Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Difference Between Frugal and Cheap

I was privy to a discussion that a few others were having about a third party. An argument ensued based around whether or not this party should be considered as frugal or cheap. I'm not sure what the decision was because I left, not wanting to take part. However, I did think about the two terms being argued about. By definition the two are different.

Frugal is defined as "characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources: economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: practising economy; living without waste; thrifty." Its etymology is interesting: " from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit; akin to Latin frui to enjoy." In short, the word has a positive connotation regarding the use of resources.

Cheap is defined as follows: "stingy; miserly: costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive: of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy: cheap; now usually suggests shoddiness, inferiority, showy imitation, complete unworthiness, and the like." The connotation is negative.

The problem, as I see it, is that there are only a few areas where you might get 100% agreement as to whether or not something was an example of frugality or cheapness. When trying to apply the terms to human actions, you run into real problems, because truly one person's frugality may be another person's cheapness.

Go ahead, look at any item in your home. Now ask yourself, how much is enough to spend to buy that item? Easy answer? Nope. First ask yourself the following questions. What will the item be used for? How long do you want that item to last for? How many people will be using that item? Will the use of that item be heavy or light? Is that item what you consider a true necessity or does it fall in the category of wants rather than needs? Do you have anything else that is similar in function to that item? Other questions to ask: Will I be able to afford any peripheral costs that come with owning that item? What is maintenance going to cost on that item?

Now look at part of the definition of frugal: not wasteful. How do the answers to your questions apply to this idea? Let's look at an item that quite a bit of discussion on an Orthonomics posting: a food processor for Pesach use. There will be two people cooking in your kitchen over the holiday and you both use the food processor for myriad kitchen cooking tasks. It is going to get heavy use over the course of the few days before the holiday and on chol hamoed. You estimate that you might use the processor about 60 times during that period. Repairing food processors isn't really done, so if it breaks you are in for buying another one.

Your store has three processors for sale. One is very cheap in price, one is fairly cheap and the other is fairly expensive. Which one do you buy? The cheap processor is not made to withstand a lot of heavy use. It might, with heavy use, last one Pesach season--it might last up to 3-4. The mid-priced processor is owned by people you know and they got about 8-10 years under ordinary use out of the processor. The most expensive of the three processors has a life span of 15-20 years with moderate to heavy use. So, which one do you buy? Some people would say that to be frugal you buy the least expensive of the processors and you worry about replacement when that becomes necessary. A different view says that to fulfill the "not wasteful" part of the definition you buy the expensive processor that will last at least 4 times as long as the cheapest model. They say that spending the extra money now saves you money down the road.

And if you plan on using the processor for maybe 3-4 items in total? A wholly different scenario, and frugality is going to be defined differently.

To return to my original statement, yes, there is a difference between frugal and cheap. But there are differing applications of frugal that will depend on a whole slew of factors. What is frugal for one person may seem to someone else to be overspending or underspending, and vice versa. Only you, the individual, can correctly gauge whether a purchase or expenditure is being frugal or being cheap for YOU.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Wholly Different Side of Brooklyn

G6 gritted her teeth and made a shopping trip into Brooklyn. I, for one, avoid it whenever possible. And come nothing like the action in the clip below ever happens at Shoprite or King Kullen? And that it happened in Brooklyn? And at Pomegranate? Amazing! Don't know what I'm all excited about? Click on the link below and grab a few moments of enjoyment.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Green [the environment and $$$] and Cleaning

I had the following discussion with a couple of friends and decided to see what you, my readers, have to say on the subject. The conversation centered around cleaning--what else this time of year--and "being green." In particular we were discussing the use of paper towels in cleaning versus using shmattes (rags). Read any of the green blogs or sites and you'll see that using paper towels gets a no-no--too many trees wasted. However, our discussion pointed out some things the green blogs don't mention when they come out against paper towels.

In discussing cleaning we were talking about the heavy duty kind that goes by the name of Spring cleaning. Items that may not be touched the rest of the year get cleaned at least this one time during the year. This is not light dusting nor is it, for many, lick and a promise cleaning. A lot of the cleaning that is tackled is greasy, grimy dirt. The point was made that those shmattes used for some of this work need to be washed thoroughly or they can't go back to work--bleach, detergent and softener and yes, hot water or the gucky stuff doesn't come off the rags.

If you are tackling this type of cleaning you would need a really large supply of the shmattes. Either you go looking for old towels and undershirts that you are going to replace (and that costs money) or you are buying some (and that costs money too). If you don't have that large supply then you are going to be doing way more loads of wash so that the shmattes can be used again (and that also costs money).

So, what is the cost to the environment for doing loads (yes, loads in the plural) of wash for the rags versus the cost to the environment for using paper towels?
Even if you are using "green" cleaning products, once they are in the water of the washing machine they are going down the drain literally and that cleanser laden water is eventually going to find an outlet, either in the earth or into a waterway.

Is the "cost" of using paper towels really so much higher for the environment than what washing those shmattes might be doing?
When those shmattes get frayed and stained they are going to be tossed out. What is the disintegration time in landfills for heavy cloth as compared to thin paper towels? And then there was the non-green cost that came up. Figure the price of having to wash those cloths and dry them--detergents, hot water and heating up the dryer. Now look at that cost against the number of paper towels that might be used if you use them instead of shmattes.

I use a combination of paper towels and shmattes, depending on what has to be cleaned. It is both literally and figuratively a wash as to the cost as far as I can see. Given what I can figure out, both choices can have negative impact on the environment and/or the budget. Here's the thing though--things have to be cleaned and you are going to have to use something to do that cleaning with. This doesn't seem to be a case where you can say "use neither."

Note: I'm aware that some people use sponges to do some of this cleaning with--I also use them when called for. Sponges also come with plusses and minuses. You need to rinse them frequently, thus sending detergent and grime laden water into the sewer, and most of our sponges are made of cellulose--not so easily bio-degradable when they are thrown out. They are also not the best tools for certain types of cleaning that require a larger size work tool to absorb what is being wiped up. You work for longer if you use a sponge than if you use a shmatte or a paper towel.

So, are you a shmatte or a paper towel cleaner and why your choice?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Minhag, Mishagas and Making Pesach

A comment on a different posting about the craziness that goes on when making Pesach got me to thinking, hence this posting. If you think that there are a variety of different minhagim and personal customs and quirks that exist during the year, it's nothing in comparison to Pesach.

Here's my take: each to their own. You think I'm nuts with some of the things I do? Fine, you don't have to do what I do, but be so kind as to not make remarks that I'm out of step with how things "should" be done, that I've gone overboard. That "should" is how YOU hold, and I'm not a'chiv to hold your way any more than you are a'chiv to hold my way.

There is a wide divide in some areas between Ashkenazim and Sefardim when it comes to Pesach. And even that is too general a statement. There are all kinds of differing customs among the Sefardim, depending on country/place of origin, and the same goes for the Ashkenazim. And you have the chasidishe/non-chasidishe differences. But even the chasidim don't all hold the same customs, and neither do all non-chasidishe Ashkenazim.

I grew up with a saying in our family that I've also heard from many others: "Mir mischen nisht auf Pesach"--we don't "mix" with others for Pesach. There are plenty of people whose homes I have not one kashrut concern about during the year, but when it comes to Pesach I don't eat, or don't eat most things, in their homes. We have different minhagim that we hold and that's just fine. No one I know has ever gotten insulted if an invitation is not accepted or accepted with a caveat over Pesach. One of our friends is an old-time Breuer's Yekke, raised in Washington Heights. His family eats only those products approved by KAJ, hence his family basically only eats in their own home for Pesach. So?

And when it comes to how a house will get cleaned for Pesach and what will get cleaned, well each balabosta has her own customs and quirks. Indubitably some of what gets done in the name of making Pesach is really more about spring cleaning. So be it. And if what some call making Pesach begins in January, well so be it. And if for some people waiting until the week before Pesach begins is when they first want to think about Pesach, well so be it.

Any tips I offer on the blog regarding Pesach are not "Torah mi'Sinai." What they are are observations born of my personal experience in making Pesach both in my own home and helping my mother when I was young and unmarried. If something works for you, fine. If it doesn't appeal to you or look like it's going to help you, fine.

Personally, I think all the varying customs, both group and individual, are interesting. To me many of them speak of family life and lore being recreated many generations down the road since those customs sprung up. Telling me that I don't have to do something just because my great grandmother did it misses the point entirely. Isn't it wonderful that I actually know what my great grandmother did and that I can connect to her through doing the same thing. No, I don't live in the same world that my great grandmother did, and some things I am quite thankful have changed. I don't wash my clothes in a stream using a washboard. Given what I know of my great grandmother she would have welcomed with open arms the new innovations that have freed us of truly back breaking labor. I don't make my own potato starch just because Babi did, and I'd be willing to bet that she would be quite thankful that I, her descendant, don't have to undertake that labor. But given that this great grandmother was what we might call a "clean freak," and given that her granddaughters were just like her and that her great granddaughters seem to be keeping that tradition, I think she'd like that just fine.

You'll have to excuse me now--my kitchen ceiling needs washing

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings from history that took place the week of March 27-April 2. For events of a Jewish nature, please go to 27 The biggest earthquake ever recorded strikes Anchorage, Alaska. It measured 8.3 on the Richter scale. (1964) 28 Nathaniel Briggs patents the washing machine. (1797) 28 The city of Madrid falls to the forces of Francisco Franco, ending the Spanish Civil War. (1939) 28 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident occurs in Middletown, Pa. (1979) 29 Ice jams stop the flow of water over Niagara Falls. (1848) 29 Coca Cola is invented. (1886) 30 The 15th amendment goes into effect, giving black men the right to vote. (1870) 30 Jeopardy debuts on television. (1964) 31 The Eiffel Tower opens in Paris, France (1889) 1 Oliver Pollack invents the dollar sign $ (1778) 1 Dexter Mason Ferry and partners found Gardener, Ferry & Church Seed Company, now called Ferry-Morse, the oldest seed company in America (1856) 1 Daytime soap opera General Hospital first airs on ABC (1963) 2 Congress passes the Coinage Act and the U.S. Mint is born. (1792) Note to Readers: The earliest washing "machine" referred to above was the scrub board invented in 1797. American James King patented the first washing machine to use a drum in 1851. the drum made King's machine resemble a modern machine, however it was still hand powered. In 1858 Hamilton Smith patented the rotary washing machine. In 1874, William Blackstone of Indiana built a birthday present for his wife. It was a machine which removed and washed away dirt from clothes. The Thor was the first electric-powered washing machine. Introduced in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois, the Thor washing machine was invented by Alva J. Fisher [Kind of figures that a woman would invent something like this]. The Thor was a drum type washng machine with a galvanized tub and an electric motor. A patent was issued on August 9th 1910.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Spring in my Step... Not

Lest any New Yorkers may have forgotten, the Spring Equinox was on March 20. That's right--
Spring has officially started. Gardening services all over SI were out in full force yesterday fertilizing lawns and preparing for the green explosion that marks Spring in our borough.

Apparently Mother Nature has taken exception to the idea that Spring is supposed to be visiting us. Nothing like waking up to a blanket of white: not on the beds--on the lawn. As I stare at the trees in the woods they are an unbroken picture of ghostly branches clad in white. Where crocuses were gaily pushing up their heads yesterday, today there is no reminder that green is the color that nature favors.

Back to finding where in the back of the closet I tossed my boots in celebration of winter's end. Was it truly only last Friday that the temperature was 71 and all the windows in the house were open wide to bring in a breath of fresh air?

I look for something to blame for today's weather and I find it handily. My brother from California flew in last night for a short visit. Clearly Mother Nature decided to give him a taste of what he doesn't get where he lives. But why oh why do I have to taste along with him?!

I'd snuggle up back under the covers and hope that when I awaken once again I'll discover this was all a bad dream, but I've lived in New York too long to truly believe in that fantasy. Instead it's time for a steaming hot cup of coffee while esconced in fuzzy slippers and a snuggly robe. Then it's time to go and put out food into the bird feedeers yet again. Our feathered friends are doomed to disappointment if they think that they are getting nature's fresh bounty today.

Have a safe day today, and just keep reminding yourself that this weather can't last for ever--I hope.

P is Also for Polishing

The majority of Jewish homes have within them at least a few items made from silver--lachter, bechers, Chanukah menorahs among those. Along with the beauty of the items comes another dreaded P word--polishing. Following are some ideas about cleaning and storing those silver items. Storing: Silver exposed to outside air tarnishes faster than silver in an air-tight cabinet (and if the air is humid it will increase the rate of tarnishing--one reason why silver seems to tarnish quicker in New York's steamy summers.). It's one reason why lachters that may sit on display in the open air tarnish much faster than pieces displayed in a closed cabinet. In addition, articles that are used with candles--lachters and menorahs--get added tarnish coatings from the particles from the flames that waft up and then settle back down on the silver. Obviously then one solution is to keep all silver inside of an air-tight cabinet. This does not mean that the silver will never get tarnished but it will extend the period between needed cleanings. In addition, there are anti-tarnish strips which can be placed inside these cabinets, adding extra protection against tarnishing. I use those strips with my own silver and they work as promised--they extend the time between cleanings by reducing tarnish buildup. If your lachter won't fit inside a cabinet you still have an option for closed storage. Any of the furniture or decorator places that make plastic seat covers for dining room chairs can also make up for you a zippered large rectangular "box" of that heavy plastic material in which you can place the lachter during the week. Not a "pretty" wrapping but a very effective one. A tip given to me long ago by someone who owned a silver store is to make absolutely sure that any silver that is being placed back in the cabinet is 100% dry. When you wash those bechers and lachters after Shabbos take the time to dry them thoroughly. Wet or damp silver attracts tarnish at a faster rate than dry silver does, in addition to having water spots. Should you happen to see that one of the pieces in your cabinet is obviously starting to tarnish, take it out and polish it. Once one piece has that obvious tarnish it will be a "good neighbor" and start spreading that tarnish throughout the cabinet. Now, about those products used to clean silver. There are any number of these products on the market--creams, pastes, dips, sprays, gloves etc.--but they don't all work in the same way. Silver experts recommend using only a cream or paste cleaner. Jeffrey Herman, a silver restoration and conservation specialist, has an excellent article as to why those silver dips should NOT be used. They are not only not good for the silver but they have some truly horrific possible health affects as well. See the article at There are other experts that put those misty spray cleaners into the same category as the dips--unsafe for humans. Note, however, that some of those pastes and creams also contain ingredients that can be bad for you. Most recommend that you use rubber gloves when using the product. Ironic really, since rubber and latex can promote tarnish. Nonetheless, better to use the gloves than not to. Also note that the Environmental Protection Agency lists silver cleaner, dips in particular, as Hazardous Household Waste and discourages throwing it out with the regular trash. Yes, silver is a part of our lives and yes, it is going to need to be cleaned. A bit of care in storage and handling will extend the time between cleanings. And some common sense when choosing cleaning products will make that cleaning process safer for humans and the environment. For where to get anti-tarnish strips see:

Trying Something New

A group in Los Angeles is looking to try something new as regards the problem of tuition for Jewish schools. Known as ROILA, the group is trying to rally support for a new way of funding education and of uniting the Jewish community. I'm posting the link that explains what the plan is without commentary. So, what do you think? Hat tip to my offspring for sending me the info.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Defining Terms

We are a verbal people, using words in our interactions with others. We use those words in conveying information. We also use them in arguing or disagreeing with the words of others. But what seems to me to be seen across a whole lot of these verbal interactions is that those debating or arguing don't seem to recognize a basic fact: there is a difference between a fact and an opinion.

A comment thread on another blog that I was involved in revolved around just this difference between fact and opinion. The first place to start is with a definition of terms: what is a fact and what is an opinion?

Fact: something that actually exists; reality; a truth verifiable from experience or observation; a thing whose actual occurrence or existence is to be determined by the evidence.

In short, a fact is something that can be proven to be true or false through a derived method based in experience or observation, based on evidence. Centuries ago many people believed it was a fact that the world was flat. Any/all methods available at that time seemed to prove the truth of the statement. In later centuries methods for proving the veracity of the statement showed that the fact was false--the earth was round.

Opinion: a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty; a personal view, attitude, or appraisal; judgment or belief not founded on certainty or proof; a point open to question; a statement of personal belief; an assertion that may not be able to be proven as true or false.

An example of an opinion statement? Boy X is cuter than boy Y. Or perhaps broccoli tastes better than radicchio. Or even "Yossi is a better politician than Avraham is." These are a matter of taste, and taste is personal, not provable. The words "I like," "I feel," "I believe," "I think" signal that an opinion is coming, although they are not always verbalized when giving an opinion. Some people specifically leave out these words when making a statement to give the impression that the statement is a fact, not an opinion. Nonetheless, if such a statement cannot be subjected to an organized and accepted methodology for proving, they are opinions, not facts.

Now, there is a grey area when it comes to facts and opinions. Some of those who give their opinion on something use facts to back up that opinion. In this type of case the opinion is a conclusion come to based on facts. So, does such an opinion have validity to be considered as a fact? Yes and no.

Here's one example: You walk into your house and go into the kitchen. There is a pool of orange juice on your counter. You know for a fact that orange juice bottles cannot remove themselves from the refrigerator and pour themselves out on the counter. You know for a fact that only human beings can remove those bottles and pour. You come to the conclusion that someone in your house spilled the juice. Now, here are the facts you know right now. There was only one person who was supposed to be in your house while you were away--your son. Given what you know, you make the statement "My son spilled the orange juice."Without any further investigation you are making an informed opinion statement. But is this statement truly a fact? Further investigation might bring to light that your son had company in the house, so that any of the people in the house could have spilled the juice.

There is also the matter of who is making those informed opinion statements.When a doctor gives his/her opinion as to what might be ailing us, we tend to give weight to such statements. The doctor is experienced in the medical field and has specialized knowledge not available to most others. We assume that his/her opinion is of more validity than say the opinion of your mailman about what is ailing you. In such cases we tend to believe the opinions of such a person as if they were indeed facts. HOWEVER, such informed opinions are not always 100% correct. Testing, such as lab tests, might bring back the result that something else other than what the doctor said is wrong with you. Or those tests might be inconclusive, so we need to go further in seeing what is wrong.

To bring all this back to argumentation, conversations that take place in the "real" world and the virtual world are often argumentative in nature. Those arguments sometimes bog down or get downright nasty. The cause for this in most cases is that what is being argued about is not a matter of fact but a question of opinion--and opinions can't be wrong or right. "Enlightened" discussion requires us to recognize that while we might not like someone's opinion--and they might not like ours--we are entitled to have our own opinions without being labeled as wrong, pig-headed or evil.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some Purim Torah--or Possibly Not

Yup, so sue me, but every year I write either a poem or a different type of Purim Torah to include with our shalach monos. And also yup, I guess you could say we are themed, in that the writing in some way deals with the contents/packaging of the shalach monos or vice versa. However, (disclaimer coming) the theme, if you must call it that, is always Purim. This year I wondered what might be the result if those who are the chumrah pushers latched on to shalach monos.

If you're wondering what to do until your guests arrive or until you have to leave for seudah, what follows is the K offering for this year.
Dear Family and Friends,

No, there is no poem this year,
Just a bit of Purim Torah cheer

It has become obvious to all in Klal that major requirements for stringency in observance of our Mitzvot are fast becoming the rule, with new requirements being issued almost daily. Those who raise their eyebrows at the nature of some of these stringencies are quickly placed on the sidelines.

This year it was not the kashrut standard of shalach monos which required such stringency: it was the decision of many major rabbanim and askanim that no shalach monos would be allowed to be sent out unless such shalach monos would meet strict guidelines of relevancy and relationship to the yom tov of Purim. Any and all aspects of shalach monos require strict scrutiny.

2,567 different Rabbis signed on to the stringency guidelines, including among them the Farfloigener Rebbi, the Krechtzer Rebbi, Rabbi Moshe Oyvei of Fartumult and the renowned Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Nishtba Mir, of Yeshivas Bais Baal. Conspicuous by their absence are any of the rabbanim associated with the MO yeshiva Y-ME.

Not wishing to find ourselves out of step, we submitted our shalach monos to one of the scientific agencies given permission by the Rabbanim to determine the relevancy ratings of all shalach monos packages. Yes, even the Hareidi rabbanim gave their haskomah to this particular agency. (Ever think that you would see hareidi and science and haskomah together in one sentence?!)

We are pleased to inform you that the shalach monos you are receiving attained the highest rating given. You may sleep easier now that you know that the gedolim b’Yisroel are on the job and keeping Klal’s best interests right in the forefront.

Attached you will find a teudah granted to our shalach monos from the AIOFFS.

A freilachen Purim to all in your house,

A, L, N, M and C K

A I O F F S American Institute Of Forensic Food Scientists
Department of Relevancy


The AIOFFS does hereby attest that any and all packages [forthwith to be referred to as shalach monos] attached to this notice of compliance meet the Institute’s exceptionally high standards for Purim holiday food relevance. Recipients may rest assured that all items within the shalach monos have been thoroughly vetted for their relationship to the Purim story and the lessons to be learned from that story. The complete report is available by sending a check for $180.00 to AIOFFS. Highlights of the report follow below.
Hamentaschen: evoke Haman ha’Rasha’s name thus allowing ingesters to boo appropriately.

Rolls: Received double points. First, Esther and Mordechai had to roll with the punches and then get up and do what was needed. Second, like yeast dough in general, you punch it down and it rises up at least twice as strong, similar to the Jewish nation as depicted in the Megillah.

Grape jam: Received double points. First, a lot of the characters in the Megillah get into a jam. Some do better than others in getting out of that jam. Second, grapes play an integral part in the Megillah in the form of wine. If King Achashverosh had stuck to jam instead of wine he would have had a lot less trouble.

Baked Goods: The chocolate chips remind the Jews that their enemies may try to chip away at their stability but then the Jews arise and swallow their enemies in one bite. Haman carried a big chip on his shoulder against Mordechai and against the Jews. In addition, Haman couldn’t understand how his plans could go awry—sorry Haman, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Chocolate Kisses: Haman was a real kiss-up and thought he’d get everything he wanted—didn’t happen that way thanks to Esther and Mordechai.

Snickers Bars: Haman snickered at what he thought were the defenseless Jews. Esther and Mordechai had the last laugh though. Those Jews unwrapped his plans, and chomped down on him but good.

Tea Bag: Haman thought his plan would be a slam dunk and winning was in the bag. Instead, he found himself in hot water thanks to Mordechai and Esther

Assorted fruits: High relevance rating. Clearly Haman was nuttier than a fruitcake. Apples have high relevance as Haman was rotten to the core. Oranges represent the King’s and Haman’s failure to peel away the layers that hid Esther’s identity from them. They also represent Achashverosh’s inability to see below Haman’s surface to the madman below.

Assorted Miscellany: High ranking for producing enjoyment in the receiver, a requirement of Purim

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings of the past that took place during the week of March 20-26.
For events of a Jewish nature, please go to

20 Harriet Beacher Stowe publishes the book Uncle Tom's Cabin . (1852)
21 The infamous Alcatraz prison is closed. (1963)
23 Patrick Henry declares "Give me liberty, or give me death!" (1775)
24 German scientist Robert Koch announces he has discovered the bacillus that causes Tuberculosis. (1882)
24 Elvis Presley joins the U.S. Army. (1958)
25 The European Economic Community (ECC) is established by the Treaty of Rome. (1957)
26 Ludwig von Beethoven dies in Vienna, Austria. (1827)
26 Dr. Jonas Salk invents a vaccine to fight polio.
26 The Eastman Dry Plate and Chemical Company manufactures the first motion picture film. (1885)

Purim Sameach!

A Freilachen Purim to All
May this yom tov be
Everything it's supposed to be
Everything you want it to be
May it be a day of
Joy and happiness,
of gatherings that fully celebrate the meaning of the day.
May you make memories
That will last a lifetime
And bring a smile to your face.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

At last, it's almost Purim!

Finally, finally my favorite yom tov is close to arriving. Mention Purim to me, no matter at what time of year, and I'm going to beam from ear to ear. I get into the Purim spirit early and for me it's all fun. I love the shopping and preparing for this yom tov. I can't wait to get out the mixer and start baking for shalach monos. In fact, I can only think of one thing that I don't like about this yom tov, and some of you who have been reading here know darn well what that is--the drinking.

Some day, some day I'm not going to have to mention the alcohol abuse. Some day people will come to their senses and see that what they are doing has very little with being sameach on Purim and way more with about indulging to excess in a harmful substance. Someday the vaunted brightness of Klal may actually triumph over its immature behavior.

I told myself this year I was not going to disturb my run up to Purim by posting a rant--if you want to know how I really feel about drunkenness on Purim just scroll down the posting lists on the right side and click on Purim. I ranted enough in other years to cover this year as well.

What I do want to do is wish all of you a freilachen Purim. May the light and joy of this yom tov shine over all of us. May this be a year of making wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy your families and friends and pack away your serious thoughts until Purim is over.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pooling to Save Money

I had this posting up last year and I believe it bears re-posting. Prices on everything have gone up since last year and many budgets for Pesach are going to be skewed because of it. Pooling together with others is one way that expenses can be not only held in check but reduced.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One Good Reason for Shopping Early

People like to moan and groan when I happen to mention Pesach too early, or at least too early for them. Purim has not yet arrived and I'm already pushing Pesach.

Let me give you one good reason for thinking about Pesach well before it looms in sight. I mentioned last week that many of the major markets in our area have already had the bulk of their Pesach items out on display for sale for the past few weeks. One friend mentioned that her market got those Pesach items out early in February.

While in Shoprite last week I went down the Pesach aisle to see what this year's prices are going to be. A bit of sticker shock there, except where there wasn't. Some of those items were with sale stickers on them. Those luscious extra large chocolate bars, both bittersweet and milk chocolate, were on sale for $1 each. I have a cabinet where to store them so I bought a bunch. This week I went back down the aisle to see if anything different was on sale and just happened to glance at those same chocolate bars--the regular price sticker was back up and they are now $3.99 each--yes, you read that right.

In a different market the largest canisters of potato starch were on sale for $1.89 a canister--haven't seen that price in years.

So yes, talking about Pesach now can result in some real savings. Anyone really have money they don't mind throwing away?

Letting the Numbers Speak for Themselves

The announcement that I posted about the OU presentation of "emerging" communities got me to thinking once again about out of town. Jewish communities across the US undertake regular studies studies of themselves. Some do so yearly; others do so at different regular intervals. They look at things like Jews as a percentage of the population in their communities and how the communities have grown.

Many of the communities of the Western US have histories extending back to the 1800s, when Easterners took quite seriously the admonition to "Go West Young Man." Are they flourishing? You be the judge. The following information is only a few snippets on Denver, Colorado, taken from a study done every ten years and completed in 2007, but should be of interest to Easterners who believe that the sun both rises and sets in the East.

Metro Denver/Boulder is now the 18th largest Jewish community in the U.S., similar in size to established Jewish centers such as Baltimore and Cleveland. Denver is also similar in size to other growing western U.S. Jewish centers such as Phoenix and San Diego.

Over the past 10 years, the Metro Denver/Boulder Jewish community has grown at a faster rate than has the general community. In 2007, Jewish households represent 4.4% of total households in the seven-county area studied, compared to 3.7% in 1997. Nationally, Jewish households represent 2% of the total population.

