During Yom Kippur services at Stephen Wise Temple on Sept 16, 2021, Phil Koosed shared his family story from the past when his grandfather was the only survivor in his family from the Holocaust to the current generation when his own father now has eight grandchildren and Phil is spearheading the efforts of The Big Fill to Save the Syrian children. His family’s leadership has saved countless children, brought hope and sent over 50 pallets of supplies to Syria. They have raised over $550,000 with over $127,000,000 in-kind donations.
I had never felt bigger in my life. I was 6 years old and I had just received my celebratory Torah during the Hagigat ha torah ceremony at Wise Temple. My grandfather, a holocaust survivor with one amputated leg, hoisted me high onto his broad shoulders. I could feel his pride radiating out as he marched around Wise with a joyful smile across his face. But just four decades before that moment, my grandfather’s life had been shattered. His entire family had been murdered in the holocaust. His father, his mother, his brother, all his cousins, all his aunts and uncles. All of them. And as he rode alone in a packed train car heading to the camps, it seemed as if Judaism would die with his generation.
Yet, through a miracle of G-d, he escaped and survived and here he was, carrying his grandson around this beautiful temple continuing the link of Judaism. L’dor v’dor. From generation to generation.
Fast forward ahead to last year and I am at my son’s Hagigat ha torah. It is a little different because it is during Covid and Rabbi Stern is in my front yard with a mask on, a hazmat suit and some kind of contraption to hand a torah to my son from 6 feet away. But as Rabbi Stern starts to say some beautiful words and a prayer, my eyes well up. First a single tear streams down my face, then a waterfall. This was yet another link in the chain. I was doing my small part in the 5,000 year history of our people. I was doing to my part for my grandfather. L’dor v’dor. From generation to generation.
Wise Temple was not only a part of this journey for me, it made this journey possible. My parents, who are here today, signed up to be members of this temple over 40 years ago. A young couple just trying to figure out how to raise Jewish children in LA, and not face the traffic of going to the city. They started going to services and then put me and my two sisters in the Wise school. As time went by, we all had our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs with Rabbi Herscher, went through the confirmation program, spent every high holy day here, got married by the Wise clergy and made lifelong friends. In recent years, the Wise community supported my family to help our charity, Save the Syrian Children, send over 50 pallets of humanitarian aid to children in war torn Syria! And now, our sons and our 3 nephews attend Wise school causing even more chaos than I caused when I was here. I am sorry Ms. Itri, Coach Star, Ms. Volterra and many of our multigenerational teachers who have had to deal with multiple generations of us. As we all pursued our careers and got caught up with the busyness of life, the one constant for our whole family has been Wise Temple.
There is no doubt that Judaism has struggled to find its path with my generation. Sadly, I have seen some of my friends over the years become jaded and completely disconnected from Judaism.
Without a place like Wise Temple, life can get busy and Judaism can fade away. Not all at once. Just slowly, generation by generation.
But Wise Temple won’t let that happen. Because Wise Temple is an amazing community of love and tzedakah that lives up to its creed of making meaning and changing the world. But it is not just that. It’s bigger than that. It is also fundamental to the continuity of our Jewish faith and traditions. Wise Temple gives families like mine and yours the opportunity to pass Judaism from generation to generation making sure, that not only does Judaism survive, but that it thrives.
I ask that you join me in supporting this vital mission. Give today not only to support this incredible community, all it stands for and the change we make together. But give today to preserve the very existence this Jewish faith that we all so dearly love. Too many generations before us, too many, have made the greatest sacrifice for us not to do everything we can to make sure that our bright light continues to burn from generation to generation. Shana tova.