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Sisterhood Bar-B-Que ~ August 26

TBE's Sisterhood is sponsoring this fun event on Friday, August 26 at 6:00 pm on the patio outside the Social Hall.  All ages are welcome!  The menu includes hamburgers, hot dogs, boneless chicken breasts, veggie burgers, all the fixings, salads, corn-on-the-cob, watermelon, cookies and drinks.  The cost is $15 per person for adults and children ages 10 & older; $10 per child ages 5-9; no charge for children under age 5.  There is a family price of $45.  Everyone is welcome to stay for Shabbat Zimrah services which will follow at 7:30 pm. 

R.S.V.P. by Monday, August 22.  Please send in a check, payable to Sisterhood of TBE, to the temple office.  We are also looking for volunteers to "man" or "woman" the grills that night.  Call the office at 733-4149 if you'd like to help.

Personal Perspective: My Time in Iran

This article, which appears in the July-August 2016 issue of Tekiah, had to be edited for space.  Here is the unedited version of the article.

Personal Perspective

My Time In Iran:  September 1978-January 1979
By Cindy Bailey

In the spring of 1977, I got a part-time job in a local restaurant in West Springfield. I was close to high school graduation and had a full scholarship to Westfield State College. While working there, I met Javad. He was a handsome, charming and exotic Iranian student. He went to Southeastern Massachusetts University, which has since merged with UMass Dartmouth. He was studying electrical engineering.

I was a “nice” girl from a large family. I had 3 brothers and 1 sister, and my Mom and Dad. Mom was a homemaker and Dad worked very hard at a factory. We were members of the Episcopal Church in town.

I grew up with some serious health issues, but was doted over by Mom and learned to get exercise and fresh air from Dad. I had asthma and epilepsy and grand mal seizures. I became strong and healthy, and lived a pretty normal life. At some point after about a month of flirting, Javad met my parents. He was polite and old-fashioned, so they approved. After that, we went on our first date, Annie Hall. . . I know, how ‘70s!

The summer went on and so did our romance. It was a very happy time. He had a lot of friends in the area and we would all go out disco dancing, to the beach and the movies together. We enjoyed getting to know each other and all the cultural differences we had.

During that time, we became engaged, and I decided to “put off” college for now. I was young and smitten and couldn’t wait to go to Iran and get married.
He asked if I would meet and befriend a friend’s wife who had just arrived in America from Iran. She had a newborn baby boy, and was lonely and spoke little English. Javad felt I would be kind and patient with her while she adapted. Her name was Munir and we became close friends. I even stayed overnight on my day off for many weeks with her and her husband Ahmad. She taught me Farsi and Iranian ways, and I helped her with English. She was a much faster learner. The best part of all was that Munir and Ahmad both came from Qazvin, Iran, the same city Javad was from. She would be a great help in countless ways to me in Iran. And, she knew my parents, had their address and phone number, and would never hesitate to call them if I was in any trouble. I would have a friend indeed in that area of the world.

The end of the school year came quickly and Javad and my friends soon headed home. I was to follow in a few months; Javad wanted to get a job first, which he did, and my parents and extended family gave me a wedding shower.

Now that it was time for me to go, I was full of excitement and anticipation. I bought presents for his family, bought my ticket on Iran Air and was all set. Javad’s job was with a microwave company and required him to be on the road a lot. So I found out that he wouldn’t be meeting me at the airport in Tehran when I arrived. His relatives, who I didn’t know at all, were going to pick me up, and they did. But, thankfully, Munir was there too, or I may have gone home with anyone!

I had traveled in my life prior to this, but in the U.S. and Canada. Stepping outside the airport in Tehran was something else entirely. There were modern buildings and cars, along with men in front of small shops, sitting and smoking hookahs. There were women in modest, modern clothes and others in chadors (full length black hijabs). The further away from Tehran we got, the more “old world” the sights were—bazaars with people selling all sorts of colorful fabrics and necessities, and men herding goats in the streets! I loved it.

