Sunday, January 2, 2011

Israel, The Gevaldik Jewish Cutlural Melting Pot

What's Jewish?  What's Jewish culture? Food? Music? Colors and facial features? Humor?

When I was growing up in a New York Jewish neighborhood, we all seemed to be the same.  Our parents and grandparents had all come from similar backgrounds, preserved the same Jewish cultures and values and adopted the same sort from America.

Then I changed.  I decided to intensify the Judaism in my life until there was no room for me in New York.  I had to live in the HolyLand, in Israel.  This wasn't a mystical spontaneous decision.  The first seeds were planted when I was a student in the after-school Hebrew School, Oakland Jewish Center, Bayside, NY, which was a very close to Orthodox Conservative shul.  When I was thirteen we moved to Great Neck where we joined the Orthodox Great Neck Synagogue which had a very strong and active Teen Club.  That's how I ended up in NCSY and YU Youth Bureau Seminars.

Probably, since we're soon going to be in the month of Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, I keep seeing my Jewish soul as a tough seed, properly watered and fertilized.  It's like that willow tree I planted from a rooted branch which one year suddenly bloomed as an almond tree.  Apparently, an almond was once thrown in the ground next to that twig, and the two trees are intertwined.  My parents thought they were raising an American and a strong Jew grew instead.

Here in Israel, everything is Jewish, yes, even American tackle football and rugby.

My son plays football and my cousin's son plays rugby.  My cousin and I come from very ordinary American Ashkenaz (European) Jews, but here in Israel, our daughters married a Yemenite and a Tunisian, so our grandchildren follow those customs.

Here in Shiloh my neighbors are from all over the world, Canada, France, Argentina, New Zealand, Morocco and Hong Kong, among many other places.  So when you walk around, you hear many languages and see all sorts of colors and features.  Some are "Jews by Choice," and others are directly descended sans detours from distinguished rabbis.

That's Israel.

Life's always a surprise, like my sh'kaydia almond tree, like me and my kids.  What's next?  I wouldn't venture a guess, just pray for good health for all and G-d's wisdom to bless us.

Shavua Tov u'Mevorach
Have a Good and Blessed Week


Moriah said...

I'm not happy to see American football take hold in Israel...

Batya said...

These things can't be controlled. I'm more upset by the culture of heavy drinking which has taken hold since the large Russian aliyah.

Moriah said...

And consequently drunk driving. (As if driving in Israel isn't dangerous enough)

Hadassa said...

I'm much more upset by the professional baseball teams in Israel than a bunch of kids playing football. If American football in Israel goes professional, that's a different story.

Anonymous said...

What do you ladies have against football, amateur or professional?

Anonymous said...

Same question for basketball of any sort?

Sandra said...

I fear that all those cultures will melt to a point where they will cease to exist.

That's why I find it important to keep the Galut judaism up: it keeps distinct jewish cultures.

Batya said...

I go to the tackle football games as a mother, not a fan. But if you're comparing afi league and all the various sports and leagues Steve Liebowitz has brought into the country, I prefer them all to the failed baseball of a couple of years ago.

Steve's enterprise isn't a paid sports extravaganza. The baseball was and that caused its failure and failure to pay and made it more susceptible to corruption.

Hadassa said...

Shy Guy, my case against all professional sports is that they are a waste of time and money and encourage sedentary behavior among the spectators, who also tend to consume large amounts of unhealthy snacks. All amateur sports that involve healthy physical activity (i.e. golf is out) are positive. I was a medal-winning XC runner in high school and my husband is an enthusiastic cyclist who owns a much used road bike and an off-road bike. We should all have a "healthy mind in a healthy body".
Sandra, we have only one Tora. Are you honestly happy about all the divisions that the galut has caused the Jewish people?

Batya said...

Hadassa, then you should like the football and hate the baseball.

Anonymous said...

I hear you, Hadassa. In fact, if you'll watch the NYT video Batya posted here, you'll hear one of our very own foul mouthed coaches.

I'm sorry, when I commented I was in an imaginary world where the players, the coaches and the crowds are nice Jewish people, all behaving like mentschen. I said I was dreaming!

As for the snacks, don't nanny me. ;)

Hadassa said...

Shy Guy, even if the crowds are mentschen, they should be doing something other than being coach-potatoes (the spectators in the stands are couch potatoes too), even without the junk food.

Batya said...

It's social, and where else would the Ramat Kal pose with my son't dog and assorted Israelis, especially anglos?

I can watch a live game but not televised, which is a total bore. I like people. And my husband stocked up on bananas in the shuk which we ate during the game.

Keli Ata said...

I'm not much of a sports fan. Watching sports on TV is even worse--tennis, bowling, and curling coverage on TV is like taking a sleeping pill.

I love figure skating, which is a sport:)

I've never been to a pro football game. From what I've seen of people on TV taking their shirts off in 20-degree temperatures makes me think they're lunatics and far far too drunk.

Although the drunk part might be unique to US football.

Sandra said...

You know, Yaakov divided his wives and children into two camps when he went to meet eisav.

So definitely, I do not view divisions as solely negative.

Of course, I do not like arguments, but actually I think that differences are enriching.

Take the "division" of Hirsch in Germany (they left the jewish communities, because they started playing the organ on shabbat, and founded their own orthodox communities called "Austrittsgemeinden" i.e. communities of those who left...)

Of course, it was not "nice" back at that time, but it laid the foundation for a vibrant stream of orthodox judaism.

Same goes for different minhagim in different countries: I would not like to see them blend all into one mainstream. I love the cultural diversity of Judaism, that's all I can say...

Batya said...

Sandra, I see the melting of Jewish ethnic groups as a sign the Moshiach is coming. We must be Jews first.
Keli, things are pretty calm and friendly in the Kraft Stadium, Jm.

Sandra said...

"We must be Jews first"

That's exactely what I mean. Jews with a tremendous richness of cultural diversity, speaking almost every language in the world, but without losing our jewish identity.

Whe Mashiach comes, he might be able to keep up diversity even in one country. But now, that's not happening. Not really.

Hadassa said...

I'm sorry Sandra, but I totally disagree with you and think that your outlook is tainted by the 2000 years of galut.
Every person in the world would be speaking Hebrew, the Holy Tongue, today if it weren't for the goal of the builders of the Tower of Babel. Hashem's confusing (Heb. bilbul from which comes Babel) the languages was a curse, not a blessing.
Comparing what Ya'akov did as a very temporary, completely physical, measure to protect his family to the situation of Jewry today - heavily ideologically divided - is illogical, IMHO.
Rabbi Hirsch made a necessary separation between those observing the Tora and those violating it. It wasn't even a question of customs. So again I don't see the logic in the comparison.

Your last comment hit me more than all the others: Everyone I know in Israel is looking forward to the arrival of the Mashiah who will UNITE everyone and answer all the questions that have been dividing the Jewish people: customs (especially at Passover), pronunciations, prayer nusah, etc.
Do you live in Israel? If not, come HOME! We'd love to welcome you home.

Batya said...

Hadassa, I agree.