Thursday, January 31, 2008

Childhood in a changed world

Once upon a time, I used to walk to elementary school alone, even though it was about six blocks away and not all the streets I had to cross to get there had a Safety Patrol person on duty on the corner.

Did I ever mention the kids on the Safety Patrol? Yes, that’s right—they were kids. We were kids—when I hit 5th grade (roughly 11 years old), I became eligible and became part of the Safety Patrol myself. Who ever heard of adults getting paid to be “School Crossing Guards?” In the fifties, we elementary school students did the same job for free.

Now I read—right here in the blogosphere—of kids being driven home from school even though the school is only two or three blocks away.

Just how dangerous have our neighborhoods become?

Whatever happened to the days when a nine-year-old who wanted to play with a friend just walked over to that person’s home and back, unescorted? Why does everything have to be a “playdate” now, planned two weeks in advance? The word “playdate” didn’t even exist when I was growing up.

Whatever happened to the days when a nine-year-old could walk to the local playground unescorted—and play there for hours with no adult supervision?

Whatever happened to the days when kids could leave the house unaccompanied on a weekend or school holiday and hang out with friends for hours, and no one worried, even though most of the time our parents had no idea exactly where in the neighborhood we were?

Okay, granted, I grew up in the suburbs. But still, it was a sad business that my son couldn’t leave the house unescorted until he was about 11 years old. I don’t think elementary schools in New York City will even allow a child to leave the grounds after school until picked up by an adult. Did we just not know about kidnapping and sexual predation of children decades ago?

What happened between the fifties and now, that we seem to be living in a completely different world?

Not a quality post, a post about quality

Recently, our showerhead broke, and I bought one of the more expensive showerheads as a replacement because I thought that one that had more metal parts than plastic would last longer.

Famous last words.

It wasn't until after I'd used the new showerhead for the first time that I realized that the part must likely to break--namely, the hook that fastens the hand-held showerhead to the pipe when one doesn't want to hold it--is one of the few parts made of rigid plastic.

#$%^&*!!!!!!!! That's exactly why we had to replace the second-to-last one!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Seen in Manhattan

A woman steps about a foot into the street, her two pre-schoolers right next to her--then each of them raises one hand and yells "Taxi!"

Parental alert: No two kids are alike--and only you know whether you can safely let go of your child's hand or whether doing so might endanger your child.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Follow that link! (Haveil Havalim #151)

Many thanks to SoccerDad for founding the Haveil Havalim Jewish blog carnival and organizing it for 150 posts! Soccer Dad has now passed the torch. Jack’s first Haveil Havalim post as coordinator is here.

Thanks to Jack for reminding of a blog that I first discovered via Jameel at the Muqata: If you haven't read any of the posts on "My Shrapnel," I recommend that you start at the beginning, with Gila's first post.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stepping out Thursday nights at the JCC in NYC

Tamar runs a fun Israeli folk dance session from 7 PM-midnight at the JCC in Manhattan in New York City. Here's a sample.

^Stepping out, Yemenite-Israeli style^ (aka "Halleluhu b'tof u'machol--Praise Him with drum and dance" [Psalm 150])

Below is something that one sees frequently at a folk-dance session: A dancer who's in the circle giving hand signals and/or verbal directions to help show the person behind her/him or (for those daring--or dumb--enough to get into the circle before knowing a dance) next to to him/her how to do the dance. Watch the woman in the circle wearing a patterned top, starting at about 23 seconds. We folk dancers are a friendly bunch.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Enjoy the New Year of the Trees

Happy Tu Bi-Sh'vat. Here are some foods that are traditional for this holiday. (Here's a larger version, for those whose eyes aren't what they used to be. Click on the image to make it clearer.) And here's a good place to make a donation (perhaps toward a non-agricultural/forestry project, since this is a shmittah/sabbatical year. [Does anyone know of a good link explaining "shmittah"?])

Photo and "phono" posts

Lenny and the Shlockers--old music and new

Lenny Solomon, never one to miss a beat :), has released a couple of fine CDs recently. I first acquired his newest "new" CD, "Osher v'Osher" ("Happiness and Wealth"), one of his Israeli "solo" albums. I particularly enjoy "Laasot," "Energy" (the first instrumental that he's recorded, to the best of my knowledge--some of us tend to forget that Lenny's an accomplished keyboard player, and his daughter Tamar joins him on flute here), the very Mizrachi-sounding "Lecha Hashem" (co-composed with Rabbi Yosef Friedman and sung by Shlomo Katz), and the hard-rock "Ana B'Koach." Then I purchased his newest "old" CD, "Shlock Rock GH2 - Greatest Hits 1991-1996." Since this CD is an anthology of previously-recorded music, I'd heard a number of the very fine songs thereon before, and could already have recommended the wonderful doo-wop "Baruch Hagever," the conga-line-inspiring Disney's-"Little Mermaid"-based "Into the Sea," and "Hashem is One," among other songs, but lemme tell ya, the Paul Simon parody "Called Michal," with its delightful opening "shtick" (Shlock Rock uses this term to indicate a spoken comic introduction, in this case about a planned "over-the-top" Bat Mitzvah party) is worth the price of this CD all by itself.

