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Interviewer: Stacy Ziegenfelder
Interview Date: October 6, 2018
Location: Troy, MI
Interview No.: 10.06.18-CS (audio digital file)
(Approximate total length 1 hour, 7 minutes)
Index: Dena Scher

Themes: Jewish Identity, Doctrine, Observance, Upbringing

Summary:Cindy Silverman describes living in a Conservative Jewish home with frequent contact with her maternal grandparents who were Orthodox. Her family did not attend services very often, but she for a short time attended a Hebrew High School. In particular her Grandpa Joe instilled a love of Judaism in her and always supported her participation in Congregation Shir Tikvah, Reform/Renewal synagogue. Grandpa Joe started the tradition of providing the challah for Shabbat service and that continues as a family tradition. Her engagement with Congregation Shir Tikvah has been a major part of her adult life—there she has served on the Rituals Committee, learned the meaning of Hebrew prayers, learned to read and chant Torah, and continues to participate in Torah study. She recounts how during a violent encounter, she started to chant the “Shema” in Hebrew, and the intruder fled her house. Going to Israel has helped her to examine her relationship with God. Now that she is retired and older, she is examining her role as a senior citizen in the Congregation. She expects that like every other time in her life, “God will be with her”.

Example of proper citation/ attribution:

Ziegenfelder,S. (Interviewer) & Silverman, C. (Interviewee). (2018) Cindy Silverman: Jewish Journeys [Interview index]. Retrieved from Jewish Journeys Oral History Collection of Congregation Shir Tikvah:



                     Raised in Conservative family; mother was modern Orthodox, father was Reform; so they compromised on Conservative. Most holidays were spent with Orthodox grandparents. Father’s family was very large. Much of her love for Judaism was from her maternal grandfather, Grandpa Joe. He was a shamas of a Orthodox storefront synagogue called Beth Yehudah. Went to Beth Eren for religious school because 2 blocks from grandparents house. Her Grandpa Joe never spoke badly about anyone. She was in her 30’s when Grandpa Joe died. They had a common bond in talking about synagogues. Her family’s tradition of bringing Challah to the Friday service at Shir Tikvah started with her grandfather. After her grandfather died, her father continued the tradition of buying the challahs for Shir Tikvah. After her father wasn’t able to, Cindy has been providing the challahs. It’s a family tradition.


                     First time her family joined a congregation was when younger brother was getting close to Bar Mitzvah. My older sister belongs to Adat Shalom (Conservative), herself at Reform/Renewal congregation, younger brother became shomer shabbas (Shabbat observant) when he was thirteen, other brother is in interfaith marriage. We all respect each other—no conflict with different Jewish practices.

                     When 13, in last class that was all girls and could not have a Bas Mitzvah. I learned to read Hebrew but not to speak it.

00.10.05       On Passover, her grandfather read everything in the Hagadah, including the instructions in Yiddish. He spoke Hebrew very fast. Most of affinity for Judaism started in grandparents’ house.  Their love and warmth was tied into her Judaism.

                     Her family only went to synagogue on holidays. Went with her brother sometimes.

                     Regular coming to services started at Shir Tikvah—has been on Rituals Committee for 30 years. Was in a religious high school but dropped because instruction was in Hebrew.

00.15.09     Had been engaged and went through a very bad break up, didn’t do anything socially for about two years. Her sister told her about news article about new synagogue. Went to an open house at Wenig’s house. Three things brought her into congregation: cost (no talk of money—will figure out a way), asked her to help read Hebrew at services (never thought of being on the bimah, but wanted to), families were looking out for each other (sense of warmth & inclusion). Became friends with the kids—took them to wrestling matches, still keeps track of.  Started helping with services, knew traditional way of doing things from her grandfather.

00.20.08       She became co-chair of Rituals Committee with Jim Starrr who was also conservative. Had conservative members who remembered their traditions: having yizkor other that just at Yom Kippur. Learned from previous Hebrew school about what belonged in services. Enjoyed making the prayer books for congregation and allowed her to understand the prayers.

