Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Au Pair Update

So here's the news that's fit to print:

Au Pair (A/P) is here until January 5th. Apparently we have to house her for two weeks after the exit interview. We are not letting her drive since (a) she dinged our car and (b) never got us the paperwork that we need to insure her. So the kids will be spending a lot of time at home over the next two weeks.

We'll start getting applications tomorrow. One thing that we've made very clear -- the new A/P must bring driving record WITH HER!

So for now, we are looking for someone to do the pick-ups two afternoon a week until the new A/P arrives (which, God-willing, will be in February). My parents are being awesome and will do the schlepping the other two days. And, of course, I'll do it on my day off. Quite a change from the nice consistency we've had the past two months. But this is temporary. Just hoping that we'll be able to find someone who is willing to do the driving -- and is only looking for a temporary job.

We're not prepared to write off the entire au pair process yet. It has been discouraging, to be sure. However, I've known many families who have had a wonderful experience. Hopefully we'll be one of those families.

In the meantime, we just soldier on. It's a little awkward having someone live in your home who doesn't really want to be there anymore. But, as the story goes, it could always be worse! (Pooh-pooh-pooh)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Au Pairadise??

Things are nisht gut in au pairadise! Our au pair has given notice. Apparently she doesn't care for being an au pair. Too stressful. Too much work. Making her sick. And what she really wants to do is go to college. She's been unhappy, it turns out, for about four weeks. Never mentioned a thing because "there was no point in saying anything until I made up my mind." One way to approach a problem, I suppose. She has been accepted to a community college in a different part of the county and arranged to move in with two friends -- classes begin on January 8th!

As for us? We go back into the system and begin again. We are a little gun-shy, but feel better prepared this time. And though in any situation both sides are responsible, it is clear to us and to the agency that at least 95% of the blame lies with the au pair and not with us. 8% of au pairs are just not suitable and somehow get through the whole process before anyone figures that out. We'll start looking at candidates and hopefully will find a good match in the next couple of weeks. It will then take about 6 weeks for the new one to arrive in our home.

It's a darn good thing that I'm a calm person by nature or else I'd be totally freaking out right now ;)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

All Jewish All the Time

at least during the 8 days of Chanukah. That's right. XM Satellite Radio has a channel devoted entirely to Jewish music. And for those who do not subscribe to XM, it is available online for free this entire week. Much of the music has absolutely nothing to do with the Festival of Lights. It is just Jewish in nature -- and sometimes the only thing Jewish has been the artist. But it has been fun to hear such a wide variety of Jewish tunes coming from my computer speakers as well as being introduced to new composers and artists. It will continue through the end of Chanukah so go ahead and take a listen.

A lichtegeh and freilichin Chanukah!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hello World!

Frume Sarah is back in the saddle. As some of you know, it's been a crazy few months with the anticipated arrival of "Peach" sometime after Pesach. The morning sickness was just unbelievable this time 'round. It was never just in the morning -- and it lasted about 21 weeks!! I still get a bit queasy in the morning and late at night as well. But very little throwing up now (sorry for the graphics here) and that is a very good thing. I've finally gained a little weight -- which is also a very good thing.

And it isn't as if I haven't had opinions and musings that I longed to share with you. I just lacked the koyach (strength) to type.

However, I am committed to push aside the exhaustion in order to share my innermost thoughts and rants with you.

Happy reading!!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

You Know You've Made It -- Part II

We were in the LA times last week!!! Really! It was a great article and a lot of fun to wake up and read about my life in the paper.


Hotter than ...

Ay yi yi!

It's like living in Manhattan...except we're not. It is SO hot and SO humid. We actually had an electrical storm this evening. It doesn't seem to have helped much with the mugginess. PC actually said that he doesn't know how he's going to make it through the summer without A/C.

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in quite some days. I have been just so busy with the new job and have been having a minor (read: MAJOR) childcare crisis the past several weeks. We are in the midst of looking for a new nanny -- and that takes up all my free time. And in typical Frume Sarah style, this was the same week that the washing machine stopped working and though the spa is finally fixed -- it's not clean enough to use.

B'li Neder alert: I do hope to be back in the next few days with some thoughts about Israel, who has been foremost in my thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You Know You've Made It When...

the Forward publishes an article about you!!!

How cool is that?

The Forverts has been around since 1897 and though it hasn't been a daily since 1983, it remains one of the preeminent Jewish periodicals, published in English, Yiddish, and Russian each week.

And this week, you can read about Frume Sarah :)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Frume Sarah and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Ever have one of those days??

I should have known...

Poppyseed didn't sleep last night. As a result, Poppyseed's mother (yours truly) did not sleep last night. All day long, strange little problems kept cropping up and yet I kept going.

While in the grocery store, I received a phone call from the nanny. Seems that the water in the house was not running. Not a huge problem once we determined that no pipes had burst. Due to a miscommunication, PC had thought that the gas and water bill was on automatic payment. PC was wrong.

No big deal. The water will return in the morning. As long as no one has to go to the bathroom...we'll be fine. The bigger problem is that the gas company is unable to switch the gas back on until Friday morning. However, according to PC this too is no big deal.

"We'll just take cold showers," he suggested.

"How about a hotel?" I retorted.

As I wandered around the grocery store muttering to myself, I was unaware that there had been a queso accident in aisle 17. It wasn't until I walked right through it (in my cute flip-flops) that I just about lost it. How was I going to clean the queso off my foot without any water??

Sure, it sounds funny after the fact. But at the time, it was all I could do to restrain myself.

"Is it a full moon or something?" inquired the checkout girl?

"As a matter of fact, it is just about the middle of Tammuz."

Ok so she didn't have a clue what I meant -- but thanks to the fact that we still don't have drapes up in the master bedroom, I always know where we are in the lunar cycle.

And the days just kept on going in a similar vein. Poppyseed, who conveniently seems to be suffering from a case of shilshul, spilled her drink at dinner. When I discovered something sticky and hard in Beernut's hair, his response was "I didn't know that was going to happen!" [For the future, Beernut -- when you put melted Otterpop in your hair, it will always leave it hard and sticky.]

Yet when it comes right down to it, even with all the frustrations, life is good. Sure, we could be a little cleaner as we settle down to end this day. But we've got our health (poo-poo-poo), a roof over our heads (kinna hura), and tomorrow is (b'ezrat HaShem) another day.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another shande far di goyim

I should have known when I read the synopsis that I wasn't going to like tonight's Law & Order repeat. Here is an adapted run-down from the NBC site:

Religious sensitivities flare when a man is mysteriously killed after desecrating a treasured edition of the Hebrew Torah. As the authorities investigate, they find the dead man was paid by the cousin of a prominent synagogue member to defile the book -- which might prompt a lucrative property sale. But as the Assistant D.A. probes the family feud, his prosecution is hobbled by political pressure and a debate concerning whether the greater crime was done to the slain man or to the holy text.

Why did this have to be on television for all the world to see? The stereotyped characters, the money thing, the rabbi twisting the Law in order to justify his participation in a lie -- ay, yi, yi. It was painful to watch. Do we know people like this? Of course we do. But does it have anything to do with being Jewish? I've met plenty of people who have a New York accent, are stingy with money, a bit on the crafty side, and are definitely NOT members-of-the-tribe.

Maybe I should be happy that we've become so integrated into American society that a whole episode is dedicated to us...

Or maybe we don't need to be so integrated.

I am turning into someone from my grandparents' generation. I am embarrassed when we are portrayed so negatively for all the world to see. With the current climate, we don't need any more negative portrayals.

Ironically, the anti-Semites still claim that Hollywood is run by the Jews.

Monday, July 03, 2006


After all the waiting, I've finally come home. Mostly, that is. As of this past Shabbos, I am now one of the rabbis of my home congregation -- with my father as the senior colleague. (See January 15, 2006 entry for more details)

It was a lovely service, but I must admit that I was really, really nervous. As the service began, I had some serious Bat Mitzvah flashbacks. I couldn't remember which melody I'd chosen for the opening song and I made certain (as instructed by my childhood cantor) not to cross my legs for fear I would forget to *uncross* them and fall flat on my face. (She was not making this story up; the senior rabbi managed to do this very thing at his kitchen table about 20 years ago the same day his family had planned a trip to Disneyland!)

Nervous? you ask. About what should I be nervous?

A bimah partnership is not built overnight. It comes with time and with many shared bimah experiences. My dad and I have well over 50 years of collective bimah experience -- only we don't have it together. And though we know each other really well (!), we've yet to learn one another's non-verbal cues and worship styles. Additionally, I'm learning which keys work best for me, work best for him, and work best for our congregation. I can already see that several pieces will need to be lowered if the congregation will have any hope of joining with me in song.

