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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Rant

It's not fair. I was just chastised for the fact that I happen to have a busy life due to school and work. That I have certain hours that can't be touched because I am in class, and that I have to work on schoolwork at times when projects are due. I want a career that I care about. And I have to work hard right now to achieve that. I can't help that I have to work full-time in order to financially support myself - I don't have a choice about that. I don't have parents or others to help reduce the financial burden of paying for rent and bills. What I do have a choice about is whether I stay in a job that I hate for the rest of my life in order to give myself more free time to date. And honestly, I would rather have less free time to date now and be more fulfilled in the future. I am so sick of hearing about how women should cancel their plans for dates. How we should be ready and available when the guy has time. Why can't women have lives outside of dating and men? Why is it that when they do, they are labeled as not "wife" material? Why should I subdue my interests, my passions, my dreams, in order to catch a husband? I have worked for too long in jobs that I hate to give up my dreams. I want to be a wife and mother, but I don't know when that is going to happen, and I don't believe in waiting around until it does. And when I am a wife and mother, I don't see myself staying at home full-time, so doesn't it make sense for me to get the hard work, the most time-consuming part of it, out of the way now? I am very frustrated and irritated by the attitude that women have to be the ones to give up their dreams. I don't expect to put my career before my family when I have one, but I feel like right now is the best time for me to focus on paving the way for the career that I want, since I don't yet have a family. Sorry for the rant, but I am extremely annoyed at the moment.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Outlooks on Outreach

(Note - I had the whole post written and was trying to publish it when Blogger decided it had a different plan. Please bear with the end of the post if it isn't well-written, I had to re-write it, which I hate.) My father subscribes me to magazines on a random basis. In the past I have found copies of Newsweek and Moment magazines in my mailbox unexpectedly. It's very cute of my dad, and I appreciate it. Unfortunately, I don't always have the time to read them. My father also subscribes me to the Deep South Jewish Voice (DSJV) (complete with ads for Piggly Wiggly grocery store). Again, I don't always have the time to devote to reading the whole thing, but I usually skim it and check out the mazel tov section to see who I know has gotten engaged, married of had children. Also, there are often pictures of the kids who were my campers when they were 8 years old, who have now gone on to graduate college. It's crazy. Last night, I had a few minutes to spare and a couple back issues of the DSJV to catch up on. I was flipping through, and I came to a section where they had two viewpoints on "outreach." The first was an article from Jack Wertheimer and Steven Bayme that initially was printed in the Jewish Week. It spoke about the importance of converting those non-Jews who are married to Jews. The other viewpoint was from Rabbi Avi Shafran and his perspective on Jewish outreach coming from an Orthodox viewpoint. I have to admit that, probably unsurprisingly, I side more with Rabbi Shafran's view of outreach. I don't think conversion is a way to battle dwindling numbers of Jews. I understand where Wertheimer and Bayme are coming from - they view it as better to convert a person who is already involved in an intermarriage, so that the children have a chance at identifying Jewishly, than ostracizing those non-Jews altogether, giving them a negative view of Judaism and eliminating them, and their very often Jewish children, from connecting and having positive feelings about Judaism. I have been in the Orthodox world so long that it was surprising for me to read that Jewish outreach was being focused on non-Jews rather than Jews. But I guess it shouldn't have come as a shock. I remember clearly when I realized I had to leave Birmingham. It was when I saw that the Reform Temple which my family belonged to had a support group for intermarried couples - yet no singles group for Jews to meet other Jews. To me, that was a case of faulty priorities. I have a hard time relating to a world in which Jews are not proud of their heritage. You would think it would be different - I have lots of intermarried family and quite a few relatives who don't really identify Jewishly (and that's for those of my relative who are actually Jewish!). But, my family was always a bit different. My father worked in Jewish communal services, he life was the Jewish community. Because of this, even while often being the only Jewish student in my school, I was proud of my difference rather than making attempts to hide it. Because I didn't know many Jews, it was something special about me, rather than something that was just another variation between students, like eye color or height. So I think it's important to focus on those Jews who don't feel Jewish. To make them comfortable within the Jewish community, to encourage them to focus on Jewish life. I don't hold the belief that every Jew must be Orthodox, doing kiruv is not at the top of my list of priorities (maybe it should be, but I think it's more important at this point to just give others a positive impression of Orthodox Jews). But I think what needs to be done with our outreach efforts at this point is not making non-Jews comfortable within Judaism - it's make Jews feel comfortable. Have a good Shabbos!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Check It Out

My latest at Beyond BT: Keeping in Touch with Before Teshuva Friends

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Saying Goodbye To Yesterday

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday Boyz II Men How do I say goodbye to what we had? The good times that made us laugh Outweigh the bad. I thought we'd get to see forever But forever's gone away It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. I don't know where this road Is going to lead All I know is where we've been And what we've been through. If we get to see tomorrow I hope it's worth all the wait It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. And I'll take with me the memories To be my sunshine after the rain It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. And I'll take with me the memories To be my sunshine after the rain It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. When I was in junior high, I loved Boyz II Men. As I go along in life, certain experiences conjure up memories of songs that left an impression on me, and this morning, the above song by Boyz II Men was ringing in my head. People come into our lives, and leave our lives. They make an imprint - the imprint can be good, or bad, but we should learn from them all. It's sometimes hard to say goodbye to someone who made such an imprint, but as the song says, while we can't always take people along with us, we can take the memories. When people leave us, it hurts. Sometimes this pain is a sweet sorrow - sweet because they taught you something along the way, they taught you about yourself, or themself, or about life. The sorrow is in saying goodbye, in knowing that you must move on without them. The important part is to search your soul for those lessons learned, to take the memories, to be your sunshine after the pain is gone. When saying goodbye, it sometimes feels hard to open up again, to let others in, whom you know might also leave at some point. But that's the journey of life. If we close ourselves off to everything and everyone, we can't learn these important lessons, we can't really live. So the goodbye, while painful, is worth it. So, while we sometimes have to say goodbye, and it can hurt and be hard to do, we have to move on, hold onto the memories, and the lessons we've learned. We have to open ourselves up again, to learn and grow more. And in time, the pain leaves us, and we are left with our sunshine after the rain.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Last night, a friend and I rented the film "Yesterday". Apparently, I am a little slow on the take, because I had never heard of it, though the Oscar committee did last year and it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It was beautifully done. It's rare to find a movie that is so simple, yet so touching. It is the story of a woman in South Africa named Yesterday who finds out she has AIDS. Her husband is also diagnosed with AIDS, and while being sick herself, she takes amazing, tender care of him during his illness, which he succumbs to quicker than she. It's a story about love - the love between friends, the love between husband and wife, and the love of a woman for her daughter. I was struck by so many things in the movie. One was how spoiled we are. Yesterday lives in a home with no electricity and no running water. She has to carry water from a well on the other side of her village every day. She has to walk for over 2 hours to see a doctor when she falls ill - and several times, the line is so long by the time she makes it there that she has to turn around and walk the 2 hours back without even being seen. Something to remember when we get upset about waiting in a waiting room for a half hour before seeing the doctor. She is also so amazingly strong, in body, mind and emotion. Her village is scared of her husband's illness, and wants him to leave. She tries to get him into a hospital, but it is full, with a long waiting list. So she builds him a hut outside the village to take care of him. She builds this hut with pieces of scrap metal and wood she collects and uses her own two hands to put together this structure. And I was proud of myself for changing the battery in my smoke detector (which is located on the ceiling, necessitating me climbing onto my kitchen counter) all by myself. It doesn't seem like such an accomplishment in comparison. Throughout it all, she is reticent to ask for help from anyone. She develops one close friendship, and that friend is truly there for her in so many ways, really caring about her. And still, she asks for favors only when she absolutely has to. Her attitude throughout is amazing - she never asks why, never places blame, never gives up. She loves her daughter and her husband unconditionally, only wanting the best for both of them, never wanting for herself. I really was touched by the film. It's rare that I see a movie that moves me so much in its simplicity of showing human courage. I am glad I stumbled upon it, because that is basically how I found it. It's definitely worth anyone's time to see it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Do We Change?

MCAryeh wrote a post the other day that got me thinking about childhood dreams. It gave me the motivation to call my mom and ask her what she remembered about me when I was little - what I was like, what I wanted to be, what's changed. It was one of the most interesting conversations I've had with my mom in a really long time. What struck me in reading through the comments to MCAryeh's post was that many women dreamed of being mothers at a very young age. And the truth is, I don't remember being like that. I don't remember taking my dolls and cradling them in my arms, pretending to feed them. I don't remember having the desire to be a mommy. I asked my mom about this, and she confirmed this, though she did bring up the point that I had babies to be mommy to - I had three younger brothers. I asked my mom what I wanted to be when I grew up - she couldn't remember very clearly, though she did recall a lot of acting and dancing that I did. (Addition to story - I just talked to my dad and asked him what I wanted to be when I was little, and he said he can't remember anything either.) While my mom couldn't remember career aspirations, she did remember my personality as a child. It's really fascinating, because she said that a lot of my strongest character traits were evident even when I was very young. My independence, my strong-mindedness, my resolution to choose my own course, rather than be led. She reflected that it made her wonder about nature and nurture - how much of my independence was because that's how I was born, and how much of it was because my parents treated me like a little adult from a very early age? Being the oldest child (and an only child for five years), how much of who I am now, came from the nurturing I got when I was in my formative years (Freud), and how much of it was just ingrained from birth? It's always interesting to hear these reflections from my past - it doesn't happen that often. My family dynamic has changed so much over the years, especially since I graduated high school. My parents divorced, my father remarried, I became religious and moved away. But it's interesting to know that though so many things have changed, apparently a lot hasn't. The core of who I am hasn't. We grow and refine ourselves, but do ever really change? Can we really make the core of who we are different than from how we started? And would we want to?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Real Me

There is a saying (and I am going to butcher it, so I apologize in advance) that you can tell who a person really is by how they handle themselves through their money, their anger and their drinking. I question that. Last night, I went out for dinner with some of my girlfriends - we wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day enjoying each other's company, treating ourselves on a day which is typically reserved for couples. We decided to order a bottle of wine with dinner. We were tired of the typical girly wine that we usually drink, so we ordered something that apparentely was a bit stronger. I had a couples glasses and realized that I was feeling the effects (okay, I admit that I'm a lightweight). When I got home (no, I didn't drive), I called a friend and we proceeded to have a conversation that probably wouldn't have occurred had I not been under the influence. I admit that when I drink (which doesn't happen that often), I am definitely less inhibited than I normally am. I take less time thinking about what I am going to say, and things fly from my mouth without the usual care I put into making sure what I say is what I actually mean. It's not that I say anything bad, or harmful, I just know and can feel that the lag time between thought and speech is much less. My friend says that when I am drunk it is the real me, the truth about who I am comes out. I argued. I asked why it has to be that the uninhibited me is the real me. What if the real me is someone who takes a lot of care about what I say, and does take time to measure my words before I say them. Again, it's not that what comes out of my mouth when I am drunk is so radically different than when I am not, but I am definitely less careful with my speech. It's interesting to see people who have been drinking. Some become crazy party animals. Some become philosophical. Some you can't tell are drunk at all. I know I become louder than I normally am, and I certainly think things are a lot funnier. But is this louder self really me? Are the crazy party animals really those people? Are they letting their inner, true self come out, or are they letting a part of themselves out that is not really them, just cutting loose and blowing off steam, but maybe that is just a slice of the part of who they are that needs to get out from time to time. I am not sure which one is real. I like to think I am true to who I am most of the time, whether drunk or not. I know the me who comes out when I drink doesn't feel so much like me, though it obviously is in there somewhere.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tu B'Shevat Memories

