Rabbi, run

Andrea Myers’ funny and poignant tale of converting and coming out

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RELIGIOUS AWAKENING | Rabbi Myers started life in a much different place than where she ended up.

Like most of us, from the moment Andrea Myers was born, her parents had certain expectations for her. They expected her to grow up with morals, decency and kindness, strength and smarts. They hoped she’d be productive, happy and live a long life. Dad might have dreamed she’d take over the family business. Mom might have wanted to teach her to ride a bike or a horse. They saw great promise in her future.

But as Myers shows in her memoir The Choosing, they had a few surprises in store.

Born in Queens and raised in Long Island, little Andrea loved to ask questions. No answer was ever thorough enough, and certain things were never discussed. Controversy was forbidden, topics of religion and sexuality among them.

Myers’ mother was a Sicilian Catholic who had been “insulted” by the church and, as a result, Myers and herbooks-1 siblings were raised in their father’s Lutheran faith. Theirs was a unique and boisterous family: Myers’ devout grandmother lived upstairs and fiercely loved her granddaughter; Myers’ mother steadfastly stuck up for her children, no matter what; and Myers’ father had a dubious flair for fashion.

With her inquisitive mind, there was no question about college but when it came time for Myers to apply, she felt as if there was little choice. Her boyfriend said that if she chose a local college, they might as well “talk marriage.” But what he didn’t know was that Myers had been dating girls, secretly, for several years.

She chose Brandeis University, a predominantly Jewish school, and left home. There, she found people who didn’t care that she was gay, and a religion that seemed to answer a lot of endless questions but that asked even more.

Seeking out a beloved campus rabbi, Myers told him that she wanted to convert to Judaism and become a rabbi herself. He didn’t follow tradition by turning her away three times; instead, he welcomed her, but warned her that it wouldn’t be easy. Undaunted, Myers embraced the challenge by moving to Jerusalem to study. In so many ways, it was a decision that changed her life.

Filled with wisdom, humor, and the kind of contentment that only comes when one has found his or her right place in the world, The Choosing is one of those books that leaves you feeling oddly serene. Myers writes vividly about her life — her quirky family, memorable childhood experiences, her wife and children, mentors and friends — but she also takes opportunity to educate readers on Talmudic teachings, Jewish laws and her own spirituality. There’s plenty of humor as well — you can almost hear the twinkle in Myers’ words — but at the same time, she imparts a sense of refreshment, subtly pointing out the miraculous in the everyday.

If you’re looking for inspiration, direction or a few gentle laughs, you’ll love this surprisingly charming book. Grab The Choosing and you can expect a very good read.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Van Zandt County Republican wants Ten Commandments back in Texas classrooms

Rep. Dan Flynn

Tis the season for prefiling bills for the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature, and Van Republican Dan Flynn has filed a measure that would allow teachers in Texas public schools to post copies of The 10 Commandments on their classroom walls. (For those of you who don’t know, Van is a very small little town about 70 miles east Dallas on I-20. It is in Van Zandt County, for which Canton is the county seat. I worked there years and years ago as editor of the town’s weekly newspaper, The Van Progress.)

Flynn’s bill says that school board trustees may not stop copies of the commandments from being posted in “prominent” locations in classrooms, according to a story in the Sunday issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Flynn also says the measure is a “patriotic exercise” intended to teach students about history and principles.

(Funny, I see it as an unconstititutional effort to impose specific religious views.)

Flynn told the Star-Telegram:

“This is necessary to protect teachers who have the desire to establish that the country’s historical background is based on Judeo-Christian traditions. This might be a reassuring step to the people that we are wanting to maintain and hold on to those historical findings of how our country was founded. And anything that helps build the morals of our young people would be helpful. For too long, we’ve forsaken what our Judeo-Christian heritage has been. Our rights do come from God, not from government.”

Oh, and Flynn was apparently distressed that school officials are not allowed to publicly pray for students athletes before school sports events.

Of course, there have been numerous court cases involving the Ten Commandments on public property and in government buildings. And a in a lot of those cases, the courts have said it isn’t allowed. Although, as the Star-Telegram notes, there was a case just five years ago in which the Supreme Court said a granite monument with the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas Capitol is not unconstitutional because it didn’t mean that Texas government officials were promoting religion.

Flynn said his bill has gotten support among conservatives, but acknowledges that if it passes the Legislature it is likely to face legal challenges.

—  admin