Hello world (again)

It’s been so long since I last wrote a blog post that I felt like the title of this post was appropriate.  So what has happened since that last post in July?  Well, in some sense a lot and in some sense very little.  I’ll try to explain.

July and August were big transition months for us from a technical, logistical standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint.  During those months, we visited with family a lot, brought everything out of storage and moved it into our new apartment, we received our shipment from Israel, started our new jobs, I went to a conference in San Francisco for a week and Adina started gan (daycare).  In case we forgot to mention it, Alli returned part-time to her job at Southington High School while I have a one-year position at Mount Holyoke College.  This was a lot to juggle, and to be honest, we’re still only about 80% unpacked and set-up since once the school year started for us, very little got done.

Emotionally, this period was very charged for us for many reasons.  We were happy to see our family, we missed our home in Yerushalayim, Israel was in the midst of a war and we felt like we should be there in support, Adina was beginning to walk and she was starting to go to daycare (both of which were bittersweet), we were excited by our new jobs, but missed our old ones.  It was a constant back and forth.

Then the semester started and it’s been basically a day-to-day struggle to just get through each day.  From about 4 weeks into the semester and until the end, the goal became survival.  What do I mean?  Well, I normally have a lot of interests outside of work such as family, friends, running, learning Torah, learning Hebrew, sometimes reading a book or watching some TV or a movie.  From that point in the semester onwards, basically my only time off would be Shabbat or holidays.  I did the absolute minimum of everything else so that I would be able to do my job.  This meant I cut down running from 5 times a week to twice, almost all reading had to serve multiple purposes so most of the reading I did was studying Jewish texts in Hebrew, TV watching was mostly reserved for an hour on Saturday nights, and I visited with friends and family on Shabbat and holidays (and hardly ever outside of that).  I refused, however, to give up the 1.5 hours a day I had with Adina, and this became my break-time.  If Alli was full-time, I have no idea how we’d manage.  Even though it is really hard, the good thing was that my colleagues and students are really top notch, friendly, engaged and energetic.  I’ve been especially impressed by both the level and character of the students.  When I didn’t think I could keep going, having such good students prevented me from giving up.

Several people have asked me if Mount Holyoke College is better or worse than Hebrew University.  That’s really a difficult thing to assess.  It’s sort of like comparing apples and oranges.  Hebrew University is one of the premier research universities, especially for mathematics, in the world.  Mount Holyoke College is an elite liberal arts college for women.  The focus of Hebrew U is on producing high level research papers while the focus of Mount Holyoke College is on teaching at an elite level to elite undergraduates and in particular, for providing support and opportunities for women in academics.  This isn’t to say that people at Hebrew U don’t care about teaching or don’t teach well or don’t support female students and vice versa, that Mount Holyoke College doesn’t want us to do research; it’s just their main agendas are completely different.  More specifically, when I was at Hebrew U, I had no teaching responsibilities at all.  The only thing I was supposed to do was mathematics.  At Mount Holyoke, my main objective is to be an excellent educator.  They do give me some travel funds to support research, but no one I spoke to had any time to actually do research during the semester.

Although the past few months have been somewhat difficult, there were a few highlights: visiting and hiking with Yehuda (one of our friends and neighbors from Israel), Rosh Hashana with our family, Thanksgiving with our family, developing good relationships with my students in general and with my abstract algebra class in particular, skiing in New Hampshire with my in-laws, and last but not least, Adina.

Throughout it all, Adina has been amazing.  She adapts so quickly to everything we throw at her.  It seems to take her about one or two days and then she’s figured out the new schedule or whatever the new twist is in what we’re doing.  She’s the best thing in our lives and, for the most part, she keeps us centered.


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