Tag : Nancy Goodman

Live from the Lilith Blog

May 3, 2010 by

Jewdaho: Lag B'omer

So it’s Lag B’Omer season, and the Lag B’Omer party is at my house this Friday. I live in one of Pocatello, Idaho’s “sweet spots” known as an urban-wildland interface (aka “Old Town”), so my back yard, technically, doesn’t end. Instead, it rolls up and around for miles and miles. It’s sick. I am so blessed, praise Gaia!

I’m not sure what people outside of Idaho care or think about Idaho. Especially Jewish people. Idaho isn’t really a hotbed of Jewish action—except for up North, but those neo-Nazi rednecks moved to Montana a long time ago. And the first Jewish state governor in the US was Moses Alexander, governor of Idaho from 1915-1919. But I didn’t learn all that stuff until I moved here for what was supposed to be one year, max. Then I was supposed to move on to somewhere real like Portland or Seattle or Somewhere in Colorado. Somewhere that people had actually heard of. That was almost 12 years ago, and I’m still here. And this Friday, the hotbed of Jewish action is going to be in my backyard—unless we get snowed out, which is a distinct possibility. In that case, it’s a garage party, because the keg of Lag Beer’Omer will be in the garage, courtesy of my Catholic (lapsed) husband John.

There has recently been a leadership transition at Temple Emanuel in Pocatello, Idaho. Carl is stepping down as Lay Rebbe after 15 years of dedicated service and Debra is stepping up. Naomi is also stepping into the role of board secretary. Passionate, dedicated, intelligent women at the top, oh my! Not that Temple Emanuel women haven’t always been at the top.

Joan, the matriarch, had half the town at her 90th birthday party this past year. “When in doubt, ask bubbe,” we say. Gail is a Jewish convert whose daughter lives in Israel, and Gail frequently hosts visitors traveling with “Soul Train,” an program in Israel dedicated to bringing Judaism to the hinterlands of the Diaspora. Judith and Mary are the wives (or ex-wives, or both) of Carl and board President John R, respectively. Judith and Mary are Not Jewish. And yet they are fundamental to the congregation core. Mary, by the way, is one of only two female ski-area managers in the country. Talk about a nontraditional occupation for women. Ski bunnies? In charge?

Naomi and her partner Amanda have recently been blessed with baby Miriam. Amanda is a Jewish convert and biology doc student, and Naomi is an attorney who gets to stay at home and play with baby. They have also raised chickens in their backyard. Neli and Marina are native Russians and Israelis; Neli the patient wife of Arthur, who insists visitors to his home down two shots of chilled vodka before the coats are off. My husband loves him.

There are several more active Temple Emanuel women whom I don’t know very well, and I hope to learn more about them in the future. We are professors, managers, mental health professionals; we come from the all corners of the country. We utilize the landscape of Southeast Idaho to be Jewish in a way that is unique, powerful, and authentic. When the women of Temple Emanuel get together, it is a party indeed.

–Nancy Goodman

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Live from the Lilith Blog

April 2, 2010 by

Information Overload vs. Our Spiritual GPS

Recently, I’ve seen an interesting pairing of movies that address God’s relationship to Humankind, and Humankind’s relationship to people who explain the relationship to God. First, I saw “A Serious Man,” the Coen brother’s Hebrew school revenge film. Next, I saw “The Answer Man,” starring Jeff Bridges and Lauren Graham.

The Answer Man wrote a book of divine revelations that resonated with people so strongly it became a runaway bestseller, and spawned a writing and marketing revolution similar to what you’ll see on either side of The Secret in bookstores. Of course, the fame drove him to hermitville and assholedom. A Simple Man seeks divine insight and guidance through the foreboding maze of old school religious congregations. Helpless as an abandoned puppet. Questions, answers, and results.

Both these films are about people with questions seeking guidance from people who are supposed to have the answers. “My rabbi/priest/pastor/guru/priestess/minister has the answers.” “This writer/celebrity/leader/book/movie/health fad/religious movement/rock song has the answers.” And this is true; there are as many fountains of wisdom and knowledge as there are people seeking a drink, it seems.

But what of our own wisdom? What of our own knowledge—things we knew innately, before we forgot? Ideas and beliefs that are hard-wired into our individual souls and minds, buried, waiting for us to discover them again?

