Liberation

Apr. 25th, 2017 08:50 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I made the classic mistake with Passover this year, of getting worked up and stressed about the practicalities of it instead of preparing spiritually. Actually it all went completely fine, but it wasn't until the last day of the festival, when all the organization was over, that I actually remembered to feel joy and celebration for being free.

contains religion )

Monday was just wonderful, though. That was when it really started to sink in that not only was I actually happy at being redeemed from slavery, but I am incredibly joyful and grateful to have such an excellent family. Both the ones I grew up with who are so great to celebrate Pesach with, and my family of choice who are incredibly supportive about joining in with my festivals and including me in theirs in a really respectful and non-pressurey way. We played D&D with [personal profile] jack GMing, something we've been meaning to do for ages and just not had time for, and it was really fun and relaxing.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Soon after I came to Stoke, there was a boy of 8 or 9 who got really really enthusiastic about Judaism. He dragged his not terribly religious father to shul regularly, and wanted to join his friend, two years older, for Hebrew lessons. So I taught the two of them together, and the older of the two celebrated his bar mitzvah in due course. They've always had a really great friendship and partnership, in spite of what might have been an awkward age gap, and I was really pleased that the bar mitzvah boy was entirely keen to carry on with Hebrew lessons once he'd finished the bar mitzvah.

Younger lad wanted to have a bar mitzvah in his turn. And there were lots of reasons why this might not have worked out but he was so keen, and had really obviously thought through all the ramifications, so we agreed that we should start preparing a Torah portion. So for about a year we've being alternating one-on-one bar mitzvah tuition with joint lessons for the two lads, focusing more on general language skills.

contains religion and tangential mentions of the Holocaust )

Coincide

Jan. 6th, 2017 06:52 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So this year chanukah started on Christmas Eve. babble )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So the Progressive Rabbinical training college runs a bunch of short courses for lay people, which they call Lehrhaus modelled after the Jewish educational institutions in Germany before WWII. This year they've decided to experiment with putting a couple of their courses online, and since I'm in a perpetual state of being starved of Jewish learning because I can't get to London regularly, I wanted to encourage this initiative. I signed up for four sessions on The origins of Jewish mysticism with Dr Damsma.

They asked that we don't share course materials on the internet, so I'm going to talk about it in fairly general terms. learning )

So, definitely learned something, definitely enjoyed getting my teeth into some study beyond just a one-off shiur. I feel I've mainly mapped out a few more areas of my ignorance, though.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So I've made it to 5777, and successfully led the Rosh haShana services. Attendance was quite low; we had I think 8 people for the evening and just barely enough for a minyan on the day. Several of our regulars are away and we didn't get any visitors; I hope there's no particular reason for that like not letting people know about the service who needed to. Best compliment to receive as shlicha tzibbur (service leader): I can't believe it's half past one already, the time went really quickly and that didn't drag at all.

I learned from [twitter.com profile] GWillowWilson on Twitter that the thing of RH coinciding with the Islamic new year happens every 33 years, which explains why I don't remember it happening before. Also it's pretty cool to learn new religion facts from the author of Ms Marvel. Does anyone want to explain to me how we get from a 19-year lunisolar cycle to synching with the Muslims' solely lunar [sic] calendar every 33 years?

I'm moderately proud of this year's sermon, so I'll include it behind a cut. Basically I decided to talk about Ibn Gabirol's piyyut (religious poem) The crown of glory, because [livejournal.com profile] ghoti went to Malaga recently and sent me a postcard of a statue of him. And because I miss the poetry from the Reform liturgy I grew up with. (My community use the Birnbaum which I believe is a fairly standard American Orthodox Machzor, and it has a lot of Elazar haKallir's stuff, much of which I find obscure. I don't know how standard the selection of poetry is in the Orthodox liturgy.)

Ibn Gabirol on self-examination )

I haven't worked out yet what I'm going to talk about on Yom Kippur. I think maybe something about dealing with difficult texts and the possibility of arguing with God, when that's coming from a place of faith and not just rejection. Partly I'm thinking of it because last year several people asked me why we read Leviticus 18 (including the notorious abomination verse) on Yom Kippur, and I didn't have a very good answer.

