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Mid-Atlantic Candle:

Giving Light to All

Women of Reform Judaism Mid-Atlantic District Newsletter –Spring 2009

from the president’s desk

call to convention
As I write, my thoughts are on our coming convention April 24-26 in Tysons
Corner, VA. Our Washington Hebrew Congregation Sisterhood, under the
incredible care and diligence of convention chair Mildred Amer, has responded in
its own inimitable way, and Mildred has kept me and them on track. Our special
WRJ guest and resource Blair Marks [see her bio
elsewhere in this newsletter] will teach us, laugh with
us, and share her expertise. We begin on Friday at
10:30 am and end at 2:00 pm on Sunday.
I recognize that these are extraordinarily
difficult times financially and money is very tight.
Yet the benefits of attending far outweigh the costs.
Consider all the learning, sharing between sisterhoods
and leaders, camaraderie, bonding, answers to your
questions, answers to the questions you hadn’t even
thought of asking, leadership training, know-how, the
strength that we bring to one another, and never forget
the fun. This is the investment each sisterhood needs to make in its future and the
future that belongs to all of us.

A sampling of what we will be doing ---

• A special Friday afternoon session taught by WRJ Treasurer Blair
Marks, a must for every sisterhood, especially treasurers, on the new
budget rules, oversight, and transparency to which all non-profits are
now subject. This session will also cover your obligations (and non-
obligations) to your congregation and its board.
• Our famous and eagerly anticipated Saturday “two-minute reports”
where each sisterhood highlights its best program.
• A Friday workshop on marketing sisterhood by enticing members –
pique their interest and draw them in.
• “From Russia with Love” – Hear about our YES Fund dollars at work
with special Saturday guest speaker Rabbi Michael Farbman, Rabbi in
Residence, Washington Hebrew Congregation, who was ordained and
served in London, England before going to St. Petersburg, Russia to
help build and develop a Reform Jewish congregation.
• Our popular Book Talk workshop on People of the Book by Geraldine
Brooks – read it ahead of time or not.
• Our traditional social action collection project [described elsewhere in
this newsletter].
• Meet our new District web site – let your mouse do the walking.
• Installation Saturday – tribute to all past district presidents and the
passing of the Torah to incoming President Denny Norris, followed
by a special celebratory concert by Cantor Lisa Levine and a special
• Orientation for the new District Board (that also includes all
sisterhood presidents) on Sunday.
• Embracing Change – the how-to’s of moving beyond our comfort
zone to build on the dialogue begun at Interim in Raleigh.
• Board meeting and plenary Friday to adopt the 2009-2011 budget and
proposed amendments to our bylaws and policies.
• Rabbi Richard Sternberger Social Action and Best Membership
Program Awards.
• Facilitated sharing and problem solving – talk time face-to-face.
• A Sunday workshop on managing conflict on the sisterhood board or
turning lemons into lemonade.

All is just a sampling of what we will be doing in addition to celebrating Shabbat.

a name change and an explanation

Those of you who attended our District board meeting in Baltimore last
January might have noticed that the name of our convention has changed, and there
is an explanation. It turned out that our original choice was almost identical to the
name used in the mid-nineties. Rather than almost duplicate, Denny Norris and I
decided to change the name. After two weeks of going back and forth, we came up
We believe it remains true to the thrust of the original name, but at the same time it
acknowledges our response to the difficult financial times in which we find

a bit of district trivia

Sometimes the proverbial light bulb goes off. After having written “62nd
Biennial” enough times, it occurred to me to wonder how that was possible for an
organization founded in 1923. I called Past WRJ and District President Helene
Waranch, who suggested that the person with the best institutional knowledge or

memory would be Past District President Joan Wachstein. She was correct and I
found my answer.
It seems that from the time of our founding until the early or mid 1960’s,
conventions were held yearly. The work, the preparation, and the costs were huge.
As Joan put it succinctly, “We were broke.” It was then decided that conventions
would occur biennially, but the numbering would continue as it had begun, thus
arriving this year at the 62nd.

