IJC’s Women of Awe

The IJC community entered into the Days of Awe on the eve of Rosh Hashanah – prepared in part by the introspection of the month of Elul – ready to explore our relationships with the divine, with the people around us, with the living creatures that populate our planet and our planet itself. We made our new year resolutions for 5779, hoping for balance and harmony in all we do, readying ourselves to forgive and be forgiven, and renewed our commitment to what is important to us.

On Yom Kippur we reflected on Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedakah and how interrelated they are, and asked ourselves what it might be like to turn our Vidui – our annual acknowledgement of our shortcomings and failures - into a positive Vidui, where shortcomings are transformed into successes and failures into opportunities for the year ahead.

As a community we managed to create together a sacred space to facilitate this reflection, with the kind of warmth and welcome only IJC can generate. At one point on Rosh Hashanah I was able to step back from the bimah, sit down for a moment and observe. What I saw left a profound impression, confirmed later by other members of the community. The women of IJC are ‘Women of Awe’, powerful and inspiring, supporting and carrying IJC out of love for their community and a desire to see it thrive.  I was leading High Holyday services for the first time (ever), and without these women it would have been a very different experience.

Anneke Silverstein’s beautiful High Holyday trope for leyning the Torah, Sarah Wheaton diving in at the deep as gabbai for the first time, Ilana Sumka as our expert second gabbai and Ruth Friedman  as Shofar blower extraordinaire.

And outside the sanctuary bubble there were more amazing women at work: Anu Ristola taking expert care of the logistics, Alexandra Varese and her unique challot, Lisa Kelman greeting and welcoming, Harriet Behrman attending to yahrzeits and making sure those in need of healing didn’t go unmentioned, Diane Vermunicht whose organizational talents streamlined the preparatory work of the Religious Affairs Committee (completed by George and Sarah), Ilana Bet-El recreating the silence of Yom Kippur with her mother as a child.  And many more – forgive me if I did not mention your name.

There were some hard working and inspiring men around too, not the least of them Marty Eisenstein and Ido Ben-Gal our High Holyday cantors, and Steve Brummel IJC’s untiring President, but the women of IJC stole the show this year.


Brian is IJC’s Rabbinical Intern