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Mitzvah of Michloach Manot PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:40

By Patty Renton: As Purim begins at sunset on March 15, we read the Megillah and retell the story of Esther and her heroic efforts to save the Jewish people from Haman's plot. Sending Mishloach Manot — gifts of baked goods and sweets to family, friends and neighbors — grew out of Mordechai's request to the Jews of Shushan to celebrate their salvation by sending treats to commemorate the 14th of Adar II.

In the spirit of unity and friendship, fulfill your Purim obligation by participating in the JCCH’s Mishloach Manot project. Please support Sisterhood’s biggest fundraiser by sending our beauti-ful baskets of unique gifts and goodies to your friends and family in the community.

You should have received either a personalized email from Andrea Platte - JCCH Sisterhood - or a letter containing your log-on ID information.  If you did not receive it or need the information sent to you again, please call Andrea at (917) 509-0073 or email her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:41 )
What's a Shpiel PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:37

By Deborah Bers: The term “shpiel” is the Yiddish word for “play” or “skit,” and refers to a dramatic, musical presentation of the events described in Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, which is read in the evening at the beginning of Purim, as well as the next morning, on the day of Purim.

It has been suggested that the custom of the shpiel may have its origin in the late Roman Empire (5th century) with the practice of hanging and beating an effigy of Haman.  This ritual was recounted by the Church as actual crucifixion in order to justify anti-Semitic attacks.

In the 12th century, shpiels consisted of rhyming declamations, which evolved into parodies of holy texts in the 13th and 14th centuries. By the 1400’s, Ashnkenazi Jews were incorporating silly monologues consisting of rhymed paraphrases of the Book of Esther and humorous sermons into their celebrations.  The shpiel eventually developed into actual plays by the 16th century, and usually took place during meals in private homes, with yeshiva students as actors, wearing masks and costumes. Shpiel performances over time became more professional, with the players touring from home to home dressed in fancy costumes.

18th century shpiels were performed in public, with an admission fee, and included longer dramas, large casts and musical accompaniment, and sometimes involved competitions among cantors.  Biblical themes were incorporated, such as The Selling of Joseph, David and Goliath, The Sacrifice of Isaac, Hannah and Penina, and The Wisdom of Solomon.  A single narrator introduced, conducted and concluded the production.  Prologues, including blessings for the audience, introduction of the actors and outlines of what would be seen, and epilogues, including parting blessings and appeals for contributions, were developed.  Subject matter often related to Jewish community life in northern and eastern Europe, and humor could at times be erotic or obscene.  The city fathers of Frankfort once burned a printed copy of the Achashverosh Shpiel because of its vulgarity.  And leaders of the Hamburg community banned all Purim Shpiels in 1728, fining anyone found in violation of the ban.

In Germany, shpiels in the 19th century were influenced by opera and the changing perceptions of Jewish community life in western Europe, written and performed as interpretive Jewish fringe theater. In times of repression, this creative expression retained the purpose of the original shpiel – employing humor and absurdity in the face of darkness.

Today, shpiels can be parodies of Broadway plays, with scenery, costumes, singing and dancing, often including popular songs with creative, funny lyrics.  Politicians, world leaders, people in the community, and even rabbis and teachers are lampooned, as traditional social boundaries and rules of etiquette are traditionally blurred in the interest of celebrating our ancient escape from destruction.



Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:40 )
Religious Teachings and Traditions PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 13:00

This is Barbara Paris, our Atidat Ami Rabbinic Intern’s second year at the JCCH.She has been involved in a range of activities and programs both with our adults and youth. Barbara is very enthusiastic about bringing her own form of Torah to everyone. Attending a pluralistic seminary, Barbara combines deep text study with making our religious teachings and traditions relevant in today’s world. Barbara hopes that everyone at the JCCH will find something in what she is doing that speaks to them and helps them to have their own relationship to Judaism and to God.

Some Highlights:

Barbara is currently teaching an interactive class entitled Non-Jews in the Bible which examines those non-Jews in our sacred text who were influential in shaping us as a people and teaching us how to be in relationship with “the other”. The class meets weekly on Thursdays at 10:00am and all are welcome.

