|BlogHUC - Amanda Greene's Blog|
Hanging out with family and friends, watching TV, playing guitar
Highland Park, IL
Blog #6: April Blog
Second semester classes have officially ended! As I write, I am on the plane on my way to Chicago to spend a few days of Pesach with my family before I head back to LA to close out the semester. I only have a few days left at my internships, a couple of papers, and two final exams before I will have officially completed my second year at HUC. It’s really crazy how quickly the time has gone by. It feels like it was just yesterday that I returned from Israel.
The end of the semester was a bit hectic, but nonetheless filled with many exciting things. About a month ago I had the wonderful opportunity to staff the Temple Emanuel Family Retreat with two other classmates. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the work at HUC, so it is always nice to get a way for a weekend and not think about academics. But this was a unique “vacation” from the busyness of school. It was extremely moving to be able to be a part of this family retreat to see families engaging in and experiencing Judaism together.
A few months back, Michael Soberman from the I-Center made a presentation to the students in the Rhea Hirsch School. The I-Center is new organization dedicated to ensuring that Israel becomes an integral component for young Jews’personal and collective Jewish identities. This May,the I-Center is launching a Masters Concentration in Israel Education with a cohort of 18 students from six different masters programs. The program consists of three conferences, academic course work, individual mentoring, and Israel experience, and a final project. I am very excited to be a part of this first cohort of I-Fellows along with six of my HUC classmates.
At the end of the second year, there is much excitement in preparation for our third and final year in the Rhea Hirsch School. Just last week, all of the joint masters students (6 of us) met with Richard Siegel (Director of the SJNM), Michael Zeldin (Director of Rhea Hirsch School), and Dr. Sarah Benor (SJNM faculty member) to discuss our curriculum guide and capstone projects. I have to admit; we were all a bit anxious and nervous to see what this meeting was going to present. Yes, there is going to be a lot of work and the third year is going to be very busy, but this meeting brought way more excitement than anxiety. We were excited to start discussing potential topics and begin the process. After Pesach break we will each meet individually with Michael and Sarah to discuss our topic ideas and will then be assigned two books to read over the summer. While a bit overwhelming, this is all very exciting.
And on that note, I wish everyone a Chag Sameach and Happy Passover!
Posted by at 4:58 pm
Blog #5: February Blog
Second Semester is off to a busy, but great start. Classes are in full swing, internships are busy, and I’ve even been doing a bit of traveling. This semester I am taking five classes-Midrash, Prophets, Commentaries, Professional Learning, and Liturgy Practicum. My favorite class is definitely commentaries. While it meets only once a week and hurts my head, reading and understanding Rashi is just so fascinating. Commentaries is taught by the Dean of the LA campus as it is a required class for all second year students and is a way for all of the students to get to know the Dean. I am studying like crazy this semester, but learning so much!
I still love teaching my wonderful fourth graders and have decided that fourth grade is the best grade to teach. While my teaching internship is technically only a 4-hour a week internship, I find myself spending several more hours lesson-planning because I love it so much. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills runs a project-based curriculum and I have been fortunate enough to continue learning with Isa Aron, one of my Education professors from last semester, as she helped to construct the curriculum. My fourth graders continue to amaze and inspire me each week.
My internship at the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health has also been in full swing. I was fortunate to be able to attend our roundtable conference with over 30 scholars in the field of Judaism and Health engaging in conversations on establishing a scholarly field of research. Topics of the roundtable included: Pastoral Education, Spirituality and Healing, Bioethics, Healthcare reform, and Illness and Wellness. It was both fascinating and educative to be both an intern and a student at this roundtable as the conversations were so relevant. I returned from the three-day conference feeling rejuvenated after a rough start to second semester.
I’ve also been having a little fun too. As I write this blog, I am on the airplane back to LA from Chicago. I spent the weekend in Chicago filled with various wedding festivities. My sister is getting married in May, and she had her first wedding shower this weekend. It was great to be at home for a few days with my family, as I haven’t seen them since Thanksgiving. The timing of her shower was perfect as one of my classmates in Cincinnati who I spent the year in Israel with was having a bachelorette party and a surprise-wedding shower in Chicago too. Several HUC students flew in and it was great to all be back together again. We reminisced about our year in Israel together and shared quite a few laughs.
It’s hard to believe that there are only two more months left to second semester! That’s all for now-until next month!
Posted by at 6:01 pm
Blog #4: January Blog
My friends and classmates thought I was crazy, but it was important to me, a highlight of my week. I would go to sleep a little earlier than usual on Monday evenings, just so that I could wake up early on Tuesday mornings to be at school by 7:30am for my weekly meeting with Debbie. Last Monday evening was different. I wasn’t convincing my friends that getting up early to start my morning was important. In fact, getting up last Tuesday morning brought me much anger and sadness. No I wasn’t getting up to drive to HUC for my weekly spiritual advising or for a guitar lesson. I woke up early on Tuesday morning for the unbearable, the unthinkable, how was it so that I was supposed to be going to my weekly meeting, but instead was in a car with three friends on our way to Debbie Friedman’s funeral?
