Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cheers For 60 Years; Ad Mayah Ve-essrim

Jerry and Marian Michaels 1955

My parents will be married 60 years this January and coincidentally the place I have worked at for 25 years, Lakeside, is also celebrating 60 years. 60 years is a long time. I am sure my parents and others who have reached their 60th anniversary can attest to that.  To do anything for 60 years you must work hard, love what you are doing and change with the times.  I think my parents and Lakeside have been very successful on these points.  

My parents moved to Crystal Lake, Illinois in 1959 after being married for 5 years.  My 27 year old parents moved to farm, the only place they could rent at the time as my father had bought a veterinary practice.  They had one car and my mom had one baby and one on the way.  Her only phone was a party line with the people across the street.  It was not an easy life.

I know that Lakeside’s beginnings were also humble.  We began as a school and then went on to become a synagogue.  Our founding members were very thoughtful when they went to build a structure and they were sure not to leave the future generations with a mortgage. Today we are very grateful that we don’t have a mortgage and we are able to keep fundraising to sustain Lakeside.

I am sure my parents could not imagine how their relationship and also their situation would change over 60 years.  The small town of Crystal Lake which they moved to is now a sprawling community.  Although there are not many Jewish families in Crystal Lake there is a synagogue closer to my house then my home congregation which was in Elgin.  My father still practices at Fox Valley Animal Hospital on Route 14 in Crystal but the whole area has exploded.  My parents are now grandparents to 5 great young adults (if I may say so myself!)
Michaels-Ehrlich-Shanker Families, Cuba Dec 2014
Lakeside has also weathered many changes.  We have a full time Rabbi, Cantor and Educational director.  We also have a song leader, teachers, a Hebrew school and t’filot, services on Friday night, Saturday morning, Sunday morning  and holidays.  I am sure some of our founders would be surprised at our programs which our younger families assume are  long standing traditions at Lakeside.  

In our 7th and 8th grade class we had an opportunity to interview different generations of Lakeside members. Our students heard about programs from Lakeside’s history and got a crash course in Classical Reform Judaism.  We are editing these interviews and hope to show them at our Cheers for 60 years.

Motzei Shabbat, Saturday night February 7 we will have a celebration at Lakeside, Cheers for 60 years.  Our celebration, for adults and children, will begin at 5:30 pm and you just need to RSVP to come to this party.  What a wonderful way to help us celebrate.  We are taking a Lakeside picture at about 6:30 pm and you will not want to miss that.
I am in the bottom row.

I am in bottom row and the last 3 in the second row
For 25 of Lakeside’s 60 years I have had the honor to be the educator. Check out all the pictures of me in our confirmation pictures on the walls at Lakeside.  I have been honored to  watch families grow and been a invited over the years to my students’ weddings, B’nai Mitzvah and of course family funerals.  The Jewish blessing May you live until 120 is often written as "till 120" (in Hebrew: עד מאה ועשרים שנה; "Ad Mayah Ve-essrim Shana" or in Yiddish "Biz Hundret un Tsvantsig").
The most often-cited source is Genesis 6:3;Then God said, “my spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.

In Deut. 34:7 the age of Moses upon his death is given as 120, but most importantly it says "his eye had not dimmed, and his vigor had not diminished." To have one's mental and physical faculties—that is why Jews wish someone via "till 120

I wish Lakeside Ad Mayah ve-essrim, until 120.  I know the next 60 years will bring change, nachos,(pride in coming generations)and and we will be a wonderful spiritual and educational home not just for us, but for our children and our children’s children.  
Lakeside Congregation 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Je suis Juif, We stand with you!

It is not easy to teach elementary school students about current events.  Is is even harder to teach our Jewish students about the events of last week. How do you explain what has been happening in Paris and in the world?  Last week in grades 4,5 and 6 all of our students gathered together and discussed the events in Paris and then took this picture, JE SUIS JUIF.
Lakeside Congregation Standing with our Paris Family

I sent this picture to Rabbi Tom Cohen of Kehillat Gesher in Paris France.  Rabbi Cohen was moved and sent out our picture to his community.  We are also the "Talmud Torah" mentioned in Rabbi Cohen's article about the situation in Paris,Letter from Paris.  Please read this letter for a first hand report from Paris.  Rabbi Tom Cohen and his wife Rabbi Pauline Bebe have 2 congregations in Paris and they live in the Morais, the Jewish neighborhood in Paris.

In this day and age there are many disparaging comments about social media including Facebook, twitter and the like.  I am so glad my students were able to connect so quickly with our "family" in Paris.  I will tell everyone this Sunday at our weekly T'filah how important this picture and gesture is and how much it meant to the Jewish community in Paris. 

I look forward to more outreach and I know that our students will be connected to Jew all over the world during the life times.  Think how easy it is today to get information and who can imagine what the future holds for us in the area of communication!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cuba 2015: Family Trip/Mission/Experience of a Lifetime

The Crew

8 days in Cuba with 3 generations is not easy to describe but my over 700 pictures and videos will definitely help me tell the story.  I suppose all vacations have a story but I think that Cuba's story has many chapters some to be still written.  There are so many facets of this trip that I hope to explore over the next few blog posts.

Cuba is a country full of contradictions, communism vs capitalism, rehabilitated vs dilapidated buildings, poverty of the Cubans vs the opulence for the tourists and no religion under Communism to a new Jewish community. We were able to bring tzedakah to the 3 different synagogues which we visited. I know they appreciated both our monetary tzedakah and the other gifts we brought, including   over the counter medications, makeup and some clothes.  The synagogues are growing smaller by the month.  Many of the young people are making Aliyah and although the remaining remnant knows that this is good it is still sad to see the community shrink.  

El Patronato Synagogue, Havana
We met with the leaders of 3 different synagogues, 2 of these Presidents were women.  There are no Rabbis in Cuba now.  They bring in a Rabbi from Chile to do weddings en masse, B'nai Mitzvah and other rituals. The Jews of Cuba have learned how to conduct services and to have a very meaningful Jewish life without clergy.  We went to Friday night T'filot at El Patronato Synagogue and felt very at home. T'filot were led by 2 congregants one of whom was a teenager.  Of course we could read the Hebrew prayers but we were also surprised that we knew most of the tunes as well.  We did not understand the d'var Torah in Spanish which was given by another congregant.  

I think when there are no clergy sometimes congregants are forced to participate and this gives a special flavor to rituals and t'filot.  I was happy to see that there were many young people in attendance and at the end of the service they all came to the bimah and led us in Adon Olam.    

In other posts I will write about our People To People visits which were with  different cultural and artistic as well as other thoughts on Cuba.