Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights, began on December 10, 2020
. For Jewish people, this holiday celebrates the victory of a small group of dedicated soldiers, the Maccabees, over a tyrant king and his armies, intent on suppressing their human rights and forcing them to worship Greek gods. The Maccabees were able to retake the Temple in Jerusalem from the king’s soldiers but needed to find a way to reconsecrate the synagogue ruins by keeping a menorah (a seven-armed candelabra) lit constantly. They found a vessel that contained a small amount of oil with which to relight the menorah and although hopeful, they realized it would likely only burn for one night. The miracle was that it burned for eight nights.
Modern celebrations often include families deciding upon how to meet the Jewish mandate of “tikkun olam” or “repair the world” in the coming year, whether the decision is to help locally or globally in some way. Families will light a 9-candleholder candelabra called a hanukkiah. Gifts are usually exchanged amongst families and friends. It is also traditional to eat foods fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (Hebrew for jelly doughnuts) to celebrate the oil found in the Temple. Even though we won’t be frying up latkes like we usually do in our social hall before in-person services, please enjoy some festive foods at home! Check out reformjudaism.org for fabulous Hanukkah recipes and more information about Hanukkah.
Eric Mendelsohn was born in 1887 in Allenstein, East Prussia, Germany (now Olsztyn, Poland) and after studying at the Technical University of Berlin and then of Munich to become an architect, practiced his art from 1912-1933 in Germany. With the occupation of Germany by the Nazi regime at its onset, Mendelsohn, his wife, Luise, and their daughter presciently relocated to the United Kingdom, fearing the onslaught of anti-Semitic legislation against Jewish professionals. Having intense passion and talent for his work and fortunately, the financial means and personal connections to do so, he and his family once again relocated to Palestine (now Israel) in 1935 from the United Kingdom, where he had become a British subject. He practiced in Palestine with remarkable skill and influential style until 1941, when he again relocated his family and his practice to the United States of America. Despite his portfolio being replete with his designs and experience, he was not able to practice architecture in the United States until 1945. At last, he was able to begin his professional life again. It was during the years of 1945 until his death in San Francisco, CA in 1953, that he was contracted to design four American synagogues: Mt. Zion Temple, St. Paul, MN; B’Nai Amoona, St. Louis, MO; Park Synagogue, Cleveland, OH; and Temple Emanuel, Grand Rapids, MI.
Mendelsohn has countless buildings around the world, most designs intersected modern structures, symmetry and both flat and domed roofs. For these synagogues, he demanded that the plans include great amounts of clear glass and soaring ceilings in all four sanctuaries and rebuffed any synagogue board’s protestations of constructing them otherwise. He may have intended the glass to announce to the non-congregants of these communities that the Jewish people in America are not in hiding any longer and that they want to be noticed by offering a transparent look into their religious world, suggested Palmer in his presentation. As paraphrased by Palmer, Rachel Bernstein Wischnitzer, an architect herself and an architectural critic of the day, wrote about how Eric Mendelsohn built “flamboyant buildings” of “enormous scale” to announce who was here in the neighborhood.
Through author and photographer Michael Craig Palmer’s presentation we learned about the significant impact that the designs of this tenacious man had on both secular and Jewish world leaders and international societies along with the Jewish congregations in our own country. Upon viewing a map of Mendelsohn’s path, Palmer helped us peer into Eric Mendelsohn’s vast career that finally led him on his journey to America. While still providing a lifeblood for their congregants or still serving as centers of their current communities, more importantly, these synagogues that Eric Mendelsohn built in America continue to brazenly declare the Jewish presence that they were meant to announce when they were built.
Please find Michael Craig Palmer’s book, Eric Mendelsohn’s Synagogues in America at Amazon.com or Amazonsmile.com by clicking here.
You can listen to Michael Palmer’s presentation by following this link.
Our INTER-FAITH CHANUKAH PARTY was held on DECEMBER 6, 2019 and enjoyed by many of our member families and community guests.
The installation of Judy Siegel as our new President occurred, along with a Kabbalat Shabbat service, on November 15, 2019.
30th Anniversary Shabbat Celebration
The Congregation Agudas Achim celebrated a very special event at its August 5th Shabbat service. We celebrated 30 years as a member of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Highlights included a very special presentation honoring the occasion by Barbara Seidel who is the chief operating officer of the Reform Union. Members of the Agudas Achim who were involved in building the Agudas Achim community spoke of their experiences of transforming a disappearing orthodox synagogue to vital congregation which attracts congregants from all parts of Sullivan County and beyond. Time was given for all to share their own experiences in the community.
Rabbi Pomerantz and cantorial duo Ira & Julia Levin gave an inspirational service, which was followed by a special oneg.
Chai on Music
Featuring our own Rich Chiger will be performing Traditional Klezmer and Yiddish Music at the Nessin Cultural Arts Theater 22 St. John St. Monticello 3p.m. on July 10th. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Call 794-6013 or email nessinmusicalculturalarts.org for tickets and more informational.
The Catskill Mountain Chapter of Hadassah invites both men and women to attend a screening of the movie Space Shuttle Columbia:Mission of Hope at Landfield Ave. Synagogue,18 Landfield Ave, Monticello at 6:45 pm It is a PBS documentary telling the story Ilan Ramon, the Israeli hero who died in this tragedy. RSVP to Brenda Sherman 917-509-2928 , if possible. If you are interested in Hadassah call Lynne Freedman 439-5708, who is co-president of the local chapter
Simchat Torah Celebration
On October 9, 2019, Agudas Achim celebrated Simchat Torah. It truly was a joyous evening with about 40 in attendance, we performed all the necessary rituals. Thanks to the Ahavath Shalom placing 3 additional torahs in our care,we joyously carried and danced 6 torahs around the sanctuary. We happily welcomed back Rabbi Pomerantz to the bimah. Dimona Galli enthusiastically completed the yearly cycle and began again our adventure with Beresheit. Ira and Julia Levin provided the music to make the service completely wonderful.
There were other highlights which made this night special. Our Hebrew school students instructed us on the importance of this celebration. Rabbi Pomerantz did a great job in keeping the evening meaningful for the adults and the children attending. We were able to share the happiness and pride that Ken & Barbara Schmitt felt as their son Aaron, on leave from the Navy, attended with them. Aaron might have been the first person called to the torah with Anchors Away being played in the background. Rabbi Pomertantz recalled that Max Siegel, recently in a serious car accident, was the first bar mitzvah he performed as our Rabbi. The congregation sung a heartfelt mishaberach for Max and his family. The celebration ended with an outstanding oneg, as we shared the delicious desserts brought by each family.
Photos and video of the event can be viewed here.
As part of a program to increase our cultural programming, and reach out to people who may not reside in Livingston Manor, Agudas Achim and the Catskill Arts Society sponsored an Artist-in-Residence weekend from August 6-9. Noted artist Mordechai Rosenstein led a wide-ranging program that included: exhibiting his paintings, discussing his artistic style and experiences with members of the Congregation and community at large, leading a children’s art program, and leading a presentation on Jewish art over the ages. People were also given the opportunity to visit our historically important synagogue. Because the general response was very positive, we are encouraged to expand the offering next year.
Mordechai Rosenstein is a well known modern Jewish artist, He work is created by using a myriad of pieces utilizing vibrant colors and flowing lines that transform the art of Hebrew calligraphy into a modern day feast for the eyes. His work is found in museums, synagogues and institutions around the world. His pieces titled L’Dor V’Dor and Education now hang proudly at Agudas Achim as a result of the generosity of a few art loving members.
Golda’s Balcony – 2017
A one-woman play starring Sandra Laub as Golda Meir was performed to great acclaim at Agudas Achim on July 6, 2017. Ms. Laub artistically and dramatically used the synagogue balcony to enhance her performance.
Sandra Laub, an award-winning actress and veteran teacher, has been performing William Gibson’s Tony Award-winning one-woman play, Golda’s Balcony, in a variety of settings—theaters, classrooms, social halls, sanctuaries—to critical acclaim and heartfelt audience response since 2013.
Golda’s Balcony is a 90-minute a tour-de force. With humor, pathos, and passion, we see her journey from impoverished child in Czarist Russia to becoming Israel’s 4th Prime Minister scrambling to save the country from impending destruction during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. At the heart of the play is Meir’s lifelong struggle to attain peace while agonizing over difficult moral choices, including especially the ‘terrible question’: “What happens when idealism becomes power?”
Song Fest 2016 & 2017
Sunday Songfest at The Arnold House
Congregation Agudas Achim of Livingston Manor sponsored a unique musical and dining experience as a fundraiser. Tickets for the musical program were be $20 per person for up to 4 continuous hours of outstanding entertainment. An all you can eat chicken barbeque (buffet style) at $20/pp was available for purchase. Our goal was to raise money to help enable us to preserve and maintain our historic 90+ year old synagogue. The Agudas Achim synagogue is on the state and national register of historic places. It is also recognized as a significant building and community among Synagogues around the world.
Music filled the barn pavilion behind The Arnold on Shandelee Road between Livingston Manor and Youngsville. The Arnold is well known by locals and visitors alike and highly rated for its food and hospitality.
The Levins performed music from various folk and Jewish traditions. They perform at numerous folk festivals, secular venues and synagogues throughout the country and have just returned from a successful tour of the Midwest. They are winners of numerous awards for the quality of their music. Go to www.thelevinsmusic.com to learn more and listen to their music.
David Rosenberg is well known around Sullivan County for encouraging the audience to sing along while he plays music everyone will know. Joining him were Debbie Fisher and Joanna Gass to complete a trio reminiscent of the old Catskill hotels where the musicians interacted with the audience to create a fun atmosphere. Sherrie Kane-Graeber of Washingtonville also performed in 2016 while local favorite Lori Schneider slotted in for 2017.
Sunday Songfest was one of the best events of two summer seasons. Everyone had a great time. Where else could you get 4 hours of outstanding music and an unlimited dinner cooked by gourmet chefs for $36?
Roll out the Fred Carpet – 2018 Celebrating Rabbi Fred’s 5oth year in the rabbinate and 13th year with the congregation. You had to be there to appreciate the spirit and loved shared among the rabbi’s family, friends and past and present congregants. BHR served an outstanding lunch while the Levins performed outstanding sets of music for us, highlighted by a drum solo by the rabbi. A bar-mitzvah-style candle lighting ceremony, orchestrated by Sandy Pomerantz capped the afternoon’s festivities.