All This From An Illegal Alien

Seven weeks after Passover…and you can count ’em precisely on your own fingers….comes the holiday of Shavuot…which means “Weeks” in Hebrew which comes from the Hebrew word shevakotel (1) which just happens to mean seven…getting the picture here? Seven is a magic number. It happens to be a prime number as well, but that’s another story. In this story, we’re talking about counting seven days of seven weeks for a total of 49 days of the counting of the Omer, the measure of barley brought to the Temple in Jerusalem each day between the two holidays. It’s a harvest thing. And on the 49th day, we observe the moment we stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and received the Torah…the Law.

I rather like Shavuot. It’s a gentle holiday, it kinda comes with the start of summer and there’s always a picnic on the lawn after shul lets out. When the kids were little, I always had a hamper full of enough good stuff to feed any and all comers. Cousin Bud used always come for a bagel and lox. The rabbi always stopped for a bit of creamed herring (my personal secret recipe) on a Trisket. And cheesecake. Lots of cheesecake. There was t-ball, soccer, and softball. Volleyball sometimes, gaga always, and lots of good old fashioned running amok. 

There’s also a tradition that comes down to use from the Kabbalists of the 16th century…the Tikkun Leil Shavuot. People stay up to study all night long. In our shul, people teach on different topics throughout the night. I’ve taught at several and it’s just an amazing thing to do. It never hurts to learn a little bit more. 

Shavuot is also the holiday when we read the Book of Ruth. This is a terrific story, and just one more case where the book is sooooo much better than the movie. It’s not very long, but right now, it’s pretty timely.  The juxtaposition of receiving Torah and reading Ruth used to baffle me. Not so much any more. I see the books as necessary complements. Torah, with its 613 positive commandments gives us more than just law. It gives us a calendar, that thing which turns a ragtag group of people into a community. Reading Ruth on the same day we mark receiving Torah is a confirmation that we are more than just a bunch of laws. We are a living, breathing people who pay attention to not just the law, but to the cycles of our lives…the calendar, the life cycle, the agricultural cycle…. But back to the Book of Ruth.

The books begins with the end of Naomi’s time as an immigrant in Moab with her husband and sons. Her sons married Moabite women. All three men have died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law with no way to earn a living. Naomi decides it’s time for her to return to her own country.

The daughters-in-law want to follow, but Naomi tries to send them back to their families, telling the younger women to find new husbands and live a fulfilled life. Orpah goes, but Ruth refuses, and utters those oh, so famous words:

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back from following you. Where you go,  I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G-d, my G-d. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.

And so they head to Bethlehem.  Naomi could return legally, but Ruth, a Moabite, was not exactly welcome in Judah since the countries were usually at war. 

In order to survive, Naomi sends Ruth to glean in the fields of her kinsman Boaz. Under Jewish law, the farmer must not cut the corners of his field, nor may he pick up any sheafs that have fallen. Those are left for the poor, the ones who need public assistance. In the scheme of things, her decision may not seem like much, but the world changes because of it. Ruth eventually marries Boaz because of the Levirate law that requires a kinsman to marry a widow. Boaz and Ruth have a son, Perez. Perez has a son, Jesse. And Jesse has a son…..David. Yes, that David. 

Beth Jacob Outside

c. 2012 by Lee Prohofsky.

The one who would become King David was the great grandson of Ruth, a poor, illegal alien.

Ruth is the embodiment of why we have laws. It should be no surprise that we read her story on a holiday that celebrates the law and the harvest. Nope. No surprise at all. 

Naomi and Ruth probably would’ve liked the picnic part. Especially the kids running amok on the lawn. Moms and grandmas like that sort of thing. 

The Wifely Person’ Tip o’the Week

A calendar is more than a place to mark birthdays and anniversaries;

it’s a good place to chronicle the comings of your life

 

Beth Jacob Outside

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Memorial Day ~ 2014

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© 2014,Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOONS

Today is Memorial Day. 

Like so many things in American history, it is an amalgam of twisty-turny passages that manage to come out as a single observance. The short version is this: the day was originally called Decoration Day and it was created in 1862 to decorate the graves of the glorious Confederate dead.  Not to be outdone by their southern sisters, the ladies of Boalsburg, PA decorated the graves of the Union dead on July 4th, 1864 at the dedication of a war cemetery. The first recorded event called a memorial day happened in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1st, 1865. According to that source of all things confirmable, Wikipedia:

During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Charleston Race Course; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Nearly ten thousand people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers, and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Today the site is used as Hampton Park. Years later, the celebration would come to be called the “First Decoration Day” in the North.

Memorial day as a name started coming into vogue around 1882 but the day of observance did not officially become Memorial Day until 1967 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act….and we all know what that means. Oddly, my office gets a day off on
the Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving as Federal holidays, but not President’s Day in February. I don’t understand that one. But we have regular hours on President’s Day even though it’s one of the Uniform Monday Holiday days….as is Martin Luther King Day in January, but hey! I’m just a trench monkey and no one is paying me to understand this stuff. Private Sidney

What I do understand is that Siegfrieds have fought in every US war since the Revolution. Three of the four grandparents in this family served in uniform during World War II…the fourth worked as a civilian at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  But they all came home. As a kid, I remember Grandma Bessie telling me how lucky we were that my dad came home, as did her sons, my Uncle Dave and Uncle Herbie (with shrapnel in his leg), as had my Uncle Lenny on dad’s side. And the 5 Siegfried boys, along with Grandma Marilyn and step-grandma Helen (Siegfried)  also served…and by the grace of G-d, came home.Lt JG2

The country was at war and they all went to do their part. No one wanted to go. No one said, “Yeah, let’s go invade some country just for the hell of it.” But they went anyway. They knew that the minute they put on that uniform they were laying their lives on the line. There were no guarantees they would return, no thoughts about benefits, home loans, or tuition coverage…they just went. It was what was expected and what they did.

And every one of them lost buddies along the way. Sometimes they saw it happen, other times they just heard about it. No one thought of it as a life wasted; this was a life sacrificed Marilyn 1945in the line of duty to protect others.

It wasn’t quite the same after Vietnam, a war so unpopular that soldiers were reviled by the public even though they were putting on that same uniform and being sent into harm’s way by the same government. We learned a lot from that war….including how not to treat the ones who returned, and after far too long, how to honor the ones that died fighting for something that would be lost anyway.

The drums beat once more after September 11th,  but the wars that followed came toHelen Connors Siegfried2 symbolize not America’s status in the world, but rather a questionable attack for reasons that make no sense even now. Iraq was based on a lie. This was Pizarro in Peru all over again. We came, we destroyed, we left a country in tatters, and there is not a reason in the world that can justify what happened in Iraq. The day will come when someone will demand reparations….and in that suit should be the families of those soldiers who marched into the abyss on orders of a President who cared not one whit about what happened to them.

Afghanistan was at least involved in September 11th, and gave succor to Osama bin Laden and his tribe of terrorists. But that country’s long history of invaders being defeated should’ve been a giant clue not to park there….but to get bin Laden and get out. Again, our guys marched into the fray believing they were doing what was right… but only because they were sold a bill of bogus goods by a President who not only didn’t care, but did not think enough of them to actually fund this war.

But those soldiers went and fought and died. We cannot turn away from the sacrifices they and their families made believing this was for the good of this country. They died wearing the uniform of the United States of America and if we cannot pause in our consumer-driven-over-eating lives to give them at the very least the moment of silent remembrance they have earned, then we do not deserve to fly the same flag they flew over their bases over our sheltered lives.

 

 The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Weel

Thursday is the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks

This is not insignificant…it’s the end of both Byzantium and the Middle Ages.

561 years later Constantinople still has not fully recovered. 

An appropriate observance includes angel food cake with chocolate icing. 

Candles are optional.

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Hair On Fire

Well, it was a terrific weekend. The sun shined. The Milwaukee contingent arrived for an all too brief weekend visit. My shabbos dinner table was full, shul was a veritable senior son fest as so many people stopped him at the kiddush table it took them forever to get lunch. And brunch on Sunday was a great way to spend a few minutes lingering over bagels and lox before they headed back to Cheeseland. We don’t get enough weekends like that. There are usually gigs involved and if there are gigs involved the whole band is here. I love when they arrive en masse and I love going to the gigs. But every once in a while it’s particularly nice to have just the family around the table.  

