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Monthly Archives: May 2012
Must get it down before it gets forgotten.
In this dream I went to see a doctor in South California. I had to ride out to his office on a white horse. The sea was a deep sparkly blue, and all the movie stars were riding horses alongside me.
I reached his office, dismounted, and went to pay my copay. He started asking me questions in front of the secretary about my medical history and I found myself thinking “what kind of quackery is this?”.
Eventually he escorted me to a treatment room, and continued to take my history. He said he was stepping out for a minute. 15 minutes went by and I went to look for him. There was a huge buffet reception going on in the doctor’s office which was now a wedding venue. There were people everywhere, all glammed up. Even the doc was probably in the long conga line.
I wanted to leave the building. But there was no way out. I had gathered up my things and got dressed but I couldn’t find my phone. I knew my phone would show me the way out. Once I found it I knew I had been too hopeful.
Eventually one of the wedding guests – a 90 year old woman in a bikini (oy my eyes) – helped me find my way out through an air shaft. She also warned me about the doc, said he was a charlatan and she couldn’t believe I came all that way to see him.
I am sure this would have continued but my alarm clock went off….
I have been contemplating, of late, the lessons I want my sons to have learned at my knee. I think the most important lesson I want them to remember is that it’s what’s in a person’s heart and soul that counts – not what they look like on the outside.
To me religion and spirituality are about how a person connects with God, and how s/he explores that connection. Religion can mean different things to different people. There is no one right way. For my family, we follow Orthodox Judaism – with a yeshivish bent at times, with a modern bent at times. Does either bent make us wrong? Is it right for anyone to tell us that we are less than them because we don’t fit into their mold?
I recently had an experience with the educational system here in Monsey. A child of mine was seen wearing jeans outside of school hours. JEANS! For shame! A discussion was had. The child was asked to make changes.
He said to me, rightfully so, “why should I pretend to be something I am not?” He reminded me that I have taught him not to be fake, and that he should be true to himself in all walks of life. I tried to explain to him about being respectful – and he said that when he goes to school he does follow the dress code. He said that wearing jeans does not make him a different person, a lesser person. It makes him a person who is comfortable wearing jeans.
When did Orthodox Judaism get so fixated on how we look? When did we lose sight of the important part – our relationship with God? Does God care if my son wears jeans and a tee shirt? Or would He care more that my son is respectful to his rabbis and his parents?
I have long since given up caring what other people think. I dress the way I dress because I feel it’s right and appropriate. Am I am better person than someone who wears short sleeves? That shouldn’t be the yardstick at all.
What are we teaching our children? What do we want them to have learned? What are the values that we want to pass on to our grandchildren?
I wanted so much to make strawberry soup for Shavuot. I hulled and washed 4 lbs of fresh strawberries. Added them and orange juice and sugar into my blender. Everything got blended well.
I lifted up the jug from the base of the blender.
The bottom fell out.
Strawberry soup everywhere – the floor, the counter, splashed all over me. Max came running in to lick it up. It was a strawberry lake.
Stupid blender is unfixable, and must be replaced and there will be no strawberry soup for Shavuot. I am beyond ticked off. I have no time / money to just go out and buy another one, toivel it and then buy strawberries again.
As KoD and I were cleaning it up I said it should be a kapparah for something – but I think I was just trying to calm myself down. All that work for nothing.
It isn’t! Want to know why? Buy the book and find out!
Last night was the launch party for Deborah Grayson Riegel’s first (of many, I hope) book “Oy Vey! Isn’t a Strategy“. Deborah is a life coach and a speaker and very good at it. Read more about what she does here.
I first met Deb almost two years ago at a MetroImma event where she spoke about motivating oneself – and she had us ask ourselves some searching questions and I had an a-ha moment there and then about some personal goals. We’ve become friends, met at several events, chat on FB and trade recipes and kid stories.
Deb’s book is full of anecdotes and stories and tips and tricks for managing life. She writes as she speaks – engaging and humorous and so smart!
The event was held at the UJA Federation in NYC – a place where Deborah has facilitated many workshops, a place where they hold her in high esteem. Their pride in her accomplishment was a pleasure to behold.
After introductory remarks by June Fortess – the UJA Director of Educational Resources – Deb arose to speak. She said how nice it was to hear such praiseworthy things about herself without having to die first. She read from four sections of her book – but it was less of a reading and more a conversation between her and us. I love how she wove stories of her lovely twins (Jacob and Sophie) and her husband Michael, and her own life lessons into her book and her talk. She has such an energy about her, a zest for life.
Deb spoke about an hour, but it went so quickly! I wanted more!
Before her talk and after she was busy signing books (She inscribed mine with “what’s cooking, good looking?” Could not have been more perfect!). There was a great mix of people – I made some fabulous contacts once I got over my nerves at not knowing anyone else in the room!
Buy the book, folks. Oy Vey! Is really not a strategy – read this book and Deborah Grayson Riegel will help you create your own strategy.