Now I'm on my own! It's July -- historically, a time when senior rabbis go on vacation. I've been moving boxes into the building these past few days. You may recall from the May 5th entry, that I moved 40 boxes out of my last study. And I've still got some boxes that never even made it to the JCC since I was a little short on bookshelves. So I'll be transferring boxes throughout the entire week! Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of some congregants, my newly-painted study will have plenty of bookcases to house my precious friends.

You can look forward to more regular postings now that Frume Sarah is back in the saddle!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Baby's Growing Up...

Three years ago today, Poppyseed was born.

"I can't believe that my babies are all grown up," I sighed.

"Don't worry, Mom," comforted Beernut, "you'll have another baby someday."

I really love that kid.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This..."

Poppyseed's First Dentist Appointment

Oy! You'd think I'd get better at this stuff with each subsequent child. Supermommy still didn't remember the digital camera to document the event. I did remember "Blankie" (her lovie), but that didn't seem to help with the traumatic announcement.

Though there was no evidence of visual decay, Dr. H declared that the thumbsucking must stop immediately. Poppyseed heard this...and dissolved into heaving sobs.
"I can't suck my Thumbie? I going to miss her!"

All day little Poppyseed's thumb would inch towards her mouth...and she would look at it and reply,
"I not sucking my Thumbie anymore 'cause...'cause...{sob}...'cause I not suck her anymore."

CarTalk with Beernut

After what must have been a frustrating day in Kindergarten, Beernut heaved himself into his carseat (quite a feat for a kid who barely weighs 41 pounds)and exclaimed,
"Mom, you shouldn't have wished for me. You wasted your wish."

And finally...

"Provided By Management For Your Safety"

A toilet seat cover to some.

But after a long day, a life saver to me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On all other days we vote just once, but on this day we vote twice!

The reason?
Apparently, today is both the Statewide Primary as well as the city's election day. And because we have yet to streamline the voting process, city ballots need to be cast and counted separately from the county, because the City of Long Beach uses a different voting system than the county. The good news is that two ballots allowed for each of my children to cast one -- so no fighting!

This was the first year that Beernut really understood what we were doing. Poppyseed was just in it for the cookies and "I voted" stickers.

Whatever gets people to the polls...

Marking time Jewishly


It happened so fast. It was in his mouth and suddenly it was on the table.

"Mazal tov!" I exclaimed

His first baby tooth.

Beernut was so excited! That is until he noticed the blood. It really wasn't all that much blood. But Beernut has this thing about blood.

"This isn't as exciting as I thought it was going to be!!" he quivered.

A dark shadow passed over his face with the appearance of bloodspecks on his dinner.

"You know, the tooth fairy is going to visit tonight."
"What if I wake up when she tries to reach under my pillow?" Beernut worried.
"Beernut, if Daddy and I can move furniture in your room without bothering you, the tooth fairy won't have any difficulties."
"Well, maybe we should leave the tooth fairy pillow on my door handle just in case."

There isn't a prescribed blessing for a loose tooth. Perhaps because it is a natural and expected occurance. Nor is there a mitzvah involved. But to allow the moment pass unmarked seemed anti-climactic. And not very Jewish.
"Let's say our special blessing for firsts, OK? I'll do the Hebrew and..."
"I'll say amen," he interrupted.
"That's right, Sweetheart, you say amen."

And so we thank You, Dear God, for creating us, keeping us alive, and bringing us to these very special moments. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 04, 2006

You know we've made it...

when the most dramatic moment at the National Scripps Spelling Bee hinged on the correct spelling of the word 'hechsher.'

Apparently, 14 year-old Saryn Hooks from North Carolina spelled it 'hechsher' while the judges believed the correct spelling to be 'hechscher.' I guess no one told them that unless one is firmly entrenched in the world of academia, transliterating a word from Hebrew into English usually involves several options.

Good thing that the word wasn't 'chanukah!'

The Pot Making a Racial Statement

It gives a false impression, spell check does. Though it attempts to be thorough, can we really expect it to replace the eagle-eye capabilities of a careful editor?

Recently, I was most appalled to read that "fortune coolies" were to be served at a luncheon held at a Chinese restaurant.

Besides the Divine injunction against cannibalism, it's just not P.C. to refer to the hired help as coolies any longer.

In the words of my revered teacher, Dr. P, "spell check will never correct pubic library."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Alaska, cont'd


It really was a great vacation! We went sea kayaking in Sitka -- which was a great way to get out into nature. Our tour guide Billy reminded us of Keanu Reeves in Parenthood -- and not in a good way! It was his first tour and he was a little more concerned about getting us back to the boathouse than actually pointing out the local flora and fauna. Not to mention his ongoing concern about us being "discomfortable." Like, that is so not a word.

I would highly recommend sea kayaking to anyone looking for a great workout. And in 40 degree weather (that is Fahrenheit, BTW), it is an effective way to stay warm. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Baby, it's cold outside!


Well, Frume Sarah and PC have returned from their trip to Alaska. It was actually a forshpice (appetizer) of Alaska as we had but two stops in Alaska; Sitka and Ketchiken. It was beautiful and we do plan to return and explore our 49th state. Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 05, 2006

All's Well That Ends Well

All 40 boxes have been packed and moved out of my study at the J. Diplomas off the wall...the very last thing was to remove my mezzuzah. There should be a blessing. Or something to say. Some way to mark the moment of departure. Even when it is a good departure, there is still some sadness.

Frume Sarah will be sailing the seven seas so it'll be rather quiet 'round here til mid-May.

I'll return with stories galore!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And the massage?

It was just wonderful, thanks for asking!

La Stone Therapy
A unique type of massage incorporating the use of heated smooth stones, placed along the spine and other areas of the body and integrated into the massage. The combination of heat, oils, and massage allows for deep relaxation and a trip out of this world. A very special experience. Excellent for chronic muscle tension.

I'm hooked!

In Print!

I rushed out my front door first thing this morning in order to check for my article in this week's Jewish Journal. And there it was -- a glaring mistake! I misidentified Barack Obama as a Representative rather than a Senator. I had picked up on the mistake and had hoped that it could be changed in time. Apparently I was too late -- eek! It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have identified the Junior Senator from Illinois as a Republican. Oh well. Luckily it was corrected in the online edition which may be found here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My Perspective

[This is the article that is slated to run in this week's Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. I will post the link when it is up. I will also write more about the trip in the next day or so. It is day 5 of my sabbatical and I have a Hot Stone Massage in 45 minutes so I've got to dash!]

As I drove my children home after school, how many men, women, and children were fleeing from their homes this week in Darfur? As I tucked my children snuggly into their beds, how many mothers crept out of their refugee camps at night to gather firewood to keep their children warm this week in Darfur? As I flew to our nation’s capital in support of our government’s commitment to justice in Sudan, how many villages were burned to the ground by the government-backed militia (known as the Janjeweed) this week in Darfur?

In the shadow of the Jefferson Memorial and with the Washington Memorial just across the Basin, we ended Shabbat. Bimheira v’yameinu yavo eileinu, im mashiach ben David. Speedily in our days, may [Elijah the prophet] come with the messiah, son of David.

These words we sing as we usher in the new week. Hoping, praying that this will be the week that will see the coming of the messianic time. This week is different. We, who stand over two hundred strong, are thinking of a people thousands of miles away who truly need that peace and need it right now. The victims of the genocide in Darfur so very present in our hearts as we pray together.

A military helicopter flies directly over us and we pay no attention. If I were a woman in Darfur, that very same helicopter would strike fear within me. A military helicopter in Darfur signifies not safety but the beginning of a raid by the Janjeweed. How fortune I am, O God, to be a thousand worlds away. And how ashamed I feel to even utter those words.

I sleep fitfully. What am I doing here? What real impact will this gathering really have? Several thousand people gathering on the Mall cannot end the suffering. Our Tradition gives us only two instances where we are actively commanded to seek out opportunities to fulfill a particular commandment. They are “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:15) and “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Rodef. To pursue. To be one who pursues peace. One who pursues justice. Pursue – it is such an active word. During the restless night, I realize that my presence here is not merely a symbolic act nor should I view it as an act of passivity. Rather, by being here and joining my voice with many others, I have become a rodefet. I have become one who pursues.

