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September 27, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 27, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 I The Lifecyclist: After settling late father's affairs, By Debra Rubin , (JTA)--Susan Esther Barnes had had a rough two years. Her father's death in April 2011 came as a shock; she hadn't even known he had been hos- pitalized. And his widow leaving town for a week complicated plans for his funeral and burial. As executor of his will, Barnes discovered that the money in bank accounts that were to go to her and her sister had been trans- ferred to someone else. All in .all, it was an extraordinarily difficult ordeal, says Barnes, who wrote about the experi- ence on her Religious and Reform biog. When she received a let- ter in May telling her that her duties as executor were completed, the Novato, Ca- lif.. resident was relieved. "It felt like such a point of transition," Barnes, a con- sultant for public agencies, she moves on to mikvah told JTA. "When I got that letter, I wanted to mark the occasion." Mikvah sprang to mind. The daughter of a Jew- ish father and non-Jewish mother, Barnes had con- verted to Judaism about two decades ago but had never dipped in the ritualwaters. "Twenty years ago, it wasn't really something that came up in Reform conversions," she says. Nor had she visited the mikvah when her rabbi sug- gested it prior to her Jewish wedding in 2008 (she and her husband were married civilly in 2003). "I don't want some stranger seeing me naked," Barnes; 49, remembers thinking. But her rabbi, Michael Lezak of Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, Calif., often encourages people who are facing a transition or traumatic time to visit the ,mikvah. It helps them "to realize they're not alone, that the Holy One walks them into the water," Lezak says. "The water has trans- formational power." Barnes emailed Lezak and told him of her plans. She also decided she wanted to say the blessing for a new convert, although Lezak told her that wasn't necessary, that "she is 100 lercent Jewish in my eyes." But Barnes says "it seemed silly not to fill in that hole as long as I was going." Lezak accompanied her to The Mikvah Society in San Francisco July" 19. Standing behind a slightly ajar'door, Lezak talked to her prior to each blessing that accompanied her three immersions into the water. He reminded her of their congregational visit to Israel, where they saw the mikvah at Masada, telling her she was connected to thousands of years of his- tory. He emphasized that she was doing the conver- sion blessing solely for her- self, since she was "already unquestionably Jewish." He also asked her "to look at the stairs leading out of the mikvah and to see them as stairs leading to the next chapter of my life." The mikvah attendant stood by, declaring"kasher". "after each dunk." For Barnes, the immer- sion marked an end to dealing with the knowl- edge that she had missed her father's final days and the ensuing difficul- ties involving his estate. "There's definitely a clear line between .then and now; I'm whole now," she says, adding that she plans to visit the mikvah to mark future life passages,. "I cried through the whole thing. I didn't feel sad. It just felt powerful," she says. "I felt connected to an ancient tradition." If you know of a lifecyclP event that would make a great story, please email PAGE 11A courtesy Susan Esther Barnes Susan Esther Barnes New Teddy Fountain in Jerusalem attracts thousands By Linda Gradstein The Media Line On a broiling Jerusalem afternoon, dozens of chil- dren are whooping and dart- ing in and out of spouting water geysers at the newly opened "Teddy Park" named after Jerusalem's long-time mayor Teddy Kollek. The park is just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, and the fountains are surround- ed by patches of grass. Most of those enjoying the water are ultra-Orthodox children whose parents would never have voted for Teddy Kollek when he was alive, but no- body seems to care. "This is the Jerusalem ocean," Yakov Ohayon, a father of seven wearing the ultra-Orthodox "uniform" of a white shirt and black pants told The Media Line. "We don't have a beach so we want to thank the mu- nicipality for making us a lovely attraction with water. The kids are already saying, "When are we going back to the fountains?" The summer vacation is long in Israel spanning almost the full months of July and August. For almost all lsraelis, camp finished weeks ago. Harried parents bring their kids to work, or use up their vacation days to stay home. In the ultra-Orthodox sec- tor, an estimated 15 pe,'cent of Israel's population, the summer can feel especially long. The ultra-Orthodox, called haredim (those who tremble) in Israel