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Elizabeth's Blog
Friday, January 21, 2005

Based on a conversation I had tonight with Rachael Bregman, this quote inspired me to think about my relationships with others, and particular relationships in my life:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you

I try to live a life without regrets. And sometimes that means taking risks in life, and stepping outside your comfort zone to let things in that will be meaningful to you. I've taken some real chances in my life that have definately paid off...but it doesn't mean that it wasn't scary for me or didn't make me feel vulnerable. It just reminded me that in order to get the things you need to be aware of what your needs are and never be afraid to seek those needs.

And most importantly, recognize your worth. When that's recognized, you will no longer doubt what you need to do in order to become who you need to be.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by Elizabeth at 11:38 PM
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Thursday, January 20, 2005
What a crazy week
Now Playing: Vertical Horizon - Best I ever Had
This has definately been a crazy way to come back to HUC. First of all, there was all sorts of balagan (hebrew for craziness) with me taking my bible final. Luckily, everyone was very flexible and all got resolved (it ended up being one big miscommunication mess)...but it was a little stressful for a while. But, at least it's checked off the list of things to do. Then, starting yesterday, we've been doing our mid-year colloquium. I thought it would be a nice way to come back from break...but, truthfully, it's really tiring. I mean, it's interesting stuff...but it's just exhausting me every day. We are dealing with a lot of personal and professional issues that come up in Reform Judaism and are struggling with some big stuff. Then, each night after we are done, we have "Vagina Monologue" rehearsals very late into the evening. I was at HUC last night until about midnight. That's 15 hours I was at school...that's just too much HUC time. I hope tonight's rehearsal isn't that long!!!! On top that, one of my closest friends from camp, Brian Immerman, is coming into town tonight. Now, I know I don't have to be his tour guide or anything...but he's my friend, and I want to spend time with him. He also knows a lot of other people in my program, and others in Israel/ it will be good to have him around, but it will just add to my busy schedule.

Next week, I found out that I have two tests, on top of more rehearsals (where our scripts are now memorized...addded pressure!!!) and have to really prepare with Leah for our service the week after that. And right, I have school too!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!

The nice thing is that I'm getting to see lots of people in the next few weeks. Brian is coming, and my friend Dan Schwartz is here for the colloquium (he's a 2nd year student in Cincy and is helping us all out), and my friend Phyllis is coming next week to Jerusalem. So that's nice. And I've been able to meet some lovely new people. The 2nd year student from the New York campus, Rebecca Robbins, used to live in our apartment building last year. So a few nights ago she came over (because she was really friendly with the people in OUR apartment and wanted to see it). It was a really nice opportunity to sit down with her and talk about the realities of being back in the states as a student, and hear about all the gossip from last year...and just get some new perspective about this whole place and experience. And...she was really cool, I enjoyed meeting her. I've also had a chance to meet Rick Sarason, a professor at the HUC-Cincinnati campus, who knows my friends the Lipson-Walkers, very well. He's very intelligent and it's been delightful getting to know him and hear him speak.

We had our "state-side campus" dinners last night which was nice and scary all at the same time. It was nice, because I have some great friends coming with me to Cincinnati. It was scary because it was sort of like: Oh wow, I'm going to be spending the next 4 years with these same 14 other people. There are a lot more people going to the LA and NY campuses, but they sort of felt like that too, I heard. And it was hard facing the reality that in a few months, there are a lot of people...very close friends, in fact...that I'm just not going to be in class with over the next four years. And that was really hard. Karen (going to LA) even had to call me last night because she had this realization that we weren't going to be together...and it was hard for her. This from a 35 year old woman with a family and life in LA...and she was upset too!!!!
Reality just sort of bit us all in the face a little too much last night.

This year has been great, but it's not what the majority of my time at HUC will be any means. Sometimes, I feel so lucky to be here, to have this incredible experience. To be given the opportunity to experiment and struggle and to dream and to learn and to meet incredible people and experience wonderful things. And even though my life is hectic, and I've been getting no sleep lately (partially due to jet-lag, and partially cause I've had no time) and I'm tired all the's great...and it's finite. And although I know that being in the states is where i need to be and is what will help me accomplish my dream, and will lead to memories and a life of it's own, it's hard to think about that right now.

