Member Spotlight: Carrie Langsam
When Carrie Langsam and her family returned to the D.C. area after a four year hiatus, she wondered if she could ever feel as connected to a new congregation as she had at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), her "second home" when they lived in Charleston, South Carolina. The Langsams--Carrie, her husband Howard, and three sons, Robby (age 14), Alex (age 12) and Ben (age 8), had been members of two other D.C.-area congregations before they headed South.
Back in D.C., Carrie was determined to find another congregation that provided a sense of family, inclusiveness and strong intellectual challenge. They joined Micah last September and the early results are in: Temple Micah is starting to feel like home to the Langsams. "The friendliness of the congregation is amazing; people were reaching out to us as soon as we drove into the parking lot!" Carrie recalled.
Carrie's strong determination and drive had a lot to do with their decision to join Micah, but she acknowledges also that destiny played a role. One day, when Carrie was volunteering at KKBE's gift shop, she met a couple from Micah who came to visit Charleston. She remembered their kind words and religious school recommendation and decided to visit Temple Micah one summer Shabbat morning. The rest is history.
A Jew by choice, Carrie completed her conversion process at Agudas Achim, a conservative synagogue in Alexandria, Virginia. She found it to be an intensely emotional experience. "I cried through the whole process," she recalled. Finishing in her ninth month of pregnancy also probably had something to do with it, she said.
Carrie's conversion journey took some detours along the way. She started conversion classes at the Beth El Congregation of Baltimore, in Randallstown, Howard's childhood congregation. She started there because she and Howard had recently become engaged, and his family was very active at Beth El. "It was a great experience" but part way through the process, Carrie realized that she was not ready and was converting for others, rather than for herself.
The couple was married under a chuppah by a rabbi in Carrie's hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania and Carrie agreed to raise the children in a Jewish home. When Carrie was pregnant with their first child, she knew she was now ready to finish the conversion process. "It was very important to me to be the same as my children," she observed. Carrie's own father and mother, practicing Lutherans who sent Carrie and her sister to Sunday school, also encouraged her to finish.
One Pidyon Haben and three brit later, Carrie and Howard began raising their family in a vibrant, inclusive Reform Jewish home. Many of their Jewish friends looked to them for holiday celebrations. Carrie became active in many facets of KKBE life and worked hard to increase the feeling of inclusiveness in this small town congregation. She notes that part of her motivation was the desire to set a good example for her children. Carrie served on KKBE's board, as the religious school committee chair and as a member of the sisterhood board, along with spending her Fridays at Chosen Treasures, KKBE's gift shop. One of her most meaningful opportunities was to serve on the beit din for conversions, giving her a chance to "pay forward" her love of Judaism. She started a "Simcha Fair" to bring in new vendors and raise money for the religious school after learning through the planning of her first son's bar mitzvah that KKBE had relied on the same vendors and styles of celebration for generations. "Looking at it from a distance, it feels good to know I played a role in expanding KKBE's perspective," Carrie noted.
As "a staunch advocate for education," Carrie also lent her talents and drive to aid in opening a new South Carolina charter school, Palmetto Scholars Academy, where her children attended. In 2011, Carrie was the recipient of the Volunteer of the Year award for the South Carolina Charter School District.
Carrie and her family love their lives in D.C. Between carpools and coaching baseball games, Carrie steals time to visit a museum or catch a cultural event because "I love being a D.C. tourist again." Micah's "smart and humble feel" is just what Carrie is looking for to rebuild her synagogue connections. She helped organize Micah's recent Israeli art event. Their oldest son, Robby, is volunteering as a Machon Micah madrich in his brother Ben's class. The family is looking forward to Alex's October 27 bar mitzvah and is very pleased with all the support the family has received for this upcoming simcha. Carrie is even considering joining the next B'nai Torah class.
[By Marilyn Park; from May-June-July 2012 Vine]