Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Busy week!

Hey World,

I'm sorry it's been a while since I've posted AND I have so much to say. I've had a busy week and wasn't really by a computer so I didn't have a chance to blog...

Wednesday was the last day of Ulpan, then Thursday we had some workshops and stuff, then VACATION. woooooooooo

Wednesday night and Thursday night I went out and celebrated being done with Ulpan/my roommates birthday (yay). Both nights were super fun, I am discovering more bars and places to go that aren't so touristy. It feels more like I'm in Israel than on a birthright trip haha.

For vacation I wanted to go visit with some Israeli friends and take a small break from the people I've been studying with. I had an intense 2 months and I was ready for a small break (I'm obviously a fan of my classmates, but I needed some space). So I planned a solo adventure to Tel Aviv and Haifa.

I got to tel aviv on Friday and I went to the beach for a bit where I got to see a friend from college who is in London for the year. Then I went to a friend's house, Udi, in a suburb of tel aviv for shabbat dinner. It was really nice to be in an actually house and around a family, I enjoyed it. Most of the conversation was in Hebrew, which was good because I want to practice my Hebrew, but I def only understood like half of what was happening. Nothing like a new language to make you feel stupid (I guess it's good for my humility).

After dinner I went out with some of Udi's friends. I def had a great conversation about Judaism with one of them. The whole idea of being able to connect to religion and not have to thing that it is 100% right or observe all of the halacha is an idea that isn't very present in Israel. Here it is basically all or nothing, but there are people out there who do connect to religion in a way that doesn't fit into the "all" category or the "nothing" category. So the one guy I was speaking to about this was saying he connects to parts of Judaism and believes in God, but he does not agree or feel like he belongs in the "dati" (basically orthodox) category, and was intrigued to hear that there ARE other options. I dunno, it was cool (maybe just for me, but I enjoyed the conversation).

On Saturday I met up with another Israeli friend who I met while working at camp last summer. He took me around Tel aviv and we even went up to Herzeliya (yes named after the one and only Theodore Herzl). We went to a great Hummus place and then to the beach. You definitely experience different sides of Israel with Israels, so it was fun to go to parts of the city I hadn't been to etc.

Also, side note, every Israeli (or almost every Israeli I meet) claims that they know the BEST hummus place in all of Israel. No matter what city I'm in it feels like someone claims that here is where the best hummus is and let me take you. I just think it's funny.

It was a super fun day. Most of the day was spent in Hebrew, which was exhausting, but good. It was great to see Guy and meet some of his friends and make an ass out of myself in Hebrew. I haven't managed to be able to get my personality across in Hebrew yet, and I also am HORRIBLE at picking up sarcasm. Man. Maybe by the end of the year. ha

Also where Guy lives, in a suburb of Tel Aviv, looks a lot like Florida. It was strange. I kept asking him, where did you take me? Why did you take me to Florida? And side note from that whoever says Tel Aviv is the NYC of Israel is dumb. Tel Aviv is NOT like NYC, there is no friggin beach in NYC. Tel Aviv is the MIAMI of Israel. It's a big city on the beach, with good night life, things are open late etc.

Saturday night I went back to Jerusalem to recover from the beach/pack up for Haifa. Something funny happened, so I was ordering a sandwich at this place in Jerusalem and the guy asked me what sauces I wanted. I asked for "harif" which is spicy stuff. He replied back "But you are ashkenazi" as he put it on. I guess ashkenazi jews aren't supposed to like spice? Someone else said a similar thing to me today when I asked for "harif" I dunno, I thought it was interesting.

Anyways then on Sunday morning I left for Haifa. Let me tell you something about the Israeli bus system or station or something. IT MAKES NO SENSE. So I went to the central station of Jerusalem and got a ticket to the central bus station in Haifa (now keep in mind there are 2 in Haifa, so that's pretty confusing). Anyways I got with my ticket and I looked online the night before and it says I should take line 947 so I waited there. Keep in mind that on my ticket it says nothing about what line or what platform I should wait at. So I wait and then the bus comes and the driver says that this is the wrong bus and tells me to go "there." WHERE IS THERE that is NOT a helpful direction. (This happens a lot here). So I look on my ticket again to see if it will give me some clues, but no. The only thing is says is code 23. This does not tell me anything, like seriously what?! Could your tickets make any less sense?

I go back to the information guy and ask him where to go and he tells me. So I get on the right bus (yay), but it takes me to the wrong bus station in Haifa. Of course. Luckily I am able to get on the bus that would take me to the beach, but I got on from the opposite bus station so I had no idea how long it would take me. Anyways long story short, I get off at almost the right stop and end up walking in the middle of a street for a bit cause there are no sidewalks, BUT I make it to the beach yayayay. Haifa has some awesome beaches, I recommend it. Def better and less dirty than tel aviv.

After a while at the beach I meet up with my friend Ophir. I met Ophir in high school during this trip to Israel called Havaya (great trip, ask me about it), and we have managed to on and off keep in touch. I went out with him and a friend to a fun bar/coffee place in Haifa. There was some great people watching.

The next day I set off to Merkaz haCarmel (not to be confused with merkazit hof hacarmel, see confusing) to meet up with another friend from camp. It was nice to see her after a bunch of months, and to see her apartment. I was proud of myself that I was able to get to her on the bus without getting horribly lost. I'm a pro, I've also learned to swallow my pride and ask people for help to make sure I'm going the right direction.

Then I went back to the beach. I love the beach. I am super tan and I didn't even get burnt! I met up with some people from school there which was nice, and then I caught a bus back to Ziv where Ophir lives. Again yay me for finding it, although I asked someone for help and she was really rude and looked at me like I was stupid (I'm not stupid I just don't live here and i have a bad Hebrew accent, I'm working on it ok), but someone else heard her being rude and was nice and helped me, so THANK YOU.

Today before leaving Haifa I went to the Cinemall which is located conveniently across the street from where I need to catch the bus. I finally saw inception. Interesting. In hebrew it was called "hatchalah" meaning beginning. It took me a while to figure this out so I could get the correct ticket. Good times.