This is to be a family reunion of sorts. I am joined by my mother, my brothers, my sister, one of my sisters-in-law, and her cousin. Completing the Amado-Einstein-Schorr group is my young cousin whose mother had introduced me to activism by encouraging me to write letters on behalf of the Refusniks two decades ago. How proud I am to stand with over one hundred Jews from Los Angeles, an effort coordinated by Jewish World Watch and the Jewish Federation-Council of Greater Los Angeles.. And our group stands amongst groups from congregations, day schools, Hillel students, JCCs and other Jewish groups from all across North America. Over fifteen-thousand people. Young and old, we have come together with a unified purpose.

Jews marching for Jews. Self-explanatory. But Jews marching for African Muslims? Why? Why stand up for a group of people whose lives have no impact on mine?

Because my faith demands it of me. Because I cannot be angry at the world for allowing six million of my people to be slaughtered if I am not willing to raise my voice in protest for the Darfurians.

The association of Darfur with the Shoah is a natural one for us. When we hear phrases such as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘relocation,’ we know all too well what these euphemisms are concealing; the organized destruction of a people.

Many of the signs reflect our natural instinct to draw connections between the realities of Darfur and the memories of our recent past. Signs bearing the slogans “Never Again,” “Never Forget,” and “Save Darfur” are in English and Hebrew. And there are others. A refugee from Liberia, with the Texas flag draped over his shoulders, carries a sign declaring “I saw it, I escaped it, stop it now!” Three co-eds from the University of Iowa drove all night to hold signs that say “to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.” A high schooler from Boston wrote the words “Schindler’s List, The Killing Fields, Hotel Rwanda. Don’t wait for the movie.”

Now what? What do I do now that the March is over? I don’t have the international respect of Elie Wiesel whose mere presence is a constant reminder of what can happen when the world remains silent in the face of evil. I don’t have the political clout of Senator Barack Obama whose impassioned words elicited great cheers from the crowd. Nor do I have the popular attention of George Clooney whose recent visit to Darfur just last week will do more to forward this cause then a dozen marches. What I do have is the desire to see the genocide brought to an end. I can write to President Bush. I can make responsible choices in the voting booth. I can stand in front of the consulates of NATO and African Union nations, Russia, and China between now and June 2nd, a day that corresponds this year with the day we celebrate God’s revelation at Sinai. How fitting that these visits, as suggested by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will “be taking place during the counting of the Omer, in which we move from the freedom given us at Passover to the responsibility that came with accepting God’s laws at Sinai.” I can receive regular email updates from the Save Darfur Coalition (www.savedarfur.org) and American Jewish World Service (www.ajws.org). I can encourage my colleagues to join with the more than forty Southern Californian congregations who have already become active members of Jewish World Watch. And I can continue to talk about Darfur with my friends, congregants, and neighbours.

Speedily in our days, O God, speedily in our days may this nightmare end and may our brothers and sisters in Darfur know enduring peace. May this be Your Will.

Frume Sarah from A-Z

Everything you wanted to know about me from a to zed, alef to tav, negative infinity to positive infinity...

Accent: I've always wanted one, but don't think I really have one. Often accused of being a Valley Girl...

Booze: Pathetically low tolerance. Kahlua and Cream reminds me of the U.N. Pub in Netanya.

Chore I Hate: Am I limited to just one?

Dogs/Cats: What about them?

Essential Electronics: Internet, cellphone, TiVo.

Favorite Perfume/Cologne: On me: Anais Anais, but still looking for new signature scent. On PC: Armani

Gold/Silver: Yes. But never together!

Hometown: Fountain Valley, CA

Insomnia: Not since Beernut was born almost 6 years ago.

Job Title: Rabbi.

Kids: Two, so far.

Living Arrangements: With my family in our little house.

Most Admired Trait: Compassionate listener.

Number of Sexual Partners: One!

Overnight Hospital Stays: Six.

Phobia: Heights

Quote: People consider faith a minor thing, but I consider it very, very important(Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav).

Religion: Jewish.

Siblings: Younger sister, two younger brothers (and one sister-in-law).

Time I usually wake up: 9:30am if left to my own devices. 6:05am now that Beernut is in grade school.

Unusual Talent: They're all pretty usual.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: It would be faster just to name the few I do eat.

Worst Habit: Eating habits (see above!)

X-Rays: Back, stomach, ankles, knees -- a whole bunch.

Yummy Foods I make: Spaghetti sauce, lamb chops, artichoke dip, Toll House Pie.

Zodiac Sign: Aquarius

Want to play? Consider yourself tagged. This is a long one, though, so I'm not putting anyone on the spot this time.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Homeward Bound?

At some point around midnight, (my cousin) Raven suggested that it might make sense to stay up all night rather than risk missing our 4:30am wake-up call. It seemed a little crazy at the time, but as I was putting the finishing touches on my article for the Jewish Journal, it wasn’t long before I too realized that going to sleep would be a tremendously-risky move. Taking a break around 3:00am-ish, I sat down on my bed to watch “Philadelphia” – a movie that I hadn’t seen in years. Not too long after that. I realized that despite her best efforts to pull an all-nighter, Raven was fast asleep – with remote firmly in hand.

I figured that once the movie had ended, we’d have just enough time to finish packing up and grab a taxi. By some lucky stroke, I happened to glance that the clock only to notice that it was 4:53 and we needed to be in a cab no later than 5:10am. I jumped up and tried to rouse Raven from her deep, deep slumber. Not an easy task, let me tell you. And even once she was up, it was slooooooooooooooow going. I had sudden insight into how she almost missed our flight out to DC just 45 hours earlier. This girl moves like molassess!

The traffic was in our favour and we were safely deposited to Washington Dulles International Airport 2 hours, 23 minutes before our flight by a taxi drive whose radio entertained us with Contemporary Gospel music. Early? A bit. But security really did take a while. And my 14 year-old cousin seems to require a Starbuck fix every few hours – and it was a very long line. (Incidentally, I didn’t start drinking coffee until my 4th year of Rabbinical school.)

After jaunt into the Borders (she apparently required a bookstore fix every few hours as well. Sound like anyone you know, PC?), we made our way to Gate D24. And we sat. We sat and we sat. And then at about 7:55am, we boarded our flight. It would be of little surprise that only moments after inflating my travel pillow, I was fast asleep. A gift really. About 90 minutes later, I foggily became aware that we were still at the gate. Or, more accurately we had returned to the gate. Apparently we had gotten as far as the runway when the pilot noticed an illuminated light on the dashboard (or the airplane equivalent) indicating that one of the jets was having an issue. Back at the gate, the mechanical technicians had just corrected the problem and were performing a diagnostic check to make certain that we were “good to go.” So I called PC, DadGiraffe and Raven’s mom to inform them of our delay. And then I went back to sleep. A really hard, deep sleep too.

So deep that I was truly surprised to hear the arrival announcement. It seemed like just minutes ago we were sitting at the gate at Dulles and here the captain was making the “check, cross-check” announcement. Well, as it turns out, it was just minutes ago that we’d been at the Gate D24. Flight 149, it seemed, needed a new part – and the part was at National International Airport. Isn’t that a funny name? National International? Good thing they’ve renamed it Reagan International. Anyway, once they got the part over to Dulles, it would take about an hour to get it into place.

“Not to worry,” the kind customer service representative at Gate D12 told us, as she handed us a slip of paper with an 800 number on it. “Just call this number to get on the next flight out.” Call the number? Isn’t that what you, my kind customer service representative, is supposed to be doing? “Or you can stand on this really long line.” Now that seems like a lovely way to stretch my legs after sitting on a grounded plane for 180 minutes. How thoughtful of you. “But if you aren’t trying to make a connection” – and we weren’t – “you might as well wait since this flight is definitely going to go.”

The word ‘definitely’ should have been the tip-off. Nothing about this day has been definite. It was now 10:30am and we were now tired and hungry. A dangerous combination. We went to an eating establishment that was masquerading as the Golden Arches. Given my vast experience with McDonald’s both domestic and international, I can say without hesitation that the poor customer service was matched only by the poor food quality. What a disappointment.

Back to Borders. Though I had resisted the ever-present urge to make a literary selection (yeah for me) during our first Borders venture this morning, I reasoned that the travel delay now required some new reading material. There are always dozens and dozens of books that are of interest, but after being steeped in all things Darfur this weekend, I wasn’t in the mood for anything light and fluffy. I chose Paul Rusesabagina’s autobiographical account of the Rwandan genocide.

So tired was I that after about page 24, I had to close my eyes for just a few minutes. Around 12:30pm, I awoke with a start. Women’s intuition? Sixth sense? Whatever. It was a darn good thing I did because apparently Flight 149 – the one that was “definitely going to go” – had been cancelled. No one around me had heard any announcement. Word was just traveling by word of mouth…

I approach the ticket counter with some other disgruntled customers. The "kind customer service representative" was getting less and less kind. Though she claimed to have made an announcement, not one of us sitting at Gate 12 had heard said announcement. But not to worry. She had already booked us on a flight scheduled to depart at 3:26pm. Unfortunately we would have to stop in Dallas as "all the direct flights have either left or are already booked." Bummer!

