Magazine Design by Sima Morgan; Cover Art by Shifra Scheinman NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
Spring 2021/5781 • 11th Edition • Complimentary
Welcome to our 11th edition. We... Span the spectrum of religious observance, from Hasidic to unaffiliated to women who chose Torah and Judaism Embrace female empowerment to strengthen families and communities Focus on Judaic art, as well as mental health, addiction, grief, nutrition, marriage, parenting, and Torah education in modern times Harness the healing power of creativity for mental health and happiness
Arts & Literary Journal Published quarterly, founded in Atlanta and expanded to Miami last year, Nishei Ora is available complimentary at more than a dozen locations.
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8Torah in Action
24The Rambam and Health
by Mindy Rubenstein
by Rebetzin Ita Rabinowitz
by Miriam Racquel Feldman
by Sharon Oz
12The Anti-Health Column
30She Wears Surveillance
20The College Search
by Manya Ronay
by Bayla Abdurachmanov
by Noa Bejar
Art by Lisa Lisa Gerla-Feder
W h a t ’s I n s i d e NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
by Esther Simon, MSW
by Fraida Liba Levine
by Shifra Scheinman
34The Art Behind Art by Lisa Gerla-Feder
COPYRIGHT 2021 Nishei Ora Inc. All Rights Reserved
37Freedom from Bondage by Rivka Feferkorn
by Michele Asa
Midlife Musings by Surie Fettman
Peace in the Process by Adina Chryslyer
Founding Editor Mindy Rubenstein Contributing Editor Michele Asa Contributing Editor Carin Smilk Editorial Assistant Anna Freiman Contributing Writers Bayla Abdarachmanov Noa Behar Adina Chrysler Rivka Fekerkorn Miriam Racquel Feldman Surie Fettman Fraida Liba Levine Sharon Oz Ita Rabinowitz Manya Ronay Esther Simon Contributing Artists Lisa Gerla-Feder Shifra Scheinman Graphic Design Sima Morgan Advertising Sales Daniel Rubenstein Advisor Rabbi Aviv Mizrachi
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E D I TO R S N OT E
Turning Pain Into Purpose by: Mindy Rubenstein
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I thought that when I discovered Torah Judaism 14 years ago, it would fix me. Those thoughts that exist in your mind that tell you that you’re not enough, you don’t have enough; I had believed them. And so I searched for meaning in life and authenticity and G‑d and structure. And during a beautiful Shabbat dinner at a Chabad rabbi’s house, I felt that I had discovered the answer, the cure. That if I lived like them, life would be good. And so I jumped in with both feet and my entire being—already 30 years old, married with two children—into the world of Torah Judaism. I began keeping kosher, observing Shabbat and family purity, and dressing modestly. But I also judged others who couldn’t or didn’t want to keep up with my frenetic pace towards religious observance. My husband saw my passion and agreed, hesitantly at first, to embark on this journey with me. And our journey that began with us growing up around the block from each other in the Tampa Bay area of Florida has brought us to Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and now back to Florida. Our goal has always been to find the best Torah community and schools. As “BTs” (baalei teshuvah or “returners to the faith”), that seemed like no easy feat. Even those raised in observant homes struggle to find the right path. But I didn’t know that. I have learned that every community, every school, every person, has its pros and cons. If you look for the good, that is what you’ll see. And so that is what I am doing now. I am, with G‑d’s help, training my mind to be positive. To trust that everything is a message, and it’s all ultimately for my good, even if I don’t understand it in the moment. Someone gave the most beautiful analogy. That our world is like a vast needlepoint, beautiful and vibrant. From the bottom, however, it looks like random knots. That is what we often see—knots, pain, chaos—but G‑d sees the real picture. I remember as a little girl watching my grandmothers create their needlepoints, some of which I still have. And each time I look at them in all their detailed and delicate beauty, I try to remember that it’s all good, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
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And I have discovered that it’s not a weakness to seek help. There is no shame in seeking self-improvement and growth. I thought finding Torah would fix me. And in many ways, it did help me create a beautiful, religious life for my family that includes weekly Shabbat family meals and a dedication to something meaningful. But I also needed to learn to hear my own, inner voice—to trust the innate voice that is my birthright. I pray that as I continue to develop this inner stillness through prayer, diet and exercise, things will continue to get easier. But life isn’t meant to be easy. For now, I’m being patient with myself and trying not to judge. My nature, though it has caused me struggles, has also fueled my passion for writing, helped me earn a graduate degree and have a career in publishing. There are ups, and there are downs. This is the situation G‑d gave me, so I’m admitting I need help, seeking it and trusting that those along my path are all part of the bigger picture, leading me where I’m meant to be. It is said: In every generation each Jew should see herself as though she personally had been liberated from Egypt. Discovering Torah Judaism didn’t fix me. But it helps me to realize that I’m not alone. I am part of the Jewish people, and though we continue to struggle individually and collectively, I know we are nearing our redemption. Together, we are turning our pain into the ultimate purpose. Starting right here, right now, in this moment. But I must not simply meditate on the mission, I must act upon it. It doesn’t take much. A few words of kindness toward those closest to me, a simple good deed, can tip the scales. Pesach Sameach, Mindy Please reach out to me to share your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Torah in Action W I T H R E B B E T Z I N I TA R A B I N O W I T Z
Make Lasting Life Changes
OFTEN IN LIFE, WE A R E FA C E D W I T H THE POSSIBILITY TO REACH FOR SOMETHING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE, BUT THE PROSPECT S E E M S WAY T O O OVERWHELMING TO EVER EVEN DREAM OF ACHIEVING. HOW DO WE BEGIN TO W O R K T O WA R D S A GOAL WHILE AV O I D I N G T H AT OVERWHELM? NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
S TA R T N O W. Don’t wait for the “right time.”. There is no such thing; it will never come. If you want to try something out, just get started now. (There are certain situations when something must clearly wait, but generally speaking, the best time to start is right now.)
My grandfather was an expert tailor, and I have always wanted to learn how to sew. My friend was signing up for a sewing class and invited me to join. The timing was terrible. It was around the time of the High Holidays, and several classes fell out on the night before Yom Tov or on Chol Hamoed (I was told by my Rav that I could go and watch on Chol Hamoed, but I could not take part in any of the sewing- related activities). Besides cooking and cleaning for my own family, I also ran a bakery, so this timing was really less than ideal. And I had no idea who would babysit while I was out. Nevertheless, I really wanted to learn. The class was being offered at a great price, and I had a friend to go with. I jumped in and took the class. Thirteen years later, I look back, and I am so happy I did it! I have hemmed my family’s clothes, fixed things that were broken, made Purim costumes, baby carriers, masks, and a variety of fun projects. I enjoy sewing and I really appreciate having the ability to create in this way!
S TA R T S M A L L . We have a tendency to feel that if we want to do something meaningful, we need to do it in a big way. However, in Judaism, we believe that small steps will add up to large value. Ben Azzai teaches us ִּ מ(הָוְצִ מתֶרֶרֹוּגָוְצPirkei Avos 4:2) that one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah. If you start with even a small mitzvah, this will lead you to more mitzvos. When we make commitments that are too big to keep, we quickly give up. By taking on small commitments at which we cannot fail, we build confidence through success and ultimately end up doing more.
