Friday, December 29, 2006

Help this Orthodox Jewish child find a frum family to adopt him

As Jameel said of MOChassid's quest for a family for "Judah," "If this works out, if will be one of the most impressive uses of the JBlogosphere ever."

Let me see whether I can keep this at the top of my blog for a while. Scroll down for newer posts.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

You know the kid is home from college when . . .

the Old Man is persuaded to refrain from dropping any more money at CompUSA until it can be determined whether needed parts can be scavenged from the old computer. So there sat my two favorite gents, the Punster and the Son-ster, on the livingroom floor (what, you were thinking there was maybe someplace else?) with two CPU towers cracked open, cannabalizing the old computer for parts for the, well, not-quite-as-old computer. I told our son, half jokingly, that maybe, when the newer computer gives out (in about three days), I'll get another desktop instead of a laptop, just to give him the privilege of cranking open the CPU tower and playing around inside, occasionally. (He assures me that, given how tightly everything is packed into a laptop, it's not possible for amateurs to do their own repairs or upgrades, and besides, one can't open up the casing of a laptop computer without invalidating the warranty.)
The good news is that my current computer is now the proud possessor of two internal hard drives. The medium news is that the scavenged CD-RW drive does play commercial CDs, but not "homemades." (We haven't tried burning a new CD on it yet--stay tuned.) The bad news is that, in the process of swapping CDs for testing, I managed to do such a thorough job of misplacing one of the CDs that we still haven't found it, two days later.
And then, of course, there's the obvious. My current computer, two hard drives notwithstanding, is on its last legs, as I was saying. (Halevai [it should only happen], it should live and be well until we can afford a replacement, which will be at least another year, since the Punster needs to replace his own computer first, for business reasons.) So, since our son had previously absconded with our external hard drive, we bought a new one and backed up the entire (I hope) contents of my computer thereon. Did I mention that our new external hard drive has a higher capacity than our old one? Did I mention that our son brought the old external hard drive home with him? Just how many days do you think we'll be in possession of the new external hard drive? Hint: Our kid's in mid-academic-quarter, and must return to school next week. It's a good thing that I never got around to throwing out the box for the new external hard drive. :)

Friday morning, December 29 update: The kid tells us that we bought a piece of junk--backing up his hard drive, which should have taken only about 1 1/2-2 hours, took him most of the day yesterday. Apparently, he had to move most of his files one by one to keep the drive from stalling. !#$%^&!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Conservative Jew's News and Views: On the (non-)connection between the gay-rights and patrilineal-descent issues (?)

According to the New York Jewish Week, some Israelis are wondering how a rabbi could marry two men or two women, but not a man and woman at least one of whom has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. I don't see the connection. Halachah/Jewish religious law states that a person's religion is determined by the religion of the mother. Therefore, a person claiming to be Jewish through patrilineal descent--that is, because his/her father or grandfather is/was Jewish--is not Jewish according to Orthodox and (current) Conservative interpretations of halachah. But a non-Jew can convert to Judaism and solve the problem, while it's highly unlikely that a homosexual could "convert" to heterosexuality.

Monday, December 25, 2006 update:

Here's a relevant comment by Rahel to my previous post on the ordination of homosexuals:

“this ruling raises questions concerning intermarriage. There is a minority oppinion, (albeit a decidedly minor one), that states that Devarim 7:4 applies specifically to those nations listed, and not to all Gentiles. I don't have the source off the top of my head, but I'll find it and leave it here as a comment. At any rate, it can be argued that, if we're going to allow something which is specifically prohibited by the written Torah, then are we going to allow something else which is not only ambiguous in the written Torah, but has minority support within the rabbinic tradition? Just my two-cents, and, I'm not advocating for the Halachic sanction of intermarriage. I'm just raising the question.

Sun Dec 24, 04:45:04 PM 2006

Okay, now I see the problem. While it's true that being non-Jewish can be "cured" and being homosexual cannot be "cured," the law against anal sex between men comes directly from the Torah sheh-Bichtav/Written Torah/Bible, whereas the definition of Jewish identity comes from the Torah sheh-B'al Peh/Oral Torah/rabbinic law. So, if the Rabbinical Assembly has given congregations the option of nullifying (not the Written Law against anal sex between men but) the (additional) rabbinic laws against homosexuality, one could make a case that the rabbinic law defining Jewish identity is also fair game.

My gut instinct is to agree with my first rabbi in New York on this one--if we can't even agree on who's born Jewish, where does that leave (what's left of) Jewish unity? Is it fair to ask the children of Jewish father and non-Jewish mothers to convert? No. But is it the right thing to do? I still think it is.

A self-fulfilling prophecy

Me: "Okay, I can understand why a man can't davven Shacharit (pray the Morning Service) on the subway—wearing tallit and tefillin would be a problem. [Note: The tzitzit fringes and/or the tefillin straps could be sat or stepped on, or otherwise damaged or dirtied.] But what about Mincha (the Afternoon Service)?

Her: "No, a man can't pray on the train at all, because there might be improperly-dressed women around. But that's the guys. When I get on the train, I've got 45 minutes to say Shacharit, and nothing distracts me."

Is it just me, or do you see an inconsistency in that statement?

By way of illustration, let me quote from Rabbi Judith Hauptman’s book, Rereading the Rabbis: A Woman’s Voice, in which she cites this story from the Gemara:

“’There were a number of women captives who, upon being redeemed, came to Nehardia and were housed [in an upper chamber at the home of] R. Amram the Pious. They removed the ladder [to deny access to the women. It happened that] when one of them passed by [the opening to the lower story], light fell from the opening [and R. Amram found himself sexually aroused]. He took the ladder, which was so heavy that ten men could not lift it and, all by himself, positioned it below the upper chamber and began climbing. When he was halfway up, he stopped himself and cried out: Fire at R. Amram’s! The rabbis came [running but, upon realizing the sexual nature of the fire, chided him, saying] you have shamed us. He said to them, better that you are shamed by me in this world than in the world-to-come.’

In this story . . . , a rabbi who is loyal to Jewish law finds himself sexually aroused, burning with passion, simply by seeing the shadow of one of the women in his upper chamber.”

In my opinion, the most interesting thing about this R. Amram story (whether it’s a true story or not) is not that R. Amram was able to control himself, with a little from his friends :), but that he had such a low threshold of sexual temptation that he started climbing the ladder in the first place.

Here's another look. I must state, for the record, that it's not clear from this quote whether Rabbi Henkin agrees with this hashkafah/relgious viewpoint or whether he's simply describing it.

Rabbi Yehudah Henkin observes, "This ideology prohibits a woman from standing out—and from being outstanding. She must not act in a play, paint a mural, play an instrument or otherwise demonstrate special skills in front of men, lest she attract attention and her movements excite them."

