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CBI Newsletter: March 2017 / Adar 5777

In this month's newsletter you'll find Notes from the Rabbi, service times for Shabbat, the President's Column, reminders about Purim (March 11) and our second-night community seder (April 11), remembrances of Tu BiShvat, and more!

From Rabbi Rachel: Adar, Month of Joy

 Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

On Sunday February 26 we entered into the new lunar month of Adar. Of this month, our sages said, "When Adar enters, joy increases!"

The simple reason why this is considered a joyous month is that it contains the festival of Purim. At Purim we retell the story of Esther, whose heroism saved the Jewish people of Persia from destruction. Like Esther, who hid her true identity until the right moment to reveal herself, we dress in costumes. Purim is a topsy-turvy festival of celebration and merriment.

(I hope you'll join us at CBI for our own evening of merriment on Saturday March 11 -- Jen Burt is going to transform our sanctuary into a house fit for the Addams Family, and there will be games and refreshments, and a vegetarian / dairy potluck supper, and a Purim play that will retell the story of Esther... which often seems surprisingly contemporary despite its ancient provenance.)

One of my favorite lines from the Book of Esther is ’ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר’ - "For the Jews there was light, and joy, and happiness, and honor." This line is part of the Saturday evening havdalah ritual with which we close Shabbat and welcome each new week: we sing these words, and then add "so may it be for us."

In assiyah, the physical world, we get a little bit more light every day as we move further from the winter solstice and midwinter dark. In yetzirah, the world of emotions, we can also seek more light: the light of connection, the light of love between friends and companions and family (whether birth-family or chosen-family). In briyah, the world of intellect, we can seek the light of wisdom and insight. And in atzilut, the world of spirit, may Adar open for us a connection with the light that emanates always from our Source.

So may it be for us, now and always!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel
CBI is a proud member of the Union for Reform Judaism

and also a proud member of the ALEPH Network

Shabbat and Havdalah Times

If you want to light Shabbat candles and make havdalah at the halakhically-accepted times, here they are:

March 3 light at 5:27pm (18 minutes before sundown)
March 4 havdalah at 6:26pm (42 minutes after sundown)

March 10 light at 5:35pm
March 11 havdalah at 6:36

March 17 light at 6:43pm
March 18 havdalah at 7:450pm

March 24 light at 6:53pm
March 25 havdalah at 7:53pm

March 30 light at 7pm

If it is your practice to light candles at a different hour of the day (perhaps not quite so early as halakha indicates during the winter, and not quite so late as halakha indicates during the summer), that's also a legitimate Reform Jewish choice. What's most important is that you're finding a way to incorporate Shabbat into your life.
Support CBI with a donation... thank you!
Great things are happening at the CBI Community Hebrew School! Learn more about our religious school, see the school calendar, and more on our CBI Community Hebrew School website.



Let them build Me a sanctuary, that I might dwell within them…  Exodus 25:8


Our community thrives because each of us contributes not only dollars but also our hands, hearts, and time, to building and sustaining the community in which we make our home.  The more we each engage with the work of building community, the stronger our community becomes – and the deeper the gifts we each receive from our participation.  This is true in any congregation, but especially true in a small rural congregation like ours which depends on volunteer energy and effort.


Below is a (partial) list of current volunteer opportunities.  Please contact or if you’re able to help out.


  • Shabbat Greeters (Shamashim)

Shabbat Greeters welcome people to Shabbat morning services.  Duties include handing out prayer books (and occasionally inserts handouts into prayer books), setting out wine and challah for Kiddush, cleaning up, and ensuring the building is locked.  Knowledge of the alarm and having a key are not necessary (but can be provided).  Greeters can choose the frequency with which they are scheduled.


  • Newsletter Editor

This job is done entirely on your own time – no meetings.  Each month, individuals will send you articles for the newsletter and your job is to collect them (and occasionally solicit or write some) and format them for easy reading.


  • Tablecloth Washers

Individuals are needed to periodically wash tablecloths after synagogue events.  This job is done entirely on your own time and can be a one-time commitment or ongoing.  To help, just check the bin in the kitchen, wash the tablecloths, and return them to CBI.


