Congregation Agudat Achim
Weekly Announcements
29 October 2020 - 11 Heshvan 5781
Parashat Lekh Lekha
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 fifth aliya of Parashat Lekh Lekha is Genesis 14:21-15:6, and contains the end of the war of the Four Kings Against the Five, the childless Abraham’s conviction that his only heir will be his steward, Eliezer, and God’s exhortation to “fear not” and the promise to be Abraham’s shield. God tells Abraham to “fear not,” which leads me to wonder two things: first, what was Abraham fearful of that God feels the need to give him this advice, and second, is being fearful a bad thing? Are there not things that it is good to fear? Midrash Tanchuma also raises my second question by quoting verses from Proverbs which say that fear of God is the province of wisdom: Scripture states elsewhere in reference to this verse: Happy is the man that fears always; but he that hardens his heart shall fall into evil (Prov. 28:14). Similarly, it is written: The wise man fears and turns from evil, but the fool behaves overbearingly, and is confident (ibid. 14:16). It is good to be God-fearing; it is good to fear sin, to fear the negative consequences of one’s actions and therefore to strive always to behave righteously. So why is Abraham told not to fear? Moshe Hayyim Luzatto, in his great work on musar/Jewish ethics Mesillat Yesharim, brings some other midrashic sources that shed some light on these questions:
“Avraham, after he went out to assist his nephew Lot who had been taken captive (in the war of the 4 kings against the 5), was afraid (of his own actions) and told himself perhaps his deeds were not completely pure, as our sages explained on the verse: "do not fear Avraham" (Gen.15:1) - "Rabbi Levi said: 'because Avraham was afraid and said to himself, among all those soldiers I killed in battle, perhaps there was among them a righteous person?'. Therefore, he was told (Gen.15:1): 'do not fear Avraham'" (Genesis Raba 44:4). And our sages said in Tana D'Bei Eliyahu (Rabba 25): "a person is not told 'do not fear' unless he is God fearing in truth".
So, Abraham’s fear was that his own actions were not completely pure, that forced to commit violence, he caused harm to a good person. God says at the end of Parashat Noah that people are violent and evil from youth, and perhaps now Abraham has also fallen into this same pattern of behavior. God tells Abraham not to fear, but a person is only given that instruction if they are already righteous and God-fearing—as we learned from Proverbs, certain kinds of fear are important for good behavior. The aliya closes with the promise of children: God “took [Abraham] outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And God added, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” What do you think is the relationship between righteousness and fear? Are you every anxious about the unintended results of your actions? How would it feel if God came to you in a vision to tell you “fear not”? What else do you think Abraham may have been fearful about? Does the promise that Abraham will have innumerable offspring relate to Abraham’s fear?
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Spitzer
A Message from the President
When things get back to normal...we hear that a lot these days. Lots of things we'll wait to do until "things get back to normal". But will things ever go back to "normal"? What is "normal"? We've been living with this pandemic for eight months now. We grab masks as we leave the house, we visit with friends and family virtually, we go to school online. This IS the new normal. We've adapted and for the most part found ways to live our lives the best way we can TODAY. This past weekend, we joined together to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of Maddy Ehrlich. This included a livestream service, a drive-by parade with a kiddush lunch to-go and a very well executed socially distant celebration. Her parents, Ron and Alyssa could have very easily decided to wait to have Maddy's Bat Mitzvah until "things get back to normal", but instead, embraced the world we live in today and created an amazing weekend to celebrate Maddy. Kudos to Ron & Alyssa for thinking outside the box and mazel tov to Maddy on her huge accomplishment.
Jackie Rowen
With Our Members
Birthdays: Gary Goldstein, Maria Brusilovsky, Jack Mintzer, Jordan Braiman, Arleen Brilliant, Ruth Fraster, Harlan Harrison, Ella Margolis, Pola Metzger, Isaac Scott Weingarten

Anniversaries: Deborah and Gary Goldstein
Yahrzeits: Harry Happ, Semen Lirtsman, Harold Mickelson, Milton Mintzer, Harris Toll, Faye Davis, Katie Spiegel, Leonard Drooz, Ann Drooz Pearson, Cecilia Tanenbaum, Henry Levine, Marvin Shwedel, Leroy Siegel, Ralph Weiskopf
New Members: Join us in welcoming Alan & Terri Goldman back, as Associate Members of Congregation Agudat Achim!
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 Reader: Madeline Kahn Ehrlich
Daveners/Service Leader: Madeline Kahn Ehrlich
Other Service Participants: Michele and Larry Kahn, Danny and Julie Kahn, Tammy and Rich Harrow, David Ehrlich, Murray Jaros, Alexandra and Steve Schmidt, Alyssa and Ron Ehrlich, Rebecca Stashower, Kati Illouz, Ben and Eve Rosen, Kyra Choumarov and Payton Casey, Sara Gabrielle Harrow, Josh Harrow, Ryan Harrow, Lily Harrow, AJ Kahn, Justin Kahn, Micah Kahn, Ava Ehrlich
Service Coordinator/Gabbai: Joe Shiang 
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:
Race and Racism in the Jewish Community
with Rabbi Sandra Lawson
Tonight at 7:00 pm
Pre-registration Required
Introducing Niggun Saloon!
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, for example. This is a spiritual exercise, rather than an intellectual one.
If you missed our first session this past Friday, you can listen on our website, and at this link.
We will learn new melodies as we go.
Fridays 30 Oct; 6 and 13 Nov.
Tot Shabbat Tomorrow
Upcoming Adult Education Programs
Free and Open to the Community
Sunday 8 November 10:30a:
First of Three Conversations about Democracy and Religion in Israel
PJ Library Havdalah
Next Program:
21 Nov @ 5:15 pm on Zoom
School Links
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.
Dear USYers and parents,

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.

Meals To Go
Thank you to our congregation and the Capital District community for their ongoing support of our successful Meals to Go program. Only a limited amount of inventory remains but it is not too late to purchase for the holidays or anytime. 
To order, please contact Rise' Routenberg at

Items for Sale:
Latkes- 18 for $9-pareve
Indonesian Tofu-pareve (2-3 portions)
Falafel $8 for 24 balls-pareve
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce-$15 (3 portions)
Chicken Breast with Artichokes, Sundried tomatoes and Olives-(2-3) portions
Maple Soy Salmon with Rice (2-3 portions)- pareve-$12
Herb Roasted Salmon with Rice (2-3 portions)-pareve- $12
G-F Chocolate Chip Cookies-(approx 20), pareve, $10
Chocolate-Dipped Truffles-pareve, $10-1 pound
Holiday Honey Cake-pareve, $10
Upcoming Special Events
Community Reflections with Rabbi Sandra Lawson                                                
Thursday 29 October 7:00p
Rabbi Sandra Lawson will be joining CAA for a series of three conversations about race and racism in the Jewish community and beyond. In the first, Rabbi Lawson sets the stage for our community reflections with an interactive program and sharing parts of her personal story. The second session will build on the first, as Rabbi Lawson invites Rabbi Spitzer to join her in an open dialog about confronting racism within ourselves—this session will also include a musical Havdalah service. Finally, the third session will be a guided text study on Creating an Inclusive Judaism for the Future. Rabbi Lawson is a chaplain at Elan University and views the world through a Black and queer lens—her voice is an important one for us to engage with deeply.

Back to the Basics: Learners Service with Rabbi Spitzer      
Shabbat 31 October 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.

Back to the Basics: Living a Jewish  Life
Thursday 5 November 7:30p
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!

Conversations about Democracy and Religion in Israel 
Sunday 8 November 10:30a
CAA is partnering with the Conservative/Masorti Movement in Israel to bring a series of three explorations of issues of Religion and State in Israel. The first session, about the politics of governing a democratic Jewish state, will be a discussion with Dr. Yizhar Hess, the CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel. We will also have an opportunity to dive into the issues around the Kotel and around the queer/LGBTQ community in Israel. All three of these programs are being sponsored by the CAA Education Endowment.
Ongoing Events
Niggun Saloon                                                                                                                     
Next Session Friday 30 October 11:30a
Join Rabbi Spitzer for an opportunity to sing wordless melodies together for 45 minutes. This is a spiritual exercise, rather than an intellectual one. We will learn new melodies as we go. Fridays at 11:30a.

Parashat Hashavua Class with Rabbi Spitzer                        
Next Class 3 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 (27 Oct), the teaching we learned together can be found on the CAA Website: Covenantal Pluralism by Rabbi Yitz Greenberg. Rabbi Spitzer invites you to call or email with your comments or thoughts.

Hebrew Classes with Zipporah Harris                                                                  
Next Class 3 November
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 Current book: by Nathan Englander Next meeting 11 November
CAA Men’s Club Torah Study Meets Monthly on Sundays at 7:40p
Next Meeting 8 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
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 USY Havdalah.
The next few Havdalah and Hangout programs will be:
7 November @ 7:00p (+ Program with Rabbi Lawson)
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.
Hadar: Every Choice Matters
Life under a global pandemic has brought into focus the fundamental role that risk plays in our lives. Every decision, from where we grocery shop to how often we see our families, carries weight - the weight of knowing that our actions carry some degree of risk to ourselves, those around us, and beyond. What sources of wisdom can help orient us while we navigate choices that feel daunting and impossible?
This series will ground us in two centers: 1) The anchor of our vast tradition of Torah and 2) the anchor of people who are “embodied experts” in risk as a consequence of their daily work and lives. Through a generative havruta, we will reach for insight on how to navigate personal, communal, and structural questions of risk. By learning with people who consciously experience the impact of risk as part of the regular rhythm of their days, we will aim to gain our bearings to more readily step into the mode of living with risk.
Session 1: Dignity and Risk with Jess Belasco and Rabbi Jonathan Malamy
Monday, October 19; 8:00 PM ET
Session 2: We Are Born Of Risk with Dr. Chavi Karkowsky
Monday, October 26; 8:00 PM ET
Session 3: Zooming Out, Zooming In: Risk, Values, and Hard Choices with Dr. David Slusky
Monday, November 2; 8:00 PM ET
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
JFS is offering many supportive programs and help at this time. They also seek volunteers to drive seniors, and to deliver groceries and meals.  Click here for more information. JFS has three virtual groups: Parenting During COVID, Activities for Emotional Well-being, and Coming Up for AIR: A Discussion Groups for seniors. Dates and registration information is here
Click here for more information: 

Sunday, November 8 at 2 pm Eastern 

Come learn how to bake babka!
We will review kneading tips and tricks plus learn 2 different methods for making delicious chocolate babka. This online, interactive workshop for families will be led by baker, Mandy Silverman, founder of Mandylicious: The Challah Guru. She is a “carbologist” with over 250 kosher unique challah bread and babka flavors! Following along with the recipe is optional, but an ingredient list will be sent with registration. 
Jewish World Needs Our Help
The Jewish World has been a part of our community for 54 years, and they're raising money on this Go Fund Me site:
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]  []