Well, we have arrived and it is wonderful to be back in Israel. Our trip was uneventful and our transfer to Jerusalem was very easy. Felicia Kalb likes to say that whenever she bumps into me in Jerusalem I have a big smile on my face the likes of which she never sees in Roslyn. Mostly that tends to make me feel guilty that I don't smile enough back home -- but to the extent it is true, I imagine that big smile has returned as I am thrilled to be back walking the streets of Jerusalem.
It is amazing how the simple challenges of every day life back home are considered drudgery -- while somehow they are transformed here to delightful adventures. Setting up our apartment (we are renting a lovely place in the German Colony just a few minutes walk from all the wonderful shops and restaurants on Emek Refaim St.) involves trips to the local Makolet (the Israeli version of a bodega), a bigger outing to the Supermarket (something one should try and avoid in the future of Erev Shabbat) and assorted stops along the way for wine, a coffee maker (we brought the Starbucks with us) and our discovery of the greatest bakery in Jerusalem – Pe-er . The whole shopping experience on Friday is geared to Shabbat – the take out place on the corner of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imeinu wouldn’t even sell us anything on Thursday evening when we stopped in his shop. After we introduced ourselves as “new to the area” – he offered us kuba and other assorted treats to taste and when we tried to purchase things for Shabbat – he insisted we come back on Friday when he would have a much larger selection (very hard to believe) and much fresher choices. There are so many times when we bump into the reality that Israel operates like a large family rather than a small country. Edy estimates that we have already walked some 18 miles in our early excursions setting up our apartment and we have come to believe that this will be the only hope we have to counteract all the food intake that is involved in living here.
Our first Shabbat was delightful – we invited ourselves over to some old friends I haven’t seen for 20+ years for dinner (sometimes it seems that Jerusalem is one big open meal invitation) and we davened at one of our favorite minyanim: Shira Hadasha where the singing is spirited and the community is warm and welcoming. We didn’t get home till after midnight with all the schmoozing at the Shabbat table with our friends. On Shabbat morning we davened at an egalitarian minyan called Kedem that is run by the daughter of a close friend of ours and we had invited her to lunch so we decided to daven there. What a joy to be able to have guests to our own Shabbat table in Jerusalem – we had picked up some former students we met at Shira Hadasha the night before and spent a leisurely afternoon catching up with everyone’s lives. The most wonderful aspect of these trips is the appreciation of time – there is time for talking and time for listening, time for laughing and sharing and living. At home we never seem to have enough time – work demands, social demands, volunteer obligations – everthing seems to conspire against us, making life a constant race against time. Back home there is always too much to do and too little time to do it! Here the opposite is the case – we seem to have all the time in the world – time here seems to be much more of a friend than a competitor. Maybe that explains the smile, Felicia!
After Shabbat we took a walk into town – I wanted to take a cab but Edy said that was silly it was only a short walk to town. I disagreed and we continued to debate the issue for the 40 minutes it took us to walk into the center of town! The city is packed with tourists and it is wonderful to see Jerusalem alive and thriving after the challenges of the war last summer. After a stop at one of or favorite restaurants – T’mol Shilshom we made it back to our apartment by 1:00 AM – just in time for me to catch the end of the Met’s taking their third game from the Phillies on MLB.com – ah, the wonders of the Internet age!
I was up early this morning as it is my father’s Yhartzeit and I had to find a minyan – not a terribly difficult challenge here in Jerusalem.
We are amazed at the cost of living here and have developed sympathy for our Israeli friends. Food is amazingly delicious and fresh but you do pay a premium – we heard that things are much cheaper in the shuk – (the open air market of Mahane Yehudah ) and many people make a weekly trip to shop there. Shopping in the shuk is always an adventure and we look forward to adding that to our list of things to do.
This afternoon I plan on connecting with Danny Siegel – the Mitzvah man who has made his life’s work seeking out mitzvah opportunities mostly here in Israel but also in the States. He has someone “I have to meet..” – he tells me that he is an oleh from Cleveland who lives on a moshav in the north and takes in some of Israel’s toughest kids and tries to give them a stable home and a new start. I am sure I will tell you about it in a future entry.
Tonight there is a wine and cheese reception at the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism and we look forward to connecting with the countless other rabbis and lay leaders of our Movement we have bumped into walking the streets and sitting in the coffee houses of Jerusalem.
Well enough for now – lots to do and an exquisite Jerusalem day in which to do it. Tomorrow my program at the Hartman Institute begins – so one more day to wander around Jerusalem. I hope you are all well!
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I also plan to update this blog frequently during the course of my studies and I hope it will serve as a good way to keep you posted on my experiences so we can share this exciting adventure together. So, feel free to check back often and I look forward to giving you a taste of what I will be experiencing!
The Shalom Hartman Institute, where I will be studying, is a research and leadership training institute located in Jerusalem. Their mission is to revitalize Judaism, strengthen Jewish identity and foster religious pluralism by providing scholars, rabbis, educators, and lay leaders of all denominations with tools to address the central challenges facing Judaism today. Serving Israeli and world Jewry, SHI’s faculty and graduates are forces of change creating a new dialogue between Jews of diverse backgrounds, between classic Judaic sources and modernity, and between Judaism and other faiths. To read more about the Hartman Institute and see some pictures of where I will be spending my time – check their web site at: http://www.hartmaninstitute.com
The particular program I am involved with is called the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative or RLI. Some 25 rabbis from around the world – Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform - are selected to participate in this very special program and I am proud to be one of them. To read more about this program go to:
http://www.hartmaninstitute.com/ShowCon ... mp;isSub=1
I will be leaving New York on Wednesday June 27 and returning on Thursday July 26.
I also hope to use my time in Israel to search out some mitzvah opportunities where I can serve as your shaliach – your agent, to bring tzedakah to various causes in Israel. Many of you have already generously contributed to the Rabbi’s Fund at TBS through the annual Passover Appeal or your contributions in appreciation for my participation at a Wedding or Unveiling or the like – I will be using some of those funds and seeking ways to put them to good use during my stay in Israel. I will report on my experiences seeking out these mitzvah opportunities in this blog.
The main thing is that I hope that by means of this blog you will feel that you are part of my experience. As I mentioned on the bema on Shabbat – A Sabbatical is an investment on both of our parts in keeping my rabbinate fresh and dynamic. It is not unusual in the course of a normal week for me to address more than a thousand people! From Shabbat sermons to Machon Beth Sholom High School classes; from Sisterhood classes to the Herbert Tarr Adult Education Institute; from sitting on the floor with our tots in our Early Childhood Center preparing for Shabbat, to the hospital visits where I sit with our most elderly members; from Divrei Torah at Board Meetings to counseling sessions in my office; from meeting to meeting to meeting – week after week, year after year - I am called upon to teach and share my insights applying the teachings of our sacred tradition to modern day situations. The challenge is to constantly renew myself and to keep fresh the wells of Torah that nourish me and therefore nourish you my community.
I believe that this opportunity that you have wisely afforded me, to study at the Hartman Institute will be an investment that will pay dividends beyond measure in the months and years to come.
In the meantime, I leave you in the capable hands of Rabbi Jeni Friedman and while I will be checking my email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) it won’t be all that often – so feel free to check in with Rabbi Friedman or the office. God willing my next entry will be from Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh – from the Holy Land!! L’hitraot!!
Rabbi Alan Lucas
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