liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
So the start of the academic year coincided with the start of the new year in the Jewish calendar (5772). This has made my life incredibly intense, but it's been very positive.

Came back from one of the quietest, most peaceful places I know in a very rural part of Wales, and walked into the medical school main foyer. BLAM. 300 students talking at once is very, very loud. (This is the loudest day of the year, because most of the time at least some of the students are in labs, lectures or classes, or out on placement, or doing their own thing.)

Actually the first week went really well. I met my tutorial group of second years, who are really awesome. They're lively and interested and particularly willing to puzzle things out based on the knowledge they do have, rather than just giving up when something isn't obvious, which makes working with them very satisfying. But they're not so over-keen that I have to keep them from fighting eachother; they are naturally inclined to be generous and respectful and good at teamworking. The additional administrative responsibilities I have for the first 8 weeks of the year are also going well; doing a similar job last year I felt as if I were constantly firefighting, but so far everything has gone smoothly. It needs attention from me, I'm pretty much busy nine to five with that and the teaching and my special project, but it doesn't need panic or demand more hours than are available in the day.

I didn't manage to post about it, though, because Thursday was also Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year, and I had only a few days to plan a big service. That, too, went well; several students showed up, and plenty of regular and semi-regular congregants, and a few visitors who were respectful and helpful, and all the logistics was handled smoothly so I didn't have to worry about it. Lovely AF, a rabbinical student who grew up in this community, "lent" me his sermons (his mother read them out) so I didn't have to write any. Less good was the fact that none of the older people turned up; I don't know if that's because they're too frail to manage even important festivals, or because they didn't get the message about the timings of the festivals, or because they object to my femaleness or my style of leading the service. None of those options is particularly good, though; I will see if any of them make it for Yom Kippur tomorrow night and Saturday.

I also feel a bit caught up between the demands of the congregation at the moment. I mean, everybody is being very nice and polite, and even the people who had criticisms took care to thank me and make a fuss over the effort I've put in to running these services. But basically we have this problem that there is no overlap between the people who know the community's traditional tunes, and people who have any musical ability. This means it's impossible for anyone to transmit the traditional tunes in any useful way. There is a faction that is annoyed because they want their familiar traditional tunes, which I can't really provide as I can't sing them (I can't sing "my" tunes either, but at least I can make a vague attempt at it.) There is another faction that is basically Reform identified, but continue to support the Stoke community, and they want more upbeat, easily singable, modern Reform tunes, many of which are American or Israeli, and preferably a variety of tunes each week. Again, I can't really provide this because I'm not musically confident enough to teach tunes that are new to most of the community. I'm just in an awkward position anyway because aesthetically I prefer the Reform tunes and like variation, but I have a commitment to the community's Orthodox tradition and if I weren't being pulled in all directions and if I could sing, I'd want to reinforce that as much as possible.

Also, people keep asking me religious questions and then complaining that "a Liberal rabbi would let me" when they don't like the answer. One person asked me if it's permissible to dedicate a home on Rosh haShana. Well, no, it's not, but it's not as if I'm going to stop you. She wanted to invite the community to her ceremony after the new year service (because that's when everybody is there), you see, which put me in an incredibly awkward position. In the end I did help her with fixing her mezuzah, though it felt weird to be doing a ritual thing like that at such an inappropriate time, and the more observant members of the community just unobtrusively didn't join the party which went to her house after the service.

Then a woman showed up on Friday, someone who is a very occasional attender, and asked if we could say a prayer for her deceased husband if she donated money to the shul. I tried very hard to assure her that we don't take cash for prayers like that, particularly not on shabbat, but I was happy to mention her husband anyway. But when I asked her if there was anything particular she wanted me to say, she asked for "The Lord's Prayer". I'm the last person to get all picky about ritual details with someone who is grieving, but really, I draw the line at reciting that quintessentially Christian prayer in synagogue. Again, I got "well, it was ok at my Liberal synagogue after his funeral" (which I very much doubt, to be honest). Turned out that she meant Psalm 23, which is perfectly acceptable in a synagogue of any denomination, just she was calling it "The Lord's Prayer" because it starts with the words "The Lord". But even after we sorted that out, I feel I gave the impression that I was being gratuitously prissy or perhaps looking down on her non-Orthodox affiliation.

Anyway, overall I'm feeling pretty satisfied and not too stressed. But note that I didn't manage to post this at the weekend because although I had plenty of free time, I ended up spending nearly all of it vegging out, I was just too tired to put DW posts together, let alone do any of the productive and useful things I'd planned for my rare days off.

Yom Kippur starts tomorrow evening; it's going to be a bit tough going straight into the liturgy from a very busy day of teaching, and apart from anything else I barely have time to eat before the fast begins. But I am getting help from the wonderful [personal profile] hatam_soferet, which will make it far less daunting. Plus she actually can sing, which may help to mitigate the issue that everybody wants incompatible and impossible things out of the musical aspects of the service. Have an easy fast and a good conclusion if applicable, and I'll virtually see you on the other side.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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