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CBI Newsletter: February 2017 / Shvat 5777

In this month's newsletter you'll find Notes from the Rabbi, service times for Shabbat, the President's Column, details of our Tu BiShvat / New Year of the Trees celebration, Ruthie's Lunch Bunch updates and remembrances, some save-the-dates for later this spring, and more!

From Rabbi Rachel: entering Shvat

 Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

On the Jewish calendar, the lunar month of Shvat (which began this year on January 28, so the new moon is still very new) offers us the first hints of the coming spring.

At the full moon of Shvat, we'll celebrate Tu BiShvat: the New Year of the Trees. On the full moon of this month, Jewish tradition calls us to celebrate the birthday of every tree (no matter when during the year it was planted, this deep winter full moon is considered the day when that tree becomes a year older.) The medieval kabbalists (mystics) of Tzfat gave us a beautiful tradition of celebrating Tu BiShvat with a seder.

Here at CBI we'll awaken our spirits to the eventual coming of spring with a Tu BiShvat lunch seder after services on Shabbat morning February 11. We'll take a mystical journey through the Four Seasons (winter / spring / summer / fall) and the Four Worlds (the physical world, the world of emotion, the world of thought, and the world of spirit.) We'll bless and eat tree fruits with special mindfulness practices to help us cultivate our connection to the earth and to our Source. 

Tradition teaches that on Tu BiShvat, the sap begins to rise to feed the growth of the coming year. Even if mid-February tends to be a deep freeze where we live, we can still open ourselves to the experience of our own spiritual sap beginning to rise and nourish us for the seasons to come. Whether you're a Tu BiShvat "regular," or you've never celebrated this holiday before, I hope you'll join us at this special opportunity to open our hearts and uplift our consciousness.

Tu BiShvat is the first step on our journey out of winter and into spring, out of constriction and toward liberation. One month after Tu BiShvat comes the full moon of the month of Adar, when we'll celebrate Purim. One month after that comes the full moon of the month of Nisan, when we'll celebrate Pesach! Tu BiShvat may come in the depths of winter, but it sets us on the trajectory toward merriment and liberation. May Tu BiShvat help all of us to connect with our hope that brighter days are coming in all four worlds.

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

Don't Miss Tu BiShvat - the New Year of the Trees!


Save the date and plan to join us for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees!

Saturday, February 11: come at 9:30 to daven (pray) the morning service (with some special Tu BiShvat treats in it)

And/or come at 11am for our Tu BiShvat lunch seder

Bless and eat tree fruits

Experience a mystical journey through the four seasons and the Four Worlds

Rekindle your commitment to caring for our earth

RSVP to rabbibarenblat at gmail dot com or call the office at 413-663-5830.

(And/or: if you use FB, please RSVP on the Facebook Event Page and share it on your own page to encourage others to come too!)

(Please bring a vegetarian / dairy dish to share.)

Shabbat and Havdalah Times

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

Feb 3 light at 4:51pm (18 minutes before sundown)
Feb 4 havdalah at 5:52pm (42 minutes after sundown)

Feb 10 light at 5:00pm
Feb 11 havdalah at 6:01

Feb 17 light at 5:09pm
Feb 18 havdalah at 6:10pm

Feb 24 light at 5:18pm
Feb 25 havdalah at 6:19pm

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.

Ruthie's Lunch Bunch - January 2017

Ruthie’s Lunch Bunch / The Next Generation

Begun in 2004 with 24 members, the first generation of Ruthie’s Lunch Bunch had been members of the CBI
community for more than 50 years. On Thursday, January 11th, we met for a special luncheon to honor their memories.

Throughout the years, the original lunch crowd, including some who traced their history to CBI’s founding in the late 1800’s, saw the CBI community as their social network. The monthly luncheons were their way to socialize with friends at a synagogue they loved and nurtured.

Of course, as time went on we lost so many and we mournedthese losses as a group. So, coming together each month became even more important. But it’s clear our “Ruthie’s Lunch Bunch” needs a rebirth.

Our memorial luncheon was our opportunity to bid farewell to the founders. Friends and family members of our original group shared memories of what these luncheons meant to them, had a few laughs and shed a few tears. Now we are looking for a new generation interested in strengthening ourbond with the CBI community. We are working on ideas for the monthly luncheon group and we would like to hear your
thoughts and suggestions.

This has been a wonderful experience, breaking bread these last twelve years with such wonderful people, and we look forward to continuing to create lovely – and loving – memories.

Jane Miller and Barbara Kaplan



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.

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 (
New CBI Course on Jewish Ethics
We are planning a course on Jewish Ethics and would like you to join us.  We will meet on five consecutive Tuesday evenings for approximately 90 minutes each beginning February 28th and some of the areas we will be covering are:
  1. Is there a “Jewish” Ethics?  What makes it Jewish?
    1.       Does theology shape our ethical perspective?
    2.       Where do “Jewish” ethics come from? How much has been absorbed from Christian sources and Greek Philosophy?
    3.        How do different streams of Judaism approach specific issues?
  2.       And we will be looking in-depth at some specific ethical challenges:
    1.       Love, sex and marriage. Including sexual orientation,
    2.       Medical ethics, including abortion,
    3.        Death, dying and burial,
    4.       Drugs and alcohol.
The course is free and open to all, so if you are interested in participating contact Michael Kaplan 413-884-6013
Join Us!

