Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Repost: Patrilineal descent and the pain of rejection 😥

This is one of the posts that seems to have disappeared from both my front page and my September 2022 archive.  I'm copying and pasting both the post and the comments because this is too important to lose.


Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Patrinineal descent and the pain of rejection 😥

Copied from Facebook:

I've been a member of Conservative (or dual-affiliated) synagogues since childhood, and have always supported the traditional opinion that only the children of Jewish mothers are Jewish (the matrilineal opinion). But I've been rethinking my position in recent years. Is it really the right thing to cause so many people so much pain? Here's how being a patrilineal Jew affected Allison Goldperson.
[August 20, 2019]
Just over a year ago, I had the opportunity to do a mikveh ritual in the ocean, where I affirmed my Jewish identity in the presence of Rabbi Gabriel Botnick and four witnesses. It was an important moment for me, because it allowed Rabbi Botnick to then give me an official certificate, signed by himself and two witnesses, affirming that I am, indeed a Jew.
This status is a big deal, because it means that I am finally able to participate fully in the rituals that comprise Jewish practice: I can be married by a Rabbi to another Jew; I can be counted as part of a minyan; I am allowed halachically to fully keep Shabbat; if I have children, they will be counted as Jewish. Most importantly, this moment resolved one of the deepest and most painful challenges in my life: the fact that, for years, as I felt called more deeply towards Jewish practice, I was repeatedly turned away.
I am Jewish by patrilineal descent. My grandparents on my father’s side were Polish Holocaust survivors; my mother is from the Canadian east coast. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Toronto, in a home that was filled with jokes told in Yiddish accents, stories from Chelm and foods like challah, cholent, and matzo brie. I carry the last name “Goldman”, went to Jewish summer camps and had a bat mitzvah.
It wasn’t until I got to university, and had a spiritual experience that made me want to connect more deeply with religious (vs. cultural) Judaism, that I understood the significance of my patrilineal descent. I was told, for the first time, that I was not Jewish -- that if I wanted to become Jewish, I would have to convert.
I was shocked, and hurt, but I respected the Rabbis telling me this. I wanted to follow the rules. I started learning, first with an orthodox Rabbi, and then with a conservative one. The more I studied, however, the more it became clear to me that I could not convert. Why? Because I’m not a convert. Judaism is not something I’ve chosen. In fact, over the years that I struggled with this part of my identity, I tried hard to not be Jewish. Twice in my twenties, after particularly painful experiences of being rejected based on my birth, I told myself that it wasn’t worth it, and vowed that I would not be Jewish anymore. It hurt a lot to make that vow, and never stuck. As it turns out, we don’t always get to choose who we are. Sometimes, our souls hold a truth that we ignore at our own peril.
For me to try to be anything other than Jewish was to force my soul so deeply out of alignment that it created a terrible spiritual pain.
My soul’s truth is that I am Jewish, and I have absolutely no choice in the matter. When I pray in Jewish community, I feel a sense of connectedness, to the earth, to the sky, to others and to myself. My soul whispers to me: “yes, this is where you’re meant to be.”
Last year, when I first approached Rabbi Botnick about my identity, I was so scared. I had already begun to feel connected to the community at Mishkon, and by revealing my secret to him, I was risking that he would reject me -- that he would suggest, like every Rabbi I’d spoken to before him, that either I should join a conversion class and undertake a process of “transformation,” or that I should just accept that only the reform community is available to me. Instead, he responded in the most beautiful, affirming, and healing way I could possibly have imagined. He asked me about my upbringing: was I raised in a Jewish home? Did I have a bat mitzvah? He reflected to me in no uncertain terms that I am indeed a Jew. He was clear and casual about it, and said we could make it official the very next day, at Na’or on the beach.
The Jewish ritual of the mikveh is one that signifies transformation. Traditionally, a convert immerses herself fully under water to signify a total transformation – a change in her soul from someone who was not bound to the covenant, to someone who is. I feel strongly that my soul did not transform last year when I undertook my mikveh. I have always been Jewish. In fact, I believe my soul has been Jewish for much longer than I have actually been alive.
Its meaningful that Jewish ritual, and particularly this ritual, is done in community, in front of witnesses. When I submerged myself in the ocean last summer, I was affirming a deep commitment to my own authentic truth, the same truth that prevented me from “converting” for so many years: that I am now, and always have been, Jewish.
By witnessing and testifying, my community also affirmed this truth back to me – and that was the transformation I needed.
I am so deeply grateful to Rabbi Botnick for facilitating that moment, and offering me the chance to fully belong. At the same time, I’m writing this post in part to say: this is not ok. It was wrong of my community to turn me away so many times, while welcoming other mixed Jews who have a matrilineal line. It was wrong to trivialize my Jewish lineage and experience, and the identity I have always had. This is an aspect of our tradition that hurts so many of us: Jews like me, but also Jewish men who are told they alone cannot pass on their traditions to their children. It’s wrong because it sews division among us, and causes us to do ugly things, like reject people we could love. In Genesis, the day that G-d separates water from the land is the only day she does not see that “it was good.” Our tradition should be the glue that holds us together, yet we cling to an outdated rabbinical interpretation that wrenches us apart.
There are many things I love about Judaism. Among them is our willingness to grapple with tradition and to make changes where necessary. The good news is that we already have the tools to right this wrong: when Rabbi Botnick offered to officially sanction my Jewish identity through an affirmation – when he offered it without even suggesting for a second that I had to change my essence, or “convert” – he demonstrated the best of what our tradition has to offer.
It is my hope that, in the future, this ritual of affirmation will be made more easily available and widely popularized. We should all know there is space in our tradition to hold and welcome our entire tribe, and to affirm the powerful influence that fathers have upon their children.


