Today is December 10, 2019 -

Congregation Beth Israel

A spiritual oasis for the Jewish community

6 Dundee Park
Andover, MA 01810

(978) 474-0540

The Leadership’s Corner


My Yizkor Journey – Roberta Hantgan

As a young kid growing up in a fairly large conservative synagogue in suburban New Jersey, I remember Yizkor as the time I got shooed out of the seemingly endless Yom Kippur service. It was a moment of being released from the monotonous counting of the wooden ribs that supported the ceiling of our mid-century style domed shul and of relief from figuring out the biblical stories behind each of the huge stained glass windows. For that 20 minutes, we kids were off to create chaos and noise in the hallways. I was pretty sure I would never have to actually stay and participate in Yizkor because I knew, like all kids, that my parents would live forever. This myth stayed with me for many decades. Even as my folks reached their 90s, I could not imagine that someday they would be gone.

Some time after my father died at age 98, a pillar of our Jewish community and a man known for his loving tutelage of others, I sought the help of my primary care doctor. I was sure the pain around my heart was the signal of an oncoming heart attack. She dutifully administered an EKG and when she reviewed the result she patiently sat down and explained that the pain was the result of a broken heart. Her prescription was to become active in a synagogue because, she said “I understand that Jews mourn in community and you need to do that in order to heal.” What a wise woman!!

Four times a year we have our opportunity to participate in the public observance for the community of bereaved. During Yizkor – literally “May G-d Remember” – we get to acknowledge and normalize our grief, to collectively honor our loved ones, and to recognize our community’s martyrs. It’s also a time to signify their importance by giving a donation, operationalizing our memory of cherished ones through tzedakah. CBI has proven to be a place of warmth and solace, the place to experience a communal embrace during a sacred moment of shared sadness.

Note: As I write this column, I’m listening to the tributes to Congressman Elijah Cummings, who died today. I will be remembering him during the upcoming Yizkor on Shemini Atzeret. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, please join me in honoring this national voice of conscience who fought tirelessly for his Baltimore community and for his nation. May his memory be for a blessing.