erika davis is a washington state-based writer, blogger and jewish diversity advocate. For almost 8 years she recorded her journey to judaism in her popular blog, Black Gay and Jewish. Today she blogs about her life in the PNW and occasionally writes in third person

The Posts where I fret about which shul to convert at and Rosh Hashanah

Scored some High Holy Day Tickets and an Invitation to an Orthodox Shul

Wed, 18 Aug 2010 12:18:55, erika, [post_tag: high-holidays, category: high-holy-days, post_tag: high-holy-days-2, post_tag: pre-conversion-posts, post_tag: shul-shopping-2, category: uncategorized]

...and am the new owner of an Israeli shofar, coming from a a friend who's currently in Israel.  I also received all 7 of the books I ordered on Amazon including my new favorite cookbook, "Aromas of Aleppo-The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews"  by Poopa Dweck.


All in all, a great day yesterday!  Let me rewind; Starting with the Tickets

High Holy Days, the Days of Awe, the month of Elul, etc.

As you all know I'm taking a conversion class at Central Synagogue in NYC.  Our wonderful rabbi, has given us the opportunity to attend High Holy Day services at a very discounted price-Donation!!  I'm grateful to be able to attend, and even more grateful that we're not required to pay the high ticket prices.  I understand why we have to pay for them,but do you?  In case you don't and thinnk that we Jews are crazy here's a little explaination.  Shuls, or synagogues, do not pass around an offering plate every Friday during Shabbat services.  You don't have to send a little check each week or month.  Instead shuls have membership prices that range from holy cow that's expensive to wow that's expensive.  I have yet to come across a shul that turns away potential members for their inability to pay the membership prices and most have a sliding scale based on income or other factors like being under 30, or being a student.  With the price of membership comes tickets to High Holy Day services as well asmost events that happen at the shul.  Folks like me, who are not members, often have to pay for admittance to High Holy Days.  So it's really an amazing opportunity that we're allowed to attend services at a much discounted price, as we're not yet Jews nor or we members of the synagogue.

An Invitation to an Orthodox Shul

One of my friends attends a Modern Orthodox shul in Brooklyn.  She invited me to attend services with her.  I will admit that I have a few reservations that are anxiety inducing.  I cannot even begin to imagine what it'd be like to attend a service at an Orthodox Temple.  Will I have to cover my head?  My arms?   My legs?  Is it all in Hebrew?  Can I wear flip flops?  Do I have to wear tights?  Then I remember what she looks like.  She's a hip dresser, she's opinionated and outspoken and last I checked didn't wear a wig or cover her hair. Quite unlike any of my "normal" images of an Orthodox woman.  Then I think of Aliza Hausman and Yavilah McCoy, they don't "look" Orthodox either and they're people of color.  Surely I will go, I'm excited to go, I actually can't wait to go.  Unfortunately, I have to wait until after the Holidays so from now until then I will be researching what's kosher and not kosher.  I also want to attend a conservative temple as well as a few others in the city.

My new Shofar...

I'm not sure that it looks like that and surely I will not look like that blowing it because I haven't purchased the dress yet.   My friend is in Israel now and I got a message on FB that she'd just picked up my shofar.  I don't know how one blows a Shofar nor have I heard one live but rest assured that I will be blowing it on Rosh Hashanah at least 100 times.

Lastly, my 7 new books.  Besides the mezuzah on my door and the Hamsa around my neck and the dozens of books I don't have a collection, yet, of Jewish objects in my home.  I will aquire them, in time, so I'm grateful to have this beautiful shofar in my house all the way from Israel, no less!

Like that stack of books?  That's my required reading for my conversion class.  I'm not going to lie, being back in an academic environment, albeit one that I'm obsessed with and one that will change my life for ever, is thrilling to me.  I love reading books, taking notes, high lighting passages that I find inspiring or inspire questioning.  I've been rattling off facts and tidbits to Mirs so much that she's suggested that I consider going to rabbinical school when I'm done converting.   I've started with Jewish Literacy, the largest volume and the cook books (no required reading) are always distracting with the beautiful pictures.

Today I have a conversion mixer/intro/community thing at Beit Simchat Torah, NYC's LGBT Temple which I'm thrilled about and a one-on-one meeting with a Rabbi at another temple on Friday.

Despite being out of work on an injury and slightly depressed about that, these things have been a source of inspiration and motivation that I'm truly thankful for.

 

Questions from Fans-A Vlog

Thu, 19 Aug 2010 16:36:05, erika, [category: jews-of-color, category: video-blog, category: what-color-is-a-jew, category: who-is-a-jew]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXU22zVjqs4&feature=player_embedded]
 

Decisions, Decisions

Mon, 23 Aug 2010 23:46:40, erika, [category: am-i-a-jew, post_tag: conversion-preparations, post_tag: pre-conversion-posts, category: things-to-think-on, category: uncategorized, post_tag: when-i-met-rabbi-kaye]

Last week I sat down with 2 rabbis from 2 different congregations and it's probably safe to say that I have some decisions to make.  It's been my initial thought that before completing the conversion process that I would shul shop to find the congregation that I felt the most at home in.  Not only did I want to find a congregation that I felt the most at home but a rabbi who'd I'd feel comfortable in confiding in.  Way back in May when I stepped into my first synagogue I talked to a rabbi who told me that she didn't hold conversion classes.  She reasoned that the conversion process was a hard one (something I'm realizing with each day)  she said there would be hard questions, hard discussions, and things that I'd need to talk through.  She felt that these tough things could only be dealt with fairly and reasonably on a one on one basis.  I hung up the phone with her feeling energized and slightly nervous at the same time.

