Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our Exciting First Day Back

Believe it or not, it really does snow in Jerusalem! The sleet/snow mix began around 8pm Tuesday night, and continued overnight and into Wednesday morning. The weather man said that Jerusalem received about 20 centimeters of snow (about 8 inches), but unless he was accounting for the rain/sleet, I don't think we got that much. Snow here is different than snow at home; first of all, it's not the light, pretty snowflakes I'm accustomed to--this is heavy pieces of snow mixed with rain that literally smack anyone walking under it as it falls. Also, the snow that accumulates on the ground is not just snow--it's a freezing slush of rain, ice, and snow. As you can imagine, walking in this slush is not fun, and my shoes, socks, and jeans were all completely soaked after my commutes to and from school this morning.

The corner of Moshe Hess and Lincoln Streets, covered in the schmutz.

The second any Israeli hears the word "snow", they immediately take cover in their homes and do not leave until every last flake is gone (my mother would definitely approve.) Because of this, most of the stores, businesses, and schools throughout town were closed today--everything EXCEPT Hebrew Union College. We were a little upset that our program wasn't canceled today, as schlepping through the snow is not exactly what we wanted to be doing at 8am, but we reluctantly made our way to school to begin our 2nd semester with the Annual Colloquium.

The front entrance of HUC

The Academic Courtyard, which is normally green and beautiful

Colloquium is a program that brings professors from the stateside HUC campuses to Jerusalem to meet us and lead us in some programming that deals mainly with contemporary American Jewry. Because of the snow, our Colloquium was cut short today (we ended around 1pm instead of our scheduled 4pm end time.) I would have liked to stay for the whole day; many of the programs dealt with real issues that affect the Reform Jewish communities in America (intermarriage, individual/communal prayer, Jewish education, etc.) and they are a very interesting change from our normal classes. I enjoy having the stateside professors here, including Mark Kligman from the School of Sacred Music who interviewed me when I auditioned last year. The New York-bound students will be meeting with him tomorrow to discuss issues pertinent to HUC in NYC, and I am looking forward to chatting him up a bit about the SSM.

Snow aside, the most exciting part of our day at school was when we received our very own hardcover copies of Mishkan T'fillah, the new prayerbook of the Reform movement. This prayerbook is a very big deal in the Reform movement; it's 15 years in the making and a totally different approach to liturgy than it's predecessor, Gates of Prayer. When you open the book, it is divided into 2 sections; on the right side, you see the traditional prayers in the context of the service. On the left side, there are alternative readings and quotes that you can choose to read or speak along with or instead of the traditional prayers. It allows for many different types of services to suit the different Reform communities. We use it for our Monday morning services at HUC, and the more I get to know it, the more I love it...the possibilities for creative services seem endless! There was a buzz in the room as we anxiously waited in line to receive our copies and thumbed through them before this morning's t'fillah. I am SO EXCITED to have my own hard copy now; I even pulled a Grandpa Sidney and labeled the inside cover with my name and the date--I'm sure he's proud. I can't wait to see what this prayerbook does for the Reform Movement throughout the world.

I am a little too excited about my pretty new prayerbook! Only a Jewish professional (or future Jewish professional, in my case) could be as excited as I was to receive this.

My copy of Mishkan T'fillah (the bright blue book in the center) sitting happily on my bookshelf next to my other books

Anyways, I am off to get a good night's sleep before tomorrow's early start. It's going to be a busy weekend, with Colloquium stuff on Friday (normally our day off), the service I am planning/singing on Friday night, a special service on Saturday morning, and getting ready for our actual 2nd semester classes to begin first thing on Sunday. It's already been a whirlwind since I've been back, and the semester hasn't even officially begun yet!

Continue to keep in touch...lots of love from snowy, schmutzy Jerusalem!

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