May 12, 2006

Shabbat Shalom!

So I rarely have the energy to post lately. I've been reading quite a bit, including this rad book by Ilan Stavans that I saw at A Novel Idea, and then went to the library to check out because I'm poor. I also got a book on Hebrew and another by Miriam Weinstein on Yiddish. Then while checking out Mike (a library coworker) got into the lost and found box and pulled out a book about being a Jew that someone had left in the library. The dialogue? "You lost this book, right" (as our supervisor stood behind him). "Um, yes, I did lose this book, thanks." Dishonest? Perhaps. But darn't, it isn't like someone will come back looking for it -- they never do. Then last night Johnny gave me my graduation/conversion gift, Born to Kvetch, a book I had wanted for ages and it's finally mine! So needless to say, I have lots of reading ahead of me for the next few weeks.

Tonight was pretty gloriously wonderful. Not just because it's Shabbat and there was a joint Conservative synagogue and Reform Temple service, but because there was a guest speaker who just happened to be my 7th or 8th (I can't remember that far back) English teacher at Goodrich Middle School. Why is this a big deal? The man exposed me to my first bit of Judaism/Holocaust education. Before then, I had no clue and my self-development as far as beliefs and culture go were all my own. That class sparked something in me because I saw myself in those people, and I walked up to him tonight to thank him. The dialogue? "Did you teach English at Goodrich Middle School?" (he smiles) "Your face looks really familiar!" (I smile) "Amanda Edwards, you taught me almost ..." (he interjects) "Ten years ago, wasn't it?" Talk about a small world. I told him I'd converted and that I was moving to D.C. and it was just nice. Nice to see this circle come around. Right before I leave I see the beginning of my beginning.

And the service was marvelous. Sometimes I forget how great the divide can be between two different congregations. I mean, there's the whole Conservative versus Reform bit, but the words and prayers are always the same -- we have the canon of our ancestors, folks! We just present, practice and say it all differently. But then there's moments like during Yaaseh Shalom when everyone falls into sync and it feels like we're all one people. I mean, we are one people, but sometimes it's hard to look at the man and woman next to you and know that they're from your tribe because he's whispering and you're screaming. But watching Rabbi Emanuel and Rabbi Shaffin go at it up at the bimah(s) was like watching Divas Live, without the drama, of course. Then afterward, talking to Mr. Smith and Elaine and Deb and Randi and Little Ben (whom my cactus is named after) and playing with little Mira ... it's so comfortable and it scares me to leave it. But I still have a few weeks, and Elaine and Deb are putting together a delicious collection of movies for me to watch to keep me busy. These include, but are not limited to, The Frisco Kid, Whale Rider, Chocolat and Shakespeare in Love. Honestly, without Deb, Elaine and Barb ... man. They're wonderful people and I love them dearly.

I worry I won't find friends like that wherever I end up. I mean, it's illogical to think that, but they're so kind and they have a pride for me and who I am and what I do. I look at them as friends, but also see this motherly pride in them ... like when they congratulate me and introduce me to people and tell them all the glorious things I'm doing with my life. It's nice to have that. It feels like home. Mostly with Barb. My gosh I'll miss her. I'll have to send her cards and e-mails and stuff. Hah.

One thing to leave you with: When Mr. ... okay, when Paul Smith was talking about his trip to Poland that he took on the 60th anniversary of liberation last year, he said the guide at one of the camps told the group that the crematorium and other facilities could be up and running within 48 hours. The gas is still there and the machines are functioning. So how far have we come? When there's genocide in Darfur and Rwanda, how far really have we come? When you can stop and by a witch doll with the word "JEW" written across the chest in Warsaw, how far have we come? Sixty years isn't much, I guess. And it's scary. But it's also uplifting. It gives purpose and passion to who I am.

I feel more alive right now than I ever have, and my G-d, I've waited so long for that feeling.

You will be my people, and I will be your G-d.


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