Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Help Wanted for Mourning and Existential Angst

I am still mourning the death of my mother-in-law, so I know my darkish mood is an influence of what I think currently.... but it all seems so bleak out there...war, politics, natural disasters...I have not been up to following news etc. because of my family's personal loss...yet one can't help but is odd to experience such personal loss in the face of the global loss like Haiti. It just feels odd...I wonder if there is something from the Torah that helps with this state of mind of mine?

I have noticed the positive press Israel has received.....and that is good.

Israel prepares for the long-haul in quake-stricken Haiti

By Karin Kloosterman and Nicky Blackburn January 20, 2010
With anarchy growing, and the devastation vast, Israel vows to continue offering vital aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Photo by IDF spokesperson.
The IDF Medical and Rescue team in Port-au-Prince rescue a Haitian government worker who was trapped for 125 hours in the wreckage of last week's earthquake in Haiti.
With praise mounting worldwide for the work of Israel's aid team to the earthquake-stricken island of Haiti, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has announced that the Israeli rescue crew will remain in the Caribbean for at least another month to oversee an Israeli field hospital set up in the wake of the disaster.
A delegation of more than 240 Israelis flew to Haiti on Friday to offer search and rescue aid and medical help just three days after the disastrous earthquake struck the island-nation last week.
Since then, Israeli rescuers have pulled out a number of people from the rubble and treated many more at the field hospital set up in a football stadium in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince.
Dramatic rescues against the odds
The latest rescue mission took place on Monday when Israeli rescuers managed to free a female student, trapped for six days under the wreckage of Port-au-Prince's four-storey university building.
The Israeli team used special equipment to lift the rubble and managed to create an opening through which they could rescue the woman, who had been trapped in an air pocket. She was transferred to the IDF field hospital for medical treatment.
On the same day, a six-year-old girl, Jessica Hartelin, was pulled out of rubble by locals and rushed to the Israeli clinic, where an IsraAID/FIRST medical team was able to save her life.
Despite these successes, Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israel Foreign Ministry, tells ISRAEL21c that given the scale of the disaster, which has killed an estimated 200,000 people, it is important to keep things in perspective: "We must be happy for every new life saved, but there is a difficulty in rejoicing wholeheartedly because of the dimension of what has happened there. We must be modest with our satisfaction."
The Israeli relief team comprises doctors, nurses, logistics staff, the IDF field hospital rescue team, foreign affairs staff, representatives of Magan David Adom (Israel's Red Cross), police officers and volunteers from IsraAID and ZAKA search and rescue and body identification. Palmor reports: "People are being rushed to the Israeli field hospital every day. It is probably the biggest field hospital in Haiti right now."
Palmor, who warns that security is now becoming a major issue in Haiti, with anarchy breaking out on the streets, says the Israeli delegation is being helped on the ground by Israelis living in Haiti, including Daniel Keidar, who is married to a Haitian diplomat and has been in the country since 1991. He has been helping communicate with locals in search and rescue operations.
Google Earth saves a mother and child
He also praised another Israeli, Joel Lion, spokesman for the Israeli consulate in New York, who guided ABC news editor, Dr. Richard Besser as he rushed a Haitian woman in labor to the Israeli field hospital when it became clear that she needed urgent medical aid to survive the birth.
Besser was in Haiti filming a news item on pregnant women in the wake of the earthquake when he came across a woman in the final stages of labor. She was suffering a breech birth. Besser realized she needed urgent medical aid if she and her baby were to survive. The only place where she could receive the treatment she needed was at the Israeli field hospital, which includes a maternity ward and ultrasound equipment.
He had no GPS to find the hospital in the chaos, so he contacted Lion in New York for directions. Using Google Earth, Lion spoke French to Besser's Haitian driver, guiding them in real time, step by step, to the Israeli field hospital.
At the hospital, Israeli doctors discovered that the woman was also suffering from pre-eclampsia, a common cause of death in both women and babies in Haiti. They delivered the baby safely and the mother later said she would name her son 'Israel,' in tribute to the doctors who saved their lives.
The ABC story noted that, ironically, the earthquake had probably saved the lives of both mother and child. With most women giving birth at home, this woman would probably have died if she hadn't been taken to the field hospital.
Israel contributes $2 million in aid, so far
According to a release issued Monday evening, an additional IDF aid delegation was scheduled to fly to Haiti on Monday night. To be headed by Israel's Home Front Command Major. Gen. Yair Golan, it will include officials from Israel's Ministry of Health, and its chief medical officer. The team is expected to deliver more medicine and equipment. IsraAID/First will also be sending an additional team of 12 medical and logistical staff to Haiti this weekend.
A source at the Ministry of Health says that Israel has contributed about $2 million worth of aid to Haiti, in flying the Israeli teams to the scene, paying their salaries as well as the cost of medical care, and the cost of the team's return.
Meanwhile, according to the IDF, its field hospital is now one of the most advanced hospitals in Haiti. Staffed with doctors, nurses and paramedics, it includes a pediatric ward, a radiology department, an ICU, an ER, operating rooms and a surgical department, as well as a medical lab and an X-ray center. By Monday, 25 life-saving operations had been performed there and three babies had been delivered.
In a report from the MDA, which is working at the Israeli field hospital, the organization describes the overwhelming destruction in Port-au-Prince, where there is no electricity or fresh water, and rescue efforts are only sporadic.
"Surprisingly, it would appear that most of the citizens have returned to normal life," the report states. "One can see people moving in the streets next to bodies lying on the side of the street. There is no picture of hordes of worried citizens digging in the rubble of buildings." The report mentions that the MDA has been warmly received.
Getting the news out through the IDF communications center
"Anarchy" is how Shahar Zahavi from IsraAID/FIRST describes the situation in Haiti. The organization has a team of 15 volunteers, including those from the NGO Latet, on the island. The volunteers are providing medical assistance in a soccer stadium on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, in a different location to the field hospital.
"The minute they got there, they got hundreds of people asking for their help," Zahavi tells ISRAEL21c. "There are 2,000 people there already. About a dozen more people - medical staff and logistics staff associated with the relief organization - are expected to fly in this weekend to assist," he adds.
Apart from the medical relief and search and rescue efforts that Israel is providing, the IDF's Communications Corps personnel have established a fully functioning communications center.
The center was set up in a corner of the Israeli field hospital, and was the first of the Israeli units to be established in Haiti. Since then, the IDF has positioned satellites and antennas on the roofs of local buildings that are still standing.
Cpt. Barak Tzarom who is running the communications center, says that many civilians are benefiting from it as it is the only Internet point in the area. He says: "All media from the writers and reporters in the field, all information is being transferred using our command center. Because the communications tools here are not sufficiently prepared to transfer information from the field we are assisting them by enabling them to do all of that from Haiti, in the best conditions possible."

