August 30, 2015   15 Elul 5775
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Upon the introduction of Shaareinu: Our Gateways in November of 2012, the express goal of this initiative has been to reinvigorate and coordinate an effective effort to meet the special needs of our members and guests, and to better connect in meaningful ways during personal moments of need and times of celebration. Shaareinu not only creates additional gateways for those with disabilities to access our congregation, but also creates stronger relationships among present members within the congregation.

Although we launched Shaareinu less than 10 months ago, I am overwhelmed to report that over 80 of our fellow congregants are actively volunteering for one or more aspects of this program!! For a multitude of reasons, this work has sparked a passion among many of us that may be unprecedented in the history of TBT. Although we have always prided ourselves as being committed to setting a tone of inclusiveness, we are now attempting to put our words into action as never before.

We are proud to have received honorable mention as one of only 9 congregations in North America from the URJ’s Belin Outreach and Membership Awards, designed to encourage and honor Reform synagogues with outstanding outreach and membership programs. To receive such an honor for a program that has existed for less than one year is outstanding! All award recipients and honorable mentions will be officially recognized at the URJ Biennial in San Diego this coming December.

The four task forces which we formed are being chaired by a Leadership Team with admirable organizational and visionary skills: David Greenberg, Steve Levy, Steve Kiss, Judy Levy and Helene Gelman.

Once you read about our phenomenal progress, please consider joining these efforts! You may contact me directly at I know you will find your passion on one of these task forces!

On behalf of the entire TBT community, I offer a prayer of gratitude:

Gratitude for the open hearts and strong hands of TBT volunteers.

Gratitude for the vigorous sense of social conscience that has always defined TBT.

Gratitude for the overwhelming response to the Shaareinu Initiative by so many of us.

Gratitude for the knowledge that we are striving to enrich the lives of our fellow Reform Jews who may not have been able to enjoy the full joys of our congregation until now.

And, finally, gratitude for our ongoing efforts to include each and every Reform Jew to whatever degree he or she desires as we continue to repair our world, one step at a time.

Eva Steen (,

Chair of Shaareinu


Chesed Task Force  

Helene Gelman ( & Judy Levy (, co-chairs.

The goal of the Chesed Task Force is to strengthen the bonds among our congregational family by supporting each other in times of sorrow and rejoicing with each other in times of gladness.

We established four sub-task forces in an effort to clarify the diverse aspects of this task force:

  • Simcha: Mimi Fetterman, task manager. Simchas are recognized by a hand-written card to the congregant as well as in the weekly eblast and monthly mailing.
  • Shiva Observance: Susan Silver, task manager. After being advised by clergy of a death, Susan contacts the congregant family to offer condolences and assistance, which may take the form of a meal or other type of support. Susan endeavors to ensure that a congregational representative is present at all shiva minyanim, to further express condolences on behalf of the entire congregation. Susan will also follow up with the family for the first 30 days after the death (Shloshim), to determine if additional assistance is needed.
  • Caring Connections (AKA Bikur Cholim): Elaine Simon, task manager. Clergy advises Elaine that a congregant has a need such as assistance with grocery shopping, a friendly visit or a phone call. Elaine calls upon her team of volunteers to assist these congregants in as timely a manner as possible, with sensitivity and kindness.
  • Yahrzeit Reminder Phone Calls: Jorie Sear, task manager. Office staff sends a list of each week’s yahrzeits to Jorie, who distributes the calls to her team. These calls are meant to be merely a reminder, to follow-up on the letter that congregants receive approximately one month prior to a yahrzeit. Response to these calls has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Chesed Task Force has accomplished the following to date:

  • On April 29th, Chesed hosted a 3-hour workshop conducted by Noelle Goldberg from United Hospice of Rockland entitled “How to Visit the Sick.” Seventeen congregants attended, and have now been integrated into the team of volunteers lead by Elaine Simon, task manager for Caring Connections.
  • The names on the Mi Sheberach List have been reviewed with the assistance of clergy, and follow-up visits and phone calls are being assigned via the Caring Connections group, managed by Elaine Simon.
  • The Chesed Task Force is in the process of planning a 2-part workshop, in partnership with the Nefesh Task Force and Jewish Family Services, examining the joys and challenges of assisting elderly parents. Further details will be announced as the plan takes shape.
Education Task Force  

Stephen Kiss (, chair.

The goal of this task force is to ensure that every student at TBT is afforded the most meaningful and comprehensive Jewish education possible, leading to a lifetime bond with God and the Reform Jewish community.

This task force is comprised of volunteers who are highly-respected in the field of special education, running the gamut of professionals involved in assisting students with physical, cognitive, visual and emotional disabilities. In close partnership with Mara Lewin, TBT’s Educator, the volunteers on this task force will serve as a resource and support for the faculty, on a case-by-case basis in order to support the educational needs of our students with special needs.

If a teacher wants the assistance of the task force, he/she will let Mara know. Depending upon the child’s needs, an appropriate member of our task force will then meet with the teacher and the classroom teen aide. Once this process begins, Mara will include the child’s parents in the conversation. This assistance will be ongoing, as needed by the faculty member. At no time will the task force member deliver primary services to the student, and periodic reviews, assessments and new accommodations will be made when appropriate.

Technology Task Force  

David Greenberg (, chair

The goal of this task force is to ensure equal access to TBT events for all who wish to attend, regardless of physical disability. The members of this task force come from a variety of professional backgrounds, spanning the fields of computer technology and law, as well as congregants whose main interests lie in the promotion of TBT.

To date, the major accomplishment of this task force is the installation of the first hearing loop in a public space in Rockland County. The loop allows individuals with recent T-coil-equipped hearing aids to couple wirelessly and discretely into the temple sound system. We also purchased several headsets for congregants to use if they don’t have the appropriately-equipped hearing aids. This project was undertaken in partnership with Hudson Valley Audiology, with additional funding provided through the fundraising efforts of Rabbi Beal’s son, Joshua, as his Bar Mitzvah project.

Another major accomplishment of this task force, which is almost complete, is an upgrade to our video system. New cameras have been installed in the sanctuary and are being tested for reliability. Once this system is fully operational, we will be able to provide high-quality HD recordings of temple events as well as having the capability to stream services to congregants who are not capable of attending in person. In this way, we will enable our homebound congregants a way in which to remain connected to the TBT community.

Nefesh - Caring for Mind, Body & Soul Task Force  

Stephen Levy (, chair

This task force’s goal is to foster access to our congregation for people with mental health challenges. The members of this task force are all respected and established mental health professionals in the Rockland community, bringing a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various aspects of the mental health field. Although they will not be providing primary services to congregants, their listening and assessment skills will prove to be invaluable as a resource to our congregational community.

This task force accomplished the following projects to date:

  • In December of 2012, a group discussion was facilitated by task force members and clergy, affording congregants the opportunity to talk about their reactions to the school shooting in Newton CT.
  • Members of Nefesh made phone calls to determine who wished to remain on the MiSheberach list. Once the initial determination was made, this task was transferred to the Chesed task force for continued follow-up.
  • Following the first 30 days since the death of a loved one (Shloshim), members of this task force make periodic follow-up calls to congregants. These calls follow the initial efforts of the Chesed Task Force in providing for Shiva observance
  • Finishing touches are being put on a Referral List of Mental Health Services, which will be available to all congregants as an online resource.
  • Outreach to various self-help and 12-step programs is being pursued, in an attempt to provide meeting space to groups in need. This effort compliments TBT’s long term hosting of Alcoholics Anonymous and Parents of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG).

A Seminar Series is being planned for the Fall and Winter, with dates to be announced. Topics include Positive Parenting: Establishing & Maintaining Executive Control; Managing Anxiety and Other Related Disorders; and How to Help a family Member or Friend Suffering from Alcohol and/or Drug Addiction. The seminars will be facilitated by task force and community members who are authorities in these fields.

A 2-part workshop is being planned, in partnership with the Chesed Task Force and Jewish Family Services, examining the joys and challenges of assisting elderly parents. Further details will be announced as the plan takes shape.

