January 2015 Newsletter





January 2015  Volume 48 Issue 5

Please Give a Warm CHJ Welcome to our newest Members…
Carrie Frank & Dario Zagar and Julia
Lesley Gyorsok & Jonathan KIrschner, Sonja & Linda
CHJ Sunday School Activities!

Chanukah…Hanukkah…Pass the Latkes!

No matter how you spell it, everyone loves Chanukah. Latkes, apple sauce, sour cream. Stories about the Maccabees. Lighting candles. Did I mention latkes? Our 12/14 class consisted of our annual Chanukah party! All of the students participated in a service and performed songs and plays before playing games, decorating cookies, doing crafts and eating latkes!

Zahav (Randi – 2/3) & Pre-Mitzvah (Marnie – 4/5)
12/7: Today we practiced and blocked the Chanukah play – The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming. Thank you to those who have already been working with your child, it really shows!
 12/21: Today was a fun morning at Sunday School! We made latkes, where everyone took turns peeling and grating potatoes and onions! They added salt, pepper, eggs and potato starch (to keep it gluten-free). We cooked them in an electric skillet and served with applesauce. The classroom smelled delicious! While the latkes were frying, a festive game of dreidel was taking place.
We ended our session with a story called My Two Grandmothers, about a girl who has a grandmother who celebrates Christmas and one who celebrates Chanukah…a very relatable story for the students!
There was a drumming circle at Shalom Session today, and overall it was a great start to the Holiday break!

Mitzvah (Rachel – 6/7)
12/7: Today the students reconstructed the Hanukah story. After managing to piece together all of their bits of knowledge, we watched Matisyahu’s Miracle video and dissected it for symbolism related to the story of the Maccabee’s and King Antiochus.
The conversation then turned to struggles for religious freedom. Students named and listed other times that freedom defined peoples choices and actions. Some of the times mentioned were the Spanish Inquisition, Exodus from Egypt, and the starting of our own country. Students brought up North Korea and countries devoid of any religious freedom. They also brought up the idea of being persecuted, despite living in a “free” country. The topic of religious freedom will be explored more in the weeks to come.
12/21: At CHJ, the mitzvah class ended the year out by comparing and contrasting creation stories from different traditions. We started by piecing together parts of the Jewish creation myth. Between the seven of them (and a bit of gentle prodding for answers with leading questions from me) they managed to come up with something roughly close. There were seven days, a day of rest and days dedicated to creating animals, earth, etc.
Again, with a little prodding, the students remembered that this day of rest became shabbat and that our seven day week follows this time layout as well.
Then we heard different creations myths on the Big Myth website (see below). The students were then able to point out the similarities and difference between them. Connections were made to Greek mythology (I imagine thanks goes to Percy Jackson here) and the Norse myths were connected to Thor (thank you to Marvel comics.)
We did briefly touch on the big bang, to note that, the big bang is science and the creation stories are myths from different cultures, coming from a time when we didn’t have the science experience or tools of today, like telescopes.

In 2015 we will continue looking at Jewish culture in different times and places in history. Specifically, we will cover immigrants coming to the US and Russia during the 1800’s. Also, anything else that comes along and looks interesting through the eyes of a middle schooler!

Happy Holidays to everyone! See you next year!

Sunday January 11, 9:30 am Sunday School and Adult Ed Bedford Middle School 88 North Ave., Westport

Adult Ed Sunday, January 11, 9:30 am meet the presenters and enjoy bagels and coffee. Program begins at 10am -Bedford Middle School 88 North Ave., Westport
“What Would You Do? If you were confronted by anti-Semitism when you least expect it?”

Imagine that you’re in a public situation and you unexpectedly hear an outrageously offensive comment against Jews.  What would you do?  If you’re like most people, you’d probably feel shocked and unsure how to respond.  You may also feel guilty or powerless for failing to speak up effectively or take a stand.Based on the John Quinones TV series, “What Would You Do?” ADL developed a program where Jewish adults explore this kind of situation in a safe, supportive setting.  In facilitated discussions and activities with ADL professionals, participants discuss their reactions to an ABC-TV video segment, learn effective strategies for responding to offensive statements, and get together in small groups to brainstorm strategies for a variety of anti-Semitic situations.

Presented by the Connecticut chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. The facilitators are:  Michele Abrams and Suzanne Hecht.

Pizza and Movie Night

Join in the fun of a pizza & movie night at the Ulmans in Fairfield!

Date: Jan. 10., 2015.
Time: Pizza at 7; movie 7:30-9.
Address & directions will be posted to the list serv by Friday, Jan. 9.

Please bring $5 per person for the pizza and your sense of humor for a romantic comedy with plenty of Jewish jokes! The movie is “Jewtopia.”  This is the film adaptation of one of the longest running off-broadway plays.

RSVP to Beth with the number in your party and what kind of pizza you like. We will do our best to please.

This event is purely social!

Alan Katz will lead a book discussion on Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land:The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” at his home during the months of January, February and March. Shavit, a journalist and columnist for Haaretz,  has written a thoughtful, complex, brillliant and balanced book on Israel today. The New York Times, in its glowing review said “:This is the least tendentious book abut Israel I have ever read.It is a Zionist book unblinkered by Zionism…”We will meet one night during the second week of each month to discuss about a third of the book at each session. A few rules: (1) every participant must be respectful of the views of everyone; (2) the discussion leader will call upon people to speak-no calling out or monopolizing the disusssion; (3) if you have not read the section for the month, you may come to the discussion but you may NOT speak (we will ONLY discuss this book so if you haven’t read it, you have nothing to speak about); and (4) the discussion leader will NOT lecture or tie things up at the end of the sessions-that is the job of the group.Because my apartment is small and parking space limited, we can only have a maximum of 12 members in the group (11 plus me). If you are interested, please respond to this e-mail or e-mail me directly at ankatz@fairfield.edu. The first eleven congregants to respond to this message will constitute the group. If this group proves successful, there is no reason why it could ot be repeated later in 2015.

Book Club:  Saturday January 17, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena”, by Anthony Marra at the home of Joann Heimann

Sunday January 25, 9:30 am Sunday School and Adult Ed Bedford Middle School 88 North Ave., Westport
CHJ’s Sunday School Mitzvah Day

CHJ’s Sunday School Mitzvah Day will be held on January 25th from 11:00 am-12:30 pm.  We will make bagged lunches and gather warm clothes for delivery to those in need.
Our youngest students will contribute their artistic skills by decorating the lunch bags while older students assemble the contents of the lunches and the sandwiches in an assembly line fashion.  At the end of the day, any family that wants to can caravan to deliver the lunches and the warm clothes we have collected to those individuals we are serving this year.

If you would like to help with Mitzvah Day, please bring warm, adult-sized coats, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, and socks to Bedford on January 25th. Or consider donating a food item; email Miriam Cheng at chengsconnect@gmail.com and she’ll let you know what we need.

Sunday January 25, 10:00 am Adult Ed  Bedford Middle School 88 North Ave., WestportIslam 101Whatever one’s positions may be with respect to the Israel/Palestine situation one thing is certain – most of us know very little about Islam, the religion of most Palestinians.  Sure, we know that devout Muslims pray towards Mecca 5 times a day, but what about Wudu, their complicated ritual daily washing, their high regard for Moses and Jesus, the possibility that Mohammed had epilepsy as the cause of his visions, their mandated charity giving, their unique organization of the Koran chapters, and the good reason that Mohammed had for advising a few of his followers to drink camel urine. These and other aspects of Islam will be explored in a slideshow talk by Dave


Just around the corner is our first holiday of 2015!Please save the date, January 31st, to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish Earth Day, with our intergenerational Tu B’Shvat seder!

Date: January 31, 2015

Time: 6:00 PM
Where: Fellowship Hall
Southport Congregational Church
524 Pequot Ave. SouthportThis is a family-friendly event!!!

There will be a service, great food and music with our exuberant and talented song leader Adam Feder.Tu B’Shvat is one of our most popular annual events, so sign up early.

Please bring a main dish or salad for the pot luck. 

We will supply drinks, dessert and ceremonial foods.

Please RSVP to Lisa Sullivan if you are coming, and what you will be bringing.

We’ll need volunteers to set up at 4 PM and also to clean up, so please let us know if you can help with either set of activities.

Looking forward to a fun and exciting evening with you!

Marcia Kosstrin and Lisa Sullivan

Saturday January 31, 10 am Women’s Rap  Home of Roberta Frank

Sunday February 1, 9:30 am Sunday School and Adult Ed Bedford Middle School 88 North Ave., Westport

Sunday February 8, 9:30 am Sunday School and Board Meeting Bedford Middle School 88 North Ave., Westport

 “The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”
Film and program Monday Jan 12.


This Oscar nominated short film is related to an issue coming up in the Connecticut legislature: compassionate choice at the end of life.  In 1994, a year after serving two terms as one of the most popular governors in modern Washington State history, Booth Gardner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  In 2008, as his health continued to deteriorate, he returned to the political spotlight, this time as the driving force behind a ballot initiative that would legalize one’s choice on how to die.

The Connecticut Coalition of Reason, an umbrella group of humanistorganizations throughout Connecticut, is taking the initiative to increase education and awareness of this issue regarding personal freedom to make choices.

The bill, which has been adopted by other states, takes the matter out of the shadows and provides for protection and safeguards.

The program will be held at the Silver Star Diner, 210 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk, at 6:30 pm, with the diner’s full menu available.  Attendance is free.


–Mitch Tilkin and Cary Shaw, CHJ Reps to the CT CoR.

S H J 

At a recent CHJ Board Meeting I was asked what positions the SHJ (Society forHumanistic Judaism) takes on Israel, and how it arrives at them.  Through an orderly elective process the SHJ makes resolutions on ethical issues, reflecting a devotion to democracy, tolerance, freedom of religion, etc. and against violence.  The titles of its resolutions relating to Israel are:

— October 18, 2000
— May 4, 2002
— October 30, 2011
— July 2012
– May 4, 2014

The text of these and other SHJ Resolutions (which include their reasoning) may be found at the new shj.org website at
OR if you wish you can email me at caryshaw at optonline.net for the text of those listed above.

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