Then I got on the bus back to Jerusalem, and was psyched cause I finally knew where I was again. So like a pro I got on the 21 bus to go home. Only after about 20 minutes did I realize I had gotten on the bus going the opposite direction. I just saw a lot of religious people, and I didn't recognize anything from before. Then I felt dumb because I made it all around Haifa on the correct buses, and then I got back to Jerusalem and messed up. Of course that would happen.

Anyways I finally made it back, yay. And now I am faced with the reality of starting real classes. Ahhh. This feels like the REAL beginning. Pretty daunting. Although I have to say I am feeling much much better here now. I know in some of my previous posts I was saying how I really wanted to come home and visit, but I feel good now. Definitely more comfortable. I think I just needed to pass the 2 month mark. Not that I don't still miss people, but I feel much better about the coming year. I'm getting into my stride. But who knows, sometimes I feel like I'm on a roller-coaster so we will see where next week and next month takes me.

Ok bed time, I have school tomorrow!!


ps if you made it all the way through this, congrats! I hope it was interesting :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another blog post?! Must be procrastinating...

Hey World,

The answer to the title of this blog is yes. To be fair I did spend a while studying today and I feel pretty good about the FINAL TEST OF ULPAN (dramatic). I really want to just school this test like it's no one's business, so I'm gonna have to study some more in order to do that. If there is a chance for me to be able to take a class with the Israeli rabbinical students, I want to be able to prove that my Hebrew is good by doing well in Ulpan. I also just like to get A's (yes I'm a nerd, get over it).

I got lots of new school supplies today. I LOVE school supply shopping, yes I may have gotten a little carried away, but I dunno I just love buying new notebooks and pens, etc. I also got a cute calendar thingy, so hopefully that will help keep me somewhat organized...we'll see.

Last night I got to see some friends from college which was super nice. It was great to see them after a few months! (shout out to Adam, Jessie and Adir) It was really refreshing to see people from outside of HUC/ more importantly people that have known me for longer than 2 months. I'm going to make a LOST comparison. So it's kind of like when they are doing all that crazy time travelling and in order to not go crazy/hemorrhage out of their noses' they need a "constant," a person who is there in all of the different times/realities or whatever. I was in desperate need of a constant, and now I have some (and more people from college will be coming to Israel, yay).

Did that make any sense? It made a lot in my head...hmm. But yeah it's just nice to see people who you are more familiar with. The same happened for me in college, especially Freshman year I wanted to go home more and see friends from high school. I dunno, maybe that's just me. But hey give me some credit for relating it to lost and not to Judaism (I'm branching out haha).

Oh I overheard something funny today while I was studying in a coffee shop (is that what they are called, for some reason that sounds really strange to me). Anyways I was sitting studying for this Hebrew test and a British couple came and sat at the table next to me. They get their order and the guy had ordered an iced tea. The iced tea was one of the fruity flavored ones so it had a pretty pinkish color (think "passion" iced tea at starbucks). The guy gets angry, goes up to the counter and starts yelling, "this is NOT tea, I don't know what this is but this is NOT tea." The woman behind the counter tells him that it is tea, but he doesn't believe her. At this point I want to chime in that it is in fact tea and to stop being so rude, but I decide that would do more harm than good so I don't. Anyways he is still arguing "this is not tea, I don't want this" and then my favorite part "I am from England, I know tea." hahaha a-hole. The woman behind the counter made him a new iced tea with english tea. He still complained. It was kinda silly.

Ok back to work, or something like that.

Happy Tuesday,


Monday, August 23, 2010

small victories

Hey World,

So I wanted to tell you something I'm excited about...Today I paid a gas bill over the phone...IN HEBREW. I know it's not a big deal, this is why I titled the entry "small victories," but it was exciting for me to realize my Hebrew is good enough to get through the automated voice prompts in Hebrew. It did take me a while because I couldn't figure out what this one phrase meant, but an Israeli friend told me it meant expiration date.

I was nervous about calling and I thought I would have to talk to someone, but I forced myself because that is the only way I'm going to improve my Hebrew. So yay. I have definitely been feeling more confident with speaking Hebrew which is something I struggle with, so it's awesome that it feels like it's clicking more and more. Word.

That's about it. Oh I also had a real phone convo in Hebrew today, so yay 2 for 2.

I feel like I should put something cool or funny up here to make up for the boring blog entry...hmmm. I'll get back to you


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lighthouses rule!

Hey World,

First off five points if you know what the title is referencing. I was recently introduced to this and I think it's hilarious.

So lets see what I have been up to...

Shabbat was nice as usual. On Saturday mornings, since we don't have HUC services anymore, we can go wherever we like. This week I went with a friend to this egal minyan called Kedem. I enjoyed it and will probably be going back. It had traditional liturgy, but women could lead anything and there was some good singing. So yeah all requirements fulfilled! The only problem is that it is kinda far away. Ya can't win em all can you. To be honest I'm not as familiar with traditional Saturday morning services because I never got up for them in college, so it's definitely something I want to increase my knowledge of. Woot.

What else what else...I'm reading a new book (which I read a lot of during shabbat). I never finished my last one, but I just really did not enjoy it which was weird because this guy is one of my favorite authors, but I dunno this book was just not good (Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed). So I gave up and am now reading "Basket Case" by Carl Hiaasen. I'm about halfway through, and it's pretty good so far. I like his writing style and the narrator/main character has an interesting sense of humor and some great quirks. Good stuff.

For the end of Shabbat, I with a bunch of my classmates, went over to the Rabbi Na'ama Kelman's house. She is the dean of the HUC Jerusalem campus and a bamf. She is the first woman rabbi in Israel, and has really done a lot for the reform/progressive movement in Israel. About 10-15 of us were there and one thing she had us do was go around and tell our stories of how/why we were here. This question is a very difficult one to answer in a short period of time (I'm pretty sure this is true of most people's reasons), but for me there are so many different aspects of why and how. Still it was really interesting to hear other people's stories. There are some overlaps, but also a lot of differences. It's cool. I should really post my admissions essay I wrote about this, there I think I did a good job of explaining it, but of course it took me about 8 pages (and that was after I hard core edited it).

What else...so the building I live in is SUPER ugly. I think I mentioned that before, but yeah it's really ugly from the outside. I found out today that like 30 or 40 years ago this building won an architecture award for being on the cutting edge or something. People used to come to see the building. hahaha ewww. But I do love the inside, my apt is pretty sweet and we have air conditioning which has been great since it is still really really friggin hot here.

Today is the first day of the last week of Ulpan. Wooo. I have enjoyed Ulpan, but I'm ready for class. I'm antsy. Anyways today we went on a class field trip to the top of the ymca (pronounced yimka here) tower and looked out at Jerusalem. Definitely worth checking out and it is only 10 sheks. Be careful if you decide to take the stairs down because it is like 4 floors worth of spirals stairs or something. I though I was gonna fall and break my body. But the view was awesome.

What else what else I dunno I'm just super tired. We had this speaker today who said some interesting things, but I'm too worn out to write about it right now and give it the response it deserves. I think I'm gonna take a nap. I went to bed late last night (I'm dumb I know), I was just feeling homesick. I think it is because I have too much time to think these days, so hopefully when classes start that won't be the case :-P

Before I go, I just want to say that I have been following Jersey Shore, ohhh man. I haven't found anyone to talk about it with. HUCers if you are reading this and you watch Jersey Shore please let me know. Yes I know its crappy tv, but you know what I am still human and I am still entertained, although Ronnie and Sammi need to give it a friggin rest. SERIOUSLY people.

Happy Sunday, which is still not a weekend day, if only....


ps if you are still curious I will just put up the link because yeah it's funny, it starts slow but gets better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skCV2L0c6K0&feature=related Apparently it's been around since 2006, but I've never seen it before. I'm just not that cool...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Hey World,

So it's the end of a busy week. Next week is the last week of Ulpan. I have enjoyed all the Hebrew studying, but I am definitely ready to start classes for real. The week has been kind of a mush. I will try and sort out some of the highlights/interesting things for you.

Sooo I passed my trope/cantellation test! This means I can chant Torah wooo. Most people are taking the test after the high holidays, but I just wanted to get it over with. We finished the class last week also, and while sometimes it was frustrating to be in class for so long after Ulpan, i'm glad I can finally chant Torah. I feel like it is something I should have been able to do years ago. But hey, better late than never :-) Now I just have to learn haftarah trope, oh and the special high holidays trope, and the megillot...simple (not).

What else...The Ellensons are here this week. Rabbi David Ellenson is the president of HUC so it's kindof a big deal. Anyways he gave a really interesting talk about being a rabbi. That was a horrible description of what it was about...But anyways he spoke about who we need to be and what we need to have as future rabbis/educators/cantors. We need to be "marbitz torah" to be spreaders of Torah.

One aspect of his talk that I liked was when he cited a piece from the tradition that asks why is Moses (aka the moses of exodus) called Moshe rabbeinu (moses our rabbi/teacher) and not Moshe ha'navi (Moses the prophet). He said it was because as a prophet all you need to do is speak the truth, but as a rabbi/teacher you need to also inspire people. Moses had to tell the Israelites what God was telling him and also inspire them to act, and to follow him through the desert. As Rabbis we can't just spout Torah knowledge and expect people to listen and connect. We have to give them our knowledge and teach them about Judaism in a way that they can relate to and it is our job to make sure we do that. This also goes along with having empathy (which Rabbi Ellenson said it was also important to have).

Good talk, good talk. He also brought up an issue for us of what does it mean to be "wrong" do we have a right to tell people they are wrong? If so who? Obviously as Reform Jews going towards the rabbinate we believe that Reform Judaism is right, but is it exclusively right? Is it more right than other forms of Judaism (or is it maybe just more right for us)? I'm not going to say my opinions on this, but I just thought it was something interesting to think about. Also regardless of what you think if something is wrong or not it is still important to be tolerant. This whole discussion also leads into ideas of tolerance vs. pluralism. I'm in rab school ok, this is what we talk about :-)

What else...we had a presentation on Wednesday about this thing called the Jewish Studies Portal which is this thing we have access to as students of HUC where we can go on and get all these awesome sources. So it was supposed to be a technology demonstration, but then he couldn't get the technology to work. Good times.

After this presentation all of the women rabbinical students has a meeting with Rabbi Jackie Ellenson who is head of the Women's Rabbinic Network. We spoke about what the organization does and how they support women rabbis. It sound pretty sweet. Also I found out L.A is a pretty woman centric campus, meaning that many of the higher ups are women, so I think that will be cool to experience next year.

Last night (weds) a bunch of classmates went to the beer festival in Jerusalem. It was super fun. We can be a pretty goofy bunch sometimes, but it's nice to be able to relax and de-stress and not have to act like rabbis all the time. (Of course there are boundaries and I know I still am representing HUC and future rabbis, but you know. maybe.). Anyways it was a good time, I learned that I like wheat beer, I had one that I really liked but I don't remember the name so fail. I also had cherry beer. It was weird, quite the girly beer haha. Look, I put up a picture from the beer fest. Here is me with some of my classmates (notice my impeccable form on the sorority squat).

Today we had our academic orientation and we got to see our schedules for the coming year. Let me tell you, they are PACKED. It's gonna be crazy, but I'm looking forward to it. Since I am in the highest hebrew level I get to be in a Jewish Thought class taught all in Hebrew by a professor who was highly recommended. I will also be taking some other classes in Hebrew, like bible. So yeah I'm pumped, I want to practice my Hebrew and learn Jewish things and be super cool/stressed out.

I'm sure I'm forgetting to tell you something...but I'm tired. Nap time!

Also I was introduced to a funny website: http://www.dearblankpleaseblank.com/hilarious.php
Check it out.

Also shout out to my followers. What whattttttt, and also to my readers. It really means a lot when you tell me you read my blog/enjoy it. I try to be honest and not boring. I know I ramble sometimes, but I mean as a future rabbi I think that is to be expected :-P

Happy Thursday!