Also for my own future reference and possible interest of people who are interested in this kind of thing, I read a couple of good articles about shofar in the run up to the festivals, so if I save them here I might have material for next year's RH sermon:

There was a thing going round on Twitter to the effect that maybe the Jews have the right idea, ending the year now, since 2016 / 5776 has been pretty tough in some ways. One thing I found helpful as I was looking back over the year and feeling discouraged was this sermon from R' Neil Janes, who's another youth movement contemporary of mine; he writes the kind of sermons I aspire to only he's much much better at it than me! I very much share R' Janes' view of what it was like to grow up in the optimistic time of the 90s and to feel that our world has become a worse place since then. And I like his advice: We must find a rejoinder to the pessimism of our global climate. We must hoist our flag in opposition to this and do it now.

Anyway. I was pretty shattered after the service; I had a fairly mediocre Italian meal since I wanted a treat but didn't have much energy to decide on anything more than the nearest and most convenient restaurant. And then I came home and was basically wiped out for the afternoon. Today, the second day of Rosh haShana, I was back at work and I'm enjoying the optimism of looking forward, my first session with the new first years right at the start of their medical training. And I'm wearing a lovely pendant that [livejournal.com profile] ghoti gave me so I would be able to make the blessing for new things today. Yes, I still have a lot of prep to do for YK but I feel as if I'm setting out and looking forward.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Over the course of this weekend:
  • A young Russian Orthodox man told me I was a beautiful mother and he wished that I could be blessed with many children if I didn't have them already. At this point, all he knew about me was that I am female, and I had just led an impromptu ten minute discussion on the opening saying from Ch 2 of Pirke Avot, the section of the Mishnah on ancestral ethics.
  • An elderly Catholic man asked me to show him all the key parts of the synagogue's architecture and furnishings so that he could see what was similar to his church. I was a little reluctant since the reason we were in synagogue was for a memorial service and it didn't seem quite the moment for touristing, but he didn't actually ask in the middle of prayers and the regulars said it was ok to give him the tour.
  • A secular woman decided that since I know how to say all the "special words in Hebrew" I should also make the decision about whether it's ok to cut corners in making tea for large numbers.
  • A middle-aged Jewish widow gave me a huge bouquet of roses to thank me for leading the prayers for her late husband's stone-setting.
So, um, I definitely feel appreciated, even if some expressions of appreciation are more welcome than others...
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti planned us a group trip to Budapest, all of us, her three children and four partners. Which to me sounds like a terrifying amount of organization, but basically she booked budget flights and rented us a huge, cheap, centrally located apartment that normally trades on stag and hen parties. And then she got everybody to the airport in plenty of time, with some notion of how to get across the city from the airport, and after that we basically just turned up and improvised.

In almost all respects that worked better than the sorts of holidays I'm used to with detailed itinerary planning, and long complicated negotiations about sharing space with people who aren't normally housemates. We didn't have the slightest ambition to see "everything", we just wanted to have a good time together in a new city, and that was incredibly successful. I mean, it's easy to say that it was low effort considering that my gf put in most of the effort and I just tagged along, but I wouldn't have contemplated organizing a trip of that size and complexity, I would have just assumed it was beyond me, but partly because planning I'd have considered essential is actually entirely disposable.

[livejournal.com profile] ghoti was also much better at writing up the trip than I am, she did so promptly and concisely; my version is likely to be rambly and boring. tourist report )

So basically, [livejournal.com profile] ghoti was an amazing genius at organizing a holiday that was fun and exciting and full of interesting new experiences without being exhausting. And at taking into account the wishes of such a large and mixed group and making sure that everybody had the best possible time.

Budapest is shadowed by genocide )

Limmud

Jun. 20th, 2016 11:17 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I nearly didn't go to the local day Limmud this year, as it's in a busy time and I wasn't sure if it would make sense to drag all my non-Jewish partners to the conference. But in fact [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and [personal profile] cjwatson and even their younger children were really really excited about the event, so that was a good reason for all of us to go. And in fact it was the best Limmud I've been to in years, I came out with that glorious buzzy, head-full, wanting to have enthusiastic discussions about everything feeling.

I'm going to follow [personal profile] lethargic_man's example and try to write it up here, because it might be interesting to some of you, and because it'll be an easier archive for me to refer to in future than paper notes, and because I'm really hoping some people will have opinions and ideas, as the weekend was over before I had a chance to explore all the cool new stuff properly through in person discussions. Unlike him I'll write biased summaries and talk about my own reactions as well as the speakers' words, rather than try to actually type up the lectures from my notes.

history, Talmud ) OK, I meant to do brief summaries but got carried away, I'll write up the other talks another day...

