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


Imagining a New Reality In Israel

Rabbi Uri Regev

At this year’s Shabbaton with Vassar Temple and Temple Beth-El we had an extraordinary leader, thinker, and speaker – Rabbi Uri Regev, Esg., President & CEO of Hiddush. Hiddush is a non-profit organization dedicated to religious freedom and equality, focused primarily on Israel. Here you can read about the vision of Rabbi Regev and Hiddush.

Rabbi Regev spoke to both congregations, on Friday evening at Vassar and on Saturday at Beth-El, and was warmly received. He provided liturgical, historical, political and cultural basis for the change that is needed in Israel so that Reform and Conservative Jews can enjoy the right to have a religious marriage ceremony honored. Israel is the only democracy in the world that limits the rights of free marriage. American Jews have proven that they can influence change, and Hiddush which has successfully championed the rights of Reform and Conservative Jews in the Courts in Israel, needs the support of American Jewry to influence the leadership in Israel. This Israeli news series demonstrates the urgency and centrality of freedom of marriage to Israelis.

What Hiddush is finding, through polls and research, is that there is broad Israeli desire for international support for their cause of marriage freedom. Click here for result of a poll release in 2014 by Hiddush.

You can learn much more and support the vision and purpose of Hiddush by going to One simple way of supporting Hiddush is to sign Hiddush’s Vision statement.

The Shabbaton’s with Vassar Temple and Temple Beth-El are a wonderful way in which our temples collaborate. While our rituals and buildings have their differences, we are united in friendship, love of Judaism, and our strong history in the greater Poughkeepsie area. It is a delightful experience and we must thank Rabbi Golomb and Rabbi Barnett, the temple leadership, and the congregants for another tremendous Shabbaton. Yahser Koach!

Hamantaschen Baking Day 2015

Submitted by Judy Rosenfeld
Sisterhood Hamantaschen Baking Day Chair

Every year we seem to have a new challenge for Hamantaschen Baking Day and this time it was definitely the weather. I want to thank everyone for understanding when we had to cancel our first baking day and start late on our snow date. Despite this, it was another very successful day. People came early to set up, stayed late to clean up and did a lot in between. Plates were made to send to our college students, for outreach to our congregants and for the temple staff. Tiny Temple and the religious school were able to join in too.

A special thank you to CJ Kelly and Kamil Wisniewski. Because of CJ instead of trays everywhere waiting to go in the oven or cooling, they were all neatly stacked in one place on a bakers rack she was able to borrow for us. Kamil was amazing in the kitchen. With six trays in the oven at a time, it’s very easy to get distracted, but he stayed focused the entire time and made sure that the hamantaschen didn’t burn. It’s not easy and he did an incredible job.

Our religious school kids had a great time making all the chocolate hamantaschen. Sunday school may have started an hour late because of the snow, but Joel Hoffman and Alan Kaflowitz made it work.
There were a lot of helpers who worked tirelessly to make delicious hamantaschen from all those batches of dough. It was a long day but the amazing volunteers who made dough and baked made it a fun one. A huge thank you to Laura Brundage, Andi Ciminello, Jen Dahnert, Melissa Erlebacher, Vivian Garber, Susan Karnes Hecht, Ronni Jarvis, Kristin Judd, Meredith and Haley Kaflowitz, Perla Kaufman, Muriel Lampell, Ann Lerman, Bunnie Levinson, Polly Lewis, Danah Moore, Amy Horn Oclatis, Robin, Zoe and Allison Peritz, Lisa-Sue Quackenbush, Shaari Roland, Lisa Rubinstein, Nancy Samson, Michelle Sinn, Roni Stein, Shira Teich, Melissa Wall, Zoe Weinstein, Kamil Wisniewski, Fern Wolf and Nadine Zaritsky. I’m sure I’m unintentionally omitting some names that weren’t on the sign-in sheet, but be assured I’m very grateful to them as well.
Judy Rosenfeld

Program from Performances for Musical Shabbat

Please click to read about the performances.


Summer Services Going Great!!

Summer Service with the Crew

Written by Ron Rosen, Spiritual Committee Chair, Vassar Temple

The 2014 summer services at Vassar Temple have generated tremendous
enthusiasm–and we’re only part way through July! Already we have
experienced the following variations…

* A stirring July 4th service which included a D’var Torah by President
Bob Ritter, linking the jews to the spirit and times of the American
Revolution. After the service, we quickly journeyed to the banks of the
Hudson River at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, where we enjoyed an
outdoor Oneg Shabbat featuring ice cream sundaes, a chance for the kids
to visit the Museum, and then experience the Poughkeepsie July fourth
fireworks with front-row seats!

* A rollicking service led by four of our college-age young adults, done
in the style of the summer-camp experience with a variety of spirited
songs, followed by an incredible Oneg Shabbat hosted by the students and
their families.

* A service led by our New Paths group, emphasizing worship in a relaxed
environment. Their approach to worship “encourages interactive
participation in prayer and learning, discussing and interpreting the
traditional in relation to our contemporary world of experience.”
…And yet another Ice Cream Oneg!

So… join the excitement; experience friendship, spirited services, and
tasty summer Oneg Shabbat gatherings. Upcoming services will be
conducted by the following volunteer leaders:

July 25: Rabbi Shoshana Hantman (former Religious School director)
Aug 1: Dr. Joel Hoffman (religious school director), Sandra Mamis and
Bob Ritter
Aug 15: Rabbi Shoshana Hantman
Aug 22: Ben Krevolin

Services begin at 7:30 PM at the Temple. See you there!

“Torah To Go” Visits the East Fishkill Public Libary

Caring for Vassar Temple’s Torah means that on a periodic basic the parchment scrolls are unrolled and rolled back up in order to keep the materials (sheepskin and ink) from becoming brittle and cracking. We have called the group of faithful members who perform this task the “Holy Rollers.” Recently, we adopted the phrase “Torah To Go” to describe the concept of taking the scrolls from the Temple’s Ark out of the Temple to some outside location to do the rolling.
Traditionally, we’ve done the Torah rolling in the East Chapel, and more recently, members have hosted the occasion at their homes. We’ve had lovely experiences doing this. But this time the board and the ritual committee chose to try something new. We wanted to go into the community to a publicly accessible location and invite the public to join us for a unique experience. *We chose the East Fishkill Public Library. After all, getting up close and touching a Torah is not something many people have ever done. So our activity served a dual purpose which now included Outreach, as well as generating good will in our community. All faiths can find something in the Torah To Go experience.
This past Tuesday, April 8th at 5PM we went to the East Fishkill Public Library. Bob Abrams, Jeff Brenner, Joel Kelson, Bob Ritter, and Ron Rosen, we’re joined by 8 guests. Rabbi Golomb explained the reasons for what we were doing, and Dr. J. Hoffman gave a brief lecture on the history of Hebrew and the fascinating relationship to our modern alphabet.

Torah To Go was a success on a few levels. So now the only question is where and when we do it again. And, hopefully you’ll join us.


Shabbaton May 9-10: Judaism for the 21st Century

Dr. Lawrence Hoffman will bring his passion for the spiritual renewal of North American Judaism to our local area, as scholar-in-residence at a  shabbaton  co-hosted by Vassar Temple and Temple Beth El on Friday and Saturday May 9-10.  During the shabbaton we will have three opportunities to hear Rabbi Hoffman speak, and to explore the possibilities for a vital evolving Judaism in the 21st century.

    Friday night May 9, during the 7:30pm shabbat service at Vassar Temple, Dr. Hoffman will speak on “Builders, Baby-Boomers and Beyond: Looking for American Jewish Identity.”  Many believe that the American synagogue is in crisis. But before looking at where we go from here, we have to ask how we got where we are. Dr. Hoffman will help us develop an understanding of how American synagogues evolved, in order to gain insight into how our synagogues can be transformed to meet the needs of the next generation. The evening will conclude with an oneg shabbat featuring refreshments and an opportunity to socialize with one another and to meet Dr. Hoffman.

      The following morning, May 10 at 10am, during shabbat services held at Temple Beth El, Dr. Hoffman will  talk about “Authentic Jewish Spirituality—Even for Skeptics Who Think There Isn’t Any.”  Americans love to say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” But there is an authentic Jewish spirituality, and it runs deep through Jewish texts and practice, constituting a distinctively Jewish way of being in the world.  Dr. Hoffman will explain how thoughtful Jewish spirituality can connect the dots in our lives and convince us that we matter.

     What will Judaism become as people search for meaning and community in the 21st century? The world is changing faster than anyone could have imagined a generation ago.   And Judaism has always had its revolutions, from the split into denominations to today’s profound changes in the American Jewish community, such as rising intermarriage and dimming ethnic memory.  The assumptions of the past just don’t hold true anymore.  We will explore these issues when  Dr .Hoffman  discusses “Limits, Truth, and Meaning- What’s Left of Judaism When all the Givens Fail” at the kiddush luncheon that  follows the service at 12:30pm.  This will be the concluding event of what promises to be an unforgettable, inspiring shabbaton.

        Dr. Lawrence Hoffman is widely recognized  as a prominent scholar and visionary  He was ordained as a rabbi in 1959, and since 1973  has taught liturgy, ritual and spirituality, theology, contemporary Jewish thought, synagogue leadership, and sacred music at  Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in NYC, becoming an often cited authority in all his fields.  In 1994, Dr. Hoffman co-founded Synagogue 2000, a project that envisioned the ideal synagogue as the moral and spiritual center for the 21st century.  And now, as Synagogue 3000, it has launched “ Next Dor”, a national initiative to engage Generation X and Generation Y   through strong community connections with transformed synagogues at the center.  Dr. Hoffman has written or edited over forty books, received two National Jewish Book Awards, and his articles, both popular and scholarly, have appeared in eight languages and on four continents. 

     The joint shabbaton on May 9-10 in Poughkeepsie, at which Dr. Hoffman will speak, is free and open to the community.  Anyone planning to attend the kiddush luncheon is asked to please RSVP to Temple Beth El at .  For more information about the event visit, and for further information about Dr. Lawrence Hoffman go to .


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.