Saturday, September 28, 2013

The death of an OTDer

Yesterday a woman named Deb Tambor committed suicide.She was 33.

I didn't know Deb in person, but she and I posted on the same Off the Derech facebook groups for several years. Deb was a lovely woman who often posted encouraging words to others struggling with leaving the orthodox jewish religion, and posted about her own struggles. The last time I heard from her was when she was congratulating me for having a child.  And I got to know some details of her life over the years.  How she had several children with an orthodox jewish spouse whom she divorced. How her own father testified against her in the child custody case because she was no longer religious, and she lost custody of her children. How her children were told negative things about her because she was no longer religious, and how they began to treat her with the same disdain shown towards her by her former chassidic community.

I hesitate to post these details becasue Deb posted them in a protected group, in confidence. But I felt it was important for the world to know that these type of things happen, and continue to happen. And what the consequences sometimes are. And these aren't the only consequences. The consequence of the threat of having this happen keeps many people in unhappy marriages, or hiding their true religious beliefs, sometimes for decades .

Now I'm not saying that these things are the reason she committed suicide. I don't know why she committed suicide and I don't really know why she lost custody of her kids, other than what she said about it. Maybe she was depressed in general, although that's no reason to lose custody of your children unless she posed a threat to them. Maybe she did pose a threat to them. I have no idea.

What I do know is that if there is an all powerful sky being, and that sky being is just, then there's a special place in hell reserved for people who encourage parents to turn against their children, or children to turn against their parents, in the name of religion or lack thereof.

What I do know is that if court systems are ruling in favor of religious spouses and cutting off custody of non religious spouses due to religious reasons, whether that is because of some misguided idea that keeping children in the same religion is more in their best interest than regular visits with both parents, or because witnesses are giving false testimony due to the religious beliefs of a parent, then they are making unjust decisions.

What I do know is that the off the derech community has more and more been turning into a real community in the past few years, due in no small part to facebook groups, and before that, the writing of many bloggers. Along with things like footsteps and cholent.  We've organized protests against child molestation and have visited courts to support victims of the orthodox community.  And maybe it's time we started using that community power to organize something more. Maybe a non profit that provides free legal aid for those going through custody cases with religious spouses or who need other sorts of legal help related to leaving their religion? Maybe a phone line to connect you with another OTDer for those who need someone to talk to or advice? I'm just throwing out ideas here.

Please use this post to throw out some more ideas.  I may not be able to respond right away because things are crazy right now but I would love for those who have more time and who are geographically closer to centers of jewish life to begin organizing themselves, and I will help in any way I can.  I will update with more info as I know it.

ETA: I've just learned that a young man named Yoeli Speilman, who had grown up chassidic and become modern orthodox, and who was disowned by his family as a result, killed himself the day after yom kippur.  I don't even know what to say. I'm not saying his family situation is the reason he killed himself, and unlike Deb I never interacted with him him personally or know anything other than what people are saying on the grapevine, but f it's true I think it's telling that two people in similar situations killed themselves over the jewish holidays. What can we do to help people who are thinking of committing suicide?

ETA2: Some other posts about Deb from other OTDers and Jewish bloggers: 
My Derech, On and Off: A Mother's Murder 
I am Acher!: For Deb: A very special eulogy 
Hayley Amanda: for deb. for life.  
Stop Kiruv Now: Turning families against each other  
Y-Love: Stolen too soon: In memory of Deb Tambor a'h 
Kol B'isha Erva: Why do we assume that when a marriage ends its because one spouse went otd

ETA3: Sunday 5:04pm (eastern): Rumor is that the funeral will take place on roosevelt ave. in New Square tonight at midnight.  Other rumors say she was already buried in New Square without a real funeral.  A third rumor says the funeral will take place there within an hour. Either way there are many people heading to New Square right now and there is talk of a candelight vigil tonight. I'll try to post more as I find out about it

 ETA4: Anyone who is thinking of taking your life, please first take the time to call someone on this list and tell them about it.

