Friday, January 30, 2009

Twenty Five Random Things About Me

In a post last week, I said that I “proudly hold the title ‘Queen of Lists.’” Indeed, on most Fridays, I compile a “weekend list” that includes all the things I need to accomplish before returning to work on Monday. Typically, it includes such things as:

  • Change towels/linens
  • Laundry
  • Read for class
  • Pay bills (with a list of the specific bills that are due in the coming week)

Today’s weekend list also included the following task: Print slides for economics class.

To accomplish this task, I left the office, met a friend for coffee, and then headed to the library building to print the slides. (Although I could, of course, print them at home, it is a lot of pages for my less-than-heavy-duty printer and since I receive a thousand pages of printing each semester as part of the "technology fee," this seemed like a good use for some of those pages.) Unfortunately, when I logged in at the computer center, Blackboard, the electronic program that makes all course materials available via the web, was down. The yellow-vested students posing as “Staff” were of no help whatsoever. Said one to a young woman a few seats away from me who also was unable to access Blackboard, “It was working an hour ago…maybe it’ll come back in a while. If not, try later tonight.” Very helpful… yet again, confirming the notion that Baruch is, in fact, the school I love to hate.

And so I came home, only to find myself “tagged” by several Facebook friends, asking that I “write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals” to send back to the people who tagged me, as well as to others. So, although I cannot yet cross off “Print slides for economics class” from my weekend list, I have created the following list of “Twenty Five Random Things About Me.” Enjoy…

1. In high school I took a professional assessment test that said I should consider a career as a nun.

2. I could live on carbs...french fries, mac and cheese, baked potatoes...

3. I was once fired from a job because, according to my boss, I couldn't write.

4. I love Judaica and Jewish music of all kinds. Can't wait for the next Biennial CD to come out.

5. I married the first guy I ever dated, but I don't necessarily recommend this approach.

6. In high school I drove a 1976 Toyota Corolla station wagon -- bright yellow with wood paneling on the side.

7. During my senior year of college and for a few years after, I drove a turquoise blue Dodge Aspen (with a big rust spot on the hood).

8. I spend waaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on Facebook.

9. Unreturned phone calls and bad grammar are two of my biggest pet peeves.

10. I've never lived outside the United States.

11. I've never been to Chicago.

12. I don't own a DVD player...and have only had my iPod for about a year.

13. One summer during college, I worked for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (way before EasyPass) and could recite -- in the correct order -- every exit from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. Now?...Not so much. And, no, I wasn't a toll collector. I worked in the administrative offices at Exit 9 (New Brunswick).

14. During the other summers (and during winter breaks), I worked at the Franklin Township Public Library...always had first dibs on the best new books...and ran the projector for the Saturday kiddie movies. (No DVDs back then -- you actually had to thread the film through the projector.)

15. My own favorite movie is the Sound of Music and my favorite part is near the end when the nuns take the starters out of the Nazis' cars (hmmmmm, see #1 above...) so the Von Trapps can get a head start over the Alps.

16. Last fall I started writing my own blog. I'm not sure that I "get" the whole blogging phenomenon, or know exactly where I'm going with mine, but for the moment I'm having a good time with it.

17. I also write regularly for the Union for Reform Judaism's blog.

18. As a sophomore in college, I attended a rabbinic recruitment weekend at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, but it didn't "take." (hmmmmm, see #1 above).

19. Woefully out of touch with pop culture, I don't know Brad Pitt from Tom Hanks, from Tom Selleck...Britney Spears from Paris Hilton from Lindsay Lohan...or anyone in between. And truthfully, I don't really care who these people are or what they're up to...

20. Don't know Merlot from Cianti, Chardonnay from Pinot Noir... often just order the house white or a Riesling. Blue Moon is my beer of choice and I drink my margaritas on the rocks with no salt (bad for the hypertension).

21. Before NYC, I lived in Los Angeles, CA and before that just outside Hanover, NH. To move my car from New Hampshire to California, I drove over Loveland Pass during a blizzard. To get it from LA to NYC, I put it on a car carrier. Much better...

22. Two summers ago, I survived two weeks of travel in eastern Europe and Israel with hundreds of 16-year-olds and no luggage. The things I could tell you about Czech and Polish underwear you do not want to know.

