Community Conversations Initiative Begins Next Phase
"We're here to build a new sanctuary out of our sacred stories and use them to act together, to transform ourselves and our community, and our neighborhoods." With these words, Rabbi Lederman kicked off a Saturday afternoon discussion with roughly 65 Temple Micah members about the Community Conversations project.
Through one-on-one conversations in coffee shops and homes, the Community Conversations project gathers stories about what Micah members yearn for in their lives and identifies ways to work together to bring about change. Led by a group of more than a dozen volunteers, the project already has reached over 120 members.
During the March 10 meeting, a number of people shared their personal stories, illustrating the four key themes that were identified through the first phase of the project.
Aging Together. Larry Cooley and Martha Adler on behalf of Miriam Grogan shared stories about the challenges of aging. These challenges are felt by many Micah members who voiced a need to build a community in which to grow old together with comfort and support. Cooley captured the essence of what many Micah members are looking for by describing the world that his 98-year-old father has built for himself through a lifetime of cultivating personal relationships in Springfield, Massachusetts. As Cooley explained, "If my dad were to mention on the radio a love for bologna sandwiches, I'm pretty sure 50 would arrive the next day." Adler described how Grogan's 95-year-old grandmother was nearing death when they spoke, so aging and family issues were on the top of her mind. In response to the question about what keeps her up at night, Grogan recounted, "I don't have any children, so I don't know who will take care of me when I'm 95. And more than that, I'm not sure if I can even afford to live to 95!"
Forging Micah Connections. Lee Futrovsky and Janet Gordon told their stories about looking for stronger personal connections within the Micah community. As Futrovsky explained, his connections have ebbed and flowed over time, reaching a peak when his children were going through their bar and bat mitzvahs. Now that he is at a different stage in life--one in which there are no meetings to discuss how to reorganize the religious school or to address behavior issues--he is exploring the best ways to connect with other Micah members. Similarly, Janet Gordon recounted her positive experiences in earlier years finding connections at other synagogues when her children were young, and her interest in building a comparable community at Micah.
Beyond the Walls of Micah. Two members, Ilan Scharfstein and Kerry Susser spoke about their passionate interest in social issues and their desire to see Micah deepen its commitment to tackling them. Like many members, Scharfstein, who grew up in New York City, spoke about his commitment to continuing to live in and strengthen D.C. Susser, a physical therapist, described her work and the deep dismay with which she has watched people go without the health care and services that they need because they are without financial means.
Beyond the High Holiday Blessing. Even as they expressed appreciation for the warm welcome that Temple Micah provides to interfaith families, Lindsey Spindle and Kathlene Collins shared stories that highlighted the potential for Temple Micah to do more. Spindle explained that her husband David's journey to Catholicism is what brought Judaism back into their home, but she still is left pondering: "How do David and spouses like him inch their way in, not as just the non-Jewish spouse who gets the shout-out for embracing our traditions, but as someone who can contribute his learnings and sense of faith to us?"
Kathlene Collins confessed that she and her husband might have been a little smug about their ability to adeptly handle interfaith issues until the year that her father became very ill and passed away. Suddenly, they were faced with complex family and religious issues that went well beyond Christmas trees and Santa Claus.
"Without a clear message that our temple community was a place to turn for help navigating the unexpectedly difficult interfaith issues raised by this most emotionally wrenching moment, we were at sea," Collins explained.
The gathering was a powerful event, but, as Rabbi Lederman noted in her closing remarks, it was just a beginning. In the weeks and months ahead, Temple Micah will hold a series of house meetings to dive into these themes in more depth, to continue to share the stories that shape our community, and to find ways together to address the questions and concerns that have been raised.
If you would like to see more photos of the March 10th community event taken by Micah member Bill Bramble, or find out about upcoming house meetings on the key themes, go to www.templemicah. org. And, if you are interested in getting involved in the project, please email Rabbi Lederman.