Friday, March 13, 2009

Why I was never *really* kosher...

I just spent an hour and a half plucking feathers from chicken skin.

Why can't Trader Joe's manage to get all the feathers out before they package their very expensive kosher chicken? Is plucking the feathers yourself part of the kashrut experience? Do they assume that people buying the chicken want to get back to their shtetl roots? EEWW.

Seriously. gross.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm not sure where I can find my own spiritual fulfillment when I'm busy creating a space where others can be fulfilled spiritually. I love my job - deeply. It's rewarding, energizing, and inspiring, almost daily. I work with some of the most amazing students I've ever met. I learn from them. I wouldn't trade this job for anything. The only downside is that because I work at Hillel and I work Shabbats, I rarely get to escape the noise of the workweek during a Shabbat service.

There's one student who leads amazing services and when she's here, I can actually be in Shabbat instead of at work. However, she's so good that if I'm going to take a Shabbat off each month, I end up needing to skip hers. I'd like to skip the more challenging Shabbats, but those are the ones where I'm needed the most. It's a dilemma I'm facing.

It's never easy to "pray." It's never easy to silence the week and step into the space between one week and the next. But it's never been this hard before either. I think this is part of the learning process though. Maybe I need to find spaces outside of Judaism where I can experience that peace.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This is the first time anyone has tried to convert me since high school!

L and I were in the trails behind Natural Bridges today and a couple asked us "Have you girls found Jesus Christ as your savior?" They tried to give us pamphlets, all smiles.

L said "We're practicing Jews, no thanks," and I said "Yeah, I work at a Jewish community center.

Their curiosity got the better of them, and they followed us and ask all kinds of questions, including "Where in Israel are you from?" (Because clearly, all Jews are Israeli). L responded with "Our families are Russian Jews" and we tried to walk away. The guy called out "Just one more question, I'm wondering... What's the difference between Russian and Orthodox Jews?" Huh? 

L said "Russian is the ethnicity. There are Russian Orthodox Jews and Russian Reform Jews and..." At this point, the guy threw up his hands and said "But that's confusing! Russian Orthodox is a sect of Christianity!" and went on to talk about the schism in the Russian church in the 1050s (he explained that he had a college degree in comparitive religions). We finally came to a place where it was clear that we could split off and we started going the other way. 

As we walked off, he cried out one more time: "Are you sure you haven't even condsidered Jesus as your savior?!"

Oy vey!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Looking at cute pictures of puppies may be the only antidote for challenging conversations about the situation in Gaza.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm the token Jew in my Jewish family

The family Chanukah gathering was relatively quiet this year. Nothing like the madness that ensued last year or the year before. But there was one rather humorous moment. My uncle loves decorating for the holidays - he has a giant Christmas tree. He puts up stockings for his dogs. He has Christmas wreaths and Disney Christmas stuff all over the place, and he plays really bad Christmas muzak. With the exception of the decorative Chanukah menorah on the table (he never lights the candles), you wouldn't know the family's Jewish. Case in point: He cooked up a ham for dinner, and he gave my mom and me some sliced turkey because we're the only ones who won't eat it. 

Anyways, at one point, I jokingly suggested that we should light Chanukah and Shabbat candles (it was Friday night). My mom said "Don't push your luck" but my uncle agreed that we could light the Chanukah candles. He put the menorah on a Christmas themed paper plate for the wax drip. The family had just finished a ham dinner. And no one remembered the blessings (or felt like saying them, if they did remember) but me, so I said them, with Little Drummer Boy blasting from the stereo. 

Assimalation, FTW! 

Friday, December 12, 2008

On Miracles

L shared something interesting at the board meeting last night. It's a really interesting way of looking at miracles. He said that the miracle of Chanukah was not that the oil lasted for eight days, but that someone decided to light the candle in the first place, knowing that there was only enough oil for one. Similarly, the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea was not that the Red Sea split, but that someone took the first few steps into the sea, not knowing what would happen, but believing they would, somehow, be safe.

L. pointed out that in a way, it's kind of like our work at Hillel. We don't have enough resources, we don't have enough staff, we don't have enough time, and our Hillel is a storefront next to 7-11. The miracle isn't that we have a great community and organize terrific events. The miracle is that we keep working at it, despite the challenges.

I like seeing miracles as human acts of will and faith, rather than spectacular acts of divine power.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ode to Hillel on Friday afternoons

It's Friday afternoon at Hillel. I'm drinking mint tea, listening to the rain, and waiting for Shabbat. Friday afternoon is the best part of the week at Hillel. It's so festive! Soon the interns will show up and we'll start chopping vegetables and boiling water for soup and the whole room will smell warm and fragrant. People will stop by to help out or hang out or both. We'll make decorations. We'll listen to bad Israeli pop music I don't understand.

Once 5:30pm rolls around, we'll be in panic mode - "The students will be here in an hour and we still haven't done x or y or z or all of the above!" But from about 12pm-4pm at Hillel on Fridays, everyone is excited and happy. There's no panic. Only giggling and making dinner and cutting out autumn leaves for table decorations.

I was a student here for six years. Hillel was the family I came home to, every Friday night, all through undergrad and my masters program. Now I'm the Program Director, and everything is different. Instead of attending events, I'm planning and organizing them. I just spent an hour with the new JSU President, helping her come up with a meeting agenda and brainstorming ways to get students more involved. It comes very naturally to me, and I love it, despite all the stress. Sometimes I have to keep myself from working for 14 hours a day because there's just so much to DO. No doubt about it, Hillel is a challenge.

But something happens on Friday afternoons, especially when we know it will be a mellow Shabbat. For a few hours, all of my work feels like a blessing, all of the stress is worthwhile, and Hillel, once again, feels like home.