23. Except for Jeopardy, the Food Network and re-runs of House and Law and Order SVU, I hardly watch any television.

24. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I got lost on the Washington Mall on the Fourth of July. Apparently, my mother was less concerned about finding me than she was about figuring out how she would explain my disappearance to her own mother. Obviously, my family found me and all's well... ;-)

25. I have never colored or straightened my hair...and I don't intend to do either anytime soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Taking a Cue from Ima on (and off) the Bima

To those of you who know me (or have heard my I-was-a-NFTY-flight-chaperone-in-Eastern-Europe-and-my-luggage-never-showed-up saga), it will come as no surprise that I carefully plan things in advance, always like to have my ducks in a very straight line, and frequently don’t do terribly well when things veer (even ever so slightly) from “the plan.” To elaborate just a bit, I’m extremely focused and motivated, proudly hold the title “Queen of Lists” (gleefully crossing off the tasks as they are completed), and take great pains to show up on time if not early to work, school, wherever... At the same time – unlike most Type A personalities – I am not an Academy Award-winning multi-tasker (I can’t talk on the phone and do much of anything else well at the same time).

And so it is that I’m spending time this weekend researching flights from New York to Tulsa for a friend’s wedding in the middle of March. But it’s not just any weekend in the middle of March. It’s March 21, which is three days before Tuesday, March 24, the day of the midterm exam in Economic Analysis and Public Policy, one of the two graduate courses in which I’m enrolled this semester at behemoth Baruch, the school that drives me crazy. Given my self-admitted Type A personality, neither will you be surprised to learn that I’m a serious student, spending lots of time -- not all of it positive, I freely admit -- devoted to schoolwork and trying to balance the rigors of the academic world with a full-time job, a social life and, sometimes, The Schmuck Parade. In fact, both my sister and a good friend recently told me that, with the start of the spring semester just days away, “It’s time to batten down the hatches." (Yes, I’ve already requested March 20, 23 and 24 as vacation days, scribbling “out-of-town wedding and midterm exam” on the required paperwork. And, if I could, I’d start studying for the exam this weekend, but since the semester doesn’t start until Monday, that just isn’t an option – even for me.)

Instead, I’m going to take a cue or two, or seven or 29 or 362 from Ima on (and off) the Bima. Although I don’t know “Ima” personally, we do work in the same crazy Jewish world, are friends on Facebook (with 13 mutual friends, which, although not a huge number, is a good Jewish number nonetheless) and follow each other on Twitter. I read her blog, Ima on (and off) the Bima, and, from time to time, her other one, too. From all this e-info, I know that Ima is a married working mother of three young (and quite adorable) kids who, if I had to guess, doesn’t require a whole lot of sleep. She does however, teach, preach, read (81 books in 2008), write, parent, take lots of photos, cook, bake (she recently made a cake that looked exactly like an iPod nano!) and oh-so much more.

So, if Ima on (and off) the Bima can do all these things all the time, surely I can attend a wedding in Tulsa on Saturday, March 21 (mazel tov, Abby and Donnie) and take a midterm exam in New York on Tuesday, March 24, right?!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Remember Becky Bell

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that overturned or outlawed all laws in this country that restricted or prohibited abortion. Even with this ruling in place, in 1988, seventeen-year-old Becky Bell, afraid to tell her parents about her pregnancy and thus unable to obtain the parental consent required of minors for an abortion in her home state of Indiana, died from an infection following a back-alley procedure.

President Obama (yup, still like the sound of that!) in a written statement today said, "On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose."

Bravo, Mr. President. But please remember that there's still a lot of work to do here. May Becky Bell’s memory remind you that your actions in this arena must be swift, confident and courageous. Becky and her family deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grandma is Walking Right Beside Me

Earlier today, awed by what I’d watched on television at high noon, I changed my Facebook status to read, “Jane is this the greatest country in the world, or what?!”

A while ago, a friend commented on my status: “Truly amazing – I wonder what our Bubbes would think of the events of the day – I am in awe.”

To which I responded: “Didn't you hear him mention our Bubbes? He said, "For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.”

He continued, “Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. This is the journey we continue today.”

And not just President Obama (wow, I like the sound of that!), but every single speaker today evoked the memory of my grandparents and the wonderful, rich legacy that is their gift to me.

Rick Warren did it when he launched his invocation with the Sh’ma, the watchword of the Jewish people: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one.”

