Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew

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tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

So Much LGBTQ Jew News!

cross-posted from Jewschool.

In many cities and towns across North America (and the world), June is Pride month, honouring and commemorating the Stonewall Riots of June, 1969 and the start of the gay rights movement. Keeping with the Pride/LGBTQ theme, I have five things of interest to queer and transgender Jews (and their allies).

1 – For those who haven’t yet seen it, Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about the lives of Orthodox and Hasidic gay or lesbian Jews is now online, is streaming at Hulu.

2 – Jewish Mosaic let us know about Kol Tzedek, “an alliance of Jewish organizations working together in unprecedented ways to include transgender people in all aspects of Bay Area Jewish life.” (Additionally, they have a second focus: marriage equality and fighting prop 8.)

Over the past year, we met with a plethora of community members and rabbinic leaders to informally explore how transgender and gender variant people currently interact, or not interact, with the organized Jewish community. We compiled a report based on our anecdotal evidence and shared experiences of the perceived organizational, social and ritual needs of transgender and gender variant persons, and our wish to understand and serve this community’s needs better.

Our objective was to collect enough initial information to compile a brief report to present to the new CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (SFJCF), Daniel Sokatch. We had a very successful meeting in which we presented the report and had an enthusiastic and receptive conversation.

The report is available in PDF here. I share it with you guys in light of their hopes for the report: “Finally, with both confidence and humility, we offer this report to inspire similar initiatives elsewhere in the United States, within and outside the Jewish community.”

3 – dlevy says “Hi.” He’s too busy to post right now, so asked me to mention him in this post about the gays.

4 – Mostly for some laughs, because does anyone actually take the Westboro Baptist Church seriously?!, check out this Slog video. At a protest outside the Stroum Jewish Community Center in North Seattle this weekend, they held signs including “Bitch Burger” (watch the video for an explanation on that one; it had me and my friends scratching our heads), “God Hates Israel,” “God is Your Enemy,” and “Antichrist Obama” – in addition to their boringly trite “God Hates Fags.” The Slog reports:

I know a lot of people may still be wondering, what exactly *is* a bitch burger? And/or is a CRAPuccino a drink that was invented in Seattle? Well, I tried to get some answers for you. Also stay tuned for Part II, where I try to find out why God suddenly hates President Obama… and, in Part III, a real live Israeli Jew asks “The Hot One” what he really thinks of anal sex.

5 – Last week CBST (Congregation Beth Simchat Torah: “New York City’s synagogue for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews, our families, and our friends”) finally released their new siddur, B’chol L’vav’cha / With All Your Heart. The siddur is for Shabbos evening services only.

We try to create the most meaningful experience of prayer we can. Jewish prayer is not a spectator sport. Each week will be different from the week before. Not every week’s service will “work” for every person. Not every service will give you what you came searching to find. But if you hang in there, if you come back regularly, the fixed portions of our liturgy and the weekly variations will most likely begin to speak to you and address those needs you felt keenly and those you didn’t even know you had. [p.14]

I use this excerpt by way of showing what CBST is trying to do with this siddur. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: america, gender, hebrew, homophobia, judaism, politics, queers, religion, seasons

BC travels

IMG_R3246I spent four lovely nights in Victoria, visiting my home, my friends, remnants of my plants. It was great to relax, fully embrace my dorkiness, play a lot of Scrabble, and fall back into a comfortable rhythm with my friends.

On the way back to Vancouver, I had to transfer buses as the Ladner Exchange. There, a woman and her college-aged daughter started pointing at me, then pointing at a fellow standing a few paces from me. I stealthily paused my iPod so I could casually listen in on what they were saying about us. The mother was saying something about my “beanie” and the “head dress” of the other fellow. (Based on what I saw, I assumed him to be Sikh, so that was in fact a turban.) I wasn’t the only one listening in; the other guy had been listening and caught my eyes when this was said of us. He stepped towards the mother and daughter to clarify things with them. But he didn’t know the words “kippah” or “yarmulke,” so in trying to explain that he wasn’t wearing a head dress, and I wasn’t wearing a beanie, the mother and daughter concluded that we were both of the same religion and were wearing variations on the same religious head wear.

