Rabbi Hersh muses on moving forward after chaplain post

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh (left) speaks during a bat mitzvah ceremony for Sharna Kohner (right) at Delmar Gardens West in April. Hersh will end her term as rabbinic chaplain for Jewish Family & Children’s Service to take a new post as Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel. 

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

Once again, my residents continue to amaze me. I am not sure why that surprises me. Haven’t I been sharing with you how resilient they are? In anticipation of my last official visit as the chaplain from Jewish Family & Children’s Service, I have been telling them about my new position as Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel. 

I am astonished at the huge smiles, words of mazel tov, talks about how this was good for me, questions about my family, and the list continues. They have been genuinely thrilled for me. I am almost embarrassed as they know that this means, unless they are members of Temple Emanuel, I will not be making this monthly visits. They understand. Again, they reiterate how wonderful this opportunity is. A couple had already read the article in the Jewish Light before I made the visit.

And then I start to get teary. I don’t make promises, but suggest our paths will cross again. I know my son and I will miss our visits at the holidays. Who can deny a child a visit to see elderly friends? Just maybe I can occasionally make that drive and deliver a corned beef sandwich. Perhaps I will be in the building and can stop by for a smile? 

I have said good-bye before. It never gets easier. I made my last official drive to Decatur, Ill. this past Friday. For five years I have been making this trip to celebrate holidays and Shabbat with the community. They, too, have given me the platform to be a rabbi. It was with sadness and beautiful memories that we hugged farewell. I left with words of hope that the miles between us would not keep us separated. Until we meet again.