Thursday, March 29, 2012

#BlogExodus: Freedom

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima's #BlogExodus initiative, this is one in an occasional series of posts loosely tied to Passover.

Early this morning, I sent this email to my sister:

At some point this weekend, we must discuss the Passover menu so that I can do the shopping and start cooking.

Here's what I envision:

Aunt Claire:  soup, matzo balls, gefilte fish/carrot/potato (like she always makes it)

JEH:  brisket, charoset, asparagus (or some other spring vegetable?), farfel stuffing, Lenox seder plate, Elijah's cup

AEH:  chicken breast, dessert(s)

Seder plate contents:  shank bone, parsley, salt water, lettuce, hard boiled egg, charoset, orange
Daddy to bring from NJ:  Haggadahs, Miriam's cup
Wine/grape juice
Flowers (yellow tulips?)

We'll talk...

Must go to work....xoxo.

For the first time ever, my sister and I are making a seder.  In the spirit of the season, we are, of course, free to do it however we want.  But the seders we knew and loved were always created by our mother and our aunt--except for the matzah balls (floaters, not sinkers!) their mother always made.  

Now, without our mother around to advise and counsel, we’re going to--as is said in the vernacular-- “just wing it.”  

And yet, we’re not really winging it at all.  Despite the freedom we have to do things our own way, when it comes to the seder, we’re following closely in her footsteps and standing gently on her shoulders.  We really couldn’t do it any other way.

I hope that when all is said and done, and we finally sit down at the seder table (replete with a vase of yellow tulips to match the haggadot covers) next Friday night, we will have pulled it off and made our mother proud.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chametz Cravings: Another in the #BlogExodus Series

Thanks to Vicky Farhi for baking the inspirations for today's #BlogExodus post.

Despite the presence of these goodies just down the hall from my office, I am trying not to indulge.

Oh, how we will be craving these yummy treats in just a few short weeks.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

#BlogExodus: A Personal Tale of Exodus

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima's #BlogExodus initiative, this is the first in an occasional series of posts loosely tied to Passover.

Image courtesy of Ima on (and off) the Bima
Once upon a time there was a beautiful wedding except that the bride walked down the aisle right into Mitzrayim.  Thankfully, she didn’t stay there quite as long as the Israelites, but sometimes it felt that long.  Sometimes it felt even longer. 

After they were married, the bride worked while the groom went to school.  He was studying to be a rocket scientist.  After class, he went to the gym.  Three nights a week he didn’t get home until nearly 9 p.m.

At first, the groom studied at the same school where the bride’s father worked, so her family was close by.  Then, he got into a Ph.D. program at a school that was 300 miles away, and the bride and groom moved away.  Although they had a nice apartment, everything in it was beige.  The color seemed to reflect their life.  After a while, the bride started to feel sort of beige herself.  While she worked, the groom went to school.  When he was finished at school, he went to the gym.  Three nights a week he didn’t get home until nearly 9 p.m. 

After many years of study, the groom earned a Ph.D.  Finally, he was a rocket scientist, with a brand new job 3,000 miles away.  Once again, the bride and groom moved away.  This time, it was really far away.  They took a week to drive there in the bride’s car while all their beige furniture and the groom’s car went on the moving truck. Before long, the beige furniture was arranged in their new apartment, and both the bride and the groom were working.  When he was finished at work, he went to the gym.  Three nights a week he didn’t get home until nearly 9 p.m.

One day, the bride woke up and, feeling especially beige, decided that she’d had enough.  She was tired of her beige life and she didn’t want to live in Mitzrayim anymore.  And so, like the Israelites, she made all the necessary preparations. After a few months, she left Mitzrayim

That was nearly 10 years ago.  Today, the bride lives in a Promised Land of her own making in New York City, and her life is anything but beige.

The End.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Amazing Jewish Women

Dear The Mums,

I know that I just wrote to you a week ago, but yesterday -- and again today -- I’ve been surrounded by so many things that you would love that I need to give you a quick update.

Yesterday -- thanks to Donnie C. Cutler’s mother, who invited me as her guest -- I attended the annual luncheon of the Jewish Women’s Archive.  It was held in the big event room at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and had the weather been better (Did you forget to order up some good weather?), we all would have been able to gaze out at your favorite lady in the harbor.  Regardless of the weather, though, as I sat surrounded by nearly 300 or so amazing, powerful and empowered women (including a mother/daughter pair at my own table) I couldn’t help but think of you.  For starters, just by chance, I found myself sitting next to Elinor Lipman, and I was reminded of The Inn at Lake Devine, which, at your urging, I read many years ago.  Although I must admit that I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of the story, I do recall LOL’ing (that expression probably wasn’t even around when we read the book!) at so much of what went on in those pages.  (I also have to admit that more than once I wondered how many women in the room were BRCA+....and of that number how many don’t know it.  But that’s a letter for another time...)  Three women were honored during the program--Elizabeth Sackler, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Rebecca Traister--and each was introduced by Gloria Steinem!  You would have loved it, and I definitely felt your spirit in the room with us.  In the honorees’ remarks, there were repeated references to Emma Lazarus, the Statue of Liberty, the immigrant experience, and their own mothers.  Oh, how I missed you...  More than once, I had to take off my glasses to wipe my eyes. 

Photo by Phyllis Sommer
Today is the first full day of the CCAR convention in Boston and of course I’m not there, but a few of my friends (and yours, too) who are there are posting pictures on Facebook.  At t’filah this morning in honor of the 40th anniversary of women in the rabbinate, Rabbi Sally Priesand read Torah, surrounded by the female leadership of the CCAR.  (Do you remember how long the cover of People magazine with her picture on it hung on the wall in my bedroom?  I don’t think I took it down until I went away to college...more than a dozen years after her ordination.) Rabbi Phyllis Sommer noted in her post, that this is “a proud and wonderful moment for ALL of us,” and Rabbi Michelle Pearlman (now at Monmouth Reform) called it a “remarkable moment.”  True on all counts...and this, too, you would have loved!  

I guess you would love all of these things because you were such an amazing woman yourself.  And, when I think you’re missing things that you would love is when I miss you the most.  But then again, maybe you’re not missing them at all.  Perhaps you’re looking down and loving them from wherever you are.  If so, I hope you’re catching all these goings-on and loving them as much as I am.  

~ Boo!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Catching Up With The Mums

Dear The Mums,

I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since my last letter to you, but the calendar doesn’t lie. Although there are still a few Sundays before the first seder, I’ll use a bit of this one to catch you up on some of what’s going on here.

For a variety of reasons, Amy and I decided that we’re going to make this year’s seder in NYC.  It’ll be a first for all of us, but should work out just fine.  I’ll do the brisket, charoset and maybe some tzimmes, and Amy will do a chicken or turkey breast and the desserts.  As always, Aunt Claire—who moved in December to a new apartment in Pompton Plains—will make the soup and matzo balls.  Of course, we’ll use the bright yellow haggadot, and I’ll finally get to use the beautiful Lenox seder plate that was a wedding gift more than two decades ago.  Most important, though, we’ll all be together.  We know that you’ll be there, as you always are, doing all the duh-duh-duh-duh-duhs at the end of every verse of Dayenu

I know you were with us last weekend, too, at the Diana S. Herman Memorial Scholar-in-Residence weekend at Temple Emanu-El.  When the day started out wet and dreary, I thought maybe you’d forgotten about getting us some good weather, but by the afternoon, it was bright and sunny and I knew you’d remembered.  Elliott was the speaker and, as usual, he was great.  He talked about the religious, social and architectural factors that influenced synagogues in America from about 1850 to the present.  You would have loved it!  One more thing about Elliott:  As of the end of this coming week, he’s leaving his job at the Union.  I’ll be sad when he’s not around in the office everyday (and will miss his infectious chortle and great grin), but I know he’s moving on to new and exciting things and that wherever he lands, they’ll be lucky to have him (and his M&Ms).

Speaking of moving on, Debbie Bravo’s leaving, too.  Come the summer, she’s going out to be the senior rabbi at Sue Feldman’s congregation on Long Island.  I’ll miss her, too, and hope to stay in touch.  There’s a congregational meeting this afternoon (Daddy will be there) to approve the board’s recommendation to hire a new rabbi.  New is definitely the operative word here as he’s going to be ordained by HUC in New York in early May. 

This is the weekend that you’d usually come in and stay overnight with me for the Union’s Executive Committee meeting.  The meeting’s actually going on as I write this letter to you, but the governance structure is changing and it’s now known as the Oversight Committee.  There are lots of other changes underway at the Union these days and it’s definitely a different place than it was when you were on the board.  Recently, someone I know made the apt analogy that we’re all working for a new company—with new jobs and a new boss.  Change is hard (and more than a little stressful), and I am muddling through as best I can.  I know that you’d know just the right thing to say about all of this, and I wish you were here to say it.  The best I can do on my own is to remember how at other times like this you’d always remind me how Grandma would say that “things will piece themselves out.”  I hope that will be true this time around, too.

Now, though, I’ve got to go take care of some mundane tasks--laundry and balancing my checkbook among them.  I’ve also got a paper to write (now that I’ve finished editing someone else’s—which I took on a few weeks ago as a freelance project) and some reading to do.  If there’s any time left, I’d love to veg out on the couch, peruse the Sunday paper, and go to bed early.  I’d best get busy.

I hope that you’re enjoying all the books and conversations at your Yeshivah shel Mal'ah, where I’m sure you’re still debating with God about Moses being denied entry into the Promised Land.  Especially while everything here is a whirlwind of change, it’s nice to know that where you are, some things never change.  Miss you…wish you were here.

~ Boo!