I was in New York this week to speak at The Jewish Center in Manhattan on Tuesday and the Hebrew High School of New England benefit in West Hartford, CT last night.
Tuesday night at TJC was a sold out (600 people!) crowd. I was the first woman to speak as part of a lecture series started by a prominent family in Manhattan and the first time they have sold out. That felt really neat, and it was such an amazing diverse community. The Los Angeles Modern Orthodox community is very homogeneous for the most part, and it’s both startling and grounding to come to a place like TJC where I meet men and women who are such a neat blend of modern and traditional. I felt very supported in my struggles towards observance in a secular world and I really felt like people don’t feel the need to “box me in” here as much as in Los Angeles or on the internet!
Last night in West Hartford, I was a part of a truly special event celebrating a community that believes in the value of religious education for their kids and since it didn’t exist, they simply made it happen. This was also a very colorful and diverse community, and at this event, Modern Orthodox people mingled freely with female Rabbis and people of all persuasions. We were able to rejoice in one place to celebrate the strength of a community that unites around Torah values. This doesn’t happen very often in Los Angeles or on the internet, either!
I don’t mean to “LA-bash,” but the east coast Judaism I get to experience when I come into these synagogues and Jewish Federations is really emboldening. I hope someday to see this pluralism and tolerance spread to every coast and city, because I have only experienced more growth and more honoring of our tradition when this kind of collaboration is evident, both religiously and inter-personally.
My 6 1/2 year old asked if we can stay one more day in New York. I told him no, it’s time to go home. Because he knows that the talks I give contribute to our staying in hotels, he smiled and said, “What if we pay for it?” I told him we already added on and paid for a few more nights in our hotel. It’s time to go home.
With the wiseness of a child raised with a celebrity mother who has a publicist named Heather, he smiled once more and said, “Let’s ask Heather.” I laughed hard, and told him even my publicist can’t help him stay one more day.
And so we head back to the land of glitz and glory, and also the land where I tend to feel boxed in, and I fight not to be boxed in. I am always grateful for trips such as this, where I am reminded again and again that Judaism is not about boxes, but about the values we seek to live by and the way we transform our lives and the world with those values intact. And we do that so well when we do it together.
A frequent New York visitor, Mayim’s not afraid to breastfeed on the subway, do some serious publicity for Beyond the Sling, and trek the boys out to Brooklyn to meet her great aunt.