The Voice of the

Pelham Jewish Center

January 2024/Tevet-Shevat 5784


Learning Center

In This Issue

Leadership Messages

Rabbi Benjamin Resnick

Education Director

Ana Turkienicz

PJC President

Lisa Neubardt

HaKol Editor

Barbara Saunders-Adams

Congregant News

& Donations

Book Notes

Barbara Saunders-Adams

Food For Thought

Refugee Committee Update

Rhonda Singer

Share a Simcha

Tributes & Donations

High Holiday Gifts

Rabbi Benjamin Resnick

Dear Friends,


Tu Bishvat may be around the corner, but today's snowstorm, even if comparatively mild, is a reminder that here in New York we still have quite a while to wait before the landscape and its trees shed their winter plumage. Though the seasonal markers of the ancient Near East were perhaps not as stark as those of the contemporary American northeast, the ancient rabbis–who designated the 15th of Shevat as the New Year of Trees–were well aware that they were selecting a wintertime date. 

On this subject, the Babylonian Talmud preserves a somewhat curious teaching: “What is the reason [that the rabbis chose the 15th of Shevat]? It is because [by that date] the majority of rains have already fallen, but the majority of the winter season is yet to come.” What emerges from this rather cryptic statement is the surprising revelation that the wintertime aspect of Tu Bishvat is operative and not accidental. The date was chosen precisely because it resides in the depths of winter. 

Building on Rashi’s idea that on Tu Bishvat the sap in the trees first begins to rise, Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, one of the more influential modern-Orthodox rabbis of the 19th century, offers a an important insight about this choice:  

“In the core and the arterial network of the trees, silently and softly, hidden from casual view, the new sap flows announcing the coming of spring... The unthinking observer considers the day on which the leaves of the blossoms finally give way to the emerging fully ripened fruit as the birthday of the fruit. Thinking man inquires about the time of budding and researches the process which leads to the buds' first stirring within the tree....The fifteenth of Shevat is the new year of the trees, the birthday of blossoms even in the middle of winter ...Under this torn, dark, cold bark, new, fresh life pulsates.” (Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, trans. Alex Israel). 

In language that is rousing and poetic, Hirsch makes two interrelated points. The first is that as Jews we need to inquire, assiduously, into the world’s deep dynamics. The invisible movements of fresh sap inside of hardened bark, the mysterious flows of emotion and being as they move within and around us–we must always strive to be aware of and attentive to these sacred rhythms. The second–the real promise of Tu Bishvat–is that periods of cold, however harsh and unforgiving they may seem, always contain a spark of future warmth. The white palm of winter, which now lies heavy, conceals the promise of renewed warmth. 


Rabbi Benjamin Resnick


Education Director

Ana Turkienicz

Whoever has more wisdom than deeds is like a tree with many branches but few roots, and the wind shall tear him from the ground… Whoever has more deeds than wisdom is like a tree with more roots than branches, and no hurricane will uproot him from the spot. (Pirkei Avot 3:17)

As I write these lines, we are counting 100 days of the war between Israel and Hamas, while 136 hostages are still held in captivity in Gaza. In the Jewish calendar, we started the new Jewish month of Shevat, when we traditionally celebrate the holiday of “Tu Bishvat'', the New Year of the trees. 

Meanwhile, we look at the destruction inflicted by Hamas on the kibbutzim in the Gaza envelope, the burned houses, playgrounds, and trees, and we shake our heads, still incredulous. The voices of the survivors and witnesses echo in our hearts and minds. “It was not real”, “I felt like in a movie”, “I couldn't believe what was happening”, “How can people be so evil?” among other things. 

As I try to make sense of the incomprehensible truth, I find myself caught up in my own memories of another January war in Israel, 33 years ago; more specifically, January 16, 1991. That’s the day when the Gulf War started. At that time, Neco and I lived in Kibbutz Bror Chayil (close to the border with Gaza) with our two children, Hila (2), and Yoni (8 months). January 16 was the first day of the month of Shevat, which meant that Tu Bishvat that year would fall on January 30th.

I was then the kindergarten teacher in the kibbutz, and together with the kindergarten staff, we decided that that year we would plant trees of the traditional species from Israel: olive, fig, grapes, pomegranate, almond, and dates, in the kindergarten’s backyard. It was barren of trees and the children didn’t have much shade in the summer. We ordered the saplings and they came in a week into the war.

The IDF had issued an order forbidding civilian gatherings for security reasons. We all had prepared a “safe room” in our homes, which we used every time Saddam Hussein decided to send his missiles towards Israel. We walked around carrying our gas masks, and as an educator, my role was to try to give my kindergarten students a sense of security and normalcy, as much as possible, while keeping all safety measures in place. 

As the date of Tu Bishvat approached, we started to worry about our planting plans - how are we going plant, in the midst of the war? Although the saplings had already arrived and we needed to plant them, we asked ourselves, why should we plant trees, when we are under attack and in real danger of annihilation? Moreover, how are we going to plant, exposing our children and parents to the imminent rocket attacks that could come at any time? After much discussion and reflection, we decided to go ahead with our plan of planting trees behind the kindergarten. All the kindergarten parents came, armed with hoes and shovels, with gas mask boxes hanging from their shoulders. We planted fig, olive, date, pomegranate, grapes and almond trees in the kindergarten’s backyard. No rockets were fired while we were planting. We sang Tu Bishvat songs, and the children walked around, helping their parents add soil to the saplings. 

I will never forget how the Gulf War ended: February 28, 1991 exactly on the Eve of Purim. Purim, the holiday that celebrates the survival of the Persian Jewish community that was marked to death; a story that took place in the 5th century BCE, located exactly on the same place where Saddam Hussein’s missiles were coming from. And that’s the date that the missiles from Iraq stopped falling on Israel in 1991. Again, we couldn’t believe we were living through that moment.

A few years ago, while visiting Israel, I went back to my home in kibbutz Bror Chail, and looked at the backyard behind the kindergarten where I used to work. It was covered with the beautiful shade from the olive, fig, grapes, pomegranate, almond, and date trees we had planted on that cold and frightening winter in 1991. The trees were tall and majestic, and the children who planted them were now parents themselves, some of them had children in the same kindergarten building that I taught in 33 years ago. I stood there, in that backyard, under the trees, incredulous. I remembered the barren soil and the brownish, gray color it used to have on those days. I remembered the fear from Saddam’s missiles. I couldn’t control my tears. The verdant, blossoming trees told the story of resilience and defiance in face of evil and destruction. They told one more Jewish story of hope, belief and faith. 

Three months after the massacre of October 7th, the members of the kibbutzim in the Gaza envelope are going back to their fields, to do exactly what they have been doing for 75 years in their land: to sow wheat, so it will be ready for harvest by Passover this year. Their fields are green again. They are planting new trees, pruning the ones who were not burnt. They are planting seeds of hope, which is also the name of the Israeli anthem, Hatikvah. For the past three months of war, Israeli citizens have been volunteering to come to the south and help the farmers plant, fertilize and harvest their fields, my sister among them. Missions with volunteers from abroad are descending upon Israel and offering their help to revive the communities that thrived until October 7. One of those volunteers was our own music teacher, Lori Weber, and her family, who spent their December break volunteering with JNF in Israel. The Jewish people, in Israel and beyond, stand strong and united, one more time. 

And above all, we unite behind the families of the hostages kept by the Hamas in the damp and cold tunnels under Gaza; we will not lose hope to bring all of their loved ones back home, so they will be able to celebrate Shabbat and holidays back together. Their resolve not to give up on their loved ones inspires all of us to be strong for them too.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l, wrote, “To be a Jew is to be an agent of hope. Every ritual, every command, every syllable of the Jewish story is a protest against escapism, resignation and the blind acceptance of fate. (...) The name of the Jewish future is hope. Jews were and are still called on to be the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind.”

On January 11, the Westchester Teen Collab (our regional High School) held a panel called Antisemitism in College Campuses. Fifty teens and their parents from six synagogues in Lower Westchester gathered together at the JCC of Mid-Westchester to hear from Hillel professionals (including our very own Rabbi Alex Salzberg, who is now the Executive Director of Towson University Hillel) and from current college students about how the war in Gaza impacted Jewish life on campuses. Rabbi Benjamin Resnick moderated the discussion. One of his questions was: “What makes you hopeful about the future of Jewish life on American campuses?” - to which all the panelists brought examples of the strengthening of Jewish life on campus, including the fact that the first Shabbat following the October 7th attacks was one of the largest attended Shabbatot on campuses around the United States. Our teens were inspired by the resilience and the deepening of Jewish roots recorded in American colleges while facing antisemitic tropes, as described by all panelists. An evening that brought much hope for the future of Jewish life on American campuses, against all odds.

At the Learning Center, we call our youngest class “Nitzanim”, which means “sprouts”. In Hebrew, “Kindergarten” is “Gan”, or garden. That’s the name of our Kindergarten at the PJC as well. Our Nitzanim-Gan class is a garden where we sow seeds of hope. Together with the people of Israel, we will overcome these challenging times, and we will come out of them stronger than we were before. Our children will continue our legacy, the legacy of hope and faith in a better future. Our talented educators, together with thousands of Jewish educators around the world, will continue to instill the beauty of Judaism in their hearts and minds, and we will, once again, prevail. 

May the good deeds of our community and of our brothers and sisters in Israel continue to deepen our roots so no catastrophe may uproot our trees from the earth. We shall overcome.  

Am Israel Chai!



Lisa Neubardt

“The bad guy always gets the best scene and the best lines in the film,

and they usually get the most days off.”

  – Richard Dreyfuss

Love him or hate him, and we won’t even talk about whether or not he is the G.O.A.T., you have to admire Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots coaching legacy. Twenty four years, nine Super Bowl appearances, a record six wins, 17 AFC East division titles and 13 appearances in the AFC Championship Game. His overall regular season record was 266–121–0 and 30–12 in the playoffs. 

The Patriots compensated him well for his efforts. The Boston Globe reported in December that Belichick’s contract runs for one more year at a salary believed to be worth at least $25 million. Coaching contracts are guaranteed, meaning his leaving will not forfeit payment. He also had complete roster control. Where he will go next, who knows? The day the news of his leaving broke, I sent a text to my brother-in-law that said “Who would sign Bill Belichick? He's obnoxious, expensive, old and bossy.” He said “Everyone.”

Even with all this acclaim, no one has ever accused Bill Belichick of being a nice guy. Years ago, in the Family Guy episode "3 Acts of God" it is revealed that “God won't let the New England Patriots win games because Belichick never smiles.” He could exploit the rules with the best of them, has been found guilty of cheating and is often assumed to have cheated, has complete disdain for the media, is known for being surly and smug and providing snarky, one word answers at mandatory team press conferences. 

All this makes me wonder why can’t the people who are so smart and so skilled be nice too? I am generalizing, sure, but doesn’t it seem like the bad guys keep getting ahead? Not just in football or sports. From captains of industry to social media execs to government to our own individual workplace and life interactions. Everyone has a story of a bad boss and how they survived it. We tell our kids it’s something they have to learn to “manage.”

Is it really true that “nice guys finish last?” Out of curiosity I looked up where that saying originated. It was condensed from a comment by baseball manager Leo Durocher. Referring to the 1946 New York Giants and their losing season, he said, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.” This was later rendered as “‘Nice guys’ wind up in last place” and then later again to the reference we use now. 

I don’t have the answers and admittedly, Bill Belichik is an easy target. I am a lifelong Pats fan and while I can tout his achievements with the best of them, I know deep down he is kind of a jerk. And that’s the problem. When the bad guys keep moving forward, they are quietly reshaping our standards. I remind myself of the Michelle Obama quote, “when they go low, we go high.” She is right. Our world is on fire these days. So much oppression, sadness and uncertainty. The more we go high, the less lows we will have to face. Of this I am convinced.

I am grateful for my family and this community that endeavors to go high and be kind. On January 27 we will be celebrating Refugee Shabbat and will hear from our homegrown PJC Refugee Resettlement Group. A committee of congregants, led by Matt Marcus, and his co-committee chair, Rhonda Singer, was formed dedicated to the mission of supporting a refugee’s move to America. As sponsors, they are helping

Bella Nyangabire, a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with all aspects of resettlement, including housing, employment, learning English, education, health care, and legal assistance. Come to services to hear from committee members and from Bella. If there was ever evidence that nice guys do NOT finish last, it is now, here, upfront and personal at the PJC. Hope to see you there. 


HaKol Editor
Barbara Saunders-Adams

From far away, we don’t see people as human beings, and when we stop seeing people as human beings, and they become instead symbols, objects of envy or hate, people can do bad things to one another. The whole tragedy of Joseph and his brothers was distance. They were too far apart in every way. Which is why it was only when Judah came close to Joseph – vayigash – that the coldness between them thawed, and they became brothers, not strangers to one another.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Dear Friends,

Schopenhauer asked, “What do porcupines do in winter?” “How can they stay warm? If they come too close to one another, they will injure each other. If they stay too far apart, they will freeze". Life, for porcupines, is a delicate balance between closeness and distance. It is hard to get right, and dangerous to get wrong. Finding the optimal distance between peoples and people is sound advice.

This holds true for Israelis and Palestinians. Without mediated interaction on a human level, they see each other as monsters. To a much lesser degree, we are subject to ascribing false identities to those who are unfamiliar.

