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Cheshvan: The Allure of the Normal aka A Cure for your Post-Chag Hangover

This Hebrew month has the unfortunate nickname Mar Cheshvan, or bitter Cheshvan.  (The word Mar means bitter). With the holidays behind us, we now face a long stretch of time unbroken by festivals of any kind.  The next holiday won’t come until late November, when we will celebrate Thanskgivakkuh. Without a joyous festival, poor Cheshvan is known as a bitter month. It’s the only Jewish month without a significant feast or fast.


On the one hand, balancing our regular personal and business responsibilities with the slew of chagim each fall can add stress to our lives. Now that stress is over.  On the other hand, knowing that these special days are over can be slightly depressing—we have a whole year to wait before that degree of joyous spiritual intensity will come again.

The beginning of Cheshvan is like a giant Jewish Monday morning.  Do you have the Monday morning blues?  Or did you let out a giant sigh of relief after Simhat Torah? But by now, I feel ready for Cheshvan.  That is to say, I find normality alluring at this point in the calendar.

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Meditation – Do I Need To Say Anymore?

The Rabbis might call Cheshvan “Mar” Cheshvan, but I think it should be called “Thank goodness it’s Cheshvan!” or TGIC.  I have HHF (High Holiday Fatigue) and am using Cheshvan to get myself back on track both physically and spiritually.  On the physical side I’m back on my exercise routine.  It was hard to exercise AND be in shul three mornings a week AND host people in our Sukkah AND work…you get the idea.  Not that all of those things weren’t joyful, they were, but there are ONLY 24 hours in a day so something had to give.

Rabbis talk about the importance of routine for both children and adults.  I must say that the one thing that didn’t give during the holiday season was my meditation practice, and for that I am grateful. Meditation might feel Eastern to you and not Jewish, but that happily is not true.  I am also using the principles of meditation with a Jewish twist to regain my sense of Jewish spirituality, which also took a hit during the High Holidays.  Counter-intuitive I know, but sometimes too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect.

According to Arye Kaplan who has written several books on Meditation and Judaism, meditation was, in his words “central to the prophetic experience.”  Those who have studied the Torah philologically (the study of language of historical sources) believe there are meditative methods referred to in the text.  Arye Kaplan also asserts that over a million Israelites were involved in meditation prior to 400 BCE.

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Jewish American Princess

How has the Jewish American Princess evolved?

“Girls”, the popular bur critically acclaimed HBO series is representing a totally new age for Jewish American Princesses (JAPs). Right from the start, it is obvious that Shoshanna Shapiro is the stereotype Jewish American Princess. As soon as she is on screen, she shows her flawlessly coiffed hair and demonstrates her pink fashionable Haute Couture tracksuit, there no doubt about that identity.

This impression is further strengthened when she admits that her, apparently filthy rich parents, are furnishing the $2,100 per month rent for her stylish Nolita apartment. The HBO show “Girls” has four protagonists and Shoshanna is one of these. Her role really portrays the latest incarnation of the long-running JAP stereotype.

She keeps on complaining that all her outfits are “at least half a year old, has the word “obvi” more often in her mouth than should ever be allowed, and she’s constantly laying around in her oh-so-plush apartment like a spoiled brat. In the first season’s 7th episode, she (accidentally?) mixes up crack and weed when an acquaintance named Ray is pretty much fed up with nothing else to but watching over her. Shoshanna, who is apparently pretty high) and Ray just have met but the guy can already very well tell what kind of spoiled brat she is. You can hear him say “I’m in no way your f*cking daycare, dear JAP,” and you can’t blame him.

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The State of Israel: 1948-1990

1948: The War for Independence

When the British Mandate officially ended on May 14, 1948, the Jews in Israel immediately gratefully and joyously accepted the U.N.’s offer and proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. However, the Arabs living in the land rejected the U.N.’s two-state offer and refused to take their state. Instead, five Arab states – Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq – declared war on Israel and immediately invaded Israel on May 15 with the goal of eliminating it. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was established, and Israel fought for its existence in the War of Independence from May 1948 to July 1949.

Despite being greatly outnumbered, Israel won the war and in 1949 signed armistice agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon (Iraq withdrew its forces without signing an armistice). As a result of the war, the State of Israel now included more territory than it had under the original U.N. partition plan. In particular, Israel included all of present-day Israel minus the West Bank, which was part of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip, which was part of Egypt. Also, Jerusalem was divided under the Israeli and Jordanian rule.

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Recent New Waves of Immigration

In 1989 the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union by 1991 enabled hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to be able to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to Israel. In addition, Israel had been working throughout the late 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s to rescue Ethiopian Jews and bring them to safety in Israel.

