Reengaging

sukkah-RonAlmog

Photo courtesy of RonAlmog via Flickr Creative Commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ronalmog/1447847411

The month or so leading up to Rosh Hashanah left me fraying at the edges—something I wrote about here.

I’m feeling much better now. Things are feeling manageable. It helps that we’re in the house, getting settled in bit-by-bit, and that most of the major effort involved in the purchase and move is behind me now.  Continue reading

Worn Thin

houseThe last six and a half months have included the most difficult moments, decisions, and weeks/months of my life. While I don’t regret anything, I wouldn’t volunteer to go through these months again. Once was more than enough, thank you.

Two days ago, I bought a house. It’s a cute little house. Three bedrooms (so the boys will each have their own rooms); two bathrooms (so we won’t have hallway traffic jams on weekday mornings); and perhaps most importantly, in the kids’ school district.

It’s a good little house. Built in 2008, it’s still pretty new. The inspection report came back clean—there are a few things I should do sometime soon, like add gutters, but nothing major. It should be fairly easy to maintain; it has stained concrete floors inside and Hardiplank outside, along with a level yard so it’ll be easy to mow.

This house should provide a good place for my boys and me to be for the foreseeable future. I am pleased. I am proud of myself. I am hopeful about new beginnings in new spaces.

I’m also exhausted. Maybe even fraying at the edges.  Continue reading

Enoughness

Goodwill shopping-Bob JagendorfWe have entered the last month of the Jewish year, Elul—a month of preparation, reflection, and expectation. Elul, when God is said to go walking in the fields; when we seek to lovingly reconnect our ordinary lives to the holy—ani ledodi vedodi li—“I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine;” when we add Psalm 27 to our prayers twice a day; and we carefully examine our lives, considering how we might choose to bring our actions more fully into alignment with our values, hopes, and aspirations.  Continue reading

Me and My Shmita

ReleaseWhen I first learned how some Jewish social justice and environmental activists are re-imagining the Sabbatical Year, my mind and heart started racing with the beauty of this ancient teaching. In teachings about the Sabbatical Year, God’s concern for land overlaps and is entwined with God’s concern for animals, which overlaps and is entwined with God’s concern for people. Here, there is no dichotomy between social justice issues and environmental issues; no “jobs vs. the environment” mantra that I hear so often in political and activist discourse here in the U.S. Land and animal and human are connected to each other, and to God. Beautiful!  Continue reading

Here I Am

Almost two months ago, I was in Budapest for a conference with other Jewish young adults from around the world, each of us professionals engaged in some way in the work of tikkun olam, of repairing the world.

There was a doctor from Australia who offered medical services in areas devastated by a tsunami; an environmental educator who focuses on welcoming young, unaffiliated American Jews; a Talmud teacher who leads text study sessions for social change activists in Jerusalem; and a Jewish community professional who struggles to bridge still-gaping racial divides in her home country of South Africa. Those were just four of us. We were seventy total, from all around the world.

While at the conference, I learned about Jewish responses to global human trafficking; about challenges facing Jewish community life in Mexico; about the enduring effects of the Holocaust, Communism, and still-existing anti-Semitism on today’s Eastern European Jews; about the persecution of the Roma people throughout Europe; about social change organizations in Israel….

So many people, in so many places, doing such important work on so many pressing social, environmental, and community issues. Thank goodness, because it all needs doing and no one person can do it all!

And that’s the thing. I do care about interfaith efforts in Hungary, and Jewish farming in Connecticut, and the struggle to make the land and people of Israel the dream that it could and should be. I am so thankful to be connected to these people, and to continue to learn from them. And yet…

My work and my community are right here in Texas.

There’s a tremendous amount of repair work that needs doing in this world. This here? This is my patch. My piece of earth. My work. My life. boys at beach

A People-First Approach to Climate Justice: Thinking Jewishly about Change

battery-park-tunnel-floodedIf you are among the despairing would-be climate activists of the world — overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, frustrated by lack of political will, horrified by the ever-more-dire predictions of climate scientists, and simultaneously consumed with both the urgency and the hopelessness of the situation — you are not alone.

As understanding grows that climate change is happening in the here and now — good-bye, Antarctic ice sheet — and that it poses a military threat and endangers corporate bottom lines, even people in corporate boardrooms and executive offices are beginning to pay attention. Our planet’s climate is changing because of things we humans have done, and I stand — and sometimes hide under my covers — right there with you, terrified.  Continue reading

Finding Jesus at the Texas-Mexico Border

undocumented-christIt was cold and windy on the last morning of our trip to the Rio Grande Valley. We sat at a wooden table toward the back of the restaurant, warming ourselves with coffee and eating breakfast tacos. Cindy took notes as our companions, the pastor of an Eagle Pass church and two of his parishioners, spoke about their community and some of its most pressing challenges. For two hours, they spoke of crushing poverty, immigration issues, violence across the border, disparities in local schools, and the lack of effective community leadership.

For those two hours, I understood nothing, nada.

Well, maybe I understood un poquito—a little bit. I took Spanish in college, but that was… ahem… a while ago now.  Continue reading