A Year of Firsts with Vassar Temple

Arnoff Bris
Arnoff twin’s Bris (Henry and Miles)
Parents are Daniel and Emma

This July will mark our one year anniversary of Rabbi Leah R. Berkowitz coming to Vassar Temple. Much has happened, and it is nice to recall the many happy and poignant memories. Because this is Rabbi’s first Senior Rabbi position, and her first year with Vassar Temple, it is a year of firsts. Even though Leah has performed most these rituals before, it is a first for us doing them together.

In this past year, Rabbi and the temple have experienced the full life cycle together. From baby namings and Bris, to funerals, and everything in between. From Rosh Hashanah to Shavout, we traveled through the whole Torah together. In the process, we have experienced a full range of emotions from joy to sorrow, and we come out the other end of our first year with a deeper relationship, and a greater appreciation for one another.

The feedback from our members illustrates how much Rabbi is valued. In the month Rabbi began with Vassar Temple, Dr. Irving H. Dreishpoon, passed away. We received a letter from his wife, Mrs. Gorgene Dreishpoon, in which she expressed, “Rabbi has a gift of dignity in the listening while maintaining her role as our Rabbi … The ceremony she led was everything our family wished for.”

On the occasion of their twin’s bris, Emma and Dan Arnoff wrote, “Rabbi Leah Berkowitz was wonderful in helping us prepare and celebrate our boys Bris. While I was on bed rest she came to visit me and helped choose Hebrew names for Henry and Miles. On the day of the Bris she was supportive and helpful. She worked together with the Mohelet to provide our family and friends with a service that was spiritual and moving in a way we could not have anticipated. It was a beautiful day.”

After Sammy Roland’s Bar Mitzvah, his father Mark wrote, “Thank you is not enough … let me say how wonderful Sammy’s Bar mitzvah ceremony was … you have truly touched my soul.”

As Temple President, throughout this past year I’ve had the great pleasure of working closely with Rabbi Berkowitz. The positive comments that have come my way are too numerous to list. It’s been a year of firsts for us together. As I step down as President, it is gratifying to know that Rabbi Berkowitz continues on – as we all go through our lives together.

There are things that a Rabbi and a temple provide us that no other organization or relationship quite can. In the Mishna, Ethics of the Fathers 1:6, Yehoshua ben Perachiah said: “Make yourself a teacher; acquire a friend; and judge every person favorably.” Rabbi Nachman of Breslov likened this world to a “very narrow bridge.” Indeed, life is a series of dangerous crossings and that we continually have important decisions to make. It is wise to “Get yourself a Rabbi.” At Vassar Temple, we are blessed to have a wonderful Rabbi, teacher, who I’m so very happy to also call a friend.

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