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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Chicken Time List - 10.17.11

Last week I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my conversion to Judaism. In true Israeli fashion, the week did not disappoint – I attended a concert, met new friends, ate delicious food, and enjoyed many celebratory drinks and several nights ending after 3am. I thought about writing a sentimental post about my conversion, about what it means to me to be Jewish, and about why I keep choosing to be in Israel; but I think I’ve been sentimental enough in recent posts.

Instead, I have compiled (for your enjoyment) a list of 10 ridiculous and otherwise silly Israeli moments. Most of them occur because of my complete inability to speak the Hebrew language in a comprehensible manner. There are so many of these moments that I try to keep track of them in a small green notebook I carry around with me everywhere I go. The list is affectionately called “The Chicken Time List” and you will find out why if you read all the way down to #1. Some of these moments are mine, and some belong to friends. In fact, some of my friends have their own dedicated page in “The Chicken Time List” because their lives here tend to be so outrageous.

There is truly never a dull moment here. Sometimes the moments are embarrassing, or funny, or even frustrating, but never dull!

(And sorry to my family who has already heard most of these!)

10. A friend wanted to know if a restaurant had any grapes. Instead he asked, “Are there any rocks here?”

9. I often mix up the words for “hour” (sha-ah) and “year” (shanah). I say great things like: “I worked on my doctorate for 4 hours,” and “I lived in California for 9 hours,” and “I came to Israel almost 3 hours ago for the first time.”

8. Instead of asking about someone’s family (mishpacha), I kept asking about their kitchen (meetbach). “So, do you have a big kitchen?” “How many people are in your kitchen?” “Do you like your kitchen?” They were very confused at first.

7. At a restaurant I very confidently asked my friend, in front of the waiter, if he wanted to order someone (mishahoo). I, of course, meant to ask if he wanted to order something (mashahoo).

6. In a serious discussion about prisons in Israel I repeatedly referred to the prison (cavah) as a dog (kelev). "So, how many people lived in the dog?" "Was it a dog for bad people?" "Who worked in the dog?"

5. I was really lost in Haifa at night with my friend when I saw two men walking down the street. I wanted to ask them for directions so I enthusiastically rolled down my car window and yelled "Excuse me, miss!"

4. At SuperPharm (like Walgreens) with my friend buying contacts, we proudly determined that one box was for the left eye and one was for the right eye. Later we found out they were monthly and daily lenses.

3. During class, my Hebrew teacher asked a student (in Hebrew, of course) what color his shirt was. He quickly answered, "Cat!" but his shirt was plain blue.

She asked the next student, who said “white!” but his shirt was also just blue.

She gave up and asked us to turn to a new assignment in our textbook.

2. I went into a store and said to the clerk “I need to help you!” instead of saying “I would like some help!” I really did not understand the look on her face and why she kept saying “why?” Duh…“because I really need to help you!” I kept saying.

1. Repeatedly yelling, “chicken time!” instead of “never!” (Slight difference between of and af in Hebrew). Finally someone asked me why I was talking about chickens and I realized my error.

As a final note, I promise that my Hebrew is getting better. Some evidence: last week at a bar two men started talking about me in Hebrew thinking that I did not understand. They didn’t say anything bad, but were just trying to find out how old I was, etc. I turned and said in Hebrew to one of them “I understand what you’re saying!” Their look of surprise was excellent. Almost starts to make up for all those chicken time moments…almost... :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Partner in Good - 10.10.11

The High Holidays in Judaism are in full swing. First was Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur, and Sukkot begins this week. Rosh Hashanah – the start of the New Year – began just a couple days before what we otherwise know as October 1st. I took the opportunity (a new year and a time for reflection) to start a little project I’ve been thinking about.

This idea all starts with my family. Even though I tend to think of myself as very “different” from my extended family, each day I seem to learn I am more similar to them than I thought. Apparently my grandmother also rode a camel (in Israel) years ago! But the connections are, obviously, deeper than that. One of the most resonating similarities I continue to see is the desire to give. My parents should receive some sort of award for good-doers. Growing up we were always putting some kind of positive energy into the world – volunteering at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving, choosing where to donate the family tithe, buying goats or bees for families through Heifer international (it took a long time to explain to me as a child that buying bees for someone was a NICE thing), the list goes on. Even today, my mother spends her days working with special needs high school students and her nights working at a group home for adults, and my father runs a charter school system for troubled youth living in residential facilities. I am so grateful to learn from their positive examples.

I am also fortunate enough to have gotten even a small dose of the giving gene. I, too, have spent endless hours making sandwiches at Glide Memorial shelter, sorting food at the SF Food Bank, making safe sex kits for the SF AIDS Foundation, painting murals for the Salvation Army (see photo above!), pulling weeds at the SF Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park…my list goes on and on, too.

