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Winter 2020

To view past issues of the new online Temple Beth El newsletters, click here. 
If you are at a Temple Beth El event, please snap some photos, add captions and send them to
News from our Rabbi:
Three Snapshots of Rabbi Luna's calendar:
What does a rabbi do all week? This is a common question asked of rabbis so I'm dedicating my TBE newsletter column to snapshots of my rabbinic calendar. Each month I'll pick three projects or tasks that I'm working on to share with you. I've enjoyed looking over my calendar, deciding what to share, and reflecting on how I spend my time at Temple Beth El. These are just snapshots so I'm not including my regular sermon preparation, Torah study preparation, Talmud and Life class, Lunch and Learn class, Confirmation class, Religious School t’filah service and Hebrew class, Shabbat service preparation, staff meetings, pastoral appointments, hospital visits, Governing Committee meetings, pastoral phone calls, committee meetings, clergy study gatherings, etc.
This month, I'm focusing on following up on significant initiatives and events:
Leslie Luzar Memorial Cantorial Series: 

We've welcomed Cantor Jamie Marx and Dr. Emily Teck for our Leslie Luzar Memorial Cantorial Series. Each cantor/musical guest and I prepare intensively for the Shabbat service. I share with them our weekly music rundowns so they get a feel for our regular worship experience and the melodies the congregation is familiar with. We then discuss how we can introduce new music and how we can creatively reimagine familiar sections like the Torah service or prayers like Maariv Aravim.
 (Above) January 3 Friday night.  Elizabeth Eaton, Chicago-based bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with Rabbi Luna and with guest Cantor Jamie Marx of Broomall PA. (Photo by Charles Bakst)
We go through each and every prayer to determine which version we should do, what we should include, where we can add different ideas, etc. As service leaders, we pay special attention to the flow of the service. A service should include both fast-paced emotional highs and reflective, personal moments. Getting the balance right is an art.
Miss Emily Teck brings youth and
light to Shabbat, with help from Zara.
It is an exciting process and I've been thrilled by how the Temple Beth El community has embraced the creativity and musical talents of our guests!  
L'Taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington D.C.
From Friday, February 7 to Monday, February 10 I will be traveling to Washington D.C. with three TBE high school students, together with parent chaperone Vanessa Sax, to the L'Taken Social Justice Seminar, organized by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Throughout the four days, our students will join 400 other Reform Jewish teenagers in celebrating Shabbat, learning about public policy issues and the Reform movement, and visiting the National Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian National Mall, and other landmarks. The program culminates in the students picking a particular policy issue that matters to them, writing a speech, and delivering it on Capitol Hill in the legislative offices on Monday. This is the capstone trip for our Confirmation class and in the past, students have lobbied about the environment, reproductive rights and comprehensive sexual education and church/state issues. It is a remarkable opportunity for students to connect their Jewish learning with the wider society and make their voices heard. 
Interfaith Learning: 
My interfaith clergy group and I have been planning our 2nd annual Interfaith Learning Series. The topic this year is prayer in our three faith traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Please join us on Wednesday, February 5 at Temple Beth El at 6:30pm as we host the first learning session. We'll be studying the Shema- what it means in the Torah, what it means in the liturgical text,  what it means during prayer, and what it means in our lives. On February 12 we'll study the Lord's Prayer at Iona Hope Episcopal and on February 19 we'll study Muslim prayer at the Quality Life Center. What a gift to be able to come together with neighbors and freely and openly express our Judaism and learn from each other. 
Rabbi Luna


(Above) Dec 27 Friday night communal Chanukah candles.(Photo by Charles Bakst)


(Above and below) Lindy Smith employs her special skills as a guest leading a Tot Shabbat activity.

Note: If you missed it on the news.... here is the WINK news interview with Rabbi Luna about Mitzvah Day!

