Chai Mitzvah Blog

Chai Mitzvah, a new life-cycle event, deepens Jewish engagement and builds community through 5 simple steps:

  1. Monthly learning with a set curriculum which Chai Mitzvah provides.
  2. Independent study - choose something you'd like to know a little bit more about
  3. Ritual/Spiritual practice - choose something you'd like to bring into your life, or deepen an existing practice.
  4. Social Action - choose some way you'd like to give back into the community.
  5. Celebrating the journey!  At the end of the nine-month experience, participants celebrate, share, acknowledge their creative!

March 2016 Leslie and Harold Simmons

Chai Mitzvah Blog for March by Leslie and Harold Simmons

Yesterday, my wife Leslie and I attended the fifth of nine monthly sessions with our Chai Mitzvah class. This month focused on prayer as a way to “Mindfulness and Conscious Living” and helped our class of twenty focus on both fixed and spontaneous prayers as well as the meaning and purposes of Shabbat. We learned that prayer should be an intentional, two-way conversation between us and Adonai and that our obligations for the Sabbath are (a) to remember, (b) to observe, (c) to honor, and (d) to enjoy with delight. All these Chai Mitzvah sessions are helping us grow in both knowledge and the practice of Judaism. Rabbi Pat and Ray closed our session with the beautiful melodies of the Havdalah ceremony, and then we began this week with renewed inspiration and a delicious Oneg.

Leslie and I joined Temple Israel almost two years ago following my retirement and our move from our previous home in Atlanta where we were members of Temple Sinai. Our life’s journey has brought us to our new home and to Temple Israel of Brevard.  Neither Leslie nor I have had much religious education in Judaism. She grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and her parents attended worship services with an Orthodox congregation. Then, when she moved with her first husband and three daughters to Cincinnati, they attended services with Conservative and then with Reform congregations.

I grew up in a small town in Alabama where there were only three Jewish families and where my great grandparents were the only Jews in the early decades of the 20th Century. My father was a Christian and my mother was Jewish. However, since our home was a long distance from the nearest synagogue in Birmingham, I grew up in the Methodist Church and later attended Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

Serendipitously, Leslie and I met as a result of an interfaith dialogue between Peachtree Road United Methodist Church and The Temple in Atlanta. My good friend Larry Hecht, who at the time was the Outreach Chairman for The Temple, was responsible for my meeting Leslie on a blind date following her divorce. It was the best blind date I ever had and it changed my life.  At age 43, I had never married. So, when Leslie and I were married by Rabbi Alvin Sugarman of The Temple in Atlanta, I started life anew with a beautiful wife and three lovely stepdaughters. Of course, I missed many of the joys and growing pains of raising three children.

So, now Leslie and I are very happy to be part of Temple Israel where we both are preparing for our B’nai Mitzvah as well as participating in this Chai Mitzvah class led by Rabbi Pat. Since joining this congregation, Leslie and I have met many wonderful, new friends, and we often say to each other that Temple Israel is the warmest congregation of which we have been a part. Our thanks to Rabbi Pat, to the Temple Board and to all of you!