This week marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Momstamp’s Paulette Light, sat down with Rabbi Sharon Brous the founding Rabbi of IKAR, to discuss how she connects her work in the community with her home life. Ikar is a Jewish community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life by standing at the intersection of soulful, inventive religious practice and a deep commitment to social justice. Rabbi Brous has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading rabbis (she was invited to bless President Obama at the Inauguration in 2013), and last year Newsweek/The Daily Beast called her the most influential rabbi in the country – the first time a woman and someone under 40 received that recognition. She lives in LA with her husband and their three children.
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Everyone asks me about work life balance and the reality is that there isn’t balance—nor do I really want balance because that would mean I am constantly stuck in the middle-neither here nor there. My life is more about rhythm rather than balance. I try to be intensely present where I am and not regret where I am not. While I have gotten good at the presence, I am still working on the “no regret” piece. Even if I have a day where I leave work to spend 45 minutes with my kids, knowing that my day still consists of a 3 hour meeting and 2 more hours on email after that- those 45 minutes are intensely their time- with no looking at my phone or distractions.
As a Rabbi, Shabbat is my most publicly intense time of the week but it is the also the most intense non-work time.The anticipation and execution of Shabbat, and having a place where my family can participate together, feeds me. Walking home from shul on Friday night with my husband is the holiest time we have. Shabbat afternoon- with no phones, emails, electronics or driving- I am able to reconnect with my family and be on their schedule. Having to power down and not be chased by the loudest issue or person is an incredible gift. A lot of my work is reactive- something happens in the community and my whole week changes. On Shabbat I am not reactive,I just am.
Designate A Special Day
My girls claimed for years that I was literally the only mom not picking her kids up from school every day. I have trouble believing that’s true, but the punch in the gut was enough to make me realize that I had to designate at least one day a week for pick up and hang out. I now do everything I possibly can to pick them up on Mondays at 3pm no matter what is going on at work (unless there’s a funeral) and we have special day.We don’t do anything too fancy, but we eat ice cream and talk about what’s going on in our lives and sometimes do a project. I realize I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can do this. My little one goes to school a bit later than the girls. I do my best not to schedule early morning meetings so we can have that time together. I need it as much as he does.
Talk About What You Do With Your Kids
I remember when my oldest was 3 or 4 and was so upset that I was going out to a nighttime meeting. “You go out every night! “When I explained to her that I had to go out she said back “you don’t have to go you choose to go”. That struck me. At first I thought that she just didn’t understand- but then I realized that she was right. I am making the choice to do this type of work, which means I often have to leave my kids at home. But now, I try very hard to connect my kids to the work I do. I explain what I am teaching, ask their advice about knotty issues or share why I am choosing to go a meeting or an event—like a gun violence vigil. I tell them about the people that I meet with who are struggling and hope that they learn compassion. I try hard to connect the dots between why I am away and how that influences the work I am trying to do in the world. It doesn’t completely take out the sting of leaving, but it hopefully makes it more understandable.