According to initial results of the 2007 Jewish Community Study, the number of Jewish persons in the Metro Denver/Boulder area has increased 29% from 63,300 Jews to 81,500, since 1997.

Of course we would need a lot more information then what I've given here to get a more complete picture of the Denver frum community, but this is a start. Last I heard Baltimore was considered a stable Jewish community, and much of what is present in Baltimore is also present in Denver. The same for Cleveland.

Before we dismiss out of town communities out of hand we might just want to look at some figures and facts and make our decisions based on rational research and thought rather than on geocentric biases.

Monday, March 14, 2011

People and Pictures

My father a''h loved technology. He was fascinated by every new invention that came along and when he could he bought one of them. Now granted, in his time period the new technology didn't pop up every four minutes, but often enough that we had quite a bit in the house. Among those pieces of technology that he loved were cameras. My mother has hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of pictures that were taken while my dad was living. It's a wonderful record of what we looked like when younger, what occasions we celebrated, where we went.

In addition to those pictures taken here in the US, there are some pictures that were taken in Europe, both pre and post WWII. As my mom told us, a lot of those pictures were destroyed during the War, but they did find some when they finally returned to their homes. There are pictures of my mom's parents and grandmother, and even one rare picture that includes my great great grandfather and his children. There are wedding pictures as family members got married post WWII.

I married another man who loves technology, and he entered our marriage with a full complement of equipment, including photographic equipment. So like my mom, I have a record of our lives from engagement to the present.

I have a long upstairs hallway that is our photo gallery and is loaded with pictures of our kids, pictures of us at engagement and marriage,a few pictures of us when we were young, pictures of our parents and siblings and of my grandparents and great grandmother. I love walking down that hallway and stopping to look back at our history. There are also pictures scattered throughout other parts of the house.

So, you say? Welcome to the club. A friend, looking at the pictures in the hallway, made a comment that it's a good thing he loves us because we really aren't frum enough to be living in NYC. He explained that he had gone to visit a relative of his wife's (in one of the heart-of-Brooklyn neighborhoods) and noticed that they had done a bit of wall redecorating. Where once there had been pictures of that relative with his wife at their wedding, where there had been pictures of family members, there was now nothing. Our friend asked if they were having the pictures re-framed. The answer he got was that those pictures were mostly now in drawers and his wedding picture was now in his bedroom, which is private and off limits to guests. Why did he remove those pictures? Because in the area he lives in it is not the done thing among the frummer element to have pictures of women out on public display. Wedding pictures are relegated to private bedrooms. That cute picture of your two-year-old daughter with her face in her birthday cake is no longer acceptable for public display.

There are a number of Jewish publications that have for some time been refusing to publish pictures of women, whether as illustrations for real-life occasions or in their advertising. Not even line drawings are acceptable. They and their readership believe such public display to be against halachah. And now we get that putting up pictures of women in your own home shouldn't be done either.

What's next? Outlawing women from the public sphere altogether? Yup, I can see it now: Thursdays are going to be the only day that women will be allowed out in public, for the purposes of Shabbos shopping, but no men will be allowed out on the streets during that time period. And when the men get tired of being cooped up for that one day, women will be banned from being out in public altogether. I can't wait for some enterprising men to decide to ban women completely (obviously a man or men who also didn't believe in studying biology). Because of a lack of women, men will die out as a species. And when God decides to repopulate the world, I sure hope He fixes whatever brain function error seemed to crop up in the original man.

I've had enough of what some call silliness and what I call just plain shtuss. Pardon me now because I have to go out and buy some more frames--I'm in a picture hanging mood and the men and women of my family are going to find themselves up on yet another wall.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings in history for the week of March 13-19.
For events of a Jewish nature, please go to

13 Senate begins impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. (1868)
13 Greenwood patented earmuffs, originally called the "Champion Ear Protector". (1877)

13 Harvard University is named after clergyman John Harvard. (1639)
14 Eli Whitney patents the Cotten Gin (1794)
14 George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company, commits suicide rather than facing the ravages of cancer. (1932)
15 "The Ides of March" Julius Caesar is stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus. (44 B.C.)
16 Professor Robert Goddard launches the first liquid fuel rocket. (1926)
16 The Mai Lai Massacre takes place in Vietnam. (1968)
17 The rubber band was invented. Can you imagine life without them!?! (1845)
18 Soviet Union cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov becomes the first person to take a space walk. (1965)
19 Congress approves Daylight Savings Time. (1918)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

OOT Beckons

As a public service I'm posting the following email sent out by the OU. For those who might be wondering if "normal" still exists anywhere, if affordable housing and schools exist anywhere--the answer is "YES!"R([Note: (Notee[[Note: yesgister Now

SAVE THE DATE! Register now for the OU Emerging Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair!

We are pleased to announce that the third Emerging Communities Fair will be held on Sunday, March 27, 2011 from 12 - 6 pm at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 42nd St and Lexington Ave., New York, NY. Individuals and families will have an opportunity to meet with community representatives who will share information about community resources that are available in a warm and friendly Torah atmosphere. Learn about:

· exciting and lucrative job opportunities
· affordable housing and tuition
· Close-knit and warm communities
· synagogues, day schools and yeshivot
· kosher stores and other communal resources

Thirty-Eight Communities Will Be Represented:

Allentown, PA · Austin, TX · Bangor, ME· Binghamton, NY ·
Cherry Hill, NJ ·Columbus, OH · Dallas, TX · Elizabeth, NJ ·
Harrisburg, PA · Jacksonville, FL · Las Vegas, NV ·
Linden, NJ · Long Branch, NJ · Malden, MA · Manalapan, NJ · Memphis, TN ·Merrick, NY · Metairie, LA · Milwaukee, WI ·
New Haven, CT · Norfolk, VA · Oceanside, NY ·
Overland Park, KS · Parsippany, NJ · Phoenix, AZ ·
Pittsburgh, PA · Plainview, NY · Richmond, VA ·
Rochester, NY ·Roslyn, NY · Sacramento, CA · Southfield, MI · Springfield, NJ ·Springfield, MA· Stamford, CT ·
Staten Island, NY · White Oak, PA · Wynnewood, PA ·

For more information call 212.613.8188

There are still seven days in a week

As long as this week already seems to be devoted to dating and shidduchim, let me discuss another area of dating I just don't understand today. Last I looked, a week still held seven days, and each day was 24 hours long, across all seasons of the year. With the exception of Shabbos itself, that leaves an awful lot of hours during the week to be able to date.

Now granted, Monday to Friday during daytime hours are not usually date times, although it has not been unheard of for two people to meet for lunch on a working day. There is definitely something to be said for being out and about with the sun in the sky instead of the moon. And there are plenty of legal/federal/state holidays where people are off and could go out.

