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Welcome to Words from Etz Chaim
Welcome to Portland’s newest publication, which will some months be in print, some in pixels and some both. No matter whether you read Words from Etz Chaim on your computer, phone, tablet or on paper in the “dead tree” version, we guarantee to keep you up-to-date and informed about the goings on at your synagogue.
What to look for? We plan a regular update on service schedules and times; a monthly column each from our Rabbi and our congregational president. We also will feature what’s up with our building — from (hopefully) an operational elevator soon to things we are doing and needing as we continue to update and restore our century-old shul. We also will have a donors’ corner so if you have a special mitzvah to mark, a yhartzeit or any occasion and you donate to one of our funds, you will be recognized and thanked (unless you request anonimity). Finally, look for special articles about Maine’s Jewish community, the special speakers and synagoge activities and, of course, news about our annual meeting, board elections and more every month right here.
Etz Chaim Services Everyone is welcome to join us for services: —Shabbat Morning — Saturdays at 9.30. Followed by Portland’s best Oneg. —Evening Minyan every Monday at 5. —Reform Service monthly, usually the 2nd Friday @ 7 p.m., frequently in conjunction with a talk or other event with the Maine Jewish Museum
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Purim this year begins at sunset on Wednesday, March 23rd. Etz Chaim will hold our annual Purim celebration on Saturday evening, March 26th from 6 to 9 p.m. What is Purim and why do we celebrate? In short, a very bad man in Persia named Haman plotted to eliminate all the Jews won, so we celebrate! More historically… King Ahasuerus had a feast for all his subjects in honor of the army of Persia and Media. There was a separate feast for the women organized by Queen Vashti in the pavilion of the royal courtyard. Ahasuerus got thoroughly drunk at that feast and ordered his wife Vashti to display her beauty, wearing only her royal crown. Her refusal prompted Ahasuerus to have her removed as queen. Ahasuerus then ordered all young women in the kingdom to be presented to him so that he could choose a new queen to replace Vashti. One of those presented was Esther, who was orphaned at a young age and was being fostered by her first cousin Mordecai. She found favor in the king’s eyes and he made her his new wife. Esther did not reveal her origins or the fact that she was Jewish. Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovered a plot by two courtiers Bigsan and Teresh, to kill Ahasuerus. They were apprehended and hanged. Ahasuerus appointed Haman as his chief minister. Mordecai refused, however, to bow down to the more powerful Haman. Haman discovered that Mordecai was Jewish and planned to kill not just Mordecai, but the entire Jewish minority in the empire. Obtaining Ahasuerus’ permission and funds to execute this plan, he then cast lots (“purim”) to choose the date on which to do this. It fell to the 13th of the month of Adar. When Mordecai found out about the plans, he fasted and put on sackcloth and ashes, a sign of mourning, and publicly wept. Many other Jews in Shushan and other parts of Ahasuerus’ empire did the same. Mordecai told Esther of the plans and asked her to intercede with the king on behalf of the Jews. One problem…nobody was allowed to approach the king, under penalty of death. Page 2
Mordecai warned her that she would not be any safer in the palace than any other Jew. Esther had a change of heart. She fasted and prayed for three days and then approached the king to seek his help. She invited the king to a feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asked them both to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman was again offended by Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him. Egged on by his friends and his wife Zeresh, he built a gallows for Mordecai, with the intention to hang him there the very next day. That night after the feast, Ahasuerus suffered from insomnia. He asked that the court’s daily records be read to him to help him fall asleep and he was reminded of the services rendered by Mordecai in the earlier plot against his life. Ahasuerus asked whether anything was done for Mordecai and was told that he received no recognition for saving the king’s life. Just then, Haman appeared, and King Ahasuerus asked him what should be done for the man that the king wishes to honor. Thinking that the king is referring to Haman himself, Haman said that the honoree should be dressed in the king’s royal robes and led around on the king’s royal horse. To Haman’s horror, the king instructed Haman to render such honors to Mordecai. Later that evening, Ahasuerus and Haman attended Esther’s second banquet, at which she revealed that she was Jewish and that Haman was planning to exterminate her people, including her. Ahasuerus became enraged and instead ordered Haman hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jewish people could not be annulled, so the King allowed Mordecai and Esther to write another decree as they wished. They decreed that Jewish people may preemptively kill those thought to pose a lethal risk. As a result, on 13 Adar, 500 potential attackers and Haman’s 10 sons were killed in Shushan. Throughout the empire 75,000 of the Jewish peoples’ enemies were killed (Esther 9:16). On the 14th, another 300 were killed in Shushan. No spoils were taken. Mordecai assumed the position of second in rank to Ahasuerus, and instituted an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jewish people from annihilation. Come join us on March 26th and celebrate!
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Highlighting the upcoming month is Purim and as always we will be celebrating this fun event. The Purim Party at Etz Chaim will be Saturday March 26th from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be live music by the Casco Bay Tummlers, a staged reading of a Purim play which our very own David Handwerker has edited and reconfigured with music entitled “The Whole Megillah”, wine tasting, a costume parade and prizes as well as a Haman pinyata, food and more. It’s a fun night and all are welcome.
