Friday, January 20, 2017


After the election, I went into activism overdrive. I signed up for lists of daily actions like making phone calls to government officials.

It wasn't as easy as it sounds. I do not have private space in which to work during the day and I have to be careful to be non-political in the school environment where I work.

Worse though, I stopped sleeping well, was depressed and fearful not only of what was happening but of everyone around me. (The election has not been the only shock in my life. Losing a dear friend to breast cancer shortly before as well as some other new and personal challenges in my life have made this school year extremely difficult.)

Saturday, November 12, 2016


I haven't written in some time, but I am in massive pain after this year's election day.

I was so excited... unlike the people who cynically described Clinton as a crook, I embraced the energy of changes she wanted to make (even though I knew Republicans would block all actual legislation) and was over the moon with the opportunity in front of us that the U.S. was about to finally elect the first president woman of the United States.

9 year old ND was just as excited as I was. We believed in the power of women to envision the world in ways that men don't and we knew it was impossible -- IMPOSSIBLE -- for a racist, sexist, egotistical bully who can't even formulate an educated sentence about the state of our country to win.

We stayed up together, with the radio on and U watching the numbers, recording each of the states as the vote count came in.

Gradually, it started to feel like the night would be longer than we'd hoped before we could jump up and cheer, and go to bed.

We waited... and we waited... waited while the wrong numbers went up, while the good numbers didn't come. We were just too tired to stay up much longer...

and U... the political junkie in our house told us, "It's already over."


I went to bed and caught short naps between envisioning children and the sick having health care taken away, financial depression, nuclear war, Holocausts and red-capped white men leering at and judging my daughter's and my bodies.

Somehow I survived the day until U and I could really sit and talk. Again, he is a political junkie and so wise when it comes to talking about actual ramifications. The conversations we have can't be summarized on a Facebook meme. They take explanation, analysis and thought.

So after I got out of my system all of my feelings and visions, he said, "OK... do you want to know what I'm really scared about now?"

That's when we talked about a day and age in which when politicians did things underhanded the news media criticized and then citizens gave push-back.

Not anymore. For whatever reason, Republicans have discovered now that they don't have to play by the rules. If they don't like a policy they can tantrum. Tantrum tactics include holding the debt ceiling hostage, refusing to consider a supreme court nominee, filibustering and the list goes on. No one stops them.

They have the presidency, the court and the congress. This is not democracy.

And the people who thought that Trump would help them, will not be helped.

One comfort in all of this is that the majority of Americans actually did make the right call. Whether they liked Clinton or not, they knew that they had a responsibility to vote for someone sane, and not to cast a vote as knee-jerk, in-your-face and irresponsible as nearly everything Trump says and does. They knew the right choice was to actually vote her into office. The final tragedy is that, once again, the electoral college silenced the popular vote. Someone has to fix this. No one who cares has the power to do it.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bat Mitzvah Redo 2016

12 is a terrible age to have a bat mitzvah. I don't know if it's true for others, but when I was that age I felt like my skin didn't fit, I was uncomfortable in front of a group and I didn't have the slightest idea who I even was or how I fit into Judaism.

But now I'm an adult, and I feel so much better about myself, about being Jewish, about everything. Over the years I've followed my own path experimenting with becoming more and more committed, first through gravitating to very observant communities, and later by holding onto my observance but simultaneously discovering progressive and sometimes egalitarian communities in which I could actively become much more of a participant.

So a few years ago as I began to learn how to lein and lead services in my partnership minyan, Minyan Tiferet, I had the idea that maybe I would try again and have a bat mitzvah-type celebration. Doing this would give me an opportunity to actively and maturely demonstrate my relationship to Judaism and to the community by doing the sorts of rituals that are normally done in a bar or bat mitzvah service.

So around October of last year I finally began learning to lein this past week's parsha Be'ha'ah'lotkha.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

High School SAT scores

Oh spring. It comes with so much promise and then becomes such a time over multitasking that it's very hard to stay on track with any projects started before Pesach.

Well, today on this Memorial day weekend I returned to my Marie Kondo work for the first really good chunk of time in a while. I'm up to the stage of getting rid of papers, and our office floor has been covered for months now with all of my files, letters, papers etc. from old school work, to bills, to drafts of my writing, letters and more.
This is just a sampling.
There is more, so much more!

It's been very slow going. While I've put in a few minutes here and there I feel like I have an emotionally easy enough time sorting through old medical things or bills, but when it comes to the more personal things I'm not sure what to do. Today I opened a bag of old letters from all different people in my life. All of them -- all of them -- felt painful in some way. I suppose at least in part it's because these letters are from my college years when I was scared about the future, unsure of where I was going, that these are hard to look at. I read a few, then couldn't take it anymore, but decided at least for now to to keep them. These are part of my history and I haven't decided yet whether I need to let this history go, or if I need the story available to be retold. Just don't know.

Then I found a file of my old SAT scores, report cards etc. I went to show some of it to U. Maybe it's partly because I was sharing it that I had the reaction that I did. I flipped through page after page of reports from teachers I had, both those I liked and those I didn't like, and classes that I was good at and classes that were hard. Sure, the ones I liked best had the drop down comment, "talented", but there were comments too about incomplete work, not following directions, poor test scores even on a take-home test and finally I just started to cry. Reading these little slips I started to feel the crushing pressure of all these adults judging me according to what they wanted from me and they were things that didn't show who I was. The only reports that felt safe were from band class and writing class. But physics, math, even Spanish and AP English, I wasn't what they wanted to be.

Since becoming a teacher I have always reflected back on myself as having been a pretty good student. I wasn't labeled with a disability. I didn't misbehave (much). Yes, I was stubborn, but usually the teachers I think of fondly thought past that. So it's taken an act of imagination to see what it might be like for children that really really struggle in school.

Now, though, I see that I was being judged and that so many people saw me not living to my potential or, maybe more accurately, not living up to theirs. In this report card writing season I'm now seeing my own relationships with students in a new light. The judgement we put on them is very very powerful.

The good news for myself is that as I've gone through my files I've found some good things too. I love my letters of recommendation, cards from people I know love me and results of some of my most recent work in adulthood. What a relief to be an adult now and too feel OK with whom I am and what I do. What a relief to not having to be figuring out who I am from scratch anymore.

So the professional question to leave this with... how can we as teachers and parents make our children and students feel appreciated the way I do from those good letters and not crushed with the judgement I felt in my report cards. 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Yeshivat Noam Dinner 2016!

Rabbi Hagler on far left, President Nachman Paul on far right.
Yehudit and I are teacher nominees.
Schachter and Herman families for Guest of Honor and Community Service awards.

Nearly a month ago now, on March 16th, was the Yeshivat Noam dinner in which I was honored. I'm still reeling from the experience. I don't know what to say about it other than that this has been an utterly awe-inspiring decade for me personally. U. and I came to Noam 11 years ago with a cat, a moving truck and I with a little teaching experience. Now we've established this life here with our family. I'm so proud to have become teacher enough to have received this honor. This blog post won't say very  much, but will be my repository for pictures and videos from the dinner. 

Naomi has appearances at 9:17 and 11:04 of the second video.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Quick Kondo update

Looks like when I'm all done with the books (still not there yet) I'll be for sure saying goodbye to more than 200 books. Maybe around 300.

That's a lot of weight to be lifted and space to be discovered.