Saturday, December 12, 2009

So Wrong...But I Can't Help Myself!

Pungus and Angus Wish You A Very Happy Hanukkah/'Chanukah Sameach'

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like.....


(List from

Ok I get it...I took the buzz kill class from the depressed/angry Rabbi that Chanuka is a minor holiday and that if one delves deeply it didn't even come into being because of "the miracle of the oil" but rather due to politics and fear in the Rabbinical era.

OK I get was not created to compete with the Xmass Juggernaut....

OK I get it...

But I also know I miss the family memories\connection\Joy I received pre-dunk from decorating for "the holidays"... It was never about Jesus for me...overt religious symbolism was never a part of my schick. OK I get it, the idea of decorating for the holidays is religious symbolism...but I hope you are flexible enough to get what I mean.

In the before days...pre divorce...way pre conversion, I was married to a Jewish man who did not believe in anything self I identified as an ex catholic, Buddhist Unitarian Universalist. My holiday house was an eclectic mix...and Chanuka was a part of that mix.

Fast married for the second time with only adult children...yet continuing to struggle with the December Dilemma....I have decided to throw myself into decorating for Chanuka with joy....the way I did it before, of course with a different subject.....not sure I will do a tree this year..(see last year's post December Dilemma for more info) But I have tried to connect to some of my favorite memories and am trying to rework them to fit the new aesthetic.

The thing I have fond memories of from my childhood and my daughter's childhood is the Christmas stocking.

I loved finding the little treasures...I would take, according to my family, too long exploring what was there...they would want to rush to the main event...but the stocking held mystery and joy for me. For my own child I elevated this ritual, I would take care and time to find just the right items...I would wrap them all...(my mom hated to wrap anything so nothing was wrapped for christmas...Santa didn't have to do it she would say)

So all this to say, I have made Chanuka stockings

addendum... (Jan 3rd)
just to be clear....all the decorations ...stockings and all were around for Chanuka only....and the stockings were used to deliver the daily gifts that were exchanged throughout the holiday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Its Hard to Be A Jew Alone

Well I have taken a bit of a break from blogging, and for me blogging is truly a journal writing process...but I have not been feeling inspired....I don't want to whine....but that appears where my mood is....
As I re read what I had posted over the past year I realize I have been dealing with some depression but more descriptive melancholia.

"Melancholia (from Greek μελαγχολία - melancholia "sadness, lit. black bile"), also lugubriousness, from the Latin lugere, to mourn; moroseness, from the Latin morosus, self-willed, fastidious habit; wistfulness, from old English wist: intent, or saturnine, (see Saturn), in contemporary usage, is a mood disorder of non-specific depression, characterized by low levels of enthusiasm and eagerness for activity." (thanks wiki)
In the pre-modern science days "melancholia" could be physical as well as mental...which works for the combo of my mood and physical issues..

As I completed the holiday marathon these issues and moods seemed to grow....although we belong to a synagogue is hard to find folks to celebrate with...the conservative group we are members of doesn't do the lets have sabbath dinner together type activities....I think that is the reason I fantasize about becoming orthodox...Yet from a philosophical standpoint going orthodox would never work for me. I yearn for an all encompassing is hard to be Jewish alone...thank goodness my husband and I have each other...but the home based nature of "celebrations" only hit home the fact we have few options if we are choosing to be even somewhat observant.

Family issues, my husband, born Jewish divorced his first wife a number of years ago..thusly fallout from that continues to reverberate with his children... they don''t engage smoothly with him/us.....and bluntly my family is no where near Jewish and although they will put up with me and my religious choice to a certain degree, it is not like they are going to fill in for an exuberant Jewish community of support and celebration.

As we approach the uber cultural divide...the Xmass on slot..this sense of isolation is only growing...I have bought some Hanukkah decorations, knowing full well it is a "minor" holiday that has been commercialized because of its time of year...and pressures...none the less it is something for me to "do" to defend against the melancholia overload....

how do other converts cope?...those in the middle of Jewish nowhere....I find this all so difficult.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


My husband has a toy, an Internet radio that he listens to mostly in the morning...he listens to stations from all over the world. He has been listening lately to ABC Australia...they have been running a series on Yiddish.... I only get to hear bits and pieces of it...I think the below is is an older BBC documentary...but I have found it interesting...hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Vatican...Child Abuse...and Jews?

I was on the NPR web site looking for some info on a story I heard this morning when I came upon is not that long....I made it easy to find the point....hummmmmm interesting strategy...point at the other guys!

