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Jewish V   ice Berkshire

Non-Profit Org. U.S. POSTAGE


Pittsfield, MA Permit No. 19

A publication of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, serving the Berkshires and surrounding NY, CT and VT

Vol. 24, No. 1

Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

January 1 to February 13, 2016

Twists and Turns

General Assembly 2015

The Lost History of the Dreidel Song

Thinking Forward About a Changed Jewish Community By Albert Stern Editor, Berkshire Jewish Voice

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the JFNA General Assembly WASHINGTON, DC – The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) convened its annual General Assembly on November 8 in the nation’s capitol, bringing together approximately 3,000 people from its network of local Jewish federated charities. The three-day assembly was organized around the theme “Think Forward,” and what was made abundantly clear from the outset was that JFNA was responding to the often bitter disagreements over the Iran nuclear deal that divided members of Jewish communities last summer.

Through the themes of the programming and the messages delivered by JFNA leaders and guest speakers, it seemed that not only was JFNA leadership trying to patch the still raw wounds, it was also trying to figure out what the passions and priorities exposed by the disputes might mean for the organization in both the short and long term. For a long time, the Jewish community had been described as “changing” or “evolving” – at this GA, GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2015, continued on page 5


In this issue, we spin the tale behind the beloved Festival of Lights song ‘I Have a Little Dreidel,’ a little-known and often bittersweet family saga that connects the jaunty Chanukah anthem to a ubiquitous Kabbalat Shabbat melody, a romantic triangle, a tragic suicide, Jimi Hendrix, and Horowitz-Margareten matzos. For more on the song and a new CD celebrating the work of composer Samuel E. Goldfarb, Dreidel I Shall Play, please see page 24.

Improving Cancer Care in the Berkshires BMC Initiatives, Collaboration with Dana-Farber Introduce New Resources to the Region

Igniting the Fire for Inclusion, with Matan Koch GREAT BARRINGTON – On Sunday, February 7, at 11 a.m., attorney Matan Koch will be the featured speaker in an event marking Jewish Disability Awareness Month. This free talk will take place at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, and is co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires. The Jewish community often describes itself as a big tent in which all are welcome. With February designated as Jewish Disability Awareness Month, this Jewish community has the opportunity to consider how good it is at really making sure that all its members are counted equally. All are invited to learn from Matan Koch, a Jewish leader who is working to ignite a fire for disability inclusion in the broader Jewish community. Leaders at Hevreh and the Federation hope this will be the beginning of a new conversation for

Inside Your Federation Presents.....................5-11, Local News............................................17-20 Disability Awareness............................ 4, 22 World News................................................23 Culture and Arts........................................24

Matan Koch our community about how we can work to make sure those with disabilities are represented. Koch writes: “One of the greatest mitzvot enjoined upon us is to enable the Jewish lives of our fellow Jews, from celebrating births and weddings to joining together to bury and mourn our dead. Yet, by failing to eliminate physical, spiritual, and attitudinal barriers, our community is often still closed to the participation of Jews with disabilities. DISABILITY AWARENESS, continued on page 20

The BMC Cancer Center in Pittsfield opened in 2014 In recent months, Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) has launched two initiatives that will change the way cancer is diagnosed, surveilled, and treated in Berkshire County. The first is a collaboration with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced in September that will align cancer care locally with standards, practices, education, and innovations set at the renowned Boston

hospital. The second is an aggressive screening program that launches this month to identify and monitor women who may be at high genetic risk for breast cancer and other cancers. As is well known in the Jewish community, Ashkenazi Jews have an elevated risk of carrying the BRCA1 BERKSHIRE CANCER CARE, continued on page 17

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Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016

Rabbi Reflections Tu b’Shevat – A Call to Action By Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman On Tu b’Shevat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat (this year January 25), we celebrate trees and all their many gifts. Often called the birthday of the trees, Tu b’Shevat is the day the rabbis established to determine the age of a tree for the purpose of tithing its fruits. It is at this time of year that the first pink and white blooms of the almond tree can be seen in the land of Israel, a fitting time to mark the new year for trees. However, trees are also understood in our tradition to be the very source of life, and thus we read in Genesis 2:9: “And the Lord God caused to sprout from the soil, every tree lovely to look at and good for food, and the tree of life was in the midst of the garden.” This image of a primordial “Tree of Life” is found across the globe, throughout a wide variety of world cultures, mythologies, and religions. Understood as a spiritual source for the nourishment of the entire world, the Tree of Life also became the rabbinic symbol for Torah. Etz Chayim la’machzikim ba…it is a tree of life to those who take hold of it… In later generations, with the flowering of Kabbalah between the 12th and 17th centuries, the image of the Tree of Life took on new significance in relation to humanity. Not merely an image from a lost paradise, the kabbalists understood this spiritual tree to be the very source of all abundance in the physical world. Human beings can affect the flow of abundance into the world or disrupt it through their behavior. Through the act of offering blessings back to our Creator whenever we consume any, we strengthen the flow of shefa – abundance in the world. This is a view of an intentional interactive universe, operating as one spiritual and physical eco-system, wherein all is dynamically connected – the Source of Life, human beings, the natural world, heaven and earth. The kabbalists of the 17th century designed a beautiful ritual of blessing and eating numerous fruits called a Tu b’Shevat seder, the prescription for which was first published as part of the book Chemdat Yamim, in a section known as Pri Etz

Hadar, “Fruit of the Beautiful Tree.” Through the kabbalistic lens, Tu b’Shevat is seen as the optimal time in which we, human beings, acting as a bridge between heaven and earth, can prime the pump for the flowering and fruiting of trees in the year to come. It is taught in the Zohar that “all who wound God’s works wound God’s image…” Similarly, we are taught in the Pri Etz Hadar that while the image of God in creation can be compromised by human action, its restoration depends directly upon conscious human endeavor (an insight shared by Rabbi David Seidenberg, the creator of NeoHasid). Today, as the climate crisis looms over us, we are called upon more than ever to consider the many ways in which we are wounding God’s creation. Aleinu – it is “upon us” – to make the changes necessary to heal our planet. Trees are more than a metaphor for the source of life. They hold the exact medicine needed for the restoration of our world, for tikkun olam, for they absorb carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen to our entire planet. In the past, it was the custom to plant a tree in land of Israel in celebration of Tu b’Shevat. Today, reforestation must be more than a once-a-year gift in one location. Let us make it part of the answer for the future of the world. There are many reforestation projects currently underway. Please consider supporting any one these reforestation projects and find out more about reducing your carbon footprint. • (Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, JNF- Israel) • • (The Eden Projects – Haiti, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Nepal) • (Planted millions of trees in US and 44 countries around the world) • (How to reduce your carbon footprint) Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman is the founder and director of Rimon: A Collaborative Community for Jewish Spirituality. Rimon will be offering a kabbalistic Tu b’Shevat Seder on Sunday, January 24. Details can be found on the Rimon website:

Letters to the Editor Supermarket Sweeps Replenished Pantry Shelves

Thanks for a Generous and Well-Planned Museum Visit

Dear Jewish Federation of the Berkshires: Thank you so much for donating to the People’s Pantry in Great Barrington goods from your Supermarket Sweeps endeavor last November. Your contribution greatly helped replenish our shelves and came at a most opportune time, with Thanksgiving just around the corner. The People’s Pantry and its shoppers send a hearty thank you.

Dear Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and Jewish Women’s Foundation of Berkshire County: Thank you so much for providing the opportunity to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. I really appreciate what a generous and wellplanned trip it was. Some highlights for me were exploring the Garden of the Stones and speaking to the Holocaust survivor, Toby Levy. Her testimony was incredibly touching.

Cordially, Rosemary Carpenite Director, The People’s Pantry

Mim Pomerantz

Feeling the Love from a Happy Camper Dear Jewish Federation of the Berkshires: Thank you so much for your helpful and generous support! I love everything about camp. I love even more that I am closer to my Jewish identity when I am there. In September, my birthday came

and in October I had my bat mitzvah. I had an amazing tutor at Camp Eisner! I loved her, and thank you so much for making my summers fantastic! Love, Hani Chung

Grateful to Learn at Museum of Jewish Heritage Dear Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and Jewish Women’s Foundation of Berkshire County: Thank you for the trip to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. It was lots of fun to go to NYC and learn and make new friends. I realized how fortunate we are to be Jews living in America. It was interesting to hear from a Holocaust survivor. I liked how no matter where you were in the Garden of Stones, you could see the Statue of Liberty. I am grateful for the trip, thank you. Sincerely, Adam Pomerantz


Garden of Stones, created by Andy Goldsworthy

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The Berkshire Jewish Voice welcomes signed letters on subjects of interest to the Jewish community. Letters are printed upon space availability. The BJV reserves the right to edit all letters for content, length, and style. The BJV does not print anonymous letters, insults, libelous or defamatory statements. For verification purposes, please include full name, home address, and a day and evening telephone number. Send letters to: Berkshire Jewish Voice, 196 South Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201, or email:

Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

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In My View Wishing a Fond Farewell to a Sure, Steady, and Compassionate Colleague By Dara Kaufman I have always loved that ued to receive supportive visits from Barbara. She the word “shalom” has a trihad been able to step in at crucial points in Saul’s ple meaning – hello, goodlife and support him through life’s difficult transibye, and peace. It somehow tions. brings me comfort that even It is not surprising that the majority of people as we are saying goodbye served by the Federation’s social worker program (my least favorite form of are older adults. A 2014 demographic survey indithe word), we are wishing a cates that the Berkshires have one of the highest favored friend or colleague percentages of residents over age 65 compared to peace, as well as expressing other regions of Massachusetts. Our last Jewish the hope that we may say community survey, although a bit more dated, hello again in the future. indicated that the percentage of Jewish older adults That is how I feel about was even higher than that of the general Berkshire saying shalom to Barbara population. And our senior population is growing. Shickmanter, our wonderful Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said the Barbara Shickmanter was recognized for her social worker, who will be test of a people is how it behaves toward the aged. many years of service to the Jewish community by retiring this month after 11 Our Jewish community has long history of honFederation president, Amy Lindner-Lesser. years of dedicated service. oring and caring for its elders. The Federation’s koAlthough the Federation contracts for Barbara’s services through Jewish Fami- sher hot meal program brings nutritious meals and educational programs togethly Service in Springfield, she is most definitely a member of our Federation staff. er with companionship, socialization, and a supportive network to help combat Barbara has been a sure and steady presence in the lives of many in our commuthe isolation that often plagues older adults. Warm meals are also delivered by nity. She has offered compassionate guidance, care, and counseling to hundreds caring volunteers to the homebound. of Jewish community members over the years she has worked with the FederaOur community joyfully rallies behind “Joe’s Project” each year, with voltion. unteers of all ages stepping up to deliver holiday care packages to hundreds She’s cared for families in life and death. She’s been an advisor, a guide, a of seniors during Purim and Rosh Hashanah. This past year we increased our compassionate ear and a strong shoulder on which to cry. The community may outreach, with the help of Rabbi Max Roth and Rabbi Neal Borovitz, to bring the think they know all that Barbara’s job entails, but until someone needed her light and warmth of Shabbat to those living in nursing homes and assisted living services, they really had no idea how much empathy and compassion Barbara facilities. brought to her work. And of course, every time Barbara walked through the door for a supportive The confidential nature of her work did not always allow us to shine a light visit or counseling session with one of her clients, she brought each of us with on the impact she has made in the lives of others. People like Saul (name and her. Her concern and care has been a reflection of our entire community’s comcircumstances changed to protect identity). When Saul lost his beloved wife of 42 passion for the social and emotional welfare of our elders. years, he met with Barbara for a few months as he grieved over this deep loss. Barbara, on behalf of our community and all those you have helped, I thank She worked with him to get re-involved in activities he enjoyed and to increase his you deeply for your many years of caring service. We are thrilled for you to start socialization. About a year later, his health started to decline. He could no longer this new chapter. And just as we bid you shalom, we will also soon be saying drive and needed help with bathing and cooking. Barbara arranged for him to shalom to you replacement. Although as I write this article we do not yet know receive the Federation’s home-delivered meals and connected him to an outside who that person will be, we know they will be different from Barbara – a new peragency that provided an aide who could help with cleaning his apartment and sonality with new ideas and new ways. But one thing is for certain, they will bring bathing. She made him aware of transportation options for the elderly such as with them that all important quality of caring. the discounted taxi coupons available through the Federation, as well as other services. In the final months of Saul’s life, living with a terminal illness, he contin- Dara Kaufman is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.

Jewish V   ice Berkshire

DEADLINES The next Berkshire Jewish Voice (Vol. 24, No. 2) will cover the period February 14, 2016 through April 2, 2016. The following edition (Vol. 24, No. 3) covers April 3, 2016 through May 14, 2016. The deadline for press releases and other written submissions, all of which are subject to being edited, is March 2, 2016. Because of limitations of space and time, please be so kind as to not submit lengthy articles without first contacting the editor. Advertising deadline is March 16, 2016. For a complete Berkshire Jewish Voice schedule, contact (413) 442-4360, ext. 11, or e-mail

You may request that the Berkshire Jewish Voice be mailed to your home. Just email us at for information. Paid advertisements do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires or its members.

A publication Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, serving the Berkshires A publication ofof thethe Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, serving the Berkshires and surrounding NY, CT andand VT surrounding NY, CT and VT

Published nine times a year by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires Dara Kaufman: Publisher and Managing Editor Albert Stern: Editor Rose Tannenbaum: Graphic Design & Layout Jenny Greenfeld: Advertising Sales Representative and Assistant Editor Editorial opinions expressed in the Berkshire Jewish Voice are those of the newspaper and not those of any individual. Signed editorials do not represent the view of the newspaper, but rather express the writer’s view. The Berkshire Jewish Voice is under no obligation to accept any advertisement. It does not guarantee the kashrut of any merchandise or service advertised. Serves the Jewish community in Berkshire County and neighboring New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. Voluntary subscription donations: $18, $36, $72, $108, other.

Berkshire Jewish Voice e-mail: Phone: (413) 442-4360, ext. 11 Fax (413) 443-6070

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Guest Commentary For Kids with Disabilities, Time to Move from Inclusion to Normalcy By Rachel Fishheimer JERUSALEM (JTA) — Just the other day, I overheard someone saying that they had a wonderful interaction with the “Down syndrome employee” at their local cafe. Though it happened to have been a sweet story, I cringed. It also got me thinking about the limitations of our campaigns promoting inclusion in the classroom, at work and in other areas of life. Though we have definitely come a long way, it is clear there is still much to accomplish if an individual can still be defined as someone with Down syndrome, if it is still something we see. Unlike other health-related awareness months, Down Syndrome Awareness Month (October) is less about personal health and more about societal wellness. It’s a call to action to celebrate the accomplishments and abilities of individuals with special needs and promote full inclusion for all. But why do we continually have to try so hard to reach this goal? It may be because the goal itself isn’t ambitious enough. It has been 40 years since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Children with disabilities across the United States are today being educated in “least restrictive environments,” as the law calls for – namely, the general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools. After four decades, the numerous benefits of this kind of inclusion have been well documented, both for children with disabilities and those without. Inclusion has exposed children with disabilities to socially acceptable behaviors they would otherwise not experience in a separate class. Through increased social interactions with peers without disabilities, they have developed relationships and peer role models and found encouragement. One such young woman is Madeline Stuart, an Australian with Down syndrome who graced the runway as a model during this year’s New York Fashion Week. Stuart’s mother credits inclusion for her daughter’s rise. As she put it, “This was all possible because the world was ready.” PHOTO: JTA

During my tenure with ALEH, Israel’s largest network of residential facilities for children with severe intellectual and motor disabilities, I have witnessed the successful implementation of inclusion programming and its astounding effects on our children’s growth and development. But while inclusion has made great strides in recent years, and continues to change lives inside and outside the classroom, I can’t help but wonder if it has reached its limits and if we should be expecting more from ourselves as a society. We may we have set the bar too low. Perhaps it is now time to push harder, to trade inclusion campaigns for the promotion of normalcy. What does normal look like? Normal means a sweet anecdote about an angelic cafe employee doesn’t need to mention his genetic disorder. Normal would entail a fierce runway catwalk by a young blond model followed by interviews focusing on who she’s wearing — rather than her bravery for participating “against all odds.” Normal is allowing ourselves to see people, rather than causes or movements or wars to be won. Where inclusion encouraged us to pull individuals with disabilities out of the shadows and see them as individuals deserving of the same services, resources and experiences, a push for normalcy encourages us to live in a world where inclusion is second nature. In essence, normalcy is daring to aim ever higher. We will never soar if we become too comfortable in any nest, and I humbly submit that it’s time to look beyond our bastion of inclusion, because even that has become too comfortable. It’s time to spread our wings and embrace normalcy so that the next generation won’t even understand why the promotion of inclusion was ever necessary. Rachel Fishheimer is the director of education at the Jerusalem facility of ALEH, Israel’s largest network of residential facilities for children with severe intellectual and motor disabilities.

