Thursday, December 20, 2007

earth, wind, FIRE, water

"Things sound like they are really heating up in Israel. Glad no one was hurt in the great inferno of 2007." -- a loyal fan.

All my life I've been terrified of disaster. Earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, fires, storms and floods - if it made national news, I feared it would happen to me. It should be known that I also feared more rational things such as what was inside my closet or under my bed. There was a time as a child that I was even afraid of the shower. (My sorority sisters will tell you that this also occurred during sophomore year of college.) Watching psycho too many times will do that to you or the fact that in our sorority house showers - it was common to have cold water thrown into your shower. (OK, so it is possible I was the one who carried out such shenanigans...)

While being terrified of natural disasters may not be a healthiest way to live, it did cause me to lead a cautious life - a safe life. I refrained from using matches because I feared I'd get burned -so my parents bought me a torch to use for Shabbat candle lighting. Living in Indiana was helpful as it wasn't near a big body of water, did not rest on a fault line, and was such a benign place that if anyone wanted to wreak havoc on the United States - neither Fort Wayne nor Bloomington would be at the top of the list.

My first weeks of true adulthood and college independence were shaped by 9/11 which occurred in the first month of college, as well as the Iraq war and other troubling events throughout the world. I did have friends who lost loved ones in these events but my life was still generally untouched and safe.

Its not that I have led a provincial life - I've traveled many times to Israel and throughout East and West Europe, tanned in the Sinai Desert, skied for the first time in the Austrian Alps, witnessed gang violence at the Sacre Coeur in Paris, and grew up in a neighborhood were it wasn't a shock to have our car stolen. Life in DC had its bomb scares, too.

I took a big step in life this year. Because Jerusalem was built in the stone age, our stove does not have an automatic lighter so we have to light in manually. My roommate Marc humored me for the first few months and we owned a tiny torch light that we used for cooking. But unlike Hanukkah, this oil ran out. And instead of spending five dollars - I've been using matches ever since. The first time I did this - I immediately called my family. All were shocked. Wow - they thought - she's finally growing up. Even as the middle child, I've always been the baby in the family.

This morning however, I've decided to return to my torch days. No more matches for me.
Its awfully cold in Jerusalem and we use space heaters to keep ourselves warm. According to my landlord - they are all made in China (which is apparently a terrible thing) and should not be left on for too long. I was extra cold last night - but this morning truly made up for it. The sheets of my bed fell onto the space heater around 6:45 am and I awoke to flames on my down comforter. Somehow I got out of bed, grabbing my computer first, and ran to my roommate - who thought I was waking him for our Hebrew test.

Enter Super Hero Marc Katz - who singlehandedly and barefoot put out the fire which had spread to the entire mattress.

"Get out of here now!" No! We have to save the apartment!

Marc was quite concerned for Jerusalem of Mold. I was concerned for our computers, passports and health. He managed to get the flaming heater into the bathtub (I did help by turning on the water) and somehow threw the burning mattress onto the balcony, which luckily is made of stone and prevented the fire from spreading further or damaging the apartments of our neighbors.

Super Hero Katz put out the entire fire before the fire department even arrived.

I guess no matter how cautiously we live our lives, or how hard or how frequently we pray - sometimes things happen to us that we cannot prevent.

When we escape an event that could be life changing, we have the opportunity to say a really meaningful prayer - Birkat HaGomel

Blessed are You, King of the universe, Who bestows kindness upon the culpable for He has bestowed goodness to me.

My classmate Lyle opened a prayerbook to show me this prayer during class this morning. I read the prayer quietly and he responded with the conclusion to the prayer -

"Mi She-ga-mal-cha Tov, Hu Yig-mal-cha Kol Tuv Se-lah"
May the One who has bestowed beneficence upon you always bestow every beneficence upon you

Thank goodness the only casualties of today were my bed, the cable bill, and one of my new turquoise Saucony sneakers.

