Mark Blatter: I grew up Orthodox in Brooklyn, NY, and I put on tefillin regularly until I was in my 20’s. When my father died 15 years ago, I came to morning minyan at Beth El. And I had to re-learn how to put tefillin on. I’d forgotten about how to do it even. And I got here and felt totally awkward and funny about the whole thing—as everyone does. About five months into the process I pulled aside Milt or Sam and just said to them I really appreciate how everyone has been here for me—this is a really special thing—and I’m going to become one of the regulars. Little did I realize a week later my mom passed away. And so I ended up coming for 18 months and saying kaddish for 18 months, but I had already made the commitment, and the commitment was that I would come every morning and be part of the group.
Alva Daffner: I think I’m the only one at the table who didn’t start coming because of a loss. I don’t remember what spurred me but I decided that I was going to pick one day a week and I was going to come to minyan. I decided I was going to push the point of calling women for Kohein Aliyah. So I was going to come on a Torah reading day. So I came on Thursday mornings for 12 or 15 years. When my mother died a few years ago, I started coming regularly, morning and evening, finding a minyan when I was out of town, and very quickly it became part of the framework of my life. It became routine: get up and brush your teeth and then go to minyan. And that’s a good thing. I’ve been coming ever since and I like it. But initially I knew part of it was that I wanted to be there so that the minyan would be there for me when I needed it, but I had no idea when.
Mark: It’s like the bar at Cheers. Everyone knows your name. We know who’s meshuggi—we’ve got different levels of mishegas that go on. You learn. It’s a family. My life has always been in a tumult, but even when things get crazy and I’m away for awhile and come back, it’s no big deal. You’re with family.
Alva: Not only do we all know what’s going on in everyone’s life, we are all concerned about one another. Somebody has surgery, we’re calling them–when they come back, we check on them to see how it’s been going. Recently I was away for about 10 days, and when I came back, everyone in the minyan individually asked me how my father was doing and how his girlfriend was doing. It’s that kind of caring.
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.