First came the headache. Then came the tiredness. The exhaustion emanated from within, an internal betrayal to everything scheduled and intended. Finally, the fever and body aches arrived. I gave in, stayed home from school, rescheduled my work commitments, and subsisted for three days on a diet of sleep, hot tea, and episodes of True Blood.
Living abroad, it is not uncommon to miss one’s family, but it is an abstract sort of longing, an attraction to the idea of parental comfort rather than to parental comfort itself. When you have the flu, homesickness is not abstract. It is real, it has a voice, and the voice says I Want My Mommy.
Four days of convalescence later, I returned to life, mostly vertical and mostly prepared to face the fog of the First Day Back. You know how it is when you’re out of school for a few days. In your absence, everyone continues their to and fro, and you return a foreigner in a crowded train station – wrong schedule, no ticket, lost luggage. All aboard! Happily, the train was joy bound, first stop Thanksgiving en route to Aviva’s wedding.
Credit where credit is due: Hillary Blank organized a Thanksgiving dinner for the JTS and Ziegler Rabbinical School students. A list of potential potluck goodies circulated among us for weeks. Yet, doubt lingered like a half-mast Mayflower sail over the ballast of our best intentions. How good could Thanksgiving in Jerusalem be? Can rabbinical students be counted on to cook not merely edible but objectively appetizing turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, squash, and pie? We gathered at the storied (trust me, it’s a long story) apartment of Jeremy Weisblatt and Josh Dorsch to find out.
Hillary’s turkey was juicy perfection, Daniel Chorny’s mashed potatoes – even without butter – tasted like home. Shira Wallach’s pumpkin casserole (made with baby food!) was the first to go as we made our way through pot after pan of the best the Future Rabbis of America have to offer. Phillisa Cramer’s chocolate cake was made from scratch with real cocoa powder; Megan Goldman’s Cranberry Crunch arrived late, but didn’t last long. As my postprandial somnolence set in, it was easy to look around the room at my friends and be as full of gratitude as I was of food.
Notably absent from our soiree was Aviva, who gets a pass, but only because she got married the following day. On a crackling blue Jerusalem morning, we all headed to Kibbutz Ramat Rachel for the wedding. Aviva Kremer is a Fourth Year student who met Ari Fellman last year and, love being love, fell in it.
It’s a pretty romantic story all told, and it was incredibly kind of her and Ari to invite the JTS posse. We repaid her kindness by dancing like unhinged rock stars for two and a half hours straight. (Shout out to the incendiary Shira Wallach, Ariel Russo, and Alex Freedman.) It was, in a word, epic. The Fellmans get mad props for the gorgeous ceremony, excellent food, stunning locale, and a DJ who managed to play just the right mix of music – American and Israeli, top forty and classics. It occurred to me as the sweat dripped down my back during an especially raucous “Cotton Eyed Joe” that this was the first time I’d danced, I mean really danced, since arriving in Israel, and it felt G-O-O-D. The sheer number of Israeli dances also reminded me that Israeli culture has been expressed through dance since the inception of the State; the sight of so many people, not a professional dancer among them, moving as a whole seemed to revive a fleeting Zionist ideal, a hope fluent in joy.
Then came the headache, and soon after the tiredness. By Sunday I was once again a feverish mess, and on Monday I found myself at the clinic being diagnosed with strep throat. I spent the next few days in a daze of soup and popsicles, sleep and antibiotics. Things got worse before they got better. On Tuesday I actually cried on a mitzvah-doing neighbor who came over for some bikur cholim and whose sweater sopped up a fair share of I Want My Mommy tears. Thank God for Amoxicillin. By Thursday night I was vertical enough to light Chanukah candles and call a sherut to take me to Ben Gurion – I had a flight to catch.
Next stop… Turkey!