Guest Commentary Europe and Migration – Five Challenges By David Harris As Europe seeks to absorb a massive wave of newcomers, the challenges are becoming strikingly apparent. First, with no advance planning, European countries have had to move quickly to address the immediate issues of shelter and other urgent needs, all the more so as winter arrives and options like tents for housing become unfeasible. The task is formidable. More than one million new arrivals have come to Germany, the preferred destination, in 2015 alone. Each individual, as I know from my own experience working with refugees from behind the Iron Curtain, is a world unto his or her own, often with medical or psychological issues, concerns for family members left behind, anxiety about the uncertainty of what lies ahead, and a ton of questions about a new and totally unfamiliar country. Second, EU member states, especially in Central Europe, are at loggerheads over the migration issue. Several countries - some openly, others quietly - blame Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel for triggering the wave of newcomers by her unexpected message of welcome in September, spurred by a humanitarian impulse to help people clearly in need. Indeed, The Times (of London) referred to “Merkel’s Migrants” in a page-one headline. Meanwhile, within her own political party, the CDU, and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, debates surrounding her action have been robust. Notwithstanding calls for EU unity and solidarity in “burden sharing,” the feuding persists. In AJC’s recent meetings in Berlin and Brussels, it emerged that of the 160,000 migrants to be allocated by the EU Commission to various other member states, under a proposed plan of mandatory quotas, only a tiny handful have actually gone to their new homes so far. The resistance to resettlement by some, though not all, EU nations has been fierce. They insist that they were not consulted in the original decision and, in any case, already have enough social and economic difficulties without adding to the list. Third, the security dimension of the migration wave cannot be ignored. The migrants were not part of an orderly process that began in third countries where they filled out applications for refugee status, were screened by officials, and then, if approved, sent to a country prepared to receive them. Rather, the process has been quite chaotic. Overwhelmingly male and young, the migrants have reached Europe’s shores in unprecedented numbers, often after harrowing journeys, with identity papers that may or, in some cases, may not be authentic, or with none at all. How can receiving countries establish in each and every case who they are and verify their stories? For instance, according to reports, a certain percentage who claim to be Syrian are not, but declare themselves to be because an informal pipeline, using social media, has conveyed that Syrians have the best chance for filing successful asylum applications in Europe. Moreover, there are fears that ISIS and other groups are infiltrating terrorists into the human wave, perhaps even providing them with stolen or counterfeit IDs. These fears have been intensified by the November 13th attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Two of the perpetrators reportedly arrived in Europe via the migration wave through Greece. Further, there is concern that if disillusion should set in among some newcomers - because, say, reality does not match expectations - jihadist cells will try to

lure them as foreign fighters or local operatives. As it is, many European security agencies are quite overwhelmed by the current challenges of tracking thousands of suspects, especially those who have traveled to Iraq and Syria and returned, and their recruiters. Generally speaking, there is inadequate staff for 24/7 monitoring and surveillance; insufficient information-sharing among EU member states; years-long, inconclusive debates between advocates of privacy rights and data protection versus more intrusive security measures; outside, at times tolerated, funding (by Saudi Arabia, for instance) of Salafist and other extremist religious activity; and limited intelligence cooperation from Turkey, the preferred route for Europe’s foreign fighters heading to and from Iraq and Syria. Adding new dimensions to Europe’s security agenda will prove an enormous burden for stretched agencies. Fourth, acculturation of the newcomers looms large. Until now, many EU member states have had difficulties in integrating waves of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Going forward, they will have to do better. While there have been many remarkable success stories of integration, there have also been notable failures. Examples abound. Molenbeek in Belgium, Malmö in Sweden, and several “banlieues” (suburbs) of Paris illustrate the phenomenon of marginalized, forlorn communities that too often have resulted in parallel societies; cycles of high student dropout rates, unemployment, and violence; and the blossoming of extremist religious groups. Apropos, it’s noteworthy that a number of foreign fighters are second-generation, born in France, Belgium, the UK, etc. In addition, the new migrants come from overwhelmingly non-democratic societies — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Eritrea, etc. They often have had little experience with norms of Western countries, including gender equality, faith as a private choice, separation of religion and state, and pluralism and mutual respect, and may or may not find the transition easy to embrace. In a meeting with Yazidi refugees in Germany last week, an AJC delegation heard not only horrific accounts of the persecution they endured in Iraq, but also of difficulties experienced in Europe at the hands of other migrants who brought with them their prejudices against this oft-targeted, non-Muslim community. And Europe’s Jews may wonder whether anti-Semitism in the countries of origin will also transfer with the migration, adding to rising levels of Judeophobia. Finally, the migration appears to have no end in sight, given the hope of millions more to escape endemic war, poverty, and despair in the Middle East and Africa, not to mention the desire of those who have already made it to Europe to reunite with family members left behind. In turn, this has created a troubling backlash, most recently in France, fueling populist movements that assail the political establishment and the concentrated power of the EU, question Europe’s ability and will to control its own borders, and advocate nationalist, at times stridently nativist, platforms. Thus, Europe, which has achieved such an extraordinary degree of postwar peace and cooperation, is now buffeted by large-scale migration; growing security concerns; internal feuding; invigorated extreme right-wing movements; and questions about the EU’s capacity to respond effectively to issues that may well define the character and cohesion of European nations in the years ahead. In other words, the stakes could not be higher. Whether the EU and its 28 member states will pass the test of their most severe crisis to date remains to be seen. As a long-time transatlanticist and Europhile, I fervently pray they will, as they must. David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

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General Assembly 2015 GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2015, continued from page 1 however, the JFNA seemed to signal that the Jewish community can be more properly described as “changed.” To a large extent, the vitriol over Iran bypassed the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, whose leadership elected not to issue a statement regarding the deal. So it was interesting to find myself in a ballroom filled with thousands of leaders, donors, and activists who, though similarly concerned about the future of Israel and Jewish life, were likely to have faced off in person, one against the other. Would their recent experiences alter the usually upbeat mood at the GA? Last year, at the first GA I attended, the atmosphere was very different. In 2014, JFNA had successfully managed two major crises that were right in its wheelhouse, aiding Eastern European Jews affected by war and providing support to Israel during the Gaza conflict. The plenary speakers represented the Jewish people as successful combat warriors, social justice warriors, artists, innovators, and leaders. A highlight was the visit by Vice President Joseph Biden, who assured the gathered that the US/Israel alliance was un-

shakable. A feeling of confidence was palpable. This year, while the JFNA remained just as firm about its mission and values, the GA seemed to reflect a sense of insecurity about two key issues – one, the nature of the Jewish community and how it identifies with Jewish concerns,

and two, the uncertain global political climate. Jewish Journeys The tone was set in the first plenary session. It opened with three engaging speakers describing their Jewish journeys: TV commentator David Gregory movingly recalled his relationship with his father, who had died just days earlier; Rosalie Abella talked about being the daughter of Holocaust survivors and the first Jewish woman appointed to the Canadian Supreme Court; and actress Debra Messing shared

Ambassador Dennis Ross (right) speaks with Gary Rosenblatt, editor of The Jewish Week

URJ Biennial Another major confab held this November was the biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism in Orlando, FL. Sixteen representatives from Hevreh of Southern Berkshire attended, along with Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch, who shares some takeaways. This was my fifth Biennial. It was the most enriching one yet for two main reasons. First, I found it special to share Shabbat worship not only with 5,000 other Jews, but with 16 other people from my community. I found it stimulating to be at the plenary sessions together, and then unpack the big ideas that were laid out for all of us, seeing how we might bring them home. Second, during the Biennial, we as a movement took positions that reflect both current trends and Jewish values. An historic resolution on transgender inclusion was passed with no noticeable friction. We continued dialogue on Jewish and Black relations, and saw how the Reform movement continues to strengthen the connection for American Jews to Israel. There were robust debates about what is currently going on in Israel, and the dialogue was serious, challenging, and civil. Again, I took that as a significant statement about where we are, and where we can go, as a community. As I came home to the Berkshires, it was just in time for Shabbat Across the Berkshires. That Shabbat experience coupled perfectly with Biennial. I am proud to be a Reform Jew – there is something about that approach to Jewish life that works for me. And I am proud to be a part of the Berkshires Jewish community, in which we can come together and worship as a single body. I know of no other community in which that can truly be done.

Knesset member Avraham Neguise (center) with Stuart Masters, Diane Troderman, Dara Kaufman, and Judy Usow at the Ethiopian National Project reception.

diversity might take. Speaker after speaker reiterated that while Jews have a long history of arguing with one another, the incivility that marked the differences over the Iran deal signaled a change to the rules of the game in the way we disagree. What no speaker could really delineate was how those changes might affect individual federations’ ability to raise funds, as well as to define and carry out their function. As Alisa Doctoroff, president of UJA-Federation of New York, put it: “Last summer debate over Iran tested our cohesiveness as one people…and challenged our understanding of who we are as a federation movement.” Global Challenges

The first plenary session also introduced a second Another GA Impression strain of insecurity the reJudy Usow, treasurer on the executive emerged throughout the GA. A board of the Jewish Federation of roundtable discussion among the Berkshires, also attended the former ambassador Dennis 2015 General Assembly. Here are her Ross, journalist Janine Zachimpressions. aria, and former member of the Canadian Parliament Irwin I have to say, that though I’ve been to IsCotler laid bare the troubled rael, I never went to camp and have never state of the Israel/Palestinbeen a part of a Jewish majority gathering ian relationship. The GA took like the GA. Being in that big ballroom place when the random Paleswith everyone it Jewish and singing the tinian stabbings of Israeli were Hatikvah was an amazing feeling for me. at a height, and the up-close and personal nature of the I also benefitted from a breakout ses(likely to be suicidal) attacks sion called “As the World Turns: Our Work in Israel and Across the attested to a deeper nihilism Globe.” As a board member, I was aware that a certain percentage among Palestinians, particof our campaign funds are allocated overseas, even though we ularly youths. The panelists always need that money locally. This was the first time that what attributed the recent develJFNA does overseas really hit home, as I met people who were actuopments to an abject lack of ally in charge of those organizations. faith in an aged, corrupt, and I talked to the head emissary of the Jewish Agency in France, who indifferent Palestinian Authortold me about the situation. This was before the Paris shootings, ity leadership, and no tangibut he was already saying that while in the past, it used to be ble changes in the offing. At cemeteries that were defaced, now people are being attacked and present the Palestinian cause killed. He also explained that a large number of French Jews don’t is less important to the Gulf have deep roots in France – many only came over in the 1960s, States, who are so desperate along with many Muslims, after France left its colonies in North to restore stability to failing Africa. At that time, some members of a family might have gone states such as Yemen and to France, while others resettled in Israel, but they still stayed conSyria and to rid the region of nected. So it’s actually very reasonable for Jews who feel unsafe in the scourge of ISIS, they have France to make aliyah and join family who have been living there. no desire to deal the notoriI also met the person working with the JCC in Poland, who showed ously intransigent Palestinian how Krakow is perhaps the Jewish success story in Europe. I knew leadership. While all this is that there were almost no Jews left in Poland after World War II, unfolding, Ross opined, politiand to find out that Krakow now has an active Jewish community cally the West seems to be imwith lots of young people was interesting. porting Middle Eastern conflict resolution strategies, rather And it was great to know that our efforts here support all those peothan exporting its own. ple I met doing important work overseas. The global roundtable participants also focused on another dispirwhat it was like iting development, to grow up in which was summed the sole Jewish up by this November family living in 5 Washington Post a remote Rhode headline: “Obama Island town, and administration conthen later put cedes that Mideast her Jewish valpeace is beyond reach ues into action on his watch.” No by becoming an matter what one’s AIDS activist. expectations were Together, the about the promised testimonials were “smart diplomacy” of all intended to the Hope and Change convey the idea Era, the fact that the that there are current administration many paths that Yehuda Kurtzer of the Shalom Hartman Institute has passed along the Jews might take spoke about ‘Federation’s Role in a Polarized World’ problem to the next on their jourpresident is a discourneys, and that Richard Sandler of Southern aging reality that many other JFNA is a big tent organization California, was reported by speakers at the GA addressed. that welcomes all and is trying The Forward to have said at a to get even bigger. This theme GA event that fostering diverLooking Back and Thinking was echoed by JFNA president sity was his “main priority” in Forward and CEO Jerry Silverman, who Jewish community. in his keynote speech stressed Yehuda Kurtzer, presiThe internecine debates the need for acceptance of dident of the Shalom Hartman about Iran, however, exposed verse opinions and for “unity, Institute of North America, passions and differences of not unanimity.” The incomideology that have fostered GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2015, ing lay board chair, attorney uncertainty about what shape continued on page 6

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Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016

General Assembly 2015 GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2015, continued from page 5 was the speaker who most cogently defined the current state of the Jewish community. He said that 20th century Jewish identity was forged by the Shoah and founding of the State of Israel, major political events that were “crises that demanded a response.” In the last 30 years, he continued, Jewish life has undergone three revolutions. The first is ethnic, that the makeup of the Jewish community is different than it was one or two generations owing to intermarriage, assimilation, and conversion. “The pathways between Jew and non-Jew have dramatically shifted in Jewish life,” he explained, “and as a result we were a different people once than we are now.” The second revolution is political. “If once upon a time we might have constituted or

at least acted as if we were one Jewish polity,” said Kurtzer, “we are now a community in which ‘Jewish’ is merely a prefix to ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican.’” The final revolution is institutional. “Membership in Jewish life is no longer self-evident, and institutions only exist to the extent that they serve the marketplace of institutions,” he said. Consequently, Kurtzer continued, “the behavior of Jews and Jewishness are on new and uncertain terrain.” In his opinion, the key issue about the Iran deal was not about foreign policy or politicians, but rather that the Jewish community was for the first time made fully aware of the new truths about its identity in the wake of revolutionary change. Jews were awakened to the likelihood that “instabil-

ity in communal life… is going be the new normal for a community with an uncertain future” as institutions and modes of thinking built for the 20th century confront 21st century realities. He predicted that this time of change will present an opportunity, as leaders and communities have it in their power to positively shape the new model of Jewish communal life that will eventually emerge. Summing up, Kurtzer said he believes the answer is a big tent philosophy that will peacefully accommodate dissent and differences. Bibi Speaks

The Berkshires’ own Arlene Schiff, national director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s LIFE & LEGACY program, addressed the Small Federation meeting.