00.25.08       At first just read prayers, Torah came later. After Arnie became Rabbi, wanted to lead a service all by herself, her Bas Mitzvah—did not think it would include Torah. It was unspoken that women didn’t read from Torah. But decided to read Torah, asked grandfather if he would watch it, if it were recorded. Would watch it but not on Shabbas & was supportive of her reading from Torah. Unfortunately her grandfather died before her service. Later, she did her Torah portion at his grave side. Recounts a story about girl being taken in after parents died in a pogram and later before marriage found out about her real parents and went to their gravesite. It might have been just family lore, but important for her grandfather to tell them that, so it was important to her.

00.30.30       To prepare for her Bas Mitzvah, she got a cassette tape of her Torah portion. Can’t really chant, because didn’t learn trope. Originally just repetition and memorization. Proud that could find the place in the Torah.

00.35.32       Would like documented for posterity: About twenty years ago, her apartment was broken into, she was asleep on the couch, about 1am, person came in through the window and went through her jewelry box, then attacked her and told her he had a gun and cut her above the ear with a pocket knife. Couldn’t fight any more and her religious upbringing told her that if you’re going to die, you start saying the Shema. So started repeating the Shema out loud over and over again in Hebrew. Told her to stop doing that, she continued saying the Shema, and the man fled the house. Maybe he heard rustling in the bushes or he was scared because thought she was talking in tongues or something. Doesn’t know, but affected her. Thought she was going to die. Afterwards, when survive violence---there’s a tradition of changing your name (so Devil can’t find you)—instead took a Hebrew middle name, chose Etiel, which means God is with me.

00.40.02       Speaks of going to cemetery and seeing the her chosen name on distant relative. At college in Mich State—was only Jew in all girls dormitory, in 1970’s, tried to convert her, but it didn’t affect her like it did them. In early 20’s, would have considered converting to Eastern Orthodoxy because of guy she was dating. She had read the Gospels, which didn’t conflict with Judaism.

00.45.12       Have/had a push/pull relationship with God. Teacher said she would be judged, as child she had rheumatoid arthritis and she thought God was punishing her as a child. Wants to be closer to God because wants to make up for whatever she was punished for. At the same time she has the anger that she first felt as a child. Strong connection to Judaism, but some prayers she does not like. She says that she has wrestled with God and is proud of it. Been to Israel twice, went to the wall on Shabbat evening—was concerned about getting lost and looking for companions.

00.50.19       Realized in a place where guards with guns and violence could break out, but she felt completely safe and comfortable. She was “at peace”. More close to God, less angry. Congregation helped her to find peace by allowing her to be an individual and by being warm and embracing. Second time in Israel was different—she couldn’t move her legs. She was surrounded by people who could help her.

00.55.02       Has missed very few services. (At 56:36 ,problem with recorder, battery beeping, continues with iPhone at 58:16) Thanks for time.

00.58.16       Came in at year three of congregation. For future: With transition of rabbis, still after 3 years, some things in flux with rituals committee, changes in age and physical abilities, not sure of direction---wants to be within congregation, looking for new niche---congregation seems now to separation of senior citizens from rest of population, now larger. Limited to Torah study on Saturday morning and has couple congregants she meets with to do Torah study on Sunday morning.

01.01.02       Now that retired, wants to take more classes at Federation. Wants to be attached to congregation, but needs to figure out how to be that older generation. Those who were contemporaneous are now aging. Since no kids, grand-kids, she doesn’t seem to have that much in common with those who do. Feeling way right now. Important for younger generation to see the older generation involved. Felt this way for about a year now, what’s next as a retired person. Expects that like every other time in her life, God will be with her. She has to keep listening, paying attention, and participating in life. Can’t imagine life without Shir Tikvah.

                     Summary and thanks    

 [01:06.56]  [End of Recorded Material]



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