How you doin’

Like all my posts recently, its been a while.  I want to hear from y’all, How you Doin’? Its been a busy time since I have written last, I’ll catch y’all up, I’m still single, still gay and still flying.  In one month from tomorrow I’ll be based back in my home city and I wont have to fly across the country for work, I couldn’t be happier.

I finished my Orthodox conversion in May, it was supposed to be in April but Hashem and a very personal demand was posed to me and I couldn’t honestly answer the question. Because if we have only one thing in this world it should be honesty, and I had up to that point been completely honest with my rabbi and community.  Sure it would’ve been nice to have everything done then but at what price, since that point I’ve seriously contemplated my future relationships with a significant other and what our relationship would look like.  I’ve come to conclusion that things in my relationship with my future partner are between me, them and Hashem and everyone else can keep their opinions to them self, and stay in their own lane.  In the end since my conversion didn’t happen when it was supposed to I had a more respected rabbi on my Beit Din a few weeks later, and we had many things in common, including working with the same Orthodox group for support. I count him now as a friend and look forward to learning from him more.  I also spoke it into the universe that I wanted to help LGBT people who were converting or thinking about converting to Orthodoxy and be a sort of mentor, sounding board, and confidant.  While I haven’t shared the whole first experience with many people, it was definitely a rude awakening about the issue Shortly after my dunking, I went to Israel again, this time as a Jew, since the last visit was during my Reform conversion.  I observed Shavuot, aka the Convert’s Holiday, in Israel and man what an experience, staying up all night learning, eating dinner at a religious lesbian couples house, who have become friends, going to a mikva on holiday in Israel (being attracted to men I had to just look down and get out), but most importantly GOING TO THE KOTEL before sunrise and being surrounded by thousands of people.  It was such a surreal experience, and to add to that a friend (who’s straight) was in Israel for his brother’s wedding, which I went to but more on that later, and I was staying with him in this nice apartment.

I did this Israel trip at the last minute, and left straight from Denver where I work, I landed on Friday morning with really no plans, except being in contact with a friend who moved to Israel a few months before. No plans for meals, lodging on shabbat or where to even daven, my friend found me a place to stay and meals, in fact they were with other people from my community in Atlanta that I wasn’t really close with but have since become friendlier with.  It ended up being a really cool and somewhat surreal shabbat.  I was originally only supposed to stay for a week and a half, but with my job flexibility is the main perk and I ended up staying 3 weeks.  It was such an amazing experience and I met amazing people I can’t wait to go back and I’m always looking at my schedule to see when I can go back, but so far it hasn’t happened, soon though.  I celebrated, not only Shavuot in Israel, but my birthday as well, I was packing to come back to the States on my birthday and I broke down, like that ugly cry you don’t want anyone to see EVER.  I’ve had an attachment to Israel even before I went there and way before I even thought about converting and to spend this much time there as a Jew was surreal for me.

My Shavuot experience was amazing, everything.  I was in contact with the LGBT Orthodox group in Jerusalem, looking for meals and learning opportunities and while they didn’t have much going on learning-wise they did put me in contact with this amazing couple, who had me over for dinner.  The conversations….. jeez were so in depth, it made me think hard, the welcomeness was amazing and just being able to meet them was so awesome.  One is an LGBT activist, who communicates so eloquently I wish I could articulate as well as she does.  Her activism comes from the heart too, she started a weekly discussion in the middle of the busiest squares in Jerusalem shortly after the Terror Attack on the Jerusalem Pride Parade that killed Shira Banki, and not just to put being LGBT out there but to change the conversation of being religious and LGBT in the religious and secular worlds in Israel and the Jewish World as a whole.  While I didn’t participate in the gathering while I was in Israel this past time, I look forward to doing so on my next visit.  Her wife is a therapist who deals with LGBT people in the religious and ultra religious worlds, who again articulates so well I could only wish to one day speak that well.  They are pioneers in their own rights and I can not wait to get to know them better through trips to Israel and social media.

