I’m well, how do you Jew?
Hahaha! Okay, bad joke but I thought it was pretty funny in a really corny way. I was sitting on the subway early this morning leaving Mirs’ doing what I normally do on the subway-Praying. I don’t know why I’ve taken to doing it on the subway, it’s not exactly the most sacred space and it’s definitely not a private place or a place that I feel holy. It usually has to do with the fact that I’m running late and I’m sitting down (usually). Nearly every morning I’ll open my borrowed siddur and start with the Shema and V’ahavta with the help of the Shabbat Shalom CD I received in my shul’s welcome packet. I then shuffle through the pages until I get to Nisim B’chol Yom and continue through the end. I listen to Jewish music while I’m praying and do my best to concentrate and feel connected with God. I will be honest that I don’t sometimes feel connected and sometimes I feel silly but most of the time it still feels like a great way to start my day. On the mornings (which are rare) that I’m not rushing, I say the prayers in my apartment before I have my coffee or after getting out of the shower.
This morning, I was thinking about our conversion classes conversation about Jewish Identity and Pesach observances when I was praying. I finished and looked up and noticed an Orthodox (or Conservative) man watching me. He sort of stared and I sort of stared back before we both looked away. I shrugged it off but wondered, why did he (did he?) care what I was doing. Whatever his thoughts, I forced him to see a Jew who may have looked contrary to what he perhaps is used to seeing as Jewish.
The way that our conversion class is structured is that the first half hour the people who are in the process of converting sit and talk with a rabbi. We talk about challenges of our week, we ask questions, and sometimes they ask us a question. Last night, Rabbi L., who is in “charge” of my conversion, asked us if we had any issues, questions, or thoughts about Jewish Identity. Being the overly enthusiastic student that I am I spoke up first and talked about what I always talk about here and everywhere-challenging the thoughts of who is a Jew. On of the students next to me, and one of the other three black women in the class asked me, “What does a Jew look like?” My answer was, “It depends on where you live.” My long-term goal as a Jewish woman who longs to be a rabbi, is to continue to challenge Jewish people to see past their families, communities, and comfort level and to encourage an open-mind and open heart with regard to Who is Jewish and How they Jew. It is also to challenge non-Jews to look outside of their ideas, thoughts, and expectations of who is Jewish.
I personally want to focus on being a Reform Jew with Conservative leanings. In other words, a very observant Reform Jew. I have long-term goals to observe some form of kashrut, Most kashrut laws are in conflict with my conviction to eat locally, sustainable, and organically. I have a long-term goal to get the communal, cultural, tradition part of Judaism (which I struggle with) melded seamlessly to the religious aspect of Judaism (the part I love and is easy for me). A long-term goal is to maintain a Jewish home and raise a Jewish family that honors and loves Shabbat in a real way. A long-term goal is to go to rabbinical school and join or create a shul that is diverse, inclusive, observant, engaging, fun, with real outreach and roots and ties to the broader, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious community. My long-term goal is to create long lineage of Jews. A long-term goal is to go to Israel. The list goes on and on and on and on…
As I said in an older post. The way that I Jew and How I Jew is not always going to be the way that you Jew or How you Jew and it doesn’t need to be. I’ve been reading Sh’ma online recently and encourage you to as well. The current issue is ALL about who is a Jew and who says so. It’s full of great essays on Jewish relations here in the US as well as in Israel. It’s truly, one of the best collections of multi-faceted Jewish identity that I’ve read in a long while. It has me thinking and affirming my Jewish choices, my Jewish life, and my Jewish identity.
In our first discussion Rabbi L. suggested that I find a Star of David charm to go with my two hamsas I currently wear around my neck. The Star of David, more than a hamsa, identifies you as a Jew. As much as I don’t “look” Jewish-I am. Wearing an object so easily recognized and associated with Judaism allows people to “see” the Jewish me. I’d been searching for weeks and remembered that I saw one at an antique store on 17th street called Pippin. I went to the store after work yesterday and after poking around in their beautiful and tempting wares, I found the piece I’d spotted months before. It was dull but after a quick rub by one of the associates it sparkled and gleamed like sterling silver does. I added it to my hamsas. It needs its own chain because the three charms together clink in a way I’m not fond of, but it’s there. Around my neck as a bold statement to the world that I am (or will be soon) a Jew.
Just in case you were wondering 47 days until Pesach.