This now brings me to Sunday. Unless you have a job that requires Sunday work, or are attending classes at some time on a Sunday, it would seem that Sunday would be a perfect dating day (and even if you have classes, you don't have them all day). Virtually all attractions and activities in the City and environs are open on a Sunday. Traffic in the City is relatively lighter because it isn't a standard working day. Dates don't have to have artificial limits on a Sunday because mostly the entire day is available for activities that can't be started and finished in 1-2 hours. Find that eating on a date can get a might expensive for dinner? Breakfast and lunch and/or an afternoon snack will cost you less.

Okay, okay, I know that someone is going to bring it up, so let me bring it up first. A whole lot of young men who are in yeshiva on Sundays, so for them it's a business day as regular. Those are the same young men who will quite easily take off from yeshiva if they have a family affair or simcha on that day. The same young men who have no problem going away for a Shabbos and not getting back for yeshiva on Sunday. The same young men who schedule needed appointments on Sunday and then keep them. In short, Sunday for these yeshiva boys doesn't seem to be so sacrosanct when it comes to yeshiva attendance. And you know what? I'm not saying they are wrong. But why isn't dating--whose final outcome is supposed to be the creating of marriages to strengthen Klal--also considered one of those things you can sometimes do on a Sunday, during the day? Roshei Hayeshivot should actually be thrilled about dating during Sunday daylight hours--not much of a chance that yichud will happen in bright sunlight in a car full of windows on a busy city street.

What I'm saying is that in addition to expanding the places you can go to on a date, singles also ought to be expanding the times they will go on a date. Dating is not synonymous with 7-8 PM. As the old song stated: Let the sun shine, let the sun shine in, the sun shine in!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top Five Revisions to the Shidduch System

PNN asked me a while ago what my top five revisions would be to the shidduch system currently in place. There's more than five revisions I'd make, but here are the ones that I'd put into place first, in no particular order.

1. Remove the middle man or woman. Once a first date has been set up and gone on both sides have to say yes or no within 24 hours. The shadchan will report the results to both sides. After that, the couple is on their own. You want a second date? You call and ask.

2. Mixed events for males and females (can't get too much more mixed than that) will be a requirement for every community to host on a regular basis. While there may be programs presented at these get togethers, let no one mistake that sufficient free time for the attendees to mingle will be a requirement of every program. In point of fact the best of these programs will be the ones where the mingling is built into the program, such as a game night where the males and females will be playing against/with each other, or a chesed program--let's have them preparing food baskets or sorting clothing or what have you.

3. Get rid of the age ranking system in place. For some reason that escapes me the "greener" the male and female, the more valuable they are in the system. Mother Nature is laughing at us for sure. While young bushes and trees and plants are surely necessary, it's the more mature specimens that are the most valuable. Go ahead and walk into any plant nursery. The cheapest item there is a package of seeds with a picture on the package of what the planting should look like when full grown. Of course, there is no guarantee that those seeds will sprout at all or that they will grow "straight" or that they will ever get to full size. The next cheapest items are the small seedlings stuffed 6-12 per tray. Again, they may show that they have roots but what they will actually do as they grow is not known. The most expensive items in the nursery are the full-blown specimens, the ones where you can see just what kind of plant you are getting, with what strengths and weaknesses. They come in their own individual pots and the more mature they are, the more they will cost you.

We need to stop pushing our young people into the shidduch parsha before they have sufficient roots and growth to thrive. While some plants may mature relatively early, a whole lot of them don't.

4. Stop the crazy time proscriptions. There are any number of people who have proscribed that dating has to run according to specifics of a clock and a calendar. First dates shall only be X number of minutes/hours. Subsequent dates may not exceed a specific hour count. Six dates maximum and you decide yea or nay. On the basis of what may be only 12 hours of interaction, we expect that our singles will be able (and willing) to make a decision that could impact them forever, both in a good way and a bad way. What other items of great importance do we attach such a timetable to? Shopping for a house can take months, if not years. Investigating and deciding upon a college to go to can take months of steady research, visitations and thinking. Even buying something simple, like a couch or an outfit for a wedding or a new car can involve weeks/months of looking, re-looking and re-re-looking. Yet, we suppose that following a simple and condensed time formula will allow all singles to make a life-altering decision based on 12 hours in a fairly artificial environment--not only suppose it, but require it. Unlike that outfit, which may turn out to be unsuitable when viewed in the privacy of your room at home, "returning" a shidduch or marriage is fraught with difficulty and is an emotionally scarring situation.

Let me simplify this one a bit. You get on an airplane at JFK heading towards Israel. You are squashed into an itsy bitsy seat that is not all that comfortable and you can't stretch out the way you want to. You are not necessarily dressed for comfort but for public view. You and a stranger are going to be sharing that space and are expected to be friendly but be formal. This is not a place to be raising subjects that might bring about emotional or heated discussion--social chitchat is the rule. Now add this--you disembark in Israel and are accosted by your nearest and dearest (and yes, some who aren't so near or so dear) and are told that you must make a decision RIGHT NOW: are you going to marry your seatmate or not? Yup, 12 hours of limited travel and a life-altering decision must be made.

5. Get rid of the "Too many cooks spoil the broth" syndrome in place. If only the male and female dating were involved in the process of trying to get married there would still be problems because of points 1-4 above. Now add in that there are whole slews of people who are actively involved, who push themselves into the process. Granted, it's perfectly natural to want to talk things over with someone you trust. But we've gone way beyond the "talk things over" aspect. The way things run today there are way more than two people who are going to be making the decision about who gets married to whom. Parents/grandparents/siblings/other relatives/rabbis/rebbis/morot/friends and just plain acquaintances all seem to feel that they are an integral part of the decision process, with a vote that counts at least as much as the dating people's do. In the end only two people are going to walk away from that chupah and go home together, only two people are going to get married. It's THOSE TWO PEOPLE whose wishes must be paramount. They might be making a mistake? Maybe yes and maybe no. But the mistake is theirs to make, not the entire world's.

Given the high divorce rate in Klal today (and no, that is not merely a result of divorces being easier to obtain or more socially acceptable), given the burgeoning sholom bayis problems particularly among younger married couples, what do we really have to lose if we change the system being used today?

Unlike baking and cooking, no proscribed recipe for making a shidduch is going to work across the board for everyone, nor will it result in a "perfect product" every time that recipe is followed. Even in cooking and baking every good cook knows that a recipe is only a loose guideline--sometimes it will work perfectly and other times it won't. We in Klal need to stop believing that our recipe for shidduchim is the exception to the rule--a recipe that works in all instances using a whole bunch of ingredients that differ from each other and from those suggested in the original recipe.

As I said in the beginning of this posting, there are lots more than five things I would change about shidduch making, but even utilizing one or two of the changes I suggest could make a big difference for a whole lot of people.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Where to Date? The World is Your Oyster

A posting on bad4shidduchim dealt with places to go on a date. One thing that was being lamented the lack of originality that many young men have about where to take a girl (note: and the girls can't figure out how to give any input into where they will be going?)--the Marriot Lounge seems to be the default for most. Yet, a few young men managed to find someplace else to go--wonder of wonders! B4 asked her readers to tell where they went on an interesting date.

