Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
10 December 2020 - 24 Kislev 5781
Parashat Vayeshev
Rabbi Rafi Spitzer -- President Jackie Rowen
Words from our Rabbi
Before my teaching this week, a request. Yesterday, Schenectady Clergy Against Hate had a very productive meeting with Schenectady mayor, Gary McCarthy, and Police Chief, Eric Clifford. One of the things that emerged was the urgency for us to reach out to Senator Chuck Schumer as well as Senator Kristin Gillibrand to ensure that local funding is not removed from the stimulus package. It is imperative that we do not cut much-needed resources from our local municipalities that have been hit hard from economic downturns as a result of COVID. Please contact them as soon as possible as the deal is in the works; let's do what we can to make sure that much needed money flows to cities and towns in our area. 
Senator Schumer's Washington office telephone: (202) 224-6542 and email:
Senator Gillibrand's Washington office telephone:(202) 224-4451 and email:
And now, 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 fourth aliya of Vayeshev interrupts the Joseph story (between when the brothers sell him to Egypt and when he arrives in Egypt) with the story of Judah and Tamar. At my Parashat Hashavua class this week (Tuesdays 12:30p on Zoom, open to all), we discussed the episode of Judah and Tamar at length, following the teaching of Rabbi Yitz Greenberg “The Messianic Life Force” (linked here). At the beginning of our fifth aliya, the story of Joseph resumes “When Joseph was taken down to Egypt, a certain Egyptian, Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh and his chief steward, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there.” The rabbis ask why these stories are juxtaposed—why is it that the Torah has inserted Judah’s story in the middle of Joseph’s? Many answers to this question exist, but here are a couple you might not have thought of: 
Rabbi Eleazar explained that the Torah wanted to make “one descent proximate to the other descent.” What does this mean? Rabbi Eleazar is pointing out the Hebrew root/word “to descend/laredet” appears in the first verse of both chapter 38 and chapter 39—first Judah descends from among his brothers and now Joseph is taken down (same word, different verb form) to Egypt. Rabbi Eleazar brings our attention to the lowliness, trauma, and sadness of these stories. Judah loses two sons, and his wife; Joseph is sold into slavery. They both experience a descent, a going down. For Rabbi Eleazar, having these stories next to one another accentuates that aspect of the story. 
Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman has a different approach, explaining that there is this juxtaposition “in order to make the story of Tamar proximate to the story of Potiphar’s wife; [to tell you that] just as that one (the incident of Tamar) was for the sake of Heaven, so too this one (the incident of Potiphar’s wife) was meant for the sake of Heaven." What?! When Potiphar’s wife tries to commit adultery with Joseph, and then frames him for rape and gets him thrown in prison, that was done for the sake of heaven?! Turns out that R Shmuel b. Nachman is actually responding to an older midrashic tradition from Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that Potiphar’s wife received an astrological reading that Joseph would have sons descended from her, sons who would be a part of the covenant and lead tribes, and she was trying to fulfill that prophecy. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to her that there was another way to fulfill that prophecy, namely the way that in the end happened, that her daughter Osnat would be Joseph’s wife. Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim are indeed descended from the wife of Potiphar through her daughter. Because she was responding to this prophecy, R Shmuel b. Nachman is able to describe her actions as “for the sake of Heaven,” meaning for the right reasons. For R Shmuel b. Nachman, having these stories next to each other accentuates the righteousness of the women in the story, rather than the trauma of the men. 
Which explanation do you prefer, and why? Can you think of other reasons why these stories might be put together like this? 
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
Message from the President

Happy Hanukkah from the Rowen Family!
With Our Members
Birthdays: Hallela Isaacson, Susan Jarrett, Barbara Miller, Bette Kraut, Sue Ann Grosberg, Audra Isaacson, Isaiah Woods, Bas Korevaar

Anniversaries: Mary and Steven Greenfield, Anette and Roger Keen
Yahrzeits: Sidney Kassimir, Florence Rosenfeld, Wallace Rudolph, Zlatha Shulman, Adolph Strichman, Judith Koslowf Marhefka, Ilene Nevins, Muriel Axelrod, Martin E. Becker, Ellen Calvary, Henry Rubanek, Max Spilberg, Rosette Weiss, Hyman Gelfand, Burton Kliman, Bert Levin, Lillian Haber, Ruth Yetwin
Mazal Tov to Jaime and David Gross on the birth of Mikaela Annie, granddaughter of Mery and Dan Gross!
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: Howard Mittleman, Rabbi Spitzer, Alexandra Schmidt
Daveners/Service Leaders: Aryeh Korevaar, Rachel Schmidt
Other Service Participants: Jackie Rowen
Service Coordinator/Gabbai: Ken Carpenter
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
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: 3:03p
Beginning this week, our Friday afternoon Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat service will be exactly 60 minutes before candle lighting, on Zoom:
11 Dec – 3:03p; 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.

First Night, First Light
10 December
4:30 p.m.
Join the Religious School as we gather to light our Community Menorah

This promises to be a historic event for our Congregation
Sufganiyot for all
Hanukkah gift bags for all the kids
Hanukkah songs

Of course we will be masked and practicing social distancing!

RSVP to Jack at
From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory

A look at some of the Jewish elements – coincidental or otherwise – of Star Wars

13 December at 12:30pm

A High School One Shot with Ely Wohl

RSVP to Jack at
Cooking with Rise'
Latkes and applesauce
Cooking with Rise'
Giant chocolate chip cookie
Back to the Basics: Introduction to Jewish History
with visiting scholar Jeffrey Spitzer
Second Class tonight at 7:30p
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.
Race and Racism in the Jewish Community
with Rabbi Sandra Lawson
This Sunday (13 Dec) 10:30a
Pre-registration Required
Institute for Jewish Spirituality Retreat
Hanukkah: Rededication, Resilience,
and Renewal
A Half-Day of Spiritual Practice and Rededication
An Online Jewish Mindfulness Retreat
Sunday, December 13, 2020
12:00 PM ET – 3:30 PM ET
PJ Library Havdalah
Next Program:
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.

As You Like It Catering
Hanukkah 2020 is just around the corner! Need Brisket? Latkes? Food Items to serve at your Holiday Meals? ..... and don't forget Dessert!
We have it all in stock.

Consider purchasing a holiday meal to drop off to friends and family.

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

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 and second programs with Rabbi Lawson (29 October and 7 November) are available on the adult education page of our website. If you missed them, feel free to catch up before the third session.
Ongoing Events
Parashat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Spitzer                        
Next Class 15 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. If you missed Rabbi Spitzer’s Tuesday Parashat Hashavua class this past week (8 December), the teaching we learned together can be found at this link: "The Messianic Life Force" by Rabbi Yitz Greenberg. Rabbi Spitzer invites you to call or email with your comments or thoughts.

Hebrew Classes with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
Next Class 15 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. 15, 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.
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]  []