(ABOVE: Judith and Howard Mayer receiving a special blessing to mark their 65th wedding anniversary)
Judith and Howard Mayer symbolize for me the sacred spirt of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands
On my very first weekend as the new rabbi at Bat Yam last September, I learned that Judith and Howard’s grandson had died tragically.
What does one say to people you have never met in an effort to offer comfort over such a tragic loss?
No words could possibly bring comfort at a time like that, but I wanted to be there to listen to their anguish and offer an outlet for their grief.
Instead of words I offered two ears and heartfelt hugs.
It was the least I could do and the most I could do.
Judith and Howard’s son is a renowned Cantor in Rhode Island. He hurried into town to be with them at the busiest time in the Jewish year. His presence was a healing balm. Nevertheless their pain was and remains palpable.
Pain this searing and deep is pain from which people never recover.
But Judith and Howard are an inspiration to all of us who know them. Their life experience taught them that despite their agony, they have no productive choice but to move forward, one foot in front of the other, to face the future. Although it is not easy, with courageous resolve they do just that.
Like every other member of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands in Sanibel the Mayers are transplants. Like all of us they come “from somewhere else.”
Nevertheless this community which everyone entered as a stranger is now a family. We are a family that cares about our Jewish heritage as witnessed by the extraordinary percentage of members who turn out for worship on Shabbat Eve and for study on Shabbat morning.
But more importantly we are a family that cares about one another.
The Mayers are almost always present, and when they come, they are never alone. Worshipper after worshipper makes a point to greet them and give them hugs.
Judith and Howard are not young. They are frail and often tired, Yet each is the strength of the other. And each of them draws additional strength from their congregational family.
And last night, when I had the privilege to ask the Eternal One to bless them on their 65th anniversary, their faces glowed with happiness.
As Judith, Howard and I stood together before the open ark, I realized that when human resolve, God’s help, and the love of a caring community converge, there is truth in the Psalmist’s words:
בערב ילין בכי ולבקר רנה
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning!״ (Psalm 30:6)
May Judith and Howard share many more moments of joy with one another and with their congregational family!