  • Kiddush Supplies Coordinator

This individual (or group of individuals) would need to monitor our Kiddush supplies (challot in the freezer, grape juice, wine, little cups, disposable products for Kiddush) and notify Jack when we are getting low.




Tu BiShvat Fun for all Ages

by Liz Miller

Saturday, February 11, marked Tu BiShvat, the Birthday of the Trees.  The synagogue was transformed for the celebration with pictures of trees hung around the sanctuary and drapery and lights throughout the social hall.  Tables of exotic fruits and nuts were set up on one side and a communal table for the TuBiShvat seder was set up on the other.  A very festive welcome.

The festivities began with a lovely Shabbat service led by Rabbi Rachel.  While prayer occurred in the sanctuary, younger members joined Education Director, David Arfa, and Aleph Tav teacher, Jane Shiyah, in the classroom, where they discussed their favorite things about Shabbat, sang songs, and created tree “characters” (and signs) for a Tu BiShvat play.  When the service ended, the children performed a play of the trees, teaching us about the benefits trees provide as well as the important message that we are all created equal.



Following the Shabbat service, we adjourned to the social hall for a TuBiShvat seder.  The table was full with members of all ages.  We took turns reading the pages of the TuBiShvat seder which were projected onto a screen for all to see (thus, saving trees by preventing the need for paper copies). 

We started in the realm of assiyah (action), associated with winter, and foods which have a hard shell.  We blessed glasses of white wine (or grape juice) and then partook of the wondrous smorgasboard of fruits and nuts that Jen Burt had set out.  The table included more common foods such as cantaloupe, peanuts, coconuts and chestnuts, but also more unusual foods such as brazil melons, pomelos, pomegranate seeds, dragon fruit, tamarind, and jackfruit.  There was plenty of variety and plenty of opportunity to experience new foods. 

We then moved on to the realm of yetzirah (emotion), associated with spring, and foods which have soft outsides and hard insides, such as dates, olives, (dried) cherries, and lychee nuts. 

The third realm (briyah / thought / summer) included fruits that were soft all the way through, such as grapes, pears, star fuit, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, and banana apples. 

The final realm (atzilut / spirituality / fall) included no foods, just liquids.  Participants tasted maple syrup and Etrog liquor.



As with all seders, we then moved to the festive meal.  Participants had brought dairy dishes for lunch, including stews and salads and eggs.  A wonderful time was had by all.  Thank you to Jen Burt for decorating the sanctuary and preparing the food; to David Arfa and Jane Shiyah for coordinating the children’s activities; and to Rabbi Rachel for creating and leading the seder.

We're Grateful to All Who Donated in February!

High Holiday Appeal    

Linda Becker    

Grant Fund Donation    

Jacob & Dora Wineberg

General Donations  

Helene Armet    In honor of Stuart Armet, my husband, in recognition of his determination, strength and resilience

Jody Brown    In loving memory of Florence Cramer

Nancy Gabrilove    In loving memory of Hillard & Ella Gabrilove

Jana Goldin    In loving memory of Florence Cramer

Suzanne Vareschi    In loving memory of Florence Cramer
Join Us!

Every Saturday: 9:30 a.m. Shabbat Service, followed by kiddush around 11am

Meditation minyan on Friday mornings, 9am
President's Message


March 2017


Saturday, February 11 was Tu BiShvat, the Birthday of the Trees.  (See the article about CBI’s beautiful seder celebration.)  In an email carrying Hebrew School news, including announcements about Tu BiShvat events, David Arfa (education director) asked, “what was your favorite tree as a kid?”


Growing up, we had a beautiful Japanese red maple tree in our front yard.  We named it “Red Red.”  It was a perfect climbing tree.  There are many pictures of my sister and me sitting in and climbing the tree.  One year, rabbits made a nest beneath the tree.  Imagine our surprise when we found the little hole (hutch) with the baby rabbits inside!  When we moved, we lost our perfect climbing tree, replaced by other tree memories.  In our new house, the front doors were flanked by two “swirly” trees – evergreens that were carefully sculpted into eye-catching spirals.  My current home has its own special tree – an apple tree in our backyard.  We lived here for a few years before we even knew it was an apple tree, and then suddenly, it bore the sweetest fruit.  My kids have enjoyed picking the apples from the tree, and one year the apples served as a sweet snack for CBI after High Holiday services.


