Monday, February 3, 2014

blogging for camp

I recently had the opportunity to blog about my experience in Israel and how it relates to my home away from home, URJ Camp Kalsman.

My blog post discussed my journey here and the journeys we face at camp. You can read it here!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

D'var Torah Shemot

Last week, I gave my very first d'var torah as an HUC student and since my bat mitzvah! It was on the portion of Shemot. If you want to check it out you can watch the video or check out the text below!

     When I was a youth worker, the best part of my job was enabling teens to grow and succeed as leaders. For each event that the board planned, deadlines were set to manage preparation work, including turning in a list to me of supplies that needed to be purchased. Before one event I received the list of supplies needed, not the agreed upon deadline of a week in advance but only a few short hours. When I was not able to get these supplies, the teenager was presented with an obstacle and what resulted was the nourishment of a leader – someone who became confident in thinking on his feet and planning for the unexpected as well as being much more organized. Yes if I had asked a coworker these things probably could’ve been purchased but what would he have learned from this?  Surely not organization, creativity or self-assurance.

     In Parashat Shemot, just like this teenager, Moses has an opportunity to learn from a challenge, in the case of Moses, being sent to Egypt to free the Jewish people. When God tells Moses that this is his duty, Moses all but laughs at what he feels is a ludicrous notion. In response, Moses says , mi anochi ci elach el pharaoh v'ci oat'zi et b'nai yisrael mi mitzrayim?  Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and free the Israelites from Egypt?

      Even after God reassures Moses that he will be with him, work wonders on his behalf and stretch out a mighty hand, Moses still does not believe that he is the man for the job.

     Why does God continue to argue with Moses? Surely a candidate could be found that would not need as much persuading. There must be abilities that God sees in Moses, even if he does not see them yet in himself, that make him qualified for this seemingly impossible task.   

     Exodus Rabbah teaches that God appeared to Moses while he was tending his flock. When a young sheep wanders off, Moses follows and watches the lamb stop for water. The rabbis teach that Moses turns to the lamb and says “I did not realize that you had run off because you were thirsty, from this you must be tired.”  And Moses lifts the lamb on his shoulder and carries it back to the flock. God then speaks to Moses and says” because of the compassion that you showed for even one animal, you shall become the shephard of my flock, the people of Israel”.
 Much like a parent, and a teacher, God continually pushes Moses to grow as a leader.  After much persuasion, Moses goes to Pharaoh and delivers God’s message to let the people of Israel go and Pharaoh’s initial response is further punishment on the Jews. As a result,  the elders, who Moses had worked so hard to convince, turn against him in disappointment.

     Despite all these hurdles, eventually Moses does succeed in freeing the Jewish people. If God knew that this was the plan, why not  initially enable Moses to be successful? What was the purpose in causing all of these setbacks for an already reluctant Moses.  I believe that God was teaching Moses a lesson in perseverance and confidence.

     Moses responded to his challenge with Mi anochi? Who am I and why did I receive this plot? Anochi and not ani. In the torah, anochi is used in inquires with adonai. Similarly to Moses, in toldot, when Rebbecca is facing a difficult pregnancy she also pleads lama zeh anochi? Essentially, why me? The difference in these words is one letter – a chaf. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner teaches, the chaf suggests caf yadaim, palm of the hand symbolizes an awareness of what we can hold. God teahes Moses and Rebecca  that they can handle these challenges.  Chaf is the first letter of kavannah - God assists Moses in understanding his goal and how to act intentionally to reach it.

     This year, many of us have already faced challenges that were taxing and difficult. Perhaps classmates sitting in this room have already learned solutions to problems that they have encountered. As we continue our education and embark on our careers as Jewish professionals, undoubtedly we will be given tasks that are demanding and test both our will and skill. What we can learn from Moses is how to use our experiences to guide us in our endeavors.  Like Moses, we must be courageous enough to be in an environment that may lead to these challenges and when we face obstacles have the strength to preserver. The key to success is not necessarily the absence of obstacles, but knowing how to face them when they arise.   

