“It was love at first sight! The natural thing to do was give back as a symbol of our deep gratitude for what the Temple has done for us.”

I remember that day like it was yesterday. When Andrea and Bill Kirsh introduced us to the Temple, it was love at first sight. After a dozen massive snowstorms in 1994 and Marc’s job offer in Miami, we left the winters of our beloved Washington, DC for tropical Miami Beach. I recall being welcomed into the Temple by the preschool director and feeling right at home. As Marc and I drove up to our rental house later that day, we were warmly greeted with a beautiful welcome basket from Beth Sholom.

Growing up in Greensboro, NC, where Jews were quite the minority, Karen’s parents were active temple participants and instilled a strong Jewish identity. Marc’s mother, born in Tzfat in northern Israel, came from an Orthodox household. Synagogue and Israel were always a central part of his upbringing. Yet, in many ways, we had not made a commitment nor even knew our teachings and traditions well enough to be Jews of choice in America nor role models of Jewish identity and continuity for our daughters. 

Beth Sholom became our family’s sacred center of Jewish living. Jessica, Rachel and Julie Aviva celebrated their B’not Mitzvah at the Temple, attended religious school, Camp Coleman and spent a summer in Israel. Karen became a Bat Mitzvah as part of Rabbi Pomerantz’s 1999 B’nei Mitzvah class, learned to read and chant Torah and joined the Temple Board. Our connections with Israel, Jewish peoplehood and Jewish traditions deepened through Kabbalat Shabbat services and family dinners, Torah study and Hebrew classes, adult Jewish learning and AIPAC meetings. Our family began to experience the beautiful daily, weekly, monthly and annual Jewish life cycles. We strengthened our precious bond with the land, people and state of Israel. Many cherished friendships have come from our connections to the Temple. 

Temple Beth Sholom’s 2003 family trip to Israel was a pivotal moment in our Jewish lives. We discovered Marc’s mother’s roots in Tzfat and our Israeli family.  We learned about the extraordinary Jewish people who struggled and gave their lives so that we could live the 2000 year-old dream of a renewed Jewish homeland in our lifetime. Dozens of trips to Israel followed. Jess decided to live for three years in Jerusalem to study at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies and returned to teach at the Temple Beth Am Day School in Miami.  

In 2018, we boarded an El Al Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah flight from JFK with 260 fellow Jews and became dual Israeli-American citizens. Over this time, we co-chaired Beth Sholom’s Israel Committee, and Karen became the President of Temple Beth Sholom. Now Karen is on the board of the Union of Reform Judaism and founding Chair of its national Israel Leadership Network.  

We dedicate a portion of our annual income to support Temple Beth Sholom and Israeli causes. Leaving a legacy gift to Beth Sholom feels like a natural thing for us to do, serving as a symbol of our great appreciation for what our Temple has done for our family.  It honors our parents for their love and dedication to synagogue life. It strengthens Jewish identity and continuity for our daughters and, God-willing, their families. We hope that in 50 years’ time, our synagogue will be the center of an even more vibrant Jewish community, filled with ruach (spirit), personal and communal moments of joy and meaningful mitzvot that strengthen the Jewish people, Israel, America and world.

You can wait your whole life to have the means to give. The reality is that everyone’s gift of time and money are equally important. Giving what you can right now and within your means is what truly matters. Am Yisrael Chai!