Monday, October 30, 2006

It's Snowing!

On my way to English Club tonight, I walked past a big picture window in YESOD and noticed, to my delight that it was snowing gently. Now, two hours later, a thin white blanket covers the city -- and from my warm, little office, it looks beautiful. I'm sure that my feelings toward snow will change dramatically this year, but for now, I am tickled pink.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cold, Dark and Ecstatic

It's cold, dark and rainy outside but inside YESOD, Matt and I are warmed by the idea that we have a brand new office. (It's also nice that we're listening to Tahitian music that is a throwback to our honeymoon just about a year ago.) In the back corner of the 3rd floor is a tiny room that is all ours. We couldn't be happier. Two desks, two computers, a printer and most amazingly of all -- our Vonage phone! So now if you want to call us, it's as easy as calling us when we lived in DC. The number is the same. Try it out and let us know what you think. Just remember that afternoons our time (mornings in the US) are the best times to reach us.

The last few days have been a blur and our lack of sleep is starting to catch up with us. We've had late night meetings almost every day this week. And on Wednesday night we went out to dinner at a vegetarian Indian restaurant with some friends. The food was amazing -- each dish better than the last -- but the service was ungodly slow. We sat down at 9 and didn't get the check until after 11:30! We barely made it home before the metro shut down at midnight.

Yesterday afternoon we attended a party at the Nevsky Institute where we take Russian classes. It was a party for foreign students who are studying in Russia. The "party" involved a number of artistic performances (in the true SPB spirit) and little to no mingling. So much for the theme, "Let's Be Friends!" Needeless to say, the whole thing cracked us up.
For the last two days, we've helped host a mission of delegates from Cleveland and Palm Beach -- both partner cities to St. Petersburg. It's so nice to be surrounded by people who understand the ins and outs of this community. The small group of six represents the professional and lay leaders from each Federation and they just "get it." They are the principal supporters of Jewish life here and it's amazing to be able to show them first-hand the fruits of their labor. They are among the reasons that Jewish life in St. Petersburg is as vibrant as it is. To sit in a room with local leaders and American Jewish leadership is an awe-inspiring experience. While this community certainly has its share of growing pains, as I like to call them, they are so fortunate to have the support and involvement of two such powerhouses of the American Jewish community.

Tonight, we're welcoming Shabbat at Hillel, just down the hall from our new office. Tomorrow, we'll join the mission for services and Shabbat lunch. And in a few days, we'll head out of the city with Adain Lo for their children's camp. The blog will lilkely be quiet next week -- forgive us while we're out of Internet range.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Russian Roller Coaster

The past few days have been packed with activity, with numerous highs and lows. Let's go through the week and you'll see just how topsy-turvy our life in Russia can be.

Last Wednesday, Alyson and I were excited to be invited to an Adain Lo meeting where a group was planning the agenda for their upcoming retreat outside St. Petersburg. They expect 80 participants, ranging in ages 7 through 15, for a week-long camp, where we will be doing Jewish education through English. What was exciting about this meeting was the fact that most of the planners are 17, 18, and 19 years old; they graduated from the Adain Lo program and are now volunteers helping plan future programs. They were very gracious at the beginning and explained the retreat schedule in English to us. But as the meeting commenced in Russian, we were totally lost, which I found extraordinarily frustrating because, after spending four years as a counselor at Ramah Darom, I had tremendous experience to bring to the table, and I wasn't able to share it because the meeting was moving too fast for my elementary sentences. Towards the end, a discussion began about a version of "capture the flag" that all the campers would play one evening: what the rules would be, how to infuse Jewish content, how to make sure the logistics worked, etc. I planned many Yom Sport events at camp, and would have been happy to make suggestions, if only I could have pushed the "pause" button on the meeting so I could construct the sentence correctly and put in my two cents. Alyson wasn't as frustrated as I was, but I just couldn't help thinking that we'd come all this way, and sacrificed so much, that it was really upsetting to bang my head against the language barrier.