Our trees offer us so much – beauty, food, shade, homes, activity.  It is no wonder that trees are often used as symbols.  Trees of life often grace the walls of synagogues.  Indeed, our synagogue offers many of the same benefits as trees.  Our sanctuary and our environs are beautiful.  The melodies emanating from the sanctuary as we join together in prayer fill our souls with spirituality and beauty.  The fourth Sunday of every month, CBI makes and delivers food to homebound seniors in North Adams.  We also frequently gather for communal meals – whether for a Friday night potluck, a holiday celebration, or just to socialize.  The building is a home to the Jewish community.  It provides spiritual healing to those who need it, educational opportunities for those who seek them, and a plethora of activities.


As we rejoice in the trees, I think about the ways that we can grow our spiritual trees.  For a tree to thrive, it must have a strong foundation.  Our roots are the values that we nurture and share.  This includes our acceptance of others and our adherence to traditional Jewish values.  It includes our commitment to the CBI community.  We can show that commitment by participating in that community – attending events, services, celebrations, and volunteering to help in both the mundane everyday tasks and with special events.  By doing so, we can cultivate the fruit of our tree, enjoy it and share it with others.  We can climb its branches, and reach new heights – learning new skills and meeting new people.  We can create something of beauty which others will admire and want to be part of.  CBI is our tree.  Let’s help it grow together.


Liz Miller

President, CBI


Have items for the April newsletter? Please submit them to by March 20. 
CBI on Facebook:

From the Rabbi blog:
Monday, March 6, 7:00 p.m.: Our next Jewish Book Discussion will be on The Genius of Judaism, a book by Bernard-Henri Levy. For more information, contact Chaim Bronstein at

PURIM begins on
Saturday, March 11

Join us for
A Very


Beginning at 5pm
Dinner around 6ish
Purim Spiel to Follow

Don't miss our Second Night Community Seder!
Tuesday, April 11, 6pm

$21 for adults, $9 for kids
if you can donate more, please do, so that all who are hungry can come and eat

Please RSVP to the office by April 3.
Save the Dates and Join Us!

Shavuot with Rabbi Rachel (May 30 - June 2) – 
Join Rabbi Rachel, Rabbi David Evan Markus and other Jewish Renewal leaders for a soul-renewing Shavuot retreat at Isabella Fredman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT. (Ask Jen Burt, or Steven Green and Rose Ellis, to tell you about what a great time they had on this retreat last year!)

Enjoy kosher farm-to-table meals, beautiful davenen (prayer services) to uplift the heart, an all-night study marathon, a midnight hike to a mountaintop, a parade celebrating the spring's "first fruits," and much, much more. There's nothing quite like experiencing a holiday on retreat -- maybe especially Shavuot! For information, visit Hazon's website.

Ruach Ha-Aretz: ALEPH in New York – Join ALEPH's weeklong summer retreat -- this year taking place in the Hudson Valley, an easy drive from northern Berkshire -- with a wide variety of Jewish Renewal leaders and teachers. Learn spiritual eldering, ritualcraft, feminist Hasidism and more. This year's theme is "l'takken olam: healing all the worlds." July 10-16 in Stony Point, NY. For information, visit ALEPH's website.
Ride Share

Are you are in need of a ride to and from CBI to attend services or events? Are you in need of a ride for local errands or appointments? The CBI community wants to help.  Please let Jack know what your needs are. If you are able and willing to share rides or give rides, please send information on your availability to Jack (
March Birthdays
Alex Apkin
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Joan Benjamin
Grace Bowen
Richard Cohen
George Drasin
Richard Dubow
Adam Gold
Sally Gotlieb
Lori Guy
Isaac Herrmann
Robert Hertzig
John Hogan
Andrew Levy
Patricia Anne Lipman
Dr. Susan Mahler
Cameron Miller
Kayla Miller
Edward Oshinsky
Sasha Rooney
Howard Saunders
Jay Shapiro
James Silberman
Jefferson Strait
Audrey Thier
Ruth Thier
Robert Werbel
March Anniversaries
William Levy & Karen Kelly
Howard & Deborah Wineberg
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Congregation Beth Israel · 53 Lois Street · North Adams, MA 01247 · USA

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