Posted by: RaeAn | 12 September 2010

Shanah Tovah!

Goodbye 5770, and hello 5771!

This past Thursday (starting Wednesday night, as all Jewish holidays do) was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I went to Azor, a town outside of Tel Aviv, with Gal and celebrated with his family; his family is secular, so it was a new experience for me. (Usually, my Rosh Hashanah consists of services. Lots of services. The past 5 years, they’ve consisted of services that I was leading. Lots of services I was leading.) This year, I figured I may as well have the “secular Israeli” experience for the holiday (ha) and get some gosh-darned-good home-made Gefilte fish in the meantime. (Seriously. I know, all you other Americans have probably only had Gefilte fish from a jar. Let me assure you, it’s not always that gross. In fact, when made fresh, it’s quite delicious. Yum.)

It was a relaxing holiday, though the irony did not escape me — I come to Israel for Jew school and spend one of the holiest days of the year without setting foot in a synagogue… but it was nonetheless a good experience, and I was glad for the break. I’ll be spending Yom Kippur in Jerusalem; I’m chanting Torah for one of the services at HUC, and I plan on spending the day experiencing Yom Kippur as it supposedly only exists in Jerusalem. I’ve heard it’s an eye-opening experience… we’ll see how much it lives up to the hype this Friday to Saturday!

In other news, after Rosh Hashanah, I hosted a Spicy Shabbat dinner at my apartment (i.e. on my balcony). There are a number of other spicy-food fans in my class (yay!), and Chuck, Idan, and Gal came in from Tel Aviv for it, and it was lovely. Had about a dozen or so people there, with homemade challah, spicy smoked salmon roll-ups, baked pasta, mac and cheese, Thai green curry, salad, Indian curry, spinach dip, honey cake, and wine. I’m always impressed by how well people here cook! It was all utterly delicious. Plus, I have tons of leftovers. (Always a good thing. Thanks everyone! 😉 ) I got compliments on the Indian curry I made… which is always a good feeling. It looks like Spicy Shabbat may become a semi-regular occurrence around here, which makes me very, very happy. If you know me at all… you know how much I like my food to bite back.

Also: School! (I suppose since that’s the reason I’m here, I may as well update you all on that part, too.)

Classes are going pretty well. I like them to varying degrees. As has always been the case for me, the history (Biblical and 2nd Temple) classes aren’t topping my list of favorites. Granted, we’ve only had 1-2 sessions of each so far, so maybe it’ll change… but history was never my strong point. Grammar was surprisingly awesome. We learned all the details of what vowels go where (and why) in Hebrew words — well, according to the professor, for about half of them; the other half is yet to come… but I love, love, love linguistics and especially little rules like that. I find them utterly fascinating. So, call me a dork, but I’m excited about that class.

Liturgy may end up being hit-or-miss. I really love talking about the development and meaning and interpretation of liturgy… but the class is also supposedly going to emphasize our “personal journey” and our “personal connection” to prayer… which isn’t something I’ve had much interest in lately. I think Jewish liturgy is beautiful on an aesthetic level (the music and the poetry of the words) and fascinating in an anthropological context… but formal prayer hasn’t been my primary method of connecting to my Jewishness, so the “personal journey/connection” elements of the class may feel too “fluffy” for me. I do know that I feel better when I go to services on a regular basis… but I’m not certain it’s the prayers themselves that cause that feeling. I have more of a personal connection to the sense of community I find in a synagogue setting, and that sense of community is where I find spirituality — not necessarily any of the specific words that are said/chanted/sung. But perhaps that will change. As long as I can focus on the historical, literary, anthropological, and aesthetic elements, I think I can manage to enjoy the class.

My “Zionist Idea to Israeli State” class was very good for the first session. I like talking about such things with people who know what they’re talking about. The professor is the head of the Rothberg School at Hebrew University (the study abroad program there), and he seems great so far. Let’s hope the goodness continues throughout the rest of the sessions.

Rabbinic Texts was decent. Bible was pretty good. (Yes, they’re different. Bible is… Biblical texts. Rabbinic texts are later on, historically. They’re written by Rabbis, mostly after 200 CE. Wikipedia has a decent article on it. When it mentions “Sifrut Hazal,” that’s what the class is on.) Both classes are taught in Hebrew. (So are the Liturgy discussion, Jewish Thought, and Grammar. And Hebrew. Duh.)

Jewish Thought is a tad overwhelming, but I think I’m following it. It’s mostly the being-taught-in-Hebrew aspect that’s difficult for me, but I hope it’ll force me to improve my Hebrew. I need that. Hebrew is also a challenge since I moved up a level, but challenges are good, right?

Israel Seminar… I’ll withhold comment on that one until we have at least one more session. I’m not sure I have enough of a grasp on that one to figure out my thoughts on it yet.

The Education seminar is going well, though; we started that one over the summer, so it’s not so new. I had my big presentation today (on Neil Postman’s The End of Education; a good article on it is here) with Kyna, and that went fantastically! We got nothing but positive comments from the teacher. Yay for hard work paying off! The presentation was a little over an hour, and we had a PowerPoint with video, audio, graphics, and interactive elements, which all seemed to go over well. Postman’s theory is a tad complicated (understatement of this blog!), so I’m glad we managed to get the information across to everyone with such positive feedback.

And… that’s about it for now. I should blog more often, because I’m sure I’m forgetting some awesome things that happened since my last post. Oops.

Things to look forward to: I’m starting at the Jerusalem Open House as the coordinator for the English Speakers group soon; Yom Kippur in Jerusalem; I’ll probably be teaching Latin dance classes on campus, starting after the holidays; and during Sukkot, I plan on traveling with Chuck before he starts the army soon after that.

I’m sorry I don’t have any photos for you today. Maybe next time. For now, maybe this video (which has admittedly been making the rounds) will keep you entertained:

For now, off to do more homework!

L’shana tovah u’metukah (to a sweet and happy new year),

~ Rae

PS: For a more serious, and beautifully made, Rosh Hashanah clip, I highly recommend this video from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. This year, we can all make a difference!



  1. I’m enjoying your blog — a virtual visit to Eretz. By the way, please give Shashi a cuddle from me. Amita is a good friend of mine and I know she is so glad her little friend is in such good hands.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: