THE RABBI FINDS HER WAY

Catherine deCuir
818 Curtis Street
Albany, CA 94706
catherine.decuir@gmail.com

June 14, 2019
Congregation Aitz Chaim
C/O Wendy Weissman, CPA
Attn: Laura Weiss, President
525 Central Avenue, Suite LB
Great Falls, MT 59401-3271
Dear Ms. Weiss:

I’m writing to introduce myself and the new novel I’ve written with Robert Schoen. I hope you’ll be able to help me.
Our book, The Rabbi Finds Her Way, was recently published by Stone Bridge Press of Berkeley, California.
The clergy and president of our own congregation, Temple Sinai in Oakland, have suggested that we share our book with temple book clubs around the country—I know that one of my favorite ways to learn about new books is through my book clubs.
Would you please be so kind as to give this letter to a congregant who leads a temple book club so they may consider it?

We’ve had wonderful feedback from several Jewish book clubs that have read The Rabbi Finds Her Way, and have arranged with our publisher to offer a special book club rate.’ And for every five books ordered at the same time we will include a sixth at no extra cost.
Please email me at catherine.decuir@gmail.com for information on your special book club order, payment instructions, and any questions you may have.
Sincerely,
da914G de duzi
Catherine deCuir
Author and Cantonal Soloist
Our special book club rate is $10.00 per copy, including tax and shipping to one U.S. address (minimum three copies). Payment may be made by check, credit card, or PayPal.


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The Rabbi Finds Her Way

by Robert Schoen
with Catherine deCuir
Fiction
Print ISBN: 978-1-61172-052-5
$16.95/ $2299 CAN I 316 pages I Paperback
Stone Bridge Press
Distributed by Consortium, Baker & Taylor, Ingram and other major wholesalers
http://www.stonebridge.com

“This rabbi gig. People have no idea what its all about.”
A year after graduating from rabbinical school, Pearl Ross-Levy lands the job of her life. As Associate Rabbi at Lakeshore Temple in Oakland, California, Pearl begins to learn what being a rabbi is all about.
Through compelling, inspiring, and often funny episodes, the young rabbi meets a cast of quirky characters and discovers what it means to become a leader in the synagogue community. As Pearl faces the challenges of her new role, we witness her kindness and compassion as well as her resourcefulness and courage.
Whether it is caring for her high school classmate (the victim of a serious car accident), struggling with the anguish of a man who believes he’s committed a murder, or bringing the community together to help a lonely cancer patient feel not so alone, the rabbi teaches us how a little love and caring can affect people in wonderful ways.

The Rabbi’s strength and faith grow as she continues to see that God does, indeed, work in strange ways.
Praise

“The Rabbi Finds Her Way.. very quickly into our hearts. Authors Robert Schoen and Catherine deCuir introduce a cast of memorable original characters and create a wonderful role model, Pearl Ross-Levy, for female and male rabbis alike.”
—Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, D. Min, DD, Bat Yam Temple of the Islands, Sanibel, Florida Former President-World Union for Progressive Judaism

Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Israel, West Hartford, Connecticut
“The book was so funny, warm, and enticing. I couldn’t put it down!”

—Cantor Ilene-KeyscTernplessMairOakland, California
“The Rabbi Finds Her Way is a captivating glimpse into the world of a young female rabbi and her congregation. Robert Schoen and Catherine deCuir give Judaism a funny, poignant, illuminating voice through their protagonist, Rabbi Pearl Ross-Levy, who will steal your heart. A must-read for readers of any faith!”

—Gail Tsuldyama, Author of The Samurai’s Garden and Women of the Silk

Author Bio
Robert Schoen is the author of On God’s Radar— My Walk Across America and the award-winning book What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew About Judaism. He lives in Oakland, California.
Catherine deCuir is a cantorial soloist, jazz vocalist, and fiction writer. She lives in Albany, California.

STONE BRIDGE PRESS, P.O. BOX 8208, BERKELEY, CA 94707 / 510.524.8732 / sbp@stonebridge.com

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YAHRZEITS — JULY, 2019

Compiled by Aitz Chaim over many years, this list is maintained by the Ram’s Horn. Please send any corrections or additions to editor@aitzchaim.com
May the source of peace send peace to all who mourn, and may we be a comfort to all who are bereaved.

