By: Rose and Allan Schoenfeld
After moving to Brevard County almost six years ago, Allan and I joined Temple Israel. Prior to moving here, we were members of a conservative synagogue in San Antonio and later in Jacksonville. We weren't sure a reform temple would be a good fit but soon found out that we were entirely wrong. We immediately felt at home at Temple Israel with such a wonderful spiritual leader and a warm, friendly, and caring congregation.
When given the opportunity to join a Chai Mitzvah Class, we jumped at the idea to learn something new and to broaden our knowledge of Judaism. This month was our sixth out of nine Chai Mitzvah Classes. This class focused on Passover and the need to not only find the time to prepare our homes but to also find time to prepare our hearts and minds. We discussed the traditional Passover symbols, i.e., Pesach, Matzah, and Maror. We also discussed introducing new Passover symbols and rituals into our own Seder - one being the Cup of Miriam which was interesting in the fact that you are honoring a woman who has helped or inspired you along your journey during the year. As part of the class, I have been saying some morning prayers which helps get my day started in a positive way. I am also researching Jewish History in Florida. For social action, I am continuing to volunteer at Temple Israel and am also Secretary in the local Hadassah Chapter.
I (Rose) did not have much of a religious life growing up. My father was from Tennessee and raised Southern Baptist. My Mother was raised in Philadelphia and her parents were Orthodox Jews. Consequently, all six of us children were left to decide on our own where we would attend religious services, if any. My father was military and I would occasionally attend some protestant services on various military bases and sometimes even Vacation Bible School but never really felt at home. It wasn't until I met Allan and started attending Friday night Shabbat Services at Lackland Air Force Base that I really felt I belonged. In fact, we were married by an Orthodox Rabbi at Lackland AFB almost 35 years ago.
I (Allan) was born in the Bronx and moved to Middletown, NY when I was three years old. I grew up in a non-practicing Jewish household except when it came to my Mother's cooking. She was a wonderful cook and prepared all the Jewish delicacies at the proper time of the year. I do remember my parents joining a Synagogue one time and I attended Hebrew Class which was taught by the Rabbi's wife but I think I may have failed the class so, consequently, I had no Bar Mitzvah.
I left home at age 18 to join the Air Force. I married a Southern Baptist lady and we had seven children in ten years. We used to celebrate Jewish holidays as well as Christmas and Easter. I found it very difficult to maintain a Jewish identity in my Air Force assignments worldwide for 27 years. My last duty assignment was at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. By this time, I was single and met the love of my life, Rose. We attended Shabbat Services on Friday nights at the military base and after my retirement, we joined a conservative synagogue. In 1998, I was part of a B'Nai Mitzvah Class. It was a very large class and we each had a few lines from the Torah.
In 1999, we left San Antonio - traveled for a couple years and then lived first in south Florida, next in north Florida, and finally settled here in Brevard County. In the past, it was somewhat of a struggle to go to services but at Temple Israel with the combination of Rabbi Pat, Cantor Ray, and the warm and friendly congregation, we both felt like we belonged.
My Jewish batteries were worn down and the Chai Mitzvah Class has recharged my jewishness in a different way. It awoke my interest in the Hebrew language. I have been studying Hebrew via the internet. I also receive a Hebrew Dictionary in modern Hebrew every day with different classes of words. For social actions, I am President of the Temple Israel Men's Club. In December, I helped feed the homeless at the Salvation Army. In addition, I am studying Israeli history.
Rose and I have finally found our home, not only by choosing to live in Heritage Isle but also by being a member of Temple Israel. We both feel the classes taught by Rabbi Pat are such a wonderful opportunity and look forward to more.