Tag Archives: Reform Judaism

This Year in Haifa

1 Apr

I’m on a train heading back down south to meet the Walk About Love group to start the second half of my journey on the shvil. I feel rested, relaxed, and renewed. I felt thankful for every hot shower I took, sleeping indoors on a comfy bed, a bathroom (!), and dear friends. Ok I’ll be honest I definitely even felt grateful for sitting on a couch, digging my feet into a soft rug, and I I hugged my very clean clothes after they came out of the dryer for a long time. It’s amazing how easy it is to take for granted such things and then without them how grateful one can feel when reunited with such pleasures!

I wrestled a lot with how to spend Pesach this year while I was in Israel. Do I stay with the group on the trail and celebrate amidst the desert backdrop at a campsite or do I leave the trail and be with friends and be at a seder that would feel similar to what I am used to at home?

To make my decision I thought a lot about what the words, “next year in Jerusalem” mean at the end of the Haggadah. Originally these words made it into the Haggadah to symbolize ultimate redemption. We will only truly be free once the messiah is here and we are all in Jerusalem. Over the centuries before the state of Israel came to be this phrase also represented the longing of the Jewish people to have a homeland. “Home” being the key word there for me.

As I reflected on what those words meant to me this year, I realized they mean a desire to feel at “home” for the holiday. And since I am not physically home with my family then I had to think about what would feel like the next best thing. And so I was so thankful to be welcome into the home of the Ben-Chorin family…dear friends with an incredibly warm home.

And as I uttered the words “bashanah habah b’yerushalyim” this year I thought about what “Yerushalayim” translates to…yireh – he will see God, shalem – complete or wholeness. And this to me is what is important to me when celebrating and observing holidays…being with people who make you feel whole and complete and feeling a sense of divine presence in the celebration, whether in Jerusalem, Haifa, New York, Connecticut, or Texas!

I definitely wished to have been in three places at once this Passover as it’s hard to be away over holidays, but I am truly filled up and excited to get back on the trail!

Wishing everyone a moadim L’simcha (happy holiday)!


27 Mar

Shalom! I write to you from the Mador stream night camp. (Not so much a stream here so I just took my first ever hose shower…it was amazing.) We started this week in Mitzpe Ramon and we have walked around 45 kilometers over the past three days. Sunday I was on volunteering duty so I didn’t walk but I did load the trucks, clean up the campsite, and enjoyed a few gas station mini marts. Oh and I helped to make dinner…I was in charge of the mashed potatoes or purée as everyone who wasn’t American was calling it.

So this brings me to something I think I haven’t shared so much about which is the experience of being an American and a female reform rabbi. I’ve never felt “exotic” before in my life until this trip. I would say for the first two weeks and whenever new people join our group they say they have never met a woman rabbi and then want to know if I do “rabbing” for a living and how does this all work. Also, I have been called “rabbey” “rabbit” and “rabbah.” Obviously, rabbit is my favorite. Sharing my identity and how it all works has gotten a little repetitive, but I know it’s important teachable moment each time.

In Israel there is often two categories of people religious and not religious (hiloni and daati.) I’ve come to see these as two poles on a continuum that I definitely fall in the middle of. I feel like I have the most in common with the Israelis who were once religious and are now secular. They know the language of faith and also modernity.

I’ve also been very aware of my Americanness. Out of a group of around 40 I am one of three Americans. It’s amazing how when I’m home in American I think I am in the center of the world, but the truth is the world is huge and wherever anyone resides that is their center. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about American arrogance.

In so many ways though, current context dictates identity and right now we are all “shvilists” or “shvilistim.” This means we are walking the Israel trail, we share our water, we help each other down mountains, and we listen to each other’s stories. Some of my favorite moments with my fellow shvilists these last few days have been:

1. Jaco from Mexico City reminding me that when we are going downhill you don’t have to do it with style, you just have to do it.

2. On Friday night I sang Kabbalat Shabbat songs with fellow shvilists on the top of a big camel lookout.

3. Walking back to our nightcamp 12 ibex surrounded us and we thought this was the best Shabbat gift.

4. And yesterday me and my fellow shvilists walked to ein akev, a gorgeous spring with lots of water. A true desert oasis!

Tomorrow is supposed to be the hardest day of the entire trail when we hike Mt. Karbolet. Wish me luck! I am amping myself up to conquer it and write about it on the other side!