It Started with the Smell of Coffee

My husband, Peter Winkler, his parents, Joan and Ralph Winkler, and our children, Paul (now 33) and Hannah (29), brought me into the fold of Sinai.  Sunny Sunday mornings I’d drop Paul off at Religious School and notice the warm, welcoming life in the hallways and classrooms, the lively discussion and laughter in the adult Hebrew and Jewish learning classes, the smell of coffee.

I signed up for beginning Hebrew, began reading about Judaism, and quietly found my own way to conversion and Rabbi Portnoy’s adult b’nai mitzvah class, the “B’not Bars.”  I’d grown up in a seriously Catholic family and took Catholicism seriously, and fell away from it after much reading, thought, discussion and argument, in college and as a young adult.  I always loved the struggle, though, and the radical social justice aspects continued to appeal.

By the time I had arrived in DC from Detroit and met Peter, I was primed for a new life as a government, then union-side, labor lawyer. When we decided to get married, I was of no religious persuasion.  Peter’s family welcomed me nevertheless, and my family welcomed him.  Raising our children as Jews was, for me, raising them in traditions of ethical behavior, good deeds and justice. (It didn’t hurt that Peter’s and his sister Ellen’s confirmation photos were on the wall of the Bet Am hallway, and that his parents were among Sinai’s earliest members.)

Ultimately, that smell of coffee led me to conversations, classes and reading that, along with friendships and family, provided a deeper understanding of Temple Sinai’s history of inclusion and social activism. It’s Sinai’s continuing struggle to do justice – seen in the many dynamic, forward-looking and mutually supportive leaders and members of our congregation — that inspires me, and that makes me incredibly grateful that I’m a part of the Sinai community.


-Barbara Kraft