Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Do non-profits even notice nickel-and-dime donors?

Recently, one of our favorite non-profits sent us a request for a contribution, thanking us for having made a small donation in 2021.  I wrote back naming the total that we had given them in 2021, saying that it was downright insulting that the small donation that their e-mail had mentioned was the only donation for which they were thanking us.  The non-profit had the good grace to apologize for having mentioned only our most recent donation, noting that we'd been donors since 2011.  

I think we're having a similar problem with the local "Jewish community charity," UJA-Federation (formerly United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies).  Once upon a time, we used to make a half-decent-sized donation (low three-figures) once a year.  But now that we're both retired, we prefer to make small donations roughly once a month.   Here's the catch:  Given the number of requests for contributions that we get from UJA-Fed, I don't think they've even noticed that, over the course of a year, our small donations add up to almost the same amount that we used give in one annual donation.

How much does a person/entity have to donate to be seen?  And aren't non-profits missing out on an opportunity to bring in some much-needed funding by treating small donors as if we don't exist?

Friday, January 14, 2022

Invisible victims?

Some writing has been done about the plight of people who became new parents during the pandemic. Here's an example: https://www.theatlantic.com/.../isolation.../618244/
And here's some writing about the possible effects of the pandemic on children: https://www.directrelief.org/.../growing-up-in-the-midst.../
I'm particularly concerned about children who have no siblings. How are lone children supposed to have normal emotional and social development when they're cooped up in a house (or, worse yet, an apartment) all winter without so much as a playdate? How are they supposed to learn to share when opportunities to do so may be both limited and dangerous? And this question applies to all kids: What's going to happen to all of the kids who are too young to remember what "normal" used to look like?
How will the pandemic affect the way that educators, children's entertainers, camp staff, and others work with children?

Friday, January 07, 2022

I'm so sick of "slim"

If I see one more ad for women's pants that are "slimmer and more flattering" . . .

Why is so much of women's clothing "form-fitting" (formerly known as "skin-tight"), or close to it?  Is it against the law for us women to be comfortable in our own own clothes?

While we're on the subject, what's so great about four-inch heels?  Why do "western" standards of beauty call for torturing women with our own shoes?

Speaking of "western" standards, here's one for the gents:  Why do guys still wear ties?  What's so wonderful about half-strangling yourselves?

And just to be a non-conformist, I'm asking why so many boys are dressed in full suits at the age of six, if not younger?  I see no good reason for little boys to be dressed as adults, and I refused to go along--I wouldn't buy our son a suit until the year that he became a Bar Mitzvah.  And why are some girls now wearing heeled shoes in elementary school?  Why can't we just let kids be kids?

While we're on the subject of great expectations, a couple of my former blogger buddies were brave souls--they dressed their daughter in shorts and sleeveless tops until she entered first grade (at about age 6) in the local yeshiva, and only then did they begin dressing her in skirts and sleeved tops, which is the local clothing standard ("levush") for females in their Orthodox community.  They must have had nerves of steel to put up with the flack that they probably got.

Why are clothing styles and/or standards such a big deal?

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

COVID confusion

I was just disappointed that we couldn't attend a Jewish singer/songwriter's Friday night service because there was no online option, but my husband saw the big picture--the announcement mentioned a cocktail hour followed by a dinner followed by a musical service followed by an Oneg, and that made my husband wonder whether the people of that congregation understood that we're in the middle of a COVID surge.

By contrast, one Manhattan congregation that normally seats over 1,000 limited its in-person attendance to 12 people, including clergy, last Shabbat (Sabbath) morning.

New Yorkers are as conflicted as everyone else, though--I'm having trouble getting physical therapy appointments because our local PT practice fired three PTs for refusing to get vaccinated.

