The title comes from the Biblical passage in Genesis when the patriarch, Jacob, awakes from his dream of a ladder ascending to heaven. He recognizes the sacred nature of that location and says, “Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh!” – or “How Awesome Is This Place!” With this statement, we want to lift up how amazing and wonderful Temple Israel is for all of us by showcasing our members whose lives have experienced just how awesome this place is.
“Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh!”
How Awesome Is This Place!
Ann Abrams, Curator & Librarian
Linda Okun, Proofreader
Michael Sandman, Photography Consultant
Harriet Greenfield & Pam Goodman, Museum Committee
Rabbi Elaine Zecher, Senior Rabbi
With Zachary (5) at FJECC preschool, Josh (12) in Religious school, and Ben (15) in the Tent, we are always at Temple Israel!
Temple Israel has become a constant in our busy, complicated world. A few years ago, we showed up for Zachary’s first Shabbat Sing. Darby was playing the guitar, Cantor Einhorn was singing and Rabbi Suzie was telling a story. We hadn’t sat like sardines on the bima in 9 years, but nothing had changed! The same voices, faces, songs and the same joy. It was such a comfort – the world can feel chaotic, but Temple Israel and Shabbat Sing will always be there.
We’ve gone through a similar experience during Covid-19. As it did for others, our world was turned upside down on a Thursday when schools, work and life outside our home closed down and anxiety was heightened. By that Sunday, Religious school was fully functional online – and it only got better. Every Sunday, Cantor Einhorn (and now, Cantor Stillman) sing to us, our Rabbis speak to us and the kids / families gather – we’re brought together as 100’s of tiles on Zoom, in our living rooms. Again, in a time of disruption, Temple Israel is calm, joyful and reliable.
As the world changes around us, Temple Israel pivots, adjusts and addresses these changes in a way that provides comfort and community in chaos. That is what makes Temple Israel awesome for us!
We came, so many years ago, because of the carpools; we stayed, for what seems like many lifetimes, for so much more. Reform Judaism was a choice, building a community was a must, and sharing the driving for rush hour Hebrew School pickups was a dream.
Somewhere in the 1980s, we first entered Temple Israel and were immediately enmeshed into the Sunday School/Hebrew School journey; here we cultivated relationships with old friends, developed many new ones and built our own form of an observant Jewish home. We have celebrated the entire life cycle of family events and celebrations (from baby namings to b’nei mitzvah, to conversions to funerals) within the walls and under the umbrella of Temple Israel’s community of love and learning.
I have recently moved back to Temple Israel after a few years in California and am once again finding comfort and learning within our sacred walls, learning each day how relevant our traditions and rituals and teachings are to my life and my place within. Our clergy and staff continue to offer incredible opportunities for study, for action, for growth, and I continue to be grateful for it all. Thank you.
During the service for our daughter, Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah last year, Rabbi Zecher asked those in attendance who have been affiliated with Temple Israel in any way, at any point in their lives, to join us on the bimah. What happened next took our breath away – 80% of our guests got up and surrounded us with tremendous love and warmth. There must have been almost 100 people up there! This experience made us realize more than ever how the TI community has become like family.
In 1979, looking for a way to help with the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees, we discovered Temple Israel. We became the sponsoring family for the first group of refugees from Vietnam. That was the beginning of a life-long connection with congregants and clergy at Temple Israel: Rabbi Mehlman at Ariadne’s Bat Mitzvah, and Rabbi Friedman at her wedding to Tina; working with Rabbi Zecher and temple members to re-envision the liturgy for the Days of Awe; learning to chant with Cantor Einhorn; creating haggadot with Fran Godine for the Second Seder; and working with many congregants to create more than ten years of The Women’s Kallah. My life, and the life of my family, has been enriched, nourished, and blessed by our connection to Temple Israel. God is in this place.
Though I grew up with a very strong cultural Jewish identity, I never felt “at home” in a synagogue, because I didn’t grow up with a solid foundation in Torah, synagogue life, or Jewish traditions. Not knowing many prayers or rituals, a lot of Hebrew or history, I felt uncomfortable and out of place in synagogues – until I found Temple Israel. TI quickly became a home for my husband and me, and eventually, our three children. It was the place where I discovered MY Judaism and where I learned to LIVE my Judaism in the world. With Cantor Einhorn providing the ruach (spirit) and, throughout all the years, Rabbis Mehlman, Friedman, Pesner, Zecher, Kolin, Morrison, Jacobson, Gubitz, and Slipakoff providing the derech, (path) I found my way home to the Jewish life I had always wanted.
To me, Temple Israel has always felt like an embrace… a source of strength, wisdom, comfort, growth, and love.
I joined Temple Israel in 2003. When I talked to Sue Misselbeck, she helped make it financially feasible for me to join the wonderful caring, inclusive community of TI. At last, I was on the inside looking out, instead of always on the outside, looking in.
Rabbi Friedman initiated the creation of a support group of women who were grieving the loss of a spouse. This group was facilitated by a temple member who was a BIDMC social worker.
Two years later, being on the inside helped me get through the demise of my beloved daughter, Marcia Zoe Martin, on June 22, 2005. Rabbi Pesner officiated at a memorial service for Marcia at TI on July 24. I was greatly appreciative of the fact that the temple did not charge me for any expenses relating to the service. After the shock of losing the love of my life, TI was a place for me to come and share my grief. Rabbi Zecher put me in touch with a group for people who lost close family members. The group was helpful.
Fast forward, I was happy to find out that there was going to be a learning program for the seasoned community of TI: the name of the group is TILLI. I wrote an article for Insight stating how pleased I was.
A few years later, I was called to the bimah along with other congregants and given my Hebrew name, Ahuvah.
During times when I was hospitalized, members of the temple community visited me, including Sue Misselbeck, Cantor Einhorn with his guitar, Elsa Galdston, Jennifer Cinnante, and Ann Abrams.
A few years ago, I wanted to read a book that was out of print. Ann Abrams, our fabulous librarian, found the book for me at another library.
I am grateful to my friend, and temple member, Elsa Galdston, for encouraging me to volunteer at the Welcoming Table. As a greeter, I get to meet and greet other temple members and visitors on Friday evenings before the Qabbalat Shabbat services.
On my 85th birthday, I was humbled when Rabbi Zecher invited me to the bimah and gave me a special blessing.
Over the years, it has been very meaningful for me to participate in Qabbalat Shabbat, High Holyday and all holiday services, as well as recently, the daily minyan on Zoom. Let me say thank you to clergy, members, and staff for 17 meaningful years of welcoming me and encouraging my full participation in temple life. I am grateful to be on the inside looking out.
Throughout the course of this pandemic, the Temple Israel team has been vital in helping our kids maintain a sense of normalcy in uncertain times. The willingness of the staff to go above and beyond with virtual trainings, classes, workshops and spiritual guidance is truly wonderful to see and speaks to the level of commitment and dedication that Temple Israel has towards its congregation. My family and I could not be more proud and delighted to be part of such a warm, welcoming, open-minded, and forward-thinking community, and we thank you for keeping all of us connected when it sometimes feels as if the outside world is splintering apart. Here’s to hoping we see you all in person in the near future!
We became members of Temple Israel in 1962, following the recommendation of my father-in-law, who was a good friend and rabbinical colleague of Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn. The passing years brought us fully into the offerings of TI—baby namings, Hebrew school, Sunday school, b’not mitzvah, confirmations, weddings, and, sadly, a funeral. I have treasured supportive and loving friendships and meaningful volunteer activity: The Music Committee, the Sisterhood, the Board of Trustees, and, more recently, the responsibilities of the Cemetery Committee and the intellectual stimulation and the community-building programs of TILLI.
Above all, it is the spiritual relationship with Temple Israel which I value the most. I can take inspiration and comfort from the teachings of our clergy, and I look for beauty and wonder in every prayerful gathering. This is a special place for many reasons — not the least of which is that here I can find what I need.
Temple Israel is an awesome place, a very special place for our family. Jen first came to Temple Israel as a graduate student in the Hornstein Program at Brandeis. She attended her first Shabbat service here before she met her future husband, Laurence, who grew up at the temple, and became a Bar Mitzvah here. New to Boston from N.Y, Jen was looking for a Reform congregation that was urban, diverse, and celebrated being Jewish in a way that reminded her of her days at URJ camps.
Laurence came to Temple Israel as a child, right before his Bar Mitzvah celebration, and has been here ever since. He was active in RYFTI during high school and, as a single, 20-something he was a member of the temple. Laurence’s parents, Helene and David, are fixtures at Shabbat services and the Shabbat morning Torah study group. Jen began her journey at Temple Israel with Rabbi Jeremy Morrison in the Riverway Project. The Riverway Project was a perfect fit for us. Eventually, we hosted focus groups in our home, then services and dinner. When we had our first child, Daniel, Jen started the Riverway Tots group on Friday mornings together with other members with young children. When Lily and Molly, our second two children were born, Daniel began in the Purple Room of the FJECC. It was there that he met his best friend Sammy Lapat; and they are best friends to this day. Lily and Molly soon joined the FJECC as toddlers. We are grateful for the friendships Temple Israel has fostered for all of our children from a very young age and continuing today.
Our clergy have been an integral part of our family’s life cycle events: Rabbi Mehlman participated in our wedding and at Daniel’s brit milah ceremony, and all of our children were named at the temple by Rabbi Morrison. It had particular meaning to us when the cantor and rabbis spoke about passing the Torah down through the generations during our children’s B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies because our family members have been part of the temple family for several generations. Temple Israel is awesome because there is a place for everyone in this congregation, from very young children to the most senior of adults
From the moment we joined Temple Israel as a young family 40 years ago, the temple has been a source for Jewish education, worship and community for our family. All of our family’s life cycle events have been attended to by temple clergy: our sons, Laurence and Mark, became B’nei Mitzvah with Rabbis Mehlman and Friedman and Cantor Einhorn; both were confirmed and went on to graduate from the temple’s high school program. Rabbi Mehlman officiated at the wedding of Laurence and his wife, Jennifer, and Mark and his wife, Jessica. Not only has the temple been an integral part of our many simchas, it has also provided support to us in times of sorrow: David’s parents and sister, and my sister were all buried by Temple Israel clergy.
