Volume 7/March 2021
Congregation Agudas Achim
Join us Friday, March 12, 2021 for
Passover/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
Our Rabbi’s Message
Passover in the Pandemic
Our country has been under attack by Covid-19 for over a year. The nation has been mobilized as if under attack by a foreign enemy.
Half a million Americans, alone, are now casualties of the virus. Many, especially those with pre-existing conditions, are still in danger, especially with the difficulty for so many to secure appointments for the vaccines now increasingly available.
Physicians, and nurses, and other health care workers are fighting Covid-19, as fiercely as the surrounded 101st Airborne fought off the Nazi advances toward Bastogne, during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
Even though the virus is being beaten back, it is still taking casualties among us.
This Passover will still see us under siege, but will see us with hope on the horizon.
Deliverance is on the way, just as The Third Army rushed north to break the siege of Bastogne and to push back the Nazi forces.
The Passover story is about the shift from danger to hope.
The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzraim.
It means, “narrow, dangerous place.” It also is rendered, “from evil “ on Passover, the HaGaddah tells the story of Deliverance.
Deliverance from Egypt, but it also tells of the Divine provision for Deliverence from contemporary Egypts (dangerous places).
Passover repeats and reminds us of the power of hope. This is why the seder ends with the hope and affirmation saying,
“Next year in Jerusalem.”
This final prayer is not just about Jews and Jerusalem. It is about all humanity. It is ultimately about trust. Trust in God, in Providence, in Hope.
But the Prophet Jeremiah taught that, “hope is something that you do.” We don’t sit back and wait. We fight the evil before us. The Leadership of Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, demonstrated this Jewish teaching, “hope is something that you do.” (I find it interesting that the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna are Jewish.)
So when we sit at the seder table at Pesach this year in Covid-19, we may not be surrounded by all of the family and friends who usually attend. We may not have all of the seder plate foods, or all of the traditional dishes that we normally serve for the meal. We may not have the person present who normally leads the prayers and music of this round the table service. But, we can re-tell the story.
But, we can be grateful. Thankful for past historic deliverances from Egypt through time ‘til now. We can give thanks to the Source of these redemptions. And, we can reteach the lesson and promise of hope.
Ha Shanah Ha Bahah B’Yirushalaim, Next Year in Jerusalem,
is a hope for relieving the plague now surrounding us. It is a visualization of better times for us as individuals, and better times in the world for all people.
I’ve just re-read an account by Rabbi Burtrum Korn published by the American Jewish Archives on the Centennial of the Civil War. ( 7,000 Jewish soldiers served the North, 3,000 served the South. )
It was a vicious deadly war. More Americans were killed in it than all of the other American conflicts combined. It was a frightening time.
Rabbi Korn quotes an article in a Jewish newspaper published in 1862 by Private A. J. Joel of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Regiment, then stationed in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
Private Joel had rounded up 20 Jewish soldiers to petition their Commander, Rutherford P. Hayes ( who would later become President) for time off duty to observe Passover.
Private Joel had arranged for a wooden barrel of matzah, and two hagaddot to be sent from the Jewish Community in Cincinnati. They had nothing else with which to observe the seder. Ingredients for charoset were unavailable so Joel put a brick on the rough hewn log table that they made. He reasoned that if charoset is the mortar, the brick would represent the finished product. He picked some foul smelling weeds for bitter herbs. He used combined funds to purchase a lamb and two kegs of cider. No eggs were available.
The soldiers weren’t sure which bone to put on the table for the z’roah, so they placed the entire roasted lamb in the middle saying that God will choose the correct bone.
Joel reported that the bitter herb weeds were hotter than cayenne pepper and the men drank up all of the ( hard) cider washing away the bitterness.
He reported that some soldiers became as inebriated as on Purim.
He reports that many of the men wrote letters home, assuring their parents that they had observed Passover.
So, in the midst of death and destruction, these Jewish soldiers improvised a seder that taught once more, the lessons of deliverance and hope. They too read at the end of their HaGaddah, “Next year in Jerusalem.” I trust that the prayer, and their Passover observance strengthens them, as it will, I know, for us.
The casualties in our war against Covid-19 have been overwhelming. Medical professionals have been beating back the virus. Vaccines are on the way for all, young and old. Relief forces are on the way.