I also think it’s important to donate monetarily. Even a few dollars can go a long way at a well-run non-profit. I have my “standard” organizations I donate to – my synagogue, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the library, and so on. But I’ve decided that on the first day of each month for the next year I will donate a minimum of a dollar a day to a different organization each month.

But who likes to give alone? I sent a quick message to one of my very good friends and asked a simple question: “Will you be my partner in good?”

I feel like in this life I’ve got partners in fun and in “crime,” but the older I get I am realizing just how important it is for me to have friends who support my deep lineage of giving - friends who might spend a Sunday afternoon reading to kids, participate in a protest against inadequate pay for Mercado workers, or give a small amount each month to support a non-profit organization.

This month, I chose an organization one of my former students was raising money for. I was so touched by this student’s efforts to save an institution (on the brink of closure), and I’m sure they appreciated the two anonymous donations that went towards their personal fundraising goal.

I know that I have appreciated those who have taken the time to give to my own fundraising appeals, and have seen firsthand the positive ripples those acts of kindness have had in my life. This new year, I am going to try to keep giving at the forefront of my intentions and actions. And I’m glad I have my partner in good along for the journey.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It Takes a Village… 10.06.11

Finally, I’ve had a bit of luck with the Jewish Agency. I officially have a file open to apply for aliyah – that’s right friends, with any amount of luck or fortune or prayer I may end up an Israeli citizen yet. :)

For the last two days I’ve been locked in my apartment trying to “prove” my Jewishness. What a silly thing to do. In case you were wondering, in the last two years I have read 17 Jewish books, I’ve spent 4 months in ulpan (in Israel!), I’ve traveled to Israel 3 times, I’ve attended 5 passover seders (and made two of the most delicious matzah lasagnas you ever tasted!), visited many of the world’s top Jewish museums (Museum of Tolerance - LA, Holocaust Memorial Museum - DC, Yad Vashem – Jerusalem, Jewish Heritage Museum - NY, Contemporary Jewish Museum - SF), I’ve been to 5 Jewish film screenings, participated in one 9-month long Jewish fellowship, served as a counselor at Jewish camp for 4th and 5th graders, and have spent more hours in synagogue than I could possibly begin to count. And that’s only the beginning of the list! The Jewish Agency may be sorry they ever asked me for a list of my “Jewish activities.”

For me, the issue is especially sensitive these last couple of weeks. I cannot help but feel rejected. First by Israel, a place I am so magnetized to, and then in those brief fleeting moments – a new man I’m dating breaks it off because “I’m not Jewish enough,” a new acquaintance refuses to believe I’m Jewish until I admit that I converted. These little rejections, piled one on top of the other, hurt.

So I’ll admit it, I’ve been moping. Moping around my new apartment (which I share with a very large family of lizards, if you haven’t heard).

But (there’s always a but with me, isn’t there??), this is still a great week for me. Aside from riding a camel (have you seen the pictures?!), this week I will celebrate the one-year anniversary of my conversion to Judaism. I will never forget that day. First there was the long and confident look in the mirror before the blessings and the mikvah, and soon after there was the day I filled the whole front pew of my synagogue with my family and friends – from Texas, from Los Angeles, from Israel - all there to celebrate my choice to be Jewish. As I held the torah and then stood in front of the congregation to explain to everyone present why I chose Judaism, I couldn’t help the tears from filling my eyes. Never have I been so humbled. Good thing everyone else was crying, too!! :)

A couple days ago, while talking to a surprisingly nice man from the Jewish Agency, he explained in detail the many, many papers and forms I would need in order to be considered for aliyah. He said at one point, “will your family be helping you get these?” My answer was “of course.” “But,” he said slowly, “they’re not Jewish...”

I may have had to prove my Judaism to countless people – to the state of Israel, the Jewish Agency, the men I’ve dated, and to acquaintances; but thankfully, I’ve never had to defend myself to my immediate family. I am enormously grateful that they accept and respect me exactly the way I am.

I’ve spent the past two days emailing my Rabbi, my friends, my family, and my teachers – the ones who invited me over for Channukah, and Passover, and the High Holidays; who studied with me all year during my Jeremiah Fellowship; who encouraged me and told me again and again that I belonged; that spoke broken Hebrew to me; and the ones who laughed and cried at my conversion ceremony last year. I realized, once again, that as with all things in life, it really does take a village. It takes a village of people, full of love and support, to help us realize who we are.

I know, without a doubt, that I am Jewish.

Have you thought lately about who you are?