The Arab Jewish Community Center for Tolerance and Peace

Movie night on Thursday! I recommend Dancing in Jaffa for older kids as well as adults, but with parental guidance since there is some talk about the conflict. Very uplifting, though, and a wonderful message of peace.

Dancing in Jaffa: Thursday, January 22 7pm @Temple Israel Portsmouth

Dancing in Jaffa: Thursday, January 22 7pm @Temple Israel Portsmouth

Optional donations to the community center featured in the film that is devoted to interfaith activities for all ages: The Arab Jewish Community Center for Tolerance and Peace in Tel Aviv.

Arab-Jewish Community Center Handout

Arab-Jewish Community Center Handout


Movie Night in Portsmouth

Time to show some real love for Israel and celebrate positive interactions between children of different backgrounds! Recommended by several congregation members, this wonderful, award-winning movie may remind us of the power of understanding and the importance of just being kids.

Join us Thursday, January 22nd at 7:00 for the next Movie Night, sponsored by us at the Nancy Mae Shaines Memorial Library. Free event with Middle Eastern snacks on us ūüôā

Dancing in Jaffa: Thursday, January 22 7pm @Temple Israel Portsmouth

Dancing in Jaffa: Thursday, January 22 7pm @Temple Israel Portsmouth

Summer @ the library

Library Committee with Rabbi and Wife

Library Committee and Special Guests; Left to Right: Al Spaien, Elissa Senter, Rabbi Senter, Allison, Meryl Wein, Sara Lesley Arnold

We had great feedback from some of the attendees of the Book Thief screening and discussion with Rabbi David Senter that took place on July 17th. Some members of the group had either read the book or seen the movie previously, so the discussion included valuable input from many perspectives. The consensus seemed to be that even though the general idea of Death as a narrator is morbid, that element lets the viewer take the role of a similarly helpless onlooker, seeing as objectively as possible the characters build relationships and come of age.

With an audience comprised mostly of Jews, we discussed the generalities commonly associated with holocaust survivors, bridging those experiences to those of the main character of Liesel Meminger, a non-Jewish German girl who experiences her own horrific tragedies.

Viewers agreed that although the film depicts such a tragic time in world history, it provides a reminder of the humanity that can shine through a blanket of darkness.

I must say, it was wonderful to watch the film in a room of engaged viewers, after watching it on my own the first time. Geoffrey Rush and the other actors give amazing performances; the filmmakers really do a tremendous job transmitting the biblio-centric world of the novel into a new medium, allowing the audience to take part in the story and fall in love with the literature.

We have a few thoughts about additional programming this coming year and will keep you informed as events are scheduled. We are currently planning new religious school programs and will have our annual book sale going on in the Schmooze beginning September 7th for the start of school.



May Doorpost Column

 Nancy Mae Shaines Memorial Library

Sara Lesley Arnold, librarian

The library has seen a lot of action the past few months, with the religious school’s HaSefer Basakit (book-in-a-bag) program thriving and lots of new books and DVDs coming in. Sara and the library committee have been continually finding ways to better your library experience and have seen great results. The congregation’s regular support for the library has helped increase circulation by 75% this last year! Please continue to give us feedback to help us serve you better.

The book Bagels From Benny by Aubrey Davis sparked some complex thinking by our first grade class recently. In the story, a boy named Benny leaves bagels in the ark as a thank you to Gd, ultimately finding out that he is inadvertently feeding an impoverished man stricken with hunger. With guidance from his grandfather, he learns that helping others is the best way to thank Gd.

Bagels From Benny Cover art

Bagels From Benny by Aubrey Davis

The wonderful, thoughtful children listening intently to the story began to ask questions… How did Gd make us? How did Gd make the planets? What does Gd look like? We discussed how important it is to continue to ask such questions, and that we will find some answers and ask more questions with each book we read.

New Books Display

New Books Display

Incoming titles for us older folks include the following: My Promised Land, This is Where I Leave You, The Book Thief on DVD, The Story of the Jews vol. 1, Countrymen, and Monuments Men. In case you missed some of the movies shown at the New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival, you will soon be able to borrow some of the titles at the temple library. Keep an eye on Sara’s librarian blog for other interesting resources and stories– and contact her with questions and requests at



Limmud Boston

Along with my fellow staff members at the Temple Israel Hebrew school (with the initiative of Joan Nagler), I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Limmud Boston yesterday, a conference with seminars celebrating Jewish identity and learning.  I chose to check out the following bunch of seminars, mostly library and education related, but some for fun. Even though I enjoyed these, I did leave the conference with an uneasy feeling.

In Open Source Judaism 2.0 we explored the openness of Jewish resources, as well as references to such openness in Jewish texts. Marc Stober, the presenter here, pointed out that the Torah was given out for free in a public place, one important aspect of our culture that we should remember when considering sharing our work with others.

Marc Stober teaching seminar

Marc Stober’s Open Source Judaism Presentation

In addition, the talmud explains that a candle for one is a candle for one hundred– we may share information with our community without depriving ourselves of that information. At the same time, however, we learn in Leviticus that we shalt not steal… In this information age, there is sometimes a fine line between sharing and stealing, so we must be cognizant of others’ intellectual property rights while consciously contributing information for use by our brothers and sisters.

Rabbi Charlie Schwartz

Rabbi Charlie Schwartz

In Masculinity and Marshmallows: the Role of Krembo in Israeli Cinema, we met Rabbi Charlie Schwartz, who runs some of the Brandeis High School programs. After studying cinema in college, I was tickled that this seminar was offered.  I had no idea, however, that Krembo was a tasty marshmallow treat with a chocolate shell and a cookie bottom:



We looked at three films in which Krembo appears, analyzing those scenes to determine how the treat diminishes characters’ masculinity, making them seem more juvenile. Information on these films can be found by following these links:

Mivtza Zavta (Operation Grandma)     |       Beaufort      |      Close to Home

I also attended my colleague’s presentation on Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences in the Jewish classroom, where Cheryl Berman shared some useful tools for addressing various learning preferences in the religious school classroom.

Cheryl Berman

Cheryl Berman, Temple Israel Portsmouth

Although my purpose in posting this was to share these wonderful experiences, I feel compelled to also share my disappointment in many members of the greater Boston Jewish community. One important reason for attending such an event as Limmud is to find camaraderie from within your Jewish community– to be as one for a day, sharing common interests in our common heritage. As a first-time attendee I felt as if this was not an important factor to those around me, that everyone was in it for himself and not the greater good.

The behavior of those attending the seminar on the two-state solution in Israel was abhorrent, including hateful language and disrespect to other Jews in the room. These thirty people share more than just a religion, and should be ashamed at their blatant disregard of the peace process and their negative effect on human kindness.¬†We should all be working toward a peaceful world. Let’s remember that this begins with how we treat each other.


Maccabiah Games 2013

At 16, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend six weeks in Israel, hiking, swimming, and touring (and clubbing!), all the while learning about my Jewish roots. At the end of the summer all the Young Judaea groups gathered for the 2-day Maccabiah games on the Sea of Galilee, where we competed against each other in obstacle courses, tug of war, and other feats of strength and skill.

I had no idea at that age of the existence of the legitimate Maccabiah games, an international sporting event that comes to Israel once every four years.

For the 2013 competition, international Jewish athletes have already arrived in Israel representing their home countries, in Olympic-like sports such as taekwondo (my fav!), badminton and basketball.

Tune in for a live stream of the opening ceremonies here on JLTV. It’s all starting tomorrow, July 18th at 1:00 ET, and the games continue through July 30th.

With Jews making their homes all around the world, I feel this is a great opportunity to show international unity… I’m definitely tuning in.

Visit the Nancy Mae Shaines Memorial Library this month to view books on Jewish athletes throughout history, on display now at Temple Israel Portsmouth.


Dead Sea Scrolls in Boston

The library’s recent trip to view the Dead Sea Scrolls at Boston’s Museum of Science was a great success! We had more than 40 community members come together to explore our heritage and history, looking at artifacts ranging from 408 BCE to 318 CE. The low humidity and low light in caves in Qumran, near the Dead Sea, helped preserve these works of psalms, manuscripts, and biblical text for us to view thousands of years later.

The exhibit provided the original documents, with a blown-up copy to view more closely, along with a translation and contextual explanation. I highly recommend visiting– some of the items have never before come to North America!

Congregation members viewing artifacts

Congregation members viewing artifacts

To continue our Jewish heritage exploration, we then stopped over in Brookline to eat and shop at Jewish establishments along Harvard Street. Many of us visited Zaftigs Delicatessen, the Israel Book Shop, and Kolbo Fine Judaica Gallery, where we browsed for treasures and looked for inspiration. It was amazing to walk down a street with my son, seeing Hebrew on each awning, Stars of David in each window, and religious men straightening up after kids on the school playground.


The Dovekeepers

At my synagogue’s most recent sisterhood brunch, I ran into Renee, an old family friend whom I had not seen in more than 15 years. I greeted her with a smile and a hug, and we wandered together to the temple library, where she shared with me her insight into its significance and history. Suddenly donning a serious expression and looking into my eyes, Renee handed me a book she was bringing in for the library book sale, insisting I read it.

I hesitated to pick up The Dovekeepers, reading in the jacket that it was about women at Masada, a place where I had cried as a sixteen-year-old, overwhelmed by the loss of so many. Trying hard lately to surround myself with positivity, I did not want to become involved with what was sure to be a tragic story. Trusting in my old friend, however, I picked it up and began.

The Dovekeepers Cover Art

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

A few pages in, I had already become Yael, the girl narrating the first part of the book. I was sucked right into her world, Jerusalem at the destruction of the second Temple, and had to continue on in her shoes. The book is split into four parts, each one narrated by a different woman telling of her journey to the mountain Masada. Author Alice Hoffman uses the voice of each woman to weave together their relationships and experiences, seamlessly telling the story. I found myself excitedly wondering which woman would be telling the next yarn, forcibly keeping myself from turning the pages to look ahead.

Hoffman’s storytelling painted such a realistic picture that I was sure in her research that she went into the desert and lived off the land herself. How else could she know and portray such a believable existence to me? This book opened up the world to me in a whole new light– I gained an amazing new perspective on some of the experiences of the Jewish People, including magic, mysticism, love, cruelty, and faith, and have a renewed thirst to learn more about those whose courage allowed me to become the woman I am.

The author was inspired by real life artifacts found at Masada, weaving many of them into her story, along with the historical accounts of Josephus and those of the Essenes. I highly recommend this book to all women– I’ll be passing Renee’s copy on to a friend, looking into her eyes and insisting she read it.

Available at the Nancy Mae Shaines Memorial Library at Temple Israel Portsmouth.