Blogger Shira Salamone said...

If you have a Facebook account, I recommend that you read the comments to the original post here:

Tue Sep 06, 06:19:00 PM 2022  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

More comments copied from Facebook:

Stephen Belsky
It sounds like she went through an actual giyyur procedure (the immersion with witnesses) but what was important was not delegitimizing her preexisting Jewish identity in the process

Shira Salamone
Exactly. But there are so many patrilineal Jews who just consider themselves Jewish who aren't willing to do that. I'm having trouble lately just wrapping my head around the idea that we Jews are rejecting so many people who just want to be accepted as part of the family. 😢

Allison Goldperson
Shira Salamone hey Shira! Thanks for sharing this and understanding my intention in sharing my story.
I was extremely resistant to doing a mikveh ritual for many years because people framed it as a “conversion” and I feel strongly that I was always Jewish. I never had any other identity to go to, so when people told me I wasn’t Jewish, it was like a negation of my very personhood in the world.
Now it has been years since that day, I’m deeply involved in Jewish community, and the pain of those rejections is something that continues to hurt many years after it has been “resolved”.
I very much appreciate that you have been changing your mind about this topic and hope that others will do the same 💕

Shira Salamone
Allison Goldperson , I'm hoping to encourage others to give this some serious thought, at least. Thank you for articulating the pain of rejection so movingly.

Barton Lessin
At no time in our history has being a Jew been the easiest of choices. I applaud those who choose to be members of our tribe. It seems well past time to consider patrilineal descent on a par with matrilineal descent.

Tue Sep 06, 06:22:00 PM 2022  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sorry, let me try posting that URL as a link:
Allison's post

Tue Sep 06, 06:27:00 PM 2022  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's all well and good, but she either converted, or she's not Jewish. Or she could be Reform (and still not Jewish in the eyes of the rest of Judaism). So either the ocean was mikvah with witnesses l'shem giyyur or it was not and all that happened was she got wet.

Every religion, every people has inclusion and exclusion rules. I don't get to declare myself Canadian just because I like hockey and Tim Horton's, I'd have to go through a naturalization process to become Canadian. It's the same with Judaism. Mother is Jewish? You're a citizen. Mother isn't Jewish? You're not. The father is wholly irrelevant.

We should be welcoming and perhaps make the conversion process easier for people brought up thinking they were Jewish, but at the same time, there's no reason to weaken millennia-old laws.

Wed Sep 07, 02:51:00 PM 2022  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

We should certainly make the conversion process easier for people who were brought up Jewish but are not considered Jewish according to halachah (Jewish religious law). As with the rabbi in this true story, the rabbi should certainly take into consideration how much the person already knows rather than blindly insisting that they attend a conversion class as if they were starting from scratch, and perhaps calling the conversion ceremony an affirmation ceremony might also help.

