Last week, I was working out at Long Island’s “CrossFit, The Rock” and trying hard not to be noticed. Compared to much of their clientele (firefighters, football pros, mixed marshal artists), I am far from impressive. So I like to hang out in the back corner of the “box” (CrossFit-speak for “gym”), plowing through my workout, trying not to cry or die.
Over the past seven years, my family and I have made an almost bi-annual trek to Minneapolis when my niece and nephew and nephew became bat and bar mitzvahs. Our family of four was always deeply appreciative that these events were never held during the state’s infamous winters.
We were also thrilled that friends and family from coast to coast made the voyage to honor these special occasions. And while our kids eagerly looked forward to the parties that followed the service, my husband Michael and I excitedly anticipated our favorite part of the service, when my brother Scott and sister-in-law Debra addressed their child personally, passionately and yes, sometimes playfully, from the bimah.
This tradition brought tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. This tradition made each bar and bat mitzvah unique and intimate. And this tradition is not permitted in our synagogue.
As a child, I was completely certain about three things: 1) that mushrooms were disgusting; 2) that little brothers were a pain; and 3) that I would become a doctor. Fast forward a few decades and I find myself eagerly topping my burgers with mushrooms, genuinely enjoying the company of my little brother (who now towers over me by almost a foot), and happily working as a professional coach.
Making Meaning out of Tragedy When Nothing Makes Sense
Deborah Grayson Riegel
Jewish Week Online Columnist
Explosions at the Boston Marathon kill three (so far) and injure over a hundred more.
And all I can think is: here we go again.
When man-made tragedy strikes, I do what most of us do: stop, drop and search for meaning. I scan the newspapers, hunker down in front of the television, check Facebook and call friends and family to: first, make sure that everyone I know and love is safe; second, to see who knows something that I don’t yet know; and three, to see who might be able to offer something resembling a lesson to be learned.
My husband Michael and I were having quite an impressive day – or so we thought. What seemed like an otherwise ordinary Tuesday began with me hopping on the train to Manhattan to appear as a guest on Fox Business News to discuss how to deal with professional setbacks. Later that afternoon, Michael was interviewed on Huffington Post Live to share a father’s perspective on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In.” For two non-professional media people, we felt that we were taking the airwaves by storm.
As someone who facilitates over 100 meetings a year (sympathy cards welcome), I have the occasion to ask my clients who work or volunteer in the Jewish non-profit world, “what makes a meeting a Jewish meeting?” The answers rarely vary much: an abundance of food, plenty of passionate disagreement and informal post-meeting meetings that happen in the parking lot after the official meeting has concluded. In other words, as participants in Jewish communal life, we tend to cater to our shared need to eat, argue, and avoid hurting each other’s feelings in public.
As soon as I heard the news about the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, I immediately thought to myself in horror “What if one of my kids had been a victim?” I also knew as soon as I thought it that there would have been absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent it had either or both of my 11-year old twins been in the worst possible place at the worst possible time.
But my next thought was even more upsetting: “What if one of my kids had been the shooter?”