Friday, July 30, 2010

Equal rights for everyone, please!?

Hey World,

So thursday was an interesting day. First we had this great lecture by Rabbi Marmur, who is an awesome speaker. I don't know how he does it, but I want to learn. He didn't even use notes and it was totally organized and didn't go on tangents and was interesting. He spoke about the different Jewish responses to modernity.

One line he said, which I like (I think he was quoting someone else when he said this but I forget his name, sorry) was in regards to change and how now there are many movements very against change and wanting to stick to the tradition. You have to realize though this tradition, while some of it is very old, certain things done in Judaism are not. For Example wearing a kippah was probably not an established thing until the geonic period in around the 600s. So yeah it's old but it still represents a change. So anyways what he said, quoting someone else was "Change is the most traditional thing a Jew can do." Think about it. I thought it was cool, of course I do think there are limits to this change and they need to be made with respect to the tradition, but Judaism is a religion that has developed and been modified over the course of the 1000s of years it has been around.

So after all the class stuff we did today, I went with a bunch of people to the Jerusalem pride parade. Woo future rabbis for equal rights! The parade was more of a march, everyone marched about 1.5 miles to the knesset (the congress building) to protest for equal rights. This march was held on the 1 year anniversary of an attack on an LGBT youth center in tel aviv which killed two people. The march was relatively somber. I was ready for there to be a lot of protesters and even potential violence at the parade, but it wasn't too bad. First of all there was a huge police presence so that probably helped keep people away. There were some protestors we came into contact with, but later I found out there were other protests they just were in different areas of town so we didn't run into them.

Some of the protestors I saw had ridiculous signs, to the point where they were almost funny. One sign had "homeland not homoland" I dunno, it just sounds so ridiculous. Then there was another that said: "go 'strait' for family's sake." What does that even mean? If all gay people turned strait I think we should have some flooding issues or something. Also if they did mean "straight" well umm they are wrong:

Oh and I almost forgot to mention my highlight of the parade. My friend and HUC classmate Ari, made friends with a guy who had bag pipes and the guy let him play them. It was awesome!! Here is a video (also I look like an idiot in the background, I know):

Anyways it's Friday and I have lots to do before shabbat. Ahhh.

shabbat shalom


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

truckin' along

Hey World,

So I know there hasn't been a blog post from me in a few days, but it's because there isn't really anything exciting to tell you about. I have been here for almost a month, which is nuts! I haven't been in Israel for longer than a month before, so I am getting into new territory. I'm excited to see what month number 2 will bring.

So I am definitely getting into the swing of classes and things, so my life is more routine and slightly less exciting. Each week I have ulpan on Sundays through wednesdays. I have to be at school every day at 8:30 (ughh too early). Class goes until either 1pm or 2pm depending on if we have morning services or not. The entire time in ulpan we just learn Hebrew, it's a lot, but I'm really learning more Hebrew which is great.

Today I had my first Hebrew test. I think I did ok, I guess we will see soon enough. One big section on the test was conjugating verbs, which was drilled into my head at JTS. At JTS we had to learn all the correct vowels to put underneath and all the random dots in the letters that don't really do much of anything. So now since I learned that way I try to always conjugate verbs like that, and I actually impressed my teacher and she said if I do that on the test I will get a bonus. So thanks JTS Hebrew :-)

I am really enjoying my ulpan class. Both the class itself and the people in it. We have a fun group and we are able to joke around in Hebrew which is nice. We also find excuses to sing (in Hebrew) almost every class which is pretty great.

On Tuesdays we also have Torah chanting lessons. These are kind of fun in a weird way. It's exciting to be learning how to chant Torah to the point where I will be able to easily read Torah when I need to and I can then be called up to read the Torah more often. It's also fun figuring out which trope mark does what, because some trope marks sound the same when they are with a different set of other trope marks, it's a puzzle. I dunno, I'm super dorky whatever, you can laugh if you want.

Then Thursdays are random days where we have some program or something. Tomorrow Rabbi Marmur is speaking with us and then we are doing something else. Hopefully it will be fun/interesting, and if not, at least I get to sleep in (until 10 woo).

So yeah that's a look at what my week looks like. I will be in these summer classes til the end of August.

Oh also last night I got to see some Israeli friends who I met when I worked at camp last summer. Whenever I hang out with Israelis it makes me a little sad because I don't understand a lot of what they are saying. Israelis use WAYYY too much slang, please people, for my sake use a little less? Maybe? haha. I also learned that the word in Hebrew for studying really hard/cramming translates into English as plowing. So someone who studies super hard is a plower. I think it's pretty funny, anyone down to try and bring that to America?!

Ok I'm exhausted and out of things to say. So goodnight or good afternoon...


Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm a Reform Jew hear me ROAR


if only I was like this after I got my wisdom teeth out. I actually couldn't stop crying for no reason, awk.
"Do you like my shorts?...well then you like my whole outfit." Also vthis guy is rockin' a great jew-fro

Happy tu b'av. Israeli valentines day basically, but it's not as bad as actual Valentines day in the states with all those dumb commercials and cards, flowers and candy (puke).

Shabbat was nice as usual. Very relaxing. Shira Chadasha services were great, I definitely think I'm going to be a regular there. I just love all the singing and the spirit. All y'all in Jerusalem should come with me and try it out. It was cool because they have women leading the parts of the service they can lead under the orthodox interpretation of halacha. Meaning, the women can lead the more optional parts of the service like Kabbalat shabbat. This congregation also will call women up to the torah and have bat mitzvahs and girl baby namings, which very commonly does not happen in orthodox shuls.

It was very refreshing to be in an orthodox setting where women and men pray separately and not feel like I was being degraded in any way. Sometimes if the separator (mehitzah) between men and women is too thick or the women have a really crappy section it just makes me angry. I PROMISE women aren't evil, it's not like our "impurity" or whatever is going to come through a thin wall. Oy oy. I really think separate gender prayer is ok if it's what people feel comfortable with, but there are respectful and disrespectful ways to do it. I don't prefer it, but I'll deal with it if I like the service. Also (maybe this is just me) but I felt this sense of comradery/women power on the women's side of the mehitzah.

All in all it was a good time.

