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My Spiritual & Professional Journey Through Paris



La Vie Parisienne (2 of 3)La Vie Parisienne (3 of 3)

Baguettes, bérets, Le Tour Eiffel, mais oui! Paris, the City of Light and love. Adored for its extraordinary architecture, charming cobblestoned streets, and mysterious romantic allure lying under its grey skies. Many of its treasures, however, remain undiscovered by the common traveler. Having the opportunity to live in Paris, I was not only able to uncover the many facets of the city, but of myself as well. Living so far away from home, I soon realized, was the greatest catalyst in reuniting me with my Jewish identity. Sometimes life will get you completely lost in order to unexpectedly find yourself.

As a student, I have always been intrigued by learning new languages and cultures. Attending my daily French class, my reveries of passing delightful sidewalk cafés and uncovering the endless rich history of Paris would linger in my thoughts. My innate love for adventure told me this was something I had to explore. As I researched various opportunities of going abroad, I couldn’t help but contemplate the questions that constantly swirled my mind; could I live so far away from home? Would I be able to assimilate into a completely new environment? Would I be able to keep my Jewish values intact?

Yet, despite my doubts and uncertainties, I felt this was a path that could not be left undiscovered; that inexplicable feeling was urging me to look beyond my fears and simply trust in the outcome.

As my applications went out, the responses flew in. Several anxious weeks later, I sat at my desk with my acceptance letter to my first choice interior design school starring back at me. Despite my apprehension, I allowed my emunah to conquer my fears, as sometimes life’s greatest passage is just a leap of faith.

Living amongst the largest Jewish population in Europe, I immediately felt right at home within the effortlessly chic Parisian community—a large melting pot of Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians. As acquaintances soon became friends, I realized that no matter where I am in the world, as a Jew, we are all intrinsically connected to one another. Although so far away from home, I couldn’t help but feel that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

Descending le métro, walking to school each morning with my pain au chocolat in hand to the breathtaking sight of Le Jardin du Luxembourg covered in freshly fallen snow. Or taking a stroll along La Seine at dusk passing the accordion players and local artists was something I thought only existed in the films. But no, this is Paris.

Yet, as I soon realized my thirst for all things beautiful and scenic had been quenched, my desire for Torah learning laid yearning. I quickly sought out shiurim of local Rabbanit who were more than welcoming to l’américaine. Learning Torah in French? Formidable!

Listening to the Meghilla read during Purim in the oldest synagogue in the city was indescribable. The Agoudas Hakehilos synagogue, built by famed 18th century Art Nouveau architect Héctor Guimard is rested in the quaint, but never quiet, Jewish quarter, Le Marais.  As I strolled down one of the most aged districts of Paris, each step served as a reminder of the indentation the Jewish community has made on the city throughout history.

Walking along the Rue des Rosiers on the eve of Shabbat, the excitement in the air is palpable; the smell of fresh baked challah and pastries from Le Korcarz boulangerie, listening to the mothers rushing to pick up their children from the corner Hebrew school and wishing one another a ‘Chabbat Chalom’, or the endless line at the exceptionally popular L’as du Falafel.

As a lone traveler, I appreciated the opportunity to immerse myself in an entirely novel culture. Being completely detached from my a comfort zone, to a place where I felt truly inspired, yet completely misplaced at times, it challenged me to stay faithful to my belief system. I reveled at the prospect of living in an entirely new setting, as it confronted me to introspect into my Jewish identity when absent from all other exterior forces: my family, my friends, and my home community. It further pushed me to stray beyond my boundaries, open my mind to new ideas, and try something new each day that made me a little nervous, even. As it often stated, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Living abroad has been one of the most rewarding experiences both academically and personally. I have been so fortunate to live in a flourishing city I love, and where so many of my passions intertwine one another; the breathtaking architecture and scenery, as well as a richness of Jewish life and culture. It has not only inspired me professionally, but has created a large spark in reviving my spiritual connection.  By removing myself from my place of comfort to a pool of uncertainty, yet striving as my heart told me to never object to my fears, the sentiment of emunah is now truly engrained in who I am.

It is only now that I unreservedly understand the storybook lesson Le Petit Prince taught me as a child, “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur.” One only sees clearly with the heart.

Oui, c’est sûr.


