My path to president of our Ethical Culture Society
By Susan Lesh
It started out simply.
We had just moved to Teaneck—our first house! Laura and Marvin Mausner gave us a copy of the FOCUS newsletter and we were interested in what this community had to say. We came to a platform where Joe spoke and, again, our impression was positive and we were interested. We didn’t get back right away…our Sundays were busy with relaxing activities and new house stuff.
BUT! Then we had the kids (Ben and Rachel) and after the minute-to-minute absorption of little children, we started to feel that we wanted a larger community to be a part of. People who thought the way we did.
It was my push for a community. I grew up a P.K.—preacher’s kid—and our life revolved around the church when it didn’t revolve around school or family. I hav
e a large extended family, but they were an hour away, so we didn’t see them daily. We did see church people daily, and closest friends were church people and social events were church affairs. Family was enlarged by the church. But David was raised Jewish and, anyway, did not want to be a part of ANY organized religion.
So, Ben was then 5 (now almost 22) and Rachel was then 3 (now 19) and Marvin once again brought us the FOCUS newsletter and we said “Aha!” We finally got back to an Ethical Sunday in June 2001, just as it was closing down for the summer! But we knew this was where we wanted to be and started up in September 2001.
We felt intellectually stimulated by the platform addresses and the discussions with the members. The children were very happy in Sunday School. And then we were encouraged to attend the Community Weekend held in Holiday Hills, N.Y. That weekend cemented our relationships with Ethical members; you could sit anywhere at mealtimes and immediately be engaged in an interesting discussion. The kids had the run of the place and we saw them at mealtimes, sitting with their buddies. The games and singing at night were FUN!
Soon I was invited to be on the Religious Education (now Ethical Education) committee, where I continue to be a member. I was then invited to be a co-Director of Religious Education with the wonderful Nikki Sher. I felt that was too big a job for me at the time and returned the next year to just teaching, which I then did for five years.
Meanwhile, I also joined the Festivals Committee, chaired by the indefatigable Marlane Bernstein, then chaired the committee for three years. I was a member of the Family Programming committee, where David became chair. I was invited to be a part of the Long-Range Goal Planning Committee, chaired by the marvelous Jim Griffin, which started the Program Council. I wanted to be more involved with the adult members of the society and helped out in the kitchen when Beth Greenblatt needed it. I helped the incomparable Azar Gordon with the Social Affairs committee, then chaired it for several years. I wanted to be more involved and concerned with the elders of our community and joined the Caring Committee. And then I was asked to be president.
So, I sit here reflecting back on how I got here…yes, it started out simply, but the last 16 years as an Ethical Culture member have enlarged me. The discussions, relationships and experiences here have helped to define who I am. Ethical Culture is interwoven within me.