On a lighter note, as a diversion from all the more serious news in the world, today Israel’s national soccer (or “football”) team faces off against Portugal in a qualifying game for the 2014 World Cup. You may be wondering: Does Israel have any chance of advancing to the World Cup?
Short answer: Yes, but the odds are slim.
Long answer: The last (and first) time Israel went to the World Cup was 1970, when it lost one game and tied two. Even though Israel is in the Middle East (aka “West Asia”), for soccer purposes it competes as part of the Union of European Football Associations.
With two games left to play in the current round of the qualification, Israel is in third place in its group, behind Russia and Portugal. At the end of the day, the first-place team in each group automatically goes to the World Cup, and the second-place team has a chance to fight over a limited number of additional spots against the other second-place teams. Third prize is you’re fired.
What would it take for Israel to jump into first or second place? At minimum, Israel has to win today against Portugal, and win its final game next week against Northern Ireland.
But that’s not enough – it depends what happens in Portugal’s last game (against Luxembourg), and Russia’s two games (against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan).
- If Portugal loses to Luxembourg, and Russia loses both its games: Israel is tied for 1st with Russia. Ties are broken by the total goal difference for all games, and Israel is currently behind Russia by 6, so Israel needs to score high to make it into 1st. Otherwise Israel ends up in 2nd, and still has a chance.
- If Portugal loses to Luxembourg, and Russia wins or ties either game: Israel finishes in 2nd.
- If Portugal ties with Luxembourg, and Russia loses both games: There is a 3-way tie for 1st, settled by total goal difference. Israel is currently behind Russia by 6, and behind Portugal by 3.
- If Portugal ties with Luxembourg, and Russia wins or ties either game: Israel is tied for 2nd with Portugal.
- If Portugal beats Luxembourg, and Russia loses both games: Israel is tied for 2nd with Russia.
- If anything else happens: Goodbye, Israel. Better luck in 2018.
Israel’s neighbors Jordan and Egypt are also still in the running (to represent Asia and Africa, respectively), so if everything aligns, it could end up being a block party. But one thing is certain: next week, Israelis across the political spectrum will be cheering for Luxembourg.
The United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism’s Centennial Conference starts this weekend. It comes at a time when the future direction and health of the movement is unclear. This series of posts will examine one of the factors behind the movement’s current challenges.
There is a certain variety of critique that tries to trace all the movement’s problems to the 1950 “Driving Teshuva,” which said it was ok to drive to synagogue on Shabbat. The usual line is that the driving teshuva was when the movement turned away from something-or-another, which led to its intellectual decline and eventual doom. The teshuva was a turning point for the movement. The Conservative Committee on Jewish Law and Standards was only formed in 1948 [correction: CJLS was formed in 1927, but significantly reorganized in 1948]. This teshuva, in 1950, was a clear statement that Conservative rabbis were willing to publicly disagree with Orthodoxy. Still, placing the movement’s decline on a theological disagreement has always seemed weak to me. Despite current challenges, the movement has survived for 60 years since this decision and Conservative rabbis and leaders have played central roles in halachic and theological discussions that have affected all of Judaism. The link between saying it is ok to drive and the movement’s decline seems to be based more on wishful thinking among those who disagree, than on historical analysis. I do think the driving teshuva has hurt the movement in ways that are less often discussed, but this requires examining the text.
The driving teshuva is actually titled, “A Responsum on the Sabbath” (1950) by Rabbis Morris Adler, Jacob Agus, and Theodore Friedman. You can read the full text as part of this pdf file. I am borrowing some explanation liberally from this 2005 blog post by elf’s dh. In short, the teshuva’s goal was not to broadly permit driving on Shabbat. It was not even to permit driving to synagogue on Shabbat. It’s goal was to allow driving to synagogue on Shabbat when the alternative was that people wouldn’t have an active connection to Judaism without going to synagogue on Shabbat. In short, the teshuva says, if people are at risk of separating from the Jewish people, but regularly drive to synagogue on Shabbat, there are better ways to engage these Jews than harassing them to stop driving. Perhaps shunning drivers and delivering drashot against driving might not be the best way to encourage people to increase their connections to Judaism..
