Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
By now you may have heard the news that my beloved mother, Liana Ljuba Epstein Barenblat z”l, has left this life. I am headed to Texas for her funeral and for the first few days of shiva. I aim to return home on Sunday so that I can sit a few days of shiva here, as well.
In the ordinary course of events, it is my responsibility and my great honor to care for y’all in your times of need. I am grateful to be your rabbi and to have this sacred task. My mother’s death brings about a reversal: in coming days and weeks I will need you to take care of me.
The first way that you can take care of me is by joining me for shiva on Monday and Tuesday nights. Stay tuned for information about that — which will probably come to you from Steven Green (our Spiritual Life chair) or from our member Sandy Ryan. Here is an explanation of some of the customs of shiva.
Another way to take care of me is to join me at services in coming months so that I can say mourner’s kaddish in community. Saying kaddish in community enables a mourner (ideally) to feel held, witnessed, and cherished. Here’s a great video about mourner’s kaddish.
And the third way that you can take care of me is by bearing witness to my grief, and welcoming me as a part of our shared community even when I sometimes feel sorrow. Please do ask how I am, and don’t be alarmed if my answer to that question sometimes involves tears!
Please do ask me about my mom. There will be times when I can’t tell stories because the ache is too profound, and times when sharing stories about her will help me celebrate and uplift my memories of her. Remember that grief is not linear, and does not have a simple trajectory.
When I lead prayer, when I want to take y’all to an emotional / spiritual place (awe, wonder, gratitude) I need to truly “go there” too. I can’t just pretend to pray: I have to really feel it. I aspire to be real with you, and real in my prayer. I also aspire to be real with you in my grief.
Being in community means taking care of each other. I know the CBI community to be generous and caring, and I thank you in advance for your generosity and care. I thank you too for letting me be not only a servant of this community, but a member of this community, in this tender time.
Blessings to all,