Name of
Deceased
English Date of Passing Hebrew Date of Passing Deceased Relationship to
Congregant
Dawn Schandelson Sep 3, 2018 23 Elul, 5778 Wife of Arny Schandelson, Mother of Brett and Scott Schandelson
Irving Langsam Jul 3, 1991 21 Tammuz, 5751 Father of Helen Cherry
Alvin Magalnick Jul 3, 2010 21 Tammuz, 5770 Brother of Elliot Magalnick
Gregory Scott Merriman Jul 10, 2007 24 Tamuz, 5767 Father of Laura Merriman
Natalee Holly Kelman Jul 10, 2013 3 Av, 5773 Daughter of Evelyn Kelman
Beverly Espelin Jul 12, 2007 26 Tammuz, 5767 Mother of Dawn Schandelson
Hilda Schandelson Jul 17, 1962 15 Tammuz, 5722 Mother of Arnold Schandelson
Rachel Foxman July 18, 2014 20 Tamuz, 5774 Sister of Marty Foxman
Miriam Fischer Jul 20, 1953 8 Av, 5713 Mother of Robert Fischer
Maurice Jacoby Jul 27, 1976 29 Tammuz, 5736

PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THIS UPCOMING EVENT


This is a reminder about the lay services led by Devorah Werner the first Friday of the month, July 5, at 6:00 P.M. at the Bethel, with a milchig (dairy) potluck to follow.

Yes, this is the day after the Fourth of July, and yes, there will be a milchig (dairy) potluck afterwards.

Hope to see as many of you there as possible. We will have a gathering no matter how few or how many come.

The address for the Bethel is 1009 18th Avenue Southwest. click here for map and directions.

PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THIS UPCOMING EVENT: CORRECTION

This is a reminder about the lay services led by Devorah Werner the first Friday of the month, June 7, at 6:00 P.M. at the Bethel. **THERE WILL BE NO POTLUCK THIS TIME.**

Hope to see you there.

The address for the Bethel is 1009 18th Avenue Southwest. click here for map and directions.

YAHRZEITS — JUNE, 2019

Compiled by Aitz Chaim over many years, this list is maintained by the Ram’s Horn. Please send any corrections or additions to editor@aitzchaim.com
May the source of peace send peace to all who mourn, and may we be a comfort to all who are bereaved.

Name of
Deceased
English Date of Passing Hebrew Date of Passing Deceased Relationship to
Congregant
Dawn Schandelson Sep 3, 2018 23 Elul, 5778 Wife of Arny Schandelson, Mother of Brett and Scott Schandelson
Al Nagel Jun 4, 2010 22 Sivan, 5770 Uncle of Meriam Nagel
Ann Magalnick Jun 6, 1987 9 Sivan, 5747 Mother of Elliot Magalnick
Minnie Goldberg Jun 8, 1983 27 Sivan, 5743 Grandmother of Jerry Weissman and Robert Fineman
Claire Hochfeld Meyer Jun 10, 1958 22 Sivan, 5718 Mother of Diane Sherick
Samuel Thall Jun 10, 1992 9 Sivan, 5752 Father of Terry Thall
Sigmund Oppenheimer Meyer Jun 11, 1986 4 Sivan, 5746 Father of Diane Sherick
Elsie Dorman Jun 14, 2004 25 Sivan, 5764 Aunt of Marjorie Feldman
Lillian Nagel Jun 16, 1999 2 Tammuz, 5759 Aunt of Meriam Nagel
Rhoda Barrett Jun 17, 2000 14 Sivan, 5760 Cousin of Nadyne Weissman
Charles Cohn Jun 21, 1930 25 Sivan, 5690 Father of Arlyne Reichert
Zollie Kelman Jun 23, 2008 20 Sivan, 5768 Husband of Evelyn Kelman
Morris Goldberg Jun 25, 1955 5 Tammuz, 5715 Grandfather of Jerry Weissman and Robert Fineman
Regan Holsclaw Jun 27, 1970 23 Sivan, 5730 Son of Arleen Heintzelman
Miriam Foxman June 27, 2014 29 Sivan, 5774 Mother of Marty Foxman
Hugh Getzenberg June 27, 2016 21 Sivan, 5776 Relative of Anne Getzenberg

