It’s so wonderful to see so many faces in here today, compared to an empty room on my computer screen.
How does Judaism play a role in my life?
I was telling a good friend of mine, that this is what I was going to be doing this afternoon and she said, “what else is there?” So, I’m going to tell you my story, Judaism plays a role in my life in many ways. I am going to concentrate today on family, nuclear family, extended family, friends, local and national family, and global family.
I come from a family where both my parents are active in the Jewish Community. My father came from an Orthodox family and was a first-generation American born. Whereas, my mother was a third-generation American born, and her family was Reform. In 1933, when they got married, it was sort of a mixed marriage. My mother was a lifetime trustee of North Shore Congregation Israel and edited the synagogue bulletin there into her 90’s as I recall. She also served on the Boards of Channel 9 and Cook County Housing Authority. My father served on the Board of the Jewish Confederation, and started the Chicago Chapter of the American Committee for Weitzman Institute. And, was on the Board for many other Jewish communal institutions. I was Bat Mitzvah at Anshe Emet Synagogue in 1947 and confirmed a few years later at North Shore Congregation Israel, where I was active in the youth group and was an assistant teacher to Sunday School.
My parents, one day, sat us down; my sister, blessed memory, and myself. In the upset of the talk we were given was we were told that we have an obligation to live well ourselves, and to help others to also be able to, as well. Forward a number of years, I was married and we lived out-of-state for several years. When you move to a new community, the fastest way to meet people is to join a synagogue, and become active in the community in which you’re living; and, that’s what we did.
Early on in our marriage, we found that we were unable to have our own children and began researching our options with adoption. We were very blessed to adopt, Karen, and a few years later, Mark, from the Jewish Children’s Bureau, which is a predecessor agency of Jewish Child and Family Services of Chicago.
When we moved back to the Chicago area with our two children in 1970, I felt that I wanted to give back to the community, which had given me so much. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to join the Boards of several Jewish organizations. I found that, in giving back to the community, I was being given so much more. Most of the people, who became my friends, were people with whom I worked; people who felt their Jewish identity the way I did about the State of Israel, who cared about their extended Jewish family the way I did.
The work I’ve done for the past 50 years has given me family, friends, and opportunities for travel to many parts of the world I might never had gone to on my own. And in so doing, having had the opportunity to meet Jews of many nations, visit concentration camps to learn about history in a more visceral way, and the opportunity to go to Israel close to 50 times adn to share these trips a few with both family and friends. But, many with the same group of friends to take part in ceremonies of commemortion to meet leaders of governments and to learn from them as well. I, also, had the opportunity to be awakened and get dressed at midnight to meet planes of Russian immigrants at the Bangorian Airport. And, later, a plane of Ethiopian immigrants and hear their stories of struggle and survival. These are experiences I would have never had on my own if Judaism wasn’t central to my life and experiences that had a tremendous effect on me. All the time that I participated in these activities I was helping to repair the world as we are mandated to do. I liken this ancient astraka set fragments, that are that connect to the past something that is broken and put back together in a way that they become stronger. and I am stronger also stronger from these experiences. I have watched my two wonderful children, develop and grow into interesting, productive, and loving adults, and raise families of their own. They’ve given me seven grandchildren that I would not have had without the Jewish community. They range in age from thirty four years old to fourteen years old and do many interesting things from creating music, to staging concerts, to working onthe particle accelerated at Stanford. All of the youngest have been to Israel, some more than once. And, while their ways of being Jewish are different than mine, they all know what they are. I don’t think I am a very spiritual person. But, Judaism has been the central core of my life for all my 87 years and will continue to be. It has given me my family, my direction, and the work that I have had the opportunity to do for the past many years, and the work I will continue to do for as long as I am able. Judaism has given me the feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself. I will never be able to give back to Judaism and the Jewish people as much as I have received. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been without Judaism.