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Our Rock

Barbara Turner-Michaelson

Mark and I have been members of Rockdale for more than half of our lives. I do not know where to begin in expressing what the Temple means to us! We first came to Rockdale over 35 years ago because we had met Rabbi Randi Musnitsky when her husband Rabbi Ron Kaplan married Mark’s mother and stepfather at Wise Temple. At the time, she was a rabbinic intern at Rockdale. For us it was love at first sight with her. We both knew we wanted her to be the one to officiate our marriage. We first went to Rockdale shortly after his mother’s wedding and were greeted by the most amazing warm, kind and enthusiastic congregant…. Sue Richard. Her complete ly welcoming personality clinched the deal for us. We did not need to look any further for a place to call our spiritual home. Fast forward a few years and our first daughter Nikki was born. Rabbi Goldman came to our house to perform her Baby Naming. His warmth and ability to make every guest in our house feel they were a special and necessary part of the ceremony was what he did best. This occurred again for our second daughter Kelsey. During this time Mark and I were not active in temple life, only attending the High Holiday services. The girls attended preschool at Rockdale and both had Ruth Coppel as their first year teacher. Ruth was amazing. She, like the others we had met at Rockdale, showed incredible compassion and warmth not only to Nikki and Kelsey but also to Mark and me on the few occasions when we were both at Rockdale for services. The girls went on to Sunday School, Hebrew School, and Hebrew High School. Both had their Bat Mitzvahs at Rockdale along with many of the friends they had made in preschool!

Fast forward a few years when Rockdale went through a very rough patch and many congregants left. We, as a couple never considered it. It was at that time that I realized a spiritual home is not completely dependent on the leader but rather the people, the memories, the feeling that it is an essential part of one’s life, and the sense of safety and serenity one gets just walking in the door. 

Rockdale has been our “rock” (no pun intended)! It’s where we have turned to not only for life-cycle events, but more importantly when in times of crisis. I will never forget the tragic day of 9/11, the only place I could think of going to immediately to get some sense of security was Rockdale and fortunately, its doors were wide open that night for congregants to gather and feel a sense normalcy, safety and that the world was not about to end. Since then, there have been other personal, community-wide, and national tragedies that have occurred and Rockdale has continued to be the place we turn to for comfort and spiritual guidance. Rabbi Coran was the first person I called after Mark, when Nikki was in a horrific car accident in Israel nine years ago. I knew she would be able to help me get through the sense of complete helplessness and fear. And she definitely did not fail!! 

I have been going to Shabbat every Friday for at least the past 10 years. It is the only place I can imagine going to for the feeling of community, spirituality, acceptance, warmth, and most of all love. It started when Margaret Friedman- Vaughan called me and asked if I would go to sit with her. Just that simple phone call of invitation pulled me in and I have never looked back. Each week it’s a different experience but the one constant throughout is I know I will leave feeling renewed from a rough week, calmer, more spiritual and a complete sense of belonging. Throughout the years Mark and I have served on different committees, the Board and participated in many different group events. Sue   Richard may have been the one to draw us into the fold of Rockdale initially, but it is the current congregants, rabbis, and staff that have kept us there. Mark and I cannot imagine a better way to keep this incredible temple moving forward and being a part of people’s lives for generations to come than to be a part of the CYJL. We hope others will feel the same way!


Wed, October 4 2023 19 Tishrei 5784