Tell the Passover story. Hear about redemption and deliverance.
May the ancient narrative help calm us today.
If need be, let us improvise a seder as did the soldiers of the 23rd Ohio.
And, let us say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Rabbi Fred Pomerantz
Our President’s Message
As we reach the year mark of the Pandemic I’m struck by memories of ‘the last time’ in our lives. The last time we went out to dinner with a group of friends, the last time we went to a party, the last time… fill in the blank. And, the “first times” come to mind as well: the first time we attended a Zoom Shabbat, a Zoom Seder, a Zoom birthday party. The first time we realized that we would not meet in person for the High Holidays, for Thanksgiving, or for the remainder of the year.
Now, the vaccines are being successfully distributed to many people throughout the country creating a strong possibility that we will soon – albeit slowly- move toward more activities and socialization. Many of us will be doing that without some of the family and friends that were part of our lives just one year ago. To all that have lost someone that they loved, the prayers of the Agudas Achim community are with you as we approach the one-year mark of our losses.
Personally, I am grateful for Agudas Achim throughout it all. I hope others have found that our monthly Shabbats have been grounding and fulfilling and that we have been able to provide the comfort and support needed. We are working hard to continue and grow so that we will be here for the best of times as well as the challenging times. Thank you for continuing to support our efforts.
Judy Siegel, President
Tales & Traditions#5
Of Passover and Spring
by Karen Blocker
Despite the fact that she is a “Spring Baby,” born on the morning of the Second Seder, our daughter, Wendy, has always noted that Passover, Pesach, is the most important of all the Jewish observances. This eight-day holiday celebrates the achievement of freedom from slavery some 3,000 years ago. At that time, the people of Israel lived in Egypt and had become slaves of the ruthless Egyptian Pharaohs for several hundred years. According to scriptures, the leader of the Jews, Moses was instructed by G-d to lead his people out of Egypt to Israel. And so he did.
   Before freedom was realized, G-d had to inflict many punishments on the Egyptians who refused to allow Jews to leave Egypt. At the end of a series of Ten Plagues was the most harsh plague of all — the slaughtering of all of the firstborn males living in Egypt. However, the Angel of Death, the “Malekhamoves”, “passed over” (pesach) all of the Jewish doorways marked with blood, saving firstborn sons and killing Egyptians. Overwhelmed with the loss of his own child and the Egyptians, the Pharaoh, had no choice but to free his Hebrew slaves.
   Jews baked the bread of slavery for their trip, consisting simply of flour and water without leavening, called “matzoh.” Recalling enslavement and escape, we, too, eat matzoh and omit leavened products that contain ingredients that cause bread or items to rise.
   And so, the intricate preparation of the home for Pesach begins many days or weeks before the holiday.
After dutifully scrubbing, shopping, “shlepping” upstairs,  our family would empty a large wooden barrel from the cellar. Passover dishes, for meat meals and dairy meals as well would surface. Silverware, goblets, and table linens would be rescued destined for the celebrations. It now became time for the ancient ritual of home purification, that of removing “Chamatz,” items containing leavening agents. These needed to be collected and submitted to our Rabbi as “proof” that the home was eligible to observe. The act was referred to as the “selling of the Chamatz.” In our home tiny scraps of bread, cookie pieces, small pastas, all representing the enemy Chamatz were place on corners of tabletops and furnishings. Grandma Sarah and I would travel about, armed with a wooden spoon and a utility feather, and scoop the bits into a sheath of cheesecloth. Wrapping our bundle tightly, we would bring it to our Rabbi for the “purchase.” A small charity contribution was always made for those who were needy. Now our home was ready to observe the Passover. In our small Catskill village, our Rabbi’s approval was key.
   Today in large areas or, perhaps, in sunshine retirement communities and in the Age of Corona, our traditional rituals may have given way to click and send emails that allow homes to be certified clean of Chamatz with a keystroke to your favorite organization or Rabbi! Online certification might allow you to receive a rapid confirmation complete with an official seal! And, certainly, donations still remain appropriate.
   Yes, though our means of holiday preparation, and, now, socially distanced and zoom seders are quite the rule, the Pesach, the search and struggle for freedom still remains. Until humankind is no longer enslaved, anywhere, with the bread of slavery the only food, we must continue the battle for freedom. And our daughter finds Pesach even more relevant than ever before. Certainly we all should as well!
