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David Harris, CEO of American Jewish Committee ~ May 25

Temple Beth El is pleased to invite the entire community to an extraordinary program on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:30 pm with David Harris, CEO of American Jewish Committee (AJC).  He will discuss "Global Jewish Advocacy:  A Front-Line Perspective."

For more than a century, AJC has been the leading global Jewish advocacy organization.  With offices across the U.S. and around the world, and partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide, AJC works to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values for all.  David Harris is regarded as one of the top leaders of the Jewish world.

Following the program, refreshments will be served, sponsored by the Anna P. Housen Israel Desk of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.  For more information, click here.

Joint Erev Shavuot Program & Service ~ June 11

On Saturday, June 11, there will be a joint program and service for members of both Sinai Temple and Temple Beth El at Sinai Temple.  At 7:30 pm, Professor Justin Cammy will discuss "Between Destruction and Rebirth:  A Nobel Prize Winner's Shavuot Story," a presentation of a short story by the Israeli author Shai Agnon.  Professor Cammy, who is a dynamic and articulate speaker, is the Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Comparative Literature at Smith College.  Agnon's writing was complex and fascinating; he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966.  Professor Cammy will discuss Agnon's literary creation as we prepare to commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. 

Following his presentation, at approximately 8:30 pm, a joint service will be led by Rabbi Amy Katz and Rabbi Mark Shapiro, along with Cantor Elise Barber and Cantor Martin Levson.  A dessert reception will be held at 9:00 pm.  All are welcome!

Senior Lunch ~ June 21

TBE is hosting a lunch for members of our congregation and Sinai Temple ages 70 and over on Tuesday, June 21 at 12:00 pm.  The speaker will be Rabbi James Greene, the Assistant Executive Director of the Springfield JCC.  The cost to attend is $10 per person.  To R.S.V.P., please send in your check to the TBE office.

Siddur Lev Shalem is Here--Dedicate a New Siddur!

Our new Siddur Lev Shalem has made its debut to rave reviews!  We are offering you the opportunity to dedicate one or more copies of the new siddur in honor of or in memory of anyone, or to commemorate a special occasion (birthday, Siddur Lev Shalemanniversary, wedding, birth of a child or grandchild, etc.).  A bookplate will be placed in the front of each siddur with your name and message.  Your help is greatly appreciated to help cover the cost of 400 books.

Hanukkah is coming, and this makes a special gift that will be used daily in our synagogue.

The cost is $36 per book.  Please click here for an order form.

Temple Beth El in the News

Check out this article about Temple Beth El that appeared recently in The Jewish Advocate.  Click here to read.

Pay your dues, pledge or make a donation safely on our website

Would you like to know more about Temple Beth El?

tbe image temple frontThank you for coming to our website. You would not be here if you did not sense that being part of something beyond your immediate family and friends, workplaces and coffee shops, would make your life fuller and richer.

On this site you can find out that you are missing Kiddush lunches and musical services, study groups and parties. But only by walking in can you discover the feeling of being part of our friendly, warm community.

Please come and truly discover what you are missing. You can call the temple Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm or Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at (413) 733-4149. Click here to send us an email.



tbe farkas icon The President's Blog


Through the President's Blog, Paul Farkas will share insights and personal reflections, as well as sneak peeks into daily life at Temple Beth El. The President's Blog will be updated occasionally with posts from Paul. Readers can expect to learn about items being considered by the Board of Trustees and experience event highlights from the President's perspective. We will include many important discussions in our synagogue community, but Paul also mixes in some fun, light-hearted observations through this blog. He invites your readership and comments.  

Please email him here with any comments.

President Farkas' High Holy Day 2015 Remarks

My requests, from my HH speeches . . .

Thank you again, for the honor and privilege of leading this unique and glorious congregation for 2 ½ years.

This past year we have shared so many wonderful, meaningful, and inspiring moments.   Last Simchas Torah, our new social hall was filled with singing and dancing as we honored our USYers and rolled our scrolls back to the beginning for another great new start.  We and Sinai Temple celebrated Shavuos with dinner and a klezmer band.   We laughed and ate and schmoozed (and even listened at times) as David Brinnel and friends brought NYC (NYC, not Chicago!) to Temple Beth El in December.  Shortly after December 25, we laughed over our movie and the great Chinese food cooked by our Program Committee.   Our entire social hall was truly packed as we celebrated Purim (thank you Caryn Resnick and Marie Sampson and friends!).  We grown-ups may have had more fun with our costumes than the children all around us did!   I hope you didn’t miss the falafel at Israel Day or the instrumentalists and singers and schmoozers at the Beit Café, our very own coffee house!  At the Nechamen-Chernick Breakfast, with more great food from the Program committee, we honored our favorite clown Craig Kazin.  We celebrated wonderful Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, auf rufs, and baby-namings.   Craig and his committee arranged another inspiring day, the dedication of this sanctuary in honor of Cantor Shames.