I enjoy being a lifelong learner and amateur scholar of the self—digging in to learn more about theories, trends, teachers. Finding ways to conceptualize my experience of life through a positive, productive lens, and how to manage my feelings, issues, or relationships. The self-help, religion, spirituality, psychology, philosophy, and even business sections of bookstores have much to offer us—fantastic insight to help us learn, grow, and evolve. But I have found myself, from time to time, suffocating from Too Much Information. Too many books telling me what to think and do, too much data about everyone else’s beliefs that I am supposed to remember, understand, and practice.

Sometimes, we have to put the book down. Stop reading and learning, and start processing and listening. We have a voice, we have an answer key, right inside of us.

I love what the Kabbalah says about the spark of God—how there is a spark of God in everything, including us, wanting to reconnect with all the other sparks, all across the universe. That divine spark is like a spiritual GPS to the Greater Whatever, and if we nurture it, tend to it, explore it, and trust it, it will lead us right to where we need to be, if we aren’t already there.

Problem is, that little scrap of transcendence is like our scary friend who always wants to take us out skydiving or bungee jumping. “Quit your job!” “Dump the jerk!” “Stand up for yourself!” “Let it go already!” “Change your life!” No wonder we seek guidance outside of ourselves; our own answers and instincts scare us to death, and not without cause.

Asking questions of people I respect is something I’ll enjoy doing my whole life. There is so much to learn, and the more I learn, the less I know. But I also trust, most of the time, that within me is a little wisdom as well. Our instincts, our fleeting memories, our individual observations, our connections, our moments of synchronicity and epiphany create a vast library that we alone can access. It is information given to us from…somewhere, and sometimes, that is all the scholarship and wisdom we need.

–Nancy Goodman

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March 26, 2010 by

Jewdaho: Pesach and Purification

Next year in the Holy Land, next year in Jerusalem. This is what we say, leapfrogging off Purim and into two nights of intense lounging, heavy drinking, treasure hunts, and lots and lots of sitting. Pesach is a celebration of miracles, heroes, redemption, triumph of good over evil, and divine prowess. Our God, 1. Your gods, 0.

The Pesach story is of slavery and escape from Egypt, crisis of faith in the desert, and delivery to the Land of Israel. God’s gift to us, as the Chosen People. I wonder if we would have been so psyched to accept such a gift if we knew that God was also going to give Israel to everyone else on the planet. And then make them all hate us. “If God had only left us in a nice unassuming cave that nobody could find and hadn’t led us into the land flowing with milk and honey and drama…”

Next year in Jerusalem. But what about right now, this second? We pray for something that is somewhere else, somewhere in the future, when something external and beyond our control happens. This year we are slaves, next year we will be free. What are we slaves to? Freedom from what? And what are we supposed to do until the youth-group kids can’t be blamed for the empty Elijah’s cup, as we are ushered into a messianic age?

The story of Pesach is basically a story of darkness into light, with the final destination being way, way further down the hot, blazing, unforgiving desert road than you initially thought. In contrast, springtime is the season for renewal, rebirth, and abundance, and our Seder plate ornately displays lamb from the field, fruit from the trees, and a ceremonial ova. The time of year when Persephone returns to the arms of Demeter is always cause for celebration–whether it’s honored by dancing around a Maypole, hunting for chocolate eggs, or hunting for bagel dust on your hands and knees so you can spend five hours nibbling on garnish.

Cleansing the home is a big part of Pesach ritual. Every bread crumb, Twinkie, carb is banished from the kitchen. Spring cleaning. But a purification ritual is a purification ritual, and who can’t benefit from that once a year?

I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional spring cleaning; how spring is as good a time as any to take your emotional and spiritual temperature. What still has you in shackles? Do you have your bearings in the vast desert? How might you want this night, any night, to be different and sacred? And, the magic fourth question, what are you going to do about it?
Me, I’m catching up on my to-do list as a means of sweeping out the cupboards. And as a gardener, I’m very hopeful and excited at the concept of rebirth. I poke around my flower garden for early signs of life, while heirloom tomato seedlings thrive in my mud room (yay!). Whatever you do to clear your headspace, reflect on long journeys, or triumph over times of bondage and suffering leading to enlightenment, don’t wait until next year to do it. Make this year the year you create your own holy land, in your own holy places, while giving thanks for the chance to do anything at all. Dayeinu.

