Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

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.


Freedom of Religion

by Tamar Caspi under JDate,Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

No, this isn’t going to be a political post, don’t worry.

My friend has been dating a guy she met on JDate for a few months now. His profile stated that he is a Conservative Jew. She leans more towards the “Reform/Traditional” stream, but isn’t opposed to dating someone who is a bit more “Jew-ish” as she is understanding, respectful and has an open mind. Until this guy who – since they began dating – started keeping Shabbat, walking to an orthodox temple on Saturday mornings, turning off his phone, and keeping kosher both in and out of the home. Clearly he is becoming more religious, but he is also continuing to date someone who is on the other side of the spectrum.

I’ve often met couples where one was already more observant than the other — they came together knowingly — and they chose to either become more observant or less so as a couple. But to suddenly become more observant while in the relationship is a different situation. My friend is just sitting idly by as her boyfriend becomes more and more religious. What is she to do? Nothing yet, if she likes him, except wait and see what happens. This could be an experimental phase, or he could go all the way frum. In doing so, he risks losing her, but he needs to follow his spiritual heart and not sacrifice being the Jew he wants to be because of a woman he’s been dating a few months.


Call Me

by Aaron under JDate,Judaism,Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

Initially, the last car wreck I was in seemed awful (no one was hurt, just my car). It was an accident, obviously, but I felt terrible. It was completely my fault and I had to get my car repaired using money I was saving at the time for grad school. My rental car, required while I had my car repaired, made me feel slightly better about the accident — it was a sleek version of my car, but newer and full of little perks like Bluetooth connectivity.

As I drove home on my first Shabbat with that rental car, I wanted to try every feature (yep, playing around while driving — probably why I wrecked my car in the first place). Specifically, that Bluetooth was fun, and I used it to start making calls. It was Friday afternoon and I had to drive home from Wylie, Texas back to my little town of Plano, a 45-minute commute on a good day, but an hour or more on this Friday afternoon. It started, as it now does every week, with a call to my Zeyde, who at the time was an hour ahead of me in Miami. Then my grandparents, and then a friend or two… I just went on and on, calling friends and seeing how their week’s went, even if it’d been a while since we kept in touch.

The list changes frequently; I’ll forget someone or substitute someone in that I haven’t seen in a while for someone I just saw. In the age of texting, Facebook, and email, I was connecting to friends at a larger scale than ever had before. My network didn’t lose touch with me as easily (relegated to liking goofy Facebook posts occasionally); if I had their number, they got a call.

Nowadays in New York, my roommates know Friday afternoons before Shabbat are for calls. They’re a little different now though. I call my mom, my dad and my brother, in addition to all of those old friends and family I don’t see as often. I call friends from home and friends in New York, keeping some friendships stable and growing others.

But most helpful was the way it grew my relationship with my current girlfriend. I always worry about keeping a relationship in this age of texting. We have to be on our game so often early on in relationships (i.e. Am I saying the right thing? Did I wait long enough? etc.) But Shabbos calls were different. My girlfriend and I still do it every week, she’s usually my last call before my phone goes off for Shabbat, and we typically finalize our Shabbat plans together.

The habit is very much so in the spirit of Shabbat: just a simple call saying you’re thinking of someone. For me it was Friday afternoons, but whatever you do, using the phone is a great way to build relationships, platonic or romantic, and I think you’ll be surprised by how grateful people are for that little call.


150 Seder Tables Ago

by Haley Plotnik under Judaism,Single Life

On Sunday, I went to my first event for Jewish young professionals. It was through a program in the Chicago area, and we went to the Oriental Institute at UChicago. I highly recommend seeing it if you like art history or archaeology. During the tour, something that came up struck a chord with me.

The tour guide referred back to an event that happened about 3,000 years ago.  “That was 120-150 Seder tables ago,” she said. It made me realize that all of the rich Jewish history that has been passed down for generations hangs gently in the balance. My grandparents and parents wouldn’t have dreamed of marrying outside the faith. But nowadays, a lot of people I know don’t really care whether they preserve the Jewish culture or religion.

Do we owe it to our father’s mother’s father’s father’s father’s mother to keep the tradition alive? I feel like I do. Family is about more than the individual, and Judaism is too. During my formative years, I was heavily immersed in Judaism. I started my education at a Jewish pre-school. Before I could read, I could recite the five books of Moses.

I recently went on a few dates with a guy who was very Jew-friendly, but not Jewish. He said he wanted to raise children without any religion. The museum and discontinuing dating this guy made me realize that I feel compelled to pass on the tradition. I can’t see raising kids without a Seder table. Being Jewish not only enriched me, but it gave me strength as a child and continues to do so in my adulthood. I think I owe it to my ancestors, and my children, to pass it on.


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.

WineryWinery2

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


Living in the Minority

by Haley Plotnik under Judaism

The other day, I met someone who had never met a Jew before. I would have been happy to tell them more about Judaism, but I didn’t get the sense that they were interested. Finally, they said, “You know what would make this night even more fun? If every time you said something obnoxiously Jewish, I took a shot.”

I thought about speaking with Yiddish accent words all night, but then I figured it wouldn’t be of any help. Sometimes people are ignorant. I know that this is not the first or last time I will be targeted for being “obnoxiously Jewish.” I didn’t even think I used that many Jew-isms looking back on it. I maybe said an “oy vey” or the like.

I go to a college that is very Jew-friendly. We are one of the largest minority groups on campus. I sometimes forget that when I leave the safe haven of my college that it may be in my best interests to tone it down. I spent my entire childhood toning it down though. I would like to live in a world where I won’t be called out for an “oy” here or a “gevalt” there.


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


Breaking In

by Aaron under Judaism,Single Life

I recently wrote a piece on man-dating. Much of that post was about how to handle going out and reaching out to friends of friends or old friends, but one thing I didn’t cover was how to go about making friends any time you go out. I’ve covered it a little bit in the past, but with the new perspective of actually being new to a city and going through this challenge recently, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in a month of living in New York.

For me, the challenge started when I went to a very popular young professional shul here. I had no idea where to start, aside from the one or two people I knew, and I found myself, for the first time in years, unable to work a room. I made a vow to myself to fix that though, so here’s what I did:

  • Don’t act like you know anything about the environment around you… I have a habit that can be both good and bad, and that is my ability to walk into a room and act like I own the place. While it can sometimes be charming, I’m sure it can also come off as arrogant. The greatest mistake I made when moving to New York was acting as if I’d been there forever and understood how things worked.
  • And yet, be observant… I’ve said it plenty on this blog, but observe things around you that make you curious. Ask someone if the crowd is normally this big, ask if they know a lot of the people, if they’re from the area, etc. Make comments about the food (food especially is a good common ground), the service, etc. Shared experiences are a basic building block of relationships, and reminding people through observing things that you’re sharing something helps a lot.
  • Lean on the fact that you’re new… Introduce yourself immediately as a new guy/gal. It makes you immediately vulnerable and gives people a reason to introduce you around. You can be fairly socially inept at first given the guise of being new. This one even works if you’re not new to town — you may just be new to a group, but even that works at breaking down barriers.

I realize none of these are groundbreaking, but they helped me to make friends at synagogue this last weekend, and maybe they can guide you a bit as well.