At this point he looked to me, so I stepped over and tried to clarify. At some point the daughter had a “light bulb” moment and said something like, “Oh, like what the Pope wears?!” Um, yes. Kind of. Many religions have customs of head coverings and… I lost them. He looked at me and shrugged. The daughter started talking to her mom about an Easter “South Park” episode which claimed the Pope’s hat was pointy because the Pope had rabbit ears to hide. And I put my earphones back in and turned on my iPod.

It’s good to be back on the west coast…

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As a side note, I’d recommend reading two recent posts on Jewschool: The H in Apartheid, a thoughtful piece on Hebron, and No One Is Jewish, about Jews who have had their conversion revoked.

Filed under: friends, israel, judaism, photos, random, religion, travels

George Bush: sinner

Recently, the Vatican has made some announcements that I was none too happy about.

But now?

Polluting the environment, and becoming ridiculously wealthy while doing so, are two of the new deadly sins unveiled by the Vatican.

Aiming to update morality for modern times, the Pope’s top lieutenant on matters of sin and penance, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, promulgated the new list of capital vices over the weekend.

The new list is designed to make the faithful take into account how their lives impact others in a globalized world.

Of course, had I stopped reading there I could have given a brownie point to the church. But some of the other sins on the list make me detract a few: “‘Bioethical’ violations such as birth control” and “‘Morally dubious’ experiments such as stem cell research,” aren’t helpful. So let’s see… you’re a sinner if you use birth control, but you could die from contracting STIs, including HIV/AIDS, without it. (Brings a whole new meaning to “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.)

[source.]

Filed under: america, religion

Québec, encore.

English translation will follow shortly (in the comments). I felt it important to write in French after being back in Quebec for a week… (With thanks to .)

[Cross-posted from Jewschool.]

Et les Montréalais ne vois rien de mal à leur perspective «orthodoxe est le seul judaïsme nous [ne] pratiquons [pas]»? Ceux qui me connaissent ont déjà entendu mon discours contre la communauté juive de Montréal. Les options sont orthodoxes, orthodoxes, ou conservadoxes. Oui, il y a une synagogue réforme classique à Westmount. Et, oui, il y a une synagogue reconstructioniste à Côte-St-Luc. Mais pour un homme shomer Shabbos vivant sur le côté est, ces deux options ne sont pas viables. Selon les statistiques, je les appris par coeur dans un cours universitaire, Montréal est la seule ville en Amérique du Nord ayant plus orthodoxe que conservateurs et réformateurs juifs (c’est-à-dire, il y a très peu de Juifs qui s’identifient réformateurs ou conservateurs, même ceux qui mangent leurs hamburgers avec fromage). Il s’agit d’une ville où le discours d’ouverture sur les premières pages de l’annuaire des entreprises juives a commencé par une blague contre les réformateurs – et personne n’a jugé inapproprié.

Donc, il je ne suis pas étonné quand je vois que les effets de la fermeture et l’insularité de la communauté orthodoxe ont fait des ravages sur la société québécoise.

Un sondage national mené à la suite de la commission sur les «accommodements raisonnables» révèle une disparité frappante entre les attitudes Québécois à l’égard des Juifs et celles des autres Canadiens. Le sondage commandé par l’Association d’études canadiennes (AEC) et effectué par Léger Marketing entre le 31 Janvier et 4 février a demandé à 1500 Canadiens s’ils étaient en accord avec, en désaccord avec, ou ne savaient pas/n’ont pas d’opinion sur une série de déclarations concernant les juifs et l’antisémitisme. Selon les résultats du sondage, 41% des Québécois étaient en accord, tandis qu’un autre 41% étaient en désaccord avec l’idée que «les Juifs veulent imposer leurs coutumes et leurs traditions aux autres». Par contre, face à cette même idée, le reste du Canada étaient en accord à 11%, et en désaccord à 74%. La moyenne nationale était de 19% d’accord et 64% en désaccord.

