Episode 3.1 Transcript

Where Have You Been? (Season 3 Opener)

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Rabbi Marci Bellows: Welcome to the very first Women Rabbis Talk podcast in quite some time! It has been a while! I’m one of your hosts, Rabbi Marcy Bellows and with me, as always, is 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Rabbi Emma Gottlieb! And we’re excited to be back and to be looking at each other and to be talking with all of you. Hi, Marci! We had an email a while back already from Ziva, one of our listeners, who says, “Hello, I’m a big fan. I’ve reached out to you before. And I’m over here wondering and hoping you guys will be back soon. Any plans for 2022? Hope all is excellent with you both!” 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Well, thanks Ziva, for emailing. We love hearing from our fans. It’s crazy that we have fans. And it’s awesome to hear from everybody. Good question. Where have we been? Well, it’s not a funny story. I was gonna say it’s kind of a funny story. It’s not a funny story. It’s kind of just a story. Right after High Holy Days, which were a little, you know, crazy this year anyway, because once again, we all had the various COVID considerations of in-person, live-streaming, etc. I think my long term back issues just kind of bottomed out. As some of you may recall, I was in a bad car accident 2004. And I had spinal fusion surgery for the first time in 2007, to repair what had happened in my spine in that accident. And look, I got 14 awesome years out of that fusion, which, yeah, like whohoo, the original surgeon had told me, I’d maybe get 5 to 10. So I was already ahead of the game. But right after High Holy Days, my left leg decided to just stop working. It’s like, No thanks, I’m out. I couldn’t put any pressure on it or any weight on it, I was hospitalized for a week after that injury, only to find out that it was time for another fusion. The first fusion had been L5-S1, for those of you who know these terms, and this one was going to be L4-L5, the level immediately above, and it was going to be a two-day long procedure. They were gonna go in from the front on day one. And a general surgeon had to be present to kind of, you know, move my organs out of the way so that the surgeon could reach my spine from the front. Don’t think about it too much. It’s way too creepy. It creeps me out. And then on day two, they were going to flip me over like I don’t know, a rotisserie chicken, and then get in from – 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb:  A pancake! 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: I was going to be a pancake, a crepe. They were going to do the fusion and like, fortify it from the back. I also was told I needed a three month medical leave. And thank God my community, my congregation has continued to be incredibly patient and loving and compassionate. And I just started back at work last week, just a few days ago, I am pretty tired, but really, really happy to be back. Really happy to experience healing. And one of the best parts is being back here with you, Emma, my darling. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Well, I know I’ve heard from other listeners, not just Ziva, who said how much they miss us. And I’ve missed you. Not exactly, because we talk all the time in our just personal friendship. But I’ve missed this space that we’ve created, and this work that we have been doing together. And it’s really nice to be back in this weird zoom world with you. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: It is nice to be back here. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And that’s where we’ve been everyone. And thank you for missing us for those who reached out. And thank you for new listeners who said like I’m really enjoying the podcast. But it seems like there’s only two seasons, is there going to be more? And all these things. So yes, the answer is yes, we have episodes in the can. And also I guess just to issue it, a thank you to our guests who recorded with us quite a while back now whose episodes haven’t yet aired. And we hope to be able to still air those even though they will be like, of a time, and then we’ve got plans for the future. So they’ll probably be a brief hiatus between this episode and the official launch of season three, I guess, while we do some finalizing of our season three plans, but we wanted to update everyone and just sort of whet your appetites for more amazing conversations with amazing female rabbis to come! 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Absolutely. In line with what Women’s Rabbinic Network is also thinking about, we want to focus even more on women-identifying rabbis and non-binary rabbis, and how does their experience mirror and differ from the experience of women rabbis in our movement, in the Reform movement, because there’s a lot of really amazing stuff happening even in just the few months since we’ve last put up an episode. There have been some major changes, some big news in the Reform movement that impacts a lot of what we tend to cover on our episodes, so lots of late-breaking stuff will be coming out soon. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Absolutely. And there have been some amazing and also some horrifying things that have happened in the Jewish world. We may circle back and talk about those and reflect back even though they passed by and hopefully are safely consigned to the past, but but that they impact our colleagues and ourselves. We’ll talk about those things. So Marci, what are you thinking about? 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: One of the things that has always been really difficult for me is taking the time and space I need in order to care for myself to allow myself to heal adequately before rushing back to work. I know I touched on this last year when I was battling COVID. And you may remember the brain injury I had. Yeah, it’s it’s been a time. I’m reminded of this Inside Amy Schumer sketch for those of you who ever watched the show, where she shows a panel of smart educated women who are participating in the discussion. And these women are presumably at the forefront of their fields. And yet, with every answer that they give to the moderators questions, they all start with, “Sorry”, and they’re unsure of themselves the entire time. The modertor even pronounces one of the women’s names incorrectly as “Meegan”. And she says, “Oh, sorry, it’s Megan”. And he, the male moderator got her name wrong. Why is she apologizing? And the entire bit continues in this way. And of course, as good comedians do, it elevates and escalates as the sketch goes on. At one point, a woman coughs up a little bit and requests water. And an assistant brings a Diet Coke, and she apologizes for being such a diva. But she’s allergic to caffeine. So the assistant next brings a steaming cup of coffee, clearly still caffeinated, which she cannot drink. And one of the other panelists offers to drink it, the assistant then spills it all over her, resulting in terrible burns. But the burned woman apologizes for just disturbing the whole panel. And I just love it. Because I think for so many of us, our natural inclination for whatever reason, we are taught to apologize for our very presence for our very existence. And lest we think in the slightest way that we have inconvenienced someone, we apologize. Even when someone is being generous to us or giving, we still might say, “Oh, I’m sorry, can I please get, you know, that salt over there?” Instead of just saying, “can you please pass the salt.” We apologize for even having a need at all. And this is something I’ve worked on quite a bit. I’m by no means done with this. I think it’s a lifelong struggle for many of us. But I think there’s so many places where we can be saying thank you, or maybe even nothing at all, instead of immediately saying, “I’m sorry”. One of the other places where I know I often do this in an elevator. If I walk in, and I happen to just now take up space in the elevator, or need to get off said elevator, I apologize. Even though that’s what the elevators for. It’s to get on the elevator, travel some distance up or down, and then get off. But I will apologize for even needing to do that. I know that now that I’m back at work, I’ve worked hard not to say “I’m sorry” for the time that I’m away, though I may feel bad. And that addresses another issue which is just guilt about needing self-care and serious healing from a serious surgery. But instead, I really want to focus on saying “thank you”. “Thank you for giving me the time I needed to heal,” rather than, “I’m so sorry, I needed three months off”. “Thank you for all of your generous offers of meals, of shopping, of entertaining our son”, instead of saying, “oh my god, I’m so sorry. We need this extra help”. Right? It’s it’s taking the same need the same sentiment, and yet you’re flipping it, and instead of making yourself feel bad, you’re just expressing gratitude to the person who has been kind and hopefully, hopefully understands what you’ve been going through. So I hope that we all can think about all the times we say “I’m sorry”, in our lives. All the times we second-guess our own needs and apologize for our own needs, instead of just declaring them, just owning them, or even just saying “thank you” for when those needs are met. And hopefully we will all continue to do our own Tikun, our own repairs, and allow our words to carry life-affirming power and goodness. Every single day. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amen. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Amen! 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Well, well Marci, I am a woman and I’m Canadian, so I’m doubly sorry. And also when I’m sorry I’m also soh-rry. And, yes, I share the struggle. I like you said and you know you read about it and the feminist books and you hear it discussed and you say, “Oh, I know, I do that and do it too often”, but it’s really, really hard to correct in ourselves. And the time where I finally said to myself, “this is getting ridiculous”, was, I think my first year living here in Cape Town, and I was walking down the street. And there was a man who likely lives on the street, and was going through like the trash can on the sidewalk, and had made a very big mess around, and I had to go around him and the mess to get where I was going. And as I went by, I said, like, “so sorry, just coming through!” And then I was like, wait, why? Like, I am sorry for his circumstances. But that’s not what I was apologizing for. I was like, this is actually ridiculous that I’m apologizing to this person who has made it kind of difficult to get by, for perhaps very valid reasons. But still, yeah, it was like a real moment of noticing. I’m sure that I still apologize too often, but I do also try to think about different language to use in those moments. I try to do more, “Excuse me, coming through”, you know, to still be polite, but not apologetic, and also to to consciously have things in my life that I’m not apologetic for, and to to just be taking more confident ownership of who I am and how much space I take up and the value that I bring and the like it or not like it. “Sorry, not sorry”, is a thing that I sometimes embrace. Good things for all people to think about. But definitely relevant to women in the rabbinate. I’m sure all of our colleagues had moments of apologizing when they didn’t need to. Rabbi Marci Bellows Nope. Nope. Rabbi Emma Gottlieb And didn’t even notice that they were. Rabbi Marci Bellows Wow that’s a whole other thing. Yep. When it’s just so I don’t know, just a knee jerk response when somebody bumps into you, and you apologize. “I’m so sorry. I was taking up space and in your way.” Rabbi Emma Gottlieb Sorry that my physical form was where you wanted to be.” Rabbi Marci Bellows So sorry. Rabbi Emma Gottlieb “I’m sorry. I couldn’t make myself invisible. Bye!” Your second question about you know, is it just okay as people to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Is there anything complicated about about that? And how, how do people who are not in a relationship or in a partnership, feel about the day and feel on the day, I certainly, thankfully, this year, I have a partner. And it’s nice to be able to feel included in the Valentine’s Day celebrations. But I have had many, many years of feeling very outside Valentine’s Day. And it is incredibly painful. And I certainly know lots of other people who have felt that pain, you know, magnified on that day. So for me, just like with other secular holidays that are relationship based, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I try to think very carefully and intentionally about what I post on social media. And this sort of balance of, I’m very lucky to have a mother that I love, who’s alive and who I can celebrate on Mother’s Day. And I know that there are people who don’t, and for whom their relationship with their mother is very complicated, or they’ve lost their mother, or they’ve been trying to become a mother and haven’t been able to. And so I don’t just post like a “Happy Mother’s Day!” to my mom post, I post a like, “this is my mom, and I love her and I’m celebrating her today AND I’m also thinking of all the women for whom this day is painful or complicated.” And so when I post on Valentine’s Day, I post similarly like today, I didn’t post – so Jonathan gave me a rose and chocolates this year, which is so nice, but I didn’t post them on social media. So I’ve been on the other end of that social media feed, and it hurts, it hurts. So instead, I posted a message about you know, whoever you are, you know, whatever your life is, is you’re loved, and know that you’re loved and know that you’re special. And, you know, I think especially as rabbis, it’s really, really important for us to sort of hold that complicated space of people for whom these days are a celebration, and who want to be able to say to the world “I love my partner”, “I love my dad”, you know, whatever it is. And I want to be able to celebrate that for all the commercialization that it is. And I think we can, that as rabbis, we can model how to walk that complicated, nuanced path on these kinds of days. And I think, I guess in some ways for me that’s how I make Valentine’s Day Jewish, is by being intentional about the way that it is celebrated and communicated and shared. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: It’s really beautiful. There is a sensitivity in Judaism and an awareness of the fact you know, al ha-d’vash v’al ha-oketz, right? We have the honey and the sting, from a bee – I’m quoting Naomi, Shemer, Al Kol Eileh, for those of you who are not familiar with the song, or who want to go listen to it right now, because I quoted it. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: (Emma sings Hebrew) Now we have to sing it. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: (Marci sings in Hebrew) I don’t remember the next word 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: (Emma and Marci sing Hebrew) The bitter and the sweet, right? 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Yep. I really like you calling attention to the fact that we can be sensitive to that. Even in a day that can be so sweet and romantic, that we don’t have to gloat. We don’t have to rub it in people’s faces. We can enjoy our own sweetness or even recognize our own pain while allowing space for the other, the other side of it. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Exactly. Exactly. Thanks for thinking that through with me, Marce. Nice to be thinking about things together with you again. Marci, I would love to offer you an opportunity to bench Gomel. for our listeners who maybe don’t know what that is or what that means, Birkat HaGomel is a blessing of Thanksgiving that is traditionally often recited as like part of an Aliyah, being called up to the Torah – it can be offered at other times – for someone who has gone through a life challenging or dangerous situation, moments, experience, to give thanks for having made it through, basically. And it’s a blessing and response so that as a blessing that the person who has come through the experience recites, and then there’s a response that comes from the congregation. So in this context for us, I will read the response on behalf of not just myself but all of our listeners, and everybody who loves you and is giving thanks with you that you are healing and stepping back into your full wellness. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows Thank you. It’s so sweet of you to offer this. So Birkat HaGomel: Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha Olam, sh’g’malani kol tov. Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has bestowed every goodness upon me. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amen! Mi sh’gmalchem kol tov, hu yigmalchem kol tov, selah. May the One who has bestowed goodness upon you continue to bestow every goodness upon you forever. Amen. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Thank you. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: And then we just love you so much, Marci. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: And I love you, and I love you all. Thank you everybody for your patience and your blessing. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Amen You’ve you’ve had a run, and I’m so in awe of your your bounce- back and your your pain threshold, and your spirit through it all and, you know a lot of people would have buckled in a two years like the two years you have had. And I love you so much. I’m so proud of you. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Thank you. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: I really hope things are on their way up for you now and that we won’t have any more injuries or illnesses to navigate anytime soon. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Kein Yehi Ratzon! 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Let’s have a break. Marci gets a break. It’s somebody else’s turn. It’s always somebody else’s turn. We pass it around in the world. That’s the reality. Marci is saying no, no, don’t say that. Yes, reality is – so like, Rabbi Tamar Grimm, who we’ve had on the podcast. She used to, she said, it’s interesting. I don’t know if she believes this anymore or not. But we had once like a really intense theological conversation on a subway train in New York City, definitely one of many, where she was talking about, but what she believed at the time at least, was that there’s like a certain amount of pain in the world. And we pass it around. And you know, when when you’re experiencing joy, someone else is experiencing pain. And when you’re experiencing pain, someone else is experiencing joy. And that’s the nature of the law. So I’m not wishing unpleasantness on anybody else. I’m just saying it’s not Marci’s turn anymore. Marci took her turn. She gets a break now. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: I’m okay with that. Thank you. I’m okay with at least Marci’s had her turn. Marci’s family has had its turn. We’re good. Thank you. Good. We have learned compassion many times. We have learned resilience many times. We’re good! 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: A more Jewish statement, there never was – more than a Jewish statement than that. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Yes. So what’s coming up? 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: What is coming up? Great question. More amazing conversations with more rabbis who identify as women and maybe some who don’t. More learning and growing together, and hopefully more listener engagement. Listeners, we would love to hear from you. Not just when we’ve disappeared and you want to know where we are, but when you’re listening to us and you want to be part of the conversation. Please send us your questions, send us your feedback, your responses. Don’t forget to rate and review and share and all that good stuff. Help others find this. We’ve got new swag we’ll be posting about in social media, follow us on social media. And if you have suggestions of people we should be talking to on this podcast. If you are a rabbi and you’d like to be on this podcast, or rabbinical students, or a teenager thinking about being a rabbi or somebody married to a rabbi, we’d love to talk to you get in touch. In a minute, we’ll play a message that tells you how to get in touch. So thanks. Marci. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Thank you, Emma. I love you and it’s so nice to be back. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: I love you too! 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Okay, bye, everybody. Talk to you more soon. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Thank you for listening to Women Rabbis Talk 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: We’d like to thank Seth Lindman for tech and Sound Support 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Our music is by Aviva Chernick and Jaffa Road

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Women Rabbis Talk is self edited and self produced and we hope to one day have some help with that. 

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: If you’d like to support us, please use the links in our episode notes. 

Rabbi Marci Bellows You can also follow those links to check out all of our awesome swag and merch

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb: Please remember to rate review and share share share so that others can find this podcast and enjoy it too! 

Rabbi Marci Bellows: Todah Rabah! 

Transcribed by https://otter.aihttps://avivachernick.com/