Thursday, December 23, 2010

My D'var

Hey World,

So the moment you've all been waiting for...maybe.
Yeah so here is the link to the video for my d'var Torah:

After watching it myself (which was quite painful, it's weird to see yourself on video), I think it was decent. I could nit pick, but I won't do that here. But yeah the message is something that is really important to me. It is summed up by the line in my d'var "Reform Judaism gives us a choice but it shouldn't make the choice for us" (or something like that). I think that as Reform Jews (sorry if this is not something that concerns you) we have these choices and the opportunity to make really meaningful choices, and instead we just do what is common reform practice, whatever that means. We need to challenge ourselves and I think we will gain so much from doing so.

Ok the end of that...let me know what you think!?

So yeah today was our last day of classes for this semester. It's pretty crazy. It didn't really hit me that we were in the last week of classes until like yesterday. I do feel accomplished to some degree that I made it through the semester (not counting finals of course). I've been thinking about the semester and reflected. What a ride, I was all over the place. oy. I feel pretty good about it overall. I still have some frustrations with my classes, but I do think I did the most I could in my power to give myself the opportunities academically that I wanted.

I stayed up late last night to finish a bible paper so I'm pretty tired. It was an interesting subject but we had to write it in Hebrew. The actual writing part wasn't a huge pain, but TYPING in Hebrew was super annoying. I need some mavis beacon teaches typing Hebrew style haha.

Yesterday during Israel seminar we went to the Ades synagogue in Jerusalem, a syrian synagogue (Aleppo). Attached to this synagogue there is a piyut school, which helps train people to sing in this certain style. I am explaining this horribly...So piyyutim are these religious (Jewish) songs and there are lots of complicated melodies and scales that are associated with them that this synagogue uses and helps train people. The guy who was telling us about it says that each shabbat has a different scale associated with it (there are over 100), and it takes years to learn. He also sang to us examples of different scales and different piyyutim. It was soo beautiful. This tradition comes from Syria, so it was something I had not been exposed to before as I usually pray in (and am exposed to) ashkenazi style synagogues.

Ok I need to stop procrastinating. work time


ps thanks Jay for being my editor kinda

Monday, December 20, 2010

the past week...

Hey World,

Yikes it's been over a week since I've updated you all. I blame it on finals/being busy. I gave a d'var torah (speech thing about the torah portion) today so I was stressed out getting that ready. It went really well...when I get the video I will post it on here and talk more about it...

I'm actually a little overwhelmed because I did a bunch of interesting stuff this past week that I want to tell you about.

Gah where to start. Last Monday we had this "interfaith" day where instead of classes we went around and spoke to different people of different faiths. First we went to an Armenian church and spoke with three people who have various positions around Jerusalem. There is a lot of christian tourism, and Christian holy sites here so it makes sense that there are people here trying to run and improve that stuff. We spoke to people who also help run Christian schools, and who are just here to help give care to people, etc. I'm really not giving this subject any justice, I apologize. While two of the three Christians we met were not Armenian, one of them was, and it was interesting to hear him speak about the Armenians in Israel. There is a whole population of Armenians that has been here for like 1500 years, and I feel like that is something that is forgotten. It's not that they want to take over Israel, they just want to live here in peace, and do there thing. All three of the people on the panel say they often feel stuck in between the arab-israeli conflict because they don't want to take sides and that puts them in a tough place.

After the talk we went into this beautiful armenian church for their service. It was a lot of chanting, it was pretty cool. There were even certain times the chanting sounded like the melody we use for the weekday kaddish (a prayer). I really like to see different forms of worship, I was a religion major and this stuff fascinates me.

After that we had the "muslim" panel composed of three different muslims. One was a sufi shiek (does that exist, I think that is the proper title), who was super well spoken. Sufi, as I was explained, is kind of like kabbalah or mysticism but in the Islam world.

I'm glad we had this day. I think interfaith work is soooo important, especially as future leaders. We can help bring people together and help teach people through getting outside our religion. I know I had more thoughts about this day, but I will leave it here for now.

Then on Wednesday, Israel seminar day, we went to me'ah she'arim. This is the haredi (ultra ultra orthodox) neighborhood. I don't even know where to start with this. So many emotions. So the first part of the day I was in a small group that went to this organization called kemach which means flour in Hebrew. Kemach is an organization that gives support and funding to haredi Jews looking to get a better education so they can get a job. To give an VERY generalized description, in the haredi community the best thing you can possibly do with your time is study "sifrei kodesh" the holy books (basically the Talmud). So they study all the time instead of getting jobs and they are supported by stipends that the government gives them. It's a pretty messed up system and since the haredim have so many kids there is a lot of poverty because they don't have jobs and are relying entirely on the government and donations. Currently more of the women work than the men, because the women aren't supposed to study they are supposed to take care of the children, so yeah sometimes they are able to find work to help support the family.

So now as the haredi community gets bigger and the money is running out more and more haredi men are starting to look for jobs. The problem is that they don't have any resources or the proper training. They weren't taught much in the way of secular studies so they need to be taught the materials so they can get good scores on entrance exams and be accepted into university or a professional training school. So this is what kemach helps with. They guy who spoke to us was great. He was haredi, so I was expecting him to be an a-hole (I and friends have had many unpleasant encounters with haredi jews so this expectation wasn't totally unfounded), but he totally wasn't. He was really nice and was very honest and answered all our questions. He was great, I left feeling a little more positive towards the haredi community. It was nice to meet someone who was so nice and wasn't making judgments about us. We spoke to each other like humans.

So after that really positive experience we went to this girls school for haredim but also had another school in the same building that served russian immigrants and we spoke to this rabbi who was the head of the school. After the positive experience I had just had this reminded me why I feel the way I do about haredim. Ugh it frustrates me so much, and it is so hard to see a fellow Jew who I just kinda want to punch in the face (but never never ever would because that is not nice). So one thing we spoke about was this letter/declaration signed by a bunch of rabbis forbidding Israeli Jews from renting to arabs. Horrible. Here is a news story if you want to read more about it Anyways a lot of people have since spoken up against this, and I believe that this ruling was not an appropriate or Jewish thing to do (to say you can't rent to arabs). While you can find a basis in the Torah for this land being our land or whatever we are also told to always be kind to the stranger living in your midst because "we were once strangers in the land of Egypt." WTFFFFF people. Anyways we asked him about this and he said that it was ok and that it wasn't racist because the word for racism came about in the 20th century blah blah bullshit bullshit. His whole talk was infuriating.

It was interesting to be in me'ah she'arim. It felt like a whole other world, and it's only like a 15/20 minute walk away from where I live. We all had to get dressed up in appropriately modest clothing. It was crazy. I def want to go back and go into some of the shops/just explore. The weird thing about getting dressed up modestly was that I now appeared to be orthodox (the way a person dresses here can tell you a lot about their religious practice), so it was weird to be perceived as someone who I am not. I felt like I was lying.

What else...Friday before shabbat I took a trip with some classmates and one of my fave professors to Qumran. This is where some of the dead sea scrolls were found (wikipedia if you want to know more). It was pretty sweet to see this place where these sectarian/separatist Jews(?) had done their thing. We also went on a fun climb thing nearby where the caves were that the texts were found in. That was bad English, sorry.

Shabbat was nice, as usual. I really love shabbat, ohhh man. Also I do think it's been really helpful for me and my sanity to have that time set aside to exist in a way that I don't during the week.

Yesterday (sunday) I taught again. It went pretty well. I taught the classic of tanur achnai. Ohh man is that a good story. Ask me about it sometime and I'll tell you. We had some great discussions. These kids are awesome. I also tried to speak in a british accent for the last couple of minutes of class (because they are all british). I dunno, it was silly. I think being a little silly has its place in a classroom, especially in a class that is relatively casual in nature. Not that I know anything about pedagogy, but I think it is important to be serious and also to be human and to connect to your students because I think they will listen better that way. I dunno I guess we will see.

