Friday, November 30, 2007

Class Tiyul #2

We just came home from our 2nd class tiyul (trip) to the cities of Caesaria, Tzippori, Tiberias, Safed, and Haifa. It was a great trip, and wonderful to get out of Jerusalem and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery. Compared to the J'lem, these cities were warm, inviting, and a refreshing change from our daily academic grinds. From Jerusalem, our first stop was to the port town of Caesaria. This town was built by Herod and given as a gift to Caesar, the source of it's name. It's a BEAUTIFUL city, with a gorgeous beach and tons of Roman ruins. Also, it is here where Rabbi Akiva is said to have been killed because he refused to stop studying and teaching the Torah. When we first arrived, the cantorial students were asked to sing in their amazing ancient amphitheater. We knew this going into the trip, so we prepared a beautiful 3-part V'shamru. On the bus, Gingy (one of our tour leaders) wanted us to also sing something fun, so somehow Elana came up with an idea. The 5 of us, plus 7 rabbinic and education students sang and performed a rousing version of Queen's Bohemeian Rhapsody, which included air guitar, air piano and air drums, and an amazing interpretive dance. This was all done at the last minute, and it was as hysterical as it was ridiculous. It was definitely something we will all remember for years to come.

The beaches of Caesaria...beautiful!

The cantorial students singing V'shamru in the amphitheater in Casaria. From left to right: Julia, Elana, Michelle, Vicki and I.

After breaking into groups for some text study (on the shore of the beautiful Sea of Galilee, with Gingy, one of my favorite people at HUC) we left Casarea for Tzippori. Tzippori was a city that housed Jews and others in the Hellenistic period. It is where the Sanhedrin, the council that determined the religious decisions for the Jewish people, was founded. The remains found there include many beautiful mosaics, which are pretty incredible, considering they are 2,000 years old. It was nice to re-visit Tzippori (I came when I was on BRI in 2004) and see the mosaics again.

A close-up of the Mosaic floors of Tzippori

Lauren, Lyle and I at the highest point in Tzippori

After we explored Tzippori and had a few more bites of text study, we had an afternoon service in the ancient synagogue. The synagogue is pretty amazing, as it has a mosaic floor that tells us a ton about how Jews worshiped back then. They actually have a Zodiac sign on the floor, and we learned that these Jews connected Zodiac signs to the months of the Hebrew calendar. We had a short and lovely service before heading back to the bus to go to our hotel in Tiberias.

Though it does have religious significance, Tiberias is a dumpy little down in Israel, so we only stayed the night there. However, we were treated to a fun group dinner at Deck's, a lovely restaurant on the water. The food was really nothing special, but we were all pleasantly surprised when a boat came around, announcing we were there and welcoming us. They also played Frank Sinatra's New York New York since the majority of us were Americans. It was a totally random, "only in Israel" kind of moment, but a lot of fun. We had to be up very early the next morning, so we came back and headed to bed early after dinner.

The boat at Deck's that welcomed us to Tiberias. Strange and incredibly Israeli, but very fun.

After a 7:15am (what were they thinking???) morning service and breakfast, we headed out for a day in Safed (pronounced Sfat.) For those who don't know, Safed was the birthplace of Kabbalah, a mystic form of Judaism. We spent the morning touring the little synagogues in the town center, and then we visited one of the many artists who live and work in Safed. His name was Avraham, and is was born and raised in Michigan before making Aliyah to Safed 13 years ago. I didn't care much for his artwork, but it was neat to hear about his personal experience with Kabbalah and how he uses his artwork to connect himself and others to it. We spent the majority of the afternoon walking around the little artist shops and the famous candle store, where I bought some candles as gifts for friends and family.

The Ark in the Abohav Synagogue in Safed. Inside there is a Torah Scroll from Spain dating back to 1492, that is only allowed to be used 3 times a year.

After our day in Safed, I really wanted to take a nap, but instead we all went hiking! Now, you guys know how much I love schlepping through the woods for no real reason, and this hike was really no exception. We were able to see Mt Hermon, the tallest mountain in Israel which currently capped with snow, but that was about it. Thank goodness it was short, and we had a nice long bus ride to Haifa, which allowed me to chill a bit.

Neighbors! Nicole and I on our hike. I look awfully happy to be hiking, huh?

