Categories
Mindsets Spirituality

A return to a sense of belonging and the tragedy that preceded it

Becoming Israeli is a process.
The Israeli flag according to my daughter.

Tanya shared her experiences of being humiliated by the rabbis who granted her a Jewish divorce years ago and her return to a sense of belonging as a member of the Jewish community in her blog post titled “On losing my religion… and finding it“.

It was one of the worst days of my life, and the process of being granted a Jewish divorce by three rabbis caused humiliation and hurt, and I can’t cite many more instances in my life that have made me feel as small and insignificant as that one.

They took a very harmonious divorce proceeding (yes, they do exist), and caused tears and humiliation, and from then, I lost my place in Judaism, mainly because I couldn’t see that I even had a place there. I mean, how could I even feel a belonging when I had been made to feel small, insignificant, and disrespected. And I couldn’t shake it off, or really feel a belonging.

Her story is inspiring, heartwarming. At the same time, it is tragic that she was went through an ordeal that left her feeling as if she didn’t belong.

How many Jews effectively leave the community, never to return, because of experiences like Tanya’s (or worse). There aren’t that many of us left in this world. We shouldn’t alienate each other because of some dogmatic insistence on some “proper” level of adherence or morals.

Sometimes it seems that there is more that divides us than unites us. History has shown us that we are quickly defeated and cast out when we are divided.

Categories
Blogs and blogging People Spirituality

Raising a Jewish family is very much a journey

My wife contributed a post to the All Things Mom Sydney blog titled “The Religious Effect: Raising children within a Jewish Family” which I enjoyed reading (of course I’m biased but you may find it interesting in itself). She wrote about the decisions we have made to ensure that our kids grow up in a Jewish home and the balance we strike between religious practice and a degree of secularism in our lives.

Just over two years ago, we made the decision to emigrate to Israel. While it’s been a rather large adjustment in terms of culture (Israelis are a loud, pushy, obstinate, loyal, happy and friendly bunch) and language, it’s also been easy in that Israel is a Jewish state. This means that we are not in a minority anymore in terms of religion. But, while we are not in the minority anymore, there are still dozens of other religions represented by the citizens of Israel as well as many cultures our children have never been exposed to since there are people from all over the world that call Israel home, Russian, French, American, British, Australian just to name a few. So, we still make a point to explain the differences between people’s cultures and religions to our children.

I think the biggest and most important lesson we have taught and continue to teach our children is that everyone is different and that no person is above or below anyone else. That people have different beliefs and that we need to respect them regardless of religion.

As our children grow up, retaining strong links to our culture and traditions is increasingly important to me. We can’t take living in Israel for granted. Even this Jewish State has strong tugs in different directions: towards complete secularism on one hand and towards stricter religious observance on the other.

We walk somewhere between both. I’d like our kids to be exposed to more of our religious practices because I think there is a lot of wisdom to be gained from many of our practices despite their religious connotations. In addition, much of our culture stems from our traditions and losing that means losing much of what it means to be Jewish.

Where that leaves us remains a bit of a mystery to me. For the time being, we’re mostly figuring this stuff out as we go. I hope that our kids will grow up with a strong sense of pride that they are both Jews and Israelis. We have a long history and there is something special about who we are.

Read Gina’s post: The Religious Effect: Raising children within a Jewish Family at AllThingsMomSydney.

The featured image is from a collection of photos I made during a recent trip to Jerusalem with family. You can see the rest of the photos here.

Categories
Events and Life

“The idea is that you switch on your life”

Gus Silber has a terrific post titled “Wait, Slow Down, Stop: the Power of the Shabbos Project” which is really worth reading. We took part in the Shabbos Project last year, didn’t do it last week and I’d like to be part of it next year, perhaps. We’re not particularly observant (although that is changing a little here and there) but there is definitely something about taking a day to step outside our busy weekends to live better. As Silber put it so well:

But the world doesn’t turn anymore, it spins, like a record played at the wrong speed, and the breathless, pulsating distractions can drive you to distraction.
But the idea of the Sabbath – and how nice is the word that springs from it, Sabbatical – isn’t just that you switch off your machines. The idea is that you switch on your life.

Weekends are rarely rest days anymore. We always seem to have somewhere we need to be, things we need to do and we’re exhausted, not refreshed, by Sunday evening. Returning to work on a Monday morning has become a break from the weekend. Shabbos is an opportunity to disengage from everything that takes us away from living more meaningfully and spending quality time with our friends and family.

It’s tempting to do it every week but then again, when would we get everything done?