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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back in the USA

Greetings friends and family! The last time I wrote, I was sitting in my little apartment on Moshe Hess Street, contemplating how I was going to get all of my "stuff" back to the US. I was VERY excited about seeing my friends and family, and also a bit nervous with all of the "transitioning" I, Batya and Carlie would have to do once we were back in the States. When we moved to Israel in June, 2007, jet lag really hit Batya and me a lot. Carlie, however, was fine. Well, this time, Carlie has really been affected by jet lag, and Batya and I have been fine. However, dealing with a 2 year old who is experiencing jet lag can be quite difficult....especially, the constant wake up at 4 or 5 am.

But, I think Carlie is finally adjusted! This means that we will finally be able to really sleep at night! In the past week (yes, it's been a week since we've been back in the States), we have been in Atlanta, Columbia, Atlanta again, Cincinnati, and now Houston. We'll be in Houston until Thursday, then back to Atlanta for 2 days, to the DC Area, and then to camp! If Carlie is able to make it through these two weeks, we'll be highly impressed! Yes, she did scream for about 20 minutes on the flight to Houston (and I can't forget the 2 hours of screaming coming back from Israel), but all in all, she's doing great!

In the past week, we've purchased cell phones, signed a lease on a BEAUTIFUL house in Finneytown (outside of Cincinnati - don't worry, pictures to come in August when we move in), seen lots of friends and family...and we hope Batya has found a job! I don't want to write too much about that until she actually has the job.

I have to admit that Batya and I have been remarking about the "little things" we miss about Israel. Every once in a while, I'll look at Batya and say something like, "That's something else I miss about Israel." We will certainly miss the views of the Old City, the smells of our neighbors' cooking, and being so close to everything...being able to walk everywhere. We'll be spending the summer at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, PA. We are very excited, for sure!

I'll try to write a few times over the summer, but as I'll be very busy, please don't be angry if the next post is in August!

L'Hitraot for now!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is it really over?

Normally being up at 5:45 am isn't so abnormal for me. After all, I have a 2 year old daughter. But for some reason, I haven't slept so well this week. I was sick to my stomach (literally) on Saturday night, up most of the night. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and last night I also haven't slept so well, and this morning I was up at 4:30. And for the most part, it's NOT Carlie's fault! So, why am I having trouble sleeping?

For the past 11 months, I have shared with you my life's journey in Israel. You have grown with me Jewishly, spiritually, personally, as a husband, father, classmate, Jew, and as a human being. And, now, in less than 2 days, I will be back "home" in the United States, ready to begin the next part of the journey. While Rabbinical school is 5 years, the first year in Israel is a journey in and of itself. I remember walking into Nancy Lewitt's (our Director of Student Affairs) office on June 25, 2007 and telling her "I know how this works." What the hell was I thinking? Knowing what I know now, I realize I really knew nothing then.

By no stretch of the imagination do I feel this journey is over. This is just the first "leg." For four more years, I get to learn, develop and grow into a Rabbi. Some say becoming a Rabbi is a life long journey...I tend to agree. But, this year has taught me so much more than I ever could have imagined. While finishing up my exams yesterday I realized just how much I have learned. It truly is amazing. And as far as growth is concerned, I feel this year has given me the opportunities to grow more in one year than the rest of my life put together.

This will be my last post of this part of the journey. I will be renaming my BLOG to "Erin's Journey to become a Rabbi" because I want to continue sharing this journey with you. As the name changes, the blog won't. I will still share with you my thoughts on this journey. I welcome any feedback either on this year's blog entries or on any of my blog entries in the future.

I will end this blog with a quote from one of my classmates:
"This moment is quite surreal. While I know we are saying Goodbye to each other, aren't we really just saying until next time? We'll all see each other again, and we'll ALWAYS be the 2007-2008 Year In Israel class...even when we meet for conventions 20 years from now, this will still be the year we remember!"

Shalom, L'hitraot!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Birthday and our last Shabbat together as a class

Shalom Friends and family!

Well, Friday, May 16 marked the second time in my life in which I spent my birthday in Jerusalem. In 2000, I spent my birthday out with my friend Ian, who also has May 16 as his birthday! That was fun, but this year had a special twist to it. I woke up - Batya let me sleep in to 9:30, and was told I wouldn't have to change a diaper at all that day! Since Carlie had a bit of a stomach bug, it was a VERY special present from Batya!!

After Carlie woke up from her nap, we went to have lunch together at a new Falafel and Shwarma place. It was very good, and it was nice to be able to spend the day with Carlie and Batya! After lunch, we met Julie and Noah at the park, and it was really great to see Noah and Carlie running around together at the park. However, at about 4, a ton of older kids took over the playground, and they really weren't paying attention to Noah and Carlie. So, to avoid anyone getting hurt, we came back to our place to rest and prepare for the last Kabbalat Shabbat for the HUC-JIR Class of 2012 in Jerusalem!

We had a beautiful service led by several of my classmates. All 5 of the Cantorial students helped to lead as well, and they really do sound beautiful together. Several of my classmates were given awards for academics, community service, etc. The highlight of the service, though, was when the President of HUC, who had been in town for Shimon Peres's Presidential conference, and who missed his plane back to the states, addressed our class. He addressed at the beginning of the year, and it was only fitting that we end our time together addressed by him again!

