Monday, November 30, 2009

Playing What If

Little Yankele's mom puts dinner down on the table and Yankele is not very happy. He pushes around the plate's contents with his fork. "I don't like this!" he cries. Yankele's mother wants him to eat so she asks him: "So, what would you like?" Yankele yells out, "hot dogs and steak and tuna fish and pancakes and chocolate chip cookies and zucchini and french fries and scrambled eggs and bagels and ice cream and an apple and spaghetti and orange juice!" Yankele's mother reasonably points out to him that he can't have all of that for one meal. But Yankele is not in the mood to be reasonable. "But that's what I want!" Yankele's mom's patience is beginning to fray and so she walks to the refrigerator and opens the door wide. She points inside. "You may have two things from in here, but only two." So Yankele walks over to the fridge and stares inside. "But mommy," he wails, " I want it all!"

Sound familiar? A scene like the one above seems to have played out in every home at least once. And every mom, at some point in her children's upbringing, has found herself explaining a true but often ignored maxim: "Alles in einim is nisht du bei keinem--no one has everything all at the same time."

So why is it that we adults keep having these "Yankele moments"?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lest You Think It's Just Us

I was reading some interviews with shoppers who took advantage of Black Friday sales to complete, or at least get a good head start on, their holiday shopping for gifts.

What flummoxed me was the number of shoppers who gave their estimated spending for the Xmas season gifts. One woman--mother of two--was thankful because this year she may not spend more than $1500 on her Xmas gifts thanks to the sales. Another couple volunteered that they are going to be able to keep their expenditures at $2100, much less than they thought they would have to spend.

One news broadcaster made the comment that electronics of all types were the preferred gifts this season--counting computer games and computerized games in the genre. He further commented that the "average" for the "cheaper" of these gifts was in the $150-300 range, per gift. Some were, obviously, much more.

So, gift givers out there, is this what we are talking about for Chanukah presents? $150 per gift and up? Is gift now synonymous with megabucks?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday? I don't think so.

Black is a kind of funny word, having both negative and positive connotations. When the stock market crashed spectacularly, as it has done on more than one occasion, those days were designated "Black Monday." Black was a bad thing, an evil thing. Being in a "black" mood means your friends and family should take cover.

But there is also a positive connotation for black: when businesses are making a profit and have more income than outflow they are said to be "in the black."

Businesses across the country have dubbed today "Black Friday," and have touted it as a good thing. Well, yes, if it works to get consumers in and buying then it's good for the businesses. Just how good is it really for consumers?

I looked at the advertisements for those doorbuster specials that stores are pushing for Black Friday. I looked at both the items and the prices. Just what is all the hoopla about? If an X-Box costs $300 regular price and you can get it for "only" $265 on Black Friday, where is the bargain? You are still going to be paying $265 for a toy. And when Designer X's perfume is available at the "truly unbelievable" price of only $95 an ounce instead of $170? And when Designer Q's shoes are available at "the never before seen" price of $177 a pair instead of $340?

I like to think of today as Blackout Friday. Today I black out any knowledge that there are stores out there. Today I black out any shopping that I know I'm going to have to do for Chanukah or an upcoming wedding. Today I refuse to face the traffic nightmares at shopping malls. Today I'm not going to be pushed and prodded into making purchases of items that are still overpriced regardless of how much the stores may have reduced them. Today I'll stay warm and dry at home and celebrate some real savings--my money has remained in my pocket.

And at 4:00 am I was still warm and toasty under my covers instead of jumping out of bed to make the 4:30 am opening of the stores. I can think of only a very few things I'd like to do at 4:00 in the morning, and shopping isn't one of them.

So Black Friday will come and go, unmourned and unsung by me. I do have a suggestion, though, for those businesses who think people like me are what is hurting our economic recovery. Look at what you are selling, which are wants, not needs, for the most part. Now move those highly inflated prices way down, and not just for a sale. Offer me decent prices year round and you might get to call me a regular customer. Do it only for Black Friday and don't bother calling me at all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mazal Tov!

A mazal tov to blogger Bas~Melech on the occasion of her wedding last night. May she and her new husband be zocheh to build a bayis ne'eman b'Yisroel.

Giving Thanks

Someone once told me that Jews don't need a day called Thanksgiving because we give thanks every day for all the blessings we are given. I won't argue. So let me just add on some things I'm thankful for today in addition to the things I'm thankful for on each day.

I'm thankful to our government for deciding to commemorate a long ago feast held by the Indians and the Pilgrims so that this is an official day off from work. I'm thankful because otherwise there is no way that I would be sitting down to eat a meal with my sister and her family at 4:30 on a Thursday. I'm doubly thankful that my sister is doing the cooking, thus keeping me out of the mad crush of a supermarket in the days before Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that my sister gets to have the leftovers, my family eating Turkey if it's fresh and absolutely refusing to go near it, no matter how it's disguised, if it's left over. There simply aren't enough ways to keep saying how thankful I am that my mother will be there with us, presiding over dismantling that turkey, as she has for decades.

I'm thankful that when I got up this morning and took a nose count, all noses were present. There's more, so much more that I'm thankful for.

So is this a day of Thanksgiving? You betcha! And I hope that my readers, too, will have much to be thankful for today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Being a Girl...Not

Let me make this absolutely crystal clear: I AM NOT A GIRL! Not even the promise of untold riches and fame beyond my imagination could get me to travel back to that time period when I was a girl. I recently corrected someone on another blog and via email who was referring to "young married girls." Contradiction in terms there, an oxymoron of the highest order. That one of the commenters who countered my assertion that girls are not married women laid claim to being an English major merely confirmed to me that today's students aren't getting a well-rounded enough education, particularly in linguistics, philology, diction distinctions and today's commonly acceptable usage.

Let's lay this out fairly briefly. All languages have specific words that refer to the male and female of the species. Some of these words have multiple meanings. Some of these words are age dependent, and some are position dependent, the major position being a particular state as regards marriage.

The word "girl" comes to us from Middle English gurle, girle, circa 1250-1300, derived from the Old English gyrela. Its meaning was female child or young person. As the word made its way through the centuries it also took on the meaning of a young, immature woman or an un married woman. Parents often use the word as a substitute for "daughters" when they say they have two girls.

It is considered offensive today to use the term "girl" to refer to employees of all types (and the EEOC has the clout to punish the offenders); it is also considered slang when you apply the term to a grown woman, and may be considered offensive. Informally some women will refer to a "girls' night out." Note the "some women will refer." When a man refers to an outing in this way, many will take offense. In short, when you have the choice of using girl or woman, choose woman as the safest, least offensive option.

Now, why would some married women use the term "girls" in reference to themselves? One possibility is that woman sounds "too old" to them. However, if age is the stumbling block, English supports calling them young married women or just plain young marrieds. Where the dividing line is between young married women and just plain married women is fuzzy. It can't be the presence of children alone that is the deciding factor. If a 39-year-old woman has one child and has been married one year is she a young married? If a 26-year-old has 5 kids and has been married 8 years is she a young married? And then, of course, there is that "perfect" solution to whether or not they are young married girls or young married women--just call them wives.

