28 March 2006

Welcome to My Blog!

I've resisted the temptation to become yet another blogger on the 'Net until now. A little bit of my ego-centric side desires to be heard through all the Internet clutter.

First, let me tell you a little bit about myself so that you will see where I'll be coming from on my rants.

Who is "Cool Yiddishe Mama"?

I am a mother of two darling girls and have been married for 8 years. By the end of the summer, I will be turning 30. By occupation, I am a Jewish educator, the type of Hebrew school teacher you all WISH you had growing up. On the religious spectrum, I refuse to put myself into a category, but based on my observance level and preponderance to wear skirts, dresses, and head-coverings, I am usually classified as Orthodox. Politically, I did not support Bush in the last 2 elections yet have lost faith in the Democratic party getting a viable candidate in 2008. Just like most people I know, I have almost no faith in the economy getting better any time soon and feel that Iraq is our generation's VietNam.

Jewish Views:
Keiruv and Shiddukhim
In the past four years, I have spent most of my personal time within the confines of my local Orthodox community. Keiruv (outreach for converts to Judaism and the newly religious) issues have always interested me. In these two years, though, I have been exposed to the difficult situation of frum yidden (religious Jews) making suitable shiddukhim (marriage matches). Barukh Hashem (Thank G-d) I met my husband before I made the decision to become frum, I often tell people. Otherwise, I might have had a similarly difficult time staying on the derekh (path).

I am making a move for changes to the ways these singles can meet each other. Currently, they are limited to singles' Shabbatonim (weekend retreats) or the hope that a shadkhan (matchmaker) will, in the words of Fiddler on the Roof, "make [me] a perfect match". In the frum world, "conventional" methods of meeting people such as hanging out in bars is seriously frowned upon. Any ideas?

Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh ba-Zeh (All Israel is Responsible for One Another)
This statement can be taken on so many levels, ranging from every Jew's obligation to support Jews in Israel, whether he/she recognizes the entity of the State of Israel or not to the simple act of chesed (kindness) that involves helping every yid within your community earn a self-sustaining parnasah (livelihood). This after all is the highest on the RaMBaM's Ladder of Tzedakah.

One of the things that pulled me into traditional observance was the community's need to do g'milut chasadim (acts of kindness) for each other. Sadly, the longer I have been in my community, the more people I see that would sooner de-fraud someone of their last dime than help them have a better life.

Not everyone is like this, but someone I know has been out of work for eight months due to a back injury and the community has turned their collective back on him. Nobody seems to care that he has no family to turn to in his time of crisis (they separated themselves from him because he converted) and that he could be put out onto the street for not being able to pay his rent. One "charitable" organization in the community gave him a "handout" (that they collected by shaming some extended members of his family into donating), but neglected to actually hand over the money until other members of the community intervened and made sure the money got into his hands. This same person has been unable to find a job in the community because a former employer (also frum) decided to spread lashon ha-ra (gossip) about this person, saying that he stole money. In reality, the employer found out that this person had informed the local va'ad (rabbinical council) there were blatant violations of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) in the restaurant. In addition, there were health codes. Ironically, the rabbanim (local rabbis) were not swayed by the informant but rather, the place was shut down due to his shady business practices and the board of health having enough.

The cliche "united we stand, divided we fall" applies here as well. Doomsayers have been telling us that the end of Judaism is approaching. How much faster are we bringing it on when we turn our own backs on those in need in our communities because they do not quite fit our narrow profile of acceptable people? A beloved rabbi of my community, zikhrono tzadik liv'rakhah (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), attended a bar mitzvah ceremony of a boy who could not be called the most "learned" in terms of books, but is truly a mentsch. While speaking at the simchah (celebration), it was clear to most of the people present, yet they dare not say it, that this was to be the rabbi's last Shabbat. One key point that was his voice struggled to make was that this boy still has a yiddishe neshamah (Jewish soul) and it didn't make a difference if he only read the blessings for his aliyah to the Torah or led the entire service along with giving a rather scholarly discourse. The point was, that every Jewish person is special and important to G-d. If only His people could have the same love for each other as He has for all of us.

This principle also applies to my earlier rant about shiddukhim. We should help our single Jewish friends find their beshert (intended person), because, after all, there is someone for everyone.

In future posts, I might share more about the following topics: Judaism, interpersonal relationships, cooking, parenting, child-rearing, maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If there are any topics, you would like me to expond on, don't hesitate to post a comment.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Eli7! :) Just wanted to let you know I'm reading! It's Heather. I'm no longer blogging, but E told me about your blog, and so far so good! *waves hello*

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  2. Anonymous30/8/06 16:45

    Hi, im an israely girl, and in the u.s.a will probably considered"yeshivesh". i just wanted to tell you that i feel your pain and disappointment from othodox jews but you should know, that in every society there are people like that, and compare to other societied i believe we are much better off, but sure theres lots to improve. but you know what rabbi yisrael misalant said?
    that in order to change the world,we must change ourselves first. sorry if i sound like a preacher, i just felt the need to defend our community...and all the many special people i know are better because they are observant jews, they try harder and they aim higher. about shiduchim, you are perfectly right, but the solution isnt so simple? there are halacha problems that arise from boys and girl meeting each other freely,
    debi

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  3. Shalom. Here is some of my experience of what is going on in another place. I was asked to contribute to my synagogues newsletter and this is what I wrote. I hope you keep writing. I am glad to read.

