Posted in Life, Rabbinical School

Wonder Woman- Sex and the City- It’s Really Happening

So it’s a post about a lot of things.

Wonder Woman

The other day, we took a school trip to see Wonder Woman (it was the last day of school and we needed something that was mobility friendly). I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it (I go to about one movie a year, and it is definitely not a super hero movie).

The movie made be both laugh and cry.

The land of the Amazon’s was like no all women’s space that I have ever been in. It was a place of strength and beauty. They were not complaining or feeling sad about being single or the worries of their relationships. They were not broken, hurt or in pain from not being treated with respect. They were not fighting for their legitimacy. And so they were able to be strong and push one another to be strong, without it being that they have to be stronger than men. They were not trying to prove anything or be better than anyone. They were just strong.

The sexual tension was great and funny. What happens when the woman is both gorgeous, smart, and strong willed. She was able to find someone who, be it took a while, was able to accept her for who she is, and still love her. I hope that is true in my world too…

Wonder Woman was portrayed as someone who cares about the world and is incredibly strong- both physically and emotionally. She has to make hard choices, ones that give her great personal loss in order to help the greater good. But she is also able to form relationships. And even with all of her own personal loss, and first hand view of the ugliness of the world, she still is able to believe in human kindness and love.

Some quotes that I loved:

“It’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

“I used to want to save the world, to end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learnt that inside every one of them there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know… that only love can truly save the world. So now I stay, I fight, and I give – for the world I know can be. This is my mission now, for ever.”


Sex and the City

I started watching Sex and the City. I’ve never watched it before, at least not regularly. I find it fascinating because it is so different than my life experience. I am around the same age as they are (at least in the first season- I’m 31), so it is also interesting to see how they are living their lives.

They each have their own apartment (makes me want to continue living on my own). They each are very successful in their jobs. They love living in the city.

There are things that are SO different than mine. Like I almost never wear heels, and definitely not $500 pairs (I don’t even own a pair that costs even half of that). I also question how it is possible that every place they go, each is able to pick up a new guy and bring him home. I’m not saying that I want to or would sleep with every guy that I meet- but I don’t even get asked on a date when I go places. Is it that I am doing something wrong or going to the wrong places? Or is it just for a good story line?

But there are ideas that I think are very true. The talking about the fears of being single, and things we do to quiet those fears. The look people give when you are “of a certain age” and not married. The fear of what happens if I am too old to have children by the time I “settle down”. The makers of “making it”- having one’s own space, having a job, having good friends.

Something I do love is the confidence all four women have when walking down the street. They all walk as if they own New York. Yesterday, I did not bring a rain coat to shul and it started pouring. I was going to a person I didn’t know for lunch and got drenched- there was nothing I could do. And there I was walking the streets of New York, in a beautiful blue dress, heels and pearls, drenched. It was great I made eye contact with other people in the same situation and we just smiled at one another. I just stood up tall and enjoyed the process of what I must look like to others, and the entire walk over I just thought of myself like Carrie Bradshaw. To make it even better- when I was walking home (it was no longer raining), a woman stopped me to tell me how great my dress was, and how fitting my hair was to the style of dress.


It’s Really Happening

Today is the day! Today is the day that I receive my smicha, and really become a rabbi. I am in shock and awe that this day has really come. It has been a long and sometimes exhausting journey, but I did it.

I have many more thoughts, but I need to shower and get dressed for the big event.

I hope that I can have the confidence, flair and creativity of the women on Sex and the City, and the strength, grace and love of Wonder Woman. 🙂

Posted in Life, Rabbinical School

The Last Week

This is my last week of school – potentially forever.

I am now 31, and since starting school at age 2, I have only had one year of my life not in an academic institution. And here I am at the end. Yes, I might still go to classes. Yes, you never stop learning. Yes, I never know, maybe I’ll go get a PhD. But it is not the same.

I will no longer be a professional student. For the past five years the majority of my pay check has come from me sitting in the Beit Midrash. Next year my pay check will be from working. I will be going to a hospital. It will be looked at as if I am capable of doing what I am paid to do. That I have the knowledge to do this job. That I no longer need to be a student.

I also think about the people I will hang out with. I’ve always had school friends. Friends that I can easily talk about academic or philosophical thoughts, and they know exactly where I am coming from. A group of people who are in tune where my head might be going, without having to explain what I am talking about. A group of people that I spend most of my day with. I’ve had co-workers before, but there is something different with fellow classmates or students, that I am having a hard time describing. There is a greater separation. There is a greater idea that you have a world outside work. That you wouldn’t want to hang out with the people you work with 24/7. That you don’t end up sharing as much with one another. It will be interesting who will be my friends next year. Especially because it will be the first time since grad school that I will have friends and colleagues that aren’t Jewish, that don’t have the same cultural experience as me.

