1. Fran Stekoll says

    Funny you should call it My Tribe. My late husband Matt had 26 American Indian collection. Since I was an only child, I wanted more than one. Lee Ann, now 57, works at UC Santa Cruz payroll dept, has 3 in her tribe, Justin, age 28, owns a computer business in San Diego, Andrea, age 27 works for Bay Federal Savings, Alyssa, age 24, recently returned from Texas with fiance Evan and will marry at De Anza’s clubhouse soon. Logan, age 14, graduating into San Lorenzo Valley High this week, and Ryan, age 13, both brothers play football .Sheri, age 54,Wine sales for Hunter Hill, married to Joe, a wonderful handyman in Santa Cruz, Erick, age 28 lives in Austin Texas, graduate from Arizona State works as IT Manager for Hewlit Packard, Andy, age 24, Offensive Lineman playing 3 positions , in his 4th year with the Buffalo Bills, and Travis, age, 21, Assistant Mgr for Oh My Sole and Crossroads in Santa Cruz. Alan, age 51, married to Maureen, son Adam age 28, recently returned from Iraq is Army Recruiter & Trainer, & Perle, age 25, recent graduate of San Francisco State in Art Education is Nanny for the man who invented Skype. Travels all over in his private jet.
    My tribe, I’m 77, have two shi-zu’s Maggi Mei and Mei Li and two cats, Pandora and Hermie. All females at my home. I can’t wait to be a Great Grandmother.

    • Debbie says

      Fran – thanks for sharing these details of your tribe with us. I am wondering if Great Grandmother is looming soon on your horizon?

  2. says

    Right now, my tribe is myself– just me, myself and I. You see, growing up, I never got to have my own tribe…(had to have theirs). And I never much “cared for” their tribe all that much, but now I get to have my own, and I get to care about “my tribe.” I’m also slowly (and quickly) beginning to learn that “my tribe” gets to be whatever the gosh darn she wants to be! Yeah!! Wow. what a realization–and what a liberation! hmmm, I guess this is what this means:
    1. I get to write… or not write whenever I want
    2. I get to be (and not be) whoever I gosh darn please
    3. I get to work and not work at whatever I choose
    4. I get to ask for (and refrain from seeking) whatever I want
    5. I get to choose my friends
    6. I get to choose my family
    7. I get to be me

    Wow. (how come nobody ever told me about this!!–this is great!) I finally get to be the person I was always meant to be–and happy–who knew?
    Gee- I wonder what my tribe has in store for me–I can’t wait to find out.

    Welcome to the world Sangeeta–you are finally amongst us.

    • Debbie says

      Sangeeta – I really enjoyed your post! I, too, posted about having no tribe but more from a perspective over the years. Your post reconnected me with the sense of freedom and possibility that can come from deciding to redefine your tribe and family. Thank you!

    • Linnie says

      Sounds like quite a journey to become who you are. Glad to see you found out there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in life. I’m always a ‘it’s your path’ kind of person and it always makes me happy to see someone finding what their path is.

  3. Ilana says

    Note: Last night I got an invitation from our incoming assistant rabbi to share a story about ourselves. She asked that we tell the story in the third person so she could learn our names. This is a true story about my tribe. When I got this prompt I didn’t know what to do with it and then realized that I had already begun my response. All names and places have been changed except for Babi Yar. It really was in Kiev and Babi Yar park is what we call the memorial here. Babi Yar is a place where over a period of three days between 2,000 and 3,000 Jews were rounded up, shot and buried during the Holocaust or Shoah as we call it.