So I was feeling all mushy and ready to write a charming little blog about the vagaries of spring and families….and then I caught this little article from Saturday’s NY Times on line edition: Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm. It was all I could do not to set my hair on fire. If I’d have had a real paper in my hands, I would have flung it across the room.

Seems that there’s a movement afoot to put ‘warning labels’ on literature. 

Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.

Are these people joking?  Apparently not:

Bailey Loverin, a sophomore at Santa Barbara, said the idea for campus wide trigger warnings came to her in February after a professor showed a graphic film depicting rape. She said that she herself had been a victim of sexual abuse, and that although she had not felt threatened by the film, she had approached the professor to suggest that students should have been warned.

I understand the rating system for movies and even the labeling of music for explicit content. Hell, there was a little incident with a certain GREEN DAY cd, the junior son, and Best Buy because of the explicit nature of the lyrics. But where does one draw the line…and does it have to be drawn?

Part of being a parent is knowing when to let go, when to stop putting yourself, your tastes, and your sensibilities between your kids and the outside world.  You cannot shield up-and-coming adults from the world and expect them to be able to handle grown-up life. No matter how nice the intention, that “trigger warning system” is going to be used as an excuse to not read. It’s a validation that someone gets to skip out because the material might challenge their world view. If THE GREAT GATSBY is too traumatic for a college student to read, perhaps the campus thought police should also put trigger labels the Bible as well as daily newspapers?

This is anathema. How can childish brains become adult minds unless they are confronted with the difficult, the challenging, and, if you want to know the truth, the unpleasant. Kids don’t grow kept inside a bell jar. 

The whole point of college is to be exposed to that which isn’t necessarily found in your own cupboards. You sign up for classes in stuff you don’t know about so you can broaden your perspective. You read stuff you might not like. (Do not mention MOBY DICK to me. Ever.) If you feel you need to gird up your loins before tackling a book, do yer own homework: read the reviews on Amazon. No book goes unscathed there. 

I know there are readers who will feel I am insensitive to the needs of traumatized people. Baloney. I am advocating personal responsibility for college students. If a student is so fragile as to be traumatized by class material, why take the class in the first place? You cannot have two levels of study…one for those able to read the books and one for those unable to face what’s on the page. 


The whole concept is fraught with pitfalls. Does one tailor one’s syllabus to the least likely to offend? Can one include UNCLE TOM’S CABIN without running the risk that someone might be offended by a book about slavery? Do you label books with dialogue written in local dialect because someone might be offended by a word once used and now no longer deemed appropriate….think Jim in ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN or Mammy in GONE WITH THE WIND? Do you remove MILA 18 or THINGS FALL APART because of their depiction of war and genocide? What about TENDER IS THE NIGHT for its portrayal of depression and mental illness? How about THE JUNGLE or LORD OF THE FLIES? Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales? ALICE IN WONDERLAND? I can keep going if you want.

I vociferously disagree with Meredith Raimondo of Oberlin College who was quoted in the article:

“I quite object to the argument of ‘Kids today need to toughen up,’…That absolutely misses the reality that we’re dealing with. We have students coming to us with serious issues, and we need to deal with that respectfully and seriously.”

Respectfully and seriously does not mean putting a label on every single book in the library. Dealing with this respectfully means the student understands his/her own triggers and deals with it. Otherwise you are asking everyone else to set aside their own to learning just to match an “adjusted” version. 

 

Once you are in college, you are expected to do the classwork. If you cannot handle the material, pick a different class. Maybe offer “trauma free” classes for people that don’t want face harsh literature. Perhaps that will lead to a degree in Trauma Free Lit for people who don’t really want to know.

As a mother and a writer, I am so totally offended by this trigger concept. We have coddled our kids long enough; it has to stop someplace…and it had better be by the time they get to college. Life is not all pretty, kind, or nice. It is short, often brutal, and downright mean. Literature exposes the reader to the way things were, are, or may become. Do you really want leaders who have not read books like GRAPES OF WRATH? Or 1984?

I don’t.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week

Got a small child handy? Read to him/her.

They’ll remember that forever. 

 

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It’s not just about Obamacare, folks.

Note to self: this is the 200th episode of The Wifely Person Speaks. Somehow it feels longer than that.

Sunday, when he stopped by the house, the junior son filled my bicycle tires. Now, one might think I could fill my own bicycle tires, but noooooo. Not in the Ziggy household where are are proud owners of a full sized air compressor. I have no idea why we even have a full size air compressor, and I’m not even sure I want to know. It’s right next to the freezer in the garage and unlike some people who unplug the freezer in order to plug in the giant air compressor and then forget to plug the bike back in, I remembered to flip back the plugs.

There is nothing like peddling through the neighborhood at a leisurely pace while your bum is trying to get used to the bike saddle again. All those lovely calluses you built up last year are barely there. Your knees are screaming, “MURDERER!” with each push of the pedal…not that their whining is going to stop you from at least once around the pond. What almost did stop me, however, was a Prius. Damn thing is silent. Never heard it sneak up behind me. I think I’ll invest in a rear-view mirror.

Speaking of how fragile life can be…did you happen to hear that part of the West Antarctic ice sheet has collapsed? Scientists have known it was coming for a while, based on site measurements and real data collection…not computer generated modeling speculation. This is not one of these, “Oh, we can fix this later” kinda things. This is a serious game changer.

In response, a number of our fine Congressclowns have launched yet another series of attacks on science. Now, I’m not talking about rocket science here; I’m talking about basic environmental science. If you passed the third grade, most of this stuff should be decipherable for you. You can grasp simple concepts like melting ice caps and increase sea level. No one is asking you to diagram the difference between nuclear fission and fusion.

Marco Rubio, poster boy for the GOP these days, explained his position rather eloquently in an interview with ABC News broadcast on Sunday:

“Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activities…I don’t know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving, and natural disasters have always existed… I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.”

Really? You really think that, Senator-from-pretty-much-sea-level-Florida Rubio? You were absent the day they taught ozone layer and ice caps in science class? Oh! Wait! You probably didn’t go to one of those liberal, progressive schools where they taught actual science as opposed to just mythology!

Yeah, sure, it’s going to take several centuries for the full impact of the loss of the ice sheet to be felt. But it ocean levels are already rising as a perilous rate, a few centuries aren’t all that long. Put a guy like Rubio in the White House and you can bet your bottom dollar…but certainly not his…. the Delray Beach contingent will be moving in with me in pretty short order because I’m all the way up north and in-land.

Out of the current crop of GOP contenders, only Chris Christie admits climate change is real. The rest, and this includes Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee are pretty much all deniers.

West-Antarctic-in-red-has-002

West Antarctica, . Photograph: EJ Steig/Nasa

Now, one would think We, the People would want the best and the smartest guys running this country. Sticking one’s head in the sand or denouncing science in favor of profit are not desirable qualifications.

If the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet is a warning shot, there are things that can and should be done now to impede further collapse. We can begin by insisting our elected representatives have at least a working knowledge of global warming. Have differing theories, sure, but come to a unified decision that this is real science, not some kind of commie plot.If you extrapolate, there’s a bit of an issue if your elected representatives don’t get the science part. How can they write bills to allocate funding for stuff we need….like health research, agricultural development, land management, animal health, environmental protection….all that other stuff if they can’t converse intelligently on science? These right-wing-pseudo-religious-wacko candidates go on and on about God’s gifts to mankind and how we are all the recipients of divine bounty ad nauseum, yet they shit all over the biggest gift of all: Earth. They refuse to own up to their responsibility as leaders (and I use the term loosely) to speak up on behalf of the planet. Every single one of these assholes are letting greed and profiteering overtake protection of our world.

Rachel Carson’s SILENT SPRING was prescient when it was published in 1962, and her understanding of the impact of our existence in this world is as true now as it was then.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost‘s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

Our roads are diverging not at that yellow wood, but at a white sheet glacier. Where we go from here will be our decision and a big part of that decision will happen in the voting booth.

It’s not just about Obamacare, folks.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
It’s time for the GOP to consider changing their mascot to an ostrich. 

 

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So-Far-Right-It’s-Wrong Kinda Thinking

A couple of really scary things happened this week. They’re not Freddie Krueger scary, more like Michele Bachmann scary in the worst sense of her Tea Party mentality. It’s the kind of scary that results in people talking about slippery slopes and other metaphors for the undermining of the Constitution.

ImageLet begin with Judge Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, of the big, giant Ten Commandments fame. Now, here’s a guy who is supposed to be sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States while meting out fair and impartial justice to those who would approach the bench. One might think a guy like that would be temperate in his official views and cautious about what he says and does in public. But you would be wrong.

Back in January, Judge Moore, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, was videotaped saying:

“Everybody, to include the U.S. Supreme Court, has been deceived as to one little word in the First Amendment called ‘religion.’ They can’t define it They can’t define it the way Mason, Madison and even the United State Supreme Court defined it, ‘the duties we owe to the creator and the manner of discharging it.’ They don’t want to do that, because that acknowledges a creator god. Buddha didn’t create us. Mohammed didn’t create us. It’s the god of the Holy Scriptures…They didn’t bring a Koran over on the pilgrim ship, Mayflower. Let’s get real. Let’s go back and learn our history.”

If one were of a mind to diagram that quote for elements to stupidity, one would be at it for quite a while. The man is a bigot, to say the least, and no better than the Taliban or al-Qaeda . His lack of knowledge about other religious screams volumes and makes one wonder how anyone with so little fundamental knowledge made it to being Chief Justice. If it wasn’t so chilling a remark it would be comic. But it was and it is.

This might be a tempest in a teapot were it not for good ol’ SCOTUS. The Supremes, by a 5-to-4 majority, struck down a lower court’s ruling about prayers being offered at a town council meeting. Now, despite what Faux News and other mentally masturbatory news organs say, the suit was NOT about removing prayer completely, but about just how religious a public prayer can be. Now that we have that clear…

On PBS NewsHour, Marcia Colye explained it well:

…these two residents claimed that the prayers were almost exclusively Christian in nature, and that violated the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishing a religion.

 

The lower federal appellate court here agreed with them. They said the overwhelming Christian nature of the prayers for nearly a decade gave the appearance of government endorsing religion, which violates the First Amendment. So the town brought the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority said the court could not comment on the religiosity of the prayers, that to do so would be skirting religious censorship. It would put the courts in the position of having to analyze prayer and that was out of its scope. Of course, Justice Sotomayor sided with the three Jews, Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan. Justice Kagan, in writing for the minority, said that there was no apparent attempt to open the delivery of the convocation to other faiths or points of view, and this came close to presenting a clear bias in favor of Christianity. None of that is particularly scary.

ImageHere comes the really scary part: it’s what came out of Justices Scalia and his cohort in so-far-right-it’s-wrong thinking, Clownence Thomas. In their view, the Constitution is solely a Federal document. They take the very first line literally:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

The operative word in that sentence is CONGRESS, folks. Both of these fine fellas are of the opinion that the Constitution prohibits CONGRESS from establishing a preferred religion on the federal level, but it does NOT prevent the states themselves from doing it.

Ms. Coyle, in reporting the story, added….and this is the real important part:

Justice Thomas, first of all, repeated a longstanding belief of his that the First Amendment’s establisImagehment clause doesn’t apply to the states, to states or local government, because the prohibition, he says, in the First Amendment’s text is on Congress. Congress shall make no law establishing or regarding the establishment of religion.

 

And he said that probably prevents Congress from establishing a national [religion] … But the text suggests that Congress cannot interfere with state establishments of religion.

Probably was the word he used. Probably prevent…..Really?

Michele B. and her little rightwing nut friends are gonna run with that one. What if states like Texas or Alabama or Mississippi suddenly found themselves with the ability to establish a state sponsored religion?

If one can conclude that SCOTUS has been bought and paid for by PACs and other deep pocketed groups, can one not, by extension see where the Roberts Court might stand aside in the establishment of state sponsored religion because they have deemed it a states’ rights issue? This is possibly the most slippery slope one can imagine. If you strip away the separation between church and state, and leave it up to the states to determine local religion, where does it stop? If your state is Lutheran, can Jewish kids stay home from school on the High Holy Days, or is that now prohibited? Can Catholic kids come to school with ashes on the foreheads on Ash Wednesday….or is that verboten, too?

Can you say Shi’ite and Sunni, boys and girls?

The Wifely Person’s Tip of the Week

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you have a mother, call her.
If you no longer have a mother to call, tell someone about her,
and for those few minutes, it will be like she’s still alive.

 

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STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN

Well, this was the week that wasn’t. I took all of Passover off from work, so technically I’m still on holiday until Wednesday morning. One can never call this a vacation….this is 21 home cooked meals, preceded and ended with massive amounts of cleaning and box shlepping. Sometimes I wonder why I just don’t take the week after Passover off, because I’m usually too exhausted to function on the days immediately following the holiday.

Passover is an interesting holiday, filled with lots of symbols and family gatherings and all sorts of similar stuff. It’s also the holiday most closely tied to the old blood libel tales….the ones that accused Jews of kidnapping and slaughtering Christian babies so their blood could be used to make matzah. Blood libel was used to spur the pogroms in Czarist Russia in the areas within the Pale where Jews were permitted to settle. That area included much of Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, Ukraine, as well as parts of western Russia. Most of my family is from that region, so I grew up hearing a lot about pogroms, hiding from the Ukrainians, and the random destruction of entire shtetls, the little villages where Jews were required to live.Image

So when Jews were handed leaflets as they emerged from synagogue last week, the text was not exactly a surprise. We’d heard it all before. This time, however, there is mass and instant media and I could not wrap my arms around the idea that some government would actually announce they were rounding up Jews. In fact, I responded to the first email I got on the topic with “Need to see more about what’s really happening.”

Let’s be real clear: I was not dismissing the report. I just wasn’t buying it, even when Secretary of State Kerry made his announcement. It just sounded too weird…and like a schoolyard double dare.

Well, to date, no one has taken responsibility for what was ostensibly a political provocation kind of hoax. That said, there is plenty to talk about in the incident.

First: Soviet style propaganda machines still work. Whether or not the Russian separatists were behind the notices remains to be seen. Whoever did it must have found an old copy of Disinformation! The Best of The KGB. This makes one wonder about how far things have really progressed in the former Soviet Union is this stuff is effective.

Second: Jews are still seen as vulnerable. The Ukrainian Jews were pretty sure it wasn’t real, but it went viral anyway, with all sorts of people making all sorts of statements, some of which were not so veiled threats. This was a clear win for the leafleteers. It got a big giant, negative exposure on the world stage for free.

Third: The instant news cycle is not our friend: No matter what the intent, the viral nature of the instant news cycle encourages conclusion jumping and the vitriol that comes with it. I keep thinking about all those jokes about itchy fingers on “the button.”

It’s impoImagessible to turn back the clock to a time where deliberation preceded print. No one is about to give up breaking newsflashes and the twenty-four-second news cycle. But just because it’s available, it does not mean we have to believe everything we read. We still have to be able to distinguish between news and baloney, between fact and spin, between information and manipulation. In other words, we need to remember how to read. We need to stop, look, and listen.

However……

You don’t always find just rumor and innuendo when you stop, look, and listen. Sometimes, you find real news that has gone unreported by the majors…like the NY TIMES, CNN, or NBC. You find out that 250 miles southeast of Kiev, in Zaporizhia, the Gimyat Rosa Synagogue was firebombed on Saturday night, February 22nd…and on this past Saturday night, the main synagoge in Nikolayev in southern Ukraine was also firebombed. You can watch the bomber in action in the video clip posted at The Jewish Press

How many of you, dear Readers, knew about either of those?

So here’s the thing: Ukrainian Jews are being used as political pawns and we all know pawns are the most expendable pieces on the chess board. Both sides view the Jews as a way to bring down world ire on one side or the other. They are a small enough population with the country but have large, vocal support from outside.  I am afraid this may only be the beginning.

