Sunday, October 15, 2017

Where in the World?...

Dear The Mums,

It recently occurred to me that if you’re looking for Daddy, he’s no longer at 12 Webster Road, but rather in a lovely two-bedroom apartment on Chesterwood Way in Somerset Run. (Alan Davidson refers to it and Canal Walk, where Mrs. Davidson, lives as Del Boca Vista, the fictional retirement community in Florida where Jerry Seinfeld’s parents live).

The move was hard for all of us – but we’re over that hurdle and doing OK. Daddy’s still a docent in Princeton, reads for the blind and dyslexic, and goes to temple on most Friday nights. He’s got a flat-screen television in his new apartment – thanks to LZ – and is finally using the Bose CD player you bought all those years ago. She and I are going out there next weekend to see how things are shaping up after a few weeks of unpacking and getting settled.

As for Amy, she still lives at Union Square, but travels the world teaching the Art of Perception. Using a pressurized wall, she converted her dining room into a small bedroom for Ian (a very NYC thing to do), but still has plenty of room in the living room for a table and chairs. Ian regularly travels back and forth between NYC and Long Island, where his dad lives and where he plays on a suburban baseball team. He’s a sophomore in high school, two heads taller than me, but as loving and sweet as ever (says his biased Aunt Jane). Sometimes when Amy’s traveling and due home late at night, he and I have dinner and hang out together.

I’m still living in Kips Bay, which was written up in the real estate section of today’s New York Times, and it still suits me well. Twice a week after work, you can find me in the gym, working out with a trainer – lifting free weights, running on the treadmill, rowing, using the weight machines, and even boxing. (I know you’re wondering who wrote that last sentence, but rest assured it’s me…and a more toned and fit me for sure!)

The exercise is a great antidote to work, where I often feel tethered to my desk -- curating and editing copy, selecting photos, and doing the back-end posting for Ten Minutes of Torah, the daily email that in your day, was managed and implemented by a team of rabbis and Jewish educators. Attending multiple video conference calls each week, writing and editing articles and posts for the URJ’s blogs, and dealing with miscellaneous “pop-up” assignments and tasks occupy what little time is left. Oh, and since this is a Biennial year – there are those random assignments, too, although “chicken, fish, and veggie” is not among them. In fact, I think the Shabbat dinner choices are now limited to chicken and veggie – no fish.

I’m still a regular at Shaaray Tefila’s Shabbat minyan and Torah study, and I also spend a good bit of time promoting awareness of BRCA mutations and advocating on behalf of the hereditary cancer community – mostly as a volunteer for FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered . I think you’d be proud of this work – and really like all the great people (lots of them are “cousins”) who are my peers in this endeavor. Tonight, I’m heading off to a worship committee meeting, so I know I got some of your good genes, too!

It seems your Torah study group in Olam haBa is growing. Keep an eye out for Mike Rankin and Bo O’Mansky. I know you were fond of both of them. Also, look for Shanike Chatman, the kitchen assistant from the URJ. She’s not joining your study group, but could use someone to watch out for her the way her grandmother and Roberta did in this world.

Miss you…xoxo,
~ Boo!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

These Memories are as Sweet as Butter

It’s true what the rabbi said this morning during the yizkor portion of the Simchat Torah/Sh’mini Atzeret service: We miss loved ones who are gone every day, but all the more on holidays and happy occasions.

His words reminded me of these pictures I took last Saturday.


It’s an elevator in a building on 91st Street in Manhattan, but it’s exactly the same as the one in my grandparents’ building in Sunnyside, Queens, in the 1970s and 80s (and probably long before then).

When I posted the photos on Facebook, I added this comment, tagging my sister and one of our cousins: Amy and Ted: Check out these photos from the elevator I rode in today. Do they take you back to your childhood??

And then this conversation ensued:
Ted: Nice!

Amy: I am afraid of that elevator even in a picture...

Ted: Who gets the New York toast? (A delicacy from childhood, it was toast spread with Breakstone’s unsalted whipped butter that was leftover from my grandparents’ breakfast. Aptly named – and quickly devoured – by their New Jersey grandchildren, nothing tasted quite like it!)
Me: Whoever gets there first! But beware the moldy leftovers in the margarine container in the Frigidare! (My grandmother called every refrigerator a Frigidare, even if it was a Westinghouse or a Kenmore.)
Memories truly are a blessing and these are as sweet as Breakstone’s unsalted whipped butter on New York toast.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Takeaway From This High Holiday Season

Many times, in recent weeks -- for a variety of reason -- I found myself thinking, “Ughhh, I’ve had it with the Jewish people,” and as the High Holidays drew closer, I found myself less and less inclined to attend the marathon of services I knew was around the corner.

Tonight, in an email, a friend asked, “I am curious if you eventually did sit out all the Holy Days. If so, how did that work for you? If not did you find worship satisfying?"

Here’s what I told him:
I sat out erev Rosh HaShanah and the first day. I did, however, attend the second day, the service at which I am honored each year with an opportunity to chant Torah. Usually my dad comes with me to that service, but with his imminent move (the packers are coming tomorrow, the movers on Tuesday) that wasn't feasible this year. However, he was able to watch the live stream, which he enjoyed quite a bit.

I did not attend any Yom Kippur services, but I did watch a bit of the live stream from Shaaray Tefila, including yesterday's sermon, as well as some of the Facebook live stream from my parents' congregation in New Jersey. I was OK not attending services and felt as though I was taking care of me, which is something I don't do very well or very often. Also, as a regular minyan-goer, I know that prayer is not easy and that it takes hard work. With everything else going on at the moment, I did not have the bandwidth necessary to make my worship truly meaningful.