Then Friday came, and with it one of the highlights of our time here so far. Alyson and I are launching a new program linking Chesed Avraham and Hillel; since St. Petersburg has so many Jewish elderly who are home-bound and can't enjoy Shabbat with the community, why not take Shabbat to them? With myself as liaison between the two organizations, we recruited three Russian students to come with us and act as translators as we visited two needy elderly that Chesed identified. I took Sonya and Igor to visit 82-year-old Yekaterina Davidovna, a Leningrad Blockade survivor who now lives on a pension of less than $200 per month. I asked her about life during the Siege, and she spoke for a solid hour without stopping. Her story is fascinating: as a 15-year-old girl, she went from building to building recording the names of the dead. Her father and brother were both decorated soldiers, and were both killed in different battles. Her closest relative is one niece who lives in Bulgaria, and the only contact she has with the outside world is through a neighbor who visits once each week. Bringing Shabbat to her was such a pleasure, and the three of us were on Cloud 9 afterwards. Alyson has baked many challahs for other people over the past four years, but watching Ekaterina sway to our rendition of "Shalom Aleichem," I think this was the most meaningful of all of them. The goal now is to have all three students recruit two friends, so the program can expand and we can visit more and more needy people. For more pictures from this extraordinary visit, click here.

I returned home to check my email before Shabbat started, and found that a dream of mine had come to an abrupt and crashing end when my application to become a Taglit-birthright israel madrich (counselor) was rejected by Hillels of Russia. Since the inception of the birthright program back in 2000, I've wanted to be a madrich and take a group to Israel (another unpaid volunteer position...why do the best jobs all have to be volunteer work?!?!?). Anyway, this free, ten-day trip to Israel will take 80 Russian students and young professionals to Israel for the first time, and I wanted to be right there to help guide them through it. After spending a year in Israel on Project OTZMA, with my extensive Federation and Hillel experience, and because of my unique American perspective, I thought I had a lot to offer and add to the trip. But their decision--and I understand and respect it--is that if I can't speak Russian fluently, then I can't help lead a trip. Honestly, I don't disagree with their decision, it's just hard to put that dream on hold for another year.

On Saturday, we organized a group of six friends to go to Pavlovsk and walk around the amazing park and palace. The weather was in the mid-30s, and most of the leaves had fallen from the trees, but it was still beautiful. For pictures from our fun little excursion, click here. We figure this will be the last time we can spend a full day museums, here we come!

Then, on Sunday we had another really positive experience when a mission from the Hartford Jewish Federation came and visited. It was such a pleasure to educate these committed and passionate lay leaders about where there dollars are going here in St. Petersburg. We did another home visit, and this was just as moving and powerful as the previous one, but I'll save the details for another time. They also got a complete tour of the YESOD building, and even watched a performance by the EVA dance and choir groups, made up of Petersburgers from 5 to 20 years old. As you all know, these are the groups that Alyson and I teach every Sunday afternoon. So once the mission participants had left, I taught my EVA group about who their audience was, what the American Jewish federation system is, and how it all comes together and impacts their everyday lives.

So, these past few days have been an emotional adventure. We continue to be amazed by just how good our work can make us feel, and how crushing it can be when things don't work out the way we want them to. Through it all, we've been there for each other--you can imagine us sitting in our kitchen late at night, sipping our tea, discussing our thoughts, comforting each other through the disappointments, planning for the next day, problem-solving, and occasionally finding a few minutes to read our books before bedtime. In all, it's a very pleasant way to spend a year abroad!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Heat is On

While I’m sure you’re tempted to launch into the lyrics of the classic 80s song, I am being quite literal. Earlier this week, when the newspapers reported that the temperatures were going to drop to 1ºC by Friday, I grew a little alarmed that our heat still hadn’t been turned on at home or at school. Fortunately, on Tuesday afternoon, our pipes started to make weird gurgling noises and the radiators became warm to the touch. Apparently, our neighborhood was among the last to get heat in St. Petersburg!

As a result of the heat, I’ve had to rethink my clothing strategy entirely. Last week, I wore heavy turtleneck sweaters all the time, along with a wool coat. At night, I wore a sweatshirt and heavy socks to bed. Now that it’s a bit warmer inside, I can wear lighter sweaters and shirts again, so that I can peel off layers upon arrival indoors.

Alas, if what to wear is our biggest concern, I think we’re in good shape. Yesterday, we learned about another mishap with our Finnish friend, Utta. She is the only other person in our Russian class, so we’ve gotten to know her quite well. She came here to learn Russian and to be closer to her Russian boyfriend, who attends a local naval academy. He was shipped off just after she arrived here, so they have spent ridiculously little time together even while living in the same city. The stories she tells us of her old Soviet apartment are incredulous – her toilet broke, her pipes leaked, her elderly landlord moved back in to get everything fixed, etc. Yesterday’s story beat them all: her landlord had died in the apartment the night before!

Hearing Utta’s stories makes us so appreciative of the support network we have here. Had a fraction of these things happened to us, we would have found a new place to live by now. It’s actually hard to believe that we’ve been here for two months. I felt like the first month would never end, but the second month has come and gone remarkably quickly. We have begun to hit our stride.

We have found a fabulous Western-style grocery store that’s a 20-minute walk from our house. While it’s not conducive to daily shopping trips, nor does it stock tofu, we are thrilled to have found it! And on our way to the grocery store the other day, we stumbled upon a high-end gym. We went in and asked about the prices (too high for us) in Russian; amazingly, we were able to understand the gist of sales presentation!

We are also beginning to feel like we are contributing to the community. Every Sunday, Matt and I teach at EVA, a local Jewish organization. I teach two groups of 5-8 year olds and one group of 9-12 year olds. Matt has the older kids, who are mostly 15-20 years old. On Monday evenings, I host an English Club at YESOD, where about a dozen young adults congregate to practice their English and learn about a Jewish or Israel-related topic. Matt spends Tuesday afternoons tutoring in an after-school program at one of the Jewish day schools. We are starting a joint Hillel-Chesed program that encourages young people to visit the elderly on Shabbat to bring a little light into their lives; this week is our first trial run. We continue to help the JDC and other local organizations with English translations and idea generation. Next week, we have not one but two missions coming from the US. And at the end of the month, we are joining Adain Lo on one of their children’s camps for five days outside of the city. In more ways than one, the heat is on!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

From the Headlines

Another grim reminder of the realities of life in Russia from last week's news:
Russian Journalist Murdered

On the bright side, the weather here isn't as bad as it could be. It's been gray and rainy and in the upper 40s and low 50s--delightful compared to Buffalo, New York, which now sits under a foot and a half of record-breaking snow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sukkot at YESOD

Sukkot at YESOD started off with a bang. Truckloads of Russian schoolchildren came to the building, with class after class of kids parading through the building and into the new sukkah outside. Alyson and I enjoyed just roaming through the various rooms at YESOD, checking out the festivities in all the nooks and crannies around the building. As volunteers who work very non-traditional hours, we have the flexibility to just jump in and participate when we find something that looks fun. Here, we got roped into cutting out cardboard Sukkot symbols for a group of children who were decorating picture frames. It was great, because it reminded us of our niece Hannah's birthday party early this past summer. And hold onto your seats for the next revelation: Alyson and I even sang for a group of elderly Chesed clients! That's right, Alyson overcame her fears and sang publicly! I have no idea how it happened; what started with us saying "We'll join you for a few minutes for lunch" somehow translated into Russian as, "Of course we want to sing for you!" After a few rounds of "Oseh Shalom" (my favorite version, Debbie Friedman's melody) and "Lo Yisa Goy," we were warmly thanked by our audience, who I think were as surprised as we were by our impromptu performance!

Also, even though the weather is getting colder, a steady stream of visitors continues to come through and see the YESOD building. You would think that we would be bored by giving the same tour shpiel for the twentieth time now, but you'd be wrong. As we continue to learn more about this community, we have more details and specifics that we can add to our tour. Moreover, as our Russian gets better, we can actually translate a sentence or two spoken by the Adain Lo kids or the elderly Chesed Avraham clients to their Western guests. The tour pictured here was a special one for two reasons. First, because I knew Debbie and Walter Cohn when I was working at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and it's always a pleasant surprise to see recognizable faces in this foreign land. But even more importantly, and somewhat strangely, during our visit to the Chesed Avraham Day Center in the building, Debbie and Walter received a round of applause for their contributions to Jewish life. And they deserved it--they are fantastic lay leaders, and we're excited to have them over to our house for Shabbat dinner tonight!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Matt's Trip to Moscow!

After several weeks of work (here is a picture of me tutoring a Jewish student in the Adayin Lo after-school program), it was time to take a day off! As a perennial sports fan, I jumped when I heard that the Israeli national soccer team was playing the Russian national team in Moscow. Here was a great chance to take a break, support Israel, and watch European soccer of the highest quality.

