Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
17 December 2020 - 2 Tevet 5781
Parashat Mikeitz
Rabbi Rafi Spitzer -- President Jackie Rowen
Words from our Rabbi
Joyfully, and with immense gratitude to Hashem, Rachael and I are delighted to announce the arrival into the world of our son. Ellie is so excited to be an older sister!
Born at 2:25a on Wednesday 16 December, Rosh Hodesh Tevet, the 6th day of Hanukkah, weighing 8lbs 9ozs, our baby and his mother are healthy and well.
Information about the ritual of welcoming into the covenant is forthcoming-- we intend to invite the whole community.

And Torah:
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.
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.
In the fifth aliya of Parashat Miketz, the brothers return from Egypt, sans Simeon, who has been imprisoned by the second in command of all Egypt, who has charged the brothers that if they show their faces to ask for grain again without their youngest brother, they will be executed as spies. Jacob has a very bad reaction when they tell him this, as Benjamin is the only remaining child of his beloved Rachel—he blames his sons for all the bad things that he has encountered in his life and forbids them from taking Benjamin.
The food begins to run out, and Reuben, the eldest, comes to Jacob and tells him that his own sons’ life would be forfeit if he returns from Egypt without Benjamin. The Radak (David Kimhi, 12th c., Provence) comments, “Reuven said something foolish in even suggesting that his father might kill his own grandsons. Yaakov responded: (not in text) 'you are a foolish firstborn--what makes you think that your sons are not also my sons?' Seeing that Reuven’s suggestion was so foolish, Yaakov did not even bother to formally reply to it. It did not deserve to be dignified with a serious answer. He just told him that he would not send Binyamin with him and the other brothers.”
The grain is almost all gone when Judah comes to Jacob, telling him “I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible (Fox: I will act as his pledge, at my hand you may seek him): if I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, I shall stand guilty before you forever.” A careful reading of this verse calls to mind other verses in Genesis: Jacob’s comment to his uncle Laban in 31:39 that “I would make good the loss/ at my hand you would seek it;” and the story of the pledge/surety Judah himself left with Tamar (38:18) by which she was able to identify him as the father of her children. Judah does not offer more death in exchange for a potential failure to bring Benjamin back, instead, he takes full responsibility.
This word, pledge/surety is eiravon, and it is this word that the rabbis use to describe the significance of Jewish community: kol yisrael areivim ze lazeh, all Israel is responsible one to the other, or literally, “each Jew is a surety/guarantee/pledge to each other.”
How do you take responsibility for others? How can we take responsibility for each other in the context of our community? What do you think it means to act as a surety for another person? How does the intertextual connections between Judah’s statement and the other stories in Genesis 31 and 38 deepen the significance of this moment in our Parasha?
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
Message from the President
We are all so excited that Baby Boy Spitzer has arrived! Mazel Tov to Rachael, Rabbi and big sister Ellie! Rabbi will be taking family leave until Friday, January 22nd. During this time, Rabbi will be available for funerals and other time-sensitive emergencies. Should he be needed, please contact Jackie Rowen, or Josh Cooper-Ginsburg. The Ritual Committee will be covering services usually led by Rabbi and Rabbi’s regular classes will continue and be taught by various colleagues. Should you have any questions or needs during Rabbi’s family leave, please feel free to contact Jackie at

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah and the final lighting of our new Mega menorah. Please join us at 6:30p on the front lawn of the synagogue so we can give a well deserved thank you to our Holiday Committee and everyone who worked to make Hanukkah 2020 special. See you there!

With Our Members
Birthdays: Anna Schleifstein, Ami Sidi, Lori Stein, Chloe Weiss, Len Zinoman, Bonnie Cramer, Steven Goldberg, Matthew Frank, Roberta Steiner, Jan Altschuller, Dick Mendelson, Henry Skoburn

Anniversaries: : Valerie and Richard Brooks, Barbara and Jeffrey Hollander, Adena and Jack Mintzer, Joseph Shiang and Susan Sharfstein, Ellen and Martin Wakesberg, Arlene and Harvey Mendelson
Yahrzeits:David Katz, Clifford Elson, Ruth Silverberg, Samuel Sosensky, Merle Hertzman, Rivka Gorodner, Morris Harris, Fannie Mushkat, Harry Golub
We have learned, with great sorrow, of the passing of long-time congregant Joanne Seltzer. Our sincerest condolences go to Joanne’s family. Details regarding the funeral and shiva period are forthcoming.
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: Steve Schmidt, Alexandra Schmidt, Gideon Schmidt, Rachel Schmidt, Josiah Schmidt, Howie Axelrod, Elianna Moses, Day Mayer
Daveners/Service Leaders: Joe Shiang
Other Service Participants: Howard Axelrod, Orit Shiang, Jackie Rowen
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!
Hanukkah Programing
Final Night Tonight!
6:30p on our front lawn
Rabbi Spitzer's close friend and colleague Rabbi Shayna Golkow and Ben Zauzmer built this tool for socially distant dreidel playing for the whole family, wherever you find yourselves this Hanukkah.
Check it out!
Hanukkah is a wonderful time to count one's blessings and donate to support those in need. You can make a Hanukkah donation locally in many ways, including by contributing to the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund. See these resources by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger for use while lighting candles this year:
One of our partner organizations, the Hadar Institute (, has created some wonderful educational resources for Hanukkah. Enjoy these!
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: 3:05p
Beginning this week, our Friday afternoon Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat service will be exactly 60 minutes before candle lighting, on Zoom:
18 Dec – 3:05p; 25 Dec – 3:09p
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.

High School Cooking Class Highlights!
Jacob Shapiro giving a Hanukkah presentation to his public school class!
Jacob Shapiro giving a Hanukkah presentation to his public school class!
Back to the Basics: Introduction to Jewish History
with visiting scholar Jeffrey Spitzer
Third Class tonight at 7:30p
PJ Library Havdalah
This Saturday Night!
19 Dec @ 5:15 pm on Zoom
USY News
Our date and times to volunteer at the regional food bank in December is:

Sunday December 20 10:30 – noon.

You can sign up now if you want to make sure you have a spot.
The food bank has served record numbers of people since the pandemic began and needs volunteers to keep doing that.
Feel free to email or call 518-810-2249 with questions.

Cooking with Rise'
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.
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 22 December
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 with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
Next Class 22 December @ 6:00p
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 ; Dec. 22. 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
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 Hanging out. 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
In the Community
A New Season of Book Talks That Will Inform and Inspire You
What are the new books of Jewish interest that will matter most to you? What worlds and challenges are Jewish authors imagining? What new scholarship is changing the ways we understand Jewish history, identity, and life? I hope you’ll join The Library of JTS—one of the world’s premier centers of the Jewish Book—to discover new Jewish writing that will inform and inspire you, through conversations with authors sharing their passions, discoveries, and ideas.
Christmas Eve for the Jews!
Christmas Eve for the Jews: Streams 8pm EST Dec 24
Tickets: $20/screen, 20% to USY
*48 hour access to the stream with each ticket

Live-stream December 24th, 8pm EST (7 CST / 6 MST / 5 PST)

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]  []