Monday, August 7, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Guest Post by Cousin Sela!

Hi everyone- Sela here!

My Israeli experience has been amazing so far (I'm here in camp for the summer), but this has been the cherry on top of the ice cream!

The amazing weekend began with going bowling (where I totally got crushed by Ilana and Penina)

 and then eating my first Katzefet ice cream! (very much recommended for those who have not tried it).
After that Penina and Ilana gave me a tour of the mercaz and got me a tasty Israeli ice coffee (by the way I am not an ice coffee person but I have to say, it was pretty good!).

After I took a short power nap (camp is fun but tiring...), we all went to the Stalactite caves a few minutes away. We got to walk through and look at the beautiful stalactites hanging from the ceiling and growing from the floor up.

 "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo" said the Juliet stalactite to the Romeo stalactite.
Wow was that an experience!

Friday night was so nice starting with an insprining Kabalat Shabbat in shul, followed by a fun d'var torah filled meal with dairy lasagna for dinner! Mom and Abba did you hear this?? Lasagna on a Friday night!! For those who don't know me so well- I am made out of pasta. It is my favorite food of all time.

After dinner PB and Ilana showed me to the ultimate see-saw (probably not the smartest idea after we just ate lots of yummy food...) where we bounced each other up and down. Shabbat only got better when we had tacos for lunch! (Boy do I love vegetarians). Two super nice families also joined us for the meal! It was a blast. Catching up on some sleep and chilling with my cousins really was such an awesome off shabbat! I could not have asked for more!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful home with me and showing me around Beit Shemesh and adding to my amazing Israeli experience!

A special thank you to Penina who gave up her bed and a whole night's sleep by sleeping on a cot that was too small for her.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Chelm....We Live in Chelm"

That's the best quote I've heard in the ongoing "saga of the wild dogs", Chelm being the prototypical "city of fools" in Jewish folklore from Eastern Europe (I just had a flashback to my Folklore and Folklife days at Penn....).

As a "glass half full" kind of person, I hate to write anything negative about my new home country, but, as we're now approaching two years here, I think it's okay to  (occasionally) peep out from behind my rose-colored glasses.  It also feels appropriate that my first post since Ed's death is not a "happy happy" one.

When we arrived two years ago, we occasionally heard that there had been some wild dog sightings on the main street that our house overlooks.  Never having seen a dog there, I actually laughed it off the first time one of Penina's friends told her about it, and chalked it up to teenage hyperbole.  Within the last year, however, there have been more and more sightings, until, about six months ago, the dogs started (with great regularity) attacking and biting people.  Although the dogs are now wandering all over, our neighborhood has been an epicenter of the attacks, as we are at the very edge of the city.  Wild dogs feed largely off of garbage.  Our neighborhood's garbage cans being the closest restaurant for the hungry dogs, we have seen them a LOT.  We've each encountered them at one time or another (Chana had the scariest moment when she was walking on the stairs and encountered a pack of them.  Thankfully, they left her alone).  They are especially active on Shabbos as there are no cars to bother them.

The city has tried many things over the past months, including sending the city vet out with a tranquilizer gun so she can capture them and bring them to a shelter.  This has not worked out very well, as in the time it takes the tranquilizers to work, the dogs go off and hide, she oftentimes can't find them, the dogs wake up with a hangover and all goes back to as it was.  About six dogs were captured and sent to a shelter, where they were eventually euthanized, as wild dogs can't be rehabilitated for adoption.   The city also tried putting up traps, but they were broken by those who support freeing the wild dogs (clearly, these are people who either don't live here, or never leave their houses)

Recently, the city announced that they had approval from the Minister of Agriculture to have hunters kill the wild dogs.  The Mayor gave his approval to continue and then went out of town, leaving the Deputy Mayor to deal with it.  The city vet (who truly has seemed to work hard on this issue but may have been having a passive/aggressive moment.  Or maybe it was what she legally needed to do.  It's unclear) announced on Facebook something like "all dogs should be kept inside tonight, as hunters will be shooting on sight any dogs seen between 3-7 a.m.".  It spread like wildfire through social media (I got it forwarded on every single Israeli Whatsapp group I'm on) and prompted (as they hyperbole goes) "busloads of green-haired vegetarians from Tel Aviv to come to the city to protest".  Truthfully, that night, *I* saw neither wild dogs nor vegetarian activists around.  Too bad, because I would have been happy to invite them (the vegetarians, not the wild dogs) in for something to eat and to try to have a civilized conversation (the best the activists seem to come up with is saying that "they'd take a bullet" for the dogs, but, y'know, that doesn't really help the situation on the ground here OR they offer the solution that the dogs should be captured, spayed/neutered and then released, which also doesn't really help the situation, as we will still have roving packs of wild dogs until the current generation dies out).

Meanwhile, the Deputy Mayor decided he'd rather not be the fall guy, and put the whole thing on hold until the Mayor returned. Also meanwhile, Sara Netanyahu posted an impassioned plea on her husband's Facebook page (i.e. the Prime Minister's official FB page) asking that Beit Shemesh not harm the dogs and saying that "there must be a better answer".  And further meanwhile, the activists brought a suit to the Supreme Court (which does not operate at all like the US one, if you can't tell that by the fact that a case brought there was heard almost immediately).

