Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I mean we did just have a meeting about blogging!

There is a strong possibility that I will soon be rebranding this blog as a food blog. The past few posts have been about food. Maybe it is significant that Yom Kippur is in two days. The most likely culprit however, is how I spent my summer "vacation". I spent the summer as the Jewish Educator of a sleep-away camp. It was a stressful and time consuming job. There was really only one stress release for me and that was baking. As often as I could I baked challah, sometime it was with a group of campers and we were being swarmed by bees, it didn't matter. 

Last year around this time I set some academic and personal goals for myself. I am going to keep those but I am going to add that, I will bake something, every week. This week it was two:

1. Sugar Cookies (Dairy Free!)

Photo: First ever made from scratch cookies by yours truly!

2. Bread (Vegan)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Women of the Wall Up Close

Hanging in the rearview mirror of my cabdriver on the way to the Kotel.
It says,  אין לי ארץ אחרת which means, I have no other country.

I need to start by saying that I love Israel, I am a zionist and I also believe in egalitarian Judaism. I am still able to love Israel even though there are a number of problems related to how much sway the religious right has with the Government of Israel in general and the Kotel in particular.

Some where along the way, the Kotel went from being one of the symbols of Judaism to being a synagogue policed by Haredim. People who go to the Kotel are told how to dress, what ritual objects they are allowed to bring, how they are allowed to pray. The bottom line is that Haredim refuse to recognize that there are other ways to be Jewish. This is something that needs to change, especially if progressive Jews want to be able to go to the Kotel without leaving with a bitter taste in their mouth. Woman of the Wall is an organization that is working to change this, even if their only protest is to pray loudly and try to wear their tallitot and tefillin at the Kotel.

The following is my account of what took place on Friday morning, December 14th:

I arrived by Taxi at 7 AM. At that point a few people were already there, I learned that the officer at the gate decided that the group could not enter with their siddurim (prayer books) and tallitot (prayer shawls). A few minutes later, we were told we could bring the siddurim, but not the tallitot. We waited until Anat Hoffman, other board members arrived, so we could hear how we would deal with this ruling. At this point we were group of about 40 woman and supporters. There were gap year students on RSY Netzer, people who I recognized from Shirah Chadasha and Sod Siach (two of the places I may daven on Shabbat), other students from Pardes and visitors from other places. There were a couple of reporters including one from the AP with a camera man.  The decision from the board was that we would enter the plaza and daven as planned, but that everyone who wears a tallit would hand it to the police officer and explain what wearing a tallit means to them. This process took about an hour. As we were waiting we sang, we did get some looks and a couple of hecklers but nothing too extreme.

We proceded to the women's section and stood all the way at the back with the supporters standing above us on the plaza itself. Four of the woman had given their tallitot to supporters and got them back on the plaza.

Edit based on comment I received when I posted on These and Those: Rachel Yeshurun told me that she was detained, “when I refused to part with my tallit at the security entrance. I told the officer that I insist on entering with my tallit – and he said well in that case you will be detained”. If anyone has more accurate information about the other three I would be happy to hear about what exactly happened. 
These four were detained by the police. There was also one woman who started to put on her tallit, an officer came over and said, "come with me", she gave it to him and was not detained. We were there though Hallel (a special set of prayers that are said on Rosh Chodesh and other holidays), then we moved to Robinson's Arch for torah reading and the concluding portion of the service.

I did my research, I know that it is against the law in Israel to discriminate against someone's religious practices. Apparently, the Kotel is a special case? I am not naive enough to believe that I will be able to pray at the Kotel in a fully egalitarian service. I do however believe that women should be able to pray as loudly as they want, with their tallit and tefillin, if they choose to.

For more information on the Modern History of the Kotel, I suggest looking at this Article by Rabbi David Golinkin, that examines the following questions:

I) Was the area near the Kotel considered a synagogue before 1948 and did it have a mehitzah?
II) Why is the Ministry of Religion in charge of the entire Kotel plaza?
III) What is the halakhic status, as opposed to the legal status, of  the Kotel Plaza; is it really a synagogue?
IV) How should the State of Israel deal with the fact that the entire Kotel plaza is slowly but surely becoming a Haredi synagogue?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Make Your Decisions Carefully (Parshat Toldot)

When  I was asked to write a Dvar Torah for Parshat Toldot, two memories came to mind:

 The first, was from when I was in forth grade, at Solomon Schechter of Bergen County, in New Milford, New Jersey. For certain Parshiot, we were assigned to do a project, Parshat Toldot was mine. I made my mother’s Tomato Lentil soup (with a lot of help) for my class. 

