Eating Out With Coworkers...a First!

Last night, for the first time ever, I went out to eat with coworkers. At a restaurant! My entire QA team went out for a night of team bonding. I spent the whole night basking in the glow of the experience. Allow me to explain a little. Having worked my entire professional career in Pittsburgh, the only kosher restaurant available was a pizza shop. In theory I could have gone there if we had really wanted to, but as you probably don't know I don't any flour products so pizza is out. As frustrating as this was for me, it was actually equally frustrating to my coworkers who just didn't understand why I couldn't just come out with them to a non-kosher place, or why I couldn't just get some pizza once in a while. Experiences like this were one of the driving factors for me to want to pick up and move to Israel. Having to use all of my vacation days on the Jewish holidays and not getting to socialize with coworkers outside of work (besides for the times when we invited them for shabbos meals) always left me feeling like an outsider.

Now I'm here in Israel. Most of my coworkers don't actually keep kosher, but there is an abundance of kosher restaurant choices which they are all totally fine with going to. Last night we went to Jems Beer Factory and let me tell you, it was niiice. Since the company was paying (thanks MyHeritage!!!) we got beers, appetizers, our meals and desserts all around. The camaraderie was high and the food was great. We played a game at the end where everyone had submitted two facts about themselves which nobody knew, and tried to guess which fact belonged to which person. All in all, it was such a wonderful evening and I'm really looking forward to doing something like this again. Here's a fun panorama I took (which is why I'm not in it) because I wanted to immortalize this moment. I live in a Jewish state. I don't have to take a day off of work for Rosh Hashana and I can go out and be a part of my team when food is involved.
I'm looking forward to many more occasions to celebrate and bond without feeling like a complete outsider.


Photographs and Citizens

In light of today's terror attacks in Jerusalem, a few thoughts have been occupying some of my headspace and I decided to share them here.

1. Photographs of the dead:
I was involved in a debate today regarding whether or not it was appropriate to share scene-of-the-crime photographs of those murdered in the attack in order to raise awareness of the "realness" of the issue and open the eyes of the people who read headlines that make the aggressors sound like victims. I believe that to do this is very much not ok and is extremely disrespectful to the victims and their families to use the photos as such a prop. An argument I heard was that the "other side" uses this tactic very successfully and maybe it's about time we show some pictures too and garner sympathy to our plight. Excuse me if I'm wrong but to me that's like saying "Hey, that guy who robbed a bank was never caught and stole a million dollars, therefore a good way to make a million dollars is to rob a bank". It's wrong, and the victims deserve better.

2. Citizenship status of the terrorists:
I'm not exactly sure what is to be gained by pointing out that the terrorist today were full blown citizens of Israel. It's not news to me that there are Arabs who are citizens of this country, and that they have every right afforded to the Jewish citizens. Knowing that the terrorists today were citizens doesn't make me more worried about a terror attack because these ones are living among us. To me, that's old news and if I'm more vigilant tomorrow than I am today, it's because an attack happened, not because it happened at the hands of an Arab citizen.


A Little Bit More About My Job

So, I work in software testing, which means that I work very closely with programmers to help find areas that have issues and tidy up weak areas in the code before it gets release to the main site where our users interact with the site (that's a teeny tiny nutshell of what I do).

I've been working in this field now since February of 2010 and have progressed through several different companies, growing my resume and my skill set. My last place of employment in Pittsburgh taught me a lot of what I know today. However I wasn't really all that happy there due to some issues I had with the company at a fundamental level. When I realized I wanted to leave my job and look for something else my wife and I decided that it was time to stop postponing our desire to make aliyah and so we moved here in the summer. I had not started a job search at all before we came here, although NBN got me in touch with several people in my field and I spoke to many of them while weighing my options of where to move and how to approach searching for a job in the field.

Thankfully I only ended up going on interviews at two companies before landing my job. The first one would've probably been an OK fit for a year or two, but the long term potential wasn't really there and it was not the type of project I would've really thrived in. I was considering broadening my search to include other fields outside of my expertise.

Then, on a whim, I posted on a FaceBook group that I was looking for a job in QA and would love a referral if anyone knew of any companies with openings. Within a few minutes I got a reply from someone in the group that their company was hiring for QA, and to send her my resume. I sent it to her almost immediately and within an hour I had an interview scheduled for the very next day. The first interview went extremely well and first thing the next morning I sent an email thanking them for having me in and letting them know that I was definitely interested in pursuing this job further. They called me again almost immediately after sending that email and asked me to come back that same day to meet with HR. I came back in and had another great meeting and when I left they told me that they were 99% sure they were going to hire but that the CEO meets with all potential new hires before they bring anyone on board. However, he was on vacation until the following week so I'd have to wait.

Needless to say, that meeting went very well as well and I began working there less than two weeks after my initial interview and under three months from my aliyah date.

I've now been with the company for almost three months and they have not only told me that they really think I was an excellent hire, but they've promoted me to be a team leader and have given me a lot of confidence and compliments.