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

Meditation minyan on Friday mornings, 9am

We're gong to try a new experiment for first Fridays this winter / spring - stay tuned for more from our Spiritual Life committee about that.
President's Message

I recently read an article “7 Jewish Resolutions for 2017” ( that gives 7 easy suggestions for how to resolve to be more committed to your Judaism in 2017.  If this is one of your resolutions this year, CBI can help.


1. Start attending services.  CBI offers a variety of different ways to pray.  We offer traditional Shabbat services on Saturday mornings, but each of our prayer leaders puts their own spin and feel on the service.  Check them all out to experience different ways of relating to G-d and to experience different melodies and ways to pray.  We also offer a monthly Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday nights.  These more casual services typically begin with a potluck and are more focused on community building.  On Friday mornings, individuals can connect with G-d, nature, and their inner-selves through meditation.


2. Study Torah.  Over the last few months, CBI has offered a variety of classes focused on different aspects of Jewish culture and theology.  Current offerings include an Introduction to Judaism class being offered by Rabbi Rachel and a course on Jewish Ethics being taught by Michael Kaplan to begin later this month (February 28).  We also frequently hold Torah study sessions following Shabbat services on Saturday mornings.


3. Read a Jewish essay every day.  While there are a variety of online sources for receiving little bits of Jewish wisdom in your inbox daily (see the original article at the link above), our Jewish book club and the CBI library offer numerous sources of reading material.  Any member can sign out a book from the library at any time.  Rabbi Rachel also sends out weekly commentary/ thoughts on the week’s Torah portion and these are also posted on the CBI website (see:


4. Say a daily blessing.  The “Shabbat at Home” section of our website ( includes numerous links and ideas for blessings and observing the Sabbath.  Or talk with a current or recent Bar or Bat Mitzvah student – as part of their preparation for becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Rabbi encourages each student to experiment with different mitzvoth, including saying blessings.  Videos about some of these students’ experiences are available on our Hebrew School website.


5. Raise your voice for justice.  CBI has a strong history of engaging in social justice.  Get involved with Take and Eat, our award-winning social action program which provides hot, nutritious meals once a month to homebound seniors in North Adams.  We also engage in community service projects and events throughout the year, most recently participating in the Four Freedoms Coalition rally in Pittsfield.


6. Tune in to weekly Jewish wisdom.  As mentioned above, weekly Torah commentary is sent out by email and also posted on the Rabbi’s blog.  The URJ also offers a weekly podcast “On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah” which provides modern-day Torah commentary from URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs in 10 minutes or less.


7. Take a class on Judaism.  As mentioned above, a new class focusing on Jewish Ethics (and taught by Michael Kaplan) will be beginning at the end of this month.  Additional courses will be offered throughout the year, so watch for announcements.  Our speakers committee is also working on bringing in exciting new speakers, which offers additional opportunities for learning.


CBI offers a variety of different ways to help you connect with Judaism.  We also offer a variety of programs to help you connect with your soul or the community.  However, we are also always looking to add new programs.  What offerings or activities would you like to see?  How else can CBI meet your needs?  Ideas can be passed along to me or any other Board member.  Hope to see you at some of these many events.


Liz Miller

President, CBI

Have items for the March newsletter? Please submit them to by February 20. 

PURIM begins on
Saturday, March 11

Join us for
A Very


Beginning at 5pm
Dinner around 6ish
Purim Spiel to Follow
Save the Dates and Join Us!

Shavuot with Rabbi Rachel (May 30 - June 2) – 
Join Rabbi Rachel, Rabbi David Evan Markus and 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!) 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. July 10-16 in Stony Point, NY. For information, visit ALEPH's website.
February Birthdays

Scott Burt
Gabriel Gerry
Jonah Kelly-Whitney
Allen Kushnet
David LaChance
Emily Levy
Heather Levy
Lyra Marshall
Patricia Reichler
Rose Rudin
Cheryl Sacks
Katie Lynn Sann
Warner Smith
David Thier
Jesse Thompson
Rabbi Pamela Wax
Judith Weber
Dustin Wees
Karol White
Howard Wineberg
Kenneth Wolman

February Anniversaries

Marc & Vivienne Jaffe
Robert & Jane Miller
We're Grateful to All Who Donated in January!

High Holiday Appeal:    

Susan & Charles Welsch    

Special Donations:    

Suzanne Graver   In support of Lectures on Jewish Subjects at CBI Education Program:    

Susan & Charles Welsch    In loving memory of Dorothy Golob

Susan & Charles Welsch    In loving memory of Richard Welsch

General Donations:    

Phyllis Sands    

Susan & Charles Welsch    In memory of Lillian Glickman
CBI on Facebook:

From the Rabbi blog:
February Game Night
Saturday, Feb 25, 5:30pm

All are welcome to our Fourth Annual Game Night! We provide Pizza and Soda. You bring salad or desert to share and your favorite games.  Please RSVP to the office so we know how many to order pizza for!
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Congregation Beth Israel · 53 Lois Street · North Adams, MA 01247 · USA

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