Right now I just have to look at what's in front of me, and face all those challenges and experiences head on, with both eyes open, with ears perked, and with no regrets!!!!

Off to rehearsal...have a great day/night!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 7:33 PM
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Saturday, January 15, 2005
Back in Ritz Ritz
Now Playing: Mike and the Mechanics - All I need is a Miracle
I am back in Israel. I have been gone for two weeks, and it feels really good to be back. Home was nice, but it was sort of weird, because my life isn't there least not this year. So the whole time I felt like a visitor to this life that I wasn't used to. It was also broken up very weirdly, and I didn't really get as much done as I had hoped. At first, I was consumed by my family and friends and the New Years stuff that we did. Then I got sick for a few days...I mean, really SICK. I had to go to the doctor twice in less than 24 hours (and I barely ever go to the doctor). It wasn't exactly the flu, but it was flu-like and I was all feverish and snotty and gross. But once the powerful antibiotics kicked in, I was doing much better. Than my grandmother came for like a day and a half on her way back from Arizona. That was really nice, but again very rushed. Then we had this crazy ice storm and snow storm (nothing says welcome back to the midwest than that!) and so i stayed inside a lot and didn't really do anything. Then, it was time for me to go back to chicago and spend a day or two with Michael, Phyl, and David before I got my flight back to Israel. So I guess, I sort of feel like...I didn't really do anything. It's like I have nothing to show for my two weeks home except that I feel less sick than before I left.
I got to see one of my best and oldest friends, Tamar, who I hadn't seen in about 2 years (our studying abroad overlapped) and that was really nice to spend time with her and her family. I also go to see my friend Courtney for a little bit...but that was about it. Everything just felt so rushed, and like there was no real substance to it anyway. And by the end, I felt really ready to come back to Jerusalem. I missed a lot of my friends here (because remember that my brother was here for two weeks right before I I haven't had a normal life here in over a month!), and a lot of my life here. It was a weird feeling..sort of all blah all the time.
And it's not that I wasn't happy to be home, and to see my family and spend time with my mom and my dad, and see how they are doing and what's going on in their lives. It just all felt so unsettling in a lot of ways.
Myabe I'm already dreading living here in about 4 1/2 months. I mean, I've already spend 6 1/2 months here, and I love my life and school, and the things i am doing. It's going to be very hard to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the year, and to say goodbye to living here in Israel. And it will come and go before I even know it. I have so much to do this semester, and I know that with every little thing that I accomplish and do, it will get me one step closer to the place I need to be, while simultaneously bringing my one step closer to ending my experience this year.
These next few weeks alone are going to be very busy. I have several guests coming in the next few weeks, I still have to take my bible final on Monday, we have this colloquiem thing all next week, I have to memorize and perform my piece in the "Vagina Monologues" in early February, and I'm leading services at the end of January. For March I need to write my D'var Torah and prepare for more visitors (my high school teacher and his wife are coming to Israel!!!) And on top of all that, I have to do normal school stuff, try to see the country, and have a life. And eventually, by April and May, I need to think about packing, and all of my preparations for going home (and I'm chanting a lot of Haftorah at the end of the semester). Whew, I get tired just thinking about it...but i love it too! I'm really happy here this year. And even though things can get stressful...that's life, life is always stressful, but at least I enjoy all of what i am doing.

So, I guess I'm trying to say that even though my break wasn't what I expected, it was still pleasant. And I'm glad to be back home in Israel. And even though things will be stressful for the next few weeks..I can totally handle it. And I'm looking forward to every minute of it!!!

"Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? --- Carpe --- hear it? --- Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary." ~Dead Poets Society

Posted by Elizabeth at 4:48 PM
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Sunday, December 26, 2004
I miss my brother :(
Mood:  blue
Now Playing: Shower the People you love with love - James Taylor
My brother just left, and it was hard saying goodbye to him. I mean, i've had to say a log of goodbye's in the past year, and i'm getting pretty good at it. But there is something hard about saying goodbye to your brother who came all the way to Israel to visit you for two weeks. It was his first time here, and I tried to make it memorable and enjoyable for him. I know that because I was in school, I wasn't able to do as much with him, all day every day, as I would have liked. But we did some traveling, we did the Jerusalem hot spots, he got to meet and spend time with my friends, see where i go to school and what i do in school, and understand what my life is like here this year. Part of me wishes that more of my family could have that opportunity too, but I'm glad that at least he was able to be here with me. And even though I am so fortunate to have him visit, it's really hard having to say goodbye too. And even though I will see him again at home in like literally 3 days, it won't be the same. His girlfriend will be there, our parents, and it will be totally different dynamics...and i'll only get to see him for about a day or so. But it won't be the same.
I guess I'm really lucky to have such a nice brother. He left his new girlfriend to spend two weeks with me, which i know was hard on him, and we had a great time. And he's a great big brother...I'm very lucky.

I'm also probably super emotional right now because of all the stress in life. It's finals week and on Wednesday I am returning to the states for 2 weeks to spend time with my family. So not only do I have to worry about packing, and getting ready to leave for break, but I also have to deal with finals before all of it. And I'm pretty safe in assuming that I'm not the only one who feels slightly overwhelmed right now. We've never taken finals at this institution and a lot of us overachievers feel unprepared and overworked and just plain nervous. But, we are doing out best.

I think my favorite part of his visit was when he and I would lay on my bed and bring my laptop into the bed and watch "Sports Night" DVDs while I would do homework, or study, or before I went to bed. We would just hang around and do what we do best....hang out with and laugh with each other. I've missed that.
I also got a chance to see parts of Israel that had become old habit to me, and see them through new eyes. I was able to be a semi-tour-guide-sister and I was able to do new and cool things. I guess the conclusion is...more people need to come and visit me!!!!

Okay, I would love to sit around and cry more about my brother's departure, but unfortunately, I need to go be productive. Good luck with finals this week, everyone, and those of you on break or on holiday or whatever...enjoy your time off and your time with loved ones!!!!! I Know i did!!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 9:18 PM
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Monday, December 20, 2004
The week thusfar
Now Playing: It was You - D. Nichols
My brother and I went to the Israel Museum on Friday and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Shrine of the Book. Then we went to Kol Hanishama for services Friday night. It was a lovely day all in all. Then Saturday, we woke up and went to services at HUC. I chanted Torah for the first time ever, and it was a lot of fun. I mean, I was a bit nervous, but it was cool having Jeffrey up there, saying the blessings before and after my Torah portion. And I worked hard on it these past few weeks, so it was nice to see that I was able to do a good job with it. But don't worry if you missed it...I have the whole rest of my life to chant Torah for you!!!!
Yesterday, I decided that it would be good for me to go to class, since it's the last week of the semester and all, and so I got some work done and went to class and Jeffrey met me for Cantillation class and then we went and worked out in the bomb shelter. After that, we went to eat at Little Italy and I came home, wrote a paper and crashed. I've been so tired lately. It's probably a combination of having been sick, lots of stress at the end of the semester, and a true lack of sleep over the past week or so.
Today I have lots of class again today, and I think Jeffrey is just going to bum around the Old City, and maybe go on a walking tour or something. I'm not done with class until 6pm tonight, and then I have tons of homework (Mondays are always hard) so it won't be too exciting for Jeffrey....but some days are just like that. I think he's going to go with me to classes tomorrow and then we may head off to Ben Yehuda street and teh Shuk and whatnot. On Wednesday, we are probably going to go to Yad Vashem and Har Herzl (although it's reallyt cold, so we'll see...) So we're just having busy little lives here!!! But it's been a lot of fun so far, and I'm getting a lot of my work done now too...or at least trying!!!! Have a great week everyone!!!! :)

Posted by Elizabeth at 8:24 AM
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Thursday, December 16, 2004
My brother is in the HOLY LAND!!!!
Mood:  spacey
Now Playing: Cranberries- Ode to my family
It's true...MY BROTHER IS HERE IN ISRAEL!!!!! And it's so nice to have him here. It's really a great feeling just having him here in my apartment, being at school with me, meeting all my friends, and getting a real glimpse at what my life this year is like.

Tuesday morning my friend Lisa and her mom and I drove to the airport (yup...I rented a car!!!) to pick Jeffrey up. The new terminal is beautiful and it was great getting to meet him at the airport. Then we all drove down to Masada and the Dead Sea. The Judean desert is absoutely beautiful!!!! We also had to stop in the middle of the road because goats were crossing with their shephard. It was a little surreal. When we got to Masada we hiked up the Roman Ramp and spent about an hour on top looking at the ruins and enjoying the scenery. Then we decided to go have lunch in Arad and Jeffrey had his first official falafel...the boy just loves it!!! At least one of us does....
By the time we got to the Dead Sea, it was about 4pm and the sun was beginning to set. Now, despite what many people told me....the weather and the water was freezing!!!! But all four of us got in anyway!!!! We weren't in for too long, but it was really fun for the 10 minutes we were in.
Yesterday I drove Lisa's mom to the airport and then Jeffrey and I came home and went grocery shopping like true Israelis (meaning we had a car with us, instead of having to take a cab or walking with a million groceries). That was so liberating, and it made me feel like a civilized person who truly lives in Israel!!! Then, last night we went to my professor Paul's house to participate in a simulation game for my Contemporary Middle Easter culture fascinating and fun!!!
This morning I let Jeffrey sleep in while I took a hebrew test, and then he met me at school and we walked to the Old City. We went though the Armenian and Jewish quarters and then down to the Western Wall. It was so cool to see all of my brother's reactions to everything, including the wall. There is really nothing like that first time of being there, and it's nice to be reminded of that every once in a while. I think tonight we are going to go out and do our usual Thursday night activities which include dinner, going to Zolly's (bar), and then maybe Heleni's for dancing or a movie or something. I gotta show my brother how rabbincal students have fun!!!!!

I've realized a lot of new and interesting things since having a visitor here. For one, I really do know a lot of hebrew and can converse very well and translate very well for him. I'm so used to being with others that speak at least some hebrew, but it's a totally different experience being in this country with someone who really doesn't understand any of it. It's really nice to feel like i have such a grasp of the language that I can be a good translator..YAY HEBREW!!!! Second, driving here was so much fun!!!! I mean, israeli's are some of the craziest drivers I have EVER encountered and they will come all up in your lane (even when you are in your own lane) but it's really given me a sense of normalcy here. Driving back from Tel Aviv yesterday morning, just me and the highway, and my cd's was so nice and very relaxing...and totally liberating!!! It made me feel like I really live here. And on the way home from the Dead Sea, I only got lost once...but don't worry, we turned back before we got too close to the West Bank. I think I might rent a car more often!!!!!!
Third, I haven't been to class so much in the last few days, but that's okay. My semester is almost over, and a lot of my work is done, so it's not such a big deal. Next week I'll be in class more, and I'll book more independent tours for Jeffrey so he can get to see more of the city than I really have time or knowledge to show him. Finally, I realized that I really do know a lot about this city, and I'm learning so much about Judaism and about Israel and about being a rabbinical student, and I think these changes are pretty evident. It's nice to get have an outside indicator of how I'm growing, maturing, what I'm learning, and what I'm doing.
Okay, well I think we are going to nap a bit before we go out tonight. I'll try to update again in the next few days. For now, just go check out our pictures from the past few days (we have lots!!!) and have a great day!!!! :)

Posted by Elizabeth at 5:14 PM
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Wednesday, December 8, 2004
Channukah Break
Mood:  rushed
Now Playing: Tonic- If you could only see
It's officially my Channukah break. I'm officially on paper lockdown. I'm also officially sick. And my brother officially comes in 6 days!!!!! So I need to get some stuff done over this break. Luckily, I've written most of my Israel Seminar paper today, and I just have to go back to the library tomorrow to research books for my liturgy bibliography paper, and get some other stuff done. So, it's not so much of a break, as it is time for me to catch up or work ahead so I don't get bogged down with stuff while Jeffrey is here. That, and I need to rest. I will NOT be sick when he is here. Besides, it's just a cough....that'll clear up in no time, right???? RIGHT!!!! I'm intent on being productive in all of my endeavors during this break!!!

