Posts Tagged ‘jewish spirituality’

Confession, Chaviva, the Kveching Editor, inspired me to write this post.

I grew up Reform and married a Conservative husband in a very welcoming and accepting of all things Conservative community. I have friends who are frum and friends that bike to shul (and friends who do both!). It’s a great mix of what I think the Conservative movement is all about: allowing being more Jewish to be more accessible!

Bikes and cars on shabbat? If that’s what it takes to get you to shul! Cooking on a holiday or on shabbat? If that helps you feel more spiritually connected to Judaism, cook away!

Growing up Reform for me was great (my family is old German Reform and very tradition oriented), but there are so many practices that we didn’t adhere to that I never even knew about! Part of what draws me to the Conservative movement is the attachment to halacha and the chance to know what you’re choosing to observe or not. In retrospect I felt side-swiped by the Reform movement in that I didn’t know what I wasn’t choosing to observe, so I couldn’t choose to observe things that I didn’t know about and I wasn’t curious enough as a kid to seek them out.

Boarding school and summer camp at Interlochen, Tuesday through Saturday, didn’t make being observant any easier. Not that I tried, other than not eating meat, but that was more a personal choice than a nod to kashrut. There were staff members who would take those of us who wanted to go to services for holidays, and I was part of the leadership for lay-led Kabbalat Shabbat services at camp, but services were very Reform (with a smattering of Conservative practices). After all, who else would let their kid go to a program that had classes on and concerts throughout shabbat?

When I was in college in Chicago, I was lucky enough to find a GREAT Renewal congregation only 6 blocks from my dorm (they’ve since moved from Printers Row in the south Loop to Rogers Park where the new Jewish communities are forming). It was amazing. My first time there was for my favorite holiday of Simcha Torah, but it was Reb Allan’s last service with the community. Lay-led services were the name of the game for my first year there, and I went almost every week. I’d found my home! Then there was a new rabbi my second year and she just didn’t sit right with me. I faded out, along with many of my spiritual buddies there.

Then, I moved to Boulder, ah Boulder. Hillel was AMAZING when I first moved here (it was also before the collegiate Chabad house moved into town). There were secular and observant/frum staff members and wonderful community. Then Rabbi Adam came and I met Ben and all was good in my spiritual world. Adam attended Bonai Shalom (where Ben is an active congregant) and everything fit together so well. Then I graduated and Adam got his dream job at the Berkeley Hillel, and now Hillel is a void of spirituality IMHO. The director is a secular Jew who probably wouldn’t know Rosh Hashana from Rosh Chodesh if it weren’t his job and he didn’t know Hebrew. The last time we went to Hillel was for Kol Nidre last year because Ben was helping to lead services (at their request). He wasn’t asked to do anything for services there this year, so we’re not going at all. If and when my brother, Dan, comes through town, he’ll go to services at Hillel. It’s much easier for him to blend in there and our Reform background makes him more comfortable there than at the more traditional services that I’ve become accustomed to.

How does covering my head fit into all of this? I was never one to wear a kippah/yarmulke/whatever, but when I was in Israel for the first time, in 1998, I felt the need to wear one. As if “why should only men be asked to cover their heads in the synagogue and not in the Holy Land? Why only in Jerusalem? Why only men!?” Until a young soldier told me that I’m being disrespectful and that I should take it off before I get heckled, as I walked with my family through the old city to the Kotel. That really stuck with me and other than being a teenager and wanting to lash out a bit I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to wear one.

Now, however, I cover my head for services because I’m a married woman and it’s a nod to the mitzvah of covering your head and a way for me to make Shabbat more special. I wear nice skirts and tops and a hat to services. That doesn’t mean I don’t wear shorts and a tank top to go hiking, or jeans and teeshirts around town, but I always dress with skirts at least down to the ends of my finger tips and usually past my knees and shoulders covered for Shabbat and chaggim in the synagogue and when going to a more observant friend’s house. It just feels more Shabbat-y to me, and that means “special” or “fancy” in Deena-speak. Just like Shabbat dinners are a slightly more involved affair than Annie’s Mac and Cheese with tuna, mustard, and frozen peas (or anything other than ingredients or plain pasta out of a box for that matter).

I dress with some modesty because I find it to be a way of showing my respect for others in the community and because it makes me feel connected. Yes, I wore a strappy sun dress with a clearly visible sports bra to the Boulder Jewish Festival, but I was not there to pray but to eat falafel and listen to the Macabeats! I also wore jeans to Jew Fest at the university, where all the Jewish organizations on campus got together and hosting a pre-concert meet-and-greet with food before a concert that I didn’t see (too crowded and too many undergrads!). I’m not sure some of those people had ever seen me in jeans or with my head uncovered, I got some funny looks, but that’s me. Following what I want when I feel that it works best for me. I give major props to my frum-y friends who cover their heads and wear skirts everyday, but it doesn’t do anything for me. Yes, I wear a lot of skirts but it’s because they’re comfy and not because I’m dressing modestly (though I do look accidentally frum quite often).

Any questions? Comments? Props? Snide remarks?

Read Full Post »