Blog #8: April Blog
Preface: This blog entry was supposed to be the one I would write as my final entry. All along I have ended each blog with a description of something great about life in Cincinnati. Beyond blogging my life as a rabbinical student, namely one on the Cincinnati campus, I have aimed at providing an insider's look into a city that is often overlooked or brushed off since it is not one of the major metropolitan areas of the country.
The purpose of the HUC Blogs, as I have understood them, is to offer a glimpse into the student life of the various programs HUC has to offer. The blogHUC site then serves as a wonderful tool for recruiting prospective students not only to HUC, but also to the specific campuses of the College. In that view, I have made it my goal to promote the Cincinnati campus in my blogs.
With the recent national news coverage of the possible restructuring HUC due to the financial crisis, I have chosen to write this blog entry earlier than I had planned. This is not meant to be a political statement, nor is it meant to create controversy. If HUC's future is to be without a campus in Cincinnati, let this blog serve as a tribute and memorial to 3101 Clifton Avenue. If the future holds an HUC campus in Cincinnati, let this blog serve as a tool for prospective students to use when choosing their campus preferences.
In the movie Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones' character refers to baseball as an institution that has withstood the times of the country. Despite the ups and downs, the wars and depressions, baseball has survived. To borrow from this paradigm, religion too has withstood the test of time. Judaism in particular has withstood wars, destructions, dispersion, hate, crusades, and yet survives to this day. How better then to begin expressing why I love being an HUC student in Cincinnati than through the lens of baseball.
I am an avid Mets fan. Growing up in the New York suburbs, I was always proud to wear my blue and orange, even in the nineties, when the world was crazy about the Yankees. When I moved to Cincinnati two years ago, I was worried that would not get the opportunity to see many Met games. To my delight, one of the first weeks here, the Mets came to town to play the Reds. I went with a friend down to the ballpark, went up to the window, and bought two half-price, student tickets for the game. The six dollars or so for my seat was well worth it. I have since been back to the Great American Ballpark to see many Reds games. Going to games is not a hassle; it is not a burden, and it not very costly. One of my favorite stories of life in Cincinnati comes from a Reds game I attended at the end of last school year.
Finals were over, and parents came into town to visit and accompany me on the 10 hour drive back to New York for the summer. At six o'clock I stepped into the shower. I got out, dried off, got dressed, got into the car with my parents, picked up my girlfriend, and drove to the ballgame. By seven o'clock we were in our seats, singing the national anthem.
The small intimate nature of Cincinnati made it possible to get everything done and make it to our seats within an hour. Growing up, that would have been a roughly two to three hour ordeal. It's that small city charm that also makes life here wonderful for another baseball related experience. The HUC softball team.
In a previous blog, I talked about the charity softball game that we played back in the fall, but each spring we all get together to form a team in a local softball recreation league. Though we have never won a game (except by forfeit), going out and playing ball with my schoolmates is a wonderful time for community building and fun.
Another advantage to the small city atmosphere is that it has allowed me to build a relationship with my professors. Not only do they invite us over to their homes for informal class sessions and holiday dinners, but they live in the same towns as we do, and we see them walking in the streets near our homes. Just yesterday I ran into two professors on their way back from dinner. We stopped and chatted a bit, and even held up traffic because of it. The professors also have their offices in the same building where we students hang out between classes. They can often be seen hanging out in the bumming room, or at least passing by and sticking their heads in to say hello.
The camaraderie between the students and our faculty, and the sense of community felt among students of every class year, contributes to a relaxed atmosphere around campus as well as to our broader studies. That relaxed, and especially caring, sense around our academics helps alleviate the stress that comes with preparing for and traveling to the student pulpits. The pulpits are a wonderful experience, and serve as a great reminder of why I wanted to be a rabbi in the first place.