Foreign Policy: The Vatican And Child Abuse
by David Rothkopf

Enlarge Alessandra Tarantino/AP
Bishops pose their hands on clergymen during their ordination as bishops during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009.
Alessandra Tarantino/AP
Bishops pose their hands on clergymen during their ordination as bishops during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009.
text sizeAAAOctober 1, 2009
I am beginning to think that John Edwards, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Octomom, and Jon Gosselin have joined together to form their own public relations firm ... and that their first client is the Vatican. I have come to this conclusion because it is impossible for me to imagine any other group of people giving the Holy See the kind of P.R. advice they seem to be getting.
The evidence came in yesterday's extraordinary statement from the Vatican "defending" themselves against attacks that they have not done enough to combat sexual abuse by priests. Rather than contritely focusing on all they have done to address this cancer on their credibility, they offered a response that will be studied in schools for years to come, whether in classes seeking to offer a lesson in how not to handle a crisis or in those offering an advanced degree in miscalculated chutzpah.
Following a meeting with the U.N. Human Rights Council meant to address concerns that the Church was failing to respond appropriately to a long history of members of the clergy abusing their flocks, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi read a statement that was undoubtedly considered by some spin doctor-equivalent somewhere to advance their case but which actually probably amounted to more convincing proof that the Vatican doesn't get it on this issue than anything discussed behind closed doors with the United Nations.
Among their points:
They argued that "available research" showed that only 1.5 to 5 percent of the clergy engaged in child sex abuse. Which is to say that they seemed to think that possibly having one out of every 20 priests taking advantage of the children in their parishes was not really such a big number. After all, it's only 6,000 to 20,000 priests worldwide.
Tomasi then went on to quote statistics suggesting that in the U.S. protestant churches actually had a much worse child sex abuse problem and that sexual abuse was also common in Jewish communities. "They're doing it too," was never a very good defense when I was in elementary school and in this case, it seems a particularly ill-considered line of argument. Compounding the mistake, he also argued that family members, neighbors and babysitters were far more likely to molest children than priests. While all this may be true, it does not exactly sound like they were focused on accepting responsibility for actions within their own organization. Not being a Catholic, I'm not sure of the procedures, but I'm pretty sure that the proper drill at confession is "forgive me Father for I have sinned" and not "well, yes, Father I may have sinned, but I wasn't the only one."
As reported in the Guardian, the statement then took what was probably its most bizarre turn:
The statement said that rather than paedophilia, it would "be more correct" to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males.
"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17."
Aha. Well, I don't know about you, but now I feel much better about things. Most of the 6,000-20,000 priests who are abusing children at a rate somewhat lower than that of other religious groups are doing it with somewhat older kids. That puts things in a whole different light! I'm sure the whole ephebophilia defense will have altar boy enrollments skyrocketing in no time at all.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Vatican's response neither satisfied the man accusing it of covering up sex abuse within the Church nor did it sit very well with representatives of other religions. Keith Porteous Wood, of the NGO that charged the Catholic Church with violating several provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said not enough had been done by the Church to address its internal problems or to open its records to permit civil prosecution of wrong-doers.
Protestant and Jewish representatives were quick to respond condemning the Church's attempt to spread around the blame and defending their own approaches to the problem.
Had these other religious groups asked my advice, I might have told them to simply remain silent and let the Archbishop Tomasi have the limelight and the microphone all to himself. It is hard to imagine what the Church could possibly do to look worse than it already did in the face of a global scandal that has cost it $2 billion in settlements in the United States alone. Hard to imagine ... and yet somehow, that's precisely what it did.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The World of Choices

I often think about my more conservative orthodox neighbors...I think sometimes, especially the more traditional folks, are lucky...they have fewer life is full of choices...difficult choices...My husband and I are conservative...I tend to skew more traditional than some....but when we are sitting home on a Saturday with no visitors and no where to visit...boy oh boy that day gets long...then there is the food! I think if I lived in Jerusalem or even in a hard core area of the 5 towns (NY) I wouldn't feel so askew....
Not feeling like I fit in...
there is a street fair in the past that would be a food bonanza...zeppoles, sausage and peppers, the smells remind me of my youth...but this choice of mine changed everything...I have tasted all the “forbidden” things...and to be blunt.. I used to love bacon....fired clams, mussels in white sauce....there is something that can feel isolating, separating about the food choice...that is why sometimes I fantasize that one of those more insular communities would be easier... when we were in Israel...the food thing was great!
But I live in the world...the world of choices..the world of shell fish and gefilte fish ....I made the choice to be a the new life it is sometimes hard to be around the old life...not that I am is just hard.....any choice, even a spiritual/positive one has a dimension of loss....change has implicit and explicit loss...and the a living breathing mirror on how so much has changed.... and in this moment of reflection, what has been lost.....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simchat Torah

Hope all had a fun time...

Myself I am still fighting with some health issues which help contribute to a bit of the ongoing blues.....I want to post more but am having some difficulty fighting the good fight....
But I will try to articulate this phase of my life on this blog.....

Friday, September 25, 2009

That's My Rabbi...or Taking It To the Streets Part II

ok...I figured out how to embed a video! here is one from the Rabbi who sponsored me in my conversion...this is from the civil disobedience which occurred in NY yesterday around the UN in response to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the problems with Iran.

another speech before the sit-in

This following video is from The New York Board of Rabbis who organized the demonstration.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rabbis Take It to The Street....New York Style!

I don't know how to get video onto my is not my strong point...but here are some links to video from the street.......

NY Police Arrest 11 Rabbis in Anti-Ahmadinejad Protest
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( New York City police Wednesday night arrested 11 rabbis, donned in prayer shawls and blowing shofars for disorderly conduct while protesting the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Police picked them up and moved them into a paddy wagon after they tried to block the road where Ahmadinejad’s motorcade was to pass en route to the United Nations.
"A bunch of rabbis showed up and were able to block First Avenue at 41st street. . .the majority of us didn't move from the street when we heard his motorcade was coming," Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro told the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey "We stayed there, they arrested us and put us in a wagon, we didn't resist."
More than 100 rabbis participated in the protest and succeeded in blocking the intersection for a short time. Rabbi Shapiro held a sign saying that "Ahmadinejad is not welcome in the USA or New York."
The video below shows the city police warning the rabbis they would be arrested if they did not disperse.

Police were busy with larger demonstrations against Ahmadinejad. "The police were overwhelmed in central booking. . They checked (our records) and understood none of us had (criminal) records, and let us out with a ticket for disorderly conduct," Rabbi Shapiro told the APP news site. "We definitely did not expect to get out that early; they went easy on us."
After their release, the clergymen promptly returned to the area of the United Nations to join an Iranian-American demonstration against the Islamic Republic president.
"They couldn't believe a bunch of Jews were protesting against him.... We had an issue we were united on," Rabbi Shapiro said. "Not many of them were pro-Israelis, [but] the fact that we came together on a similar issue was powerful to see."
Before the protest, Rabbi Shapiro warned that Ahmadinejad “threatens the world with his nuclear program, holds conferences to deny the Holocaust, and brutally suppresses the voice of his own people. For a rabbi, I think it's a very scary thing to be listening to someone like this.
“It reminds me too much of a Hitler figure, and I personally feel the world needs to wake up to the dangers that the president of Iran is telling us -- telling us that he wants to do.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shabbat in Belfast or How to Get A Minion in Ireland

Just back from 14 days on the ground in Ireland......and boy the Jet lag is kicking me....

