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2021-22 Adult B’rit Mitzvah Messages of Gratitude

Thank you to Chai Wolfman for her beautiful design of our Brit Mitzvah certificate.

With gratitude to Luke Adams for his work on the certificate, the program and his delicious homemade challah.

Heartfelt appreciation to my hevruta partners: Sydney, Robin B., Tracy and Luke for sharing their thoughts, feelings and stories.

Thank you to Rabbi Rachel for her inspired teaching and encouragement.

Thank you to Cantor Howard for your warmth and joy.

Many thanks to Rachel Sherman, our intrepid coordinator and always a ray of sunshine

I’m grateful to our entire class for taking this journey together

Robin Trilling

I would like to thank Rabbi Rachel Weiss for her thought provoking teachings and her genuineness and Cantor Howard Friendland for his encouragement and support.

I would like to thank my husband Mitch Rogers for his love and support. And my children Ellie Rogers and Ruby Rogers for cheering me on.

I want to thank my parents for being the wonderful role models that they have been: for showing kindness and empathy, for giving me the gift of their unconditional love.

I would like to thank Irene and Gerald Rogers for teaching me how to make a Jewish home and supporting me as I continue to learn about Judaism.

Jennifer Rogers

Special thanks to Sandy and her support and encouragement. Thanks to my children, Emma and Seth, and other friends and family attending the service.

I’d also like to thank Rabbi Weiss for her always engaging teachings and thoughtful guidance and Cantor Friedland for his assistance and explanations, which were very helpful for my Torah reading preparation.

Thank you to everyone in this year’s cohort. It has been an honor to share this experience with all of you, and I look forward to the continued growth of our connections and spiritual journey.

Lastly, thank you to the JRC community. Since joining JRC, I have consistently seen and felt, in many ways, what a special place it is. I can’t imagine having this Brit Mitzvah experience anywhere else. Toda raba.

Tracy Hultgren

Thank you to Rabbi Weiss for being both a participant and a teacher, for having your heart on the pulse of the community near and far, and for making me feel like I found what I was looking for.

Thank you to Cantor Howard for the beauty and kavanah that you express for all of us.

Thank you to the Brit Mitzvah Cohort for taking this journey together.

Thank you to Haystack School in Deer Isle, Maine.  You were the perfect place to work on my visual spiritual autobiography.  Your gifts were endless.

And I am filled with gratitude for my chevruta, where we shared our hearts and journeys as we studied together and found such a beauty of connection.

Phyllis Levun-Agostino

I am so grateful to be here, at this place, in this moment, having renewed and strengthened ties with JRC and the larger community.  Thankful for dear family and dear friends, both new and old. And great thanks to our clergy, my hevrutah partners and my mikvah partners. What a journey…. and it isn’t over!

Jil Levin-Deheeger

I’d like to thank Rabbi Rachel for her wisdom, sense of humor and leadership during the Brit Mitzvah process.  And thank Cantor Howard for his warmth and flexibility in teaching me to chant Torah. Also grateful for his knowledge and ruach which greatly enhanced my Brit Mitzvah experience.

For Bill and Danny Hirsch and everyone past and present who’ve been part of my Jewish spiritual journey.

To Kyra Auslander for friendship and accompanying me to buy my first-ever tallit.

To my Hevruta partner, Matt Simonette, as well as partners Candace Sukalski and Barb Vertel.

For Salli Berg Seeley, my steadfast walking partner who’s almost always up for a walk.

Maria Tolpin

I am beyond grateful for:

My son, Josh, who tutored me in Hebrew tropes, created a virtual piano for me to learn the tune and drew the melody so I could visualize the notes. Your loving spirit and your confidence in me to achieve my goals fills my heart.

My parents, Harriet and Gil, who gave me a Jewish life and have cheered me on in whatever endeavor I have taken on but especially excited and supportive about my spiritual quest which they know has been going on since I was 12.

My love, Aaron, who encourages me all the time to pursue anything that makes me happy and who told me I have a nice voice when I sing my torah portion. He keeps me laughing even when things are stressful. (Also, thanks for your patience with all the Zoom calls I am always on!).

My sister, her daughters and my extended family who are my biggest fans.

I love and appreciate you all more than you will know.

Robin Byster

Thank you to David Tabak for leading the search committee that brought me to JRC, my beautiful spiritual home.

Thank you to the JRC community for embracing me so warmly. Your love and acceptance made me feel like joining this cohort as a peer was a perfectly normal thing for an executive director to do.

Thank you to Rabbi Rachel for creating this incredible experience for all of us. You are a gifted teacher and a dear friend. I am so much better for knowing you.

