New York Update
Greetings from the Big Apple!
I'm having a fabulous time in New York. It's so wonderful to see my friends and visit my old haunts. And yes, part of me thought during the first couple of days "man, I feel so comfortable here. Leaving was a huge sacrifice." And, it was. But upon further reflection I realized that it took me quite a few years to love New York. My four years of college didn't count because I was living in a cocoon, but the five years I lived in Manhattan as an adult didn't start out with my "loving" New York. In fact, I hated it. But after living there for a while and - more importantly- going to journalism school there, I knew my way around and had discovered all the things that make Manhattan unique and exciting and beautiful and one of my favorite places to be. By the time I left, I felt a sense of ownership over New York. It was my city.
So, maybe in four more years I'll feel the same way about Jerusalem. Maybe I'll know the bus routes practically by heart the way I know the New York subway system, and I'll know which neighborhoods I enjoy and where to find the little secret cafes and shops that tourists and newbies don't know about.
One of the more exciting things that I have done during my trip was attend an Understanding Yourself and Others class in Connecticut. I was going to go as an assistant, as I did a few times before moving to Israel (once you do the class as a student, you can return to assist any time you want). But in the last minute I decided that instead of going for free as an assistant, I would pay and be a student again. And, it was so worth it. The first time I was a student was phenomenal, but this time I went in with much clearer goals, which helped me meet them more quickly. I feel a lot more happy and confident than I did a few days ago. It was totally worth every penny!
Also, although UYO is not run under Jewish auspices, the Connecticut center has become very popular among Orthodox Jews (it's that word-of-mouth thing at work). This weekend, it happened that the only non-Jews were the instructors! There was one girl who had grown up Hasidic and left Orthodoxy completely, but other than her, all the students and assistants were either Modern Orthodox or becoming so. So, we did Shabbat meals all together -- no need to feel different for being the only one not going out for pizza during the lunch break -- and havdalah was a really special experience. The environment at UYOs is so loving, and having all these Jews together in such a safe, warm bonding experience was just really beautiful. It's amazing how a non-Jewish program helped me feel so proud to be a religious Jew.
I realize that I'm not offering a lot of details here about what the program was or what I got out of it. It would be it's own post- or three. I certainly encourage everyone to go to the site for the UYO program and check it out, and email me if you have any questions. The great thing about it is that you set your own goals. Examples of goals that people had set for this weekend (without getting into which ones were mine): to learn ways of disciplining my kids better; to feel good about my body; to forgive my parents; to achieve inner peace; to stop abusing food; to stop abusing alcohol; to express my feelings better to my wife; to become more committed to increasing my income; to figure out why I don't have successful romantic relationships; etc. So the class is different each time, because it's always tailored to help the students reach the goals they've set for themselves. And it works! It's not a miracle cure, but if you come in with a specific goal they certainly give you tools for meeting it.
Anyhow, now I'll be in New York for another another week. Tomorrow night (Tuesday) I'm having a get-together for all my personal friends -- location to be disclosed if you send me an email. This is not a blogger meeting. It's for my non-virtual friends. If you fit in that category I hope to see you there!