Beth Emet

Beth Emet

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elaine's Most Recent Tidbits from New Zealand

Auckland is multicultural. They have McDonalds, Burger King no Wendy's. But an alternative around the corner is Subway and KFC. Then there are coffee shops on every corner and three in the middle of the block. I thought this was a tea country but no, coffee seems to be the number one choice. Dave's Coffee, Mr Coffee Guy and Starbucks  but that is not the favorite of Kiwis. Fancy coffees are a big thing. Decorated tops for cappuccino with or without chocolate sprinkles. Yum!

Chinese restaurants here are a long way from 2 from column A and 3 from column B.(for those who are 60 years old and remember those Chinese restaurants) Everything is very authentic and presented in an artful manor. The very pleasant waitress always coming back to make sure the food is to our liking. How nice! Remember there is no tipping. Just out of the goodness of their hearts. How refreshing!

I had to go to McDonalds to check it out. No happy meals and a bargain meal was a drink, fries, hamburger only $19.00. Not sure they are using the new oil but with so much salt who would know. But  it is served with a smile. Many good choices at the food court-- pita sandwiches, sushi, Italian and ice cream. But I had to have a taste of home. Crazy. I never eat it at home.

 I noticed people running here and there like at home. However, the dress is very black very little color. Now it could have been support for the All Blacks rugby team. We won!!!! Yea! Peter and I are taking credit for the win and bringing the Kiwis good luck. Why not? We are the foreigners? We enjoyed getting to learn the game. These people are just as passionate for rugby as Chicagoans are about Cubs and White Sox, Bulls and Da Bears.

Skirts are very short with black tights or leggings. With all the hills the women don't have pretty legs. However, they must be strong. I wish they would smile more.

Auckland is very spread out. In the central city many highrises. In the suburbs everyone wants a house. Not much land around them but very interesting architecture. Wherever you are there is water. Inlets and boats everywhere. Very pretty. Housing is very expensive 1 and 2 million is not out of the question. Apartments are also very high as well. Like in any large city of the world.

These people are so polite. I took a cab back to the synagogue for Yizkor on Yom Kippur. I had a canvas bag with me. When we got to the synagogue he asked me if I wanted him to take the bag up to the front door. It was light so I said I could handle it. Very nice. Only in NZ. Can you imagine any cabbie in Chicago or NYC doing that? I would never see my bag again.

We went to a student production of a play one of the congregants wrote. She is a well-known playwright. She is from Santa Barbara, Ca. Her grandfather was a very famous movie director.  He directed Casablanca. She only discovered that she was Jewish very late in life. She is desperate to reclaim her Judaism. She writes historical plays. She likes to write about gory topics. The one we saw was about 2 school girls who were gay and wanted to be together so they killed one of the mothers in a park. It is based on a real incident that happened many years ago in Christchurch. .The play was very interesting. Glad  are we went. Before the show we had to stay in an anteroom. Very few chairs. One young man asked Peter if he would like his chair to sit. Wow. Now that was nice. Peter wasn't even pregnant. In some countries on a bus they get up if you are pregnant or old. I guess he thought Peter was old.

Getting back to food. Peter likes weird gamey food. On the menu was Kangaroo. Yes he ordered it. After the plate was empty I told him he has to stay in his seat and not jump around. He was good. After my taste I felt my stomach jump a few times. I did taste it and can say I will not eat it again.

So I have to eat my words. Yes I had to buy a chicken to make chicken soup. Everyone around me is sick and coughing in the stores and synagogue. It was a matter of time that I would get sick. Now was the trip to the Countdown (Supermarket) to get the chicken. Peter went for the vegetables and I went for the chicken. I said to myself I will pay whatever because I need to get better and chicken soup is what I need. The chicken choices were  size 12,14,16. Quite frankly they all looked the same, scrawny no meat on the bone chickens. No giblets and no schmaltz. Where did they go? Remember I only have one soup pot I took from the synagogue. Not very big. The chicken went in then and turned on the stove to boil, skimmed the water and put in the veg. Now the bullions cubes I brought from Chicago. Thank goodness the last minute I said I should take some with me. They made the soup much better. Poor chicken only skin and bones no meat. Not even one cup of meat for chicken salad. However I did have to make 5 pots of soup because this cold is not going away. I have so many cooked veggies. I decided to make chicken pot pie. Some fresh veggies and bits of chicken added to make it taste good.

The supermarket is normally opened 24 hrs but on this morning it was closed. They were reorganizing the store. He had to go back again for cough drops and chicken and veggies. The cough drops cause diarrhea. Did you ever hear of such a thing. I want the old fashion Smith Brothers cough drops or Vicks. Pharmacy opens now at 9 AM so he will have to go back. They know him by now. Poor guy and great husband.

