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Kerry Leaf


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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When Congregation Hakafa of Glencoe, IL, publicized its four-day camping and canoe trip in Michigan, how could we resist such an unusual temple offering?

I admit that I was tempted to resist, since my husband and I hadn't camped and done daily river canoe tripping in decades, but he convinced me not to worry – almost.

In anticipation, I knew just what I should worry about. Would I get any sleep for three nights in a row lying in an uncomfortable sleeping bag in a tent? Could I endure that much canoe paddling in an adept and continuous way? Would I feel uneasy with a group...

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I eat my way Through the seder.

As my ancestor, Nachshon perhaps, Dipped his toe in the Sea of Reeds Or so I read, I dip my egg into the sea of salt, Fearlessly and safe from peril, Reclining in my dining space,

The sweet flavor of lovingly prepared charoset, Still caressing my tongue’s memory, I savor the sharpness of slices of horseradish, Raw with life, A wake-up alarm for my palette.

Bitter herbs, disturbing texture, But, I conjecture, a necessary detour On the journey to sweet brisket.

And the bread of affliction, The restriction of a breadless week Not...

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