I received the news on Sunday afternoon when I walked back up to my fourth grade classroom after my students had all left. I walked up to my classroom like a proud teacher and was so excited to tell Debbie about my lesson. It was our first day of our God unit. I had told Debbie that this was my next unit with my fourth graders and we had many conversations about how to teach God and the importance of talking about God in religious school. After my students made pictures of God, I asked them how they felt making their pictures. As they began to respond I realized that these fourth graders could talk about God for hours. As we were concluding the discussion, one of my students said, “Amanda, can I say something? Sometimes I think God wants things to be easy for us, I don’t think God always wants things to be so difficult for us. That’s why I think for some of us, making a picture of God may have been difficult at first, but then we were all able to do it.”
Little did I know that Debbie had already passed away during this discussion about God- I’m certain, though, that Debbie would have reveled in the discussion in my fourth grade class that Sunday morning. And when I looked at my phone, and saw a text message from a friend, “Call me when you get out of class”, my heart skipped a beat. And then I saw the email from Dean Holo. How could it be? Debbie was too young. She had so much left to do. She had told me all about new projects she was working on-one in particular we were going to work on together. And selfishly, I wasn’t done. I had only just begun meeting with Debbie. She pushed me to reopen wounds and address what was deep down in my heart and soul. She was teaching me about prayer and we were studying together. And I thought about what my fourth grader had said just a short while before I saw the email, and I wished that I could agree. This was not going to be a situation where God made something easy, no, not at all.
And Debbie, who was my spiritual advisor, what was I supposed to do when I needed a spiritual advisor most, and she was gone? And so I came home and I cried. I cried a lot. And then I pulled out my guitar and began to play. I played for a while. And I listened to Debbie’s music, over and over again. Sunday evening I went over to a friend’s house with several classmates and we sat and played her music together. Monday morning we had t’fillah at school and shared memories and sang her music together.
I came home from school on Monday and I played my guitar again. And I re-read all of our text-messages and email exchanges filled with jokes and heartfelt words. How was this real, I thought?
At the cemetery on Tuesday I was talking with one of my friends about how for a few months we had forgotten that Debbie was famous. And my other friend who has known Debbie for years reminded me of when I first saw “Debbie Friedman” in my inbox. I, too, had a deep love and appreciation for Debbie Friedman who had changed Judaism and brought prayer to life through her music. Yet at that point there was nothing weird for me about it. I had received invitations to Shabbat Dinners, warm thoughts after a difficult week before Shabbat, and sincere messages to call if I wanted to talk, or even if I didn’t want to talk. I couldn’t believe that now, I was grieving so deeply for this same person, who in only a few short months, had made such a mark on my Jewish journey.
Tuesday was a difficult day for the Friedman family, the entire Jewish community, Jewish musicians, friends of Debbie, and students and colleagues of Debbie. The days that followed have been difficult too. It has been weird at school without Debbie there. Her name is still on the board where her office is listed, her name is still on the T’fillah schedule (I was supposed to lead services with her in March), and her 60th birthday is still written in my calendar.
Debbie’s death is a great loss for us all. Debbie was an asset on the HUC LA campus and her presence will be missed. But her legacy will continue to brighten our lives as we will sing her songs, play her guitar, tell her stories, and continue to teach others all that she has taught us and brought to our lives. Zichrona Livracha, may her memory be a blessing.
Posted by at 5:19 pm
Blog #3: December Blog
Lots of exciting things have been happening in the last month of the semester.
I have a confession to make-I have an obsession with being an LA tourist. A few weeks ago, I dragged one of my classmates and our Professor Dave Mendelsson, who is spending a year off from the Israel campus in LA, on a tour of the “stars’ homes”. It was so much fun! Here is a picture of Dave and me at our first stop… the sign says, “violators may be fined $451” we thought the exact number was pretty funny. Oh and Ben Stiller’s house is in the background!
As Thanksgiving break approached HUC-LA had a power outage. Being from Chicago, it sort of reminded me of the excitement before a snow day. Everyone was in the middle of class and since the majority of classrooms do not have windows, everyone relocated. Rumors spread that classes were going to be cancelled for the rest of the day, while others were spread that all classes would take place but be relocated. This excitement and confusion was no different than waiting around for the decision whether or not school was going to be cancelled for a snow day. Sure enough, classes continued for the rest of the day. Immediately after my last class I headed to the airport to spend time in Chicago with my family and friends for the holiday.