It was wonderful, but it is a hard country for a Jew....

I will write more when the jet lag subsides...

but once again I must send a big fat scheinen dank....Thank you....

to Chabad for their work all over the world.

This the second time I used their website to find a place to celebrate...This time for shabbat.....

Rabbi Menachem Brackman and his wife who my husband and I guessed was no more than 25 years old, just a guess mind you....,took us in for a lovely shabbat meal with a few other world wanderers.....We also attended Friday services, my first orthodox experience, in a very unorthodox town!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jewels of Elul

Check this out........

Friday, August 14, 2009

Realizing life's Purpose...or Why I didn't Make The Bed This Morning

"Elul -- the month preceding Rosh Hashana -- begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life's goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life -- rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving. "

Both my husband and I have hit a place of overwhlemedness...(is that a word?) We usually have had a slower summer professionally, but not this year. I know during these times of economic distress, for me to complain about working too much seems outright selfish/rude.Yet this has put pressure on us that feels "too much." We both work in the mental health field, I am a social worker and he is a child and adult psychiatrist. This is demanding work, and the added pressures of being private practitioners doesn't help. For those angry about the thought of health care should walk in my shoes!...the amount of energy, time and money thrown at trying to work with the insurance companies is CRAZY....(opps I digress.....)
all that above mentioned stuff combined with the feeling that we never had a summer ( most of our days off it rained or is was not beach weather) has led to a malaise of sorts.

This brings me back to the topic at hand, the sages tells us Elul is a time of reflection, introspection and priority alignment. I would love to study, meditate and have time to do good deeds/volunteer but life has me down right now. I am trying to find the balance the "middle ground."

I didn't make the bed today.......and I guess that is ok.............

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are You Ready?

Where I live the summer hasn't been right....this week is the first time we have experienced true heat. This is odd seeing that we are well into August...this environmental series of occurrences has caused me to feel some what out of sync...usually by this time of year I'm starting to look forward to cooler weather, but that hasn't happened....Yet when I look at the calendar here we are....

Rosh Chodesh Elul is Friday August 21st.

Rosh Hashanah Friday September 18th

Yom Kippur Sunday September 28th

Sukkot October 3-9

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Would You Do For $10,000?

Depending on where you are from, $10,000 could be a fortune or just some extra money…What could you buy with $10,000? …when I think about it, if for some reason I ran into $10,000 dollars, no strings attached, that would be a lovely thing….but really, as a middle class person living in the New York tri-state area, $10,000 wouldn’t change my life. It might pay some bills or fix my driveway or help prop up my recession decimated retirement savings…but ultimately $10,000 would not change my life.
I read this morning that a consultant caught up in the ever expanding New Jersey scandal was bribed with $10,000, and now he is dead by his own hand….then there are the poor souls lured to the riches of $10,000 for the mere price of their kidney…..

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sincere-Supplication Part II

malaise is a terrible thing, this feeling of debility or lack of energy is partly due to some physical issues/pain... a possible rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder, I guess my pitching career is over....but more due to a feeling of disconnect....

I am finding my way in my Judaism... how I embody it, how I grow and learn and explore it. There has been a lot of blogging out there regarding the recent events in New Jersey. I stand by what I wrote, that this is a bad thing. I have read a lot of persons try to make sense of it, or to formulate a response to it....

The only thing I have come up with is sincere supplication. Prayer and action done with deep intent. I try to do this... generally this means that my attention to things from a traditionally halacha way may not be complete...but what I do is with my full self, body and spirit. When I recite the Shama in the morning I do it after sitting in silent meditation....I try to feel every word.....and most days this is a very powerful experience. When I pray I try to do it this way...

Perhaps those who have gotten caught in New Jersey have forgotten....I think there are many who have forgotten the true spirit behind the actions and prayers....There are those regular law abiding folks who attend services with me...they are nice enough...but they talk through most of the service...not a crime...but I go to connect to the collective and to the divine...I may still only get through one page of the Amidah by the time the entire room is done... but I have done that one page with concentrated attention and my entire spirit!....(ok note to self find a Hebrew class for the fall!)
With Tisha B'Av almost here, I have decided to attempt to fast with intention, to pray like it is my last fully immerse myself in this day....Malaise you are on notice!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I was at work early today and didn't hear any wasn't until I was talking to my mother who lives in CT. who said to me " did you see the pictures of all the Rabbis being arrested in NJ?"

This story makes me sick!.....and it is horrible for law abiding Jews everywhere!....I think this is a still unfolding story, but it is not good for the Jews!