NEW FROM BEN GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV

The Flying STAR robot, a hybrid flying crawling quadcopter robot

Flying STAR, a Hybrid Crawling and Flying Sprawl Tuned Robot FSTAR is a robot fitted with a sprawling mechanism, wheels and propellers allowing it to both run and fly using the same motors. It can fly at 15m/s and run on the ground at 2.6 m/s. The combined capabilities of running and flying allow FSTAR to fly over obstacles or run underneath them and move inside pipes. The robot can reduce its width to crawl in confined spaces or underneath obstacles while touching the ground.

The robot can be used for safe package deliveries, search and rescue applications, manufacturing chains, agriculture, maintenance, cleaning, filming, and entertainment.

The robot was developed in the Bio-Inspired and medical Robotics Lab at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev (ME department).

ISRAEL IN HER 71ST YEAR

As of May 2019, Israel’s population is 9,009,000. About 74.2% are Jews, 21% Muslim or Christian Arabs, and the rest non-Arab Christians and others. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

Citizens aged 0-20 comprise 43% of Israel’s population. The largest group within that category is 5- to 14-year-olds (18%). The latter category is largest in Jerusalem, making up 21% of its population. (Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem)

Jerusalem is Israel’s most populous city, with about 883,000 residents. Tel Aviv-Yafo (Jaffa) comes in second (439,000) and Haifa third (280,000). (Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem)

In Tel Aviv, the largest population segment by age is 35-44 (about 17%), while in Haifa the two highest population groups are ages 5-14 and 35-44 (12% each). (Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem)

The most common family name in Israel is Cohen (one in 50 people). Agbaria is the most common surname among Muslims, Khoury among Christians and Halabi among Druze. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

The most common first names for boys in Israel are Muhammad, Yosef, Ariel, Omer, Adam, David, Daniel, Lavi, Eitan and Uri. The most popular names for girls are Tamar, Abigail, Miriam, Sarah, Adele, Yael, Noa, Shira, Noya and Lia. (Population and Immigration Authority, 2017-2018)

A high-tech superpower

Israel has the highest number of startups per capita in the world. (2018 Global Startup Ecosystem Report)

Israel hosts about 8,200 active high-tech companies. (IVC Research Center)

30 Israeli venture capital funds raised $2.55 billion in 2018, the largest sum ever raised by Israeli VCs and 69% more than in 2017. (IVC)

Israel ranks fifth overall on the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index, moving up from #10 in 2018. In the R&D Intensity category, Israel ranks #1.

Israel’s expenditure on research and development (R&D) as a percentage of its GDP (4.21%) is the highest in the world. (OECD)

Israel ranks #2 among top 10 countries for scientific research, based on the number of scientific research papers released, the number of patents registered, the percentage of GDP spent on R&D and the number of researchers per 1,000 people. (RS Components)

More than 350 multinational corporations have R&D centers in Israel, including IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Merck, HP Indigo, J&J, GE, Siemens, Qualcomm, Applied Materials and Samsung.

Israel has the world’s highest per capita number of such centers. (IVC, Ministry of Economy and Industry)

Every year, about 1,400 startups are founded in Israel and some 800 shut down. (Israel Innovation Authority)

Thirteen Israeli-founded companies with headquarters or development offices in Israel are “unicorns,” privately held startups valued at $1 billion or more: Payoneer, Taboola, Outbrain, Gett, Infinidat, ironSource, eToro, OrCam, Lemonade, Fiverr, JFrog, WalkMe and Via. (TechAviv)

The most lucrative acquisition of an Israeli company took place in 2017, when Intel bought Jerusalem-based Mobileye for $15.3 billion.

Intel is making the largest-ever corporate investment in Israel: An $11 billion production plant planned in Kiryat Gat.

