Tradition, Community, And The Progressive Jewish Voice

When I was growing up in Topeka, Kansas (yes, there are Jews in Topeka) I could never believe how much time my mother devoted to our small congregation, the only congregation in town. She was a single mom with three kids who worked full time, yet she took on almost every role needed at the temple. Congregants at Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka became my extended family. As a child, I always felt at home there. My Jewish identity became a central part of who I was, but growing up, I never imagined being very engaged in temple life. When I moved to Washington in 1984, my mom said Rabbi Fred Reiner, who had been the rabbi in Topeka, was the new rabbi at Temple Sinai. Rabbi Reiner’s connection to my family and my roots opened the door to my commitment to Temple Sinai.

I have been a member of Temple Sinai for more than 30 years. I have been honored to serve in many positions within the temple’s governance, but my Sinai Story is about community and friendship. Like many of you, those early friendships were forged as my husband, Michael, and I enrolled our two sons in the Temple Sinai Nursery School. Over the years, Temple Sinai has been there for me and our family at both joyous and sorrowful times. We have been surrounded by our Temple Sinai friends and today Temple Sinai is my family’s community.

There was another thing that I never quite understood about my mom. As she got older, she hardly ever missed a Friday evening service. I didn’t get it; today, I understand. Attending Shabbat services was her way to connect with her friends, to be comforted by the familiarity of the melodies and words, to take stock of the week that had just ended and take a breath before the next began. I attend Shabbat services more frequently now…although not as often as my mom. Our wonderful clergy always have something timely and interesting to share. And it’s an easy and comforting way to spend the evening–no need for tickets, no lines—and like exercising, I always feel good afterwards!

My mother also saw national and international events through a Jewish lens. She wanted the progressive Reform Judaism voice and perspective to be a voice for justice and compassion around the world. I know that without strong synagogues, particularly Reform synagogues, that Jewish voice would be diminished. I am particularly proud that Temple Sinai and our clergy are leading the way as a model for the nation in social justice activism. My Sinai Story is one that continues the values and traditions of my mom. And as a member of Temple Sinai, I am helping to ensure that progressive Judaism remains a guiding principle for future generations.


-Rosann Wisman