It’s been about 12 years that I’ve been a member of B’nai Jeshurun. Maybe as is the case for many of us, BJ initially seemed like a place to hopefully develop friendships/community and re-connect with Judaism (having had somewhat of a hiatus after Hebrew School, my bar mitzvah, and being in a Jewish youth group in high school).
While it was a bit daunting going to such a large service (not to mention the initial strangeness of the service being in a church), I had the sense that I might develop the friendships and re-connect with Judaism if I just stuck around a bit.
My initial avenue in was the BJ softball games. Those first few years, there were upwards of 40 of us (women included) playing once a week at a field by the boat basin in Riverside Park. Again, it was a bit daunting—not to mention I was a bit rusty at catching fly balls—but I stuck around, met people, and eventually caught more fly balls than I missed.
But softball wasn’t all there was. I went to services most Friday evenings. While I was sure just about everyone there was more familiar with the service than I was, I came to really like it. Eventually, it became the right place for me to be on a Friday night. Of course, it helped that I developed a solid group of friends, having people to go have dinner with after services.
There were also the retreats. It wasn’t only my interest in meeting someone that had me go to the singles retreats; it was a sense it would add to my being part of this community and deepening my connection to Judaism. And while there’s still no ring around my finger after several retreats, they were (and still are) a place to relax and enjoy Shabbat in the beauty of nature, connect with the Rabbis and other people you see around but don’t have the chance to spend any time with, and, if it calls to you, sit around a campfire and sing along while someone plays guitar (on a few occasions, I was the one playing).
Then there has been the havurah I’ve been a part of. Very proudly, I’m one of two original members (Harriet Goren being the other) who met at Felicia’s apartment after (we think) the fall 2000 singles retreat. While we weren’t sure what any group would look or feel like, it seemed like it could be worthwhile. For the first few years, quite a few people came and went. While we had a goal of having a Shabbat service coupled with a catered dinner at someone’s apartment once a month, we never quite met that often. Still, we kept meeting. Now, about 11 years later, we’re still meeting, usually with Harriet co-leading the service. (Anyone who’s been at a service that she’s co-led knows how fortunate we are.) We usually have between 15 and 20 people at each meeting. It never fails that I walk in and instantly have this real nice feeling of comfort. A number of times over the years we’ve given extra money away for tzedakah. As the treasurer who writes the check, I get a real feeling of pride at giving money to any number of causes ranging from local to international, including those affecting lives in Israel.
I’ve also been one of the leaders of several Bekef events. These have again been an opportunity to broaden my relationships, not to mention going on what I think are some pretty cool walks.
Sticking around has been the key—there’s always the opportunity, when walking into an environment where I’m not comfortable, to say this isn’t for me and walk away. I’m glad that for the most part, I’ve chosen to stick around. Now if I can only keep catching those fly balls …