The care and concern of our professors, as well as the light workload needed to keep ourselves economically afloat in Cincinnati, allows us time to enjoy all that this wonderful gem of a city has to offer. A couple of weeks ago my girlfriend and I took a day to explore Cincinnati. We spent some time at the Cincinnati Museum of Art, that was coincidentally hosting the exhibit "Surrealism and Beyond" on loan from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The museum also has a wonderful collection of art and artifacts ranging from ancient, to renaissance, to modern works. We then went downtown (parked for only $4 for the whole afternoon and evening) and walked around down towards the river, went to the top of the Carew Tower (Cincinnati's tallest building), went for dinner, and stayed for the turning on of the fountain and for fireworks. This one day of fun is only part of an overall experience of enjoying all that Cincinnati has to offer me as a young adult.
I could go on and on about Cincinnati in general (about the friendliness of the people, the ease of travel around the city, the good food, and so on) but those vignettes can be found at the end of the rest of my blogs.
I hope that through my blogs you have all been able to gain a greater understanding of what life in Cincinnati, both as a student and as a resident, is like. I also hope that if you are thinking about applying to HUC that you strongly consider Cincinnati as your top preference of which campus to attend. My classmates and I look forward to seeing you here in the coming years.
Posted by Josh at 2:05 PM
Blog #7: March Blog
The Flint-steins, aka the 5th Years
There's no holiday quite like Purim. In how many other traditions is there a holiday devoted to dressing in costume, joking around, throwing back a few drinks, and just having an all out good time? This year's Purim was extra special because I had three opportunities to take a leading role in Purim celebrations.
Though a few days late, my pulpit celebrated Purim with a wonderful Shabbat service and a delicious oneg. Having the privilege to lead this service, I strove not to disappoint, boasting not one, not two, but three different costumes and shticks to go along with them. For the first part of the service it was Raiders of the Lost Megillah, where I played Indiana Jones searching low and eventually high for the megillah that was hidden (by me) up in the balcony. When eventually it came time for the megillah to be read, we, of course, had to take a seventh chapter stretch, singing Take me out to the Shul (ball game). This was accompanied by a costume change into some New York Mets Paraphernalia and carrying a bag of Cracker Jack. Lastly, it was time to conclude the service, Dr. Seuss style. Dressed as the Cat in the Hat, I spoke in rhyme as I introduced the concluding prayers, called for announcements, and gave the benediction. This service was a great cap-off to what was an already amazing Purim week.
Dr. Sarason, Dr. Sarason
Here at school, the third year class, of which I am a member, is charged with crafting the service and shpiel for the evening of Purim. Our class came together and crafted a great evening, celebrating the holiday, and even poking some fun at our professors and at the College as a whole.
Our service started out as a relatively normal service for the HUC Cincinnati community, only to be taken over by our new, hi-tech, New York based, Student Information System. Using a computer to simulate a voice, having the service controlled from elsewhere in the HUC network provided us with great entertainment and a differently meaningful prayer experience.
The SIS leads the service
Next we moved on to the rendering of the megillah. Volunteers to read the megillah came from every class, and from across the faculty and staff of HUC, and our renderings ranged from straight Hebrew and Hebrew with characterized voices, to English and Disney tunes adated to the story, and from Seussian rhyme to Spanish. The fifth year class came all dressed at the Flint-steins, and offered us their stone-age account of the megillah as well.
Finally, we came to he highlight of the evening, the Purim Shpiel. Our Shpiel took the form of HUC survivor, pitting eight of our professors against each other in a contest to out-translate, out-park, and overall out-do their colleagues. Each of us in the class took on the character of one of these professors, doing our best to imitations of each. Our professors had to overcome the challenges of translation, pastoral care, parking, and figuring out the answer to, "where in the world is Dr. Jason Kalman" (a professor currently on sabbatical who has been traveling across the globe this semester). In the end it came down to a secret ballot vote by the audience, and through a sophisticated system, we were left with quite a surprising winner.
The Third year Class
To top off Purim proper itself, I also had the fun job of leading the regular service during Purim day at school as well. And let me tell you, nothing says Purim like firing a Nerf Dart gun at your classmates during services.
They tried to kill us, we won, lets eat
Posted by Josh at 12:05 AM
Blog #6: February Blog
Anticipating the 3-D Superbowl commercials
I love snow. I love when it snows. That partly explains why I went to school in Upstate New York, and also why I chose a student pulpit in South Dakota. I love snow.
This year, however, I am so eager for winter to end and for the weather to get back to a consistent beautiful, and cool-warm. My love of snow has not faded, rather my patience for the sub-par ability of the city of Cincinnati to handle even the smallest dusting. People here freak out over heavy rain, imagine then how much the more so do they freak out over snow. It can take upwards of two hours to get home from school, for what would normally be a fifteen-minute drive. The city's procedure for cleaning the roads and clearing the snow and ice is slow and incomplete.
My patience for all of this was already wearing thin, but this month I got into my first car accident ever, skidding out and hitting a parked car on my way to school. That was just awful. Luckily for me, however, I am part of a caring, HUC community. As soon as they heard, I had classmates calling me offering help, as well as others checking in to make sure I was ok. Physically I was, but my ego took quite a bruise.
Looking back, this was good life lesson. Realizing that, even though Cincinnati is not known for having good drivers, I myself am certainly not the worlds best.
Playing with Jonathan and Michal's baby boy, Xander
February has all in all been a great month, redeemed from the fault of the accident. At the beginning of the month the NFL threw me a birthday party, and I managed to fit 11 _ people into my apartment to celebrate; ten other classmates and their significant other's, and one baby Xander. I made chili, others brought snacks and dips, and my girlfriend Sarah (also a rabbinical student) bought a cupcake-cake. This cupcake cake, meant for children's birthdays, was twenty-four cupcakes arranged on a sheet pan, with icing between them so that the top could be frosted and decorated as if it were a regular birthday cake. We had a great time partying along with the Steelers, Cardinals, and myself (the birthday boy).
Other highlights of the month include going up to Columbus to spend a weekend with Sarah's parents, my dad flying in for a few days on business, and me taking advantage of Delta's weekly web-fare specials to fly home for a weekend.
Like I said, all in all a great month!
It was made even better because I discovered a new lunch option at one of the bakeries here in town. Servatii's Bakery, an old fashioned, German bakery, not only has a deli component, making sandwiches and such, but has an option of making your sandwich on a pretzel roll! They use their amazing pretzel recipe and turn it into a pretzel shaped bun. This combination or pretzel and sandwich makes the stomach very, very happy!
At this point I have written quite a few blog entries, and as thrilling as I am sure that you find my life, the purpose of these blogs is to learn about life as an HUC student in the various programs. In that sense, channeling Dear Abby and Ann Landers, I would love to answer any questions that you may have regarding life as a rabbinical student, life in Cincinnati, and anything in between. Please email your questions to email@example.com, and I will do my best to answer them.
Till next time...
The Birthday Cake!
Posted by Josh at 1:35 PM
Blog #5: Halfway There
I am now officially past the half-way point on my journey to the rabbinate. It is a wonderful feeling to be so far along on a journey that I have imagined for so long. The halfway point is also bittersweet. Granted, I am eagerly awaiting beginning my career as a rabbi, but I also like school. I do not feel as though I am captive, forced to go through the motions just to get ordained. I am so fortunate to be exposed to the genius of our tradition on a daily basis, and to study with some of the best in the business. My fortune also extends to my community at HUC, my friends with whom I have been enjoying these past few years.
As the weeks and months go by, I am coming to realize that indeed there is an end to the proverbial tunnel, and I am inching closer to it. And as I am moving forward, I see so much behind me. At this time I find myself reflecting on my past two and a half years at HUC. Thinking back, this experience has taught so much more than I had ever dreamed; not just about the academics or tachliss of my studies and career, but about life. I would like to share with you some of what I have learned through this process.
More than anything, I have learned the importance of creating and maintaining a schedule. Growing up, I was always the model procrastinator. I never really made plans ahead of time, and always wound up doing work and planning at the last minute, with tons of added pressure. I used to rationalize that I did my best work under pressure. That is just absolutely not true. As I am journeying toward the rabbinate, I have been diligently trying to get my work, planning, and preparations done ahead of time, not only so that they are completed with time to spare, but also because I find I am more proud of the work I produce when I have time to do it properly.
Along with reducing the procrastination, I have also been working on scheduling specific time to complete specific acts. Planning out what I have to do, and when I have to do it has been crucial in helping me organize my life and in finding time to fit in all of the myriad of tasks and activities I find growing increasingly in numbers. Before the start of this school year I got a Blackberry in order to help me keep my schedule, tasks, and memos all together and up to date. So far it has been helping, and as I get more and more accustomed to planning ahead and working ahead, I find that I use the various organizing tools more and more in my favor.
I have also learned a lot about working with others within an organizational framework, as well as the importance of keeping your head up and maintaining a positive attitude. People come with an amazingly vast and varied range of both positive and negative personality traits. In any profession of public leadership, an ego is pretty much expected in the professional, but control, and restraint of that ego should also be expected. I have found that many people who think that since they are entering this profession, they feel they have the right to ignore certain rules. Many people let their ego get the better of them and think that they are better than their colleagues, or are entitled to more because of who they themselves are. This wouldn't be so bad if these people didn't act on those emotions day in and day out, with no regard for those people who are more humble and mensch-like. Holding back, knowing your place in any organization, and keeping your ego in check says a lot about who you are as a person, and who you will one day be as a leader, as a rabbi.
I have also learned that when you put too many people with egos in one school, they will all try and outdo each other, since of course they are better than the next. I've learned that it is okay not to volunteer to lead every student group, or jump at an opportunity to be part of a committee, or feel the need to plan every event on campus. But on the flip side, it is not okay to complain about something that you have not a hand in doing, or have not given input to. In that case when you see that a task is not getting done, or does not have enough support, you are obligated to jump in and help.
The most important thing I have learned is to maintain a positive attitude and outlook. Spending four or five hours a day in classes with the same people is certainly trying at times. Add to that all of the work that we have as part of class, religious school teaching, and pulpit work, it is very easy to slip into a state of grumbling, whining, and kvetching. This goes for all things in life. And the way to avoid all of that is just to keep your head up. Stay positive. Find the good in everything that you do. If the good doesn't appear right away, look ahead and see where the events of today will help you in the future. And above all, do not take yourself too seriously.
More so than what I have learned in classes, these lessons that I have learned from my peers, I think, will make me a better rabbi, and more of a mensch in the future.
Great thing about Cincinnati: The Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Of all of the museums in Cincinnati, this museum is special because it sits on the Ohio River, just across the border from what was once the slave-holding South. This museum does not just present a history of Southern slavery and the road to freedom, but it advocates for the freedom of all men, women and children across the globe. What is even more special about the Freedom Center is that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the museum offers free admission to anyone who wishes to experience it.
Posted by Josh at 11:35 AM
Blog #4: December Blog
It's always wonderful when one of your friends gets married. It is even better when one of your friends marries another one of your friends. And what's even more special than that is when both of those friends also happen to be your rabbinical classmates.
This month we were fortunate enough to celebrate the wedding of two of my classmates, Daniel and Karen. They met in our year in Israel, and as such, my class has been with them and seen their relationship grow for the past two and a half years. That fact made the traveling to Memphis, Tennessee in the midst of finals and papers not such a hard pill to swallow. It gave us an opportunity to celebrate, congratulate, and party with the people we see in class everyday.
We had a blast that weekend. From meeting up in Memphis, attending services at the beautiful Temple Israel, and enjoying a wonderful rehearsal dinner on Friday to finding the chowing down on BBQ and gumbo, before the wedding festivities Saturday night, the whole weekend was amazing. I even got to meet some prospective and accepted HUC students, who admitted to reading this blog (go us!) Plus, the wedding was a great experience for us rabbinical students to learn more of our craft.
This wedding had five participating rabbis! We were treated to a variety of ritual and musical styles, which allowed us to see all of the possibilities for performing a wedding. It was especially a treat to have Rabbi Ken Kanter, the director of our Rabbinical program in Cincinnati, there to conduct the ketubah signing.
Outside of the ceremony, the whole affair was beautifully put together. The band played a great variety of songs and had us dancing the night away. The food was top notch, and even included a sushi bar, much to our (and of course, the bride's) delight. There was a chocolate fountain that was brought out for dessert, only to compliment the delicious red velvet wedding cake. The cake even had Daniel and Karen action figures on top, as well as a figure of their dog, Sammy. Pretty much the only thing missing from this spectacular weekend were our classmates from New York whose flights were cancelled, twice. (We missed you!)
The wedding was a great way to cap off the semester. Even though we still a couple papers due, the wedding marked the appropriate beginning to our winter break, which I am already taking full advantage of. As I write this blog I am already on a flight to Washington DC to visit some friends. This is a special flight, however, which leads me into this month's "Why is Cincinnati so great" segment.
As I have mentioned time again, one of the best parts of being a student in Cincinnati is the chance to serve student pulpits. Besides all of the great training and learning that we get from those visits, we get another perk as well. Those of us who fly to our pulpits rack up thousands of frequent flyer miles. In doing so, many of us also reach elite status. The flight that I am on right now provides me with the miles to go from Silver Medallion to Gold Medallion on Delta. The benefits of elite status are wonderful, and very much help to make life as a poor graduate student that much more luxurious.
That's it for this time. Have a wonderful (C)Han(n)ukah and a happy, albeit secular, New year!
Posted by Josh at 10:35 AM
Blog #3: November Blog
Celebrating the Sheva Brachot
Whoever said the month of Cheshvan was bitter, obviously didn't live in Cincinnati. The past few weeks have offered me two amazing opportunities to have some fun, and they both center around American holidays.
This year, for Halloween, my apartment building finally joined the community of my street in celebration and in 'Trick or Treating.' After my disappointment with the lack of celebration last year, Denise, my wonderful building manager put together a building-wide party, which allowed some apartments to display their soup making abilities, others their baking abilities, and for others, their ability to get cheese and crackers. I was lucky enough to be one of the soup apartments and had the chance to cook some of that delicious gumbo I learned how to make while in Mississippi. It was certainly a hit!
The party did not just involve food, it also involved socializing with the neighbors in the building, dressing up in costumes, and standing outside handing out candy. All in all it was a blast!
The following Monday, November 3, the HUC Cincinnati community played Turkey T-Ball. Each year we participate in the Freestore Foodbank Turkey drive, raising money to donate Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need. This year's manifestation of our fundraising efforts came in the form of a softball game and bake sale. Besides being for a good cause, and a fun way for the students to socialize, this event was incredible and memorable for one important reason: our professors played!
Whether it was Dr. Kalman smacking the ball over the infielder's heads, Dr. Rechnitzer (the Israeli) getting his first ever hit and then celebrating by bringing his coffee with him to play outfield, or Dr. Zola's speed around the bases and his breathtaking slide into third, this event was very memorable and loads of fun. At the conclusion of the game we even got to celebrate (at homeplate!) the week-long recitation of the Sheva Brachot for Anna (one of our 5th years) and her husband Tal.
Despite the end of the Tishrei marathon, this has certainly not been a bitter Cheshvan.
I have even discovered yet another wonderful restaurant here in Cincinnati: Seny (pronounced Sehn) Tapas Bar. This restaurant offers a fusion of classic and modern Tapas (yes there are some that Kosher keepers can have) as well as a cool atmosphere and servers wearing soccer jerseys. Just another one of the many reason's why Cincinnati is awesome.
Till next month...
Posted by Josh at 3:26 PM
Blog #2: Let's talk about South Dakota!
Like I mentioned, one of the biggest reasons I chose the Cincinnati campus of HUC was for the student pulpit program. Last year I had an amazing experience serving the community of Temple B'nai Israel in Natchez, Mississippi (yes there are Jews there!). I learned all about the culture of the Deep South and even became a Gumbo connoisseur.
This year I am so lucky to be working with Mt. Zion Temple in Sioux Falls, SD. My time thus far has been very educational, satisfying, and fun. The community there, roughly 150 people, is very welcoming, self-sustaining, and patient.
My biggest fear in taking this pulpit was that I was going to have to sing. There is no cantor, no soloist (except for the High Holidays), and no accompaniment (also except for the High Holidays). Luckily for me, this fear was immediately set aside as my congregants began singing along with me. They are very well educated and versed in our tradition and practices. They have a lay-led Torah study every Saturday morning, regardless if I am there or not.
Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD
This pulpit also presents me with some wonderful challenges. I have about four or five conversion students, two or three Bat Mitzvah students, two adult B'not Mitzvah students, and a series of adult ed classes coming up. Congregants range in age from newborn to elderly. The temple has five or so kids in the religious school as well as four high school students in a confirmation program with me. We are trying to get these confirmation students to NFTY-Northern events, and trying to create a framework for youth and young adult programming.
They appreciate me, and I appreciate them. Even beyond that, I love the town and the rest of the state. Sioux Falls is a real town, with about 150,000 residents. The city has wonderful restaurants (local and chain), a variety of cultural events and experiences, unique shopping, and beautiful parks (especially Falls Park).
While I was out there for the time between the High Holidays, my parents flew out to Sioux Falls and we took a brief vacation to the western side of the state. We were able to hit all of the highlights. We started by visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Our road trip took us to the world famous Wall Drug store, where I had the free ice water. From there we set out for Deadwood (yes the real Deadwood, like in the TV show) for some gambling and a buffet dinner. We spent the night in Heulett, Wyoming, just down the road from Devil's tower.
The world famous Wall Drug store
If you have ever seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you will recognize Devil's Tower and the big rock that the alien spaceship landed behind at the end of the movie. And that fiction isn't really far off. The giant tower is an amazing and awe inspiring natural phenomenon. Worshiped by Native Americans, the Tower exudes such a supernatural, superhuman essence. It was quite a wonderful site.
From our morning tour of Devil's Tower, it was back to Deadwood for lunch and visiting graves of the stars, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. As a bonus, I was able to visit the Jewish (and original) part of that same Deadwood cemetery.
After Deadwood, it was finally off to the impetus for our trip, Mt. Rushmore! Yes, it is man-made, yes there is really nothing to do but take pictures, yes you really don't need to spend much time there, but Mt. Rushmore is really awesome. The sheer size and detail is extraordinary, and since, as with the rest of the trip, we were virtually alone (end of tourist season) we were able to really enjoy the experience.
Next we visited the Crazy Horse memorial, a project to commemorate the history and culture of all Native Americans. The memorial, while nowhere near completed, is still a sight to see. You can see the sculptors working on it daily, and in the evening there is a laser show. This project is 100% privately funded, by donations and admission, and receives no government support. The effort is very admirable and inspiring.
We spent the night by Crazy Horse, in the town of Custer. The next day we drove through Custer State park. Aside from all of the wild buffalo, roaming the fields and the road, we finally learned what the lyrics for the song America really mean. This scenic drive was filled with "amber waves of grain," the landscape of the plains.
After Custer, we drove out to the Badlands, another awe-inspiring natural creation.
On the long drive back to Sioux Falls, we stopped at Al's Oasis, a famous rest stop, for a wonderful dinner.
After leaving at 2:45 on Sunday afternoon, we arrived back in Sioux Falls at 11:30 Tuesday night, Just in time for me to prepare for Kol Nidre the following evening.
South Dakota is a wonderful state, Sioux Falls is amazing city, and Mt. Zion Temple is a terrific community...But I still live in Cincinnati, and, as promised, I will end with something great about Cincinnati:
As I spend more and more time every couple of weeks away from Cincinnati, I always look forward to coming home, not just to my apartment, but to this community. The people out here are so friendly, wherever you go. This city is just a wonderful place to live, and I think I am getting spoiled by the kindness of Cincinnatians.
Tell next time...
Falls Park in Sioux Falls
Posted by Josh at 11:38 AM
Blog #1: First Blog
Me outside of the Abraham Geiger Kolleg college, the progressive rabbinical and cantorial school in Berlin
Before I begin blogging for the year I must first warn all of you, I have never blogged before, nor have I really read that many blogs. Any similarity that this blog has to my peers is purely accidental. You have been warned...
