Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chapter 7

When my first child was born, it was a cosmic experience for me. The only way I can explain it is to draw a picture. Imagine that before you have a child, there is only you, standing in the world. And then God hands you your daughter, and suddenly all these women come into view behind you, in a long line, and they are all your mothers, right back to Eve. You can't see them, until you hold your own daughter in your arms and you are part of the line.

That may have been the most important day of my life.

But living in Pembroke, did not get easier. Infact, one day my husband came home to find me moving all the furniture out onto the lawn. I was moving, and that was that. I think that was the day I really did have a nervous breakdown. I never actually went for counselling but looking back on it, I was in a bad way. I wanted desperately to move but my husband wouldn't even entertain the idea. It wasn't that he was so in love with the place, but he was dealing with his own desperation, and also some different cultural norms. In the US, if you don't like it, you change it, but the British tough it out, as though there is some great reward at the end, for putting up and shutting up. The idea of moving would like being admitting to failure, and what's more, he had no idea where we'd go. What if I hated the next place? And the next? These were his thoughts, as he held his young daughter and looked at his crying wife.

He'd come home and tell me in mocking tones that he'd had a call from a "headhunter" who was trying to fill a job in Atlanta, as though that was ridiculous. I tried to explain that was really a VERY GOOD THING, but it was no use. And every Saturday morning we'd take off to the Messianic Fellowship where we'd sing "Roni, Roni Bat Tzion" and "The Trees of the Field", and dance around. We'd hear a word form the "paster" who was now styling himself "Rabbi Rich", and I would picture my brother listening and smirking. Now you have to understand, my brother can smell a phony from one hundred miles, and although he is a liberal aging hippy agnostic with whom, spiritually I have very little in common, I like the fact that he doesn't suffer fools gladly. Well "Rabbi Rich" never passed the smell test with me, but again, that was another thing my husband wouldn't leave. He needed anchors, I have come to realize, and he never really appreciated how much it hurt me, until many years later.

Two years later I gave birth to my second daughter, and by now we had an actual four door car and a dog. We were tied to the Messianic group for almost all of our social life. We even hosted a wedding at our house, the day after Hurricane Gloria, and believe it or not we were the only house on the street with electricity and no trees down! That really had to have been prayer. I often tell my daughters that I have no memory of the "Pop Culture" of the '80's because we were in a cult, and that is really what it felt like.

Every weekend after the service, we'd go house hunting in places like Brookline, Wellsley, Newton and other extremely expensive suburbs, and we just couldn't bring ourselves to move from our old farm house, which by now was looking pretty nice, to a tiny two bedroom next to the tracks. For this, we were told, we weren't committed enough to the group. We weren't "listening to the Lord". Occasionally we'd like a house in one of the more interesting South Shore suburbs, and we'd tell Rabbi Rich, and he'd frown and say it was too far away. Why we wanted his approval is one of the great mysteries of life, but you see, even intelligent people can get caught up in a cult-like group.

When we did eventually move a town over, we steeled ourselves for the coming judgement, but it was ok, because by then I was considered "disgruntled" so they didn't expect much from me.
At this time, I met Moishe Rosen, of Jews For Jesus. He had seen the podium cover I had made in London and asked me to make one for the new building J4J had purchased in New York. Of course because I was thrilled, flattered, and a true believer, made this extraordinary piece for absolutely nothing. Semi precious stones, gold plated threads from Europe, but at the time, for me, it was an act of worship.

Moishe's "Pulpit Scarf" in progress

The really big difference between our London experience, and these Messianic groups we were involved in here is the egos involved. There were so many hugely inflated egos in the Messianic Movement, it's a wonder it wasn't competing with the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. When I eventually hand delivered the "pulpit scarf" as Moishe called it, I never even got a thankyou.

I went on the make a "parochet" or Torah curtain for the new ark the Boston group had built for its newly acquired but unkosher Torah scroll. A torah becomes unkosher when it is blemished in any way, or the writing becomes faded. It should be buried in a Jewish cemetary or used only for display but there are unscrupulous dealers in these things, who sell them to Messianic groups.

Which leads me to "The Beginning of the End". The kids were still very young, and we took off to the big UMJC conference which was being held in Virginia. It was loads of fun, as these things usually are. I remember that a bunch of us went to a screening of The 700 Club, but were very put out that Pat Robertson didn't send anyone over to cover the conference. All the anti-missionary people were picketting outside the hotel. On the large mezzanine where all our book and chachka sellers were, was the guy from Brooklyn with his unkosher Torahs for sale. ANd there right at the top of the stairs, to greet you as you entered, was a Torah scroll, uncovered, open and LAYING ON THE FLOOR, with people walking around it. If you know anything about ANYTHING Jewish, that is just NOT DONE.

Never is a Sefer Torah placed - even for a moment - on the floor, no other objects are ever placed on top of it, and if G-d forbid a Sefer Torah should ever fall, it is a common practice for all who witness this event to fast.

None of the people in Leadership would do a thing about it. I happened to catch Andrew Shishkoff (now known as Eitan)as he and his wife were on their way to the beach. He was the president of the UMJC and his response? "It's not that big a deal, is it? Don't worry. We'll see ya when we get back from the beach"

He has since moved to Israel, where he leads a Messianic Group in Haifa, and he's a big name in the Movement. I am fairly certain that the current Eitan Shishkoff would be mortified to be reminded of this earlier incarnation.

Thus my slow departure from the Messianic Movement began.

To be continued.....