Over the past seven years, my family and I have made an almost bi-annual trek to Minneapolis when my niece and nephew and nephew became bat and bar mitzvahs. Our family of four was always deeply appreciative that these events were never held during the state’s infamous winters.
We were also thrilled that friends and family from coast to coast made the voyage to honor these special occasions. And while our kids eagerly looked forward to the parties that followed the service, my husband Michael and I excitedly anticipated our favorite part of the service, when my brother Scott and sister-in-law Debra addressed their child personally, passionately and yes, sometimes playfully, from the bimah.
This tradition brought tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. This tradition made each bar and bat mitzvah unique and intimate. And this tradition is not permitted in our synagogue.
As a child, I was completely certain about three things: 1) that mushrooms were disgusting; 2) that little brothers were a pain; and 3) that I would become a doctor. Fast forward a few decades and I find myself eagerly topping my burgers with mushrooms, genuinely enjoying the company of my little brother (who now towers over me by almost a foot), and happily working as a professional coach.
Explosions at the Boston Marathon kill three (so far) and injure over a hundred more.
And all I can think is: here we go again.
When man-made tragedy strikes, I do what most of us do: stop, drop and search for meaning. I scan the newspapers, hunker down in front of the television, check Facebook and call friends and family to: first, make sure that everyone I know and love is safe; second, to see who knows something that I don’t yet know; and three, to see who might be able to offer something resembling a lesson to be learned.
My husband Michael and I were having quite an impressive day – or so we thought. What seemed like an otherwise ordinary Tuesday began with me hopping on the train to Manhattan to appear as a guest on Fox Business News to discuss how to deal with professional setbacks. Later that afternoon, Michael was interviewed on Huffington Post Live to share a father’s perspective on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In.” For two non-professional media people, we felt that we were taking the airwaves by storm.
As someone who facilitates over 100 meetings a year (sympathy cards welcome), I have the occasion to ask my clients who work or volunteer in the Jewish non-profit world, “what makes a meeting a Jewish meeting?” The answers rarely vary much: an abundance of food, plenty of passionate disagreement and informal post-meeting meetings that happen in the parking lot after the official meeting has concluded. In other words, as participants in Jewish communal life, we tend to cater to our shared need to eat, argue, and avoid hurting each other’s feelings in public.