So I asked a few other women my age to name the places that we went to on some of our dates back in the dark ages. When asked why I was asking, I mentioned the posting. Eyebrows were raised so high in incredulity that they went up under sheitlach and ended up somewhere on the back of the heads. "This is NYC and environs and they can't find anyplace to take a date other than that creepy Marriott Lounge?!!" was heard unanimously. I mentioned that some of the commenters on the blog had concerns about yichud on a date and about being able to have a real conversation. Again, those eyebrows went flying.

Herewith some suggestions and comments from us "old fogeys" about where to go on a date and yes, what you might talk about and why.

First, the unanimous answer to where we all went on dates was "Everywhere!" And yes, there were some in this group who would qualify for membership in the more to the right group. All agreed that museums were right up there for places they had gone, and museums aren't just about art. We went to visit the cultural/historical sites in the city and environs--and yes, there are a lot of Jewish ones also. We took the guided walking tours that many organizations sponsor in the City.Two of us remember doing a tour of West Point. Every one of us had been to the Statue of Liberty, to Ellis Island and on the Staten Island Ferry. We went to any number and variety of arts/music presentations, including Broadway shows, off-Broadway shows, off-off Broadway shows, college/university arts presentations, concerts of all types. We went to movies, not just those produced by Hollywood but special presentations by various groups found in the City. We went to lectures presented by a number of different colleges and organizations around the City. We went for walks just about anywhere and everywhere that there was something to be seen, including every boardwalk in the City and virtually every City park, of which there are hundreds. We went to amusement parks of every stripe. We went to arcades. We got sports minded and played tennis, badminton, golf, miniature golf, bowling, boating, canoeing, Frisbee throwing, pitching ranges, kite flying, etc. (and yes a shooting range too). We went to craft stores and got artsy. We went shopping. We went to the main public library in Manhattan and also some of the specialized libraries. We went to book stores. We went to lounges--plural--with interesting views of the city or interesting interior architecture (think the lounge at the top of Rockefeller Center). We took board games with us and found a place to spread out and play. Back in my day there was even a lounge that was known for providing those games--you paid for the drinks and the games were free. We went out for lunch/dinner/picnic meals. Quite a few of us also remembered going out on "volunteer" dates, such as visiting those in nursing facilities or hospitals or packing food for the indigent or attending protest rallies.

And all that was basically just sticking to the City (and no, the list is not comprehensive--there's more to do). We also took "trips out of town" to points of interest in NJ and other areas outside of NYC.

Okay, some of those dates were "daytime" dates, to places not available during the evening hours. But a whole lot of those places DID have evening hours, and not just the lounges.

Now, what did we talk about? Please, tell me that even asking that question is not a joke. What didn't we talk about?! For one thing, we talked about the activity we were participating in. And yes, boys and girls, you can learn quite a bit about someone when they are giving you pointers about how to bowl more effectively. Are they patient or are they overbearing? Do they pretend to more knowledge than they obviously have? Are they interested in what they are doing or are they just passing time? Do they care that you understand what they are saying? Are they enthusiastic or blase?

We talked about what we were doing at the time--whether work, school, volunteerism or all of them. We talked about our families. We talked about trips we might have taken or trips we wanted to take and why. We talked about politics, and religion, and about what being Jewish meant to us. We talked about history and current events. We talked about food preferences. We talked about cars and the state of transportation. We talked about the weather. We talked about our likes and dislikes, and yes, what we were passionate about as well. We talked about the past, the present and what we thought the future would be like. We talked about money--how to get it, how to keep it, how to spend it. In short, we talked about everything and anything that interested us or our dates. You can get a whole slew of the "right" kind of information about a person's personality and outlook just by indulging in plain, ordinary, garden-variety conversation.

As to any halachic questions about dating, there are very few dating situations that are going to result in yichud, and no, according to my Rav at least, being in a car--that's a car with windows front, back and side--is not a yichud situation unless you drive deep into a deserted woods where no other car is likely to be. As the Rav once put it, a little common sense would be nice when it comes to dating. Ah yes, common sense: that least common of all senses.

A word in conclusion. One of the women asked just what it was that daters think is going to happen on a date? Do they think that lightening will strike and they will suddenly have an "aha" moment that this person they are with is "it"? There were a few giggles as one woman corrected that to be "they'll suddenly hear bells ringing." (Yup, we also had our silly moments when dating.) Dating is about getting to feel comfortable with the other person to the point where you want that comfort for the rest of your life. Anything and everything that can help to bring about that comfort should be considered a dating venue.

So, just in case someone hasn't figured out how to research online yet, I've provided some links to what there might be to do on a date in NYC.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings from history for the week of March 6-12.
For events of a Jewish nature, please go to

6 Silly putty is invented. (1950)
6 Well known and loved Walter Cronkite signs off as anchorman off the CBS Evening News (1981)
7 Alexander Graham Bell patents the Telephone. (1876)
7 Monopoly board game is invented (1933)
8 President Ronald Reagan calls the USSR an "Evil Empire" (1983)
8 Baseball great Joe DiMaggio dies (1999)
9 Ironclad ships the Monitor and the Merrimack battle in the Civil war.
10 The U.S. government issues paper money for the first time. (1862)
10 Alexander Graham Bell places the world's first telephone call, to his assistant in the next room. (1876)
11 The most famous storm in American history begins.... the Blizzard of 1888.(1888)
12 Girl Scouts were founded. (1912)
12 Baseball great Joe Dimaggio agrees to a new contract with the NY Yankees, and gets a $6,250 raise. My, how times have changed! (1942)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Marching On

There's an old saying about the month of March: March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Overheard yesterday was the following, as regards March: It seems like March this year has come in like a lamb. Does that mean that it's going to go out like a lion?

Scary thought that one. We've been enjoying some truly unusually nice weather for this time of year. I for one hope it lasts. But I've lived here in NY long enough to remember a Pesach when we got snow for the first Seder night. I wouldn't be putting away the snow shovels and winter paraphernalia just yet.

In the meantime, enjoy the gift of somewhat warmer days and have a gutten Shabbos.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Speaking of Old Age

There are some who are not fully convinced that people are living to far older ages than in previous generations. And then you see a news report like the following. Of interest to me was the fact that Mr. Buckles had been advocating for a memorial for WWI veterans. When people ask--and yes, some people do--just what is it that all these old people are contributing to our country while they are "stealing" all that money that goes into Social Security and Medicaid and specialized services that could be better spent on the "younger" among us, we have an answer here: they are still involved where and when they can be in in doing what those older generations did so well. They are advocating for change, they are advocating for remembrance for important events of the past, they are getting up and being counted. If a man of 110 can still put effort into advocating for something he believed in, just how do the rest of those far younger than he was justify sitting on their duffs and complaining but never lifting a real hand in support of something they believe needs to be fixed or needs to be established?

