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Due to unforeseen circumstances, Rabbi Ruz will not be with us this year for Yom Kippur services. Wendy and Devorah will lead the services, and we will live stream Kol Nidre services with Rabbi Ed Staffman from Bozeman again like we did last year, hopefully with better results this time. If someone can coordinate with Aaron Weissman to lead a mid-afternoon discussion, that would be great. Otherwise, the schedule will be the same. Thank you for your understanding. Please make it a point to attend services at the Bethel if at all possible. We all wish Rabbi Ruz a speedy recovery, and a happy and healthy New Year.


Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can look forward to Chanukah that begins this year on Sunday, December 6th ( just one week from today!).

We will be gathering at the State Capitol rotunda on Thursday, December 10th at high noon for our annual MAJCO chanukiah lighting ceremony and speeches. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to tell their friends. “You don’t have to be Jewish”. The more the merrier. Set up and schmoozing begins at 11a.m. Immediately following this program, we will hold a MAJCO board meeting. Room to be determined. All are welcome to attend.

Then, on Saturday, December 12th, the Helena Jewish Community is hosting a Chanukah potluck and celebration. This program will begin at 4pm in The Forum ( on the 2nd floor) of Touchmark on Saddle Dr. ( 915 Saddle Dr.) At that time, Rabbi Ed will offer a shiur (Jewish study session) on the topic of religious zealotry, focusing on the Chanukah story which begins (in 1 Maccabees chapter 2, as follows:

“A Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer a [Greek style] sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. [24] When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar. [25] At the same time he killed the king’s officerwho was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. [26] Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.”

At this shiur, we will look at what the Jewish tradition, and especially the Talmud, have to say about this part of the Chanukah story, the preceding Pinchas story, and religious zealotry in general. You may find it surprising. The shiur will be open to whoever wishes to do some Chanukah learning.

Immediately following this study session, we will hold havdalah, followed by chanukiah lighting and a vegetarian potluck. This is a rare opportunity to partake of a little Jewish learning, socializing and holiday celebration right here in Helena. Hope you can attend.
Shavuah tov ( have a good week),

Submitted by Janet Tatz


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the bio sent to us by Morah (teacher) Ruz Gulko, who will lead our upcoming High Holy Day services.

RUZ (rhymes with buzz) GULKO

Ruz grew up in eastern Canada where she attended private Jewish day schools and universities in Toronto and Montreal. She has worked with most of the Jewish educational and religious institutions in the greater Seattle area since 1984, teaching Judaic Studies and Hebrew and leading prayer services, particularly at the Jewish Day School in Bellevue and at Herzl – Ner Tamid Congregation.

Ruz also trains teachers, writes curriculum, and lectures in the general community. She has led Rosh Hodesh (Jewish New Month) and Special Seder programs for women. Ruz’ passion is for exploring and sharing Torah’s radically humanistic teachings.

She started her free-lance teaching career in the fall of 2007, beginning a small school in her home –- GAN ARGAMAN (Purple Garden) – teaching all ages in all matters Jewish. Ruz is also a “chazzan-for-hire” on the local circuit, leading Shabbat services throughout the community.
She has served as the creator, organizer and Hazzanit for the participatory High Holiday services at Herzl-Ner Tamid Congregation since 1991.

Ruz loves to work with people of all ages, and believes that learning Torah and eating chocolate together could save the world.

Torah Readers for High Holy Days?

How is it already the month of Elul?  The year is really flying by, and before you know it Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will be upon us!

I had the opportunity for a lovely conversation with our service leader and Cantorial Soloist for our High Holy Day services this year, Ruz Gulko.  Ruz comes to us on Rabbi Fine’s recommendation, and has been leading services in the Seattle area for the past 25 years.  

Ruz is putting her plans together for our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and would like to know if anyone would like the honor of reading from the Torah on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur mornings.  She plans on using the High Holy Day trope for the services, and will be glad to send a written copy of the text and an mp3 of the trope to any volunteers.  If you are interested, please send her an email at or place a comment on this post.

If there is anything specific you would like to see done at these services, please send me and Ruz a note, or just comment below.

L’Shana Tova,


The Segal Guide to Fasting on Yom Kippur

Fasting for Yom Kippur (From a Medical Perspective)

Michael M. Segal MD PhD

“… a very good site, perhaps even essential … extremely useful hints and tips … should be taken seriously by just about everyone except the most determined masochist.” The Jerusalem Post, 10 October 1997.

Each year on Yom Kippur, Jews wish each other a khatima tova (a good seal in the Book of Life) and tolerable fast. The route to a khatima tova is beyond the scope of this article; the route to an easy fast is simpler to describe. The following are the essentials of human physiology that will help you have a tolerable fast on Yom Kippur:

Don’t get thirsty:

Most people think the difficulty about fasting is feeling “hungry”. However, avoiding thirst is much more important for how you feel. Not only do you avoid the discomfort of thirst but you are also well hydrated and swallow frequently, so your stomach does not feel as empty.
One important way to remain well hydrated is to avoid drinks or foods that cause your body to get rid of water. Such foods and drinks include alcohol, tea, caffeinated coffee and chocolate. Another important rule is to avoid consuming much salt. Salt causes a person to feel thirsty despite having a “normal” amount of water, because extra water is needed for the extra salt. For this reason you should avoid processed foods containing lots of salt such as pickles, cold cuts, or cheese. Most tomato sauces, canned fish and smoked fish have a lot of added salt. Since Kosher meat has a high salt content it may be best to choose a main course such as fresh fish, canned no-salt tuna fish or a de-salted meat such as boiled chicken.

By avoiding these types of foods and drinks in the several hours before a fast, you can avoid either losing water or needing extra water. Other actions that cause the body to lose water, such as perspiring in warm clothing, should also be avoided during the fast.

Don’t start the pre-fast meal on a full stomach:

The pre-fast meal often begins at 5 PM, so a large lunch could prevent you from eating enough immediately before the fast. It is best to have a small lunch, or no lunch at all. A large breakfast early in the day based on cereals, breads and fruits can provide the energy you need during the day, yet these high-fiber foods will be far downstream by the time of the pre-fast meal and will not keep you from eating enough food at the pre-fast meal. A large breakfast is also helpful because it stretches the stomach. After eating breakfast, it is best to consume beverages during the day. This will not fill you up, since liquids are absorbed quickly, and this will ensure that you have absorbed enough fluids during the day to start the pre-fast meal being well hydrated. Be sure to avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine. You should also drink at least two glasses of fluids with the pre-fast meal because many foods need extra water to be digested properly.

Eat foods that are digested slowly:

Include some foods high in oils and fats in the pre-fast meal, since such foods delay emptying of the stomach and effectively prolong your meal. However, beware of fatty meats or salted potato chips that could load you up with too much salt. Salads and other high fiber foods that are so important in one’s normal diet should be de-emphasized for the pre-fast meal since they travel quickly through the digestive system. Fruit, despite its high fiber content, is worthwhile since it carries a lot of water in a “time-release” form.

Don’t get a headache:

Withdrawing from caffeine produces a headache in people who drink several cups of coffee a day. If you consume this much caffeine in coffee or other foods or drinks you should prepare yourself for the caffeine-free period by reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet in the days before Yom Kippur. Don’t try to get through the fast by drinking coffee right before Kol Nidre, since this will cause you to lose a lot of water.

Make the meal tasty enough so people will eat:

The pre-fast meal doesn’t have be bland. Spices such as lemon or herbs are fine for fasting, but salt and monosodium glutamate should be reduced as much as possible.

Don’t do a complete fast if you have certain medical problems:

People with medical conditions such as diabetes should consult their doctors and rabbis before fasting. Certain medications need to be taken during Yom Kippur, and it is important to swallow them with enough water to avoid pills getting stuck on the way to the stomach and damaging the esophagus. Fasting by women who are pregnant or breast feeding can also be dangerous. If a young person who has not fasted much before has unusual difficulty fasting you should discuss this with your doctor since this happens in some serious metabolic problems in which fasting can be very dangerous.

Don’t eat improperly after Nei’la:

Even people who have prepared well for fasting will be hungry after Neila. Be sure not to eat food too quickly at the post-fast meal. Begin the break-fast meal with several glasses of milk or juice: these put sugar into the bloodstream and occupy space in the stomach, discouraging you from eating too rapidly. Also be careful about eating high salt foods such as lox, since you will still be a little dehydrated and will need to drink a lot of fluids to avoid waking up extremely thirsty in the early morning hours.
These preparations for the fast of Yom Kippur will be different from your normal routine, but they can serve as a concrete reminder of the approaching Day of Atonement.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Jewish Advocate (Boston, USA) in 1989. Copyright © 1989 – 2011 Michael M. Segal, MD, PhD. This document may be reproduced freely on a non-profit basis, including electronically, through 2011 as long as the source at is indicated and this copyright notice is included.

