I dedicate this to the 12 year old girl who found my blog. She knows who she is- I teach her Jewish General Knowledge, Laws and Customs, Jewish Prophets, and the Torah Portion daily. I’ve encountered a variety of people from my past and present who have read my posts and given me feedback- none took me by surprise the way she did.
I also dedicate this to my teachers- the formal ones who stood in front of a classroom and my teachers of life who I learned from simply by spending time with them, observing their behavior, and interacting.
As a child, I thought my teachers were one-dimensional figures who fed us information, graded our work, and were authoritative. I never thought my teachers had a casual side- even the more laid back ones- and I certainly couldn’t visualize their lives outside our classroom.
As I got older and matured, my image of teachers evolved into a more 3D approach where I could reconcile an authority figure having a private life, flaws, and vulnerabilities. Still, when I walk into the front of my classroom everyday, I’m very aware of the persona I’m portraying and the duties it involves.
What blindsided me about my student (I’ll call her Sarah) finding my blog (and proceeding to read its entirety!) was that I really lay it all on the line here- no sugar coating- in order to give myself a space to let my hair down (figuratively!). It’s been therapeutic and provided me with a much needed mode of connection. While blogs are obviously public and completely accessible, I just assumed my writing was for adult consumption alone.
Lucky for me, Sarah is an awesome 12 year old who has all the innocence and sweetness of her years with the sensitivity of a grown woman. Every so often, I break with protocol and stop teaching Prophets to rather focus on Jewish Outlook or how the Torah weighs in on various relevant areas of life. When Sarah explained that she found my blog- smiling widely!- the one she took an interest in was this one where I discuss feminism and Madonna. I spent my class time on Wednesday lecturing and moderating a lively discussion about how feminism has developed over the past 60 years and the current day perspective of an empowered woman. We ended with the Jewish vision of a strong woman.
I like learning the text of Samuel II as much as the next gal- likely more – but I floated out of class on Wednesday because we discussed incredible mentors in the Jewish world and nothing inspires me more than envisioning people who are living the values I aspire to personify. Also, bringing Judaism to life with controversial discussion makes me feel 18 again when I spent countless sleepless nights debating and soul-searching. On Wednesday afternoon, I could close my eyes and virtually transport myself back to seminary in Israel where some of my highest-impact mentors modeled extraordinary living.
This week has involved a late school night at the annual Open House, a trip to the emergency room, a somewhat explosive exchange with an acquaintance, a disappointing interview, tragic news of Jewish children’s death locally and in Israel…it’s easy to feel tired, negative, and about 100 years old. Thanks to Sarah, I am renewed and feel blessed to make a feeble attempt at becoming the person and example I hope to exemplify.