I’m too young to have known Rabbi Sidney Brooks, but by all accounts he was a warm, caring man with a deeply held faith and love of this congregation. I’m almost sad that I never had the opportunity to know him, but after hearing so many stories from so many Temple Israel members, I at least feel like I understand him, despite having never met him.
And so it was with great enjoyment that I listened to Rabbi Brooks’ daughter Miriam talk about him, and the Temple Israel she grew up in, last Friday evening.
I spoke with Miriam about a month ago for a Jewish Press article, trumpeting her visit as the last of Temple Israel’s Summer Speakers. I found her to be a pleasure to talk to, and the stories she told me were touching and poignant. I knew she would have a lot of memories about the Cass Street building and I didn’t want to spoil the talk she was going to give, so I tried to shy away from topics I knew she wanted to cover herself. Even so, I think I was able to get a good idea of her life here in Omaha and of what her father meant to this community.
I know Miriam was nervous before she got up on the bimah to speak, but I think she came across great. She told of growing up at Temple Israel, and how much of a home this building felt like to her, and still does to this day. She obviously has very fond memories of Omaha and the Cass Street building. I’m glad she agreed to come back to town and share some of them with us.
And she didn’t come alone. Miriam brought her mother Jane with her in the form of an interview Miriam conducted a few weeks prior to her speaking date. Jane, unfortunately, was unable to make the trip, but Miriam coaxed out of her some wonderful stories about the early days of her husband’s tenure at Temple Israel.
For Friday night’s service, I cut down the more than 20-minute interview to a relatively brief six minutes, some of what I considered to be the highlights of Jane’s stories. But now, because we’re on the Internet and we’re not constrained by time, we’re able to present to you the full, mostly uncut, Jane Brooks interview. She has some truly great, funny memories of her husband and the congregation of Temple Israel. It was a real treat to hear her talk about those early years.
So, first up, below is Miriam’s talk. Please note that while Miriam talks for about 10 minutes before passing the mic to her mother, so to speak, the video is more than 17 minutes long. I had to run to the front of the sanctuary to help set up Jane’s video interview and I just left the camera running. And for some reason, whenever we try to edit out the superfluous final seven minutes, the video becomes blurred. So, my apologies for that. Feel free to just stop the video when Miriam is done talking and then you can move on to the second video, which is Jane, raw and uncut, talking about her memories of Cass Street.