Monday, August 16, 2010


Hey World,

I forgot to tell you(!!!) I found salsa in tel aviv. And its good yayayay. It's actually imported from the good ol USA. When I was visiting my friend in Tel Aviv she told me she was able to find good salsa so I made her take me to get some. I got two jars and then lugged them around for 2 days because I had to get them the first afternoon I was there. Oh well. No regrets except that I didn't get more. I've already finished one jar. haha.

What else...I had another weird run in with a guy trying to pick me up. I really think the planets are aligned strangely or something, cause this is getting really odd. Anyways I woke up from a nap and this number I didn't know had called me a few times. I pick up and we have a convo in hebrew. He says he is the guy from the pool and we met by the workout room. I was super confused cause I did not remember giving my number out/ I haven't been to a pool for the past month.

So I guess someone gave him a wrong number, but to his credit he was not upset. He just tried to pick me up. I think I kept talking to him because I was excited to be practicing my Hebrew. Then he asked how old I was, etc. AWK. Anyways I told him I had to go and he is going to try and friend me on fb, but I don't think he will be able to find me. Also he lives in beer sheva, and there is nothing there except a university. He told me to come visit...hell no. haha

I think I'm in the twilight zone. Ohh Israel.


ps during my nap I had a dream that I was in the US for one day, and I decided the most important thing was to go get a burrito. Then I couldn't decide between blockheads and chipotle. OY

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekend in Tel Aviv (or my run in with sleazy french guy)

Hey World,

So after an intense week in Jerusalem I decided to get the eff out of there and go to tel aviv for the weekend. Tel Aviv is often said to be the NYC of Israel. I don't know how much I agree with that, I feel it's more like Miami. I dunno. It's a city on a beach. It's only an hour away from Jerusalem and it is TOTALLY different. Tel Aviv is super secular. A lot more stores are open on shabbat. You are more likely to see Israelis around (although there are still plenty of tourists).

Basically I just really wanted to go to the beach. So I did. I have a great tan right now. I don't think I've ever been this tan in my life (thank you Boston and NY). It was super fun. I got to see a few friends who live around tel aviv who I hadn't seen in a while. I also got a break from the HUC bubble.

Friday night I went to services in Tel Aviv, they have them on the pier. It was cool because you faced out onto the ocean and the sun set as you were praying. It was really beautiful.

The service itself was interesting. I would say it was more reform than anything, but the organization that runs the services isn't affiliated with any movement. There were instruments and singing. We sang both some traditional shabbat songs/prayers and some non-traditional ones. For example we sang a hebrew translation of "What a Wonderful world" (Azeh achlah olam). It was nice, but I didn't really feel like I was praying. The most spiritual part for me was looking out into the sunset.

In regards to instruments during services I think they can be great, but also sometimes they can take away from the prayer experience. I think the instruments at this service were too loud, it was like being at a concert sometimes. Also one thing they did that was really annoying to me is they would sing the traditional songs and then do the chorus over and over and get faster and faster. It was like something you would do with little kids to keep them interested. It also felt a little disrespectful to me. I dunno, maybe I'm just picky.

Anyways I had a nice dinner with some classmates and then went to check into the hostel where I was staying. That sucked because something went wrong and my reservation didn't go through and the hostel was totally booked. Yup. I spent a few minutes concentrating very hard on my breathing and trying to calm down. This guy who heard this whole thing happen at the hostel counter clearly felt bad, and he said I'm sorry I can't do more for you but here have a beer. It was nice, it still didn't give me a place to stay, but random acts of kindness like that make me really happy.

Anyways I ended up crashing with two friends who had a hotel room. If you are reading this THANK YOU AGAIN!!! I don't know what I would have done.

I spent all of Saturday at the beach. Got a little burnt, but it was great. Swimming in the Mediterranean sea is great, the water is warm but perfect to cool you off. I was chilling at the beach with a friend from HUC and ended up talking to this group of Israeli guys who were next to us.

That's one thing I have been enjoying about Israel is how people will talk to each other even if they don't know you. It's fun to have conversations with different people. This weekend I feel like that happened to me A LOT because I spent a bunch of time with one other person or by myself so I was more approachable. I enjoyed it. I even got to practice my Hebrew.

Saturday night I was able to stay at the hostel (yay). I was in this room with a bunch of really cool people. There was this guy from Ireland in my room and we were talking and it turned out we knew some of the same people. Crazy. I love how small the Jewish world is.

So yeah I had a very refreshing weekend. Now I'm just exhausted. I was not ready to come back to Jerusalem and all the difficulties here (and the lack of beach). Oy.

Well I should get going. I have a test tomorrow for Hebrew ughhhhh.

OH I almost forgot the story I wanted to tell you: So I had to get up super early (6am) to make it back to Jerusalem in time for class. So I'm at the hostel making some toast for bfast and so is this dude. So first he says he has to get something and asks if I will make him his toast if he isn't back when it is ready. I'm pretty tired at this point and didn't feel like arguing so I agree (I know, I was a bad feminist). Then he continues to tell be exactly how he likes his toast prepared. The red douche flags are going up at this point. He doesn't leave and he asks me where I'm from and all that. Turns out he is from France (and an asshole). So get this, he asks me where I went to school and I told him Columbia. He then says "I've never kissed a clever girl before"

Disgusted I reply uhhh ok and kind of laugh it off. Then he continue "maybe today I can change that." (eww eww eww). So I reply "Not with me you can't." I was proud that I gave him some 'tude. But seriously, ewwwww. Also if you are trying to get with a "clever" girl you are going to have to give it more effort than a lame pick up line. Also keep in mind it was 6am AND he was telling me how I was supposed to butter his toast. wtf. He sucked. I finished making my toast (I didn't make his, I made him do it) and ran away to my room.

