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Archive for December, 2010

Nadya’s Wish List, Excluding Water Buffaloes

This year Nadya, one of my many remarkable nieces, decided that she already has everything she needs (including her two beloved goats).  So she has asked her numerous aunts and uncles to give Christmas gifts that would help other children, rather than giving more stuff to her.  After going meticulously through the “Save the Children” catalogue as well as other catalogues, she wrote up this “wish list.”  Note that she erased the first entry, “Water Buffaloes,” since she was worried that any gifted animals might end up getting killed.

Maybe there’s hope for humanity (and water buffaloes) after all.

Nadya's Wish List

My Big Fat Jewish Learning

One of the fabulous books we'll be reading.

One of the fabulous books we'll be reading.

I’m really excited about this: Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley will be teaching me about Jewish stuff, in preparation for my planned bar mitzvah in Israel next year — and I invite you to join us in “My Big Fat Jewish Learning”!  Rabbi Creditor has planned a short, yet wide-ranging course that will explore many meaty topics (which, of course, will not be mixed with milky topics).  We’ll read cool books, hear some things from the rabbi, then have discussions about what we’ve read.

The first meeting will be a public event at Afikomen Judaica bookstore in Berkeley (which has kindly offered a discount on all the books in our syllabus), followed by six sessions at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Each class will be 90 minutes long.  The fee for the entire course is $50-$75 on a sliding scale, with no one turned away for lack of funds.  Given the complexities of jibing Rabbi Creditor’s schedule with mine, the course schedule is a bit irregular — so please note that the classes happen on different days of the week. Here’s that schedule, along with the (still-in-progress) syllabus:

Class #1: Sunday, Jan. 16, 11 a.m.: public event at Afikomen Judaica bookstore.  Biblical Prophets, The Prophet’s Wife by Milton Steinberg, text from the book of Hosea.

Class #2: Monday, Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Mishnah, As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg, a rabbinic text tbd.  (Please note: neither the rabbi nor I have received any kickback money from Milton Steinberg.)

Class #3: Monday, Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Aggadah, Tree of Souls by Howard Schwartz, a midrash/legend tbd.

Class #4: Monday, Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Halachah, For the Love of God and People by Elliot Dorff, the development of the verses in Lev. dealing with homosexuality.

Class #5: Monday, Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Modern Streams of Judaism, A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community by Jeffrey Gurock and Jacob Schacter, a Mordecai Kaplan quote in The Condition of Jewish Belief.

Class #6: Monday, March 21, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Mysticism, Afterlife, The World to Come by Dara Horn, text tbd.

Class #7: Wednesday, April 13, 7:30 p.m., at Congregation Netivot Shalom.  Israeli Poetry/Theology, Creator, Are You Listening?: Israeli Poets on God and Prayer by David C. Jacobson; text: a poem by Yehuda Amichai.

For more info on this course, please email Rachel at

** Update on March 8, 2011: You can now hear audio from our previous sessions — and read Rabbi Creditor’s beautiful handouts — here.

Come with me to Israel!

250px-locationisraelsvgFrom July 13-24, 2011, I’ll be joining my friend Rabbi Menachem Creditor (of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley) on a trip to Israel — my first ever (and his umpteenth)!  And we’d love you to join us!  Our goal will be to have authentic encounters (the activity prescribed by the late “I-Thou” philosopher Martin Buber) with a wide range of Israelis, and I fully expect minds to be blown.  (Is that why they make yarmulkes?)

Below is a (provisional) itinerary, to give you a sense of the trip’s scope.  For more info, please email Vicki at

Wednesday, 13 July – Israel Bound!

  • Depart on overnight flight to Israel

Thursday, 14 July – When You Come Into the Land (Deut. 26:1)

  • Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport (today’s program depends on arrival time)
  • Ascent to Jerusalem
  • Gaze upon the Old City of Jerusalem from the Haas Promenade, standing where Abraham stood at the dawn of Jewish history; take in the breathtaking view
  • Hotel check-in and welcome dinner
  • Overnight: Har Tzion Hotel, Jerusalem

