Life Never Ceases to Amaze me

I want to share two experiences with you that I had over the last few days. Both took my breath away and reminded me that there is always something new to learn and experience. The first took place when I went to the Reform Synagogue on Saturday. I have one foot in Reform and another foot in Conservative. The Reform Synagogue I belong to is unique in many ways. In its 90 year history it was the only Synagogue that for years did not have one member living in its zip code. It is located in an area that was considered dangerous. But a rebirth in the downtown and midtown area of Miami is underway and things are changing! Temple Israel has opened its arms to the incredibly diverse population that spills over from South Beach. There are no judgements. I go to services on Saturday in jeans unless I know there is a Bar or Bar Mitzvah. And that leads me to this past weekend. I watched a young man embrace his Judaism. He began his speech with “I am black, white and Jewish.” The parents are divorced and the father lives in Hawaii. The grandparents are longtime members and devoted to this young man. Family members stood to speak and before long I found myself crying. What moved me as well is that over half the guests where black. When the cantor began singing the hallelujah chant the energy in the room turned electric and people were joyous and clapping. The spirit of celebration and Sabbath made my heart sing. We are one.

Yesterday I was invited to a bris an hour and a half drive from where I live. The new mother is in her middle 40’s. Unable to have a baby she and her husband found a surrogate. The woman who carried the egg and sperm of the parents was at the bris with her husband and 9 year old daughter. During the service, as the infant was passed between grandparents and parents the surrogate also held the child she had carried. This little boy was brought into the arms of Judaism because a young woman wanted to give the gift of life to a family that could not do it for themselves. The surrogate and the new mother have become best friends. 

Life can still amaze. We must always remember that. In the span of just a few days I saw with my own eyes, “from generation to generation. la dor le dor. 

3 Responses to “Life Never Ceases to Amaze me”

  1. Howard Neviser Says:

    Ellen,
    In my mind I differentiate between Orthodox and Reform using my own flavor of “common sense.” To me the Ten Commandments make sense and, therefore, its reasonably easy for me to observe them. There are certain Orthodox rules that make no sense to me. I have no problem working, driving, using electricity, etc. on the Sabbath. I guess, because it makes no sense to to me in 2013 I cannot be an observant Orthodox Jew. That said, again, in my own mind, i am no less a Jew. I believe in the basic tenets of my religion; treat people the way I think God wants me to , observe our holidays, especially the most holy ones, attend our Temple on the Sabbath and try to do as many mitzvahs as I realistically can, as well as other things. I am a proud Jew and I let people know that. What I mean by all this is that it really makes no difference to God whether we are strict Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Jews as long as we believe.

    • Ellen Brazer Says:

      Dear Howard:
      I really couldn’t agree with you more. What you said about being a proud Jew really resonated with me. I think I forgot to remember those words. I moved to Naples Florida when I was 11 years old. At that time there were only 3 Jewish families in the entire city. Naples was a city of millionaires. The country clubs were restricted to Jews. Families like the Smuckers and Evenrude’s lived there. Many of my friends had never seen a Jew before. I was proud of my heritage even as a child. I went on to become a cheerleader and I was voted the most popular girl in school. I tell you this not to brag (there were only 300 kids in the entire school)but because I believe it happened because I was never ashamed. I never felt less than… in fact I think in my heart I felt special. The girl from the other Jewish family did not have the same experience. She was teased and called names. Why? Who knows. I write Jewish historical fiction, celebrating who we are to the world. I am doing research for my next book and I have been interviewing Survivors. When I walk out of those interviews I am shaken to my soul on one hand, and proud and overwhelmed on the other. The stories are so hard to hear, especially when you are looking into the eyes of gentled soul in their 90’s. Your simple words, “I am a proud Jew” is reverberating in my soul. Perhaps that is all any of us need to remember. We must be proud. Not just of ourselves but of those who came before us and those who will come after us. Thank you for taking the time to contact me!

  2. Howard Neviser Says:

    Ellen, while clearing out my email and social media stuff I came across your name and I reread your blog from this past June along with my comments. Since you are one of the more interesting people who entered my life in 5773 I want to apologize for forgetting to wish you the happiest and healthiest of new years. I hope uou are well and continuing to write words and stories people want to read. Take cafe.

    Howard Neviser


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