I had an interesting interaction on shabbat in the park. I guess I was looking pretty frummy (orthodox) sitting in the park on a blanket with my conservative dress reading a bible, which lead a very orthodox, black hat guy to come up to me and ask me to watch his stuff while he used the bathroom. Usually this type of people would not interact with me, but I said sure I would watch it. When he came back we had a short little conversation in Hebrew. I told him I was studying at HUC, but I didn't tell him about the whole becoming a rabbi thing (I just wasn't in the mood for an argument). I did however tell him that I was studying Talmud which he seemed surprised about. He had a tractate of Talmud with him and he said it would not be appropriate to study together (gahhhhh studying Talmud with a girl, so immodest, what if she out talmuded him bwahaha, I don't think that would have happened, maybe in a few years).

Jerusalem and especially shabbat is great for the random meetings. I also ran into someone who went to JTS who I hadn't seen in two years in this very same park. All while I was waiting for some friends to join me. Crazy stuff.

About half of the HUC first years gathered in the park for havdallah which was great. It was fun to do and to all sit in a circle together as friends and future colleagues to end shabbat. I hope this continues to happen, it's a nice way to kick off the week. Brings back some memories from camp and nfty in a good (not I'm back in high school kind of) way,

Hebrew is starting to get hard. It's great and I'm still really enjoying it, but I'm definitely getting nervous for our test on Wednesday. Then I have a Hebrew presentation for next Sunday, and I have NO idea what to talk about, any suggestions?

I had a really cool experience today of teaching someone how to wrap tefillin, it was cool to be able to help a fellow woman try out this mitzvah. It isn't as scary as it looks. It was also great because she was really excited about it. Definitely a special experience. I felt very rabbinic haha.

This was a very stream of consciousness blog today, I hope it wasn't too crazy.

Bed time


Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday and Friday

Hey World,

Fridays have taken on a new meaning for me here in Jerusalem. Friday is my one day to sleep in and to get everything done that I couldn't do during the week, it's kind of like an American Sunday except that on top of getting everything done you have to also get ready for shabbat. Since I've started keeping shabbat it really forces me to be deliberate in my shabbat preparations. I like it. I have to preplan where and when I am meeting people, like the days without cellphones or I will leave parts of my day open for spontaneous plans with people I run into,which is also really nice. I am forced to think about shabbat and get fully ready before it starts. Fridays are never long enough here, but I appreciate every minute of them (especially the ones I spend asleep haha).

Fridays have also become my shuk day, so every friday afternoon I head out to machaneh yehuda to buy fruits and veggies and sometimes other food items too. It is crazy crowded on fridays because everyone is doing their pre-shabbat shopping, but I kinda like it. It's fun to people watch, and it kinda feels like I'm back in NYC. A little advice though, BRING water with you and drink it. You will be a lot happier. Also don't be afraid to push people out of the way, that just seems to be a fact of life in Israel (but don't hurt them, just be gentle).

One tradition I have started with myself is after the shuk I always go to marzipan and get an iced coffee, I read about it in some other blog and had to try it for myself, and it's darn good and only 5 sheks! If you are in the area and have never been to marzipan before make sure you try their rugelah, soooooooo goooooooooddddddddd.

Yesterday (Thursday) was a fun day. During the summer we don't have formal class on Thursdays and instead we have trip days designed to help us experience different parts of Jerusalem/Israel. This past Thursday we had a few different options to choose from and I ended up with 10 other people in the "Jerusalem stones" group. It was super fun! We did a little text study and then we rock climbed. I had never climbed on actual rocks before (I had only climbed up the fake rock climbing walls) so that was great. I almost made it to the top, but as some one in our group said: "everyone makes it to the top because the top is different for everyone." Yeah obviously a former camp counselor. So I guess I made it to my top haha, but I was proud of myself and it was a great bonding experience. (Photo cred goes to Tina, and for the record I made it a bit higher after that picture).

That night we celebrated the birthdays of two of my classmates. That was fun too, there was a HUGE group of HUCers out on ben yehuda. We probably seemed like a birthright group, but we are NOT. Also I realized that even though I order goldstar most of the time I really don't like it, I think I just try to like it because it's Israeli beer.

Well I should get going and finish my shabbat preparations. I'm excited for tonight, I'm going to shira hadasha which is self described as an orthodox, feminist congregation. This place is also special to me because it is the first place I ever experienced the carlebach style kabbalat shabbat (think: lots of singing in hebrew) which I have really come to love. I haven't been there since high school, so this should be interesting.

Shabbat shalom and happy weekend :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hey World,

I just wanted to share something exciting I did today. Today I wrapped (laid) teffilin for the first time and it was awesome. I was lucky to get my hands on a pair of tefillin that was lent to me by one of the rabbis at HUC, so I have them for the whole semester if I want them. I honestly might not even keep them that long because I already want to go out and buy my own pair, but they are friggin expensive :-(

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about wearing tefillin. First I like the whole process of wrapping them, there is a very specific order and way to wrap the tefillin on your arm and head, and while there are different versions of exactly how you wrap it, they are all very deliberate and it's something you need to do with care. It is a great way to get yourself focused and ready to pray. Another thing I enjoy/ed about wrapping tefillin is the way it feels, you are supposed to wrap it tightly, but not so tightly that it cuts of circulation so you can feel it the entire time you are praying. There is a constant pressure on your arm reminding you to keep your head in the game and to keep you focused on prayer. I would say I am usually pretty focused, but this was a great helper.

What else...Tefillin are considered very holy objects so I felt like I had to act in a way that was respectful to them, I had to act worthy of wearing them. I also like the way they look. I think they look a little ridiculous but in a good way. I also like the different explanations of why they are wrapped a certain way. You are supposed to wrap the strap 7 times around your arm and there are many ways to explain the 7, it could be different emotions or the numbers of the matriarchs and patriarchs (a reminder to remember your roots), the 7 days of creation, etc.

Basically I'm a big fan. I am realizing that I took the fact that I am able to do these things for granted and now that I'm in Israel I realize what a privilege it is to be able to wrap tefillin or wear a tallis and not be criticized within my Jewish community here and at home. Not everyone is so lucky. So because of this I am trying things out, and yeah it's pretty sweet.

