Whats Your Story blog selections 2009-2010

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Selections from NU Hillel's Whats Your Story blog.

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  • Northwestern.NewVoices.orgwww.NUHillel.org/whatsyourstorySelections from NU Hillels

    Whats Your Story? blog2009-2010

    Launched in November 2009, Fiedler Hillels Whats Your Story? blog aims to sustain a vibrant online environment where Jewish students, alumni, faculty, parents, and prospective families connected with Northwestern University can tell and share meaningful stories of Jewish life. In a pioneering partnership with New Voices Magazine, beginning in September 2010 the blog will be cross-posted at both www.NUHillel.org/whatsyourstory and northwestern.newvoices.org.

    Students, alumni, parents, faculty, and friends of Jewish life at Northwestern are welcome to read and comment on the posts on the site. Students and alumni interested in blogging for the project should contact blog editor Coco Keevan 12 (cocok@u.northwestern.edu).

    The development of Fiedler Hillels Whats Your Story? blog has been generously supported by a grant from the Covenant Foundation.

    Whats Your Story? Staff 2009-2010

    Editor: Irene Klotz 82

    Bloggers: Zoe Fox 11, Esther Gibofsky 07, Alex Hayes 11, Alex Ilyashov 10, Sarah Weissman 11, Jonah Newman 12, Jodi Savitz 11, Robert Susi 11,

    Project Supervisor: Rabbi Josh Feigelson

    About the Whats Your Story? blog

    Booklet printing by Quartet Digital Printing.

  • Submitted by Jonah Newman on Thu. 03/25/2010, 06:52 PM

    Our group of 14 Northwestern students came to Lafayette Square after three long days of painting houses and seeing the devastation and destruction that still lingers more than four and a half years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. On Monday, we toured the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest-hit sections of the city and one which will almost certainly not bounce back; each day on the way to our work sites we have seen Katrinas impact -- dilapidated buildings, abandoned houses with boarded-up windows, spray-painted X's indicating that the police checked the building for dead people. Even while we work to paint the outside of houses damaged by the storm I feel like the new coat of paint will only temporarily cover up the much deeper damage of the storm: a loss of community, a loss of trust, a loss of self-worth.

    But weve also seen signs of hope: the Brad Pitt project that is trying to rejuvenate the Lower Ninth; the hundreds of young people working (more often, volunteering) to make the city a place worth living; most of all, the pride and enthusiasm yesterday afternoon at Lafayette Square.

    For me, the power of Passover has always been in the way that it celebrates freedom while reenacting and reimagining slavery in the past and in our own life. During the Maggid section of the seder, we say This year we are slaves, next year may we be free during the Ha Lahcma Anya and then sing Avadim Hayinu We were slaves in Egypt but now we are free. The Sederand Pesach itselfrevolves around this contradiction: even as we celebrate our freedom and redemption from Egypt we are always fighting the forces of slavery in our present lives. In some interpretations, we cannot be fully free until everyone is free. In others, the privilege of freedom opens up new opportunities to enslave ourselves.

    I havent seen this juxtaposition so tangibly anywhere else as I have in New Orleans. Even as people here come together to celebrate their freedom at "Wednesday in the Park" or Mardi Gras or Super Bowl parties, they are enslaved by the absence of their neighbors, family and friends who havent returned, and possibly never will. Even as New Orleans rebuilds, it is enslaved by a lack of infrastructure and levees that are no stronger than they were the day before Katrina hit.

    On the other side, even as people still struggle -- four and a half years later -- to put the pieces of their lives back together, they find occasion for hope and pride in a city that is truly unique. As Father Bill, a life-long New Orleans resident and pastor at an Episcopal Church here, said to us on Monday: New Orleans is a weird city; here we celebrate both life and death. You could easily substitute slavery and freedom. This city, more than any other, understands that these two are not opposites, but rather go hand-in-hand.

