Saturday, October 21, 2017

I Chose a Bad Time to Make Aliyah

“I chose a bad time to make Aliyah”
“Every time is a bad time to make aliyah”
I told a friend that I chose a bad time to make Aliyah, and she responded that there is never a good time to make Aliyah. Thinking about that statement, I truly don’t believe that there could be a time that would make my Aliyah any easier.
I’ve been so excited to make Aliyah for so long, yet when the moment came I felt totally unprepared.
A a week after I made Aliyah, my gum puffed up around my replacement less baby tooth. Just to make matters worse, this was during Sukkoth when almost everything is either closed all week or closes early all week. I hate going to the dentist but I dragged myself there for him to tell me what I already knew. I needed to get my baby tooth extracted. I planned the day for the extraction and have since gotten my tooth yanked and I’m waiting for my gums to finish healing.
Since, I’ve been able to finish most of the bureaucratic motions that new immigrants have to go through ranging from making a bank account to setting up my arnona (taxes) account.   
I’ll be ever thankful for the role that my girlfriend played in my Aliyah process. And tooth extraction process (I cried a lot. I also made her poke my gum multiple times to make sure that it was numb after novocain but before the actual extraction). And my crying about missing my family all the time healing process. When I landed in Ben Gurion Airport and became a citizen I was incredibly tired and worn out. Flying and crying both take a lot out of me. Luckily, Arielle had already visited apartments and we had a new little home to start our new lives in. She deserves a blog post of her own, but this paragraph is what she's getting until next time.
I’m completely in love with our apartment. There is storage space everywhere, something that our last apartment did not have. There are wood floors which makes vacuuming after the cats very quick and easy. The bathroom sink is decorated with sunflowers, the shower floor is a blue mosaic. Our apartment faces out to a limestone mountain. We have a porch with a bench. We even have windows lining our wall which lets the sun stream in all day.
There are also some adjustments. When I wash my clothes I carry it from the washing machine to the drying rack and usually soak whatever clothes I’m wearing in the process. I have a granny cart to lug my groceries home in instead of a car. I’ve replaced my car keys with a rav kav (bus pass). I walk up four flights of stairs (16 stairs each) to get out of my apartment each morning, then cross the street and walk up another five flights of stairs to get to the bus stop. I’ve also been practicing my Hebrew every chance I get which leads to a lot of blunders. As an Israeli citizen, I’ve also felt reduced to my ID number. Everywhere we go requires my ID number from buying museum tickets to ordering anything online to going to the bank or the health care center. 
I’ve been starting every day with a hot tea with mint which I cut out of my new porch garden. Something that I have always wanted and never been able to have until now. I generally have a bureaucratic or exploration task a day. Arielle took me to a film festival and we were able to see Etgar Karat speak which was amazing (and so Israeli). We’ve been to the Maritime Museum and the City Museum so far. I also discovered that as a new immigrant my admission to all of the city museums in Haifa is free for a year. I really feel like I’m getting to know this city in a way that I really only know Jerusalem and Yerucham. Granted, Yerucham doesn’t have much to get to know.
I am incredibly lucky to know people in Haifa. My favorite teacher from high school invited Arielle and I over for the first night of Sukkot. This teacher instilled a love in Talmud in me. I really learned how to grapple with the Talmud and Halacha in her class while applying it to my every day life. Wearing Tefillin in the morning, debating validity of certain Conservative teshuvot, and lighting the Chanukkah candles while knowing why we light them 1-8 and not 8-1. Expanding to study Talmud in college once a week with the Rabbi at Hillel. These were all skills that I learned in her class. In a way, that night felt like my Jewish education had come full circle while I sat in her sukkah and explained the reason for Sukkot and the Shalosh Regalim to Arielle.
During Sukkot, spent a day making yet another Aliyah, this time to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is my favorite place in the world and I’m so blessed to be able to live in the same country as that city. I took the three hour commute and spent the day with a close friend who I met while I was on Nativ. We explored the old city. Walked 11 miles. Visited the Old City, Kotel, Ben Yehuda, Shuk, and, of course, Marzipan for their rugleh. That day was the first day that Aliyah felt the way that it was supposed to feel. How special to visit the Kotel during one of the Shalosh Regalim.