The second memory is about what would happen every time my mother made tomato lentil soup: 
My mother's tomato lentil soup is quite famous (at least among family friends), and due to my mother’s fairly intensive work schedule it was only ever made for Shabbat. In fact, on Friday afternoons, instead of eating (insert your normal snack food name here) for snack after school, my brother and I would occasionally bargain with her for the ability to have her tomato lentil soup before Shabbat dinner. We would say something like, “Sure, we’ll clean our rooms!”, “Of course we will set the table!”. After enjoying our snack, we would run off, promises forgotten. That is until about 20 minutes before Shabbat, when we would be called on to make good on our promises. “What do you mean, I said I would clean my room?!”, When did I promise to set the table?!”. We (usually) made good on these promises, our reluctance apparent to anyone observing. 

In the case of my family, we never made a promise as big as, “I will give you my birthright for your freshly made soup” (as if we have such extravagant birthrights to bargain with!). On a fantastically apropos side note, my brother’s name is Yaakov, and he is younger then me. 

I believe that the Torah is a guide to establishing personal moral code. Much of the narrative that appears does not always portray our central figures as upstanding human beings. I would propose that stories such as this one with Yaakov and Esav illustrates the type of moral stories found in Biblical narrative, things you should not be doing. From this story, I learned that there are some things you don’t bargain with and you should not make promises you cannot follow though with. It is also important to carefully weigh decisions, especially financial ones! When people make rash decisions that seem great in the short term, they may ultimately be problematic at a later time.

Fitting with Pardes tradition, I will end this Dvar Torah with a blessing: I want to bless us, me too why not, to have the clarity to make decisions carefully and to not make promises we cannot keep, no matter how small.

By the way, the recipe comes from The Cranks Vegetarian Cook Book, Cranks is a restaurant in the UK, in fact the first vegetarian restaurant in the UK, founded in the 1960’s.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Setting My Goals For The Year

During orientation for the program I am in at Pardes (part of the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators), we were challenged to set goals for ourselves for the year. I was a bit apprehensive about doing this at first, and put it off until now for the following reasons. The first month at Pardes was a rush of orientation, meeting new people, and holidays, with only a little bit of time left to get used to the rhythm of learning at Pardes. I wanted to see what I was in for in my classes, before I set goals for myself. This second month has been entirely focused on getting used to the rhythm of learning at Pardes, which was a bit overwhelming at times.

On Friday afternoon, I set my goals while walking from the Nahalat Shiv'a area back to my Apartment (about 40 minutes). I want to tell you my goals, especially everyone learning at Pardes, because I see an opportunity for all of us to support each other in reaching our goals for the year.

 There are a couple of categories that I needed to establish before I could articulate my goals. They broke down into the categories of academic, professional and personal.
There is definitely overlap. For example, Hebrew and leading services are both professional and personal.     

My Academic Goals:

I will finish what is assigned for Chavruta (work you do with a partner) each day. 

I will memorize the list of verbs that appear in the Tanach x amount of times, and finally master those of the concepts in Biblical grammar that I am still foggy about.

I will get beyond my stumbling blocks when it comes to reading Hebrew out loud. I knew coming into Pardes that reading out loud in Hebrew is an area in which I need improvement. Besides working with a tutor for half an hour a week, I am going to spend about an hour in the Beit Midrash (the big room where we do our learning) after school working on this, three times a week. So if you see me reading out loud to myself, now you'll know why.
My Professional Goal(s):

I will continue to hone my skills as an educator. This will be achieved through working with a mentor and participating in peer teaching. For this I have to thank the PCJE team for working with us to make it happen, peer teaching was not originally part of the program.  

I will finally make a decision about what grade(s) I want to work with.

My Personal goals:

I will speak Hebrew for a minimum of one hour a week (hopefully more!).

The relatively immediate goal is that I will lead pesukey De'Zimra (preliminary morning blessings) at community davening and in the egalitarian service at Pardes. This ties in to my “reading Hebrew out loud” goal. I started with reading these blessings out loud, there are some seriously tongue twisting words involved. 

Next is that I will learn to lead Shacharit (literally the morning service)

Parallel to these is that, I will read torah by the end of the year. This I am learning to do in a class.

All are things that want to take on for myself, and are necessary for a Jewish educator.

