The images of the faces of our congregants on the Zoom windows during the High Holyday services are still with me. The images of the congregation are in two dimensions, but when I looked into your eyes, during prayer, it took me into a third dimension. I could see and feel emotions rippling through our online community. This was so, not only while prayers were read, but it was especially so as the Levins sang traditional and contemporary prayer.
Of course, many yearned to be in our historic sanctuary, yet there was an unexpected power in our collective presence online. Covid prevented us from gathering in our physical praying place, yet you, in a holy presence, united to forge a synagogue community. Where a tear is shed, or a loved one remembered, or a life altering plan formed, a holy space is created. We shared in Kedusha, sanctification. We forged and shared, sacred time.
Moreover, there was an arc created on Yom Kippur afternoon, ranging from the Yizkor memorial service, through the Neilah concluding service, arching up toward our October first Shabbat service, where we celebrated the Harvest Festival of Sukkot, and renewal of the Torah cycle with international celebrations of Simchat Torah. Yizkor was somber, as we remembered loved ones lost, and relived the “times of our lives” we spent with them, in gratitude. The tempo of Neilah began to accelerate as the ending was a pre-celebration of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, with wine, and spices, and flame ending with the hope of the anthem of Elijah the Prophet.
Normally, the arc lifts toward the symbols of Sukkot’s ancient agricultural festival of thanksgiving, along with the waving of the lulav and etrog, emblems of our gratitude, on to the joyous parading of the Torah Scrolls round and round our synagogue’s sanctuary of Simchat Torah.
This year, because of Covid, in spite of Covid, we shared the celebration online. Music and images of these festivals with the waiving, the marching the dancing pre-Covid were shared. The toasting to Torah can be done in your own homes.
Just as these two festivals conclude this holy season of our observances, so shall we feel all of the connections stretching back to Rosh HaShanah and forward.
On Yom Kippur, we experienced the third dimension of worship, by seeing the emotion of shared prayer in the eyes of those sharing our gallery congregation.
On our Shabbat celebration of these ancient festivals, we went to the third dimension of our collective gratitude and thanksgiving. Even online, it became, once again, “the time of our rejoicing.”
Thank you to all who joined us.
Rabbi Fred Pomerantz
A brand new Hebrew School!
Jewish Education News
Tobi Innerfield, Director of Education
Lifelong learning is a fundamental Jewish value; we are obligated to study and learn until our last breath. One of our sacred texts, the Talmud, explains that Jewish learning begins in the home, and then extends to the school. It says that “teachers of children should be established in each and every province and in each and every town.” We are reminded of the importance of providing a Jewish education each time we say the V’ahavtah at services, when we read: “You shall teach them diligently unto your children.”
Our teachers come to us at Agudas Achim with a deep knowledge of Judaism, Hebrew language, and a love for teaching. Mrs. Mindy Knaster is our Hebrew School teacher. She is a public-school teacher and licensed Special Educator with over 25 years of Hebrew School experience which includes teaching remotely by Zoom since the beginning of the Pandemic. Mr. Richie Chiger teaches Torah and Haftarah portions to our Bar & Bas/Bat Mitzvah students. They are both talented, creative, and care deeply about transmitting our Jewish values to our children.
I am the new Education Director and I am honored to share with the Agudas Achim community my over 30 years of experience as a Jewish professional. I’ve developed and led school programs for students, families and adults, including Holiday, Family Education, and Social Action programs at both Reform and Conservative congregations.
Reflecting back on the past year, we all are saddened that Covid restrictions prevented us from worshipping together in our beautiful historic sanctuary. On the other hand though, when Rabbi gazes out at the little Zoom boxes on the screen on a Friday night, he sees what he lovingly calls “the stained glass windows of our congregation.” The modern magic of Zoom empowers us to now meet regularly even through the cold and snowy winter months of Sullivan County, and the panes of our stained glass window include worshippers from all over the country, both old friends and new. Zoom also provides a significant opportunity for growth and consistency in our Hebrew school, just as with our services.
