Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman and Peter Bregman first found their way to Romemu before it even existed. In the summer of 2006, while on vacation in the Adirondacks, they struck up a conversation with another couple from New York City – Jeff Cahn and Lily Shad z”l – while relaxing by a lake. The foursome chatted about the city and their plans for the upcoming high holidays. Jeff and Lily immediately recommended that Eleanor and Peter attend an upcoming Yom Kippur retreat, led by an exciting and dynamic rabbi they knew named David Ingber.
Eleanor vividly remembers that first experience: “It was the first time I found true meaning in my Yom Kippur fast. In past years, I had fasted in solidarity with Peter. But during that day, I started to see that it could actually be spiritually transformative. I started to sit up in my seat and listen more closely to Rabbi David – clearly there was something for me here.”
Following that first retreat, Eleanor stayed in touch with Rabbi David – attending occasionally as Romemu grew from monthly living room services/ meetings to a budding synagogue – and meeting for coffee every once in a while. In 2011, Peter and the kids went out of town for a weekend, and Eleanor decided to check out Romemu’s much touted Friday night services for herself.
She recalls that rather than just feeling welcomed and free to observe, Romemu felt that it was meant as much for her as a Christian as it was for the Jews in attendance. There was no veil, no barrier. For the first time, she felt that her presence at a Jewish service was not just welcomed, but needed. Peter agrees that at the time, the couple had experienced lovely welcomes at other synagogues and services, but “I didn’t even know there was another level of welcome for my family. I didn’t know to ask for a place where you are accepted because of – not in spite of – your differences.”
Two days later, Eleanor called Rabbi David for coffee. “You are speaking my language,” she said. They met for coffee in David’s “office” at the time (the Le Pain Quotidian on 92nd and Broadway) and immediately felt, as Eleanor says, like soul siblings. It was something she had rarely felt with any religious leader of any tradition. The two then began a series of conversations about the future of Romemu and what Eleanor could bring to the table for future multi-faith initiatives.
The tipping point came in 2013 when Rabbi David suggested that Eleanor speak to Romemu’s then Executive Director, Ilene Sameth, who suggested that they invite multi-faith couples to sit together in a room and discuss what they were really looking for in this community. Ultimately, the Bregmans decided to commit to their life at Romemu when they faced a decision about their daughter Isabelle’s bat mitzvah, which would occur a few short years later. Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses and Rabbi David joined Eleanor and Peter at their home one night for dinner to discuss their options. By the end of that dinner, they had decided that, indeed, the Bregman family would become part of the Romemu family (meaning Isabelle would become a bat mitzvah in the Romemu community) and Eleanor would begin to plan an official multi-faith initiative at Romemu. A few months later, a UJA grant for what would later become Strangers No More came through…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, Eleanor has created a fully integrated multi-faith program at Romemu. From that original idea has sprung programs like Sacred Sounds – a yearly celebration and collaboration of the spiritual music of many various faith traditions – and the continued development of Strangers No More – a full fledged support system for multi-faith families to find their own path in Jewish community.
During that same time, Peter joined the growing Romemu board as a member of the strategic planning committee. As the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm that advises CEOs and their leadership teams, Peter brought his unique knowledge of organizational prioritization and planning to the table. He has been crucial to setting Romemu on its current path to further success and growth.
Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman and Peter Bregman have been (and continue to be) indispensable contributors to the development of Romemu. Please join us in congratulating these two wonderful individuals on their contributions to our community.