Meet Jewish Gateways Participant Adrianne Bank
I grew up in 1940s New York City in a family which had made the immigrant journey from the Lower East Side to the Upper West side. I went to an Orthodox synagogue on High Holidays, a Conservative synagogue for confirmation, and an Ethical Culture group for Israeli dancing.
None of these quite satisfied my childhood quest for answers to “meaning-of-life” questions, and during high school and college I began to explore other religious traditions.
As an adult, my marriage, three children, international travel, and career in educational research drove my Jewish interests underground, although I remained passionate about social justice issues.
In the 1980s, some of my work in educational research was with Jewish organizations. I discovered that many Jewish adults and children had these same "meaning-of-life" questions, which they felt were often not being addressed by Jewish supplementary schools or synagogues.
In 1999 I moved to Berkeley with my husband Mike to join our children and grandchildren and my mother and sister. Here we formed a closely-knit diverse family: multi-generational, multi-ethnic, intermarried, gay and straight, adopted and biological.
Adrianne Bank with her son David and grandson Isaac
Several years later my son David invited me to join him and my grandson Isaac for High Holiday services in a big white tent at the Jewish Community Center. The services welcomed "wondering and wandering Jews." I was hooked. Finally I had found what I was looking for: a rabbi and a group of people interested in exploring those “meaning-of-life“ questions, drawing on thousands of years of Jewish wisdom as a resource.
I talked with Rabbi Bridget about expanding Jewish Gateways into a year-round community that would learn and connect and celebrate together. We started holding meetings in my home and my garden and found more people who wanted to explore their personal Jewish pathways in an open, welcoming, nonjudgemental setting. We formed various working groups and a Steering Council, began to figure out how to create this new sort of community, and I think, a number of years later, we are on our way.
Recently I stepped down from my role as Steering Council chair. I continue my Jewish Gateways involvements as part of the Compassion & Justice Circle. Monthly, other Jewish Gateways participants and I cook dinner with members of the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County for families in the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program's transitional housing.
I'm also part of a Jewish Gateways book club focused on issues related to Islam and to refugees. And as ofen as possible I participate in demonstrations about these issues, such as vigils at the Bay Area's ICE facility in Richmond.
These are hard times. Being with other people who care about our tradition's core teaching that we must "welcome the stranger" helps me feel less alone and more hopeful.