Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holding to a Higher Standard

Ever since I learned about this sting in New Jersey on Friday, I have been thinking about it. A lot. Rabbis from some orthodox congregations are caught up in a money laundering scheme, millions of dollars passing around, politicians involved (shocker). I feel sick about it.

I remember when I was a young woman, the rabbi at the conservative synagogue I attended growing up was accused of sexually improper behavior. I was devastated... and he wasn't even "my" rabbi. All I could think of was, "What??? Rabbis don't do that!" It wasn't that I didn't believe it, more that it shook my foundation of what a rabbi was supposed to be. Rabbis are put out there as higher on the spiritual ladder. I put them as higher on the spiritual ladder. Yes, I admit it, I hold them to a higher standard. And the orthodox rabbis? Even more so.

I should explain myself as saying that the reform and conservative (and reconstructionist and secular humanist and whatever nonorthodox branches you can come up with) rabbis seem more... human to me. I can see their foibles, their weaknesses and accept them easily. They live in the same world that I do, and I understand all the temptations therein. The orthodox rabbis? Somehow they seem not really living of this world. Their visual cues mark them as closer to G-d, as ones who follow the mitzvot far more than I do. In my opinion, when you put on all the trappings of an observant Jew and are a rabbi on top of it, then yes, you open yourself up to being held to a higher standard. Hillul Hashem, desecrating the name of G-d, is so much worse when you have the appearance of one who is religious. I wonder if that is why my feelings of shock and yes, even disgust, are deeper now than with the other fallen rabbi of my past.

I still feel like I'm struggling for clarity. I'm not done with this. Not by a long shot. Thoughts?


Monday, July 27, 2009

The amazing KOOZA

Last night Patrick and I went to KOOZA, the current traveling show of Cirque du Soleil. I can't believe I almost let them leave without seeing them. It was only because they extended their showings here for another two weeks that we got the chance. We've been out of town so much that I just felt too swamped, but as soon as I got the email about the extra shows, I got tickets.

I always seem to forget how magical Cirque is, but then the lights go down and I just find myself in this whimsical world where people can do things with their bodies, twist and turn and jump and balance, in ways that I never thought possible. The costumes are seductive-- not in a sexy way, but they draw me in with their colors and feathers and textures and swirls and I just want to touch them, run my fingers over the satin and velvet for hours. I am continually amazed by the feats these athletes perform, shaking my head at how they keep pushing the envelope of what the human form is capable of. Sometimes I forget to clap, because I am still awed by the juggler, the tumbler, the men traversing the giant metal circles, the man who balances on eleven chairs stacked upon each other, the couple who twirl and swirl and tumble over and around one another WHILE the man RIDES A UNICYCLE for G-d's sake!

I mean, come on! I have to clumsily navigate this world, stumbling around on my own two dreaded feet like an oaf, knocking into walls and groping about, while these people glide and bend and shift and slither through their world. Where's the fairness in that? I've decided I am just going to spend my days sitting in the audience, because when I am sitting still, I can at least let a part of me imagine that I could do that, I could be a part of their world. Then the lights come up, and I am jolted back to reality. Sigh.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recipe of the week- Tahini cookies

Recently I made these cookies, for which our culinary tour guide extraordinarie Abbie Rosner gave me the recipe (grammatical nod to my m-i-l). They were delicious. I was a bit skeptical as the dough seemed sort of crumbly, and the cookies turned out very short (as in crumbly), but my friend Dawn's kids devoured them (and Trinity told me they were her favorite part of the whole day, so who wouldn't love that??). Bonus-- they are great for kids who are peanut allergic.

Tahini Cookies

Mix together:
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup tahini (not seasoned!)
1 3/4 sticks of butter

Form into cookie-sized balls and cross-flatten with a fork (like peanut butter cookies). Bake at 350 degrees until light brown – about 15-20 minutes (my oven needed to be set at 375 degrees, so oven temps may vary) - watching carefully that they don't burn.

