Posted in Stories from the Nursing Home

The Sisters

There are two sisters that go everywhere together. Today I sat and spoke to them.

They both moved to Israel (then Palestine) when one was 11 and the other 13. They moved directly to Jerusalem, and have been here ever since. It turns out that one helped start the first Bank Discount in Jerusalem, and the other was a translator for the Queen of England (she even got to vist the Queen). They also told me about standing guard every night while they were part of the Hagana, and how it was to live in Mekor Chaim while they were being shot at from four directions. One told me that she put the baby carriage with her daughter under the window so the bullets would cascade over it, instead of through it.

After posting this one Facebook, a friend posted a picture of them sitting on a bench. They are known to sit outside of the nursing home when it is nice outside.

Following his post someone posted a video he took of interviewing them.

In our conversation today they said “we really lived history.”

Who will be by your side when you are in your late 90’s? What will our stories be?

Posted in D'var Torah

The End is Just a Beginning

When I told one of the residents that we are finishing Berashit, he said “No, we are just beginning Shmot.” It is an interesting way to look at things, that ends are just beginnings. And yes, I mostly believe that it is true, but sometimes it is difficult to see it that way, at least when one is in the midst of things,and the pain/sadness of saying goodbye, and knowing what you are losing.

Yaakov is about to die so he blesses his children. His children start to find their way in this new country. Yosef helps them acclimate.

I can look at this story in two ways. One is a bit negative. That the entire family goes to Egypt to this new land, for an unseen amount of time- and then we all know what happens next.

When I think about my own life, this makes me a bit afraid. I am going to be leaving Israel in a few months time (it just keeps on getting closer and closer), for an unknown amount of time. Yes, just like the sons of Yaakov they went “till the famine ends”, I’m going to the US “till I finish school”. But what if I end up staying in the US? Am I making a grave mistake? Am I going to be doing something good for myself that will end up making me a slave for me to be liberated again? If that is the case, will I be able to fight back? (I’m still feeling a bit without power to fight)

But then it can be a positve story. Things were not good, they needed to move. I know that in ancient times they were not so interested in learning about other cultures and societies. They weren’t looking for a new adventure or a new way to delvelop themselves. The way that I see this upcoming journey is that. It is a chance to learn and live somewhere new. By moving it will not only give me a chance at experiencing a new culture, but when you go somewhere new you are able to try things that you might not do in your own home. At home people know you and expect things from you, but in a new place you have a chance to do things differently because there are no expectations. There are no conversations about how much you have changed. It is a  time for challenge and growth.

Here is to hoping that this end is really just a new beginning, when the time comes. And even if I do end up staying for longer than I expect, may I find a way to get to where I am made to go.

Posted in Stories from the Nursing Home

Songs of the Past

Once again the internet did something great.

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the men in the nusing home, he turned 102 yesterday. He started singing a song, but only knew one word and the tune, so it was quite hard to find it. Today I was doing some research on carrier pigeons (for my communication talk in two weeks), and found a video from WWI but without sound, so I tried to find a song to go with it. For some reason I clicked on this one song, and it WAS THE SONG! So later I found this man and played the song. He immediatly sat up straight in his wheelchair, started marching and singing along loudly (something he almost never does). It turns out that this was a very popular song of the time, and I played it for one woman and she too lit up and started singing the chorus:

Over there, over there,Send the word, send the word over thereThat the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are comingThe drums rum-tumming everywhere.So prepare, say a prayer,Send the word, send the word to beware -We’ll be over, we’re coming over,And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.

The man then asked me if I could find a song in German. He asked for a German Nationalist song, “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (which is interesting in itself, as he is a Jewish man who left Germany in 1933). He was amazed that I was able to find it, even though he did not like the fact that all of the songs that I found were choirs, rather than one singer. He proceeded to translate the song, which was actually quite sad.

When talking to the woman about this song, she then told me about her gramaphone that she had as a child. It was her job to turn the handle to make it work.But she remebers the day her father brought home an electric gramaphone, and so she no longer had a job to do, and so she felt less connected with it. She was reminicing about turning the handle and said that even though she had an electric one for longer, she remembers the manual one more because she was a part of it.

Posted in D'var Torah, Decisions

Saying What You Need/Want Even When You are Afraid

In Vayigash Yosef tells his brothers, and eventually his father that he is alive. He is the one they have been speaking to. He is the one that was causing them slight discomfort- but he also forgives them for what they did to him, all those years before.

I am thinking about the things that I would want to say to various people, but am too afraid to say because of what I think the outcome will be (I know, I spend to much time in my head).

  • It is because of you that I left. You are abusive and mean, and should not have the job that you do.
  • Why aren’t we dating? What is wrong with me? Why did you say no all those years ago, but you are still around? I think that I would go out with you if you wanted to. You are one the people that is closest to me, and I will miss you terribly next year.
  • Why are you still calling? What do you see in me that I don’t see? I feel bad that I keep pushing you away, and you are still there- I feel like a bad friend. I also miss you, but I don’t know what to do with those feelings.
  • Am I actually good enough to do what I am dreaming of doing? My confidence was broken, and I know that I have dreams and I know that I am young- but I have a lot of ideas, and in my mind it might work.
  • Am I a failure in your eyes because I’m not married with kids?
  • What is wrong with me? Why can’t I get asked out by “normal” guys? Why is it that I am on different websites/apps and get NOTHING (or really creepy/inappropriate messages)? Why haven’t you tried to set me up with anyone? Why have they said no?
  • I shouldn’t have said no to you. All of the reasons I decided you were wrong, were I am there now. But you are married/engaged. Did I make a mistake? Or was I just right, and you found the right person for you after me?
  • Did I make the right choices in my past and for my future? Did I go to the right school? Did I choose correctly to switch and give up a fight? Will I actually do something with my life?
  • When will I actually feel like an adult?
  • Are you bored with me?
  • Would you still respect me if I change? What about love me?

I don’t think that most of these things I will actually share. Some I wish I did have the guts to say/ask, others it is more for me in my mind to see what my next decisions should be.

What would you say if you did not have to fear the reprecussions or you were ok with those reprecussions? (Feel free to comment below)

Posted in Stories from the Nursing Home

A Woman’s Bathroom

Story from a 90 year old woman, she was born in Germany,spent most of her life in Chicago, and then moved to Israel.

When she was in Chicago she worked in car parts sales. She was the only woman there, and for 7-8 years there was no bathroom for her to use. The men just went behind the building, and she would walk across the street to the gas station. She even had a sweater for the winter, just for this purpose.

Well, one day they had a surprise for her. They brought her to a room, and she opened the door (well tried to), and there was a toilet in the building. The only problem was that the door couldn’t open all the way, and there wasn’t really any space to enter into the room. When she told the men this, they didn’t really understand what the problem was, they told her “you can just stand next to the wall.”

Posted in D'var Torah

Little Flames Dancing Throughout the Night

As I was walking the streets of Jerusalem last night I loved looking at the chanukiyot. Those that were in the windows, the giant ones on the street corners, and the smaller ones in glass boxes outside people’s houses.

Besides for realizing that this will most likely not be my Chanuka experience next year, it made me think about Sukkot.

Sukkot we sit outside of our homes. We are told to do everything out there: eat, sleep, work, play, etc. At least here in Israel, it is warm outside, so for most of the week it is comfortable. It is a chance to say goodbye to the summer, and welcome in the fall. It is a time that when you walk the streets you hear noise. You hear the conversations that usually happen behind closed doors (or permanent walls). You can see what people are eating for their meals. And in many places, because of the way apartments are, you end up eating with other people and other families, but not as their guests, rather as people using a “shared dining room.”

And then there is Chanukah. The ideal way of lighting the chanukiah is to light it outside by the doorpost so that everyone can see. It can be cold (rainy, snowy, etc). But you will still see people bundle up just to light candles and sing some songs. Even though it is a public/private ritual, meaning that anyone who passes can join in, and this is a time of a private ritual done in a very public place, everyone at their own time. But even with this, after the ritual is done, the people go in, all that is left is the candles burning.

Candles burning make no noise. When they are in their little box they offer no heat. But what they do offer is light. There are extra little lights along the alley ways. There are extra little lights along the main streets. There are little flames dancing about, even at midnight- slowly burning down.

One holiday is warm outside, the other is cold. One is watching people do their everyday activities, the other is watching a ritual. One is through sound, and the other through sight. One is through noise, the other though light.

They both offer a sense of community. In the time after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we need the reminder about the people around us, and the beauty of the world that we were just praying for and worrying about. In the middle of winter, we need to take it into our own hands and add fire and light. Even after we might run inside to get warm again, the light stays.

May the light of this chanukah continue to spread throughout the year, at least till next Sukkot when we are able to recharge our feeling of greater community again.


Posted in D'var Torah

Breaking Tradition?

I tried thinking about this week’s Parsha, and of course it is an easy one– Pharoah’s dream, Yosef meeting his brother– the middle of the show “Joseph”. But nothing really spoke to me, at first.

Over Shabbat I had a conversation with a friend of mine about life, and how I am a bit frustrated with life being static. I have this desire to rebel, but I don’t know how. I want to be different than what I am,but that idea makes me nervous even though that is what I want. I feel like there are just so many external and internal expectations that make me feel like I can’t break out of being me.

My friend suggested that I do something like not keep Kosher once. Not that I should eat shrimp or pork, but eat a non-Kosher cheese sandwhich or drink non-kosher wine or not wait that long between milk and meat. I don’t know if I could actually do that- although there is something really intersting about this idea.

Then I was in shul listening to the Parsha, and we hear about Yosef. Yosef was about to become someone else than he was. He was able to play lots of different roles, and potentially able to just be different in each context. He had a chance (or took a chance) to explore who he is and who he isn’t. We hear about him doing things that are not “befittting” for a nice Jewish boy, but he still took those risks to figure out who he is.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing bad with the idea that I have no clue who I am without my Jewishness, but I do think there is something wrong with it. I think that I want to not have it be everything of who I am and what I do. I want to be able to not feel guilt (?). I want to get out of my head and be able to explore and try new things.

I want to have the opportunity to be someone different. I want to be like Yosef,going to somewhere but allowing myself to try other things; to be known not only because of my Jewishness.