Monday, September 28, 2009

Seeing Jews in Israel makes Jews in NY More Interesting

An interesting byproduct of my trip to Israel is the way it connects me to the city I live in. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This is a historically Jewish neighborhood. Across the street is a huge Jewish community center and many other synagogues exist within blocks of my house. I used to joke that I lived in Israel West, but before going there I just really couldn't imagine how similar it actually feels.

Israel was a fascinating place to go to experience culture. I have lived with all these Jews around me, but never have been as interested in the different aspects of the culture or traditions of the religion as I am now.

In these two weeks of Jewish holidays between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur I have been keeping a much closer eye on what is happening. I have learned about traditions happening right under my nose. Right down the street at the edge of the Hudson River, hundreds gathered for Tashlikh, a long-standing Jewish practice of casting off the year's sins by throwing bread into the river and preparing for the new year. And then I just read about Orthodox Jews in Queens who participate in Kapparot, a ceremony where they swing live chickens over their heads while reciting a chant about transferring their sins symbolically onto the bird: "This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement. This rooster shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace."

On a more political note, I happened upon thousands of Hasidic Jews gathered last week to protest Netayahu's presence at the UN and the existence of the secular Israel state and its poor treatment of religious Jews.

The beauty of travel is its ability to make other cultures more real and understandable. A photo might be worth a thousand words, but standing right there and looking out at something new must be worth a million. In two weeks in Israel, my brain opened up to Jewish culture: its diversity and its stereotypes. Now that I am home it makes me appreciate the diversity around me even more.

On a side note, I can't help thinking, why don't we just move all the Jews to NY where they seem to live in peace and prosperity? I feel like they would be welcomed (At least in my neighborhood anyway.)


Jay said...

Your pictures are amazing as always Cordelia! I don't know if there was more to be shown from the settler side of the story, but what you showed from the Palestinian side tells a pretty damning story. I hope this conflict can be resolved too.

Rick Hunsaker said...

Now when I read in your Facebook update that you are swinging a chicken around your head, I will know why.

David B. said...

Cordelia - Excellent reporting. Although I am Jewish, I share your compassion for the Palestinians. No one deserves to have trash thrown at them.

ashok said...

excellent blog,

Will said...
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Tarun said...

I believe you should be called modern day Marco Polo.
Great blog, amazing stories.