I remember the first time I walked into Oak Park Temple.  It was 1985 and I had just moved to Oak Park the week before Rosh Hashanah.  I walked into the building for services and was completely overwhelmed by how many people there were, not a single one of whom I knew. 

I grew up in West Virginia where there are not very many Jews.  In fact, our membership at Oak Park Temple is rather close to the total population of Jews in the entire state of West Virginia.  Lest you think that is an exaggeration, I googled it – the 2011 Jewish population of WV was 2335.  We have over 500 “membership units” (households) here, in the neighborhood of 2000 individuals! 

All my life I had taken for granted that when I walked into my synagogue, every single person there knew each other, knew me, and knew my siblings, my parents, and my grandparents.  And that first year here in Oak Park, as I worshiped with an entire room full of strangers, I was homesick for the very first time in my life. 

Since that day I’ve worshiped, studied, celebrated, mourned, served on committees, served on boards and even travelled with so many of you.  I’ve attended High Holiday services, Shabbat services, auctions, parties, dinners, retreats, baby namings, b’nai mitzvot  – unfortunately also funerals and shivas.  Along the way that homesickness quickly turned into the feeling that this was my home.

My son was born here, attended Glasser Preschool and religious school, celebrated his bar mitzvah and was confirmed here.  He was an officer on the OPTY board, a teacher’s assistant, a Camp Shalom songleader, counselor, and then head counselor and is now a religious school teacher.  And later this year he will be married here!    Many of you with young children know me through Shawn and let me tell you it gives me no greater pride than to be referred to as “Shawn’s mom”.

Not long ago at a Friday night service we were discussing important stories in the Torah.  I mentioned the story of Moses appointing 70 elders to help him.  The rabbi astutely pointed out that it sounded like I was contemplating my upcoming presidency, which was entirely correct!  It is a story I think about when I start to wonder what I was ever thinking when I agreed to be president.  When I start to panic and wonder how I can ever fill the footsteps of those that have come before me, I relax and remember that I don’t have to do it all on my own.

We are so incredibly blessed here at Oak Park Temple.  It is a truly special place.  I am looking forward to working with an amazing board and executive board, exceptional clergy and dedicated staff.  I’m also looking forward to meeting those of you who might be as overwhelmed as I was at first and helping you to make Oak Park Temple your home as it has become mine.

L’Shalom,
Sheri

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