I joined a WhatsApp Tehillim group, mostly as a show of appreciation for something the founder of the group had done. At first, I just watched. Then, I signed up for one portion (Tehillim is traditionally divided up into 30 portions, one corresponding to each day of the Jewish month). This was a fairly simple commitment for me, and I marveled how some women managed to say two portions. It was not long before I stopped trying to get my favorite portion (which I could practically recite in my sleep) and decided to become acquainted with a new section. And then one week, the section next to mine was still waiting to be filled, so I took that as well. And then another. Then my community started a tehillim group. I didn’t realize when I signed up to say two portions that it was a weekly commitment, but at this point, it wasn’t a big deal to me anymore. Somehow, I went from being afraid to commit to even one portion to being comfortable with a large part of Tehillim.
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B U I L D O N YO U R S T R E N G T H S . Each person has unique strengths and weaknesses. When you’re just starting on any path, it’s a good idea to choose something that builds on your strengths rather than something that attacks your weaknesses.
Take, for example, someone who needs to lose weight. She really hates exercise, but manages to find a diet that allows her to eat foods she likes. A good place to start would be with that diet (or a smaller subset of it), rather than trying to force herself to go jogging every day. Similarly, someone who loves a quiet evening might want to light candles on Friday night, or sit down to a Friday night dinner with the family. Someone who loves to bake might choose to bake challah and learn how to do hafrashas challah—, the separation of the dough. Someone with a grateful personality might choose to make a bracha, - just once a day, - to thank Hashem for giving her delicious food or drink. And someone who loves intellectual pursuit might set up a learning session with Partners in Torah or Oorah, or attend a weekly Torah class.
P U T YO U R S E L F I N A G O O D E N V I R O N M E N T. Your environment has a huge impact on your growth. Try to find others who will support your efforts and maybe even grow along with you.
When I was in seminary in Israel, I wanted to get to shul on time on Shabbos morning. I set an alarm clock which would ring for one minute before turning off. Instead of just going alone, I asked a few friends if they wanted to get up and go with me too. We had a nice little group who participated, and it created a feeling of doing something together rather than trying to go it alone!
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S E T YO U R S E L F U P F O R S U C C E S S . Plan ahead so you aren’t caught off- guard. Just as someone on a diet needs to think ahead to make sure the fridge is stocked with good food choices and not with sugary treats, if you want to start any new habit, you need to put yourself in the best position to ensure success. EXAMPLE 1: You frequently go out to eat for lunch near the office and have decided to only go to kosher restaurants. It will be much easier to keep your commitment if you have a list of some good kosher restaurants near your workplace. EXAMPLE 2: You have decided to light candles on Friday night. You can ensure your success by having some candles in the house and checking early on Friday to see what time candle lighting is. This way, you will know when to light and have everything ready ahead of time that you need. EXAMPLE 3: You want to wear a long skirt to shul on Shabbos. Shop ahead of time to find a pretty skirt that you like and make sure you have a nice top to go along with it.
When I was in seminary, I learned a particular stringency relating to kosher eating. I wanted to try it and see how it would go, but I had just gotten a large quantity of some delicious chocolate that did not meet these new criteria. I wasn’t quite ready to commit to not eating the chocolates for good, but I also knew there was no way I could “try” not to eat them if they were sitting in my closet in my room. Each person is unique, so each person’s path will be different from that of her friend. The key to success is just to get started with something small that will be pleasant and meaningful to you. Rebbetzin Ita Rabinowitz, born in New York, lives with her family in Jacksonville, FL. In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, she is a talented musician, computer programmer and pastry chef.
EACH PERSON IS UNIQUE, SO EACH PERSON’S PAT H W I L L B E D I F F E R E N T. NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
THE ANTI-HEALTH COLUMN by: Manya Ronay
I usually write a health column in this spot but, in the spirit of Purim, I’d like to switch things up a bit. Most health columns tell the reader what to do, what to eat, yada yada, yada. I’m not interested in that right now. YOU are the expert on yourself, and this column is all about affirming your autonomy. But don’t worry, this is no Purim shpiel. I will explore the vital importance of listening to your internal wisdom in health, Judaism and beyond.
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I’m tired of telling people what to do. Yes, you read that right. As a health journalist getting my master’s in health education, I am sick and tired of telling people what to do. “Don’t eat processed food.” “Cut out sugar.” “Spend time in nature.” “Exercise.” “Sleep more.” “Connect with others.” While this might be general good advice for a healthy life, it might not be what people need to hear. We each are the expert on ourselves, containing a vast pool of wisdom, experiences and resources from our time on this planet. We know what we need, deep down, and we probably have a hunch about how to get there. At times, we might need a little guidance, but we don’t need someone waltzing in and telling us what to do. Perhaps I think you need to change your diet, but what you really need is to work on your relationships. Perhaps I think you need to exercise, but what you really need is to change your diet. Everyone is different. Everyone has their own special story and knows what they need better than anyone else. The same holds true for Judaism. We each have our own derech, our personal path to Hashem. Even if it takes some wandering, we will eventually discover the path that’s right for us. It might not be the path our parents chose—or our rabbis or our neighbors or our friends. It’s a path that’s perfectly our own. We might need some guidance along the way, just like anyone on a long journey. But it’s a journey only we can make. No one should tell us which route to take or judge our choices along the way. We need to be respected and supported along our one-of-a-kind derech. In UF graduate school, I recently had the opportunity to learn a client-centered counseling approach called Motivational Interviewing (MI). In MI, the client and practitioner are equals. They NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
enter a sacred partnership, in which the practitioner gently guides the client to explore their own needs, skills and motivations for change. The practitioner doesn’t offer advice or information unless asked. They affirm the client’s autonomy and honor whatever decisions they make. It’s a partnership of mutual understanding and respect, in which they walk together down a path of the client’s choosing. There is a beautiful poem that encapsulates the spirit of MI that I would like to share with you here.
“Guide me to be a patient companion, to listen with a heart as open as the sky. Grant me vision to see through her eyes and eager ears to hear her story. Create a safe and open mesa on which we may walk together. Make me a clear pool in which she may reflect. Guide me to find in her Your beauty and wisdom, knowing Your desire for her to be in harmony:healthy, loving and strong. Let me honor and respect her choosing of her own path, and bless her to walk it freely. May I know once again that although she and I are different, yet there is a peaceful place where we are one.” (Miller & Rollnick, 2013)
There are so many elements of Judaism in this poem: the oneness, the G-dliness, the mutual 13
I pray for community members who don’t judge each other based on external appearances and personal beliefs.
respect and love. Yet I sometimes feel like we trade in these values for judgement of people who choose a different path than we do. Perhaps they’re more religious or less religious than us; it doesn’t really matter. In either case, we forget that each person has their own personal derech and it probably looks different than ours. I pray for a Jewish world that honors each person’s autonomy and embraces people for who they truly are. I pray for community members who don’t judge each other based on external appearances and personal beliefs. I pray for rabbis who bravely work to guide people down their own individualized paths. We are all unique. We are all different. We all know what we need better than anyone else. Let us respect each person’s integrity and support them on their own beautiful journeys. Manya Ronay is a health writer and educator living in Jacksonville, Fla. She graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in journalism in 2019, and is currently pursuing her MS in Health Education and Behavior at the University of Florida. Manya became fascinated by health after being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrom (POTS) at 18 years old. Over the next five years she reclaimed her health through a combination of nutrition, acupuncture and neurorehabilitation. To learn more about her story, visit www.meet.manya.com.
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Personal Goal Exploration This exercise, based on concepts from Motivational Interviewing, is meant to elicit your goals, motivations and inner resources for change. Fill it out, make a copy and start making positive changes in your life!
