There is a quiet to most mornings I am still unused to, but that is becoming slightly more familiar as the days go by. Half of them, I am awakened by at least a brief call from my beloved. We are still connected, though half a world away. I know our daily talking is what keeps us safe, and sane (though I worry about some surrounding both of us, here at home, and those at ulpan with him). Savor the sweetness of connection with those you love, however brief. It means more than you may know.
This morning unlike most, Baruch HaShem, after a long night of working on a paper long overdue (it’s been quite a summer) and talking with an old, dear friend after a very long time, at 8am in a residential neighborhood the sound of construction equipment at the creamsicle houses behind me (I can only assume) woke me up. My irritation will be left for these few words here. The paper is near finished, and I am so happy with it! Everyone I present it to gives me good feedback, though the feedback itself has lessened over time. That has to be a good sign, right?
My dear friend, Jer, last night said that it reminded him of Robert Heinlein‘s “Stranger In a Strange Land“, and that it taught him something new. For the latter, I am grateful, and happy. For the former, the topic (gerim, strangers, resident aliens) hits close to home these days. For as close as I have become with the community that surrounds me, for as much as I have become a part of it, the last service Josh and I were a part of (as he encouraged me to volunteer for the lighting of Shabbat candles, something I love and encourage others to do), my outsider status was highlighted for me. (It is not normally highlighted during public religious gatherings.) Painfully aware of it for the last, well since Mom-mom’s funeral, it is a topic of much heartache, and much discussion or avoidance in our home. (My fiancé loves me dearly as I am, and does not wish to influence me one way or another.) No matter how much I do, no matter what I do, no matter the level of commitment I show to this community, unless one particular thing happens, I will always be on the outside looking in. So, too, are many of my sisters and brothers on the outside of the glass, steaming it up with the fog of the breath of our life… The breath of our joy… Yet we are outsiders…
I cannot truly give thanks and show my gratitude to this wonderful community for all that it has and continues to do for me, but, for the things that have come closest to my heart and soul, the things which nourish and sustain me, I am rejected from participation in public life. Never did it hurt more than that night. Never has it become more of a contemplative place for me than this. There is so much I have to say on this, being an outsider in faith community that I care so much about. I am not asking for things to change over night, just for a consideration and a conversation to truly begin taking place in our synagogues, in our homes, in our schools, everywhere we come together… This affects everyone.
I went to Erev Rosh HaShanah services with my congregation, Temple Beth Hatfiloh Sunday night alone, yet I found two friends (who didn’t know each other!) to sit next to. The next day, I went to Rosh Hashanah Day 1 services by myself, but again, friends and acquaintance surrounding me consistently said hello. Every one was wishing me (and my study-abroad fiancé) well! They made sure I was okay. It was great. I even did Tashlikh, this year, for the first time with this congregation. The past 3 years it’s happened with other communities. The first year it was up in Tacoma at the wonderful shul Temple Beth El. A URJ affiliate, they were formed out of the need for a reform and a conservative congregation to come together. Somehow, they have found a means to achieve satisfaction for all. The second year, I can’t remember what we did. I know last year we attended the Tashlikh service of our local Chabad, where I learned for the first time that you’re not supposed to throw bread for sins… Something about feeding the animals on a yom tov, I think. I need to ask Rabbi Cheski again, for clarification. It was a fascinating discussion, and walk down to and from the 5th Street Bridge overlooking the pathways where the salmon spawn and cross between Budd Inlet and Capitol Lake. It was also another interesting experience in my journey, experiencing and realizing how Jewish people are constantly interacting with others, and being confronted or questioned based on appearances, and assumptions about them and their beliefs, religious or otherwise.
Wonderful Rabbis who do amazing things for this community surround me, and I’m not just talking about Olympia, I’m talking about the Jewish people in general. The way they interact with strangers who (I will bluntly say) accost them whether regarding religious, political, or other ideological issues… (To say nothing about the rest of their beings, assumed or actual.) They are the most wonderful, non-judgmental people. They do not meet words of violence, of anger, with reciprocated violence or anger. No, they come back with words of peace, of reconciliation (if they have perceived themselves as having done something wrong), of dialogue to achieve an end that is far greater than them, than any of us. They are young. They are older than I am, but they are young in the world of rabbis, yet somehow, they are gifted with this amazing, awe-inspiring ability of communication and interaction. They have the gift of relationship that we should all aspire to learn. From the most liberal to the most orthodox, even me, the most blonde-haired, blue-eyed young woman has found acceptance and even friendship, warmth, and family among them. I truly hope they know how much I love, respect, and cherish their presence in my life, and the life of this community I love so much. I will miss them when we leave for Philadelphia. I hope they are still here when we return, at least to visit.
