Ready for Withering Flowers: A Ritual for Elul

I’m familiar with your story
This gratitude you cultivate helps ground you
And yet, do you really deserve to ask for more?
The answer to this question will give you the balance you seek

Sometimes you need a reminder that we already said farewell to the month of Av
As it is written in Job: “Man born of woman is short of days, and fed with trouble. He blossoms like a flower and withers, and vanishes, like a shadow.” (Job 14:1–2)
In Elul, you are instructed to enjoy the ephemeral beauty of the flowers without worry of their withering
Since t’shuva/repentance is the name of the game, instead of fearing change we welcome it in

Every morning the shofar calls you to t’shuva/repentance
Are you listening?
How might you be more awake in order to hear its sound?
Allow these blossoms a chance to bring you to the presence you desire.

Step 1 – gather flower petals into a large bowl- ideally four colors and four different species. Bowl is ideally wood but can also be glass or metal.
In New England this is a great time of year to find a diversity of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, chicory and aster.
Step 2 – fill your bowl with water covering the petals – ideally spring water but tap water is also fine. The chance to visit a river, lake or small spring will only add to the ritual
Step 3 – ASK FOR SOMETHING. This is for real. If you’re going to open up enough to do real t’shuvah/repentance this year, you have to acknowledge that you are not yet whole – that there is something about yourself you want to change, or at least cultivate. A useful formula is “May I be…” or “Let me be…”
Step 4 – Pour the entire bowl of petals and water over your head.
Step 5 – Proclaim out loud: “Horeini Ya Darkecha – הוֹרֵנִי יְהוָה, דַּרְכֶּךָ – reveal to me your path” – Ps. 27:11. This is both the sealing of our request and also a letting go of wanting only one thing.

Re-posted by the author from Ma’yan Tikvah’s Divrei Earth: Spiritual wisdom from Earth and Torah.

Rachel Azaria’s Solution for Silencing “Antisemites”

You all know what I’m talking about. As much as Jews are working to combat Antisemitism, so do Jews love to refer to anyone who is rude to them or disagrees with them as an Antisemite. And now, as it turns out, anyone who is rude can always be implied to be a Hamas supporter who is also anti-human rights and definitely a misogynist.

Here’s the conversation as reported by the victim herself which took place on the subway in NYC: More »

What does it feel like to be a Jew in America?

What does it feel like
To be a Jew in America
Hearing the news of the Israeli army’s assaults on Gaza

Like a cancer, one part of my body attacking another
The cells do not listen to my cries:
You’ve got it all wrong
This body is one organism
Why can’t I cease this inside of my own skin?

Friends, colleagues, newspapers describe how “we” are attacking “them”
Since when am I this “we” you speak of?
Is it because I face occupied Jerusalem when I pray?
Because I say blessings over my food in the language of the oppressor?

I yearn to protect my edges
I long to strike a balance
How to stay safe while remaining open?
It’s actually a question I ask myself every day

And today, as a Jew in America, my voice is muffled
My opportunity to question is denied
Prayers for peace are welcome
And yet
Calls for justice
Perhaps equal access
…to electricity
…to medicine
…to healing

I ask my body again
It pauses for a moment
As if it somehow remembers that it is one body
And then returns to its task
Destroying the cells one by one

Shamir writes poetry in the Berkshire mountains and also on trains

Order of the Seder for Tu Bishvat

I know what you’re thinking – you want to refer to the 4 worlds in your Tu Bishvat seder but they’re confusing and…oh, if there were only a song that allowed you to sing through the four worlds (like we sing the order of the Passover seder) so folks could remember the order of the Tu Bishvat seder.

NOW YOU CAN. Check out track #3 here from Taya Shere. If you love it, it’s yours for 99 cents!

Last year Shir Yaakov Feit & I would sing the whole song, then sing up to the ‘world’ we are at throughout the seder.

Click here for many great free resources available for YOUR seder from our friends at Hazon.

My suggestion? Add-on a seder to your Shabbat dinner or lunch. Then if you are in NYC, head out for The Best Tu Bishvat Party in NYC.

Prefer to sit home and dream of summer? Enjoy this music video from our friends Stereo Sinai.

I Am Planting [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] from Stereo Sinai on Vimeo.

In the Spirit of Adar

At 6:15am on Rosh Hodesh Adar Aleph, I stood at a bus stop on Derech Hevron by Tzomet Habankim. I watched Israelis get on and off the green public buses and waited until a blue and white mini bus pulled up. I boarded the Palestinian bus which runs from the entrance to Bethlehem to East Jerusalem, paying only 5 shekels instead of the regular 6.40 NIS.

shaharitIt was a quick ride with almost no stops until I rang the bell for Jaffa Gate. I was the only passenger to descend from the bus.

officerIn flowy green pants and a purple skirt, I made may way through the pouring rain toward the kotel. I was grateful to both fit into the hippy Jerusalem culture as well as the serious feminist activist group that was having their monthly meeting of worship, song, and taking a stand.

As I approached the plaza, I heard loud voices of men singing a Shlomo Carlebach niggun. Why were they singing so loud? Was it because of Rosh Hodesh? Was their joy pure? Or could it have been do drown out the women’s voices close by on the other side of the mechitza? Having been at the kotel the week before for Havdallah, straining to hear the words of the blessings, my instinct was that this loud singing was the latter.
More »

Primary Elections this week – ROCK THE MITZVOTE!

anull-decreeEight more states – DE, HI, MD, MA, NH, NY, RI, WI – have primary elections this week. (Hawaii’s is on Yom Kippur – DOHT!) Have you fallen into the trap of praying for peace and prosperity but haven’t checked your local polling location?

Rock the Mitzvote reminds you to get off your tuchas and get out there. Use their free High Holidays e-card to encourage everyone you know in these 8 states to hit the polls – let’s pray with our feet, people!

Tevel B’Tzedek: Live Blogging from Haiti

tevel_haitiTevel B’tzedek is on the ground supporting communities and even running a school in the Petitionville refugee camp. Below are some selections from recent blog posts from our friends over at Repair the World:

There are thousands of children in the camp, but only one school, run by volunteers from the Israeli non-profit Tevel b’Tzedek, and funded by IsraAID, an umbrella organization of Israeli groups working in the developing world. I founded Tevel b’Tzedek, which has been working with poor and marginalized communities in Nepal for the past three years through its service learning programs that combine volunteering with the study of poverty, Jewish social justice values and globalization. The nine Israeli and US Jewish volunteers of “Tevel” have been here for the past two months. As I walk through the camp with them, they seem to know everyone, from the children to the U.S. Marines providing camp security. There is an amazingly unlikely moment as we climb the steep hill towards the school—we meet a group of Nepali UN soldiers, and the Tevel Nepal graduates chat with them in Nepali—it seems like the harbinger of a new world.

My job is to figure out what to do next. With the rains and then typhoons coming, the camp is not safe, especially for those on the bottom of steep hills. The camp will empty out over the next few months. Should we go to work in the next phase of semi-permanent camps? Should we move to one of the villages, where we can also use Israel’s agriculture expertise to boost food production, a major priority in Haiti even before the earthquake?

Srugim Update – Two more episodes Wed. night at the JCC, plus watch on The Jewish Channel!

Thanks to all the folks who came out last Wednesday for the NYC premiere of Srugim. We had a blast watching it in a big group and then meeting up for drinks afterward.

Mazal tov to everyone who entered the Srugim “Name that drink” contest.

  • First place: Naughty Nati (Chocolate Martini)

  • Second place: Ani Ekadesh (Champagne with blueberry essence)
  • Third place: Katamonster (Sam Smith English Ale)
  • Honorable mention: No Sex On the Beach
  • Folks will be gathering once again at the JCC in Manhattan tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 10) for the 3rd and 4th episodes of season 1 (yes there will be English subtitles).

    Not in NYC? Host your own watching party & catch it on the Jewish Channel on Saturday nights. [Note: TJC is available on cable -- iO Optimum ch. 291, Time Warner ch. 528, RCN ch. 268, Verizon FiOS ch. 900, and Cox Cable ch. 1. For more information, visit] Send some photos to editor-at-jewschool-dot-com & we’ll post them on the site. (Or just share them with us on facebook)

    Mazal Tov: Tobaron Waxman is the winner of The Jewish Museum’s first-ever Audience Award

    tobaron3Jewschool is proud to congratulate NYC-based artist Tobaron Waxman on this major achievement:

    The first transgendered artist to be exhibited in a major Jewish museum exhibition has won the Audience Award for the favorite work in the exhibition Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life.

    Tobaron Waxman is the winner of The Jewish Museum’s first-ever Audience Award, selected from nearly sixty international artists. Votes were gathered from visitors to the exhibition in person and online, between September 13, 2009 and January 11, 2010. Waxman was selected for his provocative installation Opshernish, 2000/2009. The piece examines the construction of gender in Judaism by recreating and condensing a multi-part performance installation.

