All That Emanu-El Has To Offer

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 Bulletin.

By Audrey Spiegel, congregant

When I arrive in the lobby of Blumenthal with my one-year old granddaughter on Tuesday mornings, she breaks into a big smile and begins speaking. Most people think she is just babbling, but as only a grandmother could know, she is clearly saying “Baby Bop, Baby Bop!” A kindly security guard escorts us through the lobby (which, other than the metal detector and security desk, has not changed in the more than 30 years I’ve been coming here) and on to the elevator. Marina is a bit disappointed when she is not asked to push the button for the fourth floor, but she recovers quickly. When we enter the classroom, Hadar greets us warmly, as Marina settles in, fascinated with what this inviting environment has to offer: beach balls, stuffed Torahs, and of course, the 8 or 9 other children around her size, with their moms, nannies or grandmothers. The curriculum is always the same, so Marina knows what to expect. She waits for her name as Hadar sings good morning to each child individually.

Hadar is not only an incredibly talented musician and singer, she also is able to make every child feel like he or she is her favorite. Marina adores her, and typically stands and holds onto Hadar’s knees while she plays the guitar. I try to remove Marina so that Hadar can perform in peace but Hadar waves me off. She is unfazed by Marina’s close proximity. We then march with our stuffed Torahs, play on and under the parachute, and sing “Wheels on the Bus” with Frisbees for steering wheels, until the main event.

I was taken aback at first that we were celebrating Shabbat on Tuesdays, but it soon started to make perfect sense. Marina has no idea what day of the week it is, but she is now completely familiar with the blessings over the candles, wine and challah. With a visit from the Shabbat dinosaurs and some more music, class is over. Marina makes her slice of challah last all the way home.

After a 10-year hiatus from the time my youngest child was confirmed until a couple of years ago, I am once again fully engaged with Temple Emanu-El. In addition to Baby Bop, I have attended some fabulous talks at the Streicker Center, including ones by Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and Cecile Richards, to name a few. I’ve joined the women’s study group run by Rabbi Ehrlich, which meets monthly to discuss topics that are very relevant to today’s complicated world. And as part of the new Fifth and 65th initiative, my husband Jeff and I recently hosted a Havdalah service at our home, officiated by Rabbi Davidson and Cantor Glazman. Thirty or so temple members, many of whom (including Jeff and me) had never been to a Havdalah service, attended this beautiful event.

I am thrilled that I am once again an active member of Temple EmanuEl. Living in a big city, it is important to us to have a community where our entire family feels welcome and known. I did not fully realize it until recently, but Temple EmanuEl provides such a community, whatever stage of life one is in.