Monday, December 31, 2012

My Yizkor Friend

Although technically it's not a blog post, this Ten Minutes of Torah essay appeared on Thursday.  I'm sharing it here in case you didn't catch it last week.

Wishing you brightness and blessings in 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gino Bartali: Righteous Among the Nations

It took me longer than the Ima and it took me longer than Rebecca, but like the two of them, I recently read and enjoyed Road to Valor:  A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation.  Written by Aili and Andres McConnon, the non-fiction narrative that reads like a novel tells the story of Gino Bartali, one of Italy's great cyclists and a two-time Tour de France winner--first in 1938 and again in 1948, a time when sharp political divides (and fan loyalties) characterized the country.

During the years in between, Bartali used his time and talents as part of a network of Catholic clergy and printers, all of whom risked their lives to create counterfeit documents so that Italian and emigrant Jews could remain in German-occupied Italy.  Using his bicycle, Bartali ferried documents, rolled up and hidden in the frame of the bike, around the country--from Florence to Assisi and back again. 

The cyclist also was instrumental in saving the lives of the Goldenberg family--Elvira and Giacomo together with their son Giorgio and their daughter Tea.  Without Bartali's assistance, it is more than likely that the Goldenbergs would have perished at the hands of the Nazis. Instead, the children and grandchildren of Giogio and his wife, and Tea and her husband today number more than two dozen.

Reticent to elaborate on this facet of his life, Bartali "remain[ed] tight-lipped with the press about his wartime activities for most of his life."  Thanks to the McConnons, we readers are all the wiser, knowing that for the life he lived and for the lives he saved, Gino Bartali is indeed a hero--to Italy and to the Jews.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Three Jews, One Museum

Thanks to free admission to the Jewish Museum offered by Temple Shaaray Tefila, two friends and I spent a lovely afternoon there yesterday.

We started with Crossing Borders:  Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries, which although not a blockbuster exhibit, presented some exquisitely beautiful Hebrew, Latin and Arabic manuscripts that date back to medieval times.  Surprisingly, we had the museum almost entirely to ourselves and we truly enjoyed viewing the manuscripts, which range in size from huge volumes to teeny-tiny books no bigger than those in the Nutshell Library.

When we had finished wandering among the exhibit's display cases--together and individually--we briefly visited the museum's permanent collection, which spans from ancient times through to modernity and beyond.  Highlights include Judaica from throughout the ages, as well as an historical perspective of the Jews and their religious practices and traditions in communities throughout the world.

Before leaving the museum, we browsed in the gift shop for a few minutes, too, chuckling over such items as a "Mazel tov" spatula, porcelain Yiddish fortune cookies, a bagel yoyo and the oh-so-familiar (to us) cookbook, Entree to Judaism by Tina Wasserman.

Following our visit, one of us took the photo above, before we parted ways and continued on with our Sunday.  As my father would say, and as was, indeed, the case, "A good time was had by all."

Thanks, Shaaray Tefila, and thanks, too, Jewish Museum!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is This the Best You Can Do?

Photo:  SantaCon, SF
December 15, 2012

Dear SantaCon Santas,

Yesterday 20 sweet, innocent first-graders and seven educators were senselessly killed in cold blood at their school and today you’re gallivanting around the city in fuzzy red suits, blocking the sidewalks, screaming drunken obscenities at pedestrians from cab windows, and littering our neighborhoods as though they’re the basement of your fraternity house?  Is this the best you can do?  Really?!?

Six weeks ago, the worst storm in our region’s history left thousands homeless, and many others with endless cleaning up to do and you’ve spent today pub-crawling in a loud, rowdy group?  Is this the best you can do?  Really?!?

Each day from November 1 through the end of the year, The New York Times profiles an individual or family that benefits from the paper’s Neediest Cases Fund.  Illness, poverty, drugs, domestic violence, lack of education, and just plain hard luck figure prominently in these stark tales.  With so much in our world that needs fixing, how can you devote an entire day (and, no doubt, lots of money, too) to drinking in noisy, crowded bars, where you can’t possibly hear the person sitting next to you?  Is this the best you can do?  Really?!?

