Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

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:

_____________________________________________________________________________

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:

_______________________________________________________________________________________

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.

Pic1

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.

Pic2

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!

Pic3

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:

_______________________________________________________________________________________

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.


Play Date

by Aaron under Date Night,Entertainment,Judaism,Single Life

When I was little (okay, sixteen), nothing was cooler to me than action figures. I would manipulate Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into teaming up with Spider-Man and Wolverine to take on the evil likes of Magneto and other villains. It gave me such a feeling of joy to sit and play with my toys and create new stories.

As the years went on, I started to grow out of my toys and into dating. As an adult, dating became one of my favorite pastimes. However, while Shredder and Spider-Man have yet to show up on any date I’ve been on, one of my favorite traits about the dates I’ve been on has been the imagination and effort put into them. Sometimes I’m the one with a brilliant idea, or sometimes the girl comes up with something fun, and sometimes it’s a combination of the two.

Regardless of who takes credit, it’s always fun to do something different. I always wanted to explore Dallas more before I left, but even my last dates there were still very basic: bowling, dinners, etc. I explored things on my own, such as two-stepping and indie concerts, but never had such fun dates.

And yet, when I was away, I became a master of fun dates. I guess it started with a date in Arkansas that stretched all the way to Memphis, but since moving to New York I’ve discovered the beauty of exploring a city with fresh eyes. Some people might groan at the touristy things to do in a city, but sometimes tourists go places for a reason. Though Times Square would still mostly be a no-no in my eyes, there are a lot of great options in the Big Apple and elsewhere.

My dates have been as simple as a Shabbat walk in Central Park or watching the sun set on the Hudson, or extravagant as trips to Coney Island and the Empire State Building. Being in New York has allowed me to see things with a fresh eye and excitement, and I think that fresh way of thinking has really enhanced the dates I’ve been on recently.

We all want to see the world from fresh eyes and be whisked away on an adventure, and you don’t have to be new to a city to do it. Try to take some time to go to that touristy place around you where no locals ever go — from Graceland to the Fort Worth Stockyards to the World of Coke to the Sears Tower. Sometimes things can be pricey, but they can also provide a new adventure, and definitely something different (and also probably more worth paying for than a dinner date). I don’t see myself playing with action figures any time soon, but in a sense the world is the greatest play set I’ve ever had, and I love trying new combinations of characters and places in it.


New Experiment

by Haley Plotnik under Date Night,Judaism,Relationships

In the last year, I’ve learned a lot about modesty in Orthodox Judaism. While I don’t follow it, I am finding that I like a lot of the principles behind it. About a month ago, I started covering my body more on a first dates.

Why, you ask? Dating is supposed to be fun, maybe a little bit flirty if you feel chemistry. But first dates in the long run are also about looking for a life partner. I evaluate men based on character, manners, values, and other traits that typically require having an engaging conversation.

Looking presentable and being hygienic are important in that they show effort, but they’re not everything. “Presentable” for women, especially in the summer, doesn’t have to mean “mostly naked.” I am generally more comfortable in my skin when it’s not all on display.

With this in mind, I’ve begun a new experiment. I try to look fashionable, but without showing my thighs, knees, shoulders, or any cleavage. Some guys are more receptive to this than others, but I think it’s become an easier way to dodge a bullet. If a guy seems bored or distracted by me, or he checks out scantily clad women while on a date with me, I can cut my losses and move on. I’ve been in situations before where I was keenly aware that a guy was only interested in me in a physical way. While it can be flattering, it’s not good for my self-esteem in the long-term. I like to be appreciated for my internal qualities, which can easily be overlooked on first dates.

I don’t have any data to prove it, but I think I now get more compliments related to qualities other than my looks on dates. I found them to be a rarity prior to my experiment. I’m also finding it easier to connect with people on a more personal level, and I think I’m going to stick to my new plan indefinitely.


Ease of Life

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism

M’shana makom, m’shana mazel — this is the phrase people kept repeating to me as I decided between Dallas and New York. The phrase means change your place and change your fortunes. I was doing fine in Dallas, but I can tell you New York is a different world entirely, and I love it. There are more Jews to date here, more things to do on Shabbat (the Great Lawn in Central Park and touring the Upper West Side’s Kiddushes with my roommate have become my favorite activities each week), and best of all, more places to enjoy Kosher dining.

Jewish life in New York, to put it simply, is really easy. I tell my company it’s Shabbat on Friday nights and I get to be out in time every week. People on my block in Harlem know how to properly get a mezuzah affixed on a doorway. There’s a kosher section in my grocery store in an area where there are few Jews. And even in this (Jewishly) remote area of town (The middle of 150th street, where the nearest synagogue is a 30-minute walk), even the far walks of one hour to synagogues with numerous young people is closer than the two or so hours it would take me to walk to any shul in Dallas from my house (not to mention how easy it is to walk here).

It makes me wonder though — is life more meaningful when it’s difficult? Wasn’t there more meaning to the fact that in Dallas I was still attempting to keep Kosher, I still kept Shabbat every week (although by staying at different homes every week), and I still only dated Jewish despite a small dating pool? Life was definitely not tough, luckily, but there were some strange challenges. People thought I was nuts when I told them I dated long-distance to have a bigger dating pool, and the first time I told a group I’d not be able to meet during Shabbat got some weird reactions. Did my continued efforts despite people’s lack of understanding mean anything more came out of it?

In some ways, yes. I gained a great deal of confidence by standing up for my decisions that a lot of people didn’t understand, and my efforts in keeping Kosher, keeping Shabbat, and dating Jewish, no matter what it took, led me to great places that have made living in New York more exciting and meaningful than if I’d just waited to do those things here. But to call New York “easy” is still relative — the truth is, those things are still difficult here. Sure, there are 2 million Jews, but 10 million people overall here, it’d be much easier to date a non-Jew. There are tons of Kosher restaurants, but there are also hundreds more non-Kosher restaurants, many with great smells and sights in their windows. It’s not a rare occurrence for me to drool over the smell of Subway or the sight of a chicken and cheese sandwich. And while Shabbat is easy because of the number of people in my life who keep it, there are definitely moments where I don’t want to take a walk or read a book and instead just pop open my laptop to goof around.

Judaism, and life in general, is full of challenges and tests. Some are easier than others. But just because things are made easier doesn’t make them any less of tests, and any less special when we stick to our guns. I felt guilty when I got here and it seemed like everything was so much easier, I thought life needed to be more difficult. But I think it’s just become relatively easier, and new challenges have started to show — prepping my own home for Shabbat every week or finding the budget to keep kosher. The only bad thing, really, would be for me not to keep pushing myself to grow and find new challenges around me. Whether it’s Judaism for you, or a new place, or whatever the thing in your life, don’t hesitate to try and make it easier. New York has been a great experience, and even better, I’m sure it will bring me many more challenging experiences to help me grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible when the now-easy parts of my life were difficult.


Picking Wrong

by Haley Plotnik under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

Two years ago, when I was at one of the lowest points in my entire life, I started a relationship with a man I’ll call “Ted.” Ted was a good guy in a lot of ways, but he also had a dark side. He wouldn’t ever let me see him in his darkest state. The longer we were together, the more I was scared to break up with him for fear that he wouldn’t be able to handle it. After 9 months together, he told me that he didn’t think we’d last for the long-term. So I said, “Fine. Let’s break up.” I was so relieved he’d been the instigator, even if I swung the axe. Two weeks later, he begged me to take him back, but I couldn’t. As he wallowed in his poor choices, I started feeling more confident in my choices than I’d felt in a long time.

I am historically bad at picking suitable guys to date. About a month after Ted and I broke up, I decided to get a little help picking out men from the peanut gallery. I let people set me up left and right. Most of the time I would rule out guys after the first date for one reason or another, but every now and then, I’d find someone who seemed like a potential keeper. Right when I would start to doubt the new relationship, Ted would contact me. It was like he had a super power. I’d feel guilty, and then I’d shoot my budding relationship in the foot.

I made myself a promise when I broke up with Ted that I would only date someone with better qualifications. I wanted someone who stood head and shoulders above the previous guys I’ve dated, not a repeat of the same old thing.

Fast forward to now: Ted and I have been broken up for 15th months. I’ve dated quite a few guys, only to land on the conclusion that I’ve been somewhat wrong. I fundamentally believe I deserve better treatment than I’ve had in the past. However, the traits I’ve associated with such treatment are totally oversimplified. I guess I thought that dating Jewish would help alleviate some of the alienation I’ve experienced in past relationships. It really hasn’t. I feel more alienated at times, just in ways I’d hadn’t anticipated. I date Jews and non-Jews at current. With Jews I don’t have to subtly screen for anti-Semitism, but I’m not willing to bet all of my chips on Jews just yet either; limiting my opportunities to find happiness with <1% of the US population of males feels about as risky as placing a $5,000 blind bet on a poker hand. What do you think? Am I playing the odds… or I am playing it too safe?