Rabbis arrested in N.J. sting
July 23, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Several rabbis were arrested as part of a public corruption and international money-laundering investigation in New Jersey.
According to reports, among the 44 people arrested Thursday morning by the FBI along with the rabbis were the mayors of three New Jersey towns, a deputy mayor and a state assemblyman. They were to appear in federal court in Newark later in the day.
The money-laundering suspects were accused of moving “at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, nonprofit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey,” according to a release by acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.
Prosecutors said they worked with an informant who had been charged with bank fraud in May 2006, said. Investigators obtained hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, according to prosecutors.
The rabbis arrested were religious leaders from Syrian Jewish neighborhoods in Deal and Elberon, N.J., as well as Brooklyn, N.Y. The Asbury Park Press reported that the investigation involved the Deal Yeshiva, a Sephardic institution that has a boys' division in Ocean Township and a girls' school in West Long Branch.
The arrests reportedly are the result of a two-year probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service that began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in Deal and Brooklyn, two tight-knit and wealthy communities.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and the IRS removed at least three boxes from the Deal Yeshiva as students were arriving at school Thursday, The Star-Ledger reported, as well as several boxes from the Ohel Yaacob synagogue in the same town.
The charged rabbis include Rabbi Saul Kassin, 87, of the Sharee Zion synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal; Edmond Nahum, 56, of the Deal Synagogue; Mordchai Fish, 56, of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn; and Lavel Schwartz, 57, Fish’s brother. They were charged with money laundering.
Kassin is accused of laundering more than $200,000 through the informant from June 2007 through December 2008, according to prosecutors. Fish, Schwartz and two other defendants used a charitable, tax-exempt organization called BCG, which was associated with Fish’s synagogue, to launder money, according to the FBI.
The mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, the deputy mayor of Jersey City and an assemblyman from Ocean Township were caught in the operation.
Also charged is Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, 58, of Brooklyn, who was accused of conspiring with others to acquire and trade human organs for use in transplantation. In one case noted in the complaint, Rosenbaum said it would cost $150,000 -- half up front. Rosenbaum said some of the money would go to the donor and some to doctors in Israel, according to the complaint.
Bloomberg identified the cooperating witness as Solomon Dwek, a real estate developer in Monmouth County, N.J. who was charged in 2006 with scheming to defraud PNC Bank out of $50 million, according to a person familiar with the matter and court records. Dwek was never indicted; he has received 17 extensions to continue the period in which his case had to be presented to a federal grand jury.

Sunday, July 19, 2009



OK enough of that tantrum...but the sentiment remains... a little depressed, a little lazy, a little overwhelmed with my life.

I made an attempt to find some inspiration. I signed my husband and I up for a Jewish Spirituality retreat. if you have read my blog you may know that I have a long history in the Buddhist/Zen tradition. I still sit meditation but was yearning for a way to incorporate it more into my Jewish faith. When I saw the below information from The Jewish Spirituality Institute I jumped on it.

"For Lay People
Three times a year IJS offers 4-day Shabbat retreats consisting of contemplative prayer, mindfulness meditation, Hassidic text study, yoga, lively discussion and Shabbat community. IJS has developed a 2-year curriculum - Vetaher Libeynu - an exploration of the adult Jewish spiritual experience. Alumni of our professional programs teach the curriculum in their communities"

We went. The people were nice, the location lovely, the parve/vegetarian food wonderful!....but overall not inspirational for me. I was truly was a very well thought out program, but for me it felt like a "light" version of what I have done in my own spirituality practice.....

I did learn something very interesting about myself.....I like tradition. I enjoyed the Torah study, and other group study activities....the meditation/silence/yoga stuff...well it was fine but I could more than likely teach them....I know that sounds conceited but I spent 20 years in a very dynamic Buddhist practice....retreats, weekly sits...etc. But what, threw it off for me, and my husband was Saturday morning. I missed the ritual, the full 3 to 4 hour service, Hebrew etc.
They ran a service that was more in the Reconstructionist left me feeling like I only ate meringue cookies for dinner when what I wanted was a full holiday meal!

I can't stress enough that the folks who ran the program were lovely, committed and spiritual people. They did everything to make the weekend a beautiful experience.

It was me.......

what next........


Sunday, June 28, 2009


We all have choices.
I have made many choices in my life.
The choice to convert was not made quickly or in haste. It was a process that was mindful and heartfelt. Yet despite all the preparation, prayer, and support sometimes it still surprises how much things have changed.

This choice changed everything........

This past week I got the invitation to my high school 30th Reunion. 30 years ago I was living in a very different place. That place in a different state...geographical...that state, psychological...that state, metaphoric.

oh yea....the date of the reunion....Friday September 18th....Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah ! As far as I remember there was not a single Jewish person in my entire high school class, actually to be honest there were only two African Americans in my class of 79'....So much has changed...but basically somethings remain the same. My home town has a few more families of color then when I lived there...but ultimately it is mostly a blue collar working class white catholic place. When I sent my regrets via the facebook page set up for the event the answer I received was a surprise.

Dear Reunion Committee,

I received the reunion invite...It looks like it will be a lovely time. Unfortunately although I had planned on attending, when I went to put the date in my blackberry, I saw that it is on Rosh Hashanah, a very major Jewish holiday. This leaves me out...I know it isn't an issue for more than likely the majority of our class but it is where my life has taken me.......thanks for all your hard work...and I hope all have fun!


I completely understand and I am sorry. You must follow your heart.

I have made many choices.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Catholic Funeral Mass and Kabbalat Shabbat at the Beach....A Full Day!

Shabbat Hamalka prepares her waves swell, storms depart, and our hearts open to the salt, the joy and the sand......

Given an 8:10 pm candle lighting time....our synagogue arranged to have our gathering at the beach. We aren't that far and we could have services and get back before the actual I guess it was actually a pre Shabbat, but it was glorious!

It has been raining I think for weeks.... this was the only day with sun!

