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WordsEtz Chaim from


Inside This Issue: --Rabbi Berenson Invites Everyone To Celebrate Purim. --President Tinkle Talks About Not Just Surving, But Thriving. --What’s Kosher? Ted Goes Shopping And Gets A Lot Of Answers!

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Words The Rabbi From

Purim falls on Wednesday, February 28th and this year we are celebrating the holiday on the 28th (with a few exceptions) with a special series of events, “Purim All Over Portland,” in conjunction with the other synagogues in town. On the 28th there will be a traditional Hebrew Megillah Reading at 5:30 p.m. here at Etz Chaim Synagogue, followed by hamentashen and (soft) drinks. On the Saturday night after, March 3rd at 7 p.m. we will also be hosting our annual Purim Party. We will have light refreshments, including hamentashen and an ice cream sundae bar, along with wine tasting. Great entertainment will be provided, featuring the Casco Bay Tummlers, Belly Dancing by Rosa Noreen, and a Purim Shpiel by the David Handwerker Players. There will also (on the 28th) be a Family English Megillah Reading and Pizza Dinner at 5:30 p.m. at Temple Beth El. The family reading is for kids and parents and grandparents and great-grandparents of all ages and communities! Come in your best costumes and have a slice of delicious Kosher pizza! For those who want more, there will be a Raucous Reading and Purim Party from 6 to 9 p.m. the 28th at Maine Craft Distilling, 123 Washington Ave. Fred Farber and Maine Craft Distilling are hosting the entire Jewish community for a crazy Erev Purim celebration starting with a Megillah Reading at 6 p.m. Light snacks will be provided, plus a cash bar for the over 21s, along with special vegetarian menu items for purchase, and non-alcoholic drinks available, too. Come in costume and enter the Costume Contest. The winner will be announced at 8 p.m. Chabad of Maine is also hosting “Purim in Outer Space” but this one’s on Thursday, March 1st, from 5 till 8 p.m. at the JCA. This extravaganza will feature a Megillah reading with a multi-media slide show, a hot buffet with space cuisine, live music with the Maine Meshugoyim, a moon bounce, arts and crafts, a photo booth and a special appearance by Andrew Silver, featuring the Interstellar Magic Show.

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Please RSVP to Chana at or by calling 207/871.8947. So After All This: What is Purim? The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen, though she refused to divulge her nationality. Meanwhile, the Jew-hating Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and by coincidence Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar --- a date chosen by a lottery (pur) that Haman made. Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At a subsequent feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to finish the job, so Shushan Purim is celebrated an extra day up to the present time. We celebrate the holiday today by reading of the Megillah (The Book of Esther), which recounts the story of the Purim miracle. This is done once on the eve of Purim and then again on the following day. We also give money gifts to at least two poor people and we also send gifts of two kinds of food to at least one person. We hold a festive Purim feast, which often includes wine or other intoxicating beverages. (In a nutshell from Chag sameach! Happy Purim!

—Rabbi Gary Berenson

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Try Etz Chaim On Saturday Morning

Summer Reception Honours Sculptor

We rush around all week long, so isn’t it time for a little break? Consider joining us Saturday morning for services, followed by the best oneg in Portland. It all gets underway at 9.30 a.m., and we generally wrap up by 11.30, in time to enjoy some great friendship and food. Everyone’s invited, we have no dress code, plus it’s a great way to learn Torah, discuss Jewish topics with friends and to get a break from the work-a-day world. See you Saturday! WORDS from Etz Chaim A On the Web @ Page 3

Regular Services At Etz Chaim Everyone is welcome to join us for regular services held at Etz Chaim all year round: — Shabbat Morning — Saturdays at 9.30. Followed by Portland’s best Oneg. — Evening Minyan every Monday at 5. — Our Family Kabbalat Shabbat Service is on the 2nd Friday of Each Month at 7 p.m., featuring a guest speaker. Our March service will be on Friday the 9th and joining us will be representatives from the Jewish Film Festival, which takes place the following week. Join us for services & our oneg after!

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Words Contributing about

In memory of Steve Hirshon Carla Marcus Denise Levy Gail Wartell Barry Isenman

In memory of Samson & Fannie Sivovlos Faye Gmeiner

Remember that a donation to Etz Chaim in honour of a mitzvah, in memory of a loved one or for any other purpose both helps your shul, and is a great way to add recognition to an event. To donate, please contact Rabbi Gary Berenson at the address, e-mail or phone below. And thanks to those who have given their generous support!

Etz Chaim Synagogue 267 Congress St., Portland, Maine 04101 Phone (207) 773-2339 Bulletin Edited By: Ted Fleischaker & Ivan Howard

Do You Work For A Company Which Offers Matching Gifts? Many Businesses In The Portland Area Will Match Gifts Given To Non-Profit Organizations, Some Dollar-For-Dollar And Others More. Before You Donate To Etz Chaim, Check With Your Company’s HR Department And Ask If They Will Match To Make Your Donations Go Even Further!

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Words The Kitchen From

Nothing thrills me more than to make my weekly Shabbos dinner, unless it’s the comments my photos of them I put on Facebook get from friends. But there’s a bigger issue to some: I think of myself as a decent cook, and most folks love what ends up on the plates at our house --Shabbos or any time --- but some friends won’t eat anything I cook (much less a leg of lamb dinner like I did recently, as seen on the next page) because Ivan & I do not keep Kosher. In fact, getting a Kosher leg of lamb or turkey is tough around Portland. But the issue brought to mind the question of what’s Kosher and how do we really tell. To find out I talked to friends and then turned to Here’s what they said, which I found interesting, even though personally I don’t plan to give up my lobsters because, afterall, this is Maine. --- Ted. Question: I’ve noticed that there are a lot of different symbols that indicate something is kosher . An OU, a triangle K, a cRc in a triangle, etc. One of my friends only eats things with some of the symbols, and not others. What’s the difference? – Pam, Austin Answer: You’re right that there are dozens of different symbols that indicate something is kosher. Each symbol, known as a hechsher , comes from a different organization or rabbi. So when you see an OU on a package (designated by a U inside a circle, or O), you know that product was certified as kosher by the Orthodox Union. A cRc comes from the Chicago Rabbinical Council. KSA stands for Kosher Supervision of America, and so on. Arguably, the best known and most widely available one in North America is the Orthodox Union’s, which looks like this:

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Since kosher laws require keeping meat and dairy separate, kosher products always specify whether or not they are meat (also known as fleishig ), dairy (also known as milchig or chalavi) or pareve (containing neither meat nor dairy). Foods certified as kosher for Passover get a separate label that says “kosher for Passover” or “kasher l’Pesach.” When shopping for kosher products, it is important to remember that just because some items produced by a company are kosher does not mean all of the company’s products are. Why So Many Different Symbols and Agencies? If all products with kosher symbols on them have been certified as kosher by someone, then why do we need so many symbols? Well, because some people only trust certain organizations to do a good job of making sure something is kosher. For this reason, if you are buying something to bring to the home of a friend who keeps kosher — maybe as a hostess gift or because you are making a shiva call — it is a good idea first to find out which certifications they trust. To help explain why people don’t all trust the same labels, I consulted with Rabbi Asher Lopatin, president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. He said that sometimes a rabbi or organization will accept a halachic (Jewish legal) leniency regarding food that others take issue with. What’s a good example? “While there have been some lenient opinions over the centuries regarding gelatin,” Rabbi Lopatin said, “current Orthodox practice, at least in the Diaspora, is to not accept gelatin from non-kosher animals. Therefore, supervisions which do accept the leniencies of gelatin from non-kosher animals are not acceptable to (Orthodox) community standards.” And once you have an organization that allows for gelatin from a non-kosher animal, the community might be nervous accepting that organization’s supervision on any food, even if it doesn’t contain gelatin.

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Think of it like hiring a babysitter. If you find out that your babysitter has been giving your kids ice cream for dinner, you might decide not to trust that babysitter to be in charge of your kids ever, even if you ensure that there’s no ice cream in the house. Rabbi Lopatin brought up other concerns a community might have: “The second issue might be that while the rabbi giving the supervision might be a great scholar, he might not have the expertise to supervise a complicated system which requires expertise in modern machinery and processing systems. “The third issue is that sometimes a supervision is just not seen as rigorous enough in really watching what is going on. There are some supervisions — local and national — where people have seen first hand that the mashgiach [the person in charge of supervising the facility for its kashrut ] is not around and that things are going on that might make the products non-kosher.” Ensuring that a product is kosher is something many people take very seriously, so they want to be positive that the people charged with that duty know what they’re doing, and are present consistently enough to be sure that nothing improper is going on.

has to pay a rabbi or kosher supervision organization to come in and supervise. This can be very expensive, and it’s fair to assume that when a company decides which organization they want to bring in to certify their product, they will choose a certification that fits within their budget. Finally, it’s worthwhile to note that all of the kosher certification bodies are competitors with each other, and so it behooves them to maintain firmly that their own hashgacha (supervision) is the most trustworthy. As you might expect, a rabbi whose brother is the head of a kosher certification body might be inclined to tell his community that his brother’s organization is the best one out there. There can be (and have been) all kinds of political shenanigans related to kashrut and kosher supervision, but it’s difficult to know exactly if and when this is going on. Most people come up with a standard policy about which symbols they’ll accept in conjunction with their rabbi and/or community.

There are two more factors that differentiate among the kosher symbols. One is money. In order for a product to be certified kosher, the company WORDS from Etz Chaim A On the Web @ Page 7

Words Our President From

Last Summer Amy and I went to the annual Maine Conference for Jewish Life at Colby College, where we got to schmooze with Jews from all over Maine (and beyond) and attended classes, workshops, lectures, services and film screenings. In the last category, we viewed a recent documentary called There Are Jews Here. The film explores four towns with small and diminishing Jewish communities: Laredo, Texas; Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Butte, Montana; and Dothan, Alabama.

converted after marrying one of the few Jewish natives but still felt a bit like an outsider, only able to hum along to most of the service. We need to keep trying to make sure everyone feels welcome here. • Survival depends on thinking outside the box. The Dothan community got new blood once a local businessman offered $50,000 to any Jewish family that moved to the area. I don’t think that this specific strategy would work for Portland, but the point is that creative solutions need to be explored for reversing trends in Jewish demographics. There’s a vicious circle in which a critical mass is needed to maintain Jewish institutions; the more these institutions fall by the wayside, the more the critical mass diminishes, making it harder to sustain the remaining institutions. That’s why we all need to do what we can not only to sustain Etz Chaim, but also to foster all the other institutions that are capable of making Jews want to move to and stay in Southern Maine. These include our museum, the Chevra Kadisha, the cemeteries, a mikveh, purveyors of kosher food, the Film Festival,

The shuls in each of these communities were in danger of closing their doors, as death, infirmity, relocation and assimilation took more and more of their members. Of course, these are problems that synagogues in many larger communities face as well. Indeed, it was only about 15 years ago that it seemed like Etz Chaim might be heading toward extinction. The Shul got a new lease on life thanks largely to the vision and efforts of the congregant who is now our rabbi, Gary Berenson. Still, the film reminds us that we can’t lapse into complacency. The problems inherent in smallcity communities linger on; and at least the synagogues featured in the documentary didn’t have to worry about nearby competition. I carried away from the film the following lessons: • Survival depends on the young. In Latrobe, an 82-year-old congregant noted half-jokingly that he “was one of the young ones.” It’s little wonder the k’hilah wound up selling off their building. Without being able to continuously attract and keep younger members, a temple has no future. That’s why it’s so important to offer programming for young families, couples and singles and, without losing one’s identity, to make changes when necessary to meet the needs of new generations. • Survival also depends on outreach. Besides reaching out to younger people, we also need to build bridges to as many folks as possible – including converts, those exploring conversion, and non-Jewish spouses and partners of members - and make sure they feel comfortable at Etz Chaim. We’ve long prided ourselves on being open to everyone, but perhaps we can do even more. Another Latrobe congregant had Page 8

“Sunday Simcha” on WMPG, the Casco Bay Tummlers, Levey Day School, Hillel, JFS and the JCA. With imagination, planning, and hard work, we can ensure our congregation, which has served Jewish Mainers for nearly 100 years, will continue to do so for the next century and will, as William Faulkner predicted of mankind, “not only survive but prevail.”


— Marshall Tinkle

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Party With Your Friends At Etz Chaim! Saturday March 3rd @ 7 p.m.

* Refreshments * Hamentashen *Ice Cream Sundae Bar *Wine Tasting Plus Entertainment featuring the Casco Bay Tummlers, Belly Dancing by Rosa Noreen, and a Purim Shpiel by the David Handwerker Players. Don’t Miss It! WORDS from Etz Chaim A On the Web @ Page 9

Great movies unite us. Discussion. Gatherings. Over 30 breathtaking films. This year’s MJFF is a can’t miss opportunity for Maine communities to celebrate great cinema—together.

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Schedule and tickets at MJFF.ORG

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Etz Chaim

Etz Chaim, formerly an Orthodox congregation, is now an egalitarian, unaffiliated synagogue enjoying a resurgence in membership. All are welcome to attend weekly services on Monday Evenings and Saturday mornings, as well as once-a-month on Friday evenings, and for special holidays throughout the year. Lifecycle ceremonies such as bar/bas mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, baby namings, and vow renewals all take place here. Contact us if you would like us to host your special event. Etz Chaim is located in the Downtown Portland Historic District, on the peninsula at the foot of Munjoy Hill. The neighborhood housed so many Jewish families at the turn of the twentieth century, that it was commonly referred to as “Jerusalem of the North.” Established in 1921, Etz Chaim is celebrating its 97th year of continuous service to Jews in Greater Portland and beyond.

Maine Jewish MuseumMonth At There’s Great Art This Art Talk with Susan Webster & Stuart Kestenbaum The Maine Jewish Museum! Sunday, February 11, 2018, 2pm

Work Together

Susan Webster & Stuart Kestenbaum Fineberg Community Room


Shoshannah White Spiegel Gallery


Images of Resilience & Light

Arthur Fink

3rd Floor Sanctuary

Exhibitions run through March 2, 2018 Maine Jewish Museum

267 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101 (207) 773-2339 Monday - Friday 10am-4pm + Sundays 1pm - 5pm or by appointment Nancy Davidson, Curator

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Fat Cats Invade Etz Chaim! It was a pie in the sky night at Etz Chaim on Friday night February 9th as Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats Bakery was our guest speaker for Kabbalat Shabbat services. Not only was she an interesting speaker (Ask anybody who was there about the 10 pot pies that got delivered instead of apple pies one Thanksgiving!) but she spoke about community, being part of India Street and more. Following services, Two Fat Cats provided pies for the Oneg, so indeed, a good time was had by all!

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02 2018 etzchaim news letter  

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02 2018 etzchaim news letter  

02 2018 etzchaim news letter