Friday, January 8, 2010


In 2006 I went to Israel. My husband was part of an American Jewish Committee trip there and he asked me to come along. My motivations for traveling with him were far from spiritual. My son was 1 ½ and I needed a break alone with my husband.

We spent 4 days in Israel. I saw the sites, ate falafel and generally continued to feel the same way that I had felt about the importance of religion in my life for the last 30+ years. I hadn’t set foot in a church by choice since the mid-70s. When I had to go I watched the clock – even during weddings. My great miracle of Christmas had more to do with vacation days and holiday parties. My religion – to the extent it existed – was a bit more personal. I prayed to myself at night. “Now I lay me down to sleep” followed by my list of people who were important to me (or had been important to me and by pure habit continued to be included in my tiny sliver of religion).

We also visited Morocco. We arrived on a Friday night. I was exhausted and nauseous from the sweaty van trip into Casablanca. We were scheduled to attend a Shabbat dinner at the home of a local Jewish family. I didn’t want to go. After some prodding from Steve, I rallied and went.

What I saw when we arrived was truly something out of a movie. Women dressed in sparkling robes, food for as far as the eye could see, the finest linens. That night, I listened to the stories of the slow death that Judaism was suffering in Morocco. Jewish graveyards being relocated to make way for Muslim monuments, synagogues closing one by one, and Jewish children leaving the country for a better life in Europe. Their Shabbat dinner seemed to not only be a way to honor their religious beliefs, but to preserve them.

That night Steve and I returned to our hotel and made a promise. If the Jews of Casablanca could go to such great lengths to preserve their religion, we could surely manage to have Shabbat dinner once a week as our little effort. Still, I was skeptical. Dinner at home every Friday night? I wasn’t even Jewish. But Steve was. I had seen the way that he had been moved during our trip. I saw a deeper side of him that I had not known before. So I committed.

We went home and had our first Shabbat dinner. I think I even made a brisket. And slowly a richer life began to unfold for us.

We hung the mezuzah we purchased while we were in Israel. I lit the candles each week and read the prayers. Ben became the official Shabbat match and candle extinguisher.

One thing led to another and I ended up converting. And we continued to have our fairly regular weekly Shabbat dinners.

Then everything changed.

In 2009 Steve pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a widely publicized federal investigation. What played out in the media was only the tip of the iceberg. Steve and I spent hours upon hours strolling our two-year old daughter trying to recount where things had gone so totally wrong. And even more hours trying to figure out where we would go next. What did we want for ourselves, for our marriage and for our children?

In September at Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year - I vowed to slow down each Shabbat. To cherish the moments with my family and to appreciate that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

On New Year’s Eve Steve and I talked again about our resolutions. And so was born “A Year or More of Shabbats.” Our effort to try to put our life back together, reconnect with our friends and family and teach our children that down is not out.

This is our journey.

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