What is even scarier is that I will have smicha. I will really be a rabbi. I spent all this time learning, and now it is being declared that I no longer need to be in school full time. I am being given permission to make decisions for others, on my own. I don’t think that I know nothing- I am quite aware that I know a lot. But I will no longer have the excuse that I am still a student if I don’t want to answer something or if I don’t know an answer. There is a greater expectation both by myself and others of what I teach, how I teach and even what I look like. I will be going out on my own, no longer representing (or semi representing) an institution of learning, but rather representing myself and whatever institution I might be working for.

At least for next year, I will not be doing something radical and culture changing. Most don’t (at least not the institution) care that I am an Orthodox female rabbi. They just know that I am employed by the hospital and that I am functioning as a chaplain, and that is it. Even in the Jewish world, sitting with people in the hospital is not a controversial role. I will not be teaching full time, I will not be deciding Jewish law, I will not be doing anything of the things that people see as wrong- except for having a title.

And so here I am, in my last week of school. My projects are all handed in. I don’t have anything else that I need to learn, so I can learn and do what I want during this time. It is a time I never thought would actually happen…but here it is.

Here is to one more week.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Feeling Whole

I want to feel whole again.

I want to feel excited about prospects of what I am doing.

I want to feel like I’m not just floating along waiting, hoping, wishing, praying for something better to come my way.

I want to feel excited to tell people what I am going to be doing. That the new things coming up in life are good and great.

I realized yesterday that most people don’t know that I have a job for next year. Even now, in June, I am unable to bring myself to talk about the fact that I will be in NY for another year. I feel sad about posting it on Facebook. In some ways it is in the hopes that something else comes along, and then no one needs to know about the changes in my life – but I know in my heart of hearts it won’t change.

Only yesterday I took a job a camp. I will not be teaching Torah like I usually do, I will be working in a cooking class, and through that teach Torah. It is not the job I want. It is not the staff that I really want to be part of. But I had no other options for the summer. When I thought about having an entire summer free I froze. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. And now I am sitting, and I need to write an email to the person I am subletting from, telling him that I will in deed be moving out at the end of the month- and I am second guessing my decision. Maybe I should just bum around for the entire two months of the summer – even though I know in my heart of hearts that I will be miserable with nothing to do for that long. My friends have jobs and so no one will be free during the day time.

I need to find somewhere to live next year. And not only do I not know where I want to be or if I want to share an apartment or be alone- I still don’t know which hospital I will be working in, so I can’t make any real decisions.

I am finding that it is hard to live in the present, because I know I need to live in the future as well. That what I am doing next year is ONLY for a year. It is temporary. Everything right now is temporary and changeable. I just wish that there was something that I knew would be the same.

So here I am. Almost with smicha, the thing I have been working towards for so long. And I think I feel more lost than I ever have.

Posted in Dating, Life

I Still have the Old Maid Card

I’m at an age and live in a community where most people are married and have kids. That leaves me to be in the position, that when I go to my friend’s houses I am not able to just hang out with my friend, but I am also there to hang out with their kids and/or spouses. It means that our conversations are going to be broken up by screaming children. It means that there are conversations that will have to wait till after dark when the kids are asleep, and hopefully we are not asleep either.

I have friends who love being in this role, or at least they talk about it as if they love it. They go to kids plays and school open days. They bring presents and come over just to hang out with the kids. They take the child out to dinner or plays or something fun. They are the go-to babysitters. The surrogate parents- helping with feeding and changing, and sometimes even discipline.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the past two weeks. Starting with one of my friends who when she is having a hard time, she wants to hold babies and hang out with small children. And then I was at my best friend’s house- where really, I do have a very close relationship with her 5 year old. And then over Shavuot I was at someone’s house with three other “older” single women, who are part of this woman’s house hold of caretakers.

And to be honest- it makes me really sad. I never thought that I would be the old-maid aunty. That I would be the one that still has no husband or children of my own. I have to say that holding my friend’s kids makes me sad, because I don’t have my own. I feel like I am in the pity party, that they feel like they have to be nice to me because I’m just not there yet. I find myself talking to babies asking if I will ever have the chance to have my own, or will I only ever experience holding other people’s kids.

Will I always be that single one sitting at a table of couples who all talk about their completeness, or schools or camps or birth stories- and I have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation, because it is not part of my life? Will my parents hang out with other small kids at shul because I will never be able to give them grandchildren of their own? Will they get more birds because that is the best they will be able to get?

