Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting ready to leave

I've been packing and getting ready to leave the US for the UK.

I'll be my new home this week! Wow, I can't believe it!

I don't know if I'll keep up this blog after I get over there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New thoughts

I was looking at some blogs that are on Material Maidel's blog and clicked on one by Frum College Girl.

I liked one of her posts so much I'm going to do it, too on my blog.

I Am

A female

A California girl

A daughter

A sister

A young woman

A graduate student in Russian and Eastern European Studies

An observant Jew

A Jane Austen fan

But who I am

is more

than just a label

I choose

who I am

and I choose

how I want other people

to perceive me

and I will not let

anyone else



I am

Monday, March 23, 2009

Converting in the UK = Not Possible

So, I spoke with a Glasgow rabbi this afternoon. For 45 minutes. He basically told me that the London Beit Din is not going to accept me as a conversion candidate because I'll only be in the UK for a year and half to study. He was very nice to talk to (I think the accent helped), but was up front about what the London Beit Din expects of their candidates. The rabbi said that the Beit Din is so strict they want you to study 3 years before converting, and that the US will be easier. 3 years is a long time. If I did go that route, my Hebrew would be pretty good after that time! He also said that it might be worth it to have the Beit Din/Rabbis in Milwaukee get connected to the ones in London. If I studied with this rabbi for 18 mos, then returned to the US, the conversion would take 6 mos. to a year. However, I don't know if this will work.

However, the main problem is that I am and will be, a student. And students move around a lot. I don't know where I'll be in 2-4 years. Job wise I don't think I'll be back to the US, which leaves the UK, EU, and EEA, hopefully. I don't think that's fair but I don't make the rules.

A.) I wonder what if it would be possible to do if the London Beit Din knew I would (tentatively) be in the UK for at least a consecutive 4 years? (After graduation, I'm eligible to apply for a work visa that lets me stay and work in the UK up to 2 years, which I think is great!).

After 2 calls to my rabbi, he said to forget about the conversion being a factor. Decide on a school, what will be best for me, go do the degree, and THEN figure out this Jewish stuff. I guess for me, Scotland is the best way for that.

I hope option A.) works out. I'll find out tomorrow.

Oh yeah. 1 more thing. After emailing the rabbi, and suggesting Option A.), as well as a previous note in which I said where I stand on observance and stuff (including hekshers, tznius stuff, the sheitel thing and Taharat Hamishpacha, though I don't know much Hebrew or Hashkafa at the moment), he tells me that now is the time to look into Judaism on a serious level with regard to beliefs and practice. Helloooooo?! Did he read what I wrote? How many people read about TH on their own, AND before taking kallah classes?!?!?!?! Seriously... I'm sure he's serious, but I was shocked to read that! Would you be?

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Wow, I didn't realize that I know a ton about Scotland (but just didn't have it in the 'active' part of my brain):

*Dogs: Scotties, West Highland Terriers, Border Collies, Cairn Terriers

*Cows: Cattle: Highland, Angus

*Clothing: Cloth: Argyle, Paisley, Harris Tweed, Tartan.

*The Tudors, spec. James I who took over after Elizabeth died in 1603
*Mary, Queen of Scots
*Stirling/Stirling Castle

Places to see:
*The Shetland Islands. Shetland ponies! How could I have forgotten about them! They're so cute! Oh, and Shetland Island sweaters!
*The Isle of Skye
*The Hebrides. As in, "Hebrides Suite," which I played at band camp in middle school!
*The Orkneys
*St. Andrews' Cathedral
*Perth. When did they set out for Australia?
*Banff. When did they set out for Canada?
*Macduff. I feel like they should act out MacBeth several times a year.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Music post

Ok, so my blog name is HumanitiesGirl and I have a tons of interests in the field, and that includes music. Though I'm American, I don't listen to much US music. I mean, yes, it's nice to chill out to the Beach Boys or Oldies, but the majority of music I listen to comes from overseas:
Thanks to a good friend in Finland, she's gotten me hooked on Finnish rock! Though I can't understand it, I don't really care. It doesn't bother me that I can't understand the majority of songs by foreign artists I like. Personally, I think it's about the experience of it all.
So, this Finnish group, if you're wondering, is called Uniklubi. Their newest album is "Syvään valoon." I'm also a fan of Welsh reggae. Yes, you read that correctly. Welsh reggae. You can check them out on MySpace:
Their song "Machlud" seems like the perfect summer anthem! Let's see, who do I listen to a lot?...
Yr Annioddefol
Elin Kåven
Natasha Bedingfield
Paolo Meneguzzi

I also browse Nòs Ùr, Liet-Lavlut, and Eurovision for new music ideas.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Break weekend

I suppose I should have prefaced the Glasgow post with this one, since some of it leads up to something mentioned in said Glasgow post.

