Friday, April 09, 2021

I just ate my first post-Pesach chametz, believe it or not

Home Free Crunchy Vanilla Mini Cookies.  First ingredient:  Gluten free whole oat flour.  Those cookies and gluten-free oat challah are about the only chametz foods that I eat year-round.  :) 

P.S.: They're vegan.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Kvetching about "cardboard:" Pesach can be a problem for those with digestive problems

If you think *wheat* matzah tastes like cardboard, you should try gluten-free *oat* matzah!  :( 

I'd love to follow the ruling of the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Law and Standards that it's permissible for Ashkenazi Jews to eat kitniyot.  But my late mother was always very hesitant to bring new foods into her kosher-for-Passover kitchen, even after kosher-for-Passover versions became available, because she believed quite strongly that Passover food was *supposed to* be different.  Since I can't eat wheat all year round, what's to distinguish Passover from the rest of the year for me--Ma nishtana *ha-ochel* ha-zeh . . . (How is this *food* different . . .)?--if I eat rice and kasha/buckwheat as always?  It can get annoying, and even painful, to eat no baked goods other than gluten-free oat matzah and potato-starch-based crackers and goodies when that kind of matzah tastes terrible and white potatoes aggravate my arthritis.  Thank goodness--and/or South American Indigenous People(s)--for quinoa!  I love a good Seder, but I'd be happy to skip Chol HaMoed Pesach and the last day(s) of Pesach altogether.  :(  Oh, well, what's another few days of "cardboard" between friends.  :)

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Strange New Doctrine of the Republican Party (by David Frum for The Atlantic)

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Copied from Facebook:

This morning, I asked a Passover question on my page: What would our cultural celebrations look like without the assumptions of female servitude.
The thread included some honest answers about women's exhaustion and about the OCD-inducing minutia of some of our less meaningful rituals. It also included, predictably, some men insisting that there is no inequality in their lives because they are amazing partners.
I wasn't on my computer at all today because I was, predictably, preparing for passover for much of the day (along with my husband, who works as hard as I do, and that's not the point....) So I didn't get to engage in the conversation or explain what I meant. But I just now wrote a comment to elaborate, and I thought maybe it's worth sharing here:
My point was not to hear about all the men who help out, as nice as that may be (even though for the record, I do NOT necessarily trust husbands' self-reports on how great they are to their wives. I believe it when I hear it from the wives....) Anyway, my point was not for people here to deny the role of female servitude in our cultural heritage, because that's just gaslighting. (If you have never felt or experienced the impact of patriarchal structures in your life, consider yourself lucky.) Rather, I'm suggesting that we think about the effect of these expectations on the way our culture evolved. Because I would like us to rethink the whole thing. Because assumptions of female servitude construct the whole way we mark everything -- pesach, chagim, even shabbat. Everything
We have designed cultural events that rely heavily on someone -- usually a wife/mother -- devoting their entire life to getting it done so that someone ELSE can enjoy the experience with freedom. (And of course, the entire culture is built on heteronormative paradigms -- single women, non-parents, divorced women, gay couples, don't really exist in the way our culture was constructed for most of its history.) The culture was created to enable a man, no matter how many wives or children he had, to practice whatever religious rituals his religious school determined, completely unencumbered. Even the idea of three times a day minyan outside of home relies on the idea that SOMEONE will hold down the fort at home during that time -- making lunches, getting kids dressed, cooking, cleaning, homework, putting kids to bed. If the people creating the rules of the culture could not rely on such servitude, would they have made such demands like 3x/day minyan? That's my question.
So for seder, for example, if the rabbis who felt like sitting around all night drinking wine and discussing pilpul did not have servants/women around to do the work of executing their ideas about what seder should look like, would the rabbis have crafted the seder the way it is, with so much kitchen labor and such unrealistic expectations for kids and families about how the meal might go?
I'm asking, if the people making the decisions about what the culture should look like were ALSO the people charged with getting it done, is this what we would have done? A late, long meal with zillions of rules and weeks of work that induce OCD? Really? Is that the way we would like to transmit our oral heritage? Maybe there are better ways.
Because I think that if the people doing the heavy lifting and the people getting to enjoy it were one and the same, we wouldn't be doing all this. We might have a more common-sense, easier-to-produce, better-for-relationships event. Maybe go to the park and have some fruit salad. More flexibility and creativity and less indoctrination. Maybe less of that measuring a kzait thing or reading passages about 50,000 plagues that nobody even understands. Maybe daytime and not into-the night. Shorter. Less preparation. Less rules. More compassion. More humanity. Less meaningless rote ritual. That's my theory. It would look different.
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Our son has a somewhat-related question: He wants to know what kind of religion designs its rules in such a way that the religion can't operate without the help of people of a different religion. He's referring to the so-called "Shabbos Goy," without whose help it would be much more difficult for observant Jews to keep the Sabbath or holidays.