Rebecca Aframian completed her master’s degree in interior architecture and design at L’École des Beaux-Arts Paris American Academy in Paris, France. She is currently working as a residential designer with a firm in Santa Monica, California.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jasmin

    August 29, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    You are an amazing writer! I really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you for sharing your story!

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High Collars, High Holidays 



Never in a million years did I think I would be fond of the ‘high collar’, also known as the ‘turtle neck.’ I still cringe everytime I hear the name. I remember my mom making me wear them when it got cold outside… But hello, we live in Los Angeles. When does it get cold?

Dressing already modestly, by covering my knees, elbows (song playing in my head), the thought of covering my full neck is like dude, can I show any skin!? It almost felt like I was covering too much, as if I couldn’t breathe! It is as if someone is choking and restricting my head!

Seeing this trend all over magazines and fashion blogs, I decided to give it another chance! Lo and behold… I fell in love. The choking high collar has NOW become my ultimate favorite thing. Just ask Judith, co-founder of our fashion line RaJu. I keep adding turtle necks to all our styles to the point where we’re almost tired of it. The high collar has a sense of class and elegance to it. It has personality, dimension and is more mysterious. Wearing this dress, with all of its details, print and ruffles, I felt like the high collar tied it all together. The high collar makes you of high end, it’s a luxury, a lifestyle. It forces you to carry yourself in a certain way by maintaining a straighter back and a better posture. Everything manifests differently because of this magical collar.

The high collars forces you to hold your head up high, like a princess. When I see someone wear it, it really adds a beautiful sense of royalty and confidence. As we come into the High Holidays (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), a solemn time, a time for judgement and reflection, we must remember that we are all daughters and princesses of a king. Wear what you may, during these High Holidays… you know what I’ll be wearing!

Here’s some inspiration:

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Six Mindful Eating Tips for Your Body and Soul



The average person spends at least one hour a day eating. So by the age of 30, you’ve spent the equivalent of two years just putting food in your mouth. How can we make this a more pleasurable, productive and meaningful experience?

Traditional Jewish thought has much to say about what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and even why we eat, and much of it is also recommended by modern scientists.


  1. Eat Hungry.


When was the last time you pulled over at a gas station to fill up your tank that was already full? Probably never. However, when was the last time you ate something when you weren’t hungry?  

Checking your hunger gauge before popping in that random bite will allow you to keep your weight in check as well as build your self-control.

Going to your second event of the evening, already fed, and still have an urge to pop down some more food?  Like the modern day nutritionists, King Solomon advises against the unnecessary consumption of food, saying “The righteous eat to satisfy their souls” (Proverbs 13:25).

  1.  Sit Down.

Late to work? Running after the kids? Doing errands? No problem–it’s just not the best time to be chomping down your meal.  Although it may save time, it’s a bad idea. The Talmud uses harsh terminology against those who eat while standing. The Rambam, in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, says that one should never stand or walk while eating.

Modern day scientific research also claims that this kind of eating is fattening and unhealthy. In fact, there is even a diet based on this understanding, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’, which suggests that we consume fewer calories when we eat sitting down versus while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest food better when we sit down and chew our food properly.

  1.  Acknowledge

You’re hungry and sitting down to your meal, now recognize where the food comes from. Taking three seconds to acknowledge basic details of the culinary dish placed before you can set the tone for rest of the meal. Something as simple as verbally acknowledging the work of the cook, especially if it is a parent or spouse, can have a profound effect on your mood. Paying attention to all of the individual ingredients can make the experience even more tasty.

On a deeper level, every time any food is consumed, Jewish sources tell us one should recite a blessing of recognition prior to taking the first bite. A common misconception is that the blessing or bracha that is said before eating is a form of thanksgiving. This is not accurate; while the after-blessing of Birkat Hamazon clearly mentions the act of thanksgiving, the initial blessing makes no mention of thanks. It is a statement acknowledging that God is the Creator of the food (Blessed are you Hashem … Creator of ….).

  1.  Remove Distractions

Imagine our reaction to someone in a movie theater who is on their phone half of the time.  Would we have the same reaction to the ever-so-common sight of someone munching down an entire meal while consumed with an iPhone, TV or computer screen?  One cannot fully enjoy a meal while answering emails or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.

Unlike many other religions whose ordinances promote abstinence from physical pleasures, Judaism incorporates the pleasure of eating in every one of its holidays. However, we rob ourselves of this enjoyment every time we mindlessly eat.

Don’t care about enjoyment? Distracted eating causes your digestion to be less effective in breaking down your food, leading to less flavor and increasing the possibility of bloating, gas and constipation. Trying to lose weight? Research shows that the more you distract yourself during a meal, the more pounds you add. Doing simple acts of mindfulness, such as paying attention to the smell, taste, appearance and texture of the food, can keep the focus on your meal.

  1.  Chew, Swallow, Wait… Repeat.

Ever mindlessly wolf down a meal in one minute? Scarfing down an entire meal can leave you feeling disheartened, but it can also leave you with unwanted extra fat on your hips.

Taking your body off of autopilot mode while feasting has great spiritual benefits as well.  In describing ways of going against animalistic eating habits, the great nineteenth-century Iraqi sage Rabbi Yosef Hayim, in his famous book, Ben Ish Hai, gives a recommendation that is sure to slow your scarf. He writes that one should not reach for the next bite until the previous bite has been completely swallowed.  

Speaking from experience, this one tip is much easier said than done. However, once mastered, this habit is sure to leaving you feeling in control and elevated, especially if you take it to the next level and put down your utensil between bites.

  1.  Appreciate.

Now that you’re satiated and your spirit is recharged, it’s time for some thanksgiving (without the turkey). Saying thanks is much harder when you have somewhere else you want to go. Maybe that’s why the only biblically ordained blessing is the Grace After Meals and not the blessing before the meal (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Being appreciative is a core Jewish value. In fact, Jews are called Yehudim from the word L’hodot, or to thank. Messages of appreciation are found in the stories of our forefathers and foremothers. Gratitude permeates the entire Jewish experience, from the first words that are uttered by our lips when we wake up in the morning, “Modeh Ani”, to the thrice-daily communal prayer service throughout the day.

Surprisingly, recently discovered side benefits of gratitude include improved health, increased self-esteem and even better sleep. Taking the extra minutes to appreciate our privileged satiated stomachs should now seem more meaningful and hopefully a little easier.

Although not practical for every meal, striving towards these goals should help us lead more meaningful, in-control and healthy lives.  For what it is worth, I will personally vouch for it!


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How To Thrive On Yom Kippur: Practical Tips For An Easier Fast



Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred Jewish Holidays of the year, is upon us. Here are ways you can prepare yourself for the 25 hour fast. These pointers will help keep your stomach from grumblin’ and your breath from stankin’.

1) Cut down on the caffeine For all you coffee/tea addicts out there, your morning cup of caffeine is a must. In fact, some of you are quick to develop headaches/migraines if you don’t have that cup. What to do:  Days preceding the fast, try to minimize your caffeine intake as much as possible. Try some herbal tisanes, perhaps. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. There is nothing better you can do for yourself than to drink. Stay away from alcohol; poppin’ bottles will only make you more prone to dehydration, causing unpleasantness during the fast.

2) Did I mention HYDRATION? The difficulty we experience during the fast is not usually linked to lack of food; rather, it is the lack of fluids. Best choices: You can never go wrong with the good ol’ H20. Experts suggest drinking EIGHT 8 oz cups of water per day. Try to reach that goal or even surpass it by drinking more the day of. Eat your way to hydration by stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the most hydrating foods include:  Cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, grapes, tomatoes, watermelon, green peppers, and spinach, to name a few. A handful of these ingredients mixed together sounds like a delicious salad, no?

3) What to eat the day of?  On the day of the fast try eating balanced meals. For the meal before the fast, eat a proper meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables.  Eating more carbohydrates will help make you feel fuller longer (you can never go wrong with potatoes, pasta, and bread). Try to avoid salty and spicy foods as much as possible. The over-consumption of salt causes thirst because the body requires more water to absorb the extra salt. Knowing that we won’t be able to eat for 25 hours drives us to eat as much as possible before the fast begins. However, do yourself a favor and try not to eat a heavy 5 course meal fit for a Prince. The more you eat, the more water is needed from the body to digest it.

Now, you are fully equipped to a be an angel for the day.
 May we all be inSKRIBED and sealed in the Book of Life!

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