While most people have written and filed their experiences and impressions from the President’s Conference in Jerusalem two weeks ago, I am only getting this published now. While it may only be an excuse, I doubt from what I saw that most of the participants, especially writers, at the conference were leaving behind 6 children finishing up their first year of school in Israel. For me, there has been a lot of “pay back” for that precious two day absence, so I hope this interview comes better late than never.
Of the many fantastic moments for me at the President’s Conference, meeting Rita definitely stands out as the highlight. This was for me a rare, unforgettable life-moment. There is the rush of fandom, of meeting a star, but this was something else.
Meeting someone for the first time that has left a fingerprint on your soul and having the chance to tell them personally is truly incredible, and something I do not take for granted. The fact that Rita was personable, charming, beautiful, interesting and kind is really icing on the cake.
For those of you that do not know, “Rita”, Rita Yahan-Farouz is an Iranian--born Israeli pop singer and the most famous female singer in Israel. She has had an unprecedented career in Israel in film and on stage, and has sold countless albums and sold-out concerts.
In 2011, she also became popular in Iran as an underground singing sensation after the release of various pop records which she sings in her native Persian language. In 2012, her album “All My Joys,” also sung in Persian, was popular in both Israel and Iran, going gold in Israel after three weeks. She has since been referred to as a cultural ambassador between Israeli and Iranian citizens. You can learn a lot more about Rita, her stardom and her career here.
When I was 17 years old, I came to Israel for the first time on what was then a brand new program called “USY High”. Although it has since changed, at the time it was a Conservative Movement form of the standard AMHSI two-month high school in Israel program based in Hod Hasharon.
My teacher, Yossi Katz, who still teaches at AMHSI, could see right away that I was one of those kids that was falling in love, very quickly and deeply with the country. Yossi is the author of “A Voice Called” and is someone I have always described as someone who creates zionists for a living. The number of Yossi’s former students that have made aliyah is staggering.
As early as my first week in Israel I explained to Yossi emphatically that Israel could never be home for me. It would of course conflict with the long, successful stage career as a singer that was waiting for me back in the United States. Yossi reacted by creating a mantra that I could be the “next Rita in Israel” over and over, and backed this up by giving me my first taste of Israeli music, a Rita cassette.
I spent the remainder of those 8 life-transforming weeks on a bus, learning the history of the land of Israel from the time of Avraham until today almost entirely on tiyul. And every minute we were on that bus, I was looking out the window wearing a walkman and listening to Rita.
She was the background music for my burgeoning love affair with Eretz Yisroel. 24 years later, as I drive to work on a mundane commute, I still feel pangs of fierce, passionate love. And I still hear the background music.
…. and in Binyanei Hauma, I got to tell Rita herself.
I tried to assure the true (well-earned) Diva that I wanted to talk to her about HER and not me, but opened with the personal connection anyway. She responded by gasping, telling me that I gave her the chills and giving me a big hug. I know she has a successful long-standing career as an actress so perhaps I should be cynical about the reception, but it certainly felt amazing.
We spoke first and foremost about motherhood. Since I explained that this is the subject of much of my blog, we both talked about being musical moms raising musical kids. As if we are “both” in any category. But when she stopped her manager in her tracks to exclaim in shock the number of kids I have, insisting that it is impossible because I look 26 years old, she had me even more hooked than ever.
She explained to me that motherhood didn’t change her as a musician, it just changed the centrality of her very successful career in her life. “Being a mother just instantly became the most important thing in my life, and remained so.” She spoke about the challenges of finding the right balance of (stellar) career and motherhood. She had a neighbor that would needle her incessantly about not being home for her children, as this neighbor of course was. She was so irritated by the constant badgering that she wound up going to a family psychologist who asked her one simple question. “When your daughter grows up, gets married and has a family. Will you tell her that you think she should drop her life-passion and stay home to be with her family? Will you tell her to table her own happiness for the sake of her children?”. Rita didn’t need any more information and went home empowered to find that balance every one of us struggles with.