President's Message
Dear Temple Beth El Congregants:
Over the past 18 months Temple Beth El has been in a rebuilding process – both spiritually and financially.  We have made significant progress and this past High Holiday season you were beyond generous in donating to the general operating fund and the Garden Preserve behind the Synagogue.  And, while continued improvement is always most important, we now have a strong foundation to move forward.
Welcome to our Incoming Board of Directors
(Above L-R: Marty Sherman, Rabbi Luna, Hal Eskin, Laurie Morris, Hank Betchen, Mary Gatof, Stacy Seiser, Bob Batson)
This past Wednesday, you approved a significant improvement to our by-laws and a new slate of Board Trustees.  The new by-laws push the day-to-day operations of Temple Beth El to where they belong – to the Congregants and not the Board.  The Committees and your involvement will move this Synagogue forward.  The Board of Trustees will now look strategically to the future and act as a coordinating function between the Committees. 
The new Board of Trustees is a multi-talented group with diverse skills and perspectives.  All dedicated to the continued betterment of our Congregation.  They are Hank Betchen, President; Bob Batson, Treasurer, Hal Eskin, Secretary; Mary Gatof, Member-at-Large; Laurie Morris, Member-at-Large; Marty Sherman, Member-at-Large; and. Stacy Seiser, Member-at-Large.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the past Temple Presidents who helped draw up the new by-laws – Russ Bogen, Steve Zellner, Randy Kashi, Mike Kashi, Harriet Lipschutz, Debbie Silver, and Linda Sweet along with Rabbi Luna.  And, I would be remiss if we didn’t thank the Governing Committee for their work this past 18 months.  During this time, those participating on the Committee included Carolyn Gora, Steve Zellner, Michele Laboda, Jeff Pakrosnis and Hank Betchen with support from Karen Kagen and Rabbi Luna.
Mitzvah Committee
On behalf of the entire Mitzvah Committee, 
THANK YOU for making
TBE Mitzvah Day 2020 wonderful! 
How grateful are we?  Let us count the ways!
Because of you, Mitzvah Day had…
* a delicious bagel breakfast for > 130 people 
* a lovely sanctuary service called by shofar 
a showcase of 5 special guests: 
* Lions Club with LifeLink organ donation and used eye glass collection , 
* Guardian ad Litem
* Lee & Charlotte County Federation
* ACT 
* Lee County Deputy Sheriff’s office with Stop the Bleed and Reunite Programs 
4 special sign-ups:
American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb 
* Habitat for Humanity
* Voter Registration Updates
* 9 folks for AED-CPR training
5 special drives:
* More than 6 feet of hangers for Clothing Drive for Dress for Success (Sisterhood co-sponsors)
* More than 30 large bags plus jewelry, handbags & shoes for Clothing Drive for Homeless Coalition & Eva’s Closet (Sisterhood special co-sponsors)
* 2 cases of fresh food for ACT ( Abuse Counseling & Treatment, Inc.)
* More than $75 of supplies for Gulf Coast Humane Society Animal Shelter
* More than$75 of supplies and $25 cash for Cycle Forward 
16 TBE Committees & Programs:
* TBE preserve & garden committee
* Cemetery committee
* Religious School, 
* Ritual committee
* Membership committee
* Jewish 12 step Recovery group, 
* Schmoovies
* Current Events
* Book Club
* 65th Gala celebration
* Sisterhood
* Mitzvah committee including
   Ride Sharing and Caring visits,
   Jewish Disability Awareness-Acceptance-&-Inclusion, 
   Israel Connect & Israel in the News
18 Mitzvah Projects including
* More than 50 ACTs of Care kits for women and children for ACT 
* 18 Golisano Children’s Hospital Newborn Welcome kits
* 30 Golisano Children’s Hospital Pediatric craft kits
 * More than 200 Bag Lunches for Community Cooperative
* 5 folks learned how to register voters and become part of a non-partisan pool available to help register voters
* More than  75 cards
Greeting cards: Ill Children, Israeli soldiers, Vets
*Kitchen, Bathroom & Sanctuary Clean UP
*TBE Campus & Preserve Gardening 
*Garden of Memories Cemetery Clean UP
*Kindness & Peace Stones (Grieving Support)
* 15 donations supplying blood products to 75 patients over the following 72 hours thanks to One Blood Bloodmobile
* 91 Knives sharpened for a fund drive raising $91
* 50 Origami Cranes for Health Park
* 3 Gratitude Trees which will be used at Federation Community Senior Lunches
* 30 Keepsake boxes of Jewish Values for delivery to Seniors in assisted living
* 10 trained to volunteer at GULF COAST Humane Society/animal shelter 
* 3 projects completed for our Upgrade ADA standard for Inclusion 
And Mitzvah Day opportunities continue…
Contact us via email: 
...or attend a Mitzvah Committee meeting (2 PM every 2nd Tuesday of the month). Be a part of building and doing more programs for social caring, social action and social justice to benefit our congregation, our southwest Florida community and beyond,and strengthen our bond with Israel.