Found this awesome (or maybe awesomely bad) wrap about tefillin, it's pretty hilarious. If you are confused as to what I was talking about it has pictures and some background information. Check it out!

Also, Ulpan is awesome. I am really enjoying my class and I'm learning a lot. Yay :-)


at the judaica store

Hey All,

So I hope those of you who fasted/observed tisha b'av in whatever way you did had a meaningful day.

I want to share with you a nice interaction I had today on Ben-Yehudah street. I honestly think I have been too pessimistic about the situation here in Jerusalem. I feel like I am on guard more than I need to be in terms of being open about becoming a rabbi and the ways I practice my religion. Ok so enough with the preface...

So I was in store on ben yehuda street with a friend who was buying a tallis, one of the awesome big ones (mitzvah cape!) and I was showing her how to put it on. The guy at the store (keep in mind this whole interaction is in Hebrew which makes it even better) asks me how I know this because he was impressed. He asked me if I was the child of a rabbi. I weighed my options because sometimes I am hesitant to tell people that I am studying to be a rabbi, but I decided I would tell him because the more and more I think about it the more important I think it is to tell people, to make them know we are here and there are reform Jews in Israel. Rabbi Naamah Kelman has made this point a few times now when speaking to us, and i really like it/agree.

Anyways I told him I knew all this stuff because I am studying to be a rabbi (rabbanit) and he reacted positively. He said that was great. Then I asked about the price of this one beautiful necklace I had been eyeing and he said he would give me a discount cause I was going to be a rabbi (but truthfully he probably says he gives everyone a discount haha).

We continued to speak in Hebrew, and when I told him I was from boston he got excited because his son went to college there. Then he asked me if I wanted to marry a religious (better translated here as orthodox probably) person. I told him no, it was just important that whoever I end up with love Judaism. I guess this part isn't so interesting, I'm honestly just impressed with myself that I could communicate this in Hebrew.

He asked me how old I was and then told me I was too young for his son. Haha. I love how everyone wants to set me up with people.

But yeah it was just a really nice chat and I got this BEAUTIFUL necklace, it was hand made by yemenite Jews and it's pretty rocking. So thank you man in the store for helping me see the nicer kinder side of Jerusalem and not letting me forget that it's there.

Oh man how did I get so lucky?!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Tisha b'av

Hey World,

So tonight at sundown marked the beginning of the jewish holiday tisha b'av. Tisha b'av is a holiday of mourning where traditionally one would fast and observe other signs of mourning like not bathing, wearing leather shoes, even sitting on a low chair sometimes. Why are we mourning? Because tisha b'av is the day (or so the rabbis claim) that both the first and second temples were destroyed and that's not all.

I have the special experience this year to observe tisha b'av in Jerusalem and in the old city right where the temple used to stand. I just got back from the (western) wall about 20 minutes ago and it was a unique experience. I wish I was a better writer, but here are some observations/thoughts:

-Tisha b'av was my first time going to the kotel (the wall) since I've been here. I figured it would be passing up a meaningful or at least special opportunity not to go on this day. The kotel is such an interesting place, sometimes I feel very spiritual when I am there and sometimes it just doesn't do it for me. The first time I ever went was amazing, but now it seems a little odd that a material object has such significance. I'm not saying that praying at the wall is idolatry, but sometimes the way certain people act around the wall and the way they kiss it seems a little close to that line.

I do however appreciate the significance it has to the history/narrative (myth?) of the Jewish people. This is where the temple stood. This is where all of Judaism was centered around during both the first and second temple period (I'm not going to go into all the criticism of how this might not be historically true, but within our Jewish narrative which I would say is just as important, the temple was a huge deal. I don't want to get into all the technicalities/philosophy of that). I don't know where I'm going with paragraph

First when I got to the wall I went in the woman's side and made my way up to the front to pray near the wall. I got to the wall around 9pm and it was already rather crowded. People camp there all night reading lamentations (aichah) and praying for the temple to be rebuilt. So I had to push my way up to the front. I davened a little out of my handy dandy pocket sidur, touched the wall and headed back.

One thing I noticed while I was praying was the amount of women crying. There were a lot, some very loudly weeping and praying. It was very powerful to be praying among these people, and to be praying among people who were weeping over the loss of the temple. Losing the temple was definitely a huge tragedy for the Jewish people and left generations struggling with solutions to try and fill the void, but it doesn't make me cry. What I really took away from this was the feeling of being part of a community and part of a whole. I have mentioned my frustrations in this blog about the religious environment in Jerusalem and the lack of tolerance, but in the moment I was praying next to people of many different denominations and it really felt ok. I wasn't mad or uncomfortable, I was just there with fellow lovers of Judaism. Maybe they love Judaism in different ways, but still we were all there mourning over the loss of the temple. Exactly what we were mourning about this loss and exactly what the temple represents to us was different I'm sure, but we were still all there doing our thing.

One thing that did bother me was the contrast between the men's side and the women's side of the wall. I'm not even talking about the fact that the women have the smaller, shittier section, I will even let that slide. I'm talking about the fact that (and this is true all the time not just tisha b'av) there is so much more going on on the men's side. When I was prayingo n the women's side I could hear beautiful singing coming from the men's side and I really wanted to join in and experience that, but I couldn't. There were multiple minyanim on the men's side all singing or chanting aicha. There was none of that on the woman's side, for the most part it was just women sitting or standing individually or in small groups praying/reading quietly.

There was one group of women far back from the kotel that was singing. I sat down near them to join in. It was really beautiful to listen to them sing and try and join in although I didn't know most of the songs. From what I could tell/heard this group was a seminary or something for young women (they seemed h.s age or maybe young college) up north. I was sitting with them for a while and just soaking everything in. Again it was nice to feel like a part of a community of Jews (regardless of denomination). Overall I would say this was a very positive experience (not happy, because that's not what tisha b'av is about, but I was glad I went and experienced what I did).

Observing tisha b'av as a Reform Jew is complicated. It is not customary for reform Jews to fast or really do much for tisha b'av because the movement doesn't really see the destruction of the temple as something that needs to be mourned in such a way. I don't want to make huge generalizations, but for the most part that is the way it is. I fast on tisha b'av. Why? No, it's not because I think I'm better than everyone else or anything like that. I fast because of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people when the temple was destroyed. I fast for lack of unity among the Jewish community that resulted from the destruction. The temple was not simply a place where Jews killed goats, it was the center of their community. The society was run through the temple, there was an economy based around it that was supported by Jews who lived or made pilgrimages there. I fast because I am empathetic for the Jews who experienced this destruction.

