Sunday, March 24, 2013

#BlogExodus: Changing

It's relatively easy to change this:

Into this:

It's much harder to change attitudes, jobs and long-time ways of doing things, especially if that change takes us out of our comfort zone.

It was that way for the Israelites--and it's still that way for us.

For even as they fled slavery in Egypt and wandered in the desert for 40 years (kvetching all the while), they were becoming a people--a strong people that endures today.

It's a good lesson to keep in mind:  change is hard, and often makes us uncomfortable.  At the same time, it can make us stronger, better people.

So, even if we want to kvetch about it, this is a good season to step gently out of our comfort zone into a new attitude, a new job or a new way of doing things.

Who knows...making a change could land you (or me) smack in the middle of our own personal Promised Land!

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

#BlogExodus: Redeeming

Dear The Mums,

In just a few days, it'll be the season of our redemption and so it's time for my springtime note to bring you up to speed.  I know you probably already know a lot of what I'm about to tell you, but just in case you don't, I'll do my best to fill you in.  As an aside, although the calendar says it's spring, the meteorologists are saying otherwise.  In fact, it's supposed to snow on Monday, making a further mess of what will already be messy "Yid-lock" as people try to make it to their seders on time.  Do you think you can do something about that?!

But I's the update:

At the end of February, Aunt Claire moved out to an Erickson community in Novi, MI, so she can be close to Marc, Susan and the kids, who moved to Perrysburg, OH, during the fall so Marc could take a new job. Daddy and I are planning to go out there in November for Carolyn's bat mitzvah, but that still makes this the first Passover in a long, long time that doesn't include Aunt Claire at our seder table.

And, in fact, we're not actually having a seder.  You know that Passover has never been Daddy's or Amy's thing and with Ian in Florida at a spring break baseball camp with John, our "seder" on Monday night will look more like a family dinner at Amy's house.  She invited her friend Christine, and Aunt Bea and Barbara also might come--if Blossom and Ed don't go to Aunt Bea's.  Even though it's not going to be a full-blown seder, Amy asked me to bring charoset, so I'll spend part of tomorrow chopping apples and nuts, and putting it all together. I hope she'll do yellow tulips on the table, but I'll probably bring a bunch with me, just to be sure.

Tuesday night, however, I'll be at a full-blown seder, as I always am on the second night of Passover.  This year especially, I am grateful for the opportunity to perform all the rituals--dinner in the RA Haggadah doesn't happen until somewhere around page 88, I think--and for the friends and laughter that will abound that night.  

I'm not quite sure how things work where you are, but I do hope that you've run into Mrs. Steinberg and that the two of you have been busy catching up with each other and shmying around in Pier 1, HomeGoods and at flea markets.  Please keep your eye out, too, for a young woman whom I think you'll really like.  Although Elissa Froman and I never met in person, we had a few email exchanges and a number of mutual friends, which actually wasn't hard since it seems that so many people were friends with Elissa.  She was a RAC LA before going to work for the National Council of Jewish Women, where she was a deeply dedicated advocate for social and economic justice, managing a portfolio that included civil rights, religion/state separation, international issues and judicial nominations. She had plans to go to rabbinical school and had been accepted at HUC, but after years of fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma, she died yesterday at 29.  Today Facebook is overflowing with countless pictures of Elissa with her friends, as well as loving sentiments written by those same broken-hearted people.  I've included a picture of her here so you'll know her if you see her. My hunch is that you and she will hit it off. 

There's lots more to tell, but it's late and so the rest will have to wait for another letter.  In the meantime though, although Passover will never be an easy holiday for any of us, I hope you know that these notes to you help, in some small way, to redeem my heart from the grip of sadness that comes from missing you.

Chag Pesach sameach, The Mums...xoxo,

~ Boo!

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Friday, March 22, 2013

#BlogExodus: Counting

Earlier this week, when the total reached 50, I stopped counting the days of my Jubilee year.

In another few days, I'll stop counting the days of #BlogExodus and #Exodusgram.

Just as they end, though, we'll begin counting the omer. that a purple tinge on my skin?!