KRTV Reports on our Tashlich service


Image via Wikipedia

KRTV news came to our Tashlich service this afternoon at Giant Springs.


EDITOR’S NOTE: These are not the full minutes.  They can be requested from any board member or from Nadyne.

ELECTIONS: Board members whose terms are up are Helen, Steve & Laura.  They have each agreed to stand for re-election.   During Rosh Hashanah, an announcement will be made asking if there is anyone else interested in running for the Board.  Ballots will be made and distributed on Rosh Hashanah.  Only GFHA members will get ballots.  Voting will continue through Yom Kippur, at which time all ballots will be collected and tabulated by Nadyne. If a member needs a ballot, please contact Nadyne by email  or through the web site.

CEMETERY POLICY:  Laura sent around some ideas of what is acceptable for Reform policies for the Jewish section of the Mount Olivet cemetery:  She will send it around again so that we can review the suggested policy and add to it if necessary.  Laura signed and sent the agreement to Mount Olivet officials, so we have a fully signed agreement with them for our portion of the cemetery. Laura will get a copy for our files.

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Will you Serve on the Aitz Chaim Board?

There are three positions up for re-election for the Aitz Chaim Board of Trustees.  Those positions are currently held by Laura Weiss, Helen Cherry and Steve Boyd.

Laura, Helen and Steve have offered to run for re-election.  Any adult member of the congregation is eligible to run for any of these three board positions.  Candidates must be Jewish members in good standing of the Great Falls Hebrew Association.  In addition to the three board members running for re-election, there will be several blank lines on the ballot for write-in candidates.  Please comment below if you are interested in announcing your candidacy for the Board.

Board elections will take place during our congregation services over the High Holy Days.  Nadyne Weissman will have ballots, please go find her to vote.  Results will be announced during our Yom Kippur Break the Fast potluck meal on Saturday, October 8.

Aitz Chaim High Holy Days 5772 Schedule

High Holy Days Schedule 2011

All services are led by Cantor Elliott Magalnick

Wednesday Sept 28

Thursday Sept 29

September 9: Apples and honey

Image by gwen via Flickr

  • Rosh Hashanah services are 10:00 A.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls
  • Tashlich immediately follows morning services at about 12:30pm at Giant Springs State Park
  • No host community lunch immediately follows Tashlich at Maple Gardens

Friday October 7

  • Kol Nidre services are 7:00 P.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls

Saturday October 8

  • Yom Kippur services begin on Saturday morning, October 8 at 10:00 A.M. at the Bethel, 1009 18th Ave SW, Great Falls.
    • 10:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M. Morning Services
    • 2 hour break:  12:00 P.M.-2:00 P.M.
    • 2:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M. Adult Discussion, STORAHtelling on Jonah by Cantor Elliot Magalnick
    • 1 hour break:  4:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M.
    • 5:00 P.M.-5:45 P.M. Yizkor
    • 5:45 P.M.-6:15 P.M. Minhah
    • 6:15 P.M.-7:00 P.M. Neilah
    • Break the fast milchig (dairy) pot luck immediately follows evening services.

Proposed Congregation Budget for 5772

With the ending of the month of August, Congregation Aitz Chaim is now preparing for a new year.  We will again be doing our best to bring yiddishkeit to Northcentral Montana, albeit in a more limited way than in previous years.  Since demographic changes have caused our congregation to shrink, we can no longer offer monthly services 10 times per year.

As a result, I now propose to you the following budget for the coming year.  This budget will be on the agenda for congregation approval at our upcoming Annual meeting, which will be held on Sunday, September 25 at 1:00 P.M. at 1015 1st Avenue North.

This budget proposes bringing in Hazzan Magalnick to lead High Holy Day services and flying in a Student Rabbi from HUC in Los Angeles to lead three additional services.  We are currently considering scheduling these services for November, March (Purim) and May (Lag B’Omer).  Our specific congregation calendar will also be proposed in the very near future.

In order to conduct even this limited schedule, our congregation will need to raise almost $10 thousand per year in dues and donations.  The amount that we raise shrinks each year, and we have lost money from congregation operations for each of the past two years.  Without payment of membership commitments from each and every one of our congregants, our ability to maintain an active congregational schedule will be critically impacted.  Minimum membership commitments of $250 per individual and $500 per family are requested from all congregants, and additional donations above that amount would greatly enhance our efforts.  Your membership commitment can be paid by check, cash or credit card.  To pay by credit card, simply use the link to the right of this post.

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