Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew


tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

On a snowy day…

Over on Jewschool, there are some great reactions to World Wide Wrap (the tefillin wrapping rap video).

Highlight of the day? Having the cute baby fall asleep on my chest.

Lowlight of the day? headdesking, repeatedly, as I try to be productive.

It’s time for a walk in the snow.


Filed under: judaism, random, seasons, work

Israel bound

I want to write a post about how I’m going to Israel tomorrow, for work. But each time I’ve tried to start this post, the verb I’ve used hasn’t set the right tone. So I will not strive for poetics. Instead, I’ll say that I’m going, and will be back in New York on January 19th. See you on the other side.

Filed under: israel, judaism, palestine, politics, random, travels, war, work, wtf?

And so it begins!

There’s so much going on these days, I barely have time to stop and take a breath (or sneeze).

Work’s begun, and I’ve jumped right in. I’m excited for all the possibilities, the new people I’ll get to meet, and the lovely people who are my co-workers.

Tomorrow’s the start of Sefer ha-Bloggadah. A bunch of us will be studying Sefer Ha-Aggadah, the book of legends, at a predetermined pace, allowing us to finish learning the whole book in two years. (And celebrate with a siyyum (means “completion,” but is often used to describe the celebration at the culmination of learning a Jewish text) in August, 2010 at the NHC Summer Institute.) There’s a great English translation available for this book, which is basically a compilation of Jewish stories. BZ wrote this introduction when the idea came to fruition a year ago:

2008 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Sefer Ha-Aggadah (The Book of Legends). Compiled by the Hebrew poet Hayim Nachman Bialik and the editor Yehoshua Ravnitsky, it is a collection of thousands of stories and folklore from the Talmud and throughout rabbinic literature, from the creation of the world to the world to come. At [the 2008 NHC] Institute, people across the extended havurah network [and beyond!] will begin studying Sefer Ha-Aggadah, reading a little bit each day for two years, and completing it at the 2010 Institute.

We’ll be on a daily schedule so that everyone is on the same page. There will be a blog called Sefer ha-Bloggadah so that we can all participate in an online discussion – a rotating team of bloggers can take turns posting each day, and everyone can discuss in the comments. If a lot of us are reading the same texts at the same time, I hope this can manifest itself in other ways as well: discussion groups in our home communities, workshops at NHC regional retreats on whatever topic we’re on that weekend, etc.

I think Sefer Ha-Aggadah is an ideal text for our diverse community. The original edition is in Hebrew, and there is also an accessible English translation, so people with more Hebrew familiarity and people who would benefit from the English translation can participate on an equal footing. Bialik and Ravnitsky were two secular Jews who created this compilation to preserve the Jewish national literature, while most of their source texts are religious in nature, so we’ll have the opportunity to look at these texts from all our different perspectives: religious, literary, historical, ethical, creative, …………..

If you’re so inclined, check your library, Chapters, Amazon, or local bookstore for a copy.

Filed under: judaism, work

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?


IMG_7000After a nearly missed connection, lost luggage, and finally found luggage delivered soaked in an entire bottle of Dr Bronner’s (thanks, TSA, for not closing my toiletries after your inspection!), I got to southern Florida to join the University of Rochester Hillel’s Alternative Spring Break. The U of R was chosen as one of nine schools to take part in Hillel National (USA)’s ASB pilot program. Two students were given leadership training and support in planning the trip, and Hillel subsidized the costs. (This week o’social action cost each student $150.)

IMG_7021The students chose to go to South Florida, to work with Centro Campesino, a non-profit, rural development organisation dedicated to improving the quality of life and self-sufficiency of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, their children and other low-income families of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. The work they signed on for was fixing up a home for migrant workers. In addition to their daily work, they had sessions with local organisations, including Centro Campesino, to learn about issues facing migrant workers.

IMG_7026One of the conditions for the project was that the students must receive a minimum of three sessions of Jewish education over the course of the week. That was my job: Jewish educator. In addition to working alongside the students, I gave lessons on Jewish perspectives relating to housing, workers, and living wages, mostly as text study and discussions. I also helped organise Shabbat – I was especially impressed with our SoFlo niggun, composed on the spot for Psalm 99. Amazing.

IMG_7016In addition to finishing the tasks we were given in the home, the group found time to explore a bit of South Florida. At Robert Is Here, we found tasty, locally grown fruits that we hadn’t had before, including mamey sapote (which looks like a giant, squishy sweet potato, and tastes like sweet potato pie), fruits that were so fresh they almost had a different flavour (mangoes, key limes, papayas, kiwis), and more. One of the taller guys was able to pick a coconut, which I opened for the group – the coconut water was tasty (though not as tasty as it is when chilled), and the flesh was delicious. Having finished the work ahead of schedule, we spent Friday afternoon at the infamous South Beach, a short walk from the “woo! Spring Break!” and gay sections. We went on walks through Everglade National Park and alligators and herons and the sunrise.

It was a great experience, and I’m really happy that U of R Hillel let me join them.

Now, New York!

[Photos are here.]

Filed under: america, judaism, travels, work

An Evening of Firsts!

Received my first “shneqel” coin in my change. That is, the recently introduced 2-sheqel coin. The design is interesting: looks like two shofars as cornucopia, with some of the seven species poking out, and a pomegranate in the centre.

For the first time since I arrived in August, I’ve seen an ambulance donated by Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel. But not just any CMDAI-donated ambulance – one I organized the fundraising for. It’s nice to see my work realised. (I know this as donors’ names are displayed on the doors of the ambulance, and these donors were folks I worked with.)

I read, and understood, tonight’s midrash! Well, 98% of the words. Woo! Previously, I’ve needed to look up waaay too many words, which makes learning a slow and frustrating process of read two words, look ’em up, read two words, look ’em up, try to phrase the previous words with the current words, read two words… repeat the process… Understanding what you read is a far superior method.

Filed under: hebrew, israel, judaism, random, school, work

First Impressions

I’ve been working on a project with this guy for over a month, but we were in touch only by email, phone, and fax. Until this afternoon we’d never met in person. I went to his office to give him some stuff, and get things to bring back to my office. On first meeting he exclaimed to his colleague, “Look at this baal t’shuvah, with the earrings and the kippah!” I tried to say, no, I wasn’t baal t’shuvah, that I was unaffiliated. He then said he knew what I was, I was “a second generation Carlebacher, with Jerry Garcia thrown in.” Huh, not quite… Before I left his office, he told me that “there are a lot of your type at JTS… they smoke a little [he mimed puffing on a joint], doven, and sing.” I just smiled, and nodded. (Him and his colleagues are also Jewish, in case that wasn’t clear.)

So I found it amusing, because I don’t think my “look” is that unusual. I’m dressed fairly typically today: a blue Oxford shirt, sleeves rolled up as I got hot walking to his office; khaki shorts that go below my knees and are far more work-place-suitable than, say, cargo shorts, as they don’t have pockets and have a sharp crease down the front; brown leather sandals, because it’s still technically summer and, darnit!, I’m going to dress for the season; kippah, watch, and glasses.

Now I’m not quite sure how that translates to “Orthodox + Phish/Dead-head,” but hey – maybe I just see myself differently from the way the rest of you see me.

Filed under: judaism, random, work