[Tuesday, September 2, 2008 clarification: As commented by Dilbert/Noam below, Rabbi Henkin was presenting Rabbi Falk's opinion, with which Rabbi Henkin disagrees.]

I assert that this approach reflects a machloket—a dispute—between nature and nurture, between heredity and environment, between how much of human behavior is hard-wired from the womb and how much is learned.

The opinion of the rabbis seems to be that, even if women do nothing whatsoever to cause sexual arousal in men, we are, nevertheless, held accountable, in practical terms, for said arousal or potential arousal. My blogger buddy Dilbert tells me, for example, that the law against kol isha ("a woman's voice") does not prohibit a woman from singing but, rather, prohibits a man from hearing a woman sing. However, he adds that, in practical terms, what usually happens is not that the man leaves the room, but rather, that the woman refrains from singing.

Have I ever been distracted during prayer by the presence of a cute guy, or entertained "interesting thoughts" while listening to Matisyahu? Yes. The issue is not whether persons of the opposite sex can turn one another on merely by being present in the same room. The issue is what one does about that, and, specifically in this case, why the expectations are different for women than for men, particularly in the Chareidi community. My Tehillim (Psalms) group buddy is perfectly capable of shutting out distraction and davvening on the subway, but, apparently, she doe not expect the same of her own husband, and, from what I can determine with my limited knowledge, neither does halachah/Jewish religious law. Why not? Why should men be deemed so much less capable of controlling their sexual urges than women are?

So I turned to the only authority on the subject of male sexuality of whom I feel comfortable, as a married woman, asking such questions. "Just how vulnerable is a guy to, um, visual stimulation, anyway? What if you see a woman in a low-cut blouse in the subway? Would you have a physical reaction?"

"I might," said my husband. "But so what? I can always distract myself and go about my business."

It seems to me that that approach is simply the result of the way a person raised left of Chareidi is taught to think (or not think) about women. If women are human beings who happen to have interesting bumps on the front (and other less visible but even more interesting parts), then, when circumstances demand it, one can distract oneself from the bumps and parts and deal with a woman as another human being. The bumps and parts don't disappear, but one doesn't focus on them. I am reminded of the Modern Orthodox blogger who commented that having a bad memory for names gets him in trouble in business meetings with women because, while he'd love to refresh his memory by looking at their name tags, he keeps himself focused on business by trying to look at their faces only, and their name tags are generally fastened, um, considerably lower down. :)

"Then why this obsession with women's sexuality?"

"I think it has to do with men's obligation to study Torah. Women are a distraction. It's not such a problem for women, from an Orthodox point of view, because, according to Orthodox interpretations of halachah, women aren't obligated to study Torah, but men are."

Okay, so maybe it's not the worst thing in the world for men and women to study separately. And I can understand the point of having a mechitzah during prayer, though I'm not bonkers about it. But are men really so vulnerable to visual stimulation that they can't be in the presence of women under any circumstances without suffering from serious sexual temptation, as seems to be the opinion in some Chareidi communities?

On a related topic, Sweet Rose said, “The message being sent is that we are all too weak to handle any challenges, that any kind of temptation must be taken away from before us in order to be able to function as an Orthodox Jew. I think this makes us even weaker - when we are not taught how to handle any temptation or challenge, we subsequently become unable to handle it when we have to.”

We worry about children playing with matches. But as children grow, we teach them how to use matches properly. Similarly, we should teach our children how to deal appropriately with sexuality. If that means abstinence under certain circumstances, fine. But abstinence from the sex act is completely different from abstinence from almost all avoidable contact with half the human race. I think there's something fundamentally immature about a man born in the twentieth century believing that he has so little self-control that he can't even walk on the same side of the street as a woman—and then projecting that phobia (yes, I said phobia) onto women and making us pay for it. Why should a woman playing piano in the presence of a man be worth even discussing?

The last word on this subject goes to a young blogger raised in a Chareidi neighborhood. Finding herself a college student mixing socially with men for the first time in her life, she realized that it's not only possible to maintain one's standards even when not sheltered from the necessity of doing so, it's also better that way.

"i've learned how to talk to them [males] as though they are normal people and not the boogey man. you know, say what you will for tzneous [modesty], but everybody's gotta grow up sometime . . . "

If you're raised to believe that you can't resist the opposite sex and that it's their fault as much as the fault of your own weakness, you'll act that way. If you're raised to believe that, however much temptation you face, it's ultimately up to you to resist, you'll act that way. The manner in which sexuality is approached by some of the rabbinic sages and taught to some in the Chareidi community is a self-fulfilling prophecy that lends itself to lifelong immature attitudes toward members of the opposite sex.

As Fudge said, "everybody's gotta grow up sometime."


Thursday, December 21, 2006

The choreographer strikes again: A Chanukah dance

Here's a little Chanukah dance that I choreographed "Hillel style" (on one foot), so to speak--the music was first published on the Internet on Dec. 14! Many thanks to Mark and his marvelous Milwaukee music men.

In honor of Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh: A dancer does Hallel

I'm copying my response to WestBankMama's comment on a previous post, in the hope that you might find it a tad amusing and/or interesting:

"Here's a minhag that I developed quite unconciously, undoubtedly because I'm a dancer: One fine day in synagogue, in the middle of Hallel, I suddenly realized that, every time we sang the words "heharim rak'du ch'elim (literally, "the mountains danced like rams"), I would bounced up and down on my toes in time to the music, as if dancing. I have no idea how long I've been doing that. Tue Dec 19, 11:08:13 PM 2006

More of my dreidel (sevivon) collection

For a close-up, click on the photo once, then click again (a standard double-click doesn't seem to work). For your vicarious pleasure, there's a candy dish (courtesy of a co-worker the other day, much to my pleasant surprise) full of parve chocolate gelt (the good stuff). The video version (with explanation) is in the previous post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Chanukah present for our son

Unwrap here.

Here's more Chanukah fun from Ezzie, including three music videos

A Conservative Jew's News and Views: On the proposal for a "tsedek hekhsher," or justice certification

"Conservative movement leaders said that they plan to establish a "tsedek hekhsher," or a justice certification, that would ensure kosher food producers "have met a set of standards that determine the social responsibility of kosher food producers, particularly in the area of workers rights."
You can read the full article here.

(Hat-tip to Shayna Galyan.)

At Hirhurim, Rabbi Gil Student wonders, " . . . realistically, how many consumers will really start demanding this certification? Perhaps Conservative synagogues will start insisting on only using caterers that adhere to this certification. But if it becomes too much of a burden, caterers won't do it and synagogues will be stuck. This is especially so in smaller communities where kosher food is hard to come by.

Maybe I'm wrong on this. But did anyone do an economic study on this before submitting this proposal? Because I just don't see it as working."