Choose one goal you’d like to work on. (It can be related to health, Judaism, relationships or anything else.) ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ Why do you want to achieve this goal? ____________________________________________________________________________________ What are some steps you can take to make this goal a reality? _______________________________________ _______________________________________ What are some challenges or obstacles you might face along the way? _______________________________________ _______________________________________ What are some things you could do to overcome these obstacles? ____________________________________________________________________________________ On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for you to achieve this goal? _________________ Why did you choose your number instead of a lower number? _________________________ What are you going to do TODAY to move one step closer to achieving your goal? ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________
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Eliminate Decision Fatigue:
How to Make an Empowered Decision By Bayla Abdurachmanov
Did you know that we make about 35,000 decisions per day? That’s right. 35,000. Due to the overwhelming amount of decisions we make each day, many of us struggle with decision fatigue. We face overwhelm, confusion and doubt when it comes to making decisions. Worse yet, we don’t know how to access our inner voice and our true desire. We’re living in a head full of the cacophony of everybody else’s desires and “shoulds” or “should nots.”
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When it comes to making big decisions, our decision-making process can often be impaired due to decision fatigue. We find ourselves baffled about what to do. We may even flip-flop on our decisions or regret them. We commonly feel disheartened instead of confident, clear and empowered. We don’t want to make decisions from a place of negative emotions. For less consequential decisions, like what to wear or what to have for lunch, decision fatigue doesn’t pose as great a risk. But for important decisions—what school to send your child to or whether to take your side hustle full-time—you want to be at your highest decision-making capacity. So, how can you make an empowered decision in a world full of noise?
USE THESE THREE STRATEGIES TO GUIDE YOU:
Use “and” to help flex your creative thinking muscles. Instead of choosing between Choice A and Choice B, ask yourself the question, “What if both were possible?” “What if I could have Choice A and Choice B? How is that possible? What would be possible for me then?” Write down the answers in your journal or talk it out in a voice note to yourself. It’s important to note that even if it’s not possible, treat it as if it is and see what your brain comes up with. This question helps remove the blinders.
Check your GPS. And remember the destination. Let me explain. Think about when you plug a destination into your GPS. Usually, you get three to four different routes. One route might be longer, one might have less traffic, but they all lead to the same destination. Ask yourself, “what if both options are right?” Oftentimes, we assume that one option is right and one is wrong. What if both options were right; what would you choose then? Assume that no matter which choice you go with, you’ll get the same end result. Now what do you want? This helps reawaken your inner voice.
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Check in with your Future Self and ask her for advice. Close your eyes and see yourself in five years from now. First question to ask is, “Did this decision matter? Do I remember it?” If not, then that puts things in perspective for you. If yes, then tap into your Future Self as if you’d chosen Choice A. How do you feel? What do you look like? What is life like for you? Walk yourself through a day as her. Next, try on Choice B and do the same thing. If they both feel good, then choose one and have your own back knowing you’ve made the right decision out of two right decisions. If one has clearly brought you to a better place in the future, then you have your answer. This exercise helps you put things back in perspective.
Now, here’s a bonus tip to help combat decision fatigue due to those small seemingly inconsequential decisions. Since we make so many decisions, we need to save our mental resources for our most important ones. So, we must simplify the process for our smaller decisions. We can do that by having a system for those types of decisions. This system would put parameters in place that limit our choices. For example, I almost always wear a black skirt, so then the only decision I have to make is which blouse I want to pair it with. I just eliminated a small decision that takes up space in my brain. For meals, I have a weekly menu that is decided ahead of time and reflects my health values of being glutenfree and dairy-free. These systems help me combat decision fatigue and free up the space in my mind for those important decisions. Now, go out there and make some empowered decisions! And don’t forget to have your own back once you commit. This is, perhaps, the most important step of all.
Bayla Abdurachmanov is a Certified Life and Mindset Coach. She helps her clients navigate all their roles with radical self-love, clarity and confidence. She’s the coach for women who want to step into their life’s mission and make an impact in their families and beyond. You can follow her across social media @coachbayla. Get access to her free Coaching Vault and Mission Audit at coachbayla.com.
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Explore memories and personal stories in a new inter-generational writing workshop. Teens, seniors and women of all ages are invited to engage in inspiring writing exercises, while making connections between previous generations and present-day life.
Workshops begin in April; new groups forming ongoing. This exciting new program is open to female Jewish seniors, teens and those in between. $36 for four workshops* (virtual or in-person) For more information or to sign up: (786) 744-6770 email@example.com www.nishei.org The workshops are led by Mindy Rubenstein, a longtime journalist and founding editor of Nishei Ora (Women of Light) magazine.
In this supportive community, participants can find and appreciate what is strong and powerful about their unique voices. Students can also expect to improve their writing skills, but the most impactful lessons often come from building unique inter-generational relationships.
*Scholarships available Thank you for your support Women's Impact Initiative at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation!
The College Search From a Jewish Perspective by: Noa Behar
Exploring colleges, you can easily check off the items that are important to you on a college campus: close to a major city, check; affordable tuition, check; engineering program, check; large athletic department, check; Hillel, check. Let’s take a closer look at that last one. As a Jewish student, ready to embark upon your first major journey of independence, selfgrowth, and academic and social pressure, you probably want to make sure that you’re not the only Jew on campus. With more than 2,800 four-year colleges and universities in the United States, Hillel (the largest Jewish student organization in the world) services 550 campuses. Annually, more than 200,000 Jewish college students have some level of involvement with Hillel. That’s a strong reach considering there are approximately 400,000 selfidentifying Jewish students
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attending four-year traditional colleges across the country. It appears as though the Jewish population is well-represented. Once you begin your college search, take a closer look at how many students are actively involved in Jewish programs and which campuses best fit for your desired amount and type of activity. Based on your level of observance, you will have a list of criteria that factors into your college decision. Every campus is unique, and Jewish student organizations offer different activities to meet the needs of their constituency. A cluster of nearby campuses may be serviced once a week or once a month by a single Jewish engagement professional while other campuses may be inundated with a variety of programming on any given night. JLIC (Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus), administered by the Orthodox Union and in partnership with Hillel, provides
programming and support specifically for Jewish day-school students. There is currently a JLIC Educator on 22 campuses spread throughout North America. JLIC bolsters Orthodox life on campus so it can flourish, enhancing the Shabbat experience and making observance easier for religious students on secular campuses. For many students, regardless of Jewish observance or connection, the first obvious college activity will be walking across campus to the Hillel lawn for the annual “Back to School BBQ.” Jewish life on campus can include free Shabbat dinners, Thursday pizza nights and a movie social, as well as a myriad of social-justice activities, Israel programs, Jewish education and holiday services. Prospective students might want to consider whether a campus has a diverse enough pool of Jewish students to date and a variety of events that attract enough students. Is there a campus Chabad, JLIC or
a Jewish Student Union, and what kinds of programs do they offer students? How do you feel about campus Jewish fraternities and sororities tailgating to the homecoming game on Yom Kippur? What about the Jewish groups that partner with Palestinian causes? What about those that don’t? Do you want to try yoga and mediation services, or do you prefer peer-led traditional ones? Are you looking for kosher food, students who have an understanding about the holidays and value their Jewish identity, or a particular way in which students support the State of Israel? It’s not enough to simply look on a website and check “Jewish life” on your list of college criteria. It’s important to understand that, as a student, you are inherently and inevitably evolving, growing and maturing socially and intellectually. It is wise to position yourself on a campus that will give you the best tools to embark upon your journey.
