Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer is almost over but Elul is coming around the corner, Summer Suggestions to do

Lakeside at OSRUI
With the absence of very hot summer weather I suppose it is easier to imagine that Fall is around the corner.  Summer is a wonderful time to revive, restore, and rejuvenate.  Kallah Gimmel at OSRUI this summer where I was faculty was fantastic. What do we do at camp?  Check out my IMovie and you will see just a glimpse of what we do at summer camp. Working with madrichim, counselors, and chanichim, campers is my passion and studying Israel this summer was wonderful.  It was a bittersweet summer to study Israel and I have to be hopeful as I look to the future.

We still have a few weeks before we begin Religious School (Sunday September 7 at 10:00 am) and Hebrew school, (Tuesday, September 9 at 4:45 pm). You are probably thinking what could I do for the rest of the summer to get ready for the fall?  Look no farther I have a few ideas:

Now is the time to pick up a good book and finish it before the fall.  Need some suggestions?  Take a look at my Goodreads lists of Jewish books, books about Israel, or even someYoung adult books for some of the books I have been reading.  I am getting ready to read a few more before the summer is over.

Want to practice your Hebrew?  Come to Summer t'filot at Lakeside we start at 6:00 pm for a short outside service.  We will be JC Park Deerfield on August 22 otherwise right here at Lakeside.

Looking to practice Hebrew on your own at your house?  Check out Behrman House website for games and just to practice your Hebrew prayers.  You can listen and practice as much as you want, the computer never gets tired of working with you.

Be sure to register for Religious School and fill out paper work.  We want to see everyone's smiling face in the fall.

Religious and Hebrew school are important milestones for students.  I know I am biased but we have fun on Sunday mornings and Tuesday afternoons and this is just the first building block as you prepare to be a Jewish adult.  I have many students involved in many different competing activities from dance and sports, to drama and debate.  I like to say that my students may not become professional dancers, sports players or sing on Broadway but they will all become adult Jews.  I hope that the training they have at Lakeside stand them in good stead as they make their way through life.

If I do have a student who makes it big in any of the above arenas besides free tickets and a mention at the Oscars I hope that their Jewish education will continue to help them find their place in this world.  I hope that it will give them a strong Jewish identity and a basis to lead a happy and moral life.  As I continue to plan for this year I look forward to revving back up for the fall and hearing about everyone's summer experiences.
Hebrew Class at camp

Monday, August 4, 2014

A message of hope and peace from Beersheva

Here is another guest post from our Cousin Ronna who lives in Beersheva.   It has to been an easy month and to see her resilience, the resilience of her friends, community and the whole country gives me great hope.  Please read how Israel has pulled together.  Stay safe Kramer- Gabay Family, we love you and miss you.  Vanessa

Ronna Kramer

2 August 2014
Hi everyone,
Lots going on.  Yesterday was a tough day, starting with a ceasefire and some hopes that were quickly extinguished.  We all had a very strong reaction to the taking of a soldier, given the situation and knowing the implications.  The fact that the Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire and then broke it so early on, strongly suggests that it was all planned.  Which again shows the kind of enemy involved: one for whom an agreement has no meaning and all means to an end are acceptable. The implications are what happened with Gilad Shalit – that there would be lengthy negotiations resulting in the release of Hamas prisoners, which is just what Hamas wants.  Like many others, I felt the lust for blood at first.  The radio was full of politicians and other public figures calling for re-occupation of Gaza, of getting rid of all Hamas, etc.  As my initial reaction wore off, I felt at a loss as to an alternative. However, towards the evening, cooler heads began to be heard.  It was suggested that the soldier be referred to as a "POW" rather than as kidnapped.  This is not just semantics; it puts things into a "bad but regular event of war" framework and makes it more possible to consider how to proceed.  I may have said this before, but I'll say it again: I have no liking for Bibi Netanyahu, but I think he has done a good job of keeping a cool head and exercising restraint, despite the heavy pressures from his own coalition members to "go all out against Hamas" (a  hotheaded and irresponsible approach).