And that brings us to today. I am anxiously waiting for the video of my speech, I want to see what I looked like. ahhhh. I will post it here as soon as I get it, so look forward to seeing me speak instead of hearing my voice (or not my voice) in your head as I write and you read this blog.

Back to work dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

I leave you with a fun song because you can be anything


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pluralism??? and stuff

Hey World,

So I just got back from my second day of teaching my class. I already mentioned this but I am teaching gap year kids Talmud for one hour on Sunday night. It's a good time. Last week (or well 2 weeks ago because we didn't have it last week) things went really well. Today was a mixed bag. I decided that I wanted to give the students some historical background on the Talmud, but not too much, just enough to give them context. Anyways I think I just ended up confusing them. Between talking about mishnah and Talmud and gemara and seder and masechet and oral/written I lost them. The nice thing is that they weren't afraid to ask questions, and I think I cleared most everything up, but it def made me realize that I had not presented it in the clearest way. I think I also assumed more background knowledge than I should have. It was all a good learning experience. I told them next time I would make a sheet/chart of the major Jewish texts to help clear things up. I think a visual will be helpful, and there are many texts out there so this will be a good resource for them.

I only wanted to speak for like 20 minutes and it ended up taking 45. To be fair they did ask questions about other texts that I wasn't trying to cover, but I figured it was important information so I answered them. I was asked about the dead sea scrolls (thank you 2nd temple history for enabling me to explain that one really well), midrash, more about TaNaKh, rashi. It's like all these terms are thrown around a lot, but people don't explain what they mean.

After that we did a little bit on Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish. It's an interesting story about how they meet (Reish Lakish the bandit sees R. Yochanan bathing in the river and thinks he's SUPER hot and jumps in after him...then R Yochanan says he should marry his sister who is better looking and they become buddies. Rabbi Yochanan teaches Reish Lakish torah and he becomes a great scholar and they have lots of friendly disagreement over Jewish law. It's lovely. Until one day they are having a disagreement about when certain knives become impure and rabbi Yochanan makes a mean comment that of course Reish Lakish would know about weapons because he knows the tools of his trade, basically alluding to the fact that he used to be a criminal. Reish Lakish is offended and in turn insults Rabbi Yochanan, then Reish Lakish gets sick and dies, and only then does Rabbi Yochanan feel bad and he grieves for his friend). Bava Metzia 58a, if you wanna look it up. We didn't spend as much time as I would have liked on it because I spent so much longer talking about texts, but we did have a good although abbreviated conversation. I really enjoy this age group, they can make really insightful and intelligent points about the texts.

So this past shabbat I went on a shabbaton with school to Kibbutz Hannaton. It is a pluralistic kibbutz up north kind of near Tzfat. It was really lovely. This kibbutz used to be the only masorti (conservative movement in Israel) kibbutz in Israel. Eventually it went bankrupt and people left. Then about a year and a half ago this one guy decided he wanted to come back and revive the kibbutz because he had spent time there as a kid and really enjoyed it. Instead of just having it be masorti he decided to make it a pluralistic kibbutz and convinced some of his friends to move up there with him.

So it's a very young project, but it was cool to see. They definitely have a long way to go in figuring out the best way to accomodate everyone, but it's great they are trying. They are facing problems with their synagogue. They only have one, because there are only 24 families there right now, and they are having trouble decided the best way to worship. There are people who don't feel comfortable davening without a mehitzah (something that separates men and women), some who don't feel comfortable when there is a mehitzah, some who want more traditional or less traditional liturgy, etc etc.

Right now their services are pretty egalitarian, basically how a conservative service would be run in the states. I'm not sure if they have limits about when women can lead or not, I didn't get a chance to ask. I did enjoy the services there. The sad thing is is that I don't think there is a way for everyone to be happy across all denominations in just one service. I do admire their mission though, and even if they can't all pray together and will need to have 2 services I think it's still great that they are trying to make things work and raise their kids in a pluralistic environment.

Kibbutz hannaton just seems like a really lovely place. One of the problems in Israel is that for the most part you either have to raise your kids in an orthodox community or a secular one there isn't really much in between, and hannaton does offer that in between. It is still a religious environment, but it is not orthodox. I would totally be down to live there if I decide I want to make aliyah, but at a different stage of my life when I am married and have money/a career and when they are more established as a kibbutz. Hmmm (I don't think this is actually going to happen, but I did really like the environment, maybe I will find something like it in America).

Another interesting thing about hannaton is the demographics. Most of the members of the kibbutz it seemed to me are Americans that made aliyah or Israelis who have American parents. Is this idea of religious pluralism and of something between Orthodox (dati) and secular a foreign, American idea or can it also enter into the Israeli culture? Maybe this is something that Americans who have made aliyah can bring to Israel, but I wonder if it will ever stick or if only former Americans will be the ones in projects like this or in the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel...

I def hope to go back to Hannaton, it was a lovely escape from Jerusalem. I realized I hadn't been gone for a shabbat since september! I do really enjoy shabbat in J'lem though, so it makes sense that I always stay, but maybe I should try and get out more...

Ok this entry is long enough...

Peace (and pluralism)


ps I totally forgot to mention, we went hiking on Friday before shabbat. It was really nice, we hiked up some mountain that I forget it's name. I do enjoy getting out into nature, it's just not something I think of doing on my own. So yeah let me know if you are going on a hike, I am totes down to come with (well if I don't have to much hw haha)

Monday, December 6, 2010

only in Israel...

Hey World,

So today since I didn't have school again (yayayay) I went with a friend to the biblical zoo. I recommend it, it was pretty fun, more about that later...

So anyways I'm on the bus to meet up with my friend. I'm sitting towards the front and the bus is pretty empty. Then the bus driver points to me through the mirror and asks (in Hebrew) "Do you speak English?" I say "yes." He tells me to come to the front of the bus and he gives me his phone and tells me (still in Hebrew) to talk to this woman and figure out where he should meet her.

I'm pretty confused as to what is going on, i understood what he had told me to do, but I didn't get what was happening. I thought she was trying to find the bus station or something, but I guess she was trying to meet up with him. I really hope they found each other! I think I did an ok job translating, it was really weird though. I was talking to a random woman for the bus driver who I guess couldn't speak english well enough to tell her where to go.

The other weird thing about this is, what are they going to do once they meet up? How will they talk if they don't speak each other's language? Oooh Israel...

So after I got off the bus and finally (after some delay) got to the biblical zoo, it was pretty rad. It had been raining and was still overcast, but we decided to go to the zoo anyway. It was a great decision because not only was it less crowded BUT the tickets were 50% off...SCORE. I recommend that you go if you are in Jerusalem. It was cool to see all the animals, and it was made even better by these cute Israeli children yelling in Hebrew about how cute the animals were/getting excited by all the exhibits.

Favorite animals at the zoo? The penguins were adorable (although I don't know how they made it into the BIBLICAL zoo, but whatevs), there were two beautiful/majestic leopards, these HUGE parrot things, cute/crazy/loud monkeys...yeah it was pretty sweet.

And because I have started taking some pictures again, here are a few faves from the day:

Yep I caught the leopard yawning and it was awesome, and now I am yawning...bed time. School tomorrow. I miss staying up late and having late classes, my biological clock is not designed for this...

Happy night 6!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Festival of Lights

Hey World,

So Chanukkah in Israel has really been awesome. It's so nice to walk around and see Chanukkiyot (the things you light on Chanukkah) everywhere. There are special doughnuts (sufganiyot) all over the place made specially for the holiday. There are also lots of special activities going on. It definitely feels like the holiday season, but it is nice to not constantly have christmas shoved down your throat.

