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Erin Minuk


by Erin Minuk, July 12, 2012

[The following was written by Erin Minuk, a graduate of the Gray Academy of Jewish Education, for the B'nai Brith Community Service Essay contest this year ]

I had just finished Kiddush for my Bat Mitzvah on October 21, 2007 when my best friend Emma ran up to congratulate me on the bimah. She asked me if I wanted to split a torah portion with her in December. Obviously, after completing eight torah portions and a haftarah, reading another was not my idea of fun but I reluctantly agreed. That cold December morning I sat in the pews waiting for my name to be called up to the torah shaking with nerves. The moment I finished was the best feeling in the world because all the stress disappeared.

Matthew Leibl contacted me soon after to ask if I would be interested in doing another torah reading. I agreed, and continued to do so for several months after. I knew it was not something that all of my friends were doing, but each time I read I felt so good after that the feeling became contagious and I did not want to stop. I soon started meeting with Matthew who was the Chazzan Sheini at the time once a week so I could learn more about the trope and the skills behind reading torah. I realized that his job was more than just torah reading when he would stop to have conversations with each of the Saturday morning congregants. I was truly fascinated by how knowledgeable he was and I knew that from that very moment that I wanted to be just like him when I was his age.

So I decided that even when Matthew moved away to Halifax I would continue reading Torah a few times a month on Saturday mornings. The amount of time it took me to learn the readings began to shrink and I was no longer shaking with nerves while I awaited my turn. I became comfortable in the synagogue. It was through these Saturday morning spent with my mom that I developed my love and passion for Judaism because not only was I able to attend the service, I was able to partake in it as well. I never really considered torah reading to be volunteering because I did not think my torah reading personally affected people. The Rabbi always told me that reading torah is a mitzvah, and of course I believed him but I finally understood why. For the first two years that I had been reading torah, it was just singing to me, a chance to "perform" every Saturday.

However, one day during synagogue a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, "your voice is so beautiful to hear on a Saturday morning, thank you." Never had I been thanked for reading a haftarah before. That is when it clicked that I was doing something beyond my love for singing, I was reading to help people enjoy their time in the synagogue.

To me, synagogue has always been the one place I can be at peace with myself and contemplate my life without white noise. If I was able to enhance that feeling for someone, I could not feel more honoured.

From then on, every time I went to synagogue I felt completely different than I ever had before. I felt a part of something special, I felt part of the Jewish community and I was beginning to understand the reason behind Matthew’s passion for his job. I continue to read torah for several years to this very day because from that one comment, I feel a commitment to my congregation and community to provide a service that I love to do.

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