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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

For Americans Who Served with IDF, Service Continues on Campus

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Visit http://israelcampusbeat.org for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.

Many campus Israel groups have brought Israeli soldiers to speak at their schools in recent years because they value the insights and perspectives IDF veterans bring to the campus Israel dialogue. But some people who have had life-changing experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces later earn their college degree in the United States. These students offer a unique view on Israel, based on their experience, and their advocacy on campus conveys that.

Sam Besser, who enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after serving nearly two years in the IDF, noted that he came to campus with perspectives that differ from those of his peers. “It is unfortunate that so many people are misguided by lies and it’s even scarier that a lot of American Jews don’t have the knowledge to combat these lies and untruths,” he said.

Although he knows more than many other students, Besser is careful not to preach or bombard people with more information than they can process. He encourages people to develop their own opinions after they have gathered reliable information.

Israel Campus Beat spoke with three American-born IDF veterans who have returned to the U.S. after completing their military service. Each has been involved — or plans to become involved — in campus Israel advocacy efforts. They told their stories and explained how their army service has turned them into effective and authentic voices for Israel.

*** David Abraham, who will begin graduate school at Teachers College at Columbia University in the fall, earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona prior to serving in the IDF. Now, looking forward, he sees a tangible change in his level of advocacy.

“While in college, talking about and supporting Israel just seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t have [as much of a] physical connection to Israel, [but] I never really considered the option of not being an advocate on campus,” Abraham explained. “Now that I have done the army and I am about to attend graduate school at Columbia University, I see the importance of Israel for the Jewish people in a completely different light.”

Abraham grew up in a Zionist household where he received what he described as a typical education from Hebrew school and “stories of [his] Mom’s trips to Israel were just as important as going over the nightly math homework.” After spending a gap year in Israel on the Nativ program, studying in Jerusalem and volunteering Be’er Sheva, Abraham fell in love with the language and mix of cultures in Israel. When he finished college, he wanted to return to Israel.

“I found the only plausible way to integrate into society was to join the IDF, where I would feel that connection of tradition and history to the modern day Jewish people while also learning the language,” he explained.

Abraham joined the IDF through a program called Garin Tzabar, which places groups of 20+ immigrants together on a kibbutz before they join the army. Although he was excited about this opportunity, he was nervous about the uncertainty of what would happen.

“One of the most special things about the army is that it places people together who never would have had the opportunity to meet while at the same time everyone is thrown into a similar confusion and hardness that they have never experienced before,” he explained. Additionally, he became fairly fluent in Hebrew and gained what he described as the mental ability to do anything, which he finds applicable outside of the army.

After serving in the army for two years in the Armored brigade, first as a tank driver and then a tank commander, Abraham was given responsibility for training new soldiers in fighting tactics in the tank before they defended the country’s borders.

“I felt as though from that moment on I could go anywhere in Israel or the world and be seen as an Israeli Jew, and not just a Jew, and that meant a lot to me,” he said. “It was as if I had put my foot into society and was now able to go after whatever I desired. The army or just contributing to society in some way was the key to making it with the Israeli people and I had successfully completed that.”

Tisha B’Av and Romney in Jerusalem

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

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Yishai and Malkah kick off by talking about their family’s experience during Tisha B’Av in Jerusalem along with how Malkah’s cooking is a key to awakening Hungarian heritage in many dinner guests at the Fleisher house.  At 5:30, Yishai moves on to talk about American presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel and presents a portion of his speech in Jerusalem.  Yishai ends the segment by talking about the idea of establishing a formal way for Jews to visit the Land of Israel three times a year and how it cements Jewish life in Israel.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

From Joy of Kosher To Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

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Celebrity chef Jamie Geller joins Yishai and Malkah. Geller, who was dubbed the “Kosher Rachel Ray” by the Miami Herald, is the founder of Joy of Kosher, one of the largest kosher food information sources worldwide.  They talk about Geller’s experience in becoming religious and also how important her impending Aliyah is both personally and for her family.  The segment wraps up with a discussion of the Geller family’s upcoming Aliyah.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Life Lessons

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I feel truly blessed these days. The experience of becoming a grandmother for the second time to a beautiful, and thank G-d, healthy baby girl is quite honestly indescribable.

I think back on my concerns before and during the time that my daughter was in the dating “parsha.” I dreaded the prospect and fretted about how she would be received having come from a broken home and a blended family. I prayed that I had raised her with enough confidence to face any challenges. Now I sit back and watch as my daughter and her husband nurture and raise their young girls, while at the same time expertly navigating their assortment of relatives.

My little granddaughters have three sets of grandparents and three sets of living great-grandparents. It is amazing how they are able to keep the “savtas,” “sabas,” “poppas,” “grandma and grandpa” and “bubby and zaidy” in order. These children are growing up watching their parents honor and respect their parents and grandparents no matter what role they play in their lives.

When my marriage broke down, my children and I went through “demolition” and “restructuring,” then, together with my husband and his two children, we went through blending and re-building. Now, years later, as the dust has finally settled, we are able to extend ourselves and encompass the very people who were once the opposing team, fighting our right to live and grow as a family.

