Dear Jasper and Kestrel,
While we were in Salinas last week, Grandpa Nelson and I got the chance to take Cousin Liza to our old synagogue, Temple Beth El. It turns out that it was the anniversary, or Yarzeit, of your Great Grandma Mona’s death, twenty eight years ago.
We were members there for nearly twenty years, and Grandpa Nelson was President for many of those. I helped run the Kosher Luncheon and the Rummage Sale. We attended funerals, weddings, and were involved in loud arguments and tearful reunions. There are lots of feelings tied up in that building.
Our friend Rick invited us to Friday night services. Rick taught me Hebrew years ago and still teaches the Bar Mitzah and Bat Mitzvah kids. He also helps run fund raisers and maintain the building.
We got there early so I could show Liza around. We saw the playground and classrooms, then the sanctuary. The new Ark that surrounds the Torahs is big and beautiful. Liza met Joloo, a boy about her age who was there with his Grandma Jeannie. They played foosball and dashed around until services started.
There were only about a dozen folks at services, because the community is shrinking as older folks pass away and young ones move away. The kids sat in the front row, and Cantor Margaret Bruner, seeing her unexpected young audience, included the kids in undressing and handling the Torah.
Rick helped out by reading a story about Beresheet, the beginning of the Torah, which is called Genesis in English. The story was illustrated using words for water and earth in Hebrew letters.
Cousin Liza, who knows English, Spanish and Russian, asked “What kind of language is that?”. Rick answered perfectly, saying, “It’s a language you don’t know yet,” and then translated the Hebrew into Russian. Her eyes got very big and she listened more carefully after that. I think she was impressed.
Both Liza and Joloo were very good during the rest of the service, standing, sitting, following along as best they could. They even helped put the Torah away.
After services, there was wine and bread and cookies, and then the kids played while the grownups talked. The whole evening had an odd time-travel quality, because it felt a lot like when we would take your Momma Katie and Uncle David to services.
I went home and had so much to be thankful for. Exhausted but happy, which seemed to be the theme of this trip south.