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Eleanor Katz, of blessed memory

(she is the one standing...the other two pictured are my parents)

This has been among the longest 7 days of my life.
Elanor is/was the mother of my husband. She was a month or 2 shy of 90 when she died. She was living in her own home, the one my husband grew up in, she would stay up all night reading the New York Times and she was ever gracious to me.
I am the second wife of her beloved youngest son, and despite knowing the first Mrs. Katz for over 20 years she never once made me feel unwelcomed or second class. She was classy and tenacious!
She lived the way she wanted...she died the way she wanted and for that I am grateful, we all could learn a lot from her.
Shiv'ah is gruling....gut wrentching and hard work. For those who are in the process of converting, this was the compleation of my Jewish Life Cycle training...I hope you don't experience this any time soon!

For Eleanor,

Eshet Chayil

A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value.
Her husband's heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune.
She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly,
She is like a merchant's ships; from afar she brings her sustenance.
She rises while it is still nighttime, and gives food to her household and a ration to her maids.
She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms.
She senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished at night.
She puts her hand to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle.
She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute.
She fears not snow for her household, for her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool.
Bedspreads she makes herself; linen and purple wool are her clothing.
Well-known at the gates is her husband as he sits with the elders of the land.
Garments she makes and sells, and she delivers a belt to the peddler.
Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day.
She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She anticipates the needs of her household, and the bread of idleness, she does not eat.
Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her:
"Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all."
False is grace, and vain is beauty; a God-fearing woman, she should be praised.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's Official!

I am the worst student in my Hebrew class.

Last night I suffered through another class. I know that my difficulties are based on a number of factors including some learning disability stuff rearing its dysfunctional head! As a kid I was identified as having some LD (learning disabilities...dyslexia etc) issues. As I matured I learned to compensated and cope and now they rarely manifest...or at least not until I have decided to make another run at Hebrew.

Another fact about my self that I beleive is more than likely some what self defeating, I am competitive and always, despite the odds against me, was an "A" student. Thus the mantel of being the Hebrew class slacker is killing me!

The Cantor of the synagogue is teaching the class. He is young and talented and very smart and quick. there are about 10 people in it. We go though our book lesson by lesson and take turns "reading." It is all going fairly smoothly until it gets to me. I feel that old rush of nervousness, I get a little shaky and attempt to sound it out. The dalet look like Resh and never mind all those dam dots that are vowels! AY...EEE OOOOO.!!! It feels like my mouth isn't working. It tries to wrap itself around the sounds and I feel like such a looser!

To add to this mortal embarrassment, I missed a class because I though it was cancelled. I had crammed and tried to get my review perfect and then I come to class and realize we are 4 lessons ahead of where I though we were.

So now I am determined. I have come up with a plan to try to be the second worst student in the class. I have identified my target, a man of similar age, (that doesn't help either, my almost 49 year old brain just doesn't fire the same at 8:15 at night like it used to!) who often confuses the the long swigly letters too. (Dalet, Resh, Nun, Vav etc)

I am going to have to study like I did as a kid. I have started making a vocabulary list, with root words, and flash cards with the letters and vowels. This is WAR!

Hebrew I will master you hear me?....I'm talking to you Hebrew!

Monday, January 4, 2010

עֹז־וְהָד ֥ר לְבוּשָׁ֑הּ וַ֝תִּשְׂחַ֗ק לְיֹ֣ום אַחֲרֹֽון׃

"Strength and dignity are her clothing.
She laughs at the time to come."

Those of you who may have explored this blog know that I am a social worker/therapist. I work with individuals and families, children,adolescents and adults. Today something profound happened for me. I had a moment where my "Jewishness" spoke. It is important to note that I apply fairly traditional analytical boundaries to my work...all that to say I NEVER talk about myself unless it is used in service of the patient. ....and that is a very rare occurrence.

As I sat with a woman who is experiencing many difficulties, including image issues with aging in a culture that generally doesn't support it, the above quote began the bubble in my mind. Then all of a sudden I said it to her!

I often use different resources to help patients, from quotes and myths, to religion so it wasn't totally out of form...but what was new, was this just came to me, no struggle, no angst a pure thought in an effort to help. A Jewish Thought!

I have noticed themes in the Jews By Choice world, and "feeling Jewish" is a big I didn't feel Jewish...I was Jewish!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bat Mitzvah?

So on Saturday I was called up for an aliyah....(Conservative Synagogue)
and the Rabbi leans over and says "we need to start you studying for a Bat Mitzvah..." I said "I need to improve my Hebrew!..."

Yet this got me thinking.......
should I?
part of me wants to...but I am not too sure if I am up to the challenge.

Dunking Rachael

Love, Faith and Life