Thank goodness my teddy bear in an IU t-shirt survived.

Just remember folks - Stop, Drop, and Roll.

Friday, November 23, 2007

4 Packs a Day

While picking and brining Olives at Kibbutz Gezer with a group of jailed convicts going through a rehabilitation program - the following exchange occurred:

Shalom Yen v'Evan!

Immediately, one climbed into a tree to shake down the olives, a few more lounged eating fruit from a nearby tree, we were all hanging out until our supervisor came over and told us to get our asses into gear.

"Jane, Evan - want a cigarra?" asks the man in Nike sneakers and a little bit of bling.

I respond - לא תודה- No, thanks.
So, uh, how many do you smoke a day anyways?

שנימ בארוכת בוקר. שנימ בארוכת ערב
2 packs for breakfast. 2 for dinner."

It seems that Jen is a difficult name to say in Hebrew.

4 Packs a Day. A balanced meal for an Israeli inmate, I suppose.

Yusef sat back and took a deep breath - נשמה עמוקה. Yusef the master olive picker - "He's the best, you know" - said the others.

Yusef, when did you learn to do this?
"When I was young boy - six years."

I had no idea I was among greatness.

After a morning of work, Yusef sat quietly, eyes closed.

We told them about how the weekly Torah portion was Vayishlach - a time when Jacob wrestles with an איש - a man or angel or something - after which he is given a new name - Yisrael. What does it mean to make a name for yourself, we asked them, how can you grow and change and earn a good reputation?

What he was thinking about, I'll never know.

Attached is the D'var Torah I delivered this past Friday evening, relative to the conversation we led with the group at Kibbutz Gezer.
What is your name? Jennifer Gubitz D'var Torah November 23, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

Driving on Shabbat

As critical as I find myself of Israel, I can understand why people fall in love with this place. There are moments when everything here is just so beautiful.

Driving to my community service placement in Kibbutz Gezer, 45 minutes from Jerusalem - the sun was setting over the hills of Jerusalem. In a rental car, I cruised at a speed I wasn't sure of because I don't really understand Kilometers. Golden rays splashed light over the fields, like the orange and yellow rays I used to draw in crayola, stemming out from a sun who smiled and wore sunglasses. I guess his future was so bright...he had to wear shades.

One of the best things about today was calling my friends and saying "Be there in a minute!" And pulling up in the rental car 45 seconds later. What is normally a 20 minute walk from my house to theirs - is a two minute drive on Shabbat. It felt liberating and sacrilegious at the same time. Shabbat pedestrians were constantly crossing in my path, but I went against encouragement from my friends to honk my horn at them. It felt good to anonymously break Shabbat observance, but I didn't feel the need to blare my horn to everyone in my midst.

In other news, big brother Ron G arrives on Friday for 10 days. Watch out world.

I'm ready for some Gubitz gang time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not your average homework assignment...

The land of Israel is beautiful, breathtaking, and bountiful – and the first sight beyond the glass doors. Presumably, as we make our exodus like so many that were unable to before us – from death to deliverance – we are to feel relieved as we rejoice in our redemption.

In our collective identity and universal memory that we share in this entity we call – Am Yisrael – we are always looking behind us to make sure we’ve left footsteps in which others can follow. We are always looking ahead to see what paths have been laid for us. Sometimes, it seems we forget to make sure the footsteps we’ve left for others to follow are actually worth pursuing.

It seems easy for us to declare daily “Remember the Holocaust” and then to deny asylum to others seeking refuge from genocide.

We refuse to acknowledge the cries from others seeking autonomy and we condemn their attacks on our people, easily forgetting that only sixty years ago, we also blew ourselves up on the road to independence.

We create a special verb dedicated to walking down a particular street and sit in cafes drinking coffee and talking about how cosmopolitan we are. This sophistication we can only will for longingly, but never, even in our dreams, truly achieve.

