Congregation B'nai Israel

2710 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604 | (203) 336-1858 | |

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Esther, Mordecai and the Kindness of Friends

by Ira J. Wise – February 2018/Shevat-Adar 5778

Flip this bulletin forward to page 10 or 11. I’ll wait until you get back.

Did you see the donations list? We have a lot of funds. And we have a lot of people who made a lot of donations. Some of them are larger – $100 or more. Many of them are around $18.00 or $36.00 (because some of us still like the idea that Hebrew numerology says 18 is the number for “life”). Some of you know all about this. Others may have wondered or even simply skipped by those pages since they didn’t give you the information you may have been seeking.

My mother always loved that list. She used it to make sure that she had not missed acknowledging an illness, death or simcha[i]. And when she learned of an important event in the life of someone that mattered to her, she would drop in to our Temple and write a check so that a donation letter would be sent to them and it would be listed in the next bulletin. I always wondered how people felt when they received the notice.

My father died the day after Thanksgiving. My sister and her family came here for the funeral. In writing the notice for the newspaper and internet our two families decided together to invite donations to the Marsha and Bob Gillette Fund here at temple and to the Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) Scholarship Fund. OSRUI is the camp in Wisconsin where my nieces go, and my sister, brother-in-law and I attended. The Gillette Fund provides scholarships to B’nai Israel children who need help to attend Eisner, Crane Lake and Six Points SciTech camps as well as NFTY Israel programs.

We chose those two funds because our father always supported our attending camp. He would have like the idea of people supporting other kids doing that in his memory. I now know how people who receive the notices of donations feel. There were a lot of them. They continued to arrive for over a month. It felt amazing. At the funeral and during shiva we certainly felt the warmth of our congregational community. That warm embrace continues as we receive the notices.

Purim is this month. We have so many ways of celebrating. Jewish law tells us there are three mitzvot for observing Purim. First, we are commanded to hear the megillah[ii] read in a language we understand. So join us on Wednesday, February 28 at 6:00 p.m. for our Erev Purim family service where The Not Ready For Purim Players will tell the story. Come in costume! The second mitzvah is to send misholach manot – gifts of food to our friends. So make some hamentaschen (Bonim pre-school has a great recipe in their cookbook!) pack them up and deliver them to your friends. And join us for an adult Purim sing along and wine tasting at 7:00 p.m. on the 28th.

The final commandment is to give Tzedakah. There are a lot of ways to do that. And I know many of you have given generously to many deserving organizations and individuals. I would like to invite you to choose one more – your synagogue. Go to and choose one of the many special funds. Send a donation to celebrate, send healing or sympathy to someone you care about – I promise it will be appreciated. And you can support kids going to camp or Israel, families who cannot afford Religious School or Pre-school tuition or any one of dozens of ways our congregation helps repair our world.


Ira J. Wise, D.J.R.E.
Director of Education

[i] Happy event

[ii] the Book of Esther