Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
31 December 2020 - 16 Tevet 5781
Parashat  Vayechi
Rabbi Rafi Spitzer -- President Jackie Rowen
Words from our Rabbi
The Shulchan Aruch codifies a Talmudic dictum that a person should read the Torah portion twice in Hebrew and once in translation during the week. My personal favorite way to do this Mitzvah is to each day read one aliya of the seven we read on Shabbat through twice, and read some commentary. Since this weekly newsletter comes out on Thursday (the fifth day of the week), I am going to try, each week this year, to comment on something in the fifth aliya.

Parashat Vay’hi, and the whole book of Genesis, comes to a close with the blessings that Jacob, on his deathbed, gives to his sons. Our fifth aliya is right in the middle of these blessings—which is, as was common in the ancient near east, an extended poem, used to end the book or section (other biblical examples of this are the Song of the Sea, which closes out the first half of the book of Exodus—that is, the story of the exodus—and Moshe’s song at the end of Dvarim). What are we to make of biblical poetry? How can we understand it? Does our translation do justice to it?
Take, for example, 49:25-- מֵאֵ֨ל אָבִ֜יךָ וְיַעְזְרֶ֗ךָּ וְאֵ֤ת שַׁדַּי֙ וִיבָ֣רְכֶ֔ךָּ בִּרְכֹ֤ת שָׁמַ֙יִם֙ מֵעָ֔ל בִּרְכֹ֥ת תְּה֖וֹם רֹבֶ֣צֶת תָּ֑חַת בִּרְכֹ֥ת שָׁדַ֖יִם וָרָֽחַם׃
One translation renders this: The God of your father who helps you, And Shaddai who blesses you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that couches below, Blessings of the breast and womb.
Another: By your father's God- may he help you, and Shaddai, may he give-you-blessing: Blessings of the heavens, from above, blessings of Ocean crouching below, blessings of breasts and womb!
The commentator Ibn Ezra explains the poetic parallelism: Blessings of breasts and womb. The breasts are similar to the heavens, and the womb to the deep, and the sense [of the blessing] is that they [should] increase their children. And the opposite of this is "a womb that miscarries and shrivelled breasts" (Hosea 9:14).
What is your interpretation of these lines of poetry?

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
Message from the President
As 2020 comes to an end, we all can’t help but give a sigh of relief that the year is finally over. It has been a difficult year for sure and there are very few of us who have not been negatively impacted by this pandemic. But before that ball drops in Time Square, my request to all of you is to take a moment and think about some good things that have happened this past year. I’m sure you can think of a few. 

Jackie Rowen
With Our Members
Birthdays: Shelley Altman, Charlotte Saunders, Eileen Handelman, Daniel Haber, Eli Naparstek, Jill Bucinell, Orit Gabriella Shiang, Arthur Isenberg, Elianna Moses
Yahrzeits: Jacques Yetwin, Robert Pletman, Trina Rudolph, Pearl Hallenstein, Jason Tepper, Augusta Englebardt, Paul Ziffer, Solomon Friedman, Jack Lefkowitz, Jack Ruthberg, Thelma Shwedel, Eleanor Fink, Fred Greenberg, Rosalie Marlowe
We have learned with great sorrow of the passing of long-time congregant, Sylvia Winer, wife of Herb Winer, on Sunday, 27 December 2020. Our condolences go out to the Winer Family.

Mazel tov to the family of Rabbi Rafi Spitzer and Rachael Besser on the Covenant Ceremony of their son, Jonah Zev Spitzer on Wednesday, 23 December 2020.
Misheberach List
On Shabbat, and on weekdays by request, we offer a healing prayer for those in our family, community, and world that need our attention and prayers. The rabbi reads a list of communal names, which can be easily added to by filling out this google form: Click here Misheberach List / Prayers for Healing Oct 2020 to add a name to our new list. Four times a year everyone will be removed, and we will only continue to pray for those who are resubmitted, if they continue to need our prayers. Rabbi Spitzer and Chris both check the form every week to prepare a list that includes all the names submitted.
Thank You
Thank you to the individuals who participated in this week's Shabbat services.
Yashar koach!
Torah and Haftara Readers: Susan Sharfstein, Orit Shiang, Joe Shiang
Daveners/Service Leaders: Joe Shiang, Howie Axelrod
Other Service Participants: Murray Jaros 
Service Coordinator/Gabbai: Alexandra Schmidt
COVID-19 Compliance Guarantor/Shamash: Sharon Wohl
Contributors to our Security Fund, Attendees…“…those who give funds for heat and light, wine for Kiddush and Havdalah, bread to the wayfarer and charity to the poor, and all those who devotedly involve themselves with the needs of this community… May the Holy Blessed One reward them, remove sickness from them, heal them, and forgive their sins. May God bless them by prospering all their worthy endeavors, and let us say: Amen.”
Would you like to see your name on this list?
Get in touch with Howie Mittleman or Rabbi Spitzer!
 2021 Mah Jongg cards
It is time to order your 2021 Mah Jongg cards! Large cards cost $10.00 and the Standard cards are $9.00. All orders must be submitted no later than January 22, 2021. Please send a check to Sara Gavens, 64 Victoria Court, Niskayuna, NY 12309, made out to CAA Women's Network. Please include with your check:
  1. Names, home and email addresses, and phone numbers for each person ordering
  2. Number of large and small cards for each person ordering
  3. Total dollar amount enclosed.
Please contact Sara at or by phone at 518-782-4652 with any questions.
Schedule for the Week
Most of our events are happening digitally. Please check the CAA website and Facebook, and look for updates and information via email.

