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May 2019 —Iyar — Sivan— 5779 — Newsletter

My Last Column For A While

By Cantor Kate Judd

Can this really be my last newsletter column until July of 2020? It seems hard to believe that at the end of June 2019 it will have been seven years since I first became BAJC’s Madrichah Ruchanit. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve BAJC as your Spiritual Leader and Cantor. During my time with you, I have been caring for, losing, and grieving for my husband Bob. I’ve also lost my aunt, who was a kind of surrogate mother, my dear friend Rupa, and my beloved teacher, mentor, and friend Sanford Sylvan. I cannot overstate how very much I have appreciated the kindness and support I have received from the Board and members of BAJC during these challenging times.

I have had to draw on my deepest reserves in order to carry forward my role in our community. I love working at BAJC, but I need replenishing in order to continue to be the inspiring and energetic leader and teacher that you deserve. I am pleased and touched that the BAJC Board has voted to grant me a year’s unpaid sabbatical. I will be spending nine months of this time studying at the Pardes program in Jerusalem, improving my Hebrew in an ulpan, and hopefully connecting with Alexander Technique teachers in Jerusalem as well. I also plan to travel around Israel and spend as much time as I can with my relatives (including a brand new great-grandson!) I will be davening in a variety of settings and refilling my inner well with the water of life.

I have signed a contract to return for three more years at BAJC, beginning July 1, 2020. I expect to bring back from Israel many skills and a lot of new vitality to devote to the cause of building our Jewish spiritual and cultural life here at Shir HeHarim. I already have many ideas for ways we can strengthen our community and make our Judaism more meaningful and relevant in the present day while honoring and continuing our ancient traditions.

I know it will be a change to have someone else (maybe even more than one someone) leading the community for a year. I have faith in the strength of our kahal, however, and I believe it may be refreshing for everyone to have a change of pace. The search committee has worked tirelessly to sort through the piles of applications to find someone well suited to minhag Brattleboro (the Brattleboro way of doing things). I’ll be around this summer teaching and officiating the services of two b’not mitzvah, and helping the interim rabbi/cantor/leader to get oriented, but I will be working only on a very part-time basis. Again, I want to express my profound gratitude for the generosity of the Board and the BAJC community in giving me this time off. Please don’t hesitate to contact me before the end of June with your questions and concerns.

And in the meantime -- watch for my blog! When I get to Jerusalem I will try to write and post photos regularly. I look forward to sharing my journey and my studies with all of you! And of course, I look forward to our years together in the future.

 

 

Greet, Eat, and Meet at the Annual Membership Meeting

June 23rd at 7:00 pm!

Time for a lot of BAJC members to get together without the need for prayer books!  Come to socialize and break bread together and to make important decisions for the upcoming year for our community.  All members and their families (kids included) are encouraged to come at 6:00 pm for a community barbecue that will include beef burgers, veggie burgers, kosher franks, condiments, and cold drinks.  Salads, side dishes, and desserts will be potluck, so please bring something to share.

The business meeting, starting at 7:00, will include a “state of the shul” address by the presidents, a treasurer’s report and presentation of the budget proposed for the fiscal year beginning on September 1st,  election of Trustees to the Board, and other reports or business or questions that might come up. Please come and let your voice be heard!

This Month's Top Stories

President's Column
 

 

You Are Jewish Enough

By co-president Laura Berkowitz

When I moved to Vermont I was connected to my Judaism by a mere thread.  It was a thread I valued, perhaps even treasured, and it seemed to me to be so much more important to be Jewish in Vermont than it was where I lived previously where there were many Jews. Here  I needed to be Jewish for my own sake and to support other scattered Jewish folks in this rural state. Gradually the thread became a rope drawing me closer to the Brattleboro Area Jewish community.  That was in 1984. Thirty years later I had my bat mitzvah here on my 55th birthday! Around that time my husband and I were embarking on the adventure of raising animals - goats, sheep, chickens. One Saturday morning I called Kate for guidance on a spiritual matter -- I wondered if there was a prayer to say  before butchering 25 chickens.. I was apparently oblivious to the fact that butchering chickens might not be the most appropriate Shabbat activity. To say I was embarrassed when this was made clear to me, is an understatement.

