Kol Nidre 2017 Speech — Erica Marks

Good evening everyone. Thank you Rabbi Jason, Erin and Evan for asking me to speak to tonight. I must admit, I was more than a bit surprised to be asked to do this, but certainly felt honored. Upon hearing that I would be speaking tonight, one friend said to me, “Wait?! Are you even Jewish?” so things were off to a swinging start!

Brian and my Jewish journeys have been rooted in spirituality and culture, with a spoonful of religion thrown in. Growing up in predominantly Jewish suburbs, we never had to question what it actually meant to be Jewish in this world. Ironically, it was upon moving to New York City, arguably a mecca of Judaism, that I found myself making any non-Jewish friends first for the first time in my life!

As parents of young children, it is obvious to us now that we must pass along not only the cultural values we grew up with, but the religious aspects as well so they know the meaning of being Jewish.

When I was pregnant with our now 5½-year-old daughter, Lila, we moved to Tribeca. As I pushed my stroller through the cobblestoned streets searching for an iced coffee and a friendly mom, I started to wonder—where are all the Jews? I didn’t realize—it was 9:30am—they were all at Soul Cycle! One day an acquaintance mom told me about JCP as she was nervously awaiting her daughter’s preschool acceptance letters.

Since then, we have not looked back; JCP has become the center of our community. With both of our extended families not being local, Brian and I have always leaned on our friends as our family, and that truly is what JCP has become to us. When we came to JCP, we were just looking for a way to anchor ourselves to our neighborhood, but we have come away with so much more. Being Jewish is what may have brought us together, but the community spirit is what keeps us here.

Many of our friends have been around since the first day of JCP Together in 2013, held in the basement of the White Street Synagogue, our kids barely walking. Since those early days we’ve seen first-hand what the community means to our children and to us.
At the start of Lila’s first official year at JCP’s preschool, I was pregnant with my son Jordan. Lila’s class was filled with new faces and families and just as we were starting to become acquainted, my water broke at 31 weeks. Suddenly, instead of class cocktail parties and coffee dates, I was relegated to hospital bedrest. The outpouring of support that I received from classmates, teachers and Rabbi Jason—everything from a hospital visit to playdates for Lila and even an in-room manicure pedicure- was above and beyond any expectation.
While adult friendships were formed back then and continue to flourish today, the same can be said of our children. Having started kindergarten just a few weeks ago, Lila is making new friends but her strongest bonds remain with her JCP crew. Two weeks ago, when 30 of these children showed up at their first day of Hebrew School throwing their arms around one another and squealing with the thrill of getting to be together again (at Hebrew school no less!), the power of their friendships was on display. Jordan is just at the start of his JCP life and I have no doubt his experience will follow the model of his sister.

Yet mostly what works about the JCP community aren’t the traumatic, scary life moments, but the everyday. Parenthood is a team sport, and this extends far beyond the bounds of “mother” and “father”—whether it is help with a pickup or a last-minute playdate, or cocktails after a brutal day; it really is what keeps your sanity.

Brian and I just returned home from a trip to Japan. By mere coincidence, or perhaps divine intervention, on Rosh Hashanah day our first stop brought us to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, which unbeknownst to us, honors peace and prosperity. It struck me how prosperous we have been in finding a special community and family here. As we contemplate the year behind us, and look ahead to the next, we know that the JCP community will be there to support the sad and celebrate the happy in the year to come.

Delivered Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur Eve Eve 5778, September 29, 2017