Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bad approach

From Rabbi Shmuely Boteach's book "The Private Adam" - discussing why even though in general it is important to avoid trying to get revenge on people or engage in fights, when we are dealing with actual evil it is a responsibility to say something. He describes how he has engaged in debates with people such as Larry Flynt and been criticized for doing so because it "gives them legitimacy". He disagrees with this perspective and feels that it is when you don't challenge the other views that you are giving them legitimacy. However, there's an appropriate way to go about it. He goes on to say:

It is becoming typical for religion to recuse itself from the great debates of the age. We're afraid of unpopularity, so we opt out of the debate completely. I believe that this is a tragic error - that we are contributing to our own irrelevance. Rather than engage with the great issues of the day and demonstrate to the young that a strong, logical, and compelling case can be made for the spiritual way of life, what believers now do instead is denounce the nonbelievers. "They're wrong because they're sinners." case closed....But there's one major problem with this tactic. It doesn't work. When people see that religion ducks the great debates of the modern age, preferring instead to engage in character assassination, the conclusion they draw is that religion is unable to make its case rationally. They see right through the moral condescension and interpret it as moral cowardice....Modern religion is denying one of its most important functions, which is to inject a moral counterpoint into the society at large.

The Socialization argument

No Thank You, We Don't Believe in Socialization - Homeschooling Information from the National Home Education Network

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Frustration with Christmas in the workplace

From Brazen Careerist: Five Things People Say about Christmas that Drive Me Nuts

I actually did have people ask me if I was taking a day off for Chanukah. Of course, I had to use all my days off for all the other holidays this year...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Inconsistent argument

I have great respect for Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein - although I never met him personally when we were in L.A., I understand him to be a moderate person who, among other things, continues to be a supporter of Rabbi Slifkin. He is one of the regular bloggers on Cross-Currents, and usually shares very interesting ideas.

His post yesterday dealt with the question of whether there are areas which, while not being "forbidden" or "heretical", are really not appropriate to Jewish life, and therefore someone who holds these ideas or engages in certan practices would be, in his words, "beyond the pale" of normative Orthodox Judaism.

I understand his point and don't completely disagree. There's certain things that just don't have a Jewish feel to them, although generally the people involved in those things don't expect or want to be considered part of the Orthodox community. The main problem with this idea is that it is obviously subjective - who is to decide what doesn't "feel" authentically Jewish?

As someone pointed out in the comments, the answer is always going to be that the Chareidi (whoever is the strictest in practice) will always be the ones to label who will be considered Orthodox. And the areas that they label as "not authentic" will continue to be based on the increasingly strict practices that they have decided to practice.

BUT - the Torah teaches that it is forbidden to deviate from halacha "to the right or to the left." That means that just as it is fair to say that there are modern innovations or lenient practices that are against the spirit of the Torah, the same applies to adding strictures. Rabbi Adlerstein's examples in this post are women taking on roles that are not forbidden but are not traditional - community leadership positions. But my counter-example is the role of women in the right-wing world, which are certainly not traditional, of being expected to leave their children with non-Jewish baby-sitters and become the primary breadwinners?

I wrote a very respectful comment to Rabbi Adlerstein asking for his explanation. Today I was thrilled to see that my comment to Rabbi Adlerstein made its way onto Dov Bear's blog!

If Rabbi Adlerstein responds to my question I will post it here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jewish Identity

In Professor Jonathan Sarna's "American Judaism" course at Brandeis, we would often be asked to look at advertisements, bar mitzvah invitations, and other "artifacts" to see what we could learn about Jewish identity during that time period. One of the most interesting papers I ever wrote for college came out of being asked to write about a comedy routine by Lenny Bruce. The piece looked at things that one thinks of as Jewish or goyish - so rye bread is Jewish, white bread is goyish, etc. (There are links to this routine online but since some of it is a bit raunchy I'm not linking.) For my paper, I compared this routine to Adam Sandler's Chanukah song. (Side note: the "new" live version that they play on the radio was recorded at Brandeis while I was a student there!) I lost the paper when my computer crashed, so here's the basic idea (and yes, I turned this into a 3 page paper):

The earlier comedy routine is looking at Jewish identity through qualities. There are certain people, items, foods, ideas that are "Jewish." There's just something about them - and same for things that are "goyish."

Adam Sandler looks at Jewish identity as something you are born with. In fact, part of the fun of the song is being surprised to hear that someone is Jewish because you never would have guessed. There's also the idea of being proud that someone famous is Jewish, or glad that people in the news that you hate are not.

Something that has bothered me a lot recently is people who don't feel good about meeting someone Jewish. Here's what I mean: when I started my previous job, I was introduced to someone with a Jewish last name. I thought, "Cool, she's Jewish!" Or when you see an Orthodox family at Disneyland or on the same plane flight. Or you're watching TV and a character is Jewish. There's just a certain feeling you should get of "That's my fellow Jew." I think that innate feeling is an essential part of the mitzvah to love your fellow Jew.

What frustrates me is people who, upon seeing other Jews, immediately label why the person is different from them. And usually, along with this, they only feel positively if the person is in their "group." Otherwise they actually feel negatively toward the person without even knowing anything about them. And when it comes to celebrities, they are more interested in pointing out why they are horrible people than in feeling any connection to them at all as a Jewish person.

P.S. The latest post from Orthonomics looks at people labelling retirement as "goyish."

Monday, December 10, 2007


The real history of Chanukah is something that I have been very interested in since I first read about these ideas last year.

Two nice articles from

Unsung Heroes

Glass of Gratitude

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Success Story about Being Proactive

I just read this inspiring post at Ask a Manager.

I think the message can apply to both job situations and life in general. If you feel you are being treated with disrespect, especially in a situation when you know you have given 110%, you need to speak up - and then if your concerns are dismissed (as was the case for this person), you need to proactively make changes.

Note that the boss was very unhappy when she quit, and tried to confuse her and talk her out of it, but without offering any solutions to her concerns. She took the right approach to ignore everything that was said instead of engaging in a fruitless conversation or giving in. She did all this is a respectful manner, with no yelling or storming out of the office - just calmly stating that things were going to change, and that if her boss and company were not participating in making that change happen, she would no longer be giving them her energy and effort - she would spend that energy and effort where it was appreciated and adequately compensated.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Story about class parties

Since I am trying to post more, I thought I would share a "funny" story from my son's 3rd birthday in his classroom (this was two years ago).

