a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self


Posted on: October 19, 2012

Boredom. Uninspired. Lost. Unmotivated. Empty.

Those are things I felt after Rosh Hashanah. I lamented to my Rosh Chodesh group and when the words left my lips, thoughts I hadn’t voiced to anyone let alone a group of virtual strangers, (it was my first meeting)I felt a rush of emotions. I felt guilt and relief at the same time and as the confession echoed in my ears I felt concerned. How could I experience such a spiritual 180? Last year on Rosh Hashanah the sound of the shofar brought tears to my eyes and this year I was distracted and restless-I flipped anxiously through the machzor and felt angry there were so many pages remaining. I scanned the thousands of daveners-what were they wearing?, who were they with?, oh isn’t that baby cute? and checked the clock frequently. I even thought about leaving.

As I started voicing this confession to my Jewish friends I got the same answer-Congratulations, you’re officially a Jew.

Unsatisfied with this assertion I was determined to focus inward and really tap into spirituality on Yom Kippur.

Except it didn’t happen.I felt the same sense of boredom and the entire experience lacked any level of spiritual fulfillment. As I pounded my chest in community confession I felt tears try to creep out of my tear ducts, though they were tears of fear-Why didn’t I feel anything?

Hoping to remedy the problem I rushed to shul for Friday night service after Yom Kippur and waited to feel spiritually fulfilled. It never came so I haven’t been back.

What the eff is going on in this post-conversion nightmare?!

I should say that while I’ve feeling spiritually and religiously empty, I have been feeling fulfilled in other areas of my Jewish life. I’m working closely with Chava at Not A Contradiction and other Jewish Multiracial Network volunteers on advocacy work, I’m writing for various Jewish publications and have been invited to participate in a Jewish roundtable, I work for a Jewish non-profit, I’ve started studying Hebrew again, I’m planning a trip to Turkey and have already located and mapped out several Jewish communities there, I’ve hosted Shabbat dinner in my home for friends and light candles every Friday night with my partner. And let’s not forget the biggie-I’m Jewish!

But when it comes to my personal spirituality I feel lost.

I look at the gold upside down mezzuzah* on my doorpost every time I walk in and out of our home and feel sadness, I forget to pray Modeh Ani in the morning and barely remember the Sh’ma at night. It could simply be that my Jewish life has taken on a direction towards advocacy and action, but if this is so why do I feel so much guilt?

Yesterday HuffPost Live Tweeted the following question: “Does not practicing a religion represent an absence of faith in god, or in institutions?” My 160 character answer was : “It depends on how you define “practicing” I consider myself a practicing Jew, but that doesn’t mean I always attend synagogue.”

What do you think?

I’m still contemplating going to synagogue tonight and I’m not quite sure if I’ll go or not…the trying to be okay with that is the hardest.






*Drank too much wine before the rabbi came for our house blessing and accidentally hung it upside down. We sort of like it that way…and it’s nailed to the doorpost;)


6 Responses to "Reflections"

Relax. You’re fine. Ive been there. I went through a gap period after my conversion where I was not “religious”; I was just Jewish. Then my interest and feeling in observance returned but it was different. As a convert, I feel we are under so much pressure to conform, adapt, fall in line. Even folks who claim to be allies sometimes is just more pressure. I read your blog postings and it seems like your journey is right for you. So keep going. In the end, I think we will all get where we need and want to be as Jews. It just takes time, patience and courage to be ourselves.

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat Shalom!

I think that religion ebbs and flows. There are times that I feel very Jewishly “plugged in,” but there are times I’m just not feeling that way. I try to daven through the times I’m less enthusiastic, but that doesn’t always happen. These shifts in attitude and feeling toward ritual are normal and don’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong or have given up or whatever. There’s no shame in taking a step back to have a bit of space and time to reflect.

When I was in the States, I was at shul four, five times a week, either for Shabbat services or minyanim. I’d probably have gone more, if I could. I davened daily. Here in China? Not so much. I try very hard to keep on track, but that’s difficult when you often have to be your own community. It can be exhausting and easy to say, “Ugh, whatever.” But at the same time, I’ve had great conversations with my non-Jewish colleagues and friends about my religion (and theirs) and had great experiences visiting synagogues in other countries for the major holidays. I don’t think I’m any less Jewish than I was when I dunked, only that my Jewishness has been refined somewhat- as it will continue to be.

It’s a fact of being human that we just don’t sustain
completely constant, consistent levels of
interest in –anything—over time.
Ebb and flow of interest and feeling is natural.
Life has many seasons.

For people of all religious persuasions, “dry” periods
so seem to be quite natural. It would be much more
remarkable and unusual if a religious person didn’t
experience such periods at times. Be patient, persevere,
don’t get discouraged. I believe that G-d understands.
What’s important, I think, is that you have the desire to
get beyond the dry period.

When a life commitment has been made, as yours to
Judaism, the excitement of newness is bound to fade and gradually to be replaced by different ways of perceiving your relationship with that to which you’re committed.

Relax. Your commitment to living as a Jew is clear.
The ways in which you perceive that and feel called to express that is
bound to cycle and re-cycle in various ways over many
life seasons.

Thanks everyone! It’s really great to have my feelings affirmed by you. I agree that an ebb and flow is definitely expected, the idea that this is “normal” is what’s a bit jarring.

I’m trying not to focus on it too much and just steam forward.

I’ve had the ebb and flow all along. My Jewish life is very different than yours. I am not involved so much in the community, my friends are not Jewish (I have Jewish friends but they are much older and my really good, really close friends are not Jewish). I have health problems that lead to me not attending shul as much as I would prefer. So, I feel disconnected a lot of time time.

Lately, I joined a Conservative shul and have been considering a second “conversion”. But then it’s like, some days I wonder if I even believe God exists at all? I can’t convert if I don’t believe God exists. So what do I do? I took classes for half a year and gave up money to join this shul so I could show that I was serious about it…and now I feel all weird. It’s not just my Jewish life though. I’m all over the place in general. Marriage, kids, life. My Jewishness just gets to be thrown in the mix too.

[…] Confession-I haven’t been to synagogue since Rosh Hashanah. […]

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