Sunday, December 23, 2007

Semester in Review

I know, 2 posts in one day...unbelievable!

As the semester winds down, I keep thinking about all of the things I've learned throughout the last 6 months. A friendly professor recommended making a list of these things for all of my classes to help me see the big picture and to commend myself for all of my hard work. I know it sounds selfish to want to do this, but for me, it's a reminder of what I have to be proud of and 2 weeks before finals, I need all the help I can get. So, without any further adieu...

-My ability to write and read has improved significantly, as has my listening comprehension. I am able to more easily understand what is being said to me, though I'm still working at thinking quickly enough to respond. I'll get there.

-I can now tell you the difference between a sh'va nach and a sh'va nah, as well as a dagesh hazak and dagesh kal and other important and completely useless information like that (yep, I wrote that oxymoron on purpose...the info is important, but most of the time, no one really cares.)

-As much as I've struggled with this class, I have to say that I am constantly amazed at my ability to read and translate the Hebrew found in Tanach. It's a thrill for me to look at the original texts, in their original form and language, and translate them verbatim (with the help of sources, of course.)

-Perhaps the most exciting part of learning Jewish liturgy is that it constantly raises more questions than it answers. I find myself thinking about all of the prayers that the Reform movement leaves out of their services, and from there, I think about how rabbis and cantors pick and choose prayers to create their own siddurim. I keep wondering how I can teach my congregants the meaning of the prayers without resorting to English translations (which, in my slightly-educated opinion, is a big problem of the Reform movement.) It's so interesting to learn what's out there in terms of liturgy, both inside and outside of the Reform movement.

-I LOVE learning the Nusach, or traditional melodies, from the Spiro book that was written for the Conservative Youth movement. I love singing them and feeling like a real chazanit (woman cantor) from back in the day. I love the time we have in class to improvise and play around with the melodies we learn to make them more interesting.

I can tell you a brief history of music in the Bible, along with some information about the musical customs of the Yemenite, Sephardi and (at the end of the semester) Ashkenazi traditions. I know how cantillation was created and how the role of the cantor came to be in the synagogue.

I came to Israel hungry to learn how to read and chant Torah and Haftarah, and I'm happy to say that I have learned about both this semester. My Torah chanting skills are really fairly strong, and we've only been studying Haftarah for about a week now, but I'm really excited and picking it up quickly (and only confusing the 2 trope systems on occasion.) AND, I will have the opportunity to show-off my new skills when I chant from the Torah at services next week.

Israel seminar is one of my favorite times of the week, because for the whole day we focus on nothing but learning about Israel and Israeli society. I feel like I have a much better grasp on Israelis and why the are the way they are, and I love that we travel and experience Israel outside of the normal classroom atmosphere. I'm in the midst of writing a paper for the class on Holocaust Education in Israel, and it's just so interesting and a nice break from my Judaic and music classes.

This class is the bane of my existence. That's all.

Israel is a classroom in and of herself. I can now order food in a restaurant, talk to cab drivers, buy groceries, ask for directions and a million other things IN HEBREW. I can walk up a hill without being completely out of breath and do 50 ab-crunches on a big red rubber ball. I know what kind of coffee to order, and where to find the best rugelach in town. I also know how to fix the gas for my stove, pay my electric bills, take a hot shower, and fix the fuses when our electricity goes out. I've learned that I can live on my own, 7,500 miles from my family, friends, and safety net, despite the challenges that always seem to arise. And the list goes on and on...

I say I've done pretty well for myself thus far. I can't wait to see where the next 4 1/2 years takes me.

So excited to see you all and share the stories involved in this amazing journey.

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