Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1724 | P: 203.389.2108 |

Our banner is based on BEKI’s stained glass, designed in 2008 by Cynthia Beth Rubin. For information on this and other of Cynthia’s work, go to: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Artisan Fabrication by JC Glass of Branford, CT

Bulletin December 1999

Selections from BEKI Bulletin: The Newsletter of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel

Tevet 5760 December 1999

In this Issue:

Shabbat Hanuka Dinner Marks Dedication of Posener Daily Chapel

Image of George G. PosenerOn Friday Night 10 December 1999, a Shabbat Hanuka Dinner will follow the 6:00p service. Set to welcome singles, families and people of all ages, the evening will combine the sacred beauty of Shabbat with the fun of Hanuka. The evening will mark the Shabbat of dedication of the “small chapel,” which pursuant to a resolution of the Board of Directors is to be named the “George G. Posener Daily Chapel.” In planning the evening, the hope was to honor Mr. Posener and celebrate the occasion with an evening of fun, good food and song. The text of the Board resolution is found in this issue.

George G. Posener, a veteran BEKI member, has been a leader of the Congregation for many years and has served as a pivotal figure in BEKI’s Renaissance. He has served as a Director of the Congregation on several Boards, contributing his wisdom, business and engineering experience, and sensibility to synagogue operations. He spearheaded several major and numerous minor building projects, including the replacement of the roof and pointing of the exterior brickwork. George has contributed countless hours of his own labor in maintaining the grounds and building, literally from the basement boiler to the top of the roof, and from the center of the building to the sidewalks on its periphery.

George has been a leading benefactor, providing for the renovation of the Daily Chapel some years ago, the restoration of Torah scrolls, and being a lead giver in every campaign. In the most recent years, George has established three endowed funds managed by the Jewish Foundation for Greater New Haven for the benefit of BEKI. These endowments include “The George G. & Leah E. Posener Endowment for the Jewish Education of BEKI Youth,” “The Posener Family Memorial Fund for Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel established by George G. Posener in blessed memory of his wife, parents, sisters, brother and two precious sons,” and most recently “The Leah E. Posener and Betty D. Zelen Memorial Fund for the Benefit of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel Sisterhood.” After establishing these funds, George made significant additional contributions. These funds will support our community and memorialize the Posener name in perpetuity.

Whatismore, George has named the Congregation and its religious school as a major beneficiary in his estate planning. George has consented to letting this be known to the Congregation in order to encourage others to follow his lead. In these ways, George has provided for the Congregation in the past, present and future in very significant ways.

BEKI’s original small chapel was a gift of Mr. & Mrs. Manuel Rosner and Mr. & Mrs. J. Edward Rosner. It was renovated by the Sisterhood in 1987 through the generosity of George Posener in memory of his late wife Leah E. Posener. The ark is dedicated to the memory of Harold Ratner. The eternal light is in memory of Rose Schatz, and an area is dedicated to the memory of Isadore Miller. In addition, the furnishings, memorial tablets, Torah Scrolls and books serve to honor the memory of other individuals.

The dinner includes the requisite latkes, plus dairy lasagna and a pareve (vegan) lasagna selection, along with child-friendly items and other dishes. The dinner is being prepared by Michael Powers Ries Catering. Pre-registration is required, and there is a discount for early registration; forms are available from the BEKI office.

On Shabbat morning, 11 December, a qiddush (refreshments period) will be offered after the service honoring George Posener and marking his special birthday. Hanuka (which means, literally, “dedication,” in the sense of consecration) commemorates the rededication of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem under the Hasmoneans, and is thus a fitting time to recognize the dedication of the George G. Posener Daily Chapel.

Board Issues Resolution Concerning George G. Posener

Resolution of the Board of Directors of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel Concerning The George G. Posener Daily Chapel

Adopted Unanimously 25 January 1999

Whereas Mr. George G. Posener has served the Congregation with distinction, giving generously of his own labor, wisdom and financial resources; and

Whereas he has established “The Posener Family Memorial Fund for Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel in blessed memory of his wife, parents, sisters, brother and two precious sons,” and “The George G. & Leah E. Posener Endowment for the Jewish Education of BEKI Youth,” thereby providing for the needs of the Congregation in perpetuity; and

