Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Facing Your Fears (A Guest Post by Richard Stayman)

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Relationships

Last month, I went to Israel. It was the first country I’ve visited outside the U.S. For the week leading up to the trip, I was incredibly nervous. Not only was it right around the time when the current conflict got heated, but I was also scared about other people on the trip not liking me — a feeling I haven’t experienced in years.

As an adult, I’m usually not self-conscious, but for some reason I was falling back into old habits from childhood. I went on the trip with my best friend, which oddly enough made me even more nervous. When I finally arrived in Israel, I had to face my fear of meeting 40 new people, and when I did, I became instant friends with everyone.

This experience led me to discover that if you and the person/people you’re meeting are all Jewish, you never have to worry about making friends. No matter how strong your social skills, it is significantly easier to make friends with a group of Jews than any other situation. Why? Because we all share that common bond of being in the minority, and being Jews. No matter your observance, if you are comfortable with yourself as a Jew, you can be comfortable with any other Jewish person you encounter.

So next time you find yourself nervous at a Jewish event, just remember: you are all from the same people, and already share a common bond. Start with that and see where it goes!

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Looking Up

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

As I started to write this post, I began by doing a “control-f” across the word document where I keep my blog entries. I was searching for the phrase “negativity” and it came up with zero results. I was pleased to see I’d never used it… until now.

This would be an easy week for me to be somewhat negative. I’m out of a job at the moment, I don’t know what my apartment situation is for the next month, and life just seems to be coming at me quickly. Add in Robin Williams’ death and the growing crisis in the Middle East, plus our rainy weather in the northeast this week, and life can seem pretty daunting.

That being said, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve found what I was looking for in New York: an amazing girlfriend, a job I loved throughout the summer (and hope to be going back to once a position is ready), and a great life in the city where I’ve always wanted to live. It’s so easy to get swept up in the details, or to worry about the little things, but I have two beliefs that keep me from worrying:

  1. One is my belief that with enough action and little enough worry, things tend to work themselves out. For example, I applied to two hundred different companies in New York. After three months, the very first company I applied to wrote me and I received the interview invitation after my favorite “no-worry-time-Shabbat.” Life definitely warrants concerning yourself over things, but action without panic has been an approach that has helped me breathe easier.
  2. The second trick to my happiness (which is not always constant, don’t get me wrong) is having a vision of the future that keeps me secure. I’ve become very close with my girlfriend in terms of how often we see each other, and it worried me a bit that we’ll be spending a good chunk of the next two weeks apart, but it helps me to think about reuniting in two weeks and how happy I’ll be then. An eye on the future, without losing your enjoyment of the present, is very important.

Sometimes it can all look rough. And I may even be writing this to avoid more job application work from a Dunkin’ Donuts window seat. But, you never know what’s going to happen next — and that’s the beautiful thing about life. So good luck this week, I hope your dating life surprises you!


How Do You Feel About Israel?

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Israel,Relationships

If you’re going on first dates right now it’s probable that the war on and in Israel will become a topic of conversation. If you’re passionate about Israel then it may come up — even when there’s not a war going on — or if you’re passionate about another major current event then you can use that as a measuring tool as well. Finding out how someone feels about what’s going on in Israel, and around the world, will likely have an effect on how you feel about your date.

Let’s assume you’re a devout supporter of Israel’s right to defend herself:

If your date doesn’t have much of a clue aside from some headlines while they scroll through their Facebook feed or watch TV, then you may be turned off by the lack of interest in a topic that effects all of us.

If they are knowledgeable but don’t spend time advocating for Israel, then that may be acceptable to you.

If they are sharing articles, attending pro-Israel rallies, and losing sleep after watching the news then you may feel a deeper connection.

If your date thinks Israel is at fault, and denies Hamas’ use of civilian shields, and tweets FreeGaza, and so on, then this person is very, very likely not for you.

You can gage a lot about a person by how involved they are politically, and make some valid assumptions, and then decide for yourself if this is the type of person you want to be with in a romantic relationship. That said, don’t spend your entire first date debating anything political, that’s less than romantic. Simply stating that you’re stressed about what’s going on in Israel right now and listening to their response, should be enough of a telltale sign. Then carry on as you see fit.


