Wise Words is a new bulletin feature showcasing thoughts from our congregants
Contributed by Harvey Brandvein
Why do I belong to Shaare Emeth? Well, I really didn’t have much of a choice 58 years ago when my folks brought me into this world and Rabbi Julius Nodel was my first rabbi. (I even remember playing a game of catch with Rabbi Nodel in my backyard when I was a youngster). You see, my parents (John and Judy Brandvein), always impressed upon me and my sister, Rochelle Brandvein Aaranson, the importance of establishing personal relationships with the rabbis and cantors at a very early age. Throughout my life, I have always seen the value of intimately knowing my clergy as it makes the sharing of both good times and difficult times that much more personal and meaningful.
I was consecrated, confirmed, and bar mitzvah-ed at Shaare Emeth. I remember being Associate Rabbi John Spitzer’s first Bar Mitzvah and seeing him on the dance floor with my sister at Stan Musial & Biggies “cutting a rug” to the Bonnie Ross Orchestra. I vividly remember being in a rock and roll band with Cantor Fogel and singing Beatles songs during our confirmation ceremony on Trinity. I was an active member of youth group and president for two years. My high school weekends were enjoyably spent with my SETYG (Shaare Emeth Temple Youth Group) and MOVFTY (Missouri Valley Federation of Temple Youth) friends at temples, sleeping in basements, and establishing phenomenal friendships in St. Louis, Denver, Decatur, Springfield, Omaha, and many other cities throughout our region.
As I matured through life (some still question if I have achieved this designation), I realized the importance of keeping and deepening the relationships with my spiritual leaders. Teri and I had Rabbi Stiffman and Cantor Fogel help officiate at our wedding at B’nai Amoona, along with Rabbi Lipnick and Cantor Lissek. Still, whenever Rabbi Stiffman walks into a room, I exhale, my eyes tear up, and I feel at peace because I know that everything will be fine.
As Rachel, Jessica, and Adam came into our lives, our rabbis and cantor were instrumental in the next stages in our family cycle. Whether it be our children’s namings, consecrations, confirmations, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, or even our grandchildren’s namings, our kids KNEW their rabbis and cantor, and more importantly, our rabbis and cantor KNEW our children. Teri always made it a point to have the new Associate Rabbis to our house for dinner so we could begin this important relationship at the beginning of their tenure at Shaare Emeth. Memories of Rabbi Jay Perlman and Adam playing video games together are cemented in my mind as my kids learned at a young age that rabbis are just normal individuals who are approachable, friendly, and often available at a moment’s notice.
In later years, I helped organize a family congregational trip to Israel in 1998, served three terms on the Board of Directors, and was a co-founder of the Intercongregational Temple Softball League. I was the shortstop of the Shaare Emeth squad. We won many championships, which are proudly displayed on the traveling trophy. (Yes, I know it’s all about Rachmones, but…).
During more recent times, my family continues to be blessed to celebrate many joyous occasions, but unfortunately, have also experienced various sorrows that have previously been foreign to us. Rabbis Jim and Andrea and Cantor Seth have become such sources of strength for our family that I honestly don’t know how we would have survived these unfortunate situations without their true love, compassion, counsel, and support.
I know we all have busy lives and, for many of us, unexpected and challenging moments as well. Speaking for the four-generation Brandvein Family, we have always enjoyed our special bond with clergy and staff and truly feel like an integral part of the Shaare Emeth culture. It is easy “just” being a member of this amazing congregation, but how much better would your lives be if you became more entrenched in all of the truly amazing resources that Shaare Emeth has to offer? How much more meaningful and inspirational would your simchas and sorrows be if you knew the clergy a little bit better and they knew you a little bit better as well?
This is why I belong to Shaare Emeth. This is why I am so proud to call Shaare Emeth my home. This is why I hope that all of you can enjoy all of the benefits that Shaare Emeth can offer you and your family. I am a true benefactor of being brought up in the Shaare Emeth family for 58 years. I am hopeful that I can continue to flourish with my congregation for another 58.