Kinus Hashluchim (Chabad) Another major confab held this November was the Kinus Hashluchim (International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries) in Brooklyn, NY. Rabbi Levi Volovik, co-director of Chabad of the Berkshires, attended and shares some takeaways. This was the tenth time I’ve attended the largest gathering of rabbis in the world. Across the globe, there is no community in which at least 5000 Jews are present that does not have at least one Chabad House. The Rebbe said that no Jew should be alone, and with 15 million Jews, we have our work cut out for us. Going to the conference lets me reconnect with the Rebbe’s vision, which really stretches back seven generations to the Ba’al Shem Tov, who once said: “I asked the Moshiach, ‘When will you come?’ and he said to me: ‘When your wellsprings shall spread to the outside.’” As emissaries, we spread the message of Chasidism far and wide. The conference connects me to the Rebbe’s vision in the way that doing mitzvoth connects us all to God. There are about 50 workshops for us to choose from over the three days. One of the most valuable talks is about the challenges of living in communities where the Chabad emissaries’ children may be the only young people growing up with our customs. The workshop shows us how to cultivate strong children who understand that no, they are not the children of sheluchim, but rather are themselves sheluchim.

Kurtzer’s ideas We also learn about fundraising – from my colleagues, I see that most were echoed by the Chabad Houses are not funded by Orthodox Jews, but by non-Orthodox GA’s most anticipated Jews who see a spark and want to be a part of it. Which the Rebbe would speaker, Israeli Prime appreciate – he didn’t see divisions, just the unities. The conference reinMinister Benjamin forces this feeling of brotherhood with my fellow sheluchim who I see once Netanyahu, who one each year, as well with all my Jewish brothers and sisters. day earlier had met with President Obama in the White House. Masa programs that let young importantly to discuss soluRelaxed and clearly pleased Jews experience Israel, the tions. And now, for the first to be at the GA, Netanyahu prime minister said: “Whether time, the Government of Israel delivered an address comJews decide to live in Israel or is joining with the Jewish posed mostly of standard not, I want to guarantee one Agency to invest in strengthtalking points – the unshakthing to each and every one of ening Reform and Conservaable friendship with the you: As Prime Minister of Isrative communities within Israel. US, Israeli security, Israel’s el, I will always ensure that all I am also hopeful that we will gratitude for JFNA support, Jews can feel at home in Israel soon conclude a long overdue and so forth. However, he also – Reform Jews, Conservative understanding that will ensure acknowledged the changes to Jews, Orthodox Jews – all that the Kotel (Western Wall) the Jewish world that other Jews. is a source of unity for our GA speakers spoke about, and “As a testament to my people, not a point of division. recognized commitment to this principle, I And we’re getting there, I have that Israel have established a roundtable, to say.” also has to headed by my Cabinet SecreGiven all the uncertainties adopt a more tary, to address the concerns that marked the 2015 JFNA inclusive of the different streams of General Assembly, it closed posture if its Judaism in Israel. That’s sigon this positive note, with the connection nificant. That’s a governmental awareness that while the long to Diaspora term answers are not yet apJewry is to be decision. You want to know our politics? Not now, but parent, at least leaders in both sustained. that’s a significant decision. Israel and North America have After This is a roundtable of the come to terms with the nature citing the Government of Israel in which of the challenges ahead. success of the various streams of JudaThe indeed seemed to be the Birthright ism sit together side-by-side thinking forward, and that’s a Israel and to discuss problems and more start.

Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar Over the summer, Rabbi David Weiner of Congregation Knesset Israel traveled to Israel to participate in a seminar for clergy that explores foundational Jewish ideas and central dilemmas of contemporary Jewish life. He shares some takeaways. This July, I attended the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar (RTS), an annual, intensive ten-day program that draws rabbis and cantors from all over the world. This year I was one of a group of 170 rabbis who traveled to Jerusalem to participate. I am grateful to my congregation for making this experience possible. The conference theme this summer was justice and righteousness. The Institute’s scholars explored many different facets of this issue - personal, communal and national – through facilitated study of texts from a wide range of contexts, from the biblical era to the present day. Some focused on intellectual models for justice, while others honed in on the spiritual import of justice and righteousness or contemporary court cases that shape our understanding of what justice is. A field trip some of us took to the slums of south Tel Aviv underlined just how challenging justice is to implement and how the relationship between theory and practice is anything but simple. I found the classes and their teachers deeply engaging and noticed immediately how the diversity in the Beit Midrash study hall led to well-grounded yet creative conversation. I returned home not only with months of material to teach but also with a renewed sense of purpose and energy.

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Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

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Your Federation Presents “Aging: A Lifelong Process” – A Discussion and Support Group with Therapist Maggie Bittman, January 4 On Monday, January 4, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires presents “Aging: A Lifelong Process,” with therapist Maggie Bittman. This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. Explaining her outlook and approach, Bittman writes: “From birth, we begin to age with time. Along the way, we develop strategies to help manage the stressors that come with living life – those ‘existence pains’ or ‘existential

stressors.’ Along the way we find meaning and purpose, experience aloneness, confront mortality, and develop self will. “Within this context, participants will discuss, share, and offer support to one another.”

Author Ruth Bass on Fictionalizing Her Grandmother’s Life, Jan. 14 On Thursday, January 14, columnist and novelist Ruth Bass will speak about her writing at a Connecting With Community program starting at 10:45 a.m. at Congregation Knesset Israel. She’ll talk about her columns and two published novels about her grandmother’s life, and also read from the books, Sarah’s Daughter and Rose. Bass’s grandmother was born in Charlemont, MA, and grew up on a farm. After her mother died at an early age, Bass’s grandmother, then 14 years old, was expected to take over the house and care for two younger siblings, the chickens, the garden, and whatever else went with being a housewife. “It must have been a hard time for her,” Bass relates, “but despite all the days we spent together, she never talked about it. Only a couple of kernels from that era came my way, but the things I knew were intriguing enough to make me want to write Sarah’s Daughter. So I fictionalized my


Ruth Bass grandmother’s teen years, using the few things I knew and making up the rest.” Bass says she just finished the third book in the series. Ruth worked as police and court reporter for the Berkshire Eagle prior to her marriage to Milton Bass, returning in 1977 to the paper after a hiatus and eventually holding the position of Sunday editor before leaving in 1996. Her Monday column has been published for 35 years.

IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Thursday, January 14, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).




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IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Monday, January 4, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

Our Cup Runneth Over! Jewish Federation of the Berkshires’ 2015 Annual Campaign EXCEEDED OUR GOAL!


Thank you to all who participated!

Maggie Bittman

See the next edition of the Berkshire Jewish Voice for a full report.

For Your Health: Core Stability, Flexible Feet and Balance on January 11 Good postural stability is the basis for comfortable, pain-free movement but, says body worker Carol Bennett, “before we can move freely it is important to reestablish stability through the center of the body – the core.” After a career in theater and movement, starting in her 60s Bennett obtained certifications and degrees in such body work practices such as the Feldenkreis method, aquatic exercise, and kinesiology. She’ll share her experience at the Connecting With Community workshop starting at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, January 11, at Congregation Knesset Israel. She explains: “We will begin with chair work to strengthen deep abdominals, hip stabilizers and scapular muscles. Our feet connect us to the ground

on which we stand. Feet are the beginning of one body part supporting the other. We can stand more comfortably in flexible feet. Using rollers, balls and varied foot exercises our feet can become more moveable and responsive. “Using the chair as support, we will prepare for static and dynamic balance. Strengthening individual muscles isometric ally reawakens postural muscles to enable full body weight bearing movements. Finally, we will integrate what we have done in varied walks.”

Carol Bennett

IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Monday, January 11, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

Connecting With Community Series / Kosher Hot Lunch Programs in the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires’ Connecting With Community series are free and start at 10:45 a.m. most Mondays and Thursdays at Congregation Knesset Israel (16 Colt Road, Pittsfield). Programs are followed by a kosher hot lunch. Lunch is a $2 suggested donation for adults over 60 years of age or $7 for all others. Advance reservations are required for lunch and can be made by calling (413) 442-2200 before 9 a.m. on the day of the program. For further information on all programs, please call Nancy Maurice Rogers, program director, at (413) 442-4360, ext. 15. For lunch menus, please see page 12.

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Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016

Your Federation Presents Rabbi Dresner on the Jewish Commitment Ancient Roots and Modern to the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Fruits: The Blessings of Tu Luther King Jr., January 25 B’Shevat, January 21 On Monday, January 25, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires hosts Rabbi Israel S. Dresner, one of the most prominent rabbis who participated in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and beyond. He will discuss his own work and his experiences Rabbi Dresner today Dr. King & Rabbi Dresner with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in this special Black In 1964 at Dr. King’s request, he organized the largest number History Month event. This of rabbis ever arrested at one time (18) in St. Augustine, FL. He free program at Congregation was later dubbed “The Most Arrested Rabbi in America.” Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Dresner continued his civil rights activism and advocacy Pittsfield, is part of the Federathroughout his career as a reform Jewish rabbi in northern New tion’s Connecting With ComJersey, participating in the 1962 Albany campaign to desegremunity series. gate municipal facilities and in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Israel Dresner, rabbi emermarch. He retired in 1996. itus from Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne, NJ, was the closest rabbi to Dr. King, who on two IF YOU GO occasions (1963 and 1966) adSponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With dressed his congregation. He Community was the first Rabbi arrested in Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel the freedom struggle in 1961 in an interfaith clergy Freedom Date & Time: Monday, January 25, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch Ride. At Dr. King’s request, (see page 12). Lunch reservations are strongly advised to ensure Rabbi Dresner helped organize that enough food is prepared for this special program. the largest group of clergy ever arrested at one time in American history (65 Protestant ministers and 10 rabbis) in Albany, GA in August 1962.

On Thursday, January 21, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires hosts Rabbi Josh Breindel, who will speak about Tu b’Shevat, the Jewish calendar’s “New Year of the Trees.” This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. Join Rabbi Josh Breindel for an engaging and interactive exploration of the ancient holiday of Tu b’Shevat. Beginning with the Biblical directives to care for the earth, Rabbi Breindel will trace the development of the Festival of Trees through its Rabbinic flowering and growth to the modern day. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover new ways to blend ancient Jewish philosophy and spirituality with a very modern celebration of nature. Rabbi Breindel is the spir-

Rabbi Josh Breindel itual leader of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield.

IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Thursday, January 21, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

For further information on all Jewish Federation of the Berkshires programs, please call Nancy Maurice Rogers, Program Director, at (413) 442-4360, ext. 15.

Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

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Your Federation Presents Volunteers are Vital! Donated Sleepwear Will Keep Local Kids Comfy and Cozy this Winter By Susan Frisch Lehrer, Coordinator of Volunteers kitchen for Purim. We’ll be baking selected Sundays and other days in January and February. Our Federation is once again collaborating with KI to provide hamantashen before Purim (March 24) to all of the homebound seniors and those in facilities. If you are interested in baking, packing, and/or delivering, please let me know. We’d love to have you join our team! We’re also looking for a few extra volunteer substitute drivers to help with our kosher lunch deliveries during the winter months. Please let me know if you are able to help with this vital program in our community. Our Jewish community is guided by the principles of gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), tzedakah (justice and righteousness), and tikun olam (repairing the world) and we do, indeed, work to build a compassionate community. Todah rabah – Thank you, to all!

What a wonderful community we have! So many volunteers pitched in during the holiday season: • Cooking and delivering meals at our local soup kitchens • Collecting food items for local pantries • Bringing Chanukah cheer to those in nursing homes • Collecting kids’ pajamas and holiday toys for families in need And much, much more. Thank you to all who participated. Our PJ Library and Jewish Federation of the Berkshires collected 140 pairs of children’s pajamas for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families in Pittsfield. Thank you to all of the local synagogues, the families of PJ Library, The Outlet at Pine Cone Hill, Hatley, and other local Berkshire folks who donated so that kids will be warm during our cold winter nights! I know it’s early yet, but I just got word from Cindy Helitzer that we’ll soon be baking hamantashen in the Congregation Knesset Israel

Standing beside 140 pairs of pajamas are Susan Frisch Lehrer, Coordinator of Volunteers and Susan Staskin, social worker at the MA Department of Children and Families office in Pittsfield

AdLib Advisors Talk About Living Independently, February 8 On Monday, February 8, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires hosts representatives of AdLib, the local Independent Living Center serving the Berkshires, who will talk about the group’s services. This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. Disability can happen at any time and at any age, but there are many resources that can help people in Berkshire County gain the necessary information for themselves or their loved ones. The discussion at this presentation will give a brief overview of AdLib’s services and mission. There will be time for attendees to ask questions and give suggestions as to the important issues relating to inclusion in all areas of life. Catherine Carchedi is the program manager at AdLib,

and has worked in various capacities at the center for over 20 years. Besides her responsibilities of overseeing programs within AdLib, she represents the agency on many advisory committees. Nancy RumboltTrzcinski is the assistant program manager at AdLib. She supervises the Independent Living Department, which consists of peer counselors, a small transportation program, and representative payee services for a limited number of consumers.

Nancy Rumbolt-Trzcinski & Catherine Carchedi

B’shalom, Susan Frisch Lehrer Coordinator of Volunteers and the PJ Library (413) 442-4360, ext. 14

Film – Paperclips On Thursday, February 11, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires screens Paper Clips, a film about a class project in rural Tennessee through which students explore the Holocaust. This free film at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. Paper Clips takes place in the rural blue-collar Tennessee community of Whitwell, where a middle-school class attempts to understand and take on a project that reflects World War II’s Holocaust by collecting paper clips, each of which represents a human life lost in the Nazis’ slaughter of Jews. Paper clips were chosen in part because Norwegians wore them on their lapels as a symbol of resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II. This documentary film about the project was released in 2004.



Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Monday, February 8, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Thursday, February 11, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

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Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016

Your Federation Presents Chair Yoga with KripaluCertified Instructor Robin Seeley, February 1 On Monday, February 1, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires hosts a chair yoga class let by Kripalu-certified instructor Robin Seeley. This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. Chair yoga is gentle and unique practice performed while sitting on a chair. Students are able to warm up the body safely and perform yoga poses with more support and stability. Students learn a variety of yoga postures and breathing Robin Seeley and daughter techniques that help increase flexibility, strength, and health. Chair yoga is suitable for all ages, fitness levels and physical conditions. Robin Seeley has studied and practiced yoga for the last 12 years. She says: “I believe in a compassionate approach to yoga and I guide my students in creating a connection between the mind and body while offering a safe and supported space to gain confidence from the inside out. My ultimate goal as a yoga instructor is to empower my students to become more skillful in listening to their inner wisdom that guides them in the flow of their lives both on and off the mat.”

IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Monday, February 1, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

New Program – “Plucked From the Headlines” on Jan. 7 & Feb. 4 On Thursday, January 7, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires initiates a monthly discussion series called “Plucked From the Headlines,” moderated by attorney Edward Insley. The issues of the day will be discussed based on the input of attendees. This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. The second installment is scheduled for Thursday, February 4, at 10:45 a.m. It’s not always easy keeping up with all that’s happening in the news, and this series is designed to offer insight and lively discussion. Topics will be introduced by moderator Edward Insley, and discussion will reflect the interests of the participants. Discussion topics might include: immigration, international refugee crisis, race relations, climate change, sustainable energy, and gun

control. Ed Insley is the founder of Business Gravity and Tax Gravity, a tax, accounting, and consulting firm. He is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and New York University, with a quad major in History, Political Science, Economics, and English. He received his JD from the Syracuse University College of Law, and served as chairman of the Students for Morgenthau Committee on behalf of Robert Morganthau, the Democratic candidate for governor of New York State in 1962. Later, he worked on Thomas Kean’s gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey and, with Governor Kean, was named Co-Humanitarian of the Year by the New Jersey Branch of the Humane Society of the United States. He is an avid reader of American historical biographies. He is currently reading at least one biography of every president.

Edward Insley

IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Thursday, January 7 and Thursday, February 4, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

“How to Stay Young: The First 100 years!” – on January 28 On Thursday, January 28, at 10:45 a.m., the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires hosts Britney Danials of New Life Chiropractic, who will be offering wellness tips in her presentation “How To Stay Young: The First 100 years!” This free program at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road in Pittsfield, is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community series. Danials says: “Our class emphasizes the fact that it is estimated by the year 2050, 800,000 Americans will be over the age of 100 and many will be living to 150! And although this is good news, we are also confronted with the fact that we are more likely to experience the health risks associated with aging. One of the biggest prob-

lems we have seen come about with an increased life span is the increase in musculoskeletal problems which interferes with our mobility.” Danials will discuss common health issues, as well as steps that can be taken to maintain wellness. Britney Danials has been a Board Certified Chiropractic Assistant at New Life Chiropractic in Pittsfield for the past 9 years. She has helped develop community partnerships for worksite wellness, hosting health fairs, coordinating philanthropic campaigns, and speaking about health and athletic performance.

Britney Danials

IF YOU GO Sponsor: Jewish Federation of the Berkshires / Connecting With Community Venue: Congregation Knesset Israel Date & Time: Thursday, January 28, at 10:45 a.m., followed by lunch (see page 12).

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Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

Page 11

Your Federation Presents Local Youths Visit Museum of Jewish Heritage A Berkshires contingent of b’nai mitzvah students and parents came together on November 22 for an inspiring day of learning and remembrance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. The trip, sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Berkshire County together with the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, included small group tours with discussions and a testimonial by Holocaust survivor Toby Levy, whose family was taken in by a Polish woman in 1942 and remained hidden in a barn until 1944.

Participants with Toby Levy

Federation Families Do a Mitzvah Thank you to the 94 kids, teens, and parents who participated in our Supermarket Sweeps as part of Federation Family Mitzvah Day, which took place simultaneously at the Big Y in Great Barrington and Price Chopper in Lenox. After all the riddles were solved and the correct food items were “swept’ off the shelves, more than 400 much needed items were donated to the People’s Pantry in Great Barrington and the Lee Food Pantry. The event was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and PJ Library with free pizza provided by both supermarkets.

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Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016

IMPORTANT NOTICE Knesset Israel renovations Due to renovations taking place at Congregation Knesset Israel, the Federation’s “Connecting With Community” series and kosher lunch program may experience some minor disruptions beginning November 2015 through March 2016. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will do our best to keep the community apprised of changes as they develop and appreciate your flexibility as we work to maintain the high quality of this valuable community program.

Programs take take place place Mondays Mondays and and Thursdays Thursdays at at 10:45 10:45 a.m. a.m. Lunch Lunch is is served served Mondays, Monday and Thursday Programs Tuesdays, at 12Thursdays p.m, through September 3. Tuesday lunch resumes on September 8. and at noon. Venue: Congregation Congregation Knesset Knesset Israel, Israel, 16 16 Colt Colt Rd, Rd, Pittsfield, Pittsfield, MA. MA. Venue:

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JANUARY Monday, 4...............10:45 a.m., “Process of Aging” with therapist, Maggie Bittman.  Lunch: Salisbury steak**#, mushroom barley soup, brown rice, wax beans, multigrain bread, apricots, and tea. Tuesday, 5................  Chicken cacciatore**#, wide noodles, salad, Italian bread, applesauce, and tea. Thursday, 7..............10:45 a.m., “Plucked From the Headlines” with Edward Insley.  Lunch: Fresh fish**, potato leek soup, roasted Brussels’ sprouts, lentil rice pilaf, whole wheat bread, ice cream and cookies, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee.

Thursday, 28............10:45 a.m., “How to Stay Young: The First 100 Years!” with Britney Danials.  Lunch: Fresh fish, mushroom soup, noodle kugel, mixed vegetables, scones, apple dumplings and ice cream, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee. FEBRUARY Monday, 1...............10:45 a.m., Chair Yoga with certified Kripalu teacher, Robin Seeley.  Lunch: Chicken pot pie*, salad, rice, Challah, pineapple, and tea. Tuesday, 2................  Salisbury Steak**#, mushroom barley soup, baby carrots, hash browns, rye bread, applesauce, and tea.

Monday, 11.............10:45 a.m., “Core Stability, Flexible Feet, and Balance” with Carol Bennett.  Lunch: Meat loaf**#, noodle soup, peas & carrots, mashed potatoes, Challah, pears, and tea.

Thursday, 4..............10:45 a.m., “Plucked From the Headlines” with Edward Insley.  Lunch: Pasta with tomatoes and white beans, chef’s choice of juice, salad, French bread, raspberry pillow cookies, and tea.

Tuesday, 12..............  Roasted chicken**#, chef’s choice soup, broccoli, parve noodle kugel, salad, rolls, brownies, and tea.

Monday, 8...............10:45 a.m., “Independent Living in our Community” with Catherine Carchedi and Nancy Rumbolt-Trzcinski of AdLib. February has been recognized as Jewish Disability Awareness Month so the Federation is highlighting the work of AdLib.  Lunch: Meat loaf**#, chicken noodle soup, peas, oven roasted potatoes, salad, rolls, fruit cocktail, and tea.

Thursday, 14............10:45 a.m., “Fictionalizing My Grandmother” with journalist, Ruth Bass.  Lunch: Tuna noodle casserole, zucchini rice soup, potato bread, ice cream and cookies, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee. Monday, 18.............Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Tuesday, 19..............  Pub Day – veggie hot wings and blue cheese dressing, vegetarian chili on baked potato, salad, garlic bread sticks, cake, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee. Thursday, 21............10:45 a.m., “Ancient Roots and Modern fruits: The Blessings of Tu B’Shevat” with Rabbi Josh Breindel.  Lunch: Potato and broccoli soup, tuna salad platters, farmer’s loaf, assorted dried fruits and nuts, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee. Monday, 25.............10:45 a.m., “The Jewish Commitment to Civil Rights” with Rabbi Israel Dresner.  Lunch: Curried couscous soup, turkey tenders, Italian beans, rice pilaf, French bread, grapes, and tea. Tuesday, 26..............  Meat leftovers and tea.

Tuesday, 9................  Roasted chicken**#, bean soup, mixed vegetables, noodles with onions, whole wheat bread, brownies, and tea. Thursday, 11............10:45 a.m., Film “Paperclips”  Lunch: Lentil chick pea stew**#, brown rice, salad, muffins, tropical fruit salad, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee. ............... Monday, 15.............Closed for Presidents’ Day Tuesday, 16..............  Fish chowder, grilled cheese sandwich, stewed tomatoes, salad, multi-grain bread, apricots, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee. Thursday, 18............Program to be announced.  Lunch: Tomato goat cheese pasta, broth with greens, beets, Bread TBA, chocolate chuck cookies, coffee, tea, and milk for coffee.

Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

Page 13


PITTSFIELD – Iris Ruth Peretzman, 76, passed away peacefully, on Sunday, November 8, at Berkshire Medical Center. Mrs. Peretzman was born in Bridgeport, CT, daughter of the late Irving and Lydia Lichter, and attended Central High School. She modeled as a teenager, had a love for fashion and enjoyed working at Leavitt’s Department Store and Read’s Department Store. Mrs. Peretzman also worked as a switchboard operator at Norwalk Community College. In August of 1955, she met her husband to be, Michael Peretzman, and they were married June 17, 1956. Mrs. Peretzman was a Brownie leader for her daughter’s troop, a member of B’nai B’rith Girls and a committee member of the Jewish War Veterans Ladies Auxiliary. She was an active member of the Shimshon Historical Society and became its secretary in 1971. She actively supported and volunteered for the Democratic Party in Bridgeport, CT, and later served her local community as an elected official. All who knew her enjoyed her love of cooking, baking, fashion, and entertaining. She enjoyed her visits to the casinos with her husband and time with her cherished grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mrs. Peretzman was predeceased by her beloved husband of 51 years, Michael Peretzman, in 2008, and a sister, Saundra Gail Parcharsky, in 2007. She is survived by a son, Marc Peretzman of Pittsfield; daughter, Bonnie Oszmian and husband Martin of Hancock; her adored grandchildren, Jenna Oszmian of Northampton, Shira Oszmian of New York, and Alana Klipper and her husband David of Long Island; and her cherished great-grandsons, Jared Klipper and Ryan Klipper. Funeral services were held Tuesday, November 10, at the Hebrew Sick Benefit Association Cemetery, Fairfield, CT.

Lewis M. Kronick, 85, veteran of the Korean War

Lee Bell, 87, active member of Jewish Community PITTSFIELD – Lee Bell, 87, passed away on Saturday, November 14, in Palm Harbor, FL. Born in the Bronx, a first generation American, Mr. Bell graduated from Evander Childs High School where he was the captain of the varsity swim team and held the New York City record for butterfly. He also graduated from the Institute for Cleaners and Dryers. During WWII, though color blind and under age, he managed to join the Coast Guard as a radio operator and was stationed in Cape May, NJ and San Diego, CA. He married Winifred (Wini) Beverly Mones in 1949. The couple recently celebrated 66 years of marriage. As newlyweds, the couple settled in Claverack, NY, where they joined the Claverack Players and performed in plays. Mr. Bell established a dry cleaning business to compliment the family laundry business. The couple moved to Greenport, NY, where they designed and built the first of many homes. Home designing, building, and renovating remained a lifelong passion for Mr. Bell. On January 1, 1957, Mr. Bell bought Berkshire Cleaners at 68 Dalton Avenue, having already moved his family to Pittsfield. He sold his dry cleaning business after several expansions that included purchases of Brady Cleaners and Swan Cleaners. Mr. Bell then started buying rental real estate both with a partner, Carl Proper, and by himself, doing business as Probe Realty and KIC Realty. During the 60s and 70s, Mr. Bell was an active member of the Jewish community. He served in several capacities at the Jewish Community Center and at Temple Anshe Amunim. He was an active brotherhood member, sang in the choir, and served as a joint youth advisor with his wife. Their home was open to all the youth they advised and over the years he remained in touch with many of the young people who sought his advice. In 1978, the couple bought a condominium in Safety Harbor, FL, and met Diane Carter Simon, who Lee considered his “fourth” daughter. Mr. Bell was active in rental real estate in both Massachusetts and Florida. In 1992, he sold his remaining properties in Pittsfield to Richard Stanley, who honored Lee by naming the new company Bellco Realty. He sold his Florida properties in 1999. Throughout his years as a landlord, he was known to be kind and generous and often lent a helping hand to a tenant in need. The last home Mr. Bell built with design input from his beloved wife was at the newly established Woodmonte Estates

in Pittsfield. The ponds and gardens he created at this new home have twice been featured on the Pittsfield Garden Tour. He raised chickens, ducks and quail. He even flew a select few chickens back and forth from Florida. He grew blueberries, strawberries, and an orchard of peaches, and apples. The couple traveled extensively through the world and the United States. He mentored a wide variety of family, friends, and colleagues, and attended concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL and Tanglewood. Mr. Bell was pre-deceased by brothers Bill and Louis Bell. He is survived by his wife, Winifred (Wini); children, Kathy Lynn Bell, Ivy Sue Bell, Cindy Lee Bell-Deane, and “fourth” daughter, Diane Carter Simon; sons-in-law, Bruce Riggs, Barry Berman, and David Bell-Deane. He leaves granddaughters Kendra BellDeane, Maressa Waber, and Nathalie Berman; grandsonsin-law Daniel and Andrew, and “grandchildren,” Rachael Simon and Elliot Simon; sister, Elizabeth Kohn and sisterin-law, Rita Bell along with nieces, nephews, and lifelong buddy, Norman Becker. Lee will be missed by all. Mr. Bell’s body has been donated to medical research. The funeral was private. A public memorial service was held at Temple Anshe Amunim on Sunday, November 22 with Rabbi David Weiner officiating. Donations in Lee Bell’s memory may be made to Suncoast Hospice Foundation, 5771 Roosevelt Boulevard, Clearwater, FL 33760 or the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires Connecting With Community lunch program.

Harry Franklin, 95, survivor of Holocaust LENOX – Harry Franklin, 95, was born Hermann Harry Hirschbein in Vienna, Austria on November 13, 1920 to Charlotte Frankovitz, originally from Romania, and Moritz Hirschbein, originally from Poland. In the United States, he changed his name to Franklin, a derivative of Frankovitz, and chose to go by the name Harry Franklin. Mr. Franklin passed away in Lenox on Saturday, November 14, one day after his 95th birthday. In Vienna, Mr. Franklin attended gymnasium, equivalent to high school in the US. He was handsome, studious, an actor and athlete, and interested in arts and politics. He was a junior champion in 80 meter hurdles and high jumping, and was in rehearsals for the role William Tell when Hitler invaded Austria in 1936. Prior to the invasion, he was arrested and briefly jailed, falsely accused of being a Communist at a time when Austria was no longer a democracy and all political parties were banned. As part of his English studies in gymnasium, Mr. Franklin’s English teacher gave him an American pen pal, Lillian Wolfram, who was a non-Jew whose family eventually offered to sponsor him if he could escape to America. At the railroad station on Novem-

ber 8, 1938, his friends and relatives lined up to say goodbye. That was the last time he saw his parents, crying and waving as the train pulled out towards Holland and the boat to England, then to New Jersey harbor to meet his American family, the Wolframs. During World War II, from 1942 to 1946, Harry served in the U.S. Army, including a year in Germany. He reached the rank of staff sergeant in Military Intelligence and first lieutenant in the Army Reserves. Later he attended Columbia University on the G.I. Bill, graduating with a B.S. in Economics. He became a C.P.A., a career he loved and practiced successfully for many years. Toward the end of his military career, he married Evelyn Popper von Podhragy, Viennese and living in New York City, who had also escaped the Nazis. They married in 1946, moved to Long Island, and had two children: a son, Michael, whose death preceded Harry’s, and a daughter, Susanne. Mr. Franklin’s activities include four years in a public accounting firm, being treasurer and controller of one and controller of the other; starting a private C.P.A. practice; purchasing and running an accounting firm; a stint in real estate sales; teaching accounting at a CUNY college; taking graduate courses at St. John’s University in Queens, New York; and, developing and teaching accounting, as well as German courses, at Berkshire Community College. He was a Mason for over 50 years, and Master of a Masonic Lodge in New York City. Mr. Franklin was also president of the Queens B’nai B’rith Council and was a Tanglewood volunteer for more than 10 years. He also loved cooking, crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble, acting, current events, reading, writing, and music. He was passionate for all the arts. In 1971, Harry and Evelyn divorced. He subsequently married Harriet Quaker and they resided in Queens, NY. In 1981 they purchased a summer home in Housatonic, MA, where they spent increasing amounts of time over the years. Harriet died in 2007. Shortly after, he moved into Kimball Farms in Lenox. Mr. Franklin is survived by his daughter, Susanne Franklin Alexander; sister, Johanna Saper; a niece, Charlotte Saper; and two nephews, Craig and Cliff Saper. He is also survived by a step-daughter and step-son-in-law, Jan and Jack Halsbond and grandchildren, Emily and Douglas Halsbond. A graveside funeral service was held on Sunday, November 29, at Ahavath Sholom Cemetery in Great Barrington. Donations may be made to Financial Aid at Columbia College noting ALLOCATION


CEDARHURST, NY – Lewis M. Kronick, 85, died Friday, November 13, at Rockville Pavilion Nursing Home in Rockville Center, NY. Born in North Adams on June 17, 1930, son of Charles E. and Sadie (Epstein) Kronick, he was raised by his father and stepmother, Flora Kronick. Mr. Kronick graduated from Drury High School and Bryant College. He was a veteran of the Korean War and served in the US Army. He was employed in the restaurant and hotel industry in South Florida until his retirement. He was a member of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams. Mr. Kronick is survived by his two sons, Stephen Kronick and his wife Nancy of Cedarhurst, NY and Lawrence Kronick and his wife Joann of Pittsfield. He also leaves his grandson, Joshua Kronick and his wife Michal of Baltimore,

MD, and two great-grandsons, Yehuda and Ari. Funeral services were held Sunday, November 15 at Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams. Burial followed in Beth Israel Cemetery in Clarksburg.

