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 Women in Judaism

A Woman’s Place

I find that women’s spaces are ones of pain. Too many of us have been hurt and carry that with us. Too many have been wronged, especially by men in their lives. Almost every one of us can tell a story of when we were abused, either physically or emotionally, or both.

Women’s spaces are ones of doubt. Women not believing in themselves, second guessing what they are doing, trying to prove that they are better – even though they are already great. It is about knowing that we do have to be better if we want to be respected, because people on the outside do doubt us.

Women’s spaces are full of asking for permission. They are about looking to an authority for approval. They are waiting for someone to invite or acknowledge. They are about allowing someone else to decide what you can do and remembering to play the game, as you don’t want to be too strong on your own. They are about proving one’s worth, hoping that someone else will see that and help you push through – because that is the only way.

Women’s spaces are places of need. Needing the people in charge. Needing the people around. Needing affirmation. Needing explaining. One is told to be independent, but then told that you shouldn’t be too independent – no one will hire you; no one will marry you. You need to be weak on the outside, but strong on the inside, but there is only so long before the outside seeps in.

Women’s spaces are about proving that you are able to do what men can do, maybe even better. Women’s spaces are about showing that you don’t need men, even though most of the time, they are the ones in charge. Women’s spaces are about showing how different and special they are, because they are not seeing it themselves or hearing it from the outside.

I wish that this wasn’t the case. I wish that women’s spaces were filled with confidence. I wish that they were filled with a place of respect and not belittling. I wish it was a space that allowed me to have autonomy and not feel like a child. I wish they were spaces that were not about recovering from hurt and brokenness. I wish they were places that we can just do what we are doing without any of this hanging in the air.

Posted in D'var Torah, Women in Judaism

From Sara to Rivka: Unfinished Thoughts on Parshat Vayera

While sitting in shul this Shabbat I realized the amount that women in this past week’s Parsha, Parshat Va’yera.

There is Sara. First we hear about her cooking for her guest. Then her getting taken by Avimelech. Then she gives Hagar to Avraham, and eventually kicks Hagar out. Avraham is commanded by God to listen to the words of Sara. Then Sara is “remembered” and gives birth.

There is Hagar. She is given over to Avraham and conceives quickly. She is then sent out, and has a conversation and promise from God.

There are Lot’s daughters that are almost sent out to an angry mob for them to do what they please. Lot’s wife who when leaving Sodom turns around and turns to a pillar of salt. And then again Lot’s daughters deciding that the world has ended and they need to repopulate the world, so they get their father drunk and sleep with him.

At the very end of that Parsha we hear about the birth of Rivka, who will take a prominent role in the upcoming weeks.

Now the truth is, most of these stories are not so happy. There is a lot of conflict or a bit of sadness that comes with them all. At the same time we see a lot of power given to each of these women. It is because of each of them that story is able to continue. Each one of these women acts in their own will. They do not ask for permission to act, they just act. They are spoken to by God, not through another person.

I don’t have a good conclusion (I need to work on that, these are just some intial thoughts), but there has to be something to learn from this (and not that women can’t make good choices because then bad things will happen).

 

Posted in Life, Rabbinical School, Women in Judaism

On Dating and Going Out as a (almost) Rabbi

My time here in Australia is great. I am really enjoying the work- teaching, meeting people, going to events at embassies. At times it is really busy (this week I’m giving 5 classes and 3 sermons…) But all in all, I feel like I am doing what I want to be doing- which is really amazing.

I also realized that I have friends, which is really nice. I was sitting at Shabbat lunch with my house full of people, and thinking to myself, wow I’m here for 6 weeks and I have friends.

Something I realized though this weekend is what it means to be known as “the rabbi”.

So, friends of mine convinced me to go on Jswipe. I am not so into it in general, but I figured ok, if I don’t find someone to go on  date with, maybe I will find new friends in the area. I have tried Jswipe a few times before, and usually no one writes me or swipes right. But someone did, and then we started talking. And it turned out that he lives very close to me and is part of the Jewish community (there is only one here). And so when he asked what I am doing here, and I said I am the scholar in residence, his answer was “oh, I heard about you…” Yes, there have been articles about me, and it has been spoken about in the shul’s newsletters – so everyone has heard about me. But then our conversation goes to what it means to be a female rabbi, and not anything else. He even went to drinks with the rabbi, and apparently spoke about me (problems of a small community) and there he was told to learn with me. I even met him at the community Shabbat dinner, but he was talking to me as if I was the rabbi, and that was all he wanted to know.

Last night I went out with friends for drinks and then dancing. The rabbi was there too. And every so often someone would comment about how fun/funny/strange/great that they were out with two rabbis – that it doesn’t happen very often.

I have been places before when they have found out that I am studying to be a rabbi- but at the same time I don’t need to say anything to them. But here, there is no hiding it. It is the only reason that I am in Australia. Everyone I have met has met me because of my role as scholar in residence (ie. assistant rabbi).

It is complicated – because one the one hand, I will want the respect that comes along with the title. But on the other hand, I want to just be me. I want to be able to go on a date or go out with friends or just do things, and my title/role is not my entire identity.

I want someone to see that there is more to me than being a female rabbi. I don’t want that to be the entirety of the conversation (yes, I understand that it is something unusual, and so people find it interesting). I don’t want them to be afraid to touch me or say something to me because they are holding me on a pedestal.

So here is to finding out what it is like to date where my role is that of a rabbi…

Anyone have any ideas? Suggestions? Life experience?

Posted in Daily Prompt, Women in Judaism

I Guess I am a Radical

I have been called a radical. I have been told that I am changing history. I have been told that I am changing the role of orthodox Jewish women.

When these things are said to me, sometimes it is out of disgust, saying that I am ruining all of Jewish authenticity. But I have to say that most of the time it is said in awe and love.

I never meant to be  a radical. My mother always told me that I marched to the beat of my own drummer. I looked around and saw what was around me, and from that decided what I wanted to do. I grew up in an era that I was taught that I could do anything I put my mind to- and so I did. I am very thankful to have been brought up in such a world.

But to me, what I do is just what I do. I go and do what my heart tells me to do. I do things that I enjoy. I do things because I think that they should be done. When I first started at the nursing home in Israel I wanted to run a ball for the residents who needed the most help in their daily living. My boss and the social workers looked at me as if I was crazy, but let me continue with my idea. It turned out to be the best event – residents were talking; people who normally were stooped over, sat up for a bit; the entire atmosphere was different – it was actually noisy (in a good way). It all happened because I had a crazy idea, but was willing to go with it – why not try it out.

I get asked often why I want to be a rabbi, and people tend to be shocked by my answer. To me, it is the most logical profession for me. It is not because I want to start a feminist revolution (although in what I do, it is what is happening). It is not because I want to be like a man. It is because it takes all the things I love doing (and I think I am good at) into one job. So yes, when I came up with the idea it wasn’t really something that could be done. And there still aren’t very many female orthodox rabbis around.

So if following one’s heart instead of the norm, being able to play “outside the box” means that I am a radical, so then yes I am a radical.

via Daily Prompt: Radical

Posted in Rabbinical School, Women in Judaism

Obvious

Something really exciting happened this week. There is an Orthodox shul in Jerusalem that has hired a woman to be the assistant rabbi. This is amazing on many fronts. It is amazing that it is actually happening in Israel. It is amazing because she is actually being called the assistant rabbi. It is amazing because it is a really well known shul and well known rabbi that has hired her- so hopefully this will lead others to follow in his footsteps. It is amazing because I have seen more articles for her appointment than against.

But that is all the obvious stuff. That is what is being written about. That is the excitement that everyone is sharing in articles and in social media.

What’s not obvious, is all that I’m not sharing on Facebook or in public forums. Which  is that I am a bit upset and hurt- even though I am also amazed and over joyed. I am hurt by this rabbi, for when he was approached by the program I was attending in Israel, he said no to taking even an unpaid intern (or at least that is what we were told- it very much could be something else).I am upset at this shul that this women does not have ordination, not is she in a program that is ordaining orthodox women. This just shows to me even more, that potentially the last 5 years of studying might not be for anything. I am disgusted by some organizations and rabbis commending this rabbi for hiring a woman, as they have the power to hire women. And the women they teach, train, and ordain are still without any jobs or internships, and are still told that they are not worth anything.

And so I am a bit hurt and sad. But at the same time I am really excited. My dream of being a rabbi in Israel, might actually be able to happen. I am realizing, especially with my job here in Australia, that there are actually people and rabbis that want women to be having this role. There are people who are looking at the women taking this role, not only as women, but as people who are qualified for leadership and teaching (this is not obvious in the slightest).

I hope that with this appointment, there become many more appointments. And this may be obvious, but I pray that those appointed are dealt with respectfully, and really seen as equal powers and nothing less than they actually are. And may those who are studying be have positive and nurturing experiences. And may those who are searching find something meaningful and fitting swiftly.

via Daily Prompt: Obvious