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Painful Truths

Thursday, 26 April 2012

It is hard to believe that my children and I came into a world with an independent Jewish State, knowing that my parents and their parents did not. Though her safety has been threatened numerous times during my lifetime, there has always been the reality of her existence. As a travel destination, a spiritual inspiration, and, God-forbid, a potential landing place should we ever find ourselves on the run like generations before us.

We turn towards Israel in prayer. Our daily liturgy speaks of Israel’s continued well-being. And our poets, both Biblical and contemporary, speak to the yearning we have felt for thousands of generations.

No where are these yearnings and our national assertion of a sovereign Homeland in Israel better articulated than in our anthem, Hatikvah “The Hope.” I am moved beyond words each time I hear it.

And yet…

I cannot be honest about my desire for a lasting peace in Israel with equal rights given to all citizens without acknowledging that this anthem is problematic. How can an Arab Israeli speak of a “Jewish soul” and “Zion”?

Neshama Carlebach, who is a gifted musician, an advocate for peace, and my friend, has embarked on a path that is both righteous and, for me, painful. She has recorded an alternate version of our people’s anthem with inclusive language. Intellectually, I know that this is a necessary dialogue if there is ever to be true peace. In my soul, the words feel as though they are being forced into spaces that are a different shape and size. I have listened to it over and over again. As shimmering as Neshama’s voice is, I become no more accustomed to the new words, or their implicit and explicit meanings, no matter how many times I hear it. And yet I know that such change must be an inevitability. As counter-intuitive and uncomfortable it is.

And maybe that is ultimately what our Hope is; it’s not enough to be free in our sovereign Homeland. We have to create a place that models our values and the teachings of all that is good and right. Which is what genuine freedom is.

For All to See

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Do you remember that scene in “A League of Their Own” when the women attend the exhibit opening and have their pictures taken in front of their younger selves?

That was my experience this past Sunday night at the Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age exhibit at the JCC of Manhattan.


There I was; in all of my awkward, adolescent “glory.” For all the world to see. What I remember most from that very moment was how surreal it felt to be holding something so precious. The heft of the Torah scrolls seemed appropriate. After all, it contained the (rather lengthy) love letter from God to our People. So many had died protecting it so that generations could live by it.

And it was mine.

Like any thirteen year old, I was excited by the attention my coming-of-age created. But at a time and place where the celebrations were low-key and the theme of the day was, I kid you not, Bat Mitzvah, there was ample opportunity to keep the focus more on the ritual and less on the extraneous. Even at the time, I was was energized more by the notion that I would be taking my place in the line of Tradition than by the Cross pens, LPs, and gold charms that were among the de rigueur gifts in the 1980s.

And though it should have been a sign of things to come, I was excited most of all to leyn (chant) Torah.

Another First

Monday, 23 April 2012

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door.
Turn around, turn around,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door.

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Little dirndls and petticoats, where have you gone?
Turn around and you’re tiny,
Turn around and you’re grown,
Turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own.
Turn around, turn around,
Turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own.

**taken just prior to Poppyseed’s first “Me & My Guy” Dance**

What Once Was Lost

Friday, 20 April 2012

I had been coveting the beautiful magein david necklaces that began to adorn the necks of my classmates and their S.O.s (significant others) during our Year-In-Irael program. Sure, I had a few of my own including a stunning one I had been given as a naming gift when I was born. What I wanted, though, was a grown-up, simple one for daily use.

What I ultimately selected was not the necklace I set out to buy. I thought I would end up with something more like one of these:

Standing at the counter in a shop in The Cardo, something else caught my eye. Gold. Unadorned. Simple. Beautiful. Unexpectedly, and rather suddenly, the ones I had in mind seemed too ornate. Too fancy. Too “not me.” The shopkeeper offered to wrap up the understated necklace. Lo todah. “No thank you,” I said as I clasped the link around my neck.

So when Poppyseed lost it during Seder two weeks ago, I was crushed. PC had the good sense to tell me the following morning — and only after he, Poppyseed, and BubbeGiraffe had searched for it. Poppyseed swore that she had put it in PC’s coat jacket pocket. And PC swore that he checked the pockets.

I believed them then as I believe them now.

I do not know what possessed me to ask the woman at the dry cleaners if I might check the pockets before she took that very same coat from me.
But I am grateful that I did.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Two-thirds of European Jewry vanquished while the world did nothing. A world complicit by their silence. It is as if a limb had been amputated. Still we limp, all these many years after the horrors.

Is this obsession part of the aftermath? Reading stories set during the Shoah, the preferred term for what is commonly known as the Holocaust. Hearing the stories. Writing the stories. Always, always trying to preserve the past so that we do not forsake them. Trying to preserve the past so that we prevent it from happening again. To anyone. We will NOT stand idly by as the blood of our neighbour is shed.

I was recently sent an advance copy of Anouk Markovits‘ English debut novel. Though beginning and ending in Manhattan, 2005, I Am Forbidden follows a family from its near destruction in wartime Eastern Europe to their struggles to regain a new normal in post-war France and, eventually, to Williamsburg, New York. With the Shoah as the background, it is less of a story about the horrors faced during the war, focusing instead on the far-reaching, and complicated, effects for those who survived. The choices that were made along the way.

