I hadn’t stepped foot into a synagogue in over 50 years
By: Audrey Birenbaum
Other than for weddings, bar mitzvahs and the occasional Rosh Hashanah service I hadn’t stepped foot into a synagogue in over 50 years. That was until my friend Anne Freeman invited me to a Simchat Torah service at Holy Blossom Temple. I didn’t realize, until that evening, what I had been missing from my life.
I had grown up in Montreal and attended an orthodox synagogue. I went to Hebrew school 3 times a week which involved a lot of kicking and screaming. Finally, in grade 3 my parents relented and pulled me out.
Each of my brothers found their own way back to shul as adults but I purposefully stayed away. As I am not raising a family of my own, there was no reason for me to become affiliated with any part of the Jewish community. I had no wedding ceremony and no children to educate. It wasn’t until I retired 3 years ago and joined the JCC that I even had a connection with a Jewish institution and that is where I met Anne.
Anne’s invitation to join the Simchat Torah celebration last October made a difference in my life. I found a familiarity with the shul I knew from childhood, but this one felt better. It felt comforting and welcoming. There were women on the Bima, there was participation among the congregants and understood why people were given aliyot. In short, I felt a kinship with those around me. It wasn’t long before I joined.
I now attend Torah study and weekly Shabbat services. I enjoy bagels and lox at kiddush with new friends. I have participated in the Dorot program and have taken on the co-chair role of the Kugel Kindness project, of the Bikkur Cholim Committee. I am getting great satisfaction from my new membership.
As Anne said to me recently, you never know when your life is going to change. In this case, I do know, it was on Simchat Torah 5783 and it was Anne’s kindness and caring that brought me here and I am thankful. Todah Rabbah.
Such a beautiful portrait of your path to Holy Blossom! Sometimes the compassionate gesture of someone who cares helps us find a part of ourselves we didn’t know was missing. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and so glad you are here!