And as our Naots, unmade for American feet on the hilly Jerusalem street, give us painful blisters, we pray that the bus driver will agree to drop us off close to home. Maybe so we do not feel the weight of leaving our own footprints. Or maybe our feet just hurt.

Or maybe we wonder - does anyone here even care if we leave a trace?

This was written for a required reflection about the Israel seminar we attend every week - exploring issues of Israeli identity, history, and culture. After traveling on a non-HUC trip for future clergy to Bethlehem in the West Bank last week, spending the night in the home of a Palestinian family and crossing through the check-point, this is all I could come up with. Probably not exactly what my professors expected...

Friday, October 12, 2007


"Have you been here before?" He asked.

"To where? Israel, the old city, the Arab shuk?" I inquired.

"Have you been to the Arab shuk before?"

"Why did I do something wrong?"

"No," he responded. "You are very nice. But you shouldn't tell people in the shuk where you live."

"I don't understand. Did I say something wrong?"

"If you tell people where you live, they will like you less because you are Jewish."

I looked down at my skirt and modest dress and asked, "Can't you tell by the way I am dressed in the Old City, that I'm Jewish?"

"Well yes, but still don't tell people where you live here."


"Because usually people like you are not very nice to us. So we don't like Americans, because they are usually Jewish. South Africans, too. When I tell them this purse is 150 shekels, they laugh at me and offer me 20 shekels instead. Its not polite. It offends me. - Is it okay if I smoke?"

"Sure," it's bad for your health - I thought to myself, "I was nice to you though, right?"

"Yes, yes, very nice."

"I'm sorry that people may offend you. But we're not all like that. There are many nice Jewish people. We're not all as you describe. All Jewish people are not like that."

I expected to leave with a pair of sandals, not with the weight of defending my People. And I'll probably get blisters.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Spiritual Check Up

The streets of Jerusalem are now quiet. The shops and grocery stores have closed. Traffic is coming to a complete stop.
To the vegetable stand clerk I inquire, "I thought there would be more people here, gathering final ingredients."
"No. Now is the time of Cheshbon Nefesh - a spiritual check up. Everyone is checking their souls right now!"
Right now?
I paid and hurried home. No one told me that at 1pm today was when the entire country would be checking up on their spirits! I needed to catch up.
And now, our apartment - Jerusalem of Mold - is as clean as it will ever be. I've showered and cleansed myself of any impurity from the Jerusalem streets. My clothing is completely white and I'm even wearing flip flops to services - my Dad would surely be appalled, but they are the only shoes I own that are not made with any leather.

I think about my attempt this past week to read up and reflect on repentance and forgiveness and of spiritual cleansing, but I'm worried that our dishes received more attention than my soul. A classmate gave a sermon about how much energy we use being angry, holding grudges, engaging in idle talk about others, and other negative experiences. We waste so much energy. when there are so many more positive and productive things we could be doing instead. As I look to have a clean slate, a fresh start in the new year, this idea really sticks with me.
The streets are hoppin'! Without traffic, people are free to walk down the middle of the street. Most are dressed fully in white and have just left evening services, though many Israelis will not spend time in Synagogue at all, but will likely fast. Teenagers play soccer in intersections, barefoot, tzit tzit flying with each kick. One of my classmates jumps out of the way just in time, nearly knocked over by a little girl whizzing by on her scooter. Young kids are riding bicycles with training wheels and popping wheelies on skateboards, too.

It feels more like a neighborhood block party than a day of repentance. But this is Israel - always a contrast between the religious and the secular - with the Reform Jewish Rabbinical students floating somewhere in the middle, welcomed or cast out - depending on who you ask.
Best wishes for a sweet and healthy New Year.
However you spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement - I hope it is meaningful.
May you be inscribed in the book of life!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Quick Update and Pictures

I just got back from Turkey and started classes again on Sunday.
Turkey was beautiful, scalding hot, and a generally interesting vacation. Our hotel was...well, lets just say the best part about it was checking out. But the beach was relaxing and their local alcohol, Raki, nauseating.
Things are pretty busy but a friend brought me a bag of starbucks coffee, so life is looking up.

Wishing you a great day off for Labor Day, Happy New Year, Happy Columbus Day, and Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day.

For your viewing pleasure...

Life Before HUC

Israel Part I

Israel and TurkeyLink

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bonjour, Czech Please. Todah.

These days, I can't speak any language I may have once known. My English vocabulary is rapidly diminishing as my Hebrew vocabulary slowly grows. I remember the days of the week and a few songs in Spanish from elementary school and maybe a few Czech words on occasion. The only language that seems to come out with any coherence, is oddly enough, high school French. Although as I sit here writing, looking for a funny French phrase to tell you - I can only think in Hebrew. C'est la vie.

When I lived in Prague in 2004, I faced daily challenges with the language and culture of the city. In the Slavic language family, Czech was unlike any language I had ever studied before - the grammar so unique, that my own name had to be conjugated in certain tenses. Instead of Jen, I was Jene. My friends David and Nina became Davide and Nino. We slowly shivered our way through the Czech winter, building new identities with the additional letter at the end of our names. Another significant challenge was the Czech computer keyboard, on which many letters and punctuation were not in the same places that my fingers had memorized in sixth grade keyboarding. Time and again, I found myself sending emails with my name signed as - Jene GubitY. It took me a good month to realize that the Y & Z keys were switched.

Similarly, in Israel, daily I am confronted by a language barrier. All of the Hebrew training I had growing up could not have truly prepared me to communicate here. Sure, reciting the Torah blessing got me a Bat Mitzvah, but they don't hold court when ordering food or paying for a taxi. It turns out my Hebrew minor at Indiana U. hasn't served me entirely well either - possibly because we went to our lone Friday class still dressed in pajamas and half asleep. Sorry Professor Katz.

At restaurants, I've been trying to order off of the Hebrew menu, know as the Tafrit. Unfortunately, the words for napkin, Mapit, and menu sound similar to me. Last week, I asked for a "Mapit Ivrit" - a Hebrew napkin. Sometimes I ask for a "Capit Ivrit" - a Hebrew teaspoon, too. As an international language, English words regularly show up in the Hebrew language, but obviously written in Hebrew characters. Most recently, I debated ordering what sounded new and exotic. I sounded out the letters over and over...Sh....riiiii M Psssss. Hmmm....Shriii Mpsssss....OH. Shrimps. Not quite as appealing as I had thought.

In a cab last week, I tried to make a tiny conversation with my driver. As usual, I was having trouble remembering a few words that would make my sentences more than jibberish. I tried to tell the driver I was having trouble finding the words. First I said - "I "return" the words" because the words for return and remember are nearly identical. I realized I had the wrong choice of wording - and corrected myself. "I No Remember! " Really, at this point, there was no turning back. Its true. I had forgotten the word for - to forget.

The words I love the most in Hebrew, I overuse to the best of my ability. "STAM" is a throw back to a Wayne's World-esque "NOT" or "SYKE" and I try to use it in all of my compositions. Most memorably, one day, lacking any ability to form sentences and really praying for Ulpan to end early, I intended to tell my teacher that I had had enough for the day and was ready to leave. What came out? "Cheshbon, B'vakasha. Check Please."

Have a wonderful day,
Jennifer Gubity

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jen Gubitz: College Expert...or maybe just College Graduate...

Although only 25% of what I actually wrote was published and this piece doesn't reflect my writing style in anyway - they paid me by the word, so I'm already over it.

Campus Life 014: Jewish Adventures for All Seasons / Jennifer Gubitz

In other news, Leslie Gubitz heads to Indiana University next week.

(A long overdue post will occur in the next day...)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Day of Love - in Jerusalem and Jersey...

Tonight was the first time I genuinely missed my Home. Not Fort Wayne, Indiana, a place I once called home. Not Knoxville, Tennessee, the place my parents most recently began to call home after a 20 year exile... And not Bloomington or Washington, DC, either.