But don't worry this is not the end. I come down about 20 mins later to check out, after talking to my cool roommates who had not gone to bed yet haha. And creepy french guy is there. gahhhhh. He asks if he can sit next to me while I wait. I let him but kind of ignore him. Then as I'm leaving he turns to me and says "I just want you to know you are beautiful" ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I got out of there fast. Yikes. But all in all it was kinda funny, but yeah all you men (and women too to be inclusive) out there cheesy pick up lines don't work. Or at least not when someone is thinking at least semi-logically.

Good times.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A powerful 24 hours

Hey World,

So I have been thinking about how to write this blog entry to give justice to the very interesting and moving 24 hours. Last night I went to the Mosh Ben Ari concert and then this morning I went to morning services with Women of the Wall.

Mosh Ben Ari is a pretty popular Israeli artist. I don't know exactly how I'd describe his style. It is rock-ish/pop with a lot of reggae influence? I really don't know...It's great music though. The crowd was much younger than David Broza; there were many high-schoolers there. While they were pretty annoying (not unlike H.Sers in the U.S), it was nice because most of them were short so I had a great view of the stage.

The concert was AWESOME. Mosh ben Ari plays a great electric guitar and has a really nice voice. I knew most of the songs, so it was fun to sing along with everyone.

Something interesting (or at least to me) about Mosh Ben Ari is that some of his songs have religious themes, but he does not appear outwardly observant. He doesn't wear a kippah or anything like that. )As a Reform Jew this isn't so unusual to be religious without being so observant, but it is more surprising to see that in Israelis.) He has a song called "Jah is one" about how even though we have different religions we still believe in one god. His song "hinei hu ba" Here he/it comes, talks about angels guarding us/listening to us. While most American music (with the exception of christian rock) shies away from spritual topics that doesn't seem to be the case here. Maybe that's because we're in a Jewish state...

For his last song Mosh sang his version of psalm 121. It's a beautiful version of the psalm, and it was interesting to be hearing it in a concert setting. Everyone was singing along and it got me thinking, is this prayer? It was definitely spiritual. It was cool to be in a place where the boundary between prayer and singing along at a concert was blurred. hmmmmm. Another thing in connection to this is that there were so many young people singing along/connecting with the song, maybe they wouldn't admit that they were moved by this experience, but regardless they were willingly praying or at least reciting a psalm. Here prayer (or something close to it) was made very approachable. And how can we as future Jewish leaders/members of the Jewish people help make prayer more approachable/enjoyable? (ps sorry to all the people who this is boring to pieces...the next part is different)

So after that awesome concert I went to bed early because I had to wake up at 6am to go to services at the wall. Today is special because it is rosh chodesh, which means the first day of the new month. Rosh Chodesh is also associated with women, and there are groups of women who will get together to celebrate the beginning of the month.

What this group women of the wall does is every rosh chodesh they gather together to pray at the wall in protest of the lack of religious pluralism/tolerance at the wall. Women are currently not allowed to wear tallitot or tefillin or even HOLD A TORAH on the women's side of the wall. Women aren't really even supposed to pray together, or at least that's what it seemed like from the reactions we got (more on that in a little). If you want more information go to http://womenofthewall.org.il/. ALSO you should totally "like" them on facebook and while you are there check out the pictures, see if you can spot me (it's pretty easy). http://www.facebook.com/pages/Women-of-the-Wall-Nashot-HaKotel/319876005672?ref=ts

I got to the wall at about 7am and there was a group of about 30 women there already. While women aren't allowed to wear tallit at the wall if you do in without drawing too much attention to yourself/without giving the police a reason to come after you, it is ok. Most of the women at the service wear a tallit around their neck kind of like a scarf, to draw less attention to the fact you are wearing a tallit. I did this too, I wasn't sure if I was going to wear one or not at the wall (because I'm not trying to get arrested), but I decided it was important.

The service started out pretty quiet and not a lot was happening. When we all started singing together that was when things got a little crazy. It's ridiculous the chaos a group of politely singing women will cause at the wall. Seriously. You would have thought we were yelling, or praying to an idol. We started singing the song "Ozi v'zimrat yah" (great song!) and everyone was getting really into it. Even though we were in a hostile environment everyone was really dedicated to prayer and it was very spiritual. Anyways, we are singing this song and we are singing louder and louder because dangit we are PRAYING. Then a police officer started shushing us, which didn't do anything. We did get attention of more people on both the woman's side and the men's side.

One woman came over to us and was YELLING saying horrible horrible things about us and how we don't deserve to be here and how we aren't Jews, etc etc. It was really painful to see how angry she was, and she was saying how it wasn't ok because we were disturbing the men praying (don't even get me started). She yelled and yelled and lost her voice. Thankfully one of the police officers kept her at a safe distance for most of the time.

The men on the other side of the kotel were horrible also. When they heard us singing they started to try to drown us out. They were also "praying" but whenever they got to a part where they had to pray outloud they would yell it so we would be disturbed. Even if you disagree with what we are doing what gives YOU the right to disrespect your own prayers that way. Using the words of prayer to oppress others/to put down others is NOT what those words should ever be used for. Why is it ok for YOU to do that and it is not ok for us to take joy in praying???

There was one particular guy who was just yelling for most of the time, apparently he was just reading shulchan aruch (a jewish law code) very very loudly. Asshole.

So also on the men's side we had a group of supporters who came to support the women of the wall. Some HUC buddies were there and they told me how they managed to get the group of men who were yelling to move away from us by praying along side them and singing louder. (not yelling, which would have been disrespectful) which was great so we weren't being heckled from all sides the whole time.

The woman who was yelling earlier came back for round two. Honestly I heard some other stuff happened but I was trying to concentrate on praying. Instead of looking around and seeing everyone trying to disturb us, I tried not to be disturbed.

This moment was very powerful for me for a bunch of reasons. One of which being that I was genuinely scared. I was scared that the police were going to arrest us, I was scared that more people would yell at us which really hurt me. I was scared that some men would come over and do something or something would happen when we left the woman's side. This was the first time (on this trip) that I felt unsafe in Israel. I felt unsafe at one of the holiest sites in Judasim, as a JEW. It's heartbreaking.