We spent the night in Haifa, where we had dinner on our own. A group of us decided to go with Nancy and Gingy to a sushi restaurant pretty far from our hotel. We had a great evening AND (this is big...) I had my first raw-fish sushi experience. I tried some of a tuna roll and a salmon roll, and they were both pretty tasty! I think I'll stick to my veggie sushi for now, but I was proud of myself for trying the fish.

After breakfast this morning, we made our way to the Leo Baeck Education Center in the middle of Haifa. This place is AMAZING...they have primary and high schools, Beit Midrash (Torah study) groups, adult education, and higher-learning opportunities for Reform Jews in Israel. We had a wonderful tour and information session, a question/answer session with some of the high school students (who are all incredibly intelligent and well-spoken), a special Havdallah ceremony, and a wonderful Kabbalat Shabbat celebration with the primary students. The Shabbat ceremony was definitely the highlight of my trip; the kids were SO cute when they were leading the candle, wine and bread blessings and singing and dancing for us. I'd love to go back there at some point and work with them, maybe teach them songs or lead them in a drum circle or something. I hope I have the time....

The Tree of Life at the Leo Baeck Educational Center

The Kitah Aleph (1st grade) students of Leo Baeck preparing for their performance. How cute are they?

Anyways, now we're back and ready for a relaxing Shabbat. We have no real plans, except to babysit our friends Dave and Gal's 3-year-old daughter Dahlia tomorrow afternoon. It'll be nice to have some time to chill out and recharge for the busy week ahead. Hope all is well, miss and love you all. As of tomorrow, I'll be able to say "See you next month!"

Cantor In Training

Hi guys. I'm having some computer issues, which is why I haven't been able to post as often lately. My computer miraculously decided to turn on today, so I'm trying to catch up on some much-needed blogging time. I'm hoping to keep posting, but I'm afraid that the frequency will slow down. I guess we'll see!

Anyways, this week was a big one for me. As part of the HUC first-year program, all of us are required to lead our group Monday morning services. Rabbinical students each have to pair up and lead a service once during the year, and cantorial students are required to plan and sing music for 3 services throughout the year. This past Monday morning, I had my first shot at officially leading a service. It was such a great and educational process for me, and it really was a huge accomplishment. I came into this program never having participated in a weekday service, which meant that there were a lot of new prayers and melodies to learn. The HUC Jerusalem campus also uses many traditional Nusach melodies that I learned and led for the first time, which are a capella and sometimes hard to grasp melodically. However, I learned them, and was able to plan music for a service that went extremely well.

This was the first time I've ever taken it upon myself to actually plan my own music for a service, which required a lot of work and thought. Whenever I've sung services at TI, Linda and I have always planned them together, and we usually know what the congregation likes and needs. Here, they expect the students to do that on their own, and picking out music for 50 people with completely different ideas of what makes a service spiritual and beautiful is not easy. Luckily, I think I managed to do fine; at our service review a few hours later Eli mentioned that he was very happy with my program. He appreciated the different moods for the different pieces and thought I had a good balance of Nusach, congregational melodies, and cantorial solo moments. I was worried about that, because many of my fellow students have mentioned how they prefer congregational singing to listening to the cantor. I've always thought that it is beautiful to have cantorial solo moments in services at times, to allow the congregant to internalize the prayer by listening to a beautiful musical setting. I don't know if the kahal (congregation) was all that pleased with my 2 soloistic moments, but in general I thought the service went well and Eli Schleifer agreed, which makes me happy.

Anyways, I know this may not be all that exciting to you, but for me, it's a huge accomplishment and something that I'm really proud of. I'm SO GLAD that this first time is over, and I kind of know what to expect from here on out. It'll be nice to work with my rabbinical colleagues for my next services in February and March and hopefully be able to enjoy myself a little more and work to create even more spiritual and beautiful t'fillot.

Missing and loving you all!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Israeli Take on Thanksgiving

The view of Tel Aviv from our friends' apartment.

Hi guys...sorry it's been so long since my last post. It's been an insane week here, probably the craziest week that I've had yet. It's been a good week though, filled with good friends, fun times, and many important accomplishments. It was hard being away from home for Thanksgiving; I missed the sights, the smells, the tastes, the colors and the family that it always brings. I even missed my yearly struggle of who's house to go to for dinner. I realized this year how lucky I am to have 2 families (sometimes 3) who all welcome me to their Thanksgiving tables.

