Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Eliot Cutler to Speak at Rockland Synagogue

As part of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue's 100th anniversary celebration, Eliot Cutler, a leading figure on the Maine political and business scene, will speak at the synagogue, located at 50 Willow Street in Rockland, on Thursday, September 6 at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

Cutler's talk, "21st Century Responsibilities," will deal with what citizenship should mean in America today. Cutler's message in this election year is that with the nation's voters split down the middle and subjected to unprecedented partisan rhetoric, it is important to remember what unites us and what we all need to respect.

Two years ago, Eliot Cutler came within two percentage points and 9,000 votes of becoming Maine's first Jewish governor. If he had won, it's a pretty safe bet that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert wouldn't be relying on him these days as a frequent target of ridicule. It's also a reasonable assumption that the political divisions in the state wouldn't be as rancorous as they currently are.

In his campaign in 2010 Cutler, who ran as an Independent, appealed across party lines to what he considers the large "middle" that makes up Maine's voters. He believes that many Mainers see things from both sides of the aisle and are both fiscally conservative and socially progressive. That's a vast number of voters who don't necessarily see the issues as a Republican or a Democrat, and seek alternative candidates who reflect their position. 

"People are tired of the drivel that's been put out by both political parties," he told a newspaper reporter back then. "I set out to be the candidate with ideas, not rhetoric."

And the political stalemate in Congress and across America has only worsened since Cutler's gubernatorial run. Apart from the ideologues, concerned and frustrated citizens want government to work and actually get things done, and they don't see that happening. Cutler's friend and former Maine governor Angus King is running as an Independent for senator this fall, and is using the same message in his campaign that Cutler did two years ago.

Eliot Cutler grew up in Bangor and attended Harvard and Georgetown Law School. He worked for Sen. Edmund Muskie and in the Carter administration as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Since then he has had a successful career in law and in business.

With his wealth of experience and clear-headed understanding of the issues facing Maine and the country, we're looking forward to having Eliot Cutler share his insights on September 6 at Adas Yoshuron. 

Adas Yoshuron, which is marking its 100th anniversary this year, is an unaffiliated, all-inclusive synagogue serving the Jewish community of midcoast Maine. For more information, please call the synagogue office, 594-4523, or email

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rosh HaShanah Lunch

Do you need a place for Rosh HaShanah Lunch?  Beth Israel will be providing lunch after first day Rosh HaShanah services.

The cost is $18.00 for adults, and kids under 12 eat free.

If you would like to celebrate and eat with us, please email your RSVP here.

Great Events on Latin American Jewry in Bangor

Both lectures are by Tel Aviv University Spanish Professor Dr. Amalia Ran, are sponsored by Bangor JCEA, and are free and open to the public.

""Nuestra Shoa (Our Holocaust): Memory and Post-Memory in Latin American Perspectives," 12:30-1:45 p.m., 
Totman Room, Memorial Union, University of Maine, Orono. This brown bag luncheon lecture is co-sponsored by the Women in the Curriculum & Women's Studies Program, the  Marxist-Socialist Interdisciplinary Minor, the Maine Peace Action Committee, the Memorial Union, the College of Liberal Arts and Science, and UMaine Hillel. This lecture is part of the weekly Socialist and Marxist Studies Lecture Series.
"If You Will It, It Is No Dream... ?  And If Not?:   Imagining Israel in Contemporary Jewish-Latin American  Culture.”  
7 PM, Congregation Beth Abraham, 145 York St., Bangor, to be followed by questions and answers and a reception for Prof. Ran. 
For further information, please contact Dr. Ann Schonberger [942-4055] or Congregation Beth Abraham [947-0876].

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Don't Return to Egypt: Parashat Shoftim

            I, like so many others in my generation, have an addiction to online TV.  Sometimes I can justify my viewing habits because I am watching something thoughtful and artsy like The Wire, and other times I simply cannot find a suitable excuse for watching the 14th video of baby sloths on youtube in one day.    Despite my inability to justify my behavior, there are days when I just continue to fall further and further down the rabbit hole because it is so comforting, easy, and passive.  With the advent of internet television, my brain created a feedback loop that releases endorphins each time I hear the theme songs of one of my favorite shows.  On one hand, my bad habit is humorous, but in reality, it is quite depressing.  It does not make me happy or fulfilled -- I indeed would rather be meeting my obligations -- but TV puts my brain to sleep; it provides momentary comfort from the stresses of life.  In many ways, Netflix is my Egypt.  I know it all too well, it continues to feed me familiar and tasty delights (the Israelites loved the watermelon and leeks found in Egypt), and it keeps me from worshiping God and fulfilling my obligations to the Divine.
         Yesterday, however, I had a breakthrough.  I got sick and tired of failing to write my sermons and went to a cardio kickboxing class.  All of a sudden, I felt my life falling back into line. When I came back home, I finished several sermons and began researching the ones that I had left to write. In the midst of my frenzied productivity, I also remembered  that I had been forgetting to blow shofar each morning for the month of Elul.  That is how out of it I had been for the past few weeks.  This morning I blew shofar, put on my tefillin, prayed, and got back to studying.  Elul is propelling my life forward, out of Egypt and toward Eden, away from TV and toward Torah.
        One of the pieces about Parashat Shoftim this morning was by Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, who highlights Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary on Deuteronomy 17:16:

16. Only, he may not acquire many horses for himself, so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, for the Lord said to you, "You shall not return that way any more."טז. רַק לֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ סוּסִים וְלֹא יָשִׁיב אֶת הָעָם מִצְרַיְמָה לְמַעַן הַרְבּוֹת סוּס וַי־הֹוָ־ה אָמַר לָכֶם לֹא תֹסִפוּן לָשׁוּב בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה עוֹד:

Why are we commanded not go to back to Egypt?  Hirsch points out that Israelites have returned to Egypt several times throughout our history.  Whenever there was a drought in the Land of Israel, our ancestors would go to the fertile shores of the Nile for sustenance.   When we were wandering in the desert, our ancestors cried out to Moses about how badly they wanted to return to the familiarity and richness of Egypt. It only took a short period of time before they forgot the horrors of slavery and lusted for the material comforts of their former home, and the sense of security they found in the familiar.  We are commanded not to return to Egypt because despite all of its challenges, it is a tempting place to return to.
         Sometimes certain places and behaviors make something click in our brain, and that click provides us with a sense of pleasure.  The click is not always a good thing.  Many times, it is the needle of our brain returning to the familiar and well-worn groove of bad habits.  This click feels good because it signals a return to a path of little resistance.  However, Elul is the time when we need to jump to a new groove, even if it is  new and bumpy. 
        One of the lines from our liturgy that  has always caught my attention and seems very apropos to the spirit of Elul is from the prayer Etz Hayim Hi.  We plead with God to "Hadesh Yameinu K'kedem."  This line can be translated in many ways -- it can either mean, "renew our days like in days of old" or "renew our days like in the East."  Where is East?  Eden -- the land of perfection toward which we always strive.  In truth, we can always go back to Egypt, and it is in our nature to always want to return.  Our lives generally do not consist of one great Exodus and one miraculous redemption/return.  Rather our lives are spent in the the desert wandering back and forth between our better and worse selves.  Elul is the time to wake up and make sure that we're heading in the right direction for the new year.  And even if we cannot live a life completely free of Egypt, this is the time to locate our Egypt, identify our best exit route, and begin the path back toward Eden.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Events this Week at Beth Israel Congregation

Thursday evening at Selah Tea Cafe 6:30 pm - Talmud Class. 

"When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up: Jewish Speech Ethics"  You can access the text in advance here.

Friday night at 7:00 pm - Shabbat Evening Services

Saturday morning at 10 am - Shabbat morning Hike at Quarry Road. (Meet at Parking Lot)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beth Israel High Holiday Schedule

Selichot Services: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm with Beth El Augusta (Held at Beth Israel)

Rosh HaShannah

•Evening service: Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm
•First Day Service: Monday September 17, 2012 at 9:30 am LUNCH to FOLLOW at 2:15 pm – RSVP to
•Tashlich (By Mesolonskee Stream): Monday, September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm
•Second Day Service: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 10 am

Shabbat Shuva

•Friday Night Service: September 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm
•Saturday Morning Service: September 22, 2012 at 10 am

Yom Kippur

•Evening Service: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm
•Morning Service: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 9:30 am.
Mincha Torah Study and Service: 5:30 pm
Ma’ariv and Ne’eilah Serivces: 6:15
Break the Fast: 7:00 pm


•Sukkah Decoration and Evening Dinner: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm (crafts) and 6:00 pm (Potluck dinner!) (COLBY COLLEGE SUKKAH – RAIN LOCATION (PUGH CENTER)
•Morning Service: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 10 am (Beth Israel)
•Barrels Learning Program: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm. Potluck dinner! (COLBY COLLEGE SUKKAH)

Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

•Shmini Atzeret Services (Yizkor): Monday, October 8, 2012 at 10am
•Simchat Torah Party and Service: Monday, October 8, 2012 at Kids activity and light meal at 4:45 pm and service at 6 pm.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Next Midrash Class: How Does God Deal with Grief?

Our next midrash class will be this upcoming Monday, August 6th, at 12:00 pm at the Thai Bistro in downtown Waterville.  The topic will deal with how God deals with grief and how this reflects on our own mourning practices.  You can access the text for our next class by clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Representing Waterville in the Holy Land

Some belated pictures of Mel and I representing Barrel's Community Market in Amirim, Israel.  Amirim is a special place -- a completely vegetarian yishuv that uses local and organic produce.  The food was fantastic and we loved wearing our new tee-shirts!

Shabbat this Week: Come to Beth Israel!

Sermon topics for Shabbat services this week:

Friday Night, "From Destruction to Fulfillment: Witnessing as Jews" 
Potluck at 6, Services at 7 on Friday night
Saturday Morning, "Living an Unfulfilled Life with Joy"

Saturday morning services at 10am