Many of our greatest moments are those that occur quietly, day in and day out . . . at daily services, Shabbat Zimrahs, Lunch and Learn, Cuppa Joe, Shabbat Kiddush lunches, as well as at the dinners and parties, classes and get-aways for the younger set.   

And we continue to look forward . . .

Soon, we hope to have our new year-round prayer books,  with transliterations, explanations, and extra readings, like the prayer books in your hands today.  How special that our Rabbi is one of the editors.

Planning with Sinai Temple has become more intense as, with the leadership of Stuart Anfang, we hope to create an outstanding afternoon religious school for our children.  

The preservation of our building demands our constant attention.   Early in my presidency, Paul Cohen’s generous donation made possible the repair and modernization of our Social Hall.  Less apparent, but crucial, were such tasks as fixing the artesian well, searching for efficient lighting, repairing heat and air conditioning.  (Thank you Rhoda Peskin and Dan Plotkin and friends!)   

You must have noticed our new entryway already.

We are grateful to Helen Goldband for her generous bequest, and to the Feldmans and Schulmans for their support; and to the Rahn family and friends, whose bequest helped us create the beautiful back patio and garden.  And we all appreciate the work of the Art and Architecture committee under Susan Firestone and Howard Smithline who worked on putting all of this together for us.

And challenges go on . . . Although Curtis Blake School has closed, AIC is honoring its lease.  By June of 2017 we hope to have plans for using this space.   

Continuing a new tradition, I come to you with three requests:

My first request is that we all realize that it is we who are all responsible for the growth and development of our Temple.  

We cannot afford to be complacent . . . you can’t assume the person in the next seat will be the one to offer new ideas, time, energy, and financial support.

In contrast to other causes appearing in envelopes and robo-calls, I want to remind all of us that this is our synagogue.  I am aware there are many worthwhile causes in our valley and beyond, but this is our spiritual home.  This is where we share so much . . . as we study, learn, pray, celebrate family events, come in times of need, and just get together.  

Temple Beth El belongs to each of us.  And unlike so many other charities, we the members sitting in this room are the only donors.   This is our responsibility.  

My second request is that as we donate, each of us makes a pledge to ourselves that we will take full advantage of this temple we support.  Please, come for our weekly Kiddush lunches, our Shabbat Zimrah’s, our speakers, our study groups, our services big and small.  

It is interesting, but the more we come, the more we will want to come, and the better we get to know members who now may seem like distant relatives.   At least as important as our new members is the increasing presence and caring of all of us, as we grow together.  

We may have the greatest clergy, office team, and building, but it is our being here that makes all of this so special and meaningful.

And while you’re coming to all these great gatherings, please remember that there is no reason to keep this place a secret.  One day I was minding my own business . . . when Stu and Michelle Anfang invited me to a Hanukkah party here!  Please invite your friends and neighbors to times like the next rousing Shabbat Zimrah. Let them find out how great a place this is!

My third request is, for me, special.  A gift to ourselves, to each other, and to our temple.  And it does not involve money, time, or effort.  

I know that we really love and appreciate this second home of ours.  Most of the people who really need to hear about this gift are not even here today.  Please, be our emissaries, and discuss this gift with friends and neighbors.  

Now and then, when I talk with people about our temple, they become serious and start their “stories,” often involving a problem from the past, often years ago.

Someone wrote that holding a grudge is like drinking slow poison … the only one hurt is the grudge-holder.

This is the day of forgiveness …we  ask it of God and we ask it of each other.  Let’s ask it of ourselves.  

I would like to see this day, in part, be a day of personal forgiveness and acceptance  

We need to think of our “bad stories,” and let them go.

We also need to think of current issues, and accept that we are in many ways like a real family…

Now I understand that occasionally family members disagree and argue.   At least that is what I have been told….   This is not new.  In Rosh Hashanah’s Torah portion a mother and son were sent out into the desert with a skin of water!  In that day’s Haftarah, Elkana’s two wives torment each other!

Here, within our Temple family, I fully understand that not all of us are happy with every decision that has been agreed upon.   My request would be that we accept that we will not always agree, that there are many conflicting voices, but we understand that we all have the best interests of our Temple at heart.  I, too, do not always personally agree with every decision made here.  Please please, let’s continue to participate and work together to make TBE all it can be.  