–Nancy Goodman

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March 16, 2010 by

Angel's Landing, Nancy Sitting

Last year I visited Zion National Park in Utah as part of the great road trip that exists on Interstate 15 between Pocatello and San Diego, where my parents now live. While I’m always puzzled at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or Mormon) penchant for adopting Jewish names, symbols, and beliefs as their own, I can appreciate the decision to name this park Zion. Walking through the cool red canyons and seeing streams glide over sandstone felt distinctly biblical to me. I could almost imagine the gathering of prophets and spiritual seekers in similar oases across the globe thousands of years ago. Zion would be as good a place as any to relocate should one decide to live in a cave and trade wisdom for simple sustenance as a career.

A very popular hike in Zion takes you to what is called Angel’s Landing. This destination is a piece of cake to get to—if you are an angel. For everyone else, it’s a 2.5 mile grind up a steep trail, through an echo-filled canyon, and through a series of tight nearly-vertical switchbacks. This is no big thing—anyone can get up anything if you take it slow enough, and don’t mind watching 6-year olds and senior citizens pass you by.

It’s the last segment of the trail that mystifies me to this day. Basically, a long time ago, someone climbed to the top of a canyon, checked out a steep, narrow cliff-thing that soared several hundred feet higher with nothing but lots and lots of air and gravity on either side, and said “this is a great place to build a trail.” So a vast series of thick chains were set-up to help hikers get to the top. Chains, you have to hold on to chains. After passing signs warning of certain death should I fall, and cautions to people with a fear of heights, I braved the first series of chains before embracing my inner wimp and refusing to hike another inch.

What was interesting about this experience was the refreshing opportunity I had to feel fear of something real—falling off a cliff—instead of being afraid of stuff I’ve made up in my head over the years. Functioning outside of one’s physical comfort zone is a great way to figure out how to function outside of one’s emotional comfort zone. Programs such as Outward Bound, NOLS, study abroad, and pilgrimages to holy lands teach us this.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “do one thing every day that scares you.” Do you need to climb Angel’s Landing or ride a zip line every time you need a dose of bravery? Not necessarily, if you’re building up your bravery a teeny bit every day, say by digging around the excuse of “procrastination” to see what irrational fears might be holding you back from your goals.

That day, it was a very easy decision to sit with my back against something very smooth, flat, and solid where I couldn’t see how high up I was to wait for my husband’s summit and return. And I feel no need to ever brave Angel’s Landing again, especially since a woman from Pocatello did fall to her death on that trail this past summer.

But when it comes to the really scary things in life, sometimes we are forced to grab hold of those chains and start climbing–fast. If you’ve got some experience dealing with fear in smaller ways, and have learned that breathing slowly and saying nice things about yourself helps a lot, then you might be able to interpret the pounding of your heart as a sign of excitement rather than panic. By starting small, you might discover that you are stronger and safer than you thought. Even if, in general, you prefer to stick to the slot canyons.

–Nancy Goodman

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March 9, 2010 by

Sacred Female, Sacred You

Whitewashed, faded walls. Oddly set stones. Paintings on cave walls. Figurines of busty women with hamentasch loincloths. However many religious layers exist beneath the particular spot of ground you’re standing on, it seems the original overlay, the first human footprint as any archaeologist can identify, suggests a religious structure that deified women. Or, at least, there was a religion honoring the duality between men and women as equally powerful, equally sacred.

Many years ago, I saw a one-woman film, grainy in my memory. A series of monologues, I vividly remember the act where she portrayed the grief of women at the time of Abraham; rushing to hide their precious figurines, saying goodbye to their sacred objects. In that flash of a moment, everything I learned in Shabbaton got re-written—those evil idols were goddess statues, that sinful polytheism expressed sacred regard for Gaia.