Laia S. Katz, president

social action project for convention

The recipient of our WRJ District Social Project will be the Abram Simon
School (named after Washington Hebrew Congregation’s second rabbi, Rabbi
Abram Simon) in DC. Our host, WHC Sisterhood, has taken a special interest in
the school’s 1st grade reading program for the past two years. With our ongoing
dedication to youth and education we will be sponsoring a Dr. Seuss Book Drive –
preferably new, but also “gently” used ones. One suggestion is to try Used and New Dr. Seuss books. They have a 10 book set for $27.82
– perhaps some of you would like to order together. Costco also has books at a
lower price. Whatever you can bring will be appreciated. Please bring your most
welcome donations to the Registration Desk at the Convention.

Meet Blair Marks --

We are indeed fortunate that Blair Marks will join us at convention as
our WRJ resource and guest. A former WRJ vice president, she is currently the
WRJ treasurer as well as the president of the WRJ Southeast District. As a
district president she understands what we face in our sisterhood lives. Not only
is she savvy and knowledgeable - she has a wicked sense of humor and she sings
like an angel.

Blair Marks first became involved with sisterhood in the early 90’s while at
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, SC, eventually serving as that
sisterhood’s president. She has also served as a district director, vice president,
and treasurer and as a vice president of WRJ. Blair is active in her own sisterhood
at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia. Over the years she has worked in
programming, fundraising and membership, helping at countless Purim carnivals,
Chanukah festivals, art auctions, mystery dinners, and the like.

Blair has also been active with United Jewish Federation, serving as a trainer
for the organization. If you’ve been in Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race on the
Fourth of July, you may have seen her helping locate “Missing Persons” near the
finish line. She serves on the board of the Georgia Youth Science and Technology
Centers, an organization that strives to improve the quality of science and math
education for elementary and middle-school children.

Blair is a Ramblin’ Reck from Georgia Tech (yes,

she’s an engineer!) She works professionally for
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, until recently in
program management. She is now the newly
named Director of Ethics and Business Conduct.
She is also a Michigan Wolverine and worked for
both General Motors and Chrysler during her
college years. She and her husband, Joe, share
music as a hobby, participating in the Temple Kol Emeth choir and occasionally
helping lead Shabbat services. Their daughter Sasha is a senior at Georgia
Southern University.

The YES Fund -- fulfilling our commitments

As you know, we are all having problems meeting our financial obligations
both individually, as sisterhoods and as congregations. The commitments that WRJ
made for scholarship assistance to rabbinic students are in jeopardy because our
contributions to the YES Fund are far below what was anticipated. Each
sisterhood has been asked to find ways to bridge the deficit gap with special
programs, events and allocations. Bet Aviv Sisterhood, Columbia, MD, at the
request of WRJ Board member Judy Silver Weisberg, immediately
stepped forward.

A Thought to Ponder
by Freda Goldberg, President, Bet Aviv Sisterhood, Columbia, MD

Have you ever thought just how lucky you are to be happy, healthy and
free? Our sisterhood and Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) contribute to this part
of your life by providing funds and for our youth and clergy as well as supporting
many projects that enhance Reform Judaism throughout the world. As many of
you know, WRJ is the single largest contributor to the Hebrew Union College.
Your contribution to the YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) will
support the many worthwhile projects around the world.

On Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. Bet Aviv Sisterhood hosts its annual
YES Fund event at Claret House, Columbia, MD. Our guest speaker will be Rabbi

Brett Isserow, of Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Alexandria, VA, who was a YES
Fund grant recipient when he was a student Rabbi. We also will be honoring Bet
Aviv’s cantor, Marge Auerbach for her contribution to enhancing Jewish life and

We hope to see you there but if you are unable to attend, you can still donate
to the YES Fund. Contributions may be sent to our YES Fund chair, Judy Silver
Weisberg at 8753 Ruppert Court, Ellicott City, MD 21043. You may choose to
donate in honor of someone special in your life, for a special event, or just because
you are a caring person. I hope that the following words will help you to decide.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go.

Some people move our souls to dance.
They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.
They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are
never, ever the same.
author unknown

You were there because we were there.

Our NFTY kids held their biennial convention in the Washington metro
area February 13-17, and we of the WRJ Mid-Atlantic were privileged, as is our
custom, to be a part of their arrival and registration process on the 13th. What a
joy to listen to their shouts as they spotted and hugged friends from other regions
and prior gatherings. To watch this was to understand the importance of the
monies each sisterhood allocates for youth scholarships. Our WRJ President
Rosanne Selfon attended the entire convention. Our future is in the good and
capable hand of the next generation. Enjoy and take pride in our NFTYites.