have es- pecially large families and often only one working par- ent. Many of the. men study Jewish texts full-time in Jewish religious institutes called yeshivot, earning only small stipends. Sending so many children to day camp is not feasible economically, and many children spend the summer at home. "It's true that summer is even harder for us because we don't make a lot of money," Ohayon says. "We learn to make do with little. It's so great that this park is free. We bring" our own food with us to save money and just have a great time." Some of the children here have come from out- side Jerusalem to enjoy the fountain. Every half hour it turns out with the geysers of water shooting up to dif- ferent heights. "It's this water park with sprinklers that shoot up ev- ery half hour," Avigail Amar, 8, told The Media Line. "Kids run in it and love it, I love it too." Her mother, Tami, says they've come from Hash, monaim, about a 45 minute drive to enjoy the fountains. A mother of six, Tami Arnar says it's not easy to keep young children entertained all summer. These haredi Jews are careful to preserve the Jew- ish laws of modesty. The women have their heads completely covered with wigs or scarves. Young girls wear long-sleeved shirts and skirts, and often even black tights in the Jerusalem heat. Girls and boys are educated separately, and would not be allowed into a swimming pool at the same time. Here at the fountain, these rules are bent, if not broken. While some of the adults are sitting on benches along the side, quite a few ire getting wet in the foUn- tain, often carrying their young children. "I didn't go in today be- cause I've got my cell phone, but I've gone in in the past," Yakov Oha-yon, the father of seven, says. "It's OK because everyone's wearing clothes. Even the secular people who come here aren't wearing bathing suits so it's not a problem." Israel has long been a tourist destination with some 3.5 million tourists from abroad last year. There is also a flourishing internal tourism sector with Israelis filling hotel rooms in the Red Sea resort of Eilat. There are also hundreds of bed and breakfasts along the Mediterranean coast and in the Galilee mountains. Most hotels in Israel are kosher, but not kosher enough for the ultra-Ortho- dox crowd. In many cases, an ultra-Orthodox travel agent will organize a group vacation to a hotel that caters to their needs, and fill up the entire hotel. The food will have the strictest level of kashrut. The swim- ming pool will have separate hours for men and women. And the televisions and radios will be unplugged-. "The haredim are very conservative and they don't want outside influences, es- pecially for their children," Yael Elimelech, a mother of 12 Who has worked in the tourism sector told The Media Line. "We have special needs such as a synagogue and Torah study for the men." At these ultra-Orthodox vacations, she says, men and women will sit separately at entertainment programs. Women would not sing in front of men, or even give a lecture to men, because of modesty. Unlike the rest of Israel, ultra-Orthodox men study almost all year round. The only time they are off is "bein hazmanim," the three weeks following the Jew- ish holiday of Tisha B'Av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. During the year, men and boys as young as 7 or 8 study Jewish texts from the early morningwell into the night. These three weeks are their only chance for a vacation. "Even though it's expen- sive, the rabbis say a vaca- tion is really important for the whole family," she said. Those who can't afford a hotel will rent an apartment near the beach, she said. Israel has several beaches with separate bathing areas for men and women. Others will switch apartments with friends or even strangers. "We did that once, but it's so much work," Elimelech said with a smile. "You have to get your apartment in perfect shape and then leave their apartment in perfect shape once you leave. It re- at hotels during the off- ally is very tiring." season. Three or fourwomen So is caring for 12 chil- crowd into a hotel roomand dren while on vacation, kickback. she admits. But when the "We sing, we dance, we kids go back to school, the swimandwerelax,"shesaid women get a break. There with a smile. "The husbands are "women only vacations'" stay home with the kids, and for ultra-Orthodox women thewomen go alittle crazy." Dedicated To Serving Our Jewish Community Call on Central Florida's. Exclusively Jewish Funeral Home for Details Regarding: Traditional Jewish Funerals Non-Traditional Services Interstate Shipping Pre-Arranged Funerals (Shalom Assurance Plan) Headstone, Grave Markers (Cardinal Memorials) 407.599-1180 640 Lee Rd. Orlando, Florida W.E. "Manny" Adams, LFD Samuel P. (Sammy) Goldstein, Executive Director