Thursday, September 7, 2017

#BlogElul 16 Pray

I do believe that there is no wrong place to pray and this summer I did a blog post about just that when I was at OSRUI. You can in a small community, in a large community just by yourself,  If you are not feeling well in mind or body you can ask other people to pray with you of for you.  You can sing, play an instrument or listen to other singing.  I know I always feel calmer and happier after praying.  There are many studies which tell us that if you pray regularly it will improve your health.

Being in the month of Elul as we are to prepare for the High Holy Days what a great time to start praying with Religious and Hebrew school beginning this week.  Come and try out our Tfilah, service at the beginning of Religious school and don't forget our Friday night services.  We also have Torah study and t'filah on Shabbat morning!

Praying at camp and getting ready
I love praying with my community whether that be at Lakeside or camp.  I love singing the old tunes I know and more importantly learning new tunes that keep me and I believe everyone on their toes.  I hope to see my Lakeside chevre this week either Friday Night at Pot-Luck Shabbat, Sunday morning at the opening of Religious School or Tuesday for Hebrew school.







We are also praying this week for the safety of our friends in Florida and hope they will be kept out of harms way. As we gathered supplies for Hurricane Harvey I hope we will not have to do the same for Irma but we are prepared.
Photo Credit: Rabbi Phyllis Sommer

Friday, August 25, 2017

#BlogElul 3 Prepare: #whatjewisheducatorsdo

Prepare is really my theme for the whole summer!  I am preparing for the first day of school, first teachers' meeting, ordering supplies, making lists and trying to make sure everything is ready for the new year. If you have not registered for school or even High Holy Day tickets at Lakeside not to worry.  I can always order more books for new students and you can still order your High Holy tickets! There are many details and I do have help, thank goodness, in this area.

Special Todah Rabah to Margaux Friend, our office administrator who keeps our office running and me as well.  My admin, JoAnne is fantastic and school, flyers and so much more would not be ready if not for her.

I know that Rabbi Serotta is preparing for the High Holy days and sermon writing is just a part of what he does.  Getting the year going again takes many different steps.  When the High Holy days and Labor day align as they did this year it gives us a few more days to keep preparing.

I am looking forward to a wonderful year and I hope to re-connect with everyone as the school year starts and we begin again.

(I know that I am behind in blogging but I hope to blog most of Elul!)


Thursday, August 24, 2017

#BlogElul 2: Search

Every year I join with Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and try to blog Elul.  Elul is the month that proceeds the High Holy Days and it is a time we prepare for them.  (Tomorrow's cue is Prepare...more on prepare later).

Blogging Elul helps me to write more, blog more and just put my thoughts together during a busy time of year.  It is also a chance to participate in a project which links me to an even larger community.  It is a daunting task and this year I want to try and do this in smaller pieces.

Today's word Search makes me imagine searching for peace.  In our world filled with hate  and sometimes it takes searching for your own peace and where to find peace.  I know that this summer I have found peace as I always do at OSRUI and I think the place that is most peaceful at camp are the Beitei T'filah, where we pray.  Being able to pray twice a day is a gift when I am at camp.  It is right there, I don't even have to search it out.

I also find peace on vacation especially when we go to the ocean. This summer we were at Cape Cod went to the beach every day for a week.  I loved listening to the sound that the waves made as they crashed on the beach.  It is a soothing sound and a great place to take a nap.  It reminds me of the words of poem/song Eli, Eli:


This is my first blog Elul for 5777, Looking forward to a good month!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

There is no wrong way to pray at OSRUI with guest editor, Brian Avner

Our Beit T'filah
From my time at OSRUI:
A beach, a game show and a song parody; what do they all have in common?   Can you imagine that the answer is t’filot, services, t’filot (clap)?  In Kibbutz HaTzofim Gimmel at OSRUI the answer is YES.  We have been given the golden opportunity to be as creative as possible as we plan daily t’filot with both campers and counselors.  


Each evening, one group of campers is asked to lead t’filot for the rest of Tzofim.  In preparation, they meet with a member of the faculty and their counselors to plan their service in their own, unique way. They are given different ways to personalize their t’filah.  They can pick an opening and closing song and what exact melody they want for any prayer from Barechu to Oseh Shalom.  We are always impressed that since we pray together twice daily, they know exactly which melody they want for each prayer or song.  


The other night, Tzofim had t’filot at the beach.  The impetus for doing t’filot there was that the va’ad (group) that was leading really enjoyed spending time at the beach and knew that being able to sit at the water and watch the sky over the lake could make for a truly spiritual experience.


Preparing for T'filah!
Another recent service was done in the style of a game show.  Instead of just introducing the prayers, the campers leading the service prepared trivia questions to ask the rest of Tzofim to teach them about the prayers as we went along.  Campers were engaged throughout the service and excited to play the game while they prayed.
At the Beach!


Campers always look forward to Shabbat at OSRUI. The are excited to join our procession with the Torah, the story we tell on Tzofim hill, and joining with the entire camp for Shabbat Shira. On Shabbat morning, after reading Torah, instead of a giving a traditional d’rash, we learn about the Torah portion through a song parody.  This past week we learned about Moses not being able to enter Israel and the daughters of Zelophechad fighting for early women’s rights in the Torah to the tune of the song Rude by Magic.


Looking ahead, other t’filot experiences this session will include:  Dodge Ball, Apples to Apples, Visual Arts and T’fifloat (at the pool). Come visit us in Tzofim Gimmel; we can’t wait to pray with you!

Segel from Tzofim:  Brian Avner, Director of Youth Education at Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Vanessa M. Ehrlich, Director of Lifelong Learning at Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park, Illinois.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Celebrating with Kallah and Kallah, Bride and Bride

Celebrating Bride and Bride
Every morning we read in the siddur "Eilu D'varim; these are the things we can do without measure” and one of them is to provide for the bride. This weekend I rejoiced with Bride and Bride and as a Jewish educator my heart was full to the brim from this wedding.  One bride, Becky has been a friend for over 25 years from Solomon Schechter Day School. I’ve known her since she was only 5 when she was in Kindergarten with my daughter. She also went to OSRUI and Deerfield High School her. Now many years later, since meeting her bashert Erin on JDate, they both live in Cleveland. As one grandma described them, they are most certainly a power couple. Becky is studying towards her PhD Biomedical Engineering and Erin is just completing her Residency as a Medical Doctor.


OSRUI Chevre
15 years ago this couple would have had a hard time finding a Rabbi or a Cantor to marry them and certainly not from the Conservative movement.  Reform clergy has sanctioned same sex marriages since 1996 and the Conservative clergy got on the bandwagon in 2006. And they were right to -- if anything, Becky and Erin are the model of an active and involved Jewish couple. Becky and Erin belong to an traditional independent minyan in Cleveland Heights, Beth-el, the Heights Synagogue.  

Shabbat morning we celebrated a traditional Auf Ruf with their community.  One bride read from the Torah and both of them had an aliyah. Many people participated in the service including their parents, siblings and one Grandmother gave a beautiful D'var Torah on Parshat HaShavua, Chukat. In this portion there is one short mention of the death of Miriam, Moses' sister and the d'var reminded us of the importance of women in not only Moses' life but in the Children of Israel's lives. Miriam and the midwives had saved Moses’ life when he was a baby and floating in the Nile and found water for all of the Children of Israel. Seeing Becky and Erin and their community at the minyan was just as rejuvenating to me as Miriam’s water.  

Erin's Kabbalat Panim
Becky's Tisch


Tisch
The wedding on Sunday afternoon started with a Kabbalat Panim and a Tisch. At the Kabbalat panim we welcomed Erin as a bride and at the Tisch we studied Torah with Becky. These pictures explain some of the traditional elements Becky and Erin carefully planned into their wedding.  
Kabbalat Panim
It was important to Becky and Erin to include many of the  traditional elements in their ceremony: writing their own Ketubah, circling by one of the brides seven times and breaking  the wedding glass at the end of the ceremony.


Together I know Becky and Erin will make the world  a better place to live and as Jews they will welcome everyone into their community. As I teach students of all ages and show pictures and tell stories of this wedding I hope that someone will be moved to either open their eyes or say "Hey, there's a couple just like me."


#itsaschurthing
#mybiggayjewishweddng

Monday, June 26, 2017

Google translate, a trip to McDonalds for ICE CREAM and a drive along Lake Shore Drive!

Guest Post from Lisa Fisher about our Refugees:

As I drove to visit Makandja and Bobasha yesterday, I had a plan mapped out in my head. I 
would walk with them to the library, in hopes of sharing not only a place to retreat in insufferably hot summer days, but a place to get books, music, DVD’s once they have their documents in place. I envisioned picking up where Marcie left off, working on “W” words, “Who, What, Why and Where”  Once I arrived I immediately sensed that although appearing settled in, perhaps Bobasha was feeling alone. I practiced one of the “W” words…  “ Where is Makandja?”  Bobasha responded, “Makandja.” 
 Makandja was most likely with his friends in Rogers Park.  My so called plan would have to wait for another day.  I had stopped at the Jewel and bought a bucket of fried chicken, corn tortillas, salsa, eggs ,butter ,cherries, mango juice, lactaid milk, and few soft drinks. As I unpacked the groceries, Bobasha was glued to his smartphone ( actually his friend Ruti’s phone), watching a soccer match streamed live.  I so wish we could have translator for our visits, because once he put down his phone, we were passing my phone back and forth trying to communicate. 

  I now understand why people say,” Google Translate?  it’s not always reliable…”    At one point I asked, Bobasha, “what do you want to study?” Bobasha’s translated message came back, “ I give you a shale and I am Bozena”. After talking about Ruti working at O’hare,  his response to my question about what kind of job he hopes to find, “Any popular world promises promise.”  I can only imagine what was going on at his end from my English to Swahili…As I explained fried chicken being an American favorite, I was also explaining the mix of ethnic foods we as Americans love. Salsa for example, and tortilla’s, being Mexican food.  I don’t know how much he was able to take in from that little lesson on American food, but I do know he was hungry, considering how quickly he wolfed down two pieces of chicken, ( which he dipped in Salsa ), followed by four soft pan friend corn tortillas dipped in more  salsa.  

 Every time I asked, “ where is Makandja?”  Bobasha repeated, “Makandja”.   I had also purchased  a few cans of both ginger ale and coke. Bobasha had no interest in the Mango Juice. He requested, “Coka”   We walked to Hollywood park at the end of the block. There was a group playing basket ball.  In a different section were families with small kids on swings. Bobasha motioned that he wanted to sit in the park, which we did, still passing the phone back and forth relying on Google translate as our only way, “ I miss my brother and my baby” came through clearly. One can only imagine how shocking it is to suddenly be transported to such a different strange new place, where you’ve always heard there is opportunity and hope and yet everything and everyone is an alien.  He looked toward the structure that housed two bathrooms and asked what they were. I explained and he said, “ I go”. Unfortunately they were locked. Lucky for us, across the street from the park stands a Mc Donalds.  After using the facilities, 


First time having soft serve from McDonald's
Bobasha was intrigued by the strange white whipped turrets served in cones.  I asked if he’d like to try one. He did and I don’t know if  Lumba lumba means it tastes good or that that’s the name for a soft serve ice-cream cone. He finished it with a smile. As we walked back I said, “lets see if you can find your way back, and then you will always know how to get here if you like.” He did it with ease, and asked to sit in the park again, which we did.  After realizing that he was probably lonely not knowing what to do by himself, for the rest of the day,  I decided to show him Chicago by way of Lake Shore Drive. Obviously I couldn’t use Google translate while driving and so there was just a lot of pointing and naming of landmarks:  Lake Michigan,  Lake Shore Drive, Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, Hancock Building, Oak Street Beach. He pointed and repeated “boat”.


We made it back by 4:45 and I was relieved to find that Makandja was not only home, but standing over the stove stirring food in a pot.  You might all remember there had been no gas, and no refrigerator until two days ago.  In closing I just want to say that despite the hits and misses with Google Translate, even when there were long stretches of silence while sharing a park bench, we are laying down a foundation of trust and sense of safety in this new adventure for our new friends. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Happily Reunited: Makandja and Bobasha, welcoming our Refugees!





 This week our second refugee, Bobasha, arrived at O’Hare airport on Tuesday afternoon, June 20, National Refugee Day! HIAS and JCFS made sure Bobasha was escorted to the baggage area where we arranged to meet him. There was a group of Lakeside members at the airport as well as a translator who has been working with Makandja. The translator  brought Makandja to the airport to meet his dear friend. Everything went smoothly and we were all able to witness the joy and relief that these two young men experience when they were reunited.
Makandja and Bobasha grew up together as brothers in the refugee camp in Tanzania. Although they are not birth brothers, as Makandja tells it, they ate side by side at the same table, they slept side by side under the same roof, they played together, they went to school and they shared a history that none of us can imagine. Now, they are happy to be together again.

Bobasha will share the apartment with Makandja. He will have the benefit of learning what Makandja has already learned; how to take the bus, how to use food stamps, how to get around the neighborhood, how to find his way to World Relief for English classes and other resources. They will enjoy traveling together to visit friends from home who live in the Rogers Park area and together they will be able to branch out and explore the city.

In spite of the many challenges they face they will have each other to lean on and talk to. Makandja and Bobasha will surely be happier and safer together than apart. If you want to volunteer or get involved with our Social action committee please email me: Educator@lakesidecongregaiton.org.  Join us tonight for Refugee Shabbat, Friday June 23 at 6:00 pm!