In the spring of 1997, Rob, Sarah, who was then 3-1/2 years old, and I moved from Phoenix to the South Hills. Shortly after we arrived, I learned of a Scholastic Book Fair being held at Beth El, and wanting to find books for Sarah, we found our way there late afternoon.
That was when I met my first Beth El member.
The fair was monitored by a few women who were standing, while one was sitting. With Sarah vigorously wriggling in my arms due to fatigue and ennui, my goal of perusing the books was hopeless. Noticing my situation, the lady sitting down volunteered to take her, promptly bouncing Sarah on her knees, talking, and giggling with her. They struck up quite the bond; Sarah was elated, and I was able to purchase some books.
Later that afternoon, without thinking when leaving for home, I inadvertently left the books behind. I was discouraged, but just an hour later, that wonderful person was at our door, chuckling while handing me the books. We had a good laugh, but I was also grateful for her thoughtfulness and struck by her kindness. Over time, she and I became friends. She was always a joy with whom to spend time; we would delve into discussions on various issues and events, including the possibility of my joining Beth El. She was bright, kind with a big heart, as well as a good friend.
Over the course of the next six years, we had many talks and interactions, but in August 2002, she unexpectedly and tragically passed away. It was a difficult time; her loss was felt profoundly. I will always value the time we shared, the friendship we forged, and that humorous memory when Pearl Simmons and I first met at Beth El.
*Rob and I joined Beth El in April 1999. While Pearl played a role in our decision to become members, there were others who were positive and animated when talking about Beth El. My choice was ultimately decided not only by the wonderful and warm people whom I met, but by the joy of seeing and hearing so many children at Shabbat services and at religious school, as a result of the active role taken by parents. Wanting my children to have a solid foundation in Judaism, as well as their having the opportunity to make friends from different areas, I knew this would be our new “home.”