Friday, April 29, 2005

Kabbalat Shabbat at Rhoda Goldman

Stuart and I led services at Rhoda Goldman Plaza this evening.

Rhoda Goldman is an assisted living apartment complex. Stuart leads a weekly yoga group; I lead a bi-monthly meditation group. We also know a lot of people who live there because they are a part of the Beth Sholom community. My friend and teacher, Goldie Rassen, has an apartment at Rhoda Goldman.

The rabbis from the Healing Center couldn't make it this evening, so we filled in. We conducted two services--one for those who are less independent and live on the fourth floor and one for the general population.

The fourth floor service was very basic--some songs, candle lighting, more songs, kiddish, motzi. It's hard to know how much is getting through to most of the residents. But you can see them respond to the tunes, even if they can't get the words. For some of them, it's just a spark of recognition in their eyes. It's a gift they give to me, seeing what my singing, my presence, can give to them.

The general service was a bit more involved, but Stuart and I had it mostly under control. We had decided what we would do and who would do what. We didn't read over the Healing Center's siddur carefully enough--they changed some of the words of the hebrew prayers---I'm not sure why--but we forged onward. We made a point to read the hebrew and had the residents then read the english together. I think many prayer leaders forget the power of the hebrew. Even if people can't understand all the words, hearing the hebrew stirs up ancient memories--concrete memories from their childhood, or just the memories that are engrained in all Jews.

Again, it was nice to be able to bring joy to people. Again, I get to give a gift and get a gift all at the same time.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Counting the Omer Day 2 - Gevurah b'Chesed

The second day of the counting of the Omer. Kabbalistically, using the 7 Sephirot, emanations of God, is a day of strength-gevurah-in a week of loving kindness-chesed. Yesterday evening, as this strength/loving kindness day was ending, I had a wonderful City College moment that reminded me that the little kindnesses can sometime bring the most pleasure.

I spent the day finishing my Cultural Geography paper due that evening. No stress, it flowed well and I got it done with hours to spare. As I left the house to go to school, I had a thought of checking to see if I had a dollar (either bill or in change) for the parking lot. I grabbed my jacket, thinking that between my wallet and whatever would be in my pockets or rattling around in my bag would give me what I needed. This sounds like a longer process than it was, a thought that just whisked in and out of my head.

When I got to the pay station of the parking lot, I soon realized that was a thought I should have acted upon. I did not have a dollar in my wallet or my pockets or my bag--either in bill or change. I just stood there, staring into my wallet, feeling like an idiot, wondering what I was going to do. Do I risk parking without paying? Do I park, go to the annex and buy a pen or something for the change?

That was as far as I got when I heard a honk. I looked up, and a nice-looking young man in a SUV was smiling at me, holding out his parking ticket to me. I felt overwhelmingly relieved. With a big smile myself, I took the ticket, simply said "you've done your mitvah for the day" and we both went on our ways--me to part and then to class, him to wherever his evening took him.

Now, I don't advocate not paying for parking, but it was a moment where I was just stuck, and someone saw the situation I was in and helped out. It was a kindness that I will find a way to pass on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

the medium is the MASSAGE

I found my copy of Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage and when I opened it up to a random page, here's what I read:
"Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. 'Time' has ceased,
'space' has vanished. We now live in a global village . . .
a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space.
We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling,
the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.

We have had to shift our stress of attention from action to
reaction. We must now know in advance the consequences of
any policy or action, Since the results are experienced without
delay. Because of electric speed,we can no longer wait and
see. George Washington once remarked, 'We haven't heard
from Benj. Franklin in Paris this year. We should write
him a letter.' "
He wrote The Medium is the Massage in 1967.

If you're wondering about the title--MASSage verses MESSage--click here.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Passenger Heiss, please report, your plane is departing....."

I dropped Ken off at the airport for his flight to Las Vegas to attend NAB--the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. We got there a little late--about 1:10P for a 1:50P flight. He just called, and he did make it on the plane.

But that brought to mind something I saw or, more accurately, heard in the airports in Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington. When planes were announcing their last boarding calls, the names of the passengers who had not yet boarded are called out over the PA system. This happened not once, but two or three times. At one point I heard the announcement "Please come to the gate now so the plane can take off on time." It just seems like a nice courtesy, especially in this world of long security lines. You might miss a flight number, but you would hear your name, and could alert someone that you will be there. I have never heard that in an airport in this country. There is a last boarding call, but no names are ever announced. On the way home, while waiting in the Auckland airport, another American woman and I exchanged amazed glances on hearing these announcements, so I know I'm not alone in this perception.

In this country, it's a boon if they take you off a line when your flight time is near. I was able to go to the head of the security line in Oakland Airport recently because my flight was nearing its departure time (see my 2/18 blog entry). But coming home on that same trip people in the Phoenix airport were not allowed to do that. When they complained, they were told "you should have arrived earlier."

This is another one of those instances where we in the US can learn from what happens in other places.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Color of Money

An appropriate post for April 15

Ken's friend John Ingles was here visiting us--another Kiwi boy. He just couldn't get a handle on the American money. You see, our US notes are pretty boring--all the same size, all the same color. In New Zealand and Australia, it's a different story.

