Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
12 November 2020 - 25 Heshvan 5781
Parashat Chayei Sarah
Shabbat Mevarchim HaHodesh  
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.
When Abraham’s servant returns with Rebecca to Canaan in the fifth aliya of Parashat Hayei Sarah, Isaac is returning from a place called Be’er-lahai-roi (Gen 24:62). What is this place? Everett Fox translates the place-name as “the Well of the Living-One Who-Sees-Me,” and reminds us that it is mentioned back in chapter 16—it is the place that Hagar experienced God’s presence when Sarai kicked her out the first time. What was Isaac doing there, at a place so associated with Hagar, the mother of his half-brother Ishmael? I imagine Isaac looking for comfort after his mother’s death, and trying to rekindle a youthful connection with his step-mother. The midrash has a slightly different take, though related. Genesis Rabbah says that just as Abraham is concerned with finding Isaac a bride, so Isaac has gone to Be’er-lahai-roi to convince Hagar to return to Abraham that me might take her again as his wife. Later, when Abraham dies, and Isaac and Ishmael bury Abraham in the cave of Machpelah, next to his wife Sarah, Isaac settles near Be’er-lahai-roi—presumably to be near his brother and his brother’s family.
So often, we imagine these characters not getting along; after all, only one of them carries on the covenant of Abraham to the next generation—yet reading between the lines suggests that they are friendly with each other. However, aside from the family dynamics at play her, I am struck by what might it mean for Isaac, who is nearly sacrificed on the mountain “YHWH Sees” to live near a well called “Living-One Who-Sees-Me”? The mountain and the well are symbolic negatives of each other: a well is a hole in the ground, and a mountain is ground thrust into the sky. Yet both of these places are associated with a God who Sees. Isaac goes blind early, and is unable to see—is this also connected? What is the Torah trying to teach us here? What do you think?
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
A Message from the President
Now it's time to get to work. Election Day is over; all votes will be counted. The next President of the United States will be decided. This isn't the time to gloat or to fight back. It's time to put the hurt and anger behind us and to come together and heal the divide that has grown in our country. Let's get started.
Jackie Rowen
A Message from Women of the Wall
Dear Rabbi Spitzer, Mishka, and the Sadie Schneider Rosh Hodesh Learning Group members,

I hope that this note finds you and your community well.
I just returned yesterday from the US where I retrieved Congregation Agudat Achim's Torah mantels from the family that has been holding them since February. Women of the Wall would like to thank you for the contribution. We hope to display them during the WOW Torah mantle parade, once the pandemic is behind us.
WOW has won the right for women to wear tallit and tefillin and to pray aloud as a group at the Western Wall. The one privilege that evades us is access to Torah scrolls for women. There are more than 200 Torah scrolls for public use at the Western Wall, all housed on the men’s side. Women may not obtain or read from any of them, nor may women bring in their own scroll.
Therefore, WOW has resorted to covertly smuggling in a Torah scroll, sometimes with success and sometimes not. The empty Torah mantle parade will emphasize that women are denied the right to Torah scrolls, and that this unjustifiable regulation at the Western Wall must be overturned.
On behalf of the Staff and Board of Women of the Wall, I thank you for partnering with us in this effort. We hope to share photos of the parade so that you can see your Torah mantles taking their rightful place at this important event. 
Wishing you good health and thanking you once again for your generosity.

Nechama Namal, Director of Philanthropy
With Our Members
Birthdays: Leanna Curley, Edward Greenberg, Lee Strichman, Jenny Anne Frank, Laurey Goldberg, Eric Montijo, Ross Aaron Engelmyer, Lisa Schapiro, Allen Tombank, Eric Cooper-Ginsburg, Mark Friedman, Joshua Korn, Karen Pearlman, Linda Woodward-Stein, Adam Gilman, Abe Middleton, Simon Woods
Yahrzeits: Fay Chesin Siegel, Harry Finkle, Beatrice McComb, Daniel Kliman, Philip Stark, Paul Wallach, Laura Koslowf, Betty Bloom, Abe Myers, Abram Shpigel, Gladys Kozinn, Jennie Cohen, Beatrice Merims, Dr. Harry Silver, Theodore Takaroff
Mazel Tov to Grady Goldner on celebrating becoming Bar Mitzvah and to his parents Jason Goldner and Jill Lovenheim.
We have learned with great sorrow of the passing of Sharon Kundin, former longtime members, on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. Our condolences go out to the Kundin Family.

