Is there anything more wonderous than human connection? To be seen, heard and accepted for who we are is precious, but not always easy. Like many of us post pandemic, I’ve learned to feel safe in my own isolation.
On October 7th, shook by the news of Israel under attack, I knew I needed community. The next morning was Simchat Torah, a holiday I rarely celebrated, but I got myself dressed and went to synagogue. The service was outside, and I took a seat near a woman sitting alone.
“Hi, I’m Sharon,” she immediately said. “I’m Sydell,” I answered. “Do you have family in Israel?” “Yes,” she said. “My brother and his entire family live there. How about you?” Yes,” I answered, “My granddaughter’s there studying.” We talked about our families and shared our concerns. It turned out we had a lot more than that in common.
The rabbi was very emotional and asked us all to join him up front. I have a bad knee and was reluctant to get up, but Sharon gently led the way. Before I knew it, we were drawn into the circle dancing around the torah. We were all singing “Am Yisrael Chai,” an anthem of solidarity meaning, “The people of Israel live!” I eventually stepped aside to rest my knee. and then, like the sun passing through dark clouds, she came over to check on me.
When we returned to our seats the conversation continued. We were both retired and living alone. Her brother was orthodox, so I told her about my son. Like me, she was a new member and didn’t come regularly. So, after services we exchanged numbers and promised to stay in touch.
Two weeks later there was a Dinner at temple, which I’d normally skip to avoid sitting alone. But instead, I texted Sharon. “Do you want to go to the Dinner at Beth Am this Friday?” She answered immediately. “I was just deciding. Yes, let’s go together!”
It was a beautiful evening, and we enjoyed celebrating the culture we loved. But it was the connection that really made the difference. It helped me remember that belonging to the Jewish community meant I’d never have to feel alone. Am Yisrael Chai, The people of Israel Live!
Sydell Weiner, PhD, 11/2023