Put this way, this is little different from the many Modern Orthodox and Chabad synagogues which maintain an official position against driving on Shabbat, but still have seats and honors in the service for people who park down the block.
The problem with this teshuva is less its conclusion and more the assumptions that got it there. It assumes that the future of Judaism would be in communities where people could not or would not walk to synagogue. Conservative Judaism staked its future on the rise of suburbia. This was an intentional decision, not a recognition of the inevitable. It meant not just looking the other way when people drive on Shabbat, but, but accepting that driving on Shabbat would be a fundamental necessity. The driving teshuva was a key part of an active decision to embrace suburban life and actively abandon urban, walkable living. It meant abandoning cities in a way that Orthodoxy never did. It meant abandoning cities to an extent that non-Orthodox Jews never actually did.
As an example, here is a story told to me by the emeritus rabbi of a Conservative synagogue in an outlying area of a city with mostly single-family homes. He recounts asking Conservative movement officials for help around 1970, when the synagogue was losing members due to a shrinking local Jewish population, and most of the other local Conservative congregations moved to the suburbs. The Conservative movement officials told him that synagogues in cities were doomed to closure, and they only help they could give him would be to help help him find a new (suburban) pulpit. He declined their offer, and some decades later, the neighborhood (and the synagogue) have seen a great resurgence of Jews. His synagogue has more than doubled in size in the last 15 years.
The suburbanisation of Conservative Judaism served the movement very well during the rise of the suburbs. But nowadays, more and more Jews want to live in walkable neighborhoods, and the Conservative synagogues have left these city neighborhoods for suburbs that no longer attract enough Jews to support them all. Meanwhile, the movement’s key institutions still have a mindset that focuses on suburban-style synagogues/community centers. While the rise of Jewish suburbanization was marked by the driving teshuva, the movement has had decades to readjust how it interacts with Jewish in different types of communities. My next post will focus on what is currently happening and what could be done.
“Chain gleaming, switching lanes, two-seater.
Hate him or love him for the same reason.
Can’t leave it; the game needs him.
Plus, the people need someone to believe in.”
–Nas, “Hero” (2008)
In the past couple of days, since Rav Ovadia Yosef died at 93, the Jewish media, both published and social, have been abuzz with tributes about his towering scholarship, bold rabbinic leadership, controversial political and cultural impact, and his frequent episodes of vituperative and hostile verbal violence, especially late in his life. I have also seen comments by progressive Jews expressing surprise that so many progressive friends of theirs were showing the love to Rav Ovadia. As one friend put it: “My FB page is full of love for Ovadia Yosef-from lefty people? I thought he was kind of terrible?”
Good progressive yidn of NYC! Just wanted to let you know that applications are officially open for the AVODAH Fellowship, a selective new program for Jewish early-career professionals currently working to address the causes and effects of poverty in New York City.
The AVODAH Fellowship is a high-impact learning and community-building experience that will enable participants to sharpen their skills and analysis while expanding their personal and professional networks. Based on a curriculum grounded in Jewish thought and learning, the Fellowship will provide training and support to emerging Jewish professionals engaged in the antipoverty field.
Participants in the AVODAH Fellowship will gain from AVODAH’s 15 years of expertise in antipoverty leadership development through:
-A Community of Mentors and Colleagues: Join an intentional Jewish community of experienced social justice leaders who will help you develop your skills, and build a support system that will nourish you personally, professionally, and spiritually.
-Innovative Learning: Participate in regular seminars drawn from AVODAH’s cutting-edge curriculum, and engage in critical analysis about domestic poverty while viewing your work through a Jewish lens.
-Connected for Life: As a member of the Fellowship, you’ll be welcomed into the AVODAH alumni community, a network of hundreds of social justice leaders who will provide community and support throughout your career.
Ideal Applicants for the Fellowship:
-are 1-3 years into a career in antipoverty work, and spend at least part of their time working directly with individuals living in poverty.