I do hope for the temple to be rebuilt and I will pray for it to happen (even though most reform sidurim wont include stuff like that). Why? Because I pray for the rebuilding on more of a metaphorical sense. When the temple I pray for is rebuilt that will mean a unified Jewish people, a people that respects each other and respects other peoples of the world. The temple I pray for represents all Jews loving and feeling connected to their Judaism. I think that would be pretty great, same type of idea with the messiah.

Ok now I am super tired and I still have class tomorrow so I should go to bed. I know this got long, but a lot of emotions were involved.

I would love to hear if anyone had a different or similar experience at the wall on this or any tisha b'av, or maybe ways you like to observe or think about this holiday


Sunday, July 18, 2010

quick thought

Hey World,

So today was a busy day and I'm super tired so I just want to leave you with a quick thought. I won't bore you with info about my ulpan class (which was great btw).

There is this time right before sunset when the sun is starting to set and the light it casts is more of a golden, yellow/orange color. This time is absolutely beautiful in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is made entirely of this whitish jerusalem stone, so at this hour when the sun hits it the stone shines this golden color and it is breath-taking. I went on the walking tour thing of the old city led by Rabbi David Wilfond and while he mentioned a lot of interesting things the best part of the tour was the fantastic viewpoints he took us to. Come visit and I will show you. Also I'm a fail and keep forgetting my camera so I don't have pictures, but the pictures probably wouldn't capture it anyway.

One other thing, I have recently been finding the contrast between HUC and JTS hilarious. I laugh to myself a lot when something very "HUC" happens. Definitely way more touchy feely here, which is not a bad thing, I just like to think how some of my JTS classmates would react. I think it would be pretty funny. More on this later. Bed time.

much love and shout out to my awesome subscribers and long time readers :-)


Shavua Tov!

Hey World,

So class starts tomorrow. Ahhhhh. I'm excited, but it is hard to wrap my head around this whole sunday being a weekday thing. Sunday is the new Monday, and I don't like it. Other than that and having class start at 8:30 I am pumped. I'm in the highest level hebrew class, so we will see how that goes.

Shabbat was great this week. I went to services at HUC, which was required of all first year students. Let me just say, wow, I wish everyone could come and pray with a ton of future rabbis (and cantors and educators), there was a lot of spirit in the room, it was a powerful experience. The chairs in the place where we had services were set up in a U shape and I was in the center part, which was awesome because everyone's voice was coming towards me. Man, good stuff.

All of the first year students got to eat shabbat dinner together which was nice. I wish I could remember the names of the people who donated the cost of the dinner, but thanks to them! There ended up being tons of leftovers, which I took back to my place and had a big shabbat lunch with about 12 classmates.

I love shabbat. Recently I've started to keep shabbat more halachically meaning I don't use my phone, computer, cook or spend money on shabbat and I really enjoy it. There is something freeing about not having a phone on you and just being able to totally relax and enjoy the people around you without having any commitments. Also shabbat naps are key, especially when you can't sleep in on saturdays or sundays. It's nice to keep shabbat in Jerusalem also because it's so easy. Most shops and restaurants are closed anyways and there is plenty to do whether it's hanging with people or going to one of the many parks (I feel like I'm writing a travel brochure haha).

To end shabbat a bunch of HUC students got together and did havdallah. I feel like I've said this a bunch before but it is so nice to do Jewish things with other people who feel passionately about Judaism. Havdallah was great, there were a bunch of guitar players and we even had a flute. A fitting end to a great saturday.

One thing I find hilarious about Saturday is what happens in Jerusalem after shabbat ends. Everything becomes really busy. I stopped in the supermarket after and it was pretty hoppin' there was also a traffic jam outside my window from like 10 to 11pm or so. It's funny how this country (or at least this city) has such a Jewish rhythm to it.

So now I should stop procrastinating and go to bed. Ughhh I have to wake up so early.

much love


Friday, July 16, 2010


Hey World,

So yesterday (thursday) was the last full day of orientation. Orientation was definitely really packed with information, and I'm glad it's over. Yes, there were interesting programs and interesting things to think about, but I got a little overloaded by the end.

One word we used A LOT was reflection. Throughout orientation and the rest of our rabbinical school process we need to reflect about what we are learning and what we are feeling. I definitely agree, but whoa I am reflected out right now. This is definitely more touchy feely than JTS, but I guess I should have expected that.

I think my biggest issue was they were asking us to reflect on the whole Israel process when we haven't been in Israel for that long. One whole day was based on the topic "why did you bring us here?"(echoing the Israelite's complaint to Moses in Numbers). So we had a bunch of speakers saying why it's important, some in a more roundabout way than others. For me it was frustrating because I know it's important for me to be here, but I can't say exactly why because I don't know what I'm going to get out of this year. I will definitely take away a lot, and I already have been wrestling with issues that I wouldn't have to wrestle with if I wasn't in Jerusalem, but still I don't know what this year will bring. I will make the most of it, and then at the end ask me what I got out of it, don't ask me now.

Yesterday the theme was Jewish peoplehood (woot Kaplan), and for part of the day we went on a trip around Jerusalem to various sites. Interestingly enough, we went to two church grounds because they had AMAZING views of Jerusalem. I am kicking myself for not bringing a camera, but this is just encouragement for you to come and see the beauty for yourself. We spoke about the land of Israel and the diaspora, and what responsibilities we, as diaspora leaders have towards the Jewish community in Israel. Also, Rabbi Naamah Kelman said something interesting in her talk, she said that not only is it our responsibility to stay connected with the people in Israel and their narrative, but it's also important for the Jews in Israel to stay connected and acknowledge the thriving Jewish communities out in the diaspora. It needs to work both ways. Great point!

