Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So, nu tell me about life in Israel?

So I have no time to post of late [lets be honest, did we really think I was going to keep up with the blog]. So for this post I present you with:

One of my former colleagues at one of the synagogues I taught at asked her students if they had any questions for me since I am living in Israel where they have studied. Below you will find their questions and my answers....Got questions about my life here? Post them in the comments box and I will answer them in a new post (this will give me something to write about too!)
**please note the answers have been changed for the blog post, I did not tell 7th graders where to go to learn hebrew curse words.

1) Do they have Menchies? (self serve frozen yogurt)
They do not have Menchies. They do have Yogurtland, however it is not the same at all. In Israel there are no self serve Froyo places that I have seen. Ice Cream/Fro yo takes three forms:
1. Gelato--richer and far tastier then plain Ice Cream
2. Frozen--frozen yogurt where you pick your mix ins and they blend the whole thing together.
3. Ice cream Bars--like Nesscruch, or Ice cream sandwhiches

2) Are there lots of explosions?  Have there been bombings?
Since I have been here there have been no explosions in Israel, there has been some violence in Gaza, but nothing in Israel.
3) Is it scary?
Not really, while I have been here people have been frusterated by things like expensive housing. To deal with these problems they protest peacefully (like sleeping in tents in parks and having rallies and concerts). Overall I am no more scared living here then I am in America.

4) Is there a lot of violence?
There is not a lot of violence, but the military is more obvious then it is in the states. Because everyone has to be in the army after High School you see soliders everywhere. Safety precautions are also more obvious here. As a result,  it is common here to have to go through a metal detector to go to the mall, or for a security person to ask to check your bag, or to see a solider with a gun in a mall.  These things are not scary, they really are there to keep you safe.

5) Are busses safe?
I ride busses all the time, they are totally safe--they are just sometimes croweded and a little stinky.

6) Do they have the same kinds of cars, food, brands, music, we do?
So some stuff that we have they have too, for example:
Coffee Bean
yoplay yogurt
Ford cars
Pizza Hut
They have a GAP near where I live
There is an American Apparel in Tel Aviv
There are Billabong stores, Havianna flip flops,
They LOVE abercrombie and fitch and they have Mango clothing stores.
Everyone seems to have an Iphone
They love american music, but there are also really awesome Israeli bands such as The Idan Rachel Project, Ivri Leader, and Hadag Nahash.
There are some things that are different. For example you cannot get a good burrito here for your life (I REALLY miss mexican food), but they also have really amazing pastries called burekas which are dough filled with cheese or potato, they have falfael here and shwarma which is meat on a stick that is sawed off and put into a pita or a laffa bread. Salad here is tomato and cucumbers with some salt and lemon juice. The food is different, but a lot of it is absolutly amazing....In Israel a lot of it is about street food: Pitas filled with falafel, hummus, eggplant, salad, onion, and its greasy and amazing. Bowls of Hummus with veggies or meat on top. The food is different, but you can eat your way through and not miss to much (except burritos) from the states. 

Also, the food here is not as processed so a lot of it tastes better. 

7) Have you swam in the dead sea?
I have on past trips, sadly I have not been there yet this time. If you ever go make sure you have no cuts--it REALLY burns if you do.

8) Is there a fancy part of Israel?
Yes. I stayed on a Moshav that was AMAZINGLY beautiful, there are areas with lovely houses and suburbs like in the states.

9) Are there sports teams?
YUP!!! They take football [errr soccer....] very seriously...the best way to learn words that you should not learn is to go to a sports event!

10) Is war going on? Have you seen anything war related?
There is currently not a war going on. What I have seen is the freeing of Gilad Shalit, a solider who was captured five years ago. Recently Israel negotiated with Hamas for the return of Gilad Shalit. The day he came home there where signs up EVERYWHERE welcoming him back. It was as if he is everyones brother or son or friend, the majority of the country was so happy to have him home. 

11) What happens on Shabbat?
It depends on where you are, In Jerusalem lots of restaurants and stores are closed, but in Tel Aviv its like any other day.

12) Are they very religious?
Some people are (they are called Dat-ti), and some are secular (He-lo-nie), some are Reform (Reformie), and some are conservative (misoritie). In Jerusalem the largest growing group are the dat-tim. In places like Eliat or Tel Aviv, they are fairly secular. 

13) What are your favorite parts of Israel & why?
Tel Aviv, hands down best city. in the WORLD. There is so much to do and see its AWESOME. I also love the desert its quiet and the amount of stars you can see is breathtaking....its also home of the kibbutz with the best dairy in the world....the North is also great, its lush and green with amazing hiking.14) Is it loud there like in NYC?
Some parts are really loud, like Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem at times--big cities. But there is also a lot of space where there is a lot of shecket [quiet]. The desert is not very populated and it is calm and peaceful, the same with the northern part.

