Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s in Youngstown was quite different than what we as Jews are experiencing now. While never a majority, there were about 8000 more Jews living in the Valley, six or more synagogues, and far more Jewish kids.
Growing up in that period also provided far more choices of temples but not the scope of differences in ways to practice Judaism that we have today. Things were much stricter then, and, while many of the synagogues practiced the same type of Judaism, there was more emphasis put on what nationality the Congregation was.
I began my Jewish education at Temple Emanu-El, but soon my family joined Rodef Sholom. But we also associated with Ohev Tzedek, where my aunt was the secretary, and Beth Israel in Warren when my mother was secretary out there for a couple of years. On the High Holidays, we would often attend Emanu-El because that was where one of my grandfathers, the most temple-going one, attended.
In my early days, it was hard to define to what branch of Judaism I belonged. My other grandfather, for example, came from a long line of rabbis but never attended Ohev Tzedek, to which he belonged, because of disagreements with the way services where conducted. However, when he led the Seder, it was in all Hebrew, and if he missed a word, he went back and repeated the page. He was very religious, just in his own way. This was the pattern my parents seemed to emulate and which I inherited. Thus, I more or less prayed in the manner of whichever shul I was worshiping in at the time.
After graduating college, I landed a job with the State of Ohio and worked for three state agencies for over 30 years. I started with the Public Utilities Commission, then went to the Ohio Bureau of Employment Service which was morphed by the State into the Department of Job and Family Services, and then was transferred to the Department of Development. After two years, that Agency was eliminated, so I was moved back to ODJFS, from which I retired.
Like my religion, it was sometimes hard to remember where I was.
Now I am finally settled. Ohev Tzedek has truly become my spiritual home, as it has been for a long time for a number of people. We are still a more Conservative-based congregation; we do include music in our services but maintain the traditional Jewish liturgy. Our services here are welcoming, as are our congregants. In fact, it is a matter of pride when we look to our shul and think of the term hamish – anyone is welcome to attend.
After my retirement, I began spending more time at Ohev Tzedek, since I had the available time, and after about a year became Program Director; I am now also co-president. Between those two jobs and the adult education classes I am taking at Ohev, I average about 60 hours a week at the shul. So if you ever need to reach me, call the temple first because chances are that where I will be.