“Stories from our lives”
Thursdays at the Conservative Yeshiva are a unique experience. Every other week we all sit down to a communal meal cooked by yours truly and we enjoy some sort of educational or community building program called Kehila Midaberet, or community speaks.
Two weeks ago was our first Kehila Midebaret of the year with all of the students for the fall semester present. We enjoyed a tasty curried butternut squash and pumpkin soup for lunch (recipe below!) and sang some songs followed by a creative program led by Nathan, a Ziegler Rabbinical School student. The activity started by asking us to write a single sentence that summarized the beginning or end of something in our lives. It did not have to be specific or major, but it needed to be real. We then broke into groups and each group got two of the sentences at random. Our task was to compose two scenes using those sentences in specific ways. The results ranged from a scene about a woman looking for lemons to impress a new girlfriend, finding only etrogs in the markets and later having her new girlfriend mention a love of etrogs and strong dislike of lemons, to a scene of a young woman who is not allowed to play football for her high school team because of a third arm sticking out from under her shirt and her anxiety about having it removed. Each scene portrayed a light and comical version of real emotional reactions to the small and large changes that make up our lives, even if the scene could never happen in the real world.
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“My multi-cultural high holidays”
Every year we sing “Next year in Jerusalem!” as an aspiration to be able to spend our holidays together like we did thousands of years ago when we still traveled to Jerusalem to offer holiday sacrifices in the Temple. I was lucky to be able to spend Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem, where I visited the houses of teachers and friends and opened up my home to friends. Over the holiday, I prayed with the Tzion and Nava Tehila congregations. Tzion has a unique blend of Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs and melodies. The prayer service usually starts with a few minutes of meditation to help focus our intentions during prayer. At Nava Tehila, there is often some meditation throughout the service and many of the songs are small excerpts from the liturgy sung to a lively or powerful melody with drums and dancing. Both were amazing places to celebrate the new year.
Right after Rosh Hashana, I left Jerusalem with my husband and the other students of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and the students of the Jewish Theological Seminary to spend two weeks at Kibbutz Hannaton in the southern part of the Galilee. While we were there we got to take several tours throughout the north of Israel and meet people from various communities in the Galilee including a local historian from Kfar Manda, several immigrants to Israel and a Druze man. Each person had a different set of ideas about their role in Israeli and culture and aspirations for how this county should be run. The biggest lesson I gained from these experiences is that coexistence is a complicated issue and the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know. What is encouraging is that every person we met with seemed to desire a peaceful coexistence and that they were all working towards that goal.
We went to visit the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes to hear one of the monks, Mattias Karl, who lives there speak about the arson attack that happened there. He spoke about the attack frankly and the pain in his voice was evident. He made an interesting comment that the Aleinu verse to destroy utterly all idols spray painted on the wall of his church did not bother him because it exists in a Jewish prayer, it bothered him because it was being used to describe Christianity as worshiping another God, which he believes is untrue. We may disagree about major parts of our religion’s separate theologies, but he feels that we both worship the same God and how could either of our religions see the other as idolaters? There was no answer to this question. How could there be?
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“Blessed to be a part of this community”
As the first week of class draws to a close, all of the students studying at the yeshiva this year are beginning to settle into learning and living in Jerusalem. For many of us, this is a once in a lifetime chance to spend a year learning Talmud, Torah, Kabbalah, and Hebrew in the middle of this holy and wholly confusing city, for others it is part of a longer journey to become a rabbi, and for even some others this is a chance to study our traditions and history before going to college and taking that first step into adulthood. No matter what brought us to the Yeshiva, we are all here because we are Jews who want to actively participate in our faith and culture while getting an up close view of the country we can all call home. A blessing that this year will be one full of Torah, kavanah, and kehila as we share this year together.
This is my second in a lifetime chance to study in this amazing community. I attended the CY during the 2012-13 year and loved every moment. I remember forming strong friendships that will continue to last for even more years to come and I am excited to see the beginnings of those relationships forming again with everyone this year. Our beit midrash is a unique space where a group of people can grow closer to each other and to Judaism. Even when each of us returns across the seas to our native communities, we will remember our home in the beit midrash and we can know that there are always people developing their own Jewish lives within its walls. This thought has made me smile countless times while I was away and I am blessed to once again have the opportunity to be a part of this community.
Pre-school Teacher in Los Angeles
Synagogue: Temple Beth Am
Hometown: Livermore, California