Still in diaspora

August 9, 2019

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Madeline Budman at the Kotel with Women of the Wall.

Madeline Budman at the Kotel with Women of the Wall.

In nine days, on Tisha B’Av, the Jewish world will fast and mourn the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The destruction of the Second Temple marks the beginning of 2,000 years of diaspora for the Jewish people. A people wandering, without a homeland, rejected by every society they try to join. This supposedly ended with the creation of the State of Israel, a homeland for all Jews.

Today, at the outer retaining wall of that Temple that was destroyed thousands of years ago, I was shoved. I was spit on. I had to link arms with other women to prevent ultra-Orthodox girls from getting in between us and further disrupting our prayer. I watched as our prayer leader was pushed off of her stool (and was fortunately caught by one of my classmates). I had hissing and curses and screams in my ears as I tried to raise my voice in Hallel. Baseless hatred.

That’s when I realized: I’m still in diaspora.

It’s not because I’m American, because I haven’t made Aliyah. It’s because I’m a Reform Jewish woman. Even in my homeland, I can’t pray. I’m not at home in American society, and even in a culture that speaks my ancient language, honors my holidays and customs, cooks my food, and lives according to my calendar, I cannot be at home. As long as my own people reject me, reject my future rabbinate, and reject my community, I cannot be at home here. I want to be.

The destroyed Temple came from a fractured Jewish society, and I’m seeing these deep fissures today. I don’t pretend to know how to solve the problem, but I do know that I will continue praying with Women of the Wall for as long as I’m in Israel, and fight to move myself out of diaspora, whether that’s in Jerusalem or DC or Belarus or Poland or Norfolk or Cincinnati. I will make myself a home wherever I am.

My prayer for this Rosh Chodesh Av and Tisha B’Av is that one day soon, all of us will be able to be at home and at peace.

Madeline Budman

Madeline Budman is a first year rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem. She is a Norfolk native. This was written on Friday, August 2, 2019.

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