    Honoring Their Gift

    My story begins twenty years ago in Kiev. Eighteen year old Ilana M was visiting Babi Yar with the USY Easter European Israel Pilgrimage. As she sat listening to the lecture on what happened there the staff member speaking went white as a sheet. “Oh my God.” He whispered and all of the kids turned around to see a bride and groom walking towards the beautiful memorial wall. Like all the others, Ilana was furious that a bridal couple would choose this sacred place to take their wedding photos. Wasn’t it bad enough that anti-Semitism was still an issue and Ilana and another girl had been threatened just that morning? Wasn’t it bad enough that the memorial made no mention of the fact that the people who died there were murdered because they were Jews? The 37 American Jews stared, in horror, as the bride approached their memorial wall. That is, until it became clear what was really happening. The bride had come to pay her respects. It was explained to them that it is a Ukrainian tradition for a bride to pay respects to a memorial on her wedding day. Ilana watched the woman walk up to the wall alone and leave a small bouquet of flowers. Then the group quietly left. That moment, Ilana promised herself that on her wedding day she would pay her respects to the victims of the Shoah, the Jewish Holocaust.

    As luck would have it seven years later, little Ilana M from Los Angeles California, had moved to another state where Rabbi Jacobson had built a memorial to Babi Yar, calling it Babi Yar park. On the day she became Ilana Z she and her new husband left the ceremony and went alone to Babi Yar Park before joining their guests at their reception. Ilana and Zander stood at the wall and listened to the recording of Rabbi Jacobson’s voice as he described the horrific events that had happened so many years before. The wedding photographer stood at a respectful distance and took a few photos but the couple was unaware of his presence, being wrapped up in the connection to their people. Ilana had asked the florist to make two white roses on her bridal bouquet detectable. Now she knelt and placed them at the base of the wall. Attached was a note written in calligraphy. It read, “By placing these roses from my bridal bouquet I share my wedding day with the one and a half million Jewish children of the Holocaust who never grew up to be married.” She turned and beckoned to the photographer who came and took pictures of her leaving the note and flowers. She wanted to record of this moment in her wedding album. Then they went on to their reception.

    For Ilana the wedding was memorable for a myriad of reasons. Most importantly because it was the day she joined her life with the amazing man who means so much to her. However, she will never forget the feeling of standing in her wedding dress with that wonderful man’s arm around her as they silently honored those who had come before them. They were honoring the people who had sacrificed their lives in order to preserve these precious traditions. Because of them Ilana and Zander are now free to share these traditions with their own children. The children are too young to be told of that violence and horror now but one day they too will honor the gift that was given to us at such a high cost.

    • Ilana says

      Oh I don’t like this. Thanks for the invitation, Rabbi Karen, but I don’t think I will be writing in the third person again. It doesn’t ring true. It just doesn’t sound like me. Thank you, Writer’s Journey for letting me post… less than my best.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I came here just now to respond to this post; I saw there is a Part II but I’ll still comment on this first. I wanted to tell you something that I would usually only say to someone in private. I don’t want to wait on this any more in case we lost touch somehow. (By the way, I held back from saying this before because I don’t want to sound stupid or make a fool out of myself.)
      Your story here is beautiful and haunting and you taught me about Babi Yar when I read this the first time; I thank you for that, despite the painful story. I was born Christian as you may have guessed–not that my parents, who sat at the back of the church and snickered at people going by, taught me anything about God. I learned about the Holocaust in Grade 9, which was during the worst years of the abuse; so I didn’t really catch what it was all about. When I was finally able to process the information, especially after dating a Jewish person, I felt and feel such sadness and horror. How it must feel to learn that your ancestors were annihilated for their faith! I know, for myself, that if I was born Jewish and learned as a young adult about the Holocaust, I would be devastated, depressed, and wondering what was wrong with me and my loved ones? Of course, I would quickly be filled with anger and know that there was absolutely nothing wrong with us!
      Please know that I have such tremendous respect for you and all Jewish people. I am studying the Holocaust now and feel so very moved by your history. Besides, it’s the history of my dear friends, my loved ones, and maybe even me: after all, I don’t know where I feel the most comfortable yet, though I operate on a generalized faith. To sum then, I needed you to know that I deeply appreciate and ‘listen to’ your references to and strong feelings about the history of your people. I care very much. That you and Zander followed suit with what you saw many years before (the other couple at the wall), is so lovely, it makes me misty-eyed. (There. All that fear can subside now. Opening my heart on this–especially when my critical voice is so active tonight–was very hard.)

