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I’m back home.. at last!

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At the Israel Museum. January 2020 – planning my return

Hebrew translation below – תרגום לעברית למטה

…in the seventh year he shall go free…

Shemot/Exodus 21:2

This is the end of my seventh year in the US.

It didn’t happen as I thought it would. The momentum for the dramatic reveal was lost – but who cares? As John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you’re busy doing other things” (more or less).
My plan was to wrap up teaching this year at Magen David Yeshivah, do a few more tours at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and move back to Israel for good – in mid-July – and then tell you the news.
And yes – I will be back to the US for tours and teaching. That was the plan, so stay tuned! Meanwhile – virtual tours are picking up really fast!

Covid-19 changed the world. My school closed, the Met closed, and I had no incentive to be stuck in my brooklyn basement apartment for months on end. So I got on an El-Al flight and came home. At least I’m in Jerusalem, although in quarantine.

I made the move earlier than planned, and there’s so much work to do! Just got my old Israeli number reconnected (Orange doesn’t even exist anymore in Israel!), planning a new website, Israeli business formation, and looking for employment in Israel. There’s lots of red-tape and logistics, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m home.

I suppose I’ll write more about this later, but for now suffice it to say that I’ve been yearning for this moment for so long. And now I’m in one of the safest places to be in the world, as far as the virus is concerned. I’m close to family. I’m in my favorite city in the whole world – Yerushalayim Sheli – My Jerusalem.

וּבַ֨שְּׁבִעִ֔ת יֵצֵ֥א לַֽחָפְשִׁ֖י…

שמות יא, ב

זה לא קרה כמו שתכננתי. ת׳כלס, מי תכנן את מה שקורה לנו עכשיו? אז אילתרתי

התכנית שלי היתה לסיים את שנה״ל בישיבה תיכונית ׳מגן דוד׳, ולהעביר עוד כמה סיורים במוזיאון המטרופוליטן, ואז להתקפל ולחזור ארצה באמצע יולי, ואז לפרסם את העניין. אבל זה כ״כ לא משנה עכשיו

 וכן – בכוונתי לחזור וללמד ולהדריך במוזיאונים בארה״ב בהמשך, אני רק מעביר את מרכז החיים שלי לארץ

הקורונה שינתה לכולנו את התכניות: בית הספר נסגר, המוזיאונים נסגרו, ובאמת שלא היה לי רצון להיתקע בדירה שלי בברוקלין לחודשים הבאים, אז עליתי על טיסה וחזרתי ארצה מוקדם משחשבתי. בידוד שמידוד, העיקר אני בבית

חזרתי מוקדם משחשבתי, ויש כ״כ הרבה לעשות! חיברתי אתמול את המספר הישראלי הישן שלי (ואורנג׳ בכלל כבר לא בארץ!), מתכנן אתר חדש, פותח עסק בארץ, מחפש תעסוקה לשנה הבאה. כל כך הרבה לוגיסטיקה! אבל שוב, זה לא משנה – אני בבית

אני מאמין שאכתוב על זה עוד בעתיד, ויש מה לפרסם וליחצן. לאט לאט. לעת עתה אומר רק שאני ייחלתי לרגע הזה הרבה זמן, ואני מאושר עד הגג. אני קרוב למשפחה, למרות שיש זמן עד שאראה אותם. אני נמצא במקום האהוב עלי ובעיר האהובה עליי בעולם – ירושלים שלי

CorinaVirus and the Exodus

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Sunday, May 22, escaping from NY en route to Israel

Call me crazy, but with all of the uncertainties around the Corona Virus, the thought of being stuck in isolation in Brooklyn was too much for me to bear.

School has moved online.

Museums are closed.

No tours until at least mid-may, the Met is probably going to be closed until July and is also moving to online education (more information about that to come).

Shops are closing.

No minyanim.

Lock down.

So I’m on my way to quarantine in holy Jerusalem. At least I’ll have the Peace of mind knowing that when 14 days are over, I’ll be celebrating Pesach in Jerusalem, a 5 min walk away from the site of the Temple – and who knows? Maybe I’m going to just be in the right place at the right time.

[until here is the original post from Sunday 5.22.20]

I’m now in Quarantine, just to be safe. I pray to G-d I am alright, because the jetlag and temperature change has affected me, and I’m still working in US time two days a week. So it’s a transition. But I am excited to spend Pesach with my parents in the Old City of Jerusalem – health permitting – for the first time in almost 7 years.

