Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
26 November 2020 - 10 Kislev 5781
Parashat Vayetzei  
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. This week, however, I've chosen something from the 3rd aliya.
Today is Thanksgiving Day. The Hebrew name of this holiday is Hag HaHodaya, the Holiday of Giving Thanks. How fitting it is, then, that the first time any person offered a prayer of gratitude, is in this week's Torah portion, Vayetze.
The Talmud (Brachot 7b) reports: Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: From the day the Holy Blessed One created the world, no one thanked the Holy Blessed One, until Leah came and thanked God, as it is stated: “And she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and she said, ‘This time I will give thanks to God,’ and thus he was called Judah” (Genesis 29:35). If you read the context, Leah and Rachel, the sisters who were both married to Jacob, were in a struggle over Jacob's love-- he loved Rachel, but she remained childless. Leah names her first son Reuben; for she declared, “It means: ‘The LORD has seen my affliction’; it also means: ‘Now my husband will love me.’” So, too, her second and third sons. Finally, when Leah has a fourth son, she offers gratitude.
Judah is in many ways the most important of Leah's children, and it is from Judah that we (the Jewish people) get our name: Judaism/Yehudim are those of Judah. Just as Leah gave thanks when Judah was born, so did Judah continue that tradition of praising and thanking God. The Midrash Tanchuma comments: Leah spoke words of praise, and her offspring continued the tradition of praise. She declared: This time will I praise the Lord (Gen. 29:35); and of her son Judah it is said: Judah, thee thy brethren praise (ibid. 49:8). King David (another descendant of Leah and Judah) said: Praise the Lord, for God is good (Ps. 118:1). May we continue in that great tradition, and offer thanks for the blessings in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
With Our Members
Birthdays: Valentina Khirge, Harold Krupa, Anita Merims, Stephen Schechter, Florence Wasserman, Arthur Friedson,
Cole Lindsey, Gyle Ben Ami, Murray Jaros, Dan Gross, Rivka Centonze, Alex Hallenstein, Isaac Spektor

Anniversaries: Elissa and Michael Freedman
Yahrzeits: Fred Appel, Dorothy Martin, Aron Seras, Byron Garmil, Gussie Mendelson, Ruth Happ, Irving Hausler, Harry Meyer, Simon Sanders, Evelyn Smuckler, Herman Kerman, Bertha Gelb, Irving Handelman, Michael Mendelson, Janet Saltzman
Mazel tov to Jeff and Barbara Hollander on their granddaughter Mia's ritual of being welcomed into the Covenant of Abraham and Sarah and her receiving the Hebrew name Margalit Dodi this week. Mazel tov also to Mia's parents Jaime and Brian, and to their whole 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: Kati Illouz, Aryeh Korevaar, Joe Shiang
Daveners/Service Leaders: Dan Mayer, Eliana Moses
Other Service Participants: Eliana Moses, Barby Harris, Susan Sharfstein, Kati Illouz, Steve Schmidt, Dan Mayer, Neal Shapiro
Service Coordinator/Gabbai: Murray Jaros
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
Hanukkah Starts
We will be providing programing for every night of Hanukkah featuring our giant Menorah.
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 only:
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
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.

Save the Date

First Night, First Light

10 December

Join the Religious School as we gather to light our Community Menorah

More information to follow after Thanksgiving

RSVP to Jack at

Back to the Basics:
How to Drash Workshop
First Session 2 December
How to Write and Prepare to Deliver a Dvar Torah (lit: word of Torah / teaching)
The Adult Education committee is offering two classes for congregants who would like to learn how to give a Dvar Torah, that is, a short talk in which one teaches something from the rabbinic tradition, usually related to the weekly Torah portion. The first class will focus on how to put together a Dvar Torah and how to prepare to deliver it to the audience. The second will use the Sefaria website to introduce a wide range of sources available to people who want to prepare a Dvar Torah (or just learn more about the Torah even if they don't plan to give a talk on what they've learned). You can attend both classes or just one. People who take the classes and would like to deliver a Dvar Torah during a Saturday morning service will be offered that opportunity.
1st Session: Wednesday 2 December
2nd Session: Wednesday 9 December
All Sessions at 7:30p, following minyan
Back to the Basics: Introduction to Jewish History
with visiting scholar Jeffrey Spitzer
Begins 3 December at 7:30p
Niggun Saloon
(Fri 4 Dec @ 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.
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.
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
As You Like It Catering – Thank you to all who supported our successful Meals to Go Drive-Thru Market.
We will continue to sell food while supplies last. Some items may be sold out already.

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

Arrangements can be made for pick up on an individual basis.

Ongoing Events
Parashat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Spitzer                        
Next Class 1 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 last class (17 Nov), the teaching we learned together can be found at this link: "Communication Matters" by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. We did not meet this week (24 Nov), but if we had met, we would have learned the teaching found at this link: "Jacob's Ladder and the Structure of Jewish Prayer" by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Spitzer invites you to call or email with your comments or thoughts.

Hebrew Classes with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
Next Class 1 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 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: 6 December
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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
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]  []