Generational Shabbat – a Vassar Temple Sisterhood Tradition

By Jonah Ritter

Vassar Temple Sisterhood has many wonderful traditions, and this is certainly one of them. Some years ago Sisterhood took over a temple practice – to organize and conduct a Friday night service called a “Generational Shabbat.” During this lay-led service, which Sisterhood members conduct, the Temple honors people who have been members of Vassar Temple for 40 or more years.

Part of the tradition includes having the Men’s Club host the Oneg. Special thanks to our organizers including but not limited to Sisterhood President Judy Rosenfeld, Past President Melissa Erlebacher, Bonnie Scheer, and the many others involved.

Each year the bulk of the names & faces are the same. We are proud to have some join the ranks, and deeply saddened when we lose anyone. And of course, not everyone can make it to the service.

Here is a picture of the “class” of 2017 (5777). To Vassar Temple, these people need no introduction. I love the way Lila Matlin and Sue Barbash are holding hands in the front row! Classy and strong Muriel Lampel is just behind them. Look at Gloria up top, with her big smile; her vigor and thirst for adventure is really special. See Linda Cantor on the left in front of Richard. I am in awe of Linda’s sensitivities. And of course, there is Elaine L in the front row who faces the camera and life head on with great spirit. Each and everyone is special in their own way!

The lifelong bonds that can be made at a temple make one’s life richer – increasing the joy during happy moments, simchas, and comforting one during life’s inevitable trials and tribulations.

We know there are many people in the community who were members of Vassar Temple years ago, but are now unaffiliated with any temple. Please know that it is nerver to late to come back and be with old friends, as we all make new ones.


The Feast Of Lights – A Poem by Emma Lazarus

In the spirit of Chanukah I offer this beautiful poem Emma Lazarus
R.Jonah Ritter

One of the lauded poets in her time, Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887) is most famous for her poem the New Colosus. A verse from that poem is famously engrazed on the Statue of Liberty.


Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening’s forehead o’er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias’ stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o’er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: ‘He received the perishing.’

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah’s heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted-who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o’ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!

Emma Lazarus

Feeding Body, Mind, and Soul

Vassar Temple Sisterhood brings good cheer and good nourishment to people who need it greatly when they serve our community’s hungry at the “Lunchbox.” As you can see from the photos of this past Sunday, they also have a great time doing it.
Click here to learn more about Vassar Temple Sisterhood.
Visit Sisterhood’s Blog too.

Adult Ed Lecture and Discussion – Led by Martin Charwat on 11/10/16

Israel/Egypt- History of Relations
Outline notes by Martin Charwat

Circles of Influence/circles of concern:

Egypt in 1948 had not yet completely shorn off its control by Great Britain. Although nominally independent, Britain still had troops stationed in the Suez Canal Zone and exerted considerable influence over Egypt’s ruler, King Farouk. Egypt, nonetheless, was the most influential state in the Arab world, with powerful influence over its immediate neighbors, Libya to its west and Sudan to its south. Over the following years, Egypt’s power and reach grew, as it became one of the founding members of the group of nonaligned stated, including Indonesia and Yugoslavia. Courted by the Soviet Union, it managed to end British control of the Canal by 1954 and extend its influence to Syria, with which it briefly merged to form the United Arab Republic. Both Egypt and Israel were enmeshed in the Cold War, with Egypt seeking and accepting financial and military aid from the Soviet Union and its allies in the 1950’s. In the 1960’s Egypt fought a bloody, inconclusive war in Yemen. It was a major foe of Israel, losing to it in wars in 1948, 1956, and 1967 and then finally fighting pretty much to a draw in 1973.

It was a supporter of the Palestinian cause – until it reached a peace deal with Israel in 1979, after which its support for the Palestinians waned, and Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. It gained support from the United States, however, including annual receipt of money for its armed forces and for development aid as a result of its signing the Camp David accords in 1979. Egypt’s links to the U.S. were further strengthened as a result of its help in expelling Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991. Because of its ties to the never regained its central role in Arab affairs, as its ties to the U.S. made it unpopular in the wider Arab world.

Over the next decades, it largely stagnated, even as its population soared. Tourism and revenues from the Suez Canal kept it afloat, but barely. Growing Islamic militancy and terrorism took their toll on tourism, and a decline in oil shipments through the Canal as a result of a worldwide economic slowdown hurt revenues further, forcing Egypt to rely on contributions from the Gulf Arab states and Saudi Arabia. This dependence is resented by both the Egyptians and their benefactors, as well, and has reduced Egypt’s clout in the Arab world.
Israel went through a series of challenges from its inception. At its birth in 1948, it had to defend itself against an uncoordinated gaggle of Arab armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, which it defeated. In the aftermath of its independence, Israel was weak and isolated, surrounded by enemy states and Palestinians who were furious that they and their Arab allies were unable to defeat the Israelis and secure a state of their own. Israel had to take in a massive influx of Jews who were expelled from Arab lands, – not only those of its neighbors, but also Yemen, Morocco, and Tunisia, to name but a few.

It had few supporters or allies among the nations of Europe, though West Germany was a notable exception, providing substantial money transfers in the form of wartime reparations. France was a more reluctant ally, but it helped Israel to develop its atomic energy, including, presumably atomic weapons. The United States, while the first to recognize Israel’s existence, was largely cool to it at first and highly critical of its 1956 attack on Egypt along with France and Great Britain, which the U.S. saw as an attempt to reimpose colonialism and as being inimical to its own Cold War interests.
As many nations in Africa and Asia obtained their independence in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Israel made a major push to develop close relations with them, in order to foster trade and obtain their votes in the United Nations. Israel helped many of them with agricultural development knowhow and supplies, gaining their support. Egypt sought to counter this influence by painting itself as a supporter of African liberation and as a leader of the non-aligned nations in contrast to Israel, which it sought to paint as a tool of the west. Following the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the Arab oil boycott, much of Israel’s support among the newly independent nations weakened, as the quintupling of the price of fuel hit these developing countries hard, for which they blamed Israel. After 1994, Israel’s failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians rankled the developing world, where support for the Palestinians is strong. Its settlement policies are strongly criticized by most Europeans. As a result, by 2016, Israel’s relations with the rest of the world have come full circle: it finds itself again largely isolated, with unremitting hostility from most of the Arab world and Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, and strong but fraying support in the U.S., with peaceful but cool relations between itself and Egypt and Jordan.
Overarching observations:

In the beginning of Israel’s existence, Egypt was the greatest menace to Israel, as it had the largest army, posed a danger to the heartland of Israel, and supported the Fedayeen Palestinian Arab fighters in Gaza in their raids and attacks in Israel. Under Nasser, Egypt continued to be the main enemy of Israel among all of the Arab states through the 1956 War in which Israel combined with France and Great Britain in attacking Sinai and the Suez Canal, and in the 1967 Yom Kippur War, likewise precipitated by Nasser. Finally, in the apocalyptic 1973 Yom Kippur war, with Sadat at the helm, Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal and clobbered the Israelis, at least at first. But since 1979, Egypt and Israel have been at peace, and although relations have not been warm, they have not been warlike, either.

Since the early 1950’s and with but a brief period of civilian rule by an Islamist government, Egypt’s political life has been dominated by a single party headed by a military man. This has meant that its leaders have been able to rule with minimal parliamentary opposition, although unpopular measures, such as the removal of food and fuel subsidies, have often been met by massive street protests. With this exception, Egypt’s leaders have been able to push through their programs without having to compromise with minority parties or worry excessively about being voted out of office.

Since its inception as a state in 1948, Israel has had mostly civilians as Prime Ministers who have headed coalition governments and therefore have had to contend with a fractious political environment. Unlike Egypt, three of whose rulers – Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak, experienced long terms of office, Israel’s rulers, of whom there have been 12, rarely held office for more than a few years, except for the first, David Ben Gurion, and the current incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu. All of these Israeli leaders have had to thread a delicate path through the political minefield in order to avoid losing support and losing office. This has often meant giving in to small, ideological factions, whose demands may have offended Israel’s broad center as well as overseas supporters.

Both Egypt and Israel lost leaders to assassins: Anwar Sadat was shot and killed by Islamists in the military who viewed him as a traitor for making a separate peace with the hated enemy, Israel, and for betraying the Palestinians; Yitzhak Rabin was shot by a right-wing religious zealot who, like many in Israel, believed that he was not committed to keeping Judea and Samaria on the West Bank as permanently part of Israel, that he did not support Jewish settlers there, and was weak in dealing with the Palestinians and their Arab supporters. Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years from 1981 until 2011, was not assassinated, but he was the victim of 6 attempts.

Neither Israel nor Egypt wanted a Palestinian state and both have worked against its creation. The massive exodus of Palestinians from Israel proper which occurred during and immediately following the creation of the State of Israel was the product both of a call from invading Arab armies to clear the way so that there would not be civilian Arab casualties caused by the invaders, AND of Israeli military action and terrorist acts committed by Israeli forces to spread fear and force them to flee. Many of these Palestinians took refuge in Gaza, which was administered by Egypt. Egypt didn’t know what to do with them. Most were housed in U.N.-run refugee camps. Egypt didn’t want to resettle them in Egypt proper and at first encouraged them to attack Israel, prompting Israeli counterattacks. When, finally, in the 1970’s and 1980’s the Palestinians developed a national organization, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, known as the PLO, the Egyptians did little to help it and the Israelis refused to negotiate with it or with its leader, Yasser Arafat. Indeed, the 1979 peace accord between Israel and Egypt marked in effect the abandonment of the Palestinians by Egypt, which opted for its own self-interest over its pan-Arab commitment to the Palestinian cause. As a result, Egypt was expelled for 10 years from the Arab League. Israel appreciated Egypt’s go-it-alone approach and has acted on it ever since.

The Camp David accords of 1979, marked a major shift in political orientation of both Egypt and Israel. Until at least until the mid-1970’s, Egypt had been a client of the Soviet Union, and Israel, although closer to the U.S. than to the Soviet Union, was somewhat held at arm’s length by the United States. Following the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, which Israel survived thanks to a massive arms lift from the U.S., Egypt was resupplied by the Soviet Union, and Israel worried that it would again face an Egyptian onslaught. But Sadat’s recognition that Egypt could not develop without reducing the crushing burden of arms expenditures led him to seek peace with Israel. The 1979 Camp David accords made both Egypt and Israel recipients of large annual cash and arms transfers from the U.S. in exchange for their willingness to make peace with each other. Over time, Egypt’s army came to rely on U.S. arms and, to an extent on U.S. military training. Israel, too relied on U.S. arms and developed its own arms industry, at times in partnership with the U.S. The U.S. may have believed that its money and arms gave it leverage over both of its client states, but it has not always worked out this way.

One instance in which it did was the 1990 Gulf War to drive Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army out of Kuwait. In that war, U.S. President Bush sought to assemble a coalition of states, including Arab states, to drive out the Iraqis. Egypt signed on and provided a sizeable contingent. Israel was scheduled to be on the receiving end of Scud missiles that Saddam threatened to rain down on Israeli cities. The U.S. desperately wanted to prevent the Israelis from retaliating, as this would have driven away the support of the Arab armies allying with the U.S. effort. So the U.S. promised to give priority to attacking the Iraqi missile sites targeting Israel and to provide Israel with U.S. Patriot missiles to shoot down incoming Scuds. While there was little damage done to Israel, following the war Israel felt that the U.S. “owed it” and asked for ever larger shipments of weapons, which was forthcoming. Egypt too, as a result of its participation, earned the good graces of the U.S. Was the commitment to “buy peace” open ended, and how much influence did the money buy?

The answer is that nations pursue what they perceive as their own national interests. When this means biting the hand that feeds them, well – so be it.
Even before 1994 when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat signed the so-called Oslo Agreement to end hostilities, the government of Israel has pursued a policy of supporting Israeli settlers to create new settlements and expand existing ones in what it calls Judea and Samaria and the Palestinians call the territory that they hope will be their future state. While the U.S. has criticized this policy, Israel has continued it almost unabated, repeatedly thumbing its nose at the U.S. Moreover, when the U.S. was preparing to sign a deal with Iran to reduce its ability to produce and deploy a nuclear weapon, a proposal the U.S viewed as enhancing Israel’s security but with which Netanyahu disagreed, Netanyahu came to the U.S. in 2015 and vehemently criticized the deal before the U.S. Congress. Egypt has protested Israel’s policies in the West Bank, albeit without threatening to break diplomatic relations with Israel or taking any steps to put military or economic pressure on Israel, not that it has much ability to do so any longer.

The Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising in 2011, which saw the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak by a combination of liberals, modernizers, and Islamists, ushered in a period of turmoil in Egypt and watchful waiting in Israel. The fact that the United States did not support its old ally, Mubarak, was viewed with loathing in Saudi Arabia, an ally of both. It may have shaken Israel, too – especially with the subsequent election of Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist and supporter of Hamas. Relations between Israel and Egypt worsened, as Egyptians began to question whether to break off diplomatic relations and reduce economic ties. Open anti-semitism began to rear its head in Egypt, and Hamas, which had been shunned by Mubarak, began to hope that a Morsi government would help it economically and even, perhaps militarily.
But Morsi did not have the support of the Egyptian army or the bureaucracy, which had been appointed by Mubarak, and stymied him at every opportunity. Before long, the army overthrew Morsi and began a crackdown on his supporters, jailing thousands. Meanwhile Israel watched and cheered from the sidelines.

With a new government in power, cooperation blossomed once again, with Egypt and Israel sharing intelligence on ISIS and other radical groups operating in Sinai and sealing tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. Hamas was once again in a vise, with Egypt pressing from one side, Israel from the others.

Egypt’s economy, meanwhile, tanked. Its dependence on revenues from tourism and the Suez Canal both took a hit, as terrorist incidents and reduced oil shipments combined in a perfect storm to force it to go begging to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, which propped it up with over $40B. Because the value of U.S. development aid and arms shipments amount to only about $2B per year, Egypt could afford to not pay nearly so much attention to the wishes of the U.S. as it had in the past. Ironically, Saudi Arabia’s generosity to Egypt has not won it much leverage in Egypt either, as Egypt’s President Sisi has taken the aid and in remarks released over WikiLeaks was heard to say that the Saudis were suckers and should be hit up for even more. As for Israel, in September it secured a 10-year $38B commitment from the U.S. to supply it with military hardware to preserve its military edge over presumed enemies. Since the conclusion of the agreement, Israel has announced plans for further settlement construction and has already broken ground.

Finally, currently, Egypt and Israel are both becoming less tolerant societies, with increasing restrictions on the press and civic society groups in both countries. Both Netanyahu and el-Sisi, the President of Egypt, have resisted calls to rein in their more hard line supporters. Egypt has required a wide array of civil society groups to forswear foreign funding and has curtailed their activities. Activists have been jailed, tortured, and silenced. Israel is making it more difficult for its domestic critics to monitor government actions in the occupied territories and to publicize such things as housing demolitions and water seizures. A prominent Israeli newspaper owned by U.S. casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, is virtually a mouthpiece for the Netanyahu government and not only promotes its policies but editorializes against its critics.

In conclusion, Egypt and Israel are both states whose image and reality have changed greatly over 68 years. Egypt is not the colossus of the Arab world, dominating its discourse. It is an ailing, dependent. Israel is no longer David, but rather a powerful embattled Sparta, in a hostile environment which is viewed as lording it over Palestinians. Egypt has gone from being the chief threat to Israel’s existence to becoming its ally against Radical Islamists in the Sinai and Hamas in Gaza.

While Egypt’s political landscape was dominated by a single party with a few rulers, Israel had to deal with a multi-party system with many heads of state who have had to form fragile coalitions and effectuate compromises in order to govern. Both countries lost leaders who were advocates for peace to assassins who viewed these leaders as traitors willing to threaten ideological purity: a Palestine without an Israel or an Israel without a Palestine. Over the years, it became clear that neither Egypt nor Israel wanted a Palestinian state or was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bring one into existence. While the 1979 Camp David accords effectively made Israel and Egypt client states of the United States, with the passage of time, the leverage that the U.S. had over each has declined, so that today neither one dances to the U.S. tune. The 2011 Arab Spring uprising in Egypt and the 2013 overthrow of the Islamist Government of Mohammed Morsi has led to enhanced security cooperation between Israel and Egypt against Islamists in Sinai and against Hamas in Gaza. Finally, Both Israel and Egypt are becoming less tolerant societies in terms of their willingness to brook opposition and dissent.