I have three distinct Tu B'Shevat memories, all quite different, and I thought I would relate them today, appropriately enough, since, unfortunately due to snow, the Tu B'Shevat seder I was supposed to attend was cancelled and all I am being able to do in lieu of that is eat my daily apple. My first Tu B'Shevat memory comes from sometime around 10 years old. In Sunday School, we learned about Tu B'Shevat being the New Year for trees. They made a big deal about fund-raising for the Jewish National Fund, we each were supposed to have our parents purchase a tree in Israel. In addition to buying trees and adding to my collection of JNF certificates my family had been compiling since my birth (or possibly my parent's wedding), we also took an actual tree and planted it in the courtyard of the temple I attended. Each of us got to put a little dirt in the hole they had dug, and soon, there was a little sapling standling above us. It was cute. The second distinct memory I have of Tu B'Shevat was a seder that I attended in Tzfat. It was seven years ago today, and I was in Tzvat for a couple days, checking out the scenery and seeing what was there. Someone invited me to a seder, and I had never attended one before (at least not one for Tu B'Shevat), so I thought it would be fun. It was quite interesting. The had a whole service with four cups of wine (two red, two white) and many different fruits, nuts and other delicacies. Tzvat is an experience in and of itself, but being there for a "chag" was even more spiritual. Some of the attendees recited poetry they had written about Tu B'Shevat and we had deep discussions about the symbolism and connection between trees and life. It was certainly an experience I will never forget. The third memory of Tu B'Shevat that I have is a few years ago in Lakewood. It was a couple weeks after a really bad break-up, and my friend in Lakewood invited me to escape everything for a couple days. She was about to have her first child (really about to - she had her baby the very next week!), but she understood my need to get away, so she welcomed me with open arms. Her husband is from England and his family had the tradition of having 25 or more different kinds of fruit for Tu B'Shevat - any kind they could find, so there was a treasure trove of fruits to try that I had never even heard of. Some of them were yummy, some of them I can't say I would try again, if I would even remember their names. We had a nice Shabbos, and it did take my mind off my sorrows, was comforting as needed. Three Tu B'Shevats - all very different. Maybe one day I will make my own tradition for Tu B'Shevat, maybe a blend of all three of my memories. What's your favorite Tu B'Shevat memory?

Friday, February 10, 2006

1 Month

I have been home from Israel for exactly one month today. As time always manages to do, it seems both a lifetime and a heartbeat since I left. I miss it terribly. I miss walking around, feeling that special intangible something that I can't quite put words to. I miss the Kotel, and feeling Hashem's presence there. I miss the familiarity of the streets, even those I haven't been to before. I even miss the Hebrew that I can't really understand. What's changed since my time there? I have been keeping much more in touch with current events and politics going on in Israel, because, honestly, I care a lot more. I feel it personally now. I have realized that it is the Jewish land, and that is part of me, much more so than I think New York will ever be. I want to be there, even to the point of making it a goal (though admittedly it is much more long-term than short, because as much as I don't like to be practical, sometimes I just have to be). I didn't expect to feel this way. I didn't know it would touch me so strongly. I really didn't know I would miss it so much, miss being a part of the Jewish nation, the Jewish people. Feeling like even though there are so many differences between the people there - the majority of them do have one major thing in common - being Jewish. And that's something incredibly special. I hope I don't lose this feeling, and that more regular trips are in my future in order to keep the feeling alive. For now, I have set the wallpaper on my computer to an image from Israel - just to remind me every time I look at it. Have a good Shabbos!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My Female Friends