No Car? No Problem!

Before I get started I want to point out that Migrating Millers is celebrating two milestones today. On 21 October, 2012 this post went up as the inaugural post of the blog. Now, on Migrating Millers second birthday I this current post is the 100th post on the blog. Double milestone!

Ok, now for today's post:

Back in the states I owned two cars. In fact, they were both paid off completely when we made aliyah. Xavier, my 1997 Honda Civic EX was our first car and it rode like a champion. That little bugger got over 30 miles to the gallon on the highway, sometimes as much as 36 (that's about 13 to 15 kilometers per liter for all you metric folks). My favorite thing about it though was the moon roof. Man I loved that thing.

And of course there was Shachori, our 2007 Honda Fit Sport. We brought her home in a snowstorm and she was our tried and true roadtrip car for a good long while. We put many loving miles into that car, and I even had my only ever accident in it (I sideswiped my dads car when I took him out for a drive right after I brought it home).

All that being said, I LOVE NOT HAVING A CAR ANYMORE! Have you ever thought about the various things you can do during a 45 minute morning commute other than driving? I've gotten hours of homework done that I would've otherwise had to do late at night. I've finished books faster because I can read my kindle quite easily during my trip. I can talk hands-not-free (quietly) and not have to worry about watching the road as well. Not to mention I don't have to pay for gas (twice the price here as in the states), don't have to pay for inspections (as much as $800 once), and don't have to replace busted tires (7 over the last 4 years) or batteries (2 or 3, I can't remember now).

Thankfully I live in a very central area and getting buses to places isn't all that hard. I feel blessed to not own a car anymore, and I hope that some day, if I get a car again, I'll remember and keep in mind how much I love taking the bus.



Three Months In

I can't believe we've been here for a quarter of a year already! Time has simply been flying by. Wasn't it just June and we were hurriedly selling off many of our belongings and packing up our entire lives into 12 big red duffel bags?

And yet, in many ways it doesn't feel like it was just June. I feel like WAY too much has happened since we arrived here to have fit into just three months. On a day to day basis I really feel like we've just been here forever. We've made some really good friends. Rivkah started Ulpan. Yaeli and Sophie have started school (for the first time ever btw. I started a really great new job. We've both gotten a Rav Kav (the universal bus card here) and gotten a pretty good sense of the public transportation system here and which buses we need to take to get to different places. We've hosted out of town guests. We went to the beach and got horribly sunburned (had to happen at some point.

All the short term goals we set out for ourselves have materialized in front of our eyes. With it being the time of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I urge all my readers to take a minute and don't make some crazy new years resolution you'll never be able to keep, but rather to pick a specific and attainable goal that you can accomplish within the next 6 months to a year and go out there and make it happen. When you meet HaShem even 10% of the way, he comes out and brings you along the other 90%.

Shana Tova to one and all.


I Landed my Dream Job

This post is going to get pretty technical so bear with me. I just landed my dream job. Like, if I could have made a list of the top ten things I would look for in a company, this place has twenty out of ten. Commitment to quality, solid infrastructure, continuous integration. You name it. They are doing it the right way. And the best part is that all I keep hearing is that they have so much more to learn and so many more challenges to overcome. In the two weeks that I've been working here, I've rediscovered my passion for software testing; something I'm sad to say I had lost for a while at my last job. I'm learning that there really are companies who are willing to do what it takes to be successful in the short term and in the long run. The innovations that are around me and the challenges I'll be presented with are so exciting and I can't even wait to get a better understanding of the product and all its intricacies. 

I feel so blessed to have found this job this quickly. It's been less than three months since we landed at Ben Gurion airport and so many good things have come our way. And G-d has had our backs in everything we have set our minds on doing. 

I wish you all a very happy new year. May everyone who reads this remember to follow your dreams and with G-d by your side they will come to fruition. 


First Day of My Israeli Career

(Note: I wrote this down on a notepad while I was waiting to get my laptop on my first day. I just came across it today so I decided to transcribe it for the blog. Technically it was written on Sunday, 7 September, 2014)

Today is my first day at work at MyHeritage. I am quite nervous as it has been quite a while since I started a new job. February 20, 2012 in fact. But I'm also quite excited as this is a great opportunity for my career and the people here are being really nice to me so far. The kitchen is a nice setup too, which is cool. Also, my desk is quite nice. Only downside is that I have to start using Windows again, BLARGH! Oh well, win some and lost some, right? Anyway, I'm headed out in a minute to get my computer and really start working.



The Girls Who Cried Siren

After nearly two months of air raid sirens going off, pretty much everyone I've met is jumping out of their skin every time we hear anything remotely like a siren. A YouTube group called ילדי ריטלין (literally: Ritalin Kids) made a video that captures this perfectly:

We'll all be sitting around talking and a loud motorcycle will drive by on the highway, or the washing machine will hit the spin cycle, or a segment from the My Little Pony intro theme song sounds the the beginning of a siren wailing, and we all pause for a second, realize it's not a siren, allow our heart rates to decelerate, and continue the conversation.