-have a demonstrated interest in exploring the intersections of Jewish life and identity and antipoverty work.
-have a commitment to personal growth and an active interest in building community and developing the power of a network.
-have a desire to be part of a group learning environment and intentional network during and after the Fellowship.
Applications will be open until November 12th, so please go to avodah.net/fellowship today for more information or to apply.
Tracee Chimo, Michael Zegen and Molly Ranson in Bad Jews. Photo by Joan Marcus.
As the organized Jewish community debates the changing nature of Jewish identity in America uncovered by the recent Pew study, theatergoers in New York are engaging in a similar debate spurred on by Bad Jews, a new play by Josh Harmon being presented off-Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company, following a developmental production last fall at the Roundabout Underground Black Box.
On its surface, Bad Jews is a dark comedy about cousins reuniting at their grandfather’s shiva, butting heads about who should inherit a chai necklace their beloved Poppy had managed to hold on to through his time in a concentration camp. But Bad Jews is really a play of ideas, offering one hundred minutes of debate about what Jewish identity means for the grandchildren of survivors and contemporary twenty-something American Jews. Representing the “religion matters most” camp is Daphna (Tracee Chimo), a strident senior at Vassar who hopes to marry the Israeli soldier she slept with on Birthright, make aliyah, and attend rabbinical school. Taking the opposing view is Liam (Michael Zegen), her elder cousin who has little to no interest in Judaism or Jewishness, but feels a deep familial connection to what the chai necklace represents. Liam’s younger brother Jonah (Philip Ettinger) just wants to be left out of the argument. The ensuing battle, which is further intensified by the presence of Liam’s perky, privileged, non-Jewish girlfriend Melody (Molly Ranson), will either fascinate or exhaust you, depending on how many times you’ve had this conversation yourself.
(Crossposted to Mah Rabu.)
The Pew Research survey, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” released yesterday, has received a lot of attention in both the Jewish and the mainstream media. I don’t have anything more to add about the results themselves; many pages have already been written in the last 48 hours. But after reading both the data and some of the spin, I have several comments about what we can and can’t conclude from the data.
1) Orthodox Retention
There has been discussion of the retention rates among various age cohorts of Orthodox Jews, i.e. what percentage of Jews raised as Orthodox currently identify as Orthodox. This percentage is significantly higher among the younger age cohorts than among the older cohorts, leading some to conclude that the Orthodox world is more effective at retention at the present time than in the past.
This conclusion is not supported by the data. Let us consider an alternate hypothesis: The attrition rate of Orthodox Jews has remained constant over time. What results would we expect from this hypothesis? The percentage of raised-Orthodox Jews who currently identify as Orthodox should decrease with increasing age (since older people have had more time to leave Orthodoxy), and this is in fact what we see in the data. But we can be more precise in our predictions from this model: The percentage should decay exponentially.
To test this, I fit the numbers to an exponential curve. I made the following assumptions and simplifications (which were quick-and-dirty, but you can try it yourself with different assumptions): I assumed that 100% of Orthodox-raised Jews identified as Orthodox at age 18 (and all attrition occurred after this). I collapsed each age range (e.g. 18-29) to a single data point at the center of the age range. For the highest age group (65+), I assumed it went up to 90.
The result was that the data fit the exponential very closely (R2 = 0.9932), with an attrition rate of about 2.4% per year:
Of course we can’t conclude that there has in fact been a steady rate of attrition either! My point is just that this would be consistent with the data. There are many possibilities – it would also be consistent with the data that everyone who leaves Orthodoxy leaves during their 20s (which would mean that the attrition rate is in fact much lower for the current 20somethings). There’s just no way to determine from these data (which only provide a snapshot of the present time) which model is correct, without data from past generations.
2) Denominational Identification
The Jewish Studies Program at the University of Kentucky invites entries for the annual Mark and Ruth Luckens Essay Competition in Jewish Thought and Culture. The Luckens Prize is awarded to the best unpublished original essay by a graduate student or recent Ph.D. (Ph.D from no earlier than 2012) who does not already have a tenure-track academic position. The Luckens Prize carries a prize of $1000, made possible by a generous gift from the late Dr. Mark Luckens.
