One People

Achdus is Hebrish for “unity”.

NCSY Fall Convention Story #2

I go to shul for a lot of reasons, but one is that I like to look down on a sea of tallaisim.  The guys don’t interest me.  It’s the scene that counts.  I love the boys club.  We women, we lunch.  But the guys?  Well.

Yesterday I took off for shul well before the NCSY kids were even thinking of getting out of bed, and made it for kiddusha shachris.  I caught up on the davening and before breaking out of my trance (who knows what I was thinking about, not likely the words) the guys downstairs were doing krias Torah.

A kid with Down Syndrome had an aliyah.  You don’t see that every day.  There was another kid behind him, giving him chizuk (emotional strength).  These boys were about 14.  The bracha was perfect and beautiful.  The one with special needs turned to his friend and the two of them embraced.

And they didn’t let go.  It was clearly one of the best moments in both of their lives.

Not a dry eye. . .


October 29, 2007 Posted by | NCSY, NCSY Fall Convention Chicago | Leave a comment

NCSY Fall Chicago Convention-1st story

Really it’s the second.

But quickly, because I have to get the kids back to shul tonight to catch the bus so that they can go to ESPN Zone  for “interactive video games and dozens of sporting events on tv.”  This is code for “Judaism is fun.”

They told the girls (n = 8 at my house, K”H; N = 250 teenagers in all) that on Friday they would get to go to the Magnificent Mile (North Michigan Avenue) to shop Nikitown, Disney, American Doll, and Hershey.

So I went to work.

When I got home, around 2:00 pm, I remembered that I needed a gift for a shower that I wouldn’t make on Sunday (some of us work) so I did a quick turn around to go to Target. It’s erev Shabbas and I’m in a hurry, but 0n my way down the front steps the girls waved, walking up the sidewalk.  They had returned from their shopping trip.   No one carried a single bag.

“Hey,” I shouted.  “Anyone want to go to Target?”  They jumped up and screamed, “I do! I do!”

And away we go.  A total success, a feel-good, this another way to have fun, National Council of Synagogue Youth afternoon in Chi-town.

we’re frugal but happy,


October 28, 2007 Posted by | National Synagogue Youth, NCSY, NCSY Fall Convention Chicago, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

But I’m normal

We’re having a few NCSY girls for Shabbas, basically providing midnight pasta (upon arrival, a kid has to eat) and the amenities of home (a hairdryer).

There are 7 of them, and one is prettier than the next.  This morning (Friday) I told the madricha,  Hey, I’m off to work, here’s the key.  Have fun.

But first we compared some notes, played Jewish geography, and she told me she knew my daughter-in-law, recognized her picture on the wall, and that she grew up with some of d-i-l’s extended family in a city out east.

I said, So frum.

She said, defensively, But I’m NORMAL!

See?  This is what it’s come to.  Have a good shabbas,


October 26, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Daily Bread

JacobDaJew writes about a fellow (I’m assuming it’s a guy) who started a submarine sandwich-from-the-truck business in a chasidic community, but many people protested.

I think the problem had something to do with, It’s not what we do in this town, not our minhag (custom) eating from trucks, gathering where we might be shoulder to shoulder with women (men). I’m guessing.

I have some pretty frum relatives, women don’t drive they’re so modest. One of the nephews has set up a sandwich shop in a gas station. Don’t go identifying him, he could be in Venezuela for all you know 🙂 To me, any enterprise (legal and tzniut) is better than welfare. The sitting around, waiting for the check, is a foreign concept to me, and within the spirit of stealing. (Uh, oh I said it.) I’d like my welfare dollars to go to truly disabled individuals, or people who are otherwise unemployable, or because, perhaps, they’re elderly.

Can someone please explain the rationale? How do you convince a child that sitting and learning and being dependent upon someone else is a good thing?

Look, I’m an intellectual. I have to read and write and concentrate. The mind is no different whether you’re studying Torah or studying history. It takes its own breaks. You aren’t really in control when you’re going to trance out, take a vacation from what’s on the page. You can TRY to get back to it, whatever it is, but if you get up, do something else, then come back to it fresh, you’ll get more out of your learning.

Those of you who are getting degrees in theology or philosophy might consider testing this hypotheses.