Thu Sep 08, 08:38:00 PM 2022

Help--my posts are disappearing :(

First, I noticed that I no longer have back-arrows and forward-arrows on this blog--I now have to click on each month separately to see my posts.  Can anyone tell me how to restore my "back-arrow"/"forward-arrow" function?

Then, perhaps even more alarmingly, I found that the posts shown in the archives are incomplete--two of my September 2022 posts have disappeared from my September 2022 archive.  *I* can still see them in my "New Post" window, where I create and edit posts, but *you* can't see them anymore (except for the short time that they appear in the Previous Posts sidebar).  Can anyone tell me how to restore them?

My son says that, now that blogging is no longer as popular as it once was, it may be that this site is no longer being maintained.  At some point, I may simply be forced to stop blogging and switch all my posts to Facebook.  😥


I just deleted three music videos and replaced them with links, in the hope of restoring the visibility of my now-invisible posts.  But those posts remain invisible both on the "front page" and in my archive.  😥

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Hineni (with link to music video)

Copied from a Facebook post by Rabbi Josh Warshawsky:
It's Hineni time. Time for presence. Time for acknowledgement. Time for recognizing that we cannot do it alone. Always grateful for the Chaverai Nevarech team for the beauty we create together. Read on for my intention setting this year:
I am unfit. I am all there is. I will have to do.
Hineni is the confession of the prayer leader before stepping up to lead the community in the Musaf Amidah, the central prayer of the High Holidays. It is the prayer of one who is aware of their own flaws. It is the prayer of one torn between doing the right thing and not knowing if they are up to the task. It is the prayer of the individual, and yet it is recited in front of the congregation, as we acknowledge that it is the prayer that is likely in each one of our hearts.
In the musical Les Miserables, Valjean sings before he steps before the court:
"If I speak, they are condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned! ...Can I conceal myself for evermore? Pretend I'm not the man I was before? And must my name until I die be no more than an alibi? Must I lie? How can I ever face my fellow men? How can I ever face myself again?"
The prayer leader prays strikingly similar words in Hineni:
אַל נָא תַּפְשִׁיעֵם בְּחַטֹּאתַי, וְאַל תְּחַיְּבֵם בַּעֲווֹנוֹתַי
וְאַל יְהִי שׁוּם מִכְשׁוֹל בִּתְפִלָּתִי. כִּי חוֹטֵא וּפוֹשֵׁעַ אָנִי
“Please, do not hold these people to blame for my sins. Do not find them guilty for my misdeeds. May there not be a stumbling in my prayer, for I am careless and have surely sinned.”
And so we ask for success on this journey to forgiveness and self improvement, though we know we may not be up for the task in this particular moment:
הֱיֵה נָא מַצְלִיחַ דַּרְכִּי וְקַבֵּל תְּפִלָּתִי כִּתְפִלַּת צַדִּיק וְזַכַּאי
אִם קוֹל נָעִים וּפִרְקוֹ נָאֶה וּמְעוּרָב בְּדַעַת עִם כָּל הַבְּרִיּוֹת
“May the path I embark on be successful. Accept my prayer like it is the prayer of the righteous and innocent. Accept it as though it is sung out in a sweet voice. Accept it as though it is prayed by someone whose life has been well spent, by someone who is deeply interconnected with the people and the world around them.”
Can we arouse this sentiment within ourselves? Can we admit that though we have made mistakes, we are all there is. So we will have to do.
May all your prayers be heart-opening, soul-lifting, and filled with intention. May this Rosh Hashanah bring sweetness and goodness to you and your loved ones.
Shanah Tovah,
Wednesday, September 28, 2022 update:
Since I'm having problems getting this blog to display all of my posts, I'm deleting this video and replacing it with a link to the video, in the hope of restoring some of my posts to visibility.  Sorry.  I hope this works.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ochilah (with link to music video)

Here's Rabbi Yosef Goldman (in "Ashkenazi mode") with Eitan B Kantor, sharing a new melody to a text from the High Holiday liturgy. ❤️ Listening to Rabbi Goldman's music is always a delightful adventure for me--since he's half Ashkenazi and half Mizrachi, I never know whether I'm going to hear "savs" or quarter-tones. 😀

See also Rabbi Deborah Sacks Mintz's musical contribution to the High Holidays.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 update:

Since I'm having problems getting this blog to display all of my posts, I'm deleting this video and replacing it with a link to the video, in the hope of restoring some of my posts to visibility.  Sorry.  I hope this works.