    Musings I Thought I’d Share
    Chumah Yahudit Rosen 10/07

    I walked away from my Jewish roots 24 years ago. In the first 21 years since my Bas Mitzvah I had stepped into a shul (not including funerals -- only counting good things) four times: my son’s bris, my daughter’s naming, my brother’s wedding and my grandfather’s Bar Mitzvah. Yes, Grandpa’s Bar Mitzvah. At some point in his later years he decided to Bar Mitzvah once a year. This was his annual rededication. So, 4 times other than funerals, had I been in a synagogue since my own Bas Mitzvah.

    Three years ago I began my walk back. Why? Because I had a dream. I was at a very low point in my life, in a place of complete despair when I had an amazing dream. In my dream I was laying on the Torah, in the fetal position. The letters were softly rising and surrounding me. I got to see myself laying there as well as be there on (in?) the Torah. The feeling of comfort the dream gave me was so complete I am not even going to try to describe it any better than that. When I woke up I thought my life was brand new. But it was not. Everything was the same as before. So I thought that maybe I am supposed to do something different. Maybe I was born a Jew for a reason. Maybe I should go back. And so, I began my walk back.

    I called the synagogue. I spent a spring sitting in the sanctuary a lot. I enrolled my daughter Hannah in Hebrew school for the following autumn. And I attended my first High Holy Day services in, at that time, 21 years. I felt a little bizarre being in services. I didn’t know anyone except the Rabbi. Many things I couldn’t remember and many things I never learned. My Hebrew needed refreshing. And the choir made me cringe. (Not because the sound was awful. The sounds are beautiful. Just not how I was raised) After two years of being a fringe member I feel more at home. I say fringe because I am not at the synagogue as much as I would like (read should). Last year I did not come to any Shabbos services, and I had not come to any pot luck gatherings until this Sukkos. I have dipped my toes in here and there. I have not waded in and I certainly haven’t gone swimming. And yet, I still feel more at home.

    These High Holy Day services were markedly different than two years ago. Why? First and foremost: the choir. My feelings when I heard the choir the two years before stemmed from the fact that, most of what the choir sings are prayers that I would have been singing with my congregation. I am not singing these prayers anymore. My feelings about this have not changed at all. What has changed is how I dealt with it. Year 1, I spent cringing. Year 2, I spent trying not to cringe. This year? I closed my eyes and listened. I allowed myself to be moved to a state of awe, just listening. And it occurred to me that listening is participation if I allow it. When I am in deep prayer, I am moved to a state of awe. Singing with gusto, I am also moved. Listening to the choir this year, moved me. I think this is progress. I judged myself and I have judged that I should not be cringing during High Holy Day services. Mission accomplished. One goal reached.

    What else was different? My recognition of how valid inclusion is. Rabbi Amita had encouraged us at a point in the services to find someone we didn’t know. She stated we may have to get up. Now, this is something very difficult for me; and not because I know so many of you. The opposite. I know so few. Well, I lucked out. The woman right next to me I didn’t know. I didn’t have to get up. She and I began to talk. Nice lady. She expressed some things, as did I. Her background is Reform, too much Hebrew in the service. I was raised Conservative, not enough Hebrew and, I told her, I still get lost. I pointed out how lucky I was. “That’s Meyer.” (He was sitting next to me). So when services resumed, I continued doing what I had been doing; I prayed, I followed along. And I listened to Meyer when I got lost. She did something different though. She asked me where we were. Sometimes I knew. Sometimes I didn’t. And when I didn’t I’d listen to Meyer, I’d locate the Hebrew, I’d wait for some words I know in English, I’d find the English and point it out. This was great fun! I really hope she feels more comfortable. What stands out is the diversity of our congregation. All kinds under one roof. Inclusion is not dissolution.

    With Sukkos on its way, I thought I’d use the internet to attempt to learn more about this holiday. Last year, I felt mighty silly waving the Lulav. And I didn’t want to feel silly again. So I thought that maybe there is a reason that I can embrace for this silliness and I began reading a lot about Sukkos. And I found reasons. The 4 species: the esrog, lulav, myrtle and willow are to represent 4 kinds of Jews; one who studies Torah and does mitzvos, one who studies Torah and does no mitzvos, one who does mitzvos and does not study Torah, and one who does neither. The 4 kinds also represent the 4 parts within us: our spirit, our mind, our heart and our body. Some people tend to the spirit and are not grounded at all, some are real mental and forget the heart, some are all heart and forget the body etc…When wrapped and held together this is what we are doing. We are bringing it all together as a whole; whole human and whole Jew. When we make the bracha, hold in our hands the 4 kinds and shake it in the 4 directions and to the sky and the earth, we are, through ritual, bringing it all together, under one roof as the Creator intended. G-d created all and we are acknowledging this as we partner with G-d to bring it on, to demonstrate it. Tikkun olam, world repair. Whole human. Whole Jew. Whole world, one spark at a time.

    During my adolescence, that bumpy time I never want to do again, I remember my Bubbe and Zeide saying, “Each in his own time in his own way.” These were reassuring words.
    In the present day, when I think about Rabbi Amita’s talks on the High Holy Days, about getting to know someone we don’t know, about the varying levels of belief with in our community, about my own path which is as relevant as anyone’s, and Sukkos and the meaning of the 4 kinds, I think about Moshiach coming. The world is crazy. Black and white are grey, upside down is right side up, everything is all mixed up. As a ‘Nation of Israel’ we are supposed to wrestle with G-d. We are, as humans, supposed to wrestle ourselves, to grow and to stretch. However, the more patient I am with myself, the more the world seems hopeful.

    Sitting in synagogue, shaking the lulav at the pot luck sukkot gathering, schmoozing with those I do not know, is it; bringing it all together, under one roof.
    Whole human. Whole Jew. Whole world, one spark at a time.

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