A world turned upside down: Judaism

You can read part 1 of this "World turned upside down" series here,  click on the link at the end of that post to read part 2, then click on the link at the end of that post to read this third and final post in the series.


I'm 72 years old and I never expected to see such radical changes in my lifetime.  But the incredible changes that I've seen in the attitudes of some Jews toward Judaism have been unexpected and disheartening, to say the least.

Once upon a time, I looked forward to spending my senior years in a thriving synagogue with a rabbi, a cantor, a Hebrew School, and a congregation of several hundred members of various ages, where I would have numerous friends and where I would enjoy watching children grow from infancy to young adulthood.  Instead, I belong to a synagogue that has no rabbi, a part-time cantor whose voice was never good and is getting worse with age, no Hebrew School, fewer than fifty dues-paying members, only two members under the age of 50, and barely a baby or child in sight.

As I wrote here, many younger Jews have no interest in joining a synagogue, possibly because they find synagogues obsolete.  Here's a ". . . short synopsis of what I've heard [on Judaism Unbound]:  Jewish history has recorded a major "crash" in a paradigm previously central to Judaism--the "crash" resulting from the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash/Holy Temple in Jerusalem--and the creation, over time, of a successor paradigm--the synagogue and the prayer-book(s).  [My husband adds "and the study of Jewish sacred texts" to this successor paradigm.]  Daniel Libenson and Lex Rofeberg and guests are of the opinion that the synagogue paradigm has now "crashed" and that a new paradigm is currently "under construction."

Consequences ensue.

Some Jews choose to pray in independent minyanim or chavurot (prayer and/or study groups led exclusively by members, not by paid clergy), and many of them don't belong to a synagogue at all, even if their services are housed in synagogue.  Others opt for what some call "Off-the-Grid" or "Do-It-Yourself" Judaism, which *I* call "Do It *For* Yourself" Judaism--this group includes both those whose primary spiritual practice (meditation, chanting, and/or "spiritual dance," for example) may or may not involve the Jewish community; as well as parents who hire private tutors for their children, holding Bar and/or Bat Mitzvah ceremonies in homes, hotels or catering halls and completely bypassing the Jewish community.  A third approach involves flipping an old trend on its head:  While some older synagogue buildings were constructed to enable Jews to pray and play in the same place--a synagogue like that was sometimes affectionately dubbed "a shul with a pool"--some Jewish Ys and Jewish Community Centers are now offering High Holiday services and/or Jewish education programming for children, thus becoming, as it were, "a pool with a shul."  :)  Yet another trend is one that I would call, for lack of a better description, "Tikkun Olam" groups--their main, and sometimes exclusive, focus is on social-justice work.

What all of these approaches have in common, to a greater or lesser extent, is that they ignore Hillel's dictum, "Al tifrosh min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from the community."  (Pirkei Avot, 2:4)  And that has consequences, too.  Minyanim have been known to find themselves without a home after the synagogue that housed them closed its doors or merged with another synagogue for lack of funds.  The same thing might happen to meditation retreat facilities.  Parents who raise their kid(s) with little or no contact with other Jewish children with whom to socialize might find that their kid(s) lose all interest in any form or aspect of Judaism.  Ys and/or JCCs have been known to merge in order to save money on administrative staffing, in the process changing their names to something not identifiably Jewish and revamping their advertising to target their mostly-non-Jewish users in order to survive financially.  (Been there, seen that.)  And it doesn't seem to have occurred to some "Tikkun Olam" Jews that, while social-justice work is *essential" to Judaism, it's not *exclusive* to Judaism.  To the best of my knowledge, there's not a faith tradition on this entire planet that doesn't do social-justice work.  In other words, Christians *do* strive to help people in need, but Christians *don't* do Kiddush. 

So we're back to Shimon HaTzaddik, Simon the Righteous, who said, "The world stands on three things:  al haTorah (the Torah, or, more broadly interpreted, Jewish sacred texts), al haAvodah (the Temple service, or, more broadly interpreted, Jewish worship), and the practice of acts of piety (or, more broadly interpreted, the practice of acts of service).  I would also add, "the world stands al haEdah, on the community," because without the Jewish community, it would be difficult to sustain any of Shimon HaTzaddik's three.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Second dose makes dizzy dame dizzier 🙂

Yay! All three of us--my husband, our son, and me--have now received our second shots of COVID-19 vaccine! Two weeks from today, we're ditching the online grocery shopping and going to the supermarket in person! (Masked, of course.)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A world turned upside down: Zionism

Start with A world turned upside down:  the United States.

I'm 72 years old and I never expected to see such radical changes in my lifetime.  But the incredible changes that I've seen in the attitudes of some Jews toward Israel, the Jewish State--or perhaps Israel as the Jewish State--been shocking and disheartening, to say the least.

