Posted in CPE, Life

Feeling Guilty for Feeling Happy

I’ve been feeling quite strange lately, and I think that I have figured at least part of it out.

I realized that my heart is not breaking every day. I realized that my heart isn’t crying in pain everyday, the truth is at times my heart is singing and is quite comfortable.

I realized that my heart is not yearning to go back to Israel – actually, it is quite fearful of the return. Worrying about what would I actually do there. Worrying about if I studied for so long, why would I go to a country that will not recognize my degree. Worrying about starting over, AGAIN. Worrying over, what if I have to move away again. Worrying about who my friends will be, because by then two years will have past, and I know that I am different, but I also know that all those who I was close with will also be different.

I realized that I am enjoying what I am doing. That the work that I am doing is good for me (although at the same time I am struggling with why I need to be a rabbi for it). I really do like the work at the hospital. I like the staff, I like meeting with the patients (even though I am not always 100% sure that I am doing the right thing).

I realize that I am trying to settle down. I feel like I’m in limbo. I want to decorate my room, I want to make friends, I want to be part of a community – but then again, this job is only for a year, and I know in a few months time I will be looking for a job, which will probably not be in New York.

I realize that this year is a stabalizer, but to be then spun out back into instability and the unknown.

I feel like I know less of what I want to do next now then I did before. There is still a part of me who wants to be in a pulpit. There is still a part of me that wants to be teaching Torah and speaking Torah on a regular basis. There is still a part of me that wants to do the thing that is said to not be able to do be done. But then there is a part of me that is enjoying just doing work that has nothing to do with politics. There is a part of me that is enjoying that quiet. There is a part of me that is enjoying the lack of pain of others (yes, I know that sounds silly as a chaplain) – but what I mean is that those who are working in the system are not in pain from the system, they are not trying to fight a system and constantly be brought down by it, even the system that says they want to help.

I feel like by being a hospital chaplain I am both rebelling and doing the thing I am “supposed to do”. The world of Orthodox female rabbis is that of creating great change in communities, and here I am just working in a hospital- I am no longer part of that fight. I can’t even attend the webinars or conference calls because they are all done at times that never work with my schedule – but they are conversations that are not for me. At the same time, I am doing a job that no one questions. It is not weird in the Orthodox world for a woman to dedicate her life to visiting the sick, it is good “woman’s work”. It is a thing that you can do and you don’t need to have ordination. You are not deciding law. You are not leading congregations. You are not speaking in front of men and teaching Torah. We nurture and we care and we hold others. I am doing the thing that I never wanted to do…I never wanted to be pigeonholed in “women’s work”, but it is what I am doing and where I am finding joy…

Before I left Israel, I mentioned something about wanting to do chaplaincy, and someone told me that I shouldn’t, that I would be letting down Orthodox women. I am told that it is a shame to let my halachic knowledge “go to waste”. It is a shame to not try and push forward in the traditional field, because I know that I can make great changes for others.

So here I am holding both this guilt of doing the easy thing, of not crying all the time, of not mourning and longing my life in Israel – with the fact that work is making me happy.

Posted in Life

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I have written. I’ve been thinking about writing, and then thinking that there isn’t really much to say. Most of my life right now is with CPE – both being at the hospital and being in group. And in group, I have to process A LOT — like we have two days a week of process group and one day a week of individual supervision. By the end of it, I just feel processed out- or that the thoughts in my head are brought out in public (it still makes my heart beat really, really fast) or that I’m just too tired to go through my day again once I am home.

The other thing, is that I think I might be becoming happy again. The truth is, I really like the work I am doing in the hospital. I’m making connections with patients and with staff. I’ve been told from the staff on my floors that they notice my work. On the floor that people told me don’t try to know all the staff, there are so many- I think I know the majority of the staff and they know who I am, and that includes the doctors. For the first time in a while, I feel like I am actually doing something. I am not wasting my day staring at a wall or just listening to the same issues over and over again, knowing that there is nothing can be done except for make myself nothing…

Yes, my job is to sit with people in their pain and suffering. But the difference here at the hospital is that their pain, or at least part of their pain is not caused by Man, it is caused by God. They are not being put through something because of a power struggle or some stupid politics. They are being pushed down by a person who should be helping them up. Yes, being ill and being in the hospital can be scary, frustrating, overwhelming, cause anger – and it would make things so much easier if there was a way to say someone became ill because they did x or because of person y, but there isn’t. With the struggles we were going through, we were able to pin point x and y, and then there was just nothing to do about it.

