ShnUpdate - Perach 21.02.20

As we (Noam and Isaac) come to the end of our roles as Roshei Shavua (head of the week), we take the opportunity to reflect on the past 7 days which saw the beginning of our regular classes with our wonderful and inspiring educators.


At the end of last week all of us spent Shabbat either together or visiting family and friends around the country. Shabbat began with Ruth and Isaac running a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service for the kehila, followed by a delicious Erev Shabbat meal of green risotto headed up by Clem. On Shabbat morning Jack and Noam attended shacharit at Kol Haneshama (a large Reform synagogue). We found the service beautiful, some of it feeling very similar to our own synagogue back in London (Alyth), and it was interesting to be part of the community for that morning, including witnessing a b’nei Mitzvah!

In the afternoon on Shabbat, Noam ran a limmud session, for those who were interested, on a Talmudic passage from Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael, tractate baChodesh (on a pasuk from the week’s parasha) which spoke about the publicity of the revelation at Sinai and why this was significant to Jewish identity. We discussed that the text encourages us to be in relation with the outside world, something that many of us feel is an important part of our progressive Jewish lives.


This week we began several of our classes focusing on different aspects of Zionism and Israel. Early in the week we had the privilege of being taught by Michael Livni on the foundations and origins of contemporary Reform Zionism. His class really helped us understand the different movements of Zionist thought that eventually came together to build the state and develop Reform Zionism and our commitment to Jewish peoplehood in Israel and our progressive religious values of equality, tolerance, learning…

With Omer we started to explore questions we had about Zionism and challenges facing the Jewish people today, and with Uri we began our classes on Israeli culture looking at film, TV, music, and theatre, which started to give us a new insight and understanding of the culture of the country we are living in!


Lior taught us her first class on the siddur, starting by discussing the notion of freedom and the Jewish identity and then moving on to learning to navigate the siddur practically. And Roderigo taught an interesting class on our ‘Jewish Bookshelf’, beginning to navigate Jewish literature, Tanakh and Talmud. At the end of this class we read a piece of Mishna that spoke of the importance of consideration of time in Judaism over the consideration of place. It was exciting to start some text study learn in this way!


Other classes included an introduction to Israeli culture with Uri Levin. Uri took us through an outline of the course, describing the music, cultural events, movies and television as well as the dancing that we will learn in coming weeks. After being in Israel for the last month (or two months for northerners) we feel both deeply immersed in Israeli culture however simultaneously uninformed about common cultural activities. Although we have thouroughly enjoyed experiencing the culture we have so far, we also recognise how much we have to learn. From television such as Fauda and When Heroes Fly, to music by Omer Adam and Ben El. As a kvutzah we are really looking forward to learning from Uri as he endeavours to broaden our knowledge of Israel not only as a deeply religious country but also as a culturally rich melting pot.


With educator Shnai in Gender and Judaism class we discussed the development of the Feminist movement, focusing on how modern gender dichotomies have formed. We delved into our own subconscious investigating the gender stereotypes we prescribe to, whether intentional or not. Shnai helped us to look introspectively to discover our own shortcomings in this area, in order that progress can be made. We looked at Simone de Bouvier, the 19th century feminist writer and looked at how her work can be applied to our modern circumstances. We are keen to learn more with Shnai, and to push ourselves to strive for equality. Aswell, we are interested to learn about how we can apply this to our Jewish framework.


On Top of our classes from external educators, this week also saw some great hadracha from our peers. Safe ran an eye opening chinuch peulah on the climate emergency, climate justice and the implications of climate action on different minority groups; it was really inspiring to hear about these issues from someone who is at the forefront of campaigning for climate justice in Melbourne. Jack ran an introduction to the current Israeli political situation, helping us to understand the upcoming election and the history of the left and right blocks in Israeli politics. Noam ran a quiet, meditative shacharit exploring our relation to each other through silence, music, and space. And Bella also ran a beautiful shacharit service at the end of the week with a focus on social justice/injustice and our commitment as Jews to fight for social justice.


After a full on, intense week of classes we are all looking forward to relaxing this Shabbat. As I write this we are getting ready to go to Nava Tehilla congregation for Kabbalat Shabbat, where our very own Avishai Conyer is plying his trade as a clarinet player in this beautiful service.


Thank you for reading this weekly update, next week you will be lucky enough to hear from the wonderful Safe and Raquel as they assume their role as Roshei Shavua.


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