You Shall Pursue

April 5, 2014

The Brilliance of Communal Storytelling

Filed under: Choosing Life, D'var Torah — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 8:30 pm

Someone shared this on my wall recently; it is from Sermon Slam New York. If you are a person who loves people talking about Judaism, go to the Sermon Slam website and hear people speaking in amazing and intelligent ways about Torah

I so deeply love listening to religious women talk cogently about their faith. There is so much strength and power in giving space for us to critique the systems that we love and hopefully, to change them for the better.

Some translations for those who aren’t so familiar with the lingo:

The Hebrew that she’s reciting is from the Morning Blessings that Jews say every morning. They thank God for things like waking up, giving strength, freeing captives.

One of these blessings is gender differentiated in Orthodox tradition. Men say “shelo asani ishah” meaning “Thank you God for not making me a woman” and women say “sheasani kirtzono” meaning “Thank you God for making me according to Your will.” Liberal Jews say “sheasani b’tzelmo” meaning “Thank you God for making me in Your image.”

She uses the term “agunah” at the end which means “a chained woman” or a woman whose husband refuses to give her a proper Jewish divorce.

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November 12, 2013

Rabbis, no Borders

This past weekend I was at a Rabbis Without Borders retreat. This organization is designed to bring rabbinical students from many different denominations together to discuss the issues currently facing the American rabbinate, and to brainstorm creative solutions, with people that we would not ordinarily have a chance to work with. My cohort included everyone from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a left-wing Modern Orthodox yeshiva in New York. The work was tremendously hard, but also tremendously exciting and freeing.

I came into the conversation feeling a bit defensive, because of my patrilineal status. I was worried that I was going to have to spend the weekend defending myself and my decision to not do mikveh. But. I was so very pleasantly surprised. My cohort went beyond tolerating me in their midst. They welcomed me. They empathized with me. And they saw me as a future colleague and ally towards building a vibrant Jewish community.

The Jewish community of the future needs many voices. And certainly I am not going to agree with all of those voices. Most of those voices will spend lots of time disagreeing with each other. But underneath each of those official positions there are individual human beings with a variety of experiences, and potentially an openness to seeing beyond official positions to the essential humanity of every person. The ability to see down to the humanity of many different types of people is a talent that goes beyond denominational lines. And this weekend, I was in a room full of people who possess that gift and are willing to use it in service of their rabbinate. Knowing that I will have allies outside of my denomination is a really powerful gift.

I think that is really the power of a program like Rabbis Without Borders; it forces the participants to see each other not as “Orthodox” or “Reform” or “Reconstructionist,” but rather as whole people who are really committed to serving the Jewish community. And while we were having the conversation within the context of revitalizing Jewish communal life and empowering our communities to control their own destiny, the program went so far beyond that frame. I have always been interested and invested in building relationships, ownership, and leadership in my future communities. But being able to strategize with people whose communities will need radically different things in the future was, and is, tremendously powerful.

More than anything else, I know that I am not doing this work of building the Jewish community alone. My partners, my allies, radiate out from my movement and throughout the community. There are now eighteen other future colleagues, from all over the Jewish world, that I can rely on in building the sort of Jewish future that I want to see. There is room for all of us, and all of our visions. And I am that much more excited about the future of Judaism because of it.

July 10, 2013

Some thoughts from Camp

Filed under: Choosing Life, Jewish Communitty — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 9:49 am

There were finals, which ate my soul, and then I packed everything away into my car and went to New Hampshire. This summer, I am the head of Jewish Life and Learning (otherwise known as the “culture lady)” for an independent Jewish summer camp outside of Boston. And I have not had a moment to catch my breath until today. I’m at my day off, writing at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, and I LOVE my job.

The thing that is great about camp is that your curriculum MUST be creative, hands on, and practical, or it will not fly. We are building tower-and- fence settlements, and doing scavenger hunts, and tie-dyeing talitot. We are talking about speech ethics, and BDS (boycott, divest, sanction), and the importance of being a Jewish leader. I’m leading services, and helping the kids to lead services. And, more often than not, the kids seem to be enjoying themselves. They are talking to their counselors about the things that we do in class. That is huge.

It’s also my first time managing a staff. I have some really great counselors who are coming at our projects with a lot of enthusiasm and great ideas. I’m really blessed to have them, and I feel oddly protective of them and their growth as grownups and as teachers. I just really really really want them to be able to do a good job, and it’s weird not only being responsible for my own job performance, but for making sure that they are doing the best job possible as well.

Camp is strange, because it is simultaneously so transient and so stable. The counselors move in and out of the system as they age. It is very strange, at 25, to be considered one of the “old ladies” on staff and to have most of your colleagues be 18 and 19 years old. At the same time, these counselors are already veterans of the system; most of them have been at camp for eight, nine, ten years and they have so much to teach me about the way that camp operates. And into that deep commitment to camp tradition, I am trying to inject my own ideas, innovations, and trying to keep integrity to Jewish tradition and proper Jewish pedagogy as I see it. It’s a delicate balancing act!

Camp is also really really constant, just all the time. When I’m not teaching, I’m prepping, tutoring Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, helping that week’s Torah readers with their reading, planning an evening program (now I’m working on Tisha B’Av) and just trying to keep up with all of the different life and ritual pieces to infuse the life of this camp with Judaism. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve been fortunate that my co-workers have been so willing to help out.

And the kids. Oh my god, the kids. I wish I could post pictures of them and their fabulous (obviously I can’t because confidentiality) but the kids are awesome. They are excited and eager to learn and to ask me questions, which is just so gratifying. And it’s really cool seeing the older kids (who are 14 and 15) start to understand what it means to be Jewish leaders within camp. It’s such an important lesson for them to learn, and I’m so impressed with how seriously they take it. Plus they are just so GOOFY. It’s a delight watching kids being utter goofballs.

I think the structure and the busyness are actually really good for me. I’d been sinking into ennui and anxiety at the end of the finals period, because there just seemed like an overwhelming amount of STUFF to do. But what camp is teaching me is that I can get an absurd amount of stuff done, and make it work, even if things are not perfect, even if not every project comes off exactly right. The show goes on because it must, and I just have to throw myself into the process and hope for the best. And that even if my efforts fall short of my expectations, they can still produce amazing results. That is really powerful.

January 25, 2013

Tu B’Shevat: I Am Planting

Filed under: Jewish Communitty, Spirituality — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 10:00 pm

Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish New Year of the trees. As the world begins to awaken into spring in Israel, we take the time give thanks for the beautiful beautiful world that we have been given, and to reflect on how we can preserve it for the centuries to come.

A translation of the chorus:

As my ancestors planted for me, so I will plant for my children.

May 25, 2012

New Music Video: The Revelation Will Not Be Televised

Filed under: Choosing Life — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 2:07 am

This is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite Jew bands, Stereo Sinai. And Miriam (the female vocalist) was recently featured in the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36. Go you guys!

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