Martin Charwat
Nov. 10, 2016
Vassar Temple

Linda Cantor Honored with 2016 Arnold Award

Linda Cantor, 2016 Arnold Award Recipient

Linda Cantor’s Words:
Thank you for selecting me as the recipient of the 2016 Rabbi Stephen Arnold award. I am both honored and humbled to be following in the steps of the previous recipients of this service award. Receiving the Rabbi Arnold award is particularly meaningful to me because, although our roles were different, we arrived at Vassar Temple at the same time .

Our family has been members of Vassar Temple for the past forty years. From the beginning Vassar temple has been and continues to be a very welcoming place, a place where my young diverse family was accepted and encouraged to participate fully. One’s skin color, religion of birth, income , gender or sexual orientation or political views do not matter. Anyone who wants to be involved in Temple Life is encouraged to take an active role.

We continue to be encouraged to explore and deepen our spiritual life, look at our connections to G-d and the universe and find ways to make prayer meaningful. Some of us find those connections just sitting quietly, others by raising their voices in song together, others by chanting one line of a prayer over and over, and others by going out in nature as Rabbi Nachman and talking directly to G-d. We use masculine, feminine and gender neutral language. We are encouraged to speak from our hearts using the words of the prayer book or the words that come through our souls or no words and simply be present. Each individual’s has been nurtured at Vassar Temple.

I am particularly struck during this season of Tshuvah, of Return at how Vassar Temple has provided a container for us to be part of and contribute to our community in ways that are meaningful, that reflect who we are. May each of us ,in our own way do the work of Elul , the work of return that will enable us to be open hearted, life affirming loving members of our family, our circle of friends, our Temple Community and the wider world.

Ken yhe ratzon
Thank you again for this honor.

Rabbi Leah Berkowitz’s Opening Remarks:

Every congregation is composed of Litvaks and Hasids. This is the Jewish equivalent of left-brain and right-brain. A Litvak is most interested in learning the facts and adhering to the letter of the law. Hasids are the ones who pay attention to the life of the spirit, and make it their life’s work to infuse joy and meaning into Jewish practice. In the 19th century this was illustrated by the Litvak studying Talmud and the Hasid going outside to hug trees. The Litvak clung to tradition and the Hasid advocated change. The Litvak nurtured a healthy skepticism while the Hasid was wildly optimistic. Each brings their own gifts to the modern synagogue, where we need both continuity and change, both joy and solemnity. In the organized Jewish world, we tend towards the Litvaks side.

In Linda Cantor, our community has the blessing of a Hasid, with just a dash of Litvak in her. Linda brings a deep, spiritual dimension to everything she encounters: teaching the rest of us Litvaks meditation and bringing her energy and joy to our prayer and our learning. But Linda also brings a sense of commitment and determination to everything she does, making sure things get done, and get done right, as only a Litvak can do.

Linda has brought her dual personalities to our Adult Education Program, our Ritual Committee and our Nachamu committee. She has been instrumental in planning our Shabbatonim and the annual Fannie Berlin lecture, finding inspiring speakers and often teaching sessions herself when she was able. Linda was a founding davenner in our New Paths service. Perhaps the greatest contribution that Linda is currently making to our synagogue is the groundbreaking Wise Aging Program. Together with Debbie Golomb, Linda has been helping people to navigate the third chapter of their lives from both a practical and a spiritual standpoint. Linda is able to have conversations with people that others might find uncomfortable to start, about how we live our lives spiritually and what we are doing to grow.

Linda has been particularly supportive and nurturing to me during my first year at Vassar Temple, helping me with various projects, and encouraging me to nurture my inner Hasid as well with classes at Omega and workshops with the Institute of Jewish Spirituality. I’m grateful to her for helping me to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember why we do what we do.

Hasid comes from the same root as the word hesed which means loving-kindness. This word, too, is embodied in Linda Cantor. She always has a kind smile and a gentle word for everyone, which is a rare thing in this day and age. I am delighted that she is being honored tonight, and I wish her yishar kochech, continued strength, as she goes forward. It is appropriate that we honor Linda with this blessing on the night of Selichot. As the Book of Life opens, we pray that you will be written and sealed for an incredible year of spiritual growth and development, enjoying your children and grandchildren, and sharing your beautiful gifts with all of us Litvaks.

And now I’d like to share a few words from Rabbi Arnold himself.

Rabbi Stephen Arnold’s Letter to Linda and the Vassar Temple Congregation
To Honor Our Friend and Teacher, Linda Cantor

Shabbat shalom, dear friends. Cecile and I wish you all a Shana Tova uM’tuka — a Good and a Sweet New Year.

And while we’re talking about goodness and sweetness, how about our well deserved honoree, Linda Cantor? Could we want to know anyone more gooder, more sweeter? Look at her. Such a warm smile — a shayneh punim (kinehora). Such an inquiring mind. Such a freshly scrubbed soul.

In days of yore, even while devoting great energy to the care and feeding of Daniel, Laura, Andrew and Richard, and to the students in her classroom, Linda was exploring the life of the spirit. In the early 90’s, I discovered Elat Chayyim Retreat Center and began finding new paths to my own spirituality. Linda was already involved there; and she’s still discovering new paths to explore.

Some folks find a life of inner contemplation so satisfying that they become quite self-involved. They detach themselves from the rest of us, preferring a private love affair with God. Not so with Linda. The deeper she searches within, the more broadly she looks around her for causes or individuals who need her commitment and energy. Our Vassar Temple community is greatly blessed to be so high on Linda’s priority list.

So, as we say up here in Red Sox Nation, I think it’s “wicked cool” that you’ve honored me by presenting the Arnold Award to my friend and teacher, Linda Cantor. I hope you folks will join her in spreading around more goodness and sweetness in our New Year.

Stephen Arnold, Rabbi Emeritus

2016 Vassar Temple Founder’s Award Recipient: David Lampell

David Lampell
As most of you know it’s become a tradition for the Founders Award recipient of one year to have the responsibility, no the honor of telling you about the following year’s recipient. So the only thing that could have made me more proud than being the recipient into 2015 is that it now gives me the privilege to tell you about this year’s award winner.

And so it is with great delight that at this time I invite the 2016 Founders Award recipient, David Lampell, to join me here at the microphone.

As I spoke to people about David’s participation in the temple over the years the sense that I got from everyone is that David is just one of those people who is around all the time and especially manages to show up when something needs to get done. He is like a fixture which is there working for you, but perhaps because it is ubiquitous you might not really think about or appreciate its importance.

David got an early start at the temple as most of you know. The child of Temple presidents, in fact an individual with a long legacy of relatives who have worked tirelessly to make our temple thrive, David first got to Vassar Temple at the age of three. He was a frequent participant services with his beloved parents Matt and Muriel; when he came of age in 1964 he had his bar mitzvah on the bimah in the sanctuary above us.

From a young age he was apparently very much his own person and told his parents that there was no way he was getting confirmed; it just wasn’t his thing apparently. But his mom, astute as ever, basically gave him an ultimatum she told me: either you get confirmed or you join the Temple youth group. I can hear her saying this; can’t you? Perhaps it was to the Temple’s advantage that David took the road less traveled, because his involvement in youth group led him ultimately to be an outstanding president of that organization and then to also become NIFTY president as well as a Youth Group advisor.

As most of our teens do, he left for college, but unlike most of our teens he came back and we’re lucky he did!

Once David started to become intimately involved with the temple his energy, enthusiasm and participation knew no bounds.
As certain as I am that I’ll be able to share some amazing things that David has done, I am just as certain that his participation in certain projects or activities or committees will be left unsaid as he did so quietly and perhaps without notice. So I apologize to him if I leave out other ways in which he has contributed.

However the list of his contributions that did reveal themselves clearly are enough to speak to who David is and how essential he has been to Vassar Temple. At a leadership level David has served as an amazing Temple President , as Vice President and as second vice president on more than one occasion. Behind the scenes, as many past presidents do, he has served as advisor to sitting leaders of the Temple. I know that I was able to confer with him on occasion when I was Temple President, tapping into his wisdom.