There was so much hate. At the same time as I was scared/on the verge of tears at times (when people yell at me I get very shaken up), I did have a positive and meaningful prayer experience. Singing hallel (part of the service for the new month/other holidays where you sing praises) was beautiful. It upset a lot of people around us because we were doing a lot of singing (which you are supposed to do).

To conclude the portion at the wall we were going to blow the shofar (the rams horn), which the group has been doing every month. A classmate of mine was going to do it, but when she came to the middle of the group to blow it the policeman came and snatched it away from her. WTF, are women now not allowed to blow a shofar? Instead the leader of the service started imitating the sound of a shofar and everyone followed that. (we did blow the shofar later for real, so we satisfied that mitzvah, don't worry)

For teh Torah service we went to another portion of the wall (because God forbid a WOMAN read torah at the wall), the south side I think?, it is off to the side called robinson's arch. There we joined with out male supporters and prayed together. A few of us wrapped tefillin which we were unable to do at the wall. It was nice to be in a place where we weren't being heckled.

I experienced a lot of emotions this morning, but I am so glad I went. Religious freedom/tolerance/pluralism is something that is very important to me. As a Jew in the JEWISH STATE I should not be made to feel like I don't belong or unsafe because of my religious practices. I do agree that we need to respect each other, which is why I wouldn't wear a tallit at an orthodox shul, but the wall is for ALL jews and it needs to reflect that, and not just reflect the desires of a minority. There has to be a way we can work this out. I will fight for my right to wear a tallis, and pray in a group. I'm not saying that all women should do this, if it is not right for you or you don't feel that your judaism can accomodate this that is OK, but let me and others practice our Judaism in our way and you in yours and let's be happy that we are BOTH so invested in the religion and love Judaism. People have different ways of expressing their love, let's recognize that our love is for the same thing and be happy that we can share that. (someday I hope...)

I also hope that the other women at the wall who were looking at us in confusion, especially the younger women/girls might start thinking about what we did today. When they saw a woman wearing a tallit maybe it seemed super strange to them, but the next time they see it maybe it won't be as surprising. Maybe they will even consider wearing one themselves someday...

This is a very long blog entry, but I really wanted to do justice to the experience I had this morning. I encourage you to support the cause. Check out the website and fb page (see links above), talk about it, see what you can do to help.

Now for some more mundane stuff: After women of the wall I took a Hebrew test. I think I did ok...we'll see.

Also while I was writing this blog entry I got a phone call from a telemarketer (ALL in Hebrew) and I understood what she was talking about, and said no to all the stuff she was trying to sell me. I was so excited that I was understanding that I stayed on and listened to her trying to sell me stuff for longer than necessary. haha. She tried to get me to buy a home phone and some antivirus stuff. Lo todah.

If you got all the way through this, you rock! And for my non-Jewish friends out there I still love you,it's just I'm in Jerusalem/rab school so everything is pretty Jewy here, so that's what I write about :-)

Chodesh tov!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shabbat shabooty

Hey World,

Happy Sunday! The crazy heatwave is continuing in Jerusalem, but at least we now have air conditioning at school. Oy!

So lots happened this weekend, where to begin...

As usual I went to the Shuk on Friday. It was actually less crowded this week. It was weird, but nice. I didn't have to push my way through all the obnoxious American tour groups. Maybe this is because it's the end of tourist season, or maybe because it was CRAZY hot and so no one wanted to leave their houses.

One exciting thing happened at the shuk. I was there with my friend who wears a kippah and tefillin (and is a woman). This is usually either really confusing to people here or makes them angry (from what I've witnessed, although I don't wear them so I'm no expert). Anyways we were in a store together and she is paying and the guy at the counter has this realization and asks in Hebrew "Oh are you guys reform?" It was exciting that we were recognized for who we are without having to explain. So I guess the word is getting out. Sweet.

One reflection on this is that in Israel and America reform Judaism seems to have two different connotations or stereotypes. In America the common stereotype of Reform Judaism is "Judaism Lite" or Reform Judaism is for people who don't really want to do anything. This is NOT TRUE, but this is the stereotype in America, or at least the one I have encountered the most.

In Israel a Reform Jew is just strange. A Reform Jew is not a secular Jew here, because there is a big population of proud secular Jews who will go to orthodox congregations on the high holidays or maybe not. To be Reform here is more obviously a choice, and while a lot of Israelis don't seem to understand the reasoning behind it/just think we are crazy or ruining Judaism or whatever, Reform Judaism here does not carry the same connotations. Did I explain that poorly? I tried...just something interesting I noticed.

So for shabbat I went to services at shira hadasha again and then to a lovely shabbat dinner. I played and seriously won some Jewish geography. Now that I've had my feet in both the conservative and reform worlds I can play a mean game of Jewish geography. I even found out that I was eating with a friend from college's brother. crazy.

The rest of shabbat was very restful. I went to services at HUC as is required and then went to a shabbat lunch. I think observing shabbat the way I do will really help keep me semi-sane this year haha. I love just having the time to hang out with people and talk with them without having to worry about not doing your homework (because I don't do it on shabbat anyway) or worry about someone calling you or whatever.

I also took a 3 hour nap, which was AMAZING! I love my shabbat naps, of course I need to work on getting more sleep so I don't take such epically long naps.

As usual I had my chevruta talmud study. We got into some weird stuff this time. There was one section talking about this seven year famine that was predicted in either Isaiah or Jeremiah (I don't have the tractate in front of me because I leave it at my friends). The rabbis of the talmud asked the question of how did the people survive during the famine? What did they eat? Then it goes through what they ate each year. By year 4 they are eating unkosher meat, then year 5 super unkosher meat (unkosher meat that they found already dead, ewww roadkill) then year 6 they ate EACH OTHER, and year 7 they ate their descendents. EWWWWWWWWW. or mmm cannibalism? Weird weird weird. Seriously people there is some crazy stuff in the Talmud. It's not just arguments about law. (for those following at home I think this was on 5a of ta'anit)

For havdallah/ a send off of our summer interns who have been helping us get adjusted to HUC life, we gathered in a lovely park. I have really gotten to look forward to these. It's nice to get a large group together and sing songs and hang out. The large group of us singing usually attracts attention. Some tourists usually come over and ask where we are from, etc. This time we had a whole family (of Muslims I think) come and join us, which was cool. The mother of the family (I think) stood up and said how she thought our singing was beautiful and thanked us for letting her join. Little things like this really make me happy, if more times people could be accepting of other religions think of how much better the world would be. I was happy she felt her and her family could join and that everyone in our group was welcoming to her.

After havdallah a group of us went to a David Broza concert. It was AMAZING!!!!! David Broza is this popular Israeli singer who is super duper talented on guitar. A group of us managed to get pretty close to the stage (maybe 20 ft away) so you could see how well he could play his guitar. It was insane. I'm a pretty big David Broza fan so it was fun to sing along to his songs with everyone else.

He did a lot of songs that seemed to be inspired by latin music or that were partially in Spanish. He also had a woman on stage who played violin/flaminco danced. She was friggin badass, I had a hard time deciding who to watch between her and David Broza. I'm also obsessed with the dress she was wearing. It was beautiful. (Yes I'm mad I forgot my camera). If you have the chance to see David Broza perform, do it!!!

Man oh Man. So this concert was in conjunction with this HUGE crafts fair called hutzot hayotzer which happens once a year in Jerusalem. They have a concert pretty much every night with some pretty awesome Israeli artists. I will be going back on Tuesday for Mosh Ben Ari, who I also love. And maybe even Saturday for Ivri Lider.

After the concert a few of us pretended that it was an American saturday night and went out. Too bad I had class today haha. It was fun though. I'm still young so I can still pull of staying out late, so why not :-)

So today after class I had a meeting for my terumah aka community service project. I am working with netzer olami which is the world wide reform Jewish, zionistic youth movement. I am super excited. I am hoping to teach a class or do some type of informal education with the kids from around the world who will be coming to Israel for a gap year. More to come on this.

So yeah life is still good. I am definitely missing home though. Right now the idea that I will be here til May is very daunting. Obviously I am happy here, but it would be nice to go home for a little at the half way point. If only I were rich. Along with the people I miss, I also really miss 1. salsa and 2. morningstar veggie burgers. The veggie burgers aka veggie schnitzel just doesn't compare.

Well I need to finish some HW. woot.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

my classmates are awesome

Hey World,

So, happy Thursday!! Oh man I love Thursdays, well for the most part.

It's been a loooong week. We are still in the heat wave and the AC at school is still broken so it's been painful to be in class all week. Well there have been points where it's been less painful. I've rediscovered my love of Hebrew grammar and conjugating verbs. When I get really into it or when we are doing an exercise in class my friend tells me I'm in "verbland." It's a good place. Hebrew grammar is pretty cool, it's like a puzzle and there are all these rules about what vowels go where. You can make fun of me, I understand :-)

So last night, after a long week of Ulpan , we had an HUC talent show. It was super fun. Let me just say there are a TON of talented people here this year. I was really impressed at people's skill but also the ability to be goofy. There was a good mix of serious and funny. My talent? I sit in the audience and make people feel talented. haha. I didn't break out my pi reciting talent just yet, I don't think my classmates are ready for that just yet (or maybe I'm just not willing to admit the full extent of my dorkiness yet).

So to go along with the talent show there was a silent auction where different people offered services for us to bid on. I won a guitar lesson. Yay! I'm learning guitar and am getting semi-decent, so it will be nice to have someone sit down with me and help me.

After the talent show was over a bunch of us went out to a bar. It ended up being a pretty large group and we were joking that we should just pretend to be a birthright (taglit) group because we looked like one. We decided we were a birthright group from BYU (brigham young university), just because I don't think there are any jews there. I dunno I thought it was funny.

Yeah it was an AWESOME night, definitely much needed for me. My classmates are so cool. Also to add to everything prop 8 was overturned. That was pretty exciting to find out. Also I think it's funny that the judge is judge Walker. Definitely representing the Walker name well :-)

Today started out really frustrating. I don't want to get into it too much because I'll go on a long rant that won't be so interesting. Basically we were discussing what all of us in the HUC year in Israel program want our community to look like and how we want to organize it. OY! There just wasn't enough structure and everyone had opinions to share about minute things so it got super complicated and frustrating and not everyone was heard.

For me the hardest part was suppressing my urge to just take over. It's hard, most if not all of us in the program are leaders. If we weren't we probably would not have gotten in. So it's hard because how do you lead, but also step back and let other people lead and find that balance. It's very frustrating. The whole time we were talking I just wanted to take charge and be like ok this is what we should do and this is the way to do it because I have experience and I know this works.

I was joking with some people that I should stage a hostile takeover and run everything. I mean my sorority was bigger than this class, so I could handle it :-) Of course I'm not serious, and it's very valuable to have everyones input etc etc but it was just super frustrating today in our talks.

So after that we split up into different committees and from there the day got more positive. I think it was because we started talking about more concrete things than theoretical. I joined the social committee which I am super excited about. (I guess that's the sorority president in me). We brainstormed a lot of great ideas and I'm pumped to help plan them and have them happen for real.

Life is good. Also skype is awesome (minus the slow internet/video issue).

Monday, August 2, 2010

an assortment

Hey World,

Soo I want to share with you something I learned today:

So I was cooking today. I actually made some lentil soup. I felt very biblical (woot I stole your birthright). If you don't get the reference see genesis 25:34. Anyways I like things spicy so I added some hot pepper. Then my face started to hurt a little so I went in a splashed water on it. Then ouch!!!! About half of my face was burning. Thank you oils from the hot pepper that I neglected to wash off my hands before touching my face. owwww. Then it took me a while to figure out why half of my face was burning...I really learned my lesson.

Anyways I also learned something else. If this happens to you (which hopefully it wont) you can put yogurt on your face and it makes it hurt a lot less. If you leave it on for like 15 mins it stops the burning. So yeah I had a lovely strawberry yogurt facial. Also I think the yogurt has to have fat in it, so don't use the fat free kind cause I don't think it will help.

