Volume 8/April 2021
Congregation Agudas Achim
Join us Friday, April 9, 2021 for
Yom Hashoah/Yom Ha’Atzmaut/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
Yom Hashoah: We will remember them…
Often, when we have a yahrzeit to observe, we are able to picture our loved ones, on that night, as with the eye of memory. As we prepare for the recitation of the Kaddish, we often can visualize our beloved dead, at a particular point in their life. Perhaps we hear the tone and vocal quality of their voice. Perhaps we can feel their touch, or perhaps we can remember and feel our touching them. They, for a while, are with us. And, we mourn their loss, sharply, or softened by time. Yet, we remember.
And, there is a Yahrzeit observance that every living Jew, shares. It is a time that we cannot forget. Here, the Kaddish becomes our affirmation to remember the six million of our people who were slaughtered in the Holocaust. But how can we remember at once all of these whose lives were snuffed out in that Kingdom of Darkness? It is beyond human ken to do so. So, how do we proceed?
On Yom Hashoah, I first remember relatives who were murdered. Then, I turn to images I have seen of photos of our people I have seen in books or in an exhibit at one of the Holocaust Museums. One sees brothers and sisters with terror in their eyes and therefore in their being. Or, one remembers a photo of one of our enslaved that has lost hope. These are those with dead eyes.
However, my attempt to properly say Kaddish inevitably goes back to a giant photograph I saw displayed in the exhibit hall at Auschwitz. It returns to me, not only on Holocaust Memorial Day, but it is often with me. There are hundreds of children, it appears, between the ages of four to six. They are behind barbed wire. They are in a space enclosed by barbed wire on either side of them. Clearly they have been told to display their tattoos to the photographer, as they all extend their arms aloft, pulling their sleeves back to show their tattoos. What a monstrosity. These poor babies. And so, we take them into our hearts with our own loved owns.
And along with saying Kaddish we can each take an oath. Because of their loss, we take an oath never to forget. Because of their slaughter, we pledge to do whatever we can to strengthen Judaism and Jewish life. We will not slip into the anonymity of assimilation ignoring our heritage. Because of their loss, we can, in our own way strengthen the State of Israel. Perhaps they would not have died if the State of Israel had then existed. The State of Israel has absorbed millions of our refugees in our own time. Strengthening Israel is a form of remembering our victims.
I think of a poem by Abraham Shlonsky that is displayed in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. I voted to have this poem included in the Reform Haggadah as translated from the Yiddish by Rabbi Herbert Bronstein. Here, Shlonsky was remembering our victims when he wrote, in part:
In the presence of eyes
Which witnessed the slaughter
Which saw the oppression
The heart could not bear
And as witness the heart
That once
Taught compassion
Until days came to pass
That crushed human feeling
I have taken an oath to remember it all
To remember, not once to forget…
And so, when we say Kaddish for a loved one, we do so with the eye and heart of memory. We make our silent pledges to them over the gulf of the grave. And so, as we recall those lost in the Shoah, during Holocaust Memorial Day, this year on April 8, 2021 and at our services on April 9, 2021, we recommit ourselves to our Jewish Faith, for which they died. We recommit ourselves to say, Never Again! And we look forward to observing Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the celebration of the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948. This too, we will mark at our Shabbat Service. Sadness and joy are intermingled in this same week. Destruction and Hope, both pull at our heartstrings, and both request from us our personal answer. And, we take an oath to remember.
Rabbi Fred Pomerantz
Our President’s Message
Spring. In the Northeast buds are coming out on the trees, crocuses are popping out of the ground and like every year we can begin to appreciate that the cold, dark winter is behind us and better things are coming our way. This year that appreciation and joy are compounded by the rollout of the vaccines that are allowing us to be hopeful that the pandemic will someday be behind us. Baseball stadiums are allowing live fans; Broadway has announced a plan to open in the fall, and music venues are starting to sell tickets. It’s a beginning—a little bit like March in the Northeast.
