For the second year in a row, my husband and I spent our summer in Los Angeles. Again, my husband was playing the role of rabbinic intern at a local Orthodox congregation, Bnai David Judea, where he, in fact, had his bar mitzvah. And while he was off learning to be a rabbi, everyone wondered I would be doing, everyone, including me.
For the first half of the summer, I took classes at Santa Monica College. I cannot stress the wonderfulness and cost effectiveness of their Continuing Education programs. For the cost of one very pricey writing class in New York, I took THREE six-week classes: one in Memoir Writing with Monona Wali, one in Figure Drawing and another in Stand-up Comedy with Kevin Garbee.
At some point during the summer, I started receiving emails from people in the Los Angeles area, blog readers, who were interested in meeting me in person to discuss their own personal Jewish journeys and how I could offer them support. Suddenly, I was thrust in the role of would-be Rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife) and very quickly, it seemed like I was coming to synagogue with a new person every other week. And all the while, these new people apologized for coming to me for advice and support, I was thankful for them.
For a very long time after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I felt lost until I discovered writing again. And writing has led to so many unexpected opportunities, including this new one of acting as a “Jewish guide.” Helping people find their way Jewishly has made me feel more than helpful, it has given me renewed purpose and made me feel more useful than I’ve felt in a long time. Where fibromyalgia has made me feel useless and disconnected, these encounters have left me feeling incredibly valuable and useful.
I was sorry to leave Los Angeles for a slew of reasons. In Los Angeles, I truly felt a part of a community. The people at Bnai David Judea were, as always, incredibly warm and welcoming. We were invited out just about every Shabbat and when we weren’t, we had people over to our home. We attended two beautiful outdoor wedding ceremonies here. We met converts from all walks of life (from Texas to El Salvador). I think I now know more people in Los Angeles than I know in all of Riverdale.
I also had the great pleasure of listening to Rabbi (and blogger) Yosef Kanesfky discuss practical halakha (Can you use a timer for your coffee maker on Shabbat?) and women’s issues (Can women carry the Torah?). And though I missed the Sunday Limmud LA conference because of a fibromyalgia flare-up, I did enjoy a “Taste of Limmud” on one weekday evening. I (almost) learned one-on-one with the wonderful Rebbetzin Chana Heller at Aish LA. Learning opportunities in Los Angeles were never too far out of reach and mostly, I showed up for them.
I learned to drive! I learned how to curse in Mexican Spanish–don’t worry I’ve already forgotten how! I went to the beach! I drove to the beach! My bones never ached from rain (there wasn’t any!). I never got stuck in that dreaded LA traffic everyone was mentioning at every turn. I appreciated being able to get everywhere I wanted in 15 minutes by car or foot and not having to ride the always physically draining subway for 30-45 minutes to get to civilization.
I learned that a native New Yorker could survive far, far away from the island of Manhattan. Especially in Los Angeles, a place where you can find cheap plantains and cheap kosher food (a $5 not $15 burger!). (Stay tuned for future posts on the kosher eateries of Los Angeles!) Yes, I converted to Judaism and if I could, I’d probably convert to Los Angeles, too!