Entries for the Luckens Prize competition should be original, unpublished essays of 5000-7000 words in length including all notes and citations; essays that exceed this length will not be considered. All submissions must be in English. Entries will be judged by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty affiliated with the UK Jewish Studies program. In addition to the cash award, the author of the winning essay will be invited to deliver a public lecture at the University of Kentucky in spring 2014.
Submissions for the 2014 Luckens Prize competition should be submitted electronically as Word or PDF documents to Professor Janice W. Fernheimer, Director, UK Jewish Studies program, Associate Professor, Division of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, Department of English, firstname.lastname@example.org and cc’ed to Diane Robertson, email@example.com. Submissions must be received by midnight Oct. 15, 2013 to be considered.
Inquiries concerning the 2014 Luckens Prize competition should be directed to Professor Janice W. Fernheimer, Director of the UK Jewish Studies program, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The two month marathon of Jewish Holidays is over. For many, (myself included), there is a feeling of some of relief – no more cooking, no more emails piled up after missed days of work, back to regular life.
But there is also a sadness. All the amazing ways we’ve tried to come close to God: praying, singing, fasting, eating, blasting the shofar, dwelling in a Sukkah, waving the lulav, joyous dancing with the Torah and more… Gone. Over. The Talmud says that the very last holiday we celebrate, Shmini Atzeret, was ordained because God said “קשה פרידתכם עלי’ – your leaving is difficult for Me.”
It’s difficult on us too.
Perhaps we feel like we came close to the divine over these past few months, and now we’ll miss that intimacy, that holiness. Or maybe we didn’t come as close as hoped. Maybe we never reached that holy moment we were hoping for. Either way, we are now faced with the emptiness, the absence that is regular life, or chol.
But God leaves us with two parting gifts.
1 – The gift of Torah.
This is how we end the holidays – rejoicing on Simchat Torah. Torah, the timeless, portable, sublime vehicle that allows the Jewish people connect to God, whoever, wherever and whenever we are – on the subway, in the beit midrash, with a friend, late at night, on a lunch break. For 3 minutes or 3 hours. It is free, it is real, it is yours.
2 – The gift of each other.
The Torah portion we read right after the holidays end, Bereishit, tells us that human beings are made as reflections of God. The mystics teach us that inside each and every one of us is a little spark of the divine, hidden away, waiting to be revealed through moments of insight, kindness, and love.
God is far, far away. But at the very same moment, God can be so close. Through Torah, God’s message is as close as a class downloaded on phone, as close as holy book sitting on the shelf. And through each other, God’s reflection is as close as the friend a phone call away, the loved one in the next room, the stranger sitting across from you on the bus.
Through connecting to Torah and to our fellow, let this be a year of reaching up to and reaching out to God.
“Davar Acher” is a classic rabbinic phrase used by the ancient rabbis to posit an additional and alternative opinion. It means literally ‘another thing’, ‘another word’ and ‘the word of the other’. As an expression, “Davar Acher“ is emblematic of the multivocality preserved in rabbinic tradition, where minority and rejected opinions are passed on alongside majority and accepted opinions. Whoever learns Torah is invited to make his or her heart into a “heart of many rooms”, a heart embodying this diversity of opinion within oneself.
The Davar Acher: Leadership Program is comprised of a series of four courses:
- Facilitation Intensive (Applications due October 1, 2013)
- Grounding Your Voice in the Tradition (Applications due December 1, 2013)
- Accessing & Activating Your Voice (Applications due January 13, 2014)
- The Role of Multiple Perspectives in Conflict Transformation (Applications due March 7, 2014)
Click here for a full list of course descriptions, dates and application deadlines.
Encounter is offering a limited number of outstanding applicants the opportunity to participate as paid fellows in the entire Davar Acher: Leadership Program. Successful applicants will receive a stipend of $800 USD for their participation in all four courses, and will be part of an extraordinary cohort of committed leaders. The application deadline for the first course in the series is October 8th, 2013.
