My community at Rodef Sholom has become my family, as my blood relations still live in the south, and I live in California. I would largely say that I grew more since moving to California than in any other place. Why? Because I got involved with my synagogue, and they gave me leadership opportunities, put me in situations for growth that I would not have encountered otherwise in life, and as I have had an extremely difficult life, they have been there for me unlike anyone else other than my own family. Sometimes in ways that my family could not be there for me.
As a convert, I was spiritually born at Rodef, I came of age as an adult Bat Mitzvah at Rodef, and I found myself as an artist at Rodef due to finding amazing artists who encouraged me like never before to chase after my dreams. I volunteered for the Chevra Kadisha and the Sisterhood until my work injury took a lot of my ability away. I miss being able to give of myself like that more than anything that my health struggles have robbed me of. I even tried and failed to get into rabbinical school, but as I’m halakhically intermarried, no can do. They even let me lean up against their wall for the cover of Poet Loiterer.
They believed in me, and through everything, they still do. Even if I don’t believe in everything from my religion, they stay with me, and even though they’re 30 miles away, my heart is with them. My shul is the closest thing to a heaven on earth that I know. Rarely do I walk into a place to be greeted by warm hugs and cheek kisses and people who genuinely care about me, and who aren’t afraid to tell me when I mess up, and forgive me when I do.
I came home yesterday to find the congregational newsletter, and they had reprinted one of my poems. I’m posting this as a “thank you” and to my home away from home away from home, to my community, to my friends, to my tribe, to my people, as an “I love you.” I don’t say those words easily, nor lightly, but in this case, I mean it.
If you want to hear me read this, hit my soundcloud. If you want to see me perform it, hit my YouTube. It was first printed in the WRS newsletter in December 2013. It’s on my album Happy Accidents, and part of the book Look Ma! No Hands!, but such material things are not my reason for sharing this. Merely gratitude.
My Shul by D.L. Lang
My shul pursues peace.
In fact, that’s its name.
With these folks it ain’t all talk.
They give so much it hurts.
My shul is my heart expressed
in a building of community.
My shul gives you space to grow.
My shul greets you with a hug.
My shul delivers more than challahs.
My shul has a pizza in its ceiling.
My shul has a couch for the weary.
My shul makes my soul sing.
My shul marches in protests.
My shul lights bonfires of understanding.
My shul’s mikvah is the ocean.
My shul does yoga and meditation.
My shul rocks out to sixties music.
My shul attracts the artists.
My shul encourages dancing.
My shul gathers in living rooms.
My shul hikes the mountains.
My shul sings in holy circles on the beach.
My shul is so amazing,
because more than anywhere else,
My shul lets me be me.