Hebrew school will be held via Zoom on Tuesday afternoons. The program will incorporate music, movement, Hebrew, holidays, mitzvot, values, and Torah, all in an interactive fashion. The Opening School program was held in the Sukkah, with of course the lulav and etrog. We celebrated the beginning of school and the holiday of Simchat Torah as we again began the yearly cycle of Torah reading with B’reisheit, the story of creation.
In addition to our regular, weekly Zoom classes, five times over the course of the year, the students will come together for an in-person school program planned around a holiday and mitzvot. Watch for more details to come. If you have any questions, just email email@example.com and put Hebrew School in the memo line.
From our President
Thank you for being a part of the Agudas Achim family. I love our congregation. I love the fact that a nationally respected Rabbi chose us to call his ‘home’ when he retired from his full time rabbinical position and that his family is now our family too. I love the fact that the successful, world traveling duo of Ira and Julia Levin are part of our congregational family and that they choose to share their musical gifts with us monthly and at the high holidays. It’s heartwarming that their family and friends join us regularly so that they too are part of Agudas Achim family. I love that we are blessed with the talents of shofar blowers like Gary Siegel, Josh Pomerantz and Ian Blumenthal as they call us to worship at Rosh Hashanah and that Richie Chiger, Gary Siegel and the Levins pave such a majestic path to worship through their hauntingly beautiful Kol Nidre throughout our journey through the Yom Kippur services and into to the New Year. But mostly I love that our little congregation situated in the northern part of Sullivan County in a community with very few Jewish Families has congregants who show up and want to be a part of the gifts those people offer. In a time when congregations are closing all over the country, we seem to be growing. Thank you to every single person that has contributed to sustaining us whether it’s with your (virtual) presence, your donations, or both. Leading an organization that has the spiritual strength that this congregation has is an honor. And, with respect for Bob Freedman and in memory of people like Mac Weiner, Lee Siegel, Izzy Brooks, Evelyn Haas, Marge Siegel, Bobbie Foster, Shirley Newman, and so many others that I did not know or cannot recall, thank you for keeping the spirit of Agudas Achim alive so that we could reach 5782 and see an open road in front of us.
November 5 is the next virtual Shabbat. I hope you’ll join us—it’s really a nice way to spend a Friday evening!
May 5782 be a year of joy, good health and peace and happiness to you and your family.
For Judy’s lovely tour of the synagogue when they visited
Michelle Katz, Lisa Young & Anne Simon
In Memory of Ellen Singer
Happiest Wishes to All
Steven & Tobi Innerfield 10/2
Marc & Susan Jaffe 10/2
Michael & Dayra Lederer 10/2
Joshua & Marta Pomerantz 10/9
Randy & Eileen Katz 10/16
Lauren Katz 10/1
Joe Rivera 10/6
Teddy Jaffe 10/8
Kenneth Schmitt 10/9
Richard Schwalb 10/12
Rosa Kleinman 10/13
Diane Foster 10/19
Jonathan Resnick 10/20
Steven Innerfield 10/26
SPONSOR AN ONEG – No schlepping necessary!
Multiple families can share their special occasions for each Oneg since we have a limited number of Shabbat services. We will post each family’s name and the special event that evening and in the newsletter associated with that Shabbat.
Please consider choosing a Shabbat, email us the information (the occasion to be honored or remembered) by the first of that month, and send us a donation (See below for how to donate). firstname.lastname@example.org
Dues and Donations Information
Have you paid your dues yet for 2021?
Are you considering becoming a new member?
The leadership is committed to providing some of the lowest dues in the country so that we can offer membership to as many people as possible while maintaining our open door policy. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to cover our costs. We count on donations to supplement the dues and help us cover our costs. You may specify to what fund you would like your donation to go: Building, Endowment, Hebrew School, Cemetery, Mitzvah, and Tzedakah Funds. You may also consider donating a chair ($36) or a High Holy Day prayer book ($36). Donation checks should be made payable to Congregation Agudas Achim and mailed to PO Box 714, Livingston Manor, NY 12758. You can also donate by credit card by clicking on the green “Donate Now” button.
Now you can renew your membership dues online and follow the steps.
Note: On the printed membership form and online, you will notice many opportunities to donate in a way that is most meaningful to you and your family: prayer books, the cemetery fund, sustaining membership, religious school, etc.