Intel, which employs about 12,800 Israelis in five centers throughout the country, is the most active foreign corporate investor in Israel, putting $435 million into more than 90 Israeli companies — $120 million in 2018 alone. (IVC, Intel Capital Israel)

Healthy, happy and long-lived

Israel has the lowest rate of diet-related deaths in the world. (Global Burden of Disease Study, Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation)

Israel ranks fifth in the world for healthy longevity and 11th in the world for overall happiness. (2018 United Nations World Happiness Report)

Average life expectancy for Israeli men is 80.7, and 84.6 for women, as of 2017. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

Israel ranks 10th on the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index.

88.6% of Israelis say they are pleased with their lives. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

85% of Israelis over the age of 20 feel safe walking alone in the dark in their residential area. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

A tree, fruit and veggie empire

In 1948, about 2% of Israel was covered in trees. Now it’s up to around 8.5%. Since its establishment in 1901, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National fund (KKL-JNF) has planted more than 240 million trees in Israel.

Israel is one of the only countries in the world that ended the 20th century with more trees than it had at the start. (KKL-JNF)

As of the end of 2018, every Israeli has access annually to an average 152 kilograms of fruit and 154kg of vegetables. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

In 2017, the leading crops produced in Israel were potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and peppers on the vegetable side; and bananas, apples, avocados and grapes on the fruit front. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

Citrus fruit is Israel’s largest agricultural export, adding up to $230 million in 2017. The value of all Israel’s fresh and processed agricultural exports was about $2.2 billion in 2016. (Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development)

A flourishing tourism industry

In 2018, Israel welcomed a record-breaking 4,120,800 million incoming tourists.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the most-visited tourist site, followed by other sites in Jerusalem’s Old City: the Jewish Quarter, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives and the Tower of David Museum. Outside Jerusalem, the most popular tourist sites are Masada, the Church of the Annunciation, Tel Aviv Port, Capernaum and Caesarea. (Ministry of Tourism)

In 2018, almost half of all Israelis (4.1 million) traveled abroad – 2.2 million of them once, and 1.9 million twice or more. (Central Bureau of Statistics)

The Israel Hotel Association lists 370 member hotels, encompassing a total of 54,864 rooms. This number does not include hundreds of small boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts (tzimmers) across Israel.

The most expensive hotel rooms in Israel are the Noble Suite at Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton Herzliya, each approximately $5,000 per night in high season.

Invested heavily in water desalination and conservation

Israeli households, industry and agriculture consume 2.1 billion cubic meters of water every year. (Mekorot National Water Carrier)

Israel recycles 87% of its wastewater for agriculture, much more than any other country in the world. Some 31% of irrigation water originates from wastewater treated at more than 150 plants. (Mekorot)

Sixty to 80% of Israel’s municipal water, adjusted according to season and real-time demand, flows from large coastal desal plants in Sorek, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Palmachim and Hadera. (Mekorot)

Sorek is the largest seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world. The 100,000-square-meter facility can produce 624,000 cubic meters of water daily — 20% of domestic water consumption. (IDE Technologies)

Knowing the birds and the bees

As of 2019, Israel counts some 545 resident species of birds. (Israeli Birding Portal)

Every year some 500 million birds of 150 to 200 species migrate across Israel in their twice-yearly pilgrimage to and from warmer climes in March and November.

Israel has about 500 beekeepers with a total of 110,000 hives. (Israeli Honey Board)
Israel’s annual honey yield is about 3,000 tons.

About 1,600 tons of honey is consumed by Israelis every Rosh Hashana to symbolize the hope of a sweet Jewish New Year ahead. (Israeli Honey Board

Extraordinarily well educated

Twelve Israelis have been awarded Nobel prizes: S.Y. Agnon, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Daniel Kahneman, Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, Robert Aumann, Ada Yonath, Dan Shechtman, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel.

Israel has the highest number of engineers and scientists per capita. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israel ranks third among OECD countries for the percent of its population that has attained higher education and fifth for its total expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Israel boasts a literacy level of 97.8% of citizens above the age of 15. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Israel is home to 66 institutions of higher education: Seven research universities, one open university, 23 teacher-training colleges, 21 academic colleges and 14 private colleges. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

A small Israeli-Arab village in the Lower Galilee has one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita in the world.