David and I have been enriched by our participation in Temple life, particularly enjoying the Adult Education programs throughout the years: for 40 years, David has been a regular at the Saturday morning Torah study, and, in recent years, I have joined him. David was on the Education Committee and served as Chairman of the Music Committee. He also led tours of Jewish Boston for Temple Israel and other area synagogues. I served on the Board of Trustees and created the sukkah on the sanctuary bimah for 25 years. In 1994, I curated the exhibit “Mazel Tov! 140 Years of Weddings at Temple Israel,” and produced an accompanying video.
We now have the extreme joy of watching the next generations of our family, Laurence and Jennifer, and our grandchildren Daniel, Lily, and Molly actively participating in life at the temple. Within the last three years we’ve had the thrill of a lifetime participating in Daniel’s Bar Mitzvah and Lily and Molly’s B’not Mitzvah celebrations. Because of the positive influence of Temple Israel when he was young, our son, Mark, who lives in Washington, DC, is actively involved in Washington Hebrew Congregation, and is educating his children there.
As David and I navigate life as senior citizens, we are finding great comfort in the enriching educational programs and the warmth and outreach of temple members and staff.
I love Mondays. This is a strange and extremely rare statement to hear from a high school student. I didn’t always like Mondays: I used to despise them like a normal person, and then I started going to The Tent. When I first started in the eighth grade, when it was still called Monday Night School, I did not want to be there. I did OWL* with Rabbi Suzie, and that was fun, but I was still reluctant to return for my freshman year. All it took was one Fall Kallah, and I was hooked. I had never felt like such apart of a community before – it was an extremely profound experience for me. This is especially thanks to several sophomores who I looked up to immensely: they took me under their wing and exposed me to the wonders of RYFTI. I have met some of my best friends through The Tent, and now that they are all away at college, I get to steal their parents to sit with during the High Holy Days!
I can’t imagine who I would be today without RYFTI and the Temple Israel community as a whole:It has truly become family.
*The OWL, aka Our Whole Lives, is a program for our 8th graders in the TENT program.
Our children, Leyla and Isak, are the 4th generation of Shapiros to be members of Temple Israel. When they were toddlers, running through the Atrium or rolling on the sanctuary carpet during Qabbalat Shabbat services, they would dash off to look for their dad’s Confirmation photograph on the wall outside of the classrooms. They knew their dad had grown up here. That made TI a special place for them to begin their Jewish journey. When they enrolled in the FJECC, Temple Israel’s pre-school, they began to forge their own personal paths at TI and establish new rituals unique to their generation. We hoped that TI would provide for each of them, as it has for us, a fulfilling spiritual life and a place of comfort and belonging.
Jumping ahead some 15 years, Isak, while juggling school and soccer, completed his Confirmation studies. Leyla is a freshman in college who, even while more than 1,000 miles away from home, sought out TI over the High Holy Days by streaming the Yom Kippur afternoon Purple Service from the comfort of her dorm room. Both children identify with the Temple, its congregation, and its clergy on a very fundamental level. As parents of Jewish teens, we feel fortunate not only to have them continue the family legacy here at TI, but also for them to have a second place where they feel so at home. And of course, there are now two more Confirmation photographs of the latest generation Shapiros on the walls of the Temple for their children to seek out someday.
Temple Israel has meant a lot to our family, which is nontraditional: we are two moms, and our two children are by birth and adoption. We have been members from before the birth of our first child to seeing her graduate from The Tent.*.We were regular attendants of Tot Shabbat, MLK Shabbat, and every service in which the youth choir and temple band played –we delighted in seeing our children Netta and Maya’s involvement in those events. We have celebrated simchas of our children’s baby-namings, mikvah conversion, b’not mitzvah, becoming madrichim, RYFTI, and Confirmation. Temple Israel’s rich educational opportunities, its caring community, as well as its robust music program, have filled our hearts and our lives. We have also journeyed together through the death of Ginny’s parents and Fern’s brother and father, as well as Fern and Ginny’s cancer treatments. We remember profoundly that, two weeks before Fern gave birth to our first child, Fern’s grandmother passed away. And because Fern couldn’t travel, a group from Temple Israel came to say kaddish in our home. TI showed that we were in the right faith community and would be in it for the long term. During our losses, people brought us food and love. Recently, Fern’s mother, who is disabled, was touched by Rabbi Zecher’s sermon at Yizkor on Yom Kippur. This helped her to have meaning amidst her grief. All of these events have been highly significant to us as a family.
*The Tent was formerly known as “Monday Night School”
Temple Israel is the only synagogue Jon’s ever known: His father came to the US as a refugee from war-torn Europe, and his family joined Temple Israel when it was on Commonwealth Avenue. Jonbecame a bar mitzvah in 1980.Jon likes the fact that the temple has been both constant, and changing; and that it is an urban synagogue, with a diverse congregation. Darby grew up in Cincinnati, in a Conservative congregation, which she found to be “strict and boring.”Before getting married,Jon brought her to Temple Israel: Darby appreciated the diversity and welcoming spirit of the congregation. The couple had a particularly nice relationship with Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who was on the clergy staff, that performed their marriage. When Jon and Darby had their first child, they became regular attendees at Tot Shabbat; both their boys Jaden and Henry have gone through the Religious School, and Jaden is continuing with the Tent. Darby reports “I hope that we and the kids will stay engaged with Temple Israel for many years to come. There is something here for every stage of life.” Everyone in the Kominik family feels a positive connection with the clergy and is pleased that the clergy can relate to people of all ages. Darby and Jon like that kids and parents can be together for holidays at the Family Services. At one point, Darby and Jon gave their kids the choice: to stay at TI, or join a synagogue closer to home. The children wanted to stay here! Temple Israel is an important part of the life of every Kominik family member, and they are all committed to being here.