ETA5: I hear many OTDers who wanted to attend the funeral of their friend Deb Tambor (who many of us knew in 'real life') went to new square yesterday with some staying until the wee hours of the morning, but the new square shitheads wouldn't tell them where or when it was going to happen, and she ended up being buried this morning in Long island with only her family present. I am told she was not buried in the new square cemetery because she was not shomer shabbas(??).  Also someone has posted a poem written by Deb before her death: Can a father hate his child? Deb's last poem

ETA6: Deb's boyfriend told me that he was notified about the funeral location by Deb's family as the funeral was starting, and that they knew he was an hour and a half away.  I feel sick to my stomach over the way this has played out.  One thing I will be doing in the very near future is writing a will. 

ETA7: Failed Messiah has A good summary of the situation which has more sickening details of what happened to Deb. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

8 weeks old

For the first time tonight, C actually paid attention and looked at the pictures in the book when we read a bedtime story!  Last night we read the first half of The Cat in the Hat.  Why half?  Because those Dr. Seuss books are long and I really had to pee. Since C wasn't paying attention to what I was saying or doing even though I was pointing her towards the book I didn't feel too bad about not reading the whole book. But then today we picked up where we left off (around when the cat brings in Thing one and Thing two) and she totally paid attention to the book and the pictures while I was reading it to her!  And then we read goodnight moon (which we've read about 15 times already) and she paid attention to those pictures too!

She also spent several minutes this morning petting  and smiling at durkheim the cat, who has decided she should be his buddy.  Later today she was sitting next to him and put an arm around him:

She's decided she likes being lifted in the air (or at least she smiles a lot when she lands) and she likes tickling.  She also likes when I go get her when she's been fussing in her crib. She smiles a lot now, and it's awesome, because it's the first she's showing of her own personality- smiling when she likes things. She can sit up when someone hold her around the waist and hold her head up on her own. She can roll over on her side, and in the past few days has started paying attention to toys, so we've been having fun showing her all the toys that she's gotten as gifts, one at a time. She's making new sounds and staying awake more during the day, although she's still waking up 1-4 times a night, and so far has only had 3 nights, not in a row, where she only woke up once to eat in the night.

I guess I never really updated about my parents coming to visit. When we were arranging the visit I told my parents that my mother in law was planning to come visit when she was around 3 weeks, and she was planning to stay for around a week (which she did) and told them they could come before or after. My dad was like "actually we've always been curious to meet B's parents, and unfortunately we never got a chance to meet his dad."  Ha. They were 50 feet from each other at my phd graduation 3 years ago, and I offered to introduce them to each other, and my parents turned down the invitation (I had 2 graduation ceremonies- one for the entire school, one for the graduate school of arts and sciences. My parents when to the first an my in-laws to the second. That was the day my parents met B, but they turned down the chance to meet B's parents- at that point we had been married for a year).

My parents decided to fly in to a city about an hour and a half away from here and drive from there to here.  We have an airport here, but with the connection it would be about the same time apparently. It took them 2 hours to drive here. They got here around 2pm on a Sunday and stayed until around 6pm. Then they drove back to the city they flew into, because they had booked a hotel room there.  They ate dinner there at a kosher restaurant (something we don't have in my city) and flew out the next morning. Once again they only stayed here for a few hours, this time even though they were staying in the state overnight.

They were nice when they were here although of course they had on their "fake personality" because my mother in law was here and she's a stranger.  My mom asked me to email her a scanned picture of C's footprints so she can use them in the design for a baby quilt for her. :)  They took a million pictures with C and my dad invited us to drive down to visit them in florida at their condo down there that they are going to for new years.  But we are driving to the midwest for christmas at my mother in law's house, and I don't think we're going to come back and then drive another 12 hours to florida a few days later, that seems crazy with a 5 month old.  I told them maybe in a couple of years, since we are planning to start having christmas at our house once C is a couple of years old so then we wouldn't be traveling (and they always go down to florida for new years).  Maybe in a few years we'll drive down to visit them and spend a few days in disney land or harry potter land on the way back. I secretly dream that when C is older we'll read all the harry potter books together at bedtime and then watch all the movies and go to harry potter land when we're done with the entire series.

