Monday, November 2, 2009

hey, chicago, whaddya say?

neither of my chicago teams made it to the world series, therefore my allegiance now lies with the philadelphia phillies. this is partially because i "live" in philadelphia and partially because i just don't like the yankees. it is also lots of fun to cheer them on with my roomie, who is a big huge phillies fan.
it takes a great degree of dedication to watch the world series in israel since last week's games began at 2am and this week, thanks to daylight savings time, it's 3am. i have managed to fall asleep before games i was intending to stay up to watch, and to fall asleep during games i was actually watching, but have not yet successfully watched a whole game. this might be better for me, since the phillies are struggling in this series.
i, the eternal optimist, have high hopes regardless of the fact that the yankees are up 3 games to 1.
i leave you with a few photos from the gathering we had the night of the first game. i made a cake :) 
let's go phils!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

give me your hand, let’s go

last sunday night, MASA put on an idan raichel concert. masa is a program of the jewish agency that gives young people (ages 18-30) money to come to israel, emphasizing long term programs. i am technically masa eligible, but not taking any money from them this year, because i’m not studying at any one institution for enough time to qualify. most of my friends here are indeed taking advantage of the generosity of the jewish agency.

so, masa put on this concert the other night, offering tickets to all of their beneficiaries in jerusalem. this included not only my rabbinical student colleagues but also (and it seemed, mostly) younger folks, probably on gap year programs.
the evening started with speeches. 
now, i understand that there is a lot of money flowing from the dudes making the speeches to the rowdy youngsters in the audience, and this is their chance to acknowledge that fact. but, getting 3000 people together, telling them it’s going to be a concert, and then talking at them for half an hour is not, in my opinion, the best plan.
also, it was full out propaganda. there were russian dancers.
there were smiling, dancing israeli teenagers in the colors of benetton.

there were pyrotechnics.

there was natan sharansky telling everyone they should make aliyah.

there was a video highlighting three different recipients and their stories of how much they love Israel and how happy their parents are to send them here.
oh yeah, and eventually there was the idan raichel project, you know, the advertised event. after i shook off the ickies of the pre-show presentation, i could settle in to appreciating an exceptionally diverse collection of folks who make excellent music together. they put on a great show – dynamic, engaging, full of highs and lows in all the right places. mixing languages, colors, moods, and melodies with skill, grace, and ease. 

but their music seems much more suited to an intimate setting with tables and wine, rather than a big auditorium with stage-rushing and flag-waving. maybe next time i'll skip the sponsored events and go right to the small scale music scene.
the concert did inspire me to head out to my favorite music store to discover new artists and i've been happily listening to my acquisitions: Michael Greilsammer and the new Mayim Shketim (sorry, can't find a link for them!).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

i've got something to say about it. and it goes something like this...

people here are very passionate about their beliefs. surprise surprise! i just happen to live in the same neighborhood as the Prime Minister, a block away, in fact, so in addition to the frequent traffic issues this causes, our little pocket of Jerusalem is also a popular site for protesters to set up camp. 

this summer, while walking around looking at apartments, i noticed the Gilad Shalit vigil. a white tent with a sign counting how many days he had been held in captivity, a table with informational flyers. a banner proclaiming הצילו (rescue him). since that visit, we passed the 3 year anniversary of his capture, and the release of a video of him in captivity. the protest has ramped up significantly.

across the street, protestors have images and signs against "freeing terrorists." this likely refers to prisoner exchange, which is one of the ways israel has previously secured the return of captive soldiers. 

we are also host to protests about the occupation. these seniors gather every friday:

i don't feel the same palpable tension in the air as i did when i was here in 1996, when Rabin had just been assassinated and buses were being bombed frequently. 
and i don't feel the easy hopefulness i felt when i was here in 1999, when the peace process seemed to be clicking along. 
i feel some wounded hesitation, and i see many more visual representations of the frustration israelis are feeling at the political situation.

more tomorrow...

Friday, October 9, 2009

hmmm...watcha say?

okay, i love Obama as much as your average upper middle class left-wing arugula-eating democrat from Chicago. i think he's just the bees knees. but a nobel peace prize!?! he hasn't even done anything yet! if there was a nobel prize for potential, sure, give it to the man, but...really!?! what will we do when he actually achieves world peace!?

on another note, our refrigerator was broken but now it's fixed, so we got to go shopping at the shuk!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

you gotta have friends

arriving in Israel could have been a culture shocky experience, and/or a jet-laggy experience. but mostly, it has just been great. i was picked up at the airport by my awesome cousin, who whisked me immediately to eat some hummus in abu gosh.

i unpacked quickly in order to head out to dinner with the RRC gang. being with such a dynamic and fun group of students is going to make this year in Jerusalem really special. it feels like home already with so many folks here i know. so the challenge might be to really embrace and appreciate and seek out ways to make it distinct, to not hang only with these wonderful folks but also to find new friends, new places to be and see. i'm sure that when classes start and i am here for more than a day that will just naturally happen. i'll let you know.

also had my first ice cafe today. so now i'm really here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

there's a thousand words that I could say

today i depart for a year(ish) in Israel. i have an apartment, an idea of where i'll be studying, and i'm even done packing up all my stuff! still, it doesn't feel real yet.

anyone who is visiting this blog is probably doing so for the first time right about now, since I finally came out of the blog closet by way of a mass e-mail. for the 2 or 3 of you who already knew I had a blog: get ready for lots more entries! and instead of random spurts of brainarrhea, I'm converting this blog into a place for pictures and stories, thoughts and reflections.

anticipating the question about the name of the blog, please see my very first entry!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

it's all about the wordplay

i've been wordling.
here is my resume:

and here is my masters capstone paper:

and some notes from rabbinic civ class:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can’t help loving that levir of mine

Sunday night's Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-tv movie, Loving Leah, combined many of my favorite things - Lauren Ambrose (of Six Feet Under), Michael Buble songs, (Everything!) cheesy stories of improbable love, and Jews. The basic plot of Leah, based on the play by Pnenah Goldstein, is that a young orthodox woman in Brooklyn loses her rabbi husband and ends up marrying his brother, a non-practicing Reform Jew (but he’s a cardiologist, so….). Throw in Ricki Lake as the Reform rabbi who counsels them both, Tonye Patano (of Weeds fame) as the wise and sassy housekeeper and you’ve got yourself a Hallmark movie.
Unlike some movies and TV shows (I’m looking at you Seventh Heaven), I’d say this one actually did a relatively good job on the Jewish content. We got an accurate shabbos: motzi in a Reform synagogue, candlelighting, baking challah; home life: kashering the oven (“a man is coming to use a blow torch on your oven today” was one line that had me in stitches), head & hair covering; and funeral customs: rending garments, funeral and unveiling, with a dash of yibum (levirate marriage) featuring the halitza shoe!
The women’s fashion, in particular, was spot-on. Leah transitions from ultra-frum with a sheitel to modern orthodox with a hippy head scarf. Even her choices when dipping her toe into the waters of mainstream clothing and below-the-knee-but-above-the-ankle length skirts seemed totally believable. I have nothing to say about the rebbes and their generous beards.
I only caught a few missteps in their portrayal of Jewish practices and customs. I gasped when they ordered in and ate out Chinese food. I had expected them to make a point of mentioning that the restaurant had a hekhsher, or turning it into another moment of conflict – “I can’t eat those egg rolls! Vey Zmir!” Rabbi Ricki also gave a strange attempt at explaining the afterlife, which no rabbi should ever try to do ‘on one foot.’
The elephant in the room, however, was named Yibum. This biblical commandment is where the movie gets its romantic underpinnings. This custom in which a childless widow must marry her deceased husband’s brother-in-law in order to carry on his family’s name was troublesome even for characters in the Torah. These days, as Loving Leah’s gloriously bearded rabbi appropriately explained is mostly a formality and it is a foregone conclusion that halitza will happen and both parties will be released from this obligation. The romanticizing of this ritual irked me. Jake and Leah could have found themselves in some dangerous, abusive territory. Trapping your sister-in-law into marrying you and moving her away from her friends and family doesn't necessarily end up a smoothly soundtracked love story.
But most of all, I was irritated because, like in so many movies that have come before it, there was a distinct message: people are happier if they are not so darn religious. In Loving Leah, like in Renee Zellweger’s Price Above Rubies and a Melanie Griffith’s A Stranger Among Us, the orthodox world is insular, stifling, and ultimately, wrong for the heroine. The Orthodox Woman, we learn, is secretly yearning to break out of her prison so she can let her hair down, wear brighter colors and date sexy non-rabbis. I do know some folks who did feel repressed and imprisoned and are much happier since they have left that world, but I also know people who have become their best selves since they took on more mitzvot and became part of a religious community. Are there movies that don't present religious women in this way?