Haifa, a Taste of Moroccan Jewry, and Religious Pluralism

This past Shabbat I traveled north to Haifa for the Bar Mitzvah of Moshe, a cousin of Shiri (Ezra’s wife). Shiri’s Moroccan family is warm and gracious, eager to host and include us. Shiri is from Kiryat Sh’muel, a suburb of Haifa. Haifa lies on Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast (noticeable on a map of Israel -- its bump), about an hour drive north of Tel Aviv. On the way we pass Herzliya and Cesaria, and Israel’s northern coastal cities like Netanya, noted for its beach and its French and Russian Jewish populations. Once past Netanya, the Mediterranean Sea comes into view and remains visible on my left all the way to the high hills of Haifa. (North of Haifa are more coastal cities --

A Senior Citizen Attending Yeshivah

There is an energetic buzz in the Beit Midrash. Sixty or 70 students, nearly all in their early 20’s, are studying, usually in a chevruta, a partnership. One is talking and the other responds. It is the ancient and modern sound of Talmudic learning. Suddenly, I am startled. Across the room I hear shouting. Why? What? Then I realize, it is a Talmudic student or two shouting in a give-and-take in chevruta. It is not the only startling noise I have heard in the yeshivah. At other times, a student or teacher will start singing impromptu, maybe a niggun, a wordless chassidic melody, not softly, but in a voice that can be heard across the room. At 60, I am not always happy about these dec

Efrat: Life in Israeli Suburbia

It took me about two weeks to settle into a routine. I shopped and organized my apartment, started to acquaint myself with Efrat, and became familiar with the Yeshivah and the approach of my teacher, Rav Boaz. I was then (two weeks ago) ready, weather permitting, to walk to classes and to, little by little, get to know Efrat. One of the delightful surprises came on the first morning’s walk. Passing a bus stop, something caught my eye (ouch!) and I peeked in and saw, inside the bus shelter, shelves with books--a modest library. I got a kick out of it. The 25-minute walk to the Yeshivah includes several steep hills. No complaints. Every day it is my opportunity to walk Israel, maybe not

Shabbat with Micah and Alyssa on the Other Side of Efrat -- & Hidden Gems

This pre-Shabbat’s drive, unlike last week’s excursion to Elkanah, took only about five minutes. It meant that on Friday, with limited Shabbat preparation, I could devote much of the day to study and family calls. Alyssa cooked Shabbat dinner not only for the three of us, but for four other dinner guests. As she loves to bake, she made at least two delicious sweet challot for each meal, along with a first for me: Our appetizer was hummus topped with ground beef. Then came chicken soup, then deli roll, and finally chicken schnitzel. For dessert Alyssa had baked, from scratch, an apple crumb pie and brownies. Did I leave anything out?? Shabbat lunch for the three of us, again by Alyssa,

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