Monday, November 26, 2007

Our idea of a party

^Danny Uziel leads one of the dances that he choreographed.^

Celebrating the Longest Running Israeli Folkdance Nostalgia Session in the World

Invited guests who have taught at our dance session over the last 20 years include


& many other dance teachers & leaders from Israeli, International & Yiddish Dancing
Plus singers including RON ELIRAN



Well, we ran a bit too "Jewish time" and missed the dance troupe performance, but here's where we were last Sunday night,
November 25, 2007. Enjoy!

^That's Danny Pollock in the tank top and our fearless leader, Haim Kaufman, who's been running this session for 20 years, still in costume from the performance.^

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leaves of Fall

Red and gold--
beautiful and bold
But truth be told,
harbingers of cold
Too soon, boots
and woolen suits
I miss May's
nice long days

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

GoldaLeah: There's *NO* war on Xmas!!!

Here's one very upset blogger telling us that the reports in the papers and on television are completely misleading.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

V'limkal'lai nafshi tidom": I'm not there yet :(

"And to those who insult me, let my soul be silent," says the individual's closing prayer at the end of the communal Amidah prayer.

I wish I could do that.

But it still bothers me that, even though I've been going up onto the bima (pulpit) to lead Ashrei for probably more than a decade, there's almost always someone--male or female--in our local congregation who whispers to his or her neighbor, "There she goes, up on the bima again." Sigh. How many times do I have to remind people that our synagogue belongs to a movement that's been ordaining women rabbis since 1985? I don't understand why a woman going up unto the bima in a Conservative synagogue is such a big deal.

Some people in my neighborhood synagogue complain about me spending so much time at a different shul, some because they miss me (aww) and some because they don't like the idea. Well, why should they expect me not to davven elsewhere, under these circumstances? I'm sorry, but a decade's worth of repeated insults hurts.

Venus and Mars—some things may never change :)

From this otherwise-serious post on the Bad for Shidduchim blog:

1. One area that has still remained the exclusive role of the man, is waiting in the car honking while the wife yells: “I’ll be down in a minute!”
(btw, studies have show that the ‘minute’ it takes for the wife to come down, is exactly the same length of time as the ‘minute’ the husband refers to when he says: “there’s only one ‘minute’ left in the game)

Comment by hd7 — November 12, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birkot HaShachar: Out of order?

The ArtScroll people have no one but themselves to blame. In their own siddur/prayer book, they explain that the “core” birkot ha-shachar (morning blessings) aren’t just generalizations, but, rather, refer to specific actions. For example, when we thank HaShem for releasing the confined (matir asurim) that refers to sitting up in bed and stretching.

So what are some of these brachot/blessings doing positioned in the current version of this prayer book after one puts on tallit and tefillin? Heck, if what the commenters to that siddur are saying is true, we should be saying the brachot/blessings over tallit and tefillin before we even get out of bed!

Here’s what I think should be the correct order. Note that I’m including some earlier and later brachot included in the Birkot HaShachar “service.” Note also that the order may vary from person to person, depending, quite literally, on what an individual does when.

“asher natan la-sechvi vinah” ([Blessed is (the One)] Who gave the rooster the understanding to distinguish between day and night)—after turning off the alarm clock

“pokeiach ivrm” (. . . Who gives sight to the blind)—after opening the eyes (but after turning off the alarm clock, because it’s hard to focus through all that commotion)

“matir asurim” ( . . . Who releases the confined)—after untangling oneself from the sheet, blanket, quilt, etc.)

“zokef k’fufim (. . . Who straightens the bent)—after sitting up

“roka ha-aretz al ha-mayim” (. . . Who spreads the earth on the waters [according to ArtScroll, “earth” refers to a floor in this case])—after standing up

“ha-notein la-yaeif koach” ( . . . Who gives strength to the weary)—just before starting to take one’s first steps in the morning. (I probably think this way because I get slightly dizzy upon standing up after sleeping and must count to 10 before starting to walk.)

“ha-meichin mitz’adei gaver” ( . . . Who guides a person’s steps)—just before or after taking one’s first steps in the morning

Here’s where it starts to get interesting, and also varies from person to person:

“al n’tilat yadim ( . . . for raising the hands?)—the blessing after washing one’s hands

“rofei chol basar u’mafli laasot” ( . . . Who heals all flesh and does wonders)—the so-called “bathroom brachah.” These two blessings are recited one after the other after “taking care of business.”

