Friday, July 5, 2013

My Jewish Journey

There are a lot of studies and even more discussions about what is the most impactful Jewish experience that keeps one engaged in the Jewish community and nurtures one's desire to have a rich Jewish life (whatever that is).

So here is an quick rundown of my Jewish experiences - good, bad, or just is.

  1. When I was 8, I told my mother that I hated Hebrew school and since girls were not required to have a bat mitzvah, my parents let me pass on this rite of passage.
  2. I tried Jewish camp when I was 12, and it was not great.  I hurt my ankle after the first week and remained on the sidelines for the rest of the time.  I never went back.
  3. My high school was predominantly Jewish and that became how I expressed my Judaism.
  4. In college, I also hung out with mostly Jewish friends - whether they were good or bad for me was never in question.
  5. Following college, I worked in the entertainment industry and realized that I was looking for something deeper.  I took a few classes of Torah study and Hebrew language.  Somewhere I panicked and didn't continue. 
  6. I returned to synagogue regularly when Rabbi Joseph Telushkin became the Rabbi for Synagogue for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.  I loved learning from him and was sad when he returned to New York.  
  7. I decided to leave the entertainment industry and took a job at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  For many reasons (Jewish and secular), this position fueled my passion for learning in a way that I had been looking for and had not previously experienced in any other professional capacity.
  8. When I got married, the ceremony became the focal point for me and everything else I left up to others.   Following our wedding, my new husband and I participated in two Shabbatons at Brandeis for Newly Married Couples.  We loved it and it ignited a Jewish spark.  We were so moved by the 2nd experience, Perry and I renewed our vows impromptu following the Saturday planned programming.
  9. I begin working at The Jewish Federation and for a while my Jewish profession is also my religious Jewish expression.  I can't separate them.
  10. The birth of my daughter was a very powerful Jewish experience.   Perry and I had a strong urge to give her a baby naming that meant something special.  A variety of circumstances allowed it to take place on her 8th marking for me the non-gender ownership of the 8th day.  
  11. The next important Jewish experience was my adult bat-mitzvah at 42 years old.  It was an incredible experience and like many momentous occasions, the event was a complete blur and I feel like I missed it.   The year-long study with Rabbi Mark Borovitz was what made the experience meaning and rewarding.
  12. Next, Perry begins teaching at Pressman Academy and I become pregnant.  These two experiences deepened our connection to Pressman and Temple Beth Am and I began attending shul more often.
  13. Work again becomes a greater time commitment and allows me to travel to Israel several times.  Each of these trips give me a new perspective on the land and on my own religious views.
  14. Our family begins participating in the Temple Beth Am family Shabbaton several years on a row.  With each of these experiences, I return to Los Angeles with a new desire for learning the prayers and Torah text.
  15. And then I found Meditation Plus with Rabbi Ruth Sohn at Temple Beth Am ( or it found me) and it has been the most impactful Jewish experience I have had in my adult life.  I attend every Shabbat and have for the past 18 months.  This experience alone has made a huge impact on my life. I believe this weekly experience excites and engages me a new way that sparks the desire for new challenges.  With Meditation Plus, I even grew to facilitate some discussions.  
  16. I just became part of the Sisterhood at Temple Beth Am.  After only one meeting, I have found a place with great women who want to learn like me.  
  17. I become the Co-President of the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California.  Accepting this position makes it clear to me that this is part of my Jewish path.  Working to advocate for all Jewish Communal Professionals is coming from my Jewish soul.
  18. My daughter's bat-mitzvah is coming up and this experience is already making an impact on our family.  I am committed to making sure the bat-mitzah has meaning for my daughter, my family and Perry and me.  This is truly a family and friends project. 
Seeing it all written like this makes me realize that while I had felt a loss at not having some of these Jewish experiences as child, my adult life is rich with wonderful Jewish experiences.  And best of all, today I belong to a community that is nurturing, loving and all striving to be productive and healing members of our community.  I am truly blessed.

Shabbat Shalom...

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