This was a very welcomed and needed experience for me. Earlier in the day I was confronted with one of those classic convert dilemmas. A Catholic funeral. I had known about it for a number of days. Earlier in the week I was informed about the death of the husband of a woman I have known. This person was very kind to me throughout some very difficult and dark times at the end of my first marriage. I would be hard pressed to call her a good friend, but in that time, in that place she was exceedingly kind. Now her husband is dead, unexpectedly, and they are only having a full wake, no gathering etc. After much thought,meditation and I guess even prayer, I decided to go. To say I felt uncomfortable doesn't describe the odd emotions. I felt awkward...I sat in the back, didn't participate in prayers or songs,and didn't kneel . When it felt most difficult I recited the Shama to myself. It was like a time travel dream. I was there but I was different. I am Jewish and felt it in every fiber of my being. I am glad I went to show my was the kind thing to do...and it was another opportunity to experience my feeling totally Jewish.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two Shot at Holocaust Museum in D.C.
The New York Times

Early reports indicated that those who were wounded were an armed man who entered the museum and began shooting and a security guard who returned fire. Their conditions were not immediately known, although witnesses told television reporters that the security guard was on the ground and bleeding profusely afterward.
A Washington television station reported that one wounded man was seen being wheeled into the emergency room of George Washington University Hospital, not far away, and was handcuffed to a gurney. The wounded guard was taken to the same hospital.
“One or more” security guards returned fire moments after the gunman began shooting, Sgt. David Schlosser of the United States Park Police said in a sidewalk news conference shortly before 2 p.m. Sergeant Schlosser said he understood that only the gunman and one security guard were wounded.
Preliminary reports indicated that the gunman was carrying either a rifle or shotgun and possibly a pistol, and that he fired five or six shots before being wounded. There were no clues to his motive or identity.
Opened in 1993, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is situated near the National Mall and the Potomac River. Since its dedication, it has had early 30 million visitors, including more than 8 million school children and 85 heads of state, the museum says on its Web site.
Like all public buildings in the capital, the museum has heavy security, with visitors required to pass through metal detectors. But someone determined to enter a building with a firearm can sometimes do so. In July 1998, a crazed gunman killed two police officers and wounded a tourist in the Capitol.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Patchwork Project Post

I am happy to inform you that I am part of a wonderful endeavor started by Akira of the Zinc Plate Press Blog

Below is the posting from the Zinc Plate Blog about the Patchwork Project:

"Zinc Plate Press is embarking on project to captures the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of Jewish converts. As a convert, I chose to become a Jew and lead a Jewish life, yet, I have also internalized a two-ness about my authenticity as a Jew. The Talmud talks about converts on a higher spiritual plain because we chose Judaism. It sure doesn’t feel this way, unless we are held to every standard that born Jews are not. If we are Jewish, we should also have the choice to transgress as Jews. We are human afterall. Sometimes I feel I’m trying to mediate a looming divorce between parents. “Look at me, look at me,” anything to distract Judaism from itself.
I always get the “What-a-nice-story” responses like I’m showing an adult my finger paintings. Converts couldn’t possibly understand the authentic experiences of being Jewish. We are talked about while we are in the room, we are advocated for like powerless beings, and decisions are made about the authenticity of our Jewishness, which can shake the foundations of our lives.
In a Jewish Week column, Rabbis Searching For Common Ground, a forum was convened to address the fragmented state of Judaism. Here is a letter I wrote:
Rabbis Searching For Common Ground exemplifies the old model of thinking among rabbis to fix the fragmented state of Judaism. What I found particularly offensive was when this panel discussed the plight of the convert. It’s as if we have no voice, we are spoken about in the 3rd person, and decisions are pondered about our lives like we are a burden to Judaism. It is time for such forums to include actual Jews-by-choice in the discussion. The forum was supposed to address the fragmented state of Judaism, yet not going into the community and actually asking Jews-by-choice to participate is very telling about how out-of-touch Jewish leaders are in assessing the needs of the diverse Jewish community. These “common ground” forums always end with the same comfortable assumptions and divisions.
It is time to hear from one of the silent minorities within Judaism. It is time to hear, in our own words, what we believe we contribute to Judaism and its future. It is time to organize around common experiences and speak for ourselves. Let’s decide our own history as Jews and plant the seeds for future Jews-by-Choice to nurture.
Zinc Plate Press hopes to capture what it really means to live as a Jewish convert in a religion that is deeply fragmented."

Please check out the Zinc Plate Press is a very interesting and eclectic mix of photos, commentary and insight.

Opps Politics....

Ok... I now remember why I don't share my politics.

I love being Jewish. I am climbing the proverbial ladder of observance and revel in each new activity I engage in. I also cherish those activities I feel I have mastered, starting to formulate my own Jewish memories. I attend Saturday services regularly, and Fridays twice a month.

This past Saturday was a full day, a baby naming, a Bat Mitzvah and an Auf Ruf...but then came the sermon. (do we call it a sermon?) It was political. Politics appear difficult and full of quicksand to me…The Middle East sands shift and blow and can engulf at a moments notice….I do not pretend to know the answers to the complicated emotionally charged problems in the world. My husband often calls me naive. If wanting there to peace for all in the world is naive, so be it.

I am keenly aware of the evil, the suffering and the pain. I am aware of the long history... I know peace is a hard road…..What do you suggest?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Proud To Be an American

For the first time in many many years,
I am proud to be an American.Thank you President Obama

"Obama at Buchenwald: a ‘rebuke’ to deniers
June 5, 2009
BERLIN (JTA) -- President Barack Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp site, calling it "the ultimate rebuke" to Holocaust deniers.
Obama joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist who was a Buchenwald inmate, on the tour on Friday, a day after Obama called on the Muslim world to reject Holocaust denial.
"To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened," Obama said at a news conference at the gates of the camp. Such statements are "ignorant, baseless and hateful."
For more than an hour, Obama and Merkel walked the grounds of Buchenwald. Out of sight of cameras, they entered the crematorium building where camp victims were turned to ash. They placed white roses, a symbol of German resistance, at several sites.
Obama said he had wanted to visit this particular camp because his great-uncle, Charles Payne, was among the U.S. soldiers in Infantry Division 89 who liberated the Buchenwald sub-camp of Ohrdruf in early April 1945. Ohrdruf was the first camp liberated by American soldiers. The gruesome sights of burned victims haunted his uncle for a long time, Obama said.
"It is understandable that someone who witnessed what had taken place here would be in a state of shock," he said.
Wiesel, a Nobel Peace laureate whose father died at Buchenwald, said, "Memory must bring people together rather than set them apart."
After visiting Germany, Obama was scheduled to fly to France and take part in ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
In an interview with NBC, Obama expressed frustration with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who questions the story of the Holocaust.
“He should make his own visit," Obama said in Germany. "I have no patience for people who would deny history. And the history of the Holocaust is not something speculative."
Should he visit Germany, Ahmadinejad could face arrest as a Holocaust denier."

here is a link to the speech made in Egypt...see it for your self and make up your own mind about it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Hate Gefilte Fish

I receive emails from the "My Jewish Learning" today they have a special on the food I love to hate.......Gefilte Fish. This stuff shows up every where in my little Jewish world...Friday dinners, holidays, everywhere! Below is an excerpt from the My Jewish Learning article....

