About the Blog: This blog has been a long time coming … many iterations, many platforms, many false starts over the past decade or so … The paradox: when life gets really juicy, interesting, and worth writing about, it also becomes challenging, complicated, and messy and who has the time to really think about it, let alone write.
I’m a late bloomer. I did what everyone expected of my in my first 3 decades. I got good grades, participated in lots of activities, received undergraduate and graduate degrees from highly reputable universities, had a successful career, was well-liked and invited to join numerous organizations, became “president” of nearly every organization I ever joined, was asked to speak at important venues, got married, and bought a house. In my early 30s, I gave birth to two wonderful boys and dedicated most of my time to ensuring they had my undivided attention. I was raised on the notion that it was best for a mom to stay at home and raise her kids (which I recognize is also a sign that I came from privilege and a two-parent paradigm). At the same time, I came of age in the era of “women can do/have it all!” Another paradox; and this one dogged me. I was no longer Jessica; I was Mom. And as much as I loved those boys, I also wanted to be me – to keep exploring and growing into whatever that meant.
So there I was … we had “the American dream” – a house, two cars, two kids, lots of friends, and lots of nice stuff. I think I was happy, and I also remember being lonely and feeling less and less room to grow … I am generally a very positive, optimistic person who gets tickled in the best way by the smallest things. And, at the same time, I was also getting hung up on the little things which could make me anxious or angry or devastated. As I recall, there were lots and lots of little things of both varieties … however, I knew I needed to nourish my growing edge ~ a hunger for a spiritual container to appreciate all of the little things that brought joy and cultivate practices that helped me live well with the little (and big) challenges … as I pursued this nourishment, something began to shift.
In my 40s, I started to feel my roots grow deeper, my core strengthen, my heart and imagination branch out, and my soul soar. I chafed against the confines of a marriage where I inhabited a strictly defined space, where things worked best when it was “my fault” and I was “sorry” all the time, and when I stuck to the script of being the “leggy lawyer” he had married. Growing and changing hadn’t been well negotiated in that contract, and unless I was prepared to spend the rest of my life being small enough to fit back into the me who I was at 30, it became ever clearer that I needed to do something dramatic. In 2010, I found the courage to move out of a wildly spinning eddie of guilt and self-blame where I was stuck within the choices I made before I really got to know my “big-girl self.” Unfortunately, that was also the year that I chose to seriously pursue the emerging rabbi that was already growing within me and in my community. I say, “unfortunately,” because the proximity of these two monumental undertakings allowed some to draw the conclusion that I was leaving my marriage for Judaism, which was NOT the case.
I have always loved writing as an outlet and creative process and life was calling me to write about my experiences in the sacred messiness of my recovering litigator ~ emerging rabbi identity. But it felt too self-indulgent, too hackneyed in this era of “the blog.” So I self-sabotaged, a process at which I am expert!
Fast-forward 6 years … I find myself writing all the time to share that which wells up inside of me amidst the opportunities that I have to study, pray, work, dream, collaborate across faith-traditions, cultures, generations, ideologies. Facebook and the website of my wee congregation (The Little Minyan Kehilla) have been the primary fora for this. As a result, I find people following my writings and asking for a concise way to keep track of what I am doing as I head to Israel in a few days. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try the blog approach again.
About the name: Holding the Fringes is the name of the sacred business I established to support and serve those who live both at the center and on the fringes of 21st Century Progressive Judaism, and to support myself and my children. As I say on my website, holdingthefringes.com:
Jewish wisdom tradition places value on customs that assist us in creating sacred time and space and in weaving deep connections. A tallit (prayer shawl) is worn by many Jews while we pray in the mornings and at other sacred times. When we gather the fringes (tzitzit) at the four corners of the tallit, we symbolically unite the four corners of the Earth ~ those places that are most disparate ~ bringing them together in love. Holding the knots and twists of the tzitzit between our fingers, we grasp an ancient ritual technology that can connect us with our ancestors, our children’s children, and the deepest recesses of our inner being. The symbolic energy of the tallit is utilized in lifecycle rituals including weddings, baby namings and brit milah, b’nei mitzvah services, and funerals.