Here are excerpts from the Summer 2003 Bulletin.
Religious School, 2003
FROM THE RABBI'S DESK
As we follow the Jewish calendar of holidays and observances right now, we ride the roller coaster of human emotions. We start with the most widely observed of all of the Jewish holidays, Passover. We relive the exodus from Egypt, tasting the bitterness of slavery and end with the celebration of freedom and nationhood! Our joy in our salvation is celebrated with the four cups of wine and the happiness of our family gathering.
But our joy is short-lived in the calendar. Less than six days after concluding Passover, our calendar demands that we remember the pain of the last century in observing Yom HaShoa. Plunged into the pain of remembering the agony and suffering and deaths of so many, we recall the days of darkness. It is a painful reminder that we must never forget - never again, to anyone, anywhere. That is the lesson we must take from the pain of remembering.
Eight days later, we rejoice and celebrate. Our moods are once again uplifted in joy and recognition of the accomplishments of our people in recent years, as we celebrate Yom Haatzmauth, Israel's Independence Day. Let us be clear that this is not a celebration of any particular government or policy. We are celebrating the miracle of Israel's rebirth. Along with our celebration is the fervent prayer - which we say every week and pray for every day - for shalom, for peace.
Just as our calendar raises and lowers our emotions, so, too, do the events of our daily lives. As I write these words, Iraqis are "coming out of their closets" in freedom, welcoming the liberators. Each day of the Iraqi war saw our emotions rise and fall, be filled with fear and hope. I don't know what the future holds for them, but pray that they might know freedom and peace in their land and that our men and women serving there might soon return to their homes and families.
Our calendar has yet one more holiday this spring: Shavuoth. This raises our emotional level to its highest as we relive the experience at Mount Sinai. We received the laws from God which make us a "kingdom of priests and a holy people." May we always merit that title - as we live our lives nobly, remembering our heritage and our responsibilities.
With prayers and hopes for peace,
Rabbi Arthur F. Starr
FROM THE STUDENT RABBI'S DESK
I am walking up Crystal Gade in a strong, proud gait; the muscles of my legs powerful from having taken this path repeatedly, my lungs filling with the sweet air of island dusk. I am walking up towards the space that I have been fortunate enough to call my workplace for the past seven months, and it beckons me forth with warmth and solace as it has done from the moment I first saw it standing unassumingly on the top of the hill. My heart beats a rapid, healthy rhythm, but behind it the now familiar ache grows stronger. The pain comes from a love soon to be lost - a bittersweet sensation.
It's a funny thing, love. You find your soul filled up by something that you had once lived perfectly without, but now recognize it as the very source of your happiness - so that its absence causes the sensation of an empty space that had not existed before that love created it to fill.
I climb up the hill in anticipatory mourning of just such a loss of love: a love greater than any one person could provoke - the love of a congregation, a synagogue, and the island upon which they all rest. By July my eight months of weekend visits to St. Thomas as a student Rabbi will become a solitary memory; endless moments of this intricate and magnificent love relegated to a single, amalgamated file in my mind. A story. A lovely story of a year early in my Rabbinical career that brought me great joy, powerful connection, profound inspiration, and a certain experience of being alive that will impact my work forever.
But before I allow this present experience to be drowned in premature mourning; before the present moments to come begin to push my time here further back into the recesses of my memory, I thought it wise to write down some of those smaller detail that made my internship here so amazing. This time will end, but if I can have some words to invoke the memories of quiet perfection that come to me here, perhaps the ache will subside… a little. So, please humor my sentimentality as I record some of my favorite moments during this peculiar love that has overtaken me.
The smell inside the ark; an old dampness on fine wood that beckons a sense of the Eternal through its antique perfume.
The sense of unity that overwhelms me when I hear the voices of our congregation when they rise together in the refrain of Lecha Dodi.
The few grains of sand from the synagogue floor stubbornly stuck to the soles of my feet as I walk up the hill to Lillienfeld House for the oneg.
The way that the distinction between the inevitable honking of cars outside and the peace developing inside becomes ever greater during the service.
The certain honor and intimacy I feel when I meet someone's eyes in their sharing a name for the prayer of healing.
The feeling of the fan above the bimah softly blowing over my hair and shoulders as I watch people silently recite the Amidah.
The insights and willingness to share that has allowed our discussion groups to be so meaningful and connecting.
The gift of watching the sun set over the turquoise water as we softly begin to sing Havdallah.
The taste of seawater on my lips on a Sunday morning as I plunge into the crisp ocean after Jewish Yoga.
The opportunity to lead this gathering of a kind, open, loving people under a space of historical sanctity; the smiles, the kisses, the greetings of love and warmth. The flexibility and humor and intellect and song that flow forth from this community as they climb up Crystal Gade to this magnificent temple made even more holy by their coming there.
It has been an honor and a joy to work with you all. Thank you.
Rabbi Karen Deitsch
Our Religious School has Ruach (spirit)!
The St. Thomas Religious School has been having a great year! We have 11 children, ages 6 to 12, who meet every week at Antilles School on Thursday afternoons. We begin our afternoons with a snack and shmooze, followed either by an art activity or shira (songs). The children then divide into separate classes for religious study where the older students study the Jewish life cycles and the younger students read (and sometimes act out) Torah stories. After religious study, the students study Hebrew reading and comprehension and tefillot (prayers) in groups of two to four.
In addition to all our studies, we have done tons of fun activities. We made spice boxes for Havdalah (the closing service on Shabbat). We designed flags for Simchat Torah. For TuB'Shvat (New Year for the Trees), we created Chaver/a L'Teva (Earth Friends) by planting mint in little cups decorated as dogs, cats, and kids. We studied Israel by making a gigantic map in the gravel outside then walking "from city to city" on the map. And most recently, our students put together a Purim play which we shared at the Synagogue Purim party!
A Yashar Koach to Nathan Sell, our devoted 14-year-old teacher, who realized the importance of the Bar Mitzvah as a starting point in an active Jewish life. Nathan is an excellent example to our students…and a fantastic Hebrew reader!
Do you have a special interest, talent, or art that you'd like to share with our Religious school students? We always welcome visitors who want to teach and learn with us.
Hag Kasher v'Semeach (Happy Passover) and see you at Religious school!
Tanya Hess, teacher
Arielle and Danielle are planning a family trip with their parents, Greg and Dania, to the Grand Canyon. They will also visit Bryce and Zion National Parks. While there, they will go river rafting, hiking and maybe venture to the bottom of the canyon on foot or riding. Arielle continues her guitar lessons and Danielle her dancing. Both doing very well at school and loving it.
Rachel, Agnes and Steve's daughter, has begun to prepare for her December Bat Mitzvah with Herb Horwitz. This summer she will attend first session at Eisner Camp and then visit with family in New York. Rachel maintains a straight-A average and is on High Honor roll at Antilles School. She is also an elected member of the Student Council for a second year.
Chelsea and Naomi, Alexandra and Sam's two daughters, are following in their parents' footsteps and becoming quite the sailing masters. Chelsea is at the intermediate level already and is racing. Both girls will attend the yacht club camp this summer - better watch out for these girls on the racing circuit!
Jessica and George's three kids all have a busy summer planned. The summer will begin with a family trip to visit some national parks. After that, Morgan will attend World Volleyball Training camp in New York State. Nathan will attend a basketball camp in Florida known as IMD Academy which does a program known as Bolletiere Basketball. Next, Dylan, Morgan and Nathan will all attend the second session at Eisner Camp. This will be Nathan's last year at Eisner. By the way, Morgan says "Religious school is fun this year!"
Karen's son Tyler will be sailing in the Opti National Regatta in Chicago this summer. Look for Tyler in St. Croix in May for a soccer tournament. How does he have the time to do all this and maintain a straight-A average?
Samantha and Shaina P. will attend Eisner Camp for two sessions this summer. Samantha has made honor roll at Antilles School. They haven't revealed Ashley's plans for the summer yet, and I'm sure it will be something special.
