Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Wear Many Kippot

I write this blog as a writer, a mom, and a Jew. Like you, I wear many hats and have many other roles. One of those roles is that I run a small, independent publishing company. I wanted to keep my professional publishing work separate from my creative writing work (even if the creative writing work gets accepted and passes the editorial staff and eventually becomes part of the professional publishing work), so I started a publishing blog as well.

Since my publishing work has kept me quite busy of late, working on another author's book to be released this October, I'm trying to do some more blogging on the publishing side of things.

And to really kick it off, I blogged about one of the funniest telephone conversations I've had in a long time, which either says something about the nature of this particular call or the nature of my calls in general. I'm not sure which. Anyway, you can read about it in The Phone Call That Made My Day on my professional blog, Yaldah Publishing.

And we thank you for your support.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

5 a.m. and I'm still awake writing this blog...

It's 5:06am. I am up. I am downstairs at my computer while the rest of my family sleeps upstairs. I do not want to be up. I want to be asleep, too.

I woke up initially because the bedroom had turned into a furnace (figuratively, just in case anyone really wondered) and I knew we were expecting thunderstorms tonight and I thought maybe I should turn off my computer in case we do get lightning, because fried computer is not something I ever want to have.

So I checked the weather and there's a band of rain heading toward us, but it's diminishing as it approaches the metro area and we may not see more than a light mist by the time it actually gets here.

Gotta love those heat islands.

And then I poked around on the blogosphere and found Jack's Shack. I'd read some of his comments before, most recently his comment to Ezer K'negdo's post about conversion status in Israel. I don't know why I hadn't read his blog before (probably too much time with my nose stuck in a book) but it seemed appropriate in the dark and solitude of the wee morning hours when I can't sleep and want something interesting to read.

Feel good, Jack - your blog won out over Palm Solitaire, random Internet browsing, and Oprah's "O" magazine!

5:17 a.m. Still no rain. Still hot in the house. Still tired. Guess I'll try to eeke out another hour or two of sleep and hope that I'm not hatin' life too much by the time the kids get me up.

It's gonna be a two-coffee day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Would you help to write a book?

I met a woman the other day who is in the process of writing a book.

I get that a lot. But this isn't about me.

She's writing about conversion to Judaism, and I truly believe she has an angle that hasn't been written about much. Yet.

The problem: she's stuck. She's writing what she wants to write (I checked; that's an important part), but because she wants this to be helpful to others, she wants to know what others would want to read, too.

So I suggested she start a blog and talk to the world and ask them what they'd like to know about conversion. Or ask them to ask her questions, and then she could incorporate the answers.

Her response was looking at me like I was insane (probably a correct assumption), and asking, "Are you insane? I'm trying to write a book and you want me to write more?"

Well, um, yeah.

So being the helpful borderline codependent I am, I said I'd ask all of my blog's readers (here's hoping there's more than three...) if they'd be willing - or interested - in helping her out with her book project, or steering others who are interested in conversion to her as-yet-uncreated blog.

Whatddya think?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Question for all the rebbetzins out there...

I have a question for all the rebbetzins out there - regulars, rebels, and rabble-rousers alike. Anonymity welcomed! Your comments/answers will help with a subplot line in my next novel.

Here's my question:

When a member of your congregation approaches you, what - if any - information do you share with your husband and where do you draw the line between the issues you deal with and the ones you refer on to your husband?

Okay, that was sort of two questions morphed into one.

Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ani ayefah me'od halaila

Or something like that. Too many nights of only 4-5 hours of sleep. Too many nights staying up late working. But I met the deadline I was under (yay!) and can get back to some sense of normalcy.

So in lieu of an actual post that might actually say something... actual, here's what has been going through my brain lately:

  • Teaching my children (ages 5 and 3) Hebrew; [Oldest Son came running down the stairs the other day, exclaiming, "Eema, Eema! Look! I'm wearing c'khol (blue)! And look! I have lavan (white) on my feet! See? Eema? See? Lavan! And c'khol! I'm wearing them! Eema, see?"]
  • Trying to remember, review, and/or relearn Hebrew for myself; [I knew I was in trouble when I was asked on Friday if I spoke Hebrew and my answer was an instinctive, "Ani m'daberet solamente un poquito ivrit."]
  • Working on scenes with Arik's character in As in Days of Old, which means not only figuring out how he should speak Hebrew well, but how (and if, and when) he likely would speak English badly
  • Preparing my Torah reading for Shavuot

And entirely non-Hebrew related...

  • I promised the kids we'd do something FUN tomorrow, and I have no idea whatsoever what that might be
  • In the balancing act between business work, writing work (the novel), and Eema-ing, the housework, dream work, and anything related to fixing meals is losing. Badly.
  • Learning to make a good guacamole has become personal
  • Even a depressing blue funk can be improved with flowers for the window boxes and Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream

And odds and ends that have come up recently:

  • Several people - unrelated and in different settings - have shared experiences they've had that would fit well into a book called Rabbis Behaving Badly. It was very disconcerting, hearing these experiences that left people not only distrusting the rabbinate but distrusting Judaism as a whole. And I feel powerless to do anything other than offer a sympathetic ear.

Clarification: Lest I be misunderstood, I want to be perfectly clear that those experiences mentioned above are but a small fraction of the experiences with rabbis in general. As with any other profession, a couple of folks making some bad choices can - but should not - color the truly wonderful, meaningful, and sometimes excruciatingly difficult work that all of their other well-behaving colleagues do on a daily basis. Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

  • Dandelions grow REALLY fast in May
  • Children love dandelions
  • Pulling dandelions is much more fun when children help

Okay, I'm off to bed since my brain can't function anymore.

Laila tov!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

To sit at the feet of a scholar

We just had an awesome weekend! Our shul was honored to welcome Rabbi Elliot Dorff for a long weekend, with a series of opportunities to learn with him on Shabbat and Sunday. It was truly a pleasure to listen to his talks and engage in dialogue with him. It was equally amusing to watch what changed (and what didn't) in and around the shul, including a Friday night Shabbat dinner at the shul and Shabbat morning services.

We arrived Friday night in time to daven ma'ariv, followed by Kabbalat Shabbat. Oldest Son (who is 5) turned to me with typical preschooler timing - as we were just about to begin the Amidah - and whined, "Abba said this was going to be a short service. But this is a loooooong service!"

I whispered back, "Be sure and tell that to the rabbi." I was kidding, of course, but Oldest Son hasn't figured out when I'm serious and when I'm not.

"I can't," Oldest Son said. "He's talking to G-d right now."

"I should be, too," I whispered back. "Don't worry, we'll be eating soon."

"But I'm hungry!" Oldest Son's voice rose to a whine again. "If I tell G-d how hungry I am, can we be done sooner?"

I had no idea how to answer that.

One of the things Rabbi Dorff said that really stuck with me is from one of his newest releases, The Unfolding Tradition: Jewish Law After Sinai, in which he writes,

"It is always easiest to understand, explain, and have passion for one or the other of the ends of a spectrum, for then one embraces that endpoint consistently... It is harder to affirm a middle point on any spectrum, for then one must have the maturity, intelligence, psychological security, and wisdom to exercise judgment and to live with inconsistencies."

In his introduction, he also writes that this book will "...explain why Conservative thinkers do not affirm the clearer and bolder statements to the right and left but rather choose to live with the ambiguity - but the reality - of the middle."

It struck me because a mere six years ago, I identified myself as Orthodox. I covered my hair. I practiced tsnius without reservation. I schlepped myself four miles each way to shul on Shabbat, even in the Minnesota snow and ice, and we were looking for a house close to a different Orthodox shul, within an eruv. I kept strict kosher outside the home as well as in, much to the dismay of my diminishing circle of friends. And I mourned the fact that my husband and I were struggling with infertility. Somewhere in my mind I was thinking that surely if I was religious enough, I would be blessed with children.

But for reasons that I'll detail in another (and - I know - previously promised) post, I found myself increasingly miserable with my religious life.

I'd been in a Reform community for a year, leaving only after having a foot-stomping, raised voices, wild hand-waving argument with the then-rabbi of the Reform synagogue (now THAT was fun!) about the importance of Shabbat and kashrut to Judaism.

I came to a form of "Conservadox" (also called Traditional Conservative to distinguish it from the more liberal Conservative congregations) as something of a last resort. I was incredibly fortunate that I found a congregation that, were there such a thing as Egalitarian Orthodoxy, this would be a very close fit. I spent far too much time apologizing to all those I left (on both sides), and not nearly enough time affirming what turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

Enter, in part, my writing. To write from the perspective of a Conservative rabbi, one must have a pretty good idea of what Conservatism stands for, what it means, and why it's an important voice to be heard at the table of American Judaism and in a religiously pluralistic society.

Hearing Rabbi Dorff was, in many ways, a way of taking that understanding to the next level. And having the "psychological security" to stop apologizing for what made me miserable and affirm a courageous stand for what has given me a rich and meaningful Jewish life.

Todah rabah to Rabbi Dorff, and I can only hope to learn more from him in the future.

Check out Hadassah Magazine!

Destined to Choose is featured in the Guide to Jewish Literature in the May 2006 issue of Hadassah Magazine! Woohoo!