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I wasn’t looking for a community. Certainly not JRC.

I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 14 years, and had driven by, but never really thought twice about it. Quite honestly, for the last two decades I’ve worked on Shabbat and hadn’t given that a second thought. Then, as life would have it, a year and a half ago I injured myself at work and required shoulder surgery, which took a while to get. At first, I thought it would be nice to have a little free time. After a very short while, without having a work community and an economic identity, I started questioning. What am I without everything I’ve known? There I was, walking my dog along the lakefront when I heard some people singing in Hebrew. Well, sounds like some fellow Jews. What’s that about?

It turned out that I happened upon the first of the four lakeside Shabbats that summer. Long story short, I ended up at all four of them. The next thing I knew, I was at the Minyan, going every Shabbat. And the next thing I knew after that, I was studying Torah tropes with Cantor Howard, and then, the next thing I knew, my father was ill in the hospital in New York, right at the time I was studying the Torah tropes. What I didn’t know was that I’d be going back to be with my father on the last night of his life, and that studying the Torah tropes was a spiritual meditation that saved me, quite honestly. Through having attended the Minyan, I knew enough to whisper the Shema in my father’s ear, as well as letting him know I was studying Torah, as I recited the first line of the Torah in Hebrew into his ear, as well. I saw him shake his head in acknowledgement and awe even though he couldn’t move much at all.

It just so happened that the rabbi on Long Island who showed up to be there for his passing and oversee his burial invited me to his synagogue. At that synagogue, it just so happened that the parsha I was studying to recite was the same exact one that he was reciting on that day. So there I was, the day before my father’s burial, listening to that rabbi sing the parsha.

Prior to that, in January, Cantor Howard and I had decided that I would chant from the Torah on May 30, my birthday. That was meaningful because, in past years, what I’d done on my birthday, was go to Wisconsin hiking, alone, in the hills, where I’ve felt comfortable. In that moment, through that connection with the wonderful Cantor Howard, I made a commitment within my heart and soul, to be accountable, and be present for community. I’d committed in advance, not even knowing my birthday fell on Shavuot, or even what Shavuot was—and not even knowing when I made that commitment that my father would have been passing away.

As for the Minyan, I invite everyone who is reading this right now to bless yourself with the gift of attending the Minyan at least once on Shabbat.The lessons I’ve received from the people I’ve connected with there have been beyond measure. When I returned from Long Island, the Minyan held a shiva at my condo in honor of my father Bernie Weinstein, for which I am eternally and exceptionally grateful, beyond words. In 14 years of living there, I have never felt it to be more of a home. And all I can say is that I’m honored, and grateful, and it gives me faith to know that even when we’re not looking, we are being led to where we need to be. And that even when we don’t think we’re connected, we’re connected in a way that is bringing us forward. We would all do well to have exceptional gratitude for this, which I do.

written by Frederick Weinstein