I would like to share one other text that one of our group leaders, Rabbi David Wilfond, used in context of talking about the temple mount/ the holy of holies. He told us this story from the Talmud (tractate berachot 7 or so). So some background, when the temple was still standing the only person who could go into the holy of holies, the holiest place in the temple/the world, was the high priest and he could only go in once a year, on Yom Kippur. So since no one else could go in they would tie a rope around the priest's leg just in case he died in there so they could pull him out without entering the holy of holies.

So as the story goes the high priest went into the holy of holies on yom kippur. What the priest is supposed to do in there is pronounce the true name of God (which no one knows how to say anymore but it is referred to as the tetragrammaton). So the priest goes in and about an hour later the people are getting nervous because usually it doesn't take that long, so the pull the rope, but the high priest pulls back, so they continue to wait. Another hour passes, and the people are wondering what he is doing in there, so they pull on the rope, and again the high priest pulls back. SO the people continue to wait, and then 5 hours later the high priest comes out, he looks pale and exhausted. The other priests who had been waiting ask the high priest "what happened??" He answers, "I saw God praying." (powerful image right there). They ask him what he was praying about and the high priest replies: "God was praying that when he judges his children that is attribute (midah) of mercy (rachum) outweights his attribute of harsh judgement (din).

I really like that image, Think about it...

Last night was fun, I went out in Jerusalem with a bunch of my classmates. Also a recent-ish development in Israel is that they now have happy hour woo. I feel like I've said this already, but I am really impressed with my future colleagues. We can go from having intense and intelligent discussions about religion and reform Judaism to just having fun and being people as well as future Jewish leaders.

So I should get going because I have to go to the shuk (machaneh yehuda) and get some fruits and other stuff before shabbat starts. mmmm white peaches.

Class starts on Sunday. I'm excited to learn Hebrew again, I really do love the language, so we will see how that goes.

Again Comments and questions are welcomed :-) It is nice to hear from you! Also my internet is now working (b"h haha) so I will be more available to skype/chat if you so desire.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

something Israeli at the supermarket

Hey World,

So I have SOOOOO much stuff to say, as you know orientation started on Monday and lots has been going on with that and then add to that the craziness of Israel and things I want to write in my blog just pile up. I'm gonna keep this one short because I was just on the phone with the internet people for a while because we were STILL having problems with the internet. (sidenote: why in Israel do you have to deal with 2 companies for the internet, isn't that a little silly?? I think so)

One event I want to share with you happened a few days ago at the supersol (the grocery store below my building). It was very "Israel." I went to supersol to pick up a few things and then got into the shortest line at the grocery store, or so I thought. There was one man who was paying for his things, and then two guys (friends? lovers?) in front of me. In true Israeli style the guy who is currently paying is arguing with the cashier about something (JTS hebrew did not teach me the correct words to understand grocery store arguments haha). This guy is basically only buying a TON of iced tea and a lot of cornflakes. Weird combo, right?!

Anyways this guy is arguing and some woman, maybe his wife but I really don't think so, is just sitting on the phone while this guy takes ALL the iced teas and starts to bring them back and replace them with grapefruit juice. Again, not quite sure why this is happening, but all of us in line are just waiting as this dude argues and then continues to go back to the juice aisle for more grapefruit juice. I don't really know why this is ok in Israel, but it is...

So after like 10 minutes this guy is still arguing, and I'm sitting there making annoyed faces with the guys in front of me, and kindof bonding over the ridiculousness that is happening. Thankfully I wasn't in a rush to go anywhere so I could just appreciate the situation in all of its "glory." Also the guys in front of me were pretty hilarious (yeah maybe I was eavesdropping on their convo, but they were speaking pretty loudly and they knew I was there so I wasn't being that bad). One of the guys picked up a king sized twix and said (in hebrew which I understood, what now!!): Why are the big ones called king sized, what does that mean? Then they also have small ones that are called fun sized, but there is nothing fun about that size, it's so small. Hilarious right? I laughed.

Then to add to the situation there was a woman waiting in line behind me. She sounded like she was from new york/brooklyn who was freaking out about a bunch of things, including how much chocolate milk to buy. She was waiting in line and talking on the phone and is yelling into the phone (in english in her ny accent): I don't know what is going on, there is something wrong with the pri-gAt. The prigat. And she kept repeating "prigat" in her ridiculous accent. BTW prigat is a brand of juice, the one that the crazy guy was buying.

Then in a very un-israeli gesture one of the guys in front of me asks (yes in Hebrew) if I want to go in front of them since I was only buying 4 things. Usually Israelis cut in line, they don't let you cut. Then I made a joke about choosing the wrong line/being sooo lucky that we are stuck in this line. They laughed, I think because they thought the way I spoke hebrew was silly, but whatever i can handle that.

Finally the crazy guy pays for his 20 bottles of grapefruit juice and 10 boxes of cornflakes, and NO I'm not exaggerating. One of the funny guys made a comment about that combination. You would think with the amount of stuff he bought he was having a party or something but it doesn't seem like it would be too fun...cornflakes and grapefruit juice?! Also why didn't he just buy a shit ton of milk? We'll never know.

So yeah he left, then I paid and left and laughed to myself. I really got a kick out of this situation, I hope you found it entertaining, I dunno.

Second thing: So at orientation (more about that later), we had a program where we broke into small groups and shared parts of our story/our process that lead us to HUC. One thing that I noticed in my small group was the amount of people (future rabbis and educators) who came from interfaith families. In the group of 7 there were 3 students whose mother's weren't Jewish. If you add in the number of people who come from families where one parent converted the percentage of future Jewish leaders from this type of family would further increase.

Isn't that interesting???! I was saying someone should do an official survey on this to see how many rab students are from interfaith homes in the reform movement. I think it would be cool to have some hard data. But seriously, isn't it interesting that so many people who love Judaism came from interfaith families? This is a great proof that Reform Judaism is doing something right by welcoming in interfaith families. There are so many great future rabbis who don't have Jewish mothers, does that make them bad Jews all the sudden?? How much should rely on your parents anyway?

That was just an observation I wanted to share, maybe I will go into this more later, but right now I am absolutely exhausted. We were basically left in the middle of nowhere and were not told how to get back. Good times in rab school.

More coming soon.
lyla tov,


Monday, July 12, 2010

more stuff

Hello World,

So big news!!!! I'm getting internet in my apartment tomorrow. It's about time oy!!