We have learned with great sorrow of the passing of Marvin Snyder, former longtime members, on Wednesday, 4 November 2020. Our condolences go out to the Snyder Family.
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: Elianna Moses, Gilah Moses, Dan Mayer, Rachael Besser
Daveners/Service Leaders: Murray Jaros, Kaitlin Spektor
Other Service Participants: Orit Shiang, Eric Moses, Rina Moses, Aryeh Korevaar, Steve Schmidt, Neal Shapiro, Kaitlin Spektor
Service Coordinator/Gabbai: Rob Fox
COVID-19 Compliance Guarantor/Shamash: Susan Sharfstein
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!
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:
Tonight! Rabbi's Class:
Living A Jewish Life -- Kashrut 7:30p
Living a Jewish Life: Shabbat, Kashrut, and Tzedakah
Some of us received Jewish educations with gaps. Do you keep kosher because your parents did but don’t really understand parve? Who is responsible to observe Shabbat? What does Judaism say about how to allocate tzedakah funds? Whatever your gaps are, whatever your questions are, our adult education theme this year of “Back to the Basics” is for you!
Rabbi’s first 3-session class on this theme, “Living a Jewish Life,” (5, 12 & 19 Nov) will cover Shabbat, Kashrut, and Tzedakah.
Open to learners at all levels, including partners and community members of other faiths or of no faith. Come to one or all classes!
5 Nov; 12 Nov; 19 Nov @ 7:30p
Note: the full recording of our first program in this series (5 Nov) on the topic of Shabbat is available on the adult education page of our website. If you missed it, feel free to catch up before the next session, however each class is also stand-alone.
Niggun Saloon (Tomorrow)
Fridays at 11:30a
Join Rabbi Spitzer for an opportunity to sing wordless melodies together for 45 minutes. Feel free to bring this program along as you bake challah for Shabbat or do your laundry-- or set aside some time to focus on song. This is a spiritual exercise, rather than an intellectual one.
If you missed the past sessions, you can listen on our website and here: 23 October, 30 October, and 6 November.
We will learn new melodies as we go.
New Kabbalat Shabbat Time
This week: 3:15p
Beginning this week, our Friday afternoon Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat service will be exactly 60 minutes before candle lighting, on Zoom only:
13 Nov – 3:15p; 20 Nov – 3:07p; 27 Nov – 3:05p
4 Dec – 3:03p; 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
Hanukkah Programming: Request for a Volunteer
Disappointed that we cannot have a festive Hanukkah dinner this year, because of the pandemic, Rabbi Spitzer came to the CAA Board of Trustees with a vision: Let's get a big electric loud-and-proud Hanukkiah, and put it out on the front lawn, near route 7, where we have our big carrot in the summer. Let's meet outside, wearing masks and socially distant, for songs and blessings and the opportunity to celebrate together. We don't want to exclude anyone, so of the 8 nights, let's do 3 on Zoom, and 5 outside. Rabbi Spitzer shared with the board his imagination: different parts of the community would take responsibility for different nights of Hanukkah, appointing members of their group to lead the blessings, to sing their favorite songs, to celebrate in their own way. He suggested that perhaps the USY would take a night, the Women's Network, the Men's Club. He suggested that we have a night where we invite the other synagogues in town to join us. Perhaps one night we can invite the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate. Maybe the JCC or Federation would want to be involved? All of this depended on acquiring a big menorah. Well, we are thrilled to announce that thanks to the hard work and organization of Hillary Fink and Deb Friedson, and the fundraising they were able to organize with diverse parts of the community, the 9' Aluminum Indoor/Outdoor Hanukkiah arrived at the synagogue this week. So, we're on!
So far, the CAA Religious School has claimed the first night of Hanukkah, 10 December. But there is a lot more organizing that has to happen to make this vision a reality. Perhaps you are captivated by this idea and would like to help? Please email Rabbi Spitzer ASAP at to let him know that you'd like to work with representatives from the board and the holiday committee to create CAA's Hanukkah celebrations. Don't let the light go out!
Carrot Festival Minyan
17 November @ 7:00p
Honoring our Carrot Festival Volunteers
Typically we have a Carrot Festival Shabbat to celebrate the success of our Carrot Festival. To continue the tradition of everything being different this year, the entire congregation is invited to join us for Carrot Festival Minyan on Zoom at the special time of 7:00 p.m. We will hear from committee members to talk about the experiences of this year's Festival, celebrate that we were able to have a Festival, celebrate our volunteers, and present the annual Carrot Award to ??? (you will have to tune in to minyan to find out!).
PJ Library Havdalah
Next Program:
21 Nov @ 5:15 pm on Zoom
Back to the Basics: Introduction to Jewish History
with visiting scholar Jeffrey Spitzer
Begins 3 December at 7:30p
Democracy and Religion
in Israel
Next Program: Sunday
6 December 10:30a
Note: the full recording of our first program in this series (8 Nov) is 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
Sunday 13 Dec at 10:30 am
Pre-registration Required
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.
USY News
Our dates and times to volunteer at the regional food bank for November and December are:

Sunday November 22 1-3 pm and Sunday December 20 10:30 – noon.

You can sign up now if you want to make sure you have a spot. You can feel free to sign up for both days if you like.
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.

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.

 This week there will be a Religious School Havdalah
(community invited)

Stuffed cabbage from cooking with Rise' class

Introducing Our Meals to-go Drive-Thru Market
As You Like It Catering – Introducing Our Meals to-go Drive-Thru Market
Just in time for the holidays Hundreds of containers ready to go including both new and favorite recipes.

Many items are holiday-related including our Hanukkah Meals-to-Go Family Dinner but all are perfect to be enjoyed anytime. Consider stocking up for the winter ahead, bring a meal to a shut-in or a friend as a gift or surprise, providing food for a shiva or celebrating a simcha.

Please click here for Menu items, ordering and drive-thru pickup dates and times.

Learner's Service
Monthly Learner's Service with Rabbi Spitzer
Next: 21 November @ 8:45a
Join by livestream or in-person in the sanctuary to learn about the structure, themes, Hebrew, and melodies of our morning service. We are hoping to offer this program once a month before our main service at 9:45a. Come with questions, thoughts and curiosity. For learners at all levels, including partners and community members of other faiths or of no faith.
Our first Learner's Service was on Shabbat 31 October. You can access the recording of that program on YouTube and on the Adult Education page of our website.
If you have any lingering questions for Rabbi Spitzer, please send him an email, and the answers to your questions will be posted on the site on the Adult Education Blog.
Ongoing Events
Parashat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Spitzer                        
Next Class 17 November
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 (10 Nov), the teaching we learned together can be found at this link: "Faith in the Future" by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Spitzer invites you to call or email with your comments or thoughts.

Hebrew Classes with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
Next Class 17 November @ 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 resume Oct. 20, 27; Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24; Dec. 1, 8, 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 Next: 22 November
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:
5 December @ 5:05p
2 January @ 5:15p
30 January @ 5:50p
In the Community
CAA is a sponsor of the first Scholar Stream series, an initiative of the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. You can register for the whole series or for individual sessions, and because we joined as a sponsor congregation, all registrations are free with our special coupon code: CAAFall20 (case sensitive). Note that the registration may ask for credit card/billing info but with the coupon code entered and applied, registrants can click through without entering the information.

Hidden Histories and Untold Stories
Tuesdays at 8 PM ET / 5 PM PT
Join JTS scholars as they uncover the hidden context around biblical figures and important eras in Jewish history.
  • 11/10: Dr. David Fishman on how religious pre-Holocaust Eastern European Jewry actually was—or wasn’t
  • 11/17: Dr. Alan Cooper on why we stopped caring about Moses’s descendants
  • 12/1: Dr. Sarah Wolf on how foreign the beit midrash would feel to the early Rabbis
  • 12/8: Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky on what the Bible really had against Jezebel
Equity, Forgiveness and Intersectionality
Wednesdays at 10 PM ET / 7 PM PT
Join Ziegler faculty as they explore issues related to race, gender equality, intersectionality, and building a democracy of the future. Download the full descriptions for each Ziegler session here.
  • 11/11: Rabbi Cheryl Peretz will examine the centuries old Jewish march towards gender equality and justice
  • 11/18: Rabbi Dr. Elliot Dorff will explore the concept of communal forgiveness
  • 12/2: Rabbi Dr. Gail Labovitz on what Exodus has to teach us about intersectionality
  • 12/9: Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen on building a multiracial democracy
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.
Camp Ramah New England Virtual Tours
To learn more about our incredible overnight camp program, please sign up for an online tour of our facilities! You can connect live via Zoom with Josh Edelglass, Assistant Director of Camp Ramah New England. Josh will guide you through a multimedia presentation, with videos and 360-degree panoramic photos, in which we’ll take you on a virtual tour of our campgrounds, and he’ll answer all of your questions about our overnight camp experience. Please contact Josh to make a reservation. Visit our website:
You can also watch our awesome short promotional video: and take a virtual tour of our camp facilities: on our website
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]  []