There are other words used with varying frequency to describe males and females at various stages both for age and for marital status. The term "maiden" is a general term for an unmarried female. Unfortunately it also gave us "old maid" for one of indeterminate years who is unmarried.

If one is over 21 and either married or not married and objects to being called a woman, I have to ask why. A woman is the mature representative of the female cohort; a girl is the immature representative. Girl-hood lasts for a relatively short time; woman-hood is a much longer time period. Being a woman offers decades of possibilities, of things to do, places to go.

English is not the only language that has these distinctions; all other languages have them as well. What is a "yaldah" in Hebrew if not a girl? But a woman or a married woman is described as an "isha." In Yiddish/German both a young girl and an unmarried female are called a "maidel" or a "maadchen" or if older, a "moidt." Those beyond childhood are a "frau", or a "veib" if they are married.

As I started out, I am quite happy to be a woman. And yes, I see being called a girl as an insult, as an attempt to denigrate my status. My husband may have married a girl in one very specific meaning of that word, but it was a woman who came down that aisle and stood under the chupah. It's a woman who has shared his life for all these years. And yes, frankly, girls titter and twitter and giggle. Not me--I am woman...hear me roar!

Where's the Beef?

No one, and I mean NO ONE, has any idea just how much money it takes to support the various institutions, organizations and other parts of the frum infrastructure. Some of this is because many groups have no transparency when it comes to their finances. But I suppose that basically it boils down to nobody having the interest or time or access to undertake such a massive hunt for the money.

So, let's work backwards and see if we can discover anything about the money it takes to support our groups. In 2008 The American Jewish Yearbook published demographic figures for the Jewish population of the US, first state by state, and then broken down by location within the state. There is no claim as to the religious affiliation of the population showcased other than it is Jewish. For some communities a new survey of population was not done for 2008 so that data comes from 2002.

Let's look at some figures. The estimated 2008 Jewish population of New York was 1,617,720, 8.4% of the state population. Now, let's look at some figures for specific areas in New York. Unfortunately, the NY figures date back to 2002, but they should be adquate for our purposes. Specifically, let's look at five areas in Brooklyn.

Borough Park: 76,600

Flatbush-Midwood-Kensington: 101,100

Williamsburg: 52,700

Crown Heights-Prospect-Lefferts Gardens: 15,700

Coney Island-Brighton-Sheepshead Bay: 49,700

The total Jewish population for these five areas was 295,800 in 2002. One thing we do know, even if anecdotally, is that these five areas have very large concentrations of religious Jews, of all types and stripes, and that religious Jews represent a far larger percentage of the Jewish population than in other areas of New York.

I'm going to pick a number to represent that religious population. I think that it would be within reason to say that 50% of the Jewish population in these areas is religious--and it could be higher. So, that would be about 147,900 religious Jews. Of course, these Jews are going to be across a number of age groups. Given that this is a religious population we are talking about, there are going to be a large number of children. To balance out the children with either older married couples/widowed singles and never been married singles or couples with no children, I'm going to say that children represent 70,000 of the population, a bit under 50% of the religious population.

If your eyes haven't turned back into your head, bear with me a bit longer. Even with these hypothetical figures, you have 77,900 religious Jews to support the infrastructure of the community. These are the ones who will need to put out the money for the local yeshivas, for the shuls, for the mikvaot, for the Hatzolah groups, for the Vaadim HaKashrus, for the Chevra Kadisha, for the Bikur Cholims, for the Hachnosas Kallah groups etc., etc., etc..

If each of those people donated $100 per year to the infrastructure groups IN THEIR AREA, that would come to $7,790,000, and I hate to say it, but that is really small potatoes when it comes to supporting Klal. We have an estimate from the principal of BYOB that the school needs about four million dollars a year to run with all the programs it has now. Plenty of other yeshivas which probably have the same or around the same running costs. The money might cover two large yeshivas.

If each of those people donated $1000 per year we'd have $77,900,000. That sounds like more serious money, but will it cover all the infrastructure costs? Again, count up just yeshivas alone and I don't think so, or maybe just close. So what if we had all those people donate $5000 a year? Now we would have $389,500,000 to work with.

Of course, we need to understand that some of those adults will not be able to donate $5000 a year, or maybe not even $100 a year. They may be the elderly on very fixed incomes. There will be some who are unemployed, whether by design or through economic cutbacks. There will be some whose earning levels just won't allow these type of donations. There will be people who are ill. And then there will also be that tzedaka funds may not stay exclusively in the areas mentioned above; they may go to Jewish institutions and programs in other places around the globe. On the other hand, there may well be people who will give more than the $5000 per year, perhaps double or triple or more. In fact, we know that some people are giving a lot more. We know that there are parents who are giving yeshivas anywhere from $10K to $50K or even more in tuition each year. Even if half of the religious Jews couldn't manage that $5k, there would seem to be enough who are giving more so the amount would balance out.

So it would seem to be a possibility that these five areas could be seeing monies donated in the $300,000,000 to $400,000,000 range. So here's my question: does the infrastructure in the religious communities of these five areas take more than $389,500,000 per year to support? If it does, then why? If it's more then why? If the BYOB uses 4 million to educate 2100 students, then the 70,000 kids stated above should take about $134 million. Seems like there is an awful lot of money left to cover the other infrastructure costs of Klal. Maybe.

Granted, my numbers are approximations and suppositions based on some statistics available. But even with approximations and even if my numbers in actuality should prove to be too high (or too low), there is what would seem to be an awful lot of money that is being funneled into these five geographic areas. And that is not even counting that there are Jews who might not strictly fall into the straight "religious" category who also sometimes support some of the infrastructure funding. Or that in the same way that some funds leave these communities in tzedaka donations going outside, there are tzedaka donations from outside funneling into these areas.

Whatever the actual money numbers should turn out to be, they won't be small. When we are talking about this much money (and this is just a part of Brooklyn yet) it's way past time to see just where all that money is going and what it is being used for. Someone needs to do what I've done above, but do it with the real numbers. Yeshivas and all the other institutions of Klal need to give an accounting of what it really costs to keep them up. And then we need to look at what they need and what we have.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Husbands/Wives, Not Marriage

After this many years of living I can say without exaggeration that I've seen/met thousands of married couples. I can also say without exaggeration that the number of married men whom I have met that I, personally, would have considered as "husband" material when I was dating can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and not all the fingers at that. Now don't get me wrong--there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these men. Some of them are quite nice--their wives certainly think so. I can appreciate some of their finer qualities; in fact, I count some of these men as friends. Yet....

If all I had been looking for back in my single days was to get married, then almost any of these men would have been fine candidates. Clearly, from the number of years that many of these couples are married, they did just fine at marriage. I have, over the years, run into some of the boys I dated, all married now. I still mentally shake my head and say, "Nope, he was definitely not for me," while at the exact same time recognizing that these men are in strong marriages, loving marriages.