Anyways my mom says that I should put more spaces to break up my longer paragraphs to make it easier for my readers. So mom this is for you:


Anyways, as usual lots has happened since the last post. Orientation starts today, so before now I have basically just been on vacation in Israel, and now I'm going to actually start studying and all that. Orientation is all this week and then Ulpan starts next week. I'm actually pretty pumped (I know I'm a nerd).

So for shabbat this week I went to services at Har-el for friday night. Har el is a reform congregation in Israel about a ten minute walk from my place. One goal I have for this year is to try out as many different synagogues and minyanim as I can to really get a taste for the different possibilities and to see what I like and don't like. As I mentioned in a previous blog post I'm not a huge fan of reform style services, so as far as reform style services go this one was pretty good, but I was really missing kabbalat shabbat. I just love all the singing that happens in the more traditional/carlebach style synagogues, so yeah there was not enough of that here. But seriously why don't reform congregations do Kabbalat Shabbat? It's great. Seriously. Give it a try. Man oh man.

Har el was nice though, very welcoming. It felt very familiar in a way which was also nice. They even did this cute thing where they called up all the people who had a birthday in the coming hebrew month and blessed them and gave them flowers.

SO after services I went to dinner at Sara and Allie's apartment (two classmates of mine). It was a pot luck and let me tell you, HUC students can cook. yum! More and more people are arriving everyday and it was great to meet lots of new people at the dinner. Seriously, I am so impressed and pleased with the people I've been meeting. If we are the future leaders of the Reform movement, I'm pretty pumped for the direction the movement is heading. Never fear, we are some capable leaders (although yes we, or at least I, have a lot to learn first).

Saturday morning I went to services at HUC again. It was alumni shabbat, so it was kind of like seeing my future. weird.

I have been doing more to keep shabbat lately, I figure I should definitely give it a try and see how I like it. So for the past few weeks I haven't been using a cellphone or money etc on shabbat and I've been enjoying it. I have, however, gotten lost a couple of times on shabbat and have had an interesting time figuring out how to get un-lost. I bring this up because I got pretty lost on saturday trying to go to a park for shabbat lunch. I walked all around this lovely park (bloomfield park I think) to find out that I was in the wrong park. I was an hour late to lunch, but it was nice.

I studied some Talmud with my chevruta again which was nice. Lots of arguments, as usual. There was this one interesting line about the jewish people being like ruach (translation:wind/spirit) and how since there is always ruach there will always be the jewish people. I will try and find the exact quote later, I think it was on page 3a (of ta'anit). Oh man I <3 talmud.

Saturday night, after shabbat, I went to Tel Aviv. Wooooo. I really like it there. I'm sure this is the first of many visits up there. I met up with some other friends from HUC and we went to a party (rabbis can have fun too sometimes).

Before I forget something really strange happened in the sheirut to tel aviv. So the sheirut filled up and the driver starts going, but he is driving pretty slow and this man starts yelling at the driver in Hebrew. What I got from the "conversation" is first the man is yelling at the driver because he is going to slow, and he is asking why he is going so slow (I think it was because the road we were on was under construction). Then the driver gets annoyed and starts driving really fast, and everyone else is like "wtf slow down." Then I'm reallly not sure what happened but it somehow ends up with this guys yelling very loudly "toratchem toratchem atem atem atem" over and over or something like this. Which basically means your (plural) torah, your torah, you (plural), you (plural), you (plural).

At this point I really wish I could speak hebrew better because I had no idea why the guy was yelling at the driver about your torah, I don't know how it went from talking about driving to this (maybe I heard wrong, is there anything that sounds like Torah that would make more sense in this context?)/ Anyways all the driver has to do to calm this guy down is say not "atem" I mean "ata". Basically saying I made a mistake and meant to say just you (singular) and not you (plural). WEIRD times. Only in Israel.

We were staying at a youth hostel in tel aviv, hayarkon 48, I definitely recommend it. THe people we were sharing a room with were pretty fun, we ended up hanging out before going out on the town. As usual (I guess it comes with the territory) we spoke about religion/why we wanted to be rabbis. I have gotten to really like these conversations, it is so interesting to see people's reactions. I like thinking that maybe I can help people reconsider what it means to be a rabbi, and realize that we aren't crazy people, we are people that you can relate to and have fun with and the same with Judaism, it is a great religion that you can relate to and have fun with. ok I'll stop haha

I spent Sunday at the beach, which was great!! I got a little burnt (yes mom, I put on sunblock), but nothing too bad. There is also this great frozen yogurt place there called Tamrah. mmmmm. It also has these fun swing seats. They are swings that are by a counter so you can swing and eat. Some one should bring this to the united states, it's a great gimmick. Look free business advice, someone use it!!!

ok off to buy a fan with my roommate Ashley woooooooo


Thursday, July 8, 2010


Hey World,

So I apologize for not updating sooner, but there is still no internet in my apartment so it's hard (and SO ANNOYING). I just wanted to say a thank you to everyone who is reading my blog, it's nice to hear I'm not just talking to myself on the internet haha. Feel free to comment and ask questions too!

Gosh so today is my 1 week anniversary of getting to Israel. I feel like I am completely over the jet-lag, so that's an accomplishment. It's weird that I've been here only a week, sometimes I feel like I've been here forever, but others I feel like I just got here, so I'm still a bit confused.

All the days kind of blur together, so here are some highlights:

-On Tuesday, I think, me and Beni (a fellow first year rab student) went out and got 2 mesechet ta'anits (a certain tractate of Talmud). Then we went back and went through a couple of sugyot (sections) and studied it. That was great. I majored in Talmud at JTS and I really love it, so I was happy to be able to sit down with another person and trying and untangle what the rabbis are saying. I'm excited to study Ta'anit, I hear there are lots of strange things in there, so I will def keep you posted on what I'm learning or if I come accross something crazy.

-Later Tuesday I tried to go to the mall to get some sheets and towels and I waited at the wrong bus stop for an hour. That sucked, but I guess I can pass as Israeli because while I was waiting other Israelis kept asking me questions about the bus, so I felt kinda cool.

