Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day off

The real reason I went to Akko to write, apparently, was not to be distracted.  Jerusalem is nothing if not distracting. Today I had no conference sessions to go to (no, really, nothing), so I caught up on other things.
I went off for a jog this morning. That meant up and down hills and stairs.  Tiring, but interesting.  The climate is Livermore--dry and about 90 (70 in the morning)--but much more interesting to look at it.  And really, really not flat.  I went by apartments that seems single-story--then I realized the rest of the building was down the hill. 
Came back and responded to emails.  I continue to have two publishers interested in seeing the final book when it's done (and saying very nice things about it.  Two others may weigh in, but they haven't really looked at the material yet for one legitimate reason or another. I never heard from one and one said no.  All in all, I'm not displeased. (Okay, fine, I'm ecstatic.  Really, kind of in disbelief.)
Then I went off with my hostess to look for gifts. We ended up at a place called Kadosh (http://www.2eat.co.il/eng/kadosh/) for lunch.  Bakery like you wouldn't believe.  I'm going there everyday from now on (well, every day that I can).
Then I wandered down Ben Yehuda street--full of tourists of all kinds, shops of all kinds from crap to lovely but standard.  Then I found a little shop with some very interesting things...not saying more here. 
Continued to work on emails to the various professors--and got some done, but not all.  But I'm making headway--mostly in conquering the "I'm going to say something wrong" demon. 
And so to bed...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Catching up after a few days--it's all about me and my newfound awesomeness

I'm sitting in the living room of my new place.  Eight floors up on French Hill, near Hebrew University.  Out my bedroom window, the Dome of the Rock is framed by tall, stone buildings.  And I get breakfast in the mornings.  So it's mostly really good.  The not so good is that my hostess (a down-to-earth woman who made aliyah decades ago) smokes--only in her bedroom (and while I'm here, only outside), but there's a residue.  Which I'm putting up with because the rest is so nice. I expect to be here until I leave the night of August 7.  I'll spend a bit of time exploring Jerusalem, but mostly--more writing. It seems almost criminal, but I can deal with that.
Saturday, I tidied up my talk, packed completely, made sure I'd finished all the food I came with, and checked bus fare, route, etc., including walking the route to make sure I knew where to wait. And I planned my schedule for the first day--after that, I'd have a conference book to use.  I was ready to go two hours ahead of time and tried to work on the dissertation while I waited to leave.  And then I left.  And waited at the bus stop.  And waited as the departure time came and went.
Israelis seem to know exactly where you should go when you've done something wrong--they are happy to help you can fix it.  In Akko, that has meant not only fixing my mistakes, but also the mistakes of half the people--the other half actually do know something.  So it was here.  One man insisted he knew where the right stop was.  He didn't, although he was very certain about his knowledge. Finally, I just walked down to the Central Bus Station--it was all of a block away (and where I should have gone in the first place) and asked people there.  This time, I asked one person who asked another (neither spoke English), and determined that when the route said 501, it meant 271.  Which got me to Haifa in time for the next bus--half an hour later than I expected.  That was successful; got to Jerusalem at 9:40 and decided to spring for a cab--I was done and paying 50 shekels instead of 6.6 was just worth it.  Especially since I had the first real conversation in Hebrew I've had since I've been here. We actually talked about places.  I was able to tell him I liked Israel and the US and that it was hard to be religious here because I'm not secular and not religious.  His face lit up and he agreed--it is the same for him. 
My hostess knew she would be gone and her neighbor showed me my room--and the well-stocked refrigerator. So that was nice.

Sunday morning, I was up early--not enough sleep, not enough water, too much anxiety about the talk. Breakfast was heavy on dairy with no guilt.  I met the other guest, who is a Biblical literature scholar from the LA area, and will be speaking on the composition of the Psalms--which apparently were put together somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle.  My metaphor, which he liked, but it occurs to me it's more like Tangram.  You can put a jigsaw puzzle together in only one correct way, but a Tangram has many possibilities using the same pieces.
Then off to the conference, which is an easy 15 minute from my place--about the same distance as the summer students have to walk.  This is a big-deal conference and they didn't stint on what they give the participants.  I got a very nice padded case, perfect for computer, wallet, and notes, an invitation to the opening ceremonies, and 10 vouchers (2/day) for snacks--aka breakfast and dinner, since one of the snacks can be a sandwich or croissant.  Not bad. After I figured out the rest of my schedule--which turned out to be harder than you might think because half of the sessions I wanted to go to were in Hebrew and two that I wanted to go to were at the same time--I ended up with a patchwork that was just about right--and one free day in the middle (that's tomorrow).
Then I wandered past the registration line and met my old roommate from the AJS and also someone I'd wanted to work with for some time--a fairly big name, let's call him Professor Aleph.  I've finally gotten to the place where I'm ready to speak up for myself--what have I got to lose?  At this point, much more by shutting up--my work is done (ish); it's either good or not, but without talking about it, it might as well not exist.
After catching up with my old roommate, I approached Aleph and asked if he'd have time to talk.  He thought right then would be a good idea.  I didn't (not having collected my thoughts), but what can you do?  And we had a very good conversation indeed--we talked about work I could do with him on a project I'm interested in and he gave me advice on places to get funding for a different project. 
As we're talking, Professor Bet comes up to talk to Aleph.  I make a comment or two, then Bet leaves.  When Aleph leaves to prepare for his talk, I stay at the table to check email and Bet (who has just won a nice award, btw) comes by and introduces himself and asks about my work.  We are having a lovely chat, when Professor Gimel comes up to talk to Bet.  The three of us have a long-ish conversation, then it's time to go to my first session--chaired by Nurit and with Aleph as one of the presenters. 
Very interesting presentation (and I didn't comment; too much to process, but asked him for his paper afterward). I did comment after the second talk and that comment shifted the discussion in a good way.  So I was feeling pretty good about things.
Nurit and I got lunch and she called her friend, who was to respond.  The three of discussed the panel, including Professor Dalet--who was an addition when our third person backed out--then went to a room with about 40 seats.  We got there twenty minutes early and fiddled around, checking power point stuff.  About five minutes before starting time, the room began to fill up.  And kept filling. And the people who came to hear were top names in soc of American Judaism, as well as a couple of people from the Van Leer Institute.  I know that most were there to hear Dalet--but I'm not complaining.  I've NEVER talked to a full house before with that many big names.  Quite intimidating, but once I got going, I went.  And I did a good job (it would be better if I hadn't read, but I needed the security of the text).
Then Nurit presented and her material just beautifully dovetailed with mine--her's from psychology, mine from sociology--both presenting a coherent picture of Bay Area Judaism.  Then Dalet spoke, providing some large-scale demographic context.  Then there were questions. Another first: I've never been part of a session where there were more questions than time.  And many of them were about the Bay Area--so while I still think that Dalet was the draw, we were heard by people who otherwise would not have heard us.
I made it through the final session (a presentation by Gimel with responses) barely--the adrenalin had faded and I was tired and dehydrated.  But following the session, I had a nice conversation with Dalet. And then it was time for the reception
That wasn't any cheese and crackers and celery sticks, but a full out meat meal--beef, chicken, fish, potatoes, rice, 5 kinds of salad, dessert (including parve ice cream), and several different (non-alcoholic) drinks.  I ate with Nurit and Professor Hey, whom I had met at a previous conference.
And there it ended.  I went to the opening ceremony, which was supposed to be simultaneously translated into English--it wasn't.  So I left, came back to my room, met my hostess, talked to my family, and fell into bed.
Today wasn't nearly as exciting, but still very good.  I only stayed for a session and a half and won't be back until Wednesday.  The half-session was on definitions of antisemitism, but more from a literary and philosophical point of view.  It was over-flowing, due to the topic, but really very boring and largely not useful.
On the other hand, the first session included a presentation from Professor Vav, who was making the case (based on New York, Baltimore, and Chicago) that when Jews were strong in one area of Jewish identity, they would be strong in other areas.  Two things: the places are not representative (large, but not representative) and, yeah, people strong in one area will tend to be strong in another--depending on general culture.  But the Bay Area is very different--although my guess is that some of the results will be right because it's not a terribly surprising result. If that sounds contradictory, it kind of is, although part of MY talk was dealing with these same issues from a qualitative point of view.  Anyway, I opened my mouth and was quite articulate about the problems.  Afterward, Professor Vav and I talked and exchanged emails, then I ran into Bet who said he really liked the questions I asked. Then Nurit told me that her daughter wanted to know where I got my tallit.  She was impressed that I had made it.  And finally I ran into one of the organizers of the Van Leer, who said he had liked my talk.  I was bowled over.
And I went to half the antisemitism session, left and came back here where I fell asleep for most of the afternoon.  I think I'm finally caught up on water, sleep, and this blog.
My hostess fed us a fine dinner to make up for being out of town when we were gone and we had a long discussion about what real dinner is. She articulated the secular/religious point of view and I explained the middle ground.  She was unconvinced, but it was interesting to push against her very blunt questions.  At one point, she--from the secular position--used exactly the same argument as the rabbi about practices that aren't halakhic being like playing a game.  So that was interesting too--someone said everyone in Israel is Orthodox, some just practice it and others don't.  But everyone (not quite) accepts the Orthodox definition of being Jewish.
Tomorrow I spend in Jerusalem looking for things to buy. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Very good day!