Sisterhood and NFTY Reunited

by Sandi Kleinman, WRJ Mid-Atlantic District Youth Chairperson

Seventy years after WRJ established National Federation of Temple Youth

(NFTY), our district women continued to lend a helping hand to NFTY by
volunteering at the NFTY Convention on February 13, 2009. A heartfelt todah
rabah to the 14 women (and Sue Sailer’s husband, Gil!) who schlepped out to the
Gaylord Hotel to help register, hand out room keys, and attach acknowledgement
labels in hundreds of new mini Mishkan Tefillah prayerbooks which were donated
by WRJ for the convention.

It was a wonderful day, welcoming close to 700 excited NFTYites from all
over North America whose enthusiasm was contagious. We got to know some of
them quite well as they kept coming back over and over to check if their room keys
were ready. The hotel released the rooms in batches, not necessarily in the order
the kids arrived! I and a few other volunteers stayed for Shabbat dinner, worship
service and song session. Rabbi Billy Dreskin led a beautiful service without
prayer books, projecting images and prayers (many creatively written) on
jumbotrons, which was well received by the NFTYites and 100 professional youth
workers who were attending the concurrent Youth Worker Conference.

I returned to the convention on Saturday night for the concert featuring my

daughter-in-law, Chana Rothman, followed by Dan Nichols. All rocked out to the
inspiring Jewish music.

The convention was filled with a variety of types of worship services,

learnshops on many topics including social justice issues led by Rabbi David
Saperstein and staff of the Religious Action Center as well as a trip to the
Holocaust Museum.

In partnership with Mazon, the Jewish response to hunger, and the Project
Elijah Foundation, the teens packaged 40,000 nutritionally balanced meals that
were given to people who are served by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish
Poverty in Brooklyn, NY. On Monday, the teens wrote panels of blessings to
create a special torah for President Obama which the NFTY Board delivered to the
White House.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie addressed the participants at the Saturday morning

service. Judaism is not a spectator sport," said Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie in his Shabbat
morning message to NFTY Convention and Youth Workers Conference delegates.
"We need you to be nice to your parents… to believe that you can make a
difference to the Jews and to the world…to give God a chance…and to take
Judaism seriously…Take your time, study some Torah, examine your ideas,
choose what is appropriate for you; don’t feel that the views of others obligate
you," he continued. You are all smart, and sensible, and eager for understanding.
And I have every confidence that you will arrive at the right conclusions and that
you will make Reform Judaism proud."

Yasher koach to Rabbi Michael Mellen, Director, Youth Programs and

NFTY, and his able staff, for creating an incredible experience for the next
generation of committed Reform Jews!

And now a few observations from Roseanne Selfon….

Dear WRJ friends,

In the words of our kids, the NFTY Convention was AMAZING!!!! The kids were
engaged, respectful, energized, and dedicated to becoming engaged Jews who will
lead our next generation.

Our kids are, indeed, amazing. We can be proud of them at so many levels. And,
we can be proud that it was through the efforts of the women of WRJ (formerly
NFTS) that NFTY was founded. It was my honor and privilege to represent WRJ at
this NFTY Convention and meet our kids.

Joan Ossakow

A short time ago we were asked to keep Joannie Ossakow in our thoughts and in
our prayers. On 28 February 2009 her three year valiant battle with what began as
cervical cancer ended. Joannie was a beloved past president of Temple Rodef
Shalom Sisterhood and a valued member of our Mid-Atlantic District Board,
where she chaired the Jewish Braille Institute International Committee.

Those of you who did not know her personally might remember the article she
wrote for our newsletter to inaugurate our “Sisterhood is family” feature. She
described how her sisterhood reached out to her and her family with whatever help
was needed as she was diagnosed with and treated for cancer, and she was able in
this way to express her gratitude to her sisters.

First we held Joannie in our prayers. Now our prayers are with her family. Her
memory is a blessing to all of us.

Sisterhood is Family

We continue our series on the many ways in which Sisterhood becomes

family. If you have a story to share about how Sisterhood has made a difference in
both good times and in times of personal need, as the care recipient or caregiver,
please contact Laura Govoni-Sibarium, chair, Caring Community Committee at or 301 588-4435.