"Gefilte fish is most associated with the Sabbath meal, as eating fish on Shabbat has been a Jewish custom since the talmudic period. Fish, the ancient sages trumpeted, was an aphrodisiac. They believed the intoxicating odor on the Sabbath table would encourage couples to "be fruitful and multiply"--which in Jewish tradition is encouraged on Friday night.The Hebrew word for fish, dag, also corresponds to the numerical value seven, which reflects God's commandment, "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord?"
Gefilte fish an aphrodisiac?
This lovely eastern European concoction smells so bad to me that I can barely be at the same table with it. Yet this culinary delicacy is another one of those "True Jew" tests. I make no spectacle of my self, I just choose not to eat it when it is around. But it always brings on a comment...
(not an actual conversation but a composite of many similar type moments)
"what no fish?"
"no not today"
now a conversation about me, with me right in the room.....
"you know she wasn't born a Jew"
"ohhhhhhh"...with nodding heads........
My turn to make dinner!!!!!!....a kosher Italian feast!...or a Kosher Indian extravaganza!
what ever I make NO Gefilte Fish
P.S. I also hate chopped liver

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chag Sameach! Shavout

Random bits ......

Once again I was surprised by my email reminding me of various candle lighting times. Here I am in the middle of my work day and like a giant "Boom!" there is this little portion of Jewish mindfulness in my email in box. I am excited about tonight's program at the synagogue I attend. I have worked on my little "big idea" piece and feel ready to present it....but I must admit I am nervous.

I am also concerned that I don't have a large enough candle to light that can stay burning until Friday so that I can then light Shabbat candles. All I can think of are the large skinny glass candles from my childhood in the Catholic know the ones, you can find them in most any bodega....but some how using a catholic devotional candle might not be the best way to do it! I guess I will have poke around on the Orthodox sites to find an answer!

Chag Sameach!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Alysa Stanton....A woman of Valor

I just love this story....
I think this might be a good time to say a Sheheḥeyanu

First African-American Rabbi To Be Ordained Was Raised in a Pentecostal Family

Growing up in a black, Pentecostal family in Cleveland, Alysa Stanton never imagined the day when she would be preparing to be ordained as a rabbi.

Alysa Stanton is set to become the first African-American female rabbi when she is ordained next month.(Courtesy Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion)
But that day will come June 6 for the single mother who will be ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, becoming the first African-American female rabbi in the world.
"Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed," Stanton, 45, told "Me, a spiritual leader?"
Soon-to-be rabbi Stanton and her daughter Shana, 14, whom she adopted when she was 14 months old, will move to Greenville, N.C., in August, where Stanton will take her spot behind the pulpit at Congregation Bayt Shalom, which is both conservative and reform.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Big Idea

Our annual Tikun Leyl Shavuot at my synagogue has a theme this year...the Rabbi wrote in his announcement:
" Since Shavuot is the time of the giving of our Torah, we´ll spend our study session looking at the Torah in a different way. This year´s theme is, "THE BIG IDEA," and I´m inviting members of our congregation to select one Big Idea from one of the Torah portions and speak about it to the members of our congregation who will be there."
Ok we have about 4 minutes or so each to do this...well the excited Jew By choice that I am got all fun! then doubt set in....they don't want to hear from negative thoughts implored...

But despite the negative self talk I think I will go forward...So please see below the first rough draft of what I think I'm going to present....if you have any ideas, good quote please let me know...I have until next Thursday to work it out!

The Book of Devarim/Deuteronomy Parashat Re’eh 11:26
the "Big Idea": Human Free Will/Freedom of Choice.

26. Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.

Over the past year I have learned and absorbed much . When I read of tonight’s opportunity to share, I was at first hesitant, but also excited. I think much about these types of subjects, and one readily came into my mind.

the "Big Idea"I would like to share is : Human Free Will/Freedom of Choice.

The first Torah book I have read with an intense level of inquiry has been Deuteronomy. This is Because the Shama was the first Hebrew prayer I learned and I wanted to seek out its origins which of course ultimately led me to Devarim.

Upon my exploration of Devarim several themes have stood out . I see it as a clear advocate of monotheism which is obvious seeing that it is the book that is the foundation for the Shama prayer. It also spells out the loyalty /convent between Israel and the divine. additionally Throughout the book there is an emphasis on God's love, justice, and transcendence.

But It is also the book where the concept of human free will/ choice is put forth in a clear dramatic way. In Re’eh 11:26. It is written “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse” This concept of choice is further expanded upon in Deuteronomy 30:15 where it states “ See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”

In contrast to many other religions who’s internal debates first extolled then vilified human will and freedom in relationship to the divine, Judaism is clear in its understanding of human kinds power to choose. In the words of Maimonides: “ Freedom of choice has been granted to every man.... This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments.” Maimonides in regards to this Torah portion, also explains that Moshe is placing before the Jewish people a stark choice between two life-paths: the path of allegiance to the Torah and the path of turning aside from the Torah to follow the dictates of one's own heart. The different directions of the paths are straight forward if not out right blunt, blessing or curse… Alternatively, life or death…..

