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.