Many thanks

B'nai Abraham honors its Sisterhood

B'nai Abraham honors its Sisterhood

October 04, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

"What I'll miss the most is the camaraderie," says Carol Mendelsohn.

She and Jeanne Jacobs reminisce about spending hours with fellow members of the B'nai Abraham Sisterhood in the kitchen of the Hagerstown synagogue. They peeled potatoes and prepared food for countless events through the years.

Jacobs and Mendelsohn got together earlier this week to begin cooking for another event in the temple's social hall on Saturday, Oct. 5.

"Salute to the Sisterhood," will begin at 7 p.m.

Last year the congregation voted to disband B'nai Abraham Sisterhood, the temple's 87-year-old women's organization.

"Nothing ever stays the same," says Carol Mendelsohn, a member of the congregation and its Sisterhood since 1963.

The congregation has about 100 households, says Rabbi Janice Garfunkel. Fifteen to 20 years ago there were about 135 families.

People move away, more women are working outside the home, and getting women in Sisterhood leadership roles has become more and more difficult.


The situation is not unique to the Hagerstown synagogue, says Lieba Cohen, Sisterhood member for 26 years.

The women's group has had to give up its independence, Mendelsohn says. But "we haven't given up our voice," Jacobs says.

The Sisterhood will now come under the umbrella of the synagogue, says Sharon Wagshal, who is vice president of the temple board. Women have long been eligible for congregation leadership roles. Jacobs, a past president of the Sisterhood, also has served as president of the temple board.

The evening's program includes entertainment - spoofs and skits and songs. Members of the Sisterhood don't know specifically what the men of the congregation have planned but they are ready for a good time.

"It's just nice that everyone's getting together," Cohen says of the celebration.

Good-natured fun will be poked at the food festival, the Sisterhood's interfaith project that for more than 20 years provided the area's Christian community an opportunity to sample a wide array of traditional Jewish cuisine on their way home from Sunday services.

The Sisterhood was organized in 1915, its constitution written in Yiddish, as the Hebrew Ladies Auxiliary.

By 1921, the Auxiliary had raised enough money to build the Talmud Torah building next to the synagogue.

In 1939, at the request of the congregation, the Auxiliary assumed responsibility for the temple's religious school and has supported it ever since. The school teaches Hebrew, history of the Jewish people and Israel, holidays and traditions, serving the congregation's children from preschool through confirmation at age 15, says Sharon Wagshal, principal from 1977-97.

The Sisterhood certainly is about more than food, but food is a big part of the organization's history.

Renee Kramer, a 50-year member, jokes that through the years members' kids would come home from school to the aroma of fresh-baked brownies. "Is that for us or for the Sisterhood?" became a standard question.

There will be food - oh, there will be food - at Saturday's celebratory salute. Sisters will prepare recipes immortalized in two cookbooks the organization has published: "B'nai Abraham's Best" and "The Best Gets Better." Many of the foods are from popular recipes of Sisterhood women, some of whom are no longer alive.

Their memories live on through their wonderful foods, Cohen says.

There will be honor and appreciation as well.

Roger Schlossberg, temple president and the evening's master of ceremonies, will present the Sisterhood with The Boneh Award. Boneh means builder. The annual award is usually presented to the person who has done the most for the congregation. This year it will be presented to the women of the Sisterhood.

The evening's program includes the following: "Todah rabah (that means many thanks) to all the women who have gone before us, for those here tonight, and for those women who will continue to perpetuate the ideals of our Temple."

"Todah rabah."

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