Saturday, November 12, 2016

Heading to a Place We Do Not Know With Trump at the Helm

Dear The Mums,

This weekend was Shabbat Lech L’cha, your favorite parashah, with its connection to the immigrant experience and the perennial promise of America as the golden medina that always was so close to your heart.

After Tuesday’s stunning upset of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump (yes, you read that correctly), it seems to be a most fitting portion for this week. Indeed, many of us feel as Abraham must have felt: we are going forth from the America we know to a land we truly do not know – at all.

Sadly, this country is not, as so many of us expected it would be, anticipating the historic inauguration of its first female president. Instead, we are on the brink of inaugurating Donald Trump as the leader of the free world, despite his proving again and again throughout the campaign that he and many of his supporters are racists, bigots, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, Islamaphobes, anti-Semites, and more. (As for his supporters who may not themselves be these horrible things, I cannot wrap my head around how any of them -- particularly women -- could possibly have voted for someone who is so demonstrably all of these things.)

With control of Congress in-hand and a vacancy on the Supreme Court to fill, Trump and his team threaten to unravel many of the hard-won freedoms we hold dear. Equally disturbing, he regularly incites many followers to spew hatred and violence against fellow Americans, especially those who look unlike them, believe differently than they do, or who see the world through a different prism.

This is a divisive, difficult, and frightening time in our country and it is up to each of us to remain vigilant in our efforts to identify and stand up against civil and social injustices on behalf of anyone who is threatened, endangered, unsafe, or wronged. (In an effort to get ahead of the curve, many of us are donating (or increasing our support) to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and organizations that provide services to refugees and immigrants, including HIAS, which has roots aiding many of our own people, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, as they made their way from pogroms and persecution to freedom under the watchful eye of Lady Liberty.)

Friday night at services, “God Bless America,” which really is a prayer, was the closing hymn. As I sang loudly and clearly, with chills of patriotism running down my spine and giving me goosebumps, I don’t think I’ve truly ever wanted anything quite as badly as I want that blessing.
God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above

From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home

From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home
God bless America, my home sweet home
Miss you…xoxo.
~ Boo!

P.S. Have you run into Marcus yet? You may also see Edie Miller "around town." She'd be fun to have in your Torah study group, too. God knows she'll tell it like it is!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Persnickety About Paper

Last week, I received two paper samples to review. (Thanks, Exaclair!) The first is an 80 gram sheet of classic grid paper from a Rhodia Reverse Book, the second is 80 gram paper from a new Rhodia dot grid book.

As expected, the paper quality is without question and all the writing implements I tested -- fountain, ballpoint, and gel pens, as well as a mechanical pencil -- wrote smoothly, without bleeding, feathering or skipping.

My preference, however, is for the classic grid, which I find easier to use to ensure writing in straight lines. I do, however, appreciate the near invisibility of the dot grid paper. So, I can't help but ask if Exaclair would consider creating a classic grid that's less prominent in color and "boldness" than its current classic grid paper.

What say ye, Exaclair?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Sampling of Sukkot

Which is your favorite sukkah? Why?

Which sukkah looks most welcoming? Why? 

Did you spend time in a sukkah this year?

Hope it was a chag sameach!

Temple Shaaray Tefila, New York, NY
Israel's smallest sukkah
Beit Frummie, Lehigh Valley, PA
URJ, New York, NY
Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, New Brunswick, NJ

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Feels Like Injustice May Be a Chance to Honor a Friend

Dear The Mums,

Yesterday in the minyan, we read from Ha’azinu, which, if I had to guess, is your least favorite Torah portion. Anyone who ever studied with you at this season in years past knows you were ever annoyed with God for telling Moses in no uncertain terms, “You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it—the land that I am giving to the Israelite people.” (Deuteronomy 32:52)

The day before, we had a stark reminder of another of life’s injustices as hundreds of us gathered to say goodbye to Marcus Burstein, our friend, colleague, incredible mensch, and gentle soul extraordinaire. Marcus had died two days earlier, just after Yom Kippur drew to a close.