Whereas he was the first recipient of the Congregation’s Distinguished Service Award, and has been given other honors by the Congregation over the years; and

Whereas he has been generous in supporting many causes associated with the Congregation, its Religious School, and the broader Jewish and civil community; and

Whereas he has been involved in the daily life of the Congregation, sponsoring and presenting gifts to each advancing and graduating student at the Religious School since its inception, attending and leading worship services and adult education classes, serving as a Director and wise counselor, and in numerous other ways; and

Whereas the “Daily Chapel,” also known as the “Beit Midrash” or “Small Chapel,” is a center of religious activity for the Congregation; and

Whereas the Daily Chapel has enjoyed the generous direct financial support of Mr. George G. Posener; and

Whereas Mr. George G. Posener has personally performed the mitzvot (religious duties) of prayer, Torah study, and tsedaqa (charity) in that very room; and

Whereas the previous dedications of the Daily Chapel’s original donors, renovators, and contributors to its furnishings, implements and programs will continue to be honored; and

Whereas Mr. George G. Posener enjoys an outstanding reputation as a leader, philanthropist, and upstanding citizen in the Jewish and general community, and is truly beloved for his character and personality, and it is an honor for the Congregation to be associated with him and his name; and

Whereas the Officers, Directors, Members and Rabbi of the Congregation wish to offer further expressions of appreciation for the exemplary conduct and generosity of Mr. George G. Posener:

Therefore the Congregation honors Mr. George G. Posener by naming the aforementioned “Daily Chapel” the George G. Posener Daily Chapel — Beit Midrash” to be known also in the Holy Tongue as Beit HaMidrash al-shem Gershon ben Yisrael Posener. This shall stand as an honor to Mr. George G. Posener’s name from this time forth and forevermore.

New on BEKI’s Web Site

Need a form? Selected office forms are now being posted to the website for 24-hour access. Go to The forms are in Acrobat .pdf format.

Need to know a yahrzeit (death anniversary)? Our yahrzeit records are now available at at “yahrzeits.” The information available includes the name of the deceased, date of death according to the Hebrew Calendar, and the corresponding date in the civil calendar from last Rosh HaShana to the end of the current Hebrew year. All of this information and more is already available on the web through public sources. There is no private information displayed.

Want to pray elsewhere? BEKI members on the road who want to make a daily or Shabbat service elsewhere can find a minyan schedule of our region linked to our Service Schedule page. Go to to find the link.

Want to preview the next newsletter? Past, current and future editions of the BEKI Bulletin are available at Find out what happened or is going to happen.

A Message from Rabbi Tilsen

Doing it the Hard Way – Part 2

In last month’s message, I suggested that “Our religious life and synagogue organization and administration are filled with rituals and methods designed or evolved long ago. Sometimes there are good reasons to resist new conventions or emerging non-conventional methods, but at other times such resistance is not in our best interest.” While much of Jewish civilization and religion have grown and adapted over the centuries, and represents an extraordinarily valuable heritage applicable directly in our day, there are a few points that might need reconsideration, as part of the natural process of change.

Last month, at the risk of giving umbrage, I listed several possible examples of conventions or ways of doing things that might need reconsideration. Let me address two as illustrations.

One practice that is up for reconsideration is the support of the State of Israel through Israel Bonds. It can certainly be said that Israel Bonds has served a critical role in the survival and economic success of the Jewish State. For many decades, dedicated Zionists – including leaders of our Congregation such as Sara-Ann & Hillel Auerbach and Violet & Charles Ludwig – have purchased Israel Bonds and have worked diligently to urge others to do so as well. This was at a time when Israel faced great difficulty in raising capital due to anti-Jewish and anti-Israel world sentiment, the Arab Boycott of Israel, and the risky nature (in the eyes of financial experts) of investment in Israel. Without Israel Bonds and its supporters, we may well ask whether Israel would even be there today.

However, things have changed in the past decade. Israel is no longer a third-world nation. In fact, the Israeli economy has boomed along to the point where it is a major contender on the global stage. Israeli Jews enjoy a material standard of living comparable to that of Europeans, and the State is now able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars selling bonds at favorable rates on Wall Street. These bonds are purchased not out of Zionist impulses, but because they are sound investments at competitive rates. If you are interested in buying Israel Bonds today, you can do so because your personal financial advisor might suggest including them in your portfolio on the basis of financial considerations, but not because the State needs your charity. If you want to give charity in Israel, we can direct you to many worthwhile institutions that help people and support the values you believe in, but the Government itself and the Bonds Authority do not need your tsedaqa.

