Sunday, December 6, 2009


Steering Committee narrows down the application rating system!
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone

Posted via email from PresenTense Group

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Naomi's Got a New Job

So the holidays are over and we are back to our busy lives; except our lives just got a bit busier. In addition to Nate's new responsibilities at work he will be starting Ulpan, intensive Hebrew language classes, November 15th. The class will be five days a week from 8:30am to 1:30pm. He will start with the basics, and since he has a "great vocabulary" (as the head of the Ulpan said) he should move through each level with ease. He needs to start with the basics in order to learn how to use his great vocabulary, which he seems to be very happy with. Even though this is a huge addition to his workload, he is quite happy to have something that involves being outside the Yeshiva a bit (since he lives and works here, he doesn't get out much).

As for me, I have some very exciting news as well. A few weeks ago I began the process of networking myself in order to find a new job for next year in NY. I was very fortunate to be introduced to a really interesting person, Ariel Beery, the CEO of PresenTense. I was excited to meet with him because PresenTense is a magazine, institute, and group that works to fix the Jewish community for the better all over the world, but mostly in New York and Boston, USA and Israel. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to meet someone who maybe could offer me a job for next year, or who could at least introduce me to people who could. When I went into the PresenTense office to meet him, we had a great conversation about my interests, my skills, and my experiences, and he continued to mention people I should meet. I thought, "Great, this is working out exactly how I wanted it to." A day later I was called by the Associate Director, asking if I could help them out with some projects. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized I needed to help in any way I could, in order to further my chances for finding future jobs.

It took about a week before I was called up by Hila, the Associate Director, asking how much I loved my current job and would I be interested in leaving it to come work for them. They offered me a salary that was about what I make now, a full benefits package, and flexibility to work around my school schedule, while at the same time offering a job that gets me home and done with work before 7 pm most days (as opposed to my schedule of working until midnight every night). In addition to all this, which in of itself is an amazing offer, they also offered to do their very best to either offer me or help me find a job next year in NY. I obviously could not turn this down.

So anyway, I start November 1st (yes I know this is a Sunday, but Israel's workweek is Sunday- Thursday). I will no longer be working out of the house, the office is about a 20 minute walk from home, and on the bus route to school for when I need to go or come directly from class. It also happens to be close to the grocery store I like to shop at, which means it will be easy to make a stop on my way home. All in all, this is a good deal, and I just got a new job!

Just a note, Nate will be in the US for the week of Thanksgiving. He arrives the Monday before, will be staying by our friends Elie and Ilana Bercuson in Washington Heights, NY, Monday night, enjoy two interviews with YU's Smicha program. Tuesday night he will then move onto Philadelphia, PA to enjoy a Phish Concert with his dad, sister, Yoni Warren (the entire reason he is in the US for- he is the groom), and maybe some other friends. Wednesday Nate will be flying to OH with his family for a fun Thanksgiving with the entire Dwyer clan, which he is so excited about! Friday morning, Nate will return to NY and spend Shabbat in Queens with the groom, Yoni, and family. Saturday, he will be in the Upper West Side, again with the groom, and Sunday is wedding day. Sunday night, Nate will be back at Ilana and Elie's and Monday he leaves to return to Israel. Unfortunately, his schedule is very tight, however if you happen to be in one of the locations he will be feel free to stop in.

Anyway, until next time...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our last High Holidays in Israel for a while...

As many of you are aware, this was our last Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur in Israel for a while. The fact that we are moving back to the U.S. is, all of a sudden, starting to set in, and not necessarily with the excitement we expected. I know we are not planning to leave until June, however as we just celebrated our last High Holidays here (for a while) and are about to begin our last Sukkot (for a while) a new perspective is upon us.

Last year was a very hard year. It started off with me (Naomi) getting sick and ending up in the Terem (clinic emergency room) on an occasion or two. Thank G-d all was okay, and it turned out that I had developed a new allergy, to wheat, and my symptoms were just an allergic reaction. It went from there to learning the frustrations of dealing with the bureaucracy of Israel (first hand) and then the bureaucracy of our job. We faced the excitement and fear of Nate being drafted into the army, and then the disappointment when it did not happen. Finally, like everyone else, we faced the harsh reality of a pay-cut due to the bad economy and the Yeshiva we are work at not being able to survive otherwise (you do not want to know what Nate gets paid now, it would make you cry, and I do not get paid at all).

Because of all of this we became frustrated and we even got scared. We, but especially me, couldn't be consoled by anything other then the idea of going back to the U.S. to live. What we have recently realized, however, was, it was not that we actually want to live in the U.S. Yes, Nate has graduate school and smicha (Rabbinical School) there to start; and hopefully I will have a job there to go to. We even understand the language, the culture, and the government in the U.S. a bit better then here. What we realized is, that it is really not that we want to live in the U.S.; rather, we just want to be closer to our parents. When life gets scary and upsetting, you just want to be able to go to your parents home, even if it is just for a day or a weekend, to hide out and enjoy being with them. Living in Israel, we can not do that, and that is why, ultimately, we are going back. We just want to be closer to our parents, siblings, and most of our grandparents.

Recently we started to learn to deal with my allergies, we learned to handle the bureaucracy of Israel and work, and we learned to deal with our finances (mostly with my working almost full time along side school). In the few weeks since we have returned to Israel we have once again started to enjoy living in Israel, the way we did before. We have started to feel the extra level of holliness of being here, and making a living here, and of course, of celebrating the holidays here. We have started to feel how amazing this opportunity is, and how lucky we are to be Israeli citizens. Now, that things are calm, and we know that it won't be long before we can just drop in on our parents, we can enjoy being here in Israel.