That aside, there are tremendous things going on in the world. From the pandemic and the personal lessons we need to take from it on many levels, to the political arena in Israel and in the US, earthquakes, and other global issues. We are living in special times, and I am not one of those prophets who claim to know where this is going, but one thing I am sure: Something big is happening. Something significant. And we, the human race, on planet earth (which we are currently restricted to), would do best to examine who we are, where we are going, and meditate on that for a bit. We now have the time to do it.

Let us hope and pray that we emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever, with clarity of vision, and be inspired to do better for the betterment of life on earth, on every level possible.

This is a personal Exodus for me. And we have the potential of it being a global Exodus, where we leave the bondage of whatever was holding us back or leading us astray, and to emerge liberated, into a bright new future!

May it be a Happy Holiday, real soon!

ADHD, Entrepreneurship and Sharing Your Voice

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YHShare June 18, 2019 Conference in Paramus, NJ

I’m sitting in JFK and waiting to board a flight to Moscow. This is the first time I have ever been invited internationally to present to a Jewish community and a Jewish Day school faculty. It is a big step forward for me, and it is also the result of a lot of hard work. I hope that my thoughts about this will provide encouragement for those of you out there who are looking to share their voice with the world.

First of all, what does this have to do with ADHD? If I have to explain to you how my associative logic works and how things interconnect – you may not have ADHD. But I’m going to get there. I am a proud owner of a hyper-associative-and-creative brain, and that is part of what makes my voice unique. I have build a career around my hyper-activity, teaching in motion in the museum. 

Do I sound distracted? Let’s talk about Moscow.

About two years ago I saw a post on Facebook or LinkedIn about Rabbi Perry Tirschwell’s “Torah Educators Network YHShare Conference”.  So I did what I always do – I got in touch with him. Perry invited me to speak in the upcoming conference on June 18 in Paramus NJ (that’s the cover picture), and one of the presenters, Dr. Danielle Bloom, introduced me to her sister Dara Goldschmidt. Dara founded the Lauder Etz Chaim day school in Moscow, and they were interested in my presentation for their teachers on the subject of Tanach and Foundation Stone’s De’Ara Tanach Map

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Dara joined my summer tour in the Israel Museum, which was offered specifically for educators and Israeli tour guides. That was a gutsy move on my end, and I was honestly scared. When preparing a lesson, my pedagogic teacher taught us to always imagine. A student asking “what does this have to do with me?”.. Well, here I was thinking that guides would ask “who the heck are you?” I mean, these guides know the Israel Museum pretty well and bring their clients there quite often. But after the tour, I received high praise and excited feedback, and these guides asked me “when are you going this again?” Or “can I bring my bar-mitzvah groups to you?”

I’m an entrepreneur. I’m always trying new things even though I don’t necessarily have much. What I have is potential, ideas, commitment, and love for what I do. I have to cold call, hustle, not take no for an answer, and sometimes accept a no. I’ve been rejected again and again, and it brings a huge smile to my face when a client who rejected me in the past, says to me “yeah, I heard about you. Let’s talk!”… perhaps this is a story for another post.

Being an entrepreneur os a journey a difficult journey. It requires determination and motivation to

Push forward, even when things are tough. For example: This is my fourth year in a part-time job, instead of being locked into the security of a full time job with a full salary. I’ve also started two MA programs which were a financial strain in this situation, not to mention the mental and emotional effort required to manage that along with everything else I’m doing. ADHD. But this is in order to assure that I can achieve my dreams in the long term. 

It’s a hard life, and it’s an immensely gratifying life. 

I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labour, and there are so many things that I wish I could share with you about what’s coming, but it’s too early. Stay tuned, and you will be hearing some very exciting news, hopefully very soon.

In my ADHD mind, this is all connected. I have consistently worked toward integrating my many interests into an educational museum experience. I am a naturally born educator, and grew up in the streets and rooftops of Jerusalem’s Old City. I have been raised by parents who care deeply about Jewish education and who are constantly traveling, and taught us the value of inviting people from all over into our home, touching their soul in a special way. I am also an artist, and have always been creative and artistic. And finally, the love of Israel, of Torah, of the people of Israel and our rich history, runs in my veins. 

It is all coming together now. I am constantly engaging with different people and finding new ways to engage, learn, share, teach, and hope to touch the soul of the people I meet.

