Member Profile: Aurie Hall
Aurie Hall is just the sort of person Temple Micah needs, especially at this time of year. As co-chair of the synagogue's High Holy Days Committee, Hall makes the temporary move from Temple Micah to the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church (MMUMC) for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services work.
"It takes the work of many hands to make the holidays," says Hall, who last month completed her third consecutive year as committee co-chair. "I'm grateful to have wonderful co-chairs in Becky Claster and Amy McLaughlin and dedicated committee chairs for each of the tasks involved. Many people contribute."She adds, "There's a lot to do, but we keep working to make it better. And having Rachel Gross at Micah has been amazing. She's incredibly organized and makes everything run smoothly.
"Aurie's great," says Rabbi Daniel Zemel, adding: "She's a natural. She's a warm, engaging person who accepts great responsibility [for overseeing the move from Temple Micah to MMUMC and back] and carries it out."
Regardless of such praise, Hall is not your typical co-chair of a synagogue committee. Although her wife and partner of 24 years, Marcy Wilder, is Jewish, Hall is Presbyterian. Her father is a retired minister who once headed a Richmond, Virginia Presbyterian theological seminary.
Hall doesn't experience much conflict between her Presbyterian faith and membership in Temple Micah. "I have always felt a strong affinity for Judaism through my Presbyterianism," she says. She notes that both religions share similar beliefs, dedication to studying sacred texts and a learning, questioning approach to examining religious beliefs. Hall has always had Jewish friends with whom she shared holidays and celebrations, and she worked side-by-side with Jewish colleagues in the civil rights movement. "Judaism just felt familiar to me."
Specifically, Hall explains, Presbyterianism's emphasis on reading and studying ancient scripture is similar to Judaism's focus on the Torah. "Participating in a tradition that truly focuses on scripture and takes the approach of diving into texts is one that is very familiar to me. In addition, both Judaism and Presbyterianism endorse the notion of worshipping within the context of a religious community. Presbyterians take the `Judeo' part of their `Judeo-Christian' tradition very seriously."
Hall notes that one of her High Holy Day co-chairs isn't Jewish and the other is in a mixed religious marriage. "Non-Jews are a part of the texture of Jewish life, particularly at Temple Micah," she says. "People who are raised in another religion often come to Judaism through conversion or, like me, marriage."While not having officially converted, Hall now considers Judaism how she addresses larger spiritual questions about what God is and how people relate to each other.
When Hall and Wilder decided to raise their two boys--Ellis, almost 13 and scheduled to become bar mitzvah in December, and Graham, 10--Jewish, Aurie knew she would play a role in their Jewish education. "I am proud to be raising my children Jewish," she says. "It's a rich, vibrant religious tradition and I'm proud that we can be part of it."Originally a member of another synagogue in Washington, Hall and Wilder joined Temple Micah in 2007. Four years later, Rabbi Zemel married the two in their living room. "We're really happy at Micah," Hall says. "It feels like a community. It's a warm and challenging place." Or, as Wilder once told Rabbi Zemel, Micah's "a smart, messy place with a soul."
Professionally, Hall, 53, is a lawyer by training who spent many years as a grant maker for criminal justice programs. She was also a teaching fellow at the Georgetown University School of Law and worked for the D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services Project, a private nonprofit that defends prisoners' civil rights. Whether serving as a lawyer, philanthropist, High Holy Day co-chair or a mom, Hall describes herself as a staunch Calvinist--an earnest, hard-working individual regardless of religious affiliation.
Now a stay-at-home mom, Hall has used her freedom to volunteer at Temple Micah and take advantage of opportunities to become more involved in her community, as well. Hall also serves on the board of City First, a community development bank that creates affordable housing in Washington, and volunteers with the Washington Area Women's Foundation.
Hall credits Temple Micah with creating a space for families like hers who want to be part of the community. "I feel like I have found a home within the Jewish tradition for people like me who want to be involved, to learn and to question within the context of a religious community. I'm so grateful to have found that place in Temple Micah."
[By Jeffrey P. Cohn; from the November-December 2012 Vine]