Powered by WebAds

Thursday, November 1, 2018


The following is the text of the poem by Rivka that I read at her erev zikaron on Monday night.

8 November, 1988


by Karin Rivka Zuckerman

What do you call the rain
that lightly falls
and gently washes
all your worries

I want to run
with arms outstretched
on sit on my doorstep

My mind flickers
between past and present
I feel so happy
to be

Aliyah and Change

The following is the text of the essay by Rivka that I read at her erev zikaron on Monday night.

Winter/Spring 1989

Change occurs, whether we are ready for it or not;  and we are usually not prepared.  Such is the case with graduating from college (which I did three months ago)... and making Aliyah (lit. moving up;  i.e., moving to Israel) (which I am about to do).

I have dreamed about Aliyah for as long as I can remember.  Yet, dreaming about Aliyah is a very different process from actually moving to Israel.  Most events are easy to prepare for in the abstract, or when they are far away.  When I originally tried to gather information about what I would need to do, I was continually told "it's too early for the kind of preparations you're talking about."  Suddenly, it's no longer "too early" and I have more preparations than I have time for.  I'd better get used to it.  My Aliyah is this summer.

Aliyah is a big change.  Though I have been waiting for this time since I was six years old, I am hardly ready for it.  A friend recently asked me if I had any fears about the upcoming event.  "Are you kidding," I responded in amazement, "I'm terrified!"  Being idealistic does not prevent one from being aware of the realities, and the realities of Israel are tough ones.  In addition to the difficulties faced by other Israelis, American Olim (new immigrants) face problems that are particular to their situation.  Olim have to learn a new language, literally and figuratively.  Learning Hebrew is easy compared to learning to understand some of the more subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) nuances of the language of society.  In addition, Olim have to learn an entirely new set of rules about how their society is run.  Moreover, they have to confront life's problems without the day-to-day support of their family and life-long friends (unless the newcomer is one of the priveleged few whose families and friends have also made Aliyah... most of us are not that fortunate).  While Aliyah is perhaps the greatest upcoming transition in my life, many of the changes I am currently experiencing have nothing to do with it.  Rather, they are the normal ones that come as a result of graduating from college and beginning a new life.

Graduating from college and entering "the real world" is, in and of itself, extremely intimidating.  All of a sudden, the previously sheltered young adult is thrust into the challenges of earning a living, balancing a budget, and rebuilding a social framework.  It's not easy.  In addition, the intellectually challenging atmosphere of the university is replaced by a mundane world filled with mundane tasks.  No longer is the world at one's front door.  One has to travel everywhere:  To work, to friends, to activities.  When you get down to it, life in the "real world" is inconvenient and difficult anywhere, even in the United States.

The hardest aspect of moving on in life is saying goodbye.  We leave so much behind when we start something new:  Places that we can walk through blindfolded, sounds that we hear in our sleep, sights and smells that we have grown used to.  Most of all, we leave the people that mean the most to us.  There are so many people that we say goodbye to.  There are many people who I will not promise to write to because I know that we will not keep in touch.  However, there are some people with whom I really hope to keep in contact, and I wonder... in five years, how many will I still be in touch with?  It's hard to maintain the contact when you are separated by so great a distance.  Visits are next to impossible and letters grow farther and farther apart;  these are the facts of life.  Furthermore, as our lives continue along such separate paths, our concerns also diverge.  Our joys and our interests represent the different lives we lead and often become difficult for others to share and understand.

More than anything else, I am torn by the fact that moving to Israel means leaving my family.  I am fortunate to have a wonderful family.  I am close with both my brother and my sister, and my mother and father have always been my best friends.  Moving to Israel does not mean that I will lose these special relationships, however, it does mean that they will change.  All of us will have to redefine our relationships with each other to meet the new restrictions of living thousands of miles apart.  Telephone calls will no longer be able to run on for an hour, nor will they occur every few days;  we will have to plan visits months in advance;  and we will not spend birthdays and holidays together.  Life will constantly remind us of the vast distances that separate us.  (We will be unaware of the daily events in each others' lives.)  These are the realities of choosing to live in a homeland which, in many ways, is so far from home.  Although it is in the nature of things that children grow up, build their own homes, and begin their own families, there remains within all of us a part (no matter how small) that considers home to be wherever mom and dad are.

Nonetheless, there are many changes that I am eagerly looking forward to.  Each day that I am in Israel I will be fulfilling my dream of living in the Jewish State, on my land, with my history, my language, and my people.  National holidays will be my holidays;  and the state schools will teach my culture;  the museums will record my people's heritage and achievements.  In Israel, everything is mine, including the problems.  However, equally significant is that the issues I care about changing in Israel will be mine to change.  In Israel, every individual's presence makes a difference and I want my voice to be counted.  Although I know that daily life there will be filled with constant challenges for me, I know that my children will feel at home within the Israeli system, and it is they who will be my future and the future of my people.

It is comforting for me to see that many of my peers from college, who are working in the U.S., have also discovered that they need time to adjust to life.  If it is tough for them to adapt to a new life in their native country, then it is only natural that I will have difficulties in one that is foreign.  Just as they will eventually find their way in America, so too will I eventually find my place in Israel.  (It would be unrealistic for me to expect that my Aliyah will be easy, since adjusting to life is not easy.  At least, in the U.S., I would know what to expect.)  Once I get off the plane in Israel, I will encounter a world that I barely know or understand.  I will prepare for this new world as much as I can, but it is impossible to predict the turns, both good and bad, that will undoubtedly creep up along the way.  The unexpected occurs everywhere... why shouldn't it happen to me in Israel?

And so change creeps up on the best of us, and we have only to face it and move onward and upward (pun intended).

Rivka's essay and poem

Many of you have asked for copies of the essay and the poem written by Rivka that I read at the erev zikaron.  I am posting them here, for anyone who would like to read them. Moshe

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who came to the erev zikaron on Monday evening.  It was wonderful to be able to spend an evening together with all of you remembering Rivka.

Thank you to Rabbi Chanoch Yeres, for your inspiring shiur, and for your moving recollection of the intensity and and impact with which Rivka lived her life.

Thank you to Charlie Kalech and Steve Leavitt, for your help in publicizing the event.

Thank you to Stephanie Glick, for your help in livecasting the event on Facebook.

Thank you to Pelech, (both of our daughters' alma mater), for allowing us to use your building and auditorium, and to Tzion Halawi, the av bayit, for helping set things up and clean up afterward.

Thank you to Louise Olswang Fox, for your work on The Book™ -- coming Real Soon Now!

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped with refreshments, with setting things up, cleaning up, and everything else.

Thank you to my wonderful and incredible wife Lisa, for your enthusiastic help and support in almost all aspects of planning the evening.

Thank you to all those who came to the aliyah l'kever on Friday morning.

Thank you for all for helping make a great evening happen where Rivka's spirit could be felt.

And thank you to those who weren't able to come, but watched online, sent warm wishes, and/or were with us in spirit.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Erev zikaron for Rivka - 5779

We will be holding an erev zikaron (memorial evening) for Rivka, on the evening of the eighth anniversary of her passing.

Rabbi Chanoch Yeres will be giving a shiur in Rivka's memory on the following topic:

"Inspiring and Educating Our Children: Action and Emotion Serving Hashem"

The shiur, as well as the rest of the evening, will be in English.

Everyone who would like to come is welcome and invited to attend.

Here are the details:

Date: Monday evening, 21 Marheshvan / 29 October
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Pelech High School
Rehov Yehudah 31
Baka, Jerusalem
(See here for a map.)

For everyone who would like to help bring refreshments, please enter your name alongside what you can bring in this spreadsheet.

Please pass along this message to anyone who might be interested.

I'm looking forward to seeing all of you who will be coming.


P.S.:  We will be making an aliyah l'kever (visit to Rivka's grave) the following morning (Tuesday, 21 Marheshvan / 30 October), at 10:00 am [not at 9:00 as previously posted].  (Details regarding the location and prayers can be found here.)  We would like to ensure that we have have a minyan, so if you can come, then please let me know.  (You can leave a comment on this post, or send me an email.)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Same Time Last Year: The First Phase of my Aliyah

The following is the text of the second essay by Rivka that I read at her erev zikaron on Thursday night.  It was written in Israel, shortly after her aliyah.

Same Time Last Year: The First Phase of my Aliyah

by Karin Rivka Zuckerman

After graduating from college, there's always a period of turmoil, which, if you're lucky, ends at some point.  Meanwhile, all of those questions that we manage to successfully avoid while in college suddenly loom ahead of us.  Where am I going to live?  What am I going to do?  Do I really have to get a job?  Luckily, when I graduated, I had some direction:  I would live somewhere in Israel, I would work in something in education, and . . . a job?  Basically, I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do, except that, unlike most of my friends, I was going to do it in Israel.  A few months later I got off the plane in Israel and began my new life.

The first thing I did (besides getting over jet-lag) was to call my friends and let them know that I'd arrived.  Talking to friends that I hadn't spoken with for two to four years was very exciting.  Nothing, however, matched my feelings when, after they asked me for how long I would be in Israel, I answered "I'm here permanently!"  With each time that I told another friend, the meaning of what I was saying became stronger for me.  I finally made it.  I am finally home.

Now, coming home might sound glorious, but it's really not as easy as it seems.  To begin with, it's frustrating!  Zionism is a great ideology, but it doesn't tell you how the country works or even what bus will get you from the central bus station to the Hebrew University!  I spent a year in Israel five years ago, but I was a tourist then;  I wasn't trying to establish myself.  This time is different.  This time there's a challenge:  to build my life in a country that I've always called home but in which I am a stranger.

Like so many other people, I've always felt "at home" in Israel.  However, being "at home" implies a natural understanding of the way things work, which no Jew, even with a college education, can have without actually living here.  For instance, I need to learn how to get a license and open a bank account.  Sure, I can figure these things out, but that's not the point.  The point is that all those little pieces of information about life that I've stored up in my brain over the course of my 24 years are irrelevant to me here.  It won't take long (ceratainly not another 24 years) to compile a new store of information, however, in the beginning it's tough.

Learning how to get things done in Israel is not always just a matter of pride or convenience.  Sometimes being a stranger can mean that you don't know how to respond to a situation that demands immediate response.  During my second week in Israel, I happened to be sitting in a park in Jerusalem with a friend of mine (also, coincidentally, a Barnard graduate) when a kid on a skateboard tried to jump a wall, missed and hit his head on the wall while taking a pretty serious fall.  There weren't many people around that day and, though a few people looked to see what happened, no one seemed to know what to do.  I went to check on the kid, who was hurt and needed help.  Well, I know that in New York you call 911 in emergencies, and I know that in Israel you call Magen David Adom, but I don't know what number to call in Israel.  Luckily, there were people around, so I told someone else to call and everything worked out fine for the kid (who's probably out, even now, trying to conquer that same wall).  I, on the other hand, was very shaken up afterwards.  I immediately set out to memorize all emergency phone numbers.  But I began to wonder, what other basic information am I lacking that I might need to know?  What if nobody else were around?

The learning process is usually not quite as traumatic as the story I just related.  Often, learning can be a lot of fun.  Sometimes, asking a stranger a simple question, like what bus to take, opens up the door to a more interesting conversation.  People on the buses are constantly reminding me that Israel is a unique country.  One Friday, for example, a woman on the bus offered me fresh figs from the bag she was bringing home to her family for Shabbat.  Another day, a woman with a baby carriage got onto the bus by the back door and held out her hand to me;  she wanted me to give her money to the bus driver.  There is constantly interaction between people on the buses.  When I was here five years ago I also noticed this;  nonetheless, after spending four years in New York, where people barely look at each other on the buses, I am even more impressed by the way people here help each other out.

What I love best about Israel is the "holiday season."  First of all, the holiday season in Israel is really my holiday season, meaning Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Succot and Simchat Torah.  Everything in Israel is centered on these chagim (holidays).  If you want to handle any kind of business, make sure you do it before or after the chagim, because everyone goes on vacation and the office will be closed.  University begins "after the chagim."  Students can take classes without worrying about missing anything important during our holidays.  There's no need to explain to people what the holidays are;  everyone knows and everyone gets into the holiday spirit.  On Yom Kippur, even the main streets of Jerusalem are empty of cars and full of people.  Religious people swarm the streets on their way to services.  Non-religious kids on skateboards and bicycles sail down the middle of the main streets on the one day during the year when they rule the streets.  Succot is also a great festival in Israel.  Every residential building has at least one Succah;  even the restaurants in the center of town put up their own succot.  Everyone celebrates.

The "holiday season" in Israel ended two months ago. Winter has already set in, and in another few weeks the country will once again celebrate together.  The sweet smell of sufganiot (hot, fried jelly donuts;  pronounced:  soof-ga-nee-yote) will soon pervade the evening air, and many windows will glow with the lights of the chanukiot (menorahs), as the entire country celebrates.  In Israel, Chanukah is celebrated by all Jews, young and old, religious and non-religious, right-wing and left-wing.  Together we celebrate the triumph of Judaism over assimilation and the return of Jewish sovereignty to the land of Israel.

I am a Zionist

The following is the text of the first essay by Rivka that I read at her erev zikaron on Thursday night.  It was written in America, about a year before her aliyah.

Monday, June 20, 1988
1:41 AM

I am a Zionist.  Without Israel I am nothing.  I am a Jew and have always been proud of that fact.  That is why I am a Zionist and always will be.  I am part of a stiff-necked people, not a meek religious group, but a fiercely proud nation.  We were not always fierce but we have always been stubborn and we have refused to disappear.  We have a country now and it's ours once again but there are those who would trade it for the golden calf.  They see Israel as a place to visit, perhaps once in a lifetime, perhaps every winter.  Or if there is a war, then, suddenly, these people are willing to risk their lives, or at least their money.  They have nothing to lose, without Israel, their lives are lost and their money worthless.  The war will come, but it will arrive too late for their money, or their willingness to die.  The war will come because we have turned our backs.  We, the Jews, have closed our eyes, pretending that we just don't see how much Israel needs us there now, not to fight, but to live & work on the land we claim is ours.  But we are not ready to live and struggle in our land when our lives are so comfortable in a foreign land.  So we suppress our love for our land and our guilt at abandoning it, and call this foreign land home and ignore all the signs that reveal the truth.  We are not home, we are in the guest house and we have already overstayed our welcome.  Our house had been destroyed, but now it is restored.  Our hosts are already subtly hinting that it is time for us to go home.  Yet our hosts are not ready to forcibly show us the door, not yet.  Soon they will scorn us because we have shown that we lack pride.

We have decided that we no longer need Israel to be comnplete Jews.  We reject the idea that we are a nation even as we reject the idea that we are a religion.  We can ignore the idiosyncacies of prayers to G-d to return us to our land even though we possess the ability to return on our own.  We divide ourselves into natonalists vs. religionists even as we know that without both, which are really one, we are nothing.  And we are silent even when we know that there is a need to call out.

In just over one year I will be breaking away from everything that I have ever held to be of value.  I am leaving the country where I have been raised, a country that I love and understand.  I am leaving the people I have known since birth and the friends that I have made along the way.  And I am leaving the people who mean the world to me, my family.  I am leaving them because they won't come along, though I pray to G-d to make them change their minds.  In some ways, I have most wanted my friends to join me.  But I have only cried and prayed for my family.  I need them.

So how can I leave & why am I writing this?  Because Israel is my home, because I am a Jew, because my parents taught me to be a Jew and because if I am not proud of who I am then I am nothing.  I am not, and refuse to be, nothing.  I am a Zionist.