Sunday, June 10, 2007

To be or not to be ... a rabbi?

Ian and I went to shul last night, not sure what to expect as it was the "going away" service for one of the rabbis, who is moving to a temple up in Skokie that is much, MUCH smaller and where she will be the only rabbi. Our shul has three rabbis (the leaving rabbi is being replaced by another female rabbi), a cantor, and about a bajillion members. It's location south of Evanston and north of downtown is convenient, if only we didn't live so far away. But we're joining and I'm sort of ... well ... glad the rabbi is leaving. Does that make me horrible? I blogged about her before here, and I don't know what to expect from the new rabbi, but I'm eager to see if she's a little more accessible. The service wasn't overly long, but included what the shul likes to call "Friday Night Live." We also weren't sure what to expect with this, but it turned out to be pretty sweet. There was a mini "band" that included a violinist, bongo drummer, clarinet player and pianist. The songs had a klezmer/middle eastern flare and it made the service incredibly lively. It also was held in the sanctuary, which I find much, much more inviting than the chapel, but that's me. The rabbi gave a speech about Shalom/Sholom and its various meanings ... and my conclusion afterward was that "every rabbi needs an editor."

But I think I have a negative predisposition for female rabbis.

When I first started my journey to Judaism, I was put in touch with the rabbi of the local reform synagogue, of which became my home, which I miss so dearly. The rabbi was a woman, and we sat down for coffee after I got up the nerve to make a meeting. The thing is, I'd read just about every conversion book on the planet and had gotten the spiel about being turned away, but I wasn't worried about that. What I was worried about was feeling warm and welcome. What I didn't feel immediately was just that -- warm and welcome. The people at the temple were the most inviting individuals I'd ever met, but the rabbi didn't seem to match that. I couldn't find that connection, and the coldness left a sour taste in my mouth ... so when she left and the current rabbi arrived, I felt so blessed. I was his first convert and our connection was immediate. Since then, I think I've had a predisposition to dislike female rabbis. The most interesting bit about this is that the rabbi I converted through used to -- and continues to -- joke about me going to rabbinical school. It's something I've thought of many, many times, but I always come back to my sentiments.

I know that it's more than just having a cold female rabbi, there's other issues there. I'm just still trying to figure out precisely what they are. In some ways I'm sure it's connected to my exploration of the roles of men and women in the synagogue, and I blogged on some of that in my entry about the mechitzah here. I think theologically I'm more on a conservative end. I ebb and flow, though. But I know that it has something to do with why I have hangups about female rabbis. There's a lot at work there, and I suppose I should spend some time figuring out what the heck it is.

Luckily, I've discovered the campus bookstore and it'll be a lot easier to do that now :) Maybe I'll start with Pamela Nadell's "Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination 1889-1985," though I might start with Ilana Bluberg's "Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman among Books." The avenues are endless ...