It was quite an adventure from the very beginning. Our British friend Keren and I took the overnight train down from St. Petersburg--it leaves at 11 pm and arrives around 7 am. The roundtrip cost was $100; not bad when you consider it's over 400 miles each way! On the way down, we couldn't sleep because we ended up with two stinky, snoring Russian men (Keren thought the stench was worse, but I couldn't even listen to my iPod, the snoring was so loud!). So we played cards the whole way down and only got about 2 hours worth of sleep.

What do you do when you arrive at 7 am in Moscow, and nothing is open? Walk around, of course! We went and took the mandatory pictures of St. Basil's, Red Square, etc. It was a cold and gray day, but you won't be able to tell that from the pictures, as I've retouched most of them to be less depressing :-) The Kremlin wasn't open the whole weekend; apparently Putin was having important meetings and couldn't be bothered by tourists. We did have an interesting experience outside the Kremlin walls, though, as anything and everything could be bought with the American dollar. On one side, Lenin and Trotsky impersonators took pictures with paying tourists. On the other, ice cream carts galore littered the square, despite the 50-degree weather. Most interestingly, there were two guys selling the opportunity to take your picture with your choice of wild animals--from hawks to owls to monkeys. These poor animals were obviously not the happiest beasts on the planet, tethered and caged and waiting for their next photo op. Clearly, the Cold War is over and Russians have embraced capitalism in a warm hug--but have they taken it too far? On a different note, the Moscow Metro completely lives up to its reputation: every station is different and beautiful, with incredible mosaics and the feel of a museum. It's a shame that you can't take pictures, but it's really fun to ride the train around the city.

We met up with two more British study-abroad students, Olga and Joe, in Moscow, and we all went to Chabad for Shabbat and the beginning of Sukkot. It was a fantastic Shabbat experience--we met all sorts of interesting people, including an Israeli in the Intelligence division (he had a lot to say about the recent war) and the chief Rabbi of Russia. The vodka was flowing, languages were being thrown around left and right, we were singing and dancing, and the kosher meat was excellent. I must say that Chabad has treated us well in Beijing, Shanghai, St. Pete, and now Moscow...I have nothing but complimentary things to say about their organization.

Finally, Saturday evening we went to see the match we had all been waiting for. There were Russian soldiers everywhere, and the Israeli fans were sequestered in a fortified ring of 20-something Russian police. For their part, the police and soldiers were all polite and there were no incidents that I saw, except for a few middle fingers that were extended as a "Welcome to Moscow" gesture by the opposing fans. The Israeli spectators--there were maybe 300 of them, almost all on private tour groups from Israel--were incredibly fun and gregarious before the game. But the Russian side scored in the first 5 minutes of the game, which took the wind out of our sales for the whole first half. In the second half, the Israelis came out strong and put tremendous pressure on the Russian defense, finally scoring in the 84th minute to force a draw. After waiting for almost an hour-and-a-half to see their team score, the Israeli section erupted, and you can see the video of our goal and celebration by clicking here.

We were then escorted out of the stadium and into the Metro by a small army of soldiers, and we went straight to the hostel to pick up our stuff, as our train left at 11 pm. I must tell you that I felt far less safe travelling on the streets of Moscow on a Saturday night than I did in the stadium. There were drunk, aggressive Russian men everywhere; we saw many of them being restrained by police, and even witnessed a fistfight that led to quite a bit of blood and crying girlfriends. This is a typical Saturday night in Moscow, I was assured by my companions.

On the train ride back, we were joined in our cabin by a friendly Russian couple who made up for their lack of English with good old Russian hospitality. In fact, our companions started the evening by asking, "So, are we sleeping or are we drinking?!?!" He then plied us with excellent Russian cognac--surprisingly, the cognac here is just as good as the vodka--and told us jokes in Russian, which Keren and Olga translated for me. It was another sleepless night, but a lot of fun! I've been recovering slowly from an intense, crazy weekend, and hopefully am back on my feet now :-)

You can see a selection of my Moscow photos--just 26, with captions that provide additional details about the trip--by clicking here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Kugel Capers

Today was one of the most surreal days of my life. While Matt was in Moscow, I had nothing much to do, so I asked my friend Autumn if she wanted to hang out. She had committed to help cook for a «bris party» at a local bar, City Bar, which is owned by a woman from New York named Eileen, whom I vaguely remembered reading about in our Lonely Planet guide to St. Petersburg. I quickly agreed to pitch in and help cook. The bris, which is happening tomorrow at Shaarei Shalom is for the newborn son of a fascinating American guy I met there on two previous occasions. Just as I love to cook for the families of newborns back at home – after all, that's what we Jews do, right? – I figured that there is no better way to welcome a new Jewish baby into the community than to make a huge kugel!

