General Jewish Spirituality Rabbinic

Building a New Community

It’s time for me to make something happen. To move a dream onto the path of reality. Specifically: it’s time to begin building an inner-East Side Jewish community.

There’s a lot of details left to work out. Some of them I’m deliberately leaving up in the air until I have a group of collaborators to create the community with me. Other details I just haven’t worked out yet. But there are some things I do know:

  • It will be a community which, while Jewish, will be welcoming to non-Jews as well, whether in interfaith relationships or not.
  • It will be a community which is welcoming to people of all genders, sexual orientations and identities.
  • It will be a mult-generational community.
  • We will join together to find fulfillment in spiritual experience, whether through traditional Jewish modes or less traditional modes.
  • And there will be services, at least on occasion, because I like praying, damn it.
As for the rest, it’s waiting to be worked out. And I’d love for you to be a part of working it out. Because I don’t want this community to be a reflection of me: I want it to be a reflection of those of us who consider ourselves “inner-East-Siders” and “Jews.” So drop me a line, let me know that you’re interested. Because I have a good feeling about this.
General Jewish Spirituality knitting spirituality

Diana Memorial Noro Socks

It’s been way too long since I blogged. First, I wasn’t blogging because I had nothing to say besides, “I’m still missing Diana,” and I didn’t think that merited anyone else reading it. Then, I couldn’t quite figure out how to start again. Then I got pretty busy. So I haven’t been blogging. 

But now, I return. With a new knitting project: socks of Noro yarn, which I deliberately started while mourning Diana. It not’s that I didn’t have other knitting projects, but they were all for other people. And for the first week after Diana died, I didn’t feel like knitting at all (hard as that is to believe). After that, I wanted to begin to explore knitting again, but didn’t want my sadness and mourning being poured into a baby blanket I was working on, or a gift for anyone, in fact. I wanted to have those emotions become part of something I was knitting for me.

These socks are made of Noro Kureyon sock yarn which I bought with a gift certificate which was given to me as a thank you for doing a bat mitzvah. Noro is significantly more expensive than the sock yarns I’ll usually buy, but I’ve always admired the colors. It was a splurge, and it was for me. So when I was deciding to make something for myself, that I could put whatever emotions I was feeling into, this felt like the right thing to work on. 

At the beginning (and I’ve been working on these for 2 weeks or so, now), there was a huge amount of sadness involved. I would not have wanted to been working on a baby blanket at the time. Now, I’m still sad sometimes, but for the most part, I’m ok. In between I turned the heel, realized I’d made the foot too short, ripped back, and turned the heel again. I’ve been watching the colors slowly unfold from the skein, and enjoying the progress as they do. 

I’ve knit my sadness into them, and I’ve knit some happiness into them. Now, it feels like i want to finish them before moving on, as though finishing the socks will officially mark the end of a period of mourning for Diana. Obviously, the process of mourning doesn’t end that suddenly, but having a demarkation, whether it be one of time or accomplishment, can be useful to let one know when it’s time to regard life as “back to normal.”

In Judaism, there are three stages of mourning. First, there is shiva, which lasts about a week. Then comes shloshim, which is 30 days. Finally, for the first year after the death, it is customary for the mourner to go to the synagogue daily to recite the kaddish, a prayer in memory of the deceased. Obviously, I wouldn’t observe these stages for a cat, even one I love as dearly as Diana, but I want some way to mark the end of the period of active mourning, and I think finishing the socks will be that way. 

So I’m knitting along on my socks, and looking forward to finishing them, and moving onto the next stage of life.

Jewish Spirituality Rabbinic spirituality

An Odd Shabbat Service

Tomorrow morning, I will be leading an odd (one might even say queer) shabbat service. It is for the Transforming Faith: Divining Gender conference, which deals with transgender issues from a positive faith perspective. Now, what makes this an odd experience for me is not any of the gender/transgender issues, that’s pretty comfortable for me. What makes it odd is that I’ll be leading a shabbat service for a congregation of about 100, of whom I may be the only Jew.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying how to lead Jewish prayer, thinking about how to lead Jewish prayer and actually leading Jewish prayer in a variety circumstances. However, it is only very rarely that I’ve been dealing with a primarily non-Jewish congregation. Even rarer, this is a circumstance where they have chosen to do “multi-faith” prayer rather than “inter-faith” prayer.

“Inter-faith” prayer is when you get a bunch of religions together, and they construct a service they can all live with, which isn’t really representative of any one religious tradition, but isn’t objectionable to any religious tradition (ideally). They tend to be a bit on the bland side, and often a little uncomfortable as some member of the clergy goes on autopilot and and invokes the blessing of Jesus Christ our savior (“well of course you’re Jewish, that doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Christ, does it?”). I can and do participate in these gatherings because they are important, but tend not to find them particularly satisfying.

“Multi-faith”, on the other hand, is where each faith takes one service, and lead a service which is deliberately particularistic to that faith. So I am leading the Saturday morning service as a Shabbat service (more or less). A Muslim leader is leading the Friday morning service. There are some Christian services, etc. My goal here is to present an authentic Jewish prayer experience which is accessible and meaningful to a non-Jewish congregation.

Often, much of Jewish prayer takes place in Hebrew. It’s hard to create a participatory prayer experience when only the leader has any famiarity with the language being used (note: the Catholic Church, when seeking to make the mass more accessible started using the vernacular instead of Latin). So, I’m mainly doing things that can be done in English. I think the extent of the Hebrew in the service will be 9 words: the Shema (6 words) and a chant for Ahavah Rabbah (3 words), and I’ve transliterated those 9 words.

Otherwise, I think we’ll sing a psalm in English, and do a guided meditation. Oh yes, and do some blessing of God for creation in English. All in all, it should be a nice service, give some taste of Jewish prayer, and, at the same time, come in at under 30 minutes (thereby rendering a completely inauthentic experience of shabbat morning services).

I’m looking forward to this, and think it should be fun. After the service, I go home, and plan to sleep for much of the day, and finally be rid of this cold.