Opinions expressed in Teruah do not necessarily represent the views of Beth Shalom Board of Management.
Affiliated with the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ)
Charities Commission Registration Number CC29542
PO Box 26 052, Epsom, Auckland 1344, New Zealand
Tel: 09 524 4139 Fax: 0282 552 3027
Office: Christine O’Brien firstname.lastname@example.org
Board members and portfolios
It has been 4 months since the AGM and the election of the new board so I thought this was a good time to check in on what we have been up to.
First, I am very pleased to share that Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman will be joining us for the High Holy Days again this year! He was very excited to be asked again and we are all thrilled that it has worked out. He will arrive in time to spend the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah with us and will stay through Yom Kippur. I know you will all make him welcome in his South Pacific home.
Did you know that Beth Shalom has a Mission Statement?
"A strong, vibrant Community with a spiritual heart embracing Jewish life and its diversity."
As I’ve mentioned previously in communications with the community, the board is undertaking the task of reviewing and updating our strategic plans. The most important part of this process is collecting information from the congregation. We can’t build a path forward without knowing what you want/expect from Beth Shalom.
You should have recently received an email with a link to the online survey. Please take a few minutes to fill it out. It is confidential. If you prefer, you will also find a hard copy in this issue of Teruah. You are welcome to print out (if your copy of Teruah is electronic) or use the enclosed copy and mail it to the office. Without your input, we can’t possibly live up to our mission.
Finally, the board is sad to see one of our members leaving, but thrilled for the wonderful opportunities he has ahead of him. Please join us on Saturday evening, 11 August, to bid farewell to Eliah Sakakushev von Bismarck as he embarks on his next big adventure. There will be food, wine, and music after Havdallah in the hall. Festivities will start at 7pm. It will be a fun evening and I hope many of you will come.
As always, I can be reached at if you have any enquiries, concerns or just want to chat.
Dear Beth Shalom Member
As you may know, the Board of Management is in the process of conducting a strategic review of our congregation. We intend to put together a five-year plan to see Beth Shalom into the near future and beyond.
Part of this review is getting feedback from you about what you expect or would like to see implemented within the community. Our goal is to collect information from as many of you as possible so that we can achieve the best outcomes for our strategic direction.
To that end, I would like to ask you to please fill out the attached survey and send it in to the temple office. It won’t take you long and it can be done anonymously. It should only take 5-15 minutes to answer honestly and thoughtfully. We will take all responses into consideration.
Once we collate the responses, we will then convene focus groups to get face-to-face input from a broad cross section of our community. We will ask for volunteers as well as invite members who represent differing perspectives. But first things first. Every opinion counts.
B’shalom, Debbie Swiatek
QR code to scan with your phone here.
Survey link goes here first.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO BRING A NON-PERISHABLE FOOD ITEM FOR THE TZEDAKAH BOX.
Daniel Miller is having a great gymnastics season. He achieved a first place over 6 apparatus in three national competitions and a second in another. He consistently places first in pummel horse and has placed in the top three across all the apparatus, rings, parallel bars, vault, floor, high bar and floor. Mazal tov Daniel.
Beth Shalom has a new mantle, a companion to the purple one installed a few months ago. Like the purple mantle, the teal green velvet echoes the glass and seating.
There are more connections to the existing palette and the imagery already in the sanctuary. The bands of dancing gold and silver pohutukawa leaves create an edge, top and bottom of both mantles.
The pohutukawa leaves also became the main element used in the menorah. Lilach Cohen, who designed the embroidery, started with a sprig of leaves and developed the design to encapsulate the menorah shape used on the Ner Tamid and the sides of the bimah. What she did was to give the menorah a lightness and liveliness – fitting characteristics for a contemporary Torah mantle.
The short text – l’dor vador – reminds us how we pass the Torah from generation to generation.
Special thanks go to Sue Kranz who donated the mantle. The small committee who saw the project through consisted of Chris Shiller, Olga Bernstein and Helen Schamroth, who managed the overall design and completion of the mantle.
It was a pleasure to have a full sanctuary to honour the introduction of the Torah mantle and Arthur Berman’s 80th birthday.
Today is the 18th of June; exactly 6 months since I landed back in Israel after absence of almost 39 years.
When I started the process of moving back about a year ago, I decided to start a blog and record my activities, progress and maybe my feelings about the experience. As the great planner that I am, I started a blog, posted my Toshav Hozer status approval, and got too busy to continue with the blog.
When I landed in Israel and was waiting for my container to arrive I thought – this is a great opportunity to start writing about my experience. Maybe writing a blog is not for me, so I will write a diary and send letters to friends who are interested in my adventures. So I wrote a long goodbye letter to my friends at the Waikato Jewish Association. I even got a few responses…..
When I was asked by Beth Shalom to write for the newsletter I agreed right away. But the months passed by and I never wrote. Now the time has come and I have no excuses so here it is – I promise to send a monthly update – no kvetching and not complaining, just stories.
Why do I need a 4-bedroom apartment?
Everything here is on a “need to know” basis – people always need to know the Why. The What When How and Where are never enough! So when I rented a 5-room apartment (which is actually a 4 bedroom in Israeli), I needed to explain to everyone, including new neighbors who don’t even know me – why a single old woman needs 4 bedrooms. Simple answer – one for myself, one for my daughter and her family when they visit, one as an office and one for storage (yes, I have 15 boxes of kids stuff, 10 boxes of craft stuff, 5 boxes of books that didn’t fit into the 4 bookcases, and 5 boxes of bits and bobs, tools, etc.)…. More complex answer – my house in NZ was 415 m2 so this is really tiny.
Bureaucracy or not
Is the bureaucracy in Israel worse than in other counties? Are people working in government/ public service offices worse than in other countries? I am still not sure – when you arrive in a new country, you encounter a different culture, different customer service standards, and different expectations - and you have to deal at once, or within a short time span, with activities you would have done in your familiar previous place of residence over time.
I found, that as a Toshav Hozer that left 40 years ago I had to deal with a number of issues that an Oleh Chadash might not have to deal with: first of course is the question that every person I spoke to (including those in public service) – “why did you come back?” which right away becomes a topic of long conversation about how beautiful New Zealand is and how the person I am speaking with want to visit because he has friends in Australia (?).
I have the best answer - I came back because I am a Savta now. Families with young kids know that having a Savta’s child care/pick up service is essential to a successful career and family life. To the comment about how wonderful NZ is, my answer is – yes, but after you have seen all the amazing nature/ mountains/ trees/ lakes/ ocean, on a daily basis – you go to work, you take care of your family, you clean and you cook – exactly like anywhere else in the world.
Second issue – the language. My Hebrew is perfect! So I thought. You will be amazed with the number of new words in the Hebrew language that were added over the years. And I am not referring to slang –that’s the easiest part. You hear slang all the time and you catch on, even a person like me that detests the use of slang. You learn very quickly because its everywhere and mostly making sense (not sure about KAPARA yet, but I guess anyone who watched the Eurovision is using it now.... or the use of SABABA at least once in every sentence regardless of the context). I mean real words developed and approved by The Academy of the Hebrew Language, about everything and anything from information technology to legal terminology. Did you know that Spoiler is Kalklan??? I just love their website – a world of new words to learn and practice.
We have all encountered drunken teenagers, be it kids in town, or god forbid, our own kids or their friends. One of the main characteristics of drunken behaviour is the use of uninhibited foul language. Well, the funniest thing happened to me.
I had to take the bus late at night (11pm) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The bus was about two thirds full. I sat in a comfortable seat by the window staring at the darkness. About 10 minutes into the ride I could smell cigarette smoke. Obviously other people smelled it too and started to yell at the offender who continued to smoke.
The bus driver stopped the bus in the middle of nowhere, got up and walked to the back of the bus telling the smoker to get out because he called the police and now we have to wait for them to arrest the smoker. Well, a couple of people told the driver to continue driving as they will make sure the smoker will stop. Everyone was happy. No more smoke.
Then the chanting started from the back “Adonai Echad” few minutes silence than “Adonai Eloheinu”. Now everyone on the bus started to laugh. Ten minutes later it started again - “Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad”. For the next 20 minutes it was all Shema!! When I got off the bus I finally got to see the smoker/chanter. He was definitely still drunk, about 15-16, wearing a kippa, happy as a lark. I hope he managed to get home safely.
So that’s Israel.
“Flamingo”, is now in New Zealand. Exclusive cards and gift wrap. Beautiful, unique designs by over 40 artists.
Made in the United Kingdom - very ‘eco’ friendly, great quality and value. Cards for everyone and all occasions (sorry, no Jewish themes).
Look forward to hearing from you.
Ted and I have been having a great time teaching Jewish Studies to the Kita Aleph and Bet classes for the past two terms. We believe that for children to identify positively as Jews they need to feel like they can personally relate to our tradition, and that connecting to Judaism should be a joyful experience. We have focused on G’milut Chasadim, acts of loving kindness, as a framework for all of our learning. We created a G’milut Chasadim tree in our classroom. Each week the children reflect on simple acts of loving kindness that they have performed during the previous week. They write these acts on a leaf cut-out and put it on our tree. The tree is growing and growing with all of their mitzvot.
As we have learned about holidays and Torah stories, the tree has also been celebrated on Tu b’Shvat (and nearly died during the 10 plagues at Passover) and it has played “the Tree of Knowledge” as we learned about the Genesis story and discussed the “evils” that were released by Adam and Eve. As we read the Cain and Abel story, the children strongly related to feelings of jealousy and resentment towards their siblings. We connected this back to Shalom Bayit, a peaceful home, and discussed ways that they could contribute to a more peaceful family and home. We created Jewish homes from shoeboxes and learned about symbols of Judaism that can be found in a Jewish home (along with loving families).
During the next term, Kita Aleph and Bet will continue to study Torah stories and how they connect us to our past and our present. We will also be learning how to celebrate Shabbat by reciting the prayers and discussing the rituals. Each child will have a chance to share her own family’s Shabbat traditions with the class. As the high holidays approach, we will attempt to help the children find personal meaning and belonging in the rich traditions and prayers.
Tami Harris and Ted Ries
Half the year has gone and Bnei Mishnah Term 3 is about to start. This term we are focussing on preparing the Bnei Mishnah LIMMUD session which is on Kol Isha Shabbat Berva: A Progressive Jewish perspective ("A Woman’s Voice is Nakedness").
The sessions preparing for LIMMUD will be held at Beth Shalom and led by Chris Milton. It would be appreciated if kids come to ALL sessions this term, as it is very difficult for Chris (and the other students) to prepare a coherent LIMMUD session if kids are coming in and out.
The days and times are as follows:
Sunday 12 August 5-7 pm Sunday 19 August 5-7pm If you are able to provide snacks for any of these sessions for the group, please email Debbie or Tanya.LIMMUD NZ is on the weekend of 25-26 August, with the Bnei Mishnah class speaking on Sunday 26 August.
Please register to come to LIMMUD NZ to support your kids! www.limmud.org.nz Looking forward to seeing you in Term 3.
The Bnei Mishnah Team.
Beth Shalom Bnei Mishnah Class Report
Comment: Building on the success of Term 1, Term 2 saw the Bnei Mishnah Class delivering real variety, with sessions on Jewish food; meeting (and quizzing) visiting Rabbis; social activism through art and Tikkun Olam.
Comment: The Bnei Mishnah Class shows a great attitude to learning new things in a new way. The sessions in parent homes has really worked to involve parents in this next stage of their teenagers’ journeys – with special thanks to parents/community members Tamar Lazarus, David Zussman, Todd Nachowitz and Jude & Sue Berman for their considerable efforts in preparing and running sessions.
Student Socialisation: A
Comment: The Bnei Mishnah students appear to enjoy socialising with each other and making the most of opportunities to chat, catch up and of course look at their phones while in the same room together. We predict strong friendships that will continue as these young people form the foundation of our community going forward.
Snacks: A Comment: This important facet of Bnei Mishnah class has not been ignored this term. The Alfassi-Bermans set a very high standard with a full Israeli spread including hummus made by the kids. The Zussmans and Tamar Lazarus were close competitors who took the job of providing sustenance very seriously, which was duly appreciated by the students (and the parents lucky enough to be there to share).
Summary: The new fortnightly Sunday afternoon format is working really well and the kids attending have made the most of the opportunities provided. Parent support is really encouraged - we are covered for venues for Term 3 (which is LIMMUD preparation led by Chris Milton) but would appreciate offers of snacks! We are looking for venue hosts and parents who are able to run all or part of a session for Term 4. Please contact Debbie Miller if you can help.
The introductory course has been interesting as I read, observe and listen both in and out of the synagogue. I have found the weekly readings bring not just new information but crystallizes things that I have always believed and given light and oxygen to these beliefs. I feel like I have been led to Judaism and that it has brought me spiritual integrity. I am getting answers to deep questions and emotions that I have had for a long time. The course, being stretched out the way it is has, allowed me to breathe and examine and ask; it gives me space to find the answers for myself without pressure.
I feel like I am finding my spiritual bearings. The spooky part is that I feel like I have found my family members here, like I have come home, regardless of having no genealogical connection. The Jewish observances and practices feel natural and fitting even though they are new to me. Without the support of the wider congregation it would probably be too scary to keep coming to lessons and services, but I have only experienced warmth and welcome, for which I am deeply grateful.
A group of Beth Shalom members has commenced, to think of and pray for individuals in our community, who are in need of healing.
The idea is that this group is not an organised group or minyan. Simply, caring people who, when made aware of the need, help healing with the power of prayer.
And that families in distress might receive comfort from the knowledge that this is taking place.
Caring for the unwell is part of being a community.
For those interested, I can supply articles: “The Jewish Way in Healing”, and some scientific research on the positive power of prayer in healing.
If you wish to be part of this group
Or, if you know of someone who is unwell that would appreciate our prayer
Please contact Leon Goldwater or Christine O’Brien at shul office
Leon: email@example.com 020 403 88054
Christine: firstname.lastname@example.org 524 4139
It was like coming home, is the way former Aucklander Ruth Thomas describes her return to Wellington.
Last year she returned to the home of her birth and is now a member of Beth Shalom’s sister congregation Temple Sinai.
Her earlier career was as the editor of a group of community newspapers in Wellington, the most well-known being Johnsonville’s Independent Herald. She had three sons but had lost touch with her Jewish roots.
When her husband died she was offered a job in Auckland and much to many people’s surprise, she took it. For the next 25 years, Ruth worked and lived in Auckland. During those years she was first a community newspaper editor and then lectured in journalism at the Auckland University of Technology for 15 years. She also edited Beth Shalom’s newsletter and was a board member.
“I really enjoyed my time in Auckland,” she said.
“It’s a great city which offered me many opportunities including continuing my qualifications and gaining a PhD, learning a lot about the teaching of journalism and contributing to the Auckland Jewish community.
From those years, one event stands out.
“When I was new to Auckland, I took a friend who was interested in converting to Judaism to Beth Shalom. I had grown up in the Orthodox synagogue in Wellington but previously had had nothing to do with Progressive Judaism.”
The rabbi at the time was Rabbi Aviva Kipen.
“She called me to the Torah. It was a life-changing moment. I had always sat with the other women in the balcony of the synagogue away from the men. But this was a woman rabbi and I was standing before the open ark.
“That was my aliyah,” Ruth said.
From that time on she was an active member of Beth Shalom until her retirement and move to an outlying Auckland beach at Leigh. But her heart was always in Wellington where she was born, grew up and had her family and so last year she moved back.
Temple Sinai is a much smaller community than Beth Shalom, but it is a very warm, caring community, she says.
“Its warmth and inclusiveness have a lot to do with another woman rabbi, JoEllen Duckor who is the mashpiah or spiritual leader at Temple Sinai.”
It also has a very active youth group, previously led by Sapeer Mayron who has recently departed to Samoa, furthering her career.
Ruth says she went to this year’s third seder at Temple Sinai. What struck her was the large crowd gathered in the small house that encloses the synagogue.
“There were well over a hundred there and amongst them were many young people, not only the ones who were waiting on tables.”
She was pleased to meet up with the Livschitz family, Harvey, Jenny and Sarah who had moved from Auckland.
“Harvey told me how impressed he was by the number of young people taking part in activities in Wellington,” Ruth said.
“It’s an important sign for the future of Judaism.”
The idea of birkat hamazon, of a Grace after meals, originates in the Torah with the simple requirement that "When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He gave you" (Deuteronomy 8:10). In Yiddish this set of brochot (and traditionally associated liturgical material) is referred to by the verb “bentch” or “bentsh.” The main blessings (of which there are four, see below) were written down in the Babylonian Talmud Berachot 48b.
Yiddish itself is substantially based in 13th century German into which is woven Hebrew, some Slavic and Turkic words and Latin. The grammar is dominantly Slavic. Bentsh (or bench) is a Yiddish word that comes from the Latin verb “to bless’ which is benedicere. Over the years, its polysyllables rounded and smoothed and the conjugate form Germanized, have given us the word bentshn. “Benching” is the English version of bentshn. (Likewise, the word leyn derives via the same process from the Latin word legere “to read”.)