The following are goals of well being. These are also what are going to make it possible to achieve my academic and professional goals:

I will walk for at least one hour a day, if anyone wants to join me, they are more than welcome. More than anything I am struggling with sitting in the Beit Midrash and class all day long. Exercise is not only good for you physically, it also releases endorphins which relieves stress.    

I will go to The Open Studio (Avigayle Adler's studio) at least once a month, again, if anyone wants to join me, they are more than welcome. I miss being artistic, and this also is a stress reliever. 

 Even though this is not a Devar Torah, I want to give everyone a blessing, me to, why not, that we are  all able to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves and if the opportunity presents itself to help others achieve their goals as well.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The melody I could not recall

 For the past couple of years, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I have been attending this Minyan  (service, today, this word is often used for groups who pray together but are not affiliated with a movement of Judaism) called Koleinu, at my parents synagogue. One year, before Rosh Hashanah, they has a workshop to teach new tunes that would be incorporated into the service. Everything that was taught was really beautiful. However, there was one melody that really stuck with me. This year, as Rosh Hashanah approached, I tried to remember that melody, and I just could not. I was very troubled by this because I usually have a very good memory for music.

Yesterday, I attended Sod Siach, a Minyan, that reminds me of the one from home. All of the sudden, a melody that the person leading us used, triggered the memory of the forgotten melody. As soon as I was outside again, walking home, I began singing the melody so I would not forget it. Then I sang it as I gathered what I was bringing to lunch, and on the way to lunch, I sang it while sitting in the park, and later, while taking a walk on "the rakevet" (a park that connects many neighborhoods in Jerusalem, which runs along the old train tracks). Finally, after Shabbat, I sat down and recorded myself singing it so I would not forget. My hope is that I can soon share this melody with my community at Pardes. Shavuah Tov everyone!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Today I Was a Tourist

(I would have posted this yesterday but I did not have internet) Today is the one day of vacation that is not Shabbat or Chag, that I am in Jerusalem. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to do all the things that I would have done if I was here as a tourist during Sukkot. I went to Machane Yehudah, Ben Yehudah St., and The Old City. This was my first time going to The Old City since I have been in Israel. I have been to Machane Yehudah and Ben Yehudah St. several times. The difference is, that this time I brought my camera. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with information so I will be breaking it down into several posts. I’ll just say for now that I did in four hours what most tourists would do in two days, and I did it all on foot. 

The Shuk was not as busy as I thought it would be. I started out at my favorite place Pri Ha’adama, a ceramics cooperative.This is a picture of the steps leading up to the store. I know, right (so cool)!

 Right next door is Uzi Eli. The man who owns this store believes that the fruit juice that he sells has healing properties. Even if it does not actually  have “the power”, the juice is fresh and delicious!

After going to these two specific places I wandered around taking pictures.

I just had to take this, I love Jerusalem Street Art!


Proof the light rail train exists and runs!

The following is easily the strangest/ funniest thing I experienced all day: I went into a clothing store that I had been to about three years ago, which is known for its cute skirts. I picked up a skirt and looked at the tag, it said Banana Republic. I thought nothing of it at first. Then I picked up another, it to said Banana Republic. I looked at each of the skirts again and determined that there was no way these skirts are from Banana Republic. I turned the skirts around and noticed the poor sewing job that had been done on every skirt I looked at. Apparently, someone was determined to give buyers the impression that these were from a high end, American retail store. They were better off without being tagged and needless to say I did not buy any skirts today.   

Saturday, September 29, 2012

פעילות תרבותית בישראל

Wow! Ever since my blog was added to the list of Pardes Student Bloggers, there has been an explosion of pageviews! Thanks everyone!

So the title of my blog post is, Cultural Activities in Israel. One of my goals for the year is to experience what Israel  has to offer in music, film, ect. So far I have not been working so hard on this goal. As someone who will hopefully be teaching about Israel when I go back to The States, this is very important. I went to this Jazz performance at The Yellow Submarine, a really cute venue near where I live. The music was just a tad more experimental than I like, which is saying a lot, because I really like experimental music.

Last night I went to Off The Wall Comedy. At first I was a little worried when at 9:15 and I was the only one there. Even though the show was slated to start at 9, it did not start until about 9:30. The show was awesome! There were two Israeli comedians and one American, though I cannot for the life of me remember their names. Even though a few of the jokes were lost in translation, I did not stop laughing.

This is the part where I ask for audience participation: I have found a few places to see and things to do already. However, I would love to hear from you. What movies, performances, museums do you recommend checking out in Israel?

Chag Sameach!