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Sandi Kupperman Memorial Event & Hanukkah Show ~ December 17

Wednesday, December 17 at 6:30 pmColorful dreidels

An evening full of family fun, student performances, latkes, sufganiyot, great raffles, and more!  No need to R.S.V.P.--this event is free and open to the congregation.  We hope to see you there!

Chinese Food & a Movie Night ~ January 10

movie keeping up the steinsThe Program Committee is sponsoring Chinese Food & a Movie for adults at TBE on Saturday evening, January 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm.  Please join us to watch Keeping Up with the Steins, a 2006 comedy film about a family in L.A. planning an "over the top" Bar Mitzvah party.  The film is also a commentary on how too many Jewish families view a Bar or Bat Mitzvah not as a coming of age for their child, but rather an excuse to throw outrageously lavish parties.

The Program Committee will prepare homemade egg rolls, chicken and broccoli, vegetable stir fry, noodles, rice, and desserts.  The cost is $20 per person, and reservations must be made by Monday, January 5. Click here to register online. You can also call the office, (413) 733-4149 or mail a check to Temple Beth El.

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Would you like to know more about Temple Beth El?

tbe image temple frontThank you for coming to our website. You would not be here if you did not sense that being part of something beyond your immediate family and friends, work-places and coffee-shops, would make your life fuller and richer.

On this site you can find out that you are missing Kiddush lunches and musical services, study groups and parties. But only by walking in can you discover the feeling of being part of our friendly, warm community.

Please come and truly discover what you are missing. You can call the temple Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm or Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at (413) 733-4149. Click here to send us an email.


tbe farkas icon The President's Blog


Through the President's Blog, Paul Farkas will share insights and personal reflections, as well as sneak peeks into daily life at Temple Beth El. The President's Blog will be updated occasionally with posts from Paul. Readers can expect to learn about items being considered by the Board of Trustees and experience event highlights from the President's perspective. We will include many important discussions in our synagogue community, but Paul also mixes in some fun, light-hearted observations through this blog. He invites your readership and comments.  

Please email him here with any comments.

Sanctuary Parlor Meeting Notes ~ November 23, 2014

First Parlor Meeting
November 23, 2014

Attendees:  About 30

Thoughts shared* 

1.    The Chapel:  There was some discussion on the chapel, including the possibility of enlarging it to meet our needs.  As was pointed out to us, all of the architects who toured our building described our chapel as a perfect space, although it clearly does need a face lift.  Also pointed out was that the cost of enlarging the chapel, which involves changing our footprint, might be more expensive, and not solve our problems.  Also, it would no longer work for our twice-daily minyans, and our smaller services.
2.    Use of the bimah (i.e.: seats on the bimah) -- this issue was raised.  The use of the bimah, both the high one and the new one, deserves serious consideration by clergy and by the Ritual Committee.   It was pointed out that for most services, the lower bimah would clearly be used.  The question would be High Holy Days and larger services.
3.    In the new model, where would the clergy sit???  Answer was that, similar to the chapel, they would likely claim seats in the first bench.
4.    Can we make the handicapped access symmetric, i.e.: the plan calls for a ramp on one side, and stairs on the other.   
5.    Two people pointed out that they had visited shuls with similar plans to what we are considering and it felt great to them, “intimate and very spiritual.”
6.    What about the menorah on the left, and the US and Israel flags???
7.    Pews:  There was much discussion on the pews.
  1. Placement of Pews:  One suggestion was to have the pews on the sides placed at a slight angle so that both main bimah and new bimah could be viewed, and used.  One  suggestion was to have movable pews.
  2. We addressed this with Scott.  His thoughts:  As a result of the way the seating arrangement exists today, all of the people sitting in the right side section of the sanctuary must crane their necks to look leftward toward the rabbi.  The closer they are to the front, the more they must turn.  The opposite problem exists for viewing the cantor from the left side of the auditorium seating.  The problem is that the auditorium was designed to be exceedingly wide, and the rabbi and cantor are spaced too far apart.  Compare this with how much people will need to turn to look at the rabbi on the pulpit in the new scheme.  Note that in the new scheme, the lecterns on the pulpit will be at the same level they were before, but are set back somewhat and are closer to the center than they are today.  This position helps the rabbi to be viewed well from the side seating areas that face the windows.  The pews in the flat floor area should be movable to be reoriented toward the pulpit during High Holy Days.
  3. Seats in the center:  One suggestion was instead of pews here, that we have individual seats that could be moved, linked together, etc.  Greater flexibility for different types of services . . .

8.    Center Podium:  What would this look like on the High Holy Days???  One option would be to raise this for the Holy Days . . . perhaps with a ramp to facilitate handicapped access.  How would this work??
9.    Heat:  Present plan calls for possibility of radiant heat . . . Would this work?
10.    Cost:  Pointed out that as this is a plan in progress, we have not yet sought out bids in terms of cost . . . we need to have a better idea of what it will look like when done.
11.     Next Steps:  Plan is to have the three Parlor Meetings, then to re-group, and ultimately there will be one or more meetings with the architect to review all these comments and others.


* I am limiting this write-up to thoughts regarding our sanctuary/worship spaces.  There were comments regarding the process . . . which will all need to be carefully considered.    
**  My comments are in italics . . . comments from participants at the meeting are in regular print.  (Also, I did add comments from Scott.)

Drums and lyres

tbe paul beitJuly 2014

As I sit down to write, I believe that winter has indeed ended (this time). It still amazes me that, like the weather, each season at shul is so distinctly different.

As spring seemed to arrive, we took out “drums and lyres” and played and sang at the Beit Café (special thanks to Cantor Barber, Curt Freedman, Dennis Gordan, and all our musicians). While we raised funds for our Jewish campers and enjoyed a gourmet breakfast (thank you Program Committee!) at the Nechamen/Chernick Breakfast, two great honorees spoke of synagogue life: Gene Baker spoke eloquently of daily services, and Dennis Gordan described his own fascinating journey, starting as the boy who lived across the street from the shul and growing into a true gabbai (someone who assists with the running of services) on Shabbat. As part of the festivities at our SKLC fundraiser, our honoree, Michelle Anfang, life-long learner, left no doubt that she would put her new lunchbox to great use! During the Purim Megillah reading on the big screen, I learned to adjust to having a tail (beware of Purim costumes!) and partied with other strange characters afterwards! Our pre-Passover Shabbat dinner would have still been just as great fun, even without that welcome respite from cooking in an about-to-be-chametz-free environment! Newcomers to our “Musical Shabbat” Friday night services marveled at their beauty, no less captivating for having their ticket-free, parking-hassle-free environment! 

Our rising bar/bat mitzvah students have been giving our chapel a special aura on Shabbat mornings. We thank Gabrielle Zeller, Joshua Peck, Kayla Weiss, and Nina Katz for leading us through some difficult Torah portions, and celebrating with us afterwards on their bar/bat mitzvah days.

Meanwhile, our younger set prepared for “pizza and guitar” as they celebrated a great year of school and a great night of Shavuot!

And the treasured background rhythm of temple life continues, with our daily services (morning and evening), Just-Show-Up Shabbats, Lunch and Learn on Wednesdays, and Cuppa Joe on Sunday morning. On various Sunday evenings, late in the month, several members bring a special glow as they stop by for a few prayers and greetings at minyan after serving dinner to the less fortunate.
And we continue to plan for our future. As I write this, we are starting to structure plans as we work with our architect, Preston Scott Cohen, to consider our worship spaces, to search for ways to make our beautiful sanctuary feel comfortable for smaller groups and still work for large services. We also would like to make our chapel more welcoming and comfortable, and our Sukkah area more useful and flexible. By the time you read this, we will have had our initial meetings with our architect, and hopefully be working on the initial plans and schematics.

Unfortunately, though, not all of our hopes and plans proceed smoothly.

Perhaps you recall that we have been discussing our afternoon religious school programs with Sinai Temple. A joint task force, with members from both temples, has been meeting regularly through the year. We have hoped to explore ways to combine resources and to enhance our children’s educational and religious experiences. We thank our dedicated task force members: Iris Linson (chair), Stuart Anfang and Mallory Caplan (vice-chairs), Maxine Bernstein, Meredith Dragon, Erica Kaplan, Rabbi Amy Katz, Caryn Resnick, and Amy Wistreich (ex-officio, Paul Farkas).

In May, we were advised that the Sinai committee wanted to re-examine this process and its goals. After further discussions with Sinai, we have both decided to put this particular process on hold for a while, and so our May and June meetings were cancelled.

Despite the difficulties presented by our evolving modern society, our own religious school is excellent and continues to explore exciting educational ideas. One unified message delivered by all task force members surveying both schools concerned the dedication of our teachers and the excellence of our programs.

“Taking a break” (with the hope of coming back together soon) from this particular process does not mean “taking a break” from exploring ways to keep improving our religious school. In this continuing effort, we will seeking other re-sources in the valley as educational partners.

It is my conviction that we do need to work together with other congregations to share and enhance resources. We can all maintain our individual identities and missions while we help each other. Together – as a congregation and as part of the greater Jewish community -- we can maintain our strength and excellence while we plan for the future.

Meanwhile, we hope you are enjoying our summer. And please remember that no matter what the season, we at Temple Beth El are always open and always welcome you to “Just Show Up.”

As we prepare for the coming year

September 2014

As I write to you today, in mid-July, it is difficult to picture your reading these words in September.  I am truly hoping that by that time the situation in Israel will have calmed down, and perhaps (am I daring to hope for too much?) a real truce will have been established. We pray for a time when Israel’s right to exist will be accepted, when there will be no more rockets launched into Israel, no more terrorist excursions into Israel, but rather a life of peace for everyone in the region.

Recently Aleza Falk, Alyson Grodsky, Eva Draymore and other Shabbat Torah readers have told of our people’s arrival at the bank of the Jordan River. There they wait, preparing for life in the Promised Land and listening to the words of Moses.

In the present, we at Temple Beth El are also in a quiet season, as we prepare for the coming year, and for the years after that. The background rhythm of synagogue life continues, with daily services morning and evening, with Shabbat services weekly. In the chapel and the conference room, we continue to gather and learn.

Even during this short quiet season, we get together for fun. If you missed our evening of pastrami, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit and Toffuti this summer, please try not to make the same mistake next year! Thank you, Program Committee!

We also look forward to the first Shabbat of August, with Friday night dinner and talks with our visiting Rabbi from Israel. A few days later should find us remembering our past on the Ninth of Av.

Our teachers are already planning our Melton classes for September, as well as our Beth El classes on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Preston Scott Cohen is also busy thinking about our coming years as he plans for our Sukkah area and our Sanctuary. It’s common for synagogues to have large sanctuaries. It’s unusual to have an architect of Scott’s stature tackling the challenge of preserving our sanctuary’s beauty and look and “feel” while creating a new and more inspirational space within, applying modern acoustics so that we all hear each other, and addressing such issues as lighting, temperature, companionship, and spirituality. His ideas could become a model of synagogue renewal.

Scott considers this a personal mitzvah, and is donating his time. Two generous gifts should cover the expenses of his firm, and his portion of the project should be budget neutral.

Of course, we are planning for the High Holy Days. This year marks my second High Holy Day fund drive. I am already searching for the words to adequately express how important it is for us all to donate to our very own synagogue. One of the biggest challenges of being president is dealing with our need for a balanced budget and our need to maintain the vibrant, growing, and supportive community we all want our temple to continue to provide.

As we all struggle with these concerns, please remember that Temple Beth El is open every day of the week. Perhaps you stop in often, or perhaps you can barely find the entrance. No matter. Just Show Up! Please email me here if you have any questions.