Shavuot

Jun. 13th, 2016 09:26 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So my extremely wonderful girlfriend came up to spend Shavuot with me.

religion and soppiness are a recurring theme )

And next week we're all going to Limmud, and everybody is being really enthusiastic about the conference, including partners' children. I mean, they're right to be excited, Cambridge Limmud in particular has a great young people's programme. But in general I'm really happy that my people are coming to Limmud with me.

Also, this is probably a good time to ask: I really ought to have a paper English Bible; does anyone have any recommendations? It might as well be a Christian Bible since if I'm looking at Tanach I'll mostly just stick to Hebrew. I further realized that my trusty old Soncino Chumash is really quite hard to read; I didn't really start reading Chumash until my Hebrew was fluent enough not to be bothered by the fact that the text is squashed into too little space and the distinctions between ד ,ר and ה are not as clear as they might be. This is really a problem for teaching from it, whether it's bar mitzvah students or people like [livejournal.com profile] ghoti. So I think it's time I acquired a more modern Chumash; tell me what's out there with good translations, good typography and preferably commentary that won't make me want to claw my eyes out?

Milestones

May. 9th, 2016 07:07 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
The quad is mostly non-escalator relationships, though it does contain two married couples who live together and in my OSOs' case have children. It's more like, as we spend more time together we have more shared experiences and more closeness. And we've just noticed that it's a year and a half since we got together, and there are some small new things to report.

diary stuff )

Meanwhile I'm handling a potentially career-threatening crisis at work in the middle of my busiest month of teaching, which is why I'm not very present online or in one-to-one communications lately. Definitely getting to spend time with my loves and put work stress out of my mind at weekends has been helping a lot in coping with this. But I'm hoping to be more in communication soon.

B'seder

Apr. 26th, 2016 11:49 am
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Yes, obvious pun, sorry. Anyway, the point is that I was really stressed about the beginning of Pesach and actually it was totally fine.

seder reports are a bit of a tradition by now )

And at the end of the week I get to run a seder for my partners and their children. I was sort of hoping parents would join us if not invite the whole crowd of five extra people to their seder, but it's really not practically feasible this year. They are being really supportive with lots of advice, though, so I feel loved and accepted. I am trying not to get into a mindset of being excessively nervous because I want my loves' first ever seder to be perfect. We've been having lots of good conversations about doing the seder in an appropriately interfaith way.

If you've ever been a non-Jewish guest at a seder, please do comment with what sorts of things were helpful and welcoming, or what was confusing and alienating. I'm happy to hear suggestions from Jewish friends too, of course, but I'd particularly like to know about people's direct experiences.

The only

Feb. 18th, 2016 11:40 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I've spent my life being the only Jewish person in most social contexts. When I was tiny, younger than school age I think, I tried to explain the High Holy Days to my Dad's best friend from university; I remember vividly the intense embarrassment at having made a social misstep, but also the sheer surprise at discovering that someone other than family, met outside a Jewish context, could also be Jewish.

I was the only Jewish kid in my nursery school. My brother and I had to go up on stage a week or so after I started full-time school to demonstrate to the other pupils that we were normal children just like them and nobody should pick on us for being Jewish. That could have backfired, but in fact it didn't, it was only really in junior school that I got bullied for being the only Jewish kid, and that was caused by a couple of teachers who had a problem with it and egged the other children on to be horrible to me. In secondary school I wasn't the only, probably about 1% of the school body were Jewish, so that meant about one girl in each yeargroup, and I had to do lots of explaining, and had to sit out of RE class the term we "did" Judaism because the teacher was insecure about teaching in front of a student who knew more than she did. I obviously wasn't the only Jewish person at Oxford (!), but I it was a very common experience for me as a student that I would be the first Jewish person somebody had met. And when I lived in Scotland and Sweden, I was pretty much the only Jewish person in my work circles and other social groups, and often the only Jewish person in interfaith groups.

Now I'm semi-officially the Only Jewish Person at the university where I'm a lecturer. I mean, I'm not, not remotely, but nobody else is admitting to it and I'm the person the university calls on for official functions when they want some Diversity. They're in the process of doing bureaucracy to make this actually officially part of my role, with a title and terms of reference and everything. I somewhat flippantly describe it as being appointed as the institution's official token Jew, and that's only partly a joke.