Once a month, Barbara teaches Living Torah, a look at the week’s parsha through a modern lens. She combines a deep text study with chanting, meditation and other spiritual modalities. Next Sessions: February 10th and March 10th at 7:30pm.

Barbara recently formed a Rosh Chodesh group, a group where women come together to celebrate the New Moon, study, sing, and be in the company of other women. It is held in congregants’ homes. Each month has a different focus depending on the calendar. In January there was an inspiring Tu B’Shvat seder honoring the month of Shevat and the birthday of the trees. Save the date: February 3rd at 7:30pm

Barbara spent a year teaching Wendy Alper and Jodi Cafritz Hebrew and helping them prepare for their recent adult b’not mitzvah.  She is hoping to begin shortly with a new cohort Thursday mornings from 11am to 12. So anyone want to take the plunge email Barbara at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Barbara will be offering a once a month Torah, Yoga and Meditation program on Shabbat morning. Saturday mornings from 9:00 to 10am.  Start Shabbat with a stretch. January 25 and February 15th.

Barbara teaches our 9th and 10th graders about leadership, lessons we learn from our matriarchs and patriarchs and how to use these lessons in our own lives.  She has also been teaching at her local Hebrew high school for over 25 years and absolutely loves working with teens. Paraphrasing Pirke Avot, Barbara feels she learns as much or more from her students than she teaches them. It is truly a labor of love. She works with the B'nai Mitzvah students on writing their d’var Torah and helps them to better understand how the parsha speaks to them personally.

Barbara is finishing up her Rabbinic studies at the Academy of Jewish Religion in Yonkers and hopes to be ordained in 2015.

She lives with her husband Harvey in Fairfield, Connecticut. In her spare time when not at JCCH, Barbara is the Vice President of Jewish Family Service in Fairfield, is the Jewish chaplain at St Vincents Hospital in Bridgeport, Ct and is the student Rabbi on Friday nights at Choate Rosemary Hall.

Barbara says “I love my work at the JCCH and it has been an honor to learn and grow together with so many amazing people.  Thank you all for giving me this opportunity! I feel that there are no coincidences in life and I feel blessed that God has given me the chance to bring my Torah to each of you”.


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 January 2014 13:05 )
Club Wednesday PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:42

Next Club Wednesday, February 5th

By Ifrat Muller: Club Wednesday had an outstanding start to the New Year. Dr. Rajasehar Buddhavarapu, Director of Geriatrics and Palliative Care, White Plains Hospital spoke about 80s is the New 60s. With the advances in fighting infections, methods in preventing heart attacks and strokes, life expectancy has increased about ten years since 1970. He said that the fastest growing segment of population in the United States is above 85 and preserving an active lifestyle is a priority, that healthy aging includes physical activity three or four times a week, mental, functional, nutritional and spiritual elements. It was suggested that the aging do whatever they can anytime and perhaps add yoga, meditation and stretching. He commented on pain management, whether to treat or not to treat and the use of narcotics and medication. He concluded by saying that although there are no specific therapies proven to prevent aging there is much we can do to age gracefully.

Club Wednesday will continue to have a variety of programs of interest on the first Wednesday of every month this year February through May.

On February 5th, Club Wednesday will begin in the JCCH library at 11:00AM with Shari Baum, WJCS leading a discussion of Current Events followed by a buffet luncheon in the Reception Room at noon and our Atidat Ami Rabbinic intern Barbara Paris will speak at 12:30PM.Club Wednesday is sponsored by Sisterhood and is open at no charge to all with leisure time. Please note Club Wednesday on your calendar and be with us for a very pleasant and enjoyable few hours of social activity.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:43 )
The 15th of Shevat PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:30

Tu B’shvat –  a Rosh Hashanah, but  for the trees

This Holiday is celebrated on the 15th of Shevat, this year it's the weekend of January 17-19 (usually it falls on February, this year is exceptional). It marks the end of an agricultural year and the beginning of the next one.

In Israel the most famous Tu B’shvat song is : "The almond tree is blooming and the golden sun is shining". Usually by Tu B’shvat most of the rain – and the winter – in Israel are already over, the trees are drenched with water and the fruits start to grow. So Tu B’shvat is the starting point for a new year. The almond tree is so meaningful because it is the first tree to start During the long generations of Galut (exile) Tu B’shvat has grown to symbolize the detachment of the people of Israel from their land. It gave expression to the yearning for Ertetz Yisrael and its fruits, and it became customary to eat fruits of Eretz Yisrael and praise the distant homeland.