I am currently reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This hefty book, a feminist rendering of the King Arthur legend, is housed in the youth section of the Marshall Public Library in Pocatello, Idaho. A few hundred pages in by now, I am relieved I can keep up—due in part to my obsession with the film King Arthur, starring Clive Owen as Arturius, and Keira Knightley as the most bad-ass Guinevere ever. The historical eras in The Mists of Avalon and King Arthur play out on common soil, not so many years apart. Hadrian’s Wall. Saxon invaders. The mix of early, early Christianity with the native religious belief systems.

What Christianity did to the role of women and the goddess-concept on the Isle of Britain and elsewhere, Judaism did to the role of women and the goddess-concept a few thousand years earlier around the land of milk and honey. And my guess, while I haven’t done the specific research, is that other modern-day religions did the same thing in the regions where they spread and eventually gained dominance. This suppression of female power was calculated, deceptive, and often bloody, and this one-down position of women eventually became the norm. Bye bye, goddess-lady. Hello, domestic violence shelters.

Diving into a book like The Mists of Avalon or learning about the status of women during the time of Xerxes’s empire, I am reminded of the natural power that resides within myself. It is not in any woman’s spiritual or emotional DNA to be “lesser-than,” but the rubble of over 5700 years of carefully written history separates us from that knowledge.

The only power women need to recover from the legends of our spirit mothers is not power over the mist revealing a secret island (it’s a relevant metaphor, however), but the power over what we individually believe about our selves. Do we like our selves? Do we see our selves as sacred and holy? Do we think our selves are generally pretty awesome and worthy of respect and deference? Before I began the process of reclaiming that vital and necessary power, I’m pretty sure I handed it over sometime in the 6th grade. To boys. To girls. To my parents, to my employers.

It’s not particularly extreme or bold to explore some basics of pre Judeo-Christian religious history. Very little of this history is factually disputed; it’s simply not advertised. And it’s not radical to be confident, assertive, and self-assured–it’s simply the way we all used to be. Best of all, I have come to discover that it’s possible to take company with the sacred female as I define Her, and enjoy the rich customs of Judaism at the same time.

–Nancy Goodman

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February 24, 2010 by

Culture Smash

This past Sunday Temple Emanuel celebrated Purim with a Megillah reading, followed by a performance by the KlezMormons. The KlezMormons are an ensemble from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and their performance Sunday was the first time they played to a Jewish audience.

My husband, John O’Connell, is the city editor of the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, Idaho. He covered the Purim event, and wrote about it as well as I could!

The headline “Crossing Cultures” is significant for a few reasons. From a Jewish perspective, we are constantly crossing cultures in Southeastern Idaho, or perhaps more specifically, the local cultures are constantly crossing with us. Look at how interesting we are, look at how close to Jesus we are. Look at us celebrate our holidays. That’s how it feels to me sometimes. I’m sure every synagogue has some element of the curiosity-seeker-with-mysterious-agenda, but growing up at Temple Emanuel in Chicago, I sure never noticed it.

Pocatello is a largely transient area. People come and go from the university, the semiconductor plant, the hospital, the Idaho National Laboratory. There have always been Jews in Pocatello, but wild west Judaism hasn’t changed much since the days of the ‘Frisco Kid. So, Temple Emanuel in Pocatello’s membership ebbs and flows—and right now it ebbs. With our only child congregant barely 3 months old (and who looked so cute in her pea pod costume), we are happy to open the doors to the community during our festive holidays—especially the child-oriented ones. Our Purim festivities included dancing, fabulous music, as many hamentaschen cookies one could eat, and a satisfying full-house. And since many of the attendees aren’t the drinking type, that left more of my husband’s homebrew “Haman’s Hangover” and a large jar of Slivovitz for the rest of us.

Several years ago, John did extensive research for a piece exploring the alleged regional Mormon “divide” and followed missionaries around, hung out in high school cafeterias, and partied with the “Excommunicated Mormon Drinking Team” at the annual beer festival in Idaho Falls. While the multi-part series was fascinating, informative, and very well balanced, the paper ultimately decided not to run it—go figure. If nothing else, that decision does reflect a cautious and mysterious religious dynamic in this region that isn’t present in many other parts of the country.

My relationship with John, a recovering Catholic, has been a cultural experience in and of itself. While I never knew it before marrying a properly raised Catholic boy, there is much truth to the statement that Jews invented guilt but Catholics perfected it. While more inclined to run Atheist or Pantheist than I, it was he who pushed for a Jewish wedding, and he who curses at Pharaoh the loudest at our Temple seder. We are both more inclined to find Adonai on a ski run or in a garden bed than in front of a podium, and I’m sure our Jewish-Catholic cultural dynamics will play out throughout the length of our relationship. Perhaps someday he’ll see that having a loud family screaming match followed by a visit to a Chinese food buffet really is the best way to resolve family issues. Until then, John loves my culinary experiments with matzo balls, latkes, and hamentaschen, and while he laughs at the suggestion, I’m happy to sit with him through midnight mass any time he wants.

–Nancy Goodman

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February 15, 2010 by

Desert archaeology in Idaho

I have a long-lost camp alum on Facebook who lives in Tel Aviv and keeps taunting us about how he’s at the beach enjoying the sunshine. But, I love snow. And now that we’ve miraculously got a few precious inches of snow here in the Snake River valley, it’s possible ski season can be revived and the aquifers will fill so we can water things and play on boats this summer. We will happily accept any snow shipped in from the Mid-Atlantic.

I was 17 when I went on my Israel tour, too young to fully appreciate the natural and historic landscape where it’s fun-in-the-sun all year long. I was psyched about the trips to the Shuq, and the nights on Ben Yehudah street. I do remember wading through rivers and ancient aqueducts, but it’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really developed a sense of and appreciation for “place.”

I’ve often compared my local and regional summer landscape to that of Israel—hot and dry, with crags, mountains, rivers, and lots and lots of nothingness. Deserts, come to find out, are different from each other—and here the vast, desolate open spaces are comprised of sagebrush, Juniper trees, and basalt rock. And new-moon nights on the Arco Desert reveal stars as bright as I saw them so many years ago somewhere in the Negev.

I am even inspired to make my home landscape similar to that of Israel, and am actively seeking information about the Kalanit flower (Anemone coronaria), a protected flower in Israel. While I know picking this flower is illegal, I wonder if there are seeds/rhizomes/bulbs/dry-roots available anywhere. I would appreciate any information so I can start Kalanit flowers indoors and plant it as an annual!

Besides my attempts to create a xeric landscape of Biblical proportions, one of the many things I enjoy about my Idaho desert experience is being a lay-archaeologist. While no Western Wall or Mount Olive, The city of Pocatello has it’s own unique background and mythology. For example, there has been a common legend that tunnels leading to opium dens snaked underneath Old Town. This story was mostly debunked when renovation of Main Street revealed massive underground boulders stretched beneath the road’s surface, delaying finished construction so long that many Old Town businesses nearly went under.

Another colorful bit of Pocatello history is the presence of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the (first) Depression era. Evidence of the CCC and other New Deal projects are laced through such places as Yellowstone National Park, the Oregon coast, and the hillsides surrounding Pocatello, Idaho. Now-faint ridges dug into the hills by the CCC were cut to help slow water run-off into the Portneuf River, which before the city stretch was encased in cement and chain-link fencing, had the tendency to flood.

My home property abuts such ridged hillsides, and I find evidence of the CCC and friends everywhere. A garden rototiller dug up (my best guess) government-issue tin cans, and a metal detector revealed a metal box-top stamped with the image of a Chinese palace. Further back is a small set of concrete steps and masoned rock walls, overgrown with sagebrush and tall grasses.

Mother Earth absorbs all of us and our history sooner or later, and while I may never climb Masada again, I am happy to explore what lies beneath the rocks in my backyard. I am as spiritually attached to this place as I am anywhere; and when I catch the alpen glow off Scout Mountain, it is a sacred feeling indeed.

–Nancy Goodman

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February 8, 2010 by

Nancy Goodman

Soon after my move to Pocatello, Idaho from Chicago, Illinois, a “fallen Mormon” boyfriend who knew more about Judaism than I did inspired me to visit the nearest Barnes and Noble to stock up on Jewish reference materials. In the past, my sister Sara had been my Jewish reference material being a Jewish educator, but it was time to build up my own library.

Barely a few years out of graduate school at the time, my religious library consisted mainly of many feminist spirituality books and guides. Books like “Living Wicca,” and “The Once and Future Goddess” fueled my graduate school-era pagan phase, many tenets of which I still embrace (as well as I embrace any organized religious structure) today.

Other than that, I had my Gates of Prayer and the Book of Mormon, a copy of which, as a pious and ethical person, I stole from a hotel room in Salt Lake City. For residents of the Gate City area, the nearest Barnes and Noble is 50 miles away in Idaho Falls—a stretch of I-15 that in winter, is often covered in fun-for-the-entire-family black ice. Aside from the Book of Mormon replacing the King James Bible in hotel rooms across the Mormon Corridor, the Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls reveals another subtle difference in this part of the country. In many of the urban big-box booksellers, the Judaica book section can span an entire row, and the books on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS–Mormons) are mixed into the smaller world religion categories. Here, the opposite is true—and alongside the many shelves of LDS books, I was happy to find my essential “The Jewish Book of Why,” and a book that strongly resonated with me called “Generation J,” by Lisa Schiffman.

Schiffman defines Generation J as third-generation American Jews—Jews whose grandparents were born elsewhere and immigrated to the US. She describes this generation of Jews as often lost, rejecting Jewish rituals for similar ones in other cultures, or abandoning religion altogether. One paragraph has always struck me in particular:

“We were a generation of Jews who grew up with television, with Barbie, with rhinoplasty as a way of life. Assimilation wasn’t something we strove for; it was the condition into which we were born…When we used the word schlepp, it sounded American. Being Jewish was an activity: Today I’ll be Jewish. Tomorrow I’ll play Tennis. In secret, we sometimes wondered if being Jewish was even necessary. We could resist that part of ourselves, couldn’t we? To us, anything was possible.”

Schiffman charts her course as a Jewish wayfinder through intermarriage, through keeping kosher, through conversations with JUBU’s, (Jewish Buddhists) through participating in Mikvah. As a Jewish wayfinder myself, I followed her course in some respects, taking some time to explore my own Jewishness. I kept kosher for a while much to the amusement of my local friends, who liked to bait me with bacon and cheese-wrapped freshly hunted moose-kabobs and such. How many Jewish laws does that one meal break? After a short time, I began dating a Jewish man living in Montana, and I considered that my replacement Jewish activity. Then I married a non-Jew who insisted on a Jewish wedding, and I got married under a chuppah after all.

I feel “Generation J” gave me permission to explore my own unique sense of Jewish identity, and it has been as invaluable a resource as any book on Judaica I have read. “Call us a bunch of searchers, call us post-Holocaust Jews, call us Generation J,” Schiffman says. Ain’t that the truth—at least for me.

–Nancy Goodman

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January 26, 2010 by

Digital Judaica

While there aren’t many Jews living in the hilly, sagebrush and juniper desert of Southeastern Idaho, something happened a few years ago that changed the way I was Jewish forever, and I really can no longer say I’m isolated from the greater Jewish community. That happening was Facebook.

Within six months of Facebook opening the gates to the non-college community, I had reconnected with probably 95% of my Jewish pals from the Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute Camp, Hebrew school, and the Chicago ‘burbs. One of my earliest observations of this unprecedented social access was “Jews love Facebook—and I am no exception.” Last year, I wrote a column in the Idaho State Journal on the subject of Facebook, if you’d like to learn more about my obsession with this social networking site.

So, take the “2 degrees of Jewish separation,” digitalize it in a format where we can post embarrassing summer camp photos for all to see, and there is Schmoozapalooza on-tap, any time of day or night. Merely a decade ago, our past was the stuff of old photographs and wisps of memory, as life filled in around us. Now, our past is at our fingertips, and it’s dizzying for me to ponder how that will resonate through humankind in the future.

For now, it’s a constant time-warp, seeing how people’s lives have unfolded over the last decades, one status update and sliver of new information at a time. And with every round of home page Shabbat Shaloms, holiday greetings, and celebratory mazal tovs, my inner Jewish life, on my own terms, grows richer and more complex.

As part of my feminist (also on my own terms) streak, I enjoy the opportunity that Facebook has provided to reconnect with the many Jewish (and non-Jewish, of course) girls and women of my past. As I look back on my emotional development, there was clearly a long period of time when my insecure quest for boyfriendship shadowed out other potentially-fulfilling social relationships. It’s not that I have any deep regrets—I love my memories, I love where life has taken me. I am simply overjoyed that the digital era lets me connect with the amazing women of my past, now that I can fully appreciate them. It has been such a deep blessing.

Facebook has also allowed me to peek into the windows of Jewish motherhood. I never intended to be single until I was 35 and lose my job ten seconds before I got married at age 37, so while I still ponder the question “to breed or not to breed,” I currently can only appreciate motherhood-by-proxy. And what Facebook motherhood-by-proxy it is. Challah recipes, parental groans about Sunday school, sending the next generation of kids down Lac La Belle Drive. I am excited that, should motherhood in some form be my destiny, I will be able to swim in a vast digital lake of deep Jewish female wisdom—until these women who have gone through diaper-changing before me stop responding to my neurotic rookie questions.

I am reminded of a Doors lyric when I think of those earlier days in my teens and 20′s, before the Jewish hippies became rabbis and Jewish partiers became professionals, scholars, and parents. “I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft,” Morrison recites. Sometimes this digital feast of friends is empowering, sometimes it’s inspiring, sometimes it’s amusing, and sometimes it’s intimidating.

And it’s always so fun to be a participant. Thanks to Facebook, the raft can be as vast and as sturdy as I want it to be.

–Nancy Goodman

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January 18, 2010 by

Accidental Maverick

A few people who read my last post, “Jews as Gentiles?”, referred to the content as “edgy.” And here I was, hoping I was being nice enough. So maybe I’m a Jewish bad-ass in spite of my peacefrog nature–and I haven’t worn my motorcycle jacket in over 10 years (what were we thinking buying things 10X too big for us back in the 80′s/90′s?). Interesting.

I’ve never been uber-knowledgeable about politics-in-general; and the politics I do know mostly occur within the state of Idaho (or should I say Planet Idaho.) And WOW, are there politics. Politics, to me, gets more confusing by the minute. I’m not even sure I know what the difference is between liberal and conservative ideology any more—and I wonder if I have a little of both. Thank heavens for my Jewish political adviser, Jon Stewart.

One thing I have learned a lot about is religion. Everyone knows about spirituality; they just don’t know it yet. One of my initial entry-points into feminist thought was a Woman’s Studies course about women and spirituality in graduate school—which blew my mind, permanently. Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the global patterns and behaviors of religion since religion began. I believe the proper term for this line of inquest is “heresy,” so it’s a good thing I’m not Christian.

How do I, this spiritual schizophrenic, see Jews, the tiny little yellow dot jumping over the globe for the last 5770 years, mostly while being chased? I think we’re pretty bad-ass in general. One of my favorite reference guides is “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” by Barbara Walker. Thousands of religions around the planet referenced in Walker’s books have, throughout time, morphed into the Big Five (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism)–with Jews, and women, the underdogs out. Now, most religions see a purpose to women, with our exclusive ability to breed and all, so long as we are kept squarely in our place. And while so many older religions have succumbed by sword or stake, or been otherwise absorbed by predominant religious cultures, Judaism has survived. One of the mythological themes I try to keep in mind for my personal sanity is “it’s better to be smarter than to be stronger.” The story of David and Goliath has served me well, and it has served Jews well.

Women and modern religion is particularly tricky business, what with all the religious dogma being re-written and manipulated by men. It makes our quest for spiritual and religious “truth” that much harder because, in order to be educated consumers, we need to figure out what everything said originally, and decide how well the product has held up over the years. What amazing, powerful woman has the time for that? It doesn’t take that much time, however, to get an understanding of the basics—such as women are the original vessels of divinity, as servants of the earth and keeper of the species. I can see how that might make some guys jealous.

When I moved to Pocatello, Idaho, my life’s rule book got tossed out the window, and I have completely lost track of what is edgy, or what is commonplace. I can barely watch “High Fidelity” starring John Cusack without thinking how lame, boring, and out-of-touch I’ve become, but somehow in the spiritual dimension I am a hopeless maverick. Funny how we can evolve—as Jews, as women, as people—when we give chase down whatever rabbit hole captures our own, individual, attention.

–Nancy Goodman

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