Friday, 15 July – Jerusalem of Old

  • In the Kotel Tunnels, walk alongside the Western Wall’s massive foundation stones
  • Tour the Southern Wall Excavations and learn about the ancient Temple at the Davidson Center
  • Travel through many centuries as you tour the Jewish Quarter
  • Return to the hotel to prepare for Shabbat
  • Kabbalat Shabbat at a scenic overlook or a choice of local synagogues
  • Shabbat dinner at the hotel
  • Overnight: Har Tzion Hotel, Jerusalem

Shabbat, 16 July – Shabbat in Jerusalem
Parashat Pinhas

  • Shabbat services at a choice of neighborhoods synagogues (suggestions, walking instructions to be provided)
  • Shabbat lunch at the hotel
  • Shabbat rest, relaxation at the pool
  • Havdalah with Rabbi Creditor
  • Free evening in Jerusalem
  • Overnight: Har Tzion Hotel, Jerusalem

Sunday, 17 July – Those Who Made a Difference

  • Visit the Memorial Museum, the Children’s Memorial, and the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem
  • Take a sobering walk through the history of the Jewish State at the Har Herzl Military Cemetery
  • Stumble across many authentic archeological finds in a hands-on dig through archeological matter from under the Temple Mount
  • Free evening in Jerusalem OR Evening program with a Jerusalem Masorti congregation
  • Overnight: Har Tzion Hotel, Jerusalem

Monday, 18 July – Into the Desert

  • Visit the fascinating Jo Alon Center for Bedouin Culture near Lahav for an in-depth introduction to this desert culture and some Bedouin hospitality
  • Visit Ben Gurion’s Hut in Sde Boker for personal insight into the life of this outstanding Zionist leader and Israel’s first prime minister
  • Walk through the beautiful nature reserve at the Ein Avdat Oasis
  • Dinner at the field school
  • Overnight: Sde Boker Field School

Tuesday, 19 July – Freedom Fighters or Fanatics?
17 Tammuz

  • Early departure for the Dead Sea Region
  • Ascend by cable car to Masada. Tour this impressive excavation and discuss the terrible dilemma faced by its Jewish population during Roman times
  • Enjoy a walk through the beautiful Ein Gedi Nature Reserve to the waterfall and review the biblical story of kings David and Saul “on site”
  • Stop for a dip and mud baths at Mineral Beach on the amazing Dead Sea
  • Travel north through the Jordan River Valley to the Galilee
  • Hotel check-in and dinner
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Ma’agan Guest House

Wednesday, 20 July – The Golan Heights

  • Travel through the Golan Heights by jeep (Shvilim), off the beaten path, and gaze down over the Galilee as the Syrians once did
  • See how robots are used to milk cows at Kibbutz Avnei Eitan
  • Return to the hotel to enjoy a Lake Kinneret swim
  • Free evening on the Tiberias promenade
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Ma’agan Guest House

Thursday, 21 July – The Northern Mediterranean Coast

  • At Agam Hahula (Hula Lake) ride family golf carts around the lake and learn about the many species of birds that migrate through Israel each year
  • Glide down the Jordan River in a kayak
  • Tour the synagogues, courtyards, and shops of the mystical city of Tzefat
  • Meet with a Tzefat kabbalistic artist in his gallery to explore Jewish mysticism through the prism of his creations
  • Hotel check-in
  • Dinner in the kibbutz dining room
  • Overnight: Kibbutz Hanaton

Friday, 22 July – In the Footsteps of Sages

  • Take a tour of Kibbutz Hanaton
  • Explore the magnificently excavated ancient city of Tzippori, home to Rabbi Judah the Prince; discover ancient beauty and evidence of a community in which Jews and Romans coexisted peacefully
  • Travel south for the ascent to Jerusalem
  • Kabbalat Shabbat at Robinson’s Arch
  • Shabbat dinner at hotel
  • Overnight: Har Tzion Hotel, Jerusalem

Shabbat, 23 July – A Heavenly Shabbat
Parashat Mattot

  • Shabbat services at a choice of neighborhoods synagogues (suggestions, walking instructions to be provided)
  • Shabbat lunch at the hotel
  • Shabbat rest, relaxation at the pool
  • Summary session and farewell dinner at the hotel
  • Havdalah with Rabbi Creditor
  • Depart for the airport

Sunday, 24 July – A Temporary Departure

  • Arrive in USA
  • Begin planning your next Israel trip with Rabbi Creditor!