My mother and father married in the Summer of love, 1967. My mother grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and attended Rodef Shalom Synagogue, my father in Memphis, TN at Temple Israel. My older brother and I made it a family in the early 1970’s and the Memphis Jewish Community was our Kehilah.
In the late 70’s my parents divorced and each remarried in the early 80’s, my father to a Reform Jew from Memphis, my mother to a non-practicing Southern Baptist from Memphis. It was in the 80’s that we formed our Jewish identity, an identity heavily imprinted by the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC), BBYO, and Temple Israel’s religious school. It was at Temple that we first learned about Jewish values, of Ahava (Love), Tikkun Olam (World Repair), Ahava Yisroel (Love of Israel), and Kehilah (Community).
My brother Brian (a pediatric cardiologist, yes my parents got their desired Jewish Doctor) and I (the lowly CEO), navigated what it meant to be a Jew in Memphis. We played in the JCC baseball and soccer leagues, had many a lunch at the Posh Nosh (the JCC snack bar), and met for pickup basketball at the J almost every afternoon. We attended religious school at Temple, under great protest, and learned to love the song Shalom Chaverim, as that signaled the end of each session. We had a love-hate relationship with our Judaism in those years. We loved to hate it, but we also hated to admit that we loved it. We found pride in being Jewish through that Kehilah. We gained knowledge and learned religious practices that stay with us to this day from the adults and our friends in that same community.
As I reflect on those years, they were good years. The 80’s, for all of its bright highlighter colored clothing and synthesized music MTV videos, brought us a true understanding of what it meant to be a part of community. I credit BBYO and the JCC for keeping us engaged as teenagers. We loved those BBYO programs and developed our leadership skills by serving as BBYO officers, and we built relationships every day at the JCC with our Kehilah. And, as much as I hate to admit it, Temple Israel religious school taught us how to be Jews. It taught us how questioning and seeking meaning are Jewish values. It taught us to love and appreciate what it means to be a part of Kehilah.
And so, through some strange twists and turns down the road of life, I find myself as a contributor to ensuring that the next generation of Jews in the South have those same opportunities. Our entire JCC Family of Staff works tirelessly to ensure our JCC is a place of welcome for all, that our programs are rich and robust, and most importantly that we are collaborating with our partner Jewish agencies. Together we build a true community, a true Kehliah, where our children and grandchildren can experience those same Jewish values that you and I did.Each year we say “next year in Jerusalem” but each day, I say “this day in our Charlotte Kehilah”.
Peter is the CEO of the Levine Jewish Community Center. He is married to Traci Walker Blair and they have two children, Hudson (10) and Cohen (9). Peter feels it is important to give back to community, build upon the strength and success of past leaders, foster community partnerships and build the groundwork for a sustainable and meaningful tomorrow. He feels honored to have a leadership position in the Charlotte community.