Monday, October 17, 2011

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Hair, Struggles, and School

I've already received so many great questions for my new Ask Chaviva Anything! series. Here's my response to a few of them, and stay tuned for more! If you want to ask me something, anything, just click here.
For you, what's the hardest part of being a convert?
That's a really excellent question, for which there are many answers! I think the hardest thing about being a convert is those moments when you feel lost or wandering (which is how I feel right now post-divorce and post-move). The thing about being a born-Jew is that no matter how far you stray, you can always come back -- Once a Jew, Always a Jew. (Okay, let's not talk about Spinoza here.) When you're a convert, you can't stray and come back, because your credibility is shot. As an Orthodox convert, the option to give up kashrut and the mitzvot just isn't an option if I want to stay or be accepted by Israel and Orthodox Jewry. I'm not saying I want to give everything up, but that the pressure to stay on the straight-and-narrow sometimes means that you feel as though you can't spread your wings and fly in ways that you might before converting.

As I wrote here, the temptations to fly in either direction -- more religious, less religious -- are strong when you're feeling lost, and staying the derech can be exceedingly hard, but that's part of being Jewish, and that's what I signed up for!
Did you get a heter from a reliable rav to uncover your hair? 
Believe it or not, I answered this in a recent blog post! I didn't name the rabbi, but if you really want to know, shoot me an email.
What happened to grad school? Are you going to have to pay back your scholarship? Are you going to go back or are you finished?
Currently, I'm on a "Leave of Absence" with the option to return in the Spring. Will I? Probably not. I might see about getting it extended with the option to return in Fall 2012, but I'm still undecided.

When I initially started my second and third masters' degrees at NYU, I wanted to be a Hebrew language educator, or at least a trail-blazer to update and revamp the way Hebrew is taught in the United States. I was super stoked to be at NYU after getting my first M.A. at the University of Connecticut -- I'd dreamed of going to NYU since I was in high school. When I moved to the NY area, however, my focus changed over to Social Media and the role it plays in the Jewish nonprofit world and in Jewish day schools. The problem? There isn't much of a curriculum at NYU for such a field, because it's hard to teach Social Media to someone like me who knows and does as much as I do already. Also, it being an experimental field, I'm probably better suited to be teaching than taking the classes. (Man, that sounds snobby, but I was going to take a Social Networking course and the teacher asked me to come speak to her class because of my experience.) So I'm really torn and questioning what the Education and Jewish Studies program can really do for me; I was struggling to find meaning in the program for a while now, and it might just be chocked up to the difficult emotional time I was going through.

I don't have to pay back the scholarship, but I know what a hardship it will be for the program and thus this is not a decision I'm making lightly. NYU was my dream, but some things just don't turn out to be what we think they are.