Friday, April 28, 2006

How quickly we're OK with moving on.

I can't really write about the ACES Conference at this point. The only things I need to say, really, are that I spent the greater portion of my time with two boys -- one Daniel and one Niko -- and we drank in the hotel bar and other places. I had drinks bought for me by professionals and I spread my name about like wildfire. So hopefull, come mid-summer, I'll have a phone call from someone who can say "hey, we want to offer you a job" and hopefully this place will be the kind of place someone like me wants to end up.

But what I really need to write about was yesterday. Today was the first day I woke up a Jew, the member of a nation of people who have survived the most horrendous of tests and tragedies as well as the most miraculous of moments. But when I woke up yesterday I was still merely a girl who had never visited the mikvah. So my day yesterday began.

I picked up the rabbi at 7:30 and chatted with his wife, their daughter and played with the new dog, Bandit. We headed into Omaha and got to the Rose Blumkin Home at about 9 a.m. -- the time he said we needed to have me dip into the mikvah. So we said a few blessings, and I went in and did my thing (which I'll write more on in a second). We left the Rose Blumkin Home and headed for Temple Israel around 10 to meet with the rabbi and cantor, but unfortunately, they were back at the Blumkin home waiting for us. So we drive back and come to find out I'm supposed to meet with the rabbis first and then take the dip in the mikvah. So what do I do? I meet with the rabbis (them asking me questions about G-d, antiSemitism, why I should tell people I wish to become a Jew, etc) and then I took another dip, with them in the waiting space hollering AMEN after every prayer. I gagged the last time, on the water, and the rabbi yelled "Amen! Don't drink the water!"

The first time in the mikvah felt incredibly special and personal. It was me and G-d and the warm water. I removed the nail polish from my toes and showered, and then I stepped into the mikvah -- seven steps in -- and dunked. The water was incredibly warm and even when I floated to the top and I was sure my back was still below the surface, I felt no air, only water. It must be what a space rock feels like, bobbing around, like being tossed by gentle, translucent hands. I went up and said the first prayer and took a few breaths. I dunked again, bobbing more and listening to the rushing of the water -- the tank was refilling the mikvah even as I had just gotten in -- and it felt like a stream. It reminded me of in the Torah when it says after being kicked out of Eden, Adam sat in the stream. I came up and said the second prayer and stood there for a few moments. Finally, I went in a third time, bobbing again, light as a feather, and coming up said the Sh'ma. I stood in the water for a few more moments before I ascended the seven stairs and got dressed again. The second time I went in was very similar, but it was less at ease -- more rushed -- and I gagged on the water, of course. Between the morning and the two dunks, though, I showered three times before noon yesterday. When I came out of the mikvah the first time the rabbi said my smile was huge. The second time I came out of hte mikvah, the rabbi from Omaha embraced me and said "Welcome Home." It was the most refreshing, exhilirating, welcoming feeling ever. And now? I am a Jew. I have always been a Jew, but now, now it's "official."

My rabbi told me that he was glad I was his first conversion, because he had no doubt in his mind that I was sure and ready. I was the guinea pig, though, so now he knows for when John and the others convert. No more miscommunication. Our first line of business after the mikvah and bet din was to go get lunch, so the rabbi and I went to Whole Foods for some delicious, delicious sushi (his treat) and then to Border's Bookstore to browse about. It was a good way to spend the after-conversion time, I think.

In other news, while reading this week's parsha in preperation for tonight's Shabbat service, I came across a passage in a commentary from that refers to the "outside," which immediately made me think of Tova Mirvis's "The Outside World" ... so I e-mailed it to my professor because I'm a huge geek.
The forces of evil are, in Kabbalistic and Chassidic terminology, the sitra achra, the "other side." They are what is "outside," what is far from G-d's presence and holiness. They flourish in the realm where He is most concealed and least felt, where there is least holiness. In a place where G-d is least felt, there is naturally more room for "opposition" to Him. And hence, spiritually speaking, what is most evil and most impure in a person is, above all, the assertion of self: one pushes G-d's presence away and creates a void, a vacuum where His presence should be.
My conversion ceremony is tonight, though I know not who will be coming to it. Heather and Annie want to see the slideshow and John is participating in antics. I know Alex is coming, but Cesar may not be coming, ahh well. My family may be coming. Mom said to me "but you know that's when I was planning my thing" which infuriated me. She wants to go paint pots and have a drink. I know this is a me thing, but sometimes it's nice to have people there who ... nevermind. It's pointless to banter about. It's me, it's my friends and community at Temple, and I'm happy with that, damnit!

Anyhow. I'm ready to move on, now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ahh, it's close!

I'm still not up to writing about the conference yet. I have pictures galore (most up on my facebook, for anyone who remotely cares), but just haven't found the extended period of time or patience to write about it. So give me a bit o' time. I'm still recovering!

Tomorrow morning at 9:30 I'll hit up the bells and whistles of conversion. Friday night is the ceremony, which I finally invited my mother and family to, though I know not if they'll be coming. In the rush and nervousness of not precisely knowing what to expect, I've been rereading the Anita Diamant book on converting, as well as browsing around the Internet. In my search I came across an Open Letter to Jews By Choice, by a Dr. Lawrence Epstein. It's uplifting, inspiring ... encouraging. I'm meeting with my rabbi today to talk about what all will go down at this little shindig tomorrow, and I'm nervous just about that. I have my Hebrew named picked out -- it's an extension of my given name. The name? Chaviva. Hence the name of the blog.

My undergraduate career more or less ended last night at 8:15 at the closing credits of Crossing Delancey. It was my final Jewish-American Fiction class and the end of my general classes. I'll be missing Mass Media & Society tomorrow for conversion stuff and then there's photography, but I may not making it there either. In reality, all I have left to do is my photography portfolio, which to be frank, I don't care much about. I've put a lot into some of the photos and the ones he's praised have been my five-minute escapades. Anyhow, the movie we watched was pretty ridiculously hilarious. It was about a Jewish woman named Izzy (Isabelle) who falls for this French author who turns out to be a jerk, and instead realizes her love for Sam, the pickle salesman on Delancey Street. Sam and Izzy are set up by a marriage broker hired by Izzy's bubbe. Izzy is disgusted (she's so modern in the late 1980s), but then finds out Sam has been watching her for years. Anywho, she falls for Sam, who is a shmuck, but is a wonderful shmuck. In fact, even I fell in love with him. Now to find me a man like that. I'd go for a pickle salesman ... hands down.

Anyhow. If I'm correct, the prayer that will be recited during my conversion (in addition to the sheheheyanu), goes a little something like this:

Baruch atah Hashem Elokenu Melech Haolam Asher Kidishanu be Mitzvotav Vetzivanu al Hatevilah.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dangle that modifier!

I'll have to find time to fill in faithful readers about my adventures in Cleveland, Ohio, last week for the 2006 ACES conference. There will be photos, chatter and I'll have to tell you how the talk by the Times-Picayune folks made me feel about what it is that I do. I felt completely de-minimalized, which is something I needed right now.

But for now, I'll say this. I convert in a few days, and I'm exhausted. I haven't really slept much in the past several days and I'm fried. I have a final to write (8 pages) for AmJew Fiction, and I have a presentation at 9:30 in the a.m. for a final in Mass Media & Society. I have work at both jobs tomorrow, and I have to do the Temple bulletin sometime between now and tomorrow. My plan? To finish up here, head to the Temple and do the bulletin, then crash at the DN. I'll shower here in the morning and make the most of the day before passing out in the evening after work. The end is near, and where am I? In the office.

And now, "you were perfect."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


We're so easy, but we're not, you and I. And really I need to learn.

I leave for Omaha (and shortly thereafter Cleveland) in 12 hours. I couldn't be happier. It'll be a five-day vacation where hopefully I'll get a job. I finally locked in a great place in D.C. It's a few minutes from Georgetown, blocks from a great strip of businesses, a few minutes from a Reform shul and a quick bus ride to the Post. Cost? $670, and that includes utilities. There's an additional 15 bucks a month for Internet; no worries. Now, I just need to lock in a job for the rest of my life.

Or until I decide I need to go back to school.

At the end of American Jewish Fiction tonight, everyone was handing in their papers, chatting after our incredibly off-topic discussion and I had this flash of "I love academia!" and it made me want desperately to not exit stage left so quickly. I really need to start looking into good grad schools with good Judaic Studies programs. Then I need to start looking into the GRE and all that graduate stuff. I don't know when it will come, but soon enough.

I have a long list of things to do before I leave tomorrow. And now? I'm sitting at the DN waiting for page proofs. This is going to be the longest night in recent time. Although I expect it to be quickly trumped by the all-nighter planned for next Monday. Amen, finals.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Feeling left behind? You probably are.

So evidently, you know that delicious No Child Left Behind law? Well, there's a big, happy loophole in it:

States are helping schools get around that second requirement by using a loophole in the law that allows them to ignore scores of racial groups that are too small to be statistically significant.
Who leaves a racist loophole, hrm? Yup. So now, there's school districts across the nation blatantly leaving out specific racial groups out of their reports -- Asian Americans, American Indians, blacks, you name it!

And that upsets me.

Brooklyn, anyone?

I never thought it would happen that I'd want to live in a more ... hrm ... culture-centric area. By that, I mean that I'd like to live in a community of people like me. Does that make me an isolationist? I don't think so. My first honest thought on this came yesterday while listening to the radio. Your run-of-the-mill radio station DJ wished everyone a Happy Easter -- eggs, ham and all. Today while on the shuttle and then at work people kept asking me how my Easter was. I can't imagine living someplace where people ask me how Pesach is going or how Yom Kippur is treating me. Can you imagine living someplace where it isn't "Christmas Break" and "Easter Break"? I can. I want to go to that place. I don't hate Christians and Christian greetings for Christian holidays, I just want to not have to worry about my answer. So instead of saying "I don't celebrate Easter, thank you," I said "I had to work," to which the shuttle driver replied, "Well that's not good at all, I'm sorry." I wanted to say, "But my Passover is going swell. I've had some amazing gefilte fish and charoset, thanks for asking!"

I wonder how that would feel. As for now, though, I'm stuck in the center of the nonJewish center of the U.S.

Anyhow. I don't want to sound like an anti-religious pluralism bitch, I just want to feel cozy. I understand that when someone says "Happy Easter!" I can reply with "Happy Passover!" but in a Christian society, the other person still gets squemish. There's no getting over that. So either way it feels like a loss.

In two days I'll be in the thriving metropolis that is Cleveland, Ohio. Oh the joy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Matzo, Metal, Madonna and Matisyahu -- Happy Passover?

Just when you think Matisyahu being invited to seder with Madonna is weird, there's the Matzo and Metal special, presented by none other than VH1.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

I will be Fine.

If Robert had found a CF card, there would be pictures. But instead, there's just me, telling you about the best Passover seder ever (to this point, which doesn't say much becuase I've only been to two, but hey, it rocked). The evening was a lot of time with the Omaha/Lincoln college Jews hanging out at Beth El and then at Robert's, where we all crashed about 3 a.m. The seder was awesome and sitting between Sari and Dan made the meal and seder swim by. The food was OK (nothing compared to first night seder). It was the afterparty that made the night worthwhile.

One hundred dollars worth of booze -- 16 bottles of Manishewitz, some UV, some SKYY and mixers. With toasts to this and that and life, L'Chaim ... we were well on our way to being intoxicated. People came, people went. And I, for the first time in my life, got drunk on Manischewitz and couldn't have been more happy about it. We sat on the porch at Robert's and talked Family Guy, ethnicity, politics, language and other topics. It was funny, it was serious, it was good conversation with people who I deeply care about. Sari became known as "Raber tooth tiger" and it became known that I was a spy for Jesus and Geno was working with Michael and the KGB. It was ridiculous, and it was fun. And I felt so at ease under the stars last night. On the drive home this morning (at 8 a.m., mind you), the four of us in the car sat somewhat silently recalling our favorite plagues, favorite events of the evening and other stuff. But I just looked out the window and smiled. I was up ass early and it was OK because I felt so comfortable and happy. I got compliments in the evening about my "Jewish knowledge" -- one from a guy who said I know more yiddish than he does and another from a gal who said I seem to know so much about everything (her mom converted and "really tries," she said).

It makes me sad that all this started so late. It's amazing how being around people who think and feel like you do makes you feel so alive. These people put me so at ease. It gives me faith and conviction that I will be fine, no doubt.

In nonPassover-related news: Evidently, Alyssa (a DNer) seems to experience the same painful chest pains I do. She also found a name for it: Precordial Catch Syndrome. Yup. Too bad my doctor couldn't have told me that, eh? The thing that sucks, though? There's nothing that can be done about it. It's kind of a "deal with it" kind of thing. It happens a lot in children and teens, and is normal into early adulthood. We'll see if it goes away. It's been a while since I last experienced it, but the last time was the ultimate time (when I went to see the doctor and they ran all the tests and found nothing).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Passover Seder: Evening No. 1

Happy Passover! Or can you really say that? I mean, it's a fairly bittersweet holiday -- thanking G-d for passing over the houses of Jews, but there's also the fact that it put us in exile. So do you say "happy?"

Anyhow, first night seder was pretty amazing. There were around 20 folks who showed up to Seaton Hall for the evening, which consisted of a slackily read haggadah and no wine (but sparkling grape juice). The meal was large and consisted of a few of the following items ... gefilte fish, oriental salada (a sephardic dish made by moi), apple farfel kugel and the run-o-the-mill seder plate goods. There was an excess amount of charoset (which I couldn't find any good pictures of), and it was quite delicious with the matazah. There also was a few horseradish varities to choose from, and the desserts varied from jelly chocolate things to cake to ... you name it. Anyhow, it was a pretty amazing meal with good friends, good company, songs, and the abbreviated haggadah also was quite the treat!

Tomorrow is a trip to Omaha with the Lincoln/Omaha Jews for a seder up yonder. I'm pretty stoked about it, quite frankly.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Don't turn around.

Words of wisdom from the radio this morning in a song I know not the title of: "No matter how far you've gone, you can always turn around." Not so much because it suggests that when you're in knee deep you still have the opportunity to crawl out. Or maybe it is that. I don't know.

Tonight is the first night of passover -- one of two widely celebrated Jewish holidays (it's the Easter of Judaism ... har har). The other, of course, being Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (since they go hand in hand. The holiday goes through sundown on April 20, when I'll be in the land known as Cleveland, Ohio, for the ACES conference.

In a week, I will be leaving. Amen.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I've never gotten Forget me Nots

I neglected to wake up this morning, as my alarm neglected to inform me that it was morning. At the point which I decided "my, my, I've been asleep too long," I leaned over to look at my cellphone and it said 10:58. So I called the library, told Carol I was going to be late, and hence was. This resulted in a fast-food lunch run, but I've decided the perfect meal at a fast-food joint is the kid's meal option. So I had myself a little Runza Rex meal (hamburger, no cheese, fries and a small dr. pepper).

I just happ'd upon a new book that evidently unveils the TRUE story of Jesus. Yes, he evidently faked his death and gallivanted off to Southern France with Mary Magdilane and began the dynasty of some Frankish kings. I don't know how much truth there is to it, but it makes you wonder anyhow. Mind you, this is by the author who sued the author of The DaVinci Code.

The Jewish vote for Vegetarianism

On MySpace (please don't laugh) I got a message to check out a Web site. The Web site was dedicated to Jewish Vegetarianism. This site said things such as "There is no doubt that the Torah's ideal is vegetarianism" and "A higher form of being kosher is being vegetarian." I guess what I "feel" that these rabbis might be saying is ... "don't take the chance! it's easier to be vegetarian and kosher!" While also respecting the social action aspect of properly treating all of G-d's creatures and such. The site also quotes a rabbi as saying "The dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and lead us gently (back) to vegetarianism." Hrm. Intriguing and worth the thought.

And then there's our good man (what a hippie) Isaac Bashevis Singer: "I'm a vegetarian for health reasons -- the health of the animal."

Swept away

Yes, today I purchased canned gefilte fish. Why? Because I'm a lazy, lazy bum. So we'll see how good this stuff is. If it sucks, well, I'm out five bucks. If it's good, then consider me sold on it for all eternity. I also bought some matzah and lots of fruit and veggies to make this delicious Sephardic salad recipe I happ'd upon. Oh, and a funny about the grocery store. Two funnies, really. First funny is that the store is called "Bag N Save" and it was because you bagged your own groceries, saving the company money. Now, they bag your groceries for you on a little turnstile (a la Wal-Mart). The other funny is that the store is owned by Jews and has a big Kosher food section (big for Nebraska, anyhow) and they had a sign on their door that read "We will be closed for Easter so our employees can observe the holiday" ... funny to me, anyhow.

I'm nearly positive G-d is punishing me for not having mad acne in high school by causing me to have intense one-pimple days like today. I apologize for not being the kid with the pimpled face, but damnit, take it easy on me, will you? My face hurts.

I'm reading Harold Kushner's "Why do bad things happen to good people" and I have to say the rabbi and I agree on pretty much everything. It's a good book, but a little ... well ... wordy. Repetitive and such.

Anyhow. Consider this adjourned.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

We're living for the Days

“It is not within our power to place the divine teachings directly in someone else's heart. All that we can do is place them on the surface of the heart so that when the heart breaks they will drop in.” – Hasidic anecdote

It's national poetry month and what am I doing? Not going to slam poetry tonight. I'm just not feeling it. I'm not feeling like driving to Omaha or spending the money to put the gas in my car or to read my poetry. I'm just not in the mood. It's the night where they'll choose the Nebraska National Slam Poetry Team -- a team I can't be a part of, because I won't be around this summer. But my stomach aches, I'm exhausted for some reason, and I'm just not feeling the poetry scene right now. It isn't writer's block -- I've BEEN writing. It's something else.

Anyhow, I intend on sleeping when I'm done here, and then doing homework tonight. I have a decent amount of reading to do, among other things.

I'm just feeling really distant today. But that quote is uplifting in that I feel like there's a constant supply of divine teaching resting on the surface of my heart so that everytime my heart shatters, it can come in and build it up again. It's comforting for me.
12 days till I leave for Cleveland for the 2006 ACES conference
20 days till I leave for Omaha for the mikvah and bet din to "officially" convert to Judaism
29 days till I graduate from college with a bachelor's of journalism
60 days till I begin copy editing for The Washington Post

It's all about countdowns.