Anyway, Happy Channukah to those celebrating!!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 6:15 PM
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Monday, December 6, 2004
This fainting thing has got to stop
Now Playing: Cranberries -Ode to my family
I don't know what is happening to our class. I can only hope it's a virus or something. But, I have seen 6 (yes that's right...6!!!!) of my classmates either pass out or almost pass out in the last week!!!! The first one was pretty scary (well, you can read Josh's Blog - to read more about Sara's fainting adventures) but we thought that it was a totaly one time thing. Then, last Saturday, during Shabbat morning services, my friend David felt like he was going to pass out and got all hot and cold at the same time. No fun.
Then, today during services my classmate Erin G. was giving her D'var Torah and she kept pauing in weird places. Finally, she stopped (in the middle) and closed her eyes and looked like she was going down when some people behind her came to help her out of the synagogue. Then, perhaps in reaction to that, her roomate Jen (who I was sitting next to) was feeling like she wasn't doing so well and had to sit down for a while. And at lunch, we had another one almost go down!!!!
I'm telling's a little unnerving. The doctors think it's either dehydration or a bug or something, but the scary part is that most everyone who this has happened to has felt fine beforehand. So I think people sort of have this feeling of like: who's gonna be next?
I, luckily, feel fine. I'm not a fainter, have never felt in my life like I was going to faint, and so I'm not too worried about it. Besides, people's bodies deal really differently with different germs (or whatever this is) so I'm just trying to get plenty of sleep, drink lots and lots of fluids, eat well, and not share anything with anyone. The truth is, there's not much else to do. The bizarre thing is that this is happening at another school here in Jerusalem. So whatever it is, hopefully this is the last of it!!! Thank goodness for Hannukah break that's coming up soon.

I'm not going anywhere for break...I'm staying here and I'm going to be on lockdown!!! My brother is coming next tuesday and so I want to get a lot of papers and work out of the way before his arrival. That, and just resting and chilling out a lot.
Okay, off to go be productive for the night!!!!
Everyone be well and take care of yourself...and if you feel lightheaded....for goodness sake...sit down!!!!!

Posted by Elizabeth at 8:40 PM
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Friday, December 3, 2004
Choice through Knowledge
Now Playing: Craig Taubman - Shalom Rav
So today, I let it all out. I totally let what's been building up inside of me for the last five months out. It was like word vomit. (Why do I love the movie "Mean Girls" so much that I have to quote it in everything I do????) I will try my best to get the highlights out to you, but keep in mind that it was about a 2 hour conversation with many, many different people about a wide variety of topics. So if you are brave enough, read on.

I'm going to be the first one to publicly I in a Reform Jewish Seminary that supports choice through knowledge? Maybe the institute does, but does everyone in this institute support the personal choices that I make? Like my last entry, I talked a lot in my outburst today about choices and making them during T'fillot. For example, there are some things that I, and my classmates, are doing this year that we've never done before and that we might not ever do again. So...why do we do it? I am not against learning this year..not by any means. In fact, quite the opposite. I think it is important that we learn as much as we can about the traditions Judaism has, across the board. But then we, as Reform Jews, need to have the tolerance to say to each other "WE CHOOSE TO/NOT TO DO THIS!!!!" And we need to respect other people's choices.
I was talking to one or two people about this, and I was getting so worked up and so adament about my positons, I was sort of drawing a crowd. And people were like, Amen Sister. Or...right on! go girl!!! It turns out I'm not the only one who feels this way. So why haven't we been vocal about it? Why do we keep saying the longer Birkat Hamazon at HUC events when there appear, to me, to be so many people that are uncomfortable with it? Why have I felt so swept into all of my new learning, that I forgot what my Judaism means to me...the ability to choose what feels right and meaningful and spiritual for me. And those of you that know me, know that I am a strong and confident person who is not afraid to speak my why has this been such a challenge for me? And if i'm struggling with all of this, who knows how other people are dealing with it.
I also think that it's very hush-hush this year, to veer away from traditonal Judaism and more towards the Reform Judaism that many of us know and are comfortable with, because we are in Israel, and some of us don't feel valid here as Reform Jews. Israelis don't understand progressive Judaism like Americans do. (Not that they alwasy do such a good job either...) People sometimes ask if we pray to Jesus, or are appalled that as a woman I have the nerve to become a rabbi. And so i think we are caught in these shells. We are trying to protect ourselves from the more hostile greater community of Jerusalem/Israel and we forget that we are here this year to experiement, to learn, and to choose. And that we shouldn't be afraid of making personal choices for ourselves, even if no single other student makes that same choice. I mean, isn't that the beauty of Reform Judaism???