#32216 c/o Finnerty & Stevens Funeral Home, 426 Main St., Great Barrington, MA 01230.

Norma Reder, 82, artist and teacher BONITA SPRINGS, FL – Norma Munter Reder of Bonita Springs, FL, and Block Island, RI, died peacefully with her family by her side on Sunday, November 22. Born November 29, 1932, in Buffalo, NY, she was the daughter of the late Harold and Mary Bowers Munter. She was predeceased by her sister, Mae Robertson, and son-inlaw, Chick Delano. While working and attending Buffalo State College, she met Jason A. Reder, who was a medical school student at the University of Buffalo. They were married on June 8, 1958, the same day he graduated medical school and she graduated college. From 1958-1962, Dr. and Mrs. Reder lived and worked in Albany, NY, where she began her career teaching art to hundreds of elementary and middle school students in the Niskayuna school system. Upon completion of his residency, the couple moved to Pittsfield and started their family. As residents of Pittsfield for over 40 years, Dr. Reder built his OB/GYN practice while Mrs. Reder raised their children. She was an active member of Temple Anshe Amunim’s Sisterhood, supported Berkshire Families and Children, and was an active PTO mom at her children’s schools. When her children were grown, she re-submerged herself into her art. She focused on improving her watercolor technique, refining the details of her oils while also experimenting with acrylics. She enjoyed spending time with two passions, painting still lifes and landscapes while enjoying vacation time on Block Island, RI. Mrs. Reder was active in showing her artwork in the Pittsfield Art League, the Art League of Bonita Springs, FL, and in The Spring Street Gallery on Block Island. Many friends, family, and art collectors around the country are fortunate to have her works hanging on their walls. Dr. Reder will forever miss his dearest lifelong partner. She also leaves her children Andrew and Jennifer Reder of Bryn Mawr, PA; Suzanne Reder-Delano of Amherst, MA; and Melissa and Michael Armitage of Fort Myers, FL. She also leaves her grandchildren Lindsey, Colin, Jason, Madalyn, Morgan and Harry. A memorial celebrating Mrs. Reder’s life will be held on Block Island in July. Donations may be made to the Block Island Medical Center, P.O. Box 919, New Shoreham, RI 02807.

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Iris Ruth Peretzman, 76, loved cooking, baking, fashion and entertaining

Page 14

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

Educational Opportunities

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Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

Page 15

BERKSHIRE JEWISH CONGREGATIONS & ORGANIZATIONS Berkshire Hills Hadassah P.O. Box 187, Pittsfield, MA (413) 443-4386, B’nai B’rith Lodge, No. 326 Chabad of the Berkshires 450 South St., Pittsfield, MA (413) 499-9899, Check website for service times and locations.

Welcome to the Jewish Berkshires Everyone is welcome to attend services and events at any of the organizations listed here. Please call the organizations directly to confirm service times or to inquire about membership.

Congregation Ahavath Sholom Reconstructionist North St., Great Barrington, MA (413) 528-4197, Services: Fridays at 5:30 p.m., Saturdays at 10 a.m. Call to confirm services

Learn more about our Jewish community and find great events on the community calendar at: JEWISHBERKSHIRES.ORG ________________________ Berkshire Minyan Lay-led egalitarian minyan held at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, 270 State Rd., Great Barrington, MA (413) 229-3618, Services: Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.

Congregation Beth Israel Reform 53 Lois St., North Adams, MA (413) 663-5830, Services: Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. Congregation Knesset Israel Conservative 16 Colt Rd., Pittsfield, MA (413) 445-4872, Services: Fridays at 5:45 p.m., Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.

Hevreh of Southern Berkshire Reform 270 State Rd., Great Barrington, MA (413) 528-6378, Services: Fridays 7:30 p.m., except first Friday of month, 6 p.m., Saturdays, Torah Study at 9 a.m., services at 10 a.m. Call to confirm. Israel Philatelist Society c/o Rabbi Harold Salzmann 24 Ann Dr., Pittsfield, MA (413) 442-4312

BEYOND THE BERKSHIRES Congregation Anshe Emeth Conservative 240 Joslen Blvd., Hudson, NY (518) 828-6848, Services: Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. Congregation Beth El 107 Adams St., Bennington, VT (802) 442-9645, Services: Saturdays at 10 a.m.

Jewish Federation of the Berkshires 196 South St., Pittsfield, MA (413) 442-4360 Jewish War Veterans Commander Robert Waldheim (413) 822-4546, RIMON – A Collaborative Community for Jewish Spirituality PO Box 502, Great Barrington, MA (413) 274-1034, Temple Anshe Amunim Reform 26 Broad St., Pittsfield, MA (413) 442-5910, Services: Fridays at 5:30 p.m., Saturdays, Torah Study at 9:30 a.m., services at 10:45 a.m.

Nassau Jewish Community Center & Synagogue Route 20, Box 670, Nassau, NY (518) 766-9831 Services: Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. Temple Israel of Catskill Reform 220 Spring St., Catskill, NY (518) 943-5758, The Chatham Synagogue Route 28, Box 51, Chatham, NY (518) 392-0701, Services: Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.


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Page 16

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016


Traveling with Jewish Taste Who is the Winner – Old Country Cook vs. Today’s “It” Caterer? By Carol Goodman Kaufman This month I present two books about food. And two more different volumes could not exist. One is the memoir of a self-described American “wild child,” the other the work of a noted vegetarian nutritionist. Let’s start with (or get over) The Raging Skillet, described as “The True Story of Chef Rossi/A Memoir With Recipes.” Slovah Davida Shana Ross (she dropped the first three names and added the “i” to the last) was a rebellious teen. According to her publisher’s bio: “Rossi’s parents felt they have no other choice: they shipped her off to live with a Chasidic rabbi in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Within the confines of this restrictive culture, Rossi’s big city dreams took root.” She ran away from home immediately after high school graduation, and lived a peripatetic alcohol- and drug-infused lifestyle for more than a decade before settling into life as the “it” caterer in New York. The memoir is a fast read, I’ll give it that, but I tired quickly of Rossi’s constant denigration of her parents, whom she describes as loud and cheap. It isn’t until much later in the book that she seems to have matured enough to give the reader a more balanced and compassionate view of them. The recipes in the earliest chapters are obviously for dishes made in her years living in rat holes with roommates. Hot Plate Hebrew Nationals and Pasta and White Trash But Keepin’ it Kosher Tuna and Macaroni Salad are but two entrees. Dessert is Leftover Entenmann’s and Pudding Cake. As Rossi matures, the recipes evolve with her, but at no point did I see recipes that might actually be part of a New York caterer’s repertoire. The I Did It All for Love Chicken was bland, and while the vegetables in her Turkish salad were crisp and colorful, the vinegar and oil dressing recipe added nothing. At one point Rossi avers that (her mother) Harriet’s Turkey and Rice Meatballs were “killer,” so I was happy to try the recipe, especially since I just happened to have all the ingredients in the fridge. That dish was so flavorless that I had to pull out the ketchup Chef Rossi bottle. On the completely opposite end of the cookbook spectrum is The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook, its backstory as interesting as its recipes. Fania Lewando, a noted nutritionist and cooking teacher in early 20th century Vilna, also ran a popular vegetarian restaurant. Artist Marc Chagall was known to have been a patron, along with other members of the intelligentsia. In the fall of 1941, Soviet soldiers captured Lewando and her husband as they were fleeing the Nazis. They died in the hands of the Soviets. But, before she died, Lewando had written a cookbook in Yiddish, and in 1995 a couple attending an antiquarian book fair in England found a copy of it, bought it, and donated it to New York’s YIVO Institute. Sometime later, two women perusing the shelves on the Lower East Side discovered the book published in 1938. They had it translated, and now we have The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook. The raw ingredients in the recipes are those we associate with Eastern Europe: potatoes, beets, cabbage, apples, and kasha. And loads of butter and sour cream. Because Lewando was working with a wood stove, she gives no directions as to oven temperature, so experience in the kitchen is necessary so as not to overcook or undercook the dishes. On the savory side of the menu is a very simple-to-make Fresh Cucumber Salad. Lemon juice, sour cream, and dill bring out the summer in this starter, a nice treat when the weather turns dreary. While the only times I’ve ever eaten kasha it was made with bowties or as a turkey stuffing, or maybe by mistake in a knish when I thought I was getting potato, buckwheat stars in five distinct recipes in this book. And for good reason. I will be making the Baked Buckwheat Kasha with Cheese again and again. This very easy recipe combines protein and whole grain in a delicious and hearty main dish. Two sweet dishes, both perfect for a Sunday brunch, manifest the truth of the old adage, “the proof is in the pudding.” The first, Semolina Porridge, with slivered almonds, almond extract, sugar, raisins, vanilla, and orange peel, made enough to serve a crowd. I would recommend a slight change to the recipe. Rather than use the called-for candied orange peel, simply grate an orange into the mix. You won’t miss the extra sugar. We certainly didn’t. As an Ashkenazi Jew, I have probably eaten more than my share of kugel, whether of the noodle or potato variety, but until now, I’d never had An image from the older book

Fania Lewando

The original cookbook

one made with rice. I certainly will again, however. Lewando’s Rice Kugel, calling for grated apples, orange peel, raisins, and almond extract, made the house smell divine. The flavor: scrumptious. If these four recipes are any indication, it’s easy to understand how Fania Lewando’s century-old plant-based recipes attracted a loyal following. I highly recommend this book.

Rice Kugel From The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook This Sunday-brunch-perfect recipe is really easy to make and so delicious, Joel has asked for a repeat. Please note that Fania Lewando didn’t have a thermostat on her wood stove, so you may have to adjust time and temp for your own oven. Ingredients: 1¼ cups rice ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon melted butter 4 tablespoons sugar 1 large grated apple

¾ cup raisins ½ cup candied orange peel* ½ teaspoon almond extract 2 eggs salt

Directions: Following package directions, cook rice in 2 ½ cups water until soft Mix all ingredients well and pour into a small loaf pan. Fill a larger baking dish with water, and place the loaf pan into the water bath Bake until brown.** *I used freshly grated orange peel, and it was just fine. Save the sugar for another occasion. ** I set my oven to 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Excerpted from THE VILNA VEGETARIAN by Fania Lewando. Copyright © 2015 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Schocken, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Carol Goodman Kaufman is a psychologist and author with a passion for travel and food. She is currently at work on a food history/cookbook, tracing the paths that some of our favorite foods have taken from their origins to appear on dinner plates and in cultural rites and artifacts around the world. She invites readers to read her blog at and to follow her on Twitter @goodmankaufman.

Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

Page 17

LOCAL NEWS BERKSHIRE CANCER CARE, continued from page 1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations that predispose women to breast and ovarian cancers. A few facts from the website of Sharsheret, a national not-forprofit organization supporting families of all Jewish backgrounds facing breast cancer: • Approximately 1 in 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent carry an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, compared to approximately 1 in 345 individuals in the general population. In families with an inherited predisposition, cancers may occur in several family members and at younger ages than usual.

already enhanced its cancer services in January 2014 when it opened the Berkshire Medical Center Cancer Center in Pittsfield. Collaboration

In September, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital named Berkshire Medical Center Cancer Center as the first member of the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Care Collaborative (DF/BWCCC). The hospitals entered into the collaboration following an extensive review by DF/BWCCC clinicians and other specialists of BMC’s outpatient medical oncology practices and procedures, including patient • Both men and women can safety protocols, nursing and carry a BRCA mutation pharmacy practices, chemoand have a 50% chance of therapy administration, and passing it to each of their information systems. At press children. Not everyone time, the agreement was under who inherits the mutareview by the Massachusetts tion will develop breast or Health Policy Commission. ovarian cancer. The agreement will al• For those carrying mutalow BMC doctors to consult tions, the risk for breast Dana-Farber specialists when cancer may reach 50-80% treating complex cases of canand for ovarian cancer, cer, as well as provide ongoing 44%, compared to the educational opportunities for average woman’s breast caregivers. Innovations in cancer risk of 12% and patient care will also be shared ovarian cancer risk of more rapidly, and each year 1-2%. the BMC Cancer Center’s pracGiven these statistics, the tices and procedures will be initiatives at BMC are clearly reviewed to ensure that high of particular interest to – and standards remain in place. are likely to have an impact on For patients, the collabo– the Jewish community of the ration will provide a streamBerkshires. The hospital had lined means for doctors at Dana-Farber to review case Fund for BRCA Support histories and provide second The Margolis Family Fund for BRCA Gene opinions, says Mutation Detection to Prevent Breast & Dawn Brooks, Ovarian Cancers is a local resource for inforMD, an oncolomation, support, and financial assistance for gist at the BMC families in the Berkshire Community whose Cancer Center. members may be appropriate for genetic Radiologist testing, as well as individuals who may be Lisa Loring, MD, preparing for or recovering from preventative medical director medical intervention. of the Women’s For more information contact Dara Kaufman, Imaging Center Executive Director, Jewish Federation of the at BMC, reBerkshires at (413) 442-4360, ext. 12 or ceived fellowship training from

Dr. Lisa Loring Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and says: “The equipment at Sloan-Kettering is the same as we have here. BMC is a jewel of a hospital.” Survey and Screening Dr. Loring is spearheading an initiative that begins in mid-January that will help BMC caregivers better identify individuals who are at high risk of developing cancer, and implement individualized care plans suited to their needs. Women going to BMC for mammograms will now fill out an extensive survey of their own and family medical histories, data that will be fed into a program that runs several risk models. Patients will then be categorized at low, medium, or high risk of developing cancer, with high risk individuals receiving a greater level of monitoring. Dr. Loring says the screenings have a marked psychological benefit, as well. “Many women are walking around worrying,” she says. “Now, more will be able to feel good that they are at least doing all they can, and feel empowered.” She adds that improving screening is important in light of recent changes by the American Cancer Society to its

guidelines for breast cancer screening. The society has stopped recommending that women at average risk between the ages of 40 and 44 have mammograms, and advises reducing the frequency of mammograms from every year to every other year for women 55 and older. Dr. Loring says that the society is reacting to reports of false positives and over-diagnosing of breast cancer although she, along with many of her colleagues nationally, does not agree with the changes. She says that approximately 16 percent of women who develop breast cancer do so in their 40s, and that those cancers tend to be aggressive. She added that American Cancer Society panel making

the new recommendations did not include breast specialists, and that the recommendations may affect the way insurance compensation is determined. With early detection the ultimate goal, she explains, a breast MRI is the “Cadillac procedure for detecting invasive cancer,” with a nearly total rate of accuracy. While all tests have their flaws, the benefits to the patient of early detection – smaller tumors, less aggressive treatment, less disfiguring surgery, a lesser risk that the disease may spread to lymph nodes – outweigh the negatives. “To delay diagnosis doesn’t make sense,” says Dr. Loring, who hopes the survey initiative will be an effective preventative tool.

