Speaking Israel, Being Israel, Doing Israel

I was only a few hours off of the plane from the US, landing in Tel Aviv, and making once again the “aliyah” to Jerusalem to our home there, after two and a half weeks of traveling to three states, speaking before a dozen groups about issues of religious pluralism and the blossoming of Reform Judaism in Ramat HaSharon, and meeting hundreds of people who are interested and thinking about how they can get involved ….when I was already on the phone and email getting my congregation’s activities for the week in order.

Jet lag always hits me in a few ways. First of all, there is the physical recovery – waking up in the middle of the night and your body clock feeling off its track. But for me, there is also a spiritual recovery, a feeling of being between two moledet‘s, (homelands). A visit to the United States is always an opportunity to visit with family and friends (I’ve got family and friends in almost every city – that’s how spread out we are) who ask, “Are you really staying in Israel?” as if I haven’t lived here already for five years, begun my family here, and found my professional calling here. But when I come back to Israel, I do feel for a second like a stranger because I truly do miss those people who have known me since birth or not long after. Also, in the past few weeks, I have done a lot of talking about Israel. Now, it is time to roll up my sleeves and get back to the doing of building the pluralistic Israel that I have been talking about. And again, arise the questions and the doubts and the problems you haven’t dealt with for over two weeks and you think, “Can I really do this?”

And it’s already been quite a week!

The day after I returned home, I was off to Ramat HaSharon and joined with the women of Neshot Noam, our Sisterhood group, to learn from Dr. Ruchama Weiss, a fabulous and interesting scholar (and my thesis advisor!) who taught us about Yalta, a strong female figure in the Talmud that put prominent rabbis to shame – an amazing discovery that I had never known about! Though we didn’t have time for a discussion, the women were interested to hear about the interest about Women of the Wall in the US, as they have very different opinions on the topic.

Friday, a glorious balmy day – perfect for planting trees in honor of Tu B’Shvat.

I began the day kicking off our cantillation class with congregants who want to learn how to chant Torah. I then joined our monthly “Tot Shabbat” with our biggest turn out ever of families with young children, led by a young congregant (We had to hold it outside because it was too noisy in our one-room space where they were setting up the community Tu B’Shvat seder – lucky the weather was nice). The evening continued with our community seder with around 70 congregants young and old sharing in the reading, sitting around tables decorated with tree branches of the Land of Israel, sharing the red and white wine and the fruits of our land. Of course, it would not have been complete without our famous potluck dinner which is always an abundance of delicious food.

Saturday, Congregation Darchei Noam was presented with the opportunity for the first time ever to organize a Tu B’Shvat seder for young families as part of the local community center’s annual “Green Day” which draws hundreds of people. The room we were given could hold maybe 40 people – we were overflowing with over 60 parents and their young children. I was especially proud of the parents who helped to organize it and who represented the face of our congregation to these families as well as the teenagers who I was able to recruit from our recent bar/bat mitzvah families to put on costumes and act out the four seasons in a play that I wrote. Yes, there were definitely things we could have done better in terms of advertising and public relations (I am learning), but many took our flyers and I heard many voices saying, “What you do is so great, I’m so happy to know that it exists,” and people expressing interest in coming to more of our events….

And then, I could take a deep breath after a wonderful weekend of communal togetherness and creative fun. Enjoy singing the havdalah songs with my little family, my small son holding the havdalah candle tightly and staring mesmerized into the flame, dancing just the three of us in our living room to welcome the new week. Ordering take out, renting a movie, and just sitting and holding my husband’s hand.

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