Sunday, May 4, 2014


This past Shabbat was the second one where my synagogue auditioned a new cantor. Without going into the entire painful back story that is filled with politics, ego, and human beings acting very badly, the entire Shabbat experience made me horribly sad.

My husband is upset for all his reasons, (see prior post) and this mess just adds to his reasons not to go. I went and felt tears welling up many times. The young man they were auditioning was good enough, it's not about him.

I liked the soon to be gone cantor. I also think it goes a bit deeper for me. Bluntly, he is the only Cantor I have regularly experienced. He was new at my synagogue  when I choose to be Jewish and he's soon to be out. Some how I am experiencing this as a loss.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Honor Your Mother and Father Treif

Today is Easter Sunday.
Ordinarily my husband and I would drive to my elderly parents home, 2 hours away, and partake in the the holy grail of treif experiences, Italian Easter diner. Unfortunately, this year due to causes and conditions including a pair of nasty sinus infections we are foregoing the feast. I realized, after calling them to let them know we  couldn't come, how disappointed I am. The Easter extravaganza  which always comes mid Passover is a yearly surreal encounter with a life I no longer live.   I am becoming deeply aware that my connection to that world is growing faint and soon will be no more. Once my parents, who are well into their 80's are no longer, my connections to the world of my childhood will disappear. This thought has been engaging me since my sister's stage 4 cancer diagnosis and the escalation of my mother's frail health episodes. This existential crisis has deep roots and huge questions.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


My husband over the past few years has been through a lot emotionally. Unfortunately this has left him in a deeply conflicted place when it comes to religion and our participation in it. He has stated  that he thinks he is an atheist and that the only reason he goes to synagogue is "because that is where the Jews are."  But now more and more he doesn't want to go to services at all. I  want to go and miss the Jewish rhythm it brings to my week.I don't want to start doing things alone, that is the ghost of marriage/divorce past and not the road I will choose. Yet this dilemma  leaves me in the deeply uncomfortable position of wanting, no, perhaps needing to be more Jewish in my daily activities.

It has been 6 years this month that I choose to be
Jewish. This new phase is is challenging me in ways I didn't see coming . 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Living Jewish...Being Jewish

April of 2008 I married my beloved husband. What a journey...sometimes when I think about it, it feels almost like some sort of odd reality TV show: "Living Jewish...Being Jewish."

 In the beginning the emphasis was on soaking up all that I could. I attended every lecture and class. I read multiple books at once and went to every service that I could possibly attend. In those early days, I was obsessed with "doing Jewish." I tried to "pass" (be taken as a born Jew by other born Jews) and spent much time observing and learning not only the obvious, Torah, Kashrut, Hebrew ..etc..but also the complex social/community structure around me. I dived deep into the pool hoping that acceptance and belonging would soon follow. I think I have been fortunate in comparison to some of my fellow Jews by Choice. The community that I call my spiritual home, has been welcoming and accepting of me in every way. So much so  that I was elected to the board of the synagogue. This is the great place to end this...a convert who has assimilated,  engaged  and can pass......

Ahhh but if it could be that simple...that black and white....

"What is a Jew?" is a loaded yet simple question depending on the questioner. Over the arc of these past five years I have shifted,  gone to extremes and moderated multiple times. Life has collaborated and resisted, intervening with all it's joys and sorrows.  What began as 'doing Jewish" slid to "feeling Jewish" and has landed in a place of "being Jewish."

 Over these past years I have become Jewish...sometimes, perhaps after a bit too much Shabbat wine, I muse I was Jewish all along. I love the idea that all Jews in the past, present and future were at Sinai. Yet  I believe my "being Jewish"  has corresponded with an easing, a surrender of sorts. A surrender to the idea that all of my life's experiences, make me who I am; The Catholic, Unitarian Universalist and Buddhist ones included. There is the idea that when one chooses to convert all that was before that point is dead. We are born again, to borrow a phrase, into our new Jewish selves. I tried to implement some version of that earlier in my journey. Yet like most ideas, dogmas and plans time has a way of smoothing things out and taking the sharpness away. I truly believe I am a better Jew because of my past, because of the act of choosing. I can not erase my memories like an outdated computer hard drive. I have found that embracing all of me...not just the newer Jewish parts, empowers my faith and my joy. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

What is the Smell of 2340 Hanukkah Candles?

It’s the smell of VICTORY!

This week my Synagogue, The Merrick Jewish Centre, broke the Guinness Record for the most menorahs lit at the same time in one place. I was on the small committee who came up with this crazy idea and implemented it!  The idea came out of our  Synagogue Innovation Committee which is attempting to promote and lead to culture change in our beloved community, to gain more involved members and to increase spiritual awakening in have folks be the Synagogue not be consumers of Synagogue services..."LIGHT UP THE NIGHT"  was our kick off event to engage and hopefully gain the attention of the Jews in our neighborhood.
I was responsible for electronic/social media ...I am so happy we got mentioned around the world! A fellow committee member took the video below and wrote:

"Every once in a while, an idea immediately captures the imagination and spirit of a community. Mazel Tov to all who participated. YOU DID MAKE HISTORY"

But this was even bigger , this was a community  event and there were folks from many different streams of Judaism ...Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox... also folks who maybe set foot in a  Synagogue once a year. This is the modern Hanukkah gift, to light the light of enthusiasm, spirit and joy. To connect folks to their birthright, their faith or their religion of choice is a goal worth having. Some thought this was a silly thing to do, others complained that we were not religious enough, but in the end we touched our community and just maybe someone might decide to light shabbat candles tonight, or show up on Saturday...that would be a good thing!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last Week I Became a Woman LOL...

The Bat Mitzvah came off lovely. I feel good that I completed the task. In the end, it really didn't matter who came to support me. It was about me and my commitment and my Kavana, my intent and spirituality.

When I worked in the hospital as a social worker, I worked in positions that bluntly were about death and dying. I must have witnessed hundreds of deaths. ultimately, I believe we all die alone regardless of who is in the room. Depending on one's believe system it is between you and the divine, or perhaps just you and you....I know this can come off as morbid, but for me it is not. It is actually comforting. How I choose to be, how I meditate, pray and be in the world are my action. My actions are my only true belongings. 

The Bar Mitzvah was mine to feel, do and experience. My husband was there and that was wonderful

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Parashat Vayishlach... Family

We are well within the final countdown to the Haftorah showdown! .... December 10th is our moment. We only have 3 more group practices before the big day, and I have started to hear the portions and prayers in my sleep. truly, I have dreams with the prayers as the sound tracks. I do need for this to be done.
This pending ritual has also brought out some family of origin discomfort. My family, Catholics, have been supportive of me and my second husband, but I do think this very public declaration of my Jewishness is causing some emotional ripples. It saddens me that this is starting to surface in what I perceive as unconscious ways, on the part of my family. Not a single family member will be able to attend this event despite weeks and weeks of notice. Perhaps I was being unrealistic to think someone from my family would come, but none the less it was my hope. 

Being a convert at times is a lonely road. I am different from the most of the other women who are joining me on the 10th. Some of them them are having over 50 people come. I do feel a bit jealous that they are so supported. I have managed to cobble together 14 folks, friends and one of my husband's daughters and his brother and his partner.

 I can not help but reflect on our Torah reading. It is after all about family, forgiveness and continuity but it is also about transformation.All this preparation for the big day has helped me  notice how much I have changed over the past 5 much has changed. Overall I am still clear and content with my choices, but the melancholia of December is starting to hit, and the recent issues (not worth detailing)  with my parents and one of my siblings is hitting home how diffident I have become. The brothers in the Torah portion manage to put their disastrous history behind them, with an after all family is family attitude. Unfortunately I am not feeling that from mine....just a little sad.

Dunking Rachael

Love, Faith and Life