Yes, I know I sound old, crotchety, and judgmental, but the world is in dire need of new ideas, energy and passion—things you seem to have in great supply—and the best you can come up with is a day-long, raucous pub-crawl?  Really?!?

Perhaps next year you and your SantaCon buddies will devote your time, energy and passion to enriching our world? Perhaps instead of bar hopping in your Santa suit you’ll visit a children’s hospital or a homeless shelter?  Perhaps you’ll donate canned goods to a food pantry or deliver holiday packages to shut-ins?  Perhaps you’ll visit kids whose parents are in Iraq or Afghanistan?  Donate a pint of blood?  Help ban assault weapons?  Ensure that a woman's right to abortion remains legal?  Skip the beers and donate to the Marines’ annual Toys for Tots campaign instead?  Deliver a Christmas tree to a family that might not otherwise have one? 

Don’t like any of these ideas?  Devise one of your own.  Give to a charity of your choice.  Help an elderly neighbor string up his Christmas lights.  Shovel her driveway or sort her recyclables.  Read to kids in your old elementary school.  Tutor a kid who’s struggling with math.

There’s so much wrong with our world, SantaCon.  Ditch the alcohol and the Santa suit and help to make it right.   


Friday, December 14, 2012

Merry Chrismukkah, Jimmy

Nearly four years ago, I wrote this post, which was supposed to be the first in an occasional series.  Although it's been much longer than I intended, I'm glad to bring you the next installment about another person in my neighborhood.  This is Jimmy Vignapiano, who works in the mailroom at the Union for Reform Judaism and brings me my snail mail each day.  Our conversations usually go something like this:
Me:  Hey, Jimmy...How are you?
Jimmy (handing me my mail):  Miss  Jane...just a little crappola today. 
Me (rolling my eyes if there's a lot of mail):  Thanks, Jimmy.  Have a good one.
Earlier this week at the URJ Hanukkah party (where longtime employees are honored on their milestone anniversaries), Jimmy and I sat at the same table.  When I got back to my seat after accepting a certificate and gift marking my decade with the Union, Jimmy told me that when he celebrated his fifth anniversary with the URJ, he received a kiddush cup.  After 10 years, he received a chanukiah.  What he told me next made me chuckle:  Today, the kiddush cup hangs on the Vignapianos Christmas tree and the chanukiah sits on the mantle in their home.    

Merry Chrismukkah, Jimmy...Merry Chrismukkah, indeed!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sweet, Pink Lemonade

On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, I updated my Facebook status:
Although you cannot escape your genes, they certainly can widen your world.
It wasn't just a frivolous, feel-good post, though.

I'd just gotten off the phone with Ed, a second cousin, who was recovering from a mastectomy he'd had five days earlier.  He'd called to set a date to meet for dinner and we settled on Wednesday of the coming week.  Each of us was eager to, as he'd suggested in an email to me, "get together sometime soon, whether to discuss the effects of breast cancer, or just to become friends rather than somewhat distant relatives."

Three weeks earlier, his mother had called me.  Surprised that she was calling out of the blue, my first thought was that someone had died.  (Tfu, tfu, tfu...)  Thankfully, that wasn't the case.  Instead, she told me that Ed had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that his doctor wanted to see my BRCA test results.  Of course I faxed them the very next morning. 

I also called Ed to check in with him.  Although we didn't see each other often when we were growing up--an occasional simcha, funeral or shiva call was about it--we talked for a while that day.  A  few more calls and emails followed as he compiled his family history (a piece of which we share) and prepared to meet with a genetic counselor.

Fortunately, he's now cured and, best of all, he's negative for a BRCA mutation, which is great news for him and even better news for his two college-age daughters.

We had a great time on Wednesday night, not just comparing notes about surgical drains and itchy incisions, but also about our jobs, our families and what we've been up to since my grandmother's funeral more than 21 years ago.

I'm hopeful that Ed and I will see each other again, that his wife Cara will join us next time, and that from the breast cancer lemons in our lives, we'll make some sweet, pink lemonade.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wilbur Cross’s Proclamation

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving dinner didn’t officially begin until my mother had read some prayer of thanksgiving, whether from the pages of a siddur or clipped from the newspaper earlier in the week. 