David has served in the capacity as Chair of the House committee; he has been a constant presence during our High Holy day services, serving as head usher and basic go to guy. He is called upon on a regular basis to be our electronic consultant when this machine or that gadget ceases to function, while also offering central support with our A/V and lighting systems during innumerable Temple events. Speaking with first-hand experience, I can tell you that David was instrumental in assisting me not only as a member of the Rabbi Search Committee but as the AV consultant allowing us to connect with all of our rabbi candidates via the internet – by Skype or Google chat – and offering a set up which made it possible for the whole committee to participate.

He was behind the decision to move our temple offices to the main floor [ they had been in the basement where classrooms are now] and he was heavily involved in getting the phone system installed. David has been a participant in social actions programs over the years; not only has he supported the local mitzvah day activities, but he helped to build a black church. David has been involved as well with maintaining our memorial boards.

Perhaps one of the more philosophical tasks to which David was assigned was that of Chairing the Committee to determine what is a “family” : a deep question of a bygone era when there was doubt about the definition at least among adults; I understand that a child’s innocence led one of our young people -upon hearing of the existence of such a committee – to utter what seemed obvious, “ everyone know what a family is…”!

As a member of the Men’s Club David has taken on many tasks including helping with Sukkah building, assessing the need for roof repairs, fixing the classrooms and guiding emergency work required by one or another weather related disaster.

But perhaps there is no responsibility that David managed more confidently than any other, with his typical sense of calm, resolve, purpose and great competence then when he applied these leadership qualities to his position – over decades mind you – as the Vassar Temple Bat Meister! Yes, I have it on good authority from his delightful and ever supportive wife, Marilyn, that David has responded on an emergency basis to the temple when the alarm was set off by wayward bats triggering the motion sensors. Given the natural behavior of these little critters, of course this would happen mostly in the middle of the night. She shared with me that time and again, for more times than she can count, David, learning that the alarm had gone off, would be able in less than 10 minutes to get dressed, get to the temple, deal with the situation, reset the alarm and be back in bed! He truly is a phenomenon!

It is surely obvious to all of us how lucky we are that David is a member of Vassar Temple. He has done his parents proud and as the saying suggests the apple clearly has not fallen far from the tree.

David it is truly a privilege to be able to present you with the 2016 Founders Award. Like those who’ve come before, you serve the temple not because of the award that you might receive on an evening like this, but because your heart is in the right place and that place is Vassar Temple.

As we applaud David for his many achievements on our behalf, let us not forget the person who loans you to us, who supports all of your work , who jumps in with both feet on so many temple projects – a force of mitzvot in her own right, your wonderful wife Marilyn.

Sweet blessings to you both.

Submitted by Sandra Mamis, 2015 Founder’s Award Recipient

Vital Chapter of Holocaust History Revisited at Vassar Temple

Complicit Audience

On June 15, 2016, approximately 150 individuals, including a group of 30 educators from Long Island, gathered at Vassar Temple to examine one of the most significant refugee events in world history. COMPLICIT, the documentary film featuring the story of the SS Saint Louis, was shown.
This film, COMPLICIT, chronicles the story of the SS Saint Louis, the ship that sailed from Hamburg, Germany in 1939 with 937 Jews aboard trying to escape Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution.” The film explores the Roosevelt administration’s role in a series of events that transpired as the ship sought entry to Cuba, the US and Canada, and was ultimately denied access and returned to Europe.

Approximately one-third of the ship’s passengers who had to return to Europe did not survive the Holocaust. A discussion with the film’s director, Robert Krakow, who traveled to Poughkeepsie from his home in Florida for this event, as well as Sonja Geismar, a survivor of the SS St. Louis, and local resident Debbie Sylvester, the daughter of another survivor, followed the screening.
Complicit group
In 1939 the SS St. Louis departed Germany for North America. Among her passengers were 937 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution and seeking entry into the United States through Cuba. But upon arrival, the ship’s passengers’ visas were rendered invalid and they were denied entry. After several weeks at sea pleading with the US, Canadian and Cuban governments, the SS St. Louis was forced to return to Europe where it is estimated that nearly one-third of the passengers perished in German concentration camps.

Through historical film footage, survivor interviews and dramatic interludes, COMPLICIT recounts the story of this ill-fated voyage. Included in the film is a mock trial that confronts the Roosevelt Administration’s flawed WWII refugee policy, based on a play written by Krakow. In addition, COMPLICIT documents the US State Department’s formal apologies to the surviving passengers of SS St. Louis.

Robert Krakow is the Executive Director of the SS St. Louis Legacy Project Foundation, a nonprofit organization that uses education through drama to enlighten audiences on events in world history, including the story of the voyage of the SS St Louis.

This was an extraordinarily rare and moving event in our community as it included the film’s director, Robert Krakow, participating in a discussion with a survivor and family members of survivors after the film. The event was organized in partnership with the Long Island Temple Educators (LITE) with support from the Irving and Gloria Schlossberg Family Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley and the Poughkeepsie Library District. Vassar Temple organizers were Bob Ritter, Jennifer Sachs Dahnert, and Cathy Bokor.

2016 Vassar Temple Committee Reports (Combined)

Star Logo Only
Combined Committee Report – 2016

Vassar Temple Sisterhood Annual Report

We continue to open all events to women of the Temple. This has proven successful in seeing new faces as we strive to create a welcoming environment. Moving forward we will focus on tracking and enhancing the membership listing.

2015-16 Events:
Simchat Torah Dinner – Oct. 4
Shabbat Noah Dinner – Oct. 16
Paintbrush Opening Party – October 29
Rummage Sale – Nov. 8
Doris and Fannie Berlin Lecture – Rabbi Cowan and Wise Aging – Nov. 15
Hanukkah Dinner – Dec. 11
Sisterhood LunchBox – Feb. 7
Regina Jones Film Screening (with other Temple and community groups) – Feb. 21
Hamentaschen Baking – Feb. 28
Shabbat Across America Dinner – March 4
Donor Dinner – April 12
Sisterhood Shabbat Dinner and Service – May 6
Mitzvah Day – May 15
Teacher Recognition Picnic Dinner – June 10
Chai Tea – on the 18th of most months
Tiny Temple – every other month
Closing Dinner – coming soon
Cooking/Baking classes – coming this Fall
Sisterhood Contributions:
Friday Night Shabbat Onegs
Judaica Shoppe
Family Shabbat Dinners
Sisterhood Calendar
Bimah Flowers
College student holiday gift packages
Kitchen maintenance, including provision of paper goods and table cloths

Leadership: Laura Brundage and Danah Moore have completed their 2-year term as co-presidents. The new president will be announced soon.

Men’s Club:

Significant events of Men’s Club during the past year include:

• Assembly and disassembly of the sukka for Sukkot
• The annual Men’s Club Service last November
• Preparing the temple office for painting
• Sponsorship of Lunch Box during January
• Preparing and serving the pasta dinner for the temple’s Purim celebration
• Sponsoring the oneg for the recent Sisterhood Shabbat (thanks primarily to Dave S.)
• Joining forces with Shir Chadash to perform painting and landscaping tasks at Grace Smith House on Mitzvah Day. (Also, thanks to a very special MC member, giving Aaron Kaflowitz a ride in a very cool convertible that he won’t soon forget!)