I would never change my relationship with my friend’s daughter- I really do love her and love hanging out with her. And will always laugh when she asks me if I would have different rules for her if I was her mom or when she jokes that she wants me to be her mom instead.

But at the same time, I am finding it harder and harder to be around kids and those with kids. It is the thing that hurts my heart. I don’t want to be the surrogate mom, I want to actually have kids. I don’t want to be the single aunt, who never has a date or a husband. I don’t want to be the old-maid that either has nothing to say in conversations or just makes things up to try and fit in.

Posted in Life

My Year in Books

For as long as I can remember I have been going to the library and reading books. When I was younger it was a weekly trip with my family. My siblings used to joke that I was always reading. I knew that there were times that I would read 3-4 books over Shabbat (25 hours). In many of the places I have moved, one of the first things I have done (if not the first thing) was to get a library card. Even when I was part of the summer reading programs at the library I never actually kept a list of all the books I read. So when I moved to the US last year, I decided why not keep a list of books. They are a mix of fiction and non-fiction; serious books and really light reading; famous books and ones that I found by chance.  So here are the 101 books (I only listed books I read to completion), 29,703 pages, that I read since May 21, 2016. The ones that are bold are ones that I particularly liked.

Title Author Date Pages
What is Not Yours is Not Yours Helen Oyeyemi 21/5/2016 336
Willful Disregard Lena Anderson 208
Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It 240
Good Mourning Elizabeth Meyer 24/5/2016 288
The Good Death Ann Neumann 25/5/2016 248
The Version of Us Laura Barnett 28/5/2016 416
The Golem of Paris Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman 512
Astor Place Vintage Stephanie.Lehmann 396
A Life Need Mukherjee 357
Lust and Wonder Augusten Burroughs 6/6/2016 304
The Two of Us Andy Jones 9/6/2016 336
The Awakening of Miss Prim Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera 13/6/2016 (Shavuot weekend) 272
A Short History of Women Kate Walbert 272
Virgin Radhika Sanghani 304
Scary Old Sex: Stories Arlene Heyman 240
Piece of Mind Michelle Adelman 320
A Guide for the Perplexed Dara Horn 368
Yentle Issac Batsheva Singer 64
Peep Show Joshua Braff 266
The Masseuse Sierra Kincade 353
A Lover’s Dictionary David Levithan 224
The Wounded Storyteller Arthur W. Frank 14/6/2016 280
A Woman of Independent Means Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey 20/6/2016 279
The Book of Lost Things John Connolly 23/6/2016 339
The Tumbling Turner Sisters Juliette Fay 25/6/2016 352
Modern Romance Aziz Ansari 29/6/2016 205
Dancing for Degas Kathryn Wagner 3/7/2016 366
Semi-Charmed Life Nora Zelevansky 327
I am Malala Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb 313
French Lessons Ellen Sussman 236
Fishbowl Bradley Somer 8/7/2016 304
Anthropology Dan Rhodes 9/7/2016 203
Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single Heather McElhatton 292
Foreign Tongue Vanina Marsot 365
The Great Perhaps Joe Meno 414
Wonder R.J. Palacio 11/7/2016 310
Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All Jonas Jonasson 16/7/2016 298
Devilishly Wicked Kathy Love 267
Enchantress Maggie Anton 368
The Obituary Writer Ann Hood 3/8/2016 292
The Ringmaster’s Wife Kristy Cambron 6/8/2016 340
Paris is Always a Good Idea Nocolas Barreau 296
The Painted Girls Cathy Marie Buchanan 3/9/2016 353
The Newspaper of Claremont Street Elizabeth Jolley 9/9/2016 174
Before Jamaica Lane Samantha Young 13/9/2016 404
Stealing Rose Monica Murphy 20/9/2016 301
The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty Marsha Mehran 283
Beautiful You Chuck Palahniuk 24/9/2016 222
Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe Erica Brown 25/9/2016 147
The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix Paul Sussman   412
Down London Road Samantha Young 3/10/2016 369
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures Vincent Lam 8/10/2016 337
Watercolours Adrienne Ferreira 15/10/2016 339
The Portrait Willem Jan Otten 18/10/2016 184
Echoes of Scottland Street Samantha Young 316
The Illusion of Separateness Simon Van Booy 25/10/2016 212
The Paper Magician Charlie N. Holmberg 29/10/2016 214
Smart Women Judy Blume 12/11/2016 354
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises Fredrik Backman   342
The Other Einstein Marie Benedict 3/12/2016 284
Hindsight Mindy Tarquini 315
The Lonely City Oliva Laing 10/12/2016 281
The 2 AM Principle Jon Levy   271
The Stargazer’s Sister Carrie Brown   323
The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac Kris D’Agostino 328
This is Where you Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live Melody Warnick 18/12/2016 257
Off Kilter Donna Kauffman 24/12/2016 310
Drink, Pray, F**K Andrew Gottlieb 195
Cream of the Crop Alice Clayton 317
We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories Clare Beams 25/12/2016 174
The Dead Beat Marilyn Johnson 19/1/2016 231
But What if We’re Wrong? Chuck Klosterman 23/1/2016 262
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlife David Eagleman 25/1/2016 110
In the Country Mia Alvar 1/2/2017 347
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin 5/2/2017 258
Tell the Wolves I’m Home Carol Rifka Brunt 12/2/2017 360
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For Alice Walker 15/2/2017 251
The Road to Character David Brooks 19/2/2017 270
The extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an Ikea wardrobe Romain Puertolas   302
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation Rebecca Traister 23/2/2017 300
The Red Notebook Antoine Laurain 25/2/2017 159
The Dark and Other Love Stories Deborah Willis 3/3/2017 254
Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century Betsy Israel 7/3/2017 264
The Motion of Puppets Keith Donohue 10/3/2017 260
Close Enough to Touch Colleen Oakley 17/3/2017 310
Confidence Rowland Manthorpe and Kirstin Smith 2/4/2017 309
Death is Not an Option Suzanne Rivecca 4/4/2017 222
A Man Called Ove Fredrick Bakman 6/4/2017 337
The Yacoubian Building Alaa Al Aswany 20/4/2017 255
The organized woman Christiane Collange 22/4/2017 253
The Best of Adam Sharp Graeme Simsion 367
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan Ruth Gilligan 26/4/2017 336
love in lower case francesc miralles 1/5/2017 224
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud Ben Sherwood 5/5/2017 269
Today Will Be Different Maria Semple 6/5/2017 258
The Canvas Benjamin Stein 12/5/2017 342
Dating Tips for the Unemployed Iris Smyles 288
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel 19/5/2017 333
Miss You Kate Eberlen 20/5/2017 433
The Heart of Men Nickolas Butler 386
Walking to Listen Andrew Forsthoefel   365
Posted in Life

One Year

It’s hard to believe but it has been a year since I moved to the US.

Today was not something special. I chose not to speak about it in school, because really I had nothing to say. Since going to the mikvah the other week, things have been a bit calmer and I am less upset. I am even able to say that I am living here and what I will be doing next year, although I have not yet written anything on Facebook or anything public like that (although it was just in an announcement from school). I don’t know it was the mikvah that changed things or if it was just the timing that changed things.

But for now I am closer to ok with what I will be doing next. I’m not yet at the excited and happy point, but maybe that will happen.

It is next week that I will take my final exam and have my klaf signed. I am nervous. I am nervous that I will blank on everything on the exam. I am nervous of what it means when this is done. I have been a student basically for my entire life, and now I will not be. So much of my identity has been being a rabbinical student- it will be an interesting change being a rabbi and a chaplain.

I am also excited. I am really going to be a rabbi. This crazy dream I had is going to be real. I am no longer going to be a student. I am going to be a rabbi and a chaplain. I know that I know things, and that they are not expecting me to know everything.

I think about the things that have happened in the past 12 months:

  • Moved to the US
  • Completed a unit of CPE
  • Moved to Australia
  • Taught at an embassy
  • Saw the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach and other places
  • Worked as an assistant rabbi of a shul
  • Had an internship at a shul
  • Had explicit conversations
  • Became an aunt
  • Wrote tshuvot
  • Lived in New York City
  • Danced with Bill Nye
  • Went to Zurich
  • Felt like my heart was broken but then had it mend a bit

It was by far not an easy year. There were parts that were amazing and parts that had me crying almost daily. I hope that this upcoming year I will feel like I made the right choices. I hope that it is one of growth and feeling of calm. A year that I feel complete.

 

Posted in Life

Taking the Plunge

It has taken me a bit of time to write this, and I think it is because of how nervous I was before going.

I am going to be training to work in a mikvah, and part of the requirement for the training is to go into the mikvah. I signed up for this course because I work with many women (so far no men) that will go to the mikvah. This organization is one that guides people into the mikvah not only because of nida, but also because of other life situations, and I figure it would be a really great tool for me to have as I am about to finish my rabbinical studies very soon.

It took me a long time to sign up for my mikvah slot. I was really nervous. It felt like it was such a big act for me to go into the mikvah. It is not something that I have ever really thought about for myself. It is something that you do if you are married or are having sex, and I fall into neither category. It is something that some do because they are more “spiritual” than I am, marking changes in life or wanting to feel “pure” or “changed” or to mark the transition, but that is not me for the most part. I would also have to be naked with another person in the room, which also made me nervous.

I did sign up, because I needed to. In some ways, it was good because earlier this year I felt the need to go into the mikvah or go swimming naked, but I did not have an opportunity.

It was something that I thought about all day Wednesday. I was thinking about what it means that I am going into a mikvah as a non-married woman; what would other people think if they saw me; what would I say to someone if I saw someone I knew in the waiting room. I had ideas that my first time in the mikvah would be before my wedding. It would be a time that I learned and prepared for. That the next day (or upcoming days) would be when I would have my wedding.

I was also thinking about what it means that it is happening now. I was thinking about the fact that I have basically decided that I will be in NY for another year. I really am marking a change in my life. That the world and life that I had, really is not what I have right now. I am finishing school in only 53 days. I will be starting a real job, be it not my dream job, nor in the city I dreamed I would be in. I am not who I was a year ago.

I was also thinking about what it means to be naked with another person in the room. Even when going to the doctor there is a something covering parts of my body, but here I would be naked, not that the person would look. It has been an interesting year with thinking about my body and nudity. I had a relationship that was quite physical. I’ve been having a conversation with a friend that is very explicit, including pictures, which is different. I’ve been thinking more about my body than I have in years- not in a negative way. And here I would be completely naked, walking into a body of water, with someone else inside.

I got to the mikvah early, and so I took a walk around the block, just trying to calm my nerves. I walked trying to accept NY as a place that has beauty, that can be a place that will give me happiness and fulfillment, that I am making the right choice. As it became closer to the time, I got the Mikvah, but I could not bring myself to walk in. The guide I was meeting said that she would meet me outside or I can wait inside, and I just couldn’t bring myself to walk in. As I finally walked to the door, she was there to greet me.

She was really sweet and patient. I felt silly that I was so nervous but I was. There were so many options as to what I would do in the mikvah, and making the choice was just too over whelming. I felt weird about saying a bracha, because I wasn’t doing this for something other than myself. I didn’t want to say shehechiyanu because I didn’t want this to be real. At first I did tell her I wanted her to watch me go down once. I was unsure if I wanted time alone in the water.

And then it was time to prepare. The bathroom is beautiful with everything that one could need. In a bathroom full of mirrors, I slowly took off my glasses, my necklace, and finally all of my clothing. I was trying to breath through all of this. I got into the shower and showered as usual. I was trying to slow down a bit because I was so nervous, but at the same time I didn’t want her to have to wait for too long. I did not know the time frame that I should be taking. After finishing my shower I went through the check list of things to do – I brushed my teeth, I cleaned out my ears and belly button, I brushed my hair, and took out my nose ring. I then put on the slippers and my robe and walked down the hall.

I was naked under my robe, and I would be taking it off soon. I would be walking into a body of water and everything of me will be touched with the water. I was nervous, and scared, and sad, and excited…

I walked into the mikvah and the guide told me what would happen. In the last minute I did not want her to say anything or check that I went under. Being in the water felt different. It was warm. It was a bit overwhelming. She was standing at the top the stairs with the robe over her eyes. I dunked once, and then immediately felt the need to dunk two more times. I wanted to just stay under the water for as long as I could – to feel the pressure, to feel the warmth, to take in the experience – but I kept bobbing up, it was pushing me out. I thought about staying in the water, but I was too overwhelmed in it. I was unsure of what to do. I both felt calmed and that I couldn’t breath. And so I just walked back up the stairs, put my robe back on and went to get dressed.

It was when I got back into the bathroom that I started crying. There was just so much, and I’m still not even sure what it was. I cried because I felt calmer. I cried because I hope that this is not the only time that I would go to the mikvah. I cried because I am afraid that I will never go to the mikvah for my wedding. I cried because I felt like I wanted to do more, but it just felt like too much.

I was too nervous this time to have a kavanah for going in. I was too overwhelmed to think about what I really wanted or what I wanted to feel.

I do know that after leaving the water, I was warm, in some ways too hot. I was tired. I was calm. I got dressed and brushed my hair. I went upstairs, and luckily no one was there so I didn’t have to see anyone, paid the fee. And walked out into the cold NY air slightly sad, slightly floaty, slightly in thought, and all together calmer than I was when I walked in.