I have my headlights set to automatic on my car. That means as soon as it gets a little dark they go on, if I enter a tunnel on they go, and when I turn the car off, they turn off too. Idiot-proof, right? This way I don’t have to think about it and the headlights don’t get left on all night long.
I went to an event in the city last night (more on that later, it deserves a post of its own) and used a local parking garage. They parked the car for me and retrieved it after the event.
I was almost home, driving locally, when drivers on the other side of the road started honking at me, and my friend asked me if my lights were on. I realized at that point (and thankfully, it wasn’t yet fully dark) that they were not.
Why do the garage attendants have to play with my settings. My chair is never in the same position, they change the radio station and they always turn off the headlights. Why can’t they leave things as they were? We pay through the nose for the privilege of using their garage, they could just park the darn car and leave the settings alone!!
Perfect!!! I thought of this about a month or so ago as a way to describe my religious life/beliefs, such as they are. Jew-ish. “Ish!” It’s right there in the name! I’m a Jew. Ish. Kinda in the middle – sorta…
That helped me crystallize some of the ways in which I am a full-fledged Jew, and ways in which I am kinda, sorta – you know, Jew-ish. Hope you don’t mind my sharing.
Some ways in which I am JEWISH:
– Genetically. Both of my parents, all four of their parents, and many previous generations going back to Odessa, Russia, and somewhere in Poland in the 1800s are and were Jews.
– I attended synagogue many Friday nights as a child.
– I consider it a big loss that I don’t know how to speak and read Hebrew and Yiddish.
– Dancing the Hora and to the song Mayim – even if I don’t know or like the dancer next to me – gives me unspeakable joy and makes me feel like it is possible to bridge any and all gaps.
– I know that in Judaism, Chanukah is not one of the holiest celebrations. In fact, it is far less holy than the celebration of the weekly Sabbath. (Politics aside, my admiration for the way Joe Leiberman does the Sabbath borders on envy.)
– My reaction to visiting the Wailing Wall in Israel? Overwhelmed with emotion and history and the sudden, physical impulse to cry. (People of other religions have this reaction, too, but they don’t have it as a result of their being Jewish…)
– I feel fiercely protective of Israel and its right to exist, and deeply, almost personally ashamed when I hear of any misconduct towards Palestinians.
– My biggest motivation to give blood regularly was taught to me by a more religious boyfriend from my college days. He told me that giving blood is one of the highest forms of mitzvah (good deed) there is. You are giving others a chance to live, regardless of how deserving of it those people may be. You have no idea who will receive your blood, and it doesn’t matter. You are giving it anonymously, without any expectation of being thanked or recognized by the recipient.
– In a larger sense, I am Jewish in that I’m proud of Judaism’s focus on life here on earth. Judaism doesn’t promise Heavenly rewards for performing good deeds, but prizes good deeds because they are life-sustaining.
Some ways in which I am JEW-ISH:
– The main reason I attended synagogue regularly as a child was to hang out with my dad, who played organ there.
– I’ve never really done anything to learn Hebrew or Yiddish.
– While I am aware of the importance of the Sabbath in Judaism, I don’t do anything as an adult to honor it. In fact, the only Jewish holiday we celebrate in our house? You guessed it… Chanukah. Feel free to call me a hypocrite.
– I married a Catholic – partly because he and I were much more in line religiously than I was with any of my previous Jewish boyfriends.
– Even though we decided long ago we’d raise the kids as Jews, my 14-year-old daughter declared recently that she was not Jewish, but half-Jewish and half-Catholic. While at first I was bothered by this, (and curious about how that actually works,) it didn’t take me long to shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, I guess that’s fair…” Especially since we did virtually nothing as parents to infuse Judaism into their lives. I mean, for crying out loud – last Passover my 12-year-old son looked in the pantry, and asked with a puzzled look on his face, “What’s Mmmmaht-zoooohhhhh?”
– I don’t feel the need to surround myself with other Jews, though I do enjoy being so surrounded. I mean, come on. I live in Catonsville. I think I’m one of seven Jews in this here town.
There is, however, one aspect of my deep connection to Judaism that is not up for debate. It involves humor and stereotype. Here is an example:
Q: How did the rabbi cope with an infestation of mice in the synagogue?
A: He bar mitzvahed them all, and they never came back.
Q: Why do Jews make good football players?
A: They are always trying to get the quarter back.
Not funny. Not funny to me at all.
Why not? I’ve been trying for many, many years to figure out why I find the “Jews = cheap” stereotype so much more offensive and upsetting than the others. I know it isn’t true…some Jews are tightwads, but so are some people of every religion on earth. Most Jewish people I know, though, are generous to a fault, and not just with their families.
So, why am I so sensitive? I can laugh at other jokes and stereotypes about Jews with the best of them – “The 2013-Year-Old Man” continues to leave me breathless with laughter even 30 years after I first heard it.
I finally realized that the stereotype of Jews being cheap feels almost threatening to me. It feels like it’s right up there with “Christ-killer” in the way it has been used to demonize Jewish people. It’s been used to galvanize contempt among non-Jews and in the worst cases, as a justification for murder.
I’m fairly sure Medieval anti-semitism wasn’t fueled by hatred of the Jews for not continuing their religious education past the age of 13. And, while widely used to portray Jews as hideous, I know big noses weren’t the real impetus behind Hitler’s Final Solution. Perception of Jews as money-grubbing, greedy and financially powerful, though? Much more frequently exploited to stir the pots of hatred, sometimes to horrific end.
This may not be rational, and by no means do I think my view represents or speaks for others. All feelings about religion are intensely personal and personalized, as are mine. But it does help me understand why no matter how loving a relationship I have with you, a joke or comment like this will make me feel uneasy at best, and at worst, a teensy part of me will feel unsafe. In that way, I am Jewish to my core.
Aliza Worthington blogs over at “The Worthington Post“. When she was little, she wanted to be a ballerina. And the first female catcher for the New York Mets. Neither happened, but she still loves ballet and baseball. And glassblowing. And “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” And her kids. And her husband. And her friends. And writing.
If you would like to submit an essay for the MY JUDAISM column, the guidelines and disclaimers are here.
I am resurrecting what was a regular feature on the blog. Readers submit pieces of prose that talk about their own personal Judaism. What Judaism means to them, what their spiritual journey has been, thoughts and feelings about belonging (or not) to this group of people. I welcome submissions from all. This is about a person’s own spiritual journey. I have always been so interested in why people convert to Judaism, why they decide to become more / less religious, why they decided to give it all up / take it all on, how being around Judaism has influenced them. There are so many lessons to be learned from everybody’s spiritual journeys.
PLEASE NOTE: I will not print anything hateful or inciteful and I ask that in the comments people are respectful, even if they do not agree. I also must state that printing someone’s submission in no way, shape or form means that I agree with the religious views that are held by the writer. I might, I might not. Submissions should be 1200 – 1500 words, accompanied by a head shot and a 3-4 sentence bio. If you have a blog I can include a hyperlink too. If you wish to be anonymous, please let me know.
All submissions and / or questions to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to your submissions.
I have been following a conversation on Twitter, and we had a discussion on FB and I bring the issue to you here.
A twitter friend is having an issue with her male boss calling her “sweetie” and “cutie”. She says that she knows he means nothing by using those terms, no nefarious or ulterior motives, that’s just him.
But it bothers her. She doesn’t want to make a big deal out of this, but she does want him to stop.
What do you think she should do? What would you do?
I am home, I am fine. Shaken a little, but fine.
I was on my way to the allergist for my weekly shots. I was stopped a few cars back at a light (on Spook Rock, corner 59 for those that know Monsey) waiting to turn right. A guy tried to open the passenger door as I was waiting for the light to change. A guy, who I did not know nor recognize, tried to get into MY car without my permission.
Luckily my car doors automatically lock when I am driving, so he couldn’t get in. But he looked at me through the window as if to say “open the door, let me in”. I shook my head no and luckily the lights changed and I was able to drive off. I was shaken and non plussed – why had he tried to get into MY car? Who is he?
I texted the KoD to tell him what happened once I had arrived at the allergist and he immediately responded that I should call the police. My FB peeps told me the same thing. As soon as I was done at the allergist I popped over the road to the police station and reported it.
Why was my first reaction not to call police? Initially, I didn’t feel too threatened. Was it scary? Yes, but I didn’t feel I had been in huge danger. There’s lots of guys that try to hitchhike in Monsey – generally, tho, as soon as they see I am a woman, they step back. I had thought that perhaps this guy (and yes, he was dressed in Hassidic garb) mistook me for his ride, or for someone else. Perhaps it was an honest mistake. I was also thinking that there is no way they are going to be able to distinguish between all the Monsey guys that are bearded and wear glasses and wear white shirts, dark pants and a dark coat!
It bothered me though that when I was making my police report that they specifically asked if he was Hassidic. It made me feel awkward, informing on a fellow Jew. But if he is a scum bucket, it doesn’t matter what he looks like. And if it was an innocent mistake, no harm done.
The police are doubtful of finding him. If similar stories crop up, they will be in touch. No CCTV cameras here, and my description of him was so generic it was really pathetic. But it was the right thing to do to report it. I should have called 911 immediately.
The police officer was so helpful and personable. I was worried they would think I was wasting their time. Not at all. He was there to help.
Some safety tips:
- NEVER put your purse / laptop bag / wallet on the passenger seat of your car. If you are stopped at a light, and your car doors are unlocked, someone can open the door and steal them faster than anything.
- Lock your doors once you start driving if your car doesn’t do it automatically.
- Do not text and drive.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Wear your seat-belt.
- Make sure you know how to set off the panic button on your car alarm if you have one.
Do you have any tips to add?