1990s: Continual Efforts Towards Peace

Although in the 1991 Gulf War Israel was attacked by Iraqi missiles, the 1990s were, for the most part, a decade of significant steps towards Middle East Peace. In 1991 the Madrid Peace Conference on the Middle East outlined a framework for bilateral peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians and Israel and Syria.

When Yasser Arafat ostensibly renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1993, Israel agreed to negotiate in order to try to live in peace. Even though the terrorism against Israeli citizens continued, in 1993 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin met with PLO leader Yasser Arafat in Washington, D.C. On September 13, 1993, Rabin and Arafat famously shook hands on the White House Lawn as Israel and the PLO, representative of the Palestinian people, signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self Government Arrangements for the Palestinians.

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Education, Technology, Science, and Innovation in Israel

This is a (not complete, by all means…) impression of what Israel is all about when it comes to education, technology, science, security, government, and innovation.

Israeli Education standards and security:

-Israel has the highest relative ratio of university degrees in the world.
-Israel has the largest relative number of startup companies in the world, and the second largest number in absolute terms (after the United States). Most of these are hi-tech companies that improve the lives of people around the world.
-After the U.S. and Holland, Israel has the largest percentage of workers holding university degrees.
-Israel has the world’s third highest rate of entrepreneurship and also the highest among women and individuals aged 55 and up.

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The American bride getting married in Israel

The wedding gown was packed, our suits were in garment bags and all other wedding-related items were jam-packed in our suitcases ready for the wedding. However, we had one stop before the hall — JFK Airport. The American bride, my sister Tzivia, was getting married in Israel.

In January 2016 my sister got engaged to an Israeli who lived with his family on the Upper East Side, eight blocks from our house. As soon as the engagement was announced, the issue of where the wedding would take place was immediately discussed. Problem was only that the guy first had to pass the TASC (former GED) exam, but he did, thanks to the support and practice tests from BestGEDClasses.org, a great online learning platform!

The couple told everyone that they wanted to get married in Israel. At first, it was a shock especially because 90 percent of my family and friends live in America. Nevertheless, everyone agreed after they explained their motivation for wanting to get married in Israel, and all of our problems were solved. Continue reading “The American bride getting married in Israel”

Some More Good Reasons To Visit Israel

Tel Aviv-Yafo

In many ways the New York City of Israel, Tel Aviv is the center of modern Israeli life. From its gorgeous beaches on the Mediterranean Sea to the corporate high-rises that mark the skyline, Tel Aviv is a crucial destination for any trip to Israel.

Tel Aviv, founded by Jews in 1909, was built by the ancient port city of Jaffa (Yafo). Jaffa, one of the oldest ports in the world, is even mentioned in the Bible. Tel Aviv and Jaffa were merged into the same municipality soon after the State of Israel was founded.

A trip to Tel Aviv must include time spent relaxing on the beach or walking on the Tayelet (boardwalk) as well as some time exploring the many clubs and restaurants throughout the city. The city is also home to the Diaspora Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which holds a large collection of Israeli and international art, and the Palmach Museum, which celebrates the historic heroic actions of the Palmach, an elite unit in the pre-state underground defense forces. Finally, Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv is an important and moving plaza that serves as a memorial to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated in 1995, and to the values of peace and unity that he represented.

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A few Good Reasons to Visit Israel

So many places to visit, so many things to do! 

 

The Galilee & Golan Heights

The Sea of Galilee, or the Kinneret, is Israel’s largest body of freshwater and serves as the country’s primary water source. In the surrounding area, the majestic mountains of the Golan Heights provide a beautiful view of the Galilee and northern Israel as well as a strategic outlook over Syria and Lebanon. A hike in the Golan Heights is one of the most exhilarating experiences Israel has to offer. In addition, if you are a skier, Israel prides itself on having not only beautiful beaches but also a wonderful ski resort on Mount Hermon, Israel’s highest mountain.

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Residential Education in Israel

Israel’s residential education system differs from what currently exists in the U.S. Israel’s network of approximately fifty (50) children and youth villages could serve as a model for the U.S. Residential education is far more widely available in Israel than in any other country in the world, and is less expensive than in the U.S.

Israel does not have an elite tuition boarding school system. It does have a system made up of child-centered communities which are not necessarily for “misfits” nor for those from financially advantaged backgrounds, but for “normal” children and youth who have troubles in their home environments.

“Residential education” is the term used in Israel, whereas “residential treatment” or “residential care” are the terms most often used in the U.S. The former represents a more positive view of students, and emphasizes strengths and the future, whereas the latter indicates a more problem-to-be-solved approach.

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