Jewish Newport, Rhode Island: Colonial and Modern

Touro synagogue detail Newport, RI
The oldest standing synagogue building in the United States is the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. I was surprised to learn the building was used in Colonial times for only a few years. Then the War of Independence began, the British came into Newport, and soon after the Jews left the city. Some families came back when the war was over; however, Newport did not regain its stature, so the Jewish community never flourished again in the same way.

Judah Touro grave, Newport, Rhode Island
If you walk up the hill a few blocks (we did), you will find the old Jewish cemetery. Among others, buried here is Judah Touro, son of Isaac Touro. Because of his funding and efforts, the building was kept going.

colonial Jewish cemetery Newport RI

The congregation was a Sephardi one, meaning its members’ ancestors were originally from Spain, and the prayers are in a Sephardi manner. There is a Torah scroll behind a glass case in the sanctuary. My son noticed it is an Ashkenazi Torah scroll, not a Sephardi one (how did he know? Sephardi Torah scrolls are stood upright while the Torah is read, whereas Ashkenazi ones lie flat). Our guide pointed out that the Torah scroll was already two hundred years old when it was donated by the Amsterdam Jewish Community to the Newport Jewish community. Perhaps this was one that was not needed, so it allowed to take the long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean?

Several people asked us: did the tour guide show us the trap door underneath the bimah? No, she did not. It seems that the synagogue was a hiding place in the underground railroad in the 19th century. There was a movie about the history of Jewish Newport in the building in front of the synagogue, but we did not get a chance to view it.

One interesting note: the synagogue is built at an angle. This was in order that the sanctuary face Mizrah (face to the east, where Jerusalem is – standard procedure for a synagogue).

Touro Synagogue window
Above is a view out a window of the second floor of the Touro Synagogue at sunset, between Minha and Maariv (afternoon and evening prayers). My husband and son attended services both in the morning and in the afternoon during our three day trip. My daughter and I came once to Minha-Maariv and sat with other women and girls in the balcony section. The rabbi was so pleased that so many young women were in attendance (he gave a short talk, and at one point he looked up at the girls as he discussed whether women are obligated in fixed-time mitzvot).

raw power juice bar wall fundraiser
One of the best parts of the trip was when we learned that the rabbi gave hashgacha (kosher supervision) to a wonderful little vegan restaurant called Raw Power Juice Bar on Broadway. We went twice: we ordered bean rice burgers, a variety of smoothies and a few salads. We hope they stay in existence!

raw power juice bar painting
Pictured is one of a series of paintings inside the restaurant.

Nasturtium – Water Drop

We have had plenty of rain in recent weeks. My neighbor who has a rain gauge said hers read four inches in just a few days. It has not been constant, so I am fine with having lots of rain water for my garden.

I took the photo of the nasturtium (an edible plant with round leaves and orange or yellow flowers) back in the spring with a macro lens on my camera. It is one of the last edible items that I grow – the deer even eat flowers and leaves. A list of animals spotted in our area recently: deer, ground hogs, foxes, squirrels, rabbits and a coyote. My rosemary plants don’t get touched – I can still grow those. And sage. I have lots of sage.

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Celebrate Israel Parade 2017

Celebrate Israel parade
The last time I had the opportunity to post Israel Parade photos was in 2013. I had a few years of chaperoning, and last year it poured, they marched quickly, and my husband and I showed up late. This year I was excited for the opportunity to take a few good parade photos. If you ever want good subject matter for photos, this parade is great. Besides the many Jewish schools that march, there are floats, bands, dancers, fancy bikers and a variety of people to watch.

This year my daughter is in a new school – new to her, anyway. It is a four-year girls high school. She had a fun time marching today. Unlike with her past school in which she learned a dance to do down 5th Avenue, the girls in Maayanot basically sing whatever songs they like.

I decided to focus on interesting subject matter. Bands, entertainers, dancers, and one politician.

marching band
I really love the colors and energy of this marching band photo.

Here’s a close up of a guy playing the tuba.

There were several clever unicyclists. I like the purple of this one in front of the green of the marching band behind.

Nefesh B'Nefesh
I took this photo, and then I realized the person on the float in a suit is the MK (member of Knesset, Israeli parliament) Dov Lipman.

