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Join us to welcome Rabbi Prosnit to TBE this summer!

06/04/2024 09:19:20 AM


Endowments Provide Stability and Support

05/07/2024 04:03:44 PM


Staff and leaders at TBE understand how fortunate we are to have healthy endowment funds helping to support our programs and services. This is even more apparent during this period of the budget cycle as we complete the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

We are grateful to those who came before us, and to current families, who have established and support funds that allow us to use interest and donations to help support the important work we do at TBE now and in the future.

Of the almost $1.5 million annual budget, about 25% of our expenses are paid for from our many funds. These funds include the Endowment for Spiritual Leadership, Yerusha Fund, and Larry Kohn Chair of Jewish Learning Fund.

The distributions we take from these funds represent a significant, long-term stream of income. In addition to membership contributions, donations to our funds are another form of revenue enabling us to continue to offer excellent programming, worship, education, and social action initiatives.

Thank You to the Family of Marj Tobias

05/07/2024 03:49:24 PM


The Tobias name has deep roots at Temple Beth El. Vivian and Joseph Tobias were founding members. Vivian was a Sisterhood president and Joseph was a TBE board president. Harry and Marjorie were both TBE board presidents, and Marjorie was a Sisterhood president. Their daughter Amy was a Sisterhood president (twice) and TBE board president and currently serves as Sisterhood treasurer and upcoming Food-A-Rama co-chair. Granddaughter Molly Fields continues the family TBE leadership tradition as Sisterhood’s vice president for programming.

In addition to their many contributions to TBE capital campaigns, Marjorie and Harry Tobias established the Tobias Jewish Programming Fund at Temple Beth El to support and ensure our engaging programming.

Marjorie and Harry were not only active and generous participants, but they were early TBE Dorot Society members. Dorot legacy members provide advance notification of their commitment to include TBE in their estate planning.
We recently received the Tobiases’ charitable bequest, directed to the Tobias Jewish Programming Fund, from Marjorie’s estate. With this gift, the Tobias family’s generosity will have long-lasting benefits to our congregation.

We are so grateful to the Tobias family and their continued dedication to Temple Beth El.
If you are interested in more information about Temple Beth El’s Dorot Society or other giving opportunities, please contact Executive Director Stefanie Kushner at

Honoring Rabbi Biatch

05/07/2024 03:30:18 PM


This spring is filled with many ways to honor Rabbi Biatch for his dedication to our community.
In March we celebrated his passion for social justice work with a special lunch during Mitzvah Day. His legacy in social justice will continue with the Rabbi Jonathan Biatch Tikkun Olam Award. In this inaugural year, the award was presented to Sherie Sondel for her devotion to social justice work and recognizing her many years as co-chair of TBE’s Social Action Committee. This lunch was underwritten by many generous donors, including the Social Action Committee leadership. Thank you to all the donors who helped make this event affordable, allowing more than 160 attendees to enjoy the food of Afghan refugee Bakht Mohammad, owner of Afghan Kabul Cuisine. Thank you, too, to Roger Brown of Rocky Rococo Pizza for donating delicious pizza, which was a great addition to the lunch buffet.

We are looking forward to the Toast to Rabbi Biatch on May 19. This evening will be filled with delicious food and a special program highlighting our gratitude for all Rabbi Biatch has given to Temple Beth El. We are grateful to Jeff and Marv Levy for generously underwriting this event. Their generous donation made this an affordable event, and we quickly reached the maximum amount we can seat, with more than 200 people registered to attend! Thank you to all of you who contributed funds that enabled us to invite people important to Rabbi Biatch to be our guests, as well as helping TBE members to attend.

On June 14 we will honor Rabbi Biatch for the meaningful spiritual guidance and worship he has provided to all of us. The evening will start with a delicious Shabbat dinner. We thank Joanna Berke for generously underwriting this event so more people can attend.

Thank you to everyone who has provided financial support and to all who have contributed their time and energy to plan these wonderful events honoring Rabbi Biatch.

Mitzvah Day Accomplishments

05/06/2024 08:39:50 AM


Solar Panel Update: March 2024

04/03/2024 08:32:18 AM


March 2024 was the best month by far, to date, for our solar panels. In 31 days, the 191 panels generated 9,200 kilowatt-hours (kWHr), saving $1,380 in energy expenses this month, calculated at $.15/kWHr.

On our single best day so far, March 28, 2024, our solar panels generated 531.42 kWHr for about $80 in savings. We hit our designed maximum production of 75 kW during midday. This one day exceeded production from the whole month of January, which was cloudy or snow covered, totaling only 446 kWHr.

In total, since going live on September 22, 2023, our solar panels generated 31,977 kWHr, just under $4,800, in the six months of the year with the shortest days. That’s already 12.6% of our annual electrical usage and 40% of our annual solar projection. In that time, we saved the equivalent of 105,500 electric vehicle car miles or 27,000 pounds of CO2. 

For comparison, our original 12-month solar production goal was 31.5% of our electricity, for savings of $12,000 (out of $38,000) or 80,000 kWHr (out of 254,000 kWHr). Our solar panels are well on track to meet this goal!

Featured Volunteer Opportunities

04/01/2024 03:02:16 PM


Looking to volunteer? Need a b’nai mitzvah project? Here are ways to help people in our community. 

Chevra Kadisha: Ordinary People Doing Holy Work
For over a century, a devoted group of Jewish Madisonians has cared for our community by preparing bodies for burial according to Jewish tradition. This group, called the Chevra Kadisha (sacred colleagues), has a pressing need for new volunteers to provide this critical service. If you think you may be able to help, please join us for a learning session on May 31 or June 2 at Beth Israel Center. To RSVP or express interest, contact Rabbi Renée Bauer (, 608-424-4033) or Kristin Geil (

Serve Supper at the Catholic Multicultural Center
Sign up for April 16, May 21, or June 18.

Cook Meals for Healing House
Sign up to drop off meals May 12 to 18.

Donate for Mitzvah Day
For Mitzvah Day on April 14 we are collecting items needed for Mitzvah Day projects. These donations can be left in the coatroom at Temple Beth El. Monetary donations to the Social Action Fund are also welcome to fund our Mitzvah Day projects. Donations can be made online or as part of Mitzvah Day registration.

Volunteer for Voting Rights 
The TBE Civic Engagement Action Team is preparing for an active year in 2024! Our nonpartisan activities include registering voters together with the League of Women Voters, going door-to-door with the Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Coalition, and holding postcard parties in support of national issues suggested by the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center. To get involved, please contact Sue Levy or Marcia Vandercook

More Volunteer Opportunities

Please visit our Social Action web page for our ongoing volunteer opportunities.

MLK Fundraising Effort Helps Families Meet Basic Needs

04/01/2024 02:55:52 PM


A big shoutout to the more than 20 TBE members who donated to our fundraising effort in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. Together, these generous members gave over $1,500 to help us support the Essentials Pantry provided by F.O.S.T.E.R. of Dane County and Nehemiah. The drive-through pantry provides kits of personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies to clients in need. Pantry director Ms. Jackie Hunt says that TBE's generous gift will enable them to purchase needed items that aren't otherwise donated, items their clients greatly appreciate.

TBE also partnered with this organization in December, providing over 100 shoeboxes of holiday gifts. Mazel tov to Temple Beth El, once again, for responding to the needs of partner organizations in addressing the most basic needs of our Madison area neighbors.

Leading with the Heart Is the Theme of the 2024 Blockstein Lecture

04/01/2024 02:44:37 PM


By Lynn Silverman

“Leading with the heart” is the approach this year’s Blockstein presenter, Bojana Zorić Martinez, has followed in her work with refugees. Bojana is the state refugee coordinator and director of refugee programs at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. A refugee herself, having fled as a teenager with her family from war-torn Bosnia in 1995, she knows what it’s like to be torn away from everything you know and navigate a new culture, frightened and vulnerable, but determined to make a new life. 

Speaking to a large audience on February 11, Bojana noted that the UN Commission on Human Rights estimates that there are 110 million displaced people in the world today, 40 million of whom are refugees, and half of whom are children. Shockingly, fewer than 1% of these displaced people get to resettle in a country like the U.S. She emphasized that this is why she is so passionate about making sure we resettle as many people as we can, by building our capacity and growing our programs. These include programs for migrants at the southern border, asylum-seeking migrants, migrants on humanitarian parole, and undocumented migrants. Many of these people have experienced the same kind of trauma as refugees but are not looked at the same way and are not able to receive the same benefits. 

While in the past few years the U.S. has had increasing numbers of refugees and migrants due to the crisis in Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine, climate change, civil wars, and violence, this coming year a record number of refugees is expected due to the situations in Cuba and Haiti, among others. 

Making this crisis even more challenging is the way refugee resettlement, once a bipartisan issue, has become politicized. In addition to misinformation, there has been the development of hate groups who are threatened by people who don’t look like them, don’t have the same religion, etc. Yet refugees are the most vetted group in the U.S., waiting two years or longer to receive permission to enter the country. 

Asked what we as individuals can do, Bojana emphasized that it takes a village. Wisconsin has been a welcoming state due to the support of volunteers and the teams of people in agencies such as Jewish Social Services of Madison, Open Doors for Refugees, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, and the Office of New Americans. She urged us to keep volunteering, keep supporting local groups who provide services to refugees and immigrants, and continuing to voice our support for refugees and for immigration reform. After all, no one asks to be a refugee, but if we lead with our hearts, we can provide vulnerable people with a safe and welcoming home. 

A World Without Soil

04/01/2024 02:04:46 PM


By Marta Karlov and Beth Kaplan

On February 25, the second Joel Pedersen Lecture in Tikkun Olam and the Environment featured author Jo Handelsman talking about her book, “A World Without Soil: The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet” (view the recording).

Dr. Handelsman served as the associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for three years, and her book begins with her letter to President Obama, telling him that the pace of fertile soil loss in this country was an emerging crisis that threatened soil across the U.S., especially in the Midwest. President Obama also awarded her a presidential award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. She now serves as the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at UW–Madison, and is a Vilas Research Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.

The lecture series honors Joel Pedersen, who passed away in June 2022 after a battle with brain cancer. Joel was a vital member of the Torah Study group and the Environment and Climate Change Action Team at TBE. Dr. Handelman’s father, Irv Handelsman, was also an active participant in the Torah Study group.

Before the lecture, a book discussion took place with members of these groups and the Men’s Club Book Group. To guide their book discussion, they used questions provided by the author, as well as mentions of soil in the Torah, beginning with Genesis 2: “The first human is made from the soil itself.”

One of the striking facts Dr. Handelsman shared is the USDA estimate that soil is eroding at about 5 tons per acre each year, while less than .5 tons is produced per acre per year. Over time, this erosion could mean fewer crops, more floods and droughts, loss of the most powerful water filter on Earth, loss of microbes that lead to life-saving medications, and waterways polluted by eroded soil.

Why is soil eroding? Reasons include plowing techniques, annual crops with small root systems, and a lack of cover crops to protect the soil. Thankfully, there are solutions, including “no-till” planting, planting cover crops to avoid bare soil and increase organic matter, and rotating plantings. Dr. Handelsman also stressed policy changes that can help, such as changing crop insurance policies to reward farmers who build soil health, developing a food label for “soil-safe food,” subsidizing the right foods at the national level, and more.

On the home front, we can all consider local solutions like composting our own food waste or using a composting service, asking farmers at the local markets about their soil practices, lobbying Madison officials to conduct municipal food composting—as Middleton is now doing— and planting trees and perennial plants that nourish the soil in our own yards.

More than 40 people attended Dr. Handelsman’s lecture, in person and online. The presentation was eye-opening for attendees, and they asked many insightful questions. We hope it will inspire all of us to take action.

Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit to Become Rabbi of Temple Beth El Starting in July 2024

03/19/2024 04:29:38 PM


We are pleased to welcome Rabbi Jonathan (Jon) Prosnit as the next rabbi of Temple Beth El, starting on July 1, 2024, as Rabbi Jonathan Biatch progresses to a rabbi emeritus role.

For the past 12 years, Rabbi Prosnit has been part of the rabbinical team at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California. Originally from New York, he earned his bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. As a rabbinical student, he worked in East Liverpool, Ohio; Melbourne, Australia; The Village Temple in Manhattan; and Temple Micah in Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Prosnit is married to Erin Gleeson, who is an artist. They have two sons, Ezra and Max, and a daughter, Winnie.

Search committee co-chairs Niles Berman and Julia Katz commented, “In last year’s listening sessions and survey, the congregation told us what they were looking for in our next rabbi. That vision guided our diverse Search Committee at every step of the process. The traits the congregation identified as most important to them describe Rabbi Prosnit ‘to a T.’ We could not be more enthusiastic.”

Rabbi Prosnit said, “I am thrilled to be joining the community of Temple Beth El. It has been such a delight to feel the warm embrace of such a thoughtful, compassionate and welcoming community.  Every person I’ve interacted with, from the outstanding professional staff to the strong lay leadership to the wonderful community members, has demonstrated a love and desire to bring the best of Jewish history, teachings and practices to life. My family and I are excited to be able to join Temple Beth El.”