Top 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a College From the Jewish Perspective 1. What kind of relationship do the Jewish campus organizations have with other cultural and religious campus organizations? 2. How does your campus and the Jewish student body deal with religious and anti-Semitic tensions? 3. Regarding Hillel, are there professional staff on campus full-time, part-time, monthly? Is there a JLIC? 4. How many Jewish students are on your campus? Are there any observant students? Are there enough to form a substantial peer network? 5. Is kosher food available, and is it offered daily or weekly? Is it fresh or a packaged frozen meal? 6. As far as dining services goes, will you be eating your kosher meal in a designated area? Is it near your dorm or on the other side of campus? Is the kosher
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IT IS WISE TO POSITION YO U R S E L F O N A C A M P U S T H AT W I L L G I V E YO U THE BEST TOOLS TO EMBARK U P O N YO U R J O U R N E Y. option part of the dining hall or in the food court? 7. Are there Shabbat services, what kind and how often, and are they followed by free dinner? Is this a “pre-party” or is there Shabbat programming? 8. Do students value their Jewish identity or tend to disregard it? 9. Is the Jewish student organization(s) strictly social or do they offer a variety of other types of programs and events? 10. Do the faculty and administration work with students who miss class for religious holidays? Are they conscious not to plan tests on major holidays? 11. Can you truly see yourself, understanding that you are a maturing and spiritually evolving Jew, on a particular campus? Noa Bejar is a college guidance counselor, helping Jewish students navigate the college search and application process since 2008. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Facebook at “College-Bound Jews.” 21
IT IS A BIG DEAL!
T h e Healing Gr ace o f S el f- Co m pas s io n by: Miriam Racquel Feldman
A while ago, I was at an NLP training conference, and the presenter had us pick a partner to do an exercise with. The exercise required sharing a problem, and so my partner began to explain that she was the sole supporter of her family which consisted of four children, a husband and two elderly grandparents. They had moved cross country because of her job, and though she was happy with the payraise, she had been feeling a lot of anxiety with the change. She would go to work and have trouble breathing, as well as a numbness in her chest. She felt distracted from the work that she needed to do.
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As she spoke, she put her hands on her chest. I asked, “Are you having trouble breathing?” She nodded and then said that it wasn’t a big deal. My mouth almost dropped open with that last sentence. I didn’t feel that she was in any physical danger, but was shocked that with all that she was carrying on her shoulders, she could give herself (and me) the message that it wasn’t a big deal. I was also saddened. Saddened that she wasn’t giving herself love and compassion for not only the physical reaction her body was having, but for not
those emotions. And right now they were sitting on her chest.
AS SHE SPOKE, SHE PUT HER HANDS ON H E R C H E S T. I A S K E D , “A R E YO U H AV I N G T R O U B L E B R E AT H I N G ? ”
Her face became softer and she opened up more that her husband was suffering from depression and unable to work. Being from the Philippines, a culture that did not recognize depression, she didn’t understand why he was behaving the way he was and felt frustrated. We then experimented with the NLP exercise to get her some more relief and inner wisdom. Awesome women, we carry so much in our lives. It is a big deal. Your feelings, your stresses, your challenges. And you are doing the best you can with what you know. When you know better, you do better. Everything has it’s divine timing and there is so much mystery behind the scenes. Please give yourself compassion and love on your journey, a great big hug, and a deep inhale and long exhale. Give yourself grace.
recognizing the very basic emotional reaction that having such responsibilities and change would bring up in a person. Added to that, English was not her first language and America was not her culture of origin. Wow. What a warrior and hero she was. Though I was not supposed to bring my profession into the training, I couldn’t just sit there with what I know from a somatic/mindbody perspective. I told her that what she is feeling is a big deal. Emotions are “energy in motion” so when we feel an emotion, it is an energy in our body. When we notice it, we can release it and let it flow. I asked her to put her hands on her chest, this time with the intention of noticing the sensation—even to say to herself, “My chest feels numb, my breathing is short.” She closed her eyes and did so. After a moment of doing this, she visibly relaxed. Then I mentioned that anxiety is made up of a few emotions—anger, sadness and fear. And that perhaps the move and stepping into a new position at work, plus having so many people relying on her, surfaced
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In Hebrew, “chein” is the word for grace which translates as kindness, charity, favor, goodness. Aren’t you worth giving yourself that? You never need to downplay your stuff. You are a big deal. And please remember to surround yourself with beauty, with people you love and things you love. Wellness is your light and your journey. Miriam Racquel Feldman is a somatic healer, clarity coach and relationship expert, helping to empower women to trust themselves through the wisdom of their bodies and intuition. An avid gardener, she lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and children. She has a new eguide: “The Mindbody Wellness Dating Guide For Frum Women— Questions, Red Flags, Brakes, and the Good Stuff.” Learn more at MiriamRacquel.com.
Health Coach Uses Rambam’s Te a c h i n g s t o Help Others Sharon Oz was born and raised in Venezuela to Israeli parents. She is fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, and English. She moved to the U.S. 20 years ago and started her journey as a fashion designer graduate. She always had a passion and strong desire for health, healing, and nutrition and followed that calling to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Mind & Body Practitioner. Learning the teachings of the Rambam opened her eyes to the true laws of healthy living and inspired her to help individuals find healing by guiding them to a cleaner and more nutritious diet as well as a healthy mind by overcoming old trauma, unhealthy emotions, and limiting beliefs.
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Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Talmudist, Halachist, physician, philosopher and communal leader, known in the Jewish world by the acronym “Rambam” and to the world at large as “Maimonides,” is one of the most important figures in the history of Torah scholarship. Today, many hospitals and schools around the world are named after Maimonides. Students worldwide continue to study his scholarly works.
· What are some challenges you have overcome in your own life so far? Well, we are all constantly overcoming challenges, whether it’s challenges in our physical health or our mental/emotional health. I can share that physically I had skin issues, like eczema and psoriasis. These conditions usually are treated by doctors with external creams that never really get rid of the problem. I learned and understood that I need to treat the cause to get rid of the condition instead of putting creams on to get rid of the symptoms. When I started making changes to my nutrition as well as my emotions and state of mind, the eczema and psoriasis started to disappear. This is a perfect example of mind, body, and soul healing. We need all these components to heal; change what we eat, reassess our thoughts and beliefs, and ask The Creator to help.. Most important is to strengthen our connection with The Creator and trust that He is listening. We need to ask for help every day and simultaneously do our hishtadlut (effort). I pray to Hashem every day to help me heal and guide me in what are the right steps I need to take to heal myself. · How did that affect your decision to become a holistic health coach? I understood that conventional medicine doesn’t heal, and that disease is not a coincidence but the reaction to our actions, that we are responsible for our health and can make the right changes. This new knowledge opened my mind to a new reality and an interest to learn more. I started to apply this method in my life and in that of my family, and I saw incredible results and changes. I read and researched different diets and all the theories the scientific world was coming up with for years. Eventually I came across the teachings of the Rambam on health, healing, and nutrition and everything made so much sense. The Rambam teaches us that health and nutrition are based on what is right for the human physical and emotional body under the rules of nature and creation. The Rambam says that if we follow these
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rules we should never get sick. · Did you grow up eating healthy or was that a conscious choice/change you made? I grew up with parents that spoke about the importance of health and guided us towards eating healthy. But based on the teachings of the Rambam, a lot of things that were thought of as healthy are not necessarily so. Throughout the years I kept learning more and decided to clean my diet even more. I believe there is healthy eating, and there is taking your health to a higher level. · Explain how Rambam’s teachings affect your own choices as well as what you teach others? It affects my entire belief system and the way I see everything. The Rambam teaches us that we have the power to heal ourselves, we just need to give the body the right conditions to do it. We are a society that drifted away from nature not only in the way we eat but in the way we run our lives. Even though we live in times where we are all under a lot of stress and live very fast lives, I teach my clients to find balance. Health begins in the soul, our emotions, and our beliefs, so it’s important to balance them all, and to understand what is the right way for the body and soul to live so it can thrive and use its potential powers. · What are some easy changes parents can make for themselves and their families? - Avoid processed foods and packaged snacks. Leave these treats only for Shabbat. - Read labels of products you buy and ask yourself if this is healthy and natural for me? - Give more fruits and vegetables to the family members. - Minimize dairy products. - Talk to your kids about superfoods and the importance of being healthy.
