Anshe Moments

Saralyn Levine’s legacy in Anshe Emet is unique among our membership. Her great-grandfather, Lazarus Levy, an immigrant from Great Britain, was one of the founding members of Anshe Emet. Her grandmother Sara Levy (for whom Saralyn is named) was confirmed at Anshe Emet in 1886. Her mother Julia Dry, the youngest of 3 sisters all confirmed at Anshe Emet, was herself confirmed in 1915. Saralyn was confirmed in 1948. She was married at Anshe Emet and her two sons became B’nai Mitzvah in 1977 and 1979. She has maintained a lifelong membership in Anshe Emet.

Her Anshe Moment reflects on her relationship with Rabbi Solomon Goldman, who served Anshe Emet from 1929-1953 and was a guiding influence in Saralyn’s young life:

Rabbi Goldman was very beloved in the congregation. He was particularly admired by young people and made young people feel welcome and valued in the membership. He was larger than life, but yet approachable, partly due to his soothing voice and calming influence. He was always at ease when he spoke with the community. I remember that when he spoke from the bima, he never stood behind a lectern or spoke from notes. He always leaned on the lectern from the side and spoke from the heart. His sermons were always focused how one should conduct one’s life and he and his wife were wonderful examples for our community.

Rabbi Goldman was interested in making Judaism modern and relevant. I didn’t realize the full impact of the moment, but I remember the High Holiday sermon in which he advised the congregation that it was acceptable to ride or drive to synagogue on Shabbat. He emphasized that the important thing was to attend, and it didn’t matter how one got there. This announcement was revolutionary at the time and definitely caused a buzz in the congregation.

I also remember his extraordinary funeral. It was during the time when Anshe Emet owned the Sheridan Theater (later named the Solomon Goldman Auditorium). It was standing room only with crowds on the street. The speakers were noted rabbis and authors. I remember attending and feeling bereft at this passing. Rabbi Goldman is the rabbi against whom I compare everyone who came after.

Saralyn Levine

Elaine Seeskin and her husband Barry have been part of the Anshe Emet since moving to Chicago from St Louis in 2017. Their son Zach, daughter-in-law Lindsey, and grandchildren Ari and Naomi are also members of AE.

I’d like to share an Anshe Moment that occurred in early 2022. At that point, we were almost 2 years into the COVID pandemic. Community-wise, we had been separated for most of that 2 years with few intermittent breaks. Immunizations had allowed us to have live services for the fall (2021) holidays and there was some hope that in-person services with distancing and masking might become the new normal. However, at this point in early 2022, we were in the throes of yet another COVID variant—Omicron—which public health officials estimated might be the worst yet. Infection rates were climbing and the recommendation was made that we again isolate in our homes. In-person gatherings were discouraged and in-person services were once again abandoned for the time being.

Let me embellish on this picture just a little bit more: It was mid-January, it was dark and it was cold. Whatever excitement we felt from the fall Jewish holidays was long over.  The isolation and uncertainty—and frankly fear—we had experienced from COVID was reintroduced in a big way. COVID had gone on for a very long time, it felt.

It was Friday night, Erev Shabbat. The particular Shabbat I remember being in the depths of—despair is too strong a word—but dread works, related to the darkness and the cold. We were alone, again. During the pandemic, however, Barry and I had started the practice of tuning in to the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat streaming service. We found that the service provided some comfort and warmth.

The Torah portion for that week was Parshat Bo. We had read about the first half of the plagues in the previous week and in this parsha we read the last three, included the plague of darkness—a darkness that was so enveloping that no one could see each other. What a metaphor for the way I was feeling!

Interestingly, though, on this weekend, both Rabbi Russo on Friday and Rabbi Siegel on Shabbat morning focused their divrei Torah on one sentence:

ולכל בּני ישׂראל חיה אור בּמושׁבתם : But in the homes of the children of Israel, there was light.

Light is an interesting metaphor in Judaism (and in most cultures)—it can mean wisdom, freedom, inspiration, a lot of really lofty concepts—the “light” of Torah, the “light” of learning. At that particular moment, though, what I needed was for light to just be light. I realized, though, that “light” in this instance meant community. Unlike the Egyptians who were trapped in their muddy darkness, the Jews could see each other clearly. They had the support and sustenance of their families and friends.

On that Shabbat evening, Jews everywhere were lighting candles. We were setting tables, singing songs, participating in the ritual that provides the meaning for our weeks. Even with COVID, these rituals supported us. When Barry and I approached our Shabbat table that night, I knew everyone we knew from Anshe Emet was doing the exact same thing. We could see each other, even for the darkness.

What are my best Anshe Moments? Participating as part of my community. At this particular moment, the realization that our community was together in spirit, even when we could not be together in person, sustained me.

ולכל בּני ישׂראל חיה אור בּמושׁבתם : But in the homes of the children of Israel, there was light.

Elaine Seeskin
AES Member

Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg served Anshe Emet from 2005-2010. He is a native of Niles, Illinois, and is a graduate of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. Rabbi Burg and his wife, Rabbi Miriam Cotzin Burg, and their family currently live in Baltimore, where he is the Alexander Grass Rabbinic Chair at Beth Am Synagogue.

Looking back at my five wonderful years with the Anshe Emet community, I recall so very many powerful moments—on the Sanctuary bimah, strumming my guitar in the Rose Crown Room and Malkov chapel, holding congregant hands in hospital rooms, the solemn work of the Chevra Kaddisha, and the joy of standing with couples under the chuppah.

One Anshe Moment that stands out happened three years before I was ordained and six days after my own wedding. Miriam and I were married in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we were spending the following weekend with my parents in Niles. On a whim, we decided to attend Shabbat services at Anshe Emet. During kiddush lunch, a number of young adults from the shul who heard that we were newlyweds offered to organize a sheva berachot. It was the last day for this tradition, before we as a couple would officially move from the concentrated bliss of our wedding week to the enduring joy of shared partnership.

We sat in chairs in the Blum Social Hall as complete strangers passed a kiddush cup, each to the other, and chanted the words we had heard the previous Sunday under the chuppah. We felt seen, held, and valued by a congregation to which we did not belong, in a city I had always called home but in which we didn’t currently live.

Years later, when considering which congregation I might serve in my first pulpit after rabbinical school, I remembered that experience. There are many reasons I felt honored to serve as an Anshe Emet rabbi, but first among them was the spirit of community and hachnasat orchim, welcoming the stranger. In the years since I have worked to foster that spirit in my Baltimore congregation. That Anshe Moment became a powerful memory and has since become a central mission in my rabbinate. Moments to memories to mission. Not a bad legacy!

Happy 150th Anshe Emet!

With love and gratitude,

Rabbi D’ror Chankin-Gould has served Anshe Emet Synagogue since 2015. He has been instrumental in all aspects of the life of Anshe Emet but most notably led for Anshe Emet to write its own cutting-edge religious school curriculum, “The Beverly Goldstick Curriculum for 21st Century Jewish Education.” He serves on the Executive Council and the Administrative Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly and as a co-chair of the RA’s Gender and Power Committee. He previously served as president of the Chicago Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi D’ror and his husband, Cantor David Berger, are the proud parents of Matan and Avi Berger-Gould.

His Anshe Moment focuses on a program that paired young Jewish and Black Chicagoans on a civil rights journey:

In 2018, I was privileged to take a group of teenagers from the Jewish community and from the African American community (and those who come from both communities) on a trip to through major civil rights sites in the Southern United States (Memphis, Little Rock, and St. Louis). This trip was in partnership with Bright Star Church, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish United Fund, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Chicago Urban League.  Our teens on the “Let’s Get Together” trip learned about their shared history and values, struggles with racism and anti-Semitism, and the tools by which they could collectively advocate for a brighter future.  Anshe Emet’s leadership—thanks to Rabbi Siegel’s vision and commitment—made it possible for these teens who barely knew one another to bond in extraordinary ways.  I remember sitting in Little Rock, just outside Central High School, the site where the impossibly courageous Little Rock Nine integrated their school in the most dangerous of circumstances, and seeing our Anshe Emet youth engage independently in nuanced conversations about identity, systems of power and privilege, and how to fight for a future brighter than the past. I have never been more proud of our youth, our community, and the way in which we realize our values not just in word, but also in deed.