Thank you to my hevruta buddies, Mandi and Luke. You were such an important part of my spiritual journey. I adore you both.

Thank you to my husband and daughters who have been endlessly encouraging and supportive. You inspire me to always learn and grow and become a better version of myself.

Thank you to my parents and grandparents who planted the seeds that became the strong roots of my Jewish identity.

Micky Baer

This has been an incredible journey and it is a full and grateful heart that I will keep as I continue on this path.  In addition to the dedicated and amazing clergy and staff at JRC who make all of this possible:

I give thanks for my mother, who would have loved to have been here to see this. For her undying curiosity and embrace of things that sparked her interest in the world.  She raised me such that my heart and mind might be open to finding and joining a deserving community, which I have found at JRC.

For the JRC community that has accepted and embraced me, taught me, made me laugh and gave me and my family a place to call home.

For the entire Adult Brit Mitzvah cohort and my hevruta partners, Micky, Aaron, Rebecca, Robin B., Robin T. and Tracy.  You all made this a unique and enriching experience that I will never forget.

Lastly, for my wife and my children who have been so encouraging and supportive during this transformational time in my life.

Thank you!

Luke Adams

Dear Rabbi Rachel,

Thank you so much for your excellent teaching, and kind support for learning about our Jewish heritage and life.  I will always remember our time together with fondness!


Barb Bank

Barb Bank

I am so grateful to my kids, Matt and Lainie for taking this journey before me.

Rabbi Rachel Weiss is an inspiration to us all and the whole Rabbinical staff including Cantor Howard and Rabbi David are wonders.

And I am forever grateful to those who accompanied me on this journey, in the class and in the havruta group we formed and I look forward to continuing with all. This is just a beginning and I look forward to the rest of the journey.

With much gratitude to all.

Gail Luxenberg

So much gratitude and love to my fiancee McKenzie, who has supported me every step of the way.

Rachel Woods

My sincere gratitude goes out to Rabbi Rachel Weiss and Cantor Howard Friedland and my classmates. To each one of you, this experience has been meaningful and fulfilling because of your involvement. I appreciate the hard work, energy, time, and intention that made these past several months incredibly special.

I want to say hi, I love you, and thank you to my wife, Jordan Parnell. Thank you for always pushing me to learn more, love deeper, and investigate further. I admire your interactions with Judaism, and I have learned so much from you. I appreciate and adore you.

Julie Webb, thank you for sharing your ever expansive knowledge of Judaism. You are a constant reminder of the importance of having a deep sense of spirituality. Thank you for letting me don your conversion tallit for so many special occasions during my first few months as a Jew.

To my friends and family who came out to support and witness me today, thank you. It means the world to me that you all were able to witness me becoming B’nai Mitzvah. Today is extremely special and I am beyond grateful to share it with you all.

CJ Parnell

I’d like to express my profound thanks to the members of my hevruta study group—Jil Deheeger, Diane Peznowski, Gail Luxenburg and Phyllis Levun-Agostino. Thank you for the thoughtful discussions of the books we read together, and especially for the authentic sharing and supportive listening as we learned about each other’s spiritual journeys. You’ve made this such a rich and rewarding experience!

Rachel Hayman

Thank you JRC for the beautiful, welcoming and inspirational spiritual home. It is a joy to grow and learn with this amazing cohort community, guided by the warmth, knowledge and enthusiasm of Rabbi Rachel and Cantor Howard. Candice Sukulski and Maria Topin – thank you for Havruta shares along the way. I can imagine future gatherings for continued explorations.

With love and deep gratitude to all!

Barb Vertel

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my husband, Andy Cohen, and my children, Anna Rachel and Gabriel Elliott.  Without them, I would not have been blessed with the discovery and recognition that Reconstructionist Judaism is my spiritual home.

I also want to thank Rabbi Rachel Weiss, who goes above and beyond for her congregants, always seizing the opportunity to step in and fill our needs for spiritual development.  Rabbi Weiss has provided the guidance and education over the past years, and especially over the past year, that have allowed me to formalize my commitment to Judaism through my conversion and brit mitzvah.

Thank you also to Cantor Howard for his positive energy and boundless patience in teaching us, among many other things, how to chant our Torah portions.  We literally could not have done this without you!

And a very special shout out to my hevruta sister-friends, Gail, Rachel, Phyliss and Jil.  I have so enjoyed the hours we have spent studying together, and mostly sharing so much about ourselves and our spiritual journeys.

To the broader brit mitzvah cohort – what an incredible journey we have had!  I feel blessed to have been part of such an amazing group effort!

Hugs to all.

Diane Pezanoski