I almost forgot my first Mizrahi (Egyptian/Middle Eastern)  shul experience, I was planning on going to this other shul in Nachlaot, near where I was staying for the last week of my visit, as I was walking there I got pulled into this other shul to make a minyan, not know what it was I went in and we started davening.  Well it was quite the experience and since I helped make the minyan they gave me an aaliya (reciting a blessing before and after a Torah portion) and since I’m used to the brachot being transliterated and being nervous was all hell I completely fudged the bracha and got a little reprimand from the gabbai. He ended up saying the bracha and I repeated him. I was sweating so much and embarrassed I just wanted to slink out the back door and disappear. But it was a small shul and only one doorway and I couldn’t just leave, so I sat there after my time was up on the bimah and tried to cool myself down.  Shuls in Israel for the most part are not like American shuls where there is a kiddish and people hang out afterwards and socialize, when shul’s done everyone goes home and eats lunch or takes a nap or whatever, there are really no invites to meals and you kind of have to have everything set up beforehand.  Luckily I had made plans to go to someone’s place for both meals that Shabbat.  Both meals I went to the same place and have found out that they do it weekly and people just show up, I think at one point there was like 40 people in this 2 bedroom apartment and patio.  It wasn’t a big place but they made it work and both the food and company and singing was great!  When I finally left from dinner it was about 2 in the mornings do everyone else was still going strong singing and chatting.  Lunch was a little bit more subdued but the liquor came out to ease the hangovers from dinner and there wasn’t much singing just hanging out and talking about the week and the issues that were going on at the time.

 

I keep saying how surreal my trip to Israel was and I tried to use the best descriptors possible but it doesn’t do the experience justice. It really was at some point in the trip almost an out of body experience, like is this really real, am I really here after everything involved in my process as a Jew and I actually know people here 7,000 miles away from home.  By the way there are also happened to be other friends mostly Jewish but one non Jewish friend who was in Israel for her boyfriend’s niece’s bat mitzvah at the same time as me. There is a saying (paraphrasing here) that you always see someone you know in Jerusalem, and while I didn’t get to see her or any of the others visiting it’s kinda weird that we all happened to be there at the same time.

In the end it was an amazing trip and a great way to celebrate my accomplishments and birthday.  Maybe I’ll see you in Yerushalayim on my next visit.

 

My emotional Rollercoaster

I alluded to how my emotions are going crazy since yesterday on my Facebook page and I’ve got an almost set date for my Orthodox Beit Din and conversion to be completed and with the date happening after Pesach (Passover) and before Lag B’omer I have to look at it as own personal coming out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) just as the Israelites and the most knowledgeable generation did over 3,000 years ago. I’ve studied a lot, I’ve read A LOT, I’ve done a lot to get this conversion completed and I’m READY like really READYYYYYYYYY for it to be completed and to go to mikvah but like every convert there is this stone in my stomach about the Beit Din. Even though I think I know my stuff one never knows the questions that can come up during it and I just hope I don’t answer their questions wrong.  Also I was getting emotional over my ex who is going through some tough cancer treatment. We only dated for a mere 6 months or so but we’ve been friends pretty much ever since and to know that he is in pain and trying to act strong around me when I saw him last night was just too much. Seeing how much weight he’s lost and hearing him say how winded he gets and how tired he is and wants to do everything on his own and doesn’t want help is tough for me because I want to help him and be there for him also. I just let it overwhelm me and then when he left I’d when I got the email from my rabbi about the dates for the Beit Din and it sent me over the edge. How does one react when you see a cancer survivor dealing with a new bought of cancer and then getting the great news of your Beit Din being convened? It’s tough and well the tears just came out I couldn’t hold them back! That ugly cry too not the nice somewhat pretty or contrallable tears like the ones that your whole body just shakes and moves uncontrollably. It was bound to happen and no one was there to witness that type of crying thank G-d, but my ex did see me cry and not be able to stop it. When he went home from visiting me at my hotel on a layover as much as I tried to hold it back so he wouldn’t see i couldn’t the tears just came and I couldn’t talk.  So please y’all pray, daven, say Tehillim and ask HaShem, G-d or who ever your higher being may be that he be healed quickly and completely and that I get through my Beit Din smoothly. Have a great week ahead and a meaningful Pesach. 

The continuation…… 

My first time hosting Shabbat lunch, was in no better terms, AMAZING, FUN, EXHILARATING. I don’t know if I said it in my last post but I was very very very nervous about hosting people for lunch. While right now I’m not allowed to say the brachas over Bread (Ha’Motzi) or Kiddush, its kind of a bummer but one day soon I will be and trust me the party is already being thought about and the money is being saved. My friend who is so kind and willing to help me during this process said both the blessings fantastically and I’m eternally grateful for his continued help. I had seven, yup 7 people for lunch, all people I know and who have become close friends since my decision to join the community and begin my conversion. I bought a bright white table cloth (which now has a stain) from wine but it’ll be reminder of this first time and a challah board. 

I follow the Sephardic custom of pulling the challah apart instead of cutting it. And I also bought Netilyat Yedayim towel just for Shabbat. 
The wine was flowing, and so was the water, the laughter, the conversation, the joyfulness went straight to my heart and soul. I loved having people over and I hope it showed on my face while my guests were here. I did thank them after Shabbat ended on Facebook so it’s public.  I can’t wait to host again which will be this week.  
Lunch was Ropa Vieja, a Cuban dish that is my absolute favorite and it was over brown rice. This was it before it was cooked. 


I also made a parve Chocolate “not so mousse” Mousse cake. It doesn’t show well in photos but it’s scrumptious.  

Do you have it in you. 

Some say an orthodox conversion is hard, too demanding, extreme and while it may be; my experience so far is not that. I met with my rabbi last week to officially begin my conversion. And while I was asked to do things I’m not already doing like hosting people for Shabbat or setting time frame to learn Hebrew fluently. Nothing has been too extra ordinary, I was told by my rabbi that he wouldn’t delay my Beit din as long as I did the work and showed improvement. I didn’t delay, this week I’m hosting Shabbat lunch this week at my place and I’m studying Hebrew as much as I can during the week. Although a wrench was thrown in to my plans when I received an email from my rabbi, “If your planning on hosting Shabbat make sure you have someone from the community light your stove/oven.”  Ok while you maybe saying to yourself wait what you keep kosher, your kitchen’s kosher, your hosting Shabbat lunch what’s the problem with cooking?  Because I’m becoming Jewish and not halachically, technically Jewish yet cooking certain foods for Shabbat need to be “done” by a Jew.  Sure, I said, absolutely no problem, why because I’ve met some amazing people and have become close to several, but one person in particular has become my new bestie. We normally hang out before Shabbat starts and he has been coming to my shul, walking 3 miles, on Shabbat. With out any issues he turned everything on, and plugged everything in for me. Everything was all set for Shabbat lunch. Stay tuned for what was my first Shabbat event. 

    So it begins finally 

    As I’ve written about before, I’ve become more observant and the next step I’m taking is a Modern Orthodox conversion. I now live within the local Jewish community and inside the eruv, I go to a ModOx shul and most of my friends with in the community are very accepting.  I’ve said it before and I say it again the community I’ve moved into is utterly amazing. Every thing a new person to a community going through a conversion needs is here. People that are willing to answer every dumb question or teach you the song way of benching on Shabbat, even letting you do Ha’Motzi at their Shabbat lunch table and wanting me to lead benching, Treating me like the “certified” I soon will be. Seriously haven’t encountered any bad instances with the people.  Now davening ahh that’s a different story but I’m sure that at some point in every converts story they’ve got at least one story about having to “out” themselves as not officially Jewish in the Orthodox shul. Mine happened 2 Erev Shabbat’s ago;  picture it July 4th weekend 2016, everyone is on vacation and its time to daven Mincha, I’m already running late, I show up at shul at 7:10 thinking its started already, NOPE people are standing outside, looking for all those who are walking slowly because of the stifling heat here in the south. I walk into shul and they’re counting 7, 8, 9, only need one more person says the gabbai, I’m number 9 and I have to walk up to him and say No you actually need 2 more because I’m not halachicallly Jewish, my reform conversion doesn’t count. I see the angst on the gabbai’s face not wanting to “out” me but really having no choice but too. Finally 3  men show up all at once and MINYAN. But it’s too late for me not to be outed. I don’t care because only a few people didn’t know and they happen to be people I have interacted much with. I will tell you that that and the following Shabbat’s have definitely strengthened my resolve to get the conversion process under way. That process will hopefully be started this month and my Beit Din will be convened so I can see how long this all going to take.  I’ll keep everyone posted and I’ll definitely be keeping at least a written journal as well as this blog. 