If and When (Can Change)

by Haley Plotnik under Israel,Judaism,News

One of the many reasons I often feel like I’m not “Jewish enough” is that I haven’t been to Israel before. I was thinking about going some time in the next year if the opportunity presented itself. It likely would, but I don’t trust my luck. I have always had a sinking feeling that I would be in the one group where things go massively awry.

Right now, a lot of us have friends and loved ones in Israel. Most of the time, I do not really worry about their safety or well-being. So many American college students have an overwhelmingly positive experience in Israel, and many people in Israel probably live in safer conditions than parts the US.

Right now, however, I feel a bit uneasy. I know I would not feel comfortable going to Israel at present. But I feel as though I might be giving up an opportunity that I can’t get back. If I say “not this year” for too many more years, the programs won’t be available to me anymore.

I have to remind myself continually that stepping onto Israel’s soil doesn’t make me a Jew. I am a Jew regardless. Perhaps I feel that missing out on Israel is like missing out on Jewish sleep away camps all over again.


The Three Weeks

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Single Life

As I write this entry, I’m certain it will not come out grammatically correct, maybe not even as rational thoughts. Normally that’s not an issue as I write, but today it kind of is. The reason is that today, I am hungry.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start playing sad music and show you starving kids in Africa, nor will I go on about food stamps. Instead, I am writing about a different cause of hunger: two fasts that begin and end the period in Jewish life known as “The Three Weeks.”

The Three Weeks always scare me. They started on Tuesday, July 15 (The 17th of Tammuz) and end on the evening of August 5th (The 9th of Av). These are three weeks that were very difficult for the ancient Jews (yes, even by Jewish standards these weeks weren’t easy). Some people don’t listen to music or get haircuts during this time of year.

For me, these weeks are always scary. I worry I’ll lose a job, a girl I’m dating, or worse. My brother returns from Israel in two days, but obviously having him there as I write this scares me as well. While I won’t get too much into it, the situation in Israel during this time of year is an obvious reason for worry right now.

But worry would defeat the purpose of these weeks, in my opinion. The Shabbat service I went to last Saturday discussed the reasoning for studying the rituals of the temple during these three weeks — not to mourn their destructions (both took place during this three-week span), but to hope for the days when we go back to the temple and have to use those rituals again.

Life is gonna kick you in the face sometimes, that’s how it goes. As a new guy in New York, it’s literally happened to me once or twice. But you can’t let it sway how you live. That means if someone turns you down on a dating site, don’t go on and on about it if you meet that person in real life. Don’t whine to others about how you’re always single.

What people really want is someone who will keep them upbeat. At any given moment, we are all just one or two complaints from a total kvetch-fest with the right crowd. Who doesn’t like to complain? But in this three-week period, I encourage you to make the choice to say nice things, to learn about the positive things around you. Destruction will always happen, we may lose the temple, but one day it will stop, and maybe the temple won’t be rebuilt tomorrow, but maybe we can make each other a little happier in the meantime. Have a safe and happy three weeks everyone — and if you’re fasting, may your fasts be easy as well.


JNF/JDate Singles Trip to Israel – Day 4

by Mark Feuer under Israel,JDate,Judaism,Single Life

New JBlogger Mark Feuer is joining several Jewish singles on an unforgettable singles trip to Israel! Mark will be sharing all about the sights, sounds, flavors and spirit of Israel on his unique and unforgettable journey! Here’s a little snippet from day 4:

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Off to the Golan!

After grabbing a quick breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. We were on our way to Golan Heights for a jeep ride. First we stopped by Metzudut (Fortress) Koah. We were within eyesight of the Lebanese/Israeli border and the contrast between the lush green Israeli side versus the barren Lebanese side was amazing.

The Lebanese/Israeli border

The Lebanese/Israeli border

Hula Valley Overlook

Hula Valley Overlook

On the way we met up with a group of single Nefesh b’ Nefesh Olim who would join us for the day and give us their perspectives and stories as new immigrants to Israel. Nefesh b’ Nefesh aids immigrants from North America with their transition to life in Israel and helps them cut red tape in getting benefits as well as help with integration into Israeli society.

