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Am Kolel
Weekly News

November 2, 2011

5 Heshvan, 5772


  Issue 5  


I returned from Cuba with a heavy heart and deeper sense of wanting to do something to help bring Alan home.  While his physical health is holding up, the anger and frustration he feels as a result of the deceptions and falsehoods that both sides have subjected him to is clear.  The confinement is taking a toll on him and his family.


Alan is located in a building on the grounds of the  Carlos Finlay Military Hospital complex in Havana. I took a taxi there from the El Presidente Hotel last Thursday afternoon.    Greeted by four men, a guard, a doctor, an official from the Ministry of the Interior, and a translator, they asked if I had a cell phone or camera.  I was asked to leave two bags of books, magazines, foods, vitamins and Bev Mushinsky's 5 lbs of Alan's favorite caramel peanut brittle on a table near the door to the waiting room while I met with him.  His jailors created a comfortable space with two couches and a table with refreshments. Alan explained that normally the room is used for meetings with doctors.


We met for about an hour and forty minutes.  He told me about his two roommates, both Cubans. One had fasted with him on Yom Kippur.   Alan performs a Shabbes ritual every Friday night in front of photographs of family and friends. He inquired about folks back home and gave me a couple a bracelets he made out of plastic bottle caps.  He fashions these bracelets as gifts for friends and visitors, so that outside his cell, he is not forgotten.


Having learned about the recent swap of Gilad Shalit for more than 1000 imprisoned Palestinians, he felt that the US and Cuba could do the same for him and the Cuban Five, five Cubans convicted of spying and serving sentences in the US from 15 years to life.  Alan saw a photo of the September vigil coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington in a Mexican newspaper.  He hoped that future vigils would focus on the humanitarian aspects of his release.


Alan was convicted and sentenced to a fifteen year term not so much for giving electronic equipment to some Jewish Cubans but because he was working for a company under a USAID contract, under a program designed to help undermine the Cuban government . While other contractors bring in similar equipment - illegal under Cuban law - only Alan has been arrested.  In December, he will have been held for two long years.


I feel that we must bear witness to Alan's plight by keeping him in our prayers, by making regular calls to Obama, Clinton and Members of Congress, by attending vigils both at the Cuban Interests Section and also at the State Department as well as the White House.  I'm hoping that a committee of Friends of Alan Gross can be convened soon to learn how to support him and his family. 


As my time was running out I asked Alan to join me in singing Min HaMetzer from Psalm 118.  "From out of the place of confinement I call to God. Answer me with an encompassing relief."   Holding each other's hands tightly we sang. 


May we find the courage to speak truth to power and bring Alan home soon.


Reb David

Highlights in this Issue
Jewish Folk Arts Festival Concert
Jewish Renewal Weekend
Pics from Simchat Torah
Take a Walk and talk about Am Kolel Holiday planning
Clean Up Days at Sanctuary
Earthquake Fund for Sanctuary
Community Announcements


Shabbat Morning Services begin at 10:00am, followed by a potluck vegetarian/dairy lunch.  Please bring a dish to share!  

Cedar Lane: 9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda, MD. 20814

Sanctuary: 19520 Darnestown Road, Beallsville, MD. 20839 


November 5 

Cedar Lane

Led by Reb David

Parsha: Lekh Lekha 

Gen. 12. 1-17.27  


November 12 

Cedar Lane

Led by Reb David

Parsha: Vayera

Gen. 18.1-22.24


To help with set-up please contact Paige Goodman 

Mazel Tov! to...
Aaron & Lindsay Miller
on the recent marriage of
their daughter, Jennifer
Jason Feifer
Our Condolences to...
Susan & William Bass
and Family
on the recent losses of both
Susan's father
William's father
Our Healing Prayers,
Refuah Shleyma for

Kathy Channick, Betsy Combs, Anne Schwartz Delibert, Ken Donow,  Shira Gross, Martina Knee, Judith Knee LaMotte, Alexis Neuhaus,  Pauline Rabin, Carol Rose, Ellen Schall, Suzanne Suher Katchmar,  Susan Taylor, Nancy Ungar, Sandra Vagins,   Gerry Wixson, Gene Wixson, Jill Zucker

Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links

JFAF CONCERT                                          Nov 19

JFAF LogoThe Jewish Folk Arts Festival  

a Community Wide Song Fest!

    Saturday night, November 19, 7:30 PM  

Tifereth Israel Congregation

7701 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20012 


Performers include:  Jill Moskowitz, Liz Kruger,  Sally Heckleman, Yonina Foster, Charlie Bernhardt,  Mark Novak, David Shneyer and the Fabrangen Fiddlers.


For information and ticket purchases go to: 


Jewish Renewal Weekend at Sanctuary            Dec 9-11

JRW Simon Jacobson
Some wonderful images from our recent Simchat Torah Celebration at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.
Simchat Torah 2011       Simchat Torah 2011
Also check out this video from the celebration:  
Simchat Torah 2011 at DC's Historic 6th&I Synagogue
Simchat Torah 2011 at DC's Historic 6th&I Synagogue
Take A Walk and talk about Planning Holiday Events
Sunday, November 13, join Yonina Andrea Foster, Am Kolel Program Assistant and Outreach Coordinator, on the trail for a gentle walk and shmooze about holiday planning and how you can help Am Kolel!!

Meet at 11:00 a.m. in the parking lot near the dog park of Wheaton Regional Park off Arcola Blvd in Wheaton/Silver Spring. (Off Orebaugh Avenue.) Drive in past the baseball fields, the indoor tennis courts, basketball and outdoor tennis, and the skating rink.

Plan on about a two-hour shmooze and walk. Bring water and snacks. Will take place in the cold (unless bitter). If rain we'll find a place indoors.

Please contact Yonina at or (301) 525-7859. See you there. While it is a holiday weekend, contact Yonina if you are interested in November 27, Sunday, as well. See you on the trail.


Clean Up Days at Sanctuary 

We are happy to exchange 4 hours of yard clean up for a free night at Sanctuary, either on Open Shabbes or during the week. Our grounds remain lovely only with your help! Fall clean-up days will be on the following Sundays:


Sunday, November 13:   1-4 pm

Sunday, December 4:     1-4 pm


Please contact Ira Levine at 301-806-1463 or if you can help out.  

Damage at Sanctuary from Earthquake
We recently received an estimate of the damage done to the farmhouse at Sanctuary from the earthquake in August.  In most of the rooms there are cracks & chipping in the plaster.  The re-plastering and painting that is needed is beyond our normal budget for repairs.  While three rooms have been repaired, we need to raise approximately $3,000 more to complete the rest.

We welcome your contributions to our Earthquake Repair Fund.
Jeff Sklaver & Members of the Board

Heschel Vision Awards-Reb David to be Honored       Nov 6

Please join Jews United for Justice and our community, friends, and allies, on Sunday evening, November 6th, for the Abraham Joshua Heschel Vision Awards. We'll honor the inspiring leadership of Rabbi David Shneyer, Shelley Moskowitz, and David Krakow with a delicious light dinner, the warm and engaging company of new and old friends, and a festive awards ceremony. Click here for tickets!

An Invitation to Join the Tar Sands Action in DC      Nov 6

 This call to action was issued by a diverse group of movement leaders to bring together a massive rally on November 6th in Washington DC. To join the rally, sign up here:
An Evening of Learning and Ecstatic Chant             Nov 28

Rabbi Shefa Gold

Monday, November 28, 2011

7:30-9:30 pm

Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
Schedule of Jewish Study Center classes

For information or registration for class go to:


The Foundation for Jewish Studies Programs
The Foundation for Jewish Studies offers programs that are non-denominational and open to everyone. Many of our programs are free, and we present programs in venues throughout the DC metro area. For more information go to:
Am Kolel Board of Trustees 2011- 2012
President - Jeff Sklaver
Vice President - Ira Levine
Treasurer - Ralph Tryon
Secretary - Paige Goodman
Trustee, At Large - Deborah Shauer Maletz
Trustee, At Large - Joyce Sperling
Immediate Past President - Francine McMahon

Director - David Shneyer
Reb David & Staff