So that's pretty much always been part of my experience. And now I'm the only Jewish person in my relationship, in the group of people whose lives are perhaps less intertwined than the most common meaning of the word family in a culture that has definite expectations of what a nuclear family looks like, but not a whole lot less. I mean, I was the only Jewish person in my relationship when it was just me and my husband, but being one out of two doesn't feel quite so much like being the odd one out as being the only Jewish one in a group that contains two culturally Christian atheists and four religious Catholics. Generally I'm pretty happy in this situation, but it's something that impacts on various parts of my life so I feel like talking about it a bit.

religion and relationships )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So [personal profile] ruthi asked me a very good question: How do you tell the Hanukka story? What do you tell?

what is chanukah? )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I spent last week sorting out a lot of bureaucracy around grad student transitions as the academic year turns, and after masses of pushing and arguing suddenly everything fell into place and my institute decided to help me and my little group instead of obstructing us. For example, having spent months arguing over whether they owe me £1800 they suddenly went, oops, our mistake, we actually owe you slightly over £5K. (Not my personal money, research funding.) I hate to sound ungrateful but the money would have been a lot more use a year ago when we couldn't do the research we wanted to because we didn't have the money, but coming now it does feel like a nice windfall.

Further, a slight mixup meant that I am officially on vacation this week. So I went off to celebrate the new year on a high, looking forward to a few days' break, albeit with the hard work of leading the Rosh haShana service in the middle.

some religion, some relaxing, brief comments on _Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell_ eps 3 and 4 )

Anyway, all good wishes for the coming year to anyone for whom it's relevant.

Modesty

Jun. 11th, 2015 10:25 pm
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
Modesty is something that's valued in my religious tradition, and also something that's difficult for me personally as well as being politically fraught. Recently a friend was kind of vehement about modesty, specifically women's modest dress, and as it happens we didn't have time to have a proper conversation. So I've been turning the question over in my mind in anticipation of having the conversation, and I think it's enough thinky stuff for a blog post, so:

swirly thoughts about modesty )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
This weekend was one of my Saturday morning services, so it wasn't entirely sensible to go home for a truncated weekend of barely 24 hours. I'm glad I made the decision to do so anyway, cos I had an excellent time. I was able to join [personal profile] hilarita briefly for birthday drinks, and to help [personal profile] jack acquire and assemble a proper barbecue grill, and [personal profile] cjwatson came over for supper and Agricola. And on Sunday [personal profile] jack and I actually hosted a barbecue party, which is something we'd been talking about doing since we first started househunting. The excuse was to celebrate [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and Judith's karate grading, and amazingly, for a long-planned summer Sunday event, the weather was perfect.

So there was sunshine and Pimms and grilled halloumi and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's homemade icecream. And [livejournal.com profile] alextfish and [livejournal.com profile] woodpijn brought bubble mix, and [personal profile] ptc24 brought his camera which prints out instant photos like the old Polaroids used to. And relaxing in the sunshine with lots of people I really like. I really really didn't want to leave to catch my train, especially as [personal profile] pseudomonas and [personal profile] hairyears arrived just as I was leaving.

Anyway, I am quite proud of my sermon on last week's Torah portion, Behaalotecha. It's Numbers 8-12, and as you can see from the link it has a lot of different stuff in it, including some very obvious sermon fodder, and I was quite pleased to find a moderately original angle on it. I decided to use the parshe as a spring-board to talk about gender and sexuality. Partly because certain people in my community have developed an annoying habit of interrupting at any random moment to rant about same sex marriage, and I wanted to address that. In fact the worst offender was not present, which is good in that I wouldn't have wanted her to feel passively-aggressively attacked, but less good in that, you know, she did kind of need to hear my points.

Now, I appreciate that a great many people have real trauma around the way that religious communities deal with gender and sexuality, so I want to offer the opportunity to decide not to read further. But some people have encouraged me to post my sermons, so I think at least a few of you might be interested. I've annotated this a bit because it might not make total sense out of context; my comments to you here on DW are in square brackets, some vague approximation of what I actually said to the community is under the cut.

reading Moses as genderqueer )

Passover

Apr. 8th, 2015 11:39 am
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I'm having a really good Passover this year. I want to write it up so I can look back on this week, but it's mostly just boring to people who are not me diary stuff.

religion and social )

Happy purim

Mar. 5th, 2015 11:35 am
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So a couple of weeks ago I helped run a bar mitzvah in our synagogue. And we ended up getting a write-up in the Jewish Chronicle, a newspaper that exists primarily so that British Jews can call eachother to point out that someone they know is in the JC. Anyway I somehow get referred to as Professor, which is very embarrassing indeed. (In the UK Professor is a title of merit, not a job title, it's very bad to be called that when you haven't earned it.) But it's also the case that here a picture in a national newspaper, showing me, who most people will correctly presume to be female, [pretending to] read the Torah in an Orthodox synagogue. Where up to now we have been small enough and provincial enough to be pretty much under the radar with our shockingly egalitarian ways.

