By: Abby Kaye-Phillips
I can clearly remember the moment when I realized that Uncle Seymour was not actually my uncle. This came as a shock to me and every other kid growing up in the 90’s and early 00’s who knew that a Shabbat afternoon wasn’t complete until Seymour Krieger gave you a handful of Sunkist fruit gems. Growing up as a true “temple kid” meant that every Shabbat, every holiday, and countless secular days in between were spent growing up within the context of a vibrant and ever growing shul that is a true gem of the Providence Jewish community. When I look back on any period of my life, I can remember the traditions that seemed so routine at the time, but are now memories of events and practices that not only shaped who I am as a Jewish adult, but also a human being. I remember the Saturday mornings in Jr. Cong, rushing to the Fishbein Chapel in the basement in order to beat the rush and get the best part to lead in the service. Not getting what you wanted was okay though, because by wearing red shoes, or a black bow, or having a favorite color, you were bound to be included in the masses invited up by characteristic to lead Ein Keloheinu or Adon Olam (which was always to tune of “Yankee Doodle” or “Rock Around the Clock”). I remember the excitement for my friends as they had their first torah readings, and the terror and adrenaline rush the first time I prepared for my own. I remember looking up to the teenage leaders as role models, and eventually becoming one myself. After the service we’d line up to receive our point cards, an extremely important piece of paper that tracked our weekly attendance and would decide our fate come Prize Day of whether we got a stuffed animal or plastic tchotchke at the end of the year. And of course, no Saturday morning episode was complete without those delicious green and pink cookies with the chocolate sprinkles, that along with the challah at the Jr. Cong Kiddush, were a great appetizer to the feast waiting upstairs. After lunch we would look on in awe as the “Jew Crew” of teenagers benched with such ruach that we would try to emulate later when we began to lead the Birkat Hamazon sessions ourselves. I remember religious school Mincha on Tuesdays, and always wanting to be the one to tell Cantor Mayer a special fact about the day that would warrant one of his famous high fives. Holidays were truly special; Wendy’s family service on Rosh Hashana, marching on stage with glowsticks (and sneaking extras to bring home) during Neilah to end Yom Kippur, meals in the Sukkah and of course, candy apples on Simchat Torah after Hakafot that left you with no voice and sore feet from dancing. Purim spiels were the highlight of the spring and the Rabbi’s song was always the best. Youth Theatre productions on the Meeting House stage helped build confidence, foster creativity and create lasting friendships. Even today, when I haven’t been to Saturday morning services in years, and many new families have come and gone, every time I walk through the doors of the temple it feels like coming home. I’m so grateful to the place that raised me with the support, love and sense of belonging that I hope will be available for a family of my own someday. Perhaps it will even be at Emanu-El.