“Should I be Worried?” – Local Radiologist to Address Questions about Mammography GREAT BARRINGTON – On Sunday, January 10, at 2 p.m., Stuart Masters, MD, will speak about mammography at the Hadassah of Berkshire Hills general meeting at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire. The subjects Dr. Masters will address include: Clearing up recent confusing news about how often a woman should have a mammogram What to expect The meaning and significance of “dense breasts” Alternative types of imaging Dr. Masters has more than 30 years of experience performing mammography, breast ultrasound, and ultrasound-guided and stereotactic breast autopsies. He trained at Duke University School of Medicine, was an assistant professor of Radiology at Yale University School of Medicine, and associate professor of Radiology at University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This program is free and open to the public. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire is located at 270 State Road, Great Barrington.

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As my parents planted for me before I was born, so do I plant for those who come after me. – Talmud Thank you to these individuals who through their gift to the Legacy Circle will ensure that the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires thrives long into the future. May your name be a Blessing, and may the example you set inspire others to create their own Jewish Legacy.

Anonymous (9) Ed Abrahams Norman Avnet Barbara Bashevkin Robert Bashevkin Linda J. L. Becker Robert Berend Shelley Berend Helene Berke

Lawrence Berke Lee & Sydelle Blatt Betty Braun Cipora Brown Barbara Cohen Mark Cohen Mimi Cohen C. Jeffrey & Judith Cook Gerry & Lynn Denmark Jonathan & Lara Denmark Sheila K. Donath Melva Eidelberg Monroe England, in memory of Monroe B. & Isabel England Dr. Armand V. Feigenbaum, of blessed memory Dr. Donald S. Feigenbaum, of blessed memory Steven Feiner Diana & Stanley Feld

Stuart M. Fischman Lynn & William Foggle Elaine Freidman Eiran Gazit Jeffrey Goldwasser & Jonquil Wolfson Jordan & Laura Green Harold Grinspoon Ellen Heffan Ed Jaffe, of blessed memory Elihu Katzman Marilyn Katzman Howard & Nancy Kaufman Lawrence Klein Sarah Klein Arthur Kriger, of blessed memory Fred & Brenda Landes Beth Laster-Nathan Andrew S. Levine

Toby H. Levine Erna Lindner-Gilbert Amy Lindner-Lesser Helen Maislen Ellen Masters Stuart Masters Estelle Miller Robert Newman, of blessed memory Ken & Fran Rubenstein Stella Schecter Arlene D. Schiff Gary Schiff Stephen & Deborah Schreier Martin Silver Sylvia Silverberg, in memory of Jerome Silverberg Richard A. Simons & Marcie Greenfield Simons Mark & Elisa Snowise

Harold Sparr Lisa Fletcher-Udel Edward Udel Michael & Joan Ury Mark & Judy Usow Henry & Beate Voremberg, of blessed memory Alexandra Warshaw Florence Wineberg, of blessed memory Rabbi Deborah Zecher & Rabbi Dennis Ross

Page 18

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016


Temple Anshe Amunim and First Baptist Church to Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. with Joint Service PITTSFIELD – On Friday, January 15, Rabbi Josh Breindel of Temple Anshe Amunim and Pastor Sheila Sholes-Ross of First Baptist Church will hold a service in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. This joint event will be held at Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street at 7:00 p.m., and is open to all members of the community. A light dessert reception will follow. The service, an annual event, will reflect the joint themes of social action and

awareness. It will include inspirational readings, as well as music by the Temple Anshe Amunim and First Baptist Church choirs. “Reverend King lived the mantra to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’…meaning, no matter the neighbor’s thought pattern or belief,” says Pastor SholesRoss. “Lovingly, as Rabbi Josh and I come together with our congregations, are we not living the dream of neighbor-focused love?” Rabbi Breindel adds: “Rev-

Pastor Sheila Sholes-Ross of First Baptist Church erend King taught that people of faith must stand together. Pastor Sheila and I hope to demonstrate the truth of this lesson. By singing together, by praying together, by learning together, we feel that we can show hope and healing to our community.”

Last year’s MLK Day service at TAA For more information, contact the Temple Anshe Amunim office at (413) 442-5910,

or email templeoffice@ or visit

Congregation Beth Israel Adds an Association with the ALEPH Network NORTH ADAMS – In November, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat announced that Congregation Beth Israel, which is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, is adding a connection to a collaborative initiative called the ALEPH Network. Rabbi Barenblat serves as a national co-chair of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and was ordained a rabbi within the Jewish Renewal movement. CBI joins Rimon: A Collaborative Community for Jewish Spirituality as the second Berkshires Jewish institution associated with the ALEPH Network. “I’m excited to be connecting CBI with the ALEPH Network for at least two reasons,”

says Rabbi Barenblat. “One is personal: CBI is my home congregation, and ALEPH is my spiritual home and maintains the seminary that ordained me. So bringing them together feels like a homecoming. The other reason is that I think it will be great for CBI. I’m excited to be connecting CBI with this growing network of innovative, creative, heart-centered communities, institutions, and individuals around the world. “In my rabbinate at CBI,” she adds, “I draw on a variety of Jewish Renewal spiritual technologies, from chant to spiritual direction. Joining the ALEPH Network is a small way of giving back to the organization which brought these spiritual technologies into the

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat world. I want to connect us with other communities where people are exploring these resources. I can’t wait to see what emerges in the connections and conversations between members of the ALEPH Network.” Rabbi Barenblat explained that the ALEPH Network is an alliance of organizations, individuals, shuls, and more at the vibrant cutting edge of Judaism, and is not a denomination. It can be congruent with denominationally-affiliated congregational life and also with organizations, institutions, and individuals who are independent or post-denominational.

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Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

Page 19


Welcome the New Year of the Novelist Jim Shepard to Discuss Trees with a Family-Friendly The Book of Aron at CBI Shabbat Service NORTH ADAMS – Congrethere with Dr. Janusz Korczak PITTSFIELD – Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street, invites the community to celebrate Tu b’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, on Friday, January 22, beginning at 5 p.m. The evening will begin with Shabbat Shira, the Sabbath of Song, and a family-friendly Friday evening service full of music. The celebration continues with an exploration of the enduring connections between Judaism and nature. The service will feature both adult and student leaders of the Temple Anshe Anunim community. A dairy dinner will be served following the service, featuring those fruits that

are symbolically linked to Tu b’Shevat. There is a $5 per person charge for the dinner, with a maximum charge of $20 per family. Reservations are required for dinner. Please contact the Temple office by January 18 by calling (413) 442-5910 or emailing TempleOffice@ This event is open to all members of the Jewish community and the community at large who would like to experience a service celebrating the New Year of Trees. For more information, call Esther Benari-Altmann at (413) 4425910, or email

gation Beth Israel will host acclaimed author and Williams College creative writing professor Jim Shepard (Like You’d Understand, Anyway and Project X) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 20, for a discussion of his 2015 novel The Book of Aron, a book hailed by the Washington Post as “a masterpiece.” The exhaustively researched story explores the lives of children caught up in the Holocaust through the eyes of 8-year-old Aron, whose prewar life was marked by poverty and hardship. Once the war begins, he smuggles contraband into the Warsaw ghetto, and Shepard imagines him developing a relationship

– a historical figure who was a Polish-Jewish doctor renowned throughout prewar Europe as an educator and advocate of children’s rights. Once the Nazis swept in, Korczak was put in charge of the Warsaw orphanage, and stayed with his charges as they were sent to Treblinka, despite being offered sanctuary. Korczak perished in the camp. “A testament to Shepard’s storytelling powers [with] vitality, compassion and sardonic humour… The Book of Aron carries the burden of its subject with a mordant frankness at once heartbreaking, refreshing and—hardest won of all—enchanting,” wrote Toby Lichtig in The Jewish Quarter-


Game tiles, from Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game by Gregg Swain and Ann Israel

MAZEL TOV Mazel tov to Ed Oshinsky on being chosen Congregation Beth Israel’s recipient of the MICAH (Members in Community Action Honoree) Award by the congregation’s board of directors. This award, sponsored by the Berkshire Interfaith Organization (BIO), recognizes Oshinsky’s work for the Take and Eat program and other volunteer efforts. An awards dinner will be held at St. Mark School in Pittsfield on January 24 – for information and reservations, contact the CBI office at or BIO at

Ed Oshinsky * Mazel tov to Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, which in October held its 100th annual meeting at Temple Sinai in Springfield. The Jewish Federation of the Berkshires contracts with JFS to provide a full-time social worker based in our Pittsfield office who provides office-based and in-home counseling, as well as information resources to older adults. * Mazel tov to Shana Metzger, daughter of Margery and Alan Metzger, on being named general manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, a founding franchise of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and bitter rival of the Berkshires’ own Pittsfield Suns. * Mazel tov to Gwynne and Ross Frankel on the birth of Rowynn Leya Charlotte Frankel in November. * Mazel tov to Ruth Abram and BEHOLD! New Lebanon, the nation’s first living museum of contemporary rural American life, which was chosen to receive the $175,000 J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize supporting inter-disciplinary innovation in the fields of cultural heritage, human rights, and the natural environment. Prior to founding BEHOLD! New Lebanon (which presented its first full season of programming in 2015), Abram was the founding president of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan.

ly. “Jim Shepard’s novel enters a crowded canon and it stands there, head and shoulders, with the best.” For more information, call (413) 663-5830 or visit the website at www.cbiweb. org. CBI is located at 53 Lois Street.

Introduction to Judaism – Explore Key Texts, Concepts, and History

Mah Jongg Mania. Mah Jongg Mania. Mah Jongg Mania. Berkshire Hills Hadassah invites mah jongg enthusiasts from across the Berkshires to join them at one of three locations on Groundhog Day, Tuesday, February 2. Play in North Adams at Congregation Beth Israel, in mid-county at Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield, or at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington. There will be a $5.00 per person cover charge. To reserve a spot at any of the locations, please call (413) 443-4386. Also know: If you order 2016 mah jongg cards through Berkshire Hills Hadassah, Hadassah receives $1.25 for every card ordered (plus a $15 bonus for purchasing more than 35 cards).

Jim Shepard

GREAT BARRINGTON – Starting on January 24, Rabbi Neil Hirsch will present “Introduction to Judaism,” an 8-session series of classes designed for individuals and couples wishing to explore Judaism, who want to deepen their knowledge of Judaism and Jewish culture, or who may be considering becoming Jewish. Rabbi Hirsch says the course provides participants with an opportunity to learn about Jewish history, traditions, holidays, and lifecycle ceremonies. “Participants will gain comfort and familiarity with the symbols, liturgy, music, traditions and Hebrew blessings that accompany Jewish celebrations in the home and synagogue,” he says. “This interactive class, open to the entire community, is an opportunity to build Jewish literacy and examine how Judaism is practiced and understood.” Interfaith couples are encouraged to enroll together, although that is not a requirement.

Rabbi Neil Hirsch Advance registration is required, and there is a $35 materials fee. Classes are scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to noon on the following (non-consecutive) Sundays: January 24 & 31; February 7 & 28; March 6, 13, 20, & 27; and April 3 & 10. For more information about this class please email or call the Hevreh office at (413) 5286378. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire is located at 270 State Road.

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Page 20

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016


Hevreh to Mark MLK Day with Remembrances and Film Screening

South County Lunch & Learns – American-Jewish Encounters and The Torah of Money

GREAT BARRINGTON – Hevreh of Southern Berkshire will mark the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with three special events.

GREAT BARRINGTON – This winter, Hevreh of Southern Berkshire will present two continuing education classes for adults starting at 11:45 a.m. Both are free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and learn with the rabbis!

Film – Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent On Sunday, January 17, at 11 a.m., Hevreh sponsors the screening of Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent, an hour-long documentary about the leading rabbi in 1930s Berlin who emigrated to America. Rabbi Prinz became one of Dr. King’s closest confidantes, and was the speaker just prior to King at the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. This address has been widely acclaimed throughout the history of the Civil Rights Movement, remembered for the rabbi’s assertion that in the face of discrimination, “the most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence.” The screening will be at The Triplex in Great Barrington, 70 Railroad Street, and will be followed by a short discussion. The cost is $10 per ticket, and

Short Stories: The American-Jewish Encounter in the 20th Century Join Rabbi Jodie Gordon on four consecutive Wednesdays beginning January 13 for a class focusing on short stories by influential writers in the American canon, each of whom bring a unique Jewish perspective to their writing. The stories that will be discussed are: January 13: “Gimpel the Fool” by I.B. Singer January 20: “Looking for Mr. Green” by Saul Bellow January 27: “The Magic Barrel” by Bernard Malamud February 3: “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick only 100 seats are available. Call the Hevreh office at (413) 528-6378 for advance tickets – tickets will also be available at the door, if not sold out in advance. For more information please contact or call the Hevreh office.

by the Southern Berkshire Clergy Association and Interfaith Committee of Southern Berkshire. The event will take place on Monday, January 18 at noon at the First Congregational Church, 251 Main Street in Great Barrington.

Multi-Denominational Celebration

Yachad Day of Service

Hevreh of Southern Berkshire will join a multi-denominational celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. sponsored

DISABILITY AWARENESS, continued from page 1 “More than kindness or even obligation, however, this participation benefits us all by enriching our community. True participation may involve ramps, listening devices, and braille siddurim, but it starts with a collective passion to tear down the physical, emotional, and spiritual barriers that stand between us.” Matan Aryeh Koch is an associate at Kramer, Levin, Naftalis, & Frankel LLP in New York, where he specializes in commercial litigation and advertising. Born with cerebral palsy, Koch has extensive involvement in the disability community. He served as vice chairman of the New Haven Commission on Disabilities, where he chaired the Americans with Disabilities Act Subcommittee from 2001-2002. Koch currently serves on the Union for Reform Judaism-Department of Jewish Family

Concerns’ Disability Task Force Special Needs Camping Committee. While working in the legal division of Procter & Gamble, he was active in P&G’s People with Disabilities Network. Koch served on the board of Jewish Vocational Services of Cincinnati. Koch began Yale at 16 years of age and became a lawyer, with a degree from Harvard Law School, by age 23. He also earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale, where he was president of the Student Disability Community. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire is located at 270 State Road in Great Barrington. For more information about this event, please email or call the Hevreh office at (413) 5286378. Please see related articles on pages 4 & 22.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” To honor Dr. King’s legacy, on Sunday, January 17 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Hevreh will dedicate a Yachad school day of service to helping community. Projects will include preparing food for soup kitchens, gathering and sorting food for the People’s Pantry, and service projects around town. For more information, please contact jlee@hevreh. org or call the Hevreh office at (413) 528-6378.

