Tuesday, November 06, 2007

bout time

i have been back in the states since late august and i figured it was about time to update the blog. to be honest it was not until last week that i got the kick in the ass i needed. I was attending the Professional Leadership Project last week in LA and realized for the first time in months I traveled without my journal in hand and was scouring for napkins and pens to write down my thoughts. I have been back and have hardly written at all, not only virtually but tangibly.

I moved to Boston Sept. 1 and so far so good. Here is the quick update: After temping for the development department at the Jewish Women's Archive, I landed a job at the National Initiative for Childrens Healthcare Quality (and I thought my Senior Sigma Alpha Mu Jewish Campus Service Corps title was long). In any case, it is going well and although I am drowning in a whole new sea of acronyms I am enjoying the challenge of learning about a new industry.

It is great to be closer to the niece, i like having Sundays back and I really like the crunch of autumn leaves beneath my shoes. It is hard to be away of Israel, I miss the freedom of learning for the sake of learning, and the great community of friends I made.

My apartment is great with lots of room for guests--so take a hint and come visit!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Music in the Summer Time

This summer has been full of music amongst the work. With each free moment I get I seem to grab the opportunity to go see a show. In the last few weeks I have gotten to see Israeli music stars David Broza, Ehud Banai and Mosh Ben Ari. And of course, lets not forget Holler.

Pictures and video to follow! In the mean time you can check out what I have been doing this summer at www.nesiya.org. In the alumni tab click on photo albums kehillah summer 2007. I am staffing K3. Albums are listed at the bottom of the page!


We are at the half way mark of the summer and Nesiya is going well. The kids are good, the experience is intense and I just had my first night of 8 hour sleep in over 3 weeks. We arrived in Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av (Monday) and went directly to the Kotel (Western Wall). It was a very bizarre experience for me as an educator. A day that mourns the destruction of the Temple, visiting the Kotel has the potential for a very powerful experience. Yet I don't like going there, I don't find religious meaning in a wall and find I get more frustrated than anything else when I am there.

We had spent the previous 2 weeks up north in the Galilee and Golan and the 2 weeks before that in the desert. Lots of conversations about the individual vs. the community and discussions about what kind of communities we would like to build for ourselves. I have many a journal entry written on these topics but neither the time or energy to retype them here.

We go to Tel Aviv Sunday and then to Kseifa-a bedouin community near Beer-Sheva where we will be doing a 3 day program with Arab teens. I am very excited for this part of the program. I think it will be both challenging for the Israelis who never really interacted with Arab peers before and discussing the reality that they are all citizens of Israel and for the Americans who most likely never factor in the Bedouin community when they are painted the picture of Israel.

After Kseifa we have one long week of arts programming down in Ein Gedi and then wrap up August 11 with the kids and Aug 15 in the office. Whew!

Until then...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ode to Elan

I like to think that I am someone who keeps my end of a bargain, and this entry is dedicated to an awesome friend who does the same: Elan.

This past week has been a bit chaotic with hours in the office lasting til 3am in preparation for the start of Nesiya. I am officially 'on the bus' tomorrow at 5:30am. So, today I took the day off. I am very much looking forward to Sundays resuming their place in the week as a relaxation day (as it universally should be!), having them here is a rare treat.

I spent Shabbat at Bridgette and Jon's house in Neve Daniel out in the Gush. She was not happy when I told her I was moving back to the States. The next 30 hours turned out to be one big guilt trip. I tried to emphasize to her the truth, that it was not an easy decision for me to make. It is not as if I look at one geographic location superior to the other. In fact that's my problem, I don't feel strongly connected to any one place. Right now my priority is to be closer to family (same time zone in 4 years)and attempting in stay in one city for 3-4 years (hopefully including graduate school). That's as far as I can go at the moment. She, and then I, questioned what happened to all my idealism. Honestly, reality. It's so unfortunate to say but I just cannot see eye to eye with many of my friends from earlier parts of my life be it religiously or politically. The strength though for me is that despite those differences, and in times disappointments, were still friends.

I have been crashing these last few days with my friends Francine and Adam. Francine was a fellow student of mine at Pardes this past year, Adam is Francine's boyfriend and coincidentally an old friend's older brother. The three of us, along with another friend Molly went to a sunrise David Broza, Shawn Colvin and Jackson Browne concert at the basement of Masada. The concert started at 3am. Although I could have done without the theatrics of Broza himself, the lighting and the backdrop of the desert, Masada , and eventually the sunrise were spectacular. As we were sitting there watching I could not stop thinking of 'if the Romans and Zealots could see us now' Do you think they would have also gone with the stadium seating the concert venue sports today or a more traditional ampitheatre?? Who knows who will be performing on the battlefields of today 1000 years from now...

I am not sure how the three artists were chosen to perform together but the event was filmed by PBS and I believe will be airing sometime in December. We got ourselves back to the apartment around 9am--just enough time for a nap and to get to the pool by 2pm. I decided that I just wanted someplace relaxing to finish my book (Possible Side Effects, Augustine Boroughs)before 5:30am tomorrow.

Will try to update when I can from the road. Until then, keep hydrated!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Netanya Tigers

Some of you may know that Israel has begun a baseball league, creatively called Israel Baseball League. Last night was the second game of the season, but more importantly the first game of the Netanya Tigers starring Benji Engelhart. Here is my story:

I pulled up in a car with the Altschuls and Schors. There was a large Silver Spring showing. The field was in the midst of a sunflower field with one set of bleachers and rows of plastic chairs. The 'will call' box consisted of two men who had no name list under a makeshift tent at the entrance just off a dirt road. We got there just after the first pitch. Both dugouts were on the left side of the field, leaving all seating to the right. It took us a while to figure out which one of the guys in the orange jerseys was Benji. Then we spotted him, the one eating the garinim (sunflower seeds--fitting for the setting we were in), #10.

It was an interesting mix of people who came out to the game. Lots of shlubby guys in baseball caps, lots of families visiting and very few Israelis. We had a great time and hung with the other kids from Kemp Mill. Esty and I had made a bunch of signs and we were definately one of the stronger sections of fans cheering broadly for the Tigers but loudly for Benji. We made several efforts to get him in the game chanting En-gel-hart and Put Benji In...but unfortunately a no go.

The game itself was only supposed to last 7 innings (maybe they'll upgrade to a full 9 next summer) but was called after 6 because of poor lighting on the field--it was getting dark. The end score was Beit Shemesh Blue Socks-2, Netanya Tigers-1. After the game we got to see the big star, take photos and get autographs. Heres one photo of Esty, Benji and Me:

I would like to try and make it to one more game over the summer, much of that will be dependent of scheduling and days off. I am feeling more and more that i am seeing less and less of anything outside these office walls. Looking forward to getting on the bus, hoping the heat will cool down and getting this summer started!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

TOO hot to Sleep!

There is a heat wave in Jerusalem. With no air conditioning or fans in the apartment where I am crashing, it is too damn hot to sleep! So instead of sleeping, between swatting mosquitoes and cold showers, I figured I would update the blog and catch you up to date.

Last Wednesday I went to Tamara Fine and Aron Skeversky's wedding. It was held in the hillside of the Jerusalem forest and was absolutely beautiful. Below are a a few photos and a clip post chuppah:

Myself, and fellow Hebrew Academy classmates Naomi Korb and Yael Davis (ne: Zemellman)

The wedding was followed by an intense 3 day Nesiya workshop surrounding The Jerusalem Unit: exploring holy place and holy space. The unit will consist of many parts, looking at the history and the current status of communities in Jerusalem. However, as a staff we focused on some really interesting topics regarding the relationship between Jews in Israel and Jews in the Diaspora. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and questions following one particular conversation. For me, they are not easy questions. In fact I find them very hard to swallow, but necessary to discuss.

What is the obligation of Jews in the diaspora (those Jews living outside the land of Israel) to Israel? What is Israel (Israeli) obligation to Jew in the diaspora? Where do obligations lie? To the land? To peoplehood? What should be our connectors? The land? The tradition?