      • Ilana says

        Terry- Thank you for your comment. I am overwhelmed. I know how hard it is when your self critical voice is active. Mine has been in extremely vocal of late, as well. (Been a rough few days, to say the least.) So I applaud you for saying what you felt needed to be said. If I were to talk as much as I’d like about my experience learning about the Holocaust (starting inappropriately early, at age 7) Laura would most likely send me an e-mail about taking up too much space on the blog. Like you, the timing was tied in closely with my abuse and that combination had a strong affect on me. If I said any more on the subject this post would get long and confusing so I will stop there. I thank you for ‘listening’ and I thank you for using that word specifically. That is what I really need, to feel heard, to feel listened to. I do think that my strong feelings about gay and lesbian rights stem from learning about my people being persecuted for our faith/beliefs/religion/peoplehood, whatever you want to call it. I am not gay but when the subject of same sex marriages or any kind of gay and lesbian rights being threatened I get extremely passionate, reactive even. Thank you again for your comments and for hearing me. IM

        • Debbie says

          Ilana – as always – you provide a different perspective that helps me to see something familiar from a different view. It had never occurred to me that abuse suffered personally could become identified with abuse suffered collectively by a larger group. Having also experienced discrimination as a woman in business and a lesbian in life – I must now revisit some of my past events and viewpoints with this new thought in mind. Thank you.

  4. Ana says

    I moved to a different state almost three years ago. Though not terribly far (only an hour and a half away), my friends, my clan whom I thought of as family for so many years, have slowly disappeared. It has been a painful transition for me as I no longer get to “hang out” with this family, go to a movie, partake breaking bread with, nor have meaningful intimate conversation that lead to spiritual heights. I want some of the things I loved about my old clan in my new relationships but with a twist. You see, they were mostly male friendships. I have always had difficulty finding, and keeping, this level of friendship with women. So here I am again, feeling friendless and scared. Why scared? Because my mother died alone, without friends or family. I witnessed her living a very isolated life. At times, especially since I moved, feel like I’m going to end up the same way. But I don’t want to. Friendship means the world to me. For so many years it was frienships that help me survive and grow from all the pain my family left behind. At times I feel I don’t know how to make friends. I want it so bad that it comes across as smothering or intrusive or I don’t know what as no one has ever said anything, but the looks I get are clear and of course they don’t want to connect anymore. I’m too old to play games on any level. I just want frienships. Why does it feel so hard to do sometimes? Why don’t people want to communicate these days?


    Jane Howard was right…I need them. I’m a better person with friends. Sure, my old clan and I disagreed on occassion but we also cared about eachother, suppported eachother. I miss what I had, but understand that my life is clearly in its 49thMillionthMoment of change….and with change comes new beginings.

    • Laura Davis says

      Ana….great for you to put out what you want. That’s the first step in drawing it to you.

    • Debbie says

      Ana – your post is clear about what is missing of value in your life. Sometimes we have to make the spaces that allow us to really sense and see what we want. Everyone can get caught up in the “busyness” of everyday life so much – there is only doing and not much considering. IT has been my experience that there are many others out there wanting to connect in just the ways you describe – but they are just as scared as you to take the risk, open themselves and be vulnerable to possible rejection. Someone who grew to be a good friend in nursing school I initially thought was conceited, stuck up person. Later, after I got to know her, I realized she didn’t speak to folks because she was so shy. Because she was also attractive, others just assumed she was not interested in them and was happy with her life. They were wrong! I was wrong – but had to be willing to take a chance to find that out.

  5. Deanna Lagroix says

    It has often been said to me, “You come from good Scottish stock; expect to live a long life!” I am a sixth generation Canadian of Scottish ancestry. Postcards would not have arrived for family for over a century or two and the branches on the family tree in the Auld Sod would offer puzzling looks from us over here.; yet there are still the spiritual ties to the Highlands that are deeply rooted in me and my generation. We are “Macs” of various sorts who joined Bishop McDonell, leaving Knoydart, Scotland during the Highland Clearances. looking for a home in the new Glengarry of Ontario, where tree felling and clearing of land would, hopefully, give new life and equal opportunity to oppressed people to practise our faith in acceptance and in a spirit of Community.
    The first cousins of my generation, these more than two hundred and ten years later seem to gather too frequently, of late, to bury our parents and uncles and aunts in the same parish cemetery where the early Gaelic speakers prayed to St. Raphael. The lone, dearly loved Aunt, the oldest of the family of ten siblings, will turn one hundred-two on June 9. She held a fountain of family knowledge until the demon dementia unraveled some of the facts, making us wish we had asked the pertinent questions of her and our parents much earlier on.
    As many of us move into retirement years we still relish the sixty-fifth birthday parties of the cousins and the annual Gathering of the Clans at the Maxville (Ontario) Highland Games.
    Some of us claim French and Irish to balance our heritage and look at our children who add multicultural ancestry to their family trees but it is the Celtic past that draws us from various Cities and Towns of the Provinces of Canada to keep alive our bloodline and remember who gave us Canada as our Homeland and all we celebrate as Family.

    • Laura Davis says

      Deanna, so many of us in this country are cut off from the kind of rich ancestral knowledge you have. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • Debbie says

      Deanna – your connection with generations of ancestors is really cool! Not something that many of us in the melting pot of America have kept nor cultivated.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Deanna, I had to thank you for this. I was born in Ontario and know the Glengarry area. I too, am of good, strong Scottish-English-Irish; I don’t think the Irish part is tacked on though. :)) It’s in the blood. I’m happy you have such strong roots. It is definitely a gift!

  6. Frances Lesenski Talamantes says

    I have a tribe with a capital T.
    My dad had only 2 brothers and he married 2 women (my real mom died). Both of these women had 8 brothers and sisters. So can you tell that there are quite a few in my “tribe”?
    Of course, they all had children except for 3 that became nuns. There was a total of 44 grandkids. As for great grandkids, I am too tired to count them all.
    Of course, there were 2nd cousins etc. A clue as to how many there were, one cousin had 12. Do I need to go ON? I do know intimately the expression cousins by the dozen.
    You should see when go to reunions on each side. It goes without saying halls have to be rented.
    We definitely have fun at the reunions. Every branch of the family wears a color to identify them with the appropriate ancestor. Talk about a rainbow of colors. We try to come up with new places every year. Being near water always wins out
    Wedding are real gas. I loved the old time weddings were held starting at 10:00 am in a small country church and went until 2 or 3 am. Every one, yes everyone came. There was a plethora of playpens around.
    And that brings up funerals. It seems like there is a funeral a month.
    I have to say that funerals are fun. They are funner when the person who died was not a real close relative.
    So there is my story. I do love my tribe. They are always fun.

    • Laura Davis says

      Frances, welcome. Glad to “meet” you. I hope you come back and share your writing many times in the future.

    • Beverly Boyd says

      Hi Frances,
      Much like you, my mother was the youngest of fifty-two first cousins. they were Nebraska Pioneers proud of their history. She had second cousins older that she when they first started having reunions. We lived too far away to ever go and only got to know a few of them. You are lucky to have such a rich experience of them.
      Welcome to this tribe!

    • Debbie says

      Frances – I could almost see the churches bursting at their seams with your tribe amidst a field of playpens. I agree that there is an element of funerals that I enjoy – and that is connecting with distant relatives infrequently seen. Realizing that death is inescapable seems to make us all a little more open to our past memories and shared losses. Thanks for sharing with us!

  7. Frances Lesenski Talamantes says

    I have a tribe with a capital T.
    My dad had only 2 brothers and he married 2 women (my real mom died). Both of these women had 8 brothers and sisters. So can you tell that there are quite a few in my “tribe”?
    Of course, they all had children except for 3 that became nuns. There was a total of 44 grandkids. As for great grandkids, I am too tired to count them all.
    Of course, there were 2nd cousins etc. A clue as to how many there were, one cousin had 12. Do I need to go ON? I do know intimately the expression cousins by the dozen.
    You should see when go to reunions on each side. It goes without saying halls have to be rented.
    We definitely have fun at the reunions. Every branch of the family wears a color to identify them with the appropriate ancestor. Talk about a rainbow of colors. We try to come up with new places every year. Being near water always wins out
    Wedding are real gas. I loved the old time weddings were held starting at 10:00 am in a small country church and went until 2 or 3 am. Every one, yes everyone came. There was a plethora of playpens around.
    And that brings up funerals. It seems like there is a funeral a month.
    I have to say that funerals are fun. They are funner when the person who died was not a real close relative.
    So there is my story. I do love my tribe.

  8. Beverly Boyd says

    My tribe seems like a moving target, like sand that shifts with each new wave on the shore. Settling in as the wave recedes, welcoming a footprint, for a time, then gently washing it away. I look pack at so many footprints: my classmates in two high schools; sorority sisters; musicians I performed with; twelve step circles I sat in; a myriad of volunteer groups to support my children: PTA; Little League; Scouts: you name it… I did it! There are so many! I have a folder full of telephone lists I will never need again. I keep them as a reminder of the many friendships I have had over the years.

    Then there was the ever-changing tribe of navy wives. For twenty years I learned to bond quickly in temporary extended families: aunts and uncles to each other’s children when our own were thousands of miles away. I learned to let go of the bonds almost as quickly so the many leavings would not take too much of me with them.

    Then there is the most important tribe to me: The family I was born into. I was the oldest of five and next month will meet about sixty of the seventy descendants of my parents in the Rocky Mountains for four days of celebrating each other.

    That is the rock I sit on as I watch the other footprints along the sand disappear. I know my family will be there for me and my children. My siblings and I have each tested the tribe: went against what they thought they stood for in a significant way and are all still held in the bond of a rich shared early life together. All of the family history and the people in it for many generations are not nearly as important as this rock of seventy loved ones.

    I still need my other tribes. I need people nearby that I share circles with. Today it is my writing circles; this blog; a couple of women’s support groups; my choir, even the Bagelry where I go almost daily for coffee. I know I am liked there. We greet each other with pleasure in our circles. How long will the footprint of each circle remain before it too washes away?

    I no longer expect to find a group of friends I can hang with, go to a movie or share a meal with. A few of those individually come and I am happy to have them until they too go leaving their footprints in the ever-shifting sand.

    • Debbie says

      Beverly – I love the imagery of the foot prints in the sand – washed away by time and life changes! This is an image I can really connect with and helps me reframe so many of the “lost footprints” of friendships over time. Thanks for sharing with this online tribe!!

  9. Terry Gibson says

    My tribe is very small. In Vancouver, it includes my partner and therapist. I know this isn’t very good. It troubles me a lot because I am very lonely, especially since my brother’s death. Also, if that fragile support system faced change, I would be in a serious crisis. I’d have nowhere to go. No paying job, although I work six to seven days a week. No family. I’d be just floating about aimlessly.

    You see, I am not very comfortable with people. I am a bit shy and have panic attacks sometimes. I am not very sure of myself. In fact, though I fight against it, I rip myself apart in my thoughts, so I seem to sabotage my friendships. This is an automatic thing, so it is hard to stop this. It’s hard to explain.

    I have an online tribe—writers, poets, chronic pain sufferers (RA), women on the verge in Tucson, and so on. They are wonderful! I ‘met’ and made some great friends. They prop me up and I return the same. I have a writer’s community with whom I shared a Writer’s Retreat last year in Bolinas. Everything has changed in the last year, but I will be with some of that group again next month.

    I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I just face things head on. I know I must build up my social network. I need to have people in Vancouver too. I need to remind myself that I am worthy of friends and family. I’ll fight my fatigue in this area and try to shrug off the phobias which hold me back.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- How beautifully honest. It was interesting to me, though, that you said your tribe was small and then went on to describe two more, clearly loving and nourishing communities. Still, I know how easy it is to feel alone when we are struggling. Sometimes when I feel that way I go back and read the beautiful things you all have written and your kind words in response to my posts. I just read that you said you felt like I gave you a hug, last week. I’ll send it again and a big KOKO to you (Keep on keeping on, in case you forgot.) You are a strong, beautiful woman who has given so much to so many. To again quote my dear friend who came up with KOKO, “You are never alone.” Take care of yourself, my friend, you are very precious, indeed. sIMz

    • Debbie says

      Terry – what I hear in your post most is what you feel you are missing, still and have desire for – even though it is also frightening. We only seem to embrace change as human beings – seems like – when it begins to hurt more not to change. There is a great quote from Anais Nin on this. I will find and post it later.

      With all that you have already accomplished in your journey, I offer two observations: 1. You will achieve what you desire and 2. Remember to celebrate what you already have accomplished. This celebrated fuels the future.

      Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Linnie says

      I’m so sorry to read you think it’s not good. It is where you are at the moment and for now that is enough. You are working on it.
      About the online tribe. Got me one of those and they are awesome. I can turn to them whenever I need a laugh, a rant or just a chat. Although I may not have met them in person (and let’s face it, most of them I never will) I count some of them amongst the dearest of my friends.
      Godspeed on your journey upwards and onwards.

  10. kathy says

    My tribe – this is tough.the last few months my extended family and myself have taken a turn for seperation. I am wanting to grow spiritually, get closer to God, and have a more meanful life. My extended family wants me to fall back into the old ways of how we were so dysfunctional and “pretended” to be a great family, smiled and went about our business. Today, I cannot do that to myself anymore. I want to be honest and not deny my true feelings, I want to know I am open and honest with myself even if that means leaving my extended blood family behind and finding new family/friends that love me for me and will walk with me in my new journey of truth!

    • Debbie says

      Kathy – You face a difficult time that takes lots of courage. Sometimes we think we see clearly the road ahead, but often it is an illusion. While you may need to create some clearer boundaries between yourself and your loved ones – one can only guess what the outcome of what that will be. I encourage to you just take the first step, the one you know you need to take and have faith that the rest will work out as intended. Thank you for sharing your struggle so honestly with us!

  11. Ilana says

    Honoring Their Gift Part II; What Exactly Was That Gift?

    I turned the page carefully and listened to it crackle. This book was over 100 years old and it hadn’t been preserved. Most likely it had been used for many years then smuggled here from Nazi Germany. I didn’t have that story yet. It would be added to the myriad of questions I was constantly peppering my father-in-law, James, with. I loved to go through his tiny collection of heirloom books. Grandma Leah, his mother, had translated the original inscription, typed it up and glued it to the inside cover. Roughly it read, “Presented to Nathan Z, our brother, by Dr. Jacob Z and Bruno Z with the intention that it be passed down to the grandsons of our father Solomon Z. June 1924.” James explained to me that Bruno was his grandfather. If you looked at the spine, whatever the original publisher had put there was long since rubbed away. Instead, in neatly written Hebrew letters was the word ‘Torah’. “That’s my father’s handwriting.” James said thoughtfully and staring at the book I felt, rather than saw his smile.

    I carried the book back to Grandma Leah’s beloved settee. Her furniture, too, had been handed down through the generations. Somehow it was in perfect condition. Carefully, I sat down and began to study from the book. The commentary is all in German but the ancient text and musical notes are the same ones I study from my own modern copy. As I sang the parasha that I’ll be singing from the scrolls on Saturday, I was overwhelmed with the history of this book. Here I was, studying from the same book that Zander’s Great Great Grandfather had studied from. I watched my fingers travel across the same page that those men’s fingers had traveled. It had been passed down through four generations, one war at least two rabbis (James and his father) and one extraordinary, courageous woman, to find its way into my hands and my heart. I imagined Solomon Z looking down and seeing his great great granddaughter-in-law studying from his book.

    “That was so long ago, I’ll bet they’d be offended to see a woman pouring over their text.”
    James smiled. “I’d like to think that my family was a bit more progressive than that.”
    “True.” I agreed, but you can’t deny that the inscription says ‘grandSONS’.” He gave me a look but chose not to respond. I thought about it. Grandma Leah had wanted to go to medical school but being a woman, a Jewish woman at that, in Nazi Germany, she’d had to settle for a PhD in romance languages. Yes, their family was a progressive one to say the least.

    Bruno Z and his wife were among the Jewish parents who chose to literally sacrifice their lives to save their children. They gave every penny they had to their three sons for their escape and then remained behind to parish in the Holocaust. Leah Z, then a young bride, supported her husband through Kristal Nacht, “the night of the breaking glass” when his synagogue was burned to the ground with many others. They risked their lives to go out and comfort the families of their congregation who had lost their loved ones. Then they escaped to England and eventually the United States.

    Jacob, Bruno, Nathan; those men are dead now but their sacrifice meant their children, their grand children and now their great grand children (and in-laws) can continue the beautiful traditions and even study out of the same books they did. That sacrifice is the gift I am honoring today.

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – I felt your heart in this version. I am guessing you also like it better. The personal insights and relationships make it come alive for the reader. Thanks for sharing some more of your rich history!

      • Ilana says

        Debbie- I think you are absolutely right. I didn’t like the third person because I was unable to communicate my true, inner responses via that route. Still, I struggled with this topic as well. I do feel connected to other Jews because of our common past. I feel connected to other Jews because we have some traditions that can connect perfect strangers. (You are not allowed to say the prayers of mourning without a minyan, ten people at least. A stranger will show up to help form a minyan. Having been told that Rabbi Z’s daughter-in-law had emergency brain surgery and her life was in danger, strangers in England, Israel and all over the United States prayed for my recovery.) Still there are just as many Jews who would say I am not Jewish because of the way I practice. They would say I am not really married because the rabbi who married me is reform. Because the two witnesses on my marriage contract are not really allowed; one because he was a blood relation and the other because she was a woman. Can I love the beauty in spite of this ugliness? Must I give up all those people who prayed for me, the gifts that have been passed down for 5,000 years and the kindnesses that people do for each other, because of the judgmental attitudes of some of the very religious? NO! I can’t let them take that away from me. As you can see it’s a war I will be fighting forever. Oh well, at least I have been honest with you. I guess there is no place that is 100% positive. We have to appreciate the good and not let it be tainted with the bad. Sorry for rambling. It’s been a very rough several days. Thank you for your insight and acceptance.

    • Terry Gibson says

      This is an awesome version of your story! I can hear the brittle pages, see the word ‘GrandSONS’ (so glad things are more progressive now), and feel your fascination with the amazing history of that Holy Book. I know I’d be afraid to breathe for fear of dropping it. Keep On Keeping On, Ilana. PS: We’ll defeat those critical voices that live within us.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry- I’m glad I was successful, sharing the thrill and magic that overcomes me every time I touch those books. I’ll try to remember this when I feel the critical voice. Thanks for the KOKO. Needed that! sIMz

  12. Debbie says

    I am a woman without a tribe. Like the scouts and traders that crisscrossed the wilderness in early pioneer days, I have always been going “somewhere” all of my life. In the process, tearing away from places and people with whom I begun to develop connections. So like the fascinating trader who would show up with wild stories and a unique perspective on life, I have been welcomed into many tribes but “belong” to none.

    In the early years, there was a family tribe who made these nomadic shifts together, bonding tightly at the time against “everyone else”. Those whose neighborhoods we adopted, for a while, had lived years, decades or lifetimes within the confines of their self defined communities. In those days, I remember feeling vaguely superior because of places I had already seen and experiences already explored. Or maybe, this was just a defense mechanism against always being the “new kid”. Either way, it shaped my future life.

    As a young adult, after my divorce, I jumped at the chance to travel the country as part of my job. I must admit to enjoying every aspect of it except one for the two years it lasted. I was able to pick localities that I had longed to see or revisit as an adult and made a habit of using my “extra” time while on the road to make the extra effort to go sightseeing. In just a few hours of intentional wandering, I could soak up the flavor of a neighborhood or town.

    What I began to miss was some of the “tribeness”, a sense of belonging to anywhere or anyone. Is it any wonder that my long term relationship started as a long distance one? We initially lived in different cities, making time to meet in the middle as often as we could afford and get away to be with each other.

