Generations at TBS
from the Archives Committee
On Friday, May 13, 2022, Temple Beth Shalom honored families who have been TBS members for 2 or more generations at a wonderful Friday night service. We are delighted to share the remarks that were presented that evening by longstanding members Louis Grossman and his son Jake Grossman, and Jeff & Lisa Shapiro. Click here to view the Generations Shabbat handout.
It has been 2+ years since I last set foot in this Sanctuary and it’s truly great to be back!
It’s not possible to adequately convey, in the allotted 5 minutes, the multitude of highlights during our family’s 40+ year history with TBS however, I will share with you several vignettes with the hope of conveying the importance and value of our multi-generational connection to this Temple.
Patti and I moved from NYC to Needham just prior to the birth of our first child, Joel, who joined us on January 1, 1977 at 6:30 AM.
Since I grew up at Temple Emanuel in Newton (which was a Conservative congregation) and Patti grew up at Temple Israel in Boston (which was a Reform congregation), we were not sure whether we would feel more comfortable at Temple Aliyah or Temple Beth Shalom. Patti therefore decided to join both Sisterhoods and, within a short period of time, concluded that she preferred TBS which we joined in 1980 when Joel entered Pre-School.
When we joined TBS, I thought we were a “first generation” Grossman family member. You can imagine my astonishment when I attended my first Yom Kippur Yizkor Service and learned that the family connection actually began two generations ago because my paternal grandfather, Jacob Grossman, is permanently inscribed in the Memorial Book. That familial connection continues today as the Mayim program uses the facilities at the Jacob and Rose Grossman Camp which was established nearly 50 years ago by their 3 children.
And now it is “story-telling” time: several short vignettes which convey the special relationship between our family and this Temple, often serendipitously:
When our second child, David, was born and I came to see him for the very first time, I entered the maternity ward and heard Patti talking and laughing vociferously with a woman whose son, Scott, was born 1 day earlier----it turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong relationship with Beverly Bookman!
We subsequently welcomed Jacob and Debbie into the family and celebrated most, if not all, of our children’s life-cycle events at the Temple. At each one of these Simchas, I read a very special prayer to my children---a prayer my father sent me when I was 17 years old. The prayer was written by General Douglas MacArthur as a Spiritual Legacy to his son and expressed all the dreams and wishes I had for our children! I was truly flabbergasted when, 13 years ago, I attended Adam Markley’s Bris at which time Rabbi Todd read the very same prayer!
One of my very special and favorite remembrances occurred about 10 years ago when our children successfully hosted a surprise 100th party for Patti and me (it was Patti’s 60th birthday and our 40th anniversary). At that party our children announced the establishment of the TBS Educational Scholarship Fund in our honor.
One of the highlights of my involvement at TBS was a very rewarding and challenging two years when I “partnered” with Rabbi Sonsino as President of this Congregation. We learned together, addressed tough issues together, picked up the Holocaust Torah at Logan Airport together and developed a long-lasting personal relationship. Nevertheless, as President of the Congregation, it was essential to maintain a sense of humor. During my second year as President, I was on the pulpit during Rosh Hashanah and Rabbi Sonsino had just delivered a heartfelt and thoughtful sermon about his 3 greatest heroes (I don’t remember the specifics however, I do remember they included a biblical character, a rabbinic commentator and a modern-day scholar). At the end of his sermon, I approached the bima, thanked Rabbi Sonsino for his amazing remarks and reflected upon the time I attended Temple Israel and heard Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn deliver a similar High Holiday Sermon about his three heroes. (For those of you who never knew Rabbi Gittelsohn, he was a dynamic, outspoken, charismatic, fire and brimstone orator). I turned to Rabbi Sonsino and said, “the only difference between Rabbi Gittelsohn’s sermon and yours, was that one of Rabbi Gittelsohn’s heroes was the President of the Congregation!”
Perhaps most meaningful to me, is that this Congregation supported us in both good times and challenging times. I’ll always remember the time Rabbi Jay and Emily visited and sang to Patti when she was under hospice care, even though he had just begun his Sabbatical and I frequently listen to Rabbi Todd’s heartfelt and emotional Eulogy which was the second-best eulogy he ever delivered---second only to his father’s.
