An Innovative Temple

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By Amy Olson

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I grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island but spent much of my adult life in Minnesota.  When I was growing up, my family belonged to what was then called Temple Beth Torah, but I do have vivid memories of visiting Temple Emanu-El on several occasions. 

As a kid, I remember that Temple Emanu-El had the best Purim Carnival in the area!  One year, I convinced my parents to schlep all the way to Providence to take me to the Carnival.  I was thrilled when I tossed a ping pong ball into a jar and won a goldfish.  I named him Megillah, and he lived for more than a year in a glass bowl on our kitchen table.

I attended several bar-mitzvahs at Temple Emanu-El in the early 1970’s where I confess most of my time was spent in the ladies room with the other girls, admiring our maxi-dresses.

When I moved back to Rhode Island with my own family in 2005, I wanted to join a congregation that was highly participatory and offered numerous resources.  As someone who loves to daven and read Torah, I was looking for a vibrant Shabbat morning community, where I would have the opportunity to be an active learner and an active leader.

Temple Emanuel is constantly striving to be innovative, relevant, and responsive to its members.  Each of the Rabbis since I have been a member–Rabbi Franklin, Rabbi Kaunfer, Rabbi Seltzer, and Rabbi Babchuck–have been caring, knowledgeable and approachable.  Their pairings have complemented each other and add to the diversity of experiences available.

Coming from a unique and wonderful congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota, yet one that did not have a professional Cantor, I have truly enjoyed how much I have learned musically from Cantor Mayer and how adept he is at involving the congregation in the service.  I also love the fact that there is a lay-led service option–Minyan Hadash–where I can apply all that I have learned.

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Why We Spiel at Emanu-El

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photo (45)I’m part of the spiel because I love seeing my own children and my friend’s children grow up in this fun, creative atmosphere.”

I’m part of the spiel because I love the fact that my grown child, Gershon’s grown children, David’s grown children, and Shelley’s grown children have all returned to write songs, play in the band, and act on stage.”

I’m part of the spiel because people that participate in Spiel have become my friends and my extended family by celebrating yontifs together, rejoicing in celebrations together, and comforting each other through hard times.”

“I’m part of the spiel because each year there are new and interesting people that join and many of them become a part of my extended circle of friends and family.”

“I’m part of the spiel  because I love seeing the joy on the faces of the audience.  The kids squealing with laughter and even the most crusty congregational curmudgeons cracking a smile or two.”

“I’m part of the spiel because we have elevated the holiday of Purim in this community well beyond normal observance to a much anticipated, joyful, and hilariously funny event for the entire community.”

“I’m part of the spiel because Ros is still spieling after 36 years!”

“I’m part of the spiel because of Sid’s face when he gets the laugh for his hand shtick.”

“I’m part of the spiel because of Ivy and Zoe cha-cha-chaing without inhibition or care.”

“I’m part of the spiel because every once in a while I get to put the clergy in really ugly dresses.”

“I’m part of the spiel because I get to work with some of the most musically talented musicians around.”

“I’m part of the spiel because I get to work with some of the funniest, artistic, creative, and interesting people I have ever met.”

“I’m part of the spiel because I have a great time.”

I’m part of the spiel because it chases winter blues away.”

I’m part of the spiel because it helps me get out of the stress of work and home.”

I’m part of the spiel because you all support me and each other in hard times and help to celebrate the good times.”

I’m part of the spiel because somehow you all seem to believe I’m funny and laugh at my crazy shtick.”

“I’m part of the spiel because it’s fun, we laugh, and all have a great time!  I hope I can learn my lines by tomorrow!”

Thank you 

Thank you for letting me sing even though I can’t hold a tune.

Thank you for the greatest 16 years.  I have never laughed so hard than at some of the shtick, unbelievable song lyrics, and crazy dance numbers that you all come up with.  It is totally a blast.

Thank you for the opportunity to have played some of the lead roles, even though I am not lead role worthy.  I am a happy camper dancing and jumping around like a lunatic.

Thank you for making this the highlight of my year!  Ever since Bruce invited me to come to a rehearsal 16 years ago, I can’t stay away!!  Even though I do other theater during the year, this is so special and fun!

Thank you for brining my theatrical days back!  I know I’ve only been involved in Spiel for 35 years (darned that Ros Gereboff!), but it’s been pure pleasure throughout, going back to my onstage days and all of the set designs through the past 35 years.  People and players have come and go, but the ruach (spirit), dedication and great fun is ALWAYS present.  I love being part of you all and appreciate the support and friendship you all have shown me!

Thank you for welcoming us into the Purim Spiel!  Since I moved back to Providence 11 years ago, I’ve become friends with dozens of families who are members of Emanu-El- nearly all my friends and neighbors.  I am not Jewish so I was never part of the goings-on at Temple, but I’ve heard so many stories from so many people.  What stood out to me was the dedication and commitment to community that I’ve heard about for so long, and now have experienced firsthand.  I’ve also decided that Jews have more fun.  Even though I am a spiel newbie, this stuff is right up my alley and it’s a ton of fun.  I feel honored that my family is part of this.  Thank you for the opportunity!

Restoring Our Souls

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By: Sam Shamoon

ImageMy family joined Temple Emanu–El over 36 years ago.  My wife, Linda, and I have found great satisfaction in our interactions with other congregants, clergy and staff, and are deeply involved in life at the synagogue.

Following the death of my mother earlier this year, I literally became embraced by the Temple Emanu-El community, which loved and consoled me during my time of sorrow.  As I tried coming to terms with losing my beloved mother, spending time with fellow mourners, friends and clergy in the Temple’s chapel had been a great source of consolation.  This experience made me feel incredibly lucky to be a member of Temple Emanu–El.

Aside from being a place to console the bereaved, Temple Emanu-El offers times of prayer for contemplation and restoration of our souls; it offers us enormous opportunities to study and learn.  It is a community to help us celebrate joyful times in our lives, and to share with others the meaning of being Jewish.

When we first joined Temple Emanu–El, we learned of the three pillars of a synagogue; a house of worship, a house of study, and a house of assembly.  In our 36 years here, Linda and I availed ourselves to almost every pillar of synagogue life.  To enumerate all of our experiences here would take far too many pages.  However, to express my gratitude for Temple Emanu-El and the joy it brings to my life, I would like to sign off with two thoughts.  My satisfaction with the synagogue more than repays the efforts I put into it, and life without Temple Emanu-El and it’s three pillars would be less fulfilling.