My Journey of Faith

If you would have told the 16-year old boy being confirmed that he was going to become a major participant in his Temple one day, he would have said you were mistaken.

My exposure to Judaism growing up was a place I had to go on Sundays until I was confirmed.  I sat through the 2 hour sessions on Sunday morning for 12 years, and I don’t remember one time where the subject matter inspired me.  About the only interesting thing was the co-ed classrooms after 5th grade or so, in that I went to an all boys school during the week.

Therefore, the fact that:

I became the music man for the Temple I joined as an adult, serving roles from playing the guitar for the kids during Sunday School to accompanist on Shabbat,

I served 12 years in Temple administration, eventually rising to the position of President of the congregation

I taught classes and volunteered for everything from cooking meals to clean up duty to membership chairman

I served on more committees than I can remember, and created some unique programs in our congregation

I began attending Shabbat services almost every Friday night

I have been attending Hebrew classes and will become a Bar Mitzvah in May of 2008

would not have made a lot of sense to that 16-year old boy being confirmed.

Why the transition?  Did I have a moment of religious enlightenment, a trip to Israel or some other epiphany?

No, it was actually a non-Jew that caused the “conversion”.  When I married my non-Jewish spouse, she made it clear that our children were going to be raised with some sort of religious background and if I didn’t want to be responsible for them getting a Jewish education, she would take responsibility for getting them a Christian education.

That was all the motivation I needed.  We researched Temples and religious schools and I jumped in.  The program and religious school director at our Temple, Ellyn Polsky, taught me all I needed to know about Hebrew and Judaism so that I could be an effective teacher and music man.  The Rabbi, Joe Rosenbloom, gave me enough reasons to have faith that I became a motivated Jew.

It all started with a choice to raise my boys in the Jewish faith.  They identify themselves as Jews and are proud of their religion and I know a major part of that pride comes from watching their father learn at the same time.  I was there every Sunday morning, and they didn’t have the same apathetic attitude toward their Jewish education, as a result.  As Jewish parents and role models, we need to teach our children by example and that doesn’t mean dropping them off on Sunday and showing up twice/year.  That means being active, involved participants in our congregational life. 

We also need to embrace our inter-faith families and let the multiplier effect work for us.  One Jew can create multiple new Jews, if our congregations accept and encourage them to actively pursue their Judaism.

Ken Cohen

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