Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel

I had a meeting with the Rabbi this evening and he said that after I finish my classes on April 15th, that we could talk about dates for the Beit Din and then the Mikvah.

Right here I think I need to break out in that song from Fiddler on the Roof, "Wonder of wonders, Miracle of Miracles."..remember the tailor when he received permission from Tevye to marry his eldest daughter.
Instead of G-d giving me a wife though, I should say G-d has given me a new life.  It isn' t a perfect life (whose is?), but it is definitely a life that makes more sense to me.

I am so excited about this there are no words.  I talked to him about adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes and he gave me the lady's email address to contact.  Jewish study never ends by the way, if I am doing right by my religion, I will be spending the rest of my life studying, but that is okay as that is part of what I like about Judaism.  You grow in this religion.
He asked If I am ready and my answer was "Well, I am definitely am not going back to Christianity".  No offense to anyone who feels that is for them, but for me I just have learned too much history and basic Judaism to ever go back into a church again and feel Jesus is G-d.  He just isn't to me.  It is like I have been given too much information now and I would feel like I was totally faking it.  It wouldn't even be the same as the first time I went to my synagogue and felt intimidated by Hebrew and unsure what was going on.   (At times in Hebrew I am still unsure what is going on:). )  However, to go back to church would feel as if I was doing something wrong.  It is in my heart now.
I also went onto say that Judaism has made me feel better about myself.  I see myself as more valuable now.  I see what I do in the world as more valuable.  
So while it is fresh in my mind...he said I need to go back and review my journey to Judaism.  This exact thing will be hard to put into words, I know the story in my heart, though.  The difficult part will be getting it on paper.
Also, he asked me what I really like about Judaism and what I don't like.  The "don't like part" I have put out there already as this blog has been at times a bit of a place to vent, particularly about things I have found frustrating as a potential convert.
For now I will sign off a very happy woman who will study hard and start working on putting this all into words.
22nd of Sh'vat, 5770 / כ״ב בשבט תש״ע

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Women of the Wall

As we approach Martin Luther King day, I was absolutely appalled to see what is going on in Israel.  They have virtually created a Rosa Park's situation.  Instead of putting people of color at the back of the bus though, they shove Jewish women to a small section of the wall and interrogate them and finger print them if they wear tallit.
For a nation that grew out of the oppressed, that seems awfully oppressive to me.

As a new convert, who is pre-mikvah, I am not turning away from Judaism, but I think the Israeli government could get a clue.  Yes, just what I need to do... piss off the Israeli government, but it just seems they went a little too far in my book with the interrogation and finger printing of Anat Hoffman. http://blogs.rj.org/rac/2010/01/up_against_the_wall_anat_hoffm.html

I encourage anyone who reads this blog to investigate further this situation and sign the petition for these women or help support them in some way.  Women have in my opinion long been the stronghold of a Jewish family, why are they not allowed to pray the same as men in the year 2010?
FYI-I am not a drastic feminist and I am not one who wants to rewrite the entire Torah so it is gender neutral-another huge topic, but not today.  However, I do not think Jewish women should be shoved aside to an out of the way place as that to me is saying their prayers aren't equivalent to those of men.  I also don't think wearing a prayer cloth should be so offensive to anyone.  If these ultra-orthodox men feel so inadequate they are threatened by a prayer cloth then what does that say about them?  It's all about control.  What's next, do women have to dress up like Yentl to use a prayer cloth?
1st of Sh'vat, 5770 / א׳ בשבט תש״ע

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No my name isn't Maimonides

This week's assignment by our Reconstructionist Rabbi..was a little overwhelming.  For me the word Midrash brings up pictures of men like Maimonides who could do everything from Midrash to medicine.   Somehow, I just don't picture Kathy the convert as being in the same category.  However, since I sweated bullets over this I thought it is worth publishing.
Midrash of Exodus 23:9 by Kathy with editing by her friend Jillian

“You shall not oppress a stranger for you know the feelings of a stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.

This can be interpreted simply as "we must not reproach another with our own faults.”

While there are some who accept a simpler interpretation of this passage, others place greater importance in this dictate of G-d. In her book, “The Committed Life”, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the Hineni Organization, states the following:
“We were abused and brutalized in Egypt, and we could have taken that experience as license to brutalize others. However; G-d demanded that we take such pain, turn it around and use it to reach out to others with compassion."

This passage speaks as a piece of strength from the Torah. It teaches us that
we must take the bad encounters in our lives and turn away from their negativity.
Few of us can say that we have not been tarred with the brush of negative forces in our lives. The loss of a precious loved one, the devastation of an unexpected divorce, or finding ourselves a victim of some kind of abuse. All of the aforementioned, in addition to the trials encountered in our everyday lives count as negative forces. It is incumbent upon all of us to muster our conviction and internal strength in order to overcome such challenges.

A rudimentary study of Jewish history offers an example of a people who have survived generations of torture, slavery and in-human persecution. Yet the survivors of such horrors since the beginning of Judaism, have always found a way up and out of the morass. We can, as scholars, use the shining example of such lives as our strongest role models. By their actions, our forefathers educated the next generation, driving them to pursue an unwavering love of their faith, and by their successes in a world, where less than 1% of the population is Jewish, have directed us onto a path to follow: one that equates with the dictates and teachings of a righteous life.

