Kehilataynu Monthly Newsletter – April Edition Posted

To save on printing and mailing costs as well as allowing for more timely publication, the Kehilataynu monthly newsletter is no longer being mailed. Instead, it will be posted on the website on the linked page as well as here. Previous months’ editions are linked below.

Downloadable version (with working links)


Previous issues:

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

June/July 2019

First Hebrew Building Closed — Events Cancelled, Online Service and Meeting Information

In light of the pandemic, the First Hebrew building will be closed until further notice, and in-person Religious Services are cancelled.

We are holding Thursday Minyan, Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdalah services via Zoom video conferencing. Please contact Rabbi Bogatz for the link if you would like to join.

The following upcoming events have been cancelled:

– Community Seder – 4/9
– Yom HaShoah Service – 4/19

Weekly Bingo is cancelled until further notice.

This page will be updated when further information is available. Please email us at if you have any questions.

Rabbinical Assembly Passover Publications Sale and Additional Resources


Pesah Publications Sale

How is this Passover different from all other Passovers? This year, we’re preparing for a Pesah that looks different in so many ways – from how we’re shopping and cleaning for the holiday, to where we’re (not) traveling and who will be at our seder table. The Rabbinical Assembly is here with publications and other practical resources to make your Passover as easy and meaningful as possible.
List price $18.95, now on sale for $13.00
This classic, bestselling Passover haggadah features insightful commentary, clear instructions, and bold artwork by Israel Prize-winning artist Dan Reisinger. Social distancing means that many of us will make seder on our own or with a small household group–so this year we’re extending our bulk rate on the haggadah to orders of any size.
Order by Monday, March 30 at 11:59 pm EDT to receive your books in time for the first seder. This can also be downloaded for free; see the information below.
(Applies to non-bulk orders in the continental United States only.)


Siddurim and Humashim on Sale: To assist those who are praying at home or via remote minyanim, we are temporarily discounting the following publications for individual purchasers:
Books may be ordered via the links above, at, or by calling our distributor, G & H Soho, at (201) 216-9400 ext. 2.

You may also download free excerpts of services from our siddurim here and our haggadah here. Feel free to circulate the download links, but encourage users to register and download the PDFs themselves.

Additional Pesah Resources

Pesah Webinars Open to the Public:
Preparing your Kitchen for Passover (click to pre-register)
Monday, March 30 from 12:00-1:00 PM ET 
In this webinar, JTS’s Marcus Mordecai Schwartz will demystify the Passover process and review everything one needs to know to make their home kitchen kosher for Passover. This webinar is offered in collaboration with our Rabbinical Assembly.


Virtual Seder Webinar with Hazzan Sheldon Levin and Hazzan Marcey Wagner
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 1:00 PM ET (join using this Zoom link)
Being confined to our homes brings with it a special kind of challenge for tens of thousands of Jews all over the world: how to actually lead a seder and where to find resources online. In this highly accessible webinar, attendees will learn how to use online resources to customize their family or community’s seder.


Why is this Year Different? led by Dr. Ron Wolfson and Cantor Steve Stoehr
Sunday, April 5 at 8:00 PM ET (Join using this Zoom link)
This year’s Passover will be unique; learn how you can make it special.


With the arrival of Pesah next month, we want to make sure that you are aware of the many new resources we have on our website, including special guidance and recommendations from the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards (CJLS). These resources are designed to be utilized as you make holiday preparations for your communities while taking coronavirus (COVID-19) factors into account.

Rabbinical Assembly Kashrut Subcommittee Recommendations for Passover 5780 in Light of COVID-19

From the Rabbinical Assembly:


Dear Friends:

Needless to say, this year’s Passover will offer new and particularly complicated challenges to the many observances associated with holiday. In this update, we will offer some guidance for those affected by COVID-19.

Though we are all experiencing the impact of COVID-19, different geographic areas differ in particular challenges, and often at different times. Our yearly Passover guide expresses the ideal for which individuals and communities can strive to maintain. It will be helpful to give it a quick read to see what may be possible within those guidelines.

What we are going to provide below are some suggestions for alternative options that still fit within a reasonable interpretation of Jewish Law, and the unprecedented time in which we are living.


This year most of us have been instructed (or mandated) to remain home. This presents significant challenges to both the traditions of family and large seders, and communal seders as well. We feel that as a matter of Jewish law (which certainly includes public health concerns instituted by civic and medical authorities) these directives should be maintained. We don’t take this decision lightly, as we are very aware of how emotionally significant Seder can be with family members and special friends and with as many people as possible at the physical table. God willing, these private small immediate family & individual seders will not be necessary in the future. But they are necessary this year, so please stay home.

We also recognize that emotional concerns play an active role in the halakhic process. Just as Agmat Nefesh (anxiety) allows for preparation of the Yom Kippur break-fast while it is still Yom Kippur, so will we see communities and individuals adapting to meet the emotional needs of Jewish life. We need to make sure that we are in contact with, and provide reasonable options for—those unable to conduct their own seder and for family members, friends who live far apart and, especially, for the elderly and infirm in our communities. Ve’ahavta le-re’ekha kamokha, loving our fellow human beings, is utmost among our concerns during this crisis. This could mean that, for this year, many of us may expand our usual Yom Tov observances to include as many as possible, keeping in mind civic and medical instructions to limit sedarim to only those who reside in the household.

As different practices emerge in different communities, let’s all remember to treat one another as kindly as possible, reserving judgement for the One imbued with the amount of compassion with which to do it lovingly, always. 


A few tips to keep in mind when purchasing food for the seder:

Matzah – One is obligated to avoid hametz throughout Passover, but the obligation to eat matzah is limited to fulfilling the rituals of the first/second night seder alone. Therefore, communities should ensure that each home has at least enough matzah for each person to fulfill the obligation of אכילת מצה, eating matzah, for [each] seder. Think, basically, about one piece of matzah per person, per seder.

Karpas – Can be any vegetable.  [In Israel, boiled potato is a common food for karpas]

Maror – If horseradish is not available, people are encouraged to find other vegetables or fruits that can bring a tear to the eye if consumed raw:  hot peppers, fresh ginger, mustard greens, raw lemon. In Israel, romaine lettuce is commonly used as maror.

Egg and Roasted Shankbone on Seder Plate — A roasted beet and rice (if consuming kitniyot) in place of the  shankbone and egg.(Pesahim 114b)



This may be one area in which not much has to change, for many households. The directions are laid out in the CJLS Pesah Guide. Cleaning this year may actually be a bit more difficult as many of us have been in our homes living differently than normal. But the general rule is, places must be well-searched and specifically cleaned for hametz only if it’s a place for which and in which hametz is normally consumed and cooked. Furthermore, the prohibition of owning & seeing hametz applies specifically to amounts of pure hametz that is at least the size of an olive (k’zayyit). This is your yearly reminder that dirt is not hametz.


Destruction of Hametz/Bi’ur Hametz and Bittul Hametz/Renouncing of Hametz: 

It is a mitzvah to search for and destroy Hametz. If cleaning is unusually difficult this year due to conditions of isolation, it is well to remember that at the end of that process we renounce “all hametz whether I am aware of it or not.” If cleaning is sufficient to protect against obvious contact with hametz, we can rely on the formula of bittul (renunciation). More information 


Sale of Hametz: 

We have set-up an online form for those in North America to appoint Rabbi Mordy Schwartz as the agent for sale of hametz. Grocery store owners and other businesses that will be open over Pesah should not fill out the form, but should email Rabbi Schwartz to arrange for the sale.

First Hebrew Update: You can sell your hametz thru Rabbi Bogatz. Click here to download the form
or email your information to Rabbi Bogatz.


Cleaning/Kashering for elderly/infirm: 

In these households, if there is an already living-in-home caretaker in place, cleaning and kashering should be carried out, to the extent possible, according to the guidelines which apply to all.  In a household where there is no able-bodied caretaker in place, the residents of the household should do their best to remove hametz from every surface that will be used for the preparation or consumption of foods during Passover.  These surfaces should be wiped down with all-purpose cleaning materials. If possible, refrigerator shelves should also be wiped down.  If the oven will be used during Passover, the walls of the oven should be wiped down and aluminum foil placed between the rack and the baking dish.

For homes in which vessels will not be able to be kashered in the normative manner (due to physical capability or general concerns of danger with heating elements), we recommend designating a few cooking vessels to be used for passover cooking before and during the holiday, to clean them well, and let them sit for 24 hours (or at least overnight).  So long as they don’t have visible foodstuff caked on, they are acceptable for preparing Passover food.  This technique can also be used for cutlery and non-porous dishes as well.  