Who Should Apply:
Encounter seeks religious, political and ideological diversity in all of our programs. A foundational principle of Encounter’s work is to seed generative discussion in Jewish communal leadership across difference, enabling even those who vociferously disagree with one another, to be in constructive exchange with one another. We welcome and encourage participants of widely varying backgrounds.
1. Those deeply immersed in Jewish life who are currently in or aspiring to positions of leadership within the Jewish community
2. Those who have demonstrated leadership in the Jewish world
3. Those who have demonstrated a commitment to seeding constructive Jewish communal engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Questions are welcome! Please email: email@example.com
- Tel Aviv will build its first holocaust memorial to gay victims in Gan Meir next to Tel Aviv Municipality’s LGBTQ Center. Other cities with one already: Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney and San Francisco.
- Philip Roth, Nathan Englander and Michael Chabon are among the American Jewish writers who’ve signed a petition opposing the Israeli plan to forcibly relocate Bedouin from their homes in the West Bank. Other signers include Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney (z”l), J.M. Coetzee, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Orhan Pamuk.
- A pro-Palestinian group in Vermont is campaigning for local creamery Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to stop selling their social good conscious products in the settlements. Interesting that the call isn’t to boycott Israel, just the settlements. Are the BDSers learning a tactical lesson?
- An Israeli court ruled that calling right-wing Israeli group Im Tirtzu “fascists” is a fair description after all and threw out a libel suit against a Facebook group labeling them as such. It’s amazing anyone in Israel dreamed (ha) of outlawing that over-used word.
- Educators should browse through the new multimedia center from JustVision, featuring the best tools, clips and guides from a decade of Israel-Palestine film making. A must-see.
- Achvat Amim (“solidarity of nations”) is a new 5-month volunteer experience in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by placing participants in Israeli human rights organizations, sponsored by MASA. (MASA? Whoa.) Coming in January 2013!
- Encounter’s new Davar Acher Leadership Program expands to more people their dialogue training and customized Encounter day trips to Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Limited number of paid fellowships available, deadline October 8.
- Haven’t been to dialogue with Palestinians on Encounter yet? Here are your chances: Oct 24-25, Nov 14-15 (to Areas B & C), Dec 5-6, and Dec 26-27.
Achvat Amim, which means “solidarity of nations” in Hebrew is a new 5-month volunteer experience in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples.
Achvat Amim is based in Jerusalem, where participants will work with leading Israeli human rights organizations. Participants will also develop leadership and community organizing skills and make connections with people from Israel, Palestine and around the world. The program is beginning this coming January, now is the time to apply!
Everything you need to know including details, background and what you’ll learn and do is on the website: achvatamim.org and any questions you have can directed to the Program Director, Daniel Roth, at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Grants are available.
Guest-post by Ben Greenfield, a rabbinical student (YCT) and writer based in New York City. His writing on Jewish-Muslim architecture, medieval Hebrew art, and Rabbinic romance have been featured on Jewish Ideas Daily.
5 Tips for Leading High Holiday Services in Prison
Last week, a colleague and I led Rosh Hashana services at Rikers Island, the massive East River prison complex in which New Yorkers house some 14,000 of their more suspect neighbors. We slept on the floor of a jail classroom, from which we withdrew to chat about the season, share kosher airplane meals, and attempt to serve some 60 Jewish and non-Jewish congregants.
1. Don’t bring glass bottles of Kedem grape juice.
A rookie mistake, quickly confiscated. And while hardcover siddurim are OK for the chapel, don’t think that makes them safe enough for the cells.
One inmate requested I put in a good word about him receiving a pair of Tefillin. While they’re usually permitted, he let me know why he is an exception. A few inches below the tail ends of his payos, two sunset pink scars slash across his neck. The state is worried that he’ll hang himself with the holy black straps.
For Jews at Rikers, the sacred is in constant residence with the darkly violent. Tefillin is a noose, kiddush wine a shiv. One inmate seamlessly wove memories of studying in Old City yeshivot with troubled (hallucinatory?) visions of kidnappings in broad daylight and his desire to start a new life in Iran. At Rikers, comfortable symbols of Jewish life become morbid reminders of the new reality. No glass bottles here.