After services, we went to Beit Shmuel, a hotel right next to HUC, and had a catered dinner. While the food was just ok, Batya and I spent most of our time with Carlie who became a little sick part of the time. Thankfully she was ok! Once dinner was over, we went back to the student lounge, the Moadon, for the greatest slide show ever. While I didn't cry (I had expected I would), I was incredibly impressed about the slide show, and extremely happy to have been a part of the HUC Year in Israel 2007-2008 class, the best class in the world! (in Israel)

Exams start tomorrow, and while I am excited to finish them and return to family and friends in the States, I am becoming more and more nostalgic every day. I know I am going to miss so many things, and I am already looking forward to a return to Israel soon, in some way!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another "Closing"

Greetings family and friends!

Today was the finale of our Israel Seminar Program. Every Wednesday we have explored Israel from the period of the "New Jew" (the Early Pioneers at the end of the 19 and beginning of the 20th century) to the present day. We have explored so many different aspects of Israeli society. We looked at Israel through the eyes of Jews, Christians, Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. We've been to Israeli Arab towns and to areas still in dispute with Israel's neighbors.

There have been so many interesting experiences that have truly helped to shape not only my relationship with Israel, but the internal conflict that I feel toward Israel. The Israel Seminar has helped to shape and reshape my Jewish identity, religious, spiritual, etc. My political views have changed over and over again as I have lived in Israel this year. Living every day what Americans read in the newspaper has truly been eye opening. When my friends and family read about the terrorists activity at Mirkaz Rav, it was only about a 20 minute walk away from my home.

Every Sunday, we have read the news in Israel from an Israeli newspaper, feeling as if we were a part of that news, and for much of the news, we have been. The Israel Seminar has given me the opportunity to explore so many aspects of being an Israeli and being a Jew. By no means do I feel I have "learned it all." And, while my Hebrew ability has grown so much while being here, I do have much more to learn before I can even think of myself as fluent. But, living in Israel, and the experience of Israel Seminar has given me so many more tools to use when I discuss Israel back at home.

After all, being able to bring Israel back to the States is one of the goals of Israel Seminar. It's not just about my experiences. It's also about my ability to share my experiences and knowledge with friends, family, and future congregants back in the United States. I only hope when we return to the States, I am able to even touch the surface when I begin to teach about Israel and share these experiences.

The end of the Israel Seminar means I am now charged with continuing my Israel experience and education on my own, without the structure of the Israel Seminar. I am excited about these opportunities!


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Remembering and Never Forgetting

Greetings family and friends. I have been teaching 7th graders about the Holocaust for about 6 years. Every year I learn something new and experience something new. Today was no different. I was given the honor to help create and lead the Yom Hashoah service at HUC this morning. We invited the Israeli Rabbinical Students to join us and one of the students helped us to create the service. I knew today would be hard, but I don't think I was prepared really for the rush of emotion I experienced and continue to experience today.

I have been in Israel during Yom Hashoah before. I have even helped students to grapple with the seriousness and emotion of this day. It's different in America. Our care and remembering is not different in America, but there is something different about being in Israel on this day. As 10:00 A.M. comes around and the siren begins, it's a very hard moment, or moments. As you see all the cars come to a sudden stop and experience all of the drivers getting out of their cars in respect and's an experience you can't and won't experience anywhere else. As a matter of fact, there was a baby who cried from the moment the Siren started until the Siren finished. I couldn't help but think how appropriate that was. That little baby, who truly couldn't have comprehended the significance of this day, captured the feelings of all of us in his cry.

Each year on Yom Hashoah, I am reminded of our family friend, Max Krautler, who we drove ride to Kabbalat Shabbat services every week. He didn't have a car, so he depended on us to bring him to Synagogue. He was the first Holocaust survivor I ever met. When I first asked him to speak at my elementary school about his experiences, he refused. It was too hard for him to bring back all of that emotion and those awful experiences. Then, a couple of years later, he approached me. I have never been so interested in someone's life as I was in his. I always felt a special connection to "Grandpa" Max. I used to go to his house on the weekends just to spend time with him. I remember the first time he showed me his tattoo, his Nazi number. I will never forget you, Max, and the immense struggles you lived with your whole life.

At the end of the Shoah ceremony, one of my classmates told a story of two women from Hungary who met on the train to Auschwitz. They occupied the awful 3 day journey by getting to know each other. One of the two girls told the other she had a male friend back home who would be perfect for her. They vowed to meet back at her home town once the war was over and their hell was over.

While in the camp, one of the girls kept alive by the promise of meeting this new male friend. She also dreamed of being reaquainted with her new friend. After the war, she went back to Hungary to look for her friend. Miraculously, she found her friend, was introduced to the male friend, fell in love and married him. She today has 3 children, and many grandchildren. One of the granddaughters is the girlfriend of my classmate.

It is stories like this that help me to realize that we're still here, and we have so much hope for the future. It also reminds me how important Israel is for the Jewish people to survive. I may not always agree with what Israel does, and I may struggle with life in Israel at times. But the bottom line is that I am able to live in Israel, and this is a benefit I shall never take for granted. As long as Israel lives, we will never forget, and we will always remember.

No one yet knows what awaits the Jews in the twenty-first century, but we must make every effort to ensure that it is better than what befell them in the twentieth, the century of the Holocaust.” - by Benjamin Netanyahu