At the same time, Bonds maintains a paid staff and a host of volunteers aimed at selling those $250 bonds along with the big bonds. The bottom line is that the overhead for those small sales is neither worth the slight advantage over the market rates the bonds may achieve nor the value of the bonds donated back to the State or never redeemed. So why keep the Bonds offices open? It is said that we cannot be assured that Israel will always be welcomed on Wall Street and that the Bonds activities are a valuable way to involve people in the greater Zionist cause. It may be that on balance Bonds is still a worthwhile activity, but we may soon be approaching the day when they will close their offices and say, “Mission Accomplished.”

(Note: Israel Bonds are available as part of the Rabbinical Assembly pension program, and Rabbi Tilsen is a bondholder. I would be happy to print a response or rebuttal to this essay.)

Now that I’ve swung the bat at Bonds, I’ll swing the bat inward for a clonk on my own head, and challenge the practice of charging for High Holy Days seats. These tickets, sold to non-members and the extended family of our members, account for about 2% of BEKI’s annual income. On a ship as tight as ours, that sum is not to be scoffed at. There was a time and place when seating in shul on the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) was scarce and actually needed to be rationed in some way. Today, although we do sell some tickets, our real problem is that we can’t give tickets away. That is, most American Jews do not come to synagogue on the High Holy Days and would not come even if we gave them free tickets. This fact represents a serious challenge to our community, one that should not be neglected. But the truth is, even if we gave away door prizes, many of “those” people are just not interested in coming.

But there is another group out there that deserves the focus of our attention. That is the population of Jews and seekers who are becoming newly interested in connecting to the Jewish community or tradition. I am referring to those adults who were alienated by their values-vapid shuls of origin or who are only now able to overcome their antipathy toward organized religion and consider a venture into a place such as BEKI that has earned a reputation as “The People’s Temple.” For these adults, the thought of having to “pay to pray” is a huge turnoff, enough to keep them away. And it is not that they are freeloaders who would never offer financial support to the shul; it’s just that they need to experience the community and understand its needs before they can be expected to support it. These are people who do not realize, as so many of us do, how valuable BEKI (or another shul) is in the community. They do not realize it because they have not had a chance to experience it. More than that, we lose an opportunity to bring the message of the holidays,the saving power of teshuva (repentance), to this population. Thus, they lose the opportunity to fulfill many mitzvot and explore both their Jewish identity and their relationship with God.

It has been said that if BEKI (or most other synagogues) did not charge for tickets, or insist that dues are current before sending tickets to members, that lots of people would come. But we’d be bankrupt in one to two years. Unfortunately I am not sure that this isn’t true. But when I see fifty families contributing significantly more than their annual dues to support the operations of the shul, I conclude that most of our members are paying “dues” and making contributions amply out of conviction, not out of compulsion. If we could insure our income through the generosity of informed supporters, we wouldn’t need to sell tickets. However, we could always suggest a donation at the time of ticketing. Wouldn’t it be nice if our members could bring their whole extended families to BEKI for the Holy Days without worrying about cost?

There is a case to be made that requiring a comparatively small financial contribution is reasonable, since anyone can pray for free on the High Holy Days (just not at our shul), and that anyone can come to BEKI “for free” the rest of the year. (If a reader would like to make that case, we’ll print it.) But the old formulas for synagogue financing are not working well enough, and the level of community participation in synagogues is radically lower than it was generations ago. The world has changed, and we need to think “beyond the box.” In the Kol Nidre service we proclaim, “it is permitted for everyone including habitual sinners to pray together.” Any sinner may pray with us – except one: The Jew who has committed the cardinal sin of not buying a ticket. Perhaps that time will come for our doors to be truly wide open on the Holy Days.

Giving Stock

BEKI can accept stocks and securities as gifts during a donor’s lifetime or as part of an estate. Please speak with your financial advisor or broker about the potential tax advantages of giving stock and securities. To arrange a transfer, call Mary Ellen Mack at 389-2108 x14.

