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Why Are You Leaving So Soon? Because We Want To
We are motherless, and fatherless, children -- both of us -- now, as of March, 2015. From Kol Nidre last night through Yizkor today, I've been moved, and now, am moved to write about what moved me, rather than remaining in synagogue, where I'd be feeling perhaps further moved, but also antsy.
Last year, we left right after Yizkor and I thought it was because it was my first one without my mom (z"l) and this year, we did the same; it's Pat's first without her mom (z"l) ... or is it a trend? Pat says she can't stand for such long stretches anymore. How will I feel when I'm 65, like she is now? Please God, let me live long enough to find out. Meanwhile, I had enough poignant experiences to last me through this High Holiday even though we left by noon on Yom Kippur.
Here's what moved me:
Pat and I ushered. We were among the very first people anyone saw as he or she entered the building. Probably a dozen people walked in alone saying that they didn't have a ticket. And many others walked in alone who did have tickets. A number of them walked in apparently riveted by their phone-screen, making no eye-contact even after we greeted them. What was each one's story? Why were they alone on Yom Kippur?
And then a pretty, ginger-haired woman hobbled in with a cane and was looking everywhere but at other people when I said, "Shanah tovah. Welcome. Would you like to use the elevator?"
Her eyes zoomed in on me and she nodded. As we walked together, she said she was meeting her two sons here and that they had been coming to our synagogue for years, though this was her first visit.
"Oh, you'll like it, I think. My mom [z"l] used to say that she thought our services, at any time of the year, were the nicest she'd ever been to."
"Yeah. She loved them."
As we got to the sanctuary, I pointed to a box of kippot and tallitot and asked, "Would you like a kippah and a tallit?"
"Oh, no, I'm Orthodox and I'm very nervous."
"Don't be nervous ... I didn't mean to say that. Be nervous if you need to be, but you don't have to be."
"That's a big Machzor," she said.
"I think you'll recognize at least half of the tunes and you'll enjoy the service. I wish I could find you afterwards to see what you thought."
She thanked me for carrying her Machzor and showing her to her seat and we parted. At the end of services, she was gone by the time I reached where she had been sitting. As I passed her empty seat, I hoped she had stayed and hadn't left early due to there being, for example, musical instruments; Orthodox Judaism forbids making music with anything but our voices during Shabbat and holidays, as it's considered labor, and we're not supposed to work at those times.
Trying, unsuccessfully, to distract myself from missing my mom (z"l)
My mom (z"l) got too old to sit or stand for so long and stopped coming to our services several years ago, but on the Yom Kippur prior to her death, she decided she wanted to come for Yizkor, so we made it happen. I blogged about it here, how she met Edie Windsor and thanked her for her leadership and what a great experience it was.
Pat and I saw Edie today and Pat said later, "We won't have Edie around forever."
My mom's (z"l) name also was Edie. And that's for sure.
Including Edie Windsor, I was moved by a number of other gorgeous women. There's a young woman in the choir with eyes that make me miss my cats and long, black, wavy hair, and I am always interested in the stories of women who can pass as heterosexual and how they end up being true to themselves. Whenever I see someone in her 20s at our shul, I time-travel back to that age and how I was finding my way back to Judaism then, and living in Chicago, and so was going to the Chicago LGBT congregation, Or Chadash. It's where I met Pat.
Something else that moved me: Dr. Nathan Goldstein, our president, mentioned that this year, the shul was celebrating four b'nai mitzvah and that all of the parents of the b'nai mitzvah had met at our synagogue.
Rabbi Kleinbaum's and a Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern's drashot (sermons) touched me, too because Rabbi Kleinbaum read the whole Emma Goldman poem from the Statue of Liberty in the context of the refugee crisis -- Pat had posted the poem on her Facebook wall days ago, asking whether we can be, once again, a country that stands behind that poem. And I was moved by the intern's drash because she asked, Do we avoid coming to shul because we feel we cannot be authentically whoever we are, however we feel?
She spoke of her sister's mental illness episode in 2007 and how we don't typically speak of such things because we cannot dare to be vulnerable. It made me want to come to shul more often, even when I'm not in a great mood. And it made me feel some relief, hearing a future rabbi speak of the need to talk about things we don't typically talk about, to remove the stigma and historical shame of them. I have relatives with mental health problems and I practically never talk about that.
There are a few more things that have moved me during this Yom Kippur so far:
During Yizkor, too, the Executive Director of Jerusalem Open House Sarah Kala made remarks in Hebrew about Shira Banki, the 15 year-old Jerusalem LGBT Pride Parade marcher who was stabbed by an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli and who died of her wounds. One of our Israeli congregants simultaneously translated into English and then our cantorial intern Steve Zeidenberg and the chorus sang "Shir L'Shira", a pop song that was re-dedicated to this particular Shira after her death, and which has been sung at demonstrations around Israel ever since.
Last year, when Broadway singer Sally Wilfert sang Broadway composer and congregant William Finn's "Anytime", I wept. This year, I couldn't let go, or maybe the wound is less fresh, but still, I became choked up because the words and her voice do remind me of my mom (z"l), especially when she sings that anytime I wash my hands, she'll be there. Until she died, my mom (z"l) never failed to ask me when I returned from the bathroom, "Did you wash your hands?"
Now that I'm back home and our kitties are slumbering near me as I blog, I'm moved by the little one, Toonces', capacity for snoring. She's so little, but so audible when she sleeps. And it's cute, and I'm hopeful about caring for such beautiful feline daughters.
Yom Kippur is all about repenting and praying to be sealed into the Book of Life for the coming year. Please, God, if it be Your will, let Pat & Phoebe, the cat, and Toonces, the cat, and my sisters and their families and all of my relatives and friends and me stay alive and healthy for another year. Amen.