Elizabeth Alexander did it with pieces of her Praise song for the day: “We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, ‘I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road.’”

And later, with this: “Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.” That is precisely where, in my mind, my grandmother would reassure that “everything would piece itself out.”

And in closing, the Reverend Joseph Lowery did it too, imploring us “to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.”

And so it is that with the powerful eloquence of President Barack Obama, Pastor Rick Warren, poet Elizabeth Alexander and the Reverend Joseph Lowery, I was able to “mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.” Indeed, it is our journey to continue, but thanks to all of them, I was reminded yet again of those who are walking right beside me, today and every day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Gatkes Weather

It’s currently 16 degrees in New York City. If my grandfather were alive, he’d ask me if I was wearing gatkes and the answer would be…yes!

Keep warm out there today!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You Go, Girls!

Check out this article in today’s New York Times about some young Afghan girls and their families.

If ever there was a time for God, Allah, or some other all-powerful presence in the universe to bless these girls as they struggle to overcome the narrow-mindedness of misogyny, it is now.

So God bless them and their families for their courage, persistence, vision and moxie…and just let them be kids.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Gal-Gal-Gal Galatz and Other Things Israeli

For ways to keep your heart, mind and spirit close to Israel during these difficult days in the east, check out my latest post on

As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Procrastination Pays!

Finally, some good news from behemoth Baruch. In today’s mail, I received the following letter:
December 2008

Dear students:

As all of you are aware, the School of Public Affairs has had, as part of the curriculum, a Computer Competency Requirement. In the past, students have completed this requirement by either successfully passing a timed exam, or by registering for the PAF 8000 workshop.

Due to increasing demand by students that the requirement be revised, the issue was brought to the School of Public Affairs Curriculum Committee, and was later voted on by the faculty of the School of Public Affairs. It was decided that the existing Computer Competency Requirement will be eliminated effective immediately. Students with a graduation date of February 2009 or later
will no longer need to have satisfied the requirement in order to graduate.

The Registrar’s Office has also been made aware of this change. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at


Jonathan Engel
Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs
School of Public Affairs
Baruch College, CUNY
To those of you who know me well, it will, I know, come as somewhat of a shock to learn that although I am one-third of the way through the master’s program, I had not yet taken the Computer Competency timed exam nor registered for the PAF 8000 workshop. And so it is that I have learned (finally!) from firsthand experience that sometimes—not often, but sometimes—procrastination pays!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bernard Baruch Must Be Spinning in His Grave

Today at lunchtime, I walked from 40th and Third down to 25th between Third and Lex to pay my tuition bill at Baruch College, where I’m enrolled in the MPA program at the School of Public Affairs. I’ve taken to paying this bill in person because my experience with Baruch’s behemoth administration has been that if there’s something to screw up, they’ll screw it up.

I should have been suspicious when, much to my surprise, there was no line at the Bursar’s Office, even though the deadline for tuition payments for the spring semester is tomorrow. However, the walls of the office were plastered with homemade-looking signs that said something along the lines of “No credit card payments are accepted at the Bursar’s window.” Lovely…

Not one to believe everything I read, I stepped to the first empty window and, slid my bill and my Visa card into the tray. The conversation with the woman behind the window went something like this:

Me: “I’d like to pay this bill.”
Window woman: “Only pay by credit card online.”
Me: (slightly apoplectic): “I can’t pay this here?”
Window woman: “Only pay by credit card online.”

Muttering things that most definitely would not pass the “family blog” test, I left the window and the building and, with my blood pressure somewhere on the way to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, returned to my desk after my fool’s errand.

Fast forward to the evening. Immediately upon returning home from the office, I logged onto eSIMS, Baruch’s online student information and registration system, and navigated my way to the tuition payment page. There I learned that the College accepts only American Express, Discover or MasterCard. I, of course, wanted to pay with my Continental Airlines Visa card (the only card I ever use) so I could get airline miles. Nine hundred and four miles in one shot is nothing to sneeze at, but noooo…no such luck.

And so I pulled my American Express card from my wallet, dusted it off (I don’t remember the last time I used it) and entered the account number, the expiration date and the name on the account, as well as the email address to which I wanted the payment confirmation to be sent into the form on the screen,. When I hit “Next,” the total showed $904 for tuition and $23.96 as a transaction fee.

