Friday, January 19, 2018

Are we coming or going in Parshat BO and I am going to #ARJE18 in Seattle Jan 22-24, 2018

From BIM-BAM, a great recap of the weekly Torah Portion!
In this week's Torah portion, Bo meaning either come or go in Hebrew, we see Moses and Aaron dealing with the last 3 of the 10 plagues (locusts, darkness and the killing of the first born male child).  We know from the text that Pharaoh's heart has been hardened.  The idea of a heart being hardened has always intrigued me.  When your heart is hardened it is set in stone and no one can convince you to change your mind. Again from the text we know that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Why did God hardened his heart?  Did God want Pharaoh to keep the children of Israel in Egypt?  Did God know that the children of Israel would ONLY leave Egypt if they had been spared losing their first born and the Egyptians would want them out of their midst?  This is the text of our Pesach Haggadah and it is a intriguing tale.

Another point of deliberation is the name of this Torah portion.  BO, which in modern Hebrew means to come towards.  Why would this Torah portion have a Hebrew word that means to come when the children of Israel are LEAVING Egypt.  One interpretation is that Moses, Aaron, Miriam and company were being welcomed INTO the Eretz Yisrael.  This is confusing.  Are they being welcomed?  Are they being told to leave?  All these interpretations I believe are correct.  I also think that in the day and age of intentional speech and writing we need to take care with how we talk and how we are perceived.  I can also add that we must make sure our heart is not hardened and we take time to look at everything we a clean slate/a clean heart.

This week I am GOING to the Annual Gathering of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators, ARJE, and look forward to welcoming and meeting new colleagues from all over the states.  Want to take a look at our daily schedule feel free to check it out! This is an opportunity for me and other educators to learn, experience and network about Religious school, Jewish institutions who have participants of all ages.  We can take a look at new approaches and make sure that our heart is not hardened and that we give all of the new ideas and methods we are learning a chance especially when we come home to our institutions.

As I COME back home I will be able to begin integrating and sharing what I learned in Seattle.  It is important to always keep learning and renewing yourself so that you keep on top of current trends.  I hope that you will enjoy my twitter/facebook feed as I share in real time next week what is going on in Seattle.  I always look forward to having something to say on social media and an ARJE Annual gathering gives me what to say.  Have a good week as I look forward to Beyond the Box, our ARJE gathering in Seattle.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Vacation, Value and Visualization: Cartagena, Columbia December 2017

I was very lucky to vacation with my extended family in Cartagena, Colombia during part of the cold snap happening in Chicago. It was a wonderful 8 days of warm weather, family bonding and an opportunity to unplug, (OK not TOTALLY unplug but for the most part unplug). It is so important to spend time together as a family and just hang out. Our family realizes how fortunate we are to have this opportunity to take advantage of the time to have conversations.  

Why Cartagena?  No, it is not dangerous, (anymore) and no there were no drugs present at anytime.  We did take advantage of happy hour on the beach a few times and one or two times by the pool.   We picked Cartagena because it was warm, NOT too far away and an old city for us to explore.  

The city of Cartagena, known in the colonial era as Cartagena de Indias is a major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Regio.  The people are very friendly and we had 2 guides to take us on walking tours both of whom were very knowledgeable about the city and history.  I always compare everything to an Israel trip and just like in Israel Guides in Columbia are licensed and very knowledgeable.   We enjoyed learning about the walled city in Cartagena (my family members were nonplussed when I announced that they could celebrate Purim for 2 days in the old city because of the wall) and seeing the The Palace of Inquisition which is was finished around 1770, and currently serves as a museum showcasing historical artifacts from the Inquisition was very interesting. It does mention Jews who of course were notoriously tortured in Spain but during these times and anywhere the Spaniards were in control. They also persecuted the indigenous population and anyone who was not a practicing Catholic. 

We also had 4 days at a resort on an island which was a 2 hour boat ride from the mainland.  It was lovely to relax, swim, snorkel, scuba dive by the sea.  Coming home to about a 100 degree change in the thermometer was not an easy transition.  I am thankful for time with my immediate family and my extended family. We were blessed to go away with 3 generations and not just come back in one piece but also having had fun just hanging out.  You don't have to go to Columbia to have fun with your family but I highly recommend that you put aside intentional time with your family; in the end it will be a value which I KNOW you can visualize!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving and how about some Hebrew practice over break?

Learning with our magnetic D'vash Boards in Kitah Aleph 
Happy Thanksgiving and I know by this time of year students, parents and teachers are ready for a break so they can refresh before the big December vacation break.  I hope that over this Thanksgiving break my Lakeside Hebrew students can take a few minutes to review what has been happening in class for the past few months.  All of our students have been practicing prayers, learning their letters and vowels and doing their  best in the 2 hours we have on Tuesday afternoons.

If you review with your students for even a few minutes every other day it will make a world of difference.  Coming to Friday night services or sitting with your students during our Sunday morning service is also helpful. It expands the time they practice Hebrew and sometimes doubles the time spent in class.  This can only help your students Hebrew progress!

I love teaching Kitah Aleph and watching my students go from not knowing one Hebrew letter to being able to read from the prayerbook  and know some Modern Hebrew words as well.  This year we have also added sign language for Hebrew words.  If you have a Kitah aleph student please be sure to ask them how to sign:  House, Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma and table. Here is a video from Kitah Aleph!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving break and when you have a minute to think or meditate let me know why you are grateful.  I know that I am thankful  and grateful for my family, my Lakeside family and being able to share my passion for all things Jewish with both families!  Happy Thanksgiving!  Chag Samaech!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hate, civil rights and meeting the co-founder of Southern Law Poverty Center

This weekend at Lakeside we have a scholar in residence program focusing on combating hate.  Joe Levin from the Southern Law Poverty Center (SLPC) will be speaking Saturday night and Sunday morning.  On Friday night Rabbi Serotta will talk about his personal connection to the civil rights movement growing up in Miami Florida.  I can't wait to hear his story.  

Growing up in Crystal Lake, Illinois in the 1960's and 1970's  I  did experience some anti-semitism but I did not grow up in a very diverse community; being Jewish was as exotic as it got back at my schools.  I do remember going to visit my Aunt Corrie Diamond in Sardis, Mississippi in 1971 with my mom, grandmother and sister.  Aunt Corrie had been married to my great Uncle Sol and she was not Jewish and when they got married in 1942 I am sure it caused a commotion  on both sides of the family.   

Uncle Sol had owned the local dry goods store and he and Aunt Corrie had worked in Sardis for their whole lives.  When we went to downtown Sardis I saw for the first time two types of drinking fountains:  white and colored.  There were also white and colored bathrooms.  I was mystified and did not understand why this was so different than bathrooms in Crystal Lake and Chicago.   I asked my Mom why there were two different fountains and bathrooms and she tried to explain to me and my sister the situation in Mississippi.  It did not make sense to me then and it still does not make sense to me.  

As we go into our Scholar in Residence weekend if you have stories or your parents or grandparents have stories of the civil rights movement now is a great time to share these important memories and stories with the next generation!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What do YOUR books tell you about Yourself?

Jewish Book Month is in NOVEMBER!
I love books and if you look at my shelves you can immediately tell that:  I love Israel, Jewish education,  historical fiction, young adult books and of course Tanakh, (Bible).  If I looked at your shelf what would I find?  I have spoken about visiting friends homes growing up and seeing the stalwarts of a Jewish home on the book shelves:  The Source by James Michener (or anything by him), Exodus by Leon Uris, Goodby Columbus by Philip Roth or Night by Eli Weisel.  Holocaust literature was not as popular 50 years ago as it is today.

November is Jewish Book Month and at Lakeside we will have on November 12th and 19th tables in the lobby with our "extra" books for you to take home.  Be sure to stop by and pick up a book for your family.  We have some great books and I hope you add to your libraries!

There were very few young adult books never mind authors when I was a tween many moon ago.  I read almost all the books at the local library in Crystal Lake that were for my age group and began reading the books at my house.   I read a few books that I was probably too young to appreciate and now I love reading young adults books and love even more discussing the most popular ones with my students.  Sharing the fondness for a good book is like having a friend in common and gives you something to discuss.  

With the onset of e-readers it is harder to see what people are reading at their homes, on a plane or at the beach.  That saddens me as I am always ready to start a conversation about book that I have read or plan on reading.  Occasionally when asked what am I reading right now I have plenty to say in that conversation.  I do love my e-reader as it is easy to take with me and I can load on as many books as I want and I don't have to worry about how much space it will take up in my luggage.  My nightmare is running out of something to read.

I have had a book group at Lakeside for the past 6 years and I am proud to say that we have read 70 books.  We meet about once a month at members homes and read all types of books with Jewish themes.  Sometimes the books are great and the discussion is great and occasionally the books are mediocre and the discussion is surprisingly great.  I always enjoy talking about books and getting insights from our group.  (If you are interested in joining our book group let me know) We are also very proud to have a librarian at Lakeside for over 30 years, Margaret Burka.  She keeps our library up to date with all the latest books, come and take a look.

My Goodreads page:  feel free to join me!
Since I have been organizing our book group I have also been on Goodreads.  This is a site that helps you not just keep track of the books that you are reading, have read and plan to read it it also lets you group your books into different shelves.  I started using this app when I realized that I had assigned a book for book group which I had read many years ago but had  totally forgotten I had read before.  Now I know if I read it and when I read it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's all in the Mishpacha, family, Mishpacha #NewmanStrong #OSRUI18: Give Now!

Camp Newman October 2017
This week with the news of URJ Camp Newman burning to the ground in the fire of  Northern California, Santa Rosa it got me to thinking about a few things.  I know that I would feel lost, sad and anxious if this happened to my camp, URJ OSRUI and I am an adult (maybe that makes it worst?).

I know that buildings do not make a place but the people do; I also know that a camp, any camp buildings also have memories and emotions attached to them.  I know that the camp leaders of Newman are meeting and working now to think about next summer.  This is not easy as they have not been let back into their camp as it is still smoldering. It is still not safe to go there.

Tzofim Beit T'filah, where I met my son in law
I think about our holy place Makom Kadosh, including our Beitei T'filah at OSRUI and it would be painful to think of it burning.  Just as at any summer camp at OSRUI our buildings, including our Chalutzim Moadon  was rebuilt with the old wood so that the names of the former chanichim were preserved for the ages to read.  When you pray in that Moadon, you see the history of the camp in the signatures of the campers.

When I pray in any of our Beitei T'filah I love the feeling that other campers have prayed in this same space.  It warms my heart to see madrichim singing and leading t'filot and remembering they were once campers in this same space.  In fact I met my son in law in one of these Beit T'filah at camp and that memory is one of my favorites.

I have spent hours and hours in our Beitei T'filah with family, friends and colleagues and when I was watching the news of Newman this week I was crying.  I know I was thinking about our camp too.
Kallah Beit T'filah

I have been haunted also by what I would have chosen from my own house if I had to leave because of fire.  I thought about pictures, computer, and some valuables.  In the middle of the night I woke up in a panic thinking that I would also have to take our passports and other important papers we have at the house.  I had never thought of that before.

I know Newman was able to get out their Torah scrolls and all of their staff is safe and for that everyone is profoundly thankful.  I know that the Jewish community will be supportive and generous for Camp Newman and if it so moves you here is the link to their fundraising to rebuild their camp and I would be remiss if I did not give the link to OSRUI as well.  I have a nice bet going this week with my west coast colleagues over the Cubs-Dodgers Playoffs.  I did pledge twice the amount to Newman if you were wondering and I will be sending a donation WHEN the Cubs win!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What does our new Machzor tell us and how many of the Rabbis, Cantors and Educators do I know who contributed?

This year at Lakeside Congregation we used Mishkan Hanefesh from CCAR Press for all of our t'filot. One of the first things that I did with this Machzor was to look up all the Rabbis, Educators and Cantors that I know.  I can say I know my fair share as well as some of the editors. As we gather every year at Rosh Hashanah with most of my family we talk about services, sermons and this year abut the new Machzor. 
Mishkan HaNefesh

 My father was excited to see passages from Langston Hughes and Immanuel Kant.  I loved to see Rabbi's I knew quoted as well as Debbie Friedman Z"L. It was apparent to me then that this prayer book spoke to different people in a myriad of ways.  

I have always loved the High Holy day liturgy and this year my experience was enhanced with this Machzor.  It is set up just like Mishkan T'filot with traditional prayers on the even numbered pages and the more interpretive resources on the odd numbered pages.  You can read the forward in Mishkan HaNefesh to get the whole picture of what each type of page means and represents.

I love the drop down bar on each page which tells us WHERE in the service we are and I love the addition of transliteration for all of the prayers in Hebrew.  When transliteration first came out I didn't think I would be a fan but as a  frequent service attender I appreciate how much more participation we have in all of our t'filot with the transliteration on each page.
Art for Mishkan HaNefesh

There is also fascinating art in the Machzor and it made me think of many different visions and I found an article on the artist Joel Shapiro which informs us the art was made entirely from wood prints.  I encourage you to read more about the art and artist.  

I was fascinated that one group had thought to put in the notes for their poem, or perhaps the editors did this their website.  Water Women's Alliance.  According to their website

"WATER is a global network, an educational and spiritual space, a center for dialogue on feminism, faith, and justice. We connect activists, religious leaders, students, scholars, and allies who are using feminist religious values to create social change."


I was wondering why they put their website in the notes, what will happen in 100 years if we still are using this prayer book and there is not website.  My Rabbi reminded me that there will probably will another edition by then and I can't help thinking that more organizations will want their website in the notes.  I can't be the only one who is looking at the notes in Mishkan HaNefesh.  Right?  

Enjoy your High Holy days and I hope you have a minute to look at Mishkan HaNefesh even if your community does not use it.  It is a beautiful and peaceful resource which I look forward to using over the years.  

I wish one and all an easy fast and I am quite excited to see the new Mishkan for Yom Kippur.  G'mar Chatimah Tovah, may you be inscribed in the book of life!