Posted in Rabbinical School

The Big Day

I’m no longer a rabbinical student!

After 5 years, I am now allowed to call myself rabbi. After thinking that such a thing was never possible, it is now real!

It was not easy and there were a lot of tears that came with these past years. A lot of fighting. Of standing up for myself and others. Of finding ways to push myself and prove that I am able to do this job. Of being broken, really broken, and finding ways to slowly put myself back together again- maybe into something else. I am no longer the same person I was (although I do hope to get back some of my old optimism and drive).

Even though this was not mentioned at the chag hasmicha, one of the things I am proudest of is being able to study at a high level in Hebrew. I was able to learn and interact with the text in their original language. I was able to write exams in Hebrew, and still be able to pass. My teacher saw me as someone who was smart and capable.

I was seen even as a student as one who can be a halachic decider. I was encouraged to take my skills and think through problems, and give my own answers. I learned from my teachers not only to look at the law but to also look at the person, to look at the situation. I know that my drive is to be lenient, but I have been able to prove why those leniencys  are legitimate.

The Chag Hasmicha was beautiful and full of joy. There were 400 people that attended in person and an unknown amount that attended virtually. The room was buzzing and just excited to be there. All the anxiety that I had going into it left. Each of us graduates spoke, each in our own voices.

I had so many friends that were there. My friends were finally able to meet one another. I had teachers there. My family was there. I had students there. I did feel like certain people were missing, but I knew that they would not be able to attend as they were so far away.

I’m still in shock that this actually happened. And now I have the summer to explore NY. I have nothing really planned until I start my job at the hospital (minus finding a new apartment).

One of the rabbis who spoke gave one word per person- my word was vision (or visionary. He added after the ceremony that other words he thought of were confident and poised). After so long of hearing what I wasn’t good at, it was interesting to hear this very positive and strong qualities being called out in front of others. That it is not just myself who notices my confidence, that it is something that comes through. And that he and others see my vision- which I really hope I never lose.

I really do hope that all of the pain and hurt lead to something positive. I hope that I don’t fully loose my hope, ambition, vision or drive. I hope that I don’t lose my love and ability to work with the law.

I’m still a bit overwhelmed, and it is weird to be going around with this newness about me. I both want it to change me and I still want to be me. But for now I’m just going to see what happens.

Here is my speech:

In a bracha that I wrote for last year’s musmachot, I said “none of us got here by chance or because it was expected of us. We are here because we felt the desire or the need or the compulsion to do this with our lives, even if when we were children it was not a possibility. “  

Each of us here today felt the need to fill this role. We pursued our studies of Torah, despite all who said we can’t and shouldn’t. We chose to be pioneers, going into unknown, potentially dangerous territory, knowing that we will forever be creators and innovators. We follow in the paths of the “firsts” who came before us, those who chose to defy what is expected of them, those who were strong enough to ask why not, those who also were blessed with support from their family and friends.

Recently I completed the tractate of Baba Batra. I wanted the completion of a mesechet to coincide with my receiving of smicha. Today I am both marking the completion of my formal studies and committing to continuing my studies.In the text of the siyum, we say:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אלקי, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁעֲזַרֽתַּנִי לְסַיֵים מַסֶּכֶת _____, כֵּן תּֽעַזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל מְסֶכְתוֹת וּסֽפָרִים אַחֵרים וּלְסַיֵימָם, לִלְמֹד וּלְלַמֵּד, לִשְׁמֹר וְלַעֲשׂוֹת וּלְקַיֵּם אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָתְךָ בְּאַהֲבָה

We, thank God for helping us complete the tractate, and in the same breath we ask God to help us “to start other tractates and books, and to complete them, to learn and to teach, to observe and to enact and to fulfill all the words of the teachings of your Torah with love.”

So this afternoon, I say to God, thank You for helping me complete these years of study, and may this not be the end of my Torah learning. May You help each of us start new books, forge new paths, begin new jobs, and dream up new dreams, so that we will be able to complete, learn, teach, enact and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love.