In 1890 when the land was barren and had no trees growing on it after more than 2000 years of exile, the practice to plant new trees on Tu B’shvat  started, later to become a tradition by the Keren Kayemet (JNF) and Tu B’shvat has been celebrated since then by tens of thousands of school children going out for massive planting.

Many people celebrate this holiday by arranging a "Seder Tu B’shvat":, They eat fruit of the 7 kinds by which the land of Israel excels :Wheat (flour, any kind of bread, cake, pie or quiche), Barley (cooked alone, in soup, or by drinking black beer – malt, that is made of barley).,Vine – raisins, and drinking varied colors of wine. Figs –fresh or dried, Pomegranate – if available, or pomegranate juice or liquor. Olives, Dates – fresh or dried

And then come all kinds of fruits and nuts. The sages of Tzfat (Safed) had set this tradition according to the Kabbalah, due to the saying that "man is like the tree in the field" (Deut. 20:19) and they wanted to mark stages in human life and in the nation's life that find resemblence in a tree, like exile (fall) and revival (blooming in the spring) and human activities like Ma'aseh - doing things (fruits that are peeled and only the inside is eaten) Yetzira - creating things (the outside is eaten and the inside in thrown away) and the perfect stage Bri'ah - creating anew, like when G-d created the world – when the whole fruit is eaten with no waste. There is no special point in eating dried fruit, but it became habitual in the exile since fresh fruits were usually not available during the winter.

Because of the resemblance between trees and people, says the legend, the trees came to G-d and asked to have a Rosh Hashana of their own. Their request was accepted and their holiday was set on the month of Shvat, marked in astrology by Aquarius, the symbol for an abundance of water, because trees, like humans, depend on water which is crucial and vital to the lives of both.  Have you ever heard of Chony  HaMe'agel (the Maker of Circles) who lived circa 200 CE? He was given his name when there was a year of terrible drought and he made a circle on the ground and started praying for rain, declaring before G-d that he would never go out of the circle until there was rain. And eventually, the rain arrived.

Chony taught the world the way of thinking about planting trees as a way of making the world better for the next generations. As he told it: " once I was walking on my way, and saw an old man planting a Carob tree, and it is known that this tree makes fruit only 70 years after being planted. So I asked the old man: Do you think you are going to live 70 more years to eat the fruits? And he told me: When I came to this world I found Carobs. Who planted them for me? My ancestors. The same way as they planted for me – I plant for my progeny".


Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:32 )
Tu B'Shvat 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:29

By Cheryl Pine: Tu B’Shvat is the New Year of the Trees, according to the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1).  It is the time for celebrating the cycle of agriculture in Israel on the cusp of Spring and re-birth.  The name of the holiday refers to the date on which it is celebrated – the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. It seems strange to celebrate the holiday in the United States in the depths of winter, in January or February.  Yet, in Israel, most of the winter rains have passed and hopefully the historic snowstorms of this year will not be repeated.  The sap of the trees begins to flow beneath the surface bark and rises slowly from the roots buried in the hardened soil, as it pushes its way up. The major custom of Tu B’Shvat is to eat from the seven species which flourished in Israel during Biblical times (and today): wheat, barley, grape vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive trees and date honey (Deutoronomy 8:8). In the 16th century, the Kabbalists initiated a Tu B’Shvat Seder which included selected blessings and songs, along with the eating of specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine.

In contemporary Israel, Tu B’Shvat also recognizes the importance of protecting the natural environment and planting trees. Israel is the only country, which entered the 21st century with a net gain of trees.  Trees are also a universal symbol of a flourishing society, maintained and nurtured for future generations.  They require regular maintenance and produce fruit each year without any new planting; but, without proper care, they will die.

I would suggest that the Jewish communities of the U.S. and of Israel could be compared to separate arbors, which are connected by the need for mutual nurturing and maintenance.  In an excerpt from Israeli journalist Ari Shavit’s new book, “My Promised Land: the Triumphs and Tragedy of Israel,” he observes: “In North America, we created the perfect diaspora, while in the land of Israel we established modern Jewish sovereignty. The Jews of the 21st century have today what their great grandparents could only dream of: equality, freedom, prosperity, dignity.” Further, he notes: “Today, the Jewish community in Israel is one of the two largest in the world. Given current trends, by 2025 the majority of the world’s Jews will be Israelis.” With proper care and mutual support, may our Jewish communities flourish and continually be renewed as are the fruitful trees and agriculture celebrated on Tu B’Shevat.

Happy Tu B’Shvat! Enjoy the delicious fruits of Israel or join a Tu B’Sh vat Seder!


Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 January 2014 11:43 )
Creating Connections PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:25


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By Ronni Metzger: This past December the women of the JCCH reignited the time honored tradition of celebrating Rosh Chodesh. Eileen Lieberman graciously hosted the meeting and Barbara Paris, the Atidat Ami Rabbinic Intern, led the women in reflection and instruction. We learned about the origins of this uniquely women’s holiday, and we each participated in a moving recitation of our maternal lineage.  We then studied the story of Yehudit, and its historical connection to Hanukkah. Everyone then had the opportunity to let in the light of the holiday as we each lit the Hanukkah Menorah. It was a very special evening.

On December 11, 2013, the JCCH Sisterhood hosted a beautiful luncheon with Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the renown author, speaker and founding editor and writer for Ms. Magazine. Ms Pogrebin has written ten books. She is also the editor of the anthology, Stories for Free Children, and was the consulting editor on Free to Be, You and Me and Free to Be...A Family, Marlo Thomas’ ground-breaking children's books, record and television specials, to name just a few of her accomplishments.

At the luncheon, Letty shared her insights from her recently published book, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, Letty interviewed other patients and caregivers about their experiences with friends and family upon receiving life-altering diagnoses. With humor and honesty, Ms. Pogrebin, provided helpful suggestions about helping close friends who are sick.  She left us with a few basic thoughts; First, always ask an ill friend (or a family in mourning) what would be helpful. Instead of flowers and candy, maybe a massage or a home cooked meal would be more appreciated.  Simple things like sharing a joke of the day could work wonders. Thinking of the family members is also important; maybe the caregiver could use some time off or help with errands.  Second, think about whether a visit is really appropriate. The patient may not be ready for company. And finally, think before speaking. The most well intentioned comments can be hurtful. Sometimes, the quiet comfort of having the company of a caring friend is enough.

As we all experience the challenges of helping loved ones with illness or death, Letty provided important tools with which to handle such trying situations.


January Events at JCCH


As we head into the dead of winter, the trees are bare and dormant, even Israel is experiencing harsh snowstorms, yet we are getting ready for Tu B’shvat, the holiday of the trees!  Talk about optimism!

Here at the JCCH, we celebrated the holiday of the trees with a Tu B’shvat brunch on January 12 with breakfast specially prepared by Men’s Club.  A guest lecturer from JNF discussed relevant environmental issues facing Israel spoke at the brunch. The Religious school will enjoy special Tu B’shvat programming on January 12th, which included a visit from Blue Box Bob! And, the Rosh Chodesh group conducted a Woman’s Tu B’shvat Seder at their January meeting on Tuesday, January 7th.

The action continues with a Sisterhood sponsored trip to see the Speigelman and Chagall exhibits at the NYC Jewish Museum on January 14th.

On January 15th, Melanie Baevsky gave a talk at the JCCH about the Social Network Twitter. Melanie is an Account Manager at Twitter NYC and discussed what Twitter is, how it's useful to both individuals and organizations, and where to get started.

Don’t miss our Israeli Wine tasting on Wednesday, January 29th. If you have questions about any of these programs, please do not hesitate contact me, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:28 )
Jewish Film Festival PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 10:24


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The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville will host the 13th annual Westchester Jewish Film Festival from March 19 – April 10, 2014. Many films in the festival will be followed by a Q&A with the audience, as well as special events and receptions. A community night for the entire family will also be part of the festival. The complete schedule should be available in early February, 2014. Ronni Metzger has been in touch with one of the chairs of this event and is arranging for a block of seats for the JCCH for one of their special events. Watch for more details which will be provided in February.

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