Dov Lipman
Then I took the next photo of this float – the man in the white shirt waving in the back of the float is my son’s teacher from his yeshiva in Israel, Rabbi Moshe Taragin.

gay group
I didn’t catch the name of this group – it seems to be a Jewish gay, Lesbian, bisexual group. If I find out the name, I will add it to this post. I think the sign says J.O.Y.

El Al dancing
This was rather funny – El Al employees dancing together as though they are at a wedding. Seemed out of context – like they should be getting us to our seats instead and offering us a cup of tea.

El Al
El Al also had a float.

This is a group of doctors from Einstein School of Medicine. The sign says We Support the Doctors of Israel. I am thinking the woman to the left must have seen someone that she knows, given the expression on her face.

baby carriage
From a distance, I thought there was a baby inside that carriage. I am not sure what they are pushing. But I do enjoy the balloons. And at what are they looking? The spectators behind the fence are looking at their phones (boring!).

China Israel relations
Here is a group celebrating Israel China relations.

I am reading a great book on U.S. China relations called The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present. I recommend the book.

daughter at parade
For those of you who may have started reading this blog in 2007 or 2008, my daughter was a little girl then. Here she is at the parade – my young woman.

Have you ever gone to a big parade? What do you like best?

Mask for Purim

Purim is on Sunday. It is one of my favorite Jewish holidays – it gives me the opportunity to be creative. The other details one needs in order to get those creative juices flowing: time, energy, inspiration.

Every year for Purim since my children were little, we have decorated oatmeal containers, filled them with treats to eat, and given them out to our friends. The giving out of food gifts is specific to Purim – it is call Shaloch Manot (or Mishloach Manot) – literally, sending of gifts. This is the first year none of my children are available to help me – the two eldest are no longer living at home, and my daughter started high school with a rigorous academic schedule, a school play and a Shakespeare mini-competition. So I decided to work on the containers on my own.

Here they are so far:
Purim containers

I did not use any photographs as I have in the past. I covered each one with my Purim wrapping paper. I did use my Esther points at Haman watercolor illustration that I made last summer. I decided it needed something green. So last Sunday while my daughter was working on her computer on an assignment that she did not like and wanted my company, I decided to work on my computer and create a mask with some green. That’s the mask on top of this post.

Explanation of the mask: part of Purim is dressing up. It’s not at all a requirement, but many children and some adults do enjoy this part. Purim also has themes of “hidden” – there is a custom of eating kreplach, for example, which is basically a wonton (and a wonton has “hidden” meat). Esther had to hid her identity in order to save the Jewish people. When one wears a mask, one is hiding a bit of oneself.

Cardinals (Male and Female); Black-Capped Chickadee

red cardinal male; female is brown
A red male cardinal and a female brown cardinal visited my backyard yesterday, after we had about 5 inches of snowfall the day before. I enjoy the cardinals’ visits – they usually come as a pair. I had filled my bird feeder, and they found it quickly. The day before we had blue jays visiting. I think blue jays will scare away other birds while they are in the vicinity.

black capped chickadee
The black-capped chickadee pictured here visited in December.

Do you have bird visitors in your backyard?

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Tea Parties and Teapot Sketches

tea party, Alice performance in Rutgers Gardens
Back in July we attended a performance in Rutgers Gardens. Well, maybe performance isn’t the right word. We were told as we entered the woods on the edge of the gardens that we were Alice. Then we met characters such as the Cheshire Cat and the Red Queen. This table displayed the tea party. I really liked the set up. What do you see? I see a tablecloth that looks like a chess board. And teacups. Thank you to reThink Theatrical for a fun evening.

dormouse, mad hatter in Rutgers Gardens
The Dormouse and Mad Hatter were right next to us. In the photo you can see the March Hare approaching. The large green chairs are part of the regular Rutgers Gardens display.

A friend posted her colorful teapot on Facebook this summer. I was inspired. I had a busy summer of work and family events, but while riding as a passenger in a car on the way to see my daughter perform in sleepaway camp as the Wicked Witch of the West, I produced this teapot sketch:

teapot sketch

A few weeks later while in a hotel room I did a colored pencil sketch of the teapot:
teapot colored pencil sketch

I am a fan of fanciful teacups and teapots – to sign up to read more of these posts by email, please click on the teacup in the sidebar of this blog (should be down at the bottom if you are reading on a phone).

Thank you for visiting – I plan more sketches in the future!