One of the really special things about my neighborhood is the warmth and openness of the residents.
Nowhere is this more evident than at the weekly shiurim (Torah study sessions) for women on Shabbat.
Each week, a different woman from the community prepares a shiur (session). The women come from diverse backgrounds and each shiur gives us an opportunity not just to learn Torah, but also to get to know the women who live in our community.
Every week, around 30 women (sometimes more) gather together to hear the shiur. Often, there is group participation and sometimes the discussion continues even after the shiur has ended.
Despite all our differences, everyone is respectful of each other. There are women who possess tremendous knowledge of Torah and women whose knowlege is based mostly on folklore. There are women who are academics and women who are "dosim" (from a frum (religious) background, in which secular education is devalued). There are women who are young and old, religious and not so religious, intellectual and spiritual, conservative and liberal, right wing and left wing. There are women from every angle of the dati-leumi (religious Zionist) spectrum, and those who are from completely different worlds. Everyone is welcome.
And yet, no one berates anyone else's background, even when they disagree with their opinion. And no one skips a shiur because the person giving the shiur is "not her style."
I LOVE attending these shiurim.
When I moved to Homat Shmuel (a.k.a. Har Homa), I realized that going to this shiur would be the only way for me to really meet women in our community. My kids were too old for me to "hang out with the moms" in the park or to meet moms in the local school. (My kids were too old to enroll in the local school, with the exception of my youngest. However, it did not make sense to enroll her in a different school from her brother and sister, which would result in my having to pick up kids at the same time from two very distant locations!)
So, from the beginning (when we moved in), I regularly attended the shiur. Then, with all the surgeries (two years; three surgeries), my attendance dropped. Still, I went whenever I felt I could.
All that ended two years ago, when I started chemo. I just stopped going. I am too tired. I have to sleep on Shabbat. In fact, I have to sleep A LOT.
The result is that I feel rather disconnected. Whenever I meet women from the shiur, they ask why I do not come anymore. Often, they include a compliment about missing my input (I often comment or ask questions). Typically, I just smile, say how much I miss the shiur, and explain that I am usually resting during that hour.
More than that, I feel like I have not really integrated in the neighborhood as much as I would have expected.
Don't get me wrong. It is not like I am isolated. I know a lot of people here and have several good friends; but I had expected to be much more involved, both in our shul (synagogue) and in the community at large (such as participating in local municipal committees, which I did even before the neighborhood was built!). I just cannot commit to being active on a committee when I can barely keep things together in my own home (and barely is an understatement!).
I also had visions of organizing women for some sort of women's tefillah group, like Shirat Sara (my women's tefillah group in Talpiot). The closest I have come to that dream is hosting a women's megillah reading on Purim.
Recently, a friend told me about another women in the neighborhood who is also very into Jewish religious feminism. I actually met her in shul once, and had a very interesting conversation with her (it turns out that she was running the hadracha (informal education) department at Melitz when I was working there, oh, so many years ago....).
Anyway, when I saw that this woman was delivering the shiur this past Shabbat, I decided that I would make every effort to attend.
I almost missed it.
I forgot to ask Moshe to wake me in time.
Lucky for me, Moshe finished learning with our son "just in time" and woke me as he was getting ready for his Shabbat nap. It was five in the afternoon, just the time that the shiur begins.
I was about to roll over and go back to sleep when Moshe asked "Didn't you just say that you want to go to the shiur?"
That was all the "push" I needed. I forced myself out of bed, quickly got dressed, and walked as fast as I could to the shiur.
It was worth it.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
Yosef Chaim Shwekey (video)
32 minutes ago