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Being Part of the Club
Debbie* sat in the services of Darchei Noam, trying to follow along. Every now and then she would turn to the women sitting around her and ask, “What page are we on again?” After a while, it became clear that she would rather chat with the other women, then attempt to read Hebrew. It wasn’t until we left the services for a break, though, that she really began to tell us her story.
As it turned out, Debbie, a cardiologist, is an associate member of Darchei, coming only for special holidays, and usually attending Beth El, the conservative synagogue down the road. While she can’t commit to all the rigidness of Orthodox Judaism, she wants to be part of the community. For her, Judaism is social. She kept on repeating, “it’s a club;” “I love being part of the club.”
Growing up in South Minneapolis, surrounded by a close knit Catholic community, Debbie didn’t feel a strong connection to Judaism. It wasn’t until two of her siblings married very religious people, that she had more of an urge to be part of a Jewish community. She said that her siblings' shift in religion was the best thing to ever happen to her and her family. She recalls such moments as realizing that the Orthodox community had provided a week of meals for sister after she gave birth. Debbie decided to move to St. Louis Park, though outside of the eruv, so her children could have the Jewish equivalent to where she grew up. She ended up putting her kids in the Jewish Day School, appeasing her observant dad, expecting to switch to public school after kindergarten. But when she saw her kids happier than ever before, wearing “the little hats” and making matzoh, she surprised herself by keeping them in school.
“It’s a club; I love being part of the club."
Despite her love of Judaism, she also felt guilt for not being able to fully commit to Orthodox Judaism. She told us the story of how some time ago, she declared that she would stop driving after Shabbat services. It was Valentine’s day, though, and she agreed to drive with her non-religious husband to the gym for the last time. At the gym, a woman had a Cardiac arrest, and Debbie, a cardiologist, used a defibrillator to save the woman's life. Despite showing pride for saving someone’s life, Debbie said that “that was a step back” in her Jewish identity. 1
"Interview with Debbie." Interview by Maggie Goldberger and Maya Margolis. April 30, 2016. ↩
*Debbie is a pseudonym