15) How is it different than LA?
There is public transportation--you can take a bus to get anywhere!! Mos of the cities are walkable, so you don’t need a car.  Because Israel is Jewish, it is easy to forget things like Christmas. Instead of Christmas trees everywhere, you see Sufganiot [donuts for Hanukkah]. The busses wish you a happy Rosh HaShannah and a good Yom Kippur or a Chag Sameach.

16) Why would you choose to live in Israel?
Because its awesome! The truth is I am studying to be a Rabbi and so my first year of school is in Israel. That being said, its an amazing country--and beautiful! For a tiny space they fit a lot in, you should come visit!

17) Do they celebrate Halloween?
No. People here who are American do, however Halloween is not part of Israeli culture. Neither is Columbus day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, The 4th of July, Valentines Day, Marten Luther King JR Day. Those days all feel like normal days here. The Jewish Holidays are what feel different. For example on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem you can walk in the middle of the street---there are NO cars. Here they celebrate all the Jewish Holidays, Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), Yom HaShoah (Holcaust Memorial Day), Yom HaZikron (Memoral Day for Soliders), and the anniversary (yartzheit) of the assination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

18) How is the weather?
AMAZING--although Jerusalem is chilly, the rest of the country tends to be wonderful weather wise!
19) Are the signs and books in english or hebrew?
Signs are in Hebrew and in English and sometimes Arabic. They sell books in many languages. Most people speak English in addition to Hebrew. Some also speak Arabic, Russian or French.

20) What is a new food that you have tried that you really like?  (New experiences too??)
Shakshukah--Its eggs (sunnyside up), in tomato sauce with peices of veggies--which is AMAZING....Bureakas which are pastries filled with cheese or potato, or pizza filling. They have something here called choco b’sakit--which is chocolate milk in a bag, but it is the best chocolate milk EVER, and so so so much fun to drink!  For snacks they have chocolate with poprocks in it, and milky--pudding with whipped cream, they also have crembo--a cookie with marshmellow and chocolate on top. They LOVE sweet potatos in Israel and the other day I had pizza with mozzerella and sweet potatos--it was AMAZING!!!!

21) Have you seen any Jewish attractions? (
I’ve been to the Kotel (western wall), I’ve seen the city of David, gone up to the Dome of the Rock, Gone to the hall where israel was founded, The first Israeli settlenment from when people first started moving here, I've been to the desert, to the most southern point, all around the old city, to Beit Lechem (otherwise known as Jesus's hometown), Tel Aviv, Yaffo...and the list goes on

22) Do non-Jews live there too?
Yes. there are many Muslims and Christians living in Israel as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who Is Gilad Shalit?

            Yesterday, I was catching up with my sister and telling her about life here and Gilad Shalit came up. She had no clue who he was other then he was a solider. I asked a few non-Jewish friends of mine if they knew who he was and they had no clue. Now, I am not saying how I feel about the Shalit deal, as an American with only one citizenship I am not sure how much of an opinion I can really have, but what I am saying is when Israel does something "wrong" the entire world knows, when Israel is willing to sit at the table and trade 1,027 terrorists prisoners to bring home one KIDNAPPED solider home no one in the states hears about it.
            So who is Gilad Shalit? Gilad Shalit was born in 1986 in Israel. When he finished high school he started his mandatory military service [everyone in Israel minus a few exceptions has state mandated military services.]. On June 25th, 2006 when Gilad was 20 years old, he was kidnapped just one year into his service. He was held somewhere in Gaza where he was not allowed to be visited by the Red Cross. He was held in captivity for 5 years and 4 months.
            About a year ago, his parents set up a tent outside the prime ministers house. They sat in this tent every day to remind the government that their son was still missing. Across the street from the tent was a sign that showed the number of days Gilad Shalit had been in captivity for.
            On Tuesday October 11th, 2011 it went public that a deal had been signed for the release of Gilad Shalit. Israel agreed to free 1,027 known terrorists for one solider. When I read reports from the US media it made it seem like ‘how bad could these people be if Israel was willing to trade 1,027 of them?” The answer is, bad—but Israel is a country where no one gets left behind. Where every solider should come home, and if they don’t every family should have a body to bury. Israel is a country where people look out for each other in all respects—from the grand scheme of Gilad Shalit, to the cab driver who will drive back to your house if you leave your wallet in their cab (I know a lot of people with stories like that). It’s a country that will trade 1,027 people so that one family can get back to their lives knowing that their son is alive.