A Message from Steven Fraade

Vice President & Ritual Committee Chairperson

Dear BEKI friends,

At the risk of appearing impersonal, I’ve opted not to send out individual letters, but rather to use our community bulletin to try to appeal personally to your sense of what it means to be a Jew. There is a matter that is of grave concern to me as an individual and as a part of our greater BEKI community. It is something that has been a source of deep disappointment and pain to many of our members. I’m speaking, of course, about our continuing inability to maintain a twice-daily minyan.

Without a quorum of ten, it is not possible to recite qaddish for a loved one and without a minyan, members cannot mark with communal tefilla (recitation of the Amida) the beginning and ending of each day. Imagine it is you that has come to synagogue to observe a Yahrzeit for a loved one, only to find that there are not even nine fellow congregants willing to spare a half hour of their time to make the necessary quorum.

There are many valid reasons why we find it difficult to commit to even a half an hour of our time in the early morning or the early evening. We are each tightly scheduled with work, family, secular school, Hebrew school, soccer practices, music lessons, doctor appointments, food shopping. . . The list goes on and on. On top of that we are sleep deprived, anxious to get dinner started, or exhausted after spending inordinate amounts of time in slow-moving traffic. And you may also feel that you already give to the shul and it’s community in a myriad of ways.

Despite the many appeals and attempts to correct this shameful situation, the fact remains that with over four hundred individual members, we often cannot gather even ten for the morning and evening minyanin.

While the picture I’m painting is bleak, it is not hopeless. The good news is that we usually have a minyan on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday mornings and the afternoon/evening minyanim have been better lately. However, we often just barely make it and we’ve just lost two Sunday regulars to college. But we hardly ever have a minyan on Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday mornings.

Rather than form yet another committee to create incentives for attendance and to recruit attendees, I propose to you this challenge, a sort of “matching gift”. I am willing to start next week to add another day, Tuesday, to my daily minyan attendance if six of you (not counting the three Tuesday morning regulars) agree to follow suit. If Tuesday morning is not convenient for you, please respond with a challenge of your own for another day and time. Perhaps you and a friend or partner want to share a minyan day and time and alternate attendance between you. Since a daily minyan at BEKI is never guaranteed, any increased commitment would contribute to our success.

To be part of a minyan is considered a mitzva. Communal prayer is the highest form of praise we can offer, according to Biblical and Rabbinical literature. Won’t you make time from your busy lives to help make this work? If not, we will be in the same predicament, if not a worse one, a year from now.

Darshanim in December

On Friday 17 December 1999, Special Programs director Anne Johnston will speak, in recognition of participants in Kulanu, one of BEKI’s programs of outreach to adults with special needs.

On Shabbat VaYigash, 18 December 1999, Isaiah Cooper will serve as the Darshan (Torah explicator) during the 9:15a morning service.

KISS “Snow Day” Program to meet

BEKI’s unique “Kids In Shul when they close the School” program, also known as the “Snow Day” program, will meet on Friday 24 December 1999 from 8:00a to 2:30p in the Claire Goodwin Children’s Room. The KISS program offers a fun-filled Judaic program for elementary-school aged children on a day when Ezra Academy and public schools are closed for conferences and holidays when parents may have to work. Space is limited. Call Anne Johnston at 389-2108 x33 or email her at to reserve your space or fax in the registration form available from the office.

Your advance payment reserves a space for the first day the schools are closed for unscheduled “Snow Days.” Other scheduled days include Monday 17 January 2000 8:00a to 3:00p (MLK Day); Friday 10 March 2000 8:00a to 2:30p (Ezra In-Service Day) (note early closing); Tuesday 28 March 2000 12:00 to 5:00p (Ezra Conferences); Monday 3 April 2000 12:00 to 5:00p (Ezra Conferences); Wednesday 14 June 2000 12:00 to 5:00p (Ezra Early Dismissal); Thursday 15 June 2000 8:00a to 3:00p (Ezra Summer Vacation); Friday 16 June 2000 8:00a to 3:00p (Ezra Summer Vacation). Some dates are subject to minimum enrollment.

Take Care of Your Cemetery Need

The time to take care of your cemetery need is before there is a need.

Now is the perfect time to select your sites…while there is a good selection.

We can help you select a site and discuss payment terms. Call the office today and arrange a meeting of one of the officers of the cemetery association 389-2108. For directions to the cemeteries see “About Us” and the Area Maps.

