Thirty-two years is a long time to live in any one place.
It was a lifetime ago, on a lovely spring day in April 1981, that we moved to Teaneck to begin our lives together as young newlyweds.
On Monday, August 12, we will close the door to our Teaneck house one last time. We’ll be heading out to JFK to board a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, together some 300-plus others, to make aliyah.
For us, it will be more than aliyah. We’re going to be rejoining our family who are already there: Four sons, two daughters-in-law, our sabra grandson, and another on the way. Our three older sons already have shown the way, each making aliyah in their early 20s, serving in the IDF, then studying and working there. So our aliyah is going to be a real family reunion.
Tangled up in the many emotions that come with fulfilling our lifelong dream and the excitement of moving to Israel is a real feeling of sadness. Sadness in saying goodbye to a place we know and love. It is a very hard goodbye.
We also can’t leave without saying thank you and offering hakarat hatov – recognition of the good – to the community that has given us so much and enriched our lives in countless ways.
We chose Teaneck all those years ago because it was a growing Jewish community with an easy commute to Manhattan and affordable rent. While we were hardly pioneers, Teaneck had no kosher butcher or bakery and kosher sushi was yet to become the new Jewish food. Cedar Lane had a Pathmark – and a kosher pizza store too! People said “good Shabbos” as they walked to shul, whether or not they knew each other. We made many new friends with the other young couples, who were just starting out, just like us.
The 1981 Jewish community was small by comparison to today’s, but it was active. One of the first events we attended shortly after moving in was the Yom Hashoah commemoration at Teaneck High School. The speaker that year was the actor Robert Clary. (Those of a certain age may remember him as LeBeau on “Hogan’s Heroes.”) Nearly as impressive to us as the speaker was the audience. Seeing the spectrum of the community – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and everyone in between – participating in this moving program was not something we were used to. Later that year I was asked to represent Congregation Rinat Yisrael at the Teaneck Jewish Community Council meeting. I commented on how impressed I was by the Yom Hashoah program, particularly with how it seemed to bring the community together. The next thing I knew, I was drafted as the next Yom Hashoah commemoration chairperson. I continued on as chair for the next five years. I became a vice president of the Jewish Community Council for as many years. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to meet, work with, and make friends with so many wonderfully dedicated members of the Jewish community. Those people paved the way for so much of what our community takes for granted today.
Of course, like every Jewish community, ours had its share of tension and discord over the years. I was very fortunate to have been part of a “dialogue group,” an unofficial and informal group started by two Orthodox members of the community whose goal it was to correct the many negative stereotypes each stream held about the other. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and unaffiliated members met on Sunday nights. As we rotated houses each week, we tried to find common ground, but many of our discussions were heated. Nevertheless, we always agreed to respectfully disagree with one another and we got to know one another as people. I believe we experienced a moment in time, forming special bonds with individuals dedicated to Judaism in his or her own way. Till this day I believe this group was unique to Teaneck.
Teaneck gets our biggest thank you for being a wonderful place to raise kids. Each of our five children benefited from so much here, from their time in nursery schools like Yaldenu and the Teaneck Jewish Center, to their years playing sports and learning how to be on a team, to enjoying great summers in Teaneck Rec camp and Sports and Arts. They learned how to swim in the Votee Park pool, which we have joined every summer since it opened in 1987.
Speaking of sportsâ€¦ Sports are big in the Rapps family. All five of our kids played Teaneck baseball, soccer, and basketball. My husband patiently coached and managed countless teams in the Teaneck Baseball Organization for some 20 seasons. For more than 10 years he was active on the TBO board and he served as commissioner for two years. In between baseball seasons he coached Teaneck soccer and Biddy Basketball. Participating in town sports leagues gave our kids the opportunity to meet other kids from around town, forming friendships and giving them lifelong memories they really cherish.
The Teaneck Jewish community is known for its many acts of chessed and tzedakah. In our 32 years here, we have been members of three different shuls. Being part of a shul community is important for many reasons, especially in times of joy and of sorrow. We have experienced both within each shul and have been the recipients of chessed from them all. We are grateful for that beautiful spirit of community, and we thank our rabbis who have been there to celebrate with us and to comfort us.
To our close friends we say thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We give you hakarat hatov for being so supportive, for encouraging us, and for helping us through these last stressful few weeks. For the shopping, the cars, the laundry, the coffee, the spare mattresses, the walks around the block, the Shabbat meals, the hugs. The goodbyes and the tears.
It may sound clichÃ© to say it takes a village, but you know something – it really does.
And so we say goodbye to this Teaneck village, our home since the day we married, where our friendships were born and nurtured, our kids were born and raised, and we made a house our home.
Thank you, Teaneck, for 32 rich, wonderful years. We were lucky to live in this special place.
May the community continue to be a source of Jewish unity, and continue to shine as an example of good deeds, of chessed and tzedakah for those in need. Yet as great as Teaneck is, we will happily greet you with open arms when you join us in the Jewish community that is second to none, eretz Yisrael.
Todah, shalom, u’lihitraot!