Hey, Gil, we're just trying to join the party--if the Orthodox can have their chumrot (extra stringencies), why can't we have ours? :)

Seriously, I'm not sure whether this will work, either, but I think it's worth a try.

There's been some commentary on a blog or two (can't remember which ones) about the El Al strike that resulted in a violation of Sabbath and/or kashrut, which, in turn, has resulted in Chareidi threats to boycott El Al. (Some kosher food spoiled while a plane was grounded in a location in which no kosher food was available, so the passengers were given a choice of treif sandwiches or fruit.) It was politely pointed out that the employees hadn't been paid for several months, and that, if the Chareidi world had been upset enough about that injustice to support the workers' right to be paid, the strike might never have taken place.

In connection with that commentary, I have a problem with this comment to Gil's post:

This is further proof that the "conservatives" are morphing into a more "humanistic"(and less halachik) religion.

A Conservative Jew's News and Views: On the ruling concerning the ordination of homosexuals

'Two Jews, three opinions,' as the saying goes.

To be honest, I'm not the best person to discuss this issue. For openers, I'm too lazy to read the actually t'shuvot (rulings?) of the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. For closers, I'm not really knowledgeable enough to discuss halachah (Jewish religious law). But that's never stopped me before, so you're forewarned.

From what I've read in the papers and on the blogs, and from Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky's discussion on the subject last Shabbat at Ansche Chesed, I gather that three t'shuvot were submitted. The one that supported the end of all prohibitions against homosexual activity was not accepted by the Committee. The two that were accepted were a) continued support for the traditional perspective forbidding homosexual acts and, hence, the ordination of openly homosexual men and women, and b) continued support for the Written Torah's (Bible's) prohibition against "lying with a man as with a woman," (i.e., anal sex), but removal of the requirement to follow the additional rabbinic restrictions, and support for the ordination of open homosexuals.

The impression that I got from Rabbi Kalmanofsky was that health was a serious consideration in the latter decision. There seems to be an opinion that it's better to recognize and allow monogamous relations among homosexuals than to discourage them, hence indirectly encouraging promiscuous relationships and risking the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

What's missing in this discussion, assuming that I'm interpreting it correctly, is an acknowledgment of a crucial difference in attitude between the Conservative and the Orthodox that has nothing to do with homosexuality. According to a strict Orthodox perspective, the only difference between a Jew with same-sex attraction and an unmarried heterosexual Jew is that the unmarried heterosexual Jew can always harbor the hope of being married one day, whereas a strictly observant Jew with same-sex attraction faces a lifetime alone min hahatchalah (from the beginning). In practical terms, both are required to remain celibate. The Conservative rabbinate's attitude toward both pre-marital and homosexual sex seems to be that expecting any human being to remain celibate for life is unreasonable, possibly bordering on inhumane. Having married at 28, I know how it feels to "go without." So I am not without some understanding of what observing this particular law in accordance with the traditional interpretation entails. And I'm not sure that I could ask that of any human being.

More marvelous music from the magnificent Midwest--Mendel, Mark, and drummer do a darned good job

. . . on this wonderful Chanukah song.

Here's a wonderful music video and some good links from Ezzie

Playing catch-up, I discover that Cleveland rocks.

Ezzie, could I bother you for the lyrics to Kol Hamitpalel? I get as far as "Everyone who prays in this place in Jerusalem, it's as if he prayed before the Seat of Glory." The rest is beyond my Hebrew comprehension. Where can I find this quote?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SerandEz: How a Jew Celebrates Christmas

SerandEz: How a Jew Celebrates Christmas

This is my first experiment with the "Create a Link" button. With luck, the link will take you to an amusing (and good) music video on Ezzie's blog.

The fifth Chanukah lecht

The Czar of Russia really didn't care about the birth of a Jewish baby in Kiev Gobernyah ("Kiev County," she translated it). So she never had a birth certificate, and probably guessed at her secular date of birth and exact age. But one thing she knew--she was born on the fifth Chanukah lecht. And so, as we lit the fifth Chanukah lecht, I remembered my mother's mother, Golda Rose.

David Bogner "Treppenwitz" clues me in on a fascinating fact concerning the fifth night of Chanukah of which I was not aware.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Reprint, so to speak: "The Festival of Lights" (a poem first published here last Chanukah)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A trip--of a different kind--down Memory Lane

My husband dared me to tell you about my little trip-up this past Friday afternoon, so I will. :)

I came tearing into the apartment at about 45 minutes to Shabbos. Fortunately, my husband had everything pretty much under control. Dinner was on the hottray. The diningroom table was cleared and ready to be set, the Shabbat (Sabbath) candles were set up, the kos Kiddush/Kiddush cup was on the table, along with the two challot (Sabbath breads) under the challah cover. I put the kettle up with water for tea to be made before Shabbat, and took care of my business things while the water was boiling, emptying my pockets, removing from my neck the cord with the flash drive, and disconnecting the key ring with my office, mailbox, and bank vault keys from the cord on which I'd be "wearing" my apartment keys around my neck on Shabbat. I even remembered to make sure that there was no battery in my CD player/radio, which frequently gets turned on by accident just from the pressure exerted by the rest of the junk in my pocketbook--last Shabbat, we were "entertained" by the radio until the battery finally gave out. I printed out the z'manim (candle-lighting and other important times) for New York City from the OU website. I printed out the local weather report for Saturday from the Weather Channel website. I unscrewed the lightbulbs in the refrigerator (lest we accidentally turn on a light on Shabbat just by opening the 'fridge or freezer door), and ran around the apartment taping the lights on or off, as appropriate. In the process of running around, I just so happened to look up just long enough to see the livingroom window--and almost croaked. Holy Moses! It's a good thing I'm married, because I had completely forgotten that we needed to set up our chanukiot! Fortunately, thanks to my husband, the chanukiot were already sitting on the windowsill with candles in them, all ready for lighting.

It gets better, folks. Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while may remember that I've been davvening Shacharit (praying the Morning Service) on Shabbat and Pilgrimage Festivals at home for, um, about two years (?) because, never having had the privilege of attending a Jewish day school, I can't read Hebrew particularly quickly, and got tired of trying to keep up with the "speed-davveners." So there I was, davvening along quite nicely at my own pace when suddenly, smack in the middle of a blessing, I smacked myself in the forehead before I could think to stop myself: "Shira, you idiot, you have to say Hallel today!" So much for davvening at my preferred pace--let's just say that I wasn't able to linger as much over Hallel as I would have liked. Time was a particular problem yesterday morning because I needed to leave myself enough of it to practice the haftarah twice more before leaving for shul/synagogue for the Torah reading and Musaf (the "Additional Service," a substitute for the special Sabbath and/or holiday sacrificial service).

