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Why Community Is Built In Congregation

Today for the first time I understood why people find consolation in synagogue. 

I went to the funeral of my beloved mother-in-law, Gerda Blumenthal. 

Never in my life have I felt one with the community. But today we set all differences aside to honor her.

Every person said the same thing: She always asked how I was doing.

The rabbi said that she always asked about his sons, even when she was in the hospice.

Even though he was visiting her and she was in agonizing, unyielding pain.

We looked at the casket before us and we cried, together.

My husband, a quiet man, spoke about her life and what it meant to him.

I do not think anybody was prepared for those remarks.

There is no way that a transcript can do them justice.

He spoke with so much feeling that the rest of us cried along with him. 

I cried with people I don't even know.

We went to the cemetery and for the first time I saw a casket being lowered into a grave. 

We took turns shoveling dirt over the casket.

I saw my mother crying. Or really I heard her. She cried, these plaintive heaving cries. And we were all with her. It was just that kind of day.

There is this song on the radio, "Counting Stars." I'm in that phase where I can't get it out of my head.


If you watch the video it shows a prayer service where the people are semi-hypnotized by the preacher.

He gives them the feeling of unbelievable strength.

They clap and sing and urge each other on.

A woman can do backflips, inspired not just by faith or sermon but the combined energy of the people in the room.

We can do great and terrible things in groups and so much of the news is focused on that.

But the truth is that great things are accomplished in groups as well. It's worth figuring out how to do them well.

We spend so much time hiding from each other and ourselves.

But living is really only done when we fuse. With an idea, that becomes a mission, that we accomplish through community.

Thank you to the community that turned out to honor Gerda Blumenthal today. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.

* All opinions my own.

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