Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brr...It's Cold in Here! It must be Rosh Chodesh Kislev in the Atmosphere!

Well, friends, winter has definitely arrived here in Minsk. The cold hard truth (pun intended) really hit me when my wet bathing suit, inside my gym bag, froze (!!!) on the 10 minute walk home from the local pool.
Seriously. It's cold.

My Street!

But what better way to combat the plummeting temperature than to celebrate the beginning of a new Jewish month so filled with warmth and light! On the evening of Sunday, November 11th, Moishe House Minsk celebrated its first women's Rosh Chodesh gathering*, in honor of Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

Eight of us sat together in our living room, ate dinner, discussed what it means to each of us to be a Jewish woman, learned about Rosh Chodesh and its meaning as a woman's holiday, and shared our hopes for personal character improvement in the coming month. Light being a key theme for the month of Kislev, we each lit small candles as we shared our thoughts. Though I feared that my friends might find this aspect of our activity just a tad kitschy, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it created an atmosphere of warmth and sharing.

It was so interesting to hear how my lovely lady friends here in Minsk interpret the role of the Jewish woman. One idea that seemed to resonate with nearly all women present was that it's difficult to think about a Jewish woman as a single person; her role seems to always depend upon others: her children, her partner, her parents, etc... We discussed the challenges of being a single, modern, Jewish woman and how complicated this identity truly is. I couldn't help but marvel at how paradigmatic our discussion was.

It was an informative and enjoyable evening of learning and sharing.
Warmth abound, for a short while I even forgot how cold it was outside!

HERE to read about starting your very own Rosh Chodesh group!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hatikvah Halloween

What does a pumpkin have in common with the Israeli national anthem? Well, both squash and hymn were the guests of honor at Moishe House Minsk, the evening of October 30th, a.k.a. “erev” Halloween.
Why? Well, in Russian, the word for pumpkin is "tikva," and the name is the Israeli national anthem is “Hatikvah, or The Hope, in English. This fun linguistic coincidence was all we needed here at Moishe House Minsk to combine American Halloween traditions with some good old Zionist education!

Our guests arrived and were immediately greeted in the spirit of American trick-or-treating. First, they were offered candy and treats by yours truly, decked out in a dog costume I found in the Minsk Jewish Campus preschool toy box. That the costume was likely fashioned for a six year old did not stop me from wearing it with pride!

As guests proceeded towards the table of delectable sweets, a certain Star of David shaped light beckoned to them.
What could it be? Sure enough, the source of the emanation was our Jewish jack-o'-lantern; a “tikva” carved with “Hatikva” in mind.

After guests began to satisfy their sweet tooth, they sat down for an interactive presentation on the history of “Hatikva,” written by by Naftali Hertz Imber, a Zionist poet from Zloczow (formerly Galicia, now Ukraine) in 1877. We listened to two recordings of “Hatikva,” one sung by Ofra Haza, and the other sung by Abayudaya ("Jewish" in Lugandan) children in Uganda. Needless to say, the two versions provided an interesting contrast to one another. Those who knew the words sang along to both.

After the “Hatikva” segment of the evening was over, we watched the horror film, “The Reaping.”
Once all of our guests had left, Natasha and I were left with the remains of our dear Jewish jack-o'-lantern. After mourning its short but meaningful life, we made tikva soup.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Home is Where the Moishe is...

After many meetings, extensive planning, a bit of consulting, lots of inviting, and the purchase of an abundant array of snack foods, Natasha and I announce to you the opening of MOISHE HOUSE MINSK in our apartment!

What is a Moishe House?
Moishe Houses are a collection of homes all over the world. In these homes, the residents receive a rent subsidy and project budget in order to host events and activities. Moishe House Minsk will hold 5-7 events per month; We promise they will be fun, creative, and somehow Jewishly inclined!
Moishe House is funded by the Forest Foundation, which has partnered with the Center for Leadership Initiatives and the Schusterman Foundation in order to expand their program.
There are currently Moishe Houses in:Moishe House Minsk is the first Moishe House in the Former Soviet Union!

To see the Moishe House Minsk web page with a description of the house, our bios, and our calendar of events, click HERE.

Our First Event
Our first event, a “Chanukat Bayit,” Hebrew for “House Dedication,” was held on Saturday, October 27th. About seventeen guests joined us for homemade cookies and cakes, tea and coffee.

First we did Havdalah together, complete with lalalalalalalalas.

Then, Yoni the JDC Representative, helped me attach a
mezuzah (Lablogski Jewish symbol of the month!) to the inside of our front door. We all said the blessing together:
Likbo’a Mezuzah

Next, Natasha and I showed a power point presentation that we prepared on the history of Moishe House and about ourselves as well. Take a look!
(Can you spot Alf's cameo appearance???)

At the last minute, we feared the power point presentation might not work, but our friendly mullet-donning comrade, Dima, saved the day with his computer savoir-faire. Thanks Dima!

Then we did what Minsk Jews do best. We schmoozed the night away over tea and sweets.

Shiny Happy Moishe House People!

So, thank you Moishe House, and thank you JDC, for enabling us to work on this fun project!

Meet Moishe! Psychologist Morris Bear Squire originally established the Forest Foundation the 1950's