The majesty of Park Synagogue’s Main Sanctuary amazes me!

You know how it is when you revisit an old school or walk down the hallway of a building you haven’t seen since childhood. They always seem so much smaller than you remembered. Always. The angle at 6 feet tall must be different than that at 5 feet.

Park’s Main Sanctuary however, never diminishes.

Saturday I sat in respite under the Big Dome. Long before Houston’s Astrodome or Seattle’s Kingdome there was the vast crown to The Park Synagogue. There in Cleveland Heights, Ohio I would sit week in and week out vowing to count the number of tiles on the interior of the roof. It was a task undertaken by probably every kid that sat there; I for one, am still working on it.

Park is the only spiritual home I’ve known. It has housed my family and our life cycle events for years. It remains not only home, but where my heart is.  Truth be known, it may be the only person or institution that has been a part of my life from Day One for which I do not carry one negative memory.

My grandfather was the B’al Koreh there. And although he stopped reading the Torah in 1954, our surviving grandmother received two seats in the Main Sanctuary, (primo for the High Holidays), for the rest of her life. Somewhat like having PSL’s on the fifty for Browns’ games.

I loved Hebrew School. Those days at Park, if you wanted to be on the track for a Bar Mitzvah you had to begin study in either the third or— worst case scenario, the fourth grade. Those starting earlier, (myself included), were treated differently. We had instant credibility. I just presumed that this meant our parents were better Jews…more serious about our religion. Indeed, when as a fourth grader, new kids showed up, they were placed in our grade at Sabbath School only and remained a year behind during the week.

I loved the caste system, (even if it didn’t really exist).

We even got to screw around and as long as we learned no one seemed to care. Moreover Park provided a special class of people known as “Hebrew School friends.” These were classmates you saw after school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, but never in the “real world.” Certainly never during the summer!

Learning at Park was fun.

Mrs. Friedland ran the Sabbath School. One morning, exasperated at the incessant gum chewing, she screamed “If you have to chew anything, chew tobacco!” Sure enough the very next Shabbot Brett A. brought chaw for the boys. I passed, but Alan didn’t; he was suspended for a week.

Then Dr. Spotts showed up. Leon H. Spotts was, to the pre-pubescent, a strict, no-nonsense guy. He succeeded kindly Sylvan Ginsberg, and as our new Educational Director, he intimidated the ___ out of me. He used to get on the p.a. system and dictate discipline, urging that he wanted to make things “…crystal clear…” Years later he was living in the same South Carolina area as my friend Alan (the tobacco chewer).  The latter was now a Ph. D. (G/d has a great way of leveling the playing field).

Immediately after my Bar Mitzvah I asked my Dad to let me quit Hebrew School. He hugged me and told me it was absolutely my decision. (Yeah, right).  I was not only confirmed, but went on to Hebrew High School. Each year the student population was dropping like flies, but there I was.

I think ten of us (out of 175 confirmed), crossed the finish line. Maybe 9.  Mattered not— as the memories continued to accumulate…

Of parking on Ivydale (when no one else knew it was there), and walking through the backyards to Park…

Of waiting by the big rock during the mass exodus at noon, searching for our father’s bald head…

Of the time I forgot my sport jacket on a Saturday. When they brought the kids in at 11 for the last hour of services my Great Grandfather Sam Sharp, from his regular aisle seat, mortified to see me half-dressed, IGNORED ME.

One autumn evening on the way to Kol Nidre Hal and I were misbehaving. Our new step-father Sam was ready for neither teenagers nor nonsense. He booted us out of the car and made us walk to temple. We did. An hour later we triumphantly strode into the childrens’ services.

By the 80’s I was married. Fairmount Temple was the “it” shul, and my wife wanted to join. I remember running it by my dad who laughed and asked me why we “really needed to belong to two temples.”  Belonging anywhere else was never really an option.

When the financial well ran dry my dues went south, but my love for Park never did. Fact is, I’ve always been embarrassed about my absence from the roster. I wonder if they’ll crop me out of the pictures on the walls.  I know, though, that I evaporated; Park never did.

When Stacy was hurting one year we went to the creek for Tashlich.  Comforting her, Rabbi Skoff urged her to come see him.

Like I said…I evaporated; Park never did.

I wrote my Bucket List a while ago. Rejoining Park was part of it.

If it’s true that G/d really only gives us one day at a time, perhaps today’s the day to call Ken Anthony.  In this case I think I can go home again.

Fact is, I still have tiles I have to count.

2 Responses to “L’DOR V’ DOR: AT HOME AT PARK”

  1. Jackie says:

    Thanks for writing. I’ve been waiting…

  2. Aunt Helen says:

    Me too!

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