BHA Sanctuary Windows
The teachings below were offered as part of Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippor Services at Beacon Hebrew Alliance in 5773/2012. This page begins with an introduction to the whole project by Rabbi Brent Spodek, followed by insights into each of the windows - both the donors who established the windows and the verses from Torah that adorn their windows.
A Minyan of Windows
Many mornings, I pray in this beautiful room by myself, with the light coming in through those windows. At moments like those, when there isn’t a minyan present, there is a little phrase said right before the morning Shema – אל מלך נאמן – God is the faithful presence.
You only say it when there isn’t a minyan, and that’s because the first letters of those three words --אל מלך נאמן -- Aleph, Mem, Nun – spell Amen, which of course, is what you say when there is a minyan, a quorum of ten people present. It’s as if to say that even though at a given moment, even though a person might be praying alone, the Holy One has faith that where there is one person of faith, there will ultimately be a full minyan, a community of faith.
One the beautiful things about davvening in this room though, is that you are never really alone. There are 10 beautiful windows in this room, each with a name, each with a verse of Torah. It’s as if we have a minyan of windows – a community of faith here as soon as you walk in the door.
Of course, ten is a number with great significance in Judaism, beyond just the ten people for a minyan. There are the ten Days of Awe; we stood at Sinai and received the ten commandments; and in the mind of the Zohar, the central text of Jewish mysticism, there are ten sefirot, or emanations of the Holy One.
Just as pure light is refracted through a prism to reveal the many colors contained within, so too is God refracted through the world into ten sefirot – hochma, bina, da’at, chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod and malchut or existence, wisdom, understanding, kindness, severity, beauty, endurance, splendor, foundation and presence. These ten comprise God as the colors comprise light.
The tradition teaches that we can only truly reach out to God from within a community of ten adults, and so too, the fullness of the divine can only truly be experienced as an interplay between these ten sefirot, or emanations. Sometimes we experience Divinity as kindness, other times as presence, other times still as splendor. Over time, we need all of them, because they are all aspects of the Divine.
The beautiful thing about windows, such as the ones we have in this room, is that they let the light out, in the form of our prayers flying up to the heavens; they also let the light in, so that the heavens can come down to us. (It helps that we are on the second floor – heaven doesn’t have quite so far to go down to ground level.)
Surrounded by these ten windows, each with a name and each with a pasook, a verse from Torah, we come together as a minyan to reach out to heaven, and heaven is refracted into ten verses to come down to us.
Davvening with us tonight and every day, we have
- Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Schuman; through their window we learn: את שבתתי תשמרו
- Dr. and Mrs. Louis Rogen; through their window we learn: בצדק תשפט עמיתך
- Mrs. Fannie Miller; through her window we learn: ארכת בת עמי
- Mr. and Mrs. Abe Wolkowitz; through their window we learn: ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
- Mr. and Mrs. Max Werber; through their window we learn: צדק צדק תרדף
- Mr. Jacob Ginsberg; through his window we learn: ואהבת לרעך כמוך
- Mr. Max Glick; through his window we learn: שוותי ה לנגדי תמיד
- Mrs. Rebecca Werber; through her window we learm: לזג רעיתי היקרה
- Mr. and Mrs. David Pomerantz; through their window we learn: אשר ישבי ביתך
- and Ms. Minnie Cahn; through her window we learn: ה' רעי לא אחסר
These ten individuals and families make up the permanent minyan of this sanctuary. Their presence is felt every time we enter this room to pray, to meditate, to learn or simply just to clean up. They are part of the 90 year history of BHA as surely as we in this room are part of its future.
Thanks to the efforts of Ann Gross, Laurel Becker, Deb Davidovitz, Ruth Ray and Cantor Ellen Gersh, we have learned a little bit about each of these families. Over Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippor, we learned about who these people were and about what their verses of Torah have to teach us. I hope and pray that these windows, with their teaching and their history, help carry our prayers a little higher and let the eternal light be revealed to us with a little more clarity.