In 2024, coming closer, but not too close is a worthy New Year’s resolution. Understanding the other can yield better relationships. It will help us see each other for who we really are – for better or worse. 

Wishing all my PJC friends and acquaintances a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2024.


Book Notes

The Dead Sister

by Jonathan Dunsky

Set in the early days of the Jewish state, The Dead Sister follows the lone detective, Adam Lapid, an Auschwitz survivor, through the seedy streets of Tel Aviv. He is searching for the perpetrator who mutilated the body of a young Palestinian woman and dumped it into the Yarkon River. The young woman is the dead sister of Lapid's client Ahmed Jamalka, the youngest son from a notable Arab family. Traditionally, preserving family honor is more important than saving a life in Arab culture. No one wants to touch this murder, especially not the police. Lapid is unafraid to use any means to seek justice.


Along the way, Lapid meets a host of sleazy characters and a seductress. He is determined to solve this murder without losing his life or his soul. The Dead Sister is a page-turner. It's a notable winter read.


Food for Thought


by Asher Reich (b. 1937)


She waits for me.

She sits facing me, looking at me

with big eyes, sad as a Jew's

and the forbearance of twilight. She waits.

Odors from the kitchen come

and fill the room, her nose and mine.

Yet she still waits.

I am the one who controls her needs.


Is it patience or

boldness? When she sits

there, still waiting to get me out

to the nearby field, in the dark air

laden with scents of hay and dung.


Grasses sniff her all around

and a smiling breeze pleasantly wags

with its nose that carries the odors of the village.

I stand and my thoughts travel

and she runs runs runs

to her green universe of cascading odors.

A tree stands alert to rustle.

The breeze, too, stops here for a moment,

breathless. A clean serenity vaults

like a cat's back at a moment of danger.

I smoke. She pees.

I whistle to her and she comes

painting delight with the wag of her tail

her ears wild

with the copious listening to all that's tiny and still.

Refugee Committee Update

A group of PJC volunteers, led by Rabbi Benjamin Resnick, Matthew Marcus and Rhonda Singer, sponsored a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bella Nyamgabire, through the federal Welcome Corps program.

Bella arrived in late September, and she has energetically pursued her new life in New York. After a brief stay in temporary housing in Mt. Vernon, and with the Abeshouse family in Pelham, Bella now has her own living space in White Plains, and she has obtained a position working at the Ambassador, a senior residence facility. Most recently, she completed a Home Health Aide training course, earning a completion Certificate. As a result, she is advancing to a Home Health Aide position at the Ambassador. It has been a pleasure for the group to work with Bella, who has recently attended Shabbat services at the PJC. 

The group plans to continue doing refugee resettlement work. One goal is to sponsor a close friend of Bella's who is currently living in Kenya. We will also continue to support Bella and other refugees in the area in partnership with Hearts and Homes for Refugees.


 PJC Volunteers:  
Adam and Maria Abeshouse
Michael Dvorkin
Carey and Mark Hochberg
Jonathan Kasper
Matthew Marcus - group lead
David Sasson
Rhonda Singer
Jacqui Stein
Mimi Steinberg
Melanie Stern
Liz Tzetzo

Share a Simcha

"Share a Simcha" allows congregants to share their news with our PJC community. Please submit news about family members -- engagements, births, job updates, kid achievements, community acknowledgements and any other milestones -- to the HaKol Editor, Barbara Saunders-Adams.

. Mazal Tov to PMHS senior Isaac Lief, son of Eugene Lief and Maria Kogan, who placed 1st in a congressional debate for PMHS Forensic Speech Team at the Holiday Classic Tournament.

. Mazal Tov to Aaron Adams (aka Ronnie Stone) on the release of his new album, Ride Again. The album will be released on BandCamp on February 2. A digital version can be found on Spotify.

Share a Simcha is a regular HaKol feature, so keep your news and updates coming!

Tributes & Donations
PJC Logo
Did you know you can make tributes and donations online? Click here to learn more.

Donations to the PJC

Jason & Tracie Cohen

Alec Cecil & Diane Zultowsky

Donations to the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund

Jack Klebanow and Marcela Hoffer

Daniel and Patricia Cabin

Meryl Druckerman In memory of Helene Weissman mother of Michael Weissman

Meryl Druckerman In honor of the marriage of Gary & Evelyn Trachten's daughter Sofie

Jason and Roselle Glick

Tim Schwartz & Irina Dynov

Ariel Spira-Cohen & Victor Birutti

Ariel Spira-Cohen & Victor Birutti In honor of Naomi's Bat Mitzvah

Helen Stephenson

David & Jeanne Radvany

Audrey Stein

*Unfortunately, all donations to date have not been processed at this time. This will be rectified in next month's HaKol.

Thank You PJC Members for Your Generous High Holiday Pledges 2023




Sybil Rosenberg

Rob Rossman


Leaders ($5,000 - $9,999)                                                  


Maria and Adam Abeshouse                                               

Sandra and Bob Goldman                         

David Haft and Jacqueline Schacter                 

Marjut and Jonathan Herzog                                               

Marshall and Naomi Jaffe                         

Hildy and Steve Martin

Jeanne and David Radvany

Mark Singer



Principals ($3,600 - $4,999)                                                          

Adam and Jennifer Gerber

Marc and Elaine Prager                                          

Sam and Laura Temes

Evelyn and Gary Trachten                                                                                                                       


Guardians ($2,500 - $3,599)                                                                                  

Judy and Leonard Cooper                                                  

Barry and Jill Goldenberg

Peter and Andrea Rothberg

Mathew and Rebecca Schwarz

Joel and Beth Serebransky

Frederica and Efrem Sigel


Promoters ($1,800 - $2,499)                                                         

Sam and Alexandra Charney                                                                               

Larry and Diane Cohen

David Katz                                                                           

Howard Meyerson and Emily Glickman

Donna and Michael Weissman                                                     


Benefactors ($1,000 - $1,799)                                                       


Diane Zultowsky and Alec Cecil                                         

Michelle and Michael Dvorkin                                             

Michael Glickman and Deborah Korenstein                                                

Eugene and Mary Holtzman

Jack Klebanow and Marcela Hoffer

Shelley and Alfred Klein                                                      

Leah Lenney            

Mercedes Castiel and Glyn Morgan                                   

Cheryl Goldstein and Marcelo Nacht 

Emily and Justin Pauley                                       

Joel Peck and Shelli Goldenberg-Peck                                                                   

Tim Schwartz and Irina Dynov

Judy Shampanier and Michael Bowen

Helen Stephenson




Patrons ($500 -$999)


Anne Borofsky


Mitchell and Julie Cepler

Roger Krulak and Catherine Levene

Sheldon and Gloria Horowitz

Linda and Mark Levine

Jerry and Romina Levy

Karen Dukess and Steve Liesman

Andy and Lisa Neubardt

Elizabeth Tzetzo and David Ploski

Alain and Joan Sasson

Jacqueline Stein



Sponsors ($250-$499)

Meryl Druckerman

Zach Ehrenreich and Melanie Stern

Adam and Jeniece Ilkowitz

Robert Kahn and Andrea DeRose Kahn

Iris Kasten

Daniel Kushnick and Janice Goldklang

Melanie and David Samuels

Martin and Judy Teitell


Friends ($100 - $249)

Anne Bresnick and Steve Almo

Amy Ehrlich and Jon Backer

Daniel Cabin

Rachel and Bryan Cochie

Jason and Tracie Cohen

Eleanor Dreyfus

Melissa Dreyfus Erner and Barry Erner           

Noam and Danielle Gretz

Stephen Handleman and Susan Simpson

Mark and Carey Hochberg

Arthur and Lois Katz

Mathew Marcus

Adrian Moshe

Daniel Rubock and Amy Hersh

David and Gabrielle Sasson

Barbara Saunders-Adams and Sam Adams

Heather and Steven Schneider

Jeremy and Sari Schulman

Doris-Patt Smith

Jessica and Christopher Winquist


Supporters ($18-$99)                                                                    

Elise Goldenberg

Ginny Herron-Lanoil

Jonathan and Tina Kasper

Regina and Geremie Ram

Gloria Staple

Mimi Steinberg

Peter and Suzanne Wies


Billing statements are emailed monthly. 

Checks made out to the Pelham Jewish Center can be mailed to Pelham Jewish Center, P.O. Box 418, Montvale, NJ 07645. Credit card payment instructions are on your monthly emailed billing statement, or go to https://thepjc.shulcloud.com/payment.php

If you are interested in paying via appreciated securities or IRA distributions, please email Mitch Cepler.

It is the policy of the Pelham Jewish Center to make every effort to assist members experiencing financial challenges. Financial challenges should never be a barrier to being an active member of the PJC community. You can reach out to President Steve Martin, Treasurer Mitchell Cepler or Rabbi Benjamin Resnick to speak confidentially concerning your ability to pay PJC dues and Learning Center tuition.

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