About Me

I'm the Rabbi of B'nai Israel Synagogue in West Bloomfield, MI, a highly-participatory, traditional, egalitarian synagogue.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Hug Factor

It may not be the biggest transition of our aliyah, but it certainly is one of the most underrated. The hug factor.

Let me explain.

Setting – Wallingford, Pennsylvania. A young rabbinic family. In-laws, aunt and uncle, extraordinarily close friends and colleagues within a 25 minute radius. A congregation – from its youngest to its oldest members – eager to dote on the children of the rabbi. Lots of hugs. Lots of attention. TLC – available at the drop of a hat.

Yes, a lovely life. Absolutely. But not Israel. So we come.

And we’re in a terrific shul community with a billion kids our kids’ age, Jewish kids. (Everywhere you go in this town of Modiin, in most every setting, the billions are frolicking.) Non-stop play in the yard during shul. Shabbat invitations here, there and everywhere. Our kids excitedly bugging us on Sunday as to who’s coming for Shabbat the next weekend.

We can’t have both. It’s the lot of olim. The love and hugs of those most intimate of our family and friends, we, painfully, have to leave behind – to experience a lot less than we’re used to. The breadth and vigor of every minute Jewish life and companionship – well, that’s what we get.

It’s a trade-off. “Giving up” (although not quite) one family for a much larger one.

Those “there,” treasure those hugs. You and your kids. Those on your way, get plenty of them while you can. Know that your kids will need more hugs than ever from their primary source – you. Those here, you already know what I’m talking about….

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Aliyah, 2010. You’d Be Surprised Who’s Coming.

1. Santa Claus. Getting ready to retire. Tired of the snow. A thousand inches on the ground in Mid-Atlantic. 75 degrees in Modiin today. Elves are considering too.

2. Chairman of UJA Continuity Commission. After 20 years, an aha moment.

3. Sen. Harry Reid. Safe haven for those, G-d forbid, who believe in universal health coverage.

4. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Everyone arrives late here, and no one cares.

5. Batman. Purim costume sales skyrocket, outstrip meager Halloween market.

6. Steve Jobs. Because there are many of them in Israel, and, by the way, every Israeli will have an I-Phone by the end of the year.

7. The Pillsbury Dough Boy. Has franchised bakeries here. And makes challah too!

8. AIG executives. AIG advertises at the top of the hour on Reshet Bet, for heaven’s sake.

9. Bud Selig, baseball commissioner. 1:45 am Superbowl start makes it an absolute non-starter – like most World Series games in the USA.

10. Record numbers of English speakers like you. Check it out – http://www.nbn.org.il/media/media_news/news_2009/december/12.29.09_jta.html

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Organic Jewish Supermarket

The supermarket tells the story, brilliantly.

It wasn’t a great day. Something I didn’t want in my “lift” came anyways. The compulsion to fit too many tasks in too short a time. The disemboweling frustration of inevitable failure.

So I walked into the supermarket. Mind locked in frustrated self-absorption, body robotically readying for another task. Ready to tip over.

If not for the tree, right there at the entrance to the supermarket. Not literally, but in every other sense. The Tu B’shvat display. I had never seen a Tu B’shvat display in a supermarket.

Dried fruits hanging off the tree, with special marked-down prices. Nuts galore. Apricots, mishmish. Cashews, cashews. Companies competing for your almond shekels. The quintessential Tu B’Shvat mix of dates, figs, prunes, and carob. At the entrance to the store. Displacing cereal, cookies and the rest of that nosherai.

Smiles all around. On me too. Returned, delightfully, to an integrated humanity. And to the flow of a society celebrating the rebirth – seasonally, existentially -- of its trees, its flora.

It was, in a moment, a magical sense of what it is to be here. In the organic Jewish supermarket.