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My Experience with Matan

10/05/2022 10:37:46 AM


by Jessica Berkowitz

For many of you who don’t know me, my name is Jessica Berkowitz, and this will be my family’s fourth year as members of Bet Torah. My husband, Dan, and I have 2 boys who are enrolled in Kulanu, the Hebrew school here. Zachary is in 6th grade and Alex is in 3rd.

When we first joined and enrolled our boys in Hebrew school, we already had some friends here at Bet Torah. On Sundays, that first year during Kulanu drop-off, the boys would run ahead to see their friends and get to their classrooms, and Dan and I would get to see our friends too. We’d catch up with old friends, make some new friends, meet the Kulanu teachers, and stop to say hello to Rabbi Brusso and Rabbi Sacks when we saw them in the hallways. We came to really enjoy that buzz and energy and the connection on those Sunday mornings during Hebrew School dropoff and pickup.

Then, during covid, that stopped - just like everything did. Thank goodness for Zoom. Zachary and Alex continued their Hebrew School on Zoom. We all continued to join those special Kulanu family programs and the family Shabbat services over Zoom. Then in early 2021, Dan learned about Matan - a Jewish class for adults - that was starting up on Sunday mornings. The classes were on Zoom, the boys were home on Zoom, so we decided to take advantage of the fact that we were all stuck at home anyway.

So, together with our Matan classmates and led by Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Brusso, and Cantor Ezring, we studied Torah portions, we learned about Jewish history, we read rabbinic literature, we practiced our prayers and blessings, we discussed holidays, and we debated Jewish laws and practices. We all shared stories and ideas and we all asked so many questions.

When we reached the end of our Matan classes, all of the students had the opportunity to participate in the Shavuot service this past June. I reflected back on all of our Sundays together so that I could speak during the service about what I learned and what did I take away from my Matan experience. What I kept coming back to, and what left the biggest impression on me was the feeling of being part of this community; the feeling of belonging and connectedness, and the kindness that I found there. It didn’t matter what we knew coming into the class or what our background was - whether we had our bar/bat mitzvah or chose Judaism as adults - we were all there for a common purpose. We learned together and we learned from each other. During a pandemic and through Zoom, we were there together. I looked forward to seeing everyone virtually every week and I still get excited now when I see a fellow Matan classmate here in person.

Now, over these past couple of weeks, with more of us being back at Bet Torah in person and seeing so many people here for the High Holy Days, I am thinking about how my experience of this Bet Torah community started with those few friends I already knew during that first day of Hebrew School, and how it grew from there. Meeting more families participating in Kulanu, and meeting my Matan classmates - who I now consider friends. I am looking around the sanctuary and in the tent and I am reminded of that buzz of energy I felt during those early days at Kulanu drop-off, and that connection that I found so much comfort in during Matan. That, even though many of us don’t know each other personally, and even though we likely come from so many different backgrounds, we are here together as part of a community.

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Thu, December 8 2022 14 Kislev 5783