Volume 10/June 2021
Congregation Agudas Achim
Join us Friday, June 11, 2021 for
Shabbat services
7:00 p.m. for Zoom Social Time & 7:30 p.m. services
Go to our Website and take a 360-tour of our National Historic Register Synagogue!
PO Box 714, Livingston Manor, NY 12758
Phone: 845-439-3600
There has been a great deal of discussion regarding how, if and when we will open the doors of Agudas Achim and meet in person. The safety of the members of our congregation is a first priority and will be the basis for that decision. Expect more information in that regard in the coming months.
Our Rabbi’s Message
Part 1.
“We will forgive the Arabs many things. But we will never forgive them for forcing our young men to kill their young men.”
Recently, we saw on TV, pictures of Asian Americans being physically attacked as they walked down the street. They were punched and pummeled because of their race. Synagogues in California and Sweden and in countries throughout the world are attacked daily by gunfire, or daubing or by arson.
Now, since the latest war between Israel and Hamas, Jews have been similarly attacked, here and abroad. The attackers are not merely Palestinians, as those who have battled pro-Israel demonstrators in cities across the globe, but they have shown to be non-Jews of every stripe who have influence by the unbalanced media reports which portray Israel as a demonic oppressor, without showing that the terrorists who fired over four thousand rockets into cities near and far in an attempt to kill as many Jews as possible.
Neither did the news reports demonstrate that launching sites used by Hamas were nestled into apartment buildings using the inhabitants as human shields.
Neither did the media show how Israel used their electronic capacity to phone all of the Palestinian residents to warn them that their building which contained rocket launch sites, or Hamas barracks, or headquarters, would be destroyed in an hour.
Few news reports explained that the war was begun by Hamas and that Israel was targeting their launch sites, tunnel complex, and other military targets in self defense.
Even highly respected news sources such as The BBC, showed, and continue to show destruction in Gaza, without including destruction in Israel caused by the rockets.
Hamas succeeded in their mission of generating a global media propaganda blitz caused by the international media, portraying Israel as the aggressor and oppressor in this unwanted war.
And so, the attacking of Jews and their synagogues here and elsewhere will continue now and in the future as film and photos continue only to show the death and destruction in Gaza.
But, we Jews mourn the death of the innocent civilians used as human shields by the terrorists, especially the children.
Yet, Israel’s enemy planned on these deaths to mold world opinion against the Jewish State. They dared Israel to defend itself knowing that pictures of casualties and building damage would generate danger to Jews and ignite dormant anti-Semitism abroad.
Many who create violence say that they are against Israel, not against Jews.
But why have synagogues been attacked in so many places? Why is it dangerous to wear a yarmulke or a Jewish star here and in countries around the world. Will we see Tree of Life, Pittsburgh, PA, attacks occurring again in the time ahead? Some have said that it is a good thing that most services are conducted on zoom these days.
We have seen demonstrations in the past. After other Arab-Israel conflicts, then the demonstrations have died down. Yet the mood has never risen to violence before this war.
Never before has a President of the United States had to announce a promulgation against anti-Semitism.
There is a Jewish teaching that says mourn the death of your enemies; they each were human beings.
There is also a teaching in the Talmud that says one should avoid the killing of others. Yet, when an enemy attacks you with sword or spear you have a duty to defend yourself to preserve your life.
In a meeting of Reform Rabbis who went to Israel just after the Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir, then Prime Minster of Israel, ended her address to the rabbis saying the following: “We will forgive the Arabs many things. But we will never forgive them for forcing our young men to kill their young men.”
As a new Government and a new Prime Minister is about to take over in Israel, we pray that a just path to peace can be found. We pray that the people who say Salaam, and the people who say Shalom can overcome political and security concerns and begin to find paths that will, at last, lead to a lasting peace.
It won’t be easy. It won’t be soon.
Meanwhile we are again, in a time when, “ It’s not easy to be a Jew.
Part 2. On a much lighter note, do you Zoom?
Forty years ago, my colleague, Rabbi Cary Yales, of Temple Isaiah, Lexington, Massachusetts, and I created a once a month Shabbat service, where congregants gathered first in the social hall for wine and cheese, or other beverages for a half hour before services. Then singing together, the group went into the sanctuary to light Shabbat candles and share a service. (Some joined the group at this time.)
Coincidently, when we began our Covid-era Zoom services, Judy Siegel, Don Simkin, and other board members suggested that we similarly gather for a half an hour before services for s similar social hour.
We have a chance to reconnect with one another, and to welcome new folks from many states across the country to our services. (Of course, one may simply join the service at 7:30.)
While more congregants and guests join us in Zoom than for our in person services, I am inviting you, our members and those who read our bulletin, to try our spiritual service, enhanced by such beautiful music. Because it is so easy to tune into a Zoom service after a hectic week, and for those who live a far distance from Livingston Manor, we plan to continue this virtual service even when we return to in person worship.
Though I would love to see you in the Zoom gallery (which are like our stained glass windows), if you prefer privacy hit the “without video” option and you can participate in the one hour service, without being seen.
After each service, while people create their own Oneg (beverage of choice), the Levins perform a beautiful mini-concert.
I’d love to see you or your name in our gathering.
Rabbi Fred Pomerantz
Our President’s Message
Hello Friends,
I have been thinking a lot lately about why we congregate. Whether in person or by Zoom, why do we come together to share Shabbat?
Last month, Gary and I went to dinner and we met Harold and Marilyn. They are members of our congregation but we had never met before. I knew Harold’s grandmother and know his cousin as well (also a member). So, in my view, they are my distant relatives. A few days later, we attended our Zoom Shabbat and were fortunate to see some Livingston Manor natives: Jan Adler, and his cousin Ellen who zoomed in from California. Ellen spent time at my family’s hotel day camp as a child and Jan went to school at Livingston Manor Central School. He graduated around the same time that Gary’s and my siblings did and I knew him and his brother, Jules. His parents had a store in town and so I knew them too. Again, in my view, they are distant relatives. (In fact, the Adlers and Gary’s family are distantly related). Right after that, I met Allison. She, her husband, and her children have spent most of COVID in Livingston Manor and they would like to become involved in the synagogue. We talked about Livingston Manor and Judaism and children….in my view, someday soon, I will feel like she and her family are also distant relatives.
Those meetings helped me answer the question, why do we congregate? One reason is that’s how we maintain, develop, and grow these family relationships. In an era where people are spread all over the country, it’s important to nurture our family (in this case our Judaic family) roots. If we don’t gather, then we lose touch and we forget the family connections and the joy those connections bring. Congregation Agudas Achim is one big family and I’m hoping the connections we have from our roots and our branches will continue to grow for many, many years to come.
Please join us on June 11th at 7:00, connect with old and new friends and help nurture your family ties to the people that make up your Agudas Achim community.
Judy Siegel, President
Tales & Traditions #8
by Karen Blocker
The Third Son of Adam
    The name Seth that we chose for our son has roots in Hebrew and in the Bible. Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve, and the name is often defined to mean “appointed” or “anointed.” Following a biblical thread, coincidentally, our child was born on the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, coinciding with December, which, in that particular year, was also the second night Chanukah, Festival of Lights! He was named for two very observant, departed family members, my Orthodox Grandmother and her pious son, my dear uncle. In our former Rabbi’s notes to us, he indicated that he hoped our newborn would be as “good a Jew as those whose names he carried.”
    Time passed, and our young child started his Hebrew education as a first grader. His classes included the traditional Hebrew studies and he also had experiences in challah making and decorating a sukkah, the temporary housing of the autumn harvest season which we commemorate in our Sukkot festival.
    Before long two Jewish social groups, Junior Youth Group and later, NFTY, the National Federation of Temple Youth, became mainstays in his life. Jewish experiences and many friendships flourished.
