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.