    I’m back and I’ve got exciting news….

    Yeah Yeah, I know I said I would post more frequently but, my life is really pretty boring NORMALLY, but this past month has been INCREDIBLE and Hashem is the one who made it all happen and Instagram. If any of you follow me on Instagram or my business page on Facebook, y’all already know what I’m gonna talk about, if not hold onto your seats cause its gonna get wild on here.

    First great thing that happened, I follow a lot of kosher chefs on Instagram and  one happens to have a radio show, I commented on one of her posts because now in all 3 major NYC there is Fresh, Good,  Kosher food available for purchase.  AMAZING right?  Well being that I love to cook, eat (kosher only) I know I’ve kept y’all out of the loop. Anyway I commented that I was a flight attendant that keeps kosher and literally within an hour I had an email from her and an appointment to chat with her.  We finally chatted a few days later and we set up a time the next day for me to be on her show.  Let me just say I was nervous as anything but she is such an amazing host and so easy to talk to too, my time on the show went by so quickly and I enjoyed doing it so much.  You can listen to me here.

    So that was amazing thing one, amazing thing two is a little more crazy.  As y’all know in May it’ll be a year since I took the plunge and finished my journey to become a Jew, I know I’ve said it before and I really have become more observant in that year and with that I’ve been thinking about doing another conversion.  I don’t need to hear the bad things, “Oh you don’t think your Reform conversion is good enough,” or “But they won’t accept you because you’re gay.” or “It’s so strict.”  Let me just start by saying yes, it is strict but I am already doing most daily things already, I do think and know that my Reform conversion is enough and luckily, hopefully, I’ve found a supportive rabbi that is going to sponsor me.  Also the community and shul that I’ve been going to, everyone is so friendly and welcoming.  I was invited for Shabbat dinner at someone’s house who I had just met the shabbat before, When I was upfront about my conversion their response was “Absolutely no problem, not only was my conversion interesting to everyone there, my job dominated the conversation as well.  Being a kippah clad and  Observant Flight Attendant is really a conversation piece.  Not only was it shabbat dinner but someone in the community had a new baby boy and in the Orthodox world the friends or family of the new father throw what’s called a Shalom Zachar, basically just another reason to party.  Keep in mind I and the other 2 male guests didn’t know the new father nor his family that was throwing the party only our host knew them.  We all walked in and it was like we were all part of the family.  Get a drink, sit, sing, eat, here’s a shot, eat, There was cake and candy and alcohol (everything under the sun) Single Malt Scotch, this was my drink of choice, and High end Tequila, which I did not partake in, I don’t do well with tequila.  The next day, Shabbat morning, I ran into my dinner host and his family and one of the female guests, who also happens to be new to the community and as it turns out is from New Jersey as well and had to do a sort of Beit Din, because her mother converted and when she passed her conversion certificate couldn’t be found.  She also happens to be outgoing and started introducing me to more and more people.  One thing led to another I was being invited to lunch at the Rabbi’s house, and a Purim Seuda at another family’s house. Needless to say I’ve been very warmly welcomed into the community and look forward to moving into the area and really become a member of it.

    Just Being

    It’s been a while since I wrote anything, anywhere.  Its been an interesting past few months to say the least.  My stepfather passed away in late August suddenly, and with it being in the month of Elul and in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and all that seriousness, I did something that no one could have seen coming, I apologized and tried to mend fences with my estranged mother and sister.  While I’m not in their business all day every day I know that I’ve done the biggest part, it’s something right?

    I’ve also been mulling with becoming more observant in my Jewishness, maybe becoming modern orthodox or more conservative.  It’s only an idea and hasn’t gone anywhere so far I’m still in the researching phase of looking for a suitable rabbi that I could work with in my area.  Now that it’s out there in black and white though it may go somewhere.  I’ve been trying to get my schedule to where I’m off on Friday and Saturday so I can be shomer shabbos or at least at home.  I’ve been going to the conservative shul more and more also and I like it.  I forget if I mentioned this in a previous post or not but the first time I went to that shul I was given the privilege of carry the Torah around before they read from it on Saturday morning, and shortly after that I had to use my Flight Attendant skills, when an older woman passed out and I was sitting right near her, there was a doctor of course but I actually knew how to deal with the incident better than he did.  Another time I also got to read the prayer before and after someone else read from the Torah, that hasn’t even happened at the shul I did my conversion through.  I haven’t been going to that shul quite as often, one because now it’s so far from me and second, being that I trying to be more observant I don’t want to be getting home at 9:30-10 pm on shabbat. The rabbi that did my conversion called me a few weeks ago about an opportunity for me, for all the work that I’ve done with the shul in the past year and with the Pride Parade, him and his wife donated money to SOJOURN, an LGBT Jewish group in the South, that was one of the Grand Marshall’s for the Pride Parade this past year, and gave me his 2 tickets to their premiere event in March for Purim, Purim off Ponce.  An amazing event that I went to last year, maybe this year I’ll meet someone, G-d Willing.

     

    I’ve also had some trouble with my teeth and finally man’ed up and faced my fears of the dentist and have been getting things taken care of, and I’ve actually used up all my benefits for this year and its only the 23rd and I still have some more work to get done so guess who gets to pay out of pocket for work that I totally hate and am afraid of.  ME!!! Although they give me great drugs to ease my nervousness and high strength pain pills and lots and LOTS of Nitrous Oxide during the procedures.

    I’m also taking a more proactive role in marketing and getting JetSet Organics out there.  with Social Media, postcards, and with showing the products off to my co-workers.  If you haven’t checked out my site please do mkt.com/jetset-organics I take out all the hard work of going organic in your skin care.  You can also like my Facebook page at Facebook.com/jetsetorganics

    For the secular New Year I went to Warsaw, Poland.  While its a cool city the dead of winter is not the best time to go, I’d love to go again and go to the concentration camps but in spring or summer. I’ll also need to rent a car or go with a tour because they aren’t near big cities and transport isn’t that good.  I saw some very interesting Communist era things and the Warsaw Ghetto and the new Polish Jewish Museum built on the remnants of one of the buildings in the Ghetto.  And of course I went to a gay bar there, which surprisingly wasn’t packed, apparently Warsaw doesn’t have a big gay scene.

    Other than all this it’s been boring in my life, commuting, working, coming home and being with myself.  I’m going to try and do a post like at least once a month maybe more.

    Shloshim

    So this should have posted in September, better late then never.

     

     

    Again, its been a while since I have written a post and quite a lot has happened. As the title suggests I am was in the shloshim, or 30 days, of mourning. My stepfather passed away suddenly on August 21. It’s definitely been an emotional roller coaster, from “doing shiva” differently than prescribed and being somewhat estranged from my immediate family. I didn’t sit shiva per se, I did cut a piece of clothing after hearing of his death, and it actually happened on a Friday afternoon, so technically I was not able to mourn for a full 25 hours and it was somewhat weird sitting in shul participating but not fully present. I have said the Mourners Kaddish every morning but not in a synagogue or with a minyan. Yeah I know I’m not doing it as prescribed and I don’t have the whole community and other mourners to lean on but when I travel every week and normally stay near an airport where there isn’t a shul close by, you gotta do what you gotta do and saying it alone is better than not saying it all. Right? His death got me thinking about what it means to be religious and observant in a secular fast paced world. I have decided to start laying t’fillin.  I ordered a set and they are on the way from Israel hopefully they will be here soon.  I actually am really looking forward to doing this mitzvah.

    Moving working and being 

    As I shared before I’m now on my own for the first time in 34 years.  It’s been about a month and so far it’s been freeing.  Also about a month ago I started speaking with someone and made plans to meet up since we live in different cities.  He is Jewish as well and also converted he is much younger than me, but he seemed to be more put together than most 34 year olds, and was very mature and knew what he wanted. Things started getting hot and heavy over Video chat, and I started getting feelings for him. I opened up and told him about things I usually don’t so early on, I felt a connection with him even just over text, we had a lot in common and I could see things going further with him, but alas he didn’t feel the same towards me.  It also all went down while I was flying and on a very long day with little rest the night before and I took it harder than I thought or even expected.  I haven’t dated anyone for a very long time and I very rarely open up to people but again I was enamored with all our things in common and went for it.  I will recover and hopefully find somebody who really is my beshert. He did get me thinking about many things that I hadn’t given a second thought about, some are huge life changing things and some aren’t per se just topics that I didn’t think needed to be changed just because I’m Jewish now and that maybe I do need to change or think about not doing them anymore. And now that I have finished my conversion I ready to get back into the dating scene.  Hopefully within the next few months it’ll happen, only Hashem knows. I’ve been working on the weekends this month and so Shabbat has been observed either traveling or on another day.  Now before I get lambasted for not properly observing the sabbath on Friday to Saturday, this month my work schedule has not allowed me much flexibility, unkess I pay a hearty sum to another flight attendant to change trips, and well I just can’t afford it.  It has been different and not in a good way, although I love my job and wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything else working on Shabbat has not been fun.  I understand clearly why Jews have shabbos.

