I grew up in a Conservative Jewish household. I went to Hebrew school and had a Bar Mitzvah. I even continued Hebrew school after my bar mitzvah and was encouraged by the Rabbi to daven Musaf on Shabbat mornings. Through the years, my wife and I have always been regular attendees at Friday night services but did not continue attending Saturday morning services.

My mother and father did attend Saturday morning services every week as they got older. They enjoyed the service and they enjoyed socializing with the other people in attendance. When my father died in September of 2012, I decided that I would step up and take my mother to Shabbat services every week because I knew how much she enjoyed it.

I began attending regularly, but passively. When Kehillat Chaverim was formed, we followed because the members were the same people my mom knew well. Slowly, as I sat there each week, my attitude began to change. What was at first my perceived obligation became something that I looked forward to doing. I sat every week, watching fellow congregants participate in all aspects of the service. I pondered whether I could become a more active participant. Then it happened. One day, Joel Roffman asked me if I would be interested in preparing a D’var Torah. What? I had not done anything like that since my speech at my Bar Mitzvah. I reluctantly said yes. Joel gave me a list of websites and references I could use to prepare. Although I’m used to writing and delivering lectures on medical topics, this task was far more frightening. I knew so little. I struggled, but I persisted. I learned new things as I prepared the speech. Then I gave my first D’var Torah. I think it went well. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. No one was judgmental of my superficial knowledge. I felt a sense of accomplishment. Once I had the first one under my belt, I knew I would be able to do more. Although it takes a lot of preparation each time, it has always been very worthwhile.

The fostering an environment of Kehillah Chaverim gave me the confidence to explore doing other parts of the service. Next, I volunteered to recite my Bar Mitzvah haftorah, after 53 years. I had to learn it from the beginning as I had no recollection of the trope. It was like learning a new language but I did it. Unlike the experience at age 13 when I was forced to learn it, this time it was because I wanted to learn it.

This is my learning journey. Encouraged and supported by my family and my friends at Kehillat Chaverim, I have been motivated to accomplish things I never thought I would ever do. Who knows, maybe there is a Torah portion in my future.