Before I talk about my actual Thanksgiving Day, I have to make mention of the HUC football team, lovingly known as the HUC-Stables (remember the Cosby show?) HUC had their first-ever "homecoming" celebration this year, before the big football game against Pardes on Tuesday. We celebrated with a pep-rally on Tuesday morning, followed by an exciting and victorious game on Tuesday night. The fans came out in droves to cheer for the team, and even though it was pouring down rain and freezing cold all night long, a fun time was had by all who attended. Because we had choir, I was only able to catch the last half of the game (and I had to miss the tailgate, choir) but I had a great time anyways. Go HUC-Stables!

The HUC-Stables at the pep-rally...we celebrated with dancing, a speech from our Quarterback, and the theme song from "The Cosby Show"

David, our team captain, QB, and native STL'isan (yeah!!!) giving the victory speech after the big game on Tuesday night. The HUC-Stables beat Pardes 33-6.

Now, back to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not celebrated by Israelis in the slightest. Understandably, the holiday is of no importance to them, meaning life goes on as normal on Thanksgiving day (meaning, we had to go to for that.) After class, I hopped a sheirut (shared taxi) with PJ and headed off to Tel Aviv. Our friends Shari, Dena and Stephanie lovingly invited PJ and I, as well as Steph and Ariel, to a Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel in Tel Aviv, and then invited us to stay with them for the night in their huge apartment. The dinner was sponsored by a group called Nefesh b'Nefesh (Soul in Soul) that works with new immigrants to Israel. They made a decent attempt, but I have to say that the food was nothing to write home about. It was great though to be celebrating Thanksgiving with good friends at a nice, big table. We each went around and said what we were thankful for, and toasted to a wonderful Israeli Thanksgiving meal.

An Israeli take on a traditional Thanksgiving me, you didn't miss much.

Our Tel Aviv friends and I enjoying our dinner together. Shari, Dena, me and Stephanie.

Our Thanksgiving table. From left to right: Adam, Shari, me, PJ, Stephanie, Dena, Ariel, Steph

When we were finished with dinner, we went back to Shari, Dena, and Stephanie's beautiful apartment in Tel Aviv. They were so cute and so accommodating...they made these adorable turkey cupcakes for us, which were not only delicious but a great way to get our sugar-rush, since the desserts at dinner were not so great. I don't think it truly felt like Thanksgiving until I saw these. They really made my Thanksgiving wonderful. We stayed up late, playing games, eating these rich cupcakes, and drinking wine until we couldn't keep our eyes open. We woke up late the next morning, and had a leisurely brunch at Max Brenner's, a chocolate factory/restaurant, and then caught the sheirut back to J'lem. We were sad to leave, but so happy to have gotten out of Jerusalem to see our friends and celebrate a fun Thanksgiving. We had a great time, though I will say that I can't wait to have our faux-Thanksgiving dinner when I get home.

The turkey cupcakes the girls made for us! Aren't they adorable (and don't they look tasty??)

So anyways, that's Turkey Day in the Holy Land. It was hard to be away from home, and both Steph and I found ourselves very homesick, but I think we really made the best of it. I'm so happy to have our friends in Tel Aviv who are such a great break from our J'lem circle of friends. I missed you all, and I hope you all had a wonderful, festive Thanksgiving, and that you all have plenty to be thankful for...I know I do!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Day in the Life

Some pictures of the HUC-Jerusalem campus, courtesy of my friend Julia. It's incredibly beautiful and makes these forever long days a little more bearable (most of the time!)

Since last week's post about my crazy Thursdays, some of you have written asking me what exactly it is that makes them so crazy. So, instead of writing everyone back individually, I thought I'd write about my Thursday, in hopes that I will give you a better idea of what the day is really like. Thursday is actually a great day to talk about, not only because it is so fun-filled, but because it gives a good representation of the program at HUC as a whole. Prepare yourself for the craziness!

My Thursdays always begin with a whopping dose of Hebrew. Yesterday's class was actually really fun; we celebrated Julia's birthday by making her little cards that allowed us to review our verbs in future tense. We ended class with an improvisation exercise led my my friend (and fellow St Louisian) David, where we played games normally found at Improv Comedy clubs. It was so fun and funny and we learned while we played.

After Hebrew, I have a 30-minute break before Liturgy, my next class. Normally I spend my break shmoozing and sipping a cappuccino, but yesterday we had a liturgy quiz which required me to spend my half-hour cramming. It was worth it though--I can tell you the names of all 19 prayers of the Amidah and what they mean. I feel smart :)

Liturgy itself is one of my favorite classes. We spend our time looking at the prayers and talking about how they became fixed in the Jewish rites and what they mean to the Jewish people. We're studying with the Orthodox prayerbook Rinat Yisrael, and while not all of the prayers are carried on in the Reform movement, it's incredibly interesting to see where the Reform prayers come from and the connections between the liturgies. We also talk a lot about Mishkan T'fillah, the new Reform prayerbook, which I've really fallen in love with. I can't wait to receive the finished copy (hopefully soon!) and to use it in my student pulpits next year.

After Liturgy and lunch, I head to my Bible class. OK--Bible is important, I realize, but I have to say that it is my least favorite class here. I've told y'all my woes about Bible, so I won't elaborate here, but let's just say I am looking forward to the time when I can enjoy reading Tanach again, like I do in Cantillation (see below.) Thank goodness this particular Bible class is over in January and I can wash my hands of it (the class, not the Bible.)

Jewish Music History is the next in line for my Thursday classes. Eli teaches this class, and while it's sometimes a bit boring, the class definitely has some interesting moments. Yesterday we talked about the development of Piyutim, or poems about the prayers that are read in a musical manner. The most famous Piyut is probably L'cha Dodi, a prayer/poem that welcomes in the Shabbat "bride" on Friday evenings. Piyutim were originally presented as riddles, and the congregation listened and tried to guess what the riddles were about--they were all the rage in synagogues in the 13-14th centuries and continue to be a part of Jewish liturgy until today.

My last class of the day is Cantillation. This class used to be incredibly stressful; we were never really taught the trope signs, but rather we opened to B'reshit (Genesis) and were told to start chanting. Now that I've caught up a little, the class is incredibly interesting, useful and fun. I chanted 2 lines yesterday, including a really tough one, and while I'm nowhere near perfect (or even GOOD) at cantillation, it's finally starting to stick with me. In order to put my skills to good use, I signed up to read Torah---for the first time since my Bat Mitzvah 12 years ago---at our Monday morning services on December 31st. I am scared TO DEATH to do it (and to present my own translation in front of everyone, which is required of all of us) but I know it will be good for me. I'd really like to read as often as I can while I'm here to get over my anxiety of chanting Torah and practice the skills I am so diligently studying.

So, that's my crazy day. I'm sure your eyes are as tired of reading as my body is at the end of the day! It's exhausting, and I always dread Thursdays like the plague, but at the end of the day I'm happy with my hard day's work. I hope everyone is doing well, and I can't wait to see you all so soon! Looking forward to many happy reunions (and a lot of tasty food) when I'm home.

שבת שלום
Shabbat Shalom!

Aron, me and Julia celebrating Julia's birthday at Shlomtzi's Thursday night. (Like the shirt, Whitney?) :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

FSU Pesach Project

The following is taken from a letter that many of you will receive in the coming weeks on behalf of the FSU Pesach Project. For the last 6 years, HUC students have traveled to the Former Solviet Union to celebrate Passover with the various Jewish communities there. We will not only be leading Passover seders (the traditional Passover meal, where we tell the story of the Jewish liberation from bondage in Egypt,) but teaching Jews about Judaism, Torah, Jewish music, etc. I am very excited to be participating in this project, which I am sure will teach me a great deal about being a Jewish leader, the Jewish history in the FSU, and the many details of Passover itself. If you are willing and able, please donate via the website or mailing address listed below (after all, donations to this project make a great Chanukkah gift...) Thank you so much in advance for your support!

Dear Friends,

This April, forty rabbinical, cantorial, and education students, as well as, friends and family from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) will be traveling to the Former Soviet Union (FSU.) In partnership with the World Union for Progressive Judaism, which unites and supports Reform congregations world-wide, we are happy to announce our sixth-annual FSU Pesach Project.

We hope that you will support this student-led initiative. We anticipate that it will cost each delegate $2,000 to participate, which includes: travel expenses, educational materials, Passover supplies for all the participants, as well as, donations to each community, which will enable them to continue observing Passover in the years to come.