As I have mentioned before, in Israel, everything is personal.  Every soldier that is killed is presented all over the radio and newspapers, his family, friends, teachers, wife/girlfriend all interviewed and talking about him.  There are no unknown soldiers here.  In fact, at a funeral for a "lone soldier" – a soldier whose family lives outside of Israel, there was a call for people to come to the funeral so that he would the respect he deserved.  30,000 people were at the cemetery.
Which brings me to an incredible phenomenon, that I believe is singularly Israeli.  The outpouring of support for the soldiers and the people of the south – who have been hardest hit by the rockets and tunnel threats – has no limits.  Northern communities have opened their doors, offering rooms, guest houses, activities, etc at little or no cost.  Several of the families of kids from my school went to some kibbutz north of Tel Aviv – they stayed there 4 days, went to the swimming pool (in the south the pools are all closed), on a jeep trip, to a water park, had all their meals – all for free.  Last night we went to one of Yogev's performances in Tel Aviv; anyone showing proof of address in the south, didn't have to pay for the tickets.  If all that isn't enough, it is beyond imagination what is done for the soldiers.  People send literally tons of food and baked goods, underwear, socks, tshirts and cigarettes to the border where the army is based.  Along the road on the way to the base, a man set up a little coffee and pastry stop.  It quickly grew into sandwiches and then a BBQ stop.  There are now over a hundred volunteers there all day, every day.  They grill meat, cut vegetables and make sandwiches to send to the base. All the food is donated – one day someone went online, saying he had 500 tons of meat to donate, but no refrigerator truck to bring it from Tel Aviv.  Within 15 minutes, there was a truck at his door, loading up the meat.  Then there are the hospitalized soldiers.  People who have no prior connection, go to visit the soldiers, bringing (of course) lots of food, baked goods, gifts. The corridors are filled with people.  Last night in one of the bigger hospitals in the center of the country, a well-known chef came with dinner for all the wounded soldiers and their families – over 250 people in all.  The hospital found some hall where tables could be set up and a full course, gourmet meal was served.  Soldiers came on crutches and in wheelchairs.  Everyone wants to feel that they have contributed, helped, done something.

It's an amazing country.

On that more upbeat note and with hope for some positive developments, I'll say goodbye for now.
Love and hopes for peace,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teaching, living Israel Summer 2014

I am passionate about Jewish education, Israel education and Jewish camp.  I always love being at OSRUI and teaching all topics in an experiential format.  This summer is my favorite topic of all for my eidah, unit, Israel.  It has been a bittersweet experience, for me as I lead fun, innovative programs every morning and teach Hebrew with more games and creativity and come back into my room and read the news and current events.  Our chanichim, campers are having the time of their lives.  We have done  wonderful programs and I want to mention a few here.

Rotem, Israeli Chef during our program

We have hosted Holywood Squares at  camp with our counselors as famous Israeli celebrities including Tal Brody, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir and the hip hop band Hadag Nahash.  We have also hosted a cooking show and our guest chef (a real Israeli) taught us not only how to make a delicious mishmash recipe but taught us about the different aliyot, immigrations to Israel.  The mishmash recipe showed us that Israel has people from many nations.  At the end of that program we shared different customs in our own personal families and made web as we saw how similar we all are whether from Israel, Chicago, Boulder or Minneapolis.

We are very fortunate to have 2 members of the Mishlachat, madrichim, counselors from Israel in Kallah this year.  They are wonderful and have added so much to our eidah.  This has not been an easy time for them or the rest of the mishlachat at OSRUI.  We are fortunate to have over 30  Israelis at camp helping us not just in the Merkaz Ivrit, Hebrew center but in every eidah in camp, as well as being specialists in our arts program, Tiferet and helping with sailing, and other sports programs.  We have given the mishlachat time to process their feelings and all the news from Israel.  In 2014 when you live with live television, calling Israel whenever you want, and seeing everyone's opinions on Facebook, it is not easy to process all of this information.

Because Kallah is the youngest unit we are not dealing directly with the Matzav, situation in Israel.  We have added to our Shabbat t'filah the prayer for the State of Israel found in Mishkan T'filah as well as the prayer for the soldiers in the IDF.  We will continue to answer any questions our campers may have and reassure them at the same time.  I am looking forward to next week and am praying with all of our campers, counselors and faculty for peace in Israel.  I am glad to be at camp to have a chevre, friends and colleagues with whom I can talk, discuss and just share feelings together.  I am glad to be here as always and I know this summer will remind me not just about studying Israel but living Israel.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Israel: It's complicated

The Hebrew word for situation is Matzav, however when you talk about the Matzav in Israel you are referring to the situation on the ground and what is happening in the streets.  The matzav is code for the difficult situation Israelis and Palestinians find themselves in not just now but always.  Sometimes we have to hear how it feels to live there.  Our cousin lives in Beersheva,close to Gaza.  Below is Ronna's letter from July 14th.  It gives us just a quick glimpse into daily life in Israel.  I think Ronna has summed up my feelings as I run to watch the news and get updates from my chaverim and mishpacha in Israel.  Read what she has to say:
Gabay Family, home base BeerSheva, Israel

Hi Everyone,
It's the eighth day of fighting.  Thanks for the emails of concern - it feels good to have you asking how we are. I'm sorry to have taken so long to respond and let you all know what's happening. Somehow, I just never sit still long enough to write.   Well that's not exactly true.  I had reports to write for the end of the school year; it usually takes a few days but I had trouble concentrating so it took much longer.  Also there was the little matter of my car being stolen right at the beginning of the fighting……
To more important things, none of the kids are involved, at least not yet.  Omer has not received the emergency call-up.  Raanan is doing professional training (in the army) and less likely to be called (I hope).  Yogev is busy with rehearsals and getting ready for his August journey to studies in Boston.
We here in Beer Sheva seem to be getting fewer rockets than in the past……or maybe I'm just more used to it, so it makes less impression. 
Some glimpses of life with rocket fire: 
It means driving with the air conditioning on full blast because of the heat, but keeping the windows open part way to be sure to hear if there is a siren.
I was at a graduation ceremony at Ben Gurion University, before things got so heated up (now they don't allow events with more than 150 people). They began with a request by the security people that if there was a siren, everyone should lie on the ground and cover their heads with their hands.  This is the standard procedure if a person can't get to a safe building.
On the radio, no matter what program is on, they interrupt to announce whenever there is a siren and where it is.
I sometimes go out for walks in the morning and sometimes not.  When I do, I have all my safe (relatively) spots memorized from the last time, so I know where to go to have some minimal protection.  Why do I walk?  It gives me peace of mind and gets me outside, which I need.
How do I feel about all this?  Sometimes I am afraid, mostly I am overly attuned to the radio and with my ears always half-cocked, listening for a siren.  I am frustrated that our government doesn't do enough to try and make peace with, at least, those of the Palestinians who are interested.  Intractability, lack of real leadership keeps this situation dragging on and on.  There is no one to take a big step to make a change.  So all this will happen again and again and again….
Love to you all,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Community coming together to mourn at Lakeside 7-2-14

The past 24 hours have been particularly painful as we all learned of the death of  Eyal Yirach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, may their memories be a blessing.  It is hard to watch all the news, social media and television coverage of this tragic event.  I know that many people's first response is: How do we respond?  What can we do?

First I have two wonderful websites for teachers, parents and others coping with this situation:
From the Icenter and from the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland.  Both of these sites talk about a Jewish response and how to talk to children.  The JECC site also has Jewish texts to refer to and the ICenter site encourages us to discuss values as we talk with our students.

I think the most natural Jewish response is to pray.  In this vein 13 Congregations on the North Shore are coming together Wednesday July 2nd at 7:00 pm at Lakeside Congregation to pray.  It is unusual to have that many congregations pray together in the middle of the summer, Reform and Conservative shuls.  It is very comforting and I hope that many people will join us and feel the comfort all around.  I know that I am looking forward to praying with friends, colleagues, and congregants.

Please remember that Ravinia traffic may be heavy tomorrow so please leave enough time to get to Lakeside by 7:00pm.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mitzvah Day B'nai Mitzvah Dress/Suit Swap: Epilogue

Clothes being sorted
At Lakeside Congregation's Mitzvah Day for the first time we had one station where our students and families were encouraged to bring old B'nai Mitzvah dresses and suits to swap or to donate to tzedakah.  For many weeks they took up residence in my office and finally last week I made a trip to the Chesed Fund Warehouse in Lincolnwood.  It was a wonderful place and I am glad our clothes found the place that will eventually let them find the right home.