How telling – and familiar – that the the social pressure to please others’ is at least as much a part of that struggle as the personal balance we each have to find.
We talked about the most significant influence on her as a musician. It was not a particular band or favorite album… but the rich singing and dancing her Persian mother did around the house.
She described very, very early memories of resting on her mother’s legs as she sang constantly to her children. It wasn’t appropriate for a Persian woman to publicly dance and sing, she explained, so she would perform with flair around the house for her entranced daughters. And these are the sounds that have informed and influenced Rita throughout her career. I restrained myself – with effort – from launching into my background as a Music Together teacher. Music Together teaches us through science and study the profound impact that this kind of musical behavior by any mother has on every child and their love of music. Rita knew through her gut and didn’t need my affirmation. (And it wasn’t about me. I wasn’t going to make this a two way conversation of “sharing” no matter how much it is my inclination. This was an interview.)
It made so much sense when she later talked about her 2012 album, All My Joys, which is sung in Persian, as a deeply personal “return home”. The fact that it has seen unprecedented international success and has turned into a surprising bridge-builder between Israeli and Iranian people has been a wonderful unintended outcome. I now understood how despite meteoric success and international attention she could still describe the effort as a deeply personal one.
We discussed the raising of her musical kids. Both of her daughters are very musical which is even less surprising when you know that their father, her ex-husband, is Rami Kleinstein a hugely successful Israeli artist in his own right.
Meshi is 21 and very well may pursue a career in music,” Rita told me, “I don’t think she can run away from it. She is so talented… She sings in English, Davka.”
Her younger daughter, Noam, is 12, is also an incredibly creative musician. Rita tells me she is “so talented at so many different instruments. And she seems to have rhythm and blues down in her kishkes. It is amazing. But she very well may decide not pursue music as a profession…. she knows very deeply first hand the price that one pays to be in this business, and isn’t sure she wants to pay it.”
I asked Rita if she had any message for my very musical 13 year old daughter who also has the “bug” and wants a lifetime of singing. With the added challenge of being Orthodox and all that that means in Israel today. I didn’t know how Rita would react, and how careful she would want to be to veer away from religion or politics. I didn’t know if it would be an opportunity to criticize the limitations of religion on musical expression (particularly for women). She didn’t go there at all, and impressed me yet again.
“Tell her that singing is mentioned even the Kabbalah – that music has a vibration that is like a prayer. It is the strongest way to connect to Heaven, to G-d. Like a straight cable to connect directly to G-d. You can’t tell someone to run away from such a love. She has to find her own destiny.” She said. “And tell her to never, ever stop singing.”
She had described for me her earliest memory of being asked to stand up at a large family gathering when she was only 4, to stand on a chair and sing for everyone. The world stopped, and she felt this incredible “oneness”. A moment of pure joy and clarity that has always stayed with her, and was the defining moment in which she knew this is what she had to do for the rest of her life.
I asked Rita for her proudest career moments. She said that the two peaks for her were singing “Hatikvah” at the Knesset for Israel’s 50th birthday celebration, and her recent performance at the UN General Assembly in March as a representative of Israel, where she sang in Persian, English and Hebrew. She explained that three of the tickets were taken somehow by the Iranian delegation, but they will never know how or by whom.
When I pointed out that these are both moments of national representation as opposed to commercial success, she explained that her 8-year-old immigrant self is still inside her, remembering her move to Israel, being mocked and feeling “different” . That that little girl jumps for joy when she has these moments as the representative of Israel.
Once again, I restrained myself and didn’t talk about how much I can relate, as I watch my children struggle through their first year of aliyah. I pushed down tears of emotion and made a mental note to simply share this insight with my own little immigrants as soon as I got home. (Which I did.)
These were the highlights for me of what felt like a too-short intimate conversation between two people who live in different worlds but could so easily be friends. I wondered then, and still do, if she just has an amazing gift of making everyone feel that way, and it really has nothing to do with me?
