This is a cross stitch design that I created and then embroidered myself in honor of Tu Bishvat. I had listened to a podcast about how Judaism believes that unlike trees, which are based from the ground and grow upwards, people are spiritual beings from above, who grow down into mortal forms. In addition, like many holidays, Tu Bishvat is in the middle of the month, because that is when the moon, the month, and what the months/days represent are the strongest, due to it being the full moon. I was inspired by this podcast to create this piece, a cherry blossom branch coming down from the sky, with a moon in the background.
Earlier this night, I hosted Shabbat dinner with a few friends of mine from University that had never had the opportunity to have Shabbat dinner, let alone tried the challah or matzo balls I prepared for the evening. It was a great few hours where I got to explain the traditions of Shabbat, the story of Passover (when explaining what matzo is), and sharing Israeli music. It was a great experience that I would love to have again!!
I researched Wix.com, a company who's product I have been required to use during my university experience. Based out of Israel, Wix.com now has major branches in Ukraine, Brazil, Lithuania, the United States, and Germany. I really liked using the website creator, as it is highly intuitive and user-friendly, and am always impressed when companies use 'fremium' models, where the service is free and only premium upgrades and add ons cost.
I haven't had the chance to try using the Umoove technology for using smartphones with just your eyes, but I had the chance to see it in action at this past year's AIPAC conference in Washington DC. I thing that technologies that allow people with varied disabilities to live as easily as we do are the most important and selfless innovations we can come up with, and I am so proud of what Umoove is doing in this field. At the same time, marketing such technology to the general population is the best way to make it affordable and accessible to people with disabilities, and the company is doing a great job at working towards that as well.
The article I chose to read is Jewish Community in Seoul Prepares for First-Ever Non-Military Services by Tamar Runyan. It is a little outdated, from 2008, but nevertheless relevant. I know there are areas around the world where Jews do not have access to services because of lack of funding, lack of members, or discrimination, but I never thought that in a metropolis like Seoul, the (relatively small) Jewish population would have to get tickets and permits to get into the military base for all services, from Shabbat to the high holidays. I knew that the population of Jews in Seoul was extremely small, and I knew there was only one place to go for services outside of the military base (as I just returned from a study abroad there, I had done some research), but I didn't know just how recently the people of Seoul were offered open opportunities to participate in services.
After my Birthright trip, I decided to donate my $250 deposit to the Birthright organization. I genuinely feel that this trip changed my life, and anyone who can participate deserves this opportunity to touch their heritage and the land of their ancestors.
The Hebrew name I was given is Simcha, which means 'happiness'. I really liked it when I was younger, found it cheesy when I was in middle school and early high school, and have grown to love it again. My grown appreciation is that, that name doesn't dictate that I have to always be happy, or have it be a part of my every moment. I don't have the energy for that. I hold more meaning in the idea that I bring happiness, either through myself or through the ways that I help people, or through any little thing that happens that starts some chain effect down the road. And 'happiness' has always had a kind of chipper association for me, so I conceptualize Simcha as meaning more like 'joy', a deeper kind of peace and loving contentment with reality. That is something I strongly value.
Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it feels so extremely story-driven in both the holiday and the way we celebrate it today. When I was a child, I used to be so excited for the part of the seder where my Grandfather, sitting high at the head of the table, would tell the story of Passover. He is a great storyteller, and would always enchant me with imagery and make me feel so connected to the people who had those experiences, our ancestors. Now that the seder is run by my step-father's family, I really miss those meaningful moments.
The prayer/song B'Shem Hashem by Shlomo Carelbach is a song that I've only discovered recently, but has gained intense meaning to me. It's text is printed on a ring I purchased in Tzvat, and as I wear that ring (which I do everyday), I find myself continuously comforted by the idea that I am not here alone. It really gives a sense of safety and comfort, even to me, who is never quite sure where I stand in terms of belief in omnipotent and benevolent deities.
In preparation for this upcoming Shabbat, which I will be hosting, I baked my family recipe of challah, passed down from my great great grandmother! I have made it before, but only once before on my own. For almost every Jewish holiday, my mother and I bake it together to bring to contribute to family meals. It was much easier than I thought to make from scratch, and though time consuming, I would definitely make it again!!
This Shabbat dinner was hosted by my sister, but I initiated the dinner, and cooked and provided most of the food for dinner (consisting of matzo balls and various soups depending on people's preferences). It was a really nice experience for us to spend some time dedicated together, as we don't do a lot of that as we each have gotten older and moved away.
This is me and my sister right before we light our Shabbat candles for our first genuine Shabbat that we spent together in years. It was motivated by BIH, but it was important to me because we don't get together often, and certainly not just with the purpose of spending an evening together. The lights symbolize for me the start of time dedicated to the people around me and a moment away from all the stresses and weights of life.
There are so many extremely meaningful moments during Birthright, but I think I had a little bit of a different experience because I have been to Israel before and have seen many of the sights. For me, one of the most meaningful parts of the trip was going under and along the underground portions of the Western Wall. We had an amazing tour guide, and he was able to bring us on a journey of first hand seeing and touching the thousands of years of building, change, ruin, and infrastructure and developed, passed through, and evolved over the land where Jerusalem now stands. I have always known how historically bustling the area was, but being able to see all those time periods in one place, over the course of a relatively brief tour, and learn who made the changes and why, really opened my eyes to the history of the area and made it far more real than a page in a history book.