Assuming the fee was there because I was using a “high-end” American Express card, I dug out a brand new MasterCard (it arrived just yesterday) that I got to ensure overdraft protection on my checking account. Again, I entered the account number, the expiration date, the security code from the back of the card, the name on the account and the email address to which I wanted the payment confirmation to be sent. When I hit “Next,” the total again showed $904 for tuition and $23.96 as a transaction fee.

Again I felt my blood pressure creeping up, not only at having to repeat the process again and again, but also at what my father would call “aroisgevorfene gelt,” (thrown away money). And so, yet again, I went back to the payment page, and this time selected the electronic funds transfer option. Experienced now, I entered my checking account number, the bank routing number, the name on the account and the email address for payment confirmation. Just as I was going to hit “Submit Payment,” the screen flickered and without warning I was back at the eSIMS home page. Urghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

And so one last time I navigated my way to the tuition payment page, selected the electronic funds transfer option, and entered my checking account number, the bank routing number, the name on the account, the email address for payment confirmation and the name of the goat my father bought for two zuzim (just checking to see how carefully you're reading!). This time, the total showed $904 (no transaction fee!) so before you could say “Bernard Baruch,” I hit “Submit Payment” and almost immediately received the promised email confirming my payment.

Speaking of Bernard Baruch, the man was an extraordinarily successful financier, business mogul and presidential advisor on economic matters. How ironic. I have no doubt that if he had even the slightest inkling of what’s going on in the Bursar’s Office (and at the online payment site) at the school that bears his name, he’d be spinning in his grave.

Monday, January 5, 2009

For Israel

As I’m sure you can imagine, a lot of rabbinic writing crosses my desk on any given day. Today, as Qassam rockets continued to rain down on Israel and her armed forces met harm in Gaza, I was especially touched by this prayer by Rabbi Yehoram Mazor, Av Beit Ha’Din of MARAM Israel:
A Prayer for Times of War

May the Everlasting who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah bless all the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces and all those who are protecting our people. May the Source of Blessing protect them and free them from all trouble and anxiety, and may all they do be blessed. May God send safety and redemption to all our soldiers in captivity.

May the Eternal have mercy on them and bring them from darkness to light and from enslavement to salvation, give them strength and save them. May the Eternal
listen to all the prayers of our people.

Merciful God, may Your compassion be with us, and remember Your covenant with Abraham. May you spread the covering of Your peace over the descendants of Ishmael, son of Hagar, and over the descendants of Isaac, son of Sarah, and may it be fulfilled that they shall hammer their swords into spades and their spear into ploughshare. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation and they shall learn war no more. And each shall sit under their vines and their fig trees and none shall disturb them.

And let us say: Amen

Friday, January 2, 2009

It’s a Small World…and It’s Getting Smaller!

The world is a small place and it seems that with each passing day, it is getting smaller. Last Friday evening, I was at home--reading, browsing on the computer and generally minding my own business--when a friend from work called me. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: “What number is your building?”
Me: “343. Why?”
Friend: “I’m walking into your building now.”
Me: “What are you doing here?”
Friend: “My friend CJ* lives in your building.”
Me: “No kidding…what floor?”
Friend: “15…15B”
Me: “OMG, I’m in 15P, I’ll meet you in the hall.”

A few minutes later, my friend and I were knocking on 15B, where he was expected by CJ and a friend of hers who was visiting from the Midwest for the weekend. In fact, her visitor (who answered the door) was a young guy whom I’d met at a L’Taken seminar in Washington, DC last March. (He and I are already Facebook friends.)

Although I didn’t actually meet CJ that night (she was getting ready to go out and not quite ready to “meet her public”), we’ve now become friends on Facebook, where we had 12 mutual friends right from the get-go. Eleven of them (from the ranks of the Reform Jewish world) were no surprise. The twelfth, however, was somewhat of an outlier…a friend and study-buddy from grad school who (aside from his friendship with CJ and me) has little if any connection to the Jewish world, let alone the Reform Jewish world.

When I asked him about it, he said, “Remember when I first came to your apartment and I said I've been to a party in this building? It was CJ’s! Weird. She used to work (and is friends with) two people from my softball team. Weird small world.”

Weird small world, indeed. But six degrees of separation? Nope…I’d say more like three!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.