Quant à une autre déclaration – «les Juifs veulent participer pleinement à la société» – 41% des Québécois étaient en désaccord, et 31% étaient en accord, à comparer au reste du Canada qui a répondu en désaccord à 8% et en accord à 72%. La moyenne nationale était de 16% en désaccord et 63% en accord.

À l’idée «les juifs ont apporté une importante contribution à la société», 35% des Québécois étaient en désaccord et 41% étaient en accord, tandis qu’au reste du Canada 10% étaient en désaccord et 74% étaient en accord. La moyenne canadienne était de 16% en désaccord et 65% en accord. [citation.]

Ne vous méprenez pas: je suis attristé que, en l’an 2008, à la société civilisée du monde occidental, les gens peuvent toujours penser si à l’envers. Dans le cas du Québec, je pense que la responsabilité est double et de grands changements sont nécessaires.

Je pense que ces problèmes sont le résultat d’une province traditionnellement catholique, avec l’Église au centre – les écoles publiques étaient (et sont encore, sans doute) gérés par les conseils scolaires français catholiques. Mes parents, qui ont grandi tous les deux au Québec, ont de nombreuses histoires à raconter sur ce sujet. Soit de se faire battre le dimanche après-midi par les ados catholiques qui viennent aux quartiers juifs (histoire de s’amuser après la messe), soit de se faire taquiner et se faire demander de «montrer leurs cornes», où bien d’être obligés de rester dans les couloirs pendant les prières se faisaient à l’école. Même à mon quartier de l’est, moi aussi, j’était affronté à antisémitisme qui m’a stupéfié – je me suis fait aussi demander de «montrer mes cornes» et me fait appeler les noms racistes. Le résultat de cette histoire de tourments et d’ignorance continuelle, c’est que la population juive vit dans les communautés insulaires exclusives dans les quartiers spécifiques. Je suis sûr que cela crée, d’un certain degré, la protection contre la haine, mais elle crée aussi des problèmes. Les Québécois n’ont donc pas l’occasion de fréquenter les Juifs, d’apprendre à connaître les Juifs comme leurs voisins, et de témoigner qu’il n’y a rien de bizarre ou de sinistre en cours. (Cette situation est à comparer avec celle au reste du Canada où les Juifs vivent en quartiers plus mitigés et intégrés. Ces quartiers juifs au reste du Canada n’arrivent même pas d’atteindre le même taux de densité juive comme, par exemple, à Côte-St-Luc et à Hampstead (les arrondissements de Montréal), qui ont tous les deux un taux de densité de plus de 70% juive.)

Comment pouvons-nous s’avancer? La province devrait réexaminer le système scolaire qui ne semble pas parvenir à créer un environnement ouvert, divers, et qui comprend toute la société. Les hommes politiques doivent se résister au Parti Québécois et demander que ces idées xénophobes et racistes soient rejetées (le province de Québec est, et doit être, pour biens d’autres que les «québécois»; dont les anglophones Québécois, les immigrants et d’autres Canadiens, qui viennent y habiter. Tous ces groupes devraient être traités de façon égale). De cette façon, la notion d’«accommodements raisonnables» et ses débats seront une chose du passé, et le Québec cessera de tacher une nation autrement avant-gardiste.

Mais je pense également que la responsabilité revient à la communauté juive de tendre la main et de contribuer à l’instruction. La première fois que j’ai rencontré antisémitisme à Montréal je marchais vers le côté ouest, vers le shul le jour du Yom Kippour, il y a quelques années. Par coïncidence, un membre du Congrès juif canadien a donné une conférence sur l’antisémitisme entre les services du matin et l’après-midi. Il a remarqué comment les Juifs de Montréal sont mis à part. «Vous rappelez-vous la dernière fois que vous êtes allé jusqu’à la rue St-Laurent?» At-il demandé, «Ou bien la rue St-Denis!?» Son point de vue était que la communauté juive avait besoin d’assumer des responsabilités à «construire des ponts». Comme les Juifs ne se mélangent pas avec les Québécois, beaucoup de Québécois propagent l’antisémitisme purement parce qu’ils n’ont jamais rencontré un Juif. J’ai cité mes expériences avec l’antisémitisme au cours de la période de questions. Quand j’ai dit que j’habite à l’est de la rue St-Denis (le côté français de la ville), je me suis fait dire que devais déménager et que je n’aurais pas à faire face à la haine dans les quartiers juifs. Les ghettos juifs ne sont pas la solution, ils n’ont pas fonctionné jusqu’ici, comme vous pouvez voir, grâce aux débats sur l’accommodement raisonnable et les statistiques ci-dessus. Les juifs devraient reconnaître qu’il y a un côté est de la ville de Montréal et qu’il existe toute une province au delà de l’île de Montréal, où les gens peuvent, et doivent, passer toute leur vie sans rencontrer un Juif. Prendre des excursions avec votre famille et vos enfants vers les petites villes. Apprendre le français. Connaître mieux vos collègues de travail québécois.

Je suis fermement convaincu que les mauvaises attitudes du Québec peuvent se transformer. Néanmoins, il va falloir travailler, pardonner, et surtout éduquer chez les deux côtés afin d’améliorer les conditions de vie dans la belle Province.

Filed under: canada, judaism, languages, politics, religion, wtf?

Modesty – or Arrr, Mateys!

This photo makes me smile.

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I found it on TFOFR‘s flickr stream, with the comment “The only headcoverings allowed in the church are headscarves” on an accompanying photo. So I’d taken off my baseball cap, which I’d intentionally worn in lieu of a kippah that day in Bethlehem, and put on a friend’s scarf. I love that the solution was crossdressing, of sorts.

Filed under: friends, gender, palestine, photos, religion

State v. Religion

cross-posted to Jewschool

The separation of church and state is complicated in Canada, thanks to the notwithstanding clause in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nonetheless, the courts and (most) governments take strides to keep the two separate.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Stephanie Burker, who had been trying to get a get from her ex-husband for 15-years. (If memory serves, hers is one of the stories in the documentary film “Untying the Bonds: Jewish Divorce.”)

“The fact that a dispute has a religious aspect does not by itself make it non-justiciable,” Judge Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. Denying the woman the ability to remarry was “an unjustified and severe impairment of her ability to live her life in accordance with his country’s values and her Jewish beliefs.”

I find it encouraging, then, that the court was able to take a specifically religious issue – that of Jewish women, gets, and agunot – and examine it from a purely legal vantage – contract law. [Read more.]

In the wake of Quebec’s “reasonable accommodation” hearings, I’m curious to know if there has been any backlash against this ruling from the quebecois majority in Quebec, or from the Christian “majority” in the rest of Canada.

… And on “reasonable accommodation,” let’s speak to that for a moment. Over the last year, there was an increased backlash against Muslims and Jews in the [Catholic] province of Quebec. One small town outlawed hijabs and wrote a “code of conduct” instructing potential immigrants how to live “properly” in their town (the town has no immigrants). A young girl wasn’t allowed to play in a soccer tournament because she wore a hijab; her whole team walked off the field in protest solidarity. Teachers in Quebec declared it “unfair” that Jews could take days off for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, but they had to work on their Christian holidays (um, because apparently schools are open on Easter, Christmas, and Sundays?!). After Passover, a reporter urged patients, who hadn’t found the hospital’s policy problematic, to start complaining about having been served kosher l’pesach meals. The media urged the public to protest women being allowed to vote while wearing a niqab or burqa. And many, many, more examples.

The result was a whole lot of hatred towards non-quebecois residents/citizens of Quebec. The provincial government decided they needed to act, and quickly, so they set up a Commission. For those not aware of the procedures of a provincial Commission (or of a federal Royal Commission), they are anything but quick, and usually incredibly ineffective. Thus, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission set out to talk with quebecois and Quebecers about reasonable accommodation, immigration, racism, and related topics. From most accounts, the public hearings became venues for people to “legitimately” air racist, xenophobic, and otherwise bigoted opinions without fear of consequence. Few and far between were the positive accounts of what living in a pluralistic society can offer. [Listen here to CBC’s Quebec This Week reporting on the first English hearing during the commission.]

