Growing up my mother lit the Shabbat candles every week and our family attended services on the High Holidays. My father could Daven and never broke fast on Yom Kippur until the very end. Pretty simple. Once when telling my father I did not care to attend Rosh Hashanah services he said, “wait until you have children and you will understand.” These few words mean more to me today than I can ever say. When he died I began saying Kaddish and found my way back to Temple Emanuel to the Shul where I grew up. Two weeks after his 11 months ended I began again this time for my mother. After almost two years of daily prayer, twice hearing the Torah from start to finish, re-learning about the holidays, about prayer and how to put on Tefillin difficult questions were raised. My adult Jewish learning journey had begun.
We became parents of an adopted son. It was without question that we appear before the Bet Din, go to the Mikveh for his conversion and have a Brit Milah. Suddenly the question of Jewishness and the continuity of our faith was top of mind. We attended Ikkarim the predecessor program to Parenting Through a Jewish Lens, sent our son to a Jewish pre-school, Hebrew school and Jewish overnight camp. We have traveled to Israel and are now planning his Bar Mitzvah. Still I needed more. How could I fulfill my responsibility of transmitting Jewish values, customs and history?
Me’ah challenged me and I looked eagerly ahead to every class. My classmates became friends and close relationships developed. The group was surprisingly diverse but then why be surprised because our Jewish people are so diverse. Some had studied extensively and others not. Some had synagogue leadership roles, some came from orthodox backgrounds, some are from other countries and others have converted, some understood Hebrew and others not. As peer relationships grew our inhibitions fell away, we shared opinions, taught each other and had fun learning together. My classmates were perfect for our time and place.
I had no way to know the exceptional caliber of teacher we would meet. Each in their own way delivered their message, stimulated classroom engagement and respected the view of every student. Not only is it humbling to be taught by brilliant devoted teachers and scholars and authors, it illustrated the scope of the learning which is possible. We are fortunate to be in Boston with the support of CJP and Hebrew College leading the way in contemporary adult Jewish learning.
I could not have predicted and am happy to write that because of my Me’ah experience, I am now deeply committed to further Jewish learning and see this continuing without end. One of the greatest compliments about what Me’ah has instilled in my group is many of our class plan to continue studying together.