Clearly, the concept of human choice, free will, is one that is wrought with consequences….. some might think, would it be easier if it all were predetermined…destiny alone…but not in this faith… our actions and our choices are our own…both positive and negative actions are ours to hold.. without free will could human kind be here now? It is this very concept that has carried the flag of human potential throughout the centuries through to today and the modern form of democracy which we are privileged to experience.
Human will and freedom to choose is a concept/philosophical point that is close to my heart…
We are here today to celebrate to honor shavuot…on this holiday we read the story of Ruth….I recently comment to a friend, Ruth has big shoes…..the strength of her convictions, her will , her choice are strong and unwavering in the face of incredible difficulties and strife…..she chooses.. without hesitation

“ Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”

She is deep into the choice presented by Parashat Re’eh….she had free will and she optioned it! May we all have the strength of Ruth when faced with the choices detailed in Parashat Re’eh…hopefully we all can strive to fill Ruth’s shoes…..

NYC Terror Plot

What can one say but that the power of hate and ignorance again surfaced in New York.

When I was listening to National Public Radio this morning they stated the group met in prison and that the ring leader was a high school drop out.

This small but very interesting piece of the story I believe holds strong significance. It points to the The positive power of education,and a society that provides equal opportunity to all . I believe this is an anecdote, we all can focus on. Of course diligence by those who are charged with protecting all of us is a good thing too!

On a more personal note,

my synagogue had already been involved in a security up grade and last night they sent out an email seeking to both calm and reassure congregants that we will also be diligent and prudent ourselves. But I hope all can resist their own extremist reactions. Fear can be the base of many difficult situations and cause the replication of all that we seek to overcome.

May all beings feel safe and secure and find the path of peace.
Shabbat Shalom

York terror plot broken up by FBI, police
Posted: May 20, 2009, 10:11 PM by Ron Nurwisah

Update: BNO News has a statement from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
"I want to congratulate the men and women of the NYPD, the New York State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force who tonight foiled a terrorist plot that targeted Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx for bombing. The same plot also targeted U.S. military aircraft in Newburgh for Stinger Missile attacks. While the bombs these terrorists attempted to plant tonight were – unbeknownst to them – fake, this latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism.”
WNBC-NY is reporting that an alleged terror plot in New York City has been broken up by the FBI and New York Police.
Four men have been arrested in what authorities are calling a homegrown terrorist plot allegedly aimed at attacking New York area synagogues. From the WNBC story:
Raids by the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force in the Bronx captured the suspected ringleader and three followers in what law enforcement sources are calling a homegrown terrorist plot. Investigators stress the suspects' meetings had been infiltrated early on and there was "no chance" the alleged plot could succeed.Investigators said several of the suspects are Muslims who allegedly talked about destroying two Jewish temples, including at least one in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
The New York Daily News has more information on the suspects and the police sting operation that led to the arrests. From their story:
The four men also allegedly had what they believed was a working Stinger missile in their car: officials said they wanted to shoot down a plane near Stewart Air National Guard Base.Sources said the four men were arrested after a year long investigation that began when an informant connected to a mosque in Newburg said some militants wanted to buy bombs.FBI agents posing as militants sold them what they thought were C-4 and a plane-downing Stinger missile.
The New York Post reveals that a fifth man initially involved with the alleged terror cell alerted the FBI about the plot. The Post also has the press release from the District Attorney's office. From that document:
In June 2008, an informant working with the FBI met [Alleged ring leader James Cromitie] in Newburgh, New York. CROMITIE explained to the informant that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and that he was upset about the war there and that many Muslim people were being killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the United States Military forces. CROMITIE expressed interest in returning to Afghanistan and spoke to the CW about how if he, CROMITIE, were to die a martyr, he would go to "paradise." CROMITIE also expressed an interest in doing "something to America." The following month, CROMITIE and the informant discussed the organization Jaish-e-Mohammed, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization based in Pakistan, with which the informant claimed to be involved. CROMITIE stated to the informant that he, CROMITIE, would be interested in joining Jaish-e-Mohammed to "do jihad."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ruth Has Big Shoes

I have been feeling a bit on the defensive side regarding my Jewishness. I'm not sure if it is a word, but it is the best way for me to describe it.

What is a Jew? many other Jews would say I am not. So many others have attitudes and opinions that can be hurtful and some downright prejudicial. It can be exclusionary and detrimental to individuals and ultimately to the greater Jewish world. Let’s face it, the world has not always been kind to the Jews…need we give the anti-Semites a roadmap of how to divide us?

In the Jewish Convert blogosphere there are so many bloggers who identify as orthodox and/or orthodox in waiting. They are interesting to read, and prolific, yet there is this subtle and sometimes not so subtle point of view/perception that choosing an orthodox world view is being “more Jewish.”

I was taught that the souls of all Jews, from all times, came together to hear the Ten Commandments from the divine on Shavuot. So I see that as meaning we are all equal, and “chosen” in our own individual ways. I may not be from Eastern European ancestry, or had grown up going to shul, or summer camp or any other event/test that can be thrown my way, but I am a Jew.

This shavuot I stand with all the Jews, I stand in the history and the faith wearing the symbolic cloak of Ruth. I am proud to be a convert, and I am proud to be in the Conservative stream of Judaism. I embrace all Jews as my brothers and sisters in faith, even if they do not embrace me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Blog Havurah

I have been speaking with my Rabbi about how to feel more connected and to find others with similar issues to me . He suggested starting a now it is a project in process. This endeavor has started me thinking that the conversion community on the web is my Havurah.

Thank you Havurah.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yom Hashoah


because without each and everyone of us taking responsibly for fighting against genocide

those who deny will prevail

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Year of Living Jewishly: Passover

A year has come and gone since I took that fateful dunk. so much has transpired and I feel there is yet so much to experience. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend the vastness of it all. This passover Holiday has proven to be a microcosm  of the joys and sorrows, ups and downs I have been experiencing on this journey.