More often than not though, that sound is emanating from the mouths of our children. That slow, high pitched wail, is coming from our innocent little kids who probably don't even realize they are doing it half the time. Children across the country have been "playing siren" over the last two months and have no clue that they are jacking up our blood pressures 4 or 5 times a day.

One thing I need to be cognizant of, though, is that this means my kids are probably a lot more affected by the sirens than we even realize. These random siren noises from them several times a day means they are thinking about a siren several times a day. I wish there were something I could do about it but all we can do is hope for the end of this conflict.

In the meantime, we can all try and spend some quality time with our friends and neighbors when the sirens go off for real. #IsraelUnderFire.

שמעת את זה?


I Just Want To Live

Today is Tisha B'Av. The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. As I write this I'm sitting on a stone floor in synagogue, listening to the words of Kinot. I'm already feeling hunger pains and I can't eat for another 11 hours.

Today my emotions are pretty much all over the place. Here are a few:

-Today I am sad: I am starting to internalize and feel the lives lost in this war. I've been trying to keep a mental distance from the war, made possible in part because I don't know anyone personally in Gaza, putting their lives on the line for me. Until yesterday, when my neighbor got called up. He's leaving and his wife will be home alone. I can't stand leaving Rivkah for a night. Who knows when he'll return?

-Today I am questioning: It sure seems like the IDF has been able to go into Gaza and strike a crippling blow to the Hamas tunnel network. But what comes next? If we dismantle Hamas does ISIS move in? Those guys are super intense and make Hamas look like small time crime. Can Gaza be rehabilitated and made into an economic partner? So many questions that only "tomorrow" can answer. 

-Today I am happy?: The ground forces are retreating from Gaza. The most dangerous part of the mission was when troops were on the ground in Gaza, at risk of enemy fire, mortars, kidnapping and booby traps. Pulling out signifies that for the moment, our troops will be a little safer. As well, they will be at less of a risk of killing innocent people. I know that every death must weigh heavily on the soldiers. Am Yisrael Chai means the nation of Israel lives. As I said in my previous post, we are a nation that exalts life. 

There are many other emotions swirling around in there today as well. But the last major one is this:

-Today I want to live: I've been having a very hard time understanding how someone could want, more than anything else, me dead. What did I ever do to Joe Palestine besides for exist? Does the fact that my mother was Jewish and her mother was Jewish really offend him so much that he wants me to DIE? I'm having even more trouble understanding how this mentality isn't confined to one person, or three people. There are millions of people all over the world who would just love it if I dropped dead. Because I'm Jewish. 

Anyway, these are my Tisha B'Av musings. May we never have to mourn this day again as all of my Jewish brothers and sisters return to this beautiful land with the coming of Mashiach speedily. 


A Different Kind Of Warfare

I remember 9/11. I have very clear memories of the day itself and of following the news in the days and weeks to follow. The Washington Post had a "War in Afghanistan" section every day with news coming back from the war front. 9/11 brought the American people together in a unity that had rarely been experienced before. In New York especially, everyone put aside all of their differences and helped out in any way they could.

I feel like Israel has taken that mentality to an entirely new level in this current flare-up with Gaza. The country mourns every lost soldier as if they had lost a sibling or child. The funerals of fallen soldiers are attended by TENS of thousands of people. It seems like the fewer family members a fallen soldier has in Israel, the more people who attend the funeral.

The army has had to ask people to stop visiting wounded soldiers who are recovering in the hospital because they are being bombarded with visitors. Visitors who for the most part don't know the person in the bed in front of them. The army has also had to throw out or re-donate food donations made by the people of Israel because there's just too much. Pretty soon the army's next big expense is going to be buying every soldier in the entire IDF bigger clothing because they're getting fat from pizza, cookies, cakes and sweets.

All of this emphasizes a point to me that is so very hard to miss. Israel loves life. If they had wanted to, Israel could've carpet bombed the entire Gaza Strip and killed every man woman and child, terrorists and terror tunnels included. They probably could've done it in a day or two and then boom, presto, no more terrorist threat right in our own backyard. And yet they didn't. Forget international pressure; Netanyahu has basically said to hell with that. Every soldier who's life was lost in this incursion, lost his life because Israel bends over backwards to protect innocent lives. Israeli's would like nothing more than to see Gaza demilitarized, the Iron Dome decommissioned because we no longer live under the threat of rocket fire, and for the Palestinians to build up and infrastructure and economy that can positively impact the region.

May this region be blessed with many years of peace ahead and may Gazans have a chance to return to their homes and build lives they can be proud of. May Israeli's not have to mourn the loss of another soldier. May the parents and families of the fallen soldiers be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

Am Yisrael Chai!


The Sweet Silence of Shabbos

A month ago today, I stepped off of an airplane into a country about to go to war. A war being fought in its own borders. A war where rockets are being aimed at the city next door to me.