Temple Beth El, the largest synagogue in Madison, Wisconsin, is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), which represents the progressive tradition of Judaism. Founded in 1939, Temple Beth El offers a vibrant Jewish program encompassing religious, spiritual, social action, educational, and social activities, for nearly 600 member households. Rabbi Prosnit will be the fifth senior rabbi in the congregation’s history.

Introducing Temple Beth El’s Code of Ethical Conduct

02/08/2024 03:31:59 PM


Rabbi Biatch’s Book Sale to Benefit Giller Library Fund

02/06/2024 12:27:52 PM


As Rabbi Jonathan Biatch goes through his office library, he wants to share some of his favorite titles with the community by offering them in a book sale. You're invited to come and browse the books in this donation-based sale. The book sale cart is typically located in the Weinstein Community Court. 
All donations from the book sale will go to the Giller Library Fund for enhancements to our library-management system and for the purchase of new books. Enjoy this opportunity to add to your own library while helping TBE’s! Thank you, Rabbi Biatch.

A Wonderful Weekend with Dan Nichols

02/06/2024 12:09:29 PM


Dan Nichols was TBE’s artist-in-residence on January 12–13. He warmed our hearts and our souls over the course of a very snowy and cold weekend. We were so grateful for his flexibility in leading music with Cantor Jacob Niemi for our MLK Shabbat from an event room in his hotel, while we watched from the safety of our homes. Fortunately, we could join him in person on Saturday morning, as he got on the floor with our youngest members as they sang along and danced to his music. Later, he led over 100 of us in a beautiful and fun concert that followed Havdalah on Saturday night. His impact on our community will be remembered for a long time. 

This event used a new flexible ticket pricing structure. The goal of this model was to encourage everyone to attend at a ticket level that was comfortable for them. Many TBE members chose to purchase at a higher level to help others attend. Thank you to all who attended and to those who donated an additional amount to the Music Fund to help support future TBE music programs. 

We are so grateful to Madison Top for donating funds that helped support this special event for the community. Their generosity, in addition to funds from the Blotner Family Music Fund, the Cantor’s Discretionary Fund, and the Music Fund, made this wonderful weekend possible.

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch Fund to Help TBE Members in Need

02/06/2024 12:03:50 PM


Tim and Kathy Mazur, along with their daughter, Lauren, have been members of TBE since 2007. Their membership is due, in large part, to a special friendship. Rabbi Jonathan Biatch met the Mazurs through their children when they were all in school together. Through the years, Tim and Kathy became close friends with Rabbi Biatch and Rabbi Bonnie Margulis. Both rabbis had honors during Lauren’s wedding this summer. 

Rabbi Biatch and the Mazurs share a passion for helping those in need. That is why Tim and Kathy established the Rabbi Jonathan Biatch Endowment Fund, which will help Temple Beth El members needing assistance. It is a fitting tribute to Rabbi Biatch that will continue his dedication to ensuring the well-being of the TBE community.
Thank you, Tim and Kathy Mazur, for this wonderful legacy to Rabbi Biatch.

Photo by Loan Dang |

A Strong Commitment to Our Spiritual Leadership

02/06/2024 11:56:39 AM


by Stefanie Kushner, executive director

In July 2023, we were fortunate to have a generous donor come forward to match $100,000 of donations and pledges made to the Endowment for Spiritual Leadership by December 31, 2023. I am proud to say that our community accepted the challenge and committed over $100,000, adding $200,000 to the fund in the last six months of the year. 

Thank you to all who pledged and donated during this match period, including some members who contributed for a second time, wanting to be part of the match.
The Endowment for Spiritual Leadership total has reached $4,983,723. Now, we are just over $16,000 away from our first goal of $5 million. If you have not yet donated to the endowment, or if you’d like to make an additional contribution, please consider a gift that will help us reach this first goal. 

Thank You for Your Annual Contributions for 2024!

02/06/2024 11:48:42 AM


by Stefanie Kushner, executive director

I am so grateful to the more than 580 Temple Beth El households that have renewed their membership for 2024. This year, 65% of TBE households that renewed by January 1 increased their contribution from last year, with an average increase of 8% from those households that increased their contribution. Overall, the total increase in contributions from our entire community is 3%.

Thank you for the time and reflection you put into considering your financial commitment to TBE. Thank you, too, for understanding that membership contributions represent 75% of the total revenue used to run our programs and services, compensate staff, and keep the lights on in our building! 

Save the Date: A Toast to Rabbi Biatch!

01/29/2024 02:58:29 PM


Black History Month Opportunities

01/26/2024 08:52:19 AM


TBE Racial Justice Action Team

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of African Americans' achievements, with many opportunities to honor the central role of Black Americans throughout history and today. Temple Beth El’s Racial Justice Action Team suggests the following:

  • Check out the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce and the Black Business Hub, scheduled to open soon.
  •  Extraordinary and innovative artists will be featured in “Restoring the Black Woman” at Madison College's Dzigbodi Akyea Art Exhibit on February 1, hosted by the Black Women’s Affinity Group at Madison College. 
  • Also at Madison College is a production of “The Meeting,” a 1987 play by Jeff Stetson that imagines a meeting between civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The Nobleman Theater Troupe is bringing the show to Madison College on Saturday, February 10. 
  • Most Madison public libraries are hosting movie nights that explore the African American experience. A list of books, events, and resources is located on the Madison Public Library website.

TBE Sisterhood and the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Heartland District

01/23/2024 03:31:36 PM


By Rozan Anderson, WRJ Heartland District president, WRJ North American Board member, and TBE past president

TBE Sisterhood, as you may know, is part of a vast network of Reform congregational women’s groups and individual members around the world. Coming together as Women of Reform Judaism, our impact is substantial, as we work to empower women and communities through the bonds of sisterhood, spirituality, and social justice.


The North American affiliates are grouped into seven geographic regions called Districts, and we in Madison are part of the Heartland District. Heartland was formed in early 2023 from a consolidation of our eight-state Midwest District with the six-state Central District. We now serve all or parts of 14 states from Ohio to Nebraska and the Dakotas to Tennessee, with some 50 women’s groups, plus individual members. That’s a lot of woman power!

So, why does any of this matter to us at TBE?

The Heartland District brings many of the benefits of being part of WRJ even closer to home, so that more of us can easily and affordably participate. The District assists our local sisterhoods, helping with organizational growth, new leadership cultivation, and development, and connecting us with WRJ programs and projects on a more regional level. We hold various events throughout the year, giving women a chance to socialize, learn, worship, and collaborate in a broader community.

I know from my own TBE Sisterhood presidency how helpful it is for our Sisterhood leaders to speak with others in similar and relatively nearby congregations about our successes and challenges. With the District and WRJ, I found many like-minded women who were working toward the same goals as me, organizationally, professionally, and personally. Through my participation at District events, I have been able to grow as a leader. And, one certainly doesn’t need to have a leadership position or aspiration to come join in the fun. There’s always something for everyone at a District event!

I have the honor of serving as president of the Heartland District for the next couple of years. I hope you’ll consider joining me in New Orleans, May 30–June 2, 2024, for the WRJ Fried Women’s Conference. This will be quite a special event, bringing hundreds of women together from all over North America for learning, worshiping, singing, dancing, eating, and inspiring community. Registration will open soon.

I am always happy for a conversation about the value of TBE Sisterhood, the Heartland District, and WRJ and the impact—and fun—we can have together!

An Enjoyable and Delicious Event: Kosher Charcuterie Boards

01/23/2024 03:17:01 PM


In November, TBE Sisterhood had a great evening as Suzanne Wolf shared her kosher charcuterie board building knowledge with us. Event attendees brought their own boards to build on and got to take home a beautiful arrangement of delicious snacks. 

Food-A-Rama Update

01/23/2024 03:09:23 PM


The 57th Annual Food-A-Rama had another successful year in November, with in-person dining and bakery returning for the first time since the pandemic began. Thank you to all who volunteered, ordered food, and spread the word about our annual event. Thanks also to TBE staff for their support, and to our marvelous Food-A-Rama co-chairs David Bookstaff and Sharon and Brad Kahn, who organized this amazing event for the last three years. 

We are looking for a few folks to step up and help plan and organize next year’s Food-A-Rama as well, so please email or talk to the Sisterhood co-presidents, Rachel Geissler and Casey Becker, if you’re interested!

In Memory of Marjorie Tobias

01/23/2024 03:01:42 PM


One of our Temple Beth El matriarchs, Marjorie Tobias, passed away on November 27, 2023. She was a driving force at Temple, and well beyond, for more than seven decades, and we have much for which to be grateful, as we honor her many contributions.