Daniel’s journey with Temple Israel began over 30 years ago when he moved to Brookline as a boy with his family: He attended Hebrew School and Monday Night School, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation – all at Temple Israel. After college, he moved to California where he met and married Randi. Together we moved back to the Boston area, and joining Temple Israel was one of the first things we did as a family. Randi studied at the temple and completed her conversion process. Rabbi Zecher and Cantor Einhorn have been an integral part of our lives as they officiated at Daniel’s Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation, we studied with them in a Jewish studies class for married couples, and they officiated at Randi’s conversion and at our daughters’ baby namings. Our older daughter, Wren, is currently enrolled at FJECC – the temple’s preschool-with our younger daughter, Iris joining her next year. We look forward to their beginning their religious studies in the next year or so and ultimately celebrating their B’not Mitzvah, hopefully with Rabbi Zecher as well. This has been such a warm, loving, supportive community where we have celebrated births, weddings and B’nei Mitzvah, and endured funerals. Temple Israel has been our touchstone for anything that life brings our way.
Temple Israel has been a constant presence in our lives as a couple and family. Michael began attending Temple Israel services with his Hambro cousins after arriving in Boston for law school in 1982, and Cathy has been coming with him since they started dating in 1995. We were married at the Temple in 1998, and our son, Max, and daughter, Barbara, were named here. We have very fond (and grateful) memories of enjoying early morning Tot Shabbat services with other young families. Both Max and Barbara went through the Hebrew School, and grew up thinking of the temple as a second home. In 2010, we went to Israel with Rabbi Zecher and a group of other parents with school aged children, creating new friendships and building on old ones. Max and Barbara continued their own relationship with the temple, having their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation celebrations here. Because of the wonderful clergy continuity we have enjoyed all these years, our friends who come to celebrate lifecycle ceremonies and Jewish holidays have remarked: “They really know you at Temple Israel!” The temple family has been there for us during challenging times of bereavement and health issues. One instance that stands out was at Barbara’s Bat Mitzvah service: Rabbi Zecher surprised us by calling all the temple members who were there to come up to the bimah to celebrate with us, and over half of the people at the service came up! This was a true sharing of our simchah with a loving and welcoming community.
If you keep putting one foot in front of the other in a way that seems right to you, you will end up where you’re supposed to be. That’s how we –first one, then both together –came to be at Temple Israel. And that’s how we ended up doing what we’ve done and do here for the past 31 years.
In 1987, when Holly’s life partner died suddenly at age 48, a friend and TI member brought Holly with her to say kaddish on a Saturday morning. Totally shattered, Holly tagged along. Despite attending Reform Sunday schools, and a strong interest in religions during that delicious adolescent/young adult stage of searching, Holly had found no pull from institutional, organized religion. But now she continued to come every Saturday on her own, each time filling out a yellow kaddish card on which she wrote “spouse” on the ‘relationship to the deceased’ line. Soon, a rabbi called to offer support, acknowledging what he termed “the special nature of your relationship.” Apart from family and a few close friends, no other place in the outside world acknowledged, let alone affirmed, Holly’s life-shattering reality, as she grieved and tried to piece together a new life.
Two years later, Anne and Holly started spending time together. Most Saturday mornings, Anne joined Holly at TI. On many Sundays, Holly went with Anne to churches Anne would visit seeking Renaissance sacred music she had sung all her life. Having explored various religions’ sacred traditions and philosophies, Anne was drawn to the beauty of the temple’s richly creative liturgy. Before long, we went to women’s kallot, congregational seders, Qabbalat Shabbat, weekend lectures and special creative events. TI members discovered that Anne was a book designer and artist, and kindly invited her to join them in designing a women’s kallah siddur, making decorations for a Sephardic event, or helping paint the curtain on the Slater Lounge ark. While doing these projects, TI members taught Anne about Jewish tradition, and she came to feel woven into the fabric of our community. Our members have truly “welcomed the stranger.”
While Anne absorbed the beauty and wisdom of Judaism at TI, Holly was engaged with other congregants, plus Rabbis Mehlman, Friedman and Pesner, in the years-long battle for LGBTQ equality, particularly marriage equality. Many members, leaders and our clergy made critical contributions to winning this life-affirming struggle.
Today seems to be the very best time in our lives, individually and together, not least because we find ourselves at TI, often several times a week: We’re on committees, we’ve participated in the Caring Community, and Holly went on this year’s Israel trip. We love studying—Torah, Talmud, TILLI, Adult Learning classes—and participating in adventures in spiritual practice. We find that the questions and comments from our classmates often illuminate some aspect of the human condition that rings true with soul-nourishing insight. For us, TI is a place that’s life-affirming, intellectually delicious, and full of many different kinds of people we enjoy, admire and learn from. We never deliberately looked for a synagogue. But, our feet have brought us to TI. We’ve ended up where we’re supposed to be.
“After my parents died when I was in my late forties, I realized it was finally time to connect to Judaism as an adult. I had never joined a synagogue, and I went back to my parents’ home in Atlanta to celebrate holidays. In Temple Israel I saw a diverse, multifaceted congregation where I could feel comfortable as a single woman. I felt welcomed from the beginning. I found my niche to serve the congregation by helping to keep the building functioning and beautiful. In the 17+ years I have been part of Temple Israel, I have studied Torah, traveled, and prayed with temple members who have become cherished friends.”
“When I am at school and having a bad day and I see people from Temple Israel, it cheers me up because I know that they care about me, they care about others, they are fun to be around, and have something positive to say.
Temple Israel has good values, like kindness, and caring, and creativity, and transmits these values to everyone, including teens. This is what makes the people from Temple Israel so special.
Temple Israel has taught me about so many different issues and causes like LBGTQ+ rights, the environment, caring for the homeless, and taking care of each other. And it does this in a fun way, through arts, trips, games, and fun Jewish rituals.
The people, values and education are what make Temple Israel a great place.”
“Bob and I visited local synagogues in anticipation of the Consecration of our only child, Tracey. Among our many criteria, we looked for evidence of social inclusiveness. While walking the halls of Temple Israel on a Sunday morning, we peered into classrooms filled with active, happy children, and warm, welcoming rabbis and faculty members. We liked what we saw. That was almost 30 years ago. Yet those same impressive scenes still fill the classrooms of Temple Israel. Under this roof, we find community: Tracey celebrated her Consecration, Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation here, enjoyed Sukkah decorating, RYFTI (Reform Youth Federation of Temple Israel) excursions and Monday Night School. Our family shared the loss of family members, participates in many Shabbat and holiday services, and enjoys TILLI (Temple Israel Lifelong Learning Initiative). Rabbis generously provide personal and practical guidance while raising our consciousness. Our Jewish spirituality, ethereal and accessible, is consistently powered by the rumbling engine of social justice. All this makes Temple Israel an Awesome Place!”
“After graduating college and moving across the country, I found myself channeling some of my anxiety into another challenge: figuring out my relationship to social justice through Judaism. None of the definitions of tikkun olam that I encountered up to that point in my life had felt especially Jewish –the most meaningful ones sounded more like the Democratic Party platform. One August morning, a random email alerted me that the week’s Torah portion contained the famous “justice, justice you shall pursue” imposition. I decided to go to a synagogue and see if a rabbi would unpack this oft-quoted but rarely contextualized passage. That Saturday, I found myself at Temple Israel’s Torah Study. Jews of all ages dove into the ancient passage together, grappling with both its original context and its applicability to today. The room’s engagement with the text was deeply serious, yet also deeply irreverent. I left that morning appreciative not just of the bagels at the Qiddush, but ALSO of the rich conversation with both the past and each other. Returning the next week, I found our conversation looping back around to the justice implications of the new text as well. With so much in flux in my life at the time, I was grateful to Temple Israel for providing me with a new Jewish community, a new Jewish practice, and a meaningful, authentically Jewish definition of tikkun olam.”
“‘Pat, you just aren’t trying!’ Standing at her full three-foot height, Esther, hands on hips, evaluated the situation. We were building a block tower and it was as high as I could reach. Esther marched over to the sink, picked up the small stool, brought it to where we were playing, and made it clear that if I stood on the stool, we could build a higher tower.Among the many lessons I’ve learned as an “inter-generational volunteer”on Thursdays in the Red Room of Temple Israel’s amazing Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center (FJECC),that is the one that has stayed with me. What I also learned was basic Hebrew, all the relevant holidays including birthday celebrations, and most important, the necessary qualities of Judaism: kindness to others, being supportive, cooperation (Thursdays were “P” days for “Pairs” and “Pat”)–so many of the qualities we value most.Like the song from “The Sound of Music,” the FJECC children, ranging in age from two to five, start at the very beginning, and by the time they graduate, have learned the true meaning of being Jewish. When I think about Lifelong Learning classes at Temple Israel, none have been more valuable than Thursdays in the Red Room!”
Bryna, Mike, Becca, and Max Davis
“When asked, Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh, we, the Davis family, have two answers:
The first, is that Temple Israel is a “big tent” that provides its congregants (young and old alike) the tools, encouragement and environment to be social advocates. From the earliest days in the religious school, students are taught that a mitzvah is not just a “good deed” but also an obligation. This congregation led the fight for marriage equality across the Commonwealth, and we were empowered to make calls to drive that landmark legislation. The Davis family is gratified to have been involved with the temple’s efforts to successfully pass three laws to make the world a better place, and like Temple Israel, we are far from done.
The second is the inclusive way Temple Israel embraces everyone. The congregation welcomes visitors and members of every ethnicity, previous religious affiliation, age,gender and sexual orientation. This congregation joyously and openly celebrates all its congregants’ important life events.”
“The Riverway Project warmly welcomed me early in 2011 when I moved back to Boston after living in California less than a year and while I was going through a divorce. That fall I ticket-matched with Temple Israel for the High Holy Days, and while praying and singing during the Purple Service, I knew I had found my campy/NEFTY (New England Federation of Temple Youth) community. I happily and proudly became a Temple Israel member in 2012. Through Riverway Soul Food Friday and Shabbat meals with Riverway friends in apartments, Mining for Meaning, the Riverway Leadership Team, Qabbalat Shabbat Services, Saturday morning Torah Study, High Holy Days, being on a Rabbinic Search Committee or two, and the Leadership Council, I’ve met incredible people and built meaningful relationships. I even introduced a Riverway friend to a non-Riverway friend and danced at their wedding in July 2015. It’s an understatement to say Temple Israel has had a profound impact on my life over the last 5 years and counting…”
“To say that I was a lost youth is an understatement. By the time I left home for college, I was struggling. I wanted to be observant, but my Catholicism wasn’t compatible with being gay. I looked into a number of religions, and realized Judaism was the best fit. One day in 1995, I left my dorm at Wheelock College and walked into the first temple I found—Temple Israel. I asked to meet with a rabbi, and soon met with Rabbi Zecher. She told me that this was a big decision to throw my lot in with you folks, and asked if I was sure. I wasn’t. But, I read, I studied, I took Judaism classes here. Gradually, I felt a little less lost, and started to feel like I belonged. During this process, I met my wife, Andy. She had also gone to Wheelock, and occasionally attended services here. When we had children and needed more of a community to support us in raising them, we came to Temple Israel. Today two decades later, I am still here. This community has given my family and me so much: In sickness and health, for richer and poorer, through death that has pained our hearts, as well as the joys of baby namings and one Bat Mitzvah celebration (with two to go), Temple Israel has supported us. Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh! How Awesome Is This Place! It gives me great pride and joy to know my children are a part of this community, and long after I’m gone, they can return again and again, because they have somewhere they belong. This is home. I no longer feel lost and I know there is no need to feel lost ever again.”
“In 2012, we were looking for a Religious School for our kindergarten-aged twins. A client urged us to stop obsessing about which synagogue to join, saying, “Stop being ridiculous. Temple Israel is the perfect place for you!” She was right. As a queer interfaith couple raising kids in the city, we felt comfortable the first year we joined. It’s now been five years of attending Religious School, Shabbat services, holiday events, community activism, committee work–and now the Intro to Judaism class–and Temple Israel has brought us closer together as a couple and as a family. Not only have the staff and clergy gotten us excited about religion and spirituality, they have also dedicated themselves to making sure our family feels at home here. Temple Israel is “awesome” in all the ways it has embraced us and challenged itself to become an ever-increasingly inclusive community, particularly supporting congregants with disabilities.”
“My wife, Gitta, and I had been members of Temple Israel since 2003. It was simply part of the very busy and rewarding life we shared. It was not until I suffered my greatest loss that I truly discovered Temple Israel’s central role in my life. Gitta, my wife of 59 years, passed away on April 26, 2014. The comfort, caring, and sympathy I found at Temple Israel was immediate, and continues to this day. I was not prepared for the sense of community and belonging that I discovered, but it was what sustained me through that most difficult time. Now I recognize Temple Israel as an integral part of who I am, and where I truly belong.”
“I enjoy Temple Israel because I find the community so accepting, lively, and stimulating. I enjoy Shabbat and Cantor Einhorn’s singing, and join in whenever possible. The library is one of my favorite places. I’m an avid reader, and eagerly participate in activities where I can learn, grow, and socialize. The book club is at the top of my list: there are group discussions of selected readings, plus opportunities for schmoozing with fellow members, which is always fun. I also enjoy participating in TILLI. I converted from Roman Catholicism to Judaism –quite a long process. I had to do a lot of reading about Jewish history, which was eye-opening. So much of it was new to me.I am proud to have become a member of the Jewish people!”
“What drew us to Temple Israel was our desire to be part of a temple community that could embrace each member of our family, children and adults. Our son, Jacob, has autism. Temple Israel provided him with the support he needed to become a Bar Mitzvah at the temple while he was living in a residential placement in the Berkshires. The Tent has given our younger son, Felix, a place to feel accepted and loved. Marty enjoys the temple softball team and singing in the choir at the annual Karol Music Program. And during my cancer treatment, Rabbi Morrison provided me with needed spiritual support. We are grateful for our Temple Israel friends and community: Each one of us considers this an Awesome Place!”
“We searched for a long time for a congregation that felt right to us –an interfaith, ethnically mixed family. We wanted our kids to see families like ours in our congregation, and to feel comfortable being “halvsies.” We found what we were looking for in Temple Israel–a place that is warm and welcoming and accepting, with no pressure to be a certain way or do certain things. We have made very close family friends here: like-minded people who are loving and supportive, and who really get us. In such a big place, we have found our family.”
“I felt frustrated and hopped from place to place, trying to find a community of faith. By luck, I landed at a Chavurah, a Jewish community, through an email on a Deaf Listserv, and I kept returning there for Shabbat. The more I learned, the more questions I asked, a lot of difficult Jewish questions, and I wanted answers! Jewish friends suggested I attend Rosh Hashanah services at Temple Israel since ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters would be present. I started going to Temple Israel, and Shabbat at TI filled a void within me, as well as a need for community that I couldn’t find elsewhere. I converted to Judaism in 2005; I was so lucky to have found TI while I was in college at Northeastern. Following college graduation, entering the real world was a shock, to be honest. It was a relief that TI was a constant in my life, through good and not so good times.I asked Ann Abrams, the TI librarian, if I could volunteer in the library. Working there helped me gain more confidence in myself. People at TI have always believed in me and encouraged me to strive to reach my potential.”
