Exploration is a Spiritual Experience

201205_Roses_015-2BlogLHalfYesterday, a rabbi emailed me an article published in The New York Times titled “Is Belief a Jewish Notion?” The article was an interview that Gary Cutting conducted with Howard Wettstein, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of The Significance of Religious Experience. The rabbi attached a note that said, “What do you think about it?”

In the interview, Wettstein expressed distaste in trying to theorize God. He expressed that participation, or experience, is in complete opposition to theorizing about God’s existence. He stated, “Speaking to God is different than speaking about God.” Continue reading »

Posted in Choices

Mom, I’m an Atheist

Sunset BayMy son, Alec, was home from UMASS Amherst for spring break last week. He mostly spent his much needed free time with his friends from High School, but I did manage to snag him for an outing here and there.

On Friday, we went to the Olive Garden together for lunch. It’s really nice to spend quality time alone with your kids. If they are willing to talk––which when they are teenagers isn’t all that often––you can get into some pretty deep conversations. We chatted mostly about his experiences at college—how he is adjusting to the lifestyle and what his course load is like. However, on the drive home we got into a much deeper conversation. Continue reading »

Posted in Choices, Family

There’s Prejudice in All Religions

Over the BridgeSeveral weeks ago, I wrote a post and shared my thoughts about The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman. I read it for a discussion in a synagogue’s sisterhood book club, and found it enlightening, because it shared the German perspective of Nazi Germany.

Last week, the book club met at Grace’s house. We kibitzed for over an hour around the kitchen island about everything but the book: our children, our husbands, music, and even sex. The sisterhood has an ongoing joke that there’s so much more to discuss before spending the obligatory ten minutes discussing the book we’d read. Continue reading »

Posted in Choices

What Happened to Judaism?

One Fallen Leaf

One Fallen Leaf

Twenty-two years ago, my husband, Tim, and I were married. I was Jewish and he was Protestant. We were married by a justice of the peace in a non-religious ceremony. Tim and I had discussed at length how we would raise our children and agreed that, because I felt much stronger about my religion than he did his, our children would be raised Jewish.

We joined our local Conservative temple and quickly became friends with other interfaith couples, who had also made a commitment to raise their children Jewish. I think Tim and I may have been the only couple in the group who didn’t actually have any children. I’m just not a last minute person, so I wanted to be sure that we both had a grasp on how to raise our kids Jewish—before they came. Continue reading »

Posted in Choices

My Grandfather Wasn’t Born Jewish

201401_untitled_001BlogFullMy grandmother’s name was Selma Manevitch. She was the daughter of pre-World War ll Russian immigrants, who cleaved to their Jewishness and spoke plenty of Yiddish. Selma married Robert Palmer, a young, American Army man. But they weren’t married for very long when my grandfather was deployed to Europe to fight in the war.

Selma wrote letters to Robert, and sent pictures of her stomach swelling with the life they had created before he left. You can imagine the joy, and the hope of returning home, that Robert had when he starting receiving pictures of his newly-born daughter, Francine.

Francine, my mother, was a year old when my grandfather returned home from the war. He had excitedly barreled through the door late one evening, anxious to see his wife and his daughter for the first time. Clumsily approaching her, Francine’s big, brown eyes opened, as she sleepily lifted herself up in her crib revealing her long, jet-black hair. She stared at him curiously and said, “dada.” Continue reading »

Posted in Family

Thoughts About The Plum Tree

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The Plum Tree was written by Ellen Marie Wiseman, and it’s the first book she has written and published. The book is an historical fiction that takes place in Germany during World War ll amid the Holocaust. The main characters are a poor Christian, German girl, and an extremely wealthy Jewish, German boy. The story begins with them falling in love, but they were soon ripped apart because of what was happening in Nazi Germany during the war.

I read the book because I have recently joined the sisterhood book club in a Synagogue, and it was their required reading. However, I admit that I am not a fan of reading books about the Holocaust, and generally try to avoid them at all costs. As a child, the influential adults in my life had drilled the terrors of that time period deeply into my mind. Fear and anxiety had relentlessly hovered over my sanity, from the hundreds of unforgettable images that no child should ever be exposed to, and had haunted me well into adulthood. Continue reading »

Posted in Books

Experiencing the Living Waters of the Mikveh

Bluefish Ripple“Good morning. Have a seat in the waiting room and someone will be right with you,” I heard a voice slowly approaching. The modern, artsy decor gave way to a cathedral ceiling with skylights and elegant, modern tile work. But, still, there was something undeniably rustic about the place that affirmed an ancient charm. Our tour guide explained that there was an education center and conference rooms on the premises in addition to the reason most people visit. The rooms were meticulous, bright, and neatly decorated with religious art quilts hanging from the walls. I contemplated the people who had quilted them. Jews quilt? I thought that was a Christian thing?
Continue reading »

Posted in Mikveh

Tattoos: Swastikas and Pentacles

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I had a Pentacle tattooed on my shoulder several years ago. When I made the decision to have it permanently inked on my skin it was a personal choice. I never thought about what kind of impact it might have on others. Honestly, I didn’t care. I was doing this for me and it didn’t really matter to me what anyone else thought. I was Wiccan and my pentacle proudly displayed that fact.

However, the summer after I got my pentacle tattoo, the consequence of what I had done collided with my conscience. That summer I wore tank-tops that left my shoulders uncovered and my tattoo scintillating in a mixture of sweat, suntan lotion, and sunlight. It didn’t take long for me to witness the fear that my tattoo invoked in others. It really didn’t matter how much I tried to explain that the symbol was benign, and stood for the elements of nature and the Divine—also that Pagans were nature-loving and peaceable. People were still afraid of it — and me. Continue reading »

Posted in Choices

Comforted by a Jewish Funeral

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When I was a young child, every evening before I went to bed my mother would braid my long, thick hair to prevent it from knotting while I slept. My hair wasn’t the only thing my mother braided—she braided our bread. I have vivid memories of her making homemade challah when I was a child, and how surprised I was the first time I saw her braiding the dough. I’ll never forget the way the aroma filled the entire house as it cooked, and how it tasted fresh and hot from the oven. Continue reading »

Posted in Family