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Jan 10

The synagogue

I’m disconnected from it.

I don’t know why exactly.  I think part of is that I’m was so very involved for a while there, and ended up feeling really unsuccessful.  Part of it is certainly that I was just there all the time, and now need a break.  And of course, the fact that I’m now working part time, combined with the reality that only one of my kids goes to religious school, means that Saturday mornings, I have to stay home and clean.

But I think a part of it is that Jessie’s bat mitzvah is coming up, and I’m not feeling it at the synagogue.   I feel it, all the time.  I feel it, the stress, the worry, the pride, the weight of it – I feel that all the time.  My morning phone calls from my mother when she nags me about the decorations I haven’t bought, when I look at the guest lists with the missing invitations, when I start to panic about the catering.  (By panic, I mean continue to panic about it, because ever since Marc decided it made perfect sense to do it ourselves, I’ve been existing at a low-level of panic on that situation.)

But I don’t feel it at the synagogue.  I feel very unprepared for this bat mitzvah, I feel as though Jessie is woefully unprepared for this.  Despite the fact that she’s been going to Hebrew school since she was five, and studying for this for two years, she still feels lost and overwhelmed.  Worst of all, she feels like she’s not good at it – she feels like a failure and hasn’t even gotten to it yet.  I feel like I don’t have the foggiest idea what she’s doing up there, and even less about what I’m going to be doing.

I’ve got a big support system, friends that you’d kill for, a mother who’s dying to do more.  And I’m sure the bat mitzvah, the whole thing, from the service to the party, will be lovely.  But I’m not connected to the synagogue, and worried about the service.  I worry about the party too – because there’s a lot more logistical stuff going on there for me to panic about, but the service is this huge unknown to me.  All I know is that I don’t entirely know what’s happening, I don’t think Jessie is ready or feels good about her part in it, and I can’t wait until that part is over.

There’s something wrong with the system.  I’m not sure what exactly.  Because it seems like such a lovely idea – to take these kids, on the precipice of adolescence, and have a ceremony where they formally join the community of adults.  Where we say – we love you, so so much, and we’re so happy we have you, and you are ready, now, to be considered an adult in some really significant ways.   You are in charge of your identity, your relationship with the Divine and with your community.  We’ve done our best, we raised you to this point, and you are so ready for this next step.  But the manifestation of this process – the bat mitzvah process, at least for me, as a Jewish convert who’s still feels so very much out of place, it’s seems to be perfectly designed to make me feel like I’m forcing my daughter into a process that makes her feel like a failure, and I have no clue about what I’m doing.

There’s not a lot of support, for the Jewish convert mom trying to get her kid thru this.  Maybe there shouldn’t be, maybe the theory is that once you convert, you’re just good to go,and somehow all the other converts absorb by osmosis how to get this done.  How to not feel baffled and inadequate when it comes to planning this huge party, this enormous service.  Maybe it’s more me – I felt so baffled and inadequate at planning a wedding that I did in my mother’s backyard.  I don’t like planning parties this big.  My idea of a fun party is pizzas and grownups in one room, while the kids run around outside.  I’m good at those parties.  A bat mitzvah is something else entirely.

Seven weeks from yesterday.

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