Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tisha B'Av 5778

Today is Tisha B'Av. Today I'll be fasting and remembering Jewish tragedies of all kinds from destruction of temple and subsequent exile thousands of years ago to the recent horrors of the Holocaust.

There are some things I really appreciate about this day. I appreciate finding my place in the line of history and knowing my life is a miracle after so many times Jews might have been wiped out. I appreciate honoring individuals who might not be remembered otherwise. I appreciate that we concentrate all of our tragedy into one day instead of spreading it too much throughout the year. Difficult as it is, I appreciate the reminder that hatred exists towards Jews today as well.

I have some questions too, though. When we as a people focus on our victimhood, what does that do to our collective psyche? At times it takes us to the place of healing the world when we are bidden to treat others well because "you were slaves in Egypt." At other times I think we use our history to fuel distrust and anger towards those on the outside of our community because we feel they threaten us. If we think about ourselves as victims, do we neglect the suffering of other groups?

It's a real balancing act, to be united with your family, and yet also to allow ourselves to open and risk vulnerability to those outside the family.

Is this true in all communities? Not just Jewish, but Muslim communities as well? Christian communities? Atheist? What about political communities?

Catching up...

Once again it's been a ridiculously long time since I've posted. This time I partly want to blame a technically problem I was having through Blogger.

That said, I want to shift my use of this blog at least a little. The Bergen County chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is going strong. We are trying to use our private Facebook page too as a way to stay connected and keep communicating big ideas together. In the past I've used my blog with mostly a Jewish audience in mind, but now I want to think of it sometimes with my Sisterhood in mind as my audience. Should I start a new SoSS blog? Probably. But right now I like having all of my posts in one place. I'll ask my group about that. 

Today I want to post something about Tisha B'Av, knowing that my Muslim sisters may read this and will need different background knowledge or will have different associations than my Jewish audience does. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Action #39: Unexpected encounter

We just came back from a wonderful Thanksgiving away in Washington D.C. We did all kinds of wonderful things:
* The National Archives (highlight of which was not seeing the Constitution, but instead, seeing Charles Ingalls' Homestead Receipt.
* The Newseum
* Saw Changing of the Guard at Arlington Cemetery
* Best of all, watched A Christmas Carol  at Ford's Theater.

What came unexpected was Shabbat afternoon. I was taking some time to rest and sit by myself in the lobby of the hotel, reading. A woman greeted me and we started to talk. Turns out she wasn't even staying at the hotel... just needed a place to rest since the hostel where she was staying didn't have much leisure room. She was a retired diplomat visiting from the Congo with a group of women. These woman regularly find children on the street, ask who their mothers are, and then give those mothers $8 to start a business so they can get the children off the street. She helps child soldiers, prostitutes, gang members and other homeless children. She and her friends were in town to speak to the U.N. about being more proactive about engaging forces to stop fighting in the civil war, instead of reactive by trying to clean up messes from it. Her meeting was a disappointment. Trump has no one appointed that can help her at this point, not even an ambassador.

She was selling bracelets that some of the women she worked with had made to raise money. I told her that if she was still there after Shabbat, I would buy from her. A Christian herself, she understood that, and told me what she knew about Judaism from her pastor. And sure enough, I was able to buy two bracelets from her. 

Such a stark contrast from the things I'd been engaging in.  I wear those bracelets now to give me perspective, and to share her story if anyone asks about them. (So far, there has been one inquiry.)

Action #38: Salaam Shalom Conference

It was awesome.

Exhausting too. Came away with new appreciation for our group and with ideas of how to better our own chapter.

Action #37: Conference Call for Tzedakah/Sadaqa Event

I'm not going to write a lot about this now...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Action # 36: More SoSS

There are so many causes and so little time.

U. asked me if I want to take Jane Goodall's Conservation Masterclass.  I do. I also have a change in teaching position this year that will require my attention, personal goals for more meditation, am about to complete my new special education endorsement and a hope next summer to become a child's yoga teacher. All these things are for the benefit of the world and are thus a form of activism. It's all too much though. Doing 100 notable actions is really not easy.

Sometimes it's steady commitment that is the most important.

Yesterday was our fifth meeting of the local SoSS. There are times I feel I just show up. That would be good enough, but yesterday I hosted and I think some things I said were particularly important yesterday. Doesn't feel like a huge deal, but it does matter. So chalk up another action.


Wednesday, July 05, 2017


I'm on vacation now, sitting in an airport before flying from a road trip alone with U to meet up with ND and my parents back home in Portland, OR. I just now wrote a posting from my last piece of activism and am reflecting on what a year it's been.

Last summer ND and I planned to go to Portland to regroup as we do every summer. This times are critical for me, not just to relax, but to regroup, to come back to myself after a school year in frenetic Jewish Bergen County. This last year was different than usual.

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Acton #35: HIAS event

ExodusISMSIYR full proof
Exodus: I See Myself In You
A few months back the chesed committee at our shul held a HIAS volunteer event. Kids bagged packages for refugees while the adults heard a speaker talk about the organization. I was unable to attend, but ND and U went. U was really struck by the presentation, told me about it later, and we made a donation.

As a result we were invited to a special gallery event with artist Siona Benjamin. We attended and were reminded of the importance of HIAS's organization.

It was a nice night out, a reminder of how serious the refugee issues still are. The night we went was the same day the court gave it's decision on the travel ban. Mark Hetfield spoke about how the decision was actually good. That because the ban only stopped a very small number of people from entering the US it was a relative victory. Hearing this reminded me of just how nuanced many of these issues are... the things I read quickly in the news have so much more behind them than I usually know.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Action #34: Passing Moment

This is more of a "waging peace" moment than more blatant activism, but I think it worth sharing anyway.

On Friday I was leaving Target and saw a Muslim family. I had left work (in a Jewish day school) so the way ND and I were dressed probably made it seem pretty obvious we were Jewish. This family we saw had a mother, father and two kids. The mother had a hijab -- hence my deduction they were Muslim.

Now I pass Muslim families frequently, and often feel this pull where I want to say, "Don't worry! I'm cool with you!" But there are so many things wrong with that... first, I personally find it really uncomfortable when someone figures out I'm Jewish and wants to point it out, or to make friendly by saying, "Shalom." I'm me and I happen to be Jewish, and don't necessarily want to discuss my faith or my beliefs or associations or any of that. I'm sure the same is true for them as a regular every day family that happens to be from a background that is very loaded right now.

So I considered saying nothing at all, but the truth is, we were kind of eyeing one another, and it was at least possible they were thinking, "Oh crap, here comes another Jew who thinks we're terrorists." I just wanted for our moment passing each other to be one that was calm and had good feeling.

The man was wearing a shirt that said, "Exercise? I thought you said 'extra fries.' " Aha! Personality rather than group identification! So as I passed I smiled and said,

"That's a really funny shirt."

We smiled at each other, and that was it. It probably looked like just a regular every day casual moment, but it was planned, it was deliberate, and I think I achieved a worthwhile goal.

Sometimes small talk is a real pain, but in this case I feel I accomplished a moment of peace with it.


Monday, May 08, 2017

Actions #31-33: Fund EPA

Made a donation and wrote two hard copy letters to representatives asking them to continue to fund EPA.


Actions #29-30 Earth Day

And for Actions #29-30, in honor of Earth Day, I gave two separate presentations at school to multiple grades about waste, where garbage goes, and the importance of reduce, reuse and recycle in that order.