This long year has challenged us all in so many ways. Personally, I had COVID-19 a year ago. It was early in the pandemic and it was scary but I was very lucky. Just after I recovered, my mother passed. We’re still planning her celebration of life. There has been so much loss, fear and anger but there is so much to be grateful for as well. During the course of the year I created a ‘gratitude list’ to help me remember how very lucky I am and I read through it daily (in my head if not on paper) so that I never take the gifts I have been given for granted. As I pondered about this month’s message it occurred to me that I could create a list specific to Agudas Achim. Here are just ten items that come to mind:
·        I am grateful for the beautiful heritage that formed the foundation of Agudas Achim
·        I am grateful that Rabbi Pomerantz and Ira and Julia Levin bring their spiritual and musical talents to this small congregation in the Catskill Mountains
·        I am grateful that this small congregation in the Catskills is welcomed and supported in its community
·        I am grateful for the leadership board of the congregation that volunteers their time in so many different ways.
·        I am grateful for the patient, thorough dedication of Mary Inghrim our executive administrator.
·        I am grateful for Zoom!
·        I am grateful for those that have made the Zoom Shabbats such a wonderful part of the last year.
·        I am grateful for the members and non-members that have joined us regularly and occasionally on the Zoom Shabbats.
·        I am grateful for the large and the small donations that help us maintain and develop our building and our services.
·        I am grateful that I have been surrounded by strong leaders, volunteers, members and non-members who have supported me in the role as President and who appreciate being a part of this beautiful unique congregation.
This is not a comprehensive list by any means. Simply a start—perhaps it will inspire you to make your own! Just that fact that you are able to receive and read this newsletter is a reason to be grateful and you can take it from there.
Happy spring and Happy (belated) Passover.
Please get your vaccine and stay safe.
Judy Siegel, President
Tales & Traditions#6
The Red String Bracelet
by Karen Blocker
It was quite apparent the time had come to be a parent! The scene was set. Arrangements had carefully been made. “Ready bags” lovingly prepared. Calling list of friends and family completed. A tiny nursery, complete with filled dresser and Bambi wall plaques hung just so! And then, the story of the “red bendel” began. Grandma Esther, eagerly awaiting the arrival of her first grandchild, calls to busy Brooklyn from her Catskill country home. “Have you placed the red bendel on the crib yet? Certainly, you must not forget the bendel,” she implored. What was the mystique regarding the mentioned talisman? What is its origin and purpose?
The interpretations are many depending on the culture or faith involved. For example, in the spiritual circles of many faiths, from the Kabbalah, the mystic tradition of Judaism, as well as in Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese culture, and Christianity, the Red String is used for both protection and good luck. The basis is believed to have originated from the ancient Hebrew texts and is strongly associated with fending off the evil eye. In Buddhism, there are certain ceremonies that include tying a red string around one’s wrist. This action also includes a mantra which serves as a reminder to the wearer. In Hinduism, the string may be called “Kalava” or “Kautuka” and have many meanings relating from marriage to faith depending on the region of the country. The Chinese use the Red Thread of Fate to tie everyone together whose lives will connect through marriage. For Latinos, red bracelets serve as protection.
It is said that because so many cultures and beliefs are tied up in the Red String Bracelet there are as many theories that exist as to where it first originated. Many red string believers often tie them onto the tiny wrists of children on their first days of school as they leave to a new world of unknowns. These superstitious amulets are certainly part of a parent’s protective nature and act as a token of caring and love.
And so, armed with more than the amount of information necessary as an explanation, and leaving no stone unturned and placing all the odds in our new baby’s favor, we secured a red bendel to our baby’s crib post.
P.S. Modern interpretations, often the general idea is that once placed, the string is worn until it has absorbed all the “bad” vibes it can hold, or it disintegrates or falls off with normal wear and tear. As this writing, my husband and I gifted again a Red Bendel Bracelet to that same child (now 52) as she embarks on a new chapter of her wonderful life!
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!
Hear Rabbi Pomerantz’s WJFF interview about Passover from March 25, 2021
Click here:
Do you have a book to suggest? Here’s a few to start us off!
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, the general category (e.g., historical fiction) 1-5 star review and send your suggestions to here’s a start:
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 Grahams 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 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.
An hour of Jewish music with host Aaron Bendich
Sundays at 1pm
(Jeffersonville, NY) WJFF Radio Catskill, public radio for The Catskills and Northeast Pennsylvania, will debut “Borscht Beat” with host Aaron Bendich on Sunday, April 4, 2021, at 1pm. This weekly hour of Jewish music will feature a unique mix of timeless, sentimental classics and rare oddities. Frequent guests include notable klezmer musicians, musical historians, and ordinary fans of Jewish music.
The show’s title reflects the so-called “Borscht Belt,” a collection of cottages, hotels, and entertainment venues that catered to a Jewish clientele during the mid-twentieth century in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
Bendich says, “Most of the artists I play have, at one time, performed within WJFF’s broadcast area. I think it’s very wonderful and exciting that my show is now on the station. There is some beautiful continuity with the rich Jewish cultural history of the region.” He adds, “This show is for everyone! You don’t have to be Jewish or familiar with the culture to listen, and this show will be a great entry point for anyone looking to expand their cultural purview.”
Aaron Bendich is a producer and record collector. Through his work researching Jewish music, he has become well connected in the klezmer community, as well as in the Jewish cultural history, and Yiddish language academic communities. He has been afforded incredible research assistance and interview opportunities by preeminent performers and scholars in the field. On his program, Bendich focuses on a broad range of Jewish music recorded in the last hundred plus years, utilizing his own physical media recordings, such as vinyl records and audio cassettes and provides listeners with access to music that they could not hear otherwise. His radio show also airs on WVKR, Poughkeepsie, NY, and WCFA, Cape May, NJ (as “Laughing with Lizards”).
WJFF Radio Catskill is a non-commercial educational radio broadcaster whose mission is to make available to its community a broad range of ideas and ideals useful to a full and enlightened life. It also aims to involve the community in preserving and transmitting the community’s cultural heritage and artistic expressions in addition to those of the global community and to promote understanding among people of diverse social and cultural backgrounds. WJFF Radio Catskill is available on-air at 90.5FM, online at, on smartphone via the WJFF app, and on smart speaker.
SOURCE: WJFF Radio Catskill
Related links:
Tim Bruno
General Manager, WJFF Radio Catskill
Any other ideas for programming?
Let us know at
Hint: All Shabbat services are the same Zoom link!
Upcoming Services:
All social times are 7:00 p.m. and all services are at 7:30 p.m.
Please write for Zoom link   Password: Shalom5781
*Grab a beverage of your choice and join us!
April 9, 2021​​​ May 14, 2021 June 11, 2021
Shabbat ​​​​ Shabbat Shabbat
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!
For anyone else who is interested:
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
 Marilyn & Curt Auerbach
Sharon & Jay Bobbins
Maxine Jaffe
 Sponsoring an Oneg
Rose Brown & Les Mattis
Sponsored an Oneg in Honor of
granddaughter, Jessica Schwalb, on her 18th birthday
Alan & Karen Blocker
Building fund
Diane Foster
Building fund, prayer books, endowment fund and Tzedakah fund
Linda & Dan Berkowicz
Building fund, Mitzvah fund, Tzedakah fund and mailing
Janet & Irving Kaplan
Building fund and cemetery fund
Jonathan & Judith Levine
Building fund & cemetery fund
Tedda & Ron Lindeman
Building fund and mailing cost
Joshua & Marta Pomerantz
Building fund, Hebrew School expenses
and mailing costs
Alan & Linda Rajlevsky
Cemetery fund
Diane Stein
Cemetery fund and mailing cost
Kathie Sachs
Prayer book and mailing costs
Joe & Heidi Leunisen-Rivera
Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur Prayer book
In memory of Howard Strassman
Jack Strassman
Rosh Hashanah Prayer book
In memory of Howard White
Suzanne & Steve White
Tzedakah fund
Ray Croney & Hope Blecher
New Window
Marc & Joanna Brody
Bruce & Karen Ellsweig
  New Window in Honor of the Hemmers
John Katzenstein
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
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 Anniversary
 Joe & Heidi Leunisen-Rivera 4/16
Joseph & Dimona Galli 4/30
Happy Birthday
 Ray Croney 4/10
Wendy Schwalb 4/20
Jerry Frey 4/22
Diane Leunisen 4/22
Ariana Burd 4/24
Jenna Blank 4/30
Shirley Schwartz 5/3
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