Thanks to the beginning of the school year, there has been the usual crop of published opinions regarding Jewish schooling options. The general consensus of opinions regarding Hebrew schools seems to be that, ”the investment in money and time exceeds the perceived value of the education and the experience.” I’m highlighting one blog post, but I think its author stated the current dogma well. In 55 comments now posted, no one without a professional connection to synagogue schools stood up for Hebrew schools. Elsewhere online, I read a statement from a well-regarded researcher who has delved into this topic, “Let’s accept the finding that Jewish schooling 4-5 hours a week before Bar/Bat Mitzvah does little good — even as camps, Israel travel, youth groups, day schools, and post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah schools show positive effects.”
These negative views paint an awfully broad brush, depicting a whole class of programs–some very good–as uniformly horrid. As a parent, I see for myself how a good Hebrew school is a positive component of my child’s Jewish education. As someone active in my Jewish community, I’ve had the opportunity to meet master educators much older than me, and I’ve noted how many of these master educators were graduates of Hebrew schools and Talmud Torahs of an earlier era. As someone with some professional training in statistics, I’ve looked at the numbers, and I believe there are serious problems with some of the widely cited studies that purport to show that Hebrew schools have no good impacts.
What I see is that good Hebrew schools provide a path to a wider range of Jewish experiences. This makes it hard to identify statistically the unique impact of Hebrew school. The researcher I quoted above compared Hebrew schools to other forms of education as if the impact of each could be separately identified. Yet few research reports I’ve seen highlight the interactions. For example, some prominent studies of Summer camps either treat schooling during the year as a confounding variable or just divide formal education into Day School or Other. One study that did publish this data semi-directly is the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey Jewish Education Background Report. Using tables 1 and 3 in that report, it’s straight-forward to calculate the percentage of 18-34 year olds who participated in youth groups, attended Summer camps, or visited Israel, by the type of their formal Jewish education during the school year. Here is a table showing the percentages:
The majority of kids doing these activities also go to Hebrew schools, while the 31% of this sample ( table 1 ) that was not involved in any formal Jewish education was barely represented in these other activities. Children who didn’t attend day school or Hebrew school weren’t involved in Youth Groups, Jewish Summer Camps, or Israel Trips. Thus, we CANNOT compare the impact of Jewish Summer camp to the impact of Hebrew school. There is no way to compare the impact of Summer camp or youth group compared with the impact of Hebrew school if the same kids do both. The statistical term for this is multicollinearity. Simply put, saying that Summer camps or youth groups work and Hebrew school does nothing is assuming that kids magically drop down from the sky into Jewish Summer camp–and they don’t!
A good Hebrew school needs to impart some knowledge of Judaism, give kids the awareness and interest to continue Jewish learning, and build skills for participation in Jewish life. A good Hebrew schools also builds relationships with Jewish peers. Kids who form friendships in Hebrew school and whose families come to synagogue on Shabbat hang out together after (or during) Shabbat services. They go with these Hebrew school friends to Jewish Summer camps. They see recent b’nai mitzvot coming back to lead services and participate in synagogue events. The Hebrew school class becomes a youth group, and friends in Hebrew high school.
Of course it’s difficult to disentangle correlation with causation: kids in families that bring them regularly to synagogue and to Hebrew school are more likely to care about the quality of the Hebrew school and to plan on sending these same kids to Summer camp, on Jewish teen trips, etc. However, as any parent will tell you, children’s interests don’t always match their parents plans. Good Hebrew schools can give kids experiences to make them want other Jewish experiences. If policy makers want Jewish kids to attend Jewish Summer camps, youth groups etc, the first step is connecting them to Jewish communities. Hebrew schools are still a huge part of this picture.
All of us at Jewschool wish you a year to come of blessing, justice and righteousness. May we all merit our blessings and be grateful for them, whatever that means to you.
This via our friends at HEEB, just in time for Rosh Hashanah, an exchange on the nature of forgiveness, leadership, judgement and God between an angry Jewish voter and New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.