Like you, I want to be mad at God for allowing such an injustice, for letting an incredible, universally beloved human being suffer and die at 45. However, that would dishonor the memory of someone who had deep faith in God – in good times and bad. Instead, I’m going to try to honor his memory in ways that embrace the fullness of the life he crammed into those 45 short years.

I’m usually not one to dance, but I think a spin or two around the bedroom every so often with iTunes cranked would be a fitting tribute.

Unlike Marcus, I’m not a cook or baker, but perhaps I’ll bake a batch of magic cookie bars for Sukkot. (Another friend posted this recipe, one of his favorites, online and since they're "foolproof," I'm hopeful that even I can handle it.)

Smiling more, listening well, seeing the good in others, and embracing life and its blessings – those in plain sight and those that are hidden – are other ways I can try to honor his memory and his well-lived life.

I hope you’ve made peace with God over God’s injustice to Moses. I, too, will try to make peace with God over what feels like a huge injustice to Marcus, his family, and all the rest of us who knew and loved him. If he shows up in your Torah study group in olam ha-ba, I know you’ll be glad to see him – and that he’ll flash that wonderful smile at seeing you, too.

~ Boo.

P.S. In spite of the circumstances, it was good to see so many people I don’t see often enough anymore – lots of whom you knew, too, from the days of the New Jersey-West Hudson Valley Council.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sure You Count, but Not for the Minyan

On my way to a break-fast tonight, I walked past what used to be Vintage Irving, a Union Square wine bar. The bar/restaurant, it appeared, had been converted into a shtiebel, at least for today. A kittel-clad man stood out front asking passers-by if they were Jewish; it seemed they needed one more for a minyan.

The man a few paces ahead of me said, no, he wasn’t Jewish, but wished the man a shana tova.

“You seem to know the lingo,” came the response.

“I’m not Jewish, but my mother was,” said the passer-by.

“Your mother was Jewish; you’re Jewish. Come on in.”

The man refused, politely, but stayed rooted to his spot on the sidewalk.

By now, I’d stopped, too, and without thinking said, “But you won’t count me…”

“Sure I count you,” the kittel wearer told me, “but not for the minyan.”

Shana tova,” I said, continuing on my way.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My Soul is Tired

Sleep does not help if it’s your soul that’s tired.
-- Unknown
I spent a lot of time during Elul and in the days since Rosh HaShanah taking an accounting of my soul.

My soul is tired.

Tired of being a single-tasker in a multi-tasking world.

Tired of video conference calls that make me feel dyslexic.

Tired of writing condolence notes -- especially for young people.

Tired of eating alone at my desk day after day – for a few extra minutes of work time.

Tired of invariably choosing the pew behind chatters and squirmers -- every year at this season.

Tired of the volume and vulgarity of America’s political discourse.

Tired of having someone pass off my work as her own.

Tired of too-loud talkers, too-loud music, and too-loud kiddies with oblivious moms.

Tired of being pushed and squished on the subway.

Tired of incessant texters -- and constantly dodging them.

Tired of unending consumerism, entitlement, and privilege turning a blind eye to hunger, homelessness, and poverty – and tired of being powerless to help right these wrongs.

Tired of technology’s ceaseless interruptions.

Tired of being bereft of things that promote quality of life and a touch of humanity: face-to-face meetings, apples and honey, thanks for a job well done, uninterrupted work time, morning greetings, communal space, intellectual banter, inside voices, guidance, mentors, a voice, a presence, learning opportunities, creativity for its own sake, and a Shabbat shalom or two when Friday finally rolls around.

My soul is tired – and I don’t know how or where to find the joy, the fun, the funny, the warmth, the camaraderie, the smile, the delight, or the gladness that might bring it back to life.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

#BlogElul: Return

Once again, we’ve returned to the end of Elul and sit perched on the brink of 5777.

May my accounting and assessments throughout this last month prevent me from returning to my old ways.

In the new year, help me to turn toward the good, the sweet, the positive; help me to be kind, generous, giving, to smile, to laugh, and to be gracious, to choose life, and always to be a good Jew trying to be a better Jew.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam for encouraging and enabling us to turn and to return, and may we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year.

Shana tova u'metuka.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.