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Shir ShalomVT

Volume 2| Issue 3

December 2022/5783



Shabbat Worship with Rabbi Haigh

Friday, December 16

@ 7:00 pm

Rabbi Haigh will be speaking on antisemitism and

the Light of Chanukah

In-person and via Zoom Room.

Click here to connect via Zoom Room.

Virtual Prayer

12/16 @ 10:30 am

Community Chanukah Celebration

December 18 @ 5:15 pm

Community Chanukah Celebration - Candle Lighting on Zoom Room

December 18 @ 6:00 pm

Chanukah Lesson & Craft

December 19 @ 1:30 pm

Learning for Adults

in December

Thursdays: 12/15 & 12/22

Torah Class 10 am

Hebrew II Class 11 am

Hebrew I Class 12:15 pm

There will be no Torah or Hebrew classes on

December 29th.

Virtual Prayer

12/21 @ 8:30 am

Ukraine Initiative

Please contact Mickey Elsberg

or Andrea Felix  if you wish to help.




Stanley I. Blank

Sam Bogorad

Joel Bree

Bert Kaplan Calk

David Charles Dressler

Floyd Edwards

Morris J. Esformes

Herbert Fishman

Dorothy Wayler Gegner

Leonard D. Giles

Anna Greenwald

Mike Grossman

Louis Kahn

Sara Kopeika

Bette Leonard

Abraham Michaels

Mollie Post

Janet Richards

Helen L. Salmore

Rochelle Saltz

Irving D. Schnabel

Anna Sornstein

Anne Star

Herb Turney

Todah Rabah

 For all the gifts of the heart that have been given between November 12 -December 9, 2022. We could not have done it without you!

Click for list

We are very pleased to announce that Michael Sher has agreed to be our new Vice President joining the three other fabulous VEEPS: Art Skerker/Ritual, Susan Brown/Congregation and David Rosengarten/Buildings and Grounds. Michael’s portfolio will be the administration of our synagogue helping us to become a little more organized while we maintain our beautiful ethos of a warm and caring synagogue. Thank you to all of our VEEPS and to Michael for joining the team.

Statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Inter-Agency Group to Counter Antisemitism

As President Biden has made clear: antisemitism has no place in America. All Americans should forcefully reject antisemitism – including Holocaust denial – wherever it exists.

The President is establishing an inter-agency group led by Domestic Policy Council staff and National Security Council staff to increase and better coordinate U.S. Government efforts to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination within the United States. The President has tasked the inter-agency group, as its first order of business, to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism. This strategy will raise understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, address antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline, seek to prevent antisemitic attacks and incidents, and encourage whole-of-society efforts to counter antisemitism and build a more inclusive nation.

We look forward to working with advocates, civil rights leaders, civil society, and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to continue countering the scourge of antisemitism.

Shabbat Potluck Celebrations

Join us on 1/6 for candle lighting and challah followed by a community potluck at 5:30 pm.

This month's theme is Italian!

Dinner and drinks begin at 5:30 pm, followed by Shabbat Friday night services at 6:30pm.

The Potluck Shabbat dinners are a way to build our in-person Shir Shalom community and share an informal Shabbat dinner together! All are welcome to attend this intergenerational event.

Save the date: for February 3rd for our upcoming Potluck Shabbat dinner.

For more information, please call the office at 802-457-4840 or email or

Can't make it to worship in person? Join us via Zoom:

Shir Shalom has two different Zoom Links.

For clarification on which link to use, check above or the Shir Shalom calendar


Zoom Meeting: For most of our education, torah study, meetings and minyans we will be using our regular number

Meeting ID: 725 948 2096

Password: 856328

Zoom Room: For twice monthly in-person Shabbat services and for holiday celebrations we have a new number

Meeting ID: 219 902 8045

Passcode: Dg8WLC

For more information on all our programs, visit our website or calendar at:

This month's first Potluck Shabbat of the Season!

From the Rabbi's Desk 


Dear Friends

Sitting in my study and thinking about Chanukah. Thinking about miracles and rededication. Thinking that over the past year we have brought a family to the Upper Valley from Ukraine. This is in itself a miracle. Especially as we watch in horror what is unfolding in that region. Over the past few weeks, Jessie Slack organized a food drive for the Haven and instead of collecting enough food for one night at the Haven, we collected enough for a twelve nights, (our Hebrew school greatly enhancing our culinary contribution). If this is not a miracle, I am not sure what is. This just to note a few of our recent Shir Shalom miracles. With gratitude to each of you who have participated in partnering with the divine to bring these miracles to fruition.  

Our community is growing and flourishing and the joy and wonder that permeates our sanctuary and our school, our Torah study, our potluck and our social action work, bears witness to the strength and the wonder of our Jewish community. Evidence of our commitment as a Jewish mission, and to the sacred partnership with God through the gifts of our covenantal relationship.