So without a second thought, I grabbed my favorite kugel recipe (thanks to Sandy Lubaroff who makes the best kugel in the whole world), I crossed town to find the City Bar, and introduced myself to Eileen. That was a 3:15 this afternoon. We planned the menu (traditional Jewish with a New Orleans twist – bagels, kugel, and jambalaya) and got organized over a cup of coffee. For the next three hours, Autumn, Eileen and I had traversed the city in our search for ingredients. Would «tvorogom» work as a suitable substitute for cottage cheese? What kind of noodles did I need? Could we find pre-sliced lox to serve on the custom-ordered bagels? Finally, by 7:00 we were back at the restaurant and I went to work on the kugel while Autumn and Eileen went out to one more store to find a few last-minute items. Hanging out in the kitchen with the Nigerian cook, I flashed back to my Jewish Service Corps application; one of the essays asked what skills I could bring to the community and among the skills I listed, I ranked cooking as the most important. Funny that, months later, I find myself standing in the kitchen of a restaurant half-way around the world, making a kugel for a bris. I never could have imagined this scenario, but I felt that it fit neatly within my goals as a volunteer here. After all, what better way to reach the Jewish community than through its stomach?

By the time Autumn and Eileen got back, I had a huge kugel waiting to go into the oven. Autumn and I got busy working on the chocolate chip cookies. Well, actually, they are chocolate chunk cookies, since chips are impossible to find here. By 10:30, we pulled out the last batch of cookies as we chowed down on freshly-made pizza and enjoyed a nice bottle of Chilean merlot. We chatted with Eileen's customers – one more interesting than the next – as I wondered to myself what next week's adventure would be.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Our Walk to Work

There are plenty of pretty sites around SPB, like this shot I took of the sun setting over the main drag, Nevsky Prospekt. Unfortunately, our walk to work has none of them. However, my little photo montage--which I creatively title, "Our Walk to Work"--captures daily life here in Russia. You'll like it: I made sure to caption all 17 pictures that I took during one typical walk to work (it takes about 25 minutes). What it lacks in beauty, it makes up in construction. See for yourself.

Events Galore!

The Chagim marked an exciting time for Alyson and I. While Russians in general are not a religious community, they love arts and culture, and no one does singing, arts, and dance like the Russians! There have been numerous events over the past two weeks--here is just a quick look at some of the ones we attended.

The first event we went to was a cantorial concert at the Grand Choral Synagogue. The acoustics there are fantastic, and it's a really beautiful space. Check it out--here is Chazzan Shneur-Zalman Baumgarten from NYC singing "Avinu Malkeinu". Watch it here.

Next, we joined the Israeli Cultural Center for their opening party. It was at a fancy restaurant in downtown SPB, and there were all sorts of fun activities. Here, four of their members do an Israeli dance for the audience. Watch it here.

You wouldn't know it, but occassionally we've found time for a relaxing evening at home. I enjoy sitting on the couch, watching tv and eating kiwi. It's ironic, but here at the Arctic Circle they have fantastic kiwi: less tart than the ones we get in the States, they are like candy from heaven. On TV, two new bizarre sports to tell you about. First, I watched the most bizarre sport I've seen so far: handicapped fencing. It was incredibly boring--the two contestants don't move, they just lunge at each other from their chairs. On the other end of the spectrum was motorcycle soccer, which was fantastic to watch. Players ride motorcycles and kick an expanded soccer ball around an asphalt field. The speed and technical skill were just mezmerizing, and there was a NASCAR-like feeling to the crashes. You hated to watch these guys get thrown off their bikes onto the hard concrete, but you couldn't look away!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Welcome to our new-and-improved blog! We heard from some people that the old template was hard to read, so this new template is a little clearer. Links are in light blue now, so they stand out more from the background. What do you think? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Also, I uploaded the wrong video of "Swan Lake" to the Internet. I've corrected that now. You can see the correct, 2-minute video by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

T’shuva, Tefillah and Tunes

It’s hard to believe that it’s October, which means that we’ve been here six weeks already. It’s nice to start to see familiar faces wherever we go. The names are still a bit of a Russian blur—Sasha, Elena, Misha, Tanya. But the feeling of belonging is growing slowly, bit by bit, a little more every day. The awesomeness of the High Holidays has helped cement in us a connection to the Jewish community, perhaps a bit more quickly than would have been the case, had we arrived in May, for example.

