If you happen to live in a community (or ever have in the past) with a Jewish Community Center, then you know what their slogan is: Everyone is welcome at the JCC. That’s what they say, anyway. I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t know because I’m afraid to go to the JCC to even see if I’d be welcome. I’m not afraid to go to the JCC because I’m fat and out of shape and need to exercise. No. That’s all true, but it’s not why I’m afraid to go. I’m not afraid to go because I fear being laughed at for being fat and out of shape. That one’s not true. I’m so past that at this point in my life. No. My fear is much more practical. You see, I’m afraid to go to the JCC because I’m afraid I will not be welcome.
Yes, you read that right. I’m afraid to go to the JCC because I’m afraid I won’t be welcome. This fear isn’t completely random and unfounded. My fear is grounded in the fact that I am not welcome in synagogues, and if I’m not welcome in synagogues why would I be welcome at the JCC? You see, my fear is logical.
To be fair, I am welcome in synagogues. My husband, on the other hand, is not. He isn’t welcome because he isn’t the “right kind” of Jew. My husband is messianic.
If you’re a Jew this is where you are probably saying, “Hold it. Stop right there. We agree. Your husband isn’t the right kind of Jew. In fact, he isn’t a Jew at all.”
And this is where I beg to differ. He was born a Jew, so he will always be a Jew. A born Jew can be agnostic and still a Jew. A born Jew can be Buddhist and still be a Jew. A born Jew can be anything and still be a Jew because Judaism is as much an ethnicity as it is a religion- perhaps even more so. However, a born Jew can’t be a Christian and still be a Jew.
First of all, this double standard doesn’t even make sense to me. I mean, I understand all the history and animosity between Christians and Jews. I really do. I just don’t get the complete hatred of an entire group of people- especially when it’s Jews who are doing that hating.
I’m not going to get into the whole messianic thing. What I do want to say is that no matter what your views on it are, in the end, why aren’t Jews and messianics welcomed in synagogues as interfaith families? My husband could be flat out Christian and be welcome. He just can’t be messianic and be welcome.
The thing is, if he isn’t welcome in synagogue then I’m not welcome. I refuse to go if my husband isn’t welcome to go with me. It’s not some anti-feminist thing. It’s a family thing. You know, Jews are supposed to be about family? Well, I just want to worship with my family.
As a convert I don’t have a long family history (not even a short one) of Jewish tradition. My days as a Jew began on May 12, 2016 (not including the study and preparation and lifestyle changes that preceded formal conversion). I would like to be active in my Jewish community, but I won’t. Not unless something changes.
I can’t say he isn’t welcome in any synagogue. The Reform temple where I converted welcomes him, but we now live in a different state now. The synagogues here don’t welcome him.
So, I am a Jew- no one questions that. But I am a Jew who really wants to attend services but doesn’t. All I can think of is Hillel. He is known for summing up the entire Torah by saying, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to your companion”. Aren’t we all companions on this planet? As Jews, don’t we know what it feels like to be marginalized? Why, then, do we do it to others and even ourselves?
As for the JCC, maybe I would be welcome there. Maybe even my husband would be. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be brave and check it out. Somehow I’m not so sure.
Thankfully, as a witch, I can practice my Judaism at home and not feel completely abandoned. Prior to the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD, Judaism as a religion was practiced at home with certain festivals requiring trips to the Temple. But, aside from those required trips, the religion was practiced in the home with families. It was after the Temple was destroyed and more and more Jews were living in the diaspora that the religious aspects of Judaism began to be focused in the synagogue.
Most witches prefer to celebrate and honor the old ways. I do. So, I am grateful that my chosen religion was founded on worshipping in the home. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that today Jews gather to worship publicly and I would enjoy being able to gather with them. I guess I should just count my blessings. If they were aware that I’m a Jewish witch, then they probably wouldn’t accept me either. Maybe I shouldn’t judge and I should test those waters. I won’t, though.
What I will do is point out that we should all be a lot more tolerant of each other’s spiritual beliefs. In the end, most of our beliefs are the same when they are boiled down to their essential elements. A few days ago I saw a meme which listed the Golden Rule from various religions. If you take the time to study comparative religions you will see that in the end, no matter what deity we invoke, no matter what we call ourselves, no matter where we believe power and change comes from, in the end we all believe that we are the same and are required to love each other. If we all ultimately believe the same thing, why do we focus so much time and energy in trying to tell each other that we are wrong in our beliefs and that if we don’t all believe the exact same thing that some of us will end up suffering for it? I don’t understand.
Perhaps we need to spend some time in some serious soul searching to see if we truly believe what we claim to believe. We have all heard the maxim that actions speak louder than words. Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me. I hope you show me love.
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day which commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration camp and extermination center.