I hope Rita will get an opportunity to read this, and that she feels it has done justice to our conversation. She had so many fans approach her on that one day alone, and it must go on throughout the year. But if she does see it then she will know that she left a second fingerprint during our conversation and there is a strange part of me that is absolutely convinced that it will not be our last.
If you missed Rita at the President’s Conference, you can watch her on the panel here.
For more information about Rita’s amazing career, her latest album, or how to order any of her music, be sure to visit her website.
Share on Facebook
I have a President’s Conference to blog about, and a meeting with the most fantastic Rita.
But while I finish churning those posts, albeit far too late, enjoy the following amazing recipe. It comes directly from Joy of Kosher / Bitayavon Magazine, which is definitely worth buying!
Please follow @joyofkosher on twitter if you use it and you enjoy the recipe!
“Classic Chocolate Sandwich Cookie with Vanilla Filling”, courtesy of Joy of Kosher Magazine. Please do me a favor and like their Facebook page or send Jamie Geller a shout-out on twitter .
Makes 3 dozen cookies – unless you use a big glass to cut them, like I did. Then you might want to double the recipe, like I did.
1 c. unsalted margarine, room temp.
1 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
They might not look as gorgeous as Jamie’s photographs in her magazine and web site, but they looked good enough for us and taste great.
1/4 c. unsalted marg, room temp.
1/4 c. veg. shortening (I just used 1/2 of marg. and skipped shortening)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1. Begin by preparing the cookies. Combine the margarine and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on med. speed until light and fluffy, around 2 min.s Add the egg & vanilla and beat until well incorporated.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed margarine mixture, beating on low speed. Continue to mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
3. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (in our case overnight.)
4. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside
5. Take one portion of dough out of the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out the cookies using a round cookie cutter (app. 2 inches in diameter).
6. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.
7. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
8. While the cookies are cooling, prepare the filling. Combine the margarine, veg. shortening and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until the filling comes together.
9. Transfer the filling to a piping bag or plastic sandwich bag with a corner cut off. Once the cookies have cooled, pipe the filling onto half of the cookies and top with the remaining cookies.
**I spread it with a knife and it worked just great.
Share on Facebook
The two dads
2010 in honor of Father’s Day, I posted my Top Ten things I appreciate about my two favorite Dads as fathers, my Dad and my husband: http://www.ima2seven.com/happy-fathers-day/
I decided to make a new list this year. Having moved 6,000 miles since last year, and having had lots of life changes this year, I don’t think it is the same list:
1. Tries to think before he speaks, and will walk away for a while if he thinks he can’t.
2. Believes in the principles of paying forward, civic responsibility and tzedakah, and demonstrates it with his actions.
3. Has supported my move across the world, with assistance and patience, without making demands or getting angry when I don’t call or that I took his grandchildren so far away.
4. Doesn’t show off what he has, but enjoys it.
5. Really works at being a role model to my children.
6. Has always instilled in us a belief that family, including extended family, matters. This includes inviting extended family wherever possible, without any “keeping score” about being invited in return.
7. Keeps himself educated about the world, and therefore forms opinions. Yet doesn’t impose them on everyone else.
8. Makes my husband feel like a son.
9. Calls my children across the world to talk baseball with them.
10. (I kept this one from the last list) Still pouts when I go home.
1. Skips to “gan” with my 5 year old almost every day.
2. Can be incredibly firm with rules, and yet incredibly, incredibly goofy.
3. Understands that asking for change in one’s children requires patience – and finds it.
4. Drops everything to advocate for his children with doctors.
5. Still wants more kids……..
6. Remembers that when I am pregnant I am uncomfortable and gestating, and therefore the Queen….of everything.
7. Continues to be in charge of cleaning up all things gross, at all times, without any hesitation.
8. Has stayed committed, emotionally, financially, and with his time, to my stepson. Despite the obstacles, and there are many, he steadfastly gives him as much as he can.
9. Never stops being a teacher to his kids (and sometimes everyone else’s!)
10. Finding opportunities for extraordinary opportunities for the kids, and making time for them, even when it’s really hard.
Happy Father’s Day to you both. I love and appreciate you.
What is your TOP TEN? What do you appreciate about the fathers in your life?
Share on Facebook
The customer is always right. We all already know that.
When it isn’t so clear that one party is a “customer” however, it can sometimes get muddy.
Earlier this year I had a meeting at my son’s school. He was the victim of violence in his class. He wasn’t hurt seriously, but he was ganged up on by 10-15 kids TO ONE. Yes, 15-1. On the new kid, the new oleh. When I went into that meeting I thought that I was remarkably calm. I didn’t drag 15 other adults with me to gang up on the staff. I sat respectfully in my chair, and I heard the school out. They said they were sorry………………………… but.
But, they aren’t a private school and they can’t pick and choose who is there.
But, they didn’t know he was having any issues with anyone in his class because he doesn’t complain to them.
But, they didn’t hear from us in the weeks leading up to the incident when there had been verbal taunting.
And you know what? All of those “buts” are true. And that didn’t make one spot of difference to me.
I only heard one thing:
THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS OURS. WE ARE NOT REALLY TAKING RESPONSIBILITY, WE ARE JUST APOLOGIZING TO FIX THIS, TO MAKE IT GO AWAY. THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS OURS.
I recently had to deal with a very disgruntled “customer” who felt very wronged. I then had to deal with a very disgruntled staff member who felt that this was truly not all their fault and proceeded to take partial responsibility and apologize to the “customer”…… but.
And that is what upset the “customer” the most.
Why the quotation marks? In the non-profit world, it is not always easy to know who is a customer.A service recipient? (they aren’t paying for goods or services) A donor? (neither are they) A participant? (sometimes they paid, sometimes they didn’t) A participant’s parents? (sometimes they paid and didn’t receive a service) What about a volunteer?
It is my personal approach that the answer is “all of the above”. Especially in the non-profit world, the “customer experience” includes just about everyone who comes in contact with your staff. A positive emotional response to what you do is your primary goal, results in increased membership, donors, participation, etc.
It isn’t always possible, to treat everyone with stellar customer service, or to tell everyone that they are always right, but it certainly is an ideal.
I think the same is true at home. Who is the customer, so to speak? Your spouse? Your parents? Your kids? We all know that everyone would prefer being spoken to nicely. We all know that a happy home makes everyone want to be there more, visit more, give more.
But what if someone is upset at you and you are just 100% certain that it isn’t all your fault? What if you know that if only THEY had let you get enough sleep, or done their job properly, or come home on time, or stopped using the computer or…. then you would have just been the mother/wife/sister/friend of the year?
I think we all want unequivocal apologies. At work, at play, at home. If you think you could have done better, then say it. No qualifications. For most adults, this isn’t showing unrealistic weakness. Even if one can’t recognize it in the heat of the moment, most of us know that the other person with whom we are upset would have done better if we had let you get sleep or had come home on time or had done our job properly or….
I am sorry and will try do to better or differently is often much harder than it sounds. It is our honor and self image at stake, after all. As if it were ever really about us.
But doesn’t that unequivocal apology make you feel better when you are upset?
I have been on such a long, long hiatus from this blog, and I am hoping this marks the beginning of the end.
I am sorry, and I will try to do better. : )
Share on Facebook
Some of you know that I had written a while ago posts about the tragedy for the children of Nachlaot, starting with “Terrorists have destroyed Nachlaot“. The other posts can be found here and here and here.
Jewishmom.com has an important update about the sentencing of one of the perpetrators, and much more.
Please read her post:
Share on Facebook
I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog since I decided to move across the world with six kids. Then deciding that taking a job outside of the house, albeit half-time, sort of put the nail in the blog coffin.
I am making some changes in my life over the next few months and hope that with some much-needed balance will come some specks of time for writing. Stay tuned.
