An Evening About a Dream Come True

On Friday June 14th at 7:30 p.m.  Vassar Temple’s organist Joseph Bertolozzi will tell us about his recent time in Paris to create Tower Music, and update us on this exciting project involving the Eiffel Tower.  

The Tower Music project is a dream come true for this very special percussionist, composer, and human being. Mr. Bertolozzi was granted permission to pursue “Musique de la Tour” by the Eiffel Tower’s administration after proving the care he took with his previous project Bridge Music project, “using techniques that would not damage structural integrity and providing safe conditions for the musicians.”

bridgemusic image

To help you appreciate this remarkable endeavor watch the following short videoImage

Joe is loved as Vassar Temple’s organist and our congregation could not be more proud of his accomplishments. So it is a treat to hear Joe tell us his story first hand.  It is sure to inspiring and interesting.  After all, it’s not every day that someone “plays” the Eiffel Tower – in fact it is a first!  

Friday’s services and Joseph Bertolozzi’s presentation are open to the public.  Vassar Temple members are urged to come show their support for Joe, and for what is sure to be a pleasurable Shabbat service all around. 


Torah Study Notes 5-25-13

May 25, 2013
p. 974 – Zechariah
The related Torah portion describes the objects that are to be used in the tabernacle such as the menorah and rams horn. It also describes the Israelites leaving the base of Mt. Sinai and proceeding into the wilderness.
2:14 Z is speaking to the people before the 2nd temple is rebuilt. Construction is lagging. Note that the Judeans have never left the land and have lived under Babylonian hegemony. Now the exiled leadership has returned from Babylon and have tried to reassert themselves. The Judeans eventually become sectarian with the passage of time and are known as the Samaritans. The Babylonians do not want the returning group to establish an independent state. The reestablishment of Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Temple suggests to the Babylonians an effort toward independence.
3:1 The Accuser is Satan who plays the role of the prosecuting attorney. See footnote. “Most likely he represents those who opposed Temple building…” El Hassakan? is the Hebrew for The Satan. Here this figure allows the writer to have a philosophical debate – much like the Greek philosophers who set up a dialog with a straw man. The presence of angels and a “court” is problematic in terms of monotheism – it suggests separate divine individuals. The enduring idea of the Great Chain of Being established a hierarchy of items ranging from perhaps a pebble to God. It won’t have a gap – absolute continuity – which requires the fill in presence of super-luminaries such as Satan and angels. See Lovejoy on The Great Chain of Being. He is one of the first great historians of ideas.
The presence of a heavenly host is not problematic in proto-Judaism. Note that Joshua has been put forward as high priest but this is a subject of dispute. Here Satan plays the role of the opposition to Joshua’s selection – and hence to a more vigorous effort to complete the Temple.
3:3 Here the dirty clothing may be a metaphor for dirty laundry – there may be something in his past conduct that he needs to be cleansed of. This finds analogy in modern political campaigns.
3:6 There is a suggestion here of the advent of messianic times. Z is the first of the eschatological authors. It is assumed that God has created the world with intentionality. Before that there was no telos or program to history. Compare to the ideas of the modern creationists. Read the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah who opposed the notion that the creation of the temple was the beginning of a slippery slope to independence. Similarly, doubting the veracity of the first 6 days of creation does not lead to atheism. In the entire literature of scripture the omega is not really dealt with until Z starts to bring it up. This notion of telos is central to the work of Franz Rosenzweig
and idealist philosophy or progressivism. WWI was a massive wound to Hegelian thinking. In The Star of Redemption Rosenzweig addresses the issue if creation, revelation and redemption. There is a pervasive notion that each of us make a difference – or we wouldn’t get out of bed. This leads to positive existentialism (Buber) vs the negative (Sartre.)
4:1 Here is the relationship to the Torah portion. Note they would not rebuild the ark – containing the covenant – because it had disappeared with its contents during the captivity. There were disputes as to what the seraphim and menorah looked like but Z is saying that the light from the menorah is what is important – not the minutia of construction. Zerubbabel is only mentioned in Zechariah. He appears to be an administrator in charge of the reconstruction or he represents – in messianic language – the restoration of the monarchy which comes with the end of days. In terms of the politics of the situation this messianic role of Zerubbabel is diminished. This also represents the notion of “OK we disagree let’s move forward.”

How Do You Honor A Man?

How do you honor a man? How do you honor the memory of a person who has passed away?  I believe you do so the moment you ask the question. The desire to honor them is an honor in itself!  The answer to the question is where it gets more tricky.

The answer of how to honor someone can be simple and find form in infinite ways. So when a good idea comes forward it can just be a matter of choice, action, and follow through. Such is the case with a recent effort that was seeded by the Vassar Temple Men’s Club.  

When Bob Abrams presented the idea of buying a bench on the Dutchess County Rail Trail in honor of past Temple President Seth A. Erlebacher the Men’s Club committee reached a decision to move forward without delay. The goal was clear, within reach, and a fine way to create a place where we could memorialize Seth.  