Purchasing of Food: 

Hierarchy of purchasing:  While the CJLS formally permitted Ashkenazim (who choose) to consume kitniyot in 2015,  due to the unprecedented disruptions in the food supply, the CJLS encourages everyone to consider putting aside the Ashkenazic custom of eschewing legumes (beans and lentils) corn and rice, if only for Passover 5780 (2020).  


Below are guidelines for following “best practice” under trying circumstances:

It is important to note that many products that are plain, unflavored dairy products (like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard cheeses), frozen fruits and vegetables, packaged legumes, and rice can be purchased with a year-round hekhsher before Passover as a matter of course.  This is not latitude granted during difficult circumstances, this is normative halakhah.  It is only if they are purchased during Passover itself that many of these items need to carry a Kosher for Passover certification.

In general, we tend to be strict on our Passover lists due to the overall complexity of certifying individual items. This year we have simply relied on our current knowledge to lessen the burden we are all feeling, while still being within the normative constructs of Passover Kashrut.

This year, due to the limitations on product availability and in order to limit individuals having to check multiple stores, if you are unable to find an item below with a Kosher for Passover certification due to COVID-19 then here’s what you can do.  


Food requiring no Kosher for Passover certification no matter when purchased: 

  • Baking soda
  • Pure bicarbonate of soda, without additives
  • Eggs 
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (including pre-washed bagged) 
  • Fresh or frozen kosher meat (other than chopped meat)
  • Nestea (regular and decaffeinated)
  • Pure black, green, or white tea leaves
  • Unflavored tea bags
  • Unflavored regular coffee 
  • Olive oils (and other pure oils)
  • Whole or gutted fresh kosher fish
  • Whole or half pecans (not pieces)
  • Whole (unground) spices and nuts
  • OU/Star-K Raisins
  • Kosher wine
  • Plain butter, either salted or unsalted


The following list of basic foods is ideally for pre-Passover purchasing food, but could extend, if determined necessary based on food supply shortages, and their likely production before Passover began, to purchase on Hol-HaMoed as well.  

  • all pure fruit juices 
  • Filleted fish
  • Frozen fruit (no additives)
  • Plain cheeses (without added flavor morsels)
  • Non-iodized salt 
  • Pure white sugar (no additives)
  • Quinoa (with nothing mixed in)* GF ideal
  • White milk
  • Some products sold by Equal Exchange Fair Trade Chocolate 
  • Frozen Vegetables (needs to be checked for possible hametz before cooking) 
  • Chopped meat
  • Plain, non-flavored almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, cashew milk.  
  • Non-flavored Cream Cheese with ingredients of milk and cream, salt, stabilizers (xanthan and/or carob bean and/or guar gums) 
  • Non-flavored Yogurt with milk and bacteria, only (which are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermopiles). 
  • Canned Tuna with just tuna, water or oil, salt, and pyrophosphates 
  • 100% maple syrup
  • 100% Agave
  • Ground Salt and Peppers
  • Plain (non-Flavored) Decaf Coffee
  • Pure Honey
  • Dried fruit, prunes only without potassium sorbate
  • Canned vegetables/fruit with year-round hekhsher in which ingredients are the item itself, salt and water.



Fresh kitniyot: Corn on the cob and fresh beans (like lima beans in their pods) may be purchased before and during Passover, that is, treated like any other fresh vegetable.

Dried kitniyot (legumes, rice and corn) can be purchased bagged or in boxes and then sifted or sorted before or on Passover. These should ideally not be purchased in bulk from bins because of the concern that the bin might previously have been used for hameitz, and a few grains of hameitz might be mixed in.  In any case, one should inspect these to the extent possible before Passover and discard any pieces of hametz. If one could not inspect the rice or dried beans before Passover, one should remove pieces of hametz found in the package on Passover, discarding those, and the kitniyot themselves remain permissible.

Frozen raw kitniyot (corn, edamame [soy beans], etc.): One may purchase bags of frozen non-hekhshered kitniyot before or during (if necessary) Passover provided that one can either absolutely determine that no shared equipment was used or one is careful to inspect the contents before Passover) and discard any pieces of חמץ  hameitz). Even if one did not inspect the vegetables before Passover, if one can remove pieces of (hameitz) found in the package on Passover, the vegetables themselves are permissible.


Requires Kosher for Passover label at any time: 

  • All baked goods 
  • Farfel
  • Matzah
  • Any product containing matzah 
  • Matzah flour 
  • Matzah meal 
  • Pesah cakes
  • All frozen processed foods 
  • Candy
  • Chocolate milk
  • Herbal tea
  • Ice cream
  • Liquor
  • Soda 
  • Vinegar
  • Margarine


Another way to potentially find acceptable foods without a specific Kosher for Passover designation during pre-Passover shopping, when the situation demands, is to prefer certified Gluten Free (and oat free) products.

Lastly, many of us have already opened products in our homes that are Hametz-free, but used in the course of normal year-round cooking. If one is able to ascertain/highly assume that no hametz contaminated the opened product, or at best a negligible amount, it it is possible to use such products during Passover this year. 


Bingo Cancelled Until Further Notice

Due to the COVID-19 virus safety concerns, Wednesday night bingo is cancelled until further notice.

WJCS Jewish Spiritual Healing Center Online Sessions

Lions and tigers and bears? Actually, it’s Equanimity, Resilience, Compassion, Patience, Humility, and Faith, but I got your attention, I hope. Indeed, how do we turn the lions and tigers and bears of our imaginations into something that will serve self and other?

In this unprecedented time of fear and physical distancing, we need not be alone. Join Rabbi Pamela Wax and Ruth Rosenblum, LCSW, for 5 morning sessions on Zoom, each one devoted to a soul-trait (middah) to help nourish and comfort us through this challenging time.

Each session will begin and end with a chant and include a selection of other contemplative spiritual practices such as meditation, mindfulness, text study, prayer, contemplative listening, and journaling. (Join us with a notebook and pen.)

The Zoom address is If you prefer to call in, the number is 929-436-2866. The Meeting ID, should you need it, is 618-976-2274.

Come for one session or all five. 8:00-9:00 AM, Monday, March 23 (Equanimity), Wednesday, March 25 (Resilience), Friday, March 27 (Patience), Tuesday, March 31 (Faith), and Thursday, April 2 (Compassion).

Free-will donations to WJCS for this opportunity would be most welcome.
For more information or to register, contact:
Rabbi Pamela Wax
WJCS Spiritual Care Coordinator

Services At First Hebrew (Currently on Hold)

This is our normal list of services, which is currently suspended during the COVAD-19 crisis. See other posts on this site for our online service schedule.

Most SHABBAT MORNINGS we hold our traditional egalitarian service, beginning at 9:30 a.m. followed by Kiddush. It is a complete service with a triennial cycle Torah reading. Everyone is welcome!

ALTERNATIVE SERVICE on occasional Shabbat mornings (approximately every 6 weeks)begin sat 10:00 a.m. This service takes place in the lounge, features a little less liturgy, and engages mind, body, and soul to get the most out of Shabbat. Everyone is welcome.

FRIDAY NIGHT SERVICES are held on the first and third Friday evening of each month; NEW SPEAKER SERIES SERVICE is on the third Friday.

A WEEKLY THURSDAY MORNING MINYAN is held at 9:00 a.m. This is a complete traditional egalitarian morning service with a short Torah reading. Need a little help navigating a weekday service? New to wearing a tallit? Considering wearing tefillin? No worries! We will help you acclimate. Women and men are encouraged to participate. Everyone is welcome.

RIVERFRONT SERVICES during the summer months typically take place on the first and third Fridays from June through early September. A detailed description of where to find your First Hebrew community at Peekskill’s Riverfront Green Park  on the Hudson  is posted in the home page announcements during the season.






SCRIP: Don’t Use Cash! Shop With SCRIP and stores will donate to FHC!

At the supermarket – at the movies – when eating out – buying clothes and gifts —

Make your purchases with the store’s own gift card purchased through the FHC Scrip Program.

Stores donate a percentage of all gift cards bought through SCRIP to non-profits like First Hebrew. Turn Purchasing Power into Fundraising at:

Dunkin Donuts
Home Depot
Old Navy
Barnes & Noble
Stop & Shop
Movies, restaurants, & more!

Order by the end of the month for pick-up after the 10th. Visa & MasterCard are accepted on orders over $500.

For details call the office at 914-739-0500. Click here to download  the SCRIP form.