Temple Beth El's Mitzvah Day covered by WINK News:
Hundreds gathered for Mitzvah Day at Temple Beth El in Fort Myers.
The goal of Mitzvah Day at Temple Beth El in Fort Myers on Sunday was to gather together for a day of service. Hundreds of community members were there to help put together different projects and kits for those less fortunate.
They made toiletry kits for the women and children’s center, greeting cards for Israeli soldiers, baby welcome kits for Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and a voter registration table and bloodmobile. To put on all these projects, they collected donations of food, clothing, hygiene products and pet food.
There were projects for any age and so many different organizations that were there for every interest. The event started at 9 a.m. and went on until noon. 
Israel in the News
Israeli startup TriEye collaborates with Porsche
Finally, a pill that could fix the root cause of diabetes
ISRAEL21c helps bring Israeli avocado knowhow to Portugal
The February 10th deadline to RSVP to the 65th Anniversary Sapphire Celebration of Temple Beth El is fast approaching and we urge you to return your RSVP card or reserve online as soon as possible. 
Get dressed in your cocktail attire and enjoy an evening of nostalgia, hors d’oeuvres reception, catered dinner and live entertainment.  Remember to bring your checkbooks or credit cards to make some exciting purchases at our silent auctio
There is something for everyone! Get a great deal while supporting Temple Beth El!

Some of our auction items include:                                          Artwork by Marc Chagall,             
Blown glass vase by artist, David Goldhagen,   
Theater tickets to “Miss Saigon” at the Barbara B Mann          Restaurant gift cards,    
Sports memorabilia of Derek Jeter, Muhammed Ali, and other “greats”,                                                       
Ball game tickets,                                                                          Jennifer’s boutique gift certificate,                                    
Health and beauty items,                                                        Handmade walnut mantel clock,                                         
New Italian leather purse,                                                       
Tiffany necklace,                                                                           
One of a kind pendant and earrings designed by local artisan and jeweler, Marc Loren                               


URJ Biennial 
By Russ Bogen, TBE past president, and Laurie Morris, Board member at large
“I have a voice, my voice is powerful, my voice can change the world.” 
Thousands of people sang, danced, whooped it up and worshiped at the URJ Biennial in Chicago last December. URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) Biennial, the largest gathering of Jews in North America, hosted  525 congregations from 50 states and 75 international congregations.
We gathered for leadership development, worship, fellowship, and entertainment. Uplifting speeches and gorgeous music abounded during plenary sessions. We gathered and celebrated in the safety and warmth with communal purpose. 17 degrees and light snow had no effect on what was happening inside McCormick Place. Sightseeing options were available the first morning of the convention for those brave enough to step outside. Ask Russ Bogen about the bus tour to Wrigley Field.
The divisiveness and violence that saturate our world and our faith communities were left outside the convention walls for five marvelous days.  “Use our strength to do good” was the prevailing theme. Repairing the world, acts of lovingkindness, community, healing, respecting the dignity of the individual, justice, wholeness, and hope. This is what Biennial was about: tikkun olam.
Each day the sense of unity grew exponentially. Worship, learning sessions, and Jewish music embraced everyone, cresting with the celebration of Shabbat Friday evening and Saturday morning, featuring a large choir of cantors.
You have not lived until you have attended Shabbat services with 5,000 other members of the tribe who are singing, clapping, and dancing the hora around the cavernous meeting hall. 
Attempting to make sense of a tumultuous world in which the Jewish community is attacked with increasing frequency, the effects of prayer, music, dancing, and community created a temporary shield surrounding Biennial within which we could bond and grow stronger. While the outside world had not changed during those few days in Chicago, those inside McCormick Place, experiencing the short-lived euphoria of Biennial, are now better prepared to help heal and repair our broken planet and its inhabitants.
Worship and camaraderie, discourse and dialogue. All ages, from elderly folks using walkers or scooters, to infants in their parents’ arms. Inspirational music, infused with Jewish soul. A stirring concert by cantors. Members of Second City comedy troupe performing uproarious Jewish-themed skits and improv. So many experiences. Reform Judaism being nourished in a monumental way, every two years.
From strength to strength. Save the date: URJ Biennial is in D.C, December  8-11, 2021. #urjbiennial​​​​​
(Left) Russ Bogen and Laurie Morris, TBE delegates at the
Union for Reform Judaism Biennial Convention, December 2019
The TBE Book Club is a vibrant and warm group of lifelong readers who invite you to join them at the monthly Book Club meeting.
At our Jan 8 Book Club we  will reviewed Jennifer Robson’s novel, The Gown led by Tina Friedman. What was so special about this captivating story was the weaving of 2 time frames, that of London 1947 and Toronto 2016. When intrigued by  an exquisite set of hand-stitched flowers she has inherited from her late grandmother, Heather discovered that they matched the motif of Queen  Elizabeth’s wedding gown of almost 70 years before. This led Heather to uncover the secret life of her grandmother as a seamstress of the  Gown and her heartwarming friendship with Miriam, a Jewish émigrée  from France, who survived  the Holocaust and became a celebrated artist. 

