Registered: 16 February 2010
I ramble and philosophise much but it comes down to this in my book:
Love Life, Live Love .... now for the rambles and rantles ...
My favourite obsessions, rants and art:
- dancing, stories, playing, swimming in the ocean, times with friends and family
- self-confessed, non-ashamed eco-freak and peace-nick, doing MA in Sustainable Enterprise and Human Security (freedom from extreme want and need, empowering folks stuff)
- Multi-disciplinary artist, story-teller and performer working with children and adults in education, personal and professional development and healthcare settings, including isolated groups and people with special needs.
- Making pretty things out of old junk
- eating good food and making the most out of life
Last year I discovered I am the last in a family line of Sephardic Jews from the Netherlands. My mother line is Nunes Nabarro. Our family lost heavily in the holocaust, as so many did. My branch had come over to share music in England and lost those they loved in Holland. My mother and I had never known and my grandmother, for protection and perceived freedom as a woman, was taught to forget in ways subtle, accidental and unknowing. Transition, for my great grandmother's branch of the diaspora I sense had been an isolating one, especially perhaps for the women. My grandmother's fond memories of her grandmother lead me to believe that particular loving spirit spoke only Ladino, not English, and stayed largely at home. I believe, however, that amongst her daughters Auntie Betsy and Auntie Sally remained practising and know that the word has been passed down in the notes of music to almost every surviving line of descendants, including my own, in successful musicians in UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA . In our home the candles were still lit, many traditions unconciously still kept and truths whispered in dreams and connections. All three of us keep an accidentally almost kosher diet in different ways, chosen from a mix of ethics and food intolerances; the old Jewish soul whispering to us. I was welcomed into womanhood, age 11, with celebration and pink champagne, my mother knowing spiritually, not consciously, the significance in customs. My mother and I have had dreams and I felt pulled to discovering more of our family tree for years as there seemed those who wished to be found and honoured. For years, through a complex, stunning and often hard chain of life events and choices I ended up studying kabballah ... NOT the celebrity version ... and became interested in the Hebrew language; its wisdoms and shimmering, multi-faceted meanings, like 'Shema' - pure light, vibration, experience, study, understanding, prayer, or the many meanings of a word now translated as 'chosen', not to mention the illuminations offered in The Name. I had thought myself the ultimate rebel yet the more I find out about the Sephardim, the more it feels like home, including that other way of seeing.
I am a multi-disciplinary artist and performer who works with children and adults, including those isolated and with special needs, to enable and empower through creative process. Creativity has empowered me and connected me to spirit and the spark in myself and others. I get these impulses from my mother line, though art and knowledge seeking and spirit can be found in my father line too, which includes Celtic blood. There is Russian/Ukrainian ancestry too on my mother's side, which we believe may also hold Jewish bloodline. I am drawn to the healing arts, always trying to work within flow of the Source, never against and am doing an MA in Sustainable Enterprise and Human Security. I am boringly passionate about these things and, though I have always prided myself on being incredibly liberal, it is probably more true to say my interest is to translate 'laws' according to your own heart and will. The many meanings within each letter of Torah I feel welcome this while holding a kingdom that remains of the great oneness; that remains one through the shared word; through the many refracted colours of shema that still recognises each hue comes from one pure light. I am a proud hybrid, proud of all my heritage written in my veins and woven by the sole creator and I see reflected wisdoms and light in all nations and yet I find I am a Jew, Sephardim and that my interpretation of this light, which once felt alienated and idiosyncratic now finds greater form and sense, at least to me.
I believe the issues of our time have wisdoms within Torah; that issues of peace, sustainability, human and environmental protection and flourishing are addressed in the word but can be forgotten in our practical translations into life. I believe coca cola is not kosher; if our forbears saw the way some 'kosher' things were produced; the mistreatment of people, animals or environment along the production line by some enterprises large and small, they would cry out to us. I believe they are crying out to us.
I believe that from the time of the golden calf women we given the role of leading celebrations of the new moon that starts each month, that we are guardians of wisdoms, like our menfolk, and that women are the guardians of times and tides of our people. That in following the cycles of life, patterned for us in the cycles of the moon, the seasons and the rhythms of our bodies, we are able to see Torah in each living thing; each action and event. We are guarded against idolatry, the rejection of which is what gave us the honour and duty of leading these cycles of renewal, because we understand that idolisation is the raising of one element above 'The All'; above the source and part of this is valuing the material of gold above the alchemy of spirit. For me the living waters of Mikvah (not chlorinated ones please) and the patterns of moon and seasons are a way of dancing the mysteries and comprehending the science within Torah and connected always to source.
I believe that in acting as a light to all nations we must value our kinship with them as of the same source. There are whispers in our blood and in our words that sing connection, not least with the Arabic world. We must witness light in others in order that they witness any light that may shine through us. I believe the third temple starts within our hearts.
I believe too that we Jews influenced the old British favourite of fish and chips.
I know I am a beginner; a returner and I know little, nor ever will perhaps, but they say you learn Torah in the womb and I believe life teaches you, love teaches you, the words in air teach you, science advises you, heart guides you. I know I am isolated yet weary of going to Shul. I know that the friend who bought me my Seder, one of those who recognised me as Jewish before I did, is converting to Judaism. She follows the letter of law literally and is hugely observant in ways that confound me. She is beautiful, supportive, maddening and inspiring and has helped me open doors shut by time. My first observant Shabbos was spent with her, navigating laws after an achingly long train journey meant I was too late to switch on the cooker for her to prepare food, yet she managed to find wondrous ways. Leaving the lights and electrics on throughout made my eco-gene tremble and it was hard acknowledging any sense to not brushing teeth for chance of eating blood (brush gently or use natural bristle brush and remember that poorly cared for gums bleed being my response). She held me though so gently, in spirit, at the parts of Shabbos prayers I could not say and the raw pain I felt that meant at times Shabbos joy eluded me; she let me find my way back to it, she let me voice. As butterflies dancing on bushes passed into geese flying over head, heralding for me the return of sunset and the end of shabbos we waited until her clock concurred and then listened to music and talked recipes and translations of kosher. It was healing if at times infuriating.
I went home to my mother shortly before this for a sharing and Shabbos of our own finding. It was Tisha be-Av when I told my mother what I had learnt of our family tree. In a weekend of tears and laughter, family recollections, sharings and many a 'how could we not have known'we filled the hearth with light, candles shining for generations of our family, some though all were white, 'bleeding' red for a time. They burn clearer since. Who we are is clearer since. We looked at the family tree now shared on-line where we could get signal, by the flowing of a river. We held each-other in a mix of grief and joy and understanding. There are still denuded branches of our tree that we trace, not only to death at every camp, but to vibrant life in Holland, Italy and long since Portugal and Spain. My journey to find them has slowed, this journey in fits and starts and revelations and my mother and I's pledge to honour them in joy.
So, this is me, its what I know and why I am here, to share from your souls to mine and mine to yours and maybe talk a little of politics, recipes, families, art, trips to the sea, to see who can make me laugh, who makes me light up or see things in new ways from eternal lights.
Joy to you,
A Returning Sephardim