    Next, Bar Mitzvah studies began. We made all the necessary plans for the traditional celebration. And then a revelation: We found that after attending possibly the twentieth area Bar/Bat Mitzvah, that more BAR and less MITZVAH was the current theme! Instead, we decided to travel to Jerusalem that summer and have this coming-of-age ritual at the Kotel, the Western Wall. Sacred to the Jewish people, the Wall is a place of prayer and pilgrimage. It is the only remains of the retaining wall around the Temple Mount, the site of the Second Temple.
This plan to travel to Jerusalem would alter the Torah reading necessary for his service as the portions are assigned by Bar Mitzvah date. His new portion was a rather lengthy one and necessitated much new preparation and practice. Later, as I watched our son read with the Holy Wall of his people behind him, the decision we had all made to travel was both brilliant and correct! Our time in Israel culminated with a confirming trip to Masada!
   However, a sad event jarred us out of our recent reverie about our magnificent trip. One bright spring morning, as we all left for our routine destinations, a chance finding on the outside of our home left us in stunning horror and despair! There we found four-foot-high Nazi swastikas and related messages! Later, we learned a neighboring Jewish teacher had had the same misfortune. Area press, the local B’nai B’rith, the ADL, or Anti-Defamation League, other groups, and people who seek to eliminate bigotry and who address Anti-Semitism provided support as we all worked through that very challenging time. Yet our son was very determined not to be intimidated and held fast to his faith.
   Through the years ahead, he cherished his Judaism, honored the faith of his forefathers, and respected its tenets. Despite the challenges of being Jewish, he decided as a high school senior to wear his Jewish pride always as his signature. In his choice of his graduation ring icon, he readily chose to place a Star of David on the ring’s crest! The very prominent ring company had never, in its long history, had any such design ordered! Our son, Seth, named biblically, the third son of Adam, had kept the faith!
    Now in this graduation season, we, in the Congregation Agudas Achim community, have the blessing of congratulating our own Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, current high school seniors Daniel Hemmer, Jessica Schwalb, and Zach Stevenson. Soon, they will leave to begin the next chapters of their lives, in colleges both near and far from their homes. May they, too, always keep the faith in their journeys forward. Congratulations and Godspeed to each of you!                          
Suggest a Book for Summer Reading
Do you have books that you have read that you would like to suggest to others? We’re starting an Agudas Achim Book List. Please include the name of the book, the author, 1-5 star review and send your suggestions to
Here’s a start:
The Keeper of Lost Things By Ruth Hogan * * * *
A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.
Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor * * * *
A teacher of religious studies in rural Georgia shares her moving discoveries of finding the sacred in unexpected places while teaching the world’s religions to undergraduates in rural Georgia.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah * * * * *
The story of two sisters caught up in occupied France during the second world war. Both have remarkable stories to tell.
Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees * * * *
Set in post war Germany this is a beautifully crafted and gripping novel about daring, betrayal, and female friendship.
Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times * * * * *
Rabbi Jonathan Sachs chronicles the breakdown of morality, which is based on the common good into an individualistic code in which everyone looks out for his own benefit.
Borscht Beat — Sundays at 1 p.m.
Mazel Tov to three Congregation Agudas Achim families!
Daniel Hemmer
Jessica Schwalb
Zachary Stevenson
    This very special graduation year, Congregation Agudas Achim boasts not one, not two, but three amazing young adults graduating high school! The three not only attended Agudas Achim’s Hebrew School together, but they all will be graduating from Sullivan West High School.
Daniel Hemmer will be attending the University at Albany’s business program with the goal of becoming a C.P.A. He graduates Sullivan West magna cum laude and will miss his time on the Bulldog basketball and baseball teams. He is a member of Honor Society and was the Class of 2021’s Vice President for four years. Daniel will resume his job as a lifeguard this summer at Lake Superior as well as continue his maintenance position at Shalom Mountain Retreat Center. In his free time, he enjoys golf, fishing and watching his Buffalo Bills and N.Y. Yankees.
Jessica Schwalb will be attending Binghamton University, majoring in psychology and social justice; will be participating in The Source Project, a research opportunity for first-year students; and will be engaged in the Politics, Law and Society learning community. She graduates as the valedictorian of her class and when not studying she is involved in many extracurricular activities, like Jazz Band and Student Council. She will be working this summer for Benji & Jake’s in White Lake and for Soraia’s Kitchen in Jeffersonville. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys creating all things written and filmed, running with her dog Calvin, and keeping up with current events.
Zachary Stevenson will be attending the University of Vermont in the fall. He is graduating magna cum laude and placed well and very much enjoyed participating in the Sullivan West ski team. In addition to his studies, he worked after school and on weekends for the new hotel/resort Kenoza Hall in Kenoza Lake, NY.
Having spent second through seventh grades commuting to the synagogue together, they often called themselves The Three Musketeers. Daniel, Jessica, and Zach have shared indelible times together and have learned about their faith with the help of their kind teachers, Dimona Galli and Richie Chiger. The Board of Directors and the entire congregation will be presenting each graduate with an important gift, a professional, personalized portfolio, to take with them into their college lives along with our love, support, and good wishes.
(Photo note: That is our own Hebrew School teacher, Richie Chiger, with Daniel, Jessica, and Zach during one of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons in 2016.)
Any other ideas for programming?
Let us know at
Hint: All Shabbat services are the same Zoom link!
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 895 4349 6977
Passcode: Shalom5781
(Until further notice, the Zoom Link
is the same for all Shabbat services!)
Upcoming Services:
All social times are 7:00 p.m. and all services are at 7:30 p.m.
Please write for Zoom link
*Grab a beverage of your choice and join us!
June 11, 2021
July 2, 2021
August 20, 2021 (exception)
NOTE: Beginning in July, services will be held (virtually) on the 1st Friday of the month.
Thank you for your donations
 Sheila & Lewis Skolnik
In Celebration of the Class of 2021!
Congratulations to our granddaughter
Jessica Schwalb – Valedictorian, Sullivan West High School
And classmates, Daniel Hemmer & Zachary Stevenson
Our love and luck to all
Alan & Karen Blocker
Yahrzeit donations
In Memory of Beatrice & William Blocker (Alan’s parents)
In Memory of Esther Goldstein (Karen’s mother)
Alan & Karen Blocker
Happy Anniversary
Amy Lavine & Ilene Samath 6/13
Bruce & Karen Ellsweig 6/16
Dan & Linda Berkowicz 6/18
William & Sherry Silver 6/18
Lewis & Sheila Skolnik 6/19
Simon & Natasha Hirschhorn 6/25
Jerrold & Vivian Ehrlich 6/27
Richard & Jackie Chiger 6/28
Joe & Shelley Siegel-Watson 6/28
Ed & Anne Ehrenberg 6/29
Bob & Lynne Freedman 6/30
Happy Birthday
Joseph F. Galli 6/13
Eileen Katz 6/17
Danielle Strassman 6/20
Ethan Mandelbaum 6/24
Sherry Strassman 6/24
Ryan Katz 6/26
Dr. Paul Salzberg 6/27
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).
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 yellow “Donate Now” button.
Membership Made Easy
Nonmembers: If you would like to join our congregation, please visit and click where it says
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.
Board of Directors
Judy Siegel, President                                    
Michele Hemmer, Vice President               
Bob Freedman, Immediate Past President
Gary Siegel, Treasurer                               
Lynn Skolnick, Secretary                              
Don Simkin, Member at Large                     
Judy Siegel, President                                    
Michele Hemmer, Vice President                
Bob Freedman, Immediate Past President
Gary Siegel, Treasurer                               
Lynn Skolnick, Secretary                              
Don Simkin, Member at Large                     
Alan Blocker                                                   
Karen Blocker                                                 
Warren Blumenthal                                       
Mike Uretsky