That does not mean that there are not those occasional moments when past feeling and present reality seem to clash with one another.

Take for instance the birth of my new granddaughter. It was an amazing experience. I was honored to be a part of those moments with my daughter and son-in-law. I worked hard coaching my daughter through her labor. I kept in mind that as excited as I was to be there, this was also a private moment for my children to connect over the birth of their newest family member. I was cognizant of that fact and did my best to allow them their “space” emotionally, but to also take the opportunity to share this special time with my daughter.

We all bonded as the labor progressed, and my granddaughter was born naturally. The room was charged with that special euphoria saved for miracles. As my son-in-law and daughter welcomed their new daughter, I stood in awe of the greatness of Hashem. Then suddenly the spell was broken, my lovely daughter who had been raised by my husband for the past 16 years, turned emotionally to her husband and said, “I need to call my father.”

I knew immediately which father she meant and that it was not the man who took a young girl abandoned by her biological father at the age of 6, loved her unconditionally from the moment they met and helped raise her into the mature and capable woman she is today. She did not mean the man who walked her to the chuppah just a few short years before or who holds her two-year-old on his lap as he sings at our Shabbat table. No, she did not mean my husband, she meant my ex-husband.

Certainly from a non-emotional standpoint her actions were reasonable, even practical. She knew that I would immediately call my husband who had been checking in all night, begging to join us and waiting impatiently for the blessed news. Yet, when I heard the emotion in her voice as she requested her “father” be called, it was a “wow” moment for me.

I knew that over the last half year or so there had been more frequent contact between my daughter and her father. I just did not recognize how important that bond was for her. In the past I feared that closeness, as my ex-husband’s track record of hurting those close to him spoke for itself. But now things were different. My daughter, now an adult, had set the ground rules. She understood the risk she was taking and chose to take it. Maybe this time things would turn out differently. Maybe this time he was in a different place in his life; a place that could accommodate his own emotional needs without sacrificing the emotional needs of his daughter.

Yachad Takes Quadriplegic Youth on a Trip of a Lifetime

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

When no one would take Zack Pollak on a trip to Israel, Yachad was there. He, along with 75 other Yachad members and high school students, left last Sunday afternoon for five weeks in Israel on the Yachad summer program Yad B’Yad (YBY – “Hand in hand”).

Special arrangements were made for Zack, who has quadriplegia caused by cerebral palsy. Zack is restricted to mostly a wheelchair or a similar device. As a member of Senior Yachad, the 17-year-old from Passaic, NJ, often participates in Yachad Shabbatonim.

Yachad/The National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), an agency of the Orthodox Union, is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the opportunities of individuals with disabilities, ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life. Yachad/NJCD promotes Inclusion for these individuals through various integrated activities.

The Yad B’Yad Israel Experience brings high school students together with Yachad members (adults and teens with special needs) to experience the Jewish homeland, Israel, in a new and unparalleled way. Yachad members experience Israel just as their peers do – touring Jerusalem; visiting an Israeli army base, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea; riding camels; hiking up Masada; volunteering in a soup kitchen and visiting underprivileged children; and participating in special Shabbat programs.

Yachad has already spent close to $10,000 on top of the normal cost to make the trip accessible specifically for Zack, noted Eli Hagler, Assistant Director of Yachad.

Hagler stated, “Because Zack needed a wheelchair accessible program, other trips and programs have not been willing to take the necessary steps. It’s a big undertaking. Zack is a very social teenager, but has often been placed in settings and camps where he socialized with the staff – Yad B’Yad will be so much more than that for him. On YBY, Yachad has arranged for Zack a way to socialize and fully participate with 75 of his peers. Yachad sees the added benefit to both the participant and the rest of the group in making this trip accessible to anyone who wants to attend. Yachad’s tagline, Because Everyone Belongs, could not be more true than in this case. We did what we had to do in order to make Yad B’Yad a trip that anyone and everyone could enjoy.”

To accommodate Zack’s full participation, Yachad ordered a van to hold his wheelchair and other supplies while he traveled on one of two group buses; coordinated only tour routes that were wheelchair accessible; arranged to stay only at hotels and visiting sites that were wheelchair accessible; brought along adaptive equipment such as a special wheelchair designed to help Zack travel on rockier, narrower, and more challenging terrain.

Yachad raised funds for the special chair with Yad Sarah, an Israeli nonprofit that provides a range of services for free or nominal charge to assist the sick, disabled, and elderly. Similarly, this type of wheelchair is what Team Yachad uses in both the Miami and Jerusalem marathons to allow those with a disability to compete in the race.

Last week, Yad B’Yad staff and high school participants received orientations for the program. A special Shabbaton was held in West Orange, NJ, for YBY participants prior to the Sunday afternoon flight.

Rebecca Schrag, Director of Senior Yachad and of Yad B’Yad, said, “Zack has an awesome ‘can do’ attitude, and we are thrilled that he is able to join us this summer. Yachad has really made every attempt to be as accommodating as possible and to make this trip a life changing experience for Zack, as well as all of the other participants.”

