Friday, January 26, 2007

Rivka FAQ

Questions:


I need to repeat one of my statements from my first post about who I am and why I'm blogging:

This is an anonymous blog. It needs to be such, or I would lose the ability to share my truth, whether anyone else wants to read it or not. Please do not spend time trying to figure out who I am. It will do none of us any good.

There is some information I cannot share, even though it may seem like it wouldn't risk anonymity. To those who don't know me, it wouldn't affect my anonymity at all. To those who might know me and happen across this blog, it would absolutely be a risk. And what I say on this blog about what's going on inside of me must be anonymous, especially from those who know me. The only people in the world I've told that I'm keeping this blog are my husband and my counselor. I don't plan to change that.

I know from reading other anonymous blogs, in particular ones that deal with issues so many of us face, there is a tendency to wonder, "Is she like me?"

There is also a tendency to ask, "How can I help you make this easier?"

In this post, I want to address those and related questions.

1. What kind of shul do you go to? / How observant are you?

I go to a small/medium size shul with only one rabbi in a medium/large size city. I don't want to answer the "what sort of Jew are you?" question because it could change how you see me. If I get into that, no matter who sees me, I'm either going to be too frum or too liberal. Nothing is going to change the fact that being an adult Jew with a family and an emotional disorder has some challenges.

2. If your maternal great-grandmother was Jewish, why did you have to convert?

I didn't have anything other than half a dozen stories that sounded suspiciously Jewish that my grandmother had shared years earlier about her early childhood when I approached my rabbi for conversion. All I knew was that from my earliest memories, I didn't belong. I hated church, and I was starving for a religious expression that fit. It wasn't enough to just be "spiritual." I found my way to Judaism as a teenager and never went back. A few years after my conversion, my mom finally went through some of the photographs and papers passed along when my grandmother (aleha hashalom) died. We found a series of letters between my great-grandmother and her brother from 1910-1925 that left no doubts about their being Jewish.

3. How did your mom take that? / How did this discovery change your extended family?

My mom still doesn't accept it. She says she doesn't acknowledge Jewish law. She was raised a Christian and that's all there is to it. I went through some very difficult times with extended family because they were certain I was putting my soul in jeapordy, rejecting eternal life, by embracing Judaism. I was equally certain that I was finally bringing my soul home. Due in large part to my being Jewish, I have almost no contact with my extended family. It was their choice. If I wasn't going to join them for Christmas and Easter, I wasn't invited any other time. It was worth the sacrifice. I don't regret my choices for a second.

4. If your father wasn't Jewish and your mother identifies as a Christian, how did you deal halachically with your father's death? / You've stated elsewhere that your father was cremated; how do you deal with that?

It was very, very hard. One of the hardest experiences I've ever had. And even at almost three years ago, it's still too fresh, too raw to talk about in any detail. Sitting shiva with almost no support beyond my rabbi and a few friends, no funeral, no grave to visit, and being verbally attacked in public about being Jewish when I went to his memorial service (in a church), it was a very dark time.

5. Getting back to depression, is there any chance of starting a support group with other women in your shul?

Probably not. There is a group in the community, not specific to any shul. I went once. It was very much like the situation I found at the Jewish mental health conference I wrote about here. I'm not interested in being part of a group that only wants to complain and play "my disorder is worse than yours." I want to find tangible, practical ways for people in the Jewish community to reach out and help others who need it. Some of the women in our shul are having a hard enough time trying to do the same for their children with severe developmental disorders, without much success. It can only be harder for unseen disorders whose symptoms come and go. Our shul seems to only have success accommodating people with physical disabilities, though I don't think that's through any failure on the rabbi's part. Mostly I think it's people not knowing what to do or being too caught up in their own lives to do what they can.

6. You said you have a creative pursuit that helps you cope, and that you can even sell your creations. What do you create?

I can't go into that. This is one of those things that seems innocuous but isn't. I do have a creative personality and I enjoy participating in all of the arts to the extent that I can.

7. In your post Ha'azina Tefilati, you wrote, "I found my Tehillim and opened to a random page. At least I think it was random." What do you mean you think it was random? Do you believe G-d has an active role in our lives?

I can't speak for G-d, and I can't speak for anyone else. I can only speak my own reality, as I understand it. I did open Tehillim randomly. Obviously, I was going to find a psalm. Maybe I could have opened to any one of a hundred different pages in Tehillim and found something helpful. Viewed one way, it seems almost too coincidental that I should "randomly" open to that page. Maybe I was guided to open it to that page. Maybe that was my answer. I don't know.

I do know that some of my prayers seem to have gone unanswered. Or the answer was no and I could only figure that out eventually because what I asked for never happened. I mentioned that I grew up in a violent home. I don't want to get into details because this isn't a blog about child abuse. I will say that I prayed frequently for the beatings and the cruel words to stop. They didn't until I reached my teens. On a few occasions, it could have been really severe, but things happened that I can't explain, averting a hospital stay or worse. Maybe that was a qualified yes. Maybe I was just lucky.

What I do believe, perhaps because of all of this, is that I have an obligation not only to acknowledge, appreciate, and praise G-d for what I have, but also to ask G-d for what I need. Or what I think I need. And it's my responsibility to accept the answer, whether it's in my favor or not. I think perhaps because I am constantly aware of what G-d has done for me, for others, for all of us, it is ultimately less painful for me to struggle with and accept a "no" from G-d than it is to struggle with a personal rejection from another human being. I don't know why.

People have their own fallibilities, their own problems that affect how they treat others. I'd like to think G-d is beyond all that. I'd like to think that when G-d answers yes or no or something in between, G-d has my ultimate best interests in mind, and the best interests of anyone else involved. So I guess that means yes, I do believe G-d can be involved in our lives. I guess if I believed G-d were distant and remote and our lives were only affected by the laws of nature and physics and other people, then I'd lose faith in the whole concept of prayer.

I mean, maybe prayer is for us and it doesn't matter if anyone is listening or not, but that thought just leaves me feeling so sad and alone. I need to believe G-d cares and hears and acts on G-d's own timetable and if or when G-d deems it appropriate. That doesn't make me angry. It just reminds me that I don't know everything. It isn't up to me.

8. What can we do to help?

  • Visit my blog. :)
  • Read.
  • Leave comments, preferably not anything judgmental or mean.
  • Share with others.
  • Practice sensitivity.
  • Encourage rabbis to be aware of congregants with "invisible pain."
  • Be willing to talk about emotional disorders within the Jewish community.
  • Be willing to reach out to people in your own community who might need it.
  • Brainstorm ways for your own community to keep people from falling through the cracks.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rivka - Please go to Ezzie's blog, find his email address in the top left side under "about this site", and email him for my email address. Thanks...

Rivka said...

That's going to be hard to do if he doesn't know what e-mail address to send.

This is sort of discomforting. Should I just take this post down?

Anonymous said...

This is the same anon...

You and I have a lot in common, but I can't post my email address. Please... email Ezzie for more info.

Ezzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ezzie said...

My e-mail address is serandez at gmail dot com...

I know who anon is, and they've asked me to give you their email; they just don't want to post it publicly.

If you're concerned about your own anonymity, I'd suggest creating a separate GMail account (without putting your full name in).

Ayelet said...

Rivka, thanks for sharing all that. It's always nice, when you connect with someone's blog, to get to know them better by learning more about them. It's funny how, after a while reading some blogs, you can feel close to the blogger because you know so much about them and their feelings and, yet, they remain anonymous. That's when I find myself wishing I knew the blogger in real life so that I could connect with this person as a real-life friend as well. So often, in real life, we're afraid to let someone get to know us enough to really get close. And so, you end up with lots of 'friendlies' and no (or very few) full-fledged 'friends. Sad, really. All because we feel vulnerable and insecure and we won't bare our souls. Funny how this here blog-world works.

Btw, I'm sorry I asked about the 'sort of Jew'. I certainly meant no offense. I really was more interested in understanding the dynamic of shul which is, apparently, an important part of your life. I'm not sure your readers would 'treat' you differently or judge you in any way no matter your 'sort'. What gave you the sense that would happen? Do you see that in other blogs you've read?

I shudder for you to think of your abusive childhood, especially feeling so out of place at church. I always had the impression that religious Christians could sort of be counted on to be good, upstanding people. It's sort of the recoil that people have to the idea of abuse happening in religious Jewish homes. "That can't happen! They're frum." I wish I could hold on to that naive belief but, alas,.... I'm left feeling even angrier at the abusers; they should know better! They should be better. Grrr.

Jack's Shack said...

Rivka,

Ezzie is a good guy, even if he is a refugee from cleveland. Sorry Ez, couldn't help myself. ;)

Anyway, I think that you did a fabulous job outlining things in this post. Well done.

MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky