Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew


tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

Political Discourse in NH

One thing I wasn’t expecting during my week at the NHC Summer Institute was to hear bigoted, ignorant, political lies. Granted, this was at the Mountainview Community Hospital in Peterborough, NH, but still. Wow. (I drove a friend to the ER this morning to get stitches; she’s fine.)

All of the following are direct quotes from the three men, and two women, in the ER waiting room. As a scrambled to jot them down on my iPhone, I didn’t have time to attribute quote to each person properly.

It says on page 59 [of the proposed health care bill] that they will debit everyone’s bank account without having to ask first – look it up!

The news is all liberal, the only one you can believe is Fox.IMG_1142

Obama’s popularity rates are the lowest of any president! He apologizes to everybody and bows to the Saudi king! Can you believe that?!

I heard that Canadians flock over the border to get health care in the US and we’re trying to copy their system?! My friend’s cousin’s dad lives in Canada and needed open heart surgery, it was an emergency, he’d had a heart attack, and the wait was six months so he came down and did it in the US – can you imagine waiting six months?

And Obama’s plan is, ‘hey, you need a hip replacement? We won’t do it, but we will council you on assisted suicide instead, because you’re just going to have to die.'”

Barak Obama grew up despising America, he and his wife, are racist, bigots, they signed the Black Doctrine saying that they wouldn’t worship any G-d that whites worshiped. He and his wife.

I can’t even call him President of the United States, it makes me sick. He’s just Osama.

You know who’s gonna take him out before the year’s through? The KKK. He’ll be the first and the last black president. Deval Patrick is just as bad.

He’s got a gift for speaking – but only with a teleprompter.

He’s cut the budgets for all the fire departments, police, and ambulances in the country. Every dept has been cut. And you know what? Believe me, L.A. or New York or one of those major cities will be hit in the next 3 years by biological or nuclear warfare. Cheney said Homeland Security has fallen to shit since Obama and now we’re gonna get killed ’cause he allows Al Qaeda to trade nukes on the black market.

Left liberals say 9/11 was a Cheney conspiracy.

Another stimulus plan? He’s destroying the country. Watch the Democrats go flying out the door at the midterm elections next year.

Of the uninsured, only 8 million Americans can’t afford it, the rest are illegal aliens. Well gee, what does he think is going to happen when hospitals can’t refuse care? Of course they’re going to be swamped because of those damn illegal aliens wanting our health care. They should go back to their own countries. Then we won’t need a health care bill. Good Americans already have insurance!

We don’t need some fat guy behind a desk in Washington telling us which doctor or medicine we’ll have access to. [I pipe up, ask how they feel about some “fat guy behind a desk” at their insurance company making those same decisions now.] The system works. I can see a doctor whenever I need to, 24/7, excellent care always. Don’t mess with it.

Those college types are brainwashed by their professors. They didn’t know better, were brainwashed, and voted for Obama.

Whenever you get government regulated anything, Reagan said government ruins everything. Less government is more efficient.

Obama’s health care is illegal. He’s a liar. Believe me, it’s all lies. Page 59, look it up.

That’s right… Obama’s racist, the KKK is going to kill him before the year’s through, and Americans have great health care for all already.

Did I mention I was sitting there as an, uh, adopted east coast elite/liberal Jew (tzitzis and kippah in full view)? Yeah, I was not comfortable at all. I wanted to argue – but was afraid to. Aside from the question I asked on insurance versus government health care (noted above), I only interjected once: I suggested that the story about needing to go to the US for emergency heart surgery wasn’t accurate – that in Canada there are wait lists for elective surgeries and procedures that aren’t deemed urgent, but all emergency surgery is dealt with, well, in Canada. They didn’t believe me, and cited a Fox news report.

With my friend in the triage area, I couldn’t sit there alone any more (it had been almost an hour). I wandered the hospital and returned just as my friend was released (without the stitches she had gone there to get).


Filed under: america, nhc 'tute, politics, travels, wtf?

Zigging, zagging, and filling in the blanks

It’s been a hectic week or two.

There was the lead up to ‘tute and the week of Summer Institute itself. It was busy, genderful, discussionful, friendful, cuddleful, teachful, and learnful. A few of us blogged about it over on Jewschool. I was left wrestling with some wonderful conversations, which I will have to continue back in the real world, possibly with margaritas in hand.

Sunday evening, upon my return, I had a lovely, if short, sleep in New York before heading to Montreal yesterday morning. Or at least, that was the plan. The short version is that I was “denied entry” to Canada, forced to return to the US. Which worked out, as I was able to get my work visa Monday evening, but meant I didn’t get to spend the night in Montreal catching up with a fantastic family, couldn’t get to my storage locker, and wasn’t able to have poutine for dinner or bring a dozen St-Viateur bagels back to New York with me. Alas. But, as I said, it worked out: I am now a legal alien in the US. (In the 36 hour period that started with pulling out of the parking lot at FPU in Rindge, NH, and ending with my return to my lovely hosts in the Bronx, NY, with the trip to the border in between, I traveled 1638km, passed through NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, and for all of three minutes QC, and both chased lightning storms and raced to avoid them.)