Finally we arrived at the family’s home, and as it was his cousins, not immediate family who picked up me up, I had a whole new crop of people to meet. They were polite and welcoming and probably a little bit in shock. They knew I was coming, but a week with this tall, foreign, non-Iranian girl had to be a bit much. They had prepared a feast for me, but first we were beckoned to the courtyard. This courtyard was completely enclosed to the outside world, had a lovely pomegranate tree and a cement pond with koi. It was lovely.

It was getting dark, but I could see that everyone was smiling. A small goat was being held by two men about 20’ in front of me; they also seemed very happy. Munir wasn’t smiling. “Cindy, I am so sorry, I didn’t know this was going to happen, it’s very old fashioned.” She also held my hand and said, “when I squeeze your hand, look just at me.” I did as I was told and soon figured out that they were going to “sacrifice” this goat in my honor. I never got the whole story—I guess to welcome me from abroad or something.

It was quickly over and I thanked his parents as Munir said I might want to do. Then we all went inside and had a feast in my honor. It was lovely, and the food was delicious. We all sat on the floor around the cloth, and people kept talking to me. All in all, it was very nice.

A week later Javad was home; it was a very loving reunion and I was so in love, but he wasn’t the same. He spoke to me more sternly, and was talking about delaying the wedding a bit. Even his family was surprised as they were already planning it. His own brother told him off—how could he bring this young girl here and do this? But I kept receiving mixed messages from him; he took me out a lot to meet friends and seemingly show me off, yet seemed almost ashamed of me once we were “home.”

I was 19 and smart/stupid as many my age would be. He was 32.

As time went on, the protests against the Shah turned into a full-blown revolution. I could hear protesters at night shouting “marg Ba Shah” (death to the King), and also “Death to America.” Towards the end of my time there, I heard gunshots outside my window followed by screams. These were unarmed protesters. At times in different locations, I saw blood in the gutter on the side of the street. I have heard many times over the years that this was a relatively bloodless revolution—I guess that is a matter of opinion.
During my time there, I had been ill twice, once with what I believe was dysentery. His mother took me frequently to their doctor, who gave me a series of shots. Munir came most days and spoon-fed me tea. I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach, but she never stopped trying. I finally improved. I had lost a lot of weight and was weak, but kept doing exercises in their courtyard every day. I wanted to get stronger. I already felt like a big American target, and didn’t need to be half-dead, too.

My other illness was more life-threatening and was actually asthma. We stayed overnight at Munir and Ahmad’s home, and I forgot my inhaler at Javad’s house. My small wheeze was quickly turning into a full-blown attack. The biggest problem was that it was already dark outside and we were under a complete curfew. People had been shot for venturing out. To his credit, Javad was on the phone for hours trying to get me help. Munir made a sort of tent over her bed with steam and had me lay there all night. My lips were turning blue and I lost consciousness a few times. I remember being so afraid, and tears were running down my face. I thought about my parents—if I died it might kill them. (I asked them about this the other day, and they said it just might have; it was unbearable to even think about it.) Would my body get home at least? I could no longer talk, this was beyond any of my attacks at home, and of course I had medical care at home. My friends didn’t feel it was safe to bring me to a hospital. Finally, daylight came and Javad had a friend who was a pharmacist who gave him an inhaler, some kind of liquid medicine and pills for me. I was slowly breathing better.

A few days later we went to Tehran to visit with his cousins. Qazvin was getting very dangerous. Javad’s brothers’ dress shop, along with others in the mall where it was located, was blown up. It was a mild January day and I was on the 3rd floor of his cousin’s apartment building. Then, I heard a noise unlike any other-- like 10 stadiums full of people cheering all at once. It was just announced that the Shah left to go to America for medical treatment. Every Iranian knew he would never return. People were dancing in the streets. It was mass joy, but the Ayatollah Khomeini was due any time. I had to leave Iran, soon.

