Sixteenth Keter Shem Tov Honoring Ed and Debbie Brenner                                                        
                                                                                                                                            History of Keter Shem Tov
Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai said: “There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty, but the crown of a good name is above them all.” (Pirkei Avot 4:13)  Please join us on SaturdayApril 8, 2017 as we honor Debbie and Ed Brenner with the Keter Shem Tov Award. It is fitting that we honor them with this special award because their good names are closely linked with Mishkan Torah.  (There is a reservation form at the bottom of this page.  If you like, you can pay by credit card or using PayPal by clicking on the button at the bottom of the page)

Both Debbie and Ed were born and grew up in New York State. They met when they were both juniors at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA).  Although they traveled in opposite directions during the subsequent summer, they became an official couple when they returned to college as seniors. They married in 1973, traveled a bit, but basically remained in upstate New York for the next two years while Ed worked in colleges and Debbie went back to SUNYA to get her Masters in Special


 In 1976, the Brenners moved to the Washington, D.C. area. Debbie began working at The Model School for the

Deaf at Gallaudet University. Her association there spanned the next 31 years and several positions, mostly teaching at the high school level. Ed worked at Gallaudet and then at the University of Maryland while getting his MBA. He continued working for a variety of not-for-profit associations, became a consultant in the field and also worked as an interim executive for several associations.

The Brenners first came to Mishkan Torah in 1984 when their son Andrew, age 2, attended the pre-school here. They joined a few years later and quickly became involved in many different aspects of Mishkan Torah life—an involvement that continues to this day. Ed has helped Mishkan Torah through the many changes that keep Mishkan Torah the special place it is. He was on the synagogue Board for many years, serving as Financial Secretary and as Treasurer. He is now a Trustee of Mishkan Torah’s Special Funds. On the lighter side, for years Ed was a regular at/helped coordinate the now defunct synagogue booth at Redskins games and volunteered at the Men’s Club French Fry booth at the Greenbelt Labor Day festival. And, as Ed puts it “if it has to do with food I seem to be there.” Ed has been buying food and beverages for our Friday night Onegs for eighteen years and for our Saturday morning kiddushim for the last six years. And he often shops for the “goodies” that sustain us during the Men’s Club’s annual Super Bowl party.

Debbie has also contributed in many different ways.  She served on Mishkan Torah’s Board several times, most notably as Children’s Ed Committee Chair, Adult Ed Committee Chair and representing Sisterhood. Both Debbie and Ed are regulars at Friday night services, so while Ed handles buying the food, Debbie has been the Oneg scheduler for two decades, starting in 1997. At Purim, she frequently enlivens our (already lively) megillah readings by reading sections of the megillah in sign language.  

And, of course, one cannot think of Debbie without thinking of the many hats she has worn in Sisterhood, serving both Sisterhood and the larger Mishkan Torah community. She was Sisterhood President on several different occasions, each time for a span of multiple years, and she still serves on the Sisterhood Board. For many years, Debbie graciously invited Sisterhood members to “Sisters in the Sukkah” in the Brenners’ Sukkah. Those of us who attended each year enjoyed using the unique Sukkah program Debbie had developed for the occasion and the chance to spend time with each other in such a special setting. Debbie also coordinated several lovely and delicious synagogue-wide Passover family Seders, complete with special haggadot developed by her committee.

Debbie has frequently worked behind the scenes, coordinating catering and donor events and helping with the annual High Holiday card that is sent to all synagogue members. Most recently, she was the driving force behind Sisterhood’s beautiful remodeling of the cabinets and counter in the side room of the sanctuary. But these days Debbie is probably most visible as manager of the Sisterhood Gift Shop and coordinator or co-coordinator of Sisterhood’s annual rummage sale. After taking over the Gift Shop, inventorying the stock (much of which she found somewhat hidden in nooks and crannies) and holding a special sale, Debbie now has many new items to tempt us. Those of us looking for special items—and b’nai mitzvot students with “wish lists”-- can always count on her good advice and suggestions.  

Debbie has worked tirelessly on the rummage sale, an important money-raiser for Sisterhood and, by extension, the synagogue. While the rummage sale is not glamorous and the hours are long, Debbie says she enjoys getting to know other members while sorting clothes and pricing items. She confesses it is fun having a sneak preview of all the donations and getting first dibs on buying them!

Through the years, Ed and Debbie have contributed their time and talents to Mishkan Torah. But there are many other facets to their lives. Family is very important.  When asked about his proudest accomplishment at Mishkan Torah, Ed mentions his sons’ Judaic education and Stephen’s Eagle Scout project. Both Andrew and Stephen attended Mishkan Torah’s pre-school, tot

Shabbats (with Morah Rae) and the Karp Family School.  They became bar mitzvah here and graduated from our confirmation program. And in 2004 Stephen designed, solicited donations for, and recruited workers to set up Eagle Park at Mishkan Torah in the green area behind the Karp Family School. The Brenners are justifiably proud of their sons. Both are now computer engineers. Andrew lives in Maryland and Stephen lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Ariella.

Travel has always been an integral part of the Brenners’ lives. Ed and Debbie were already travelers when they met as juniors back in college. They instilled their love of traveling in their sons, taking them to Israel for Stephen’s bar mitzvah on Masada, going from town to town in Ireland, and going on other special family trips as the boys were growing up. They continued to travel during their working years, but teaching schedules limited their free time. Although Debbie had retired from Gallaudet in 2007,

she spent the next six years at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, teaching students with special needs and American Sign Language to both hearing and deaf.  Finally, in 2013, with both Ed and Debbie retired, the Brenners could become world travelers. When we see them these days, they always seem to be either coming back from or about to go on a trip (or both!)

One cannot talk about the Brenners without mentioning their love for dogs, especially for (as Debbie puts it) GOLDEN RETRIEVERS! Melody, their current Golden Retriever, is also a good traveler and has accompanied the Brenners on many trips. And we certainly can’t forget Debbie’s love of mah jongg. Years ago, Debbie taught several Mishkan Torah women how to play the game. This eventually morphed into the group – now expanded – affectionately known as the Mishkan Torah “Mah Jongg

Maniacs.” If Debbie’s in town, you know she’ll be looking for a game.

While the Brenners have been very busy of late, Mishkan Torah still holds a special place in their hearts.  Debbie recently told me that Mishkan Torah enabled her family to develop a strong Jewish identity. She calls Mishkan Torah “a family, a community for all ages.” She “loved it when the kids were growing up and (loves) it now for the ongoing friendships that have evolved.” And

Ed pointed out that the Brenners have been connected to Mishkan Torah one way or another for thirty years, almost half their lives. He feels that Mishkan Torah has offered them a sense of community and grounding.  

Two years ago, Debbie and Ed were recognized with the Judith and Ira Eisenstein Service Award for bringing to life the Reconstructionist ideal of service to the Jewish people. Now we are honoring them with Mishkan Torah’s very special Keter Shem Tov Award.  Let’s show the Brenners how much they mean to us. The service will be beautiful, the Choir will be performing and Sisterhood will provide delicious catering. Look for the flyer elsewhere in this Trumpet and make your reservations early. In addition, if you have a story about the Brenners you would like to share with us in the Program Book, please send it to Arlene Gottlieb at gotmil@starpower.netApril 8th will be a truly special day!

Reservations for Keter Shem Tov honoring Ed and Debbie Brenner

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