(Liya Rechtman)– We can spot each other from across oversized conference center ballrooms, in line for microphones at lectures, on stage at national youth events and, occasionally we notice, as we sweat through our “nice” Shabbat white, that there are some of us leading services from the bima. It’s in the way older people speak to us, the way we obligingly don our nametags with an extra ribbon at the bottom declaring our legacy and, uncomplaining, never give up hope on institutional, kosher-style salmon. We act, at times, as a support group for one another – reminding ourselves that we don’t actually have to be rabbis, and, despite the protests of our surroundings, we ARE capable of being individuals outside of congregational life. We are the Children of Rabbis, diminutively known as “RKs,” the Rabbi’s Kids.
The first time I ever smoked a cigarette was, stupidly, directly outside of my high school. I wasn’t breaking any school rules. In fact, I was in the midst of a large gaggle of friends and smokers. No one in the neighborhood seemed to care. However, only moments after I took my first ignorant, rebellious drag of nicotine and clove (yes, I was that cool), my mother received not one, but SEVEN calls from concerned neighborhood parents.
This is the life of a Rabbi’s Kid. We grew up in the synagogues and were perpetually called on as role models for what it meant to be a Jewish [fill in the demographic]. We were supposed to be the first to Hebrew school every Wednesday afternoon, the most informed and, naturally, the best behaved. We were expected to go to Israel, get elected to the regional youth group board, and lead services during the summer. We had the best Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties and the best sermons.
Of course, it wasn’t actually like that. A fellow RK once told me: “There are two types of RKs– you’re either a total fuck up, or a rabbi. Actually, either way you’re a fuck up.”
Looking around the Jewish community, I notice a trend. We RKs tend to act a bit like a cross between children of psychiatrists and washed-up child actors (if you’ve met either of those, you’ll know what I mean). We are stereotypically very self-involved and emotional, yet intelligent. We basically suffer from having gotten too much (unwanted) attention pre-puberty.
In reality, I was one of the “bad kids” in Hebrew school. Re-re-learning rudimentary Hebrew or the Jewish life cycle events bored me. We spoke Hebrew in the house and I had seen my mom perform all of those rituals. So I formed a sort of gang with three rowdy boys in my class and we spent those long hours making hell for our poor teacher, generally an underpaid rabbinic intern, who took up Hebrew school as a last resort while he worked on his dissertation. I was sent to the principal’s office, systematically, more often than anyone else in my class. As for my Bat Mitzah? My mother, the Rabbi, insisted that we shouldn’t turn the ceremony into a cult of materialism and that my party, unlike the ‘sports’ and ‘celebrity’ festivities hosted by my friends was… “Torah themed.” Womp womp.
If you’ve read she-bomb before, you might be confused at this entry. You might have read my post ago on attending an Israel activism conference , or referencing my Jewish values and you might be thinking: But ConstantLy, you write about Judaism all the time, despite the catastrophe that was your Jewish education in middle school, you must have turned around at some point. So are you on the Rabbinic track?
No, no (NOOOO!!!! IM NOT GOING TO BE A FUCKING RABBI SO STOP ASKING GODDAMMIT GO FIND SOME OTHER DISCIPLE! AND NO! I don’t remember when we met and I was in diapers. Duh.) Sorry, just had to get that out there. Its been a long three days so far of selling prayer books to Reform rabbis.
But anyway, no. Despite my religion major and my strange relationship with public speaking, I am not planning on joining the rabbinate. I’m also not that much of a fuck up, if I do say so myself. I have magically made it through three semesters of college, and I manage to post for she-bomb every Wednesday. See? So organized. Not a fuck up.
This leads me to my third option. I am just an informed layperson. Or, as Pandamonium’s so aptly stated “I’m just a guy who likes guys:”
I’m just a Jew who likes… Jewish stuff. And Israel.
Most of the time, with the exception of this week, I work pretty independently of my mom. Sure, I’ll ask her for advice on leadership ethics and rabbinic etiquette, but I don’t think we’ve spoken about our personal/spiritual religion since I was 16. I also do different things from her within the same world. She publishes prayer books, whereas, although I appreciate prayer, I pray maybe ten times a year. We both write Jewish poetry, but she does feminist classical and I do spoken word. My mom talks to Israelis for work, but rarely ever espouses political views. I… Well, I hope you get the idea. I’m my own person in the Jewish world, not a Rabbi in my mother’s foot steps BUT, I’m still IN the Jewish world.
OK, thanks she-bomb readers. I feel better now and can take this order from bow-tie man for 64 haggadot (meaning prayer books for Passover seder, which is… uch, whatever…)
<3 Constant theme, ConstantLy