Ten years ago when my wife Kathryn and I joined Temple Sinai, I would have said that the chances that by 2014 Temple Sinai would be at the core of our lives, and that I would be serving my second term on
the Temple Board of Trustees, were only slightly greater than the chances that we move to an Ashram in Vermont or to Kathryn’s home state of Texas where I would study to be a rodeo clown. I grew up in a virtually agnostic family; Kathryn is not Jewish (although we decided to raise our boys Jewish); and I never considered myself to be in any way religious or spiritual.
Yet, I knew for many years that I had a longing to explore Judaism and spirituality. Temple Sinai has given me that opportunity, and, at the same time, has provided me and my family with a community that I now cannot imagine living without.
This journey began with a simple question that I posed to Rabbi Fred Reiner ten years ago at a cocktail party to welcome new members: “what is the best way of getting integrated into the Temple community?” Rabbi Reiner offered a simple answer: “volunteer to get involved in something that interests you.”
This opportunity presented itself several months later at a meeting for parents of new students in the Religious School. Then-Chair of the Religious School Committee Rosann Wisman spoke, and encouraged parents to sign up to volunteer to assist with a variety of Religious School activities and programs. I filled out the form, and, at the end of the meeting, introduced myself to Rosann. I told her that I was interested in serving on the Religious School Committee. Slightly surprised (I think), but unfazed, Rosann encouraged me to attend the first meeting, and told me that the makeup of the committee would then be solidified.
So I attended the first meeting, and then the second, and then the third, having decided to just keep attending until Rosann told me to stop. The meetings were great: I found the committee members to be thoughtful, smart, and extremely dedicated to doing whatever they could to make the school as good as it could be. But perhaps more than anything I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know members of the temple that until then I’d had no contact with, and to begin to feel – just a bit – the sense of community that was a large part of what I was hoping to find at Temple Sinai.
I ultimately solidified my position on the committee, and extended the path that I had found myself on by volunteering to assist Rosann in preparing and presenting to others the Religious School budget: a job for which I was utterly unqualified, but which Rosann and I muddled through together, and bonded in the process.
Since then, I have worked with fellow lay leaders on a number of task forces and committees; I have ushered at services; I have sold coffee and bagels at the Kesher Café; and I have been just one of the many foot-soldiers who keep Temple Sinai working, and growing, and thriving. It has sometimes been challenging to balance my legal career, family, and work on behalf of the Temple and each has sometimes paid a price in the process.
However, what I have gotten from my investment of time and energy on behalf of the temple has been infinitely greater than I have given. Through this investment I have discovered a community in which I have close friends, including among the clergy and other lay leaders, and a place where, more than anywhere in the world other than our home, I have come to feel is a place of welcome, of comfort and, indeed, a place of sanctuary. And it all started, ten years ago, with a simple question, and the simple act of getting involved.