Friday, March 30, 2007

Pizza auction after Pesach

I just spotted this post from Life of Rubin about an auction for the first pizza after pesach from Pizza Time in Flatbush. The money goes to charity. I think it a great idea!

Quote for a Friday Afternoon

As I clean for my move, I came across a quote I like that I wanted to share for the weekend:
"Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore, you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any condition...... Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many time as you think is necesssary...(then ask one question.) I will tell you what it is. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use.
Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart and one doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong, one weakens you..... a path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with a heart is easy. It does not make you work at liking it.

Don Juan

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Windows and other challenges of moving

Previously, I have mentioned that we are moving our offices in a few weeks. With the deadline looming, and Passover around the corner, things have really begun to heat up. There are so many things that I have learned that I thought I would never need to know. Like what a core factor is. Some of you will know what I am talking about. Some of you will know it by another name. Basically, in our area, a core factor refers to that area in a commercial building that is shared such as the hallways, bathrooms, etc. But the most challenging part of the move is dealing with staff. As the chief executive in a social service organization, I deal with staff every day. They do the most wonderful and complex things day in, day out, usually without a lot of complaining. That was before the move. Now, it is "why do I have to share an office? Why is my office so small? Why is located on the north side? " and on, and on. I am usually a pretty relaxed person. Every day, my associate director will come in, close the door, and say..... so and so has this or that complaint. I have been reduced to shouting, "let them quit." I know, however, that in a few weeks, things will settle down and we will be very happy (i hope) in our new digs, which will be bright, shiny and brand new.
And this is what amazes me, and brought me to the world of social services many years ago. People. They are amazing. Complicated. Wonderful. CHALLENGING! I remember one of my first jobs in this field was for a large municipal agency in a big city. The supervisors got cubicles, the rest of us got desks in a large open room. You were "placed" to some extent by seniority in the room. When a window space opened, if you were there long enough, you got to move your desk. We used to pray for people to retire. We could work with the most difficult cases of child abuse without batting an eye lash, but not getting the window seat reduced us to children. And so it goes. Thankfully, my staff is better than that. Some days, it doesn't feel like it.
I know one thing. I will get the window seat!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Smoking Pot on Pesach

What would we do without the JTA to inform us of the cutting edge news that comes to us from the Holy Land? (click here for story) In a nutshell, the Green Leaf Party has announced that since Marijuana contains seeds, it is not permitted to ashkenazic Jews over Passover for fear of its being Kitniyot, which is generally meant to be legumes, such as peas, beans, rice and lentils. The JTA consulted Rabbi Moshe Elefant from the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America who said that since the substance is illegal and would be as unhealthy as cigarettes and therefore not acceptable halachically, he had not even considered the question. However, he continued, if Marijuana was being used for legal medical purposes, it would be allowed on Passover, as are all medications.
Sounds kinda far -fetched to me.

Get on the Bus for Passover

In both my local paper and the Yeshiva World News (photo at left) there was an article about the Passover Matzah Bus in Spring Valley, (Monsey, NY) a small community near here that has a very large population of Chassidishe residents. I love this idea. Essentially, the Rabbi in this story created a Matzah factory from an old school bus, and makes about 100 pounds of Matzah each year for his family and his small congregation. Town officials are not crazy about this because they are concerned about the safety of a blast oven in an enclosed school bus attached to a house in a residential area. Not an unwarranted concern. They have told the Rabbi he needs to change the way he is doing it. In typical Jewish joke fashion, they have decided to give him a few days to "see how it goes." Since today is Wednesday, and the baking will most likely be done by Sunday, sounds reasonable to me. Next year might be a problem. Of course, next year, as we say in the Haggadah, we'll all be in Jersusalem, so baking the matzot will be less of a problem.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Murder by the Sea - And what it means to Israeli Society