Library, PIP is the featured presenter from 8 to 9 p.m. The first hour is an open mic of storytelling. David notes, “Our presentation is all about Purim. We will give some history and background, tell a story, read a poem by Racine and then do our original puppet play called “A Purim Spiel For Two”. —Finally, Saturday March 12th @ 2PM PIPS is doing a performance of “Solomon and Ashmedai” at the Cross Arena (formerly civic center)as part of a fundraising event for “STRIVE” which works with children with disabilities.
David also wanted to share a few things about Peaks Island Puppets (PIP) with the congregation: —Saturday February 27th at the Portland Public Library from 10.30 a.m. until noon they will be doing a hands-on puppet making workshop for children... and it’s free. You can learn more at the PPL website activities calendar. —On Wednesday March 9 at the monthly meeting of MOOSE (The Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts) which also meets at the Portland Public WORDS from Etz Chaim A On the Web @ www.etzchaim-portland.org Page 3
Words Leadership about
Every ship we see down the hill in Casco Bay has a captain and every captain has a crew. We at Etz Chaim wish to thank the captain and crew who help, with Rabbi Berenson, to guide us daily. Etz Chaim Board Members Martin Finkelstein, President Marshall Tinkle, Vice President David Glaser, Treasurer Allison Brown, Secretary Steve Brinn Karen Cashman Susan Erber Susan Gilbert-Hirshon David Handwerker David Hirshon Steve Hirshon Susan Isenman Zoe Lang Deb Osswald Gerald Sherry Arthur Slotsky Deena Weinstein Newsletter Publishers Ted Fleischaker & Ivan Howard
Words The Kitchen From
Purim is upon us and that means Hamantaschen â€” that wonderful pastry which is both delicious to eat and a symbol of the three-cornered hat worn by Haman, who sought to destroy the Jews and whose downfall is described in the Megillah we read each Purim. In honour of the holiday, we decided to offer not one but two recipes for this pastry â€” one, the traditional kind and the other, a chocolate Hamantaschen, If baking is not your thing, but you still wish to enjoy this holiday treat, the pastries can be bought around town at several of the major bakeries, including Standard Baking Co. on Commercial Street and our neighbours, Two Fat Cats on India Street. The folks at Chabad.org offer this traditional recipe: Hamantashen, the classic Purim cookies, are versatile and can be made from a good sweet yeast dough, flaky dough or from a traditional cookie dough. The fillings can be mixed and matched. Prune butter and poppy seed are traditional but one can use any kind of jam or preserves. Ingredients
4 eggs 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup oil juice of one lemon rind of 1 lemon, grated Page 4
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1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 cups flour 2 tsps. baking powder Fillings: 1 pound prepared poppy seed filling or, 1 pound lekvar (apple or prune butter) or 1 pound strawberry or apricot preserves
1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla Filling: 6 ounces chocolate chips 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon milk 1 tablespoon butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 egg, beaten
Method: Preheat oven to 350 & grease cookie sheets. Beat eggs and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide into four parts. On a floured board roll out each portion to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a round bicuit Directions: or cookie cutter cut 3-inch circles. Place 1/2 to 2/3 tea- Combine all dough ingredients and blend well to make spoon of desired filling in the center of each circle. cookie dough. Roll thinly on lightly floured board. Combine all filling ingredients except egg in a small To shape into triangle, lift up right and left sides, leavsaucepan. Cook over low heat until melted. Remove ing the bottom down and bring both side to meet at from heat. Blend in egg. the center above the filling. Bring top flap down to the center to meet the two sides. Pinch edges together. Cut dough into circles and place one teaspoon of filling Place on greased cookie sheet 1 inch apart and bake at in each center. Pinch up sides to form 3-pointed hamantasch. 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Looking for still more options? Check out http://www.myjewishlearning. com/the-nosher/15-mouthwatering-hamantaschen-recipes-for-purim/ Have a great Purim and see you at the Etz Chaim Purim Party March 26th. Groggers optional! Our Chocolate Filled Hamantaschen recipe comes to us from the Union For Reform Judaism and is by the Temple Beth El Sisterhood, Madison, Wisconsin. Itâ€™s from the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Centennial Cookbook Ingredients: Dough: 2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder WORDS from Etz Chaim A On the Web @ www.etzchaim-portland.org Page 5
Words Contributing Words Etz Chaim about
Thank you to the following people for recent donations: In memory of Jeanne Tinkle: Abe and Tama Fineberg Phil and Liza Levinsky Shirley Rosen Dr. Martin and Patricia Finkelstein Helen Isenman Susan Isenman Steven Cope Harriet Bogdonoff Rabbi Gary Berenson Sindee Gozansky Stephen and Lisa Schiffman
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 naming, 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 95th year of continuous service to Jews in Greater Portland and beyond.
