Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Simon Says!

So I went to Israel for Lag B’omer.

Wow what an experience!

It all started at the airport.

We were a group of friends and since some of us were flying business class we all checked in at the VIP counter together, about 11 minutes after getting to Newark Int’l Airport we were standing with boarding passes in hand, rolling-carry-on-bags, and about 2 hours ‘till boarding.

I stepped outside for a smoke, and was amazed at the scene that was unfolding; seems that while we were being VIP’ed the rest of the crowed had started to show up.

There were Jews from every walk of life running about in a complete frenzy! Cars were honking, multi-hued suitcases and shopping bags all over the place, babies crying, cops yelling, and of course that infamous war-cry that follows me every time I travel on ElAl, “MINCHA!”

We finally get to the gate after browsing through the duty free shop, and being subjugated to a body search compliments of a very grouchy homeland-security guard, who was quite exasperated, I guess she didn’t have much experience dealing with a large amount of people that treat US customs control as if it were a clothing store in Boro Park. I mean the “handling” that was going on there,, “whatya mean I can’t take this water with me on the plane?!? I neeeeed it!! ,,, “OK, I’ll leave the water, but I really need this bottle of Snapple, ok?!?

I finally get through customs cringing at the way some people were behaving, and sit down with a book and wait for them to start boarding the passengers, ahhhhh my vacation has started! Pure bliss! I take a deep appreciative breath, and suddenly notice a peculiar, yet familiar scent. Tuna!

Yep, the mathematics are simple, three hundred heimishe folks on a plane, equals at least 650 tuna sandwiches, and since there was still time ‘till boarding, and there was nothing else to do, it was chow time!

I get on the plane, pop a sleeping pill, buckle up, and hope to wake up just in time for landing, BUT that’s not the case. It seems that my fellow passengers had other plans for me.

The stewardesses were begging the people to sit down, but the people had other more important things to take care of: seating arrangements!

Now, I knew that I was flying with a bunch of friends, so when I booked my tickets I told the travel agent to seat us together, it’s quite simple, seems the rest of the plane forgot to mention that to their agents, and a lively game of musical chairs was going on to the tune of the cabin crews pleas for them to sit down.

One rather obnoxious refused to sit in the middle seat, and after being threatened with a seat of his own in a jail cell someplace he finally sat down….. Right behind me!

The grumbling was louder than the engines that had just fired up,,,, “chutzpah!, what a chutzpah!” “I paid good money for this ticket; I should have the seat of my choice!” “A bunch of anti-Semites!” I was amazed at how self-centered some people can be.

After a few minor incidents we finally take off, and dinner is served.

The aisles of an airplane are not really wide, and those little carts with the food that they push through them, are made to fit exactly, I guess the Boeing engineers never took into account what pre-flight tuna sandwiches can do to a heimish crowd, so as the crew was attempting to serve dinner, throngs of people were trying to get up and down those aisles, and were amazed when the steward told them to go back to their seat. The dude in back of me was no different, he jumps out into the aisle, oblivious to the fact that he had just slammed his elbow into my shoulder and started pushing his way towards the front of the aircraft, “but I need to visit my friend over there” he shouted when the steward politely asked him to sit back down.

Again I cringed.

The glatt meal they served was not really to my liking, so I asked the steward for some of the regular ElAl pita with some regular chumos,, I mean I am going to Israel after all, might as well get my G.I. system used to the culture!

Yum! Warm pita, spicy chumos, I am about to a big bite, when… poke…poke…poke…. It’s Mr. Dude from the seat in back of me. “Errr, yungerman,, you know it’s none of my business, but that stuff your eating is not kosher!” I try to enjoy my meal and ignore him but he is persistent, “really, you shouldn’t eat it”. I continue to ignore him and try to continue eating, when he reaches out over my head, grabs my tray, and says, “are you listening to me?!?”

My friend sitting next to me had enough, he grabbed Dude’s hand almost crushing his fingers and with a very polite “mind you own !@#$ing business” sent him crashing back into his seat. Well there went my relaxing dinner, and the sleeping pill was starting to kick in, so I figured, OK I’ll just sleep ‘till landing.

The lights in the cabin go off, a peaceful quite fills the air and the guys in their hat and jackets enjoy the in-house movies,, I finally drift off to sleep.

Somewhere over Europe the stirring starts. First it’s just one or two, but soon people are milling about, there is a new program on the agenda. “Shachris!”