It was great to spend time with my family since I do not get to see them very often. Another highlight of my trip to Chicago was Shabbat services at my home synagogue North Shore Congregation Israel. Each year on the Shabbat after Thanksgiving is “College Reunion Shabbat”. On this evening, college sophomores participate in the service and three students are chosen to speak about Jewish life on their respective campuses. Before services though, there is a gathering in the youth lounge where current members of the youth group, college alumni, and even post-college alumni gather together for a mini-reunion. This year was one of the largest reunions ever. It is always great to catch up with youth group friends. Here is a picture of all of us with our youth group advisor, Neil, who is celebrating his 18th year as advisor!
I was sort of dreading coming back to LA, not because I don’t like it here, but because it meant that finals were approaching! Luckily, Hannukah came at the perfect time and while these weeks could be very stressful, some fun has been added as well. Jeremy Simons, a second year rabbinical student, organized a Latke eating contest fundraiser for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. This past Wednesday the LA campus was filled with the excitement of this competition. You can follow this link to watch the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2iBoIzFc7k&feature=player_embedded
On another note, I began a new internship at the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health. The commute is great, a nice walk downstairs to the “garden” level of HUC. The Kalsman Insitute is a department of HUC providing interaction, discussions, and partnerships among spiritual leaders, healthcare providers, and Jewish community professionals and members. As the year continues I will update you more on my new internship.
I would be lying if there weren’t one light at the end of this tunnel of finals-ISRAEL! In just under a week, I will be spending two weeks in Israel along with my classmates in the school of Jewish Nonprofit Management. This trip takes place every two years and focuses on the growth of nonprofits in Israel as well as the changing narrative of Israeli society from collective identity to individual identity.
I have a very deep love for Israel and cannot wait to go back! I can assure you that in my next blog you will see pictures from the trip!
I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!
Posted by at 3:26 pm
Blog #2: November Blog
As a Joint Masters student there are two things that take up most of my time-classes and internships. A typical week for me goes something like this:
Monday: Mishnah, T’fillah, Hebrew, Lunch (usually filled with a meeting of some sort), Torah
Tuesday: Spiritual Advising, Teaching Seminar, T’fillah, Sociology of Jewish Education, Lunch in the car, Internship
Wednesday: Mishnah, T’fillah, Hebrew, Advising/lunch, Torah
Thursday: Teaching Seminar, Sociology of Jewish Education, Lunch in the car, Internship
Friday: Internship, Shabbat
Saturday: Homework and lesson planning
Sunday: Teaching and Chevruta
So let me tell you a bit about these classes I’m taking. As you may have noticed I am taking a combination of Jewish Studies courses as well as Education courses. It’s quite nice the way that the days have been divided, having Judaica on Monday and Wednesday and Education classes on Tuesday and Thursdays.
To my surprise, Mishnah is one of my favorite classes. I never knew how much I loved to study texts before coming to HUC. We began the semester learning about the Mishnah as a genre and what sorts of topics the Mishnah covers. Each week we have Mishnayot that we have to study for homework and then we go over the translations in class. We are encouraged to prepare the texts in Chavruta. Every Sunday evening I study both Mishnah and Torah with a classmate in the rabbinical program.
Lisa, Lara, Hannah, and me at Warner Brothers Studio
to watch the filming of a CBS sitcom starring William Shatner.
Hebrew has been more of a challenge. While I love the Hebrew language, learning new languages has always been difficult for me. Last year in Israel I was in Kitah Bet and we had Hebrew every day. Now that we only have Hebrew twice a week, and the focus of our Hebrew class is on Hebrew literature rather than on learning the grammar and learning to speak Hebrew, I am finding the class a bit more difficult.
Similar to Mishnah, I love studying the Biblical text. Of course it is a text I am much more familiar with, however, I truly believe that each time a text is read, new understanding can be gained. We’ve read some really great supplementary books in Torah class including “Who Wrote the Bible?” and “The Art of Bible Narrative” which have added so many new layers to the reading of the text.
I wrote in my October blog entry about the spiritual retreat that I attended. One of the greatest parts of the retreat has been this past month. After the retreat, each participant had the opportunity to sign up for spiritual advising. For the past month I have had the great opportunity to meet with Debbie Friedman every Tuesday morning to talk about my personal spiritual growth and how to bring spirituality into the lives of others. My Tuesday morning meetings serve as an essential part of my week where I put aside the stress of classes and focus on my own growth as a Jew.
One of the things I love most about my Teaching Seminar is that it goes side by side with the teaching I do on Sundays. Over the course of the semester, we work with our teacher, Isa Aron, to plan a lesson that we will then videotape ourselves teaching. While at first it sounds a little intimidating, I have been learning so much through this experience. I am fortunate that Isa actually created the curriculum that I am teaching at Temple Emanuel. Isa has been helping me to use my unit of teaching, Midrash, to fit the project base curriculum that she designed a few years ago. I am currently in the middle of the project, but so far, it’s going really well and my students have even made comments saying, “I like Sunday school now!”
Celebrating Lauren’s 30th Birthday at Griffith Park
Sociology of Jewish Education has taught me to look at Jewish education through a new lens. The articles that we have read in this course are thought provoking and inspiring. We began our year by writing “soap boxes” and were able to choose an issue in Jewish Education that we are passionate about and write exactly how we felt, uncensored! We’ve surveyed various journals that contain Jewish Education articles and are about to begin our final project of choosing a topic to research and write about to “contribute to the field”.
Posted by at 4:03 pm
As a joint masters student, all of my Jewish Nonprofit Management classes are over the summer. During the school year though, we are interning 12 hours a week and also have individual advising with Lori Klein, the Assistant Director of the program.
Yes, my week is busy and at times can be quite overwhelming too. It’s definitely way to easy to get caught up in the stress of school and work and feeling as though I have no time for myself. One of my high school teachers used to always say, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” When I was accepted to the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education and the School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (Communal Service at the time), one of the things I was most looking forward to was the opportunity to learn and study with knowledgeable scholars in these fields. I’ve had a few overwhelming days this past month and if I have learned only one thing from these experiences, it’s that the professors, faculty and administrators at HUC LA truly care. They care about us as students, learners, colleagues, and they care about each and every one of us as individuals. The support and advising that I have received from the faculty and administrators at HUC this past month are something for which I am most grateful.
And of course there’s always a little time for some fun too…
Blog #1: First Blog
Hi! My name is Amanda and I am in my second year at HUC in the joint Jewish Education and newly named Jewish Nonprofit Management program. After returning in May from the Year in Israel program, I had only two weeks at home in Chicago before moving across the country to Los Angeles for the start of summer session.
As a joint masters student, all of my Jewish Nonprofit Management classes are over the summer. I enjoyed being on campus this summer and having the months to adjust to life back in America and in LA. Our “Wacky Wednesday” class was an excellent tool to help learn to navigate the city, as we drove from Jewish organization to Jewish organization learning all about Jewish communal life in LA.
While this summer was filled with great learning, we also had a lot of fun. I celebrated the Lakers big win, went to Disneyland for the first time, went to a Dodgers game, saw RENT at the Hollywood Bowl, and even had my first celebrity sighting (Adam Sandler)!
With classmates Dave, Rachel, and Lauren watching the Lakers big WIN!
At Disneyland with classmates Hannah, Rachel, and Dave
Posted by at 11:04 am
Fall semester began in August and classes were off to a great start. Since the High Holidays were early in September this year, we had a nice long break. I spent Rosh Hashanah in Los Angeles with some classmates and family members living in LA. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a week in Chicago for Yom Kippur with my family and friends.
I have been blessed to grow up in such an amazing Jewish community in Chicago. I was active in my synagogue (North Shore Congregation Israel) youth group, staffed retreats, served as a teaching assistant in the religious school and spent my Friday evenings at Shabbat services with my friends. Moments from these formative years have shown me the importance and significance of Judaism, which made my decision to come to HUC an easy one. I wanted to create these meaningful moments and experiences for others and provide enriching Jewish opportunities for others to feel the connection that I feel so blessed to have had. Being back at NSCI for Yom Kippur was such a wonderful experience, reuniting with friends and mentors, and especially seeing my best friend from high school, a rabbinical student on the New York campus.
Classes are now in full swing. As a joint masters student, I have two internships in addition to my classes. I am teaching 4th grade at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills on Sunday mornings and serving as the student intern at Jewish National Fund during the week. My 4th graders are a lot of fun and I am enjoying teaching and learning from them too. My internship at Jewish National Fund has been a great learning experience so far.
One of the things I love most about LA is the warm community at the HUC-LA campus. The faculty and administrators truly care about each one of the students and the student body is very supportive. Just two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the spiritual retreat in Malibu with fellow classmates. Even though HUC seems so small, with everyone’s schedule it is difficult to get to know people in other programs and classes. This retreat was a great opportunity for me to get to know other students and spend time with them in a deeply enriching and meaningful way. This weekend provided the opportunity amidst the busy-ness of our lives as students and interns to take a step back and leave our schoolwork behind and spend a weekend in the beautiful nature in Malibu reflecting on our own spirituality and learning about others and how we, as future Jewish leaders can bring spirituality into the lives of others. We prayed together and explored the use of visual t’fillah. We engaged in text study and the words of Martin Buber and conversed about social justice and spirituality. During our meals together we engaged in conversations about God, Shabbat, and shared our most personal “holy moments” with each other. And, we even had a Shabbat evening sing-a-long with Debbie Friedman.
A lot has happened since I returned from the Year in Israel- no complaints so far about LA living (except maybe the traffic), so far, so good.
I can’t wait to continue to share this meaningful journey with you.