    Some of the things that “the guy” got me thinking about is keeping kosher.  While my kitchen is a shoe box, literally, I’ve been slowly separating everything.  I have 2 sets of silverware, cooking utensils, and sponges. I don’t have any dishes yet but soon I will and there will be 2 different sets. It hasn’t been easy let me tell you.  I’ve mixed sponges by accident and used a fork that is for dairy with a meat dish but hey I still new at it and we all make mistakes.  For any of you that have a Trader Joe’s nearby they have an amazing selection of kosher products. Like amazing selection, they’ve become my new favorite store.

    I’ve also taken a break from my side business JetSet Organics while I moved and got settled into my new place. But I’m gearing back up and taking again. If you haven’t checked it out yet please do, visit Facebook.com/JetSetorganics. I use every product I make and I’ve seen huge changes in my skin.  Also you may have noticed that I added a tab at the top for my business.  While there aren’t any posts yet on that tab there will be as soon as I start taking photos of products as they’re being made.

    Officially Official…… 

    Well yall it’s done, I met with the Beit Din dunked in the mikvah (a pool), and now I’ve been introduced to my community where I did my conversion.  Everything went very very very quickly after I had the little chat with my rabbi.  So quickly that my first Shabbat as a new Jew I didn’t have time to plan a party. I like to party and by party I mean have a good time and drink some wine and nosh and kvell, look at that I’m already using Yiddish. LoL.  My conversion date and second birthday is 17 Iyar 5775, May 13, 2015 it falls within 30 days of my real birthday so now I can actually say I get an entire month to celebrate my birthday. Why not right!! So here in Atlanta the community (read everyone but orthodox) mikvah has been torn down to be replaced by a new, improved, fancy and inviting mikvah, and as such the orthodox community here and pretty much every where else will not allow anyone but the orthodox to use their mikvah lest there be some rebbe somewhere that should not agree and so I had to use a regular pool, however this pool has been open all year round and had been in contact with the appropriate amount of Living Natural waters to be considered kosher in the Reform viewpoint. We’ve had a lot of rain in the past few weeks.  Also I did dunked naked and with out jewelry on it was less than 2 hours after I had showered and shaved.  My rabbi also watched all 3 dunks to make sure they were kosher, and made sure I pronounced every word in the 3 prayers I said. I may use the new one when its opened after the High Holidays, and have my rabbi there to really make it kosher.  Tonight was the night that I was introduced officially as a Jew to the synagogue I belong and there was a ceremony, and I had to speak a little bit to the congregation about my journey.  Nerve wracking, it was.  Anyway so my rabbi had myself and the other guy that also converted hold a Torah scroll and say the Sh’ma at the ark in front of everyone.  I don’t know if it was the rabbi’s pre planning or just Hashem showing me that I’ve done the right thing but today is May 30, June 1 starts Gay Pride Month, rainbows and such will be abounding for the next month well the Torah scroll that I held, on its dressings had rainbows on it.  Just a little something that made me smile even more.  As soon as the video archive of tonight service is up I’ll post it and you can check  it out.  Ps. don’t watch my little speech, I didnt have anything prepared and was flying by the seat of my pants, you can tell my sweating. I’ll try to scan the papers my rabbi gave me, it has the ceremony in writing. After service everyone was coming up to me and the other and wishing us Mazel Tov and congratulating us.  Next up on my calendar is my birthday trip next weekend then my birthday on Thursday and then moving the following weekend, then back to work and reality.  Now that my conversion is complete and I’m officially Jewish, I’m single so if any of my followers that know of any nice Jewish guys I’m looking  and I travel for free and so can my partner (on standby).