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November 26, 2004 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-26

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A Night To Remember


onday, Nov. 29, will mark 57
years from the U.N. General
Assembly's Partition Plan of
1947 for Palestine, which laid the foun-
dation for the Declaration of
Independence of the State of Israel.
Statehood occurred the following year,
on Friday afternoon, May 14, 1948.
A third-grader at the time, exactly the
age of my granddaughter Kayla, I knew
that something very important was
about to happen. Only in coming years
did I fully realize the huge significance

Rachel Kapen is a West Bloomfield resi-
dent and an Israeli native. She and her
American-born husband, Shelly, and
two toddlers, Gilead and Alon, came to
the United States in 1962.

of the partition plan.
With the advent of darkness on that
Saturday night, a number of our neigh-
bors gathered in our little apartment in
the house at 99 Herzl Street in the
southern end of Tel Aviv. My father,
Yosef, built the house in 1935.
We were seated around the radio,
which we bought only a few years before
— our first. Pencils in hand, we were
trying to speculate on the results of the
fateful vote that \ NUS to take place at the
U.N. The vote to partition the Land of
Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab
state was actually to determine whether
there would be a Jewish state after all.
That was at the head of priorities for my
parents and all others who were gathered

Family Is Glad To Stay

Ann Arbor


y husband, Barry, and I
spent the better part of last
spring agonizing over the
decision of whether to move to
Toronto or stay in Ann Arbor. Barry
and I had so many different things to
contemplate as we tried to decide
whether to move or stay. We corn-
pared career potential for each of us.
We considered how our girls, Claire
and Emily, would adjust to being
raised in Canada. We calculated how
the exchange rate would affect our
financial situation.
Not the least of our concerns was
whether we as an interfaith family
could find a congregation
in Toronto
, 0
with which we could connect.
As we asked real estate agents and
potential colleagues about the Reform
Jewish community in Toronto, I
couldn't help but feel a bit over-
whelmed with the prospect of having
to move and find a new congregation.
Raised Catholic, I'm the "inter" mem-
ber of the family. Barry Claire and
Emily identify- as Jewish. I'm also the
member of the parental unit who feels
most strongly that religion should play
a part in our day-to-day lives. If we
were to move, Barry was unlikely to
put finding a new congregation high
on his to-do list. Yet the process of
choosing a congregation is foreign to
Catholics are affiliated with a church




Teresa A. McMahon lives with her
husband, Barry Fishman, and their two
children, Claire and Emily, in Ann
Arbor. She is assistant professor at the
Center for Proficiency in Teaching
Mathematics in the School of Education
at the University of Michigan.

by location. Since the house I grew up
in was in St. Lucy's Parish, we were
members of St. Lucy's Church. We
could (and did) go to mass at other
Catholic churches in town, but the
process of formalizing affiliation with
a congregation and signing up for reli-
gious school was determined by the
parish boundaries within which you

Duplicate The Bond?

As I was faced with the possibility of
moving to Toronto, I began to wonder
how we would be able to rebuild the
kind of connection that we feel at
Temple Beth Emeth (TBE). I was
pretty sure that we would not feel at
home prior to the High Holidays and
wondered how long it would take
before we would find the "right" con-
gregation to join.
Our daughter Claire was 6 months
old when we joined. Before Claire was
born, Barry and I had lived in
Chicago where our first attempt to
find a synagogue to join had not been
successful. In Chicago, we had been
told that the rabbi for the congrega-
tion we wanted to join would not per-
form our marriage. But if we married
and had children, then they would
welcome us as a family.
Barry and I were frustrated by what
we considered to be flawed logic. We
didn't want to be a reclamation project
whose worth was based on our off-
spring. We wanted a congregation that
accepted and welcomed us as worthy
participants rather than tolerated our
presence in order to gain access to our
Our first indication that TBE was
the right choice for our family was

at our apartment.
kisses and hugs and shouts of
The vote ended in victory, at
Sheheheyanu and EChaim as
least we Jews thought so. The
old grudges were set aside.
partition resolution, 181, passed
Ashkenazim and Sephardim,
with a slightly more than one-
religious and secular, were unit-
third majority: 33 yes, 13 no,
ed in their longing for an inde-
10 abstain (including Great
pendent Jewish state.
Britain). There was one "no
My sister, Shula, and I were
the only children at the celebra-
It was getting awfully late in
tion; none of the adults present
Eretz Yismel and I couldn't hold
are still with us. But when I
out against sleep, so I missed the
recall the unbridled joy and
actual vote. My father, usually a
great hope that engulfed them
man who didn't display his emotions,
all — against the backdrop of today's
awakened me. With a gentle kiss on the
suicide bombings, which is almost the
forehead, a shaking voice and tears
daily bread of their children and grand-
streaming down his cheeks, he told me
children — I thank God Almighty for
that we have a state. All around me were sparing them the agony

that the congregation
shared its
other Reform congregations
0 0
building with a church. In
out there where I would be
addition to sharing space, Both
as happy as I am at TBE.
congregations collaboratively
However, having experienced
support a joint community
welcomes that were less
service initiative called Genesis
enthusiastic than TBE's, I
House. Whether you think it
wondered if I would have the
was a sign or coincidence, the
stamina to search them out.
fact that the name of the
Perhaps my greatest fear was-
church that shares space with
MCMAHON n't that such a congregation
0 0
TBE is St. Clare's was hard for
Co mm un ity
wouldn't exist in Toronto.
us to dismiss as a good omen. If
Perhaps my concern, if I
we moved, would we ever find
really thought about it, was
a congregation so visibly accepting of
that it would be quite a while before
other faiths?
we as a family might have the energy
Tot Shabbats were among our first
and focus to try to find that new com-
services. Claire, and, later, little sister
munity. The move would be over-
Emily, loved the services — as did we.
whelming. Acclimating to new jobs,
Our daughters are now in the religious making new friends, settling into a
education program. (Barry and I are
new home, enrolling in new schools
both educational researchers by trade.)
and acclimating to a new culture
The girls love going to class, choosing
would have been first on our to-do
to stay for the last 10 minutes of reli-
list. If we were a single-denomination
gious school instead of leaving for the
family, finding a church would have
first 10 minutes of their Saturday
been right up there on our "to-do" list
morning soccer games when the
since it would have been another posi-
inevitable conflict arises. The religious
tive connection to the new city.
school guitarist produced a CD of all
However, fear of rejection is a big
the songs the children learn through-
hurdle. Would Claire and Emily be
out the year, which has become the
recognized as Jewish based on their
top-requested CD in our van.
paternal lineage? Would I be wel-
Barry and I also have attended class-
comed as a viable member of the com-
es to learn more about Judaism as a
munity even if I did not choose to
religion. If we moved, would we be
convert? How long would it take
able to find a congregation with such
before I felt accepted rather than just
a dynamic educational program?
We have created a web of connec-
As we moved closer to the decision
tions to other members of TBE —
to stay here, I realized that our affilia-
neighbors, friends from play groups, a
tion with Temple Beth Emeth was one
rabbi who makes us laugh, cry and
of the top three reasons for my want-
think and other interfaith families rais- ing to stay in Ann Arbor. I
ing their children as Jews who are
drawn to TBE by the acceptance and
This commentary is an abridged version
welcome they feel.
of what first ran on the Web site

A Lonely Search?

Deep inside, I know that there are

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