At our February 5th meeting, we  will review The Kabbalah Master by Perle Besserman, Reviewed by Judi Bayer.
Besserman’s novel, set in Coney Island in 1972, brings us into Sharon Berg’s world, one in which she seeks to make a life for herself  and her family through her journey and commitment  to Hasidism
Many Thanks 
Longtime member Paul Tenenbaum has donated a keyboard to TBE, and we are grateful. Paul, a combat-wounded Korean War veteran, loves music and used to play the violin.  Paul obtained a keyboard with  which to exercise his injured fingers. It sat unused, however, so
Paul decided to donate it to TBE. The purpose of Paul’s donation is for children to enjoy using it to learn music themselves. It is lightweight and portable, so it can be moved around from room to room as needed. We anticipate many years of enjoying this keyboard. Thank you, Paul Tenenbaum, for your generous and thoughtful gift to Temple Beth El.
February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month
Temple Beth El is striving to be more inclusive to disabled members and guests. Discovering what areas should be given attention in order to fit the needs of the disabled has been a learning process. Below is a list of items that have been or will be altered to make everyone feel welcome at TBE.
-lowered mezuzah on front door a level reachable by someone in a wheelchair
-wrapped pipes in disabled stalls so someone seated low down will not get burned
-lowered tallit clip outside restrooms to a level reachable by someone in a wheelchair
-toilet paper holders must be attached to a level reachable by someone in a wheelchair 
-will order large print prayerbooks
- we offer hearing impaired headphones * anyone who knows about this field, please contact the temple office to help repair
- handles must be attached in correct angles on disabled stalls, put toilet handle on toilet other side
-lower coat racks to a level reachable by someone in a wheelchair
-lessen pressure for opening doors
- seek a grant to have automatic door
(anyone with grant writing experience, please contact the temple office to help prepare grants.)
If you have any further suggestions of ways to help make the temple building and grounds more suitable for the disabled, please contact the temple office.
TBE Audio-Visual Systems for the 21st Century
Do you enjoy the slides and the sounds at Shabbat Services and other events at Temple Beth-El?   This is the work of the behind-the-scenes Men’s Club volunteers who work during the week to prepare, and to then ensure the best audio-visual experience in the Sanctuary, and on-line through livestream. 
Imagine not having working microphones or slides at Friday night services or any activities at TBE.   Everyone wants to hear the words loudly and clearly from the Bima and in the Dubin Center, and to be able to see clearly the slides and video projected on the big screens.   

