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Shelley Chamberlain

My Journey to This Moment

– Shelley Chamberlain, June 16, 2018

This just feels so right.

As a kid I attended Jewish camp, wrote creative services, and attended LONG Seders with our extended family.  As a teen, I served as president of our temple youth group.  I took great pride in my grandfather’s role as a Bar Mitzvah tutor at his shul in Pittsburgh, passing on the love and appreciation for our Jewish faith to student after student.  I watched my brother become a Bar Mitzvah at 13, and my sister a Bat Mitzvah during her college years.  I visited Israel twice, and continued to love, embrace, and celebrate our culture and traditions.

Yet, as my mother often reminds me, I went to Hebrew School kicking and screaming and, probably as a result of that, my depth of Jewish knowledge and teachings was minimal at best.

Who would have thought that a reluctant student would someday become president of a synagogue? And who would have thought I would finally become a Bat Mitzvah?

My journey as a Jewish adult began when our oldest son, Michael was entering first grade and posed this question from the back seat of our car “Mom, are we Jewish?”.  It was then that we joined Kol Ami.  Registering Michael for religious school was like going home—it felt right.

Little did I know that we had entered into a community that would again and again inspire, engage, and warm my heart and pull me closer to my faith and G-d.  Life at Kol Ami has brought me the most wonderful friends and the opportunity to grow as a Jew and a leader.

Fully immersed as president of Kol Ami, and the hours required, I found myself knocking at the rabbi’s door without blinking when I learned the 4th B’nai Mitzvah class was forming.  I had planted my feet in the responsibilities as a lay leader…why not plant my heart and soul into this opportunity as well?

Again, it felt right.

I want to express my gratitude to the people who have been instrumental in my journey to become a Bat Mitzvah.

Elliot, what a blessing to have had you in my life at the beginning of this journey and now as an adult.  You have made Judaism come alive for me as you shared your love of prayers and poems, authors and thinkers that have impacted our Jewish history.  Thank you my friend and rabbi.  I can’t imagine taking this journey without you as my guide, my Jewish rock.

Roz, thank you for your patience, your laughter, your passion.  From sharing the Eagles fight song–in Hebrew–to your personal experiences, you helped me accomplish my goal of moving my eyes away from the transliteration to Hebrew.  I can almost keep up with our congregation!

Rebecca, thank you for your encouragement to chant …to find my voice…to experience the amazing feeling of ruach.

My classmates–I’m used to the privilege of standing on the bimah congratulating our Bar/Bat Mitzvah students and welcoming them as fuller members of our Jewish community.  With each student, I have shared my pride as they continue to brighten our future.  Now, here I stand…we stand, sharing this milestone.  It feels right.  I’m proud of what we have accomplished.  For the hours of practicing prayers over skype, for meaningful conversations in the parking lot, for the laughter, for the encouragement, for lasting friendships.  Thank you.

And lastly, thank you all for being here to share this momentous occasion on my lifelong Jewish journey.

It feels so right to be enveloped in my tallit, filled with knowledge, experience and pride.