Leadership: David Wolf and David Samson

Music Committee:
Committee: Bob Abrams (co-chair), Joel Kelson (co-chair), David Hecht, Jim Robinowitz, Bonnie Scheer, Marge Groten, Howard Susser, Martin Charwat, Rabbi Berkowitz
This committee started as an “interest group” in 2014, defining goals and a vision for ritual music at Vassar Temple. Our initial focus was on helping Rabbi Berkowitz’s transition as temple Rabbi from a music perspective. The group also set a vision for future activity, and later formalized as a committee to review current progress and move toward implementing that vision.
2015 Accomplishments include:
• Assessed and influenced Olivia’s role in ritual music
• Establish goals on use of, and evolving the temple Music Fund
• Arranged for purchase of an electric piano with a generous grant from the Lipshutz Fund. The piano is portable enough to use in different parts of the temple building. The KORG keyboard, and accompanying amplifier/speaker, are a wonderful addition to the temple’s music component. The piano can play a variety of sounds ranging from piano sound to strings (as in part of an orchestra), bass and other tones.
o Joe Bertolozzi introduced some new melodious sounds to our services, alternating the organ and piano, and even using the two together, producing some very exciting variations on our Shabbat melodies!
o As with anything new, the music prompted some concerns about volume, which were addressed with Joe.
• Supported purchase of accompanying percussion instruments, including a cymbal, tambourines, shakers, a djembe (African drum) and associated stands, again thanks to the Lipshutz Fund
• The committee provided feedback to Joe on appropriate volume when using the instruments. This will be ongoing.
Near-in plans include:
• Ways to improve further on ritual music, along with proposing that Joe give a talk about the various instruments, the significance and tones delivered by each.
• Proposed plans related to whether the curtains surrounding the “music pit” should stay up or be taken down. It was decided to try removing the curtains during the evening when Joe gives his talk and test congregation reaction
• Bring in a cantorial student for occasional Friday night Shabbat music, which was one of the group’s key goals in the vision for future temple music, defined earlier.

Ritual Committee:

This report contains information regarding:
• Committee Responsibilities
• New Ideas and Initiatives
• Worship Services
• Recommendations for the future.

Committee Responsibilities:
The Vassar Temple Ritual Committee has met monthly this program year except for February when the Rabbi Installation event took precedent.
There are 13 members, the majority of whom regularly attend the Tuesday night meetings.
The Chair of the Music Committee normally attends Ritual Committee meetings insuring close coordination.
The High Holy Day responsibilities are being incorporated into the Ritual Committee responsibilities and will be shared amongst many individuals. The Ritual Committee Chair is overseeing this initiative and, therefore this year, is HHD chair as well.
In general the task of the RC is to make decisions, in consultation with the rabbi, about matters related to worship services and religious practices;
The committee has been tasked:
To develop programs encouraging expanded participation in worship services by all segments of the congregation.
To nominate and choose the recipient of the Arnold Award each year (for contributions to the religious life of the congregation), and to arrange for its presentation at the Selichot observation prior to the High Holy Days.
To arrange for the setup and leadership of lay-led summer services.
To coordinate with other committees involved in the religious life of the congregation, especially the Music and High Holy Day Committees, but (as appropriate) including other committees including Religious School, Publicity, and Adult Education.
To arrange for summer service leaders in Rabbi’s absence..
New initiatives developed in the 2015-2016 calendar year:
• Introduced an opening meditation at RC meetings encouraging each member to participate.
• Developed a chanukah video designed to encourage a more an approach to the celebration that conveyed the deeper meaning of the holiday.
• Plan to offer a “proneg” before the winter services [beginning November 2016] rather than the “oneg”. In cooperation with the VTS, an appetizer type fare [cheese, fruit crackers, hummus, nuts and so one rather than sweets] would be provided between 6pm and 6:15pm, with services following immediately. This change has the advantage of allowing people to leave right after services to have dinner and allow late comers the opportunity to be present for the whole service [maybe missing the proneg, unfortunately].
• Ron Rosen offered to spearhead an initiative to take our spiritual services outdoors on occasion, offering a prayer opportunity in a natural setting.
• Added a meditation service on the afternoon of Yom Kippur.
• Reached out to families with an activity based HHD packet that could engage children and educate families about the HHDs
• Switched to Mishkan Tefilah from the Chumash as gifts for the B/M students at Simchat Torah.
• Discussed the evolution of incorporating Mishkan HaNefesh as our HHD prayer book.
• Family shabbat There was an attempt to have a monthly family type service and dinner to attract families with children. Though well received by those who have come, attendance has been low. Some suggestions might be to evaluate whether we want a 7 or 7:30 start time and to coordinate with Beth El so our family services are on different weeks (likely we will be the 2nd week of the month). Rabbi feels this is something that we can change with help from our new RS Director, who “can help us create opportunities for the kids to participate and incentives for them to show up. The services have been visual tefillah with guitar and piano (no organ) and a story instead of a sermon, as well as a birthday blessing. It is a complete service for anyone who is concerned that it wouldn’t be enough for an adult without children or someone coming to say kaddish.”
• At rabbi’s request, appeal speeches were moved to the erev HHD service
• Torah to Go Program at the Adriance Library
• Torah Passover Yoga
High Holy Day 2015/5776 changes:
In 2015 the High Holy Days were orchestrated by a sub committee chaired by Perla Kaufman. Going forward, the RC with support foremothers int he congregation will be responsible for HHD related tasks, including scheduling services and all activities related to Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, Tashlich , Cemetery Service Yom Kippur, Simchat Torah and Sukkoth.
Modified schedule for the HHDs: combined the two erev services into one. A survey was done to insure that input from a broad section of the temple community was considered before making change.
Added a meditation service on the afternoon of Yom Kippur.
Added a dance component to the Simchat Torah service
Out door hike on Sukkoth [September 27th]: Locust Grove . Nine human participants; one canine.
Reached out to families with an activity based HHD packet that could engage children and educate families about the HHDs
At the request of the President, a Sukkoth Open House was held [ October 3rd]. There was limited attendance, but those who stopped by, including one of the city’s mayoral candidates, expressed positive comments.
Discussed the involvement of additional voices during the HHD services, reimbursement policy as well as varying the musical accompaniment with different instruments.
Switch to Mishkan Tefilah from the chumash as gifts for the B/M students at Simchat Torah.
Discussed the evolution of incorporating Mishkan HaNefesh as our HHD prayer book.
At rabbi’s request, appeal speeches were moved to the erev services.
Pizza Dinner on October 4th: Israeli dancing. 40 attended. Well received.
Special Friday evening services:
October 9th: Black Lives Matter [Adam Ciminello]
October 16th: Shabbat Noach
November 6th: Ben Krevolin service leader in Rabbi’s absence
November 13th: Men’s Club Shabbat
November 20th: URJ Camp Shabbat
November 27th: Ron Rosen service leader in Rabbi’s absence
December 11th: Chanukah program
December 25th: Sandra Mamis service leader in Rabbi’s absence
February 5th: Rabbi’s Installation dinner and service: huge event with 160+ people . Guests included President of the HUC- JIR; Mayor Rob Rolison; and Cantor Kaplan. Proclamations from government officials were delivered.
March 3rd: Shabbat Across America: not attended by non members; need more RS involvement
March 11th/12th: Joint Shabbaton with Temple Beth El. Speaker was Rabbi James Michelson. Well received. A program for youth proceeded the traditional service.
April 22nd: 5th Annual First Night Temple seder
May 6th: VTS / Generations Shabbat
May13th: Jr VATY Led Service: organized by S. Teich & Rabbi
June 10th: Picnic Service
June 24th: One Year Rabbi Anniversary Shabbat and Dinner
Saturday morning shabbat services:
New Paths Services continued on a regular basis, under the competent leadership of Marian Schwartz
Arranged for Saturday morning Shabbat programs in November. January and February with a Torah Service followed by a Kiddush Luncheon at each.
November 14th: A discussion with Imam Antepli took place in conjunction with Shir Chadash; attended by over 50 people.
January 23rd: Environmental Panel with Paul Ciminello, Peter Grofman and Marge Groten, in combination of the celebration of Tu B’Shevat.
February 27th: Director, Arlene Stein, of Reform Jewish Voices of NY was the guest speaker.
Most of the programs had good attendance, with about twenty to 30 people attending each morning.
Shabbat Noach: A Greyhound Rehab and Rescue representative was scheduled as the speaker for Shabbat Noach on October 16th ; during the oneg 6 greyhounds were available to interact with service attendees . This was well attended and well received.
Scheduled Joint Tikkun Leil service on June 11th at 7:30pm [ Temple Beth El]:
Torah To Go: Adriance Library – a program to introduce the community to the Torah scroll took place in March. Well received.
Torah Yoga Program was offered by member Rebecca Acker-Kryswiski and was well received.
Scheduled Shavuot [June 12th]: Dedication of the Windows and Patio
Chanukah initiative: “The Eight Nights of Chanukah” – a video experience put together by the committee and made available on line. The content purpose was to offer members a meaningful and tangible way to be involved in a celebration of thanks, beyond gift giving.
Changed the format for the Purim spiel so that the Megillah reading and the spiel occurred on the holiday : March 23rd.
Requested the finance committee to allocate funds to the RC to be used at the discretion of the chair for the purpose of promoting RC goals; $500 have been set aside.
At the request of the chair, the committee spent several months discussing and then formalizing a Mission statement; see attached. The process helped to galvanize the committee as a working group and establish the guideline serving as a platform for future programming and policy decisions. It was very important that, if created, this be a “living document”.
Coordinated and arranged (thanks to Polly Lewis and Rosen with support from Sandra Mamis ) the first night Seder on April 22nd which was attended by about 70 people and continues to fill a need in the community.
Handled nominations for the 2015 Arnold Award, with the selection of Melissa Erlebacher as the awardee presented at Selichot in September. Preparing to select the 2016 Award winner.
Arranged for Outdoor Hike: May 7 Weather didn’t cooperate unfortunately/
Expand the committee inviting a broad range of individuals including relatively new and uninvolved to “old timers’ in an attempt to offer diversity.
Recommendations from the members and chair:
Continue to seek new committee members
Improve communication between all committees with an emphasis of making sure we provide each other support and strive toward some common goals.
Expand outdoor worship experience to events accommodating the elderly and infirm.
Add variety to shabbat worship experience through music, sermons, service types and locations.
Attempt to focus the needs of parents and children whenever possible during planning or ritual experiences.
Find creative ways to make Judaism meaningful.

