Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's been decided that I will dress up as "SuperJew" for the campus fair, where all the student orgs show up at the east field to attract the students.

I'm picturing a giant Star of David sandwich board, with lots of blue glitter, and possibly a blue baseball cap with sideburns attached.

It's my first week on the job, and it's already a costume party!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I realize that I'm facing a world of brave new changes (new home, new job, no longer a student, getting married next year, etc), and while it's thrilling and wonderful, it's also more than a little scary. In the moments when I'm more afraid than excited, I've been reading parts of Estelle Frankel's Sacred Therapy, a book Rabbi P lent me awhile ago. Frankel suggests that ancient Judaism and other ancient cultures created a space for transitions. When we symbolically remove ourselves from our old lives, we must embrace the nothingness between an old life and a new one before we can move on. In the modern world, on the other hand, we do not value the nothing-time, the ayin, but instead focus intensely on what's coming next. As a result, we do not fully remove ourselves from what we're leaving behind. We carry it with us as we embark on new journeys.

While I find this very interesting, and true to an extent (oh how I loathe the nothingness of a barren summer!), it contradicts everything I've read and felt about Judaism and memory (see the last post for quoted examples). Do we ever really want to completely detach ourselves from the past? Is it even possible to do that?

Then again, one of the reasons I love Shabbat is because it's a space between two weeks, but it is not a part of either week. It is a space untouched by time, or it is time untouched by space. Perhaps the rituals that separate Shabbat from the working week are reminiscent of the ancient rituals of transition.

I love the contradicting messages about Judaism, memory, new lives and old lives. Should we strive to let go of our past before we can embrace what's next? Or do we honor our history by acknowledging its voice in the future? It's probably a combination of all of the above, and then some. Life is rarely as clear and simple as we'd like it to be, after all.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"In whom the past endures"

Tonight, Shabbat felt like crying. I didn't cry, but I felt like I finally found the release I've so desperately neeeded. I love Rabbi P. She exudes warmth, energy, love, and empathy. And I finally copied down a few of the quotations from the new Reform siddur, Mishkan Tefilah, that I've been enjoying so much:

"We are a people in whom the past endures, in whom the present is inconceivable without moments gone by. The Exodus lasted a moment, a moment enduring forever. What happened once upon a time happens all the time."

"A thought has blown the market place away. Shabbat arrives in the world, scattering a song in the silence of the night: Eternity utters a day."

And finally, one from Heschel: "The meaning of Shabbat is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things in space; on Shabbat we try to become attuned to the holiness of time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of Creation to the mystery of Creation, from the world of Creation to the Creation of the world."

After the service and a brief chat with Rabbi P, we went to a coffeeshop for live bluegrass. The band was AWESOME.

This was what I needed. All night, voices wrapped themselves around me like loving arms. It reminds me that Shabbat Shalom does not just mean "Sabbath Peace." The root of Shalom is also in Shalem - wholeness.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Jewish Enough"

I learned a lot at the WHO conference. Most of all, I learned that this is a much better place for me than grad school ever was. I have a lot to say, and not enough time to say it right now, but I do want to make one quick note:

At one point, when everyone had gathered in the conference room for one of the sessions, the session leader asked us to raise our hands if we had ever felt "not Jewish enough."

Every single person raised their hand. These are Jewish professionals. Judaism is deeply important to each of these people, or they wouldn't be working at Hillels throughout the western region. Where does this insecurity come from? Is it guilt?

Is it because Hillel means working in and advocating a pluralistic Jewish environment? This means we are exposed to Jews who practice in a variety of ways - from secular/cultural Jews to Conservadox Jews to Jews who only recently learned they were Jewish at all. We are always "less Jewish" or "more Jewish" than someone else.

I actually hate using that kind of terminology because I do believe in pluralism. I consider myself religious, even though I'm a Reform Jew who gave up on kashrut after seven months during my one foray into some kind of Conservative Jewish practice.

I like that there is space for this kind of pluralism. It is very challenging to create a space where college students from a variety of backgrounds can have meaningful Jewish experiences. It means that some students will never be satisfied because we privilege pluralism over tradition, some students will never feel "Jewish enough," and even the staff may find themselves wondering if they are "Jewish enough" for their roles as Jewish professionals.

I'm grateful for these challenges. I'm even grateful for the insecurities. It means we're constantly asking questions, and that's a good thing.