Karen Belton Stephen and Cecelia Levine Melvin Stone Nancy Spiegel Kelley and Sharon Brinkman-Young Charlie and Ellie Miller Eric Kolben
Thanks to Sindee Gozansky for donation of a beautiful new mezuzah and scroll from Israel for the synagogue front door. ————————————————— To donate in honor, memory or recognition of someone, please contact Rabbi Gary Berenson at Etz Chaim. Our address & contact info is on the back page. Page 6
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Words Our President From
In order to keep the members of Congregation Etz Chaim informed as to the purpose and goals of our synagogue, and of our activities, we issue this as our first, of what will be a periodic newsletter. I want to thank all of our volunteers, both congregants and board members, who with great effort, made this possible. Please feel free to offer any suggestions that you may have for how we can better inform, and provide for the needs, of our congregation.
I am resigning as of April 5, 2016. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the great project of re-vitalizing Congregation Etz Chaim. My best wishes to all of you. B’Shalom, Martin Finkelstein, President
WordsYour Datebook For
The recent Pew Research study of religion in America found that Jewish identity and synagogue attendance have been in decline. Despite such headwinds, Congregation Etz Chaim continues to thrive and grow, in large part because of our mission. We are an inclusive and egalitarian synagogue, embracing the great diversity of Jewish practice. Services are conducted in both the traditional manner and in the more liberal spirit to accommodate the worship needs of our congregants. We offer a special welcome to interfaith, multi-cultural, and non-traditional individuals and families who are seeking an authentic Jewish experience, regardless of religious background. Saturday morning and Monday evening services are held weekly and, on the second Friday of the month, Please mark your calendar and plan to join us for our we offer an evening service which includes a speaker of monthly Friday Evening Kabbalat Shabbat services. All interest. Those services and the other holiday services services begin at 7 p.m. in the 2nd Floor sanctuary and are conducted by Rabbi Berenson. are followed by an Oneg Shabbat. Our next major event will be our annual Purim party —Friday March 5th, Rabbi Berenson will talk about in March, which will feature food, wine, a costume his recent visit to Israel and include some of the items parade, comedic theater and music. Jewish worship and celebration is profound and spiritually meaningful, from his February remarks due to that service being but it can also be jocular and fun. We do not charge for cancelled by a snowstorm. such events, but donations are always welcome. —April 8th, come hear and meet our new Portland After serving as president of Congregation Etz Chaim Mayor, Ethan Strimling. for three years it is time to pass the leadership to a younger generation. As I look around our board I am —And don’t miss Services on May 13th, which will so impressed with the quality of the directors who have celebrate Rabbi Gary and his tireless work on behalf of been elected during my tenure. the congregation. WORDS from Etz Chaim A On the Web @ www.etzchaim-portland.org Page 7
location. I know that others felt the same way as I did.
History surrounds me everywhere I travel in Israel. It is a powerful feeling to be here and feel like I am a part of something much larger, in terms of heritage and From spirituality. I am reminded that one does not need to go to a synagogue to find that feeling. I also feel Words from Etz Chaim, our new synagogue newsletter, especially connected when I take a walk at the beach is finally a reality! in Maine, listening to the waves crash and smelling the I am excited that this has finally happened, after talking water and the salt air. and planning to have our own newsletter for so long. Whenever I am out in nature I feel a special connection There are many people involved in the planning and to G-d. G-d is, of course, everywhere. That presence executing of the newsletter. I want to especially thank just seems to feel stronger to me in certain places and at two relatively new Etz Chaim Synagogue members, certain times. Ted Fleischaker and Ivan Howard, for working behind the scenes in publishing, editing and hosting it for People often tell me that they feel bad when they can’t us. This would not have happened without their help. get to synagogue to pray. I remind them that, while I Because it is our very first newsletter, a special prayer is love to see them, they don’t have to be at a synagogue appropriate. or anywhere else in particular to pray. Our prayers are always heard, no matter where we say them. Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, When was the last time that you went to a synagogue shehechehyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh. to pray? I think a more important question would be this: When was the last time that you prayed? Have a Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of all: conversation with G-d, wherever you are and whenever for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to you can. Begin a relationship with G-d and you might reach this season. be surprised how it will help you when you need it most. I am writing this column from Israel. I am visiting here this third week of February with my family on a vacation meant to reflect and refresh my connection to Judaism. It is working!
One of the first places that I visited was the Western Wall of the holy temple. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I prayed there and felt the connection to our ancestors back to ancient times. I always feel such a strong divine presence there. One of the highlights of this trip has been a visit to Masada, an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, similar to a mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the lowest spot on earth: the Dead Sea. After the destruction of the holy temple in the year 70 CE, a group of Jews from Jerusalem escaped to this fortress to try to survive. They were ultimately defeated in battle and eliminated in the year 73 CE. It is hard not to feel the divine presence in this Page 8
Etz Chaim Synagogue 267 Congress St. Portland, Maine 04101 Phone (207) 773-2339 email@example.com
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03 2016 march etz chaim news letter