Submitted by Sandra Mamis, Ritual Chair, June 15, 2016

2016 Vassar Temple President’s Report at Annual Congregational Meeting 6.15.16

Bob Ritter Receiving Proclomation at Final Cong Meeting 6-15-2016
Submitted by Bob Ritter


I have some good news, and I have some bad news. The good news, is that I am your last speaker. The bad news, is that I am your last speaker.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “In the long run there is no more liberating, no more exhilarating experience than to determine one’s position, state it bravely, and then act boldly. Action brings with it its own courage, its own energy, a growth of self-confidence that can be acquired in no other way.”

During my years as an officer of VT, I have taken the approach of “discern, decide, do.” And tonight, in my final president’s report, I would like to tell you about our results and also the unfinished work we have.

Let me start by stating everything that your board has accomplished, we accomplished together. Even those things which may seem like an effort of just a few people would not have been possible without others!

There are five central themes that I concentrated on:
1. Hamacom
2. Recognize and Meet Fiscal Challenges:
3. An External/Community Perspective
4. Onward & Upward
5. Look to the Future

1. Hamacom:
Our temple is a holy place worthy of our care and respect. Starting with just keeping it clean. We have dealt with many difficult facility challenges these last few years. A boiler replacement with a conversion to less expensive natural gas. We abated mold in our lower classrooms and installed a new tile floor. We took measures to reduce flooding with heat tape, a new gutter, installed additional B-dry drainage and new sump pumps, removed a concrete obstruction to drainage in the rear, and made significant improvements to our roof and chimney. We did an asbestos abatement and refurbished our balcony and east chapel. We refurbished every classroom upstairs, and the three offices for the RS director, Sherrie, Rabbi Berkowitz, replaced our lobby, hall, and stairwell carpeting, and did what we could with our sanctuary carpet. Thanks to our Sisterhood we replaced our kitchen cabinets which were literally falling apart and our put up new blinds in our social hall. We repaired and replaced some AC units. We added security cameras. We converted to energy efficient led lighting. Even little things like a mailbox, a sign on our front door, and organizing our bulletin boards all make a difference. We painted the portico pillars, roof fascia, and front doors. And thanks to generous donors, we refurbished our beautiful stained glass windows and constructed a lovely new patio.

Vassar Temple has received a lot of needed attention. And we did all this without raising our dues, which leads me to the 2nd theme.

2. Recognize and Meet Fiscal Challenges:
We are not here to make a profit, but we have a responsibility to operate in fiscally proper ways. It hasn’t been easy to prepare a budget that reflects both our financial realities and our values, and it didn’t help not having a treasurer for a year. But we were determined not to raise dues!

While we were making significant capital investments, we were also making adjustments to bring our operating costs down to a more sustainable level. We’ve achieved savings in salaries, heating, and electricity expenses. Unfortunately, because of city building requirements and the needs of our building we have also picked up major costs. But despite our burdens we still managed to operate below our budget for expenses. And while dues revenue was down, we have managed to raise funds and income in other ways.

Fund raising resulted in significant support for ritual, operations and building. We began with a hugely successful gala. We had an installation dinner ($10K), Fiddler trip ($800) (I hear the play was great), a Wine & Cheese ($500), a Movable Feast/Jewish Deli Night ($1500), plus nearly $30K in gifts which made our Patio and Windows restoration possible. And there have been other individual acts of generosity. We also tried something that is significant psychologically – we made HHD tickets for non-members a voluntary donation and we raised more money and received no complaints. Scrip profits continue to be crucial to temple finances, and we have faith that it can contribute even more in the future.

We have set out to leverage our social hall, refurbished kitchen, and volunteers to make special occasions work better financially for the temple. You saw how we transformed our social hall for Rabbi’s installation dinner. We showed the social hall and kitchen is a viable venue for some special occasions. We urge our members to consider it for significant life cycle events! You can help the Temple, save money, and tie Rabbi Berkowitz’s blessing in with your occasion. What could be more perfect? Seriously … Think about it!!

Staying with finances, because we must, we sought more opportunities for support from outside the temple. We received $1700 in grants from the Schlossberg Family Fund and the Poughkeepsie Library District for today’s showing of Complicit. And $2500 from the Federation for an Israeli Day project. We can do better! We must leverage the resources of other organizations in the community through partnerships on projects, special events, and initiatives, like we are doing to put on programming at the Adriance Library and with Vassar College and other faith based groups for the Vassar Solidarity Initiative.

Our involvement with various social action projects, such as those on Mitzvah Day, Cereal Counts, Can Jam, Turkey Trot, Tzedaka collections and other projects all help heal the world without putting a financial strain on the temple.

Vassar Temple is small, but we have been blessed in big ways over our many years as evidenced by our Special Funds. Jen Dahnert prepared a sheet about our many Special Funds and what they are each for which is posted to the temple blog. Link to list of funds. These funds are meant to be used! Use brings benefits to the temple, to you, and is a blessing as well to the donor.

Use of those directed funds encourages further giving. Giving for a specific purpose is another way to give which the older generation are familiar with but had gone a bit dormant. We are bringing that back. Thanks to the Robert Lipshitz fund we were able to purchase an electric piano and percussion instruments and take our musical experience to new places. It is a special feeling which I am sure Elaine will attest to, to see your money go to something so personally meaningful. Another example of making a gift for a special purpose is the Erlebachers’ gift of funds for a new building sign which we are planning and need to get approved by the city. And there are those who give just to sustain us. Like the Seligmans. Gilbert and I were talking about the patio while it was under construction. Gilbert asked me, what did it cost. I told him, $15,876.00. He asked, did you raise that much. I said no, we received $15k from Emily and Howard Himelstein. He said then, “I want to give the remaining $876.00, but I want it to be anonymous. I want the Himelsteins to get all the credit.” After thanking him, I said I want to ask you a favor. I want to tell people about your gift. Because it may motivate others. We need that. He said, “if it will help, then OK, but I only want their name on it!”

Yesterday I got a call from my friends Michael Arnoff, and his father Richard Arnoff to tell me about trees and flowers he was planting by the gates he installed at our Route 44 Cemetery. He also hired a person to power wash the grave stones. He just did it – because it needed to be done!

In the near future we are going to try crowd funding to raise money for the new projector the temple needs. If people can raise thousands this way over the Internet, why can’t we? We shall see … we can too!

Let me foreshadow another wonderful way we can fund raise. This idea came from Alan Kaflowitz. The same guy who gave me the idea to raffle off the contents of the safe. So, are you feeling lucky? Here is sure way for everyone to be a winner! We need to purchase the new HHD prayer books which Rabbi wants us to have. Instead of the temple spending thousands of dollars we frankly do not have, we can each purchase our own books, and our Temple will inscribe them as you wish. So on the holidays, when you sit down and open your prayer book you will see a name of a member, and hopefully a friend, and if you’re lucky, your own name. So, are you feeling lucky?

