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December 29, 2011 - Image 49

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-29

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Ping from page 27

Supportive Family
Her unforgettable parents have been
remarkably supportive of her life
choices, even as many of their own
relatives have broken off from them
because of those choices.
Once Andrea converted, her mother
tried her best to make her comfortable
at home, including calling Chabad to
help kasher the oven for Passover (her
grandmother fainted when she saw
the tall, bearded Chasidic man in sun-
glasses carrying a blowtorch at their
door, assuming that the Angel of Death
had arrived).
When Rabbi Myers gave her first talk
at her first student pulpit, the family
showed up in their Sunday best and
sat in the first row of the synagogue
— her father in a shiny purple kippah
left over from a bar mitzvah — and
they were the only ones clapping loudly
when she was done.
"They really believe in the notion
that family sticks together:' she says,
adding that they are right-wing
Republicans.
There were several points when either
she or they might have walked away
from their complicated relationship.
"To their credit," she says, "they
wanted me in their life. That let me be
who I was."
Her Long Island accent is mixed with
the cadences of her parents' Queens
and Brooklyn and her college years
near Boston (as a neuroscience major)
— "mixing the worst of the entire East
Coast:' she says.
In terms of practice and ritual,
Myers identifies with classical Reform,
but when it comes to studying texts,
she's a traditionalist.
She follows her own brand of
kashrut, careful that people of different
backgrounds will feel comfortable in
her home.
Realizing the connections between
politics and kashrut, "I have a real con-
cern about supporting a system of food
certification operated by those who
would rather I did not exist.
"I have no illusions that the same
people who determine whether meat
is kosher would deny the legitimacy
of my rabbinate and my family. But
Judaism is not a democracy; at best, it's
a broken socialism. So I don't impose
my philosophy on others, much as I
hope others will not impose their phi-
losophies on me."
The book has its roots in a High
Holy Days sermon given by Myers'
partner, Rabbi Lisa Grushcow, associ-
ate rabbi of Rodeph Sholom on New
York's Upper West Side, in which she
retold one of the author's not-yet-
written stories.
A literary agent in the congrega-
tion asked Grushcow for the source

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Rabbi Myers is drawn to the cycle of

the year and the ongoing possibilities

of renewal.

of the story — about a large rooster
who escapes slaughter in Jerusalem's
Machane Yehudah market and ends up
in Myers' arms — and then encour-
aged Myers to write a book.
In her first chapter on Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur, "Bird in
Hand:' Myers tells of the rooster, who
she unexpectedly led to freedom,
aboard a Jerusalem bus.
To those who might say that the
different aspects of her identity
might seem like contradictions,
Myers insists that they form an inte-
grated whole.
"There is no way I would be Jewish if
I were not gay, if I did not understand
what it means to be hated for what
you are and proud at the same time, to
belong to a people as old as the world
and to have a community wherever
you go.
"Coming out gave me the ability to
embrace my own path and accompany
others on their travels. Converting did
so as well."

An All-Embracing Judaism
She explains that there are many differ-
ent ways to be a rabbi.
"Rabbis are a bit like doctors. One is
not for everyone, but everyone has to
have someone they can go to. The peo-
ple who come to me come from very
different parts of the spectrum that
others might not be able to reach."
A guiding principle for her is that of
Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel,
who spoke of the task of modern Jews
"to make the old new and the new
holy,' as she says, "to breathe new life
into ancient traditions, and to make
sure our innovations were sacred.
"We are meant to keep what we have
been given and to transform it. This
is what I try to do with the stories I
inherit from my family, as well as those
I inherit from Jewish tradition."
Hers is a Judaism that's embracing of
all; her ideal table is crowded with peo-
ple of different backgrounds; it's loud
and not always easy for all to sit down
together, but worthwhile nonetheless.
She would urge people to "bring all
of who you are to the table" and sug-
gests skipping the gefilte fish, although
she admits that's debatable, too. I I

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December 29 • 2011

29

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