by Doug Silverstein and Rabbi Daniel Plotkin
Several of our Alumni will to join us for Shabbat this weekend. Each of them able to be with us will take on a role in leading services, sharing their stories of what Temple Isaiah was like when they grew up, and sharing of themselves as the professionals they are today. Many people at Temple Isaiah helped these alumni form positive connections to Judaism that inspired them to make a career our of serving the Jewish people.
As many of our prior students at TI return for Homecoming weekend, they reflect on their first memories of TI. Wendy Grinberg (daughter of past TI presidents Denny & Marjorie Rapport), recalls very early memories running around the meeting house during services and “the sound of the theater-style chairs closing every time we stood up.” David Perolman’s (son of Gary & Cathy Perolman) first memories at TI were of the interfaith center and making friends in religious school. While a devoted student, he also remembers “tying knots and trying to untangle them in the red cloth bookmark that was attached to the siddur to keep myself occupied during the service.”
For many congregants like Terri Soifer (daughter of Matthew & Susan Soifer), Friday night and high holiday services hold a very special place in their hearts, especially for the special and generous people they met at services. She recalls one time when a fellow congregant, Michael Miller, noticed she was cold and offered her his coat. She adds: “Michael’s action represented the small, kind moments that made up my experience at TI.” Many of the congregants warmly reflect on family during services at TI. Rabbi Eric Solomon (son of TI’s former Cantorial soloist Richard Solomon) remembers watching his father lead the congregation and sitting next to his mother and sister in the same seats every Friday night and “the feel of my grandpa Ruby’s tzitzit that I used to play with when he sat next to me during high holy day services.”
Attending Sunday school and camps also created very special memories of TI. Wendy Grinberg recalls hearing the teachers speak Hebrew to each other, which motivated her to learn Hebrew and learn more about Israel. TI evokes Terri Soifer’s memories of spending Sunday mornings throughout high school working with Mina Pertman to teach Hebrew and sell pizza with SYTI, while David Perolman states that his experiences at Camp Harlam helped strengthen his bond with Judaism.
The experiences at TI have had lasting and profound effects on the lives and vocations of many congregants. Rabbi Solomon, who will be unable to attend Shabbat but has sent a video message, states that he would not have chosen the rabbinate without the transforming experiences he had at TI. He adds; “From youth groups to religious school, my bar mitzvah, my confirmation, attending services regularly, seeing the rabbis up close — it all was so incredibly meaningful and showed me the blessings of what Jewish life can offer.”
Wendy Grinberg shares Rabbi Solomon’s thoughts: “All of my experiences [at TI] shaped my motivation to be a Jewish educator.” David Perolman believes that his experiences at TI inspired him to be an activist and helped him realize the value of a Jewish education and requirement to pass that message onto other students. Terri Soifer avows that TI was instrumental in her choosing to volunteer in the Jewish community and be a leader in supporting intergenerational congregations.
In addition to those quoted above, we also look forward to welcoming additional alumni including Rabbi Debra Kassoff, Rabbi Michael Fessler, Rabbi Karen Perolman, and Rabbi Debbie Bodin-Cohen. Each of them will have an opportunity to share what made TI such a special place for them.
The Homecoming Shabbat will take place THIS WEEKEND, January 31–February 1. Friday night services are at 8pm, and a Saturday Morning Shabbat & Schmooze with a kiddush lunch following will begin at 10am. If you haven’t already registered for the Shabbat & Schmooze, you can here.