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Learning and Living Jewish Wisdom: Moving forward on My Life Journey

Life is beautiful, banal, and cruel. We have all experienced moments of each since they broadly cover the human condition. It’s the balance that makes life unfair.

This weekend, I watched the interview with four mothers of the five young Israeli women in the recently-aired video as they were kidnapped and brutalized by H-m-s. Another opportunity for more cracks to the heart because of casual evil, and an overwhelming sense of injustice and helplessness. Empathy for these women and their daughters is too hard to experience because how can I, a mother of daughters who are safe, who are living their undisturbed lives, even purport to comprehend what these mothers—and their daughters—are going through? But they are in me, which feels like a duty I have committed to.

A few hours later, my daughter and her boyfriend came over for dinner. It was early evening on a beautiful spring day in Oregon. We sat in the backyard around a big table, enjoying the food that I cooked over two days, eating and talking about our week, planning for the next week. During pauses we watched the occasional hummingbird feed on the flowering bushes in the back of the garden. Later, I realized that this was the first time that I had anyone over for a meal since before COVID. The last time was brunch with my Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom group. (SOSS is an organization for Jewish and Muslim women to meet as friends, learn from each other, and work toward acceptance and understanding.) I still have hope in connections made around plates of food, though right now that feels like a band-aid when heart surgery is needed.

With all the videos I’ve watched, and articles I’ve read, and essays I’ve written about antisemitism, Jew hatred, and anti-Zionism over the years, after October 7th I decided that I need to do more—to be more. Learning and awareness are important, but I need to figure out how to stop feeling like an observer.

Almost eight months after that apocalyptic event, I’m acting in a new way: focusing less on me as an isolated individual, and more on me within a Jewish journey. In this space, I plan on sharing some of the lessons and ideas that I learn that resonate with me. To learn from a tradition, a people, a religion that has survived and thrived, in often intolerable conditions, is to honor those who came before, and to learn from the richest, soul-touching, thought-provoking ideas that can inspire me to be a light—to keep me focused on what is essential to continually work on myself to, as I recently read and am absorbing, “show that I am deserving of the Divine Presence.” This seems to be the worthwhile goal.

Trust the Divine Presence and do good; dwell in the land, and be nourished by faith. (Psalm 37:3)

About the Author
Laura Goodman grew up in NYC. After college, she went to Israel for six months—which became 18 years. When she and her family relocated to Virginia, she got an MS in Conflict Studies, which she used as an English teacher and a mother. After retiring, she moved to Florida to help her mother, and then to Oregon to be near her daughter, and a break from the heat and humidity. As a dedicated volunteer, she writes for Israeli non-profits and translates Holocaust survivor testimonies from Hebrew to English. Laura writes about being Jewish, Israel, and the work of being a mother, a daughter, a friend, and retirement.
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