A native of Chicago, in 1949, Marj married Harry Tobias, whose parents were founding members of TBE. Marj followed her father-in-law and husband in Temple leadership and her mother-in-law as Sisterhood president. Even with four very young daughters at home, Marj herself became Sisterhood president from 1961 to 1963. Later when asked to be secretary of the Temple, she said she’d rather be the president and served from 1974 to 1976—the first woman to lead a congregation in the Midwest!

Beyond Temple Beth El, Marj went on to serve as the president of District 18 of the Midwest Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, part of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (now known as Women of Reform Judaism) from 1976 to 1978. In this role, she also sat on the national board for many years, with annual meetings in New York.

Marj led an extraordinary life. She was vivacious and intrepid. She was devoted to TBE and the Madison community. As part of her legacy, Marj taught her family (four daughters, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren and their significant others) the value of service.

A point of pride for Marj was that all of her children belong to URJ congregations. Daughter Amy Fields has served as president of both TBE and TBE Sisterhood (twice!) and remains very actively involved in the leadership of both. Granddaughter Molly Fields is following admirably in the large footsteps of both Marj and Amy, and we are all the better for Marj and her family!

May Marj’s good deeds and our memories of her always be a blessing.

An Upcoming Discussion-as-Sermon Series: “The Way of Humanity” by Jewish philosopher Martin Buber

01/16/2024 12:36:45 PM


Join us for these discussion-sermons during Shabbat worship on January 19, February 9, March 22, April 12, May 17, and June 14.

“God wishes to come to the world but wishes to do so through humans. The mystery of our existence is that humankind does have this superhuman potential.” So offers Martin Buber, one of the most influential Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, in “The Way of Humanity According to Chasidic Teaching.”

Buber presented a six-part lecture series, first to a radio audience in Palestine in 1945, then again to a Dutch socialist workers organization in 1947. He shared six Chasidic tales that compelled people—in the shadow of the Holocaust and on the brink of the creation of the state of Israel—to examine how to bring the best of human spirit to any given moment of need, and how those acts would bring God into personal relationships.

On the Friday evenings listed above, during in-person and online worship, I will offer learning about this thinker, the Chasidic tales he studied, and the lessons that we can learn today from his midrashim, almost 60 years after Buber’s death and almost 80 years after his original observations. He presents each tale as an opportunity to learn from tradition and to apply those lessons to our lives. It is a message worth examining today. 

Buber is neither a messianist nor a guru. Rather, he encourages us to search for a way where humanity can connect with one another, the result being deeper relationship with others and a possible connection with God. Buber’s God is found in relationship: a god who accompanies us through our lives, and a god who pushes us to be involved and engaged with the world.

Volunteer Opportunities

01/02/2024 01:57:20 PM


Looking to volunteer? Need a b’nai mitzvah project? Here are ways to help people in our community. 

TBE Caring Committee 

In keeping with the Jewish principle of providing hesed (lovingkindness) to those in need, Temple Beth El has a Caring Committee to offer support and help to fellow congregants.  

Any TBE member can ask for assistance, and any member may suggest to TBE clergy, staff, or leadership that someone might need help. Once a request is made, the chair of the Caring Committee will follow up to determine the need and, where appropriate, assign the request to volunteers. You can use our online form to request care or suggest it for others, or contact the TBE office 608-238-3123.

You can also volunteer to offer care, including calls, cards, visits, meal preparation and delivery, and shopping and transportation. These tasks may be ongoing or short-term, and volunteers can be reimbursed for expenses. Use our online volunteer signup form, or call the TBE office.

. For questions, contact Caring Committee chair Eve Siegel or Rabbi Jonathan Biatch.

Serving Meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center 

If you are looking for a fun, easy opportunity to help the community and spend quality time as a team, you can help serve a meal at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC). CMC provides free meals to community members on Madison's south side and people experiencing homelessness. Our volunteers set out and serve the food, join the meal, and then do the dishes and clean up. The Catholic Multicultural Center is located at 1862 Beld Street, Madison, WI 53713. 

Our TBE team is signed up to help on the third Tuesday of each month from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. If you’re interested in engaging with other TBE members to meet this critical community need, click the sign-up link. Contact Sue Levy if you have questions.

Court Observers for Criminal and Eviction Court

Several Temple Beth El members act as court observers under a program run by the Nehemiah Center for Urban Development, watching and reporting on criminal and/or eviction court hearings. Observers make their own schedules and are expected to observe about four hours each month. For more information, you can contact any of those currently involved: Betsy Abramson, Lynn Silverman, or Cari DiTullio.

