Sharing their beliefs

Couple starts Jewish study group

Created date

March 23rd, 2020
Stewart and Sonia Aron smile at each other with their foreheads touching sweetly.

Stewart and Sonia Aron had been part of an intellectually stimulating Jewish study group when they lived in Ohio, so they decided to start a similar club for community members at Fox Run.

Sonia and Stewart Aron moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Fox Run in 2016. In Columbus, they belonged to a congregation with quite a few professors from Ohio State University and their rabbi was a history buff. They particularly enjoyed their Jewish study group, where members would read passages from thought-provoking books and then meet to discuss them. 

When the Arons moved to Fox Run, they wanted to continue that sort of intellectual dialogue with like-minded people. So, as is common among the people who live at Fox Run, Sonia and Stewart decided to start exactly the kind of club they wanted to be part of. Together, they founded Fox Run’s Jewish study group, which has been going strong for about two years. Between 10 and 20 people typically attend the stimulating twice-monthly discussions.

Faith-based study

“We began with the study of Jewish history. Then we decided for our second book to take up ethics,” Sonia says. “Not everybody [in the group] is Jewish, and that adds to the depth of the discussion. We have found a lot of common ground between Christianity and Judaism.”

Recently, the Jewish study group was working its way through Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s The Book of Jewish Values: A Day-By-Day Guide To Ethical Living. The members of the group read passages from the book in advance and then come together to discuss topics like avoiding gossip and how to comfort a grieving widow or widower.

“The Jewish ethical thing to do [when visiting a widow or widower] is to basically listen and not inject your opinions—listen to the widow and otherwise just be there,” Stewart explains. “The examples of what not to say are things like, ‘He’s in a better place now,’ or ‘The suffering is over.’ Your job is just to be there and listen.”

Another ethical topic the group has tackled is the best ways to give to charity to avoid embarrassing the recipients or causing them to feel indebted to you. Sonia says the topic of ethical giving is one that is covered in the Talmud, the central text of Judaism wherein different rabbis discuss the meaning of the Torah.

“The Talmud interprets and applies the principles of Torah. It was written over centuries by different rabbis,” Sonia says. “There will be a topic on ethics and then commentary on that topic as it was applied in different centuries. We are just extending that concept today here at Fox Run.”

Fox Run is home to more than 1,000 active retirees from all walks of life. Likewise, the members of the Jewish study group come with varied life experiences, religious backgrounds, and career paths, adding to the richness of the discussions. 

“It’s open to everybody, no matter what their perspective is,” Sonia says.

Meeting online

Stewart is a retired attorney and Sonia began her career as a high school English teacher and then became a social agency counselor. She later earned her doctorate degree in organizational behavior and development and worked with many nonprofit boards.

“I worked in Israel for Partnership 2000 and the United Jewish Communities,” she says. “I became the chair of a consortium of cities in the central United States that were paired with the Western Galilee region in Israel. The purpose was to bring different factions in Israel together.”

Sonia and Stewart met through an online dating site in the late 1990s, at a time when online dating was just starting to become popular. 

“I got up all of my courage to do it,” Sonia says. 

At the time, Sonia was living in Naples, Fla., where she had moved with her first husband, who died suddenly, leaving her a relatively young widow. As she began to heal, Sonia says she felt a need to share her life with someone, and that led her to Stewart. Of all of the online profiles Sonia read, she says Stewart’s stood out to her. 

“It took me a while to think it through and realize I have more in common with this man than anyone else on any of the sites,” she says.

Stewart was living on the opposite coast of Florida at the time, and they discovered they both had previously lived in Ohio and both did volunteer work that connected them to Israel. They tied the knot after a year of dating and have now been married for almost 20 years.

Family connection at Fox Run

Several years ago, Sonia and Stewart left Florida to move closer to family in Ohio. Then in 2016, they decided to relocate to Michigan, where they also have children and grandchildren. Sonia’s sister, brother-in-law, and cousin were already living at Fox Run at the time, so she and Stewart were familiar with everything the community has to offer, making for an easy decision and transition.

“It was a good move for us,” Sonia says.