So Raven and I hauled our stuff down to Gate 19 and sat. We sat and sat and sat and sat. And then, we overheard someone say that this flight was delayed. Something about mechanical trouble. We checked the board at the gate, but no change had been made and no actual human was at that counter. So we checked the big board in the hall and sure enough, new flight scheduled to leave at 5:00pm. Again, no announcement.

I'm all for postive thinking. A positive attitude can make the difference, sometimes, between success and failure. However, sometimes a situation calls for a realistic attitude rather than a positive one. Case-in-point -- the inbound flight from Dallas was only first scheduled to land at 4:36pm. Now I realize that American is a new airline and doesn't have much experience in this department, but even I know that the likelihood of a 24 minute turn-around (and no, I didn't do that math myself. Raven did it for me.) is slim-to-none. Furthermore, we were now scheduled to arrive in Dallas just 35 minutes before our connection.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

Beernut's class is having a fiesta in honour of Cinco de Mayo next week. They seem to be taking a page from some Reform temples that observe Jewish holidays on the closest Friday because Cinco de Mayo is being celebrated on Quatro de Mayo. Who knows.

Anyway, this morning Beernut asks, "do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?"

And that is what it all comes down to for him. Is this particular holiday one of ours or one of theirs? And if it is not one of ours, is it OK for me to participate?

A few weeks ago, we had a similar problem with Easter. Beernut's classroom teacher, who has made a genuine effort to be inclusive, sent the following email:

The kids are making bunny ears and bunny bags for an egg hunt on Thurs. All we do is look for plastic eggs to put in our bunny bag and then come in and eat bunny cookies and juice while wearing bunny ears we made. Our spring festivities take place on Thurs. from 10:35-11:15. I realize our theme is around spring bunnies but if you would not like Ben to participate then I can send him to do work in another classroom during that time. Please let me know.

I can tell one thing. Making my kid stay inside to do work while the other kids are doing a fun activity that includes chocolate isn't going to instill a positive Jewish identity in him, now is it?

So I write back a sweet note and of course, allowed him to participate.

The day after the Easter Egg Hunt, Beernut proclaims Easter a "wonderful holiday!" I inquire and he responds, "I love Easter because that is when the Easter bunny gives us chocolate and spreads Easter joy to all the boys and girls."

I thought I was going to throw up.

And then my little Beernut continues, "so why can't Jews celebrate Easter? Jews like bunnies and Jews like chocolate."

That is a good questions, Beernut -- if Easter was only about bunnies and chocolate. And so I had to try and explain to my 5 year-old Jewish kid what Easter was really all about. (Yet one more thing I didn't learn in Rabbinical school.)

So I wrote the following to my dad:

Is there any point in trying to educate the schools that this is not a universal practice but really is tied to a religion? And if it is to truly celebrate spring, why is it not done in close proximately to the equinox??

Or is this just my problem since he’s not at a day school?

To which he wisely responded:
One of the reasons to send our children to a public school is to acquaint them with the world around them. Being acquainted with the secular aspects of both winter and spring seasons that coincide with Christmas and Easter are part of cultural literacy.

Your children live their Judaism at home, in shul, with family, with friends, etc.

I am reminded of the time the guys and I went into a drug store on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Osborne to get some candy on the way home from Pacoima Jr. High. The man behind the counter asked, "Are you looking forward to a visit from the Easter Bunny?" Without a moment's hesitation, I responded, "No, but I do expect John the Matzah Man!" Your kids will likely be as comfortable with their Judaism.

We do live in a multi-cultural society...and we do live as a minority in a a society that is colored by its Christian majority.

Some Jews try to insulate our kids from this reality by sending them to Jewish day schools, but that only puts off the inevitable. Or, we can make aliyah...and then be a minority THERE as Reform Jews!

Shver tzu zein a Yid!!

And you know what? He's right! It is hard to be a Jew.

And you know what else? I wouldn't have it any other way!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Get a move on...

Time for my annual heath kick! Last year at this time, I decided to run a marathon. I finished it and feel as though I really accomplished something great. And yet, the exercise regimen didn't take. Not only have I not run a step since crossing the finish line last October, I haven't gone for a walk or hit the gym. Needless to say, the fat that I left back along that 26.2 mile course has finally caught up with me. Seems you can't quite outrun your body's natural proclivity without fierce diligence.

Attempted to stay on the right path with a healthy breakfast from a nearby heath restaurant. No more than two hours had passed when my hunger returned with a vengeance. Had a healthy snack. An hour later -- ravenous. I'm not feeling so positive about this healthy stuff right now.

And trying to figure out how to squeeze in time for a walk or some other 30 minutes of cardio this week is giving me such a tension headache that I feel like chucking the whole thing.

Does anyone know if shlepping counts as exercise? I've got an entire library to pack up in the next four days and I'd really love to get exercise points for getting everything boxed up and into my car!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Frume Sarah the Writer?

It's true. I was asked today to submit an 850 word essay about my upcoming DC trip to the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. The editor asked that I craft an article about the DC rally from a first-person experience. She would like a reflection of the experience, the challenges, the highs and lows of the journey and rally -- in other words, a really long Frume Sarah blog entry!

How thrilling! How exciting! I finally get to realize one of my fantasies -- to be an essayist. E. B. White. Anna Quindlen. Frume Sarah.

OK, not exactly. But for one brief moment, I can pretend, can't I?


A true liberation as we move past the matzah and eggs of Pesach and towards the blintzes of Shavuot. I feel as if a weight has been lifted. The children seem no worse for the wear after their self-imposed hunger strike. Apparently Beernut tried to convince his teachers at school that Pesach ended on Monday night and that "my Mommy must have forgotten and packed me a Passover lunch, but it's OK if you give me pizza for lunch today." Luckily, the staff has enough experience with 5 year olds to know not to trust their judgement in such matters.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why is this room different from all other rooms?

Second night seder at Mile Square Banquet Facilities.

I hadn't been to this place since December 15, 1988. Almost twenty years ago and I really do remember it like it was yesterday. The Fountain Valley High School Troubadours were singing at the local Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce Holiday Lunch. [Guess I don't remember it as well as I thought.]

Anyway, there I was in my turquoise blue choir dress and black jazz shoes, belting out "Mary Had A Baby" when I saw him. What was my dad doing at my choir show in the middle of a work day? And what was that he was holding? Ithaca? Is that an Ithaca College pamphlet in his hand? Wait...is today the day I'm supposed to hear from Ithaca? Oh my God! This must only mean one thing!!

Everyone has their "Say Anything" moment and this was mine. OK so it wasn't exactly like in the movies. John Cusack wasn't there holding the boom box over his head. But having my dad triumphantly waving the Ithaca info over his head was the next best thing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Return of FS

I haven't really gone anywhere but I've returned after 13 days of silence.

I think it was John Lennon who said something about life happening while you're making other plans.

I've been meaning to write...really! But then life keeps getting in the way.

Anyway, would it surprise you to know that Pesach starts one week from tonight and Frume Sarah hasn't even begun the process of changing out her kitchen?

It's the same damn story every year. I think I have a mental block to this chag. I mean, it isn't as though Pesach sneaks up on me. In fact, a few days before Purim, I am already getting that sinking feeling inside. "It's just four weeks away...just four weeks away..." I simply despise this holiday.

It's not the seder...so don't start writing in about how much you love the seder and how great Passover is because you love the seder, blah, blah, blah. Uh...hello? Passover is waaaaaaaaaaaaay more than the seder -- all three of them! (The Frume Sarah Family Seder on night one, the Congretional Seder on night two, & the PC Family Seder on the Saturday night during Pesach) If it was just about the seder...I'd freakin' love this holiday! Are you kidding me? Frume Sarah is all about rites and rituals. The Seder is like the epitome of Bibliodrama. Sign me up!

It's the food. I just can't deal with the pesadike food. And now that I have kids (one of whom is even pickier than I ever was!), it is even more complicated. There are just so many restrictions and I have trouble figuring out what to make and I don't like most of it and so on and so on.

You know...I could eat whatever I wanted in the house and no one would be the wiser. If keeping Pesach to such an extent is such a burden, I could just chuck the whole thing.

And yet...

Generations of oppression and forty years in the desert. Does my discomfort really compare to those of our ancestors? It's a small price to pay for freedom, this yearly commemoration.

