Friday, May 27, 2011

I'm Home -

While I know I haven't put anything up on here for quite some time, I wanted to provide a bit of a wrap up from the year. The last few weeks of the term were some of the most hectic that I had all year.

I wasn't really stressed about finals, there was a lot going on. I was running around trying to see things that I wanted to check off my list before coming back to Minneapolis, friends were leaving and I wanted to see them one more time before they left. Then it started to hit me, some of my classmates I will not be in school with next year.

Once that started to hit me I was spending every free moment with people. Dinners at favorite restaurants, ice creams and just being with people. But I kept trying to keep in mind that I will keep seeing these people. It's not a "forever goodbye".

After finals finished, we had some end of the year programming and wrap up for the year. I had a day or two to pack all of my belongings, a bunch of presents that I have carried back for friends and family and hopped on a plane to surprise my brother for his birthday.

I got home at 1:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday and I'm still working on getting my life in Minnesota in order before I start looking towards Cincinnati.

This will be one of my last updates on this blog, but keep a look out for one last blog on TCJewfolk and probably some sort of final wrap up when I've had the chance to process the year in Israel a lot more. Until then, check out more of my life and my thoughts at my main blog, Behind My Blue Eyes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Note to Self: Read More Books

Here I am, sitting in the library working on study guides. I was pouring over books, reading through notes on my computer and I noticed something strange. When I was trying to read notes on my computer, or go over what I had typed already, I had to put on my glasses.

I'm near-sighted, but my vision isn't that bad. I mean, my computer is maybe a whole two feet away from me. But when I tried to read from my books, I had to take off my glasses so I could read that comfortably. My book was maybe 6 inches closer to me but has smaller writing.

Do I really need to start thinking about bifocals already? Seriously?! I can't need bifocals... That can't be right...

I'm not the World's Biggest Fan of e-readers, or doing too much reading on the computer. I like the feel of a book in my hand. There is something so much more satisfying about turning a page instead of clicking a little mouse. It might sound weird, but I like the smell of a new book, or an old book for that matter. But maybe it's that I have a hard time reading on a screen that makes me want to run to the nearest printer when one of my instructors e-mails a hyper-link to a newspaper article.

Never mind the fact that I can't really write notes along the side of my computer screen the same way I can scribble all over a book, newspaper or even magazine.

I guess I'm rambling a bit, but I think I needed a little study break.

Back to the "books".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Purim, a "Little" Late

I know. I know. Purim was a really long time ago. I was thinking about putting something together for TCJewfolk but that never came to fruition. So here are some of the thoughts and notes that I jotted down about Purim in Jerusalem

It's a two day celebration in Jerusalem. There are two dates in which people celebrate Purim, one is designated for cities with walls and the other designated for cities without walls. It was interesting to see the different people celebrating in different ways. Kids in and out of schools dressed in costume. Even people I didn't expect were walking the streets in costume. I was stopped by two men while I was walking who wanted to tell me about a Megillah Reading (the celebration and ceremony when we read and retell the story of Esther) that I could join them at.

In public spaces there were many celebrations. Fireworks going off all night and people celebrating all over the places. Even at the Shalit family tent there was a celebration and a megillah reading. The Mamilla Mall was turned into a carnival with events for kids and it reminded me of the Purim Carnivals that I usually go to at synagogues.

A large group of us went to Holon, a city near Tel Aviv, to watch their annual parade. It was a pretty typical parade, much like parades we have for the 4th of July. Many different dance studios had put together performances as well as schools and groups that had made floats. I had to laugh pretty hard and say to myself, "only in Israel" when the marching band passed us playing "Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem".

Dana, one of my classmates, worked together with a group of people on a Purim Schpeil in the setting of Avenue Q. It was pretty hilarious! Kol HaKavod to everyone that worked on it and participated!

Afterwards we made our way to a pub on Avenue Shushan for a Migillah reading. It wasn't full of just the HUC students! The place was packed with Israelis who had come to hear the story and to celebrate Purim. I'm stuck between trying to define it as a combination of a religious celebration and Halloween. Comparing it to Halloween feels like it cheapens the celebration, but at the same time it had a similar feeling, aside from just the costumes.

Since I'm writing this about six weeks late, that's about all I can remember. I had a really good time and it was a great holiday to celebrate here in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shabbat Services

Earlier this year I had signed up with one of my classmates to lead services for Shabbat morning. We spent a lot of time putting together what we thought would be a meaningful and enjoyable experience. I know that I had a lot of fun working with a cantor (cantorial student) for the first time. It is quite incredible working with someone else who can help lead, especially someone with such an amazing voice.

A few weeks ago two of my classmates had used an arrangement of Dan Nichols's Or Zarua. We decided to use Dave's arrangement for our opening song before services started. Working with Ari, Ben, Brian, Jay and Mike I had a lot of fun preparing and I think we did a really good job with it.

Or Zarua video on Youtube

The service itself, I think, went really well. As always, there are things that I need to work on, but that's the point of school. Right? We've spent all year studying and working hard at improving our skills for leading a community in prayer. I had the chance to share the melody Rabbi Dr. Levine shared with my class a few weeks ago, which I also think went well.

I cannot wait until next fall when I have the opportunity to continue leading services for a community. I received my pulpit assignment for next year and I am very excited to get to work!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Passover Seder

This year (almost) in Jerusalem. Our seder always ends with the line, "This year in Jerusalem". I was so close to that this year, but I have family living in Omer (near Be'er Sheva) and I went to Nanci's house for the seder. However, she is a Messianic Jew, so the night was very different than I had anticipated.

To the best of my understanding, Messianic Judaism connects itself to the early followers of Jesus. They still consider themselves Jewish and therefore celebrate Jewish Holidays, but they have also accepted Jesus as their savior and the Messiah. This does not mesh with my own beliefs and views of the world, however, I thought it was important to be with family for the holiday.

The experience was interesting. The seder was similar to what I am used to, but there were nuanced differences and some very obvious changes reflecting the beliefs of the community I was in. I still don't know exactly how I feel about the seder itself, but I respect the right of that community to celebrate the holiday in the way they see fit.

I'm glad that I was with family and it was an interesting interfaith experience. But I was left wanting something else. I guess there is always next year. I hope I can find time to make a Passover Seder at my apartment next year in Cincinnati.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yom HaShoah

Today is the designated Holocaust Remembrance Day. With ceremonies in many places around Jerusalem and around the world. We come together to remember the victims of the Holocaust whose lives were senselessly ended during World War II. It is a time to remember those to whom we are connected, and those that have nobody to remember them. But it is a day not only to remember the atrocities committed against millions of people.

For me it is a day to reflect. I think about the marginalized groups of people who were forced to leave their lives behind and rounded up into ghettos across Europe and I start to ask; why? These people were executed for committing crimes; being Jewish, being gypsy, being political dissidents, being homosexual and many other things. Their crime was being undesirable in the eyes of Hitler, the Nazis and the Third Reich of Germany.

It wasn't anything these people had done.

These people were killed because of hatred.
These people were murdered because they were not understood.
These people were slaughtered because they were different.

As I sit and think about these things I can't help but think about the losses this world suffered because of hatred, fear and misunderstanding. People suffered because other people were whipped into a frenzy and followed along.

In some ways this was a Jewish tragedy. In other ways it is a global tragedy. And it can serve as a lesson for us about the dangers of hatred.

May all of humanity never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Joshua's Shoes: This Year in Jerusalem

As I've started to celebrate Passover as a celebratory holiday, I found that very easy to do this year. The city of Jerusalem is designed to let you have an easy passover.

You can read some of my experience at this link: In Joshua's Shoes: This Year in Jerusalem

While you're at TCJewfolk check out their other stories and blog posts about being Jewish in the Minneapolis / Saint Paul area.