Friday, January 19, 2018

No Man's Land

I've reread all the blog posts on this blog, and I've found that the issues I dealt with three years ago are still the ones I'm dealing with today. I'm not in any better of a place, and I actually feel like we are slipping a bit more.

I read an old email from the kiruv rabbi I worked with, and it struck a chord. It's something I've been thinking about over the last few days. He said "being half no man's land," and he encouraged me to observe the full Shabbat and "the rest will fall in into place."

At first, I was annoyed by the comment. It will all just fall into place? How so? If we begin keeping Shabbat completely, will that bring us more friends, more community? That's exactly what we've lacked here in Atlanta.

If we move to a Shabbat observant community, how will be received? The few times we've tried interacting with the Shabbat observant community here in Atlanta, we haven't been received in the way we had hoped. I think people are confused by us or don't approve of us. In Denver, we were invited over to people's homes and we did the same, even among families who were Modern Orthodox.

Of course, it's different with a baby who goes to sleep too early to go out for Friday night, but what about Shabbat lunch? We've invited people over for Fridays, but haven't received the same invitations with open arms from others. I don't know if it's because we have a toddler or because people don't like us or because inviting people for Shabbat is not a thing here in Atlanta.

At the same time, I agree. Being "half-religious" is this weird in-between place. We fall in to the community of conservative Judaism mainly because of our identities, but realize that conservative Judaism is dying. There are few young families that actually keep Shabbat or kosher that are conservative. If you're out there, let me know! But it's hard as a queer couple who wants to/strives to keep mitzvot.

I told Emet I think we should keep more. We've been slacking. It's true. And yet, by keeping, we will be more isolated because we can't afford to live within walking distance to a shul.

Where do we belong? Is that what many Jews think? Or are we simply anomalies?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Thoughts on Being a Parent

So much has happened in the last year. I cannot get into everything. Shortly after my last post, I gave birth to a daughter, and it's just been a whirlwind year. My relationship with Emet has grown so much, and we have learned much about the world and each other.
I wrote a private journal entry last year about going to High Holiday services with a newborn. I couldn't stay in services for long because it was time for the baby to eat again. And I wasn't even able to go to shul on Yom Kippur because of a rough night and total exhaustion.
This year, I thought maybe it would be easier to go to services, but it was actually harder. I tried to read a bit to make up for not being able to be in services, but of course, the baby needs my constant attention while Emet works (for the synagogue).
Adina Kastner, in a recent article in Times of Israel, said, "Personally, I have never felt further from Hashem than I do right now. My break from davening and learning because of my busy life as a working mother has hurt my relationship with God...I want to find the strong closeness I had back in high school, when I punctually attended teen minyan every Shabbat. I can think of no better place to get reacquainted with the Almighty than at shul."
I completely agree and feel the exact same. When I was at Pardes, I was learning every day, connecting every day, davening almost every day, and participating in all the rituals I could. I felt incredibly close to HaShem. Since returning to the US over three years ago, I struggle to feel that same connection. Emet and I were part of a lively community in Denver, and we just haven't found the same ruach in services here as we had in Israel. It's hard to have Shabbat with a baby. We can't prepare ahead of time and then dinners are often quick so we can start her bedtime routine. We don't go to Kabbalat Shabbat services because she's down by 7. We sometimes go through the service on our own, but it just isn't the same.
I recently met with a StrengthsFinder coach, and one of the things we discussed was finding time to do something that engages my strengths. Learning is one of those. Since having a child, it's been hard to find time to engage in Judaism adequately. I am taking a step to carving out time to learn this year, and I hope I won't be disappointed.
We have talked about other ways that we could connect to HaShem and Judaism, too. We are planning to erect a sukkah with hopes of inviting people to join us for meals. I realized this year that we can't depend on others to jumpstart our connection. It is on us.

For any observant parents out there - how do you do it? How do observant families manage? How do you daven at all with a young child who requires constant attention? Babysitting is not always an option. Does the parent responsible for caring for the children even go to synagogue? How do you prepare for Shabbat and holidays? Please leave a comment below and tell me your secrets!

G'mar Chatimah Tovah. May you all have a sweet New Year.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

#BlogElul 8: Hear

Yesterday was Shabbat, so I didn't write. Today is Elul 8 and September 11. Hear.

I strive to hear stories of narratives I don't know. I strive to stop and listen to the world. This year, I want to spend time listening to my child, my partner, and my body.

Friday, September 9, 2016

#BlogElul 6: Believe

I believe in fate. Ever since I met Emet, our lives have been truly blessed. I believe that things are well, even when they don't seem to be. I believe that I have purpose, even if I don't know what that is, and I strive to be the best I can.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

#BlogElul 5: Accept

Today is the Hebrew anniversary of our wedding and the "official" due date of our baby. I'm accepting that baby will arrive when it's ready. I'm accepting that I don't know everything and I have much to learn. I'm accepting that the world isn't perfect, and so to be the best I can be, I have to accept that I am the one that needs to change. Either let it go and move on or make a change.