Onward and Upward

Just a note before we begin: Now that I have to work and study, I have less time to synthesize and write. Therefore, this blog will become less "epistle-y" and more "bloggy" (without the rants and politics and telling you what I ate for dinner!) You can "unsubscribe" by replying to the email.

After feeling a little like moving here will mean that I never get to serve a congregation again, there is some news.

I had another meeting with the rabbi at the Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv, to try to see what they had planned, if I was "in" or "out" or what. He finally told me what I needed to hear-that he and the other staff and the congregation love my voice and manner on the bima.

That they were 2 years behind in their plans to expand the Jaffo congregation because they couldn't find a cantor.

That they already rejected 5 other cantors because the congregation didn't like them.

That they want somebody who can expand the services and contact with the congregation and greater community, who understands that Friday evening is warm and fuzzy with people who want to be there, but that the bar mitzvah services on Saturdays and other days consisted of 150 guests and 5 congregants. (Gee, that sounds familiar!)

That I just need to tell him which parts of the service I want to do each week (this week: opening with a hasidic nign, and doing Yihyu l'ratzon and Oseh Shalom) in any of the 4 services, until I am ready to do a whole one. (The first was sort of like jumping into an empty swimming pool--I landed on my feet, but it was pretty rough! I have learned A LOT since then!)

So I just need to get working, on some repertoire and the Hebrew. I can tell you I feel a lot more motivated now! And I will do another erev Shabbat service in a month.

I stressed that I didn't want to step on Freddy's (the cantor) feet. Rabbi Azari told me that he (the rabbi) had built the congregation over 20 years from nothing, brought in the 2 other rabbis (one is a woman) and if he could let others in, Freddy had better do it too! (But I have made Freddy into a friend-partly because I treat him as if he has forgotten more service stuff than I ever will know...which is true!)

So it is mine for the taking. Really almost like 10 years ago, though I am starting with some repertoire at least, some knowledge and a lot of "bima time," even if it is American Reform and not quite what I need here. I am in for some hard and scary experiences...just as I had in Columbus. And now I really have to learn the language! I can't just fake it as I could in Columbus, because nobody except Rabbi Apothaker knew the difference!

You all know me-I am not afraid, I don't know what I am doing, but somehow I will make it. (I just can't think too much!)

Working on a new Hashkiveinu, one by Isaacson from L'Maasei Breishit--which has singable chazanut and nearly all the right words from the siddur--just have to replace one line. This is the hardest part--finding stuff I can do without accompaniment, in Hebrew, with the same words as the siddur, or which can be stretched or shrunk to fit what is there. I'm so glad I bought as many books as I did. And that on Yom Kippur I just made up melodies to fit the texts. Exhiliarating! So off I go to study. Happy New Year!

Not in Kansas any more!

I have new neighbors, on the other side of the mirpeset (balcony) wall and the first thing they did, literally the first night, was start shiva (7 days of public and private mourning) for some member of the family. Each night for a week, at least 50 to 100 people trooped up the steps and into the apartment. At 3:30 and 4:30 pm they did a service out on the mirpeset--loud, loud. Completely unfamiliar singing, etc.

Finally shiva ended, there were 2 nights of quiet, and last night, they are doing this amazing Shabbat service together--must have been 50 people, with either women or young boys singing at the tops of their lungs. And it was this sing-song chant that sounds EXACTLY like the "Corn Dance" at the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico! Fascinating, living in a world far different from my former world, to live right next door to yet another.

Today on Shabbat, I went out to do my 6 kilometers, and passed some of my very different neighbors. "Shabbat shalom" I said, with a smile. "Shabbat shalom!" they smiled back at me. These are some of the people the world considers dangerous. Worth thinking about.

A few reflections after one year...

A long time between posts--the job and daily life have made writing difficult! I am constantly writing in my head, but sadly all of it stays there!

A moment to remember Benazir Bhutto--a woman my own age who was a pioneer. Beautiful, meticulously educated, charming, and BRAVE. What courage it takes to live and to act. She had it, and the world is poorer for her absence.

Last week I celebrated one year here, and find myself without anything profound to say, except that I love it here, and am glad I made it through the year!

So these were just a few of my thoughts today.

I made a wonderful batch of homemade chili last week--can't get chipotles, but found some firey dried peppers and put in some liquid smoke, and the result was quite good! But it made me hungry for my enchiladas with green sauce. I have everything I need in my pantry or on my balcony, except tomatillos. So last week I began a holy quest for tomatillos, canned or fresh, I don't care. However they are apparently unavailable here, except in a tiny window at some kibbutz someplace. Finally I ordered seeds online, and once I have grown the plants, I guess I will have to preserve the fruits--I hear they freeze well. That will be one hell of a batch of enchiladas when finally I get them!

Funny what you get hungry for. They have tasteless cardboard flour "tortillas" but if you are brave you can get wonderful wheat flatbreads that look exactly the same, and taste and "feel" much better.

It's funny--the weather today was just like a sunny, clear, dry day in September. Temps low 70s, enough dry leaves down to smell and crunch. Only it's almost January!

I took my first yoga class in a year yesterday. It was great, and the teacher was similar to mine in Columbus. I hadn't realized how much I missed it--felt very emotional after. And the muscles between my ribs (the "intercostals") are SORE! Yoga taught me so much about compassion for and acceptance of myself, and I was happy to feel so good during the class--haven't lost anything!

As I always do on Friday, I walked down to the main shopping street to get my Friday International Herald/Tribune (includes an English language HaAretz, and the TV guide!) (Important because the listings change every 3 weeks--I am not exaggerating!) Past every house or apartment building I could smell cooking, savory smells full of spice and time. Maybe fish in a spicy pepper sauce, or whole chickpeas and onions in a tomato sauce, or the scent of kebabs. So much lovely food, so few mealtimes!

And the street (Weitzman) filled with people shopping, some slowly, greeting and talking with friends, some in a BIG hurry. Wonderful scents from the flower stalls and spice stores, kids running everywhere, babies in prams, gorgeous first strawberries of the season, finally some decent corn. Racks of clothes and shoes and books and bread outside the shops. And everybody talking on their cell phones, sometimes 2 at once!

So I'm off to make a pot of sweet potato soup. Shabbat shalom!