Last night I had the opportunity to see a screening of "Blues by the Beach" a documentary by Jack Baxter and others. This powerful film is about the bombing at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv in 2003, where three people were killed, and scores were injured. Mikes Place calls itself "an island of sanity in a region torn apart by conflict." And that it is. A place where people from all over, and from all walks of life get together to listen to American music, talk English, and have a good time. One of the most fascinating things about the documentary is that they began filming a movie set around the bar, with absolutely no inkling of what was to come. They interviewed people that worked there, showed them having their breaks, their cigarettes, their beers. Having a good time. In the blink of an eye, totally unsuspecting, the world is turned upside down. What began as a human interest story, ended as a human tragedy story. And powerful it was. Three people died, but the one that the filmmaker seemed to focus on was Dominique Haas, (Photo at left.... from the Mike's Place website) a beautiful pastry chef from France, who had come to Israel not because she was a Zionist or a religious Jew. Just because she wanted to.
One of the most poignant and sad things about the film was the relationship between Pavla, who edited the film, and Joshua, who was the photographer for most of it. Joshua and Pavla were boyfriend/girlfriend, who seemed to be quite in love early in the film. The night of the bombing, they had different reactions. In the chaos of the situation, they reacted very differently. Pavla, feeling that Joshua was too emotional, and not "strong enough," needing the support of a "strong man" slept with a mutual friend that night seeking comfort and solace. Joshua just needed time alone, to deal with the loss and the hurt of that night. When Pavla told Joshua she had slept with another man she implied that Joshua was not strong enough for her that night, he wanted little to do with her. The movie showed their relationship after this episode, and Pavla's attempt to make up with Joshua, but it was not to be. Pavla returned to the Czech Republic, and their relationship ended.
This is, I believe one of the more tragic results of the terror in Israel. It also reminds me of what I wrote in an earlier post about how hard it is to feel for something when you are not directly involved. At least it is for me. I know there are those who can catapult themselves into other places, start to feel and cry, but for me, I have to be there. And that is what "blues by the beach" did for me. I was IN Mike's place. I met Dominique. She was real. And then she was gone. Just like that. So incredibly sad. It made me angry. The senselessness of it all. The killing of people who were out for the evening on the beach, having a beer, dancing. 29 years old. Gone.
Equally sad was the story of Pavla and Joshua. A young couple in love who were propelled into oblivion and destroyed because of this. Maybe Pavla didn't really love Joshua. Maybe these problems would have surfaced later in their relationship. Maybe not. What I am left wondering is after the thousands of innocents maimed and killed who were out eating pizza, drinking a beer, dancing...... How many Joshua and Pavla's are left in Israeli society? A human tragedy that continued beyond the dead, the injured, the re-building. It makes me angry.

The Return of the Emunotes

Well, they have returned home triumphantly. A hearty Mazal Tov to Shlomo and Friends. We look forward to seeing you on the next trip, and look forward to seeing you on our next trip.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Brotherly (and family) Love

I am off to Philadelphia for Shabbat. It is a strange experience for me. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and lived in Philly for 20 years. When I go back as a visitor/tourist, it is strange to look at the city I grew up in with visitor's eyes. It is also lots of fun. Last time I was there, i visited the National Constitution Center a relatively new (seven years old) museum in Philly. Sounds like a real bore, and truth be told, if you were raised in this country, it is to some extent. The opening exhibit/lecture is fantastic, however, and made the visit worthwhile. They do a multi-media presentation in the round, and the narrator is terrific. The rest of the museum focuses on stuff most of us grew up with.

This time, we will once again visit Congregation Mikveh Israel which is the second oldest synagogue in America. A Spanish-Portugese synagogue that has incorporated many of the pieces from the original synagogue, it was founded in 1740. To this day, not only do they retain the original style and cantorial "nusach", but they offer a communal dinner and lunch on Friday night and Saturday afternoon to anyone who comes in. (They do ask for a donation) The synagogue also houses the National Museum of American Jewish History which, while not open on Shabbat, is a great place to visit. Of course, no visit is complete with traveling a half block from the synagogue to see Philly's famed Cracked bell... The Liberty Bell. Again,this is weird for me because as a native Philadelphian, we used to drive past it all the time, and think, wow... look at the nutty tourists.... Now i are one. Of course, more fun is a trip to the Franklin Institute, which has an exhibit on King Tut. How appropriate before Pesach. Or the Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest zoo in the country.
But the real reason I am going to Philly is for a family Shabbat away. My wife has had a tradition of going away with family members, and reconecting and just spending time together. This year, as a new member of the family I get to come along. Should be (gulp) fun. I'll let you know when I get back.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The agony of "de feet" or Friday's Post on Thursday night

I don't know if I will have a chance to post tomorrow since I will be away for shabbat, so I am posting a little early.
Tonight, my son's school had a father - son basketball game. Being the good dad that I am, I of course had to play. Now understand, I know basketball pretty well, and can coach, teach, instruct. Play? Well, that's a horse of a different color.
But I figure, what the heck, there will be plenty of dads. I can play a bit, and watch the rest. Unfortunately, god had other plans. Only three dads showed up. Worse yet, only one of us could really play. (no, it wasn't me) Now if you have not had the experience of playing sports that require great expenditure of energy against 13 and 14 year olds in a while, let me tell you, it aint easy. I watched a lot of the action from the other side of the court. Slow Down!!!! We kept shouting at the two kids we took to round out our team. Don't rush.... give us a chance to catch our breath. Of course, we did not get the all stars from the kids team, so of course they didn't really listen to us. So i huffed and puffed up and down the court , waiting impatiently and breathlessly for the end of each quarter. I remember looking around to see if they had one of those portable defibrillators. I don't think they did. Not good!!!!!!
At the end of four (verrrrrryyyyyy loooonnggg) quarters, the score was.....