Beginning at sundown tonight is Tu B'Av - essentially like Valentines Day - a Day of Love. This day falls after a period of time in the Jewish calendar specifically set aside to commemorate various moments of destruction in Jewish history - such as the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem and in modern times, the Holocaust. On this day, Tisha B'Av, and in the preceding days, weddings do not generally happen in Jewish communities.

Tonight I was walking to a birthday party Beer-Luck (we're working on the wikipedia entry at press) and passed the courtyard to Jerusalem's "
Great Synagogue." You'll be shocked to know that "The Greatest Synagogue," the "OK Synagogue" or "Not as Great as the Great Synagogue" don't currently exist, so the superlative to describe this synagogue may be a bit unfounded. The shul faces a trafficked Jerusalem street and in the the courtyard was a beautiful Chuppah (wedding canopy) veiled in white lace, underneath which stood a Bride and Groom. The bride's face was covered with a heavy veil - which I imagine was stifling in the Jerusalem heatwave. My friend joked that the veil was so hardcore that the Groom would have no idea if he was actually marrying the right woman or not, a challenge of biblical proportions.

My friends ran ahead to the Beer-Luck but I hung around to see the rest of the wedding. I heard the rest of the
Sheva Brachot (7 wedding blessings) and finally the breaking of the glass - which according to one interpretation, reminds us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The breaking of this glass was quite timely given the proximity to Tisha B'Av and the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem - less than a mile away.

This weekend, my parents, Ron and Leslie, are all gathered in New Jersey with the friends and family of our dearest friends from Fort Wayne to celebrate the wedding of their daughter, Alana. Many of my fondest childhood memories are a result of our close family friendship with the Sarratore family. While our parents chilled upstairs, Alana, Andrew, Ron G, and I would spend hours in their basement playing Nintendo (since our parents wouldn't let us have one) or throwing He-Man figures at each other in a game known as "RAMBOOOO." The games often ended with me crying and tattle-tailing on Ron and Andrew for one reason or another. Leslie spent her very first New Years at their home - merely four days after her birth (clearly my parents were uber responsible and awfully anxious by the time they had their third kid.)

Eventually, Alana and I started a jewelery "business" called "A & J jewelers." Expertly we molded hot plastic into less than desirable pieces of jewelery and attempted to sell them at various craft fairs in the Fort. As Alana moved to New Jersey for college and to start her own life, Andrew and I were sharing memorable experiences as we prepared for our Bar/Bat Mitzvah, traveled to Israel for the first time, and graduated from High School and IU together - true womb friends.

Ultimately, I ended up in DC, now Israel and soon NYC, Drew joined Teach for America (TFA) in LA, Ron G blazed TFA and hip hop trails in St. Louis, Alana represents Kenny G in Jersey, and little Leslie remained in the Fort, often vacationing down the street with the parental Sarratores, but soon will follow route 37 to Bloomington. The parental Sarratores reside in the Fort and the Gubilicious parents moved to the Mecca of TN - Knoxville.

Leslie called me after the ceremony, took her cell into the party room and I got to speak to Andrew, Daddy Sarratore, and the bride herself. It was touching to hear in each of their voices the joy they were clearly feeling.

Tonight was the first time I genuinely missed my Home. Not the Fort, or B'town, the District nor the boonies of Tennessee. Certainly it is not a specific place, rather those who made each part of my life special and secure. I realized that the breaking of the glass at the Great Synagogue was nearly simultaneous to the glass which Alana's groom, Greg, broke in the not-so-promised land of Jersey.

There are not so many people in my life who I can easily end a conversation with a casual but meaningful "I love you." Not even to think twice at the close of each brief chat - was refreshing. "Mazel tov! I can't believe you're on the phone all the way from Jerusalem! I can't believe you're married! Have some whiskey with Rabbi K for me! Did you know its the Day of Love in Israel? I love you! Be safe! I love you, too!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Guess We're Not in Starbucks Anymore...

