Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
In my article, Mask of Purim, I talked about why I usually do not wear a costume. After all that discussion, I did wear one and I was Wonder Esther this year. One of my favorite things this year was the song, Raise Your Glass as done by the Maccabeats. I wanted to share it with all of you! Take off your mask and celebrate early and often! Maccabeats: Raise Your Glass!
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March 27, 2011 | 12:03 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
My travel talk last week could have been a total bust. That was essentially what one Rabbi told me on December 2, 2010,
What is the worst-case scenario? Can you live with doing this talk if you have a small group size? Of course, the best case is your talk is to lots of people.
I felt at the time that he was trying to discourage me from giving a talk without the sponsorship of a specific group, but I think he was being realistic. What would make people leave their home on a rainy night when they could watch news about bombing Libya, the “American Idol” results show or the new “Gray’s Anatomy” on television? I wondered last week, would any of the people show up?
During the process of getting a room, creating publicity and writing my talk, one or two of my friends called me relentless, but I prefer the label tenacious. A different rabbi told me that I am “relentlessly tenacious.” Maybe that is what is required in our society to do something really different. When my husband and I were away for a year in Asia on an eleven-day trip, camping in tents, called Gers to the Gobi Desert, a few of our companions said, “We just don’t want to go back home and watch television every night. While we are traveling we do such interesting things. We want to find a way to do that at home also.”
Now that we are home from our travels, I want to share my experiences and reluctant foibles of traveling. My Uncovering Jewish Morocco travel talk had 37 guests and well over 75 on the list of yes and maybe RSVPs. I spoke to so many travelers on the phone. It was really incredible!
One email about my talk (which was sent to my parents who were out of town):
Lisa did a fantastic job…she was charming, very enthusiastic, well prepared, delivery excellent, truly created a desire to see HER Morocco…..we loved our trip but must say she did it in depth with a purpose…we were tourists…and she introduced me to a taste I cannot believe I never enjoyed…CINNAMON sprinkled on orange…anyway, she was awesome…the photos George took were quite good too! So puff out your chest and take pride in knowing you have a very dynamic daughter.
I had great responses on the written survey we handed out at the end of the presentation. Many people said they would even come to another talk! How exciting!
Another email reminded me how so many cannot even imagine speaking to a group:
Just thought I’d let you know we thought you made a very good presentation and spoke confidently and warmly. I guess speaking to a classroom every day gives you the background to speak to a room of adults, too. They say that speaking before an audience is the thing that frightens people most.
I often have to remember everything starts by taking the first step, and even though I seem relentless at times, I am frequently reluctant. “Taking a risk and a deep breathe, I said yes.” That is the line I wrote in our book about choosing to go with George on a yearlong career break in Asia. He asked me to quit my job, leave my condo and travel for a year in South East Asia. I said yes, but I had so many objections. It took a lot of negotiating for me to actually go.
Then last year he wanted to go to Morocco, where I said adamantly at first, I am not going there to mingle with those people. As a place I did not want to visit at first, I did my research and realized the trip could be great. Usually when George wants to go somewhere and I don’t want to go, I end up having the time of my life. Poor expectations are good for something, I realize! An open mind is even better.
One survey respondent at the end of the talk said:
You were so confident and had a lot of interesting information. So glad I got off my couch to come.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and think about your dreams and get ready because, We said GO travel! I hope that you will rise from your couch and take a first step today. I am soon going to book a flight for my next adventure. How about you?
March 20, 2011 | 4:18 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Get inspired about traveling to Morocco. Let your senses linger over Sephardic music, and learn new tales of your Jewish roots. Hear ideas about where to travel, what to bring and why you should go. See highlights of a recent 3-week journey and receive samples of your own possible future visit, including maps.
WHAT: Travel Talk: “Uncovering Jewish Morocco”
WHERE: 15500 Stephen S Wise Temple Drive
Udko Annex, next to the Main Sanctuary
WHEN: Thursday, March 24, 2011
AGES: open to all
Click the link to see the flyer with photos:
Flyer with photos
About the talk: Get ready to be inspired about travel in the Maghreb of North Africa. Let your senses linger over Sephardic music sung in Ladino and Spanish by Vanessa Paloma, a Fulbright scholar in Morocco, learn new tales of our Jewish roots and how our people followed in the footsteps of Maimonides from Spain through Morocco and finally returned to Israel. Taste the flavors of Passover in the desert and answer the Four Questions.