My thoughts I shared on Facebook:

OMG (I can’t think of something better to start with) I’m a Rabbi!!
Way back when in college people would joke (mostly seriously) that I should become a rabbi. I always said that it wasn’t possible, and everyone would tell me don’t worry, you’ll find a way. Well here I am, 9 years after graduating college celebrating receiving smicha. [According to my father, in my 8th grade year book they said that I would be a rabbi- I don’t remember this though, I’ll have to go into the storage unit and check].
Even at this hour, I am still in shock and awe that today happened. The ceremony was beautiful and full of joy. I am so happy and lucky to have sat on the bima with such amazing women, and now join the women who have come before me, who will continue to do great work in the world.
There are so many people that I feel I need to thank (sorry if it is a bit rambly). Thank you to my parents who encouraged me to dream big and to try- even when it doesn’t exist. Who encouraged me to learn and engage in Torah, even if it wasn’t the norm. Who were the first ones to seriously suggest that I pursue such a path. Thank you to my siblings who put up (mostly) with my craziness and the craziness that comes along with having a sibling that “everyone knows”.
Thank you to my teachers- even those from way back in elementary school who taught be and showed me how to love Torah and learning. Thank you to those who pushed me and challenged me to try harder, to think more, to ask questions. Thank you to those who started me out on this path of smicha and those teachers who I was able to learn from, in the last few months. Thank you to the many chevrutot throughout the years- I know I would not think the way I do now if it wasn’t for learning from you.
Thank you to everyone who came in person today. It was amazing to see so many people from so many different parts of my life. [it was also the first time some of my closest friends from these different parts of life met each other, which is also crazy and cool].
I had a high school teacher there [who reminded me, that he said he taught us that in our life time we would see women receiving smicha) and a teacher from college. Friends from almost every place I have been since middle school, there were people from middle school, high school, college, Pardes, Australia, Midreshet Lindenbaum, Israel- and probably people I am forgetting.)
Thank you to everyone who sat by their computer and watched a live stream of the ceremony (or at least tried to). I know that you wanted to be there in person, and it means so much to me that you took out part of your day (or even the middle of the night) to celebrate with me [also, thank God for the internet].
Thank you for all of the amazing brachot, well wishes and support that keep on coming through on Facebook, email, text and calls. Thank you being with me during these past 5 (or 7) years of intense study to do this crazy thing. I don’t think I can ever express how thankful I am and how lucky I know I am, to have so many people, all around the world, from so many parts of my life- supporting me, encouraging me, and just being my friend.
As I said this afternoon, “I say to God, thank You for helping me complete these years of study, and may this not be the end of my Torah learning. May You help each of us start new books, forge new paths, begin new jobs, and dream new dreams, so that we will be able to complete, learn, teach, enact and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love.” May whatever is next only be for good.

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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, Rabbinical School, Women in Judaism

I Will Persist

It has been a very long and tiring week, full of lots of different thoughts and feelings.

I think that I cried at least once a day. I feel a bit overwhelmed.

I have the desire to fight too many things. I want to help with the fight for refugees, for schools, women rights, Dakota Pipe Line, Black Lives Matters, stopping deportations… I also have my own personal fight in the world of Orthodox women. There is just so much and so much that is real and necessary, and I am having a hard time figuring out what to fight for.

To keep things making sense, I will not write about the learn-in at JFK- maybe I will post about that another time. I will also not write about US politics, but rather this is about the my personal fight within the religious system.

Where am I in this fight. So part of me feels like I talk about it too much. I feel like I should be over it. I feel like I should know what I am in and just accept it. I also know that I am one of the lucky ones. I am lucky because I have family and friends who are very supportive of what I do. Very rarely am I trying to convince those who are close to me that I am doing something worth while. My friends and family are there for me. When I posted on Facebook, I only got messages of encouragement. Messages telling me that they admire what I am doing; that I am doing something worthwhile; that I should continue fighting. But I read the other articles, I hear the messages that my friends get, I am not naive and I know that is not what the majority of the world looks like- and so I know that I need to push myself to speak out.

Yesterday I wrote three things that went out to the public. Writing is the thing that I find that I am the worst at. I am worried that my words are not written correctly; that people are going to find fault with it; that I am not really saying what I want to say. But apparently I said exactly what people wanted. Apparently the message that I always got, that I am not good at writing might not necessarily be true. Maybe I should post things publicly and I shouldn’t be afraid of sounding stupid.

I think also about the fight I am willing to fight. One of the ways that many of the women in my program get jobs is by convincing a shul that they should hire me. I broke down crying the other day realizing that I don’t have the energy to fight anymore – especially the inside ones. I know that not everyone in the world will accept what I am doing, nor do I think that they need to, and so getting a message from those people doesn’t really matter so much. But I don’t have the energy to constantly be trying to prove myself and fight for my job even when I have it already. I am not naive- I know there are always politics. I know that there is always things a person does to make sure that they are necessarily and good at their job – that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the fight to prove that I actually have accreditation; or that I am worthy enough for such a job; or just to prove that they made the right choice because they too are now openly part of this fight. To do that, I don’t have the energy in me. I am burnt out. I am tired. I am angry.