So who is Gilad Shalit? He is a solider that finally gets to go home.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Holidays Without The Hallmark

            I am fairly certain that if I were in the United States right now, I would be bemoaning the fact that there are pumpkins and Halloween costumes everywhere [and probably have been since the 5th of July]. In the states we really enjoy rushing time. July 4th ends in time for Halloween, which is over in time to start marketing Thanksgiving, and before that passes us we have 24/7 Christmas carol stations, and booths to sit on Santa’s lap. January 1st barely sneaks up on us before we see hearts and chocolates and Valentines Day everywhere. We are constantly rushing through the year, as if something better will come.
            Now, as I sit in my living room, sipping my coffee hours before I am going to services to celebrate Rosh Hashana and the Jewish New Year, I realize how quietly this major holiday for the Jewish people [and therefore in the land of Israel] has snuck upon us. There have been things to let us know it is coming, but these things have been silent, passive. Coffee cups at Aroma [Think the Starbucks of Israel but with food too], now read Shana Tova [Happy New Year]. The busses as they flash where they are headed also flash the traditional greeting for the New Year. Billboards from various companies wish you a happy and healthy new year. Stores have brought out traditional foods such as apples, honey, and pomegranates. But none of this has been in your face. There are no signs that read: ROSH HASHANA SALE. No bright flashing lights. No decorations. No fancy windows at stores. Just small changes: the busses, the way people greet one another on the street. This buildup we have in the states does not exist here.
            As the holiday approaches I find myself reflecting more on more on time. Why do we feel the need to countdown until the next big thing? When did we stop taking every moment in its own time, and simply enjoying the here and now? Time moves fast on its own [how have I been out of the states four months?], why do we feel the need to speed it up?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's not that we don't care we just know that the fight aint fair, so we keep waiting on the world to change

            When I was in college we protested. A lot. We protest the start of wars, we protested speakers on campus who we disagreed with, genocide, social injustice, and in one instance, we protested not being allowed to keep a grocery cart we had somehow procured, decorated and stored on the first floor of our dorm. These protests took time, we made signs, we spoke to others about our cause, we started clubs to stand up for these issues. We were deeply passionate, convinced we could change the world.
            Somewhere along the way, the protests stopped. It wasn’t that over night we began to agree with everything going on in our society, it was just that we got busy with life. We stopped feeling effective. We became apathetic. To quote John Mayer, we were waiting on the world to change:
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it.
            Last night I attended Kabbalat Shabbat [Friday evening] Services at the site of one of thetent protests in Israel. This protest involves demonstrations, rallies, and people sleeping outside in tents in parks as a peaceful protest of the cost of housing. These protests are peaceful, but demand change, as Amos Oz stated in Ha’aretz:
The heart of this protest is the affront and outrage over the government’s indifference to the people’s suffering, the double standard against the working population and the destruction of social solidarity.” Mr. Oz added that “the first thing these demonstrators are saying, even before ‘social justice’ and ‘down with the government,’ is: ‘we are brethren.’ ”
            I do not know enough about Israeli politics to have an opnion on these protests, but as I sat underneath a tent, with the slight Jerusalem breeze around me, quietly meditating and praying I could not help [ethnocentrically I suppose] thinking about my country. My country where boldly claim that the people have a voice, that we have the power to change and shape the country. Is the change we want this partisan split? When did we become so divided that we cannot pick leaders who can work together, and why do we elect leaders who can’t leave their partisan baggage at the door?  This week we lost our AAA credit rating for the first time in the history of our nation, subsidized graduate student loans are being eliminated .
Now, this is not do say I disagree that Pell Grants are more important [they are more important], and hey, maybe I am over educated, but, when did our country get to this point? And, more importantly, why didn’t we the people stop it? 
Is this a matter of apathy, being frustrated, or truly being powerless? How did the country get to this point, and what will it take for people to be able to sit at the table, stop pointing fingers, and compromise (and not at the last possible moment).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

i hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow, and each road leads to where you want to go....

 ....and if you're faced with the choice and you have to choose
i hope you choose the one that means the most to you
and if one door opens to another one closed
i hope you keep on walking til you find the window....

When new doors open in our lives it is incredibly exciting. Often when these doors open we are so excited about the future we do not even think about the doors that might be closing behind us, and every so often, these doors wind up slamming—maybe even months later, and this can shock us. It can hit that we have not properly mourned what we are leaving behind. Often, we hear this slam when we least expect it….like when we walk into services Friday night, at a progressive synagogue in Israel.
As I walked into the synagogue, out of the corner of my eye I saw the very familiar faces of the Biery family—members at Temple Israel of Hollywood, and part of my family Chavurah group for the Shabbaton program I taught in last year. I was then bombarded with many of my former students showing me hamsah necklaces and purses they bought, stories of their first few days and questions about why I was in Israel, which were followed by questions of if I would be in LA again next year.
This was the first time I had to tell someone from my Los Angeles life, face to face, that I was moving back to New York. To make it even harder they were kids, some of my favorite kids, from one of my favorite jobs of all time. They of course then asked me if I would be a Rabbi at TIOH when  I was done with school, and I told them I had 5 years of school before I would know.
The parents told me to keep in touch, and I took my seat excited for Shabbat, but on the brink of tears as I realized that I am going to New York, which means I am not going back to Los Angeles. I am still incredibly excited to be moving back east, but I realized that I have never taken the proper time to mourn and come to terms with the closing of one chapter of my life.
With Shabbat excitement mixed with a twinge of sorrow for closed doors I moved into yom Shabbat [in Hebrew the word for Saturday is Shabbat]. HUC hosted an Alumni learning on the topic of how to teach Israel. The educator geek in me was excited as I sat and listened to brilliant minds discuss the best ways to teach Israel to Jews who do not live in Israel. Here again, I had another intense moment of reflection, not at all based on the subject of the learning [side note—the learning made me incredibly excited and grateful to start my studies at HUC].
Doors have recently closed: my masters from AJU came in the mail, I moved from LA, my summer travels are finished, and I am properly mourning the closure of so many doors, but at the same time the future holds so many exciting things that as I walk forward a little sad, I smile knowing I am mostly incredibly excited and bursting at the seems with what the future holds. 