Saul’s Circle

The first of a monthly Learn ‘n’ Nosh series for Saul’s Circle begins Thursday 2 December from 4:15p to 5:45p. The topic is “Remembering Hanuka When The Whole World Is Doing Otherwise” – including making Hanuka menorahs.

Family Film Night

At the next Family Film Night, the rodent romp continues with “Fievel Goes West” plus other tales of the Jewish west! Saturday 25 December at 7:00p.

Toda Rabba – Thanks a Lot

Special thanks to the KISS kids (Kids in Shul when there is no School) for their help with the October mid-month mailing: Gilah Benson-Tilsen, Rachel Forbes, Annie and Sarah Bass, Sandy and Isaac Johnston. You did a great job!

Library News

New Acquisitions for Ari Nathan Levine Children’s Library, made possible through the generosity of Rabbi Murray Levine

Castle on Hester Street

David and Max*

Plots and Prayers

All New Jewish Quiz Book

Buba Leah and her Paper Children


Dear Elijah

Elie Wiesel: Voice of Humanity*

God Send a Rainbow and other stories

Great Jewish Quiz Book

Heeding Call

Honis Circle of Trees

In God’s Name*

Journey to the Golden Land

More Wise Men of Helm*

Wise Men of Helm*

Best of Ktonton*

Ktonton’s Sukkot Adv.

Saying Goodbye to Grandpa

Steven Spielberg-Lib

What Happened to Heather Hopko

Kagnon’s Alef Bet

Angel’s Mistake

Anne Frank*

Broken Mirror

Extraordinary Jewish American

God Sent a Rainbow and other stories

Hannah Szenes

I Have Lived a Thousand Years


Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors

Journey to the Golden Land

Kid’s Catalog of Israel Revised

Ktanton’s Yom Kippur Kitten

Lost and Found Wallet

Memories of Anne Frank

Mrs. Moskowitz and the Sabbath Candle

Nine Spoons

One Night One Hanukkah Night

Pink Slippers Bat Mitzvah Blue

Remarkable Jewish Women*

Sofer Story of a Torah Scroll

TB-Ellis Island

Ten Queens

Two Brothers

Violin Players

Jessie Came across the Sea

When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street

God’s Paintbrush Celebration Kit

But God Remembered

God’s Paintbrush

In God’s Name

Prayer for the Earth

God In Between

11th Commandment

Book of Miracles

Sharing Blessings

In Our Image

For Heaven’s Sake

* Recommended by Rabbi Murray Levine


My family and I are very grateful for the many cards, notes, calls, messages and donations in memory of our dear George. They all helped to ease our pain. Our very sincere “thank you” to all.

Rose Feen and Family


HaMaqom Yinahem Etkhem

We mourn the passing of

Estelle Bloom, sister-in-law of Irving Weinstein

Harry M. Wartur, father of Susan & Steven Wolfson

Irving Rudof, father of Stephen & Joanne Rudof

Mae Etkind, wife of Herbert Etkind

May the memory of our departed be for a blessing.

Mazal Tov!

Mazal tov to Carolyn Lemkin, daughter of Edward & Rhoda Lemkin, and Louis Sachs, son of Ivan & Rita Sachs, and brother of Linda & Ken Buckman and Mark & Ilene Sachs, on their qiddushin (Jewish wedding) under the huppa.

Mazal tov to Sam & Rena Miller on the qiddushin (Jewish wedding) of their son Richard Miller.

BEKI Welcomes New Members & their Families

Rhoda Zahler

Peter Stein

Michael Winter & Ellen Mackler and Shira, Lea and Shai

BEKI Sisterhood News

On behalf of Sisterhood, President Adele Tyson wishes everyone a Happy and Healthy Hanuka. Adele advises that the Sisterhood Gift Shop is well stocked with a variety of wonderful gifts for men, women and children. The shop is open Sundays and Wednesdays during Hebrew School hours, or by appointment. Call Adele at 389-9599.

All of those who attended Sisterhood’s paid-up membership supper in November had a very enjoyable evening. Everything was great: the food, the entertainment, and the company.

Recent donations to Sisterhood were made by Joan Gelbert, Shirley Mattler, Gary and Betsy Rosenberg, Rose Feen, Mae and Herb Etkind.


Upcoming Events