My Spring Break is winding down, and last weekend I went with a friend from school up to [the city I did my undergrad in]. I had forgotten that it is always much cooler there than at our university, since it's on a lake and all...

We left late last week and made it up there by nightfall, with time to settle in and get ready for Shabbos the next night. Since it's an all day trip, 6 hours gave H. and I time to chat. She drove and I paid her money for gas. 2 girls in a car for 6 hours and we eventually got around to talking about guys. I had an idea to make a list of what we're looking for in a guy/future husband (though a bit premature for me, at least I know what I want). Here's mine:
-liberal Orthodox guy, in "the modern world"
-will be okay with my specific academic field of study (if we happen to meet someday, I'll tell you what it is and you can tell me what you think)
-cool with my wearing a sheitel and keeping TH (Taharat Hamishpacha for those in the know)
-cool with languages (esp. less commonly taught ones): either studies them himself or okay with what I'm doing
-doesn't have a temper (verbal/physical abuse fall under this one)
-communication skills: be able to have a conversation and talk it over if we're having a disagreement, or just being able to talk to each other in general. I'd like a guy who can be my best friend, in addition to being my husband
(-willing to move around or live in a cold climate)

H. mentioned that if he's not interested in the academic part, he's not worth it, and I completely agree with her. The above are the main things I don't want to compromise on. For example, if he's completely against learning a foreign language, or one of those types who insists upon speaking English outside of the English-speaking world, and not bothering to have an appreciation for other languages/cultures, he might not be the guy for me.

The other stuff:
-height and eye color doesn't matter so much. Someone at least 5'8" would be nice though.
-prefer clean shaven
-someone who takes care of his face
-keeps in shape (not too fat or too skinny)
-like to hike, ocean kayaking
-appreciation for the arts
-okay with pets

I don't think these matter as much, but it would be nice if most of them were met. But I have to remember that I'm looking for a complete package, NOT just checking off things on a list...
What do you think?

Grad School and Scottish Jews?

Wow, I don't believe it!

I have 2 options for grad school: University of Toronto and University of Glasgow.

I've started making lists, pros and cons to each, and the one huge factor is tuition.
Toronto costs $21,879 CAN for their 2 year MA. In USD, total tuition would be just under $40,000.
Glasgow costs £7,500 for their 18 month MA. Which, in USD, is about $10,000, 11,000 max.

Aside from tuition, what other attractions about the area?
Toronto: Lots of Jews, and lots of people that speak the language I've spent 3 years studying.
Glasgow: In terms of either mentioned above, I haven't had a clue. Until this morning.

I did some googling and it turns out that there is quite an established Jewish (Orthodox) community in and around Glasgow and the rest of Scotland!
Here's the link if you'd like to check it out:

The oldest shul in Glasgow is Garnethill Synagogue, which has been around since 1879! Who knew? I sure didn't!

Aside from 5 Orthodox shuls in the city, there are 6 places that sell Kosher food, a kosher restaurant and networking opportunities for the students. I had no idea about the Scottish Jewish community, but know that I know that there is a huge presence there, I'm excited to check it out! However, the one question that is not answered on the wesbites, is the matter of conversion. I emailed the rabbis and am waiting to hear back.

There seem to be 2 main rabbis in the city, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at Garnethill, and a
Moshe Rubin, at the Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation. That one may be affiliated with Chabad, but I'm not sure.

I'm so excited! After getting rejected from the university I'm currently at, I didn't think any other school would want me, and I have to decide now which one to go to!

Aside from Jewish stuff, it's the freaking United Kingdom!! Tons of history, castles galore, the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye, and amazing accents! What's *not* to love!? Besides, everyone in Canada came from Europe, but maybe that's another story...Anyhow, the UK would be an awesome place to live for the next few years. Something else I love about the Glasgow program: They have a mandatory study abroad, for a semester, and after receiving a University of Glasgow diploma, they also note where you studied abroad and the work you did while you were there. Oh! AND the UK has a visa policy that gives international students a 2 year visa to work in the UK after graduation! I can get started on my EU residency pretty soon, apparently! :-) Comments appreciated, and if you know someone in Glasgow, that would be grear, too! Thanks!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thought on Campus Career Night Event

Tonight I went to a career-event for the Russian and Eastern European Studies Department. Among other things, I found out that it's important to have a niche, which was the main point. And to work for a major newspaper you don't necessarily have to have a degree in that field. What I know, and have been told before, is that it all comes down to who you know. Networking is big too. One example:
One of the graduate students had worked for The Moscow Times. I had emailed that newspaper last year, asking if they were hiring. After emailing one of the editors, and sending writing samples, I was told that there were no openings. I told this to the graduate student tonight, who suggested to email said editor again and see what happens. He also put me in touch with a former student who currently works for the paper.

Furthermore, one of the professors had said that if you go into academia it's good to have a narrow focus, but nowadays (instead of 30 years ago), it's also good to have a broad knowledge of the area you're into. However, my area ---or, the one I'd like to go into-- is so narrow that is it possible to look at it with an interdisciplinary lense? Then I was thinking, I can come at this extremely narrow field from another angle: From an ethnic/minority studies perspective. Yes. I can look at this field from a minority studies perspective. Not only look at the languages, but also the people, who, while living in a country which is part of the European Union, their ethnicity and way of life is continuously being repressed by the government of the republic in which they live. The ultimate form of Russification, if you will, at least for them. I could be a minority affairs advocate, for this field but ethnic rights across Europe, in particular the situation concerning ethnic Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin or Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant-thing (which has been going on since 1066, pretty much).

I've digressed but bear with me. So, talking to the professor after he spoke, he said public policy may be something to look into (since I like talking to people), so I can help affect these minority peoples by talking to people high up in the EU decision-making process who can secure legislation for these small groups who are being persecuted. Or some sort. At least this is the general direction I have right now.

Another speaker tonight talked about how he worked in Russia for Ernst & Young. Worked in Siberia (Yes, no joke!) 200 miles south of the Artic Circle. After he said that provinces in the area are rich in oil, natural gas, my mind starting putting things together:

Minority peoples in Russia, one in particular -- which is being persecuted for not completely assilimilating to the Russian way of life -- live in a province abundant in lakes, forests, and natural resources many countries would love to get their hands on. Simultaneously, they are up against government officials who want to completely eradicate their culture and way of life.

How would it be, for example, if the president of said republic were to carry out an ethnic genocide so he could exploit the province's resources? Hopefully that won't happen. And, why is it that people are afraid of what is different from them? Be you Jewish, or in this case, a different ethnicity from the general population of the state (as in nation, or country) in which you are living?

I've been thinking, and I could do ethnic/minority rights in Russia for this-extremely-narrow-field and as an American, have a distinctive niche in the EU hierarchy. If I spoke the several less common languages, AND knew the cultures inside and out, I would totally have a job.

That's my goal now. Luckily, I have found 3 schools in 2 English-speaking countries where I can incorporate this narrow field with a broader Eastern European Studies MA. Hopefully one will work out! And I'll find out about said schools by April 1. More updates to come!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Half-Jew Post

Catching up on blogging since it's midterm week, I found a post - parts of it anyway - on Material Maidel's blog that describes me, at least, pseudo-halachically, to a tee:

"A Half Jew, one who has only one parent who is Jewish, most often a father, has a unique identity... a Half Jew may be much more aware of what being Jewish means than most of us who conveniently were born into the faith. While knowledge is not enough for inclusion in our tribe, an overwhelming amount of children born to Jews today are not Jewish according to Halacha."

I am one of those who definitely know what its like to be "much more aware of what being Jewish means..." People I see at Hillel here, they don't do anything Shabbos-dik after Friday night dinner. They come to Hillel, for services and dinner (or just one or the other); dressed like they're going to a club! Which may very well be the case since we're at this major university in the midwest. It was on the national rankings for parties, best this, best that; I have even seen ads in the school paper, that lets everyone know when Playboy is coming to look for new 'talent.' Nevermind that the school is fantastic for anything academically-unusual you want to do, but most people don't care about the academics here. 'Least the undergrads. Luckily, I'm not in that bracket, but would have loved to go here for grad school. Too bad it didn't work out. But back to the original topic here.

I know that, what I consider myself is disliked by the minority. I am willing to follow halacha but I don't feel I should have to convert. I do more, or try to, anyhow; and know more, then MOST of the people at Hillel. Why doesn't the Israeli Rabbinate make a law that says that people-born-Jewish-but-don't-do-anything should have to convert before they can do anything, too?!

Seems like I can't win with this. I'm fighting something that I don't wan --that I'm tired of fighting. This needs to stop. I want it to stop before I end up someplace new in August. I don't want this to follow me. Unless the rabbis have already saved me that trouble, of course.

However, if there are indeed "an overwhelming amount of children born to Jews today are not Jewish according to Halacha," maybe all I need to do is find one. We'd both consider ourselves Jewish; he might have to be open to the idea of a sheitel and Taharat Hamishpacha, but that would be something to get used to, no pun intended.
Know anyone like this? Please e-mail me if you do, it would be much appreciated.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New path?

Well, it's been awhile since I've blogged, to say the least.

(Since I can't remember if I've written about this before, and I may repeat myself, but), I've decided that this whole Jewish thing is nobody's business but mine. If you find out and you don't like it, too bad for you! Don't be friends with me! Simple as that. I don't want to know you if you think like that.

In case you're just finding my blog for the first time, here's a re-cap:

In August 2007, when I first moved to a major university to further this less-commonly taught language I'm into, I first went to the religious-establishment-catering-to-Jewish-students-on-campus. However, I later found out that the Rabbi did not want me at his Shabbos table until I brought him paperwork from a Rabbinic Authority confirming, or, re-affirming, my Jewishness as defined by Halacha.

Last I checked, the goal of this religious-establishment-catering -to-Jewish-students-on campus is to engage them, make them feel at home. Unless I'm mistaken, and this is a newly-instated policy, being told--through my rabbi 300 miles away no-less, when rabbi in question had lived 1 block from me-- that my Jewishness is not valid, why not tell me to my face instead of beating around the bush?! Time was spent tracking down my rabbi, having him phone me to tell me I was not wanted, when it would have been easier to tell me in person, since we're in the same city...

Curiously enough, I have another story about this rabbi. I found it strange and I haven't been able to find the logic behind it. Maybe you can help.

Before I was told not to come back, I remember one Shabbos in particular when I was talking to his children. One of them told me that their father helps drunk college students late at night. That he lets them sleep over in the religious establishment sometimes. What message does that send to the children? That it is okay to help random people, strangers, too drunk to get home on their own, on the off chance that they might be Jewish, but it is perfectly fine to shun people who want to belong? When you figure that one out, please tell me.

I also found out later that some of the Orthodox students attending the center were told of my situation, as well as other students who were asked not to come to dinner until their 'status' was verified. The Hillel rabbi told me to assume the first would make my situation known. But having that said that didn't make it any easier when it actually happened. And now everyone affiliated with any of the 3 knows because the rabbis have to make it known to everyone that there's a girl in town who's not halachically Jewish! Watch out! She's out to get with as many Jewish guys as possible! That was sarcasm, by the way.

That, plus in September 2008 the AISH rabbi and I sat down and had a chat. He told me that I can be friends with the Hillel guys, but I can't date them. I told him that I wasn't interested in dating anyone since I would only be here through May 2009, and to go through everything again is not something I would want to do again.

Besides, it's March, and I have my plate full right now, what with inquiring about how to apply horrendously-late to UK grad programs, on top of class and a busy work schedule! During a google search for field-specific programs, I found 2 schools in the UK that may be worth looking into (as I'll explain in a few paragraphs): University of Glasgow and University of College London.

I had sent general inquiries to secretaries at both schools and wasn't expecting a response. Well, what I received was the exact opposite! First, I received an email from one of the professors at Glasgow, who said that they would like to consider my application and asked if I would send a detailed CV. Then, in London, after emailing the departmental secretary and the independent study language coordinator, I received emails from an Admissions Official, plus a professor from the department who I could study with to do the independent studies! He wanted to know which tracks I'm interested in, and I sent him my CV too. If would be fantastic if one of the three schools: University of Glasgow, University College London, or University of Toronto, works out for me. I'd get to specialize in ethnic and minority studies how I want, and actually be able to work with a professor on them while pursuing an MA/MRes/MSc in a broader Eastern European Studies program. If one of the UK schools worked out, I could eventually get a job with an organization that focus on European ethnic and minority affairs. I could be a spokesperson for Liet Lavlut, or work at the European Court of Human Rights, The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), or try and get policy pushed through at the (European) Commission so minorities in the region can have a voice to their problems.

Now all I have to do is wait and see what happens for September. ::crosses fingers:: Here's hoping something works this time!

So, in conclusion, this is the current academic plan for my life. If the school I'm currently at doesn't want me because my GRE scores or my grades aren't up to their standards, that's fine. There are other programs who may not mind my scores thus far. Religiously however, I'm comfortable where I am right now, and know where I want to end up. I consider myself a BT. Yes, I know I don't count to the Orthodox, but if they don't like me, that's their business. Don't-make-an-announcement-to-the-local-communities-and-have-me-be-the-last-one-to-hear-that-said-announcement-happened and I'll be fine. I know myself, I know what I like and know what I want to do with my life. I just don't know the odds of finding a guy who will want to come along with me for the ride, both academically and with the Orthodox stuff, what with the whole sheitel thing and wanting to keep Taharat Hamishpacha. Oh, and being Shomer until I get there. 'Just have to wait and see, I suppose. -sigh-

PS: If the UK schools work out, I'd get a cool accent out of it, too! Plus get started on my EU residency! :-D I wonder how many guys would be up for living in Europe...