A brief update…

TESOL/TEFL/TESL Certification

Well Dad and Mom thought that the TESOL/TEFL/TESL Certification class was also a much better idea for a graduation gift than a new computer; so they graciously paid for me to register and take the course. The cool thing is that if you register and pay in full before Sept. 15th they take off $100.00, so it was 895.00 instead of 995.00. According to the program outline, I should have my TESOL/TEFL/TESL Certificate on October 28, 2007. This does mean that I’ll be unavailable for most of my weekends in October, but I think that the certificate will be more than worth it in the end. I’ve already blocked it out in my schedule. I’m excited…and I’m happy that it doesn’t start until October so I can get myself all setup with the first month of classes before I add on something else to my plate.

Fellowship

I applied today for a Hillel Fellowship; if all goes according to plan, I’ll be a paid fellow working for Hillel at the University at Buffalo.

The fellowship I applied and interviewed for is for the Tzedek Fellow position (Tzedek means Justice) which is a Social Justice fellowship. Given my long history of Activism, and my contacts in Buffalo, what this would allow me to do is use my current contacts on the campus and in the community to implement programs that would benefit both the Jewish Community and the Buffalo community as a whole.

I would be able to advocate for the Jewish Community and other social justice causes (Darfur, LGBT Rights, Counter Klan Organizing, etc) and while doing so train someone to take over for me when I leave for Israel (sort of writing the manual as I go). I also hope to be able to train sophomores in various forms of activism that they should know to be effective leaders.

Part of the Interview was dedicated to Chai Line; and I’m hoping to have it up and running within the next week and a half. What I posted the other day was my concept, and now I just need to turn in the manual that I’m writing to the new Hillel Director and I think we have ourselves a program.

I really want to leave Chai Line with Hillel of Buffalo as sort of a legacy for both the organization and myself, something that they can bring school to school and setup as part of a national network, and the program is so productive, so easy to implement, so cost effective that I believe with the right support and guidance it can turn into a national Hillel initiative/movement.

My Interview was an hour and a half long, I believed it went well. Regardless of whether I get the position or not, I really, really like and admire the new director of Hillel and I’m going to be happy to work with her. She’s a mother, she’s a Jewish Professional, and she has a long history of turning around Hillels that are in dire straights…if anyone can use her after the events of the last year, we certainly can

High Holy Days

I’ve been asked to give the High Holy Day Appeal at my Synagogue (it’s a huge…huge…honor); so this is what I’m thinking of saying and I’m hoping that I’m hitting the nail on the head, nothing is guaranteed yet, but if anyone wants to provide constructive criticism it would be welcomed:
Hello, my name is Matan Ar’ye Schwartz, and I’m honored to speak to you today; it’s not often that I get to address my entire extended family all in one place. Temple or-Elohim is my second home: I was raised here. I’ve been walking these halls and praying here since I was six years old, I stood on this bema when I said the Shema and declared my own connection to Judaism for the first time since my parents entered me into the covenant with Abraham when I was born, I can even tell you where I stood and on what step. I stood where Rabbi Harvey stands when I was thirteen and became recognized as a man by our community at my B’Nai Mitzvah with my Twin Brother by my side, as we were both set on the right path in life by the village who raised us (that’s you guys) and as we affirmed our commitment to Judaism and our community, so to did our community let us know that they had expectations of us: and let me tell you, they’re high…and I haven’t quite reached the bar yet, but I’m still reaching.

I know that every year some person comes up here and asks you for your money which you work hard for; don’t worry, this year you’re spared…I’m not going to ask for your money, this year I’m going to ask you to dance.

This synagogue is the heart of our community, or at least it should be: it should be the cool place to hang out, where everything happens, where kids race to after school. Right now it may not look like that, and I’m sure there are some things that could use some repair, but look past the physical shell that houses the spirit of this synagogue and look directly at our temple’s soul, because when you do, you can see an awesome opportunity and something that is so important to the survival of our community that it should be treasured as much as we treasure the Torah. Around me we have the ability to educate youth, to empower teens, to look after our families and the elderly members of our community, who have so much to give back to people in my age range but are so rarely invited to give their input. More importantly we have the ability, the power to affect change. And it isn’t hard, you don’t need any special training, you’re allowed as many mistakes as you want, and like that first time you learned how to dance there are people here who will be more than happy to teach you the first moves.

And other than that warm feeling inside that so many people write off when they do good works, there are some very important reasons that we should be spending as much time making this synagogue the Jewish epicenter of Long Island, but before I can explain that I really need to make sure that we’re all operating on the same page for a moment. It doesn’t matter if you feel that your secular, reform, reconstructionist or ultra-orthodox, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, it doesn’t matter if your rich or poor, because at the gates of the camp we all look the same and if we don’t take care of each other now and we don’t watch each other’s backs and don’t realize that we must be united, we are writing the beginning of our end. Our enemies, and we still sadly have them, don’t care if you call yourself a Jew or not, or if you identify as a Rastafarian or if you eat pork, because at the end of the day, when they see you, when they see me, all they see is JEW; those other words like Reform and Conservative are Adjectives, those words mean nothing to them.

And right now they’re fighting with chains and with broken beer bottles and with guns and they’re destroying graves in Poland, and attacks are on the rise in France and around the globe, and they’re organizing hardcore in Buffalo, New York believe me, I know, I’ve been a counter Klan organizer in Buffalo for Five Years now and I’ve come head to head with a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and from what my Long Island counterpart tells me they’re on the rise right here on Long Island too; and they may think that their guns make them strong but we have a much stronger weapon than any gun or bomb they can procure: we have Mitzvahs.

And I’m not just saying that to sound corny but to ask you to look at it realistically for a moment: with one act, they can take one or two lives…with one act we can change hundreds! Mitzvahs are contagious; because when you do good work, other people see you, and they realize that they can do good work too…and pretty soon one person at a soup kitchen turns into twenty, and another thirty are building another shelter because everyone wants to get in on the action, to feel that kesher – that connection to their community. And we’re not just doing Mitzvah’s for the Jewish community, oh no…we’re going to reach out and touch as many communities as we can because that way when someone comes up to them and says “hey come to this rally against Israel!” they’ll say “hey, wait a minute…no way!…the Jewish community was the first ones on the scene when our church was taken out in a storm, they brought tools and home made food for people who were making repairs and they helped us when we needed it most!” and that way when a protest turns into something much more sinister and when the KKK or the Skinheads are attacking synagogues again on Long Island (and don’t think that they won’ t do so openly, World War II isn’t a distant memory yet), this time we won’t be standing alone, imagine how much stronger we’re going to be when we have our friends of all denominations, Sikh, Muslim, Christians, Buddhists standing next to us, arm in arm, saying “you’ll have to get through me first” You want to talk to me about weapons? I’ll bet on a mitzvah against any gun any day.

So what are we going to do? Do we lament the fact that things are a little difficult right now and pad around or do we do something great? Talking from experience, watching my father work it’s a lot harder to just sit still because it eats at you and it’s so much easier, and so much more fulfilling to just get up and do what needs to be done (which is why my dad rarely sits down) and I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like we’re the life force we should be – and I know that sometimes we have to make hard decisions (and we don’t always make the right ones…and that’s okay too) but some people see this synagogue and see something that’s out dated or antiquated, but I see a beating heart, I see heart strings making hallways and classrooms and while the pulse may be fading I know that it’s worth fighting for. I also know that if we put on some jeans and get ready to get a little bit messy we have more than what it takes to turn this synagogue first into a light in our community, then a light in our state, and then a light in the country, and pretty soon we’ll be a light amongst the nations; and it isn’t complicated, it doesn’t require committees…all you have to do is follow three simple words: “do good work…”

A friend of mine is dying of HIV, and we were talking over lunch the other day and he was telling me about his experience last Simchat Torah; his synagogue is right across from the department of health where he was told, three years ago, that he had six months to live; and as his synagogue brought the torahs outside to dance with he said “I’m going to dance on the spot where I was told this is the end” and he clutched the torah close to his chest as he walked across the street, to the garden next to the department of health, and as he held the torah to his chest he danced in circles, covered by the light of the lord, so I’m telling you that without you, without your smarts, without your energy, without your expertise, without that really, really, really important thing that I’m not going to ask you about…without that, I’m telling you that this is the end. I’m asking you to dance.

And It isn’t hard, and sometimes we think that we look silly when we first step foot on the dance floor, but believe me the moves will become more natural to you; you’ll be amazed at how good you look when you put on a tool belt and help lay down carpet instead of having to hire someone to do it: and you’ll learn a new skill too (again, with plenty of room to make mistakes). You’ll be amazed how good you’ll look when you’re helping me feed the homeless at the food shelters and you’ll be tearing up the dance floor when you come in to read to the children’s classes and how rocking when you mentor a teen so he doesn’t take a wrong turn and start fighting for the other side and I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up when those in the medical community start working on community health initiatives for those who are less fortunate and require basic care or when kids start saving their cans and bringing in the nickels for a good cause and it doesn’t matter if you’re Disco, Salsa, The Jitterbug or hip-hop, I don’t care…everyone of all ages can dance so let’s get out there and move our bodies like our lives depend on it; because, newsflash: they do.

L’Shana Tova
Nefesh B’Nefesh

I’m in the process of finishing my Nefesh B’Nefesh paperwork, that should be done by Friday. I just have to complete the essays, print out some more of my supporting paperwork, my revised C.V., and my travelogue from Israel as well as the letters of recommendation from two sources.

The maximum grant they offer for those making Aliyah by themselves is 5,000.00. I’m asking for $4,700.00.

Paperwork & Travel

Right now I’m swimming in paperwork..but come September 1st, everything gets a lot easier. I really need to work out some of my flights to make sure that I miss as little class as possible for the High Holy Days. I’m also in the process of finishing setting up the UBULS meetings for this semester…which reminds me, slightly out of left field, that I have to go pick up my text books from the bookstore.

The Blog

The Blog will be totally up and running exclusively on nomadmatan.net probably this Sunday. I’m still figuring out all the details of RSSing my information here. I’ll let everyone know all the details…once I figure them out myself. I still need to edit a couple of hundred entries for spelling and content, and then go back and tag them, but that can happen over the coming weeks. I weeded out the important stuff that needed to be memory holed and the blog is up and running so you should check it out at some point :o)

Tattoos

I’m getting some new tattoos soon…sweeeeet…can’t wait.

I have a real post coming soon
…but I need to finish editing Christie and Lorenzo’s photos from their wedding which I photographed last weekend. I’m giving them their photo CD at 7pm tonight…and before I can do that, I need to clean up my apartment or I’m likely to spazz out…which means I’m off!