For more information about Jewish holidays, here are a few good resources:

Tisha B’Av 


Tisha B'Av, the fast of the month of Av, is a day of remembering the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem and a reaffirmation of our people's survival through the ages.  We gather in solemnity and candlelight, giving ear to the poetry of the past while at the same time gaining new strength and courage for the present and future.



from Rabbi Zari Weiss:

As the sun sets on Monday evening (July 31st), the Jewish day known as Tisha B'Av begins.  Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively, as well as many other disasters that befell the Jewish People (for more on the history, read box below). 


Because of these disasters, Tisha B'av is a day of mourning.  Traditionally, Jews do not eat or drink, wash or bathe, engage in sexual relations, or wear leather, or use creams or oils for beautification. Jews also read the Book of Lamentations, known in Hebrew as Eicha.


Many contemporary Jews have struggled to discern how best to observe Tisha B'Av.  While we may appreciate that the religious practices that took place when the Temples stood were a valuable expression of our people's religiosity then, we may not mourn their loss; after all, from their ashes of the Temple arose prayer and worship as we know them today, the synagogue as a focal point of Jewish community, and--instead of animal sacrifices--the practices of teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (giving to those in need) as a way to transform guilt for any transgressions we may have committed. 


Some options for you to observe Tisha B'Av, either on your own, with members of your family, or a circle of friends:  Hold a "Tisha B'av consciousness" from Monday evening until Tuesday evening at sundown, and draw on any of the following for reflection and/or action.  For those who want to read about these in more detail, please read box below.


The three options are:

1)   Because one interpretation suggests that the Temples were destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, Senseless Hatred, commit yourself to practicing Shmirat LaShon, Guarding of the Tongue.

2)   Use the day as an opportunity to remember and recommit to protecting the earth and its resources.

3)   Just as our ancestors had to flee Jerusalem which was destroyed by war, think of those today who are fleeing places which are unsafe to live-either because they are torn apart by war, violence, economic upheaval, or hopelessness.


1)   The ancient rabbis taught that Jerusalem was destroyed because of Sinchat Chinam-senseless hatred.  In other words, Jerusalem's physical downfall resulted from a moral downfall in the relationships between human beings.   How relevant that charge is in our own day, as politicians-those who are supposed to be role models for us and our children-- speak to and about one another without civility, without what we would call menchlekite, honorable human behavior.   This Tisha B'Av, let us cry out in grief at the way people are treating one another, and pledge to behave with menchlekite instead-in all of our actions and interactions.  Perhaps as a first step, pledge to practice Shmirat Lashon, Guarding of the Tongue, whenever you speak.  (Shmirat LaShon is a positive way of speaking about LaShon HaRah-negative speech, or gossip).  Don't just refrain from negative speech, but in fact, make an effort to be kind when you speak to others. In this next year, I will be offering a number of opportunities for us as individuals as well as us as a community to learn more about what Judaism teaches about living a life of menchlekite.


2)   Rabbi Arthur Waskow, another great teacher of our generation, offers two other interpretations of Tisha B'Av that suggest that the destruction of the Temple has much to say about our relationship to the earth, our home planet.  One midrash (interpretation), for example, teaches that the first "Eicha" (the Hebrew name for the Book of Lamentations, which is read on Tisha B'Av) first occurred in the Garden of Eden.   After the human race (represented by Adam and Eve/Chava) refused to restrain themselves from over-indulging in the abundance found in the Garden, G-d called to Adam, "Ayekah?" [a pun on Eicha]--"Where are you?"  In other words, the midrash imagines 

G-d saying, "What in the world are you doing, Adam and Eve? Care for this planet for the generations that will come after you!"  In our day too, Waskow suggests, we are challenged with the call, "Ayeka?"  "Where are you?  What are you/we doing through your/our greed and refusal to restrain from over-consuming the earth's resources?"  This day is a call to remember, and recommit to protecting the Garden of abundance in which we live: Temple Earth. 

3) Finally, Rabbi David Seidenberg suggests that the observances of Tisha B'av are closer to the experience of being a refugee than a mourner.  The day commemorates not only the destruction of the Temple, but also the fact that the city of Jerusalem was turned into a war zone, with all that a war zone entails.  It calls us to remember those in our own day who must flee war zones in search of safety, shelter, food  . . .  a new life.  On this day, let us open our hearts in compassion and perhaps give tzedakah toward any organization that is working to help the millions of refugees who are fleeing places where life has become untenable--either because of war, violence, oppression, lack of economic opportunity, lack of hope, and more.  HIAS-the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society ( and The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project ( are two organizations that are doing important work in this area. 


Rabbi Seidenberg has his own contemporary translation of Eicha, The Book of Lamentations, as well as other resources on his website:

Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE at the hand of the Babylonians and 70 CE at the hand of the Romans. Tradition teaches that around this same time throughout history, many other disasters befell the Jewish People:  the first Crusade began (1096), Jews were expelled from England (1290), France (1306), and then as a result of the Spanish Inquisition, from Spain in 1492.  Even up through the 20th Century, scholars have associated a number of other calamities with this date.


Because of these disasters, Tisha B'Av is a day of mourning.  Traditionally, Jews do not eat or drink, wash or bathe, engage in sexual relations, or wear leather, or use creams or oils for beautification.  When Jews come together to read or chant from Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, which recounts the destruction of the Temple by the prophet Jeremiah, as well as other kinnot, dirges, we sit low to the ground, just as mourners do during the first week of mourning.





                                                                            Beth El Community Profile

                                                                             Alice and Alan Greenspan

                                                                      (aka Al and Al by family members)

                                                                                                                                               As told to Susan Armstrong


Alice and Alan both grew up in Perth Amboy, NJ, around the corner from one another. Al is four years her senior. When they were young, the Depression was in full force, but both considered themselves privileged because they had comfortable lifestyles, despite all the want and need throughout the country. Their families belonged to the same Conservative temple – Beth Mordechai. Alice’s father was Treasurer of the board, “forever.” Al was bar mitzvahed and tutored in Hebrew by Cantor Efron, a well known composer of liturgical music. Because bat mitzvahs were rare at that time, Alice was confirmed.

Alice had a beautiful sister, seven years her senior, named Jacquie. Alan was quick to comment that she looked like Ava Gardner. On Friday nights she would sit on the front porch and the boys would line up to talk to her. Mischievous Alice sat up in a second floor window throwing notes out to the boys. Alice said, “I grew up in the shadow of my beautiful sister.” 

When asked if anything had ever happened in their lives that changed everything, Alice immediately described a giant explosion that occurred on two barges in the Raritan River, just two blocks from her family’s home. She was talking on the phone on the second floor, wearing only a slip, when suddenly the force of the explosion blew out all the windows in the entire house, including the room where she was standing. She was covered in blood from the shattered glass and ran downstairs to see if everyone was okay. Her mother and father had both escaped injury. She threw on her new spring coat and they all ran outside. Being without shoes, she ended up with bleeding feet as well. The city was put under martial law when it was discovered that the barges that had collided were smuggling arms to Pakistan. First aid stations were set up and Alice was able to receive the necessary care. Her brand new spring coat was ruined by the blood, but her mother dyed it blue and solved the problem.

Congregation Beth El  107 Adams Street  Bennington  VT  05201


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Both Alan and Alice attended Jewish summer camps, Alice in Monterey, MA and Al at Camp Kiowa in Honesdale, PA. They each had dogs in their families and remain dog lovers to this day. They attended local Perth Amboy schools until Al was sent away to a private school, as his mother wanted to shield him from his father’s illness. He attended the George School in Newtown, PA, founded by Quakers. Two of his classmates were Stephen Sondheim and Blythe Danner. Al tells the story that Oscar Hammerstein’s son, Jimmy, was also a student there. Stephen had written some music for a class play, and Oscar Hammerstein himself just happened to be in the audience. And so began Sondheim’s brilliant musical career. The Greenspans attended Sondheim’s play, "Applause," on Broadway years later, and Stephen was in the audience. Al went over to say hello and was greeted by name immediately. It was impressive to be remembered after all those years.


In his teen years, Alan sported a pompadour hair style a la Elvis. Walking by Alice’s house one day, he saw her outside. Al flipped her a nickel and said, “Call me when you’re 16.” What a move! He went off to Washington University, then on to graduate school at Northwestern, where he earned a degree in Macroeconomics. Next Al served in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in North Korea. After putting up with freezing conditions in that country, he was sent to Oklahoma City, where he roasted. There Al taught combat intelligence – how to interrogate prisoners. By this time, both he and Alice had married other people and each had three girls of their own.


Al had a sterling career on Wall Street with Rothchild & Co., Oppenheimer & Co. and was a Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley. For years he oversaw the NYC Pension Fund, where he was tasked with foreseeing the economic future. Alice owned a successful interior design company, all the while raising her girls. In fact, she has an assignment right now to design the interior of a home in Burlington. Her creativity never stops.


They had not seen each other for twenty one years, but their parents had their fingers crossed that the two would re-connect, because each was getting a divorce. As soon as they saw each another, Al said, “We know each other well. Let’s get married.” But Alice gave him a hard time. She resisted until they finally wed eleven months later. Together they raised their daughters and shared their common interest in mountain climbing. They even traveled to New Zealand, where they scaled some of mountains in the Southern Alps and hiked the Greenstone Track out of Queensland.


It has now been forty seven years that Alice and Alan have been married. Their families have melded together – all six girls. They have thirteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They have remained happily together for over half of their lives.


They moved permanently to Wilmington, VT in 2003, after having spent years coming up to to Mt. Snow from New Jersey with their family to ski. In 1999 they began their association with Congregation Beth El. Al volunteered to manage the CBE investment funds over ten years ago and has done a stellar job. Alice is a trustee on the Board of Directors. We are indeed fortunate that the Greenspans continue to enrich our congregation.