This morning, I was writing a column in the Vermont Standard and thinking about what it means to light our candles, particularly this year, in the face of the rise of anti-Semitism in speech; and how tragically well we understand how the tolerance of hate speech elides so easily into violence. The lights that the Maccabees kindled were a sign both of a miracle and an opportunity for rededication. A recommitment to stand together against injustice and hatred. A recommitment to stand together against acts of anti-Semitism. A chance to rededicate our neshemah to the presence of God in our lives, and the work that must be done to make our world a better place.  

וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ

In a place where there is no one acting justly, strive to be that person

                                                                                                                      Pirkei Avot 2:5

In the Talmud we are instructed to light our candles in an outward facing manner, visible to the public domain. Yet in times of danger we are permitted to light them inside. As a community we are deeply blessed to dwell in Woodstock, our neighbors ever supportive and loving of our people. We are blessed that even as anti-semitism plagues our world, we are able to light our lights with pride and without fear. To stand as I know we will this coming Sunday and light our lamps and launch our lanterns sending hope and light into the world.  

We are grateful that we have a team on our board under the leadership of Phyllis Forbes that is working to keep us ever safer. The normalization of anti-Semitism must never be tolerated. The establishment of a bi-partisan task force and a White House initiative to address anti-Semitism reflect both the rising risks and a hope for a coordinated national response. This year as we light our candles, we are reminded by the prophet Leonard Cohen that, there is a crack in everything that is how the light gets in….

Join us on Sunday evening in person, inside, outside and on Zoom, may the light touch you,

May your homes be filled with ever increasing light and love- 

Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh

From the President's Desk 

The level of antisemitic rhetoric in this country has reached almost unparalleled levels since WWII. Though we think of ourselves as living in a safe part of the country, there are increasing cases of antisemitism even in Vermont. We became concerned about this earlier in the year and conducted a security assessment with Chief Blish of the Woodstock Police. The assessment demonstrated a number of areas where we did not have sufficient security measures: protection against intruder entry through our windows and doors; dark areas outside lacking lights and camera coverage; no way to access our camera videos remotely and no communication mechanism between the school and the sanctuary; and most importantly, we realized that from NY to NH on Route 4 we were the only institution prominently displaying a Jewish Star. 

Last month we were awarded a grant from the Vermont government, with funds coming from the Federal government, for improving our security. We had to jump through three pre-award hurdles which we believe we have done successfully: first we had to complete an Environmental and Historical Preservation survey to demonstrate that our new security measures would have no negative impacts. Then we had to complete a financial monitoring review which looked at our internal controls and policies that govern procurement. We will have passed both reviews once we submit a new procurement policy which the Board will review this week. The third was about our staffing and staff salaries. (The USG has a limit on salaries that we don’t even approach.)

What will you see from this grant? Most of the things that we will change you will likely not notice. There will be more outside lights, there will be concrete blocks holding up our handicap signs in the parking lot, a new camera system will be installed that will allow us to see who is entering at any of the doors and what is going on in the office, the school and the sanctuary. Also, we, and the police and EMT, will be able to remotely access the videos from the camera which will help in case of an intruder. There will also be a PA system covering the two buildings, internal doors will have new locks and our first-floor windows will be have a see-through covering that prevents shattering. The only noticeable improvement will be a fence on the western, or Bridgewater, side of the building, around the smaller parking lot and part way up the driveway leading to the house behind the synagogue. This fence will prevent anyone on Route 4 heading east from seeing into the backyard where our children play and it will have the additional effect, because of the materials we will use, of reducing noise from Route 4. Summer services under the tent will be much better because of some street noise abatement.  

“Hardening our facility”, which is what this is called, is one step in assuring our safety. The other is preparing you in case of an intruder attack. I will repeat what I said at the High Holy Days. The odds that we will ever be attacked are very, very, very low but what everyone reports who has been involved in one of these attacks is that what they learned at active shooter training saved their lives. We are working with Woodstock Police Chief Robbi Blish on an active shooter training program for our congregants and we will send out more information about dates and times once we have settled on them.

