The Tenuous Balance

It’s been just about two months since we started here in our new life. It’s been a really great, if incredibly stressful experience so far. We’ve had our ups and downs – since school started, we’ve done Welcome Week, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot (almost all the way through) and we’re about to get to Simchat Torah.

One thing the holidays have done, aside from make the entire staff more stressed out than we’d prefer, is to bring my own religious observance to the forefront. As with most of this job, if we’d had more time to prepare, I think it would have been an easier transition. For instance, I had been all set to begin covering my hair more consistently, knowing that the move to New York would signify the beginning of my husband’s career as a Rabbinical student. However, working on campus brings a whole other set of considerations. There’s already an Orthodox woman on our staff, and she operates in that role – Rabbi’s wife, mother, Jewish educator – and she’s good at it. For me, as Program Director? I probably need to go in a different direction. So, I decided on wide headbands for Shabbat, for right now. It makes me more comfortable, since I had gotten so used to covering, but is less intrusive than a full-head cover. At least, to me. Hopefully the students don’t notice it too much.

The other thing I hadn’t counted on was the difference of being in a smaller place. On one hand, working at Hillel, there are lots of choices and chances for Jewish observance – but sometimes that makes it easy to just float, rather than make definitive decisions about my own observance. In fact, sometimes, professionally, I’m required to float, especially on Friday night.

So, I float a little bit less securely at the moment, but I think that, in a way this too will help me with my religious life in the future – more experience won’t hurt me, at least this kind. And I look forward to seeing what the next few months will bring!

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7 thoughts on “The Tenuous Balance

  1. It sounds as if you’re open to getting to know the students and making sure that people at various levels of observance at this point in their lives feel welcome and comfortable and engaged in programming/services. Catch your breath (well, soon). Kol haKavod to you and Raif!

  2. Again, from a different perspective, but that floating applies across the spectrum! I’m not Orthodox, although I have been told on several occasions now that given a different environment my friends tell me they are convinced I would be Masorti. Yes, yes, I think they are right. There is lots about the Orthodox way of being that speaks to me. So float from one way of being to another I will. One day, like so many motes of dust, I may settle in the place I am supposed to be.

    As for you – it sounds as if you are doing an admirable job.

    And I love this blog.

  3. I hope that the students DO notice the headbands. You are modeling a different way to observe that particular mitzvah. How wonderful for them that they can benefit from different individuals whose approach to personal praxis has much in common but is not monolithic.

    B’hatzlacha!!!!!

  4. I would say do what makes you comfortable, but I wouldn’t worry so much about what the students think. There was once a rebbetzin at Hillel who always wore a tichel or a snood (never a sheitel), and that year, there was definitely a large increase of Conservative, Reform, and unaffiliated female students attending JLI programming–both co-ed and women-only events. One student called her the “Orthodox Natalie Portman”. It was through her stylish head coverings and clothing (and amazing personality, of course) that made the sorority girls* open up to her.

    *I don’t mean to “demean” sorority girls, but at this particular Hillel, there was (still is?) a pretty big divide between Greek and non-Greek students at Hillel, and it was always a challenge to get the Greek students to come to religious programming.

  5. Pingback: Haveil Havalim #285 — Back to the Beginning « Frume Sarah's World

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