     In the years to come, may we all discover self through experience, handle challenges with grace, and follow the lead of Moses by changing our ani to anochi and finding the chaf within ourselves

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Southern tiyul

The third weekend in november, we went on a tiyul (overnight trip) to the south! 

On our first day, we explored work that is being done by JNF, Jewish National Fund, in the area. 

Our second stop, the indoor playground that they built in sderot, an area facing extreme rockets from the gaza strip was my favorite. We got to see the facilities and learn about the lives of the people who live there 

Also notable was the new park that the JNF is building in Beer Sheva. The area had been a garbage dump and they are resurrecting it to make it something beautiful for the residents. 

The second day was our hike to Har Sholmo. To call it a hike is a bit of an understatement, for many parts a mountain climb would be a much more fitting name. It was a great way to bond with my classmates, and the view from the top was totally worth it. 

On Friday, we started the day by visiting Kibbutz Lotan, an Kibbutz that places special emphasis on conserving resources and curbing waste. It was so cool to learn about their farming, use of waste and see their approach to using the land. 

That afternoon was my first time snorkeling, when we went to the coral reefs in Eilat. I had never done anything like it and would definitely do it again. The peace and beauty was surreal!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Women of the Wall 25th Anniversary

for Rosh Chodesh Kislev, I attended the 25th anniversary of Women of the Wall, the organization devoted to reaching equal rights for women at the western wall.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to learn and study with the NFTY Wow delegation. With 8 classes, it is so easy to forget why I am here or what inspires me but meeting new members of our youth movement and seeing some much needed familiar faces was a great reminder!

With Sarah and Morgan, both of whom were my camper and I worked with in NFTY-NW! 

On Monday was the Rosh Chodesh service at the western wall. With the 25th anniversary of the organization, I was expecting to be drowned out by protesters. Instead, I had my favorite experience with WOW yet. While there were both men and women protesters, it was the first time I had prayed with WOW that I could hear the service. It was an amazing feeling. The women's section of the Kotel was full of supporters and it was beautiful to be united in prayer. In addition, dozens of men were supporting from the men's section and the back wall of the women's section. Though there were protesters, there were few screams or whistles. I think it is safe to say that all the supporters had a meaningful prayer experience.

That evening, the female students at HUC were invited to attend the Women of the Wall gala. it was amazing and inspiring to be with so many supporters of the organization. I felt honored to be able to mark this milestone and in the room with so many future colleagues and women from our movement. It was a remarkable evening filled with singing, speeches, dancing and meeting new people!

Camp Kalsman at WOW Gala

Saturday, November 9, 2013

First wedding!

In October, I had the opportunity to go with my friend Jenn to her friends wedding. It was my first time going to a wedding, let alone a modern orthodox one. The wedding was at a bueatiful outdoor restaurant, overlooking the hills of the west bank. My faveorite part of the wedding was that for each of the 7 brachot, the couple honored a friend or family member by having them read the blessing. I also loved that while someof the dancing was with a mechitza (the traditional separation of men and women) as the night evolved, their was also modern dancing. here are some pictures from the wedding:
my friend Jenn and I at the wedding

In my frum outfit for the wedding!

The wedding couple under the chuppa -so beautiful 

Another beautiful tradition - the bride and groom celebrating on chairs 

bride and groom dancing

Chag-o-ween in the land of Israel

Being American, we had to celebrate Halloween. Together with some of my classmates I planned a party for members of our class. We had a costume contest, food contest and played trivia. Here are some of my favorite photos from the night:

Megan as Amy Winehouse and me as Jess Day from New Girl (Zoey Deschanel)

with my good friend Tamara

Our entry for the food contest: Orange is the new black and white cookies 

Simcat Torah and the rest of break!

When we got back from Eilat, we went with my classmates the next day to Kibbutz Gezer to celebrate Simcat Torah. 

Hanging out on the Kibbutz: 

3 of my classmates 

The next day we ended our vacation in Tel Aviv: 

Amazing Mexican food - felt just like Seattle!

breakfast on the beach!
last day of vacation ice cream!