Looking Ahead to Next-Generation Needs
While flying Boeing 777s and 737s for American Airlines, First Officer Deborah Hecker is accustomed to keeping one eye on current conditions and another on the horizon. When it comes to helping Adat Chaverim create a new home of its own, she brings the same dual perspective: an appreciation of today’s realities and strengths, and a focus on longer-range opportunities. These qualities are reflected in Deborah’s active involvement in the Livnot campaign committee and in the Hecker/Vandenberg family’s investment in our Jewish community for generations to come. In a recent interview, Deborah shared what Adat Chaverim means to them and why it was so important to make this commitment.
What role does Adat Chaverim play in your family’s life?
It’s two-part: The first is the religious and spiritual – the place where we can go and raise our children in the Jewish faith. We want them to be involved long after their Bar Mitzvah. It’s important to us that they volunteer and enjoy temple life. The second aspect is social: We’ve also made very good friends along the way, people we see outside of temple.
We don’t have any family here, so the people we’ve become friends with have become an extension of our family. I’m active on multiple committees, through which I’ve met great people. Our children have formed wonderful connections. Being part of Adat Chaverim has opened up a lot of opportunities we never expected.
Why is it so important to have our own home?
We love where we are, but we need our own place. There are physical limitations at our temple on what we can do. When we design it for our own purposes, we can build it to accommodate what we need. For example, with a professional kitchen, we will be equipped for a lot more catering options. Even more important, Livnot is about building for the future, not just addressing present concerns. We need a new synagogue to go to the next level. This area’s really growing, and as members, we feel that it’s part of our duties and responsibilities not just to look at what’s good for us as an individual family, but what’s good for the next generation and the whole community.
What does this commitment mean to you as a family?
We feel that giving back is what’s important. You can’t just sit still in life. Life is about going forward and helping people. We try to impress that upon our children and set a good example for them. When you ride through life without helping other people, you’re missing three-quarters of what’s joyful – you’re just missing out. It’s what makes the world a much richer place. So participating in the Livnot campaign and investing in a new home for our congregation are an extension of what we’re already doing. But what makes it more special and exciting is that we will see the outcome.
The commitment over five years initially looked really big, but when we actually broke it down daily and weekly, it was completely doable for us. We just tightened up a little bit because we felt it was something that was truly needed, and we were happy to help. We think it’s our responsibility as members and as a community to support this endeavor. Even a little bit helps.
What prompted you to join Adat Chaverim?
We moved here in 2010 from Florida and joined shortly thereafter. We knew we had Bar Mitzvahs coming up and wanted to be in a Reform temple. Because my husband is not Jewish, we needed a congregation that would be welcoming to him and where he felt comfortable. Adat Chaverim was also so different from how I grew up in a large Jewish community that was very competitive. Here, just coming to services, even if you don’t know someone’s name, they’ll say hello and ask how you’re doing. And, my kids love sharing their successes under the chuppah at Friday night services. People here are just wonderful – it’s come as you are, do what you can. What’s also great is that people here are active and don’t wait for someone else to work hard. Everyone pitches in.
What have been the most meaningful experiences you’ve had as members?
Our son Harrison just had his Bar Mitzvah, so that’s top of mind. We worked with wonderful people – Rabbi Ben, Valerie, and his tutor – and were touched by the passion people have and the caring they show. There were so many compliments on the service and the warmth of our members from those who traveled to be part of our simcha. All my family said, “Wow – if we had a congregation like that, we would go more often!” We’re just so blessed to have that.
In addition to the luncheon on Saturday, we also hosted dinner at the temple on Friday night. It was easier for out-of-town guests; we wanted to support the synagogue; and Adat Chaverim is our home. We were very happy with how the Bar Mitzvah turned out.
by the The Hecker-Vandenberg Family