Well, technically, last year there was simply Adar, as it wasn’t a leap year, but that’s besides the point.
It was a year ago – give or take a few days – that I had written about my rediscovery of Judaism. I noted in it that the date of my childhood conversion – Adar 1 15 – was right around the corner. I figured I would sort of recap it, even just for my own interest since writing things out is a great way to look back on things, you know, almost like… a journal. *ahem*
So, this year – what can I say, it has been really a very moving year for me. A year ago, I had just had a zoom meeting with the Associate Rabbi of the only Reform synagogue within a few hours of me. Actually, it might be the only Reform Synagogue within the whole province, and it, like the Conservative, Orthodox, Renewal and one or two others, is about 120km away. The largest Jewish population was and is in Vancouver, that is where it first established itself out here in BC and that is where it still thrives. She had confirmed to me that yes, even after my varied path, I am still Jewish. (read back on the link above if you’re interested in my weirdness) She also suggested Jewish Information Classes because I had abandoned it at a young age and remembered very little.
So, the boyfriend and I began really diving into it all. He isn’t Jewish, but 100% supported me in all of this, right down to joining me in a membership at the synagogue, joining the JIC class with me, and happily helping us to establish weekly Shabbat, including baking our own challah weekly (me who only has made bread a handful of times before and only with a bread machine!) . His support also has meant sometimes taking an afternoon off work so we can get to class in Vancouver on time, if we aren’t doing it via Zoom. And then driving a total of over 200km to get us there and back, leaving him pretty darn tired. The guy does physical labour all day and already drives far to work, about 110km each way, and is up at 4:45am to go to work. His dedication to this has been inspiring to me, and um… since I don’t drive, kind of necessary 😀
We LOVE the JIC class and have made some fantastic friends. We are learning Hebrew, not only via the class but on the side with duolingo. We attend services when we can and we have celebrated every Holy Day as a couple, at home this year. (Holy Days are too hard to get to shul for when he is working as they are often mid day – also with Covid flaring up really badly again for a while things shut down again and virtual was the suggested way to interact)
I feel comfortable with this. And since there is no ‘right belief’ at least in Reform – admittedly, although I’ve been to Orthodox services, I’m not sure if they also are more about ‘right practice’ rather than ‘right belief’ – there is no anxiety when I realize that one month or one day etc. my ideas on what G-d is has changed. Or whether I fully believe in a distinct deity at all doesn’t mean that I’m not Jewish. So much of it is about the peoplehood, the rich customs and colourful celebrations.
I feel like I have spent all of my adult life trying to figure out ‘What am I?’ It was always so important to me to understand myself within a spiritual/religious context. Nothing ever fit right and I spent so much time on efforts to reinvent the wheel. There are still parts of myself that are a bit more nature-based, and that enjoy celebrating the local wheel of the year, but it doesn’t conflict with my Jewishness. I’ve always been a real panentheist at heart, that hasn’t changed. But my Judaism has room for that. It has room for me. As I am.
So one year later and I have learned so much, I no longer feel like a complete imposter or misfit. And one thing I have found much comfort in, as a parent who has lost her child, is the openness about grief. The honouring of the experience of loss. When I was working for the Anglican church (I quit this past autumn) writing up the weekly bulletin, the prayers for the people were often a bone of contention with strict instructions of keeping it under 4 minutes, don’t just go on and on etc. Lay people were chosen on rotation to recite prayers which they would write, and we would scan it for length of time. In Judaism there is no skimping on prayer.
Yahrzeit, Mourner’s Kaddish, standing all together so that those who grieve are not alone – it’s comforting. None of us get out of here alive, and having the acknowledgement of passing in such a way really means a lot to me. I’ve read so much more about the history of the Jewish people, and Israel, and learned that the way Israel is portrayed is very out of context. So adding to the things I’ve learned about ritual, custom and language is history. AND can make some pretty great 6 strand challah!
Definitely a year of growth.
I am so happy that a year later I still have this fullness of heart, and a feeling of not being so lost anymore.