MRJ Men's Stories What I Learn from my Brothers

MRJ What I Learn from my Brothers 

Bob Braitman

I grew up without having a father present – he died unexpectedly when I was not yet 10 – and I have no brothers.  We had moved from New York to California a few years before, to a small, top-secret, isolated military base in the high Mojave Desert.  My Jewish relatives, on both sides of my family, all lived back on the east coast. 

After father died, I lived with my mother and sisters.  A student Rabbi came from Los Angeles to be with our small congregation twice a month.  I learned my bar mitzvah prayers from records.  (Bob interjected at this point in his talk that it was very difficult to find a record player that would play the record backwards.)  There were only two other Jewish boys in my high school.  When it was time for my Bar Mitzvah, my father’s brother came out and was the one who handed me the Torah. 

When I graduated from college, Mary and I and our new daughter Leah moved to Ventura and soon thereafter we joined Temple Beth Torah.  For the first time I was able to develop friendships with and appreciation for many other Jewish men.  Most were and are active to various degrees in the Brotherhood. 

Sitting at our dining room table recently, packaging and addressing Yom HaShoah candles to mail to each member of our congregational community, it occurred to me just what a disparate group of guys we are. We come from such different backgrounds and experiences.  Some are older.  Some like to talk.  Some prefer to listen.  Each has had different careers, life experiences and life challenges.  They speak and understand Hebrew in varying degrees. 

What deep, common bond, I have asked myself, holds us together?  What is it about being Jewish men that connects us?  

I have come to the conclusion that identifying us as a Jewish man has to do with our core values.  Love for our shared heritage.  High Ethical Values.  Mutual Respect for the Others.  

In the circle of my Brotherhood are men who:

  • Expertly organized the prayer service for this Shabbat
  • Devote their time to feeding the hungry through Family-to-Family
  • Stock and operate the Food Pantry for those in need
  • Arrange for the speakers and programs and buy, prepare and serve the food at our bagel brunches
  • Keep us connected to our Eastern European musical roots

Through their daily lives it reinforces in me what it is to be a Jewish man living in Ventura County

By associating with them I am constantly learning from other men in the Temple Beth Torah Brotherhood what it is to be and to live my life as an ethical and hopefully caring Jewish man. 

Had my father lived, I like to think he would have been proud of the Jewish man I have become and that is due in large part to the other men of Temple Beth Torah who I learn from and am able to associate with.