 

Do you ever feel like you’re not Jewish enough? Well, I’m with you!  Now, to my surprise, I am co-president of the Brattleboro area Jewish community and  it is within my authority to tell you “You are Jewish enough!”   Dayenu.  If you’re thinking:  “I can’t follow the prayers.”  Dayenu.  “I only attend services at high holidays.” Dayenu. “I don’t own a tallis or a seder plate.” Dayenu. “I was not raised Jewish.” Dayenu. “Whenever I go to the Whetstone I order the bacon cheeseburger.” Dayenu. “I am not observant.” “I am a cultural Jew.” “I’ve never been to Israel and I never intend to go.”  Dayenu on all counts.  “I don’t even know what ‘Dayenu’ means!” I can at least supply you with that knowledge. It is a reference to the song we sing at Passover about all the things God has done for us, saying that even one of those things would have been enough.  So whatever it is you can do to connect to Judaism, dayenu!

 

When my son Paul was deciding whether or not to become a bar mitzvah, he said, “Mom, I don’t even know if I believe in G-d.”  I was pleased to be able to tell him that even belief in God is not a requirement to identify yourself as Jewish. Identifying as Jewish is dayenu.  So whoever you are wherever you are if you are reading this, you are Jewish enough. Join us - we need you!

BAJC’s Mini “Antique Roadshow”

Our fifth annual appraisal day fundraiser came to a successful conclusion on May 19th. A total of thirty people from Keene, Harrisville, Winchester, Jaffrey including Brattleboro and its surrounding area plus a few from Massachusetts attended, bringing over 75 items to be appraised. They brought an assortment of unique pieces such as a signed Helen Keller letter, an early board game created by two Dartmouth students, an array of art including oils on canvas and board, a signed copy of a Brugel, an Asian Pochoir by a listed artist, a full dinner set of 19th. century Japanese Kutani china, an early Bennington pottery jug, a quilt and other textiles, a Rumanian bible, estate jewelry, collectible coins. Most notable was a late 19th early 20th. century copy of a Stradivarius cello made in Czechoslovakia. Deb Schiller states it “ran smoothly, without problems, and the folks who came with their treasures were so pleased that we had this event.”   Volunteer assistance of David Levenbach, Brian Cohen, Andrea Watkins, Faith Schuster, Deb Schiller, and Stephan Brandstatter contributed to the smooth running of the event. Special thanks go to Lissa Weinmann and John Loggia, owners of 118 Elliot for their discounted rental fee and, most importantly, to the participating appraisers -- Larry Simons, Richard Michelman, Walter Tofel, Charles Suss, Kit Barry, and Stephan Brandstatter. Their expertise and knowledge pleased and amazed everyone who brought items and everyone seemed to enjoy the appraisals. You might want to start looking through your attics, basements, and the corners of your closets for treasures to bring to the next BAJC appraisal event, maybe two years from now.

Heartbreaking and Informative
(Human Trafficking Training)

By Co-President Laura Berkowitz

 On Sunday May 19th, House Representative Linda Joy Sullivan presented a basic training about Human Trafficking to about 25 people at the First Congregational Church in West Brattleboro.  This event was presented by BAJC and co-sponsored by the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Leadership Alliance. Special thanks to Reverend Audrey Walker who hosted at her church and along with BAJC provided ample snacks for attendees.  

Linda Joy Sullivan offered a thorough and heart-breaking look at the world of human trafficking as it is exists currently in all 50 U.S. states.  She taught us when activities rise to the level of trafficking, the differences between labor trafficking, human smuggling and sex trafficking and who are the likely victims of sex trafficking.  She also clarified the question of why it is so difficult to detect and prosecute. To sum up one of her main points in a few words: In order for an activity to be considered Human Trafficking it must involve Force, Fraud and/or Coercion.  Linda also articulated all the ways potential rescuers might put themselves or victims in further danger by attempting to rescue them. She emphasized that we rely on law enforcement and provided a hotline number 888-984-8626 for use in Vermont.  Linda assured us that if a suspected trafficking site had been written about in the papers, law enforcement was already investigating.

We welcome all BAJC members and friends to meet Rabbi Lee Moore, a candidate for the position of Interim Spiritual Leader, on Wednesday, June 5  from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. There will be a chance to greet Rabbi Moore and join her in song, conversation, and prayers.  Rabbi Moore has most recently been a Senior Jewish Educator for Hillel at Kent State University in Ohio. She studied at Hebrew College Rabbinical School and is interested in Jewish mysticism. Please try to come to meet the candidate and to give her an opportunity to meet us.  Light refreshments will be served..

 

Image result for shavuot

Shavuot Offerings at BAJC and Beyond

 Shavuot is one of the “Big Three” – the Shalosh Regalim, the three Pilgrimage Festivals (along with Pesach and Sukkot). It marks the date when the Jews of Temple times expected to be able to reap their first harvest and take their “first fruits” offering up to Jerusalem. It also represents the day when the Torah was given to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.

BAJC is offering two opportunities to observe this holiday. On the evening of Saturday, June 8 we are offering an evening of creative study. Our playful take on a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, aimed at teens and adults, will run from 7 pm to 12 midnight (or as late as we last!). We will sing songs, create art, explore movement, learn a bit about the history and practice of Shavuot, and engage in text study. Laura Berkowitz will be offering a deep dive into Abraham Joshua Heschel’s concept of Radical Amazement. Watch your weekly message for more news about other special presenters. This will also be Cantor Kate’s last teaching opportunity before her sabbatical; she is looking forward to creating a particularly special evening for all.

On Sunday June 9, after the final day of Hebrew School, there will be a Shavuot Mincha and Yizkor at 5:30 pm. Come to say Kaddish, remember your lost loved ones, and give your community the gift of allowing them to say Kaddish as well. Help us make a minyan!

Another Shavuot offering in the area

Rabbi Shefa Gold is offering “Preparing for Revelation”, an evening of Hebrew Chant in preparation for Shavuot, at Temple Israel in Greenfield on June 6 at 7-9 pm.  $10-18 Suggested Donation. More info/RSVP: office@templeisraelgreenfield.org  This events is supported in part by a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

(Please note, Rabbi Gold’s weekend retreat is no longer accepting applicants - -the program is filled.)

 

Significant Jewish Books Club

The next meeting of the Significant Jewish Books Club will be on Wednesday, August 7th at 6:00 at the shul, giving you plenty of time to read the book —Kaddish.com, by prize-winning author Nathan Englander.  Kaddish.com is not an e-mail address; it is the title of the book about family dynamics surrounding the death of an Orthodox Jewish father when his secular son refuses to say Kaddish for the required eleven months. Ironically, the novel has been called “a streamlined comic masterpiece . . . sharp, irreverent, and wholly irresistible” as it captures the tensions between tradition and modernity. New readers are always welcome to participate in a potluck supper and discussion of the book. Call Selma (802-464-5803) for more information or to let her know you will be attending.

Nomination for Board Trustees

BAJC’s Board of Trustees consists of up to twelve Jewish people, four elected each year to serve three-year terms.  Occasionally, someone leaves the Board before the three-year term ends, so there may be an opening to fill an unexpired term (for one or two or even three years).  This year in addition to the four full terms, there are two unexpired two-year terms.Trustees are elected at the annual membership meeting—this year on June 23rd. Officers are elected from the Board for one-year terms.

Currently serving on the Board are Susan Auslander, Faith and Abe Schuster, Diane Shamas, and Ajna Siegel (until June 2019);

Moss Linder (until 2020), Stephan Brandstatter, Rick Gordon, Laura Berkowitz, and Brian Cohen (until 2021). Up to six Trustees can be elected at the annual meeting this month; Trustees are eligible for re-election at the expiration of their term.  Please nominate yourself or someone you know who is interested by sending names to Faith Schuster or Norma Shakun as soon a possible. Call either or both of them, or any current Board member, if you have any questions or want to find out more about the “job” of Trustee.  The Board meets regularly on the second Thursday of the month at 6:00, but the day may be changed if another is more convenient for the majority of the Trustees.

This Month's Notes

Hebrew School Notes

Hebrew School is drawing to a close. Our last day of school is June 9. We hope parents will join their kids on this fun day when we celebrate our teachers, mark the holiday of Shavuot by giving a gift of miniature torahs to the students, eat some ice cream, and generally have a good time.

Student progress reports will be coming out before June 9, which will include an  evaluation of each student’s Hebrew progress. You can also expect a call over the summer from a member of the Hebrew School Committee to get your feedback on how the BAJC Hebrew School is meeting your family’s needs. In a small rural school that only meets once weekly, we are limited in what we can accomplish, but we always want to know what your hopes are for your child’s experience and to hear any concerns you may have for the coming year.

We’re pleased to announce that next year Willow Frantz will be teaching the older children’s class. Willow is the mom of Nathaniel Frantz-Holmes, who is currently in our Hebrew School, and Elliot Frantz-Holmes, who went through the BAJC school and had his Bar Mitzvah a few years ago. Willow was born in the United States. She lived in Israel from the age of eight until 21, attended orthodox schools there, and is fluent in Hebrew. She and her family moved to Brattleboro from the SF Bay Area fifteen years ago. She has a degree in Literature from U.C Berkeley, a degree in Nursing from VT Tech and has worked as a nurse at the Brattleboro Retreat and the community. She has tutored Bat/Bar Mitzvah students. John Ungerleider will be available as a substitute teacher, and may come in to do some special projects with the kids.

Cantor Kate is working on next year’s curriculum, with assistance from Orly. The focus will be on Jewish time – the seasonal cycle of holidays, life cycle events, and mythological and historical time. We hope to start the year with the classes together, building community and setting appropriate boundaries for behavior. We also hope to have kids working on projects in teams, sometimes including kids from each class. As ever we will continue to teach Hebrew reading, as well as building some modest Hebrew vocabulary, and learning some prayers. We’ll also be looking at some Jewish ethical concepts, and we plan to engage more with Jewish outdoor learning, focusing on the concepts of Tikkun olam (repair of the world) and Ba’al tashchit (not destroying God’s creation).

Please contact Diane Shamas, the Chair of the Hebrew School Committee, or Cantor Kate, with any questions or concerns. (Cantor Kate will be on sabbatical after June 30.) Watch your newsletter and email for updates on an interim Hebrew School Director and Spiritual Leadership. Hebrew School will begin again on September 8, 2019. It never hurts to register early – please contact Faith.

HONORABLE MENSCHEN

Donations were gratefully given in May from:

Marilyn Queen in memory of her husband Sumner Queen

Stephan Brandstatter in memory of his parents Esther and Sol Brandstatter

Note:   The “honorable menschen” regularly listed here are donations made to specific funds or to the general operating fund, above and beyond membership “gifts from the heart” (formerly known as “dues.”) Although we do not list individual membership “gifts from the heart” in the newsletter, we sincerely thank all who have pledged and/or given.

Dates to Remember

Shacharit and Torah services on June 1 and15

Bat mitzvah of Lena Clark at 10:00 on June 8 at WVMH

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot on June 8, 7:00 to midnight

Shavuot Yizkor at 5:30 on June 9

Kabbalat Shabbat at 7:00 on June 21

Hebrew school at 3:30 on June 2 and 9

Board of Trustees meeting at 6:00 on June 6

Mah jongg at 2:00 every Wednesday  (note new time!)

 

Annual membership meeting at 7:00 on

June 23; bbq at 6:00

Tamina and Scott Marshall

are delighted to invite everyone in BAJC

to help celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter

(granddaughter of Jennifer and Joe Mazur)

Lena Clark

Saturday, June 8th at 10 am at the

West Village Meeting House

Luncheon to follow the service

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