Sukkot Musings

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Sukkot is a very inspiring holiday. By reminding us of the fragility of what we take for granted, it humbles us and makes us aware of our blessings. While the weather has notably cooled down and is wet, I am grateful I have a warm and comfortable house.

At the same time I find it frustrating not to have a sukkah in the garden and wish I were more adventurous and would make up my mind to either buy one or build it myself. It is also frustrating to have to work and find a way of doing so while celebrating the holiday.

On the bright side, we are having a community dinner tomorrow and will eat in a large sukkah that a family donated a few years ago when they moved to Paris. I have made two honey cakes and hope that the weather will be decent.

A few days ago I received Hillel: If Not Now, When? by Rabbi Telushkin and have started to read it. I hope to find the time to write a review soon. I also plan to resume the parshah posts. I will however lack time this week since I have a busy week ahead – shopping on Tuesday after work and a meeting on Wednesday – and will only repost previous posts but I ambition to do better next week.

Post-Yom Kippur Musings

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I spent Yom Kippur in my local synagogue. Ours is a small community where it is very hard to have a minyian every week, which means that some years we have very few services. However the president always makes sure we have all the Yom Kippur services. One prayer leader is hired for the occasion and he is usually accompanied by another capable singer who can relay him.

This year we had more visitors than usual, which means that we had an average of 20 people all the time. One family invited relatives from Paris. Two people who live in the area booked a hotel room for the occasion so that they wouldn’t have to drive. One guy from Bolivia who is studying in Paris and who is doing an internship in a local firm attended all the services from beginning to end.

At the end we had the usual crowd of more than 60 people, thus making our small synagogue seem quite cramped. It was a mixed crowd of Sephardim and Ashkenazim, young and older folks, people from all waks of life and every degree of observance. Some people had moved or were now to old to attend but there were also new families.

All in all, it was a stimulating and invigorating experience that all the “usual” members described as unique. We hope that this will encourage more people to attend the Friday evening Shabbat services.

Training a Trainee

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To become a teacher in France you take a rather demanding exam where you are expected to show that you have the academic knowledge to teach (English in my case). You are then appointed to a school for a year where you are entrusted with classes. You have training sessions reglarly and a tutor who helps you learn the job. I have been such a tutor on three occasions before.

Two of the former trainees only attended my lessons for a few weeks. They were in charge of a class or two in a Junior High School and came to our school to see what a High School was like.

Five years ago I had a trainee for a whole year. He was a young man from Ireland and was in France because he had fallen in love with a French girl. He attended some of my lessons and I visited him in his classes too; first to advise him, then when he asked me too. This, however, was plain sailing since he was in his early thirties (which meant no discipline issue) and had taught before, in language schools in Ireland and in the South of France.

He obviously had no problems speaking English and knew how to interact with teenagers. I felt only helpful in that I could explain what teaching English in a French public school involved. His priorities and mine were not necessarily similar but confronting our ways and means was quite stimulating.

This time it is a little different. My trainee is only 25, she has never taught before and, because of budget cuts, her formal training will be quite scarce. For the past two weeks she has sat in my classroom, watching me teach. At the end of each lesson, I try and explain my objectives and what I think went well and not-so-well. So far she has been very pleasant but a little too quiet. I encourage her to ask questions and express her thoughts but she usually says very little.

I am not sure whether it is because she is reserved or because she hasn’t had a chance to start teaching yet – a colleague takes her classes for three weeks while she observes what goes on in my classes and has a few lessons on teaching sklls with our inspectors and some trainers.

It seems quite a responsibility to be a tutor, not to mention that having another grown-up in my class can be a little stressful. I need to find the right tone when I describe what I have done or intend to do (not too preachy or paternalistic), I will probably have to help her come up with solutions when problems arise and above all I will need to provide words of praise and encouragements, not what I am best at.

Poached Salmon

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Just because we can’t eat today doesn’t mean we can’t think about food. Before Rosh Hashanah, I posted a request on Facebook asking for ideas for healthy recipes. Ruti mentioned that for her family poached salmon has become a “must have” meal for this holiday.

Salmon being one of my favorite food, I got in touch with Ruti who kindly sent me her recipe. Here it is. I followed it to the letter with one exception: I used preserved lemons instead of fresh ones.

I slice onions very thinly, and cover the bottom of the deep frying pan. Perhaps two or three. Then I lay the salmon on the onion bed. On top of the fish fillet, I sprinkle salt, pepper, and perhaps a bit of crushed garlic. On top of this, I decoratively place thin slices of lemon. Then I fill the pan with water, to just above the onions, and lay in a few sprigs of dill.

Once the water boils, I reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for a few minutes. When the fish begins to lose its translucence, I turn off the heat, and let it sit in the broth for perhaps a half an hour. As is the nature (at least for me) of cooking fish, getting it to the right level of “doneness” is tricky. The fish can be served hot or cold. I general serve it warm or at room temperature at night; and if there are leftovers, it makes a very lovely cold repast for lunch.

Pre-Rosh Hashanah Review

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On My Blog

Photo Memes:
Mirror for SOOC and Summer Stock Sunday
Beach Scene for SOOC and Summer Stock Sunday
Summer Visitors – 2010 Edition for SOOC and Summer Stock Sunday
Red Cyclist for Ruby Tuesday
Houses and Toys for Ruby Tuesday

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 1)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 2)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part3)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 4)

Recipe: Sweet-and-Sour Vegetable Stew

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Mother in Israel discusses Gender Separation in Religious Schools, don’t forget to read the comments too

Bulgaria, The Sandman shares his holidays

Infinity Red, Jew Wishes features a lovely photo

Baila celebrates three years in Israel: Three Years and Counting

Rosh Hashanah 5771, Mrs.S. wants to make a deal

Leek Watercolor, a painting by Leora

What is Teshuva (repentance) and How Does It Work in Judaism?, a post by Rabbi Fink

Daniel Sperber writes about Interpersonal Mitzvoth and Mitzvoth Between Humans and God

Shana Tova U’Metuka and Shabbat Shalom!