Welcome to a new JN feature. Each month, we’ll ask community members to weigh in on a single topic. This month: New Beginnings.
Just to get things started, we asked some folks we know can write — a few JN contributors and Rabbi Aaron Bergman — to provide petite essays. If you are interested in participating, contact Keri Guten Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “essay” in the subject line. Enjoy!
RABBI AARON BERGMAN
“I did not grow up wanting to be a rabbi. I wanted to be an astronaut from the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Unfortunately, I did not have the hand-eye coordination required for playing video games. Space was out of the question. This is just as well because I found something that lifted my soul even higher.
When I was a student at the University of Michigan, I attended a lecture at the Hillel House by Rabbi Efry Spectre, who spoke about his teacher Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I was intrigued and read Heschel’s book Man is Not Alone. This was during a time of great existential doubt about what to do with my life. Heschel’s book gave me the clarity and inspiration I needed. During a walk in the Arboretum in Ann Arbor, I decided to become a rabbi and attend the Jewish Theological Seminary, where Heschel had taught.
I met my wife when I was a student at JTS. I am now the rabbi of the wonderful synagogue that Rabbi Spectre served for so many years. I may not make it to the moon, but I am over the moon thanks to my decision to be a rabbi.”
Aaron Bergman is a rabbi at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills and is married to Ruth Bergman, a Jewish educator. They have four daughters. He loves to create music and art.
“It began with a phone call. Long-awaited funding had come through for a group home for my nearly 30-year-old daughter, who has autism and a garden variety of other issues. Molly (who prefers Moll) would be moving out of our home and into a house with two roommates, the daughters of longtime friends, and a full-time staff of caregivers provided by JARC.
I wasn’t ready for such a momentous transition, but the mental health system didn’t not allow the luxury of waiting.
In a few frantic weeks, my new “in-laws” and I readied our daughters and their new home for a journey none of us knew how to begin. Moll settled into her pretty new room, with its colorful artwork, bookshelves stuffed with storybooks and a collection of Cookie Monsters.
Four months later, I am still riding an emotional roller-coaster, fraught with twists, turns and worries I never experienced when my other two children went off to college, including whether her toenails are being trimmed and her bra is on straight. Some days I feel as if I’ve abdicated my motherhood. I’m trying to let go and enjoy the ride. It’s a start.”
Ronelle Grier of West Bloomfield is a JN contributing writer and freelance writer who loves murder mysteries, true crime and legal thrillers.
“So who’s correct? Ecclesiastes, which taught ‘there is nothing new under the sun,’ or Judy Collins, who sang ‘Everything must change, nothing and no one stays the same?’ Is any ‘new beginning’ truly new or confirmation that nothing and no one stays the same?
We became grandparents last month. Three words — It’s a girl! — and our lives were changed forever. Our son was one of innumerable sons reporting to uncountable parents across time and history. Like parents everywhere, back to our matriarch Sarah, we laughed. We cried. We thanked God for her and her mother’s safety. Nothing new there.
And yet, there was never born this child; this sweet granddaughter with these round cheeks, this rosebud mouth, mere hints of these eyebrows, these tiny eyelashes. Indisputably, Olivia Frances is something, and someone, new under the sun.
Perhaps life’s deepest meaning flowers at the intersection of Collins and Ecclesiastes, where nothing is new and everything is new; where nothing has changed and mercifully, thankfully, gloriously, everything has changed.”
Debra Darvick of Birmingham writes the JN’s advice column and is a blogger and creator of Picture a Conversation with her husband, Martin.
“What do you do when your spouse’s company relocates your family from little Rochester, N.Y., to sprawling Detroit? You look around the house your family called home for 14 years, the rooms that were touchpoints to your children’s babyhoods, the newly painted dining room you worked on all summer after a decade working up the guts to color it the deepest burgundy. You sit under the ancient maples in your yard and have a good cry.
An unexpected move is a tough yet exciting new beginning. After you dry your tears and face the good-byes, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself.
Four years later, this New Yorker is grateful for the friendships and opportunities that have come my way. I took the cue from my three children, who jumped into their new lives feet first. I found my own social, writing and creative outlets. I found extended family at B’nai Israel Synagogue.
The toughest part is the physical distance between you and those who knew you way back when. If you’re fortunate to have never left your hometown, never take for granted the ease of getting together with old friends who still live close by.”
Stacy Gittleman of West Bloomfield is a JN contributing writer and bar/bat mitzvah tutor who loves meeting new people, taking walks and Broadway musicals.
Seems I’m always beginning. A free spirit. I’ve started businesses, expanded my work experience, traveled the world. I married and divorced young. Yet, I lived in my home for 32 years, worked 20 years at wonderful companies within the parameters of my college degree — advertising/marketing. And I had a near-perfect credit score.
Though it seems I catered for so many around town, I was a part-time company of one — just me. I was literally chief cook and bottle-washer. Thinking expansion, I did. Sparing details, it was painful, physically/emotionally. I’m not built for drama and I now had plenty. And I asked for it.
So I scaled back. I changed. I bought a warehouse for a cooking school, catering, writing space. I sold my beautiful house.
Free spirit? Sort of. I’m starting fresh, rebuilding, rebranding, re-emerging, calling my own shots, doing what feels right. I’m 25 again, only three decades later.
In my youth, I was too naive to be afraid. Now I know fear is useless. I’m working hard. The future looks … promising.
Owner of Annabel Cohen Cooks Detroit catering, she also is a cooking instructor, food, travel and lifestyle writer (for JN, too) and Four Story Burger’s executive chef.