Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So what does an intern at a thinktank do? (And other things that keep me busy)

Alright, I suppose the time has come to write about what I'm actually doing.

I'm one of 8 (and one more is coming next week) interns at the Shalem Center, a think tank in Jerusalem, for the summer. Our "diversity" of colleges is slightly disgusting: 2 Princetons, 3 Yalies (two of whom are my roommates), 1 Harvard, 1 Penn, 1 Hebrew U, and 1 UToronto grad school.

I am one of four (me, the two Yalies I'm living with--Leah and Sam, and the Penn guy--Adriel) working with Danny Gordis [who, if you've been in the middle of nowhere and haven't seen the ripples he's made recently with his JStreet and Are Young Rabbis Turning On Israel? article, then you should read those and some of the talkbacks]. Anyway, what we primary do is edit the book he's working on now. I asked Danny earlier today how much of what we're doing I can "post freely on the internet" and he was pretty much chill with everything, but I actually can't remember if he said the book's premise was game, so I'll hold off on that for now.

What I can say is that it's been very interesting. We're not doing the nitty-gritty typo-fixing (okay, well, we are. Just because it's a rough copy of the book, so there are lots of typos and spelling things and simple things that get left unnoticed when you're reading your own manuscript dozens of times, but get picked up immediately when new eyes scan it). For the most part, we're reading for ideas. And one thing that's true about Danny Gordis is that he's extremely receptive to criticism--Leah and I sit next to each other, and have at length ripped apart some of his arguments (as have the guys). The five of us meet together in excess of an hour and a half each day, during which we basically tell him what we think needs to be fixed--from a stray comma to a better word to a rearranged paragraph to a huge cut, to a restructured argument, to a complete slashing of an idea that doesn't actually work... We watch him put in the changes, and give commentary in realtime, and then we print up a clean copy and do it again. 

It's kind of like doing copy for the Prince, but much much much more interesting. Because it actually feels like we have some influence in what will eventually be published in this book. A real book! That people are going to read!

Another benefit of working in Israel is that, even in the summer, people drink endless cups of tea. Which I love. Also, Sam, Leah and I bought a watermelon at the shuk (outdoor market) on Sunday, and brought it to work to share with everyone. Delicious!

Other news: This is national Hebrew Book Week, which means that all over the country, people are celebrating the Hebrew language, its revival, and the fact that modern books can be written (and translated into) a language that was dead as a vernacular for millenia. There are book fairs and sales all over the country, and yesterday I went to the one in Jerusalem. Confirmed my love for books :)

Today I babysat! I babysat for the younger sister of one of the boys I tutored during this past year at school. (I've babysat for them in Princeton, too, but they're back in Jerusalem for the summer). The father, a viola player, had a concert tonight, and the entire family (his wife, the boy I tutored, his parents, his wife's parents, etc.) all went to hear him play. Leaving the two-year-old. I babysat her at her grandparents' house (one of the most beautiful houses I've ever seen! I guess that what happens when you design your own house...)

as soon as they found out that i was "the one who taught uri all year" they were raving: "we took uri to the jewish/israel museum today and he knew everything! you are amazing! such a good teacer...." bla bla bla

The actual babysitting was one of those times that just sort of reaffirms for you how much you love something. She's just such a sweet girl, very easy. After her bath and some stories, I put her in bed, and sang to her for half an hour, which I love to do--but I never sing like that in front of someone who's not a baby. I always always start with the Shma and the Moon Song (Grandma's friend Sandy and camp have taught me well). Mostly I sang tefillot (prayers) to beautiful tunes that I know from camp. I stopped, because I wanted her to fall asleep, but she immediately said, "o-pam" (babytalk for "od pa'am" which means "again"). She wanted me to keep singing to her!

And then she fell asleep in my lap. Which is the sweetest thing a baby can do.

1 comment:

  1. Very sweet. I'm thinking of some of the ways you fell asleep as a younger baby than your babysittee is now-- frequently dangling over my forearm while I was reading to your brother.