When Martin Konopken and Richard Schneider were preparing to be married in August 2008, Rabbi Lezak suggested they buy a tallit for the wedding—and to wear to future services. Neither had any idea that they’d be attending services, but sometimes Rabbi Lezak senses things we hardly know about ourselves. As Marty says, “he planted an idea in our heads that eventually grew into something”.
By 2008 Marty and Rich had been together for 33 years. When the short window of time opened for them to actually marry, they first thought they’d have a civil ceremony. But for Marty, who was raised Jewish, the idea of a Jewish wedding kept gnawing at him. For him, a Jewish wedding was the only “real” kind of wedding. They met with Rabbi Lezak, and in August of 2008 they were married in the sanctuary in a wonderful ceremony attended by many visiting friends and family.
After their wedding, they wanted to maintain their connection to Rodef Sholom but both were still searching for the way that felt right. Marty, though he always identified as Jewish, had largely stepped away from Judaism as a religion for much of his life. He spent many months after the wedding re-educating himself about Judaism. He and Rich attended Purim festivities the following spring as well as a Passover seder and then Friday night services. They were touched by the energy of the community and both began to feel the desire to be more involved.
For Rich, the journey has been a different kind of awakening. As a non-practicing Methodist, he found the taste of Judaism so compelling that he decided to pursue conversion. He met with Rabbi Lezak over the course of the next year, and in May 2010 celebrated becoming Jewish. Most impressively, he also taught himself some Hebrew (having never studied a language!) and continues to study with teacher Sara Navon. Next year he plans to study with Cantor David Margules for his Bar Mitzvah.
Marty, who had earlier maintained his Jewish connection by continuing to study Hebrew, was honored by chanting a Torah portion last year on Yom Kippur. He is now studying trope on Tuesday mornings with Cantor David.
Both Marty and Rich have also become involved in mitzvah projects, delivering challahs and giving rides to other temple members. Rabbi Stacy Friedman has also asked them to consider mentoring others pursuing conversion.
Their involvement in Rodef Sholom has given both Marty and Rich such unexpected richness that the idea of including the temple in their planned giving was an easy one. Both have made IRA designations to the temple and they emphasize how easy the process is. While they fully expect to be enjoying retirement for many years to come, they feel strongly about being part of Rodef Sholom’s future through their planned giving designations.
Marty and Richard’s generosity allows Rodef Sholom to continue its holy work as well as provide for new programs in the future.
Please join Marty and Richard and the more than 125 Legacy Circle members by including Rodef Sholom in your will or trust. Thank you.
To learn more about Planned Giving, contact Jane Friedman at 479.3441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.