Merry Christmas from Oz.

Just took an impromptu walking tour of Ivanhoe, an area of Melbourne where the folks get real merry about Christmas decor, American-style. Well, kind of; it’s a good effort.

The blue-ribbon light show, in my opinion:

Aussie class…

Snowmen? Reindeer? How about a Santa-hat wearing kangaroo?

Pretending it’s winter (though, it’s a freak summer and actually feels like winter…)

Since the weather’s been so crazy here, it hasn’t been much of a Christmas-culture shock (I was expecting Santa’s elves in bikinis). So essentially we went from Israeli winter-in-hiding to Aussie not-so-summer. Upside down, indeed.

On living outside Israel.

It happens every time I visit the States: I spend about 35% of the time thinking about the reasons I could and couldn’t live there. By now, the couldn’ts far outweigh the coulds.

So it stands to reason that I’m going through the same process here in Melbourne. It’s different, of course, because it’s not my hometown, not my home country, and I’m very much a visitor. But there are so many striking similarities that I can’t ignore. And the conclusion remains the same.

It’s not even about the country itself, although my issue with the direction the United States is headed is definitely important here. It’s more about the state of Jewish community in diaspora.

I know now, more clearly than I ever knew, that the core reason I left New York was because I didn’t fit with the modern orthodox Jewish community there. It took a long time to get inside it, and when I did, I realized it wasn’t at all what made me feel comfortable with myself, my religious observance or my surroundings.

I thought the rest of the world would be different; I thought New York was unique for having the biggest, most intricate Jewish ghetto out there. But the more I travel and meet people from all over, the more I come to realize a Jewish ghetto is a Jewish ghetto for a reason. The characteristics that make it successful are carried through anywhere – New York, Montreal, Toronto, London, Manchester, Melbourne, Sydney. Sure, they all have their own uniqueness – an accent, a way of dress, an infusion of local cooking – but at the end of the day, Western Jews gathered in one place, trying to make it work in diaspora, all tastes the same to me.

Israel isn’t an obvious answer. Religious practice isn’t easy or perfect there. In fact, I try to avoid the same brand of modern orthodox/dati leumi that turns me off so much in chul. But I guess I prefer to be surrounded by Israel’s religious conflict and confusion over the over the top self assuredness of a New York Jewish community. In Israel, it’s a work in progress that constantly questions itself, and if for a moment it forgets – someone is there to remind the rest of us.

Oddly, I sense balance when I’m in Israel, internally. In New York, the scales always had to be tipped for me.

So, if I want a Jewish life for myself and my children… I don’t think I could leave Israel at this point. I wouldn’t know where to go.

Just a typical day.

This is the kind of thing you’d expect in Israel I suppose, but with my in-laws, who knows what might pop up down under…

Today while visiting my brother-in-law’s farm (yes, farm), my nephew started towards one of the roosters and was attacked. My father-in-law ran over, grabbed my nephew, and kicked – booted – the rooster across the pen. The flightless bird flew like a football.

Then it was decided that the rooster had to go; it was the third time it had attacked someone and apparently, when a rooster gets too aggressive, you tell the kiddies it’s going to Hashem and say good night.

So it was to be shechted.

We brought the rooster home, in the back of the van. A few hours later, the shochet arrived. The last time I saw an animal get shechted was on a grade school trip (yes, there was a last time!).

I think watching rituals in Judaism is really important. Practicing is understanding. Talmud class was stimulating for about 5 minutes, but putting a sukkah up or, well, watching a rooster be shechted, makes it a whole lot more meaningful.

So, no, I wasn’t grossed out.

But in the end, the rooster wasn’t kosher because the chicken swallowed air and the shochet missed the sweet spot.

In the words of my father-in-law: “Well, I’m not trusting this guy with the ducks.”

Got a feeling this whole family’s going down.

It’s amazing the things you can plan a year in advance and then when the date finally arrives, you’re scrambling to make it all happen.

Weddings… Babies… Trips to Australia…

Oh, that? Yeah, we’re leaving tomorrow on a long-awaited, long-planned, finally here month-long trip to Australia to visit the family. And introduce Koala to most of them.

I feel bad for his cheeks already.

The monkey in the tree.

Is this mean?

To sum it up, Koala is shit-scared of the monkey I put in the houseplant. It’s actually, until now, been a wine-bottle holder but I thought it would be funny as a house-tree presenter.

On the other hand, Koala has learned to identify monkeys pretty quickly. It makes reading Curious George highly interactive. Also, it makes retrieving wandering balls more difficult.