Elephant in the Global Jewish Room

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“One day, the king ordered that an elephant be brought into the palace, along with the five wisest sages from the outskirts of the city, who all happened to be blind. The king instructed each sage to stand at a different place around the elephant, each touching a different part of the animal. ‘You are each touching one thing,’ the king said to the sages, ‘Tell me: what is it?’  Continue reading

A Choosing Judaism Holiday Dilemma: What Do We Do with Santa?

santa-chanukiah“But Mom, we can’t celebrate Hanukkah—because then Santa won’t come, right?”

This was the question from my clearly worried 7-year old last December as we prepared to celebrate our first Hanukkah. And just like that, all of the confusing family issues surrounding my conversion to Judaism were distilled into one simple, innocent wondering. In that moment, standing there in the kitchen with my youngest son, there was really only one answer: “No, sweetie… Santa loves Hanukkah!”  Continue reading

Choosing My Religion

cereal-aisleI stand in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, dazed by the overwhelming number of choices. I like the pecans in one, the wheat flakes in another, the dried strawberries in that one—and oh, let’s not forget about raisins and nut clusters! There are so many different kinds of cereal, all with something good to offer… how can I choose just one?

Growing up, I was taught that all religions are different manifestations of a singular Truth. My religious upbringing included stories of Krishna and dancing gopi girls, Native American trickster tales, Prince Siddartha’s search for truth, and a little baby born in a manger. In some ways, it was like standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, surrounded by good and nourishing choices—and a little overwhelmed by the variety.  Continue reading

Moving Toward Forgiveness and Justice, with Love

As Tisha B’Av approached this year, I felt a looming sense of dread. This day—when Jews remember, reflect on, and re-create for our selves death, destruction, and the seeming absence of God—was seeming much more tangible than it had a year ago. Last year was my first Tisha B’Av, a fact that probably hindered my full connection; I wasn’t sure then what to expect from the evening service or from my first 25-hour fast—and to a certain extent, my concern over the things of the day kept my participation at a surface level. But this year, breathing more comfortably in my newly Jewish skin, there was nothing to keep me from fully facing the darkness.  Continue reading

Exploring Houses of Worship

handprints-tableclothI try to arrive at the house of worship early. Of course there are practical reasons for that: usually, I’ve never been there before, so I need time to evaluate the space where I’ll be meeting with people or speaking—a classroom or library, the social hall or sanctuary; I need time to set out publication materials on a table somewhere; and locating water, coffee and restrooms is always a good idea. More than that, though, I like to arrive at the house of worship early so I can explore.  Continue reading