Through their window we learn: אֶת-שַׁבְּתֹתַי תִּשְׁמֹרו which is from Leviticus 19:30: "You shall keep My sabbaths, and revere My sanctuary: I am the LORD." Rashi, the most important of the medieval commentators of the Torah, explains that this verse comes to teach that resting on Shabbat, refraining from working one day out of the week is so important, so central to what it means to be in relationship with God, that it is more important even than building a sanctuary, the place where God was imagined to dwell on earth. It was true in the time of the Torah and it is true now. For a spiritual life lived in relationship with the Divine, nothing is more important than a day of rest, a day of respite from the constant pressure to produce and consume.
Sidney Schuman was a long-time resident of Beacon and an integral part of the Jewish community as well as the Beacon community at large. Sidney owned and operated the Army and Navy Store on Main St. in Beacon, where this community met for years before building this building. Sidney always was ready to give when asked, whether it was for the high school athletic teams, the town youth programs or BHA. He served on the BHA Board of Trustees as well as various committees, including the banquet committee and the Journal committee. Sidney was known for his effervescent personality. He always had a smile on his face and made people laugh. Sidney was married to Rose Breger Schuman, who was born in 1906, and together, they had two daughters - Elinor Harrison and Sydell Ligotino. Rose was very involved in the community and at BHA. She was a member of Sisterhood and Hadassah, the Dutchess County Red Cross and was part of the Auxiliary at Highland Hospital, which stood right behind us, where the townhouses are now. Rose also served on the Board of Directors for the area Jewish War Veterans. Rose was a fun-loving person, who was never too proud to get on the floor and play with the children. Her warmth and smile filled this building. Sidney and Rose Schuman are buried next to each other in the BHA cemetery. May their memories be for a blessing.
Through their window we learn: בְּצֶדֶק תִּשְׁפֹּט עֲמִיתֶךָ / "In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." The full verse at Leviticus 19:15 reads: "You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." In its context, this verse is clearly speaking to judges who sit in courts and adjudicate cases, but Rashi, the most important of the medieval commentators on the Torah, makes it clear that this principle applies to everyone, in everyday life as well. הוי דן את חבירך לכפ זכות When we assess others, in the million small interactions that make up a life, Rashi says, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume that the ambiguous email was written with ho
stile intention or that the overlooked invitation was a deliberate snub. Give people the benefit of the doubt; it makes things more pleasant for you and for them.
Dr. Louis Rogen was the son of Hyman and Tillie Rozinsky. Louis was very active in the Beacon community and here at BHA. He was a dentist and had an office in that white house on Fishkill Avenue, between BHA and Main Street. He served BHA as an officer with the title of “Center Director,” was active on the BHA Journal committee, and was an editor of the BHA newsletter, the Alliance Centergram. Louis was a very generous person, always willing to do whatever was asked of him. He was married to Miriam Pomerantz Rogen, the daughter of Hyman and Rachel Pomerantz, who were founding members of BHA. Miriam spent her entire life in Beacon and was devoted to her family and to serving the Jewish community. She served as Vice-President, Financial Secretary, and Corresponding Secretary of the Sisterhood and was a long-time member of Hadassah and of the Journal committee. Louis and Miriam had two daughters, Beverly Locker and long-time BHA member Audrey Morgenstern. Audrey remembers that her mother was always at BHA, involved in one thing or another. Her dedication and participation paved the way for the involvement of future generations of women at BHA, including her daughters. Louis and Miriam Rogen spent their final years in Florida; they are buried together in the BHA cemetery. May their memories always be for a blessing.
|Her window reads אֲרֻכַת בַּת-עַמִּי, which refers to Jeremiah 8:22, which reads in full: "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” The Gilead referred to was a place famous for its healing balm. When Joseph is sold to traders in the book of Genesis, they are coming from Gilead, bearing balm for Egypt. Jeremiah is looking at his people in the sorry state they find themselves after the conquest of Jerusalem and saying you have what you need to rise up. What – is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no coal in Newcastle? No ice in Alaska? You are Jews and you have spiritual resilience as surely as Gilead has balm. Now access it! We echo this teaching every morning during the blessings of dawn, when we say שעשה לי כל צרקי - "God gives me everything we need," even if we don’t always have the insight to access the resources at hand. We are grateful to Fannie Miller for teaching us that.|
Fannie Miller was a highly regarded member at BHA. She was widowed at a young age and she raised her son Morris Miller by herself. Her strong character was inspirational to the younger women in the community. Fannie was the founder of the BHA Chapter of Hadassah and her picture is affixed to a memorial donated by the BHA Sisterhood, which hangs outside of Brent’s study. Fannie had an unending capacity for giving and she dedicated herself to the Jewish community here in Beacon. We are indebted to Fannie for her contributions to the community. Fannie is buried in the BHA cemetery. May her memory always be for a blessing.
From their window we read וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם/ " And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them," from Exodus 25:8. This verse comes in the midst of the many instructions that the Holy One gives the Israelites regarding the building of the mishkan, the wilderness tabernacle. Significantly, the verse says that when the people build the tabernacle, the Holy One will dwell in them – not in the tabernacle, but in the people who built it. This was true in the days of the ancient Israelites and it is true in our day as well. Holiness can never dwell in a place – a building or a piece of land – holiness dwells in the hearts of people, and by working to build community, we transform our hearts into places where the Holy One can dwell. We are grateful to Abraham and Ann Wolkowitz for teaching us that.
|Abraham Wolkowitz and his partner John Lieberman ran a leather factory in Beacon that made bomber jackets during World War II. During the Korean War he made nylon jumpsuits for the Air Force, which later he marketed to the civilian population as fashionable jackets. He was a strong presence at BHA and understood the work it took to maintain a Jewish community in a small town. He was also related to long-time member and pharmacist Paul Wolkoff. Abraham contributed ten chumashim in 1952 and enjoyed studying with members in the community. Abraham was married to Ann Wolkowitz, who was a kind, caring person who was dedicated to the Jewish community and brought a smile to the face of everyone she met. Ann, along with the other women of BHA, provided delicious meals and much warmth to this community. Their legacy of home cooking at BHA lives on in all of the people who make lunches and kiddushes and onegs happen today. Ann and Abraham had one son, Ralph. May the memory of Abe and Ann Wolkowitz always be for a blessing.|
Through this window we learn צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, תִּרְדֹּף – "Justice, justice, shall you pursue," from Deuteronomy 16:20. The full verse reads "Justice, justice shalt you pursue, that thou may live and inherit the land which the LORD thy God has given you." Building a just world is at the very core of what Judaism is about. The prophet Isaiah, whom we read as the haftara for Yom Kippor, teaches: "Is such the fast I desire - a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast? No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness; And untie the cords of the yoke; To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin." The Yom Kippor reading from Isaiah echoes this teaching from Deuteronomy. The Torah teaches here that a just society isn’t something that simply happens – it is pursued and worked for. We are grateful to the Werbers for this teaching.
Max Werber was born in Poland in 1885. He was one of the people who founded BHA and he was dedicated to helping Jewish life thrive in Dutchess County. He was the founder of the Werber Sportswear Company of Newburgh and was associated with many manufacturing interests in Beacon after moving here in 1929. He was very involved with civic affairs as a member of the Poughkeepsie Lodge of Masons, the Poughkeepsie Lodge of Elks, the Oriental Shrine of Albany and the Consistory of Albany. Max was also tremendously dedicated to BHA. He donated generously to many BHA endeavors and gave tirelessly of his time, particularly to purchase the land for the BHA cemetery. Max also understood the importance of learning Torah and encouraged the community to gather and study. Max was married to Rebecca Feldman Werber, in whose memory the window in the middle left of the room is dedicated. It says on the top of her window, לזג רעיתי היקרה, to my dear and beloved partner. Rebecca was born in Poland and, like her husband, was committed to fostering learned Jewish life in Dutchess County. Rebecca and Max had five children: Alice Langer, Sadie Levine, Philip Werber, Herman Werber and long-time BHA member Jack Werber. Max and Rebecca are buried in the BHA cemetery, close to their son and daughter-in-law, Jack and Bertha Werber. May their memories always be for a blessing.
Through his window we learn: וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ / " and you should love your neighbor as yourself." The full verse, at Leviticus 19:18 reads: לֹא-תִקֹּם וְלֹא-תִטֹּר אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ: אֲנִי, יְהוָה , "You should not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your fellow; rather, love your fellow as yourself, I am the Holy One."
Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest sages of the second century, taught that this was the great foundational principle of the Torah. All else followed from here. In their time as in ours, it was easy enough to demonize another person, turn the other person into an object, something unworthy of love. That’s true whether that’s someone in your community with whom you’re arguing or a person of a different ethnic group with whom you share land. But this verse comes to teach us that not only is everyone worthy of love, it is incumbent upon us to do that loving, to love other people as we love ourselves. It is one of the most powerful verses of the Torah, and we are grateful to Jacob Ginsberg for teaching it to us.
|Jacob Ginsberg was the son of Max and Bertha Ginsberg, founding members of BHA. Throughout the ninety year history of BHA, the Ginsbergs have been one of the families who have guaranteed the welfare of the community. Jacob had three brothers - Bernie, Murray, and Julius, all members of BHA, and he was the uncle of long-time member Harold Ginsberg. Jacob served in the First World War and survived a gas attack in Europe. As an adult, he lived in Patterson, NJ, where he ran the Majestic Theater, a vaudeville and movie house where Abbott and Costello once played. He was married and had two children. We believe that the window that bears his name was donated by his father Max Ginsberg. May the memory of Jacob Ginsberg always be for a blessing.|
Through his window we learn Psalm 16:8 שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד /" I place The Holy One before me always." Long before anyone heard of ADD, spiritual masters knew that it was hard for everyone to focus. Thoughts enter our consciousness, and while we began thinking of one thing, we are now thinking of something else. Our eyes wander, our minds wander. This verse from Psalms teaches that the path of spiritual practice is to build the ability to maintain a clear sense of God always – not just in this building, not just in moments of prayer, but always.
|Max Glick was a founding member of BHA. Nothing else is currently known about Max other than that he died sometime before the windows were installed in the early 1950’s—which we know because the window is dedicated to his memory. (He is not to be confused with another member, Max Herman Glick of the Cold Spring Glicks.) May his memory always be for a blessing.|
Through his window we learn: Psalm 84:5 אַשְׁרֵי יוֹשְׁבֵי בֵיתֶךָ / "Happy are those that dwell in Your house." The verse continues - עוֹד, יְהַלְלוּךָ סֶּלָה "They are ever praising You, Selah!" This verse, from Psalm 84:5 is also the beginning of Ashrei, the compilation of Psalms that is recited three times a day or more as part of Jewish prayer. Rashi explains אשרי מי שיגיע בביתך לישב – happy is the one who makes the effort, who struggles to dwell in the Presence of the Holy One. Religious life is not about sitting in a stable place of perfection, but rather perpetually working to be conscious of the Holy One, never taking Him for granted. We are grateful to David Pomerantz for teaching us that.