“I lived as a refusenik (Jews living in the former Soviet Union who were refused permission to emigrate) for seven years. Gorbachev finally permitted my husband and me to leave Russia in 1987. I dreamed of being part of a Jewish community and Temple Israel made me feel very welcome. Here was a place where I could become involved, not merely attend services. Upon learning that I had been a librarian in Russia, the rabbis introduced me to Ann Abrams. The temple library became my library and Ann my best friend. The Temple gave a lot of attention to Russian Jewry: Programs like potluck dinners with Russian-American families broadened our circle. A temple family gave us furniture, another suggested that my husband take classes at a local college, and the temple helped with tuition. My husband got an internship, then a job. We all contribute in our own ways to the Temple Israel family. If someone speaking Russian called, Rabbi Mehlman asked for my help. When Cantor Einhorn learned my husband and I hadn’t had a Jewish wedding in Russia, the clergy gathered several refusenik couples and we had a chuppah! Through attending services, I learned prayers and songs, things that had been denied me in Russia. Imagine my pride in reciting the Torah blessings when my grandson became a Bar Mitzvah!”
“Calvin and I had our worst sleep ever, on the bima at the second grade shul-in. The kids had the run of TI all night—hence the lack of sleep—but in the morning Calvin felt like he owned the place. The year we lived abroad, we joined Rabbi Zecher’s family trip to Israel. Getting to know a smaller group within our large community meant that the High Holy Days, when we returned, were a true homecoming. Ivy’s deep connection is in her relationships with the clergy—just please don’t let on that she isn’t Rabbi Suzie’s ONLY best friend. Tim has always felt completely welcomed here, but was surprised to feel particularly comforted by traditional Jewish ritual when his parents died, despite not being Jewish himself. How awesome is this place? It’s pretty awesome.”
“David and I, Friedhelm, are cyber congregants from Mannheim, Germany. We found Temple Israel on ReformJudaism.org when we started to observe Shabbat in April 2014. Since then, we’ve been attending almost every Qabbalat Shabbat, the High Holy Days, and most of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah services via live stream. Over the past three years, sermons offered by the clergy, lectures by guests, the congregational read, and projects presented by congregants such as the Green Team have had a great and lasting impact on our daily lives, both spiritually and practically. For example, I started baking our own challah a couple of years ago, and we just switched to green energy. We experience Temple Israel as a welcoming community based on respect with open arms, minds, and hearts. Although we would love to be involved in congregational life more directly, we consider Temple Israel our spiritual home. Thank you all!”
“Our family found a home in Temple Israel when we moved to Boston two years ago to complete our medical training. We joined the temple with our two young children, Amber and Sawyer, in the middle of our conversion process. We were welcomed by Rabbi Jeremy Morrison, and drawn to the large and vibrant TI community, reminiscent of Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, where we first found a Jewish home. Rabbi Morrison guided our family on our path toward Judaism and, along with Rabbis Friedman and Jacobson, officiated at our family’s conversion on a crisp winter morning in 2014–our first exposure to a New England winter-and the year Boston set a record with 108.6 inches of snow! That day set a record for the Renthals as well, simultaneously commemorating the family we had become,and celebrating our Jewish future, holding the promise of life-long learning and community. We treasure our time at the temple: Amber and Sawyer love Religious School, and we initiated a parent study group–Chavurah–as part of the Center for Adult Jewish Learning. We hope that this is just the beginning of many great years ahead!”
“My children are our family’s 5th generation at Temple Israel. First to join was Grampy (great-grandfather Harry Rogal), who came to the US from Russia as a boy in the late 1800’s, and became an early member. He memorialized his wife (Anne Rogal, my namesake) in one of the stained glass plaques just outside the sanctuary overlooking the Temple garden. My Dad’s mother, Viola Goldstein, joined in the early 40’s as did many of her cousins (one of them was “a friend of Josh Liebman,” as they called the famous and beloved rabbi.) You can see my dad towering over his classmates in the 1943 Confirmation class picture hanging in the Education wing hallway. He and my mother were married at Temple Israel; Rabbi Liebman was to have officiated, but he passed away just before their wedding. My parents moved to Pennsylvania, but returned to Boston in time for my Confirmation at Temple Israel, and later, my brother Keith’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. Besides being a touchstone of moral responsibility and political action, the Temple and its clergy provided us with ritual, structure, and spiritual and emotional support as the years passed, and we moved through my wedding, my brother Kim’s untimely death, my kids’ B’nei Mitzvah and my parents’ deaths. This 2008 photo shows Mom and Dad,(Bruce & Phyllis Rogal), me, and my children Kim and Abigail Winiker.”
“Temple Israel has always been, and continues to be, a blessing in our lives! Temple Israel was the conversational icebreaker when we first met at the August 1999 birthday party of a mutual friend. Our shared enthusiasm for TI’s history, vibrancy, and commitment to social justice led to our first “date”, the ever wondrous Temple Israel S’lichot service. Five years later, on that very same date, we were married in the sanctuary. Dayenu! For all of this, and so much more, Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh!”
