View from near the village of Catskill, NY by Thomas Cole
Notes from the Cantor
As often as you can, take a trip out to the fields to pray. All the grasses will join you. They will enter your prayers and give you strength to sing praises to God. — Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810)
When I was a child, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered, “a singing author naturalist.” “What kind of job is that?” the perplexed grown-up asked. I answered that I like to sing, I like to write, and I like animals and being outdoors. “Singing author naturalist” sounded like the perfect job to me. Actually, it still does!
For a short time, the desire to be a naturalist took the foreground. I was crazy for science in high school, and started off as a bio major at Cornell University before becoming frustrated by the poor treatment of the few women in the program. I really admire women who didn’t let the daily harassment deter them from their dreams of becoming scientists. Either I was not made of stern enough stuff, or, as I prefer to think, God had other plans for me.
I transferred from Cornell to my beloved Oberlin College and majored instead in English, working on the second part of my wish list, to be a writer. While at Oberlin, I sang in various ensembles, took music classes and enjoyed the advantage of a college with a top-notch conservatory. But I never thought I would make a career as a professional musician.
After college I found that there were a lot of English majors out there in the job market. I wound up in the typing pool of a music management company, worked my way up to assistant to a manager, and then realized I’d rather be singing! After more twists and turns to this coming-of-age story, including a year living in England, I wound up singing in the New York City Opera chorus where I met Cantor Mel Novick from Progressive Shaari Zedek. Cantor Novick hired me to sing in the High Holy Day quartet there. I’m not certain, but I think this would have been in 1978. The alto in the quartet had just started the cantorial program at Hebrew Union College- Institute of Religion. I had never heard of women being cantors, which is not surprising since the first woman cantor, Barbara Ostfeld, would not graduate from the College-Institute until 1979. I was definitely interested, but it took me four years of serious soul searching to decide to apply. How grateful am I that I did.
Being a cantor meant that singing was a big part of my job. Becoming the spiritual leader of PTBAS meant that writing was also essential, so by 2011, I had achieved two out of three of my childhood goals. As for being a naturalist, walking in Prospect Park, and the few days a year I could get out to cross-country ski would have to suffice. Except for the one morning a year that we hold our Shabbat services outdoors, when all three of my loves come together! So please join me on Saturday morning, June 30 at 10:30 am at the Salt Marsh Nature Center for my final service. Bring a chair, sunscreen, a hat, etc. The singing birds, the rippling waters, and as Rabbi Nachman says, even the rustling grasses will enter our prayers and give us strength to praise God.
Now, you may ask, why have I included a picture of Catskill, NY on my final “note from the Cantor,” rather than a picture of the Salt Marsh? It’s because after my final service on June 30, I will be moving to the village of Catskill. There among the vistas that Thomas Cole and the painters of Hudson River School so beautifully captured on canvas, I hope in my retirement to continue to pursue my childhood goal of becoming a “singing author naturalist.” Come visit me and we can walk together! Shalom, and l’hitaraot!
Cantor Suzanne Bernstein
Volume I Sivan 5778 / June 2018 No. 6
voice of truth
The school year is winding down. Some of us with school-age children are dealing with end-of-year testing even as learning is waning—the kids have days off and half-days in June, as well as field trips and movies in class. At temple, we are preparing for big transitions.
On June 10, we will honor Cantor Suzanne Bernstein, who is retiring on June 30. Cantor Bernstein has been an unflagging supporter of the consolidation of two congregations into B’ShERT, at great personal cost. I have loved working with Suzanne this year, though it has been a challenging year in many ways. Cantor Bernstein is a consummate professional; she will be missed by the congregation, and I personally will miss her as well. We wish her much contentment and joy in the coming years.
This month we also say goodbye to Jennifer Queen, who has held the Jacqueline Smith Memorial Rabbinic Internship for the last two years. Jenn received her Master’s Degree this spring, and expects to be ordained as a rabbi in the spring of 2019. She has been a wonderful addition to our community, working with our religious school kids and the youth group.
Jenn and the youth group, together with Toby Jackson, one of our religious school parents, built a Little Free Pantry to put outside our building and stock with nonperishable food, toiletries, and other things people walking by may need, for them to take. This is Jenn’s legacy project, to be maintained by the religious school students. We wish her well in her final year at HUC-JIR and beyond.