The call went out for donations thanks to the efforts of Men’s Club co-chairs Dave Wolf and Jeff Brenner. The Vassar Temple Sisterhood was asked to join the effort, and the goal was reached quickly.

Soon, on a new section of the Dutchess County Rail Trail, a bench with a plaque will be put in place. And once it is Vassar Temple will have an intimate dedication service.  We will honor Seth in this way.  

Honoring a person does not need to be expensive. It doesn’t require much money and it needn’t be fancy. It is the act of honoring someone that is the honor in itself.  When we recall a person with the desire to say their name and pay respect, we honor them and their family.  

So if you happen to be on the Rail Trail in the future and come by Seth’s bench, please take a moment to recall a memory of Seth. By doing so you are helping us to answer the question of how do we honor the man. 

Note: An announcement of the dedication service for Seth’s bench is forthcoming. 

Torah Study Notes 5-11-13

May 11, 2013
p. 917 – Haftarah
The disloyalty of Hosea’s wife is a metaphor for Israel’s disloyalty to God. The connecting Torah portion is in the Book of Numbers.
2:1 The Torah reading is a census and this appears to forbid one – “not to be measured or counted.” This may refer to the inherent inaccuracy of surveys – where more are being born while some die. He is saying that Israel will survive despite the Syrian invasion. He wants to change the names of the children from in implication of disloyalty to one of loyalty. Note that Hosea was likely from a family of prophets – who played that role in ancient societies. CL: This seems to be poetic or idiomatic. Does it warrant analysis beyond the metaphor? PG: Yes in the sense that they are under attack and need to be given hope. DC: Why does verse two appear here before verse three – to which the first verse connects? PG: Not really sure. This is uniquely a Northern text – which undoubtedly contains regionalisms. An ice cream soda is called a “cabinet” in Rhode Island. CL: The Hebrew for my people is “ammi” a common name in Revolutionary War times and notably of the painter Ammi Phillips.
2:4 The metaphor extended. This would appear to be ripe for a feminist interpretation. The Woman’s Commentary does not include Haftarah. AF: To whom is Hosea speaking? This seems a bit sophisticated for the farmers at the market. PG: This is written as scripture several hundred years after the events – about 450 – to a literary audience. Or for us today.
2:7 The worship of other gods is materialistic but Hosea/God claims he gave her everything. There is no recital of love in what he has given her. Since God is speaking it is even more jumbled – like a fevered dream. But the wife is clearly a metaphor for the people of Israel. ML: Why would the redactors use this metaphor? Were the Israeli people on the verge of apostasy at the time? PG: Prophets were preserved because they were right. Syria did overrun the Kingdom. In 740 they are in full bloom but gone as state twenty years later.
But what impelled Hosea to marry this woman? LL: Or God to select this people? He went out of his way to build a metaphor? Was he trying to rescue her? Israel was rescued.
2:16 All’s well that ends well. The last two lines are recited when one dons the tefillin in the morning. Consider Working Girl with Melanie Griffin where someone who is apparently unsuitable succeeds. See verse 16 “That is when I will entice her to Me, lead her to the wilderness and speak to her heart.”

New Paths Service – “Rainbow Day”

by Marian Schwartz
The Rainbow Covenant with all life is the first covenant of the Torah. Remember the Rainbow Covenant on Shabbat Noach, Shabbat Behar and Rainbow Day , the day the rainbow covenant was made, which comes the week after Shabbat Behar (this year on May 7- 8, 2013).
When Noah, his family , and the animals went out from the ark, on the 27th day of the month of Iyar, God made a covenant with all the animals and the people not to ever again cause a flood to destroy life on Earth. On that day in ancient times God created the first rainbow as the symbol of this covenant. For us in modern times, Rainbow Day can symbolize a chance to commit ourselves to turn from actions that destroy the earth, to turn our lives away from unraveling the Earth’s climate and the web of life, to turn from diminishing the Earth’s abundance.
Rainbow Day is a time to celebrate the diversity of life on Earth, and to remember our role in God’s covenant with all Creation. It is a chance to reflect on the deep spiritual and religious meaning of diversity, creation, and our role as part of creation and partners with God. The Torah teaches that God has promised never to flood the Earth again. But that doesn’t mean humanity can’t harm life. We live in a time when many species have gone extinct or are threatened with extinction. Our civilization is using so much of the world’s land and resources that we don’t always leave room for the other creatures. And the climate is changing. The story of Noah and the Flood teaches us that we have a responsibility to care for all creation and all creatures living now and in times to come, and that caring for all species is a mark of righteousness.
Blessing on seeing a rainbow:
Blessed be You, Adonai our God, who remembers the covenant.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha`olam zokher et habrit.
Birkat Ha-ilanot : On seeing 2 flowering fruit trees during Nisan/Iyar, bless the rainbow colors of spring’s flowers: “Blessed be You, Adonai our God, ruler of space and time, for God left nothing lacking in God’s world, and created in it good creatures and good trees, giving pleasure through them to the children of Adam & Eve.”
For more information on Rainbow Day:
About New Paths Morning Services:

The New Paths Service at Vassar Temple provides an opportunity for Sabbath morning worship in a relaxed environment. This approach to worship encourages interactive participation in prayer and the reading of Torah, as we discuss and interpret the traditional in relation to our contemporary world of experience.

New Paths Services are usually held on the first and third Saturday mornings of the month in the intimacy of our sunlit East Chapel at 10:00 a.m., followed by a simple kiddush. Many who have attended have found a rich variety of new paths toward spiritual growth and understanding.

Vassar Temple Joins Countywide “Mitzvah Day”

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Vassar Temple Dutchess County Mitzvah DayVassar Temple devoted Sunday, May 5, to helping the community as part of the countywide Mitzvah Day sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Dutchess County. With projects ranging from painting a fence at a local dairy farm to cleaning up a Poughkeepsie stream, from collecting food to the poor to baking them cookies, there was a project for everyone.

In support of the program, Vassar Temple cancelled Sunday-morning religious school classroom activities, making it possible for parents to attend with their children.

By the end of the event, dozens of Vassar Temple members had joined members of other communities to help improve the lives of thousands of local residents.

Vassar Temple Students Welcome Spring With Picnic

Vassar Temple Wednesday-Night School Picnic

Vassar Temple Wednesday-Night School Picnic

After a seemingly long winter, Vassar Temple post-bar/bat mitzvah students welcomed spring with a picnic as they took their weekly Wednesday night dinner outside.

The students, in grades eight and up, meet each week for dinner and classes as part of Vassar Temple’s program of religious education.

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Vassar Temple and the Community Hebrew School

Following discussions among Jewish community professional and lay leadership, and also within the congregation, Vassar Temple has decided to create a comprehensive two-day-a-week Religious School involving both Hebrew and Judaica. It will be withdrawing from the Community Hebrew School. The following is a letter that will be published in the Jewish Federation’s monthly, The Voice.

At the conclusion of World War I, the Jewish leadership of Poughkeepsie responded to the lack of well organized religious instruction with the creation of the Community Hebrew School. Jewish education was housed in its own building, and then subsequently in the Jewish Community Center. After World War II, the management and direction of the School (CHS), was placed in a separate Board with members drawn from the four Poughkeepsie congregations. Surely, other early twentieth century small American Jewish communities sought to cooperate in Jewish education in a similar fashion. Only Poughkeepsie, however, sustained such a program into the twenty-first century.

The CHS has always been a noble idea. It was predicated on collaboration among Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations, and such cooperation can hardly be taken for granted. It has been dedicated to the notion that the Hebrew language binds together all Jews – secular, liberal and traditional – and that students from all backgrounds can indeed learn in the same classroom. While the goals of community-wide cooperation remain central, the noble idea represented by the CHS has run its course.

By the beginning of this century, an increasing number of families were choosing to turn to independent tutors for their Hebrew education rather than the classes housed at the Jewish Center. The overall program has experienced a rather dramatic decline in enrollment through the last decade. Something had changed.

It would be both unfair and wrong to suggest that the difficulty arises out of the CHS itself. There has been no discernible drop in the quality and dedication of the teaching staff, or in the soundness of the curriculum. The changes are rather to be found in factors beyond the CHS control: in the demographics of the Dutchess County Jewish community, and in the subtly evolving nature of Jewish identity and affiliation. For central and southern Dutchess County, the Community Hebrew School is the answer to a question the area Jews are no longer asking. The promotion and development of Jewish and Hebrew education must now move in a new direction.

[Before continuing, in the northern part of the County, it must be noted, the presence of a community-based Hebrew program is still valid. We maintain our support of the school that is running in Rhinebeck, and promote its value for its Jewish community.]

We, at Vassar Temple, wish to laud the diligence and commitment provided by the staff and leadership of the Community Hebrew School in promoting Hebrew education for over nine decades. While we are convinced that evolving times and circumstances require Hebrew to be imparted as part of comprehensive Jewish education in ways that go beyond the scope of the CHS, we also remain dedicated to its underlying values of cooperation among the varied segments and streams of the local Jewish community, and to its common hopes and aspirations. We are certain that just as the Community Hebrew School represented a collaborative effort to address a fundamental Jewish need back in 1919, we will continue to create and implement new programs and ideas that represent the full community. Just as the Jewish community of Dutchess County welcomed innovation and planned for the future in the early 20th century, we look forward to embracing the challenges of the 21st together as well.

Submitted by:
Bob Abrams, President
Bob Ritter, Vice-President
Alan Kaflowitz, Chair of Religious School
Dr. Joel Hoffman, Education Director
Rabbi Paul Golomb