Tzedakah Box and Other Goodies

To those in the Bay Area, go to Afikomen.  Even if it means crossing a bridge.  It has a far larger selection than Dayenu and the owners were incredibly helpful and friendly.  You may need supervision though, if you’re like me and like to build your Judaica collection and library.

I finally purchased my tzedakah box.  I’m wondering how people choose their recipient organizations, causes, and individuals; there are so many areas of need that it’s almost overwhelming.  If you know of an organization in Northern California or Israel that you support or volunteer for, I’d love to hear about it.  I’d particularly be interested in ones that work to diminish the Orthodox monopoly on religious authority in Israel, or that support liberal converts at any stage of the process.

Insane in the membrane

We are in the midst of preparing for Sister’s wedding in October.  I’m not big on the traditional American wedding, especially in this climate of one-upmanship and extravagance.  I’m not a bow gal, or into glitter or lace or bling.  I think spending $20,000 on a party for one day is ridiculous (actually, that’s self-censoring.  I think that quantity of money for a wedding clearly places us in the land of redonkulous given the expected number of guests). I hate dresses and am literally (I do mean literally) learning how to walk in heels.  One inch heels, might I add.  I believe most thirteen years olds learn this?

I’m at the point where enrolling in Lamaze classes would probably prove equally beneficial to me, the very non-pregnant person, as the expecting parents who would be my classmates.

I’ve found myself tuning out discussions of which style of ribbon to use for the garter and ring pillow.  Leaving the room when discussions about which shade of table drape matches the color scheme best.  Disengaging from conversations about whether seven flowers or eight look best in the centerpieces.

Who friggin cares.  No one will two days later.  No one goes to weddings to nitpick.  Or no one worth inviting, anyway.  (No, my family really should not be invited to Bridezilla or the like.  Sister’s wedding is totally typical American, no extravagances or demands. I’m just not into them.)

So, to counter act this new tendency and curmudgeonly attitude of mine, I’ve found myself reading a lot about Jewish weddings.  It’s somewhat comical how awful my ninth grade Honors English class was—the teacher would leave my eighth period (the last period of the day) class three times a week to watch Veggie Tales so she could go pick up her children from a middle school across town and drop them off at home, as one of many examples of how crazy the course was.  Somehow we managed to read Romeo and Juliet and be assigned a research project on the wedding customs of one culture.

I’ll give you three guesses as to which culture I picked.

It’s refreshing for me to reconnect with the Jewish rituals that first impressed me.  It makes me wonder if my family will feel as fish-out-of-water while preparing for mine (G-d willing!) one day, but right now, it is the only thing keeping me sane.

Circus Freak

Sister’s coworker is coming to town next week.  She’s known Sister since undergrad, and being a Jew-by-birth, Sister has shared my conversion process and updates with her.  Sister asked if I would be willing to have lunch with her while she’s here–she’s “really interested” in talking to me, the real live convert, in the flesh.

I agreed, partly because I know what it’s like to be in a strange place for two weeks when you don’t know anyone.  Even the most introverted of us can get lonely after a while.

I also agreed because, selfishly, I’m using this as a personal-growth opportunity.  I have come to realize that I desperately need to stop assigning mal-intent to people’s actions.

When a Jew-by-birth asks or indicates that they want to talk to me, a Jew-by-choice, at least in part because of that portion of my identity, I need to accept willingly and look forward to playing storyteller/city tour guide/brief autobiographer, or decline graciously.  I can’t accept and then construct elaborate possible outcomes or assign potential motives.

I can’t assume that any one individual will joke around, act “fascinated/perplexed,” or ask if I’m married or about to be married.  Or stare at me with that condescending smirk of pity and bemusement/ Or at least that the person won’t end there—that they’ll move forward with questioning, reflection, and respect and empathy for those other gerim they may encounter.

I have to recognize this as Jewish geography, of reaching out to the Extended Family known as the Tribe, of someone you’ve heard about for a long time and would like to get to know personally instead of second-hand impressions, even if over the course of one lunch hour.  I have to realize she doesn’t know anyone else here and could probably use some company during her two week sojourn in the city.

I have to realize these things for my own mental and social health.  I have to stop acting so jaded when someone wants to speak to me about this choice, this part of myself. I have to stop acting defensive, to be proud, to own the decision.  I have to realize that I’m either a Jewish ambassador to a person who has not met a Jew before, or a Convert ambassador to a Jew who has not met a convert before.

Signs of Life

I am still alive, though you wouldn’t be able to tell from this blog.

We had our last class session, which I started to write a blog post on before erasing. That session was deeply personal and I do not wish to betray any of my classmates’ trust in relaying what are not my stories to tell. To summarize, it was wonderful to learn where they were coming from, and to gain greater context for many of their comments throughout the year.

I also am struggling to write a post about my conversion the day of–what it was like, what was asked, what I felt and saw. It always helped me the years leading up to my conversion to know what it was like.

And I’ve been asked to write a piece on developing my Jewish identity for a Jewish publication, which I have not forgotten about should the editor be reading this post.

But I’ve found it really, really hard to sit down and write. Falling in love will do that to you, I guess. The Boy is perfect (for/to me) and every second of down time is a second I’d rather spend with him. He is amazing. And so is G-d for making him.