The Chesed Fund is not just a food pantry but also has clothes for adults and children, toiletries and school supplies. I was happy to find out clients are allowed to shop privately.  They come in one designated door and are allowed to shop one family at a time.  Volunteers are not in the building when clients are shopping.  The Chesed Fund  services primarily the Jewish community in Lincolnwood but anyone from the area who qualifies is welcome at the pantry.

From their website:

Chesed Fund: The Place to Turn for Help

There are hundreds of Jewish families in Chicago who were financially stable until a crisis struck. We’re here to provide immediate assistance – and set them back on the road to independence.
Stock room
We battle hunger, prevent eviction and homelessness, and help the unemployed secure jobs. We also offer a wide array of free merchandise to needy families, provide holiday and Jewish lifecycle event assistance, and help send children to Jewish schools and camps.   

This is a great place to volunteer and if you are looking for Mitzvah hours for B'nai Mitzvah or just want to volunteer this is a wonderful place with lots of stocking to be done.  I know our students would find this work rewarding and they would feel as if they had contributed to a worthwhile cause.  They collect everything from hats, shoes, school supplies, baby buggies and bicycles.
Hats and shoes for Orthodox men

Summer is here and it's a good time to volunteer and donate your time and goods.  Most people have more time in the summer and if you want additional good ideas of where to volunteer our Lakeside Social action committee has put together a list of varied mitzvah projects for you to check out!

Let me know if check any of these projects and better yet send me a picture!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sandy Peterson, Z"L a wonderful person and a wonderful congregant

Sandy Peterson volunteering in the Religious School Office
Sandy Peterson, Zichrona L'vracha, may her memory be a blessing was a very active member at Lakeside congregation.  She was the Chair of the Religious School committee for many years and an active member along with her husband Ken, children Brian, Stacy and Jen.

Sandy was trained as a CPA and for many more years then she should have, she helped me to create and present my budget.  This was before excel spread sheets, before good computer programs and as you might be able to tell numbers are not my strong suit.  Sandy would patiently sit with me with her calculator and make sure I added up all my columns correctly and the budget was presentable.  Sandy was also a moving force behind Lakeside's celebration of my 13th year at Lakeside.  She was also happy to work hard behind the scenes.

This Sunday June 22 we have the opportunity to honor Sandy and fundraise for the Lakeside at 9 Rounds for Sandy by friends Linda Mayer and Abby Kurz:

From the Highland Park Patch:
When Sandy Peterson died of brain cancer 15 months ago, her friends Linda Mayer and Abby Kurz, owners of 9RoundNorthbrook fitness studio, vowed that they would not forget  her valiant fight to overcome this debilitating illness.   In October, 2013, when the two opened their studio, they immediately hung a picture of Sandy on the wall and turned to her for inspiration.
On Sunday, June 22, at 9 a.m., the first annual Sandy Peterson Walk, “ 9 Rounds for Sandy” will begin at Crestwood Park, 1824 Milton Ave. Northbrook. Families and individuals are encouraged to participate.  Along the way to the race’s conclusion at 1007 Waukegan, the home of 9Round, there will be nine rounds of breaks, all themed to a kickboxing routine, planned to invigorate walkers.  A water station will be set up at House 406, one of Northbrook’s newest restaurants, at 1143 Church Street, 
Participants are asked to stop by the 9Round office to fill out an application.  Fees are
$20 for families, $10 for individuals and $5 for children.   At the conclusion of the race, Sandy’s family; husband Ken, son Brian, daughter Stacy and daughter Jennifer will speak to the walkers about Sandy’s fight and the fight against brain cancer.  All fees will be divided equally and donated to both brain cancer research and the Sandy Peterson Fund for Education and Technology at Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park.
For more information call 224-235-4840 or go to

I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday and I know Sandy would have loved this event. 

Here's an iMovie of the event:  Check it out.