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

#BlogExodus: Leaving

Images from a New York City Day

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#BlogExodus: Asking

Outside the McDonald's on 39th Street and Second Avenue this morning a homeless man repeatedly was asking various people going in if they'd buy him a cup of coffee.  I muttered, "Sorry, no," and made my way inside to the end of the line.

I've been stopping at this location on many mornings recently and yes, it's because a decent cup of coffee can be had for $1.09. From one day to the next, I see some of the same faces--the elderly man reading The Times with a hand-held magnifier, the two FedEx delivery guys, and of course the employees, some behind the counter, others wiping tables and restocking the napkin and straw dispensers.Often, the line is three or four deep and it seems that like me, everyone's looking for a bargain.

The dichotomy between this scene and Starbucks (where I generally go only when someone's given me a gift card) highlights the truism that New York City is losing its middle class and that if current economic trends continue, most residents either will be very rich or very poor.

I'm sure that Paul Krugman would have something profound and meaningful to say here, but from my perspective--and despite a full semester of graduate-level economics--it's just incredibly sad that in one of the greatest cities in the world, the American dream seems to be getting further and further out of reach and all but the city's wealthiest residents are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.
What will it take to create living-wage jobs for more New Yorkers?

What will it take to ensure that fixed-income New Yorkers don't have to choose between heat and medication?  Between food and medical care?

What will it take to balance out the increasing disparity between this city's haves and have-nots, and help promote some semblance of economic justice for all?
What will it take for all of us collectively to realize truly meaningful and long-lasting social and economic change...or are these things beyond our grasp?
By the time I headed for the door, coffee in hand, the homeless man was seated at a table.  On my way out, I handed him a dollar bill and a dime, and told him to enjoy the coffee.  Unfortunately, my action doesn't begin to answer these four questions, which increasingly are on my mind.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#BlogExodus: Learning

Earlier tonight, I was catching up with my college roommate, Terry.  Although it was a "quick" conversation compared to our last call, a 174-minute marathon, it was long enough for her to remind me of a poignant lesson that no matter how often we learn it, needs to be learned and relearned, again and again.

I was telling her about losing Mrs.Steinberg and our travels to and from the funeral two weeks ago.

Knowing me well, Terry asked if I knew anything about Warren Zevon.  Of course I didn't.

She explained that he was a singer-songwriter who was diagnosed with inoperable peritoneal mesothelioma and died less than a year later.  During his illness, he was a guest--as he had been on many occasions in the past--on Late Night with David Letterman.  In talking about his disease, and about life and death, Zevon offered this adage:  "Enjoy every sandwich."

Indeed, in our everyday comings and goings--sprinkled as they are with too much stress and too little time--we often do forget just how fragile is life.  Instead, as I've now relearned from Terry, by way of Warren Zevon, we must learn to hug our kids, tell our friends we love them, and enjoy every sandwich.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Monday, March 18, 2013

#BlogExodus: Blessing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In her working life, my sister spends much of her time and energy designing, developing and delivering a proprietary training program that uses works of art to help professionals in a variety of fields--medicine, law, law enforcement, nursing, college administration, building management and others--enhance their observation and communications skills.  This past Friday evening, she found herself at the Aspen Wye River Conference Center for the launch of a multi-day gathering for young business leaders from three different countries: Israel, Egypt and Turkey.  Her training with the group was scheduled for most of the day on Saturday.

During the opening reception, while chatting with one of the Israelis about how he met his wife, she noted, after hearing his tale, that it was bashertAs my sister tells it, when she used that Yiddishism, the guy nearly dropped his fork.

And so it was that a little while later, when the Israelis produced two candlesticks and a bottle of Manischewitz for an unscheduled and unscripted welcome to Shabbat, my sister--whose attachment to Judaism is a fraction of mine--was invited to recite the blessing over the candles.  

Although she probably hadn't even thought about it in years, I imagine it was like riding a bicycle and that as she struck the match, the words--engraved in her being--just rolled off her tongue: 
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam
Asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'zivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat
Is it possible that by beginning the gathering with impromptu blessings over candles and wine, these Israelis--intentionally or not--set the tone for a positive and productive time together with their international cohorts?