Me with my yogurt facial, photo courtesy of Ashley my roommate:

Now for some shameless self promotion: (I seem to be really into colons today) I am featured in the list college newletter. yeyaaaaaaa. Here is a link if you are interested, http://www.jtsa.edu/Documents/pagedocs/List/lc_spring2010_newsletter.pdf
I'm on page 6 haha.

What else...It is still crazy hot. A little bit better than yesterday, but still ridiculous.

Also I was thinking about this today, but the saying "the world is your oyster" what does that mean?! I know what the expressions means, but why oyster?! When I used to not keep kosher I tried oyster and they were OK, but nothing really to write home about. I dunno, does it mean that you are a pearl? Whatever I don't like it...

I'm scattered because I'm hot.

I hope everyone is staying cool :-) Don't get any hot pepper burns...


Sunday, August 1, 2010


Hey world,

So not much has happened in the past day, but I did do my hebrew presentation, on the Talmud/why the Talmud is cool. I think it went ok. The biggest thing i struggle with in Hebrew is speaking. I can understand and I can read and write, but oy do I have some work to do practicing my speaking. So yeah this was a good start I guess...

Also we got our hebrew tests back today. I'm going to take 1 second to brag and get it out of my system and then I will stop I promise. Yeah, I got a 101. waddddupppp. Ok and I'm done gloating. What can I say, I'm just a good test taker.

But even after all that, I still got laughed at today when I tried to order something in hebrew. I said cevesh for lamb instead of ceves. I'm working on it people, sheesh...

Also It is hot as balls here in Jerusalem!!!! It was 95 or something today with 50% humidity. I don't think I've ever been this sweaty in my life. It's gross!! We are having a heat wave, or hamsin as people call it in Israel which has something to do with the desert winds coming from the south and making it super duper hot. I am soooo thankful that my apt has air conditioning. oy!

This was just a really boring blog entry...and then I found 20 dollars (?) haha

good night


shabbos koidesh

Hello World,

So I have this hebrew presentation I have to do tomorrow, so um yeah I will be writing a blog entry. haha. PROCRASTINATION.

I'm pretty sure I have said this before, but I'll say it again. I miss american Sundays/Saturday nights :-( ok done complaining.

Also a quick shout out to Adam and Jessie and everyone at their wedding tomorrow. Mazel mazel tov, I really wish I could be there to celebrate with everyone, but I am just too far away. Woo list college.

Ok so I had a really nice shabbat this week. For friday night I was invited, along with a few other classmates, to a dinner with people on this interfaith trip. The concept for the trip is really cool, it is a bunch of clergy members of the boston area coming together for about 10 days to tour Israel and see the religious sites of all the faiths and learn together (through the JCRC). Great idea right?! There is so much religious history and special sites in Jerusalem and around Israel that it really makes sense. I am definitely pro interfaith work, I think it's important to talk to people of different faiths and try to better understand each other.

At the dinner I was invited to I was sitting next to a woman who was a pastor (not a priest) or something (I'm sorry I'm bad with other religions titles, they still kind of confuse me). Then on the other side of me I was sitting next to the head reverend (?) of a HUGE church in lexington. He was telling me they have like 18 full time pastors on staff. CRAZY big. I can't imagine being a rabbi of a synagogue like that.

We had a lot of really nice conversations. It was also cool to be in such an open and respectful group. One thing I was thinking about during this dinner was how people of different religions can connect to their God or whatever you want to call the divine spirit/force (etc) in a similar way. We were singing a melody (without words) which was really beautiful and it was cool to see everyone connecting to it even in a spiritual way. Maybe we are all praying to different Gods or different perceptions of the same God (I'm getting a little more philosophical than I want to right now), but we can all have spiritual moments together, or find similar experiences meaningful and spiritual. For example there are a lot of people who connect to God through nature, or through song. I just thought this was interesting.

I also feel as a future clergy member I can relate to other clergy members, not just rabbis. I was speaking with the one reverend about why we chose our various paths and there was some overlap. We both had very positive religious experiences growing up and felt supported by our communities and even felt some kind of a calling to go into this field. I would love to be involved in more interfaith work as I go through rabbinical school. I also just find it fascinating to learn about other religions, which is why I was a religion major after all.

After the dinner ended I went over to another classmates house where they were having another shabbat dinner and I joined in a little song session. Great times just sitting in a circle singing lots of jewish songs from camp or youth group or whatever. Definitely brings back positive memories and is a great way to release some stress.

Shabbat during the day was nice also. I chilled as usual. Went to services, napped (amazing!!!) and studied some Talmud. The tractate (section of the Talmud) ta'anit I am studying with my chevruta, my study partner, is really cool. Today we read a little about child sacrafice (it's definitely not ok, so don't worry), about "remembering"/asking for rain and when you should say those things and something else that I'm forgetting at the moment. One thing we read which was really cool was how there is an opinion you shouldn't say a prayer asking/remembering the dew because it says in the bible that God is "like the dew" and since God is always present that means the dew is always present so we don't need to worry about it coming. I think this was on page 4b or 5a).

There was also another funny thing we stumbled on. So as you may or may not know the Talmud is full of arguments between different Rabbis. So we were reading about some rabbis arguing and one was disagreeing and instead of just saying that the other rabbi was wrong he insults him and says something like "you are like a bitter thing that hurts my teeth and like smoke before my eyes" haha harsh. I just think it's funny when they include stuff like this because it almost gives you a little glimpse into the argument and the fact that these rabbis would sometimes take jabs at each other.

So to end shabbat there is this service called havdallah, which means separation because you are separating the holy (shabbat) from the mundane (the week). Every week the majority of our class gathers together to do havdallah. It is always a great end to shabbat and a nice way to ease back into the week. There is lots of singing and positive energy. Then usually a bunch of us end up going to ben yehuda to get food or hang out a little. I got falafel yummmmmm.

Ok well I should stop procrastinating now. Shavua tov! Have a good week everyone, or if you are in america enjoy the rest of your weekend! I am super jealous :-)