Our presentation includes photography of the Marrakech synagogue and the Mellah (Jewish Quarter) in Fes el-Jdid with its extensive Jewish Cemetery. You will soon yearn for the mouth-watering treats in the city’s Jemaa el Fna Square and you will hear ideas about where to travel, what to bring and why you should go. You will experience the highlights of our own three-week journey and also will receive samples of your own possible future visit, including maps.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear about Jews wandering the deserts past to present. Travel stories help us find a unique side to ourselves and our ancestors; our mission is to bring travelers together. Remember, to travel with joy and spontaneity you have to take risks, and above all take the first step!
March 15, 2011 | 10:30 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The upcoming holiday of Purim and the story of Esther remind me to reveal myself and take off my mask. Many Jews celebrate Purim by dressing up and putting on a mask. The semester I lived in Jerusalem, was the first time I saw Purim could be as large a celebration as Halloween in Los Angeles. Wandering the streets of Tel Aviv, I was amazed at the number of Esthers, and Hamens that bumped into me in the celebrating crowds.
This holiday celebration includes being confused about good and evil. This shadow between good and evil and the line of intentions and when they become actions informs some of my travels and decisions. Sometimes we forget that at the corner where we work at the 7-11 is a man who is from Burma who speaks five languages and was a tour guide at Schwedagon Pagoda. We forget that this man in front of us has a history and wears a mask. Most of the people we interact with have some issue that plagues them and causes them to wear a mask and hide some part of themselves.
While I have often picked easy costumes for my work, such as coming to school as a Crayola crayon, in other areas of my life I have proceeded differently. Lately I have picked problematic travel destinations. Being in Sri Lanka this summer, so soon after the civil war ended caused me to really examine why I travel and where do I go. Being in an area with barbed wire around the beaches was nerve-wracking for me, but meeting people who were so happy to have peace and so welcoming to us as strangers to their country made it worth it.
Having recently watched, “Strangers No More”, the Academy Award-winning Documentary Short film about an amazing school, I am thinking about Tel Aviv, Strangers and Masks. In Billy Joel’s song, “The Stranger,” he sings, “We all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.” Travel allows us an opportunity to break from our every day routine and get outside ourselves.
When I travel, I hope to learn about the place, the people, the history, and the culture. Mostly I learn about myself. When my husband George and I were away for nearly a year, I cried in the beginning on almost every country. I even cried while snorkeling one time. I thought he would not notice. When we travel, our masks are off and we are the strangers. I frequently need help to find the bathroom, the bus, the hotel; everything is up in the air. Our daily routine no longer is there to support us.
I think of the young students showing up at Bialik-Rogozin School, having survived long walks in the desert, seeing parents killed and now managing their first day of school in a language they do not understand. The teachers seem so kind, compassionate and willing to help. The children of Darfur, South Africa and Eritrea who show up and move forward with hope and potential inspire me.
Adam Rosenthal writes in Koach:
“Each of us has emotions, thoughts and aspirations which we conceal on a daily basis. We hide these parts of ourselves by presenting others with a prepared image. We wear masks, denying others, and sometimes even ourselves, a glimpse of the vulnerable “stranger.”
I am thrilled that our travel blog will have this new home at the Jewish Journal but now I wonder if I can really show my travel stories and travel foibles and take off my mask to reveal what our travels are really like. I ask myself: will anyone care to read about our adventures?
Travel has given me the opportunity to evolve from a sidekick to a superhero. I have learned so much about my relationship and myself. I did not want to quit my job and travel for a year as a test of our relationship. I wanted to be engaged or I would not go but I did go and eventually we did get engaged.
The story of Purim remembers Esther who hid her Jewishness in the beginning and Haman who hid his anti-Semitism. In the end, both must reveal their true selves. This is what travel does for us. We must show up as who we really are without our masks.
Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai foil the plan of Haman, King Ahashuerus’s prime minster, to exterminate all the Jews of Persia. All secrets are revealed, all masks are off, and once again the Jewish Story continues. Join me March 24 to hear about the story of how the Jews have been welcomed and sent away for centuries in Morocco.
The Megillah Esther literally means “to reveal what is hidden,” join me as we wander and wonder about the history of the Jews, our planet and mainly ourselves.