Thursday, September 22, 2011

Music for the High Holiday Season

Yael Naim and Din Din with the song mashmauyot, "meanings."

Can Repentance Change the Past?

Come and join this holy and important discussion at Selichot services at Beth Israel Synagogue, this Saturday night at 8:30 pm.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Selichot Services, Held at Beth Israel Synagogue, will be at 8:30 pm on Saturday, September 24th. It will be a joint service with Beth El in Augusta. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shabbat Services this Week

Services on Friday night will be at 7:00 pm (Kelsey Street Entrance): The sermon will be called, "The Birth of a Nation: From the Children of Israel to the People Israel."

Saturday services will be at 9:15 am (Main Street Entrance) and we will study the Shema and Her Blessings during Torah study.

Weird Moments in Jewish History

Check out this new blog from our very own Mel Weiss. She will be producing podcasts that teach us about various strange, funny, and exciting moments in the history of the Jewish people. You can check out her blog at:

A Must Read on Current Events in Israel

From the Washington Post Editorial Board:

Once again, Israel is scapegoated

By Editorial, Published: September 12

ISRAELIS WORRY that the Arab Spring is turning from a popular movement against dictatorship into another assault on the Jewish state, and their worry is not unfounded. Last week in Cairo a mob attacked the Israeli Embassy, forcing the evacuation of the ambassador and most of his staff; the previous week the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was expelled. Later this month Palestinians are expected to introduce a resolution on statehood at the United Nations, and Israel could be further isolated if, as expected, a large majority of the General Assembly votes in favor of it.

There’s little doubt that plenty of Arabs and Turks are angry at Israel. But it’s worth noting that, as often is the case in the Middle East, those passions are being steered by governments.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who aspires to regional leadership, has directed a campaign against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and stoked it with incendiary statements. Mr. Erdogan is furious that a U.N. investigation concluded that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, and thus its intervention to stop a Turkish-led flotilla last year, was legal. He also finds it convenient to lambaste Israel rather than talk about neighboring Syria, where daily massacres are being carried out by a regime Mr. Erdogan cultivated.

The assault on the embassy in Cairo has been condemned by the leaders of Egypt’s popular revolution and by some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both they and Western diplomats blame the ruling military for failing to secure the embassy, and they suspect the omission may have been part of an effort to divert rising public unrest toward a familiar target.

In the West Bank, polls have shown that President Mahmoud Abbas’s U.N. statehood initiative is regarded as a low priority by the majority of Palestinians, 60 percent of whom said the better option was resuming direct negotiations with Israel. But Mr. Abbas fears he may be the next target of popular uprising; the U.N. gambit appears aimed in part at preempting that.

This is not to say the trend is benign. Israel is looking more isolated than at any time in decades. It is more than a hapless bystander: Mr. Netanyahu’s government could have avoided a crisis with Turkey had it been willing to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks during the interception of the flotilla, which the U.N. panel rightly judged to be an excessive use of force. An incident in which five Egyptian guards were killed when Israeli forces pursued terrorists crossing the border helped to trigger the upsurge in tensions with Cairo. And Mr. Netanyahu’s slowness to embrace reasonable parameters for Palestinian statehood provided Mr. Abbas with a pretext for his U.N. initiative.

It nevertheless is in the interest of Western governments, as well as of Israel, to resist the counterproductive and irresponsible initiatives of Mr. Abbas and Mr. Erdogan. In Egypt, the military has cited the attack on the Israeli Embassy as a pretext to apply emergency laws and censor the media; those, too, are steps in the wrong direction. The core demands of the Arab Spring have nothing to do with Israel: They are about ending authoritarian rule and modernizing stagnating societies. Scapegoating Israel will not satisfy the imperative for change.

Very Very Awesome Rosh HaShannah Video

From the Fountainheads in Ein Prat, Israel:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Israeli Song of the Week: Adon HaS'lichot, Master of Forgiveness

Another wonderful video from the Piyut Project in Israel which has showcased the traditional music of Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews (from Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East.) Here is Adon HaS'lichot, part of the High Holiday liturgy which asks for God to forgive us for the sins we have committed before The Divine:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Mitzvah of Egalitarianism

Beth Israel Congregation has been Egalitarian for a long time. Men and women have been called to the Torah and to the bimah several times over the past few decades. It is a value that we hold as a Conservative congregation committed to inclusion. Shaul Kellner, a professor of Jewish studies from Vanderbilt University wrote the following article for on taking the value on egalitarianism one step further and integrating it into all elements of our Jewish existence:

A Mitzvah of Egalitarianism

Posted By eJP On September 8, 2011 @ 10:35 am In Opinion | 4 Comments

by Shaul Kelner

Several years ago, a friend at a Jewish feminist organization asked if I would consider joining some of my male colleagues in making a pledge: to not participate on all-male panels and to make the inclusion of at least one woman a condition of my involvement. The idea was to enlist men as allies in the ongoing struggle for gender equity in Jewish communal life.

I had conducted research on gender and power in Jewish organizations, some of it for the group that was now making the request, Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community. I knew the hard figures about the glass ceilings, pay differentials, and devaluing of women’s achievements in the synagogues, day schools, community centers, federations and agencies I had studied. Agreeing to the request was therefore easy, and I quickly responded, “I’m in.”

It was clear to me that the issues that my friend, Rabbi Joanna Samuels, was raising, were important ones: Whose voices are given platforms in the Jewish public square? What message does an all-male panel send about who is valued, who is worth listening to, who has something important to contribute to a conversation?

As I considered these questions, I recalled a situation a few years back when a Jewish think tank convened a “visioning the future” conference to which they had invited not a single woman. More like visioning the 1950s, my fellow sociologist, Steven M. Cohen, and I wrote at the time in an op-ed that took the organizers to task. But words after the fact are not enough to really solve the problem. Better I and like-minded men should speak up beforehand, and not allow our presence in public forums to legitimize women’s forced absence from them.

When event planners are faced with criticism over lack of female representation in their speaker line-ups, a common dodge is to claim that they are under pressure to bring in “big names” and that these are just more likely to be men. But there is a circular logic here. Someone becomes a “draw” when they have appeared in many public settings, when they are invited to be on important committees, and when they are invited to address large convenings. The absence of women from these settings is thus a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Since accepting AWP’s challenge and making a pledge two years ago not to participate in all-male panels, I have had the opportunity to invoke the pledge in a number of professional and communal settings. (Not too many, thankfully. That is a good sign.)

I cannot speak for the dozens of other Jewish male leaders, scholars and activists who also made the pledge, but in my case, push has never actually come to shove. My convictions have not yet been tested. I never had to refuse participation because, so far, not once have the conveners failed to “find” a woman who can participate. Generally, the conversations have gone something like this:

“Prof. Kelner, will you teach at our all-night Shavuot study session?”

“Sure. I’d be happy to. Who else is on the program?”

“Abe, Isaac and Jake”

“You couldn’t find any women to teach? Look, I’d love to join the program, but I’ve made a pledge not to participate in all-male panels. And anyway, do you really want to send the message that there are no qualified women?”

“Wow! You’re right. Thank you. We’re going to fix this.”

“Do that, and I’ll be happy to participate.”

Perhaps I would encounter more resistance were my response seen as an idiosyncratic choice. Presenting it as a “pledge” – a commitment that I have made and that other men have made, too – gives it a certain force that it might otherwise not have.

As it stands, the responses I get from program organizers usually include some expression of thanks. People want to do the right thing. When I mention the pledge, it is a values-clarifying moment that typically leads people to realize that they care about gender equity and need to act on these values. Significantly, when the same conveners have invited me back a second time, the problem of all-male panels has not repeated.

Many men, particularly of my generation, have already committed themselves not to speak on panels and in programs that exclude women’s voices. Hopefully, more and more will use their influence in this way.

The pledge is a mitzvah of egalitarianism. And as the sages teach, mitzvah gorreret mitzvah, one mitzvah leads to another. Together, we can help build a community that values men and women equally as leaders and as teachers of the Jewish people.

(If you are interested in learning more about this pledge, please contact Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community at

Shaul Kelner teaches sociology and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Beth Israel Fall Schedule

Beth Israel Congregation:

Upcoming Events for the Fall

Selichot (Joint Service with Temple Beth El)

September 24, 2011 at Beth Israel Congregation

Rosh HaShannah

· Wednesday, September 28, 2011, Erev Rosh HaShannah Services 6:00 pm

· Thursday, September 29, 2011, Rosh HaShannah Services 9:15 am

(12:30 pm Lunch will follow - please rsvp at

· Thursday, September 29, 2011, Tashlich at 2:15 pm - meet in synagogue lobby

· Friday, September 30, 2011, Second Day Services at 9:15 am

Shabbat Shuvah

· Friday, September 30, 2011, Shabbat Shuva Evening Services at 7:00 pm

· Saturday, October 1, 2011, Shabbat Shuva Morning Services at 9:00 am

Yom Kippur

· Friday, October 7, 2011, Kol Nidre Services 5:30 pm

· Saturday, October 8, 2011 Yom Kippur Morning Services 9:15 am

· Mincha, Maariv, and Neilah 5:45 pm


· Thursday, October 13, 2011, Sukkot Morning Services 10 am

· Friday, October 14, 2011, Soup Dinner with Colby 6 pm Colby College Sukkah

· Sunday, October 16, 2011 Sukkot activity with Barrels Community Market

in the Colby College sukkah at 5:30 pm

· Thursday October 20, 2011, Shemini Atzeret Services (Yizkor) 10 am

· Thursday October 20, 2011, Simchat Torah Services 6:00 pm

Fall Adult Education Series: Top 10 Stories in the Talmud

· First class: How To Fight Fair: Lessons about the Power and Pitfalls of Arguing. Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm at Selah Tea CafĂ© in downtown Waterville. Snacks will be available for purchase.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shabbat Services This Week

Join us this weekend for Shabbat services!

Friday night at 6:00 pm: Potluck Downstairs

Friday night at 7:00 pm: Shabbat Evening Services (Sermon Topic: Pain and Suffering: Can you ever compensate?)

Saturday morning at 10:00 am: Shabbat Morning Services (Learning about the Prayerbook)

See you there!