Right now we need to purchase a new religious school curriculum. And Rabbi and Julie would love to have people consider a gift of books for our students – a gift that will get used for 5 or even 10 years! Maybe that’s right for you or someone you love.

Some people get uncomfortable when a temple or church talks about money. Don’t be!! Because sustaining Vassar Temple is the only way we can be Vassar Temple – it’s the only way we’ve made it 168 years!

3. External / Community Perspective:
We know Vassar Temple is wonderful. But our future depends on our ability to let the population in the Poughkeepsie area know this. There is a fundamental marketing principle referred to as AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Before you can expect action, let alone trigger desire, we have to catch people’s attention and interest.

The unaffiliated population in our area is the key to VT’s future. Some are Jews who’ve turned their back on all temples, but not on Judaism. Some have turned their backs on their Jewish roots, but want to find their way back. Some have a tiny bit of Jewish ancestry. Some have none but are searching, and may do well to discover Reform Judaism. The motivations for engaging with a temple run the gamete. Reform belief system and openness make Vassar Temple especially suited for Interfaith marriages, Jews by Choice, and those are Jew curious! Our ritual and Torah study is no less Jewish, it is just more accessible. And our efforts to heal the world are compelling.

The greatest days, from a membership standpoint were also the greatest growth years of the Poughkeepsie area, after which, since the late 80’s Poughkeepsie began a long slide! The past years, the USA had a great recession and the slowest recovery on record. But the days of a vibrant economy in the Poughkeepsie area have started, and they will bring greater prosperity to our temple.

A rising tide lifts all boats. The Buzz is Back in Poughkeepsie, and as Poughkeepsie gets its mojo back, Vassar Temple will benefit. We’ve seen how demographics can change everything in Beacon. It can and will happen in Poughkeepsie, the Queen City, too. And thanks to much of the work we’ve done as a board and organization at Vassar Temple, we’re ready! Bring on the Buzz!!

The community is our future so we’re doing things to make the connection. Here are examples:

We’ve developed ties with Adriance Library. We caught people’s attention and interest with Music in the Torah, and Dueling Rabbi’s and a film about the first woman Rabbi, Regina Jonas and her fearless pursuit of the Torah right up to her murder by the Nazis.

The Sukkah open house introduced the new city of Poughkeepsie Mayor to Vassar Temple.

Our Torah To Go activity has given us a very unique and powerful way to introduce ourselves while we introduce the Torah and Judaism to the community. God works in mysterious ways and I personally believe we can not calculate or foresee all the amazing possibilities this program can lead to! If Vassar Temple leads with the Torah, God will carry us the rest of the way!

This morning we had the Complicit Film Screening with Long Island Temple Educator and attracted 140 people to our Sanctuary on a Wed. morning!!

There are more examples such as:
– Our return to Gesher where we join the community to educate our high school children in ways that take a community.
– Our Social Media Presence with the use of FB, our blog, and growing YouTube Channel.
– Field Trips are another way we can go out into the community such as (Fiddler) . And we tried with RS but weather required us to postpone that.
– Support a refugee family in cooperation with VC and other faith groups
– Our Shabbatons with other temples
– The interfaith march
– We’re working with Half Moon Theater and hopefully their will be an interesting theatrical event with a uniquely Jewish theme.
– Advertisements in both the Half Moon and Vassar Powerhouse theater programs.
– Our hands came together with the community on several amazing Mitzvah day projects.
– And, let’s never forget our involvement in the Lunchbox!
– Our numerous Social Action gifts help heal the world and expose people to the very best about Vassar Temple. As they bring out the very best in us.

The Buzz is Back in Poughkeepsie … and the Buzz is Back at Vassar Temple.

4. Onward & Upward:
A temple is never done. Especially not a Reform Temple. We’re always adapting and these last few years have been filled with transition. Transition requires an openness to change and a willingness to do the hard work it takes! It took countless hours and huge effort to change our Office Manager, and Education Director, and replace Rabbi Golomb so he could take retirement. The Nominating committee has to replenish our Board and Officers,

We even changed our cleaning service and other contractors

We’ve transitioned our Committee Chairs, for the RS, Ritual, Music, and Sisterhood. With all these changes, leadership and staff have been open to change in their areas of responsibility. For example, our Ritual Chair, Sandra, worked with Rabbi to go to one HHD evening service; our Religious School Chair Shaari Roland and Rabbi are integrating the Gesher program; our new religious school education director will work with Rabbi to make our school even better with a new curriculum and teacher development;

Onward & Upward means exploring how we could use music to further enhance our ritual experience – starting with a piano and percussion. We have more exciting things in store for our members because we love song.

And, Sherrie, in our office has done a lot to improve our back-off with systems.

Onward & Upward includes enacting By-Laws amendments that make sense and are needed to right size our board, affirm our acceptance of the LGBT community, comply with new laws for non-profit organizations.

While we must remain open to change, we must also preserve the traditions we’ve come to cherish and which work. Like our community Passover Seder, Hanukkah celebration, and Purim Spiel.

5. Looking to the Future Aware That we have Unfinished Business.

(Avot 2:21) attributed to Rabbi Tarfon, says “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”

Every President leaves unfinished business. I’m no different.

We’ve done a lot to get ready to grow membership – and now we have to concentrate on that. I’ve already described a lot of the things we need to do to increase membership.

At my first HHD President’s speech, I said , “The only thing that matters is if being A Jew Matters To You, then this temple does too.” Our leadership and membership stepped up and proved being a Jew and VT do matter! And, for the last few years we have drawn on the strength of our congregation. From strength to strength – we are stronger together!

Now the question is not internal question directed at you. It’s an external question directed at people in our community. “Is there a little bit of Jew in You?” For literally hundreds of years our people have been separated and diluted. Out of fear and necessity many Jews lost touch with their roots. We faced stifling anti-semitism that lead us to change our names and our religion. And yet, I’m convinced that the image of Judaism has never been better or more desirable! According to Pew Research, Judaism has an extremely high favorable rating. Nearly twice that of either political candidates. (Had to through that in. Notice how I have balanced my criticism.)

People who have a little bit of Jew in them are curious. So are those who’ve become disenchanted with other religions. Some are going through significant life cycle moments for which a temple can help. And, because Reform Judaism is such an amazing path, and we are such a lovely temple, I’m convinced that all we need to do at Vassar Temple is help them to find us.

Drawing on the strength of our past we can build a stronger future. And, when we do, it will take care of our other needs, finance, building, social benefits, social action, and more!

When we grow our membership back to 250+ we’ll be able to build a entrance circle with handicap parking and drop off spaces. We’ll be able to repair the retaining wall and side entrance. We’ll be able to refurbish our sanctuary and build a handicap accessible restroom and changing room on the first floor. We’ll be able to install better storm water drainage. We’ll be able to give our social hall a face lift.

This final fifth theme, looking to the future, is the perfect place to end this meeting. Because we are never done, thank God. This is why VT has survived 168 year years, through the civil war, WWI, the great depression, the Holocaust and WWII, and why the Torah the and Jewish people have lasted. Because we are never done, we are forever transitioning onward & upward. And the reason we are able to do that is because of people like those who are serving on our new board of trustees who said Heneni! And because you, our fellow members and friends, who ask how can we help? How can we be a part of this community – our Jewish village.

The answer is simply this! Be on the team – the membership team. You can be a player, you can be a fan. They’re both important. Pick a position you feel comfortable playing on the membership team. And join the fun – and cheer! L’chaim!

Summary of Vassar Temple Restricted Funds


TO:  Bob Ritter

FROM: Jennifer Sachs Dahnert

DATE:  June 14, 2016

RE:  Summary of Vassar Temple restricted funds

At the request of the Vassar Temple Executive Committee I am pleased to submit the following memo for distribution to the Temple Membership at the June 15, 2016 Congregational Meeting.  I regret that a work commitment precludes my ability to attend the meeting to present this in person, and hope that the following information will achieve the objectives of the Temple leadership in asking me to provide this information.

