The Blessing

He made two of Greenberg's favorite memories possible: the days her sons stood up and "sang like birds" at their bar mitzvah celebrations, held back East. "My relatives were shot dead with shock," she says, displaying a certain amount of glee.

The next auspicious phone call started out with a man's voice saying, "Hello, are you Jewish?"

"I thought this was another one of those people who wanted a Jewish explanation," Greenberg remembers. "But it was a guy named Bernie Goldman. He said, 'Look, I live up here, and I wanna start a congregation. I'm on a Jew hunt. My kids want to be bar mitz-vahed. I said, 'Oh, I did that!' He said, 'Okay, can you help me do mine?' So eight of us met, in his living room, staring at each other, 25 years ago. We began by doing the High Holy Days in Bernie's house."

It was as far as it could be from a nice, expensive Long Island temple. "Oh, no, most of us were running hellbent from just that," Greenberg recalls, "and we're still like that. Half of us don't know what we're doing. Half of us are intermarried. If it's a choice between playing soccer and being Jewish, soccer always wins. And yet we still wanted to be serious and do what Jews do. The congregation was born to mature. We've had serious unpleasantnesses, lots of arguments, but we've always chosen to keep going."

Through the years, Beth Evergreen has relied on a handful of spiritual leaders: some on loan from metro Denver synagogues, as well as one freelance religious scholar. Greenberg sometimes finds it hard to imagine that the congregation is now big enough to support a real rabbi, even if he devotes 75 percent of his time to his chaplaincy and only the remaining 25 percent to Beth Evergreen. The new building, she will sometimes say, seems excessive. What was wrong with the Methodist church, and won't all of this organized pomp get in the way of true mountain Judaism?

"You don't have to pretend anything here," she insists. "We are not a furrier's dream, and no one cares what you drive. Our early bar mitzvahs were celebrated in backyards, and it is never mandated that you beggar your family to have one. Belief is not an issue with us. Action is."

This, no doubt, is why Greenberg continues to train all the congregation's children for their bar mitzvahs, as she has for the past 25 years. "Every other week for a year, I teach them," she says. "What they have to learn is impossible. To master a strange script--I mean pages of it. To sing that in public, at the age of thirteen, when you wish you were dead? Impossible. And one by one, they break the code, move through and do the impossible.

"They are a joy," she concludes. "A blessing.

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