I am looking forward to festival morning services on Sukkot and Simchat Torah, when it will be safe to go back into the sanctuary. I love Hallel -- and the switch to mashiv haruach umorid hagashem. After that, things will go back to "normal" in our weekly minyan -- and we'll start all over again with B'reishit in Torah study.

But first, our family will close the door for the last time at 12 Webster Road on Tuesday, after which I think I'll have a huge sense of relief that the stress, anxiety, and anticipation surrounding the move will finally be a thing of the past for all of us. I hope that we'll all enjoy wonderful new beginnings and many celebrations in 5778.
In his response, my friend shared a perspective I had not previously considered: “What a great reflection on skipping what many Jews do, and what joyful anticipation of doing what many Jews don't!” Regarding my dad’s move from our childhood home, he wrote, “In memory, 12 Webster Road will always be yours. It continues to shape the you who you are!”

Thanks to our email exchange (and the insights of my friend), I’ve arrived at my takeaway for this High Holiday season: I truly love Jewish living and learning 51 weeks of the year -- and I should revel in the joy they bring me, and not feel guilty about the rest.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Return


Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha v’nashuvah,
chadeish yameinu k’kedem. 

Return us to You, Adonai, and we will return;
renew our days as of old.

Tonight, whether you gather with friends and family around a festive table, bask in the quietude of a well-deserved respite from hectic, or something in between, when you return home, may your heart and soul be open to the possibilities of the year to come and may its days fill each of us and the world with abundant joy, contentment, and peace.

L’shanah tovah u’metukah!

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Monday, September 18, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Give (Up)

When I was a young adult, a kid whose interfaith family belonged to our temple asked her mom if she could give up Hebrew school for Lent.

Her sentiment resonates with me.

More than opting out of some of this year’s High Holiday services, though, I need to give up the guilt that seems to go hand-in-hand with opting out. In fact, I need to give up all the guilt and pressure and judgment and reproach I regularly and all too harshly impose upon myself about, well, nearly everything.

I’m not quite sure how to do this giving up, or even where to start, but I do believe that turning away from guilt and reproach and blame and shame will help me point myself toward being a better, more fulfilled, and less anxious person in the new year.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Bless

L’chi lach to a land that I will show you
Lech l’cha to a place you do not know
L’chi lach on your journey I will bless you
And you shall be a blessing L’chi lach
What does it mean to be a blessing?

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I got a taste of it this morning, when I arrived at Penn Station so early that I had time to pop into the Starbucks across the street for an iced coffee. As I sipped the coffee and watched the passing scene, a well-dressed young man came in and sat next to me just as he was finishing a call.

“Yeah, so this middle aged white guy stopped me and asked about how to get to MoMA. You think you’re being helpful, but I think he was distracting me because next time I checked, my wallet was gone. I stopped all the credit cards, but I have no ID and no cash. Thanks for your help…I’ll figure it out. Bye.

Then, he kept trying to reach people on his cell phone, but, unfortunately, he kept getting voice mail.

“Hi, it’s me. You’re probably still sleeping, and I know it’s a long shot, but please let me know if you’re coming into Manhattan today. Call me when you get this message.”

“Hi, Jen, it’s your brother. If there’s any chance you’re coming into the city today, please let me know. It’s a long story, but I need $!6 or $17 to get a train ticket. Love you.

This went on for three or four more calls, and with each one he became more distraught.

Imagining myself in his position, I would like to think someone might just hand me $20 so I could be on my way.

So, that’s what I did, telling him my hope.

“Can I at least mail it back to you so I don’t feel so embarrassed?”

“Don’t be embarrassed. This wasn’t your fault,” I said, as I gave him my card.

“Hi, Jane. I’m Steve…thanks so much. We’ll sure be talking about you at the dinner table tonight.

And then he was gone…back on his way to wherever he was headed in the first place.

Whether or not I hear from him, I so want to believe I was a blessing, and not part of a scam.

Maybe I was, and maybe I wasn’t; and I may never know.
L’chi lach and I shall make your name great
Lech l’cha and all shall praise your name
L’chi lach to the place that I will show you
L’simchat chayim L’chi lach
And you shall be a blessing L’chi each
Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Create


Creating a better me in the new year is a matter of more of some things, less of others.

More this:

  • Listening
  • Compassion
  • Smiling
  • Critical thinking
  • Speaking up
  • Slowing down
  • Patience

And less this:

  • Judging
  • Eye-rolling
  • Negativity
  • Exasperation
  • Anxiety
  • Stewing
  • Worrying
  • Guilt

At this time next year, I’d like to look back and see that I successfully created a balance that incorporates: taking care of myself; being a good sister, daughter, niece, aunt, friend, and citizen; and doing my part to build a better world.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Friday, September 15, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Change


Is it possible to reconcile these two ideas?

  1. People don’t change; they just become more of who they are.
  2. The High Holidays give us an opportunity to take an accounting of our souls and make changes  in ourselves.

If it’s not impossible, it certainly isn’t easy…just like the work of this season.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Hope

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’”
-- The Little Mermaid

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Begin

Photo: Flickr user @sufeco/CC
My High Holiday season begins in July, when the URJ’s communications team starts planning updates and new content for the ReformJudaism.org website and blog. I’ve been reading, writing, and editing High Holiday material since August. At this point, I can spell S’lichot, Un’taneh Tokef, and Shanah tovah um’tukah in my sleep – with all the apostrophes in the right places.

After so many weeks and countless submissions, coupled with these nightly #BlogElul posts, I’m weary, and but for the fasting, I feel as though I’ve already done much of the spiritual heavy lifting the season demands.

Piggybacking on an idea from a friend and colleague, I’m pondering the possibility of beginning some personal High Holiday traditions (and refining others I began last year) that will give me some balance – and a respite from the Jewish people. As others rush to squish into pews, folding chairs, and theater seats in congregations and other venues the world over, I may opt to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, take a walk, read, ponder, reflect, appreciate, nap, and enjoy some much-needed quietude. I may do so on Rosh HaShanah only or, save for the leisurely breakfast, on Yom Kippur, too. Maybe on the erevs, maybe not. As my father is fond of saying (and you know he has an expression for everything), “I’ll see how the spirit moves me.”

Ultimately, I suspect that this bit of self-care – of which there never seems to be enough – may be just what I need to wipe the slate clean, turn over a new leaf, and begin to be my best self (or at least a better self) in the new year. And after all, isn’t that what this season is all about?

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: End


We’re approaching the end of an era at 12 Webster Road and my heart aches. Just typing these words makes me teary, even though I know the most important things in life aren’t, in fact, things or spaces. Nonetheless, I (ever emotional, reminiscent, and sensitive) am sad.

But, in a renewed effort to make lemonade from lemons, I am reminded that we’ll also see the end of:

  1. Daddy waiting up until 4 a.m. for the plow guy to clear the driveway after a heavy snowstorm
  2. A neighbor who doesn’t respect boundaries (or forsythia bushes)
  3. Watching the house next door dilapidate
  4. Worry about every creak and leak, the water spots, the water heater, and the banging in the wall we sometimes hear when the toilet flushes

As Maria says as she sets off from the abbey, bound for the Von Trapp home, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Although this window, of course, belongs to Daddy, I think it offers all of us a nice view into a new phase of his life – and our life as a family.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Love

I love this kid...




and I can't wait to spend more time with him in the new year.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Fill

Here are nine reasons to recognize and remember my cup is filled, even (and especially) on the days it doesn’t feel as though it runneth over.

  1. A longtime job with generous health and other benefits.
  2. Longtime friends from all parts of my life.
  3. Family that still enjoys being together – even as we drive each other nuts by being ourselves.
  4. Coffee, including a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card that gets refilled for me from time to time.
  5. More books than I can hope to finish anytime soon.
  6. A synagogue community and weekly services that ground me. (They’d understand my desire to disappear right about now and resurface just in time to shake the lulav and breathe in the sweet scent of the etrog.)
  7. A newfound love of learning to lift weights and box (yes, you read that correctly) – activities that also ground me.
  8. A more than adequate roof over my head and a home that is a quiet refuge from the noise and other challenges of NYC living.
  9. Knowledge of a genetic flaw and the wherewithal to act in a timely way to ensure it didn’t take my life, as well as a willingness and ability to use those experiences to support others who are on a similar path behind me.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Speak

I spent a lovely Shabbat afternoon -- quite unexpectedly -- shmying around on the UWS with two good friends. I'll let these pictures speak about the day:

Practice, practice, practice (or the Q train)
 
#tragicallyjewish

#tragicallyjewish

These words speak to me.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mike-pence-gay-man-nyc_us_584ae5c8e4b0e05aded39e0d

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Friday, September 8, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Ask

Done properly, this #BlogElul-ing is hard work. Since it’s Shabbat, I’m taking a pass, and will just ask some random questions that have crossed my mind recently:

  1. Why is that oversized ball in the gym called a medicine ball?
  2. Why is iced coffee more expensive than hot coffee?
  3. What should we have done with the Ziploc bag of salt we took to my dad’s new apartment yesterday? (I sprinkled some on the counter and the rest is still there.)
These are somewhat rhetorical, but in the new year, may we ask questions whose answers increase our knowledge and bring new meaning to our lives.

Shabbat shalom.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Awaken


We’re more than halfway through Elul and until last night, I hadn’t yet heard the sound of the shofar. Its daily blasts during the month are supposed to awaken us and serve as a signal to get busy with the annual accounting of our soul that precedes the High Holidays. (When I lived in Los Angeles, where we could reach out the window and touch the building next door, a neighbor’s daily shofar blasts awakened me -- quite literally -- each day during Elul.)

Thank goodness, I’m back in New York, and thank goodness, too, there’s technology that let me watch a recording of a live stream from earlier in the day of cantorial student (and Shaaray Tefila's cantorial intern) Leah Shafritz’s fourth-year practicum. Her work focused on traditional Rosh HaShanah music and I enjoyed not only her beautiful voice and the melodies, but also her commentaries that accompanied each piece.

Toward the end of the practicum, she called for each of the four traditional shofar blasts – te’ki’ah, a long blast with one or two notes; sh’va’rim, three medium blasts, two tones each;te’ru’ah, nine short, staccato blasts; and te’ki’ah g’do’lah, an extra-long single blast – which were fulfilled, one by one, by someone out of range of the video camera. Nonetheless, as they always do, those blasts resonated in my kishkes (intestines), awakening me – even if not literally – to the forthcoming Days of Awe, and to the spiritual work surrounding them.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Pray

Last week, I received an email from a publicist inquiring if I would like a review copy of the new and updated edition of the The Book of Blessings by Marcia Falk. I jumped at the chance to acquire a copy of a book that has long been on my wish list.

As if in synch with #BlogElul, the book – full of poems, blessings, and prayers – arrived today, when the daily prompt is “pray.” How fitting.

It is late and I am tired, but even a quick perusal of the book’s pages tells me it overflows with spiritual beauty and sustenance. Its words, carefully strung together, form an intricate lattice that helps us reach our souls, our hearts, our God.

There is much exploring to do amidst its pages, but tonight, now, this is the blessing I pray:

Blessing Before Going to Sleep

Sleep descending
on my lids,
on my limbs,

I call to mind
the gifts
of the day—

the gift
of this day—
and give thanks.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

#BlogElul 5777: Intend: A Haiku

I did not intend
To get caught up in late work
Oh, those kvetchy Jews

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Monday, September 4, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Seven Things to Learn in the New Year

As a lifelong learner, I’d like to learn (at least) these seven things in the new year. Some of them, in fact, may take a lifetime to learn.
  1. It’s not personal, even if it feels that way.
  2. I cannot control everything, but I can control my reactions.
  3. Don’t worry until it’s necessary.
  4. Life isn’t always fair.
  5. Good guys don’t always win.
  6. Not everyone who leads is a leader.
  7. At the end of the day, leave the day behind.
Time to get busy!

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Remember

Photo: Flickr user @Heartlover1717/CC
It’s relatively easy to write about kindness and forgiveness and trust and understanding. It’s much harder to remember to do them.

May I remember to be kind, even when I’m frustrated.

May I remember to forgive, even when the sting of being wronged still burns.

May I remember to trust, even when I must also remember that we’re on the same team.

May I remember to be understanding, even when we don’t see eye to eye.

May I remember to be compassionate, even when I’m angry.

May I remember to be accepting, even when I don’t understand.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

#BlogElul 5777: Count


Terry and I did a lot of counting today:
  1. We started with six bagels at the bagel store…plus one freebie for a total of seven.
  2. We each had one cup of coffee with our bagel, the first of the day for me, the second for Terry. I added a second (iced, this time) while we visited with my sister at Union Square.
  3. Perusing the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, I bought a solo print – Snow, SoHo, NYC – and three framed prints of New Yorker magazine covers, including the classic View of the World from 9th Avenue.
  4. Next, we landed at Think Coffee for more caffeinating and catching up. I had my third cup of the day (again, iced), and Terry had a caramel latte, topped with a lacy swirl of steamed milk.
  5. Caffeinated, we strolled across 13th Street to Barraca on Greenwich Avenue, where we shared four different tapas dishes – bombas,croquetas de jamon, broccoli a la catalina, and bruselas – and washed it all down with two bottles of Estrella Damm , a mellow Spanish beer.
  6. Our counting and calculating got a bit more complicated when we returned home and got to work hanging the three framed prints over the couch. Even with a tape measure, a ruler, and a math major, it took us – two fussbudgets – a few tries to get it all just so. It also took more than three nails – we lost count of the actual number – because I’m no Bob Vila when it comes to using a hammer. By the end of the evening though, I was pleased at how the triptych warmed up the room.
  7. Terry’s counting on me to go it alone in finding a frame for the print of a city snow scene, and expects it to be tidily hung by the time she returns in 12 months for our annual Labor Day weekend visit in 2018. 
In the meantime, I know I can count on her love, support, acceptance, and friendship – and she on mine – in the coming year. After all, they’re things we have offered each other unconditionally throughout the last 36 years. God willing, we’ll continue to do so for at least another 36 years, when we’ll be 90, counting the many blessings in our 72-year friendship.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Trust

My college roommate, Terry, arrived in New York City this afternoon for our annual Labor Day weekend visit. It wasn’t long before we were in Starbucks, caffeinating and catching up. I trust we’ll do more than that this weekend, but I can’t guarantee it.

In all our friendships, may we always find abundant trust, love, acceptance, camaraderie, comfort, laughter, good times, support, and – of course – caffeine.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Friday, September 1, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Forgive


I have, in one way or another, committed each of the misdeeds on this list. Please forgive me. As always, I’m striving to be a better person in the year to come, which is the most we can ask of ourselves.

Angering myself and others

Beating a dead horse

Criticizing

Differentiating among equals

Eye-rolling

Failing to keep in better touch

Gossiping

Hopping to conclusions

Impatience

Judging others

Kvetching

Lacking compassion

Minimizing others

Not paying attention

Offending

Pushing buttons

Quitting without finishing

Refusing to think broadly

Schadenfreude

Tardiness

Unnerving others

Valuing things over people

Wasting time

Xenophobia

Yelling

Zooming in on the negative

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: See

I’m sure I’m one of only a handful of people who actually reconciles my credit card statement with my receipts, but I like to see that everything is in order before I pay the bill each month.

Tonight, I saw a charge that gave me pause – and it wasn’t one I had tracked in my spreadsheet of expenses. (Yes, I track my expenses daily in a spreadsheet…stop laughing.) A few phone calls later a fraud case has been opened, my card has been canceled, and a new one will arrive on Tuesday.