Middle School Literacy and Math Tutors

The Racial Justice Action Team partners with the Urban League of Greater Madison to recruit adults as literacy or math tutors in Madison’s middle schools. Volunteers complete online trainings and then select the middle school of their choice to commit to at least one hour each week working with individual students. You can begin to explore this opportunity by completing the volunteer tutor application. To learn more about it, contact Betsy Abramson (608-332-7867), who tutored in algebra twice a week at O’Keeffe Middle School. She learned a lot of algebra herself and reports great satisfaction in helping a 7th grader catch up in this critical skill.

Setting Up Apartments for Newly Arriving Refugees

Temple Beth El works with Jewish Social Services as they help refugees from all over the world resettle in the Madison area. JSS provides case management, job help, and housing for newly arrived refugee families. TBE volunteers work to set up apartments with furniture, and food, and provide tutoring and mentoring as needed. Contact Sherie Sondel for more information.

Volunteering through Jewish Social Services 

Jewish Social Services (JSS) volunteers serve as drivers, friendly visitors, events supporters, language tutors, shoppers, mentors, apartment set-up helpers, and so much more. Read about JSS volunteer opportunities, or contact Paul Borowsky via email or call him at 608-442-4083. 

Volunteer Drivers for Immigration Appointments 

The Dane Sanctuary Coalition provide rides for immigrants to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices in Milwaukee, Waukegan, IL, and Chicago, as well as the United States Immigration Court in Chicago. We also offer local rides to immigrants who need to meet with immigration attorneys but who live in parts of Dane County without much public transportation. Volunteer drivers only commit to a specific ride based on their availability. For the longer trips, partial compensation for mileage and parking is available. If you’re interested, there is a virtual training session about the role and responsibilities of a volunteer driver, USCIS processes, etc. Contact Dan Zimmerman via email or call him at (608) 241-1158. 

Shoe Boxes That Keep on Giving!

01/02/2024 01:50:20 PM


By Betsy Abramson and Marsha Mansfield, Co-Chairs, Racial Justice Action Team

In December, Temple’s Racial Justice Action Team partnered with Nehemiah and F.O.S.T.E.R of Dane County to prepare holiday gift boxes for children and adult clients of their agencies who might not receive any other gifts this year. We asked you to help fill shoe boxes with essential or fun items, and you delivered!

Our modest goal for this project was 25 shoe boxes. But by the end of week 2, when boxes started trickling in, we cautiously thought, maybe ... 50? And then the Religious School families started returning their filled boxes the following Sunday, and we were at 73 boxes ... and then as we drove to Temple for the Tuesday evening deadline, we dared to imagine that there would be 27 more to make it 100. 

We needn't have worried, because the TBE community so rocks. Another 29 shoe boxes were waiting for us, bringing our grand total to ...

102 boxes!!!

Because of you, Temple Beth El donated 102 shoeboxes full of gifts for children, teens, and adults who might not otherwise be receiving any gifts this month!  

Because of you, hundreds of our Madison neighbors opened gift boxes to find fresh toiletries, warm socks, jackets (!), slippers, games, toys, treats, puzzles, coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, stuffies, and so much more!  

Because of you, all of these boxes were clearly filled with both the above kinds of items and so much love and caring!

Because of you, our neighbors know that Temple Beth El cares about our greater community and is a partner in sharing their good fortune to bring tangible joy into the lives of others.

We are so fortunate to be members of this incredibly caring congregation.

Our volunteers filled the cars of David Seligman, Marsha Mansfield, and Catherine Copp, to the joy of Jackie Hunt, F.O.S.T.E.R. director. Special thanks to Catherine for helping to organize and pack dozens of the boxes.

Yasher koach (job well done) to all, and a giant todah rabah—thank you very much!

A Huge Turnout for Afghan Cuisine at “Tables Across Borders”

01/02/2024 01:26:32 PM


By Erica Serlin and Lynn Silverman

On Sunday, October 1, 96 Temple Beth El congregants and community members gathered at TBE to feast and learn at Tables Across Borders, the second in a series of multicultural community dinners highlighting the cuisines and cultures of local chefs who are refugees or seeking asylum. Tables Across Borders was initiated by Kai Gardner Mishlove, executive director of Jewish Social Services, based on a similar successful program in Milwaukee. This latest dinner was co-sponsored by TBE with help from our Immigrant and Refugee Rights Action Team and generously supported by the Cheryl Rosen Weston fund of the Jewish Federation of Madison.  