I guess what it comes down to is, we don't want anyone to think living in Israel is crazy, or that difficult. It's really not! Sure, it comes with its challenges; but for us, the only challenge was being away from our parents, our brother and sister and our grandparents. Living in Israel is absolutely amazing! For me it has been a dream, or rather a fairy tale, come true! I never, in my life, thought I would actually get to live here, and now I do. So may this year be an amazing year, opening all of our eyes, and our family members eyes to the beautiful experience we get to have by living here, in Eretz Yisrael!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova!

As we are winding down in the final hours before the start of Rosh HaShana tonight, I wanted to take a moment and say a few things. I hope that all of you have a great year, that we reflect on the previous year, and know how we can do better in the upcoming one.

I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about this upcoming chag:

The Piasencza Rebbe, Kalonymous Kalmish Shapira, tells a parable to help understand this time of year:
There was once a king who sent his tax collector to collect unpaind dues from the people of a certain villiage. Ten miles from the villiage the wealthy members of the community went out to greet the taxman; he was so overwhelmed by the joyous greeting that he removed 1/3 of the taxes. Five miles from the villiage the middle class members went out to greet him; he again removed 1/3 of the taxes from the bill. And then, one mile from the villiage, the poor came out to greet the taxman with songs and dancing, so he again removed the last 3rd of the bill. So too on Rosh HaShana, when the great people of our community plead to God to forgive our sins, that will remove 1/3 of our debt.
The Piaseczna Rebbe continues and suggests that this is our relationship to Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and the seven days inbetween them. The work that we do in preparation of the upcoming holiday and during Rosh HaShana itself, we can have 1/3 of all of our sins forgiven. And another 3rd if we remember these lessons during the next seven days, and Yom Kippur will clean our slate completely if we head into the day with the proper trepidation and humility for our previous regresses.

This year, since the first day of Rosh HaShana falls out on Shabbat, we do not blow the shofar as usual; so it may be harder for us to get into the mood of the day without one of the most important rituals. The removal of the shofar is due to a 2,000 year old decree found in the Mishnah RH 4:1:
When the holy day of Rosh Hashanah fell on a Shabbat, in the Temple they would blow, but not in the medinah (surrounding area of Jerusalem and countryside).
The usual explination is that the Rabbis did not want people to break the laws of Shabbat by carrying their shofar to be used on Rosh HaShana. Fine, but there's a deaper idea here too. The Netivot Shalom (R' Shalom Noach Berezovski) connects the mishna above to the idea of "Bilvavi Mishkan evneh - In my heart I will build Him a Temple". This year on Rosh HaShana, we may not use our medina - our surrounding body - for shofar blowing, but we will use our hearts to blow the shofar on Shabbat.

From Jerusalem, wishing you all long life and happiness, Chag Sameach u'Metuka!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My experience at a Jewish Bloggers Convention

This past week I attended my very first bloggers convention. I didn’t really go for our personal blog, but rather I went in a professional capacity, trying to learn whatever I could for potential future employers. Even though this was my first bloggers convention, I walked away feeling like on one hand I did not really need to be there because I pretty much knew everything they were trying to teach, but, yet, on the other embarrassed because I did not actually implement anything I knew.

As many of you know, I spent my summer interning at the One Family Fund in Teaneck, NJ. My position was a fundraising intern, but shortly after I was accepted to the internship I suggested I help build the organization a social media fundraising campaign, instead of doing the normal phone calls and event creations. I had spent the previous semester researching how non-profit organizations could use social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., to better their online fundraising, and I was hoping to put my knew found knowledge to good use.

I did build One Family a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a blog, however I was unable to get them to implement them in the ways they needed to actually fundraise. They did have an event at the end of the summer, which over 300 people attended, partly due to our advertising for the event on the different sites, however the advertisements did not lead to online registration prior to the event, which was its main goal. I walked away from my internship feeling like maybe I did not know what I was doing. When I saw the advertisement for conference, I thought what a good way to learn more, and try to figure out what I had done wrong.

At the event I sat in on a session on how to make money from blogs, how to use Twitter (for beginners), and one on how to use Facebook (or rather not use Facebook). All these sessions were informative, but unfortunately, they were full of information I already knew.

After the sessions was a panel on bringing the Jewish Community together through social media, which started off well with a speaker representing, Tova Serkin. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Each of the speakers followed a different viewpoint in Judaism, but when they all spoke they tended to stay in their own “corner” of belief. Towards the end, someone from the audience asked how the panel had in any way discussed bringing the Jewish Community together, when each person only spoke about their point of view, and how they used social media to support it. The response was “Well, we each show a different entry point into the Jewish Community.” I have to say this response was not so encouraging, but the truth is I am not so sure there is a way to actually Unite the Jewish Community, until everyone stops staying in their own “corners,” and starts coming together as one religion/culture (but that is for another post).

Anyway, after sitting through these sessions and much more, although I did not learn anything new per say, I did realize what had gone wrong this past summer: I had never really put my knowledge to use on a regular basis, myself. In order to be good at anything you need to practice. Well, it is not any different for using these tools. I realized I need to start promoting myself through social media, to better learn how to one day promote a nonprofit organization.

So here is to learning. Shana Tova everyone

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My drivers license

I first off want to apologize for not posting in a while. We were in the U.S. for the summer and figured blogging was not so necessary for keeping in touch. None the less, we are now back in Israel and hope to once again start to post on a somewhat regular basis.

Shortly after our return we started our second year as the Ave and Em Bayit (dorm parents) at Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah. This year we have 33 students, including Shana Bet (students from last year who returned for a second year). I do not know if it is because we have less students so there is less to keep track of, or if it is because this is our second year so we are used to how things roll, but so far this year has seemed much less overwhelming then last year. We feel as if we know how to connect to the guys better and we feel like we have a better grasp of what we should and should not do, both in terms of policy and in terms of what works and what does not. I guess the other perk to this year's start-off would be that we did not have to move (that is a first in the 2.5 years we have been married) upon our arrival, so our personal life was not so insane upon the start of the new year.

Even though the Yeshiva's school year has begun, Hebrew University's has not; we start October 18th. So, instead, I have been spending my time helping out at the Yeshiva, working for my "normal" job (Secretary in Israel), and finishing up some paper assignments from last semester that are due this month.

I also have taken the time to pursue my Israeli drivers license which is a much longer process (and much more expensive process) then getting an American Drivers license. I so far have picked up all my paper work and paid for it, had my eye doctors appointment, and had my physical. I next need to go to the Misrad Harishuei (basically the equivalent of the DMV, car registration and emissions testing place ) and hand in what I have so far to get the next round of paperwork. Then I will need to have one driving lesson and take my driving test. In total I will have to pay about 1200 Nis (close to $300) to complete this process. You may be wondering why this process is so important to complete, after all I know how to drive, have an American license, and can rent a car in Israel on my American license? Well it is simple: because if I don't do it now then the process will only be longer and more expensive later on.

Here is the deal: after making aliyah a person has 1 year that they are allowed to legally drive on their foreign drivers license in Israel (and therefore be covered by insurance). After this year is up, new Israeli citizens (that is us) have two more years to apply for a transfer of their license. This transfer includes taking only one driving lesson and taking the Israeli driving part of the drivers test; as apposed to the 20 something classes you need to take (and therefore pay for), and all the tests required of people without licenses, if you wait beyond the two years.

The way Nate and I look at it is this: We don't get our drivers license now, and in however many years when we return to Israel, please G-d, with a house full of children, we will be in much more trouble. We will, then, not be able to legally drive until we find the time to take all the 20 something lessons required and take all of the tests (written and driving). I don't think this sounds like a very pretty picture to have a bunch of kids, hopefully schools for them all to attend, and jobs for us to get to, and no way for us to drive to take care of all these things.

Anyway, so far the process, though long and more complicated then in the U.S., has been going pretty smoothly, with none to little lines and minimal confusion. I see this as a good sign, and hope that I have not just jinxed myself!

Anyway, in case we do not get a chance to write before this coming weekend, Shana Tova to all! May this year bring only happy occasions and celebratory times, and may Nate and I get to see you all soon in Jerusalem!

We love you and miss you!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Obama's Cairo Speech

I've waited a while to discuss this topic, mostly to not get overly excited and let that cloud my judgment, but as it's been a week and a half now, I think I can talk about it a little bit. Here's the text and video.

Here in Israel people are mostly upset. Most of the critiquing comes from Obama's "settlement freeze" demand. Israelis can't seem to read the rest of the speech after they hear that or alternatively that's the only part of the speech that matters to them. Many point to the fact that the President was in Cairo, a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Jerusalem and didn't stop by, though this is his 2nd visit to Saudi Arabia since inauguration. Though he did go to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp after the speech, it's not the same.

Here's my view:
It's important to recognize who he was talking to and where. It's also important to remember that he's the President of the United States not the King of the World. He made some very important statements regarding the US and Islam "America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam" - Islam isn't what the US is fighting against, it's terrorist and extremists. And that's something that should be said more times and in more Arab capitals until they believe him. I, however, reject the notion that settlements are the inhibitor to Israeli-Palestinian peace and therefore the sole prevention to world peace - it's just stupid, so can we stop suggesting it? Okay. I also don't think peace is the most important problem facing Israel right now: we need to decide who we are and what kind of country we want. We have social problems that are much more important that peace, since we'll have peace when we are given peace and even if we do make a deal with the PA and Hamas, there are tons of other groups excluded that wont agree to it. Anyway, back to Obama...

Regardless of the brilliance of parts of the speech, he made some serious blunders in the speech regarding Israel.
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Even if, as I do, believe that President Obama was talking about the destruction of the Temple and not only the Holocaust; the problem here is that he doesn't get it. Our connection to Israel is not based upon a tragic history, it's based upon Judaism itself. The Reform movement in its heyday (late 1800's and early 1900's) tried to remove Israel from "Judaism itself" and it failed miserably, hence why it is now becoming one of the most Zionistic groups found in Judaism (and I commend them greatly for that). Yes there is a tragic history, but that is not why we are here. Yes, it is very much a part of what goes on here (one has only to go to the Kotel or really anywhere in this country to see part of that history), but there's a reason why all that tragedy happened here.

It wasn't just stam (it didn't just happen), this land is our homeland, it is the land to which Abraham walked, it is the land where King David built two capital cities, which Solomon built a Temple. It is the land upon which the Prophets lived and the Spies sinned, and to which Moses died looking at, but could not enter. It is the land to which we were dispersed from and desired to return to. None of that is due to tragedy, we are here because this land is part of Judaism itself, you cannot remove Israel from the Jew.

The connection between the Holocaust and the suffering of the Palestinians was morally wrong. Yes they suffered and continued to suffer, but annihilation is not what they are experiencing.
The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
As Clinton has since made clear, Obama meant to include all construction - including "natural growth". This I find to be the most ridiculous part of the speech vis-a-vis Israel. I'm not against giving up land, I can't say that I'm totally for it either, but his demand to halt all construction is unjust and unnecessary. There is no reason whatsoever that building in Beitar Ilit and Maale Adumim is problematic. Everyone, and I mean everyone, agrees that the final settlement will definitely include these places.

Here's what Charles Krauthammer says (and I don't usually like him):
What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them -- not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns -- even before negotiations.
This is our land, it is more Jewish than Tel Aviv. In fact, Tel Aviv is built on the ruins of at least six Arab villages, yet no body is demanding that. Yet for Jews to live the the areas specifically mentioned as Jewish land in the Bible - oh no, that's the single issue that's preventing world peace? Right.

Most of my feelings about Obama's speech can be summed up this way, expressed eloquently by Daniel Gordis:
Too many analyses of the speech have ignored the fact that it was addressed primarily to the Muslim world, and was delivered in Egypt. And in that setting, Obama insisted that the US-Israel relationship could not be upended. He mentioned the Holocaust, (implicitly) berated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his Holocaust denial, quoted the Talmud and called on Hamas to recognize Israel and abandon violence.

