Well, it certainly has been awhile, hasn't it!  Do not worry my chaverim (friends), I have not forsaken my blogging obligations... I have simply been otherwise occupied.  I will aim to be more diligent in the future.

It is absolutely amazing how different time seems to pass in this country.  If I thought I was busy when I lived in America, which I did, I knew nothing about what the term "busy" means.  Everything in Jerusalem moves chik-chok (very fast).  Along with a schedule packed full of courses (Which started last week) and homework, there is constantly an opportunity to explore this city and learn seemingly unlimited history. Some of this exploration is out of my own personal curiosity the other is guided by my program: we take weekly (this week bi-weekly) trips (si-uls) to explore Jerusalem's ruins and other historical sites. On top of all of this is the constant presence of spirituality so thick on Shabbos it seems to electrify my skin. Living here continues to take my breath away.

Here are some pictures Tamara took of what we pass by daily on our walk to school. (Click on image to see it fully.)

As mentioned earlier, classes started last week.  For the summer term I am taking Ulpan (Intensive Hebrew) from 8:30am-1pm Sun-Wednesday, Biblical History which meets anywhere from 2-4 times a week depending on our lecture and si-ul schedule, Music Theory and Cantillation.

Cantillation, while I have only had one session of it so far, is quickly becoming a favorite subject of mine.  Cantillation by the way is the study of reading Torah trope or the symbols used in the Torah and Haftorah portions to depict the chanting melody...

One might be thinking, "well, you are studying to be a Cantor! Of course Cantillation must be a favorite subject!" Well the truth is before I began my Cantorial studies week ago, I had never studied trope.  Any Torah reading I had ever done was learned by rote... I was quite nervous about how far behind I might be to my fellow classmates.  However, quite a few of us are on the same level... Also I am lucky that Jacob has been tutoring trope for several years so I had no need to worry.

Trope is amazing. It's like a key that all of the sudden turns a huge block of text into comprehensible chantable phrases.  A week ago I would have looked at this and struggled to read the words in seemingly endless streams. 

However all of the sudden with the small knowledge of of trope I gained from our first class it is transformed into sentences, questions, exclamations: Like a decoding program inserted into the text.  I have to go very slow because my ability to read Hebrew quickly is not quite developed but I can now turn to a random page in my Tikkun and begin to chant it. This is quite empowering.

Our Biblical History course is quite intense but I love historical content.  The professor of my section is an archaeologist so our lectures are heavily based in finding the Biblical tales in real-life archaeology.  It is very interesting and poses many difficult questions about thee plausibility of some of the Patriarchal tales: when the "Biblical Author" mentions anachronistic elements of a story  for example camels are mentioned in the story of Abraham when archaeological research (based on many elements and I don't wish to recreate my class notes here) has placed the time of Abraham most likely long before any biological (read: fossil) evidence of camels existed.  This leads to the assumption that author of the Bible is not writing about these events as they happen, which as learned is a common assumption the mind makes when reading these parshas. All very interesting things to keep in mind.

Enough of my lecture.  On Thursday our class went on our first si-ul. We traveled to Nebi Samwil (Samuel's Tomb), Haas Promenade and Ramat Rahel.  We learned a great deal about the use and reuse of ancient buildings, how their purposes and architectural styles changed and how difficult this makes defining findings of modern excavations.

The "Tomb of Samuel"

Panorama from Ramat Rahel

Ruins at Ramat Rahel
More ruins at Ramat Rahel

View from Haas Promenade

Just so everyone doesn't think that ALL I'm doing is studying, I promise I am going out, having fun and bonding with my classmates.  

Here is a shot from Karaoke night last Thursday!  You can tell we all got some sun of the trip that day! (Left to right: Lily, Brenner, Ross, Me, Jade and Tamara is in the middle)

A decent amount of the HUC YII 5774 class at Kabbalat Services at Nava Tehila (A Very cool Collaborative Music Shabbat experience)

A bunch of us went out for brunch after Shabbos services yesterday!!

For all who are reading friends and family of the JETs as well as any strangers who might stumble upon this blog and find our adventures intriguing, please feel free to comment with questions or insight, and I will try to respond to these in my next entry.  All comments should be enabled for our blog!

I look forward to hearing from you all!

D'rishat Shalom,


We're alive and well!

Hi from Tamara! The JET house is doing splendidly, but we have been crazy busy. Here's a quick recap:

Last week was our orientation week, which consisted of lectures, ice breakers, services, placement tests, tours, and the occasional nap. It was a whirlwind week, but overall it was an amazing way to get acclimated to Israel and to HUC. We also had the opportunity to meet as a cantorial class for the first time and talk specifically about some of the expectations and challenges we face in our program. I think I can speak for the three of us when I say that we are all feeling very lucky and absolutely thrilled to be starting our cantorial journey with such wonderful, supportive classmates.

The Cantorial class of 2018! Also pictured: our Cantillation teacher, Cantor Tamar Havilio, and Cantors Jeff Klepper and Benjie Ellen Schiller who honored us with their presence at our class meeting!

Summer semester classes officially began this past Sunday, which has presented us with another full schedule and an ever-increasing workload. So far, we have attended Hebrew Ulpan, Music Theory, and Cantillation class. Tomorrow, we will have our first Biblical History class. Speaking for myself, it is really wonderful to finally be studying topics that I am passionate about and that have direct relevance to my life and my pursuits. Even though the work is hard, it's worth it.