“We joined Temple Israel because the boys wanted to go to Sunday school like their older cousins, and it was a good time to find a community, since our family was going through a separation. The three of us grew up Jewishly at TI, the boys in the arms of Rabbi Bernard Mehlman, Rabbi Ronne Friedman and Cantor Roy Einhorn. Somehow, when the children were called up onto the bimah for a story, Craig found his way onto a rabbi’s lap. The temple was a place where we all felt safe and loved. Ross and Craig were active participants in the youth group, and read Torah and Haftarah on the Holy Days, and I started to attend Torah study each Saturday morning. I learned that Reform Judaism asked the same question I had been asking for many years…how do we create a just world? Temple Israel led me to rabbinical school and the boys to become activists in their own way. Temple Israel has continued to be our Jewish home.”
“After living in the Albany NY area for over 30 years, where we were actively involved in Congregation Beth Emeth, we relocated to Massachusetts to be closer to our three grown children. Although initially we didn’t think we would seek out a new congregation, after a short time we found that we missed our connection to the Jewish community. From our very first visit to Temple Israel, clergy, staff, and members were so welcoming and inviting, we knew we had made the right decision: Shabbat and holiday services are creative and engaging, the 50s and 60s group has been a wonderful way to meet new people, Book Group and Library Committee for Beth, and Building and Grounds Committee for Fred, have each been a perfect fit. Long before we became members, two of our children were active in the Riverway Project. They continue to participate, so it has been a treat to follow in their footsteps instead of the other way around! Most TI folks know us as “the people from Marshfield,” and we are still explaining why it’s not too far to travel to Temple Israel. The simple reason is, TI is a very special place: spiritually and intellectually stimulating, socially conscious, friendly and engaging. It’s great to have a new temple family while we enjoy living near our own family.”
“It all began with Michelle. Michelle would enter first grade in the fall. Living in Brookline, this meant a neighborhood school within walking distance, and friendships based on classmates and neighbors. Something was lacking: the family needed a temple community, where childhood education was prized as well. We were encouraged to attend a Sunday morning gathering for young children at Temple Israel. That did it: not only was there someone singing and parading around the ark with a troop of children, each child holding a plush Torah, but the leader was a rabbi –and –the rabbi was a woman! This was Rabbi Ruth Alpers. Michelle was won over, and we, her parents, immediately felt the same. And neither of us had ever encountered (or even considered the possibility of) a woman as a rabbi before. That was just the start. Michelle thrived at Temple Israel. Michelle went on to become a Bat Mitzvah. She attended Monday Night School, was active in RYFTI, went to Eisner Camp as a camper and counselor, served as a TI student teacher, completed the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Boston’s Teen Ade Program, (learning behavior modification skills for K-7 students with special needs in classroom and summer camp settings), and traveled twice to Israel, the first time as part of a NFTY Birthright Program and the second time, again with Birthright, before turning 26. “
“From our uncle Milton Linden, past president of Temple Israel, to our grandson Benjamin, we are a fourth generation Temple Israel family. From our daughters’ B’not Mitzvah and weddings, to Rabbi Zecher’s healing service helping my parents through a medical crisis, to Rabbi Friedman calling from New York and Rabbi Mehlman calling from Israel when my brother died, Temple Israel has been woven into the fabric of our lives. From the planning days with Helen Cohen for the preschool, to my own grandson being a student there, the open arms of this vibrant and loving community has been a beacon of light in our family’s journey as we embrace both our Jewish history and our Jewish future.”
“We joined Temple Israel nearly twenty years ago and could never have dreamed what our family would become, and how Temple Israel would have a distinct meaning for each of us. From Teeny Tiny Tot Shabbat, to Me’ah, to the early days of Ohel Tzedek, we each found our place in a different community. Through Religious School, B’nei Mitzvah, Monday Night School, RYFTI, being classroom aides, working as a videographer and office assistant, TI has become home to the boys completely separate from their parents. After one shul-in, they described back-passages of the building that we adults will surely never discover. We’ve known both simchot and loss within these walls, and been comforted and embraced by our clergy and community of dear friends here. At TI, we have roots far deeper than we could have imagined so many years ago, and avenues yet to be explored.”
“When we moved to Boston as a married couple twelve years ago, we were eager to build a community in our new city. Relatives who belonged to Temple Israel invited us to join them for Rosh Hashanah services: from the moment we walked into the light-filled sanctuary, we felt at ease. Over a decade and three children later, this community lies at the heart of our family’s life. From the joyous baby naming ceremonies and discovery-filled FJECC preschool years, to cozy afternoons in the Children’s Library, and Sunday mornings among beloved friends and teachers at the Religious School, our children have blossomed within the walls of this building. It brings us such joy to see how safe they feel being themselves when they are here, in a place where so many grown-ups have their best interests at heart. For them—and for us—Temple Israel is truly a home away from home.”
“We had lived in London, England for thirteen years. When we moved to Brookline in the autumn of 2016, we sought a Jewish community where our children would be happy and where we would feel comfortable expressing our Judaism in a variety of ways: Ted grew up Sephardic, Naomi grew up in a Conservative synagogue in the South. We landed at Temple Israel and have been so pleased. Preparations for our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration are currently underway. We cannot wait to continue to explore new ways to become apart of the vibrant life at TI!”