Friday, May 17, 2013
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Anyhoo, I went and it was wonderful. Hudy plays the drums and piano too and is really musical and Becky, our friend who was ill, had a deeply incredible sense of humor and love of life. Becky passed away a few months ago, actually, at the age of 41, from complications after her decade-long illness, and we will never forget her.
Becky, Hudy, some other friends and I continued to meet a number of times to sing and laugh, and then the ad hoc group kind of disbanded.
Then Hudy met Rachel.
Hudy wanted voice lessons and plays guitar. Rachel gives voice lessons and wanted to learn guitar. They decided to meet each week for an hour and swap services. Eventually each realized the scope of the other's talents and created a video of song for a non-profit called "Project Hope," which provides Jewish video entertainment for women who are hospital-or-bed-bound. Hudy called me to see if I wanted to work on the project over the summer, but at the time I had a summer job at Camp Raninu in the Poconos and could not participate.
Two years later, Hudy called me again. "Ruchi, we want to form a band, and we want you to be a part of it. We'll get together every Wednesday morning and jam. We don't know where this will go. Are you in?"
I was in!
And that's how In Harmony was born.
In Harmony is a band comprised of Orthodox women from the widest variety of backgrounds. Each of us sings, some of us play instruments such as piano, drums, guitar, electric guitar, flute, clarinet, and sax. Among our ranks are a staging expert, a fashion designer, a social media guru, a super-organized CEO type, and a fundraiser. Together we have put on one major full-length concert for women and girls only (in line with our religious beliefs) for a sold-out crowd of 500, many smaller performances at a variety of venues, and have our next major concert, where we are expecting 800 women and girls, coming up Sunday, May 26th.
In Harmony is one of the most enjoyable outlets of my life. Although meeting every Wednesday (more, now, pre-concert) can be taxing on my schedule, I adore the women I work with, who have become close friends and my "band sistas." I feel alive, knowing I am activating all the parts of my soul that God gave me to uplift and inspire myself and others. I marvel at the beauty called "music" that God put into the world, and at how we all need each other to created this magnificent product that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Best part is, Hudy, after years of me dropping hints, finally gave me a drum lesson.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Most of my Orthodox friends were not as shocked or outraged as my non-Orthodox friends.
At first I wondered if Senator Johnson were perhaps unaware of the meaning of the slur. For example, I used the term "gypped" until recently, having been totally clueless that this term is a pejorative against Gypsies (Roma). I was likewise unaware, until recently, that "midget" is derogatory while "dwarf" is preferred, and that the Deaf community prefers Deaf with a capital "d."
But when I watched the Senator's weak apology, this explanation seemed unlikely.
So why am I not shocked or outraged? Mostly, because I am very "out" about my Judaism and am therefore totally aware, and even expect, to some extent, anti-semitism. I remember my grandparents telling me how some of their best Hungarian and Polish neighbors turned on them with a vengeance during the Holocaust. In taking a long view of Jewish history, this is the norm rather than the exception.
Do I think that Senator Johnson hates Jews? Nah. But neither do I fool myself into thinking that we're well-liked out there in the world. Yes, even in America, and yes, even today. I would term it begrudging acceptance, for the most part. And I am aware that in the heterodox community, this is not a very popular view. Hence the shock and outrage anew each time a politician or celebrity slips in public with an anti-Jewish slur.
There's a value to the shock and outrage, though. I think it draws us together as a people and reminds us that we are different. As you know, I think this a good thing.
In this world, there are some philo-semites and there are some anti-semites. The difference arises in your view of which category most of the world falls into.
What do you think?
Friday, April 19, 2013
This post is a little off the beaten track for me, but I've been sick about the news out of Boston. I keep hearing people talk about praying for Boston, but I know that many Jews have a hard time praying, whether formally or organically. Here is a short prayer that I will be saying tonight at candle-lighting. Feel free to say it as well and share, or use it to inspire your own.
I've been struggling all week with the Boston bombing. It's so hard for me to understand how these things happen. But G-d, I recognize, in my mind if not emotionally, that You have Your ways and Your plans that are unfathomable to me.
I can't control evil, but I can fight it by bringing a little more goodness into the world. And so G-d, I would like to use these moments to show faith and compassion by praying.
Please, G-d, bring comfort to the innocent families of the victims. Please bring healing to the injured. Help all of them to heal in their bodies and minds, and to heal in their faith in the essential goodness of this world. Help them and us heal in understanding that while there is evil in this world, it is mostly a good place with mostly good people. Restore their faith in humanity. Help them to rebuild normal lives.
And please G-d, assist the law enforcement professionals in ending evil. Bring justice, that we may live in peace and joy, and may we remember You in those moments as well."
Monday, April 15, 2013
And this might sound kind of funny coming from someone who helps people plan their kids' rites of passage, but I think most Jews on this planet, or I should say, in North America, make far too big of a deal about this without even knowing what the ceremony is or isn't supposed to celebrate.
On this thread, where a friend of mine gave some tips as far as what to give as gifts, I responded such:
You wrote: “a celebration of achievement. It is a spiritual rite of passage that connects one generation to another.” I would demur. I think it’s a celebration of arrival through an entryway. An entryway to life as a responsible Jew. The “achievement” hasn’t actually happened yet, and a child becomes bar or bat mitzvah when they have their (Hebrew) birthday on the thirteenth (for girls twelfth) birthday of their lives – this is an upgrade in spiritual status, that, according to the Jewish sources, takes place whether they are reading from the Torah, vacationing in St. Martin, asleep, or converted out. It happens to you. How you celebrate it is entirely optional and has varied greatly by community and history.
I recognize that this is radically different from how most Jews think about bnei mitzvah, but it’s what the sources say.What do most American kids think? That you have to go to Hebrew school for (fill in the blank) years, to learn Hebrew, so that you can read from the Torah, so that you can have a party like your friends and get lots of gifts.
Wrong, wrong, and wrong. My dear American Jewish children:
1. You don't have to go to Hebrew school.
2. You don't have to learn Hebrew.
3. You most certainly do not have to read from the Torah.
4. You do not deserve a party for that dubious accomplishment or any other for that matter.
So what do you have to do?
1. Learn about Judaism from whichever source will inspire you most to live it, love it, breathe it, and understand it.
2. Learn how to talk to God in your own words.
3. Acknowledge in some way that the day you turn 12 or 13 is special because you are now autonomously responsible to live Jewishly.
4. Thank your parents for giving you all of the above.
Shall I tell you why I feel so strongly about this?
1. Going to Hebrew school to learn Hebrew reading, a skill that many kids will never use again soon enough to matter, often makes them hate Judaism.
2. Kids are so entitled and spoiled as it is, that we don't need to feed the frenzy by offering them a mini-wedding (which actually deifies them far more than a wedding) for "performing" in Hebrew.
3. And of course, the problem everyone, including me, is struggling with: how to keep kids engaged once the carrot is consumed off the stick (you can't use your gifts? won't get your album? unless you keep studying Judaism?).
What's the solution? Haha, if I could put that in a paragraph I'd be a wealthy woman. Of course there are no easy solutions. The way most North American congregations have evolved, they are often bnei mitzvah factories. Where else are dues coming from? But I am not here to solve the problem of congregational survival. I am here to solve the problem of bored, spoiled, disconnected kids. And parents, this is in YOUR HANDS.
Take back control. Stop feeding the cycle. Say "no" to crazy parties, to multiple thousands of dollars going, yes, down the drain, to ridiculous senses of entitlement among our kids who still think they deserve who-knows-what. If you really want your child to be "affiliated" as a Jew, find good role models in Judaism for your kids, and make sure they hang out with your kids as often and as enjoyably as possible. Don't be afraid to talk about God as though He actually exists. Bring Judaism into your home as a living, breathing religion.
Mostly, find ways to engage in Jewish study yourself and demonstrate to your kids that Jewish learning never stops. "If you truly wish your children to study Torah, study it yourself in their presence. They will follow your example. Otherwise, they will not themselves study Torah but will simply instruct their children to do so" (Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk).
And then we'll be up to the grandkids' bnei mitzvah. I wonder what those will look like.