Group meet-up

Group meet-up

We also did a bit of off-roading on the Golan Heights, overlooking the Syrian border:

JeepJeeps

Group shot on a tank left from the 1973 Yom Kippur War

Group shot on a tank left from the 1973 Yom Kippur War

Off to Another Winery!

From the Golan border to lunch and wine tasting at the Ramat Golan Winery. This winery produces over 6 million bottles of wine a year.

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Onward to Safed!

We went on to go to Safed and went to a workspace used by Marc Chagall, which is now home to works of art by 82 different artists.

Chagall workspace

Chagall workspace

Lastly, we had a chance to do some shopping! It was a long day and I was glad to get to our new hotel at the Nof Ginosaur Hotel. Tomorrow we go to Jerusalem and I cannot wait as it is one of my favorite places in the world.


JNF/JDate Singles Trip to Israel – Day 3

by Mark Feuer under Israel,JDate,Judaism,Single Life

New JBlogger Mark Feuer is joining several Jewish singles on an unforgettable singles trip to Israel! Mark will be sharing all about the sights, sounds, flavors and spirit of Israel on his unique and unforgettable journey! Here’s a little snippet from day 3:

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Day 2

The day began with getting up and using the gym at the facilities at the Dan Carmel Haifa Hotel. I really have to say, JNF/JDate set us up at a great hotel.

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View from overlook near the hotel

After a quick shower and change, I met the rest of my tripmates for breakfast, which was typical Israeli fare. We spent the meal discussing the previous day’s events. We were glad that we had not heard a single Red Alert since the tour started. We were very lucky in that regard, but we know that our tour leadership would not knowingly put us in any danger.

Group Pic

Group photo

First Stop – Atlit Displaced Persons Camp – South of Haifa

Today we visited what was once a displaced persons camp where the British detained Jewish people trying to enter the land of Israel while it was under the British Mandate in the 1930′s and 1940′s. We went through the processing center, the barracks, and a replica of the type of ship used to transport Jewish people into the land. It was a powerful experience.

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Sleeping area at Atlit Displaced Persons Camp

Second Stop – En Nof Artists Colony

The next stop was the En Nof Artist Colony. We met with several artists, saw some beautiful artwork, and enjoyed some homemade ice cream to help cool down in the heat!

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Some of the great artwork we saw

Third Stop – Tishbi Winery

After the Artists Colony we were off to the Tishbi Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. Lunch was simply fantastic. Just when we thought that they were done serving us they kept bringing more and more food. Gnocchi, Ravioli, Pizza, Salads of all types and the wine kept flowing too. They took us on a tour of the winery after lunch.

Wine and chocolate tasting

Wine and chocolate tasting

Last Stop: Baha’i Gardens

We were heading back to the hotel but one last stop, literally behind our hotel was the Baha’i Gardens.

Baha'i Gardens

Baha’i Gardens

Bastille Day!

Today was Bastille Day, so there was a great block party down in the German Colony. Everyone there was having a great time, with live music and drinking. Security was high, but non-obtrusive. It was exactly the thing people needed to decompress from the tensions of the past week. The conflict of the past week was on everyone’s minds and this was a great way to blow off steam. When people found out that we came from the states they were always very appreciative for our support in coming.

Bastille Day Block Party

Bastille Day Block Party


JNF/JDate Singles Trip to Israel – Day 1 & 2

by Mark Feuer under Israel,JDate,Judaism,Single Life

New JBlogger Mark Feuer is joining several Jewish singles on an unforgettable singles trip to Israel! Mark will be sharing all about the sights, sounds, flavors and spirit of Israel on his unique and unforgettable journey!

Mark grew up in Southern Florida, went to school in Massachusetts, and was recruited by a cruise line where he worked around the world for a few years before he co-founded a tech company, ForensiS, of which he is still a managing partner. This is not Mark’s first trip to Israel, but he looks forward to sharing new experiences in the homeland with other JNF/JDate participants. Here’s a little snippet from day 1 & 2:

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7/12/2014 12:26pm EDT
I am sitting here in the crown room in Fort Lauderdale, anxiously awaiting my flight to start this amazing trip to Israel. I will be meeting up at JFK with several other tour members and we will begin our trek with JDate and JNF. I have been to Israel before, but with everything that is going on there, this trip has a new meaning for me, to stand with Israel , it’s people, as well as JNF.