In the meantime, this experience serves as a reminder to pay attention, look closely, and remember that just because we may see things a certain way doesn't mean everyone else sees them that way. too – all good lessons as the new year approaches.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Hear

Last week at a worship committee meeting at my synagogue, a committee member offered a d’var Torah about The Ani Tefilla Weekday Siddur, an Orthodox prayer book designed for high school students. It offers four different commentaries, interpretations, or explanations on each of the prayers recited during daily worship:
  1. Biur tefilla: offers a thorough explanation of the text of the prayer, sometimes focusing on one word or phrase, as well as the prayer’s context within the service.
  2. Iyyun tefilla: offers a philosophical and theological interpretation of the prayer.
  3. Hilkhot tefilla: offers the laws and ritual requirements of daily prayer. (Hilkhot (laws) is from the same root as halachah (the collective body of Jewish religious law).
  4. Ani tefilla (I pray or I am prayer): is designed to help students bring their own meaning to the prayer, making it personal and an extension of themselves.
The Ani tefilla for the Shema (the central prayer of Judaism that begins, “Hear, O Israel,…”) offers students this story:
Rabbi Eliezer Silver, a leader of American Orthodox Jewry in the twentieth century was president of the Va’ad Hatzala or the Rescue Committee for Jews who survived the Shoah. In that capacity, he travelled in post-war Europe looking for Jewish children who had ended up in non-Jewish orphanages, most often sponsored by the Church. In one such case he came to an orphanage in Alsace Lorraine asking if there were Jewish children there. He was told that there were none or that they could not be identified as such; their origins were unknown and they themselves had forgotten where they were from. Rabbi Silver insisted that he nevertheless be permitted to see the children and he was finally allowed to do so for a few moments before their bedtime. He walked into a room filled with beds of children preparing to go to sleep. He called out “ Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Ehad” and immediately a young child cried out “Mommy!” Soon other voices joined in as children began to come forward crying out for their mothers. “These children are mine,” he said to the priest. “I will take them now.”
Every time I think of this story, I get chills. What poignant reminders it offers us for the new year: to hear small voices, whether they belong to us or to others; to persist in pursuing what we know is right and just; and to work to find individual meaning in our prayers.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Understand

Following up on yesterday's #BlogElul post, “understanding” is another area in which I regularly seem to come up short – especially when it comes to some common societal behaviors and patterns. Watching the passing scene in a Starbucks earlier today, I easily and almost immediately identified three things I don’t understand:

Tattoos: Even as I prepare to have my own tattoos redone next month (hoping three’s the charm), I don’t understand the popularity of sleeve and sock tattoos – or, on a similar note, the attraction of hair dyed to match cotton candy.

Cell phone dependence: I am always baffled by couples who sit together in restaurants, intently bent over their phones. Are they texting each other? Texting other people? Scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat? How badly do they want to be with the person sitting across the table?

Cell phone photos: This afternoon, I took a tour of the New York Public Library. It was fascinating, and most of the group listened intently to the docent throughout the hour-long tour. There were a few people, though, who seemed so busy photographing and videotaping the surroundings (it is a beautiful, historic structure) that they could not possibly have heard the docent’s remarks. I can’t help but wonder what they’ll remember about the New York Public Library once they’re back home – and what images and ideas from the tour will remain with them, not their phones.

(I did take one photo during the tour – in the McGraw Rotunda – and it is above. The first in a series of four murals by Edward Laning that depict the history of the written word, Moses with the Tablets of Law, shows Moses returning from atop Mt. Sinai to find the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf. The other paintings in the series show a medieval monk copying a manuscript; Johann Gutenberg displaying a copy of his Bible; and Ottmar Mergenthaler using the linotype machine he invented.)

Even as my father tells me repeatedly: “You can’t know too much," I do know I have little need to understand any of these things (or the many others that often perplex me). In the new year (and always), may I continue to learn and grow, concentrating on topics and ideas that truly interest and intrigue me instead of those that only highlight my lack of understanding of others’ choices.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Want

One of the places I seem to come up short consistently, missing the mark throughout the year is in the area of “self care.”

Sure, I keep what feels like a gazillion doctors’ appointments each year to take care of my medical needs, and working out with a trainer twice a week, I’m now taking better care of my body in a new and different way.

But there’s so much more I want to do, and that I should be able to do – without guilt.

Take Breaks: “Breaks are the epitome of self care," says this article , and, in fact, I have an app on my work computer that pops up hourly, telling me to do just that. I want to do what it tells me – when it tells me to do it – without worrying about taking the time, or stressing about what new work will await me when I return to my desk.

Take Human Bites: The same is true for lunch, about which the article’s author says this:
Sometimes I treat self care as a reward. I’m so hungry I can barely think, but I’ll force myself to finish a batch of work before I eat lunch. What I’m really doing is making my job more difficult by allowing myself to run on fumes.
OMG, has she been watching me at work?! Going forward, I want to make a conscious effort to stop for lunch (even though there’s no communal lunch space in my office), and stop the “daily scarf” that often ends with heartburn, indigestion, and what my father the parasitologist politely terms “gastrointestinal distress.”

Schedule Downtime: I want to learn not to overbook myself and that it’s okay to block out time just for me – to read, nap, watch the clouds, watch television, play Words with Friends, or do some other mindless thing to give my mind a break and let it refresh and recharge itself.

Indulge in Retail Therapy: Sure, I live on a tight budget, but that’s exactly why I’ve got a “freelance fund” for retail indulgences (and I use that term very loosely). Although it’s good to know it’s there for a rainy day, I want to learn to use it, on occasion, for things I want -- just because. Included on that list at the moment are this and this and this.

Yes, this is an ambitious list, but I know there’s nothing wrong with wanting any and all of these things, and I’m going to do my best to at least get some of them before the end of Elul. Stay tuned to keep track of my progress.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: 6 Things to Accept This Elul


Here are six things I'm pondering -- and trying to accept -- this Elul and throughout the coming year:

  1. Transitions: They’re hard, but staying put too long in one place can be harder.
  2. The World: It doesn’t always work the way we were taught it’s supposed to work. But, it's filled with beauty, grandeur, and mystery that is ours to discover.
  3. Life: It is what it is, and it isn’t always fair.
  4. Hard Work: It’s supposed to pay off. Sometimes it does…sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it’s not because you didn’t actually work hard; some things just aren’t in our control.
  5. Change: Despite the annual messages and lessons of the High Holidays, change is really hard, and it becomes harder with each passing year, as we become more set in our ways and in our thinking.
  6. People: They are who they are and they aren’t likely to change (see #5 above). However, looking for and finding a divine spark -- or even an ember -- in each one may make accepting the nudniks, the egomaniacs, and the kvetches a tad bit easier.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Friday, August 25, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Choose


For nearly as long as I can remember, I’ve been indecisive. It’s hard for me to choose.

When my dad was teaching me to ride a bike and I fell off, he told me to get back on. Through tears I told him, “I want to, but I don’t want to.”

It’s been my sort-of mantra ever since, and more often than not, I’m happy to let others choose the restaurants we eat in, the movies we see, and where we sit in the theater. When I say, “I’m flexible,” it usually means “I can’t decide; you choose.”

And yet, I’ve been faced with some excruciatingly difficult and painful choices over the years – things only I could decide. Each of these decisions has made me infinitely stronger and more determined to steer my life in the direction I want it to go.

In 5778, may we all make wise and timely choices – whether the consequences are trivial or significant – and may our choices enrich and strengthen us immeasurably.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Prepare

I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love the gym. Yes, that’s correct – I love the gym.

In March – on a whim – I began working out twice a week with a trainer. It is like nothing I have ever done in my life before, and has helped restore my faith in some basic tenets of the world:
  • Working out is, as is much in life, hard, but if it was easy, everyone would do it.
  • Hard work has its rewards. In this case, they include improved fitness, better health, positive feedback, a willingness to stretch my body – and my mind – to learn new skills, and an overall grounding that, little by little, is spilling over into other parts of my life.
I was wholly unprepared for any of these rewards and I am both surprised and grateful to have them. Although it may not be possible to prepare for such unexpected blessings, may we all experience them in 5778.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Search

Dear Elul,

I know you’re a big deal month on the Jewish calendar, but quite honestly, I’d like to hibernate when you show up. Okay, maybe not the second you roll around, but starting about midway through, I’d be happy to sleep right through to Sukkot.

I’m sure my lethargy has something to do with too many years of working for the Jews, or as my friend Victor likes to say, being enlisted in “HaShem’s Army.” It’s exhausting (and frequently infuriating) and, sadly, leaves me with little energy or mental bandwidth for my own holiday preparations or logistics. By the time Rosh HaShanah finally arrives, I have no patience for pews crowded with strangers – Who are all these people and if they really want to be here, why are they talking so much?! – and little inclination to tackle the spiritual heavy lifting the season demands.

This year, I’m in search of new, creative ways to embrace the High Holidays – beyond #BlogElul (which is a true gift each year). I don’t yet know what those things will be, but I’m open to ideas, suggestions, and possibilities that will offer opportunities for meaning, fulfillment, and community. They’ll make me eagerly anticipate (or at least not dread) services (and all that goes with them), and won’t make me wish I already was at the tail-end of a break-fast. Even if they can’t do all that, I’m hopeful that whatever I decide to do, it will help alleviate – even if only a smidge – my I-want-to-hibernate blues.

It’s a tall order, I know, but I’m optimistic that you (maybe in collaboration with Tishri?) are up for the challenge. What do you have for me, Elul?

Thanks,
JanetheWriter

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#BlogElul 5777: Act

"A bat mitzvah is someone who knows that the world is not a stage, -- that we are not puppets who mouth someone else’s lines, and marionettes who dance to yet another person’s tune, -- that we need not be ashamed of our own face, our own mind, and our own choices, -- that we do not have to hide from ourselves and the world under a blanket of corrosive makeup which not only quickly becomes indelible, but which also hardens, becomes cold to the touch, and does not allow any room for growth."



These words were spoken by the rabbi at my bat mitzvah more than four decades ago. Although I didn’t necessarily understand them then, experiences in the intervening years have changed that.

Having spent many years living under a blanket of corrosive makeup pretending all was well in what was (in hindsight, of course) an emotionally abusive marriage, today I try to speak my own lines, to dance to my own tune, and to play the lead, makeup free, in what is my show.

In my show, that means spending time and energy on people and activities that bring meaning and richness to my life -- without making excuses to myself or anyone else for doing anything but that. My family and friends, my synagogue community, volunteer work on behalf of FORCE: Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered and its members, and working out in the gym all fit the bill. Sometimes, though, it means making time just for me, a book, and a Dunkin' iced coffee, and I'm finally learning to be okay with that.

In my show, I’m a writer and editor in a Jewish organization. Solidly on the "communications" side of the "marketing and communications" team, I strive to curate well-written, high quality digital content for a daily email sent to a subscriber base that numbers between 20,000 and 60,000 inboxes, depending on the day of the week Sometimes, the content I choose is deemed “too Jewy,” a term I understand, but find distasteful. Even though I know it's not personal, it feels that way, but I'm slowly learning to act like it doesn't matter to me -- even though it still does.

In my show, I regularly notice (and all too often am disproportionately annoyed by) stop-in-their-tracks texters, sidewalk-clogging tourists, people who don’t say “good morning,” “thank you,” or “excuse me,” those who talk too loudly on their cell phones, and others who block pedestrian thoroughfares because they're convenient for conversations, as well as the way too many, like, oh-my-god, like, millennials who seem to think the world revolves around them. I’m doing my best (although sometimes not too successfully) if not to ignore them, then at least not to let any of them or their antics get under my skin.

None of this is easy and there are plenty of days I still feel as though I’m mouthing someone else's lines and dancing to someone else's tunes instead of directing and acting in my own show. Thankfully, though, there’s always room for growth – especially at this season.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima , this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precede the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serve as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Shechinah at #FORCE17


Last Friday afternoon, as I do each week, I texted a few friends a Shabbat shalom message: “Shabbat shalom from Orlando and #FORCE17 – annual hereditary cancer conference. 🌞”

One of them responded with this: “Shabbat shalom to you, too, in sunny Florida. Will there be a Shabbat service?”

Our conversation continued.

Me: “The place is crawling with M.O.T.s, but Friday night is reserved for “show and tell,” a different kind of ‘service’ for those facing tough decisions.”

My friend: “HaShem is found in many places and in many ways.”

Me: “She (Shechinah, the feminine divine presence of God) definitely is here. There’s something that feels very sacred about empowered women and pikuach nefesh (saving a life).”

My friend: “It will be a wonderful Shabbat, even if you are not in temple."

Me. “Indeed.”

#FORCE17 was this year’s annual hereditary cancer conference organized by FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered , a grass-roots, non-profit organization devoted to providing support, research, resources, and advocacy to those affected by hereditary cancer. Approximately one in 400 people in the general population carries a BRCA mutation, significantly increasing their lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer (in women) and male breast cancer and prostate cancer (in men), as well as raising the likelihood for others, including pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Hereditary mutations can be transmitted from either parent to both sons and daughters. Among Ashkenazi Jews, the prevalence of BRCA mutations is 10 times greater than in the general population; approximately one in 40 individuals carries a mutation, and most are unaware of their status as carriers.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Strength


After my Shabbos nap yesterday, I unintentionally cleaned a closet because I needed to get to a suitcase that was buried within it. In the process, I came across my wedding’s “old” and “blue” in the form of a pair of my grandmother’s garters – on the erev of what would have been my 28th wedding anniversary.

Many would call this coincidence; my friend, Rebecca, would call it #bashert. So, I snapped a photo of the garters and texted it to her with a message that began, “Here’s #bashert for you…”

She replied with this: “28 = כח = strength.” (Every Hebrew letter has a numerical value and it happens that the two letters that equal 28 –  kaf, which equals 20 and chet, which equals 8 – spell the Hebrew word koach, which means strength.)

Indeed, I am grateful that 15 years ago, I mustered enough emotional strength to see (finally) where I was, to change course, and to steer my life in the direction I wanted it to go. Yasher koach to me -- and to everyone since then who's helped me get (and keep) my life on track.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

No Good Tweet Goes Unpunished


Today’s  Shavuot. As I have done every year for the past few, I’m participating in a collective social media effort to post enough tweets that include “#Torah” – pronounced “hashtag Torah” – that we “ tweet #Torah to the top ,” meaning it appears on the Twitter home page as a trending topic.

As far as I know, we have not ever achieved the goal. And this year, I’ve encountered a few stumbling blocks of my own…

Everything started out smoothly. Using  Hootsuite, a social media tool, I scheduled 80-some tweets to go live between 9 p.m. last night and midnight tonight. Because they appear as both tweets on Twitter and posts on my Facebook feed, I put this message on Facebook last night after two or three tweets had appeared:
It appears that all my #Torah tweets scheduled for the next 27 hours or so are going to show up in my FB feed.
For my FB friends who aren't familiar with Shavuot, it's a Jewish festival (The Festival of Weeks) that occurs seven weeks -- 49 days -- after the first day of Passover and commemorates the giving of the #Torah atop Mt. Sinai. According to legend, every Jewish person from every generation was there to witness the pivotal event in the life of the Jewish people. Today, the holiday is celebrated with late-into-the-night #Torah study sessions and dairy foods -- cheesecake and blitzes, most notably -- which serve as reminders of the Promised Land, which flows with milk and honey. It's also the season for confirmation, when young Jews (generally 16- and 17-year olds) who have continued their studies for several years after b'nai mitzvah commit to lead a Jewish life and help ensure a bright Jewish future.
OK, rabbi, cantor, and educator friends, did I leave anything out?
And then I went to sleep.

I awoke to this message from my sister, which she’d sent at 7:09 a.m.: “Why a million Torah posts?” It was followed quickly by this: “I just saw your explanation. You need to delete them. They filled everyone’s feed…message after message after message…”

Um, yes, that’s precisely the point.

Two hours later, when I hadn’t responded (because I slept in and then went to services), she sent another, less contemptuous message: “You look like a Jewish scholar who drank too much slivovitz and pressed ‘Post.’”

Meanwhile, in response to a tweet that appeared in my feed at about 1 a.m., a friend, who thought I was live-tweeting, commented with this: “Jane, I love you. I’m awake with you for at least an hour…” (I set her straight in the morning, sending a link to Hootsuite by way of explanation.)

When I returned from temple, I spoke to my sister and, concerned that I might indeed be looking like a schicker (Yiddish for drunkard), I reposted the explanatory message from last night.

Convinced all was then well, I was dismayed to receive another message late this afternoon – this one from a friend who, although not Jewish, is well-versed in Jewish holidays and traditions. She wrote: “I think you have been hacked… Twitter keeps giving the same status update over and over again…”

Yes, at that point, all the scheduled tweets had the same beginning – Blessed are You, Adonai, Sovereign of the universe who has… -- but ended differently. I responded to her with this: “LOL! They’re different. It’s Shavuot and I’m one of the people who is posting things with the #Torah hashtag to see if we can get Torah to trend in Twitter. Hope all’s well and you’re enjoying Ramadan.”

Thank goodness for Caroline, a high school friend, whose gracious response to one of my many tweets today made it all worthwhile: “I have enjoyed reading these posts.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

That Time I Did Hagbah at Minyan

Dear WilliamtheTrainer,

Since I don’t speak Spanish and as an immigrant from Ecuador, you probably don’t speak much in the way of “Jewish worship,” I’ll do my best to explain this thing that happened on Saturday morning that you helped make possible.

In the middle of Jewish worship services on the Sabbath and festivals -- and on Mondays and Thursdays in more traditional congregations – Jews read from a Torah scroll, which contains the Five Books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The text is handwritten in Hebrew by a specially trained scribe on animal skin parchment and considering its contents, the scroll is treated with the utmost respect.

After the Torah reading has been completed, it’s customary for one person to come forward to “do hagbah,” which entails lifting the open scroll overhead so the congregation can see the text that was just read. This custom derives from a verse in the Book of Nehemiah that says: “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people.”

So, back to last Saturday…

We were all standing around the lectern where the Torah had just been read and my friend Roz had finished her first-ever aliyah (reciting the blessings before and after the Torah reading itself), which she’d done in honor of her husband’s 93rd birthday, coming up in a few days. Then, the rabbi invited me to help with hagbah, an honor usually reserved for a strong man because some scrolls are extremely heavy – and the last thing anyone wants is for a Torah scroll to fall or be dropped.

Thinking about those Hoist weight machines, the free weights, the rowing machine, the treadmill, the crunches, the running, the jumping, and all the other hard work I’ve been doing with your help throughout the last six weeks, I hoped I was up for the challenge. With guidance from the rabbi, I took hold of the bottom handles of the scroll, bent my knees to get some leverage, and to my incredible delight, lifted it and turned so everyone could see the text, although it wasn’t open very wide at all (and the rabbi was “spotting me” to ensure nothing bad would happen).

Returning the Torah to the lectern, I helped tie the two parts of the scroll together, replace its velvet cover, silver breastplate, and  yad (literally “hand”), the pointer that the Torah reader uses to keep his or her place while reading. Once it was safely on the shelf where it would remain for nearly the rest of the service, I returned to my seat in the pews, but not before the rabbi said that the expression on my face during hagbah was “worth the price of admission.”

Indeed, it was an incredibly exhilarating and powerful moment-- not only for the chance to give honor to the Torah in a way I never had done before, but also as a reminder that hard work, commitment, and pushing yourself in new and different directions often have unexpected, wonderful rewards.

Thanks for the reminder…see you in the gym!

~ JanetheWriter

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

#BlogExodus: Join


Back in January, I started working with my fellow FORCE group leader to plan a spring fundraising event for the organization that means so much to us because it was there when we needed information and support in dealing with our hereditary cancer mutations.

Although we volunteer, giving generously and caringly of our own time and knowledge to those following in our footsteps – planning and facilitating group meetings and providing one-on-one support to members – it still takes money to run a non-profit organization. There are brochures and business cards to print, conference calls to connect volunteers, salaries to pay, an annual conference to organize, and so much more that goes into making sure no one travels the hereditary cancer journey alone.

With that in mind, I invite you (or your friends and family in New York City) to join us for a terrific evening to support FORCE and its work on behalf of the hereditary cancer community:

Monday, May 1, 2017 
6-8 p.m.
SideBAR
118 East 15th Street and Irving Place
New York City

$65 per person includes appetizers, two drinks, and your chance to be chosen as the evening's model for a make-up or guy brow demo, done by celebrity make-up artist and brow expert Ramy Gafni. 

The best-selling author of How to Fake Real Beauty: Tricks of the Trade to Master Your Makeup, Ramy will inspire you with his personal story, professional experiences, “minimum make-up, maximum impact” application techniques, and the guy brow, his trademarked eyebrow sculpting for men.

There also will be chance drawings for fabulous prizes, including samples of Ramy's cosmetics, lots of great books, a professional massage, an acupuncture session, two tickets to Broadway's Phantom of the Opera, including a signed Playbill, and guided backstage tour....and more!

We look forward to seeing you (or your NYC friends and family) on May 1! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

#BlogExodus: Read

Sadly, in 2016, I read only six books. What's more, it seems that I purchase books at a faster rate than I read them.

The new year is off to a slightly better start -- I've finished two books and am getting into a third. But, I've also already purchased or been gifted these three books:
If only there was more time to read...

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Jewish month of Nisan leading up to Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, corresponding to 15 Nisan. If you want to play along, check out this year's #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram prompts