What can we pray about Syria? As the United States looks to enter the fray of a Syrian civil war, concerned American Jews and Israelis are penning responses in prayer. Shared here are two recent liturgical creations, by very different authors: The first is by Rabbi Barenblat, a Renewal rabbi at of Congregation Beth Israel in Massachusetts and the author of The Velveteen Rabbi. The second is by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement and head of the Petach Tikvah hesder yeshiva.
Both rabbis ask for both sides to display compassion, mercy, humanity and brotherhood to forestall further loss of innocent life and unnecessary revenge upon the other. That said, the Cherlow prayer leaves me a mite uncomfortable by invoking Number 35:33, that killers be killed. Nevertheless, his draft is reportedly being read by the Bnei Akiva youth movement across the religious-national world. Movement secretary-general Danny Hirshberg said on settler media, “The Israeli public needs to look beyond the screen of hate and enmity to see the pain of those civilians being hurt by the Syrian tyrant.”
Read both below the fold… More »
1 % Camping in Arizona
1% Blowing shofar on a mountain top
1% Celebrating our birthday
1% Awkwardly running into our boss at mid day yoga after “taking the day off
1% Going to a newly legalized same sex wedding
6% Shit, it’s Rosh Hashanah?
10% School, even though we technically have the day off
20% Feeling crabby that we can’t go to $425-$450 services
20% Apple picking and apple related activities
30% Feeling guilty about not going to services, but knowing it will make us crazy if we go
I will do amazing things in 5774. I will turn 30. I will get married to the love of my life, the person I am immeasurably excited to grow old with. And I’ll continue to pursue a life filled with words. I wouldn’t be alive for those milestones without medication and cognitive therapy. Without help and support, I would have died because of my mental illness. When I attempted suicide, my family and closest friends were a web of support that kept me going. But I never mentioned what had happened to my Rabbi. To any Rabbi. I’ve made friends in the years since then with their own mental health struggles, some of them fellow members of the Tribe.
Having the knowledge that there are other mentally ill Jews out there is at best, an academic comfort. I know so few ‘out’ mentally ill Jews that I still feel out of step with my community. While I was working as a Morah I refused to tell anyone from my temple, because I was afraid I would never be allowed to be a teacher again if the administration and students’ parents knew I had been struggling with depression and other issues for most of my life. To talk about it now means that I am taking that risk, even if my mental health has greatly improved in the last few years.
Medication has helped me immeasurably, by clearing my head, and keeping most of the depression at bay. It’s left me space inside myself to start slowly filling with prayer again. With energy for one of the cornerstones of Reform Judaism: social justice. It has given me a reprieve from drowning under my darkest emotions. Every night and every morning I say the Sh’ma, because my pain has lessened just enough to let G-d in again.
There are still nights where I am crushingly depressed, struggling and crying. But the promise of the next Rosh Hashanah keeps me going, as does the knowledge that when I wake up in the morning, that depression might be gone again. Mornings like that are perfect for the Shehecheyanu. Thanking G-d for my survival has taken on a certain poignancy, in these final days of Elul.
The High Holy days are times of great joy, and repentance.For redemption. I am joyful I am alive. That every day I make the choice to stay alive, and see the many years awaiting me. But at the close of 5773, I feel the need to confess and repent for not being more open about being mentally ill. For not bringing the social justice I work for, for people like me, into temple, into my religious community. I have no good excuse, and there is no reason not to reach out to my fellow Jews, caretakers and fellow patients alike. There is no reason not to put light onto our often silent suffering, and to ask others to apply Bikur cholim to the mentally ill as well. To ask ourselves to apply the mitzvah to the aid and support of the mentally ill in our communities. To extend the mitzvah even to ourselves.
5774 is as good a time as any to help others find help, but to find help ourselves. Among G-d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, G-d is said to be the abundant in kindness, and a preserver of kindness for generations. To embrace Bikur cholim for the mentally ill is to embrace more of G-d’s attributes of mercy into us, and our lives.