Reflections on Rosh Hodesh Sivan with Women of the Wall, 5773 – 2013
Throughout the year I have studied here in Jerusalem, I have learned that the Wall has its own identity crisis. It is part of a larger structure that was built and carried, lost, built again and then destroyed, and built again, and built over again and destroyed again. There are more stages in between of deeper and deeper details. The figurative symbol of complete purity, it was more often an embodiment of utter corruption. The man who inspired the design of the particular Wall before which we stand today was a gifted, paranoid maniac, maddened by grief and riches and conflicting loyalties. The Temple itself, and the Wall it became, changed owners and took on ideologies of shocking variance over the centuries. And yet here it still stands, a testament to physical stability, containing all of its tumultuous history behind the serenity of its stones.
On the first Shabbat I was in Jerusalem, I walked with a group of very new friends into the Old City for the first time. I knew nothing about it except that it was the last of the Temple, a remnant of a Judaism from long ago, one with which I had trouble relating, but that it was “supposed to”, maybe, inspire a surge of feeling within me. Perhaps a feeling of closeness to the Divine? Perhaps an intense unification with the Jewish people? Perhaps bafflement or even, perhaps nothing? I was curious, and determined not to judge whatever feeling arose. Continue reading →
This time of year in Israel, you can’t really go a week without a holiday. This week we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim – the day that celebrates the unification of Jerusalem after the 1967 war. One year ago on this day I announced to my students and school community that I would be leaving Chicago to pursue my dream of aliyah. This is what I told them:
Yom Yerushalayim 2012/ 5772
Following the 1948 War of Independence, Jerusalem was divided. The Western half of the New City became part of the newly formed state of Israel, while the eastern half, along with the Old City, was annexed by Jordan. During this time period, many ancient synagogues, libraries and centers of religious study in the Old City of Jerusalem were ransacked or were totally and deliberately destroyed. For the next 20 years, Jews were denied access to Old City and no Jews prayed at the Kotel.
In early June, 1967, East Jerusalem was captured by the Israel Defense Forces during the Six Day War. Jews all over the world celebrated the event as the liberation of the city, Jerusalem was once again unified. Today we commemorate this day, dubbed: Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day , to celebrate this momentous victory. Continue reading →
This week, in Israel, has been particularly focused on the costs of establishing an idealist state in a previously inhabited plot of land. I’m not trying to dig too deep into the politics of it; rather I’m interested in the idea of the prices we pay to live where we do.
After all Carlos Arredondo, brought back into the public eye by the current tragedies in Boston, has paid high prices. It is not an infrequent thing, the terrible burdens families bear on their backs for their communities, for their countries.
This past Sunday, at my Yeshiva, we had a panel of faculty speaking about their personal Israel narratives. They spoke as individuals and then in a dialogue. In light of today’s theme, I’d like to highlight what Leah Rosenthal said. Continue reading →
Lisa Narodick Colton (Year '99-'00) reflects upon the impact of a recent trip to Israel with her son.
I was 21 years old when I first came to Israel. A summer in Tzvat begged more questions than it answered, and I returned for 15 months in Jerusalem (including Pardes) to fill in the openings.
This Pesach I brought my 8 year old son to Israel for the first time. I’ve known since before I had children that I wanted them to have an intimate and informed relationship with Israel embedded in their Jewish identity from an early age. And while I have dreamed of coming back to Israel for years, it was hard to choose the age and time and itinerary that would achieve this effect. Continue reading →
There is a little girl in a photograph
A fair-haired, sweet-faced thing
Her arms wrapped around the neck of a man
with dark, calm eyes and the inquisitive sniffing nose of a true Jew
I know that this girl in her red shirt and black velvet dress,
whose earliest memory is the sound of shouting,
Will pick up the phone and cry and cry and cry
Because she believes with a perfect faith
that her father loves her
And fathers that love their daughters
Do not cancel a visit because it looks like rain
That one day soon this little girl will all but say to her mother
“He doesn’t deserve me”
And I am angry, on behalf of this little girl
This trusting, loving child who
even when she forgets what he looks like
Even when she meets the man with a soccer ball
who laughs with her and loves her and tells her horrible jokes
and thinks that she’s one-sixth of the entire world
Will carry with her the sure certainty
That one too many faults
One too many flaws
(And even one is too many)
And she will be left alone again
Crying, crying, crying into empty air
Posted by Carrie Bornstein (Year '06)
on the Mayyim Hayyim blog:
My five-year old has been asking for a while if she can go swimming where I work. She loves Mayyim Hayyim, which is probably not entirely unrelated to the never-ending supply of animal crackers and pretzels. In the past few months her requests have gotten more frequent. So I engaged her in the conversation.
“It’s not really swimming, you know, like in the summer, just for fun. Usually there’s a reason that people come – like a big deal thing that’s going on in a person’s life that they want to mark in some way.”
“I know,” she said immediately. “I can go because we’re having a new baby!”
Well, look at that, I thought. She gets it. I let her know that, in fact, lots of people immerse when they’re expecting a baby, and that becoming a big sister for the second time, or a “double big sister” as we call it, is a really big deal.
The two of us visited a few weeks ago. On the ride there I explained a little more Continue reading →
Throughout Pesach my mind has been overflowing with questions, thoughts and new insights. As I ponder what to share with you, I recall one tradition which gets my mind thinking every year.
After the birkat hamazon (grace after meals) a cup set aside for the prophet Elijah is poured and we open the door for him.
When I was younger I vividly recall simultaneously believing that Elijah would be in a physical form standing at the door and I remember staring at Elijah’s cup, imagining an immaterial being drinking from it. The forms of his existence as well as these traditions were an enigma to me at the time and continue to draw my attention.
This tradition is fraught with possible meanings, some of which are as follows: Continue reading →
Sometimes, a simple touch can make all the difference.
Hugging one of my best friends.
In the Jewish world, some girls don’t touch boys. Some girls touch some boys. Some girls touch only one boy, and everyone hugs their mother. As a part of this world, I have become especially attuned to the presence and absence of human touch.
In high school, I thought nothing of it. I hugged my friends (girls and guys) and high-fived with abandon. The one time I was asked to go out of my comfort zone was when playing Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank. Every knows about Anne and Peter, and my director had the specific idea that the kiss had to be long – very long. Continue reading →
Sydni Adler (Year ’13) and Ben Gurin (Year ’13) met during the Summer of ’10 in Washington DC, as participants on the Mechon Kaplan program of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Together with their cohort, they took classes on Social Justice and Judaism, and each interned for an NGO; Sydni worked on campaign finance reform at ‘Common Cause‘, and Ben worked at ‘Jewish Funds for Justice‘. Over the course of that summer, the two of them gradually became best friends, as they found themselves constantly gravitating towards one another.
Unfortunately, the young duo had a geographic problem: Ben was a Midwesterner, a third generation legacy student at Indiana University; and Sydni had grown up on the West Coast near L.A., and attended college on the East Coast at Swarthmore. For several months after their Mechon Kaplan summer had ended, they spoke by telephone daily, even though “they weren’t in a relationship”, and then Ben came to California to check out HUC in L.A during Fall Break in October. He visited for several days with Sydni and her family, and then asked her out while she was behind the wheel on the perilous 101/405 Interchange… to which Sydni responded, “Could you just give me 10 minutes?”Continue reading →