In my drug induced coma, I notice the action, but am sufficiently sluggish to ignore it, that is until Mr. Dude makes it his duty to make sure he has a minyan.

At that point I just gave up.

The rest of the flight was a nightmare with me still being dazed from the sleeping pill, the crew trying to serve breakfast, and the minyonim finishing up with a very excited oilim bursting into a spontaneous and very “hartzig” Bar-Yochooey.

I just wanted to get into my hotel and have some peace and quite!

The plane finally lands, and after much pushing and shoving we finally get off.

By now I am hot, sweaty, probably smelly, and grouchy; you get the picture, and guess who meets us as we step off the plane? The other half of our group that was flying on the upper deck.

They looked cool, relaxed, rubbing their sleepy eyes; I just stood there staring at them, “what?” asked my friend Yanki, “is there a problem?” I assume a very sweet and overly friendly voice and ask him, “so how was your flight?” “Oh! Great!” “It was quite, the martinis were great, the food delicious, and I just woke up from a 6 hour nap.”

He ducked as I threw my carry-on-wheely at him.

Suffice to say, three minutes later I was on the phone, Amex card in hand, and yes, I flew back business, it was great!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus Have Missed That...

The land of the free, and the home of the brave!

I always thought that meant free to do as one chooses within reason.

Last I checked freedom of speech was part of that g-d given right that we strive so hard to bring to the rest of the world.

Radio talk shows personify the freedom of speech that is such an integral part of our society. If the media is not allowed to report as they see fit, who will keep the government in check? After all it is the public that ultimately decides who stays, and who goes in the arena of politics, and the media is the tool that keeps the public informed.

To incite violence, is wrong yes, but to voice an opinion? What’s wrong with that?

Who is the one that is to decide where freedom of speech begins, and where it ends? For that matter, who is the one to decide where any freedom begins and ends?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

One Size Fits All...

There is a notion out there that when it comes to “heimishe” education, one size fits all. That what supposedly worked in Europe in the 1800’s will work here in America in today’s day and age.

I have to admit it’s not easy for me to write about this as I am a graduate of this corrupt system, but here goes.

Let’s take the quintessential Yoli as my example.

Yoli is seventeen years old, he lives in Monroe, or Williamsburg, or Boro-Park, or Flatbush, you get the picture. He knows that he should be up and alert at 7:00am sitting in yeshiva with a gemora, the problem is, HE IS NOT INTERESTED!!

Nuchem is a 22 year old bucher, he lives in approximately the same place that Yoli does, he has finished the yeshiva circuit, has been three zmanim is Israel, and is now expected to firmly plant himself into a reputable kollel at least ‘till the shadchan can find him a girl that suits his parents. (I know this is a post in itself). Here is the problem; he has no interest in sitting and learning any longer. He understands that money is tight, and he wants to go get a job, after all a “balabatishe” wedding is far from cheap, and the Italian furniture that you “simply must get” costs more than what some people put down for a house…..

Avrumi is fourteen years old, he has been through elementary school, and now finds himself standing at the threshold of a reputable Yeshiva Kitana, the little talk his dad had with him the other night, not in unkind tones, still rings in his ears,, “I paid them $50,000 to accept you,, make sure you make me proud!” Avrumi desperately wants to make his parents and teachers proud, but is it his fault that letters just get jumbled in front off his eyes? His intelligence is very high, his athletic abilities superb, he is popular, and ehrlich, for some odd reason he just can’t read very well……

Shimon is a happily married young man, he is 19 years old, his wife is only a few months older then he is, and their daughter is 2 months old, he has got it all, or so he was told. As a bucher he was considered “the best” he had finished shaas, was good natured, got along with everybody, good looks, he was a “catch”. His wife was G.O., head of chesed, director of dance for the school production, head counselor, and Hebrew valedictorian, a perfect shidduch! So what has got Shimon so worried? His lovely wife decided that she would like to stay home with the new baby, but the rent and utilities need to be paid, and the wife really did want to go to Florida this winter. It was then that Shimon realized that his job qualifications were not that great, nor were the opportunities so readily available, what to do, what to do.....

What we have in today’s society, both chasidish and litvish, is a failing education system. Our students are not learning right from wrong, but rather mine is better than yours. Where minds should be stimulated to promote creative thinking, they are being chained by the incompetence of educators that were hired to their positions due to “connections” as apposed to qualifications.

I could go on, but I don’t think it’s necessary, I trust you got the point, what are your thoughts

Thursday, January 04, 2007

In Our Times

A friend of mine E-mailed me this article, it is from the New York Times. I thought about editing it but decided against that. I think the contrasts speak for themselves. See ya at the comments field! CC

In the third century, the rabbis who put together the Talmud instructed fathers to teach their sons to swim. It’s safe to say that most American Jews aren’t familiar with this directive, whether or not they take their kids to the lake or the pool. But one morning this past summer, a group of mostly non-Jewish parents puzzled over its meaning in a classroom at the Carolina Day School, a nonsectarian private school in Asheville, N.C.

These mothers and fathers were accidental students of Judaism. They had come together because they often felt flattened by achieving the modern ideal of successful children. They were seeking relief in a weeklong course based on the book “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children,” by a Los Angeles clinical psychologist named Wendy Mogel.

Genevieve Fortuna, a 58-year-old former preschool teacher who has been teaching classes on raising children for 30 years, wrote the Talmudic quote about swimming in blue marker on the classroom’s white board. The half-dozen or so parents, dressed in summer-casual shorts and sandals, looked up at her from their seats around two child’s-height tables. Fortuna opened her copy of Mogel’s book. “Jewish wisdom holds that our children don’t belong to us,” she read. “They are both a loan and a gift from God, and the gift has strings attached. Our job is to raise our children to leave us. The children’s job is to find their own path in life. If they stay carefully protected in the nest of the family, children will become weak and fearful or feel too comfortable to want to leave.”

“This is the most difficult part for me,” said Marie-Louise Murphy, a mother of three. “My husband is really protective of our girls. Even more so now that they’re older, because it’s such a critical period for them.” Her 14-year-old daughter is eager to baby-sit, Murphy explained, but her husband “is having the hardest time with it.”

Increasingly, not being involved in every aspect of a child’s life and letting children take risks that used to be a matter of course feels like an act of negligence to many parents. To resist the forces of judgment, internal and external, the parents in Asheville were in search of what every countercultural movement needs — a manifesto. Wendy Mogel’s book may seem an unlikely one, with its reliance not only on the Bible but also on the Talmud and other intricate rabbinic texts. Published in 2001 with a print run of 5,000 and little publicity, it went largely unreviewed, and bookstores often shelved it with their bar-mitzvah fare. Yet five years later, “Blessing” has sold about 120,000 copies at a pace of more than 20,000 a year. It’s the kind of book that has influence beyond its sales figures.

Principals press it into the hands of mothers, who read it and then buy it in bulk to give away as baby presents. If you have children of a certain age, chances are that someone you know will own a copy or have lent one away.

Strikingly, Mogel’s book is being used as a text for classes and discussion groups that take place not in Jewish settings but in churches or schools like Carolina Day. Mogel, who gives about a speech a month, has been a keynote speaker at the annual meetings of the National Association of Independent Schools, which represents 1,300 private schools, and the American Camp Association, an umbrella group for 2,600 summer camps and youth groups. This fall, the National Association of Episcopal Schools will give her top billing. Mogel’s diagnosis of the ills of middle- and upper-class modern American child-rearing — that children too often don’t learn to take care of themselves — resonates with the educators who deal with these families every day. In thinking about this issue, Mogel finds her psychological training useful but insufficient and turns her audience’s attention to the laws and teachings of old Jewish texts.

Wendy Mogel wasn’t to the religious manner born. Her grandfather was the president of his Orthodox synagogue in Brighton Beach, N.Y. But her father fell away from strict observance, and her mother never knew it — “she was as close to a shiksa as he could get,” Mogel says. Mogel was raised to know the difference between cherrystone and littleneck clams, not to follow the Jewish proscription against eating shellfish.

At Middlebury College in Vermont, Mogel majored in art history. She spent the summers as a counselor at a camp for emotionally disturbed children, working alongside her husband to be, Michael Tolkin. After marrying, the couple eventually moved to Los Angeles. Tolkin’s father wrote for the TV series “All in the Family.” Tolkin entered the family business; his best-known movie is “The Player,” directed by Robert Altman and based on a novel Tolkin wrote. The sequel, published recently, bears the mark of spousal influence: it creates a world of Hollywood sharks let loose on the process of high-powered private-school admissions.

Mogel has lived in Hollywood for almost 30 years now, and she is of it without being captive to it. At 55, her style is part girlish, part granny. Her hair is unbleached and her skin un-Botoxed; on the night I visited her, she wore a white T-shirt, a pink flowered skirt and low-heeled green sandals. Her voice is commandingly deep and throaty, except when she’s excited and lets out a thrilled squeal. (“Me too!” she squeaked when I confessed my poor sense of direction.) Mogel did her doctorate work at the Wright Institute in Los Angeles — “very alternative, Marxist-Feminist,” she says — and interned at the “totally mainstream” Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Mogel got her license as a clinical psychologist in 1985. She opened a dual practice, doing therapy for children and families and also testing for disorders and disabilities, like dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder. For 15 years, the work was fulfilling. The hard part of Mogel’s life lay elsewhere; she and Tolkin struggled for several years to have a child and went through many miscarriages, including the loss of a premature baby born on the way to the hospital. None of this hardship moved Mogel toward religion. When she was 35, Mogel gave birth to a girl, Susanna, and four years later, to a second daughter, Emma.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Am I My Brothers Keeper....?

OK that’s it.

I was going to ignore the whole thing, but I checked Drudge as I usually do, and there it was staring me in the face!

I mean if Drudge thinks it’s important enough to link-to on his site, who am I to ignore it?

I am talking about ElAl and Shabbos observances or the lack thereof.

Let’s take it from the top.

We have a “medina” called Israel. Before I go on I should mention that I am an avid Zionist, not in the Ben-Gurion/Herzel sense but I do strongly believe in the land of Israel, and its right to exist.

So this wonderful country (and I really do love the place) with it’s tremendous attitude, and love for all of mankind has an airline. Actually more than one, but were talking about one specific carrier called ElAl.

ElAl’s slogan is “Feel at home anywhere in the world” and they truly do go above and beyond. From the moment you get in line to check in you’re greeted by that signature attitude that only an Israeli has. I love it, as soon as that young woman snaps, “are you sure you packed your bags yourself?” I feel right at home.

Sure there are those that require the posh dignified check-in of British Airways, or the bland American Continental, or even the suave Lufthansa, but I prefer the warm and friendly (cough) environment of ElAl.

OK, so it seems that they flew on Shabbos to make up for flights that were missed due to a strike. “Nu voos is azoy geferlach?” I asked my friend Moshe yesterday, “they had a “heskim” not to fly on Shabbos” was his staunch reply, “and they broke their word.”

OK, Iych her. They said that they wouldn’t fly on shabbos, they had a dire circumstance and they flew.

I don’t see what the big deal is.

If we are talking about Chilul Hashem, the fact that such a tumult was raised is only amplifying that Chilul, is it not?

Yes they flew on Shabbos, no it was not business as usual, and that would have been that, but instead we have a massive Chillul Hashem going on, and who is at fault? ElAl, or the kuchleflech that are stirring the pot?

We are not talking about a mom-and-pop shop here, were talking about an international Airline that made a decision to fly stranded passengers home.

On a side note, I was reading the English Hamodia this shabbos, and right on the front page was the whole story, including a paragraph about a fellow that had bought a bunch of tickets for a wedding, and was told by his poisik to accept the financial loss that would incur, and order new tickets with a different airline.

That raised my temper quite a bit; I don’t think I need to explain why.

Anyway, is it my business whether or not somebody else is michalel shabbos? And if he insists on continuing am I obligated to ruin him financially?

ElAl is not the only one, there is the classic example of Egged, a bus company that operates on Shabbos, yet we don’t see mass boycotting of the bus service do we?

Before you step into your favorite local taxi do you ask him if he drives on shabbos?

These are but two examples, I think the esteemed rabbis should get back to the problems that are at hand, such as ,,,,,,, well whatever problems there are, and leave ElAl alone.

There I feel better already!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Personal Story

Not so long ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. At first I didn’t notice it but as time went on it became very apparent.

Instead of going to visit her, and dealing with it, I chose to withdraw.
I used to go up and spend some time with her at least twice a week, now months had gone by and I was just ignoring the whole thing..

Last night I finally pulled together the courage to go up and see her.

As simple words could not describe what I felt, I figured I would try this way of communication.

A throne rocks to and fro, and a queen sits therein,
The day is about to end, or perhaps about to begin?

The minor things in life surround her, in marble and oak,
As time slowly begins to lash her with its black velvet cloak.

Eyes that were always filled with wisdom, with warmth, and with care,
Are clouded by the shadows of what once was, by the images of yesteryear.

As I approach her I look happy, confident and sure,
Kneeling before her I yearn for the eyes that once shone so pure.

Recognition had ceased just a few months ago,
Yet her blank look tore through me, it just hurt so.

Her face was towards me as she continued to stare,
“Do you know me?” she asked hesitantly, it was too much for me to bear.

I kiss her hand as I turned to leave, saying I’ll be back very soon,
What happened next broke me, she started humming her tune.

A melody that has been sung by mothers throughout the years,
Accomplished what nothing else could, those notes released the tears.

She continued to hum, not even knowing I was there,
and tears poured from the depths of my heart it seemed so unfair.

I cried for the good times we shared and for the bad as well,
I just wasn’t ready to let go yet, there was so much more to tell.

She finished her song, and started to speak,
I strained to listen; her voice was just so weak.

“My parents come to visit me” she said, her face growing sad,
“My mothers name I am able to remember, but not my dad.”

You look so much like my father she said, but I just can’t remember his name,
I know it I told my grandmother, I am called by the same.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanks, But No Thanks.

It was a clear, cold, quite night, the moon shone pure silver over farmer Yanki’s barn.

A quite rustle could be heard as the turkeys started congregating towards the barn. Imported wheel-barrels were double parked outside, and the excitement could be felt in the air.

It was the annual meeting of the turkey knokers who had come from all over to mull over, and contemplate what could be done to stop these American influences that were spreading throughout the farms especially this goyishe minhag, this absolute narishkeit of Thanksgiving and of course what to do with the never ending problem of today’s youth, and all other subsequent issues.

I mean how many times must we explain that a turkey is supposed to act like a decent turkey “fin diy haym”, not like todays crazy feigalach? An elderly turkey was saying.

And the housing it was ridiculous! A little coop in the middle of the farm was going for a kings ransom! Yenta Turkey exclaimed while trying to get into her gloriously expensive feather coat.

Education! Our young ones need to be able to provide for a family! Shouted one turkey, while adjusting the “shmooz” magnet on his late model, but slightly dented wheel-barrel with New Jersey plates that he really didn’t need “davkeh”, it was just mamesh a mitziyeh, and yeah my shver took out a second mortgage to pay for it. I mean not every one is made for kollel!

These self important turkeys knew what to do, they had the answers to all of the problems the turkey community faced around the world, and every year they came to Farmer Yanki’s barn for this important “asiyfeh”

Farmer and Mrs. Yanki were away at the Agudah Convention, they had gotten free tickets as they did every year from the milk distributors, and were more then happy to go. The topics really didn’t matter as long as somebody else was milking the cows, and gathering the eggs, they were happy. Little did they know that back at the farm the chickens, or in this case the turkeys were running the coop.

There were round table discussions, square table discussions, late night tea parties, early morning daf yomi parties, the program was designed to keep every turkey busy from Thursday night till Sunday afternoon.

One of the important topics was politics. Was the president really a friend of the turkeys? Avadeh he issued a presidential pardon, but was it real? I mean how can we know if the Turkeys really did get let off the hook? (so to speak)
Have they ever been interviewed by Nachum Seagull? Have we ever heard anything from them? Might it all just be bull chips, (excuse my Hungarian) maybe they get the pardon, but were then shipped directly to Perdue!

The discussions went on and on.

Sunday came along, the turkey chasan warbled his final note, the feather coat struggle ensued once again and the wheel-barrels were warming up as they said their goodbyes.

Contently they hit the dirt road back to their little farms, “another great weekend”, Yenta turkey gobbled to Mr. Turkey on the way home to five-farms. “We discussed all the terrible problems that plague our community, we bashed American culture, solutions? Oh it’s the thought that counts; the main thing is we make an effort.”

And with a sagely nod of Mr. Turkey’s head, this story ends.

We have the privilege of living in a country that has allowed us the freedoms to do basically as we choose.

We are not persecuted, we have section 8 and food stamps, and don’t forget the per child tax credit, what could be better?

We live in a country were we are not only enabled, but encouraged to go to self-importating meetings, to discuss the various issues, or non-issues, to further our causes, our rights, our collective voice.

A little bit of appreciation to the flag that waves gently yet firmly at any hint of oppression, or degradation in my opinion is to be commended.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, what are your thoughts?