When you read that Jewish people are leaving Judaism, it is debatable when you mingle with the Jews who belong to the Temple Beth El of South Orange County community.
For many years Sarita Spiwak was a mover and shaker in the Los Angeles Jewish community, supporting Israel in every way possible. Her husband, Jose, a medical doctor, was her greatest supporter. After 30 years in medical practice with Sarita by his side, Jose retired and the Spiwaks moved to the most enchanting and people friendly Rancho Mission Viejo brand new retirement community, located between Los Angeles and San Diego.
After Sarita completed putting together her striking new home, what she was missing is that special sense of belonging to what matters to her the most, being Jewish and practicing Judaism and the work that supports the state of Israel.
This new retirement community attracts retirees from all over the United States, all have one trait in common: now that I do not work, what do I do with myself? Some find hobbies they dreamt for many years to pursue and were too busy to pursue them; some find new avenues to keep busy and most seek to get to know other people who moved to and live in their new environment.
Sarita joined Temple Beth El of South Orange County, with Rabbi Kvod Wieder its leading rabbi; she joined the ‘Israel Matters’ Committee at the Temple, the women Chavurah group and ‘Small Groups’, which means several couples who attend Temple Beth El and do not know each other, with the help of the rabbi get together to get to know each other and find mutual activities to partake or create new ones.
I have known Sarita for many years and when her urge to ‘get going’ with the activities she had in mind, she called me and asked to meet. I drove to Rancho Mission Viejo and have discovered that in Southern California there are still communities that happiness is smeared all over each person’s face.
Sarita asked me to help her connect her newly found community with meaningful activities that as standard take place in Los Angles. To my surprise, the first person she wanted to speak at her temple was me, the writer. I felt honored.
Last weekend I drove back to that charming neighborhood for a weekend of many activities.
The topic of all my speaking engagements was, ‘Why Israel Matters’, which to me is a natural subject.
On Friday evening to a full sanctuary, I spoke to the congregants of Temple Beth El and I literally received a spiritual hug from the Rabbi and the attendees. The emphasis of my speech was how I, personally, discovered the Israel Matters essence, what do I do about this important subject. I also inserted some words about my activities in the ‘Do Not Stand Idly By‘ Project, aiming to nominate Israeli doctors for the Nobel Peace Prize and the drive to have Israel recognized as a leading humanitarian nation.
Saturday the Chvurah women got together and Sunday the Small Groups couples held their first meeting; in both cases following the meaning of Judaism and visiting and/or supporting Israel were the core of the talks. I added my perspective to each discussion, with the hope that some of my sentiments would catch on with others.
Leaving Rancho Mission Viejo gave me the sense that all is not yet lost; the spark of Judaism is still alive and all we have to do is find it and maintain it, if not fire it up!
At Temple Beth El of South Orange County, California, it is most likely you will receive a spiritual hug and you will mingle with Jews who care about being Jewish and about the State of Israel.