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One New Member’s Perspective on Being Welcomed with Abundant Kindness - Part 1

Part 1: Life Changes and Finding Emanuel

by Nancy Hagen Goldstucker - Board Member, Development Chair

I was a widow of less than a year when I walked through the doors of Emanuel during Elul 2019. I was in deep grief and disbelief from losing my wife, Sandra Lee Hagen Goldstucker, z”l. I was living between our home in the Indiana Dunes and our apartment in Hyde Park. And, I had lost my identity both as a partner and caregiver and as an active member and administrator at Temple Israel in Miller Beach, Indiana. And then I returned to Emmanuel (I had attended services here as an SAIC student living in the neighborhood from 1978 through 1979). Clergy, members, and new friends welcomed me warmly and with open arms. The power of community girded me as I adjusted to so many life changes.

Today, despite COVID-19 reducing my ability to walk through Emanuel’s physical doors, the virtual ones have been just as open and welcoming.

How did Emanuel welcome me with Abundant Kindness?

  • Music was the first thing that warmly embraced me. Whether Rabbi Marantz’s Mi Chamocha/Redemption Song, Cantor Friedman’s Shalom Rav, or Ruthie Seidner’s Mi Shebeirach, I always feel moved. That Pastor Greg Sabetta and the Edgebrook Community Church choir performed during our High Holy Day services is inspirational both musically and as an example of one community giving to another.

  • Tikkun Olam made me know I found a spiritual home. My heart has been filled seeing the huge donation boxes by the cloak room for Care for Real and Shalva; watching the 30-day ECRA Prayer Circle that followed the police murder of George Floyd; seeing the Get Out the Vote call to action in the pages of our newsletter; participating in the Tikkun Olam Book Club discussion of John Lewis’s Across that Bridge.

  • Rabbi Marantz and Cantor Friedman introduced and made themselves available to me immediately. I had only experienced that level of sincerity from a few of my past clergy.

  • The Women’s Retreat made me know I would establish long-term friendships and be able to contribute to this, my newly beloved Congregation. The services, workshops, discussions, and singing were intensely spiritual. Each of us sharing our own stories as well as our artwork and writing was intimate, entertaining, and emotional.

It was at this Women’s Retreat, that I committed to equal the gifts I received and continue to receive from Emanuel. I had a long, late night conversation with Judy Gadiel who, as many of you know, is a long-time member, board member, and was leading development and fundraising for the Congregation. She invited me to join her team. I couldn’t have been more delighted!

Then the pandemic hit and I had been a member for only 5 or 6 months. I hadn’t gotten to know anyone very well. I hadn’t started contributing my talents.

Emanuel hit the virtual ground running, meeting the challenge with more finesse as the plague continues! Services online. ☑ Both ongoing and new adult classes online. ☑ Religious and Hebrew Schools online. ☑ New Executive and Religious School Directors. ☑ Chesed Committee checking on members’ needs and wellness. ☑ Improving graphics for online services. ☑ Exceptionally beautifully produced High Holy Days Services. ☑

And, best of all for me, somewhere in the midst of all this, an onboarding seminar series for future volunteers and board members called Mensch Bench. ☑

As I became settled in Emanuel’s community, I began to contemplate my own tzedakah – giving back to the Congregation.


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