Zokhreinu L'Hayyim (with link to music video)

The Yamim Yoraim (High Holidays) are almost here! Time to share some new music written to texts from the liturgy of these holy days. Many thanks to Rabbi Deborah Sacks Mintz, for this beautiful song! ❤️And I'm happy to see links to her commentary and Hadar's High Holiday Reader.

𝑍𝑜𝑘ℎ𝑟𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑢 𝑙'ℎ𝑎𝑦𝑦𝑖𝑚
𝑚𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑘ℎ 𝑘ℎ𝑎𝑓𝑒𝑡𝑧 𝑏𝑎'ℎ𝑎𝑦𝑦𝑖𝑚
𝑣'ℎ𝑎𝑡'𝑣𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑢 𝑏'𝑠𝑒𝑖𝑓𝑒𝑟 ℎ𝑎'ℎ𝑎𝑦𝑦𝑖𝑚
𝑙'𝑚𝑎'𝑎𝑛𝑘ℎ𝑎 𝑒𝑙𝑜ℎ𝑖𝑚 ℎ𝑎𝑦𝑦𝑖𝑚
"Remember us for life
Sovereign Who delights in life
And write us into the Book of Life
for Your sake, living God"
As we enter the month of Elul and begin preparing for the New Year, our hearts turn toward the Source of existence, asking that the breath of life continue to flow through us.
"Zokhreinu L'Hayyim," the new song from Rabbi Deborah Sacks Mintz, is suffused with being. Vocals yearn and soar atop acoustic guitar, upright bass, and pulsing percussion, and the delicate interplay between clarinet and banjo adds layers of depth and emotional color to the pleading. Rooted in lyrics from an iconic High Holiday prayer, breath itself is the key instrument in this recording.
Deborah's song is out today on Rising Song Records! Stream it wherever you listen to music, and download it on Bandcamp.
For Deborah's commentary on this piece, as well as sheet music:
For more Torah for this season in Hadar's High Holiday Reader:
Music composed by R. Deborah Sacks Mintz
Text from High Holiday liturgy
Deborah Sacks Mintz — lead vocals
Chava Mirel — guitar, harmony vocals@
Michael Winograd — clarinet
Yoshie Fruchter — bass, harmony vocals
Ilusha Tsinadze — banjo, harmony vocals
Sam Weisenberg — percussion, harmony vocals
Recorded live at B'nai Jeshurun NYC on July 14, 2022.
Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Don Godwin.
Filmed by Shmulie Lowenstein.
Cover artwork by Nireh Orr.d

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 update:

Since I'm having problems getting this blog to display all of my posts, I'm deleting this video and replacing it with a link to the video, in the hope of restoring some of my posts to visibility.  Sorry.  I hope this works.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Tefillah can be tough

I listened to Episode 30: Not a "T'fillah Person" of The Light Lab, in which Jewish educator (Masters in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary) and singer/songwriter Eliana Light interviewed Maharat Rori Picker Neiss and Rabbi Shai Held.  I could write pages about how Jewish liturgy and I get along, and, in point of fact, I’ve already done that, but I’ll hold the link to one of the “prayer posts” on my blog until the end of this post and give you the short version.

One of the topics discussed was the length of services.  I have, basically, two problems with that. 

Problem number one is that, as someone who didn’t get a good Jewish education as a child, I don’t read Hebrew particularly quickly, and, therefore, I have only two choices—either I can read every word, or I can keep up with the minyan. In recent years, as a member of a synagogue so small that we don’t always get a minyan, I have found that my priorities have shifted from trying to say every word to trying to “be there” in the prayer-book whenever I have an opportunity to say prayers that can’t be said without a minyan.  If that means that I skip huge swaths of prayer (even entire pages), so be it.  I just try to say Amen to all of the b’rachot (blessings) in the Sh’ma section and try to say all three paragraphs of the Sh’ma, plus the entire Amidah prayer.  Anything else is gravy.  

Problem number two is the good old keva (rough translation:  structure) vs. kavannah (rough translation:  intent, focus) conflict.  As someone with limited comprehension and limited speed-reading ability in Hebrew, I find it quite impossible to focus on the meaning of the prayers when there are so many of them to say. 