Rabbis Seth Goldstein, your wife who I don’t know so well Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, Rabbi Cheski Edelman, Rebbetzin Chava Edelman (I believe this is the proper title for you!), Rabbi Marna Sapsowitz, and the latest addition to my family of Rabbis, Rabbi Jane Litman… I am so eternally grateful for your presence, your guidance, your warmth, and your light. To Rabbi Bruce Kadden who first welcomed me into the fold at Temple Beth El, thank you so much. You and your wife Barbara are truly special people as well, and I am glad you are continuing the work you do, though I don’t see you often these days. To Rabbi Jaron Matlow, I hope you are doing well, and your health has improved. I haven’t seen you! You are a friend as much as anyone, in my thoughts. I hope you know that! I apologize for falling out of touch.
To the entire greater Olympia Jewish community, and to the family (Levine’s, Hoffman’s, etc) that will welcome me into the fold upon marriage (but has, long before that, anyhow), you all have helped me to grow and change so much. Without you, I would not be me. I hope I have, and can continue to give back to you as much as you have to me. (Jeesh, this sounds like the goodbye letter, already!) I just really want to put it out there, how much I love and appreciate all of you, how much each and every one of you means to me, even if I have trouble putting names to faces, or we don’t see each other so often, or I fall out of touch, or you do… You all mean the WORLD to me, and I would not be as strong, and healthy as I am today without you, and the gifts you have given, and continue to give me.
I have faced many hardships in my life, and continue to struggle with more. Each day, I grow a little stronger, a little more sure of myself, and I know myself a little better. Josh, I miss you. I know you know this, and feel the same. I wish I could share my life with you in the same way we have, and I know, I FEEL how much you wish you could share yours with me. Please write more about your experiences. As much as we talk, it’s nice to see it written down, with more detail. Our friends and family (of all kinds) would love to see it, too. Just so you know, I was finally able to download the last episode of Doctor Who, “A Town Called Mercy”. I just haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. I’ve been a bit busy with this whole moving, and paper-finishing thing. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on it when I’ve seen it, though. Please send my best wishes and thoughts to your fellow students who are going through hard times, home-sickness, sickness and medical adventures in a foreign land (they have my prayers with them, having been there before!), etc… Know that I am always with you, and remember your community is behind you and surrounding you 115% of the way on your journey there and back again.
I’ve had some wonderful adventures, and some heartbreak. I realized in the past week that my grandmother died Sept 3rd, 2 years ago, which by the Hebrew calendar means her yahrzeit would be the 24th of Elul.. which this year fell on September 11th…. No wonder I felt so drawn to the Kaddish this past week or so.
For September 11th, I went to a thing put on by Interfaith Works, “A Call to Overcome Intolerance” at the Lacey Community Church. It was really a coming together, and beginning the work of how to overcome intolerance and persecution in our community(ies) on all levels. It was wonderful. The brief service that began it was… heartfelt and meaningful. Thank you.
I came out to someone I didn’t know during Rabbi Seth’s… sermon? … It wasn’t exactly a d’var… during Erev RH services… I told them I was going through the conversion process… It didn’t feel totally scary, this time. I was talking to a complete and total stranger. Maybe that helped, I don’t know. I don’t know if this will lead to conversion or not, my life is funny that way, but it’s certainly something I’m finally exploring… I’ve even started trying to explore some of the more traditional things, like keeping your head covered, and at least in certain settings, keeping more with tznius/tzniut (modest) dress. I have a mezuzah on my front door. It’s made of Jerusalem stone. Rabbi Seth came by the Sunday immediately before Josh left for Israel and we put it up together. Okay, Rabbi held the mezuzah… I nailed it in place.. Said the blessing.. (In whatever the proper order was, I can’t remember now.) It was really nice.
During Elul, I had a Shabbat dinner and games night at my new place and it went smashingly well. There were 10 of us, enough for a minyan if going by liberal standards. We had 3 rounds of shofar blowing which was by turns awesome, hilarious, head-turning, stunning, and just… there were no words for some of it. I can only think of what the rest of the neighborhood thought. Had a certain neighbor been home, rather than leading services at TBH, I’m sure we’d have had an interesting conversation on how to blow a shofar afterward. It followed with an awesome game of Cards Against Humanity, which is easiest described as Apples to Apples for horrible people, or people with horrible senses of humor. I kicked the last people out around Midnight: Thirty.
The previous party, Josh’s going away party, was equally kickass, had tons of people, and a fun game of cut-throat mafia. Definitely not shomer negiah. Grilled fish on the landlord’s BBQ… Good food and drink was had by all (though Reyna accidentally stole my piece of salmon. :P)
The owner of the creamsicles (two houses directly behind me) is … well, up early to work on the places, much to my chagrin. I have recently moved into a basement studio apartment, and while it’s a big change, I really love it. Now, if I could talk my landlord into moving his wagon so I could start putting in raised garden-beds and a plot for the sukkah I want this year… (Sukkah hop, anyone?) … things would be AMAZING.
I am breaking a cycle for the best interests of all involved, as soon as possible. Friday I hope to move everything once and for all out of the old place, and here or into storage of some sort, and then to cut ties and do some healing. I don’t want to say more on that, but for locals, I would appreciate any help that could be given! This Friday!
Until next we meet, may you go in peace and return in peace,