Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Sad Reality Behind The Blessing For Stuffed Animals

On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, earlier this month, many churches held blessings of real animals, which were inspired by St. Francis's own love for all earth's creatures. Yesterday I heard a report by Charles Lane on NPR, about a church in Patchogue Long Island which, in honor of the Feast, held a blessing for stuffed animals.
One of the congregants, an elderly gentleman whose wife had dementia, brought with him to church a teddy bear which was given to his wife. It kept her company in the nursing home. For him that bear was representative of the vow which he made to his wife of 58 years: “in sickness and in health.”
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Other Gilmore Girls: Paris Geller and Mrs. Kim

Recently Netflix has started airing Gilmore Girls. Watching several successive episodes, it was evident that the energetic Lorelai Gilmore, the mother of Rory was still a feminist’s role model. However, it was quite shocking to recognize prejudice and cultural stereotypes in the characterizations of members of cultural and ethnic minorities.
For example, Mrs. Kim, the mother of Lane, Rory's best friend, is a caricature of a fanatic Korean Christian woman who is so protective of her daughter that she suffocates her.
But for me the worst characterization is of Paris Geller, Rory's Jewish frenemy from the Chilton school.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

About 'My brother wanted to be a jihadi' by Robb Leech

Reading Robb Leech‘s poignant article about his stepbrother: “My brother wanted to be a jihadi – and society is creating many more like him” in The Guardian this morning, one paragraph has struck me as particularly significant .
After his brother Rich had converted to Islam, he constantly talked about fighting Western oppression, but according to Leech:
“I never saw Rich as a terrorist, and didn’t see any of the people he surrounded himself with as terrorists either. What I saw were, and I hate to say it – vulnerable young men – with massive great chips on their shoulders. With their radical new status they felt empowered, superior and perhaps most annoyingly for me, righteous”
Please read more in The Times Of Israel

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Eggs In The Gilded Cage

For years we have been impressed with the perks of being a High Tech employee:  the exciting free food, the on-site gym, the retreats, and that even before we begin to admire the generous  paychecks and the other financial benefits.
But  there is always a price, in return for all that the worker gives the company his/her life, or at least time and creative energy,.Now comes the latest perk: covering the expense of freezing women's egg as announced by Facebook and Apple.
But excuse me if I  don’t trust those companies to have women’s  best interest in mind.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Woman's Career And Bad Karma

The recent gaffe made by Microsoft's CEO prompted  me think that  one  of the reasons why I didn't have a career was Karma.
But there was a  time when I truly believed that a job well done would  lead to a career. As a graduate student at the University Of Iowa I was the program director at the university Hillel House. That university is the home of the distinguished Writers' Workshop and the International Writers' Workshop, and Iowa City has always been a paradise for literature lovers.
For me as a graduate student of literature it was a perfect position, and one of my goals was to make our Hillel a cultural and literary center. I worked hard, and was so successful that in my second year one of my programs won a national award.

Please keep reading in The Times of Israel 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Instead Of Berlin? See Under Zoo Aretz Zoo

My father left Berlin for Palestine in 1934, he was only 21 year old and was able to obtain a certificate since the firm  he worked for relocated  to Israel. The rest of his family was not so lucky, his parents and one brother were killed by the Nazis, and another brother survived the war but remained permanently scarred.
Then in 2000, my daughter decided to study music in Berlin. It was right after she had attended a music festival  in  Weimar, Germany. It was part of  the newly founded East West Divan by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said.
I got the first reminder that, sixty years later, Berlin was still not just any other city even before she even moved there.  My daughter  showed my father the location of her future student housing. Looking at the address, my father realized that it was the same address as his old school. Indeed once she moved into the dorm, she sent a photo of the memorial statue indicating that this was the site where the Jewish School, Adas Israel ,used to be.
In the five years that my daughter stayed there I visited Berlin several times. In 2000 the city had not yet become a desired destination for Israelis. It was still a relatively sleepy town, at least on its east side where it was dark and empty at night and no one spoke English. Even the city’s landmark --Potsdamer Platz, had not been completed yet, and the government offices took their time moving into the new  capital.
Around the same time my father moved into a sheltered living. As we were packing  his belongings we found a pile of old letters from his family  back in Berlin. The letters dated from 1934, when my father left,  till 1939, when the family was forced out of Berlin. We knew about the letters  but my father never talked about them and I don’t remember   him looking at the letters. .
We decided to loan the letters to the Jewish Museum in Berlin, there is not that much material about domestic Jewish life in Berlin at that that time and the museum was excited to have them. The letters were transcribed (since my grandmother wrote in Gothic letters), typed out, and then translated into English (since I don't know German).
Nothing dramatic was described in the letters, but  they expressed  fear and despair. My grandparents hoped that my father, their oldest, son would be able to help. They urged him to write more and reproached him for not doing so. One brother thanked him for the books which he had sent from Palestine, and the other brother was grateful for the new suit that he had gotten from him. They all appreciated my father for all that he had sent and apologized for always needing more, they were proud people..
I read the letters only once, I couldn't look at them again. It wasn't that I had forgotten earlier about my family or about the Holocaust, but I thought that I was able to disconnect the old from the new. Yet after reading the letters Berlin was never the same for me.
Berlin is a great city, and right now it is also a metaphor for better opportunities and better life for young Israelis who are disillusioned with the situation here. Back in 1975, in similar circumstances, the great satirists of the time ( B. Michael, Hanoch Marmari,  Kobi Niv, Ephraim Sidon, and  Dudu Geva among others) produced a brilliant, and funny, book of social commentary: Zoo Aretz Zoo. One of their remedies was  that we'd all move to  New Zealand.  Perhaps we could use that as a metaphor instead of Berlin?

 The essay appeared in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Case Of The Missing Assignment Or Too Much Information

Last week I heard on NPR that in some elementary schools in the US parents are notified by email if their child fails to submit even one assignment.  In high schools parents get on-going notices of all the different deadlines regarding their children’s college applications, so that they could make sure their children do not to miss them.
It is true that the school has all that data on hand and it is very easy to share it with the parents. Also teachers and schools are judged by their students’ performance and they are very willing to recruit the parents to help improve it.  It could even  be  possible that  the parents themselves request, or put pressure on the school to give them all that information.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Friday, October 3, 2014

The National Bicycle Day: Yom Kippur  in Israel

Going back to Israel after spending many years in the US, we were quite surprised to discover many new customs in a country which we had thought we knew really well. Recently I wrote  a post about the secular ritual of the Friday night dinner ("TGIF ISraeli Style"), and the new practice of observing  Yom Kippur is another one.
In the first year in Tel Aviv our daughters told us that they had to have bicycles for Yom Kippur, all their friends had them. That  is how we first found out that Yom Kippur has become the National Bicycle Day
Imagine a big city where on a regular day the streets are packed with noisy cars and buses, and then all of a sudden, as though by magic -- everything stops and there is silence.