Nefesh Task Force Referral Manual  

In the spirit of opening our gateways to Temple Beth Torah members and the greater Rockland County community, the Nefesh Task Force has created a Referral Manual. Compiled in the fall of 2013 the manual lists a variety of services in Rockland and surrounding communities (Bergen and Westchester counties). Here you will find listed the following types of services: MENTAL HEALTH, ADDICTION TREATMENT, DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, AGING, BEREAVEMENT, SELF HELP GROUPS, PEER AND FAMILY SUPPORTS, EDUCATION AND INFORMATION SERVICES.  

A number of people contributed to the creation of this informative document. Dr. Steve Levy, chair of Nefesh Task Force, acted as executive editor. Task force members, Rena Finkelstein, President of Rockland NAMI-FAMILYA (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Julie Buffington Rizner culled the listings from many sources. Alona Marnet-Franchino and other Temple office staff edited and formatted the text.  As with all our endeavors we are grateful for the strong support of Rabbi Brian Beal, Cantor Sally Neff and President Barry Schoenberg. And a special vote of thanks to Eva Steen, Chair of TBT’s Shaareinu initiative, for all her encouragement and support.

It is 79 pages long. We strongly encourage you to read the introduction and disclaimers as well as the Mi Sheberach Prayer of Healing on pages 3 and 4. The Table of contents can be found on page 5. The remainder of the manual is the list of agencies and programs provided in our service area. Please check with them directly as some information will change over the course of time. In addition to calling the agencies themselves, you can access members of the Nefesh Task Force by calling the temple office and indicating what information you are seeking. We will return all calls.
Article in New City Patch  

Bar Mitzvah Project Leads To Rockland's First Hearing Loop
12-year-old Joshua Beal raised more than $9,000 to have the county's first hearing loop installed at Temple Beth Torah

Joshua Beal was looking for an idea for his Bar Mitzvah project when he learned about hearing loops.

Doctors from the Hudson Valley Audiology Center, based in New City, reached out to his father, Rabbi Brian Beal of Temple Beth Torah, about putting a hearing loop in the Upper Nyack temple. The technology and installation would cost around $15,000, and doctors with Hudson Valley Audiology felt so strongly that a hearing loop would be a great addition to the temple, they offered to put up a little less than half of that money.

That’s where 12-year-old Joshua Beal stepped in.

“I thought that if I was someone who was hearing impaired and didn’t have the same opportunity to hear clearly, I wouldn’t think it’s fair,” he said. “The hearing loop seemed like it would help a lot of people.”

A hearing loop is technology that enhances the ability of hearing aids. Most hearing aids currently are built with telecoil, or T-coil, which has the ability to receive signals in the actual hearing aids. But if there’s nothing transmitting the signal, the person using the hearing aid has to deal with a number of circumstances they might not have any impact on.


“With just a hearing aid, you’re at the mercy of the acoustics in whatever room you’re in,” said Dr. Jeffrey Shannon, associate director at Hudson Valley Audiology. “You’re at the mercy of whatever sound system is in that room, and a lot of times those systems aren’t working properly, or you can’t hear them if you’re not close enough. Or there might be too much reverb. There’s a number of issues you can have.”

What the hearing loop does is it connects a wire to the source of the sound and transmits it to the t-coil in the hearing aid. There has been previous technology to try similar things, but those use infrared and transmits the signal to a pair of headphones.

Shannon said there are issues with that technology, including some which require people to take out their hearing aids to use and if someone or something gets between the headphones and the signal, the signal goes out until there’s a clear path. But Shannon said that a lot of his patients don’t want to use the headphones because they simply make them stick out in the crowd. As for the hearing loop, “it’s wireless, it’s invisible, it’s dignified,” Shannon said.

He and Dr. Angela Loavenbruck, director of Hudson Valley Audiology, have been trying to get a hearing loop in Rockland for about two years. They reached out a wide range of groups, including various houses of worship.

“We always say that hearing is believing,” Shannon said. “We just knew we had to get one loop in the county and then others could see and hear what it does.”

Luckily for Shannon, one of the places he reached out to was Temple Beth Torah and Rabbi Beal, who said they previously had a system in place for the hearing impaired that used headphones.

“We had that system for about 12 years and I think it was used maybe twice,” he said. “Who wants to sit in a crowd of people and worship with these 'Martian ears' on?”

While trying to figure out if he wanted to bring it to the temple, Beal mentioned it to his congregation at a service on one of the High Holy Days, when the crowd is typically at its largest. He told people if they were interested in using the technology, and helping to fund it, to let him know privately. The response was positive enough that Beal felt it would be something useful for the temple.

“We didn’t do a study or anything,” he said. “Enough people showed an interest and thought it would help them that we decided to go for it.”

From the people who showed an interest in the system, Joshua Beal wrote them a letter and made phone calls explaining the technology, as well as mentioned how widespread impaired hearing is. He was seeking about $8,000 for the project. In four to six weeks, he raised about $9,600. With the extra money, he purchased the temple 10 headphones to hook up to the loop for those who don’t have the t-coil technology in their hearing aids, or don’t have hearing aids at all.

“People gave more than I expected,” he said. “I was surprised.”

Temple Beth Torah’s loop, the first in the county, was installed by the end of February. Joshua Beal is excited it is in place, especially since his Bar Mitzvah is in September, and anyone attending it who is hearing impaired will get to listen to him clearly.

By then, he’ll also be well into the second part of his Bar Mitzvah project, where Joshua Beal will go around and speak to other organizations and groups about the hearing loop. He said other temples, as well as churches and mosques, have already reached out to Temple Beth Torah to talk about the hearing loop. Some have even stopped by to see it in action.

The cost was mostly for the installation, and depending on the size of the other facilities looking into the loops it could be more or less. The loop was installed in the synagogue and two large banquet halls at Temple Beth Torah, so they can use it for a variety of events, which they did at a recent comedy night. During installation, they had to cut up the carpet to hide a copper wire throughout the large room to ensure that every seat in the synagogue could receive the transmissions. The actual technology sits in a closet unseen by the congregation.

Rabbi Beal said they have had a few open houses to show people how it works and let them test their hearing aids with the loop. At the first one about a half dozen people stopped by and for the second between 15 and 20 people came out. He added that they held a workshop before the comedy night to show people how the system works, but he still doesn’t have a figure for how many people it is helping.

“I don’t know how many people have used it or are using it a given time,” Brian Beal said. “We just flip it on and that’s it. As long as it’s helping someone that’s good for us.”

He added that the loop is the kickoff for a program at the temple called “Shaareinu: Our Gateway” in which they look to make the temple more inclusive for those with disabilities.

Not only is Joshua Beal an advocate for the technology now, but so is his father.

“This would be a great thing for a movie theater to install,” he said. “They’re large and it would be costly to put one in, but they’d make their money back. It would be great.”

Shannon said they’re hoping other organizations think similarly. He said in addition to religious organizations, he’s started to speak with some senior citizen groups about installing hearing loops in buildings where they meet. He said any group or person interested in learning more about loops should visit the Hudson Valley Audiology website,, or can call the office at 845-406-9991 and he will find time to either talk with or even meet them.

He said they have a hearing loop set up in the waiting room of their office connected to the TV. There are also about 30 to 40 places in New York City he knows of that are looped.

“They’re a little ahead of us, which is to be expected, but I think we’re ready for it to really take off here in Rockland” Shannon said. “Last year I set a goal around this time that we had to get one hearing loop installed in the county by this year. We finally did that. By this time next year, I think it’s possible to get somewhere between 10 to 20 loops in Rockland.”

Article in the Rockland Jewish Standard  

Hearing Loop Installation Pictures  
Photo - 01 Temple Beth Torah Rabbi Brian Beal (right) and his son Joshua Beal, 12. For his bar miztvah project, Joshua Beal raised more than $9,000 to help the temple install a hearing loop. Pic: Adam Littman
01 Temple Beth Torah Rabbi Brian Beal (right) and his son Joshua Beal, 12. For his bar miztvah project, Joshua Beal raised more than $9,000 to help the temple install a hearing loop. Pic: Adam Littman (1 of 16)
Rabbi Beal and Joshua Beal discuss the Hearling Loop project on AM1300 WRCR Listen Up Rockland Program  

Click below to hear the audio of the radio show:

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