Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
24 December 2020 - 9 Tevet 5781
Parashat  Vayigash
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.

The contemporary midrashist Tamar Kadari explains that Serah daughter of Asher is mentioned in the Bible in the count of the Israelites who went down to Egypt (in the fifth aliya of Parashat Vayigash) and in the enumeration of the Israelites at the steppes of Moab (Num. 26:46). Aside from this, she takes no part in any narrative, nor is anything said about her. In contrast, there are a plethora of midrashic traditions about this woman and thus the faceless Biblical character becomes a fascinating personality. Her history is intertwined with the story of the migration to Egypt and enslavement, and also with redemption and the return to Eretz Israel. She lived to an extremely old age and accordingly was blessed with much earthly wisdom and knowledge, which she used to help the people of Israel as needed, even during the time of the Rabbis.

The midrash speaks of Serah’s great beauty and wisdom: when Joseph was reunited with his brothers and sent them to the land of Canaan to bring his father Jacob to him in Egypt, he ordered them not to alarm their aged father. The brothers summoned Serah and asked her to sit before Jacob and play for him on the lyre, in this manner revealing to him that Joseph was still alive. Serah played well and sang gently: “Joseph my uncle did not die, he lives and rules all the land of Egypt.” She played thus for Jacob two and three times and he was pleased by what he heard. Joy filled his heart, the spirit of God rested on him and he sensed the truth of her words. He bade her: “Continue to play for me, for you have heartened me with all that you said.” While he was speaking with her, his sons came to him with horses, chariots and royal garments, with slaves running before them and told him: “[We bring] glad tidings, for Joseph still lives and he rules all the land of Egypt.” When Jacob saw all that Joseph had sent, he knew that they spoke truthfully. He was exceedingly happy and he said (Gen. 45:28): “[This is] enough [for me]! My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die” (Sefer ha-Yashar, Vayigash, chap. 14).

In the midrashic account, Serah helped Moses to fulfill the oath sworn to Joseph, to carry up his bones. When the Israelites were ready to leave Egypt, they were occupied in taking booty, and Moses was the only one who was engaged with Joseph’s bones. He searched for his coffin in all the land of Egypt, but could not locate it. Serah was the only one of that generation still alive. Moses went to her and asked: “Do you know where Joseph is buried?” She answered: “They placed him here. The Egyptians made for him a metal coffin and sunk it in the Nile, so that its waters would be blessed.” Moses then went to the Nile, stood on the bank and shouted: “Joseph, Joseph, the [time] has come for the oath that God swore to our father Abraham, that He will redeem His children. Give honor to the Lord, the God of Israel, and do not delay your redemption, because we are delayed on your account. If you show yourself, it will be well; and if not, then we are free from your oath [if you will not raise your coffin, we will go forth from Egypt and leave you here].” Joseph’s coffin immediately rose to the surface and Moses took it (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Masekhta Vayehi Beshalah, Petihtah; BT Sotah 13a). This led the Rabbis to state that Serah delivered “the faithful one to the faithful one,” since she gave Joseph over to Moses when they departed from Egypt (Gen. Rabbah 94:9).

Some traditions even have Serah entering the land of Israel with the Jewish people in the time of Joshua. She is identified in the time of David, and she appears to rabbis in the Talmud to give first person testimony to what it was like to walk between the walls of water at the splitting of the sea. Why do you think the rabbis tell these stories about Serah bat Asher? What might be the connection between Serah and redemption? Between Serah and God fulfilling God’s promises? 

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
Message from the President
Monday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From here, the days are going to get longer and with them bring more light and a new secular year. Although we’ve made it past the darkest day of winter, we’ve still got a long road ahead of us. Please remember that your Agudat Achim family is here to help you through it, we’re just a phone call away. Brighter days are on the horizon!

Jackie Rowen

With Our Members
Birthdays: Robert Weissberg, Seth Goldstein, Neal Shapiro

Anniversaries: Mery and Dan Gross, Margaret and Gary Reich, Lisa and Jerrold Schapiro
Yahrzeits:: Goldie Ginsburg, Miles Kraut, Elsa Meyer, Rachel Milkewitz, Anna Seltzer, Ruth Bragin, David Chalfin, Florence Faine, Miriam Hallenstein, Lilyan Grosberg, Marga Kassimir, Saul Chapman, Maurice Reichner, Ilsa Sharlet, Noach Egert, Judith Engel, Jerry Zinoman
We have learned with great sorrow of the passing of Paul Wollman, cousin of CAA congregant Deborah Friedson, on Saturday, 19 December 2020. Our condolences go out to the Wollman and Friedson Families.

Mazel tov to Rise’ and Larry Routenberg on the birth of their grandson, Oliver Dean Wilhelm Routenberg, born to Robin Routenberg and Heather Wilhelm on 17 December 2020.

Mazel tov to Roz Foote on the birth of her great grandson, Mason Foote, born to Shannon and Kevin Foote on 10 November 2020.
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: Eliana Moses, Steve Schmidt, Joe Shiang
Daveners/Service Leaders: Steve Schmidt, Dan Mayer, Rina Moses
Other Service Participants: Gilah Moses
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!
 2021 Mah Jongg cards
It is time to order your 2021 Mah Jongg cards! Large cards cost $10.00 and the Standard cards are $9.00. All orders must be submitted no later than January 22, 2021. Please send a check to Sara Gavens, 64 Victoria Court, Niskayuna, NY 12309, made out to CAA Women's Network. Please include with your check:
  1. Names, home and email addresses, and phone numbers for each person ordering
  2. Number of large and small cards for each person ordering
  3. Total dollar amount enclosed.
Please contact Sara at or by phone at 518-782-4652 with any questions.
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: 3:09p
Beginning this week, our Friday afternoon Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat service will be exactly 60 minutes before candle lighting, on Zoom:
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.

Tu Bishvat whole school program at 4:30pm on Zoom
with Zipporah Harris

Rise's Kitchen
 Let's Get Rolling!
Coming to Zoom on Sunday, January 3, 2021 from 10:00-11:00am
Featuring the preparation of Catering's popular rugelach as well as other sweet and savory treats to roll from this versatile dough.

Here is the featured recipe if you would like to
bake along with Rise'.

Prep dough before Sunday’s Zoom class!

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.
Back to the Basics:
A History of Judaism Through Its Books
with visiting scholar Jeffrey Spitzer
Fourth Class: 7 January at 7:30p
PJ Library Havdalah
Next Program
16 Jan @ 5:35 pm on Zoom
New Course by Jonathan Weil starts 20 January 2021
Save the Date
Adult Tu B'Shevat Seder
28 January 2021, 7:30p

It is Winter! By the end of January, the days will be visibly longer! The sap of the trees is beginning to rise, and the almond trees in Israel will be in bloom! The 15th of Shevat, Tu b'Shevat, marks the full moon of the month of Shevat, pointing the way towards Purim and Pesach! This date is noted in Talmud to be the New Year day for fruit trees, for legal/tax reasons, but there is more to it.

Over the centuries, Jews found ways to recognize and celebrate this special mid-Winter time. A practice developed during the 1500’s in the town of Safed (Tzvat) in Palestine/Israel, to have a feast, consisting of fruits of the Land of Israel, including figs, dates, grapes, olives, pomegranates, along with almonds, pistachios, and other fruits and nuts. The mid-winter fruit feast, accompanied by white and red wine, and the study of sacred texts (spiritual wine), developed into a Seder-like celebration.

We will gather, via Zoom, on Thursday, January 28, 2021 from 7:30-9:00 PM to celebrate our seder for Tu b’Shevat. The Seder will draw upon the ancient practices, and will be participatory, open to all. Participants are asked to have available suitable fruits in each of three categories, list to be provided, along with red and white wine or grape juice, along with high levels of enthusiasm. A Haggadah will be provided closer to the date, available for download, and will be screen-shared during the Seder.
Save the Dates:
A weekend of Song and Celebration with
Deborah Sacks Mintz
29-31 January 2021
Details to follow on this weekend of Kabbalat Shabbat, Havdalah and Concert and Music and Learning.
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 29 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 in 2021 with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
10 consecutive Tuesdays, starting with the first lesson on January 5th, 2021 and ending with the 10th lesson on March 9th, 2021, all at 6:00 PM until 7:00 PM, via Zoom.
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. 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 Hangout. 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
Shomrei Kehillah Awards Celebration Update
Way back in January, our Shomrei Kehillah Award nominees were announced. After re-scheduling this very special event several times, we are excited to announce that we will have a virtual celebration on Sunday, February 28, 2021! Once again, please join us in congratulating the following congregants:

Volunteers of the Year: Anita Merims, Sylvia and Herb Winer
Tzameret Award for Youth Leadership: Eli Feret, Dara Weingarten
Woman of Valor (awarded by Women's Network): Mishka Luft
Shofar Award (awarded by Men's Club): Howard Wohl

More specific information, including an invitation along with ways to support our honorees and our fundraiser, will be coming out soon. In the meantime, please save the date!
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]  []