Meet the Martinez Family
Our family joined Congregation Etz Chaim - Monroe Township Jewish Center approximately 12 years ago. I am Jewish and my husband, Jon, was raised Catholic. We made a decision together early on that we would raise our daughters in the Jewish faith but we wanted to find a community feeling of belonging for all 4 of us, not just myself and my “Jewish daughters”. It would not have been OK with us to have me bring the girls while he stayed home. It had to be a place where we all belonged: it was “take all of us or none of us”. We joined a synagogue when we moved to NJ from Brooklyn in hopes of finding what we were looking for. After a short while there, however, we realized we belonged on paper only. It was bad enough that I did not feel like anyone knew my name or anything about me or my children, but my husband often felt marginalized and almost just tolerated in some ways.
My husband and I are performers and we were booked to perform our cabaret act for a fund-raising holiday event at Congregation Etz Chaim. Walking through the door, Rabbi Levy met us, knew our names, gave us a hand-crushing handshake and welcomed us as if we had been life-long friends. We knew at that moment, this was the synagogue for us. We did our show and joined shortly thereafter. At the time we joined, our oldest daughter, Nikki, was entering 4th grade and our youngest, Dani, was entering 1st grade.
From day one, we had found a family, a truly safe zone where everyone is welcomed. Both of our daughters have has their bat mitzvahs at Congregation Etz Chaim, as have I at the tender age of 45 (inspired by Rabbi Levy and the support of this wonderful congregation), my husband is the director of the Junior Choir and the Hebrew School music teacher, I am in charge of the Purim Basket program for our Shut-In Congregants, all 4 of us are members of the Volunteer Choir which sings during the High Holy Days. Jon has been on the Bimah numerous times and has been honored with carrying the Torah through the sanctuary during services.
We truly feel when we walk through those doors that we are entering our second home, a place where we are always met with smiles and an appreciation for who we are as a family and as individuals. Rabbi Levy contributes in large part to this feeling. His open, welcoming, positive outlook creates a wake the entire congregation rides and it is a true blessing and privilege to be a part of this family. As a family, especially an interfaith one, I cannot imagine a place where we could feel more comfortable. This is a synagogue where our similarities bond us as a group and our differences cement that bond.