I’ve recently started a podcast as part of Tanach Study called Parasha Study Plus, where I present an idea about Archaeology on the Parasha every sunday (available on Spotify, Google Music, iTunes and of course by email and whatsapp groups). Believe me, when I saw the list of presenters on this list, I was intimidated. “Who am I?”, again, to even be presented in this prestigious list of renowned scholars and rabbis? And yet the feedback from this podcast has literally moved me to tears. People are beginning to hear my story, my voice, and to appreciate its uniqueness.

The Lineup for Parasha Study Plus

It is at this point that I am reminded of the Marianne Williamson’s poignand poem:

…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 – ‘A Return To Love’ (1992) by Marianne Williamson

I’m inviting people into my world: The Rova Boy who grew up in the streets of Jerusalem, where the whole world would come and visit and be awed, is sharing a story.

I’m sharing a story: My story, your story, our story. And people want to hear that story.

Don’t give up. You have a special voice, it is your story. Share it with the world, and the world will eventually wake up and listen.

Nazdarovya! 

A Realistic Yom Kippur Post

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This is a realistic post, not a shiny glamorous “Wishing you all a meaningful Yom Kippur” post, thought I do. Really.

Yom Kippur becomes more and more meaningful as we mature. To me, it is a day I have come to yearn for, to crave, I am itching for it. I am itching to take a break, a step back, from this race. From the constant movement towards, with all of my plans and goals and the silly life that I pretend I have control over. And for one day – just to be.

I think this year’s Rosh Hashanah caught me unprepared, as I was so caught up in many things that took a toll on me emotionally, personally and professionally. It’s a lot to shoulder, on your own. And existentially, in a sense, we are on our own. The internal struggle cannot be done by someone else. It is Rilke’s solitude that makes us strong.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

But Rosh Hashana and in essence Teshuva is not about the future per se, but about the totality of who we are. It is just as much about the past as it is about the future. Not about repenting, but about rearranging the past and how I relate to it, and how it relates to who I see myself being and becoming.

As hard as Rosh Hashana was for me this year, even while in peaceful and suburban Silver Spring Maryland, I emerged from it with a profound sense of “everything is waiting for you”, in the words of David Whyte. I’m sort of in limbo now, but a lot of good things are about to happen, I can feel it like electricity in my veins.

I am meeting the right people, and the right people in your life will value who you are. And those who break your heart – also open your eyes. It is both painful and comforting.

But Yom Kippur. Now that is about Being. It is about who I am ultimately, if I could only speak to my present, dimensionally-challenged self, reassuringly. To comfort me that all of the pain and the struggle was worth it, and to keep moving forward, to never give up.

Yom Kippur is about love. It is about God saying “let me love you”, even though we are so far from ready, so concerned with the wrong things, and we forget about it. It’s the day in which God says “let me help you see. Let me rinse you off all of the grit and grime, so you can shine again”.

With trepidation, I come to this Yom Kippur with deep hope. With deep desire to be who I am truly meant to be, and who I ultimately will become, and for a day, to live as if I am there. 

I want to remember who I am, why I am doing what I do, and to never lose sight of where I am going.

Open your eyes.

I wish you all a meaningful Yom Kippur. 

Thoughts as the year draws to an end

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Contemplating this colorful experience (Israel Museum)

So many thoughts on my mind, as I contemplate being in America for the seventh year. To spend the High Holidays and my favorite holiday – Sukkot – far away from where my soul is craving to be and where I truly belong… searching deep within myself for the spiritual and mental strength to endure and carry on for yet another year, when my mind is only alive when I am connected to Eretz Yisrael..

This year’s visit to Israel, home, was different from all the previous ones. My thoughts are still raw, and there is so much I want to say but can’t yet.
On the other hand, I feel the potential and blessing this year. The past 2-3 years have brought about explosive growth in my personal and professional life.

Things are coming together in new, unimaginable ways.
Sorting through 6 years of materials I’ve accumulated, I saw my old notes and thoughts, when I still did not know how it would all come together but had a sense that I was born for more than I was doing. And now I am on the path I was born for, with ever increasing clarity of what I have to do, when, how, and where.

Praying and hoping that this will be a year of tremendous growth, and that its potential and actualization will amaze my most wildest imagination. Because it is the fear of success that holds us back. It is the fear of the unknown, and the stagnation of the old and the familiar failure and pain, which somehow entice us more than the possibility of life.

On that note I will say – “may the previous year and its curses cease, and may the new year and its blessings begin”

תכל שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה
שבת שלום ושנה טובה!

Shabbat Shalom!

Erev Shabbat parashat Ki-Tavo 5779 / Sept. 20, 2019

I’m coming home

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High Impact Tour Combo Team: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at the Met

Original post from Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Going on a plane today. After six years in New York – I’m coming home. Six years!!!
(This is a visit, still living in NY…but counting every day I’m away)
When I think about the journey that brought me here: from a Capoeira instructor in 2006, to an undergraduate and part-time teacher in Jerusalem, to a part time teacher, with a second MA on the way, and a business that engages thousands of people with culture, heritage and values through museums – I am amazed. 
It’s hard to believe how many changes I have undergone, and how much I have grown on so many profound levels. My perception of education, values, and especially in the self-confidence and belief in myself – which in turn allowed me to empower others.

Being in Israel, for me, is to be. Just to be. Not to do.
It’s not a break from work, a vacation, catching up with family and friends. Being in Israel for me is to recharge – spiritually, emotionally, internally.
In my previous visits, it was also a break from hard work, without a clear vision of when I’m coming back home, how will things play out in the future, etc.
I still do not have answers, but I have a strong direction, a vision, a dream.
This time, I am coming with a deep understanding of my unique abilities to create, to foster care for Jewish identity, to make a difference, to innovate.
There is a confidence and satisfaction – even happiness – that comes from small successes along the way. And the way is not looking brighter than ever!

And in just a few more hours.. I’ll be home!

School has Ruined Passover

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Pharaoh looking somewhat amused by the splitting of the Red Sea (drawing from my Barkai Parasha Series, 2014)

“How is this night different from all the other nights?”

Jewish children have learned to recount the “Ma Nishtana?” song by heart, and everybody knows exactly what to expect during the long and bizarre Passover Seder night. In case you were asleep through the three-four weeks of classes preceding Passover, there is even a model Seder.

We have effectively demystified the entire ordeal, making it impossible to be surprised.

My friend Tzvi says: Imagine a non-jew walk into a synagogue, a couple days before Passover, and hears the announcement “the burning will begin tomorrow at 11:14 AM”.

The Seder night is intended to be so strange and bizarre that children will ask “what is Dad doing?” “what is going on?” “Dad never eats vegetables…and now he’s dipping them in salt water?”

These weird activities are geared toward one purpose: To get the kids to ask “Ma Nishtana” or, in essence “what the heck is going on tonight?” This ploy is an opening to allow the parents to recount the story of the Exodus to their children. It seems that our well planned (and funded) Jewish school education is making this surprise impossible.

And yet with the absence of children to ask that question, one must ask their spouse, or ask themselves (b.Pesachim 116a). As strange as this must sound (not as strange as half the things we do this night), Maimonides attributes this to the need to differentiate and distinguish, the core Mitzvah or commandment of this evening (H. Hametz u’Matza 7:1). The need to ask “what’s going on tonight?” stems from the need to identify change, in the same way the Sabbath requires a distinction of its sanctity through Kiddush (sanctification) and Havdalah (separation), recounted over wine in the beginning and ending of the Sabbath.

On this Passover evening, I would like to share with you what has changed for me.

Over the past few years, I have felt accelerated growth, in so many areas: Personal, emotional, professional, and in terms of my relationships in my life. This year, I feel so grateful for being in the unique place I am, with the confluence of professional success, academic endeavours, and positive relationships in my life (and having been saved from some very tragic futures).

This Passover, I can look in the mirror, ask myself “what has changed” and truly respond “everything”.

I wish you all a meaningful night of change, of growth, and of liberation.

הלילה הזה – בני חורין!

Happy Passover 5779!

The Book that Turned my Career Around

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IMG_3465

I love Capoeira – a Brazilian Martial art that combines self-defense with music, acrobatics and dance.

I started training in martial arts at 13, at age 17 I joined Capoeira, and by September 2006 I was teaching it. I taught for seven years, have hosted radio shows, national championships organized international trips and have taught thousands of students.

And I hated my job.

I loved my students, I loved doing capoeira, but I hated working in capoeira. Why?

Skipping over my ups and downs of my 8 years (and counting) in formal education – which I still do and still love but thankfully am not invested in full-time. Perhaps in another post for time.

