“A majestic Jewish Holiday season” is how some-one described our blessed run of Festivals this past month here at the JCCH. Among the many highlights for me:

  • Hearing the shofar sounded for the first time on Rosh Hashanah morning with 100+ children crowding the Sanctuary aisles
  • Explaining the midrash (story) behind our new Sanctuary artwork
  • The tremendous response to our call to action on the issue of welcoming refugees (more information forthcoming)
  • Publicly welcoming thirty-nine new JCCH member families to the congregation during Kol Nidrei Services
  • The moving conclusion to Yom Kippur (photo on the right)
  • Eighty students and their parents enjoying a delicious dinner in our magnificent Sukkah
  • Glorious outdoor Sukkot morning services and lunch in the Sukkah
  • Festive Simchat Torah evening dancing with our live band, for “tots,” kids and adults
  • A moving Simchat Torah morning service honoring the many accomplishments of our honorees, Roberta Hoffberg, Eileen Lieberman and Jeffrey Udell

Roberta, Eileen and Jeff shared such beautiful remarks the morning of Simchat Torah. As many members of the congregation were present, others could not attend. Our honorees gave me permission to share excerpts of their remarks:

When my children were young, I volunteered in their schools, both secular, and in our religious school. The future is with our children, so for many years I was a member of the religious school Board at the JCCH. One of my other favorite involvements at the JCCH is the college package program, because it provides a way for me to help keep the college kids connected to the synagogue community. I enjoy creating appealing packages that will remind our far-flung students of the JCCH.

I am truly honored to be Kalat Torah today, to be given the honor as we read the last verses of the book of Deuteronomy. It marks the end, or completion of a year of reading Torah. For the last few years I have been Sisterhood co-president with Deb Bers and, although our roles have not ended, we have taken on projects that have been completed. However, I don’t believe we end with our accomplishments, but should continue to find ways to change and improve ourselves as well as the synagogue and its experiences for the JCCH community.

Simchat Torah is the completion of the festival cycle, the goal to which all the other holidays pave the way. Therefore, when I think of Simchat Torah, I am reminded of many Jewish cycles. I feel very thankful, appreciated and humbled, especially on a day such as today, Simchat Torah, to be honored by our JCCH Community.

Jerry and I joined the JCCH in 2000 having moved from Weston, MA. Before Weston we had lived in other communities including Mexico City, but with all of our other moves, we had children living at home to help us meet people and get involved. This time we were empty nesters and that makes for a very different move.

So before buying our home, our “shul” shopping this time was particularly important to us, remembering that the synagogue was and is always our special “go to” place for meeting and making friends. It was only natural that with the decision to purchase a home in Harrison we also made the decision to join the JCCH.

For me, the synagogue has always been a place of community and continuity. When you think of it, we pray as a community and my first involvement at the JCCH was a Torah Study group or smaller community. For me shul has also been an anchor for my social community. We have traveled the world and are fortunate to have been to all seven continents, but Israel, Harrison and the JCCH are the only places we call home and never tire of.

Today is Simchat Torah—when we celebrate the JOY of Torah—and it’s no exaggeration to say that my parents (Howard, of blessed memory, and Judy, who’s here today and who is now a member of this synagogue), were responsible for setting a wonderful tone in our home growing up in which there really WAS great joy from Torah. We celebrated the chagim, we had a love and an appreciation for Israel and we had a very strong Jewish identity. Believe, me, I was the only kid I knew who got a shofar for his bar mitzvah. My parents also taught me the VALUES of Torah—even without referencing the Torah itself. They taught by example: by being kind to other people, by being generous, by being fair and ethical…

Taking the values of the Torah to heart, I have always aspired to treat people fairly and equally. For me—and maybe it isn’t written precisely this way in the Torah—I never had a litmus test regarding the religion of the person that I would marry. And so it hap-pens, that when I met someone who shared the same values as mine—and frankly EXECUTED them better than I ever could—I knew that this was the woman for me. Even though, as it turns out, she happened not to be Jewish. Yet NO ONE is more supportive of our family’s participation in the life of this shul than Lucy Mazzucco Udell. SHE is the one who makes sure the kids do their Hebrew homework, she volunteers on Mitzvah Day, she serves on the Board of Trustees, and she works tirelessly for this synagogue, as well as, yes, making sure that the values of Torah are practiced in our home… In closing, I cannot thank the synagogue enough for this honor. I look forward to building our community even stronger in the years to come.