I've known for years that there were anti-Zionist Jews in the world.  I just never anticipated that some of them would turn out to be my friends.

Some Jews of younger generations, among them my anti-Zionist friends, look at the Jewish people and the State of Israel and see no threat to survival for either entity.  As someone once commented to me, "They think Jews are safe."  Why worry about an "escape hatch" when you don't think you'll ever need one?  Perhaps it's never registered with them that millions of lives might have been saved if the State of Israel had existed before the Holocaust.  But all they see is that David has become Goliath.  And some of them would rather kill Goliath than try to heal him.  To paraphrase an old saying from the Vietnam War era, "We had to destroy the country in order to save it."  American Jews accuse Israel of occupying a West Bank that doesn't belong to it.  What hypocrisy!  American Jews ourselves live on land stolen from Native Americans, and even the Native Americans aren't telling us to go back where we came from (as far as I know).  Why can't we try to help Israel become a more just country, instead of tearing it down?

As for Jews being safe, it took only a little encouragement from a hateful demagogue to bring out the antisemitism that was always lurking among the haters in the U.S.  What makes younger Jews think that Hitler couldn't happen here?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch-house, I can't participate in the Women's March because it's come under the influence of anti-Zionists, as if the existence of a Jewish State has anything to do with the Women's Movement.  And efforts to reform policing in the United States have been tied to problems with policing in Israel.  It seems to me that even local progressive politics gets connected, somehow, to the Jewish State.  In other words, it would appear that one must park one's Zionism, and perhaps, even one's Jewish identity, at the door in order to get involved in just about any social-justice cause.  Otherwise, you may risk getting sidetracked by arguments over Israel when you originally volunteered to work on, for example, getting more trees and flowers planted on local public property to help make a tiny dent in climate change.

And this is the world that I have to live in during my later years. 


Next up:  A world turned upside down:  Judaism


Related: My Wednesday, February 27, 2019 post, A word about Zionism, in response to an anti-Zionist Jew

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A world turned upside down: the United States

I'm 72 years old and I never expected to see such radical--or is it reactionary?--changes in my lifetime.  But the incredible changes that I've seen in my own country since roughly the beginning of Donald Trump's first presidential campaign have been shocking and disheartening, to say the least.

First and foremost, our would-be emperor won the 2016 presidential election by using the classic divide-and-conquer tactic:  Instead of trying to help heal our wounds and bring us together as Americans, he tore off every bandage and reveled in--and profited from--the resultant infection.  Now we can hate anyone we want, and we can say so in public, without worrying about "how it looks."  When I was a kid, my parents threatened to wash my mouth out with soap if I ever used "the N word."  These days, there's a large chunk of the country that doesn't give a d@mn.  When did diversity become a dirty word?

Second, our would-be emperor tried to destroy the republic from the inside out, quite literally--he made it his personal campaign to dismantle the U.S. Federal government.  Hundreds of hard-working public servants were driven out of the government, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and were deliberately replaced by people who either had little or no knowledge or experience regarding, or were openly hostile to, the department or agency that they were appointed to lead.  I never expected the federal civil service to be treated as if federal employees were personally responsible for trying to ruin the country instead of trying to ensure that it worked.   Full disclosure:  Both my late father and my husband spent decades as federal employees, so I take this insult rather personally.

Third, our would-be emperor took what should have been a completely apolitical subject--science--and weaponized it.  As a result, thousands of people have died unnecessarily because the mere wearing of a face-mask during an air-born pandemic became a loyalty test, and a large swath of this country believes that climate change is "fake news."   Next thing you know, they'll declare Galileo a heretic all over again.  :(

(For better and/or for worse, I can't hold Trump entirely responsible for this country's seeming inability to legislate gun control.  Unfortunately, the U.S. has had an open season for human-hunting for years, as tragically demonstrated by the recent mass murders in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado.)

Trump may be gone, but the poison he laid is still killing this country.  Hatred, distrust of government, and disbelief in science will be here for years to come.

And this is the world that I have to live in during my later years.

Next up:  A world turned upside down:  Zionism

Monday, March 22, 2021

Freebie week :)

A few days ago, our grocery shopper/delivery person delivered four three-packs of broiler pans at no extra charge--I'd ordered only one pack.

Then our favorite online purveyor of vitamins and gluten-free food sent us an extra bottle of vitamin C for free. 

But the piece de resistance was one of my Pesach (Passover) orders. I'd ordered a five-pound package of white-flour matzah, two cans of plain coconut macaroons, and one can each of honey nut and chocolate chip macaroons. Imagine my surprise when I opened the shipping box and the macaroon cans just kept coming.  I felt as if I'd opened the door to one of those overstuffed clown cars at a circus.  The final tally:   six cans of plain coconut macaroons and three cans each of honey nut and chocolate chip macaroons! 

