WRJ/Beth Israel Sisterhood

WRJ/Beth Israel Sisterhood

WRJ/Beth Israel Sisterhood

Women of Reform Judaism  (WRJ) are a network of Jewish women working together to empower women and communities through the bonds of sisterhood, spirituality, and social justice.

At Congregation Beth Israel, WRJ/Beth Israel Sisterhood’s mission is to bring women together to support and benefit Congregation Beth Israel and the community by providing opportunities for friendship, service, spiritual growth, and learning.

The WRJ/Beth Israel Sisterhood is a vital part of the Congregation Beth Israel and greater Portland community, with

  • Monthly opportunities to connect, socialize with, and support Jewish women–even in this time of social distancing!
  • Ongoing community service initiatives, including efforts to address period poverty, food insecurity, and reproductive justice.
  • Religious gatherings and celebrations, including annual Sisterhood Shabbat, Women’s Seder, and Tu b’Shevat celebrations
  • Hands-on support of CBI’s Religious School via the volunteer-run Sisterhood Gift Shop
  • Innovative arts and educational programs (for which we’ve won national Or Ami “Light of My People” awards for excellence in programming in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017), and participation in WRJ at the national and Pacific District level.

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Coming Soon from Sisterhood

Sisterhood Social Hour
Sunday, June 26, 5:30 PM
Home of Shoshanna Lansberg
RSVP for address

Come join this intimate and lovely venue on the back deck of Shoshanna’s home in Beaverton. We will talk about events and programs that would be of interest in the next year.

Please RSVP to the Programming Committee if you plan to attend, as there will be a maximum of twenty-five people. We will be providing simple food, wine, and sparkling water.

Honey from the Heart

Sisterhood’s annual Honey for the Heart fundraiser for the High Holidays will open soon! The deadline to order honey to be sent to loved ones this year will be August 10; they cost will be $13, $4.50 of which goes to support education at CBI.

Sisterhood Leadership

Susan Berniker – President
Ellen Zellinger – Vice President & Membership Co-Chair
Shoshanna Lansberg – Immediate Past President & Religious Programming
Michael Richman – Corresponding Secretary
Rita Effros – Recording Secretary
Rachel Segal – Treasurer
Vacant Vacant – Parliamentarian
Rose Marshall – Communications
Ellen Bick – Emerita
Kathleen Doctor – Emerita
Melissa Himmelman – Fundraising Co-chair
Michelle Shari Kruss – Fundraising  Co-chair
Erica Weinstein – Fundraising Co-chair
Bonnie Barg – Gift Shop
Deborah Levine – Membership  Co-chair
Rhonda Daniels – Membership Committee
Karen Stavis – Programming   Co-chair
Nadine Block – Programming Co-chair
Debbie Braymer – Volunteer Coordinator
Virginia Gitter – College Outreach Co-chair
Leslie Berman – College Outreach Co-chair
Judy Stone – Gift Shop Treasurer

Cantor Ida Rae Cahana – Clergy Liaison

Current open positions include Community Seder and Rosh Hashanah Reception Chairs.

Sisterhood in Action

Glimpses from past programs…


Sisterhood Speaks

President’s Welcome

Believe it or not, Passover is my children’s favorite Jewish holiday. They tell me its their favorite because we prepare special recipes and different foods for our meals. While that is some of it, I also think that they like Passover because we take the time to have an organized seder with readings, singing, and togetherness.

So often, we are rushed:—to school, to work, to practice, and everything else that makes up our lives—and we don’t get to sit in a relaxed way for an extended time with our family. During the seder which starts our Passover week, we are focused on enjoying a symbolic meal and there is nothing to “get to.” We take the time to pause, appreciate our meal, recount the story of our ancestors and rejoice in the gift that is the freedom to be among our loved ones.

Yes, Shabbat is the weekly foundation of our lives. However, Passover gives us another opportunity to truly slow down and savor the fruits of our labors and the joy of our families, whether they be the ones we were born into or created ourselves.

This year, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, I will say a Shehecheyanu that despite everything, we are still here to partake in the joy of our traditions and appreciate the sacrifices that so many have made to bring us to this point. I will be especially thinking of the people of Ukraine and all others around the world who cannot be together with their families or have yet to find peace. May it be G-d’s will.

Shoshanna Lansberg, Sisterhood President 

D’var Torah

B’midbar | June 4, 2022

By Shoshanna Lansberg

This week’s Torah portion literally means “in the wilderness.” Here is a summary of what happens there:

  • God commands Moses to take a census of all the Israelite males over the age of twenty. (1:1-46)
  • The duties of the Levites, who are not included in the census, are detailed. (1:47-51)
  • Each tribe is assigned specific places in the camp around the Tabernacle. (1:52-2:34)
  • The sons of Levi are counted and their responsibilities are set forth. (3:1-3:39)
  • A census of the firstborn males is taken and a special redemption tax is levied on them. (3:40-51)
  • God instructs Moses and Aaron regarding the responsibilities of Aaron and his sons, and the duties assigned to the Kohathites. (4:1-20)

Since the is the first chapter in Numbers, It makes sense that this portion would focus on the accounting of people, tribes, etc. But after reading two different d’varim on this portion, I was struck by the symbolism of what “being in the wilderness” can mean to us. Like everyone else, our lives under the pandemic have seemed a long slog through a wilderness of unknowns. How long must we isolate? Will people I know get sick? Will they develop a vaccine? Will it be enough? The fear of the future or the unknown was brought front and center with COVID. We were all going about our day to day lives and then we are forced to grapple with a dangerous unknown on a daily, monthly, and now yearly basis. Thankfully, a vaccine and boosters were developed by our amazing scientists, but still too late for the millions that have succumbed to COVID. Many of us lost friends and family. My father-in-law suffering with Parkinson’s just wasn’t strong enough to fight off the virus, even after vaccination. Yet, we continue to live and hope that such a devastating event as a pandemic will be an anomaly in our lives.

There is an old Yiddish saying, “Make plans, God laughs”. To me it means, no matter what you might think will happen tomorrow, next week, next year, there is no way to really predict the future. Since September 2020, I have been in individual and group therapy, trying to heal from betrayal trauma. For a long time, I was filled with a tumult of emotions. I would look back on the past with sadness, and look forward to the future with trepidation. Sometimes I felt so overwhelmed with the most basic things, that it was difficult to even leave my bed, wandering as it were, around the wilderness of my own thoughts. At one point, my therapist told me something that I try to remember when I am struggling. She said “the future was never certain.” Even before COVID and then my own personal heartache, I could not know for certain what the future would bring. While I and others might feel uncertain about  tomorrow, it was never set in stone.

There is something very freeing about focusing just on the present. You can fully embrace any situation in which you find yourself. Things like yoga, meditation, prayer, and exercise are great ways to train your mind to focus only on the task at hand, instead of ruminating about what you cannot change (the past) or what you fear to come (the future). These have helped me immensely as I also learned that self-care is not something you put off for “when you have time,” but an essential daily practice for your well-being.

The Torah also mentions people wandering in the wilderness, only to become enlightened by the journey. Of course, this is very much one of those foundational tropes, that you must go on a long, difficult journey, face setbacks, get lost, but become wiser simply through the knowledge you gained of yourself and the world through that journey. Whether you become spiritually enlightened, or just are finally able to make tough decisions because you now have the knowledge and tools to do so, it matters not. The simple act of facing the unknown is part of the process. We all hope that good things will come in the future. And struggle is simply part of the act of living our human lives. No doubt, some will struggle more than others, but we all have challenges, some visible, some not, that we endure.

This reminds me of something we probably all have experienced as parents. We want to protect our children from pain and that often means, working to control circumstances that will keep them out of harm’s way. But do you remember being little and being told not to touch the oven or a hot pot, or the iron or….? My point is that even though your parents may have warned you or actively tried to remove the danger, as children we would often still try to touch the thing because we needed the experience. That we wouldn’t learn until we experienced it ourselves. We were trying to make sense of the world (for a child, an unknown wilderness). And each bit of knowledge gained, sometimes through painful experience was added to the collective of our psyche to hopefully prepare us for the next unknown to come, and the next, and the next.

My wish for you all is that when you come to face your own wildernesses, your own future, you realize that this is part of your journey and that although you will have setbacks, you can embrace the opportunities to grow through those unknowns, knowing that you can’t control what is essentially unknowable.

President’s Welcome and D’var Torah adapted from our monthly newsletter.

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