I can still laugh over my memory loss because, for me, it's still only a minor annoyance. But for my mother, memory loss is not the least bit funny. It's no laughing matter when my mother asks my father to set the table and he has to ask her where the dishes are.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Trep brings estranged parents and children back together

David Bogner "Treppenwitz" explains to a secular Israeli mother how she can get her newly-Orthodox son and daughter-in-law to start coming to her home for the holidays again with just a little effort on both her part and theirs.

In case you missed this when I linked to it, see this story by WestBankMama, too.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sevivon: Mark and his Music Makers put a new spin :) on an olde tyme Chanukah song

Pun intended, of course. :) Enjoy!

For those of you in the Milwaukee area, the Moshe Skier Band's next live performance will take place on Dec. 24. If you can get there, lucky you!

"Surely your dancin' days are done" (at least temporarily), or half a diagnosis is better than none (?)--the MRI results are in

The good news is that I don't have a plantar fibro-something-or-other.

The bad news is that I don't have a plantar fibro-something-or-other.

Which means that whatever I have on the sole of my left foot can't be treated with topical medication.

In other words, the only way they can figure out whether this bleeping thing is benign or malignant is . . .

Well, as I used to say to my sister and/or brothers when they were teasing me, "Cut it out!"

And send it to the lab. (Methinks that's called "taking a biopsy.")


Which also means that I'll have to be off my feet for two weeks, lest I pull the stitches apart and/or otherwise damage the surgical wound.

Which may mean that I've just lost half of my vacation :( , since I get only six sick days per year.

Too bad the boss turned off his cell phone this morning. When he returns from his out-of-town business trip tomorrow, I'll have to ask him whether I can work from home for the second week--knowing me, it'll take me three days to recover completely from the anesthesia--while I hobble around the "house" on a walker. Thank goodness my husband has a fax machine in the apartment for his tax and accounting business. I can just as easily type up the boss's hieroglyphics from a faxed copy as from a copy that he hands me. And I always e-mail him a copy of everything that I type for him anyway. A phone, a fax machine (both conveniently located right on my computer desk), and an Internet connection, and I'm good to go. Or, in this case, good to not go. :(

Not to worry, the doc says "No hurry"
So I'll wait until after Chanukah,
light lights and eat a sufganiyah
and go 'neath the knife in January

Please keep me in your thoughts and/or prayers. As the saying goes, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

I'm including my father's name for those who choose to use it. Please feel free to pray (if you're so inclined) in accordance with your own minhag (custom).

Léah bat Esther v'Ozer

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MOChassid links to a grin-inducing recommendation of his CD

MOChassid, a Long Island (New York) lawyer, recently produced "U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo," a CD in memory of his cantor father, which consists of specially-commissioned Jewish music written and sung by musician friends of his. If memory serves me correctly, he's established a foundation to use the profits from the CD to promote Jewish music programs in his synagogue. (Who knows? Maybe more CDs will come out of that program.) MOC linked to a highly amusing haskama/letter of approbation (read: This CD is appropriate for an Orthodox Jew). Please, do yourselves a favor--take the link to Uberimma's post and read the entire original. I'm still grinning.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Kind of…well…not really)--Allison links to this amusing essay

Allison Kaplan Sommer, occasionally of An Unsealed Room, but blogging mostly at Israelity these days, links to this droll report on Israeli weather, both atmospheric and political, "with Attitude."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My reaction to the Cross-Currents post, "Chiddush [something new] in Our “Beis Medrash”

Jack linked me to this post in his Haveil Havalim roundup--thanks! Here's a nice chunk:

"By Yaakov Rosenblatt

Hewed by Hashem into the essence of man is the need – the unmistakable and existential need – to add something to the experiences, choices, and lifestyle of the generation before it.

. . .

Fourth Generation

My generation (35 yrs) added something, too. Our Torah education, with college off the agenda, was more intense than that of our parents. Our internal intensity received external expression in our black velvet yarmulkes, tzitzis out, payos behind the ears, white shirts and dark pants (and sharp ties and Borsalinos on Shabbos). We saw the creation of the frum press which gave our commitment security. We looked to the Gedolim of Eretz Yisroel for psak din [rulings in Jewish law] and more and more for Hashkafa [Jewish philosophy]. Gemachim [Free loan funds], while founded conceptually by the generation before us, were brought to a new level by our generation. A 1985 Lakewood Gemach directory and a 2005 Lakewood Gemach directory say it all.

We ‘sat and learned’ longer after marriage than the generation before us. My own wife worked in a New Jersey Day School while I learned in Lakewood for three years, and we then moved to an out of town Kollel where I remained for another five years.

. . .

Many in my generation see remaining in kollel or klei kodesh [religious work] for their entire lives as their chiddush [addition] to the last generation. Economics of the 60’s didn’t allow it. But today, real estate profits and generous government programs allow for more klei kodesh careers than ever before. An average family size of six creates a new teaching position for every four families (24 kids). Adding positions in administration, fundraising, kashrus, rabbanus, kiruv, and safrus, a klei kodesh position is created by just three frum families paying their bills on time.”

On the plus side, these folks are doing a lot of good work by running "Gemachs" (G'milut Chassidism/Deeds of Kindness Societies). But the rest of the above really floored me.

So let me get this straight. Deliberately avoiding going to college is a wonderful idea? Ignoring local rabbis and paying attention to the Israeli "Gedolim" ("Great Ones," respected rabbinic scholars) alone is great? (Are there no Gedolim in the entire Western Hemisphere?) Seven years of study that might or might not lead one to get a job that will enable one to support a family of six-ten children is awesome? Having, say, 10-25% of the population employed as "professional Jews" (rabbis, scribes, etc.) doesn't put a burden on a community?

I copied my comments into Word, in case they didn't get past the moderator:

. . . When my father broke his leg, my mother went back to work to support us, because she would rather have died than go on Welfare. Since when did it become perfectly acceptable in the Jewish community for whole lifestyles to be based on perfectly able-bodied people living for years on end on hand-outs from the government?

In my generation, being a college graduate was a chiddush. In my son’s, it’s a necessity. My husband is a college accounting instructor, and he can tell you for a fact that his students are desparately [oops--desperately] seeking college degrees because it’s becoming increasing difficult to get a job that pays enough to support a family without one. I fear that, after two generations of parents without a college education, the Chareidi community will find its institutions suffering massive financial failure because there won’t be enough people making a decent living to keep the community’s organizations alive. I would hate to see a situation in which the last person to leave the bet midrash would have to turn off the lights permanently because no one could afford to pay even the electric bills, much less the rent. Im ein kemach, ein torah.

Comment by Shira Salamone — December 12, 2006 @ 9:12 pm Your comment is awaiting moderation.

And what about the impact of diminishing income on marriage? Is there any truth to the rumor that young ladies are already having difficulty with shidduchim (finding marital matches) because their fathers can’t afford to support prospective sons-in-laws’ plans to spend a few years in kollel?

“We looked to the Gedolim of Eretz Yisroel for psak din [rulings in Jewish law] and more and more for Hashkafa [Jewish philosophy].” I confess to being puzzled as to what the point is in supporting all these wonderful learning opportunities in the local community if one is not interested in what any of the local scholars has to say.

Comment by Shira Salamone —
December 12, 2006 @ 9:29 pm Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Winter Lace

The summer's leaves are mostly gone
(south for the winter, so to speak--
they're mostly lying on the cold, bare lawn)


L'chol z'man, to everything there is a season
It's not much comfort, but that's the reason

So I thank Hashem for evergreens
that liven up the winter scenes

And though the winter wind may sometimes whip across my face
still, I console myself by gazing up at winter's lace
The lacy tracery of trees' bare branches e'er so high
is winter lace that beautifies the gray expanse of sky


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gunfight at the OU Corral, or how I made myself unwelcome in my own synagogue

"I don't get it. Why are you making such a big deal about me going up on the bima to lead Ashrei? This is a Conservative synagogue. Once you take down the mechitza, what difference does it make whether I stand in the front of the room or on the bima?

E.J.: "This is different. You might be menstruous."

"So? A Torah scroll can't be made tameh [ritually unfit], can it, Rabbi?"

Rabbi: Actually, I heard a rabbi tell his wife not to touch a book."

[Stunned into temporary silence, I considered his response. Okay, maybe, because contact between a niddah wife and her husband is considered something of a no-no by many in the Orthodox community, she couldn't touch his book. But what does that have to do with a sefer Torah? To the best of my knowledge, anyone who goes to a cemetery is tameh [ritually unfit] for the rest of his or her life because, since the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash (Holy Temple), we've had no water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer with which to purify ourselves from tumat mavet (?), the ritual unfitness that results from contact with a corpse. Therefore, the sefer Torah, being handled by people 95% of whom are probably tameh from visiting a cemetery, would always be tameh itself! That's why I believe that the friend who told me that the rabbis had ruled that a sefer Torah cannot be made tameh is right. (Feel free to correct me in the comments if I'm off base).]

[Change of tactic required: Whether I'm right or wrong, I know perfectly well how it'll go over if I question the rabbi's statement in the middle of a Ritual Committee meeting].

"But what does that have to do with me going up on the bima to lead Ashrei? I'm not touching a scroll."

At this point, E.J. and H. (both female, by the way) were raking me over the coals, while I protested, again and again, like a broken record, "This is a Conservative synagogue, this is a Conservative synagogue."

So the rabbi, in his inimitable fashion, stepped in to break up the fight, and only made it worse.

"Sometimes, even when you're right, you have to cede for the good of the group . . . blah, blah, blah."

That's when I lost it. Feeling that the rabbi was, essentially, giving E.J. and H. carte blanche to attack me, I got up and announced, "I might as well just leave now." To the best of my recollection, this is the first time in my life that I've ever stormed out of a meeting in a huff, and it's certainly the first time in my life that I’ve ever cursed a blue streak at the top of my lungs in a synagogue building. (Oy, there's one for my Al Chet list--such disrespect!) I just grabbed my stuff and stomped out, with a final "Everything I do offends people" shouted over my shoulder.

Later that evening, I spoke to M., who told me that she and S. (also both female) had come to my defense after I stormed out, protesting that I was being attacked personally : They said that, if it had been another woman who had gone up on the bima to lead Ashrei, no one would have cared.

Here's a chunk of the e-mail I sent to M. the next day:

"[My husband] and I had a nice long talk, and this was my conclusion: I'm being attacked for the small stuff because I can't be attacked for the big stuff. The decision to allow women to chant haftarot, though it was originally proposed as a means of giving Bat Mitzvah celebrants a larger role, now functions as a way to compensate for the fact that there are almost no men chanting haftarot anymore, so the oldsters can't complain, because they--the males, anyway--are part of the problem. The decision to count women [for a minyan] was made because of demographics--there just aren't enough men, at this point, so no one can complain. The decision to allow women to be gabbaim, lein, and/or lead weekday Shacharit was also made due to a combination of demographics and the lack of men willing to learn these skills. (There's also the major detail that weekday Shacharit takes place out of sight of most of the people who would be offended.) My decision to wear a tallit and tefillin, though not everyone's cup of tea, affects only me. To sum up the problem, the only egalitarian practices for which the traditionalists feel absolute free to attack me are the minor practices that have no affect whatsoever on the ability of the congregation to function. Therefore, someone--I forget who--complained to the rabbi that I had the unmitigated gall to honor my father by adding his name to my mother's name when saying a misheberach for my sister (a fact that he hadn't noticed at all until it was brought to his attention). Therefore, E. B. attacked me for daring to use new tunes for Ein Kelokeinu and Adon Olam. Therefore, the Naysayers Chorus--D., H. D., E. J., etc.--ketch and, as of last night, attack me for going up on the bima to say Ashrei. And, of course, the rabbi supports the traditionalists--what do you expect from a black-hatter?

As I said to [my husband], my membership in this shul is rather like a bad marriage in which the wife assumed that she could make her husband change, instead of accepting the fact that most of what she saw was what she was going to get. In retrospect, I suppose that I should have seen this coming at the point at which I realized that most of the members my own age were moving out of the neighborhood. (Concerning E. J., who's in our ballpark, age-wise, I've said this before and I'll say it again: I truly believe that if she'd had a daughter instead of a son--that is, if she'd had a child with whom she could have sat on the same side of the mechitza [as a single mother]--she would have joined Young Israel instead of [our local shul, the only Conservative synagogue in a neighborhood that once had three Orthodox synagogues, and still has two].) It could legitimately be argued that, once it became clear that the egalitarians would always be in the minority, I was arrogant to have thought that the whole shul would change its ways simply because I wanted it to do so."

