Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yom Kippur 2012

This is the fourth Yom Kippur since we moved to Iceland and it can be a difficult holiday. This year as it approached I did not feel connected, didn’t feel the push to make the effort to go to Reykjavik for services.  I was conflicted but took the attitude of, “it is what it is”.  We shift through stages and this is where I am this year.
After teaching I returned home for dinner and as I was getting the kids ready for bed I could feel the imposition of Yom Kippur begin to envelop me.  After reading two stories I spoke to them about Yom Kippur, about the seriousness of the day and asking for forgiveness. I explained that Jews all over the world were choosing to fast and go to synagogue all day. I encouraged Zelia toward self-reflection about past behavior but she stayed focused on the wrongs done to her. I apologized to her for my lack of patience when it was most needed. Then I pulled Itzhak Perlman’s new Kol Nidrei up on youtube and we lay in silence and listened. The gravity of the day could not be ignored any longer.
You may know that Kol Nidrei is in Aramaic and not in Hebrew and so Zelia asked me what he was singing. She was entranced, as so many of us are, by this almost magical prayer. I explained, somewhat incorrectly, that he was asking for forgiveness from G-d and thinking about being a better person in the coming year. Kol Nidrei caused a controversy when it was added to the liturgy; a problematic plea for nullification for the promises we will make and break in the coming year. I hold the same discomfort with it as those did from centuries ago. Yet in this soulful plea there is an acknowledgement of our frailty as human being to tend toward weaknesses, toward imperfections. In its plea for forgiveness of future failures we recognize that we will fall short of our best intentions to be better, to try harder – this sobering knowledge is at the heart of the human condition.
The children slept and the night fell heavily. This morning too felt different. Jacob and I had a moment to speak about our shortcomings with each other and asked a heartfelt forgiveness from Zelia. Zelia, herself, wore the seriousness of the moment and without wanting to share any words went and gave Lazer a big, quiet hug. So, for the first time in my life, I have experienced the raw gravity of this day, which I found imposed on me without choice of action on my part to attend synagogue or fast. The weight of being a Jew and living a Jewish life simply became an expression of my life.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ROI Summit 2012

Last November I was flow to Denver to participate and present at the Jewish Futures Conference at the General Assembly of North America. In September I entered my idea to address what JESNA and the Jewish Education Project termed prosumerism within the Jewish culture.

Now those of you who know me know that I am somewhat obsessed, at least incredibly passionate about Jewish education and was also beginning my Ed.D. last fall. Here is the video of both my talk and video submission for which I won the Jewish Futures Competition along with Ben Wiener.

While at the GA, Jon Woocher, who has the best title in the world, Chief Ideas Officer, took me under his wing and introduced to many people, one of which was Seth Cohen from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (behind the very successful Taglit-Birthright trips to Israel).  They spoke quickly, I did not catch most of it only that Jon said I would be a good candidate for a trip to Israel.

I tweeted, I emailed and several months later I received an email from Beto Maya with a reference code to apply to ROI - aha, now I began to understand. I was elated when I was accepted - I was going to Israel for the first time in 11 years and will have this amazing opportunity to meet other people committed to Jewish community and life and who are out there trying to make wonderful things happen.

Without a doubt it was a thrill. Every person I met at ROI, whether new to the community, a returny or a member of the staff was talented, committed, smart and capable.  What a gift to be with a group of people like this. We had the chance to hear inspirational speakers like Doug Ulman, CEO of Livestrong, Pascale Berkowitz (video) a journalist and Olympian and Yanki Margalit founder of Aladdin Knowledge Systems.  Each of these speakers was talented and accomplished in their own right, but I want to focus and give you a taste of the young people at ROI as we say in Hebrew, "berama" ברמה

Jenna Benn, from the USA founded an organization called Twist Out Cancer
Twist out Cancer (TOC) is a support community…with a twist!
Founded by 30-year-old lymphoma survivor Jenna Benn, TOC leverages social media to help survivors and their loved ones combat the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and helplessness that often accompany cancer diagnoses and treatment. TOC provides a forum through which anyone affected by cancer can share thoughts, experiences, stories, and insights, allowing for the exchange of ideas, encouragement, and wisdom from one community member to another.

Gur Geva from South African is dedicated to affecting women's health and founded Health SMS , which connects women in need to health professionals. HealthSMS focuses on using mobile phone technology to connect individuals at the base of the economic pyramid to vital health services. I n the first 6 months of launching, HealthSMS connected over 30,000 women with vital female health care services.

Ana Fuchs from the US who founded the Jewish Kids Group, Atlanta's independent Hebrew school, offering a fun-packed, content-rich, and meaningful Jewish supplemental education to children and their families, irrespective of affiliation.

Ami Yares from both the US and Israel is the Director of FocUS Music and is currently looking for support for an exciting new project, HEARTBEAT.The 2012 Borderline Remix unites Israeli, Palestinian, German, and African youth musicians, filmmakers and dancers (ages 16-21) to explore and voice experiences of migration and the quest for home. Working together over the course of six months from their home countries (meeting in Jericho, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Manheim) participants are exploring their diverse personal and communal narratives of forced migration, learning about the human right of asylum, and feeding their understanding, struggles, and hopes into their original music, film, and dance creations.

Kfir Damari, COO of SpaceIL, comes from Israel. SpaceIL's mission is to become the first to successfully launch, fly and land a small robotic spacecraft on the Moon, operate it across the lunar surface and transmit video, images, and data back to Earth by the end of next year, making Israel the third nation on the moon.  This exciting venture seeks to excite and involve Jewish students from around the world and increase their interest in the STEM fields.

Other truly spectacular examples from the ROI Community:
Ohad Sternberg who has joined the Peace Corps and work with both the Jewish and refugee communities in Moldova.
Oliver Marcus who is the program coordinator for JHub, a space for Jewish social action and innovation in the UK Jewish community.
Rei Dishon - Secret Artist
Sarah Bassin, the Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change
Yana Brook, head of the Student Department at JAFI in St. Petersburg and Founder and Director, The Hora People Project

Seriously I could list all 150 people and you would be impressed by them all.  Find a cause that speaks to you and support these committed, talented and thoughtful Jewish leaders.

Don't worry, I will plug my idea in another post:)

Almost an entire year has passed since I last wrote and updated this blog.  Needless to say countless things have happened, evolved and developed since then.  Here is a quick synopsis.

We are still in Skagastrond, Iceland.
Zelia is almost four a half and informed me after a visit in Amsterdam that she would like to learn a new language (for the first time she experienced not having access due to a language barrier).
Lazer will be two in August and is a total shovav (no great work for this in English, mischievous is closest), he adores Jack and Zelia and wants to do EVERYTHING she does.
Jacob is kicking ass in his job, has several grants and projects, manuscripts in the works and heading to present at ICES in Bergen, Norway.
I began my Ed.D. at Northeastern University in Jewish Educational Leadership, am working to found Yadaim Academy of Applied Academics in the US and just went to Israel for the first time in 11 years to take part in the ROI Summit.

The picture above is of all of us at the Esnoga (Sephardic Synagogue in Amsterdam where the Fidanques, Del Valles, De Castro and other ancestors prayed in the 16-1700s).