The Beth El Congregation Social Action Committee, with help from the Beth El Sisterhood, continues to collect coats for men, women and children. The coats will be donated to the Community Crisis Center and distributed to families in need.
Check out this video with Marcia Boonshaft, Anita goldsmith, and Randy Melnick: https://fb.watch/hffmvagf7u/
By Rabbi Steven Schwartz
The story of Hanukkah is really two stories, the first a tale of human courage, strength, resistance, resilience, and the human determination to push back the darkness and bring light into the world. And that is the story of the Maccabees, a group of Jews who lived more than a thousand years ago at a time when their homeland, the land of Israel, was controlled by a foreign power. The Maccabees by and large were a rag tag band of rebels and they were standing against what at the time was the greatest power in the world. It was the weak against the strong, the few fighting against the many, but the few were fighting for their own country, for their own families, and for their faith and their freedom, and in the end, it was the immeasurable quality of the human spirit that prevailed, and the Jews regained control of their homeland and their destiny. And during the darkest time of the year, when night falls, we light the menorah as a way of remembering their courage and the gifts that they gave us that we still are blessed with to this day.
The other story of Hanukkah is the story of a miracle. When the Maccabees recaptured the sacred city of Jerusalem they went to the ancient Temple, the center of their religious lives, that had been desecrated. They worked day and night so that the Temple would once again be ready to receive God’s presence, so that it would once again be a place of holiness, and all was made ready. But there was one detail, one small but crucial thing that was missing. The special oil that was required for the lighting of the Temple menorah. They searched and searched, and finally they found one can of the oil, but it was only enough to burn for a single day. Nevertheless they lit the menorah and that single portion of oil burned for 8 days, enough time for them to make more of the oil and bring it to Jerusalem. And so, we light the menorah for 8 nights of Hanukkah, to remember the miracle of the burning menorah in ancient times, and to reflect upon the idea that the brightest light of this world comes from God.
When the two stories of Hanukkah are considered together, we are reminded each year that it is through a partnership between God and humankind that light comes into the world, that darkness can be banished, and that the world can become the kind of place that we want it to be, and that God intends it to be. In the words of the prophet Zachariah, read in the haftara chanted on the first Shabbat of Hanukkah: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” (Zachariah 4:6) The lights of the menorah symbolize the sacred moments when our spirits can join with God’s, and when the Divine and Holy light of God’s presence is truly felt in the human heart and soul. חמש םירוא גח – Happy Hanukkah!
As congregants entered Beth El this past Shabbat morning, they were greeted at the door by David Harrison, President of Beth El Congregation. Once inside the lobby, several past presidents and other volunteers handed out commemorative 75th anniversary kippot.
Hundreds of attendees filled the Berman—Rubin sanctuary, while others watched online. The service began as any typical Shabbat morning, but there was nothing typical about this day.
Generations of congregants gathered during Founders Shabbat to honor the founding families and current members of Beth El. During special aliyot, members were called to the bimah based on the year their families joined Beth El. As Rabbi Dana Saroken recalled her earliest memories of Beth El, she asked each of us to reflect on our first experience at Beth El. For some it may have been decades ago and for others, only a few months.
During his sermon, Rabbi Schwartz shared the history of our beloved synagogue. Started with a vision and transformed over 75 years into a vibrant congregation with over 1500 families.
After the Torah portion of the service, several members of the clergy quietly left the bimah. They returned moments later wearing Beth El’s signature blue robes, not seen by many in nearly 16 years.
The morning service was also an opportunity for our community to honor and thank those who are currently serving and those who have previously served in the military. As the service concluded, Cantor King ensured he included each branch of the military, in a joyous rendition of Adon Olam.
Following services, a celebratory kiddush was held in the Offit Auditorium. A delicious spread of food stretched nearly the entire length of the room, courtesy of Lindsay and his incredible team. Hundreds of congregants spent the afternoon sharing stories from the past, while also expressing excitement for the future.
A special thank you to all the volunteers and members of the Beth El staff who worked tirelessly to ensure this was a Shabbat that will be remembered for years to come.
75th Anniversary Co-chairs
Denise and Keith Franz
Jill Baldinger and Steve Levin
Founders Shabbat event chairs
Jerry Janofsky, Dale Kahn, and Gail Willoughby
A link to the Founders Shabbat service can be found here: https://fb.watch/gOjmnTFWhX/
It was an amazing night filled with live music and dancing as The Wafflers took the stage Saturday night at Beth El Congregation. Cantor Melanie Blatt surprised the crowd and performed several sets with the band. Thank you to the members of our Empty Nesters Club for organizing such an incredible evening.
On Saturday, October 29, 2022, Beth El Congregation hosted a discussion about antisemitism. Rabbi Steven Schwartz and Rabbi Dana Saroken were joined by Mr. Howard Libit, Executive Director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.
Recently, there has been a concerning increase in the number of antisemitic incidents reported on college campuses nationwide. This alarming trend is coupled with several controversial comments made by celebrities, including Kanye West.
Approximately 200 people attended, both in person and virtually, to discuss this troubling trend. We heard from individuals who had questions about how to address this painful hate. Others, expressed concerns that their children have been asking them questions about antisemitism.