Sadly, that tradition has fallen by the wayside in recent years.  Tomorrow, I intend to resurrect it, although it is somewhat likely that my plan will meet with objections.  Should I give in to them and not read the piece I’ve selected, I’m sharing it here in the hopes that it might get a well deserved reading at someone else’s holiday table.

I’ve chosen the now somewhat famous 1936 Thanksgiving proclamation of Connecticut Governor Wilbur L. Cross, who was a Shakespearean scholar and an esteemed professor of English at Yale.  His eloquence catches the ear and, seven decades after he penned it, his message remains timeless: 
Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year. In observance of this custom, I appoint Thursday, the twenty-sixth of November, as a day of Public Thanksgiving for the blessings that have been our common lot and have placed our beloved State with the favored regions of earth -- for all the creature comforts: the yield of the soil that has fed us and the richer yield from labor of every kind that has sustained our lives -- and for all those things, as dear as breath to the body, that quicken man's faith in his manhood, that nourish and strengthen his spirit to do the great work still before him: for the brotherly word and act; for honor held above price; for steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth; for liberty and for justice freely granted by each to his fellow and so as freely enjoyed; and for the crowning glory and mercy of peace upon our land; -- that we may humbly take heart of these blessings as we gather once again with solemn and festive rites to keep our Harvest Home.
May each of us appreciate the blessings that are ours, savor the company of family and friends, and not overdo it with the mashed potatoes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

All Body Parts All the Time

The content of this blog post may not be suitable for all readers.  Reader discretion is advised.

A friend recently suggested that my life is “all body parts all the time.”  In some ways, she’s not wrong.

With my reconstruction now complete, I’m able to turn my full attention to researching and writing my master’s thesis which also focuses on a particular (but different!) body part.  
In case you haven’t been following the story, I’m writing about the Haredi practice of metzitzah b’peh (oral suction as part of Jewish ritual circumcision) that, in the last eight years, has resulted in 11 cases of neonatal herpes in New York City, including the death of two babies. Recently the New York City Board of Health voted to require Haredi mohelim to obtain written consent from parents before performing metzitzah b'peh as part of the baby's bris.  The Haredim have filed a lawsuit against the city, and a judge ordered a stay on the requirement until the next hearing, which is scheduled for November 14.

But, rather than get into further details here, I’ll let you read the section on Jewish ritual circumcision that I’ve just completed...which also partially explains why I haven't been able to blog here in recent weeks. 

Jewish Ritual Circumcision

According to Klein (1992), “[t]he operation of ritual circumcision consists of three steps:
1.      Milah, the cutting off of the foreskin.
2.      Peri’ah, the tearing of and folding back of the mucous membrane to expose the glans.
3.      Metsitsah, the suction of the blood from the wound.” (p. 422)

Initially, these steps were described in the Talmud—a compilation of rabbinic writings completed by the 5th century—in the context of what can and cannot be performed on the Sabbath.  According to the Talmud, “We may perform all the necessities of circumcision on the Sabbath.  We may circumcise, uncover the corona, draw the blood, and place a bandage and cumin upon it.”

Later, these same steps were described again by Moses Maimonides, the 12th century Torah scholar and physician in his Mishneh Torah (Repetition of the Torah).  This 14-volume work describes all the laws of Jewish observance as detailed in Jewish texts (Torah and Talmud).  In his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides writes:
How is the circumcision performed?  The foreskin that covers the crown of the penis is cut off until the entire crown is revealed.
Afterwards, the soft membrane that is beneath the skin should be split along the mid-line with one’s nails and peeled back to either side until the flesh of the crown is revealed.
Afterwards, one should suck the place of the circumcision until all the blood in the further reaches is extracted, lest a dangerous situation arise.  Any [mohel] who does not perform metzitzah should be removed from his position.  After one has performed metzizah, one should apply a bandage, a compress, or the like. (Touger, 1991)
It is important to note that the Hebrew Maimonides used to describe the third step in the process is metzitzah [suction], not metzitzah b’peh [suction by mouth].   Although the text does not explicitly specify the suction method to be used, it is plausible to presume that during Maimonides’ time, suction by mouth was the only feasible way to draw blood away from the circumcision wound.  Touger (1991) offers this commentary on the text, providing an explanation of why metzitzah b’peh has largely been abandoned by all but the most ultra-Orthodox Jews:
Traditionally, the mohel sucks out the blood with his mouth.  Nevertheless, in previous generations, the Rabbis did grant license to use a pipette because of the possibility that germs in the mohel’s mouth might infect the child.  Today, there are authorities who suggest the use of a pipette because of the danger that the mohel could contract AIDS. (pp. 220-221)

