Our Community Celebrates


Lisa Bien

My Torah portion, Tazria, is from the book of Leviticus.
Tazria is about separating sick and the afflicted from the community.
The main theme isn’t just to cast out, but to bring people back in, and to purify those who have been through a difficult and isolating illness, to figure out how to make them feel whole.
It’s one thing to regain physical strength and well-being, it’s another to regain a sense of wellness.
When we think of Tazria, we think of leprosy not only as a biblical ailment, but as a modern day challenge for us– to be a community of healing, to bring those who are isolated into the loving contact of community, of the beauty and the depth of our tradition and the power of prayer.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
It should. What’s the first thing we tell people who test positive with Covid-19 to do? Isolate. Then, when you are no longer contagious, and you are well – you are welcomed back in.
Having Covid-19 myself reminded me that we can all be healers. We can make it our business to bring healing to others and break down walls of isolation. When people are sick, I would like to think we all want to act.
We visit people who are sick for many reasons; to bring words of encouragement;
offer a prayer, deliver some homemade soup, or maybe just our presence can heal the sick.
Having Covid-19 was very isolating for me. Thankfully, I am in healthcare, so all questions went to my friend Jenn, who is a nurse and my go to for all health questions. Knowing she was there was a gift for me as each new symptom popped up made feel a sense of calm.
My friends and family never let me feel alone. Both of my boys were always checking in to see how I was feeling.
Ari, my 18-year-old son, was there for me whenever I needed anything. He was my rock when I was sick. He always had a smile on his face. No ask was too big or too small. I just knew I could count on him which added a great sense of emotional wellness for me.
I was dog sitting for Blitzen, Jacob and Eliza’s dog, and I have to say I really get why dogs are so special. It was nice to walk outside, yes, I had my mask on. The fresh air and the love of Blitzen was a bonus. After I was no longer contagious, he would sit next to me, and my feelings of isolation would dissipate.
Friends called, texted, dropped off flowers and soup and it was all appreciated and added a sense of caring.
Calling people you were in contact with and sharing the news that you have Covid-19 was an interesting experience, too.
Most reacted with care, “How are you feeling”? Some reacted with “Oh–no!” or “So sorry”. It makes you feel like an outcast. You have Covid-19 – stay away!
Being sick or cast out by society is something we as Jewish people are familiar with. We know what it’s like to be a people that is treated as a leper. We have been the lepers of history.
We are reminded of the ways our ancestors created a community. They did it not only at times of joy, but they also did it when things were difficult and challenging.
My hope is that as a community, not just the Jewish community, but as a country we can find our way back to making the world a better place.
To remember the importance of a community that is built on action to help break down walls of isolation, to support each other in our times of isolation so we are cared for mentally and feel a part of something bigger. Through kindness and love we can alleviate the hate and bigotry.
Let’s work together to become more patient, tolerant, understanding and loving towards each other.
Let’s strive for more empathy and kindness and less isolation.

Israel my community.
During my trip to Israel, I felt part of a community in all my being, my heart, soul, and mind. I was a peace in Israel.
I loved everything about that trip, and I mean everything – even the time I got stuck in an elevator with five strangers. It was only 10 to 15 minutes but let me tell you it felt a lot longer.
I want to thank Jocelyn for everything she has done to make today possible. Jocelyn was my roommate on the trip. We shared many special memories together but one that stands out is our famous camel ride in the desert.
We were both eager to get off because it was scary. Neither one of us wanted to disappoint each other and admit we didn’t want to go.
They told us not to take a selfie of the camel because camels are not friendly animals. Who would do that? I guess I am the queen of selfies.
Jocelyn is such a special friend; she is my Judaism coach. We have shared countless Shabbat dinners at her house. She always tells me I have an open invitation to her home on Shabbat dinner. And I take her up on it on a regular basis for so many reasons. Most of all for the love I feel every time I join her and her family for one of her delicious Shabbat meals.
That’s Community!
None of this would have happened if my friend Gerri didn’t call and ask me, are you interested in going to Israel? We had just met at a holiday party. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I was meant to meet Gerri and she was meant to serve as the conduit for me making my journey to Israel.
It was a Sunday night at 10 pm – I was already in bed when Gerri called and said you need to call Jaclynn now and apply for the trip. I had to apply and interview.
Jaclynn was the trip sponsor and now is a close friend. After interviewing with her and the trip leader, Sarah, I was confident I would be selected, after all I am in public relations, I know how to tell a good story.
On the day of the trip and I remember how excited Jaclynn was for me to be going to Israel. She picked me up to take me to our meeting place and shared how the trip changes peoples’ lives.
When I came back from the trip we sat on her outside deck, drank wine, and reminisced about how special my trip to Israel was. I remember thinking what a beautiful night it was and was a beautiful soul Jaclynn is.
She is truly one special person and did so much to make the trip special. Even though she was not on the trip, she was never far away for me to call or text her to share a funny story. There were a lot of them.
One thing is for sure is that my trip to Israel changed my life.
Jaclynn was right.
The women in my group all made the trip special in their own way.
Some of the women in my group are here today and I want to thank them for all their support and joining me on this special day. I have special memories with all of them.
Yvette, Lita, Sonia, Kim and Sarah Fineman
LOOK UP AND SAY – Today everyone here is my community as I take my place as a Bat Mitzvah.
I know that I am so blessed with a community of wonderful friends and family.
I am blessed with a great friend, Cantor Scott Borsky, who is not here today but made sure I was prepared for today. He is one of the kindest human beings.
I am surrounded by friends from all different walks of life. I cannot thank them all individually, but I want to send a special thank you to all my friends from kindergarten, high school and beyond.
Two very special people my Aunt Roberta and Uncle Ted are not here physically, but I know they are here spiritually and will always hold a special place in my heart.
When my Uncle Ted found out I was going to Israel, he asked me to come to his shore house and share the agenda with him. I will never forget how excited he was for me. He had tears in his eyes as he shared some of his favorite memories.
My aunt and uncle visited Israel over 20 times. My uncle and I texted and talked during my entire trip. I wanted to share my excitement with him and my boys. I remember calling Jacob one day and telling him I am not coming home to NJ. I felt at home in Israel. I felt a great sense of community there.
I am lucky because my mom and my dad are here to share in my day.
Both my brothers and sisters-in-law are here.
Eliza, my future daughter in law is here with my two amazing boys Jacob and Ari. I strive to be the best version of me to teach them to grow and live their best possible life.
To say I am lucky would be an understatement.
I am blessed with an amazing community who makes me feel loved and appreciated.
I want to thank all of you for coming and joining me today to celebrate.
Thank you for your donations to Mothers Matter. Mothers Matter is an organization that is near and dear to my heart. They provide women with personal care and toiletry items for women of all ages and from all walks of life who are burdened with personal or family illness, tragedy, or critical quality of life issues. Your donation is a donation to the community and making the world a better place.
I hope today was a reminder about the importance of working together to not just live in a community, but to build one that is filled with compassion, love, and peace.
Yes, today is my day.
It can also be your day as you look back and think about a dream you had or something you want to accomplish – I hope I have inspired you in some way to make that dream come true.


Author: Susan Isenberg
Thank you for sharing your reflections in public forum. It touched me because I am in isolation in Jerusalem because of Corona(as the Israelis say) . My trip back to NJ cancelled, called out of work and passover prep delayed. I could not think of a better place to be isolated because my heart is here too. Thankful for balcony and beautiful view of the most amazing place on earth. Recovering and absorbing the wonder around me . Mazal Tov . May you have good health and love as you continue your journey

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