September 7, 2012 - by Louise Greenfield
My mother gave me words of wisdom, but not directly.
My mother, Naomi, would sit in a little alcove off our dining room and talk on the telephone to her sisters for hours. She could spend an afternoon on the phone talking to Judy, then to Laika, then Bluma, and then to Rose.
When I was very young I used to love sitting literally at my mother's feet and l would listen – very carefully.
Of course I only heard my mother's end of the conversation. She would adamantly refuse to answer any questions about what the sister on the other end of the line was saying.
What I did hear was my mother talking to each sister, one by one. It was often the same topic, but it was never the same conversation. She might change her tone of voice, ask different questions, give different advice, tell different stories.
What I learned from my mother and her close relationship with her beloved circle of sisters was that whether among family, among friends, within organizations, or in any combination of people, community does not just happen. It must be created and nurtured. I learned that community is built step by step, word by word, idea by idea, action by action, person by person. I also learned that community is vital.
Here at Temple Emanu-El I have found my community, a community that sustains me class by class, prayer by prayer, committee by committee, service by service, congregant by congregant, oneg by oneg, drash by drash. Here at Temple Emanu-El I have attended classes that have helped me understand my Jewish world. I have seen a young lady, Sarah Jones with whom I played "pull your hood over your head" at a retreat when she was very young, now stand here on the bimah as a bat mitzvah. Here I found a spiritual sister, Bonnie Golden, with whom I can explore the practice of Mussar and develop a deeper understanding of my own soul traits. Here I can sit next to my husband, Simon, every Friday night, and by sharing that experience year after year, create a bond that cannot be broken. Here I have a rabbi and a community who were with me during the last twelve years as I lost a mother, a father, and both brothers.
I remember the memorial service marking the conclusion of the shloshim period for my twin brother Arnie and feeling a profound sense of loneliness. I turned to Rabbi Cohon and said, "Arnie was the last remaining member of my birth family." Rabbi Cohon looked at me and said, "Turn around, Louise. Look at the people who came to your home for this service – you have a family." And I do.
So here I have found a place to fill my yearning for belonging, for purpose, for learning, and for strengthening my understanding of God in this world.
What does Temple mean to me? It means the world.