Dear Shaina,

You finished your first semester! Purim is around the corner and Passover, with your much anticipated visit home, is soon to follow.

The time has flown by (at least for me since I’m not the one in school), and I am eagerly looking forward to our time in the kitchen preparing for the seders, not to mention your help with this culinary intensive holiday. One of the great things about studying in Israel is that your breaks coincide with the Jewish holidays.

One of the more difficult things about you being so far away is that I can’t grasp the day-to-day ebb and flow of your life. I certainly didn’t know every detail of your life when you were in DC, but there was a more regular conversation flow.

Being in the same time zone (only one hour difference) helped. It was a lot easier for you to give me a call while you were walking home from work in DC than it is to negotiate schedules that span an eight hour time difference.E Schuster -date&fig whole bread 4

It’s not that I don’t know the basics: school – work load heavy; weather – huge snow, flooding (need boots), getting nicer during the day; new apartment – ideal roommates, small bedroom, fabulous rooftop patio, right next to the shuk; finances – tight, but managing; friends – new ones, old ones, lots of visitors. All good!

I’m up on the facts, at least the ones you share, but am lacking in the day-to-day essence of your life.  I can hear your response complete with eye rolls and exasperated sighs. I know you’re in school and school consumes your life six days a week, sometimes seven. I know about your frustrations and your accomplishments and your goals. All good!

But that doesn’t stop me from yearning for the moments we”ll be together in the kitchen, chit-chatting over quinoa and kugels, elbow-deep in chicken soup and matzah balls, meandering our way into some tangential thread of conversation that will allow me a glimpse of where your head and heart live, even if only for a moment.

In the meantime, with Tu b’Shevat I got into baking fruit and nut breads. I decided to try some with dates and figs. These two were always part of the little gift bags we received at temple during the holiday when I was a

In Sunday school, we planted little tree sprouts in paper cups to bring home to plant in our yard which was rather futile in Buffalo in the dead of winter. Birmingham is another story. A tree we planted in Bubbe’s front yard one Tu b’Shevat years ago is still thriving today.

Trees don’t live forever, but they sure do make a difference while they’re here…in substance and in essence…for generations.

Maybe you planted some trees in Israel for Tu b’Shvat? Anyway, enjoy your school break and we’ll see you soon!