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8 Questions for Heather Altman, rabbi, yoga maven, new mother (x3)

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03/17/2009

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Heather will help you find your center

Rabbi Heather Altman is a well-balanced person. Through her creation, “Rav Yoga,” she has united yoga and Judaism in a manner that is authentic to both beautiful traditions--aiming to empower, renew, and connect the body, mind, and soul. She also balances life as a yoga instructor and rabbi with the realities of being a stepmom to a 7-year-old, Haley, and a mom to 9-month-old triplets: Hallel, Emunah and Noam.

“I love to use my unique combination of roles to help prepare people for big life moments,” she says. “My favorites are wedding-day yoga with the bride and/or groom, preparation for surgery, moving through divorce, and leading Brit Bat ceremonies for baby girls.” She has recently started blogging about “the things that make me smile.”

So whether you want tips for getting in touch with yourself, being calm in stressful situations, or picking a beautiful name for your new baby, Rabbi Heather Altman is a Jew you should know!

1. What is your favorite blog or website?
Diapers.com makes my life so much easier, despite the time when I started a family drama by posting on Facebook that I had 3 diapers left for 3 babies and was about to start with towels and duct tape. I also love to look at other triplet families’ sites and blogs; it is a relief to see other people whose days look the same as mine.

2. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
With limitless money I would have round-the-clock nanny coverage so I could have the freedom to leave my home in Chicago or travel elsewhere with or without my family. With limitless time I would start with a vacation in Hawaii, probably just for me and my husband, Jeff Block. At the right age, we’d take our girls to Israel for a year. I’d also like to go back to Italy and Greece, and then explore Japan, Thailand and South Africa.

3. If a movie were made about your life, who would play you?
Friends have suggested Natalie Portman and Sarah Jessica Parker, but I’d prefer to play myself if you can lock in Johnny Depp to play my husband. It would be a shame to make him shave his hair off for the role, but I’m sure he would wear it well.

4. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? Where would you eat or what would you serve?
I wish I could sit with my paternal grandfather, Irving “Beansy” Altman, who we called Poppi Beansy and my husband’s maternal grandfather, Zayde Mayer Levin. My Poppi taught me a lot about people and life; and my husband speaks so lovingly of his Zayde’s influence on him. Although my favorite meal is sushi, I don’t think either of these old school men would enjoy it, so I would serve gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup, brisket and any other Ashkenazi favorites. The last time I saw Poppi Beansy alive was at the airport shortly after my ordination and a day after my first wedding. He was happy for me, but he would have just kvelled to see my career develop and to see me marry my best match, Jeff, and to meet our babies. I feel his presence and believe that he knows all about my love, my family and my work.

5. What's your idea of the perfect day?
Since I had my triplets I haven’t had a day away from them so my perfect day is a dream vacation day with sleeping in, sun and warmth, massage and sauna, a walk and yoga by the water, hours with a good book, private time with my husband, laughing with friends at night, sushi and chocolate. In a fantasy world I’d get all those things and still get some smiles and hugs from my sweet girls.

6. What do you love about what you do?
I love that my life now is all about love. My primary role is making sure that my babies are healthy, safe and happy. Caring for souls has been my work all along and now I have these three growing babies who benefit from all I have cultivated in my professional life. I love that they have taught me how to quickly sort out what is essential and what is extraneous, and how to be realistic about my commitments. I don’t waste time on situations that don’t feel 100% right. I choose the work I love and the people with whom I can be loving and generous. I love that I help people heal, that I deeply affect their souls, that I accompany souls through life, that I guide people to know and be their true selves, find their strength within and from their roots.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
I created my own ideal job when I left congregational work and I love the life I created. If I did not have the full-time job of caring for my three babies right now, I would be doing the same work that I did before – leading weekend and week-long Rav Yoga retreats, offering Spiritual Direction (group and private), and leading people through ritual and ceremony. During my first pulpit I dreamed up Netivot: a Jewish Center for Growth and Healing. I actually created Netivot while at Anshe Emet. The next step of the dream is to have an actual address, and of course lots of funding so everyone can come for yoga, meditation, Jewish learning and ritual, spiritual direction and more.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? In other words, how do you Jew?
My favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago is to go to Anshe Emet to see my friends. Many weeks, my only social time is Shabbat afternoon Kiddush. It is quite unusual for a rabbi to stop working at a synagogue and stay there as a member. I feel so blessed that we had a smooth transition and I still get to see the congregants and friends who I love. Equally unique is that my family has had the opportunity and benefit of receiving so much hesed (loving kindness) from the staff and members of Anshe Emet while I was on bed rest and then back at home with baby triplets. No words can express the degree of gratitude I have for this much needed support. I also love the live music at KFAR events and wish I could get out more to enjoy them.

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