If you were a fly on the wall of the apartment today, you would have heard a whole lot of singing. The three of us were practicing Cantillation today; Liz was in her room at one end of the apartment, I was in my room at the other end of the apartment, and Jacob went out onto the balcony! It's really starting to feel cantorial around here, and I am loving every minute! 

Anyway -- I'm off to do some homework. More updates coming soon!

Mini-Update: Life Changing Moments - Blog within a Blog

This morning Tamara and I, along with 20 of our classmates and 350 other women (and many men) got up at 5am to participate in one of the most incredible experiences/ peaceful protests: Praying with the Women of the Wall.

It will take a while for Tamara and I to collect our thoughts on this eye-opening experience but I thought I would post the link to the LIVE BLOG that covered the whole morning so that our readers can have an understanding of what happened before our philosophical and emotional blog posts appear.  I would also like to stress that not only are Tamara and I OK, we are exhilarated and excited to be a part of this movement.


Shabbat Shalom!

Hi from Tamara! This is my first (long overdue) post on the apartment blog, and I have to update you all on the amazing experience we pulled off last night.

For our first Shabbat in Israel, we decided to host tefilah (prayer services) and a potluck dinner at our apartment. We made a baked lemon chicken dish for the main course, which turned out surprisingly good considering that neither myself, Liz, nor Jacob are veterans in the kitchen! Shabbat prep involved a lot of cooking, errand-running, and cleaning, not to mention service planning. For those who didn't want or have time to go to synagogue, we decided to have services in our living room about an hour before dinner. We made an outline using Mishkan Tefilah and Shireinu, and rehearsed all the melodies and harmonies beforehand. We had about 10 people at the start of the service, and more shuffled in over the course of the hour. It was a really fun cantorial collaboration, and we all had huge grins on our faces throughout the entire service! 

We also invited our friend Ben to deliver a drash, which morphed into a really interesting discussion about some of the pertinent issues we face as Jewish professionals when we move to and join new communities. In the past, I have only participated in these types of discussions in a more formal, structured setting like a classroom or workshop. It blows my mind that we can have these conversations sitting in a circle in my living room, and that we are all so committed to continuing the discourse throughout the year.

The entire night was perfect, with the exception of our grumpy (and mildly terrifying) downstairs neighbor screaming at us in Hebrew as people were leaving at the end of the night. Even that didn't ruin such a wonderful Shabbat. We started and ended the night with guitars and singing, and spent the night surrounded by great food and even better friends. I woke up this morning and despite the pile of dishes in the sink, my cheeks were sore from smiling. 

Shabbat Shalom l'kulam! I can't wait to update with more of our Israel adventures in the next few days.

Where is the Bubbe Cart?!

Hello hello!

It is incredible how fast time has seemed to speed past.  It's already day four in Israel for Tamara and I. Jacob arrived yesterday, so I can safely call this his third day.

Our apartment is gorgeous. Renting an apartment from overseas, without having ever seen it, was incredibly nerve-wracking. It was a huge relief to walk in and see a huge, brightly lit common room and kitchen, newly redone bathroom and small but very clean bedrooms.

It has been such a joy getting acclimated to this new and wonderful city, meeting my new classmates and finally seeing the campus I will be where I will be studying for the next year.  On Tuesday Tamara and I took our first official walk to the our school's, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion Jerusalem Campus.  It is awe inspiring to visit such a important institute of learning, I can not wait to begin study. Pictures to come eventually.

We took the official tour of campus with Jacob on Wednesday!  The place is a MAZE but it is beautiful, neither Jacob, Tamara  or myself remember much the information given to us on the tour.... Hopefully it will not take long to learn to navigate once we begin studying! 

Yesterday was full of adventures, most notably a journey to the Shuk (The giant outdoor market here in ירושלים) and walking all over Jerusalem in search of bedding - we were finally successful in our search! 
While we walked all over Jerusalem, we dragged behind us, our loyal "Bubbe Cart," which we use to carry groceries back to our house from the store or the Shuk. We almost forgot the cart several times but eventually we all made it home together.

Our loyal Bubbe Cart! <3

I am loving living here.  I could not ask for better housemates than Tamara and Jacob who are not only wonderful people, but my very good friends. As Shabbat approaches and I reflect on the crazy week that has passed, I can only say that I am truly blessed. 

Speaking of Shabbat, I am excited to celebrate my first Shabbat of my  here! The JETs have decided to host and are expecting 15 or so of our classmates tomorrow!  Time to clean and cook!


New friends and commiserating over our jet lag

So, the day before yesterday, we met a new friend, Ben, who had only just arrived after having had a 23 hour layover in Paris. Needless to say, we were please to hear he had gotten back to his apartment safely that night, as you can see in the following picture we sent to him upon hearing so:

I'm alive

So, for anyone who may have been concerned, or even just mildly interested, I arrived in Israel safely on Tuesday, and have since been settling into the apartment here in Jerusalem. Everything's going pretty well so far, and I'm super looking forward to orientation on Monday (and, more imminently, the Shabbat dinner my room mates and I are hosting tonight).