And so to end…I’ve got ten minutes to post this before I light candles for the last two days of yom tov….holy days. Chag same’ach to those who observe…and last minute wishes for a happy Easter to you folks on the other side of the fence.

Wifely Person Tip o’the Week

Vet, verify, and get the facts straight. 

Going off half-cocked on any topic does more damage than good. 

In other words, be sure you know your stuff. 

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The Value of Cottage Cheese

Last year, it was TempTee whipped cream cheese. This year it’s Breakstone’s cottage cheese. 

I AM NOT SPENDING $6.99 FOR A CONTAINER OF CHOLOV YISROEL COTTAGE CHEESE.  

THAT IS JUST NOT HAPPENING.   

So I will make cottage cheese. I’ve done it before. it’s not a seriously big deal. But can someone explain to me why Jews gouge other Jews for keeping kosher….more especially kosher for Pesach? I mean really? Do we not have lawyers who would love to start a class action suit in a beit din for predatory Pesach pricing? Folks, where is the outrage? Where is the bruning* Anger, Wrath, Indignation, Trouble, and the Messengers of Evil to avenge we who practically have to toivel our entire kitchen annually only to be ripped off at the grocery store?

And just as I was getting up a good head of steam on the topic, some nutball reportedly yelling “Heil Hitler” shot people at The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and at Shalom Village Senior Living Center. Murdered in the parking lot of the J were Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood. Neither was Jewish; they went to the Methodist church nearby. The woman gunned down at Village Shalom has not been identified at this writing. do I complain about cottage cheese when there are people out there still hunting Jews for sport? Or so it would seem since he was targeting Jewish communal centers. It’s not like we’re walking about with yellow stars pinned to our coats any more. Coming on the heels of the Nazi dinner party at Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit here in Minneapolis, how can we even be surprised that stuff like this happens?

One of the really interesting aspects of Pesach are the commandments to remember. Remember, we were slaves in Egypt. Remember what the Eternal did for us. Remember the taste of tears. Remember the plagues in Egypt. Remember it all in this order (seder) so that no part is omitted.

As Jews, we spend a whole lotta time remembering stuff….not much of it very pleasant. There’s an anti-hubris theme throughout the seder and the liturgy in general. The reminders are purposeful….no matter how comfortable you get in any place, remember you were strangers in the land of Egypt, and you are strangers here.

A single nutball shouting “Heil, Hitler” as they’re carting him off to jail is a pretty strong reminder. Ross “Doubt-That” Douthat writing week after week about how this nation should be running on Christian values only is a pretty strong reminder. The Jewish Agency recently reporting that 40% of all racist violence in France is targeted at Jews is a  pretty strong reminder.

We never forget. We circle the wagons a little closer, and we watch each other’s backs. We remain constantly vigilant lest we be caught being vulnerable. It’s what we do. We are supposed to watch out for each other. As it is written:

כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה

All Israel is responsible one for another.

This does not stop at the edge of parking lots. It extends into the halls of the JCC, into the lobby of Village Shalom, over by the day school playground. The responsibility is a pervasive and demanding. If we don’t care for ourselves, who will? We make sure we are all safe. We make sure all our kids are safe. We do not abuse each other. We do not kill each other. We look out for those who may be in need. As it is written: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” 

Somewhere in there is the idea we should all eat kosher. But there is no comparing the value of cottage cheese and human life. Human life, so fragile yet so extraordinary, trumps everything. Health takes precedence over every observance. Watching out for each other is a package deal…it’s all about all of it. You don’t get to choose which parts. 

Watching out for each other is not voluntary; it is neither midrash nor minhag. It is halacha

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week

There are 7 weeks between Passover and Shavuot, 7 weeks of counting the omer.

                                 While you’re counting the omer, count something else of importance along with it

* Bonus Note *

*For the real old timers who remember the original Gutstein & Goldberg…there were wonderful typos in the text. Some of them have gone on to become treasured family memories. One of those gems is BRUNING ANGER. 

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