Another prayer challenge of mine is that my synagogue is not only small, it’s also a little short on ruach (spirit, enthusiasm.)  Rabbi Held spoke about how praying with good music (preferably music that’s easy to sing) can make prayer more meaningful.  We have a relatively non-participatory congregation—most of my co-congregants sing barely loudly enough to be audible.  As a former synagogue choir member in a previous synagogue, I really miss being surrounded in prayer by enthusiastic singers. 

As promised, here’s a link to one of my “prayer posts,” “Learning, the hard way, or learning from the inside out: An am haaretz teaches herself to daven.”

Here’s a link to a shorter version, “Learning from the inside out.”

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A preventable tragedy in the making :(

Some idiots in the New York City Department of Transportation are turning almost 20 blocks of a local street into a pedestrian mall against the will of many local residents and putting our lives at risk by placing giant granite blocks and concrete planters in the middle of the street! The 34th Avenue Open Street (also known now as Paseo Park) in Jackson Heights, Queens is a tragedy waiting to happen. Sooner or later, someone's going to die because emergency vehicles won't be able to get there soon enough. 😡 And our elected officials don't seem to care. I'm talking to *you,* Shekar Krishnan!
JH Community For 34 OS Compromise
Sandy Reiburn ·
Fire Engine nd Ambulance Can't get through.mp4


Part 2 Ambulance finally got to the school to care for a child whose been waiting with head trauma.

5 views Sep 17, 2022 On 9/16/2022, a child received a head trauma at IS 145. The 911 call brought a Fire Truck and an Ambulance. The Fire truck arrived first but had trouble "parking" and maneuvering because of the barriers (plastic pilons, very large flowerpots filled with dirt, and large solid granite blocks. While the Fire truck was parking it blocked the cross traffic which blocked the ambulance coming to the site. It was over 9 minutes to get the child from the school. He was brought out on a gurney.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Baruch Shehecheyanu

One of our synagogue members was kind enough to sponsor a yummy kiddush lunch in honor of the 40th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah celebration.  Rav todot (many thanks)!  Not only was this our first kiddush lunch since the COVID-19 pandemic forced our synagogue to close its doors in late March 2020, it was also the first time since March 2020 that my husband and I (and probably some of the other folks who were present, as well) have recited Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) with a minyan!  What a mechayeh (which I can't even translate--try this)!

Monday, September 12, 2022

A snack attack shouldn’t make a snacker sick ☹

You might say that this is a different kind of food poisoning—I simply get “poisoned” by about half the foods that I’d like to eat.

This past Friday afternoon, while doing some last-minute shopping for Shabbat, I found a delicious snack called Orga Super Crisps Original.  It’s OU kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and organic.  This is the entire list of ingredients:  organic flax seed, organic sunflower seeds, organic chia seeds, organic sesame seeds, organic pumpkin seeds, organic chickpea flour, Himalayan pink salt.  I really pigged out on them, and my husband had quite a few.  I figured these crisps would be a great healthy snack for just about anyone who isn’t allergic to sesame.

Famous last words.

The next day, my husband found that he felt a bit off-balance while walking to synagogue, and decided that it would be wise for him to refrain from holding or carrying a Torah scroll.  I, too, noticed that I was even more off-balance than usual.  So my husband asked whether seeds can cause dizziness.

According to “Dr. Google,” the answer is “yes.”  Apparently, eating large quantities of flax seeds can lower a person’s blood pressure. 


I can’t eat dairy, so mozzarella sticks, a former favorite snack of mine, are off the menu—I haven’t eaten one in years.

I can’t eat gluten, so my choice of crackers is limited—rice cakes are ridiculously bland, and buckwheat crispbreads are often impossible to find.

I can’t eat too much fruit, or I'll pay for it later.

I can’t eat too many raw veggies, especially salad greens, lest I get painful gas cramps.

I can’t eat too many nuts or peanuts because they aggravate both my acid reflux and my kidney stones. 

And now, I can’t eat seeds, either. 

I don’t have snack attacks—I have snacks attacking.

I don’t get into food fights—food fights *me.*

Apparently, there’s no such thing as a safe and healthy snack for a person with IBS.

And you wonder why I live on parve gluten-free cookies between meals.

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