Sunday, November 7, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I wanted to wrap up my experience of life in Israel. I fell off the blog wagon a few months ago – I simply started doing too many things (a common experience for me in the spring time) and this became a lower priority. But I also really wanted to take some time to talk about what the last few months at Pardes and in Jerusalem meant for me.
As a student, the last few months at Pardes were difficult for me. It was hard to maintain my focus, because I had started to think about where I wanted to be during the summer and in the fall, and that became more of a priority as the semester went on. Some of my classes continued to be stimulating and exciting – for example, my absolute favorite was a class called Critical Issues in Modern Jewish Thought. It was a simple class – we read a different essay each class period, and then came together to discuss it. The essays were divided into distinct units – God, the Torah, Chosenness, Halacha, and Feminism – and at the end of each unit, several students were invited to present their personal views about the topic using the readings as a guide. I appreciated the push it gave me to examine my own ideas – I don’t think we spend enough time talking about what each of us actually thinks about God, and where the Torah came from, and whether or not the Jews are a chosen people. And it’s important to be able to answer those questions – or at least, to start to encounter them – because if we know what we think about the basic concepts, then we can start to structure our answers to the more complicated questions.
I had a lot of beautiful moments during my last two months at Pardes. My parents and one of my brothers came to visit, which was a wonderful ten days. I went on one last Shabbaton with Pardes, to the Galil, where we hiked and swam in the Mediterranean and relaxed in the sun. I celebrated Shavuot at Pardes, where I studied all evening and then prayed at sunrise on the Tayelet, wearing a brand new tallit I had purchased the day before. I became closer with the people around me – had picnics in parks and dinners out, ate amazing salads, ate rugelach and drank iced Aroma’s until I thought I would burst. I helped plan and run a student fundraising campaign as well as a series of programs to help people prepare for life after Pardes. I cancelled a trip to Bonnaroo and planned a trip to Chicago instead.
A lot of people ask me if leaving Israel was difficult for me – and in some respects, it was. There are definitely things I’ll miss, like being able to look out of the Beit Midrash windows and see the sun setting over Jerusalem, or being able to hop on a bus to the shuk and buy halva and olives and cheese. I’ll miss the community that supported me and helped me grow for nine months. I’ll miss the traveling throughout Israel – the hiking, and beautiful wildflowers, and seemingly never-ending sunshine. But then, on the other hand, there are things that are easy to leave behind. I spent the time before my flight back to New York sitting on the floor in a terminal in Ben Gurion, writing a few e-mails to friends and watching a movie. At one point, I looked up from my computer to see a man walking towards me. We made eye contact, I smiled in his direction, and he started to speak, saying “have you davened Ma’ariv yet?” And that’s when I realized that he hadn’t made eye contact with me at all; in fact, he had been looking at the gentleman sitting to my left. It is moments like this that I won’t miss about Israel at all – feeling invisible during what should be heightened spiritual moments, feeling less than or other simply because of my genetic makeup. I don’t like feeling that way, and I still, even after nine months of intensive study, don’t see a reason why there are people in the world who think that Judaism requires such a separation between men and women. I’m ready to leave that behind and look to the future.
And what does the future hold for me? In my last entry, I referenced a job interview that I thought had gone well. It had definitely gone well – after a follow up interview and two weeks of waiting, I was officially hired as the new North American Director of Recruitment for the Pardes Institute, which is a really long and complicated way of saying “person who convinces other people to move to Jerusalem for nine months.” I am incredibly excited about the job – I think it will be challenging and stimulating and a wonderful place to work for the next few years. I’m moving to NYC at the end of June, and starting work on July 1st.
There’s so much more I could say about my life in Israel, but instead I want to take a moment to think about something else. Five years and eight days, the day before my nineteenth birthday, my grandfather passed away. One year and four days ago, three days after my twenty-third birthday, my grandmother passed away. I think these two weeks will always be a little difficult for me, but I take a lot of comfort in knowing that my grandparents would be incredibly proud of what I have done and what I am planning on doing with my life. This year, right before my birthday, my parents gave me my grandmother's copy of Jewish Cooking in America - I'm looking forward to using it in the future, as I continue to live a rich and fulfilling Jewish life. Much like the nine months I just spent living in Jerusalem, it's something I will carry with me forever.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This was sleet, and with it came all of the unpleasantness of winter - freezing rain, cold fingers, runny noses, and slippery streets. It lasted through the night last night, and then I woke up this morning to a beautiful, sunny, 45 degree February day. I make it a rule not to complain about the rain here - I live in the desert, after all, and all rain is a good thing. That being said, I do have a preference for rain in warmer weather - I find it to be easier on the body.
Thursday marked the end of the second week of the new semester - I've finally settled into a new class schedule, though I think it's going to take a little while longer before I remember what room all of my classes are held in.
In the mornings, I've moved from Level Bet Talmud and Chumash to Level Bet+, which means that I now spend three days a week studying Talmud and two studying Chumash instead of vice versa. It's a good change for me - I'm with a group of nine other students, seven of whom I was in Bet with before - and the smaller class size makes it easier to get to know people and get focused attention from the teachers.
I'm taking five other classes - Philosophy of Halacha, Women and Mitzvot, Critical Issues in Modern Jewish Thought, Torah Trope, and Hassidut. They're all very interesting, and I think I'm going to learn a lot. I'm especially excited to be studying Torah trope - it's really eciting to think that at the end of the semester I'll be able to chant Torah!
I had some friends over for sushi on Thursday, which was quite the adventure - I hadn't made sushi rice in a few months and I forgot how messy it is! It turned out well in the end, and I think everyone had a lot of fun. Tonight we're going out to celebrate Miriam's acceptance into rabbinical school, which we're all very excited about! And then, in a few days, Cara is coming to Israel! (For those of you who don't know, Cara and I did Avodah together in Chicago last year). I'm looking forward to seeing her face again. For now, though, a nap and a shower, because it's Shabbat, and Shabbat is about relaxing!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
It was such an amazing trip for so many reasons - the sense of adventure and excitement, being able to spend a few days out of Chicago, driving halfway across the country and back in a giant purple minivan... President Obama's campaign was the first Presidential campaign that I really involved myself in, and being able to see it come to fruition was so fulfilling. I got to see Pete Seeger (adorable!) and Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor and Steve Carrell and that guy from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle in concert. I had lunch with Jason, and met the D.C. Avodah-niks, and ate the biggest slice of pizza I have ever eaten (Jumbo Slice. check it out). I watched Senator Obama become President Obama, and then departed on one of the longest car trips of my life, where I heard Fear of Sleep for the first time.
More than anything, though, the thing I remember about that trip is that it was the last time I saw Grandma Marilyn - several of my friends spent the morning volunteering, but I hadn't seen Grandma since the August before that, and I wanted to spend some time with her. My Aunt Susan was there as well - she cooked a wonderful breakfast, and the three of us just sat and talked for hours. I told Grandma that I was learning how to knit, and she gave me some of her old knitting needles to take with me. It's one of the best memories I have of her, and it's also one of the hardest, because for the first time I saw how sick she really was. I can't believe that was a year ago.
I am currently in Jerusalem, on vacation. The first semester of classes ended last Thursday, and our next semester starts a week from tomorrow, so we all have a little bit of a break to take some deep breaths and recharge. I have...very few plans for this week. I'm thinking of going to Tel Aviv on Tuesday as long as it's sunny, so I can wander around Nachalat Binyamin and dip my toes in the Mediterranean, and then on Thursday night I'm heading to Arad with my friend Sharon (Sharon from Pardes, not Sharon from N.C.) to stay with her aunt for Shabbat. I'm looking forward to a few days in the desert - it's always so quiet, which is nice, and the stars are so beautiful. Other than that I plan to read and catch up on sleep and watch a few movies. It should be nice and relaxing!