The roses of Jerusalem are in full bloom, and EVERYWHERE--I love them more than I could ever describe.I've always loved springtime, no matter where I am. The trees and flowers are blooming, people are re-emerging in their favorite flip-flops and comfy clothes, and the air smells fresh and clean again. Springtime symbolizes hope and new beginnings--to both people at large and the Jewish tradition. The best part about springtime in Jerusalem is the gorgeous scenery mixed with the excitement and spirit of Pesach (Passover.) Everyone here is talking about it, from the most religious to the most secular. It seems to be one of those holidays that has some meaning to everyone around here, whether it's the Jews redemption from the Land of Egypt or the chance to celebrate tradition, springtime, and new beginnings with family and friends.
This year, Pesach will be incredibly special for me and my 39 classmates traveling to the FSU for the FSU Pesach Project. Thank goodness our Visa dilemma was cleared up (apparently as of January 2008 you need an 'invitation' from the Belorussian government to enter the country, which they did not want to give us for one reason or another...it was a balagan to say the least!) We have our plane tickets, tentative itineraries, seder materials, and Russian Haggadot ready, and now all we have to do is talk with our groups about the specifics, pack, and board our airplanes!
I, along with my friends/classmates Brad and Ariel, will be working/touring/playing 3 cities in Belarus: Brest, Baranovichi, and Minsk (the most well-known city in Belarus.) We will be touring the Jewish areas of all of the cities, leading sederim in Brest and Baranovichi, working with Religious School students and Youth Groups, and I will be participating in the Cantorial Festival taking place in Minsk. I am planning to sing a Hasidic Song, a piece by an Israeli composer, and a fun, musical-theater piece. This Cantorial Festival is a very big deal in Belarus, and I am excited and honored to have been asked to participate (they even wanted my picture to put on a poster for the program--it's the big time!) The whole trip is going to be fantastic, both when we're working and playing; I am traveling with some of my favorite people here and I hope to make a difference in the lives of the Jewish communities in Belarus. Thanks again to all of the people who made it possible for me to go on this trip--it is a once in a lifetime experience, and I can't wait to share pictures and stories with you when I return.
Otherwise, life is pretty mundane right now. Classes are chugging along, and it is getting more and more difficult to want to do the tons of work I have to do. I have 3 interviews this weekend, and need to send in my top synagogue choices by Wednesday--I'll keep you posted on what happens, but I should know where I'll be next year by the end of this month. I am leading some of the music and chanting Haftarah at Saturday morning services the first weekend of May, so I'll soon be beginning preparations for that. We also have 2 concerts coming up, one for our Women's Project with the JTS Cantorials, and one featuring the HUC C-Squad and the Hallel Choir. And then, before I know it, it will be finals time and I will be studying and packing to go home to the States for good.
It's still so scary to me that my time here is almost done. It's funny to me how in October/November I couldn't wait to leave, and now the closer it gets to boarding that airplane, the more and more I want to stay here. I don't think I could ever make Aliyah, but I feel as though I haven't done all of the things I wanted to do this year (though I've done a hell of a lot), and I am sad that the year I've been so excited for is almost over. I can definitely say that Jerusalem is officially under my skin and is one of the places I will always call home.
Hope everyone is well and enjoying the springtime wherever you are. I'm hoping to write again before I leave for Belarus, but in case I don't, I hope you all have a beautiful Pesach and springtime. Oh, and since it's baseball season again and the Cardinals are doing somewhat well (I hope I didn't just jinx them...) GO CARDS!!! Can't wait to go to a game when I'm back in STL :)