“ha-maavir sheinah mei-einai u-t’numah mei-af’apai” (. . . Who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids)—after washing out the eyes, assuming that one does this along with, um, the above.

“malbish arumim” (. . . “Who clothes the naked)—after starting to dress, or perhaps after completing getting dressed.

“ozer Yisrael bi-g’vurah” (if you accept ArtScroll’s interpretation that this refers to the fine-motor coordination necessary to button a shirt)

I'm not willing, however, to confine the brachah "sheh-asah li kol tzorki", . . . Who made for me everything I need (rough translation) to the ArtScroll interpretation. Really, I have a lot more for which to be thankful than just shoes!

And "oter Yisrael b'tif-arah," Who crowns Yisrael (the Jewish People) with glory refers only to a hat?! No way!

I would think that it would be more respectful to be fully dressed before thanking HaShem for making one a Jew, a free person, and a woman (yes, Conservative versions), for keeping me from sin and sinnners and attaching me to the commandments and good deeds and bestowing kindnesses upon me.

I'm not quite sure when I'd feel comfortable thanking HaShem for returning souls to dead bodies, because I'm not comfortable with that concept.

But it seems to me that many, if perhaps not all, these brachot/blessings were meant to be said 1) at home and 2) before putting on tallit and tefillin.

  • What do you think should be the proper order,


  • for the more learned among us, what was the original order,


  • for the more observant, what order do you use?

A wry remark

Overhead (quote approximate):

"Israelis have an interesting approach to politics. They elect people who were corrupt before the election, so that the politicians won't take bribes afterward."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mixed sartorial signals

Emily Wages, in her essay "You Wear A Kippah" (in Yentl's Revenge) and Rachel Kuhr, in her essay "Tipping My Hat" (in Hide and Seek), write from different religious perspectives. Yet, interestingly enough, both mention that, in Israel, for a married woman to cover her hair is often seen as a political act in addition to a religious one: In the secular community, many consider all religious Jews to be automatic political right-wingers.

In the United States, a married woman who covers her head with a neutral (e.g., baseball cap) or clearly female head covering at all times (not just when in synagogue) is automatically assumed to be Orthodox, for those who understand the "dress code" (see comments here, too :) ) unless she specifies otherwise. A woman who wears a kippah/yarmulkeh/skull cap at all times (not just when in synagogue) is assumed to be a fire-breathing feminist religious radical.

So what's a woman who just wants to cover her head to make a brachah after lunch, or while listening to Jewish rock on the subway, supposed to do? What can I wear, and when can I wear it?



Different perspectives, different priorities

I must admit that it's a challenge for me to accept certain practices. Recently, I mentioned to a sister employee that I was going to our office's Women's Tehillim (Psalms) Group. In response, she told me that she recited Tehillim every morning, but that, with so many sick people for whom to pray, it took her an hour. On the assumption that anyone who says Tehillim for an hour before going to work doesn't have time to say anything else, I couldn't help wondering why she considered it more important to recite psalms than to davven Shacharit (pray the Morning Service).

The Out of Step Jew had a few words to say on the same subject. See his Tuesday, June 21, 2005 post, "Not the Worst Thing."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My mixed reaction to the book "Yentl's Revenge"

Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism," edited by blogging rabbinical student Danya Ruttenberg, has a little something for everyone, and/or a little something to upset everyone. I wasn't entirely comfortable with all of the essays included in this anthology. Nevertheless, I think that this book is worth the purchase price because of these three essays:

  • "Composting Judaism: On Ecology, Illness and Spirituality Re-Planted," by Sharon Wachsler. Disabled with multiple chemical sensitives caused by environmental contaminants, and forced to leave the Boston area for a home in the middle of nowhere, the author strives to live a meaningful Jewish life in almost complete geographical and social isolation. (Sadly, this hits a bit close to home.)
  • "United Jewish Feminist Front," by Loolwa Khazzoom. The author was taken out of yeshiva and sent to public school after her teacher made the appalling and totally false statement, in front of the entire class, that Jewish law forbade the use of a Sefardi prayer book. Then, after her older sister left home, her synagogue told her that she was no longer permitted to sing aloud because she was now the only female present, an attitude that they seem to have picked up from the surrounding Ashkenazim. (Re the linked post, I neglected to mention that Shearith Israel is a Sefardic synagogue.) But this Jewish woman of Iraqi descent refused to take either ethnic or gender discrimination lying down.
And my personal favorite,

