Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
13 February 2021 - 1 Adar 5781
Parashat Mishpatim
Shabbat Shekalim
Rosh Hodesh Adar
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, in honor of Repro Shabbat, I'm going to pick up a passage from the 2nd aliya instead.
Our tradition not only permits the termination of pregnancy, but even requires it when the life of the pregnant person is at stake. Pikuach nefesh—saving lives—is a key principle in our tradition, as is upholding human dignity—kavod habriyot—and working to make our society more safe and just for all. Our community should be a place where anyone who has, or may ever, terminate a pregnancy feels loved, welcomed, and supported. It should be a place where people understand what our tradition teaches about these issues. And it should be a place where we understand the importance of fighting for reproductive health, rights, and justice for everyone. We must not remain idle while barriers to health care place any individual’s health, well-being, autonomy, and economic security at risk. 
Repro Shabbat falls on the Shabbat when Jews read Mishpatim, the Torah portion with the verses that form the basis of the Jewish approach to reproductive freedom—the story of an accidental miscarriage that teaches us much about how Judaism does, and doesn’t, regard the personhood of a fetus. 
Exodus 21:22-25 says: When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
In other words, if someone accidentally causes a miscarriage to take place, they are obligated to pay financial damages only; the case is not treated as manslaughter or murder, which would demand the death penalty. The “other damage” that would demand the death penalty (“life for life”) would be the death of the pregnant person herself (or some other serious punishment relating to the damage caused--”eye for eye, tooth for tooth…”) In other words, causing the termination of a pregnancy is not, in the Torah, considered murder. As the Talmud puts it: (Sanhedrin 87b:10) In cases of capital law, the dispute concerning such a prohibition is with regard to the issue that is the subject of the dispute between Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and the Rabbis, as it is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says with regard to that which is written: “If men struggle and they hurt a pregnant woman…and if there shall be a tragedy you shall give a life for a life” (Exodus 21:22–23), the reference is to a monetary payment for the life that he took. The tragedy referenced is the unintentional killing of the mother.
The Orthodox Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, known as the Tzitz Eliezer, wrote in the 20th century: It is clear and obvious as law that a Jew is not killed for a fetus. Aside from one view, the authorities rule that there is a prohibition, but many authorities believe that this prohibition is rabbinic, or it is under “building the world.” But there is no concern for destroying a life, and therefore Maharit 1:97-99 permits arrangement for a Jewish woman to abort a fetus where it is needed for the mother’s health, even without it being a matter of saving the mother’s life… And in such a case, and beyond this, Rabbi Yaakov Emden permitted, writing, “And even with a legitimate fetus, there is room to be lenient for great need, so long as it has not been uprooted [for birth], even without a need to save the mother’s life, but only to save her from her evil, which causes her great pain.” We see clearly that this permission of Rabbi Yaakov Emden is even when it is not a matter of saving the mother’s life, and it is only to save her from great pain because of the child, and that in general there is room to be lenient for great need. ...And suffering and emotional pain in great measure are greater and more painful than physical pain.
While many people believe that the more committed to Jewish law you are, the more opposition you have to abortion, in fact, Judaism not only permits the termination of pregnancy, but even requires it when the life of the pregnant person is at stake. 

I am looking forward to honoring this important issue through our Repro Shabbat, in recognition of the importance of reproductive justice.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
A Message from our President

This week began the first of a four-part “Scholar in Your Residence” series on Judaism and Science. I have always been a very STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) person and throughout my life I’ve struggled to reconcile what I know to be scientifically true and my Jewish beliefs. This is something I often talked with Dad about. As a teenager I remember asking him on more than one topic “but if science is telling us... how can you believe that God was responsible for it?” His answer was always “that’s what faith is”. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that it’s okay to question how science fits into what we believe, but I’ve also learned to just have faith. Needless to say, I’m super excited to attend this series and learn a little bit more about how Judaism and science intersect.