Rosh Hashanah was interesting. I walked into the sanctuary and a Chinese gentleman welcomed me with “Israel is the best country.” Someone asked his name. He yelled out “Jerusalem’. Not sure what that was about. By the way he did not come back for Yom Kippur. I guess he had enough and got mixed up with the Hebrew. Peter was great. Music was heartfelt. They have no cantor and they worked hard and that counts a lot. Out of necessity this is a real do it yourself place .

For Yom Kippur They had the cello player from the NZ orchestra play Kol Nidre. Now that was very moving and great. I missed Beth Emet. Maybe next year.

Let's talk about toilets. You may have seen the new trend of toilets in the States. Instead of a handle to push down there are two buttons on top of the tank. One for a big flush and a smaller one for a small flush. It is to save on water. Not a bad idea. However when the buttons are the same size which one is for big and which one for little? One time I just pressed both and held my breath for it not to overflow. No problem. All went down fine.

Did I tell you about the frozen peas I bought for the pot pie? Well, I was about to pour them into the pot when I smelled mint. Where did the mint come from? Yes I bought minted peas. Did you ever? Not in my pie. So we had no peas only corn and cooked veggies from the many pots of soup I made. I did put in some fresh veggies. It was delicious.

What a new world. We were about to sit down to watch Bears game on Monday night football. It was preempted by soccer. Seth had just Skyped us to see the kids and said he could put the screen so we could watch the game. We decided just monitor the game on the computer. Bears won! Now can we take credit for that? Maybe. Because we were interested and hoping for a win.

Another pot of soup and another stop at the supermarket. Peter is off again with list in hand. Soon more soup and veggies and chicken. We are overflowing with cooked veg. We have nothing to put the soup or veg in. Soon it will be in our shoes. We put the veg. in two plastic bags. That was a mistake. Who knew they send rejects to NZ. So the seams opened and the residual soup ran all over the refrigerator. We were not happy campers.

The weather is supposed to be spring. Rain almost every day. Slightly warm on day cold the next. No wonder everyone is sick! When you check the weather online it refers to one two or three layer day. Sometime they say one layer rain one layer gale force wind. Everyone carries an umbrella. You never know. The only good thing is many days there are wonderful vivid rainbows. Just a little touch that God is still with us.

Last night at St.Partick's Cathedral in Auckland NZ I particpated in  a celebration of the 25th Anniversay of the Decalogue of Peace which was written in 1986 by an interfaith meeting of 70 of the worlds religious leaders under sponsorship of Pope John Paul II.  It is a magnificent commitment to interfaith dialogue and to working together to make a better world. It is worth reading and contemplating.