After shabbat ended on saturday night I went out around Jerusalem with a friend. She had been told how amazing it is to go around the old city in the Jewish quarter and see all the chanukkiyot lit up, so we did that. Let me tell you, it was so wonderful. In practically every window or outside of every doorway there was a Chanukkiyah burning. There were lots of people walking around to look at the different Chanukkiyot also, there were even tours happening with lots of little kids (mostly Israeli). Instead of driving around and looking at the pretty christmas lights in America we walked around and looked at the menorahs (it's just easier to type than chanukkiyah). It was really magical. It felt like we were really in the Jewish homeland, this is what is so special about this place that Jews can really celebrate the holidays together and light menorahs and not have to fear for their safety, or be the only one on their block with a menorah burning.

I'm getting all gushy, so lets take a picture break (these are all pictures I took walking around the old city):

Yay done.

We also walked around Mamila which is this new (like 2 or 3 year old) shopping center. It felt weirdly American there, I think because they had put up all these lights. Yes the lights were blue and white, but it still seemed kind of christmas-y or something. I overheard two people commenting on these lights (in Hebrew) both said something about how this is how it feels like outside of Israel/in America during this time of year. While there is nothing inherently christian about using the little "twinkle lights" it did feel a bit foreign here. Just something interesting to think about... To be fair they were very pretty. OOh look another picture:

It was prettier in real life, but you get the idea...

So after all this walking around we stopped in a bar for a drink. As we were leaving these very religious looking men walked into the bar. It was really odd to see a bunch of black-hatters coming into a very secular bar. It turned out they were coming in to encourage people to light chanukkah candles and they even brought a bunch of Menorahs with them. It was fascinating because even though we were at this secular bar (I don't think anyone was even wearing a kippah in the bar) they were very respectful of these men. One of the bar tenders, when asked, even lowered the music while one woman lit the candles. The people working at the bar didn't try and kick the men out or anything, there was this weird tolerance going on. It was definitely a very "only in Israel" moment.

I feel like in America if someone came into a bar and tried to get people to do something religious they would be kicked out in two seconds. Here they were accepted. Religion here is so weird. The role that it plays in society is just so different than anything I have experienced. It is partially (I think) this mixing of religion and culture and how parts of the Jewish religion have become part of the national culture and it is hard to separate the two. It fascinates me...

It was a lovely night.

So I have today and tomorrow off of school for Chanukkah. It's been nice. It makes me wish I had less class so I could have more chances to explore. Maybe just one day less a week? I think that isn't too ridiculous to ask :-)

So now I am going back in time, or more like just out of chronological order. I just wanted to add that I had a lovely shabbat. I chanted Torah again. I really like to chant (leyn is another word for it). It is just so cool to read out of the Torah like that, and I really want to get better. Right now it takes FOREVER to learn an aliyah (a section of the text), I want to get better so it won't take me as long and I can read longer aliyot. The meals were great too. I had some great lasagna for dinner and sesame noodles and latkes and lots of stuff for lunch. I even played some dreidle with lentles.

Life is good. I can't believe it is already day 5 of chanukkah, crazy! I need to go eat some more sufganiyot (esp the ones from roladin, they are kinda more expensive but sooo worth it, drool).



ps I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fire that is happening in northern Israel right now in the carmel area. It was only just put out, for the most part, today, after burning for 4 days. It devestated a large part of the north of Israel and took more than 40 lives. Part of the problem was that everything is so dry because it is supposed to be raining and it still hasn't rained. I don't think I've ever prayed for rain with such intention before. Here is a website if you would like to make a donation to help the relief efforts:


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nes Gadol haya po!! (נס גדול היה פה)

Hey World!!

So tonight is the first night of Chanukkah! Let me take you back a few years...

When I was younger we were not allowed to own movies, or I guess my parents just refused to buy them for us. However there were 2 movies that my parents (I feel like this was my mom's doing, but I'm not entirely sure) allowed us to own, or decided that we should have around. One was the animated haggadah, a clay-mation passover story, and the other was the rechov sumsum (Israeli version of sesame street) Chanukkah video. As you can tell I was being "brainwashed" from a young age :-)

Needless to say I know those videos pretty well.

In the chanukkah video there is this one sketch that is this fake game show about chanukkah. There are three contestants, one of which is the Israeli version of big bird, who is a porcupine named Kippy ben-Kipod. So blah blah they are asking/answering questions and then we get to the final question which stumps all the contestants. This question is "The last letter of the Dreidel is different in Israel and in America, what are those 2 letters?" None of the contestants know, so what ends up happening is the person in the role of "Vanna White" gets pissed and tells everyone the answer (and then it gets confusing because she won the gameshow she words for).

(if you want to see the video, or relive a piece of your Jewish childhood:

So yeah outside of Israel the letters on the dreidel are the first letter of the hebrew words that mean "a great miracle happened there" but here in Israel the last letter is different because instead of saying that it happened THERE it says it happened HERE (nes gadol haya PO). So while I have known this for a looooong time, I have never actually been in Israel on Chanukkah to be able to use the different dreidel. I am actually really excited about this. It is cool to be HERE and not there in some sense.

Another cool thing is that there are menorahs ALL over the place. In many intersections or in front of stores or on top of buildings there are large (electric) menorahs. It's really cool. There are also menorahs made of lights that are hung up on lots of the lamp posts on busy streets, like the one I live on. Part of the mitzvah of lighting the menorah is to show it in public in order to "publicize the miracle." At home we have an electric menorah that we put in our window and then light our other menorahs inside. Here I have started to see a bunch of menorahs (not electric) outside on people's porches. In order to keep the wind from blowing out the candles they all have these glass boxes they put over the menorah. I'd never seen that before, but it makes a lot of sense.

There are sufganiyot (Jelly doughnuts) everywhere. It's really nice. Also Chanukkah in America is totally overshadowed by the holiday season/christmas (which makes sense) so it's nice to be in a place where it gets ALL the attention and not in the same consumer-centric way that happens often in America.

I went to buy a cheap-o chanukkiyah today so I can light it tonight. They are selling them everywhere. I found some in a drug store. Ohhh Israel.

Happy happy Chanukkah! Eat lots of oily stuff.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

teaching and kashrut...

Hey World,

So the last couple of days have been pretty crazy and all over the place. I'm going to start with the positive...

1. I'm coming home to America for part of my vacation yayayayay. I was trying not to come home, but for my sanity I think this is the best choice. Also I found cheap tickets. I'm super pumped to go home, see friends and family and also stuff my face. mmmm America.

2. For my community service project I am teaching a Talmud class to kids in a gap year program (after high school). I had my first class today, and I was super duper nervous but I think it went really well. We had some great discussions and everyone was engaged and energetic. It was funny because almost all of them were British, so I started talking a little strangely.

My lesson was about embarrassment in the Talmud. I wanted to pick something that the kids (students? they aren't so much younger than I am) could relate to. My goal (or one of them) is to make the Talmud more approachable and more relevant to these students. There is a lot of good stuff in there and I want to show them as much as I can/try and get them interested to continue to study it. We started with going around and talking about embarrassing moments which we had, it was a nice way to open people up and get them laughing. Then we looked at a text (bava metzia 58a) about how the rabbis say that shaming/embarrassing a fellow is as if you spilled his blood. Def had an interesting conversation about that.

It was a great class and really got me energized. The kids were also happy (or at least displayed emotions of being happy) that I will be coming back to teach them every week, so I think that's a good sign. I guess we will see. It's exciting because this is part of what I want to do with my life and it is cool that I get to start now. woot.

3. So I have had an interesting past couple of days in regards to some choices made about thanksgiving. Background: I am the chair of the social committee which was in charge of planning a thanksgiving meal. Since thanksgiving is so centered around Turkey HUC buys the Turkeys for the students and then the students provide all the side dishes. This makes for a difficult situation because of the presence of meat in regards to kashrut (keeping kosher, not mixing milk and meat). Usually the group HUC meals are vegetarian, so the possibility of mixing meat and milk is not an issue, but now that we had meat in this dinner we had to make a decision in regards to what we would do about the side dishes.

So as a social committee we had a meeting to decide what we were going to do about this issue. There was a possibility of having both dairy and meat side dishes on separate tables or just doing no dairy at all. As a group we ended up deciding to just have no dairy because people had said they would not come if there was dairy, and really there isn't a good way to keep the two separate if they are both present at a meal. We were trying to be inclusive, which sometimes means going with the more stringent opinion, but that is usually how compromise happens. If you have people who mix milk and meat and people who will not eat at a place that mixes the two you include the most people by only having milk or only having meat. Which is usually why events are vegetarian because you don't have to worry about it and then the vegetarians in the group are also able to have a wide variety of food.

Anyways we made the decision and then some people got upset because they felt like their right to choose (which is something we take very seriously in reform Judaism) was not respected. There were some people who did not come because we did not have dairy. While I understand the importance of choice, after all that is why I am a reform Jew, I think that in big community settings you have to make compromises. You can do whatever you want as an individual and make whatever choices you want, but sometimes in a big group that isn't possible all the time.

I struggled with the idea that people felt left out and excluded by the decision the social committee made about kashrut when we had made it to try and be the most inclusive. While it may be your preference to eat dairy and meat together (which is 100% fine), if I or anyone who keeps kosher is in a place where the food is not up to their kashrut standards that is prohibitory. I can't eat pepperoni pizza, but you can eat cheese pizza even if you prefer it with pepperoni. I know this is an extreme example, but having two tables where there would be a possibility of having stuff mixed would make me uncomfortable. I don't know what I would have done in this situation...

In addition while I think it is perfectly fine for people to make their own decisions, and have meals or shabbat meals that have both dairy and meat I think that at a Jewish institution it makes sense to have (minimal) kashrut standards. Yes even a Reform Jewish institution.

The decision making process that took place really did discuss both sides. I think the mistake was that we didn't realize how big of a deal this would become and maybe didn't handle it as carefully/delicately as we should have. As the group planning the event we felt it appropriate to make the decision on Kashrut, but it seems that maybe in regards to ritual or halachic matters we should have an official school/community policy so that people feel empowered by the decision making process and don't feel excluded.

I know I am definitely one of the most conservative (yes small c) members of my class in regards to these issues, but I will say it again: I support your right to choose, but I support HUC having a minimum level of kashrut at group events. Maybe a better way to do this is to just not have meat at these events, but at an event sponsored by HUC I don't think there should be both meat and milk. You can disagree with me and I respect your opinion, and I ask you to respect mine. (and this is just mine, it is totally separate from the social committee and that decision making process). As a Reform Jew who keeps kosher I have felt that not my choices are not being tolerated, because if people are insisting on having dairy and meat together that does not give me a space within the community.

Eat a cheeseburger while sitting next to me at lunch, eat a turkey sandwich and a yogurt, but let me also eat my turkey sandwich WITHOUT cheese, or my hummus and pita or whatever. When we bring our own food and only eat our own food we don't have this problem, but when we all eat together and share food as a community we need to ask ourselves how to do so in the best way possible that gives a place to everyone within the community.

As a community at HUC this issue definitely has gotten us talking, which I think is a positive thing, and we are working on moving on from this and learning from this situation. I think at some point there will be some kind of wider community forum to discuss all of this, and hopefully we will be able to work out a policy or something. I have learned a lot from this situation already, and I think that learning from things like this is the only way to make something positive happen out of a negative situation.

Wow that got long. This is just something I feel very strongly about...

I do pick my battles, and this is something I feel very strongly about which is why I am voicing my opinion. I also think this will be interesting to look back on later. As I said in my email to my class, I do want to have this discussion. Let's talk about it. If you disagree with me let me know. That's the great thing about Judaism, is we have this tradition based on arguments and disagreements. This is a continuation of that. People in the Talmud fought/disagreed all the time, this is nothing new...I think both sides can learn from this discussion.

If you actually got to the end of this, wow. Kol hacavod!

I guess I will see how much heat I get for this...

I should get back to homework.

Peace (and respectful differences of opinions),


ps (edit) a classmate, in light of this whole discussion, sent us an article. It appears the whole Reform movement is struggling with this idea of Kashrut...I feel tapped in to the Reform struggle, or something.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Hey World,

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving. In a few minutes, when my potatoes are done cooking, I am heading out to a thanksgiving with my HUC classmates. It's soooo weird here, no one knows its thanksgiving, the stores are all still open, I had SCHOOL. Thanksgiving is something America definitely does right.

Anyways I have lots to write about, and no time, so stay tuned for my next entry, but for now...

Things I am thankful for: Family (not that I really had a choice in the matter, but I think I did pretty well haha), Friends: both the friends who I have known FOREVER and have put up with my shit for years and also friends I met in hs, college, here in Israel, etc etc. I am thankful for my skyping/facebooking/gchatting with above mentioned people (really you have no idea how nice it is to hear from people from home).

I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and my ability to be here in Rabbinical school. I am thankful for my connection to Judaism and the positive impact it has on my life. I am thankful for Israel, it's a great place and I do love it, even though I don't want to live here forever. I am thankful for my health (but seriously I really am). I am thankful for spin class/the awesome fitness instructors at the ymca who are getting me into shape.

I am thankful for the shuk here in Jerusalem, I am thankful for all my shoes (shout out to the ones I left behind in america), I am thankful for my education and def missing college and my sorority, but happy I was able to participate and get a lot out of everything before I graduated. I am thankful for my hair (I just like it), I am thankful for diet coke, and I am thankful for lots of things that I am forgetting. But I have to go.

much love and TURKAYYYY


Monday, November 22, 2010

it still feels like

Hello World,

Still not much exciting going on here...Well I guess the big picture is exciting, the whole living in Israel for the year and starting Rabbinical school, etc, is exciting...BUT when you get down to the day by day living it's not so exciting, especially after 5 months.

I've been going to class. Not too much to say about that. I have one teacher who I would like to follow around all the time and just absorb all the knowledge that he has, but unfortunately I have class and I think that it would be kind of creepy of me to do that. The Israeli talmud class is going ok, I still haven't spoken in it. I just sound so dumb in Hebrew...

What else, what else...Oh some guy tried to pick me up in the grocery store yesterday. Oh Israeli guys...No but seriously, I was in the grocery store and I was also disgusting because I had just gotten out of spin class (I am a gatoraide commercial-worthy sweater in that class, and usually I am not a sweaty person). So I'm minding my own business and this guy comes up to me and asks where I am from and I make the mistake of talking to him. After a few minutes of dumb conversation he asks me to coffee. I say no. Then he asks for my phone number, I say no. He asks again, no again...What? Do you think if you ask me repeatedly I will all the sudden change my mind? Then he asks me if I don't want to give him my phone number because I have a boyfriend. This happens a lot, its as if they think that the ONLY possible reason I would turn them down is because I am already taken. NOT because I think they are annoying or unattractive, etc etc. Jeez you people...

Over the weekend I got to see another friend I hadn't seen since high school. It's def been fun reconnecting with people. It also makes me realize how little I have changed. I mean I think I have changed a lot in terms of my maturity level etc etc, but personality-wise nothing surprising has happened over the past few years.

Next Sunday is my first day of teaching, I am teaching a Talmud class for some American and British teens who just graduated high school. I'm excited and a little nervous, but I think it will be fun. I will keep you posted.

I can't believe I am missing thanksgiving, and black friday. We are doing a thanksgiving thing at HUC which will be fun, but I think everyone is going to be depressed cause we are all away from our families and the awesome friday bargains haha. But seriously I love black friday shopping, I go to the outlets that open at midnight and stay out until about 3am. It's the best, and those are totally my peak hours...wahhh

Also to add to the things I miss about America: sunchips (esp the garden salsa flavor) if you are in America please eat some for me. mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Also if you haven't heard yet girl talk has a new album out, and you should get it, it's pretty sweet.

This blog entry is going downhill fast, so i'm gonna end it. I need to get re-inspired...suggestions welcome :-)


Sunday, November 14, 2010

assorted thoughts...

Hey World,

So being true to the title, here are some assorted thoughts/happenings from the past few days...

1. OMG shabbat starts crazy early, it starts around 4pm here, which is ridiculous. This is partially why I don't write on Fridays anymore, I just have no time. oyyy.

2. I went to Friday night services at Yakar for the second time. One thing that I LOVE about services there is how loud everyone sings. I love being able to belt it out and not feel like everyone can hear me. Everyone is singing very loudly with a lot of spirit and it is wonderful. The shaliach tsibur (prayer leader) for kabbalat shabbat was really great, he had a magnificent voice.

3. I learned something new! So I got to services earlier than usual so it was still Minchah (the afternoon service that is typically done right before kabbalat shabbat, the service that welcomes shabbat). Anyways to end the service we did the "barchu" the call to prayer which is done towards the beginning of the service, and had already been done in the appropriate place. I was very confused at first, and I thought maybe something got messed up so they had to say the barchu again for some reason. So as luck would have it the next day I was reading the Jewish law section in my Koren prayer book and it was talking about what a Jew in the Diaspora should do in Israel in regards to the different traditions, so if the Jew should do what they normally do or change their practices to fit with the way it is done in Israel. (an example of this is how in Israel they do one day of most holidays and we do two in the diaspora, or add on an additional day, ex passover). ANYWAYS one thing it mentioned was how many congregations in Israel say the barchu at the end of the weekday service...

4. Saturday morning I chanted Torah, yay. I signed up to chant at kedem (suprise, suprise), because (1) I want some practice and (2) I feel like I should contribute more to the community since I go all the time and (3) reading from the Torah is so cool, and such an honor. So I chanted the first aliyah, which was a good chunk of text for an inexperienced chanter like me. But yeah it was cool especially because I got to chant about Jacobs ladder and one of my favorite lines "Behold, God is in the place and I did not know it" that's a poor translation, but yeah I dig it. I can just hear this wonder/awe in Jacob's voice when he says it, it's a cool realization. I've definitely had some awe-inspiring moments that I can kind of tie into this, I mean certainly not the level of seeing angels and hearing God's voice, but I can still relate... (If you want to look up this weeks portion it starts Genesis 28:10-32:3)

5. I'm still obsessed with spinning. I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but yeah it's the best thing evahhh. Def gets my endorphins going. I actually just got back from spinning. I'm also learning lots of "practical" hebrew, like the word for accelerate and resistance. haha

6. Ahh I can't believe I forgot to mention this until now...I went to an Idan Raichel Project concert on Thursday night. It was SOOOO GOOD. Everyone on the stage at that concert was SO friggin talented. It was really beautiful. They also played a lot of the songs I really like so yay. Also we did that weird Israeli synchronized clapping thing I wrote about earlier haha

7. I found Franks red hot sauce in the store the other day and got really excited and bought some. I've been eating it on everything (now I sound like the commercials, minus the swearing) because I'm just so excited about it and it reminds me of America hahaha

I think that's about it for now. Life is good/busy/frustrating, yes it is all of them at the same time.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

just a little rant

Hey World,

SO I just have to get this out...

I've gotten into going to different classes at the gym. So in certain exercise classes you have to sign up for a space on the floor. So I am pretty into my spot, it's #13, and not because it's the number 13 I actually don't really like that number (I'm more partial to 8). I like it because it is in the perfect location, it is forward but not in the front and it is all the way on the side so I can do my own thing and people don't have to watch me not be super coordinated.

So anyways I show up to class today and sign up for my spot. woot. The spots are very clearly marked on the floor. So I go stand in my spot, and the girl who signed up for spot 14 goes to her spot and everything is lovely. Then this BITCH A$$ girl comes in late and stands directly IN BETWEEN us. THERE IS NO SPOT THERE ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. To make things worse this girl is really uncoordinated so we keep almost running into each other, and same with her and the girl in spot 14. There really is not enough room to have her there, and I don't know why she was there, I have seen her in class before and I assumed that she knows what the deal is.

Anyways I refused to be pushed out of my beloved 13 spot, but dammit this girl was all up in my space and really distracting because she also managed to block my view of the instructor every so often. I know I should have said something, but JEEZ people, lets have some COURTESY here. Can't you tell we are bumping into each other?? What gives you the right to come here and disrupt my workout and just make me angry. grrrrr.

That's it, the end. I feel better, kinda. Also another class I just got into (I've been twice) is spinning. Great workout, although the second time I ended up in a class all in hebrew. So yeah I know the word for resistance but when he was yelling over the music it was hard to hear if he was saying raise the resistance or lower it, oh well haha, I still got sweaty so it was all good.

The end


Monday, November 8, 2010

Women of the wall, take 2

Hey World!

So after my fail last month at going to women of the wall, I managed to get myself up early enough to go celebrate rosh hodesh at the wall. So last night marked the new moon and the start of Kislev, which is the month that Chanukkah is in. woot. We sang a few songs in hallel (prayers that you recite on rosh hodesh and certain other holidays) to tunes of chanukkah songs. Def got me in the Kislev mood.

One more side note before I start on my thoughts about women of the wall...Since it is now kislev that means that sufganiyot are popping up around Israel. A sufganiyah is a jelly doughnut that is customary to eat on chanukkah. This is because it is customary to eat foods fried in oil to recall the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days. So today I went out with some friends and celebrated kislev by getting a sufganiyah. Mine was darn good. It kind of tasted like dunkin donuts, but also it kind of tasted better. (I got mine from roladin, I recommend it if you are in Israel. I will keep you posted about other sufganiyot that I find around Israel).

So yeah, women of the wall...This month it was much quieter than the last time I went, way back in Elul (like 2-3 months ago). There was only one or two men yelling at us and they weren't really that distracting. I think this was partially because most people don't actually care that much, women of the wall prays towards the back of the women's side and I would say are pretty respectful about it. Also there were a bunch of guys supporting us on the men's side which helped. I think the police were also doing a good job at keeping things in control.

I don't know if I explained this last time, but women of the wall has two components. The first is davening by the wall on the woman's section. We do most of the morning service (shacharit) and also sing hallel (not too loudly though). The second part is the Torah service. Since women aren't allowed to read Torah or have a Torah on their side of the wall we have to relocate to robinsons arch, which is close by and along part of the southern wall.

Anyways, I have been having some thoughts about women of the wall. While I 120% support this cause, I don' t know if it is MY cause. I (obviously) believe in gender equality in all aspects of life including religion. I think it is ridiculous that women are now allowed to wear a tallis (prayer shawl) at the wall or read Torah there. I think it is ridiculous that women need police guards while praying quietly together...At the same time I don't feel complete ownership of this cause for a couple of reasons.

1. I'm not so into the wall. Like seriously people it was an outer retaining wall of the temple, no NOT a wall of the temple it was a wall around the courtyard and the temple was in the center of this courtyard thing. So the fact that it is now given so much holiness is a bit uncomfortable for me. I do think it is a very special place, especially because of the significance it has been given and how many Jews have come to this place and also as it being an artifact from the history of the Jewish people, but really all the politics surrounding it make it a place that I don't really have so much of a desire to go to. Maybe this is partially an expression of me feeling alienated by all the restrictions and politics surrounding the wall, but it is not totally because of that.

