Saturday, January 10, 2009

How I Really Feel

I have a confession to make:

I've spent the last 5 days on a cruise ship to the Caribbean with my family. No, I'm not joking. And yes, I hardly talked about it to anyone, especially temple people, while I was home in St Louis.

It wasn't because I wasn't excited about going. It was because it just felt wrong to brag about it in light of recent events. The last thing I wanted to do was rub it in anyone's face while they were tackling the huge changes going on at the temple right now.

For my silence, I am sorry.

I've spent the last 3 weeks going over and over the decision that my synagogue has made in my mind. I've talked to my cantor several times, to 2 board members, to the senior rabbi. If I've learned anything, it's that the whole decision--from top to bottom--SUCKS. Obviously, it's harder for some than it is for others; the people in charge of making this decision still have their jobs while my cantor doesn't--but I haven't found anyone at my synagogue who is truly pleased with this choice. I've also learned that the infrastructure of synagogue politics is hugely complicated; sometimes, a synagogue does have to operate like a major cooperation to stay afloat.

The nice thing about being on a cruise ship is the ability to let the ocean waves help you forget about life. Right before I left, when everyone assumed I was going back to NYC, I had just about had it when it came to talking about this situation. It made my time at home a sad and stressful one, and I walked onto the ship last week in a state of emotional exhaustion. The first day of the cruise, as we were floating our way to Ocho Rios, all I could do was take a step back and examine my own emotional roller coaster this decision has put me on. It's been a crazy journey of shock, anger, sadness, understanding, compassion, love and so, so much more.

Like the ocean, my emotions have come in waves, sometimes returning with a vengeance. Right now, as I sit in my cold apartment awaiting the snow storm that will hit once Shabbat arrives, I am once again very angry. Angry at my rabbi for not really listening to me when I spoke to him last week. Angry at the congregation for waiting 2 months before giving my cantor her well-deserved farewell service (and for a certain someone telling me the service was being given only for her sake.) Angry at the board for thinking that a musical rabbi could handle the musical and spiritual demands placed on the cantor. Angry that board and staff members are showing "compassion" to my cantor without doing much to save her job or get her back on her feet.

In so many ways, this decision feels like a death, and I (as well as the others who feel as I do) am still in the grieving process. Anyone grieving a loss goes through a similiar cycle of emotions as I am going through right now. I don't feel bad for being angry right now. Why should I? As a future cantor and member of my synagogue, I have every right to feel angry at the people who made this decision. I have every right to feel as though a huge part of my spiritual experience has been ripped away from me, and that a singing rabbi could never, ever replace it. My spiritual home can never be the same, and all because of irresponsible budgeting and a bad economy.

And more than anything else, I feel guilty. I feel guilty for being here, studying what I love, when the person who led me to be here is out of work. I feel guilty for writing on this blog about my upcoming semester and practicum when I know full well it will be hard for her to read it. I don't want to rub my success in her face; she deserves nothing but thanks for doing her job so beautifully that she inspired one of her congregants to be just like her. I feel guilty that I told her I can not sing at the synagogue again without her blessing (though it's completely how I feel), as it does put a huge amount of responsibility on her shoulders. I feel guilty that I didn't know about this decision before that couldn't do anything to help. I feel guilty that I haven't done enough to help her through this incredibly tough time. I feel guilty that I don't know what more I can do to help her when I want so badly to have the solution.

And I feel guilty for indulging in a vacation--albeit a very INexpensive one--when my family could have used that money to give back to the temple.

Reading through this with tears streaming down my face, I realize I may have said too much. My intentions are not to hurt or offend anyone; it's important to me that all of you who read this know how I really feel and know how much I am hurting for myself, my congregation, and my cantor.

As I've been saying for the last 3 weeks, this whole situation really, really sucks.

Right now, I wish so badly that none of it had ever happened.

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