Posted in Stories from the Nursing Home

On Marriage and Clothing: From the Nursing Home

Today my day started with a converstaion with one of the women (She is in her late 90’s, came to Israel in the 30’s. Worked in agriculture and in a bank, taught meditation. Made a decision when she was young to never get married nor have any kids.) at the nursing home. Just after saying goodmorning, she says:
W: Good morning rebbetzin. You are not made to be a rebbetzin…
me: Why not?
W:You just aren’t the right personality for it. It just not your personality. {she askes the woman next to her if she agrees, but the woman started talking about my water bottle- and so we burst out laughing.}
me: What should I do instead?
W: Be an actress, that would suit you. And/or a wife. You need to give a lot of comfort as a wife, and you are good at that. Also, you need to be a good actress to be a wife…
From this we had a long conversation at the table about what I should do with my life and ideas of marriage vs. independence.


A conversation with one of the men (who was a very religious pulpit rabbi when he was younger, people still come to him as their rabbi, even though he has dementia):
Man: I notice that you wear something different every day.
Me: Is that a problem?
Man: No on the contrary…
Me: Don’t most people change what they wear every day?
Man: Women do, men don’t.
Me: Well, I am a woman
Man: You are, aren’t you (with a smile)
This then went onto a conversation about men’s and women’s clothing in history. I think to myself that it is great that the residents are actually paying attention to something.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Being Bad at Being Vulnerable

I am really bad at being vulnerable- I mean really vulnerable. Even now as I right, I can feel myself holding my breath a bit. But at the same time I feel like it is an important thing to do.

I’ve had two conversations this week (yes it is only Monday) about being vulnerable, and how it makes me nervous, and thinking about why that is.

One was with a friend of mine. He is someone who confuses me quite a bit, and somewhat makes me nervous. He confuses me because I seem him as the opposite of myself. I see him being louder and freer. I see him hanging out with people that would never talk to me. He confuses me because he has been (and still is) pursuing my friendship (maybe more- at one point it was that as well). No matter how flaky I have been, no matter how long we have gone without speaking- he is then there, calling me, wanting to see him, wanting to talk to me. And it still doesn’t make sense to me, why. He makes me nervous, a bit because I notice his pursuit of me, and I don’t understand (and I like to understand things-even though I know, that there are things I will never understand). He also makes me nervous because he questions me; he wants to know what I actually think- and he is able to tell when I am not actually sharing.

We spoke about this a bit yesterday (well, it was a few day conversation over Facebook), starting with how we met- which was a bit ridiculous. Both of us thinking that we would never see again, but then we did- only a day later. And then, he was talking to me often. I told him that he makes me nervous, less now that he did at first that is for sure. And it is because I know that he wants me to be vulnerable. I know that if I don’t want to talk about something, like really don’t want to, he won’t push me. But he knows when to push me, and how to read me. Something that I don’t let many people do/not many are able to. [I know, maybe I like him/he likes me- that too makes me nervous (yes, I know, a sign) because he is so different, and I couldn’t (still can’t) tell if the nervousness is the good kind, or the bad kind].

After everything that happened last year, someone suggested that I speak to a therapist to try and find a space for everything; to help me put myself back together from being broken. I have to say it is one of the hardest things that I do. All I have to do is sit and talk about myself, and I sit there not sure what I am supposed to say (yes, I know there is nothing I am ‘supposed’ to say). It is really hard bring up conversations that are in my head, and yes I am having them all the time (you all get to read some of them, hopefully they aren’t too rambly). Today, we spoke about why I talk more of things I do rather than things that I feel, and I said that it is because I don’t like to be vulnerable. She asked why I don’t, and my answer was that there aren’t always people to hold me in that state. I also don’t want to sound stupid, and so if it just stays in my head, then no one will be able to think that about me (at least with regards to issue x). But on my walk home I got to thinking about this more.

I started thinking about relationships. Thinking about the fact that I fear that there is something wrong with me, that is why I haven’t dated that much. And maybe that is that there have been guys willing to be there when I was down, listen to things that I say, but when it comes to actually dating me they don’t want to- that I am too much for some reason. That it is scary to be vulnerable, because when I am, they tend to leave at some point. That being vulnerable means that I can fall and break, because people don’t always have time for me.