Dads 55, Kids 50. YAY DADS!!!!! And yours truly had about 10 points. Not bad for an old man. However, here I sit, wondering whether or not I will be able to stand up tomorrow. I can already feel everything tightening up. I know one thing for sure.... Next year I am going to make SURE MORE DADS SHOW UP!!!!!

And speaking of insane....

This just in from JTA:

Lebanon war formally named
Israel formally named last year's Lebanon war. The government's Ceremonies and Protocol Committee this week chose to call last summer's conflict with Hezbollah the "Second Lebanon War;" the first was in 1982. The new name is up for Cabinet ratification Sunday.
I don't know about you, but I am relieved. Now I know what to call it!

Some days we are just insane

Over the next two weeks or so, we will be moving our offices. As we try to prepare, keeping a sense of humor is difficult. Here are a few thoughts to keep us sane for the next few weeks. It''s not new, but still funny! Feel free to pass along. Better yet, try one or two of them.........

20 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

4. Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In the Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Smuggling Diamonds"

7. Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy."

8. Don t use any punctuation

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat with a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

13. Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme.

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party Because You're Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won!, I Won!"

18. When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner. "Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go."

20. And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity.......Send
This E-mail To Someone To Make Them Smile. It's Called! Therapy!!!.......

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thanks DovBear, Boston Legal, and other tidbits

Well, thanks to Dovbear, I had the highest traffic rate yesterday of any day since I started writing my blog. Thanks to all you who have visited. Come back and leave me comments.
I must confess. I am a Boston Legal addict. If you have never seen the show, it is definitely must see TV. In addition to seeing James T. Kirk (William Shatner in Star Trek) in a lawyer's role, James Spader, who I used to hate, I now love. Anyhoo, one of the more fascinating things about this show is that it often has a Jewish twist. The writers have recently focused on the relationship between Denny and Bethany. (the Jewish "little person") Bethany, who plays a Jewish Lawyer has had an on again/off again relationship with Denny. Most recently it is off, because Denny, who is the least politically correct person in the world tells Bethany that he cannot accept Israel's politics, and thinks that they are wrong. They never really go into what is actually wrong with Israel's politics, but when Denny discloses this to Bethany, she dumps him again. Later in the show, in a heartfelt talk between the two of them, Bethany says to Denny that Israel is a country whose survival is tied to its politics, and not accepting that, is the same as not accepting her as a Jew. She says that since Denny doesn't understand that, they cannot be together.
Denny later, in the traditional ending scene, sits on his veranda with Alan, sipping scotch and smoking a cigar and says, (I paraphrase) "Alan, do I have to accept Israel's politics?" Alan says no, but here is the clincher, he says something to the effect, that Denny does not have to accept it, but since he has never lived there and is not Jewish, it would be impossible to understand it.
Who's writing this show? I want to meet them. And thank them. It is refreshing to hear such unwavering support for Israel in a prime time network TV show. And one that I like, to boot!
And don't forget.... FREE ICED COFFEE AT DUNKIN TODAY!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is Orthodox anyway?

There are a few thoughts that have been making me go hmmmmmmmm........ (for those of you old enough to remember Arsenio Hall's late night show.) He used to do a bit where he would ask the audience "have you ever had things that made you scratch your head and go hmmmm...? "Like, how does the aspirin know to go to your head when you have a headache? Hmmmmm........ " Ok, a bit silly, but he made the point in a comedic way.
So too, I have those things that make me go hmmm..... Like, what is Modern Orthodoxy? Is it wearing pants and no head covering for women? No yarmulkes in the workplace for men, but yarmulkes at home? Eating dairy out at kosher restaurants? One of the things that fascinates me in the debate is the juxtaposition of Modern Orthodoxy and Lashon Hara.
A while back, I wrote two posts (click here for one of them) about Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the "open orthodox" yeshiva in New York. They got a lot of hits, primarily because of the wide readership of Mark Einhorn's blog on what he terms "fringe orthodox Judaism." And fringe orthodox is, according to Mr. Einhorn, Chovevei Torah, and his particular target tends to be Rabbi Darrin Kleinberg, the Rabbi of the Kidma Synagogue in Phoenix, which is, unfortunately for Rabbi Kleinberg, where Mark Einhorn is based. Of course Rabbi Kleinberg gives him much to latch on to by taking some unusual and provocative positions. I guess many people share Mr. einhorn's views however, since many of the people who read my post were referred by his blog. I also happen to occasionally agree with Mr. Einhorn that sometimes, Rabbi Kleinberg and Chovevei go too far, but to imply that they are not orthodox is a bit over the top.
The whole notion of what constitutes orthodox in the first place is a question for me. I stopped using the term a long time ago. I believe that there are core principals that make one "orthodox." The observance of Mitzvot, Shabbat, Kashrut, and acceptance of the divinity of the Torah. However, when I was in college, i had friends who did all those things, but called themselves Conservative and Reform. I couldn't understand it. What do you mean you are reform? You keep Kosher, observe Shabbat and put on Tefillin. The response, " I just feel more comfortable with reform theology". OK, I accepted the answer. Didn't understand it, but accepted it. Later in my college career, I got a job teaching in a conservative Hebrew School. The educational director was a Reconstructionist Rabbi. Turns out that he kept Shabbat, kept Kosher, and his wife covered her hair. "Why are you Reconstructionist I asked?" I got the same answer as above..... And lastly, when college was over, and I got married and moved to my nice little religious neighborhood, many of my "modern orthodox" friends did not wear a kippah during the day and ate (dairy) in non-kosher restaurants. HELP!!!!!!
As I grew up, ( I was already an adult, but needed to grow up more) I learned that there are shiv'im panim l'torah, "70 faces to the Torah." That is to say that there are many ways to look at the Torah, and observe it. I came to a place in my thinking where I understood that everyone has to find their own way. It may not be a way that works for me, but it works for them.
In my career as a Jewish communal professional I have to deal with people from all over the Jewish spectrum. Some are tolerant of the fact that I keep Kosher and wear a kippah, some less so. I try to figure out a way for them to respect my decisions, and for me to respect theirs. Usually it works.
Chovevei is one of those Shiv'im Panim L'Torah. I believe it is an important one. It may be that Rabbi Kleinberg's ideas are not quite what "mainstream modern orthodoxy" might often espouse, but neither were those of the Ba'al Shem Tov. I liked what Rabbi Josh Yuter wrote in his post on the subject and explained that a) continuing the debate is not all that interesting, and b) there will always be those who disagree. The fact is that it makes more sense to try to influence those who wish to listen, or work, instead, on ourselves.
Hence, the beginning discussion on Lashon Hora. I am going to be more careful in the future. In the meantime, I will await the opening of the Hooters in Tel-Aviv with great interest. It will be very interesting to see what response THAT brings!

Random thoughts of spring

In the spring, it is said, a young (if I can be politically incorrect) man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. Or hooters, anyway. That seems to be the most important news all over the blogosphere this morning is the proposed opening of a hooters in Tel Aviv. My friend Dave, mourns the death of Israeli culture with this milestone. There are others, who find this moment in time an inspiration, an ode to Theodore Herzl's notion of the fulfillment of the Zionist dream. Ok, I guess even I think that goes a bit too far.

Picture from

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nobody does it better....

Israel does it so much better than we do.
Last night I had the privilege of hearing Esther Wachsman speak. Esther is the mother of Nachshon Wachsman, was a corporal in the IDF when he was kidnapped in 1994. He was executed during a failed rescue attempt. The story riveted the world and united Jews from all streams in outrage, contempt and sorrow. Esther, after sharing her personal tragedy with us, switched focus to her passion, the Shalva Children's Center, also named "Beith Nachshon", in honor of her murdered son. The Center works with mentally and physically challenged children. After Nachshon's death, Esther met a sponsor of the home, and he convinced her that they needed her help. He was willing to donate a great deal of money to give the Children's center a real home, instead of the small shack that they occupied. He was only willing to do it if they named the Center Beit Nachshon, which they agreed to do. And the reason that they wanted Esther to help is that in addition to leaving a legacy for Nachshon, she also had a son who had Downs syndrome, and used the Shalva Center. Since that time, Esther has traveled around the world talking about her two special sons... One that was killed, and one who is still alive, but needs special help.
She explained that the Shalva Center used to offer services a few hours a day to special needs children. With Esther's help, they were able to raise money to build a large facility, and offer expanded service. And this is where I feel that Israel has learned to do things better than us. Last week I wrote about the Emunotes, a group of children from the Emuna Afula children's center. In both cases, the Emunah children's center, and Shalva, they have developed a system where they pick the children up in the morning, provide myriad services to them, and return them home in the evening. What this does is alleviate the tremendous stress caused by these children to the families, or avoids subjecting the children to potentially difficult situations. It makes it possible in both cases to have the children remain at home, saving Israeli society tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and give these families the opportunity to remain intact.
In my more than a dozen years in child welfare systems in several states, we always reacted, as my supervisor used to say, in a myopic way. We never saw the big picture. We were too busy looking to fix, and not to keep things from happening. I love the way at least some of the places in Israel seem to understand that the best way to keep families intact, is by relieving the stress BEFORE it happens. I wish we would learn that here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