Decalogue of Assisi for Peace
1. We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion, and, as we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God or of religion, we commit ourselves to doing everything possible to eliminate the root causes of terrorism.
2. We commit ourselves to educating people to mutual respect and esteem, in order to help bring about a peaceful and fraternal coexistence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions.
3. We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue, so that there will be an increase of understanding and mutual trust between individuals and among peoples, for these are the premise of authentic peace.
4. We commit ourselves to defending the right of everyone to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity, and to form freely a family of his own.
5. We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, but recognizing instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.
6. We commit ourselves to forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices, and to supporting one another in a common effort both to overcome selfishness and arrogance, hatred and violence, and to learn from the past that peace without justice is no true peace.
7. We commit ourselves to taking the side of the poor and the helpless, to speaking out for those who have no voice and to working effectively to change these situations, out of the conviction that no one can be happy alone.
8. We commit ourselves to taking up the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil, and we are desire to make every effort possible to offer the men and women of our time real hope for justice and peace.
9. We commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts to promote friendship between peoples, for we are convinced that, in the absence of solidarity and understanding between peoples, technological progress exposes the world to a growing risk of destruction and death.
10. We commit ourselves to urging leaders of nations to make every effort to create and consolidate, on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie
President of URJ
Stop deluding yourselves!
There is far too much self-delusion, on all sides, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and issues of peace in the Middle East. What follows is my unsolicited advice to the major players.
To the Government and leaders of Turkey: Stop deluding yourselves! No matter how sharp your attacks on Israel and how craven your embrace of Hamas, you will not—as a non-Arab state—ever be accepted as a true leader in the Arab world. And your outrageous criticism of Israel for “misusing” the Holocaust will not erase the memory of the Ottoman Empire’s role in the Armenian genocide—a role that your government shamefully continues to deny.
To the leaders of the Palestinian Authority: Stop deluding yourselves! You will not be taken seriously as proponents of a two-state solution if you fail to support the underlying principles that make such a solution possible. A two-state solution means that there is no “right of return” to Israel, and that once a treaty is signed, the conflict is over. Really over. If you cannot say this now, and if you talk about Palestine being occupied since 1948, you are not serious about two states—or about peace.
To the leaders of the settlement movement: Stop deluding yourselves! No one believes you when you claim that the thugs who burn mosques, uproot olive trees on Arab land, spout anti-Muslim slogans, and deface army bases exist only on the margins of your community. This violence has been going on for years, feeding on extremist views of Jewish law put forward by too many of your rabbinic leaders. And everyone knows that you could do far more about this hooliganism than you are now doing if you really wanted to.
To the leaders of the Israeli right: Stop deluding yourselves! You cannot support a two-state solution and oppose it at the same time. The Prime Minister asserts Israel’s position, but you offer tepid assent in public while whispering to everyone that you hold the opposite view. In your heart you know that the occupation cannot continue, but after all these years you have yet to explain how it might end—and how Israel will maintain its democratic character and its Jewish majority if it doesn’t. Do you believe, as the Prime Minister says, that Israel should negotiate without preconditions? Again, without exactly saying so, your words and actions suggest otherwise.
To the leaders of the Israeli left: Stop deluding yourselves! You say that the Palestinians want peace, and Israelis would like to believe that, but where, for heaven’s sake, is the evidence? Hints, and feints, and winks are not enough. Abbas at the UN should have said: “I welcome the Jewish state as my neighbor, and I welcome the Jews home;” but he had his chance, and he blew it. Please, no more making excuses for him.
Should we despair? Absolutely not. Now is the right time for Israel, with American agreement, to define provisional borders for the Jewish state—borders that might result should the Palestinians get serious about talks. What Israel needs now is tough-minded, unilateral steps to regain the initiative. But no more delusions—from anyone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This is a great piece to comtemplate as we prepare to hear Kol Nidre

The surprising appeal of Kol Nidre

By Lawrence A. Hoffman · September 22, 2011

NEW YORK (JTA) -- On his way to converting to Christianity, philosopher Franz Rosenzweig attended Yom Kippur services and was so moved that he decided to remain Jewish. One look at the most famous prayer for the occasion makes it hard to believe that he did not abandon Judaism all the quicker.
Kol Nidre actually is no prayer at all. Rather it is a legal formula in Aramaic that delineates obscure categories of vows and oaths known to the Bible and the Rabbis, and then solemnly proclaims that we are free of them.
The origin of this concern was our ancestors’ anxiety over reneging on promises sworn in God’s name. The Talmud permitted such oaths to be canceled, but only one by one and in the presence of a Talmudic sage. The idea of a blanket nullification was anathema to rabbis who first heard of it in the eighth and ninth centuries and denounced it as “a foolish custom.” But no one listened.
The prayer had emerged alongside a parallel practice of smashing clay pottery on which a formula to annul vows had been engraved, the idea being that your enemy might have conjured evil spirits and forced them magically to promise you harm. Breaking the bowl would free them from their promise.
Here, then, is a superstition-laden prayer that was condemned by rabbinic authorities but stuck anyway. Its final version reflects a 12th-century substitution of “vows made in the future” for “vows made in the past,” so as to do away with its obvious disregard for Talmudic law. Even so, it hardly represented Judaism at its moral best. In the 19th century it fueled German anti-Semitism to the point where Jews were hauled into court and forced to swear that they would be held answerable for the truth of any oath they took there.
Despite all this Kol Nidre persisted, eventually supplied with unforgettable music and the choreography of a courtroom trial held before God. Jews were chanting it is as far back as 11th-century France; 14th-century German cantors were prolonging the melody to make sure latecomers got to hear it. Polish Rabbi Mordecai Jaffe (1530–1612) sought in vain to change the text because cantors resisted coupling the age-old melody to new lyrics. Nineteenth- and 20th-century rabbis tried to substitute Psalms or write a new prayer altogether.
A more successful subterfuge was to play Kol Nidre on a musical instrument without words or to chant the prayer but omit the words (especially in translation) from the prayer book.
What attracts us to this strangely haunting ritual of Kol Nidre? Is it the music? Surely. Is it also the high drama of the occasion -- Torah scrolls dressed in white and held stunningly in full view of the congregation throughout the chant? Yes, it is that as well. But it is more. "All These Vows: Kol Nidre" (Jewish Lights, 2011) assembles the thoughtful and moving answers of more than 30 people -- rabbis and cantors, artists and thinkers -- the world over. My own view is that Kol Nidre connects us with the sacred.
Since the 19th century we have been on a road toward greater secularity -- not necessarily a bad thing, if by “secular” we mean the discovery that the world is devoid of magical forces and that everything runs by an immutable set of scientific laws. But we have paid a price. Secularization is the process of yanking at the curtain of the universe and discovering there is no wizard micromanaging it. But a universe that operates by natural law can still have mystery. We pilgrims on the yellow brick road strive to be secular, scientific and savvy without giving up on God and the certainty that life still matters. On Kol Nidre eve, it is as if nothing has eroded that certainty because energy runs high, memories go deep and some things seem not to have changed in a thousand years or more.
People mistakenly think that they cannot pray because they cannot believe. The reverse is true. Prayer compels belief, not the other way around. For a very brief moment, as Kol Nidre is chanted, we are in touch with the sacred and with our finitude; with those we love and with the broader human universe; with our own better selves and with the God we are not even sure we believe in.
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, a professor of liturgy, worship and ritual at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, is the author most recently of "All These Vows: Kol Nidre" (Jewish Lights).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Goodies reflections
Second time I am writing this. OMG…. I wish I had saved it correctly.
People are very nice and helpful. The other day we went out looking a place to eat dinner. Traffic was bumper to bumper. At a light someone came up to the back of the car. Yes the old window washer trick. However Peter was looking for some change to tip but he went away. There is no tipping in the country. Nice. They want to be of service. Even the super did a few things for us. He wouldn’t take a tip. So I made him some shortbread. That he took. Smart man. He didn’t want to make me feel badly. I have several things that need to be done in Evanston. It would cost only $1900.00 in coach. Oh well just a thought.
Every time I want to call home it is 3 AM at home. Too early and the day is always wrong. 1 day different. Tomorrow is another day.
Holidays are very different this year. No family, chicken soup. brisket, or turkey. I looked for chicken livers the other day in the super market. I thought I would surprise Peter with a little touch of home. But nowhere to be found. I guess the New Zealanders don’t eat chicken so no livers. It is hard to be Jewish in this country. Someone told us his grandfather was a Kosher butcher and had to go out of business. No one would buy meat from Christchurch. Too bad.
The holidays were coming up and I decided to get my nails done. We went to one of the malls. The nail salon was in the middle of the hall. It was cold. No problem they had a heating pad for my tush. So my arms and legs were cold but bottom was toasty warm. The store on one side was Polo. Not one person came out with a bag. No sale on polo shirts $75.00. Surprisingly, very few stores were empty or going out of business like in the States. Getting back to the nails. It was a good thing I brought my own polish because the colors they had were black, green, and blue. Not my style. Not sure they celebrate Halloween. A woman sat next to me and had tips put on. After they were glued on, someone else came and did one hand and the other hand was done by someone else. One hand could be 4 incnes. the other 2 inches. Maybe a new style. Time will tell.
Things are very expensive. Sample sizes Adults $99.00 Children 89.00. That was for sandals. If you come to New Zealand, make sure you bring everything you think you need.
This is a very gay friendly country. One article said, they are more interested in what kind of car you drive than your life style. Nice to see.
Rugby is the main religion in New Zealand and it is still a mystery. Give me baseball, basketball or football any day. The commentary is as funny as the game. Why anyone wants to catch the ball and have everyone pile on top of you. This is a rough game.. Ouch!!!!
The other day we took a ferry to Wakiheke Island to visit a congregant for lunch. They live on 7 acres and have a sustainable farm. They have young people working it. They were working on a new Chicken coop. They have 4 chickens. The farmer showed me the eggs that were laid. It was like an Easter basket. Blue, brown, green. Dr. Suess knew something. I didn’t know about green eggs and ham. It was a cold and rainy day. We plan to go back and see the wineries that the island is famous for. We will taste and eat lunch. But we will wait until it gets warmer. I hope before we leave.
Peter went shopping the other day without me. When he got home, he told me this story. When he found the car to put groceries into the car he opened the door. The wrong side. Not unusual but he opened the door and sat inside. Then noticed the wheel was on the other side. Not automatic yet. I am glad I wasn’t around. I would still be laughing.
Oh what a country! Fun to experience new ways. People are always dressed in black. Not sure if it is because the World Cup. New Zealand is called the All Blacks. You just don’t know who is a real Kiwi. So many Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians. Therefore there are many ethnic restaurants. Some good , some tasty. You just don’t know until it is in your belly. Too late to leave.
Services went well. Peter wowed them and me.   It is a small place and everyone helps.--moving chairs, bringing a light meal for a nosh. It is still cold and very windy. I decided not to go to the cemetery for a service today. They will do without me this time.
  Signing off for now.