I don’t like being vulnerable because I don’t want to be a burden on others. For as long as I can remember, I am the one that people go to speak to when they need something. I am very independent, both out of necessity, but also because I don’t want others to worry about me. There is enough to worry about, that I should not be one of them- in some ways I don’t see my problems as that important or big.

I don’t like being vulnerable, because I think that what I am thinking is stupid, and then saying it out loud maybe other people will think I am stupid to. I don’t want to do it wrong (even speaking to her, I am always thinking to myself ‘am I doing this right?’). When I think of ways that people describe me, it is usually “smart” and “nice”- and what if they find out that neither (or either) of these things is not true. Then what am I? Then what good am I?

It is funny that even though I was shy as a child (and even a bit now) I still like people to notice me. I want people to pay attention to me- maybe that is why I picked the job that I want. That I have the quietness, but I want to be noticed, but I guess I look down on the really loud people, so I don’t want people to think that is me- so I find other ways to be noticed. Even now, I find myself seeking out ways to be seen. I have been writing more, and even been thinking about sharing what I have been writing (up until now 99.9% of who reads this, I have no idea who you are- very rarely will I send a link to a specific person), or at least figuring out ways that more people will read what I have to say- because I don’t really know how else to share it. I have done a bit of modelling in the past year- which is kidna funny, I’m not the typical model body type (I’m 5″2, curvy, just normal looking). But I want my pictures places; I want people to see me. Maybe that is it, that I want people to notice me, but not only for my brain (I mean, I have been saying this for years). I have a body, I am female, I too want to be looked at as that, and not only as the one who learns well and is nice to old people.

So, how to be more vulnerable? I really am not sure. It is something that makes me hold my breath a little, but at the same time I think that it is important. I know that it is the only way that things will be able to happen in my life. Taking risks is being vulnerable (although I guess professionally I am more ok with it than emotionally…)

Last night I saw a very interesting TED talk on the idea. Listening to her talk really resonated with me. That the reasons that people don’t like to be vulnerable tends to have to do with shame. But the only way to get farther in life, to allow one’s self to be vulnerable.

So here is to trying to open up a bit more. Make it not so scary- and I will see what happens next.

How do you feel about being vulnerable? What are times that you allow your self to be vulnerable? How do you do that? 


Posted in D'var Torah

The Week of Song

Parshat Beshalach makes me think of my father. Years ago he bought me a necklace with a pasuk on it- and at the time he bought it for me, I had no clue why THIS verse. And even when I asked him, all he said was “I don’t know, it jumped out at me.”

The verse is from the Haftorah that was read, from Shoftim 5:9.

לִבִּי   לְחוֹקְקֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל,  הַמִּתְנַדְּבִים בָּעָם; בָּרְכוּ,  ה.

My heart is toward the lawgivers of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people, (saying,) ‘Bless the Lord.’

Yea, it is a strange verse to put on a necklace. The truth is, at different times it means different things to me.

He gave this to me years before I started to study to be a rabbi. But if I look at myself now, the majority of my learning is that of Jewish law. It is not only memorizing facts of law, but also working with the law to make it liveable. But more than that I am still unsure.

Some other thoughts that I have from this week (I had no complete thoughts to be honest, everything was just half):

  • Women and song: This is Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of songs. This alludes both to Shirat Hayam and to Shirat Devorah. And in both cases we hear of women leading song and dance. It is quite amazing that they are able to express themselves. But at the same time it is a frustration of mine in Judiasm, that whenever there is a woman’s thing, automatically it means that it will be lots of singing and dancing. I always wonder, what can we do to make a woman’s space that is not only about song?
  • Women and leadership: Between Miriam leading out the people in song, and Devorah leading the people to war, we have two female role models for woman’s leadership. They are not questioned for their leadership, they are noticed for their leadership. And they are not noticed because of their gender, they are noticed by their actions. I hope and pray that one day that those of us who are studying to be rabbis will too be noticed for our actions and not just our gender.
  • Power of Song: I am not someone who likes to sing so much, but I do recognize the power of song. It does have the ability to bring people together in a way that other things don’t. People who know the words can sing the words; those who don’t can hum along, or even just clap to the beat. The sounds can fill the room, and at times it is hard not to join in. Music also can be calming. I was reading an article this past week about the youth marches with Martin Luther King. The writer was saying that the youth leaders were taught songs to sing while marching, so that they would stay calm. It gave everyone something to do. That is an amazing image also for the children of Israel leaving Egypt, walking in the middle of the sea. They were probably afraid, both of the miricales around them and the impending doom of the Egyptians- and here was a song that was sung, especially that of Miriam, to keep everyone calm, give themselves something else to focus on.
  • Communal Participation in Torah Reading: One of my favorite parts of this week’s Parsha is that there are many parts of the Torah reading that the congregation is singing with. People are less asleep. People are paying attention. It is not just listening to a story, but participating in one. Participation in the service changes everything (ideas for a later post). It is something to think about for how to create a better prayer experience.
Posted in Dating

What I Did for Love

I hope to be able to look back and laugh at all the things I have tried so I could find a husband. Some people are constantly in relationships or going on dates, and then there are people like me that no matter what I do, I maybe go on two dates a year.

I have gone on a date that was set up by a woman I met on the street. I asked her for directions and she then was like, “I think I have someone to set you up with, would you like to?”

I have gone on a date with a guy that my boss set me up with.

I have gone on a date (or maybe a date) with a boy that I was friends with when I was two, his grandmother is my granmother’s best friend. My grandmother found a picture of the two of us, and he wanted it. He happened to be in Israel, and so we went out for coffee.

I have told friends, teachers, shul members what I am looking for. I have filled out forms for my friend’s spreadsheets of single people.

I have signed up for different websites- those that I get to choose people and those that there is a matchmaker. I even spoke to a matchmaker.

I have given my number to children of residents of the nursing home. Sometimes they want to give it to their children-even though they know that our livestyles are vastly different.

One of the residents even had her gandson come to meet me. He is married already, but he has friends. He told me that his grandmother talks about me all the time, and thought he can help. She is worried for me.

I have signed up for apps on my phone. I am even being a beta tester for one right now.

And now I think I have actually done the strangest thing that I could do- but hey it is for love, right? So there is Persian woman in the nursing home. For years she has been trying to get me to make this potion, and but it under my bed and if I do this, she is sure I will get married. She wrote me three notes (similar to a kamea), on goes under my bed, and two get hidden in my house. And then for three weeks in a row, on Tuesday evening,  I am supposed to boil vingar (a full bottle each time), while adding garlic, sugar, cardemon, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper. This mixture after it is boiled goes under my bed. On those Friday evenings I am supposed to light two candles around the faucet in my kitchen. And if I do all this, then I will find a husband quickly- she claims that it is how other people we both know got married and pregnant.

And so for two weeks now I have made this mixture. It makes my house smell sweet and spicy. Every so often in my room, as the mixture is sitting under my bed, has a slight smell of cloves and cinnamon.

I have no clue if this will work. All I do know, is that if people ever tell me I didn’t try hard enough, I will be able to tell them that I did basically everything that I could do- including ancient spells.

Feel free to comment on the craziest things you have done to find love. 

Posted in D'var Torah

Leaving is Not Always Easy

In Parshat Bo the Jews are taken out of Egypt. They were slaves for 410 years- obviously they would want to run away as quickly as possible. But both here and throught the rest of the book of Shmot, they complain about leaving. They are afraid of what will be. Here they know what their problems are, who they are up against, how they will be treated– when they leave there is no knowing. Things could be equally as bad, but just with a different ruler.

I think to myself about my leaving of schools. Part of my fear was that things were going to be equally as bad, just in a different way- but at least here, I knew what to expect. And even now, when I know in my heart of hearts that it was the right choice (as I am much happier and healthier this year), there are things that I long for, from what I used to have. I can see that it is just a natural response. We are creatures that try and find at least some good in what is happening in our lives, even in the worst of times- and so it is those things that we tend to miss.

It is interesting that this is also the Parsha that we get the laws of Rosh Chodesh and Tefillin, and are told to remember that we were slaves and we were taken out. We are not meant to forget our past, we are supposed to remember what happed, and allow it to influence our future. We are told to keep track of our own time and to literally bind ourselves with God. [Potentially this can also work with the male and female entities, especially for those who think women can’t/shouldn’t wear tefillin, and Rosh Chodesh is seen as a woman’s holiday.] We have things that remind us daily, montly and yearly of the leaving of Egypt.

I don’t think that we are just to remember that God did great miracles. I think that we are meant to remember the ability to find the good in bad situations. That we were able to survive and grow even after long years of hardship. That this story is part of what makes me who I am today.

We can look into our own pasts- of times that we were able to overcome hardship (or partially overcome hardship), and learn and remember from those things. It is only from the remembering that we will be able to come out strong again.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

I Would Rather Be a Rebel Than a Slave

Last night I went with a few friends to see the movie Suffragettes. After leaving the movie, my friends and I did not know how to react. It was a very intense movie, that is retelling a very intense past- which unfortunatly a story that is still happening.

It was brutal to see how the women were beaten. It was heart renching to hear the women being emotionally abused. It was unbelievably sad to see what the woman had to give up. But at the same time it was so amazing to see how the women continued to push forward; fight against those who wanted to push them down; and were able to continue to support one another, even when some people had to leave for personal reasons.

From the start of the movie, all I could think about was how it relates to my life. How in 50 years time, there will be a movie about Orthodox female rabbis and all of the abuse, hardness, and fights that we have had to put on. How crazy it is to see women then oppose the vote, which to me is the same as today women (and men) opposing women having leadership positions and authority within Jewish life. How still men in the world have all of the power- even those who are “allies”, and how even then they are still in charge and will still have the power. How the forms of emotional abuse are still happening today.

Throughout all of my deciding to change programs one feeling that I still have at times is that I gave up. I know that I am still studying to be a rabbi, and I am still fighting for the right to be seen and heard- but I am doing it in a different place. I am now in a place that accepts women in these postitions more. I am in a place that has already placed women. A program where the other women are outspoken and are fighting- instead of staying with a group that I was the fighter; that I was the one getting others the confidence that they can and should fight as well.

I am thankful that my fight doesn’t get me into situations where someone is punching me or sending me to jail. But as a friend told me, “emotional abuse is sometimes worse.” But just like these women, myself and my collegues have given up and lost bits (or large parts of ourselves) along the way. We also recognize that we are part of history, and will be changing the face of Judaism as we know it. Even with all of the fighting, and the times that I want to quit and not do this anymore because I don’t have the energy or strength any more- I agree with the line “I would rather be a rebel than a slave.”

Posted in Decisions, Life

15 Weeks

No, I’m not pregnant (not even close…)

It is 15 weeks till I fly back to the US for my (at least) a year in NY. I realized this when a teacher wrote that it is 8 weeks till Purim and 12 weeks till Pesach– and I’m leaving 3 weeks later.

To be honest I am freaking out a bit- although it is not all about bad things, it is more that everything is happening at once, and way faster than I would have wanted it to.

So I got into both CPE programs. I have chosen to go to the one in the hospital. I think that it will be a good thing for me to try something new, and push myself in very different ways than I would if I was in the nursing home. I know how to work with older adults and even their families. I have not worked in a hospital since I was 18.

I was worried about making money this summer, but this CPE program ends early enough for me to be able to go to camp. And so, I will make more or less the same amount as I would through the stipend.

In addition to sending in my acceptance to the CPE program, I also am 99% sure that I found an apartment in New York. I didn’t even start looking yet, but a friend posted on Facebook that she was looking for a third roommate. I wrote to her, slightly joking that if it is free in the summer, I would take it. The next thing I know, she has a subletter, and I have a place to live comes September.

And 15 weeks does not seem that long. Time is moving very quickly, and everything is starting to change.

So here is 15 weeks till my unknown length study abroad.