RECIPES BY SHARON OZ
Kale Sweet Potato Salad INGREDIENTS: · 1 sweet potato cut into squares · 10 ounces kale · ¼ cup chopped toasted pecans · Half of a small red onion thinly sliced · 1/2 cup cooked quinoa DRESSING · 1 lemon juiced · 5 tbsp olive oil · salt & pepper to taste TAHINI SAUCE · 1/2 cup raw tahini paste · 1/3 cup cold water (if you like it more liquidy add more water) · 1 lemon juice · 1 garlic · Salt & pepper to taste Place all the ingredients in a food processor. NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
INSTRUCTIONS Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the chopped sweet potato on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 35-40 minutes, mixing halfway until crunchy. Meanwhile cook the quinoa. Prepare the dressing and mix with the kale. Massage the kale for about 2 minutes with the dressing to absorb the flavors. Assemble your salad: first the kale and onions, sprinkle the cooked quinoa all around, top sweet potato and toasted pecans. You can drizzle some tahini on top. Enjoy!
Vegan Baked Vegetable Patties INGREDIENTS · 3 zucchinis · 3 carrots · 1 sweet potato · Bunch of parsley · Bunch of cilantro · 1 cup breadcrumbs · 1 cup raw tahini paste · 1 Tbsp onion powder
INSTRUCTIONS Grate the zucchinis, carrots and sweet potatoes. Squeeze any excess liquids from the zucchini. Chop the parsley and cilantro. In a bowl add the grated zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, parsley and cilantro. Add the tahini paste and breadcrumbs, as well as the onion powder, garlic powder, curry, salt and pepper. If the mix is not sticky enough you can add more tahini paste.
· 1 Tsp curry
Form patties, place on lightly oiled parchment paper and bake on 375F for 20 min, then flip and bake for another 15 min.
· Salt & pepper
Enjoy next to a salad!
· 1 Tbsp garlic powder
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T h e S t r e s s - Fr e e, O r g a n i z e d B e d r o om by: Esther Simon, MSW
Usually, the kitchen is where we spend most of our waking hours. The benefits of having an efficient and organized kitchen is of utmost importance, and I have written many articles on this subject. But when bringing shalom bayit (peace in the home) into our lives, organization in the bedroom is probably the most important place to start. The bedroom is the room we should create a stressfree environment. Imagine going to sleep with no
distractions, no interruptions, and a clean space. This is probably why so many people like to go on vacation to a hotel. They usually only bring the bare essentials with them, allowing for an uncluttered space. Setting the stage for an organized, stress-free and relaxed bedroom helps develop and encourage intimacy in our marriages—not to mention better sleep habits. This, in turn, will lead to an atmosphere of love, respect and peace of mind. BEDSIDE TABLE: The table top should have very
MAKE THIS ROOM A S A N C T U A RY OF PEACE AND HARMONY NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
BEDSIDE TABLE: The table top should have very few items displayed. A clock, water bottle perhaps flowers would be enough. I suggest finding a night table with at least one drawer to house a book, a pen and paper.
THE FLOOR: Keep slippers by your bedside and
HAMPER: I would encourage setting up a hamer in the closet or bathroom to prevent using the floor for dirty or discarded clothes. TRASH BIN: Having a trash bin with a liner for easy access and removal will encourage you to keep your room clean each day.
no clutter on the floor.
STORAGE: If you need to store extra linen or clothing, purchase under-the-bed storage bins. Some come with wheels or open easily from the side.
SITTING AREA: If your room is large enough, set up a sitting area so you can relax, read a book, or just meditate after a shower or bath. EXTRA FURNITURE: Depending on the size of
WALL HANGERS: If closet and bureau space
your room, you can have a writing desk, or love seat or dresser. If you do have one of these, don’t clutter it with items that do not belong in your bedroom. For example, eliminate business items or anything that can cause you stress or frustration.
are limited, consider using over-the-door storage or hooks.
MAINTENANCE: This is probably one of the
DRAWERS: Be sure that all your clothing is neatly folded in the drawers and not on top of the bureau.
CLOTHES: Using all the same slim-line hangers makes for efficient and space-saving systems in your closet. Clean out your clothes, shoes and personal items at least every six months.
Set boundaries with your spouse so you can respect each other’s space and tranquility. You want to be able to agree to make this room a sanctuary of peace and harmony—a place you can escape from the noise and clutter of life. How can this be achieved? Begin with baby steps. Pick one area and start there; success in one area leads to success in another. Let’s all reach for the goal of increasing shalom bayit and intimacy in our marriages.
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most important habits of the bedroom. Make your bed daily and keep the room clean and free of dust. Resist the urge to bring technology, TV or computers into your room.
Do you have specific questions about home organization and how it can improve your life? Email Esther at email@example.com. Esther Simon, MSW, is a professional home organizer for the past 23 years. She is a member of NAPO and a mother of seven. Learn more at: www.traditionalhomeorganizer.com. 29
She Wears Surveillance /Akara b y : Fr a i d a L i b a L e v i n e
in her opinion, onions are a delightful mask. she slices them, burning tears streaming down desperately wiping her eyes in the crook of her arm on the driest part of her sleeve she grins. summer sky sings, blue, and frankly, fearful months of patterned dryness continue, chasing little white puffs its vastness wholly hoping to arrive at just the right place, where hot and cold air unite and give birth to rain. even on weekends, the men in her world, wear shirts and jackets, hers does the same, his hair crisply trimmed at the nape he visits a barber monthly. on Thursday she wears sheer treachery on Tuesday she wears guarded surveillance
on Wednesday she wears blood at daybreak and white clothes again at night. she considers the word “alternatives” and the words “content” and “blessed” to be enemies intent on unmasking her lying in wait beside dangerous thoughts marking the price of time on her pile of pocket calendars. her hands shake as she wraps a white cotton square, (ritually speaking) around her finger. and obviously, if the sun rises and her bed is stained, lost, she marks a new evening, a new rush, fresh white garment, crisp. warm chlorinated rain, like blue-black oceans, cascades into her mouth the rush of water still makes her cry though it has lessened over the years. on Wednesday she wears pearls at nightfall the simple skin of humans cries out in pleasure. praying please as her eyes tear, (from her onion slicing)
Fraida Liba Levine teaches at Shulamith School for Girls. She studied poetry at Hunter College and UCLA. Her poems have appeared in several literary journals, and she received a poetry award from the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. She lives on Long Island with her husband and children. NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
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Who gave you your first art supplies?
