help the victims of racism. It will only isolate and target the Jewish state. It is a tool of the enemies of Israel .

The UN has itself become a tool against Israel . For over 50 years, 82 percent of the UN General Assembly emergency meetings have been about condemning one state – Israel . Hitler couldn’t have been made happier!

The Durban Conference is an outrage. All decent people will know that.

But friends, I come here today with a radical idea. I come to tell you that there are peoples who suffer from the UN’s anti-Israelism even more than the Israelis. I belong to one of those people.

Please hear me out.

By exaggerating Palestinian suffering, and by blaming the Jews for it, the UN has muffled the cries of those who suffer on a far larger scale.

For over fifty years the indigenous black population of Sudan — Christians and Muslims alike — have been the victims of the brutal, racist Arab Muslim regimes in Khartoum .

In South Sudan , my homeland, about 4 million innocent men, women and children were slaughtered from 1955 to 2005.  Seven million were ethnically cleansed and they became the largest refugee group since World War II.

The UN is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency for them, and they are treated with a special privilege.

Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved, are relatively ignored. The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the real causes of Sudan ‘s conflicts. Who knows really what is happening in Darfur ? It is not a “tribal conflict.”

It is a conflict rooted in Arab colonialism well known in north Africa. In Darfur, a region in the Western Sudan , everybody is Muslim. Everybody is Muslim because the Arabs invaded the North of Africa and converted the indigenous people to Islam. In the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum , the Darfuris are not Muslim enough. And the Darfuris do not want to be Arabized.

They love their own African languages and dress and customs. The Arab response is genocide! But nobody at the UN tells the truth about Darfur .

In the Nuba Mountains , another region of Sudan , genocide is taking place as I speak. The Islamist regime in Khartoum is targeting the black Africans – Muslims and Christians. Nobody at the UN has told the truth about the Nuba Mountains .

Do you hear the UN condemn Arab racism against blacks?

What you find on the pages of the New York Times, or in the record of the UN are condemnations of Israeli crimes and Palestinian suffering.

My people have been driven off the front pages because of the exaggerations about Palestinian suffering.

What Israel does is portrayed as a Western sin. But the truth is that the real sin happens when the West abandons us: the victims of Arab/Islamic apartheid.

Chattel slavery was practiced for centuries in Sudan . It was revived as a tool of war in the early 90s.

Khartoum declared jihad against my people and this legitimized taking slaves as war booty.

Arab militias were sent to destroy Southern villages and were encouraged to take African women and children as slaves.

We believe that up to 200,000 were kidnapped, brought to the North and sold into slavery.

I am a living proof of this crime against humanity!

I don’t like talking about my experience as a slave, but I do it because it is important for the world to know that slavery exists even today.

I was only nine years old when an Arab neighbor named Abdullahi tricked me into following him to a boat. The boat wound up in Northern Sudan where he gave me as a gift to his family. For three and a half years I was their slave going through something that no child should ever go through: brutal beatings and humiliations; working around the clock; sleeping on the ground with animals; eating the family’s left-overs.

The United Nations knew about the enslavement of South Sudanese by the Arabs. Their own staff reported it. It took UNICEF under pressure from the Jewish led American Anti-Slavery Group — sixteen years to acknowledge what was happening. I want to publicly thank my friend Dr. Charles Jacobs for leading the anti-slavery fight.

But the Sudanese government and the Arab League pressured UNICEF, and UNICEF backtracked, and started to criticize those who worked to liberate Sudanese slaves. In 1998, Dr. Gaspar Biro, the courageous UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan who reported on slavery, resigned in protest of the UN’s actions.

My friends, today, tens of thousands of black South Sudanese still serve their masters in the North and the UN is silent about that. It would offend the OIC and the Arab League.

As a former slave and a victim of the worst sort of racism, allow me to explain why I think calling Israel a racist state is absolutely absurd and immoral.

I have been to Israel five times visiting the Sudanese refugees. Let me tell you how they ended up there. These are Sudanese who fled Arab racism, hoping to find shelter in Egypt . They were wrong. When Egyptian security forces slaughtered twenty six black refugees in Cairo who were protesting Egyptian racism, the Sudanese realized that the Arab racism is the same in Khartoum or Cairo . They needed shelter and they found it in Israel . Dodging the bullets of the Egyptian border patrols and walking for very long distances, the refugees’ only hope was to reach Israel ‘s side of the fence, where they knew they would be safe.

Black Muslims from Darfur chose Israel above all the other Arab-Muslim states of the area. Do you know what this means!!!?? And the Arabs say Israel is racist!!!?

In Israel , black Sudanese, Christian and Muslim were welcomed and treated like human beings. Just go and ask them, like I have done. They told me that compared to the situation in Egypt , Israel is “heaven.”

Is Israel a racist state? To my people, the people who know racism the answer is absolutely not. Israel is a state of people who are the colors of the rainbow. Jews themselves come in all colors, even black. I met with Ethiopian Jews in Israel . Beautiful black Jews.

So, yes  I came here today to tell you that the people who suffer most from the UN anti-Israel policy are not the Israelis but all those people who the UN ignores in order to tell its big lie against Israel: we, the victims of Arab/Muslim abuse: women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab/Muslim world. These are the biggest victims of UN Israel hatred.

Look at the situation of the Copts in Egypt , the Christians in Iraq , and Nigeria , and Iran , the Hindus and Bahais who suffer from Islamic oppression. The Sikhs. We — a rainbow coalition of victims and targets of Jihadis — all suffer. We are ignored, we are abandoned. So that the big lie against the Jews can go forward.

In 2005, I visited one of the refugee camps in South Sudan . I met a twelve year old girl who told me about her dream.

In a dream she wanted to go to school to become a doctor. And then, she wanted to visit Israel . I was shocked.

How could this refugee girl who spent most of her life in the North know about Israel ? When I asked why she wanted to visit Israel , she said: “This is our people.”  I was never able to find an answer to my question.

On January 9 of 2011 South Sudan became an independent state. For South Sudanese, that means continuation of oppression, brutalization, demonization, Islamization, Arabization and enslavement.

In a similar manner, the Arabs continue denying Jews their right for sovereignty in their homeland and the Durban III conference continues denying Israel legitimacy.

As a friend of Israel, I bring you the news that my President, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir — publicly stated that the South Sudan Embassy in Israel will be built— not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

I also want to assure you that my own new nation, and all of its peoples, will oppose racist forums like the Durban III. We will oppose it by simply continuing to tell the truth! Our truth!

My Jewish friends taught me something that I now want to say with you.


The people of Israel live!

Thank you.”

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Annual Membership Meeting

Jul 10 2013

What: Annual Meeting

When: Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Where: Congregation Temple Beth-El

  • Bagels & Cream Cheese
  • Coffee
  • Cake

Please let us know if you will be coming so we can plan accordingly.

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