First of all, I always love how the city sort of just stops. The streets go from being one monster traffic jam to just a few cars, and everything closes. It really gives it that feel that Shabbat is here. I started Shabbat this week at Moreshet Israel, the synagogue that is part of the Conservative Yeshiva/United Synagogue complex. It was my first opportunity to meet some of my fellow classmates. I was able to say hello and got a first glimpse of how diverse the group of students are. I had figured it would be a mix of retired people/college students. It does seem logical just because for the most part that is who has the time to leave their daily lives for six weeks. I was not quite accurate. I found what I had expected, but also people here who are professionals in their lives who can take the time, non-Americans that I expect to have a different perspective, and even a couple non-Jews. I suspect I will find their perspective the most interesting of them all. They seem very open to the whole thing.
The service itself is what I would term traditional conservative, with mostly an east coast flavor. It is a straight up follow the book service with a minimum of singing and more closely resembling weekly davening. I know LA tends to be more liberal and straight up Friday nights are few and far between, but I do appreciate the difference. I must admit I found that I miss what I am used to though. It is to be experienced. I do want to experience a wide variety of styles while I am here. It is an opportunity that should not be missed.
After services, we had a nice dinner where I started to bond with some of my classmates. I ended up sitting with a group of younger college age students. We got to bonding sitting around the table eating. As expected, it was a meat meal. While the potato borekas and salads were really good, it was less than satisfying. I am still waiting to eat a proper egg challah here. I have yet to experience a challah I like here. Marzipan does have some good looking challot, perhaps next week I shall try theirs. If their challah is anything like their rugalach, you know the rest of that story. I must report for the Manischewitz concord grape haters, kiddush wine is even worse here. It is brown, I think that is sufficient explanation.
I am just so pleased to make some new friends. It is an intersting group, a Hillel professional, a couple college students, and one Belgian. They all roommate together so they are a natural fit and I live closeby. After we ate, we did some singing and Birkat Hamazon. Sometimes I wonder if we should add a bit of it to Valley Ruach. Really, we always just let it fall by the wayside after. It is worth considering.
We met up with the sizeable British contingent. We all decided to group together and go to the Kotel after. I have never experienced the Kotel at night so it is definitely something I want to try. \ We ended up having this very long discussion about the nonsense about the separation of the Women's side from the Men's side. We get this huge infrastructure and 70% of the wall and the women get one table a couple bookshelves with siddurim in them. Let alone the women actually try and pray there. I of course find the whole situation ridiculous. It was an experience to behold though. I really did get to like the Brits and enjoyed bonding.
As we walked home, we were deciding our Saturday morning options. My little group of four that I met at dinner thought it would be nice to go to Hebrew Union College tomorrow to experience something different. I was quite happy with that. As I know where it is from my previous visit to Jerusalem, we decided to meet at a train stop closeby on Jaffa St. It turns out their apartment is very close.
So the next morning we met up and went down. I happened to see Sara, hi! She was able to say hello and chat with her fellow ex-Hillel professional friend. Of course, HUC being Reform we were treated to a mostly Reform service. It is much closer to a Conservative service than some Reform services and for me I was just fine with that. It is a lot more singing and participation which is definitely more my style.
After, we all kind of went home to nap. Walking in Shul clothes in the Jersualem heat is not easy. I had to be ready for our Mincha+Sleudah Slishit+Maariv. I had a nice quiet afternoon hanging out with Brent a lot playing card games and some reading. When I went down, I had a nice time with my friends and we did a great deal more davening. I am getting more comfortable with the whole davening thing as time progresses. It is definitely one of those practice deals. I do miss a musical Havdalah though. Debbie Friedman has changed Havdalah forever and the world just needs to cave and give in.
After, my new little group went out for a nice glass of wine and dessert. It is so amazing how Jerusalem is like a complete luddite town during Shabbat and less than an hour later right back up and busy as can be. We found a little place of Ben Yehuda street and if you haven't seen my picture on Facebook, go check it out. All in all, it was an amazing Shabbat and now I really have to focus on my classes. Be well all!