And yet, like their brethren in 19th century Hungary and Germany who believed the commandment to perform metzitzah b’peh was handed down from God to Moses, Haredim in New York City continue this custom, believing that their practice imbues it with the weight of Jewish law.  According to Dvoretzky and Roth (2012), counsel to the International Bris Association (IBA), one of the three organizations that has filed suit against New York City for its efforts to obtain parental consent prior to ritual circumcisions in the Haredi community:
Traditionally, metzitzah was performed using direct oral suction—metzitzah b’peh (“MBP”)—and this method remains in widespread use in Hasidic, Orthodox, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.  Indeed many prominent rabbinic authorities maintain that MBP is the only legitimate way to properly complete the circumcision in accordance with Jewish law. (p. 26)
It seems extremely unlikely, therefore, that the Haredim will forsake metzitzah b’peh under any circumstances, despite the possible health risks to both the infant and the mohel that have been identified by generations of scientific experts—and heeded by rabbinic authorities—beginning in the 19th century.

Yes, at the moment it is all body parts all the time!  Stay tuned....

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Although I have little affinity for numbers, for much of my adult life I’ve been fascinated with dates—such as today—that have some order or progression to them.  I recall signing in at my summer job (where, in 1977 at 14, I think I was still a volunteer) at the Franklin Township Public Library when the date was 7-7-77.

Many years later on July 8, 1990, I watched Charles Kuralt quip on CBS Sunday Morning about what had happened at 34 minutes and 56 seconds after midnight (and would happen again at a bit more than half past noon) on that date.  Yes, the time and date readout was a perfect sequence of numbers:  12:34:56 on 7/8/90.

In the early 90s while living in northern New England, I’d randomly point out to anyone who’d listen, let’s say on August 8, 1992, that “Sixteen years from today, it will be 08-08-08.”  In the same vein, I’d note, on April 3, 1995, let’s say, that “Seventy-four years ago today, it was 4-3-21.”  This quirky habit continued through the turn of the century and, once I’d relocated to Los Angeles, with my new friends and colleagues out there.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in the wee hours of today a Los Angeles friend (who now lives in West Virginia) sent me this Facebook message:  
Let me be the first (and probably only!) to wish you a happy 10/11/12!!! :-)
She may have been the first, but she definitely was not the only.  At 8:34 a.m., my former boss from New Hampshire (who now lives in western Pennsylvania) forwarded to me this email he’d received earlier in the morning from his daughter:
From: Scott’s Daughter []
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2012 8:11 AM
To: Scott
Subject: In place of Jane

Since Jane Herman isn't here to remind you......

Today is 10/11/12

Enjoy it, everyone.  It won’t be 10-11-12 again until 100 years from today!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Letter to The Mums: Always on our Minds

Dear The Mums,

The most recent edition of RJ magazine includes this little blurb that I wrote last year just before the High Holy Days.  I wouldn’t normally point something like this out to you, but this past Saturday was Brian’s bar mitzvah and I chose my jewelry for the occasion very carefully.  Included in my ensemble were a necklace and two bracelets that belonged to you.  When we got to temple, Aunt Claire was wearing earrings--which you know she doesn’t do very often.  They were very pretty and I complimented her on them.  She told me that you had given them to her.  It seems that you were on everyone’s mind that morning.

