A Tree of Life with Akron Roots

 

As our 40th anniversary approached, Randy and I took out our wedding album to reminisce. I still marvel at how beautiful that day was in my backyard, as we walked down the aisle of beautiful lyndon trees my mom had planted when I was seven. Rabbi Feffer, of blessed memory, officiated that day, and I still remember his kind and thoughtful words.

So what a surprise it was to receive an email from Rabbi Feffer’s daughter Miriam, who is now Development Director of Washington Hebrew Congregation, the second-largest Reform congregation in the country and the oldest and largest synagogue in our nation’s capital.

Miriam wrote “a colleague coincidentally just emailed me a link to Beth El…and to your work!  I’m reminded almost every day of how many roads lead to Akron.” When Miriam saw the photo of the Beth El “Wall of Blessings” she recognized most of the family names, and immediately offered to contact me about working on a project to honor the donors of the congregation’s Tikkun Olam Values (TOV) Fund and the Charles S. Bresler TOV Center, a hub for the community’s social justice projects.

After WHC conducted a thorough review of artists for the project, I was delighted to be chosen to create the design. I worked with Miriam, Naomi Abelson( Tov Fund Director), and Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, (the Senior Rabbi . For over 25 years, social action has been a driving passion of Rabbi Lustig’s and the congregation has a distinguished history from the Civil War period, during which congregants wrapped bandages for soldiers, to today’s efforts to address poverty, hunger, homelessness, bigotry, and injustice.

Working with Miriam, I came to know her as the super-competent professional (as well as wife and mom to a daughter just starting kindergarten at Jewish Primary Day School) that she is today. But I still remember her as an adorable seven-year old skipping down the aisle at Beth El!

Miriam noted that there are members of Washington Hebrew from each of Akron’s synagogues, which attests to the outsize impact of our small community, even in a 2600-family “megashul” and in the greater Jewish community more generally.  The boundaries of Jewish Akron are indeed elastic and far-reaching!

To everyone’s excitement, the artwork went up during the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  A celebration took place at the end of Sukkot, where the new luminous mosaic tree of life was revealed. The artwork features handmade hamsas impressed with words highlighting the TOV Fund’s activities.

So now the 40-year old trees still standing in my old back yard, and the new mosaic tree with its Akron roots, are sharing a place in my heart!

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