So while I complain bitterly, and belive-you-me I do complain bitterly, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I can enjoy my religion and customs free from the bondage and enslavement of generations past. Each grumble is matched by a silent prayer of gratitude to the Freedom Fighter, who brought me out of slavery to a place of redemption.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Is Frume Sarah AWOL?

No such luck. my treasured readers. Just overwhelmed with the pre-Purim preparations. I've got many things to report. Finding the time, however, has been a challenge. So I will do my best to share some of my recent musings over the next day or so and then I am off to Boston for a conference -- without -- HORRORS -- access to the internet!

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Today's Lesson

Today was a day of frivolity. Of masquerading. And of carefree joy. Were it not for brave Esther, who took an unpopular and potentially fatal stand so many years ago, we would certainly not be here today.

Purim is a holiday free from normalcy and rules. Not only are we encouraged to gamble, cross-dress, and drink to excess, but we make fun of a sacred text and of ourselves. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that Purim is a trivial or minor holiday. In fact, so important is Purim that it will be the only holiday celebrated during Messianic times for even in a perfect world, we will still need to laugh at ourselves.

The story of Purim takes its name from the Hebrew word, pur, which means “lot” (as in lottery), for in the Megillah, Haman cast lots to pick a date for the slaughter of the Jewish people.

This story is without a doubt the oddest one in our Bible. The name of God does not appear – not even once! Its sexual shenanigans, philandering king, and violence are the stuff of soap operas and melodrama. Its dark undertones and giddy triumph over mortal danger, though, has always made it a favourite among a people with a long history of persecution and unhappy endings.

Is bravery reserved only for folktales and legends? Can we measure up to the valor of our ancestors and take the risks necessary to preserve Jewish life in contemporary times? Or if given the opportunity, will we take two steps back just because it is easier than taking that one step forward?

Ugly voices call for our destruction. Not in Babylonia. Nor in Shushan. Nor in Berlin in 1938. But right here. And right now. The President of Iran calls for our demise. And we do nothing. Hatred pours forth on college campuses across North America -- indeed even in my very own neighbourhood -- and still we do nothing. What will it take for us to gather together and say “no more!” When will we rise up in the manner of Esther and Mordechai and say “enough!”

On this day of rejoicing, O God, point the way to peace for all Your people. Give us the strength to stand up in the face of derision. On this day of remembering our deliverance, O Gracious One, deliver us from all hatred. Point us to a place of tolerance, partnership, and peace.

One Shot Too Many

Dear Loyal Readers,

I have many thoughts to share as I have not had the chance to write at all this past week. However, I have a pounding headache and it's got Slivowitz written all over it!!

I just returned to my desk after hearing the least satisfying Megillah reading I've ever heard in my life. One of the agencies in our building (there is a reason I'm a diehard BJE supporter) arranged for a Megillah reading. 5 people came. This is not a misprint. 5 people...out of all the Jews who work in this building. Well, 6 if you count the reader. Or maybe just 2 if you only count the men. The reader was from Chabad and in fact the only other man present recited the blessing on our behalf. Although women are also commanded to hear the reading, we can't actually say the blessing. Um...someone explain this to me. And a real explanation -- not just a cynical, pseudo-Ortho explanation.

The reading of the Megillah on Purim is one of those time-bound mitzvot that women are actually obligated to observe. The reason is, according to Rabbi Yehosua ben Levi, that they too were involved in the miraculous rescue from certain death at the hands of Haman.

What does this mean? The Rashbam (in Pesachim 108b) points out that it is a woman (Esther!) who brought about the rescue in the first place. I think that this is a great reason. The Tosafot, however, disagree with this reasoning. I suspect that it is not a slight to Esther. Rather, the Tosafot, in true Tosafot-form, focus on the grammatical problem presented by the phrase "they too." How could ben Levi's statement point to a woman's primary involvement in the story (e.g. Esther) when this phrase seems to indicate something else? So the explanation favoured by the Tosafot is that since the women were equally threatened by Haman's evil decree, so too were they equally saved. Also, a great reason.

Now Rashi points out that since women have an obligation equal to that of men, women are eligible to read the Megillah and any men hearing that reading will fulfill his obligation. A man way beyond his time. Sadly,his opinion is contested by the Baal Hilchot Gedolot, who states that the obligation for women is to hear the reading not the actual act of reading...while men have the obligation to read it. Therefore, when one man hears it read by anbother man, it is considered as if he has read it himself. Not the case if a woman has read it. If you'd like to take a closer look at this and try to come to a comfortable conclusion (good-luck!), check out Orach Chaim 689:2 (that's in the Shulchan Aruch, compiled by your friend and mine, Joseph Caro).

Back to this morning's reading -- so the Megillah chanter sped through the reading so fast that it was damn-near impossible to follow along. The law clearly states that every word must be heard in order to fulfill the mitzvah of reading the Megillah. I'm sorry but there is no way that the Speedy Gonzales method of reading would have satisfied the Sages of old.

There is a tradition that I'd never seen (I think that few Reform shuls observe it)until today and that is the congregational participation in the recitation of four key verses, known as the verses of redemption:

1. There was a Jewish man in Shushan, the capitol whose name was Mordechai, son of Yair, son of Shim'i, son of Kish, a Benjaminite. (2:5)
2. Mordechai left the King's presence clad in royal apparel of blue and white with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple, then the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad. (8:15)
3. The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honour. (8:16)
4. For Mordechai the Jew was viceroy to King Ahasuerus; he was a great man among the Jews, and popular with the mulititude of his brethern; he sought the good of his people and was concerned for the welfare of all his posterity. (10:3)

A nice tradition actually, and one that I would love to introduce to my shul. Needless to say that at this morning's reading, I was the only one in the "congregation" reading the verses and to be honest, I didn't read all that well. I was too busy trying to figure out where we were. And the man who was the only one kosher enough to recite the brachot on our behalf -- well, he didn't say much.

So what did we learn today children?

I learned that I like the way we do things in the Reform community -- most of the time, that is. I like that our Megillah reading is in a language that we all understand. I like that it is read slowly and with feeling. I like that men and women must take equal responsibility for their own obligations to God.

And now, I am going to take more medicine for my headache and head down to get ready for our Purim carnival. I shall return with further Purim musings.

In the meantime, be happy, it's Adar!!

Chag Purim Sameach!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jewish Choices

Dear "Emily,"

I've been thinking about you ever since you rushed up to me two weeks ago with the news that you'd broken up with your boyfriend. "I wanted to tell you because I knew that you'd be happy!" you exclaimed. "And I'm dating someone from school, which I also know would make you happy," you continued.

You're right -- I am happy that you are no longer seeing your former flame. Not because I wish you unhappiness or angst, but because I want you to marry a Jew. And even though you are only in high school, "Em," you are already establishing the dating habits that will one day lead to marriage.

Before you jump up and accuse me of racism or prejudice, let me point out that my desire for you to marry a Jew is not motivated out of a dislike of non-Jews. It is out of my concern to preserve our heritage. In other words it isn't "them" -- it's me!! A political conservative who chooses only to date other conservatives is not being racist. Nor is a vegetarian who refuses to date a carnivore. It is not racist to limit one's dating options to those who share certain interests or beliefs. When a certain position is important to us, it is understandable that we would choose only to date like-minded people. Remember also that anyone can potentially become Jewish through conversion. Racists wouldn't invite the people they hate to join their group -- and we do!

"Emily," I've had the honour to watch you grow from a cute little girl into a lovely young woman, and I care a great deal for you and your family. As one of your rabbis, I have partnered with your parents in instilling in you the values and teachings of our Tradition. And one value that is incredibly important is that you marry Jewish.

Your parents have done an admirable job in this area. They've connected with our shul and have maintained their affiliation as active members long past the Bat Mitzvah services of both you and your sister. They send you to a Jewish Day School, belong to the JCC, and support your participation in our local Bureau of Jewish Education programs. Judaism is a living part of your home, and they've done everything they could do to show you how Judaism is important to them.

Now it's your turn. From the moment you leave for college in the fall, you will determine your own Jewish choices. Hillel or not? AEPhi or another house? Missing class on the holidays or not? Dating exclusively Jewish or not?

The statistics are overwhemingly against you. Just under 50% of our young people are marrying out of the faith. So if you are committed to marrying a Jew, the odds are not in your favour. And for those who are not committed to marrying Jewishly, the evidence shows that Judaism will stop with them and not continue to the next generation. "The truth is, not more than about a third of the products of mixed marriage identify Jewishly," said Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. "There is a great fear that if a small Jewish community simply acquiesces to a situation of high intermarriage, that pretty soon, do the math, that a small community, which is really an endangered religious species, will simply disappear."

Given all of this, the most important reason for marrying a Jew is because I want you to find a life partner who will join you on your own Jewish journey. Not because I want you to rear Jewish children (which I do) or because I worry about statistics (which I also do), but because ultimately I believe that Judaism is the language of your soul and I want you and your soulmate, your b'shert, to speak the same language.

So yes, "Emily," I am happy for you. Happy that you came to your own conclusion to end a relationship with a non-Jew. And happy that you are seeing a "nice Jewish boy" from school. And proud that you are making good Jewish choices.

May the Holy One continue to bless you on your journey...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Purim is Coming!!

All I needed to know about being a Jewish parent I did not learn in Rabbinical School. You see, Rabbinical School was only five years and in my case, BC – Before Children. I learned much important and practical information. However, it is the ongoing journey of Jewish parenthood that has been the impetus for ritual creativity.

Take Purim. To some, our annual costumed festival might look like a Jewish Halloween. These two holidays could not be more different. Purim costumes are always for fun with no intention to scare others. Also, Purim is all about giving rather than getting. The focus is not on receiving candy. Rather, it is our custom to give Shalach manos (gifts of food) to friends and tzedakah to the needy.

As I have mentioned before, I’m not a lover of Halloween. I am, however, a huge fan of Purim. I love the costumes and the frivolity of this holiday. The raucous and bawdy behaviour that is forbidden in shul but this one time of year. Our family really gets into this holiday and talk of what we will be wearing to shul has been a favourite topic over the past few weeks.

And this sparked a moment of sudden creativity – to take an annual family picture in costume. By no means an original idea as I suspect many families do this around Halloween. However, why not take this opportunity to remind our kids that we have our own “dress-up” holiday? It is, what we professionals like to call, a teachable moment! When we parents make a very big deal about a particular practice or behaviour, we draw our children’s attention to it. Purim is a very big deal. Its silly nature veils the serious lesson of the day; that the world is a changeable and sometimes dangerous place for minorities, and that in order to survive, we have had to take risks and stick together. We look to Esther as a role model of a Jewish woman who is not only a beauty queen, but a real person who acts to save her people.

So it's time for a new Purim tradition. I dog-dare, double-dare you to make Purim a delightful celebration in the life of your family. Pull out those costumes, head over to the portrait studio, mug for the camera, and then head over to shul for the megillah reading. I promise – you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

Be Happy, it’s Adar!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Whose Rules?

Cancer happens to other people. Right? It doesn't happen to you. Or me. Or the young. Or the good.


Cancer does happen to you. And me. And the old. And the young. And the good. And the bad. It crosses socio-economic, racial, religious, and political lines. Cancer does not discriminate.

And this past month, I learned of three pre-menopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer. Two of them under the age of 38.

So guess what? Cancer doesn't follow our rules. Cancer plays by its own rules. It's aggressive and lethal.

Our tactic should be equally as aggressive. What are you doing to help in the war against cancer?

Susan Komen Foundation
Retinoblastoma International
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
American Cancer Society
Important Breast Cancer legislation(Lifetime Channel)
Sharsheret (Linking Young Jewish Women in the Fight Against Breast Cancer)
Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization
The Breast Cancer Site

Each link will take you to a site that provides patient services, medical information, and ways that you can help. A Google search will yield even more cancer resources. These are just a few of the cancer sites I visit on a regular basis.

Baruch Ata Adonai rofeh hacholim.
Blessed are You, O God, Healer of the sick.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Is this a sign?

So I haven't run a blessed step since I completed my first (only?) marathon exactly four months ago.

Then, out of nowhere, I receive a package from Nike. To thank me for my "outstanding fundraising accomplishments" in the Nike Women's Marathon last fall! These are not your average parting gifts either.


  • one Imara Run watch

  • one Women's Large Duffel Bag

  • one pair of Shox lightweight socks

  • one shoe wallet

  • one hydration pack

When PC saw these gifts, he remarked, "too bad you've given up running."

I've had a few days to mull this over and now I'm thinking "maybe it's a sign."

Knitting Update

So my Grandma was right. [Wasn't she a pretty little girl? I almost said "cute," Grandma, but I know how you feel about that description!] Knitting does get easier with a lot of practice. I've torn out all of my stiches (3 times!) and finally seem to be getting the movement down smoothly. Even PC remarked how straight and even my stiches seem to be!

Everyone has advice. "You should use bigger needles in the beginning," one woman suggested. "Working on a project is a better motivation that just practicing stitches," commented another. "Think loose!" advised yet a third.

I just keep stitching away, nodding, and taking the advice that makes sense and thanking everyone who offers their expertise. And I keep reading. It turns out that there is another way to hold the yarn that works a bit easier than the way I had been doing it. Experimentation and keeping an open mind are going to be valuable tools for me -- great life lesson too.

"When I be five, I knit too!" exclaimed Poppyseed. God-willing, my Grandma will share her skills with yet another generation.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lemon Juice

I can still hear his laughter ringing through the theatre.

Other people must have been laughing because the antics of the Marx Brothers are irresistable. But it is my dad's unmistakable laugh, not to mention the knee-slapping, that resounds in my memory today. This is a guy who really enjoys his comedies.

Duck Soup, I think it was. It wasn't just the movie that was memorable, but the theatre. Back in the "old days," there was a private screening room in the old MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. They ran old films all day long and an usher would bring popcorn and soft drinks to the guests who were reclining on divans and sofas.

Anyway, this past Thursday, I saw a screening of Ushpizin
at the Pacific Jewish Film Festival. What a delightful film. If you have not had the chance to see it, you will be happy to know that it is scheduled to be released on DVD in April. I highly recommend it as well as the critics.

It was interesting, entertaining, and very well acted. Culture warning -- you'll need to enjoy reading your dialogue unless you were paying really close attention in Hebrew school! That's right -- this Israeli film is in Hebrew. Because of the obvious delay, I was about a second or two ahead of the audience and my laughter would ring throughout the theatre well ahead of others. Except that many a time, it was lonely laughter. Apparently no one told the other patrons that this was a dramatic comedy. In fact, several times, the ladies directly behind me would snigger "what is that lady laughing about? This isn't funny?"

I don't know about you...but watching a religious man realize that his secular houseguests had sliced open his $1,000 etrog [thinking that it was a lemon] and drizzled the juice on his salad was funny to me.

The Frozen Chosen

Is it just me or are we actually taking over the world? The world of figure skating, that is.

This is amazing.

Of the three ladies who won medals, two are Jewish. Sasha Cohen (Silver) is an MOT (member-of-the tribe).

So is Russia's Irina Slutskaya (Bronze)

Emily Hughes, who replaced Michelle Kwan on the US team, is also Jewish. [That means, of course, that her older sister, Sarah, who is the 2002 Gold medalist, is also Jewish. Sarah was the very first member of the tribe to capture a gold medal in figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics.]

In the ice dancing category, all three of the U.S. ice dance couples at the Olympics feature one Jewish partner.

Melissa Gregory (partnered and married to Denis Petukhov) is Jewish.

So is Jamie Silverstein (partnered with Ryan O'Meara).

So is Chicago-born Jew, Ben Agosto (partnered with Tanith Belbin, a recently naturalized Canadian) who won a Silver medal -- the first for the US in Ice Dancing in 30 years.

For the record: Though he claims to be "a little bit Jewish," Johnny Weir was was raised Catholic.

Definitely not an MOT.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Are you there Moses? It's Me, God

Last week was such an exciting week. Remember? We recalled what we would consider the watershed moment of our ancestors. It was in past week’s Torah portion that the Children of Israel came face-to-face with God. It was in that moment that our covenantal relationship was established and sealed for all time. It was our Sinai moment, and it was so powerful that the Israelites instructed Moses to carry on the conversation...without them. So moved were they that they could no longer bear to be in God’s Presence.

In this week’s portion, therefore, God draws Moses near to Him in order to convey the terms of the covenantal agreement...alone. Without us.

God said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the teaching and commandments which I have inscribed to instruct them.” (Exodus 24:12)

A very straightforward verse and yet there seems to be a redundancy in the first half when God says. “come up to Me…and be there.” Where else would Moses be but “there?” The Kotzker Rebbe, who had the same question, teaches that “come up to Me” speaks of Moses’ physical location while “be there” is God’s way of telling Moses to be mentally present as well.