Tel Aviv trivia

Coastal Tel Aviv-Yafo boasts many distinctions apart from being the heart of Israel’s startup culture.
Tel Aviv is the world’s 10th most expensive city, tied with Los Angeles. (The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey)

Tel Aviv is Israel’s most expensive residential area. The average price of owner-occupied dwellings was ₪2,176,700 ($610,053) in the second quarter of 2018 (GlobalPropertyGuide) and 68 apartments priced at over ₪5 million ($1.3 million) were sold in Tel Aviv during the first half of 2018 (madlan.co.il).

Time Out of London ranks Tel Aviv the best city in the Middle East.

There are 13 beaches along Tel Aviv-Yafo’s coastline, visited by some 8.5 million people annually. (Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)

Tel Aviv has the highest number of pet dogs per capita in the world, at one pooch per every 17 residents. (Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)

Tel Aviv has been called the world’s top destination for vegan tourists (Daily Meal) and vegan capital of the world (The Independent). The highest concentration of vegan restaurants is in the Florentin neighborhood.

Of the 21 Israeli residents listed on the Forbes 2019 World Billionaires list, many live in Tel Aviv — including the wealthiest Israeli man, Roman Abramovich (who was listed by Forbes as Russian although he got Israeli citizenship in 2018) and Shari Arison, the richest woman in Israel.

Random awesome factoids

Israel has more than 230 museums, believed to be more museums per capita than any other country in the world. (CNN Travel)

Israel shipped $61.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. The top five exports are gems and precious metals (24% of total exports), electrical machinery and equipment (13.8%), pharmaceuticals (9.1%), optical, technical and medical apparatus (8.6%) and machinery including computers (7.8%). (World’s Top Exports)

There are more vegans (5%) and vegetarians (8%) per capita in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

In 2017, Israel hosted the world’s largest animal rights march, drawing some 30,000 activists. (PETA)

Every day, Osem produces one million bags of Bamba, Israel’s top-selling snack. Surveys show that 90% of Israeli families buy Bamba on a regular basis.

Israel has won nine Olympic medals since 1952: one gold in sailing, one silver in judo, and seven bronze (four in judo, two in sailing and one in canoeing).

Israeli rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram set a world record with a score of 20.65 points in the clubs event at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup Championship in 2018.

Guinness World Records certified in April 2019 that Isaak Hayik of Or Yehuda, Israel, is the oldest soccer player in the world.

A new Guinness World Record was set for most people using virtual reality displays at the same time, when Israeli company Mobileye made a presentation to 1,867 business leaders at the 2017 YPO Edge conference in Vancouver, Canada.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH GENEALOGICAL SOCIETIES CONFERENCE IN CLEVELAND, 07/28-08/02/2019

NOTE FROM JANET TATZ: Many of you have heard Ellen Baumler, Montana historian extraordinaire, present in the past. Ellen has a key interest in the history of Montana Jewry and has offered many lectures on that topic. She has also led walking tours of “Jewish Helena” including the Home of Peace cemetery. As you can see from this program announcement, Helen has recently been accepted to present on this topic at a conference in Cleveland. Perhaps you were anticipating being in Cleveland or know a friend or relative who lives in that area. Please share the news.

May 2019                                                                             Contact:  Sandra Golden, Publicity Chair, IAJGS

For release:  Upon receipt                                            publicity@iajgs2019.org

Area resident to speak at 39th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy set in Cleveland

Dr. Ellen Baumler of Helena has been selected as a presenter at the 39th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Cleveland, Ohio, July 28 – Aug. 2, 2019.

Baumler’s presentation, “Montana’s Pioneer Jewish Communities: A Lasting Legacy,” explores Montana’s historic Jewish communities. The gold rush brought Jewish pioneers from Germany, Prussia, Austria, and Poland as well as New York and Chicago to Montana. Opportunity drew these adventurers to mining settlements where business and religious beliefs brought them together. Jews set up the first businesses at Bannack, Alder Gulch, and at most mining boomtowns. They seized entrepreneurial opportunities and became miners, barbers, tailors, bankers, attorneys, and cattlemen, but it was especially in the stepping-stone roles of merchant and provider that many achieved economic stability and civic status in a single generation. Without rabbis or synagogues, they established benevolent societies, maintained holidays and traditions, and planted the roots of Judaism in Montana. Their legacies are the seeds of today’s Jewish congregations that flourish across the state.