We'll never know, of course, but I'd like to believe it is so.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

#BlogExodus: Cleaning

Dear #BlogExodus,

Thanks to you, my apartment is cleaner than it's been in a long time and--with the exception of finishing up the chametz and stocking the cabinet with matzah--nearly ready for Pesach 5773.

Since we spent the night of the 14th of Nissan 5770--and many additional ones--at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and then Haven Hospice, this has not been an easy holiday for any of us, but I'm grateful to you for helping me bring the spirit of Pesach back into my life--and into my home.

Wishing you a ziessen Pesach, #BlogExodus.

~ JanetheWriter

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

#BlogExodus: Matzah

A Matzah Haiku

Be not like matzah;
Sharp, pointy, rough and scratchy;
Be gentle and kind.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Friday, March 15, 2013

#BlogExodus: Chametz

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Today's #BlogExodus topic reminded me of the list of breads for various sins that often makes the rounds just before the High Holy Days.  Originally compiled by Rabbi Richard Israel, z.l., it goes something like this:

Taking a few crumbs to Tashlich from whatever old bread is in the house lacks subtlety, nuance and religious sensitivity. I would suggest that we can do better. Instead:
For ordinary sins, use - White Bread
For exotic sins - French Bread
For particularly dark sins - Pumpernickel
For complex sins - Multi-grain
For twisted sins - Pretzels
For tasteless sins - Rice Cakes
For sins of indecision - Waffles
For sins committed in haste - Matzah
For sins committed in less than eighteen minutes - Shmurah Matzah
For sins of chutzpah - Fresh Bread
For substance abuse/marijuana - Stoned Wheat
For substance abuse/heavy drugs - Poppy Seed
For arson - Toast
For timidity - Milk Toast
For high-handedness - Napoleons
For being sulky - Sourdough
For silliness - Nut Bread
For not giving full value - Short bread
For jingoism - Yankee Doodles
For telling bad jokes - Corn Bread
For being money-hungry - Enriched Bread or Raw Dough
For telling small lies - Fudge
For war-mongering - Kaiser Rolls
For promiscuity - Hot Buns
For racism - Crackers
For sophisticated racism - Ritz Crackers
For being holier-than-thou - Bagels
For unfairly up-braiding others - Challah
For provocative dressing - Wonton Wrappers
For snobbery - Upper Crusts
For indecent photography - Cheese Cake
For trashing the environment - Dumplings
For the sin of laziness - Any Very Long Loaf
For being hyper-critical - Pan Cakes
For political skullduggery - Bismarcks
For over-eating - Stuffing Bread or Bulkie Rolls
For gambling - Fortune Cookies
For pride - Puff Pastry
For cheating - Bread made with Nutrasweet and Olestra
For being snappish - Ginger Bread
For dropping in without calling beforehand - Popovers
For trying to improve everyone within sight -Angel Food Cake
For being up-tight and irritable - High Fiber or Bran Muffins
For sycophancy - Brownies
For rearing children incompetently - Raisin Bread
For immodest behavior - Tarts
For causing injury or damage to others - Tortes
For hardening our hearts - Jelly doughnuts
For abrasiveness - Grits
For recurring slip ups - Banana Bread
For davening off tune - Flat Bread
For impetuosity - Quick Bread
For silliness - Nut Bread
For risking one's life unnecessarily - Hero Bread
For auto theft - Caraway
For excessive use of irony - Rye Bread
For larceny (especially of copyright material) - Stollen
In taking a read down the list, it occurred to me that since we're just about at the mid-point of 5773, it might be a good time to think about last year's missteps--the breadcrumbs we tossed away on the afternoon of Rosh Hashana--and take a quick inventory of how we're doing so far this year.  

If we're lucky, we'll find just a few crumbs in our "sinventory"...and in our cabinets, cars, and couches!

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

#BlogExodus: Slavery

Photo Wikimedia Commons
Each year at this season, I think often about my own escape from slavery.

Although there was no back-breaking physical labor in my Mitzrayim, the Pharaoh there was emotionally abusive.  I was a slave to his whims, his routine, his schedule and his mishagas.

This is what it was like.

Finally--after 13 years--I gathered up my courage and, like Nachshon ben Amminadabh, I took a few steps out into the water.

It was cool and clear and refreshing.

As the Israelites crossed the sea to freedom, so too did I cross the country to a new life of freedom and joy.  And, like Miriam and the women, I've been dancing ever since.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#BlogExodus: Retelling

Even as we prepare for the telling and retelling of our Exodus from Egypt--cleaning the house, tossing the chametz, shopping for matzah, cooking a brisket, and chopping apples for charoset--the world outside is telling and retelling us of the coming of spring.

This year, may our retellings be meaningful, fun and evocative of joyful retellings in days gone by.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

#BlogExodus: Believing

Graphic:  Phyllis Sommer
Tallit. Check.

Siddur.  Check.

Rain boots.  Check.

Believing that each of us is entitled to practice Judaism in a way that’s meaningful to us, later this morning I will head to Union Square, tallit and siddur in tow.  There, together with hundreds of others, I will join in solidarity with Women of the Wall—to pray and welcome the new month of Nissan, the one in which God redeemed us from Pharaoh’s tyrannical grip. 

I would like to believe that today’s demonstration of solidarity will, in some small way, hasten the day when women who wish to wear tallitot, to sing, or to read Torah at the Kotel will be free to do these things.  May the new month of Nissan be the one in which the barriers to women’s freedom at the Western Wall finally begin to be broken down.  Only then can all of us—men and women alike—be fully redeemed from the tyrannical grip of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz’ policies that deny us the religious freedoms that are rightfully ours. 

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Nisan leading up to Passover 5773.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'd Know Your Dairy Dishes Anywhere

Dear Mrs. Steinberg,

That bagel and white fish salad over there was my dinner tonight and represents the one I would have eaten at your house yesterday had we not had to head directly back to New Jersey from Baltimore.  Of course, it’s not as though I never ate a bagel in your house…and in fact, I’d know your dairy dishes anywhere.  Who could forget that big, abstract orange flower in the middle of the plate? 

There are so many other things we can’t forget…and reminisced about all of them on our ride down to Chevy Chase on Tuesday and on the way home yesterday, too.

Amy kept reminding us about the parrot (I think it was a parakeet, though), whose cage was on a television cart that she loved to push around your apartment in Georgian Woods. She couldn’t have been much more than three or four at the time.  That was during the same era that she asked you, in the middle of Snider’s Market, if watermelon had nitrates, and when Lipton made flavored instant iced tea that you and my mom loved—orange for you, lime for her.

Later, when you moved to Winding Waye Lane, there was Ari, the three-legged dog, Barbara’s rainbow-themed room with the bright orange walls, Dr. Steinberg and my dad dozing in the family room, and, of course, bagels and noodle kugel served on your dairy dishes whenever we’d visit from New Jersey for the weekend.  There also were the weekly Monday night phone calls with my mom that began at 11 p.m.—when the long-distance rates went down—and continued at that hour even after unlimited long-distance became the norm.

Of course there was your gas-guzzling Chevy Impala, too.  It was the car you drove to pick up a friend and me from the Shoreham Americana Hotel where we were attending a model United Nations (our high school was the German Democratic Republic) so we could meet Heidi, who’d been born just a few weeks earlier.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw her sleeping in the playpen in your family room that afternoon and what a treat it was to hold her and feed her a bottle before you had to take us back to the hotel.

More recently and with button-bursting pride, I know you told many of your Hadassah friends about my job as Eric Yoffie’s writer, and not once during the last 18 months did you and I have a conversation in which you didn’t tell me how glad you were that I’d opted for a prophylactic mastectomy and autologous reconstruction, avoiding the risks and hassles that can come along with implants.

Yesterday before we headed to the cemetery, Heidi told us that she envisions you and my mom together in the world to come, having picked up your conversation right where you left off in this world, just about three years ago this month.  If she’s right—and I hope she is—you’ve got a bit of catching up to do, which no doubt you’ll do in some late night chats in the coming weeks.  Once you’re caught up, I’d like to think you’ll head out to do some shopping, and can easily see the two of you together in Pier One choosing new place mats and matching napkins, drinking glasses, or even a new coffee table—provided it’s all on sale, of course!

Whatever you and my mom are up to, though, I wish both of you eternal peace in the shadow of God’s wings. I miss you both and am glad you have each other.

~ Jane.