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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Role Models

This past Sunday, I was asked to drive from New Jersey to Providence, Rhode Island with a very special passenger in the car, Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller, whose talk on gender roles I wrote about yesterday. She was scheduled to speak as the guest of the kiruv kollel that was formed there about a year and a half ago. I was asked to drive her because the head of the kollel and his family have been friends of mine, and an amazing influence in my life, for many years. So while I was honored to be the one to drive Rebbetzin Heller and I got a lot from her speech, to me, the day was really about seeing this family and catching up with them. I met this family seven and a half years ago, about a year after my first trip to Israel. At that point in my life, I was kind of floundering about what I wanted religiously. I had learned a bit, but had made no committments to anything. They came to Birmingham with their then two babies and a few yeshiva guys for a couple weeks to lead a kiruv program. They gave classes and made connections and got to know the community a bit. They invited me for Shabbos meals, which I drove back and forth to. I sat down and spoke to the wife for hours on end, we just really connected immediately. After that Shabbos, I knew what I wanted. And I made the committments necessary to do it. I became Shomer Shabbos after that Shabbos, and soon thereafter returned to Israel to learn for a couple months. That was seven years ago. I have been fortunate to continue the relationship over the years, getting to know them and their children, visiting sporadically and staying in their home for many Shabbosim. I was fortunate to be in Baltimore for a couple years at the same time they were, before they moved to Providence, so the relationship really got a chance to deepen and flourish, with the whole family. They have really been there for me over the years, supporting me in quite a few very difficult situations. I call them and they always make the time for me, regardless of their extremely busy schedules. So it was really nice to see them this past Sunday. To see how big their now five children have gotten, to catch up a bit. The whole family just makes me feel so comfortable and welcome. When we got to Providence, I was greeted by them as warmly as Rebbetzin Heller, and made to feel just as special. They really take care of me, and I am so fortunate to have them in my life. They are really amazing people - they have dedicated their lives, moving their family and they do everything in their power to bring Torah to Jews, no matter what background. They have sacrified a lot for their mission, and they go out of their way to make it important and relevant to anyone, providing ways of learning for people individually, delving deep into explanations in order to make it real, rather than fluffy. I am so lucky to have such amazing role models of kindness and caring in my life. I just hope I can live up in a small way to their example.

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