    Slavery and Freedom in New Orleans

    NU Hillels Whats Your Story? blog 2009-2010 NU Hillels Whats Your Story? blog 2009-2010

    Submitted by Zoe Fox on Thu. 04/15/2010, 02:17 PM

    Beginning right after Passover, Israel enters an extremely emotionally charged week. Monday marked Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, next Monday is Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day, and Tuesday is Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day. Having attended Jewish Day School my whole life, this week packed with holidays is something Ive grown up observing; however, the vibe in Israel is truly unique.

    Ill admit I still confuse American Memorial Day with Labor Day, probably reflecting the lack of significance of both days to me. Both are long weekends with major sales and congested highway

    traffic towards the beach. Memorial Day in Israel is the polar opposite. On both Yom Hazikaron and Yom Hashoah a siren rings throughout the entire country at ten am. Teachers stop their lessons, businessmen stop their meetings and cars and busses stop their routes. The entire country stands together in a meaningful minute of reflection, with undisputed personal and national significance.

    Needless to say, being part of a multi-million person freeze in time is a powerful experience. However, this week in particular it is important to me to have experiences that make me feel included in the national sentiment.

    Last night I got the opportunity to volunteer with an incredible grass roots organization, Standing Together. The organizations mission is to show Israeli soldiers that Jews around the world appreciate their service to the Jewish state. Three of my friends and I rode to a small military base by a West Bank settlement outside of Jerusalem to prepare pizza bagels and kettle corn for the unsuspecting unit of forty soldiers. We spent the evening playing soccer, trying on military uniforms and most importantly providing the forty stressed soldiers with a much needed break from army mode. After we left the base we made a second stop at a check point, making more food deliveries and having a spontaneous dance party with a female soldier who was exactly our age.

    The most important part of the experience for me was being able to put faces on the soldiers who are engaged in the much-conflicted Israeli presence in the West Bank. While I often find myself questioning IDF and Israeli government decisions, it was moving for me to see soldiers who I can consider my peers at work for the Jewish people as a whole

    Standing Together

  • NU Hillels Whats Your Story? blog 2009-2010

    Submitted by Robert Susi on Mon. 02/22/2010, 09:53 AM

    Buried in the Book of Numbers is the story of Balaam, a messenger/divine interpreter sent by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the Israelites who had just recently settled in the land of Canaan. Fearing that the Israelites, given their massive numbers, would eventually grow to take over Moab, which bordered Canaan, Balak says to Balaam, Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land. (Numbers 22:6) Following Balaks orders, Balaam goes to find God, in order to ask that he curse the Israelites. As it is put in the Book of Numbers, God reveals himself to Balaam, at which point Balaam relays the message that Balak had instructed him too. God replies You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.

    With this response from God, Balaam returns to the court officials who accompanied him and informs them he cannot curse the Israelites. After relaying the message to Balak, another group of court officials, more numerous and more distinguished then those before, were sent in order to try and convince Balaam to curse these new settlers of Canaan. To this, Balaam replies, Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God.

    Once Balaam returns to Moab, Balak summons him. Balak says to Balaam, Did I not send to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?" To this, Balaam replies, I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.

    In reading this story, which takes place within Numbers 22-24, I was quite surprised to see God, speak to a non-Israelite, and beyond this, I was surprised that a non-Israelite recognized the supreme authority of the Israelite God. The story seems to serve the purpose of showing that prophecy is not unique to the Israelites, and that non-Israelites are susceptible to divine intervention. Still, the question remains, why did Balaam listen to God? Why did a non-Israelite recognize the almighty nature of the Israelite God?

    These questions caused me to think about the implications of such a concept. Essentially, I see this view as an assertion that Yahweh is the sole, supreme power in the universe, and that regardless of cult affiliation, in connecting with him, any individual would realize and believe in his omnipotent nature. However, does Gods communicating with Jews and non-Jews conflict with the notion of Jews as the chosen people? It was the Israelites who made a covenant with God on Mt. Sinai, so why does God still reach out to non-Jews? Could God have protected the Israelites in Canaan without speaking to Balaam? These are questions I have no answer to, so Ill leave answering them to you.

    When God Spoke, Why Did a Non-Jew Listen?

    NU Hillels Whats Your Story? blog 2009-2010

    Submitted by Sarah Weissman on Mon. 02/08/2010, 1