While my grandparents joined the Temple in 1953, I, like my mother, grew up at Oak Park Temple. You could say that I have been involved since birth as I was given my Hebrew name in a Simchat Bat ceremony by Rabbi Gary Gerson and was a member of the Beatrice Glasser Nursery Schools’ second EVER class.
In the mid 1990’s, my family was very close with Cantor Alane Katzew and her family. We went to museums, ball games, picnics/BBQs, birthday parties, Passover Seders, 4th of July fireworks and sleepovers as well as attended Shabbat services as an excuse to “hang out.” In a way, it gave me a sense of connection to the temple, since I knew the clergy on a personal level. At my bat mitzvah, in addition to the rabbi, the cantor gave me a blessing. She told my mother that in a way, it was preparation for her own daughter’s bat mitzvah, since she found herself emotionally moved at the time. When they moved away in 1997, it was a struggle to connect with the temple, as I had to get used to someone new.
While I may not have stayed in touch with my preschool or religious school friends, as a camp counselor and teacher, I aimed to help the new generation of Temple youth keep in touch with each other. I wanted to make a difference. There was one Camp Shalom camper who had a special connection with me. When she was nearly 14, her mother told me that I was the sole reason her daughter identified with Judaism and Oak Park Temple. Even a simple hug or talk about her day had encouraged her daughter to connect with this Temple. As I embark on over 10 years of teaching Gan (kindergarten) in the religious school, I try to instill lasting friendships among my students, as I know that a connection with the Oak Park Temple community can influence them later in life. I sometimes feel isolated as a single woman among young families or long-standing members but I continue to be a part of Oak Park Temple to help others develop the connection that I once had as a child and hope to have in the future.