Peeping Rabbi

Mikvah Chabad PotomacA local Rabbi has recently been accused of secretly observing women as they prepared for the Mikvah. My first reaction was to feel defiled and betrayed, not because this Rabbi might have seen me naked at the Mikvah for my conversion, but because anyone might have insinuated himself (or herself) into such an intensely personal moment.

I checked to see if it was the Mikvah I had used at a Conservative synagogue. It was not. I felt sick to discover it was a well-respected Orthodox Rabbi at an Orthodox Mikvah–and one who had been a Rabbi for 25 years at that. It’s not that I expect Conservative and Reform Rabbis to be voyeuristic perverts. It’s that I never expected an Orthodox Rabbi to be a voyeuristic pervert.

Upon reflection, I’d have to say I hold an Orthodox Rabbi to a higher level for two reasons. One is just plain moral decency. The other is that anyone espousing that level of religious observance had better do more than talk the talk. Until now, it was not within my scope of possibilities for any Rabbi, let alone an Orthodox Rabbi, to behave in this way, just as it was not within the scope of possibilities for a Pope to resign.

I was stunned to see a woman defending this Rabbi on a news report. As far as I remember, she said we must remember that he is a genius and an inspired leader. Really? That makes it okay? It certainly doesn’t for me.

My time at the Mikvah was integral to a moment that remains one of them most significant and personal moments of my life. That anyone would ever dare to intrude on such a moment is beneath contempt.

Do You Look Jewish?

IMG_0162The obvious first reply to this is, “What does a Jew look like?” Certainly, in the time that interfaith marriage has been a force in the Jewish world, the answer to this question has undergone some change. But is it really any different than any other mixing of heritages?

When we visited Ellis Island and walked through the exhibits, it struck me that the photos of the people from each individual country shared many similarities. You could say, with some degree of accuracy, “That person looks Italian.” Fast forward to today. I’m Italian. I’m also French-Canadian. I’m also Jewish, albeit by choice. So no. I don’t look Jewish. Then again, not all Jews are from Eastern Europe these days.  Continue reading

Shabbat Jan 18

Shabbat Candles

We have found a way of life that works.
We have 3300 years of testing under every possible social, economic, political and geographical condition to prove that.
Yes, you could do it yourself—test all the possible styles of life, make comparisons and come to your own conclusions. But what a waste of precious time it will be, for yourself and for the world that could be benefiting from you. After all, how much life will you have left after reaching your conclusions? - Chabad

This “Thought for the Day” from Chabad is certainly an interesting way to make the case that deciding to accept a Jewish life will lead to more time to live a fuller life. The same could be said for many other faiths, I know, but I especially liked the point that Judaism has already been tested – for more than 3300 years, no less.

For me, Judaism has proven to be the best vessel for a set of beliefs and practices that resonate with me. I hope whatever journey you are on and whatever faith ultimately resonates with you, you will be equally content.

What Does it Mean to be Welcoming

WELCOME_sI’ve been part of the interfaith community for many years. I’ve felt comfortable, uncomfortable, welcome, tolerated, and most points between on the spectrum. I can tell you which things left me feeling more or less comfortable. I can even give you a definition-in-progress of what I would consider a welcoming congregation. What I hadn’t thought of before last night, is how many aspects of welcome are universal.

Why are we making it so complicated when we sit together as Jews to assess how welcoming our congregations are? Why are we trying to look at ourselves through the eyes of others – especially others who are coming to us from a world view we have not experienced firsthand? Why are we making this such a Herculean task? Continue reading

Making a Joyful Noise

Joyful NoiseThere’s one line in Psalm 98 that has stuck in my head since I was a child. As I recall, the line is, Make a joyful noise unto the L-rd.

Throughout my childhood, I often thought of what joyful noise I would make. Would it be the sound of me singing? Or me playing the flute or piano? Maybe even me playing the cello? Then again, maybe it would be me teaching or writing. I just wasn’t sure. Continue reading