....i hope you never look back, but you never forget
all the ones who loved you and the place you left
i hope you always forgive and you never regret
and you help somebody every chance you get 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Language Barrier

  I promise a very long post about my first few days in Israel and Europe…but first: The Language Barrier....
If I had to describe my Hebrew, I would say that it was good enough to start Rabbinical School, but nothing to write home about. Normally I am able to find other words for what I want to say [example: instead of asking them to "split the check", I told the guy that "we did not want to pay together" which as far as I know, uses more words], which makes me long winded but you can comprehend me.  This language barrier is expected, and is a chance to grow my Hebrew skills. 9 times out of 10 the person I am talking to is more then willing to listen to my 7-year-old-sounding Hebrew and respond slowly so I can catch what they are saying. Sometimes they laugh and say in English "you want to practice your Hebrew, I want to practice my English", and we have conversations each of us hearing the language that is native to us, and speaking a foreign tongue. It is sometimes frustrating when I forget a word that I know because I have not used it in awhile, and sometimes I do just want to default to English, but I am trying and that is what I suppose counts.

That is also not the language barrier I am talking about. Nor am I talking about my feeble attempts to remember High School Spanish, or how lost I was in Italy. No, I am talking about the language barrier between me and my washing machine.

I woke up my first morning back from Europe with more laundry then I knew what to do with, and set about the task of starting it right away. I rolled out of bed and went over to the laundry nook, where to my shock, the washing machine was written in.....GERMAN. I expected English, I 1/2 expected Hebrew, but German? I got my landlord to show me how to work the machine, but I have no clue what cycle my clothes are actually being washed on. I just throw everything in and pray to God it all comes out okay.

I promise a post about Europe and some of the more serious things I have been ruminating about, however I felt like that story needed to be shared.


Monday, June 6, 2011

I have spent more time at the mall this past week then I think I have in the past 4 years.

It has been awhile since I wrote, primarily because whoever let me believe it was a good idea to plan a cross-country move, a cross-world move, and a 20 day Eurotrip within 2.5 weeks of each other was wrong. Very, very wrong. Would I do it all again? Probably, I am not the type to learn from my mistakes the first go-round.
Needless to say the past few weeks have been incredibly busy. Before leaving Los Angeles I was busy seeing people before I left, packing, making sure everything was squared away with the girl taking over my room, selling some stuff, cleaning out my closet (the people at Goodwill called me Santa Clause because I brought over so many bags), and giving driving lessons to the person who bought my car. It was a busy time.
Then I flew home, which was an adventure to say the least, lets just say I got very familiar with Chicago's Midway Airport....if you want the story ask. Since arriving in New Jersey, and since my baggage arriving the day after me, I have been running around like a crazy person. My life has been filled with seeing everyone I can before I go, having adventures, answering the question which campus will you be on when you get back? (I find out on June 17th and no matter what the news is I will post it on facebook as soon as I know), shopping for Israel, unpacking, repacking, packing the stuff i am not taking to be stored*...which has taught me one thing: I own A LOT of stuff. Not even I own a lot of stuff given how much I hate American consumerism and our need to always have more, I just own A LOT of things, for an average person. Not counting the 10-12 boxes of books that I own living in the attic at my parents house (which I account to my pack-rat tendencies and my belief that I will need every book from my undergraduate major and from my first graduate program at some point in my life). Outside of the boxes of cups and dishes that I left when I moved out west, I have 2 suitcases of things I am not taking to Israel and potentially 3 suitcases going. The amount of stuff I own has been giving me a headache for the past 3 weeks, and yet I keep buying more. I do not know if I am buying more because I need it, or because the nerves about starting Rabbinical school have begun to set in. Rather then stating I am nervous about school, it is easier to say "but what if they don't sell skinny jeans like the ones I like in Israel? What if they don't have shoes I like? What if I don't bring that dress and then I really want to wear it one day?" The truth is, they may not sell skinny jeans the way I like them, but I will live (and given the amount of pairs of jean I own it won't be a problem), and if I don't bring that dress, I will find something else to wear. The truth is, minus contact lens solution (the last time I used an Israeli brand my eyes burned and they turned red like I had been both crying my eyes out and smoking more weed then anyone should. At the same time. It was bad news), these are not huge problems, they are fixable, but they are easier then dealing with the nerves about moving abroad for a year, and starting school (again). And so, instead, I worry I won't have enough long sleeve shirts, or shoes, or socks, as if I am moving somewhere where I cannot buy theses things.