It doesn't help that I've often been publicly disrespectful of this particular rabbi. I asked for his forgiveness before this past Yom Kippur, and have been working very hard on behaving appropriately toward him. I cannot honestly say that I’ve haven’t brought on some of the flack that I’ve been getting in the past year or so by arguing with him about just about everything. (My husband reported that my attackers’ reaction to me storming out of the meeting was, “She can dish it out, but she can’t take it.”) It doesn't help, though, that the rabbi has encouraged a turn to the right that, in some cases, actually goes against established minhagim (customs) of the congregation that have existed for at least the 21 years that we've been members. For example, it's always been the minhag of our shul to do Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) as a group, and it's always been the practice of the rabbi, cantor, or congregant leading it to ask for quiet until Birkat HaMazon was completed. Why has the Ritual Committee ruled, only since the arrival of our current rabbi, that the leader of Birkat HaMazon must now ask those who wish to participate in Birkat HaMazon to join with him or her rather than informing them that the congregant will now chant Birkat HaMazon, as if we now have to apologize for praying b'tzibbur (as a community)? Reciting Birkat HaMazon as a purely private prayer is more typical of the Orthodox community, but not necessarily of the Conservative community, in which practices that were traditionally done privately and/or at home (such as having a seder) are frequently done as a group in synagogue. Our current rabbi has not even attempted to conceal the fact that he has no respect for the Conservative Movement, its rabbis, its interpretations of halachah/Jewish law, and/or its customs, and he is simply imposing on an apparently-increasingly-willing congregation the approach that he learned as a rabbinical student at Chofetz Chaim Yeshivah.

I realize now that I’ve shot myself in the foot by being so openly hostile to our current rabbi, because my behavior has caused some of the more traditional members to circle the wagons around him. But I’ve been going to Conservative synagogues since childhood. If I wanted an Orthodox rabbi, and were willing to abide by an Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law and tradition, I would be a member of an Orthodox synagogue. Why should anyone be surprised that I resent the fact that I can’t ask my own rabbi a question because the answer is going to be so far to the right of my own haskafah/religious viewpoint that I’d be hard pressed to think that we’re even speaking the same language? Here’s an example of a typical conversation (paraphrased): “You know, I’ve heard that Tashlich was originally a pagan ritual, but the rabbis, since they couldn’t seem to get people to stop doing it, added psalms and a new interpretation and made it Jewish.” The rabbi’s response: “What are you talking about? Judaism has never been influenced in any way by any other religion. Everything that we do was given to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai.”

We always assumed that we'd have to leave this neighborhood sooner or later, because the odds are very good that there won't be a single synagogue of any kind within walking distance 10 years from now. But now that I no longer feel welcome in my own synagogue, I'm figuring that we'll have to start looking even sooner than planned.

Wanted: Two traditional egalitarian Conservative Jews seek neighborhood with thriving (i.e., with lots of young children, and, therefore, likely to last another 25 years) traditional egalitarian Conservative synagogue to which to move. Must be affordable for normal mortals, but must also be located within semi-reasonable commuting distance of New York City, as both of us intend to work for several more years and neither of us has any delusions of being able to find new jobs, given our respective ages (we’re both over 55). Kindly respond in the comments or via e-mail.

P.S. Having no desire whatsover to show up at our local shul yesterday after Tuesday's Ritual Committee fiasco, I (hopped on a subway train, you should pardon the expression,) went to Ansche Chesed, and walked into the West Side Minyan service just in time to be pounced on by Debbie. "One of our leiners couldn't make it. Could you read one aliyah from the book?" Normally, I wouldn't dare--I ain't that good at leining, even from a Chumash--but, under the circumstances, I was so flattered just to feel wanted that I took a look at the aliyah and consented, on condition that someone follow in the actual scroll with a yad (pointer, used in order to avoid touching the parchment, a no-no). So they gave the aliyah to someone with good Hebrew-reading skills, and I somehow managed to make a fool of myself only a few times. (Thank goodness it was a relatively easy reading.) If I could afford to move back to the Upper West Side and live within walking distance of Ansche Chesed, I'd be there in a heartbeat. It's not perfect, but it's as close as I'm ever going to get.

P.P.S. Here are links to a couple of related posts. The odd thing is that I may be the only blogger in the entire Jewish blogosphere who can identify with all three sides of this story: I'm a member of a dying congregation, I'm on the left wing of my movement and don't wish to see my synagogue go any farther to the right, and I'm also a relative newcomer who wants to change the synagogue to match my personal haskkafah/relgious viewpoint. Have you looked at my masthead lately? Is it any wonder that I call myself a perpetual misfit?


(Link>) CD review: "T'nu Lanu Siman--Give Us A Sign," by Shlock Rock

This review is way overdue--I actually bought this CD at the Shlock Rock concert in September. But hey, better late than never.

I originally purchased this CD because of the second song thereon, which Shlock Rock's founder/bandleader/keyboard player/lead singer and principal songwriter Lenny Solomon sang at the concert. He said that it had gotten a lot of "air time" on Hebrew-language Israeli radio stations, and I can see why--who can argue about a song with lyrics like these?

"Ani Yehudi

When they ask me who am I (I will say)

I am not Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, Taimani [Yemenite] or Tzarfati [French]

I am not Morrocan, American, or Russian

Chorus: I am a Jew"

And the music's very nice, indeed.

"Laasok" has a similar theme. This is the one song on this CD that is not sung by Lenny. As he said in the CD-liner notes, "This song guest stars Yehuda Dim and Ohum Hatuka [one of his back-up singers] as I wanted authentic Chassidic and Mizrachi singing voices." "Laasok" is basically a musical debate about whether Ashkenazi or Sefardi pronunciation should be used in prayers and/or biblical quotations. (Boy, was I surprised when both the Chassid and the Mizrachi pronounced "aleihem" with the accent on the third syllable. In the Ashkenazi synagogue of my childhood, "aleihem" was pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. We crazy Ashkenazim can't even agree among ourselves about how to pronounce Hebrew. :) ) The verdict is that both sides are right. "Laasok" is another call for tolerance and mutual respect, and fun to listen to.

"S'u Sh'arim" is a song that Lenny wrote in 1987 for his old band, Kesher. It's harmony heaven for an ex-synagogue-choir singer like me. I love it!

Not being learnèd enough to be able to look up a psalm directly in a Tehillim/Book of Psalms, I had to look for it the roundabout way, by checking a siddur/prayerbook, in which I know exactly where to find it--it's the psalm sung when returning the Torah scroll to the Aron Kodesh/Holy Ark every(?) day except Shabbat/Sabbath. Long story short: The lyrics of "S'u Sh'arim" are the four final verses of Psalm 24.

One of the fringe benefits of having sung in a synagogue choir for over a decade is that I got to know the services for the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays much better than I would have as a regular Jo. A month of twice-weekly rehearsals every August for more than ten years, not to mention being expected to stay glued in place in the choir box for most of every High Holiday service, will do that. (Thank goodness it wasn't a hidden choir box--I hate those things!--and it was on the main floor, so we always felt that we were part of the congregation.) So here's the deal: According to the Hebrew side of the liner notes for "V'Zarchati", the lyrics are from Parshat (weekly Torah-reading portion) B'chukotai, but my ability to read numbers written in Hebrew letters doesn't exist, so I can't give you chapter and verse. (Check your Chumash.) As a former synagogue-choir singer, though, I can almost guarantee that these words also appear in the Zichronot section of the Amidah prayer for Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year.

In my humble opinion, "V'Zacharti" is the most beautiful song on this CD. Wow!

And now for the fun. Lenny says that "Yedid Nefesh" is "hora style." Humph, that's what he thinks--he only wrote the music. :) :) :) But he's a singer, and I'm a dancer. And I say (and the Punster, who first got me into Israeli folk dancing and used to teach it, agrees) that, while the "ai, dai, di dee, di, dee, dum" section is certainly hora style, the rest is, if not exactly Yemenite, perhaps Mediterranean Sefardi. Mystery of the day: Why do I hear what sounds suspiciously like a stringed instrument called a bouzouki, typical of Greek music, when there isn't one listed in the credits? (The same sound shows up in "V'Samachta," as well.) If I were a good enough choreographer to be able to choreograph anything this long--I gave up trying to choreograph a wonderful old Shlock Rock song called "Tzofeh V'yodeah" from the Songs of the Morning/Shirei Boker album for the same reason--I'd do the "dai di dai" section as a "grapevine" step with a "direction-reverse" in the middle (see here during the piano solo) and the rest in a mishmash of movements of the Yemenite, debka, and anything-else-Mizrachi-that-I-could-think-of schools of Israeli dance.

This CD, full of wonderful music, brings to mind the words of a certain singer/songwriter of the Jewish blogosphere's acquaintance, who's been around long enough to have played bass for both Lenny's old band, Kesher, and his current band, Shlock Rock (keep scrolling--there are videos of one of Mark's gigs with Shlock Rock there). Mark once said that Lenny didn't get enough credit for his contribution to Jewish music. Buy this album, and you'll hear why I agree.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 update: I'm not going to change the title of this post, because I already sent the link to Lenny. But the other day, when I was "ripping" the CD to my office computer (the better to tolerate several boring hours of stuffing envelopes), I finally noticed that this CD is labeled a Lenny Solomon recording, not a Shlock Rock one. I guess Shlock Rock, being a Yiddish-English hybrid name, isn't really an Israeli-sounding "brand name," and is recognizable only to English-speaking olim (immigrants). Sorry about the error, Lenny.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Good vibrations??? Well, at least the test was non-invasive

The med tech strapped me down, then I
was bombarded by the vibes of an MRI
The noise was as loud as she had said--
it sounded like a jackhammer near my head
If I hadn't had the earplugs and headphones
I'd have left the room as deaf as a stone
Twenty-five minutes of lying stock still
The MRI's inventor I could kill

Please, oh please, do tell us why
You had to have an MRI


When my foot was sore, I thought I had no worry
But when I rubbed my left sole,
I found a whole
lump the size of a blueberry
Where the heck did that come from?
How long has it been there?
So I figured I 'd best hurry up, and get some medical care
'Cause I've been known to dance, and need a healthy foot down there

Now I have to wait a week or so
'Til they decide whether it's benign or not so
And figure out which way the treatment should go

I've always felt a little strange, praying to G-d for people's health
When I'm not really even sure that I believe in G-d myself
But I decided long ago that, though I am not cert
A prayer for the sick is like chicken soup--it certainly can't hurt
So I'm asking those who're so inclined
To kindly keep my name in mind

I'm including my father's name for those who choose to use it. Please feel free to pray in accordance with your own minhag (custom).

Léah bat Esther v'Ozer

Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom.


A middle-aged mom strides her way across the stage at Makor

"Stride" is a pretty good description. Leslie Ginsparg did a great job of lining up the performances at last night' s Girls' Night On--since she had all the folks who needed amplification perform before the dancers, we actually got permission, for the first time, to clear the stage of mikes and wires. Yay! For the first time, I was able to takkeh/mamash/really move without worrying about damaging the equipment, damaging myself (by tripping over a wire and plotzing on my nose), or literally falling off the stage (which I've come close to doing a couple of times). It was wonderful, not to having to squeeze my steps into an area the size of a postage stamp.

That said, I had one heck of an act to follow. The two sisters who danced before me were far more talented and much better trained than I, and had choreographed a wonderful duet. So the first thing that popped out of my mouth when I got onstage was "I've gotta follow that?! I was quite surprised to be told, later in the evening, that my intro had been funny enough that some of the folks who hadn't attended performances at which I'd danced had thought that I was going to do a comedy act. (!) :)

After a quick intro explaining that there'd once been this band called Kabbalah, or Kabbalah, depending on your neighborhood, that their music had been preserved at, S-k-i-e-r, and that Modeh Ani had been written by their lead guitarist, Izzy Botnick, I proceeded to forget all about translating the lyrics and launched right into the dance, which I got almost perfectly. The gals at Girls' Night On being a really appreciative audience, they were screaming and clapping and really getting into it. It was great fun! I got compliments for the rest of the evening.
What an ago trip!

Now, if only I could choreograph another dance . . .

Here are the other three dances that I choreographed, in the order in which I debuted them at Makor. Enjoy!

For some fun choreographer's comments, see the end of this post.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Here's a Girls' Night On Shout-Out: I'm performing tomorrow night--come check me out!

Sorry, guys--this is for gals only.

Open Mike Nights and Concerts for Women, by Women

Next Open Mike Night:
Wednesday, December 6th, at 8 PM
Doors open at 7:30
35 W. 67th Street

This may well be your final chance
To come and see yours truly dance
On stage

How very sage
of me
to stop while I'm ahead
Unless, in the future, I choreograph a fifth dance, instead
I've already danced the other three I choreographed of four
I don't know whether there will ever be any more.
But it certainly was fun while it lasted, that's for sure. :)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Avishag and David





A Hebrew - English Bible According to the Masoretic Text and the JPS 1917 Edition

© 2005 all rights reserved to Mechon Mamre for this HTML version

I Kings, Chapter 1

1. Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could get no heat.

2. Wherefore his servants said unto him: 'Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin; and let her stand before the king, and be a companion unto him; and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat.'

3. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the borders of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.

4. And the damsel was very fair; and she became a companion unto the king, and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.

My name is Avishag, you know me well
From Haftarat Chayyei Sarah, 1 Kings, Chapter 1, in the bible
I was called to lie with Daveed the King, to give him heat
But my own body’s need for heat he could not meet
All day and eve I gave him care so kind
But nighttimes, I really thought I’d go out of my mind

In your own day, is it not almost the same?
Are there not millions of Daveeds and Daveedas, if not by that name?
And myriad Avishags and Avishais without the fame?