You can find a daily schedule for the next week in a Google Doc which is being updated regularly at this link:
New Kabbalat Shabbat Time
This week: 3:14p
Beginning this week, our Friday afternoon Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat service will be exactly 60 minutes before candle lighting, on Zoom:

1 Jan – 3:14p; 8 Jan – 3:21p; 15 Jan – 3:29p; 22 Jan – 3:38p; 29 Jan – 3:47p
School Information
Click here to register your child.
Click here for a schedule of classes for the Elementary Grades.
Click here for a calendar for the school year.
Click here for a single page calendar of the year.

Tu Bishvat whole school program at 4:30pm on Zoom
with Zipporah Harris

Rise's Kitchen
 Let's Get Rolling!
Coming to Zoom on Sunday, January 3, 2021 from 10:00-11:00am
Featuring the preparation of Catering's popular rugelach as well as other sweet and savory treats to roll from this versatile dough.

Here is the featured recipe if you would like to
bake along with Rise'.

Prep dough before Sunday’s Zoom class!

As You Like It Catering
A huge selection of Meals-to-Go food items is still available. Choose from side dishes, main courses and dessert: Meat, Dairy and Pareve.

Please contact Rise' at with any inquiries about food for sale.

Arrangements can be made for pick up on an individual basis.
Back to the Basics:
A History of Judaism Through Its Books
with visiting scholar Jeffrey Spitzer
Fourth Class: 7 January at 7:30p
PJ Library Havdalah
Next Program
16 Jan @ 5:35 pm on Zoom
New Course by Jonathan Weil starts 20 January 2021
Save the Date
Adult Tu B'Shevat Seder
28 January 2021, 7:30p

It is Winter! By the end of January, the days will be visibly longer! The sap of the trees is beginning to rise, and the almond trees in Israel will be in bloom! The 15th of Shevat, Tu b'Shevat, marks the full moon of the month of Shevat, pointing the way towards Purim and Pesach! This date is noted in Talmud to be the New Year day for fruit trees, for legal/tax reasons, but there is more to it.

Over the centuries, Jews found ways to recognize and celebrate this special mid-Winter time. A practice developed during the 1500’s in the town of Safed (Tzvat) in Palestine/Israel, to have a feast, consisting of fruits of the Land of Israel, including figs, dates, grapes, olives, pomegranates, along with almonds, pistachios, and other fruits and nuts. The mid-winter fruit feast, accompanied by white and red wine, and the study of sacred texts (spiritual wine), developed into a Seder-like celebration.

We will gather, via Zoom, on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 7:30-9:00 PM to celebrate our seder for Tu b’Shevat. The Seder will draw upon the ancient practices, and will be participatory, open to all. Participants are asked to have available suitable fruits in each of three categories, list to be provided, along with red and white wine or grape juice, along with high levels of enthusiasm. A Haggadah will be provided closer to the date, available for download, and will be screen-shared during the Seder.
Sign up today to join us for
a Weekend of Song and Celebration with
Deborah Sacks Mintz
29-31 January 2021
Details to follow on this weekend of Kabbalat Shabbat, Havdalah and Concert and Music and Learning.

Friday, January 29: Kabbalat Shabbat at 3:40 pm.
Saturday, January 30: Havdalah at 6:30 pm. Concert at 7:00 pm.
Sunday, January 31: A class for young and old, including Shabbat table songs and nuggunim,From Shalom Aleichem to Birkat Hamazon, and Everything In Between!” at 7:30 pm.

