Go to Shul
By Sherri W. Morr
I started to attend Shabbat services at Ikar about 3 years ago. Not regularly at first but as I came to connect with this energetic cutting edge Los Angeles synagogue I began to love the music, appreciate the diverse congregation, and loved watching the young families. For me it became reminiscent of my own younger years … keeping my kids somehow interested, observing the joys and challenges of being with active children, but mostly moved by the nigun, the connection to text, and the powerful social justice messages of Rabbi Sharon Brous. I admit it was about an hour too Conservative for my Jewish leanings, but there were coffee breaks, and sometimes even musaf muffins.
I thought being a single person, that by attending regularly I could get to know a whole new community of Jewish people, some even for whom I might share common goals. I work in the Jewish community and have lived in LA off and on for decades. I did not need more friends, a date maybe, but not exactly looking for that either.
I guess that was not so accurate, or honest. People of my boomer generation who do not have family close by, or a significant other can be very lonely. Even with many friends, associates and colleagues.
On a particular Yom Kippur service Rabbi Brous spoke of loneliness. I felt she was speaking directly to me. People who have full lives, active social circles, and professional commitments. I listened very carefully, and then I started to cry, ultimately weep. Not because I was sorry for myself, but because I realized there was a hole in my life even with a crowded hectic schedule filled with people who cared about me. I guess I felt I wished I were not alone, after all I still slept by myself at night and easily drank milk from the carton standing in front of the open refrigerator door.
At Ikar I went to serve breakfast on Christmas morning at a shelter. I attended a social event to raise money for a school generator in Uganda. I joined a book group, and volunteered as a schmoozer for Shabbat services. I went to gatherings in people’s homes to study text, and packed bags of sweets for Purim shalach manot. I met many people, some whose names I did not even know (or retain). Occasionally I ran into people I knew, and had a few long term friends who were members because their adult children were members. Being a shul shopper for many years, I actually joined, paid dues, made small contributions.
For a while I checked out one man who was very handsome, had great clothes and wore crazy socks. I asked people about him, and when it turned out he too attended the book group, I reached out to him, and asked if he wanted to meet for coffee.
That man proposed to me last Friday night, erev Shabbat. Had I been sitting I would have fallen off my chair. We have been seeing each other for a year and a half, and were quite close, but marriage? I never even thought the M word.
But now I am engaged to be married, with a ring and everything. My sons are ecstatic, the Ikar community practically dancing in the streets; my friends, colleagues and associates are shocked and getting used to such a crazy unexpected outcome. It’s beyond having a date, or a boyfriend … its sharing common dreams and visions even at this later stage of life. It’s having the security of taking care of each other, making each of us happy and fulfilled.
And yes it’s going to shul. It’s to being open to looking and finding community based on Jewish life. I highly recommend it.
Sherri has spent the last several decades working & consulting in the nonprofit community community as a fundraiser, a teacher, and trainer, and as principal in MORR Fundraising Inc, a private consulting firm. For the past year she has been the Director of the West Coast Region for American Friends of the University of Haifa.