Apologies for taking so long to update! There are is so much to say that whenever I fee like writing it feels a little overwhelming! Lets start with an update about what we have been doing individually, and then some cool things that have happened since I last wrote!
Adam: Adam has completed four weeks of school already! This summer, the classes consist of Ulpan (Hebrew Study) and Biblical Archaeology. He is doing very well in both classes, and even passed out of Cantillation (reading Torah), the other class offered this summer, so its been nice to have a little extra time! In Biblical Archaeology, the students go on a weekly trip to see ruins and old cities, which is cool because they are getting to experience all of the history they learn about. He always comes home super sweaty and dusty from these trips! I will brag a little bit and say he is doing very well in his classes, and works very hard every day. He even has his own study spot picked out on the third floor of the HUC library. Sometimes I come and crash it--its very quiet and peaceful up there!
Rest assured, the future of Reform Judaism in America seems to be in capable hands. This is a group of doers. They organize, plan, and execute countless activities on top of all of their studies, and they are all enthusiastic and kind.
Me: I finished my first Ulpan, a three week intensive course at the Conservative Yeshiva. It was very helpful, and I will start another one after the Jewish Holidays. My Hebrew is getting better everyday, and it helps to practice with Adam who is incredible! I can tell he is getting good because whenever we go to a restaurant they give us menus in Hebrew! I have been babysitting almost every day, and I now have three different families I work for. I am currently researching programs that I can do online to get endorsed in ELL when we get back to the states.
Ok So I will try to catch you up on things we have been up to!
Since we have been here, we have been lucky enough to attend two beautiful weddings. The first was our friend Jackie and her now husband Sagiv, who is Israeli. Last week we went to Ross and Dorit's wedding, some friends from Minnesota who now live in Tel Aviv. Both weddings were very absolutely beautiful with serious dancing, delicious and plentiful food, and very loving couples. There are a lot of similarities between Israeli and American weddings, but a few noticeable differences. Before the ceremony is a Kabbalat Panim. In the States, it seems that this ceremony is more private and ceremonial, where the women dance with the bride, the men drink with the groom, and then the two get together, sign the Ketubah, and put the veil on the bride. In Israel, it is more of a cocktail hour before the ceremony, and the Bride and Groom are present. There is a lot to eat and drink, and then everyone gathers for the ceremony. People cheer when the bride and groom come down the aisle, which I love! People cheer and clap during the ceremony, and its a very uplifting thing to experience, as it should be. During the reception, every dance is a Hora and you don't have to wait for Hava Nagila to dance in a circle!
Last week, I went with a large group of HUC students to march in the Jerusalem Pride Parade. We met in Independence park, where there were huge group of supporters dressed in rainbows and holding balloons and signs, and from there we marched to Knesset (the Parliament building). I was surprised that there were really no visible protestors, and it was such a peaceful and serene walk. At one point, there were stink bombs catapulted from someone's roof, but the smell only lasted for a few minutes on the route. I wondered why there was so little hubub about something that is so divisive at home, but someone told me its because to the Ultra-Orthodox, the LGBT community doesn't exist. It's not a threat to them because they don't see it or acknowledge it. They have more important things to worry about, which brings me to another highlight...
Women of the Wall
We went with the Women of the Wall to pray at the Kotel for the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. There were waaaay less protestors than last time, but there were still hundreds of Haredi men and women there to scream, blow whistles, and drown out our prayer. Like last time, we did not get to make it to the actual wall, which is ridiculous, but we had a beautiful service. At the end we listened to the sound of the Shofar to mark the beginning of the last month of the year, in preparation for Rosh Hashana.
We had an amazing dinner with the cohort of students and their families that will be coming to Cincinnati next year. There are two married couples with kids, us, and about 8 other students, and its a wonderful group of future Rabbis and families! We ate vegetarian "Skyline" chili, lots of other delicious food, and played Cincinnati trivia! I learned many important things, the most important of which is how to spell Cincinnati! I think its really cool that we will all be together for the next five years and we will hopefully grow and expand with more children and significant others on time progresses!
This Shabbat, we had the pleasure of going to services at a Reform congregation in the village of Tzur Hadassah, about 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem. Its a community of about 7,000 people, and the Reform congregation has about 40 families as members, which we were told was a very high number in this type of community. The Rabbi there is the mother of some of the kids I babysit for, and a faculty member at HUC. She hired Adam to songlead for Rosh Hashana services there, so he came to songlead for them this Shabbat as well! There were only about 14 people there, but it was a beautiful Shabbat experience. The building is very tiny, but it is clear that the people who belong to this congregation are very passionate about Reform Judaism in a country where its just beginning to be accepted and recognized. Afterwards, we had a really nice home-cooked meal at the Rabbi's house in Jerusalem. One interesting part of the trip there, was that we passed through Palestinian territories on our way there. It was nothing like I expected. We were in a cab, so we were just waved through the checkpoints, and it really felt like we were just going through a toll. In America there is a vision that there is a battleground at each border, but we didn't feel that as we passed through. That being said, its not the same for the Palestinians.
It takes some getting used to that the weekend is Friday and Saturday and that the week starts again on Sunday. The word for Sunday literally means First Day! On Friday, we have been going the market (shuk) to buy produce and other goodies for the week. Some people think we are crazy for going on Friday, which is like going to Trader Joes on Sunday but ten million times crazier. I really like it because its the only time Adam and I get to go together, and its fun to see all of the craziness before Shabbat! Friday nights the students always go to services around the city to experience different types of Jewish tradition, and Saturday morning there is a service at HUC. So far, we have been trying to relax as much as possible on Saturdays, and go on Shabbat dates! Today we even went to a movie. There is a tiny movie theater down our block, and today we saw our first movie there. We saw "Unfinished Song" (the Hebrew translation was "A Song for Marion"). It was in English, so we decided to see it! It was a very emotional movie and we both cried A LOT! The weirdest part was that there was an intermission, or smoke break. I knew it was going to happen, but it still took me by surprise when the lights came on in the middle of the movie!
Wow, sorry that went on for so long! Hopefully I will be more prompt with my next update, but who am I kidding? : ) Shavua Tov, have a wonderful week!