I actually added some Ghirardelli chocolate chips to the tops before baking, and they tasted yummy. Next time I'll experiment with add-ins to the dough itself.

Hope you try them! Thanks, Abbie!!!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Energize Me!

Last night we had our first Jewish Women's Renaissance Project reunion meeting. Wow, are we one scattered bunch. We have so much energy when we get together, and are so excited to see one another and share information, it's like we're one giant bunch of stuttering first-graders after our first day of school! I am very excited about our plan to bring Lori Palatnik back to the Twin Cities for a weekend in October. It will be a huge undertaking, committees and planning and work and the like, but it should be AMAZING. I want so many people to hear the classes I heard. She really is a fantastic speaker.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kahle Quest Interloper

I got an email from an old high school friend a few months back. She and her husband and their children had plans to travel to all 50 states in the new family RV before her older one (now 8) graduates from high school. They were landing briefly in Minnesota sometime this summer-- would I have time to meet??

Of course, assuming I am in town (not a good bet this summer at all). As luck would have it, Dawn, Dan, Kate, Barrett, and cousin Trinity were arriving this weekend, the one weekend this month we are actually here! We made arrangements to meet them at Minnehaha Falls, and lunch at Sea Salt.

What fun we had. Sea Salt was, thank G-d, devoid of the ever-present lines that stretch out the door.... at least it was until about ten minutes after we ordered. So lucky, because often the lines cause a wait of over an hour, and even though Dawn's children are amazingly well-behaved, I think a lunch wait of an hour would stretch even Mother Teresa.

Fried seafood all around (except for my crawfish roll, which was terrific). I loved the fried shrimp. Everyone enjoyed their food except for Barrett, who didn't like the fried catfish. I can't blame him, as I usually think catfish tastes kinda muddy.

The kids loved my tahini cookies that I brought for dessert (they taste an awful lot like peanut butter, but are safe for kids with nut allergies). In fact, Trinity said it was her favorite part of the day (who doesn't like a kid who sucks up like that?).

We walked to the falls..... and horror of horrors, they were dry!! I have never seen them that way! Patrick, who has grown up here and has seen the falls a dozen plus times, has never seen them that way. I was pretty stunned until I read the plaque that mentions President Johnson's visit, and how the falls were dry that day but the city opened up a series of fire hydrants upstream so they could get a photo op with actual gushing water. I am so sorry Dawn, if I'd known I'd have made a couple of fire hydrant stops before we met up!!

We had great fun, even riding one of those canopied six-person bike thingies (quite a workout, or it would have been had we stayed on it longer than eight minutes). They are awfully brave to navigate the country with three kids in an RV. I give them all the credit in the world. I need to start reading Dawn's blog, to follow their adventures.

I can't sign off without mentioning how incredibly well behaved these three kids are. I've retired Mean Mommy Doc for a while, but this afternoon really makes me want to resurrect it. None of them whined. None of them wheedled. She had them waiting to eat until our food arrived, and it was another eight or ten minutes. Not a word from one of them. Dawn, you are a true Mean Mommy, and I salute you!!


Friday, July 10, 2009

A week home

I can't believe it has been a week since I've been home. Have I been away from Israel that long already? In some ways I feel like it was just yesterday. In others it feels like it was eons ago. Outside of work I have continued to wear skirts, and cover my hair with a scarf. Is this something I can continue? I do seem to feel more... settled this way.

Shabbas dinner tonight at Aish, with women from the trip. A sort of mini reunion, allowing us to meet and mingle with our families. Should be a wonderful time.


Friday, July 3, 2009

First Shabbat Home

We got home this afternoon around 2 pm. Security in Israel went fine, although I think Patrick was waiting for the other shoe to drop. There was a moment when they pulled out one of our luggages and started to search it. I went up to see what was going on, and Patrick kept saying, "You need to not be here." I think he was afraid they would detain him, and he didn't want me to be associated with him. How sweet. There was no way I was going to let him be alone for a minute. It turned out that there was a book that they pulled out and examined, rubbed with their detector, then put right back and sent us on our way. Weird, I know. But that's El Al security.

