The Voice of the
Pelham Jewish Center
March 2023/Adar-Nissan 5783
In This Issue
Can We Talk About Israel & the U.S.?
Leadership Messages

Rabbi Benjamin Resnick

Education Director
Ana Turkienicz

HaKol Editor
Barbara Saunders-Adams

Congregant News
& Donations

Aviv Eliezer: Bar Mitzvah

Julia Meyerson
Recognition for Scholarship

Book Notes
Barbara Saunders-Adams

Food For Thought

Gefilte Fish Tales
Gail Koller

Share a Simcha

Tributes & Donations

Rabbi Benjamin Resnick

Dear Friends,

Leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut, we are hosting a series of lectures focusing on the relationship between American Jews and Israel. You’ll be hearing a lot about it from me and from others over the next several weeks, but, as we look ahead to the first session on March 23, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the series here. But before I do, a personal anecdote.

As a lot of you may know, I am planning to spend much of July in Israel with my family, something that I hope will become a feature of our lives in the coming years. Part of the reason we’re going is so that I can participate in the Rabbinic Seminar at the Shalom Hartman Institute, which gathers rabbis around the world for ten days of learning each summer. And part of the reason we’re going is so that Philissa can do some on the ground work with her reporters in Israel. 

But the main reason we’re going is so that we can enroll our kids in day camp in Jerusalem. As an American Jewish parent and as someone who is committed to the Zionist project, one of my goals is to give my kids the sense that Israel is not just a place we go on vacation to stay in hotels and see sights and eat in restaurants; rather, it is a place where we spend significant time, where we cook and clean and juggle the logistics of work and family, a place not just to visit but rather to live, at least for a little while each year. That’s the vision, anyway. We’ll see how it goes. 

Even as this vision remains in place, I am also–as a parent, as a rabbi, and as a Jew–shaken by what is certainly among the most challenging moments in the seventy-five year history of the relationship between Israel and the diaspora. Along with a great many of my colleagues, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and Jewish leaders from across the ideological spectrum in both America and in IsraeI, I have grave and urgent concerns about the current direction of Israel’s leadership as well as about longer term obstacles to an open, democratic Israel that celebrates the glory of Jewish diversity, secures the rights of all her citizens, and lives in a secure and enduring peace with her neighbors. I desperately want Israel to be a place that will be a cherished source of pride and safety for my future grandchildren. But that dream is not a foregone conclusion and, at the moment, it is imperiled. 

When it comes to challenging moments in our relationships we generally have two options. We can choose to disengage and, in extremities, perhaps end a relationship. Or we can choose to work harder and engage more deeply. Both choices, I think, can be defensible and, depending on the situation, both can be correct. And of course they exist on a spectrum. But I believe passionately that when it comes to Israel, the former option really is not a live one. As Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi recently said to American Jews, “When someone you love is in trouble you don't pull away, you draw closer.”

I hope you will join us over the coming weeks. The conversations may be challenging and at times dispiriting. But they also promise to be bracing and clarifying and, most importantly, generative. I hope that they will allow us to deepen our Jewish and Zionist commitments so that when God-willing we sail out onto calmer waters, we’ll be able to say that we did our small part to steer our little boat through the storm.

R. Benjamin Resnick
Education Director
Ana Turkienicz

״When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who made him her son. She named him Moses, explaining, ‘I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10

The way names are given in the Torah has always been a fascinating theme for scholars. For me, what is most fascinating is that three of the greatest leaders in the story of the Jews have names from places outside of the Land of Israel, what we now call the Diaspora, or in Hebrew, the Golah, translated as “The Exile”.

The first is Joseph, 11th son of Jacob and first son of his beloved Rachel. Joseph
is born while Jacob’s family is living in Haran (now Iraq), working for Laban, Rachel’s father. Jacob has been exiled there since he stole his brother’s birthright and fled Canaan fearing for his life. His beloved son’s name, Joseph, in Hebrew, means “addition”, from the verse from the Book of Genesis: "And she called his name Joseph; and said, "The Lord shall add to me another son".

Joseph returns with his family to the land of Canaan, only to be sold by his brothers to a
caravan of Ishmaelites that take him to Egypt, where he is sold to Potiphar and
ultimately becomes second to Pharaoh, a vizier. As such, Joseph receives an Egyptian
name, Tzaaphnath-Paaneah (Hebrew: צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ Ṣāp̄naṯ Paʿnēaḥ), the name by which
he is known in his forced exile in Egypt. The Hebrew meaning of Tzaphanat is “hidden” -
as the “Tzafun” step of the Passover Seder, where we look for the hidden Afikoman.
Paaneach in Hebrew means “to decipher”, which is what Joseph did to people’s dreams. So Joseph’s Egyptian name, Tzaaphnath-Paaneah, also has a Hebrew meaning, “the decipher of the hidden” - much connected to his gifted skills as an interpreter of dreams. As second to the King of Egypt, Joseph is able to save his family from the famine that endangered their survival in Canaan. Consequently, the family of Jacob, also known as the Sons of Israel, B'nai Israel, moved to Egypt as economic refugees due to Joseph’s generosity and his standing in Pharaoh’s court.

A few hundred years later, Moses is born, also in exile - in Egypt, and as such, receives an Egyptian name: Moshe. The name Moses, with a similar pronunciation as the Hebrew Moshe, is the Egyptian word for Son, as in the names Thutmose and Ramesses. As we read in the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh's daughter finds baby Moses floating in the Nile and he becomes her son. She named him Moses [מֹשֶׁה, Mōše], saying, "I drew him out [מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ, mǝšīṯīhū] of the water"; this explanation links it to the Semitic root משׁה, m-š-h, meaning "to draw out". The eleventh-century Tosafist Isaac b. Asher HaLevi noted that the princess names him the active participle "drawer-out"; (מֹשֶׁה, mōše), not the passive participle "drawn-out"; (נִמְשֶׁה, nīmše); in effect prophesying that Moses would draw others out (of Egypt). The Prince of Egypt becomes the savior of his kinsmen, the enslaved Israelites.

Jumping a few centuries, we are faced with another time when the Jews are exiled away from Canaan. Living in Persia, a Jerusalem-born young woman also rises to royalty. Although born with the Hebrew name הֲדַסָּה‎ Hadassah "Myrtle", her name is changed to Esther to hide her identity upon becoming Queen of Persia. The three letter root of Esther in Hebrew is s-t-r (סתר) which ‎means "hide or conceal". The passive infinitive is (לְהִסָּ֫תֶר‎), to be hidden.

Additionally, the name Esther can be derived from the Old Persian stāra ستاره setāra, meaning "star". Some scholars identify Esther with the name of the Babylonian goddess of love, Ishtar, given its association with the planet Venus (in its role as the Morning Star and the Evening star). The Queen of Persia becomes the savior of her brethren from imminent annihilation by the wicked Haman.

So three great, inspiring biblical leaders of the Jewish people, Joseph, Moses and Esther - all three have their names determined by the fact that they are exiles, either born in exile or driven out from the Land of Israel, the biblical Land of Canaan. They are given names that have meaning both in Hebrew and in the vernacular at their place of residence - in exile, and their actions are a culmination of the identity struggle these names come to signify.

Three cardinal points in the Story of the Jews are marked by the tension between identities. All three characters, Joseph, Moses, and Esther, are faced with crucial challenges, and forced to choose between protecting their (Jewish) people or keeping in line with the other version of themselves, their new identities in exile.

A few weeks ago, when we celebrated Purim at the Learning Center, we had one station where the children were offered beads with Hebrew letters, so they could make necklaces or bracelets with their Hebrew names. When we announced to the children that this is one of the Purim activities, a loud sound of excitement could be heard in the room - “YAY” - it sounded like a communal sound of relief - wow- we are going to meet our Jewish identity through inscribing our Hebrew names and wearing it close to our bodies. Interestingly, when we planned the activity, our educational goal was to ensure that all students internalize how critical the sense of identity is in the story of Purim. We didn’t think it was so critical in the personal stories of each of them as well. Some students immediately raised their hands to say “My Hebrew and my American name are the same” - such as Ethan, Naomi, Jonah, and others. They said they feel lucky that their American identity and their Jewish identity are easily combined in one name only. Others were intrigued by the meaning of their Hebrew names, and devoted much time into crafting their bracelets and necklaces.

The Israeli poet Zelda (1914-1984) wrote a famous poem, “Each of us has a name”,
which beautifully lists the ways by which the world gives us names, from birth to death,
and how meaningful they become to us and to the people we encounter and impact
throughout our lives. In Judaism, we believe that our name is the key to the soul. So much so that the word “soul” neshamah in Hebrew, contains the two letters of the word “name” - shem (shin and mem). Even G-d’s own name is believed to have 72 different versions - used in different contexts, according to the connection to its meaning- for example, a rock, Tzur, a dweller, Shechinah, the Tetragramaton which we cannot pronounce and therefore say Adonai (our ruler), King of the Universe Melekh Ha-Olam, the Sustainer HaMakom, and many more.

Even the word Israel in itself, which in the Torah is translated into “the one who struggles with G-d”, has also been translated into “the one who walks straight with G-d” - Yashar-El, and for having the first letters of the names of the three patriarchs and four matriarchs. (Yud - Ya’akov and Yitzchak, Sin - Sarah, Reish - Rachel and Rivkah, Alef - Avraham, and Lamed - Leah - ישראל).

As the current events in the modern State of Israel raise deep and complex questions
regarding the identity of the Jewish State - is it a Democratic State? A Jewish State? The Light of the Nations or a Halachic (Jewish Law) State?, so do we, Jews in America, grapple with our identity and what role it should play vis-a-vis the changes facing Israel today. We may take heed from the three greatest biblical leaders, Joseph, Moses and Esther, who were far from being perfect, but who certainly gave us plenty of inspiration and direction on how to be Jewish in a strange land, holding those complex questions of identity with dignity and resolve.

And what better way to describe this challenge then through Boney M’s song,
“By the Rivers of Babylon”:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion

There the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord a song in a strange land?

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

Wishing all our families - in Exile and in Israel,
Chag Pessach Kasher v’Sameach - Happy Passover

HaKol Editor
Barbara Saunders-Adams
Dear Friends,  
I am proud to be one of the planners of the PJC Conversation Series: Can We Talk About Israel & the U.S., along with Rabbi Benjamin Resnick, Ana Turkienicz and Gary Trachten.

These are challenging times and I feel it is important that we in the Diaspora have a chance to hear different points of view and have the opportunity to share our thoughts with each other and with our representatives if necessary.  

We will have an amazing variety of speakers in March & April leading up to our Israel Slam on Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. On Yom HaAtzmaut, congregants can tell their personal Israel stories. I am excited about attending these events in person and on Zoom.

I invited two of the speakers. Dr. Alex Sinclair headed the Israel program at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) when I was a student. He is currently Chief Academic Officer of the think tank Educating For Impact. The journalist, Oren Kessler, released his new
book, Palestine 1936: The Roots of the Middle East Conflict this past February. It sheds light on the motives of the original players in the struggle between Arabs and Zionists -- David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Shertok, Haj Amin, Musa Alami, Lord Balfour and Neville Chamberlain, to name a few. The book provides a window into the beginnings of the ongoing Middle East conflict.

You may be familiar with the other speakers -- our Westchester shinshinim -- Israeli emissaries -- Shachar Liran-Hanan & Roy Neumann. David Halperin is the CEO of The Israel Policy Forum. Daniel Sokatch is the CEO of the New Israel Fund. His new book, Can We Talk About Israel? is a primer on Israel/U.S. relations. And, Rabbi Mikey Goldstein our Scholar in Residence, heads the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel.

I hope you will attend some or all of these sessions.

Aviv Eliezar: Bar Mitzvah

We celebrated Aviv Eliezar's Bar Mitzvah at the PJC on Shabbat Zachor. Aviv's beautiful Hebrew pronunciation, fluid chanting and thoughtful D'var Torah made it a very special day. 

Julia Meyerson: Regeneron Finalist

PMHS student and LC graduate, Julia Meyerson, was a Regeneron finalist and Robotics Research intern at Stevens Institute of Technology. Her robotic research will help modernize the electrical grid and prevent electrical failure. Julia is also interested in the ethics of robotics.