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Participants are asked to read the story ahead of time; stories can be picked up in the Hevreh lobby and are also available in pdf by emailing Rabbi Gordon at The Torah of Money


Join Rabbi Neil Hirsch on four consecutive Wednesdays beginning February 10 for an overview of Jewish thought and practice about money matters. Jewish tradition has a perspective on the use of money, and the class will explore relevant texts on how to handle dollars and cents. Classes will take place on February 10, 17, & 24, and will conclude on March 2. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire is located at 270 State Road, Great Barrington. For more information please contact or call the Hevreh office at (413) 528-6378.

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Tevet-Shevat-Adar I 5776

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

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Calendar – Ongoing Events Around the Community Continuous – Chabad of the Berkshires “Smile on Seniors,” or “S.O.S.,” volunteer program to serve senior citizens in the Berkshires. Information for families who can benefit and volunteers: Rabbi Levi Volovik at (413) 499-9899 or visit www. New England Holocaust Institute & Museum – Artifacts from the collection of founder Darrell English are now on view at the Adams Free Library, 92 Park Street, Adams, telephone (413) 743-8345. Mr. English remains available to bring selections from his collection of Holocaust artifacts to presentations for organizations, schools, and private functions. To schedule offsite presentations, call Ed Udel at (413) 4468409. Monthly – Ruthie’s Lunch Bunch meets at Congregation Beth Israel, or a local restaurant. Call for details. Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams. Information: (413) 663-5830. Monthly, fourth or fifth Sunday – Volunteers from Congregation Beth Israel, 53 Lois Street, North Adams “Take and Eat” program cook, package, and deliver hot meals for all North Adams clients of “Meals on Wheels.” Information: (413) 663-5830 or Monthly – One Monday a month (date varies according to length of book), the CBI Book Discussion Group meets at Congregation Beth Israel at 7:00 a.m. Check the CBI Newsletter for current books and schedule. Information: Chaim Bronstein at (917) 609-6732. Sundays (second of each month) – Berkshire Hills Society of Israeli Philatelists meet. Discuss Israeli and American stamps. Coffee and donuts. Information: Ed Helitzer, (413) 447-7622, daytime. Sundays, 10 a.m. (Jan. 10, Feb. 28 & April 3) – “Psalms and Proverbs, Poets and Prophets: Texts and Talk,” with Barbara Cohen, spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Limited attendance, with CAS members given priority. Firm RSVP requested 7 days prior to class to Bagels and coffee. Email for location and other questions. Sundays, 10:15 a.m. (Approximately every six weeks) – Congregation Ahavath Sholom Book Club. Contact Diana Richter at for titles, dates, and location. Sundays, 10:30 a.m. (every seven weeks) – Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s “Bagels and Brainstorms.” Contact Guy Pancer, or (860) 435-2821 for topic and location. Tuesdays, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. – Torah Portion of the Week study group at Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield. Facilitator Myrna Hammerling guides the group through the triennial cycle, year-round in the K.I. Library. New-

comers always welcome to this gathering of students of diverse ages, backgrounds, and perspectives who search together to deepen understanding of our foundational text. Free. Information: (413) 445-4872, ext. 16.

study of Modern Hebrew with an expert instructor. Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield. Open to the community at large. Information and registration: (413) 442-5910, ext. 12 or eba@ansheanumim. org.

Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. – “Beginner Hebrew” Learn to speak Hebrew from a native Israeli with Esther Benari-Altmann at Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield. Open to the community at large. Registration, full information: (413) 442-5910, extension 12, or

Fridays, last of month, time varies with candle lighting – Chabad of the Berkshires’ “Friday Night Live,” traditional Kabbalat Shabbat service. Information: (413) 499-9899 or visit

Wednesdays, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. – optional meditation 11:30 a.m. to noon – “Yoga @ KI” with instructor Jane Rosen at Congregation Knesset Israel social hall, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield. $5 per class for Knesset Israel members; $10 for non-members. Open to the public. Information: Jane Rosen at (413) 464-0173 or janerosen@ Wednesdays, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. – Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, 270 State Road, Great Barrington, offers “an hour of morning stillness” with Nina Lipkowitz, a certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher. Donation of $10 is asked for from non-members. Information: (413) 528-6378. Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. – Explore the stories behind the story of the weekly Torah portion at Tea and Torah, at Chabad of the Berkshires, 450 South Street, Pittsfield MA. Led by Sara Volovik, the course is intended to outline a spiritual road map for day to day life. Using the weekly Torah portion as a starting point, participants will learn from the Talmud, Midrash, and Chasidic masters, as well as from the insights of others in the class. The course is free of charge, and no prior background in Hebrew or the subject matter is necessary. Wednesdays at 6:15 p.m. – “Conversational Hebrew”. Practice speaking Hebrew with native Israeli Esther Benari-Altmann, Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield. Open to the community at large. Information and registration: (413) 4425910 ext. 12 or Thursdays, from 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. – The Book of Kings, with Rabbi David Weiner. This class explores this literary chronicle of the history, ideas and personalities of Ancient Israel. Wide-ranging discussions explore themes that arise from the text and our encounter with it.  Please bring your own copy of Tanakh to the KI Library. Information and Schedule: (413) 445-4872. Thursdays (fourth of each month) – Hadassah Book Club. For times, locations of meetings, and further information about the books: Roz Kolodny at (413) 243-2077 or Thursdays at 6:15 p.m. – “Intermediate Hebrew,” with Esther Benari-Altmann. Teens and adults join together for lively

Fridays, at 9:00 a.m. – Meditation with Rabbi Rachel Barenblat in the Congregation Beth Israel sanctuary, 53 Lois Street, North Adams, overlooking the Berkshire mountains. Silence, chanting, and meditation designed to help prepare for Shabbat. All welcomed. Information: (413) 663-5830 and Fridays, usually first of each month at 5:30 p.m. (followed by a family style Shabbat dinner at 6:15 p.m.) – Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield. Shirei Shabbat (“Songs of Shabbat”). Unique service combines melodies from Carlebach, Debbie Friedman, and Camp Ramah to create a ruach filled (“spirited”) family friendly experience. Cost $18 per adult, $36 family maximum. Dinner reservations are due by the Monday before services. Full information: (413) 445-4872, ext 11. Fridays (January 8, February 5, March 4 and April 8), 5:30 p.m. – Temple Anshe Amunim offers monthly Family Shabbat services led by Religious School students and invite all interested families in the community to join. A dinner in the social hall will follow. Services feature some prayer in Hebrew, short readings in English, and songs, and are designed for families with preschool and elementary school-aged children. Older and younger siblings are welcome. The cost of the dinner is $5 per person, with a maximum of $20 for families. Reservations are required for dinner and can be made by calling the Temple Anshe Amunim office at (413) 442-5910 or emailing TempleOffice@

can politics. Spring: Focus on issues. In the KI Library, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield. Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. – “Torah Plus: Exploring Jewish Text and Culture.” Join Rabbi Josh Breindel for a conversation based on the texts of the Jewish people and reflection on what it means to be Jewish. All texts are offered in English. Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield. Free. Open to the public. Information (413) 4425910 or

Congregation Knesset Israel 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield ONGOING MINYANS Sunday.............. 8:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday.................................... 7 p.m. Friday................ 7 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. and evenings approximately 30 minutes before sunset CANDLE-LIGHTING

January 1.................................4:13 p.m. January 8.................................4:19 p.m. January 15...............................4:27 p.m. January 22...............................4:36 p.m. January 29...............................4:45 p.m. February 5................................4:54 p.m. February 12..............................5:03 p.m. See “Berkshire Jewish Congregations and Organizations” on page 22 for information on all regularly scheduled services in the area. Contact a congregation directly if you wish to arrange an unscheduled minyan.

Saturdays from 9:0010:00 a.m. (When Congregation Knesset Israel’s Hebrew school classes are in session.) – Facilitator Judith Weiner guides a journey though Jewish texts on justice. All texts will be presented in English translation. Winter: Mapping Jewish language onto contemporary Ameri-


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Page 22

Berkshire Jewish Voice •

January 1 to February 13, 2016


What Jews with Disabilities Can Teach the Rest of Us

BOSTON (JTA) — Ruti Regan has been told she’s a pioneer, the first autistic rabbinic student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. But she doesn’t believe that for a second. She may be the first to admit it, said Regan, 30, “but I’m not the only one.” “What do you do in a beit midrash?” she asked, referring to a Jewish study hall. “You sit in the same place, learn with the same people, study the same texts, ask the same questions for hours on end, as you rock back and forth, and talk to each other in a singsongy voice.” A fourth-year rabbinic student at the Conservative movement’s flagship seminary, Regan said it’s natural that Jews on the autism spectrum would find a home in the rabbinate. It’s a profession, she said, “that has found a way to sanctify” the cognitive skills, movements and communication styles often associated with the neurodevelopmental disorder. Regan and her fiance, the autism rights activist Ari Ne’eman, were among the 550 people who gathered this week at the Seaport World Trade Center here for a two-day gathering on disability inclusion. The conference, the inaugural Ruderman Inclusion Summit, focused on making the Jewish community and society at large more welcoming for the nearly 20 percent of people who have some form of physical, cognitive or emotional disability — and on what such individuals can offer the world. Session topics ranged from inclusion in synagogue life to creating welcoming workplaces to love, dating and romance for people with disabilities. Among the featured speakers were Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne; journalist John Hockenberry, who was paralyzed in a car crash; and

Ruti Regan is an autistic rabbinic student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. author and Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind. Suskind, whose most recent book, Life, Animated, chronicles his relationship with his autistic son, told JTA that people need to change the way they look at and interact with those who have disabilities. “Having this many people in the discard pile is our deficit as a society,” he said. In his plenary address, Suskind recalled a conversation he had with an Israel Defense Forces official who described how autistic soldiers can spot patterns that most others cannot. Including people with disabilities in regular life — as opposed to providing separate social services, schooling, housing and employment for the disabled — is a major focus of the work of the $185 million Ruderman Family Foundation, which organized the conference. The foundation’s president, Jay Ruderman, says the Jewish community is lagging when it comes to inclusion. “In pursuit of dealing with the issue of assimilation, we look toward perfection, and we exclude people with disabilities,” he said. “It’s a function of not looking at people with disabilities as our future.” In years past, the foundation, together with the Jewish Funders Network, has hosted conferences for philanthropists in an effort to advance inclusion of people with disabilities. But November’s summit was the first Ruderman conference open to the general public. Participants included individuals with disabilities who have become advocates, educators, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, therapists and nonprofit professionals from across the Jewish world, as well as disability advocates outside the Jewish community. The gathering coincided with 25th anniversary year of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, the landmark piece of federal legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and mandates accessibility in the public sphere and reason-

The inaugural Ruderman Inclusion Summit took place at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center in November. Speakers included NPR journalist John Hockenberry. able accommodations in the workplace. At the conference, the former Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, an author of that bill and a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, was given the $100,000 Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion. Religious institutions remain exempt from ADA guidelines, and many Jewish

institutions and organizations, sometimes citing costs and complications, maintain a “We don’t do disabilities” stance, Jay Ruderman said. “I think the biggest barriers are attitudinal barriers,” he said. “It’s all about leadership. It’s about that rabbi or educator or business owner who says, ‘I’m going to go out of my

way to make my synagogue or school or business inclusive.’” Summit participants said they were optimistic that more of those leaders would emerge after this week’s gathering. As Ruti Regan put it, “I’m hoping that it will lead to ongoing collaboration across communities and organizations.” Regan is the co-founder of the new group Anachnu (Hebrew for “we”), which is working to create a “Torah-leaning community in which disability is speakable, normal and a matter of fact.” Regan says that understanding Torah — and living it — requires an understanding of disability. “The Torah says, ‘Do not insult the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind,’” she said, citing a passage from the Book of Leviticus. “But to understand that, you have to know what deaf people find insulting and what blind people consider obstacles.” Later she added, “The Jewish community taught me to see everyone in b’tzelem elohim, the image of God. The disability community taught me how to do that.”

Deciphering Satellite Photos, Soldiers with Autism Take on Key Roles in IDF By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA) — Sitting in front of a computer at the center of Israel’s largest army base, a soldier stares at the screen, moving pixel by pixel over a satellite photograph, picking out details and finding patterns. A few years ago N.S., who has autism, thought the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) wouldn’t take him. N.S., who like other soldiers could not give his name due to IDF protocol, spent his childhood in mainstream classroom settings, where he had focused on studying film and Arabic, but expected to miss out on being drafted — a mandatory rite of passage for most Israeli 18-year-olds. Now, more than a year into his army service, N.S. is a colonel who spends eight hours a day doing what few other soldiers can: using his exceptional attention to detail and intense focus to analyze visual data ahead of missions. Soldiers with autism can excel at this work because they are often adept at detecting patterns and maintaining focus for long periods of time. “It gave me the opportunity to go into the army in a significant position where I feel that I’m contributing,” he said. “I’m really swamped. I’m a perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect.” N.S. is among some 50


Editor’s Note: For the past 7 years, February has been designated as National Jewish Disability Awareness Month in the United States. Across the country, Jewish organizations have initiated programming and embarked on construction projects aimed at creating fully inclusive communities, including the world of work. In November, more than 500 activists and philanthropists in the field of social inclusion for people with disabilities came together for the Ruderman Family Foundation’s first-ever international Inclusion Summit, which took place in Boston from Sunday to Monday. Gabrielle Birkner, JTA’s managing editor, reported from the summit.


A soldier in Roim Rachok, Hebrew for “Seeing Far,” an Israeli army program aimed at drafting people with autism soldiers and trainees in Roim Rachok, Hebrew for “Seeing Far,” a program aimed at drafting the one in 100 Israeli children diagnosed with autism, according to statistics from the Israeli Society for Autistic Children. Based in the IDF’s Intelligence Unit 9900, which maps and analyzes visual data, the soldiers of Roim Rachok decipher aerial reconnaissance photos to provide information to soldiers ahead of combat missions. Other tracks train candidates to be army electricians, who deal with devices like night vision goggles, or optics technicians, who work with binoculars. “There’s an agenda to show

Israeli Jewelry

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people on the spectrum have abilities and can do things,” said T.V., a former Defense Ministry official who co-founded Roim Rachok in 2012. “A big part [of the work] is to notice changes and a certain routine repetition.” Autism diagnoses are rising in Israel. According to the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, about 10 times more Israeli children have autism as do adults. In the past, T.V. said, these children at 18 would enter the IDF and be given menial, frustrating jobs. Participants in Roim Rachok attend a three-month AUTISM, continued on next page (413) 528-9700


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AUTISM, continued from previous page course at the Ono Academic College near Tel Aviv, where they receive training for their army service and an introduction to army life. Along with photo analysis or optics, trainees learn about following orders, staying on schedule, and working with a team. Revital is the mother of a Roim Rachok soldier who is an American Civil War buff. “He’s a kid with really extraordinary intelligence and abilities, but social understanding and obeying social rules have always been harder,” she said. “He’s come a long way. This fits him like a glove.” After three additional months of training on base, participants are drafted and placed within Unit 9900 — sometimes as the only soldier on the team with autism. Before they arrive, their fellow soldiers and commanders re-

ceive training on working with people with autism, and every team meets weekly with a counselor to discuss the group dynamic. N.C., another soldier with autism, said he goes out to eat regularly with his fellow soldiers. D., a second lieutenant who commands another Roim Rachok soldier, said her team usually works smoothly. But when D. first replaced the team’s previous commander, the change challenged that soldier and caused his work to decline. “He was very close to his previous commander,” D. said. “It was very hard for him, so he regressed. I had stressed him out, so he was less concentrated, not sure who to take commands from.” After their discharge, Roim Rachok soldiers will face new challenges in finding jobs that

suit their abilities. But army service will have given soldiers with autism experience in overcoming obstacles like coping with a changing environment or strategizing to complete a complex assignment. “The soft skills people learn in their service are no less important than the profession itself,” said Benjamin Hazmi, academic director at Beit Issie Shapiro, an Israeli disability activism organization. “The army is people’s first encounter with authority, with a schedule.” N.S., the soldier from Roim Rachok, says he wants to be a film editor after the army. In the meantime, he said he feels privileged to be a part of what most Israelis his age consider an obligation. “The day I enlisted, I got very excited,” N.S. said. “I was really like, I’m an inseparable part of Israeli society.”