In the words of Kai Gardner Mishlove, the objectives of the Tables Across Borders dinners have been to “raise awareness and increase advocacy regarding the contributions of our refugee communities via a cultural exploration of the cuisines of local refugee chefs, to serve as an incubator for refugees interested in pursuing culinary arts and establishing food businesses, to build bridges between communities and combat antisemitism, bigotry, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment, and to eat delicious food with new friends!”

The October 1 dinner featured chef Bahkt Mohammad, a refugee from Afghanistan who was resettled by JSS and is now being supported in his dream to open an Afghan restaurant in Madison. Prior to coming to the U.S., the chef owned and operated a wonderful restaurant in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he had quite a following due to his delicious cuisine!

We had the privilege of sampling his wonderful dishes with a menu that included chicken prepared several ways, fried fish, meatballs, a complex and savory bean dish, rice pilaf with carrots and raisins, potato samosas, an assorted fresh vegetable salad, a mixed spinach dish, custard, and sweet milk tea with spices. There was plenty of variety—even for the vegetarians among us!

TBE was excited to be a part of this wonderful celebration and, as a bonus, to have it incorporate Sukkot. Rabbi Jonathan Biatch welcomed people to the TBE sukkah and explained the meaning of the actual structure and the rituals associated with this holiday. We were also fortunate during dinner to be able to meet new JSS staff, including the refugee resettlement director, Sunday Nzitatira.  

In summary, the food was superb and people were excited to gather as a community, to see old friends and meet new people at such a joyous occasion. To learn more about chef Bhakt Mohammad’s catering business, which currently operates out of FEED Kitchens, please visit

Join Our Racial Justice Action Team

01/02/2024 01:15:40 PM


If you are interested in helping promote racial justice in our community, we would love to have you as part of Temple Beth El’s Racial Justice Action Team. We are a very informal group, but we try to keep the congregation informed of ways to be involved. 

Join us for a special Shabbat in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 12, and watch for our service projects on Mitzvah Day, April 14. We also highlight service and advocacy opportunities in the Weekly Happenings email each Wednesday. 

Contact the team chairs, Betsy Abramson or Marsha Mansfield, if you’d like to be involved.

Recently the Racial Justice Action Team took a fascinating trip to the Milton House Museum, Wisconsin’s only certified underground railroad site (photos from Erica Serlin).

Thanks for Another Successful High Holy Day Food Drive

01/02/2024 01:06:22 PM


Our TBE community once again gave generously to the High Holy Day Food Drive, honoring our tradition of fasting by making monetary contributions for hunger relief. This year the drive raised a total of $15,323. The Social Action Committee agreed to distribute the money as follows:

  • $10,00 to Second Harvest Foodbank, maintaining our bronze level sponsorship for the NBC-15 Share Your Holidays Drive
  • $500 each to Catholic Multicultural Center, Porchlight, Centro Hispano, The Road Home, and Mount Zion Baptist Church food pantry for client food needs
  • $1,000 to Jewish Social Services of Madison for client food needs
  • $1,000 to meet the costs of Mitzvah Day food projects 
  • $823 to be allocated for needs arising later in the year

We extend our thanks to all who donated.

In November, our Religious School students and families collected hundreds of food items for the Goodman Community Center Thanksgiving Basket program, helping the center feed over 4,000 families for the holiday. Thanks to all who participated or made monetary contributions. The 3rd grade class won the competition for most items donated, with 81 cans of vegetables.

Are you new to Temple, or looking for a way to become more involved? Working on hunger relief is a great way to meet people and get to know the community. Our volunteers serve free meals at the Catholic Multicultural Center once a month and cook meals four times a year for Healing House, a respite center where homeless families can safely recuperate from illness or childbirth. We also volunteer for the Thoreau School Food Program, packing and delivering food for the families of elementary school children. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Aleeza Hoffert.

Endowment for Spiritual Leadership: Join the Match!

12/05/2023 10:31:58 AM


During these final weeks of the match for the Endowment for Spiritual Leadership, please remember that your donation will have extra impact. All pledges, donations, and additional donations received before December 31 are doubled as part of this match, thanks to a generous TBE member.
Help us secure the financial future of our spiritual leaders by making your pledge or giving your donation today. If you have any questions, please contact Executive Director Stefanie Kushner at 608-238-3123 or

June 16, 2024 10 Sivan 5784