She is a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Science, Math, Social Studies, English and World Language honor societies. She earned a Girl Scouts Gold award, the highest award equivalent to Eagle Boy Scout. She plans to attend Carnegie Mellon in September.
Book Notes

Can We Talk About Israel
by Daniel Sokatch

Daniel Sokatch has written a nuanced dis­cus­sion of the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict, past and present. It is broad in scope yet detailed in analy­sis, thought-pro­vok­ing for the well-informed, yet acces­si­ble for the new learn­er.

Sokatch is gifted with the capability to grapple with mul­ti­ple com­pet­ing nar­ra­tives at once. The detailed prose moves quick­ly, begin­ning with suc­cinct expla­na­tions of Israel’s his­to­ry.

Sokatch simul­ta­ne­ous­ly describes Zion­ist elation upon receipt of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion and explains why Pales­tini­ans felt so betrayed by the British dis­missal of Hus­sein-McMa­hon promis­es. In the same breath, Sokatch sum­ma­rizes why the Zion­ists accept­ed the Peel Com­mis­sion pro­pos­al and the Pales­tini­ans reject­ed it, hon­or­ing and clar­i­fy­ing both sides.

When revis­it­ing the destruc­tion of the vil­lage of Suba (Tzu­ba), Sokatch takes the read­er on a quick jour­ney beneath the surface to reveal why the Pales­tini­ans of Suba mourn the loss of their home, and why the Israelis who then found­ed Pal­mach Tzu­ba see them­selves as reclaim­ing land lost almost two thou­sand years ago. Sokatch’s dis­cus­sion of the assas­si­na­tion of Rabin is sim­i­lar­ly nuanced, paint­ing a com­plex pic­ture of how Rabin’s hopes and Yigal Amir’s fears (stoked by oth­ers) col­lid­ed in tragedy.

As CEO of the New Israel Fund, Sokatch’s agen­da is quite clear. The goal of his orga­ni­za­tion is the advancement of Israel as a lib­er­al democ­ra­cy, ensur­ing equal­i­ty for all inhab­i­tants. Sokatch believes that ​“the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict is, essen­tial­ly, a strug­gle between…‘righteous vic­tims'.” The book is not over­ly slant­ed for or against Israel, Israelis, or Pales­tini­ans. Sokatch pos­es crit­i­cal ques­tions, and strives to hon­or the reasons why dif­fer­ent peo­ples hold dif­fer­ent mem­o­ries about the same his­tor­i­cal events, or feel dif­fer­ent­ly about pos­si­ble solu­tions to con­tem­po­rary challenges.

Sokatch does not shy away from assess­ing dif­fi­cult sub­jects. Some read­ers might appre­ci­ate his will­ing­ness to dive into the debate about the term ​“apartheid,” Boy­cott, Divest­ment, Sanc­tions as a con­cept ver­sus BDS as a move­ment, and the poten­tial apoc­a­lyp­tic risks of Israel’s strong sup­port from the American evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty which influ­ences Israeli pol­i­cy and Jew­ish activ­i­ty regard­ing the Tem­ple Mount. Oth­ers might crit­i­cize Sokatch for being ​“too left” because of his con­tent choic­es. The sub­jects are con­tro­ver­sial, but the argu­ments are well craft­ed and sup­port­ed, leav­ing noth­ing out, and also much room for dis­course.

Christo­pher Nox­on's illustrations high­light key sto­ries and cap­ture their emo­tions. The side notes through­out, cou­pled with the exten­sive glos­sary and bib­li­og­ra­phy at the end, pro­vide ample oppor­tu­ni­ties for con­tin­ued study.

If you’re look­ing for a detailed, nuanced con­ver­sa­tion about Israel, this is it. Sokatch sizes up the Middle East's ongoing dilemma with a fresh and hon­est voice, a crit­i­cal eye, care­ful atten­tion to detail, great con­cern for the humans at the heart of the sto­ry and the resolve that one should not give up hope for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion (or res­o­lu­tions).

