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Balanit: My Life as a “Mikveh Lady”

 

Sometime in the spring of 1976, the rabbi found out that Mindy’s husband was smoking with his Sunday School students. They were the usual rum lot of high school age boys whose interest in religion had ceased with the cashing of their Bar Mitzvah checks; they put up with Eliyahu’s class for the sake of a reliable source of weed. A very unpleasant conference with the rabbi and the synagogue board was followed by a heated exchange with several outraged parents. Mindy and Eliyahu decided it was time to fulfill their dream of “making aliyah” — moving permanently to Israel. As their departure date neared, Mindy asked if I wanted to take over her job as balanit or attendant, at the mikveh.

The San Francisco mikveh (“ritual bath”) was in the Bnai David synagogue in the Mission District. Built in 1908 after the Earthquake, most of the congregation by then had long since departed, but the mikveh remained in use. Orthodox synagogues do not necessarily include a mikveh in their building plans, but this congregation, established in the 1880s by Eastern European Jews, was the first strictly Orthodox community in San Francisco. It is said that people came from as far away as Nevada to use the mikveh. The pool was unusually large — a dozen people could immerse at one time.

A mikveh, by definition, is natural flowing water — a spring, a lake, the Pacific Ocean — but in constructed mikvaot like this, the definition of “natural” was stretched to mean that the smaller of the two connected pools — the bor — was periodically filled with a load of snow brought down from the Sierras. Steps with a railing led into the larger pool for immersing, and a radiator stood at one end for heating the water.

Bible readers will be familiar with passages in Leviticus and elsewhere that mention being “unclean until evening,” and “washing” before re-entering the camp of the Israelites. Being “unclean” is not related to sin, but rather to a deep sense of the separation between the holy and the ordinary, between life and death, or between some medical conditions and the restoration to health. The New Testament records Jesus healing lepers, who then were to “show themselves to the priest” and the woman with a discharge who touched his garment to be healed. In those cases, they would have also bathed in a mikveh as part of their restoration to full communal life. In biblical times, quite a few things rendered both men and women, and some objects, “unclean” but never permanently. Today, the mikveh is primarily used by Orthodox women following their menstrual periods and childbirth; and for those converting to Judaism. In larger Orthodox communities, men often immerse before the daily prayers and before holy days.

Orthodox Jewish family life cannot exist without an available mikveh, yet in the 1970s I found a profound reluctance to openly discuss “family purity,” as it was sometimes called, especially around non-Jews. Partly, this was simply a normal reticence surrounding a private matter. But those early days of the sexual revolution, married couples taking a mandatory break from their sex lives, and then the wives going through a detailed process of bathing before being able to resume intimate relations seemed peculiar — apparently even to Orthodox Jews themselves.

Before my wedding, our rabbi insisted that I sit with his wife to review the “laws of niddah” — the rules concerning this period of abstinence. I made the mistake of using the word “taboo” at one point, and the rabbi’s wife absolutely freaked out: “No, no, no, it’s not a taboo! It’s not a taboo!” she cried. I was puzzled by her extreme reaction, since a taboo simply involves separation of people, objects, or foods for reasons connected to the sacred. The literature about the laws of niddah attempted to make the practice seem rational and understandable, but it always struck me that it was precisely the irrational, deep sense of the sacramental in marriage, and in the presence of God in the Tabernacle or Temple, that was operative. I also sensed a consuming fear among women like the rabbi’s wife that if outsiders (not just non-Jews, but secular and anti-religious Jews) knew about it, they would see Judaism as “primitive” and subject to ridicule.

Brides-to-be read booklets with stern and daunting titles like Jewish Family Life: The Duty of the Woman. Other publications took a philosophical bent, like Meaningful Sex: A Jewish View, by the late Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis; A Hedge of Roses by Norman Lamm, and Aryeh Kaplan’s Waters of Eden. A chapter in the popular Jewish Catalog, however, made the practice more accessible for those who were “returning” to Jewish observance.

At Bnai David, the door to the mikveh stood discreetly to the left of the main entrance to the synagogue and opened into a small apartment. My family did not choose to live there, however. — if the door to the pool was not kept closed, even the huge venting fan could not prevent mold from rapidly dotting the wallpaper. Worse, a married couple living there might find their children using the mikveh as a private swimming pool — another reason to keep the door to the pool shut and locked.