I also am feeling very lonely in all of this. Yes, I have people out there in support of me – which don’t get me wrong, is really amazing. But I am lonely. I want to have a partner. I want to have someone to come home to – to talk to; to hold me in the times that I am down; to be there to push me; to do things with that have nothing to do with any of this. It is even more part of my focus because I am looking for a job. There are jobs that I can not apply to – certain jobs will not even look at me because I am not married. There are jobs that I personally would have a problem applying to because they are based in areas that the marriage prospects are slim to none. So even though in the past, I found ways to push away this desire when I couldn’t see it, now it is constantly in my face. I have a desire to be with someone and to get married, and I’m not getting even close to it, and it is in my face every single day, in every single conversation about getting a job or what I am doing next.

It is also a conversation I don’t feel like I can have. I feel like I am not supposed to have sexual desire, and if I do I definitely shouldn’t act on it. I feel like if I talk so much about getting married, then I fall into the category of the sad single person. That I should be “happy” with my single status, because I am able to move to wherever and there is nothing tying me down. That I should learn to be on my own because I can’t or shouldn’t find happiness or wholeness in another person — But guess what I have done it. I have been alone this ENTIRE time. Everything I have done is alone because I have yet to find someone. So I know very well how to do it alone. I know how to fight and pick myself up. I know how to push. I know how to go places and not be afraid to sell myself, to make jobs want me. BUT I DON’T WANT TO ANY MORE!!!! But for now I don’t have an option…

This week, a few of us from school changed our Facebook profile pictures to have a text overlay saying “She was warned. She was given and explanation. She persisted.” To me this means a number of things. One it is to look back and around me at all the women in history that have defied expectations and limitations. One is to try and bring conversation to other women (or those who feel marginalized) to recognize their contributions – that they have strength that they might not have thought they did. One is to let others know that I will continue fighting. To acknowledge the fact that I know that I am doing something big (even though we are told not to brag). And maybe the most important of all, it is a message to myself. It is a reminder to myself that no matter what I have been told and no matter how many times I will be pushed down or have obstacles thrown at me – I will persist. I will create change. I will fulfill my dream.

 

 

Posted in Rabbinical School, Women in Judaism

I’m Still Here Learning and Pushing

This fight that I am part of is overwhelming. The responses I have gotten to my Facebook page have also been overwhelming.

Once again an Orthodox organization has put out a statement that women cannot be clergy. They are a major organization that helps many shuls and schools across the country. They are a major organization that many look to for halachic guidance. They are a major organization that really does influence parts of the orthodox community.

I am just tired of fighting for my legitimacy to exist. I am tired of being a woman. I am tired of others to constantly feel like they need to put up road blocks (although one could say that if they didn’t think we were a real threat, there wouldn’t be articles written every other year).

In school yesterday we had a meeting about this statement. We know this organization has been planning this statement for over a year. In school we have spoken about our response – both in the theoretical, and now in the practical. One of the ideas from our teachers is to basically do guerrilla theatre in cafes in different towns, just having us sit and learn to show to the world that we are doing it and we are serious. Many of the women are against this idea – I actually think it will be great (if it is planned correctly). The other ideas, which were better accepted, was for us to write articles- either what we each of us are doing in the world, against what this organization said, or just divrei Torah. Another idea floating around is to bring people in to be with us in our Beit Midrash ( but this sits less with me because we will only get the people who already support us).

One thing that many of my classmates did last night was to post on Facebook what our past week looked like. I for I think the first time, posted on Facebook some of my frustrations of this argument. I use this blog to talk about my frustrations and anger- I rarely post it publicly or with my name.

So yesterday I posted:

I rarely talk about this on this forum. I also think there are way more important things going on in the world to talk about. But once again, my colleagues and my legitimacy are brought into question. We must prove that we have the knowledge, ability and worth to do what we are doing.
Over the past five years I have spent my entire week sitting in a Beit Midrash learning halacha and Talmud. I have taught on four continents. I have met with people because they were searching for guidance or a listening ear. I have guided people through life cycle events- both those that bring joy and those that cause great sorrow.
Just this week I was researching if and when we consider peace of mind pikuach nefesh and spoke to a Chinese medicine practitioner, homeopath and midwife for a shayla. Learned some Baba Metzia, and kept up (and went ahead, so maybe I will finish by ordination) with Daf Yomi. I will be teaching a class next Tuesday, Saturday, maybe Sunday and then off to my internship in Chicago on Friday. Despite what might be said from various organizations and the fighting I have done and will probably always (unfortunately) have to do- I will receive smicha and I will get a job.
Can we now move on and worry about the real troubling issues happening in the world?

To be honest, I was overwhelmed by the response. I had teachers and friends telling me that they believe in me, my fight, or support me. For the first time, there were many people (men included) speaking out either against this statement that was made or in support of institutions training women for smicha.

I have lots of thoughts of what should happen next. I feel very overwhelmed with the state of the world right now, and truthfully feel bad that I have to spend energy fighting this, when I do think there are greater concerns in the world right now. But I do think that we need to do things. I think that sitting in a room and talking is just a container for frustrations that gets no where. I want to go out and teach, even though it is scary and and hard. I want these men who have power in the institutions they are working for (like if they are a rabbi of a school or a shul) to bring in a woman (or many) as scholars in residence, or even better offer internships or a real job. I want people to put their words and ideas into action. I understand that there might be some loss in it – but just talking about support does nothing.

I know that at times I don’t feel the energy to fight. I know that I was burned pretty badly and it made me bitter.

But I need to remember why I started this in the first place. I just want to be a rabbi because it is where I think I can do the best work based on my skill set. Even though I might feel tired and angry, I need to remember that there really are people out there supporting me and think that this needs to happen- I am not alone. I need to keep on pushing on and believe (even when it is hard) that I can and will achieve my goal, and change the world.

via Daily Prompt: Overwhelming

Posted in Life, Rabbinical School

The Next Step

Today I had an interview. It was my first (maybe only…) interview for what I will be doing next.

I am very conflicted about what I want the outcome to be.

The interview was for CPE residency in a hospital. It is a really good hospital and a really great job. I would be doing things similar to what I did over the summer, just full time and with overnights, and for an entire year. It will be a hard year, but a year of support. A year where people will push me, but also will be there for me. A year that I will really be out of the Orthodox bubble and out of everything that I know from rabbinical school.

But then there is the voice in my head telling me that I am giving up. I am taking the easy route. I went into this field to be a rabbi – a rabbi of a shul nonetheless, and I’m not even going to try. I am giving up on my 7 years of learning halacha to sit with people, and not even Jewish people. I am taking yet another year in my life before doing a real job – as this is only one year.

Or maybe this is what I am meant to do. I have always had a part of me that loved working with people and being with them. But then again, I love working in the Jewish community…even though at times I want to leave.

I know that I have a lot to give. That I am good at the teaching and community building. I am good at doing the stuff that happens in a shul, as I learned in Australia. I also know, that I know a lot of Halacha and should do something with it. That I have the real power to be a voice in Jewish history. That I am part of that change – and if I don’t go that way, then am I giving up?

I really loved my work in Australia. I really felt like I was doing what I was meant to do. I was treated as an equal; I was treated as a rabbi; I was part of the community. I want that again. I want to really be part of something; something that the shul really wants and that the rabbi really wants.  I want a real job, not one that was created for me. I want to be my own person and not tied to some benefactor – no matter how kind they might be. I don’t want to be chained to schools. When one leaves a program they should not still be attached…how am I ever going to be my own person that way?

I’ve been meaning to call a woman who is a navy chaplain to explore that idea, mostly because other people have told me to look into it. But I have yet to make that call…

Part of me feels like I am reaching for anything because really all I want is to feel settled and to feel some form of stability. I am reaching outside of the pulpit rabbi world because I have not heard anything from school until a meeting today, where I was told that I was in the wrong not to tell the woman who is barely in school that I feel like they have nothing they are looking into. Apparently the way that it works for shul work is they find a shul and push – but she wasn’t sure that was what I wanted – even though that is what I said. I’m damned if I have a plan B, and I know I would be damned if I don’t have a plan B.

I really do think that doing CPE residency would be really great. I think that I would learn a lot both about the job, but also about myself – which is something I haven’t really taken the time to do. I think that not having to move to another city or country in 6 months is quite relieving, although I guess the truth is that I would have to move again in a year- so why put off the inevitable. I think that being again in a job that I don’t need to fight just to prove that I have the right to exist is really appealing.

Because really, all I want is to just exist and not to fight…

PS. If anyone has suggestions, ideas, thoughts, etc. please feel free to share

Posted in Life, Rabbinical School

Cult of Single Blessedness

Yesterday at school we had a full day seminar on the changing American Jewish family. For the most part I think that it was done very well.

The first session was basically statistics. Statistics of intermarriage, marriage, and divorce. I don’t think I was very surprised with the statistics.

There is a statistic that the more women are invited into religious practice the more men leave. I was thinking about this fact, and I wonder if we are moving too much to the emotional side, and forgetting about the benefit of the logic side. There is a lot of talk about the great things of the different ways that women think or what women are “adding” to the conversation – but that way doesn’t work for everyone. But we see that the emotional side is missing, so our focus is only there- now even in men’s yeshivas. I think that part of the problem is actually the separation of sexes for studying and so many interactions. If we joined together more often, then I think we would be able to find a balance, or a way to go back and forth and allow for both models to be real.

There was a comment by the first speaker that Jewish men are not interested in Jewish women. That they don’t find Jewish women sexy. I think that something that she didn’t take into consideration, is that many Jewish men don’t know how to interact with women. They either will make rude comments, or speak without thinking, or just don’t realize that things they are saying are inappropriate, or are nervous or shy and just don’t know what to do. (Her thinking it is the woman’s fault is not so surprising based on her comments at the end of the day….will get there soon.)

Something very interesting that was said, was that men today, even orthodox men are more feminist in their thinking. I commented that I don’t feel that men are supportive of what I am doing, that they are some of the least supportive. The speaker commented though, and rightly so- that they are for women working, and being a CEO or a doctor or a lawyer, or that they are for women getting equal pay. And that is being feminist. She is very right. I never thought about that, but then it makes me so much angrier. Why is it that they are ok with that and not with what I want to do? Maybe it’s just that they grew up with that model already and so it is easier to accept.

She also spoke about how unmarried mothers by choice, are more greatly accepted in communities than just single people. I don’t think that is so surprising, considering the community is so family based. They are interested in the family programming, they have kids to go to programs with, they are able (and not annoyed) to talk about strollers, schools, pediatricians, etc, which are things that those who don’t have children are unable to do.

The second session was on being single. The first person on the panel spoke about single women in 19th Century America. It was during that time that women in general were part of the “cult of domesticity”- you were at home at helped with home stuff, and then you got married and you lead the home stuff. There were apparently always women who never got married, and they were considered “cult of single blessedness”- they would help with home stuff, but sometimes travel for it, or be the one to replace someone, because they didn’t have anyone else to take care of. They were mobile in a way that others were not. But they were also just expected to do what was missing, rather than being their own person.

She also spoke about Rebecca Gratz (who is a super cool woman and did a lot of amazing things). She was single, but started major organizations that helped not only her community but the greater city. She was unique in the matter that she was able to do all this and still be single. The NCJW would not regularly accept single women at the time, but they did accept her. I think that makes sense- she would not be accepted into a regular program, so she just started her own. She was strong and able to create, and so she did. She was not going to be put off by those who did not accept her.

The other women didn’t say anything else new about singleness in the Jewish community. One woman said that she thinks that getting married should not be seen as a goal- because it is not necessarily attainable. There are many people who do “everything” they can- sign up for websites, live in the “right cities”, speak to everyone- and still don’t find a mate. Another person spoke about a cycle of singleness- that we are all ways in times of being in relation to another person- so it is not a goal or something you get to do.

I do wish we spoke about the halachic issues of talking about sex and shomer negiah for “older” singles. Are we as an observant Jewish community really expecting single people in their 30’s and 40’s to never hold hands? What do we do with their desires? Or do we just not talk about it, and people do it in secret, and we just accept that people are sinning?

We had a panel on divorce. It was fascinating to hear from all four about how we we should interact with it in the same way we might with death and mourning.  It was very moving to hear from two women about their divorce experience and creating blended families. It is not an easy process, and I really believe that we need to have more sensitivity. Not only during the time of divorce, but after too, especially if there are kids and there are life cycle events.

The day I think was really nice for the most part. I think that the conversation about singleness was true and sensitive. I think that the conversation about divorce was moving and eye opening. Even the conversation, where it seemed like we had “token” representatives of “different” families was done tastefully and the speakers were eloquent and informative.

But then at the very end, the key note speaker gave some key points from the day, and spoke about how she thinks that marriage is an attainable goal. It is all about being in the right places. And if we are not married it is because we are not trying hard enough- we aren’t talking to people, or signing up for things, or giving guys a chance. It was then that I (and most of the group, especially those of us who are not married) got really angry. It was very clearly not a key point for the day and I think it is a horrible idea. She basically called those of us not married failures.

I don’t want to be the one who speaks constantly for “single” rights- but lately, I feel like I need to. I want to show that yes I can do things. Yes people should take me seriously. Yes, I do want to get married, but at the same time I am not going to put my life on hold because I am not. So maybe for the time being I will join the cult of single blessedness (also because it sounds really cool) and do everything I can during this time.