It's been another busy week here in the J'lem. We're all still processing Rosh Hashana and attempting to prep for Yom Kippur, in whatever spiritual, mental, physical and for some of us, musical ways we can. We're also gearing up for our class trip to the Galilee and Golan Heights next week, followed by Sukkot break. There's lots to look forward to and lots to keep us busy until then.
As HUC students, we are all required to participate in 2-4 hours of community service projects every week. There are a plethora of choices when it comes to which community service projects you want to participate in; a few of the favorites include a program pairing students with Ethiopian Jews in Israel, volunteering at the HUC gan (kindergarten), tending a garden in Jerusalem, singing in the Hallel community choir, and many, many more.
Like the other cantorial students, I am singing in the community choir to fulfill my community service requirement. We met for the first time last night, and had a lot of fun. The members are a mix of Israelis, Anglos, students from HUC and JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary), and some HUC faculty members. There are around 35 members of all ages, and it's very clear that those who've been in the choir for years really love it. We're going to be singing as much as we can of Ernest Bloch's Sacred Service, which is an extraordinarily beautiful and interesting cantorial and choral piece. I'm very excited to be singing it, along with whatever else we'll be singing this year. It's nice to be back in a large choir again, singing music with people who genuinely love to sing. The members all have tremendous spirit and life and I know I'll have a great time singing with them. Also, the director speaks his directions in hebrew (and repeats them in English), so I'm hoping to pick up a lot of music-related hebrew vocabulary while I'm here. I'm excited!
Starting today, we will be participating in a weeky "class" called Israel Seminar. During this day-long class, we'll be studying modern Israeli culture and history through guided tours, readings, movies, music, theater, lectures, etc. The purpose of this class is to help us experience the whole country (not just Jerusalem) through the eyes of Israelis, in order to break our everyday "Jerusalem Bubble" and get a sense of what the real Israel is like. We have an amazing professor who not only knows so much about Israeli history and culture but also knows how to teach (a rarity in the world of academia, so I've found.) We also purchased a reader which is chock-full of information relating to our site visits and lectures; I'm sure it will be a wonderful resource regarding the many complexities that make Israel the amazing country it is.
Our first field trip for class is coming up this weekend, after Yom Kippur, where we'll travel as a class for 3 days to the Galilee and Golan Heights. None of us knows what to expect as of now, but after our introduction to the course today, I know it will be very interesting and insightful. I also know I'll be rafting (or kayaking...I can't remember), which will be an adventure for me to say the least. More details to come upon our return on Tuesday night.
I feel so blessed to have these amazing opportunities to learn and grow while I'm here. I am finally becoming comfortable in my Bible class (I actually spoke the other day--for the first time--and the professor said I gave a good statement! It was a very exciting moment for me, as lame as that may sound.) I worked with Eli on the Sh'ma Koleinu, which I am singing for morning Yom Kippur services, and we both seem happy with it. I managed to pay our electric bill today for the first time with the help of my friend Jen. I feel like I'm finally GETTING it here; how school works, how life works, how Israelis work--and it makes me realize just how much I've grown throughout the last 3 months. Though I miss everyone and everything back home, I couldn't be happier to be here and to be doing this right now. It's definitely where I'm meant to be and what I'm meant to be doing.
Hope everyone has an easy fast on Saturday...I'm thinking of you!