Just as Revelation is ongoing, so is survival. What happened in Europe did not stay there. It has followed us. Plagued us. Haunted us. And like Torah, we turn our experiences over and over again. Finding new ways to tell the story. To try to understand the incomprehensible. I Am Forbidden leaves us with the same sense of overwhelming sadness as other books. It is the way in which the author has crafted this particular telling, however, that we find breathtaking originality and fluidity.

Tonight we lit a candle for the Six Million with Beernut offering the appropriate responses to our Kaddish. May the souls of those whose lives were violently stolen during our darkest hour be sheltered by God’s Eternal Protection.


I Am Forbidden will be published by Hogarth Press on 2012 May 8.

The Party’s Over…

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

My first birthday party here in our new home was a success. And I owe it ALL to Pinterest.

What? You don’t know from Pinterest?!? It is the third largest social network…just behind Facebook and Twitter. Which tells you…nothing. It’s like a storyboard or a design board. It is, for me, a place to organize things, places, ideas of inspiration. And it made me look like a party-throwing maven.

Thanks to the creativity of others, I was able to do the following:

  • find adorable invitations
  • create an outstanding cake display table
  • construct a fun backdrop for a group picture
  • design and make personalized Tshirts for each of Peach’s friends

[The red “Wonder Woman” shoes was my idea :)]


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If I was doing it all over again, I would have taken more pictures. Unfortunately, I was too busy chatting with friends and overseeing everything.

On second thought, maybe it’s OK that I was just completely in the moment.

Come Visit Me

Monday, 9 April 2012

Busy travel day.

But you can find me over here at Abby Off The Record.

#blogExodus – Packing: The Eleventh Plague

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

That last bit in the Egypt narrative finally makes sense.

וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת-הַבָּצֵק אֲשֶׁר הוֹצִיאוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, עֻגֹת מַצּוֹת–כִּי לֹא חָמֵץ: כִּי-גֹרְשׁוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהִתְמַהְמֵהַּ, וְגַם-צֵדָה, לֹא-עָשׂוּ לָהֶם
And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual. (Exodus 12:39)

At least, after driving myself berserk, trying to get five Frummies ready for the exodus back to the Promised Land.

With 600,000, I can see the wisdom in just leaving.

This post is part of a larger project, coordinated by The Ima, in preparation for our Festival of Redemption, Passover. Feel free to head over to her place and thank her for dreaming up such a creative way for us to understand the themes of Passover in our own lives.

#blogExodus — The Courage to Stand Up

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Today is the first day of Autism Awareness Month.
Tomorrow is World Autism Awareness Day.

There are some in the autism community who would respond for me, EVERY day is autism awareness day. And while that is a true statement, it does nothing to help others understand what autism is and how it profoundly affects our communities.

According to the latest information coming from the Center for Disease Control, one out of eighty-eight children have been identified as being somewhere on the autism spectrum. You know what that means? It means that, statistically speaking, you know a child on the spectrum.

These kids are in our neighbourhoods, our schools, our synagogues, our camps, and our families. They are our kids.

Please take a few minutes this month to learn the facts about autism. How you can create inclusive communities. And seek out ways to help parents and families who are living with a loved one on the spectrum.

Wear blue tomorrow, Monday, 2 April, and explain to anyone who asks that you are wearing blue in support of those who have autism.

Support Beernut, or someone else you know, who is participating in a local Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.

And when you hear numbers like 1 in 88, try putting a face to the number. While to the statisticians, he’s just a number, to me, that number is my son.

Oh… and to the lady who just questioned PC’s parenting skills in a store this morning, some autism education would do you some good.

This post is part of a larger project, coordinated by The Ima, in preparation for Festival of Redemption, Passover. Feel free to head over to her place and thank her for dreaming up such a creative way for us to understand the themes of Passover in our own lives.

#blogExodus – Fake It til You Make It

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

People are usually surprised to learn that I do not consider myself artistic.

I can write.
I can sing.
And while those fit under the larger umbrella of art, I have always considered an artistic person as someone who can draw. Or sculpt. Or paint. Heck, even someone who can doodle.
In other words, not. me.

[Yes, I’ve had a bad experience and yes, I’ve talked about it in therapy. OK??]

And yet, I have somehow produced a daughter who has always love arts and crafts. Is she any good? Probably not…but who cares. She loves it. And at this stage of her life, that is what really matters.

Until she decided to co-lead a program for her Brownie Troop. “Art-to-Wear.” She picked…face painting. FACE-PAINTING!!! Why not tie-dye or friendship bracelets or something else that I learned at camp? Oh — and the best part — the moms of the co-leaders were meant to assist.

Don’t worry, Mama, you can look at the instructions in the book, she reassured me.

Which worked. Until the girl who requested a bunny. And there were no bunny instructions in the farkakte book.

Thirty-six years have passed since that awful art experience. Two lifetimes. if you’re into gematria. And still I worry what people will think of my artistic endeavours.
But these little girls? They didn’t care. They loved the whole activity. And I pretended that I knew what I was doing.

And, by the looks of the bunny on the lower right corner of the the collage, I am a very good pretender.

This post is part of a larger project, coordinated by The Ima, in preparation for Festival of Redemption, Passover. Feel free to head over to her place and thank her for dreaming up such a creative way for us to understand the themes of Passover in our own lives.

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