March Madness

Fooled You!!! This has nothing to do with basketball. Instead, as a fun way to end the week, here is some information from my FBIL (former brother in law) about free spring things. And how appropriate, since we are in the middle of a good ol' nor'easter here today, expecting to bring anywhere from 3 - 12 or more inches of snow by tomorrow night. So keep warm, and enjoy!
1) On March 21st, the first day of spring, Dunkin' will "put winter on ice" with their first ever Free Iced Coffee Day. All day long, Dunkin' Donuts locations all over the US will be giving away free 16-ounce iced coffees. Their iced coffees are "double brewed" for smoothness and come in nine different flavors, in addition to regular coffee.
2) PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - (March 10, 2003) - In what has become one of the most eagerly anticipated rites of spring, Rita's, the nation's largest Italian ice chain, will give a FREE regular ice to everyone who stops by one of its more than 260 locations on Thursday, March 20. To celebrate the arrival of spring at 8:52 p.m., Rita's expects to give away almost 500,000 free cups of ice. The big giveaway runs from noon to closing March 20. Stores are located throughout the east coast and as far west as Ohio.
3) Gearing up for spring, Baskin-Robbins and Rita's Ices are giving away free scoops of ice cream and Italian ices.Baskin-Robbins will offer free scoops during its fifth annual Free Scoop Night on Apr. 28. The ice cream chain expects to give away more than 200 scoops per second to three million customers nationwide.

And now, to leave you with a little selfish self - promotion, courtesy of my wife:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Show Me the Money......

Well, after being very zealous about making sure that I was posting daily, I missed yesterday. The reason was that it was a crazy busy day. (At least that is the way my 13 year old would say it) Partly because I was preparing my presentation to our local Federation for our annual allocation. For the un-initiated, in Jewish communities around North America, there are Jewish Federations who fund programs in their local communities, as well as overseas. Every year, those agencies are required to come before a committee to explain why they deserve continued support (read = money) And we have come to depend and rely on it. The challenge for those committees is to decide which of the organizations deserves how much of a slice of the communal pie. And, of course, each of us feels that we deserve more, and the other guy deserves their share, but not at our expense.
But what happens when the money becomes the issue and the problems/needs are overlooked? I pose this question since it is a community wide discussion here. We live in a small-ish town close to New York. Many of the people who live here go to "the big City" for fun and food. There are those, however, that want to remain in their humble suburban neighborhood, and not have to go elsewhere for those things. Recently, a group of singles convened a meeting of the major organizations to say that they wanted us to help provide support for them to hold singles activities in the town in which they live. Not an unreasonable request. At the end of the day, they were being told, "there is no money for this, and if you want it, you have to do it yourself." Yes, many of these singles are financially comfortable, smart, educated and independent. However, most of them are also too busy to organize mailings and emails to try to coordinate activities. Now you might say that this is a wonderful opportunity for some entrepreneur to set up a business, but this has not happened. Nor do i think it will. But as a Jewish Communal Professional I have to ask, isn't this group of people important to us? We are always complaining about intermarriage, and decry the less than 50% affiliation of Jews living in our communities. So here we have an opportunity, and let's be honest, to provide a service to our community that wouldn't actually cost that much in the end. Think of how great it would be to bring these people into the community, give them a meaningful experience, and turn them into committed members of our community, who might even meet their bashert along the way.
In any event, I believe that we, as professionals and as a community have a responsibility to help everyone in our community, unless, and this is rare, we absolutely can't. There are always ways to empower people who want to be empowered to take charge, and this is where we fall down. I try never to say no unless i have to. What about you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Too little too late!

I have only been posting once a day, but this was too good to pass up! Germany is attempting to revoke Hitler's citizenship. That is the quintessential closing the barn door after the horse is gone!!! C lick here for the full story!!!

Immoral Behavior and the Military

Both this morning's paper and aol (link here) carried the story on General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about his support of the Clinton-era "don't ask don't tell" policy on gays in the military. However, when asked, he said the reason he supports it is that that homosexual acts are "immoral" and "akin to a member of the military having an affair with the spouse of another service member." Interesting analogy. The General goes on to say that during his "upbringing" he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral.......... and that, apparently, is that.
Not wanting to start a debate over homosexuality, i find it incredulous, that with the daily scandals pertaining to our military about inadequate care for veterans, and the shambles at Walter Reed, this is what our military leaders have chosen to pick as their raison d'etre. Of course, this all comes on the heels of the resignations of Francis Harvey, secretary of the Army and Lt. General Kevin Kiley, the Army's Surgeon General. I think it is time we picked leaders who were going to lead, not going to let us down. Leaders who will focus on the real issues, like caring for the brave men and women who were wounded and broken in wars.
It is especially ironic to me that this comment appeared in the news today, the day that we are launching the Military Assistance Program here in Conn, and at our agency. This program, mentioned in an earlier post, (the meaning of a misheberach) will attempt to help our vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan re-adjust to life in the world post-war. And they need lots of help. If you have been following, while Walter Reed Hosp. does offer some of the finest inpatient care of any hospital in the world, (a story NOT carried when they speak of "the scandal") its outpatient care, like those all over the country was attrocious. We are now all trying to fix it. The military has field units on the front lines the provide emergency mental health services. The creation new, supportive programs to vets, will also go a long way to provide better, and more immediate care to those in need. In the meantime, I think we need to worry less about gays in the military, and more about those soldiers, gay or not, who need our help.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dr. Laura and Good? Mental Health

I had the opportunity to sit in my car in traffic today, and having XM satellite Radio i got to Listen to Dr. Laura on the radio. I am not sure who is dumber.... Dr. Laura or her listeners. I spent at least five years in school training to counsel people. Undergoing therapy can be a long, arduous process for some people, but can be highly successful. Dr. Laura has it down to a science. Complete and total cure in 45 seconds. If you don't like what she has to say, it's ok..... click!!! I wish I could do therapy that way. I don't know about you folks, but listening to her makes me angry. I wonder what happens to the poor people who wait forever to get through, only to be told, as she told one listener today, "don't have feelings.... that's what gets you into trouble." Don't have feelings? What the heck is that supposed to mean? And what happened to her Jewish renewal? At one point, I thought she had made a transformation to observant Judaism. All I ever hear her talk about now is her weekend(Friday night/Saturday) appearances. I guess the values that she holds so dear are only valuable for a short time. I don't know about you, but if I have problems, i am not going to Dr. Laura. Maybe Dr. Phil, but definitely not Dr. Laura!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The amazing Emunotes

Well, today was the day. The Emunotes were here for Shabbat, and they were not only adorable, but were a lot of fun to be around. Early on in my career, i worked for many years with abused and neglected children. It is hard work, and watching these small, damaged children in agony day in and day out can be very draining. The children that sang here today are such children, but they live in Israel. Little Jewish children whose parents abuse, neglect or abandon them. Most Americans, when they think of Israel, think of Ben Yehuda, Dizengoff, or the Kotel. They don't think of the slums of Yaffo, or these litte kids from Afula, who stayed in host homes this weekend that they labeled "palaces" since the homes are so completely beyond their range of experiences. On the one hand, it felt so good to be with these kids and see their faces light up as we applauded their singing, or let them play in the backyard with a basketball. And on the other hand, it feels awful to know that in a few weeks, they will be back in Afula with parents who drink too much, leave them alone too much, and don't care about them enough. But for today, and the next week, these kids will be treated like royalty through out New England. I hope the memories that are created will last a lifetime. Some might not get a chance to visit us again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Esther and the Emunotes

I know, sounds like a rock band, right? But before I get to that, here is something REALLY neat that came from my friend Dovid: oddcast tts .
It is pretty cool, check it out and have fun.
Now, back to where I began. Thank you to those of you who prayed for a good attendance last night. Esther was superb, and we had a nice turnout. She is off to Israel today for a few weeks to speak about her book, mating in captivity, and to speak to groups about her experiences.
On an entirely different note, my family will be hosting the Emunotes, a group of children from the Emunah Children's Center, our (connectictut's) sister city. These are children in Israel who have been abused, neglected or have emotional problems, and live in the Sarah Herzog residential facility. 11 ten year old girls will be spending Shabbat in our little town, and singing at our synagogue tomorrow morning after services. Then they will be having lunch with us. I can't wait.... or maybe I can! What were we thinking??????????
Well, not a lot of time today. Have to go home soon and help get ready for the girls.
Hope you all have a peaceful Shabbat!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I'm Annoyed

Well, a little annoyed, anyway. I am trying to keep up with my posting, but for some reason, even though I posted my "who'd a thunk it" post today, it showed up as yesterday. Therefore, I am posting again, to keep up with my attempted record of not missing any weekdays. Weekends might be a different story.
The first leg of the Esther Perel lecture is over, and annie was right, she is AMAZING! I heard Esther speak about 10 years ago, and she is better than ever. She just wrote a terrific book called "Mating in Captivity: Recognizing the Erotic and the Domestic." ( It has been published all over the world, and in many different languages. If you are a therapist, you must read the book, and try to find out where she is speaking! I will let you all know how the third presentation open to the public goes later.
Pray for a large turn out for me!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Who'd a thunk it?

That my little blog would be discovered one day. And so soon! And used against me!!! Here I naively thought I would spew a few random thoughts from time to time for my own amusement, have a few select friends and relatives see it, and relax. Of course I had secretly hoped that someone might come along for the blogoshphere ride,but as a true novice here, it seems as though I have become fuel for the fodder of at least blogger out there. (
How flattered was I when I saw that someone clear (almost) across the country chose to use my little humble post as his lead article for the day.
And I was going to write a long post in response, perhaps utilizing some more "left wing rhetoric" but decided against it. I am not writing here to engage in battle with someone who holds a different point of view. In fact, if anyone has been reading what I have been writing, it is the diametric opposite of that position. The few posts I have tried to write so far were about being more open to other thoughts.
So let me turn to something completely different. Today, I (through my agency) will be sponsoring a program called "Intimacy, Desire, Domesticity and Eroticism: What Does Judaism Have to Say About it?"
by Esther Perel. ( Esther, a family therapist, talks a lot about how being in a relationship with kids, stresses and the like affect a couple's ability to have an intimate relationship. So far, the sign ups have not been great, but i am hoping for a nice turn out. Esther is supposed to be great. I will let you know tomorrow how it went.

The kids are Actually Rabbis

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's ( fourth annual dinner. The food by Main Event ( was delicious and there were over 400 people there. One of the striking things was the apparent age of this year's smicha class, which appeared to be about 14 or 15. They were honored as part of the celebration last night. My wife kept referring to them as the "kids." However, ignoring the fact that they do not look old enough to shave, (and the fact that as we get older, the Rabbis get younger) when some of them got up to speak, it was awesome. And, according again to my wife, somewhat sad. I will get to that later.
As a yeshiva high school grad who neither went to Israel after high school nor continued my formal Jewish studies, I have a lot of respect for those who choose to go on to ultimately join the Rabbinate. There are, of course, many different paths that one can pursue to achieve that end, and the older I get, the more those paths seem to increase or diverge. Not only for the Rabbinate, but for Judaism as well. Chovevei Torah represents one of those wonderful divergent paths.
Founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss from the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale,NY, ( Chovevei is attempting to create a generation of "open Orthodox" rabbis and leaders. Not everyone is: a) accepting of them and their ideas; and b) tolerant of their existence. I provided a link in an earlier post that referenced a recent article about how Chovevei is evil and dangerous. ( This was an article that was referenced over and over again last night as the "kids" spoke. What is true, by all accounts, that these newly minted Rabbis are traveling everywhere, and making some tremendous impacts on the lives they touch, not only in the orthodox community, but in others as well. Take a look at this post ( by someone who identifies closely with the Reform movement. The rabbi that he is referencing here was a panelist at a presentation at the dinner last night, and is the Hilel Rabbi in St. Louis. That's right, as in Missouri. There ARE Jews there. And they are graduates of Chovevei. Ok, I am sure you can find a Chabad Rabbi there too, but they are not the point of this post. What it is all about is finding a way, a real way, to reach out to everyone without compromising your own standards. And this is what Chovevei is trying to do.
One of the panelists last night was asked about the role of Women in the synagogue. The response, waffled at best, was that there needs to be a place for women in the synagogue, and it will be up to the individual Rabbi to figure out how to do that. Ok, so they did not answer the question. And i don't see chovevei admitting women to the Smicha program. However, Rabbi Weiss DOES have a woman on the Rabbinical staff at HIR, Sara Hurvits, who is the Madricha Ruchanit. ( Some of you might feel this does not go far enough, but it is a start.
Where Chovevei falls short, again, according to my wife, who has been very involved in this conversation is where they lay claim to advancing the Orthodox agenda with the non-orthodox, as though this is something that Chovevei has invented. The question of who are we, and what have we become is the one that needs to be asked when a newly appointed rabbi gets up and implies that he has created the notion that talking with conservative and reform rabbis is something new that he just thought of. It is not a reflection on chovevei....... but on the jewish people. Chovevei is attempting to set it right. The rest of us have it wrong. There was a post I read yesterday, about a religious woman riding an Egged bus to the Kotel for sunrise services. Without a long winded explanation, she refused to move to the back of the bus, (which is where women are supposed to sit apparently, according to a recent halachic ruling) and was beaten severely by a group of Charedim. She did not go quietly, and attempted to have the perpetrator arrested, and scolded those on the bus for allowing a religious woman on her way to davening to be beaten.
And this is why we need Chovevei. So thatwomen like the one mentioned above will not be beaten because they want to daven. And so they will not be invisible.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Purim, Google Style

Yeshiva World News( ran the following banner from the Israeli Google home page on Purim. Pretty neat!!!!!
Only in Israel

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The fall from grace

Over the past 30 years or so I have witnessed the deposing (?) of several Rabbis. Each time, there were different reasons, and sometimes, I could even accept the decisions, even if I thought they were wrong. As a Jewish communal professional, I empathize with these Rabbis. It is very hard to try to be all things to all people, especially within the Jewish world. What I cannot fathom is how hard these professionals have fallen, from sought after "star" to banished reject. These same people, who were brought to the community with accolades, are now the subject of ridicule, insult and epithet. And why? Well, mainly just because. Because they don't smile enough. Because they smile too much. Because they are aloof. Because they have their "cliques." Because they don't reach out. Because they are not friendly enough. And the list goes on, you get the idea.
And while I might even be able, as a fellow JCP (Jewish communal professional) to understand why their being replaced might be appropriate, what I can't stomach is the insults, the lack of respect, the total disregard not only for their position, but for their peoplehood. I mean, come on...... these were people whom we esteemed. Lauded. Praised. And now, we can't even be quiet when they speak. It is beyond awful. Most of these Rabbis knew they were on their way out before the final ax dropped.
The least we can do is show them the dignity that they deserve.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Jewish Halloween

My friend Dave, ( tells me that blogging is like having a baby. "It needs constant attention and feeding if you want it to thrive." Well, Dave, you haven't fed your baby in two days!!!!!!
As Purim ( approaches, everyone begins to get excited, especially the kids. The last week, the discussion at our dinner table was about "What I should be for Purim." And we are talking about teenagers here, not little kids. Now I have never had the privilege of being in Israel for Purim, which I understand is a blast, (no bad pun intended) but here in the states, i think of getting dressed up for Purim as a little kid activity, you know, like Queens Esther or Vashti, Mordechai, or Achashveiros, or, loi alaynu, Haman. (see the previous link if you need the translations!) But today, the kids want to be Britney Spears, (bald or not) or Michael Jackson, or some other non-purim like creature. Which brings me to my topic. Somewhere over the last week or two I read something equating Purim to Halloween. There is catachlysmic difference between the two, and the title of that article/post offended me. But as i listen to our kids, good kids, who go to Jewish day schools, and Jewish high schools, i do have to wonder why their focus is not on megilla, or shaloch manos, or matanot la'evyonim. Don't get me wrong. They will all read megilla, deliver shaloch manos, and give tzedaka, but that is not where their priority is as we get ready for Purim. Maybe I am jaded. Cynical.
Or maybe they are just kids.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Since I am feeling prolific tonight

This, from "Little Green Footballs:"

The Dark Corner of a Muslim Bookshop
Here’s a revealing look at the poisonous hatred being secretly peddled to Muslims in Britain while a friendly face is presented to the infidels, in the dark corner of a Muslim bookshop.
I popped into a Muslim bookshop yesterday to pick up material on the deeply weird world of Islamic Creationism for a book I’m writing. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric place – a cross between 84 Charing Cross Road and the Istanbul Grand Bazaar. Friendly, too. “Community leaders” love hanging out there, and even non-Muslims stop off to buy stamps and phonecards.
I came away with an armful of books attacking the Theory of Evolution, portrayed as a vile conspiracy involving drug barons and Freemasons. No surprises there.
On the way out of the shop, a thought struck me. I asked: “Do you have a copy of...?” and I named one of the bestselling books in the Arab world.
“Oh, no, we don’t stock that,” replied the amiable young guy behind the counter.
I looked disappointed. “I was sure you had it. I only need it for reference purposes.”
The guy looked at me suspiciously for a second, then relented. “OK, just a moment,” he said, and headed for a dark corner of the shop where there was a pile of slim red paperbacks. He handed me a copy. “That’ll be six quid, please.”
The title of the book? You may have guessed by now: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The meaning of a Misheberach

So readers, as I told you, (who number zero, but that will change soon) I was going to try to keep current here. Not being true to my word, I have not done so. But I figure, since no one other than me reads me, who cares?
Today I am going to actually write about something that was the basis of my starting this blog. Sort of.
I went to a training today for the Connecticut Military Assistance Program, which I am proud to say, enlists private mental health providers in the state of Connecticut to work with our vets. ( I am proud because Connecticut is the only state in the country to provide private mental health services to Vets. It is a pilot program that will try to eliminate the red tape and bureaucracy that exists in the Dept of Veterans Affairs. The country will be watching us. We are going to get the help to our vets that they need. As I listened to the many Iraqui and Afghanistan vets that were there to educate us, i began, for the first time, to actually understand, and feel their pain. It made me think of how every week, the Rabbi says, "please turn to the back of your siddurim as we recite the prayer for those serving our country in Iraq." And every week, i think, ho - hum,
booooorrrrrrinnggggggg. But today, as i heard from soldiers who killed, and watched their brothers and sisters get killed in war, I had a whole new understanding. These men and women, many of whom are 18 when they are sent over to Iraq, or Afghanistan, have suffered a tremendous ordeal. It is not just "something over there" that we read about in the papers. It is real. People die. People are forced to kill. And then, they come home to...... nothing, in some cases. One story that a vet, who is a news reporter told us today is that he was walking down the street and heard a big truck hit the breaks with a squeal. Without even realizing what he was doing, he jumped into the nearest bush for cover. And that is what our soldiers face when they come home. Let alone while they are still there.
This week, when they recite the prayer for the soldiers, it will have taken on a whole new meaning for me.