“The Jewish people have a long history of being resilient amidst adversity,” said Rabbi Steven Schwartz. “Much of our strength comes from lessons learned over time. I am confident that the Jewish community, both locally and globally, will continue to connect and support each other.”
The entire discussion can be found on our Facebook page or by following this link: https://fb.watch/gw3SgnPLXc/
Please feel free to share this link with your family and friends.
Our renowned Beth El Congregation organist, who was a fixture at High Holiday services, died last month.
Michael Britt, 61, died on September 14, 2022, at Mercy Medical Center.
“Michael Britt was a consummate musician, with the ability to play in a wide variety of styles,” said Cantor Thom King. “He had an intrinsic gift for accompanying singers, and a special talent for improvisation which served him well in the synagogue, church, and when providing the “soundtrack” for silent movies. His extraordinary career took him around the world, and he loved Beth El’s services, members, and clergy. He will be sorely missed by everyone whose lives he touched with his enormous talent and his beautiful soul.”
Michael was born in Baltimore and raised in Arbutus. At age 12, he began his formal musical studies at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Michael would later earn a bachelor’s degree in organ performance from the Peabody and received the school’s Richard Ross and Richard Phelps awards.
Michael went on to play at the Stone Chapel and Arbutus United Methodist and spent 26 years as director of music at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Northeast Baltimore. He was also a past music director at St. Margaret’s Church in Bel Air.
Michael Britt first performed at Beth El in 1981, at the invitation of the congregation’s primary organist, Mr. Bruce Eicher, his teacher at the Peabody Institute.
Mr. Britt attended countless Shabbat morning and High Holy Day services at Beth El, observing how Mr. Eicher complimented Cantors Hammerman and King. Over the years, Michael would fill in as the backup organist for Mr. Eicher. In 2019, when Bruce Eicher retired, Michael took over the duties as primary organist at Beth El.
Michael’s memory, and the beautiful gift of music that he gave to all of us, will always be a blessing.
There will be two memorial services for Michael Britt. Both services are being held at institutions where Michael had a longtime connection. Cantor King and our Beth El Choir will be participating in both services.
Sunday, November 6:
Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1316 Park Avenue, Baltimore 21217
Musical prelude begins at 2:30
Service begins at 3:00
Sunday, November 13:
Shrine of the Little Flower Roman Catholic Church
3500 Belair Road, Baltimore 21213
Prelude begins at 2:30
Catholic Mass at 3 pm
Beth El Congregation continued our Sukkot festivities with a family Shabbat Service on Friday, October 14. Cantor Melanie Blatt led a joyful service for approximately 50 children and their families. Rabbi Saroken, Rabbi Zaslow, and Stephanie Ziman, also joined the festivities to lead the temple’s youngest members and their families in the Shabbat blessings.
After the conclusion of songs and blessings, families celebrated Shabbat with a special dinner. The children had a wonderful time playing games, making balloon animals, and showing off the artwork they created to help decorate the Beth El sukkah.
The fun continues on Saturday, November 5, 2022, at Beth El’s next Preschool Prayground Shabbat at 10:00 a.m. The Religious School’s Shabbat Metuka will also take place on November 5th at 11:00 a.m.
A special thank you to Mandy Barish, Amy Goldberg, and Samantha Halle for organizing such a fun and special evening for the children and their families.
For more information on these events or other upcoming events, please visit our website: www.bethelbalto.com
For a few reasons, and I’m not just saying this because it was requested by the rabbi, my COVID memories will always be connected to Beth El.
Two of the last events I went to before everything shut down were at Beth El: the Purim Carnival and a Saturday night Bat Mitzvah.
About 60 days into the pandemic, my mother passed away. Having Rabbis Schwarz and Saroken on my family’s shiva Zooms (a new concept in the Spring of 2020) was reassuring and comforting. For those 30 days after, I did daily morning and evening prayers and felt very connected to the clergy and explained with pleasure to my daughters what those funny-looking things were that I was putting on my head and arm.
At the end of each Friday’s morning prayer, that day’s clergy mentioned the clergy connection at 11am, which has become appointment viewing for me.
At this time of my life, things begin to change very rapidly or not at all. COVID has brought these experiences to the front of my thinking. As an only ‘child’ with no siblings to share toys, contests, or experiences, I’ve learned to easily be content in my solitude. Consequently, the onset of isolation as enforced by the virus was easy for me initially.
I lived in my well-appointed condo with ease and little concern or disgruntlement. I worked out grocery delivery in a number of ways and had prepared food sent in. I discovered a multitude of entertainment opportunities on television. All was well. As time went on, I did, at times, dislike not being able to meet friends for whatever.
After waiting for the restrictions to abate for a number of months, I proceeded with an established plan to move to a senior living residence where meals were delivered to my apartment door. All amenities were ceased. As my time on Zoom increased for meetings, classes, and various group activities, I felt this whole system was easily tolerated; and even desirable. I joined mahjongg and canasta groups to play online or masked in my building. The ‘new living’ was very comfortable. I spoke to my children and grandchildren on zoom and face time.
Now, as my living facility begins to ‘open up’ and one finds a need for forming groups for dinner, etc., I have more feelings of anxiety. Hopefully, I’ll make the changes, establish more friendships and resume the comfort level familiar to me in my isolation.
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