The bar mitzvah was lovely and Brian did a great job.  The service was a bit long, though, given that it was a double and there were the extra Hallel readings for Sukkot (as well as a second hakafah before the scroll was returned to the ark.  I’ve never seen that done…have you?)  You’ll be interested to know, too, that in Conservative congregations, God’s still reviving the dead, unlike “by us” where the Eternal is giving life to all. :-)  Meitim vs. hakol aside, the Conservative siddur lists the matriarchs in the order that you prefer them:  Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, and Ted told me that every time that passage was read, he thought of you.  You really were ahead of your time.  Amy and I opened the ark before the Torah service, Daddy carried one of the scrolls, and Aunt Claire had an aliyah. She did a wonderful job; you would have been proud.

At the reception, I chatted with Sherry and Marvin Freedman and all of Aunt Claire's neighbors and friends -- the Marks', the Ronans, and the Kossins.  We talked about you, and Mrs. Ronan told a story about Uncle Irv.  Before long, we were all laughing about his cigarettes and how he'd stick them in his pocket whenever anyone came out into the garden to check on him. Those memories never seem to fade...they've just gotten sweeter with time.

Here are some pictures so you can see how we’re all looking these days.  We missed you, but in so many ways you were right there with us…as you are always.  

Ian:  Getting so tall, but still sweet as ever

Ian and Amy

Pretty Jill (she's 15!)
Daddy with Amy and me

 Chag sameach, The Mums and xoxo,

~ Boo!

P.S.  Melinda Panken used your ethical will as part of her remarks during Yizkor on Yom Kippur and Peter Weidhorn told me that there wasn’t a dry eye in the sanctuary.  I think that your values are living on in ways that you probably couldn’t have imagined when you first penned those words.  xoxo.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Big Umbrella of a Small Jewish World

I love that the umbrella of Torah is so big and wide that this past Friday's edition of the URJ's Ten Minutes of Torah was about BRCA mutations and Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC).  I'm honored to have been able to use such a widely read forum to raise awareness about this topic, and I appreciate all the wonderful feedback I've received about it.

First prize, though, goes to Marvin Freedman, who printed out a copy and, when he saw me at yesterday's family bar mitzvah, asked me for my autograph!  Marvin, who served on the URJ board of trustees with my mom, and I are not related, but might best be considered "kissing cousins."  His wife, Sherry, is a cousin of the bar mitzvah boy's paternal grandfather, z'l, and I'm a niece of the bar mitzvah boy's paternal grandmother. Small Jewish world, indeed!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hadassah Arms? No, Michelle Lives in the White House

Travis Long/The News & Observer, via Associated Press
This article about Michelle Obama in today’s paper reminded me about Allison Olmsted, a colleague from my days in New Hampshire, who once wisely quipped that “No one over 30 should ever wave on the beach.”  Indeed, Michelle Obama is the exception that makes Allison’s rule true.

For years, my sister and I always jokingly referred to those jiggly flaps of skin—often found on older and (mostly) Jewish women we knew—as “Hadassah Arms.”  Meaning no disrespect to either the women or the organization, it was a reference that reflected our world, and quickly became part of our family’s vocabulary. 

The clincher came, though, when one of us said something to our Aunt Claire about “Hadassah Arms.” Not understanding the reference, she thought we were talking about an apartment building!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Yom Kippur Browse

Yes, my dad and I maintained our minhag yesterday and after a bit of schmoozing following the morning service at temple, we drove down the road to Barnes and Noble for our annual Yom Kippur browse.

Increasingly (and as I wrote last year), it seems, the store is filled with more “stuff”—stationery, school supplies, writing journals, calendars, photo albums, e-readers and the like—and fewer books, and this year was no exception.  Nonetheless, ignoring our hunger, the thick, earthy smell of coffee from the cafĂ©, and several rowdy teens, we each managed to find a few books, a chair and enough energy to thumb through our selections until it was time to return to temple for the afternoon service.

While my dad perused The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Explorers of the Nile:  The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, I went back and forth between two hefty selections:  Les Miserables and The Fountainhead.  Of course, the hefty selection I should be reading right now is Bureaucracy:  What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It, all of whose 464 pages are supposed to be read by the time I get to class on Monday night.  Better get to it... 