Israel is a funny place - most easily compared to the only coffee beverage I can successfully order. Cafe Ha-fuch - translated simply as "Coffee Flipped/Upside Down" - is neither latte nor coffee, nor espresso by its lonesome. What is it? Tasty. Caffeinated and cheap if purchased from the HUC lounge. Really, I'm not even sure what it is - but I do know how to order it.

I'm a huge fan of iced coffee - the beverage of choice that I injected into my veins via syringe in order to stay awake throughout my various post-college jobs - a true Starbucks rat, if you will. Alas, my desire for iced-coffee faces two extreme challenges in Israel. First, there's simply no ice in Israel. If you ask for a cup of ice water, you get a cup of water. That's it. It's so hot here that even if ice cubes did exist, they'd melt immediately in order to cool themselves down. (I'm envisioning a new pixar film.)

The second glitch frustrating my coffee habits: freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee is hard to come by in Jerusalem, so naturally, going back to the absence of frozen water, neither does ICED fresh brewed coffee. You can order "Cafe Kar" - literally "Cold Coffee" - but it consists of a shot of espresso poured into what my classmate Hannah refers to as 85% milk. If you can imagine pouring a cup of cottage cheese into your coffee beverage of choice, you can understand why Cafe Kar generally makes me nauseous.

In other coffee news, yesterday morning I took my first shot at Nescafe - instant coffee. True to its name, Nescafe was instantly bad coffee.

After taking a 6 hour recovery nap on Thursday afternoon coupled with additional bouts of Shabbat napping, I was sleep-drunk and needed to get out of the house this afternoon. When God created the seventh day for rest, he was gracious enough to exempt a few non-Kosher restaurants, allowing them to remain open for business and we eventually found one where we could purchase a cup o' Joe. What did I order, you might ask? After my diatribe about coffee which I actually started writing a few days ago while awaiting inspiration for my blog, the barista explained that the perfect cup for which I was searching was called "Iced-Americano." I was certainly grateful for her help. The anticipated moment arrived....and yes, you guessed it. The drink was PERFECT.

That is if you describe perfection as watered-down, instant coffee curdling with extra fattening milk.

And God said it was good, Ki Tov.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Officially a Rabbinical student...Holy Cow!

Today I finally reached my lifelong goal - or dream - if you will. I officially became a Rabbinical student - a true-blue card carrying member of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. It should be noted that an HUC ID card has little value in Israeli society, will hardly hold court at a student travel agency and could be easily mass produced by merely drawing a smiley face on an index card (best wishes if you are looking to start a business to assist Rabbinical student imposters...)

It's wild to see myself joining in the long line of Rabbinic tradition of the Jewish people. At the end of morning services, we sang Shechiyanu to commemorate the beginning of the five year journey at HUC. I was surprisingly touched.

Who am I to stand in this line of tradition? I'm 24 years old. I still call my mom every morning before school in order to eliminate the pit in my stomach. I occasionally fight with my brother and sister and really hate unloading the dishwasher. In my designer shoulder bag which I bought so I could conform to the fashion style of my sorority sisters at IU, I carry a less than attractive red plaid button down shirt - which has served as my "security blanket" since I found that my parents had these matching shirts from a party they attended twenty years ago. In my zit filled, frizzy hair, grungy sixth grade year - I actually wore the shirt to look 'cool'. Tucked away in my bag, I wonder if my "security blanket" would look nice as a tallit to better fit my current phase in life.
I mean, come on! My dad still edits a lot of my writing - sometimes that which sounds like a meaningful biblical text or concept - actually stemmed from the great biblical authority of...Jeff Gubitz. (Thanks daddy!)

So they really let people like me be Rabbis?