It’s just sad that, in many ways, Quebec is so far behind the rest of Canada. Sure, it had legislation promoting equality between the genders decades before other provinces, but when it comes to racism, bigotry, religious and ethnic intolerance, xenophobia… Quebec is decades behind.

Good luck, Ms. Burker. I hope yours isn’t the only good religion-related news coming out of Quebec these days. Here’s to a hopeful 2008.

Filed under: canada, judaism, politics, religion

Euphonic Dissonance

[Cross-posted to Jewschool.]

From my apartment in [West] Jerusalem, I can hear the Muslim call to prayer through the day (and night). I quite enjoy this, though I find it somewhat surprising given my location: I can’t really figure out where the nearest mosque (and, specifically, its minaret) is.

For a couple Fridays now, my neighbourhood has also been home to weekly teachers’ strike rallies. They successfully block pedestrian traffic (and sometimes car traffic) on both sides of the street, bringing the pre-Shabbat bustle of errands and shopping and chatting with friends on the street down to a snail’s pace. Pedestrians bottlenecking as we try to squeeze past the rallying teachers and their supporters.

I noticed something this morning that I hadn’t during previous weeks’ protests: an additional layer of noise. Sure, the protesters have whistles, drums, and shout slogans. And sure, many drivers honk their horns in support. But there was something else there… The call to prayer in time for Dhuhr. At first I took it for a protester with a megaphone, but I quickly recognized it for what it was. The conflicting noises, strikers and faithful, were great, and somehow complemented each other nicely.

Filed under: politics, religion

On The Seam

As BZ briefly mentioned, a bunch of us went to Museum On The Seam on Tuesday. The “seam” in question is the division between East and West Jerusalem; it is physically located on the seam, and also focuses on contemporary art which deals with socio-political issues. We were there to see the current exhibit, Bare Life:

Bare Life is the third in a series of exhibitions on themes of human rights that we are presenting at the Museum. This exhibition aims to touch upon the increasingly unraveling seam between deviant states and normative states, and to point resolutely at the place where the temporary emergency situation turns into a legitimized ongoing situation that in the end leads to a paranoia of suspicion and to the use of violence to re-establish public order.The works on show in this exhibition were selected with an intention to present and depict the atmosphere that encourages nations and organizations to activate invasive methods which infringe the boundaries of our identity, our privacy, and the freedom we are entitled to as citizens of a world that not so long ago experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, was witness to atrocities and to contempt of human values, and was enlightened enough to proclaim its aspiration for reforms and new directions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was formulated after the end of that terrible war.

This aspiration is confronted in the exhibition by means of works by 42 artists from all over the world, some of whom are showing this work in Israel for the first time. In their works, these artists bring testimonies that attempt to clarify the nature of relations in times of trouble and in periods of uncertainty which the regime or the sovereign define by as a times for restoring order, which accords the authorities the power to use all the means at their disposal.

While many of the pieces focused on the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict, there was also work focusing on the former USSR, China, South Africa, the US South, and more.

There were some very interesting pieces, a lot of mixed and multi-media. The one I found the most intense was a video installation, which featured a line of people stepping forward to see *something* (we don’t know what), and their reaction to the *something*. Most cried, gasped, looked horrified, quickly looked away then stole additional glances. Equally interesting, and I think this was the artist’s main point, was seeing the people’s interactions with one another – a touch on the shoulder, a reassuring look, a hug… I was mesmerized, and ended up watching the full video. For me, that piece made the whole exhibit worthwhile.

Equally interesting was the rooftop view. The museum has sketched out the surrounding neighbourhoods, placing a sketch-map at each cardinal direction so you can know which buildings and neighbourhoods you’re looking at from your vantage point on the seam. It was really interesting.*

I have to call the museum back and find out when their next exhibit will be rolling in, as I want to go back. If you speak English, Hebrew, or Arabic (the museum is trilingual) you should check it out too.

*This isn’t quite the right post for this, but I’m hijacking it: While I’ve mentioned hearing the adhan before, I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy living in a place where I can hear the call to prayer multiple times a day. I heard it while I was on the rooftop of the museum, I can hear it from my apartment, I hear it when I’m at shuk, I hear it all around town. I love it. Even though I know that there is a huge separation between the Jews and Muslims, especially in a city and country where Arabs are constantly profiled, treated suspiciously, and pushed down, it makes me feel a connection to Jerusalem that I haven’t otherwise felt. It gives me hope that these neighbours, descendants of Abraham/Ibrahim can live and pray together. When I hear their adhan, I’m reminded that I have (or haven’t) davened three times that day, just as there are Muslims who have (or haven’t) prayed five times that day. And it reminds me of “Muslim Shabbat,” and the great conversations I would have with my Muslim friends at Concordia. And it reminds me of the times I went to the mosque with friends, and stood next to them in prayer, davening the amidah while they went through the salat recitations, noticing the similarities between both prayers in their formula and body movements. I think I need to find a joint prayer/religious group here.

Filed under: israel, judaism, palestine, politics, religion, war

The week of Sukkot, plus…

A lot happens in Jerusalem during Sukkot. There’s no school (for the children nor for the yeshiva students), so it’s really a big holiday. Aside from the sukkahs we build, and the crazy Christmas connections (see my previous post), the city’s also abuzz with events, parties, learning opportunities, and more.

There was a food fair, which boasted 40 food vendors, representing the 40 years of a “re-unified Jerusalem.” We had fun drinking beer and choosing our meat (the tandoori chicken was amazingly tasty, the Chinese food not so much), before we went to watch the apathetic cheerleaders on stage, followed by a dance competition for members of the audience. It was all kind of a waste of the 10 sheqel entry fee until we found the dried fruit. Oh so tasty, amazing, dried fruit. We bought a lot of it, and will make liquor with the dried kiwis and lychees.

There was the much advertised, highly hyped Jerusalem civic “sukkah-riah” (a combination of the words for sukkah and candy).Unfortunately, it was not built out of candy. Nor was there metric buttloads of candy being doled out to all of us, as other media reports had promised. So sad, so disappointing. [Pictures form the week of Sukkot here.]

There was the tasty pizzas (with sourdough crusts) that we baked and ate in the balcony sukkah at our friends’ apartment. There was much drinking, a lot of fresh fruit chopped and blended to add to the drinking (fresh pomegranate juice and vodka? oh yes!), meals in sukkahs, long conversations, walking to and fro… And trips to the shuk. [Pictures from the sukkahs here.]

There was also the Christian Zionist parade through Jerusalem. I think this might deserve its own post, but I’m writing here now, so this will have to be the place. Wow. c_IMG_1942.JPGThe background is that 6,000-7,000 Christian Zionists from around the world come to Jerusalem during the “Feast of Tabernacles,” ie Sukkot. They do bible study, tour the country, and have this parade. Their pilgrimage/conference is one of the largest tourist money makers for Jerusalem each year. So the parade was basically a bunch of the Israeli big companies (the banks, utilities, post office) then the delegations from each country. Kelly called it the “Christian Olympics,” because they all marched behind signs boasting their countries’ names and flags. There were contingents from every continent except Antarctica. Irish, USAmerican, Canadian, German, Zimbabwean, Brazilian, Chinese, Papuan, New Zealanders, Estonians, and more. Many of whom carried (and blew) shofars as they marched. Many of whom wore t-shirts telling us that Jesus (Yeshua) loves Israelis/Jews. They’re not legally allowed to proselytize while in Israel, so aside form declaring their love of Israel, they also had a lot of messages from Psalms (exalting Israel) and Ruth (“your people shall be my people, your G!d shall be my G!d”). The latter I didn’t really understand. In the book of Ruth, that’s said to Naomi when Ruth declares that she doesn’t want to return to her nation, but rather wants to stay with Naomi and become a Jew. So were the Christian Zionists saying that they want to convert to Judaism? Another thing that was disturbing about the parade were the missionaries. In one of the groups, I believe it was the Ugandans, there were two tall, white, thin, modestly dressed people walking at the back of the group. It was obvious to us that they were missionaries. I was amazed – I didn’t realise that it was still an acceptable practice to go to Africa and convert people to Christianity. It seems very… several decades ago. After 2 hours, we were all traumatized by the parade, and had even run out of new ways to mock what we were seeing. [Pictures of the parade here.]

Oh, and there was the beating of the willows, which was quite spectacular. Though possibly because we were all so relieved that the marathon Hashanah Rabbah service was finally concluding, that we all just really let loose and beat those willows.

And then it was the final holiday for a while, Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. Last night we went to a small Yemenite synagogue, not far from my apartment. It was excellent. Their amazing accents took some getting used to, but once we clued in, it was great. After the auctioning off of Torah scrolls (it’s a custom of many communities to auction off the rights to carry the Torahs during the procession and recitation of piyyut (liturgical poems)), the successful winner tapped me on the shoulder and gave me the Torah he had won (Drew was given the other Torah he’d won). This was exceptionally generous of him, and made us feel all the more welcome. So we carried, sang, and tried to blend in a little. (This was easier to do among the men than the women. Kelly later said she felt twice as tall as the Yemenite women.) The service ended early, so we wandered Katamon and the Geman Colony looking for other shuls, or other chances to dance in the streets with the Torahs. Unfortunately, the opportunities just weren’t there, which seemed odd – in North America there would have been dancing, and it would have continued later. In our wonderings, we did check out a Breslov shul, a yet-to-be-classified Chasidic shul, and the one that was a few hundred people standing in the streets socialising while maybe a dozen people danced. Alas.

This morning, I returned to the Yemenite shul. Even though I was less able to follow their service (amazingly wonderfully confusing tunes, coupled with different liturgy than I’m accustom to and their accents), it was still fantastic. And my own benchmark for a great Simchat Torah was met: there was dancing on the tables, while the tables were being lifted up. Excellent. It ended early, and I went back to the some-sort-of-Chasidic shul, which was also full of singing and dancing. Around 1:30pm, I made my way to Kedem for some egalitarian action, and davened my 4th amidah of the “morning.”

It’s been wonderful, busy, and somewhat exhausting getting through all the haggim plus Shabbats these last few weeks. In some ways, it’s nice that they’re over so I can concentrate on ulpan and learning, and create a regular schedule. But… I’m really going to miss them too. (Which is why I will be celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday.)

Filed under: friends, good eats, israel, judaism, photos, random, religion, wtf?

Christmas in Israel!

It’s that magical time of the year, yeledim, when we trim the trees and assemble the 3.5 walls. Yes, it’s Sukkot (almost; Wednesday at sunset). Here in Israel, Sukkot has taken on a look that, weere it North America, would most aptly be described as Christmas.


Lights and ornaments have been strung, a five pointed tinsel-y foil star thing has been hung (which the wait-staff at Coffee Shop have called מסלטו (“mis-EL-toe”) as they wave towards Robin and I, then point to its location near us), and poles have been wrapped in tinsel. It’s craziness.

But we’ve got to ask, was Sukkot always the Christmasy holiday here in Israel? And if so, are presents given? (Who would bring those presents? Sukkah stork? Booth Bunny? Farmer fairy?) Instead of leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, does the stork/bunny/fairy eat the fruit and veggies hanging from the walls and roof of the sukkah? Do little Israeli children dream of dried figs instead of sugar plums? What are the Sukkot carols? O Sukkah Hut, The Seven Species of Sukkot, Harv’sting in a Desert Wonderland?

Please note: at this point in the blog writing, a mere 30 minutes since we arrived for coffee and breakfast, the Coffee Shop has completely been transformed from regular building to sukkah. (Says Robin, “We’ve been sukkahed.”) The roof has been retracted, revealing bamboo mats covering the roof (through which, were it night, we could see the stars), the decorations are up, and it looks like they’re hanging up sheets to make new temporary walls too (possibly to make multiple smaller sukkot inside). AMAZING.)

Once we leave, Robin will be joining me at my apartment to help me put up my own sukkah. Maybe we’ll have to go find a dollar store and buy our own Christmas Sukkot decorations too.

A merry Sukkot to all, and to all, a good night.

Filed under: israel, judaism, random, religion, seasons, wtf?

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