Do you know how many people died during the Holocaust? Many people are aware of the six million Jews who died. They were not the only ones. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, a total of approximately 20 million people died. That number includes the approximate 17,303,900 known deaths as well as the undetermined numbers of certain groups of people. Who were all of these people?
- Soviet Civilians
- Soviet prisoners of war
- Polish civilians
- Serb civilians
- disabled individuals
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Repeat criminal offenders
- German political opponents
You can read more about this here.
I’m going to include here a piece I wrote in November 2015. It has been just over three years and we are still no closer to finding an answer to this question. I don’t know what the answer is. I do know that we must never forget the horror of what happened to 20 million people. I do know that when we say “Never Again” that it is exactly what we mean. This atrocity can never happen again. We must make sure that it doesn’t. And it doesn’t just apply to Jews. While Jews were the largest single group who died in the Holocaust, there were 14 million non-Jews who perished. Never again means never again…for anyone.
Here is my piece from 2015:
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the #Syrianrefugees issue. I can understand both points of view when it comes to deciding if the USA and individual states should admit refugees. I really can. It’s not an easy decision no matter which way you look at it. On one hand you have innocent people trying to flee hellish conditions just to be able to stay alive. On the other hand, you have a real threat of terrorism from a small percentage of those people. Or at least we have a potential threat.
The one thing that weighs heavy on my mind is something that I’m sure many people get tired of hearing. The Holocaust. This has happened before. European refugees attempting to flee to the USA and being denied entrance. Lest we forget, in 1939, 937 refugees fled Hamburg, Germany for Havana, Cuba aboard the MS St. Louis. When they arrived in Havana, only 28 passengers were allowed to disembark and enter Cuba. The remaining passengers were denied entry.
After leaving Cuban waters, the St. Louis sailed so close to Florida that the passengers could see the lights of Miami. They begged President Roosevelt to grant entry to the US, but he didn’t even respond. The St. Louis was sent back to Europe with 908 passengers. Great Britain admitted 288 refugees and the remainder were admitted to continental European countries. Of those 620 refugees admitted to the European mainland, 532 were trapped when Hitler invaded Western Europe. Ultimately 254 of those people died in the Holocaust.
Two hundred fifty four lives that could have been spared. Think about that. It seems like such a small number compared to the millions of people who died, but 254 more people could have lived. Imagine what their decedents could have done. Decedents who were never born. I know a beautiful woman who lives because her mother was put on the kinder transport to England while her other family members were on the St. Louis. If I remember correctly, they landed in Holland, but were part of those who ultimately died. Just thinking about it makes me cry.
We can not continue to live a life ruled by xenophobia. We have to do our best to make the world a better place. Yes, terrorism is real. Yes, we need to be mindful of those who we allow in our country. But that goes for anyone, not just refugees. 254 people died in the Holocaust because of American antisemitism and xenophobia. Jewish people say “Never Again”. We all should say never again. But we shouldn’t just mean never again for Jews. We should mean never again for all people. I’m not saying we should just admit anyone. But saying refugees should be vetted isn’t enough. We need to have some real dialogue about what can honestly be done, what can truly work. This isn’t the time for ideals. It’s the time for making real choices. Will we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past or will we be better people this time around and do the right thing? I’m not saying what the right thing is. I don’t know. I really don’t. But we have to stop being ruled by fear and start living out compassion and love for our fellow man.
If you want to read more about the tragedy of the St. Louis, please go to this page on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
Last week I blogged about being thankful for yourself. You can read that here. One way to be thankful for yourself is to practice self care. I used to think of self care in terms of big sweeping measures such as a bubble bath with flowers or a massage. Those are good things and they are acts of self care. In fact, I had a massage yesterday and it was bliss. Massages are an act of self care that I swear by and make them a regular part of my self love routine.
However, I have found that self care does not need to be fancy. Often, the little things that you do for yourself often make a big difference in how you feel. So, I have come up with the following ten ideas for self care that are simple, every day acts. They don’t cost anything, or don’t have to depending on how you incorporate them into your life.
Pick one of these or all of these. Incorporate some of them into your life and see how they make you feel. If you already do some of these pick some more. The more self care you practice the better you will feel.
Focus on the now.
Don’t live your life in the past or in the future. Take each moment as it comes to you. Worrying about the past or future only robs you of the pleasure that can be found in the current moment. The past can’t be changed. The future is often not nearly as bad as we worry it will be. Live in the now and face each moment and day as it comes.
Spend time in silence.
Our brains are over stimulated most of the time. We have televisions, computers, phones, and a plethora of other devices that are constantly streaming information at us. It’s no wonder that we have a difficult time relaxing. Spend time in silence. Yes, I mean time without talking, but I also mean brain silence. Take time away from the constant stream of information. Quieting your mind will lead to a wide range of positive changes in your body and mood.
Find some type of physical activity that you enjoy. I am the first person to admit that I hate to exercise. But moving your body does wonders to improve your mood and how you feel physically. I have taken up yoga and it has made me feel so good. I’m not good at it- yet. But I do it. Actually, over the past two months I haven’t been able to go to my weekly class because of my husband’s health issues. I miss it. I miss it more than I thought I would. I knew I would miss the people, but I didn’t know I’d miss the physical activity. I can’t wait to go back.
This goes hand in hand with spending time in silence. When you quiet your mind it makes it easier to meditate. It doesn’t matter how you meditate. You don’t have to sit with your legs crossed and your fingers touching saying “om” over and over. You can, but you don’t have to. Meditation can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. The simplest form of meditation is being mindful of your breathing. Take slow deep breaths and focus on the inhale and exhale. Do this for as long as you like.
Do things that bring you joy.
It doesn’t really matter what you do for self care. If it’s something you enjoy than it is caring for yourself. I’ve been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. On top of all that I’ve started writing a novel this month. It is Work with a capital W. In addition to my full time job, and launching this business I’m writing a freaking novel! But I enjoy it. Yes, it’s difficult. But there is a joy I get from disciplining myself to sit down and write something every day. Sometimes I reach my daily goal and sometimes I don’t. But I write something every day. And that brings me joy. Find something you enjoy doing and then go do it. That is self care.
Eat the “bad” foods.
There are so many people who cut out foods they love because they are bad for them. Carbs. Fat. Sugar. Cholesterol. Whatever. Constantly trying to change what you eat to fit an ideal- even health- brings misery. I’m not saying not to be mindful of your health. Definitely be mindful of your health. But don’t ban entire food groups. No food is bad. Just eat in moderation. Of course, if you have an allergy you have to not eat it. Or, if you eschew certain foods for religious reasons (I do), then I’m not talking about that either. But if it’s a food you would normally eat but don’t because you think it’s “bad”, go ahead. Eat it. Just be mindful of it.
We’ve all heard the cliche about not forgiving someone only hurts you, not the one you won’t forgive. Or how harboring un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting on the other person to die. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is some truth in all cliches. I’m not saying it’s easy to forgive. I’m not saying you have to forgive if you’re not ready. I struggle with that one myself. What I am saying is that when you choose to forgive someone it does absolutely nothing for them, but it lightens the burden that you carry. Plus, not forgiving someone is living in the past, clinging to the hurt. So, you can’t live in the now and refuse to forgive.
Yes, that’s right. Don’t. Do. Anything. Set aside some time, be it a day, a few hours, whatever, and do absolutely nothing. Some religions have an entire day that was designed for this. Some people choose to do it while others don’t. But, if you set aside a regular time to do nothing then it helps you to be more productive when you actually get back to doing something. Besides, doing nothing isn’t actually doing nothing. It’s taking care of yourself. And that’s something.
I don’t care if you practice a religion or not. I don’t care if you believe in a higher power or not. Everyone can, and should, be spiritual. Find something outside of yourself that brings meaning to your life. If you find meaning in helping others then go out of your way to be helpful. That is a spiritual practice. If you’re more traditional and follow a religion, do so in a mindful way. Don’t just blindly follow what your religion dictates. Take time to contemplate the teachings and customs. That is spirituality. Finding meaning outside of yourself and connecting to that meaning will bring you an inner peace beyond measure.
Above all else be true to who you are. The worst kind of self loathing is derived from trying to fit your life into someone else’s mold. I spent many years of my life rejecting my true self and I was miserable. I was actually pretty good at living according to other people’s expectations. But deep inside my life was chaos. I have physical and emotional issues that I carry to this day that are the result of trying to fit a mold I wasn’t born for. When I decided to be me no matter what I reached a point where I could heal. It’s not easy, but I’m slowly getting there. And I have found that the absolute best self care is to be who I was meant to be.
Last year in 2017- about this time of year- I made a decision to study esoteric and metaphysical philosophies. It began as a personal journey for my own self and as a way to find answers to questions that I had. I grew up Christian. In 2016 I converted to Judaism. Conversion didn’t put an end to my questions. I guess I’m one of those people that will always question and be on a spiritual path.
One thing about Judaism is that it encourages questions. There is no believe this for belief’s sake. That ability to question has lead me down many rabbit holes. In this past year I’ve found an even deeper home in Judaism as I explore and adopt portions of other faiths and beliefs and embed them with my Judaism. You see, I was brought up as a deeply religious person, but that is not me. I am a spiritual person, but not a religious person.
Anyway, this isn’t about religion. This is about learning and sharing information. In this past year I have learned so much. And one thing I have learned is that while I may have started this journey for myself, I can’t leave it there. I have to share this information. And that is why I’m here. To reach you. My purpose is learning is to teach you. So, that is what I’m doing.
I’m becoming a spiritual teacher. A guide. A mentor. Will you join me on this path?