Today, I was thinking how events in our lives shape us and make us who we are. Sometimes I think, “If this had happened instead of that, what would my life be.” I then think, “What a waste of time. This is the path you choose, and this is who you are.”
A few things stand out as having shaped my life.
One Friday evening at Temple Am David in Warwick, I was listening to Rabbi Bernard Rotman. He pointed out that many of us bring our children as far as Bat or Bar Mitzvah and do not give our children further Jewish education. This leaves our children to practice Judaism with the education of a 13-year-old child. He asked the congregation if they would use a doctor with the education of a 13-year-old. This thought jarred me. I was in my twenties, and I knew at that very moment that my children would continue their Jewish education through high school. I am happy to say all three of my sons attended classes and graduated from the Harry S. Elkin Midrasha.
Rabbi Rotman’s words were a defining moment in my life. Not only did my children need more Jewish education, but I did as well. I became the Adult Education chair at Temple Am David and attended classes every year. I brought more Jewish ritual into our home. This was not difficult since I had loved Jewish ritual since I was a child.
Another major event that shaped my life occurred when a friend asked me if I would host a tea and invite five of my Jewish friends. Of course, I said yes without hesitation. I had no idea of why I was asked to do this, but I trusted my friend. On the afternoon of the tea, my friends arrived as did a speaker, a young woman named Esta Cohen who was the then president of the Young Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island. She was pleasant and charming. After a little Jewish geography, she told me she had gone to Hebrew school at Temple Emanu-El with my husband Robert Sock.
As I listened to her speak, my mind kept saying to me, “You are a reasonably intelligent person. Why don’t you know about the needs of the Rhode Island Jewish community? Why don’t you know about the needs of the Jews around the world? And why don’t you know anything about the needs of the Jewish people in Israel? From that day, I began a volunteer path that led me to my life’s work.
I have been blessed to have worked for the State of Israel Bonds, United Way of Southeastern New England, Jewish Federation of Rhode Island and the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center.
I have had the joy of working with outstanding, imaginative and dedicated volunteers as well as working for organizations that support moral imperatives that are important to me.
MAY-RONNY ZEIDMAN is the executive director of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center.