Speaking of christmas, one of my favorite cousins who is around 22 years old just got enagaged to a guy she's known for 2 months, and they are considering having a wedding on christmas eve. When I moved here a little over 3 years ago I saw her right before I moved, and she told me I should come back for her wedding. But I don't think I could deny B C's first christmas with his family, so I'm not going to go if they have it then.  They may not have it then though, and depending on the timing it might be a good time to go up and visit.

A week after my parents were here my brother and his live in girlfriend came to visit for a couple of days. It made me kinda sad that I live so far from them, since my brother really liked reading C a story and spending time with her and he was saying that the next time he see's her she will probably be a toddler.  That's really why I'm considering going up for my cousin's wedding if it's not on christmas, and also why I'm getting together some research to send it to a conference that will be in NYC next summer.

Speaking of research, I heard back a few weeks ago that I got a "conditional accept" on a journal article- meaning they accepted my article for publication but wanted me to make a few last changes. They gave me a month to make the changes, so I ended up "going back to work" (working on research from home) a little earlier than planned, and sent in those revisions this week. That's #3 out of 5 of the articles I need to get tenure (only peer reviewed articles published since I got this job count towards the 5- this is my 6th peer reviewed publication in total).  I also received a "revise and resubmit" decision on another article which is due in 2 months- they actually initially asked for it back in 60 days, which would have been right around now, but I got the decision 3 days before my due date and I asked them for a 2 month extension. I'm going to be working on that starting on Monday when I get a bunch of stuff my coauthor has been working on. I also have the research to get together for that conference in NYC, and some other research to get together for another conference which is going to be held locally in the spring, both with extended abstracts due in mid October.  Not sure about my work schedule after that, except that I have 2 articles that were rejected from journals that I want to revise and send out to new journals, and a dissertation chapter that I want to revise and send out too, along with 2 articles I want to get started on writing.

It's hard to know how much to work since I am technically on "research leave" right now and not maternity leave. My maternity leave didn't cover a full semester- it covered 2 out of 3 of my classes.  But I also had a "research leave" due to me this year as part of my hiring contract (to make a final big research push for tenure) and planned my pregnancy around it.  So my choices were a) go back to work 3 weeks after giving birth but only teaching one class this semester, and then take my research leave in the spring semester and have no teaching in the spring or b) take my research leave this semester and not teach and then take my maternity leave in the spring and teach my one class then.

Of course option b made more sense, but now I worry that I am 'wasting' my entire research leave on maternity leave stuff and therefore hurting my career, since other people at my stage in their career have a semester to work on research full time.  I extended my tenure clock by a year so I have 3 more years until I go up for tenure instead of 2,  but I really want to publish enough that I can go up for tenure "early" which is actually on time, since tenure comes with a raise and yearly raises (when I get them) are based on a percent my current salary- so forgoing that raise for a year can really impact my salary in the long run.  I figure since my maternity leave covers 2/3rds of a semester I shouldn't worry about only working on research for 3-4 hours a day for 3-4 days a week at the most right now, and should probably not even be working right now at all. And then I can go back to work full time next semester during my 'maternity leave' when I only teach 1 class, and make up that research time then. But depending on B's work and school schedule next semester, I may also be watching C a few days a week then, and it'll be harder to work when she's older and awake for more of the day. Argh. As I said, it's hard to know how much to work, but for now as long as I'm getting a few things done research-wise every week, and meeting my deadlines for journal editors and conference organizers, I'm going to try not to worry about it too much.

I was reading a mommy blog today and realized...I guess i am kinda a mommy blog now? Weird.