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Special Selihot Program on September 20

Please join us this Saturday, September 20 for a special program to kick off the High Holy Day season.  We'll begin at 7:30 pm with Havdallah and a delicious dessert reception.  At BethEl 238:00 pm, we'll show the Israeli documentary Let There Be Light.  A beautiful musical service will follow at 9:15 pm, featuring the changing of the Torah covers.  The service will be approximately one hour long.  Please note that there will be no evening minyan at 6:00 pm.
Let There Be Light is a 60-minute Israeli documentary written and directed by Meni Philip and Noam Reuveni, which presents the rare viewpoint of an Orthodox family torn apart, while telling the moving tale of a secular family's rebirth.  At 32, Meni Philip lost his religious faith.  He left his career as a successful Hasidic singer, and got divorced.  His outraged family disowned him.  Alone, Meni set out on a painful struggle to regain his legal paternity rights to his five children.  Soon thereafter, four of his ten siblings followed in his path and abandoned their Orthodox religious lifestyles.  The Philip family became torn apart.  Each of the siblings struggled with the painful process of detachment from religion and family.  When the youngest sister suffered a breakdown and was hospitalized, Meni assumed his inevitable role as head of the secular family, while he desperately attempted to keep the family together.
Please note that reservations are not necessary -- Just Show Up!

Congregational Break Fast on October 4

Temple Beth El will once again host a break fast for the congregation after the sounding of the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur on October 4.  A sumptuous dairy buffet, provided by Catering by Meital, will feature:

  • poached salmon with acorn squash, honey and pine nuts;Shofar
  • mixed green salad with beets, caramelized nuts, dried cranberries and carrots;
  • edamame salad with red peppers, garbanzo beans and red onions;
  • sweet noodle kugel;
  • assorted bagels, cream cheese, lox spread, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions;
  • pizza bagels for children;
  • fresh fruit;
  • assorted pastries.

Thanks to Fred Brownstein for, once again, generously underwriting the cost of the Break Fast!

The cost is $12 per person ages 10 and over; $8 per child ages 5-9; and free for children under 5.  Attendance is by reservation only.  The deadline for paid reservations is Wednesday, September 24.  You may call the temple office at (413) 733-4149 or click here to safely register online.

Shabbat Dinner in the Sukkah on October 10

On Friday, October 10, we will celebrate both Shabbat and Sukkot with a festive dinner in our new Sukkah!  The evening will begin with a musical Kabbalat Shabbat service at 6:00 pm, featuring Cantor Barber and guest musicians.  Dinner will follow at 7:00 pm, rain or shine.  Weather permitting, we will eat in the Sukkah; otherwise, we will eat in the Social Hall.  The menu, courtesy of Catering by Meital, includes:
  • Challah*TBE 9-24-13-28175
  • Sweet corn salad with onion and mushrooms
  • Assorted pickles and olives*
  • Tabouli*
  • Mixed greens with fresh apples, pecans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and raspberry vinaigrette
  • Sauteed chicken breast with figs*, pomegranate*, and a silan* (date) glaze
  • Basmati rice with sweet potatoes, sauteed with onions
  • French-style green beans with fresh garlic and mushrooms
  • Homemade apple crisp with raisins* and Tofutti

* Items with an asterisk represent the 7 species that are traditionally eaten during Sukkot.

The cost is $18 for ages 10 and over, $8 ages 5-9, and free for children 4 and under.  There is a family maximum of $54 for those living in the same household.  There will be open seating, but tables of 8 may be reserved.  Guests are invited to bring kosher wine to share with their table.  Due to the many holidays in September and October, please make your reservation by Wednesday, October 2.  Click here to R.S.V.P.

Simhat Torah Dinner on October 16

Please join us for Simhat Torah festivities and dinner on Thursday, October 16! By popular demand, songleader Sheldon Lowe will return to TBE to celebrate with us.  One of the brightest young starts in Jewish rock music today, Sheldon was warmly received last year by both adults and children.  He will perform during and after the Hakafot (dancing with the Torah scrolls).  We will also honor our USY members during the festivities.

The evening begins with dinner at 5:30 pm.  The menu includes whole wheat pasta primavera with fresh vegetables, homemade baked ziti, plain pasta with sauce, a salad bar, garlic bread and beverages.  The cost of dinner is $12 per person age 10 and over, $8 for children ages 5-9, and free for children under 5. There is a maximum family price of $40.  The deadline for reservations is Wednesday, October 8.  Please click here to make your reservation.

Rabbi's Travelogue from Poland & Israel

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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.

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.