2. Kind of connected, but...I don't live in Israel. Yeah I am here now, but I am not a citizen. Yes I am a Jew and I feel very connected to this place, but at the end of the day how much right do I have and should I have to affect change in this place. I haven't done much to help Israel, I haven't served in the army, I don't pay taxes to Israel, etc etc. This is definitely something I am struggling with, the amount of say/influence I and other Jews in the diaspora should have over Israel's politics and where lines should be drawn or not...

3. While women of the wall does not say anything about being a particular denomination, and actually after a closer look at the website it says that women of the wall is pluralistic they do daven in a very traditional way. Obviously I do like more traditional services, but some things they do in services don't quite jive with my personal ideology/theology. When whoever leads the service does so she doesn't include certain things that women aren't "supposed" to do by more orthodox standards. For example we didn't say the call to prayer (the barchu) because you need a minyan, a group of ten people, or more traditionally 10 men to do so. There were wayyyy more than 10 women, but we didn't do it. Also the kaddish was not recited, and the repetition of the amidah for similar reasons I think.

While I totally respect this decision, and can see where the people who decided this were coming from, it is not my beliefs. I feel like we are approaching this struggle from different places and while we both want more rights for women, they seem to be coming at it from a more strictly halachic viewpoint, whereas I am coming from one that can be based in halacha but is also more simply about ethics and the freedom to reinterpret halacha in a way that is more congruent with our modern sensibilities.

It was definitely obvious for me at the Torah service that there was some clash, not clash is too strong a word, maybe a slight tension, between the different factions within women of the wall. For example what to do with the men "allies" who were there. For some people it was important for them to be separate because they were not comfortable with having a mixed gender prayer environment, for others it seemed silly or even rude that the men were pushed off to the side. I guess this also just points to the difficulty of trying to be pluralistic and inclusive. It is hard. Especially when you are dealing with prayer and observance. Everyone believes in the cause, but not everyone is going to agree with the way people are carrying it out.

I want to end on a positive note because I don't want to be so negative towards women of the wall. I really don't mean to be, I think I've just been taught to be critical of everything, so I am doing that. Again I repeat that I totally support women of the wall, and I think it is a great and important thing they are doing. I am just having trouble relating to and feeling a part of the cause. I think it is important for women to fight for religious equality, but I am not so naive to think that my voice will be one that is respected in the orthodox world in this issue. I can sign as many petitions as I want for the inclusion of female rabbis in the orthodox movement etc, but I don't think they would care what I think. Maybe they would care, but my opinion wouldn't be what would convince them because the way we view Judaism and halacha is just too different. Does that make any sense, I've been up for too many hours and I am trying super hard to be articulate.

Apparently I am feeling a little angsty...I think it is because I am tired.

I would love to hear your thoughts on women of the wall, or anything. Yay for comments :-)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Clapping and a list...

Dear World,

Hello! This is going to be a very different post from the last one, just trying to balance it all out :-) Also last night I slept 14 hours. I went to take a nap at 630pm and didn't get up until like 830 the next morning (yes I was late to school, but are you surprised?)

On clapping:

So I went to this Israeli rabbinical school ordination thing last friday and I noticed something SUPER weird...So when Israelis clap they clap like we do at first, so they start a bit slow and speed up/more people join in. So when this happens in America and people are clapping they all clap like that and on different beats, everyone is clapping as an individual. Right? So what happens in Israel is that after a little bit of this individual clapping everyone finds a beat and they all clap at the same time. It was SOOO strange because that could never happen in America, but apparently (I asked someone) this is a totally normal and good thing in Israel. It's weird because I never really thought about clapping before and that it could actually be different....

Now for a list, this was therapeutic, I AM happy here, I just miss some things about America:

Things I miss about America (in no particular order)

1. Friends and Family (duh)
2. FOOD- more specifically mexican food and morning star farms, and good cereal that isn't like 10 dollars, and tostitos chips +salsa, diet dr pepper
3. Restaurants/bars- the heights, blockheads, limeleaf, saga, SUBS CONSCIOUS, dunkin donuts (and their iced coffee), cheaper booze in general, margaritas(!!!)
4. Stores- the clothing stores that I am familiar with/that have my jeans, also DSW shoes, victoria's secret, CVS (ceeves), forever 21, discount stuff like lohmann's and nordstrom rack, etc. also the grocery stores.
5. Some of the clothes and shoes I left behind...ahhh
6. Certain elements of the weather: def missing the fall foliage
7. American Sundays (but you already know that)
8. good customer service...seriously and not having to push to get served
9. not having to turn on the hot water heater
10. having a shower with a bathtub, or at least some lip thing so that water doesn't go out
11. having allergies only a few days a year instead of months at a time

Things I don't miss about America
1. Christmas carols/christmas ads/ all that annoying stuff. It drives me nuts, I don't care about christmas itself I just don't want to have to be forced to listen to the music on all the stations I listen to and hear stupid commercials about putting stuff under a tree/in a stocking...
2. having to miss school/disrupt life for Jewish holidays, here they just happen and everything is pretty much closed anyway
3. uhhh...There are things that I love about Israel and I could make a list of those things, but there isn't a whole lot else that I don't miss. There are things I don't like about America but those are impossible to escape/have made their way over to Israel, ahhh.

Ok that's it.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Talmud...where would I be without you?

Hey World,

So today was a pretty great day. I just wanted to share. I've realized (yet again) that learning especially Talmud really just feeds my soul. Seriously, when I learn things and when I'm challenged it just puts me in such a good place. You know those "chicken soup for the soul" books that used to be super popular, and how they had ones for specific people? Chicken soup for the teenage soul (own that one) or chicken soup for the Jewish soul (I think my mom owns that one) or chicken soup get the idea. Anyways my book Chicken soup for the Becca soul would basically just be talmud. That took a while to explain that metaphor haha.

Anyways yeah I spent a while today in the library preparing for my Talmud class tomorrow. I went over the section of Talmud we did last class because it was weird and I didn't totally understand it and then I started to prepare some of the stuff we are going over tomorrow. It just felt good to go over it slowly and not feel the pressure of keeping up with all of the Hebrew speakers, and hopefully I will be able to contribute more (that is if I can stop being a wimp and getting freaked out at the idea of speaking Hebrew in front of the class).

(disclamer, the rest of this is pretty Jewy...)

So a little summary of the texts we did in class last week/what I got when I reworked it today...We started out with a text from the bible, deuteronomy 21:1-9. This passage basically talks about what you should do if you find a dead body in between two towns and you don't know what happened to this person, it describes the ceremony that needs to happen if this is the case. It's pretty weird. Here is a translation if you want to read/browse it (it's a little old school cause its the 1917 JPS translation, but I wanted to cut and paste and this is what is on the net):

1 If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath smitten him; 2 then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain. 3 And it shall be, that the city which is nearest unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take a heifer of the herd, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which may neither be plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley. 5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near—for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and according to their word shall every controversy and every stroke be. 6 And all the elders of that city, who are nearest unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over tin heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7 And they shall speak and say: `Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. 8 Forgive, O LORD, Thy people Israel whom Thou hast redeemed, and suffer not innocent blood to remain in the midst of Thy people Israel.' And the blood shall be forgiven them. 9 So shalt thou put away the innocent blood from the midst of thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD.

So after that we read a Mishnah that elaborates on this ritual (Sota perek 9, 1-9) and then we went on to a story in the Gemara (talmud) that uses this concept of a body that is found in a weird way. You can find this story in tractate Yoma 23a-23b. I'm not going to do a full translation because that would be super long and crazy, but I will summarize:

So it opens up with a story that was found in the Mishnah about two priests that were running up a slope to get to the temple for the sacrifice (they both wanted to be first so they could do whatever they needed to do because only one person could do it). The Talmud goes on to introduce this story again. So as it goes there are two priests running up the slope and they are about equal, then one gets in front of the other, but not so far in front and the other guy takes a knife and stabs him in the heart. (wahhh wahhhhhh). Then Rabi Tzadok gets up on the platform in the temple (I don't really understand temple lay out, but this is a high up and very public place) and he says: We are brothers, the house of Israel, listen, and then he cites the verse about finding a slain person out in the field. Then all the people burst into cries.

