Volume 9/May 2021
Congregation Agudas Achim
Join us Friday, May 14, 2021 for
Shevuot/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
Part I
Why was Shevuot, the third festival of the Jewish year, observed this year on Sunday, May 16th, a harbinger of life and death, for our people in Biblical times?
In modern times, Shevuot is a time of rejoicing, of feasting, of Bible study, and Jewish study. It celebrates the time, that according to legend, the Torah was given to our people on Mount Sinai to take to the world. It’s a time when Jews delight in dairy dishes. (The Torah says that Torah is as milk to nourish the soul of the Jewish People.) The image of milk and honey for Torah is also used. On Shevuot, cheesecake is a favorite desert. Cheese Blinzes are often served in the morning before and after services.
In modern Israel, Shevuot is a nature celebration. Many in our country and in Israel bring flowers and greens into their homes. The decorations meant to connect us to God’s flow of seasons. Special family dinners and flowers obscure the more serious intent and reality, the life and death struggle marked by the Festival in the Ancient world.
There were similarities to this time of COVID-19 and Shevuot, the feast of weeks.
It was a time when it shall be determined, who shall live and who shall die.
In Ancient Israel more than 50% of the annual diet was composed of grain: barley and wheat. Both grains were planted in the end of fall. Barley can withstand and flourish in the harsher weather and was harvested first. Portions of the emerging barley harvest were brought to the Temple as an offering every day between Passover and Shevuot, called the Omer. After seven weeks of counting, the 50th day was called Shevuot (weeks).
Shevuot celebrated the wheat harvest (the flour of which was the preponderant food. )
If the harvest was good, people would live; if not, many would die.
Shevuot was meant to celebrate a successful wheat harvest. During the counting of the Omer, there was sharp anxiety, as in the time of COVID. Who will life and who will die? So the feast of weeks was a time of giving thanks to God for another year. For avoiding starvation.
Just as we, this Shevuot, can use the opportunity for the vaccines, the health care workers, the scientists, our government for distributing the medication to the rich and poor.
On Shevuot, the Israelites could see the year ahead.
They awaited the grape, fig and olive harvests ahead.
We, in our time, are not finished with the plague.
Yet, we can offer our grateful thanks for being brought in safety to this time and place.
We can remember the sharp anxiety.
We must, even now, be careful to exercise caution.
But with food and flowers and prayer, we can, please God, begin to harvest hope.
Part II
 I learned from my daughter, Rabbi Shinder of Congregation Beth Shalom of Florida, NY, that Congregation Beth El (formerly known as Agudas Achim) of Port Jervis, NY, was forced to cease operations. Further, I learned that the congregation was not selling their Torahs, but rather they were placing them with congregations who met certain standards. The gifts of Torahs are a value of between $20,000.00 and $40,000.00. But of most importance, it is a great mitzvah to provide a home for Torahs from congregations that have sadly been forced to close. Moreover, since some of our oldest Sefer Torahs are pasool, and need expensive repair before being read at a service. The Port Jervis Torah will allow us to set Torahs at different readings for the many High Holiday Torah services, and all can be wound in advance.
This is the letter that I wrote to the President of Temple Beth El:
 Dear Julius,
It was good speaking with you today. I am sorry that demographics have made it necessary for the Port Jervis congregation to cease operation. With the sadness, I am certain that there have been decades and decades of powerful memories, and God connections that will continue to be cherished by your members through time.
 As you are in the process of finding new homes for your Sefer Torahs, on behalf of Congregation Agudas Achim of Livingston Manor, NY, I am officially requesting for us to receive a Torah to be housed in our Aron Kodesh, our holy ark. Our 100+ year old congregation continues to serve Jews throughout Sullivan County. One may see more about the congregation, and our historic synagogue, through our website.
 We would be honored to give a home and to use at services, one of your sacred Torahs.
Rabbi Fredric S. Pomerantz
Congregation Agudas Achim
Yesterday, I received an email from Julius Greenberg, the President of Beth El, saying that the Board of Trustees had approved the gift of a Torah to our congregation. Alan and Karen Blocker, longtime members, volunteered to drive down to pick up the Sefer. As of this writing, the Torah is already in our Aron Kodesh, amongst our other treasured Torahs. We will have a ceremony of rededication for the scroll, as it will add to the sacredness of our ark. We shall have three bar mitzvah ceremonies this summer, as we continue to be a house of Torah. The congregants of Temple Beth El should feel comforted by the care that we will give to their beloved Torah.
Shevuot was the time in our Tradition when Torah was given at Mt. Sinai. How fitting for us to receive a new Torah in this festive season. Our thanks to Sharon Ball, past president of Congregation Beth Shalom, and to Rabbi Shinder, for aiding us in our newest acquisition.