There might not be a good time to make Aliyah, but I’m thankful that I’m chose the time I chose.
The view from our apartment

Exploring the Old City

Making dinner in our new apartment

Haifa City Museum's collection of early postcards

My granny cart/car replacement

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Does starting an Aliyah blog make me the same as every other basic white girl who makes Aliyah?"

Nobody told me how hard it would be to make Aliyah. Or maybe they did and I just didn't listen. Why would I? I have a dream to live.
I've always thought of Aliyah as my next big step. It has just always been my next step, even when in reality it wasn't. This wasn't the first time I'd tried to make Aliyah. I really wanted to straight out of my gap year and join the IDF. Unfortunately, that wasn't a realistic plan financially and now that will just sit as a lasting regret.
My grandparents dropped me off at Newark. I spent my whole time in the terminal bawling my eyes out and probably snotting all over myself. I was surprised that this out of this greater Jewish community that I have grown to love and feel comfortable in, not one person asked me if I was okay. Instead, a tall lanky black man with a cross belt buckle, big cross necklace, long jeans, boots, and a cowboy hat squeezed my shoulder, asked me if there was anything he could do for me multiple times, and told me that he and his wife, Ruth, were praying for me. When I was boarding the plane the security guard asked me why I was crying. I was able to blubber out “I’m making Aliyah”. His response was “Thats good, nu”. How Israeli.
I expected to get to Israel and feel the euphoria that overcomes me every time I set foot in Jerusalem. Something about that city just captured my heart and soul. When I got here, I didn't feel euphoric. I didn't feel relieved. I was fearful, guilt ridden, I missed Poki (my grandpa), and I spent a lot of time crying. I just felt like I'd closed a whole book that I never thought would end. I thought I’d be starting a new chapter, instead I’m in the process of writing a dissertation on a subject I know nothing about.
Now, a week later, I’ve finally settled in, visited Jerusalem, and kept that euphoria of being a citizen of this beautiful (and a little bit backwards) country.

Friday, March 4, 2016


I will not hide myself from you
And I will not be silent
My lips may drip with honey
And I will probably never be a man's ayshet chayil
But hineni
I am here
Standing before G-d as a Jew
Born of a Jewish mother
My connection to a community
That believe in matrilineal descent
And the Torah's truths
And the Talmud's laws
Is undeniable
As a woman
I am given three beautiful mitzvot
When Friday morning arrives
I knead sweetness into the dough
I weave and braid Shabbat into my week as I wind down
And sometimes, my joy for Shabbos glows brighter
Than the flames themselves
The blessings roll off my tongue
Like the oil
From the flames of the menorah that once glowed in our holiest sites
I bring Shabbos in
Eyes closed
Heart open
And I can feel the warmth of HaShem's light
Until darkness is poured over me
In the form of niddah
And the knowledge that
So many people who share my history
Will not accept my marriage as pure
Who am I, HaShem?
To say that I know more than those who dedicate their lives to study?
But who are they?
To tell me that I am improperly dedicating my life to you?
You are present in my lungs with each breath
On my lips with each kiss
I was made
B'tselem Elo-im
You breathed life into my nostrils
And with that breath you blessed me
With longings that rabbis can't explain
HaShem, I am bleeding to follow your words wholly
And this niddah is not caused by my own body
But by the Amalekites wounding me
Disguised by tznius and black hats
As if they lay tefillin to "Love the Lord thy G-d"
But not the Jew standing next to them
Their love for community
Is blinded by blatant hatred of Your own creation
And I know that you free the shackled
But it's your own people putting each other in chains
And claiming that the only way out is to deny myself
When we stood before you at Sinai
We were too afraid to hear your words
But now, your tzadikim have booming voices of their own
And I am once again afraid
So I stand before you again
Wanting to follow your laws again, wholeheartedly
I've tried to lift these mountains that your followers have set
But they're much too heavy for me alone
Waiting to follow your laws
With this mountain on my shoulders

Monday, January 18, 2016

Eshel Reflection

As I'm trying to piece together my weekend I am overwhelmed with feelings. Happiness and comfort, as this weekend I have explored pieces of myself openly and loudly without judgement. The joy of being able to hear other people's stories. The amazement of the people I have met and the way that the community became so incredibly cohesive. Wonderment at the strength of some of the people who were at the shabbaton, especially in secret. I have laughed alongside people who were excommunicated from their families and communities. I have been nearly been brought to tears because of stories that people were able to tell each other in the space we created. I feel immense success just from being a community member at the event. I also felt sadness. Among all of the happiness and joy there was immense sadness. People coming from families or circumstances that keep them in the closet. Knowing that people were able to come out and show their true selves for a weekend only to see them take off their nail polish and slam the closet door back behind themselves in order to return to their lives.
One of my goals this weekend was to better understand trans struggles. I attended a trans experience group and was able to hear stories of their navigating jewish (and regular) life, both as closeted individuals who don't know how much longer they'll fit in due to multiple circumstances (that I'm not going into for the sake of confidentiality) and as out individuals who don't have a place to fit in because of communal standards or the fear of being found out.
This was also the first time I have been completely comfortable with a mehitza. The mehitza for kabbalat shabbat (Friday evening services) had a sides for male identifying people, female identifying people, and another section for people who don't fit into the gender binary. As a cis person and a lover of chassidut and halacha, I love and am very comfortable with the concept and physical mehitza. As a member of the queer community and a Trans ally, I feel this overarching guilt knowing that some people don't feel like they have a place for prayer. Being on the same side of the mehitza as trans women was incredibly uplifting for me, and it alleviated the overarching sense of guilt I feel on the women’s side of the mehitza.
After checking in, we had services for Kabbalat Shabbat. Everyone, in all three sections of the mehitza was involved in a beautiful prayer session. I was taken back by how Jewish I felt. Like many others, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a queer Orthodox service. I think that most people who see depictions of queer life see half naked men and over sexualized women. This service was like any other Orthodox service. In this, it brought me back to my experiences in USY when I was in high school. Other events this weekend included discussion groups, limudim, and shabbas meals. I was able to listen to other peoples experiences, from a range of different backgrounds. There were people who had been married with kids an never heard of anything queer. There were queer people who fell in love with Judaism. There were stories of coming out as queer to orthodox families, coming out as observant to secular families. These stories ranged from incredibly uplifting to astonishingly heartbreaking. In listening to these stories, I found myself to be a part of a larger community. We shared in pain and positivity. Regardless of the love found or lost in the homes of these people, we had created a sort of unconditional loving family within those 48 hours.
The study groups were like any other study groups. The average groups (well as average as a group of Jews learning together can be), showed that regardless of gender and sexuality, we study and pray within the same confines of the halacha as the communities most of us will be returning to after the convention.
As a 21 year old who wants a Jewish family, seeing couples bring their children to the event was reassuring. The kids were healthy and happy (arguably happier than most other children I see). They were being raised religiously. Also, Eshel members repeatedly put me in charge of their children. During lunch, a father looked at his children, looked at me, and told them that I would make sure that they got lunch. I returned a thumbs up. After years of hearing that parent’s don’t want me talking about my relationship or holding hands with my girlfriend in front of their kids. Once a rabbi compared pedophilia to homosexuality. These sorts of comments can collectively hurt queer communities. Seeing parents raise children, and being asked to feed and baby sit them, was really refreshing and reassuring to me that people trust me with their children. Also I love babies so that was a plus.
Seeing people balance their religion sexuality in a place where they could do so without judgement was one of the most important parts of the convention for me. When signing up, I expected to meet a lot of people and learn from collective experiences. The convention provided me with so much more. There was a comfort that I saw in people that I haven’t ever seen. The ways that these important parts of our lives could come together shamelessly was completely transformative. My heart was soaring. Being around a community with that much sorous (grief) yet produced so much positivity was uplifting in a way that let me take the feelings home.
As I wind down from the convention and miss the friends I have made, I’m overwhelmed. I have realized that I was able to take a piece of Eshel home with me in a way that I thought would dissipate after having left the community once the convention ended. We departed after a group hug, and I can still feel the warmth. Knowing these people exist has become a sort of strength for me to go into my communities and use the scope of knowledge I gained from this multifaceted group in order to better advocate for queer rights. I have a better understanding and ability to advocate for trans individuals (which was a goal I had before going to Eshel). I have a better understanding of myself.
Back to grief. While I am out in almost all aspects of my life, it is scary for me to know that there were people who were able to hear people use the correct pronouns for the first time. There are people who were able to say that they are gay out loud for the first time since their last Eshel convention. There are people who cannot express themselves outside of these events whether their struggles are not being able to wear pants because of tsnius or not being able to come out of the closet in fear of losing their jobs and families. It saddens me that people who were able to show themselves and express themselves have to tuck this huge piece of themselves back into their pocket not to be thought of outside of private meetings and Facebook groups.

I had a goal of talking to everyone at the convention this weekend. I think that I did talk to almost everyone. There is a chassidic belief that we each have a flame, and the beauty of this is that one can share the flame without losing any of their own. Eshel allowed people to burn bright. Every person I spoke to enlightened me in some way. Every single person already had a spark, and every single person had something in them that just glowed the minute others were willing to listen.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Just to get this on the table, I have no idea what trans people go through on a day-to-day basis. However, I do know what suicide survivors go through, because I am one. A suicide survivor is not someone who has tried suicide, we are people who have been touched by it. In my case, I lost my uncle. I don't like to bring it up because it is a part of my past but it did teach me some things that are relevant in the wake of the increasing number of trans teens who have taken their own lives.
If I learned anything from my loss and mourning, I learned how to be compassionate. I became more careful about bullying and little things I said. If I made a sarcastic jab my mind would race to the affect that it could have on another person.
People victim blame, but that just isn't the case. Depression is a serious illness. It is a sickness like any other disease, and it can manifest in many different ways. When people, regardless of gender identity reach out for help or threaten suicide, it is not a cry for attention. It is a cry for help. Before we can stop losing people to suicide, we need to find some more compassion in ourselves.
Compassion comes in many forms. All of those forms can prevent suicide. It is important to use correct pronouns. It doesn't matter if someone who you see as a girl prefers he/him pronouns. It's easy to change our speech, and that is one form of acceptance that can save a life. We need to be here for the trans community, not against it. We need to try to understand their struggles. We need to stop talking over trans people and listen. We need to be supportive both online and in person. If you see a call for help reach out, don't hang up. People today lack filters because it is so easy to troll people online. It shouldn't be. The internet can create a global community, it can be used as a tool to help people gain support and that is wonderful. When people look for that support either give it or find a new site, don't use places that should be safe to tear people down.
As a suicide survivor I am deeply saddened by the rising number of trans people who we are losing because people can't keep their thoughts to themselves. I am terrified that the families of these people are going through the same emotional roller coaster that I once went on. I am upset that we have to see more families mourn and feel as if they did not do enough. As a member of the LGBT community I am so angry that people treat our community in the ways that they do. I am appalled by the fact that there is enough hate to break through the protective barriers we have built around ourselves. And I am hopeful that in the future there will be more support, at least within our community, for people all over the LGBT spectrum.