Horizon: line that recedes as your approach it

My leave request for the two weeks needed for Birthright has been (initially) rejected.

Three minutes after the email announcing that arrived, my manager sent another one, asking everyone in the office to submit their leave requests by COB today, begging us to be flexible while understanding that no leave request could be guaranteed unless there will be sufficient coverage for the office.   She emailed me privately after that to ask that I resubmit my request for consideration.

We are submitting our requests today, and our director will try to let us know by tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon, whether we’ve had our requests for time off approved or not.

The problem? Tomorrow morning, by 6 a.m., is the last opportunity for me to cancel my trip with BIrthright and get my $250 dollar deposit back.  It’s not the largest sum of money in the world, I know, but I am quite upset right now to say the least.

I have wanted this trip for years. I did not do “easy” conversions offered to me by two different rabbis for the purpose of having conversion papers that would enable me to go on this trip.  I waited.  I did the “right” thing.  This is my last opportunity to go before being aged out of the program.  This is also my first opportunity to go as a Jew who felt the process had been respected and that this conversion met my understanding of the halakhic requirements for conversion.

I get that we need to be fair.  I get that my wants are not more important than my coworkers’ wants.  But in this one instance, I can’t be flexible.  I need both of those weeks or else I can’t go. And I feel that I have been willing to be flexible in the past–when they inadvertently approved too much leave or people were out sick and the office was empty–to ensure office coverage, changing my schedule around when others needed it.  I get that since it is Christmas, it wouldn’t be fair to pressure my coworkers to be flexible for me.

So basically this whole post has been my attempt to sound like an adult.  Because the real Mikvah Bound is already crying inside. I just have to keep telling myself that Israel isn’t going anywhere.  That if I don’t go here, I will go eventually.  Somehow.

Man plans and G-d laughs.  I just sometimes wish G-d didn’t laugh so loudly.


Israel Bound

I filled out my secondary application last week. On Friday, right before Yom Kippur, I got a call from a very…rushed New Yorker.  He wanted to meet me for my interview on Monday at noon.  Thankfully, I had the day off as a government employee.

I arrived early.  I recognized him immediately by the black velvet kippah–not too common in these parts.   He moved our location and pushed back our time due to running late on a video conference.  Cool.  I can totally wait.

When I arrived at our new spot, it was obvious he had not read my application.  He started into one of the standard questions. “Ah, so which of your parents…. wait.  This says neither.”

“I brought my conversion papers with me if you need to see them.”

The conversation and tone changed immediately.  He grilled me for 10 minutes.  How could I believe in Conservative Judaism when it is dying out? When it cut off its nose to spite its face with allowing people to drive? When Emet v’Emunah says Oral Torah did not come from Sinai?

I wasn’t prepared to justify my affiliation, so these questions caught me off-guard.  No research I had done about the interview for Birthright had turned up this kind of questioning.  And I’m not one to publicly debate religion, especially in a mall food court of all places.

But worse than the line of questioning is that I didn’t feel like I could even answer any of his questions, because as soon as I opened my mouth, he would find something wrong with what I said and try to attack that too.  It finally ended with, “What kind of Jew would you say you are?”

“I’d say I’m an active, seeking, striving Jew–”

“Hmm.  Good answer.  They were looking for Reform, Conservative or Observant.  I sense some tension between us.”

Gee, ya think?

“But, Mikvah Bound, I like you.  I’m going to recommend you go and call the office myself.”

I was in shock.  I was so sure he had thought I wasn’t Jewish.  That even if I were a Conservative Jew in his eyes that I was a horrible Conservative Jew at that.  That I had a speech impediment or something due to my inability to speak coherently as a 20-something.  And of course he hates the agency I work for because we are enviro-nuts who try to impose “our religion” on others.

He changed my application to say that I had a Jewish mother.  This way, apparently, Birthright will be more likely to accept me.  I wish they’d just come out and state that publicly–that either this trip provider or Birthright gives preference to those born of at least one Jewish parent.  I’m not into lying.  I want to go, but not at the expense of my integrity.  Worse, what if this comes back to haunt me in some way?!

But, by the time I got back home, they had offered me a trip.  I had the email in my inbox.  I am going to Israel.  I leave December 25th and I’ll be back January 5th.  Pretty cool that I’ll get to spend secular New Year’s in Israel.  I’m not thrilled about it being an 18-26 trip (I really wanted 22-26 so I wouldn’t feel like the cool mom interrupting the party.) but beggars can’t be choosers and did I mention I’m going to Israel?

In case I didn’t, here it is one more time: I’m going to Israel! Woot!


10Q Part I

1: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

On January 19th, I left home early.  We had an off-site meeting that had increased stress-levels for the last two weeks, and I looked forward to coming home that night and not having to think about what more needed to be done tomorrow.  I picked up my laptop in case we had to access materials for the meeting and rushed out the door.

When I pulled into the driveway that night, there was a police car parked in front.  I walked in the front door to see my mom’s red puffy eyes and our house in chaos.  The officer was taking down my mom’s statement. 

That day, someone decided to slide open the window on our enclosed patio.  To shatter our sliding glass door.  To enter our home.  To walk quickly, grinding the shards of glass into our wooden floors and carpet.  To steal heirlooms passed down from the time of my great, great grand-mother: wedding bands, 16th birthday necklaces, anniversary earrings.  To take laptops, desktops, DSLRs, my high school ring, money from my tzedakah fund.  The house and car keys from my parents’ room.  Gift certificates from the Christmas season that were waiting to be used.  A stack of bills with our names and addresses.  My mother’s shotgun. My Shabbat candlesticks and Kiddush cup. 

When I walked in that afternoon, I wanted to have the same response as my mother: overcome with a sense of violation, upset, confused, tearful, wondering what else, what more we could have done to prevent this. 

But I could not.  I had to be the logical, rational one.  The one that said to call the insurance company.  To get dinner.  To notify my father and uncle.  To specify the clean-up process.  To notify the banks.  To call an alarm company.

My mom didn’t sleep in her room for weeks.  We scrubbed her room as though it were our kitchen before Pesach.  And only then, when all possible traces of the criminal could be vanquished, did she return to it.  Her sense of trust, of humanity’s goodness, of the privacy of her own home is gone, and only now slowly beginning to reappear.

I feel anger.  Not because I had to “be the parent” in this situation—the shock is larger when you discover something yourself.  Not that the shotgun was later recovered on a parole search of some Norteno thug’s house, meaning we have no idea what evil this gun was used for.  Not that I will never get to replace my class ring, nor that my children or grandchildren will never wear the garnet passed down from the 1850s on my mom’s side.

But that scum like this gets to live.  It is probably for the best that no physical evidence was left behind.  I would have no problem shooting this person through the heart.  The damage you caused was more than the $40,000 in goods you took.  I do not care that this is not a Jewish response.

2: Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?

It’s never easy breaking someone’s heart.  But, when you realize that they love you more than you love them, and when you realize that the future you would have with this person is not at all the future you want for yourself, it becomes necessary to stand up for yourself and to release the person from an unbalanced relationship.

I wish I had had the guts to do this earlier, to be honest with myself that it wasn’t working for me, as much as it was working for him.  I adored him, but in the way I do younger cousins in my family.  He was 10 years behind me in life experiences.  He had communication and emotional issues to work through.  I knew this when we got together, but I guess I got comfortable.

What I learned is that you can be in a comfortable relationship because you know exactly what you’re going to do, day after day.  It’s routine.  Non-challenging. A staple.

And then there is comforting because you know that no matter what life throws at you, that this person will have your back.  And that’s adventurous and securing all at once.  Try to surround yourself with individuals such that you can be part of the latter kind of relationships.

3: Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

My sister’s wedding occurs next week.  The last 10 months of our existence has revolved around it.  The bridal shower took until June.  The cookbook took all summer.  The items to be sewed took until well, today.  Then we have packing, and shopping, and ironing, travel arrangements, seating arrangements, hair appointments.

This is what my sister wants and I am happy to participate in it because she is my closest friend.

But its effect on me has been to push me further into realm of low-key, casual small wedding intentions.

4: Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

The slaughter in Norway. The declaration of South Sudan’s independence. The death of Osama bin Laden.  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  The Arab Spring.  The death of Steve Jobs.  The Palestinian petition before the UN.

All have ramifications and cause for celebration to me.  If I had to pick one, I suppose it would be the Arab Spring.  Three brutal heads of states have been overthrown.  Civil wars have broken out.  Minorities—including Jews—in these countries have been critical to the movement’s strength.  They’ve wreaked havoc on the economy.  They’ve inspired movements in China, the Caucus, and Africa.  Some have labeled it the fifth wave of democracy.

It humanizes the “Arabs”, “the Muslims”.  It brings us one step closer to the long, hard road of self-determination and human rights.  And I am now cautiously watching the outcome of these countries’ attempts to start over.  To form a representative government. 

I am also terrified for Israel.  I do not believe for one second that the Palestinian Authority wants to change its ways, only that it will become emboldened by the international support or cause internal divsion (West Bank vs Gaza Strip leadership) that allows factions to splinter and become extreme, entrenched in their views.  I pray I am wrong.

5: Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

I’m not really spiritual, but I am religious.  So, I’ll say that I fell in love with the ritual of mikvah when I converted.  It has encouraged me to find some kind of kallah class available to Conservative Jews and it makes me look forward to immersing again and again in the future.