The flight was 13 hours of cramped misery, bad food, and a seatmate on Patrick's other side who kept needing to go to the bathroom. I thought she was going to ask to sit in my aisle seat, but there was no way I was giving that up (another thing I have in common with my good friend Class-Factotum).

We arrived in Newark at 5:30 in the morning. We were done with everything and on our way to the next gate by 7:30, including the trip back through security that my sweet Patrick made so that we could check a third bag in order to save the Tishbi Winery jelly we bought for my Dad. We had it in our carry on from Tel Aviv, which was fine since we bought it in the duty free shop, but we got stopped in security in Newark. Our choices were to go back and check one of our carry ons, or to let it go. Since my Dad worked at the Tishbi winery as a teenager, I was very loath to let it go. We had like 4 hours before our flight, so Patrick my hero volunteered to go back through and check it (well, I sort of volunteered him since I had already checked my allotment of 2 free bags, but he went mostly willingly).

So we arrived home about 2 pm (Thanks, T, for picking us up!), and went to Tanya and Mike's house for Shabbat. Alina and her family were there, so it was a mini-reunion of our group. Tanya made the most delicious dishes spiced with the blends she picked up in Israel, so even the food was a continuation of the trip. Saying the blessings, lighting the candles, the spirit of Shabbat was felt so acutely. It was a beautiful reminder of how the trip inspired me, and a great way to mark my transition back to life here. I hope I can contnue to keep that connection.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Getting Ready to Head Home

We woke up with the sun... well, maybe a little later than that. I know the whole deal is "Sunrise on Masada," but the cable car doesn't begin until 8 am, and the only way up before sunrise is the snake path. I did the snake path once, when I was 17, so I unequivocally do not need to ever do it again. I saw a 14 year old who had gone up sitting, red-faced and huffing, as I strolled off the cable car. My thought? "It's good to be a grownup."

I think Patrick really enjoyed Masada (except for my broken record of "the heat, the heat"). I showed him some of the ruins, and we spent a half hour wandering around, reading the information and listening in on other guides' lectures. We went to visit the Masada Museum, which I would highly recommend. The audio guides operate on GPS technology, so as you walk from room to room, the guides automatically change. It's a very experiential exhibition, with lots of life-size statues combined with some of the excavated artifacts. Really nicely done. All my kudos to Yigael Yadin for excavating one of the most important sites in Jewish history, and preserving it for all of us to visit and appreciate and remember.

We drove on to Ein Bokek, where Patrick experienced for the first time the weirdness that is the Dead Sea. Ein Bokek is the southernmost beach, and supposedly had some nice sandy beachfront, but the part we were at had more rocks than the site I visited with the JWRP. I was a bit bummed, because I knew what it could have been, but Patrick seemed more fascinated by the water, and didn't seem to mind. The sea feels so oily from all the minerals, and the lovely aroma of sulfur lingers in the air, but it's all part of the experience. This time I gleefully rinsed off completely, not leaving one trace of the minerals behind. It may have not been as wonderful for my skin as leaving the stuff on, but this time I didn't care! Ha!

Driving back to Petah Tikva took longer than we planned, due to road construction and traffic. We had hoped to be able to visit Aviyam in Ramat Gan, but that was also before we had to visit the Dead Sea today instead of yesterday. We just ran out of time. I'm repacking as Patrick and Ilan go to return the car. All the fragile items in the carry on, some other stuff sandwiched between the clothes. We'll take Ilan to dinner before we head off to the airport.

I've put Patrick on alert that when we go through security, I am to answer all questions. I truly believe that if I shepherd us through, he won't be detained like he was on the way out. Anyone want to take bets? I think El Al profiles like crazy, looking for people who stand out, especially people who stand out and are not Jewish. Being the right-winger that I am when it comes to this issue, I'm okay with that. Unfortunately, Patrick traveling by himself, with almost no luggage, not being able to throw out phrases like "davening at the Kotel" or pronouncing "Petah Tikva, Givat Shmuel, and Ramat Gan" with the appropriate accent, stands out. My poor baby. I really think the travel back will not be a problem.

I'll let you know.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Final day in Jerusalem

Israel Time means something specific over here. I told Aviyam we wanted to meet him and Ifat at 9 am at our hotel, to get to Yad Vashem and have plenty of time, since they wanted to show us some other things in the area. I wanted to leave Jerusalem no later than 3 pm so we could get to the Dead Sea on our way to Masada.

Aviyam called at 9 am, said he and Ifat were about a half hour away, then showed up at a little before 10. I should have known. Israel Time strikes again.

We arrived at Yad Vashem by about 11, it taking us several missed turns to get there. A bit of a rant is in order here about the horrid signage on Israel's roads. No such thing as a "reassurance sign," you know, where they tell you what road you're on, just so you know you're going the right way? They only tell you what turnoff or junction is coming up on the highway about 500 meters in advance, and hardly ever ( <5%) tell you what road is coming up on a regular city street. That, combined with the fact that often the same road is named something new every few blocks, makes for very difficult navigation. Yad Vashem was no less powerful the second time, although I wish Patrick, Aviyam, and Ifat had been there to hear Esti's guiding through the emotional maze. I would definitely recommend going through it with a guide, as there is so much to take in. We visited several sites on the Yad Vashem campus, including one exhibition about the Holocaust survivors in Israel, and their contributions to the world (the creator of Gottex swimwear, and the author of Once Upon a Potty were my favorites). We were there until almost 2 pm, and I still think we could have spent another few hours (or days) there to see the rest.

We then drove on to Ein Kerem, an artist's colony outside of Jerusalem. Yami wanted to go to lunch there, and even walk around some maybe. He also wanted to show us Menachem Begin's house in Jerusalem, and a couple of other places. I love my cousin, but 1) there was no way we were going to be able to see all that starting on Israel Time as late as we did, and 2) If he wanted to show us all those places, it might have been a good idea to actually know how to get to them. We drove around for close to a half hour trying to find Ein Kerem. We had to stop three people to ask for directions. By the time we stopped I was almost completely crazy. We had lunch at Pundak Ein Kerem (Pundak translates to Cafe or Inn, as I found out when I saw several other Pundaks on our travels). My chicken salad was not so good, but Patrick's stuffed mushrooms were tasty. By the time we were finished, it was 3 pm, the time I wanted to leave for the Dead Sea. Drat. I was trying to get zen with the fact that my plans were shot, and I can only say I was a work in progress. We took Yami and Ifat back to their car, and headed out. By this time, it was about 4:30. The better free beaches close at 5 pm, and even the pay beaches close at 6. By the time we got close to Ein Gedi, it was almost 6, so we drove on to Masada. We decided we'll stop tomorrow at Ein Bokek on our way back to Tel Aviv. Brief dip in the Dead Sea before we leave.

So now we're at the Masada Guest House. It's one of Israel's nicer hostels. Our room is on the first level down (their floors are -1, -2, and -3), right near the pool.... which closed at 6! What swimming pool closes at 6 during the summer!?!?! I really wanted to swim somewhere today, but that wish is denied. It is hot, with one of the hottest winds I have ever experienced. Usually when the wind blows in the evening, it's gentle and cooling. Not so tonight. A true desert scirocco (not chinooks which Patrick called them earlier this week). The room does have a/c (by the Israeli definition, not mine... so like cooling to 78, rather than 70), but it has the toilet paper squares, rather than rolls. That is a phenomenon I only experience in Israel, and I am not a fan. I share with my friend Class-Factotum the fascination with foreign toilets, but for me it is as much about the toilet paper as the facility itself. As I age I realize that I need the roll. I actually brought with me two rolls of toilet paper to protect against this phenomenon. I am about halfway through the second roll, so I planned well.

Man, I am old.