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Synagogue Table for 22?


By Cyd Weissman

Mark and Ilene’s suburban home is a hearth reflecting their heart and values. A big kitchen flows into a living area with a fireplace and dining table that seats sixteen and announces, “We’re really glad you’re here.” dinner-table-636

Last night, Ilene and Mark hosted potluck dinner for us and eight couples. Common among the couples enjoying soy-gluten-meat-dairy-free food (allergic reactions avoided) were a lot of hyphenated last names. These friendships that have flourished over twenty years. We also share belonging (belonged – ok we’re the exception) to the same synagogue since our children were tots.

Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed our collective 22 children grow to be adults, some now have their own children. I know the 22 well. Each of them, I report, without hesitation, are menches.

Speaking for myself, and then brazenly for the others at the dinner table – we joined the synagogue for our children to get a Jewish education. We didn’t know at the time, that memberships would lead to friendships with people who would be there for one another in sickness and death, for crises, like 9/11, and for personal traumas, like scary diagnoses. We knew the memberships gave us a place to sit for the High Holidays, but we didn’t know it would include a circle of friends who would dance at simchas and celebrate with songs and flowers.

Back in the 1990’s, optimism and delusion led us to believe, with the right guidance book in hand, and our own cleverness, we could conquer all we would face as parents. We didn’t realize how necessary it is to have adults actively in ours children’s lives to model values of striving and caring lives. Those 22 kids grew to be mensches, in some measure, because of the loving hand and ear these dinner guests give, to one another’s children.

The synagogue, like Ilene and Mark’s home, made space and time for us to really get to know each other and celebrate together. We engaged in learning that bound us with a shared language. Torah helped us express and develop our values in word and deed. We loaded  buses to march on Washington, packed food baskets and raised funds for those in need. 1377000001000-A01-MARCH-ON-WASHINGOTON-63-20

The synagogue was like a hearth reflecting a heart – values, enabling surviving and thriving as parents and citizens of the world. In short, when we raised a glass of wine last night, we were toasting a group that has lifted up each other’s families in the good and from the crud. We were toasting people who had encouraged and inspired one another to live more intentionally.

Last night, someone said to me, “Our children’s lives are so different than ours. What will synagogues look like for them?” I’m sorry to say, even though I face that question every day as a professional, I don’t have the answer.

What we know is,  our adult children live in a challenging, and possibly more challenging world than we ever could have imagined. All the technology in the universe won’t be enough to help them conquer what’s ahead for them personally or what’s churning on the globe.

One wish, we all hold for the 22 is that they will grow to have a long table of friends to lift them up and navigate our crazy-ass world so they can leave it a little better and they can find wisdom, comfort and laughter. Our wish is for them to inherit their Jewish story, to enrich them, and the world.Capture

What’s the chance? What will it take?

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