Nathan in 9th grade has had high honors all three quarters thus far. Lane has been accepted to the 4 colleges he applied to: Deep Springs College in California, Trinity College University of Dublin, Ireland, Oberlin College in Ohio, and University of Michigan, Honors program, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He will attend Deep Springs for approximately 2 years. It is a small, liberal arts college in eastern California in the desert. The total student body is 26. The students run a cattle ranch and an alfafa farm while also taking classes. It should be quite an adventure!
Michelle's girls Page, Jade and Isabella will be going to Boston this summer to visit with family and attend the Bat Mitzvah of a cousin. When they get back to the island, the twins will attend Pistarckle Theatre Camp. Baby Isabella will continue to put a smile on everyone's face and entertain the Congregation.
Eric is particularly enjoying religious school this year and especially wanted to use this paragraph to speak not about himself but about one of his teachers. Herb Horwitz has played an important role in Eric's life this year and Lynn wanted to say how especially kind he is. THANK YOU, HERB!
From the Sisterhood
Congratulations to the new Women of Reform Judaism officers for 5763-5764 (2003-04):
Phebe Schwartz - President
Tanya Hess - Vice President
Ella Ogden - Treasurer
Laurie Jesner - Secretary
We look forward to a year full of exciting and educational programs in addition to our important Sisterhood events. We hope each woman in the synagogue will join us in making Sisterhood meaningful and vital.
The Magic of Passover
Passover magically transformed more than 130 individuals into an extended family at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort on April 16th as the Hebrew Congregation brought members, visitors, islands residents and guests together once again in celebration of freedom. Leading the Seder with humor and participation (and a touch of magic), Rabbi Starr and our student rabbi Karen Deitsch involved everyone in "eating our history."
Very special thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this event the success that it was, especially Ella Ogden and the co-chairs, Trudie Prior and Judi Nagelberg. Early warning notice: Make your reservations early next year. Don't be turned away at the last minute (to those who were this year, we are very sorry, but limitations and time constraints were placed on us by the hotel).
Hebrew Congregation selects a new Cantor
It was a really thrilling experience. I flew up to New York to interview a student at the School of Sacred Music at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Each congregation looking for a student cantor sends in a description of the congregation and its musical needs. The students then receive copies of all of the applications and choose which ones they want to interview for.
Four students signed up to interview for St Thomas. I had hoped for other members of the congregation to go with me for the interview, but that wasn't possible. I took the bios of the four candidates and had two members of the choir and/or Religious Practices Committee read them. Both of them picked the same candidate that I had picked as first choice! Now, the interview and audition would confirm or reject that choice.
Seated in the College's chapel, about fifty people, representing 24 congregations listened to the 16 candidates each sing two musical pieces. It was a beautiful concert. I then had the opportunity to speak individually with each of the four applicants for our position.
I returned to St. Thomas and on Thursday morning had to fax our choices in order to the director of placement. Each of the students had to indicate his/her choice in order also. When a student and a congregation each listed the other as the first choice - it was a "done deal!"
Marla Goldberg, who will be a fourth year Cantorial Student next year, will be with us for the High Holydays and about 20 week-ends during the year. She plays piano and guitar, has a wonderful, sweet voice that encourages others to sing along, will work with our choir on a regular basis and has been a song leader at one of our UAHC Summer Camps. I am looking forward to a very exciting year leading services with Cantor Goldberg.
Of course, even wonderful news needs to be tempered with its touch of sadness. Helen Leneman has served our congregation well since the "dark" days of 1995. She has given selflessly of herself and has worked with four different rabbis and two years with no rabbi! If it weren't for the congregation's need for regular and ongoing cantorial services, we never would have thought to make a change. Thank you, Helen!
Rabbi Arthur F. Starr
Kol Hakavod - Congratulations to:
-- Nathan Sell for an award for best flower for a seedling blooming for the first time, awarded by the St. Croix Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society. Nathan raises hybrid hibiscus, does grafting, and has been experimenting with cross pollination to get new blooms. His winning bloom, named "Ginger Bear," came off a plant he started from seed about a year ago. Nathan has previously garnered six major prizes in other categories.
-- Hank Feuerzeig for being awarded Sisterhood's Person of the Year award.
Toda Rabah - Thank You Very Much to:
-- Penny Feuerzeig and her crew for an outstanding auction.
-- Teri and Dick Golden for the new microwave oven in our kitchen.
-- Rabbi Arthur and Linda Starr for the beautiful live plant in the sanctuary.
-- Agnes Rampino and her gang for organizing the food, drinks, walks, and a park ranger for the Shabbaton in St. John.
-- Steve Richman for a constant, immediate, non complaining, electronic gizmos support to the congregation.
-- Trudie Prior and Judi Nagelberg for organizing the Passover Seder.
-- Steve Richman for providing the audio system for the Seder.
-- The Religious School teachers, Tanya Hess, Michelle Johnson, and Herb Horwitz, for their dedicated work with our children.
-- Our Chai member Laurie Wolko who, on her holiday, led Jewish Yoga, and prenatal Yoga class.
Antiques Auction was biggest success ever
The Synagogue's fourth annual Antiques, Art & Collectibles Auction on Feb. 3, 2003, was a huge success -- in fact, our most successful auction ever! This was due in large measure to the excellent work of scores of volunteers.
From cleaning furniture to setting up at the UVI Sports Center to selling tchotchkes at our sale tables, congregants and friends rolled up their sleeves and pitched in wherever they were needed. Ditto for a follow-up warehouse sale in April at the Bovoni Center to dispose of items that weren't auction quality -- volunteers and donors made that event an unqualified success.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who helped! We appreciate everything you did.
Special thanks again to Les Cooper for his unfailing generosity in making space available to us at Bovoni Center to store auction items and to hold our warehouse sale. We couldn't do it without Les!
Thanks to Doris Pomeranz for the beautiful catalogue, to Archie Ogden, the No. 1 man behind the scenes who makes things happen, and to Donald Pomeranz for taking charge of the warehouse sale.
Now it's on to the 2004 Antiques Auction -- and we're well on our way. More on that to come!
Penny Feuerzeig, Auction Committee Coordinator
Mazel Tov for Simchas in our Synagogue:
On their weddings to Oded Sherbansky and Luba Chernov; Samuel H. Weissbard and Annette Ilyse Rody; and Alan Joshua Goodman and Kristie Ann Morris.
Trip planned to Eastern Europe
Travel to Eastern Europe with Rabbi and Mrs. Starr and visit Auschwitz, Terezin, and other sites of historic and modern Jewish history. The planned trip leaves on September 7th and returns on September 19th. Stops will be in Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Crakow.
For more information and full details, call and speak with Rabbi Starr: 340-774-4312.
B'racha V'Shalom U'Gemilut Chasadim
Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas
P.O. Box 266
St. Thomas, USVI 00804
Telephone: 340-774-4312, Fax: 340-774-3249
For information about upcoming events, please check our web site: www.onepaper.com/synagogue.
Board of Representatives: President, Katina Coulianos; Vice President, Helen Goldman; Secretary, Mina Orenstein; Treasurer, Archie Ogden; Sisterhood Representative, Jackie Jeffries; Board Members: Past President, Trudie Prior; Jeff Chase; Greg Ebenholtz, Judi Nagelberg, and Agnes Rampino.
Administrator: Ella Ogden
Friends of the Congregation 2002-03:
Friends for Life: Ambassador and Mrs. Henry Kimelman.
Benefactors: Al and Margaret Cohen, Les and Eva Cooper, Peter and Patricia Gruber.
Patrons: Franzi Coulianos, S. Donald Sussman.
Sustainers: Stephen Feinberg and Susan Foot, Hank and Penny Feuerzeig, Neil and Trudie Prior, George and Jessica Rosenberg, Richard and Viviane Silver.
Friends: George and Marilyn Blackhall, Avna Cassinelli, Lee Greenberg, Murray and Joan King, Donald Pomeranz, Dr. Jerome Reisberg, Rabbi Stephen and Nina Schafer, Joyce and Andrew Stillman, Harvey and Glenda Werbel.
Here are selections from the Fall 2005 Bulletin, including the Congregation's response to Hurricane Katrina.
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