Limmud Boston 2014

Everyone this year seemed up for meeting new people, one seeking more info on the gorgeous necklace a stranger is wearing and another offering his place in the coffee line to someone who looked like they needed a more immediate fix.

Attendees really stopped to help each other and chat– I suppose this should not be news, but after last year’s experience it was refreshing. It’s a relief to see the Jewish community in Greater Boston showing their solidarity in learning and journey to understanding.

Some of the goodies I picked up for the library are 3 cds that showcase the performers in the Boston Jewish Music Festival the past few years. Performers will also be showing up in New Hampshire! Keep an eye out for events in Nashua, Manchester, and the Klezmatics at the Portsmouth Music Hall in March.

Click here for the Boston Jewish Music Festival Website and schedule

Hear-O-Israel CD cover, Boston Jewish Music Festival

Hear-O-Israel, Boston Jewish Music Festival


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


Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

When an unexploded U.S. bomb in Baghdad caused a flood in the intelligence headquarters of Saddam Hussein, army troops discovered a treasure trove of tens of thousands of ancient objects and manuscripts, historic photos, books, and documents telling the story of Iraq’s once thriving Jewish community. I originally heard about this story in this piece from WBUR’s Here and Now, in December 2013, which includes an interview of two childhood friends who were among the last Iraqi Jews finally allowed to flee Iraq in the 1970s.

Books Drying From the Flood

Books Drying From the Flood

More good news is that we now have access to this collection that is still undergoing preservation efforts this year. The Iraqi Jewish Archive currently provides visual access to many of these items, stating that the entire collection will be available to access in June 2014.

To search the collection, first enter your general search terms, in this case “torah.” On the subsequent page, you may filter results along the left side by Record Type, Language, Dates, and Subject Matter. Keep in mind a search for “torah” brings back results about synagogue leases, Arabic prayerbooks, and other types of material that mention “torah.”

'Torah' Search Screenshot

‘Torah’ Search Results and Filter Options


Enjoy looking through this material as I have been… the items, stolen and confiscated from Iraqi Jews, are slated to be returned to the Iraqi government after the loan period is up. Jewish and other organizations around the world, however, have been fighting to have the artifacts protected within the United States or returned to their previous owners. There is currently a push in Congress to format a new plan for the fate of these Jewish treasures.

My Jewish Wedding

Since starting my librarianship at the Nancy Mae Shaines Memorial Library at Temple Israel, I have been thirsting to know more and more. Surrounded by vast knowledge documented in so many worlds, I had trouble knowing where to begin. I remembered little from Hebrew school and had historic time frames confused. I began to pick up facts, peering through books I was supposed to be cataloging, and suddenly found a solid reason to study and a deadline to meet.

Deciding with a short time frame to embrace and display my Jewishness by integrating Jewish tradition into my upcoming wedding ceremony, I began to explore the library to learn what I could do.

Cover of Living a Jewish Life

Living a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant

My husband, a non-Jew, found a good book in Living a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant. He found it to be unassuming and interesting, giving a solid walk through the Jewish lifestyle and faith. As he asked me some questions about holidays, I realized I ought to give this book a read as well. I should be able to tell him more about Purim than dressing up, going to carnivals, and using noise-makers.

Cover of The New Jewish Wedding

The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant

I found solace in Diamant’s comprehensive Jewish wedding book. It contains chapters on every aspect of a Jewish wedding, including everything from how to choose a rabbi and a Ketubah (marriage contract), to descriptions of Jewish songs, dances, and food for the reception.

Most importantly, however, Diamant gives a brief history of different traditions that let me put them in perspective, making it clear how little was necessary to make a marriage legally binding in Jewish law and helping me choose what elements I want to include.

Ian breaking our wedding glass

The wedding glass didn’t break! A photo of Ian breaking the replacement we called in!

My husband and I really bonded through this pre-wedding experience, making our own personal contracts upon suggestion from Rabbi Barry, and talking through which symbolic acts were most important to us as a couple. We even bought a beautiful blue bulb as a wedding glass so we could have the shards made into a mezuzah, but the darn thing wouldn’t break on the flexible boards of the rabbi’s deck. He was so kind to give us a light bulb with which to do the act!

My tallit as a chuppah

My tallit as a chuppah

We married under the tallit (prayer shawl) I received at my bat mitzvah, drinking from my kiddush cup and my sister’s, surrounded by our families and the glory of Great Bay… really everything I wanted! (Aside from the 5000 degree day and a whole bunch of horseflies haha)

Ian & me under the chuppah

Ian & Me under the chuppah

Our Ketubah: Hebrew and English text surrounded by roses

Our ketubah. Rabbi Barry read it aloud during the ceremony.

Our daughter, Cleo, looking at my shoes

Our daughter, Cleo, admiring all the shoes. She came right up to sing along with the rabbi’s blessings 🙂

HaSefer B’Sakit

Before my arrival, Al and Diane instituted “Sefer Basakeet” in conjunction with the K-2 classes in the temple Hebrew school– an awesome program that translates as “Book in a Bag.” This monthly activity brings the children into the library for a story read aloud and an activity sheet reinforcing comprehension of the story, through character analysis etc.

The best part? The kids bring along their Sefer Basakit tote bags, choosing one themed library book to take home with them until the next month’s event. It’s pretty darn fun, and I’m psyched that these kids get the chance to develop an attachment to the temple library in this manner. As Al mentioned, it doesn’t often occur to the adults of the congregation that they may get Judaica and other Jew-ish materials for free at our library. I hope these children gain a sense of nostalgia from their experiences here.

The theme for the upcoming Sefer Basakit is Purim of course! The kids will be able to choose from books laid out on a large table. We have quite the selection… I’m impressed 🙂

Well there’s a new kid in town…

It’s me!

This week I began work at the Nancy Mae Shaines Memorial Library at Temple Israel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I am learning the ropes from Al, Meryl, and Diane, congregation members who have been holding down the fort since the previous librarian retired about a year ago.

I LOVE it here already. Very impressed with the serious renovations that took place since I lived here as a child. Looking forward to learning the Elazar classification system for Judaica, getting to know the Hebrew school children and members if the congregation, and getting in my first major bout with acquisitions and cataloging.

Looking forward to sharing my experiences with you… there doesn’t seem to be many resources out there on the interweb with info on cataloging in Elazar, so I’ll put up updates as I progress! …with the Elazar family’s blessing of course.

p.s. Safranit is Hebrew for librarian. Like what I did there? Ha!