Other than work, there really isn’t much going on in my life. I still can’t get a date to save my life. (The other day one of the nurse assistants had fun on Jswipe for me- some of the guys she picked were SO not my type, but whatever, it’s not like they will talk to me anyways). I’m still trying to figure out community in the UWS. I’ve decided to just go to shul on Shabbat morning, there is one relatively close to my apartment, and lots of young people go, so I am going there. I’m still trying to find friends. I had a bunch of people for a last minute shabbat dinner last week, and the truth was, I didn’t want to hang out with any of them, but I also didn’t want to sit and eat alone. And as I was talking to F, both of us said that we don’t want to be the host of the misfits/weirdos/still singles….

So that is about it.


Posted in Life, Uncategorized

I Am NOT Ready

Rosh Hashana starts in about 2.5 hours, and I’m sitting here and am completely not ready (Ok, so I showered, but that’s about it).

I’m supposed to speak and I HAVE NO CLUE what I will be saying. None. I haven’t prepared anything. I haven’t had the time (or taken the time or had energy for the time) to prepare both myself for this day and for looking into something to say. My first year out of yeshiva and as a Rabbi, I feel like I know nothing for the holiday.

This year has been so topsy turvy for me just on a personal note (not to mention the world at large). It started in Australia and ended in Colombia. I was in New York. I received smicha. I moved apartments. I started a job. I applied for a job. And now just as I am starting to settle into things, the job I applied to, that I thought didn’t want me, might want me- and that scares me, a lot…

I started a job in the hospital. I know that I know what to do. I know that I am capable to doing it, otherwise they would not have hired me. But there are times that I feel over my head and just not ready. I am knowingly putting myself in a position to open up and be vulnerable (yes, I know that is probably a great thing for me – but still is scary and makes my heart beat fast). There are things that I know I will see more of, and to be honest I’m not really sure if I know the right things to do, how to be comforting, how to be present, how to help families grieve. Just the other day I was in a room with a family as their loved on was gasping for air, even though she had an oxygen mask on. I stood there with the family. Praying, holding them, just being present for 45 minutes. As they watched their wife/sister/daughter gasp for her last breaths. I left the room because I didn’t think I had anything more to say. I look back and in some ways I think it was the right thing, and in other ways, I think of all the things I could have offered. Ways I could have been more forward. Prayers that could have been said more loudly.

Starting next week I will be on call on my own. ME- the ONLY chaplain in the entire hospital for a few hours. And only a week later THE ONLY CHAPLAIN in the ENTIRE HOSPITAL ALL NIGHT!!! Am I really able to do the right thing? Am I the right person? Am I old enough for this… (I guess that is a different reflection)

And then I think about the world. I think about the hurricanes that passed through and the one that is currently passing through. I think of the earthquake in Mexico. I think about all of those who have lost many friends, family and community members. I think of all of those whose house and worldly belongings have been destroyed. I think of those who are sitting in shelters or have no electricity while the storm is happening. It is here that I CRY OUT to God, and ask WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!

And then I think about those who are fleeing their country because of fear of being killed. And I think about all of those who were masqueraded this year. All of those who died by the hand of another person…I think about the governments threatening to create a war that will murder millions upon millions of people- just because. I think about the government wanting to take away health care, in ways that seem like they want to do it, just because they are able. I think about all of those people who are afraid that they will be killed or hurt because of their skin color, their religion, their ethnicity. For those who are afraid that they will have to make the choice between having a home and getting healthy. For those who will start dying in a 1rst world country of diseases we have cures for or things we are working on. It is here THAT I SCREAM TO GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!

I am not ready for Rosh Hashana. I am not ready to stand before the King of Kings. I am not ready to stand there and be reminded that it is the day of judgment. I am not ready to think about what should happen next. I am not ready to read the Unetana Tokef- the prayer that reminds us that this is the day that is decided how the world will look in the upcoming year.

So this ends in a prayer- may this year be a year of peace and tranquility. May You guide the leaders of this world to do good instead of create harm. May all those who have felt loss, find comfort. May those who feel lost, find their way. May those who are ill, find a full healing. May our world return to a time of beauty and hope. May this year be a happy and sweet new year!

Posted in Life

Have You Allowed Yourself to Grieve?

Yesterday I have my first individual supervision for CPE. It did not go the way that I thought it would – this year might be a bit more difficult than I thought it would be (or maybe I knew, but didn’t want to know).

Well, there I was talking about feeling ok in the job so far (it’s only been two weeks). And spoke about the feeling of getting settled in a time of unsettledness. And how I felt exhausted, which he commented that I didn’t look it. I then said well, I am good at working hard and hiding how I tired I am, and spoke about the nursing home. It was then the waterworks started. He commented on me looking glassy eyed and asked why, and then asked me what are the things that would bring me joy- and I said that working in the home actually brought me a lot of joy. But then I was there crying. Talking about how hard last year was. How this year for Rosh Hashana I’m going to work in a nursing home because I don’t yet have a community or a place that even slightly feels at home. Talking about how I just feel like I am floating around like a balloon after leaving everything.

And then he asks, well how did you say Kaddish for this loss? Did you ever take time to grieve?

And of course I didn’t. My answer to him was no because it was my choice to do the things I did, so why should I mourn. How I don’t really think I even have the right to mourn, because I could have just make other choices that would have not made me move or stay longer.

When hearing that out loud, I realize how silly that sounds. I would never tell someone who went through aggressive treatment for something that they should not feel sad or upset they don’t feel well because it was their choice. But to me there is some form of logic to it.

When I told him I feel like I am floating, he told me that he thinks of floating as a way of existing when it is too difficult to feel. I think that there is truth to that. I am going along, getting from A to B, but not really sure what else is going on. Everything else seems too big and too overwhelming. It is much easier for me to deal with other people’s thoughts, feelings and pain. I still find it hard to allow myself to get to the place of actually feeling. The truth is, it scares me. It scares me that I can feel that much pain, and that really there isn’t much that can be done about it. It scares me to open myself up and allow others to know that I am in such pain, but because I don’t know if they will be there for me (which is something I felt greatly lacking last year in process group in school- they would push me to open up, and then nothing was done with my openness).

Each unit of CPE we have to have learning goals. He thinks that an area for me to explore is grief. My own personal grief, grief in theology, and grief in the hospital- what are areas of grief for my patients. At the time of the meeting I said maybe it’s not grief, but rather displacement. But after thinking about it more, displacement just feels easier to speak about. When I think about the things that scare me the most, it is actually about being with families while/after someone dies, really in that time of grief and mourning. I don’t know if I am able to be the one to be there (although I know that I will have to).

I think that I am also a bit resistant to talk about grief, because grief feels like there was a permanent loss, and I still have hope to go back to where I was. I know that it will not be the same, both because I have changed and because everyone changed to. But saying to mourn that feels more permanent. But maybe that is one way to look at it – that was a specific time in life, and now is the next. It was not a time of positive transition and change, but rather one of devastation and brokenness- and the only way to come back around is become whole again…

Am I ready to just jump in and push myself into this process? Do I trust that those I am with will understand and support me? Maybe it is the thing that I was missing last year (or I thought my sadness was about one thing last year, but maybe it was really about something else)?


Posted in Life

Goodbye the Year of Transitions and Moving (also known as 31) – Hello the Year of the Heart (also known as 32)

I usually do a birthday update, but I haven’t yet, and my English birthday was about a week ago (my Hebrew birthday was over Shabbat).

I kinda feel strange at this birthday. I thought about posting something on Facebook, but in the end didn’t. In some ways it felt too personal and in others it felt too mundane, there are bigger things going on in the world, why care about this (or better yet, why am I caring about this- yes I know I am allowed to).

32 just seems old. My parents had 2 kids by the time they were 32, and I just moved into a shared apartment in the city. I have somewhat accomplished things in the world, but not all that much. I guess I was hoping that I would be more settled at this point in time in my life, and it was this year (and especially this summer) that I felt completely topsy-turvy and lost.

I chose to go to my brother in Baltimore instead of stay in NYC. The truth is I didn’t really know what I would do on my birthday here, so instead of potentially sitting alone in my apartment, I went to be with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew.

It was also this week that I moved and started my new job, so I was a bit overwhelmed to think about becoming a year older. I was just overwhelmed with everything.

It was also the day that I got a call from my dream job to tell me that most likely I won’t get it now because I was not willing to commit to 5 years (I said 3). But I don’t see myself signing a contract to move anywhere for 5 years, when I also hope to get married, and if that happens I would have to work out with my husband where we can and should live – it won’t only be up to me.

