Friday, June 24, 2011
Saturday, April 30, 2011
This blog was originally posted on Challah Back, the Jewish Federation of North America NextGen blog.
Yizkor. It’s the part of the Yom Kippur service where all the young people hang out in the hallway. While growing up, most young Jews were told one of two things about why they were in the hallway: a) this part of the service is very solemn, so the young people are asked to leave so they don’t disrupt and/or b) it’s bad luck to be in Yizkor until you have to be. It’s an ayin hara (and evil eye) on your loved ones.
It wasn’t until my mid-teens that I even learned that Yizkor happens four times a year. Yom Kippur was the instance I knew about, but there is actually a custom ofYizkor also being recited on the three pilgirimage festivals: Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot(the Sukkot one corresponds to the chagim of Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah, depending on your observance).
I am no longer in the hallway for Yizkor. My father passed away on October 16, 2009. Last year, Pesach Yizkor was my first experience. It was so overwhelmingly painful. When you lose a loved one, people say, “It gets easier.” This week was my fifth Yizkor service, and the truth is, it hasn’t gotten any easier. The tears still flowed freely, and my heart ached with the sheer reality that I had a reason to be there.
When I looked around, I realized I was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, in the room (other than the rabbi himself). At 37 years old, I kept saying to myself, “I am too young to be here. It’s not fair. I still want to be in the hallway.” The heart-wrenching images of my father’s final week, and of the funeral itself, all bombarded me.
As my gaze fell on the members of the congregation, I tried to conjure images and stories of how long each person had been attending Yizkor, and tried to consider the person they were standing in memory of. As the tears rolled down my face, I could only wonder, will this get easier?
When I am standing here five years from now, will the painful memories of my loss still be as clear in my mind’s eye? When I am standing here 10 years from now, will the tears still roll freely? When I am standing here 20 years from now, will I still feel the hole in my heart and the “unfairness” of it all? When I am standing here 30 years from now, will I remember the sound of his voice? Will I remember?
And yet there was one question above them all that nagged at me the most. It was the question the rabbi asked in the moments preceding the Yizkor service. He led a conversation asking parents in the room, “At what moment have you felt the most honored by your children?” All I wanted to do was pick up the phone, call my dad, and ask him how he would answer that. And the fact that I couldn’t triggered another set of dripping tears and feelings that “It’s not fair.”
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
This week, we have been bombarded by injustices surrounding the LGBTQQI community. Multiple suicides of young adults who were bullied and outcast because of their personal identity. To help prevent this from happening again, celebrities have been recording messages standing up and asking for the greater community to help. Friends and neighbors who are gay making "It Only Gets Better" videos on YouTube - targeted to young LBGTQQI people who are struggling. Leaders of LGBT organizations were asking friends and colleagues to go back to their elementary, middle and high schools (and religious organizations) to request that they open GSA's (Gay-Straigh Alliances) and work hard to protect our young people. Organizations like Keshet are asking us to sign commitments to stand up for bullying and discriminatory injustices in our Jewish communities. [I have already signed it as a sponsoring agency with my consulting firm.]
Given the tenor of the times, we did not expect the volume of comments we have received, many of them against our decision to run the announcement, but many supportive as well.
A group of rabbis has reached out to us and conveyed the deep sensitivities within the traditional/Orthodox community to this issue. Our subsequent discussions with representatives from that community have made us aware that publication of the announcement caused pain and consternation, and we apologize for any pain we may have caused.
The Jewish Standard has always striven to draw the community together, rather than drive its many segments apart. We have decided, therefore, since this is such a divisive issue, not to run such announcements in the future.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Elul 6: http://jewishsagesoftoday.com/ essay on Michael Berenbaum who is a prolific Holocaust expert said that he is "protecting Jewish memory." What do you do to protect Jewish memory?
Elul 7: Rachel Brodie writes about the emotion around the birth of her 2nd child. When has the capacity of your own love for someone/something surprised you?
When I was told that my brother and sister-in-law were expecting their first child, I
was incredibly hesitant to let myself feel any emotion. I lived 1800 miles away, and had no idea how I would be a part of this child's life. The months leading up to the birth, I didn't even buy a single item for this child. The phone rang on August 8th, 2004 about 5 a.m. my time ... and I was told my sister-in-law was in labor. And I just laid in bed, phone in my hand, and cried. When I got the call later that the baby was born and they were waiting to hear if it was a boy or girl, I cried even harder. When I was told it was a boy, and his name - Evan Samuel, and that everyone
was healthy. I cried tears of joy. Then when the first picture was emailed to me (via a friend's phone), I sat on the floor and fell in love in an instant. (And then I booked a flight to St. Louis and went to Disneyland and spent $300 on gifts for him.) On June 28, 2006, Jack Ian came into our lives ... and my heart expanded to let the love flood in for this new nephew. I am lucky, that now at ages 4 and 6, I have such a beautiful relationship with both boys, despite never living in the same city as them, and despite only seeing them about four times a year. I know, I would do ANYTHING to protect them, give them unconditional love, and help guide them into their futures.
