Friday, December 23, 2011

What is the Smell of 2340 Hanukkah Candles?

It’s the smell of VICTORY!

This week my Synagogue, The Merrick Jewish Centre, broke the Guinness Record for the most menorahs lit at the same time in one place. I was on the small committee who came up with this crazy idea and implemented it!  The idea came out of our  Synagogue Innovation Committee which is attempting to promote and lead to culture change in our beloved community, to gain more involved members and to increase spiritual awakening in have folks be the Synagogue not be consumers of Synagogue services..."LIGHT UP THE NIGHT"  was our kick off event to engage and hopefully gain the attention of the Jews in our neighborhood.
I was responsible for electronic/social media ...I am so happy we got mentioned around the world! A fellow committee member took the video below and wrote:

"Every once in a while, an idea immediately captures the imagination and spirit of a community. Mazel Tov to all who participated. YOU DID MAKE HISTORY"

But this was even bigger , this was a community  event and there were folks from many different streams of Judaism ...Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox... also folks who maybe set foot in a  Synagogue once a year. This is the modern Hanukkah gift, to light the light of enthusiasm, spirit and joy. To connect folks to their birthright, their faith or their religion of choice is a goal worth having. Some thought this was a silly thing to do, others complained that we were not religious enough, but in the end we touched our community and just maybe someone might decide to light shabbat candles tonight, or show up on Saturday...that would be a good thing!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last Week I Became a Woman LOL...

The Bat Mitzvah came off lovely. I feel good that I completed the task. In the end, it really didn't matter who came to support me. It was about me and my commitment and my Kavana, my intent and spirituality.

When I worked in the hospital as a social worker, I worked in positions that bluntly were about death and dying. I must have witnessed hundreds of deaths. ultimately, I believe we all die alone regardless of who is in the room. Depending on one's believe system it is between you and the divine, or perhaps just you and you....I know this can come off as morbid, but for me it is not. It is actually comforting. How I choose to be, how I meditate, pray and be in the world are my action. My actions are my only true belongings. 

The Bar Mitzvah was mine to feel, do and experience. My husband was there and that was wonderful

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Parashat Vayishlach... Family

We are well within the final countdown to the Haftorah showdown! .... December 10th is our moment. We only have 3 more group practices before the big day, and I have started to hear the portions and prayers in my sleep. truly, I have dreams with the prayers as the sound tracks. I do need for this to be done.
This pending ritual has also brought out some family of origin discomfort. My family, Catholics, have been supportive of me and my second husband, but I do think this very public declaration of my Jewishness is causing some emotional ripples. It saddens me that this is starting to surface in what I perceive as unconscious ways, on the part of my family. Not a single family member will be able to attend this event despite weeks and weeks of notice. Perhaps I was being unrealistic to think someone from my family would come, but none the less it was my hope. 

Being a convert at times is a lonely road. I am different from the most of the other women who are joining me on the 10th. Some of them them are having over 50 people come. I do feel a bit jealous that they are so supported. I have managed to cobble together 14 folks, friends and one of my husband's daughters and his brother and his partner.

 I can not help but reflect on our Torah reading. It is after all about family, forgiveness and continuity but it is also about transformation.All this preparation for the big day has helped me  notice how much I have changed over the past 5 much has changed. Overall I am still clear and content with my choices, but the melancholia of December is starting to hit, and the recent issues (not worth detailing)  with my parents and one of my siblings is hitting home how diffident I have become. The brothers in the Torah portion manage to put their disastrous history behind them, with an after all family is family attitude. Unfortunately I am not feeling that from mine....just a little sad.

Friday, November 18, 2011

why Write?

Inspiration comes from many avenues and it is clear I have not been  inspired in any way for many many months...yet something happened last night that switched the switch..lit the fire...well you get the point. What flashed like a neon sign in my head

 "only 20 something days left until my Bat Mitzvah." 

This event has been sucking my life force away moment by moment. If you read through this blog there will be many themes which emerge. One, perfectionism, is my curse. I have been slain by Hebrew and troup! As a person with admitted learning disabilities I have struggled all my life to put into context my abilities and  how I perceive myself as a thinking educated person. This slow motion march to mediocrity has been a drain on my self esteem (only to a point) and has pushed some of my least admirable behaviors.  I have struggled with the multi leveled interpersonal issues of the class.....very strong need to go further there...I have struggled with it all. Now please do not get the wrong idea, I am not sitting here ringing my hands in an anxiety fueled cold sweat. About two or so months ago I came to the conclusion I just had to finish what I started. Base line advice I give all parents in my therapy /social work practice...finish what you start! So I have let go of any expectations of being good...I am going for not embarrassing!...but last night's full class on the bima practice was beyond embarrassing! ...but is is almost done.......



Add caption
to start again....
turn over a new leaf....
to wipe the slate clean....
carpe diem....
begin anew
you get the picture........
life moves on......

more to come....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brain Fog or My Dog Ate My Bat Mitzvah Lesson

It is no secret that this year I officially joined the ranks of “women of a certain age.” For those of you not old enough to be aware of this very special club, that means I turned 50 years old. This mile-stone has co-occurred with my need to wear glasses for both reading and distance, an increase in hot flashes and what my doctor calls “Brain Fog.” Brain Fog….sounds like something I need a special out fit for, perhaps even some matching rubber boots! My doctor keeps reassuring me that I’m “on track” and “normal.” Clearly, it can be reassuring to be on track when you are 5 years old, but to be this kind of normal at 50, well I just call that ….undesirable!

Another co-occurrence, although a self inflicted co-occurrence, is my studying for my adult Bat Mitzvah. It’s odd I don’t really remember volunteering to do it…must be the fog…but there I am every week in the class from hell. Wait, I’m almost sure Jews don’t believe in hell…..The Rabbi appears extremely confident that myself, along with the rest of our motley crew, will be “davenning with the best of them” and singing like angels by our December 10th date. Just makes you want to break out in a chorus of “Girls, Girls, Girls,” except I believe the median age of this group is probably 70. Now try to erase that picture from your mind! ( thinly veiled reference to hair metal band Motley Crue’s big 80’s hit and pole dancing video vixin  filled video)

The above mentioned “occurrences” as my gynecologist likes to call them, combined with my life long issues with learning disabilities…dyslexia et al….make this a herculean task ; that is learning both the Hebrew text and trope (tune). I don’t think that so far it is going too well….I will keep y’all posted!

Monday, July 25, 2011

They Like Me, They Really Like Me!

I was published today on the hilarious and poignant  Pork Memoirs blog.

"Pork Memoirs is an ongoing story project about pork and identity, and how our choices surrounding the pig often reveal our cultural backgrounds and worldviews.

While Pork may seem like just a common part of a hearty breakfast or a perennial darling of Haute cuisine, at its core the pig represents a paradox: after all, pork is a staple protein for a majority of the world yet taboo for the rest; it is a meat explicitly forbidden for Jews, Muslims and others while it is celebrated by fetishists and gastronomes."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

the national news and the local news continue to vibrate with the gruesome details of the death of the boy from Brooklyn. I have nothing to add except to say I turn it off. I urge you to turn it off.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kosher Cochon Dreams

I dunked three years ago. In some ways it feels like a lifetime away, but yet it is only a mere thirty six months give or take a few.  For those not in the know, in order to convert to Judaism, the ritual includes submersion in a very specific ritual bath called a  mikvah. Upon exit from this water, presto-change-o, you are a Jew! This concise explanation clearly leaves out much. The mental, spiritual and emotional experience which leads one to so drastically change religion are not brief or easy.  
Did I mention that at the time of my conversion I was a Buddhist Unitarian Universalist?
I have embraced this new life and the many choices that come with it. Some people would call these choices rules or laws. I prefer the word choice because I have chosen this path with an open mind and heart. This includes keeping Kosher. Kosher is a complex system of food regulations/choices and yes religious laws that the Jewish people have been following for thousands of years.
 Having been Buddhist for approximately 20 years, I have spent a good portion of my adult life flirting with various forms of food restrictions, vegetarianism. Clearly, I am accustomed to not being in step with the mainstream regarding gastronomy.  I have been, in my life, at times, the queen of food issues. So kosher shouldn’t be such a big change.... well, maybe not!
 I miss bacon. I miss pancetta, Italian bacon. Did I mention I have a strong Italian family heritage?  I miss cooking with it, the smoky flavor of it and generally the entire gestalt of it. I remember being at a diner with a friend during my strictest vegetarian days. This friend was complaining vigorously about the smell of the animal flesh, bacon, and even then, I loved that aroma! It was my vegetarian cheating animal product, but now I have chosen to forsake the porcine delight…forever.
I truly do not want to eat it. Currently my convictions are stronger than my urges. Yet I can't help but wonder, does loving the smell and the taste, of bacon make me somehow a failed Jew? Has my first hand understanding of the power of that savory slice made it impossible for me to join the rest of the tribe? Being a convert has some extra pressures to it. In some ways I feel as if I am held to a stricter standard if only in my own mind. If I dream about eating that delectable traif, non kosher meat, is that a violation? If I get my pathetic fix with kosher, artificially bacon flavored food products, am I cheating? At last perhaps my only choice is to keep my cochen, pork dreams a secret and rely on another pre-dunk legacy, guilt.
Did I mention I was once Catholic?

New House!

Well I did it.....
Moved into the new house and the old house is going to closing tomorrow...
It has been a crazy 3 months but it looks like we made it...All that's left to do is unpack!

my new back yard

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What a Mess!

Cleaning and getting ready for Passover is such a mess!....I have to do it in between working so today I left the house like a bomb went off. I think it is funny that all this cleaning and moving of things actually makes the the house more of a mess!

out with the "sold" contraband

In with the new!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getten' Ready!

I have been a planning fool!...this year, so far, I  am ahead of schedule. I even got to the Passover store early enough to get all my dry goods before it feels like the last plane out of Saigon!...(For those of you too young to get that reference, it is related to the panic and horrific end days of the Vietnam war when the US was pulling out and anyone who had collaborated and worked with the Americans were trying to escape, as the Americans tried to get themselves out.) I have planned the meal, went through all the recipes and figured out what will be needed...(aka the  list)                         

 I was so early that there were these nifty Bedikas Chometz sets for 99 cents!....feather, candle, wooden spoon and large wide mouth bag to deposit those wayward crumbs! cool....

Additionally I have gotten a bit crafty too.... this is the first year with the exception of my husband's very secular brother there will be no family (except the hubby and I) at the home Seder...I managed to wrangle some Bu-Jews...some UU-Jews...and some non Jews to join us....I see it as a mitzvah to be hosting this second night Seder...
I decided that for this rag tag array of adults, I am going to try and make it fun...I found a Haggadah, The Santa Cruz Haggadah that is jewishly intact, the 15 required rituals are there, but it it full of fun and meditative extras...if there was a crowd for made for this Haggadah the ones coming to my abode second night are the ones!
I also saw online a novelty called "A Bag of Plagues"...well I decided this would be an interesting Passover favor to hand out to the guests...but I'm not about to fork over the crazy money being asked for such a trivial! So I went ahead and made my own! and yes ...after all is said and done, they are cheaper.
This was a fun activity...I usually order little plastic prizes for the little kids I see in my mental health therapy practice....behavior modification type I just went to town on the Oriental Trading  web site
I found little bead jars that worked wonderfully for the "blood" and "lice." When my husband came home and saw my hands all red...he paused and said, with a certain you look like you have gone mad eyes, "what ya doin' honey?..."Making Blood!" A little kosher for passover red  and blue dye, dish soap and potato starch...whala BLOOD! Lice was a bit harder, so I am claiming some Sephardic heritage and used broken pieces of wild rice...if I needed I guess I could have gone out side and found some tiny pebbles and that would have worked too.
So over the past three days I have packed up the dining room (yea hooray we are moving with in a month!) and un-packed all the dishes for the holiday and put them in their place! I'm a moving, packing and now Passover cleaning fool!..If I can catch my breath I will check in to work...yes I still have to work.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Night Date

Well we know how to have a hot time on the ol' town.... yup we spare no expense! Shopping at the Costco on a Saturday night with my honey...what beats that! All joking aside, really ...I love shopping with my husband, it makes it so much more fun.                  I learned recently that the Costco nearest to us has an amazing array of kosher food. The entire on premises bakery is kosher dairy. They had a pretty good cheese collection,  along with pre-packaged prepared foods.... and they also had an ok collection of Kosher for Passover stuff as well... never mind that a lot of their grocery items were also kosher as well... who knew! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mazel Tov

Mazel Tov To Me!...
ok how arrogant is that...but it is how I feel...Today, April 1st 2011, is the third anniversary of my dunk...of my choosing to join the Jewish people!

Shabbat Shalom!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That Time of Year!

Hope you all are well....for those of us trying to "get it right" the count down is on!...I have started cleaning and eating down the food stocks...but I must admit I am concerned on a number of fronts...Yes, the usual convert lament about all and any holidays, but this year we have two....yes two more issues to throw into the proverbial kosher for passover stew....

We are trying to sell our house...and hardly no family to celebrate with....

First the house...

We completed the year of mourning for my husband's mother this January and about a month or so later sold her home, my husband's childhood home....So with that we have purchased the home of our  dreams, on the water in the town in which we problem...we already have the house we currently live in!
So for the past month we have been trying to get rid of this house! The real estate lady keeps telling me "keep your house neutral!".. meaning make it so anyone can see themselves in it. Well this is impossible once I start the great change over. I'm a busy working person and have little time, so I start moving the passover storage boxes within a two week time of the actual holiday. But this year I need to be quicker...and more organized. This is a very tall order! So this year I think I'm going to try some sort of plastic covering for my porous surfaces...(note to self...when redoing the kitchen in the new house... solid stone!)

Buy my house!...It is in our local Eruv!

So the no family issue makes me sad. My daughter moved across the country to the youth alternative living city of Portland! (any of you see the mini comedic series protlandia?...) My husband's youngest is studying abroad and the oldest is staying put in Boston. With the exception of my husband's brother a secular Jew, and his partner a lovely man from Japan, my husband has no relative in the area and hardly any relatives anywhere!

So in an effort to get a seder  that I can enjoy preparing, I have decided to focus on a second night gathering. A lot of folks who are not religious will do a first night but not I can do a mitzvha and have a second night seder for me and invite folks who would more than likely be done with the passover stuff.  This is coming along....I have 9 folks including our selves so far and am still waiting on a few others. ....

But what to do about the first night? My fall back is Chabad...but that is a bit out of our element....I am going to try and hint harder over the next few day... wish me luck!

Just Because!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Check Out This Cantor!

ok I'm biased...this is Cantor Ethan Leifer the Cantor of the Merrick Jewish Center...where I am on the board....take some time to check him out, he is truly gifted!
This video is from a concert held at our synagogue a few weekends ago....there are some other videos from the event on You Tube if you would like to hear more.
He is talented, but he also has been very lovely to me....he has taken the time to hold Hebrew classes which I have attended, and bluntly where I was the slowest learner in the class. He never was anything but supportive of me and I am grateful to him for that!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


With so many epic, archetypal events, positive, negative and disastrous going on in the world it can seem trivial if down right selfish to be considering my own little world...yet in some ways I believe this is something Judaism give to us...the way to remain focused and together even when the global energies are tearing at the seems.

We say prayers many times through out the day, we concentrate and what foods etc... yet in keeping ourselves whole and connected to the mundane of life we also connect to the people struggle in man made and natural life and death encounters through out the world, I get to live.....I get to make a choice...I get to focus on the mindfulness of my daily life.... 

This choosing we can do for ourselves but we also can choose to engage in practice for the sake of the entire world....there is a Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who is fond of saying peace in oneself is peace in the world...

If we can carry the ability to stay focused on the micro while the world spins with the pressing and overwhelming nature of the macro....we are positively giving back to the world......

Friday, March 11, 2011

Zero Hour....

Our Shabbateinu starts this evening... on December 29th the cantor of the shul I attend sent the following:

hi Karen,
I would like to assign you Shma and V'ahavta for the Friday night service of Shabbateinu? Sound good? I will of course send you a recording.

I am not ready...but I think I will never be ready so here comes zero hour! I have had non speaking aliyah during services but I have never had to speak in Hebrew in front of the congregation! I have been listening to the recording given me so much I have been dreaming about the V'ahavta....I'll let you know how it went...........

Shabbat Shalom

Purim Song

Friday, February 25, 2011


Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for New York
Candle lighting: 5:24pm on Friday, 25 February 2011
This week's Torah portion is Parashat Vayakhel
Havdalah (72 min): 6:55pm on Saturday, 26 February 2011

The above type of message comes every week into my email...I get actually several different versions, which due to their own schedules come on different days. I keep on all those lists because it is like a tiny piece of shabbat visiting me during my work week....

I just want to share something about this notice that makes me extremely happy.............

5:24 pm!


Shabbat Shalom Y'all!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm Back

OK I know more than likely no one cares, but I'm here...
I had trouble with the layout, and blogger etc....and didn't have the time to fix it.
But today I decided I wanted to write again.....

Thursday, January 13, 2011


"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

President Obama

"We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame - but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."

President Obama

"If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

Sarah Palin
Blood Libel:

The blood libel is a false accusation that Jews sacrifice Christian children either to use the blood for various "medicinal" purposes or to prepare Passover Matzoth (unleavened bread) or for vengeance and mock crucifixions. It is one of the central fables of Anti-Semitism of the older (middle ages) type. The blood libel is a phenomenon of medieval and modern Christian anti-Semitism, but spread to the Middle East as early as 1775, when there was a blood libel in Hebron. A second blood libel occurred in Damascus in 1840 and one occurred in Cyprus in the same year. As the blood libel was the subject of folk ballads and literature, it was not simply a religious superstition in Europe, but a staple of popular culture, like most anti-Semitic prejudices.

Blood libels in the both the West and the East were generally occasions for large-scale persecution and judicial murders of Jews, as well as the basis for expulsions and pogroms. There have been about 150 cases of blood libel that were actually tried by Catholic authorities, and many other rumored cases that never came to trial.

The enduring nature of the blood libel is one of its most remarkable features. It was an invention of the pagans. It was revived and exploited in medieval Christian superstition, later promoted deliberately by the counter-reformation and the Inquisition, By the 19th century, much of the "old" anti-Semitism of the medieval period had passed from the world, but the libel persisted. It has been transplanted to the United States and the belief flourishes in Muslim countries as well.
My husband is often telling me I tend to be Utopian in my ideals...and that I am unrealistic in my hopes. Then I gently and lovingly say to him, hope is just that....hope. I may not see it in my fleeting time on this earth, but hopefully someday peace will prevail. Like one plants a tree not for the fruit one receives, but for the fruit future generations will enjoy, I pray for peace and work towards fostering hope in myself and in those around me. I hope that our better selves can be found. The events of the past days, the tragedy, the noise, the tension and the sorrow...resonate. I hope we find peace with our selves, our loved ones and all being in the world.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Prince of Kosher Gospel

I am a big fan...I love this guy....

for those in the New York area there is an amazing show on Jan 11...The Klezmatics, Joshua Nelson and Good For the Jews...this is the trifecta of hip Jewish music all happening at the City Winery.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Just a thought I have had all day...
This was the first Christmas free December of my life.....and January 1st has always been the day I "put away Christmas"
I must say I don't miss that at fact it has been freeing that I had none of that this year.
A nice way to start the new year off right!

Dunking Rachael

Love, Faith and Life