Whatever else the COVID-19 pandemic has done, it's made me wonder whether everyone in my country is living on the same planet.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Wash, rinse, repeat: Pandemic pandemonium in NYC

The COVID-19 pandemic affects all of us, but location can make a difference in the effect(s). One effect that's unique to New York City is the effect on Broadway and off-Broadway shows--the current COVID surge (which involves mostly the Omicron variant) has forced shows to close, re-open, and close again as breakthrough cases of COVID are discovered among the cast, crew, and/or staff. In one recent case, a performance was actually canceled after the audience was already seated.  And some shows have closed altogether, giving up on any hope for a normal "run."
Shul shut-downs or near-shut-downs are a sure thing around here. One large Reform synagogue with a sanctuary that seats over a thousand people is currently limiting in-person attendance at services to 125 people. A large Conservative synagogue that also seats over a thousand people is currently limiting in-person attendance to 50 people, with a warning to dress warmly because the windows in the sanctuary will be open. Another synagogue that seats over a thousand has capped in-person attendance at 18. All three synagogues require proof of vacciation and masking for attendees. Any hopes that my husband, who's our synagogue's "acting rabbi," may have had about re-opening our building for in-person services have been put on hold for the foreseeable future--since our sanctuary seats only around 200 and our congregation consists almost entirely of people over 50, it's just plain safer for us to stay on Zoom.
We've also been disappointed to see that two indoor Israeli folk dance sessions in Manhattan that just re-opened (to vaxxed, masked, and limited-sized crowds) around October or so have now been closed again. Our dancin' days are done--again. 😢
And any delusions that we may have had about celebrating the first week of January in a restaurant are toast--even take-out won't work because we can't get to our favorite kosher restaurants without getting on a subway, and we don't want to take a subway or bus at the moment unless we need to do so. Yes, we're among the many residents of NYC who don't own a car. (And yes, we *always* wear masks when on public transportation, and in every other public indoor space. We mask up even when all we're doing is taking the garbage to the compactor room down the hall.)
What's it like for you?
P.S. I just walked over to the local public library to return and borrow some books, and got a sad surprise--the local branch is closed until further notice due to staff members testing positive for COVID-19. Looks like I'm finally going to have to learn how to borrow eBooks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Candy is dandy, but . . .

Some months ago, I asked what kind of candy I could still eat, given my dietary limitations.  I got some suggestions, both here and on Facebook, among them fruit (often problematic for me), maple-sugar candy, and gluten-free licorice.  I tried a few of the suggestions, and discovered a favorite:  Paskesz Very Berry Fruit Snacks.  I really enjoy them, even though the ingredients are not exactly all-natural.  My problem is that, well, as they used to say in an old potato-chip commercial, "Bet you can't eat just one."  The package is supposed to contain four servings, but I can eat an entire bag in less than two hours.  I've concluded that it's just not healthy for me to buy more than two bags per week.

Making matters better and/or worse, last week, our son found me a new treat that I didn't know existed:  Gluten Free Oreos.  I hadn't eaten Oreos in about eight years!  Now, I can't keep my hands off of them--yum!!!  This is both wonderful and problematic--the caffeine in the chocolate cookies is bad for my acid reflux.  I'm compromising by eating them in the afternoon, in the hope that the caffeine won't aggravate my reflux when I'm not lying down and won't keep me awake.

So now I have something additional to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.  :)

Caution:  Gluten Free Oreos are made with gluten-free oats, but some people have a sensitivity to oats above and beyond the possible cross-contamination with gluten.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Why Everything is Suddenly Getting More Expensive — And Why It Won’t Stop

Apparently, the planet is demanding payback for centuries of abuse, and that payback is going to increase the cost and/or scarcity of just about everything for *decades.* 😥  See article here.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

My name is—or was—Sarah, and I was the Invisible Matriarch.

My husband, Avraham, never asked me whether I wanted to leave Charan for some unknown place.  He just expected me to tag along like an obedient wife.  

Then there was a famine in our new land, and we traveled to Egypt.  There, Avraham asked me to say I was his sister so that it would go well for *him* when I was taken into Pharoah’s harem.  He profited while I suffered.  Did he actually care whether I ever got out, or whether I was imprisoned there for the rest of my life?  G!d was the one who intervened.

I even gave my maidservant to Abraham as a surrogate mother because G?d didn’t bother telling me that I was going to have a child of my own, eventually.  But when Hagar got pregnant and began treating me with disdain, Avraham couldn’t have cared less.

Then, when G?d finally revealed--to *Avraham!*--that I was going to have a baby at the age of 90-something, I got yelled at for thinking skeptical thoughts.  Why would anyone expect me *not* to be skeptical, after trying for decades to have a baby?  And how, exactly, was I supposed to feel?  On one hand, it would certainly be nice to be able to fool around with my husband again.  On the other hand, I was an old woman with a bad back and arthritic knees.  How was I supposed to carry a fetus for nine months and give birth safely at such an advanced age?  And even if I survived labor, how was I supposed to manage months of sleep deprivation, followed by a couple of years of chasing a toddler around the tent to make sure he stayed safe?

Why did G?d keep me waiting so long?  I spent decades suffering the private pain of infertility and the public shame of being barren.  But did G?d care?  No.  The point was never for me to have a baby—the point was for me to have a miracle.  I was to be living proof that G?d had the power to make a barren, old, post-menopausal woman conceive.  My years of pain were just collateral damage.

But apparently, Avraham was even more of a skeptic about us having a baby together in our old age than I was, because he let me be taken into a harem yet again before I even got pregnant, as if he neither believed what G!d had said nor cared.  Again, G!d had to intervene to free me.  I just knew that the locals would laugh when Yitzchak was born—it certainly couldn’t have escaped their notice that Avraham hadn’t fathered a child in over 13 years.  So who was Yitzchak’s father, anyway, Avraham or Avimelech?  I’ll never tell.

It’s true that I was mean to insist that Yishmael and his mother Hagar be expelled from our home.  But, in my defense, what choice did I have?  It was clear to me that Avraham was perfectly happy to let Yishmael inherit the bulk of his estate and leave Yitzchak with the leftovers.  I had to protect my son.

Then, G?d ordered Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchakmy only child!Avraham hurried to obey without a single word of protest, and neither of them even bothered to tell me, as if the welfare of my own child was no concern of mine.

You shouldn't be surprised that I died.  What's the point in living when the only reason you exist is to prove that G?d has complete control over birth and death, and no one—human or divine—actually seems to care whether you're alive or dead?

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Weighting in

It's an American obsession--*everyone* has to be thin.

And I'm not immune to that obsession.  That's why, for years, I've gotten onto the scale every morning except for Sabbath, High Holidays, Festivals, and fast days.  Ironically, I continue to weigh myself daily despite the fact that I can't take any credit for my current weight.  For openers, I'm three inches shorter than I was the last time I was roughly this weight.  For closers, well, as I've been half-joking for years, the fastest way to lose weight is to get sick--gluten and dairy are just the beginning of the long list of foods that can make me ill.  

But the real reason why I'm obsessed with my weight and, frankly, relieved to be thin, is that I've seen what can happen to people who aren't. 

Years ago, I was at a party with old friends when I somehow found myself in a discussion of weight with a woman who spends a lot of time at the gym.  At that time, I was still struggling mightily not to be more  than 15 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day.  I was very proud of having lost two pounds.  But when I told my friend how much I weighed, her response was, "That's not very impressive."  I protested that I was on a diet and had lost two pounds, which, at least, got her to stop criticizing me.

I actually felt it necessary to defend myself against the "accusation" of being overweight as if I were guilty of a crime.

It gets worse, folks.  This obsession with the scale is a classic case of "follow the money"--there's profit to be made in keeping people weight-obsessed. 

Check the Maintenance Phase for the 8/3/2021 podcast episode named "The Body Mass Index," which is about the misuse of the BMI as a diagnostic tool, which was not what it was originally meant to be.  (Thanks to Eliana Light for posting this link on her Facebook page.)  I found this podcast pretty shocking.  How did a simple measurement become a tool of--and get manipulated by--health insurance companies?

Saturday, October 23, 2021

This is your idea of serving your customers? :(

A few days ago, I received a clothing catalog from a company I've never heard of. Their cover said that they sold clothing for women size 12W to 44W. But I didn't see a single woman in the entire catalog who looked like she wore a size 44W. False advertising or fat-shaming? 😡  That catalog went straight into recycling.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A minyan for Birkat HaMazon!!!😀

A friend of ours from the neighborhood invited us to an outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service and pot-luck dinner held in her back yard. What a delight! We had the privilege of singing z'mirot with a group, which was wonderful, and we actually got to sing Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) with a minyan for the first time since February 2020! 😀

For those who, like me, are not tech-adept, maybe you could avoid what I ran into

I thought I was facing a cell-phone fiasco, but it turned to be just a simple slip of the hand.

I took my cell phone out of my pocket and was shocked to see that my entire calendar had disappeared! So I turned off my phone and rebooted from scratch, but that didn't help. Then I went to the "lines" (on the top left of my calendar) that one taps to display a menu--Schedule, Day, 3 Days, Week, Month--to make sure that my phone was set to Month (my personal preference). But while I was there, I happened to notice that, below Month, there was another list--Events, Tasks, Reminders, Birthdays, Holidays--and lo and behold, there was no check-mark in the Events check-box. The minute I touched the Events check-box and the check-mark reappeared, so did my Events, which is a darned good thing, because that's where all my doctor appointments are listed! I must have unchecked the Events box by accident.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"A New Confederacy: Trump and the Republicans have already seceded"

The electoral goal of Trump Republicans is to win elections by any means necessary. The social agenda of Trump Republicans is to turn back the clock--they want people of color to "know their place," gays back in the closet, women under the control of men, and immigration reserved for white, English-speaking Christians. The legislative agenda of Trump Republicans . . . doesn't exist. They don't give a hoot about poverty, hunger, healthcare, housing, the justice system, education, the environment, or just about anything else that might benefit folks who aren't wealthy.

See the article here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

A Jewish form of recycling :(

Maybe they belong to an independent minyan or chavurah.

Or maybe they object to the very notion of "belonging." 

In either case, they certainly don't want to become, if you'll pardon the expression, "members" of a "synagogue" and pay "dues."  They'd much rather be "partners" of an "alternative Jewish spiritual community" and pay monthly fees.

And many of them meet in buildings paid for by others, "recycling" the hard work of one or more previous generations.  They just pay rent.  They don't worry about building maintenance, security, payroll, utilities.  

And then the synagogue that owns the building goes out of business, and suddenly they have no place to meet.

What a surprise.


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Born with bull-eyes on our backs :(

Meme seen on Facebook:

When the penalty for aborting after rape is more severe than the penalty for rape, that's when you know it's a war on women.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Tale of Two Synagogues

Once upon a time, our synagogue had a big, beautiful building and hundreds of members.

That building is long gone--sold, demolished, and replaced by a school--and we now have so few members that our current, much-smaller sanctuary is never full, even on the High Holidays.

When our synagogue moved its services onto Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made not to run any evening services except the Erev Yom Kippur/Kol Nidre service, because that's the only evening service for which we're sure we'll get a minyan.  Since my husband is our shul's acting rabbi, we've been co-leading the services from our apartment while our cantor co-leads from his, and having no evening services leaves my husband and me free to "shul-hop" (davven/worship in other synagogues) for Maariv/Arvit for the moment.

So we had the pleasure of "going to" B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan via livestream on Erev Simchat Torah.  It's been years since we've been able to attend a Simchat Torah service in which there were dozens of davveners dancing around the Torah scrolls during the hakafot.  I truly miss the liveliness of a Simchat Torah that actually looks and sounds and feels like a real celebration.

As a surprise bonus, I was presented with a guessing game.  How could that woman look so familiar even though I couldn't see her face?  Well, BJ does have a rabbinic intern who's a singer and often wears a fit-and-flare dress when giving a concert.  And that headband is practically her trademark.  The mystery was solved when all three rabbis were among the dancers and the cantor was the only clergyperson singing in the front of the room--the "mystery woman" went up to one of the rabbis' microphones, turned around to face the congregation (and the camera), and joined the cantor in leading the singing.  Yep, it was Deborah Sacks Mintz.

The hakafot were wonderful while they lasted, but the next morning, we were back on Zoom co-leading less than a minyan.  We had trouble getting a minyan on weekday holidays even back in the good old days, when we met in person, so we weren't surprised, just sad.  It's literally not much fun, belonging to a "Little Shul on the Prairie."

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