By rights this should be a very long post, but it's gotten to be 11:30 and I'm desperate for sleep.  In short, though--made it to Jerusalem and am ensconced in another airbnb. First day of the conference was today, as was my talk.  Not only did it go well, but so did the whole day.  But that will simply have to wait until tomorrow....

Friday, July 26, 2013

Not moving particularly fast...

More writing. I'm still in the "get the room tidied up" mode.  And it's not going well. That is, I feel better with a clean room.  I can work better when I know what's where.  The equivalent for the dissertation is all stuff that goes around it.  Today I worked on the preface and got it to a point where I needed to stop--and realized it twice too long. So...yeah, that went well.
Then I decided I needed to do the methods section.  Which, in fact, is true--I do need to do that.  So I began working on it. And found myself in one of those tortuous places where the numbers don't match. Took about three hours to sort out why (a couple of places where one person answered several roles--so is that one interview or three?--depends on if you're counting people or roles.  That is, it's one interview, but counts for a rabbi, an educator, and an admin. So both one AND three.  As long as I'm clear.  Which I wasn't). Then I started to put together the interview schedules.  There are thirteen different interview schedules.  Which I am not putting in one after the other--too much repetition and doesn't really do the job of presenting information usefully.  So I presenting it as: everyone was asked this set of questions.  In addition, this set of people was asked this other set of questions.  And so on.  I really hope it's clearer that just cut and paste.
In the process of doing this, though, it's become clear just how much work went into this project.  It happened a bit at a time.  But...I asked a huge number of people a huge number of questions. Which they mostly answered thoughtfully.  Damn. What a deal.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another quiet day

Spent the day writing. That's pretty much it.
Well, I did go out to get bread and milk and cheese.  I leave Akko in two days.  Then Jerusalem and the conference.  Then...I still don't know.  I may try to stay in Jerusalem and just work.  I'm no longer feeling panicked about finishing--it will be what it will be.  But I have a reasonable degree of confidence in my work at this point to believe I will be done relatively close to the deadline.  And really, the jogging has helped give me confidence--when I bog down in writing, I think of the road going past, one step at a time.  I can't go faster than I can go.  But I can continue slowly without stopping.

What is it with the anti-tech crowd and the NY Times? and more in the "someone is wrong on the internet" vein

Latest idiocy is from Alison Arieff.  You can read it here:
Or email me for it--I copied it as an example of "someone is wrong on the internet!"
I have to admit, I had trouble making it through the thing--about the time it was clear that she didn't understand how autonomous cars work and was basically just scared of them, I began skimming.  Here's the thing: I've had a major accident that was the result of human (my) error.  It was as a result of not having quite enough focus, but mostly of having two eyes, not the four that I needed.  So, yeah, I know technology fails.  But what we humans have trouble with is recognizing how often we fail--and when technology, most of the time, does better.
And while I'm complaining...A friend posted a link to a TED talk that argued that there was evidence that insulin resistance led to weight gain, not the reverse. Sure, fine. Now make your case.  Which he didn't.  He spent fifteen minutes repeating the sentence above in different ways.  Really not ready for prime time.  And I don't even mind if all he's doing is questioning conventional wisdom--but if you have 3 minutes of something to say, don't take 15 minutes to do it. Made that comment back and another friend more or less reprimanded me for questioning TED talks: "The talks have a time limit to them and TED is a place where people go to be inspired to do more and work together. I found his talk very inspiring and compelling." To which I wanted to reply: "Thank you for explaining the obvious with such beautiful condescension. I'm sorry you have no filter and no taste.  Now go watch Hans Rosling and see if you can tell the difference between empty air and making a point."
All of which is to say, nothing much is happening here. I rewrote my talk yesterday, then Nurit commented and I'll probably tweak it again both for clarity and length--but not until Saturday.  I have other stuff to do and want to let it sit.  
What we both agree on is that our work dovetails so very nicely that we really need to write a paper or two together.  Between one thing and another, I have a lot of writing to do.  Which brings me to...
Book stuff is continuing.  As people are reading my submission, I'm continuing to get interest.  So...there won't be anything sure until I've done the complete rewrite, at which point things get really serious, but in the meantime, people are interested.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Things are moving along...

Yesterday I wrote from the time I woke up until I went to bed (with a couple of breaks for conversations with family).  Did not leave the house.  However, I got enough of a paper written to send to the panel responder.  Today I go over it again with a bit more care.  And maybe even get a conclusion in...
And I am going to leave the house--taking myself out to dinner!  So there!
Heard good things from another publisher.  So, assuming I can write clearly and push through, it seems likely that I'll have a book from somewhere or other. And really, I wouldn't be unhappy with any of houses I've sent it to...
That's really about it.  Turns out that when you sit in front of a computer writing, there isn't much else to say...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Okay, I want this job..

Here's what came by my inbox today:

Job Posting
Institution: University of Chicago
Department: Divinity School
Title: Open Rank Professor of Social Scientific Study of Religion
Position/Rank: Academic Positions: All
Areas/Special Programs: Religion

Not that they would hire me anyway--that minor detail about lack of publications would seriously get in the way.  But still.  It's soc of religion.  At University of Chicago.  It's the first time I've really been sorry I'm chained (in the best possible way, but still) to the Bay Area.  Ah well.  I have to keep believing that something will turn up...

Spent the day working on my talk for Sunday.  It's taking shape nicely, but it's not done and I sure wish it were.  Spent some time looking at differences between the Bay Area and the rest of the US.  A couple of points of interest.  Somewhat more than 40% of both Conservative and Reform Jews are on the West Coast (that's people NOT congregations).  That's remarkable.  And what's even more remarkable is that the paper in which those figures are discussed didn't mention that.  Here are the figures:
West and Mountain: R 43, C 40
South: R 9, C 10
Midwest: R 21, C 12
New England: R 8, C 9
NE & Atlantic Seaboard: R 8, C 14
NY Area: R 11, C 15
The text describing these figures reads as follows:
"Conservative congregants are relatively concentrated in New York and the Northeast, with
twice as many of them in those parts of the country than Reform Jews. Conversely, the Midwest
houses almost twice as high a proportion of Reform Jews as of Conservative Jews.
"These geographic differences reflect, in part, historical developments dating back a century
or more. The Conservative movement grew substantially in the mid-twentieth century as the
children of immigrants, largely located in the Northeast, built Conservative congregations. The
Reform movement in the US traces its origins to small town Jewry in several Midwestern states.
Notably, the Conservative movement’s JTS is located in New York and the Reform movement’s
HUC-JIR “mother campus” is found in Cincinnati."

What this says to me is that the center of liberal Judaism is now in West.  Has anyone noticed?  Kind of looks like not.  Or have I missed something?  Here's something else.  In the country as a whole, Orthodox synagogues are 42% of the total and 21% of Jews who affiliate are Orthodox (and that's the overwhelming number of Orthodox--over 95%).  Reform has 26% of the synagogues and 38% of the Jews who affiliate. In the Bay Area, those numbers are very, very different.  I haven't done the membership count, but should before Sunday, but in terms of denominational breakdown: Reform is 37% of the congregations; Orthodox is about 14%.  And they are small shuls (here and elsewhere).  No Orthodox shul in the Bay Area has more than 250 member units (although those families can be pretty big. On the other hand, some of these shuls are really tiny).  Reform, on the other hand, runs the gamut from 75 families to 2500 families (and 5-6 are upwards of 750).  So no, the Bay Area is not at all typical.  Really, really not.  And I haven't even mentioned differences in intermarriage rates.
Yeah, so that's how I spent my day.
In other news--went off and did my run this morning--I thought it was 3.7 miles; turns out it's 3.0 (4.9 km).  Wiped me out from heat and humidity.  I can go the entire way at a jog though.  Which is pretty amazing to me--don't know the last time I could do that (college?).
And...one of my carefully mailed packages has go astray.  Sigh. Edit: no looks like it arrived. That's a relief.  I had no desire to sit on hold with Israeli customer service.  Which I'm pretty sure is an oxymoron.
That's it for now...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

On airbnb and other ideas.