By Denny Norris, Temple Emanuel Sisterhood, Greensboro, NC

For the last several months of 2008 we had been getting distressing reports from
my brother-in-law in California about the health of my niece. Sandra, our lovely
young niece, was suffering from headaches so disabling that she required
hospitalization. There were spells of weakness and other related complications. She
had been forced to stop work and move back in with her parents. I shared our
concerns with my sisterhood friends who were very supportive.
The family was very puzzled as repeated tests gave no clear diagnosis. The
chance to visit with them was part of the reason we took a two month trip to the
west. We were hoping that Sandra’s long awaited appointment with a specialist at
UCLA would give us all some answers. Finally, at the end of December she received
a definite diagnosis and it was a hard one for all of us to assimilate. Even though her
symptoms weren’t typical, Sandra had Multiple Sclerosis. The family was hit hard
by the news and we were all trying to educate ourselves about MS.
In January I was headed back home with a planned stopover at the WRJ
Sisterhood Leadership Conference in New Orleans. As well as meeting up with Laia
Katz and other District women, I paired with four members of my own sisterhood.
As I spoke of my trip, the family news and Sandra’s diagnosis, one of my “sisters”
informed me she has a family member with MS. She was able to give me a wealth of
information. She had practical suggestions, treatment and medication ideas and the
promise of continued support when we returned home. She offered to share her
knowledge so I “would not have to reinvent the wheel.” Best of all, she could give
me some hope as to the future my niece is facing.
Her words and understanding did so much to lift my spirits. It helped to reaffirm
my belief that Sisterhood is truly family.

Membership Award

One of the special events at our Mid-Atlantic Biennial is giving out our
membership award, which, as in the past, concentrates on programming. At that
time, we will recognize and honor the best membership program conducted by your
Sisterhood during the period of 2007-2009.

Many have shared your most innovative, creative, fun-filled and exciting event
with us. The specific purpose of your program must have been to attract, involve or
retain members. We thank you for your submissions.

Lila Barth and Lori Weinstein

End of Year Wisdom from our Parliamentarian
By Joan Wachstein

As the end of our organization year approaches, here are a couple of reminders that
will make things run smoothly.

Election Procedures: The Nominating Committee report is presented in its entirety

by the chair of that committee to the assembly. If bylaws do not provide for
nominations from the floor, the slate is re-read by the president and if there is no
objection, the slate is voted on in its entirety. Newly elected officers take office upon

Minutes are the recorded history of the organization and as such, must be accurate
and should include:

• Type of meeting
• Name of organization
• Time and date, including the year
• Name of presiding officer
• Action taken on minutes of previous meeting
• Correspondence
• Treasurer's Report
• All main motions, whether carried or lost
• Name of Mover, not seconder
• Time of Adjournment
• Signature
• Present minutes at the next meeting of the same body, or prepare
for distribution.

Enjoy your end of the year, and if you have questions, please ask them.

Questions: Contact Mildred at 301.229.7865 or

Women of Reform Judaism-Mid-Atlantic District-62nd Biennial Convention
April 24 – April 26, 2009

Convention Registration Form

A separate registration form is required for each attendee. Please copy this form.

Attendee Information

First name: Last name: Name on Badge:

Street Address: City, State & Zip code:

Phone: E-Mail:

Name of Sisterhood: Sisterhood City & State

Position in Sisterhood: Position in District:

Position in WRJ: Visiting Non-affiliated Sisterhood:

Registration Information
Postmarked Postmarked Amount
Registration Type Includes By 3-27-09 After 3-27-09 Enclosed
Full All sessions, Shabbat dinner,
Saturday lunch, banquet, Sunday $195 $215
brunch & continental breakfast
Daily Check all that apply
Friday All sessions & Shabbat dinner $70 $75
Friday Shabbat dinner only $35 $35
Saturday All sessions, lunch & banquet $125 $130
Saturday Banquet only $58 $58
Saturday/Sunday All sessions, lunch, banquet & $160 $165
Guest(s) Shabbat Dinner @ $35 Number attending
Put guest name(s) & Banquet @ $58 Number attending
Dietary needs on back
of form
No registration refund if cancellation is received after April 13, 2009 Total enclosed $

Dietary restrictions:
We will try to accommodate your needs.

Return this form with check made payable to WRJ Mid-Atlantic District to
Mildred Amer ~ 6824 Granby Street ~ Bethesda, Maryland 20817-6036
Questions: Contact Mildred at 301.229.7865 or