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The Choosing

A Rabbi's Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days

Andrea Myers

Publication Year: 2011

A young Lutheran girl grows up on Long Island, New York. She aspires to be a doctor, and is on the fast track to marriage and the conventional happily-ever-after. But, as the Yiddish saying goes, "Man plans, and God laughs." Meet Andrea Myers, whose coming-of-age at Brandeis, conversion to Judaism, and awakening sexual identity make for a rich and well-timed life in the rabbinate.

In The Choosing, Myers fuses heartwarming anecdotes with rabbinic insights and generous dollops of humor to describe what it means to survive and flourish on your own terms. Portioned around the cycle of the Jewish year, with stories connected to each of the holidays, Myers draws on her unique path to the rabbinate--leaving behind her Christian upbringing, coming out as a lesbian, discovering Judaism in college, moving to Israel, converting, and returning to New York to become a rabbi, partner, and parent.

Myers relates tales of new beginnings, of reinventing oneself, and finding oneself. Whether it's a Sicilian grandmother attempting to bake hamantaschen on Purim for her Jewish granddaughter, or an American in Jerusalem saving a chicken from slaughter during a Rosh Hashanah ritual, Myers keeps readers entertained as she reflects that spirituality, goodness, and morality can and do take many forms. Readers will enthusiastically embrace stories of doors closing and windows opening, of family and community, of integration and transformation. These captivating narratives will resonate and, in the author's words, "reach across coasts, continents, and generations."

Published by: Rutgers University Press

The Choosing

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgements

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pp. ix-xii

The Choosing explores what it means to survive, and to flourish, on your own terms. For me, this has meant leaving my Lutheran upbringing, coming out as a lesbian, converting to Judaism, and becoming a rabbi. This book contains the stories I have collected along the way, stories that reach...

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Author’s Note

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pp. xiii-xvii

Biblical translations cited in this book are based on those of the New Jewish Publication Society (NJPS) Tanakh. Rabbinic translations are based on those provided in the Soncino volumes of Midrash and Talmud, and in Bialik and Ravnitsky’s...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-2

In the Mishnah, the earliest rabbinic compilation dating from the end of the second century c.e., we learn that the Jewish calendar has not one but four “New Year”s. Each has its own meaning. Most important, however, is the underlying concept: there is always an opportunity to...

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1. Rosh Hashanahand Yom Kippur

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pp. 3-12

Chickens run very fast when they get upset or scared. I had the opportunity to see this firsthand while living in Jerusalem.
On the Friday morning between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I decided to do my Shabbat shopping early, in an attempt to beat the crowds. The shuk, Jerusalem’s famed open market, is especially frenetic at this time of year. It is...

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2. The Secular New Year

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pp. 13-18

It happened at midnight. Piercing lights, clanging metal, the acrid smell of gunpowder, and deafening screams woke me out of a sound sleep. Having just returned to America after two turbulent years in Israel, I quickly concluded that it was a bombing. A sickening synesthesia overwhelmed...

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3. The New Year for Trees

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pp. 19-38

It was a classic lesbian moment. My partner Lisa and I were sitting in our Brooklyn apartment, playing Scrabble over herbal tea, as our two cats rubbed against our legs. I pushed my chair back from the table and looked her in the eye. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Five minutes...

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4. The New Year for Animals

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pp. 39-53

Dear Kindergarten Parents,
Today while the students were at the park, the teachers saw a raccoon walking around the play area. While the raccoon did not show any evident signs of disease, they believed that it was prudent to keep our students away from it. As soon as the raccoon was...

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5. Sukkot

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pp. 54-77

The morning after my first Yom Kippur in Jerusalem, I woke up transformed, ready to begin my life anew. After a day full of services and conversations that went late into the night, I was bleary-eyed but inspired. I reached over to turn on my tape player and begin my morning ritual...

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6. Chanukah

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pp. 78-93

The scent of singed cat made an appearance in our home the night the Christmas tree went up. The ornaments were placed carefully on the tree, and my father’s favorite music, the Christmas collection of the Germanic boysinger Heintje, was set on a loop to play through the night. My...

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7. Purim

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pp. 94-108

The fifth grade assignment seemed simple enough: write a play, make it legible, and be prepared to read it out loud. After a few regrettable efforts, I realized that there were only so many stories a girl could write about angst-ridden unrequited love and the perfunctory flying unicorn...

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8. Passover

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pp. 109-117

In the days before Caller ID, I relied solely on the hairs on my neck to tell me that my mother was calling. Half-mast meant a reasonable chance at a ten-minute nontoxic conversation. On this particular day, my hair stood at full...

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9. Lag B’Omer

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pp. 118-121

The thirty-third day of the Omer is a respite from a period of mourning that spans seven weeks, from Passover to Shavuot. Some sages have said that, on Lag B’Omer, a scourge on Rabbi Akiva’s students was lifted. Deep spiritual meaning is also attached to this minor holiday...

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10. Shavuot

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pp. 122-151

His blue eyes twinkled. When he looked at you, he could tell immediately if you had been bad or good. He reminded me of Santa. Not just any Santa, but the one from Miracle on 34th Street, which talks about Santa being like...

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11. Tisha B’Av

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pp. 152-166

As someone who looks more like a German tourist than a stereotypical rabbi, I am rarely what people expect to see. This came home to me when I was preparing to lead my first High Holiday Services. After traveling through a hurricane to get from New York to Boca Raton for my first...

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12. Elul

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pp. 167-178

“I can’t imagine how deep your conversations must be at home.” Occasionally, when someone finds out that both Lisa and I are rabbis, they say something along those lines. I think they imagine that our every conversation is about the Talmud, and that we never, ever laugh. They would probably...

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13. Purim Katan

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pp. 179-186

After my grandfather died, my grandmother stopped going out, and she stopped answering her phone. Callers couldn’t even leave a message; she had never had an answering machine, and she was not about to get one. She saw it as one piece of modern technology that she would...

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813550954
E-ISBN-10: 0813550955
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813549576

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Myers, Andrea, 1971-.
  • Lesbian rabbis -- United States -- Biography.
  • Jewish converts from Christianity -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- Biography.
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