Friday, July 30, 2010

First two weeks of school

For the last two Saturday nights, fellow classmate Daniel Utley, has organized a get together for Havdallah in the park near our school. Our group has so many talented song leaders and everyone brings their guitars to assist in leading the music. Nancy, fellow cantorial student, has been jamming along on her flute. We decided as a group that we would meet weekly like this, to offer closure to Shabbat, to have time to share thoughts or feelings with each other and to share new melodies with the group. There were about 35 students that met up last time. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a supportive group of people. Really, it’s a magnificent group in which everyone brings something different. We are all very eager to learn from each other.

After Havdallah two weeks ago I went with a group to a waffle place near Ben Yehuda called Babbets. Yes, it was like 9:30 p.m. and we were ordering waffles, along with MANY other Israelis. There are toppings galore to choose from. Later, some people were still hungry and so we went to a felafel place to top it off. On the way back home my friend Steven described the events of the night beautifully….some of you may recognize his reference- “Some Jews live on rice, and some live on potatoes, or WAFFLES, FELAFELS, or hamburger buns.” HA.

Steven, Dana and Ricky


Okay. It is important to acknowledge the fact that I am actually taking classes, since this is SCHOOL. Right? We started intensive Hebrew classes (ULPAN) two weeks ago now. I also take a weekly musicianship class- which I adore. Not only because I have A LOT of work to do in that area, but also because the class is really FUN. We are working on a lot of sight singing with solfege (Do, re, mi…) and tapping out rhythms. We are also working a lot on interval recognition…etc.

My school schedule:

Sunday and Tuesdays:

Hebrew from 8:30-10:00 am, 10:30-12:00, 12:15-1:00

Tuesdays are also my musicianship class from 2:30-4:00 pm.

Mondays and Wednesdays:

T’fillah (prayer service) 8:30-9:30am

Hebrew from 9:30-11:00, 11:30-1:00, 1:15-2:00 pm.

Thursdays are Israel seminar classes, trips or other lectures.

My Hebrew teacher’s name is Hannah and she is super sweet and pretty funny too. My favorite is when she yells, “Zeh Nachone!” (That’s correct!).

The other day we had to describe for the class (in Hebrew of course) how to cook something and the other day we had to put on skits describing two of the different future tense conjugations. But hey- it’s not ALL fun and games. We also had our first test on Wednesday. Yikes! I feel pretty good about it.

My group’s presentation

Walking the Psalms in Jerusalem

Rabbi David Wilfond is an HUC faculty who has led many of our tours. He took us on a tour around the Old City using the Psalms as a tour guide. It was amazing. He used songs, poetry and stories to really help us connect the words with the place.

Every word that comes out of his mouth is incredibly fascinating. I’m glad I had the chance to learn from him because next week he leaves for a year sabbatical and to get married! Mazal Tov!

Romina and Rayna with a view of the Mt. of Olives

Tisha B’Av

137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

For Erev Tisha B’Av, HUC gathered in the garden at school to have a student led ceremony. It was a big group effort. The interns planned and led parts of the service, but many first year students helped lead by reading in Hebrew, reading in English, singing, chanting from Lamentations (as I did) and my fellow cantorial student, Sari, played violin. It was a meaningful service and the view of the Old City from where we were sitting only added to the experience.

Being in Israel and having the opportunity to go The Kotel for Tisha B’Av is always a powerful experience. As I said before, Tisha B’Av is a day in the Hebrew calendar that we remember the tragedies that occurred in history on this day for the Jewish people including the destruction of the Temples. I actually have observed Tisha B’Av in Israel before, so I remembered the great crowds of people who were going to be at The Kotel praying, learning, visiting and observing. So many people were there with youth groups, schools and families. Some even brought pillows and blankets with intentions to spend the entire night reciting psalms and praying. Although it was crowded with hundreds of people, I was able to work my way up to touch The Wall and have a moment with myself.

137:5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

A view from the back of the woman’s side of The Kotel. You can see the divider, the mechitza down the middle.

Rabbis for Human Rights

To completely understand Israel’s history and politics, it’s important to understand many perspectives, and to hear many people’s stories. Last Thursday, I went on a bus tour through East Jerusalem (primarily Palestinian neighborhoods) with Rabbis for Human Rights. The Rabbi told us a story about her teenage son during the second intifada and how worried she was about him staying home where she would know he was safe. At the same time, he was acting like a normal teenager, wanting space and freedom from her. One night he stayed out late to hang out with some friends at a coffee shop, until his Mom tracked him down and insisted he come home immediately. He came home, of course pissed off at his mom for forcing him to leave his friends. On the news that night they saw that 5 minutes after he had returned home there had been a suicide bomber in the coffee shop he had just been in. (Freaky). Of course, this is one of the reasons that the separating wall was created, to keep innocent people safe. On the other hand, we also met with a Palestinian family and listened to their story about being kicked out of their home and the struggle that the separating wall has caused many of their families. We learned about Palestinian families being divided by this wall and the lack of new schools and new buildings in East Jerusalem, and how difficult it is for Palestinians to get permits to build even though they are paying taxes. This tour brought up a lot of emotions for me and a lot of questions that I’m still sorting through. I need to learn so much more. No matter what people’s politics or opinions are about the situation in Israel- I think we all should agree on one thing; We are all human beings and should treat each other like human beings.

Od yavo shalom aleinu v’al kulam, Salaam, aleinu v’al kol ha’olam.


Peace will come to all of us and on everyone.

Shalom=Peace in Hebrew

Salaam=Peace in Arabic

Tel Aviv beach

A big group of students went to Tel Aviv this past weekend for beach time and to attend a well-known Shabbat service on the port called Beit T’fillah. It was an easy $5 bus trip to Tel Aviv and about an hour drive. I had remembered Tel Aviv being humid, but this was just out of control. It felt great to cool off in the Mediterranean, even though I got attacked by a wave and unexpectedly taken under. How rude!

The service was extremely musical. I heard that sometimes it tends to feel even more like a concert than a prayer service. Now I see why. There were about 8 musicians, including drum set, playing together. We were sitting looking out over their heads at the sunset, as we rocked out with a variety of Israeli folk melodies, prayers and other songs. One of my favorites was when they put Hebrew words to “What a wonderful world,” -Louis Armstrong.

1 comment:

  1. wow fantastic post Rayna! What a wonderful experience you are having, and so wonderful to read it in your words. I can't wait to talk to you more about all these observations and questions, experiences and opportunities. Thanks for posting!