    The following are the artist’s own words as shared with Jewschool’s editors: More »

    Homer Simpson, Brooklyn Jews, Shabbat & TuBishvat

    Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Marc Katz, the Revson Rabbinical Intern at Congregation Beth Elohim. He blogs at

    brooklynjewslogoEach week, over Shabbat dinner we engage in an experiment in mindfulness. Moving through the Shabbat table liturgy we are forced to think about two things: how does our wine and challah taste and where did then come from?

    During the weekday, I eat akin to Homer Simpson, eating too much and beginning each bite before finishing the one before. On Shabbat, we are forced to take a step back. First we remember through blessing the wine and challah that food is a gift, and it is from God. (Of course it’s a law to bless our food on the weekdays as well even the most pious Jew would argue that there is something different and special about Shabbat blessings.)

    In addition, the Shabbat liturgy forces us to follow an order. I’ll admit that I’m a fork loader. The more I can taste in a given bite the happier I am. But on Shabbat, we don’t mix. First we taste the wine. Then we taste the challah. Only then do we get to eat everything else. Shabbat is our chance to pause, taste our foods, and enjoy the difference in taste at each step in our ritual.

    For this reason, it couldn’t be any more perfect that Tu Bishvat, the holiday where we usually celebrate the unique tastes of nature and look closely at how we relate to God’s world, falls on Shabbat. It is during this holiday that we are encouraged to go above and beyond what we do every week, to be mindful of our food in all aspects. This coming Saturday, at Congregation Beth Elohim when the clocks strike 6PM we will combine the best of Shabbat and Tu Bishvat.

    Taste of Tu Bishvat will be an experiment in mindfulness. Like the Shabbat table liturgy we’ll take the time to really taste our food (through meditative practice) and to study and discuss where our food comes from by looking at issues of sustainability and eating. The night will end with a havdallah service as we say goodbye to Shabbat and Tu Bishvat. Cost is $18. To register click here.
    Taste of Tu Bishvat is a program of Brooklyn Jews and the Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn. It is co-sponsored by the AJWS-ADODAH partnership.

    el es frida kahlo: opening in St. Louis

    If you’re anywhere near St. Louis, or are the type of person who watches videos online, check out the latest from one of Jewschool’s favorite artists, Maya Escobar, of Acciones Plásticas fame.

    Bruno David Gallery
    3721 Washington Boulevard
    St. Louis, Missouri 63108
    The gallery is open free to the public
    Wednesdays through Saturdays and by appointment
    Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM

    Escobar writes:

    el es frida kahlo will be on view at the Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis, MO from 1/22-3/6. In conjunction with the exhibition, I am offering a free embeddable animated el es frida kahlo gif.

    A Taste of Yeshivat Hadar – NYC & via live broadcast

    12Looking for an opportunity for full time study in an egalitarian setting? Yeshivat Hadar in New York City offers a chance for both summer and year ’round study for women and men to study together – and you even get a living stipend. I’ve been to a bunch of classes, lectures, and more than a handful of weekday services. It’s quite an eclectic bunch of of students – and their teachers are excellent. Want to learn more? Check out this Wednesday night’s event – in person or online.

    The Cairo Geniza: Crumpled Papers, Revolutionary Prayers
    A Taste of Yeshivat Hadar — open to all

    Considering applying to Yeshivat Hadar’s 2010 Summer or Full-Year Program?
    Interested in experiencing learning at Yeshivat Hadar and asking your questions?

    When: Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 7:30-9:00 pm
    Where: Yeshivat Hadar, 190 Amsterdam Avenue (at 69th Street), NYC
    Cost: Free
    Taught by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer

    In December 1896, Solomon Schechter traveled to the “Ben Ezra Synagogue” in Old Cairo and discovered 200,000 Hebrew manuscripts, some from as early as the 9th century. Among them were alternative liturgies that will astound those used to the standard Ashkenazi prayerbook, including alternate versions of the weekday Amidah. In this class, we will study how crumpled papers in a forgotten attic can change our understanding of prayer.

    RSVP to

    Prospective Applicants to Yeshivat Hadar are especially welcome to this program, which will end with Q+A about Yeshivat Hadar’s full-time programs.

    Can’t come to NYC? Join us on the phone or on ustream. Here’s how:
    Go here to watch a live broadcast. Register for a free account ahead of time, and login to chat your questions.

    Have specific questions? Email Aryeh Bernstein, Director of Recruitment, at

    You can download our applications here: Summer (2010) and Full-Year Program (2010-11).

    Chirstmas: Close the churches, a day of drinking and sex for all!

    The Boston Globe reports:

    The Puritans who ran the Massachusetts colony were so deeply opposed to Christmas that they actually banned the holiday for a generation. When the holiday was celebrated in old New England – in the teeth of concerted opposition from both church and state – it was apt to take the form of an irreligious and increasingly violent public celebration that left citizens worried for their safety. As for the commercialism that sullies today’s holiday – the constant advertising, the frenzied buying of Christmas presents – that tradition, at least in Boston, is older and more deeply rooted than going to church that day.

    On December 25, 1685, Boston Magistrate Samuel Sewall proudly wrote in his journal that “the Body of the People profane the Day” – that is, the town’s residents went about their work as usual – “and blessed be God no Authority yet compel them to keep it.”

    As Mather saw it, Christmas was a holiday of pagan origins, all too often an occasion for “dancing and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness.” (Chambering was a common euphemism for fornication.) Mather summed up his analysis by quoting an eminent English bishop: “Men dishonour Christ more in the twelve days of Christmas, than in all the twelve months besides.”

    Let’s chamber it up, people – it’s cold out there! Who knew so many of us were already observing such a traditional December Christmas.

    (h/t to my Dad)

    Standing Up For Justice, or Straightening Our Curly Jew Hair?

    Fritz Silber-Baker and Caroline Rothstein, my favorite Yids of the award winning slam poetry team “The Intangible Collective,” will be performing as part of this Sunday’s 2nd annual Inside the Activists’ studio. (As you may have seen by the prominently placed ad or recent post, Jewschool is a cosponsor – that means we helped plan it and hope to see many of you there! We majorly endorse this event!)

    Here’s a taste of Fritz and Caroline from a slam this summer. The recording quality isn’t amazing, but they say so many freakin’ profound and important things about the modern Jew’s struggle with identity and history that you may need to watch it a few times anyway.

    Happy do whatever you want-akkah…

    OY. Thank you to Oliver Miller from the FasterTimes for summing up this ridiculousness and saying what we were all thinking:

    OHHHHH CHRISTMAS YOU SO FINE YOU SO FINE YOU BLOW MY MIND, GO CHRISTMAS! CLAP CLAP CLAP! GO CHRISTMAS! Awesome job, The Gap, way to go! You have created an ad that is a uniquely horrible combination of a Toni Basil song, the movie “Bring It On,” “Stomp,” the Blue Man Group, and everything else that is terrible in this universe. …GO CHRISTMAS! CLAP CLAP CLAP!

    Contest Deadline extended: Accepting blog and vlog entries until Kol Nidre

    Read on – last chance to be a featured Jewschool blogger! Finalists will be posted after Yom Kippur

    Jewschool & JStreet Blog/Vlog Competition
    NEW Deadline: 9/27/2009, sundown

    Enter the Jewschool & JStreet Blog/Vlog Competition and win free registration to JStreet’s first conference!!

    To enter, answer the following question in blog or video format.

    What keeps you hopeful and/or invested in a two-state solution for the future of Israel and Palestine?
    Please choose one of the following as a lens or a focus for your blog/vlog:

    A – Social Justice within Israel
    B – What it means to be pro-Israel in modern America
    C – Jewish values and Israel activism

    Round 1: Jewschool editors will choose the top 10 entries (8 blog format, 2 video format)

    Round 2: Jewschool readers will vote for the top 2 blog entries and top video entry. Winners will receive free registration for JStreet’s first conference –
    More »

    Contest: Blog or Vlog on Jewschool and go to JStreet’s conference for FREE!

    Jewschool & JStreet Blog/Vlog Competition
    Deadline: 9/20/2009

    Enter the Jewschool & JStreet Blog/Vlog Competition and win free registration to JStreet’s first conference!!

    To enter, answer the following question in blog or video format.

    What keeps you hopeful and/or invested in a two-state solution for the future of Israel and Palestine?
    Please choose one of the following as a lens or a focus for your blog/vlog:

    A – Social Justice within Israel
    B – What it means to be pro-Israel in modern America
    C – Jewish values and Israel activism

    Round 1: Jewschool editors will choose the top 10 entries (8 blog format, 2 video format)

    Round 2: Jewschool readers will vote for the top 2 blog entries and top video entry. Winners will receive free registration for JStreet’s first conference –
    More »

    What keeps you hopeful and/or invested in a two-state solution for the future of Israel and Palestine?

    As hard of a question as this is, it is up to us to share our voices. Enter Jewschool & JStreet Blog/Vlog Competition TODAY and win free registration to JStreet’s first conference!!

    Get your writing and or video featured on Jewschool, like these people: