Every Friday at 5:00 pm, I get up from my desk and announce “I am going to do my Jewish thing.” I walk downstairs, arrange the flowers I purchased for the Oneg table, set them up along with the signs thanking the oneg sponsors and begin my Shabbat.

You see, I am a Professional Jew. I am the Member Engagement Manager at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA where I have been working for 25 years. The best part of my week is welcoming our 300 plus Shabbat service attendees. Hugs, kisses, “how was your week?” are among the things I love the most and with the current climate, I am afraid what I miss the most.

People often ask me if I mind working every Friday night. My answer is no, I can get more information from our members on any given Shabbat than our clergy can get in a week. Deaths, illnesses, babies, the good and the bad, they tell me. Many weeks we have Shabbat dinners followed by programs; I am there with our cards for those who signed up to join us, showing what table number they will be sitting at. Why do I do this? So that no one walks into one of our dinners and says – where am I going to sit? So that no person who is single or new to the temple will need to worry that people only sit with their friends. There is a space and place for everyone.

On weeks when there is no dinner or programming after services, I head home where my husband has dinner waiting for me. Our Shabbat dinner consists of an omelette with a bialy, just perfect after a long week of work.

Growing up, we did not celebrate Shabbat as a family. Occasionally when I had to go to services for Hebrew school, I would go. But sometimes there wasn’t even a minyan in the sanctuary.

My son was enrolled in a Jewish pre-school. Each week, in those days, I would leave work at 2:00 PM to go home and prepare Shabbat dinner for our family and my parents who would pick Michael up and bring him home. It was a wonderful three years of lighting candles, sharing challah and wine and some family time. I really miss those days.

Currently, with the temple closed, we have been zooming Shabbat. One week, we decided to take Shabbat off and not “attend” services. I received about a dozen emails asking me where I was on Friday night. I was zoom shamed. Needless to say, I haven’t missed a week since.

I continue to buy Shabbat flowers each week for my home, waiting for the day when I can set them up in the atrium again. Waiting for the day when I can see our members, in 3D, not over a computer screen.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.


  • Susan R. Karon is the Member Engagement Manager for Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA. A large Reform Congregation west of Boston. She has been working for the temple for 25 years in various capacities, and is known for being the Jewish mother of the congregation, worrying and nurturing everyone. Susan is a Life Member of Hadassah and on the board of the Program and Engagement Professionals of the Union of Reform Judaism. She has a BA in Judaic Studies from the American University. She lives in Maynard, MA with her husband Jeff an Accountant. She loves to cook and bake, read, and travel.