The mission of our trip is to provide meaningful Passover celebrations for thousands of under-served Jews in the region. While there has been an abundance of Jewish philanthropy and development in the FSU since the 1990's, there are still only six progressive rabbis to serve over one hundred Jewish communities during Passover.

Therefore, our student delegations will be traveling to more than twenty communities throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus in order to lead Passover Seders, conduct educational programming, to create relationships with Jews of all ages, and to strengthen the Jewish identity of these diverse communities.

Please consider supporting this project as a way to recognize the profound importance of celebrating the Jewish story of liberation in a place where freedom from oppression is a very real and recent experience. Tax-deductible donations can be made online at Additionally, contributions may be sent by mail to:
Attn: Diane Bongard
3101 Clifton Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45220

If you have any questions regarding this mission, please send us an email at On behalf of everyone at HUC-JIR, and our partners at the World Union for Progressive Judaism, we appreciate your commitment to making this project a success for us and the entire FSU Jewish community.

You are also more than welcome to email me directly with questions at Thanks again!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Love the Weekend

I love the weekend--really, I do. Being a student at HUC requires so much time, commitment, energy, strength, thought, work, etc etc etc, that by the time Friday rolls around, I can't help but love the 2 days I have to not focus on pushing myself (academically, anyway.) I've grown to appreciate my weekend more than I ever have before since our real schedules began after Sukkot break.

The first reason I love my weekend is Thursday night. For me, Thursdays are my hell days. I have 5 classes, which all require preparation (so my Wednesday nights are very, very busy.) I spend my Thursday schlepping from one class to another, with a backpack so heavy from books that my back literally hurts at the end of the day. However, come 6:30 Thursday night, I shove my backpack into a corner of my room and shout with joy that I not only survived, but have a whole weekend to look forward to. This particular Thursday night, Steph was visiting some of our friends in Tel Aviv, and I had the apartment to myself. I'd forgotten how nice it is to have an apartment completely to myself--don't get me wrong, I love my roommate like a sister, but I also love having my own space. I spent my Thursday night in complete solitude, cooking a healthy dinner, exercising (see below) watching movies, and singing loudly and with my door wide open. It was so wonderful and exactly the way I wanted to end my day from hell.

My Fridays usually begin with a voice lesson in the morning. My voice lessons are another thing I've grown to really appreciate since I've started school. I spend so much time thinking about the Judaic side of my program that I often neglect my singing and musicianship, which I hate. Friday mornings I have the chance to go to my lesson and just focus on singing, which is the real reason I'm here in the first place. My voice has grown tremendously in the last few months; the pitch problems I had when I arrived are nearly gone, and I'm exploring a softer, gentler side of my voice that I really love. My singing feels so free and easy, and my confidence in singing has slowly returned, which is the nicest thing of all. My teacher and I have formed a close bond, which is so important, and though she's tough on me to get things right I know that she deeply cares about my singing and about me as a person.

After my lesson, I head to HUC for my weekly training sessions with my personal trainer. OK, I know what you're thinking, but yes, I have a personal trainer. His name is David and he's a rabbinical student who spent the last 10 years running a personal training business in San Francisco. He's amazing--smart, very positive, and kind towards me, and he mixes in Jewish texts and prayers with the workout. He knows I hate exercise with a passion, but it's important to both of us that I make it a part of my lifestyle. He also helps me with nutrition and relaxation techniques to keep me calm during these crazy weeks. And, even as I sit here with sore legs from doing waaaaaay too many squats (with weights this week...oy vavoy) I know how good it is for me and I see and feel results every week.

This morning Julia and I sang at HUC Shabbat services, which was so so SO nice. I love singing with Julia; she's one of my closest friends here and has an incredibly beautiful voice. She's probably the most vocally talented of the 5 of us and is truly one of the nicest people I have ever known. We sang 3 duets together, and each of us had 3 pieces to sing on our own. Today was the first time I've sang on the bimah at HUC and felt completely comfortable, and I really feel as though I sang well because of that. I'm also quickly building my repertoire of Jewish music, which I am SO excited to share with everyone when I come home. Linda, some of the duets we sang today would be perfect for you and me...maybe we could sing some over my winter break???

I spent the rest of the day doing homework, preparing homemade pumpkin soup (not one of my favorite soup creations, but good enough none-the-less) and attending a Rosh Chodesh text study and comedy function. I'm not ready to go back to school tomorrow, but as long as I have these weekends to look forward to, I'll survive.