I have this theory (that i developed today) that when people learn something new, they are impressed by it. They want to share it with others. It gives one the ability to say..hey, I know why we do this. For example...I understand now why before the Amidah some people take three steps backward, or why during some prayers people bow, or why people sit (or stand) during this prayer. And for some reason, it validates their actions to incorporate this newly learned piece of information. And maybe they feel that if they don't do the action that they have learned about, it means that they are uneducated, or invalid, or doing it wrong. But I think it's time we stop doing this. I think that we need to not only learn why things are done in Judaism, but also whether or not we WANT to incorporate these newly learned things into our Judaic or spiritual life. And if the answer is no..that's okay. And if the answer is yes...that's okay. Far be it from me to judge what is right or wrong for you.

So don't judge me or my actions either. I am simply making educated choices about my Judaism and the way I want to live my Judaic, spiritual, and personal life. And I'm telling you, world, I am no longer afraid to really start thinking about and making those choices. Choice through knowledge...there's nothing more powerful than that.

Posted by Elizabeth at 1:30 AM
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Wednesday, December 1, 2004
Prayer and the rabbinate
Now Playing: Indigo Girls - Closer to Fine
I had the best realization in liturgy the other day. We were debating some issues in the liturgy of Reform Judaism and whether current practices were similar to those of the old reformers. We talked a lot about what we know as individuals, what we think the movement does liturgically and where we think the Reform/Progressive Movement of Judaism is headed. And the truth is, right now is a very exciting time, liturgically speaking, for Reform Judaism. A new prayerbook is in the works (even though there are many drafts out there) called "Mishkan T'fillah" and in the next few years, the Reform Movement will have adopted this book as our prayerbook. In fact, my class is the first HUC class to be using this book, rather than Gates of Prayer, to learn from and conduct our services from. This all caused me to think about the evolution of prayer and liturgy and about how me and my contemporaries are going to be very influential in the next several years, in terms of the liturgy that we use, the minhag that we develop from using this prayerbook and the liturgy included in it, and the views we have about using this new prayerbook. What an empowering and inspirational feeling!!!! There is such a positive energy in knowing that I get to make decisions in the next several years with this sort of brand new slate, and that I truly am the future leadership of Reform Judaism!!!! I mean, I knew all of this already, but it was so refreshing to have this ephiphany in liturgy know that what i ma studying and what I am doing really has a greater significance to it than just me earning grades and getting training for a profession.

Reform Judaism, I am proud to say, has come to be a kind of Judaism that deals a lot with choice. Choice through knowledge. I am learning so much this year, and i know that i may not always do or feel comfortable with all that I am learning and the new customs that are old traditions for some but new for me. But that's the beauty of choice...when you know what things are for, why they are there, and what their purpose is, that's when you get to make your choice. Is this right for me? Do I want to be this type of rabbi or that type of rabbi? In cantorial class the other day, someone made a comment about knowing why we do things so that with confidence we can say "I understand that we do it this way, but I CHOOSE not to do that." I think that this year I forgot all about my love of choice in Reform Judaism. Like I'm afraid to reject things that are uncomfortable for me because I am learning that they are in place for a reason. Just because they are there and NOW I know about things I didn't know before, doesn't neccesarily mean that I have to chose to do those things. I can't be afraid of choosing what feels right for me. Because if I am not empowered to make choices that are right for me, as a future Jewish clergy person, how will others gain the confidence to do it for themselves? None of us should be afraid of making choices that are different from school, in work, in life.

Posted by Elizabeth at 8:20 PM
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