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You have reached the blog of Mikvah Bound. I am either writing on paper or away from my laptop at the moment. Because I am in Israel. Until January 5th.

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I need to start packing

Next week at this time, I will be in Israel. It hasn’t even sunk in yet.

The amount of clothes suggested for this 10 day trip is enough for a month for me. I’m not sure I even have 6 short-sleeved tshirts; and what would I do if I were there in the summer, where they suggest 12?!

Do people actually have that large a wardrobe?

And then I think, yes, of course, if my sister packs a 63 lb suitcase for a week at her inlaws, there are probably people with that many clothes.

Also, to bring my tallit and kippah or to not bring my tallit and kippah, that is the question. Will I have a chair thrown at me for wearing one at the Kotel? What will my OU trip organizer/Aish trip leader think?

Srugim

My mom doesn’t always understand why I’m so excited to see Jews in the media. I think any member of a minority group can relate: we’re very rarely in the media, and when we are, it’s not always as a fully-fleshed out, nuanced character. We’re always some plot device or trite archtype.

So when I see us portrayed as PEOPLE, normal human beings with lives and problems and flaws and amazing moments of happiness…who just happen to be Jewish, Jewish people… I get excited. It’s amazing when we’re not the “self-hating” Jew, or the “funny, intellectual” secular liberal Jew, or the “backwards” Orthodox Jew….

And, shock and horror, I’ve found that many of the films and movies I’ve encountered that have “normal” Jewish characters have come out of Israel. Srugim is one of them. I’m talking non-stop about it and encouraging all people to watch.
Srugim started in Israel in 2008, so I am arriving late to this party. There’s a good chance you already went to the party and returned home, kicking your heels off and loosening your tie. But. If you have not been invited, here it is. You are invited to run, not walk, to your closest copy of Srugim, a tv show about five single Dati Jerusalemites approach their 30th birthday. They live in Katamon, aka the Swamp, a neighborhood/district/barrio for single Datim.

I may or may not have finished the first season in three nights. And I’m currently chugging my way through the second at another equally alarming speed: when will the dishes get done tonight? Do I make my bed or watch another scene in the morning? Do I pray in English so I can finish another episode tonight or do I stumble along in Hebrew knowing it will take three to four times as long? Decisions, decisions.

So what do I like about it?

A) The drama. I can’t stand to be around people in my own life that remind me of Grey’s Anatomy characters. But, I recognize that drama is a compelling genre for its ability to capture the tension in life that we run into. We do have to make tough choices, wade through hard situations, and encounter other beings. Srugim is a TV show, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a level of drama, and situational drama, that I find bearable.

B)Orthodoxy. I’m a Conservative Jew. A happy Conservative Jew. I have my beefs with Orthodoxy, but I honestly cringe every time I see Orthodox Jews portrayed in the media. They’re not wife-beaters stuck in the Middle Ages. They’re not brainwashed and incapable of critical thought. They’re not totally unrelatable alien lifeforms with quaint folk customs for us to gawk at. Of all the media I’ve seen, this most accurately reflects the Jews I know who are Orthodox. It may not be 100% accurate, but it comes the closest that I’ve seen. I’d be interested in hearing what Orthodox Jews think of the OJs in this series.

C)Hebrew practice. I’ve already learned new words and phrases from listening. My accent and rhythym are horrible, but I figure they always will be.

D) Israel. Oh boy. I am so conflicted on Israel (can’t wait to see what I feel like then I get back in a few weeks!) and am currently feeling very much an American Jew. Who is happy to live outside of Israel, in the Diaspora that I refuse to call Exile. And yet watching this series provokes a longing in me. How much LESS of a personal struggle would kashrut be there? What would it feel like to not have to negotiate work schedules around Yom Tov? To have people approach you (assuming you’re a man) in the street asking you to make minyan for them? It’s kinda… mind blowing.

So yes. Please watch. And let’s discuss!

P.S. In case you live under a rock, Matisyahu shaved his beard. I’m clutching my pearls and scratching my head. I joke.

Limmud Bay Area

I was so excited to hear that the Bay Area had finally gotten its Jewish act together and that this winter we would welcome Limmud to our stomping grounds. 

I found out last week that registration is $190, including the sessions, a hotel room, and 4 kosher meals, at a state beach/park in Monterey. Sounds loverly.

Except I thought I had read somewhere that it was being held in San Francisco? And that would mean days at Limmud and nights in the comfort of our own homes in the Bay Area without the added expense of a hotel room and kosher catering (for what I assume to be most of the participants anyway, though I suppose out of the area folks might be interested in coming).  Not having been to Limmud’s in the past, I guess I didn’t realize this was more of a retreat than a conference.

Now I have some weighing of options to calculate: long weekend in Jewish environment with some really rad Yids and the potential to make great connections and friendships, or weekend retreat by my little lonesome self.

Floored.

I just got back from an off-site meeting with some of our contractors. When I was headed out, one of the guys I worked with at many community events introduced me to a new employee of theirs with: “this is the one I was telling you about, the one who converted in May. She works on events and social media monitoring with us.”

“Yeah. Well see, I don’t really believe in conversion, nothing personal. You’re born Jewish or you’re not. I mean, if you died today, who would sit shiva for you?”

Floored. As I said.

And then, overwhelmed, with the realization that she’s right.

I think that’s what sucks the most right now.

I had to turn off the interwebs yesterday.

Everything was going fine yesterday until I checked Facebook at lunch.  First I read a story about a small Baptist Church in Kentucky that voted recently to not allow interracial couples to join as members.  Sure, they could come to worship, but they couldn’t participate in any services unless it was a funeral.  I’m not sure why that matters to the church, why a funeral is different than regular Sunday worship or baptisms or marriages.  But it apparently does.  And they want you to know, of course, that they’re not racist! They’re just… this isn’t appropriate.  Or something.

It took me a while to calm down.  It boggles my mind that in 2011 we are still having these discussions, even in rural Kentucky appalachia. What’s even more disgusting is that 9 people voted for this, 6 people voted against, and approximately 25 other people in attendance “abstained” from voting at all.  I’m sorry, is this a convoluted gray issue? Are you too chicken-shit to call out your “brothers in Christ” on their crazy stupid idea that some of us are “more” or “better” Children of G-d than others, based on pigmentation levels in skin?  I guess the one benefit of stumbling across this article is that it provides excellent ammunition for the next person I meet who denies that racism is still alive and well in this country.

But then, I realize another of my friends posted this article from the Atlantic about an ad campaign airing “in at least five American communities that warn Israeli expatriates that they will lose their identities if they don’t return home.”  Okay.  Fair enough.  The pressure to assimilate can be strong, I get that, and we ARE two different cultures and societies.  But then I actually watched the videos.  I’ll let them speak for themselves:

(I guess the one small benefit is that I could read 75% of the Hebrew on the screen and understood about half of it.)  This Yom HaZikaron ad is at once hilarious and perplexing.  The male actor looks nothing like 90% of Jewish young adult men I’ve met in my life (save the Renewal crew in the Berkeley area…), what with his long pony tail and awkward accent and intonation when speaking in English.  And why is this guy supposed to read her mind? Why is she not capable of saying “Hey, you know what, I’m not all that interested in hanging out with friends tonight.  Today is Israel’s Memorial Day, and I always feel sad about all the lives that were lost in the wars and how my cousin was affected by his time in the IDF. Can we just stay home and let me have some space?”

Instead, this ad makes it seem like American significant others are deliberately obtuse or that Israelis live on some other planet and are alien creatures that are impossible to relate to.

I’m sorry, but what?! If little Nuraleh doesn’t understand the significance of Chanukah (and of COURSE the government chose the holiday specifically about assimilation!), isn’t that the fault of the “will always remain Israeli” parents?  The parents who haven’t taught their Jewish daughter enough about Judaism or Jewish identity?  I know plenty of Jewish kids in America who wouldn’t fail that “test” administered by the grandparents. But once again, no, it’s our American Jewish culture and education that’s inadequate, not at all the precious Israeli parents.

It’s a backhanded slap in the face to American Jews and I can’t believe the Israeli government ever thought this was a good idea. Klal Yisrael and Am Israel! Right?! Not.

I think I’ll just copy and paste the last paragraph of the Atlantic article here to finish my thoughts on the matter:

These government-sponsored ads suggest that it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America. How else are we supposed to understand the “Christmas” ad? Obviously, assimilation and intermarriage are issues in America in ways they aren’t in Israel. Israel has other problems of course, such as the fact that many of its rabbis act like Iranian mullahs. (I’m not even going to try to unpack my complicated beliefs about intermarriage and assimilation and life in the Diaspora here; that’s for a book. But let me just say that intermarriage can also be understood as an opportunity.)

The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don’t mind me resorting to the vernacular). The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.