Hi, I'm Derek Kwait. You may remember me from my year as Chronicle intern or from this article, Young Peoples Synagogue sends youngest member to study in Israel.
Whenever I wrote for the Chronicle, everyone told me either they never read it or else they never noticed my articles. This must mean that everyone in Squirrel Hill started subscribing to this paper as soon as I stopped writing for it since this article gave me my 15 seconds of fame: The week of its publication, every Jew in Pittsburgh knew I was going to Israel and that Young People's is the best synagogue in Pittsburgh. To answer everyone's questions at once: I leave on the 31st from JFK and I have a 1-hour layover in Kiev, Ukraine before (God willing) touching down at Ben Gurion at 5:30 Sept. 1. Classes at Pardes begin Sept. 4. I lucked out to find an excellent apartment a 10-minute walk from the school on Emek Refaim.
The oddity of stopping in Kiev en route to 9 months in Jerusalem is not lost on me. Nearly all my ancestors came from somewhere in Ukraine (I am a Pliskover on my father's side.) I don't want to sound melodramatic, but I just think of what my great- and great-great grandparents would think if they knew, living in the Pale of Settlement hell they did, that after 100 years in America their descendant would stop there en route to traveling to Jewish Jerusalem in the Hebrew-speaking, Jewish State of Israel to study Judaism for 9 months. I think it would be like trying to explain the Internet to a caveman, something just so unfathomable and, honestly, miraculous. Yes, I should only be in Kiev for about an hour and I have no plans of stepping foot off the airplane unless I absolutely have to, but still, this is special. I feel like I'm taking their souls with me.
In the meantime, I am here in Pittsburgh getting ready. To answer your question, I am not ready now, nor do I even think it's possible to be "ready." I'm not even talking about mentally -- I've never been away from Western PA for more than 5 weeks my entire life, I'm kidding myself if I think I could ever be mentally "ready"--I'm mean physically ready. The list of things I need to do before I leave is literally infinate--just when I think I completed something, something else pops up to replace it, meaning all the stuff I've done and bought in preparation hasn't actually prepared me to go to Israel, it just set the stage for the next thing I need to do or buy. Thankfully, the kindness and helpfulness of the Squirrel Hill community has been just as bottomless, and that's the only reason I'm currently sane. -ish.
After Sept. 4, I will have class nearly all day 6 days a week, so posting will be sporadic, but I'll try to keep this up as best I can. I'm sure I will come to love this small taste of home. Please comment below and make that taste even sweeter.
Hebrew Word of the Interval Between Posts: לחכות ("l'khakot") - to wait