In a taxi or a grocery store in Jerusalem, saying that I'm going to be a Rabbi is tremendously confusing. There's hardly a word in Hebrew which means "female Rabbi." Why? Because women aren't rabbis in Israel. I tell the cab driver: I'm here to study to be a Rabbi. They say: Rebbetzin? To be a Rabbi's wife? Me: No - Ani Rabba - I'm the Rabbi. Them: MAH? What? Ee Efshar! Impossible!

So what the hell am I doing here? And for that matter, Mi Anochi? Who am I? The name Jen, on its own, doesn't distinguish me from the next. The name Gubitz, on its own, is more specific but still opens the door to the question "Which Gubitz?" I'm a full name kind of girl: Jen Gubitz. Ah. Ok. Then I know who I am.

I answered the questions I just posed in my HUC application which I started writing nearly 7 months ago.
"It seems not to be coincidence that I was born shortly after a new year began - and on the holiday of Simchat Torah. Although momentarily considered, I am eternally grateful that my parents did not name me simcha to honor the day on which I was born -- Jennifer suits me quite well. As it turns out, I am still able to honor that day by paying tribute to the second word – Torah. From the day I was born, it seems my path in life was laid before me - to bring happiness and Torah, Jewish learning and history, and Jewish custom and tradition to others, as a Rabbi."

I will continue to update this blog as often as I am able and am working on posting pictures, too. As you can see - there was already a week lag because HUC orientation has been quite busy. I tested into the appropriate Hebrew level and look forward to beginning our Ulpan (intensive Hebrew) on Sunday. Today is finally Shabbat and I'm ready once more for a needed day of rest.

From my HUC application - "It seems appropriate to conclude, “Blessed are you…Ruler of the universe, who has sustained me and permitted me to reach this season…” Being a Rabbi would honor and speak to the efforts of not only my goals and success but to those who supported and guided me to this point in my life. It is truly difficult to know where I am going in life, if I do not know from where I have come. I truly value and am committed to innovating Jewish education, strengthening Jewish identity, and sustaining Jewish community. As I live my life walking in the footsteps of those who came before me, I feel passionate about passing on to future generations what we have learned from our teachers and instilling in them a passion for Judaism and learning. In this way, a cycle will be unbroken and for generations to come, Jews will sing their song, create new songs, and never forget the songs that have come before them. Al regel achat - it seems easy - I want to be a Rabbi and the rest is commentary..."

Until next time - Shabbat Shalom and lovin' from Jeru!
Living the dream,

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Targeesh Tov - Feel Better: the Hadassah Hospital Pediatric Oncology Ward

At Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Arabs, Jews, and Christians are united towards one common goal - becoming healthy again. This morning, I visited the Children's Oncology wing with a group of NFTY in Israel participants who have spent the past week doing Mitzvah projects throughout the Jerusalem area. We spent a morning with residents at Keren Or, a home for blind and severely disabled youth; visited with the elderly workers at Yad L'kashish - Lifeline to the Old - who spend their mornings creating beautiful and intricately painted Judiaca; and did craft projects with residents at a nursing home. The NFTY participants learned how to twist balloon animals and I joined them each day to help them sing with each community they visited. Lacking a common language, singing, smiling, and laughing served as our only means to communicate.

Spending time in the Children's Cancer Ward was particularly special. Most of the Israeli children who spend extended time in the ward were away at day camp - so the majority of children we met today were Arab Israelis. Each child was attached to a machine which provided their treatment for the day, but most seemed unphased by this lifeline. At sight of balloon animals, all of the children ran to us and quickly the NFTY participants went into action - twisting colorful hats and dogs.

I spent most of my time singing with 2 year-old Fatma and his parents. They live in East Jerusalem and he has 5 older siblings. His father spoke to me a bit in English and tried to teach me a few words of Arabic while his mother sat next to us silently, smiling on occasion. Mostly Fatma bounced up and down to the music - we were singing Old McDonald for a very long time and I made sure not to sing about the pig who might have lived on Old McDonald's farm. Another little girl, Maya - who had a severe heart condition and epilepsy joined us and for a moment, it seemed like a basic example of peace and coexistance -
until Fatma started innocently pulling her hair.

