In this month's newsletter you'll find information about upcoming events, as well as Notes from the Rabbi, Shabbat candle lighting information, and more...
January 2023 | Tevet 5783

From Rabbi Rachel
Rabbi Rachel BarenblatDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

The coldest weather of the year is ahead of us, but the days have already started imperceptibly getting longer. Especially during years like this one, when the winter solstice falls during Chanukah, it can feel a little bit like the increasing light of our candles has called back the increasing light of the sun. We’re nowhere near done with the cold, but we are done with the darkening of the days. From here until the end of June, every day brings more light.

The next big event on our spiritual calendar is the New Year of the Trees, Tu BiShvat, which arrives at the full moon of deep winter — this year on the evening of February 5. Our mystics teach that at Tu BiShvat, the sap begins to rise to feed the coming summer’s leaves and blooms and fruit. Tu BiShvat invites us to believe that summer’s abundance is already on the way, even if we can’t yet see it or feel it. It reminds us that there is more going on than meets the eye.

This newsletter is coming out at the January / Tevet full moon. Among the Naudowessie (Dakota) tribe, the February full moon is called the Snow Moon. Some Algonquin peoples call it the Groundhog Moon. (I wonder whether that’s the origin of our story of Groundhog Day? I learned those names’ origin from the Farmer’s Almanac.) Among the Stockbridge-Munsee band of the Mahican tribe, it’s called the Deep Snow Moon (source: this list of Native moon names).

I like knowing the names that some other communities have given to the coming full moon. On our spiritual calendar, the full moon of Shvat is the first spiritual step toward the coming spring. Tu BiShvat, Purim, and Pesach are all full moon holidays. Each year we look inward to feel our own spiritual sap rising, we celebrate what’s topsy-turvy and what’s hidden, and we push through narrow straits toward freedom under the bright light of three consecutive full moons.

What in us lies dormant at this season of bitter cold that might begin stirring as we take these spiritual steps toward spring? What tiny seed can we nurture into vibrant growth, what ember burns from which our inmost light can be kindled? For me, these are the questions of this month leading up to Tu BiShvat. What do I want to grow this year — not in a garden bed or in terra-cotta pots on my deck when the weather warms, but in that invisible part of me that we call the soul?

One way to look inward is through writing. If that calls to you, I hope you’ll take part in my Spiritual Writing: Midrash and Making Meaning class this winter. We’ll look at stories in Torah, study some classical midrashic (storytelling) responses, and then write our own midrash about how we imagine a character felt or what was going on for them as the Torah story unfolded. As we write those characters into deeper and richer being, we’ll learn things about ourselves, too.

Here’s to winter introspection, to the beauty of moonlight on snow, and to savoring more light.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

If you would like to schedule a meeting with Rabbi Rachel,
please use our
contact form to arrange a time.
Shabbat Morning Service
Every Saturday at 9:30am (unless proceeded by Kabbalat Shabbat or otherwise noted)

Kabbalat Shabbat
One Friday evening per month at 7pm
Upcoming Dates: January 20, February 17, & March 17
For Zoom information, please check our weekly announcement emails or contact the CBI office.
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Saturday, January 14, 9:30am: Family Shabbat Service
Join together with other families in a joyous celebration of Shabbat through songs, stories, prayers, movement-based activities, and more related to the week’s Torah portion. There will be roles for young children and for older kids to actively participate. All are welcome to attend! RSVPs and masks are required; this service will be held onsite only.

Funding to help make CBI’s family education programs free to all has been provided by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Tuesday, January 17, 7pm (EST): Welcome to Grandparenting: The Joys & the Challenges
Please join us for a didactic and interactive Zoom presentation and discussion given by Frances T. Bond, PhD. During this event Dr. Bond will speak about:

  • Grandparenting as an opportunity to play, to “fall” in love, and to appreciate the magic of a developing mind.
  • Staying connected with grandchildren from birth to adulthood; how grandparents can provide support, generate memories, and create a lasting bond.
  • How grandparents can meet the challenges of distance and busy schedules.

We invite you to join us for this engaging event — please RSVP if you are interested in attending.

For Zoom information, please check our weekly announcement emails or contact the CBI office.

Wednesday, January 18, 7:30pm (EST): CBI Book Club
Join the CBI Book Club via Google Meet to discuss Bread Givers (1925) by Anzia Yezierska, probably the first novel to be published in America by an immigrant Jewish female writer. A proto-feminist book, Bread Givers dramatizes the struggle between a father of the Old World and a daughter of the New seeking to free herself from the "woman's role" assigned to her by men, paralleling in many ways Yezierska's own journey. Please contact Suzanne Levy Graver at if you wish to have your name added to the Google Meet list.

Jan. 20 Kabbalat Shabbat featuring the harmonies of the CBI Choir! All are welcome!

Friday, January 20, 7pm: Multi-Access Kabbalat Shabbat Service
Join us on Friday night as we light candles and welcome Shabbat with prayer and song. Let go of the week, breathe in the “extra soul” that Shabbat brings, and let poetry and melody begin to replenish heart and soul. At this Kabbalat Shabbat service the CBI choir, led by Adam Green, will offer harmonies to lift our hearts and spirits! All are welcome to join us onsite, but you must RSVP via our website if you plan on attending; masks are required. Service will still be available online for those who wish to participate on Zoom.

For Zoom information, please check our weekly announcement emails or contact the CBI office.

Saturday, January 21, 4pm: Young Family Storytime & Havdalah
Hear stories that uplift Jewish values with audience participation and laughter. It’s time for families to celebrate Havdalah with Rabbi Rachel and Jane Shiyah, teacher and resident storyteller, in the CBI sanctuary. We’ll end Shabbat with song, grape juice, and fragrant spices, as the shadows cast by a braided candle as darkness settles over the hills. Please RSVP if your family plans to join us; masks are required. All are welcome to attend!

Funding to help make CBI’s family education programs free to all has been provided by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Saturday, January 28, 9:30am: Multi-Access Shabbat Morning Service
Multi-access Shabbat morning service will be held at 9:30am. All are welcome to join us onsite, but you must RSVP via our website if you plan on attending; masks are required. (Please note that we will not be holding a kiddush / oneg at this time.) Service will still be available online for those who wish to participate on Zoom.

For Zoom information, please check our weekly announcement emails or contact the CBI office.

Sunday, January 29, 10am: Meditative Sound Bath Experience
Back by popular demand! In this meditative sound bath experience led by Chaya Schneider (Sound Healing Academy Level I certified), crystal bowls, koshi chimes, and the sound of the gong will help reduce stress, facilitate deep relaxation, and promote physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. You can feel free to lie down or stay seated in a comfortable position for the duration of the experience. Please bring a yoga mat, blanket, pillow, eye pillow, water bottle, and anything else you would like to ensure your comfort. This event is onsite only; please RSVP via our website if you plan on joining us.

(Snow Date: Sunday, February 5 at 10am)

Friday, February 3, 7:30pm (EST): First Friday Shabbat Zoom Gathering
Stay connected with CBI friends and neighbors, or meet new ones, as we gather together around the Zoom table to celebrate the Jewish traditions of Shabbat and light the candles and bless the wine and challah. Please RSVP via our website if you plan to attend.

For Zoom information, please check our weekly announcement emails or contact the CBI office.
Shabbat Shirah - The Shabbat of Song. Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Cantorial Soloist Ziva Larson for a Shabbat of music and harmony as we re-experience the Song at the Sea! The is also Refugee Shabbat: we'll celebrate Judaism's strong support for asylum-seekers and refugees.

Saturday, February 4, 9:30am: Multi-Access Shabbat Shirah Morning Service & Refugee Shabbat
Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Cantorial Soloist Ziva Larson for an extra-musical Shabbat morning as we celebrate Shabbat Shirah, the Shabbat of Song. We’ll hear the Song at the Sea (perhaps Torah’s most ancient musical poem) and our prayers will be adorned with extra music and harmony! This Shabbat is also Refugee Shabbat, an opportunity for the Jewish community to communicate our strong, shared support for refugees and asylum seekers, so our d’var Torah that morning will draw on those themes. All are welcome to join us onsite, but you must RSVP via our website if you plan on attending; masks are required. (Please note that we will not be holding a kiddush / oneg at this time.) Service will still be available online for those who wish to participate on Zoom.

For Zoom information, please check our weekly announcement emails or contact the CBI office.