T-one week until I leave.

*side note--in the past 5 years I have moved 10 times, I am a queen packer if you need any help ever.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Whole New World?

            It was a Tuesday evening, much like many of the other Tuesday evenings of my year. I sat around a table in classroom one inside The Santa Monica Synagogue. Usually this picture involves many seventh grade students talking, interrupting, and being seventh graders. Today was different—today we were discussing Jewish responses to the death of Bin Laden. The mood in the classroom could have been a microcosm for America; some of my students wished they had been outside cheering with the crowds, others horrified that people would rejoice in the death of another. In the middle of that debate, one of the boys raised his hand. He is a boy who still looks very much like a child, even though has been Bar Mitzvahed, and he looked at me with the big wondering eyes that only a child can have, and said, “Manda, why do the terrorists hate us and what was the world like before this?”
I stopped.
What was the world like before this?
It was in that instance that things that I had known in my subconscious but never thought about rose to the surface. I looked at each of the children. They had been no more then three years old that infamous day when in a matter of hours our way of living had been dramatically altered. They had no memory of when shark infested waters had been our biggest fears. When you could bring just about anything onto an airplane. When wars were over there.
As I started to tell them the story of our history with Iraq starting with Bush Sr. and Operation Desert Storm, they listened, as they never had before. One asked me if I was scared during the Gulf War. I was shocked—why would I have been? I was eight years old and that war was over there. It was on the TV but I knew it would not directly affect me. It was not like the war was coming to America.
Only it has. These kids have been raised in a world of fear. They do not know an America at peace, an America without recession, and America that is not quite running on fear.
It is possible I am being kind to the 90’s—I know there were problems: genocides, countries with epic famines, wars, and so on. The difference is, there was not the sense of fear that there is today, all of these things were somewhere else. They were the things adults would talk about while kids were not in the room, and kids could live their daily lives.
As I finished depicting the 90’s to the kids, and all that led up to September 11th, in an attempt to answer this students question, he asked another, one that broke my heart, “Do you think we can go back to the way it was? It sounds nice”. My heart broke, because we can’t go back—these kids will never have a childhood where we are not at war, and not afraid. The best we can do, is take what we have learned and move forward, change our views, opt to be cautious but not afraid. This fear of the past decade has been suffocating, I understand it, at times I felt it, but that does not mean that we have not been suffocated. Between the war on terror, and the recession, it seems everything we do is ruled by the fears of what comes next. And now, symbolically we have killed the “big bad”, although we know that there is still evil out there. So we have a choice, we can continue, status quo—or we can say: dai*--enough, and move forward into a world where we are living instead of living in fear.

* dai=the Hebrew word for enough.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Am Not An Adventure By Choice, But By Fate--Van Gough

I realize most of my entries have not been about my journey to the rabbinate (or impending journey to the rabbinate since school has not started yet, nor does it start until July 11th). This is possibly because up until this point most of what I am doing is not related to rabbinical school.  I am in the mist of all the pre-stuff: submitting my paperwork such as campus request forms [I hear on June 17th and you all will know then too, I promise], finishing courses graduating with my MA.Ed [two weeks!] from The American Jewish University, planning my trip to Europe [or letting my travel buddy plan and agreeing to whatever he says because I don’t plan or make decisions, or use technology in any productive way that would be useful in planning the trip], and crossing things off of my “before I leave LA bucket list”. I have made great dents in the list, knowing from the start that I would not complete this list, but figured part of the fun is trying. In the past year I managed to cross the following off the list:
*Wine tasting in Napa [including a Kosher winery]
* Danced around the streets of Santa Cruz
* Road tripped down the Pacific Coast Highway
* Found a castle in California
* Gone to Universal Studios theme park/ studio tour
* Explored different Los Angeles neighborhoods
* Gone to the LaBrea tar pits
* Gone to the San Diego Zoo
* Wandered [it was snowing so I could not hike] The Redwood Forest
* Gone to see a movie at the El Capitan Theater [ok, I have not done that one yet but it is my next youth group event so its as good as done]
* Gone to Alcatrez
* Gone to the Skirball Museum
* Gone surfing

There are many things I have not done that were on the list, but in less then 12 months I think 13 things is not so bad, especially given that most of them have been amazing adventures [Jill you will be missed terribly next year!] It is with that in mind that I present Manda’s Year In Israel Bucket List, because I am going to be in Israel for a year, I need to have adventures, so why not make a list [for my future classmates that read this here is where you learn something about me--I love lists. Actually, it is not that I love lists, its that I love crossing things off of lists. I have to do lists for helps me stay organized...sort of]
Manda’s Year In Israel Bucket List

  1. Go to Spain
  2. Go to Italy
            [ok one and two are cheating I already know I am doing that but still]
  1. Go to Germany
  2. Go to India
  3. Go to Nepal
  4. Go to Amsterdam
  5. Go to France
  6. Go to the UK
  7. Explore Be’er Sheva
  8. Explore Haifa
  9. Spend either Shabbat or part of a holiday in Tsfat
  10. Go to the “halacha theme park” Rabbi Alexander told my Survey of Jewish Law class about and explore the different Sukkot
  11. FINALLY go to Ein Gedi and splash around in a waterfall
  12. Make olive oil
  13. Go to the Paddleball museum
  14. Go to a really interesting festival that I have not gone to before [film festival and wine festival are a must but do not count for this list]
  15. Do the yam l’yam hike
  16. Go to Egypt and leave at the end of Passover and enter “The Promised Land”
  17. See at least 3 Israeli concerts
  18. Do a sunrise hike of something besides Masada

Please feel free to comment with what you would like to join in on, or what things you think need to be added to the list!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Next Year I Am Keeping All My Notes In A TrapperKeeper

            My generation is obsessed with our childhood. Obsessed. This is an obsession that has declared nothing as sacred. 90210 and Melrose Place rule the TV, NKOTB and BSB are going on tour this summer [and yes I do wish that I had tickets for that], Scream 4 is playing in theaters, and Nick is bringing back Clarissa Explains It All and Hey Dude among others. My generation is obsessed with their childhood.
            This obsession makes sense, lets be honest, my generation was lied too. We were lied to in a way that makes that line from The Sunscreen Song that states “ accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders” laughable. Here is the thing—no one from my generation will ever say that politicians were noble, we grew up on Bill Clinton, but we will say that prices used to be reasonable, and it won’t be a fantasy [I remember when gas was 99 cents a gallon!].
            And we were raised believing things would stay as they had been, constantly getting better for each generation—prices might rise, but so too would paychecks. We would live longer lives then our parents, and politicians, well they would stay politicians. And then we found out the truth—it was all a lie. We came of age to an economy in the toilet, where The New York Times reports that internships [paid if you are lucky] have become the new entry level job, and where at 27 it is okay to live at home with your parents [mom, dad, I promise I will not move home]. We live in a world where they are saying we won’t out earn our parents [the first generation in American history to not surpass the generation before it], and with obesity rates rising, they are saying that pretty soon we will be dying at a younger age then our parents. To put it bluntly—now is a scary time to be a twenty-something.
            So we run to the familiar, because in movies and TV shows we can pretend it’s a better day. We can pretend we are still little and all that potential we were promised still exists, because it beats the alternative—our parents [unknowingly] lied to us.
            The thing is, that there is a line between escapism and pretending we are in that better day, the fantasy of The Sunscreen Song if you will, and the exploitation of our youth. That line is being crossed, and we seem to be okay with it. Before I make my point please remember that I am one for nostalgia—I made one of my best friends from college watch Never Ending Story [which was way better at 5 then 25--sorry Hilary] because she had never seen it, I sometimes think I would trade my cell phone for my pager circa 1999, and I long for the days of a good mixed tape complete with radio DJ’s talking because you let the tape roll to long. That being said, I understand that those things need to be left in the past. They are fun to remember and reminisce about, but that does not mean that we need to recreate them. An example-- I just finished reading Sweet Valley Confidential, a book that picks up 10 years after Sweet Valley High [and ignoring the entire Sweet Valley University series?] this book which was said to be written for the fans, was clearly written for the author to make money—it didn’t even make sense. I felt as though a piece of my childhood had been ripped out from me and crushed into a million pieces. That’s the thing with a lot of these remakes of 90s era pop culture. They are cheap replicas of what used to be that are not viable in a world that is.
            On the Urban Outfitters website they have a dress, they call it their “90’s Vintage Dress” [I may buy it but that is besides the point—I like vintage things], that name says it all. It is okay if we wear, or consume the 90s as long as we realize that its vintage—it’s from a world that we no longer exist in. My generation [and I am just as guilty of this nostalgia] has to grow up. We need to realize that we are not getting the world we promised, and that crawling back into a decade that is no more, when things were far more rosy is not the answer. Instead, we need to take this new world into our hands and move forward. Our parents lied to us, but they did not mean too. If they had a crystal ball they would have told us the truth or tried their hardest to change it. But they can’t—we can. There was one truth that they did tell us—we are the future, so it’s up to us what happens next.

