Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Let's Hear It for Bourbon, Down with Scotch

The Council of West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, passed a resolution banning the purchase of all products produced in Israel. Well folks, time for a little activism.

To read about the boycott and to see the list of Scotch whiskeys not produced in the area and, therefore, okay for purchase (scroll all the way down) go to http://muqata.blogspot.com/p/official-scotch-whisky-counter-boycott.html

Please keep this in mind--drinking Scotch is a want, not a need, and we so do not need to support an area whose anti-Israel, anti-zionist rhetoric is appalling. They want to ban Israeli products? Well two can play at that game. I hope they find out that they've bitten off lots more than they can chew, and I hope they choke swallowing.

Yes, I hope you pass this information on to others, lots of others, and I hope you add a personal request asking people to not buy any of the Scotch whiskeys from this area.

Please note: taken from the muqata (thanks Jameel): The following Scotches are not under the ban, not being made in West Dumbartonshire-- Glenmorangie,Oban,Glenfiddich

On Prioritizing

Thanks to my offspring for sending me this via email. Has some points to ponder that are well worth pondering.

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,When 24 hours in a day is not enough,Remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - family, Children, health, Friends, and Favorite passions – Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, Your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else --The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, You will never have room for the things that are important to you.

So... Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. 'Take care of the golf balls first -- The things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. 'I'm glad you asked'. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

Monday, May 30, 2011

What Price Choice?

The theme this year for my college's second level composition classes is "What Price Choice?" All the class readings are exemplars of people who face a choice and who pay a price for that choice. In many of the readings an individual's choice is complicated by the choices of the groups/society around that person. How do individuals choose when the results of a choice may put them in conflict with what their society has chosen? Do they choose to go along with everyone else, even if that choice may not make them happy or may cause them difficulties, or do they choose to go against society, where negative consequences may ensue?

This idea of choice and its consequences can certainly apply to the members of Klal, and, indeed, may be at the root of some of the problems and issues that are important today. I'd say that the majority of us in Klal are fairly intelligent. Faced with actual facts we can see if continuing to do something may be detrimental or not. And yet, few individuals, even knowing that the choice they are about to make won't be good for them, personally choose not to make that choice.

A rational human being can add 2+2 and see that if you only have X number of dollars available to you, you can't spend X+30,000. But members of Klal regularly do spend that X+$30,000 and find themselves in financial straits. Why do they do this? Because the group they are a part of has declared that what that 30,000 pays for is a "must have." If you want to be a member of this group then you have to have what the group says you have to have. The group lets you know that if you choose not to spend that 30,000 you don't have to pay for the required items then you will not be a member in good standing, you will be outside of the group, you may be shunned. And most members of Klal buckle under.

Here is where things get sticky however. Just who is this "group" that exercises this control? We know that Klal has no centralized leadership, no group at the top of the pyramid that can be pointed to. Granted, smaller groupings within Klal may have a Rav that they consider as their final decider. Certain geographic areas seem to have some cohesion when it comes to practices that that area "approves" of or doesn't approve of. There are customs as regards public (and yes, some private) gatherings. So, we all seem to buckle under, at least in some areas, without any real idea as to who made the decision that X has to be done. So yes, just who is it we are afraid of going against when we do things that "they" have decided we must not do? If "Big Brother" is watching, just who is this Big Brother? And what is our culpability, as individuals, when we contribute to this ephemeral but powerful peer pressure?

This whole issue reminds me of back when I was young and people were sometimes afraid of the dark because "The Bogeyman will get you." Strangely enough, or perhaps not so strangely, not one person ever, ever saw that Bogeyman, nor were there any reliable documentations of anyone ever being "gotten" by that Bogeyman. And yet, the warning was internalized and worked with as if it were a proven fact. So, doing anything that "they" deem outside of the norm will be "bad for shidduchim" seems to be just another Bogeyman--no proof, no sense, sometimes wholly irrational, but held onto as if it were, in fact, Torah Mi'Sinai.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some interesting happenings for the period of May 29 through June 4.


29 Famous Abraham Lincoln quote: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, & all of the people some of time, but you can't fool all of the people all of time." (1849)
29 Sir Edmund Hillary is on top of the world. He is the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. (1953)
29 Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas" into the record books as the biggest selling record. (1942)
30 The brassiere is invented. As we understand, it received a lot of support. (1889)
31 The trans-Alaska pipeline is completed. (1977)


1 The term "Don't give up the ship!' is coined by Captain James Lawrence of the U.S. Chesapeake. (1813)
1 Superman Comic is published (1938)
1 Ed Sullivan's final show. (1971)
2 PT Barnum's circus begins first tour of US (1835)
2 Grover Cleveland is married while serving as U.S. president.(1886)
2 Congress grants U.S. citizenship to people of American Indian descent.(1924)
3 The Rolling Stones begin their first US tour. (1964)
4 China becomes the first to record a solar eclipse. (780 BC)
4 After winning 122 straight races, hurdler Edwin Moses' winning streak is broken. (1987)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Before We Talk About the Golden Years

More than a few comments on The Golden Years posting asked "So where do we go from here?" I've been giving that some thought. I think we have a major job to do before we can set into place any programs for our upcoming Boomer seniors. Thoughts about what? Read on.

