The Jewish High Holidays are rich with themes and stories that exemplify the Jewish commitment to justice. The rituals we have developed at Temple Beth Israel over time celebrate these important values. The Jewish New Year is the perfect time to renew our commitment to building a better world.
After holding services entirely online for the past two years, this years rituals were hybrid. Dozens of participants from all over the country joined the Preservation Society online and in person as we welcomed a New Year with a mix of traditional and contemporary song, prayer, poetry and readings. Services were held at our historic Temple on Killingly Drive in Danielson. We also streamed all of our services online via Zoom.
Rosh Hashanah service: Monday, Sept 26 at 9:30 am. The service was followed by a novel Tashlikh Service.
Erev Yom Kippur-Kol Nidre service: Tuesday, Oct 4 at 6:00 pm. Yom Kippur service: Wednesday, October 5 at 9:30 am. This service included a Yizkor memorial service and the reading of names of departed friends, family members and members of the community. Names were read by Paula Rosenberg Bell and Sheri Abrams.
Services were led by Marty Drobiarz, Rosa Drobiarz Goldblatt, Rachel Goldblatt, Leah Abrams and Norman Berman. Torah readings were pre-recorded by Alan Turner and Peter Granoff. The entire service was displayed online for remote participants who were called to the Torah and participated in readings.
We wish all of our friends a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life!
Preservation Society Hosts Andrew Feiler - Photographer and Author of A Better Life for their Children
On Oct. 2, 2022, Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society (TBIPS) of Danielson, CT, hosted a program with the author Andrew Feiler about an extraordinary and little-known partnership between a Jew and an African American coming together at a watershed moment in philanthropic history that would change the course of education for Black children in the American South.
Mr. Feiler’s photo/documentary book, “A Better Life for Their Children,” chronicles the extraordinary building of 4,978 schools in the Jim Crow South to address the significant education gap between Black and White students – a gap so significant prior to World War I that was greatly reduced as a direct result of the most unexpected partnership.
Born to German Jewish immigrants in Illinois, Julius Rosenwald was a modest man who, despite never completing high school himself, sought to help his fellow man achieve a better life through education. Booker T. Washington, born into slavery in Virginia, believed in the notion of lifting community through learning. Washington went on to become the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute, and Rosenwald, the owner and president of Sears, Roebuck & Company.
These two men from such seemingly different backgrounds joined forces and, in 1912, at a time when 90% of African Americans lived in the South, created the first of the Rosenwald schools - simple structures with lots of windows to let in the light, pot belly stoves to provide heat, and classrooms kept pristine, providing Southern Black students with something largely taken for granted by Whites – spaces conducive to learning. Those same buildings doubled as civic spaces for town meetings. During the 1930’s, one third of Southern Black children were educated at a Rosenwald school and, over the decades, they would graduate 700,000 children.
Together, Washington and Rosenwald continued building these institutions until 1937, with the last being named for Eleanor Roosevelt. Only 500 of these structures survive today, but 100 of those are on the National Register and many are undergoing restoration. Graduates of these schools include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Medgar Evers, Maya Angelou, and Congressman John Lewis. In addition to the schools, over 500 fellowship grants were awarded between 1928 and 1948 to such critical figures as renowned photographer and prominent documentary photojournalist, Gordon Parks; opera sensation, Marion Anderson; and leader of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes.
Mr. Feiler set about chronicling this significant history in 2015 and notes that the people he met along the way - former students who became teachers and keepers of history - are the heart and soul of the story. He approached Congressman John Lewis to write the forward and, while initially reluctant for fear he wasn’t qualified to write about the history of the schools, the Rosenwald graduate known for his motto, “Be optimistic, think long term and make good trouble,” agreed to the proposal.
Think of it, Mr. Feiler points out, today, the State of Georgia’s two senators are an African American and a Jew - “they stand on the shoulders of Rosenwald and Washington.”
TBIPS, in perfect alignment with its mission of social justice programming, hosted the event, funded by a grant from the CT Humanities Council and individual donors, at its own historical landmark synagogue. The program was free of charge to students, faculty, and faith communities in Eastern Connecticut, and live streamed nationally. A lively Q & A session and book signing followed the program. The Preservation Society also donated copies of Mr. Feiler’s book to the libraries at nearby Rectory School, Pomfret School, Woodstock Academy, The Drop-In Center in New London, and the New London NAACP, all of which sent students, faculty, and leadership to attend the event.
The program is available for streaming. Click below:
Elaina Hancock from the University of Connecticut Communications Department interviewed Elsie Fetterman, David Fetterman, Bob Ricard and Norman Berman during the summer of 2022 about the creation of Temple Beth Israel in Danielson. Her article appeared in the September 26, 2022 issue of UConn Today. It can be read here.
It was a project that we had put off for many years. Going through the books in the Temple Beth Israel “library.” This was a collection that was stored separately from the sacred texts, Khumashim, weekly and Sabbath prayerbooks, High Holiday Makhzors, etc. In August 2022, a group of us gathered to sort through the Temple’s library books. We stacked the books into categories - some for burial (prayer books that were no longer in use or falling apart), some English language books to be donated to a local used bookstore – and a collection of Yiddish books which we would donate to the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA and finally, books that were falling apart, or otherwise needed to be recycled or retired. We decided to keep a sampling of books in each category as examples of the library’s contents.
As we handled the books which were arrayed on a number of tables, we realized that we were handling artifacts from what had been an active lending library – a collection of books ranging from the socially radical secular to the highly observant religious and everything in between. We had before us a portal, a lense through which to get a glimpse of the community in the 1950s and 1960 when we were in middle and high school. In those years, for many of us, our parents and their connection to the Temple carried a complex aura of mystery, history, and loss. These books provided a clue to the social and cultural makeup of their interactions.
We also came upon a small wooden box containing hundreds of index cards on which were typed the English titles (approximately 100) and an estimated 100 Yiddish titles that were handwritten in Yiddish script. There were also a handful of pink cards indicating who from the community had borrowed certain titles and on which dates.
Scanning the titles, we could get a sense for the diversity of the community. There were books on history, philosophy, childrearing, manners, citizenship, politics, Israel, and everything in between. We fondly pictured our parents and tried to imagine which of them had donated which titles. We thought further about which titles may have appealed to them. I remember my mother reading “a book” from this library but I don’t recall asking her what it was. She would simply tell me “it is very interesting.” This often meant that she had never encountered the subject matter before. This from a woman with a fourth grade Polish schools education, a night school introduction to English and beyond that, self taught. We knew the members of the community well enough to imagine who had either donated or borrowed which titles according to their interests and skills. There were books of essays, books on citizenship, plays and novels. Books for scholars, the very religious, skeptics, atheists, good citizens, farmers, etc. There was a history of the Workmen’s Circle, Ben Gurion’s Rebirth and Destiny of Israel, a Book of Torah Readings, and Tennyson’s Early Sonnets. We also found dozens of childrens’ books, Hebrew alphabet books, children’s bible stories and classroom workbooks.
The library featured books that would have been popular in the 40’s through the late 50s. There was a copy of The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism, a non-fiction book written by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. The book was written in 1928 after his sister-in-law, Mary Stewart Cholmondeley, asked him to write a pamphlet explaining Socialism. Shaw examines various socialist ideas, including the issue of private property under socialism, population control, the difficulty of creating non-market-based means to ascribe value to human activities and the problem of wealth distribution. He explores Marxist concepts such as surplus value along with the ideas of non-Marxist socialist thinkers such as Henry George.
Some more titles: Craine, Children of the Rising Sun, Soloff, How the Jewish People Grew Up, Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, Thomas Paine, Common Sense and the Crisis, Sholom Aleichem, Tevye’s Daughters, Milton, Paradise Lost and Other Poems, Robert Browning, Selected Poems, Fitzgerald, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Henry Esmond, Thackery, Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, Horace, Selected Poems, Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the roman Empire, Anatole France, The Revolt of the Angels, Dallin, Sketches of Great Painters, Aristotle, Politics and Poetics, Epictitus, Discourses, Liebman, Peace of Mind, Heinrich Heine, The English Legend of Liptzin, Milton Cross, Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and their Music, Learsi, Israel – A History of the Jewish People, Ribalow, The Jew in American Sports, I.L. Peretz, The Book of Fire, Samuel, The Gentleman and the Jew, Shulman, What It Means to be a Jew...
On Sunday, March 27, 2022 at 2:00 pm we held our Twelfth Annual Community Passover Seder on Zoom. We were reminded that the Exodus did not just happen in Egypt. We only need to hear or read the news to know that the Exodus story continues to be repeated all over the world. Freedom is in danger. Innocent people are fleeing their homes today! At Passover, we celebrate the Exodus. We celebrate all who struggle for freedom. And, we encourage the continued struggle toward freedom - knowing that we will not be free until everyone, everywhere is free.
Using our own Haggadah, there was storytelling, ritual, singing and celebration. We retold the ancient story of liberation, contemplated oppression and slavery in our own times, continued the journey toward universal freedom and justice, and rejoiced in the arrival of spring.
As a community, we asked the difficult questions, searched for meaningful answers and explored shared traditions and values as we dedicated ourselves to working together to create a better, more peaceful and more beautiful world.
We had a robust turnout and the response from attendees was positive and heartwarming. As we say every year: Next Year in Jerusalem! Next Year Together!