If a person works a full day, then he will learn more during the early morning and evening hours.

Oh, and most of us arrange a mid-day break for food or coffee. Include those hours in the study.

I realize you have to control for variables. But hey, that’s what you do when you’re learning in the secular velt. It’s not a waste of time. Or maybe it is. I don’t know.

Not judgmental, just wondering,


October 24, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We’re Different (?)

I have a rabbi, and I love and respect him dearly, don’t get me wrong, who’s always saying,

We’re different.

And it always makes me angry. We’re different because, what?

We don’t cheat in business?
We don’t cheat on our spouses?
We don’t talk about other people?
We don’t watch television?
We don’t work/think about work on Shabbas?

Okay, sure, we try.
Or is it because

We pay attention so well while we pray?
We honor our parents?
We’re community minded?
We’re careful about how we represent ourselves as Jews to others?
We can’t WAIT to keep the Sabbath holy? Hate to see it end?

Sure, to a point.

It would be nice, just once, if our rabbanut could mention how alike all Jews are, really, and how we could learn from one another. But then they’d have to answer to, Well aren’t ALL people alike? And the answer would be a resounding YES.

And we’d REALLY be in trouble.

troubled sometimes,

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Being Dumbledore and Being Jewish

Sure, I know.  You don’t read Harry Potter because you’re busy learning Torah.  Or is that not the case?  You find the time, and the place (uh hem) to do both.

Then you might know by now, that Jo K. Rowling received a standing ovation in Carnegie Hall when she revealed that Albus Dumbledore was gay.

Her response?  “If I had known this would have made you this happy, I would have announced it years ago.”

If you don’t know the actual plot, I won’t spoil it for you.  But in the final book Harry learns that his hero and headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, had a best friend.  But that friend, Gellert Grindelwald, went in a different direction, magically speaking. He went to the dark side.  So the boys parted ways.

A courageous move on Ms. Rowling’s part, to tell her fans AFTER the books have been safely digested, that her second protagonist was gay.  But it made me wonder why she hadn’t come out about it in the text.  Why didn’t she have Dumbledore say, Harry, you know I’m gay, of course, don’t you? I was in love with Gellert.

It was her chance to normalize gayness, to say, Look here, your hero, the most intrepid of wizards!  He’s gay.  Such an opportunity it was to dent our internationally heterosexist biases.  Oh, you don’t like where I’m going, do you.

So as a Jew, what are you supposed to do with this subject matter?  My feeling as a professional and as a Jew, and I’m not being homophobic or heterosexist, either, is that teachers have no place discussing their own personal love lives or sexual orientations with their students in any case.

And then there’s the idea that being gay as a young person (Albus was young and in love, apparently) shouldn’t by definition imply having sex.  Why do teenagers feel they should have sex at all, gay or straight?  They’re too young.  Finish.  They open themselves up to a flood of body memories and pain.

Finally, same sex love between peers is very powerful and very good.  When I went to graduate school and read Freud, Lidz, Erikson, and other developmental theorists, it was considered GOOD to love your friends, to choose them over your parents. It constituted a developmental leap.

These days everything has to be sexual or it’s not salable.

Even Harry Potter– had— to have a sexual denouement, even if it’s not in writing.

Call me old fashioned, but it’s not homophobic to keep lust out of children’s literature.

Sensibly yours,


October 22, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Doc Falls Asleep

I’m always telling you that religious yiddin’ are too self-conscious about being religious.  They erroneously think they’re so different from the rest of the tribe.  But indeed, I know it’s a rogue opinion, we are not.

We have to eat and we have to sleep.  The question for today is, should we do it while we work?  I found myself with an irrepressible desire to close my baby blues while listening to people’s problems a few months ago.  Maybe it was aging, maybe stress.  Patients weren’t boring, not at all.

I just couldn’t stay up.

So I did what any normal Jew would do.  I stopped eating.  I used to make myself (and FD) remarkable, gourmet sandwiches and ate them in increments before noon.  But they were making me tired, so not eating much during the day did the trick, kept me awake.

When you’re hungry, you stay awake.  Except that meant that the chocolate my colleague Serious Doc kept in the office next door started screaming at me.  And I started responding.

The rest of this story  is on my other blog, the blog that empties my reservoir of What I Have to Say about therapy.  But as I described my sandwiches I ended up having to mention that word, the kosher word.  And explaining kashrut to people who might have no reference whatsoever to our rules isn’t easy.

So maybe we are different, I guess.  Different enough to have to qualify what we eat with phrases like nothing crawly, okay? And No reptiles.

Shavuah tov,


October 21, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s In His Eyes

There comes a time when one must break down and call someone to clean the carpets. We only have one carpet that needs help, a white burbur in the living room. It had seen better days.

So I consulted the web for local Places Nearby That Seem Reputable and found a carpet cleaning company with coupon. I called and the phone person was cheerful and helpful. We had set it up for this morning, and bright and early, the Carpet Guy pulled up to our house in a small white nondescript van.

FD happened to be on his way out to the Yeshiva to treat the sick and malingering bochers. He does this often.

But before he left, he called me from the car and said,

Where’d you get this guy?!!

From the Internet.

Did you get any references?!!

Uh, no, why?

You’ll see.

Maybe you shouldn’t drive away.

I decided you could take him, if necessary.

So this sweet skinny guy with a pony tail walks through my door and says to me, in a very thick, lovely accent (I had thought the company Hispanic from my phone call),

“So this is the carpet? How old is it?”

I’m not one for details, but he was not Hispanic. I’m always in the need to know ethnicity. I just love it. It’s one of my things.

“Where are you from?” I ask directly.

“Where do you think I’m from?” he asks back with a smile.

“Uh, your accent says maybe France.”

He laughs at me, incredulous. “I can’t believe you say that,” he exclaims, as if I’m the stupidest person alive,

“I am from Israel.” He says it proudly.

“Oh, I couldn’t tell.”

He catches my eyes and stares at me then says, “No, no, no. You can not mistake me from anywhere else. It is impossible.”

“And why not?”

“It is in my eyes,” he says.

And as I look at them, indeed, they are dancing as only Jewish eyes can dance. How could I have thought otherwise?

Good Shabbas,


October 19, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The TV Thing

We tend to get into these soppy explanations of why we don’t-can’t-won’t watch television, let alone turn on the tube on Shabbas. But how do we explain it to people who have no reference, no understanding of Orthodox Judaism?

Face it. On the surface it does sound like we’re locking ourselves in the closet, won’t come out until Saturday night. If then. And we like it.

So we’ll ramble on about our little island in time, how sweet it is focusing on family, friends, connecting spiritually, too, if that’s happening at all. And it looks good on paper. But what are we really doing?

I’m telling people it’s a more sensuous experience, de-electrifying my life. When we can’t turn something on, that implies that our experience is more real. Electricity changes reality, whereas untampered life is direct. Direct is a buzzword these days.

I wrote about Calvin and Hobbes in my other blog, and how Hobbes, the tiger, is more real than most of what I see on television. What I’m saying is that looking at the picture for as long as I want enables a more lasting experience. A person can also reread a paragraph over and over again, and we do when we want to learn something, read things over and over again.

Well, I suppose that’s the better answer. If we have to explain away television, Shabbas or no Shabbas, we can say we learn more from books. Life without television is life in the here and now, too. It’s less of an escape, less of a vacation, more hands on, literally. We FEEL it more.

Not that we have to justify anything to anyone.


October 18, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eating Junk

Face it, Jews probably have a more highly developed sweet tooth than other peoples with the exception, perhaps, of a few tight non-alcoholic tribes.  FD and I have always said that those who don’t drink, eat sugar.  Well, one of us says that.  It would be me.

So this Jew tried to stop a chocolate obsession and asked the oomos (other peoples of the world) for ways to do that.  Actually, I’m not so sure I asked, but I did get lots of advice.  It does seem that chocolate obsessions are not rare.  If you have a pulse, you like chocolate.

And the word is, get really, really good chocolate and let it melt in your mouth.  Well, hello.  I knew that.  But I do appreciate the thought.  Another blogger suggested I save certain days to go off my diet, but not really being on a diet, that doesn’t work for me.

Nobody suggested that I remember to say the bracha before or after, regardless.  Oops. Forgot to bench. Gotta’ run.

Always grab one for the road, I say,


October 18, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment