21 May 2020

Starting New Job

Wearing a surgical mask for my first day on the job
New Job
I started a new job yesterday! The new job is working at Cedar Village, set to take over the position of Director of Pastoral Care. I am very fortunate that my predecessor and I are overlapping for a few weeks, allowing her to pass along her knowledge to me, helping foster a smoother transition, as she shares institutional knowledge with me.

Not Due to Coronavirus

While we are in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, the process for this job started before everything shut down due to this novel coronavirus. My first meeting to discuss this position took place right before everything shut down - it was a coffee meeting at the JCC. That seems so long ago, as Coronatine has so strangely distorted our sense of time. It was a different era!

Coronavirus Precautions
In addition to wearing a mask - I was actually given a surgical mask instead of the cloth mask I was wearing, due to the facility not permitting cloth masks to be worn within its walls - there are, as one would surmise, many, many precautions in place. Due to these precautions, much of my job is different at the moment than it will be when we don't have to worry about Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Differences
While aspects of the job description include making sure there are various classes (including teaching them), prayer services on Shabbat, and helping comfort families with regard to the condition of loved ones, those are not taking place in-person. However, this does help me focus, for the moment, on both adjusting to the new facility, the new job, as well as to developing relationships with those at Cedar Village, which will be significantly important in my pastoral role there.

Lot to Learn
I certainly have a lot to learn, in general, but certainly in the next few weeks as I glean insights from my predecessor about my new job!

07 May 2020

New Zoom Series: Star Wars & Judaism

Having spent the past five Sunday evenings convening a Zoom chat during this Coronatine period, which is something that developed off of a suggestion from a Coronatine project of mine, I have been wondering this past week about doing a Star Wars & Judaism Zoom series.

Starting Something New

Today, I decided to stop wondering and decided to go ahead and do it. Partially inspired by Star Wars Day this week and seeing a lot of interest in these two beloved topics, this series will be taking place over the next 12 Sunday evenings at 8pm EDT (5pm PDT) on Zoom. And there is no charge.

Temporal Structure
My tentative idea is to start off with welcoming people, as well as letting people sign-on for the first five minutes, followed by 20-25 minutes of textual discussion, and finishing-up with 10-15 minutes of Q&A. This is based off a 40-minute Zoom call, but if we can work something out, it's possible to make it longer.

My plan is to look at both broad themes in these theatrically-released movies (e.g. hope, luck, revenge, anger, etc.) and particular statements (e.g. "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering"), then find relevant Biblical and Rabbinic texts to compare and/or contrast them. I know other people have used a much broader range of texts (e.g. Kabbalistic texts, Hasidic texts, philosophical texts, Mussar texts, etc.) in comparing/contrasting with Star Wars, but I will stick to my meat-and-potatoes texts of Biblical and Rabbinic texts. I will be sharing these texts on Sefaria, so anyone can view them and/or use them.

Open to Ideas
If you have any suggestions, ideas, etc., feel free to send them my way!

03 May 2020

Becoming a Marvel Cinematic Universe Fan

Starting Out with Iron Man and Avengers
When Iron Man came out in the theaters, I saw it with my wife, then we saw its sequel when it came out, followed by seeing Iron Man appear in Avengers. However, I didn’t know who any of the characters were in Avengers, aside from Iron Man and Black Widow, so I didn’t know or care about any of them, so I came away from the movie not really understanding what it was about. And, yes, I subsequently saw Iron Man 3, which was neat to see Tony Stark dealing with his PTSD. However, I knew I had to start catching-up and saw Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Age of Ultron (we didn't know who all of the characters were in the first Avengers movie, so we didn't care to see the sequel in theatres, but watched it in preparation for Captain America Civil War).

Captain America Civil War was what felicitously triggered my MCU fandom
Captivated by Captain America Civil War
All of this changed with Captain America Civil War. I had agreed to go see it on its opening evening with some other folks and one of the other people in our group who was a Marvel fan came over and convinced me to watch the first Captain America movie, which was enjoyable and provided a backstory for Captain America. When I saw Captain America Civil War, I was utterly blown away at the experience. Not only was the action compelling, but the dialogue was spectacularly fantastic. With such an incredibly entertaining and well put-together cinematic experience, I was deeply intrigued at the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and wanted to know more about all of these characters in the movie and their backstories/what their motivations were.
Having seen Avengers, I liked it, but didn't know the characters' backstories

Fortunately, a few weeks later, I happened to be on a flight to Israel from LA, as I was staffing a Birthright Israel trip, and our Delta flight had a lot of Marvel movies available for watching - lucky me! So, I watched what I could and, on the return flight, not only continued to catch up on my MCU-watching, but even re-watched a couple of movies, such as Avengers and Avengers Age of Ultron in order to gain a better sense of where everyone fit in in that universe. In that short period of time, spurred on by the incredible Civil War and catching up on most of the MCU was fantastic. After returning, I watched whatever other MCU movies I had not yet seen to catch up.

From there on out, I watched every MCU movie and even found out about the MCU prelude comics, which were helpful in understanding the MCU. In addition to the clever dialogue in the movies (especially those directed by the Russo brothers), what I have found to be so fascinating about this series of movies is that they have well-developed characters, a well-developed universe, but here’s the thing that really gets me: they weave them in together so well. The universe is well-constructed, with plots that intertwine so intricately and cleverly that provides a curious amount of interest, especially since it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into it.

Continuing to Enjoy
Having enjoyed the MCU, if you've seen a movie here or there, you may find a lot of enjoyment in gaining a broader perspective of the MCU through watching the other movies. If you do, I recommend watching them in their release order, and I hope you greatly enjoy the MCU!