Men and women go forth to war, and come home lame
Or blind or deaf, or maybe otherwise rent
Because of service to their country, their bodies are spent

A young man is seriously injured in an awful auto crash
And wakes up in the hospital, his body little more than trash
Barely able to speak, he’ll live in a long-term-care facility for the rest of his life
While back at home live his kids and his dear wife
Who's already raised their children for a decade alone
And will continue to do so until they're grown
Even so, almost every other Sunday, she brings him home
What should she have done, left him and made her escape
To find a man whose body was in working shape?
It wasn’t his fault, but neither was it hers—both true
If you were in her shoes, what would you do?

A young woman’s life has never been the same
Since the day she was attacked by her very own brain
Delusional for the rest of her she’ll probably remain
What good to her is her ticking body clock
When her mind is probably in a permanent state of shock?*

Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall
Like Humpty, a young man had a great fall
And all of the medical women and men
Still don’t know either how well or just when
Or even whether
he can be put back together
He could have become the backbone of a shul
He could have made learning Torah his lifetime's jewel
But he’s not even old enough yet to have graduated from school**

Years ago, I read a book by a quadriplegic
He made it clear that some “plumbing” is “automatic”
Some parts of the body work not by muscle, but by “hydraulics”
Still, how would a wife feel if the only way to get relief inside
Was to go ahead and steal a ride
On her husband’s automatic slide
Knowing that no matter how much she could move or swing
The man below her wouldn’t feel a thing?
Or if, to get a moment’s relief, would a husband feel
That from his own dear wife it was like having to steal
If he took ride in the tunnel of love
Knowing she would feel nothing of the rider above
If beyond a doubt you knew
That there was precious little you could do
To pleasure your spouse, what would you do?

In many places now, some will always have
Others to take care of them
But in how many cases will any of the broken in body and/or mind
Have anyone to care about them
Other than their mothers and fathers,
Who will eventually be gone
And their brothers and sisters,
Who have, or will have, spouses and families of their own?

How would it feel to begin your life
Knowing in advance that you’d never have children
Or a husband or wife?
That even though the fault is not your own
You’d have to spend your entire life alone?
And even if someone loved you enough to volunteer
Would you want such a life for a person so very dear?

Enough of this talk—I’m going to leave the rest
To the Beatles, because I think they said it best:
“All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?”

May it be Your will, my G-d and G-d of my ancestors, that You quickly send a complete healing from heaven, a healing of the spirit and a healing of the body, to these injured and/or ill:

Moshe Chanan ben Zelda v’Noam
Tzvia Aliza Tziona bat Chanah Blumah
Daveed Yoel Tzvi ben Chaya Mindel

among the ill and/or injured of the Jewish People and the world.

**Update: Daveed Yoel Tzvi ben Chaya Mindel is off my mi-sheberach (prayer for the sick) list!

*November 17, 2011 update:

*I'm happy to report that my dire prediction has proven completely off-base--Tzvia Aliza Tziona recently earned her Associate degree with honors (!), and is now studying for her Bachelor's degree at a well-known and well-respected university college. Mazal tov!


Sunday, December 03, 2006

A musical evening at Makor, featuring Chana Rothman, Fools for April, and Odeya

Here’s the announcement concerning this concert (which took place this past Wednesday, November 29, 2006), straight from the November 24, 2006 New York Jewish Week’s Arts Guide:
“Rothman’s songs borrow from Nepal and Thailand to create an urban-influenced reggae, pop, and funk riff on Jewish lessons. Fools for April, a duo featuring C Lanzbom and Dov Rosenblatt, sounds a lot like the music coming from America’s South and folk traditions. Odeya plays jazz, folk, and Middle Eastern music which encompasses the sounds of her Yemenite and Israeli origins.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the music, the part-Hebrew part-English lyrics, and the singing of Chana Rothman, as well as her excellent acoustic-guitar playing. Her band was likewise talented. I’ll keep an eye on her.
Fools for April was a bit big for a duo, having a drummer and a bass player in addition to the guys mentioned above. Among other things, the band can be described as, strictly in alphabetical order, Blue Fringe meets Soul Farm, since the line-up includes Blue Fringe’s acoustic guitarist/lead singer (Dov Rosenblatt) and Soul Farm’s lead guitarist (C Lanzbom). Watching the band run through a sound check while two thirds of the audience walked out gave me some appreciation for just how thick an artist’s skin has to be, and reminded me of Mark's/PsychoToddler's wry remark, some time back, that his band had performed for tens of people.
Fools for April’s music was thoroughly enjoyable English-language secular rock, and didn't sound like either Blue Fringe or Soul Farm. (I guess the guys like a little variety in their music, which is not such a bad idea.) My only major kvetch was my perennial complaint about guitarists who drown out their own voices—I have a strong personal preference for actually being able to hear the words. Other than that, my only problem with their music was that wasn't exactly my speed, literally—as my longtime readers know, and my newer readers are about to find out, I go to rock concerts to dance. :)
Odeya’s music was not all dance music, either. But I found the jazzy musical arrangements fascinatingly complex. I’m keeping an eye on her, too.
Interesting observations, etc.
This is the first time that I’ve ever been unable to figure out how a drummer was playing. I could hear very well that he was using drumsticks, not his bare hands, but I couldn’t see the drumsticks. That didn’t make any sense. So I looked more closely—and saw that his drumsticks were black! That’s one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever seen. Hasn’t it ever occurred to this drummer that there are a few music fans out there who enjoy actually watching musicians play? Black drumsticks are almost invisible. What is this guy, a stealth drummer?
Speaking of watching musicians, Odeya’s percussionist—not the drum-set drummer, but the person who was playing every other kind of percussion—was a trip and a half to watch. How he managed to play a “flat drum” (?)—one of those thin, hand-held drums that look like tambourines without the metal parts that rattle—with one hand, and a knee-held bongo-type drum with the other hand at the same time is beyond my comprehension. Better yet, he sometimes played a big bongo with special brushes that were much wider and made from a different material than drum-set brushes. That’s a technique that I’ve never seen, and it certainly produced a sound very different from what one gets by drumming on a bongo with the hands. More interesting still, he was able to create yet another completely different sound by striking one brush, which was already sitting on the bongo drumhead, with the other.
Then there was my little comedy of errors. There was a sound coming out of the rhythm section that I simply couldn’t trace. It didn’t sound like a drum sound because the tuning was far too clear—those were definable notes. It took me three songs to realize that the sound was coming from the bass guitar. How embarrassing. I think I didn’t recognize the sound partly because the bass player frequently played quite high up in the bass’s range, and partly because the arrangements were really complex. I haven’t listened to enough jazz, apparently.
The “rock star” :)
This is another thing that I’ve never seen: C Lanzbom showed up with three—count ‘em, three—guitars. It gets better, folks—he also brought his own on-stage assistant. Between songs, he and the assistant would swap guitars, and the assistant would tune while C played. At the end of the concert, the assistant walked out with two (all three?) of the guitars slung over his shoulders. Now I’ve seen everything.


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