Birthright was a major step for me and my Judaism, a part of my identity that I was never particularly active with (after my mom stopped making me go to Synagogue services for Shabbat/the holidays). I kind of expected as much, but my trip to Israel left me dissatisfied with my inactivity and passivity towards Judaism, even though I would always identify myself as Jewish. At my Bat Mitzvah on Masada, I promised myself to make a serious effort into studying more Torah and, in general, taking a bigger part in my Jewish Community, so as soon as I returned, I started a journal for my Jewish learning. So far, it contains my notes from Rabbi Eli's Hassidut Daily podcasts, plans for this and next Shabbat, and a few notes about this week's Torah portion. I hope to do this on a daily basis.
Yom Hazikaron, also known as Israeli Memorial Day, has taken on a significantly new meaning for me after my Birthright experience at Mt Herzl. In the States, Memorial Day is a time for, generally, picnics and sales. Most people do not mourn or feel the weight of the wars that we have been in, started, or finished. In Israel, it is a very different situation. As we walked through Mt Herzl, one of our soldiers told us about how grade school children learn about specific soldiers and come to leave items and show respects to their graves, so that they are not forgotten. Our security guard showed us the graves of soldiers who were lost under his command, and recounted that pain. And as we were starting to leave, our tour guide translated a man's pain, as he sat along side his mother by the graveside of his fallen brother and told us the story of his loss. Everyone in Israel has that story, or knows someone personally who does. Memorial Day is a day of mourning there, and now I mourn too.
I downloaded the Learn Hebrew, Speak Hebrew app in hopes of improving my Hebrew skills. I have used the Learn ____ apps before, and was just as frustrated with how they claim to be free but very quickly run out of content and insist on payment for more. However, their system of teaching is interesting and I may look into paying since there are many languages in the system that I would love to improve my skills in.
I read the article titled 'How North Korea Endangers Israel', and I found it very interesting. I came back from South Korea on Dec 23, and went on Birthright 2 weeks later, and just returned from that about a week ago. As a result, I have been pretty invested in both Korean and Israeli politics, but I never thought of how, as this article pointed out, Iran really does look manageable and sane compared to the situation in North Korea, making it difficult to take the Iran situation as seriously as it needs to be taken.
My sister is going to be hosting Shabbat dinner tonight, and to prepare, I am bringing matzo ball soup! I know it isn't Passover, but matzo balls are one of the most loved Jewish foods in my family, using my great-great grandmother's recipe, and also work wonders for colds (as most of us have, as we are midway through winter). They are both delicious and a great way for us to connect with our ancestors.
I downloaded the Chabad.org Daily Study app to help me keep up with daily Torah portions. I am honestly pretty bad at keeping myself to daily commitments, but the app makes it easy to keep up with since all the resources are easily accessible through my phone! This was recommended to me, and for anyone interested in daily portions, I would definitely recommend it on.
I downloaded the 'Kosher Near Me' app in hopes predominantly of being able to find good Jewish/Israeli food, and vegetarian food. I don't personally keep kosher, but I am vegetarian and want more of the amazing food that I had the chance to get in Israel in my life.
I downloaded the Hebdate app to better be able to keep track of Jewish holidays, which I have been known to occasionally just completely miss because I was unaware, but I don't use calendar features on my phone often, I am more drawn to hand-made calendars which I keep in my daily planner. I sifted through and copied the holiday dates into that though!
I had my first Bat Mitzvah in December of 2009, and it was an extremely stressful event for me, in one of the most stressful time periods of my life. I wasn't able to cope with it all well enough, and unfortunately both did not want to have my Bat Mitzvah, but have a few month time period with a number of significant events, including this, that I have no recollection of. I knew this was not the experience it should have been, and chose to again have a Bat Mitzvah on Masada in Israel earlier this month, and chose to treat it as a conscious recommittment to my Judaism and my role in the Jewish community. I had the chance to give a new speech, about this recommitment, and my will to study and use Jewish values and ethics to spread good in the world around me.
I watched a video from the World Jewish Congress about the Kaifeng Jews, who came to China most likely as merchants along the Silk Road. I think the app is a good resource for finding highly varied Jewish media input, but I was not a fan of the interface and don't know if I would recommend it to others
I watched the very brief introduction to the Kabbalah, and learned about the history and movement of Kabbalah study, and a brief moment of insight into one idea presented therein. I have always wrestled with the idea that, supposedly, an infinite and omnipotent deity could somehow interact with and have power over our finite, dimension bound reality, and the brief mention in this video of that idea makes me want to learn more about this particular aspect of Jewish learning
This photograph is from an area near the grave site of David Ben-Gurion, and it holds much more of a symbolic meaning for me than the literal photograph or aesthetic. On my Birthright trip, at one point we discussed values and aspects that are important to Judaism, and near the top of everyone's lists was being a moral and ethical person. In this image, something about the very similar yet clearly different landscapes on either side of me struck me in terms of choices, roads divergent. In my morality, and in my Judaism, every moment we experience is filled with choices, most of which are generally very similar. but nonetheless very meaningful and shape both the experiences of yourself and those around you, as well as who you are as a person. In each moment, we need to actively pick the values and ethics Judaism teaches of loving and perpetuating goodness and kindness.