Wednesday I attended a conversion open house in Chelsea and on Friday I sat in a rabbis office-just she and I.  I walked out of the office and walked down the street feeling uneasy, happy, and concerned.  She had questions I couldn't answer, concerns I didn't know I had, insight to things I thought I had figured out.  It was hard.  Very hard and it made me realized that she could be my rabbi.  I've met a half dozen rabbis along this journey and this one made me feel.

So while I have not yet visited the congregation she's a part of her presence and knowing that my conversion future would be in her hands was inspiring.  Every book I've read has warned me that it's not necessarily the rabbi but the shul itself, the home, the meat and guts of the place.  A new reader reminded me that it's more than the shul, as well, it's the people, the community, the family that would be my shul that's an important aspect as well.

Here in lies the dilemma.  I've visited a congregation for a solid month and absolutely love it every time.  And I've met a rabbi that I met with for one hour and felt absolutely on fire.  It's always been my goal to visit my list of "congregations of choice" for one month to make sure that it feels right so that's what I'm going to continue to do.  Problems arise with conversion classes, courses, one-on-ones and I'm sure that I'll probably learn the "same" things more than once and I'm okay with that.  I'm under the impression that I can't learn too much.  Therefore, I'm  not going off course.  I just thought I had figured out and apparently, I do not.

 

Shana Tovah!

Wed, 08 Sep 2010 13:42:45, erika, [post_tag: black-and-jewish-relations-2, post_tag: black-and-jewish-similarities, category: black-gay-and-jewish, post_tag: high-holidays, category: high-holy-days, category: jewish-food, post_tag: rosh-hashanah-2]

Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashanah, or Rosh Hashanah Eve and it is the start of a lot of things for me.  First and foremost, it's the beginning of my year of observing kashrut, or Kosher dietary laws.  My style of kosher will definitely not be "kosher" in that there are many things that I cannot functionally do given the space restrictions of my apartment.  For instance, I cannot have separate cutlery, cookery, or crockery for meat and dairy dishes.  I also cannot have separate cabinets for them or space in the refrigerator for the separation.  That said, I'll try my best to do what I can do given the space that I have.

I've spent the majority of Elul clearing my house of all non-kosher things.  The only thing I have left in my refrigerator that is not kosher is my favorite Irish butter.  I love it, but I'm giving it to Mirs.  I've also been wrestling with the dining out and dining at friends scenarios that will surely come and I've decided that I will always opt for the vegetarian options rather than scoff off an invitation to eat.  The beauty of having so many veggie lesbians as friends means that there is always a guaranteed vegan option or three at any gathering of friends.  As far as dining out goes, thank goodness I live in NYC and there are kosher options for nearly every style of cuisine from Indian to a good old American steak.

I've decided to break up the High Holidays between a few different shuls on my list of permanent homes to-be stating tonight.  I've been spending a lot of time reading in all of my 15 books about Rosh Hashanah services as well as scouring the internet for advice and I've got to admit that I'm a little bit nervous.

When I first read about the High Holidays I thought it was all very poetic.  The image of a giant book being opened on Rosh Hashanah to be finally closed on Yom Kippur was an awe-inspiring one but just a visualization at first.  After my conversion classes discussion on the significance of both Holidays it became a bit more serious.  During the month Elul we're supposed to account for our sins, make amends with people we have wronged, in any way, and prepare ourselves to essentially be judged by G-d.

Instead of all of that, I spent the month cursing the insurance company that has still not given me an answer for my worker's comp claim, I've cursed my job for putting me in a situation that's caused me to injure myself and therefore, rendered me unable to work or do anything physical.  To be honest, I've been moping and cursing folks in the time of the year that I'm supposed to be asking people for forgiveness.  Luckily I learned about Tashlikh.  The afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah when you can "put" your sins on a stone or piece of bread and toss it into a moving body of water for them to be carried away.

I'm well aware that besides the last month of anger and cursing I've done my fair share of sinning and while I don't want to spend my day wallowing in all the wrong that I've done, acknowledging it is key.  I'd rather spend these days thinking about what I've done in the past year-both positive and negative, and think of ways that I can change them in the future-for the next year.

So this evening and tomorrow I'll be celebrating the New Year.  We got invited for Rosh Hashanah dinner at our Israeli friend's home.  I'm making black-eyed peas.  I love the crossover of traditions between blacks and Jews and in an article I read yesterday black-eyed peas on Rosh Hashanah is a way that we are linked, yet again.  I'm not going to paraphrase the article, because it's too good.  Instead, take some time and read it and I wish you all a sweet New Year!

http://www.forward.com/articles/112887/

 

The ones where I attended my first high holiday services

In Which I find Yitz Jordan and Jews of Color and find BG&J Part 1

0