Democracy and Religion
in Israel
Sunday 10 January 10:30a
Note: the full recording of our first (8 Nov) and second (6 Dec) programs in this series are available on the Adult Education page of our website.
If you missed it, feel free to catch up before the next session.
Ongoing Events
Parashat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Spitzer                        
Next Class 5 January 2021
Rabbi Spitzer teaches a class on the weekly Torah portion on Tuesdays from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. on Zoom. The link is on the CAA Online Programming Google Doc. If you are interested in exploring the weekly Parashah please attend. All are welcome. Rabbi Spitzer invites you to call or email with your comments or thoughts.

Hebrew Classes in 2021 with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
Please become part of this group of learners! Classes resume 5, 12, 19, 26 January;  2, 9, 16, 23 February;  2, 9 March, all at 6:00 PM until 7:00 PM, via Zoom.
Open to New and Returning Students
Born in Israel, Zipporah is an experienced teacher who has taught Hebrew at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels for over 30 years. The class meets for 10 consecutive Tuesdays via Zoom and the cost is $10 per class, payable to Zipporah. The class covers reading, writing, and conversation. Please become part of this group of learners! Classes. If you are interested in joining, write to Zipporah at

CAA Healthy Living Group Meets Wednesdays at 10a on Zoom
CAA Book Club Meets on the Second Wednesday at 12p
CAA Men’s Club Torah Study Meets twice monthly on Sundays at 7:40p next meeting 3 January 2021
S: 8:30a Shacharit/Morning Minyan (joined by TI of Scranton), 7:15p Maariv/Evening Minyan
M: 7:15a Shacharit/Morning Minyan, 7:15p Maariv/Evening Minyan
T: 7:15a Shacharit/Morning Minyan, 1:30p Mincha/Afternoon Minyan, 7:15p Maariv/Evening Minyan
W: 7:30a Shacharit/Morning Minyan (joining TI of Scranton at their minyan link, password 1921), 7:15p Maariv/Evening Minyan
Th: 7:15a Shacharit/Morning Minyan, 7:15p Maariv/Evening Minyan (Note: on Thursday 29 October, minyan will be at 6:40p to accommodate the 7:00p adult ed program)
F: 7:15a Shacharit/Morning Minyan, Mincha/Afternoon Minyan and Kabbalat Shabbat will take place 60 minutes before candle lighting (this week 3:22p)

Shabbat Morning Services will be live-streamed beginning at 9:45am here

Rabbi Spitzer is also available for individual prayers for healing with congregants. Make an appointment: 

Siddur Supplement
Many congregants have noted that some of our regular prayers are not easily accessible now that we are using the big/full Siddur Sim Shalom (which has both the Shabbat and Weekday prayer services) in our own homes, rather than the “Slim Shalom” (which includes only the Shabbat/Festival prayers) in the sanctuary. Rabbi Spitzer has made the following four prayers accessible (click on the links below and feel free to print for your use at home):
We would like to make everyone’s experience of the service at home as barrier-free as possible so please get in touch with us if there are other things that we can do to increase ease of access.
Every few weeks, CAA joins together for Havdalah and Hangout. While we do Havdalah every week, we are moving to a rotation of age-cohort based Havdalah programs. This week will be a Religious School Havdalah (community invited) at 5:20p.
The next few Havdalah and Hangout programs will be:
2 January @ 5:15p
30 January @ 5:50p
Shomrei Kehillah Awards Celebration Update
Way back in January 2020, our Shomrei Kehillah Award nominees were announced. Please note that due to the passing of our beloved Sylvia, the date of the celebration is being changed and will be announced soon. Our honorees are:
Volunteers of the Year: Anita Merims, Sylvia Z”L and Herb Winer
Tzameret Award for Youth Leadership: Eli Feret, Dara Weingarten
Woman of Valor (awarded by Women's Network): Mishka Luft
Shofar Award (awarded by Men's Club): Howard Wohl
In the Community
Staff Emails
Rabbi Rafi Spitzer,, (518) 348-9478
Joshua Cooper-Ginsburg, Executive
Jack Mintzer, Education Director:
Chris Parisi, Administrative Assistant:
Rosalie Fadem, Bookkeeper:
Rise' Routenberg, Catering:  
Board Emails
Jackie Rowen, President:
Steve Schmidt, Program VP:
Jeff Shapiro, Youth VP:
Neal Shapiro, Treasurer:
Our Sponsors
[518-393-9211]  []