Sunday, March 31, 2013

Shabbat Shwalk in the Old City

Our first Shabbat in Jerusalem and we were fortunate to pray with another Reform Congregation, Har-El.  Rabbi Serotta was honored with an aliyah and our B'nai Mitzvah group led the congregation in Motzi.  After that we continued our walking tour of Jerusalem and headed to the Old City.  Gila showed us the map of how Jerusalem considers itself the center of the world; all done in beautiful Armenian tile.

We arrived in the old city through the Jaffa gate and climbed David's tower.  It was a 5 star view of the city.  We also got the feel for the lay out of Jerusalem Old and New.

We saw some sites in the Jewish quarter; it was Shabbat so NO SHOPPING but we did get in the outside of a few Synagogues.  I was amazed to see this synagogue finally built as for many years there was so much infighting I never they would agree on who owned it so that they COULD finish it.  This is it the Hurva Synagogue and click on  the link to find out its history.

I didn't think it was possible but we actually fed  39 people in about 30 minutes or less and had great falafel and hummus.  Yum.

Then it was off the Shuk to see the wares and finally back to our hotel.

Motzie Shabbat after Havdahlah with Rabbi Serotta we went to see the Sound and Light show at David's Tower.  We weren't show what to expect  but we loved it.  Here are just a few pictures to show how they transformed the space with JUST sound and light.

So this was our Shabbat more on the B'nai Mitzvah soon!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Camel Riding and our Ascent to Jerusalem

Abraham welcoming us to his tent.
We left the busy and chaotic boardwalk of Tiberias for the peace and quiet of the  desert just outside of Jerusalem at the Inn of the Good Samaritans.  We met Abraham who welcomed us into his tent and then gave all who wanted them a camel ride.

We also became sheep herders for a few minutes and whatever you have read in the Bible it is not easy.  Also at the Inn of the Good Samaritan we saw more beautiful mosaic tile floors.  It is hard to believe  all of the  ancient ruins we have seen over the past week.  It is isn't easy for us to keep everything straight.

We then went ascended to Jerusalem and stopped for a beautiful view of the city from Mt. Scopus, home of Hebrew University, my alma matter for my Junior year abroad.  The view and the air were spectacular and we then descended upon a very busy Ben Yehuda street for lunch and some shopping.  
I am always so pleased to see Ben Yehuda a  closed street mall that has shops, cafes, street performers and it was so packed during this Pesach break. 

Friday night we were guests of Kol Haneshamah a progressive Reform congregation in Jerusalem.  

We all gathered had dinner together at the Dan Panorma and some of the group left with Rabbi Serotta for an evening visit to the Kotel, the Western Wall.  

Shabbat will bring more time in the Old City and Sunday is our B'nai Mitzvah. More later.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mysteries of Tzefat, Kabbalah and Chol Hamoed Pesach (intermediate Holiday days) Traffic

We left early to explore the mysteries of Tzefat, the city of Kabblah to our north.  We visited with David Friedman, artist and Kabbalah teacher and learned much from him and were able to buy some of our favorite Kabbalah pictures.  We just wish we could bring David back to the States and have other people experience him first hand.

We explored the different ancient synagogues of Tzefat and had our B'nai Mitzvah quad begin practicing for their Sunday B'nai Mitzvah by standing by the Ark and opening the curtain.  There were 3 different Arks in the Abuhav Synagogue with the help of Rabbi Serotta they did just fine.

We were able to find tallitot for our 3 B'not Mitzvah in Tzefat and I know they will have a good memory of where they bought their special tallit.  We enjoyed a kosher for Pesach meal on our own and then we were back on the bus to Tzippori.  Here is our bus driver Avne.  He has gotten us through the tight streets of Tzefat, the holiday traffic and even through into parking lots which are not bigger than a one way street in Jerusalem.  He also supplies us with cold water bottles for only 4 shekels.  Todah Rabah Avne!

As we continued our drive in the Galil, our guide, Gila, told us about the spy Elie Cohen, who was a Jew from Egypt and in the early 1960's infiltrated the Syrian army and had them plant eucalyptus trees by all of their bunkers and army bases to give their soldiers shade.  The Israelis were able to tell identify bunkers and army bases and captured the Golan Heights during the 1967 6 Day War. For more info on Eli Cohen, read, "Our Man in Damascus" by Eli Ben Hanan.

After Tzefat we made our way to Tzipori which is an archeological site with beautiful mosaics, Roman ruins and what might be the house of Yehudah HaNasi, author of the Mishnah.

The mosaics found here are so ornate it is hard to believe they are from the Byzantine period.
Some of the kids decided to stand on the Roman stage and theater we found at Tzipori.  On to Jerusalem, camel riding and more tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

From Tel Aviv to Atalit to Tiberias in One Day

Site of Rabin Assassination in 1994

We began the day early with our first stop at Kikar Rabin, Rabin Square, where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1994.  It was renamed a year later and  is the site of many rallies and parades still to this day.  We then made an important stop at the Independence Hall where David Ben Gurion declared  Israel's independence on Friday May 14, 1948.  We had an animated guide, Tali who taught the history of the building, Meir Dizengoff's first Mayor of Tel Aviv's house turned Art Museum turned historical site.
The State Is Born
Friday, May 14, 1948, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. At 4 p.m. - eight hours before the termination of the British Mandate in what was then Palestine - the members of the People's Council and Executive and invited leaders gathered in the museum hall. They listened with emotion as David Ben-Gurion, head of the People's Council, the Zionist Executive and the Jewish Agency, declared the creation of the State of Israel.
After the reading of the declaration of independence, Rabbi Fishman-Maimon recited the Sheheheyanu (a Jewish blessing of thanksgiving) and members of the People's Council and Executive signed the scroll. The ceremony concluded with the singing of "Hatikva."

The WHOLE group outside the Hall of Independence

Our soldier guid
Our next stop was the Palmach Museum which again gave us the history of the  first organized fighting force of pre-state Israel.  It is an experience where we saw a multi media presentation which also told us the story of the War of Independence.  It is not told through pictures or displays but through the account  of a fictional group of young people in the Palmach, through the displays and visual effects.  I am always hit hard at the end of the tour with Natan Alterman's poem: On A Silver Platter which was based on a quote attributed to Chaim Weizman,  "The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter," Ha'aretz newspaper ran this story on December 15, 1947, soon after the UN decision to partition Palestine.

Here are the words to that poem:

The Silver Platter: Natan Alterman

And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky  slowly dimming over smoking frontiers

As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle

As the ceremony draws near,  it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy

When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation

Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly

To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death 

Then a nation in tears and amazement
will ask: "Who are you?"
And they will answer quietly, "We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given."

Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel

We continued up the coast to Atlit and visited this living museum to the pre-state illegal immigrants to Israel.  They had replicas of the barracks, the boats and our last multi media presentation of the day. 
Today the Atlit Detainee Camp is a museum dedicated to the pre-state illegal immigration, telling the story of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe, finaly reaching Palestine, only to be incarcerated in camps similar in appearance to the death camps they have just escaped.

We had so much Jewish history I was temped to give a test at the end of the day.  We ended our day in Tiberias and off to Tzefat in the Boker.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Seder in Tel Aviv, Neve Tzedek and Old Yaffo

Singing the 4 Questions at the Dan Panorama
 in Israel

We made it and celebrated Seder with about 400 other people.  It was led by a Hazon (Cantor) with a choir of about 6 young men who sang beautifully throughout the seder.  All of our students went up and sang the 4 questions as you can see.  We were all so proud.

The Seder had many different tunes and most of us had just arrived so it was not easy staying up for the entire time.  Rabbi Serotta did gather us together at Seder to give a blessing reminding us that we had arrived and were traveling together in Israel.

All of us made it to the buffet dinner which was scrumptious with salads, carved meats, hot vegetables and so many dishes that can't be described.
And the winner is...

Some of us did not make it to all 4 cups of wine but  enjoyed the music and new experience of a Seder in Israel.  And you will never guess who stole the Afikomen and ransomed it back to the Leader of the Seder so the Seder could continue?  Yes it was  Max and look what he got as a present: an Israeli Tablet! Good job Max.

When we sang Next year in Jerusalem at the conclusion of the Seder it takes on a new meaning although we were not in Jerusalem we were pretty close.  We miss our families but at the same time glad to be with our Lakeside family!