Jackie Rowen
Birthdays: : Judith Kraut, Nathaniel Goldstein, Jaclyn Hollander, Fran Abrams, Adena Mintzer, Ruth Siegal, Annette Daniels, Cherie Gold, Polina Peseleva

Stephen & Stephanie Schechter
Yahrzeits: Goldie Levinson,
Richard Palatsky, Irwin Gerson,
Bernard Mollen, Manaheim Siegal,
Bersutskay Getl Benumovna,
Dr. Albert Freedman, Anna Jacobs,
Robert Levine, Doris Stone,
Risiya Dubrovskaya, Gladys Golub,
Pauline Goldstein, Joseph Goodman,
Samuel Merims, Sarah Sobolsky,
Dorothy Stein
We have learned with great sorrow of the passing Friday 5 February of Walter E. Simon, beloved father of Linda Shapiro. Our condolences go to the Simon and Shapiro families.
Thank You
Thank you to the individuals who participated in this past week's Shabbat services.
Yashar koach!
Torah and Haftara Readers: Rabbi Spitzer, Dan Mayer
Daveners/Service Leaders: Joe Shiang, Alexandra Schmidt
Other Service Participants: Marc Besser, Amy Besser, Steve Schmidt, Barby Harris, Murray Jaros, Neal Shapiro, Rabbi Spitzer, Jackie Rowen, Dan Mayer, Colden Shapiro
Service Coordinator/Gabbai: Dan Mayer
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!
Schedule for the Week
New Kabbalat Shabbat Time
This week: 4:01p
Our Friday afternoon Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat service will be exactly 60 minutes before candle lighting, on Zoom.
Judaism & Science
Join us tonight!
PJ Library Havdalah
This Week!
13 Feb @ 6:10 pm on Zoom
Maximizing Optimal Health and Resilience with Dr. Sheryl Spitzer-Resnick
Rise's Kitchen
 Kreplach Making!
Coming to Zoom on Sunday, February 21, 2021 from 11:00-12:00
Featuring the preparation of Kreplach and filling variations.

Here is the featured recipe if you would like to
prepare along with Rise'.
Called Jewish wontons or raviolis, kreplach are pasta dumplings, usually triangular in shape, filled with minced meat, onion-spiced potatoes, or cheese. Kreplach carries a lot of lofty symbolism; its triangular shape represents Judaism's three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Equally lofty: the Jewish momma who can roll her kreplach dough to optimum thinness (so that, according to Sam Levenson, "a tempting bit of their buried treasure should show through"). If the wrappers are not paper-thin, your kreplach will taste like "craplach." However, though we've included wrappers in this recipe, there's really no reason to knock yourself out making them. Just purchase wonton wrappers in a Chinese food store or supermarket, and making kreplach becomes a cinch. There's even a kosher brand called Nasoya, available in many supermarkets; look for it near the tofu.


Mishloach Manot
If you have not yet already done so, please complete and return the form you received in the mail, attached here.

Every member family of Congregation Agudat Achim will receive a package. Out-of-towners should expect to receive their Mishloach Manot package by mail between 20 - 23 February.

Please reach out to Hillary Fink at or 518-331-4208 with any questions.

Your Mishloach Manot committee (Susan Jarrett, Anita Merims, Rise' Routenberg, Sharon Wohl and Hillary Fink) thanks you for your support!
Purim Celebrations
Calling all Megillah Readers!
Parts are still available for our 4:30p family celebration.

If you would like to sign for a part please contact the Rabbi by email.

To see a flyer with all of our Purim activities click here
School Information
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.

Click Here to see pictures from the High School Cooking Class

Please take our survey below on what solo classes you might like from Ely Wohl. Open to grades 6-12!
As You Like It Catering
We still have a huge selection of Meals-To-Go!
Meat, dairy, and pareve; side dishes, main courses, and dessert!
Click here to view available offerings.

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

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

Dessert SALE! All desserts including pies are $5!
Pecan Pie -dairy 
Pumpkin Pie-dairy 
Apple Pie-dairy 
Gluten Free Chocolate Drops-pareve
Chocolate-Iced Chocolate Cake-pareve
More Adult Education Offerings
Click the buttons below to read information on each upcoming event!
Life Line Screening
Life Line Screening of America will be on site at Congregation Agudat Achim on Thursday 18 February, to conduct a series of five preventive screening tests for all who register. Call the number below to register or call the synagogue office for assistance.
Have you ever thought about the following?
  • I want to see my grandchildren grow up.
  • I want to continue living independently.
  • I don’t want to be a burden on my family.
Preventive screenings can help and we have partnered with Life Line Screening to provide these valuable screenings. 
The mission of Life Line Screening is to provide advance, yet affordable and convenient health screenings that supplement your traditional healthcare. 
They can help make you aware of a previously silent, unrecognized problem that can now get treated at an early stage, or confirm that you are on the right path and should continue your healthy habits. 
Don’t let heart disease and stroke get in your way of the life you love. Call toll free 1-888-653-6441, or text the word, “circle” to 797979 to schedule your health screening. 
A package of 5 vital screenings is offered for only $149. If you call today to register, you will receive a $10 discount!
Ongoing Events
Parashat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Spitzer
Next Class 16 February 2021
Rabbi Spitzer teaches a class on the weekly Torah portion on Tuesdays from 12:30p – 1:30p 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 this week's class (9 February) on Parashat Mishpatim, the teaching we learned together can be found here. Rabbi Spitzer invites you to call or email with your comments or thoughts.

Adult Hebrew Classes with Zipporah Harris
Please become part of this group of learners!
Remaining classes 16, 23 February; 2, 9 March, 6:00-7:00 PM on Zoom
$10 per class, payable directly to Zipporah
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 covers reading, writing, and conversation. Please become part of this group of learners! Classes. If you are interested in joining, write to Zipporah at

The Origins of Modern Art and Its Biblical Connections and Influences in the Work of Modern Jewish Artists, taught by Jonathan Weil
3rd class: 17 February 2021
2 remaining consecutive Wednesdays, 17,24 February 1:00 – 2:30 pm. Please register on our CAA website.

Scholars-in-Your-Residence: Judaism & Science                                         
11, 18 Feb; 25 Mar; 1 Apr 2021
Join us as four scholars speak with us about the intersection of Judaism and science and a review of the historical relationship between the two areas of study. All sessions will be held on Zoom immediately after minyan in the same Zoom room.

Back to the Basics: Introduction to Prayer Book Hebrew for Adults, taught by Rabbi Spitzer
                                                       Sundays 9:30-10:30am
Join Rabbi Spitzer and the Adult Education Committee as we present an introductory course for Prayerbook (liturgical) Hebrew. Register online for $36 to cover the cost of the book and materials. 14, 21, 28 Feb; 7 Mar; 18, 25 Apr; 2, 9, 23, 30 May; 6, 13 June (all Sundays, 9:30 am – 10:30 am)

CAA Healthy Living Group
Maximizing Optimal Health and Resilience -Dr. Sheryl Spitzer-Resnick. Wednesday 17 February 10:00a EST

CAA Book Club
Meets on the Second Wednesday of each month, at 12:00p

CAA Men’s Club Torah Study
Meets twice monthly on Sundays at 7:40p; next meeting 21 February 2021
Links to Religious Services
Siddur Supplement
Until further notice, we are using the full Siddur Sim Shalom during weekday and Shabbat services. This version has both Shabbat and Weekday prayer services (whereas the "Slim Shalom," which only contains Shabbat services are typically used in the sanctuary). Rabbi Spitzer has made the following four prayers accessible.

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.
January 2021 Donations
In the Community
COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Information

The CVS in Schenectady County that will provide the vaccinations is located at the CVS in Glenville, 259 Saratoga Road. Scheduling will start on February 9, with appointments starting on February 11. People can go to or call CVS customer service at 1-800-746-7287 to schedule an appointment. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.

Schenectady Police Department's Reform
and Reinvention Collaborative Survey

As part of our local community's response to the protests against racial injustice this summer, a number of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate leaders have participated in the Schenectady Police Department's Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.

This group of community leaders, working in collaboration with local police and government officials, have been tasked to conduct a comprehensive review of how racial injustice and disparities in treatment can be addressed in our local criminal justice system.

As part of that process, the general public has been encouraged to participate in a roughly ten minute survey by Monday, February 15, 2021 that can be found here:

Please lift up your voice as part of the effort of building just, safe and inclusive Schenectady!
The Welcoming Project - LGBTQ Activist Scholarships
We're excited to announce that The Welcoming Project will once again offer a $500 scholarship to an undergraduate student and a $500 scholarship to a graduate student who make outstanding contributions to LGBTQ activism! The application and more information can be found on The Welcoming Project website. Applications are due March 1, 2021.
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]  []