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 JGooders.com, 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!