OneTable’s Rabbi Jess: How She Got Here
People often ask me why I do what I do. It’s not intuitive, after all, for a music journalist from Western Kentucky who grew up mostly secular to, at 24, quit her job, have a “quarter-life crisis” summer on the beach in Israel, and end up a rabbi. But that’s what happened. I sat down in a Beit Midrash, an open study hall, someone put a Tanakh, a Hebrew Bible, in front of me, and I fell in love.
It was the summer of 2005. Happened so fast. Had me a blast. At first tentative, then headlong, we fell and fought and made up and fought again. A student of English literature and Gender Studies, I reveled in the opportunity to sharpen my skills in a new language, to explore the workings of a narrative both foreign and familiar, stories and laws and poetry at once outside myself and as much a part of my being as breathing.
What can I tell you, ten years later? Judaism was a journey, and it still is. Judaism changed my life, and it still does. You can learn for a lifetime and know very little. What I do know was hard earned, but easy to teach. Hard to take, but simple to give. Ready? There is no such thing as Judaism. There are only Judaisms. There isn’t One Way to do this thing. Never has been. I chose a Judaism that works for me. It’s authentic and beautiful and challenging and dynamic. It changes over time because I change over time. It doesn’t always make life better, but it always makes life suck less.