Intuitively, based on personal experience, we know that there are an awful lot of tzedaka organizations and programs and institutions serving Klal right now. It seems like our mailboxes are always full, the emails come by the dozens, the phone calls by the hundreds and the collectors by the carload. And yet, do we really have any idea just how many organizations, programs and institutions we are supporting? The problem of gaining this knowledge is further complicated by the fact that not all programs are just in the NY area but across the country and certainly all over Israel.

Why should we know this information? You can't budget when you don't know precisely just what will need to be supported. You can't divide money if you don't know into how many portions that money needs to be divided into. I've written before that there is duplication in some areas where there really should not be. That duplication--let's say 12 smaller groups instead of 1-2 larger groups--results in duplicated expenses and overhead, taking away from the funds available to be used for the purposes of a program. Yes, in some cases that duplication is actually necessary. To do what it is supposed to do, to serve well, Hatzoloh of SI can't also service Brooklyn, and vice-versa. It certainly can't service Baltimore, or Chicago or Los Angeles. The same can be said about the various local Bikur Cholim groups. But there are hundreds of other groups out there, many of which do duplicate services within a geographic area or cross geographic areas, and many of which leech money out of the community without actually providing a needed/well-run service.

So, first thing some people with an organizational bent need to compile what we don't presently have--a master list of all organizations providing services to the Jewish community. The easiest place to start is by asking every community here in the US to compile a master list of every organization/program/institution that is based in that community. Also, people active in a particular type of organization seem to know about other such organizations located elsewhere--get their input. Synagogues and the programs they offer should also be included in this discovery. Those communities which have Jewish Community Centers should also include the programs offered by these places.

Once such lists are compiled and sent to a central place, we'd need volunteers to create a computer database with all the information. Then the information needs to be divided into categories.

Of course, this is only step one. Once we know how many of each type of organization might be present, we then need to do some investigating into how many people are actually serviced by each group. What kinds of expenses do each of these groups have?

The next logical step, after we know what we presently have to support, is to make a list of what types of services and programs are missing that we need for the community. How many of these services will be necessary? Relatively how expensive or inexpensive will it be to put these programs into service?

Yes, I know this is going to be considered a time-consuming project to undertake. But what choice do we really have? It is more than clear that Klal is in financial trouble, and that the money to support all its programs and institutions as presently structured doesn't seem to be there. But it's all conjecture unless and until we see actual figures in front of us. If we don't know what needs supporting and how much money that supporting will take, how can we possibly have a rational discussion on where Klal's money should go?

So, first things first. Let's get the real facts about just where our money is going now, to what types of programs and institutions. We need to become good gardeners in order for Klal to be healthy. A good gardener knows that first you look at your plot and see how much space you have for new planting. A good gardener recognizes when some plantings have become rampant, taking over the area dedicated to a different planting and threatening that different planting's health and vitality. A good gardener knows that there needs to be balance among plantings so that every plant can get what it needs, but not at the expense of another plant. And a good gardener also knows that first you weed the garden, getting rid of the chaff, before you plant a new plant. So yes, in this season of gardening it's time for us to look at Klal's plot and to do the maintenance required so that the garden of Klal can grow healthily and provide beauty and joy and sustenance rather than being a tangled mess.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Someone is Paying Attention to Marketing

I'm not telling you anything new when I say that Jewish publications and organizations have gone slightly batty in what they consider appropriate pictures. Where once pictures of women and girls routinely appeared on the pages of the publications, today they are photoshopped out as a matter of tsnius, or so they say. And it's also no secret that this attitude is causing a further breach between the more left and more right wings of frum Jews.

Enter money. Sure, there are some in the most right sectors of the frum world with some money. But given attitudes towards education, training and working in this sector I'd venture to say that there is more money among those in the groups more to the middle and the left of the frum world. The right wing elements aren't stupid--they know where the money is--and they routinely approach those of the middle and left for donations to support the structures of the right. A lot of those so approached are not giving any longer or have greatly reduced what they are giving, not liking what they see happening in the far right.

Well, someone on the right finally figured out that "tsnius" is going to have to take a backseat when money is involved. I received in the mail a full-color 5x12 postcard, printed on both sides, reminding me about the 103rd Anniversary Dinner for one of those truly to the right schools. And yes, my mouth dropped open. I know this school rather well, and what I was seeing on that postcard was not what you would see in the school.

First, one one side there were pictures of girls and on the other side there were pictures of boys. Pictures of girls? Okay, the girls were fairly young--maybe in the 4-7 range, but still. The boys looked a bit older than that. But here is what was truly puzzling--not a single picture showed a student wearing the school uniform, nor were the students pictured wearing what we usually think of as right wing dress. Two of the girls were--gasp!--wearing articles made out of denim. The outfits were in a variety of real colors. Of the six boys pictured only one was wearing a white shirt--the others were wearing colorful plaid shirts, one wearing an obvious hoodie.

Yup, I'm truly suspicious as to why this postcard was sent out. Further, I wonder if everyone got the same postcard or if this postcard was mailed only to those not in the yeshiva's "family." The whole presentation reminded me of the type of literature you still might get from a kiruv organization, showing children who were being brought back into the fold but not yet right wingers.

As I said, I know just what position this particular yeshiva holds in the frum world, and it isn't anything like what is pictured on that postcard. But for someone who wouldn't know, the postcard makes the school look like a middle of the road place, someplace the middle of the roaders might want to give some money, or even those way to the left.

Amazing--when it comes to money then hyper tsnius takes a seat so far back on the bus it isn't even a passenger.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some interesting happenings for the time period of May 22 through May 28.

22 Former Vice President Aaron Burr is tried and acquitted for treason. (1807)
22 The Great Train Robbery. (1868)
22 First reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. (1933)
22 The debut of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."(1967)
23 Legendary bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde Barrow are shot to death in a police ambush in Louisiana. (1934)
24 Nursery Rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was written by Mary Hale of Boston. (1830)
25 Ford ceases production of the Model "T." (1927)
25 The movie blockbuster "Star Wars" is released. (1978)
26 Michael Jackson marries Elvis Presley's daughter Lisa Marie Presley. (1994)
27 Achsah Young is the first woman to be executed as a witch in Massachusetts. (1647)
27 The pop-up toaster is patented. (1919)
27 German battleship Bismarck sunk by British navy. (1941)
28 President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button that opens San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. (1937)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Note to Readers

I'm not ignoring the comments on The Golden Years posting, but I'm formulating a response and some suggestions, and I'd like to get them into a form I'm happy with.

Paraprosdokians to Lighten the Day

Thanks to one of my fellow teachers who sent this my way via email. Ahhh, when those who practice the craft of English practice it well.

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax.
I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience...
I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.
We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit;
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research...
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.......
How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
Some people are like Slinkies.... not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.
Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.
A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.
Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "In an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR".
I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it...
so I said "Implants?"
Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?
Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.
I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lime, and a shot of tequila.
When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
You're never too old to learn something stupid.
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.
A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Those Golden Years

It's stating the obvious to say that the composition of Klal is changing and changing in major ways. What I'm specifically referring to is the ratio of older people to younger people present in Klal.

Obviously the horrendous events of WWII decimated a great part of the generation before mine. Those of that generation who survived procreated sufficiently to produce a generation much larger than that war time generation--what is generally known as the Boomer Generation. That was a good thing--the numbers for Klal were being re-generated. But it is not only the number of people in each of these two generations which are important to look at: it's the longevity. The war-time generation underwent horrific deprivations, deprivations that would affect them many decades after the war. Many from that surviving war-time generation died fairly young given today's longevity tables. Many of them suffered a wide variety of illnesses and medical conditions that could be linked specifically to the tremendous physical and emotional stress they were under during the war. Their systems had been weakened and never fully recovered.

For that Holocaust Generation the celebration of a 50th wedding anniversary was truly a momentous occasion; for that matter, celebrating a 40th anniversary was also a momentous occasion. For many of that generation a spouse or both the husband and wife died before such milestones could be reached. [Note: my mother tells me that it was not just the Holocaust Generation that did not see this longevity of marriage. In going back over her grandparents' and great grandparents' history, none of them managed as a couple to come close to 40 years, never mind 50 years.] Look around at those from that generation who are still alive today and the number of couples who have survived together is miniscule.

Now come to the Boomer generation. That generation's ages span from the 50s through the 70s. We have friends and family across that age spectrum. And the vast majority are, B"H, still alive and are part of a couple. Hitting a 40th anniversary for this generation is not unusual at all; neither is hitting a 50th anniversary. We have a couple of friends who have already achieved that milestone and many more who are within a few years of it.

