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Leaving Me Behind   

       “I’m open to it,” I answered, and took the leap into a world I had hardly heard of

I was 19, just a few months out of seminary, when I met my husband. He was the first boy I dated, and I was ecstatic.

On our sixth date, we sat together in Mike’s Bistro, and over braised ribs and poached duck he told me that he didn’t think he really wanted to go to law school like his résumé stated, even though he’d taken his LSATs and his two older siblings were lawyers. He went on to paint a picture of his dream to get involved in kiruv, perhaps with an organization that his parents were involved in for years, despite them being FFB “in-towners.”

He asked me what I thought about cooking Shabbos for 20. I balked, and the little bubble I was floating in popped for a second. “Cook for 20?” I answered incredulously. “I don’t even know how to cook for two yet!”

“But do you think you might be able to in the future?” he asked hopefully. His eyes were alight, dreaming of the life we could build together.

“I’m open to it,” I answered, and took the leap into a world I had hardly heard of.

Am I leaving Me behind?


We spent the first year of our marriage in Eretz Yisrael. I learned to cook and keep house while keeping on top of my studies; he learned in yeshivah. At night we attended a kiruv-training program where I learned whatever I’d need to know to fill a role in an outreach position.

We were one year into the two-year program and packing up to spend the summer in the States, when my husband got his first offer: The organization his family had been involved with offered him a position in an established community, some hours away from where our parents lived. Within 24 hours, we went from packing up for the summer to wrapping up our lives in Israel.

I bid farewell to everything that had become so familiar over the past year — the fruit store where the owner knew my last name, the cracked sidewalks, the gregarious cab drivers, the Old City and the Kosel — as we tied up the little life we had built there in a quick, sloppy bow. With overstuffed suitcases and harried looks on our faces, we embarked on our next chapter.

Am I leaving Me behind?

Our family of three moved from a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Israel to a spacious three-floor home. We unloaded our rented U-haul truck by ourselves and tried to learn our way around town — where the kosher food stores were, which shul we were expected to affiliate with, which daycare to send to, and where the yeshivah was.

My husband’s white shirt and dark pants stood out, and he was advised to wear colored shirts during the week to help bridge the gap with the locals and help them feel at ease with his new position. As we shopped for colored shirts at Century 21, we kept the moment light as we smiled and laughed. I learned that my husband could still be a Torah-committed Yid even without his white shirt during the week.

When we hosted our first Shabbos meal for ten Jewish public-school teens, I learned about the importance of being up to date on hilchos Shabbos, as they handed my husband flowers after candlelighting. He fumbled and took them with a shinui — holding them between his elbows while the guests watched us strangely — and hid them in the kitchen.

We began to get our footing in that community, and I learned that Jewish observance doesn’t only look one way, the way I was used to.

Then, just one year in, we were asked to move to the town 25 minutes away to increase our impact. We packed up our family of four and kept going.

Am I leaving Me behind?


In our new town the locals were much older than I, and even farther removed from the culture in which I grew up, but  sweet as sugar. We were more confident in our purpose and strengths, and we continued to try and inspire learning, growth, and Yiddishkeit.

I was one of only a few women in the community who covered her hair, and when I was asked to become more involved in taharas hamishpachah at the tender age of 22, I hesitantly agreed. I loved every second of it.

I cooked Shabbos and Yom Tov meals for 20, 40, 80 teens at a time. I learned how to cook for a crowd, which foods to freeze, and what was a crowd pleaser. We hosted Friday night onegs, learning programs, and events. We got into a rhythm; with the locals, with the schools, with the teens, and with our children. Our three-year-old and baby never tired of having friendly faces around to play with them. We relished those years.

And then my husband was offered a promotion within the organization to a management position, in a community closer to our parents. After much discussion, he accepted.

Am I leaving Me behind?


We said our tearful goodbyes and moved for the fourth time in our five years of marriage. Our new home was on a quiet block, filled with families who looked like us and had similar upbringings.

Then just as we began to settle down, Covid hit. The world shut down, and we buckled. Sometimes we’d turn to each other and tearfully wonder if the move had been a mistake. The longing to be a part of something real and meaningful again was so deep, it ached.

Slowly, life began to sprout. While we didn’t host, I began to see the beauty in simplicity and quiet. We formed new friendships with our neighbors, while sitting across the street from each other talking on Shabbos afternoons.

My husband began to create and build again. There were virtual programs, Shabbos-in-a-box distributed nationwide, Haggados and Megillos compiled. We hosted, if not inside our home, then in our backyard, and our children cautiously engaged with the friendly faces around them. Our family of five took root once again.

And then, like it always does, a few years in, a new job opportunity presents itself. This one is not from the organization; it’s outside of the outreach field completely. It doesn’t require relocation, but it’s an agonizing decision. He accepts.

Am I leaving Me behind?


The in-towner, Bais Yaakov girl, the typical seminary student. The risk taker, the thrill seeker, the truth believer, the supporter. The packer, the traveler, the learner, the earner, the student, the teacher, the listener. The balanit, the homemaker, the cook, the relationship builder. The family cheerleader, the coach, the caregiver, the outreach partner.

I identify as these things, these characteristics and strengths and weaknesses that make up Me. If I leave one behind, one that’s so deeply embedded within, one that I’ve so strongly embraced, am I leaving Me behind?

Somewhere deep inside me I hear the answer, one that I know in my soul is the truth.

I was here all along. I was learning, growing, changing, becoming, reimagining, inventing, and investing. In ME.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 846)

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