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Ilona Gerbakher

Drop by Drop, until the Cup is Full

My friend Jeremy Sher is a brilliant up-and-coming leader of the Reform rabbinical movement. He is working to create a vision of Judaism that is both inclusive and yet deeply spiritually fulfilling, a Judaism which rejects gender discrimination and insularity while embracing and upholding the primacy of the holy texts in Jewish life. Jeremy lives in Jaffa, the mostly Arab city that abuts Tel Aviv, genially going about the daily business of preparing for ordination, learning Hebrew, and completing a research fellowship while saying “shukran” (“thank you”) to his Arab neighbors and “toda” (“thank you”) to his Jewish neighbors. Jeremy is what it looks like when you have a smart, compassionate, religiously Jewish man who rejects parochial attitudes in favor of an open-minded and open-hearted commitment to tikkun olam, healing the world. You could probably say he’s my religious role model.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Jerusalem

Thanksgiving comes to Jerusalem, and I am beside myself with preparations for the feast. Onions sizzle, garlic roasts, chickens brine, and cranberries boil. The windows steam with contented warmth, and aromas crowd around the doorframes. A pan sizzles with crisping chicken skin, a soup bubbles slowly as vegetables melt into the broth. I am in heaven.

A Prayer in the Beginning

Last week I was in a Moroccan restaurant in Seattle and had a unique experience: The very nice Palestinian man who ran the restaurant started speaking to me in his Shammi (Eastern) Arabic, and I responded in my good Moroccan Darija over mint tea and cookies. He was shocked to hear a non-Arab speak Arabic in a proper dialect, and when I told him I was Russian he said “No, no it can’t be! Arab blood runs in your veins!”