So why mention what is surely a wonderful thing to have happening? Apparently it needs to be pointed out that the Boomers are no longer youngsters and most are sitting on the cusp of leaving middle age or have already left it. Yes, this generation is aging. And because of the size of this generation and because of the longevity of the members of this generation, some serious planning and consideration needs to be taken care of if that generation is to continue to thrive as it enters the golden years.

There needs to be some thought given to what kinds of activities and programs will have to be in place for this generation as it grows older. And yes, there needs to be some thought as to what type of living accommodations might become necessary, for those who are still capable of being independent and those who might need some type of help. I've heard a number of times that the "obvious" solution is that parents will move in with their children when the time comes that they might need some help or not be fully independent any more. Oh boy, not! That might be an answer for a very few of the Boomers but not for the majority. Look at you and your spouse if you are the children of Boomers. Are you both working? Do you both plan on working until "official" retirement age? The answer is most likely yes. So then, just who is it that will be at home caring for those parents that are going to move in with you? Your kids? The ones who are married, working and have kids of their own? And let me ask you this--do you have parents in their late 50s, early 60s? So, do they have the exact same energy they had when they were younger? Probably not. So just when these children of the Boomer's are themselves slowing down a bit we want to hand them 2-4 aging parents to be fully responsible for on a 24/7 basis? [Note: there is a reason why in Yiddish there is a saying "Och und vei ahz elteren darfen unkimmen tzu kinder."]

Even in this geographic area chock full of every type of medical specialist there are relatively few whose specialty is geriatrics. What we have in place for the seniors we presently have is insufficient, never mind that it certainly won't cover what the Boomers might need. Senior care programs are woefully inadequate, with some areas of the city having none or just one. Assisted living facilities are also inadequate and have long waiting lists. Nursing homes also have long waiting lists, and there aren't enough of them.

Now add in that there are some in the Boomer generation who have been shelling out megabucks to help support their children and grandchildren, particularly as regards the payment of yeshiva tuition, not to mention donations and support of every other type of organization. Every penny that these Boomers are spending on succeeding generations is a penny that they won't have in savings to cover their non-working, older years. There's this as well: things get more expensive as time goes on, not less. Economic turndowns are cyclical and occur about every 10-15 years. What might seem like adequate savings now might well not cover what needs to be covered way later on. Even those who have diligently saved towards their eventual retirement may well find themselves with money problems in their later years. At that point they are going to need community financial help, and just where is that going to come from? Yes, some children might be able to help out their parents--and some won't be able to.

In short, what I'm advocating is that Klal needs to broaden its outlook of what services it must have in place for its members, and it needs to consider ALL of its members, both now and in the very near future. Any solution for yeshiva education that counts on all/most/the majority of the money in Klal going toward it is not a sustainable nor workable solution. Solutions to Klal's problems that count on continued large infusions of money from the Boomers is doomed to failure, sooner than later. Whatever complaints there may be about the Boomers--and yes, there are many--they give and gave while the money is and was available. Now the question is, what is Klal going to do for these Boomers when they become our elder statesmen, when they are the oldest generation, when they need Klal's help? Are we going to help them have truly Golden Years, or is that gold going to be heavily tarnished?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Case for being a careful Consumer

Okay, I'm not naive--manufacturers are in business to sell their products and that's, for most of them, their bottom line consideration. But as I pointed out Pesach time (regarding a pictured and labeled yellow cake mix which wasn't yellow), looking at the box doesn't mean that you're going to get what is illustrated/stated there.

Any of you enjoy products with blueberries in them? Are you sure those are really blueberries in the package? Go to the link below and get an education about what blueberry means to a whole lot of product manufacturers.


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Survivor Generation, Level II

My mother's generation is known as the Holocaust Generation or sometimes as the Survivors Generation. Yes, the appellation is a true one. Members of this generation went through the horrors of the Holocaust, and some survived it. But there is a group of us, a large group of us, who are labeled as part of the Boomer Generation but should more aptly be labeled Survivor II--the Next Generation. The members of this Generation are those who were born to members of the Holocaust Generation immediately following the events of the Holocaust. For a large part, members of this sub-generation were born in the war-torn hellholes of Europe. A large number of these Holocaust Survivors/Survivor II people would, within a couple of years of the birth of the Survivor II children, emigrate to western Europe or the US or Israel.

Why make those of us who were born immediately post-War into a separate generational listing? History, for one thing. It is true that the numbers of those of the Holocaust Generation still surviving are dwindling. These first-hand witnesses to the history of the Holocaust are becoming a small number. And for those who are trying to trivialize the events of the Holocaust, who are trying to change what history will really tell about the events of the Holocaust, the death of those Holocaust Generation members is a welcome thing. The witnesses to history are disappearing and revisionists can hardly wait until they are all gone.

And that is where Survivor II children come into importance. No, I did not first-hand experience the actual atrocities of WW II. I did, however, experience the immediate aftermath of those atrocities. You think that young children don't have memories of their early days? You think that infants and young children don't pick up on the tension of their parents and the other adults around them? You think that these young children were not affected by the constant moving that many of their parents had to undertake post war, as they tried to return home to what was once their homes and no longer was? You think that these young children had it so easy just because the war was officially over?

I know of at least a couple of my readers who are, like me, from that Survivor II generation, and there may well be more. The early memories we share are all war-tinged to one extent or another. We were the children who were there in the background when the adults around us shared their war stories and tried to get a picture of who was still alive and who was missing. We were the ones there to see our parents crying when they thought no one was watching. We were the ones who bore the names of the dead. And yes, we are the children whose birth certificates in many cases bear the names of places of horror, extermination camps that were turned, after the War, into displaced persons camps. We are the ones whose citizenship in the countries we would finally settle in was not a given but needed to be applied for. We are the ones who sometimes have sudden flashbacks to earlier times that give us the chills.

And yes, we Survivor II generation members also have the responsibility of bearing witness so that history will not, conveniently for some, erase the true facts of what transpired in the dark annals of human history. My birth certificate does not read Bergen Belsen because my parents thought it would be a nice place for a child to be born. I am not a naturalized citizen because my parents made a positive choice based on lots of choices of where to go to live. Many of us are still multi-lingual, and multi-experienced as well, because of lives that began in the aftermath of the War.

The responsibility of passing down the true facts of what happened in the Holocaust should be the responsibility of all of us, but it is particularly incumbent on my generation to lead the charge, because as the Holocaust Generation dies out we are the ones left with the direct connection to the events of that horrific time period.

And here is what I am telling those who wish to deny that the Holocaust ever took place, that the events history tells us about were exaggerated or fabricated--you try and peddle your trash and I'm going to loudly and with passion shoot you down for the liars you are. I'm not slinking into the shadows and letting you make a mockery of what really happened. You and your kind murdered my family and the families of millions of others, and you're not getting a pass. No, I'm not going to turn the other cheek--no, I'm not. Beware, for our motto is "Never Again" and it's not just empty words. Try and take us on and you will be getting way more than you ever bargained for.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tidbits from the Past

Some happenings in history that took place from May 1 through May 21. Looks like May was an interesting month for making changes and for being "the first."

1 England releases the first 1st adhesive postage stamp(1840)
1 The first wagon train 1841 1st wagon train leaves Independence, Mo for California (1841)
1 "Buffalo Bill" Cody's first Wild West Show (1883)
1 The Empire State Building was dedicated. (1931)
1 Cereal food "Cheerios" hits store shelves. (1941)
1 Slugger Mickey Mantle hits his first home run (1951)
1 Mr. Potato Head is introduced. (1952)
2 Good Housekeeping Magazine first hits the newsstands. (1885)
2 Lou Gehrig plays in his 2,130th game, a baseball record that will last for 57 years until Cal Ripken comes along. (1939)
3 Christopher Columbus discovers "St Iago." It is later renamed Jamaica. (1494)
3 Joe DiMaggio makes his major-league debut with 3 hits for the NY Yankees. (1936)
3 Margaret Mitchell wins Pulitzer prize for "Gone With the Wind." (1937)
4 Manhattan Island is sold! Indians agree to the deal in exchange for $24 in cloth & buttons (1626)
4 Phonograph is played for the first time at the Grand Opera House. (1878)
4 Academy of Motion Pictures is founded. (1934)
4 Atlanta Penitentiary has a new resident after Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion. (1932)
4 Soap operas "Another World" and "As the World Turns" premiere. (1964)
5 Mexican forces under Benito Juarez defeated French troops in the Battle of Puebla. Today this battle is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo. (1862)
5 North Bend, Ohio gets on the map. It's the site of the fist US train robbery (1865)
5 The New York Stock Exchange crashes, causing the "Great Panic of 1893." (1893)
5 Alan Shepard rides "Freedom 7" to become the 1st American in space. (1961)
6 John Deere produces the first steel plow. (1833)
6 The Yale lock is patented. (1851)
6 The Paris Exposition opens with the just completed Eiffel Tower as its centerpiece. (1889)
6 The Dirigible Hindenburg explodes into flames at Lakehurst, NJ. (1937)
6 Chunnel linking England & France officially opens. (1994)
7 The first inaugural ball is held in honor of George Washington and his wife. (1789)
7 George Eastman patents the Box Camera. (1888)
7 The World's largest pearl (6.4kg.) was discovered in the Philippines. (1934)
7 Big band leader Glenn Miller records the "Chattanooga Choo Choo." (1941)
7 Germany signs an unconditional surrender at Rheims, France, ending WWII in Europe. (1945)
7 The Beatles last album is released- "Long and Winding Road". (1970)
8 The U.S. Post Office is established. (1794)
8 V-E Day, Germany signs unconditional surrender. (1945)
8 Mad Magazine hits the newsstands. (1952)
8 The World Health Organization announces that Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. (1980)
9 A "Golden Spike" was driven into the railroad tracks at Promontory Summit, Utah, connecting the tracks of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, creating the first Transcontinental railroad. (1869)
9 The syrup for Coca Cola is invented by Atlanta Pharmacist John Styth Pemberton. (1886)
9 The lawnmower is patented. (1899)
9 Americans Richard Boyd and Floyd Bennett become the first to fly over the North Pole. (1926)
9 The Birth control pill is approved by the FDA. (1960)
10 The first color pictures of Earth from space are sent back from Apollo 10. (1969)
10 Nelson Mandela becomes South Africa's first black president. (1994)
11 Einstein presents his Theory of General Relativity. (1916)
11 BF Goodrich manufactures the first tubeless tire. (1947)
11 Jay Forrester patents computer core memory. (1951)
12 The flush toilet is patented. (1792)
13 The Rolling Stones record the now infamous song "Satisfaction." (1965)
13 The Beatles movie "Let it Be" premieres. (1970)
13 "Mr. October,"Reggie Jackson, becomes the first major league ballplayer to strike out 2,000 times. (1983)
14 A party of settlers led by John Smith establishes the first permanent English settlement in the New World at Jamestown, Va. (1607)
14 Vaseline petroleum jelly slides onto store shelves for the first time. (1878)
14 The first U.S. space station, "Skylab," is launched. (1973)
14 The last episode of Seinfeld is aired. It's a sad day in May for millions of Seinfeld followers. (1998)
15 Regular airmail service inaugurated (between New York, Philadelphia & Washington DC) . (1918)
15 Nylon stockings hit the market for first time (1940)
15 "If I had a Hammer" by Peter, Paul, and Mary wins a Grammy (1963)
16 Charles Hires invents Root Beer. (1866)
17 "And They're Off!" as the first Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs. (1875)
18 Napoleon Bonaparte becomes Emperor of France (1804)
19 Ringling Brothers circus premieres. (1884)
20 Hubble Space Telescope transmits photographs from space (1990)
21 The American Red Cross was formed. (1881)

When One Hour Seems Like Three Days

I really can't complain that Blogger has been unreliable over the almost 4 years I've been blogging. However, last week it caused me a whole lot of problems, so I'm now apologizing if the blog is going to look rather bleak as to new postings this week--not my fault but Blogger's fault. A one-hour shut down scheduled for last Wednesday lasted until late Friday afternoon. They do promise that postings that have disappeared or not been saved will come back to us. Serves me right I guess; I decided to devote a few hours to polishing some pieces that have been percolating and, of course, they are now nowhere to be found.

A timely reminder to us that those electronic devices we depend on so heavily are not foolproof.

Friday, May 13, 2011

You're Offering What?

It seems like just as soon as one phone/mail scam is closed down, another takes its place. The scam I'm warning readers about originally was all through the mail but is now using phone "telemarketers"--and I use that word very loosely.

I received a call today telling me that I had won a free 2-night cruise to the Bahamas. (A quick call to a friend in the neighborhood brought out the information that she, too, had gotten the same call.) Given that we were supposed to take a cruise this past winter and had done a lot of research on cruising I wouldn't have been all that suspicious. However, the first tip-off was the supposed name of the cruise line. There is a major, well known cruise line called the Royal Caribbean Line. The phone caller said they were calling from Caribbean Cruise Lines--not the same line at all. In point of fact there is no actual cruise line called Caribbean Cruise Lines.

To get to the point, if someone calls and offers you such a cruise just hang up the phone. And do not under any circumstances give these people your credit card number. For more information, go to http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=4035

Please remember the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It's All Perspective

There are plusses and minuses to all the various places that we live. What we need to do is keep things in perspective when we grouse about a particular thing that is bugging us. Certainly you readers should know that if I have to be living in NY I really like SI. And I love the sense of living with nature that our house gives me, with the full woods at the back of the house. And yet....

On the occasions that we have had to stay overnight in Brooklyn for a Shabbos simcha I've been unable to get any sleep. The constant sound of traffic and the inevitable sirens have me tossing and turning. Yet the reverse is true for others; those who have stayed with us over a Shabbos have more than once complained that it's just too quiet and they couldn't fall asleep. Well, if they came now they wouldn't be able to make that statement.

Right now It's that small window we get of just perfect weather. We're between full heat blasting and airconditioning blasting. The windows are joyously thrown open. Even though it's still a bit cool at night, it's refreshing, snuggle under the covers cool rather than bone chilling. And I haven't had a full night's sleep since we opened the windows. The problem? Ralph and Alice and all their feathered friends are running on a biological clock way different from mine. At even a small suggestion of light breaking over the horizon those dratted birds break out in full concert. In the blink of an eye they go from full sleep to a 1000 bird rendition of the Brandenburg Concerto.

Nope, 5:17AM is just not my favorite time of day, and raving at ravens is not the way I want to start that day. Yes, yes, I know--get some perspective. I'd be a lot unhappier if I lived where there were no birds, where nature was something I read about rather than experiencing first hand. A lot easier to get that perspective if I weren't facing a 19-hour day on too little sleep. I guess our esteemed government leaders haven't yet figured out how to get our wildlife on the daylight savings schedule so that it meshes with the humans with whom those birds share the world.

Right about the time that I finally learn to sleep through the birdsong it will be time to turn on the air conditioners, and I'll have to start all over again in getting used to weird sounds during sleep. But hark--there's a lull in the concerto and I'm heading back to bed to make up the sleep deficit. Shakespeare sends me off with hope--"To sleep, perchance to dream."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Worth of Ghetto Living

I accidentally walked into the middle of a conversation in school that kind of floored me. What was being argued was the idea of Jewish isolation, specifically the idea of a ghetto. Points that were being made--1)it's only a ghetto if THEY force you to live there; if you choose to live together in isolation that's protecting the purity of klal; 2) too much has been made out of the forced ghetto-ization of the Jews in Europe--far from being a bad thing for the Jews it helped to keep Judaism flourishing, in some cases gave us the strength of numbers and reduced the number of Jews going off the derech since they couldn't just up and leave; 3) being in a ghetto prevented exposure to the outside culture and allowed Jews to live a Jewish lifestyle rather than one that constantly had to adapt to the outside culture or that quested after that outside culture.

I'm going to reserve my comments and throw this one open to my readers--what say you? Was/is isolated ghetto-type living a plus or a minus for Klal? How or why?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mothers Day

At the local Bikur Cholim breakfast this morning one of the speakers alluded to its being Mothers Day today in the secular calendar, and immediately followed that with "of course, for us every day is Mothers Day." We women at the table looked at each other, smiled, and wished each other a happy Mothers Day. One of the men said, "Didn't you hear the speaker? Every day is Mothers Day so no special greeting needed today." Thankfully one of the other women answered, and we all nodded in agreement. As she said, "You have that wrong. Not only do you have to say happy Mothers Day today but on every other day of the year as well. After all, if every day is Mothers Day then every day should have a recognition of that and a fond greeting to your wives and mothers."

So yes, a happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there, today and all the days of the year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do NOT Try This

I don't generally post emails that are making the rounds, but I'm making an exception with this one because of the possible danger involved. The following email has now been sent to me by three different people. It is quite possible that some of my readers have received it as well. I do wish that people would check things like this out with snopes first. Nevertheless, it is out there and I urge you all to ignore the advice given in it. Check out snopes to find out why. Not only does flour not work as a cure for burns, but tossing flour on a person on fire or on a fire in general will work as an accelerant. Go here to read the full explanation http://www.snopes.com/medical/homecure/flourburns.asp

Subject: Burn Treatment

I personally have never heard of this but did have the opportunity to try it out and it is a miracle. (I always have a small container of flour in my frig)

Sounds interesting.
Once I was cooking some corn and stuck my fork in the boiling water to see if the corn was ready. I missed and my hand went into the boiling water....
A friend of mine, who was a Vietnam vet, came into the house, just as I was screaming, and asked me if I had some plain old flour...I pulled out a bag and he stuck my hand in it. He said to keep my hand in the flour for 10 mins. which I did. He said that in Vietnam , this guy was on fire and in their panic, they threw a bag of flour all over him to put the fire out...well, it not only put the fire out, but he never even had a blister!!!!
SOOOO, long story short, I put my hand in the bag of flour for 10 mins pulled it out and had not even a red mark or a blister and absolutely NO PAIN. Now, I keep a bag of flour in the fridge and every time I burn myself, I use the flour and never ONCE have I ever had a red spot, a burn or a blister!
*cold flour feels even better than room temperature flour.
Miracle, if you ask me. Keep a bag of white flour in your fridge and you will be happy you did. I even burnt my tongue and put the flour on it for about 10 mins. and the pain was gone and no burn. Try it! BTW, don't run your burn area under Cold water first, just put it right into the flour for 10 mins and experience a miracle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Israel's Gain, our Loss

Conversation on Shabbos brought to light that an acquaintance's son and family were moving to Israel this summer. Now in our community hearing about someone making aliyah is not all that unusual. However in this case the son was very clear as to why they are moving and moving now--tuition for his kids.

The son owns his own business and is doing well in it, if working very hard. But in his business there is a saturation or cap point--he can do only so well and not really go beyond that. By most tallies he should not be having any major financial problems. However, he has four kids with the first heading to high school next year. Yes, this couple owns a home, but not a palace. Yes, they own two cars--both husband and wife have to drive for business. No, they aren't wallowing in luxuries. They also aren't able to put away any money either, and their expenses only go up.

This family is quick to point out that the move to Israel is not going to make their life problem free by any means. The husband is going to be a commuter from Israel to the States because his business is not transplantable to Israel and parnoseh is needed. This is going to cut into family life as they know it now--daddy won't be home for every night nor for every Shabbos. The full responsibility for family life will fall on the mom's shoulders, and she will be working full time. The kids won't have their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins around. They will be leaving all of their friends behind. BUT they will be cutting their yeshiva tuition bill by more than 3/4 of what they pay now. Their insurance bills will also be cut. The difference will give them some financial breathing room.

Yes, at least in theory, we should all be making plans to head to Israel to live. And we also know that for many reasons and for many people this just isn't possible, at least now or in the forseeable future. I think it's a sad commentary on what is happening in our frum communities that the decision to make aliyah may be based on the cost of tuition in yeshivas here in the States. What's more, I expect that we'll be hearing a lot more stories of young families making just this type of decision. Those who head up our yeshivas are far too sanguine about continued, steady applicants to their schools. If this one family can be making the decision to move because tuition has become ghastly, there will surely be others.

While I wish this family hatzlachah with their move, I can't help but think that our communities need a real wakeup call. With all the talking and yelling going on about tuition there has still been almost nothing or very little done not just to address the problem but to solve it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yom HaShoah

Religious debates aside about whether this particular observance is necessary, required or should be observed at all, nonetheless the world recognizes today as Yom HaShoah, and we, of all people, might be best served by taking a moment or two to remember what happened then.

For many in Klal, the Shoah is history, their connection many times removed from those who suffered through it. My connection is much closer, born in a DP camp, the child of Holocaust deathcamp survivors. There aren't all that many people left any more who were the first hand witnesses of the Holocaust horrors. My observance of the day will be to make sure I call my mother to tell her how much I love her and to let her tell me once again how much she still mourns the death of her parents and brothers, and to tell me once again stories of that family that have only been alive to me through her words. The Nazi beasts slaughtered my family but it is their names which are reviled worldwide, and will be as long as I have breath to draw, and as long as my children and their children down through the ages have the breath to tell the truth about what those beasts did.

May the neshomos of those who tragically died in the Shoah have an aliyah, and may their names stand before us as a remembrance that life may be good for us but it has also often been perilous.

A Word on Resumes

It has become popular to use the word resume when referring to those ubiquitous questionnaires that people in shidduchim fill out, giving their personal information to be used in shidduch making. Personally I never use the word when asking about shidduch information, nor do I particularly like its use by others.

Since the 1940s the word resume has been used to indicate a brief biographical summary of a person's career, a brief account of a person's personal, educational and professional qualifications and experience as they apply to a line of work being sought. It can serve as an outline of experience. How ever you choose to define the word, general usage puts it squarely in the job seeking area. This being the case, why oh why are we using it in reference to shidduchim?!

I have yet, ever, to hear someone refer to being married as being employed, as having entered into the job market. Surely those seeking spouses are not looking at their dates as possible employers/employees?!

The use of the word resume certainly fits in with the idea prevalent today that making shidduchim is big business. It's approached as if it were just another project on the work schedule, to be handled in a business-like fashion. What's going to be next? When a couple goes out on a date and one of them decides that the other party isn't a good fit for them, are we going to report that by saying "He/she doesn't have the qualifications for the job?" Or perhaps "He/she is not the type of employee that would fit in to my business environment"?

When we use the language and methodology of business and apply them to shidduchim we also should not be surprised by the high rate of employee dissatisfaction, lay-offs and employee terminations that we are seeing (that's divorce if you are wondering). In concert with the outside actual business world we are not seeing "job" growth at a high level.

I believe it's more than time to get rid of the word "resume" when talking about shidduchim, and all the other business-related terms as well. If we truly have to borrow terms from elsewhere, perhaps the arts would provide more appropriate terminology. I could live with someone's asking to see the score for someone else's Unfinished Symphony, or perhaps the Prelude for that Unfinished Symphony. I could live with someone telling me that the notes on the date were too flat or too sharp or in the wrong key. I could understand if someone said the lyrics didn't seem to match the melody.

Resumes and shidduchim? Time to change the loshon.