When we allow ourselves to turn our lives around, we will begin to treat others with the loving kindness that all of us desire and deserve. Without this determination, we are left with a negative focus on the past rather than a positive focus on the future. We must take this lesson and internalize it.

When we embrace the light of goodness, we will be drawn into the shelter and the blessings of the covenant.

Midrash is meant to be challenged or challenging....
Good Night for now,
24th of Tevet, 5770 / כ״ד בטבת תש״ע

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Jewish Olympics

In my warped way of thinking sometimes I believe we are having one....
Who is really Jewish, are you Jewish enough?  yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.
This is a part of Judaism that I just don't get yet.  There seems to be a competition of some sort going on between Reform vs Orthodox, between who was born of a Jewish mother or a father, there are even nasty Yiddish words for it.  Just read Chaim Potok's "The Chosen" where they refer to Apikorsim.   Apikorsim are what Hasidim refer to as Jewish goyim, or secular Jews.
I just got done reading my Rabbi's blog on who is an authentic Jew?  http://rabbiyair.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-does-it-mean-to-be-really-jewish.html#comments
Well, first of all I think this question is up for debate, but then why are we really tearing ourselves down as a people anyway trying to answer it?  In Reform Judaism, everything is up for debate and that is part of why it works for intelligent people.  It really isn't the opiate of the masses, because there is too much turmoil for it to work as an opiate.
So we are trying not to assimilate and lose ourselves as a people, but I see us tearing ourselves up as a people.  I liberally include myself in this as I really don't see me reversing my conversion process.   I also truly believe that Jewish people need to look out for each other.

Here's my laundry list/whining list:
a. Thank you, Chabad http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3002/jewish/How-Does-One-Convert-to-Judaism.htm    If you can read this article and not be discouraged then you are a better person than me.  In fact it is quite frankly a little confusing and since I respect Hispanic people, I thought it was a little tacky using a guy named Juan as an example.
b.  The kosher competition...
I keep as kosher as I can.  I no longer eat pork or shell fish, I occasionally do mix milk and meat together, but I try to limit it as much as I can.  There are no Kosher restaurants in my town.  I do the best I can out of respect for my faith and G-d, not because I think someone maybe watching or that I will be punished by G-d for some sort of food faux pas.
However, I know someone that has 2 dishwasher baskets so that he can change them for his 4 sets of dishes.  He exceeds the required 2, I believe the third is for his son who doesn't keep kosher, I guess the fourth is for Shabbat or Passover.
Also, I forgot to mention this guy is a surgeon...news flash you are using the same dishwasher..so even if the dishes aren't touching the sides of the dishwasher, the water from the meat and the milk is still all over the dish washer.  If you can keep a sterile field during surgery, um, I don't think you have to be Einstein to figure this out.
c.  Snide comments,  Rabbi So and So doesn't like converts.  Well then, thank G-d, he isn't my Rabbi.  This is something I heard in one of my Intro to Judaism classes.  Oh, this Rabbi is also the only Rabbi in town not participating in Intro to Judaism classes.
d.  Reform people who slam the Orthodox....some of them are my best friends, too.  I hate to tell you this there are informative things I have found and used for study on Orthodox websites.
e.  Orthodox who slam Reform, "Your synagogue doesn't have services in Hebrew do they?"
In sum, we have plenty of enemies, which is why my grandmother kept my heritage locked in a draw somewhere for so long, so why are we doing this to each other?

My plan, say the Sh'ma, go to bed and be the best I personally can.  I am not in a competition this way.
17th of Tevet, 5770 / י״ז בטבת תש״ע
P.S.  Alysa Stanton, I have great respect for you, I doubt you had an easy time getting to be the first female black rabbi in this sea of controversy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On a lighter note...

Anyone who is still feeling like they had a little too much Christmas....I think the Neil Diamond Christmas album was a little too much for me.  Here is a nice anedote to that.
Shalom TV is presenting a hilarious film called the Hebrew Hammer this week.  My best friend and I were on the floor.  Not recommended for anyone under the age of 15, in my opinion.
It is a film about a New York guy, played by Adam Goldberg, who has to battle to save Chanukah.  If you have a sense of humor watch it, I wouldn't recommend it to the extremely sensitive.  However, if you can do well with Seinfeld you will be just fine.
On the conversion front:  Our Rabbi is on vacation. The retired Rabbi lead our early service this Saturday.  He is more "traditional" for a Reform Rabbi and he pulled out the old siddur (prayer book) on us.  It was a bit of a slap in the face for me.  I thought I was doing so good at services, that was with the transliteration.
So other than watching my favorite football team not make the play-offs, I am studying my Hebrew as I refuse to let this language prevent me from making it to the mikvah...this is not an impossible obstacle, but a learning experience.  The say Jews are the most optimistic people of the world, right?
17th of Tevet, 5770 / י״ז בטבת תש״ע