Rabbi Fred Pomerantz
Our President’s Message
Congratulations Graduates!
We are fortunate to have not one, not two, but three Agudas Achim alumni graduating from High School this year. Daniel Hemmer (son of our VP Michele Hemmer and her husband, Chip), Zack Stevenson (son of members Dena and Scott Stevenson), and Sullivan West Valedictorian Jessica Schwalb (the daughter of our director of publicity Wendy Schwalb and her husband, Richard, and the granddaughter of board members Karen and Alan Blocker.)
For those of us that either have no children or have children that graduated long ago, it’s difficult to imagine how the last year has been for these students. In addition to the challenges, fears, and losses that COVID presented for all of us, their norms were completely upended. Sporting events, proms, college applications and visits, and so many simple, traditional rights of passage disappeared in an instant. Life has been unsettling for all of us but for a student about to leave the nest it would certainly be an entirely different level of experience.
In my life I have always felt that my Judaic roots have provided a sense of stability and strength during difficult times. Jewish people have been coping with adversity for thousands of years making me certainly capable of finding my way to the other side of a crisis. In a changing world where friends and family move away, businesses come and go, pandemics upend our lives, it is stabilizing to remember that the core of our being, our Judaism and our Jewish community have been here and will continue to be here for many years to come.
I am hopeful that the education that Agudas Achim provided has helped these young adults appreciate that stability and that they know that they will always have a home at Agudas Achim. There is no way to know where their education will take them but I hope that they take a little piece of their Agudas Achim heritage with them and keep it close to their hearts.
Congratulations Daniel, Zack and Jessica. We are all very proud and wish you the best!
Judy Siegel, President
Tales & Traditions#7
The Bedeken
by Karen Blocker
It certainly was not our intent to stump the Rabbi who would officiate at our daughter’s upcoming and not-so-coincidentally, nationally televised wedding. However, that is precisely what occurred! She had attended the wedding of a dear friend whose service had begun with an uncommon to us, yet quite traditional, Jewish veiling ceremony termed The Bedeken. Finding the tradition a lovely, mystifying, and symbolic addition to our daughter’s wedding ceremony, she prepared to incorporate it into her Reform service as she and her fiance exchanged their vows. And so, our Reform Rabbi embarked on his preparation for his first Bedeken with much interest and delight!
We came to understand that the tradition is often traced to the biblical story of Jacob who is tricked by his father-in-law into marrying the wrong bride, the sister of his true love. In the Bedeken ceremony, the bride is veiled and, just before the walk to the chuppah, the wedding canopy, she is confirmed to be the “correct” woman as the veil is lifted by her groom.
Another interpretation of the Jewish veil tradition is offered by the Kabbalists. The idea that the groom’s love for the bride goes or should go far beyond her physical beauty. This act symbolically then focuses on characteristics of her inner beauty instead. The groom then moves from the physical realm to the spiritual dimension of the union.
Nearly 24 years ago now, the wedding party and the guests were gathered on the manicured lawns of the historic inn. As the mother-of-the-bride, we tweaked tradition a bit and I brought her fingertip veil down over my daughter’s radiant face. Her groom stood nearby and moved to face her. Generations of traditions found their place in the confirmation of the bride by her groom as he lifted the white veil. Prayers, newly rehearsed and connected to the moment, were repeated by our Rabbi. The Bedeken was now completed. The wedding ceremony could begin.
Borscht Beat — Sundays at 1 p.m.
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!
May 14, 2021
June 11, 2021
July 2, 2021
NOTE: Beginning in July, services will be held (virtually) on the 1st Friday of the month.
Thank you for your donations
Pesach- Chag Sameach
David Schneyer
Happy Anniversary
Jerry & Monica Frey 6/2
Steven & Diane Fishman 6/5
Eli & Belle Shaff 6/9
Happy Birthday
Vinny Simkin 5/11
Jack Strassman 5/12
Judith Levine 5/14
Michelle Ordynans 5/14
Jeremy Gorelick 5/15
Ron Hirshon 5/17
Patrice Held 5/18
Hannah Nadeau 5/25
Barbara Schmitt 5/26
Mike Uretsky 5/28
Monica Frey 6/1
Ilene Samath 6/1
Wendy Uretsky 6/2
William Silver 6/4
Avril Brenig 6/5
Greta Salzberg 6/5
Aaron Schmitt 6/5
Shelley Siegel-Watson 6/8
Don Simkin 6/8
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                                                   
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
Share the Zoom Shabbat experience-
Pass along the newsletter! Suggest family members and friends join our synagogue as a member! Annual dues are reasonable.
Pass along our email:
OPT OUT- Would you prefer to ‘opt out’ of the hard copy newsletter and just receive an email version?
 Email us at and let us know.