We tried to sing to the kids to distract and calm them when a nurse came over to give them injections. Surprisingly for the first time in my life, I wasn't squeemish.

My friend and classmate, Brian Immerman, joined me for the day and we spent some time talking to two brothers - Nati and Lior. Nati was receiving treatment through an IV while we hung out . I secretly hoped that Lior was just there to keep him company or maybe to give his brother blood for a transfusion, but it appeared that Lior was also receiving treatment through a similar IV line.

We had the opportunity to visit the synagogue in the hospital which houses THE Chagall Windows. We sang Mi Sheberach, a prayer of healing, and Modeh Ani, which is usually said in the morning to thank God for restoring to us our souls.

One of the NFTY participants reflected on the ways that Jews, Muslims, Christians were all existing peacefully in the walls of the hospital and noted "that's how Israel should be"

-minus the cancer.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Jerusalem of...

I wonder if platinum existed when they coined the phrase “Jerusalem of Gold?”

Throughout this past week, life in Jerusalem has taken on various hues. My apartment is what we will call “Jerusalem of Mold.” Despite the need for an intense elbow grease cleaning, it’s a wonderful place – with great balconies, fully furnished, and a beautiful cross-breeze.

The past month has been a flurry of goodbyes and hellos – a meaningful conclusion to an intense year as a Hillel International Fellow; a final late-night outing with my closest friends from the RAC; a wild going away party in my apartment in DC; spending the weekend with my family and friends at URJ-GUCI – where I found myself songleading, life guarding, and sitting Shmira, as though I’d never left; a tearful goodbye with my mom at the airport – such that the security let me pass through and then return to hug her some more…

For the week prior to my arrival in Israel, I traveled with a NFTY trip to Prague and Poland. It was wonderful to be back in Prague after living there for a semester in college – I ate my favorite foods and drank a few of my favorite beers. We drove to Krakow and Warsaw, visiting various historical and cultural sites that exhibited the rich Jewish culture that thrived in pre-WWII Poland. It was especially meaningful to travel with NFTY to Auschwitz and to listen and help the NFTY kids process their understanding of the Holocaust and surrounding historical events.

The Jerusalem sun is HOT. We’re building blisters on our feet as we walk everywhere, eating delicious falafel, getting lost in the old city, and running into friends – old and new. I’m lucky to have two close friends visiting already – helping to smooth my transition.

Tonight is Shabbat and I look forward to a needed day of rest….and on Saturday night/Sunday morning, I’m heading to a sunrise concert on Masada featuring David Broza and Shawn Colvin.

Throughout the year, I hope to use this space to share funny stories of life in Israel, pictures, and links to other interesting reads….you can sign up for email updates on the right side of the webpage.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shalom from Jerusalem!

Shalom from Jerusalem,

I hope this email finds you well!

On July 10th, I will begin my first year as a Rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion ( ). The first year of HUC is spent living in Israel, with a primary focus on Hebrew language and a few other important topics, namely the Torah.

After arriving in Israel last Tuesday, the past week has been full of meeting new friends, visits to the shuk, a sunrise concert on Masada, and a restful Shabbat.

Until classes begin, one major agenda item is to spend time volunteering with NFTY's ( Tikkun Olam program as they make visits to various group homes and the Hadassah Hospital Cancer ward.

Throughout the year, I will be posting to a blog which can be viewed at You can sign up for email alerts on the website. I will try to keep the posts short and readable, as well as accompany them with pictures.

My contact information is:

Jennifer Gubitz Rules
13 King David Street
Jerusalem 94101, Israel

Skype #: (865) 223-5847
Israeli Cell: 052-457-9652

If you're ever in Jerusalem, we have a makeshift 'guest room' with your name on it.

Much love from 'raeli town,