Thursday, July 31, 2014

Where's JanetheWriter?

Today I'm over at, where I wrote this week's Ten Minutes of Torah essay on Jewish arts and culture. If you're looking to "do Jewish" in New York City, check out the post.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

May Things "Peace" Themselves Together

This is the yahrzeit candle I lit on Thursday night for my grandmother, who died in 1991 at the supposed age of 91.  (We believed she was as old as the century, because that's what she'd always told us.  Only when we obtained her social security records, did we learn that she actually was born in 1896, nearly a full year before my grandfather.  Despite the time period in which they met as neighbors in the same lower east side tenement building, she was neither a flapper nor a "cougar," and, it was then -- I would guess -- that she "revised" her date of birth.)

Although I always called her "Grandma," her name was Fanny.  According to Kolatch, "Fannie," "Fanny," and "Fannye" all are pet forms of Frances.  About Frances, Kolatch writes this:
From the Anglo-Saxon, meaning "free, liberal."  The feminine form of the masculine Francis.  Frances actually means "free-woman," while Francis means "free-man."  The origin of these names dates back to the Franks, a confederacy of German tribes who for a long time battled with the Romans before settling permanently in Gaul, in the fifth century.  France took its name from the Franks.  France, Francesca, Francis, Francoise, and Frania are variant forms.  Fania, Fannie, Fanny, Fannye, Fran, Francine, Frani, Frankie, and Ranny are pet forms.
More fitting was what she would have referred to as her "Jewish name" -- Frume, which Kolatch says is a variant form of Fruma.  It derives from the Yiddish, meaning pious one, and indeed, although not especially pious in the traditional way, she was extremely devoted to her family.  As a young woman, she and a sister left Vienna in 1921, and worked tirelessly in New York City's garment industry, saving enough money to bring the rest of their siblings and their parents, all of them escaping increasing economic hardship and growing anti-Semitism.

Perhaps as a carryover from her work as a milliner, my grandmother oft-repeated this expression during challenging times:  "Don't worry...things will piece themselves together."  I bring to mind this phrase when needed in my own life, and especially now, for the sake of Israel, do I pray that "things will "peace" themselves together."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In Honor of My Mammoversary

Yesterday, I posted this update on Facebook:
Happy erev mammoversary to me! Three years and counting...on many more healthy ones. @facingourrisk #BRCA #grateful
Today, I posted this one:
Three years ago today, I slept through the entire day. Oh, right...I was saving my life. Thanks, Dr. G and Dr. M!
This evening, I wrote this post:  
I promise this will be the last mammoversary post until next year. 
In honor of the occasion, I just made a donation to FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, the amazing organization that empowered me to make the tough medical decisions that I believe saved my life...and has been with me every step of the way, providing information, resources and incredible support. FORCE's 2014 fundraising campaign is underway and I'm proud to pay it forward. I'd be grateful if you'd consider joining me.Thank you!
A link at the bottom of this last post takes you to my FirstGiving fundraising page, where you can read this message and donate:
Thank you for visiting my FORCE fundraising page!
Although asking friends and family to donate to a specific cause is not among my favorite things to do, I'm willing to do it to benefit FORCE:  Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered during the 2014 fundraising campaign.  I truly believe that I would not be where I am in my BRCA journey today without this incredible organization that is solely devoted to providing up-to-date information, resources, and support to the community of people who are at risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome.
Because I have been exceedingly open and forthcoming about my BRCA mutation and the steps I've taken in the last several years to reduce my personal risk, I'm not going to retell my story here.  If you want to read about it, there are plenty of details elsewhere on this blog. (Using the box in the upper left-hand corner of the page, search "BRCA" and then sort by date and you should be able to piece the story together fairly well.)
I will say, however, that I am proud and honored to give back to FORCE as one of two volunteer outreach coordinators in New York City. In this role, I work with my partner coordinator to schedule, organize and help facilitate peer-to-peer support meetings on topics of interest to the hereditary cancer commuity; provide one-on-one support to members dealing with emotional and physical impacts of their BRCA status; and manage regular communications to members of FORCE's NYC group.  I also speak and write frequently about BRCA gene mutations in an effort to raise awareness about their presence, particularly in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, where one in 40 individuals is a carrier, and most of these people are unaware of their status.
Indeed, until four years ago, when my sister (thankfully, she's negative) and I took the initiative to get tested after we lost our mom to exceedingly virulent  breast cancer, we, too, were unaware of the presence of a BRCA mutation in our family.  Although we'll never know how different our family's story might have been had we known about the mutation sooner, if my work with FORCE can prevent even one other family from enduring what we did because we didn't know, I believe some good will come from our experience and that my endeavors will contribute to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam -- repair of our world.
Because FORCE has been been -- and continues to be -- a tremendous blessing to me and to so many others, I would be exceedingly grateful for your support during this year's fundraising campaign.  (Donating through this FirstGiving page is simple, fast, and fully secure.)
Thank you...xoxo,
~ Jane.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Roses Not Rockets

Dear Penn Station Violin Player,

What a wonderful surprise to hear your beautiful rendition of Erev Shel Shoshanim amidst the crowds this morning as I made my way through the Long Island Railroad corridor up the escalator to New Jersey Transit.

How soothing to hear your sweet melody, even as rocket fire blasts shake our beloved Israel, fraying the nerves of her people, and sending them into shelters for cover.

May this be a true Shabbat shalom for those who need it most, and may the dulcet tones of peaceful music overpower the explosions -- in Israel and throughout the world.

Thanks again,
~ JanetheWriter.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Charming Keepsake of a Charmed Life

After reading Jenna Weissman Joselit's recent story in the Forward about charm bracelets, I unwrapped mine from the tissue paper in which, as she rightly points out, it "languish[es] in a drawer, [rather] than adorn[s] a wrist."

Nonetheless, my beloved keepsake remains as pristine and shiny as it was on my bat mitzvah day, when I received it, two charms already dangling from its sterling silver links.  The first, a small, flat disk, declares "A Date to Remember" above a small banner on which is engraved my birthday:  1-29-63. On the back are my initials, beautifully etched in the fanciest of scripts.  The bracelet's second charm, a mezuzah, is a small rectangular box adorned with both a Jewish star and the decalogue, engraved on the back with my bat mitzvah date:  2-6-76.  A third charm, a chai, was a gift from a friend whose name is engraved on one "leg" of the hey.  My name, engraved on the other "leg," with the date, 2-6-76, across the top rounds out the bracelet's "inaugural" charms.

An assortment of additional charms marks the milestones of my teenage years: my sweet 16, confirmation, and induction into the National Honor Society.  In between are souvenirs from family vacations:  a lobster cage from a week in Boothbay Harbor, ME, a beach shanty from a trip to Rockport, MA, and a Mickey Mouse charm from my sole visit to Disneyland.

More than milestone markers or souvenirs, though, the charms -- individually and collectively -- serve to remind me of the charmed life, overflowing with warmth, well-being, and love that my parents worked so hard to ensure for my sister and me.  Lucky for me, memories of that charmed life live in my heart, too, relieving me of the need to wear the bracelet on my wrist, where it only would "get in the way of...nonstop texting and tapping."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Today Was My Lucky Day

Today was a fairly typical day.  Until lunchtime.

That's when I received an email with this subject line:  Rhodia Drive ME Journal Giveaway Winners.

Included in the email was a link to this post on the Rhodia Drive blog.

How exciting to see my name listed as a truly was my lucky day!

I have some idea about how the Multimedia Enhanced "ME" Journal works, but I can hardly wait for mine to arrive so I can try it out.

Stay tuned for a full review...