This has led to the Chabad rabbi from Manchester phoning everybody he has contact details for, railing about how terrible it is to let a woman read the Megillah, the ceremonial scroll of the book of Esther for Purim. I don't know where he's coming from halachically, considering that reading Megillah is the one thing that even most gender-essentialist sources say that women can do, but there you go. He's been threatening that the community will be cursed if they do this very important mitzvah wrong, and also trying to bribe people by offering to hold a break-away service in the pub and buy everybody drinks if they come and listen to his reading instead of my gender-inappropriate one.

My lovely community were unanimously loyal to me, partly because we don't like random Chabadniks showing up and trying to cozen the community away from our synagogue. And at least in part because everybody prefers my fun dramatic reading where I do all the dialogue in silly voices and give snarky summaries in English and make Haman talk like Nigel Farage, over the rabbi's very fast mumbly chant in a thick Yiddish accent. I am so tempted to dress up as the Chabad rabbi next year, with a false beard, and offer people cheap vodka and sawdusty excessively parve cakes, but maybe that wouldn't be in good taste. But this is another chapter in an ongoing saga.

In fact I dressed up as a backwards person, wearing a mask on the back of my head and a jacket and shirt buttoned at the back, plus my hair in a ponytail over my forehead, which caused much amusement. It was a smaller purim than we sometimes have, as several of our regulars are away and most parents didn't want to bring children to a weekday evening event. We did have an Elsa and a mummy, who both found presents they wanted in my bag of kids' presents, so that was something. Reverend Malcom Weisman turned up, not particularly in his capacity as minister for small communities but just because he was on the way home from Lancaster and wanted to drop by and hear Megillah, and he was very supportive.

And then I went out for meal at the local Italian that was offering a mid-week deal, and on to Hector Garcia's for a cocktail instead of dessert. Their special was a tiramisu drink, made of kahlua and vodka and cream and flavoured with vanilla and chocolate. I like cream-based cocktails, and I liked sitting in this somewhat chain-ish but pleasant tapas bar drinking my dessert and drunk-texting people to say I love them. Some of my friends were especially lovely and said they'd have a cocktail that evening, so I was sort of virtually drinking with friends instead of by myself. And I do love all the people I said it to, and I don't have to be drunk to say so, just I was in a particularly sentimental mood, having successfully run an event and settled down to relax with alcohol.

Also thanks to [personal profile] kass for pointing to Purimgifts and explaining how to navigate the AO3 page for it. I've been having a lot of fun browsing through stories that are either midrash, or are in fandoms I'm familiar with. I particularly enjoyed In the citadel of Susa, a Vashti POV take on Esther.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I have to admit that some of what's behind my generally low / anxious mood lately is the news. I normally don't react very emotionally to hearing about things like terrorist attacks. It's a tragedy, I feel sad for the bereaved, but it doesn't feel personal, and it doesn't affect me much more than knowing that people are dying in wars and road accidents every day and not making news headlines. But the events in Paris this month have really got to me, not so much the attacks themselves as the reactions to it.

antisemitism, islamophobia, freeze peach )

This is the kind of thing it's probably more foolish to put on the internet than talking openly about my sexuality. But never mind, I generally trust my readership to respond sensitively when I'm talking about really hard stuff.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] randomling asked for some recs for books/movies/other media that might give me a bit of an idea of the insider's view of British Jewish culture!

This is a totally great question, thank you [personal profile] randomling! (As an aside, it is emphatically not good etiquette to pester people from minority cultures for introductory resources, but for me personally, I am very happy to answer those kinds of questions from friends, and I said this to [personal profile] randomling when they mentioned wanting to ask about media recs. And I'm usually happy to answer intro type questions from strangers too, as long as I judge they're asking in good faith.)

some recs )

There must be more I'm not thinking of, but let me post this just to squeak in before midnight and get back on schedule!

[December Days masterpost]

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

Top topics

April 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2345 678
9101112131415
161718 19 202122
23 24 2526272829
30      

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Subscription Filters