    Yet once we were in relationship, the pattern kept re-emerging for me. Sometimes through travel for work and, other times we made moves over great distances, together, for family or careers. We would pull and move every four to five years the way some folks might decide to buy a new car. Again, the result was similar to my childhood. We pulled in tight to each other, always the “new folks” in town, never staying long enough to really build deep and lasting friendships. No tribe except the two of us, and our dog companions.

    And now I have even rip that small tribe apart. One dog companion with her, one with me. I have thrust myself into a new community, new job, new territory. Once again, I stand alone, no local tribe for support or criticism.

    There are others whom I do take to be part of my family of choice. This handful of special people are spread far and wide across the country. I never underestimate the value and importance of these that I love. Yet, there are times when virtual isn’t as comforting as a smiling face at a spontaneous meeting over a cup of coffee.

    Do I truly want a tribe? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. With the comfort and security comes rules, opinions and limitations. There is less freedom and more conflict. There is also less loneliness and a sense of belonging. Humans are generally wired to be social creatures. Could there really be some of us with faulty or weak wiring that just don’t make the strong connections needed to build a sense of community?

    Guess I am being given the opportunity to find those answers for myself with this new opportunity.

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- This is just beautiful. The way it is written drew me in, completely. I love how you started with your childhood and took us through the path that brought you where you are now and then, finally looked to the future. I recognize my comment, someone did this before. Was it you? I was so overwhelmed at all you’ve been through and all you fit into these lines that I had to close my laptop and just sit with it before responding. You are very wise and it takes great courage to recognize the patterns you identify here. Then to share it with all of us? Amazing. What shocked me the most was that all along I was reading about you and then all of a sudden I found you forcing me to think about my own family. I chose to look at my ‘tribe’ as the Jewish people because I was hiding from something that is far too painful for me to write about here. I used to be completely enmeshed with my mother. Now I have not spoken to her in almost 9 months and when there is interaction (I will only allow via e-mail) necessitated by my children’s right to their “Savta”, I have horrible nightmares. I had escaped all of it by looking elsewhere to answer this prompt. Then you brought me right back to it with the line “Do I truly want a tribe?” and your descriptions of all the things I have escaped and all the things I have lost by having cut my parents off. So, you’ve not only written a beautiful piece here and shared yourself with me but you have forced me to take a closer look at myself. (No matter how much I am fighting it.) Bravo! On your wisdom, your courage and your ability to write.

          • Debbie says

            Ilana – privately I soaked up every bit of your praise so please don’t apologize. Publicly, I was humbled. Your posts, also, often present a different perspective that help me to grow and reframe my thinking. The admiration is mutual!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie, this story is so familiar to me. Moving every few years like some people buy a new car. Wanting to belong and enjoying all that goes with that. But, of course, there can be that too-close feeling, possible judgment, and re-assessing the whole desire/want issue. Once again, I’m trusting that you’re moving exactly in the direction you are meant to be. Does that make you hate me? :)) I’m not making light of it, by the way. Also, love your writing.

      • Debbie says

        Terri – I didn’t think for a moment that you were making light of things. I am wired to believe that there are gifts still waiting to be discovered, breathtaking moments to experience – all out there in the future. And that what we put out into the universe we call to ourselves, through energetic vibration, intention, prayer – who knows?!! So I am glad you are out in the universe sending me energy of continual growth and development! There are days I sure need it!

  13. Bobbie Anne says

    I am one of seven children. With my mom and dad, it was nine. I guess we were a tribe or a clan. I was never alone, even if I thought I was. One of my brothers or sisters would spy on me most of the time. When I wrote in my journal, which I considered private, my sister or mother would tear out the pages. One sister even had the nerve to write in her comments. Yes, I hid my journal. I did get one that had an actual lock and key, but that too was compromised. We had one bathroom. The family car was a small one and we were cramped inside. I wore hand-me downs. My grandmother made fun of us as well as did some bullies back then. Yet I managed to survive.

    I am married now and I do not have children or tribe of my own. I was pregnant, but the child died. I do have 3 companion cats that I love, but that is it. There is a dog next door that I am friends with, and another two dogs I had pet sat for, but it is what it is.

    I am grateful for this on-line family that I have here. I’ve written my thoughts and shared my feelings and my poems. Thank you all!

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