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Diary of a Crisis Jewish Educator

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  Diary of a crisis educator Back in 2020, we thought that our ability to pivot from in-person to virtual was a turning point in our careers in which people would recognize the value of educators. We adapted lessons, restructured curriculums, and served as the unofficial support systems for our students who were struggling with the inevitable isolation of the pandemic. We showed up with a smile on our faces and held space for our students to have access to a semblance of normalcy. There was this moment, around 3 days before October 7, 2023, when I thought we were finally back to normal life. I was recording an Instagram Reel with my class which, as it happens, includes my own son. It was about Simchat Torah and as luck would have it, it would be my very first time in front of an open Torah scroll and I would get to share this with the kids! Yes, I am a Bnei Mitzvah tutor, but was also raised very conservative (I know, shocking), so while I can read and chant Torah, I had not crossed th

Tattoos: Reclaiming Ourselves

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  “I was told that you could not get tattoos if you were Jewish, that you cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have them”. I found myself slowly lowering the sleeves of my shirt to cover my own in what felt like an educational failure. There I was, standing in a room of students, discussing the holocaust and the tattoos on survivors arms, while displaying my own. There we were, explaining how these tattoos were used to dehumanize people and strip them from their name and identity, while I had multiple tattoos that I had willingly acquired myself. Oh, the irony and deep shame. We gave the students the now blanket answer to their question: this law (while much more complex than stated) was written prior to the holocaust, so a lot has changed since then. And it's true, each Jewish movement has developed its own stance for tattoos. To understand this first, though, we have to go back to Leviticus 19:28, which says “ You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incis

The Stolen Journey Home

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My first trip to Israel was scheduled for January 2001. Part of our Jewish Day School curriculum involved Israel education that revolved around this milestone trip; from preparing us to what we would see, to how we would process the experience. In addition to Talmud and Jewish history courses, our Hebrew classes included conversational Hebrew, mostly because it is an integral part Jewish life, but also because we were being prepared for our eventual senior trip to Israel. When my oldest sister returned from hers, I wanted to know all the details. Her answer? “Just hold on, I don’t want to ruin the experience for you”. Then, the second Intifada happened. We were young, and somewhat (and in hindsight unfairly) unaware of what this meant not only to us as Jews, but to our long-awaited rite of passage.  Jewish life in Chile happens mostly in a vacuum: its self-contained nature is limited to the life behind the reinforced gates of the school, youth movement on Saturday afternoons, and the 1

Jewish Rituals and How They Carry Us Through

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I feel no shame in admitting that I have cried more in the last two months than I have in the last two years. Whether it be due to grief, anxiety, fear, or even my own children's milestone events (I blubbered my way through my son's Elementary School graduation) my soul has craved (and acted on) the need for relief. If I am being honest, I feel the tears building as I write this. Part of this may be physical exhaustion, part of it is just the sheer weight of everything that has taken place in my life either directly to me, or to loved ones in the past few months.  While on a walk alongside the Kineret last week in Israel, I had the opportunity to discuss how different Jewish communities around the world handle freedom to practice or, in some cases, the lack thereof with two fantastic individuals. To no surprise, we all came to the agreement that there is one thing that binds Jewish practice across borders: Life Cycle rituals. For those of you who do not know what these are, the

Moving Forward and How Much Should We Blame Our Parents For

 Someone asked me something the other day something that stuck around with me: "Is it really your parents' fault how you show up?" For context, we were talking about divorce and love, and the concept of the scarlet letter  and its impact on men vs. women. How does a divorce/separation impact how we show up or how others perceive us when trying to rebuild our lives? It is not my place to share his point of view (though if he does allow me after reading this, I would be happy to point you to him for his counterpoint!). I will, however, in honor of the title of this blog, share mine. After all, if we are going to talk about rebuilding after trauma, isn't one of the first steps to healing to be vulnerable enough to let the light back in after living in the dark for so long?. I will not sugarcoat this, mostly because I don't think it is even possible: dating as a woman after ending a marriage might just be one of the most difficult parts of the whole process. Divorced

Jacob and Esau: Where does our own weakness fall?

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What happens when we are forced to embrace our weaknesses? What happens when we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say "I am not ready"? Worse, what happens when we have to look at those who we look up to and admit that we are not as strong as they would like to be. Trauma is just that. It is an evil rock that lodges itself in your chest and weighs you down. It unfortunately plays a role in every decision you make, eating at your every attempt at survival, and it sometimes has no regard to any of the healing that you try so hard to work towards. It holds you back and it parks you in its lot, pushing you to face everything that you hope to ignore because life would be infinitely easier if it just had never happened. I often find myself looking back at the story of Jacob and Esav. How Jacob, being the weaker of the brothers, resorts to cheating and lying to claim what he believes to be his. I look at his mother Rebecca, who enables the deceit because of her own belief

Forgiveness No Longer Required

 During Elul (the last year in the Jewish calendar), we often focus our efforts on self-assessment, goal setting, and forgiveness. When asked what the difference is between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) and the secular new year is for me, my answer (to some people's shock) is that Rosh Hashanah is the ultimate Jewish guilt trip. We spend a whole month entering a sacred space where we make herculean efforts to really dig deep and understand ourselves, just to reach Rosh Hashanah as the jumping board for Yom Kippur, where we enter into the "forgiveness debacle". What have we done that requires atonement? how do we plan on mending those cracks that we have inflicted in our souls and in others? how will we enter this most sacred period in Judaism ready to forgive ourselves and others? But what if forgiveness is not what we want? I am a deeply flawed individual. I am sure that the count of people I have wronged in my life exceeds others perceptions of who I am. I have al