Community ties are a matter of faith, the congregants agreed.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
BOARDMAN -- A 37th anniversary celebration illustrates the impact of faith on individuals and the community.
The service last Saturday at Ohev Tzedek-Shaarei Torah Congregation celebrated its large number of bar or bat mitzvahs in 1964.
The Jewish baby boomers developed a social consciousness common to that decade and made a commitment based on their faith's traditional beliefs to serve others. That commitment has turned into a blessing for the individuals and the Mahoning Valley that contradicts this area's corrupt image.
Remembering: Atty. Mark A. Huberman of Boardman, the chief magistrate in Mahoning County Domestic Relations Court, helped to get the celebration under way when he recalled the class of 13-year-olds preparing for their bar mitzvah.
"There was a remarkably large class of 16. Fifteen boys and one girl. We were hungry to learn and did so," he recalled.
From February to the end of October in 1964, there were frequent services that grant adult status to Jewish youths.
And Huberman said he realized, "On my birthday I turned 50 this year, and so did everybody."
Huberman said the class members were, "Very socially progressive, concerned with civil rights and most opposed the war in Vietnam."
Many of those involved are still involved in the temple and the community, and their children are involved in the temple, Huberman said.
Active group: Sandy Kessler of Boardman is the temple's president, and one of the 16 students. Both of his grandfathers helped organize the temple, his father was active in the temple, and now Kessler's children are active there, too.
That's unusual today since many people move frequently during their lifetimes, Kessler noted.
Even those in the class who have married non-Jews see their children involved in the temple. That's extraordinary, said Huberman, since children of such intermarriages generally fall away from the temple.
Members of the class have moved as far away as California, Montana and Florida. Kessler moved away and worked outside of the area before returning 20 years ago.
"I felt it was unusual in these days in Youngstown for that many of the same confirmation class to be at the same synagogue after all these years," Kessler said.
Rabbi: Judaism has always has a strong sense of duty to the community, said Rabbi Simeon Kolko, the temple's spiritual leader who supported the special service.
"We were not meant to live in solitude," the rabbi said.
A Shabbat prayer asks God to bless those who give, "bread for the wayfarer and charity to the poor; and all who devotedly involve themselves with the needs of this community."
Kessler said that in Judaism there is less a sense of mission and calling common in Christianity than a sense of very personal choice -- to choose life and to do good.
And once that choice for life is made, make it an action, Kessler said.
"It leads to value. It goes beyond you and your deeds and does the greater good," Kessler said, adding that that road helps people find green pastures.
Do those choices make the green pastures?
"That's a nice way to put it," said Kessler. "It worked out to be the proper choice for me and hopefully made a difference."
Good work: Huberman said, "I happen to be a person who sees the glass as half full rather than half empty."
The magistrate has been on the Boardman Board of Education for 18 years.
"There are school boards in this area that are as fine as any in the state. I work in the Mahoning County Courthouse, which is one of the finest justice centers in the state."
Those and other positives in the Mahoning Valley are signs of the values that contrast with the highly publicized corruption, Huberman and Kessler said.
"This is still a working class town with strong religious values taught by all religions, and that appeals to me," Kessler said.
Other classmates who took part in the service were Jack Kessler, Jerold Haber and Art Einzig.
The service honored the class's teachers, Clara Segall and Ruth Lockson along with Florine Rusnak, the temple's current secretary. The service honored other teachers who were not present, including Cantor Karl Klein of Natanya, Israel, who taught the classmates to chant various services, and Esther Shudmack of Cleveland, a Holocaust survivor who taught Hebrew.