Here we are, eight months after our move to Israel!
I’ve been feeling a bit of a lack in terms of community recently. I moved here knowing the Anglo community was very small, and that was actually something I saw as an advantage since I anticipated that there would be more of a sense of warmth and connection among those who were Anglos. However, that didn’t pan out as I expected.
What I found instead was that as nice as everyone was, everyone very much lives their own lives. This isn’t a small city, and most of us don’t live close enough to one another to naturally bump into each other throughout the week (or even month!). We shop at different stores, pray at different synagogues, and have separate lives – so this doesn’t make for a very strong sense of social cohesion, though I’m sure most of us would like to have this. Originally this didn’t bother me that much since I was busy getting our lives organized and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes who might have had plans for something. When I was here longer and saw limited movement on this front, it became something I thought about more.
I didn’t want to see something that I have the ability to change, not take action, and then become apathetic and accept the status quo as “that’s just how it is”, and I know that’s the pyschological reality. So since I have so much extra physical energy and time (said tongue in cheek :)), I decided several weeks ago that it was time to step up to the plate. One person can’t do that much on her own, but if everyone says, “There’s so much to do and I’m only one person, so why bother?”, then nothing will happen!
This is why I began to offer Torah lectures Shabbos afternoons beginning on Pesach. My hope was to create a time and place where English speaking women could come to connect and share ideas on a regular basis. Although I’m very willing to continue giving these lectures each week – it’s something I really love doing – my goal was to involve more people, to build more of a sense of active involvement among others. At last week’s class, I asked for feedback from the women attending if they’d be interested in having a weekly class, and if there were others who would like to take a turn giving the shiur (Torah class). The feedback was that it would be good to continue, and this week another woman will be giving the class, with my goal being to set up a regular rotation of women who will give the class. I’ll continue to speak on the rotation.
I also hope to begin giving parenting classes again soon. Originally I thought I’d offer these in Karmiel, with a similar goal to above of creating a place of connection for local women, but decided that the Torah lectures were more immediately of value to the women here. I still plan to begin teaching classes soon, but I’m considering offering them in Tzfat instead, which has a much larger English speaking community. I’d very much like to get that started in the next couple of weeks, but if I see that it’s too much to organize in a different city in that period of time, then I may decide to wait until the fall rather than push to get an eight or twelve week parenting series in before my due date.
I also see the importance of setting up an official women’s organization for the English speaking women in the community, so that there’s a framework for women to get involved. It’s really hard to volunteer to do something when you feel it’s all on your shoulders from start to finish, and most people aren’t going to do it. But I think that once there’s a basic structure, more people will be willing to get involved. I’ve mentioned my desire to get this started to several women in the last couple of weeks, and intend to hold a planning meeting where I can solicit feedback sometime in the next ten days.
Dd15 just started a shmiras halashon group for English speaking girls ages 12 and up that meets at our home on Shabbos afternoons. For this, she prepares some information on the importance of guarding ones’ speech and leads a discussion, and I think they have some activities as well. (I took the littles out when she did it the last couple of weeks so I’m not sure exactly what goes on!) The feedback has been good and she’s enjoying doing it.
Dd17 really wants to have a Friday night davening (prayer) group at our house for girls ages 8 – 12, but I told her that as nice an idea I think it is, I’d rather she not do it. That’s because there’s a different girls’ group for Hebrew speakers that meets at this time, and I don’t want to create separation between the English and Hebrew speakers (most of the girls who would come are already fluent in Hebrew). Edited to add: she’s instead running a group for high school girls, in which they meet weekly for a video shiur (Torah lecture) followed by an activity.
The advantage of moving to where there’s nothing going on socially is that there’s room to get involved, but the disadvantage is that there’s nothing going on unless you get involved!