This photograph is of the two pieces of Judaism-connected jewelry which I wear on a daily bases. However, I purchased them at very different times in my journey with religion and spirituality. The necklace came first, and represents my somewhat aggressively defiant desire to be visibly connected with Judaism in a way that is constantly on display, in connection with the misconceptions and discrimination I was seeing around me about Jews. The ring, on the other hand, was more of a personal connection which I bought in Tzvat for a different reason, but it came to symbolize my conscious choice to be more connected and active within my Judaism, which I wasn't really doing before.
Be inspired by Mayim Bialik and 5 other young individuals who followed their passions - hip hop, environmental sustainability, TV and more - to overcome challenges and effect change. See how they stood by their convictions and find out what it takes to make your own mark.Earn 10 bonus points by completing this badge.
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AboutThe 100 Point Challenge is an opportunity for returning Taglit-Birthright participants to TRY a variety of Jewish activities, find those activities that they LOVE and want to continue to LIVE. Bring Israel Home participants can choose to complete any Jewish activity that speaks to them to earn 100 points. 50% or more of the American participants in a participating Taglit-Birthright bus must earn 100 points on the Bring Israel Home website within three months after returning from their Taglit-Birthright experience to earn a Bring Israel Home reunion. The Bring Israel Home 100 Point Challenge is divided into two milestones. Participants must earn 50 points within the first month of returning from their Taglit-Birthright experience to qualify for the following milestone. After achieving the first milestone, participants have two months to earn their final 50 points of Jewish activity. The milestones are clearly outlines below:MilestonesMilestone 1: 50% of a Taglit-Birthright bus must complete 50 points of Jewish activity in the first month after returning from their Taglit-Birthright experience. Milestone 2: 50% of a Taglit-Birthright bus must complete 100 points of Jewish activity in the two months after achieving Milestone 1. Travel Stipends*:
Find out everything you ever wanted to know about the State of Israel - engage with its history and people, get the facts on Israel's hot topics and discover why Israel is so central to world news and politics. In Israel Inside/Out, animated diagrams and interactive footage give you an insider's view into one of the world's most intriguing and mystifying countries – no airfare required.
The series features commentary from world-renowned experts on Israel and the Middle East, including Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and Princeton professor Bernard Lewis.Earn 10 bonus points by completing this badge.
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Shabbat in Israel give you a taste of something delightful?! You can continue to keep that feeling alive by completing the Shabbat badge. Complete the two activities below and earn an additional 10 point bonus!
What is happiness? Am I happy? Can I become happier? What do happiness and Judaism have to do with each other, anyway?
Get the answers to these questions as well as the secret to being happier with Jerusalem U's new series Habits of Happiness featuring world-renowned Positive Psychology expert Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar.Earn 10 bonus points by completing this badge.
Complete these activities to go on a hevily subsidized Israel 2.0 Trip or Internship program. Complete the all activities below to earn a 10 point bonus (in addition to the activity points)!
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Judaism 101 provides a broad overview of Jewish thought and insight. Course topics include Love and Relationships, Achieving Success, Gossip, Kabbalah, the History of Jerusalem, and Jewish Contributions to World Values.Earn 10 bonus points by completing this badge.
Masa Israel Journey is the leader in immersive international experiences in Israel for young adults (18-30). Masa's diverse portfolio of study abroad, internship, service learning, or Jewish studies programs help you grow—as a person, a professional, and a leader— while also developing a robust global professional network. Since its founding in 2004, over 120,000 young people from more than 60 countries have participated in Masa Israel programs.Earn 10 bonus points by completing this badge. Note: Masa Israel Journey is intended for North American participants only. Unfortunately, Israeli participants are not eligible for Masa.
At The Maimonides Fellowship, you will have the opportunity to meet with like-minded peers with a choice of over 100 locations nationwide. The program meets 1x a week for 10 weeks and includes an exciting Shabbaton Weekend Retreat. The weekly meetings include FREE food, along with dynamic discussion on HOT topics relating to Israel and Judaism. Upon completion, Fellowship participants typically receive $300-$500 CASH or a FREE/Highly subsidized trip!
Take part in interactive classes from the comfort of your own home with the JU Max online learning program. Classes are all live, online, and interactive with top notch presenters. Participants who complete the entire class will be eligible for a FREE TRIP BACK TO ISRAEL and can also receive college credit*. NOTE: JU Max is only available to students and young professionals who do not live near a local Maimonides Class option. To see the list of local options, CLICK HERE.
Classes are Monday evening 9-11PM EST.
The next course runs from Feb 12 -April 16.
CLICK HERE to learn more and access the JU Max application.
To earn the Cyber Badge (bonus 10 Points), you need to be accepted to the program and provide proof of attending the first 3 classes.