Saturday, February 4, 3:30pm: Tu BiShvat Seder
Join Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and the CBI community for our annual Tu BiShvat seder, a ritual of tikkun (repair). We’ll draw on poetry, mysticism, and meditation as we journey through the four worlds and the four seasons, blessing and eating symbolic tree fruits and nuts along the way. The unique spiritual energies of Shabbat afternoon will sweeten our journey. We’ll finish with havdalah, marking the end of Shabbat with song, candle-light, and spices. This program will be multi-access (both onsite and online); those participating via Zoom will receive a list of foods to have on hand in advance. Please RSVP online if you plan on joining us in-person or online!

There will be a fee of $10 per adult for onsite participation; children are free. (If this fee is onerous for you, please contact Rabbi Rachel.) All are welcome to join us online at no cost; Zoom information will be available in the coming weeks.

For even more upcoming events, read on!
Visit Israel with Rabbi Rachel This Spring

Rabbi Rachel would like to share with you that she will be taking her son on a trip to Israel in late May / early June, and I'd be delighted if any of the CBI community wanted to join.

The trip will be co-led by Rabbi Heidi Hoover of B'Shert in Brooklyn and Rabbi David Markus of Temple Beth El of City Island, whom many of you know. Both are dynamic spiritual leaders and will be fun travel companions. As another rabbi on board, Rabbi Rachel will also help out as needed.

Together we'll explore the multicultural multi-faith Israel that is Judaism's touchstone. We'll journey into the heart of all four major Israeli religions, visit key spiritual centers on and off the beaten path, and delve into the living waters that nourish the history, spirituality, and ecology of ancient and modern Israel.

There is also an optional Negev and Petra extension. Please click here for itinerary and cost information. The $500 deposit is fully refundable until the end of February; the travel agency is asking that we register ASAP.

Once you register, please email Rabbi Rachel to let her know that you've done so, and she'll pass that along to the travel agency and the other rabbis to keep everyone in the loop.

In addition, Rabbi Heidi and Rabbi David will jointly offer a Thursday night mini-course, The Spiritual History of Eretz Yisrael, beginning in late February for trip participants (via Zoom). The spiritual history of Israelites and the modern State of Israel is bound up with the physical and emotional geography of place. Together we'll explore that history through the lens of actual places in Tanakh, keyed to the upcoming Israel trip's itinerary. This mini-course is open to all, but it is recommended for Israel travelers. Tuition is $72 for members of CBI & TBE and $108 for non-members. Please email Rabbi Rachel if you're interested in registering — the more we know about where we're going, the more meaningful our journey will be.

If you've been considering a trip to Israel, we hope you'll join us on this one!

Actors & Singers Wanted for Passover 5783

CBI will be presenting a Greek tragedy in April for Passover! In 250 BCE a Jewish poet in the Greek city of Alexandria in Egypt wrote Exagoge (Exodus). This Greek tragedy is an amalgam of Jewish and Greek culture. It presents Moses as a tragic hero and will include music composed and directed by Adam Green. The play will be directed by Dr. Len Radin. There are three adult speaking roles and a number of singing roles for the Greek Chorus. Rehearsals will start in January. For more information, please contact Len by email at

Exciting Plans for the CBI Book Club

The CBI Book Club has gotten off to a wonderful start! Beginning with our first meeting last June and monthly since then, we’ve greatly enjoyed reading and discussing books of Jewish interest — both classic and contemporary — with one another.

And we’re off to a great start for the New Year! On Wednesday, January 18 at 7:30pm (via Google Meet), we’ll discuss Bread Givers (1925) by Anzia Yezierska, which may well be the first novel published in America by an immigrant Jewish female writer.

On Wednesday, February 15 at 7:30pm, CBI’s Book Club takes yet another exciting turn — prize-winning author Aaron Tillman will be meeting with us to discuss four of his recently published stories. To save us the fee of buying his books, Tillman has sent us PDF files for each of these stories, which we will circulate in advance to everyone who signs up to attend this meeting.

Other exciting plans currently in the works include a CBI Book Club session with Elizabeth Graver (yes! Suzanne’s daughter), who has agreed to join us either in June or in the early fall to discuss Kantika, her latest novel. Set in Istanbul, Barcelona, Havana, and New York City between 1925 & the early 1950s, Kantika features Suzanne’s Sephardic Jewish family. Kantika will be released this year on April 18, but it can be pre-ordered now on Amazon. Advance praise includes: “Intimately imagined, lyrically written, and rich with historical detail, Kantika weaves forced displacement, wild reinvention and triumphant healing into a big, border-crossing family saga. Marvelous!”—Gish Jen, author of Thank You, Mr. Nixon.

