Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm Alive!

My first Shabbat table in my new apartment

I apologize for the delay in posting. The last 2 weeks have been completely insane, and in many ways I feel busier, more pressured, and more exhausted than I ever was last year. There always seems to be something important that needs doing for school or work or the apartment that has caused me not to be able to really focus on keeping y'all up to date. Anyways, let me give you some sort of an idea as to what I've been up to.

We began last week, our official first week of classes, at a HUC-NY community Kallah, a gathering at Camp Kutz in Warwick NY. It was a wonderful 3 days of learning, singing, prayer and bonding with this new group of people. Every year there is a theme to Kallah, and this year it was gender. We discussed several important issues facing the Jewish community which involve gender, including the role of women in Jewish professions (the ratio of women to men in Jewish professions is substantially growing, to the point where we are vastly outnumbering the men) and how to bring the men back into the Reform movement (many have become very non-participatory in the last few years.) We also dealt with issues of sexuality, both with including the LGBT community in synagogue life and how to address our own questions of sexuality in relation to Judaism and our professions. It was a very interesting few days, and I am happy to share what I've learned if anyone is interested. One of the most interesting parts was a meeting with Sally Priesand, the first woman ever ordained from HUC. It was an honor to listen to her speak and to hear a small piece of her story. We also began our classwork at Kallah, interspersing our classes with sessions on gender issues.

Me, Elana, and Julia hanging out at Camp Kutz, anxiously awaiting our weekend of gender issues

One of the most interesting moments of Kallah was a men-themed Ma'Ariv (evening) service. As we entered the outdoor theater, we were told to sit in the middle section ONLY if we identified with the 'male' gender. If we did not, we were asked to sit outside the middle section. Once the service began, one of the leaders (a male, of course) asked those of us sitting outside the middle NOT to participate in most of the t'fillah so the men's voices could be heard without being drown out by the women's voices. Well, you can imagine the response that this announcement received as the women quietly watched the service go on. Many people, women AND men, got up and left the crowd entirely out of anger, refusing to be a part of a service like this. I decided to stay and watch and observe what my male classmates considered to be a "men's service." There was lots of chanting and drumming and many people told stories of their fears and proud moments. It was a lovely service which would have been made lovelier had I been able to sing along. Anyways, I figured out pretty early on that the service was not just a service, but an social experiment to see how the community would respond. Afterwards, our community had a long discussion about how and if the service worked, and LOTS of people had a LOT to say. What struck me the most was remembering the way it felt to attend services in Israel, sitting in a balcony or behind a separating wall in a section specifically for women, where we were sometimes not allowed to sing anything at all. It was so strange to experience this in America, particularly in a Reform setting, particularly in a College that trains Reform Jewish leaders. If someone had told me at the beginning that this was an experiment, it would have been fine with me--I just wish it hadn't been during prayer time, when I'd come in expecting to have time with God and instead was left with nothing. If anything, it was very interesting and led to some great discussion and thought.

We got back from Kallah last Tuesday and jumped right into our classwork at the HUC building on Wednesday. I'll explain all of my classes in a later blog, but I'll say that our days go from 8:40-3:05 Monday through Thursday, with the exception of Wednesday mornings which begin at 8:15 and Thursday afternoons which end at 4:45. They're long days, longer than they sound, often filled with meetings or study sessions during lunchtime, so we go all day long without a break. We do not have classes on Fridays, since so many students need to use the day to travel to their student pulpit jobs. Speaking of which...

Friday led me to my first weekend at my student pulpit in South Bend, Indiana. I arrived in South Bend around 1pm, where I was taken directly to the temple to meet with the rabbi. He is very, very nice, with lots of energy and excitement about being a Jewish leader. Both Friday night and Saturday morning services went well (though I need to work on keys with the accompanist and the rabbi who plays guitar.) The community was also WONDERFUL, and I have invitations already to 6 break fast meals on Yom Kippur. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and made my first weekend there really nice. I also had a chance to sit with the rabbi to go over High Holy Day services, which was relieving and helped me to get a better idea of exactly what the HHD's will ask of me.

After South Bend, I took a little road trip to Cincinnati to see my friends at the Cincy campus of HUC. It was a FANTASTIC, though all too short time with them. Steph and Ariel planned a big dinner in my honor for all of my favorite Cincy people, and it was so wonderful to catch up with and laugh with my friends again. After dinner, we went to a cute little park to see a big fireworks display over the Ohio River, and then to Cincy's favorite ice cream shop, Graeters. It was so delicious and a lot of fun. The next morning, we had a quick breakfast at First Watch (so good to go back there--I went about once a week all summer and have been missing my Healthy Turkey omelet) before I headed back to South Bend to catch my flight to NYC. It was a great end to a really, really good weekend.

Steph, Ariel, me and PJ waiting for the fireworks

We finally got a good shot!

Fireworks over the Ohio River

Anyways, this week it was classes as normal, ending with an all-school BBQ on the roof of the building. It was nice, though I am totally and completely exhausted and so, so, SOOOOO ready for my 3-day weekend. I don't have any major plans, though if I recover a little from my head cold I'd like to go to the famous Union Square farmer's market on Saturday morning. Farmers Market's are my own personal heaven, so I'm excited and hoping I can recover in time.

So that basically covers my last 2 weeks. I told you it's been crazy! I'm still adjusting, still learning this HUGE city, still cultivating my love/hate relationship with it (I'm currently in the not-so-good stages), and still trying to find some balance in my over-scheduled life. It'll all come in time, I know. Thank goodness for my 3 day weekend :)

I'm hoping to keep posting on a regular basis once I am accustomed to my new schedule. Thanks for sticking with me! Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

1 comment:

W. said...

Looks great! Post more pics of the apartment now that you have your camera battery!