And yes, we in Klal could learn a thing or two from Mr. Buckles, not least being that complaining alone has rarely, if ever, led to real change. What is needed is advocacy and getting up off our chairs to actively search for and implement the changes we feel are needed. And given when WWI occurred and how old Mr. Buckles was, we might also learn that "Now" is not necessarily when those changes we would advocate for will take place--we need to prepare to be in it for the long haul.

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Frank Buckles, the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, has died. He was 110.

Buckles, who also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II, died peacefully of natural causes early Sunday at his home in Charles Town, biographer and family spokesman David DeJonge said in a statement. Buckles turned 110 on Feb. 1 and had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of World War I in Washington, D.C.

Buckles lied about his age to join the army at age 16.The Missouri native was among nearly 5 million Americans who served in World War I in 1917 and 1918.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Those Dreaded P Words

Yup, I'm about to mention those words beginning with P that have been known to strike terror into the hearts of women all across the globe--Purim and Pesach. How is it that such a small, simple letter can have the effect that it does?

In and of itself Purim should be no more a major undertaking than any other holiday we have that lasts one day, but it takes on more significance because it is a visual signpost that the other P will arrive only a scant month later. The two holidays are a study in contrasts. For Purim our houses, and certainly our kitchens, are chock full of items containing flour[think chometz]--goodies that are looked forward to a whole year. Even those who may not stock up on cakes, cookies and other noshes and nibbles may do so for Purim. Shalach Monos arrive containing more nosh than some households will see the entire rest of the year. There is a major seudah, and because one can drive on Purim, the number of guests at the seudah may far exceed the size of any regular or holiday meals throughout the rest of the year. Look at your home after the seudah is over and neat and tidy are not the words that come to mind.

Four weeks later neat and tidy and clean are precisely what is required. No matter how little or how much you choose to do in making Pesach, you are going to be cleaning, and cleaning more than you do for other holidays during the year. Those kitchens that might be perfectly organized during the rest of the year are going to be turned upside down in trying to find a space to put Pesach dishes, pots, silverware and all the paraphernalia necessary for the yom tov. People who don't keep chometz in their homes over Pesach are going to be scrambling to make a month's worth of meals that will use up all that chometz.

Let me mention a few other P words that can help alleviate some of the tension involved in Purim and Pesach--planning, perusing, preparing, purchasing and prioritizing. Now is the perfect time to sit down and start making lists for both holidays. Now is the time to be planning out menus so shopping for those meals will be organized. Now is the time--no other holiday on the calendar--to take care of some of those cleaning chores that you know you are going to be doing and that are going to add to your stress if you leave them to the week before Pesach. Want to wash curtains in the various rooms of your home? No time like the present. Light fixtures looking a bit grungy or a closet that is crying out for reorganization? No time like the present. Two of my local supermarkets have already put out a lot of their Passover displays THIS WEEK (and you should see the sales prices on some of the items). If you have a spot where to store those non-perishables, take your shopping list and get what you can now--those items are not going to be any fresher 6 weeks from now, and many of them will have disappeared off the shelves.

How tense you are going to be going into Purim and Pesach can depend on how well you prepare yourself right now. So, grab a cup of coffee and open up your Purim/Pesach files on the computer (note: if you don't have those files, now is a good time to establish them). It's more than time to get rid of some of the stress these holidays bring on and add back a full dose of joy and simcha.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Paying Attention to the Numbers

Our local bakery is also a kosher grocery store and when they get busy you can stand in line for quite a while. While doing so this morning I overheard what was to me some fascinating information. I asked and was told that one of the speakers has an MS in Social Work and is going for a PhD in the same field. The other teaches biological sciences on the college level, so at least an MA/MS in biology. What they were discussing was shidduchim, more particularly the statistics about shidduchim.

First, there are no exact and reliable figures about how many Jewish frum singles there are in the US--all data is informal, some of it gathered from shuls in the tri-State area and some from major Jewish centers outside of the tri-State area. Some information was gathered from shadchanim and from shidduch making sites online. Some was gathered from the 5-year studies that are done on day school/yeshiva enrollments. The general consensus seems to be that from 10-20% of singles in any given age cohort will not get married, either because they are not looking to get married or because they can't find a shidduch. And, no surprise, the percentage may be higher among females than among males.

Now, what percentage of frum Jews in the US are of marriageable age? Again, there are no exact figures. What one of the speakers did was to look at day school and yeshiva enrollments for the past 10-20 years. Here there are some figures to work with. Extrapolating from those figures they came up with an estimate of how many of those students would not be married.

The 2003-2004 study of day school populations (including Chabad and Yeshiva/chasidishe schools, as well as affiliated Conservative and Reformed schhols; however, Haredi or ultra-Orthodox schools are not included in this survey), there were 205,000 children enrolled, 4- years-old to 12th grade. An even distribution would mean approximately 14,645 students per grade level. We do have facts to support that Jews are having larger families today, so that the younger cohorts may be larger in size than the older ones. In the seven years since the study was done that would be approximately 102,550 people of marriageable age who entered the "shidduch market." And what the speakers in the bakery were saying was that about 10,255 to 20,510 of them are not yet married nor likely to be.

One of the speakers is trying to work out a statistically reliable way of gathering more exact data. His feeling is that we in Klal need to know these figures. He was appalled, and expressed it, that at least 1/10 of the population of marriageable age can't seem to find partners. He said that when a figure is that high we absolutely must look at how shidduchim are being made to see if the method of shidduch making is flawed and contributing to the numbers of singles.

Someone else listening to the conversation asked "What if the number of singles isn't that high? What if it's only 5%? How do we know that that isn't a percentage in Klal that has always remained unmarried? Has there ever been a major time period when virtually everyone was married?" Someone else mentioned that the percentages would seem to vary according to how much to the right you were--those more to the right get married perhaps in larger numbers than those in the middle or to the left of religious practice.

Maybe these numbers are correct and maybe they aren't--it could be that the percentage of singles is smaller, and it could be that the percentage is larger. I agree that we really need to find a way to gather data and to re-examine our approach to getting married. If the way shidduchim are made is contributing to the percentage of people who don't get married then we clearly need to rethink that way.

Let me put it this way: if only 1% of those students graduating high school in 2011 through 2020 did not get married, and assuming that class size did not get larger (which is not the case), then by 2020 there would be 10,255 singles in the age range from 19-28 who are going to remain single. And taking it a step further, assuming approximately equal distribution of males and females and using the figure quoted today of family size of 4-5 children on average, that is 25,640 children which will not be born. Forget what percentage of the population those numbers represent for a moment: these are living, breathing human beings who have the same hopes and dreams that the rest of the population does, and whose dreams are going to be dashed.

Okay, my personal opinion is that this study desperately needs to be undertaken. For me, ANY percentage of our population that remains single points to remediation needed of the shidduch making process. I wish these gentlemen success in their undertaking. Klal could sure use more "mazel tovs" and less "it's bad for shidduchim-itis).

Note: thank you to GM for sending me the link for the day school population survey.