This summer, we hope that a cantor/educator will join our professional staff to work with me. The search committee, and especially its chair, Fran Silverman, has worked very hard to make the best choice for our community. The cantor/educator and I will be partners in leading worship and in education. The cantor/educator will be responsible for running our religious school together with the religious school committee and in consultation with me. They will also manage our b’nei mitzvah program and work directly with the students, as I will continue to do also. I’m looking forward to welcoming our new cantor/educator.
The cantor/educator as well as Nonie Schuster, our cantorial soloist, will work with me to plan the services for the High Holy Days, using Mishkan Ha-Nefesh, the newest machzor (High Holy Days prayerbook) from the Union for Reform Judaism. This prayerbook is new to me, but is not new to many of you.
All the Hebrew in Mishkan Ha-Nefesh is transliterated, and there are many beautiful elements. This fall some of our Torah readings will be different, and some service timing will shift. I hope you experience it as enriching and revitalizing, not unsettling. We will share information to help you know what to expect.
We will also welcome our new Jacqueline Smith Memorial Rabbinic Intern, Kylynn Perdue-Bronson, in September. Kylynn (our third intern in a row with a double consonant at the end of her name) has been attending HUC-JIR at the Cincinnati campus, and will be moving to Brooklyn in August. She is entering her third year of rabbinical school. I’m looking forward to a good year with her.
Please note that I will be away on vacation for most of the month of July and the first week of August. Services will be lay-led, and for emergencies, I will make sure there is coverage. If you are traveling or staycationing this summer, have a wonderful time and be safe.
Challenges and opportunities lie ahead. When we finish reading a book of Torah, we say, “Chazak, chazak, v’nit-chazek!” — “[Be] strong, [be] strong, and [may we] be strengthened!” As we go forward together, may we be strong and be strengthened. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Rabbi Heidi Hoover
From The Desk of
Jennifer L. Queen
Dear B’ShERT community,
When Moses descends Mount Sinai with the Torah, the Israelites, before knowing any of its content, say, “All that The Divine has said, we will do and we will hear” (Exodus 24:7). Up to this point, only Moses knows what lies ahead, so how could the Israelites commit to the “doing” before they heard, knew or understood what they were signing up for?
Much like the Israelites, I entered into this internship ready to do and hear. I was ready to do the work and to be present but, in truth, I had no idea what was in store for me. In my time at Temple Beth Emeth/PTBAS/B’ShERT, I have learned so much from taking part in services, rituals and life cycle events, from witnessing the merging of two long-standing establishments into a totally new community, from spending time with and getting to know everyone, especially the students in my classes and the youth group. I have loved watching them grow into the people they will become and am honored to have played even a small role in their Jewish journeys.
Over the last two years, as we have prayed, talked, marched, eaten, sung, created, played Jeopardy and learned together, I have received the gift of your Torah—your thoughts, your opinions, your criticism, your questions, your time—and I will carry it with me, and continue to learn from it as I take the next steps on my rabbinic path.
Thank you for an amazingly rich two years!
Jacqueline Smith Memorial Rabbinic Intern, 2016–2018
Little Free Pantry:
Please donate to our Little Free Pantry! The LFP “is a grassroots, crowdsourced solution to immediate and local need” designed to get “neighbors helping neighbors, building community”.
Judaism teaches the importance of being mindful of and giving to those in need, and of taking action toward tikkun olam, repairing the world. In order to do this, and to make a difference in our city, we wanted to address the issues of homelessness, financial and food insecurity in our neighborhood.
And so, the B’nai Mitzvah classes of 2016-2018 have joined together to work on this project and create a lasting legacy of tikkun olam for our congregation and our community, but we need your help!
Please consider giving to our donation drive. We are collecting the following new, unused and unopened items:
Canned protein (tuna, chicken, beans) or prepared food (Chef Boyardee)
Personal care items (Regular/travel-size toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, first aid, etc.)
Socks (men’s, women’s, children’s)
Feminine care pads (Individually wrapped)
Toilet paper (Individually wrapped)
Please bring your donations to Temple as soon as you are able. Our goal is to collect enough items by the last day of religious school – June 9th – to stock the pantry all summer!
**For families in the religious school: Let’s make this more interesting… We’re doing a competition between the classes. The class to bring in the most donated items will win a special treat (baked by our own sweet treat master Shoshana E. Hoover) on the last day of religious school!
Bring in your items through June 9th, and place them in the boxes in the Temple's foyer.
Thank you for helping us to help our neighbors and repair the world!