A dim waiting area held a beautiful old couch in need of re-upholstering. If a woman’s husband came, he could park himself quietly in a separate room so as not to encounter other women who had appointments. Allowing men to come in at all during the women’s hours was actually verboten elsewhere, but as the Mission District at night was not entirely safe, only a few complained. About fifty women from all over northern California used the mikveh regularly and most knew each other.

The most time-consuming and exhausting part of the job was pumping out the main pool, cleaning it thoroughly and drying it with towels, then refilling it, which took about six hours. Mindy had told me to do the thorough cleaning about once a month, but I did it every Sunday, because my husband, himself a mikveh enthusiast, opened it for men before Shabbat and holidays, and all his friends — who otherwise might have helped their wives prepare for Shabbat — came to hang out with him. The pool was always a bit grubby on Sunday morning, probably because men don’t follow the same strict rules about bathing beforehand that women do, and always seem to leave beard hairs behind. This fact once almost cost me the job:

Shabbat and a two-day Jewish holiday occasionally form a three-day weekend. A woman called on the private mikveh telephone that had been installed in our apartment on Friday afternoon, demanding an appointment for the evening immediately after the end of Rosh Hashanah. As I knew that more men than usual would come to the mikveh before the High Holy Days, it would certainly be filthy afterward. I asked her to come the next night instead, explaining that I would need time to clean the mikveh. She got quite shirty, insisting that I was not allowed to delay her appointment. Having been bullied into acquiescence, I hurried across town at the end of Rosh Hashanah. As expected, the water was murky and strewn with hairs. I did what I could to skim the surface, pump out part of the water and refill it, but it looked awful. Of course, she complained to the rabbi, who called the next day and chewed me out. It proved useless trying to defend myself. Had I refused to make her appointment, I would have been chastised for that. But I made a mental note to unplug the mikveh phone on similar occasions.

My very first night on the job, I had finished laying out clean towels and tidying the dressing room, when there was a sudden sharp report that sounded like a gunshot right outside the door. I listened intently for a few seconds for voices, a cry, a call for help, but all was silent. I cautiously knelt down by the letter slot to peer out, but couldn’t see anyone, although there was an odor I recognized — having spent many hours on the firing range with my father. I called the police. A recording instructed me to hold the line in about a dozen languages, and long after someone could have bled to death on the doorstep, an officer answered. I explained, gave the address and phone number… and waited. Half an hour passed and the police called back. They couldn’t find the address. A few minutes later, I heard men’s voices — the police at last — just outside the door. Apparently no one else was about, and nothing looked suspicious, but one of them said he could still smell that a gun had been fired. That was the last I heard about it, but I always felt a bit anxious when walking through Delores Park to the trolley stop late at night.

Many of the women who came were friends, relaxed and chatty; others were from the the Orthodox synagogues, and the Berkeley or Palo Alto Chabad communities — very strict and often rather nervous about their preparations. The Aquarian Minyan folks associated with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, by contrast always just enjoyed themselves. Before a wedding they made group appointments: one for women; and one for men which my husband took care of. The women brought candles and incense; we turned off the light, and all of them would go into the pool together with the bride, giving her blessings, singing, and overflowing with joy and anticipation. The more conventional mikveh users would have been horrified. Or maybe not: this was California after all, and as it happened, two of the Chabad rebbitzens were nieces of the “singing rabbi” Shlomo Carlebach, who had founded the “hippie synagogue” on 9th Avenue known as the House of Love and Prayer.

There were poignant moments as well. One of our friends asked a few times to come during the day when she brought her husband to the city for cancer treatments. On another occasion, a hasidic woman from New York, also in California for cancer treatments, asked if I might be able to help her with her preparations, as she was very weak. I told her I was a nurse, but in fact, it is also part of a mikveh lady’s job to help with this — even to go into the pool with a woman who needs help or is afraid of the water. She shyly explained that she was only coming to the mikveh in order that her husband could help her in her illness — when a woman is on her period or after giving birth, she and her husband are not to sleep together or even touch. I thought of Glückel of Hameln (1646-1724), who recounted in her diary that as her beloved husband lay dying, she longed to embrace him, but he gently reminded her that she would be able to go to the mikveh that night, and they had always taken great care to observe the commandments… He died in the afternoon, and reading of Glückel’s pain at the loss of a last embrace can still bring tears to my eyes.

I had one bad experience with a visitor. When she came in, I cheerily asked where she was from. “I’m from Monsey,” she replied. “Really? I’m from Indiana myself,” I chirped, thinking she meant Muncie. “That’s Monsey.” she said sharply, “M-O-N-S-E-Y; it’s a very Orthodox community in New York.” She paused for a moment, and then inquired, “Are you a convert?” I was taken aback by her nasty tone, as well as embarrased at having admitted to being a Hoosier, but even more shocked that she would ask if I were a convert — a question so utterly forbidden that in my confusion, I actually said, yes, I am. Luckily, another woman waiting to use the mikveh that evening could oversee her immersion. I should have told “Mrs. Frumkeit” to go jump in the ocean, but I never think of these things in time to make a useful retort.

I did have one funny mikveh experience myself that illustrates the perils of being from out of town. My family and I stopped to visit my parents before moving to Israel in 1980, and it happened I needed a mikveh appointment. At the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis, I found the door labeled “Mikveh” unlocked, but no one was there. A note instructed users to put the payment on the plate in the dressing room. Even more strange, the water in the pool was scalding hot. I couldn’t even stick my toe in. I got dressed again and told my annoyed husband the problem. When he came in to see for himself, even he agreed there was no way to get into the pool. We didn’t know quite what to do as the Community Center was closed. Fortunately, I had written down the phone number, and we drove around the area, eventually spotting a pay phone at a sketchy-looking 7/11-cum-gas station. I dialled the number, worried that no one would even pick up the phone at that hour. A woman with a pleasant deep South voice answered. “Oh, honey,” she said sympathetically when I had explained, “Y’all didn’t have to drive around to find a phone; we live in the caretaker’s apartment just around the back. You coulda jus’ knocked. Y’all come back here and we’ll take care of it.”

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Members have made 42 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Little My Member
    Little My Post author

    A footnote: Here is a small photo of the Bnai David synagogue taken in 2003. It is now a residence. You can just see the door to the mikveh on the far left of the light blue tiled wall, under the tree.

    • #1
    • April 18, 2017 at 11:43 pm
    • Like7 likes
  2. Profile photo of TempTime Member

    Thank you for sharing your stories. Very enjoyable reading.

    • #2
    • April 19, 2017 at 5:26 am
    • Like6 likes
  3. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thank you, LittleMy. I so appreciate your post. As a Jew finding my way back, with limited exposure to Judaism from the start, the mikveh has always been a mysterious place to me. Thank you for being able to communicate both its accessibility and its sacredness.

    • #3
    • April 19, 2017 at 7:10 am
    • Like2 likes
  4. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    In 1975 when I decided to study with a Rabbi and convert to Judaism there was not an Orthodox Rabbi in Sacramento, the closest was in San Francisco. I do not remember now the name of the Rabbi or the synagogue. However the Reform Rabbi, after 5 years of study, converted me in 1980. About that time I was also thinking of moving to Israel and knew Reform Judaism was not readily accepted. I then decided to study formally with an Orthodox Rabbi and called his office in San Francisco. I told the woman who answered the phone that I wanted to make an appointment with the Rabbi, and she rudely informed me I was not a real Jew, and hung up on me. I never called again. Never made it to the mikveh either.

    • #4
    • April 19, 2017 at 11:42 am
    • Like5 likes
  5. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I told the woman who answered the phone that I wanted to make an appointment with the Rabbi, and she rudely informed me I was not a real Jew, and hung up on me. I never called again. Never made it to the mikveh either.

    That’s disgusting, Kay! What arrogance. I’m so sorry.

    • #5
    • April 19, 2017 at 11:43 am
    • Like3 likes
  6. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I told the woman who answered the phone that I wanted to make an appointment with the Rabbi, and she rudely informed me I was not a real Jew, and hung up on me. I never called again. Never made it to the mikveh either.

    That’s disgusting, Kay! What arrogance. I’m so sorry.

    I find that a great many Jews forget that Ruth was a convert, and her descendant was King David. My ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side were Jews, and his descendant’s DNA prove this. But recently had a Chabad Rabbi tell me that I am not considered a Jew, and my daughter whose father was a “real” Jew, is also not considered a Jew because I’m not. So I pretty much ignore them.

    • #6
    • April 19, 2017 at 11:57 am
    • Like2 likes
  7. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I find that a great many Jews forget that Ruth was a convert, and her descendant was King David. My ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side were Jews, and his descendant’s DNA prove this. But recently had a Chabad Rabbi tell me that I am not considered a Jew, and my daughter whose father was a “real” Jew, is also not considered a Jew because I’m not. So I pretty much ignore them.

