Has it REALLY been that long?

challah

Wow.  I just looked at the last blog post I made and as I sit here, it makes sense.  That was when I started working seriously on the second PhD and put the other doctorate-in-process pretty much to the side.  For a number of reasons, which I will discuss in future posts, I was in a hurry to complete this one, or at least to add the required courses to my transcript.  One short answer to why is that it would open many more teaching opportunity doors, and at that moment, that was an important consideration.

So I stopped blogging “for a bit.”

Another reason was my almost burning desire to discuss the out-of-court settlement reached with my previous congregation, but I was under a “gag” order that prevented me from talking about it much, so the safest thing was to not talk about it all.  However, I was tired of the inaccuracies being brought to my attention about what I had and had not done.  So, NO, we did not file suit against them, although we were seriously considering it.  We settled in a mediation session, which actually took place much later than it should have – in large part because I was so focused on getting the new congregation going, so it took a while.  And the real irony of the settlement was that it was significantly more than we could have worked out had they negotiated with me to buy out the remaining year on my contract before they informed me of their abrupt termination by sending out an email to that effect to the congregation.

But that is all for another blog…..  What I was afraid I might accidentally disclose is no longer a threat.  The ban against discussing those details ended with final payment.

So let’s catch up some of that year plus that blogging has been on hiatus.  Wow, what a year!

I stopped blogging just after returning from being awarded a PhD in Education in the area of Organizational Leadership from Northcentral University.  The dissertation was on Goals in congregation religious school.  Then, thanks to an amazing offer from Northcentral University, I started on a PhD in Psychology, which has been fairly intense.  I took 3-4 classes concurrently and managed, fortunately, to maintain my grade average.  I am now about to submit chapter 1 of that dissertation this week.  There are five chapters in a standard dissertation, where 1-3 are the background and reasons for the study, Chapter 4 holds the details of the research and the results, and Chapter 5 is your findings, conclusions, and implications for the particular field of research.  The work on the dissertation itself is less time consuming than the heavy class load was.

And even that load would have been okay had it not been for two hurricanes (Matthew in 2015 and Irma in 2016), a mosque burning, Bill getting sick twice, the second time with an almost week long hospital stay.  Of course, the normal hectic jams of being a rabbi certainly added to the load, but I knew that was going to happen, which is why the return to blogging is happening after Succot and Simchat Torah.

It has been a very full year, in which I learned some very interesting things.  I am planning on starting a series of “Things I learned from.”  Some of my teachers have included a rescued cactus, the hurricanes themselves, and some other surprising teachers.

Another truly exciting thing that has happened this year is that I have connected with family members that I never knew of or never expected to meet or meet again.  I vaguely knew that my father had two children by an earlier marriage, but I had no way to find them.  Due to family dynamics associated with that earlier divorce, he never had contact with them, although I am positive that situation was not by his choice.

In any event, it started with an email containing a picture of me as a young girl in New York.  I am sitting with some of my cousins, including one of my favorite ones, Channah Baileh.  She was the one who emailed me, asking if I could identify some people at the wedding picture of her parents.  I could.  My father, mother, brother and some uncles were in that picture.  Channie, as she is now known, added me to the family tree – Oy! a VERY big family.  I only barely know some branches.  All of my uncles have died, one only a couple years ago!

And then Channie asked me if a young woman who knew some details about the family, but nothing about me, could contact me.  Channie said she was the daughter of someone that might be my brother.  I said sure.  I remembered the two earlier children and told Channie the very, very little I knew about them.

So we connected and that led to connecting to my oldest brother who now lives in Michigan and with the family of the other brother, all of whom now live in Israel.  That brother died a number of years ago, but he is survived by my sister-in-law and their two children, a son and a daughter.  The son has married and has two children of his own.  I am a grand aunt.  In the land of irony, I am FB friends with my sister-in-law’s neighbor, having met that woman and her son some years ago.   Another ironic part?  My sister-in-law and I both attended the same high school in Philadelphia, she just a couple years ahead of me, even though that brother was significantly older than I am.

Instant family!  The one brother has three grown children and his wife has a grown daughter as well.  The Israel branch has my sister-in-law and her children and grandchildren.  I have the other brother that I knew about, and his five children.  I talk with his oldest son and daughter often, but I have not had any contact with the younger three from his second marriage, although I have reached out to them.  Family dynamics are always interesting.

So, my new family!  My oldest brother and my sister-in-law came to visit this summer.  What a wonderful treat.  We had one short week to get to know each other by spending days together.  That was June.  He taught me to bake challah!  And I have baked it every week since then (except for the weeks of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

Hurricane Irma was an interesting event since my one nephew lives in Miami, and he sheltered in place without power for just over a week, even though he was back at work the next day while we were still feeling the effects here in Port Saint Lucie.  My new-found nephew lived in Key West and he evacuated to Virginia.  His business in the Keys took a serious hit.  He is looking seriously at what he wants to do, since his business in the Keys is hurting both from damage and from the lack of business in the Keys, one of the secondary impacts of a hurricane.

So it has been a crazy time, and I have some catching up to do.  And yes, you guessed it, Challah is one of my other teachers.

There are many teachers in life, some even come with chocolate chips!

Thanks for reading,

Shafir

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