We joined our temple back in 1996, when D was nearly four and ready for preschool. J was one. Jumping right into the Jewish community here, our family joined five other families (all with a kid in the temple preschool program) to form a havurah, and we celebrated most of the Jewish holidays together for years.
Back in the day, I served for a couple of years on the Early Learning Committee, I was a substitute preschool teacher, and I taught Sunday School at the same time. I served on the Membership Committee for a while, and was a part of the committee that found and recommended our current rabbi.
Jim was involved too, doing special projects like fixing the doors on the ark (the Aron Hakodesh), taking care of snow removal in the winter, helping to build and take down the sukkah, and helping to build the indoor and outdoor playsets for the preschool.
We attended Shabbat services on a fairly regular basis, and it was always nice not only to stop and just breathe in a peaceful space once a week, but it felt good to be surrounded by our local Jewish community of friends. Each and every summer, we put our lawn chairs in the same general area of the temple backyard at the end-of-summer picnic.
My family walked alongside others in our Jewish community as we walked the mile and a half from our old temple to our current temple right after it was built, taking turns holding the Torahs as we went. That day, we found out that the new carpet for the sanctuary hadn’t come in and so all of us took Sharpies and signed our names all over the concrete floors. (The names of my family are under the blue carpet, on the second step up to the bimah.) Nobody can see the writing now because of the carpeting, but I love how those of us who were members back then personally claimed the sanctuary as our home on that special day.
Our kids were given their Hebrew names there. They each became a Bar Mitzvah there. They were confirmed there. And so much in between.
As the boys moved up through religious school, they spent years as teachers’ aides in the second grade classrooms, assisting me and my co-teacher. They helped run the Purim Carnival each year (and put in extra hours and effort in the two years I ran the whole thing with a friend). D even chose to incorporate the temple in scouting when he coordinated the design and installation of some major landscaping in the front yard for his Eagle project.
When J finished tenth grade and was confirmed, he completed his formal religious education. I stopped teaching religious school at the same time because it didn’t feel right to be the only person in the family who needed to get up early every Sunday. At the same time, our attendance at Shabbat services dropped off drastically (as in, I can’t remember the last time we attended). Our havurah, which is made up of the same six families, has just about disbanded as the kids are grown up now (most of them are in college!) and there are too many individual schedules to please when planning a get-together.
I am feeling slightly disconnected. What was once an active part of our family life for so long is on the backburner at this point, and it makes me a little sad. Not having that “need” to be at the temple has suddenly given way to a different “need” to be at the temple, a longing to be there. I miss the community, I miss the peace of Shabbat services. While the idea of attending services regularly overwhelms me in regards to my already overloaded schedule, I have refocused myself on the benefits of taking that time out each week. Isn’t it the point of the sabbath to quiet everything just for a short time? I mean, if G-d rested, why can’t I? If there’s anything I need, it’s a little more quiet time.
Last week I received an email from one of my favorite havurah friends, with an invitation for my family to enjoy Passover seder at her home. The families in the havurah have gone there (in different combinations, depending on other family seder commitments) to celebrate Passover together for as long as I can remember. I always make the charoset (YUM. My recipe HERE.), and it’s a role I cherish more than any of them know. I am really excited about going this year. It’ll be a great way to reconnect.
In fact, accepting that invitation made me go one step further and put Shabbat services on my calendar for this Friday night. If I can get back into the habit of taking care of my body by scheduling regular workouts, I can certainly get back into the habit of taking care of my mind and soul by scheduling a little peace.
I’m looking forward to driving by D’s landscaping, walking through the temple doors, hugging a few old friends, and feeling like I’ve come home. I’m breathing easier just thinking about it.
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I have been feeling the same way.
Good. I’ll fill in our family calendar. 🙂
Melisa — My friend Connie sent me your post. Thank you for writing it. It spoke to me in a number of ways — not only did it mirror my own Temple life (although I never taught Sunday School) — I have been experiencing similar feelings of nostalgia and spiritual “longing” in the past few weeks.
My Dad, Ernie, died on December 25, and saying Kaddish for him has taken me back to Temple a great deal lately. At Temple Israel in West Bloomfield we have daily Minyan services Sunday – Thursday and regular Shabbat Services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. So in the past 10 weeks I’ve participated in intimate services of a dozen or so, as well as larger Shabbat services, many of which contain wedding-blessings, baby-namings and Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
Even in the freshest moments of my grief it was hard not to smile as I saw children running up to the bemah to close the Arc at the end of Shabbat. The other thing I’ve observed is how much I’ve missed the connection to daily Temple life. I have found myself looking forward to getting up on Saturday mornings.
In addition to body rest and spiritual healing, my mind has been fully exercised as well. It occurred to me the other day that I’ve learned a lot over the past few months… whether it was a bit of teen-age insight from a D’vrah Torah given by a Bat Mitzvah celebrant or scholarly wisdom at the hand of our smartest clergy. On more than one occasion as I sat listening to the weekly torah lessons, I’ve thought to myself, “Wow. I really needed to hear that.”
It’s really been quite eye-opening, and thus — this lengthy post. I don’t believe in coincidences. My good friend Connie was supposed to turn me on to your site, and you are supposed to keep “Shabbat Services” on your calendar.
Shabbat Shalom, my new friend.
It’s so nice to “meet” you. Any friend of Connie’s is a friend of mine: I adore her.
I’m really sorry about the loss of your dad. May his memory be for a blessing. I’m glad that you have had the comfort of your community wrapped tightly around you.
I already knew that I’m not alone in my feelings, but I’m happy that you commented to tell me that you’ve been through the same. It made me smile. I’ll be thinking about you Friday evening. 🙂
this was beautifully written M 🙂 tell me what I should be saying here! Well, I feel like I wanna give you a hug! Shalom.
I totally relate. I am the only one going to Purim tonight as the rest of the family have other commitments. I chant torah 1-2 times per month (occasionally 3 times) and that’s my own connection now. Try it, you might like it.
I miss having a church family too. When I was younger I was very active. Not so much now. I hope you and your family reconnect with your friends, and find that peace you seek.
I know what you mean; our Catholic mass attendance has completely fallen off since Kyle went off to college. We had a family identity in a particular church, and when they got rid of our favorite priest (and have had a string of at least 8 since then), the church started losing its shine for us. (We had been driving 20 minutes to go to that one, even though there was one much closer to our house.) The new church hasn’t grown on us yet, but we haven’t given it much of a chance. Maybe I’ll go this Sunday…
I am also missing my own church family. It was such a peaceful and quiet part of my life that I need to have back, now more than ever. I think you’ve just inspired me to go to Mass this weekend. I hope you have a wonderful Passover celebration & enjoy going to Shabbat services this weekend 🙂
I think it’s wonderful that you’re reconnecting-and, that you have the experience of connecting at all. I wasn’t brought up going to church on a regular basis, but began years ago before my niece was born. My sisters, my father and I all went to mass every Sunday. I was great. And then we stopped for some reason…but even though we all did this and we were a part of the mass, there’s just something missing from Catholic communities-there’s no…community. Sad, really. I think if there were, I’d probably go more often. Maybe it’s different in Boston…maybe I should try it again.
I know it is hard, but it is good to keep in touch with your religious back ground not matter which one it is.
How cute that Jim misses it too.
Love that you tagged it under “Jew stuff”.