The irony is that I'm not even sure I can give the extras away, since both of the sederim we'll be attending will be Zoom seders.  And I can't donate any macaroons to our synagogue to use for kiddush, either, since we're still holding services on Zoom instead of in our building.  I guess we'll be eating macaroons for a good while.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

My e-mail to our congregation on the anniversary of the closing of our synagogue building due to COVID-19 :(


  • This is for those of you with young kids or grandkids--or for those of you who are "kids at heart" :) :
These days, we might all need to be cheered up by a children's show.  See below.


The world of Jewish "spiritual" music was struck in its soul by the death, just days ago, of poet, rabbinical student, and frequent music collaborator Stacey Zisook Robinson, who succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of only 59 after a years-long progressively-disabling health condition.  Said Chava Mirel (on Facebook), "I don’t know what to say so I’ll tell this story. Back in April 2017 my new poet friend
Stacey Zisook Robinson
sent me this message:
“wanna write a barchu? the one I hear building and blending and rising in my head?”
She sent me her exquisite poem (with the caveat “I have some words, they may not be perfect, but they are a start”) and it is now my most “popular” song.
She offered me many opportunities to compose in collaboration with her. I wish I had taken more of them. I wish she was still here.
Your memory is a blessing to all of us Stacey. 💔 "

Here's a link to that Barchu, "Come," with lyrics by Stacey Zisook Robinson and music by Chava Mirel:
Today is March 10, 2021.  It was almost exactly a year ago, on March 13, 2020, that the JCJH closed its doors to religious services.  We were far from alone in closing our doors.  A year of devastation has followed, with millions dead worldwide: elders dying alone in droves in assisted living facilities and nursing homes and hospitals and at home; parents and grandparents separated from their children and grandchildren on pain of death; millions out of work or forced to work from home (some sitting on their beds for entire workdays with laptop computers on their laps because they have no room to work elsewhere) or with their hard-earned businesses, restaurants, theaters, etc., shuttered, some permanently; young kids "bouncing off the walls" for lack of exercise and in-person playmates; children forced to leave their schools and separated from their friends, trying to keep up both academically and socially by computer; adults overwhelmed by the necessity of working, parenting, and serving as "teaching assistants" all at the same full-time pace and in the same place; teens and young adults losing an entire year of their social lives (and now more) at what may be one of the most important times of their social lives; newly-minted college graduates going straight from Zoom classes into uncertain futures in which the careers that they had carefully planned and studied for might never happen; holidays and other celebrations, and, for many folks, religious services, reconfigured, as Jewish singer/songwriter Beth Hamon put it, to be "crammed into a two-dimensional rectangle the size of a cereal box;" a year of "permanent Purim" in which we wear masks every day; a year of social distancing in which we literally avoid other people like the plague because of the plague; a year of constant hand-washing and stocking up on hand-sanitizer, disinfectants, and liquid hand soap; a year that saw the birth of the "Zoom funeral" and the "Zoom shiva" and the death of the handshake.

I have run out of words.  What more can I say?  I can only pray for the speedy vaccination of everyone on earth, and hope that medical researchers--bless them--can keep up with this quickly-mutating plague.  My heart goes out to all the exhausted health-care providers and to all of those who provide essential services that cannot be provided online.  May we all live--literally--to see a better day.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

A new look for when I'm using today's tech

One of the odder things that I realized when I started co-leading Zoom services was that most of my necklaces were practically invisible on Zoom, especially when they were half-hidden under a tallit (prayer shawl). If I wanted to stop looking boring, I just had to go big and bold. How do you like my new necklace? 😀

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Good news, bad news: A hairy story--or not :)

The good news:  I have my mother's hair. 

The bad news:  I have my mother's hair.  :)

On the one hand, my hair is brown by nature, not from a bottle--my mother never went completely gray, and here I am, mostly brunette at 72.

On the other hand, what hair?  :)  My hair is as thin as my mother's.  I haven't had a haircut since February 2020, and this is all I have to show for over a year's growth.

To be fair to my late mother, the fault is partially with my last haircut--my bangs were cut super-short and now barely stay tucked behind my ear, and the back of my hair was cut at least an inch longer than the sides, so I have noticeably less hair on the sides.  At this rate, it'll be years before I can rock the "headband nation" look.

In the meantime, my husband and I agree that, when I tuck my hair behind my ears (which is about all I can figure out to do with it), I look a bit like a Chassidic man with his payes (payot, ear-locks) in the wrong place.  :)

Three in one: All three of us received our first COVID-19 vaccinations in the same week

My husband got his first shot on Monday, March 1, I got mine on Tuesday, and our son got his on Friday, all at different locations.  (Go figure.)  So we're all scheduled for our second vaccinations during Pesach (Passover).  What a way to celebrate a holiday!

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Our first COVID-19 vaccinations (yay!)--& a warning about an unexpected & dangerous effect of this pandemic on memory

After weeks of looking for an opportunity to get a literal shot in the arm, my husband got an appointment in midtown Manhattan--he got his first COVID-19 vaccination on Monday, March 1.  It took me something like another half day on the internet to find an open appointment for myself--I got my first COVID-19 vaccination within walking distance of our apartment but at 10:45 PM (!) on Tuesday, March 2.

It wasn't until after I got into a taxi to come home after my vaccination that I realized that I'd completely forgotten something life-saving--I'd completely forgotten to use a seat-belt in the taxi on the way to the vaccination site.  I hadn't been in a car since October, and I'd literally gotten out of the habit.  Here's a reminder for those of us who don't own cars and aren't using public transit or cars except when necessary:  DON'T FORGET TO USE A SEAT-BELT!

Monday, March 01, 2021

A sweet surprise from a dentist, of all people--I saw my sister in our dentist's office!

We haven't been in the same room at the same time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a short get-together--I was there to get a tooth drilled, unfortunately--but I'm not complaining. 😀
Bonus: It was warm enough for a short walk in Central Park. Here's a quick look at a couple of geese and a flock of ducks.
I give up--this bleeping blog refuses to upload videos.  Here's the link to this video on Facebook.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

No baking required :)

Take one or more cucumbers, more if you're using kirby or miniature cucumbers.

Cut off the ends.

If you're using (a) full-sized cucumber(s), peel it/them.

Take a fork and use the tines to score* the cuke(s).  Don't worry if you can't keep the lines straight--"squiggles" won't show when you're finished.

Cut the cuke(s) into medium-thick slices.

And voila:  You just made "cucumber cookies."  :)  Put them on a plate and serve them with napkins, so that people can just eat them as "finger food."  Folks who insist on being "civilized" can eat them with a fork.  Enjoy!  


 *" to mark with lines, grooves, scratches, or notches"  I like making my cucumbers "groovy."  :)

"You get what you pay for," and/or the price of putting profit before people

Start here.

"You get what you pay for."  What happened in Texas, and also happens, in one form or another, in many other states, is a direct (indirect?) result of people being obsessed with keeping their taxes down without considering what taxes are used for.  Regulatory agencies are paid for with tax money.  Do you really want an unregulated utility system that allows utility companies to do the least that they can get away with, stinting on bad-weather preparation to save money, not caring whether people literally freeze to death?  Infrastructure is paid for by tax money.  What do you think is used to fill potholes and keep bridges from collapsing?  Public schools are paid for by tax money.  Shouldn't every child learn to read, or should education be reserved for the rich?  Many hospitals are supported by tax money.  Being poor is bad enough--do poor people have to die for lack of health care?

Even here in New York City, there are some neighborhoods where the wiring isn't buried.  And every bleeping time there's severe weather, here or elsewhere, the power lines come down and thousands are stranded without electricity.  Why?  It's perfectly obvious that there's a solution--just bury the bleeping wires!!!  But so many companies put profit above people, and so many customers are obsessed with keeping their bills down, that the long-term consequences are ignored, and we keep carrying on with this stupidity even though we all know that lives are at stake.  

To be blunt, I find this flat-out refusal to deal with the consequences of trying to save money above all other considerations incomprehensible and infuriating.  Just how short-sighted is it either safe or sensible to be?  Has it never occurred to some people that, in the long run, failure to plan and pay for public needs actually costs money?  Do you think that all those "line-workers" in Texas who are busting their butts to put the wires back up and restore electric service are working for free?  Do you think that leaving children under-educated and therefore, underemployed or unemployable has no effect on the economy?  Do you think that letting people die for lack of adequate health care doesn't leave entire families without breadwinners and dependent on the government and/or charity to survive?  And how many people have paid for unfilled potholes with flat tires and/or stuck cars that needed towing?  What do people do when the bridge on their only access road collapses for lack of adequate maintenance and they have no way to get food or go to the doctor?

Public services cost money.  Either we pay now, or we pay later.

See also Health insurance--re the most difficult conversation I've ever had.


What happens when money becomes our god, and we sacrifice everything to make a profit?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

I wish folks in Texas were as lucky as I am :(

One of the good things about living in Jackson Heights, Queens, in New York City is that all of our utility wires and pipes are buried.  We rarely lose electric power, heat, or gas for our stove.  Even our internet connection works most of the time.  How can people in my own country be literally freezing to death because the utility companies were too cheap to insulate their fuel pipes and/or transmission lines?

How can parts of the United States be so poorly prepared for cold weather that thousands of people are scrounging for drinkable water because the pipes in thousands of homes froze and burst?

And now, back to reality: My last 2 cents about Trump, I hope--I'm sick of him

 ~ In my opinion, any senator who didn't vote for Trump's conviction and removal at his first impeachment trial has blood on their hands--several people died as a result of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, and that insurrection/attempted coup would never have happened if Trump had been removed from office.

~ As far as Trump was concerned, the January 6th attack on the Capitol was nothing but a great reality TV show.  Millions of people were riveted to our screens, and the ratings must have been spectacular.  The more people's lives were at stake, the more he egged his followers on.  That those Republican cowards in the senate refused to convict this low-life at his second impeachment trial, enough though their own lives were threatened . . . well, what I have to say "can't be printed in a family magazine." 

~ Some of the folks involved in the January 6th attack have said, either on camera at the time or in later interviews, that they thought Trump had a plan.  Plan?!  Since when has Trump ever had a plan about pretty much anything?!

Songleader Boot Camp post #6: My final sessions

Saturday night, Feb. 20, 2021
I'm kinda "written out" after my long-winded posts about #slbc21
Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC Group)
, so I'm just post my Feedback as my final(?) shout-out to SLBC--what a wonderful experience!
Wednesday, February 17
The Spaces We Lead: Holding Holy Space (with
Eliana Light
and Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
Planning prayers with intention is new for me. My husband and I are co-leading Shabbat morning Zoom services with our cantor (from our respective apartments). I'd like to have a Zoom meeting with our cantor to discuss "new things that we'd like to try," as it was phrased in this session. I don't think our synagogue has ever had a service that was planned and/or rehearsed in advance--we just open the siddur and go. Our cantor is from a yeshivah background, & tends to run every service at "weekday-morning commuter-minyan" speed. I've been trying for years to figure out a way to get him to "slow down and smell the roses." Granted that we have to watch the time because of "Zoom fatigue," but it would be nice to have enough time to say Amen after the b'rachah and before Shema, and enough time to say "v'kara shel el zeh v'amar" before he jumps right into "Kadosh." P.S. Eliana and Josh are wonderful teachers!
Thursday, February 18
Taking Care of YOU! Voice Preservation (with
Todd Herzog
Todd gave some enlightening explanations of how the voice works and what might make it not work so well, and showed some exercises. And the folks in the chat gave helpful suggestions and book recommendations. Marcia Weinstein recommended ""Change Your Voice, Change Your Life" by Dr. Morton Cooper "--it's my BIBLE for vocal health, finding your natural pitch, and learning how to TALK and SING safely." Cantor Sandy Bernstein said, "The Fast Tract Diet is wonderful for acid reflux" & "Vocalizing with a LaxVox tube in water is the best way to vocalize!" So I now have 2 books to buy, and I have to google LaxVox. 🙂
I decided to attend SLBC this year because I don't know whether I'll be able to attend it in future years--my husband and I are both retired, and the cost of two plane tickets and several nights in a hotel may be beyond our reach. Wishing all the best to everyone involved in this incredible learning opportunity, especially
Rick Recht
Elisa Heiligman-Recht
I'm sorry to say that this video somehow vanished from my phone, and doesn't seem to have made it onto my computer, but it's preserved on Facebook, so enjoy a short look at Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
at the
Hadar's Rising Song Institute
's Intensive of 2019--he led this song at one of the SLBC sessions.
Sunday, February 21, 2021 correction:
Shira, you idiot, no wonder you can't find that video of Josh on your phone--you're not the one who recorded it! Many thanks to Rabbi
Marcelo Bronstein
for this video!

Songleader Boot Camp post #5: February 16, 2021's sessions


Here's a little verbal snapshot of #slbc21
Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC Group)
sessions for Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
I went to the Israeli folk dancing session with
Erica Goldman
and Rabbi
Lisa Silverstein
. It was fun to watch the dancing, and I danced both as much as I could in this postage-stamp of an apartment and what little I can remember after 11 months in "dancers' Galut." Darn--I'm going to have to relearn *everything.* Oh, well.
To be honest, I feel a bit weird *rating* Tefillah, but it was both musical and meaningful. Then again, I should think more about the services that *I* help lead--how do *my synagogue's* services "rate?" That's part of the reason why I'm at SLBC--I'm trying to improve my skills as a baalat tefillah. That and to hear all this wonderful music!
There's Torah in the Wizard of Oz?! Yes--sometimes a person has to stop looking for a savior and look inside themselves. Thank you, Rabbi
David Ingber
, for taking us to the Land of Az and the Land of Oz.
"What good is writing songs if you don't share them?," asked Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
in his session "Sing Your Strength: The Power of Voices and Music to Inspire Throughout Jewish History." Now I have to go look up a story in the Book of Joshua--Rabbi Josh said that there was a momentous crossing of the Jordan that many Jews don't know about because no one sang about it! We got into an interesting discussion of who's singing the songs and who's writing them when yours truly wrote in the chat, "But this niggun also has to be for the wives they left behind with the six kids [to go to shul in the 1800s in Europe]. "Chani, Moishe, let's sing!" A number of us women (led by Rabbi @Valerie Cohen, if I remember correctly) put in a call, which Rabbi Josh supported wholeheartedly, for making sure that women are included--Josh said that places like the Black Box Theater are our egalitarian tisch spaces.
Marcia Weinstein
called for more women to write niggunim. An Israeli also expressed regret that his daughter is not interested in his parents' Moroccan music--we really need to include more non-Ashkenazi music. We had a really good discussion, both in the chat and aloud.
I probably won't attend many of the sessions scheduled for tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday, since they're intended mainly for professional Jewish musicians. So let me express my immense gratitude to
Rick Recht
Elisa Heiligman-Recht
(Elisa, I hope you'll lead a session next year!), and all of the staff who made the Songleader Boot Camp possible. I'll just close out my SLBC posting with the first song of the Tefillah and Shira Kallah, ending as we began, with "Va-ani Tefilati," written by Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
and one of his former campers, Yael Bettenhausen:

Songleader Boot Camp post #4: February 15, 2021's sessions


Here are some thoughts about #slbc21
Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC Group)
classes for Monday, February 15, 2021.
Rabbi Joe Black
, Cantor
Ellen Dreskin
, and Rabbi
David Ingber
, what a joyful session you led, full of song and divrei Torah and combinations thereof. 🙂 These were Siddur Gems, indeed. ❤
The session on Jews of Color: Diversity and Inclusion, was about as uncomfortable as it had to be. Dealing with my own racism is no picnic, but, as a person with white skin and white privilege, it's my responsibility. Many thanks to all the speakers, particularly the leaders, Rabbi
Sandra Lawson
, Rabbi
Susan Talve
, and
Billy Jonas
, as well as the "guest speakers."
What is prayer? What is liturgy? Why do we pray? How do we pray? Is a "singing community" really a singing community if they sing without feeling? More questions than answers, which is probably how it has to be. Many thanks to Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
, Cantor
Ellen Dreskin
, and
Eliana Light
for leading this session on Teaching T'fillah: Laying the Foundation.
Regarding the session on Making Prayer Spiritual: Crafting Prayer for Adults, all I can say is wow, so much to think about!
Chava Mirel
Eliana Light
, running an Evening Service first and then opening the floor to a discussion of what you'd done and hadn't done was such a good idea! These thoughts aren't particularly well organized, but here they are: Never mind a "theme"--figure out your purpose first. Why are you doing this service? What do people need? What time of day is it? Time of day can determine the mood of the service. In the morning, you might want to energize; in the evening, you might want to calm. Be the lion, rather than the dog: Don't chase the stick--look behind you to see where it came from. Consider what the translations say--you might want to offer something less literal, to encourage people with varying perspectives to participate. But remember that you're *inviting* people--let them know that they don't have to accept the invitation. Always be aware that the motto that's over the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) in many synagogues--Know Before Whom You Stand--refers not just to G?d, but also to your congregation. (Was that a quote from Cantor
Ellen Dreskin
? I think they said they were sharing that.) Also, Eliana must be quoting a similar source, because this has been on the "masthead" of my blog since I started it in Aug. 2004: "This blog, welcoming the entire Jewish community, is dedicated to those who take Judaism seriously, but not necessarily literally."
One of the folks in one of the break-out rooms at the Making Prayer Spiritual session--I believe she said she's a cantor--responded to my comment that, when it comes to the silent prayer, I just have to davven (pray) the Amidah: "You need the kevah (structure) more than the kavvanah (intent)." It occurred to me that I've gotten better at "going with the flow" of a less-traditional service except for the silent part--meditation and/or mindfulness just isn't my style, so, when everyone goes silent, I really do rely on my siddur. I just can't stand there saying and/or doing nothing for four minutes straight.
And I managed to stay awake long enough to hear both
Ellie Flier
Beth Hamon
at the Late Night song session. Beautiful! What wonderful songs!
Laila tov, all! See you tomorrow at Morning Tefillah. I'd love to go to the Israeli folk dancing session, but unfortunately, our postage-stamp-sized apartment makes folk dancing darned near impossible.

Songleader Boot Camp post #3: February 14, 2021's sessions

February 14, 2021

Here's some running commentary on Sunday, February 14, 2021's #slbc21
Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC Group)
sessions. I'll probably just keep adding as I go to other sessions.
Woven in among his wonderful words of Torah, @Rabbi
Bradley Shavit Artson
, asked why Jews always have to justify being Jewish. I think it's because we're so often been Gerim Toshavim, "resident aliens," in other people's lands. It's part of the bi-cultural nature of diaspora Judaism to have to prove that being Jewish in addition to being whatever else we are is a good thing.
Josh Warshawsky
marveled over all the good Torah we're missing by mumbling through the prayers. Such gems he uncovered! Then he put his "looping pedal" to work and sang some of those gems in multi-part harmony. Wonderful!❤
Rebecca Lesser Dubowe
, Cantor
Ellen Dreskin
, and
Eliana Light
taught that sometimes shifting one's focus in prayer from what G?d can do to what we can do as G?d's partners might help us pray. Also, music, movement, and thoughts spoken aloud can be tools to help our kavvanah/focus.

