Oct 8 2014
During Sukkot, we remember how God freed our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. We build sukkahs, flimsy booths meant to recreate the temporary dwellings used while we wandered across the desert, leaving home behind.
I have been on my own wandering journey for about 14 years. I was brought up in a knowledgeable Reform Jewish home. As kids, my siblings and I lived in Upstate New York, and regularly attended temple services. The congregants barely filled two rows of pews if you mashed us all together. I loved it. I loved the hired soloist’s resonant soprano melodies, and the warmth of cuddling up to my father’s corduroy-patched sport coat. I jumped up and down out of my seat a million times, inhaling the rich aroma of coffee and wandering the lobby to sneak glances at the desserts piled high on the kiddush tables.
I knew that when I grew up, I was going to marry a Nice Jewish Boy, even though my parents had never planted the idea in my head. After the requisite years of adolescent angst, which involved piercing things you couldn’t see and dying my hair a variety of vibrant colors, I grew restless. I took a year off of college, worked, and traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip. There, in the city of Jerusalem, I found hope and inspiration. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 7 2014
My son’s bar mitzvah is this weekend. I’m recently divorced from my non-Jewish husband. My ex offered to pay for some of the bar mitzvah, but on the condition he bring his girlfriend–the same person with whom he had an affair and broke up our marriage.
We have agreed that he will pay for half of a small evening party, but the cost and preparation of the Kiddush lunch are all on me. And due to some logistical issues regarding the second day of Sukkot, I’m going to have a hell of a time getting lunch ready for 100 guests and 100 congregants (yes, we are cooking lunch for 200 people). A caterer is helping out and I hired servers to set up and clean up because I’ll be in the sanctuary. But no matter how you do the math, there is no cheap way to feed 200 people.
I’d be the first to understand that this sounds like a giant whine. And it is. Because our synagogue hasn’t acknowledged anything but the two-parent family model (gay and lesbian families are very welcome, but they have two parents). I’m a divorced mom. I have multiple sclerosis. I have full custody of two teenagers and the ex has alternate weekends. I work part-time and am fortunate to collect child support. My parents have both passed away and my siblings live far away. I have fewer financial, emotional, and time resources to put together the same event that two parent families have. It is literally all on my shoulders. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 1 2014
For the closing event at camp this past summer, our children paraded around a field in costumes for “Halloween in July,” collecting candy as Michael Jackson’s Thriller blasted from the speakers. While I watched the children scramble to fill their bags with treats, I noticed a man dressed in business casual slowly approaching, and for an instant his familiar appearance gave me joy. I almost smiled, but then I remembered how much I hate him.
Our divorce was finalized last Passover, and though we were both released from the contract that bonded us, I am still enslaved, unable to break free from the pain and anger. I was hoping that this Rosh Hashanah would bring forgiveness and peace at last, but it would be a lie to say I have forgiven him.
I willingly admit my own mistakes that contributed to the failure of our marriage. I am truly sorry. I also regret that we did not try harder to get the help that we needed to preserve our relationship. This is not the life I had envisioned for my family. But if the father of my children were to stand before me today (or send an email or a text) and ask for my forgiveness, I am not sure how I would respond. In my heart of hearts, I suppose I know what the correct response should be, but I cannot swear I would do as I am supposed to do. And while I rarely question God, our sages, or tradition, I find it impossible to forgive simply because it is dictated at this time of year. (Lucky for me, I guess, my ex has not asked for forgiveness.) Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 23 2014
My children and I will be spending the High Holidays apart this year. This is nothing new. When my now ex-husband left our home in Albany five years ago and moved back in with his parents on Long Island, part of our agreement was that our son and daughter would spend most of the Jewish holidays with him and his family. They were 2.5 and 5 years old at the time.
During the first year of our marriage separation, I travelled to Long Island with my children for Passover. I was not ready to let go. It was all so new, this idea of not being with my chubby-cheeked babes every moment of the day. I stayed with a friend-of-a-friend who opened up her house to me, aware of my tenuous grip on sanity as I prepared to leave my kids for a full day with their dad and grandparents for the very first time. I was scared.
Of course the visit went just fine, and subsequent holidays and alternating weekends carried on without me. My children are now 7.5 and 10 years old. They love the car rides down to Long Island, visits to museums, and–most importantly–time with their dad and grandparents. They are truly lucky to be loved by so many caring people. For this, I am blessed. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 10 2014
Fran Drescher is off the market.
The actress we know best as Fran Fine from “The Nanny” got married to inventor Shiva Ayyadurai Sunday, whom she met a little over a year ago when she watched him speak at a Deepak Chopra event, reports the Huffington Post.
“I was speaking on sages and scientists — in fact, talking about innovation and the fact that we need to more universally look at the models of innovation,” Ayyadurai explained to host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “And Fran heard my talk and we fell in love, and we’ve been together since that talk.”
The nuptials took place at an intimate ceremony with family and close friends at Fran’s beachside home. The bride wore a red Badgely Mischka gown, and the groom wore Ralph Lauren. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 23 2014
I love those afternoons when I arrive at camp pick-up after a long day of work and my children come running, faces smiling, eager to jump into my arms and share their accomplishments of the day.
Yesterday was not one of those days. Instead, when I arrived at camp for pick-up I found both 5-year-old twins crying.
The older twin is hardly a mystery. He struggles on some days, particularly after a late night, because he no longer gets a mid-day nap. He is also a very picky eater and admittedly not fond of camp food, though I serve a variation of the menu (chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or hot dogs) every night at dinner and he rarely complains. These factors, combined with the summer heat and too little water throughout the day, make for a cranky little boy. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 25 2014
The clock says 8:16 again. While I am sure it is largely coincidence or my imagination, that number is always illuminated regardless of where I am… at home, work, or in my car. 8:16 taunts me, causes my stomach to lurch and my heart to pound because this number represents my birthday: August 16th.
I am struggling with this particular birthday more than any previous year because it has arrived too quickly. I expected to be in a much different place at 40 years of age. Read the rest of this entry →
Credit: Tom Kates
It’s been a year since you wrote “Since My Divorce, I’m Missing the Mikveh,” and you know what, Mayim? You and I have a lot in common.
OK, so I’m not a movie star. But I have watched “Beaches” approximately 517 times. That’s got to count for something, right?
Like you, I grew up in the world of those who knew not of mikveh, and significantly expanded my learning in college. I immersed before I got married and my introduction to mikveh was from a more traditional perspective. In all honesty, as I learned more about alternative uses for mikveh, I had a hard time with it. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 25 2014
The children’s service at the synagogue where I teach on Shabbat–filled with singing, dancing, and prayer–is saving me during my never-ending divorce proceedings. Though designed for a young audience, the hour provides an opportunity to reflect on the past week, to give thanks, and to ask for strength in the week ahead. I listen to a few words about the Parsha (the weekly Torah portion), kiss the Torah with the children, and take comfort in the momentary peace.
My favorite part of the tefilah (prayer) is and has always been the silent prayer. While I love our tradition, enjoy the melodies we sing and appreciate the liturgy that has been passed down for generations, the silent prayer is the one prayer I “get.” This prayer enables me to say whatever is in my heart in a way that reflects who I am, silently, unscripted, and uninhibited. My silent prayer now includes hopes for our children and asks for assistance with my problems, but overall the prayer is the same one I have been reciting since I was a child.
This past Shabbat, following class, I joined a friend for lunch at a nearby cafe. As we meandered back to our car enjoying the long anticipated spring weather, we passed by two women on a park bench typing on old typewriters. The sign next to them read, “Give us one word and we will give you two poems.” Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 3 2014
The other day the guy next to me threw his computer bag on the table and quickly exited Starbucks. Without a second thought, I followed him out, but I stopped abruptly when I spotted him, cell phone in hand, making a call. Realizing he had no intention of blowing up the store, I took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders and returned inside to try to enjoy my drink. When he eventually returned to his table, it took all the restraint I could muster to keep silent about the anxiety unleashed within me as a result of his clueless actions.
It has been almost a decade and a half since I left Israel, yet I have not shed all of my old habits and fears I acquired while living abroad. In Israel, when an individual leaves a bag behind and flees, we are told to report it and evacuate. I learned to call home after each terrorist attack. Then I would reach out to local friends and roommates to ensure everyone I knew was accounted for and safe. After a few days of avoiding public places, I would reluctantly make my way back onto the bus again, often the same bus route that was targeted; after all, life must continue. I told myself confidently that I still had much more business left to complete on this planet and I needed to give thanks for each day going forward.
I reflect often about my younger years while I sit in Starbucks, which has become my habit, my retreat and my sacred space on the long nights and weekends when the children are away at their father’s. Before my divorce, before my world turned into chaos, I had a very different outlook on my life. I followed the rules. I studied, I worked hard, I earned degrees and built a career and a family. Yes, I sinned–worse than some people, but certainly not as badly as others. Still, I have come to recognize that there is no logical explanation as to why good things happen to bad people and tragedies befall the rule-followers. Read the rest of this entry →