Details of the conference, including registration and hotel information, are posted on the conference website: www.iajgs2019.org.

“We are excited to be able to bring this conference to Cleveland this summer, with the city’s many attractions and vibrant Jewish community,” said Ken Bravo, of Cleveland, IAJGS president and co-chair of the 2019 conference with Jay Sage, IAJGS vice president, of Newton, MA.

Sage commented, “With today’s growing interest in genealogy, a conference like this provides excitement and information to many individuals looking to explore their roots.  For those of Jewish ancestry, it also offers tips for their unique challenges and research in tracing their ancestors and an opportunity to interact with a group of individuals from similar backgrounds.

Local host for the conference is the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland.

Among features of the annual conference are:

  • More than 200 programs, lectures, panel discussions and workshops, focusing on genealogy methodology, available archival resources, and the history of all Jewish communities
  • Presentations aimed at all Jewish genealogists, from first-timers to conference veterans
  • A vendor Exhibit Hall and Resource Room with genealogy experts, mentors, and archivists for a one-stop research experience at the conference site
  • Networking via popular Special Interest Group (SIG) and Birds of a Feather (BOF) meetings and luncheons
  • In-depth DNA workshops

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) is an umbrella organization of more than 85 Jewish genealogical organizations worldwide offering the world of Jewish ancestry where you live.  The IAJGS coordinates and organizes activities such as the annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy and provides a unified voice as the spokesperson on behalf of its members.  The IAJGS’s vision is of a worldwide network of Jewish genealogical research organizations and partners working together as one coherent, effective, and respected community – enabling people to succeed in researching Jewish ancestry and heritage.  Find the IAJGS at www.iajgs.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.iajgs.org

FIFTH ANNUAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL IN BOZEMAN

From www.bozemanmagazine.com

A MIXED MARRIAGE: ALIVE AND WELL IN THE GREAT FALLS JEWISH COMMUNITY, BY JOY BRESLAUER

I was born three months premature in the early 1950’s and weighed a pound and twelve ounces. I wasn’t expected to live, and it was considered a miracle that I did. I was put in an incubator for 76 days in an environment of pure oxygen to save my life. Doctors were just beginning to find out that too much oxygen could damage eyesight. That is why I am blind. Family legend has it that when my dad saw the hospital bills, he said, “Oh, Joy!” Hence, my name.

Family legend also has it that I was very verbal at a young age, and my dad used to tell me that I talked like a fish. My family and I were in church one Sunday morning, and I knew it was getting near the end of the service when the pastor said, “Let us pray.” My two-year-old voice rang out in the quiet of the church: “You talk like a fish.” My dad was laughing so hard he had to leave.

One day in the lunch line at Great Falls High, my best friend asked me if I was a Christian. “Of course I am, isn’t everybody?” I naively replied. That was when I began to realize that no, not everybody was a Christian. I wondered why there are so many belief systems out there from which to choose, what distinguishes one from another, and what would motivate a person to choose one over the other without belonging to the flavor of the month club.

As I attended college and became an adult, I began to ask questions. The leaders in the church I attended told me that I asked too many questions, and that I should always remember that God is God and I am not, that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine, and I shouldn’t question them because I probably wouldn’t understand the answers anyway, and He is under no obligation to explain himself to me, a mere mortal, in a way that my finite mind could understand. Being a child of the sixties, this didn’t make much sense to me, so I embarked on a spiritual quest which included the study of comparative religion. I eventually made my way back to Christianity, but in the process I learned about many other religions and ways of thinking and living out one’s faith. Among the things I learned was that one can be born Jewish, but one cannot be born Christian.

I also learned that intelligent people can be tripped up by charismatic leaders with tragic results. Jonestown was a case in point. Jonestown hit me especially hard, and motivated me to study the Scriptures more intently and purposefully, thinking that the more familiar I became with real money, the easier I would be able to spot the counterfeit.

Several years later I was given the surprise gift of a Braille Bible by the church I was then attending. I dove into it with all fours and didn’t come up for air for almost a year, during which I read and reread the whole thing from cover to cover many times, something I still enjoy. But I digress.

After college, I got a job in my home town, got my own place, and started living my own life. I thought I had the world by the tail. Not very many blind people I knew were working at all, let alone full time, starting out at $2.17 an hour when the minimum wage was $1.65. I eventually worked my way up to over $11.00 an hour. Not bad for a woman in Great Falls, Montana, at the time, and virtually unheard of for a woman with a disability. I loved my job, and I worked to live. I laughed all the way to the bank.

I eventually married someone I had known since kindergarten, who was also blind. (It took him seventeen years to convince me.) Within two years we bought our first house together and got our first dog from the pound a week later. We had two children, a girl and a boy, within the next five years. We moved our happy little family to Billings with our jobs, but our marriage fell apart shortly thereafter. He said later that the grass on the other side of the fence may have looked greener, but it still had to be mowed. I became a single working mom for about ten years. I eventually moved back to Great Falls at the end of 1998 with a new husband and two grown kids. Well, one was grown and married, and one was a teenager living with us who was almost grown. as anyone who has ever raised a teenager knows, the mid to late teen years are some of the most difficult for kids and parents alike. It tested us all, but we all survived relatively unscathed, although some of that took decades to come to fruition. God has thankfully restored the years the locusts have eaten.

And then there is the matter of this new husband. He is also blind. He and I met at a mutual friend’s house at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. He had just received a new guide dog, Sanders, with whom I formed an immediate bond. I didn’t have a guide dog at the time, and had never met one up close and personal. I didn’t pay much attention to the dog owner. All I knew about him was that he was a professor, he had lived in a big house on a hill with his first wife, from whom he was now divorced, he had no kids, and he was Jewish.

I had never had a male friend who was not a boyfriend, and I had never been able to stay friends with an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, so I was pleasantly surprised that we became friends, and not just friends, but really good friends, without being friends with benefits or having any other ulterior motives. On our first real date, we went out to dinner and to a symphony concert.  We discussed over dinner the fact that each of our previous marriages had ended in divorce, and that if we were ever to be blessed with a second chance, what we would want in a new relationship, never dreaming for a moment that we each were talking to our future spouse.  We talked about the fact that neither one of us could abide shallow meaningless relationships.  We talked about religion and a lot of other things. I began to appreciate his intelligence, his wry but often hidden sense of humor, the way he treated a lady like a lady, and the fact that he seemed to really listen to what I had to say and value my opinions, and to genuinely care about what I thought and how I felt. One of my quests in life became how to make him laugh.  Although I thought he had so much going for him, there were two problems: He was blind and he was Jewish. I had already been a leading lady in that blind-husband-failed-marriage movie, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that again. I eventually had to sit myself down and say self, how would you like it if someone rejected you for that very same reason and no other? How fair would that be? I decided that it wouldn’t be very fair at all, so I let that part go and enjoyed his company and let the chips fall where they may.

Then there was the Jewish part. By this time our relationship was taking off like a rocket, which was unusual for me, since I don’t trust easily and I like to take things more slowly. I wasn’t even looking for a relationship or a marriage partner. Turns out he was. When I first went to synagogue with him, the student rabbi wondered who this girl-of-the-week was, and how long she would last. She outlasted them all. She decided to hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride. And what an enjoyable ride it has been.

When things got more serious, I learned that the student rabbi wouldn’t have married us even if she could have, because it would have meant uniting a Jew and a non-Jew in a sacred covenant with God. She said that she had seen lots of other mixed marriages, where either the battle for dominance of one religion over the other would eventually tear the husband and wife and perhaps both extended families apart, especially if children were involved, or the husband and wife would both become nonreligious. I struggled with that, too. I knew that Christians are encouraged to marry other Christians. I knew we wouldn’t have to fight over which religion we would raise our kids in, but what other unforeseen problems might we face. The student rabbi did suggest some passages and rituals to include in our blended marriage ceremony, which took place at the church I was attending at the time. Sanders was the ring bearer. the Jewish community had a special oneg just for us. A couple of brave souls from the local Jewish community attended our church wedding, which I learned later is against the law for them. Long after we were married, I heard a rabbi remark in passing that he would much rather marry a gay or lesbian couple than a Jew and a non-Jew.