   Next year . . . in Jerusalem.
   Next year . . . in freedom.
If you have a family tradition or tale to share, please call Karen at 845-796-0892 or email her YOUR story to We would like to share your contributions in future newsletters or even in a special edition newsletter!
Review of Discussion and Movie Night:
We hope you took the time to join us for our first movie stream.
We shared a very interesting and important discussion with Joel Fendelman, the director/producer of the movie after the viewing. His answers and comments were insightful and it was a great discussions. Joel lives right here in the Hudson Valley-how exciting!
The movie, David, is set in the ethnic neighborhoods of South Brooklyn and tells the story of a 10-year old Muslim boy that befriends a group of Orthodox Jewish Boys who mistake him for being Jewish.
The movie handles deftly the issues of religions who have ancient conflicts between followers. Yet, it humanizes the issues and despite a young boy’s efforts to do the right thing, the movie presents events that occur that made those efforts both good and bad.
Please try to watch this enlightening movie if you can find it or rent it somewhere.
Stay tuned for more CAA (congregation Agudas Achim) opportunities.
Passover Begins Saturday, March 26
Passover (in Hebrew, Pesach) commemorates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The holiday originated in the Torah, where the word pesach refers to the ancient Passover sacrifice (known as the Paschal Lamb); it is also said to refer to the idea that God “passed over” (pesach) the houses of the Jews during the 10th plague on the Egyptians, the slaying of the first born. The holiday is ultimately a celebration of freedom, and the story of the exodus from Egypt is a powerful metaphor that is appreciated not only by Jews, but by people of other faiths as well.
The Association for Jewish Studies has some very interesting podcasts that are available to listen to. You can go to their website ( and click on the publications and podcasts
Hint: All services are the same link!
Upcoming Services
Please write for Zoom link   Password: Shalom5781
*Grab a beverage of your choice and join us!
March 12, 2021                                     7:00 PM Social Time
Pesach/Shabbat                                   7:30 PM Services
April 9, 2021​​​ 7:00 PM Social Time
Shabbat ​​​​ 7:30 PM Services
May 14, 2021. ​​​​7:00 PM Social Time
Shabbat​​​​ 7:30 PM Services
NOTE: Beginning in July, services will be held (virtually) on the 1st Friday of the month.
Upcoming Zoom Shabbat Services * All begin at 7:30 p.m.
SPONSOR AN ONEG – No schlepping necessary!
The March oneg will be sponsored by Rose Brown and Les Mattis in honor of their 6½ year old grandson obtaining his green belt in Tai Kwon Do. Congratulations!!!
And co-sponsoring the March Oneg are the Schwalb and Blockers in Honor of Jessica Schwalb’s 18th birthday. Mazel Tov!
For anyone else who is interested:
In an era when we are not meeting in person, our zoom Shabbats have been a silver lining. Friends and family have joined us from all over the country for a relaxed Sabbath service. You can still do a mitzvah and sponsor one of the evenings in honor of a special event in your life; a birthday, an anniversary, the birth of a family member… anything that brings you joy.
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).
Thank you for your donations!
In memory of her mother, Gilda Bluestone
Sara Herbstman
Cemetery Fund
Lynn Skolnick
Hebrew School
Sarah Weber
Prayer book inscription
In Memory of Gary Charnow
Sylvia Reynolds
Dues and Donations Information
It’s that time of year. The board chose to keep the dues the same this year and we hope you will renew (or activate) your membership. We need you.
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 from those that can afford to supplement the dues and help us cover our costs.
Donation checks should be made payable to Congregation Agudas Achim and mailed to mail to PO Box 714 Livingston Manor, NY 12758.
Or, donate by credit card by clicking on the yellow “Donate Now” button.
Membership Made Easy
Members: You will be receiving a membership invoice in the mail soon
or you can renew online by going to our website.
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.
Happy Birthday
Brad Hemmer 3/19
Lynne Freedman 3/21
Jerry Burd 3/24
Ethel Hirshon 3/31
Jack Rajlevsky 4/7
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                                                    
Sarah Weber                                                 
Lynne Freedman                                             
Wendy Schwalb                                               
If you are interested in becoming a part of the leadership board to help in the decision making process, please reach out to us at
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