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!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Running into Summer: 2017

Many people ask me what I do over the summer.  Do I have vacation all summer?  No, how would Lakeside get all the books, curriculum, calendars and even pencils get put into place if not but over the summer.  We don't have Religious school or Hebrew school but we do have students who are tutored over the summer as they prepare for B'nai Mitzvah.  Of course we have weekly outdoor and special themed Friday Night Shabbat T'filot and Shabbat morning Bible study. 

This year I started off the summer season by attending the American Jewish Committee's Global Forum.  This year it was held in Washington D.C. and this is what the AJC does:

The AJC Global Forum is AJC’s annual policy and advocacy conference. The program includes a mixture of large plenary sessions featuring headline speakers and smaller breakout sessions designed to explore the key political, strategic, and social concerns affecting the future of world Jewry. At this unique gathering you will not only experience what it means to be part of a global people, but also engage in meaningful advocacy to advance the well-being of the Jewish community.

We heard many different speakers from Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed and many other speakers.  There were videos from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to winners of different awards of courage and unity.  I studied about Black-Jewish relations, Israel: BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) and how to handle that on the college campus.  The conference was interesting and appealed to different types of learning with videos, speakers and smaller lectures.  Next year their conference will be in Jerusalem for a celebration of Israel's 70 Birthday.  

Today I went to OSRUI for the day during staff training week.  I worked with our madrichim, counselors to help them lead our Limudim, educational programs and Hebrew.  I am passionate about working with campers over the summer and am inspired by our madrichim's dedication to camp and our campers. 


Before I leave for camp I look forward to working on our upcoming year of programs and school at Lakeside.  Any new ideas give me a call.  I know we will have some surprises for you when school opens on Sunday September 10!  Enjoy your summer and come and visit us!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Has it only been one week since Makandja arrived in Chicago?



How can it be only a week since Makandja arrived?  There is so much to report and if you missed Makanja's welcome you can read it here

One of the most encouraging facts to report is that Makandja has friends from the refugee camp in Tanzania who are now in Chicago and who have been here four or five months already. Makanja and his friends were extremely happy to be connected to each other by the translator from JCFS (Jewish Child and Family Services). These friends will be great company and help to Makanja as he navigates his way through our complicated public transit system, food stamps and learning new language skills. 


Studying English with a snack.

There has  been a visit from his case manager at JCFS who brings a translator with her. Her name is Barbara and she will help Makandja to enroll in an English as a second language class (ESL) as well as help to get him food stamps, a medical check up, bus pass and other support necessities. Barbara is a social worker and is well trained to monitor Makandja, and to take responsibility for things we are not trained to do.


We have a core committee of volunteers in place and when Makandja's schedule is set for classes and he has done the things he needs to do to get food stamps etc, we will begin to look for more volunteers who may be interested in joining this core group of volunteers to perhaps become substitutes, alternates, or volunteer partners. 


This week Makandja had a Saturday visit from Jackie Cohen, her husband, Gary and Susan Gottlieb. They taught him how to use his microwave and his hot plate. They brought a runner that will protect his cabinet from the hot plate and toaster oven. They were happy to make this first important visit and to meet some of Makanja's friends from the camp in Tanzania.  They reported that the friends were nice, and that they were making great strides in learning English. 
At the French pastry shop in the neighborhood,
from the Left: Makanja, Barbara, Marcie, Ruti and Lisa


On Tuesday, May 30, Lisa Fisher and Marci Bearman visited Makandja and reviewed the use of appliances. We taught Makanja to use his appliances by supervising as Makanja  cooked the food himself. 


Then Makandja and his friend Ruti worked with us as we taught lessons about the names and values of currency and how to make change, as well as basic language phrases such as "may I have the book" and "I would like to buy water."
We all had lots of laughs and fun with us trying to use google translate and to speak Swahili,  while they tried to use their new English skills.   

We visited local markets, and stopped in for tea, coffee and drinks at a French coffee shop where two amazing women work. Makanja and his friend Ruti speak French as well as Swahili and these woman offered their support, friendship, and their help in case of an emergency.

Then we drove the boys to a grocery store that was better stocked than the neighborhood stores and took a longer walk around Makandja's neighborhood exploring parks and meeting a pastor at a church down the street. We taught Makanja how to look for addresses on buildings as we walked past them, how to read the names on street signs and the meaning of a few traffic signs.


Then, we went back to the apartment where Lisa made more delicious food and with Ruti's help; Marcie addressed an envelope to Makandja's camp in Tanzania and showed him where to put the Universal Forever World Wide Stamp on the envelope. Then we waited while Makanja wrote a long letter home which I took to the post office and mailed this morning. 


Makanja knows how to read and write very well in both French and Swahili and he is an earnest student. I am certain he will make fast progress not only in learning English, but in learning how to conduct himself and share the gifts which are his;  a smiling, friendly personality, which he balances with a serious and sensitive disposition. He is an exceptional young man. 

Exploring the neighborhood 

He has friends from home, and will make many new friends in his neighborhood, but I hope we can find a way to bring Makandja into all of our lives. We are hoping to have a picnic in the park near where he lives this summer with soccer or football as they refer to it and we will let you know the time and place.

But first, the basics necessities need to be taken care of for Makandja,  and we at Lakeside will need to wait to establish a steady schedule of volunteers. Please let Marcie  and Lisa know if you have free days, and what your free days are if you are interested in working with Makanja. If you want to be a volunteer and work with a partner you must fill out a background check from HIAS.  Please email Vanessa: Educator@lakesidecongregation.org and she will send you the forms.


Makandja could use a friend closer to his age to play soccer with, or a friend to take an adventure by bus or train to somewhere in the city that he would not know of or be comfortable traveling to alone. The possibilities are endless especially once he is more settled. 


We will be happy to share the experience with you with our updates as they come out.  An early Shabbat Shalom and we hope you had a Happy Shavuot.  


Marcie Bearman  and Lisa Fisher

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The long wait is over! A fruitful new chapter has begun; Welcome Makanja

Waiting to welcome Makanja
Last night, Wednesday May 24 Lakeside Congregation welcomed the stranger as Makanja arrived from the Congo.  As a congregation we will be supporting Makanja as he learns to live in Chicago.  

Here is a guest post from Marcie Bearman who was the airport as part of the welcoming committee.  Special thanks to the committee and our members who went to O'hare to welcome Makanja. Thanks to the Bagdade's for taking these pictures!  If you want to volunteer feel free to email me at Educator@lakesidecongregation.org  At this time we are looking for a simple flat screen TV for Makanja's apartment.

We will keep you updated as Makanja experiences Chicago and we welcome him.  

Guest Post by Marcie Bearman

Makanja arrived!
A group of us waited with signs and much excitement at the baggage carousel area where Makanja was expected until the last bag, Makanja's bag, stood alone.


Makanja had still not found his way to the baggage area and we began to worry in earnest.
And then he came towards us escorted by a few from our group  who found him near an entrance to the baggage area. The  TSA was trying to help him but there was no language that allowed understanding. Then Makanja saw a sign with his name on it and was released to Lakeside members who brought him to the larger group. 
Makanja

Makanja was clearly exhausted but managed to smile, shake hands and thank each one of us with extreme sincerity. He is a small, thin young man with a  kind face. We all felt an immediate bond and  the desire to help this man gain back his strength and find independence, safety and happiness. 

Our job lies ahead of us, but I do not think there was one person  at the airport tonight who was not willing to meet the challenge. I feel certain that this evening will never be forgotten by Makanja, or any of us.

    Marcie Bearman