The current projectors, sound system, and livestream have been gradually failing and NEED to be replaced.  We actually have no less than 5 separate systems that all work (really co-
exist) together, but replacing one piece at a time does not work because the older technology, which was great at the time, now does not connect with the new technology, so we are stuck …
It is time to upgrade Temple Beth-El’s Audio-Visual System to take us through the next decade, and your help is needed.   Everyone who participates in activities at TBE knows how vital to our experience the Audio-Visual Equipment is.
You may not know that there is a TBE Audio-Visual Fund which specifically is directed at this area.  Please contribute!  We are currently working with local contractors that have worked with other houses of worship in the area, to get their proposals and quotes.   Let’s all see that through the Men’s Club, and together with the congregation, we can raise enough money to upgrade the TBE Audio-Visual System for our future needs.
Thank you,
Lance Kann and the AV Team
Sisterhood News
Jewelry Designer Mark Loren captivates Sisterhood with a lecture on laboratory grown diamonds.
On Thursday, January 16th  40 members of Temple Beth El Sisterhood met for a beautiful lunch at Grandeeza Country Club. The meal was deliciously prepared and served by the staff at Grandezza, and sharing each other's company was enjoyed by all.Our guest speaker, famed and longtime jewelry designer Mark Loren shared fascinating facts and news about the up and coming industry of laboratory grown gems as well as an enlightening discussion about heirloom jewelry and current market trends. He answered questions and shared some amusing stories with us. What better way to spend an afternoon being with good friends, good food and good company!
Gerald Ziedenberg shares his historical knowledge in lecture series
Don't miss the remaining lectures and audio visual presentations by historian Gerald Ziedenberg and his guest speakers. The first few lectures have been well attended and fascinating.
Monthly Movie and Social Time
Next up: Crossing Delancey - Wednesday, February 12
5:00pm Wine & Cheese
followed by a Pot Luck Dinner and movie
Your admission is just your dish - see monthly list for the part of the meal to supply - plus a donation for the food pantry.
Mickey Bielski, son of Tuvia Bielski, who led the largest Jew to Jew rescue of the Holocaust, is a longtime TBE member. He introduced the movie 'Defiance', the story of his father's and uncle's tremendous bravery. (Photo by Charles Bakst)
Garden of Memories: Temple Beth El Cemetery Committee News
The Cemetery Committee hosted the Rabbi, Confirmation class 8th and 9th graders and Members of the Temple at the Garden of Memories Cemetery during Mitzvah day, Sunday January 26, 2020.  It was a very successful day and The Cemetery Committee wanted to say thank you to all who attended and helped with this most important Mitzvah.
The headstones were cleaned the property trimmed and swept with lots of hard work done by all.
A history of the Cemetery and what the Cemetery Committee does with questions and answers was told and a beautiful prayer by the Rabbi before we all left was done to complete this meaningful time. 
(Above: Claire and Betteann volunteer their time helping at the TBE Cemetery.)
The Temple Beth El Garden of Memories Cemetery is a wonderful benefit of Temple Beth El membership, and it is the only synagogue owned burial area in Lee County.
Religious school students help tidy up the TBE Cemetery grounds.
Religious School News
The 2019 Temple Beth El Hanukkah Project showed incredible generosity and support from the Temple Beth El congregational community. 
Four families were provided beautiful and generously filled Hanukkah gift baskets. The families are incredibly appreciative and touched by such generosity, love and support from their Temple Beth El family. 
A great big thank you to gift wrappers: Colin Taschner, Zoe Sax, Randy Seiser, Phyllis & Berny Aronson, Stacey Seiser, Mary Gatof, Michele Laboda and Kavitha Taschner.
Thank you Karen Kagan for reaching out to the families for their wish lists and ensuring that the families receive these incredible Hanukkah gift baskets. 
The tradition of the Hanukkah Project, started by Jodi Cohen, continues with the love, support and generosity of many of the wonderful people sreache hed out to many years ago in starting this project, as well with new participants who have joined us over the last few years with great support. 
Religious school Hannukah Gift Exchange at their Chanukah dinner outside of religious school.  The special relationships formed by TBE Religious School families expands past the walls of the synagogue.
Membership Team News
The Membership Team is proud to report that we have in the neighborhood of 40 new members at Temple Beth El! 
We are seeking a new Co-Teampleader for this committee who would eventually take over the Chairmanship. In order to make the job more appealing, we will emulate the new leadership philosophy of the Board. Instead of the Chair having the responsibility of each aspect of the Team, each Team member will take on a ‘sub’ specialty and be responsible for that area. Thus, the incoming Chair would have time to lead more effectively, overseeing each subcommittee, assuring that agreed upon tasks are completed, arranging meetings, agendas, minutes, and corresponding with new members and guests. 
The subcommittees will include areas such as: New Member Subcommittee, Correspondence Subcommittee, Community wide Scouting Subcommittee, Social Arrangements Subcommittee, PR/Graphics Subcommittee, Greeting System Subcommittee. The congregation will find a good way to meet others and be introduced to temple workings by doing occasional, less committed volunteering, is by helping on one of our subcommittees.
Our New Member Brunch is scheduled for March 15, and more information will be available soon for what we hope will be a fun morning filled with activities and good food. Israelfest is next on our agenda and we will have a booth and a presence there. The Mitzvah Day booth in the temple foyer was a great success, and we have enjoyed being present and welcoming at exciting temple events and services, such as the Community Dinners and Services, the Guest Cantorial Series, prenegs, onegs, and wonderful Hannukah Party bash! 
We are very proud of our newly designed advertising items: Pads and pens, tote bags, brochures and printed materials and buttons! We hope the new members enjoy these, and hope you’ll look for them in and around the temple.
The Membership Team has enjoyed a successful year and continues to be present at all Temple activities and functions.
Randy Kashi
Membership Chair
Wed, November 25 2020 9 Kislev 5781