I have known Gail Raucher for 30 years. But, I never got the chance to really know her until I asked if I could interview her for the Bulletin. She and Steve and their then 9 month old Ari moved to my old neighborhood when I had just married and “moved out.” The Rauchers were my parents’ backyard neighbors. “Small world”, I always say.
Gail and Steve were New Yorkers. Soon after marriage they moved to Detroit. While living in Detroit, Steve pursued his Doctorate in Communications and Gail, armed with a Master’s degree in Jewish Education, worked for the JCC in charge of a program for newly arrived Russian immigrants. Eventually, they returned to the east coast because of Steve’s new position at the University of New Haven. Gail, wanting to settle in the Jewish community, had sent letters and made calls to area synagogues. She received one call back: Rabbi Berkun, from Temple Beth Sholom, Hamden. This immediately began Gail’s involvement at her new synagogue. There was an opening as USY Advisor that Gail stepped into. She became a teacher in the Hebrew School a year later. Since there were not enough classrooms for our growing Hebrew School she taught her classes at the Spring Glen Church. A few years later, Rabbi Berkun moved on and Gail was asked by Rabbi Scolnic to be the Principal/ Director of the growing Hebrew School.
Gail’s passion is Jewish education. She wants her students to have positive experiences as they learn and to grow to see the world through a Jewish lens. It is also important to her that the students have the skills to participate in synagogue services and holiday ceremonies. Gail feels strongly that when students leave our school they continue to learn. She is delighted when she hears that past students are now taking courses in Hebrew or Torah while at college. She continued her own education at Southern Connecticut State University and at the Seminary that helped open many doors for the children of Temple Beth Sholom. “I’ve had the opportunity to see a second generation return to affiliate with our synagogue for Jewish life and learning,” said Gail.
A memorable event that Gail recalled was the “Celebration of Israel” week-end. At that time, there were a lot of children who played musical instruments. Our first time children’s orchestra played to proud family and friends. Delicious foods were cooked and enjoyed by all who attended. “The synagogue has a true sense of community,” Gail remarked. “We know each other and enjoy celebrating and sharing in the lives of one another. It is wonderful to see how many people remain devoted and loyal to our synagogue.”
About 10 years ago, Gail helped to plan and organize the synagogue’s first family trip to Israel. One evening, fellow congregants sat in a Bedouin tent and told family stories. “That’s when you really get to know someone.” Gail laughed as she was recalling the experience.
This past July, Gail received the “Legacy Heritage Grant” that gave her the opportunity to study at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. She conversed and studied with Jews from around the United States, Finland, Sweden, France, Australia and Britain. “It is wonderful to know that learning is endless. It never fails to amaze me how much deeper my faith grows and my love for Judaism grows when I study.” Gail looks forward in the coming year to help provide additional opportunities for study to members of our community.
In addition to her responsibilities at our synagogue Gail also takes pleasure in teaching at Ezra Academy, our community’s Conservative Jewish Day School. Teaching at Ezra gives her a chance to know all of our synagogue’s children and their families.
Gail and Steve’s families are pleased to say that their family has grown. Ari is now married to Carly Sorscher and is living in New York; Michal is married to Yoni Shear and they are living in Jerusalem; Noam is engaged to Tamar Knoller and they live in Los Angeles; and youngest, Aviva, is a student at the University of Binghamton. Time sure passes quickly.
Temple Beth Sholom is lucky that 30 years ago a Rabbi answered a letter from a woman with a young family. We are honored to have Gail be part of our family.