Shifra Scheinman Monsey-Based Artist Shifra Scheinman was born in Cracow, Poland. She became frum at age of 15 and got married at 20 to a wonderful man from Brooklyn, New York. After marriage, the couple spent their first years in Jerusalem. Then they moved to Monsey, where all his siblings live. Now Shifra is a full-time wife, a mother, and part-time artist. Follow her on Instagram: shifra.scheinman. NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
I was born in 1988 in Poland, Cracow. It started when I was 6 or 7. All the kids there have pencils, crayons and washable paint, including me. This is what I remember first. Then, when my mother saw how much time I spent painting, she took me to the art store. For each birthday, part of my gift would be art supplies. I remember once I got oil pastels, and enjoyed them so much, that I couldn’t wait to come back home from school to start painting with them. I was 9 years old then. We also used to visit art supply stores quite often. I love the smell of art supply stores, the scent of all art supplies mixed together. My mother was very supportive, and she still is. We went to museums to see how other artists worked in their private studios. Then I attended a high school of art in Cracow, which is a great place with amazing teachers.
How did you find a way to make money at it? It’s all from Hashem. He gave me talent and He made me extraordinarily good at what I do. He also placed me in a family supportive of my passion; they were able to afford to send me to a high school of art, and pay for all the supplies. Also, the internet and technology are a great help. You can have a business without leaving your home. My first customers came from seeing my art on Instagram. I would say that ‘the way ‘ to make money from art found me :)
What are your favorite media techniques and why? I love to work with color and paint. All pieces published here are watercolor and colored pencil pieces. But I am fine working with oil. Lately I enjoy experimenting with resin art. It is pure fun.
I have advice for all women out there. If you really feel that you love to do something, and wish that it should be your parnassa, take the first step. Don’t be shy. Try sharing on social media and share what you do with your friends. Sharing what you can with others is the first and most important step to success.
What challenges have you overcome along the way? Being told that you can’t make a living creating art - that it’s a good hobby but you can’t have a good parnassa from it. And that I need a “normal” job. Well, as an artist, I make more than any other jobs I had before. And I’m very happy I can be my own boss. How did you find the strength to continue doing what you love? If you love something nothing will stop you from pursuing it. It came to me naturally. When the pandemic came, I was home like all of us, so I started painting when my kids went to sleep. I wanted to share my art with a bigger audience and see if they liked my work. I decided to open an Instagram account. After I published my ‘’Williamsburg” painting, all my pieces I published on Instagram sold within 48 hours. Then people started messaging me and asking about private commissions.
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The Art Behind Making Art b y : L i s a G e r l a - Fe d e r
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When and how did you get into art? Like many children, I was obsessed with my crayons and coloring books. As I grew, I became inspired by my father’s lifelong interests in drawing, photography and woodworking. He was a portrait and landscape artist, as well as an avid photographer. Thanks to his professional career as a mechanical engineer and as a hobby artist, he helped me pick out materials for art and science projects, and understand the mechanics of a manual camera and proportions for packagedesign assignments. Proportions and measurements were artistic challenges I faced because my math abilities were lacking. Art classes in public school, along with attending a fine-arts day camp, further fueled my interest, resulting in visits to art museums, and collegiate study of classic painters and sculptors. In terms of Judaic art, my very first competition included a menorah made out of thin cable wires! What challenges have you overcome along the way? Having come of age prior to ADA, the biggest obstacle I faced was with my deafness. There’s now much more opportunity for the hearing-impaired in the workforce as technology has kept pace with professional levels of awareness. Early on in my career, I worked as a graphic designer in the retail industry but soon realized that was not an industry I wanted to be in long term. It reminded me to focus on the fine arts, which is where my heart and soul have always belonged. I have never looked back. What
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techniques, and why? My work includes a lot of nature and architectural photography, along with realistic pet portraits, digitized abstract designs and Judaic art. My pieces are printed on either paper, canvas or even textiles (today’s advanced digital technology allows me to explore new creative apps). I incorporate the use of various media including, but not limited to, color pencils, acrylic paints, ink, markers and watercolors on paper. Even after all these years, I never tire of watching images come to life with the proper use of color and shadowing techniques. How do you feel you are serving and connecting with G-d by using your talent in such a beautiful way? As a Jewish woman, I am grateful each day to G-d for allowing me to express myself and for the beauty He has shared with us in nature, which continues to inspire me. He is with me each and every day. Lisa Gerla-Feder has been an artist of fine arts and a graphic designer over 40 years and has a BFA degree from the University of Akron. Her specialties are hand and digital paintings, wearable art, pet portraits, painting jewelry, graphic design, and photography. She was a native of New York and lives in Ohio.
Lisa and her dad
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Freedom from Bondage by: Rivka Feferkorn
How can I celebrate freedom from bondage while I'm still enslaved? Is it even possible to rejoice and relax with tears that continue to flow?
Like a stranger in a new country who doesn't speak the language and is unfamiliar with the norms I know how to hurt and beg and settle for crumbs like a child cowering in fear She's still in Egypt waiting for someone to save her and lead her to freedom
Can I be liberated and leave my per‑ sonal Egypt if I take it along with me?
Maybe the time has come to grow up and show up for the lonely little girl inside
A burden on my shoulders a hole in my heart occupying my constant thoughts As I look back in mourning and remember the pain anew I'm imprisoned all over again Stuck in the old suffering trapped in past trauma unable to live and enjoy freedom
And give her a big hug to calm her fears and wipe her tears while gently holding her hand Encourage and reassure her that I'm never leaving her again and we're going to be ok Because together we can do what we can never do alone as we trudge the road of happy destiny
Rifky Feferkorn is a writer and realtor in Toms River, whose deep belief in second chances inspires her ever day. She is a happily remarried mother and grandmother to an extended blended family, while figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. This poem practically poured out of her many years and a lifetime ago when she was a divorced mother of teenagers who are now all grown up.
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Ch o osing t o Li
THIS GENUINE J OY C O M E S FROM PROFOUND SPIRITUAL AWA R E N E S S A N D AN ABSOLUTE CLARITY OF DIRECTION. NISHEI ORA JOURNAL
L iv e with Joy by: Michele Asa
A few years ago, within the space of four months, I made a Bar Mitzvah, then flew to South Africa to be with my mother who was ill, and buried her the day after I arrived. One daughter got engaged while I was there. After my return, another daughter had a baby, and I made a wedding—in Israel! There were many days I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and not come out (So I did, and I honored my grieving process). When I got to the wedding, however, I found myself facing a common dichotomy. How do I hold simcha—true, deep joy—with grief that ran just as deep? I first had to define what simcha is to be able to find an answer to this dichotomy. Simcha is internal gladness that is continual. Happiness in its fullest sense. It is not dependent on outside factors. Simcha becomes the essence of a person if they put effort into it. Who is happy? He who is happy with what he has (Avot 4:1). Serving Hashem in this world
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should bring us joy. Mitzvos are there to bring us closer to Hashem, which should bring tremendous simcha to us. “It is a great mitzvah to be happy always and to make every effort to determinedly keep depression and gloom at bay (Likkutei Moharan II, 24).” This statement of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov has been immortalized in the popular song Mitzvah gedolah lihiyos b’simcha tamid, “It is a great mitzvah to be happy always.” In Tehillim (Psalms) 100:2, we are told ivdu es Hashem besimcha, serve Hashem with joy. A Jewish home should be a place of simcha. There are many opportunities to create a happy atmosphere in the home, whether one is single, married, has children or not. It is up to each individual person to create the feeling of being a privileged Jew in her home.
we can to bring joy to others, we bring blessing and simcha into our lives. This genuine joy comes from profound spiritual awareness and an absolute clarity of direction, living for a purpose. Holding on to the fact that Hashem tailor-made my situation for me (emunah), helped me as I figured out how to hold joy and grief at the same time. Knowing that Hashem is the one who gave me both situations, and that by focusing on the moment I could bring simcha not just to myself but to those around me, got me through the wedding.
Is it easy? No. But it is doable with small baby steps.
I missed my mother terribly, but felt her presence keenly. I knew she would want me to be happy at my daughter’s wedding, and that she was there with us (there is a custom to go to the graves of family members who have passed away to invite them to the wedding as our ancestors join us at the chuppah; my uncle in South Africa did this for us).
When we focus on the moment, allowing ourselves to dance, sing and give thanks, and do what
My clarity at that moment was knowing that Hashem wanted me to be besimcha for my daughter
even though I felt heartache as well. Both were appropriate emotions. I could just let the feelings be, and continue to function with the pain. And the joy. As we go from Purim, the time of hidden miracles, to Pesach, the time of open miracles, we need to remember that Hashem is pulling the strings behind the scenes. He has not forgotten us, and we have His promise that He will take us out of this exile as well. We have to hold on joyfully during the trying times we are all currently facing, knowing that He never abandons us and will bring us to the ultimate geulah, speedily in our days.
P R A C T I C A L S T E P S TO S I M C H A S H A C H A I M ( J OY O F L I F E ) 1. EMUNAH: Emunah comes from
Bitachon is emunah manifested in a
studying this world and seeing that
practical way - where the rubber meets
there is a Creator. G-d is intricately
the road. There are varying degrees
involved in the running of the world.
of bitachon, according to a person’s
The word emunah has the root of
degree of emunah. One person may
“amen” (aleph, mem, nun), meaning “it
have emunah that although things
is true.” It also shares a root with the
right now are not good, they are all
word uman (a “craftsman,” someone
for the good (eventually). A higher,
who is an expert in what he does).
yet more enlightened emunah is that
Emunah is a practice. It grows deeper,
everything right now is good—even
and the more you become an expert
when superficially it looks terrible.
in it, the more you accustom yourself to see all the phenomena of life as the
While I am responsible to be proactive,
manifestations of Hashem’s presence
I am not in charge of the outcome. And
and glory in the world.
so, while I do my part, I rely on Hashem to care for me. I take my heavy burden
2. BITACHON: Bitachon is a powerful
and place it with G-d.
sense of optimism and confidence based not on reason or experience, but
Bitachon takes the stage when things
on emunah. It dictates how I live my life.
seem hopeless and that there is
Michele Asa, originally from South Africa, lives in the Toco Hills neighborhood of Atlanta. She works as a family nurse practitioner and was recently certified in functional nutrition, the practice of considering aspects of diet and overall lifestyle in health care. Michele leads the Atlanta chapter of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association. An avid reader, Michele and her husband, Rabbi Ariel Asa, a mohel and sofer, have four children and multiple grandchildren.
nowhere to turn. Having emunah and
yourself finding what is right with
putting it into practice with bitachon
your life and the people around
leads to tranquility and simcha in a
you. Find something to be grateful
person’s life. It is a muscle that needs
for in the things going wrong as
to be activated and used. Be patient. It
well, and you will find Hashem’s
takes time and practice. The more you
love in every part of your life.
learn about it and implement it, the more Write at least three things down
it will impact your life.
every day to be grateful for. The to
joys and the difficulties are there to
humility. Being grateful for everything in
help us connect with Hashem. We
our lives strengthens both emunah and
can use them as stepping stones
bitachon because we choose to see the
to practice gratitude and simcha in
hand of G-d directing everything in our
lives. I can be grateful for the things that are challenging, as well as the things that
Emunah, bitachon and gratitude
are going right. Today, now, this minute.
will lead us to a life not only of simcha, but also peace of mind
Keep a gratitude journal, and you will see
and serenity of the soul.
T H I S WA S N O T THE FIRST TIME I H A D TA U G H T A CHILD WHO CARRIED THIS MUCH EMOTIONAL PA I N I N T O T H E CLASSROOM.
Cresting the Hill: Midlife Musings by: Surie Fettman
On June 25, 2019, I celebrated my 50th birthday. I was now officially middle aged. On the same day, my youngest two daughters, who are twins, turned 21. They were now legally adults. They were also both engaged to be married that summer with the first wedding scheduled in mid-July and the second in mid-August. Once they were married, I would not only be middle-aged, but also, an empty-nester. I was facing a combination of huge life milestones, while at the same time experiencing perimenopause.. That summer, I was busy helping the two kallahs prepare for their weddings, physically and emotionally. At the same time, I was getting ready to work with a new co-teacher in September, and I very much wanted to do everything I could to make our partnership a successful one. I researched and found resources specifically designed to help co-teachers plan for and achieve a successful partnership. Many hours were spent in correspondence, meeting, curriculum planning and shopping for teaching necessities. TEACHING TOGETHER As a special-ed teacher in a public school for 16 years, I had supported children in a variety of roles. In the school year of 2018-19, my second year teaching first grade with my previous co-teacher, a curve ball was thrown my way. One of our students, Michael,* , had experienced developmental trauma since birth, and was still living the same disordered and disadvantaged life when he entered first grade. This was not the first time I had taught a child who carried this much emotional pain into the classroom.
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However, it was a first for my co-teacher. She was convinced that Michael did not belong in our classroom. I, thoughhowever, saw hidden strengths masked by a tremendous amount of pain, and I knew from experience that I could help him. I wanted to help my co-teacher understand that developmental trauma could result in behaviors that were outwardly disruptive, aggressive and avoidant. I also wanted to learn as much as I could so I could help Michael heal and learn. I began to read and learn whatever I could about trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACES. Looking back, I realize that because my co-teacher and a couple of Michael’s providers were so rejecting of this little person, I became enmeshed with him. His pain was mine. This was because as a child, I, too, had been neglected, unloved and rejected. I, too, had no permanent home, and most of the adults in my life, including my teachers, had not been able to see the sensitive and intelligent person hiding beneath the sad and withdrawn little girl’s facade.
TRIALS AND TRAUMA Michael did make a lot of progress, forming secure attachments with myself and other adults in the school. He began to feel safe in school, to show his playful and gentle side, and to talk about what he was experiencing. There were regressions and many difficult moments, but the trajectory was positive. However the tension between my coteacher and I reached a tipping point, and we decided to “split up” for the next school year. This made me feel like I had failed in a big way.
F I N A L LY, I UNDERSTOOD W H AT WA S R E A L LY G O I N G ON. THE LITTLE GIRL LONG BURIED INSIDE M E WA S S T I L L IN A LOT OF PA I N .
As she watched me work with and advocate for Michael, my wise principal pointed this out to me. She said, “Sarah, I think you are letting your emotions get the better of you. You need to separate your feelings from Michael’s.”
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I was not ready to hear her.