Friday, April 22, 2011

...I Want To Have A Snow Day That Will Turn Parents Into Kids

I spent 20 years trying to get out of this place
I was looking for something I couldn't replace
I was running away from the only thing I've ever known
Like a blind dog without a bone
I was a gypsy lost in the twilight zone
I hijacked a rainbow and crashed into a pot of gold
I been there, done that and I ain't lookin' back on the seeds I've sown,
Saving dimes, spending too much time on the telephone
Who says you can't go home…..
                        --Jon Bon Jovi, Who Says You Can’t Go Home

            I spent twenty years trying to leave New Jersey. Almost exactly twenty years. It started when I was four-ish. I was on a family vacation to California, and the story my father tells me goes that I tugged on his sleeve one day, and looked up at him with my big blue eyes and said “Daddy, can we move here?” and he said “no” (being a New Yorker he rightly believed that the center of everything in the US is New York). I paused for a moment, looked up at him and said “Daddy…one day I am going to live here” and he again said “no”. After that, being my stubborn self, I consciously or subconsciously spent energy trying to move to California. It was a journey filled with roadblocks—California was to far away for my parents when it came to college, upon graduation no job in California wanted me. California was the impossible dream. I remember growing secretly resentful of one of my best friends when she got into graduate school in California. California was not her dream, it was my dream—she stole my San Diego.
            As that first year post college began to draw to a close, I threw my hat in the California ring one more time and landed a job at Hillel at the Claremont Colleges. This was the dream—I was on a one-way ticket to California.
            In retrospect, I do not know if that ticket was one way because I really thought this was it—I am going out west to find the sun and once I found it life will be glorious and I would not turn back, or if it was because I had friends telling me that I would be back, and I am stubborn and wanted to prove them wrong. Either way--after 20 years, was getting out of that place.
            I came out west to find the sun—and I did. I found winters with tank tops, and summers that went on for hundreds of days, but then something strange happened. I found myself homesick for the strangest things. From day one in California I missed bagels, pizza, and public transportation. But after three years of endless summer, I found myself longing for the fall. I found myself angry at the trees that did not change color in October. I found myself feeling pity for the kids who would never know what it was like to jump into a pile of orange, red, and yellow leaves. I found myself missing that feeling of longing for summer. Of the days when I would check the mail at my parents house in Teaneck, New Jersey and call my dad and say “guess what came in the mail today?” and the answer would be a letter from the Teaneck Swim Club, meaning that it was safe to count down to summer. I missed a holiday season with rosy cheeks, and the smell of pine. I went to Beverly Hills “Deck The Hills” and cried at its desperate and failed attempt at being 5th avenue and Rockefeller Center.
            I missed my family and I missed friends, but those I could get on a plane and see. What I missed most I realized, were feelings. These feelings that I had to walk away from in order to gain an appreciation for them.
I missed home.
And so I filled out a campus preference card with a million and ten reasons why they should put me in New York. And now I wait. I wait for May 25th when I get on that plane to EWR. I wait for May 26th where I change my license back to a New Jersey driver’s license [man I wish they were still those plastic coated ones]. I wait until June 13th, when I pack up and get on a plane and leave again, sad because the visit was far to short. I wait for HUC to make a decision, to let me [hopefully] go home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nose Goes Solves All The Problems In My Life

I am currently planning a trip to Europe with one of my roommates for next year, Adam. Originally we had been discussing going to England, Scotland, Ireland, and France but felt that time/money might make that trip to taxing. We then switched to Italy and Spain. A few days into our planning, a mutual friend had suggested we do France and Italy and he and his wife wanted to join us as well. Adam and I spent an hour and a half on Skype, looking up travel in France—or rather he was looking and I was avoiding. I was avoiding because I wanted to go to Spain, but I wasn’t saying anything. An hour and ½ in to the conversation it finally came out that I wanted to do Spain and Italy because I had a stronger desire to see Spain. Adam just looked at me [well visa vie skype] and said, “why didn’t you say so”. It seemed so simple, just say it, make the decision, and go with it. The problem is I am the queen of what if. I hate making decisions because that leads to asking “what if”.  What if I made the wrong choice or said the wrong thing? These what ifs can drive a person crazy as they go through the world second-guessing themselves.
I am a slave to my own head and my own doubts. As we enter Pesach, and in great detail and length [or not length if you are at my Seder] we will recount the details of us going out of slavery and into freedom, I cannot help but reflect on ways in which I am still a slave to my own doubts.
            In Deuteronomy 24:17 we read: When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again, this shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you father the grapes of your vineyard do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
            We are not supposed to go back to our fields a second time, according to the Torah, but rather leave the remains for those who cannot provide for themselves. This sends a beautiful message that seems irrelevant today. With the exception of one [maybe two] of my classmates, no one I know is a farmer [or has any desire to be a farmer]. So what does it mean to not go over your fields again?
            I propose a modern way to look at what it means to not go over your fields again—do not second guess yourself. The Torah tells us—if you left it, it is no longer yours. Once you have gone you cannot go back. Imagine applying this to your life. Once you make a choice, you accept it, and move forward whatever that may look like. Imagine the freedom from ones own mind if they trusted in their decisions. What would our lives look like if we walked through the world with the ultimate confidence in what we chose to do with our lives? We will always know a naysayer or two, who tell us we cannot do what we have set out to do, imagine not being the naysayer in your life. Imagine empowering yourself to make a choice and go with it, without looking back, what would that look like?
            I have recently started an experiment. I am making decisions, small ones, ones where the outcome does not have a drastic impact on my life, and I am going with them, moving forward, and not waiting for someone else to decide for me. I have realized, that by waiting for others to make choices, I am loosing the ability to choose my own fate, design my own life, and operate under my own free will.
I am starting small. This year I am a slave to my own doubts, next year I hope that I can say: once, I was a slave in my doubts.  Today, I am free

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Easy Bake Oven Was Not Nearly As Exciting As I Had Hoped It Would Be (Sorry Mom)

When I was a little girl I wanted an Easy Bake Oven. In retrospect, I do not know if I wanted the oven because it looked like fun or if I wanted it because my mother would not let me have the toy (I am sure she had good reasons). The fact that I did not get this toy as a child was one that I used as ammo against my parents for years; whenever one of them would tell me how I got everything I wanted, I would point out that I never got an Easy Bake Oven (or a LiteBrite for that matter). 

For my 21st birthday (as a bit of a gag gift), my mother got me an Easy Bake Oven. She told me that since I was living in an apartment with a real oven, she figured she could trust me with an Easy Bake one. I put the stickers on the oven, amused at having finally won the battle and took the oven back to college with me. I think I may have used it once—it was not nearly as entertaining as I had imagined. Partially because I was 21 and using a real oven, but I think partially because the anticipation of one day owning this toy was greater then the reality of owning it.

This is often the case. As a child (and sadly probably even to this day to some extent), I would so badly want something and then get bored with it, or be disappointed because the want or the excitement seemed greater then the experience. I am sure I wasted a great deal of my parents time and money (sorry!) on things that seemed exciting to me until I got them.

This is a little bit how I feel right now. In 68 days I move to Israel for a year to start school. This is something that I have been waiting and wanting for quite some time. I can’t help but reflect on these past experiences and fear that this too will end up on this list of things that were not nearly as exciting as they seemed to be before they began. The problem is, I believe, I too often forget that the waiting is a part of the experience. The excitement before the experience is not a separate experience—but the beginning of all the possibilities. Not every moment of school will be wonderful, or perfect, or live up to the ideal in my head, but that does not make it invalid or automatically a bad experience. These are all parts of the whole, because they are all parts of my life, for better or for worse. 

Experiences are not little things that we can put in boxes, or paint by numbers where the color stays within the lines. Experiences are messy and blur together and sometimes happen more then one at a time. That is the beauty in them. That is where the excitement lies. Instead of waiting for my time at AJU to be done and over (which currently feels equal to Waiting For Gedot), I am going to spend the rest of this time enjoying that experience as it bleeds into the next five years. My goal is to not compare school with the act of waiting for school, the unknown is always more exciting. My kavenah or intention is to enjoy the waiting and the experience, take the good with the bad, and recognize that this all a part of the ride.

And mom, thanks for the Easy Bake Oven.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Does A Rabbi Look Like?

            “Manda, you can’t be a Rabbi. Rabbi’s don’t have that many piercings.” One of my 7th grade students said to me one day in class. I paused for a moment, “why do you say that?” I asked this student. “They just don’t—and you don’t look like a Rabbi”.
            I pondered this statement for a few days, wondering what does it mean to look like a Rabbi. We all have preconceived notions of what certain professions look like—Doctors that look to young often make us nervous, professors should have that slightly “bookish” look to them, as I child I always thought librarians had to be nice, middle aged or old ladies. Rabbis, just like any other profession were supposed to have a certain look to them
            I stopped thinking about this for awhile until a week ago when in class one of my 6th grade students said to me: “Wow Manda, you are such a hipster, I bet you listen to OK GO on vinyl on your record player, I am going to call you Hipster Teacher from now on” [please don’t get me started on the things wrong with that statement], to which another student said “or Hipster Rabbi”, to which the first student said “I think she has to stop being a hipster in order to be a Rabbi”.
            I am not saying I am a hipster [I am not a hipster]. The name of this blog is because so many people tell me I am a hipster [who are they to define me?]. The point of this entry is not to moan about how everyone calls me a hipster [though they really should stop], the point is to pose the question what is a Rabbi supposed to look like? I ask, not because I want to fit the mold but because the majority of the Rabbis and Rabbinical students I know do not look like Rabbis.
            The group of future Rabbis that I know is as diverse as they come. There are Jews by Choice and those born Jewish. They are, Liberal [politically] Jews, Republican Jews, and Libertarian Jews. They are straight, gay, bisexual, questioning their sexuality. They are first career rabbinical students, second career students, or maybe even third or fourth career. For those that this is not their first career, beforehand they were business people, worked non-profit, got degrees in education, were rocket scientists [I am not making that up]. Some have piercings. One brews beer as a hobby. They come from the North East, the Mid West, the actual West, the South, France, Canada, England, and Iowa. They are vegetarian, vegan, the biggest
carnivores you have ever met--some even [insert gasp] eat bacon and love shrimp.

Few of them look
like Rabbis.

I do not know what these people will look like once they are Rabbis, my question is—does it matter?