A Year End Reminder that Community is Awesome

The 8 days of Chanukah this year were busy for my family

On the second night, my wife invited a family from the Hampden Library children’s story group. My wife made her exquisite latkes, and it marked the only night of the week we sang Maoz Tzur, with the Israeli-born grandmother of Nezzie’s little friend.

For Shabbos evening, we had some young friends we made up here, along with the treasurer from our synagogue. It was a splendid evening.

On Sunday afternoon, our synagogue, Beth Israel, and the local Reform congregation, Beth El, came together for a Chanukah party.  WABI in Bangor came out, and our friend Elaine’s kids, our rabbi, and Amelia all had great things to say about the holiday.

Then there was last night, when our rabbi invited a bunch of us out to the Black Bear Brewing Company in Orono.  It was a marvelous time.

And then this morning we had a surplus at minyan for the yahrzeit for the father of my wife’s religious school partner-in-crime.

There was almost an opportunity to volunteer with our old synagogue in their staffing of the Lancaster Women’s Winter Shelter on our trip to Pennsylvania.

But what really brings it home is that our congregation and rabbi officiated and buried a sad, lonely woman with a sad, lonely story this week.

Our synagogue’s past president read this story in the Portland Press Herald last year, and was inspired to act.

Long story short, Sarah Cheiker was living alone in a decent home in L.A., was bilked out of her money and her home by a trio of con artists, and was found alone in a cabin in Edgecome, Maine.  She ended up as a ward of the state of Maine, and those that took advantage of her will have to see justice in the next world, as there will be none for them in this world.  Since she was Jewish, our past president was compelled to act.

When Ms. Cheiker passed this month, our synagogue provided a burial plot in our cemetery, officiated her funeral, and honored her accordingly.

Her story was one of sadness, but she did not die forgotten and alone.  I’m sorry she had to spend the last years of her life away from everything she knew, but I’m glad she had the opportunity to know the care of Maine’s Jewish community before, and even after, she passed.  I’m glad she came to a state that didn’t treat her as disposable.  I’m glad our community was there.

I’m grateful for our synagogue, its officers, our rabbi, the greater Bangor community, and hell, all of Maine.  It doesn’t matter where you live, though.  Community is part of our insulation against the cold in this world.  It can’t be replaced with virtual connectivity.  You have to walk through a door, shake the hands, look in the eyes, give the hugs, shed the tears, and enjoy the laughs.

Community is warmer than a wood stove and brighter than candle light, because it’s all of our candles, burning together.


Writer, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Maine with three ladies and a dog.

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About Brian

Brian Kresge

Brian Kresge

Writer, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Maine with three ladies and a dog.

About Leah

Leah Kresge

Leah Kresge

Director of Education for Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor, Maine, special educator and former school board member, mother to Amelia and Nezzie.

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