This is odd because the case described in deuteronomy is not the case here. Here people know who killed the priest, whereas is deuteronomy it is describing what to do when you don't know what happened. This could either mean the priest didn't really know his halacha, or, as the gemara argues, he brought up this verse to increase the sadness of the people. Which worked I guess because they did all burst into tears...

Then the father of the child priest (yes, new detail apparently the priest was young) finds his child and he is still not dead he is kind of twitching. The father says: He is your sin offering (expatiary sacrifice) and my son still is twitching so the knife is not impure... WTFFFFFFF. Right? A father just came across his dead child and the thing he cares most about is the knife being impure? Yes this knife is an important one because it was used for sacrifices at the temple and was very hard to purify, but still, ummmm someone just got killed. Following what the father says there is a discussion about the purity of the knife, and they are still trying to figure it out, no mention of the kid.

The Talmud learns from this that the people of Jerusalem back in the day cared more about the purity of the temple objects than the spilling of blood (killing). Whaaaa?! There is more discussion of this later that (or at least how I understood it) reasoned that Israel had become desensitized to killing because one of the kinds of Israel, Menasseh, had killed so many people while he was king (they use the verse from 2 kings 21:16). So the Israelites cared less about death than they previously had, but their level of concern for the temple objects had stayed the same.

This explanation is still very problematic for me. I wonder where this story came from and what it is trying to teach its audience. Could it possibly be criticizing the temple cult? Criticizing their concern for the tools they use for sacrifice over the concern for human life? Those priorities seem awfully backwards. This seems like the most logical explanation to me.

To back up my idea I have proof (woot). So in this story in the Mishnah (yomah chapter 2), which came before the gemara so it is probably the most basic version of the story only speaks about the two priests racing and then one getting hurt and as a result a policy of casting lots is imposed for deciding who does parts of the sacrifices. So probably what happened is this story, in the gemara was added to to give a more unfavorable view of the priests in the temple. The story is elaborated on and the element of the knife being pure or impure is incorporated, which is definitely the more problematic part. The reason they wanted to criticize these priests is really anyones guess, I would argue that it is because the gemara is being composed in a time without the temple cult because the temple was destroyed, so the rabbis are trying to distance themselves from it and validate the new type of Judaism that they are developing/continuing which is one that emphasizes study and prayer, not sacrifice.

Did that make any sense??? Was that interesting at all?? I hope so, let me know if there are things I need to explain better in the future, I know I didn't explain a bunch of the technical terms, but I figured if you were still interested you would probably know a few of them. If I assumed incorrectly I apologize.

So after all my studying I went to a beit midrash (a short, casual study program). It is through the Israeli rabbinical program, but a few of us American students participated too. We are studying masechet kiddushin. This is the first masechet I actually studied, so it's funny to come back to it, but we really only got through a few pages so I won't have any advantage after like the first two weeks haha. It was a great class, very relaxed, but I got to do some text study and had a fun chevruta. Also my Talmud teacher is running the class and we were joined today by another talmud professor and the head of the Israeli rabbinic program (and there were like 8 of us) so it definitely was not too shabby. haha

Last night was halloween, and I just thought I'd mention it because I felt a weird solidarity with all the people who had costumes on. Halloween does not happen in Israel, or most countries that aren't America (I think)...It is weird to feel a connection to Americans because in America I don't. I guess it's just being away.

And with that I will end my super long (and nerdy) blog entry.

Happy 4 month anniversary to me :-)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

saturday night, woo

Hey World,

So I know I owe you a blog post, but I'm not feeling super inspired. Not that much happened that I feel the need to report on...

My Talmud class on Tuesday was great, one of these days I will get on top of my sh*t and write about what I'm learning, but for now I will leave you in suspense :-)

I had a nice shabbat. I had to go to services at HUC and I found that I really missed davening at the places I usually go. I hosted a shabbat dinner which was fun, and it typically Becca/Jew style I made wayyyyyyyyy too much food, so then I had a left-overs lunch also.

This shabbat dinner marked my triumphant return to cooking after the fire. I hadn't used the stove since that fateful day where I almost burned down the apartment. It was a little scary at certain points, like when one of the burners flared up a little when I lit it, but overall it was ok. I feel good about it.

This week I saw two people I hadn't seen in YEARS, one from an adult ed Hebrew class I took in HS who I ran into at yad vashem and another friend from NFTY. Israel and especially Jerusalem are great for getting back in touch with people you haven't seen in a while or just running into them.

It's weird that halloween is coming up because there is NO evidence of it here. There are no store displays with pumpkins or aisles of halloween candy or halloween costumes being sold. I can't say I'm upset about it because 1. we get 2 days of Purim in March which are gonna be way better than halloween and 2. I went to a costume party on THursday so I still got to wear my dumb costume.

Routine has set in. My four month "anniversary" is on November 1st. I have been in classes for a while now, and have been with my classmates for longer. We were told that this time of year is the hardest time for the students, but no one really believed that until we got here. It is hard. Also we don't have any breaks at all during the month of November. Oy. I definitely feel like this year is a rollercoaster, or maybe just a sine-curve (yay math) so I'm up and I'm down, along with everyone else. I still am happy that I'm here, I just feel worn down. But that was this week, so since a new week just started maybe everything will be different.

Well I'm getting back to work, blahhhh.

Shavua tov!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

American Sunday?

Hey World,

So today we had a day off of school to let us recover from the trip up north. It was pretty sweet to have an American Sunday so I made sure I used my time well and went to the mall. The malcha mall in Jerusalem is pretty big, I think it's the biggest mall in Israel, or one of the biggest, I dunno. I got an AMAZING pair of shoes, I am obsessed.

So just now there was a little excitement on my street. As usual there was a traffic jam outside my window, but the cars were honking worse than usual, so I went outside to take a look. There was a total gridlock outside and no one was moving so my roommate and I went outside to check out what was going on. Outside on King george st a section of the street had been blocked off by police cars, we also heard a few loud noises, I think gun shots? No cars or people were allowed to go on the section of king george in front of the great synagogue.

After a few minutes of standing outside the street slowly opened up again and they just kept the sidewalk closed on the side of the great synagogue. When we walked by the great synagogue to get a closer look and try and figure out what happened we saw a robot thing, I think it is one of those bomb disabling robots. My guess is that there was a suspicious object in front of the great synagogue so they had to block everything off to take care of it and make sure it wasn't anything that would be able to harm people. Welcome to Israel?

To be honest throughout the whole ordeal I felt very safe. The precautions that were taken to make sure that no one got hurt were very reassuring to me. Even though I don't think the suspicious object was actually anything that could hurt someone it was good to see how they handled it. Considering how many bomb threats/suspicious objects that happen around America or in airports it didn't really get to me so much. It was just crazy to be so close to all the action.

What else (l'havdil)...I had a nice, relaxing shabbat. On friday night I went to services at Yakar which I really enjoyed. It was my first time davening there and it was great, my biggest complaint was that it was super hot. At yakar they have upstairs and downstairs davening. Upstairs (I think) is where the young people go, so we went up there. It is kind of in the style of shira hadasha with lots of singing, but I don't think women can lead kabbalat shabbat at yakar like they can at shira hadasha, but I'm not positive. Definitely had good spirit, I can dig. I'm sure I will be going back there again, it's just pretty far.

I had some lovely shabbat meals, so thanks to everyone who hosted/were there and being awesome.

Yeah that's about it. I guess I should go do some homework now.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Northern Tiyul...

Hey World,

So yeah I got back last night from 3 days up north with school. It was an interesting time. I don't even know what to say haha. It was really different being with all the people from school outside of school and for like 24 hours a day each day. The tiyul kind of felt like a birthright trip or something of the sort. While it was a little overwhelming at times (I am very much into alone time every now and then) I do feel like I bonded with some of my classmates more which was nice.

So we left super early on Tuesday morning and headed up somewhere. I am so bad at place names. Since it was really hot out (heat wave!) some of the programming was changed around so we wouldn't all die. The overarching theme of the trip was halutzim (pioneers). This term halutzim is very loaded here in Israel and is what the people who first came to Israel and helped to settle the land were called. Many were Jews from Europe who came and worked the land and helped to establish the state. I could go on, but I won't.

Anyways we talked a lot about pioneers both of the past and also modern day pioneers. One place we went to, which was actually technically in Jordan, was the "Island of Peace" which is basically this failed hydro-electric plant. The Island is rented out by Israel every 75 years or so and people from nearby kibbutzim work there. The guy who made it (I'm a fail and don't remember his name) did so because he wanted to help make Israel better and use the water to create power. Now all there is are very interesting (not) tours. But hey at the end of the day we got fake passport things as souvenirs, and they are pretty cool. They even have a real life stamp that says we were there OMGGGGG

Next we went to the Kinneret cemetery. This is a special cemetery for people who helped in the beginning of the Kibbutz movement, very much halutzim. The cemetery was really pretty and it was nice to walk around. There are a bunch of Israel's "greats" buried there such as the poet rachel and nomi shemer, also Moshe Hess who was the originator of the zionist ideal, along with many others. We spoke about how hard it was in the beginning to be here and how many people died, and a lot of those deaths were suicides (I think our guide said like 1 in 10). These were the people "drying up the swamp" in Israel which means many also died of malaria.

After that we went to our hotel and got to swim a little, since is was right on the kinneret. The place we stayed was actually the same place I stayed on my nfty summer Israel trip like 6 years ago, so it was pretty weird for me. I kept having little flashbacks to what I did at the hotel wayy back in the day. It was nice though so no complaints. I also liked their breakfast.

That day we also heard this guy Muki Tsur (I think that's how you spell it) speak. He was a great speaker! He was one of the founding members of the kibbutz movement. He said a lot of interesting things. One thing he mentioned was how the generation that lived to see Israel become a country really treasured Israel as such and felt that Israel's existence was/is a miracle. On the other hand the youth now who were not around for the same hardships are going to accept Israel's existence as fact and will not fight for Israel the same way the previous generation did. I guess this can be seen in Israel today, but at the same time we did see (will elaborate later in this post) younger Israelis working to improve the conditions in Israel. He also spoke about the kibbutz movement. Everyone these days says ohh the kibbutz movement isn't what it used to be, but he pointed out people have been saying that since 1912, 3 years after the movement was started (at kibbutz deganya). He also talked a lot about trumpledore, he seemed like a bamf.

That night we also had a program on Yitzhak Rabin, a former Israeli prime minister who was assassinated. It was the anniversary of his death on Tuesday, so we spoke about him and about how his death was experienced by different people in Israel. As usual everything is more complicated and nuanced than it seems, but it was really informative to hear people talk about what it was like to be in Israel when everything was happening. I can't imagine it. I was also about 7 years old when it happened and all I remember is going to my synagogue to watch a movie and it was cancelled and people were being somber, but I definitely didn't fully get what was going one.

The next day we got going early again and we went to kibbutz tel hai. Tel Hai, depending on what angle you view the development of Israel through is either an important part of this narrative or a not so important one. Tel Hai was a kibbutz before Israel became a state, and it was attacked by arabs. The settlers fought back but eventually lost and had to evacuate, 8 people died in these various attacks. This settlement is significant because it helped expand Israel's boarders to where they are now, so when land was being divided up for Israel this land was given to the state. This is especially significant because of the important water sources in this area that help give water to the majority of Israel's population.

After that we went to a moshav and heard another speaker who was an important person on the moshav. He spoke about what it was like to live up north and also about the cooperation that they have and that is important on their moshav. Living so far up north can be pretty dangerous because they are right near the Lebanon boarder so at certain times there are rockets shot into Israel. Just in 2006 Israel had a war with Lebanon, so yeah relations still aren't so great. I'm no expert in this conflict, but I think it mostly has to do with Hezbollah the terrorist organization there and not so much the actual government.

Then the chaos started...kinda. So the original plan was to go hiking but since it was so hot there was a change of plans and we had 2 options. One was to go to the naot factory (shoes) and then go swimming for a while and the other option was to go to this place where you could see into both Lebanon and Syria (?) and then go swimming for a shorter time. I chose the first option because I wanted to go swimming, and no I didn't buy any shoes. So after we finished at the naot factory we went to the park where we were supposed to go swimming. Turns out it closes after sukkot. Of course it didn't say that anywhere, even on the website it said it was open til november. Ooops. So then we had to go somewhere else so we went to this other park and hung out for a little, but it took us a while to get there. One of the leaders of our program got us ice cream because he felt bad haha. I mean hey things don't always go according to plans, so I didn't mind. It was an honest mistake, and I'm sure this will happen to all of us all the time when we get into our congregations...

Afterwards we went to this place on the Hula lake and did a night safari. It was funny because we didn't see much, we were laughing because the leader was like oh and there is a swamp cat, wow, but we see cats all the time. We also saw a few owls which were cool, a fox, some birds, and some buffalo that were having a fight. It was pretty cool. They say it is better to come in the day, so next time...

At the same place we did the safari, we had a little campfire where we were all Jewy and sang songs. We also had s'mores, well kinda because graham crackers don't really exist in Israel. It was a pleasant time, but I think most of us got eaten alive ahhhh mosquitoes.

The next, and last day (we were all super exhausted), we met with the president of Tel Hai college. Tel Hai college is very unique as it is trying to make the area of Tel Hai a better place and get the students to interact with the community. There is a phenomenon up north that the people who live in the towns are getting older and older and all the young people are moving to the center of Israel (like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv), so it is harder to find good teachers here and improve the industry, etc. Tel Hai is trying to fix this problem and build up the job market and really trying to revitalize the area. It's a neat idea and it seems to be working. He said that a bunch of high tech firms have moved their branches up north, so we will see...

We also met with people from this cool program called Ayalim. It is a program for students either up north in Tel Hai or down in the Negev and the people on the program compare it to being modern day halutzim. The Negev desert makes up like 80% of Israel's land mass buy only 6% or something like that of Israel's population, so the goal there is to build and revitalize villages and neighborhoods down there so more people will live there and it will be a better place. Up north in Tel Hai they are also working to clean up the area so that it will be a nicer more attractive place to live, so that Israel's population will spread out and use all of the land they have. It was cool to see people my age involved in these projects and taking an interest in making Israel a better place.

After that we went to Tel Dan, this really significant archaeological site up north, very close to the Lebanon boarder. My biblical teacher came to join us which was super cool because he was one of the main people who worked on this dig. He just knew so much and had all the insider information which was crazy. Tel Dan is also in a beautiful park, I would recommend going. All the stuff you see there is mind bogglingly old, like from 2000 bce and before (also also after). NUTS.

Then we started our eventful trip back. One of the buses part of the way back got a flat tire so we all had to squish onto one bus. Good times. OY. I was soooo ready to go home by that point so I was happy when we got back to Jerusalem.

And that brings me basically to the present. I went to the gym today and took a hip hop class, it reminded me why I am not a dancer, but it was super fun. Maybe I will incorporate some of my new moves into my future pulpit (?).

Ok now time to go get ready for shabbat, it's nuts it starts at like 4:25 or something like that. I have sunday off of school this week which is going to be awesome. YAYAYAY for a real American sunday :-)