And that is my third request… let’s let the old conflicts go, accept that we will not always agree, and accept each other as trying to do what’s best for our temple.  Let’s never be afraid to express our opinions – for as one member recently reminded me, Jews always have different opinions… but at a certain point, it is time to leave the disagreement behind and move on …  together.

When we give a gift, whether the gift of support, the gift of showing up, or the gift of acceptance and forgiving, we are giving to ourselves, individually and to each other. .…

Drums and lyres

tbe paul beitJuly 2014

As I sit down to write, I believe that winter has indeed ended (this time). It still amazes me that, like the weather, each season at shul is so distinctly different.

As spring seemed to arrive, we took out “drums and lyres” and played and sang at the Beit Café (special thanks to Cantor Barber, Curt Freedman, Dennis Gordan, and all our musicians). While we raised funds for our Jewish campers and enjoyed a gourmet breakfast (thank you Program Committee!) at the Nechamen/Chernick Breakfast, two great honorees spoke of synagogue life: Gene Baker spoke eloquently of daily services, and Dennis Gordan described his own fascinating journey, starting as the boy who lived across the street from the shul and growing into a true gabbai (someone who assists with the running of services) on Shabbat. As part of the festivities at our SKLC fundraiser, our honoree, Michelle Anfang, life-long learner, left no doubt that she would put her new lunchbox to great use! During the Purim Megillah reading on the big screen, I learned to adjust to having a tail (beware of Purim costumes!) and partied with other strange characters afterwards! Our pre-Passover Shabbat dinner would have still been just as great fun, even without that welcome respite from cooking in an about-to-be-chametz-free environment! Newcomers to our “Musical Shabbat” Friday night services marveled at their beauty, no less captivating for having their ticket-free, parking-hassle-free environment! 

Our rising bar/bat mitzvah students have been giving our chapel a special aura on Shabbat mornings. We thank Gabrielle Zeller, Joshua Peck, Kayla Weiss, and Nina Katz for leading us through some difficult Torah portions, and celebrating with us afterwards on their bar/bat mitzvah days.

Meanwhile, our younger set prepared for “pizza and guitar” as they celebrated a great year of school and a great night of Shavuot!

And the treasured background rhythm of temple life continues, with our daily services (morning and evening), Just-Show-Up Shabbats, Lunch and Learn on Wednesdays, and Cuppa Joe on Sunday morning. On various Sunday evenings, late in the month, several members bring a special glow as they stop by for a few prayers and greetings at minyan after serving dinner to the less fortunate.
And we continue to plan for our future. As I write this, we are starting to structure plans as we work with our architect, Preston Scott Cohen, to consider our worship spaces, to search for ways to make our beautiful sanctuary feel comfortable for smaller groups and still work for large services. We also would like to make our chapel more welcoming and comfortable, and our Sukkah area more useful and flexible. By the time you read this, we will have had our initial meetings with our architect, and hopefully be working on the initial plans and schematics.

Unfortunately, though, not all of our hopes and plans proceed smoothly.

Perhaps you recall that we have been discussing our afternoon religious school programs with Sinai Temple. A joint task force, with members from both temples, has been meeting regularly through the year. We have hoped to explore ways to combine resources and to enhance our children’s educational and religious experiences. We thank our dedicated task force members: Iris Linson (chair), Stuart Anfang and Mallory Caplan (vice-chairs), Maxine Bernstein, Meredith Dragon, Erica Kaplan, Rabbi Amy Katz, Caryn Resnick, and Amy Wistreich (ex-officio, Paul Farkas).

In May, we were advised that the Sinai committee wanted to re-examine this process and its goals. After further discussions with Sinai, we have both decided to put this particular process on hold for a while, and so our May and June meetings were cancelled.

Despite the difficulties presented by our evolving modern society, our own religious school is excellent and continues to explore exciting educational ideas. One unified message delivered by all task force members surveying both schools concerned the dedication of our teachers and the excellence of our programs.

“Taking a break” (with the hope of coming back together soon) from this particular process does not mean “taking a break” from exploring ways to keep improving our religious school. In this continuing effort, we will seeking other re-sources in the valley as educational partners.

It is my conviction that we do need to work together with other congregations to share and enhance resources. We can all maintain our individual identities and missions while we help each other. Together – as a congregation and as part of the greater Jewish community -- we can maintain our strength and excellence while we plan for the future.

Meanwhile, we hope you are enjoying our summer. And please remember that no matter what the season, we at Temple Beth El are always open and always welcome you to “Just Show Up.”