Not bad.

To be sure, it was not the speech that many Israelis would have written. Obama’s articulated position on Iranian nuclear power is unacceptable, just as an absolute freeze on natural growth in “settlements,” even in places where settlements are essentially cities, is both unfair and thoroughly unrealistic. And linking Israel’s right to exist to the Holocaust is a significant intellectual and moral mistake.
That Goridis agrees with my initial feelings is nice, but not important. It's where he goes to from there that is the important part for me. Obama wants us to be honest, wants us to get ready for a potential peace deal. But what are we willing to do?
Are we ever willing to give up the West Bank? For a moment, let’s set aside the obvious security issue and the devastating consequences if Kassam rockets start flying from the West Bank as well. Let’s assume for a minute (a wild assumption, I admit) that the Palestinians decide that it really is time to move on, to abandon terror and accept a division of the land. Are we willing?

I believe that we don’t know anymore. Our unwillingness to state our position is not a reflection of dishonesty or of hiding. It’s simply a result of the fact that we have for so long seen no possibility of progress on the Palestinian front that we’ve stopped asking ourselves what we would do if we could.

So let’s be honest: What would we do?
He wants us to have a public debate regarding what we are actually capable of doing. Are we really willing to give up parts of the West Bank that have more importance than Tel Aviv (e.g., Shilo)? I don't know and what's scarier is that Israel has no idea and we need to figure that out. So, if the world will force this peace down our throats when it's not what we need to be focusing on now, fine. I'll bite, but before we do we need to know what we're willing to live without. So let's figure it out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Yeshiva Year has come to an End

This week we celebrated the end of the Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah school year. The "goodbye" festivities began with Shabbat, programing provided by yours truly!

We had a cookoff for both dessert and Cholent. It was amazing, not only was the food great, not only did it run very smoothly, but we connected with guys that we had been having trouble connecting with all year (only shame is it is the end of the year). From 8am to just after shabbat started on Friday, we had boys coming and going to and from our apartment. We had boys cooking in our apartment, coming to take pictures, and coming to just hang out. It was quite exhausting to prepare for this cookoff- having to run all over town for all the supplies they requested, but as Shabbat came along, we saw how worth it all of the hassle truly was. Friday night was the dessert competition, and for the first time all year, 95% of the guys came to the Friday night tish- dessert and singing (it was where the taste testing would be and the awards distributed). It was amazing to have so many guys giving Divrei Torah, singing, and just enjoying their time, all together. The room got a bit hot, but no one seemed to complain!

Shabbat day, at lunch was the cholent cookoff, and the guys seemed to enjoy it so much. All but three guys came for lunch, (usually we only have about 1/3 of the yeshiva) and they all were rooting on their cholent or their friends cholents. After the competition was over we played a parshah game, distributing candy as the prizes, and everyone participated!

In the afternoon, after the competition was over there was an "Ask the Rabbi" session with some of the Yeshivas Rabbis. A lot of the guys came and there was active participation the entire time. Some of the questions the guys were asking made us realize how far they had come this year, and how much influence we had truly had on them.

Sunday and Monday included the staff vs. boys basketball game and the Goodbye Luncheon. The STAFF of course won the game (and even Nate played), and I say of course since they have won every year so far. The luncheon, I heard, was very nice, included sushi and a distribution of Awards to students who were deserving. It ended with a touching tone when the guys took a bus to the kotel for the last time as a group, to say goodbye. A lot of the guys got emotional, finally realizing the year had come to an end.

For the past few days we have been collecting cell phones, blankets, linens, and other assorted lent out items of the year. The boys where packing, so as they realized there was only so much they could take in their suitcases, Nate and I collected a lot of toiletries, books, and other fun stuff. The bulk of what the guys were leaving was donated to a local shelter, but we still got a few things here and there (Nate got speakers for his ipod).

Last night was the first night we slept in an empty building, and despite all the frustrations of the year, we were truly sad it was over. We can not wait for a new group of boys for next year, and after this weekend, we have some really great ideas on how to connect with them earlier in the year!

See you all in a few weeks, as we will be in the US starting June 24th.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Emotional Rollercoaster is Finally Over!

As it may have come to the attention of many of you, every time something very exciting happens, lately, something very stressful is soon to follow. Well the past two weeks were no exception. Our last post was concerning the excitement of Nate's acceptance to YU, but not more then 12 hours later our lives went for another twist.

The following morning, after we received the call from YU, Nate was asked by the Business Manager at the Yeshiva if two people could come by to the apartment. We had been waiting for someone to come and fix a window for us for some time so just assumed that he was referring to the workmen. About an hour later the Rosh Yeshiva, the director of the school we work for, pulled Nate aside and asked if the couple that was coming could come look at our apartment in about an hour. He of course said yes, but came immediately home in shock! Why was another couple coming to look at our apartment? Were we moving? Were we losing our jobs? After a short discussion Nate and I decided we needed to get a clear answer and as soon as the meeting with the couple was over we went to the Rosh Yeshivas office and asked if we could have a moment of his time. This by the way was the week of, in fact the day before, Yom Yerushalayim, and very big celebratory day in Jerusalem. We looked at him, and got straight to the point, "Is there a chance we will not have this job next year?" The Rosh Yeshiva looked back at us with shock himself, but not that we would ask such a question, but rather because he could not understand how we were not aware of this. What it came down to was, the Business Director had been instructed a month ago to inform us that the Yeshiva was in need of making some cuts due to finances and that we may be included in those cuts. The Rosh Yeshiva was shocked an appalled that we had not been told, especially since he knew, just like us, that we were leaving for the states in just 5 short weeks and may need to find an apartment and move out before then.

The first step the Rosh Yeshiva took was calling the Business Director in, even though he had taken the day off to spend with his family. The Business Director sat us down and said, two weeks ago (not a month ago) he had explained how the yeshiva needed to cut some salaries and how even he was taking a salary cut, and had asked if we understood. This conversation had taken place, but Nate had walked away from it thinking, okay we will have a pay cut for our job next year, NOT a job cut! The business director apologized for not being more clear, but then suggested that we start looking for a new job and new place to live, but of course as a back up only!

We walked out of the office totally confused. How could this happen! Life was finally starting to piece together. We immediately called our parents and all started brain storming what to do. Of course our fall back was just move back the U.S. now and Nate would not defer YU, but this would mean that I had to drop out of grad school. We started contacting everyone we knew in Israel to see if they had heard of job openings that Nate could apply for. Nate applied for a number of jobs within 48 hours, and we started researching apartments online, where we actually found two we had planned to look at this coming week.

After a week and a half of reaching out to every possible avenue, in hopes to come up with some plan before we leave for the states Nate got a call to come and have a meeting with the Rosh Yeshiva, the Business Director, and the Mashgiach Ruchanit (spiritual advisor to the boys at the Yeshiva, or Nate's direct supervisor). They sat down with him and listed all the things they were looking for in the new Av Bayit position. The new position would include all the tasks being completed now, but would have a "few" additions, including he would now be in charge of the other counselors, he would teach a class every night of the week, in addition to the classes he is already teaching, and he would be expected to attend all trips and assist with the logistics of organizing the trips. He also would play a major role in programming for the Yeshiva and organization of in-yeshiva events. There would be twice the amount of work. One problem with Nate taking on this job was that his Hebrew was not to the level necessary, so Nate suggested that he sign up for classes to improve his Hebrew. After an hour of going back and forth with the staff as to whether Nate could do this job, he was told to go home and talk with me about whether he felt he really could handle it. He was to come back with an answer right after the weekend.

They were not kidding, when they said right after the weekend. At 9:30am this morning Nate was called into the office to report what our decision was. After a lot of debating among ourselves as to whether Nate could really handle additional work, and could I handle it as well, since Nate would be home a lot less, and further, as the work load increases for him, it does so for me as well, we decided that this could be a great opportunity for him. SO after discussing the pay (which is not much different then his pay now) and other details, Nate accepted the job offer, and the Yeshiva turned down the other applicants. Nate and I now have a place to live next year, we each have jobs, we have a plan for me to finish my MA, we have a plan to move back to the U.S., and Nate has a plan for graduate school and smicha that seems to look as if it will be a reality.

So here is to all those who say, "Man plans and G-d laughs"- YOU ARE RIGHT!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

YU finally called

The moment Nate and I have been waiting for, for a while now, Yeshiva University, Azrieli School of Education called to congratulate Nate on his acceptance to their school. It is very exciting and I and the rest of our family are very proud of him. As you all know already, Nate will be attending Azrieli to do a two years masters in Education, starting fall of 2010 (he deferred for a year).

Next step... getting into YU Rabinical school (which the dean of YU Azrielli school said he doubted Nate would have a problem doing).

Monday, May 18, 2009

In addition to the Army Stress

Last week was quite the emotional week. As Nate mentioned we spent the entire week waiting to hear about the army (although he did not mention how each day we would get an answer but they were each different answers, which only confused us more), I had a lot of highs.

It all started off when on Monday I was speaking with a professor of mine concerning a research paper I am doing, which I hope to title "New Jewish Philanthropy: is the Social Media Market the new tool for making an impact and raising funds for Jewish organizations?" The professor is very excited I am researching and writing about this topic, as am I (I hope to turn it into my master thesis one day), and because of his excitement has decided when I am done to submit it to a pretty famous Jewish philanthropy journal to be published. In order to add credibility to it, he will submit it (with my name on it of course), which will further my chances. This means, I could be a published writer by next year.

Then, later that day, I left school, taking the bus home as usual, and about four stops away from school, about 3 miles away from home, traffic came to a standstill. As many of you may know, last week we had the "pleasure" of having the Pope come and visit us here in Israel. This had quite the impact on me, and my days, since he was staying on my University campus, and therefore every day was quite the hassle to figure out how to get onto campus and how to avoid the traffic to do so. Well, Monday night was my first hassle to face. I finish classes at 6pm, it was 6:30 when I found myself stuck in traffic, and I had exactly 1.5 hours to get home, cook dinner, eat dinner, and start working for my Secretary in Israel client. SO, I decided to walk. Yep, that's right, I walked the entire way home. Oh, yes, and I should mention, last week began our first heat wave of the year.

On my walk home I was stopped by a police officer (I was about half way home at this point) who told me to freeze and started guarding me so I could not move. My first thought was, "Oh crap, he must have seen me J-walking back at the last corner and is giving me a ticket. That stinks!" After about a minute of him just staring at me and listening to his ear piece, I said (in hebrew of course), "Um, excuse me officer, can I help you? Do you need something from me?" He replied, "Yes, I need you to just not move." Okay this was very weird, and very annoying, I really had to get home. After standing still for about 5 minutes (I even tried to put my bag down and was told to stop moving) I heard sirens. As I looked to the direction from where they were coming I saw, guess who? The Pope! He and his entourage were coming down the street, and I was not allowed to move, in order to ensure their security.

As soon as they passed by, I was told I could go on my way, but I had to walk in the opposite direction to where the Pope was headed. Not a problem, that is only 15 more minutes out of my way.

As I continued to walk, my phone rang, and it was my boss from Secretary in Israel. All I could think was, oh, no I am late. Nope, she was calling to ask me if I would do her a favor and let someone doing some research on outsourcing to call me and interview me. Sure, why not, afterall I am not so busy (I am only doing full-time grad school, intensive hebrew classes daily, and working 25 hours a week for one company, and another 10 for another). Well it turned out this interview was with Israel's channel 2 TV station (equivilent to CBS in the U.S.) and they wanted to come to my house and video me working for my clients in the US (I am being outsourced, right here in Israel) and ask me a few questions. After a long struggle of figuring out when to do it, since the community we live in was celebrating their 60th anniversary last week, and there were lots of parties going on, we finally found a quiet hour on Wednesday evening. Here it is!

Then on Wednesday night, I received a phone call from someone in the office of the One Family Fund in NJ. She called to inform me that I had been selected as the summer fundraising intern, and my job would be to create a new fundraising program for the organization. This was awsome, I would get school credit, great experience, in the state Nate and I would be moving to in about a year, and some extra cash.

So between the army, school, the pope, and me becoming a TV star, and finalizing my summer plans, this was quite the week. Oh yeah, I also had two midterms to take during all of it!

My Army Experience (long)

I've been meaning to write this post for a while - almost a month - but I didn't want to do so until I had a definite answer. Reading this post will hopefully not only take you through what I've gone through recently, but also an insight into the Israeli bureaucracy.

As most of you know, the Sunday after Passover, April 19th I was scheduled to have my tzav rishon (first notice) and appear at the lishkat giyus (recruitment office) in Jerusalem. It's actually located near the tachana merkazit (Central Bus Station) but if you didn't know where it was you'd never run across it. My appointment was at 7:30am, and I arrived a few minutes early so I waited outside while all the soldiers who man the lishka showed up for morning roll call (this is the army after all) and with a few other guys (my age, looking American too) showed up all waiting, not only to go in, but apparently also for that elusive "moment of truth" - would we really be going into the army?

As I headed in, I met the receptionist who took my teudat zehut (ID card) and handed me a plastic swipe card and told me to head up to the blue computer upstairs. Thankfully my friend Avi went through this six-months before so I knew what to expect, though it didn't really prepare me. On the third floor was a hallway with people sitting on benches, and two computer terminals. At each of these terminals, you swipe your card which puts you into that area's system in the order that you swipe. Only this one didn't work. So after 10 minutes of waiting with the number of people in the hallway building (everyone looking older than 17, making them immigrants of some sort - not just Americans), the soldiers (all female in this particular office) come out asking for our ID's. The find our file inside then ask us one-by-one to come inside for our interview.

The room felt like a scene from a generic movie with an office - think the Daily Planet in Superman or The Office - lots of cubicles next to each other. I found my spot and the soldier began asking me questions; my history, family background, etc. Normal stuff, except they wanted to know random info: "what Elementary School did you go to"?. A friend of mine came in after me, and within 30 minutes left. Still I answered questions. All the while the soldier was asking her peers what to do. Great a newbie. Then came the psych eval; "do you feel the need to hurt people"? Well that depends, does a 30 minute interview take 3 hours or not? Finally I finished, with them requesting that I fax them a copy of my University diploma - strange, but whatever.

From there I moved onto the medical exam - "Go see the purple computer on the second floor". Height, weight, a quick drug test, eye exam, etc. Great no problem. Except no doctor for the eye exam, no biggie right? Went into the physician, asked my about my medical health. I was warned "Tell them everything, they'll find it out anyway". I wasn't really sure how they'd do that, but I wasn't going to check to see how true that statement was. After I finished with the doc, which is the last step in the tzav rishon you're supposed to get your profile number. "You don't have a profile". "Why not?" "The eye doctor isn't in." "Right, so when will he be in?" "I have no idea, you have to come back." "Come back?" "Yup." So I left, realizing that this soldier wasn't going to be of any help.

A few days later a friend of mine got his taarich giyus - date of enlistment. Well, I guess it's time for me to get this eye exam done. But how? Well I called up the lishka, no answer. Great. I'll send them an e-mail - still no answer. Hmm... I asked the Business Director of the Yeshiva, Avinoam, if he could help (he's a Colonel or something like that in the reserves) to no avail. So I called up the central office a day later, and asked how do I make this appointment.
"You have an appointment."
"Yeah, this coming Sunday at 9:30."
"Fantastic. Oh one more thing, how am I supposed to know about this appointment?"
"I just told you."
"No, I mean if I didn't call"
"Well, I guess we're supposed to send you something."

Right then and there, I said to a friend of mine: "Watch, I'll get it after my appointment's already over".

I showed up, now two weeks after the original tzav, back to the lishka for the eye exam. Handed the receptionist my ID, got my card, and headed upstairs. This time, instead of 20 something immigrants, I found 17 year old Israelis everywhere, and they were mostly female. The lishka took on an entirely new atmosphere. Already a pro at this, found my terminal, swiped the card and waited. A minute later I was called in, and after 5 minutes I was done.

"So when will I know about my giyus?"
"You'll get your draft notice in the mail"
"How long will that take?"
"Eh, about a week."

More waiting. Only this time, the patience of the Yeshiva I work for is understandably wearing thin. Avinoam, the business manager, wants me to go back and break down doors to find out. Everyone else, is telling me to wait. So I waited. And as I got impatient I decided to call Nefesh B'Nefesh (the people we made aaliya with) to see if they could help. Their contact with the army said that I might not have to go in. Okay, but that doesn't really help.

More waiting...

We spent Shabbat in Chevron (Hebron), at which point Naomi and I were basically feeling that I might have to go serve. And if I did it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I've always wanted to, but despite the fact that I would loose my job and our housing, we could do this for a year - and it would help my Hebrew a lot, which would be a big benefit in the future. Okay, so if I get drafted I'll go, if not then I wont.

We left it up to the army.

Well, Nefesh B'Nefesh just called and told me that I've received a medical profile too low to be drafted at my age - if I was 18 I'd still go - but not now. Instead of receiving an full fledged exemption, I'm in what we call maagar (reserve list); meaning that if needed, I can be called up for a short service, in war time, etc. Okay. So now I can go on with my life now, keep my job, and our housing - yet at the same time there is this twinge of regret. Oh well, next time I guess - right.