Today I have the job of my dreams. I never knew I would be entertaining hundreds of people in the museum, connecting jewish history and archaeology, pop culture and talmud. And yet, everything I did until now has prepared me for it.

I would like to share with you the treasure that helped me start turning things around: From being a creative, enthusiastic, engaging – and frustrated school teacher, to someone who is passionate about what he does.

I follow a podcast called Art of Manliness by Brett McKay. I listened to an episode called The Myth of Following Your Passion, which is an interview with Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The title, by the way, is a piece of advice by Steve Martin.

What happened after that?

I was still teaching full-time, but I was in a different head space. I became a Jedi. I was going to knock the ball out of the park. I wasn’t just doing my job (with care, love and commitment, as a teacher should), but I was stretching myself, building my skill and becoming more versatile. I became noticed in the whole school, not just locking myself up in the teachers’ lounge with piles of work to get through, the daily grind, trying to get through the material and prepare the students for this and that.

While hitherto I was working in the middle school, I volunteered to give special workshops to 1-6th graders. I engaged with other department, and became an asset to the school.

I told myself every day: ‘Be so good, that they can’t ignore you’.

And so it happened that I lost my job, and found my dream.

Below: Living my dream job!

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Hezekiah’s Wall – an Insider’s View (part 1 of 2)

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Come join a private insider’s view of the 2,700 year old wall, underneath my house in the Old City of Jerusalem. I’ll show you how we climbed the wall as children, tell you about the scary neighbor, and read the verses about this well – while sitting on it.

This is part 1. Part 2 will be an interview with the scary neighbor who lives on the wall.

To get more content like this, subscribe to my YouTube Channel, my website/blog and to LinkedIn (I’m also on FB and IG).

 

Seal the Deal

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Middle School students learning about ancient alphabets

This article is intended to share the sort of work I did with my 5-7th grade students in New Jersey. It combines art, archaeology, grammar, Bible Studies and Jewish History.

Where to begin?

I think it’s best to begin with the City of David, since their motto is “Where it all began”. The Old City of Jerusalem is also my hometown, so I am always excited to share experiences about the special place I was privileged to grow up in.

During several archaeological digs on the site, several dozen bullae have been unearthed in what must have been an administrative structure. Bullae are clay impressions of seals, which would typically enclose a document. The significance of these seals is tremendous: They are all from the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem, and several of them have names which correspond to biblical figures who were instrumental to the saga of the pending destruction of Jerusalem. One of these can be seen in this video (subtitles included):

The video is set to start at the point relevant to this article, and you are free to watch the whole thing if you like. For the Hebrew speakers, here is a video by Tamar Shiloh about the dramatic story of their discovery.

More and more bullae are being discovered, and they are shedding light on important details relevant to understanding the Biblical stories. A famous example of these is King Ezekiah’s seal, which has been found just recently. It is discussed in my article about Hezekiah, Taharqa and Sennacherib. This past year (2016), a seal with the name of a woman was found, and more and more are being discovered.

My students have been learning about a range of topics, from the Biblical studies and Hebrew grammar to the development of the alphabet in Mesopotamia. As we learned about Ancient Hebrew (from Proto Canaanite to Paleo Hebrew and even Phoenician alphabets), we summarized what we learned in an art project: Make your personal seal.

Students saw several examples of ancient seals and ornaments with inscriptions on them, and then made their own. They had to be written in Ancient Hebrew, and in reverse, so that each student may make their own bulla.

Below is an example of seals that were made by the students. The material is Fimo – a colorful clay, easy to bake at home. The first one is my own, reading “[belonging] to Nachliel Selavan” with a faint impression of a sheep (Se-lavan in Hebrew means “white sheep”). Since I have a fascination with Egyptian Scarab Seals, I fashioned mine as a scarab (second image below).

These seals and ornaments are of several students, and their corresponding bullae. The bullae are from fresh clay, which has not been baked yet.

And finally – what a beautiful idea: My 5th grade student wrote her mother a letter, and sealed it with her own personal seal. Isn’t that sweet!

 

To summarize.

This is a middle school art project (which can be executed on other levels as well), which summarizes grammar (this bears explanation, which I hope to share in another article), History (Ancient Hebrew) and Bible Studies. When you put it all together like this, the students will surely come out with a long lasting impression!

Bonus: Watch the making of impression seals!