Amy Meltzer, author, mom, teacher and blogger, shares her thoughts on intermarried life, Jewish community, and finding a place to belong.
I’ve gotten some flack for the title of my blog, Homeshuling. Why, people (most of them Rabbis) wonder, am I discouraging people from going to synagogue? What is Judaism, after all, without community? I don’t disagree that Jewish institutions are important. The point of my blog isn’t to bash shuls – it’s to emphasize how rich and meaningful Jewish home life can, and should, be.
That being said, the truth is that my family does spend very little time in shul or any other Jewish institution, other than our fabulous day school. (And I’m not saying that just because I teach there.) For a non-traditional Jewish family like ours, it’s simply extraordinarily difficult to find places that feel like, well, home. My husband is not only not Jewish, but a frum atheist. I am a Conservative Jew by birth, who spent many of my adult years learning full time in yeshiva and living an observant lifestyle. I am also deep down probably more pagan than anything else. When we walk into the four walls of a Jewish building, we tend to feel like outsiders. Almost every institution in our New England town is affiliated with a denomination, and no denomination feels like the right fit. Not even close.
When my husband and I married, I visited the local mikveh at the Chabad House in Amherst. The rebbetzin was warm, gracious and welcoming. She asked me if I was interested in taking a kallah class (a class about the laws of family purity) and I lied. I said I was learning with a friend from my yeshiva. Why? I knew that I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking her the kinds of questions I had (starting with – do these laws even apply to me, an intermarried woman?) and furthermore that I wasn’t likely to follow her interpretation of most of the laws. And while I was, and still am, very interested in observing some form of taharat mishpacha, I’ve actually never set foot in the door again.
Watching the video Welcoming Waters left me in tears, and not just because I cry whenever I witness life cycle events (including Vanessa’s Wedding Surprise. ) I cried because I was grieving for the mikveh I don’t have, and the Jewish world I don’t have. One that’s post-denominational. One that encourages every Jew to worship, observe, witness, and celebrate in a way that feels right for him or her. In other words, one that feels like home.