|David Pomerantz was a founding member of BHA. He was a partner with Abraham Lewis, another founding member of BHA, in the Bank Square Tavern. He was also the brother of long-time member Miriam Rogen, who was married to Dr. Louis Rogen, who is honored in the window in the far right corner of the room. David was a long-time member of the board and spent many hours at BHA ensuring that it would have a future for many generations to follow. David was married to Anna Langbart Pomerantz, and in 1950, they donated the six upholstered chairs you see on the pulpit. Apparently Anna spent hours deliberating over what color should be close to the Torah, and for good reason. The beauty of these chairs, of which she was so proud, add so much to the warm feel of this sanctuary. Anna was also a member of the BHA Sisterhood and Hadassah chapter. She never hesitated to volunteer for whatever was needed. She and David had one daughter, Rita Kartiganer. May the memory of David and Anna Pomerantz always be for a blessing.|
|Through her window we learn Psalm 23: יְהוָה רֹעִי, לֹא אֶחְסָר. - The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. This is one of the best known and beloved lines of the Torah, marking the beginning of Psalm 23. It’s at once comforting and terrifying to think of one’s self as a lamb. On the one hand, the lamb has been given a good life – full of green pastures and plentiful water. On the other hand, there is reason to fear – the lamb can’t really protect itself from the death and darkness which abound, the peril lurking at the edges of the pastoral setting. Ultimately, all the lamb can do is be grateful for the blessings that are, and pray for salvation and comfort. We turn to Psalm 23, and that protective, nurturing aspect of the Holy One in our moments of fear and distress.|
Minnie Beskin Cahn lived in Beacon for most of her life. She was the sister of Samuel Beskin, one of the first mayors of Beacon, and Beskin Place, off of Sargent Avenue is named for the family. Minnie married Samuel Cahn who was a founding member of BHA and an avid student of Talmud. He operated a dry goods business on Main St. in Beacon which was sold to long-time BHA member Harry Kirshen. Minnie was the mother of two children, long-time member Goldie Ginsberg, wife of Julius Ginsberg, as well as long-time member and former president, Dr. Simon Cahn. She also was the mother-in-law of Sadie Jane Cahn, a dedicated long-time member and supporter of BHA who passed away in 2012. May the memory of Minnie Beskin Cahn always be for a blessing.
Of course, the windows in our sanctuary are not the only ones in our building. We are grateful as well to the families who contributed for the windows in our downstairs sanctuary and our upstairs vestibule.
Downstairs, we have windows in loving memory of Asher and Yetta Bernstein; in memory of Louis and Zelma Friedman, parents of Daniel Friedman; in memory of Isadore and Mary Hellman; Max Kirch; in memory of Harry Danberg, father of Mrs. Milton Epstein; in memory of Julius and Dora Abrams; Tillie Botwinick; in memory of Richard Elliott Cahn; in memory of Abraham Lewis; in memory of Abraham Fisch; in memory of Solomon and Ethel Schuman; donated by Ralph and Ethel Green; donated by Samuel Beckwith family; and in memory of Sholem and Sarah Berger, parents of Mrs. Sidney Schuman.
In our upstairs vestibule, we have:
- a window in memory of Abraham Fisch, which teaches us the verse: שויתי ה לנגדי תמיד / I place the Holy One before me always, from Psalm 16:8
- a window donated by Mr and Mrs. Morris J Frank, which teaches us the verse: ועינינו תראינה מלכותך / May our eyes see Your kingdom, from the Shabbat morning liturgy
- a window donated by Mr. and Mrs. Irving Edwards in honor of their parents which teaches us the verse: וקדשתם את יום השבת / And you should sanctify the day of Shabbat, from Jeremiah 17:22
- a window donated by Dr. and Mrs Irving Mond in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Felsen, which teaches us the verse: מה טובו אהליך יעקוב / How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel, from Numbers 24:5
- a window donated by Dr. and Mrs. Frank Hacker in memory of their parents, which teaches us the verse: דע לפני מי אתה עומד / Know before Whom you stand, adapted from Talmud, Brachot 28b
If you have more information about any of these families that you would like to share, please be in touch with Ann Gross, who serves as the BHA Historian.