OK, I think I must get back to the Biblical Grammar homework I've been avoiding since I started writing this entry. Missing and loving you all...61 days until I come home! Shavua tov and chodesh tov (a good week and a good month) to you all!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Life Goes On

Memorial stone at the Mount Hertzl Military Cemetery. We visited the cemetery, where soldiers are buried (close to the National Cemetery, where all of the heads of the government are buried) last week for our weekly Israel Seminar.

Hi everyone! Hope you're all doing well. It's been another busy week, though I have to say school has been considerably better the last few days. I'm still busy, but I'm working to keep a good attitude and try to sneak in some "Tracy Time" everyday, which has helped tremendously. The HUC Board of Governors was here this week, so there's been a lot of excitement and activities going on with that. They've been sitting in on our classes, attending special meetings, preparing for/attending the Israeli Rabbinic Ordination, and talking to us, the students, about our experiences thus far in the program. I was asked to be on a student panel on Thursday in which the board members could ask us questions about how the year is going. With my state-of-mind at the beginning of the week, I was a bit worried about how I would answer their questions. We were told to be honest, but at these kinds of things, you have to be tactful--they don't want to hear about your particular problems in that kind of setting, and in some sense, they want to hear that the school is doing a good job. Luckily, my mind set was much improved by the time Thursday rolled around, and I was able to talk to them genuinely. They asked us questions about classes, moving to Israel, our families' reactions to us being here, etc. They were all very nice people, and seemed very interested in the cantorial program. One of them was on the committee who auditioned me last February, so it was nice getting to know her and learning about who she is and what she does for HUC.

Thursday night, Steph and I along with our friends Lea, Shari and Dina went to the Jerusalem Theater to see Hadag Nachash, an Israeli pop/hip-hop/electronic band play. I'd seen them earlier this summer when I didn't really know their music, but now that I've had some time to hear them on the radio and around Israel, I enjoyed the show a lot more. Their music is very loud and fun, but usually has some sort of political message. My favorite song of theirs, Shirat HaSticker (The Sticker Song) was composed from a bunch of bumper stickers seen on Israeli cars, protesting war and encouraging peace. They're an amazing band to see live--they're leaving for a US tour in the next year, so if they come to your city, I highly recommend that you go. You'll enjoy it :)

Hadag Nachash! We had 4th row seats and an awesome view... it was pretty amazing.

After the concert, we went to our friend Sam's apartment to celebrate both his 23rd birthday and (belated) Halloween. Halloween is not at all commemorated here, as it's a Pagan holiday (and an American tradition), but we had a great time celebrating on our own. Being the incredibly cool cantorial students we are, we decided to go costumed as trope signs (trope signs, or ta'amim in Hebrew, are the little dots and squiggles you see under the words in the Tanach that tell you how to sing them.) We thought it would be fun to mix each other up and make people sing us; our tag-line all night was "Sing me, baby..." OK, so we're the dorkiest cantorial students ever, but we had so much fun with it and laughed about constantly all night long. In case you were wondering, I was the sof-pasuk, the trope that marks the end of each verse.

4 of the 5 members of the C-Squad: Michelle "Shalshelet", Vicky "Etnachta", Julia "Karnei Para" and Tracy "Sof-Pasuk" (though I think my trope is backwards.) We're the coolest cantors in Jerusalem, clearly.

Anyways, the rest of my weekend was filled the with Israeli Rabbinic Ordination, where the community choir sang the opening and closing numbers, and a lovely Shabbat with the board members. I went to Kriyat Harel, a reform congregation just down the street from here for services, and then attended delicious and fancy dinner at the home of one of the congregants of Harel (with homemade chocolate mousse for dessert...complete and total heaven.) Today was spent observing our Saturday tradition of homework and Grey's Anatomy, followed by dinner with our friends Jen and Dan. It was so nice to have a Saturday completely free--after 2 weeks of constantly running around, I really appreciate the days I have completely to myself.

Now I'm off to do some last minute homework and prepare myself for the busy week ahead. Miss and love you all..68 days until winter break and STL!!!

P.S. For all of you cooks out there: It's getting to be soup-weather in Israel...any ideas for delicious and easy soup recipes? My soup-repertoire is getting a little boring...