-either Tuesday or Monday I went to hear David Hartman speak at the Hartman institute. He was great. I wish I had gotten the chance to write about it earlier because he raised a lot of interesting questions. As a jumping off point he used a text from the Talmud (sanhedrin 97b) where Rav and Shmuel are having a disagreement. These two rabbis are arguing about what is enough for one to be redeemed. Rav says you can only be redeemed if you do tshuvah (hard word to translate, but commonly translated as repentence) and good deeds. Shmuel disagrees and says that it is enough to be redeemed if a mourner maintains his/her will to live during the period of mourning. There is so much to say about this, and Hartman certainly said a lot about it especially Shmuel's view. The will to live is a powerful thing, but in some circumstances it can be hard to maintain. Hartman used life for Israelis as a way to illustrate this point. The fact that so many Israelis have died fighting wars or in suicide bombings, etc and yet they go on living their lives and not just living them, but wanting to live them. In the end both Hartman (and maimonides) side with Rav because it is not enough just to want to live, you have to work to make the world you live in a better place. He spoke about the "kingdom of God," and if that kingdom is supposed to be Israel then people have to figure out what they want the kingdom to look like. You could take the one attitude that God will bring about his kingdom so we just have to wait around for it, or you could come up with your vision and work to improve it. Along those lines one of my favorite quotes of the night that I wrote down was said by Hartman quoting the gemara (I would love to know the exact source if anyone could tell me): "someone who lives a week without a dream isn't a Jew." I thought this was a beautiful quote, but having goals and dreams are so important. To be constantly striving to be the best person you can be and to make the world you are living in the best place it can be, I would say is a Jewish value (but it's definitely not exclusively a Jewish value).

In his speech he said many interesting things, and I could go on and on and on, but I won't. One interesting quote I wrote down is when he was talking about Israel. He said "do I become more Jewish by the Jews I exclude or the Jews that I welcome?" This is something that has really been bothering me lately. I think it should, no question, be the second option. Judaism should be about embracing other Jews, we are a Jewish people. When I hear about Jews throwing rocks at other Jews or that incident recently where a woman got beat up for wrapping tefillin that makes me so upset. 1. Do you think it's going to help convince someone you are right/your interpretation of Judaism is right by hurting them!? 2. The Jewish people have gone through so much shit, we should NOT be violent and so unsupportive of each other. I think it is great that there are so many ways to practice Judaism and I think it is healthy to have arguments about it, but they should be respectful and not alienating. This is a HUGE problem here in Israel. Just look at the kotel (the western wall). If you want to pray there it is basically like walking into a super ultra-orthodox shul. There have been instances where women were arrested for wearing tsitsit katan ( when they go to the wall. While tsitsit are traditionally worn by men, women are never forbidden to wear them, they just aren't necessarily commanded to wear them, it's complicated. BUT regardless, if someone is observing Judaism and cares enough to put on tsitsit everyday that shouldn't be something to arrest them for. Are you so threatened by change that this is unacceptable? And why is it worse for someone to take on ADDITIONAL jewish practices, the secular Jews who do nothing would never get arrested and if you are interested in keeping the Jewish people alive wouldn't you be more concerned about people who aren't practicing and aren't preserving the tradition? Ugh can you tell it pisses me off?! (also that last example I am not trying to call out secular Jews or anything, I believe that people should practice their Judaism in a way that feels right to them, I'll write a blog about this later).

-Anyways back to Israel/things I've done. I finally made it to the mall and got some sheets. They are purple and they make me happy. I had the ugliest comforter I've ever seen so I'm very happy that I was able to get a cover for it in my favorite color. My room finally feels like MY room and not just a room I am sleeping in. Which is great.

-Today my friend Ory (shout out!) and a few of his friends went on a mini hike thing. It was definitely spur of the moment but I am so glad I went along. We drove out to a part of the west bank I think it's called anamot or something and there is this beautiful national park there. It was a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem, but suddenly it feels like you are in the wilderness, there are very few houses and just these incredible views of mountains and valleys. Damn. So we went on a short trail to a spring, it is one of the only sources of water for miles (one of Ory's friends was a tour guide, so he knew all these interesting facts). It gets really friggin hot here, so it was wonderful to go for a little swim in the spring, although the fish definitely creeped me out.

After finishing hiking we drove out to a place near Jericho to see this crazy monestary. I really wish I had brought my camera, but the view was incredible. We were up on this ridge thing and looking down at this huge monestary cut into the stone of the other side of the ridge. This monestary had been around for about 1000 years or something, but rebuilt a bunch of times. It was cool to get to see. Near this area is where a bunch of the Jewish settlements are and the "illegal outposts" or whatever they are called. It's crazy to think these little clusters of houses out in the middle of nowhere are causing so much trouble/drama. I was told that these outposts are mostly built by kids/ young adults who want a place to hang out away from the settlement or are lived in by young poor couples because its super cheap. Israel is a complicated place. oy

Last thing, and then I will end this novel of an entry, ISRAELIS HONK WAYYY TO FRIGGIN MUCH. Seriously it drives me nuts. I live on a busy street that gets a little jammed up during rush hour and cars just sit there honking away. ITS NOT HELPING, YOU ARE NOT GONNA GET THERE ANY FASTER BY MAKING LOTS OF NOISE POLLUTION (and waking up yours truly). Can you tell it pisses me off, haha. I was saying this to someone, I can't remember who, and they replied that it's because Israelis always like to speak their minds. haha well said. But seriously it's ridiculous. Keep in mind I'm saying this after living in NYC.

Ok well I'm off, I'm going bowling in a little bit so I'm excited. I will impress (not) all of my classmates with my mad skillzzzzz.



Monday, July 5, 2010

happy 4th!

This was actually my 2nd fourth of July in Israel, silly. We had a bbq which was fun, but no fireworks...

I realized I didn't include a music vid in my past two blogs and I was kicking myself because I have this great one I want to share.
Welcome to my latest obsession:
and an honorable mention by the same artist:
she's great...

Ok now I'm gonna go do things so I can write exciting blog posts :-)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Shabbat/day 2 and 3 in Israel

So as I am slowly adjusting I am getting happier about being here. I do love Israel, but the thought of being here for a YEAR was overwhelming and took away from my excitement a little, but now that I am starting to settle in and make some friends I am feeling a lot better about everything.

So friday afternoon we had a little JTS/Columbia reunion. There are a bunch of us in Israel right now, so it was nice to see familiar faces for a change.

Friday night I went to these incredible services! They in the basement of kol haneshama on emek refaim. I forget what exactly the minyan (group) was called, but it was a part of the Jewish renewal movement. The services happen once a month, but if you are around when they are happening you MUST go. My description won't do it justice, but there was a lot of beautiful singing and there was a wide variety of musical instruments, including a sitar!

I was lucky enough to be invited over to a fellow Rabbinical student's house for shabbat dinner. Shout out to Gavi for being an AMAZING host. It was a delicious dinner and a fun group of people. I have really been enjoying meeting my classmate, we are pretty diverse and everyone has fun stories. We all stayed there talking until about midnight.

The next morning I went to HUC for services, they were pretty good, but I really like reform services so yeah. (maybe I will have a future blog post about that). I did get to use my new huge tallis for the first time which was fun. I don't quite have the hang of the whole draping thing, but I'll get it.

I went to shabbat lunch at Gavi's again, which was great. I was with another group of awesome people. Even though a lot of us are very different we all want to be Jewish professionals so we have this HUGE thing in common which is cool. When I was speaking about my visions for Reform Judaism and what I wanted to help change/thought was lacking it was exciting that other people agreed with me and had had similar experiences.

Later I met up with a group to do havdallah in the park, which was fun. Jerusalem has some lush grass. It was a great end to a relaxing shabbat!

So to sum up, things are great here. I'm loving Jerusalem right now and I'm excited to continue to meet new people and get to know my classmates better and to continue rockin'

The Beginning

Hello World,

So I have been in Israel for 4 days now (crazy!) and I have sooo much to tell you about. This is the first day I have been able to get access to the internet since I don't have any in my apt yet.

As I previously mentioned, I had a really roundabout flight to Israel. I traveled for 26 hours and it was exhausting. The first flight was from Boston to Paris which felt surprisingly short. In Paris I had an 11 hour layover so I decided to go out and see some of the sights. In the airport there was a little tourism desk so I went there and then armed with an unlimited metro/RER ticket and a map I hit the streets. The Paris subways system is super confusing at first, I definitely almost took the wrong train a bunch of times because things are not clearly labelled. Thankfully I looked lost enough that people would come up and help me.

First I went to the eiffel tower (what a surprising choice right?!). I didn't realize how big it was, it's friggin HUGE. It was cool to see it in person, even though it looked the same as in all the pictures there is something special about seeing something for yourself. Kind of like how people get excited when they see celebrities in person. This also reminds me of the hindu concept of Darsan (woo religion major) where the act of seeing something is very important and you can get holiness/power from seeing the representation of a god or seeing something special, it's all about sight (I'm explaining that horribly). Seeing is a powerful thing.

Anyways not to get too sidetracked after I went to the eiffel tower I walked to the arc du triumphe. The one thing that really struck me was how killer that rotary was around the arc. Damn, 4 lanes, how do you not get stuck in that/ why would anyone go into the innermost lane, that just seems like you are asking for trouble.

After that I got on a bunch of trains and travelled out to Versailles. That place was pimp. It was very ornate, you could definitely tell that someone had put a LOT of money into that. Obviously there were a lot of tourists there, and a lot of them were American. Right by the palace there was a starbucks and a McDonalds and I noticed that all the Americans seemed to be eating at those places. Almost every person I saw carrying around a starbucks cup was speaking English, way to try new things Americans...oy.

After Versailles my back and feet were really hurting from walking/ carrying all my carry-on stuff around Paris, including a guitar So I decided to head back to the airport. Let me just say I HATE that airport, its SOO stupid. I'm not going to go into what happened, but I left feeling very frustrated and I hope I never have to deal with that airport again. (I did have a good cheese sandwich there though)

Then I flew to budapest, and then to Tel Aviv. Both flights were malev hungarian air. I had never heard hungarian before, but what a language!! It sounded really funny to me, but yeah I didn't understand ANYTHING there wasn't one word I could pick out. Good times kinda

I finally got to Israel at 4am (Israel time) July 1st. The airport in Israel is in Tel Aviv and I needed to get to Jerusalem so I took a sheirut which is this minibus thing that fits 10 people. So I find the place to wait and I tell the guy where I want to go, and I wait, and three sheiruts fill up with people who got there after me, so I get kinda pissed. Then I remember that I'm in Israel which means I have to fight for myself. So instead of dealing with the man who is running the operation I approach the driver of one of the sheiruts and tell him where I want to go, and he lets me in. Israel is all about being assertive, and I have to remember that.

This sheirut ride was ridiculous. There are somethings that happen in Israel that would never happen in America or probably most other places in the world, and when these happen I think "only in Israel." So a bunch of these happened on the ride. One of the most ridiculous ones was when the sheirut got stuck behind a garbage truck on a rather narrow street so he couldn't pass it. Instead of waiting for the truck to get to the end of the street the driver took a turn down a one way street that was one way the OTHER way. Then when he got to the end of that one way street he DID IT AGAIN. Oyyyy

So I wait around for a while for my landlord to come give me a key. Let me just say my apartment is soo kickass. There is a lot of space, including closet space, but the crown jewel is the mirpeset (balcony thing). The mirpeset wraps around the entire apartment and I have incredible views of Jerusalem and gan ha'atsmaut (a park). I like to leave the doors to the mirpeset open and there is an awesome cross-breeze. It's been hot here but I haven't had to turn on the a/c yet thanks to the breeze.

The first day here I wandered around in a daze. I got a tour of HUC (beautiful campus!!!) and met some people at a small gathering. I also went to the shuk at machaneh yehuda. What a great place. The shuk is a market place that sells lots of fruits and vegetables, but also meat and fish and spices. I went a little overboard with the fruit, but the produce is amazing here. My favorite thing to get in Israel are the white peaches mmmmmmm.

I stayed up til 6pm when I could not stay awake any longer and went to bed. I was so tired I manage to sleep until 10am with only a short break where I watched the sunrise from my mirpeset. It faces east so it was perfect!! Pictures to come.

Ok I'm gonna end here and start a new post because there is just too much. But yeah first day in Israel was good.