Today I dealt with the social security office. Seems I was too efficient; the US Border and Customs folks hadn’t yet entered my work visa in their database, so I couldn’t actually get the SSN. Most likely this means it’ll take 2-3 weeks to get a SSN instead of the 1-2, but worst case is that it could take as much as 4-6 weeks. I plan on following up with them both on the phone and in person.

I also had the joy of filing an FCC complaint today. While driving south through Albany last night, I was scanning the radio dial when I came across some sort of sermon or Bible study. I heard the word phylacteries and continued listening. That is, until I realised that it was anti-semitism masquerading as moral/Christian superiority. Ugh. I hope they’re fined.

And now? Now I try to burn through the rest of my to-do list, possibly have a nap, certainly call a few more leads on apartments, then try to get a good night’s sleep before my first day of work tomorrow.

Filed under: america, canada, friends, home, nhc 'tute, random, travels, work, wtf?

Howdy from New Hampshire!

It’s been a while, my friends. I’m currently enjoying the sun rain sun in Rindge, New Hampshire, where the National Havurah Committee Summer institute is underway. 372 people of all ages looking to do Jewish for a week – an amazing time. I’m teaching a course on “other” genders in the Mishna and their use in contemporary tshuvot (responsas), enjoying reconnecting with friends, and trying not to be too exhausted by everything there is to do…

I, and others, are posting about the ‘tute over on Jewschool; follow the NHC Summer Institute tag to see those posts. Feel free to comment on them over there, anonymously or not; I’d love to see some discussions come out of those posts.

And once I’m back from the mountains, I’m sure I’ll have a post or two about moving to New York, adventures at the mikvah, and more…

Filed under: america, judaism, nhc 'tute, travels

Who wants to be an Everett Fellow?

cross posted to Jewschool.

Many of the writers here at Jewschool share something amazing in common: we were Everett Fellows. And you could be too!

Imagine late-night singing and philosophical discussions under the stars… engrossing Jewish learning … opportunities to participate in a variety of services, arts experiences, shabbat celebrations, and outdoor activities… the chance to meet a group of dynamic,
thoughtful, energetic Jewish young adults as well as community members of all ages at a weeklong institute. Sounds fantastic, right?

Apply to be an Everett Fellow at this year’s National Havurah Summer Institute. As an Everett Fellow, you can enjoy the institute for a fraction of the actual cost and benefit from a built-in community of other 20-something Jews.

The National Havurah Summer Institute 2008 will take place August 11th-17th at Franklin Pierce College in rural New Hampshire. Each participant selects two week-long courses on topics ranging from text study to ethics and social justice to arts and culture. In addition to the week-long classes, there are daily workshops and activities;
participants (even first-timers) are encouraged to design and teach a workshop, lead services, or otherwise take leadership roles. The community is egalitarian, diverse, and pluralistic.

Everett Fellows participate fully in the classes, workshops, and other activities at the Institute, plus they enjoy their own peer-led programming designed to help them form a community and support each other’s exploration of various Jewish issues. Fellows receive a scholarship for tuition, room, and board and only have to pay for registration and dues.

For more information, you can check out the National Havurah
Committee’s website at (click on “summer institute brochure available”). The application is due May 15th. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment, or email

Looking forward to seeing you at the Institute!

Filed under: nhc 'tute

Come join me in August!

This is the first (okay, second) post about the National Havurah Committee‘s 2008 Summer Institute. The brochure [pdf] is now available! Check out the amazing courses, apply to be an Everett (for those of you who are eligible), check out the financial aid and work study options, and register (online, even!).

See you in August!

Filed under: nhc 'tute

Where you'll find me August 11-17!

I highly recommend this week o’learning, in New Hampshire, with a few hundred great, smart, friendly, fun, fruity Jews. I went in 2006 as an Everett Fellow, again last years as a “returning Everett” and will be there this year as a teacher. A full list of courses/teachers has been posted for this summer’s National Havurah Committee‘s Summer Institute!



  • S. Bear Bergman (Poretsky Artist-In-Residence) – Storytelling, Diaspora, and Survival
  • Julia Appel – The Art and Spirit of Prayer Leading
  • Mitch Chanin – Controversy for the Sake of Heaven: Facilitating constructive dialogue across political differences about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other controversial issues
  • Stephen Eisdorfer – Law and The Law
  • Shelly Fredman – The Soul’s Search for Meaning—Creating a Personal Theology
  • Bob Freedman – What Words Can Do!
  • Bob Goldenberg – What is oral about “Oral Torah”?
  • Matthew Goldfield – Infinity and God
  • Jill Jacobs and Guy Izhak Austrian – It Goes Without Saying: Power, Passivity, and Social Change
  • Eleni Litt – Line, Color, Form: The Shape of Torah and the Kabbalah of Color
  • Benjamin – Beyond the Binary: the “Other” Genders in the Mishna and Contemporary Judaism
  • Adele Reinhartz – Diversity and Rupture: The “Parting of the Ways” between Judaism and Christianity
  • Aviva Richman – The Vagina Monologues Meet the Talmud
  • Micha’el Rosenberg – Do We Mourn for the Dead, or for the Living? The Case of Suicide in Halacha

In addition, there are daily workshops, evening programs, amazing prayer options, a lake to swim or canoe or kayak in, hills and mountains to climb, good vegetarian food, music… and more!

Filed under: nhc 'tute

Almost [t]here…

I’ve just returned from a week in New Hampshire, at the 2007 NHC Summer Institute (aka, ‘tute). After havdallah, I wrote in my journal, excerpts of which I’ll share here:

peeps at the 'tuteI’ve spent a wonderful week here in Rindge, NH at the National Havurah Committee’s Summer Institute. Friends, classes and workshops, singing and dancing, swimming and kayaking, cuddling on the beach.To get in the mindset of shabbos, I sang, I went to the beach, I whispered what I wanted to cast off as I dunked, naked, in the lake-come-mikvah.

I sang, I danced, I welcomed the Sabbath Queen with friends and hugs and smiles all around. I stayed up all night talking and singing and laughing, until we realised the sun was about to rise. I huddled under a blanket with five friends and stood on the field as the sun crept over the mountain tops, the fog rising off the field around us. Between dovening and Torah, I managed to nap, eat, sing, and play Scrabble under an old beautiful tree.

The rest of the week, I took (and skipped) classes; taught a workshop on the history of, and contemporary issues facing, Canadian Judaism; ate a lot of salad and ice cream; helped drink $100 of tasty bourbon; toasted, sang to, and danced in honour of friends’ new marriages and soon-to-be marriages; studied Talmud; talked a lot about sexual ethics in class, at meals, and in an intergenerational discussion group; was forced to get out of the lake by security at 2am; watched meteors sail across the sky; took part in traumatic dramatic readings, spoken word style, of songs found in “Rise Up Singing;” told Nachman stories; and had a great time with a friendly community of open-minded people.

All photos uploaded to flickr thus far by me and others, are here (in a nice slideshow).

Next year’s ‘tute is August 11-17th…. I hope to see you there!

Filed under: friends, good eats, judaism, nhc 'tute, parties, photos, religion, seasons, sleep/insomnia, travels

Do you 'tute?

IMG_5365.JPGWho’s going to the NHC’s Summer Institute this year?

Last year was great fun, with amazing people, classes, workshops, learning, and dancing. And this year’s workshops and classes [pdf] look just as wonderful! If you’re reading this, you should consider applying to go. Especially if you’re Jewish. ;)

IMG_5405.JPGAnd if the price is a little beyond your grasp, there’s an Everett Fellowship program “for young adults who have demonstrated their potential to be advocates for Jewish causes and who are actively engaged in defining their post-college participation in the Jewish community. Fellows participate in the full Institute programming and in daily workshops designed specifically for them. They receive a scholarship for tuition, room, and board, and are expected to pay for registration and dues.” I was an Everett last year, and highly recommend it as a way to get to the ‘tute.

Hope to see you in Rindge, NH, August 6-12!

Filed under: nhc 'tute

Havurahs, yes!

Edith and Henry Everett Philanthropic Fund fellows attend the National Havurah Committee´s Summer Institute in Rindge, N.H., in August 2006.

Once a domain of the middle-aged, havurah movement turns to youth

By Sue Fishkoff
September 8, 2006

RINDGE, N.H., Aug. 30 (JTA) — When Ben Murane arrived earlier this month at the National Havurah Committee´s Summer Institute, the annual gathering of the country´s independent Jewish prayer communities, he was “surprised to see all the older people here,” he says. Murane, 23, thought he and his friends at Kol Zimrah, a three-year-old, lay-led minyan on Manhattan´s Upper West Side, were at the forefront of a religious revolution led by young people turned off by the impersonal, hierarchical nature of institutional Judaism.

He had no idea that the white-haired, guitar-playing, anti-establishment grandparents he found himself living and studying with for a week in New Hampshire had done the same thing almost four decades earlier.

“Everyone I´ve met at Kol Zimrah is young,” Murane explains.

But the havurah movement is 38 years old, dating back to the 1968 founding of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Mass., the first intentionally non-denominational community of Jewishly literate, religiously egalitarian and politically liberal young Jews.

Even as mainstream synagogues began co-opting the havurah model to reinvigorate large, impersonal congregations, a network of independent havurot grew, creating an all-volunteer National Havurah Committee and,

in 1979, the first summer institute, where havurah members from across North America gather every year to sing, dance, pray, study and meditate.

This year the movement symbolically turned over the reins to the next generation. Ben Dreyfus, 26, and Elizabeth Richman, 32, co-chaired the summer institute, the first time it was headed by two young people.

“There´s a passing of the baton,” says social psychologist Sherry Israel of Brandeis University, who´s been coming to the institute since 1983.

“All of us who have seen these kids grow up in this community are pleased as punch, and relieved,” says Debra Cash, a member of Havurat Shalom from 1974 to 1981. “There was a question for a long time, is this kind of transdenominational Judaism for them?”

The answer seems to be yes.

“For us, havurah Judaism is very much about doing it ourselves,” says Benj Kamm, 22, who first came to a summer institute as a child.

Kamm believes havurah Judaism has much to offer his generation.

“We see our peers not knowing much about being Jewish, not knowing why they practice. They bring in clergy to be Jewish for them. For many people in my generation, havurah Judaism is saying we need to own our Jewish experience,” he says.

By the 1990s, the havurah movement was graying. According to institute lore, by 1999 there were just four people younger than 35.

The following year, the Edith and Henry Everett Philanthropic Fund began underwriting a fellowship program to bring 18 post-college Jewish activists to each summer institute. Everett alumni, together with children of movement founders like Kamm and members of new independent minyanim like Murane, in five years have created a vibrant new population base.

This summer, the single largest group of participants was people in their 20s.

“This is the second wave” of havurah Judaism, says Richman, a 2000 Everett fellow. She and Dreyfus, a 2002 Everett fellow, say the “tipping point” was 2001, when groups of young Jews in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington began forming their own independent minyans along traditional havurah principles.

Some of the leaders of these new minyans, like Dreyfus and Richman, founders of Kol Zimrah in New York, were Hillel activists in college. Others are new to Jewish organizational work, but are active in groups like Jews in the Woods, an on-line community of young activist Jews, or might have studied in Israel for a year or worked with the Israeli peace movement.

The summer institute has become a touchstone for these young Jews, Dreyfus says. They form social networks and keep in touch during the year, feeding off each other´s inventiveness.

“There is again a generation of young people who are served by” independent havurot, argues Rabbi Arthur Green, spiritual luminary of the Reconstructionist movement and founder of Havurat Shalom. “They see themselves as too unconventional for a mainstream congregation. They want a more informal style of worship.”

Like those who founded the first havurot, these younger Jews are very committed to text study even as they oppose what they call the elitism of religious authority. Rabbis are not addressed as such, and workshops are taught by teenagers as well as renowned intellectual figures.

Sarah Brodbar-Nemzer, 22, of Toronto, has been coming to the institute since she was 8. At 13 she ran a workshop and at 15 became a member of the board.

“This has always been a place where my leadership was taken seriously,” she says.

These younger Jews are bringing new sensibilities and priorities to havurah Judaism, while preserving the movement´s original egalitarian and counter-cultural nature. They want greater emphasis on music, social action, and traditional observance.

“There´s less fear of halachic practice,” notes Green, adding that the founders of the havurah movement were fighting feminist and pluralist battles that today´s young Jews have moved beyond.

Some of the young men and women this summer sported tzitzit but not necessarily kippas, exhibiting a fluidity of ritual dress that deliberately flouts convention.

“I put them on a year and a half ago as a political protest, against the right and the left,” Murane says of the tzitzit. He´s critiquing Orthodox Jews who claim ownership of the ritual as well as his colleagues on the political left who disdain it.

“These young people see no conflict between their traditionalism and their activism,” Green says. “They talk about poverty and preserving the environment using the language of halachic obligation.”

At the insistence of young participants, all the coffee at this summer´s institute was Fair Trade, the T-shirts were sweatshop-free and workshops were offered on topics such as the “Beyond Oil” alternative-fuels campaign and ethical consumerism.

“It´s always been part of the institute, but we´ve brought in more of it,” Richman says.

In their worship, “music is used more deliberately and engagingly,” Israel notes. “Havurah services were always participatory, but this group is doing exciting things with music.”

The young Jews taking leadership roles in havurah Judaism “believe passionately in what we do,” Richman says.

That makes their parents happy.

“In the late ´80s our young people were telling us, ´You need to tell us what to do,´ ” Cash says. “This group of the last decade, they just invent it. Even though there´s a chance havurah will morph into something different with this generation, it looks as if it will carry forward.”

Filed under: judaism, nhc 'tute

1000 words?

I’ve posted some photos from the ‘tute on flickr.

A few more from Talya & Josh’s wedding.

And some great dorks.

Filed under: friends, music, nhc 'tute, photos, queers, random, seasons, travels