Sunday, July 23, 2017

The little things

In the morning in the US my husband would drink tea or coffee and have a cookie that I had made. In moving, this didn't happen yet, we are waiting for a cookie sheet that we ordered and I haven't started baking yet. But in Israel you can find parve things that aren't expensive. So my husband bought some parve muffins to have with coffee before he has his real breakfast. My husband is a personal trainer and fitness guru, so he'll only eat a little sugar, something sweet in the morning. Here's his parve muffin and ice-coffee with almond milk (we don't eat dairy at all.)


It's the little things that make relocating feel normal. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Two years since...

It has been two years since I posted here, but I figured, why create a new blog? I love this one and it's still my life. A very short update: The summer I last posted, I met my husband, Tzuri, married him in October. Bh, we had a beautiful baby girl, Avigayle, the following July. I taught for two more years in the US at Jewish Day Schools. Now, we recently moved back to Israel. We have been here just over three weeks now and I am finally starting to feel more settled.

Although, there have been times in the past two years that I have felt like writing, I always have more of an urge when I'm in Israel. Maybe I feel more at home, maybe things are more interesting here, maybe I'm happier (so it's easier to write.) I'm not sure the reason, but these past few weeks I have had a lot of observations.

This time in Israel (bh, forever) is very different. One, we moved to Israel for good. (Not that we wouldn't ever consider living somewhere else for a year if there was some amazing opportunity, but we really have going to live in Israel and bez'h, our child and future children will grow up here. Two, I'm not in a major city. We moved to Kfar Saba, which is about 20 minutes (without traffic) northwest of Tel Aviv. Also, we moved to a neighborhood that is a majority Yemenite. Needless to say, people have already noticed that I'm not Yemenite and many people have already asked me when I moved from the US, even though I never told them that I wasn't born in Israel. (Clearly, it's fairly obvious to most.)



In summary, I want to write to tell about my trials and successes as a new resident to this community. Although, I already feel like we overcame the initial hurdles, (we have a working stove, bank account, washing machine, APARTMENT) there are still many things to be done. We are also in Kfar Saba so we can be close to my in-laws. They are amazing, but very different than my family and how I grew up. I know it'll take me sometime to adjust and understand the dynamics of this type of family life.

So to you and to me, welcome back!  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bonna Devora Haberman z"l

When Rabbi Eliezer was excommunicated, the Talmud says that all the plants on the earth wilted and died. I never understood until today. Losing Bonna Devora Haberman​ is such a loss. My heart is truly in pain. Losing a leader, mentor, role model, and friend.

The rosh chodesh that I snuck tefillin into the kotel, Bonna was with me. She saw me, nodded, smiled, moved closer to me. We had danced together before, but we didn't know each other. I knew it was okay, even if I couldn't see HaShem smiling, Bonna was smiling and it was all the reassurance I needed.

The next month, I was sure I would get arrested. But I wasn't the only one with tefillin. Bonna proudly stood with her tefillin on as well, beaming, glowing, only how Bonna did. Whatever the barrier, it was no longer there. We would forever be able to lay tefillin together at the kotel. Although, they told me they were going to arrest me. I asked them not to until after Hallel...and Bonna was arrested instead. Not that she went instead of me, but she was much more brave than I was. She willing went. I didn't want to go to jail, even if I knew I was breaking an unjust law. We never spoke about it. We just kept laying tefillin together every Rosh Chodesh.

Today is my Hebrew birthday, it's not a gift I ever expected, but I am so grateful that HaShem allowed me to be in Israel to say goodbye to Bonna. Tomorrow I am reading Torah at the Kotel. Sefer Torah or not, I can't think of a more appropriate way of honoring Bonna and her memory. 

יהי זכרה ברוך


Friday, November 28, 2014

Going home.

לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ: בראשית יב:א 

"Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." Genesis 12:1


HaShem tells Avraham to leave his land, his birthplace, his father's home and go to another land. HaShem continues and says that he will bless Avraham in many ways. 

I feel that over the past six years of my life, I have been like Avraham. I left the land I was from, from where I was born, my parents' house, to a land (Israel) that HaShem showed me. I earned a Masters Degree in Middle East Studies, learned Hebrew, and for the past three years studied in the best beit midrash (house of study) in the world at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. At Pardes, I was free to question, change, grow, challenge my thinking, my actions, my way of living. And I did all those things. I changed, a lot. I didn't really have to explain to my parents and family how I was changing. It was just my thinking, but also the way I practiced my religion. I didn't have to explain how I became to feel more identified to Am Yisrael and the Jewish people than I did with being American. I didn't have to explain why I started to keep kosher, keep Shabbat, keep mitzvot. Maybe they saw pictures, or I mentioned something here or there, and they knew I didn't call on Saturdays, but they didn't really know the extent of my changes. Maybe that was my fault, or maybe I wasn't totally aware of the process that I was going through.  Either way, I wasn't the same person I was when I left my parents' home.

But unlike Avraham, at some point, I would be returning home. It happened last August. After five years in Israel, I returned to the land of my birth, to a place near (within driving distance) of my parents' home. I was blessed to receive a teaching position at a Jewish Day School in the midwest. I would be returning to the United States a totally different person than when I left. 

I can understand why HaShem never tells Avraham to go back home. It's hard. It's hard to explain things, it's hard to make demands on my family. It's hard to ask them to buy kosher things. It's hard to ask them to only use dishes that have been made kosher. It's hard to ask my Catholic father to make a kosher Thanksgiving. 

But...that's exactly what happened. 

Kosher turkey almost cooked on a kosher grill.
The weekend before when my parents were in Skokie, Illinois they went to the kosher Jewel and bought lots of things. I brought kosher utensils from my apartment and we cooked everything in those. We didn't use butter...on anything. We made roasted potatoes instead of mashed. And guess what, everyone survived. 


Reading books Thanksgiving morning with my niece and nephew.
And not only did everyone survive, I got to spend lots of time with my niece and nephew. The hardest part about living in Israel is being far away from them. Although I came home twice a year, I feel like I completely missed the first five years of my nephew's life. Both my niece and nephew are so smart, sweet, lovable and kind. By returning to the midwest, I definitely get to be a part of their lives much more. Being able to be with my family, makes all the requesting, explaining, awkwardness, all the ignoring the weird/rude comments, and even sometimes not being able to eat, all worthwhile. 

I remember being at Pardes talking to one of my rabbis and I was expressing my anxiety about going home a year before it was actually going to happen. He said, "you need to communicate." Although, simple, it's not simple at all. Communication isn't easy. But starting as early as possible and being as honest as possible, is very important. My families participation may have come with some complaining and lack of understanding, but they got exactly what I needed and did exactly what I needed to be able to be comfortable in their home...because in the end, our goal was the same. We all wanted to be together. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Judy visits JDS


I was lucky that my faculty check in during student teaching landed right in the middle of my student teaching. It is really easy to get overwhelmed (especially as a second year, in my case third) with teaching, but also interviewing and juggling life. 

Not only was Judy a great observer and gave wonderful feedback after my lessons, she helped me focus and reminded me of my goals I had set for myself before leaving Pardes. Take risks, have fun, learn, experiment, take advantage of the fact that I have a (wonderful) veteran teaching watching my lessons, etc. 

Judy and me in the CESJDS Rabbinics office!
Judy's visit was brief, and while she was at JDS she met with my mentor teacher, the Judaic studies department chair, the head of school, principal of the middle school, and of course, most of the time she was with me. Although I'm sure the interviewing process will only become more stressful, she really eased my anxiety and helped me re-focus.

Besides all the helpful things she did and the guidance she gave, it was simply wonderful to see a friendly loving face from Pardes. Can't believe I'm at the half-way marker! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

JDS hockey team plays Israel!

Last night, after school, I went with the Director of Jewish Life and her five year old son to watch a hockey game between JDS (the school where I'm doing my student teaching) and Israel. I didn't know that Israel had a youth hockey team, but they were touring DC all the way from Metula, Israel. The team is made up of male and female, Israeli and Arab teens. The stands were packed and it was an awesome match to watch. I have no idea about the skill level as it was the first hockey game I have ever been to, but I thought both teams played well. I was proud of my students and the teens from Israel. 

Israel is in white and JDS is in blue. 
Opening ceremony of the hockey game 

My friend's son with two Olympic medalist hockey players. 

Tshirt from the game.

I was also impressed by how many students, parents, administrators, and community members came to support both teams and came to support Israel. The DC area is a really nice place to be and I'm happy to be at JDS to experience these types of events in America. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

First day of student "teaching"

I put teaching in quotations because even though it was my first day at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (JDS for short) in Rockville, Maryland, I definitely didn't teach. I observed, a lot.

Entrance of JDS (still dark outside when I arrived)
I had a couple of tours of the school, met many wonderful people, half of whom I hope to remember their names tomorrow, and sat in on classes. Besides the Judaic Studies classes I sat in on, I went to a jazz class which was very cool (and impressive). 

After meeting the tennis coach after school, we agreed that I would coach with her until April with the boys team every Monday-Thursday.  

Shabbats are already being planned! This Shabbat Yaffa will be in Maryland and I'll get to spend time with her. Maybe I'll miss Pardes less when we're together. Although, everyone at JDS is so nice and welcoming, it's hard to not love every second and very hard not to be excited about going to "work" everyday.

First day!!! 
My first day of real teaching will be next Monday. Until then I will be doing more observations and prepping my lessons for teaching. (Also, there are a lot of Pardes alumni that work at my school which makes it feel very homey!)