These questions emerged after looking at a piece of biblical text-(Numbers 32:1-42) that describes the agreement made between the tribes of Reuven and Gad, with Moshe and the elders of Israel to remain on the east side of the Jordan. In receiving what they wanted, in return they agreed to fight with the rest of the tribes entering the land, and specifically as the first into battle. It was only then that they could return to the eastern side of the Jordan, to the land they deemed as more fertile and appropriate for their success. They had to define their commitment to their fellow Israelites, they had to do so through blood. They shared a defining point creating a shared history. But what happened when they returned to the eastern side of the Jordan? Did their children feel this same connection? Was it an ongoing agreement or a one time deal? What about their great-grandchildren? Will their shared history be enough to link them as one?

It seems to be an acceptable deal to Moshe and the elders, they approve it. What does this say about their commitment to peoplehood? What does it say to the commitment to a shared covenant that had been made earlier regarding the land of Israel?

Where do my commitments lay? In the face of a Judaism that again today has Jews living both within and outside of the borders of Israel, should every Jew around the world serve in the Israeli army? Should this be a necessary action to maintain this connection to brethren? Is it enough that my grandfather did it? How will I define my own connection? Will it be a decision I make or will it be defined for me? Have I fulfilled it? Is it an obligation that is every fully fulfilled?

Should we be fighting so hard for this unity? Unity between those within and outside the land? What are the benefits? Do these benefits outweigh the challenges? Will it be okay if we become a divided Jewish people? Will this be the divider? Geography? Or will it be within defined frameworks of halacha? What will become of the Jewish people??

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How Can It Be June 19th??

Didn't I just get here yesterday? Where did the time go??

Didn't I just get here yesterday? Where did the time go??

I am once again in transition, repacking bags and looking for the next place to store them. Additionally I am in (not by choice) a transition of mindset. Although it was my intention to not be concerned with the summer until the summer was over, My Mother is correct and I don't have that luxury. So in the midst of being in the office full time preparing for the 40 teenagers I will be responsible for six weeks arriving a week from Sunday, I am also now getting anxious about finding a job. I posted my resume on Monster.com and realized that I am not as marketable outside the non-profit world as I thought. Shame...

I am hoping that the universe will work something out (as it always seems to do) and that something will come along allowing me to begin in early September. That’s right folks, I said early September. I arrive in the U.S. August 21st. I am going to rent a car at the airport (Unless I can convince my amazing, wonderful, brilliant, selfless, and possibly still unemployed brother to come pick me up--nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and drive north with all my things to the apartment my roommate will hopefully have found by that point. With no furniture I will probably make a quick run to ikea or crash with friends in the area for the night. Possibly find some things on Craig's List the following day and then high tail it back down to Maryland where I will pack up the rest of my things and drive back up to Boston. Anything’s possible...right??

Okay, back to packing!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Five Minutes

It all started from an explaination of the movie Run Lola Run. A clip from the film appeared on our all Greek 4 station TV in Santorini and I was relating to my friend how different the outcome of a situation, and on the greater scale life, can totally be altered by something as small as 5 minutes or less. Granted, I don't have a boyfriend who owes money to drug dealers at the expense of his life--but hey, five minutes are five minutes.

As a result of a bus that was five minutes late, Annie and I met a couple of girls from China who were awaiting the bus after returning the car the had rented for the day. They gave us all the info, the research they had done and it resulted in us following their plan and the next day we were able to explore Santorini literally tip to tip.

Before we had made it to Santorini however we spent two days in Athens. Although we had not yet had our 'five minute'discussion, in retrospect I will attribute our good luck to that as well. When we first arrived at our hostel we took the extra time to chat with the receptionist who informed us that the next day was Greek Earth Day and that all sites and museums would be free. That little piece of information saved us each about 40 euro! Earth day was beneficial to the earth...bringing rain. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, Greek Theatres, Olympic Stadium, National Garden, Hadrians Arch, all in the rain! But we had a great time none the less. We stumbled across quaint neighborhoods after making wrong turns, and found that the Athens meat market has LCD screens for TV viewers plastered along the ceilings. Athens is also donned with artistic grafitti, and a way of feeling you are in an old european town and a bustling city all at the same time. No matter where we went there were sleeping dogs...couldn't explain it but if i get any choice in where i am placed in my next life...

We took an early morning ferry from Athens to Santorini which allowed us to see a good deal of islands on our way over (it was an 8 hour ride). To bide our time we ate bannanas and peanut butter, read and played cards. When we got into Athens we met up with the representative of our hostel: Hotel Anna. They drove us up the VERY windy road of the Caldera cliff. Highlights of Santorini are: The red beach, Oia, and Perissia beach. Here are a few photos of Santorini (more on my flickr site)

From Santorini we took a ferry to Naxos arriving in the wee hours of the morning. Santorini, although beautiful is an island for the tourists. Almost all businesses on the island function only for tourist season. We were lucky that we travelled just before the season got busy. Naxos on the other hand, is an island that is much larger and functions primarily independently of the tourist season. It is known for its olive oil, grapes, and a special liqour made of citrons. You may be familiar with citrons because they are also known as Etrogs and used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. They have been making the liqour for just over 200 years and is only available on Naxos. Let me tell you, its strong. Equal in strength is its beauty. We decided to rent another car and went exploring. We found great little villages and bays along the east side of the island, rolling hills and old ruins. One of the major attractions is the Temple of Apollo. The temple was in the earlier stages of construction before the builders (or ruling party) decided to give up on the project.
It was also on Naxos that I rode my first bicycle in 8 years. 8 years! My tush hurt. Because it had been a while and I was riding along with a triatholon goer and a person who rides their bike to work I decided that on our return trek I would start a bit earlier and then we would all meet up together. I got lost. I ended up in this farming community where no one spoke english and I stuck out like a sore thumb. With no mode of communication I navigated my way back to the shore and an hour late, made it back to the rendevouz point. I accepted gladly the beer that was waiting!

Again a few photos:

All in all it was a wonderful trip. I arrived back in Jerusalem tanned and relaxed. I also decided it was time to make a change and got my hair cut (for those of you who were there think Jacob's bar-mitzvah). There are a couple more weeks until Nesiya begins. We have begun doing a lot of prep work for the summer and have been broken into staff teams. I am very much looking forward to getting started on the trip itself! But I am also looking forward to really utilizing these next couple of weeks here in Jerusalem/Tel Aviv. I have a wedding (Mazal Tov Tamara and Aron!), a baseball game (yay Benji!), multiple friends arriving in town via Taglit birthright-israel, Pardes students, and a friend's concert to attend before I jump on the bus with 40 teens. Hopefully I will make it to the beach one day as well!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Well folks, here it is: I'm moving to Boston! What I will be doing there? Unclear. But I picked a city and I feel good about it. It is the in between, the going back and forth that has really been driving me crazy. I made the decision 48 hours ago and have been walking around smiling ever since--thats a good sign, right?

Only 2 more days left at Pardes. Thursday afternoon I jump on a bus to Tsfat for our second staff training weekend for Nesiya. I will be there until Sunday evening when I return to Jerusalem. Then, bright and early Monday I (along with Jenny, Max and Annie) will be on my way to the airport destination GREECE!

We have been planning the trip for a while and I am SO excited it is finally here. Our general game plan is as follows:
We arrive in Athens in the early afternoon. We will spend the night and the following day there before jumping aboard a ferry boat that will take us down to Santorini Island. We will be on Santorini for a total of 3 days with one night spent on the island of Ios. Then we head to Naxos for 2 days before heading back for our final night in Athens to catch our flight the next morning back to Tel Aviv. Whew!! If any of you have spent anytime in/on these places and have so me advice or 'must dos' I would appreciate it!

You most likely will not be hearing from me again until mid-June when I return but I promise a large post with photos!

Hope those of you on the west side of the ocean had a lovely memorial day weekend!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nearing the End

This morning will mark my last Sunday at Pardes. Classes will run through Thursday and then the Academic year will be over. It is hard to believe so much time has passed. I have moved out of my apartment and will be crashing with a friend for the next month before starting my job as a bus counselor for Nesiya July 1.

I have been thinking a lot about what should come next, each day my heart seems to be motivating me back and forth between two different options. Do I stay here or do I move to Boston? Each are good choices, I just have to choose one.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Unexpected

"It never rains in Israel past Passover", He said. "Not since I can remember".

Well, he was wrong. To everyones surprise I has been raining here quite a bit. Including a thunderstorm today. I have actually found it to be quite refreshing. The end of the Pardes year is looming. I have had to say goodbye to both my roomates, and I am still trying to figure out where I will be come late August.

This year has been wonderful. I have grown so much, learned a ton, and have made lifelong friends. It is hard to believe that May is almost over and 10 months have flown by so quickly.

I am still crazy as ever, but having so much on my plate has given me some distraction from the emotional goodbyes. I leave for a 3 day trip with my fellow Nesiya staff tomorrow morning. We are leaving bright and early for Mitzpe Ramon (Ramon Crater) where we will camp overnight and then spend Shabbat in the Negev (desert). By the end of the weekend the senior staff will have decided how to place us in teams for the summer. For me this is the most exciting part. There are 12 of us, 4 staff (2 Americans and 2 Israelis) per bus. Everyone is great, but it will be nice to have a smaller group to start planning and really investing.

I am also looking forward to getting out of Jerusalem. I have been doing a little better in this department-but not by much. A couple of weekends ago I was up in a Druze Village near Acco called Pekiin. It is well known for its co-existence between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is also the only place that has constantly been inhabited by Jews (with a brief lapse in the late 1930-1940s for fear of rioting from nearby Arab villages) since the destruction of the Second Temple. I have also made it out to Tel Aviv for some recreation and Hebron for some education. I hope to share more about my experience in Hebron at a later date, but I'm still processing it all.

It is Yom Yerushalyim today marking the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. It was during the war that Israel defended itself against the Egyptian, Syrian, Lebonese and Jordanian armies. It also unified Jerusalem and were able to take control over the Jewish quarter of the old city and the Kotel (Western Wall). Doing so gave access to Holy sites previously forbidden to Jews. Last night I got caught in the parade (literally) dodging tractors, agricultural floats, and dancing children to make it to my volunteering shift.

I know I haven't written in ages, apologies have almost become standard in my posts. But I hope whomever is reading that life is treating you well and I look forward to hearing all about it!

Monday, April 30, 2007


I have been meaning to write for a while...and suprise, i got busy. Life is good, last week was jammed packed with emotion--Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtznmaut (Israel Independence Day). It made me realize the tension between feeling a part of the people/culture here and feeling distant all at the same time. Yom HaAtzmaut was the perfect day! I would write more...but i'm too tired. For pictures visit the bottom right link to Flickr.

Efforts have stepped up in training for this summer. I will be staffing a six week summer program with Nesiya. So as a collective staff of 16 (to be broken into groups of 4--2 Americans and 2 Israeli staff on every bus) we are meeting at least once a week until the end of June.

I hit the streets again last thursday night. The 2 am mornings have somewhat screwed with my sleeping pattern for the rest of the week. But I am telling you, the experiences have been worth it.

Amongst the crazy I have also been carving out a time for play. I scored a whopping 83 points in one turn of Scrabble on Shabbat afternoon--a new high for me! I even beat out an active player in the Jerusalem Scrabble Club. The word was Blissed (yes, it is the dictionary) on a triple word score connecting Pe and Od across. Maybe I should quit while I am ahead...

I also booked my tickets for Greece. I will be going with friends for one last hoorah from June 4-12. If anyone has any travel advice for the area I would love to hear it!

Thats all for now, hope to post more both in length and content in the near future!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Colored Skies

I arrived back in Israel Monday afternoon. A painless flight and sherut ride later, I found myself back at 4 Mendele. When I walked into my apartment I got kinda an eerie sensation. The kind you would get when your finals stretched til the last possible day but that more than half then dorm had already cleared out. Although we are all still here, it is only for a few more short weeks. Both Sarahs will be gone by mid-May.

That feeling has continued through the rest of my week. Pardes students have begun to drop off and before I know it my life here will be changing.

On Tuesday we had orange skies. Sands from the desert blown North by the strong winds created somewhat of a textured rain. Not wet, but hazy. In fact, haziness was quite appropriate for our general moods as well. Hearing of the shootings at Virginia Tech and all the victims...I heard the news the night before at my friend Jessy's birthday dinner. Her sister, a Virginia Tech student, called in hysterics. Luckily, She and her friends are okay. My thoughts go out to those who were less fortunate.

The warm weather I was hoping for (after snow and floods on the East Coast) has not quite arrived. But the longer days allow me to once again walk home in the sunshine, even at 7pm.

I went out on the streets last night with Crossroads, and it was a really interesting experience. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality I can't share too much. But I look forward to continuing my work with them.

Today the skies are blue and clouds fluffy white. The wind has somewhat tamed itself and warmer weather is expected for the weekend. I was at brunch with a friend when we saw four fighter jets stream across the sky. I think the image made everyone around us pause. It could be they were practicing for the upcoming Memorial Day this Sunday night and Monday, I hope so.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Heading East

It is both a strange and natural feeling I have each time I prepare for another trip.
For the past two years they were trips across the country, more recently across the ocean. Being home this time around has made me feel the distance that much more.

My brother is on his way over to pick me up so we can have coffee before he drops me at the train. Then it is off to Newark International Airport, a short stop over in London and back to Tel Aviv.

I am excited to get back, see friends and begin school again. This next month is the beginning of the end. For me, that is a hard realityBy the end of May my roomates will be gone, many of my friends will have travelled back to the states and I will begin my next chapter in Israel. I will also know if that chapter will conclude in August or continue on. I will make sure to keep you all posted.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Photos of Ayelet aka Tarni

Ready for More?? Visit www.flickr.com/photos/shirahrosin

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Quick Update from the Homefront

The trip in wasn't easy. El Al got us to JFK 2 hours late, add on an additional 1.5 hours for baggage to arrive and you get a missed flight to Washington D.C. After running back and forth through the airport with all my luggage to find out this wonderful news I called home. My call was greeted by the news that my Mom was having a procedure on her back the next day for a slipped disc and that I should be prepared to hit the ground running. After some tears in the airport I was able to get El Al to put me up in a hotel for the night. I was in bed by 12:30 and back at the airport 6 hours later. After waiting in line for 1/2 hour I was told that there were no flights available from JFK to the D.C./Maryland area and that they would book me on a flight from LaGuardia. I was handed an itinerary and pointed in the direction of the taxis. I made it across town to LaGuardia where I was told that the flight may not be possible since I had not reported the flight as missed the night before and that I was marked as a no show. After explaining my story and situation the woman took pity and I was booked. I landed in Maryland at 2pm.

It was nice to be home for Shabbat. I slept, and slept and slept and slept. Something I had not done much of the previous 48 hours.

Sunday, after all the pre-Passover cleaning and shopping had been done, I met Ayelet. She is amazing.

Monday morning I went to the Apple store to find out what could be done for my computer and my now dead iPod. I was told that they could replace the piece where my computer adapter had jammed for $145 and that they would replace my iPod with the same 20gb model for $69. So, for less than what a new iPod would cost me, I am all set--good news!!

I also cooked and prepared my first ever Seders, spent lots of time with baby Ayelet, played a few games of the Settlers of Catan, and got to spend some time with old friends from high school. I am looking forward to spending the rest of my week doing similar things. Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday) to all!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Heading West

My Sherut (shuttle service) come in about 45 minutes to take me to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. I am VERY excited to be coming back west, even if just for a few weeks. I hit the shuk (open air market) this morning at about 7am-the earliest I have ever been there. It is getting warm and most of the vendors were out with their produce, baked goods, and everything else on display. I look forward to even warmer weather and Israeli 'summer time' when I return.

For those of you who are going to be in the D.C./Maryland area be in touch! it would be great to see you in the next couple of weeks: shrosin@gmail.com

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Over the Green Line

Ten years ago I held a dream of making Aliyah (moving to Israel) and living in an area called Gush Etzion (an area over the green line just outside of Jerusalem first founded in 1946 but since highly developed). Thursday I spent the night in the home of a Palestinian in Beit Sahour, a town adjacent to Bethlehem.