But you see, it wasn't marriage I was looking for when I was dating--it was a husband. And there is a world of difference between husbands and marriage.

Hang around any single people of marriageable age and you are sure to hear "I just want to get married!" Or you might hear "Why am I still single?!" Well here's the thing: if marriage is all these people really want, that's fairly simple to achieve. Yup, simple. Assuming you aren't carrying an axe dripping blood on a date, anyone can quickly learn to paste a fascinated look on their face. Anyone can learn to make the person they are out with feel incredibly desirable and desired. Anyone can develop a surface relationship. Anyone can find a person out there if all they want is marriage. A husband or wife is a different story.

Yes, someone out there will argue that as soon as you get married the male and female become a husband and wife. Maybe. But for many it is not husbands and wives that result from marriage but spouses, a far more generic term and one that simply indicates the married status of a male and a female. "Spouse" places the state of being married first and the unique relationship of the couple second. Spouses are not as much concerned with the state of their personal relationship with each other as they are with the concerns of a marriage--having and raising children, providing a home for the family, being a part of a community etc..

Here's how I see the order of importance. Those who search for husbands and wives, who are searching for the "other half" of themselves, and who continue the search until they find that husband or wife are automatically going to find themselves having a marriage as well. But it's going to be a marriage built on a diamond and titanium foundation. It's going to be a marriage that will be impervious to the sometimes rocky situations that husbands and wives can find themselves in. It's going to be a lasting marriage because the foundation of that marriage--the husband and wife--are rock solid. Because they complete each other, complement each other, husbands and wives take marriage to its highest level. Finding a husband or wife is the ultimate personal journey. It requires personal examination and answering truthfully the questions "What do I really want/need for myself?" and "What can I give/offer/provide to someone else?"

Those questions asked on Shidduch questionnaires? The ones whose answers people put so much stock in when looking for a shidduch? Those questions are about spouses, not husbands and wives. Like any other job application--and being a spouse is a job--the questions asked are more about revealing a person's fitness for carrying out the job of spouse, of producing a marriage, then they are about husband and wife characteristics. What summer camp someone went to or which seminary or yeshiva or which hechsher of peanut butter someone finds acceptable have nothing to do with being a husband or wife.

Here's the thing--finding a husband or wife is about feelings, not facts. Finding a husband or wife is about how you feel about a person, what emotions are engendered. It's about the deeply personal. A young woman I had redt a shidduch to was debating about going out on a fifth date with the young man. I asked her, "If you never saw this person again would you miss him? Would there be an empty space? Would you cry?" Her honest answer was "No." And the dating stopped. She was looking for a husband, not a spouse.

Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you may take a spouse and find yourself down the road with a husband or wife. Given the state of far too many marriages today, the escalating shalom bayis problems, the escalating divorce rate, there are far too many people choosing marriage and spouses over choosing husbands and wives and then finding they have a marriage.

So, maybe it's time for all those people in the shidduch parsha to do some introspection. Maybe they really need some self-honesty. Are they looking for marriage and a spouse? Or are they searching for a husband or a wife? If the former, then a change of technique and approach will have that marriage happening in short order. If the latter? I wish you the joy and exquisite happiness that will be yours, but patience is necessary, lots of patience. Hatzlocha Raboh.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

To Wit, Twit

Madison Avenue advertising agencies spend thousands of hours and dollars when deciding on just the perfect name for a new product. They know that the wrong name can sink a product, and the right name can help guarantee a long life. They are careful that a product's name should have no negative connotation that might turn off customers. They run consumer opinion panels to judge how "real people" react to the product name and its claims. In short, they heed Shakespeare's question, "What's in a Name?"

And then there is Twitter. Talk about an infelicitous choice of names. Every time I hear the name I laugh and go "No thanks." What does twitter mean? For starters, the verb means "
to utter a succession of small, tremulous sounds, as a bird; to talk lightly and rapidly, especially of trivial matters; chatter; to titter; giggle; to be in a flutter." It's transitive verb form is to twit, meaning "To taunt, ridicule, or tease, especially for embarrassing mistakes or faults; to reproach or gibe." Its family noun? Twit, meaning "an insignificant or bothersome person." In slang a twit is " a foolishly annoying person; a stupid person." Twit/twitter is associated with other tw- words such as twaddle and twerp and through sound rhyme to nitwit-- none of these words having a particularly positive connotation.

What are the synonyms for twit or twitter as a verb? "banter, caricature, cartoon, chaff, deflate, deride, expose, fleer, gibe, haze, humiliate, jape, jeer, jest, jive, jolly, josh, kid, lampoon, laugh, laugh at, make a fool of, make a game of, make a laughing-stock, make fun of, mimic, mock, needle, pan, parody, poke fun at, pooh-pooh, pull one's leg, put down*, quiz, rag, rail at, rally, raz, rib, ride*, roast, run down, satirize, scoff, scorn, scout, send up, show up, sneer, takeoff, taunt, travesty, unmask ." What are the synonyms for twit as a noun? "blockhead, dolt, donkey, dope, dunce, fool, idiot, imbecile, jackass, jerk*, nitwit, numbskull, simpleton."

Telling someone to tweet you on Twitter doesn't improve things, either. For one thing, tweet is simply a synonym for twitter. For another, the meaning of tweet is "the short, weak cry of a young bird, a chirp; the normal sound of an animal."

So, basically Twitter is inconsequential, uber short sound bites that are insignificant, uttered by and/or to those of limited verbal talent, mostly for the purpose of saying nothing, but saying it in a way that may haze the recipient. Think not? I spent some time wandering through Twitter-ville strictly for the purpose of determining how and with what subject matter people were twittering. There were thousands of permutations of the basic "I'm going to_________ Catch ya later." I now know what hundreds of people had for breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack. I read "Hey Dude" enough times to fill a dictionary. I learned more than I ever wanted to learn about the condition of people's various body parts, particularly their digestive systems. According to the wisdom of Twitter, gas is the number one problem in America, and I don't mean the kind that goes into cars. And yes, a whole lot of the utterances on Twitter were not kindly meant. Honesty requires that I mention that there were a few attempts at serious conversation that I found, if serious conversation and thought is really possible with a 140 character limit on "messages."

Twitter is being sold as a great social networking site. If this is social networking, we are all in deep trouble. Most of what's on Twitter is noise to fill in the silence that so many people seem afraid of. It's a surface flitting about with no way and no intention of allowing real communication and/or real socialization to take place. It's a poofy substitute for the real thing.

Now, don't you feel all warm and fuzzy that you've gone to Twitter and twitted or tweeted someone?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Permanent Employment

The following was sent to me via email. I'm aware that the intended "lesson" was supposed to be political. Well, you know what they say about intentions. Unlike the writer of the piece, I see this as illustrative of a language problem, or maybe the state of education today. One thing for sure--if this is the state of our spoken language today, English teachers are never going to be unemployed.

CLUELESS in Seattle

In a Seattle , Washington college classroom, they were discussing the qualifications to be President of the United States . It was pretty simple. The candidate must be a natural born citizen of at least 35 years of age.

