A Jewish Woman’s Journey

By Lynn Magid Lazar

I have a little scroll of fabric that I keep with me all the time. When you untie the maroon band and unroll it, you see the following words…

Every journey brings blessings

The journey of my life thus far has been quite an exciting adventure! While the road has often been straight and clear, there have been occasional bumps and potholes! During one of those bumpy periods, I was a single mom. If I characterized that period in my life as a time of upheaval, it would be a massive understatement. During the summer of 1998, my daughter was graduating from high school, one son was entering 11th grade and my youngest son had just become a Bar Mitzvah. I had also been preparing to become an adult Bat Mitzvah as part of a class of 13 dear sisterhood friends. Following my son by two months, our class did celebrate that milestone. During these same few months, I was in the process of selling the house I had been living in for more than 20 years and moving my children and myself to Pittsburgh to marry my soul mate. Did I mention that it was a time of upheaval?

As I look back on that time, I see, in many ways, I had begun my journey long before packing boxes or changing my address. As so many of our Biblical ancestors learned, our journeys begin as we learn and grow emotionally and spiritually. In fact our mystical tradition teaches us that God did not direct our matriarchs and patriarchs on their journeys until God knew they were already at a crossroads and prepared to move on their own.

My personal growth as a Jewish woman, mother, wife, daughter (and so many other roles) has been greatly influenced by involvement in my local sisterhood and the broader world of Women of Reform Judaism. It was through sisterhood that I attended my first Torah study group and began to understand that the world of adult Jewish learning was open to me. During my early years on the WRJ Board of Directors, I was offered the opportunity to chant Torah at a Biennial Assembly and had to turn down this tremendous honor because I lacked the skills and knowledge. As my role in sisterhood life began to expand, I realized that I wanted to join other leaders in the Reform Movement by becoming a more educated Jewish adult. If I were ever offered the opportunity to read Torah again, I was determined to be prepared. So I continued my involvement and took advantage of the opportunity to become a more literate Jewish woman. Sisterhood provided the structure, relationships and support to help me on every step of my journey.

Then, when I reached a crossroads in my personal life and moved to Pittsburgh, the transition was made so much easier by my connections to sisterhood, my district and WRJ. Although moving from a very small community to a large urban congregation was quite daunting, I could walk into my new synagogue and know that I had friends – whether I had met them or not! Sisterhood offered me a place to belong, a place to feel comfortable, and a place to learn the traditions and minhag of my new community. I learned to make matzah brittle and shared Passover traditions with women I had never met. I continued to study Torah, and when I was asked again to chant Torah at a URJ Biennial/WRJ Assembly, I was able and delighted to say yes! During my transition to a new community, and continuing today, WRJ enables me to be part of my community from the kitchen to the library to the sanctuary.

WRJ’s Centennial year will bring many celebrations, commemorations and moments of transition. Many congregations are now preparing to celebrate a Centennial Sisterhood Shabbat, with services written by lay and rabbinic women leaders. 100 years ago, our foremothers could not do this. In 2013, we celebrate our ability to lead worship, create community and inspire one another.  We mark this moment in our 100 year journey.

My journey continues, as do all of our journeys. The text and the commentary of our lives are written as we travel. What is your journey? In which direction will you take your next steps? Are you listening to the loud or soft callings of your heart and to the voices of the sisters and brothers who will guide you?

I don’t know what the next stage of my life will bring and I certainly don’t know what the next 100 years will bring for Women of Reform Judaism. Yet, I feel confident that WRJ will continue to develop leaders, support our youth, fund the training of rabbis and cantors, and speak for those who have no voice. I know we will continue to open ourselves to family, community and sisterhood. And when we do that – God will be with us. The journey never ends…and it always brings blessings.

Lynn Magid Lazar was installed as president of Women of Reform Judaism at the 47th assembly in November 2009, and then for a second term beginning in 2011 at the 48th assembly. She joined the WRJ Board of Directors in 1993, and served as chair of the Youth Committee, and WRJ Treasurer (1997-99). Lazar was vice-president for the Departments of Programming and Advocacy and Service to Sisterhoods and Districts, as well as serving as the program chair for the WRJ 44th Assembly in Minnesota. She served as first vice president for the four year term 2005 – 2009.

The WRJ Ten Minutes of Torah series is sponsored by the Blumstein Family Fund.