Friday, January 7, 2011


When my dad was a 10 year old boy in South Bend, Indiana, his father, Julius Spigle, died. Julius had been a successful salesman, an officer of the local temple (Temple Beth El), and a loving father. His widow – my Grandma Sadie – prudently invested the substantial proceeds of his life insurance policy in the stock market. It was the summer of 1929.

After the stock market crash, my dad's family went to live with relatives in Chicago. Years later, my dad drove Grandma Sadie to South Bend for a long overdue visit with some of her Temple friends. One of Julius's old pals started talking with my dad, and wound up offering him a terrific management job in his South Bend company.

The only people my parents knew when they first moved to South Bend were Temple members, and the Temple became the foundation of their social life. It was within the Temple community that my parents found their most cherished friends, and their most important sources of support. They were active in Brotherhood and Sisterhood, taught Sunday School, wrote plays, shared celebrations, and provided - and received - comfort in the most difficult of times.

Jane and I both came to Boston for graduate school, and for each of us, the first "community" we found here was among our school friends. Later, our neighborhood, our co-workers, and the families of our sons' school friends became important communities for us as well. (By community, I mean "a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common interests or characteristics, perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society"). It has only been in the past several years that Temple Beth Shalom has become for us what Temple Beth El was for my parents - the most important, and the most beloved, of all our communities.

I think we all recognize that our Temple community is extraordinary. Visitors comment on the warmth they feel here, and many Temple members have joined our congregation because of the welcoming, comfortable feeling they find here.

The importance of community in Jewish tradition cannot be overstated. From the beginning - in Genesis 2:18 the Lord says that it is not good for a person to be alone - through the assembly of all the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 35) - through that rabbinic creation, the minyan - through the diaspora - and on and on - our most important events occur in the company of others, and our survival has depended on the strength of our communities. It is no coincidence that the word "community" appears in our Mission Statement and Vision Statement more than a dozen times - compared with only 3 appearances of the word "individual."

I have said before that my two gateways into the Beth Shalom community were the Brotherhood softball team and Saturday morning Torah study - activities which happen to embody the best features of "community." In so many ways, Temple Beth Shalom has been, for me, a place where people care about - and for - each other; where we learn from one another and with one another; where we form strong, lasting friendships; where we celebrate happy occasions; where we are blessed with opportunities to offer needed support, comfort and solace; and where we can feel at home, at peace, and among friends.


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  2. Thanks for sharing your story. It's interesting to think about how our personal communities shift over time.