Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pluralism??? and stuff

Hey World,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok this entry is long enough...

Peace (and pluralism)


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

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