I’ve been down lately and really trying to think about what is happening. I had a realization last night in preparation for a meeting I was going to have with school today about what to do next.
I should be happy. I was offered a job. I was offered a good job that will give me great credentials for things I want to do in the future. But at the same time, I am sad. I am sad that my martial status is preventing me from applying to jobs I will be great at. I am sad that I had to go through the horribleness of abusive administration. I am sad that the world is still not ready for me. I am sad because my dreams have shifted drastically, to a point that none of my dreams are part of my soon to be reality.
From 2008-2012 I was thinking on and off of becoming a rabbi. At first I fought my desire, telling myself that the role didn’t exist; I would not be able to find work; it is not real. I decided I wanted to be a rabbi because it was a chance I would be able to build community, lead, teach and counsel – it brought everything into one position. I also wanted to move to Israel – which also made it harder. I played back and forth in my mind and heart what to do, and I decided to move to Israel. I decided to stay in Israel. And then at the end of a bad year, on Lag Ba’omer, I saw an ad and applied to what I thought would be my dream school. Even my interview was wonderful. I remember getting my acceptance email. I was at work at the nursing home. It was almost the summer, I was training someone to potentially take my position over the summer when I would be gone. I remember seeing the email and being shocked in disbelief but excitement that my crazy dream of studying to be a rabbi AND being able to stay in Israel was going to be a reality. I was accepted to a program all in Hebrew. I was accepted to a program where I would be pushed to study at the highest level. I was going to be able to create a new reality for women in Israel.
I remember starting to learn, and questioning if I was good enough – how was I going to take all my classes and exams in Hebrew. But slowly (and with encouragement from friends and one of my teachers) I was doing it, and doing it well. I was able to find my voice. I was committed to the learning and the ultimate goal of working. I had visions of my ordination in the brightly lit beit midrash giving a sermon in Hebrew in front of a full room. Figuring out when my parent’s would be able to arrive from America. Having my chevruta check my grammar of my speech. Receiving the klaf from my teacher, who for whatever reason treated me with such respect and as if I knew something even from day one.
That dream was crushed when it was clear that the administration was abusive. That they were hurting the other women and myself. That no matter how much I fought or tried to rally others, no matter what we said, we were not going to win. We were never going to get anywhere. When one has mediation and is told that our feelings were wrong, or what people said in a so-called “safe space” was used against them, or just having a general feeling on brokenness – it is time to leave. It was a horrible decision. I remember sending an email to the head of school in America because he happened to be in Israel at the time. I remember getting a phone call from him while I was on a bus on my way into town. I remember sitting with my chevruta in Roladin, her telling me that I need to accept their offer and under no circumstances should I stay in the program in Israel, even if it would mean that I would have to leave Israel. I remember the phone call with the dean right before going to a Yom Hazikaron tekes, telling me that I need to come to the US for two years – there I was in my room quietly crying, and later at the ceremony not knowing how to feel on that day of national mourning. I remember finding the strength to write an email that I will not come for two years, but I needed to stay just for one more year, so I can be responsible at my job and make sure that my brother, who was at the army at the time would have somewhere to live – because saying that I just needed time to say goodbye was not seen as valid. I remember telling my friends. I remember my goodbye party. I remember telling people “I’m moving for at least a year, but I’m not sure” – hoping and praying that I would be able to find a way to get back; hoping and praying that I would be able to at the very least fulfill my other dream in a country that seemed to be more open to the idea.
And then I moved to America. I said goodbye to my apartment, my job and my friends. I broke up with the first person I was really dating because I needed to move. I have been working too hard to give up now – it was five years. I did CPE which was great. And then maybe the greatest thing (or the thing that causes me the greatest saddness now, as I don’t know if I will be able to replicate it) that could happen – I found a job to basically be a rabbi in a shul. I was flown abroad and I was able to teach, lead and counsel – and I was good at it. [I pray that is not the last time I am able to do such a thing]. I really felt like I was doing what I was meant to be doing, the only down side was that it was for such a short term. And then I moved back to the US, with only 6 months to go.
And then there were no job openings. And school didn’t have any leads, at least none they were telling us about. And I was feeling lost, so once again I did what I do best, and I tried to think about how I can still do what I want to do. I looked back to the summer and thought of CPE and really enjoyed it. I thought of my plan B of becoming a rabbi in a nursing home, and how becoming a certified chaplain would be useful. And so I applied to a program, a good one in New York.
And then I was accepted. I was sitting in the beit midrash and I let out a gasp and tried to keep in my tear. I think I stopped breathing for a moment. I was mixed with excitement, because who really likes to get rejection letters – but also because it really is a great program and great opportunity. And at the same time a deep sadness, because I knew this meant that I would not be able to go back to Israel. I knew that there were no viable options at this current moment, and so this is what I would be doing. I knew that my dream of being a pulpit rabbi would be put on hold – potentially forever.
So today in my meeting it was clear that there weren’t any viable jobs for me. Most are in small cities, where I would be isolated and alone – which is pretty bad when you don’t have a spouse. They spoke about a potential job in a nursing home, but in a year from now. We spoke about how having 4 units of CPE, especially if I go into nursing homes is extremely beneficial.
Looking back five years ago – I hoped that I would be married (or at least in a serious relationship); I thought I would be living in Israel, getting smicha from Rav S, standing in THAT Beit Midrash; with my friends and family present, speaking in public in Hebrew confidently, knowing that I passed rabbanut exams; with a party with residents of the nursing home who really were with me the entire time of my studies; with hopes of finding a job in Israel or maybe starting out in shlichut in a community somewhere. I was hoping that for once I would not be living year to year, but I would just have a job that I can stay at – that there will be something stable in my life.
But here I am, with 115 days till ordination. I am single with no prospects. It looks like I will be in New York for at least another year – and once again not be putting down any roots, because it’s only for a year. It looks like I will be a chaplain. I will have family at ordination (yes, in someways its good- it means my grandmother can come), and there will be friends there – just not the people who have been supporting me for the past 4 years. The residents of the nursing home won’t find out and we won’t celebrate. I will stand in some auditorium, receive smicha from a rabbi I barely learned from, and give a speech in English (which I know sounds silly, but there was something really empowering about proving that I am able to do this at such a high level and in Hebrew).
I know in my heart and head that things happen for a reason; that dreams change as we grow; that at times the world is not ready for our desires; that we are not able to get what we want; that this is really a great option that will open many doors; that part of me really wants to do it; that it will be nice not to have to worry about what Orthodox bodies say about my ordination; that I will be doing something real and important, and something I am good at.
But right now, I am not there yet. Right now I am mourning my dreams.