There is a third important step that we can all do. As we learned from the studies conducted by the US Holocaust Museum, “the Holocaust was preventable … by heeding warning signs and taking early action”. Normalizing antisemitism was a key element of the Nazi’s strategy. The recent surge of anti-Jewish vitriol, spread by a world-famous rapper and an NBA star, candidates for office in our national political parties supporting Holocaust deniers and avowed white supremacists, and social media moguls allowing freely blasted messages of hatred, are “stoking fears that public figures are normalizing hate and ramping up the risk of violence in a country already experiencing a sharp increase in antisemitism”, according to the ADL. The only way we can fulfill the solemn pledge of “never again” is to stand up to these bullies and hate mongers, promote accurate and truthful discussion of the Holocaust, and call for respecting human rights and dignity for all people. As an example, JCVT and a number of Jewish organizations in Vermont, including Shir Shalom, are trying to change a proposed new statewide education policy on social justice teaching that had decided to eliminate any discussion of the Holocaust. Many prominent Jewish donors and organizations are condemning Kanye West’s love of Hitler, Kylie Irving’s antisemitic film, Neo Nazi trolls on Twitter and former President Trump’s hosting a leader of Holocaust deniers. We should be joining them, letting our politicians and celebrities know this behavior is 100% not acceptable. 

Phyllis Forbes

From the Education Corner

A few weeks ago, our incredible Hebrew School teachers joined me for professional development. One of the items that we discussed was the importance of making sure that our lessons and objectives aligned with our mission and goals. Our school’s mission states that we: foster a joyful and nurturing environment, inspiring informed mensches to engage in and connect to a meaningful Jewish life. We specifically focused on the goal: “students will attain the Hebrew and Judaic skills necessary for synagogue comfort.” 

I’ve worked in and consulted with many Hebrew School programs. One of the disconnects I have repeatedly witnessed is that the overarching goals were to educate children to lead services; yet, the 2-4 hour a week supplemental school programs were geared toward Hebrew familiarity or conversational Hebrew. Hence, leading services was not a skill for which the students felt prepared. In fact, it often created anxiety associated with coming to shul. 

When I look at the Jewish adults I know – and I came from Metro Detroit where Jews are aplenty– I can count on one hand the people who led services or felt comfortable reading Torah. At the same time, most of my Jewish friends kept kosher, attended weekly services, observed Shabbat, sent their children to Jewish day schools, and volunteered at or sat on the boards of Jewish organizations. And while they did not lead prayers at synagogue, they DID feel comfortable there. They might not have felt the confidence to stand on the bima and lead, but they did know what was going on in the service; they knew that they belonged in services; they knew that the Jewish world was their home.

Which leads me to synagogue comfort. To raise informed, engaged and connected Jews who live a mensch-like life, we need to create spaces that instill a sense of belonging. We need to frame our curriculum in a way that allows ALL students to understand that at a fundamental level these prayers, these words, these rituals, this history is THEIR story, of which they play an active role.

It is my sincerest wish that our students will be able to walk into any synagogue in the world and know that they belong there. That they will hold the knowledge and confidence to navigate their way through this complicatedly beautiful Jewish world. That they will have the vision and wisdom to guide the Jewish people into a better tomorrow.

May their paths be illuminated with the learning, strength, struggles, faith, and love of our ancestors. And may the part that we – Shir Shalom – play in this process prepare and fortify them for this holy journey.

L'Shalom (In Peace,) 

Leah Gawel

From the Ukrainian Welcome Circle

As you are likely aware, members of the Shir Shalom congregation have formed a Welcome Circle, with guidance from the refugee resettlement organization HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) to support a family of newcomers from Ukraine under the Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) sponsorship program. Many of you have generously donated money, time, household goods, clothing, and more to help support the newcomers as they get settled in the Upper Valley. 

In addition to the financial contributions to Shir Shalom’s Uniting for Ukraine Fund, congregation members have helped support the newcomers in the following ways: 

  • Hosting the family’s teenage daughter, who arrived six weeks before her parents
  • Providing a furnished home for the family to rent at reduced cost
  • Stocking the pantry with food so the family arrived in their new home to find a fully stocked pantry
  • Responding rapidly to a wish list of additional household goods and other items requested by the newcomers
  • Identifying and suggesting potential employment opportunities for the parents
  • Setting up medical appointments and assisting the newcomers in procuring other benefits

The newcomers are settling in well. Both parents have started full-time jobs and are taking English classes and improving their English skills every week. They have established connections with others from Ukraine who live in the Upper Valley community. Their daughter, who is fluent in English, is attending high school and playing sports there. 

The purpose of our Welcome Circle is to provide support and guidance to the newcomers so that they can become independent, self-sufficient, confident and comfortable in their new community. Through your contributions and their hard work, they are well on their way.  

Rabbi Haigh shares with us in offering deepest gratitude to all that have made this work possible, to all who have given your time and your hearts to welcome and sustain this family. Rabbi added, “As Chanukah approaches, the reality that we as a community have lived our Torah values in literally welcoming strangers to our community is a tribute to the wonder and deep deep commitment of our caring and supportive community. Like the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days, your generosity and compassion has literally sustained the lives of our friends. Reunited with their eldest daughter in the states, we are all blessed to work together in this beautiful way.”  

Thank you to all.

With deepest gratitude,

Andrea Felix and Mickey Elsberg on behalf of the Welcome Circle.