In the meantime, stay tuned to find out what my dad and I actually end up reading in 5773—especially once my thesis is finished in December, when I’ll be able to choose my own books instead of having someone else choose them for me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Tattoo Tutorial

Because I’ve been so very forthcoming about my ongoing BRCA journey, I need to fill you in on today’s adventure—not only because it’s a milestone on the journey (the last official step in the reconstruction process that started 14 months ago), but also because it happened to coincide with the beginning of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) week.

So, here we go…

A few minutes before 10 a.m. this morning, I checked in on Foursquare at Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion on 53rd Street.  Up on the 10th floor, I checked in again—this time with the receptionist in the Plastic Surgery suite.  About 10 minutes later, I was in one of the exam rooms (at this point, I think I’ve been in all of them), where I met Casey, Dr. Mehrara’s physician’s assistant (PA), who, if she was so inclined, could moonlight as a tattoo artist in the Village.

Initially, had the setting been a bit different, I might have mistakenly believed I was at the Clinique counter in Macy’s, trying to find just the right shade of lipstick.  As she applied each option to my skin, Casey would comment:  "This one is too orange…  I think this one’s too pink.  Let’s see what happens if we add a little brown to this pink one…"

Once she and I agreed on the color, we moved on to pick the size of the areola, using what looked like one of those kitchen gadgets that lets you measure how much spaghetti to cook based on the number of servings you need.  With the tentative measurements and pigments marked on my body, Casey called in “the boss” who OK’d our handiwork.

With that approval in place, she got down to work.  Because there are few if any nerve endings in the abdominal tissue that now masquerades (quite well, I think) as breasts, the actual tattooing didn’t hurt, although I could feel the pressure of the needle.  In one spot, there does appear to be some nerve regeneration going on (this is a good thing), so she applied some topical Lidocaine before taking up the needle again.  Once she was finished, I got a quick look at my newly tattooed (but also very red and bleeding) body parts before she applied antibiotic ointment and covered them with non-stick gauze anchored in place with medical adhesive tape. 

Armed with written instructions and all the supplies—non-stick gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, petroleum jelly, adhesive tape—I’ll need to care for my new tattoos for the next week, I was back in the waiting room by noon, ready to make my next appointment, which is now scheduled for January.  Thirteen blocks later, my new tattoos and I were at 633 and I was at my desk, catching up on emails from earlier in the day.

No, definitely not just another day in the office, but rather a personal milestone worth marking in some indelible way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#BlogElul 24: Giving

In honor of #BlogElul 24, I'm GIVING you an opportunity to read my post over at

In the New Year, may I GIVE generously--of time, of money and of myself to those who need an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry upon, a leg to stand on, or a friend with whom just to be.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

#BlogElul 21: Can You Hear Me Now?

My sister, a true New Yorker, always says that when it comes to guys, apartments and jobs, you just have to go with your gut.  I happen to think she's right on all three counts.

As the years tick by, I find that my both my heart and my gut speak to me quite often and, reliable body parts that they are, they're generally spot on, not just about guys, apartments and jobs, but about lots of other important--and not so important--things.

In 5773, I hope that my heart and my gut will speak to me often and--most of all--that I'll have the good sense to hear them when they do.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Love: A Tongue-in-Cheek Reflection for #BlogElul 18

Dear Love,

I'm exceedingly grateful to have you as part of so many of the blessings in my life. I've got loving family, supportive friends, a great synagogue community, work I enjoy, a healthy body, a comfortable home, meaningful opportunities to stretch my mind, and the list goes on... Without a doubt, my life is rich and full in countless ways.

And yet, how nice it might be if the new year were to bring a mensch around every once in a while. Perhaps we'd start with coffee, just to test the waters. If it all goes well, we might progress to dinner and a walk. If we're lucky, there'll be some common ground, lots to talk about, ample laughter, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, we're onto something good.

If by some chance, you think you might be able to help direct guys my way in the new year, I'm happy to give you a few pointers based on my previous experience writing "ads" about the type of guy I am (and most definitely am not) seeking.

Ready?  Here goes...
  1. I’m 49, so when I say late 40s or “age appropriate,” I don’t mean 28 and I don’t mean 57. Forty-eight to 55 would be great.
  2. I’m Jewish and although not religious in the traditional sense, being Jewish is an important part of my life in a liberal sort of way. Therefore, Jewish guys who still retain some attachment (even if it’s just cultural) to their heritage are most desirable. 
  3. Although I’m not looking to get married again (at least not at the moment), I am also not interested in meeting guys who already are married or are not quite divorced. If you're going to send me guys, it would be great if you could limit your selections to those who are single, fully divorced or widowed.
  4. I don’t have a specific “type” in mind when it comes to guys and I don’t much care about hair color, eye color or that sort of thing. At the same time, at 5’5”, I do appreciate guys who are at least 5’7” or 5'8". Please feel free to let your pool of candidates know that I’m height and weight proportionate (and stay that way with the help of a treadmill when I can fit it in). I’ve got long, curly auburn hair, brown eyes and a great smile.
  5. Much more important to me than looks, though, is that you do your best to send me a mensch. Of course I don’t expect perfection (I’m old enough and seasoned enough to know that it exists only in fairy tales and the movies), but would love to spend time getting to know someone who is honest, gentle and kind, seriously interested in finding the right somebody and not into playing games. I don’t really care about how much money he makes, whether or not he travels annually to the Caribbean or how many electronic gadgets he owns. Speaking of electronic gadgets, though, if we do decide to meet and chat over coffee or a drink (my preference for a first get-together), it’d be nice if he’d turn off his iPhone and put it away. Having it out on the table would just be a distraction for both of us.
  6. I live and work in Manhattan.  Therefore, a Manhattan guy would be great, but I'm also open to guys who live in the other four boroughs, as well as close by in Westchester or New Jersey. Florida, Maine, and upstate New York, however, are a bit out of the question. Some consideration of geographic boundaries would be greatly appreciated. 
  7.  I know that these are tough economic times, but gainful employment is a big plus as are solo living quarters unless, of course, the guy shares space with his kids – either full-time or part-time. (Although I don’t have any of my own, I believe that children come into our lives in many different ways and I’m definitely open to having other people’s kids in my life.) 
  8. If Mr. Right is going to write initially, please keep in mind that although I don’t expect the Great American Novel, a few brief, well written sentences about who he is, what his life looks like, and the positive attributes he'd bring to a meaningful long-term relationship would be appreciated. Most undesirable in the response category are one-liners, canned text, and photos with no words (and no shirts). 
  9. Although I know that you won’t necessarily send me a guy who’s a carbon copy of me (that’d be boring), it would be great if he and I shared some values. High on my list are honesty, integrity, intellectual curiosity, ideas, family, friends and other things money can’t buy. 
  10. Lastly, to make this thing really work, I hope you might be able to send me someone with whom I have that all elusive chemistry. Ideally, we’ll have an emotional, intellectual and physical spark that together we can coax into a wonderfully warm and glowing relationship. 
Love, I know this is a tall order, but as always, I'm hopeful that 5773 will be the year that I meet my bashert, and I'm counting on you to help.

~ JanetheWriter.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

#BlogElul 15: Health

Last year during Elul, I received this message from a friend:
Wishing you the sweetest, most joyous, healthiest and most undramatic of years to come....  I would offer a prayer that you be inscribed for a good year but I think you've already pushed God out of the way and written it in yourself! (It's okay; I have it on good authority that God likes being pushed around by the likes of you.)
He was referring to the lengths to which I’d gone during the last year and a half to remain healthy and free of a disease to which I have a genetic predisposition.

In 5771, I spent a total of six nights in the hospital, had two major surgeries—first this one, then this one, which was 12 hours long and included immediate reconstruction using my own abdominal tissue—and stayed at home recovering for weeks…and I wasn’t sick.

In 5772, I had a minor same-day procedure to tweak the results of one of the earlier surgeries and spent a week recovering at home.

