Monday, April 2, 2018

Two Articles for You: Imposter Syndrome and the Passing of Someone in Our Community

Over Pesach, I did some light magazine reading, as orthodox people seem to do in huge numbers. (Not normally my thing, but somehow it happened this week.) The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes a couple of free magazines that are sent to member synagogues, and I picked up two of them. I'll share two of the articles here that I think are noteworthy to the conversion/BT community, and I'll share some others later. These are from a magazine called Ignite, the magazine of the group NCSY, the National Council of Synagogue Youth, basically the youth movement of the OU.

A practical note: For some reasons, it doesn't appear that the articles are published as a stand-alone web link. So these links go to a PDF of the actual magazine, but each link should take you to the correct page. Just in case it doesn't, I've noted the correct page numbers at the bottom of this post.

Let's start with Imposter Syndrome. I've had an article about Imposter Syndrome rolling around in my head for several years, but funnily enough, Imposter Syndrome was part of what's kept me away from the blog here. In a nutshell, Imposter Syndrome is that nagging feeling that you're not good enough, don't know enough, and that your successes are just because people haven't figured out the real you. But they will! You'll be found out! Most likely, they'll find out because you made a fool of yourself finally. You've just been lucky until now, not talented or knowledgeable or hardworking. Imposter Syndrome seems to affect women in much higher numbers in the professional realm (where it's most discussed and studied), but I've seen hints of it among almost everyone in the conversion/baal teshuva community at one point or another. 

This article about Imposter Syndrome was so spot on for us: the editor of a new siddur asks, "who am I to teach anyone about prayer and connecting with Gd?" I feel that way about my own prayer life generally: "who am I to speak to Gd? Why would He listen to me, especially since I'm so bad at prayer and/or a bad Jew generally? Why should I pray when I know I won't have good kavanah (intention/mindfulness) because I'm tired/angry/rebellious/bored/doubting and/or know I'll have a baby and/or toddler yelling at me? Aren't I doing more damage with a bad or irreverent prayer than not praying at all?" I could go on, but most of you probably know this feeling intimately, even the frum from birth crowd feels this way sometimes (often?). 

The second article is sad but inspirational. Jennifer Mendoza Alkon, a young woman of 24, passed away suddenly, and only after did her friends and family realize her true impact in the lives of others. The article would be powerful enough anyway, but one of the first sentences caught my eye: "Jennifer grew up in Seattle in a family that was in the process of conversion..." I assume that means Jennifer herself converted, but you never know. But I do know that the conversion of any family member in a family with children is one of the hardest conversion situations because there are just so many moving parts to manage and people to keep on the same page. That family has been through so much already, and now this. Thank Gd for the comfort of stories like this article details, but that's obviously not the same. And it's a loss to all of us as a community to lose such a kindhearted person who knew how much work needed to be done behind the scenes. If you're interested in continuing Jennifer's legacy, there's more information at the end of the article how you can help. May her memory be for a blessing.

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