I travelled with a group called Encounters. The program promotes that it provides a slice of Palestinian life to future Jewish educators, Rabbis and community leaders. I am not going to pretend that I understand the political situation any more now that I participated on Encounters, but I do feel that I was shown a 'slice' which is more exposure then I have ever had before.

Since I am still processing all of my thoughts and emotions from the experience I can't fully share what I am feeling. It is not my place to impose judgement on either side nor try to convince you of any political opinions. But I hope that through sharing some of my thoughts I am able to open you up to some questions as I am challenging myself.

We were exposed to a number of voices and opinions during our time in Bethlehem. We visited mostly with people and organizations that promote a non-violent approach to ending occupation. Encounters works very closely with a Palestinian organization called the Holyland Trust which does just that. It was very interesting to hear about the conflict from their end. I have chatted before with Palestinians on college campuses but never before in a constructive matter in the heart of Bethlehem.

Some of the places we went and people we met were:
The Hope Flower School--a co-ed K-12 school for Muslim and Christian children committed to education without messages of violent and hate. Students come from a variety of homes and backgrounds including refugee camps and upper class neighborhoods. Any child who opts to attend is allowed to come. They get their funding not by the PA but by private donations and NGOs.
The Tent of Nations: Land owned by a Palestinian named Dauad Nasser. Family has been living there since 1911 and has kept all paperwork. He has converted the family home into a grounds that runs that aims to build bridges of understanding and peace. Dauad wants Palestinians and Israelis to think in a constructive way. Face to face interactions are what need to be the foundation for this peace. The Tent of Nations creates the framework to do this. They have held tree plantings, run summer camps for kids from refugee camps, Bethlehem, Hebron and surrounding areas. He hopes to give encouragement to youth that they are valuable, respected and have a reason worth living. Unfortunately we take this ideas for granted, they are not inherent in everyone. For Dauad it is important to realize that there are people and ideas on the 'other side'. The 'other side' for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Throughout the next 2 days we heard from many speakers. We also visited with members of the Al Walaje village. Some of the villagers have had their homes demolished, others have demolition declerations pending. There we were guided by an Israeli man naed Meir Margalit who works with the Israeli Coalition against Home Demolitions. It was a lot to take in.

I am going to share just a few memorable quotes from the 2 days. Some resonate with me, some make my insides turn. I will let you read them and see which affect you. Please also look at my Encounters:Bethlehem album on my flickr site-www.flickr.com/photos/shirahrosin to see some of their faces and the things they described.

"Even if they say non-violent communication does not work, it is what we do-because it is the only thing we can do"--Elias Holy Land Trust

"Walls paint ignorance and fear. I could accept a wall, but let them build it on the Green line of 1967"--Elias Holy Land Trust

"I don't want to think negatively, instead I want to invest my frustrations in a positive way"--Dauad Nasser Tent of Nations

"We must respect each other, trust each other. To reach each other we must speak out and listen to one another. We must forgive each other."--George Sa'adeh Principle of Greek Shepherds High School at Beit Sahour, Bereaved Families Forum--Lost Daughter as a result of Israeli army mistaking his car for a Hamas vehicle and opening fire; Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem

"It is nice that you are here, but you will forget about us tomorrow"--Joni Resident of Beit Sahour

"Everytime Israel bulldozes a house we destroy Jewish ethics. I hear Yirmiyahu (the prophet) crying out: ENOUGH!!"--Meir Margalit Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions

"What keeps me awake at night is the question of how did we, the Jewish people get here? Two generations ago we were in ghettos in Europe. Today we build the ghettos."----Meir Margalit Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions

"We deal with the Government of Israel, not individual parties. We feel Israel should do the same. The PLO recognizes Israel, why should Israel be concerned with all the other factions [Hamas]?"--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"Israel must make peace with its neighbors. They are a natural part of this area. War cannot continue for another 50 years. Peace will happen, even if it takes another 100 years"--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"Fightine the Occupation is not a terrorist action. It is a war. Civillians will always suffer. Suicide bombers are terrorist actions like 9/11. But here in Bethlehem, we don't have a definition for terrorist. We believe Humans should be respected Everywhere"--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"Israel is the only country in the world that the army made the state instead of the state making the army"--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"They [Israel] are not self-critical, they are too proud to accept their problems and mistakes."--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"Israelies and Palestinians, we are noisey players, but we are not the power. The power is in the East"--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"The West placed Israel here to divide Egypt and Syria, two major powers in the Middle East"--Fouad Kokali Member of Palestinian Legislative Council, former mayor of Bethlehem

"Through acting humane on both ends we can live peacefully. If you feel you are superior than acting human you will be disappointed"--Yousef Al Harimi Professor of Islam, Bethlehem University

I was only handed a slice. I hope to go back and gain more. Priviledged with my American passport I had no problems walking through the checkpoint. I cannot begin to imagine what life is like day to day on the other side of the wall. But I hope to learn more. Although I know it is only a minority I was constantly amazed at the hopeful future the Men and Women I encountered painted. That dispite their frustrations they only want to build up constructively and non-violently. I hope this voice will spread and maybe one day soon it will be the majority--on both ends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


You may have noticed my excitment by the capital letters used in the spelling of the title of this post. I have for a very long time now been looking forward to this Passover break. I have been feeling overwhelmed recently. When I mentioned it to a friend she sarcastically said: 'gee with school full time, 2 part time jobs, and a weekly volunteer position how could you possibly feel like you don't have any time for yourself??' Yes, I over commit to things. Yes, I have a stong sense of obligation. And yes, this is why I feel overwhelmed.

Even now on break I am procrastinating between writing a letter to a Pardes donor, and editing my personal statement for my Shalem Center application. But I got to sleep in this morning, go get a cup of coffee and do some journal writing--two big pluses!

But even though I complain I enjoy everything I do. I get a lot of fulfillment out of the volunteering position. It has taught me that in no way shape or form do I want to be a social worker, but that I really do enjoy working with teens and young adults. Working with Nesiya has been good too. I got hired through the end of August and will be staffing one of their summer programs. Bit of info: for those of you who are Regina Spektor fans-she was a Nesiya participant in the summer of 1996 and wrote her very first song here in the Negev (southern Israeli desert).

I am going out of town this thursday and friday--keeping it a secret until i get back. Then on Friday night Tal and Nick arrive!! I am soo looking forward to spending time with them next week! I am also very much looking forward to my trip back to the states. I will be home a week from tomorrow--so soon! It has been almost 2 years since the whole Rosin clan was last together, too long.

Okay, need to finish work so I can start enjoying this BREAK

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ding Dong the iPods Dead

Well it was a dreary morning. The sky was dark and gray, it was pouring rain (which then turned into snow!) and when I turned on my ipod I got the icon of an ipod with a hazard sign and a frown on it's face--clever apple graphic designers...

I checked the website and it looks like the hardware is busted and although I kept it going for another few weeks it is finally time to say goodbye. Who knows maybe I will find the afikomen plated in gold this year (there is always wishing right??)

Due to the rain and the snow and the sleet my time on the streets was cancelled for tonight. We are going to try to reschedule sometime in the next few weeks. Although I am a little dissapointed that the experience will be delayed I am looking forward to getting home before midnight for the first time this week.

My Shalem Fellowship application is due April 1st so I will be focusing a lot of my efforts on that in the next coming week. My final day at Pardes before break is Sunday and then all the visitors start coming!

Ok, the roommates just baked some cookies and i feel it my duty to go help them eat them. Kol Tuv!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Media Update

Unfotunately I don't have much time to type. But wanted to give you all some quick updates:

1. I uploaded new/old photos and you can check them out by either clicking on the flickr shortcut at the bottom right of the blog OR go to www.flickr.com/photos/shirahrosin

2. My friend launched a new website called yideoz www.yideoz.com hoping to become the virtual jewish community for interactive media. I uploaded a short clip of my friend David's band playing at a local pub. Here is the clip:


Feel free to log on, sign up and upload your own videos!

3. Tonight was the last night of the Hartman series. I unfortunately had to miss it because I have bumped up my volunteering hours and had a training for working on the streets that begins this Thursday night/early morning (I am sure I will report on that later). BUT his lectures are actually available online. I know my notes were not the most coherent so I encourage you to check out the lectures yourselves if it is a subject that interests you. They are on video which is nice because he has got a great personality and it really gives you a sense of who the man behind the ideas is. ANYWAYS the first two lectures are up the others are waiting to be posted. Earlier series are also available to watch. You can check it out at: http://www.hartmaninstitute.com/ShowContent.asp?id=194

Good week to all!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Whole Megillah

Well Purim is over, and the hangover has passed. There really is nothing like celebrating it here in Jerusalem. For some it was a 3 day holiday since Jerusalem (a walled city during the time of Joshua) celebrates the day after (15th of Adar) non-walled cities (at the time of Joshua). But recovering from a week slightly off health wise I decided it would be best to keep it low key.

I read the first chapter of Megillah (Book of Esther) Sunday night at Pardes. I was nervous as all hell and had been practicing since December. Being first and having to open with the Blessings in front of a room of 120+ was somewhat nerve racking--I don't think I have sung in public in some time! But after some deep breathing exercises and imagining that I was up there all alone it went smoothly. Some girlfriends and I decided to not think too hard on costumes, each bought a wig gathered up some garbage bags, table cloths and duct tape and went wild. The night was a lot of fun but a combo of not eating and a lot of drinking meant I was in bed before midnight...

I woke up the next morning and headed to the Old City where I read Megillah again. This time with Women at the Wall. Women at the Wall is a group of Women who have tried to make a voice for themselves within communal prayer. They gather once a month to do a Rosh Chodesh Torah service however they are not permitted to read at the Western Wall itself. Therefore they read at the Southern Wall Excavations. This is due to the fact that the Western Wall is technically an Orthodox synogague and there according to Orthodoxy there are Halachic problems with women being a part of a Torah service. The Halachot however are different when it comes to reading the Megillah. Many Orthodox communities have adopted Women or mixed Megillah services. So when Purim roles around Women at the Wall read Megillah at the Kotel (Western Wall). I was expecting some sort of controversy but was pleasently suprised that we were only met with curious stares. Looking back I really wish I had a camera to document the experience...Again I was up first. However this time it wasn't my nerves but my neaseua that was making me anxious. Luckily I read almost on auto-pilot and made fewer mistakes than I had the night before!

It was my first trip back to the Old City since August. I live a 20 minute walk away. It was my backyard the last time I spent time here in 1999. I think that is why I hesitate to go back. On one hand it is so familiar and on the other hand I just realize how much of a different person I am today than I was back then. So much of me has changed. To be a part of the Women at the Wall experience was a good way to get me back there. Maybe I won't let another 7 months pass by before visiting again.
I returned home to nurse the hangover some more and made it to my friend's Annie and Marni's later that day for Seudah (big festive meal). In the spirit of paying it forward I was on hand passing out glasses of water to all those with potential hangovers the next morning. We then headed over to town where the city of Jerusalem had put on a street fair. It was super cool to see the whole place lit up for the holiday and everyone walking around in costume. It kinda reminded me of being in Ireland during Holoween but I was having more fun this time around. The big show was HaDag Nachash--Israel's hottest hip hop group. Here are some photos from the holiday. I know I haven't uploaded anything for a while--you know the technology shpeil...but here are a few to enjoy in the meanwhile:

Here are the Lovely Ladies of 4 Mendele and 6 Jabotinsky:

A very telling photo of our night...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

iPod Revival

There were skeptics, many skeptics. But it pulled through! You may recall from an earlier post that my ipod has been on it's last legs for a while. Most mornings I would be greated by one of two symbols: a folder with a warning symbol containing an exclaimation point or a battery with a similar exclaimation point. The latter symbol is not even featured on the ipod support site.

Through toggling the hold button and reseting the ipod I was able to make it last for a few more weeks. Most songs would not play all the way through and it would make a humming noise but I took what I could. Then, last friday...it left us. Like other days I was greeted by the same symbols but this time the music options would never come on. After an hour of trying to reset it, the machine wiped itself clean. I was partly frustrated since all my music is on my computer which is still out of commission. But I was more relieved because I thought I had solved the problem once and for all and could now return home and fill up on my roommate's playlists. WRONG! each time I hooked up the ipod it was said to be corrupted. I kept getting one of 2 error messages: 1418 and 1429. If you google 1418 you find 1418hell.com a website dedicated to those fortunate souls like myself. Turns out many people have had similar problems due to itunes 7. They gave possible solutions, but again no go. 1429 took me a little longer to find. Not listed on the support site I came accross it obscurely. The course of action listed: GET A NEW iPOD.

I refused to give up. 10 tries later it came back to life. In the spirit of this past week's Oscars I would like to thank the people that helped make this possible: Sarah Tasman, Elie Rosen, and Aaron Katchen.

My battery life is still low, and I am unable to switch around songs without overloading. But its music and it will last me til I get home.

Hartman Lectures 2 and 3

Covenential Consciousness is an empowering experience that calls the individual to responsibility and free choices. These choices are independent of authority and authoritative guidance.

Halacha is the translation of Mitzvot (commandments) into an everyday reality. It is only a framework to guide us not an overarching authoritative structure.

We look as an example to Maimonidies in his understanding of the role of the convert within Judaism. In his letter to Ovadiah the convert (translated by Lorberman) Maimonidies wrote that there is no difference between the tribal ethnic Jew and the convert Jew. What makes someone Jewish? Is the covenant of Judaism able to supercede birth? Historically, no. Ideology on the choice to live a Jewish live was not the winning voice.

For Maimonidies the way ofthe Lord is natural morality. This is the way to God that Abraham taught. The unity of God and the aceptance of this as well as the morality was the way to enter into the Abrahamic mosaic.

Halacha is independent mosaic that followed the Abrahamic mode. For Hartman this is problematic for those who dictate their lives purely according to the Halachic model.

The Abrahamic comunity could not exist in a Pagan world. In Egypt they witnessed that you can't build your life purely on a philosophy/ideology. You need materialistic/tangible realitites to seperate you from the larger society to survive. This was the beginning of the Mitzvah/Halacha as a diciplined framework. What keeps people Jewish is the fabric in which they live by. People are not moved by ideas, but by behavior.

Abraham's belief was the rejection of idolotry and the unity of God. A religion of faith, not of rules. Therefore one who chooses faith shoudl be accepted as one who was born a Jew. "No difference exists between us and you" "Let not your geneology be a light in your eyes"-Maimonidies letter to Ovadiah the Convert.

What does this mean? The light in your eyes goes directly back to God. This covenant that the convert takes on shoudl be the overpowering strength of identity, feeling a part of the people. Unfortunately this is not the reality of today.

Genetic Jewishness can be first seen in the Mishna regarding the bringing of the first fruits to the Temple. Bikuim 1:4--When one who is born to a Jewish mother brings the first fruits he makes a decleration that 'My Father was a wandering Aramean'. When a convert brings the first fruits he states 'His Father was a wandering Aramean'. In the Talmud Yerushalmi it is stated that we hold according to R. Yehuda who believed that the convert too states 'My' since Abraham was the father of many nations. Maimonidies also holds like R. Yehuda.

There is a later tractate of Gemara (Babylonian Talmud) in Kidushin that states "Don't elect a King who is not of your bretheren by birth". Can we use the Aggadic motif of Maimonidies to challange this? Challenge Halacha? The Gemara? How can one say that a convert is not one of your brothers??

Do morality and deeper theological principles trump halachic tradition? Does it have weight in interpreting the law? For Maimonidies the law is what the Talmud and the tradition has enabled him to state it is. Even though he has an enormous amount of moral and deeply theological literature, he is unable to combat Halacha.

Can we challenge halacha? Ask the question of why it exists? Can I ask is this how God intended me to live? Do I have legitimacy to do so? Can my religious vision/weight or the choice of my relationship to God be the ground of my decision making process?Do I have the freedom of decision making based on my own moral basis? To what degree do theological and moral impulses play a role/have ground to determine Halachic practice?

No book can decide for me in crucial situations.


Halacha should not be self sufficient but a mirror of religious impulse. There is the need to confront tradition where the tradition itself violates moral and deeply religious impulses.

Individualistic thrust with Maimonidies is morality. Collectivity is the halacha. It is out of the community where his spirituality begins. Choosing Halacha is choosing the Jewish way.

If so, am I completely claimed by the community?? Sinai was the where sole individuals came to merge and mold into a collective. This collectivity can thrust out individuality, but how do you navigate this? How does one allow for individual choice in the face of authority?

Halacha spins in it's own orbit. It no longer takes into consideration of where the individual is.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL??? THIS should be THE question. Can another tell you how to feel? How do you know th trust yourself?

Hartman is trying to find the person within Judaism. What do you feel when you stand before God? What do you feel about your religion?

There is a responsibility for Scholarship-educating onesself. Asking how you feel and then seeing if that music contains within it the tunes found with the framework of halacha. How does it play out?

Deep religous subjegation today comes in relationship to the State of Israel. For example: Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). Does one recite Hallel or not? With or without a blessing? OR does one lament and mourn at the Kotel HaMaravi (Western Wall)?? All are realities. How do you feel?

The greatest Halacha for validity is personal feeling. Without it Halacha is producing drones. This cannot function within a living Judaism. It is only contributing to the death of Judaism.

Maimonidies would disagree. In the Guide to the Perplexed Ch. 3 he tries to offer an explaination to animal sacrifice within Judaism. For him there must be a need. For him there is no room for the possibility that anything that God asks is arbitrary. He deeply wants to translate will into wisdom. He explains that sacrifice either develops moral growth, communication, or social health. To say there is a law without meaning would make God arbitrary. Maimonidies wanted to merge God of nature (god of wisdom) with God of revelation (god of will).

His goal ws to protect God from the possibility of being arbitrary.

Torah cannot be seperated from te deep religious impulse to ween the Jewish people away from Paganism. Whatever the Pagans did, the Jews did the opposite. The Pagans worshiped the sun, the Jews worshiped the moon. Pagans exhalted animals, the Jews sacrificed them. As a weening process, the Jews were also used to sacrafice--it had been used in Egypt. It was the only expression of praise to God they were familiar with.

The nature of the people could not have been changed. God doesn't change human nature. Sacrifice became a restricted practice. It could only be done by the priests within the temple.

For Maimonidies there are 3 types of prayer:
1. Sacrifice: Pagan forms were restricted however sacrifice became included within Temple worship
2. Prayer as we know it today
3. Silent Contemplation

Sacrifice is the lowest form. Prayer can be done by everyone. How do we elevate people to silent contemplation?

Law of revelation was also given in a response to a historical reality. One must to listen to a people to hear what their needs are. For Hartman this is what Orthodoxy cannot accept.

The Torah became eternal not because of revelation but because it was re-interpreted. We make the Torah eternal--always taking it into context.

You can't have anything without relating it to the situation from where it comes.

Why does God allow the world to go in a way that is not perfection? He prefers to make us choose, to give us the opportunity to choose. The prophets made change through education and patience. God doesn't change nature, God doesn't legislate behavior.

In another text, the Mishna Torah Maimonidies seems to contradict himself in regard to sacrifice. Although it is the lowest form of prayer and a response for a specific time and people he still beleives that when the 3rd temple is rebuilt there will be the reinstatement of sacrifice. Why? Because for Maimonidies the only way to change law is through the Sanhedrin (the old high court) a centralized body that organized Halachic change. For Maimonidies there is no room for the individual to make these choics alone doing so would undermine the validity of Halacha. If the Sanhedrin had abolished it, it would be a non-issue.

Hartman: Man should move to a higher form of worship. why don't we use that as our guiding principle?

There may be reasons the necessity of the law. But once the law is created it functions in it's own orbit. It is seperated fom those reasons of creation (Solevechik).

Hartman: THIS IS CRAZY! Halacha is alive! You can't remove it from the reasons of why it was created, the moral impulses. Halacha is always anchored in both the reality in which it was created and the people who live it. Halacha is not an independent system. Rules are not a substitution for lived reality. The Torah is the first moment of the system, not the end. What makes the Torah so interesting is it's imperfections. We have to challenge humans to reinterpret and fix these imperfections. Just as future generations will reflect on us.

Holy is shaped by deep deep imperfections.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I should have been asleep an hour ago, I need to be up before 6am. But thanks to procrastination and Sarah Tasman's love of Pirates I did this:

My pirate name is:
Captain Charity Rackham

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Heading to the Jordan Valley for a little hiking and Shabbat. A good weekend to all!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Freckles

I have noticed more recently the development of small constellations popping up in various parts of my body. Not as bad as a game of connect the dots, but more like a graceful stream. Today I noticed one that popped up just under my eye and another just under my nose. They seem to like the right side of my face more than my left but have no bias when it comes to my neck.

Other things are new in my life as well. And like the freckles they seem to just be faint ideas until they materialize into something real. I have started part time work at Nesiya www.nesiya.org doing recruiting for their summer program. The goal right now is that I will now only be working with them up until the summer, but through the summer and perhaps next year. I also have a meeting tomorrow with someone for a potential fellowship at a think tank. Hopefully that will work out as well. I will keep you posted.

As far as other good things go--my luck seems to run out with technology. As mentioned there is touble with laptop land, and my ipod is on it's last legs almost making it to 3 years (not bad for ipods from what I hear). The technology kick seems to even include the simple yet advanced zipper-the zipper on my wallet broke Friday afternoon. I am using the trusty pocket/keychain steve's pack until I find a replacement. I figure I'll keep using it til I find something artsy yet practical.

I hopped a Sherut (shuttle service) to Tel-Aviv last Friday. It is pathetic to say but it was the first time I was there since I landed! They have a great outdoor arts fair on a strip called Nachalat Binyamin. I walked around there with friends, grabbed lunch and had a glass of red wine on the beach. GREAT DAY. I need to do it more often, this time I will have my eyes open for a new wallet!

In short: I have been continuing with the Hartman lectures which I am VERY much enjoying. I will post my notes when I get the chance. I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Esty (E-note shout out) which was delicious as always. Will be starting a new initiative with Crossroads-the teen center I volunteer with-that is called coloring the streets. I along with another volunteer and social worker will once a month be walking the downtown streets of Jerusalem where our kids tend to hang out and in addition to being there to talk to we are going to have art programs available for them to participate in. I will put more info in about this as it plays out in time. Planning a trip to Greece the first week of June with friends before we spread again to all corners of the earth. 6 weeks until I meet baby Tarni!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

sad shirah

months and months ago I had a series of people who started making comments to me regarding bizarre sightings. They all started with 'I thought I saw you the other day' had various middle parts and ended with 'you looked so sad, and then I realized it wasn't you after all'. We started calling them sad shirah sightings. A girl who apparently looks strikingly similar to me who walks around Jerusalem with a frown on her face. Once the weather began to get cold the sightings stopped. Until today...

This morning someone approached me and asked if I ever visit the post office on Emek Refaim. My response was no. Turns out that sad shirah is a teller at the bank and she was taken by the resemblance. When I mentioned earlier sightings and the alias we had given her, Joanne mentioned that it was right on. With a location determined I will have to go seek this girl out myself and maybe convince her not to be so sad.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

apparently the third time is not the charm....

I bought my ibook in the summer of 2004. The packaged stayed complete until my second week here in Israel when my charger died. After reading online this was not uncommon of a charger that was 2 years old or more. So I replaced the charger with another Apple charger I bought off ebay. This too worked until it's plastic covering cracked leaving exposed wires that eventually broke. With international shipping charges high and the ebay distributor no longer listed I shared my roomate's charger for a couple of months. In early December I purchased a third charger from another distributer on ebay. This time it was not an Apple made product but one that was designed to be compatible. That it was. It was brought by friends and I used it happily until 2 days ago. This time through unknown circumstances a piece of the charger got stuck in the computer while it was being removed. As a result the charger no longer works nor am I able to remove the piece. So my computer lies on my desk, unused and dead. I will take it home with me when I return for Passover and I am hoping that my trusty friends at the Genius desk in the Apple store will be able to fix the problem in a jiffy. Until then my computer access will be limited so I will apologize if my posts begin to become sporatic.

Shabbat Shalom and a good weekend to all!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wide Eyed and Ready to Go

As readers of my blog many of you know that I posses a deep struggle between living my Judaism and how the Halachic (Jewish legal system) framework fits into my life. After many conversations with friends, one recommended that I join her for a lecture given by Rabbi David Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute here in Jerusalem. Man oh man, am I glad I went!

Here are my notes of the evening. All thoughts are Rabbi Hartmans unless stated otherwise:

Standing Before God Mitzvah (Commandment) and Halacha: Their Significance for Modern Jewery--Rabbi Prof. David Hartman

-It is essential for there to be the empowering of the individual to take personal responsibility for Halachic behavior, when there there is a conflict between morality and Halacha. This specifically is in reference mostly to Family law (Marriage, Divorce, etc...) and how Judaism percieves the 'other'.
*It is within these cases that Individual choice trumps Halachic Authority.
*Question: Can the Halacha (a collective normative structure of practice) make
room for the individual to do so? In doing so dows the individual abandon

-Personal initiative vs. Responsibility
*There is a paradigm found within our biblical stories of Abraham. Sedom vs.
Sacrific of Isaac
1. Story of Abraham arguing with God over the destruction of Sedom. He did so
with no precedent set for such an interaction.
2. The Akedah (Sacrifice of Isaac). In this instance there was a total
submission by Abraham to God. This is not what Judaism is about. This was a
moment of weakness by God to self assert authority over man. This was not the
covenant. The Akedah should not be the model, the pillar for Jewish life.

-Sense of Self is not a diminishing aspect of religious life. Religion will die if it is not nurtured by moral vigor, empowerment and individuality.

-The covenant God is saying to man is: "I need you, I want you". It is a call for responsibility to translate Torah for everyday life. A personal question of "What does God want from Me?" should be asked by each one of us as we make our choice in life.

-Halacha should not be relied upon to be the rule book for life. It should not be untouchable for questioning. It is not a book of legislating rules. It is a book that was created by Rabbis who needed to solve the problem of the absence of God in history. There were no more prophets. There was the realization that there is no reward/merit for the Mitzvot (commandments of the Torah) in this world. So they offered a book that dictated merit and consequence for a transgression.

-You are responsible for your life as a religious Jew. Do not hide behind the Shulchan Aruch (codified book of Halacha made for the masses who were unable or unwilling to decide their own choices through educated decision of their [individual or local communal] understanding of the Talmud). There is a demand for consciousness. It is our responsibility for individuality that holds us in the presence of God.

-Sense of 'Jewishness' today and Jewish identity are: The Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel. These two things are what drive Jews to live, to survive. They have created a shared destiny, a family defined by historical commonality. We are not defined by Halacha. Halacha is a shared commitment of normative practice. Jews do not define themselves by normative practice rather the idea of being part of a family. If it were normative practice how could you ever step out of it?
*Question today: Who feels like they are part of the family?
How do we define our family?

-Since Halacha is no longer THE foundation of Jewish life, we must look to individual responsibility instead of normative practice. Halacha is however a necessity (still R. Hartman speaking). For me, atleast. Therefore I must find morality within it. why be commited to this system of Halacha? It is one that ignores 1/2 the population of the Jewish people (i.e. women) and lookes negatively upon non-Jews! This is my struggle, but it is not the question that takes priority today. The question that takes priority is why aren't Jews connecting to Judaism? Why aren't they connecting to one another? The focus should be the survival and continuity of the Jewish people, not the emphasis of Halacha. This idea is found at the essence of Zionism. It is the desire to be a part of the people.

-The Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements get this idea of survival. Orthodoxy however still places priority on halacha. As a resuct the rift between them is growing wider and more divisive. It will be a nasty troubling divide.

-Crisis of Modern Judaism is that the virtuality of Halachic life that does not mesh in the reality of Jewish life. To debate how much a true Kazayit measurement is, or how high a mechitzah should be is just not relevent!

-We need to create vessels of receptivity, not slap people with a line in the sand dictated by the Shulchan Aruch.


The Man ended with the EXACT statement I have been wanting to hear all year!!! To have validation on so many of my concerns, to hear that I am not the only person out there thinking this way was SUCH a discovery.

If only the Orthodox world were listening more closely to R. David Hartman and R. Yitz Greenberg...where would Orthodox Judaism be today??

For more information on the lecture series or on the Shalom Hartman Institute please visit: www.hartmaninstitute.com

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Good Advice

These past couple of weeks I have been feeling somewhat frazzled. You may have gathered that from my last post. A combination of turning 26, hitting the mid-way part of my year of study at Pardes, and being the dead of winter, has seemed to stir up a cocktail of confusion, and mild panic. I was in the desert on a school trip for 3 days last week. Each time I leave Jerusalem I seem to gain a bit more clarity---and yes I will be doing it more often! I have narrowed down a lot of my choices in life and have given a lot of thought and consideration to staying here in Jerusalem for a second year. I am waiting to hear back about a possible job option and if that works out I think I am going to stay. I know that I wrote that I wanted to make a commitment of 5 years to the next place I call 'home' but I am going to take a loophole out by saying that if I stay in Jerusalem its not really the 'next' place. Life just seems to move a bit slower here. A friend commented the other day how there is something to living your life surrounded by people who are in touch with themselves. Almost everyone here is living opposed to just getting by.

Still in the process of coming down from my height of stressed out confusion I got three independent voices of wisdom from various friends that I would like to share with you.

1. "Sometimes things just aren't worth thinking that hard about."

2. "I guess that is what life is all about: change and adjustment. If we aren't changing we aren't really existing."

3. Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to
love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books
written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to
live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions
now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually,
without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.--Rainer
Maria Rilke, from "Letters to a Young Poet"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Our Freedoms, Our Slavery

This past week we read the Torah portion Va'Era. A portion that covers what is commonly known as the 'Passover Story', I helped facilitate a session about the hardening of Pharoh's heart. I am going to steer clear of issues of fate vs. choice but rather what the definition of a hardened heart is. For me it is the inability to feel, to let what is around you to penetrate you, it is apathy, it is indifference. I asked people to think about what we identify as slavery: slavery found throughout history, slavery in the world today. What do we do when we are confronted by it? Do we let it penetrate us? Or, are we indifferent?

I also asked participants to think about and share their personal slavery and their personal freedom(s). I participated in a similar exercise months ago which begged the questions of what is your personal poverty? What is your personal wealth? I don't know what was more challenging, sharing them or identifying and internalizing them.

When I think of my own slavery and freedoms today I find that sometimes I can't clarify them from one another. I am enslaved by the struggle between living for myself and living for what I am thought to be by others. I am enslaved by the inability to find a community in which i whole heartedly identify and connect with. I am enslaved by the need to find/create that for which i yearn. I am enslaved by the unknown, and the fear of what comes next and making the wrong decision. My freedoms are the unconditional support and love I feel I recieve from my family and friends. My freedom is the ability to travel almost anywhere I wish. My freedom is my education. My freedom is my ability to not be indifferent.

I left Jerusalem this weekend for the first time since early November. Until the bus pulled out of the city I had no idea just how much I needed to leave. I spent Shabbat on kibbutz Gonnen just about 20 minutes outside Kiryat Shimona in the Golan Heights. The fresh air was wonderful, the quiet was peaceful, and just for a couple of days I was able to shift my frame of mind. It wasn't until I left that I realized I have been feeling bogged down in Jerusalem. I am feeling pressure from myself to make immediate decisions of what's next. I am finding myself lingering on my confusion which is only leading to a downward spiral. This weekend allowed me to gain a bit more clarity. I have not come to any WOW discoveries, but I did just take the long deep breath that has been long needed.

Some of you may have known that I was toying with the idea of going to Rabbinical school in the next coming years. In recent weeks I publically announced the idea to peers at an informational session by the Jewish Theological Seminary. I have also met with representatives from the University of Judaism and have chatted with students from Hebrew College and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Council. But at the end of the day I don't know if I identify with any of the movements. In each conversation I asked the question 'Why did you decide to become a Rabbi?' and although each answer was different from the next, none of them resonated with me. I am not called to the pulpit, I don't want the recognition. I want to study, I want to work with people, I want to be engaged in higher education, and I want to be engaged in the emerging conversations that surround the future of the Jewish people. Becoming a Rabbi would give me all of those things, but I believe there are other avenues to get there as well. I am just not ready to commit myself to an ideology when I haven't yet figured out where I fall on the theological spectrum.

I have a call back for a job that may keep me in Jerusalem for another year. I am interested in the organization but want to hear more about the job itself. I have made the decision that I want to start planting roots down somewhere and that the next city I live in will be a multiple year commitment. I have been hoping around for too long. I just don't know right now if that place is Israel.

We go on tiyul (hiking trip) to the mountains near Eilat Tuesday. The sunglasses I found on my parent's coffee table 2.5 years ago finally broke and so it is my number one priority tomorrow to replace them before the trip. It will be good to breathe some desert air.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What The Hell Am I doing With My Life?

This is the question of the hour. Suggestions welcome. Big things to decide:
1. Do I stay in Israel for another year or do I move back to the States?
2. If I move back to the States which of the following cities do I choose:
B. Boston
3. What will I do in these cities?

Again, suggestions welcome.

Monday, January 15, 2007


This is a small clip from our party last Thursday night. Talent show themed, Max brought down the house with his Sweedish Chef act. Unfortunately it would only upload 2 minutes of the 5.5 on tape. Will keep working to get you folks more!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chlorine in the Morning

Last night the party was rocking. At it's height there must have been 50 or so people here, I think we may have pissed off the neighbors just a bit...It was great to celebrate with all those who were here, everyone else you were missed!

Like most mornings after I drink I was up bright and early (I can't control it as much as I try). About a 1/2 hour later I got a phone call from Tal. It was so nice to chat with her, it's been a while since we had a long talk. Birthdays are good for reconnecting if nothing else.

With so so energy and an apartment full of empty bottles and plastic cups I started to clean. The garbage is picked up, the floors are swept, and I even pulled out the squeegie (sp??) As odd as it sounds I find the smell of chlorine comforting. Maybe its from all of my past times at the swimming pool.

Tonight I am having Shabbat dinner with friends. It should be a good way to ring in the year.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Celebration of Life

Today has been an emotional day. I just returned from the funeral of the Mother of one of my teachers. Although I never met the woman, I know she was a Holocaust Survivor, a cherised Mother and Grandmother. She lived a long life passing at 94. None the less it is always hard to watch those who you care about and respect go through hard times. On the way home from a friend's parent's funeral a couple of years back my Mother reminded me that just as it is so important to honor and remember the lives who have passed so too it is essential to celebrate the lives we have.

Tonight in coordination with 4 others who are celebrating their birthdays this month we are hosting a birthday celebration. Drained from crying I just wanted to come home and take a nap. Then our electricity blew. Nothing like 60 people arriving to a dark apartment! Luckily our electrician is in the neighborhood and is currently hard at work. Here's hoping that there will be light to usher in the night...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Photo

She's getting so big!

Tarni I can't wait to meet you!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Seattle Loving

It started off with a letter from Stephen Singer and then a run in with Hannah Zommick on the street. It was then followed by a conversation with Will and then a sleepover with Josh Furman, Talya Gilman and Avi Zellman. Yesterday I got yet another beautiful postcard from Darcy Johnson in Thailand and realized how much I miss all my Seattle folks. It has become an official reality that I am opting not to go back to the PNW. Although an anticipated choice it is still hard knowing how many amazing folks I left behind. Good thing the Moishe house always has a couch to crash on!

In addition to all the Seattle connections it has been so great to hear and see from so many people over the last couple of weeks. And although my exhausstion levels are on the high side it has all been worth it. I spent some good quality time with Mindy Hirsch who is here as a Racezet for Taglit-birthright israel. Sometimes amongst all the craziness of life all you need is to kick back with some burgers bar and a good friend.

The end of semester is nearing--Thursday--and although not many of my classses officially change it has been hard to give my full concentration to the classroom. We get one day off, Sunday between the two semesters and begin again on Monday. I will surely be using the weekend towards my advantage! and maybe I will get some sleep too.....

Friday, January 05, 2007


I have thought about it over and over again and I cannot seem to remember for the life of me where I spent New Years Eve 2006. It must not have been that memorable... Yet as I look over the year as a whole so much took place. I could not have imagined a year ago that I would be where I am now. Geographically, theologically, socially, etc... In entering 2007 I can only hope that I again will not be able to fully predict where I will be January 2008. For if I had known all I know now this time last year I would not have grown half as much.

I know it has been a while since I last posted something substantial. Life has been busy, in good ways, and I kinda hoped that by posting colorful/animated links it would keep you entertained.

In our Gemara shiur today we were discussing the concept of Tikun Olam. A phrase that is commonly used today in the context of Social Justice/Activism. The literal translation is 'Repairing the World'. A beautiful idea. In our text however we were trying to grapple with what context it was being used in. There is high doubt that the scholarly Rabbi's meant it in the same way we use it today. It is used in our Mishna in reference to land distribution after one party has damaged the property of another. So what were these Rabbi's trying to fix and in what world were they refering to? As we continued to learn we talked about where in the Torah we learn about payment for damaged property and how it is understood by different scholars. Like most conversations in Gemara there was a dispute. This dispute is based on interpretation of the text. According to Rabbi Yismael (the scholar the Mishna appears to hold by) the text in the Torah needs amendment on who's fields are assesed to base the repaymet-the damaged party or the one who damaged. Therefore the Tikun (fixing) is placing Rabbinic ruling above the ruling of the Torah text. This begs from me two categories of questions:
1. What was going on that the Rabbi's needed to discuss this repairing? What wasn't working in society? All society? The court system? Social circumstances? Problems within the Rabbinic community?
2. What other statements found in the Torah may be able to be overturned by this idea of Tikun Olam? Who/ What determines them?

This comes back to the question I struggle with--why has the conversation closed? Why are we so afraid of re-opening the Machlokets (arguments/discussions full of conflicting opinions) and the possibility of change. I think my teacher stated correctly today that we are much more fearful today of these arguments than ever before, why do we not trust ourselves to approach them in the same passion and humilty that was done years ago? Why is what is in the past so untouchable by traditional Judaism today?

Okay, so what have I been doing all this time that has kept me so busy? Well, Taglit-birthright Israel buses are on the ground and running. Most of my work with them is complete since all the logistical stuff was taken care of months ago. However I am still the point person between the scholars and the groups and so the quiet won't return until after Jan 20.

A couple of weeks ago I confronted the Fellows about my dissapointment and frustration with the program. A program that is promoted as a leadership program in reality appeared to be students who wanted a free seccond year at Pardes and at the end of the day were not all that interested in taking on roles in either our program or the Pardes community. As a result I sat down with the head of our program and then typed up a 3 page proposal on how I think they should redesign/enhance the program for next year. In short what it proposes is to place the Fellows program on par with the Pardes Educators program. The Educators program (which is known for turning out some of the best young Jewish educators in North America) is challenging, selective in candidates, and prepares students to be good Jewish professionals. So too the Fellows program should give participants opportunities to meet with various Jewish leaders and organizations, teach them about different models of leadership, and engage them more in leadership opportunities at Pardes (If you want to know more or more specifics I am happy to share but don't want to type them all out). It was recieved very well by the staff and we are looking for ways to start implementing it now. It was submitted to current Fellows and students for feedback (I requested to stay anonymous in the process) and it looks like its got real potential. I am proud of it. It not only was a affirmation of my own frustrations but it is exciting as well to be part of a process that will hopefully actualize the real potential of the program for years to come.

I have had a lot of visitors in the last few weeks which has been really nice. As mentioned in an earlier post, it's hard to go for long periods of time without friendly and familiar faces.

I have lots more to write about this new year but again I am out of time.

Enjoy the first Shabbat of 2007!