Some other interesting things I have learned are that you don’t have to believe in God to be Jewish, that there is a difference between a cultural or secular Jew and a religious Jew, that there are several different sects of Jews, just as there are several different sects of Christians. Some are more liberal and some more conservative than others. Some have more modern music and some don’t have any at all, just like some Christians. Some have big debates about what Scriptural language means, or what English translation, if any, can be trusted, or the true meaning of Hebrew words, just like some Christians do. There always seem to be continuing debates in both religions concerning what is truth and what is myth, and whether you can tell the difference, or how, or whether it matters. Some will not work or play on their designated day of rest. Some include women as their religious leaders and some do not. Some abstain from certain things during certain times of the month or the year. Some have dietary restrictions. Some have differing concepts of the sacred and the profane. Some Christian denominations do not sanction drinking, dancing, or the wearing of jewelry. Some require certain kinds of dress or head coverings at services, or in their daily lives. Some Christian denominations, especially in the South, insist that women wear dresses or skirts, never pants, and that they wear long hair and even wear hats to church as a head covering. Some influence the ways men and women interact with each other. Some strive to be all-inclusive or gender-neutral, and some do not. Some have been portrayed in the media as either comics or buffoons. Some have ben the subjects of vicious or false propaganda. Some have suffered unspeakable horrors and persecution at the hands of others, not just because of their faith, but because of their race. Some Jews do not get along with each other, just as is true with some Christians. There are some Jews and Christians who don’t seem to get along with each other or anybody else, targets of other groups for reasons which may be as similar as gang or turf warfare in certain neighborhoods or toward other minority groups, or as different as the hatred, animosity, and contempt harbored in an individual’s heart. Jews struggle in the United States with such subjects as assimilation, or how or whether to remain as Jewish as they want to be, without being targeted. So do some Christians. Both Jews and Christians grapple with what they believe, and how much of it to believe or practice in order to become or remain in the faith they have chosen, or the faith into which they were born or reborn. I think each group also laments their waning influence on the society around them, and wonders how to raise up the next generation in the faith of their ancestors which their elders still hold dear. The younger generations may think that the older beliefs are now hopelessly antiquated, archaic, and out of touch, with no relevance to today’s society whatsoever, with its modern problems and ways of thinking. Both groups debate what is in the Book, how it got there, who wrote it, whether it can be trusted, what it means or should mean to us individually and collectively today, and why this particular book is different from any other book.

One of the most profound and life-changing ideas I have encountered about belonging to or relating to any group is from a book called “The Vanishing American Jew” by Alan M. Dershowitz, C.1997. Although it may seem a bit out of touch now given the recent resurgence of antisemitism in our society, one of the strongest take-aways from the book for me is not to let your enemies define you. That idea has impacted my life as a Christian, as a wife, mother, and grandmother, as a person with a disability, and as someone who cares deeply and passionately about the Jewish people in general and one Jewish person in particular.

So while each of us as individuals and groups ponders the meaning and purpose of life and where we belong as we journey together, who is in charge and makes the rules, what happens if we keep or break them, how to leave this world better than we found it, and what, if anything, happens afterwards, here we both are, over twenty years later, fellow travelers on that same road, a divided yet united household, still happy together and head over heels in love with each other and with God. We believe that the Biblical imperatives we share in this life are to love God above all else, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to treat everyone else as we would like to be treatede. We have two days of rest at our house. We read from two different translations of Scriptures. Bruce’s Scriptures have the letters OT on the cover, which he says means the Only Testament. We agree to disagree on some things, like Coke or Pepsi, but we always treat each other and each other’s religion with respect. I love learning about other cultures and foods and music and ways of thinking. One of the things I love most about the Jews I have met is how joyfully — and sometimes with profound and overwhelming sadness — they celebrate many of their traditions, and how they pass them on to their children. It breaks my heart to see the Great Falls Jewish community disintegrate, as have many Christian communities, for some of the same reasons. I hope our household of faith will continue to grow ever stronger with God as the common denominator, the firm foundation on which it is built, a foundation that will not be shaken. L-Chaim!

NOTE: This song was sung at our wedding.