It was also a week that hurricanes and fires started taking over parts of the world (in addition there was all the stuff with Korea and immigration). It makes me worried about what this world is coming to. My heart goes out to all those who have lost – who have lost their loved ones, their physical memories, their homes, their sense of stability. It is devastating to see pictures of cities demolished, wondering how and when will they ever be rebuilt.

So yes, my birthday was a bit out of focus. Again, year three of not really being near the people I would want to celebrate with. But I do think that 31 was a big year. A lot happened with a lot of transitions. A lot of things that are actually kinda mundane. I am very grateful that I had the opportunities to explore the world this past year. It was also a year of great sadness, loneliness and feeling unsure (and extremely unsettled). I did not have any romantic relationships. I don’t feel like I made many close friends.  It was also the year that I fulfilled my goal of becoming a rabbi. The five years of working and fighting finally came to an end- and now it is up to me to see what happens next.

Let’s see if I can do a list of 31 for 31…

  1. Moved to Australia
  2. Held a job as a scholar in residence (assistant rabbi) of a shul- and people respected me in that way).
  3. Taught at an embassy
  4. Saw kangaroos
  5. Met MP’s
  6. Swam in the Great Barrier Reef
  7. Saw the Sydney Opera House
  8. Became an aunt
  9. Had someone buy me a drink
  10. Moved to NYC
  11. Spoke in a shul in NYC
  12. Danced with Bill Nye
  13. Randomly went to Carnegie Hall for a show
  14. Wrote a Teshuva
  15. Tried to repair my heart from being broken after having to leave what I thought of as home…spent a lot of time crying.
  16. Allowed myself to be part of conversations I never would have in the past
  17. Unintentionally became a singles advocate (at least within my Yeshiva)
  18. Flew monthly to Chicago
  19. RECEIVED SMICHA!!!!!!!!
  20. Took the train NY to Toronto
  21. Taught in Toronto
  22. Taught in Atlanta
  23. Felt like a real business person flying into and out of a city on the same day
  24. Had a week where I went dancing outdoors almost every day
  25. Lived on my own for an entire year
  26. Went to Colombia
  27. Taught in multiple cities in Colombia and even had a translator
  28. Went to a Colombian wedding and left “early” at 11:30pm
  29. Moved to another place in NYC (props for finding one)
  30. Took the chance and applied to a dream job even though it terrified me
  31. Started a new job as a chaplain in a hospital

My brother pointed out that 32 is לב (Lev), which means heart. May this year be full of heart and love. May I find the ways not only to share my love but to also receive love. I pray that for this upcoming year that I am able to feel whole again, that I am able to feel some form of being settled. I hope that I am able to figure out where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing there. I hope (once again) that I am able to find partnership, so that I am no longer doing this on my own. I hope to find someone who is able to bring me partnership not only emotionally and intellectually, but also physically. Someone I can build a life and a home with. I pray that I make the right choices. I pray that my work this year does not burn me out. I pray that I am able to find a good balance between my work with others and finding time to enrich myself. I pray that my years of sitting in the Beit Midrash do not go to “waste” as I am focusing on people this year. I pray that this is a year of good- of good health, good living, good being.

So here is to 32!


Posted in Life

Lots of New

This week was crazy.

Firstly there is the craziness of all that is happening in the world. Major cities flooding. Rockets being shot over countries. Insane politics still being the way they are.

And then I find the craziness in my own personal life.

I was supposed to start work at the hospital on Monday, but I was not yet cleared medically, so I had to go on Monday to get the second part of the TB test, but I was not going to start work till Wednesday. Monday I took the day to get my haircut, go to the MET and see a friend. (It was my first time in the MET, such an amazing museum).

Tuesday I was in NJ, and realized I had no clue where my shoes were, so I had to run out to buy emergency shoes (I needed a new pair of flats anyways, this just expedited the process as I HATE shoe shopping) as I was to start work on Wednesday. So Tuesday was a day of laundry, packing, packing up my dad’s car, finding shoes (I did), going back to NY to stay at a friend so I would not have a 2 hour commute on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was my first day of work. I planned on waking up at 6:30, but I was up at 5:30. Well, first I got to the hospital early and made sure I don’t have TB (I don’t). And then I got to the chaplaincy department, and found out I was an hour early- no one shows up till 9. I was given a very short tour (mostly just to get to where I have to check in). I met the other chaplains and other residents- all very nice, but I feel very different. It was a day of orientation- hearing different chaplains speak, learning some of the process as to what happens, what are some of our responsibilities. And then there was a party. Some of the things in the hospital are the same as what I am used to (it is a branch that is part of the hospital I worked for last summer), but there are some things that are new (like some of the charting changed), and some is just the culture of the hospital (like I have a desk and a computer, and we are in an area that actually looks like an office, and people walk fast…)

[The other residents at my hospital are both in their 50’s, both women, one is a nondenominational Christian minister, and the other a nun. They are both very emotional, and are changing their carriers, and really want to go into chaplaincy. I am still torn, and feel floating].

If starting a brand new job wasn’t enough, Wednesday I also moved apartments. My parents came in and dropped off all of my stuff. I unpacked most of my stuff, went out and bought things I needed ASAP, and then went out to dinner with someone from Australia (a person I didn’t meet, but was in contact with). And to make things a bit crazier in my brain, I found out I am on the short list for the job I applied to…

Well, needless to say Thursday I woke up EXHAUSTED. I felt like I was going to fall over. I was so thankful when I got to work and found out that we would be able to leave at 3. It was more orientation, charting and the such. And then we took a trip to another hospital that we cover when we are on call. There we went on a tour and learned a bit about the population there. We finished early, and I made it home by 3:30. I immediately passed out and didn’t wake up till 5. I still felt very out of it. My body was sore from standing and walking and lifting heavy things. One of my roommates had friends over, one of which I knew, so I met some new people, which was good. I also went food shopping which was necessary. And then passed out again.

Today we finally went onto the floors. It is such a different hospital than the one I worked in last summer. It is bigger, but feels like there are less people. I am covering a floor with three units, that have about 100 beds. They range from psych patients to those who the hospital doesn’t know what to do with to the palliative care beds. (I’ll also be on the outpatient oncology ward). The staff seem to know the pastoral care staff less than at the other hospital. It will be an interesting challenge to get to know all of the staff and for them to get to know me and what I can (and what my colleagues can) do.

I got home for Shabbat and my body is just exhausted. My legs and feet are tired. My brain is tired. I just want to curl up and not have to make decisions (thank God for good friends so I don’t have to deal with Shabbat planning). I also decided last minute to go to my brother on Saturday night, so I will be in Baltimore for two days. It is also where I will be spending my birthday, as I have no idea what else I want to be doing (I’m too tired, anxious, tense, to plan that, at least right now).

So here is the last Shabbat of 31.

I hope that this Shabbat brings peace and calm to all those who need it.

Shabbat Shalom! 🙂

Posted in Life

My Words are not Enough- But I Don’t Know What Else to Do Right Now

I don’t really understand what is happening in the US right now. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention. But maybe things have just gotten worse.

I thought this was a fight that my grandparents and parents fought. It was my grandfather that stood with Martin Luther King Jr. My grandfather who fought for civil rights. My father and mother who fought again blatant antisemitism. My grandparents who had to hide their Jewish heritage so they would be accepted or at least not spit at.

And here we are in the US in 2017 and there are Neo Nazis allowed to protest. That are not stopped by the police. That are allowed to call for the destruction of other people just based on their religion and color of their skin – an the authorities did nothing.

In the past couple of months this has been happening more and more. There have been destruction of holy spaces for religions that are not Christian. There has been desecration of places that show support to those who are not white or straight or living in the way that “they” think one is “supposed to”. There has been physical violence – people getting punched, kicked, shot at, and run over- all because they are being deemed as “different” — and the government is allowing this to happen.

Have we not learned anything in history? Have we not been able to grow as people in the past years? Have we already forgotten all of the pain and suffering and outright destruction that can and will happen if we allow this to continue?

We denounce it when it happens in other countries- but why not when it happens in America?

America is supposed to be the place of freedom – the freedom to choose, the freedom to be – and we are still judging people based on their skin and religion, we are still not giving equal rights to all US citizens.

I am angry and I am very scared. I want to stand up and fight, but I don’t really feel like I know how. I am scared that no matter how much I or others put up to protest nothing will change.

Maybe I should have spoke up earlier. Maybe I am not saying anything new. Maybe I am just whining.

But right now I think something needs to happen. Something needs to change. We can not continue this way…