Of jobs and prospects, and people

So let’s see…home? Check. Car? Check. Cat? Check! What is left? Oh, yes, a job!

So here’s the latest on that: I have a good relationship with Kehilat B’Vat Ayin (the small congregation) but they can’t hire me because they just don’t have the need for a volume of services. Maybe in a year or so, because they are growing very quickly, but not now. However, they have hired me to chant the haftarah from the book of Jonah on Yom Kippur—a paid gig. And real “work” since this is my least favorite thing to do, and there are something like 46 verses to learn! But it is great experience, and will add to my abilities.

The president of the congregation told me “you can say ‘no’ you know!” My reply “oh, Joel, I never say ‘no’!” So I have started working on it, and a very nice residual of my problems with the language is that the “decoding” of the Hebrew is MUCH easier, now (it used to be hard, hard!), and I also know what most of it means!

Plus they will give me some bar/bat mitzvah students, which will bring in a little more money.

I interviewed at Beit Daniel, a large Progressive synagogue in Tel Aviv. We were supposed to be talking about my singing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but we actually spent the whole hour talking about the future of Beit Daniel and how they need someone to lead services and help add more programming to what they already do. They have a cantor, but he is spread pretty thin already. They just built a huge education center in Jaffo (right next door to the cultural arts center where I auditioned for the Arts and Culture Committee!) And they will be building a big synagogue there, too, for which they will need leaders. So…what? I don’t know! I will be singing with the cantor at services this Friday (31 August) so we’ll see.

I attended services there last Friday evening, and introduced myself to the cantor. The services are quite different from Reform and Conservative services in the States. Very interesting, and there are 2 songs I have learned just from attending services at the various places here. So I plan to teach them Aaron Bensoussan’s Lecha Dodi (the clappy one, you Temple Beth Shalomers!) And I don’t know what else I will do. The whole service is “musical” on the last Friday of the month, whatever that means!

And the issue of the holidays has not been resolved, but I have decided that even if I only work at B’Vat Ayin on Yom Kippur AM, if I have a job at Beit Daniel after, that’s OK.

A week after my audition before the Arts and Culture Committee I received a very nice letter congratulating me upon receiving the status of “artist” from the State of Israel. They said that my music was “excellent and unique” and that I passed the audition with the highest possible score. It was such a validation of who I always thought I was and what I thought I could do and what I have worked SO hard to do. Plus it is a little more money per month from the government, for two years. Probably not much, the “extra beer or sandwich” quote from Showboat comes to mind! But “ain’t my life a whirl!”

Also on the job front is a job at Hadassah Hospital at Ein Kerem, doing translation from Hebrew to English (of medical stuff, not my forte at all, but we’ll see!) and writing/editing English parts of the website and other documents. I have an interview there on 3 September. They sent me 2 things to translate, and with the help of some software and my many dictionaries and common sense, I think I did pretty well. But we’ll see. If the work is never more sophisticated than what they gave me I think I will be fine. And again, my Hebrew will improve. And it is part time, I can work from home most of the time, and only go into Jerusalem once or twice a week.

Later on the same day of the interview Galron will perform at the hospital for a special program. So I will travel in with Yakov Schreibman, Galron tenor and Vice Pres. of Hadassah Ein Kerem. Between interview and performance I will have a chance to wander the historical village of Ein Kerem, and will tell you about it next time.

And now some random thoughts and observations.

When I received the interview at Beit Daniel, I rewarded myself with a falafel lunch at my favorite stand which happens to be close to my home. I sat down to enjoy my food, and an Arab family came up to order food. There was a mother, her sister, a grandmother, niece and a little boy. The little boy pulled up a chair next to me, mom gave him his food, and we munched together for a while. Then the other family members got their food and sat all around my (and the little boy’s) table. We all smiled, I helped with napkins, then they opened a 2-liter bottle of Coke, started pouring cups for everybody, and poured me one too! It was just hospitality-as-usual for them, but a sweet moment for me. In the states the news from here focuses on politics and military issues, and on the moments of family horror and pain. But never on the small kindnesses and civic cooperation that happen every day, especially around where I live.

A legendary characteristic of Israelis is their willingness to hitch and give rides to strangers. I have seen lots of kids and soldiers and even families who stand by the side of the road and get rides. And I have seen lots of people stop and give them. So I was invited to dinner at Aliza’s and volunteered to make dessert. And the stupid peaches I bought to make pies were not ripe. So I went to Tiv Tam, the only grocery open on Shabbat, and bought nectarines.

As I went back to my car, a man maybe a little older than me asked “At holechet lemalah? (you are going up?)” As usual, I smiled but didn’t actually understand what he meant, so he repeated it, and I said “yes” and then I figured out he was asking for a lift! It was 11:00 in the morning, I thought, “yeah, OK, let’s live a little!” So he got in the car, and then we made small talk in Hebrew, and I dropped him off in Ra’anana, and it was another sweet little moment, very Israeli.

My life is full of these moments, from everyone I meet, in every capacity, from government to the shops to the people on the street. An amazing way to live.

Audition to be considered an "artist"

Yesterday I had my audition before the Arts and Culture Committee of some government branch, for them to determine if I am an "artist" or not. If so I get some money each month for 2 more years, and they do some job prospecting on my behalf. You have to be invited to appear before the committee.

Well, warming up on the drive down (inflicting suffering on my friend Yakov who generously wanted to go along with me--a year ago I would not have allowed him to come along--gotta "do it myself") I realized that my poor voice has been so underused that it required me to really warm up carefully, for a long time. So instead of panicking, I just took the time, and by the time we had to go in, I felt reasonably sure of myself. Then in the 2.5 hours I had to wait before my turn, I warmed up more! Nice people also waiting, made friends with a French composer/singer and a classical guitarist. He played and I sang along on "ooh"...magic, and such a pleasure to improvise again. We exchanged telephone numbers and may get together to jam sometime. It was a relaxing way to spend an hour of the waiting time!

So then I went in and they first were surprised that I would be both unamplified and a capella. Then they wanted my name and what I would do first. No other info! Faces blank.

So Summertime was first. I have been doing a hummed intro, low, then go into it in the original key. Sing and finish with a 2.5 octave ooh-to-hum. No applause, but a third of them smiling broadly.

Then Israel Alter's Tzur Yisrael chazzanut (cantorial stuff, complicated, hard, and impressive) (I said, in Hebrew, "next I have a piece of chazzanut because that's my profession") from the morning shabbat service. I've done it about a thousand times, and am completely comfortable. They loved it! All of them talking to each other, then I asked again in Hebrew "another?" They said yes.

So I sang Babi Yar (in English, by the Yiddish songwriter Shuka Driz, who wrote a lot of the songs that came out of the Holocaust), a song we did in an arrangement with Koleinu. I've done it many times as a solo, too. It's very dramatic, and by the end they were all nodding and smiling at each other.

We chatted (finally one of them said "you can speak English" then everyone laughed when I said "Oh, thank God!") So one woman asked me pointed questions about the soloist stuff and where and with whom I have studied, and I was able to say the other things I have done and can do and then she was satisfied. "Are you working here?" "Not yet, but I led services in Rosh HaAyin and submitted my CV at Beit Daniel, so I will be working here!" "Well, ok! Thank you, and good luck!" "Thank YOU!"

Then out to be happy and eat falafel and listen to Yakov go on and on about how great it was!

So whatever happens, I did my best, and feel good about it.

Early August 2007

There are no drive-throughs here.

Got a kitten, she's adorable and a great addition to my life (see pictures below). I named her Neshikah (Hebrew for kiss) except when she is "fighty and bitey" she is Neshek, (Hebrew for gun or weapon.) But she sits on my chest when I take naps!

I mentioned a while ago that I had a sort of interview at a congregation in Rosh HaAyin. The young woman who is the rabbi and I planned the service, and enjoyed working together. The service was really nice (only had to fake half), sweet and spiritual rabbi, nice congregants, very enthusiastic board--but no money yet. So we're all still talking. They have partnered with a cong. in the US (to raise $) so I volunteered to sing when they come. Also they are looking for someone to teach an adult Torah chanting class and bnei mitzvah. I don't think my Hebrew skills are where they need to be, to teach, yet. But it's all early days, still. And read on!

Today I got an email from my friend from the choir, Aliza Regev--she received a call from Beit Daniel (biggest Reform synagogue in Israel, in Tel Aviv) looking for chazzan/its for the high holidays! Sent my Hebrew and English CVs right away, along with the MP3 of my Kol Nidre from last year's Dispatch article. Cross your fingers for me.

Also I received an invitation to appear before a committee to give a presentation to convince them that I am an artist. I have made a scrapbook/portfolio with publicity (it had to be print, with picture, and my name) and have to sing 2 songs. I haven't completely settled on what to sing. It will be a capella, so that limits me somewhat. I thought I'd do my version of "Summertime" that gets loud and soft, starts with humming and ends with 3 octaves of oohs then hums. Jewish composer, fairly familiar song I hope.

The second has me going back and forth. I'm deciding between a piece of chazzanut from the morning service that lets really be free. Hebrew, from what I do.

Or the Ladino song "Cuando El Rey Nimrod/Avram Avinu"--I start very slowly, lots of doodling. Then set the beat with clapping (they can do this too) Verse, chorus, chorus on "dai, dai", 2nd verse, chorus, flashy slow ending. They will know the song, but if there are only like 3 of them it will be very hard work.

I'll let you know what happens!

Am learning how to use Microsoft Word in Hebrew. Very cool features I am working on getting into my package!

Late June--notes from abroad

So here it is, in brief: Am trying to buy a car, so I can get a job (you have heard of "chicken and egg"?) Shopped around, here there is no hard sell, and they all give directions to each other's dealerships! Settled on Hyundai Accent, 2008, last week. Took my financial info in today.

Still not sure about the car--tonight I talked for about 15 minutes with a loan officer (all in Hebrew, on the phone, my worst nightmare! I can't get by with my sincere but uncomprehending smile!) and while he was nice enough, even by Israeli standards (they are notoriously prickly sometimes) I don't know if they will give me the financing.

But I can't tell you how often I have presented myself at an office (gov't, or cellphone or bank) and had the clerk tappety-tap on the computer and frown and call managers, and tap some more and call some more, and then suddenly ("chick-chak" as we say in Hebrew) say "OK it's fine. We're done" Leaving me, well, confused!

So I am patient and if the car dealer won't give it to me, surely the bank will, where I now have quite a few shekels on deposit! I'm not worried--will deal with it, whatever it is.

Learned today how to go to a machine that is an ATM and get printouts of statements, and all kinds of other cool stuff--I was sent by the car saleswoman (her name is "Lee-aht") because the bank info wasn't what she needed. Instructions (civilized) in English, printout in Hebrew (OK because I knew what it was, since I asked for it!) Life here is deductive reasoning at its most intense!