Sunday, June 20, 2010

My "Life's Story"

This afternoon, Shabbat afternoon, I was expecting visitors, some teenage girls who had requested that I tell them about becoming religious and making aliyah, moving/ascending to Israel.

There was a lot of noise in the background when the girl was calling me.  I understood that she's the daughter of friends, and they were staying in Shvut Rachel for Shabbat.  Shvut Rachel is a short walk east of my house.  I told the girl that I'd talk to them on the grass across the street.  When they came, I took my father and a chair for him.  I had also prepared bottled water and some cups, but the girls said that they had come with enough water.

It ended up that they were a graduating eighth grade class from a nearby elementary school.  I mistook them for high school students.  In two plus months they'll be in high school, so I wasn't off by much.

I blog everything about my background, but I don't usually tell my story in Hebrew, especially to a group of kids who have been raised in religious communities similar to Shiloh.

They seemed rather surprised that I had no idea of kashrut and Shabbat when I was growing up in New York.  Yes, New York.  Not all Jewish communities are religious, not even fifty-sixty years ago. 

As I wove my story, I could see that it seemed so impossible, unlikely that the person standing before them grew up the way I did.  One thing that repeated was that I was never forced into browbeaten into religious submission.  When my friends and I bought the food for Hebrew School parties, the teachers never yelled at us for buying traif.  We could see them sorting the food, but we were ignorant of the criteria.  And I wasn't thrown out of NCSY events, or demoted from office, for showing up sleeveless.  I have no doubt that this tolerance contributed to my feeling good about Torah Judaism.

I also told the girls how I promised my father that I'd stay honest, unlike the religious Jews he had audited in his state job.  I asked the girls to remember that superficial "religiosity," the "uniform" isn't a barometer to indicating the person's true G-d fearing spiritual level.

Shavua Tov
Have a Wonderful Week


Keli Ata said...

Beautiful post!

Shavua tov:)

Batya said...

Thank you, keli

Hadassa said...

My daughter is in that class. (She didn't have time to give my regards.) If I had had time to go on-line that week, you'd have known what the group was ahead of time ;) .
Having the right amount of tolerance is so important is outreach work. What is the best way to teach without scaring away those who haven't learned yet, or aren't ready to accept everything? Nice to know that NCSY did a good job.

Batya said...

I hope the girls had a good time! Nu, what did she report?

Hadassa said...

Report: It was interesting to hear an aliyah story from a generation earlier than her parents' and to learn about the early days of Shiloh.

Batya said...

Thanks, sometimes it's rather traumatic to realize that my memories are history for so many.