The Normal and the Holy
Posted on 07/23/2011 @ 11:08 AM
Here in Tel Aviv we have spent a lot of time talking about the concept of חול וקודש - the normal and the holy. Shabbat for PDI Cohort 2 in Israel's cultural capital is a perfect example of this principal in action. For the first time on our trip, we were given the day off, and we all enjoyed the day off with a variety of activities across the spectrum.
Several people rose early and attended services at a local orthodox synagogue in Tel Aviv. Services were very traditional and brief, and I'm told the oneg was sub-par. Another group slept late after enjoying Tel Aviv's legendary nightlife on Friday, and then decamped for what may be described the typical Tel Aviv shabbat: laying out at the beach, and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. The sun was high and hot, but the water was perfect, and the 6-8ft surf was just right for playing around and body surfing. The free time also afforded an opportunity to spend time with local friends. Many of us know Americans (who have made aliyah) or Israelis that live in the city, and took advantage of the day to catch up with them or enjoy a nice summer lunch in the city.
As havdallah approached, we regrouped to welcome the new week together by the seashore. The warm sea breeze and gentle lapping of the waves on the beach was the perfect setting for the simple evening service. After havdallah, we all took cabs to northern Tel Aviv to attend a concert by the band Divan Halev. They are an eight person collective that is at the forefront of the Sephardi music revival. They played beautiful, multi-instrument compositions influenced by world music, prayers, and the traditional music of Morrocan, Iraqi, and Yeminite Jews. After the concert we returned to the hotel for a few hours rest before we began the new week bright and early Sunday morning with Hebrew class. These one-day Israeli weekends will take some getting used to!
A Note from Brandon Mond and Brad Hongberg
Posted on 07/22/2011 @ 12:42 PM
Dear Viewing Jewish Parents,
Over the past week we have had a tremendous time in the glorious city of Washington DC. We work at a Wider Circle, an organization created to furnish dwellings of people in need, and focuses on helping restore dignity to people coming out of poverty. On occasion, much to Max Lazar's (our group leader's) chagrin, we enjoy breakfast hotdogs at a local eatery cart conveniently located right outside the metro station. Another event we must share with you is the program called “Street Torah”. In “Street Torah” we connected with homeless people in McPherson square by striking up conversation. We met a very colorful gentlemen by the name of Alfred who told us about his adventures spanning multiple continents and shenanigans within the United States. We are having a great time and learning a lot.
Brandon Mond, Dallas TX, and Brad Honigberg, Mequon, WI
Jess Baar's Reflection on Service at Metro Teen Aids
Posted on 07/22/2011 @ 11:58 AM
A lot has happened during these past two weeks. We did an amazing program called Street Torah, went to service sites, participated in planned programs and yesterday, went to lobby. For this blog entry, I want to focus on my service site, Metro Teen AIDS (MTA).
MTA is all about promoting safer sex practices to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. During our first day there we met our amazing service site volunteer coordinator, Ana. She talked to us about what MTA was all about and gave us a lesson on HIV/AIDS. We learned that DC has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the country with 3% of the population infected. This is well above the 1% needed for this to be considered an epidemic.
Throughout the next week my group continued to meet in MTA's "Freestyle" teen lounge. Freestyle is a place where local teens can go to hang out and be safe. It also provides programming and field trips, along with testing for various STD's. It gives the teens a place to go for support.
On Monday, we gave up some of our break time to plan and run a program for the local teens at freestyle. Let me just say that it was well worth it.
Wednesday was our last day there. The group walked throughout DC talking about HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. Then we all sadly said our last goodbye to Ana whom we had grown so close with. Metro Teen AIDS was an eye opening experience and I learned a lot about not only HIV/AIDS, but an acceptance for other people who are ostracized for being different.
Jessica Baar, Allentown, PA
Nicole Fratkin's Lobbying Experience
Posted on 07/22/2011 @ 11:45 AM
Today we conquered the daunting task of lobbying! Looking around at everyone this morning was extremely nerve racking as each group was franticly jotting down notes and reviewing material while my group simply ate our bagels, however our lobbying session could not have gone better. Each person in my group was able to voice his or her own opinion and instead of arguing back at us, the Senator's legislative aid attentively listened to every word. Personally, I think I expected the aid to dismiss our views and facts because we weren't even of voting age, but she was actually extremely impressed by us and praised us for our preparation. It is reassuring to know that our Senator truly cares about what we have to say and understands that the decisions and legislation that he passes will directly affect us in the future. I could also tell that the atmosphere that the Senator had created in his office and his relationships with his staff were genuine, welcoming, and warm. I am grateful that a person like that represents my state and myself. Today we made a difference; we spoke up for what we believe in and I know that this is just the first step in a life long commitment to social justice and advocacy.
Nicole Fratkin, Richmond, Virginia
Kodesh v'Chol- Holy- and Everyday
Posted on 07/22/2011 @ 10:48 AM
The theme of today was Kodesh v’Chol- Holy and Everyday. We began by making the transition from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, cities with decidedly Kodesh v’Chol reputations. Upon arrival in Tel Aviv we explored the idea of the “Altneuland” described by Theodore Herzl . The early Zionists developed Tel Aviv as a way of abandoning the special or otherness they felt in Europe and embracing a “normal” society by modernizing the reclaimed land.
We wrestled over the ideas of the strong New Jew described in the poetry of Chaim Nachman Bialik while sitting in his home. As we toured the neighborhood we could see the tension between new and old in the architecture of the city. The prevalence of International, cutting edge, modern design was highlighted through the many International style or Bauhaus style buildings.
We spent the afternoon exploring the artist market at Nahalat Binyamin. The crafts and their makers exuded Kodesh v’Chol as we investigated stalls with hand painted Challah covers, intricate stone and metal worked Judaica, jewelry and even children’s toys.
We met back at the hotel for a Hebrew class focused on the shoresh קדשbefore preparing for our first Erev Shabbat in Israel.
The group traveled to the boardwalk at the port of Tel Aviv to participate in an alternative Kabbalat Shabbat experience. While the sun set over the Mediterranean we listened to and sang a variety of old familiar tunes and new renditions of secular songs like It’s A Wonderful Life b’Ivrit. The contrast between busy Tel Aviv Friday night life and the Kabbalat Shabbat next to the sea were another example of Kodesh v’Chol.
We closed the evening with delicious Shabbat dinner back at our hotel and then everyone headed off in different directions to explore the Kodesh v’Chol of a Tel Aviv Shabbat.