Songleader Boot Camp post #2: Thanks again to Eliana Light & R. Josh Warshawsky

February 14, 2021
This is just another word of thanks to
Eliana Light
and Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
, leaders of the #slbc21 Tefillah and Shira Kallah, before the main conference of the
Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC Group)
I've never been a fan of Yedid Nefesh--it's just so long. (I have the same problem with Anim Zemirot.) But I loved Rabbi Josh's version, so much that it's been on "repeat loop" in my head for days. 🙂 Thanks so much for writing that beautiful song! (Was
Coleen Dieker
your co-writer on that?) And thanks for using that "looping pedal" (if that's what it's called) to enable you to sing harmony with yourself--live harmony is still rather rare, and a real treat, on Zoom. 🙂
Naturally, since I mentioned Anim Zemirot, I now have Eliana's interpretive version, "Shadows," playing in my head. 🙂 (You can find it on Eliana's webpage on the Watch and Listen tab under "s*ngs ab-ut g?d"--I've noticed that Facebook is finicky about showing more than one link in one post.) Eliana, thank you so much for being a welcoming presence, encouraging us to bring our bodies, minds, hearts and souls to this experience. You reminded us that it's okay to feel both glad to be together and sad that we can't be together in person. Thank you for encouraging us to learn in whatever mode suits us, be it auditory, visual, and/or physical. I can't wait to meet you in person! 🙂  

You can find Eliana Light's song "Shadows," which is her interpretive version of Anim Zemirot, here.

I was a first-timer at Songleader Boot Camp--here's my 1st Facebook post about it

February 13, 2021

I'm a first-timer at
Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC Group)
, @#slbc21. What a wonderful experience! The music during the Tefillah and Shira Kallah was beautiful, and the leaders,
Eliana Light
and Rabbi
Josh Warshawsky
, were fantastic!
My take-away is that I'm not good at take-aways--I'm not a particularly organized person. 🙂 Having an actual plan for a service? Who, me? Well, apparently, I'm going to have to get much better at planning services in advance rather than making choices at the last minute or during the service. Today, in honor of Rosh Chodesh, I chose to lead Adon Olam to the, er, *a* tune for Yevarech et Beit Yisrael (from Hallel) about 3 minutes before we sang it this morning. I didn't even have time to figure out that I had two lines more music than words, and had to do the last two lines of music "instant-niggun" style on the spot--la la la, with lots of clapping. I'm going to have to do better than that, if I want to serve my synagogue better as a baalat tefillah.
I found myself in some interesting situations at SLBC. Apparently, I wasn't supposed to default to my beloved Israeli folk dancing when some great music was played as a lead-in to a service. I haven't made it a practice to use movement as a spiritual practice, so I'll need a lot more practice. 🙂 Also, reminder to self: If you can't figure out which break-out room to join, just stay in the main room--just because you're a baalat tefillah doesn't mean that you should be the only layperson in a Clergy break-out room. (Pick your preferred term: eavesdropper, "space invader" . . . )
Speaking of interesting situations, being on Zoom did dictate one of my choices. I've been known to say that the most difficult thing about leading almost any singing (whether it's Ashrei, Musaf, Birkat HaMazon, zemirot, or secular songs) is singing lead. I've been improvising vocal harmony since I was about 11, partly because singing harmony comes almost as naturally to me as breathing and partly because my voice is low enough and my vocal range limited enough that singing harmony is often the only way that I can sing with other people. If I'd been present in body rather than on screen, I would never have volunteered to lead a verse of Ein Adir at the Zemirot session after Erev Shabbat services, knowing that the key was too high for me--I would simply have sung harmony the whole time. It didn't matter on Zoom, though, because I wasn't really leading, anyway, since everyone who wasn't "leading" was on mute, and I knew that whoever sang the next verse would simply revert to the original key. (On second thought, maybe I should rethink the "not really leading" part--otherwise, what am I doing on Zoom every Shabbat morning?)
I will probably eventually blog (and link to Facebook) about something I heard at least a couple of times in SLBC break-out rooms and also prior to SLBC--so many "pulpit" clergy, congregants, and synagogue volunteers have commented that most of the congregants are close to my age (72). Where are the younger people? Where are the families? Where are the children? What is the future of synagogues? Will our temples go the way of our Temple?
I'm looking forward to further fun and learning as the main SLBC conference begins tomorrow.
For the benefit of my blog readers who are not on Facebook, here are some "missing" links:  :)
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