Naturally, there's been ups and downs with this whole ordeal. On the one hand, we take shelter during a siren and camp out for a few minutes (definitely not the full 10). On the other hand, we shake off the siren and life goes on. We buy groceries, cook food, take the kids to the park, and in general just go completely nuts because we're at home with the kids all day and everyone is getting serious cabin fever.

Being home all the time usually also means being completely enslaved to our facebook newsfeeds. The JPost, YNet, Arutz7, Times of Israel, Muqata and other Israeli news outlets have totally dominated our newsfeeds for the last month and that's all we can think or talk about all week. 1 soldier dead, then 2, then 30, 40... A ceasefire breached over and over. Rockets continue to fly and weapons continue to be found in UN schools. It's enough to make your head swim.

But not on Shabbos. When Shabbos begins we get to just turn it all off. No doubt the war will come up in conversation at some point over Shabbos, but any news we are discussing happened before candle lighting. For 25 hours a calm descends upon us.

And then...Havdala...and it all starts back again. Yet another reason to look forward to Shabbos every week.


No No No, I will Not Let Them Go (Explained)

Sh'mos 9:12 "And The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not listen to them..."

We all know the story. Moshe asked Pharaoh to let the Jewish people leave and he said no. HaShem sent plague after plague and Pharaoh would say "Ok you guys can go" and then HaShem would "harden his heart" and he'd change his mind and accept more punishment on his subjects in the form of another plague. Why? What could possibly make him say no when all logic says he should be saying yes?

I get it now, and here's why:

Yesterday I got a message from my friend Miriam. It said "Help me defend Israel. Go to my pg and see what (name removed) is commenting on my post plz."

The original post was a pro-Israel video talking about how Israel has every right to defend itself from rocket attacks. The VERY FIRST comment was this "I don't agree, a leader does not take his entire country into a war over the killing of one dead teenager. It is a Tragedy on both sides now." The comment section on this post literally exploded. 

ONE dead teenager? First of all, it was three. And this war is not about the teens. The teens were the teeny tiny microscopic straw that broke the camels back. After the teens were kidnapped, tons of rockets started falling on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Anyway, we normal people were trying to very calmly educate Miriam's acquaintance about this situation, but she didn't seem to read any of it. Her main points she kept going back to were: I still just can't understand why the country would go to war over slain teenagers; doesn't Israel realize that it's the month of Ramadan (as if that matters whatsoever in this argument); doesn't Israel realize that fighting Hamas might ostracize their allies in Jordan and Turkey.

It was utter nonsense and drivel. And I finally understood how Pharaoh could keep saying "no" while logic screamed "go". Antisemitism makes no sense unless you remember that HaShem rules the world. It's our unfortunate lot in life that occasionally, He hardens the hearts of our enemies and no amount of logic and reason can sway them from their beliefs. 

May HaShem quickly thaw the hearts of our enemies and help them to see sense again. Remember, in the end Pharaoh finally did let us go.


Everything I Wanted, I Have

To pick my family up and move to another country was quite a daunting task. We had to leave behind the life we had built together for close to 5 years of marriage and settle into a new town and make new friends, find new jobs, learn a new language and buy all new furniture and appliances too. The potential risk of failure was high.

But the potential to get everything out of the move that we wanted to was high as well, and I think we've already found everything we wanted to. We furnished the apartment. We're going to be starting Ulpan (hebrew learning school) shortly. We went to IKEA and made our house look like a real home. We even got Rivkah her dream refrigerator with the freezer on bottom.

But most importantly, we found our "crowd". Yesterday was my birthday. We have lived in this country for all of 19 days and our house was teeming with really awesome people all afternoon and into the evening. The talk was loud, the nosh was great, and the place was oozing with friendship and fun. Yaeli and Sophie even had a friend come over for a little while.

We may be in the middle of a war here in this beautiful country, but in under three weeks we already feel like we are finally at home. I encourage anyone reading this to think about a goal or dream that they have today and take the first step into turning it into your reality. "Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." - Earl Nightingale


Hockey in the Holy Land

I left the house tonight hoping to get a great scoop for my blog. Hockey? In Israel?

The best I can give you is that while I was waiting for my ride a group of Israelis came over and grilled me about what the heck all this stuff was. They'd never heard of hockey nor had they seen a hockey stick. It was a very surreal experience.

Other than that, hockey is hockey, hockey players are hockey players, and ice is ice. I had a great time meeting new friends and getting a chance to skate again for the first time in a month and a half. The only disappointment is that someone spent millions of dollars to build a rink in the middle of Israel and only made the ice 2/3 the size of an NHL rink so play is limited to 4 on 4. Besides that, I can't wait to play again.

Bugs and Bombs

BUGS!!! The mosquitoes are eating me alive! We've now been here in Israel for a little over 2 weeks and I've sustained many many mosquito bites. Too many to count. I'm convinced that they are Muslim mosquitoes as they prey five times a day. The worst I've had so far are about 5 on the bottom of my feet, making it incredibly annoying and painful to walk on.

In other news, BOMBS are exploding all around us. We've lost track of how many times we've heard the air raid sirens, but it's probably over 10 at this point. I know that is very few times compared to our brethren to the south, but it's been plenty. Thanks to the #AhrnDome though there haven't been any casualties here in the merkaz. While we run for our bomb shelter each time the Tzeva Adom sounds, it's not really out of fear of a rocket exploding nearby as much as making sure we don't get hit by falling rocket shrapnel after the rocket is shot down out of the air. Seriously, the Iron Dome technology blows my mind and makes people here feel so safe and secure.

That's all for now. Oh, I'm going to be playing ice hockey tonight! It's SUPER expensive to play here but TOTALLY worth it!



Way back in the days of Moses, 12 spies were sent to the land of Israel to determine the status of the land. Was it livable? Could crops be grown there? Was it safe? What were the people like? Would they destroy us?

The spies came back and reported that there were giants that would consume any people who lived there. Rashi explains that they encountered many funerals and that it was a dangerous place to live.

Fast forward several thousand years and we are still here, inhabiting the land of Israel. There are millions of Jews living here and there are projections of another million who will make aliyah in the next decade (that number is likely to be exceeded). Chances are, Jews will continue to inhabit the land for thousands more years. We are here now and here to stay.

עם ישראל חי


The Keystone

Having lived in Pennsylvania for the last 11 or so years, I am very familiar with images of keystones. PA is the keystone state (don't ask me why). I don't know much about archway construction but I do know that there's a focal point in them called the keystone, and that it's what holds the archway up.

They keystone in any good community is, of course, the people. And the people here in Israel are the thing I love the most. Pittsburgh actually has an awesome feeling of community. Within the Jewish community there are all different types of people and they all generally get along better than in any other Jewish community I've observed.

Israel takes that sense of community to a whole new level. People at the airport helped us carry car seats around. I had a bunch of IKEA furniture delivered to the bottom of my staircase (we live on the 4th floor and IKEA wanted to charge 500NIS to deliver to my door) and two people from the community showed up to help me shlep it upstairs. Our next-door neighbors let us use their fridge for several days as we waited for ours to arrive. And just today, we got a call from someone in the community (who is the sister of the aunt of my best friend) inviting us for Shabbat lunch this week. Community here is such an important and amazing part of the whole Israel experience.

I love it!

You've Got Mail

Last night I received a message. No via FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, voicemail or even through the post office. It came via air...and air raid siren.

Last night Hamas sent me a message loud and clear. It said "GO AWAY AND DON'T COME BACK". It was not a very nice welcome message. I mean, c'mon Hamas, I've only been here a week! Some neighbors you are.

Anyway, I don't like tolerating when people are mean to me. When they are I usually just ignore them.

Message deleted.


It's Been One Week

Last minute packing. Drive to New York. Catch our flight. Fly for 11 hours with 2 kids. Arrive, what a rush! Absorption, we're full citizens! Head home to drop off our bags (15 of them). Then off to our friends house for a few days and through Shabbat. Rent a car and take a day trip to IKEA. Stay our first night in our apartment. Start building our furniture. First Shabbat, I love the solitude and quiet in the city. Back home and moved in full time. Slowly continue to build the furniture, house starts looking and feeling like home (toys everywhere helps). Finally got our fridge today and then went and spent 770NIS on food. Heard our first and second air raid sirens. Had to wake the kids up the second time. Off to bed.

I don't usually write paragraphs like the one above but my week has pretty much felt like a large run on sentence. It's been crazy, hectic, peaceful, warm, and now a bit scary. But I have no doubt that we made the right decision. Incoming rocket fire be damned, this is my home now and I have the baddest army in the whole dang world covering my back. I will not back down. I will not be afraid. I was more afraid of having to put my kids back to sleep than I was of the rocket fire.


I'm Going to Miss Yinz, Da' Burgh, N'at

Since August of 2003 I have had the great honor of calling Pittsburgh my home. I came here back then as a 10th grade student and lived with a wonderful family on beautiful Beechwood Blvd. That year I don't think I realized it but I'd already fallen in love with the city. I loved getting to see downtown on my Mivtoim route and taking the buses around town. I loved the community and the people I'd met. And, despite what I might've told you back then, I really did enjoy my time at Yeshiva Schools. So much so that I basically talked my parents into moving the whole family here that summer so my brothers could attend the school and I could live at home for 11th grade.

Since then I've pretty much lived here, save for a 9 month stay in Israel for 12th grade. I came back from Israel and started attending Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and eventually graduated with my Associates Degree in IT Support. Meanwhile I met Rivkah and we got married and built our life here and had a couple of really cute kids. Pittsburgh really truly is my home.

Things I won't miss:

Stillers: Go Ravens!

Hills: Bikes and strollers suck in the hills of Da' Burgh.

The weather: -6F in the winter. Spazzy rainfall all the time. I'm so done with winters like these.

Things I'll miss:

The Pittsburgh Left: A quirky move whereby a driver in the left-turning lane is allowed to make a left turn ahead of oncoming traffic in order to save them a long wait.

Penguins games: 'nuff said. Nothing like it.

Pirates games: So heartwarming when they win. Devastatingly familiar when they lose.

Colloquialisms: Yinz, n'at, redd-up, needs cleaned, Stillers. They are all so wrong grammatically and yet near and dear to my heart.

Most of all though, I'm going to miss my family. For the last 5 years Rivkah and I have enjoyed the close proximity of most of our immediate family. Some brothers live far away. My mom lives all the way in Maryland (not that far). We've always been close by and this will be the biggest change of all.

This move is the right thing for us to do and this is the right time to do it. I'm so excited to go and I'm also really sad about what I'm leaving behind.

Yinz be good while I'm gone.


A Stranger In My Homeland

"Taxation without representation" is the slogan of my birthplace. Yes, I was born in Washington, D.C. and you can't get much more American than that. I've lived in the United States for my entire life.

And yet, a part of me doesn't feel at home here anymore. A large part, in fact. It hasn't always been this way, but as I get older the feeling gets stronger and stronger.

When I started working at my previous job, it was my first real job outside of the Jewish community. I'd previously worked at a kosher restaurant, a Jewish bookstore, the Aleph Institute, and the local Kosher store. It was a given that I needed to be home in time for Shabbos and that I wasn't able to come to work on Jewish holidays. Working on Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and all the other Hallmark holidays our country takes advantage of to sell cars was a given. Of course I was going to work then.

Then I entered the "real world" where I followed the Federal holiday schedule and had to take PTO for the Jewish holidays. Say goodbye to taking a vacation ever. 15 PTO days get depleted pretty quickly when you have 3 day Chagim several times a year. Not to mention that while I'm out of the office for half of September and April my team keeps on working and I'm getting further and further behind in my work. Friday afternoon in the winter? It's a nightmare trying to get out of work in time to get home just in time for Shabbos to start and having to put in extra hours all week so that I can do that.

And speaking of Shabbos and Chagim, I've always said that here in America we have Shabbos and Chagim. Thank G-d the Jewish community here in Pittsburgh is large and thriving but I can only imagine what it's like in a city with a small community. We make Shabbos and the rest of the country goes on with life as usual. We miss all the great stuff at Saturday/Sunday garage sales. We have to get our cars serviced during the work week because Pennsylvania is stupid and doesn't allow car dealerships or mechanics to be open on Sundays. Basically, we carve out Shabbos into the hustle and bustle that is Saturday in the States.

In Israel, it is Shabbos. It is Chag. The whole country stops. The streets get clearer. Even the people who aren't celebrating the holiday don't look at you like you just landed from Mars when you walk by them holding a Lulav and Esrog. When you are in a "Halloween costume" in March, it's totally normal. When you put up a Sukkah and eat all your meals in it for a week (including the workdays!) it's just part of the background.

So, while I've grown up in the land of the free and the home of the brave, it just doesn't feel like home anymore. I can't wait to spend my first Shabbos as an Israeli citizen. I can't wait to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur among an entire nation celebrating along with me. I can't wait to live in a country where everyone knows how to pronounce and spell my name! I can't wait to come home!

These last 5 months have felt like a marathon. There's been a lot of work to do, and still a lot to go. I'm at mile marker 20. Just 6.2 to go! This is going to be the really hard part, but in the end it'll be totally worth it.


אני מאמין באמונה שלימה

"I believe with complete faith"

Right now, everything seems to be in flux. I haven't yet gotten final approval on our Visa's. Because of this we can't yet schedule our flights. I haven't gotten the keys from our landlord yet because we've been waiting for my payment to clear. I don't have a job yet and haven't had a spare second to fix up my resume a bit more and get active on LinkedIn and start networking for jobs. We still aren't sure what we are going to be bringing with us and what we'll be leaving. And we haven't done this, and that, and this, and that....


I believe in HaShem with complete faith that he will guide us through this. I need only to look at how many things ARE completed and I am reminded that he has guided us along this crazy journey every step of the way. The approval will come through. The flights will get booked. The car will get sold, our belongings will get packed and shipped. Everything will fall into place, one way or another. And more likely than not, it won't happen the way I'd envision it because, you know, man plans and G-d laughs.


Remembering Murray

My step-grandfather Murray passed away over Pesach this year. He had been sick for a very long time and was 95 years old. I found out a lot of things about him at his funeral, including the fact that he'd served on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944 (D-day). He was a decorated war veteran and was well respected by many people. There was a full house in attendance for his funeral and at the lunch afterwards at the shul.

I gave a eulogy at the funeral; the first time I've ever done that. I would like to share it here so that it can live on:

Until about 10 years ago, I associated the name Murray with Murray Avenue, one of the main streets where I live in Pittsburgh. Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, a new Murray entered my life, and I’m really glad he did. When I called my Bubby on Friday afternoons I heard “Murray and I this…” and “Murray and I that…” I could tell right away that she was having such a great time with this new man named Murray and that made me happy too.
I distinctly remember flying in for the wedding. My family went ahead of my but I had a test in school and came in the day of the wedding. I flew Southwest and sat in the first row of the plane. What a fun wedding that was. Bubby had the greatest bouquet of kitchen gadgets and Murray played his heart out with his Klezmer band. The omelet station was fantastic too, and it was so nice to see so much of the family together for such a happy occasion.
I can’t say that Murray and I got to know each other really well. In the years since Bubby and Murray got married we only really got to spend short visits together and maybe only once or twice a year. However, we made the most of those visits, playing chess (he always won) or fixing some issue he was having with his computer (I usually won). Whatever it was, I don’t think he and I ever shared a bad moment. Even when Rivkah and I came over to Delaware to introduce my daughters to the family, they took to him right away and call him Zeidy Murray and he always had a glowing smile on his face around them. I wish my Zeidy could've met them, but Murray made a great great grandfather all the same. 
When I got married back in 2009, I was sad that my Zeidy couldn’t be there at my wedding with me. I’m sure he would have loved Rivkah and the kids. But thankfully, Murray was there to celebrate my special day with me and be my Zeidy that day.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, 8 years isn’t really all that long. It wasn’t even 10% of his life. Heck, I’m coming up on 5 years of marriage and it doesn’t seem like any time has gone by. But these 8 years have been really great. My Bubby has been so happy. We’ve made some great memories. And most importantly, Bubby and Murray have taught me what it means to care for and love someone “in sickness and in health”. I’m going to miss you Murray.
Murray was a really great man and we will miss him dearly. He lived a long and full life, and I hope that I can live my life in such a way that when my time comes, people will remember me as fondly as they now remember him.


Long Silences

It's been a long time since I last blogged here. All I can say right now is that my long absences have always been due to my being very busy. Stay tuned for a long post within the next month or so. The proverbial fruits are almost ripe for the picking.



They say to live your life as if it's your last day on earth. Cherish each moment because you will never get it back. Live life to the fullest.

Last week, during my hockey team's championship game, I aggravated a knee injury that I sustained several years ago and never had taken care of. I tried waiting out the pain in the hopes that it would just go away, like it did the last time this happened. After 3 days without the pain decreasing very much, I finally caved and called my doctors office to make an appointment.

The doctor felt/heard some clicking in my knee and decided to send me over to the hospital to get some X-rays done on the knee. I got the X-rays and by 4 PM I had at least a partial answer.

I have an osteochondroma on my the back of my right femur. My doctor had me schedule an appointment with an orthopedist and after that appointment (with more X-rays being done) I am going in on this coming Monday for an MRI and to talk about my options.

The point of all this is, at least for the time being, my hockey playing is completely on hold. My season starts up next week and I have no clue when I'll get to play again. And this made me think of how much I took for granted the ability to just drive to a rink, suit up, and play. Some people can't drive. Some people can't dress themselves. Some people can't move, let alone play. And I just took it for granted that all these things were available to me.

I'm not saying my playing days are over. My orthopedist mentioned that if I had to have surgery, recovery time could be 4-6 weeks. In the grand scheme of things that's not really that long. And you know what, I don't even have to worry about how to pay for all this because I have excellent health insurance. Another thing I usually take for granted. If I didn't have insurance I probably couldn't pay for a surgery. And if I couldn't' get the surgery my playing days likely would be done.

In general I don't say "Bli ayin hora". I try to say "Baruch HaShem" instead. Bli ayin hora makes me feel like I need to always be afraid that HaShem is about to take things away from me. For instance, if someone tells me "your daughters are so cute" I don't say "bli ayin hora" (which to me sounds more like "HaShem, please don't make my children not cute anymore because I acknowledged that they in fact are cute"). Instead I like to say "Baruch HaShem" ("thank you HaShem for giving me cute kids").

So, live your life recognizing more moments where you can say "Baruch HaShem". Baruch HaShem my kids are cute. Baruch HaShem I can drive. Baruch HaShem I can play hockey. And Baruch HaShem I can take care of injuries and get back to doing the things I love to do. Live in Baruch HaShem. Don't live in Bli ayin hora.


Peyton Lost and I Won

As millions of people around the world know, the first Sunday in February is Super Bowl Sunday . The biggest North American sports day of the year. It seems almost like everyone in the United States is either hosting a party or going to one. Chips, beer, pizza, wings; pregame, football, halftime, and of course the most expensive commercials known to man. Clydesdales anyone?

Since the age of eight (1997 Packers vs. Patriots) I have only missed watching one Super Bowl and it was because I was in Israel and couldn't find anywhere to watch it. Watching the big game was basically a given for me. "Where?" Was really the only question about it. My whole day would be planned around this one game. 

Not this year. This year I took my day back from the NFL. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I really don't have any interest in this game this year. My interest in the NFL has been rapidly declining over the last few years and if it weren't for the Ravens making it to the Super Bowl last year I might've won this battle a year earlier. So I planned my day the way I wanted to spend it and I executed on my plan. 

This doesn't mean I didn't check the score a few times during the game. And it doesn't mean I'm not a sports fan anymore. This wasn't to make a statement that watching professional sports is a waste of time. All I wanted to do was take back one day. Maybe next year I'll watch the game. Maybe I won't. When I'm living in Israel and the game starts at 1:30AM it's a fair bet I won't be watching.

So, while Peyton Manning and the Broncos shocked the nation by being so dominated, I shocked myself by not being dominated. 

Is playoff hockey here yet???


I'm Feeling Itchy

In the summer of 2012, Rivkah and I, along with Yaeli, went on vacation to Israel. We traveled up and down the country, hitting a lot of the tourist spots and visiting with family and friends. We spent a total of 12 days there and packed them tight with stuff everyday day. 

Usually when people are on vacation, by the time the vacation is over they feel like it's time to go home. We were no exception to this rule. However, we felt like we already were home. Traveling back to America felt like we were leaving for a foreign land.

In the months proceeding our trip we'd been looking to buy a house in Pittsburgh. We were fast approaching the birth of our second child and our one bedroom apartment wasn't really cutting it anymore. We'd kinda sorta talked about Aliyah when we were engaged and first married but the idea had pretty much fizzled out. 

Sitting in Ben Gurion airport though, with a month left on our lease and no new home in sight, I wanted to just cancel our flights and start over on a wing and a prayer. I wanted my vacation to be over but I wanted to wake up the next morning somewhere in the Gush, hop a bus or hitchhike into Jerusalem for work, and just proceed forward as if we'd been living there all along. 

That, however, wasn't to be. And it wasn't the smart thing to do either. We did come back to Pittsburgh. We did find a place to rent instead of buying a house. And we did start, and continue to do research into housing, job market, cost of living in Israel so that when the time was right we'd have some data to rely on for decision making purposes. This also served to keep the dream alive. We'd let it peter out before and we didn't want that to happen again. 

Well, the itch is back in full force. That summer vacation was over a year and a half ago. The memories are fading and all I'm left with is a burning desire to go back. Not on another trip. I want to return home. I want my children to grow up learning the holy language of Hebrew. I want them to grow up in a land steeped in ancient history; the history of their origin. The history they'll be learning when they go to school and learn the parsha. They can come home one day and tell me "Totti, today in parsha class we learned about when Avraham took Yitzchak through our backyard to do the Akeida". (Ok maybe it won't be exactly like that but you get the point).

I know that things won't be simple and easy all the time. Maybe not even most of the time. I know it doesn't necessarily make the most financial sense or emotional sense to leave the comforts of a secure job market and lots of family around. But it's something we need to do and I'm itching all over for it

We'll see how things turn out. Right now I'm in the first week of a new semester but as the saying goes, "man plans and G-d laughs". We may move in 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years or 10 years. I can't really tell you. All I know is its 11:15 at night and I can't fall asleep because my heart is aching to go back home. 

לשנה הבא בירושלים


Bringing In 2014

Another year has come and gone. (Cliche, I know, but deal with it).

This year was the third time Rivkah and I went to First Night Pittsburgh. We went with our friends Scott and Dawn.

The night started off at the Byham theater to see the River City Brass Band. They were excellent. Their conductor is really funny. He wears a kilt and basically cracks jokes the whole time. All in all it was a really good show.

Next we headed over the the Fairmont hotel for some adult beverages (as I do not imbibe in alcohol I got a coffee). Whilst there I saw Marc-Andre Fleury, the goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and tried chasing him down to wish him a happy new year. He didn't seem to hear me and hotel security told me off after that.

Afterwards we headed over to my friends bookstore called Amazing Books, a really cool used bookstore on Liberty Ave. We spent almost an hour there talking to him, and Rivkah got to chat with Dawn for a bit.

We left the bookstore and headed over the Arcade Comedy Theater for some improv comedy. We only had two tickets but Dawn and Scott were allowed to jump the long standby line and join us, sans tickets. The show was really good and we are planning on going to see them again. Good, live comedy isn't easy to come by here in Pittsburgh.

Crazy Mocha was next on our agenda, where we picked up some coffees and then we headed over to the 2013 countdown to the new year. We got a ride on these bike-taxis and goofed around a bit while we waited for midnight.

For some reason the ball in Pittsburgh gets raised at New Years, so as the clock struck midnight we sort of asked ourselves that. I think it's a ritual at this point to comment on how silly that is.

All in all, it was probably my favorite New Years. Great friends, great entertainment. Here's hoping 2014 turns into a really great year.

Happy new year y'all!