    Just to clarify (and not justify), if you didn’t convert through an orthodox rabbi, you wouldn’t be considered a Jew by the orthodox community, unless your mother was Jewish. (I’ve been told that Judaism through birth was established to protect children whose mothers were raped during war or pillage, and that way they would be embraced by the Jewish community.) Clearly Ruth was converted in the traditions of her time. It isn’t that you are a convert–Judaism demands that converts not be differentiated from Jews born Jewish, but the key is that they must be converted by orthodox law. So if you’d found a way to be converted by an orthodox rabbi, there’d be no protest regarding your status. My anger was that the way you were treated by that woman on the phone was unconscionable, regardless of your status. And unless some decision depends on being converted by an orthodox rabbi, we consider you Jewish!

    • #7
    • April 19, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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  8. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And unless some decision depends on being converted by an orthodox rabbi, we consider you Jewish!

    I understand that exceptionally well. There are debates going on in Israel about this subject of who is a Jew. The Reform and Conservative converted Jews in Israel are not recognized. To me this seems a sad state of opinions. However, the Chabad Rabbi that doesn’t consider me a Jew, sent me a box of hand made Matzo crackers for Pass Over as a gift. ???

    • #8
    • April 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm
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  9. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    However, the Chabad Rabbi that doesn’t consider me a Jew, sent me a box of hand made Matzo crackers for Pass Over as a gift. ???

    Chabad is known for its exceptional kindness. I expect he found it uncomfortable to tell you that you weren’t included, even though it’s not his decision. From my understanding those matzohs are quite special and expensive. And they are delicious!

    • #9
    • April 19, 2017 at 1:35 pm
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  10. Profile photo of 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    I knew a wonderful young woman who worked with my son. She grew up in Texas and her family was not that observant. She married and became (?–joined?) Chabad. She is very observant, three little kids. I’m Catholic. We used to have great conversations about Judaism and Catholicism. She was surprised that I knew anything at all about Jewish practices. She, too, said that you can’t convert. Anyway, she never told me about the mikveh; however, I never thought to ask.

    • #10
    • April 19, 2017 at 6:23 pm
    • Like3 likes
  11. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    I thought Chabad was focused on outreach (said the goy who read a few articles once). I can see welcoming people and encouraging them to study under an Orthodox rabbi, but getting snooty does not seem like it would be very successful.

    There was a Chabad rabbi who was working as an emissary out of an office next door to mine when I was working in Chicago. Nice guy. He would talk to anybody.

    • #11
    • April 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm
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  12. Profile photo of I Shot The Serif Member

    @kayofmt Reform* not Reformed

    • #12
    • April 19, 2017 at 6:54 pm
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  13. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    I Shot The Serif (View Comment):
    @kayofmt Reform* not Reformed

    Sorry, I’m severely hearing impaired and occasionally don’t spell well either. Won’t happen again.

    Edited my posts and now all Reform.

    • #13
    • April 19, 2017 at 7:52 pm
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  14. Profile photo of Grosseteste Member

    Very interesting, this is all new to me. Thank you for a wonderful post!


    This conversation is part of a Group Writing series with the theme “Water”, planned for the whole month of April. If you follow this link, there’s more information about Group Writing. The schedule is updated to include links to the other conversations for the month as they are posted. May’s topic is Winning, please sign up!

    • #14
    • April 19, 2017 at 9:56 pm
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  15. Profile photo of Nanda Panjandrum Thatcher

    I Shot The Serif (View Comment):
    @kayofmt Reform* not Reformed

    Thanks, Serif! Reform is also used to describe certain Christian communities, at times.

    • #15
    • April 19, 2017 at 10:02 pm
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  16. Profile photo of Nanda Panjandrum Thatcher

    This is wonderful, @littlemy! Lovely to see you, as well.

    • #16
    • April 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm
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  17. Profile photo of Little My Member
    Little My Post author

    For Kay of MT: I am so sorry for your bad experience.

    I was bored one day at work and reorganized the conversion certificates. A few people had come two or three times — first Reform, then Conservative, then Orthodox. My own interest in Judaism began in grade school. My friend’s mother, not unkindly, told me that Jews did not welcome converts very easily, and I should learn more about my own religion. It is actually traditional to turn non-Jews away three times before allowing them to convert.

    Here in Israel, the Rabbanut is run by the strictly Orthodox and they can make it very hard for someone to convert. The “who is a Jew?” question came up during the Russian immigration in the 1990s, and there were questions raised about the Ethiopians who came around the same time. It gets discouraging at times.

    The old Socialists who founded the country gave a lot of power to the Orthodox — I think they believed religion was just going to fade away eventually, according to Marxist theory. Ha Ha Ha.

    • #17
    • April 20, 2017 at 5:24 am
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  18. Profile photo of Little My Member
    Little My Post author

    Chabad Lubavitch is a hasidic sect that originated in what is now Bielorussia around 1775. “Chabad” is an acronym for Chochmah (Wisdom) – Binah (Understanding) – and Da’at (Knowledge). In Kabbalah, the perfect balance of wisdom and understanding opens up to true knowledge. Around 1951, the last Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, began an outreach program. I think he was impelled because of the losses of the Holocaust (including a beloved sister- and brother-in-law). Chabad now has thousands of institutions throughout the world, and are famous for providing kosher meals and other services for young Jews who travel to exotic places like Nepal and Thailand. You may recall that a Chabad House in Mumbai was attacked by terrorists, killing the rabbi and his wife. Their young son was saved by their non-Jewish nanny, who came to Israel to help the grandparents care for the boy.

    Other outreach rabbis included Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, whose Aquarian Minyan was formed by students at a summer seminar he gave on Jewish mysticism. And there was Shlomo Carlebach, who renewed interest in Jewish music with his hundreds of songs — some of which are so “traditional” that people have forgotten that he is the author. I was part of the his House of Love and Prayer community in San Francisco.

    The late 1960s and 1970s saw a great flowering of interest in Jewish life, encouraged by these rabbis and many others.

    • #18
    • April 20, 2017 at 5:42 am
    • Like10 likes
  19. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    She, too, said that you can’t convert.

    Just to clarify, a person can convert. But it has to be according to orthodox rules to be accepted by the orthodox (and that is Chabad).

    • #19
    • April 20, 2017 at 5:45 am
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  20. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Percival (View Comment):
    I thought Chabad was focused on outreach (said the goy who read a few articles once). I can see welcoming people and encouraging them to study under an Orthodox rabbi, but getting snooty does not seem like it would be very successful.

    There was a Chabad rabbi who was working as an emissary out of an office next door to mine when I was working in Chicago. Nice guy. He would talk to anybody.

    That sounds like Chabad. They have many charitable causes, and my understanding is that they give to everyone, Jewish or not.

    • #20
    • April 20, 2017 at 5:46 am
    • Like3 likes
  21. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    Little My (View Comment):
    Chabad Lubavitch is a hasidic sect that originated in what is now Bielorussia around 1775. “Chabad” is an acronym for Chochmah (Wisdom) – Binah (Understanding) – and Da’at (Knowledge). In Kabbalah, the perfect balance of wisdom and understanding opens up to true knowledge. Around 1951, the last Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, began an outreach program. I think he was impelled because of the losses of the Holocaust (including a beloved sister- and brother-in-law). Chabad now has thousands of institutions throughout the world, and are famous for providing kosher meals and other services for young Jews who travel to exotic places like Nepal and Thailand. You may recall that a Chabad House in Mumbai was attacked by terrorists, killing the rabbi and his wife. Their young son was saved by their non-Jewish nanny, who came to Israel to help the grandparents care for the boy.

    Other outreach rabbis included Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, whose Aquarian Minyan was formed by students at a summer seminar he gave on Jewish mysticism. And there was Shlomo Carlebach, who renewed interest in Jewish music with his hundreds of songs — some of which are so “traditional” that people have forgotten that he is the author. I was part of the his House of Love and Prayer community in San Francisco.

    The late 1960s and 1970s saw a great flowering of interest in Jewish life, encouraged by these rabbis and many others.

    I hadn’t heard that the nanny had moved to Israel. That’s pretty cool.

    • #21
    • April 20, 2017 at 6:24 am
    • Like3 likes
  22. Profile photo of Little My Member
    Little My Post author

    Sandra Samuel, who fled with the two-year-old son of R. Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, in 2008, is now an honorary citizen of Israel. As you may imagine, she is much honored by Chabad and Israelis in general.

    • #22
    • April 20, 2017 at 6:47 am
    • Like8 likes
  23. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    Little My (View Comment):
    Sandra Samuel, who fled with the two-year-old son of R. Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, in 2008, is now an honorary citizen of Israel. As you may imagine, she is much honored by Chabad and Israelis in general.

    I missed that somehow. JerusalemOnline thought it more important to speculate on what Sara Netanyahu did with bottle deposits, perhaps.

    • #23
    • April 20, 2017 at 9:04 am
    • Like7 likes
  24. Profile photo of Ontheleftcoast Member

    I Shot The Serif (View Comment):
    I Shot The Serif

    @kayofmt Reform* not Reformed

    Dictionaries as descriptions of usage vs prescriptions of usage round XXXXXXX.

    My grandmother, A”H used to say “Reformed.” As a young pedant it bothered me.

    • #24
    • April 20, 2017 at 10:39 am
    • Like2 likes
  25. Profile photo of Ontheleftcoast Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I find that a great many Jews forget that Ruth was a convert, and her descendant was King David. My ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side were Jews, and his descendant’s DNA prove this. But recently had a Chabad Rabbi tell me that I am not considered a Jew, and my daughter whose father was a “real” Jew, is also not considered a Jew because I’m not.

    Orpah was deterred and stayed behind. Ruth was not. That’s why Ruth-the-convert merited being King David’s foremother.

    Folklorist and civil rights activist Julius Lester found himself, as a child, unaccountably drawn to the sheet music for Kol Nidrei, and played it over and over again on his parents’ piano.

    He later underwent a Reform and then a Conservative conversion. He described his journey in his moving and fascinating book Lovesong. He mentions learning from a Kabbalistically inclined Rabbi that Lester was an example of a known phenomenon:

    Throughout history, Jews have willingly cut themselves off from the Jewish people or were cut off unwillingly. It is not uncommon that their descendants – the Rabbi said, IIRC, that it’s particularly so in the third or fourth generation find themselves drawn to Jews and Judaism, even if they themselves don’t know about their ancestry.

    Lester’s mother’s grandfather (IIRC) had been a German Jewish pack peddler in the South. He took up with a woman who had been (was?) a slave.

    • #25
    • April 20, 2017 at 10:52 am
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  26. Profile photo of Ontheleftcoast Member

    It’s been a while, but IIRC Lester’s Jewish progenitor had a brother. Once Lester had undergone his conversions and discovered his Jewish ancestry. That was the white side of the family. By Lester’s time, they were all Christians, their grandparents or great grandparents having converted and intermarried. The black side of the family were all Christians; Lester’s own father was a minister.

    Julius Lester was the only practicing Jew on either side of the family.

    • #26
    • April 20, 2017 at 10:58 am
    • Like3 likes
  27. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    I Shot The Serif (View Comment):
    I Shot The Serif

    @kayofmt Reform* not Reformed

    Dictionaries as descriptions of usage vs prescriptions of usage round XXXXXXX.

    My grandmother, A”H used to say “Reformed.” As a young pedant it bothered me.

    I’m not qualified to debate the issue. For years I heard it as “Reformed” Judaism vs Orthodox. When I started to study some 20 years later, it had become “Reform” so now in my old age I sometimes get them confused. I think something needs to be changed because when my mother-in-law first held her tiny, precious, granddaughter in her arms, the tears poured down her face as she said, “I can never accept her as you’re just a shiksa.” However, in a few years she got over it, and enjoyed the child when I brought her to visit. She lived to be 101 years old and enjoyed her granddaughter.

    • #27
    • April 20, 2017 at 11:14 am
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  28. Profile photo of Ontheleftcoast Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I’m not qualified to debate the issue.

    I don’t think it’s an important enough issue to debate, except in the lexicographic sense. It may bother some Reform Jews to be called “Reformed” but it doesn’t bother me anymore when someone uses the word.

    • #28
    • April 20, 2017 at 11:21 am
    • Like3 likes
  29. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    IIRC

    Is IIRC the same as RIP, to honor the memory of one who has passed?

    • #29
    • April 20, 2017 at 11:27 am
    • Like1 like
  30. Profile photo of Nanda Panjandrum Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    IIRC

    Is IIRC the same as RIP, to honor the memory of one who has passed?

    SQ, “if I recall correctly”, I believe…

    • #30
    • April 20, 2017 at 11:45 am
    • Like4 likes
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