Monday, May 4, 2009

We have bought tickets

Just after I posted the last blog post Nate and I found a great deal on tickets. We come in on June 24th and will be living in Teaneck, NJ, by my cousins the Goldfishers, until August 24th. Nate will be working at Camp Shalom in Passaic, NJ, as a summer camp counselor and a learning Rebbi, and my plans...well are still in the planning stages. BUT, hopefully they will be in the confirmations stage by the end of this week.

Army service: As we explained before Nate went in to the army office for his first meeting, which was inconclusive. He has a second meeting scheduled for this upcoming Sunday. We are hoping to get him excused, but we have started to formulate a backup plan if we cannot, the details of which I do not want to share quite yet, for the sake of the people involved (don't worry it is legal).

Moving back the U.S.: Nate and I have a meeting today at Nefesh B'Nefesh to discuss what will happen if we move back, in terms of finances, since they helped us move here officially. They have the right to require we pay back every bit of assistance they provided, since the contract we signed when they gave us the assistance states that if we move back to the U.S. within three years of our making aliyah (not of our moving here) we may be required to pay back the grant, unless we can prove there is a need to move back. Today, we hope to prove that need.

Life in Israel: Over the past week we have had the opportunity to celebrate Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut in Israel. These "holidays" (I use quotation marks for Yom HaZikaron, because it is a memorial day, and not for Yom Haatzmaut) are an entirely different experience here then they have ever been in America. They hold so much meening, and pride among the Jewish people here. I can only hope that after moving back to the U.S. Nate and I will find a way to continue to make them meeningful in our lives, and G-d willing one day, in the lives of the children that we will hopefully have. Yom HaZikaron, or Memorial Day, is not just another day for sales and BBQ's. It is actually a day to remember those who lost their lives in service of their country. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in this country, makes their way to the cemetaries. Streets are closed, and vendors are selling flowers on the streets. Nate and I did the same, both as part of a trip with the boys from the Yeshiva, and as a personal visit. We went to Har Herzl, the national IDF cemetary. We listened to the speaches by the prime minister and by other dignitaries and we cried with the kaddish of a father whose son died in the most recent war in Gaza. Afterwards Nate and I made our way to visit the grave of Mike Levin as we have done so many times before. We had a special treet in that Mike's mom was in visiting and we were able to spend some time with her.

The switch from this day to Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, which takes place roughly around 7pm, is almost magical. You go from a country in complete mourning to a country in complete celebration. The official sign in Israel of the begining of Yom Hazikaron is a siren to cause people to stop and take a minute to remember. The sign, however, for the the begining of Yom Haatzmaut is fireworks. Every city has a huge party sponsored by the city counsel. And there is a joke that the Rabbis have made a decree that you must have a BBQ on Yom Haaztmaut. The truth is most people take that "decree" pretty seriously. No stores are open on Yom Haaztmaut, and I mean no stores- not even the grocery store. The day is filled with celebrations and people doing hikes and just enjoying being in Israel. Also, on this day, is the official Tanach Bee- that is right. Every year on Yom Haaztmaut, Israel sponsors a world-wide Tanach bee (like a speling bee but with Bible). It was quite amazing, and I was quite impressed with the American who came in third place. A bit different then your 4th of July (not that America is not special in its own way).

We look forward to a very joyful Lag Ba'omer next week, and of course my, not so celebrated, midterms. Hope all are well!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our Trip

So I finally am taking the time to post pictures of our trip. These are mostly of our time in Amsterdam, but a few are of America too.


What's up Next

After returning from a much needed visit to the states, Nate and I are trying to organize our new plans for our future. As my mom reminded me our plans change quite often, but as usual we hope this one will be more of a permanent plan. Let's hope for the best.

As Nate said he applied to Yeshiva University's Azrielli Graduate School Program, and we will hear within the next few weeks if he got in. He applied for their summer program which Nate no longer has as much of an interest in as he did before, due to their cancellation of the ability to do student teaching in Israel, and the deans suggestions that it was not their "greatest" program. We are hoping if Nate gets in that we can defer the acceptance to the following year (2010) to do the full two year program in the U.S. That's right in the U.S. Nate and I now have plans to move back right after I graduate from Hebrew U. These plans are exciting yet daunting. We will finally be able to be around more family, which we have truly missed, yet I will have to get a "real" job, full time, and enough to support us, while Nate will be in school. Nate hopes to do both graduate school for his Masters in Education and Smicha at Yeshiva University at the same time. The grad program is two years and the smicha is four. He is hoping to travel to the U.S. in November to attend his old roommates wedding (yay for Yoni) and have the necessary interviews with YU for smicha. Wish us luck!

I will be coming in later in the year, with hopes to have interviews set up for jobs (all suggestions welcome) and to find us a place to live. Our goal is to live in the Northern NJ area (Nate is not all that excited about this prospect) in order to be close to NY for Nate's schooling, but not actually in NY for my sanity. Hopefully I will be quite marketable having just finished an MA in nonprofit management and fundraising, in a time where hopefully things will be turning around.

Until we move back, however, we have a lot to deal with. First on the agenda is Nate's army service. He went in for what is called his "tzav rishon" his first call up meeting with army, where they did a number of psychological tests, physical-health tests, and he had a long interview, so the army could determine how healthy he is and ready for the army. As it turns out, he could not finish the appointment because the eye doctor was not in to do an eye test, so hence we do not have any answers yet. It was told to Nate by the physician, however, that he doubted Nate would be a combat soldier because of his ankles. As sad as it is, because we wish he could serve, we are actually hoping for Nate to get an exemption. We believe it is every Israeli's obligationt to serve int he army, and we plan to encourage our sons to serve in the army and our daughters to take part in what is called "Sheirut Le'umi," "national service," yet we now have a very real understanding of why most people who serve begin when they are 18 or 19. Nate is trying to move on with his professional career, and this would be quite problematic for that. Not to mention we are not sure how we financially would survive it. All these things, though, are supposed to be taken into consideration by the army when determining Nate's elligibility to serve.

