Thank you kindly for reading this and being so supportive- it has encouraged me to share with you more and I hope it helps the reader as much as it’s helping the writer.
This year, I didn’t get to go to The Conference. The picture above is from last year- I’m the brunette in purple on the right but we all look alike 😉 The Conference I’m referring to is the annual conference held in Baltimore for WIK (Women In Kiruv — Kiruv is Jewish outreach). Obviously, I’m no longer a Woman In Kiruv so I miss The Conference this year. And boy do I miss it. Last year, I met so many other women in community and campus outreach, connected with a few new ladies, caught up with a few old ones, shared and received ideas to improve every aspect of the job, and argued over what expectations are and what they ought to be. Like I said, the WIK Conference last year was amazing.
Here’s an example of a topic that was discussed- but there were so many. It was the first (and only) time I’ve left my young children for a couple nights and I came back floating! Listening to experts in the field generously share their experiences, hearing other women from around the world who all but live my life, being part of the idealistic out-to-better-the-world club of Women In Kiruv was a dream come true and all the more difficult not to return this year.
Luckily, I am teaching Jewish Studies to first graders and seventh grade girls which makes me very happy. I believe Kiruv is not a far cry from Chinuch (Jewish education) but as I interviewed last year, many administrators disagreed which astounded me. During one such interview, the school’s principal noticed that my resume accurately portrayed most of my work experience in Jewish outreach as opposed to teaching. The principal asked me if I realized how vastly different Kiruv is from Chinuch. With Kiruv, one can concentrate on relationship-building and each individual whereas in education, the focus needed to be on the curriculum at hand.
Perhaps that’s an apt description of a typical Jewish studies class but having read the results of the Pew survey and personally meeting the overwhelming number of assimilated Jews, should it be? My dad still cringes when recollecting memories as a boy attending cheder (Hebrew school) which all the Jewish kids in his neighborhood were sure was a punishment. I was interviewed by a dean at another Jewish school where I mentioned that my high school experience was dry when it came to Jewish studies. His response was that he wasn’t interested in his teachers doing more than they already did and when I came across his graduates who now attend USC (the campus my husband and I worked), many find Judaism irrelevant now. I shouldn’t and don’t place blame on any one thing or person though if it’s broke- why not try to fix it?
But I digress. I am so fortunate to have found one of the only Jewish Day Schools left in the USA that has a complete and thorough mix of affiliations and each student is accepted and cherished. Not to mention the school’s headmaster and principal are student-centered and sensitive to the importance of relationship-building outside a classroom. While I’m no longer a Woman In Kiruv, at least I get to be a woman who spreads Torah’s wisdom, devotion to God, and love for Judaism. Interestingly enough, people used to ask me all the time “How do you do it?” when I was a Woman In Kiruv. No one asks that anymore because working mothers are far more common- though no less formidable. Truth is, my lifestyle then was much easier because I got to set my own schedule. I would meet several girls for coffee daily, recruit new students with my husband on campus daily, host weekly programs and cook for Shabbos meals which definitely adds up to a whole lot of work but I loved it and I got to make my own hours. Now that I have a job with a set schedule, I dash out of the house at 7:30am having gotten the kids changed, breakfasts served, lunches made- not to mention a mirror check so I look presentable. I return home at 4:30pm to help with homework, make dinner, organize/clean remains from the morning, bathe children, and do bedtime routines. By 7:00pm I have my evening to grade papers, create lesson plans, prepare for the following day’s rush, and talk to you fine people. I guess I’m whining about what every working mom whines about but I never realized that being a Woman In Kiruv would be a less consistently exhausting career.
So, what was this post about? Ah, yes. The Conference. By now I hope you know that being a Woman In Kiruv is an identity – just like being a Rabbi In Kiruv is one. My husband is not only facing a possible career change but also a transition in identity. The Conference serves as a reminder of that- or rather missing it does.
There are many mitzvos (commandments) that Jews are supposed to do daily, weekly, monthly but only six that we are instructed to do constantly. The first of the six? Faith in Hashem. God does everything for us and what we perceive as difficult is actually training ground to grow as bigger and better people. My prayer for myself, my husband, and anyone else that needs it is that we receive the blessings, clarity and resources we need to live our lives to the fullest and maximize ourselves as individuals.