Above: Vickie and I with Maria (Masha) Sheinin and her son Mark
The Shabbat Eve service at which I celebrated my 70th birthday was a delight. There was a lovely crowd, and they really seemed to appreciate (if I say so myself) my sermon. They even liked the original songs I contributed to the service.
The Oneg Shabbat reception that Vickie and I sponsored after the service was lovely. Our dear friend Yvonne Goldstein, who lives in Tucson, lovingly sent ten pounds of Rugelach, which the congregation inhaled, from her favorite bakery in San Diego.
To top off the evening Maria (“Masha”) Sheinin from Moscow and her son Mark drove up from Manhattan to be there.
I did not see Maria during the service, but when it came time to invite the youngsters up to bless the Challah at the end of the service, Mark shyly approached the bema. I thought to myself that little boy looks a lot like Masha’s son Mark. It had been quite some time since I had seen him, and I thought, “I’ll email Masha and tell her that there was a kid there who closely resembles her son.”
When I saw that it actually was Mark and that Masha was there too, I was deeply touched. I had no clue that she would come or even seriously consider coming.
“Masha” is an international banker who lives part of the year in Russia and part of the year in New York City. She was President of the Reform Movement in the Former Soviet Union, and we worked together when I served as President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
The Beauty of Progressive Judaism
Four and a half years ago when she was (very) pregnant with Mark, Masha made a wonderful presentation at a young professionals event in which she articulated so beautifully that Progressive Judaism attracts her because it not only allows but requires us to filter ancient traditions through our own intellect and spiritual consciences. Her intelligence, sincerity and charisma made an indelible impression on those who attended.
When Mark was born in New York City not long after that event, Vickie and I visited them in Mt Sinai Hospital. I was honored when he was eight days old to attend his brit milah ceremony entering him into the Covenant of Abraham and the Jewish people.
What a Surprise!
Still I had no expectation that Masha with Mark in tow and now pregnant with her second child would drive all the way to West Hartford and back again to Manhattan at ten o’clock at night. Vickie and I invited her to stay overnight in our home, but she needed to get back to New York because her parents were flying in from Moscow the next morning.
Yes, my 70th birthday service was very special, but the surprise appearance of Masha and Mark gave the occasion an extra measure of joy.