You have to bring store-bought food. (I imagine that is the case at any frum school.) So, instead of bringing DH's excellent baking, we brought cupcakes from the kosher bakery. (Very expensive and not that great-tasting, by the way.) Well, the daughter of the family that owns the bakery is in my son's class - and she announced, "My daddy made these cupcakes!"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Birthday Parties

Ever since my kindergarden class ran amok through my parents' house at my 5th birthday party, I was part of the majority of people at my school whose parties were at a location. Some I remember attending were ice skating, miniature golf, Chuck E. Cheese or other restaurant, or gymnastics. In my son's class, the popular locations are Little Gym and similar locations at which the entire center is a party place.

While I know these are enjoyable and (if one can afford them) it is a real treat for the kids, I have to say that I really prefer the low-key parties that most of our close friends here give for their kids. The parties generally include a craft, homemade games, free play, and cake and milk. Many of the parties are in the basement to decrease the mess to clean up. The party we went to yesterday included half an hour of playing in the family's backyard.

What I also love, and I don't know if this is widespread, is that generally the whole family is invited to these parties. This makes it less work for the hosting mom, and more community-oriented. It also sets up a situation where the kids are used to the idea that their parents are still part of their life, not just the chauffers.

One other thing that is different than when I was growing up - the kids generally do NOT open the gifts during the party. This eliminates comparing gifts and opportunity for nasty remarks. (Of course, the parents need to remind the birthday child to say thank you to each guest when they leave, instead of during gift opening time, and to send a specific thank you note afterwards.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cutting Costs - Food

Sorry for the delay in continuing my posts (assuming anyone is still checking...)

Because kosher food tends to cost more, and food is such a big part of one's budget, it seems that this is the first logical place to re-examine costs. Again, this is following the idea presented by SephardiLady of looking for ways to save money wherever possible.

1. Expand your range of "acceptable" hechshers. Do your own research as to why there is or isn't an issue with hechshers you aren't familiar with. Don't just rely on your next door neighbor telling you "we don't eat that." There is a major hechsher in our area that is found on supermarket bread. If you don't use this hechsher, you are going to pay more for bread. And large numbers of people do not use it. We did our research through a respected rav and found out that the reasons are political, not halachic. The more hechshers you eat, the more you can utilize coupons and sales. We rely on Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz of KosherQuest (who was one of my husband's rebbeim in high school, and according to my husband is "one of the frummest people I know.")

2. Not keeping chalav yisrael. It is more expensive, prevents you from using coupons/supermarket sales to buy the cheapest products, and is often wasted. See this week's Orthonomics post on the topic and the comments there. (One tells of a family who was spending $30 a week extra on chalav yisrael, while they were struggling to pay their necessary expenses.)

3. DH (Barak of Am Kshe Oref fame...) has posted previously about the question of whether we can change the standard of eating glatt kosher, which is a chumra, but at the moment there is no convenient kosher alternative. In the meantime, he also made phone calls and found a wholesaler from whom to get meat at more affordable prices. We got a group together to place the required size for the order. This is something one can arrange in most communities without too much effort and WITH very significant savings.

4. Compare prices between your local kosher store and other grocery sources - and buy the lowest prices. Don't buy from your local kosher shop because you feel you have to spend your parnassa giving the other person their parnassa. They are running a business - they need to compete with other businesses as far as selection, service, and pricing in order to attract customers. Also, if you happen to have a local kosher store that consistently provides food that spoils immediately and ends up in the garbage, don't keep spending your money on that food.

There is a lot of peer pressure to take on chumras for food - in other words, to limit ones choices of brands, and therefore not be able to buy things with coupons or on sale, and not be able to bargain shop. There is also pressure to buy from kosher merchants, even ones who don't feel the same need to provide quality products and polite service to those who are supporting their businesses. But peer pressure is not a reason to go into debt.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Defining the problem

My friend SephardiLady put my post as a guest post on Orthonomics, and there ahs been a lot of great discussion. I intend to write more about the specifics that I have in mind for cutting costs of Orthodox life, but something has been a block to posting. I finally figured out what has been bothering me about the original discussion on Orthonomics, and why I am having trouble writing the follow up.

As I discussed previously, the original article that started the discussion was focused on (correctly) advising people who are successful financially to not waste their money trying to "keep up with the Cohens" to the point that some people go into debt while insisting on living extravagent lives. My problem with the tone of the article, however, was that this advice does not apply to people who are not already at a high point financially.

Then SephardiLady and others responded with more practical money-saving suggestions applicable to the average person. In theory, someone who is "ok" financially, and looked for ways to live frugally, would be able to put some money aside every month so that emergencies didn't turn into crises, and so that families could live comfortably. My original response to this is, fine but why not make similar frugal decisions in religious areas - save money on Shabbos expenses, clothing, kosher food, etc. But something was still bothering me about even this approach:

The more disposable income we have, the more I will be required to hand over to two institutions: private school and shul dues. The top amount of tuition is so high that no one who isn't in the very top in income can afford to pay full tuition for several children and still have anything left over to live. On top of these two amounts, there is a third problem - you must live somewhere within walking distance of a shul, and those are always the most expensive areas of any town, even a very cheap town like Cleveland.

People who make $50,000 a year do not normally send their children to private school, and do not normally live in the most expensive area of town. And those people can clip coupons and shop at Walmart and end up living a financially secure life. How does a frum family who makes $50,000 a year, sends multiple children to private school, and lives in a more expensive area of their town get by? They go into debt. And if they manage to save $3000 of disposable income, the school cuts their financial aid by $3000. And they better not even think about buying a home to raise their children in, because their financial aid will be cut even more because they are a homeowner.

There is really no way around the fact that private school is the biggest issue here. And believe me, I love my son's school. But there may very likely come a time when we just can't do it, and we are one of many who are in that situation.

I am rewriting a lot of this post as I write because I don't want to sound as negative as I feel....Yesterday my husband and I found our dream home. It's not just a house, it felt like home the minute we walked in. The previous owner loved the home and put so much work into it, and the decor is exactly us. It was huge, and beautiful, and I want to raise my children there. But we can't afford to buy it. The person is willing to rent for one year, but then will put it back on the market this summer. We had to decide if we realistically will have the money to buy in eight months. If we don't, I can't bring myself to move into our home and then have it taken away. And, realistically, we won't have that money available because if we did make that much, we would need to pay higher tuition to the school, and if we bought a house in this neighborhood we for sure would be asked to pay a higher amount. I am very sad about this. (The only sunshine in the situation is that my son didn't like the layout of the rooms, where he would be on a different floor than we would, and he's thrilled that we're not taking it.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dealing with Debt - introduction

SephardiLady (author of the Orthonomics blog) is a dear friend of mine. Her blog is dedicated to addressing financial issues in the Orthodox community. She recently has been following the responses to this Yated article, in which a rabbi expressed some sympathy toward a community member who confided his struggles with debt, then proceeded to blame it on trying to live a fancy lifestyle. The letters that followed (those which she has posted with her comments) have been bringing up the reality that some people are struggling financially and not living an expensive lifestyle.

This is obviously a meaningful topic for me, and even more so after I read today's post. SephardiLady and the commentators offers an extensive list of cost-saving techniques for grocery shopping. Now, there's nothing wrong with saving a few dollars. (Unless you end up using more gas to get the savings...) And SL truly lives what she suggests - she is an expert at what she calls the "art" of coupon clipping and finding bargains. Again, this is not a bad thing. But I came away from the post feeling like the point had been lost, and that maybe there is really a lack of understanding of how serious the debt situation is for so many families.

So we have three groups with financial problems:

1. People who make enough to live normally or even well-off, but waste their money on showing off, having fancy clothes, gigantic parties, etc. This is the group that the original article was addressing. This is basically an attitude problem, and antithetical to truly being a religious person. (In any religion, I think.)

2. People who make just enough, and can end up with a better standard of living and more savings for the future by clipping coupons, bargain shopping, etc.

3. What seems to be hard for everyone to understand is that there's a third group of people for whom even saving $1000 a year on grocery costs would make no difference to the depth of their problem. This is the group pleading with the rabbis and the community to figure out how they can do all the things that they have been told are necessary to living a religious life and still have food on the table and shoes for their kids.

The overall focus of financial advice is to look at your monthly expenses and see what you can cut. And the suggestions are usually things like switching to a cheaper car insurance, using coupons, or maybe an extreme like giving up your cell phone. Now imagine the following (real) situations:

- No health insurance (My husband and I went without for over a year, and my kids still don't have. And I have a friend who went years without.) By the way, no health insurance means forgoing health care too.

- The same friend cut his gas bill - by letting his gas be shut off. So he has no stove to cook on.

- Wearing the same four outfits repeatedly to work because that's what I have. This is something that has kept a number of people from going to shul - they simply don't have even one decent outfit that they won't feel humiliated in. I'm not talking fancy, I'm talking about something that isn't torn.

- Paying only the bills that are threatening to shut off this month. Calling the company and asking what is the absolute minimum to prevent shut off. then not paying again until the next threat.

I truly hope that most people can't imagine getting to this point. I truly hope most people can solve their problems by shopping sales and similar measures. But for a growing number of people, the financial issues can't be solved with these measures.

What I'd like to discuss in the next few posts is another version of looking at your expenses. I want to look at those areas (mainly in Orthodox life) which are so accepted as "required" expenses that no one wants to consider whether they can be cut or eliminated. Yet these are the high-cost areas that would actually start resolving people's problems.

I came up with five categories to start the discussion: food, Shabbat/Yom Tov, clothing/headcovering (both men and women), simchas, and private school (AKA "the tuition crisis").

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Derech

Yesterday our family and a good friend went walking at the Arboretum. This is a huge nature center with a lot of hiking paths, called things like "Blueberry Walk." I was thinking that the set-up illustrated the issues with the concept of people "going off the derech." There are two things that people might mean when they say this:

1. There is some behavior that is negative by all accounts - using drugs, stealing, etc. In the Orthodox context, this would also include things like eating pork or purposely ignoring Shabbat. This is a genuine concern for a family and a community.

2. However, most people use the phrase to mean when someone stops following the specific way of their sub-section of the Orthodox community. In many yeshivish communities, it would be "off the derech" to stop wearing a black hat and start wearing a knitted kippah. And a lot of parents, rabbis, and schools make a huge deal about things like this. But what is the actual problem? Who cares if you want to hike on the Blueberry Path or the Butterfly Walk? And, in fact, it may actually be more appropriate to try to get different people to follow different directions. Just as hiking trails are more or less difficult, and therefore might be appropriate for different people's skill levels, people have different orientations of what works for them. Some people need a huge amount of structure, and a very formal religious life is exactly right for them. Other people need a creative aspect to their religious life in order to have feeling towards it. (When I was in Israel, there was a class where they would learn some Chassidic teachings and then sing and dance the concept, or make art projects about it. For me, this was weird. For the people who enjoyed it, they had a very spiritual experience.)

My husband also posted on this thought.

AND - right after I finished posting, I found Rabbi Gil Student's great post on a similar idea.

Monday, October 22, 2007


One of the things my husband and I never liked about Los Angeles was the lack of community feeling. Yes there are a hige number of synagogues, and each one is huge, but (or, rather, because of this) there was really no sense of being part of a community. Looking back, this reflects a lot about Los Angeles as a whole from my experience. There is little feeling of "this is my home town."

I grew up in a home where we were not so into sports. More importantly, my father held onto to supporting his homwtown team (Philadelphia), especially in baseball. And being in a city where you can get away with that, I grew up with absolutely no feeling towards the Dodgers as being "my team." Of course, since I wasn't from Philadelphia, my connection to the Phillies was also more for fun, a way to be close to my father, rather than genuinely caring. And it never really affected my life because I didn't run into people who were INTO the Dodgers in a major way. (We openly cheered for the Phillies at Dodgers Stadium, and the only thing that was ever said to us was when this ditzy woman said "You're cheering for the wrong team.")

My father liked to give dramatic readings of "Casey at the Bat." for those of you who are not familiar, it's basically about a minor league team in small-town America who are in the final game of the season, one run behind in the ninth inning. The whole poem describes the emotions as their star player comes up to bat with the bases loaded. The last line is, "There is no joy in Mudville, mighty Casy has struck out." This poem always bugged me. Not only because I had to sit through multiple dramatic readings, and not only because I generally don't like emotional descriptions in poems. I really thought it was stupid that their whole universe revolved around this sport. Who cares?

Then we moved to the Midwest.

Now, obviously, I don't think life should revolve around sports. And, in Cleveland, it doesn't as much as in other cities. However, when you live in a smaller city, you have a closer feeling toward your home team. You have a closer connection with your neighbors, and everyone is supporting the team, so you feel more of a community spirit. And, in practical terms, anything to help the economy is a big deal here. The best the city could come up with for a motto last year was the boring "Cleveland Plus", yet for the last two weeks there have been banners everywhere, people wearing Cleveland gear everywhere, and the radio playing "Cleveland Rocks" and "Mambo for the Tribe." Sports promote a city like nothing else.

I was just speaking about how it's good to try to understand what experiences have led people who have different views than yourself to hold those views. I definitely understand why there was no joy in Mudville.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Job Hunting and Dating

During my job hunt process, I came up with a list of things that someone job-hunting can learn from dating, and things that people dating can learn from job-hunting. I just read this great post from Ask a Manager which talks about some of these things. Specifically, how there are similar things you should do on a date and an interview.

Yesterday Jacob wrote a comment, in part, discussing the idea of having preferences when dating. I think this is a big issue that comes up in both dating and job searching. I almost didn't apply to my current job because it certainly doesn't meet my preferences. Then even after I was offered the job, I almost didn't take it. Is it a perfect job? No, there are many things I don't like about it. But - in the quality areas of boss acting professional, boss having pleasant personality, no screamers in the office, and having flexibility to take a bit of time for my family's needs - it is great.

So as I said with regards to dating - it's normal to have preferences, and try to meet someone/find a job that meets those ideas. But one should not be closed off to looking into the possibility of finding a quality person/job that may not fit their "perfect" image, but which meets the real quality issues that are important. Send the resume and go on the interview - there's no commitment to take a job you don't want, but why be closed off to receiving the offer? If a firned who knows you well tells you that they really feel someone might be a possibility for you, give the person a call and go out once. You don't have to marry them, but why be closed off from possibly meeting the right person just because they don't have your preferred hair color or dress size?

(The same goes for making new friends - Cool Yiddeshe Momma and I know a woman who narrows down whether she is willing to be friends with someone based on very particular details about their background. Then she gets upset that her friends have other friends, who she is not interested in getting to know.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Being Nice

Just wanted to share a quick story that happened yesterday. I was in the hall and a man from another company asked if he could borrow a stamp. While he came into the office with me, he asked if I was Jewish and Orthodox. (He told me he had grown up in one of our heavily Orthodox neighborhoods.) He said, "I'm not just asking because of how you are dressed. It's your attitude." I thought it was a great example of how we are always making an impression, either positive or negative, with our actions. Obviously he had enough positive experiences with the Orthodox people he met to associate that with positive behavior. Let's all keep that in mind this year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Puppy picture

Isn't this cute!!!!

Safety with our kids

Yesterday we had a scare that was thankfully brief - my almost-2-year-old climbed out of her stroller while we were at a community barbeque. We were involved in getting carnival prizes for my son and she had already run off when we noticed (it was probably only a few seconds that we turned away, but she's fast!)

Thank G-d we located her immediately, and we were on a campus that was not bordering a street. It was also an environment where I would generally feel the kids were safe. However, it was still very scary for a minute - and obviously would have been even more so if it was at the mall or a larger public place.

Just this morning I read this article which criticizes the less-concerned attitude that many people have when we get used to being in our enclosed neighborhoods. I know we had a possible kidnapping attempt in our own community last year - a little girl from my son's class was in the yard with her brothers and father. The father stepped around the side of the house for one minute and a car pulled up. Luckily the father ran right back and the car drove off, but the school let us all know to be careful. They also sent a warning to lock our doors (it is Midwest mentality not to be so careful about that) after several early morning break-ins.

Some of the comments on the article misunderstood the author's point and thought she was saying to never leave your kid with a baby-sitter. Obviously, if there is another trusted adult or program supervising, that is not a problem. But we need to make sure to check out the school or camp to make sure we trust the safety standards used. I know I feel very confident in our school, based on how many seemingly trivial things they have notified us about (like when my son got a tiny cut one time), and the fact that the principal frequently sends out public service announcements about safety issues. (And, of course, the fact that they are accredited by the state.) On the other hand, we have a teenage babysitter whom we love dearly but I would not send her to an activity alone with both of my kids at the same time, as I do not feel that is adequate supervision in a public place. In fact, even I try to avoid going somewhere alone with both of them!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Save the Assistants

I've been meaning to post about some of the issues of being an office assistant, and just happened across this short piece. The website Save the Assistants sounds very interesting but I haven't had the chance to look at it yet.

For me, the most frustrating part of the job is being asked to do things which I have not been given the tools to do. Because of high turnover, no one here has any idea what vendors we use for certain things, what our lease information is for office equipment, etc. So "order more envelopes" is a huge project because I first have to somehow figure out what we did last time, then get authorized by our accounting department in our corporate office to place an order. And they have gotten behind on so many bills that we have had service cut off. Our fax/copier was broken and it took a week to get a payment to the repair people so that they would fix it - and in the meantime, everyone kept coming to me to find out why it was still not working. Or the other annoying task of being asked to make a phone call without being told all the info the person will need - so then I have to go back to the boss for more information and I end up sounding stupid.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Singles perspective part 2

See my previous post for the article. I was about to write a long response to Selena, and realized that it was turning into a whole post....

I was also crying when I read this. I really hear her sadness and how bad some people make her feel. Many people do not think before they speak, and it is shocking how many really offensive things people can find to say. (And that doesn't even include things that most of us who are well-meaning say and do on a daily basis without meaning harm.)

Unfortuantely, those of us who would like to act in the way she suggests know the other side.

1. Unlike many people who talk about "the singles crisis," I am aware that not every person who is unmarried is looking to change that. And I am pretty sure that there are just a higher number of women than men who are concerned with getting married.

2. In addition, there are the people (again, I have heard it from more men than women) who believe they want to be married but aren't really interested in actually doing so. I know this because they choose who to date based only on appearance. My first attempt to actually try being a shadchan for a stranger was with a guy who seemed like a really quality person until he dropped the "she has to be skinny" thing into the conversation. Later on, he told me he had been having an e-mail correspondence with a lovely woman from our community who I am friendly with. Well, she is a full-figured person and I just knew he would never be interested in continuing. The weight thing, as has been discussed on so many other blogs, is the biggest issue but there are certainly other limits I have heard as well (no one divorced, no one over 30, woman can't be older than the man, and on and on....)

3. For every friend who feels as this author does, that she wants her married friends to make suggestions, there are just as many who would consider it offensive for me to make any attempt at assisting in their search. (Including women who go to random shadchanim, but don't want their personal friends to make suggestions.) I have a friend who goes to singles events, shadchanim, etc. But she got upset when a couple she met at our Shabbos table said that one of their best friends might be a good match for her, and wouldn't allow us to follow up on it for her.

What we all can do, though, is just try our best to not say or do things that will clearly be offensive. For example, the couple above could have spoken to me privately after meeting my friend instead of discussing it around the table. And as the author explains, this is not only about "singles" - this applies to everyone because we each have our own life situations.

Singles perspective

I usually put off posting great articles that I've read until I have time to make some comments, which I never do. So I am posting this without my own comment for now. I though this article expressed so beautifully the perspective of people who are single, and there are a lot of thoughtful ideas in the comments section as well. I think the main point is that we all need to be sensitive to whatever life situation our friends and community members are in.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Parenting Article

I just read this nice parenting article. Those of us who have now been moms for a while have learned that you can't be perfect, and just have to do the best you can.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Can You Believe This?

My son's school has 2 classes per grade, and our school's policy is that you try to invite your whole class, or all of one gender. (I jokingly considered having my son invite all the girls only!) If you are only inviting a few kids, that's ok but you have to be discreet.

We have a slight advantage with a summer birthday, in that it is not likely that the kids will discuss among themselves who got invited. Even so, I decided to invite my son's new class as a chance to meet each other. (This includes kids he already knows, some he does not because they were in the other class last year, and a few new students.) We were thrilled to see that most of the mean boys from last year are now in the other class, so we happily did not invite them. There was one who Dovid liked, but I decided that if we invited him we'd have to invite another kid "Joey," who is a big behavior problem and has been quite rude to my son. We only chose 2 special friends from the other class, both girls and neither of them in any contact during the summer with the boys we didn't invite. (So, to summarize, we didn't single anyone out from the other class, but certainly were glad to be able to avoid certain people, including Joey.)

So the kids started arriving, and one mom came with three of the guests. Wait, I am looking closer at the three incoming kids....There were many kids who my son and I didn't know, so I thought maybe this one kid just LOOKS, I'm right - it's Joey! Yes, everyone, we had a 5-year-old party crasher! Someone actually sent their child to a party to which he was not invited, and without an RSVP.

To Joey's credit, he behaved most of the time, said hello to my son (which he often does not do in school), and brought a present. And my son was amazing - he QUIETLY said to me "Why is Joey here?" then acted perfectly nicely to him just like any other guest.

I have been over the situation and can only think of two good explanations. One is that the mom honestly believed that we would have invited her son and that we made a mistake. Fair enough, I guess, especially since apparently an invitation addressed to my son got lost in the mail a few weeks ago. But in that case, wouldn't she have called to RSVP?

Other explanation - the other mom was watching the kids for the morning and had to bring him. But again, no phone call or explanation at the door. And he brought a present, which means some thought went into this.

I'm just still waliking around like "Wow, we had a party crasher. Unbelievable..." I am not mad and certainly will not say anything to the mom, but you just have to wonder...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Birthday Party (part 1)

When I was in kindergarten, my parents had the class over to the house for my birthday. Even though the party was in our yard, the kids made their way into the house and climbed all over things. I was hesitant about giving my son a party at home because of this experience, but a few weeks ago DH had a great idea for a low-key party – pancake breakfast (with the kids in their pajamas) and Sunday morning cartoons. With the addition of one game (tape-the-tail-on-the-donkey, requested by my son), we pulled this off quite successfully yesterday.

Actually, it was supposed to be next week. Last Friday, a few hours before Shabbos, we got a call from another mother in the class. Apparently she had already invited all the boys on the date we had picked. So we were calling people right before Shabbos to let them know that the date was changed. My whole family was in town for our birthdays (my son and I have the same birthday) so the house was quite full, but I liked that my parents got to see the kids that their grandson spends time with. We had a teenager take care of the baby, and my best friend was a huge help with serving the food and keeping the kids in line.

The cartoon thing was a huge hit – and the kids were even excited to watch something educational. The only chaos was during the game, when the kids crowded into the dining room to play the donkey game. They even threw out their own trash!

I really enjoyed the chance to give The Party before school opens, not only so the kids could meet but also so that I could meet the parents. There were two new kids who were very shy and their parents (who were really nice) stayed at the party.

There was only one “incident,” and it will be the topic of tomorrow’s post (although some of you have heard me talk about it already.) It is not something that was a huge problem, but raises a lot of birthday party etiquette issues.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cool Map

Here's the states I've been to:

create your own visited states map

Monday, July 30, 2007

Negative experiences

There has been a lot written this week about the New York Times piece by a person who went to a prestigious Modern Orthodox school and has now intermarried. I haven’t read the original article, but apparently he is angry that his school and others have criticized him, and goes on to complain about numerous other items he has a problem with, all in the public forum of the New York Times.

I do not want to add anything to the discussion of his letter. However, I’d like to share a portion of the following anonymous comment posted on I almost feel like this needs no further comment and yet I have much to say on this topic so will add my own thoughts tomorrow.
I've Been There
I write this as a mitzvah observant Jew who was married
previously -twice- to non Jewish husbands....
There are a lot of people out there who do not find a place for
themselves in the Jewish world and do not feel a sense of
belonging. Whether it is an unhappy social experience in day
school or Hebrew school, or a feeling of rejection by other
Jews in one's life, or whether it is a failure to meet a Jewish
person of the opposite sex with whom one can really share his
heart, soul, and life, there are many people out here who
would like to be connected to the Jewish world
but have had more unhappy than happy experiences
in it….I personally felt like a reject in the Jewish world for
many years, something that gave me great emotional pain….
Since the time of my own teshuva, I have continued to struggle
with relationships with fellow Jews in the shuls, Jewish schools
and even with visits to Israel….
If I could make one suggestion, it is that when our children in
Jewish schools or camps act meanly to any of the other
children, we pay attention and stamp out the cruelty
immediately. No child should have to leave a Jewish school
because he or she can't make friends there. We have such a
better chance of raising committed Jews if our children grow up
with happy memories of associating with the other Jewish kids
at school and camp.

Friday, July 27, 2007


In my last post, I mentioned someone who criticized my husband in the comments in another blog. Actually, this person is known on several of the blogs I read for throwing around criticsm of people, making broad statements and then not responding to requests to clarify his point -- and because he states that he is representing the beliefs and interest of a certain group, he makes that whole group look bad too.

This morning I was reading this Dov Bear post, and actually found three comments of this person that were intelligent and expressed in a style appropriate for an exchange of ideas. I even agreed with one of his points which others disagreed with, which was that one should use a respectful term when speaking of a rabbi and not call them "dude." It was such a difference - and would have been more so if not for two things:

1. His other comments were the same nasty stuff as always.

2. Everyone else is so used to how obnoxious he is that they did not respond intelligently to his good points. He has been tuned out by the rest of the group. So the great discussions that could have come from his positive comments won't happen.

"One must communicate and be WILLING to be communicated with." This is a great observation by my friend Jacob. If your goal is to communicate an idea, then you should think about whether the way you say it is actually getting your point across. if you just yell and swear, people just see some idiot yelling and swearing. They are not going to hear your words or be interested in hearing your words. Plus, some people will start to wonder if the beliefs you are trying to communicate are related to your bad attitude. Then they may think negatively about your cause as well.

I also like the second part - you must be open to receiving communication from others. If someone says something you disagree with and you just say "You're a heretic! You're stupid!" then what has been communicated?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How People Lived in the Past

My reason for choosing this topic today is a discussion on Dov Bear about Tisha B'Av. Specifically, my husband mentioned in the comments that he did not go to shul (which was for a specific reason) and someone chose to harshly criticize him. Without getting into this issue, it reminded me of my father telling me that people always worked on Tisha B'Av. There were too many holidays in the year (in the days before paid vacation and where loss of a day's income meant you didn't eat), and you went to work as normal on Tisha B'Av.

My father's parents were born in the "old country" and his experiences growing up were directly with the immigrant generation of his aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Most people my age have parents who are one generation removed from this, so I am fortunate to be able to ask him things that he has personal experience with regarding our family' history.

I recently came to the realization, confirmed by asking my dad, that he was raised Orthodox. I don't know why I never thought about it from that perspective before. My father grew up in a kosher home, family observed the holidays, and he attended cheder as a child.

However, he has told me about the reality for his family that I believe is representative of what a majority of people experienced. First, his father was (to his great sadness) unable to not work on Saturday. This is during the Depression - I know there are stories of people who were able to quit their job every Friday and find another on Sunday, but it is only because the majority of their Jewish brothers weren't doing so. If everyone had done this, not only would there not have been jobs available, but people would have stopped hiring Jews at all. I emphasize that it was not that my grandfather was trying to get out of observing - quite the opposite. There was just a reality at that time that is so beyond any of our understanding. (I can say this even more now after going through extreme financial difficulties - thank G-d we can't even begin to understand the financial difficulties of the Depression.)

In addition, children needed to work. If you are a parent, can you even imagine such a thing? By my father's time this was already less of a reality for many people, but for my grandfather in an immigrant family, that was life. My grandfather was one of the younger of 11 children. His older sisters, as teenagers, never went to high school but were sent to work. His older brother was sent through cheder and yeshiva - and it is this great-uncle's descendents who remained religious. (Some are involved on a high level with, and another was honored at YU as a third-generation graduate.)

However, when it came to my grandfather and the other younger brother, the family needed them to work also. So he was not able to continue his formal education (neither secular nor religious - he did not even go to high school.)

Whenever I hear broad generalizations about people from the immigrant generation and beyond who became less observant or completely uninvolved, I feel that people don't have the awareness of what the reality was. One of the difficulties is that most people of that generation, due to their hard life both in Europe and America, did not ever talk about it. Even basic info like their grandparents names, let alone discussing what life was like. They wanted to forget. It is only now when people like myself are interested in genealogy and Jewish traditional life, that we are sad that we could not hear the stories these hard-working, G-d-fearing people would have been able to tell us.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Businesses being stupid

Some of you may be familiar with the disaster of the Big Dig in Boston. Basically the whole city traffic has been chaos for years while they built tunnels that were supposed to relive the traffic chaos. Apparently there have been many issues about waste and so forth throughout this time, but then there was an actual tagedy - the finished tunnel collapesed and killed someone. How does a multi-million dollar tunnel just collapse? They used bad glue. Some of the workers questioned this, bu the higher-ups proceded. They even cancelled laboratory tests which would have shown the problem. Not only that, but the cost to use better glue would have been maybe a few thousand dollars, in a project that cost millions.

This is an attitude that is so often the cause of disaster in business. There is no attention to the small details that can actually affect the bottom line, and too much attention to picking on tiny amounts of money that can be "saved". And ignoring employees who are hands-on in the business and therefore may have suggestions on improving efficiency or who may be aware of potential problems.

And, of course, in this case it was the taxpayers money that was wasted.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Birthday parties

Orthonomics writes about the lack of thank you notes being sent, especially for kids' birthday presents. Though I admit that I was too slow in writing our wedding and birthday thank you notes, that was my own issue and I definitely agree that they need to be written. My son has gotten some very cute notes from parties he has attended (though at this age they are written by the parents.)

However, I have an even more pressing concern - what about at least having the kid say thank you in person! It seems that most of the kids in my son's school are not opening their presents at the party. On one hand, it prevents jealousy over who gave what, avoids present overload (they can open one a day afterwards), and maybe there are other reasons. On the other hand, the kids don't get the pleasure of seeing their friend open the gift, and the kid does not end up saying thank you. And unfortunately at many of these parties, the birthday kid doesn't do anything to acknowledge the guests. I have my son say thank you on the way out to both the kid and mother, and often he gets a blank stare from the kid. Few other parents prompt their child to say thank you, and in one case my son walked in the door and the kid grabbed the present out of his hand without even saying hello. (This is one of the problem kids I have discussed in a previous post.)

These parties are generally pretty fancy, sometimes at a gym or ice cream store, the whole class (sometimes both classes) are invited, and my son brings home lots of expensive party favors. BUT there is little in the way of friendly and polite behavior. I much prefer the at-home parties with a few kids where my son knows he was specifically invited as a friend, and where the kid actually acts happy to see him.

Here's my question (for anyone reading): Son is invited to a party for one of the rude kids (since he invited the whole class). It's at a nice gym and I know he'll enjoy the activities and seeing his other friends from school. But the kid is definitely not his friend and will probably ignore him. I am probably going to let him go but I would be interested in how others would handle this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Great story about Nefesh B'Nefesh

The first Nefesh B'Nefesh flight of the summer arrived in Israel and this is a really moving photo-essay about the new arrivals. And, fifth from the bottom, is a family from our community! (The mom with a little boy and baby. Dina Kessler was a teacher at our school and the little boy in the picture was in Dovid's class last year. And the baby Nili was born one day before my daughter and was in the hospital nursery with her.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Selena tagged me for this interesting book meme. The instructions are a bit complicated: Bold the ones you’ve read. Mark in blue the ones you want to read. Cross out the ones that you wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole (or use red coloring). Finally, italicize the ones you've never heard of. First I have to look up how to do text color - it has been way too long since I've worked with the HTML codes. (Note a few hours later: I just found out that if I switch screens in Blogger I can do this automatically...)

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) - Not 100% sure I read this...
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) 
34. 1984 (Orwell) 
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) 
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) 
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) 
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) 
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) 
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) 
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen) 
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) 
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) 
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) 
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

OK, that was really long.  I have a few comments about some of the books which I will save for another post.  Cool Yiddishe Mama, I'm sure you realize that this is on to you now....

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cooking - Not Just for Women

My mother doesn't like to cook. It's not that she cooks badly, but she doesn't get pleasure out of the process of cooking. So food preparation in my house was always just that - preparing the food. I was not raised with any feel for being in the kitchen. So although I can prepare basics like grilled cheese sandwiches and follow a basic recipe for cookies, I would have no idea how to go about cooking like a real Jewish mother.

Fortunately, my husband does. We have a family joke that when someone asked my brother whether his mother made a good brisket, he should have said, "No but my brother=in-law does." DH learned from his own mother, a kibbutznik who worked in a restaurant at one time. DH actually enjoys experimenting with recipes, and is really good at it. He usually can make meals and desserts better than most kosher restaurants. in fact, his successful entry into the world of making pies and pastries started when we paid a lot of money for a really awful chocolate mousse pie from a major kosher bakery. The next week, DH got on the internet to find a recipe, and the result was one of my favorite desserts.

So from the time we got married, DH has been the primary cook in the family. When we first got married and moved to a yeshiva community in New York, we would often be invited to meals at the homes of other newly married couples. Invariably this topic would come up and the wife would say (in a not-so-polite voice, usually), "Your husband cooks? Don't you want to cook?"

I really never understood the question. I have someone who enjoys cooking, and does it well, where I don't know much about it. So I could cook and make ok food, but why? Also, many of these women also went into marriage not knowing how to cook. I have heard that people just learn over time from older married women, but in the meantime their family has to eat the results. One of the skeptics actually served pink chicken. (She was very embarrassed and I felt badly for her, but the fact is that she didn't even check her cooking before serving it to her family and guests.) I believe that whoever is great at the cooking should do that job in the home. If the wife is an amazing cook, great! if it is both spouses, they can take turns or spend time in the kitchen together. (OK, this is where one would make a joke about getting something cooking...) Why should the gender of the cook matter?

DH and Rebel With A Cause have started a new blog, Why Don't More Jewish Men Cook?. DH will be sharing his thoughts on the subject and both will be contributing recipes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Relating to religious figures

Am Kshe Oref, in response to a post by Rabbi Maryles (link is in Am Kshe Oref's post), discusses the question of whether biographies of religious figures should portray them as perfect, or whether it should include what might be seen as "negative" information. He explains (which I agree) that if we see the figures as saints (a non-Jewish idea, by the way), we will feel that they were on an unattainable level, where if they dealt with challenges and made mistakes, we can relate to them and therefore strive to be like them.

I think another issue is what the definition of "negative information" is. I don't think the biographies neccesarily need to give actual negative charatcer traits. if the person used to be rude to people and changed for the better, maybe we could learn something from that but I could see leaving it out. However, why would it be negative to say that they had hobbies? That they enjoyed the study of history or math? And it is known that certain publications digitally alter photographs to make the people from previous generations fit a certain image that people have today. Obvously, if the person dressed that way or enjoyed those pursuits, he didn't feel anything was negative about it!

I don't remember the details, but there was a rabbi about a year ago who made a statement that high school rabbis shouldn't play sports with their students because the students will have less respect for them. (Again, I don't remember the exact details...) While there may be specific situations or communities where this would happen, I think the general consensus is that students enjoy the opportunity to see their teachers as human in an appropriate context. We have a good friend who is a successful middle school Judaic Studies teacher. His students and their parents have a lot of respect for him and he has done a lot for spreading a love for Judaism to kids who don't have a strong background. The way he accomplishes this is by being an authority figure in the classroom, but also approachable and "normal". He plays sports with the kids, makes jokes, talks to the kids about his interests...A student in his class can relate to him as a real person, while still having respect for him and, along with that, his Jewish values and practice.

Certainly there can be another extreme. My high school set up the teachers as "friends" and "cool." The few teachers any of us respected dressed nicer, were stricter, didn't share details of their personal life, and didn't gossip about other teachers. And of course, there is the overly negative approach in the entertainment news in which we hear the tiniest thing that any celebrity does wrong. But I don't think this extreme means that a respectfully written book can't share information that is of a non-negative nature, even if it shows that the person was a real person. Especially if it shows them as a real person.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dream of Californication.....

Today I heard a commericial for a local car dealer featuring Governator jokes that had nothing to do with the ad. This made me think about how everyone is obsessed with California, and I thought it would be a good topic to "just jump in" to blogging again. I started by looking up some songs that immediately come to mind that deal with this issue, and of course the first one I thought of is Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now, I never understood all of the lyrics when listening to the song so I looked it up and was impressed with how they expressed this idealized idea that many people have about California (by which most people mean Hollywood, and by which most people really mean "the movie industry" because the actual city of Hollywood is really run-down now.) And many people within the L.A. culture end up trying to live up to the fantasy idea.

Here's all the lyrics. And here are some of the lyrics that I thought best illustrated the way that L.A. culture has become this ideal for people in other parts of the country and even the world. And how it't not based on reality. (And, of course, the term Californication - because this idealized lifestyle includes sex, partying with the stars, etc.)

Little girls from Sweden
Dream of silver screen quotations
And if you want these kind of dreams
It's Californication

It's the edge of the world
And all of western civilization
The sun may rise in the East
At least it settles in the final location
It's understood that Hollywood
sells Californication

Movies come out of L.A. so they present a certain culture as the norm, which someone watching a movie in Akron, Ohio thinks is based on reality.

And buy me a star on the boulevard

You can buy celebrity status, you don't have to actually have any talent. Need I specifically mention a certain person
who is famous for being famous and manages to get out of doing jail time because of that status. Everyone believes they can come to L.A. and be discovered. Never mind that almost no one is "discovered" - they were already related to a famous person or they were very wealthy and paid huge amounts to an agent to get them in something.

Space may be the final frontier
But it's made in a Hollywood basement

When you watch Star Wars, you know it's not real. The culture shown on TV and movies is just as fictional -- especially on "reality TV". The term reality just means that it is not professional actors but people think it reflects the culture. (This is a topic for another time...)

And earthquakes are to a girl's guitar
They're just another good vibration
And tidal waves couldn't save the world
From Californication

Never mind that there is absolutely no way you can adequately prepare for earthquakes and floods - and some of the most wealthy people purposely live on cliffs that cause their houses to fall down in mudslides every few years. It's L.A.! The weather! The movie stars! Wow!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Update on my Job Search

This is just an update for those of you who are interested. Then what I plan to do is post about the good and bad experiences I have had with various interviews.

As some of you know, I returned to work last April after my husband's job did not work out. In addition to sending out resumes, I signed up with an employment agency for which I had worked in Los Angeles and always been placed with very professional companies. I only had one job interview with a non-recruiter, and then was placed by my agency at the position I am in now. I was led to believe by my manager that this was going to become a permanent position, and since I was being given more high-level work I decided to focus my energy on that and postponed my active job search. About three months ago I was given a different story, and told that they are not hiring for day shifts, and since I was not able to work nights/Saturdays, there was not going to be any permanent opportunity. In order to keep my resume intact and still have some income, I have remained as a temp while returning to the job of looking for a job. (So I am looking for a job, have a job, and have the job of mom and wife. And very little money to show for all of these "jobs"!)

Anyway, I have had a total of 4 interviews since I re-started the process. (In addition to one which turned out to be a recruiter.) I am currently waiting to hear back about two positions. One is my ideal job though not ideal salary, but they have been very remiss in following up on the position. While it is possible they have filled it already and never told me, my understanding from dealing with them is that most likely they just haven't made any progress towards hiring. The other job was a random position I applied for and very far away, but it would appear that I am seriously in the running for the job.

The interview process has allowed me to get insight into the good and bad way that companies handle things and I will post a few ideas over the next week. In the meantime, I am continuing to send out resumes and there are several positions which I would love to be interviewed for. (Although the one that looked great is really far away, but I am applying anyway.) I will keep everyone updated.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I just had an interesting experience and since it was in the blog world I thought I would share it on my blog. (Especially since I am overdue for a post.)

Let me start by saying that I have been trying to avoid blogging about "the issues" as there are plety of excellent blogs on these topics which I read regularly. I also tend not to comment on these blogs because most of what I would say, usually gets said by others and I don't feel I have anything to add. Today I decided to comment on a post regarding seperate seating at weddings. As some of you know, DH and I had an "interesting" experience in this department when we got married. Basically, I was informed that certain people had to have seperate seating, including the boys and rabbis from my husband's yeshiva and my husband's family. (My SIL actually said, "If I have to sit with my husband I won't come.") We actually did a great job of getting everyone seated in a way that made them comfortable, even though it involved asking some couples who did not request it to sit seperately in order to fill the tables.

Then I found out afterwards that some of the boys who I went to the trouble of seating in this way had spent the morning before the wedding hitting on my single friends. Now, I would love to have introduced them to each other and had them socialize - but they and their yeshiva don't agree that this is appropriate. Great, I respect their view. But there was no reason for the seating to be the main issue - if you beleive that men and women shouldn't socialize in that setting, then don't. The external things like seating aren't going to help you if you don't behave the way that you believe you should behave.

Now, that said, Rabbi Harry Maryles is one of the blogs that most often says exactly what I beleive on these issues. He has a following of both people who strongly agree and those who strongly disagree, and unfortunately his comments section often turns into a personal battle between the same five posters from these two camps. Rabbi Maryles is great and has even been corresponding with my husband off-blog, but some of these disagree-ers can be pretty harsh. He posted today about the seating issue. So I basically wrote what I just said above, but I wrote in a way that I hoped would keep me from being bashed by the disagree-ers. Apparently I did too good a job of watching what I said. One of the people with whom I pretty much agree compeletly bashed my comment. Apparently I came off as Charedi ("ultra" Orthodox)! The fact is I agreed with a lot of what he said in his comment that was criticizing my comment - I just didn't agree that it applied to me! (For those of you who know me, I think you will find it interesting to see what he perceived my entire hashkafa to be from my two paragraph comment.)

But of course the reason he responded so harshly is because that is the tone of so many of the commenters and I think it is unfortunate. Mixed in with the bashing (from both sides) are always some amazingly insightful comments. Sometimes they are from a perspective which I do not share, but I am able to better understand how this other side sees things and that maybe they also have rational reasons for their views. Or, as in this case, we may even be in agreement if we can calm down long enough to hear what the other person is saying.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Creating Positive Change

One of my best friends is visiting this week. I always enjoy speaking to her about "issues" because she is able to explore and articulate the different perspectives of a situation without judging those with whom she disagrees. I alwasy end up feeling better equipped to judge favorably after speaking to her. Last night we started by discussing the conference she attended at which Gil Student, Rabbi Blau, and others were discussing the sex abuse scandal. She is not "in the blogosphere" so I was already familiar with a lot of the details of what had happened, and of course got onto UOJ and that whole situation. And I started explaining to her that, while the naming names on that blog was definitely a big problem, the lack of action over many years to resolve the problem in any other way must have created such frustration that the person didn't know of any other way - and sure enough, it got the reults that no other more Torah-oriented steps had achieved. (That's my basic understanding of that whole situation - don't intend for this post to go in more depth down that road.) I feel strongly that when the frustration gets to be so much and no matter what you do you feel helpless, people can get to a mental point where they do things that are definitely wrong but which they really honestly don't see any other choice.

My friend's response was that this is a dangerous premise because it can be used to excuse any number of behaviors when people get angry. She suggests a two step process when a person is that frustrated about a situation. First, calm down in wahtever way you are able - whether it's indirectly related (go for a walk) or directly related (write a letter where you let it all out but don't send it). Then, once you are calm, develop a plan of action. If this is a personal situation, this can be practical steps that are actually going to be productive. If it's a community issue, think about whether you would be able to speak to someone who can actually influence the situation. (As SephardiLady did with her letter to Rabbi Horowitz.) If it's a world issue or there really is no direct way you can act, look to the bigger question of what you might be able to do - for example, just by being a kind person you can start a chain of people being kind to each other. I am a member of, and members have been posting for weeks about "Pay It Forward" actions that have influenced their lives in positive ways.

I still feel that the frustration itself is a serious issue and I will post more about this next time. However, I also found myself feeling more sympathetic to people with whom I normally disagree, once my friend showed how they were also acting from a deep feeling of frustration on their own issues.