Monday, July 30, 2007

A new kind of discrimination

Social workers are compelled to seek and destroy discrimination and injustice. We fight for the rights of the underprivileged and battle for the oppressed.

Most social workers find their calling in the advocacy of the same old demoralized populations: The poor, the elderly, minorities, blah, blah , blah. How cliche.

As a social worker with true idealism I aim to go beyond ordinary oppression, and find discrimination in new places.

And I believe I have found my calling: Nusach sefard siddurim.

Anyone who davens Ashkenaz can go into a nusach Ari shul and easily find a siddur of their nusach. These nussach Ari shuls have the consideration to place a few siddurim for the minority in their midst.

Can the same be said for nusach ashkenaz shuls??? Nooooooooooooooo.

Go into any Young Israel and find me a nusach sefard siddur. Go ahead. I dare you to try. You'll be searching for a long time.

Is this fair? I SAY NO!!!!

Join me brothers as we combat this nusach Ari discrimination, and then we can all live in peace.

(By the way, the stuff about ordinary oppression at the top of this post is a joke. It is kind of sad that I need to spell that out, but from my minimal experience blogging it is clear that I do.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What it takes

A and B, recent American olim, walk into the misrad hapnim in order to fill out some routine paperwork. Both get the necessary forms from the front desk, take numbers, and wait. And wait. And wait.

Two hours later both A and B have their numbers' called. They sit down facing irritable agents who chew gum and talk on cell phones to their boyfriends. A and B both hand over the filled out forms, both are told that the documentation that they have brought with them is insufficient and that they must go to office X located in Y, get the necessary documentation, and
then return.

Both A and B had taken the morning off from work to come to the misrad hapnim in the first place and neither of them have the time to go running around to different offices. Both A and B had called ahead to make sure that the documentation they had was sufficient, and both were assured that what they had was fine.

A and B walk out of the building. A wears a look of anger/exasperation. B's lips start to curl upward, he looks to the heavens and says, "You gotta love this place."

A and B both call their wives. A says to her, "I hate Israelis." B says to his wife, "I love Israelis."

Every single American oleh can identify with the above case. The experiences of A and B were identical and not abnormal. That being the case, what made the two react so differently?

When we first planned our aliya the advice I was constantly given was, "Have a sense of humor about everything. You'll have good stories to tell."

This is good advice. There is no getting around the fact that Americans and Israelis are different. Every American will encounter situations that will evoke feelings of aggravation, and the key to getting over these feelings is having a good support system and a sense of humor.

But having a sense of humor about it all is not as easy as it sounds. Some of these things can really tick you off, and its not as simple as "just get over it."

But what is that nekuda?

Jay Belsky wrote a book called The transition to parenthood (a must read for new parents by the way) in which he talks about how the arrival of a baby impacts the relationship of the parents. He looked into positivity in parenting, and his research shows that parental optimism correlates strongly with marital satisfaction.

One thing in particular intrigued me. Belsky found that some parents who are not optimists by nature can nevertheless increase their level of positivity by the mere presence of the baby. In other words, the love these particular parents feel towards their babies negates any irritable feelings they might have at a particular time.

I find this amazing, because I think we can extend this to other areas of life.

Like aliya.

I think the key to staying positive about Israel is having something to be positive about. It is kind of amazing what parents put up with from their children, yet in healthy families they do just that because they love those kids.

You would also be amazed what people with a true love of Israel will put up with. Like the parents in Belsky's research they gain positivity from their love of the land. It allows them to smile in the face of enormous irritation.

But how to acquire this love?

For me, the only way to love the land is to know the land. To understand what Eretz Yisrael means to me as a Jew. In order to do this it is important to learn about Israel. Read Rav Kook, Rav Teichtel, Rav Yehudah Halevi-- Jews who really had a thirst for the land. Whose every waking moment was devoted to it. Read the history of the land-- from Avraham through the meraglim, through Greek and Roman times, through modern Israel. Learn about what we have given up for this little piece of earth. Hang around individuals who love Israel-- it will rub off on you.

I get scared when I hear of people making aliya for external reasons. Yes, the learning is great here, but you can learn well in the States too. Yes, we don't pay for health insurance, but the money you save on that will be lost elsewhere. Simply put, the only reason to live in Israel is to live in Israel.

And when you understand that you can smile.