--The Supreme Court put a stay on the shootings.
--The Mayor returned and fired the Vet.
--Some residents got extremely peeved and started contacting the Mayor on his cell phone.
--The Mayor re-hired the Vet
--The dogs are still doing as they please, including biting another neighbor of ours numerous times on the leg when she got off a late-night bus in the empty mercaz.

Chelm--we may, indeed, live in Chelm.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Passing of a Good Soul

From Shalom Shachne:

Thank you for helping us with your prayers and Tehillim.  With everyone's help we completed ספר תהילים twice in the past 5 days.  Ed was נפטר today, early yesterday morning.  May his soul be elevated in the merit of all the prayers and tehillim said on his behalf.

Ed was kind, generous, decent, intelligent, good humored, and always a pleasure to visit with.  While he was still working full-time, Ed was able to indulge in his love of history, earning a master's degree in History at Rutgers.   I want to share this story by one of his grandsons: "I was just remembering when we got your new computer and you were Skype-ing Margaret for the first time, and invited Grandpa to come say hi. He looked right into the camera, said "What hath Gd wrought?" and walked away. We all looked at each other puzzled, but I had just written my 7th grade history report on Samuel Morse, and knew that was the first message ever sent by telegraph. I went over to Grandpa, told him I was onto him, and he simply grinned mischievously. He was full of subtle surprises."

We will miss him very much. It was a real joy for us when he and Barbara visited with us in Israel earlier this year. I'll never forget the huge smile he had when we were at the Kotel on Bar Mitzvah day. He stood speechless, and smiling watching all the boys being escorted by musicians and drummers. It was a great day and a great visit.  

May his נשמה have an עליה בזכות כל התהילים והתפילות and may his memory always be for a blessing.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


We celebrated the end of the school year (way to go, gang!) with an overnight trip to Jerusalem.  I'm not sure I can give over the feeling I get when I'm driving on the highway and the signs start listing "Jerusalem" as a destination.  It's amazing.  It's crazy.  It's unbelievable that I'm driving on this beautiful HIGHWAY and I'm going to get off and be in the Holy City.  Makes my stomach flip-flop every time (and I really hope I don't lose that feeling as we're here longer).

We went to the Underground Prisoners' Musuem (I ignored the wisecracks about how I was starting our vacation on a high note), which, although not a "fun" place to visit, was quite interesting.  Deciding that we were also celebrating our "Aliyah-Versary" a month early, we went to Agas V'Tapuah, the restaurant we ate at the night we made aliyah, before touring the really incredible Jerusalem Light Festival and, of course, visiting the Kotel (if you are: Yehuda ben Sarah, Batsheva bat Yenta, Chana bat Perel, or Raizel Tzivia bat Chana Breindel, please know that we davened for you)

We've been (finally) reconnecting with some old friends we haven't yet seen since making aliyah.  Our friend Shlomo Avraham came for Shabbos a few weeks ago.  I haven't seen him in 18 years, although Shalom Shachne had seen him throughout the years on his trips to Israel.  We met Shlomo Avraham through our friend Zehava.  So sweet to reconnect with him after all this time.  He remains as gentle a soul as ever.

This past Shabbos, our old Malden buddy Yeuda Leib came to us.  It was very interesting to hear what his life has been like in the 8 years since he made aliyah, and to hear about his upbringing and how he got to where he is today (learning in a Yeshiva!).  Sorry we forgot to take photos.....I always think, in the pre-Shabbos bedlam, that I'll remember after Shabbos, but then that never seems to happen either.

We also said "farewell" to our neighbors who are making yerida and going back to the US.  They were here for three years, so at least they gave it a good shot.  We had them over for dinner a few hours before their plane left, so they just ended up hanging out here until they left.  Their furniture had gone on a lift a few weeks before, and, walking through their empty house, we all talked of memories of arriving here with nothing and having just a suitcase and an air mattress....We'll miss them and wish them luck in their new community.

Today, we're having a Malden Reunion with Eliana coming, and Michelle, Dan and the "Fab Four" (so glad we're getting to see them when they only arrived a few days ago for their summer visit).  Really looking forward to seeing everyone!

Last night, Temima from NY (see halfway down [and this is cool that I've been blogging long enough to reference previous WeMadeAliyah posts!]) came to visit while staying with her parents for a few weeks.  She has a really interesting perspective on life in Israel, having spent her life pretty much split between here and the US.  It was just so great to hang out with her again!
note the Winthrop July 4th 2017 t-shirts that my Mom sent ;)

I would like to thank everyone who has said tehilim for SS's stepfather Ed, Yehuda ben Sarah.  Your tehilim are still needed.

Friday, June 30, 2017

End of the Year

It's been a big, busy time as Penina and Ilana finish their second year of school here.   (Last night found Chana and Penina arguing over who got the first turn to read Penina's summer Hebrew reading book-of-choice.  As the minor squabbling went on, Penina turned to me and said, "I bet this is a big dream of yours come true--your kids fighting over who gets to read a book in Hebrew".  I will say that it made me awfully glad that "Diary of Wimpy Kid" comes in Hebrew!)

Penina finished 1 1/2 weeks ago and has been very busy catching up on missed sleep since then :).  She came home from her last day with a certificate given to the student who made the most progress and worked really hard.  As a sucker for hard work, seeing that made me cry.  So proud of her.

Ilana finishes today and I end this round of ulpan on Tuesday. We fixed that scheduling disaster by my only going until break time on the days that we have things planned to do.  We went to Ashdod beach the other day, and Shalom Shachne and Ilana joined us on Sunday for our first trip to the Israel Museum.  I think we need another five or so hours there to really see everything there, but it was a good start!

The girls had their dance recital last week and it was amazing, b''H.  The women who run their dance school worked so hard to have a show that was interesting and full of good things to watch and listen to.   Ilana's Jazz class danced LIVE to singer Shaindel Antelis (if you are a teenage frum girl, you probably just squealed right now)!

Penina's Jazz class had a "Galactic" theme, and Chana and I showed up early to help with the groovy makeup

Ilana will be attending the camp that her school is running and Penina is gearing up for a daytime arts camp.  For now, though, it just feels nice to be at the time of year when, although it's busy, it's all suffused with that happy End-of-Year feeling.


Please join us in saying tehilim for Shalom Shachne's stepfather Ed, Yehuda ben Sarah, who is quite ill....

Saturday, June 17, 2017

23rd of Sivan

This was a very special Shabbat because yesterday on the Jewish calendar was the 23rd of Sivan, and SS's dad's yarhzeit.  His 23rd one, in fact (a neighbor told Shalom Shachne that the date was a significant one since the 23rd of Sivan is when, according to the Purim story, Esther and Mordechai sent out the letters telling the Jews they could defend themselves against Achashveros' unbreakable decree against them).

Shalom Shachne made a siyyum yesterday on Megillah.  Here is what he said, and may it all have been for an ilui neshama for Irwin, Yitzchak ben Shalom Shachne, who we miss very much:
Today is the 23rd yahrzeit for my father, יזחק בן שלום שכנא (Yitzchak ben Shalom Shachne), and last week was the first yahrzeit for my aunt, his only sibling, שמחה שרה בת שלום שכנא (Simcha Sarah bat Shalom Shachne).   

First off, I want to thank Mr. Shlomo Meyer for encouraging me to start learning a daf a day, giving me the suggestion to start with מסכת מגילה.  And of course I want to thank my family for all their love and encouragement, and giving me time for learning.

My father passed away suddenly, at the not very old age of 63.  He was playing tennis, which he loved to do, and had a fatal heart attack.  He had always told us that if he could choose how to die, this would be one of the ways he would choose.  My father never seemed particularly afraid of death and was a bit irreverent about it.  His nickname was “Goldie”, and he once told my step-mother that he wanted the epitaph on his tomb stone to say “Here lies Goldie growing moldy”.  Needless to say, we didn’t write that.

When the Rabbi was giving the eulogy for my father, he said that my father reminded him of כלב בן יפונה.  My father was never afraid to speak out, even against a whole group of people.  The board of directors of the synagogue were trying to remove the Rabbi from his position, and my father was one of the few voices speaking up for the Rabbi.  This trait frequently got him into trouble with college administrations, in his early career as a physics professor.   He learned to temper this in his later life as a businessman, where he learned the value of getting along.  But he was always a courageous and idealistic person.

Although he was not a very religious man, he put on Tefillin every day.  He started after my bar mitzvah.  I believe he started because I asked him, why should I put on Tefillin, when he doesn’t.  So he started doing it every day from that time for the rest of his life.   When he passed away, I made a resolution that I would put on Tefillin every day also, and also to say Kaddish for him 3 times a day for the whole year.   This was one of the major forces which made me into a בעל תשובה.

Now for the siyum.  In addition to covering the הלכות of purim and קריאת מגילה, the mesechet covers many laws of קריאת התורה and how we split the parshiot during the year.  A quick הלכה that I learned which surprised me was brought in the mishha on דף ח’: א:  

אין בין ספרים לתפילין ומזוזות אלא שספרים נכתבים בכל לשון ותפילין ומזוזות אינן נכתבין אלא אשורית. רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר אף בספרים לא התירו שיכתבו אלא יוונית

The הלכה goes according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who says that a Sefer Torah can be written in Greek.  The reason for this given by the Gemara, is the ברכה given by נח to יפת,

יפת אלהים ליפת וישכן באהלי שם

And in fact, Rambam brings this down as halakhah in הלכות תפילין ומזוזה:

והתירו בספרים לכתבן אף ביווני בלבד. וכבר נשתקע יווני מן העולם ונשתבש ואבד לפיכך אין כותבין היום שלשתן אלא אשורי.