T’shuva (repentence) is a difficult thing to pull off when you’re so far away from those you may have hurt or the actions you may have committed with a hint of malevolence. For the most part, we have clean slates here, sparkling white with the anticipation of what we have to offer the community. To be honest, I am a bit overwhelmed by what is expected of us. Can I live up to what the community expects? Can we successfully inspire members of the community? Can we make Jewish life as appealing here as it is to us back in the States? These are tall orders.

Sunday night, we attended Kol Nidrei at the Choral Synagogue, again marveling at the beauty of the space and enjoying the somewhat familiar tunes of the choir, despite the shortages of machzorim. There, we met a handful of Americans, some passing through and others who live here, which we always enjoy.

Yesterday, we spent all day at Shaarei Shalom, where there is more of an expat community. During the afternoon lull between services, the rabbi asked us to forgo our annual Yom Kippur nap and instead lead an English-language discussion. Together, we put together a discussion based on excerpts from two Franz Kafka texts: The Trial and Letter to his Father. The discussion among the eight of us was lively; the two texts seemed to balance one another and give us insight into Kafka’s own Jewish experience. The text of The Trial is rather enigmatic, posing more questions than it answers. It concerns a man from the countryside who attempts to access the law through a doorway, but it is stopped by a gatekeeper when he asks for permission to enter. According to the rabbi, the problem with the man in the story is that he asks permission to enter. Had he simply walked through the doorway, he would have come closer to the law, his ultimate goal. But in the simple act of asking, he questions his own ability to advance his goals. It’s clear that we are our own gatekeepers sometimes, holding ourselves back. I try to keep this in mind as we face one obstacle after another here in St. Petersburg.

What kinds of obstacles, you ask? On Sunday, for instance, just before Yom Kippur started, we went to an opening session of EVA’s Sunday school. EVA (pronounced “yeva”), is a community-based organization that has been around since before the JDC was asked to return to the FSU. They specialize in training young people in Jewish culture (choir, dance and art), as well as providing for welfare services to over 8,000 elderly through day centers, in-home care, food packages and soup kitchens. They have asked us to teach English and Jewish tradition to six consecutive groups every Sunday, from 10:30am until 3:45pm. Matt and I quickly realized that we’d need to divide and conquer, so I’ll be teaching the younger groups in the morning and Matt will take the older groups in the afternoon. I have 5-8 year olds and 9-12 year olds, many of whom don’t speak a word of English. Not only am I supposed to teach them English, I’m also supposed share Jewish tradition with them. And for some of them, the 45 minutes we spend together each week is the only Jewish influence they get. While this is a bit daunting, I remind myself of the Kafka story and hope that I can power through my own anxieties and triumph in the end.

Fortunately, our sense of community here is starting to take hold. Obstacles are always easier to tackle when you have a strong support network nearby, something I’ve felt lost without these past few weeks. At Shaarei Shalom, we met two young American women who are living here temporarily. In a small world story, I heard about one of them from a mutual friend in DC over July 4th weekend and I remembered with crystal clarity. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have contemporaries who are experiencing similar trials and tribulations. We also spent some time with a US consular official and his young family whose paths we crossed back in DC. (Small world indeed.)

While the tunes we sang yesterday were not the clap-your-hands, Jeremy-Kadden-inspired tunes that we’ve grown accustomed to at the DC Minyan, the tunes were nonetheless touching and beautiful, especially the melody we used to draw the yom tov to a close over havdalah. At the end of the fast, we organized a small group of Anglos for break-the-fast next door at the Sbarro’s restaurant. It’s not quite like home—no bagels or kugel—but it did the trick just fine. It filled our bellies with pizza and our hearts with the warmth of being connected to others.