This morning we took it easy and indulged at our breakfast buffet. There was no bread, or cereal but we had plenty to eat with cheeses, fish, homemade jelly, eggs, and of course matzah, matzah brei and Pesach cakes which were quite good.

In the afternoon we did a walking tour in Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv.   Here is a short explanation of what we saw: Neve tzedek (Oasis of Justice) is actually the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv. This neighborhood was founded in 1887 by Aharon Shlush, 22 years before Tel Aviv was founded. Shlush was a successful businessman who wanted to escape the crowded living quarters of Jaffa, and founded this neighborhood. Later, Neve tzedek was connected to Achuzat Bayit to form baby Tel Aviv. Many of the neighborhoods turn of the century houses can still be seen.

After Neve Tzedek we took a a look at the diverse community of Yaffo, old Jaffe.
 Our tour guides, one a Palestinian and one an Israeli from a program sponsored by the Reform community of Beit Daniel gave us the history of the area from both viewpoints and our group had many questions.  After a night on our own we are ready for tomorrow when we hit the rest of Tel Aviv and head north to Tiberias, Tzfat and the Gailil.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

OSRUI Lucky to have Ohad Sha'altiel

Part of a trip to Tel Aviv should be a visit to Ohad Sha'altiel artist, teacher, creative genius and Artist in Residence at OSRUI during the summer primarily with our eidah, unit, Tiferet but he works with the whole camp.  This visit I was privileged to see not only see Ohad at work but his latest exhibition.  Ohad has always brought a high level of art appreciation to OSRUI.

After seeing his art displayed at the Zadik Gallery I begin to appreciate even more what Ohad brings to OSRUI.  Our Tiferet Campers who come back year after year realize that Ohad can inspire them to become a real artist.  At the end of every session Ohad displays their work in a mini exhibition and the final products always blow me away.  Ohad can take raw talent develop it, shape it and present it in a professional manner for campers of any age.

In Zadik Gallery in Jaffa
16 Shimon HaZadik st., 68024 Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Here are some of Ohad's exhibition pictures from his exhibition Burnt Woods, where Ohad drew inspiration from the Keren Kayemet Forests of Carmel near his home of Ein Hod, where the fires burned so violently a few years ago.

I have always enjoyed Ohad's art and seeing it displayed in this Gallery in Jaffa made me realize how lucky we are to have a such talent at camp.  Ohad has been at camp for over 20 years and I look forward to the next 20.  Todah Ohad, Margalit, Tome and Naomi for bringing a little piece of Israel to OSRUI every summer.

Chag Samaech all from Israel.  Can't wait for Lakeside to get here tomorrow!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Breaking the Glass at a Wedding and Birkat Hamazon with EIE

Omer and Zahava
Part of the reason I came to Israel, besides visiting Ethan on EIE and helping to lead a trip to Israel with my congregation, Lakeside, was to attend the wedding of my cousin Omer and his new Kallah, Zahava.  What a lovely evening from the chupah outside, delicious food and a gathering of friends and family.  The venue was beautiful and could easily hold the over 400 guests in attendance.  There were similarities of course to Jewish weddings in the States: the 7 brachot, exchanging of a ring and of course breaking the glass.

What I liked best was at the end of the wedding just before Omer broke the glass he said:  "If I forget thee Oh Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue stick to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my greatest joy" (Psalm 137).
Under the Chupah
I googled and found out that: "With the sound of shattering glass at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, generations of Jews were reminded that Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people were in exile." I was in Israel and Omer, not an observant Jew declared the centrality of Jerusalem.  I loved that minhag (custom) and would love that to our family minhag.  Omer is the first of the next generation to get married followed by two more cousins this summer in the States.  

Ready for Pesach in Machane Yehudah
By the next day Ethan and I were back in Jerusalem exploring Machane Yehudah, exploring the Market and buying some treats.  I was reminded again and again that Pesach is coming and some of the vendors had already changed their wares in anticipation of Pesach which will be here next Monday night.  We enjoyed fresh pomegranate, garinim, (sunflower and pumpkin seeds) and halavah.  We enjoyed warm weather and I know that although it is spring back in the states it has been cold and snowy.  

Leading Birkat Hamazon
As EIE parents and students came together for the final banquet, I was proud to see Ethan and his chevre lead Birkat Hamazon, grace after meals.  We also find in this prayer: May God rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, speedily in our lifetime. Blessed is God, who restores Jerusalem with mercy. Amen.
 Again we mention our connection to Jerusalem and Israel in this prayer just as I had heard at the wedding the previous night.

I was glad to have spent a few days with Ethan and see what he is learning and doing.  To see the students fully immersed in all things Jewish and all things Israel.  After this banquet all of the students and madrichim on EIE were moving to a youth hostel in Jerusalem so that the kibbutz could kasher for Pesach.  There is no way to escape that this holiday is fast approaching.  To live and breathe Judaism has always been very meaningful to me and to watch all the EIE students doing this warms my heart as an educator but more importantly as a Mom.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

I love Jewish History!

David Alon, just one of many Jewish History teachers on EIE
I have had the pleasure of sitting in David Alon's Jewish history class in EIE at Tzuba for the past two days.  As David told the class of 22 students that due to scheduling he was spending two days on the Middle Ages from the Golden Age of Spain, including the poet Yehuda HaLevi, Shmuel Nagid and the physician philosopher Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon or the Rambam.  I forgot how much I love to sit in class and learn.  The  students did a great job of taking notes, paying attention and participating in a good discussion.

Just a few of the chevre from EIE
David's first question for discussion was David Ben Gurion's radical quote "the history of Israel stops at 70 CE and begins again in l948"  The students quickly grasped that if this were really true we would not be studying any of the Rabbinic Judaism which is of course a part of their curriculum.
 David incorporated songs from these  great poets which are still sung today by different popular Israeli artists.  Some of the Piyutim, liturgical poems, that you might be familiar with include: L'cha Dodi and Adom Olam.
Jewish history is a 3 hour class every day and tomorrow we go to the Israel Museum and learn as we walk through the museum together.

This is my second child on EIE and I believe as a Jewish educator that this experience is so important  for them.  Yesterday as they discussed Halacha, Jewish law and what it means to follow Jewish law I had the chance to tell them as Reform Jews they need to know Halacha so they can decide for themselves what to do and what to follow.  I looked at them and told them they are future Jewish leaders from each of the communities from which they are a part back in North America.

Baruch Kraus at work preparing for a lecture on Franz Rosenzweig  

Special Todah Rabah to Baruch Kraus, who is the head of EIE.  I hope to post more pictures of the other hard working faculty who make sure that all students are learning and loving to  live in Israel!

I love spending time with my son, Ethan meeting his friends and seeing the community that exists on EIE.  I am proud to see this high level of education for our Reform Jewish high school students and I look forward to seeing where these students will be in 10 years.  I will  I hope to call some of them colleagues, so here is to the HUC Classes of Mid 2020's.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Arriving in Israel

It begins when you are standing in the security line to board your plane for Israel.  2 young Israelis ask the couple in front of me if this is their first time in Israel.  They reply yes it is, and the Israelis proceed to tell them that they will have a wonderful time in touring and seeing the sites while they are here in Israel.  I don't think that happens in every airport line, never mind in every security line.

Writing my blog looking out at the Judean Hills
After my flight I arrive at Kibbutz Tzuba, to visit Ethan, my youngest son, who is studying on Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE).  Ethan is studying, traveling and experiencing Israel with 84 other students from all over the United States.  He is finishing his Junior year of High School and taking his classes in English as well as an additional 3 hours of Hebrew and 3 hours of Jewish History.  I will post some of his remarks later as I would not do him or his experiences here justice.

Yesterday during morning T'filot, services, just as we were in the middle of praying the Amidah, standing prayer, we could clearly hear the call of the Muezzin, the cleric at a Mosque charged to call everyone to pray.   It is is unusual to hear the Arabic call to pray as you pray in Hebrew, but a beautiful part of being in Israel.

Last night after Havdahlah we went into Jerusalem and had a nosh with friends and visited Mamila Mall.  It is in outdoor mall which is very close to the Old City of Jerusalem.  I think the parents and students had a good time shopping.
Ethan at Tzuba

Today with many of the parents visiting Masada I will be in Jewish history class with Ethan.  I have been known to not keep quiet during these visits but will be on good behavior.

It rained this morning, I guess my prayers in the Amidah yesterday when we all prayed for rain came true.  The sun is coming out and it should be a wonderful day.

One last story well, for today.  On the cab ride here after the driver asked (in Hebrew of course) if I knew the way to Tzuba, which I do not; he asked where I was from.  I mentioned that I live near Chicago.  (It's easier than saying Deerfield) He told me there are many people here  from Chicago. I am not sure if he meant Jerusalem or Israel but I responded immediately, yes there were many people here from Chicago including Barak Obama.  He smiled and said, "B'emet" (really?) and I told him B'emet that Obama lived in Chicago and had been my Senator before he was President.  My cabbie thought that was very funny...or maybe it was my Hebrew.  We will never know.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NATE? What's NATE or Who's NATE and what's his last name?

Membership Team hard at work.
I have been a member of NATE, the National Association of Temple Educators, for over 25 years.  This week the leadership is gathering in Chicago to plan, purpose, and project for the upcoming year, 5773-5774 (2013-2014).  I am constantly amazed at the creativity, dedication and time all our tireless volunteers dedicate to our professional organization.

NATE's leadership is composed of Governance which is our Board of Directors and the Operations Team which propels the logistics and actual programs of the organization forward.  I have had the pleasure of being the Co-Chair of the Operations Team for the past 5 years with Lori Daitch  and before that Debbie Niederman and Lisa Lieberman Barzilai and we have watched NATE develop and bring to maturation 5 Operations Teams which include Advocacy,  Finance, Membership, Communications and Professional Learning.  Each of these teams work on different aspects of our organization to insure that our programs and logistics are always top notch and on the cutting edge of the educational world.
Cantor Wolman

We meet over 4 days, 2 days with Operations and then Board and Operations together, and 2 days with the Board.  We had t'filot Monday with Rabbi Karyn Kedar and Cantor Ross Wolman at B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim and Tuesday with Rabbi Lisa Levenberg and Educator Cory Hermann.

Rabbi Kedar with our
Executive Director Rabbi Stan Schickler
and Rabbi Laura Novak Winer
We spent a full day working in committees on topics including brainstorming new ideas for our Professional Learning conferences, new fundraising concepts, ways to attract and retain members and in communication our new email, NATENOW which should come out in the next month.

We pray, meet, brainstorm, study and plan together how to make Jewish education better in our own congregations and institutions and all of our members' institutions.  I am proud to be a part of this dynamic group and have been privileged to be a part of the leadership and look forward to the future.  I am excited to see where NATE will take us and what adventures we have in our future.

See you in Chicago next year!


Friday, March 8, 2013

FAQ's for new bloggers:

 How often do you blog?

Sounds simple enough to answer but the answer is more nuanced then the question.  I believe I should blog enough that people stay interested but not too much that I am a pest.  As Shabbat approaches the best thing  for me is that there is no blogging on Shabbat and holidays.  So I am racing the clock to finish Shabbat dinner, blog a bit and then turn off, unplug and just rest and enjoy Shabbat.  I love Shabbat and not having the pressure to respond to everything electronic immediately is a real blessing.

Chader Ochel, Dining Hall, Chader Ochel, (Clap)
ready for Shabbat

Can you ever have too many pictures in a blog?

Again I am going to say people love the pictures and as I am leaving for Israel next week I know there are many, many pictures in my future.

How do you bring other people into your blog?

First, thank you to everyone for all of your the kind words as you have encouraged me on this journey. It is fun to see the comments!

 When a teacher has inspired you and mentored you it always important to not only thank them but to acknowledge them publicly.  As we go into the last Shabbat of Adar and we approach the month of Nisan I want to thank Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, (Rabbi Phyllis's blog) and Deborah Stern Harris,(Debbie's blog) for their teaching all things tech and social media to me.  You have been my mentors and inspiration and I can't thank you enough, especially for answering all my questions with grace and patience.

On to dinner.  Shabbat Shalom,  See you on the other side.

And let me just say it would have been MUCH easier putting in these pictures AND their blogs if Rabbi Phyllis and Debbie were sitting with me....but I know they are proud that I did it on my own)

Belated Announcement: Todah Rabah to Daniel Shore for helping brainstorm the name of the blog!