  • "You Take Lilith, I'll Take Eve: A Closer Look at the World's Second Feminist," by Yiskah (Jessica) Rosenfeld. The author, standing on one foot: You wrote a midrash, I'll write a midrash--maybe one reason why Eve talked to the serpent was that G-d didn't talk to her!
My commentary: In point of fact, I would say that HaShem ignored Eve and Adam disrespected her. What kind of man calls his own wife "That"? See Breshit/Genesis, chapter 2, verse 23 here--three times in the same verse, Adam calls his wife "Zot,"and G-d doesn't correct him, either! (Zot is grounds for divorce!) No wonder she talked to the serpent--he/she/it was the only one who treated her as an independent and intelligent being.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Best of show :)

Heard on "The Dead Parrot Sketch" radio show, courtesy of DJ Fudge:

"A gym with no physical activity . . . makes me tired through sheer waste of time."


(That's one weird gym class.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The conversion controversy will affect all of us

XGH (Ex-Godol Hador, or whatever he's calling himself nowadays)—I’d give you the name of his blog, but he keeps changing that, too :)—has published this rather disturbing post.

Seriously, if the Orthodox community (communities?) won’t even recognize all of their own conversions, what’s going to happen to the rest of us?

Quote of the day:

“I think we should have a counter org that challenges the validity of charedi [fervently Orthodox] conversions.why should they get a free pass? let their halachas [(interpretations of) Jewish religious law] be challenged as not authentic and force them to the center, instead of their halachos being considered universally accepted and an ideal.happywithhislot 11.08.07 - 12:46 pm #

Ages ago, I told my Israeli brother to guard our parents’ ketubah (Jewish religious wedding contract) with his life—it’s the only proof acceptable to the Israeli rabbinate that our family is halachically Jewish.

In 25 years, when the yeshiva-educated child of your son—or mine—and his Jew-by-Choice wife, converted by an Orthodox rabbi, tries to arrange his/her wedding in Israel, will he or she suddenly be informed, in no uncertain terms, that he or she is not Jewish?

But when the shoe is on the other foot . . .

Here's a comment by Ben Bayit from this post on the ADDeRabbi's blog:

“I work in a place that has lots of these [Chareidi, fervently Orthodox] women. not impressed. in not speaking to any male co-workers - not even a good morning - I think they cross the line from tzniut [modesty] issues and move into yehura [arrogance?] and anti-social behavior. . . .
ben bayit Homepage 11.08.07 - 6:00 am #

"What I find interesting about your comment, Ben Bayit, is that some people wouldn't say the same of men who duck out the back door of the shul to avoid talking to women. How come people don't accuse *them* of yehura [arrogance?]? Why is it considered perfectly acceptable, even commendable, in some circles for *men* to be anti-social? You must have read either my mind or my blog--I posted just last week about the (unintended?) consequences of "extreme tzniut.". . .
Shira Salamone Homepage 11.08.07 - 12:15 pm #

I've heard a similar argument in another context: A man who wears a tallit and tefillin is considering to be fulfilling a mitzvah (divine commandment), while, in some circles, a woman who wears a tallit and tefillin is considering to be committing an act of yehura (religious arrogance).

As you may have guessed, I object vehemently to such double standards.

Update, from comments to that same post:

shira - I agree with you - I was writing about the workplace - in charedi circles men are a scarce specimen in the work place.........
ben bayit Homepage 11.12.07 - 2:46 am #

Oy. That's another whole post. :(
Shira Salamone Homepage 11.13.07 - 12:20 am #

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My impressions of a day in the life . . .

of a traditional and modern mom and wife

She works three jobs to help make ends meet
And comes home falling off her feet
(One usually doesn’t have much say
On how much yeshiva tuition to pay)
She shops and cooks and cleans the house
Makes time to share a laugh with spouse
And helps the kids with work for school and college hunts, ‘cause she’s no fool
Yet carefully makes time each day
To stand before HaShem and pray
This is her choice, and true she’ll stay—
She wouldn’t have it any other way
With no other life way would she toy
‘Cause on the Derech she finds joy

I used to think I knew
what made a SuperJew

"The Derech": The Way or Path of Orthodox Judaism


Monday, November 05, 2007

Mon., Nov. 5, 2007 round-up of recent posts

My oh my, blueberry pie!!!

Found at the 61 East 34th Street (just west of Park Avenue) location of Mendy's Kosher Delicatessen: The first blueberry pie I've ever seen in a kosher fleischig (meat) restaurant. And it was good, too! It reminded me of my mother's (and my) blueberry sauce: Just pile some blueberries into a parve pot with a little water (some sugar, too, if you'd like), simmer on low heat (checking and stirring frequently) until it turns into "blue goo" :), and spoon it onto your ice cream (real or parve). Yum!

A peek at a Reform prayer book

A friend of mine from the neighborhood persuaded me to spend an evening at her favorite Reform synagogue, taking one of a series of classes on the siddur/prayer book that the synagogue is currently sponsoring. I found the class informative—but not necessarily in the manner that she had intended.

Okay, major confession--I didn't really check the name of the prayer book that we were using, nor did I pay close attention to the English text (translation and/or other).

A couple things did stand out, though. One was that the second and third paragraphs of the Sh'ma seem to have been omitted. I can understand why the Reform Movement eliminated the second paragraph, which gives me problems, too—not being a great believer in reward and punishment, I usually just barrel my way through that one while trying not to pay too close attention to the meaning of the words. But what’s the problem with the third paragraph? Are they afraid to talk about tzitzit (ritual fringe, such as that on the corners of a tallit/prayer shawl) and/or mitzvot (commandments), because most of their members don’t believe in either?

The other was that the official second paragraph of the Aleinu prayer also seems to have been omitted. (I say “official” because what would be the first paragraph in an Orthodox siddur/prayer book has been split into two paragraphs in this Reform version.) I can understand that, as well, since the traditional second paragraph of Aleinu is about as chauvinistic as our siddur gets, other than the “asher barchar banu” (“who has chosen us”) and similar statements. I usually zip through that paragraph, too. What I found surprising was that some of the people in the class found the (“official”) first paragraph offensively chauvinistic, because it asserts that HaShem “did not make us like the peoples of the other lands.” I guess some people see a connection between this statement and the belief in the “chosen-ness” of the Jewish people. At this point, I don’t. We do seem to have ended up being singled out for a different fate, for better and/or for worse. It was pointed out to me, on the way home, that some of the folks who were offended by Aleinu were Jews by choice. It hadn’t occurred to me that some people not born Jewish might have a problem with the idea that “some of these folks are not like the others.” That’s something worth thinking about. Maybe I need to be more sensitive to the concerns of relatively new Members of The Tribe.

Hot stuff :)

A typical Greek salad is made with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, perhaps some green and/or red bell (sweet) peppers, and, of course, feta cheese, a crumbly Greek cheese so salty that it's a wonder it doesn't give people with high blood pressure instant heart attacks.

You know you're living in an ethnically-mixed neighborhood when the local diner starts adding Mexican jalapenos (hot--and I mean hot!!!--chili peppers) to its Greek salad. It's a good thing I know better than to eat jalapenos. If I ever ate one, they'd have to call the fire department to put out the five-alarm fire in my mouth! :)

Conducting business bilingually

The organization for which I work employs enough people from the Former Soviet Union that I’d hazard a guess that some 10% of all conversations in our various offices take place in Russian. Recently, in a co-worker’s office, I was privy to a lengthy phone conversation in Russian, interrupted by the statement, in English, “I can explain this in two languages,” and an immediate return to Russian. It was all I could do to keep from cracking up on the spot. :)

Is Purim in a frum neighborhood anything like this?

Here’s a question for my Orthodox readers: Is Purim in an Orthodox neighborhood as open-doored as this? Never having lived in an Orthodox neighborhood—unless you count my few years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan—I wouldn’t know, and I’m curious.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

(Link>) Avishag: Drafted for "mistresshood"

Here, from yesterday's haftarah (reading from the latter parts of the Torah/Bible), is how Avishag enters David HaMelech's/King David's life.

How delightful (quoth she sarcastically). The king's servants brought a real, live female to the king to play the part of an electric blanket.


Here's my poem about Avishag. Note: Parental guidance warning--adult subject matter.
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