There is a story that in the old days in Eastern Europe a young woman’s suitor would be confronted by her parents with a variety of foods – he was then asked to say the appropriate brochot, in the correct order and of the correct sort, in order to see if he was sufficiently learned as a match for their daughter. The same test can to an extent be used with the different forms that the Grace after meals would take! There are in fact at least three forms of the Grace after meals but our interest is in the birkat hamazon. The birkat hamazon is recited when a meal was preceded by the brocha hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz[i].
Like most everything else in the liturgy, birkat hamazon has become longer over the years as more has been added to it, but it consists of four essential blessings mentioned in the Talmud. The shortest form of birkat hamazon is the kitzur birkat hamazon. The kitzur birkat hamazon was authorized by Maimonides according to Rabbi Elazar Rifael HaLevi Ibn Tovu[ii]. It is said that it is proper to recite this shortened form when saying the long form would be rushed, thus compromising kavanah[iii]. Except on Shabbat, birkat hamazon commences with an invitation, said only when there are three or more people present, which convenes the group to praise God. Following this there are the four essential blessings: the first thanks God for nourishment, the second thanks God for the Land of Israel, the third refers to Jerusalem and the fourth accents positive elements of the relationship between the Jewish people and God. In addition, after these four blessings, there is a series of short prayers, each beginning with the word Harachaman (the Merciful One) which ask for God's compassion. On Shabbat birkat hamazon commences with Psalm 126 as well as an additional Harachaman that refers to Shabbat. The set concludes with the oseh shalom.
There are several different texts for birkat hamazon. The most widely available is the Ashkenazi version but there are also Sephardi, Yemenite and Italian ones and there may be others depending on tradition. All of the texts follow the same basic structure but the wording may vary.
We have now released the programme for you to browse before registering.
Please note that sessions and descriptions may shuffle and be added until the LIMMUD weekend. However we will do our best to keep this to a minimum.
For everything, Koheleth reminds us, there is a season. And now we’re approaching that of renewal and rededication, with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur drawing ever closer.
It’s a season not just for resolving immediate issues and preparing mentally and spiritually for the year ahead. It’s also a time for touching base with who we are and with the influences that have formed us, including, most notably, those of deceased parents and other loved ones.
That’s why, particularly at this time of year, it’s important to visit the graves of our beloved dead, to follow the ancient custom of laying stones around the graveside and to spend a few minutes or more in reflection and prayer.
For many centuries, Jewish communities have sought to perform this task collectively at this time of year, with a special service called K’ver Avot (literally ‘grave of the fathers’) held at a communal burial site.
At Beth Shalom, we’re no strangers to this custom. Each year, the B&B organises a service at our consecrated grounds at Waikumete in West Auckland, after which we can wander respectfully around the site, placing pebbles on the graves of those we remember, be they from our own family or someone else’s.
This year, we plan to hold the ceremony on Sunday 16th September, starting at 3.00 pm. Please do try and join us there!
Not only will you be helping to keep an emotionally significant custom alive for yourself and for others. You will also be paying appropriate respect to those who have passed away, including, quite literally, many of the mothers and fathers of Progressive Judaism in New Zealand, some of whom came here in search of refuge from persecution and genocide.
Nor is this only a ceremony for those with families buried at Waikumete. If your loved ones are at rest somewhere else and you can’t currently visit them, K’ver Avot is still an opportunity to connect with past generations of Jews, to honour their memory and be sustained by that experience. The chances are that, if your parents knew what you were doing, they would thoroughly approve.
The same holds true for those who are Jews by Choice. When you became Jewish, your birth parents remained your parents. But you also, in a sense, became the child of all those past generations of Jews laid to rest at Waikumete and elsewhere. Perhaps K’ver Avot can be an occasion to reflect on both your heritages and draw strength from them.
Finally, the B&B’s Board has asked me to wish all our members a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year. May I add my good wishes to theirs.
Early Bird registrations close soon - August 17th. Click here
Full programme details are ava.ilable on the website. This will be an inspiring and important Biennial, designed to help us progress and transform our congregation while expressing the values which are at heart of Progressive Judaism.
To help in that task will be one of the most dynamic and insightful Jewish scholars of our time, Rabbi Dr Lawrence Hoffman from the Hebrew Union College in New York. .
Larry Hoffman has revolutionised Jewish thinking in two areas: worship and liturgy, what he calls “the art of public prayer”; and synagogue transformation, creating synagogues that are relevant and meaningful for the 21st century.
The Biennial is not just for Board members and leaders – if you need an excuse to visit dynamic Melbourne, make this event that excuse! There are attractive registration prices for New Zealanders attending the Biennial for the first time.