(Adapted from a review by Joy Get­nick, PhD for the Jewish Book Council.)

Food for Thought
If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem

Yehuda Amichai

If I forget thee, Jerusalem
Then let my right be forgotten.
Let my right be forgotten, and my left remember.
Let my left remember, and your right close
And your mouth open near the gate.

I shall remember Jerusalem
And forget the forest -- my love will remember,
Will open her hair, will close my window,
Will forget my right,
Will forget my left.

If the west wind does not come
I'll never forgive the walls,
Or the sea, or myself.
Should my right forget,
My left shall forgive,
I shall forget all water,
I shall forget my mother.

Gefilte Fish Tales

I grew up one city block from the beach in Brighton Beach and, in my mind, the pike, carp, and whitefish that went into my mom's homemade gefilte fish are deeply connected to that beach and to the Atlantic's briny water.

My mother was well known to the fishmonger at the corner of Brighton Beach Avenue and Brighton Third Street (picture Brighton Beach Memoirs.) After she selected the fish she wanted, the fishmonger would descale, debone, and gut them and wrap them in brown paper. Then, in the small kitchen of our apartment, in a pre-war, six story brick building, she would take out a wide wooden bowl and a chopping knife with a red, C-shaped metal handle, and begin to slowly chop and chop and chop the fish, then scrape the bottom of the bowl and repeat the sequence again and again and again... It was such hard work! I remember my mom working up a sweat and not enjoying the process, but she would never use, or own, a food processor. She said the texture wouldn't be the same. I'm sure she was right. She also added eggs, matzah meal, hand grated parsnips and carrots, and gently sautéed onions to the mix before forming the football-shaped gefilte fish. The fish stewed in a pot with water and more carrots and onions. And the gefilte fish were heavenly! Nothing like the sugar-sweetened ones stuffed in jars or the frozen, rubbery ones from the supermarket. 

I still have the wooden bowl which looks like an object from a Rembrandt still life. I also still have the chopping knife. These are beloved objects that hold beloved memories of my mom. God willing, I will bring them out of retirement this coming year to prepare homemade gefilte fish for our family Seder.

- Gail Koller 

Gail Koller, a LC teacher (and once a member of the PJC) recently wrote this piece for the WJC monthly journal.
Share a Simcha
"Share a Simcha" allows congregants to share their news with our PJC community. Please submit news about family members -- engagements, births, job updates, kid achievements, community acknowledgements and any other milestones -- to the HaKol Editor, Barbara Saunders-Adams.

. Mazal Tov to David Eliezar & Heather Glickman on Aviv's Bar Mitzvah.
. Mazal Tov to Harold & Emily Meyerson on their daughter Julia's recognition by the Rotary Club of the Pelhams as Marilyn Stiefvater Scholar for the month of February 2023.
.Yom Huledet Sameach to Sylvia Stepner on her 100th birthday!!

Simcha is a regular HaKol feature, so keep your news and updates coming!
Tributes & Donations
PJC Logo
Did you know you can make tributes and donations online? Click here to learn more.

Donations to the PJC from...

  • Gail Koller
  • Dan Mailick & Lydia Read
  • Adam & Jennifer Gerber
  • Sam & Laura Temes (Learning Center & General Fund)

Donations to the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund from...

  • David Eliezer & Heather Glickman
  • Jason & Roselle Glick
  • Neco & Ana Turkienicz
  • Benjamin Resnick & Philissa Cramer

Billing statements are emailed monthly. 

Checks made out to the Pelham Jewish Center can be mailed to Pelham Jewish Center, P.O. Box 418, Montvale, NJ 07645. Credit card payment instructions are on your monthly emailed billing statement, or go to https://thepjc.shulcloud.com/member
If you are interested in paying via appreciated securities or IRA distributions, please email Mitch Cepler.

It is the policy of the Pelham Jewish Center to make every effort to assist members experiencing financial challenges. Financial challenges should never be a barrier to being an active member of the PJC community. You can reach out to President Steve Martin, Treasurer Mitchell Cepler or Rabbi Benjamin Resnick to speak confidentially concerning your ability to pay PJC dues and Learning Center tuition.