7/12/2014 6:15pm EDT
I met up with one of my tripmates after landing in JFK and we had some drinks and dinner while waiting for the others to arrive.

7/13/2014
Our Flight was delayed due to a medical emergency, but the four of us on our flight have made it into Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Our driver was ready to meet us at the baggage claim and ready to spirit us off to Haifa to meet the rest of our group.

Our Hotel, the Dan Carmel was beautiful and they had dinner waiting for us along with the rest of our group. After dinner a bunch of us, including our JNF group leaders, Stephen and Jason, went out to a bar to find some place to watch the World Cup Championship. It was a great night and I am excited to see what is in store for us tomorrow.

JNF/JDate Singles Trip to Israel, Day 1

JNF/JDate Singles Trip to Israel, Day 1


Dating & Politics

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Israel,News,Relationships,Single Life

In light of the attack on Israel, and all the conversations and debates going on, it seems as good a time as any to discuss how to deal with politics when you’re dating.

This is not typically a first-date topic, but skimming the surface is important if politics is one of your passions. Knowing if your date shares your stance on domestic and international issues can be imperative in deciding if there should be a second date. Getting into a full-on debate over dinner on your first date, however, is not a good idea. Having a healthy disagreement on a fourth date is awesome though as it will reveal your date’s views on current events, their level of interest in current events, and how well they listen and respect your opinion.

Obviously if you are a pro-Israel advocate, and your date is a Palestinian sympathizer, then you may have difficulties. Same goes for a staunch left-wing, card-carrying member of the NRA and a super-liberal, anti-corporation socialist. Probably won’t work. But never say never. Respect goes a long way!


The Plight of Monica Lewinsky

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

Listening to the radio this last week, I was surprised to hear a name being talked about that I hadn’t heard in a long time. That name, as the title spoils, was Monica Lewinsky. Without me even writing anything else about the story, I’m sure you already know what they talked about.

And that’s the big problem: poor Monica Lewinsky can’t escape her stupid scandal no matter how hard she tries. The story talked about how she can’t get jobs, she can’t date easily, and, in general, any mention of her name (as demonstrated above) draws an instant connotation. In short, Monica Lewinsky, now age 40, seems doomed as long as she carries her name.

The easy answer, I suppose, is to change her name. It’s not like people would recognize her on the regular all these years later. Although she may illicit a familiar vibe just by seeing her. She could just become that woman who reminds people of… Monica Lewinsky.

You’re probably thinking, “this is the weirdest dating-related blog ever — who cares about Monica Lewinsky?” Well, for one, I feel bad for the poor lady. Heck, she may even be on JDate with us! But more than that, I feel like her story is a great hyperbole for how stuck we are in ourselves, and an awesome inspiration for how we can endure our reputations.

Reinvention is something a good number of us aim for regularly, especially those of us in our twenties and thirties. Reinvention is easier said than done, however. “A tiger doesn’t change it’s stripes!” people will tell you, and then we settle into our old ways. We can change our habits one by one and slowly change, but more than that, we can choose to change.

While eating hamburgers together, one of my rabbis and I talked about changing when we moved. I was expressing excitement at who I would begin life in New York as, he talked about when he first moved to Israel. What I really enjoyed about his story was his take on the month of Adar. He said before he went to Israel, he thought dancing around and being joyous during services for a month was bogus, and it drove him crazy he couldn’t get into it. When he got to Israel, he realized no one knew him as the guy who hated Adar, and he suddenly became very excited to celebrate the entire month. He set himself to be the guy who loves Adar, and it happened.

You don’t have to move to change, however. Sure, it’s definitely easier, but sometimes it can be as simple as just choosing internally to do something. My rabbi could just as easily have decided to be happy at home during Adar, and maybe people would have been surprised, but it would have quickly become normal.

So why Monica Lewinsky? More than anything, I wanted to make a point, and the rabbi story solidifies it. We get so wrapped up in who everyone thinks we are. We think everyone associates us with a certain story, a certain trait, a certain something we don’t control. Maybe Monica Lewinsky has a lot of publicity to deal with, but chances are your reputation is much less widespread than that. You can be anyone you want; all you have to do is choose that it’s what you want. Maybe it’s being the happy guy, or just the girl in the blue dress, but either way, only you get to choose.