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Guest Blog: Toby Myers - Reflections on the High Holy Days

Aug 30, 2013 — Categories: , ,

High Holidays were important to me as a child. They afforded me privilege. Being the oldest grandchild, I proudly accompanied my uber frum [very observant], Yiddish speaking grandma to shul in St. Louis. Already a wife and mother when she arrived at Ellis Island, she was let down when her children, who were interested in fitting in and casting off the old ways, did not maintain her ultra observance. She worked down the list finally getting to me, the oldest of the next generation. I was awed by the aura of the shul. I loved the rhythm and the repetition; I loved hearing my grandmother recite the prayers in Hebrew. She knew them all. I loved how so many knew her and when they exchanged greetings, they made over me.

The High Holidays are upon us early this year. They bring reflection, requests for forgiveness, redemption, rededication and request for future blessing.

High Holidays were important to me as a child. They afforded me privilege. Being the oldest grandchild, I proudly accompanied my uber frum [very observant], Yiddish speaking grandma to shul in St. Louis. Already a wife and mother when she arrived at Ellis Island, she was let down when her children, who were interested in fitting in and casting off the old ways, did not maintain her ultra observance. She worked down the list finally getting to me, the oldest of the next generation. I was awed by the aura of the shul. I loved the rhythm and the repetition; I loved hearing my grandmother recite the prayers in Hebrew. She knew them all. I loved how so many knew her and when they exchanged greetings, they made over me.

High holidays were important when my family moved out to West Texas and we became more affiliated. San Angelo had so few Jews that we clung together.

High holidays were important when I had children of my own. I wanted to be a good role model for them; we attended services regularly. I made sure they received Jewish educations easily available in Houston.

High holidays remained important even though they became one of my diminishing Jewish events. My energy, after having extricated myself from an oppressive, controlling, abusive, and violent marriage, became directed to the work of ending violence against women along with the demands of my job and being a single parent to three children.

The work of ending violence against women, begun in the mid 70’s, provided special opportunity for many women, myself included. I had enjoyed my middle management job in the research and training arm of Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, but I never created policy—only carried it out. The Battered Women’s Movement, in addition to being at the forefront of social reform, also provided leadership opportunities for women that we were not even aware of. Cognizant that I was slighting my obligation to the Jewish community, I discussed with my rabbi the need to be a contributor to something Jewish, but being clear about not sitting on more boards or committees. I ended up working with the chevra kadisha [Jewish burial society].

High Holidays remained important and my personal teshuvah came in the 90’s when FaithTrust Institute, nee Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, formed a Jewish Advisory Committee. Jews working on the domestic violence issue were recruited from around the country. That experience helped me find a way to combine social action work of ending violence against women with my Judaism. It made the circle whole.

Subsequently, in Houston, we formed a group Shalom Bayit: Houston Jewish Network Against Domestic Abuse which became a volunteer program of Jewish Family Service. This year our main event will be ushering in Domestic Violence Awareness month with a screening of PRIVATE VIOLENCE a documentary by Kit Gruelle. Both Gruelle and Cheryl Kravitz, a Jewish survivor, will speak and have a talk back after the film.

On the eve of the coming High Holidays, I write this piece in memory of my grandmother Nechama Krensky Lakomski out of Kishinev and in honor my daughter and her namesake Nancy (Nechama) Dean Faires.

About Toby Myers

Referred to as "the mother of the Texas Battered Women's Movement" by the Texas Council on Family Violence, Toby Myers helped found and has been active in many organizations ending violence against women.  Her domestic violence related activities include works with attorneys as an expert witness, a counseling practice, serving on boards and committees, training, and technical assistance.  A good friend of gray hair, crow's feet, and cellulite, Myers dreams of people living in intimate relationships not only nonviolent, but also are mutually respectful, mutually satisfying, and growth promoting.

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high holidays

Posted by Leigh Hofheimer at Sep 03, 2013 09:21 PM
Yasher Koach, go with Strength! Thank you for your courage and vision on behalf of many women and their children. Knowing you are out there still pushing forward energizes me.

Toby Myers: Guest Blog

Posted by sharon hachtman at Sep 05, 2013 05:05 PM
Dear Toby,
I am blessed today by reading your post. Thank you for sharing the deep evidence of your grandmother's love and impact upon your life, and your teaching on High Holidays. I pray that women may be drawn to Shalom Bayit to find new hope and healing.

your comment

Posted by toby myers at Nov 25, 2013 06:08 PM
Lovely words and I am just now seeing them. Thank you for writing.

Kvelling

Posted by Gus Kaufman at Nov 25, 2013 06:08 PM
Toby, I just read this--it's great! Glad to know more of your story...