President’s Message

As most of you know, I’m an historian, and that means that I think a lot about the past—specifically, colonial American history. I use my knowledge of that past to think about our lives today and how things that happened in the past continue to influence our lives as Americans. Sometimes there are real connections; other times I have to look hard to see any connection at all.

I think a lot about my family—not only my immediate family, but those who came to this country over a century ago to escape persecution in what is now Russia and Ukraine. I’ve learned many of their stories through the years, including the stories about a cousin of my grandfather’s who became a vaudevillian performing as “Rem Brandt,” producing air brush paintings on stage in the first decades of the 20th century, or one of my great-uncles, who was in the same class at Annapolis as Admiral Hyman Rickover, known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy.” Learning all of this history brings the past alive to me—I’ve often said of my family’s stories, “You can’t make this stuff up!”, and you can’t!

But I also think about the past in other ways, and that is through the memories I have of how my family and I celebrated Jewish holidays each year. My parents always came up with costumes for my sisters and brother and me to wear for Purim so that we could go to Sunday School dressed up for the costume parade, Megillah reading, and then for the Purim carnival. These were not elaborate costumes, or store-bought ones of cartoon characters. They used what was available at home: perhaps a sheet that became a dress or a pair of pants we already had, with a cardboard crown covered with aluminum foil, and a scepter in the shape of a Jewish star. I was always Queen Esther (my Hebrew name, “Malka,” means “queen”), and my sister, Jan, was always Queen Vashti. I think my parents thought that those characters of the Purim story suited our personalities.

As Purim approaches, however, the realization dawns—if it hasn’t already—that Passover is soon to follow. Passover is perhaps the quintessential Jewish memory holiday. Reciting the words of the Haggadah and its telling of the Passover story as we sit at our holiday tables invariably recall memories of past sederim with family and friends. We regale each other with the story of the afikoman that was so well hidden that no one could find it or reminisce about the seder led by the patriarch of the family, whose Hebrew was so fast that we could not follow. And perhaps there are memories of more recent seders, brought to life again by a photo taken that night, with your grandparents, favorite aunt and uncle, and your college roommate and her fiancé: family and friends bound together by a ritual that has been part of our collective Jewish memory for many hundreds of years.

This year, there will be many opportunities to make holiday memories, whether it’s helping to make hamentaschen, delivering Mishloach Manot to everyone in the RST family, participating in our adult “Saturday Night Live—Purim Edition” Purim festivities, or celebrating with our younger congregants at our Purim morning megillah reading and Purim spiel. A month later, you can share your seder meal with someone who otherwise would celebrate alone. No matter how long or short your seder is, being together with family and friends, telling the story, singing the songs, and sharing a meal is what Passover is all about. After all, observing the holidays, with friends and family, makes next year’s memories, to be remembered and retold in years to come.

Tsvi and I send our most heartfelt wishes to the entire Rodef Sholom family for a joyous Purim and a sweet and kosher Pesach!