However, one girl in the class immediately started in on how unfair was the requirement to be a natural born citizen. In short, her opinion was that this requirement prevented many
capable individuals from becoming president. The class was taking it in and letting her rant, but everyone's jaw hit the floor when she wrapped up her argument by stating, “What makes a natural born citizen any more qualified to lead this country than one born by C-section?”

Yep, these are the 18 year olds that just voted for the President of the United States . These are our future leaders. Are we in trouble or what?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't Tell, Like Hell

I was speaking with someone about the sorry state that there are child abusers within our school systems and within the community at large. During our conversation something popped up that I feel I need to share with my readers, and I hope they will share it with others as well.

Children look at their parents as being their protectors. They love their parents and don't want anything to happen to them. They are also protective in turn. It is a ploy of the abusers among us that they tell the children they abuse that they may not/should not tell their parents what is going on. Counselors who deal with the victims of abuse frequently hear from these children that the monsters who abused them sometimes told them that bad things would happen to the parents if the children told them what was going on. Some tell the children that bad things will happen to them and their parents won't like hearing about it. Some, who are in positions of authority over the children, tell the children that this is a private matter and doesn't concern the parents. In short, they prey on the concerns that children have about their parents.

It would be a good idea to make it a "family rule" that if anyone, ever, tells the children that they shouldn't tell their parents something, the first thing the children should do is tell their parents. Without necessarily going into the specifics of what a person wants hidden, children should be told and taught that parents need to know everything, that secrets are not something that children and parents should have. Anyone who tells them not to tell their parents something is not their friend. And parents need to stress to their children that there is nothing that a child could tell them that would cause them to cease loving that child.

Yeah sure, there might be a surprise birthday party that isn't going to be a surprise. Big whoops. It's far more important that children know that "Don't tell your parents" actually means the opposite--run and tell your parents.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Circling the Wagons

A few months ago I asked readers to help me by giving me any tuition figures that they knew for specific yeshivas. I was hoping to be able to compare yeshiva costs across a wide number of different yeshivas. I'm throwing my hands in the air on this project and crying uncle. Trying to find out precisely what tuition costs is an exercise in frustration.

For one thing, some yeshivas won't tell you over the phone; they will only discuss the particulars with prospective parents who come to the school offices. For another, a lot of those tuition amounts don't come as rounded figures. A few schools will list "base tuition," but that base tuition gets a lot higher when they start adding on other charges that aren't optional, such as lunch program costs, book costs etc.. Then there is this: I asked a few parents who I knew had children in a particular yeshiva what the tuition cost was. Their answers were different, and yet both believed themselves to be paying full tuition for the same number of children.

I have a friend who is a yeshiva principal so I called to ask what yeshiva tuition was for her school. Her answer? "For whom?" I pushed a little, trying to pin down at least a minimum working amount. No luck. "We look at the individual family" was the basic answer.

An ex-co-worker's husband is an administrator at a yeshiva. I'm stubborn so I called him and asked if he would give me what the target figure was for full tuition. Again, I got one of those answers that is not an answer. Basically he told me it's around $9-14K, depending on the base services to be included and the grade of the student. Huh? He had a little pity on me and said that the formula is not a simple one and takes into consideration a lot of factors, such as how many children in the family, how many in the school, what grades the children are in, what extra educational services are required by a particular child. They also deal with student-based expenses and school-based expenses when figuring out tuition. Also, they look at income and fixed expenses, they look at homes and cars, they check tax returns. And when pushed he admitted that "familial input from other sources" is also figured into the equation--you know, grandparents.

One school that I called asked me why I was interested in the tuition figures. I told the truth--I was looking to write an article about yeshiva tuition. They hung up on me before I could finish my sentence.

So here's the thing, trying to get information directly from the schools only results in their circling the wagons to keep anyone from knowing what is really going on. Parents don't seem to be a good source of information because many of them don't really know if the tuition they are paying is the same as other parents in their school are paying. And there is also this: tuition, or at least the bottom line for parents, includes within it a lot of charges that aren't precisely tuition-related but are school related, such as the charge for lice checks and mandated health record keeping.

So no, I couldn't gather sufficient information nor accurate enough information to be able to report anything of worth to my readers. But this exercise in futility did raise some questions for me. Why, of all things, should tuition be 1)so complex and complicated and 2) such a secret? And once again it comes down to accountability. Just who are the yeshivas accountable to? Who looks at the monies expended and the monies collected and says yea or nay?

Just an interesting side note: One yeshiva I contacted I asked what the salaries were for the limudei kodesh teachers and the secular studies teachers (this was an elementary school). Basically I was told that unless I'm applying for a job, and then only when I'm actually sitting with them interviewing, the figures were none of my business.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Safety Concerns--Riding a Bicycle

With the weather warming up more people are going to be taking their bicycles out of storage and heading for the streets. Time for some safety tips if you're going to be getting on those bikes, whether an adult or a child.

First, keep in mind this statement from the NHTSA: "But it is important to remember that a bicycle is not a toy; it’s a vehicle!"

Some good places to go to get the information that will keep you safe as you ride your bikes:


2. A video from the NHTSA on adult bicycle safety:

3. This article includes tips on how to make sure a helmet fits right:

4. This posting gives you the rules and regulations governing bike riding in NYC as well as safety tips:

Here's hoping you all have fun as you ride your bikes, but that you keep the safety foremost in your minds, yours and others' as well.

How Long is Long Enough?

Some things that require human input to come to fruition also come with timetables that tell us how long we need to work until a particular something can be considered as ready. Food recipes tell us what temperatures to cook or bake something on and also the amount of time needed until a dish is ready. As anyone who has cooked can tell you those recipes are sometimes only approximations. There are extenuating factors and conditions that can affect cooking and baking time. How close to the ideal does your oven or your burners come? Are your ingredients room temperature or straight out of the fridge? Just try and make an eggwhite snow in very humid weather or when it's pouring rain outside--the snow will "weep."

Put a load of wash into the dryer and you'll be faced with those automatic controls that say "less dry," "normal dry," and "extra dry." And you may also be faced with clothes that aren't dry on any of those settings. Shoe polish containers tell you how many minutes to wait until the polish applied to your shoes is dried. I wouldn't walk on any light colored carpeting if I were you based on that time recommendation. Even schooling gives you a time frame: 8 years for elementary school, 4 years for high school, 4 years for college. And we all know that sometimes it takes more years and sometimes less.

So, if we're honest, we admit that most of the time frames for our human endeavors are artificially devised, and they don't often work as we'd like them to work. Of course, the more work involved in a project, the less time we'd like to have to put into that project. Honesty again compells us to say that humans are, at heart, basically lazy. They are willing to put in X amount of work; anything over that X amount and you hear the complaints zooming in.

And then there is shidduch making. I believe that this area of our lives has become the most blatant--and the most ridiculous as well--when it comes to compressed time scheduling. Start out the process when the kids are just barely over the line of adulthood--and sometimes not even there yet--and scramble as fast as you can to get to the finish line in as short a time as is possible. Heaven forbid that our young people should be allowed to "finish cooking." Heaven forbid that we should adjust our "recipe" to fit the individual "ingredients" we have. When it comes to making a shidduch then our timetable is "one size fits all." (Ever purchased one of those one size fits all garments? Some day I'd actually like to meet the one person in the world who might, just might, be able to wear that garment.)

Without divulging any identifying information, a young couple that was married this past year post-Purim is now divorced. They did not even make it through the entire week of sheva brochos. And yes, the parents checked and checked and then checked some more. And yes, the "courtship," if we can call it that, went according to the proscribed recipe. Apparently eleven weeks from first date to marriage was not long enough. Would that this would have been the first time I had heard such a story; unfortunately, it's not.

There used to be a widely used saying: "Marry in haste, repent in leisure." Perhaps we need to bring it back into usage.

To Keep or Not to Keep, That is the Question

Thanks to my boss for having sent me the link to a really great site for anyone who has ever looked at the contents of their refrigerators or freezers or pantries and wondered what the real story was on how long food items can be kept before you have to toss them. The site is searchable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rain, Rain Don't go Away

I heard a new "folk belief" today. I mentioned that I was thankful that it had finally stopped raining, although the weather forecast showed rain as a possibility for Friday. The person I mentioned this to smiled and said: "Oh good, rain on Friday night is always mazeldik for the Jews." Huh? Is there any possible real grounding for this belief, or is this another one of those "Everyone knows" but nobody knows how this came to be sayings? Inquiring minds want to know.

Kids on Marriage

Occasionally one of those passed on emails I get elicits a chuckle. Given all the discussion on line and in the outside world about marriage, some of the children quoted below seem to have a better grasp of the nuances of dating and marriage than a lot of those who are in the shidduch parsha.


(1) You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like
sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the
chips and dip coming.

-- Alan, age 10

(2) No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to
marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who
you're stuck with.

-- Kirsten, age 10


(1) Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by

-- Camille, age 10

(2) No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married.

-- Freddie, age 6 (very wise for his age)


(1) You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the
same kids.

-- Derrick, age 8


(1) Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each
other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.

-- Lynnette, age 8 (isn't she a treasure)

(2) On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets
them interested enough to go for a second date.

-- Martin, age 10 (wise beyond his years)


(1) I'd run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the
newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.

-- Craig, age 9


(1) It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone
to clean up after them.

-- Mike Schaffer, age 4 (bless you child)

And the #1 Favorite is........


(1) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.

-- Ricky, age 10

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Haveil Havalim #243

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim "The NaBloPoMo" edition is up at

Go on over and enjoy some good reading.

Just a small comment: Nablopomo? As an acronym or nickname, this just doesn't do it for me. Sounds like a strange curse word in Castellano or maybe a newly developed and exotic type of pomegranate-like fruit.

Where are the Mothers?

My recent posting Mother of Hundreds brought out some comments about some boys living in yeshiva dorms not having the "right attitude" towards matters of personal hygiene. They don't have access to their parents who might straighten out any problems but can't because they don't see their sons often enough. Back in November of 2007 I posted on this topic of boys in dorms and offered what I thought was a good solution to the problem. If you missed the post, please go to

I thought it was a good solution then, and I still think so.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Maneuver that could save your Life

On the recent babysitting posting a comment was made that parents don't know the Heimlich Manouver, so why require babysitters to learn how to do it. Let me answer this one briefly, as a long time member of Hatzoloh. EVERY parent should know how to do the Heimlich Manouver. Yes, and they should know basic CPR as well.

No one gets to pick and choose if or when an emergency will arise where they are present, nor do they get to pick and choose the emergency. By definition an emergency is unexpected. How quickly you react in an emergency can make the literal difference between life and death, between full recovery and lasting damage.

All humans eat, and when they do so they run the risk of choking. Younger children in particular will often eat while running around and talking at the same time, raising their risk of choking. Both adults and children may be in a hurry and try to gobble down food without chewing it properly, leaving larger chunks that are being swallowed. In short, a choking risk is present in everyday scenarios.

There are any number of posters clearly showing what to do for someone who is choking. Get online and type in "Heimlich Maneuver Posters" and a number of sites providing the posters will pop up. Here's my recommendation--every home should have such a poster and in a place where it can easily be gotten to. And don't just put the poster away and forget about it. Have every member of your household study it.

Now about CPR. The best way to learn how to do CPR correctly is to be taught by someone. The compressions have to be deep enough and placed correctly to do some good but not so deep that damage is the only result. I would recommend that every shul, each year, present a CPR workshop for its membership. All high schools should be required to give the course. Hatzoloh might well be willing to provide the personnel to teach the courses. Of all the things we spend money on, this could be among the most worthwhile.

You think you'll never use it? Twice in the last three years a member of the Willowbrook community collapsed out on the street while walking by themselves. In both instances another person came upon them, checked for a pulse, and began giving CPR while shouting for more help. And in both cases the people who collapsed are now fine, alive and well. And in only one of the cases was the person who found the collapsed person a Hatzoloh member. The other person was someone who thought it important to know CPR.

And while I'm talking about preventative measures, how many of you have an emergency phone list by the phone or phones? Such a list should obviously show 911 on it. It should also have the Hatzoloh number, the Poison Control number, your doctor's number (or doctors numbers if there are multiple medical conditions present in your household), and the number of your local hospital.

You know that old saying "better to be safe than sorry"? These are two ways to help with the safe part.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mother of Hundreds

Being one of the few females teaching in my college's men's division has given me some unique experiences that I guarantee the male professors have not had. For one thing, my perspective is obviously different and I will see certain things that need to be addressed that my male counterparts are not addressing.

Our heating system seems to have only two settings: off and blasting. The classrooms in the winter seem to demand summer clothing, but everyone arrives wearing winter clothing. The aroma in the rooms can sometimes get rather ripe. So as part of the unit on preparing for an interview I find myself bringing up the subject of deodorants and their necessity. I get grins all around but I've actually noticed an improvement. One of the deans asked me if I talk about deodorants and then said he was happy that someone had mentioned it. Clearly this seems to fall to the "mother" of the species.

I've been asked about dating venues. I've been asked about what might be an appropriate gift to bring if you're going to a stranger's house for a Shabbos. I've been asked about what constitutes dressing for success. And yes, I was once asked a question that boiled down to "What do women want!" And I also remember fondly a student coming to me in somewhat of a panic. He had somehow ripped two buttons off of his suit jacket and was going to a wedding after class and what should he do about the buttons?! I took out a needle and thread (yes, women's purses are a treasure trove of items) and sewed on the two buttons.

This week I noticed that one of my students looked rather wan and his head was nodding as if sleep were imminent. I thought he might be coming down with something so I asked if he were feeling okay. He mentioned that his baby was teething, and teething badly. And then he eagerly asked if I had any tips on how to deal with a teething baby.

For the boys in dorms I may be the only female they are ever around on a regular basis. It's become clear to me that knowing about the themes and sub-themes in any given piece of literature, that knowing where the semi-colons belong or don't belong is not the only thing my students need from me. Now if only I could figure out how to take all these "children" of mine off as a tax deduction.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Veterans Day

Today is the official celebration of Veterans Day in the US. For a look at how it came to be please go to

To all those who have served our country and who are serving it at present, a deeply felt thank you. For all those who served and who gave their lives in service to our country and in protection of those of us who live free because of their efforts, you are not forgotten.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Words We Use

I was considering leaving this to be covered perhaps by one of the blogs more dedicated to discussing shidduchim, but I've been persuaded otherwise, so here goes.

I had occasion today to meet with an ex-colleague who heads up a student services department in one of the CUNY branches. I'm the only frum Jew that she knows well, and so if she has ever had a question about Judaism she asks me. Today was no exception, but oh my, the question she started out with.

She started out by asking me if it were still true that religious Jews did not believe in pre-marital sex, believed in chastity before marriage. The short answer--"yes." She then explained why she was asking.

She overheard a conversation between two young women who were sitting outside of her open office door. Obviously she had them pegged as religious Jewish girls.

Here is the gist of what she overheard:

Girl #1: I'm so tired of dating! I wish I were married already!

Girl #2: Yeah, I'm really tired of spending nights at the Marriott Hotel with guys I really don't want to be there with.

Girl #1: But if you don't go to a hotel what else is there to do on a date?

Girl #2: Maybe we need to find a different hotel to go to instead of the Marriott.

Okay, anyone who is frum and in the parsha would have a very clear idea of just what is being talked about. But we all of us have been known to have conversations in the public arena, an arena that may have people in it who are not knowledgeable about Jewish dating practices. To an outsider, to someone not Jewish, this conversation is going to be taken at face value, and oh what a strange bit of information these people are going to be getting.

My friend laughed when I explained what these girls were really talking about. But what if she hadn't thought to ask me? Perhaps what is needed is some kind of code word for dating at a hotel lounge, one that could not have a double entendre. I'd really, truly rather be discussing thematic elements in Virginia Woolf than having to act as translator for the uninitiated in shidduch speak.

On Babysitting

Is there any parent reading here who can state that they have never, ever left their child with a babysitter? Qualifying under the term babysitter is anyone--including family members-- who has ever been left with sole responsibility for your children. We view babysitters as an acceptable part of modern life. Yes, there are occasions when a parent or parents will be absent from the home, and someone must take care of the children. But who? I've heard of babysitters as young as 9 and as old as 90.

Is there a minimum age for someone to qualify as a babysitter? Should there be? The following is what The Children's Legal Centre has to say:

"How old does a babysitter have to be?
There is no minimum federal legal age a person has to be before they can babysit.
Parents should carefully assess a babysitter under the age of 16.
Guidance from the NSPCC suggests a parent should choose a babysitter who is over the age of 16.
Under some circumstances, parents can be prosecuted if any harm comes to their child whilst a babysitter under the age of 16 is supervising.
If a parent decides to leave their child with a babysitter who is under 16, the parent must be prepared to take responsibility for anything that should go wrong in their absence. The parent is still responsible for the care and safety of their child."

Note: Some states/cities have set minimum age requirements--check your own municipality.

Years back a number of places were offering "official" baby sitter training courses for young people. Included in the courses were some basic health and safety instructions. Also stressed was what to do in an emergency. There are any number of full adults who panic when something goes wrong, who don't know what they should be doing first. Imagine being 14 or 16 and in charge of 1-4 little ones, and then imagine something going wrong. Will they know what to do and when?

Being part of a large family does not automatically confer upon a teenager specialized knowledge about handling out of the ordinary situations. My feeling is that those babysitter training courses need to be re-instituted. Shuls could give the courses or schools could as an extra curricular activity. Who gives them is not as important as having them given. At any given moment there are thousands upon thousands of young children being watched over by baby sitters. We owe our children--and yes, ourselves as well--peace of mind that these babysitters are sufficiently trained to take care of what might need taking care of.

Note: While I am focusing on teenaged baby sitters, you might also want to ask yourself if some of your older baby sitters really know what to do in an emergency.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Female Advantage

I occasionally like to play word games online. One of the sites I prefer put up a team boggle game, which has had some pretty deep "philosophy" discussions in the chat. Inevitably the most valuable player, the one finding the most words during one of the three rounds of play, is a female. A male winning is so rare that everyone comments on it, and wonders if the player is using a bot (an anagram program). And no, it's not that there are only a few males playing, judging by the names and avatars used.

So why are females winning? The two main reasons being given on the site have application outside of the site. The first reason is that more females than males can touch type using a keyboard. For those who don't know, touch typing is typing where you do not have to look at the keyboard as you are typing the letters but look instead at the material to be typed. Touch typists are the fastest typists. Most men use the hunt and peck method. Yes, some of them get really fast at the hunting and the pecking, but they still waste time having to look up at the screen and down at the keyboard. And many mouse instead of typing, the slowest method of all.

Back when I was in high school every girl had to take a typing class for at least one term. Okay, the reasoning for it back then had to do with the fact that a whole lot of women were going to become secretaries after graduation. It was considered preparation for "women's work." However, there were always a few boys in the classes as well. When my daughters were in high school they also were required to take two semesters of keyboarding. That high school still requires the keyboarding but it's taught on computers today instead of typewriters. What is the practical result of girls being taught keyboarding? They can use computers in a faster, more accurate way than the boys can. They are more familiar with and knowledgeable about the features of a word processing program and the other basic programs taught, such as spread sheets.

For college purposes this ability of the girls to keyboard puts them at an advantage. I require that all the work done at home for my classes be typed. For many, many of the boys this is sheer agony. The lucky ones have mothers/sisters/wives who will type up their papers for them. For my in-class exams I send them to the computer labs and have them type the assignment. But first, the lab tech and I have to answer a whole slew of questions about how to do certain basic things in word processing, and it takes them well more than one period to produce a one page letter. In today's world the ability to keyboard is becoming a basic tool of virtually all businesses. And if you don't want to stay for hours after regular quitting time, you need to be able to produce your work in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, the more to the right you go, the less likely that computers have been taught to the boys in high school, the less likely they are to have developed any keyboarding skills.

The second reason given for why the females win at this word game? Better vocabularies, and more exposure to the written word. More females than males select as readers. Females are also more likely to read across a broader variety of reading literature, thus being exposed to a broader spectrum of vocabulary. Because of their broader reading they have been exposed to more word/letter combinations and will try certain combinations when playing, because they have seen the odd combinations elsewhere, than the males will.

Again, the more to the right you go, the less reading secular works is encouraged. Even girls' yeshivas offer a highly censored reading list, but at least there is a list. And parents in the home are more likely to "allow" or even encourage the girls to read widely than they are to encourage this with the boys.

So yes, boggle as a window for viewing male/female differences. Keyboarding and vocabulary knowlege are two skills highly sought after in the work world, and women have a huge advantage in these two areas. Yeshivas are doing no one a favor when they shortchange their male students in these two areas. Yes, eventually everyone is going to have to go to work, and the males are missing some key skills.

As I explained to one of my students who was grousing about having to learn to use a word processing program, "When your boss tells you he wants a memo on his desk in one hour you can't tell him that you can't make the deadline because your mother/wife is out shopping and won't get back for another two hours to type up the memo."

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's English, you Dummies

I used to believe that journalists, by nature of their jobs, would need more than just a rudimentary knowledge of English. I used to believe that they would need strength and depth in vocabulary. I guess my assumptions are no longer correct, if I'm to judge by the reporting of the Fort Hood shooting incident.

Over 300 soldiers were standing in line when a Major, a psychiatrist, opened fire. There were also others around as well. The shooting spree lasted three minutes, until a civilian police officer shot at the perpetrator and wounded him. During that time two things happened: one, people standing all around saw the shooter shooting and two, those closest to him heard him say "Alahu Akbar" before he commenced shooting.

So how are the media reporting this incident? They're tap dancing all around it, in an effort to be "fair" and "unbiased." They are talking about the "alleged" shooter, the "purported" shooter, the "possible suspect" and the "suspected" shooter. Excuse me? This isn't a judicial matter, a shooting that took place in a secluded venue with no witnesses, therefore with no 100% identifiable perpetrator. There are witnesses up the wazoo here. This was a public shooting, a public massacre. There are hundreds of witnesses. The shooter was shot down with the gun in his hand, a gun that will, with no doubt whatsoever, test out forensically as the weapon used in the murders.

The reporters have no problem in saying this is the worst mass killing ever to take place on a US military base. The have no problem calling it a killing rampage. They have been giving an exact timeline for how the events unfolded. They certainly have mentioned the Major's name dozens of times. But is he guilty of actually having shot someone? That they don't say, won't say.

Our President was quoted as follows."We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," Obama said in a statement.

Let's see, he had a gun in his hand, he opened fire in a crowded area, he kept shooting, one of those who was herself wounded wounded him and suddenly the shooting stopped. You remember that old one about the duck? If it quacks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it looks like a duck, then by golly it just might be a duck.

Addendum to original posting: Look at the title of this posting and you can see that I consider the problem in the reporting as an "English" problem. The word alleged has two meanings that are diametrically opposed: 1)to assert without proof, doubtful, suspect, supposed and 2) to declare with positiveness. Using alleged allows the papers an out. Depending on who or what they are defending themselves against, they can claim that they said the shooter definitely was the shooter or the shooter wasn't definitely the shooter. Using purported also gives them an out--"to present, esp. deliberately, the appearance of being; profess or claim, often falsely."

How Some See the Jews

I received the following via email (thanks Eli) and felt it had sufficient meat to be posted. Certainly some food for thought here.

Perceptions of Jews by Renowned Gentiles

"Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can
deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable
and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world."

-- Winston Churchill


"The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the
everlasting fire, and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the
religious source, spring, and fountain out of which all the rest of the
peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religions."

-- Leo Tolstoy


"It was in vain that we locked them up for several hundred years behind
the walls of the Ghetto. No sooner were their prison gates unbarred than
they easily caught up with us, even on those paths which we opened up
without their aid."

-- A. A. Leroy Beaulieu, French publicist, 1842


"The Jew gave us the Outside and the Inside - our outlook and our inner
life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without
being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our
best words, in fact - new, adventure, surprise, unique, individual,
person, vocation, time, history, future, freedom, progress, spirit,
faith, hope, justice - are the gifts of the Jews."

-- Thomas Cahill, Irish Author


"One of the gifts of the Jewish culture to Christianity is that it has
taught Christians to think like Jews, and any modern man who has not
learned to think as though he were a Jew can hardly be said to have
learned to think at all."

-- William Rees-Mogg, former Editor-in-Chief for The Times of London and
a member of the House of Lords


"It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar
people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called
the Jewish people....

This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for
a singular long time... For whereas the people of Greece and Italy, of
Sparta, Athens and Rome and others who came so much later have perished
so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful
kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their
historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of
things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved,
however, and their preservation was foretold... My encounter with this
people amazes me..."

-- Blaise Pascal, French Mathematician


"The Jewish vision became the prototype for many similar grand designs
for humanity, both divine and man made The Jews, herefore, stand at
the center of the perennial attempt to give human life the dignity of a

--Paul Johnson, American Historian


"As long as the world lasts, all who want to make progress in
righteousness will come to Israel for inspiration as to the people who
had the sense for righteousness most glowing and strongest."

--Matthew Arnold, British poet and critic


"Indeed it is difficult for all other nations of the world to live in
the presence of the Jews. It is irritating and most uncomfortable. The
Jews embarrass the world as they have done things which are beyond the
imaginable. They have become moral strangers since the day their
forefather, Abraham, introduced the world to high ethical standards and
to the fear of Heaven. They brought the world the Ten Commandments,
which many nations prefer to defy. They violated the rules of history
by staying alive, totally at odds with common sense and historical
evidence. They outlived all their former enemies, including vast
empires such as the Romans and the Greeks. They angered the world with
their return to their homeland after 2000 years of exile and after the
murder of six million of their brothers and sisters.

They aggravated mankind by building, in the wink of an eye, a
democratic State which others were not able to create in even hundreds
of years. They built living monuments such as the duty to be holy and
the privilege to serve one's fellow men.

They had their hands in every human progressive endeavor, whether in
science, medicine, psychology or any other discipline, while totally
out of proportion to their actual numbers. They gave the world the
Bible and even their "savior."

Jews taught the world not to accept the world as it is, but to
transform it, yet only a few nations wanted to listen. Moreover, the
Jews introduced the world to one God, yet only a minority wanted to
draw the moral consequences. So the nations of the world realize that
they would have been lost without the Jews.. And while their
subconscious trie s to remind them of how much of Western civilization
is framed in terms of concepts first articulated by the Jews, they do
anything to suppress it.

They deny that Jews remind them of a higher purpose of life and the
need to be honorable, and do anything to escape its consequences. It is
simply too much to handle for them, too embarrassing to admit, and
above all, too difficult to live by.

So the nations of the world decided once again to go out of 'their' way
in order to find a stick to hit the Jews. The goal: to prove that Jews
are as immoral and guilty of massacre and genocide as some of they
themselves are.

All this in order to hide and justify their own failure to even protest
when six million Jews were brought to the slaughterhouses of Auschwitz
and Dachau; so as to wipe out the moral conscience of which the Jews
remind them, and they found a stick.

Nothing could be more gratifying for them than to find the Jews in a
struggle with another people (who are completely terrorized by their
own leaders) against whom the Jews, against their best wishes, have to
defend themselves in order to survive. With great satisfaction, the
world allows and initiates the rewriting of history so as to fuel the
rage of yet another people against the Jews. This in spite of the fact
that the nations understand very well that peace between the parties
could have come a long time ago, if only the Jews would have had a fair
chance. Instead, they happily jumped on the wagon of hate so as to
justify their jealousy of the Jews and their incompetence to deal with
their own moral issues.