Rabbi D’ror Chankin-Gould
Anshe Emet Synagogue

Judith Hausler Duckler was born in Israel in 1946 (Interestingly, her birth certificate does not list a country of birth, but rather “Jerusalem”). She immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 11. Her father, Dr. Ephraim Hausler, was a Hebrew teacher at Anshe Emet Day School and later became Educational Director at Anshe Emet. Judi’s mother, Lotte Hausler, was also a Hebrew teacher. Judi and her brother became b’nai mitzvah at Anshe Emet; “Uncle Ben” (Ben Aronin) was their teacher. In 1967, she married Harold Duckler at Anshe Emet in a large wedding officiated by Rabbi Seymour Cohen and Cantor Moses Silverman. Judi has remained a lifelong member of Anshe Emet. She and Harold live in Edgewater.

Her Anshe Moment describes her entry into Anshe Emet Day School upon arrival in the United States:

My parents left Europe to go to Israel before World War II; my father was from Germany, my mother from Poland. After the war, they toured Europe to find relatives but sadly, no one had survived. During this period, we lived in Germany, England, Switzerland, France, and Belgium. My father’s friend, Hans Erman, worked at Anshe Emet as a Hebrew teacher. He wrote to my father and invited him to bring our family to America. When we arrived, my father was immediately hired by Anshe Emet and my younger brother Jay and I started at Anshe Emet Day School. I was put in the sixth grade and my brother started Grade 1. I was immediately moved to the eighth grade because my education in Europe was extensive and I was more suited to a higher grade. I spoke Hebrew, German, and English, and my mathematics background was more akin to high school math at that time. We also started attending Anshe Emet  Synagogue on Friday night, Shabbat morning, and Hebrew school to help us get integrated into the American mainstream.

My first days at school were a bit challenging: Although I spoke English, it was British English—not American English—and I spoke that English with a heavy-duty accent. I dressed in short skirts as was the style in Europe at that time and here all the girls were wearing saddle shoes and longer skirts.

On my first day, everyone asked, “Who’s that?” and “Where’s she from?” I introduced myself as Judith Hausler from Israel, but was immediately identified as “Dr. Hausler, the Hebrew teacher’s, daughter.” Unfortunately, from then on, I was known to everyone as merely “Dr. Hausler’s daughter,” not Judith, Judi, or even Yehudit. This went on for years. Finally, I had a good friend who was a jeweler make me two necklaces, one in English (Judith) and one in Hebrew (Yehudit).  From then on, I would point to these necklaces and say, “this is who I am.” Dr. Hausler is my father, but I am Judith.

Little by little, though, I became used to American customs and became integrated into the community. I later taught kindergarten at Anshe Emet Day School. I am still very involved in Anshe Emet and attend each Shabbat—it is an integral part of my life. 

Judith Hausler Duckler 
AES Member

Cantor Elizabeth Simon Berke has part of Anshe Emet since 2011. A graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary, she completed her Masters in Sacred Music, received her Diploma of Hazzan, and graduated with a Masters in Jewish Education in 1994.  Cantor Berke is President of the Community Mikvah of the Conservative Movement in Wilmette. She is also a contributing author for an assortment of publications, including a Rabbinical Assembly document on Rabbinic Installation. She is married to Hazzan Steven Berke; they have two adult daughters, Eden and Aviva.                                                                                              

My husband, Steven, and I moved to Chicago with our daughters in June of 2011. We chose Chicago for a variety of personal reasons, but we chose to live in Lakeview because we knew of Anshe Emet. We knew that its vibrancy would provide us and our daughters (who were in 4th and 7th grade at the time) a place to be the Jewish family we wanted to be.  As two cantors, we wanted to listen to Hazzan Mizrahi interpret the texts of the siddur and we sought a place of rabbinic scholarship with an engaged laity. We knew Anshe Emet would fulfill all of these hopes.

After we arrived in Chicago, Steven and I met with several Jewish leaders across Chicago to see how we could connect into the Jewish professional scene of the city. One of those meetings was with Rabbi Siegel.  He was generous with his time and ideas and introduced me to Leah Conley, director of the Religious School.  My first position at Anshe Emet was as one of the 3rd grade Religious School teachers. A seminal moment for me happened, though, as Rabbi Dena Bodian left her position overseeing the Jews By Choice program.  Working with those who have chosen Judaism has been one of my profession interests; in fact, I wrote my MA thesis on conversion programs and had experience teaching adults as well.  With great trust, Rabbi Siegel offered me that position and it has been the one of the most fulfilling in my time at Anshe Emet. It is a true blessing to facilitate spiritual journeys for all participants. I am awed by the history of AES and that I am a small part of its journey as an institution.  

Cantor Elizabeth Berke
Anshe Emet Synagogue