Here's New Zealand money

And here's Australian money

Now, here's our money

See the difference?

I know there are other money matters on most minds today, and other pressing issues in the world, but with the change in the $20 bill already a reality, maybe it's time to think about taking the change a bit further......

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Purim in Sydney

It's time to start catching up with the tales of my recent trip. I'll start with m Sydney Purim experience at Temple Emanuel.

I arrived at the shul in my Queen Esther costume just as the kid's Purim event was finishing. I felt right at home, since the kids were all dressed up. But, upon entering the sanctuary, I saw that I was in the vast majority of adults in costume.

Now, I'm used to a raucus, Beth Sholom kind of Purim--for a taste of this, check out Brian Geller's photos of this year's event.

At Temple Emanuel, the only congregants in costume were an Albert Einstein

and a guy in a wig

At least the clergy were dressed up:
Rabbi, uhhh, "Rabbit" Ninio

Rabbi Kamins

and Cantor Joseph

Rabbi Kamins had a beer, but I didn't see anyone else drinking. But I had lugged my etrog infused vodka halfway around the world and was determined to drink it. I tried to share it with the people around me, but had no takers. They appreciated the concept, but prefered not to partake.

The megillah was read, and then the Purim Shpiel began. I have to say, it was clever and very funny. It set the Purim story in a musical "Saturday Night Fever" meets "Sex and the City" script. There were technical difficulties with the photos, so I can only show one bad one:

That's Mordechai on the left, Esthella on the right, with her 3 girlfriends (Charlotta, Samanthala, & Mirandila) behind her.

So, while I'm used to a more participatory Purim, I can see why the Shpiel is a honored tradition here down under. And you know that if I lived here, I'd be in the thick of it.........

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Teacher who can't teach

If it's Tuesday night, it must be time for that adventure in learning--Geography 4, Cultural Geography. This had the potential to be a good class, but that potential, alas, was not fulfilled.

It's not the class's fault and it's not the subject matter--it's the teacher. He's a nice enough guy BUT a) He's not a good teacher; b) He doesn't know the subject material very well; and c) He's got his facts wrong a good 30 - 40 percent of the time. This is not a recipe for success. Given the syllabus, I could have prepared a better course than he's teaching.

Last week, he tried to teach that Jews believe that Jesus was a prophet. I would not, could not, let that one go. But never fear, his ignorance is non-denominational. He kept having to ask the length of Ramadan and he erred in saying that the basis of being Pope was in the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

I understand that religion is a tough section of this course, especially given the need to jam a lot of information into a short amount of time. But that is where a skilled teacher can do some good, and a bad one, like the one I've got to deal with, can, unfortunately, do a lot of harm.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Short Note about Flying

With all the airplanes I've been on in the past 3 weeks, you'd think I'd have no qualms about flying. Now, I'm not phobic about it, obviously I travel on airplanes, and when I fly I am seemingly undisturbed. But I have to admit that it's not my favorite mode of transportation.

I think the main problem is that I just don't understand or really trust how a huge, heavy plane gets off the ground and flys through the atmosphere. I know it does, and I know there are good scientific reasons why it does, but it's still just magic to me...and magic is illusion and illusion isn't real. So I just don't know what keeps the plane in the air and I don't really trust that it won't, at some point, fall down.

As I have said, these thoughts are not debilitating and don't stop me from getting on the plane. But I have to admit, I'm much happier when we land.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Safe Landing

I'm still on New Zealand time, so I'm a day ahead, but I'm back in San Francisco. It was a long trip--Auckland to Sydney, a 3-hour layover, then Sydney to SF. It was a very full plane, and we were in the very last row. Actually, not such a bad place to be. A bit noisy, both from engine noise and people standing around streching their legs. The one bit of space that's not an aisle in the 747 coach class is the section in front of the toilets, so that's where people congregate. I did hear some interesting conversations, many about Australia and Australians vs USA and Americans--with the Canadians somewhere in the middle.

United and Air New Zealand are Star Alliance partners. Our flight in was an Air New Zealand flight; our flight out was a United flight. There is a marked difference. Although both planes were full, there was much more of a cattle car feel to the United flight. Granted, it was really packed, but it was more than that. To some extent, it's the attitude of the flight attendents. I know it's not an easy job, and I know the United flight attendents have issues with their management, but does that mean that you can't be gracious, treat the passengers with respect, maybe even smile? It almost felt like they were doing us a favor by serving us. I'm sorry, but that's YOUR JOB. The Air New Zealand flight attendents, on the other hand, get it. Maybe they're just happier in their jobs, but they certainly do what they can to make the long flight more pleasant. Besides that--the food on Air New Zealand is better (although my travel hint is to order the vegetarian meal--it's a better bet and by ordering a special meal you always get your food first).

I've got a lot more to write on the whole trip experience. Getting online with blog entries in New Zealand was logistically harder that I thought it would be, so I didn't post much. I do have stories and pictures and will share them in the days ahead.

As a preview,here's a long shot of Bondi Beach: