Dan and Toby Ruda

Dan and Toby Ruda

Many may consider me to be the “Wandering Jew”, who found his home, his wife, and his family in Charlotte, North Carolina. We have also found here a spiritual home that has become one of the focal points of our lives.

Born in New Jersey, in an area known as “The Shore”, I was a member of a Reform congregation. My religious life was more cultural, centering on holidays at my grandparent’s home. During early adulthood, I spent time as a chef and musician, two passions that continue to be important in my life. I earned a degree in electronics and, in 1993, moved to Charlotte, where my daughter, Carly, was born and raised.

Here, I met the love of my life, Toby, an identical twin, who grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey. Our religious upbringings were quite different. Toby’s family belonged to a conservative synagogue. She and her siblings, who all became B’nai Mitzvah, have maintained a strong familial bond, celebrating traditions and holidays together and promoting continuity. She graduated from Emory University and moved to Charlotte in 1995 with her son, Jonathan. They quickly became part of the community through the Levine Jewish Community Center and Temple Israel.

We met in 1997. Toby regularly attended a Torah study luncheon hosted by Rabbi Ezring. I was invited to attend and enjoyed the experience, “hitting it off” with the Rabbi, who shared my connection to “The Shore”. I started attending services at Temple Israel as a way to expose Carly to our faith and share Toby’s experience. I had not been to a temple for many years and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. We began attending services together and continue to do so.

What made it work was how welcoming and supportive everyone was. I felt that my membership was valued. I was invited to join a committee at the Temple, and while reluctant, I quickly found myself being helpful. Eventually, I became temple president.

Being Jewish is a very important part of our lives. At Temple Israel, we found each other, friendship, and community. We have celebrated, mourned, and created a life that sustains us in many ways. We believe it is important for each of us to accept personal responsibility to maintain the needs of our community. We all must help to guarantee our future. That is why we have decided to make a legacy gift. We believe it is truly important!

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