In the earliest days of 5773 (just before Yom Kippur), I’ll have a minor, in-the-plastic-surgeon’s-office procedure to put the finishing touches on the most recent surgery.  Early in 2013, I’ll have follow-up laser treatments on some heavy-duty scarring caused by a wound and, if all goes well, I will be D.O.N.E.

Although I’m not sure that I “pushed God out of the way,” I definitely made some tough choices that, even as the whole ordeal fades into the rear view mirror, have left me with deep physical and emotional scars.

In 5773 may these scars continue to fade and may we all be inscribed for a year of health and blessing.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#BlogElul 10: Memory

In my mind, Rabbi Sylvan Kamens’ heartfelt poem, We Remember Them, is as much a part of Yom Kippur as is our break-the-fast a few hours later:
At the rising of the sun and at its going down,
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and the chill of the winter,
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn,
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live,
For they are now part of us as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share,
We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make,
We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs,
We remember them.
As long as we live they too will live,
For they are now a part of us as we remember them.
Now, though, there is a different rhythm by which I remember:

At the coming of the seder, I remember her.
On what will always be her birthday, I remember her.
On the anniversary of her death, I remember her.
In the company of amazing Jewish women, I remember her.
On September 11th, I remember her.
On Fourth of July, I remember her.
But mostly “just because” I remember her.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

#BlogElul 8: Prayer

Terry, my college roommate—who has been a like-a-sister friend for more than three decades—came to New York on Friday for a long overdue weekend visit.  In the days before, we’d ticked through a number of possible activities for our time together and, at her suggestion, we added worship to our list of “definites.”  On her last visit to New York, we’d attended Mass at St. Patrick’s so this time around it would be Kabbalat Shabbat at Shaaray Tefila.  We opted for this particular service both because it’s shorter than the minyan and because it would leave all day Saturday free for whatever else we decided to do. 

In his drash, Rabbi Stein spoke about the randomness of that morning’s shooting at the Empire StateBuilding and the role of fate and mazel in our lives.  Later in the service, Terry was especially struck by this particular passage in the siddur:  There is evil enough to break the heart, and there is good enough to exult the soul."  During our “debrief” over dinner, she also told me how much she enjoyed the service, the music, and all the congregational participation.  

Fast forward to Saturday at about 6:40 p.m. as we made our way around the beautiful fountain footprints of first the South Tower and then the North Tower of the 9/11 Memorial—our fingers gently touching the letters comprising the names of so very many souls lost on that day.  One in particular—Michael S. Costello—the boyfriend of one of her husband’s cousins, gave us special pause.  Terry told me he was "loud, fun-loving and a good guy."  We also talked about Neil David Levin, who, although we neither saw his name nor knew him personally, was a fellow alum of our beloved Lafayette College and, at the time of his death on 9/11, the executive director of the Port Authority. 

As dusk fell and the names became illuminated by the soft lights below, we talked more about fate, mazel, chance, and fortune, and also about the words from Mishkan T’fila that had caught Terry’s eye.  

May Stitch Costello, Neil Levin and the other 2995 completely innocent souls killed on that awful day rest in peace, and may 5773 usher in a time in which the good that exults our souls far outweighs the evil that breaks our hearts.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

#BlogElul 7: Shofar

When I lived in Los Angeles – in the densely populated neighborhood known by locals as the “Brentwood Ghetto” – someone in my building, or perhaps next door or across the street, blew a shofar early every morning during Elul.

On most days, it was a cannot-be-ignored reminder of the upcoming High Holy Days.  On Sundays, though, it was a true (and most unwelcome) wake-up call.

But that was back before social media…  Today, there are countless ways to sound a shofar without disturbing the neighbors.

Last Tuesday, for instance, on Elul 3, Ima on the Bima’s High Holy Day theme of “Intentions” prompted me to change my Facebook cover photo to this:

I then offered this comment:  Changing my FB cover to this photo will, I hope, remind me each day of this month to be intentional in thought and preparation for the upcoming holy days. #BlogElul

So far, it seems to be working…and I’m not disturbing the neighbors.

What about you?  What reminds you that it's Elul and that the High Holy Days are on the way?