CBI’s Book Group welcomes new members. Please contact Suzanne Levy Graver by email at if you wish to have your name added to our Book Club Google Meet list.

Shabbat & Havdalah Times

If you want to light Shabbat candles and make havdalah at the halakhically-accepted times, the times for the upcoming month can be found below:

January 13 light at 4:23pm (18 minutes before sundown)
January 14 havdalah at 5:25pm (42 minutes after sundown)

January 20 light at 4:31pm
January 21 havdalah at 5:33pm

January 27 light at 4:40pm
January 28 havdalah at 5:42pm

February 3 light at 4:50pm
February 4 havdalah at 5:51pm

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!

Spiritual Writing: Midrash and Making Meaning
Midrash are interpretive stories that explore the blank spaces in Torah, often offering answers to questions of meaning, character, and inner life. We’ll read some classical midrash and explore what driving questions fueled the sages. Then with guided writing exercises, creative prompts, and gentle feedback, we’ll also write and share our own midrashic responses to the Torah stories at hand. This adult education class taught by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat will meet on Zoom from 7pm to 8:30pm (EST) on Wednesdays: January 25; February 1, 8, & 15; and March 1 & 8. Tuition is $72 for members of CBI & TBE, and $108 for non-members.
Please click here to register via Google Forms!
Community-Wide Hootenany Havdalah, Saturday, February 4, 7pm at Knesset Israel. Join our Berkshire Rabbis, local musicians, and Hevreh's artist-in-residence, Peri Smilow, for an inspirational evening of singing, jamming, and schmoozing.  All ages welcome! Bring your own tambourine, maracas, or musical shaker to join the fun! Also available via livestream at: Co-sponsored by Congregation Beth Israel, Federation and our fellow Jewish organizations.
First Friday Shabbat Zoom Gatherings Return!
Stay connected with CBI friends and neighbors, or meet new ones, as we gather together around the Zoom table to celebrate the Jewish traditions of Shabbat and light the candles, bless the wine & challah. We'll meet one Friday a month through May 2023 at 7:30pm — please join us!

Upcoming Dates:
February 3,
March 3,
April 7,
& May 5

Please click here to RSVP for February!
Tu BiShvat Celebration
Sunday, February 5
at 4pm
Family Shabbat Services
Upcoming: February 11, March 25,
April 15, & May 13 at 9:30am
Click here to RSVP for any of our upcoming Family Events!
Funding to help make CBI’s family education programs free to all has been provided by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation
Dr. Brahim El GuabliPlease join us on Zoom on Wednesday, February 22 at 4pm (EST) for Reckoning with Loss: Moroccan Jews Return in Literature and Film, an informative and fascinating presentation on the accounting of Morocco’s emigrated Jewish population. Our speaker will be Indigenous Amazigh scholar, Dr. Brahim El Guabli, Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature at Williams College.

Moroccan literature and film are finally accounting for the loss of the country’s emigrated Jewish population. Up until six decades ago, Morocco had the largest Jewish population in Tamazgha (the broader North Africa). Moroccan Jews lived with their Muslim co-citizens in both urban centers and remote villages, forming communities and forging bonds that are no longer available to the younger generations due to the departure of Moroccan Jews in the 1960s. Waves of migration between 1956 and 1973 took the majority of Moroccan Jews outside their country of origin, leaving a deep void in the places where they used to live.

Although the former presence of Moroccan Jews is the object of a vivid intergenerational memory, cultural production, for the most part, avoided any engagement with this crucial part of the country’s history until the last twenty years. However, a vibrant and increasingly rich literature and film are finally rising from Morocco’s Jewish-Muslim past, accounting for the departed Jewish community. This talk will contextualize the return of Moroccan Jews in literature and film within a larger context of reckoning with the country’s past. Particularly, the talk will show how literature and film are creating space for a novel Jewish-Muslim history in Morocco.

We look forward to your participation in this event. Please RSVP online if you plan on attending.
Kantika by Elizabeth Graver
In conversation & song, novelist Elizabeth Graver and singer/writer Sarah Aroeste will explore the history & oral traditions of Sephardic storytelling & music through their own lives, new books, & family journeys at a special JFB event at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire on June 2 at 10:45am.

Elizabeth Graver’s fifth novel, Kantika, was inspired by her grandmother, Rebecca née Cohen Baruch Levy, who was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Istanbul & whose tumultuous and shape-shifting life journey took her to Spain, Cuba & finally New York.

Inspired by her family’s roots in N. Macedonia & Greece, Sarah Aroeste has spent two decades bringing Sephardic culture to new audiences. In addition to composing songs, Sarah has published numerous articles & essays about Sephardic cultural preservation and writes Sephardic themed books for children, including the newly released Mazal Bueno! (Kar-Ben 2023).
Please click here to register!
Have items for the February newsletter?
Please submit them to by January 27.

Our Labyrinth Is Open Even When The Shul Isn't!

You are welcome to come anytime during daylight hours and walk our meditation labyrinth. It is a beautiful practice that can be calming and centering. (Here's more about our labyrinth and about the practice of labyrinth walking.) During this time of pandemic, we ask that if you see others using the labyrinth, you maintain "social distancing" and stay six feet apart from each other.

Mi Sheberach

CBI sends blessings for refuah shleimah (full healing) to those who seek healing. May they have the fullest recovery possible in body, heart, mind, and soul.
Amalia bat Elka
Aryeh ben Malkah
Avivah Micah bat Miryam v’Aryeh
Chuck Beard
Sue Bohl
Alan Calhoun
Mary Ann Calhoun
Channah bat Rachel
David ben Rivka
Travis Denton
Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus
Bruce Dumouchel
Eli ben Yitzchak v'Pesha
David Frazer
Fred Golob
HaRav Aviva Elisheva bat
Gavriela Simcha ve-HaRav Simcha
haRav Fraydel Rivka bat Zlata Rayna
Rachael Hermann
Susan Marjorie Hofstein
Susan Hogan
Chris Kelly
Keturah bat Miriam v'Yosef
Mary Kirby
Kobey bat Bina v'Yonatan
Margaret Larabee
Dave Mangun
Zowie Martin-Levesque
Olivier Meslay
Miriam bat Teya
Nick Moulton
Peter Murphy
Jane Ostacher
Mark Penner
Myra Pfeifer
Katie Polebaum-Freeman
Cindy Polinsky
Jami Pytko
Randall Reiner
Eva Rollnik
Gail Rudin
Deacon Frank Ryan
Erika Sacks
Ed Sedarbaum
Harry Sheehy
Shira bat Malka
Rachel Shiyah-Satullo
Shmuel ben Avraham v’Sarah
Shmuel Caleb ben Avraham v'Sarah
Shoshana bat Mindy
Lois Simpson
John Storey
Jack Troia
Tziviah Miriam bat Chaya Liba
Yocheved Shoshana bat Hana
Yonah ben Leah
CBI keeps Healing List names for a month, subject to renewal. In case of a request for confidentiality, only clergy will know; names will be kept private. To add or renew a name, please email
Happy Birthday to those who are celebrating in January!
Naseem Adams-El Guabli
Jen Burt
Alice Cande
Samuel Cellana
Brahim El Guabli
Barbara Feder Mindel
Molly Howard

Bernie Lenhoff
Steven Miller
Peter Murphy
Emma Sandstrom
Roberta Sullivan
Richard Taskin

Al Bashevkin & Nancy Pearlman … in memory of Edith Bashevkin
George & Dena Drasin … in support of CBI
Laura Dumouchel … in memory of Fred Fabel
Wendy & Timothy Higgins … for the Cemetery in memory of Mitchell Burgin
Marc & Vivienne Jaffe … in memory of Robert Jaffe
George Rosenthal & Jane Fanburg … in memory of Dr. Arthur & Edith Rosenthal
Ken & Fern Sann … for the High Holiday Appeal
Ellen Schiff … in memory of Daniel Berley & Morton Schiff
Rabbi Pam Wax & Chaim Bronstein … in honor of Drew Zuckerman's Bar Mitzvah
+ in memory of Herbert Wax

Susan & Charles Welsch … in honor of Drew Zuckerman's Bar Mitzvah,
in healing for Myra Pfeifer, + in memory of Howard Golob

Donations to CBI are always welcome and may be directed towards:

Ongoing Support for CBI
Building Fund
Cemetery Fund
Chesed Fund
Education Fund
Rabbi's Discretionary Fund
Take & Eat (on hiatus)
The L'Dor V'Dor Legacy Society
Upkeep & Care for CBI's Grounds & Gardens
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