How often do we find ourselves just going through the motions? We are certainly physically present but we are not always mentally engaged. We get home from a long day at work and go through the mail or messages while our children try to engage us in conversation. We are there in person, but definitely not in spirit. This week’s portion strives to be our mental check. “Make certain,” God says, “that you are fully involved in My sacred work. It is not enough to just show up!”

May we learn from this to connect on every level in order to achieve God’s imperative to His servant Moses.

Keyn y’hi ra-tzon – May this be God’s Will!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Maimonides, What Say You?"

I love the Olympics! I am actually one of those crazy people who watch skeleton, biathalon, and luge. For the same reason that I watch badminton, track and field, & archery. The pageantry. The sportsmanship. The artistry. The athleticism. I am in awe. And having trained and completed my first (only?) endurance event this year, I have an even greater appreciation for the athletic pursuit.

Of all the sports, I have always love ice skating the most. My laundry list of reasons are no different from anyone else's list [poetry in motion, dazzling spins, Ice Castles, etc.]. Except for this -- my favourite childhood babysitter was an ice skater. And her teacher, if my memory has not been warped by the passage of time, skated on the Donny & Marie show. And that was just sooooo cool!! We even had a picture of my sitter in a blue skating dress posing in front of a winter background. I loved that picture and I loved that sitter. [For the record, my former sitter's son will become Bar Mitzvah in six months, and I'll be on the bimah for it. Who would have thought??]

Whether watching Kristi Yamaguchi skate to gold in Lillehammer from my hotel room in Paris (1992) to watching the 1995 World Championships at Beit HaNasi (Jerusalem) to watching Tara Lipinski skate to gold in Nagano in the Cooks' family room in Rockville Center. I am enthralled with this sport and secretly dream of taking lessons and learning how to skate.

Thanks to TiVo, I have been able to watch every blessed moment of figure skating from Turino. Some of the moments have been breathtaking. And some, well... Is it just me or does skating sometimes bring out the oddity in people?

I have two words -- Johnny Weir. Here's a third word -- excessive. And if you don't think that owning 40 pieces of Louis Vitton luggage is excessive, just read the rest of the Washington Post article.

The RamBaM said it best:
a wise man will carefully avoid excess, lest he give the impression of haughtiness. (Yad: Deot, 1180, 5.7)

Too late.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Betwixt and Between

Is it an awful thing to admit that I sometimes tire of discussing the Middle East?

I shudder even as I write this, but it is true. Sometimes I just want to talk about something else. And yet, I can't help but scour the headlines daily for news about our homeland.

I never completely feel at home...in either place. I am a proud and loyal American. My family has been here for three generations, my grandfather served in the Army, and I consider myself American. And yet my Judaism sets me apart from the majority and I am keenly aware of a sense of otherness. When I am in Israel, I am set apart by both my American-ness (that is not really a word, of course.) and my Reform ideology. And still, I feel a sense of belonging there that I cannot describe.

So when I tire of the discussion, I feel guilty. Guilty because in fact I have no right to tire of a discussion that does not directly impact my physical well-being. It is rather chutzpadic of me to arbitrarily decide when I feel like thinking about the political mess in Israel and when I would rather pretend that it does not exist. You can bet that for Israelis, they would love to have the freedom to take a day off from the national tension that has become part and parcel of living in Israel.

And so I once again direct you to Rabbi Daniel Gordis, whose dispatch this week once again elucidates so poignantly what it means to live in Israel. And I am particularly excited to report that Rabbi Gordis's new book Coming Together, Coming Apart: A Memoir of Heartbreak and Promise in Israel is scheduled to be published this summer. If his earlier writings are any indication, this will be a passionate and insightful look into the soul of our people.

In the meantime, as the Psalmist urges,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; May those who love you prosper. May there be peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces. (Psalm 122:6-7)

Amen v'amen.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Knit One, Purl Two?

Ok...well I'm not really up to the purl part yet. After about four hours, I'm still trying to get the knit stitch down pat.

I decided some weeks ago that it was time to learn to knit. PC thinks that I'm crazy for taking on something else. Since I've given up running, I figure that I should fill that time with some other worthwhile activity -- and knitting seems to fit the bill.

All of the women in my family are accomplished needle workers. Knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, sewing. A few half-hearted attempts as a young girl and I seemed destined not to join their ranks. Lack-of-patience or perhaps a lack-of-talent. Who knows? Luckily for me, I was born into a generation that did not require young ladies to perfect their needle skills.

Or maybe not so lucky. Instead of being tormented in my youth, I struggle with a new skill in my adulthood. And that adage about old canines isn't so wrong. It is not impossible to acquire a new talent, but it is certainly more difficult to do so as we grow older. So while my childhood was free of the painstaking hours earlier genreations of girl spent knitting rows and then tearing out imperfect stitches, and for that I am thankful, I now wrestle with clumsy hands to create something that might have come much easier to my younger self.

It turns out that you can't actually learn everything just by reading. That's not to say that a little advance research won't help with a new skill. At a certain point, however, one just needs to learn by doing.

I decided to enlist the help of my grandmother. As the matriach of our family, and a most accomplished seamstress, I figured that she would have much to offer in the way of advice and expertise. And even though I have heard many of our family stories from her, I hoped that other information would flow as freely as the knitting needles. [I feel accomplished already for just 10 days ago, I referred to these as "knitting sticks."]

What did I learn during our first lesson?
I learned that knitting requires an awful lot of concentration and patience in the very beginning.
I learned that my grandmother was taught to knit when she was about 15 by a tenant that lived in one of the buildings owned by my great-grandmother.
I learned that the very first sweater that my grandmother knitted was for her beloved brother Henry and that he was wearing it the day that he died.

I didn't know any of those things. The first item I would have discovered on my own, but I could have never uncovered the other two facts had we not been sitting together and knitting.

I don't expect to make great things. If I do, an added benefit. What I am hoping is to to learn great things. Information that will add to my story.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The truth according to whom?

It’s all about perception. Didn’t someone once say that perception is ninety percent reality? Or as Christopher A. Ray wrote, “Perception is merely reality filtered through the prism of your soul.”

Take this week’s Torah portion. After 400 years of Egyptian enslavement and a close escape through the Sea of Reeds, we finally come face-to-face with our God. The details of this experience, as well as our forty years of desert wanderings, will be recorded by Moses. It will be his voice that will reach across the generations, keeping our history alive in every age. Therefore, it will be his perception that will colour our story.

What about the other voices? How can we know a complete story if the other voices are silent? And how would our understanding be altered if we could hear someone else’s perception?

We All Stood Together
My brother and I were at Sinai
He kept a journal
of what he saw
of what he heard
of what it all meant to him
I wish I had such a record
of what happened to me
It seems like every time I want to write
I can't
I'm always holding a baby
one of my own
or one of my friend’s
always holding a baby
so my hands are never free
to write things down
And then
As time passes
the particulars
the hard data
the who what when where why
slip away from me
and all I'm left with is
the feeling
But feelings are just sounds
The vowel barking of a mute
my brother is so sure of what he heard
after all he's got a record of it
consonant after consonant after consonant
If we remembered it together
we could recreate holy time
sparks flying
(Merle Feld, A Spiritual Life: A Jewish Feminist Journey Albany: SUNY Press, 1999, p. 205)

When we hear stories from our children, do we stop and take into account that the facts are being presented from their perspective and may not be the whole story? Conversely, when we form an opinion about something, do we heed the fact that our children may have a very different perspective of the same situation? Poppyseed once took a class that I didn’t think was as good as it “should” have been. And yet, Poppyseed loved it! She could not wait to go to class each week and was sad when it was over. Looking through her eyes, I saw a completely different experience and learned to value the class for what she got out of it rather than what I expected.

As we read our people’s story of revelation, may we remember that we are hearing only one side of a multi-faceted story and learn ways to filter stories through the prisms of other souls.

Kol Tuv!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where is everyone??

I did anticipate a drop in my readership now that the voting for this year's JIB awards has been completed. But my goodness, it's really been down the past couple of days. And it can't be in reaction to the lack of a good posting because (a) one would have to visit the site in the first place and (b) I've had some pretty good postings this week.

I mean...with just family alone I should be getting about two dozen hits a day ;)

Sydney Taylor

On my way to lunch today, I was thinking about books. Typical since I am almost always thinking about books. It so happens that I was thinking about what book I will start reading next. Strange, I know. But I worry about this. What if I finish a book and I don't already have another title lined up and ready to go? Of course, this makes it seem as though I only read one book at a time and that's simply not the case. I am generally in the midst of several books simultaneously.

