Eight Nights of Mitzvot, Part VI

Melissa, Rachel and Brianna Erlebacher celebrate the sixth night of Chanukah by throwing a party and showcasing the Jewish value of Hachnasat Orchim (Welcoming Guests)!

Watch the Erlebacher’s Video!

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Service Friday TONIGHT at 7:00 p.m.

Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

Activity ideas: Have a Chanukah party and invite people over! Invite someone who is single to dinner, services or out to coffee. Or you can help out The Birthday Project.

Watch for these videos every morning in your inbox, or check the  Vassar Temple YouTube Channel.

We hope that you will join in the celebration by lighting, and celebrating these mitzvot, in your own homes!

How to Light Chanukah Candles

You can also celebrate religious freedom by joining Women of the Wall’s “It’s My Right To Light” Campaign, which is fighting for the inclusion of women in Israel’s national Chanukiyah lighting ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Don’t forget….Annual Chanukah Dinner and Service Friday 12/11
5:30 p.m. Annual pot-luck dinner. Bring a dairy dish for 12; Sisterhood will provide latkes, applesauce, challah, salad and beverages. Cost: $18 per family or $6 per individual. RSVP by Tuesday 12/8 to Roni Stein 223-5804 or roniagt99@aol.com Send your check to Vassar Temple Sisterhood with “Chanukah Dinner” on the memo line.

7:00 p.m. Our beautiful family-friendly Chanukah Menorah-Lighting Shabbat service, to which everyone is welcome and encouraged to bring a menorah and candles.

More Chanukah resources:

Union for Reform Judaism Chanukah Resources Page

My Jewish Learning Chanukah Resource Page

May your Chanukah be filled with light and joy, and may we all bring light and joy to those who need it most!


Rabbi Berkowitz is Coming to Town!

Rabbi Berkowitz doesn’t start as our new Rabbi until July, however she is fast at work making plans to come to Poughkeepsie and beginning to get to better know about Vassar Temple and all of us.

This past week Rabbi came to town to find a place to live. Mission accomplished! She’s happy to have found a great community to make her new home, with a great landlord to boot.

We would like to thank four dedicated Temple families for helping to make Rabbi Berkowitz’s visit a success in other ways! Harry and Sandra Mamis, for their hospitality in putting up Leah while she was here. Thank you to David and Susan Hecht, Melissa and Brianna Erlebacher and Kate, Mark and Anna Metzger for hosting dinners at their homes so that Rabbi could get to know Vassar Temple Officers, the Youth Group, and eleven Bar/Bat Mitzvah childen and their parents.

In addition, Rabbi Golomb gave his successor a tour of his Temple book collection, allowing Rabbi Berkowitz to select books from his office at the temple which she’d like to keep with the temple. They had another opportunity to talk about what it is like to be OUR Rabbi. Were your ears ringing??

Heaven knows we have some sprucing up to do once Rabbi Golomb turns over his office. OY – another Men’s Club project. LOL.

Perla Kaufman welcomes any ideas or suggestions you may have to help with the transition. Please don’t hesitate to contact her. She’s looking forward to letting everyone know about all the ways to get involved as soon as we establish a calendar for the months ahead! Let us make Rabbi Berkowitz feel right at home and in the process, let us create new bonds among us all.
Rabbi Berkowitz playing card game with Youth Group
Rabbi Berkowitz talking with upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah children and parents.

Crafting a Worship Service

A Song For ShabbatPrayerbooks open, music compilations at hand, iPhones for downloading audio and video. And a dozen members of the Vassar Temple youth group.

Such was the scene yesterday evening when Vassar Temple teens worked over dinner to craft a worship service.

Working from an outline of the traditional Friday evening liturgy, the teens evaluated each worship element:

Which songs come from the traditional Friday evening Psalms? What melody should we use for Lecha Dodi? Should we sing the V’ahavta in English or Hebrew, and how does that choice influence the Shema that comes right before? Do we want a festive mood or a contemplative one? How long should the service last? What parts do we want to write ourselves? And so on.

Guided by the youth-group president, the teens reviewed 3,000 years of Jewish tradition as viewed through the lens of contemporary American Judaism. The result, a gift to the community, will be a remarkable worship experience on Friday, February 20.

You really don’t want to miss it.

Vassar Temple is now part of the New York Area Region of NFTY

Submitted by Melissa Erlebacher

Dear Parents of Vassar Temple 8th – 12th graders,

As you know, we have recently hired Rachel Cohen as the adviser of the Vassar Temple Youth Group. Our goal is to build a strong, vibrant youth group at Vassar Temple. The Vassar Temple Youth Group is for students in grades 8 – 12.

I am currently serving as the Youth Committee Chairperson. I will be sending out periodic parent updates in order to keep you in the loop and to foster communication (and hopefully to encourage participation).

Vassar Temple is now part of the New York Area Region of NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth). This is the Reform Movement’s youth program. In November, three of our teens participated in the Fall Kallah at Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. Back in my day, they used to call these retreats or conclaves.

Below is a summary of the Fall Kallah weekend. I hope you will take some time to read it and then discuss with your teen the possibility of attending the Winter Kallah from January 9 – 11.

Please note that the Kallah is only open to students in grades 9 – 12, however, I am including 8th grade parents in this email in order to keep you informed. The Spring Kallah at Eisner Camp will be open to 8th grade students.

There is an early bird discount until December 23. If cost is an issue, please talk to Rabbi Golomb. There are scholarships available through the Sisterhood. Winter Kallah will be hosted by Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners. The early bird registration price of $175 is available through December 23rd. You can register for Winter Kallah online at http://www.nfty.org/nar/events/winter/.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email or call me at 635-9854. I will be available until December 20 to discuss the Kallah.

I wish you all a very happy Hanukkah.

Melissa Erlebacher


Brianna Erlebacher, Vassar Temple Youth Group President
Photo by Perla Kaufman
Article by Susan Karnes Hecht

The Vassar Temple Board of Trustees is thrilled to announce the election of Brianna Erlebacher as Youth Group President. Brianna follows in an illustrious family tradition; her parents Melissa and Seth (z”l) were deeply involved in Jewish youth activities, and her sister Rachel was a recent YG President.

A junior at Arlington High School, Brianna has participated in an extensive array of Jewish experiences. She has attended Camp Eisner for six years and this past summer went on a NFTY trip with an Eisner group. The “L’dor Va Dor” journey included four weeks in Israel and one week in Eastern Europe. This is Brianna’s third year working at the Religious School, where she currently co-teaches the fifth grade. At Arlington, Brianna participates in a number of extracurricular activities including the “Friends of Rachel Club”, an anti-bullying and character education program for which she serves as vice-president. Brianna would like the congregation to know that “after my trip to Israel this past summer, my connection to Judaism has greatly increased, which is why I am so excited to get the younger generation more involved in the temple and Jewish ideals.”

During a pleasurable evening meeting under the sukkah, the recently revitalized Youth Group also elected:
Jacob Moore, Vice President; Tara Lerman, Treasurer; Olivia DiIorio, Secretary; and Zoe Peritz-Greenman, 8th grade representative.

The temple community also welcomes our new Youth Group Advisor, Rachel Cohen, who hails from North Andover, MA. Rachel is a recent graduate of Clark University in Worcester and is currently a student in the Baking and Pastry program at the CIA. She was a collegiate swimmer, diver, and rower. She is an alumna of Camp Eisner, NFTY in Israel, and NFTY EIE High school in Israel.

Rachel sends her thanks to the temple family for its warm welcome and adds “I am very excited to be working with Brianna and the other officers to build Vassar Temple’s Youth Group and really looking forward to becoming part of the Vassar community! Our first project is going to be working on the new youth lounge, located in the lower level of the temple. We are looking for donations (TVs, couches, etc.) to help make the lounge a comfortable, fun, and safe space for the students!”

Please reach out to Rachel with any questions or concerns about Youth Group at rachelfcohen@gmail.com. Contact Brianna at youthgroup@vassartemple.org. If you have something in good condition/working order to donate to the new lounge please contact one of them.

The Board heartily supports efforts to build a thriving and meaningful Youth Group at Vassar Temple. Please join us in congratulating and welcoming our officers and advisor to their new roles and in wishing them much luck!

An Exciting Start to Sukkot at Vassar Temple

Vassar Temple Seventh Graders Accept TorahThree dinners. A youth group meeting. A beautiful Sukkot service. Seventh graders accepting Torah. Dessert under the sukkah.

All of this was part of Vassar Temple’s celebration of Sukkot.

The evening began with three dinners. The 5th-7th grade Hebrew School students
met in one classroom for pizza. The post-bar/bat mitzvah students enjoyed Chinese food in the sukkah. The parents had pizza and salad (and some purloined Chinese, too).

Over dinner, the 8th-12th graders met to organize their youth group, electing peer leaders and starting to plan their year.

Then with sundown everyone came together for a celebratory service, during which the 7th graders received their own copies of the Plaut Commentary, a book they will use to prepare for bar and bat mitzvah.

Afterward we moved outside to break bread together under the sukkah.

As I said during the service, I love Sukkot.

Vassar Temple Gathers Under the Sukkah

Vassar Temple Gathers Under the Sukkah

Vassar Temple Youth Have Fun and Helping Others!

On November 20th, Vassar Temple teens from our Wednesday night school and Youth Group filled baskets with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving meals for seven local families in need. Food for the baskets was donated by religious school students and their families and members.

It was delightful to see the young people work together — the energy and sense of team, the smiles were awesome. A great experience putting Jewish teachings about tzedakah (righteous giving) and gamilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness) into action! The baskets were filled to overflowing with all sorts of nonperishable Thanksgiving foods, little treats and handmade cards. Each basket, along with a frozen turkey, will be delivered to a family in Hudson River Housing’s program for families who are being transitioned from being homeless to going into their own real, stable apartment. So our project is enabling them to celebrate their first Thanksgiving in their new homes.
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Vassar Temple Students Welcome Spring With Picnic

Vassar Temple Wednesday-Night School Picnic

Vassar Temple Wednesday-Night School Picnic

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

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

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Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

The Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group, in an event led by members Rachel and Ali, went ice-skating at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center on Sunday. Here are a few photos:

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Hosts Community-Wide “Gesher” Bowling Event

Good form!

Good form!

As part of an ongoing effort to bring the various Jewish communities in Poughkeepsie closer, Vassar Temple hosted an afternoon of bowling fun for teens from local synagogues.

Some students bowled in the traditional style, some in more creative ways, and some just watched, as everyone schmoozed and laughed.

(Photographs by Rachel Marcus and Dr. Joel M. Hoffman.)