I come from a blend of Jewish traditions. My mother grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Denver where they walked to their Orthodox shul. Then she raised our family kosher Reform. My confirmation teacher at Temple Micah instigated my love of ancient history and language by teaching Torah as a history of ideas. (I just retired from the Classics department at GVSU in my 30th year.) As a young adult, I rarely attended any synagogue. However, I kept the holidays and became a pescatarian in college as a way of maintaining kashrut.
Moving to such a Christian region as Grand Rapids in 1991, and having a child, crystalized a strong need to belong to a Jewish community. Initially, I joined Temple and--for one year--even taught Sunday School there (high schoolers are much tougher to teach than college students!). Today, I’m Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Membership Chair for the second round since I found my community here at Ahavas Israel in 2004.
My personal journey to this point helps me consider with excitement the possibility of Ahavas, Temple Emanuel, and the Jewish Federation in one building. Ahavas, as others have said before in their pieces for the Voice, is now at a crossroads. Will we cling to this building or isolation in a smaller building--and diminish? Or can we embrace this opportunity to collaborate with Temple and Federation, drawing strength from what we can do together?
We will continue to practice our own religious traditions wherever we are located. Hopefully, we can discover ways to enrich our social and religious practices to help us now and for the future. During this pandemic, we all long for contact, fellowship, connection. Community and tikkun olam are values central to Judaism. My hope is that joining together in a larger community will lead to new ways to center social justice and environmental justice within our traditional practice.
Now is an opportune moment to move forward in this collaboration. The word “synagogue” means “bringing/leading/gathering together” in Greek. What can we do together to help our Jewish community and the broader communities we live in?
Thank you, Diane Rayor