From The President

Dear Congregants and Friends,

December was quite a month! During the week of Chanukah, we hosted and participated in a wonderful series of programs to celebrate the holiday. On the first night, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and her son Drew lit the community menorah in Williamstown and then at City Hall in North Adams. On Saturday evening, more than 100 people, including many families with young children, gathered at a park in North Bennington, VT. Led by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, our Director of Youth & Family Learning, they lit the giant menorah, sang Chanukah songs, and ate a variety of home baked goodies including sufganiyot. The menorah, designed and built by artist John Chambers, was commissioned by NEFESH, our young family group, and was decorated by NEFESH families a few weeks earlier. Each of its branches spelled out the name of a social justice initiative, and participants were given the opportunity to make a gift to any of 8 community organizations.

Sunday featured a rousing Chanukah party at a home in North Bennington, with homemade latkes, Chanukah crafts for the kids, and lots of merriment from participants ranging from babies to grandparents. And on Monday evening, following our Jewish Journeys school, CBI hosted a Chanukah Bonfire & Songfest, featuring Rabbi Rachel and Rabbi Jarah on guitar leading us in Chanukah songs. CBI member Jen Burt provided delicious homemade latkes and sufganiyot. A Berkshire Eagle journalist and photographer, who was there to take photos, was so impressed with what she saw that she wrote a front page, lead article that appeared in the December 15th edition. Titled “Creating a Cultural Home – Families are flocking to North Adams synagogue as engagement strategy shows signs of success,” the article talked about how CBI is reaching out to engage young families across the northern Berkshires and southern Vermont. I hope you had a chance to read this article and I invite you, no matter your age, to join us for future events.

Sadly, in a sign of the times, CBI has been the target of two false bomb threats, along with many other synagogues across the United States. The security measures that CBI implemented over the past 2 years were effective, and with the help of the North Adams Police Department we were able to determine that these were false threats. The Board and leadership of CBI are determined not to let such threats dim our lights. Our best response is to continue to gather to worship, to learn, to celebrate, and to live out the values our Jewish tradition teaches. We are following the advice of security experts to be alert to our surroundings and to speak up if anything seems amiss or unexpected.

Coming up this month is our celebration of Tu BiShvat, New Year of the Trees, on Sunday, January 21! Please join us for our first ever Tu BiShvat concert by the CBI choir and band, followed by refreshments themed to the holiday. You’ll find the details in this newsletter and in weekly CBI Announcements.

And finally, a special treat for book lovers is happening on February 8 at 7pm on Zoom, when the CBI Book Club hosts Elizabeth Graver, author of the acclaimed new publication, Kantika, for a discussion of her book. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear about this fascinating book, inspired by the life story of her maternal grandmother Rebecca Cohen, daughter of the Sephardic elite of early twentieth-century Istanbul. The family’s journeys took them through Cuba, Spain, and New York, where Suzanne Graver, CBI member and mother of Elizabeth, was born. All are welcome, whether or not you have read the book.

Please read our weekly announcements to learn more and to RSVP for services and programs. And if there is something else you would like to see happening at CBI, please contact any Board member, Rabbi Rachel, Rabbi Jarah, &/or myself.


— Natalie Matus