Thomas Friedman did a column on airbnb today that was fun to see because I'm doing nothing but airbnb, but also troubling because he conflated three things and then the comments did more. 
So first of all, here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/friedman-welcome-to-the-sharing-economy.html?ref=opinion.  The three issues are:
1. A simple description of how this "sharing economy" works. What I think he misses is the importance of the technological tools that make it happen and the trust/"crowd-sourcing" piece.
2. Instead, he argues this replaces the old, broken economy.  Well, it doesn't.  It sits along that economy.  And, inasmuch as it actually replaces it, we have problems.  But that seems unlikely.  What this "sharing economy" does is makes areas that were previously inefficient more efficient and it does it through increasing connection and intimacy. But it's the difference between Costco and the shuk.  Sometimes I want one, sometimes the other--they serve different functions.
3. The "sharing economy" is virtually unregulated at the moment.  Which is a problem both for oversight and for supporting the common good (aka taxes). There are exemptions for cottage industries in some cases--some of this falls into that category, I'm sure.  But one way or another, there are questions of how this impacts society that need to answered.
Anyway, I don't really think Friedman understood that there were three questions.  He conflated the first two and ignored the third. And the comments were remarkably scathing--largely, I think, because few people untangled the mess.
However, I mentioned the column to my host and he directed me to this TED-talk, which is much better (although it, too, ignores the tax question) in analyzing the nature of this new phenomenon:  http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_currency_of_the_new_economy_is_trust.html.

In response to finding a column that I didn't want to read (I was looking for a cite that I couldn't find and ultimately decided I didn't need), I found yet another diatribe about how Reform leads to intermarriage, which is ultimately the END OF THE JEWS!!!!!! (enough exclamation point, do you think?)  Which led me to decide on my next project: understanding the effect of synagogues on congregants' practice.  Here's what I mean--and I don't think anyone's done this, but I need to confirm, of course.
There's a bunch of confusion between correlation and causation around intermarriage, lack of Jewish affiliation/practice, and the imminent death of Judaism, except (of course) for the Orthodox. The claim, largely by anti-Reform (aka Orthodox) is that Reform CAUSES intermarriage. I would argue that Reform DEALS with intermarriage by providing a safe space in which intermarried families can be Jewish.  The real question is: how do synagogues make a difference in the lives of families and individuals?
In order to answer that, you need to see where people begin and where they are after a period of time.  And you need to do it in different kinds of synagogues and, ideally, in a couple of different areas of the country.  You find out knowledge/practice levels when people join, track over time, and see where they are at the end of ten years... I want that to be my next project. How to make that happen--that's another question...

And really what I did all day was sit around and read interview transcripts in order to write the talk I'm giving on Sunday.  Tomorrow I actually write the thing...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shabbat Under the Stars at Hanaton

Coming up on the end of a lovely Shabbat with my friends in Hanaton. Hanaton is basically heaven.  It’s a pluralistic, egalitarian Conservative kibbutz set a bit southwest of Haifa. Avi picked me up sometime before Shabbat—Nurit was at a birthday party with kids.  The kibbutz is set in the country—smell of cows included, but not bad.  Lots of new and very nice houses. Nurit and Avi’s is on a hill—as is the whole place, and has three levels. All made of stone and tile.  Kids are below, Nurit and Avi are above, and the main living space is between—along with Nurit’s office, which is also the guest room. 
Nurit and her family went to the US for a couple of years, which is where I met her, at Berkeley. Her family speaks English and is Conservative in practice; her husband is a Conservative rabbi.  Which is a rare thing in Israel.  The community, though, is exceptional. 
I have long envied the strong community and values of the Orthodox—as when I go to Detroit and see my cousins’ families.  The way family, community, and Judaism as a way of life are valued is simply lovely.  But there’s a price to pay for that: the conformity to a Judaism to which I don’t subscribe.  I am egalitarian in practice.  Period.  I can appreciate a non-egalitarian Judaism—but a lot less after this weekend.  Because these people have managed to have their cake and eat it too.
First of all, this is an intentional community.  People choose to live here and choose to be part of the kibbutz.  How are you part of the kibbutz?  You buy property on it, which is held in common is some way or other.  It’s not a place for anyone who isn’t willing to negotiate community values sort of constantly.  And, like many communities, some people care more and do more than others.  I got enough of the politics to understand that this is hardly perfect—after all, it is an organization run by people.
But every place has problems.  My sense is that those problems are over-ridden by some powerful commitments and values—which I can best describe through telling about Shabbat services.  Which were your basic liberal services.  They were Conservative, not Reform, in content, but I don’t care about that—traditional or not, mostly I look for active engagement in egalitarian practice.  So Friday night, Avi and I started off for the service  (Nurit came later).  On the way, Avi and I ran into a couple with about five kids, one in a stroller. Not clear how many of the kids were theirs, but the kids had an air of being well-loved and completely comfortable in the environment.  After a conversation I couldn’t follow, but which apparently was about kibbutz politics, we continued up the hill to the lawn where mats were still being laid on the lawn for an outdoors “Israeli” service.  This was a place for young families.  There were a few gray (or dyed) heads like mine, but not many. There were kids from two months to fifteen years (the fifteen year old had that lovely sullen air they get…).  There were kids running around the service area, sitting for a few minutes and getting up again, and generally being part of things without being expected to sit through this adult activity.
A couple of highlights: the two year old in a fancy dress with gold shoes and no underpants. The two toddler boys who both removed their pants and had a pissing contest.  The three boys who ran in circles around and through the service, tussling like bear cubs. The six-month old who was crawling all over me, trying to get my siddur. I just picked him up (oh did it feel good to hold a baby!) and held him while we prayed. His mom was fine with it—all these kids went to one adult or another without any qualms (most wouldn’t have come to me—this one was just young), but the culture was that kids played and adults let them do so, and the nearest adult intervened as necessary.  Nurit told me later that most families have about four kids. I don’t think that’s easy—parents work outside the kibbutz and there is childcare, although in many cases, one parent stays home—but there’s clearly a strong commitment to family and children and mutual support for both.
It’s also a mixed community in other ways: LGBT families are welcome. So are intermarried families. So are interracial families. And there is respect for different levels of religious observance, with there being negotiation within families and in the community space.  In other words, Jewish observance is taken seriously and individually.
So…the service was in two parts.  The first welcomed Shabbat with seven songs and was led by two young adults, one with a guitar. As that concluded, there was a brief drash given by the resident sociologist of religion (later had dinner with him and his family) on the difference between the practice of religion as a symphony, with a score and carefully scripted parts, and as jazz, where the practice is suggested, but then there are riffs.  There’s a tension between the two with regard to memory, because it is easier to preserve the memory of the carefully choreographed symphony, while that is more difficult to do with jazz. I think that’s more complicated—both have problems—but it would be interesting and productive to play with the narrative a bit more. The service continued with a fairly straightforward Friday evening service.  No rush for any of it.  But it was long—the service began at 6:45 and ended around 8:15.  My sense is that the songs, which were an experiment, went longer than intended, but no one complained—pretty much a sense of being in the moment.  And if a kid needed to eat, there was food.
We continued with Shabbat dinner back at Nurit and Avi’s.  A meal that began with lots of little Israeli salads, was followed with two kinds of soup (lentil and corn), and continued with fish and lasagna and I can’t even remember what else—but it was good. The kids of various ages jumped about, more or less participating.  The two five-year-old boys had spilikes until they were released from the table, upon which they vanished from sight and sound.  The teenagers of the visiting family participated in the conversation appropriately. Adam described his experiences working with the kibbutz cows, Rachel talked about her experiences as a tri-athlete as an example of how competition works.  And somewhere in there, we had an education and sociology academic discussion. We didn’t finish dinner until 10:30—and were all relaxed and exhausted.
This morning, I headed back to services with Avi, who was leading (this isn’t his congregation—he goes there every other week).  The pattern of arrival was typical: at 9 AM, but for the presence of 20 or 30 USY teens, there would not have been a minyan.  As it was, Avi led the service using Sim Shalom, with which I’m quite familiar (although on Friday we used the Conservative Israeli Siddur and I’m a fan). It felt completely familiar, but for the Hebrew.  There was a break for study before the Torah service—and I followed almost none of it (I started to go with the teens, but really—that just didn’t work). By the beginning of the Torah service, the place was full and there was a buzz of children’s voices from outside.
During the discussion, I got into a conversation with the man next to me, who turned out to be Yitzhak Santis, an advocate for Zionism in the Bay Area (here’s a link to an article on him from when he moved to Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/spotlight/change-of-scenery-from-san-francisco-to-northern-israel/).  But the really funny thing is that his wife and I knew each other.  We looked at each other and looked at each other and finally realized that we had both taught at Beth Torah the same year. 
So then they came over for lunch, which was plentiful and pleasant.  And the rest of the day continued with relaxation until the sun went down and Nurit drove me home…