How and why does one say goodbye to a community that has nurtured, loved, challenged, helped me grow, and been my home from the time I was a young naïve mother until this moment when I find myself somehow older, hopefully wiser, and a gramma of seven?

Thirty-five years ago, in 5749, with two young children, my husband and I were looking for a Jewish community to become a part of, although, to be honest, I don’t think we had any idea what that might mean. We continually found ourselves at preschool events at Temple Isaiah in Lexington. And so, it followed naturally for us that, when our oldest was in kindergarten, we joined and became members. That began a unique and wonderful journey for us individually and as a couple. We made close friends and developed many close relationships that don’t have a name in the English language. They are beyond acquaintances – they are people that we share yahrzeits and other milestones with, people with whom we served on committees, individuals we dreamed about the future together with, played music and sang with and shared a variety of life’s joys and oys with, even if we never took a walk or made intentional plans with one another. Our lives were intertwined in very special ways. Those relationships are the true meaning and value of being a part of a community.

My leadership skills were finely honed there, from the first phone call from Rabbi Cary Yales z’l, inviting me to a school committee meeting (“You would be perfect for this committee,” he said) through my years as president with Rabbi Howard Jaffe by my side. Serving as president of the congregation was challenging and exhausting, while at the same time powerfully meaningful and energizing. I loved having the opportunity to connect with so many people and contribute my vision and hopes for the community.

Being part of a community feels so important in these tumultuous times. Although I know they might not be right for everyone, congregations can offer so much to people of all ages, from the very beginning of life through the end and everything in between. We know there is an epidemic of loneliness, and of mental health issues surrounding us, and being part of a Jewish community can truly mitigate against those and support people through the challenges of life.

We love our community and yet we are leaving.

We recently moved. We didn’t move that far and in theory, we could still commute. However, we are leaving because we want to be an active part of the community where we now live.

“And the painted ponies go round and round.”

People leave congregations for many reasons. Often, they leave because the community no longer meets their needs or another negative reason. That’s not our situation. I would be excited to be part of this next chapter. We are welcoming a new rabbi and I was part of the group who worked on a new vision for the community. We are heading into a bright future. However, what I learned by being a part of our temple, part of a thriving community, is that in order to reap the benefits of a community one must fully participate, not simply pay dues.

It is with both a reflective heart (the month of Elul is perfect for reflection) and with extreme excitement that I am filling out a membership application to a new synagogue. We are fortunate in the Greater Boston area to have many wonderful congregational communities and I look forward to finding my place in a new community, whose building is a 3-minute walk from our new home.

I have said my goodbyes to many. However, I also want to do so publicly. I don’t want to simply stop paying membership dues and disappear. I don’t want to be counted among those who give up their temple membership when their kids are grown and flown. As I move to a new synagogue home, I know that Temple Isaiah will always have a big place in my heart. I know I will always be welcome there, but it will be different. I won’t be part of the day-to-day. I won’t get the emails that tell me about the joys and sadness of the community, I won’t be there to welcome our new rabbi and to work to implement our new strategic plan.

Rather than say goodbye, I say “L’hitraot. Until we meet again,” because we will meet again. I will always have roots and feel proud and grateful to be among those who over the past 64 years have contributed to the community, even as I plant new seedlings in the year 5784.

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