The B’nai Mitzvah classes of 2016-2018
It’s been almost a year since we decided to take a bold step to consolidate two storied congregations and set out as a new, larger, and stronger sacred community. This journey has had its twists and turns, but there have been many successes along the way.
Our Temple has been full of activity almost daily with Torah study, Adult Ed, Confirmation classes, Israeli dancing, committee meetings, religious school and more. We have been present to support our B’nai Mitzvah and Confirmands on their special days. As a community we have celebrated holidays with dinners and various seders; commemorated Kristallnacht and Yom Hashoah; and we have attended Interfaith services, dinners and panel discussions. We had a hilarious Purimspiel, a talent show featuring both our talented kids and adults, and a wonderful musical gala.
Along the way we’ve witnessed many new warm relationships forming, which gives us reason to be optimistic about the future of B’ShERT. We are not only creating a new community, but we’ve been making great strides in improving the ambiance and usefulness of our building and sanctuary. We converted a storage space adjacent to the Sanctuary into a very comfortable office and made the ark in the Community Room functional. In the Sanctuary, we repaired the ceiling under the balcony, replaced the beyond worn carpet and patched a couple of large openings in the ceiling. During the summer we will be taking further steps toward erasing the signs of disrepair and neglect in the Sanctuary in response to your approval to proceed with improvements at the rear of the balcony, the ceiling and the lighting and the repair and/or replacement of broken or missing seats. This work will lift our spirits when we return in September for the High Holy Days.
All of this would not have been possible without the devoted work being done by our committees and affiliates and your cooperation, support and patience. Also, we would be remiss not to thank our wonderful staff. Alice Hyatt and Sondra Berkman have worked diligently in handling our administrative and bookkeeping needs. Vitale Jean and Angel DeJesus make sure that our building is always ready for services and our many programs. We must also thank our Cantorial Soloist Nonie Schuster Donato and accompanist Maxine Feldman for their musical talents that enhance our Friday evening services. Maxine had a medical issue recently for which she is currently in rehab. We wish her a speedy recovery and hope she can rejoin us as soon as possible.
We must express our appreciation to Rabbi Heidi Hoover and Cantor Suzanne Bernstein for all they have done in leading and guiding us through this transition. Finally, we acknowledge that although she will be retiring at the end of this month, throughout this year of change Cantor Bernstein continued to share her creativity, scholarship, compassion, and passion for social justice, strengthening our consolidated congregation.
Please join us at the Salt Marsh Nature Center on Avenue U across the street from Marine Park on Saturday, June 30 at 11 am as Cantor Bernstein conducts an outdoor Shabbat service and we take the opportunity to wish her well in her future endeavors. We will also celebrate Cantor's career and honor her at the Gala Luncheon on June 10.
We wish everyone a splendid and restful summer. B’shalom,
Eric & Jeff
A hearty thank you to Rob Friedman, Cemetery Chair of the TBE Finance Committee! He took on the task of researching how to legally transfer ownership of a group of plots at New Montefiore Cemetery (that no one in our congregation wanted to use) and generated $175,000 for our coffers. Thank you, Rob! —Evelyn Shunaman
photo by Ken Brown
The Interfaith Coalition’s Ramadan dinner at B’ShERT on May 31 was a huge success. This was the first time our temple has hosted an Iftar dinner, and it was inspiring to see our banquet hall filled with people getting to know each other and sharing an amazing meal of homemade food donated by our friends from the Turkish Cultural Center. We were also pleased to welcome our friends from East Midwood Jewish Center, including Rabbi Matt Carl. Most important, it was great to see our diverse communities coming together with the shared goal of embracing our cultural differences as much as our similarities. Rabbi Hoover and Cantor Bernstein were among those who addressed the audience and led everyone in song. Many thanks to all of our community partners for their hard work in creating this memorable event. — Adrienne Knoll
Social Action Committee
The Interfaith Coalition’s Abraham’s Table held at the Turkish Cultural Center with Rabbi Hoover as one of the panelists was a huge success! Out of a total of 76 attendees, B’ShERT had one third attending… wonderful and appreciated support. The third in this series will be this fall.
We are now signed up with the Brit Olam through URJ’s Religious Action Center with two areas of main focus—acting in solidarity with vulnerable communities and building relationships across lines of difference in our local community. Much of what we have been doing falls into these categories and leaves us room to broaden our horizons. We will also look to the RAC for training to cultivate our skills necessary to move our congregation into action.
