My First Shabbos
Jennifer Waters

I've been involved in a half ass self-improvement campaign for several years now. I'll try any 12-step program at least once, falsely expressing commitment and repentance-no more drinking, bad boyfriends, wild snacking binges - you get the picture. But then comes the step, I believe it's Three, where you have to turn yourself over to a higher power.

This is a problem, as I have no god, none whatsoever. At first, I tried getting fancy - "My higher power is Faulkner's capacity," I once announced at an NA meeting. That worked for about a second. "Group of Drunks" is often suggested as a way to say "G.O.D." in A.A. meetings, but one look around at the endlessly self repeating rogues perched on metal folding chairs put that "higher power" to rest. "Good Orderly Direction" is another good one, but not for somebody like me whose life has been a series of sporadic projections that have enabled me to evolve from punk rock singer to one who watches too much television.

My mom is Jewish by blood, and whenever I visited NYC as a child I wanted to cling to Great Uncle Jack ("the silver fox"), and thrilled to reach into my Grandma Palley's magic bag, which held a box of Chiclets gum pieces for me to chew on. These relatives on my mother's side had a sanity and charisma that was lacking in my Episcopalian dad and his violent tantrums. And character. My maternal great grandfather was president of his synagogue. My paternal great great uncle penned Onward Christian Soldiers, a tacky anthem that shouldn't have lasted longer than Oops, I Did It Again.

I asked my friend S---, who I met in Overeaters Anonymous (that lasted a good 3 or 4 weeks) if she was Jewish. She was so homey and competent, with a voice like my Aunt Selma's. I was attracted to her style right away. I asked for a good synagogue for me to check out, thinking that Judaism might be the religion for me. Common sense, chatting, snacking, knowledge, how could I go wrong? She suggested the Village Temple, a Reform synagogue on 12th Street near University. Friday at 7:30 PM sounded like a perfect time to worship for a night owl like me. Plus she'd heard there was a new woman rabbi there.

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Image: Jay Michaelson

August 2003

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My first shabbos
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Zeek in Print
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