I managed to clean, and prepare. I had to make many compromises in my attempts to up my level of observance. I made a Seder that despite my vastly underestimating the amount of work and time it would take came out as I had envisioned. The preparations for the celebration felt like a surreal version of camping. I was in my home cooking but without most of the tools/pans/utensils I was accustom to. I was relieved that everyone appeared to enjoy it despite the back to basics nature of the preparations . I loved being able to fully embrace the holiday in the way women throughout the ages have; expressing themselves through the art of food and hospitality.

I also experienced some negative emotions in the form of private discord with my daughter (see the post entitled December Dilemma) My whole hearted embracing of the full household passover experience: covered counters, different dishes, packed up food and tied off cabinets etc.... caused some discord between us. After a few days I managed to find my courage to let her know how I was feeling. She wasn't understanding me, and I was only experiencing rejection and anger from her. Our communication had stalled, each fearful of questioning too much or hurting the other with our unspoken fears. My daughter fearing that I was someone she didn't know, "playing Jewish" and me fearful I would somehow alienate her and ultimately push her away.

It is the classic convert dilemma. How to embrace the new life but how to hold and support those loved ones who are not on the journey with you. This story also has the added difficulties of divorce and remarriage and and how we all are relating in this new family paradigm.

Then there have been the mundane revelations.

Passover is hard! Being Jewish is hard!

It isn't the not eating of bread etc, but the eating of only kosher for passover foods that has caused some strife in the household. My poor husband has had some of the scariest concoctions for dinner! In the past I had been a vegetarian, and that is what we have been mostly eating, but without beans the protein part has been difficult!

It is only Tuesday, and I must admit I need this holiday to be done. I want my kitchen and house back to the way is usually is. I am seriously outside of my comfort zone. I want to buy coffee out!....OK I know I am whining.....but I am sure you understand.

Despite my tantrums I do see the larger picture of it all.

I do realize that perhaps it is this very feeling of being outside of the comfort zone that the holiday is meant to manifest. To, in some small way, feel what it is like to embark on a journey of exile. For me a metaphoric journey of exile that has been manifested through immense change and concretely a journey of exile through a new world of day in and day out mitzvot.

They wandered in the desert for 40 years, it is my aspiration that I find my path a lot sooner.

Its De-lovely

We celebrated our one year anniversary yesterday......

Friday, April 3, 2009

ONE YEAR!!!!!!

April 1st was the one year anniversary of my conversion.

yes, April 1st.

no, not a joke.

and no, the picture is not me

Friday, March 27, 2009

Coke...It's The Real Thing

Is it me or is there way too much blog-o-sphere interest in this stuff! What follows is just a random sampling of what I saw in in one minute of looking.

and on another topic......

Countdown to Passover continues!...

more cleaning today....seeing that it is just to two of us, no kids etc, there actual isn't that much passover contraband in the house (bread etc.). Additionally for a large part of the year we had been on low carb diets, so it isn't like we actually will miss the hard core stuff....Beans unfortunately are a whole different story. I tend to skew vegetarian, although I will eat meat...but none-the-less I have a cabinet full of beans! I tried to eat down the lot of it, but to no avail. I will just have to pack it all up and drag it to the basement.

Another major difficulty is cleaning while still living in the space. I am cleaning the oven now...modern conveniences are great...will finish it tomorrow. So far I am staying close to my countdown to passover calendar....

Only time will tell if I can keep it up!

and some great news ...We have been invited to a 2nd night Seder!!!!...and I didn't have to impose or invite myself...I am so happy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Longings and Existential Loss

I wrote the below on the Empowering Ruth list is what I am feeling currently.....

I feel lucky to be able to host one Seder for what is left of my husband's family, some adult children and their friends. I am sad that I have been unable to find a 2nd seder for us to go to. Because I converted only a year ago at the age of 47, I feel a strong sense of wanting to make Jewish memories for me. this is something I do struggle with. With no babies to raise, no family/relative expectations to take into account religiousness and ritual is totally a personal expression. My husband is lovely and goes along with me on these adventures but when it comes down to it, why do we choose to do these things?.....Jewish Law? Tradition?..Guilt? ...Love? I realize I feel this odd sense of loss/grief at major holiday times. Not loss of what I left behind in a religious way, but loss of what I will never experience. I find some comfort in using the collective Jewish history for my own, doing holidays and rituals connects me to some history even if it is not a personal one. Other folks my age appear to be stepping back from fully engaging in these types of things...they did it for their kids, their parents. I am in a conservative community, this fits me philosophically, but in practice I feel different....I want to experience the totality of Jewish life....I joke with my husband that I am going to take up with the local Chabad....once again philosophically it wouldn't work, but it points out this schism I am experiencing. I feel somewhat at a loss in my community...but not sure what to do.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Que Pasa Purim .......The Mexico Megillah

To celebrate our almost 1 year of marriage, the husband and I decided to take a trip. Carefully I researched all aspects of the proposed event. I diligently made myself aware of the time needed for passover preparations as well as the holiday itself. When I felt I found the perfect time and place, I booked it. Such a deal! I was proud of my accomplishments! Then something began to nag at me, did I forget something? With all my mindful attention on Passover....I forgot to check on the dates for Purim! I realized this after I had booked my trip to Mexico!


I frantically tried to change the would cost mucho pesos ....I was heading towards despair..."and I call myself Jewish....ha!" But then I remembered a book I read "The Rebbie's Army" about the Chabad movement and the intrepid couples who go all over the world. There must be a Chabad house in Cancun.......yup there is exchanged emails with the lovely Rabbi there and my plans were set. If you ever have the chance to be in Cancun please stop by and see these folks they are lovely and will take care of you!

Please enjoy this brief glimpse at Purim in Mexico...

Dunking Rachael

Love, Faith and Life