At the same time, my research on developmental trauma helped me gain a new understanding of how my own lonely and emotionally neglectful childhood was still affecting the way I functioned and interacted with people. For many years, I had struggled with depression and anxiety, and pursued a variety of treatment options. Finally, I understood what was really going on. The little girl long buried inside me was still in a lot of pain. I began to explore that pain. Thus, I began the new school year with a new coteacher, Sharon*, who, it turned out, had really been hoping to be hired as a general education teacher in a classroom where she would teach by herself.
Her distance and unhappiness about her new role were palpable. Nevertheless, I did everything I could think of to make our relationship work. The students were thriving, but the lack of cooperation and communication between myself and Sharon was sucking the life out of me. I tend to be a people pleaser (a trauma outcome), and even gentle assertiveness was very difficult for me. As the months wore on, I felt more isolated and alone, and blamed myself for the difficulty with my co-teacher. My exhaustion increased. On top of that, I had a relapse into despair, sadness and fear, such as I hadn’t experienced for many years. Getting up each morning became increasingly difficult. Finally, on Jan. 9, 2020, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I had to apply for an extended leave of absence, and this just added to my pain; I felt like I was abandoning my first-grade charges suddenly, mid-year.
I realized that my “breakdown” was my body, and Hashem, telling me, “Surie, it’s time to take care of you.” A year later, I am still on my restoration of health leave. With the help of professionals and the support of my husband, I have been working hard on healing the hurting child within me. As Surie the adult, the wife, mother and grandmother, I am learning to set boundaries, rest, and express needs and wants. I am doing the things that stimulate my mind and nurture my soul. These include gardening, art, reading and writing. I enjoy my relationships with my grown children and a growing brood of grandchildren. Slowly, I am beginning to work again, providing academic and social coaching to individual children. I have dreams of opening a unique program for children. This time around, I am building my dreams at a slower pace, and leaving plenty of time left to take care of my own physical, emotional and spiritual health.
MID-LIFE CRISIS OF 2020 My nest was empty, my husband was at work all day, and I was alone in the house. I could barely motivate myself to get out of bed, and I spent a lot of time crying, breathing deeply and being angry at myself. After a month of this, I had an epiphany. I realized that for the entire first 50 years of my life, I had been in survival mode. First, I had to survive my childhood; then I got married to a wonderful man at the age of 18 and gave birth to my first child when I was 19. The following 31 years were dedicated to physical and emotional nurturing of my husband and children. I got married with the determination to build the kind of home that I had not had, and together with my husband, I succeeded in doing that. But I had forgotten to take care of me; I didn’t even realize that there was a little girl inside me, begging to be nurtured and loved.
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My midlife crisis has turned into a time for rebuilding myself—the beginning of a new kind of life. *names changed to protect privacy Surie Fettman is a mother, grandmother, and certified special education teacher who has been working with children in a variety of settings for over 30 years. A native Brooklynite, Surie is now living in Toms River, N.J. In her private practice, she works with individual children, their parents and teachers, facilitating social emotional skills development and providing academic intervention. Over the years, Surie has written and published a number of articles, and she is the author of “My Shabbos 123s.”
Peace in the Process by: Adina Chryslyer
No one warned me about the struggle - it’s kind of taboo, because admitting to the difficulty means acknowledging the void, the ache in one’s heart. The failed expectations, the dashed hopes and dreams. The gripping loneliness, even while surrounded by loved ones. The pain of being single. It means admitting I can’t be alone. I felt tired of the waiting, of feeling out of control, of wanting so deeply that which is normal and natural yet so out of reach. Tired of the loneliness and
desperation and fear about the future. The seemingly fruitless pursuit, the disappointment, the ongoing frustration. I found myself grasping, on a chase, like a hamster on a wheel. Hashem, I need more. Every woman has a dream and mine was no different. We are not made to be single. We are created as half of a whole with a deep desire to be rooted, grounded, a part of something bigger. Some have been in it longer some shorter, but ultimately the challenge remains the same. The
struggle is real. There is a void yearning to be filled. Burnt out, drained, I found myself searching for answers. They talk about the ‘why’. Why we experience hardship, why bad things happen to good people, but I was looking for ‘how’. How do I channel myself to feel truly at peace in a place where I am still yearning? It only takes one, it’s just a matter of time. How do I believe the things I already know? My circumstances remain the same but how do I change how I cope with them? How do I
THERE IS A P O W E R G R E AT E R THAN ME WITH A P L A N G R E AT E R THAN MINE.
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feel whole when I am really only half? The questioning brought me to a place of learning how to find total peace and contentment within the process, and nothing has changed except myself. What I thought was just a phase, I am realising to be a painful yet rewarding journey. Contrary to what many believe, struggle and growth are no contradiction. Experiencing pain does not signify weakness. Yearning does not mean I have failed. The true test is one of faith, of letting go and falling back into trust. Understanding what it really means to believe ‘it’s just a matter of time’. To ingrain in every part of my being the understanding that if I’m not married now, I am not supposed to be married now. I surrender to G-d’s calendar. There is a power greater than me with a plan greater than mine. Hashem can redeem me at any moment, but in the meantime I let go of resistance and lean in to what’s now, and now, and now. There will be pain, but ultimately when I am fully aligned with what Hashem wishes for me, that’s all it is. Painful. I eliminate the fear. The anguish, turmoil and despair melt away. The trials and tribulations are no reflection on my essence, they’re just a part of my journey, not a failure but a redirection. In place of harshness lies only sorrow for the void that is longing to be filled together with newfound patience, compassion and an overwhelming self-love. What is left is a yearning for my other half merged with a crystal
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clear clarity that where I am is right. A sense of pure serenity and calm in knowing that here is exactly where I need to be in order to embrace the unique mission I was brought to this lifetime to fulfill. Happiness has required coming to terms with sadness. In surrendering to the masterplan I retain the hope while mourning the dream, a precarious balance. I grieve for the place I wish to be. Bridging the vast divide between expectation and reality, I am learning to let go of disappointment. I am no longer chasing what isn’t, in order to be able to accept what is. In making a decision not to allow my external circumstances to affect my emotions, in trusting the salvation will come in perfect divine timing, I am continuously choosing the pathway to inner peace. On my quest to enlighten others to the gems of wisdom I have discovered, I was introduced to Chana. Across the world, Chana was seeking help following a challenging time and decided to take action by creating a support group. It sparked within her a deeper desire to give more. Transcending from a place of darkness into light, together we created Peace in the Process-a transformational four-week program providing the tools that cultivate this Emunah mindset. Sometimes we face stumbling blocks that hold us back from moving forward. We need to sit with the pain, drop the
judgements, transform our beliefs to be able to really soar. Our course offers you the opportunity to discover that which is weighing you down, enabling you to cut out the background noise and fully embrace where you are. We aspire to guide you on your own journeys of finding peace and tranquility during this phase of life, helping you to gain clarity in your circumstance, learn to be truly ok in the moment and essentially open channels for blessing. The waiting days are over. Let’s get off the wheel and surrender into trust, into a place of simply being. For we don’t chase happiness, we create it. For more information visit peaceintheprocess.com. You can contact Adina and Chana or enquire about the next course by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Born in South Africa,, Adina Chrysler is an aspiring designer, copywriter and transformational life coach in training. She is passionate about seizing the moments of each day. When she is not problem solving or busying herself with creative pursuits, you can find her on the yoga mat devoting time to learning the art of true surrender. She possesses a particular affinity for the rich culture and beautiful landscapes of Italy, and it’s never a real holiday if she hasn’t been horseback riding. She currently resides with her family in Manchester, England.
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