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!