When Jews look at the bizarre play taking place in The Hague, they can
only smile as this artificial game once more proves how the world
paradoxically admits the Jews uniqueness. It is in their need to
undermine the Jews that they actually raise them.

The study of history of Europe during the past centuries teaches us one
uniform lesson: That the nations which received and in any way dealt
fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered; and that the nations
that have tortured and oppressed them have written out their own

--Olive Schreiner, South African novelist and social activist


"If there is any honor in all the world that I should like, it would be
to be an honorary Jewish citizen."

--A.L Rowse, authority on Shakespeare

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some Thoughts on the "Shidduch Crisis"

I am not in favor of the term "Shidduch Crisis." There are far too many elements in the shidduch process to simply slap on one label and have it hold true for the entire process. However, I do believe that there are some problems in the shidduch process, and that these problems need to be addressed, one by one.

I was taught that the first step in problem solving is to accurately define what the problem is, to set out the elements of the problem. While there have been some mentions of what people believe may be causing the crisis, there has been no systemized attempt at laying out all the parts of the problem. What follows is my attempt at dissecting the problem and labeling the parts. I am setting out the various parts of the problem in no particular order.

1. There are more Jewish women then men in the Jewish population.

2. Not all members of Klal Yisroel actually want to get married, despite certain actions such as dating.

3. The age for marriage is being "cemented" into younger and younger "requirements."

4. The issue of money figures in shidduchim all out of proportion to other requirements for a shidduch.

5. As the population of Klal Yisroel has grown, the population has gotten more and more compartmentalized, more "specialized," more insular.

6. The Jewish population is spread out all over this country, and all over the world thus creating access problems for those looking for shidduchim. No where does it state that your shidduch is going to be living up the block from you.

7. Traditional family responsibility divisions are being fractured as more and more women are required to be outside of their homes working.

8. Yeshivas of higher learning have individually grown at a tremendous rate, requiring ever larger numbers of talmidim to attend in order to remain self-perpetuating.

9. There are huge numbers of yeshivas of higher learning requiring a steady input of talmidim in order to stay in business.

10. The financial costs of getting married, being married and staying married have risen out of proportion to the ability of young married Jewish couples to pay, resulting in shalom bais issues.

11. Men have requirements for a future spouse that do not have anything to do with creating successful marriages.

12. Women have requirements for a future spouse that do not have anything to do with creating successful marriages.

13. Sub-groups in Klal Yisroel have set up rules and regulations for the shidduch process that impede that progress and slow it down, rather than facilitate it.

14. Demonstrated, or even assumed, maturity is no longer a requirement before looking for a shidduch.

15. Those who set up the shidduch "rules" frequently have motives in addition to the pertuating of Klal Yisroel.

16. People are becoming ever more fearful of being "left behind" and so accept shidduchim that may or may not lead to successful, lasting marriages.

17. Young people are not taught about the practical aspects of marriage, the issues of day to day living. They are thus unprepared for what marriage is beyond the wedding.

18. Shidduch making has become a "race," a competition instead of being viewed as a connection of two individuals.

19. Klal Yisroel has come to value conformity in all areas--fit the mold or else. This has become the case in making shidduchim as well.

20. Trying to "standardize" human beings, certainly as regards shidduchim, has resulted in a lot of outside personae that don't match the inner person, as people squeeze themselves into shoes that don't fit.

21. Making shidduchim has come to be viewed as a competition for scarce resources and parents and singles are determined to be counted among the winners, no matter what it takes.

22. Many of the "rules" applying to dating and making shidduchim impede the very shidduchim they were set up to facilitate.

23. Young males and females are being given fewer and fewer opportunities to observe or interact with those of the other sex. Actual working knowledge of the other sex is highly limited, if not absent altogether.

22. The dating process has been foreshortened to the point where decisions on getting engaged are based on less time then buying an outfit or buying a car.

23. Everyone talks about the crisis in shidduchim but solutions are rarely offered, certainly rarely put into affect.

24. A few of the solutions are not really solutions--offering money to shadchanim for making certain types of shidduchim changes what exactly? Decreeing that certain age cohorts may marry only those of another, specific age cohort solves the problem just how?

25. Even though it seems that so many people are involved in trying to make shidduchim, not enough really are.

26. Having a single child is not just a concern of a specific parent--everyone in Klal should be concerned.

27. Klal Yisroel is highly fragmented and there is no one central authority that speaks for all members. Thus there is no one to appeal to to change the methodology of shidduchim.

28. If "authority" X says that shidduchim must be made in such and such a way, "authority" Z is just as likely to answer that "we don't hold that way."

29. Most shules are not sufficiently actively involved in promoting shidduchim for their unmarried members.

30. There is a confusion between wants and needs as regards dating and marriage.

31. While some institutions of Klal are not doing enough to help promote shidduchim, there are still too many people involved in each individual shidduch, lending some confusion as to whose expectations need to be met and who the shidduch is really for.

32. "I deserve" is of too much importance to some in the shidduch process.

33. Question asking has gone to a high level of absurdity.

34. People exagerate, stretch the truth, tell "tall tales" and just plain lie when giving information about a possible shidduch.

35. Perfection has gone out of the realm of philosophical ideology and is now a requirement for a shidduch.

36. Marriage is for adults and far too many "children" are getting married before they are mature enough to do so.

37. Too many men are not taking on the mantle of "husbandness," leaving that responsibility to others while still enjoying the "perks" of married life.

38. There is too much antipathy being created between males and females, each seeing the other as "strange" yet necessary.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If You're Missing Having a Holiday

Lots of people who felt a real letdown after Sukkot was over. Suddenly we were faced with a huge swathe of time until our next holiday. Even those for whom Thanksgiving works as a celebratory day felt bereft with nothing coming sooner. For those of you who need a "special" day to look forward to, I offer the following, all celebrated in the month of November. If you want to see the full range of special days and weeks November contains or special month-long celebrations, please go to

1--Zero Tasking Day
2--Plan Your Epitaph Day
3--Sandwich Day
4--Use Your Common Sense Day
5--National Men Make Dinner Day
7--International Tongue Twister Day
10--Area Code Day
13--World Kindness Day
14--National American Teddy Bear Day
15--America Recycles Day
17--Homemade Bread Day
19--World Toilet Day
20--Name Your PC Day
27--Buy Nothing Day
29--Electronic Greetings Day

I'm also particularly taken with National Teens Don't Text and Drive Week (22-28) and Pursuit of Happiness Week (8-14). And how can you not love a month that dedicates a month-long celebration for each of the following: Sweet Potatoes, Peanut Butter, Georgia Pecans, and Pomegranates. A star to the first reader that can devise a recipe (edible by humans please) that uses all four ingredients in one dish.

There, now wasn't that better than a rant or a deep philosophical discussion on some esoteric aspect of the human condition?