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The Shul Jinx?

The Shul Jinx?

I think I may have the opposite problem of Rabbi Marc Schneier, the prominent Orthodox spiritual leader who has been divorced four times — and is facing ethics charges from the Rabbinical Council of America.

Unlike Rabbi Schneier, who a supporter describes as “a great guy … just not good at marriage,” I’m doing OK so far on the matrimony front, what with almost 13 years (woo hoo: bat mitzvah anniversary) in my one and only marriage. (Here’s a question for the diehard intermarriage-phobes: Is it better to intermarry once or to in-marry and in-divorce four times?)

Nonetheless, while Rabbi Schneier appears to be deficient in the marital arts, he seems rather successful at the whole synagogue thing — he leads not one, but two thriving and enormous congregations. As for me, I’m beginning to worry that I’m just not good at synagogues.

You see, I’m in the process of joining my fourth house of worship in seven years. (And that doesn’t even count the chavurah to which Joe and I belonged back in Michigan.) I am starting to worry I have a shul jinx.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but I seem to have bad luck on the synagogue-rabbi front. The first rabbi with whom I bonded had an unpleasant falling-out with the synagogue board (I never understood the details) and, soon after, tragically passed away. At temple #2, the rabbi had an unpleasant falling-out with the board, so I followed said rabbi to temple #3, a start-up. Soon after, another unpleasant rabbi-board falling-out occurred, except this time I was on the board and, rather than the rabbi leaving, half the board (including yours truly) left.

A year of dating, or shul shopping, ensued. Now I find myself forking over more than $2,000 to a temple whose name I won’t publish for fear I’ll embarrass it if things don’t work out. This rabbi is not the charismatic charmer that my previous rabbis were, but he seems kind, smart, levelheaded and knowledgeable. Perhaps more important, he has remained in one pulpit for a long time, leading me to be fairly confident there will be no unpleasant rabbi-board fallings-out.

If I could enroll the girls in the religious school without joining just now I would, rather than rushing in like this. On the other hand, after years of searching for the temple of my life, and with the girls already 4 and 7, I’m eager to settle down, to have the kids feel like we actually belong somewhere.

Still, like a single person who’s suffered a few too many breakups and disappointments, too many times of thinking “this is the one,” I’m trying to achieve that balance between hope/optimism and guardedness, trying to be open yet not set myself up to be hurt.

Here’s to a happy new year for all! Let’s hope the fourth shul is the charm.

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