I grew up in Squirrel Hill, and my attitude was “How can I go over a bridge and through a tunnel to get to the South Hills?” Jan and I met when we were working at camp in Monroeville, and when it was time to drive her home she directed me on how to get out to Elatan Drive in Carleton Manor. I made it to her house, pulled into her parents’ driveway, and didn’t get out of the car because I was terrified that I would be lost forever in Mt. Lebanon. I said good night and then immediately tried to remember the left and then right and then another left, worrying that I would never find my way back. But, surprisingly, I did.
After we were married for about 6 years, we decided we needed to live somewhere with good schools and with a strong Jewish community. I’d gotten used to Mt. Lebanon by then because we’d come back and visit Jan’s parents, and it turned out that trip to Elatan Drive took only about 15 minutes. So we moved out to the South Hills and then came to Beth El to see whether this was a place we would like. We had tried several different synagogues when we lived in the east, and all of them were very nice. We’d go to services and maybe someone would talk to us, but normally no one really did. So we decided to go to an event at Beth El on a Friday night, and I said to Jan, do you think we’ll know anybody? Because Jan grew up out this way, she thought maybe some of her friends would still be here. She mentioned a couple of names, including Warren Sufrin. And I said, “Oh! I went to camp with Warren. I know him. I hope he’s there.”
We walked into the Community Room. Across the room was this guy who looked exactly like he had the last time I’d seen him 15-20 years before. I went over and said, “Hi, Warren,” and he said, “Hi, Cliff,” and we’ve been friends ever since. That’s how we became part of Beth El. We restored a friendship the first time we set foot in the building.
Within months after we joined, Jack and Janet Mostow approached us and invited us to help with a couples club that was getting re-established. It was great to be asked to help. We got to know other couples and made so many of our best friends just from saying yes. Someone asked Jan if she’d like to be on the school board, and she said yes. We made good friends in Sisterhood and Men’s Club, and all it took was saying yes. But before saying yes, it took someone being willing to ask us, and that made all the difference.
100 Reasons is a new blog series featuring members of our diverse and delightful congregational family. We are celebrating Beth El’s 100th anniversary this year with 100 stories, 100 memories, 100 reasons to join us! If you would like to add your story or memory to the blog, please contact Nancy Langer.