Someone once asked what the greatest challenge was that I experienced at TBS. It was a challenge that developed soon after we became members and kept getting more challenging year after year. With four children, their spouses and 2 sets of machatunim living close by, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find 10-14 seats together during the High Holidays. We, fortunately, always sat directly in front of Marty and Jan Cohen and their daughter, Maggie, who, I believe, were consistently the first people in the Sanctuary on the High Holidays. To this day, I don’t know whether people just didn’t want to sit in front of them or whether they secretively saved seats for our growing family. BTW, at that time, little did I know that Patti’s BFF from childhood, Suzy Tobin, would introduce me to Marty’s sister and we got married last August. Amy wanted to be here tonight with me and all of you however, sadly, because of health reasons she is not able to be here.
I could describe many other serendipitous events which connect our family to TBS. When Joel and Holly moved to Lafayette, CA they joined the same temple where Rabbi Julie grew up. Or the fact that Joel attended Brown partly because it was not a “Greek” school however, he ended up being one of 12 Founding Fathers of AEPi, a Jewish Fraternity, along with his good friend and fellow Founder, Seth Orkand who is Rabbi Orkand’s and Joyce’s son.
As I reflect upon my family’s relationship with this Community over the past 40+ years, I have reached the conclusion that the TBS Community is an integral part of the Grossman Family and the extended Grossman Family is an integral part of TBS and I look forward to seeing that continue to grow in years to come!
I was born a TBS member in 1982, I went to nursery school here before there was a booming children’s center, I was consecrated here in Kindergarten and my teacher was Mrs. Crocker. I was here Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays for Hebrew school, I learned Hebrew from Mrs. Sharkansky and Rachel Katz. My three siblings and I were Bar Mitzvah’d here by Rabbi Sonsino. I watched my mom become a Bat Mitzvah as an adult here. I remember the colored glass windows that used to be here, the long dank hallways downstairs and the large open room where Rabbi Sonsino used to sneak down for the children’s High Holiday Service. We hosted a surprise party for my parents here, I learned my mom had cancer moments before the High Holidays here and my mom’s funeral was here. Lots of things happen here – some of them upsetting, many are joyful.
Temple changes but the feelings of temple remain. And when I say “temple”, I do not mean these four walls -- I mean the people and the feelings of this place, this community, the sounds and tastes. One of the best moments of our wedding was being under the chuppah in Boston with Rabbis Sonsino, Perlman and Markley for the Priestly Benediction. To have one of the rabbis at our home for a bris or a baby naming connects all of this past to our most powerful future. We couldn’t help but smile when we came to the Children’s Center for our kids’ events where they had so much fun, they grew, they made new friends and they spent some time with the Rabbis who have been woven into our family history.
I bet we all have stories about this community, but our inheritance of this place from my family, being a multigenerational member, has been a blessing of family memories that we will hold dearly forever.
Jeff & Lisa Shapiro
Thank you, Rabbi Todd, and thank you Florence for inviting us to share our perspective. We are the Shapiros, a three generation TBS Family.
What is it like to be a three generation TBS Family?
There are shared experiences
Mutual, inter-generational friendships
There is the annual conversation – what High Holy Day Services are you going to? “Oh, we were thinking of going to the other service!” Do we go together or divide and conquer?
There is a common understanding, a common language – “Did you get The Scroll in the mail yet?” “Do you have stuff for rummage?” “Are services at 6:15?”
Shared shabbats, and shared shabbat dinners at TBS – remember when that was a thing, which we hope return sometime soon, as we reach the new normal, or so we hope.
There are planned events that we attend together and often more special are the unplanned times when we run into one another at TBS
It’s the Same TBS
In many ways this is the same TBS that my in-laws – Judy & Fred Shapiro, who join us on the bima, first fell in love with over 50 years ago. They were welcomed into this community at a Special New Member Shabbat on December 3, 1971, by Rabbi Slavkin and TBS President Arnold Kappel, both of blessed memory. They joined for what was then the Nursery School for their sons, my brother-in-law Gregg and my husband, Jeff. They stayed for so many reasons! They were immediately contacted about getting involved. And they began making what would become lifelong friendships. There was always a reason to be going to TBS or coming from TBS. It was and continues to be a central hub.
TBS has always been a warm and caring community. With a welcoming and inclusive spirit. And at its core - a belief that people our good and that each of us can make a difference and build the community we aspire to have.
TBS has Evolved Over the Years
Equally true is that TBS has not been static and has evolved and changed over the years. In many ways TBS has been intentional in how it has always met the moment.
