by Rabbi Ronald Brown
As a child, I grew up at 33 Wright Avenue in Malverne. We lived only a half-block away from Our Lady of Lourdes church.
Sunday mornings, as the bells chimed, I would look out of my window to see the sidewalks filled with people, mostly families, dressed in their Sunday best, hurriedly walking to church. It could have been a scene out of a 1950s Norman Rockwell painting.
Fast forward to the present. This year marks 33 years of serving as rabbi at Temple Beth Am. What strikes me most about my tenure here are the people I’ve met along the way. Some people I haven’t seen for so long, and yet their impact on me is still felt, as though it were just yesterday. Some people were generous with their time and wisdom, and taught me what I could never find in a book or a classroom.
In those early years, clergy from different local churches offered guidance or simple camaraderie by inviting me out for coffee. I have been blessed by amazing colleagues, rabbis from Merrick and Bellmore, whom I hold in the highest esteem. Indeed their synagogues are fortunate to have such gifted clergy.
But mostly, I am grateful to the members of temple Beth Am who have allowed me to reach out beyond the walls of our building. We worked together to find jobs for the unemployed, sustenance for the hungry, and an outreach to those who were lonely. We worked together with Protestant, Catholic and Muslim religious leaders to underscore the point that we share more in common than that which divides us.
We reached out to political and religious leader in many counties abroad and brought a message that we believed needed to be heard. But it wasn’t only with people in high places that we sought to engage: in Poland, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, etc. we taught children in classrooms, and college students that would themselves one day be tomorrow’s leaders.
People now ask me, “What’s the next chapter?” I can only answer: Life is like a mystery novel that you can turn only one page at a time.
And so I started in zip code 11565. Over the past 33 years I’ve moved up one digit, 11566. But it’s not the numbers that count. Great paintings are not done by numbers but with varied colors, engaging landscapes, and interesting people… people who not only pass by the window, but come into your life.