We are looking into the possibility of making a stronger connection with Israel’s Givat Haviva (The Center for a Shared Society) through the Interfaith Coalition in terms of hosting an exhibition done by their teens. Laurie Bassi will follow up.
We will continue to keep you informed of opportunities through our partnering organizations in the community.
Social Action Committee next meeting will be Tuesday, June 19th at 7pm in the Community Room.
Susan Sysler and Laurie Bassi, Co-Chairs
On behalf of Brotherhood, I would like to thank the men who joined our affiliate this year and all of our temple members and friends who helped to make the Brotherhood events a huge success. We made some great new friends this year. Brotherhood could not exist without the extra effort from our officers: Sam Silverman, who has his hand in everything we do; Gene Guskin, who works quietly to accomplish a lot; Myron Klein, Manny Arnowitz and Harold Gleiberman and who can forget a wonderful presentation on the Brooklyn Dodgers by our own Ron Schweiger. After the summer, I hope even more people will join us.
On Sunday, July 8, please join us for Brooklyn Cyclones baseball at 4 pm in Coney Island. Tickets are limited, so please look for our flyer and send in your request in as soon as possible. It is always a fun time.
Cantor Bernstein, we cannot thank you enough for all you have done for Brotherhood and our temple all these years. We wish you the best in all your future undertakings. You will be sorely missed at our temple. Enjoy the journal luncheon in your honor. It is truly deserved.
We wish everyone a wonderful Father's Day and a fantastic summer. It has been an honor to have served as president of Brotherhood all these years. Thank you all.
Joel Moss and all the members of the Brotherhood Affiliate of BShERT
The Gala Concert on May 6 was no mere fundraiser. It was a joyous occasion filled with music, heartfelt emotion and good fellowship. Cantor Bernstein organized the event, obtaining wonderful performers (including her own daughter, as well as the snappy jazzy Madhattan group, Sammy Trombone, Susanna Stein's string quartet, and, of course, Maxine Feldman), and, through tireless rehearsal, challenged the chorus to singing and acting pinnacles in the presentation of the charming 1940's mini-operetta The Brooklyn Baseball Cantata. It is bittersweet for us, realizing that this is the last of the many times that Cantor has created a terrific show for our benefit, and we so appreciate all she has done. Of course, we have so many helpers engaged in the less glamorous aspects of the production, such as setting up, cleaning up, and preparing food — we certainly appreciate these efforts, too! Thanks to all of you who supported the event and helped make money for Temple. — Yvette Pomeranz, Co-Chair
In April, I attended my college friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah and his wife delivered this stunning message to their daughter. I hope you all enjoy it - Jeff Levinson
A Mother’s Bat Mitzvah Speech
by Lia Pripstein
Judaism is not an easy heritage to take on. Assyrians, Romans, Cossacks—wherever you look, there’s disaster. Our congregation’s Torah, originally from Brno in Czechoslovakia, is itself a Holocaust survivor. Along with many thousands of other Jewish artifacts, it was confiscated by the Nazis to feature in the planned “Museum of the Extinct Race” in Prague. The Jewish curators tasked with cataloging the malevolent exhibit recorded each dreidel, candlestick and Torah scroll with diligence and care. Their purpose was very different from that of their tormentors. If nothing is left, how would the survivors know who they are and where they’d come from?
The curators’ story is our story. It is not about the sanctity of the Torah—physical objects are not holy in and of themselves—nor is it about the troubles we’ve encountered in every generation. It is the painstaking work to counter indifference with meaning, to transcend despair through love to a generation we would never meet.
For every dark moment in history, when human spirit veers as far from God as no animal dares to go, there are just as many moments of grace, when Godly powers of generosity, compassion and love are within our reach. This is the story I’d like to pass on to you. Not a masterpiece to admire but a work in progress we all must take part in.
Today you are officially called on to contribute to our collective story, and to get you started, I’d like to give you some craft tips, writer to writer.
First and foremost, engage—working on a 2,000-year-old manuscript can be intimidating but don’t be paralyzed by misplaced reverence. Our story is meant to be changed and your contribution doesn’t need to be bombastic to be meaningful. The important thing is that you engage, in agreement or disagreement, with a thick marker or a fine pen. As long as you don’t let indifference take over, you will find your voice.