Israel and Jordan issue joint tender for Red Sea-Dead Sea canal ( Israel and Jordan announced the issuing of an international tender for the construction of a water canal between the Red Sea and the shrinking Dead Sea. The two countries made their joint announcement Monday after a meeting between Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Water and Irrigation Minister Hazim El-Nasser. The meeting was held on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. The canal will carry water from the Red Sea north to the Dead Sea, which has been steadily drying out. A fixed amount of canal water will be siphoned

off and desalinated to supply drinking water to Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, with the saline byproducts used to replenish the mineral-rich Dead Sea. “Today we took an additional historic step to save the Dead Sea,” Shalom said Monday. “The joint international tender to be published tomorrow is proof of the cooperation between Israel and Jordan, and a response to those who cast doubt on whether the canal project would ever go ahead. This is an exceptional environmental and diplomatic achievement that testifies more than anything to the fertile cooperation between the countries.”

By Michael Bachner (Breaking Israel News) JERUSALEM – “And it was in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, the king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz the king of Judah, became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.” (II Kings 18:1,2) The first ever seal impression of a Judean king was unearthed in Jerusalem on Wednesday, December 2, during a scientific excavation. The significant discovery was made at the Ophel excavations, at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount. Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology found the impression, which is of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727-698 BCE). “This is a rare finding, and it’s a real privilege to have discovered it,” said Dr. Eilat Mazar, who directs the Ophel excavations, to Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “To find an object that was made and touched by Judean kings in the time of the bible is an exceptional and one-of-a-kind expeSeal impression of King Hezekiah rience.” unearthed in the Ophel excavations. The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew: “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah”. It also features a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life. Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a ‘bulla’ – a piece of inscribed clay.The bulla was


PJ Library has launched in Russian, beginning with a pilot program in Moscow that will for the first time provide free Jewish books in Russian to children and their families ten times each year. To coincide with Chanukah, in December PJ Library in Russian distributed its first books to more than 1,000 children ages 4 through 8 in Moscow. The Moscow program, launched in partnership with Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), aims to reach up to 2,000 children and families by August 2016. Beyond the books, partnerships with community organizations will engage families through local programming including holiday celebrations and gatherings that will incorporate Jewish values, as well as elements of Russian culture and literature. “We have seen huge demand for PJ Library among Russian-speaking Jewish families,” said Harold Grinspoon. “The books introduced into the home empower and equip Russian readers of PJ Library favorites Russian-speaking Jewish families thrilled to partner with the Harold Grinspoon – whether in the United States or Russia – to Foundation in this important project. The exengage Jewishly.” Through PJ Library’s partpansion to Moscow will only further establish nership with GPG, a private foundation whose PJ as an effective outreach model to engage mission is to develop and enhance a sense of Jewish families.” Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews PJ Library is a program of the Harold Grinworldwide, more than 6,000 Russian-speaking spoon Foundation, is supported locally by the Jewish families in North America have benefited Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, the Harold from PJ Library’s Russian-speaking engageGrinspoon Foundation, and the Spitz-Tuchman ment efforts. Family Fund. Added Ilia Salita, CEO of GPG: “We are

Jerusalem Excavation Reveals 2,700-Year-Old Seal of Israelite King


PJ Library Launches in Russian to Reach Jewish families in Moscow

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. originally used to seal a document written on papyrus. It was found together with 33 additional bullae imprinted from other seals, some bearing Hebrew names. Dr. Mazar added: “Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah’s name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation.” King Hezekiah is described favorably in the Bible. He is depicted as a resourceful and daring king, who centralized power in his hands. The Judean king successfully maintained the independent standing of the Judean Kingdom and its capital Jerusalem, which he enhanced economically, religiously, and diplomatically. The symbols on the seal impression from the Ophel suggest that they were made late in Hezekiah’s life, after he had recovered from the life-threatening illness of shehin (boils), when the life-symbol became especially significant for him (ca. 704 BCE).

Tel Aviv to help India create ‘smart cities’ ( The city of Tel Aviv last month announced a collaboration with India to create “smart cities” that will use innovative digital resources and systems to improve urban areas. The Delivering Change Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO, will be mentored and trained by Israeli representatives from the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo to employ Israeli ingenuity in the Indian cities of Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik in the northwestern state of Maharashtra, an Indian municipal spokeswoman told the Jerusalem Post.

Indian cities will be set up to use Tel Aviv’s DigiTel pass, through which citizens can pay water and municipal tax bills, order parking permits, and send photos of potholes or broken park benches to the municipal complaint line; citywide WiFi; digital city services; and GPS-based smartphone apps. “In recent years, Tel Aviv has managed to become one of the world’s leading smart cities, thanks to innovation, resident engagement, and ‘out of the box’ thinking,” said Hila Oren, CEO and founder of Tel Aviv Global.

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January 1 to February 13, 2016


Twists and Turns – The Unlikely History of ‘I Have a Little Dreidel” By Albert Stern Music has long been central to Jewish life and worship, and unsurprisingly the Jewish musical canon contains many songs that seem to have always existed, tunes we all know that continue to be passed down from one generation to the next. In the realm of popular music, one example is the Chanukah favorite “I Have a Little Dreidel” – most everyone reading this can no doubt sing the chorus and at least one verse. Another example, from a more elevated sphere of Jewish practice, is “Shalom Aleichem” – it isn’t hard to imagine Jewish families around the world simultaneously welcoming Shabbat with the familiar strains of this cherished liturgical melody. Both songs possess, in their different ways, an irresistible and enduring emotional appeal. What isn’t widely known, however, is that “I Have a Little Dreidel” and the melody most Ashkenazi Jews worldwide use for “Shalom Aleichem” were written by the Goldfarb brothers of New York City around the first quarter of the 20th century – Samuel E. Goldfarb penned the former (with Samuel S. Grossman), while Israel Goldfarb composed the latter. In a Christian songwriting equivalent, it would be like having one brother who wrote “Jingle Bells” and another who composed “Silent Night.”

of family happiness. The Goldfarb brothers grew up on the Lower East Side of New York in a family of 11 children that emigrated from Galicia, Poland. Samuel was born in 1891, and learned how to read and play music from his older brother Israel, twelve years his senior. Both were steeped in old country Jewish musical traditions. In 1914, Samuel – who was making music in Yiddish theaters and other popular venues – entered into an arranged marriage with Bella The Horowitz, she from the family that owned Horowitz-Margareten, renowned makers of matzo and Passover products. Their second child, Myron, was born in 1920, and still remembers visiting the matzo bakery as a child to help his relatives during the hectic pre-Pesach retail rush. “The factory took up a whole block of the Lower East Side,” he says. “I remember sliding down the flour slides in the bakery.” While Samuel started out playing piano in theaters and as an accompanist for stars of the stage, Israel (who was a graduate of the Institute of Musical Art [now The Juilliard School], the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Columbia University) rose to fame as a noted cantor, and later be-

Myron Gordon (right), with Theodore Bikel and musician/arranger Craig Taubman Renewed attention to the achievement of the Goldfarb brothers is being generated by a CD released in 2015 called Dreidel I Shall Play, which features new recordings of Samuel and Israel Goldfarb’s holiday and liturgical songs from 1910s and 1920s. The new song arrangements were devised by musician Craig Taubman, and the album attracted the participation of Neshama Carlebach and the late Theodore Bikel. Driving the project from its inception was Myron Gordon, the now 95-yearold son of Samuel Goldfarb, who was abetted by his own daughter Tamar Gordon and son-in-law Scott Christianson of Great Barrington. While the melodies created by the Goldfarbs have become staples of Jewish American life – insinuating themselves into happy memories of holidays, celebrations, and gatherings of kin – for Myron Gordon, the tunes long held associations that represented the antithesis

came the long-serving rabbi at the venerable Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn. He wrote his melody to “Sholom Aleichem,” a liturgical poem written by the kabbalists of Safed in the late 16th or early 17th century, in 1918 while sitting near the Alma Mater statue in front of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. Late in life, Israel wrote: “The popularity of the melody traveled not only throughout this country but throughout the world, so that many people came to believe that the song was handed down from Mt. Sinai by Moses.” It wasn’t – its popularity can be traced back to a compendium produced by the Goldfarbs in 1918 called Friday Evening Melodies. Over the next decade, the musicologist brothers – under the aegis of the progressive Bureau of Jewish Education of New York – published expanded versions of this work known as The Jewish Songster, which was

Goldfarb family in the 1920s used by Ashkenazi congregations throughout the United States for decades. The book remains a key document in the history of Jewish American music. “Their mission was to present modernized versions of cantorial songs for Jewish Americans,” says Myron Gordon, “as well as some of the Zionist songs coming out of Palestine and old Yiddish songs.” Samuel Goldfarb was hired as the musical director of the Bureau of Jewish Education, where he worked to modernize Jewish music for didactic purposes. While other melodies from the songbook gained wide acceptance – most notably Israel’s melody for “B’Sefer Chayim” (recorded by Neshama Carlebach on the CD) – nothing matched the popularity of “Shalom Aleichem.” According to the Milken Archive of Jewish Music: “Goldfarb’s melody is one of very few American liturgical tunes to gain standard acceptance and currency abroad. In the popular imagination it nearly swept away all earlier tunes for this poem that were known in America, except among certain Hassidic circles; nor have any subsequent shalom aleikhem melodies shaken its predominance.” During the 1920s, Samuel Goldfarb wrote “I Have a Little Dreidel,” one of several holiday themed songs published by the Bureau that appear on the new CD, which also features a scratchy snippet of the original 1927 recording. “Their motivation in those songs was to apply a progressive approach to Jewish education,” says Gordon. Their intended audience was “the American Jewish child who was at the point of assimilating and who might even reject any remnant of the past Jewish life in Europe.” Gordon says his father was very conscious that the purpose of his songs was to keep members of the community Jewishly connected. “Generally speaking, in America Yiddish music influenced the popular music of Broadway and Hollywood,” Gordon explains. “With these kinds of songs, it was the opposite – it was an American tone being brought into a Jewish context.” The dreidel song, adds Gordon, “took some time to catch on,” and did not do so

until the early 1950s “when at the time. He’d have to tell Chanukah was becoming people he was married.” (Sadmore commercial and parallel ly, life took a tragic turn for to Christmas.” There was no the co-writer of “I Have a Little single hit recording of the tune Dreidel,” Samuel Grossman, – its popularity as a folk song who in despair went out a high seems to have spread organiwindow of the Statler Hotel in cally. This jaunty accompaniPhiladelphia a few years after ment to Chanukah frolic and the song was published.) festivity, however, held unMyron retained boxes of happy associations for Myron memorabilia from his father’s Gordon for most of his life. early career, including letters, Young Myron didn’t realsongbooks, sheet music, and ly know his father Samuel, 78 rpm recordings, which he who by the time his son was rediscovered only a few years a toddler was engaged in a ago. Using that material to years-long process of divorcing reconstruct the past and give wife Bessie. He would eventhe songs and the stories betually leave her for a younger hind them new life was a form woman in 1929. Even while of therapy, he says. Samuel was still at home, he The result is Dreidel I Shall displayed “minimal affection,” Play. Some of the holiday and remembers Gordon. “He albiblical songs may sound datways planned to leave – pered to 21st century audiences, haps out of necessity, he kept though they have an old fashhis distance and did not get ioned charm. The standout too close.” With his new wife, popular song is “Little Candle Samuel moved to the West Fires” performed by Theo Bikel Coast, where he worked for years as musical director of a synagogue in Seattle. (Decades later, writes Gordon in his liner notes, his father “oversaw a performance space in the temple’s basement, where on one occasion he Samuel E. Goldfarb at the piano yanked from the stage an unconventional guitarist named Jimi (in one of his last recordHendrix for his wild playing.”) ings), a sweet, sentimental Myron, too young to holiday tune that deserves understand the complicated consideration for a place the dynamic of divorce, felt subtly Chanukah pantheon. All the ostracized by his extended liturgical songs are interesting, family. “It was a psychologiwith former Wings guitarist cal thing” he says, recalling Laurence Juber’s instrumenthe shame involved. “All the tal “Shalom Aleichem” and adults surrounding me knew Neshama Carlebach’s “B’Sefer something I didn’t know about Chayim” particular standouts. myself, and suppressed it. I Musical virtues aside, was treated nicely, but there the release is equally distinwas a certain barrier between guished by Gordon’s moving us and the other relatives.” retelling of his family story, The Goldfarbs, he remembers, which puts the achievements were discomfited by Samuel’s of the Goldfarb brothers in actions and so kept his abanhistorical and personal condoned family at arm’s length. text. Gordon laughs when With the family struggling, I point out that his family, his mother had to turn to her imperfect though it was, has Horowitz relations for employleft an indelible mark on the ment during the difficult days celebration of the three holy of the Great Depression. days perhaps held dearest by Samuel rarely made contact Jewish families – on Shabbat with his son – Gordon writes and Chanukah musically and, in the liner notes: “I saw him through his mother’s matzo again on just a few occasions baron family, on Pesach. Fam– once, during the war, when ily history, generally speaking, I was in my Army uniform, vis- had never brought him much iting him in Seattle, he introhappiness, but he says the duced me as ‘a friend.’” Samcompletion of Dreidel I Shall uel met Myron’s own family Play has helped him, as an only once, in 1962, when the older man, salve the hurt of older man visited his son in early wounds. New York. The family gathered “Finally, I was not a passive around the piano and sang “I victim of my father’s leaving Have a Little Dreidel.” us or the yearnings it caused,” By then, Myron Gordon says Gordon. “I went in the had dispensed with the Goldother direction, to produce farb name and had found his something that would give me calling as a clinical psycholoa better association with my gist. Not surprisingly, he views father. For me, the songs no his family story through a longer represent defeat. They psychotherapeutic lens. Samrepresent at last what they uel Goldfarb never pursued were intended to.” success with his early songs, he speculates, because he Myron Gordon’s liner notes was a public figure in Seattle’s and a video of Theodore Bikel’s Jewish community and was performance of S. E. Goldfarb’s trying to conceal his past. “If “Little Candle Fires” can be he brought out those songs, found at www.jewishamericanhe’d be asked when he wrote The CD is also them, and what he was doing available for sale.

Profile for Jewish Federation of the Berkshires

Berkshire Jewish Voice, January 1 - February 13, 2016  

Berkshire Jewish Voice, January 1 - February 13, 2016  


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