While the location of the sanctuary has remained constant throughout these past 51 years, the interior has changed dramatically – does anyone remember the futuristic mural on the ark? The blue sanctuary carpeting? It was likely in style at one point or maybe just a rummage purchase.
The building has certainly evolved over at least four building projects during that time. TBS’ early childhood learning has evolved from a part-time Nursery School to a full-time year-round, early educational center. Our Hebrew School has emerged from a rigid, one size fits few, to a highly customizable learning experience that spans from pre-k through 12th grade and beyond, and engages in a host of ways based upon interest and available learning schedules. And the property – always a story about our site.
Nothing says spring better than the TBS Garden Club’s Art in Bloom. One of our family’s most meaningful shared experiences has been the times when my mother-in-law had the opportunity to be the floral designer for artwork created by her grandson, my son, Ben for Art in Bloom.
The shared experience on this bima of witnessing my parents as Adult B Mitzvahs chant torah, on the same bima as their sons, Gregg, and I, and then their grandsons, our sons, Joshua and Benjamin.
As a multi-generational family there is a richness that comes with the ability to witness firsthand the teaching and learning that one generation provides to the next with the chance to directly witness when that next generation is then ready to take on the responsibility from the prior generation.
TBS is where my folks built their spiritual home, where our family celebrated many of life’s highest moments. Including many extended multi-generational events with siblings and cousins that were also members including the Bellis’, Fish’s, and Furman’s. It is also where our family was comforted and consoled at the times of our lowest of lows – including when Judy’s sister, Sheila, a TBS member, passed away much too young.
At TBS my parents were active lay-leaders serving several terms on the Youth Commission, both served on the TBS Board, mom found a special place in the Garden Club and with Sisterhood and dad found himself on the Building Committee and as a space planner, he served on several construction projects over the years. In those days TBS Board had some 60 members, and if everyone had two opinions, you can see how it became a late night very quickly.
The lived experiences of my parents played a significant role in the formative years for my brother and me. TBS was where we learned about community, philanthropic giving of time, talent, and treasure.
The benefit of being a multi-generational family is often felt in the small things. The ability for my folks to have watched as Lisa and I raised our sons here at TBS, too. As Lisa and I took on our own leadership roles within TBS. Lisa served in many leadership roles within Sisterhood, was an actively engaged parent, volunteered for many causes and could drive to TBS with her eyes closed – but please do not try it. I found meaning in TBS leadership and with our family’s support was fortunate to have served on the TBS Board for over a dozen years including, an inspiring term as Congregational President.
Watching and witnessing the children and grandchildren, in the same meaningful spaces – become consecrated, become b- mitzvahs, confirmands, take on their own Jewish Leadership roles with the temple youth group, NFTY Northeast, is the continuation of their own memories that date back decades right back to Simon Hall!
Our sons, Joshua, and Benjamin have found their own Jewish paths through the halls of TBS, the paths at Crane Lake and Eisner camps, and with Joshua the path has led to the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion where he is a third-year Rabbinic student. All with the support and nurturing of many TBS teachers and guides and most notably with the outstretched hand of our clergy.
Strengthen Our Connection to Judaism
Without question, our connection to Judaism has been enriched, our group of friends has been enlarged, our sense of meaning and purpose has expanded due to our TBS connection. TBS throughout its history has continued to meet the moment with its thoughtful approach to what it means to be:
Welcoming to all
A family unit
Meet people where they are in their own Jewish journey, and
To be the teacher for Justice and Righteousness.
What has not changed is what brings people to TBS.
We have been fortunate to be led by clergy that brings our liturgy to us with a modern understanding most notably by Rabbi Emeritus Sonsino, and Rabbis Jay, Todd and Julie. While the number of households has certainly increased over the years the ability to think boldly and creatively by our lay-leaders, professional staff and fellow community members is what makes TBS so special. There continues to be a connection and a warmth. As a multi-generational family this interconnectivity adds one unique and special layer.
There is a special warmth sitting in this very sanctuary with my parents, Lisa, and often our adult children engaged in prayer and remembering family members who were once with us in this same sanctuary, as we imagine all that the future may bring. The connection among the Jewish people from Abraham and Sarah to our very own family winds through these very halls of TBS. For this we are fortunate and blessed.
In reviewing the special multi-generational listing, it is especially meaningful to represent so many of you, who have equally compelling stories and touch points across the ages with TBS and your own generations of loved ones.
Judy & Fred
Lisa & Jeffrey
Joshua – from Jerusalem
Benjamin – from Williamstown