An amazing young woman walked into our office in July 2019. Her name, Elis Legler, was applying for the position of Raker Religious School Coordinator. From the moment I spoke with her, I felt that Elis was the one for Raker! Please enjoy reading about her journey and experiences along the road to coming to Phoenix. We are fortunate to have Elis on staff, and of course very lucky to be able to share Ben, her adorable baby boy, with her and her husband Adam.
When we we think about the word ‘courageous,’ we instantly think about someone who has no fear, someone brave.
For years I was called courageous, and for a long time, not only did that word bother me, but I replied with… “Courageous? Me? I can’t even look at a snake picture without closing my eyes in desperation!” Just as an idea, I went to Papago Park and avoided at all costs that playground with the huge snake sculptures. (Oh yes, and yet, I moved to Arizona!)
About 10 years ago, a friend of mine told me “You are so courageous. You always follow your dreams, and you have no fear of going after what makes you happy.” And just like that I realized that I had it all wrong.
I am not the kind of courageous person who will take on skydiving as a hobby or that will pet a wild animal. And no, I won’t look at a snake, even from a safe distance. But, I am the kind of courageous person who will express my thoughts out loud, who will go after what I want, and will always ask questions. I guess, in a way, I do all the courageous things that are not dangerous. What’s the worst that can happen? Failing and trying again? Having to change my course and strategy? Receiving ‘no’ as an answer? Ultimately, trying (but playing it safe) doesn’t hurt!
Bottom line is that you don’t have to be fearless or brave to be courageous. Being courageous means that even though you have fears, you are brave enough to follow your plans, you still chase after what you believe in, you still go after what you want. And with that being said, an enlightening fact: we are all courageous.
The Jewish people endured so much. And yet, we carry on. Holocaust survivors carry their fears and traumas for life, and they still thrive. They live because they can; they live because regardless of their fears and traumas, they have the courage to go on.
Anti-Semitism is still a sad reality. And yet, we don’t hide our culture, we don’t hide our pride, and we cherish our traditions in all possible moments. We do it because we
can, we do it because we want to, and we do it because regardless of our fears, we have the courage and the willingness to go on.
I never feared moving to a new place. I knew that, worst case scenario, I could always move back home… which I did, many times. I lived in different places throughout my life. Rio de Janeiro, London, Israel (in the city and in a kibbutz), New York City (in Manhattan and on the other side of the East River), West Texas, and now Arizona. All these places are so incredibly different, but yet, every time that I was surrounded by a Jewish community, they were unique and familiar. When it was time to move here, I knew that I would be in Arizona for a really long time, if not forever. We have no family in Arizona, we didn’t know anyone in Arizona. But as soon as I heard that the Scottsdale/Phoenix area had a big Jewish community, my worries went away. No matter what, you can always count on your Jewish community. And it did not disappoint. Once again, being courageous proved to us, that when you focus on the bright side, you will always be “counting your blessings.”
It’s at the core of the Jewish people to be courageous. It lies in the importance of keeping our religion and community alive. That is why your family belongs to a temple, that’s why you send your children to religious school. Religious school is not only about giving your children the opportunity to learn about Judaism, Hebrew, and Israel, it is about teaching them to be courageous and proud of their heritage, it is about teaching them the importance of belonging to a Jewish community.
Now that I am a Mom, this is proving to be true all over again. What a difference a Jewish community makes. The words of kindness, the support, in a language that is universal to us. There is something in this language that is even quite unrealistic, something magical, mystical, and for sure spiritual. How can a person feel so at home even though she only lived at this new place for such a short time compared to most? How can a person feel so welcomed and loved even though she met her community (in person) for such a short period of time before having to accept a virtual-only connection? How? Because this is us.
Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for believing in the importance of Jewish studies and connections to your family. Thank you for being here for Temple Solel and Raker Religious School, because we sure are doing everything we can to bring Jewishness and mindfulness to your home.
Raker Religious School Coordinator