As I was considering my next read, I thought back to one of my favourite childhood books and decided it is time to revisit Sydney Taylor's series. Poppyseed is still to young to enjoy them and I don't want to wait another 5 years to reread them. That got me to thinking about the author herself. I know nothing about her! All I know is that I love her books and that a Jewish literary award is named in her honour.

A wonderful essay about Sydney Taylor appears on the Nextbook.org website. How ironic (?) that it should appear just this week -- the same week that I was thinking about this very thing. It turns out that Sydney Taylor's given name was Sarah and that she is the middle sister...with four sisters named Ella, Hennrietta, Charlotte, and Gertrude. Just like the book! There were four brothers, but, for reasons the article does not clarify, only one brother appears in her stories. These tales were originally conceived as stories that Mrs. Taylor would share with her own daughter and only became public when Mr. Taylor clandestinely entered one of his wife's manuscripts in a writing contest.

The essay, by author Melanie Rehak, is a particularly well-written and interesting one. It brings to light, however, a fact I found disheartening; Sydney Taylor had come out of this joyful childhood only to become an assimilated Jew. How does this happen? What hope do we have to raise children who will remain engaged and commited Jews when the childhood we offer is not steeped in Judaism as in earlier generations?

Maybe my angst has just been furthered by the valentine-incident of two days ago. Who knows. I mentioned it to the classroom teacher who wasn't exactly clear what the problem was. [Um...Jesus in the public school? Problem seems pretty clear to me.] Maybe I just worry that despite my best efforts to expose my children and their contemporaries to an exciting, meaningful, and beautiful faith and heritage, it just won't be enough. And I will have failed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Much to say...no time to write!

So I've got three entries I'm in the midst of crafting. However, I was slammed with a migraine (nasty things, I tell you) and PC finally returned after a 5 day business trip to NYC. Don't worry -- Frume Sarah will share her thoughts tomorrow ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spreading the Good News

Since I've already mentioned that I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day, I won't go into detail. Feel free to read about the origins of the holiday and draw your own conclusion as to why Frume Sarah might have an objection. PC is out-of-town and it didn't phase me at all. He gave me a card. I gave him a card. But if there had been no exchange of cards that would have been OK too.

Beernut brought home a bag filled with valentines, candy, stickers, and other chazzerai. It was not a mandatory event. Kids were given the option whether to distribute valentines or not. The only guideline was that the valentines were not to be addressed to the classmates. The teacher explained that in order not to take out too much time from the lessons, distribution would go more rapidly if the room moms could just put the valentines into the bags without worrying about which one belonged to which kid. OK -- so not the most meaningful valentine exchange in the world, but I appreciate the teacher not wanting to waste classroom time on this.

Beernut was so excited to go through his goodies. There were stickers, notepads, pencils, and candy. And he shared commentary on either the classmate or the particular valentine as we made our way through the loot.

"Scooby Doo! I love Scooby Doo." "Oooo...Spiderman. He is so cool." "Nicole is so nice." "Sponge Bob...he is my favourite" [OK, we've never watched Sponge Bob in our house. How did he fall in love with that yellow sponge?]. "Cool basketball one."

Except, silly little unathletic boy, it's a soccer ball not a basketball. And it says "God's Love. The Ultimate. John 3:16. Established in the beginning." On the back, it has the John 3:16 quote. The first part of the quote, that is. [For those who are unfamiliar with this particular quote, I encourage you to take a look the next time you stay overnight in a hotel.]

I don't subscribe to this theology. Beernut doesn't. Our family doesn't. I am not making a judgement statement about this theology. Just acknowledging that it is someone else's and not ours. And though I know that spreading the good news (this is the definition of "gospel" after all!) is a key tenet of the Christian faith, it blows my mind that any parent would think that a valentine with a strong theological message is an appropriate one to pass out to a bunch of five and six year old children -- in a public school!

Do I say something to the teacher? The room moms? The principal? Do I place a call to the ADL? Is this a battle worth fighting? Is this the price I must pay for sending my son to public school?

At what point do we just sit back and try to blend in with the majority culture? We believe strongly in the public school system, and feel fortunate to live in an area filled with superior school districts. Learning to be a part of the larger community and how to reconcile one's Judaism with the host culture are important life skills. We expect Beernut and Poppyseed to live in America (though they are mostly free to make their own choices!) so it will be imperative for them to know how to live as Jews in a Christian majority.

That being said, I am just left with a bad taste in my mouth.

I knew I didn't like this holiday!

The Scent of A Woman

I love perfume! The bottles are so pretty. And I find that my mood matches the scent I've chosen on any given day.

When I was younger, I thought that I would one day find a signature scent. After all, my mother wears Shiseido and my Tante H wears White Shoulders. To this day, smelling these scents conjures up a vision of either woman. I've searched long and hard and yet that one perfect scent has eluded me.

I started out, like most teenage girls of the '80's, wearing Love's Baby Soft. Tante H gave me Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps for Chanukah one year and I really loved that. It was my first "grown-up" scent. Chanukah 5750 -- my parents gave me Anais Anais. Ah...I fell in love with this scent and really felt that this was the one. As it so happens, I had fallen in love with a certain young man and felt that he was the one too. However, the scent didn't do it for him...and one of them had to go. I married the young man...and ditched the perfume.

The certain young man had selected a wonderful scent for me in celebration of our wedding. We really thought that we had come upon "the" scent with Jessica McClintock. Oddly, this beautiful scent takes a nasty turn when it hits my skin. Sadly, this was not to be.

The next several years saw a number of scents come and go: Sunflowers, Tommy Girl, Tommy Girl Freedom, Clinique Happy, Clinique Happy Heart. All lovely scents. And though PC enjoyed these, they just haven't felt right to me.

There had been a certain scent that PC had long admired and finally after unsuccessfully trailing after women in public places, he finally got the name!
Estee Lauder Beautiful Sheer. A sweet, floral fragrance. He loves it...and I think that it is fine.

So here's the question: for whom am I wearing perfume? If the purpose is to be alluring to my beloved, than does it really matter what I think of the scent??

"Yes!" scream my feminist friends. "No!" shout my traditional friends. What does Frume Sarah say?

"On the one hand, it is important to captivate my husband. After all, as a Jewish woman, the creation, growth, and stability of a family is my paramount responsibility. On the other hand, if wearing a particular scent makes me feel good about myself, is it not to my advantage to select something that I really love?"

And so the search continues. A recent stop at the frangrance counter yielded the following recommendations [and more importantly, samples!]:
Donna Karan Cashmere Mist
Chanel Chance
Valentino V Absolu
Dolce & Gabanna Light Blue
Ralph Lauren Pure Turqoise

Stay tuned for the results.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Four Recent Experiences That Made Me Feel Like My Mother

They say that at some point we are keenly aware that we have become our parents. Over the past 48 hours, I have had not one, not two, not three, but four experiences that brought me back to my childhood. Except now, I am the mommy and not the child.

1. Taking Beernut to the Pediatrician.
For a variety of reasons, we have decided to switch the kids to my childhood pediatrician. Since they are healthy, it seemed like a good idea to take a trip to the practice under calm circumstances. When Dr. P came in, he drew a face on a tongue depressor. I had totally forgotten that Dr. P and his partners do that. I can't tell you how many of those sticks we must have had around the house. In fact, I am confidant that ACE (PepGiraffe explains the monikers here.) probably still has a stockpile of decorated depressors hidden in the ole' homestead somewhere. It just felt so comforting to see that some things never change.

2. Wearing Bangle Bracelets.
Certain sounds just take you right back to days of yore. When I was little, my mom used to wear four gold bangle bracelets. My dad had given her each one to celebrate each birth of their children. Do you think that it was weird to just wear one? After all, PepGiraffe didn't show up until I was two. Did my mom only wear one? One bangle doesn't make any noise so I'm not sure I would have noticed. Whenever I wear my bracelets, the sound reminds me of my mom. It's a mom sound. Hey, I make a mom sound now...

3. Poppyseed Watching Me Get Ready for Work.
I loved to sit and watch my mom get ready for receptions or any of the other rebbetzin things for which she would get farpitzed. I thought she was so beautiful. "One day," I thought, "I'm going to get dressed just like her." One day is here...and Poppyseed tell me that I look pretty.

4. Beernut Zipping Up My Dress.
If my dad was already finished getting ready and my mom needed help with the zipper, then I got to help. I couldn't reach my zipper as I was getting ready for the Hall of Fame dinner last night. PC is in NYC for business (and poker with my sibs) and I needed some assistance. Beernut, who is growing more every day, still needed to stand on the bed in order to zip me up. He felt like such a big helper...and I felt like such a mom.

Will my children remember? Will they look back on days like this and remember these moments?