Sunday, January 27, 2013

Next Bagel Brunch! February 10th at 10 am

Beth Israel Congregation Bagel Brunch

A Double Portion: My Service in the
United States Army and the Israeli Defense Forces


Time travel and space travel.  You might not have expected military life to involve either of these, at least at David Frommer's junior rank, but that's sort of exactly what happened.  Pack your bagels and journey to a world of misunderstandings, moral dilemmas and matchless satisfaction.



Cantor David Frommer  received his B.A. in History with Honors from Yale University  After college,  David volunteered for fifteen months as a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, where he served with distinction. During the next five years he pursued his cantorial studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute and trained as a chaplain with the New York Army National Guard. Following his investiture from HUC-JIR, David deployed overseas as the first-ever cantor to serve as a chaplain in the US military, providing religious support for Jewish soldiers and civilians stationed in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.

Beth Israel Congregation
Sunday, February 10, 2013
10:00 AM

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tu Beshvat is this Saturday night!

Join us for our annual TuBeshvat Seder on January 26, 2013 at 6 pm. 

 There will be a potluck dinner and havdallah.

I will be co-leading the seder and activities with environmental educator, Nora Saks:


Nora Saks is a relatively new Mainer, having relocated to Portland in early 2011 for work. However, she feels as if Maine has always been her home in her heart. Raised in Rockville, MD, Nora then fled the DC area and attended the University of Toronto. Partway through college, she developed a serious interest in healthy food and has spent the majority of the last 7 years growing food on organic farms in the U.S. and Canada, and teaching kids and adults how to grow it, prepare it and share it through community education programs at food and farm-based non-profits. She is currently studying massage therapy at the New Hampshire Institute for Therapeutic Arts and looks forward to one day combining bodywork with a cooperative farming venture.  Nora is always excited about new ways to look at and practice Judaism in a more earth-centered and inclusive way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reflections on the Israeli Election


Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party.

  The results are in, and they are quite different than what we were told to expect.  David Remnick of the New Yorker predicted a certain rightward, theocratic lurch in Israel politics.  The New York Times claimed that the lack of enthusiasm for the election was blatant, and Netanyahu's reelection was a shoe-in.  These portrayals of Israel's election were horrifying -- thankfully they were patently false.  Based on all exit polls, the center-left block won 59 seats with the right-wing block winning 61.  We witnessed a surge in the success of Israel's centrist and left-wing parties, and a bruising result for Israel's right wing.  Yes, Netanyahu will be the next PM, but it appears, just barely.
      So much of the mainstream media told us to believe that Israel was on the verge of implosion, and that it was on a fast track to becoming a radical theocracy.  When I spoke to so many friends and colleagues, they believed this to be undoubtedly true, and were readying eulogies for progressive Zionism.          
     How wrong they were. As I followed the elections today in the Israeli media, I read about the highest voter turnout since 1999, a country taking real accountability for its future. So much for this being the “Seinfeld” election about nothing.  Our brothers and sisters in Israel broke the bonds of inertia today, and in my opinion, have taken a huge, important step in the right direction.  The gaping chasm between what we believed about Israel and the reality that emerged should give us pause and teach us a few lessons:

1) American media rarely have their pulse on the most interesting and contemporary trends in Israeli society.  I was shocked by how many journalists I met while living in Israel that were not proficient in Hebrew, and presented partial accounts of Israeli society as a result.  Relying on English speakers in Israel for your insight into Israeli society will provide a profoundly myopic view.  Mostly, I've seen recycled analysis based on tired, and often pernicious, stereotypes about Israel.

2) We must be thorough and skeptical readers of what is written about Israel. Just as we cannot view Israel as a land without flaw, so too can we not assume that the most pessimistic portrayals are the most accurate.  Read a variety of viewpoints from all points on the political spectrum.  Usually the truth can be found in the aggregate.

3) There's nothing better than the original.  As Ruth told us last year on her visit, "Reading Hebrew text in English is like taking a shower with your clothes on." Until we, as an American Jewish community challenge ourselves to learn Hebrew, we will be kept out of the meaningful and authentic conversation about the future of our homeland.  Reading a variety of Hebrew language sources is the most reliable and honest way to construct informed opinions.

4) Have faith.  I believe with perfect faith that our brothers and sisters in Israel know how to live their lives better than we know how to live their lives, even when they make decisions that I do not agree with.  When we tell Israelis how they should be living their lives, most of the time they find it insulting, not helpful.  If the "right path" is as obvious as we think it is, Israelis will recognize it.  If it is rejected time and time again by the Israeli population, we should be the ones to look inward and ask why.

I'm not overjoyed with the election results (other than the fact that Dr. Ruth Calderon will be in the next knesset.)  I wish that the next Prime Minister of Israel was someone truly committed to economic justice, religious freedom, and effective diplomacy.  However, the landscape is quite different now than before.  This government is more diverse and fair-minded, and it includes thoughtful and passionate change agents.  Nearly 65 percent of all Israelis voted -- which shows just how vibrant and pliant Israeli democracy remains.

I'm not thrilled, but I am as proud as ever to be a Zionist. Today was a great day for the Jewish State. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Access Text: The Miracle of HoShannah Rabbah

The next text for our Yiddish Short Story class is now up.  We will be reading Sholom Aleichem's famous story, The Miracle of HoShannah Rabbah.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jewish Law Class: Should Veal be Kosher?

The next Jewish law class is tomorrow, Thursday, January 17th at 6:30 pm at Selah Tea Cafe.

Our topic will be, "Can Food be Cruel and Kosher?"

Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind in the right measure.  However, can you ever be cruel and kosher?  Two opinions on rendering veal traif from the Conservative movement's Committee for Jewish Law and Standards.

You can access the main teshuva we'll be discussing here.

You can also find a slight dissenting opinion here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tu BeShvat Seder

Join us for our annual TuBeshvat Seder on January 26, 2013 at 6 pm. 

 There will be a potluck dinner and havdallah.

I will be co-leading the seder and activities with environmental educator, Nora Saks:


Nora Saks is a relatively new Mainer, having relocated to Portland in early 2011 for work. However, she feels as if Maine has always been her home in her heart. Raised in Rockville, MD, Nora then fled the DC area and attended the University of Toronto. Partway through college, she developed a serious interest in healthy food and has spent the majority of the last 7 years growing food on organic farms in the U.S. and Canada, and teaching kids and adults how to grow it, prepare it and share it through community education programs at food and farm-based non-profits. She is currently studying massage therapy at the New Hampshire Institute for Therapeutic Arts and looks forward to one day combining bodywork with a cooperative farming venture.  Nora is always excited about new ways to look at and practice Judaism in a more earth-centered and inclusive way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Save the Date: Israeli Dancing with Lisa Tessler!

 

We will be dancing with Lisa Tessler on  

Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 7 pm.  $5.00 admission fee.

Class is totally open to the public.  Come with friends!!

Israeli folk dances are not only popular in Israel, but also here in the U.S. and throughout the world. They express the spirit of the Jewish people, and are based on dance traditions of the Bible, the lifestyle of early settlers in Eretz Yisrael , and the inspiration of the “chalutzim” – pioneers who strove to build a new country and a new, more egalitarian society. Jews brought not only their cultural values to the land of Israel, but also songs and dances from Eastern and Central Europe and other parts of the world which profoundly influenced the folk dance movement.

This workshop is designed to introduce participants to the basic steps that are the foundation of classic Israeli dance, and to trace their origins, including the Hora (Rumania), the Yemenite (Yemen), the Cherkessia (Russia), and others. Dance favorites which incorporate these steps will be taught and reviewed during the session – no prior experience or partner is necessary.

Please bring a comfortable pair of soft-soled shoes and a willingness to learn and have fun.


Information about Lisa Tessler: 

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Lisa Tessler has taught Israeli and international folk dancing in Maine for over 20 years. She has led numerous workshops for college, community, social and religious groups, working closely with students of all ages and skill levels. 



In recent years, Lisa has studied with master teachers Ya’akov Eden, Teme Kernerman, Danny Pollock, and Loui Tucker at the Mainewoods Dance Camp in the United States as well as other dance leaders while touring to Russia, the Ukraine, and Canada.



Her passion for classic Israeli dance stems from her early volunteer experience at Kibbutz Haogen in 1975 and later study at the University of Haifa in 1978.  She returned to Israel in 1996 to participate in an ethnic folk dance tour of the country and attend the annual Karmiel Dance Festival.



Lisa holds an A.B. from Bowdoin College and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School Education.
 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Online Talmud Class: Laughing with the Rabbis

Our next Talmud class will be tomorrow night, Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm-8:30 pm.

In honor of my Colby Janplan class, I'll be teaching humorous sugyot from the Talmud.  The sources were culled by my esteemed colleague, Rabbi Matthew Soffer of Boston, MA.  You can read the texts in advance by clicking here.

This will be a great way for a friends from afar to join in on the learning!

If you want to be sure to get a personal email with the link, please RSVP to risaacs@colby.edu.

Here are the instructions on how to prepare your computer:

and click on “Install voice and video chat”. It will take a few minutes, so let it finish its installation. Depending on your computer, you may have to restart before it will work.
2) Go to https://plus.google.com/

and sign in with your gmail account if you have one (if not, click on ‘sign up’ at the top)
a. It will ask you to sign up for Google+…make sure you do this!

3) When it asks you to ‘add people’, search for “Rachel Isaacs” and add me! (it’s the one with a picture of me in a black robe and red academic scarf -- see above.)

4) A half hour before the class, I will send out an email to everyone of my google+ friends with a link to the class. Click on the link and wait to see me!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Next Online Class: Yiddish Short Stories

Our next online class will be on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 7:30-8:30 pm.

You can access the text, "The Tenth Man," by clicking here.

Connect on google+ with melanieaweiss.