The next night Javad and I were back at his home, and we argued. We were alone in the kitchen, and I told him I had to have a ticket home, soon. He said he didn’t want me to go. At this point, I didn’t care what he wanted; I had to go—I was in danger. I was getting too loud, and he said “quiet down, my parents will hear you!!” I said I didn’t care, get me the tickets, I was in a dangerous situation. I saw red; any little thing my Dad ever taught me about self-defense was in my head at that moment. I decked him. I gave him a surprisingly strong blow to his chin. I knew he could really hurt me; I felt my life was at stake. He sat on the floor where he fell, and said he was sorry and please not to tell my father! Three days later, I had my ticket on Swiss Air to go home.
Finally we were at the airport in Tehran. Javad had neglected to tell me that the Iranian military had taken over the airport! I spent some time in a room with a man in uniform who told me he was a general. He was very upset with me—why had I overstayed my 3-month visa? I lied and said we didn’t have the gas to travel there. He kept yelling and pounding his desk. I cried and begged. I told him how worried my parents were and this seemed to strike a chord. He relented and stamped my visa. As we waited for my flight, I was numb and angry. As they announced my flight, we stood and Javad tried to give me a box of pastries for the flight. I threw them into the trash, hugged him quickly and boarded my flight.

Seventeen hours and many stops later, I was at JFK. Unfortunately, it was the storm of ’78. I know! What luck. I called my parents whom I wasn’t able to call for a week, as no calls were getting out. They were so happy, they wired me the money and I took a bus from Port Authority to Hartford. I don’t remember much after that.

The next morning I woke up on my parents’ sofa with my grandmother kissing me, saying “Oulie, you’re home.”

Siddur Lev Shalem is Here--Dedicate a New Siddur!

Our new Siddur Lev Shalem has made its debut to rave reviews!  We are offering you the opportunity to dedicate one or more copies of the new siddur in honor of or in memory of anyone, or to commemorate a special occasion (birthday, Siddur Lev Shalemanniversary, wedding, birth of a child or grandchild, etc.).  A bookplate will be placed in the front of each siddur with your name and message.  Your help is greatly appreciated to help cover the cost of 400 books.

Hanukkah is coming, and this makes a special gift that will be used daily in our synagogue.

The cost is $36 per book.  Please click here for an order form.

Temple Beth El in the News

Check out this article about Temple Beth El that appeared recently in The Jewish Advocate.  Click here to read.

Pay your dues, pledge or make a donation safely on our website

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, workplaces 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.

President Farkas' High Holy Day 2015 Remarks

My requests, from my HH speeches . . .

Thank you again, for the honor and privilege of leading this unique and glorious congregation for 2 ½ years.

This past year we have shared so many wonderful, meaningful, and inspiring moments.   Last Simchas Torah, our new social hall was filled with singing and dancing as we honored our USYers and rolled our scrolls back to the beginning for another great new start.  We and Sinai Temple celebrated Shavuos with dinner and a klezmer band.   We laughed and ate and schmoozed (and even listened at times) as David Brinnel and friends brought NYC (NYC, not Chicago!) to Temple Beth El in December.  Shortly after December 25, we laughed over our movie and the great Chinese food cooked by our Program Committee.   Our entire social hall was truly packed as we celebrated Purim (thank you Caryn Resnick and Marie Sampson and friends!).  We grown-ups may have had more fun with our costumes than the children all around us did!   I hope you didn’t miss the falafel at Israel Day or the instrumentalists and singers and schmoozers at the Beit Café, our very own coffee house!  At the Nechamen-Chernick Breakfast, with more great food from the Program committee, we honored our favorite clown Craig Kazin.  We celebrated wonderful Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, auf rufs, and baby-namings.   Craig and his committee arranged another inspiring day, the dedication of this sanctuary in honor of Cantor Shames.

Many of our greatest moments are those that occur quietly, day in and day out . . . at daily services, Shabbat Zimrahs, Lunch and Learn, Cuppa Joe, Shabbat Kiddush lunches, as well as at the dinners and parties, classes and get-aways for the younger set.   

And we continue to look forward . . .

Soon, we hope to have our new year-round prayer books,  with transliterations, explanations, and extra readings, like the prayer books in your hands today.  How special that our Rabbi is one of the editors.

Planning with Sinai Temple has become more intense as, with the leadership of Stuart Anfang, we hope to create an outstanding afternoon religious school for our children.  

The preservation of our building demands our constant attention.   Early in my presidency, Paul Cohen’s generous donation made possible the repair and modernization of our Social Hall.  Less apparent, but crucial, were such tasks as fixing the artesian well, searching for efficient lighting, repairing heat and air conditioning.  (Thank you Rhoda Peskin and Dan Plotkin and friends!)   

You must have noticed our new entryway already.

We are grateful to Helen Goldband for her generous bequest, and to the Feldmans and Schulmans for their support; and to the Rahn family and friends, whose bequest helped us create the beautiful back patio and garden.  And we all appreciate the work of the Art and Architecture committee under Susan Firestone and Howard Smithline who worked on putting all of this together for us.

And challenges go on . . . Although Curtis Blake School has closed, AIC is honoring its lease.  By June of 2017 we hope to have plans for using this space.   

Continuing a new tradition, I come to you with three requests:

My first request is that we all realize that it is we who are all responsible for the growth and development of our Temple.  

We cannot afford to be complacent . . . you can’t assume the person in the next seat will be the one to offer new ideas, time, energy, and financial support.

In contrast to other causes appearing in envelopes and robo-calls, I want to remind all of us that this is our synagogue.  I am aware there are many worthwhile causes in our valley and beyond, but this is our spiritual home.  This is where we share so much . . . as we study, learn, pray, celebrate family events, come in times of need, and just get together.  

Temple Beth El belongs to each of us.  And unlike so many other charities, we the members sitting in this room are the only donors.   This is our responsibility.  

My second request is that as we donate, each of us makes a pledge to ourselves that we will take full advantage of this temple we support.  Please, come for our weekly Kiddush lunches, our Shabbat Zimrah’s, our speakers, our study groups, our services big and small.  

It is interesting, but the more we come, the more we will want to come, and the better we get to know members who now may seem like distant relatives.   At least as important as our new members is the increasing presence and caring of all of us, as we grow together.  

We may have the greatest clergy, office team, and building, but it is our being here that makes all of this so special and meaningful.

And while you’re coming to all these great gatherings, please remember that there is no reason to keep this place a secret.  One day I was minding my own business . . . when Stu and Michelle Anfang invited me to a Hanukkah party here!  Please invite your friends and neighbors to times like the next rousing Shabbat Zimrah. Let them find out how great a place this is!

My third request is, for me, special.  A gift to ourselves, to each other, and to our temple.  And it does not involve money, time, or effort.  

I know that we really love and appreciate this second home of ours.  Most of the people who really need to hear about this gift are not even here today.  Please, be our emissaries, and discuss this gift with friends and neighbors.  

Now and then, when I talk with people about our temple, they become serious and start their “stories,” often involving a problem from the past, often years ago.

Someone wrote that holding a grudge is like drinking slow poison … the only one hurt is the grudge-holder.

This is the day of forgiveness …we  ask it of God and we ask it of each other.  Let’s ask it of ourselves.  

I would like to see this day, in part, be a day of personal forgiveness and acceptance  

We need to think of our “bad stories,” and let them go.

We also need to think of current issues, and accept that we are in many ways like a real family…

Now I understand that occasionally family members disagree and argue.   At least that is what I have been told….   This is not new.  In Rosh Hashanah’s Torah portion a mother and son were sent out into the desert with a skin of water!  In that day’s Haftarah, Elkana’s two wives torment each other!

Here, within our Temple family, I fully understand that not all of us are happy with every decision that has been agreed upon.   My request would be that we accept that we will not always agree, that there are many conflicting voices, but we understand that we all have the best interests of our Temple at heart.  I, too, do not always personally agree with every decision made here.  Please please, let’s continue to participate and work together to make TBE all it can be.  

And that is my third request… let’s let the old conflicts go, accept that we will not always agree, and accept each other as trying to do what’s best for our temple.  Let’s never be afraid to express our opinions – for as one member recently reminded me, Jews always have different opinions… but at a certain point, it is time to leave the disagreement behind and move on …  together.

When we give a gift, whether the gift of support, the gift of showing up, or the gift of acceptance and forgiving, we are giving to ourselves, individually and to each other. .…

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.”