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Kerry Leaf


Mother and daughter looking out at ocean; daughter's arm around mother

Can you remember what you were doing last Tuesday?

Can you recall a very early childhood memory?

Can you recite a poem that you once knew years ago?

Would you try to cover it up, if you couldn’t remember?

Would you feel embarrassed or somehow inadequate?

Would your friends and family, if they noticed, treat you differently?

Judaism places great importance on memory. Torah commands us more than 160 times to remember (zachor), and on the Shabbat of Remembrance to never forget (lo tishkach).

Never forget that we were once strangers,...

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Royal wedding cookies on a plate with the British flag in the background

So darling, darling Stand by me, oh, stand by me Oh stand, stand by me, Stand by me -- Ben E. King

Though I’m not a particularly engaged Royals fan (no slight to Kansas City baseball aficionados), I did record and watch much of this past weekend’s nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The wedding was lovely and the coverage fascinating.

Almost as colorful as the Queen's suit were the vibrant outfits, fascinators, and enthusiasm evident throughout the chapel. Typical of many weddings, family and friends had gathered to bask in the aura of...

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Painted sign on wood reading KEEP OUT

Isn’t it funny what memories and new thinking can be triggered by the most unlikely of incidents?

Traveling by train has changed over time. Decades ago, there were smoking cars. If you chose to pass through them to reach a smoke-free section, you had already inhaled plenty of secondhand puffs while your clothes soaked up the aroma. But I didn't grouse at the smokers. I just held my breath and walked on by. 

Before the wonder of cell phones, you would generally hear lively conversations or see people playing cards or hear a snoring commuter. Noise was just something all...

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Group photo of about two dozen adults standing on a river bank wearing kayaking gear on a sunny day

For our second year, my husband and I ventured to upper Michigan with 21 other happy campers (including Rabbi Bruce Elder!) from Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL.

On last year’s trip, I learned that what you might worry about in anticipation of an event isn’t always what you should have worried about. Last July, my concern centered on whether I’d keep up with three daily four-hour canoe paddles (no problem at all), but that was supplanted by my surprise collision with a sandy underground bees’ nest on day one. Lesson learned: Wasted worry breeds wasted time.

New year, new...

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Green highway signs indicating proximity Alabama River and the town of Selma

A few weeks ago, 32 of us from my synagogue, Am Shalom in Glencoe, traveled to Atlanta, Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery on a transformational journey led perfectly by our rabbi and cantor. Together, we experienced not just the narratives of a history we’d read about (and that some of us had lived firsthand) but also the soundtrack of a movement.

From “This Land is Your Land” sung by demonstrators in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport to “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus” to “I Shall Not Be Moved” to “We Shall Overcome,” we sang and sang.

We joined in song with Bishop...

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