Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Update

Hi friends! I've been back in the U S of A for a little over a month now, and summer is officially underway! It is so nice to be home, though I have to admit that not a day goes by when I don't think about something that has to do with Israel. I miss the people, the Israeli yom-yom (daily life,) Aroma (oh how I am longing for iced cafe hafuk...) and lots more. But, I am also enjoying everything that the United States has to offer and catching up with family and friends and STL.

What have I been up to?

On the work front, I am the music specialist at Camp Nat Koplar at the St Louis JCC. I spend several mornings a week singing Jewish and children's songs with Jewish preschoolers in a beautiful and sometimes slightly problematic outdoor environment. Thank goodness I work in the mornings, under the shade, before the intense heat and humidity of a STL afternoon. I spend much of my time singing, of course, and the rest of the time I spend telling the kids to sit down and leave the many bugs and ants alone. It's been 4 weeks now that I've been at camp, and the kids seem to like me and enjoy their time in music. I am having fun with them as well, soaking up every ounce of their cuteness and enjoying my step back into childhood. I love my daily hugs and excited shouts of "Tracy!" or "Music Lady!" as the kids run to music everyday.

I am also tutoring a Bat Mitzvah student once a week in Columbia, preparing her and her family for the big day on July 12. I am also leading the service, without a rabbi, which should be a very interesting experience. Rayna (the student) is doing an amazing job getting ready in the very little time we've had together. Her Torah portion is in great shape, and her Haftarah will be there soon. She's also leading some of the service, which is awesome. I'm looking forward to the big day!

I will also be filling in a little bit at Rock School (where I worked last year,) more as a secretary than a voice teacher, which is fine by me. At this point, any money is good money, so I'm willing to do almost anything to make some. It's great to be back there and catching up with my former boss and students.

This past weekend I traveled to the Big Apple with my mom and Aunt Diane to find an apartment and talk to HUC about various things related to next year. We managed to find an adorable apartment in Astoria, a neighborhood of Queens (it's safe, I promise...why does Queens get such a bad rap all the time?) It's in an awesome area, with tons of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, subway lines, etc. very close by. There is also a laundromat and grocery store literally across the street from the apartment. It's a 40-minute commute to campus, which is typical for many New Yorkers, and while it will definitely take some getting used to, I'm sure it won't be so bad.

We spent the rest of the weekend playing in NYC. We managed to catch Gypsy on Broadway, with the amazing Patti LuPone. Thank goodness we bought the tickets before she won the Tony for her role as Rose--I'm sure the ticket prices skyrocketed soon after her win. The show was great, the dinner afterwards was great, and the 15-block walk home with my mother in tow was...amusing. Let's just say it's a good thing she's not the one moving to NYC in August.

So, about NYC...only move there if you have lots and LOTS of money. My apartment isn't going to be terribly expensive (at least according to NYC standards--if I told a STL'isan what I am paying they would probably fall over and die) but everything else I will need, including health insurance (don't even ask about HUC prices, it is absolutely mind blowing what we have to pay), transportation, food, etc. is not going to be cheap. As we walked around, I saw visions of numbers quickly decreasing in my bank account. I am trying hard to save up money this summer, but I am still a little concerned about where it's all going to come from. But, where there's a will, there's a I am confident all will work out in the end.

I seem to be finding lots and lots of fun ways to occupy the time I have between jobs and NYC stuff. I am taking guitar lessons with my friend Dave from HUC (though I need to practice...) and trying to exercise as much as possible. After work you can often find me running laps in the JCC pool or walking to Westport to indulge my Starbucks cravings (hey, it's a cheaper than a gym...) I am also taking VERY good advantage of my VERY expensive health insurance, booking appointments with every kind of doctor one can think of and making sure I am as healthy as I like to think I am. I am trying to sing as much as possible, though most of it comes in the form of children's songs. I did sing at TI a few weekends ago, which was fun and familiar and wonderful. The best part was when Rabbi Shook introduced me as "Student Cantor" instead of "Student of Cantor Blumenthal." Not that there's anything at all wrong with the latter title, but I love that I am officially a student cantor from HUC as well as TI. I will be singing more at TI during the month of July, which I am very much looking forward to. In addition, I am excited to start looking for and playing with my new Blackberry--between my school schedule, my South Bend schedule, and the tutoring job I am hoping to get, I need a way to stay organized.

In August, I will be speaking at TI about my year in Israel. I still, after much thought, have no clue what I will be talking about, though I am sure something will come to me eventually. Rabbinical students, how do you find your inspiration for your drashim? It's a little nerve wracking for me to speak publicly, but since I'll need to get over that in time, it's good to start with my loving and supportive congregation.

So, that's it for now. I am going to get ready to leave for camp Shabbat (my favorite time of the week at camp) and also get to work on my liturgy paper that was due in April. Good thing I haven't been procrastinating on it...

Much love to all, and happy summer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


On June 10, a very special baby girl came into this world. Tikva Ahava came to us with a diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in her diaphragm that causes the lower internal organs to shift upward, crowding the heart, lungs and other upper internal organs. Sometimes the prognosis is less than good; sometimes it is excellent. As far as I know, no one really knows how severe the condition is until the baby is operated on.

Tikva came into the world smoothly and effortlessly, just as her mom and dad wanted her to. She's done beautifully from the beginning, proving her strength and will and courage as she's prepared for the surgery that would save her life if all went well.

Yesterday, on June 17 (and her mom's birthday!) Tikva had the important surgery she needed to save her life and help her breathe on her own. The surgery was a smashing success, and while she's not out of the woods yet, one of the hardest parts is over. I don't know details, but mom and dad and big sister Dahlia all seem very, very happy with the results.

Please keep this gorgeous little girl and her family in your hearts and prayers as she continues to do her important work on this earth. She is nothing short of amazing.

Thank you, Tikva, for making me an even more firm believer in Gd and the power of prayer.
Thank you, Dave and Gal and Dahlia, for teaching me the importance of positivity and showing me what it means to be truly human.
Thank you all for showing me what it means to have the strength of a billion people when it matters most.
Thank you for your light and love and wonderful spirits.

Thank You, Gd, for helping me believe in miracles.
Thank You, Gd, for HOPE and LOVE.
Thank You, Gd, for Tikva Ahava.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

For Tikva

A very special baby girl will soon be joining us on earth, in her beautiful physical form. Tikva Ahava Spinrad, this t'fillat haderech, or traveler's prayer, is dedicated to you. May your journey onto this planet be full of warmth, beauty and most importantly, LIFE.

May it be your will, our God and God of our ancestors,
that you lead her in peace and help her reach her destination
safely, joyfully, and peacefully.
May You protect her on her leaving and on her arrival
and rescue her from any harm,
and may you bless the work of her hands,
and her her deeds merit honor for You.
Praise to You, Adonai, Protector of Israel, Protector of all that lives.

Please, for those of you who still read this, join me in lighting a candle to welcome Tikva Ahava into a warm, safe and loving community of people who are praying for her health and well-being. Say a quick prayer and keep my friends, The Spinrad family, in your minds and hearts in the coming days.