I keep really busy. I work full-time and am in school two nights a week. I go on dates sometimes, I spend a little (should spend much more) time studying. I go to the gym, I take care of all my chores (such as grocery shopping - yuck!). But what really fills my time outside of school and work is my female friends. Now, I'm not discounting my male friends here - they are great also. But I don't spend as large of amounts of time with them. My free nights end up being filled with communal dinners, movies, time spent shmoozing. We go to Shabbos meals together, we support each other through hard times. We send e-mails and IMs back and forth all day long. My female friends are my lifeline. I would be miserable without them. So I was a little shocked last night when an acquiantance told me she doesn't like doing things with other girls. She doesn't think it's fun. She would rather be with a guy. I had picked up this sentiment before, but she had never stated it so explicitly. It makes me understand a little more why she doesn't seem so happy. I don't know many other single women who don't enjoy doing things with other women. Heck, I know a lot of married women who really enjoy a night out with "the girls." But especially for someone single, I think it's so important to be able to have fun with your female friends, to not have to feel dependent on a guy to make you happy. All of us are looking for a spouse. We want to find love. That's completely normal. But I also think it's important, in the interim, to have fun and enjoy life, with or without a man. Because again, as much as I love my guy friends, and it feels so great to be in a relationship, there is still something so special about my female friends that I don't want to ever let go of them. They are my backbone and my support, and they keep me from being depressed and lonely. Maybe this acquiantance doesn't have the kinds of friends I do (it might have something to do with her attitude), but I treasure those moments of laughter (and sometimes tears) with my female friends so much. I can't even begin to imagine not enjoying their company.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I went to see Munich last night. Despite all the hype I have heard, it was extremely well done and I found it to be one of the best movies I have seen in a really long time. It made me think about a lot of things. Brief background for those who don't know the premise - During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, 9 Israeli athletes were taken hostage by Palestinean terrorists and them killed, simply for the fact that they were Israeli. The movie is about the aftermath of that event, and the men who took revenge on the planners of the terrorist attack. I have always had a very hard time with the concept of revenge. I have always been troubled by those passages in the davening where it speaks about wanting revenge on those who harm Jews, in the parsha where it deals with wiping out Amalek. I never could really understand it. When Arafat died, and people were celebrating, I had a very difficult time understanding it. I knew he was a horrible person whose presence led to the death of many Jews, but I couldn't bring myself to celebrate anyone's death. Watching Munich, I understood it more. I could feel the anger at the horrible people who took innocent lives. I saw the difference in the Palestinean terrorists who killed Jews because they were Jews, and the extreme care the Israelis took to only target those who had made the first move, and those particular people who were responsible for the death of their brethren. I still couldn't find myself happy at the deaths of these people, but I certainly could understand a feeling of fairness. The movie also made me better understand the feeling of being part of the Jewish people. Those athletes were killed because they were Jews. And as a fellow Jew, it hurt me. I have always felt this hurt when I heard of innocent Jews being killed in terrorist attacks, but something about the movie really struck me and made me realize that we are one family. That a blow to one of us, is a blow to all of us. Because the truth is, it doesn't matter to these terrorists what we do or how we think or dress. It matters to them that we are Jewish, and it should matter to us as well. The other thought running through my mind during the movie was to wonder what a non-Jew watching it would think. Because I felt this sense of being part of a nation, I could easily feel and understand what was going on. I wonder whether any non-Jew, no matter what kind of ethnicity of group they might find themselves a part of, could relate to this feeling of being part of a nation, of a people. I wonder if the whole thing would be incomprehensible to them, or whether they could learn from it, and strengthen themselves as part of whatever group they identified. All in all, again, I thought the movie was excellent, and I certainly learned much from it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I'm Back

I'm back from my break. I have to say, even though I really enjoy writing, and especially writing this blog, it was nice to take a breather from it. And I have decided that I am going to (most likely) begin blogging on a less frequent than daily basis. Hopefully, this will allow my posts to be of higher quality and give me more time to think them out before writing them. It was quite a busy week while I was gone. My roommate got married, I had school (which is going very well, though it promises to be quite time-consuming this semester), and I have been engaging in enough social activities to fill the rest of my time. And I got some things straight in my head that needed some working out internally rather than on my blog, which was good. My roommate's wedding was beautiful, in the sense that everyone there was just so happy for the two of them. They are both older, and it was just beautiful to see so many things. Her face was completely glowing at the prospect of being a new part of a wonderful, nurturing, caring, frum family. I had never seen him so comfortable, happy and glowing as on the night of their wedding. He seemed almost a different person after the chuppah, it was such an amazing transformation. The beautiful bracha that my roommate gave me moved me to tears. She has such an amazing way of really wishing for others happiness. I hope her bracha comes true, because she certainly has me pegged. I almost broke my blog silence in reference to the horror that was Amona this past week. The problem is, I still don't have words to describe the horror I felt at hearing the descriptions of the activities that pervailed there. It scares me so much that, not only do the Jews have so many foreign enemies, they must also worry about their fellow Jews who don't share their idealogical views. I know it's always an issue, but I have never been able to understand physical violence, and the thought of Israeli soldiers striking teenage protestors leaves me speechless. I can't fathom it, and don't want to. All I can say is that I hope Moshiach comes soon to straighten things out, because it hurts so much to see what is going on in Israel right now, and I don't know that there is a human solution. I've been bonding with a new friend. It's nice to find new people you connect with, and to widen your circle to a "kindred spirit" as one of my favorite literary characters, Anne of Green Gables, would say. It takes work and effort to establish these relationships, but it's certainly well worth it. The final thing I have learned in the last week is that it feels good to clarify things. It doesn't always solve problems and magically make things better, but it can help you move along the path, and even if you don't manage to completely make peace within yourself, it goes a long way towards making peace with others. It's not always easy, but I definitely see the value. It's good to be back - have a great week!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Beyond BT Article of the Week

I am still on a blogging break (though I will be back soon, I am almost ready to return), but I honor my committments, so here is my latest on Beyond BT. Enjoy!