Our conversation regarding restricted funds stemmed from questions raised within the Temple membership regarding expenditure of funds and accountability around designated funds.  In compiling this information, I seek to remove any mystery that may exist regarding the purposes of specific funds and how decisions are made regarding their use.  The information that follows is intended to provide a base of information that is reinforced through the pieces I began publishing in the Temple Bulletin last summer (“Fund Facts”).

In general, individuals wishing to make philanthropic contributions to Vassar Temple are encouraged to make their gifts for unrestricted purposes, to support operating expenses for the Temple and thus strengthen the financial underpinnings of our Temple.  Some donors, however, prefer to attach their contributions to specific purposes – also known as “restricted funds” – so that they can have a more direct awareness of the impact of their donations.  Following is a complete list of all current funds toward which those who are inclined may direct their contributions to the Temple.  

Hineni Fund

The Hineni Fund provides ongoing support for Vassar Temple’s Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School and youth programs. The name Hineni – meaning “here I am” – reflects the devotion to Jewish youth and education demonstrated by Temple President Seth Erlebacher (1965-2011) and his enduring legacy of service.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life provides a means to honor the living and commemorate joyous events.  Half of the proceeds from the Tree of Life fund go directly into the Endowment Fund; the other provides current-use support for ongoing programs and operations of the Temple. Following are the various sponsorship levels on the Tree of Life:  Leaf — $180.00; Large Branch — $1,800.00; Rock — $2,800.00; Trunk — $7,500.00.

Memorial Plaques

The names of departed loved ones are listed on bronze plaques in the sanctuary.  On each Yahrzeit and at every Memorial Service, a memorial light is kindled beside the plauue and the name is remembered from the pulpit.  The current minimum donation for a Memorial Plaque is $500.

Sustaining (General) Fund

Contributions to this fund provide an additional source of current use funds for the Temple.  The fund is administered by the Board of Trustees and is to be used for operating expenses and appropriate non-capital projects (e.g. not building projects).  Various Temple committees rely upon this fund and as such, it has a direct impact on the entire congregation.

Capital Fund

This fund is used for repairs, maintenance and physical improvements to the Temple.  Each new Temple member unit is assessed a contribution to the Capital Fund, which is paid n the first full year of membership, but may also be paid in annual installments up to a five-year period.  Additional contributions help offset the potential need for additional capital assessments and may be made at any time.

Rabbi’s Fund

This fund is administered at the Rabbi’s discretion to provide additional professional materials or services and to make financial assistance available to individuals and causes deemed appropriate.  Contributions to this fund may be made in any amount at any time.

Nathan L. Reifler Memorial Library Fund

Donations to the Nathan Reifler Fund are used to purchase books, CD, publications and materials for our Temple and thereby build on the strong Jewish tradition of education, teaching and learning. Purchase decisions are made by our Rabbi and the Library Committee.  With a minimum contribution of $15, donors may request a bookplate noting the donor or honoree.

Community Tzedakah Fund

This fund supports Vassar Temple’s commitment to worthy organizations serving the needy in our community, particularly the Lunch Box program. In the event that insufficient food donations are made for a particular meal at the Lunch Box, money from this fund is used to offset expenses.

Groten Fund

The Groten Fund supports Social Action programming stemming from Vassar Temple and generally offsets expenses of the Social Action Committee. Expenditures from this fund are recommended by the Social Action Committee and approved by the Temple Board.

Trees in Israel Fund

Contributions are used to buy trees in Israel. A minimum donation of $18 is required. 

Robert H. Lipschutz Scholar’s Fund

This fund was established in memory of Robert H. Lipshultz to perpetuate the values and ideals he espoused. His dedication to Jewish education and community service translates to an award every other year to enable a Vassar Temple college-age student to pursue a special project in Jewish Studies and to funding for special music programs. A committee to determine the award is comprised of the Rabbi, the Educational Director and members of the Adult Education, Music and Youth Committees.

Andrew Erdreich Youth Education Fund

This fund honors the memory of Andrew Erdreich, an active member of the Youth Group who was also confirmed at Vassar Temple. Monies are used to benefit the children and young people of the congregation. Decisions about the specific use of the money will be made after consultations among the Rabbi, President, Treasurer and Director of Education.

Alexander D’Imperio Fund

This fund, honoring the memory of Alexander D’Imperio, sponsors supplementary educational experiences such as field trips and events of Jewish interest. The education of our Temple religious school students is enhanced by these special educational events.

Grandmother’s Fund

The Grandmother’s Fund was established by Dr. and Mrs. Albert Rosenberg to support programs and projects affecting the youth and children of Vassar Temple. Programs supported in the past include field trips, Shabbatons, Youth or Junior Youth Group activities. The authorizing committee is comprised of the President of the Board of Trustees, President of Sisterhood, Rabbi, chairperson of the Religious School Committee, the chairperson of the Youth Committee, and up to two additional people. The President of the Board will convene a meeting periodically, at least once a year, to determine which programs will be funded.

Mildred Gould Religious School Fund

This fund, established in memory of longtime beloved Temple member, Mildred Gould, is used to purchase materials for the Religious School based on a list of needed books and materials compiled by the Religious School Director. Donors can designate a specific item on the list or make a general gift to the fund. When appropriate, these materials will indicate the name of the contributor and/or the occasion for which the donation was made.

Paul Fa’gut Religious School Fund

This fund, honoring the memory of Paul Fa’gut, is used to purchase educational materials such as books, CDs and DVDs for the benefit of the 6th and 7th grade students in the Seth Erlebacher Religious School. The decision about the particular materials to be purchased each year will be made by the Director of Education.

Richard Satz Audio-Visual Fund

This fund honors the memory of Richard Satz, who was a prominent member of Vassar Temple. Donations are utilized to provide instructional media equipment for the Vassar Temple Religious School.

Music Fund

The Music Fund was established to support the musical programming at Vassar Temple. Expenditures from the fund are recommended by the Music Committee and approved by the Temple Board.

Prayer Book Fund

Vassar Temple’s regular prayer book is Mishkan T’filah, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 2007. Through the generosity of Matthew and Muriel Lampell and Ralph and Marian Schwartz, the Temple was able to acquire a full set of the new siddurim as soon as they were published.  This is a current use fund and books purchased through it recognize the donors with a bookplate on the inside front cover of each book.  Those wishing to dedicate one or more copies in honor of a person or occasion, or in memory of a loved one, you may do so with a contribution of $36 per book, which funds the preservation of the new books and their replacement when necessary.

Vassar Temple Sisterhood General Fund

Donations “in appreciation” or “in memory” are accepted for the general fund for Sisterhood and may be used for a wide variety of purposes. Previous examples include offsetting the costs of Tiny Temple, supporting the Andrea Rabin Scholarship Fund (scholarships for teens to attend the National Federal of Temple Youth conclaves), and contributions to youth programming through the Youth Scholarship Fund (scholarships to attend summer camps with Jewish programming and also for programs in Israel).  Gifts of any amount may be made at any time.  Expenditure decisions are made by the Sisterhood leadership in discussion with the Temple Executive.

Endowment Fund

The endowment fund is a corpus of resources whose interest income provides a revenue stream that supplements dues and fund raising income to support religious, cultural, educational, social and other programming. In order to maintain the spending power of the endowment, only a portion of annual income is spent while the balance is reinvested in the principal.  Contributions to the Endowment Fund may be made as outright gifts during members’ lifetimes and as testamentary gifts through bequest provisions.  Gifts can be made in the form of cash, checks, stocks, bonds, real estate (both income and non-income producing), interests in family partnerships and life insurance policies.  Pledges may be made and fulfilled over a three-year period. A donor who makes a gift of $10,000 or more may designate the specific area to which the income generated by the gift shall be applied, and those funds shall be acknowledged in the donor’s name. Endowment gifts of less than $10,000 provide income that is used for the aforementioned purposes.  Gifts to the endowment (or any of the funds mentioned above) may be made anonymously. The Board serves as a gift acceptance committee on proposed contributions to the endowment, as necessary.  Under no circumstances shall the endowment Fund be commingled with those of any other fund.


The Temple is indebted to the generations of generous donors whose enduring support has sustained the vitality of our congregation.  I welcome questions or feedback from any members who wish to discuss any aspect of their philanthropic support of Vassar Temple.