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Beginning a New Year

09/18/2020 06:00:50 PM

Sep18

Anne Lowe

Good Shabbos, Friends!

We are beginning the Jewish year of 5781, and we are hopefully leaving behind a year of uncertainty, of corona virus, of loss and of sadness and forest fires. We all extend our hands and our souls to a Rosh Hashanah of steadfast good health, of more peace in the Middle East for Israel and her neighbors, of environmental stability and of good drenching showers to put out fires, and to sustain our plant and animal life.

We have been thrust into a Brave New World. We Zoom together while we stay apart. We hold Shabbat and High Holy Day services electronically. I have been baking and cooking more in these past six months than I have done in the past six years. I have three friends to whom I deliver my chopped chicken liver, and I am making chocolate matzo toffee and hamentashen all summer long, not just at the right holiday times. I even have non-Jewish friends who can say mandlebrodt and hamentashen as if they were brought up in a Yiddish speaking home. All of a sudden I have become a ballabusta!

What do I take away from all of this? What can we learn? Sheltering in place may not be the lifestyle we aspire to, or even want, but we have to make the best of what life brings us. We come away with new skills, revive forgotten ones, and accept that which we cannot change. We do this for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for our world.

So I am 72 years old this year. If we believe that chai, or eighteen years, is equivalent to one life, then I have been blessed with four lives. My first chai, I was a baby, a child, a teenager. No doubt I brought pleasure and teen age woes to my parents and siblings as I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Then in my second life, from ages 18 to 36, I attended Syracuse University, got married, moved with my husband to Yuba City, California. and worked as a teacher and started a family. I took part in those normal activities of a mother such as being a Girl Scout leader, a PTA room mother, a young woman in Hadassah, and a wife to a husband who was an officer in the US Air Force, and later a law school student.  And just to be different I was a crew chief for our part time business of flying hot air balloons, which would be 33 years of our married life. By that time, we were living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

My third life saw me moving along in a Hadassah world where I was a chapter president and a region president and a member of the national board of Hadassah. Along the way, from age 36-54, my children went to colleges and I went back to work. But my volunteer life was always a huge part of my personal identity.

And then about 16 years ago, life’s decisions took David and me to Tucson, Arizona and to Congregation Bet Shalom. We moved here from Milwaukee to Tucson, at the bequest of our son Ethan and his wife Mitten, who were living in Oro Valley. Mitten was pregnant with their daughter Helena Zipporah, and we were asked to move from frigid Wisconsin (where it had snowed every day in the month of December when they asked us to move) to the desert paradise of southern Arizona.  We just couldn’t say “no.” So like Abraham in parasha Lech Lecha, meaning go forth or betake yourself, we left our city of 25 years, we stretched our comfort zone, and we moved to Tucson. 

What did I learn toward the end of this third chai? There are never enough friends in one’s life! I was gifted with wonderful friends in Milwaukee, and added even more incredible friends in Tucson, Arizona. I didn’t go from Abram to Abraham or from Sarai to Sara, I went from Anne Lowe of Temple Menorah to Anne Lowe of Congregation Bet Shalom.  Leap of faith turned out to be a leap of love. As difficult as it is, a complete change in one’s life can be the one that opens doors, adds quality in one’s daily rhythms and gives you different people and surroundings to open your heart. One must be open to new adventures, and flexible enough to thrive anywhere. I wonder how I ever lived without saguaros along my roadsides!

Just before moving here, I somehow slid into my fourth life, starting at age 54, and barreling along to 72. Bet Shalom, Hadassah Southern Arizona, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Humane Borders, art work, and various other interests kept me spirited and content. I worked, I volunteered, and I made a new home here with my husband. Three years after we moved here, my Oro Valley son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter moved to Boulder, Colorado, but we stayed put in Tucson. We loved it here!

So who could possibly imagine that in my fifth life I would fall in love with a brood of chickens? It was that same daughter-in-law, Mitten Lowe, who suggested that Bet Shalom might consider raising chickens to draw young families to the congregation. 

I remember one time when I was visiting in Boulder, Colorado, that my  five year old granddaughter Helena Zipporah, had to be taken to the Boulder JCC chicken coop because it was her day to feed and water the chickens there. I stood in the chicken run and watched her fearlessly wade through dozens of chickens to go to the coop. All of a sudden, a speckled black and white chicken jumped up into her arms. Helena turned to me with a huge smile, and said, “This is one of our chickens!” They had raised two of the chickens from tiny babies until they were teenagers, in their home. That smart chicken never forgot her human sister!

So when Mitten suggested this experience for our Bet Shalom community, I wholeheartedly promoted it, even though many of you no doubt, mumbled to each other that I was mishugah! That was two years ago, and with the dedicated help from people like Rabbi Avi, Aaron Farber, Leanne Rogers and Paul Araiza, plus other Bet Shalomers, our Midbar Project took off. Then Micah Chetrit and Jackie Mendelson, and later Molly Block, joined our efforts, and we started on the path of making the desert bloom, just like the Israelis do in the land of our forefathers.

Another added blessing to this project is the mitzvah that is performed when gathering the eggs from our hens. In parasha Ki Tetzei, in Deuteronomy chapter 22, verses 6 and 7, we are told that if we happen across a mother bird on a nest of eggs, that we should not take the mother bird with the eggs, but to remove the bird before taking the eggs. The Torah finds this a callous act. Although our chickens are not wild birds, to which this law is applied, it still makes sense in our coop. If we gently pick up one of our hens who might be sitting on eggs, and put her in another part of the coop, before we take the eggs, we are abiding by this mitzvah, and being less callous.

 

We are also told numerous times in the Torah to welcome the stranger to our midst.  Did you know that our Kurdish Syrian refugee family, who are Muslims, and whom we have been sponsoring for the past three years, comes to our coop on Shabbat to water and feed our chickens, and they get to have the eggs that are there that day? So they are in a sense gleaning (another Mitzvah!) the eggs, but also helping us keep Shabbat (another Mitzvah!).

As this project gained speed, it was suggested to me by my friend, Audrey Brooks, that we make a documentary film about our Midbar Project. I attended two meetings of the IFA, the Independent Film Arizona organization, that groups together actors, directors, videographers, writers, - anyone who is interested in making films. Anne Dalton is the vice-president of this organization, and she has had a good deal of experience in making short documentaries. So, our film, “Feeding Our Souls,” was born! It is now nearly finished, after two years of filming, editing, and the adding of music and titles. Recently, the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival, viewed the seven minute film, and selected it to be shown this coming January in their virtual film festival which will run the whole month of January, 2021.

Our short film will be attached to a long film, “The Samuel Project,” starring Hal Linden, the charming story of a holocaust survivor and his teen-aged grandson who wants to be an artist. Both our film and “The Samuel Project” will run for 48 hours, from the evening of January 23 through January 25. Then on Tuesday, January 27 at 7 pm, the film festival will have a Zoom panel discussion about the making of our short film, “Feeding Our Souls.” I hope many of you will buy tickets to see our movie, plus “The Samuel Project”, and also come to the Zoom discussion.  Don’t worry- we will give you lots of information prior to the viewing so you will be able to join in.  

Who would have thought that in my fourth life, I would be part of a group of people making a film?   I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks! If the Good Lord grants me a complete fifth life, starting this year, and ending when I am 90, eighteen years from now, I hope to come back to tell you about that exciting ride!  Maybe we will spin wool from our own llamas, or enjoy honey from our own hives, or make cheese from our own goats! 

L’ Chaim! L’Shana Tovah! Shabbat Shalom!

Sat, January 16 2021 3 Shevat 5781