Elul 8: Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater writes forhttp://www.craignco.com/jewels/) about the creative process he goes through to write sermons. What is your muse? What inspires you to express yourself?
Elul 9: Comes from Rabbi Hayim Herring's @toolsforshuls http://toolsforshuls.com/ When were you recently at your best? When do you think that the Jewish people acted at its best? When do you think a significant part of the world behaved at its best?
Elul 10: Rabbi Shlomo RIskin writes for Craig Taubman's Jewels of Elul about being challenged & effectively standing up for his choice. In the past year, what choice have you been asked to defend and you walked away feeling good about it? http://www.craignco.com/jewels/)
Sunday, August 15, 2010
As I have been posting questions about Elul reflections, some people have asked me to answer my own questions, so here goes:
Elul 1: Reading http://jewishsagesoftoday.com/. The introduction has me reflecting on Jewish heroes, who made me the Jew I am-Who are yours?
Who made me the Jew I am? I can't respond without including my parents and grandparents. But, I also have to include a great-grandmother whom I only met once when I was a newborn. My mom's maternal grandmother, Tillie Goldman, was a matriarch of 7 children, 17 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren (including me), and countless more great-great grandchildren, and even a great-great-great grandchild. Bubbie, as she is known to each of her descendants, was a traditional Jew, originally from Prussia, who came to the States
and maintained her observance of kashrut and of Shabbat. She lived in Israel for a while, establishing orphanages and funding Yeshivot. When she turned ill, her children brought her back to the States, but her wish was to be buried in Israel. Recently, I had the honor of visiting her grave (photo to the right).
In addition to Bubbie, my parents and grandparents, I have had countless Jewish peers and educators influence the Jew I am today. Here are a few: Joanne Barrington Lipshutz, Rabbi Avi Greene, Rabbi Ken Greene, Rabbi David Paskin, Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Yossi Katz, Rabbi Zvi Berger, David Mitchell, Maxine Weil, Joan Wolchansky, Harlene Appleman, Roberta Goodman, Elliot Gershenson, Cantor Mark Levine, Rabbi Kelley Gludt, and more!
Elul 2: Read the essay on Yossi Abramowitz in Jewish Sages of Today. The author quotes Abramowitz, "Values are what you live by, vision is what you live towards, and leadership is just simply living your values towards your vision." What are your values? What's your vision?
I guess my most basic value is Kavod (respect). Others include Kehillah (community), Mishpacha (family), G'milut Chesed (helping others meet their needs), Muchshar (capable/competent), and Nichul (leadership). My vision is living in a respectful family and community where people are competent and capable leaders whereby their goals include helping others meet their needs and build a strong Jewish identity.
If you are looking for an activity to help you figure this out, you can order Value Cards from 21/64 - a Jewish organization helping families figure out their philanthropy priorities.
Elul 3: More Abramowitz. He talks about Keeping Jews Jewish. What have you done this year to keep YOU Jewish? Others Jewish?
In terms of keeping myself Jewish, I have continued to immerse myself in my own Jewish experiences, including volunteering through JF&CS, serving on the leadership team for LimmudSE+Atlanta, and starting my EdD in Jewish Education Leadership. In terms of keeping others Jewish, my professional work, in the end is all about keeping Jews Jewish. In addition, my leadership role and presenting role in Limmud helps keep other Jews Jewish.
Elul 4: The next essay in Jewish Sages of Today is on Rachel Azaria. When Rachel sees injustice, she seeks change. What injustices have you tried to change?
I have been a big proponent of equal marriage rights for everyone in the U.S. I have helped use my voice to email/talk to people about this issue, including defeating Prop 8 in California.
Elul 5: The Jewels of Elul (http://www.craignco.com/jewels/) for this day is from Rabbi Naomi Levy. She tells a beautiful story of her daughter with physical challenges surprising her. When have you surprised yourself by overcoming a major obstacle?
I have always battled being significantly overweight (I think doctors have called me morbidly obese). However, I have tried to not let this be an obstacle for me - still climbing Masada, going snorkeling, riding a waverunner, going ATVing, etc. And as much as I had surprised myself by being able to do all of that, I think overcoming the obstacle of "giving up" and always being that size, I have shocked myself at my commitment to being a healthier person. While there are still daily battles to overcome, I have lost about 120 lbs (still have about 50 more to go) and every day consider the choices I am making.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Last year I blogged about how I need Elul to ramp up to the High Holy Days. So this year I am doing two things to prepare (see my work blog here for details).
- Dad died
- Agency Funding Ran Out = Out of Work
- Cat almost died
- Relationships ended
- Was sick for 5 months which resulted in 20" of my colon being removed
- Denied reasonable health coverage TWICE and medical expenses tapped me out
- Oh, and there was that random flat tire which always causes a headache!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
I am one of those people who has always thinks "Help" is a dirty four-letter word. For some reason it feels like failure, it feels like a loss of independence, and it certainly feels vulnerable. Of course, I am always willing to help others - enjoy doing it, but almost never admit I need help or ask for it myself. Well, until recently. In my personal life, I have just come through three serious situations over the past 8 months that required me to ask for help.