Someone I do not know, who has never commented here, made a kind comment about my blog. But he also said that he would love to hear my journey, not just stories. And he is right. I haven’t done that. Mostly because I have yet to ever feel like I have “arrived” anywhere on the journey. I feel like it is hard to tell the story when I am still in the middle of it. That is how a blog works, though, isn’t it? So I have to do that, and am making the commitment to it right now.
Today, however, is not the day I am going to tell you my journey. I have written much about my love affair with Israel, with the intense joy that I feel about being here. And I do feel it – every single day. I get emotional and grateful on a simple drive to work, looking out at the Judean Hills. I don’t see a checkpoint and rush hour traffic. I see the land of my forefathers; I really do. And I hope the naive rose glasses remain there for a long time to come.
But this week? I am sorry. It has just been…. well NOT FUN. Actually, it has been more like a month of health issues all up, down and around my family and I have honestly HAD ENOUGH. I am officially, here and now, crying uncle. Like, we really, really could use a break.
My daughter has some horrible stomach thing that won’t die with the many antibiotics she has taken. We have been to emergency rooms, I have fought with attendings, ordered tests, been completely let down by specialists, and am left with a daughter missing school, tired and frustrated while we keep poking around in the dark for a solution. *
My son has asthma, and Lag Bomer in Israel is not exactly the very best holiday for an asthmatic. For those of you that don’t know, the national tradition is to light bonfires and stay up late, breathing in the smoke and eating nasty hot dogs and marshmallows, while reports of fire damage come in from around the nation.
Even if I had made my son stay home from the “everyone-is-doing-it-I-get-to-stay-up-late-and-bond-with-my-peers-over-a-bonfire” experience his very first year here, the smoke from the entire country would have caused his flare-up anyway. He hacks, he cries, and I slowly go out of my mind.
My other son decided he had to go and break a toe.. we must have missed a day at the doctor’s office. He can get around, but was told no sports for three weeks. I am not sure which is worse for his overall mental and physical health; the broken toe or his being cooped up that long. I know which is worse for mine.
My dad has had a minor “thing”, and is now going for more tests. He is fine. He really is. Thank G-d. But the reality is that my parents are getting older and I now live 6,000 miles away. The worrying didn’t help him when I was a 6 hour drive away either, but it always felt like I could hop in a car and run over to see them. With this many kids and responsibilities that sounds funny even as I type it, but it felt like I could. He doesn’t need my care, energy and attention right now like my brood, but the additional worry and distraction just adds to the heap.
I am barely – just barely – making it with the work-aliyah-support the husband-raise-all-of-these-kids plates all spinning in the air.
These sick kids are like an angry bird that has swooped in to knock every single one of the plates out of the air.
I have friends, family, more family, and more dear friends coming to visit in May. I can’t wait. I want to show them how happy we are here. How settled we are in our new home. How well we are doing, and how I scaled the heights and have mastered starting over at 40…..
… I fear that they will arrive and instead all they will see is fallen and smashed plates that were once spinning…. in a heap all over the floor.
*Please don’t write in a comment suggesting something I ought to get my daughter tested for. I know you mean well. I have heard them all, and yes. We tested for that. I assure you.
Share on Facebook
This edition of the Haveil Havelim is dedicated to those that have fallen or have been injured due to terror. In Boston, in Israel, in the world. When the world wakes up to global jihad as an international problem, perhaps we will finally stand up to evil and end the suffering.
I haven’t had the time to post my many thoughts and feelings about my first Yom Hazikaron back in Israel, my first Yom Haatzmaut back in Israel, and the rattling of my former home in Boston. I am fortunate that so many other wonderful bloggers have written their thoughts and I can share them with you in digest form.
Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week, jointly coordinated through our Facebook Group. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means”Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English,’vanity.’
What a roller-coaster week!!! If there was ever a time to remember to hold life precious, it would be now.
Boston Marathon Terror attack:
Batya looks at the horrific tragedy this week in Boston through her Israeli lens, positing that America is a “more frightening place”. Does it strike the world as odd that there are ‘settlers’ like us that feel that way? See if you agree and weigh in at What Was The Point of That Boston Marathon Bombing? over at Shiloh Musings.
Yaelle brings us her take on the Yom Hazikaron experience in Yom Hazikaron l’Chalelei Maarachot Yisrael… at Yaelle Yells… Softly
Having begun work recently as the Spokesperson at OneFamily Fund in Jerusalem, my experience of Yom Hazikaron has become very different, sharper, harder, and more real. I invite you to watch this very brief and extremely moving recap of the ceremony at OneFamily. It is a safe haven for bereaved children, who have a second home where they can share their loss openly. What a blessing for them…. and what a horribly difficult thing for the rest of us to hear.
It is because of that experience that I have learned so much more the truth in Batya‘s posit that “Time Doesn’t Heal” over at Me-Ander.
A late edition that’s worth the read: The Real Jerusalem Streets shows us in beautiful images the reality of Yom Hazikaron in Jerusalem….
One follows right after the other in the blog roll, as in life. Some love it, some hate it. I am surprised no one weighed in on just that.
… and Sharon once again captures the day on The Real Jerusalem Streets in Yom Haatzmaut Favorites in Jerusalem.
Batya connects Yom Haatzmaut to Shiloh’s local, important – and very long – history in Celebrate Israeli Independence Where We Had Our First Capital City, Shiloh! at Shiloh Musings.
First, let’s start with the Temple Mount. Always a great source if you are looking for some people to disagree about stuff:
Esser Agaroth shares a Palestinian article about a Jewish demonstration about the Temple Mount, in Palestinian Press Posts Pretty Pictures…Of Temple Mount Activists
… and follow us with a very insightful – and humorous – rant (forgive me for calling a spade a spade) on MK Miri Regev’s recent declaration to tour the Temple Mount, in Jewish Prayer on The Temple Mount. Sigh… I personally cannot wait until such a decision is no longer a “declaration”. Kudos, Esser Agaroth.
Then…. let’s move down below, to the Kotel, an equally generous spot for dissent and ill-will, while we offer up our holiest supplications to our Creator.
I had to include this post, because in addition to being a radical and often unheard point of view, I couldn’t agree with Leah Zakh Aharoni more in Times of Israel’s The Misogyny of the Women of the Wall.
The Torah Revolution is tired of the fighting too, and gives his own suggestion as to what we are all doing wrong, in Strange Coincidence.
I learn from Tomer Devorah that the missiles that rained down on Eilat may have been targeting a US military target in Missiles on Eilat. Chilling, and logical.
Why all of the interest by women in going out to daven in public if “Women Don’t go to Shul?” – Hadassah Levy generates some great discussion in her Times of Israel piece on Why Women Don’t Go to Shul. Don’t forget to read the comments and of course weigh in.
Tomer Devorah presents an interesting set of coincidences regarding explosions in Texas in Very Coincidental. It sounds like the makings of a great new Gabriel Allon novel. Are you reading, Daniel Silva??
Shlomo writes a Re-review of Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat in Thinking Torah: This post looks at how the siddur uses images to enhance the meaning of Psalm 92 – Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbat.
Two final thoughts:
If everyone reading this invited one blogger to submit to HH that hasn’t before (or hasn’t in a long time), we would all get to enjoy some new blogs and spread the Jewish-blogger-love. Why not send a brief email to a blogger you love right now? Or just a little fb post?
I also want to give a quick shout out to Trip’n Up’s Amy today, because, well, she could use it. Find a post she has written that you like and just leave a comment or a hello. Just stop by, and tell her that Ima2seven sent you. : )
Wishing everyone a happier, easier week than last. With no terror attacks, no memorial days, no strife and maybe, just maybe a little bit of seasonally appropriate sunshine!
Share on Facebook
This post originally appeared in the Princeton-Mercer Bucks New Jersey Jewish News:
At home abroad: our family’s first Pesach in Israel
This is the first time in at least nine years that I didn’t make any apple kugel for the Passover seder. I didn’t make it because Max Goldfarb from East Windsor wasn’t at my seder table, so there was no special request.
This was only one of many changes for the holiday, since we moved from the Twin Rivers Jewish community in East Windsor to Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion in Israel last July.
I had expected drama — after all, this was our first Pesach as free people in our own Jewish land. THIS year, in Jerusalem.
What I got was a whole lot of normal. There were no tears at the seder and no virtual symphonic music running in my head. Just the same fun, goofy singing of “Chad Gadya” as in years past.
Since I last wrote about our aliya from New Jersey, the kids have become more and more settled, and I have begun working part time. I am now the spokesperson for the One Family Fund, a national organization helping terror victims and their families with legal, financial, and emotional assistance. The work is very intense yet incredibly meaningful. While it is an adjustment for us all, it is one more step toward full acclimation.
Our Passover seders in New Jersey were beautiful, uplifting, and a lot of fun. But they were also a lot of work: lots of guests, long drives to Lakewood for Passover supplies, two days of holiday to cook and clean for — in Israel, only one seder is observed — and generally swimming upstream in a culture celebrating Easter all around us.
Here, in the two weeks leading up to Passover, I was also busy — but with my job: As a One Family Fund representative, I was preparing to attend President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem. Being in Israel meant there were other factors mitigating the hectic approach to the holiday. A yeshiva student-for-hire scrubbed my oven and refrigerator for me. Every Pesach ingredient imaginable was available 15 minutes from my house. The community has a vat for kashering metal items, which meant sending my husband off with pots and silverware to Minha services and the dunking of the utensils — and that was it.
During the intermediate days of the holiday, day trips (“tiyulim” here) could be arranged spontaneously, just 20 minutes from our home in every direction. And no need to pack food; the restaurants at attractions and throughout Jerusalem are kosher-for-Passover.
At our one seder, we had 10 people. Israel didn’t change clocks until after the first days of Passover, so we were able to begin the seder by 6:30. We could start before what I used to feel was bedtime and finish before the middle of the night.
Passover break for the kids was a full three weeks. While that may have been its own challenge, in general the holiday season was marked by a welcome lack of hard work. It honestly felt like a vacation.
Our family was finally initiated into a true Israeli rite, when we went on our first family hike in Nahal Sorek, near Beit Shemesh. It was a beautiful (downhill) trek, with Israel’s famous spring flowers bursting forth throughout the expansive valley.
We also visited the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, which is quickly becoming a favorite destination for our kids. I know they enjoy seeing the animals there, but I must say I get more pleasure from seeing the kaleidoscope of Jews all gathered together; the variety never ceases to amaze me.
Ironically, it was during Passover that I became most nostalgic for our previous life. While preparing for the holiday in New Jersey was always a production, it was a production we put on together, and we enjoyed every minute once the day came.
In Twin Rivers, the preparation brought a sense of drama. Despite Obama’s first presidential visit to Israel, the holiday — this “first Pesach in Israel” — was decidedly lacking in drama. The normalcy of being a Jew in a Jewish culture, where Passover is just part of the national rhythm, felt great.
Most of my children said they missed the second seder, but in general did very little comparing. They did read the Haggada in Hebrew — and even questioned the translation! But life here is so different in so many ways that it is getting harder and harder to compare. We are slowly getting better at just living in the here and now.
Having said that, they all did want to know what happened to the apple kugel, and we all dearly missed Max Goldfarb and all of our other wonderful NJ Passover guests.
Share on Facebook
I am posting this again, because it is still my favorite and I have been receiving requests. More Pesach posting to come!
This is my favorite Pesach recipe. I got it from “Stove Tops Personal Chef Service” several years ago when speaking about Pesach at a local Hadassah meeting.
I have talked about the Pesach granola so much that everyone is tired of hearing about it. But it is easy to make, yummy to eat and with yogurt is a million times better than pesach cereal for breakfast.
You can substitute or omit most of the ingredients. I recommend mixing it right in the pan you bake it in. My hope is I am giving you enough time to buy the ingredients.
If you make it, PLEASE post a comment.
4 c. matzo farfal, or broken up pieces of matzo
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. dried raisins/cranberries
1 1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut
2 tsps cinnamon
2/3 c. veg. oil
1 c. honey
2 tsps Kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Toss the matzo, almonds, fruit, coconut and cinnamon together in a large bowl ( I do it in an aluminum pan I am baking in). Pour the oil and honey over the mixture. Stir until the mixture is thoroughly coated. Add the Kosher salt and toss.
Spray pan with non-stick spray ( usually don’t do this step.) Pour mixture onto the sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove the granola and cool on the sheet pan. Stir occasionally as it cools. Store the granola in an airtight container.
Variations: you can add chocolate chips when cool, add more dried fruit, change or add more nuts.
Share on Facebook
My family had lots of good news this week!
My daughter found a turtle. There has been a three-year campaign (at least) for a pet, that resulted in my finally declaring that if they found a turtle and it lived in the yard, they could keep it. So this find means not just an adorable (???) turtle named Sheldon in our midst, but a triumph over the parents that said “no” to pets. Very exciting.
Not Sheldon the Turtle, but similar.
I have two boys that have been accepted into a high-quality private school in Jerusalem, who have decided to commit to the longer commute and increased hours of Torah study. I am proud of them for deciding to take on the challenge. More than that, I am relieved for them because their acceptance in their current school has not been great, has caused them a lot of tears and frustration and has not helped their aliyah one bit. It is very hard to move at 11 years old, and it is also hard to accept new and different boys into your circle when you are 11 years old. The school itself starts in seventh grade, so the rest of the boys will be “new” as well, and I hope this will help.
I also have three boys (two of them are the same boys) that were accepted into a boys’ choir based in Jerusalem. They all love to sing, we love to let them, it will give them fantastic opportunities and experiences, help them make new friends, and involve three boys in one chug (after-school activity) – always a logistical plus.
The most important part for now about both the school and the choir is that word accepted. After feeling rejected socially by their peers for so much of the past six months, the three of them feel wanted, and we all need that.
I also am feeling a more “wanted”. I have accepted a part-time job that is challenging, exciting and rewarding. I hope to have more of an official “announcement” soon, when we finish finalizing the details at work. In the interim, I often come home feeling like I have done a little bit of good out there in the world. As I drive to work I get this ‘high'; the feeling of freedom and escape from mundane housework, the astonishing views on my commute that just feel like a daily gift from Hashem, and the knowledge that I am working in the Holy City of Jerusalem with ideas and people that make a difference just come together in a moment of endless gratitude.
My children are daily beginning to experience their first Purim in Israel. It is one of the moments in the year that olim internalize deeply, because it is so radically different than in the rest of the world.
There is much for us to be celebrating this Adar,
our first as a family in Israel.
It is hard to ignore that Adar is also a month of azkarot, memorial services. Purim is the story of the return of Amalek, and our triumph as a people over it – with Hashem’s help. Israel has suffered an inordinate number of terror attacks in the month of Adar. When people pause to remember, they realize that it was Adar when a terrorist killed eight young boys in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Adar when the Fogel family was torn apart, leaving those young children orphaned in a way that so clearly screamed “bloodlust”. Unfortunately the list goes on.
Fogel family, z”l, killed two years ago today.Boys murdered at Mercaz Harav yeshiva March 6, 2008.
As the Jewish calendar is cyclical, we know that Adar beckons Amalek back every single year. In our age, we triumph by simply going on, building our state, celebrating life and not death. But it is the modern day “ad lo yada” challenge for us to be b’simcha (joyful) not only over Mordechai but also Haman, and to rejoice in Adar, our month-long Purim-fest, while also attending memorial services.
Ad Lo Yada, celebrating on Purim until we don’t know the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman.
I pray every day that in Adar this year Amalek doesn’t add any names to the list.
**If you would like to support Israel’s victims of terror financially you can do so by ordering mishloach manot for them or sending your matanot l’evyonim to them. If you want more information or ideas, please just leave a comment here, and I will respond.
Share on Facebook