Know your protagonist—with your story still in the process of forming, there will be genre breaking plot twists. Car chases, alien visits, or, God forbid, a courtroom drama. When things get weird, as inevitably they will, make sure to return to your protagonist. Find out what she needs, what’s important to her. Any good writer will tell you it’s never plot but character that holds the story together.
Love your drafts. Nothing is a complete throwaway. Not even the incoherent pages we all muddle through in our teens. Love your drafts for what works, learn from what doesn’t, then do one better.
And finally, keep at it! A good story takes effort. You imagine, you plan, then you roll up your sleeves and get to work. Talking about it won’t put the words on the page and thinking about it won’t either. You got to go at it, at the risk of failing, repeatedly, you must keep at it. For this is your story, the one you will write and rewrite, always a little different, a little better. For your own happiness, for your community, for those who had come before you and for those who come next.
The Simcha Zone
Happy Birthday, Summer Siblings!
Amy Rhodes Froehlich
Angel de Jesus
Maya Scott Luib
Cantor Suzanne Bernstein
Ella Clark Westbrook
The summer is a great time to pursue Jewish cultural activity. People are very excited about the Folksbiene production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage at Battery Park. We are looking into getting tickets for the show on Sunday, August 5 at 1 p.m. The cost is $58. Check with me or Helene if you are interested.
Have a beautiful summer! — Yvette Pomeranz
It's B'ShERT… Community Messages
The entire community extends its wishes for a speedy recovery to our pianist Maxine Feldman and to Building Committee chair Sheldon Greenberg.
The editorial team at the Voice of Truth thanks the entire congregation for its support and contributions this year! If you are interested in working on the newsletter in 2018-19 please email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to Adrienne Knoll or Mike Rose.
Our new website at bshert.org needs a Website Committee Chair! Email email@example.com and we'll talk. Experience with WordPress a plus.
June, July, August TBE Yahrzeits
June 2 – June 8, 2018
June 9 – June 15, 2019
Susan Lynn Altschuler
Abraham Michael Kristall
Lillian Fried Taub
Ada S. Wolff
June 16 – June 22, 2018
Fay Berman Bergel
Arthur Kenneth Bimbaum
Gilbert Benjamin Costa
Jacob Layb Davidson
Florence Gradwol Levy
Dr. David Rubin
June 23 – June 29, 2018
Mariel Gluck Levine
June 30 – July 6, 2018
Hilda Chase Kolman
Nathan Henry Ross
July 7 – July 13, 2018
Dr. Aaron Bluestone
July 14 – July 20, 2018
Rabbi Abraham Feldman
Lottie C. Friedlander
July 21 – July 27, 2018
H. Irving Forman
Dr. Jacob Friedman
Jeannette J. Grinal
Charles C. Nathan
July 28 – August 3, 2018
Dr. Harry Begman
Pearl Garfunkle Gould
Isabel Rose Shapiro
August 4 – August 10, 2018
Samuel Morton Berger
Maurice Louis Mass
August 11 – August 17, 2018
Arnold Stephen Morel
Sgt. Alfred Ross
Frank L. Sugarman
August 18 – August 24, 2018
Rabbi Jacob Pollack
August 25 – August 31, 2018
If you would like to make a memorial donation in honor of a loved one or family member, please contact the Temple office.
Donor In Memory of
Mildred Morel Jack Morel
Jacqueline Morel Jacqueline Morel
Phillip Saperia &
James Golden Isabelle Haslanger
Linda Kushner Silverman & Seth Kushner
Jan Huttner & Rich Miller Irene Greenberg-Munitz
Jacqueline Yudelowitz Jean Berger
Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck In honor of Cantor
Suzanne Bernstein on her
Rabbi Heidi Hoover IHO Cantor Suzanne Bernstein
& Michael T. Rose
Donor In Memory of
Elaine & Lenny Drucker Irene Greenberg-Munitz
Alan & Nadine Drucker Irene Greenberg-Munitz
Leslie Drucker Irene Greenberg-Munitz
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Maxine Feldman Teaches…
Piano, Voice, Guitar, Sight-Singing
Ms. Feldman has 35 years of experience teaching all ages. She has served on the music faculties of NYU, Brooklyn College, The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Hebrew Union College. She has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Recital Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the United Nations, at PTBAS and now at the new consolidated congregation!
For further information please call Maxine at 718-421-3740
11 AM — Salt Marsh Shabbat
Cantor Bernstein's Final Service
11 AM Shabbat Morning Service