After we figure out the army we are moving onto figuring out this summer. We both received camp counselor position offers for the summer, and they are in the U.S. My cousins, the Goldfishers, have kindly offered to let us house sit for them while they are away for the summer, in Teaneck, NJ. The camp we are leaning towards working at, Camp Shalom, is in Passaic, but they offer transportation to counselors from the Teaneck area, so it should not be too difficult. I, however, have a job, as many of you know, as a virtual assistant, and am nervous I would lose my clients due to my inability to work for them during day time hours (when they need me most) because I would be working for the camp. I am giving myelf a few weeks to figure out what to do, including trying to see if I can get enough work, and so too enough pay, as a virtual assistant to not work at the camp, and just continue as I am doing. Nate is also looking into getting work as a Mashgiach for the summer, since the pay is much better. At the same time, we are checking daily for tickets to fly into the U.S. which are not very cheap right now. Hopefully this part of our life will figure itself out soon too!

Lastly, we have started to try and figure out the lagistics of what it means to have just made aliyah and need to move back to the U.S. We have every intention of coming back to live here on a permanent basis. We love Israel, although it has proven to be difficult to live here, but we do believe ultimately this is our home. We very much hope that some family members will consider making aliyah (don't worry some already are) as well, so when we return we will not feel as alone. However, this does not exclude the fact that we did make aliyah already, received grants and assistance from the government and Nefeshe B'Nefesh, on the condition we were to stay, and now are returning to the U.S. We have already started to contact the necessary people and look forward to working this out.

Anyway, there is your update for now. Sorry, when we were in the U.S. for pesach we did not see many of you, but we truly just needed some family time with our immediate family, and since it was a short visit, that was our priority. Hopefully we will have a chance to see you all this summer.

Be well!

p.s. Pictures of our trip will be posted soon!

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Been a Long Time Coming

So it’s been a long time since we’ve updated the blog, and I’d like to catch you all up on the past month or so.

I’ve taken my GRE’s so that I can apply to grad school in the states - I’m particularly interested in the Azrieli School of Education at Yeshiva University in New York. It offers a Masters in Jewish Education that I can do during the summers and student teach here in Israel during the year. I’m currently working on the last part of my application which I hope to submit soon.

Apparently I did well on the test, which is a good sign for my application, but the whole experience was interesting. Since we’re not in the US you can’t just take them whenever you want, so I registered to take them in Tel Aviv. I had to leave home around 9am so that I could take a bus to Tel Aviv and walk from the bus station to the building that has the office I needed. (Strangely the Canadian Embassy is housed in the same building).

Naomi and I also participated in one of the greatest events ever. We voted. While that’s not so cool to most of us, it was an enthralling experience here in Israel. Firstly, it seems sometimes that in Israel if it should take 10 minutes to do X and it could take an hour, it’ll end up taking three hours. Yet, voting was a cinch. The decision process, however, not so much. I’ll leave that out, but once we decided who we’d vote for - you go it, show your ID to the election monitors - and then choose one slip of paper with the party on it, place it in an envelope, and place it in the blue box. That’s it. Simple, basic, and very low tech.

Check out these pictures:

You get these envelopes, signed by both of the election monitors that are present.

Each card is a vote, you choose the card with the letter(s) of the party you want to vote for.

Place the party you picked (not our pictures, we voted for someone else) into the envelope

Place the envelope into the ballot box (made out of cardboard) and then you're done. Like I said, low tech and easy.
Naomi's started her second semester of Grad School at Hebrew University. She's done pretyt well so far, and the second semester is continuing in that manner. She's also been busy with some work she's picked up as well; she's taken on a few clients working online for people in the states, and though it's only party time it helps out a lot financially.
Purim happened here at the Yeshiva, which was great fun, though trying to keep track of the 44 kids was tough. But we dressed up and had a good time nonetheless.

Spring time in Israel is beautiful, not only the desert, but the whole country starts to bloom. We went up north with the Yeshiva recently, for shabbbat in Tzfat. It was beautiful and from Har Meron you can see Har Hermon (still white capped with snow).

We're getting ready to head back to the US for Passover, with a brief stopover in Amsterdam each way. We're hoping to take a few of the sights in our 24 hours there (total). We're planning to see the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the Flower Market, etc. I've been there before four years ago, but I still never got to see all of the things that I wanted to. Anyway, we'll be in Philly for a week and DC for a few days including the Seder. We're hoping to see a bunch of people while we're around and the cherry-blossoms which are blooming this time of the year in DC.

Hopefully the next update will take place sooner since we're on break for the moment.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A True Act of Kindness

This past Sunday, the Yeshiva that I work at was host to one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. You all know I've traveled the world, I've seen a lot, and I'm very grateful for the opportunities that I've had, yet with all the beautiful cities and amazing experiences I've had, I've never quite had one as truly awe inspiring as this carnival.

Around 300 children from Ashkelon (one of the major cities living within range of the rockets from Gaza) came to the Yeshiva, so that we could give them a day off – just a day to be a kid again – due to the incessant rain of rockets they've experienced over the past year they've rarely had time to just enjoy themselves without that feeling that at any time a missile could strike. An anonymous donor paid for the entire event, from busing the children to Jerusalem, the rides,
our Staff t-shirts, and the food; what a way to truly make an impact.

We set up and manned a dozen different rides and games for the kids, moon bounces, motorcycle races, basketball games, slides, etc. We each had a role to play in the event, some of us were running the booths and playing with the kids, some of us were serving them cotton candy and popcorn, and some of us worked the DJ booth. The most impressive part of this whole event – was not that it was set up within three days – but the faces the kids had on the entire time. Kids go nuts for these carnivals all over the world, but when they live in mortal
danger day in and day out, and then they have this event – it brings the idea of charity to a whole other level.

Take a look at these pictures, you'll see just how great this event was.