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.