“You Want to Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

When we were in our twenties in DC, we didn’t really have a Jewish home here.

We would “shul-shop,” checking out a rotating series of High Holiday services at various temples, synagogues, and sometimes at GW Hillel, and sometimes hosting or joining friends for Shabbats and Seders.  We got married and right around that time our friends Laura and Kevin brought us to an uplifting Labor on the Bimah service at Temple Sinai, which had this cool energy fusing social justice considerations with a Jewish framework.

Our daughter Sarah was born in 2011.  Having kids changed things.  We started thinking more about a place to belong on a less transient basis.  But life was hectic and we were very sleep-deprived so we didn’t do much about it.

Then our son Eli was born in 2014.  Now we were really sleep-deprived, and we moved to a house not very far from Temple Sinai.  Sarah had started pre-K, but we found out about Temple Sinai’s play-based Nursery School and signed Eli up.

The Nursery School was a game-changer for Eli.  He arrived as a toddler who had trouble separating from his parents/childcare and left two years later ready to dive with gusto and confidence into elementary school. He is 9 now and still has friends from that experience.

We joined Temple Sinai as members. We kept meeting more and more people at Temple Sinai that we liked, and got to know the clergy and appreciate them both as terrific clergy members and as wonderful, wise, and funny humans who, over time, we have become fortunate to call friends.

Sarah, and then Eli, started study in the Religious School.  And we got to know more families.  And after a while, it felt like every time we went to the temple, someone, or some days everyone, knew us or our kids and our names (cue the “Cheers” theme song …).  Not too big, not too insular.  Hugs and high-fives abounded.  Jewish joy too.  Some Jewish learning as well, and important institutional learning and emphasis on intentional grappling with both racial justice generally and being a multi-racial temple.

When Ariel’s father passed away during the pandemic, the temple sprung into action with support.  Rabbi Jonathan Roos reached out immediately with private advice and support and, on almost no notice, led our family and friends in an incredibly moving shiva service.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Sarah’s bat mitzvah at Temple Sinai (family pic of us all looking at the camera for once is shared here!).  One of the many meaningful things about the day was our daughter getting to experience this Jewish rite of passage under the tutelage and leadership of two powerhouse, kind, and joyous, women clergy members – Rabbi Hannah Goldstein and Cantor Rachel Rhodes.

We’re always happy to chat with families considering getting involved.  Temple Sinai is a special place.


– Ariel and Rachel Levinson-Waldman