Where should I start? How about where the great story of Reform Judaism starts...Germany! This past May I was fortunate to be one of 15 participants on the special HUC trip of Germany Up Close, an organization whose purpose is to familiarize American Jewish young adults with modern Germany; it's Jewish community and it's government's support for Jews and for Israel. To explain the whole trip would take too long and I doubt you all would want to read about that. Aside from the various meetings with government and advocacy group officials, two of the most powerful experiences I can relay both came while we were interacting with the Abraham Geiger Kolleg (college), the progressive rabbinical (and now cantorial) school in Berlin.
One of our greatest meetings was our visit to the "campus" of the college and hearing about its structure from the administrators. While the college only spans one office suite in a city building, the enthusiasm of the staff as they described their program made me very proud. What made me even more proud was the Shabbat immediately following that meeting. We met with our counterparts, the Geiger students, for Shabbat services and a potluck dinner at the Jewish Museum of Berlin. While the museum itself is powerful, and doing Shabbat with rabbinical students in Berlin is powerful, what made the night even more powerful was when the museum closed and we were kicked out.
We hadn't even done Birkat HaMazon or singing when we were kicked out of the museum. So what'd we do? We sat outside on the steps of the museum, in the streets of Berlin and together, HUC students, Geiger students, and one of the Geiger faculty rabbis, together we sang our hearts out, drawing the intrigue of passers by. We sang and we prayed and we were left alone, perfectly safe. It was truly an amazing and un-duplicatable (is that a word?) experience.
When the Germany trip was over I came back home to New York (yes I am from the New York area and I chose to go to Cincinnati! It's allowed and perfectly ok!). After about a week of R&R I shipped off to work at URJ Crane Lake Camp (yes it is actually a Jewish camp, and a wonderful place to spend the summer. Here is my obligatory plug for Crane Lake, if you are at all interested at working at a Jewish summer camp in 2009 please consider Crane Lake. It is a very unique member of the URJ camps and truly a magical place to learn, pray, and play.
I won't go into too many details about camp except to say that what was really special about camp this summer was to be there with three of my classmates, two of whom I had not seen since over a year earlier when we were in Jerusalem. It is very rare that classmates from the different campuses get to hang out, and being able to do so both at camp and on the Germany trip was a real highlight of the summer.
Summer, as it is want to do, eventually ended and I made my way back to my HUC home in Cincinnati. I really enjoy living in Cincinnati (and no they did not pay me to say that). Life in Cincy is very easy going, low pressure, and with ample opportunities to go out and do lots of fun things (for lower costs than NYC or LA). Getting back to the community and the campus was refreshing, as, of course, was seeing all of my friends. So far in Cincy this term, outside of school-related activities, I have attended the annual Labor Day fireworks down on the river between downtown Cincinnati on the Ohio side and Newport on the Kentucky side, I also made it to see the Reds valiantly take on the Chicago Cubs in a game which saw Alfonso Soriano hit three homeruns.
One of the best things about being a student in Cincinnati is the opportunity to serve student pulpits in small communities throughout the Midwest. Last year I served Temple B'nai Israel in Natchez, Mississippi once a month. This year I am very fortunate to serve Mt. Zion Temple in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on a bi-weekly basis. My next blog will be focused more on the pulpit, but briefly I can tell you that Sioux Falls is an amazing community. Though small, they keep our traditions going strong, are very energized during services, and even run their own Torah study on Shabbat mornings. The city itself is also quite amazing; many parks, beautiful falls, and all the amenities of a big city.
I will stop here before I go on too long, but look for an account of my adventures in Sioux Falls when next I post!
I will conclude each blog with something amazing about Cincinnati, food, activity, value, etc...
This post I would be remiss if I did not mention the two classic and amazing culinary destinations for Cincy:
Skyine Chili (http://www.skylinechili.com/) and Graeters Ice cream (http://www.graeters.com/), the latter of which is kosher for those of that persuasion. If you don't know what I am talking about, I suggest you look them up on the Internet, or, even better, come to Cincinnati and try them!
Till next time...
Posted by Josh at 1:00 PM