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me a Match!”

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

All kidding aside. I would like to invite you, your family, your children, your friends, and all the Jewish People to join the hundreds of people who are reading my novel, Tevye in the Promised Land, which The Jewish Press.com is serialization every week, chapter by chapter, in its book section.

All of my blogs together don’t add up to the impact of Tevye’s continuing adventures in the Promised Land. Every week, I receive comments from readers who praise the book with superlatives like “wonderful,” “inspiring,” “amazing!” I don’t say this to boost my ego. I say it for you and your children, so that they experience how wonderful real Jewish fiction can be. The novel won the distinguished Israel Ministry of Education Award for Creativity and Jewish Culture, even though it’s filled with a proud religious, right-wing message – something which is amazing in itself!

I’d post the link to the famous “Matchmaker” song to remind you of the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” but since it’s the Three Weeks when we don’t listen to happy music, I’ll have to remind you with words.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is one of the most beloved Jewish movies ever, not to mention the fantastically popular Broadway show. When I saw it as an assimilated youth, I was floored. Finally, a twinkle of Jewish light in the darkness of the gentile culture which surrounded and suffocated my adolescence. Years later, when I made aliyah to Israel, I remembered Tevye the Milkman trudging, head lowered in disgrace, out of his beloved village of Anatevka, and felt that I had to bring him to the Promised Land to experience the great blessing which Hashem had granted me. So, doing my best to copy Sholom Aleichem’s gifted portrayal, and adding a bit on my own, I transformed the downtrodden Jew of galut into a proud pioneer in the Holy Land and a brave fighter for Jewish freedom. It’s a saga that I am sure you and your children will love. And now, thanks to The Jewish Press, it’s free!

And for those of you who don’t want to wait to see how it ends, you can obtain the 600 page, large-size format, or the Kindle edition, at Amazon Books.

All proceeds go to tzedaka. Happy summer reading!

The Scream

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

“The Scream,” a unique and evocative painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), sold recently at Sotheby’s for nearly $120,000,000. The price was attributed to its being the last of four editions still in private hands and the fact that it has been an icon of Western culture for over a century. The colors are vivid, the mood is stark, and the being on the bridge is overwhelmed by his surroundings. It captures a man alone in a world awry.

In explaining the experience he sought to portray, Munch wrote: “I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”

Munch was a secular man, not one easily led to converse with greater forces. He blamed his father’s obsessive religious practice for bequeathing him the seeds of psycosis. While historians attest that Munch did in fact touch madness, the popularity of his work and the duration of his prominence show that he also touched, through the medium of his art, a reality that underlies the human experience.

Munch was on a bridge with nowhere to turn. His hands were glued to the sides of his face, and he shouted a primal scream.

Judaism speaks to Munch’s experience. In Hebrew, the word for scream is “tze’akah.” It is used to convey the Jews’ calling out to God from slavery in Egypt – “And the Jews cried to God from their work” (Exodus 2:2).

In his classic philosophical work Gates of Prayer, Rabbi Shimshon Pincus explains that a scream is in fact a form of supplication. Prayer, he notes, is intensely primal and extensively faceted. Different words capture the different experiences – from fear to hope, confusion to inspiration – that lead one to reach out to the Almighty. A scream is a call to God from a world gone mad. It is the point where pain and fear grow so great that one cannot utter words to articulate the emotion within; all one can do is release a scream that courses through the veins and emits from the gut.

The Jews in Egypt were so aggrieved and afflicted that they could only scream. And the Torah says God listened to their screams and their ultimate redemption was set in motion.

In Jewish tradition, man calls to God and nature does, too. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the Psalmist, “and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). I remember one particular night when I was a rabbinical student in Lakewood, New Jersey. It was late and I was walking from the study hall to the dormitory. The world was calm, the earth peaceful. I could sense, through my very being, creation singing to God.

I have no doubt that what I heard paralleled Munch’s experience but that my Jewish processor interpreted the signals in a very different way.

Munch and I could not be more dissimilar. He was a talented artist and I am a hard working meat purveyor. He lived a solitary life raising neither children not students, and I am blessedly married and the father of six children.

We define life differently, too. As his end came near, Munch wrote, “From my rotting body flowers shall grow, and I am in them and that is eternity.” As a believing Jew I would have said, “From my rotting body my soul will ascend, to achieve closeness to the Perfection it has always pursued, and that is eternity.”

Yet, in a way, I closely identify with Munch. I too see a world aflame. I peer out of the walls of my insular Orthodox Jewish community and see a secular culture in which the rich and pretty are portrayed as cultural authorities, and Jewish and Christian leaders are cut down to size.

I see a world in which families inspired by Judeo-Christian values are presented as born into prejudicial sin, and where the nemesis of family, secular feminism, is given award and acclaim even though it only respects women when they acquire masculine traits – hardly a celebration of femininity. It weakens the mind and troubles the spirit.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-scream/2012/07/11/

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