Keep an eye on this guy.

One psalm, three composers

The inspiration for this post came from the Piamenta concert that we enjoyed this past Saturday night (see photos here) , not to mention the CD that we bought there.

Click here to read the words of Psalm 121, Shir Lamaalot, Esa Einai el Heharim.

Click on “I Lift My Eyes” here for a version in a style that I can’t quite describe (which is pretty typical of Aron Razel’s music :) ). I'd call it a somewhat unconventional folk version.

Click on “Shir Lamaalos Esa” here for a straight-up folk version by Yosef Karduner.

Click on number 10 here for a bluesy 50s-style slow-dance version by Yosi Piamenta (vocals by lead singer Naftali Kaffa, Shmuel Levi, and Avi Piamenta, who also plays flute on this song).

It’s amazing—and delightful—that three different musicians can write totally different music to the same words.

You might want to consider buying these albums so that you can enjoy these songs in their entirety, along with the other songs on each album. “Hashivenu” is one of my favorites on Yosef Karduner’s “Road Marks” CD (probably because I hear it in my head when I davven/pray the Amidah prayer); the wonderful country-western “Adon Olam” is one of my favorites on the Piamenta band’s “Yih’yu L’ratzon” CD, and I love everything on Aron Razel’s “Live in Jersusalem” CD.

Piamenta concert at the Carlebach Shul

Piamenta at the Carlebach Shul, Saturday night, January 19, 2008

Here are a couple of not-so-hot shots of the Piamenta band, with Piamentas (from left) Avi (in black shirt) on flute, Yehuda (in white shirt) on electric guitar, Moni the family CD producer singing lead, Yosi on lead guitar (center front), plus friends in action at the Carlebach Shul last Saturday night. There was also a guest appearance for one song by the younger Avi, Yosi's son (about 10 years old, I estimate, and thoroughly enjoying himself, both while playing and while listening), on drums. (The regular drummer is invisible behind Yosi in these photos.)

Young Avi Piamenta wasn't the only one thoroughly enjoying himself. We had a grand time listening (and, in my case, dancing) to Piamenta music old (such as "Od Yishamah," "Baruch Ata," and Hashem Or Li" (as I recollect) and new, as well as plenty of Carlebach tunes in honor of the venue.

There's more to come re music in my next post.

Bonus: A certain Punster got a much better shot of a certain cane-enabled Israeli folk dancer (left) and the founder/organizer of Girls' Night On (right), who were dancing in the back.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Hebrew Kid" causes detour :) (it's that good)

I was so engrossed in Robert Avrech's The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden that I went at least a half dozen stops on the subway before I realized I was headed in the wrong direction! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So did Mark/PT, and I see an excerpt from a positive review by Pearl Saban on the back cover. So nu, go buy, already!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fudge’s Follies

You’re not gonna believe the situations in which this young lady has found herself recently. See the series of posts 1) here, 2) here, 3) here, and 4) here. Then see this post. Warning: Don't read until you have some time and you're somewhere where you can laugh without getting fired.

As Fudge herself said, “i attract ludicrous situations like a white dress attracts ketchup stains, and all i want is to revel in the world's madness with you all.”

And so she does, with the able assistance of RaggedyMom (author of posts number three and four).

Did I happen to mention that Fudge is currently majoring in journalism at Stern?

I’ve said it before (in a comment on her blog a couple of years ago, as I recollect) and I’ll say it again: Should Fudge happen to decide that hard-news reporting is not her preferred form of journalism, I think she stands a fine chance of becoming a Jewish Erma Bombeck.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Salmonella from salmon?: Sushi sickens Son-ster

He finally called an ambulance after he realized that he was still "tossing his cookies" even though there were clearly no longer any "cookies" left inside to toss (which stood to reason, since he'd been throwing up for six hours).

It's nice when the student health service is the university hospital of a student's own university. The hospital staff gave him what he so delicately described as "anti-barf" medication, and informed him that the food poisoning had aggravated his Crohn's Disease. He sounded rather better the last time I spoke with him, presumably because he was no longer vomiting. But I imagine he'll think twice about eating sushi again, which is a pity for a person who graduated with a minor in Japanese.

Update: I'm happy to report that The Family Physicist is now back in his apartment, hard at work on his grad-school homework.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Everybody & his cousin on R. Student's post re Shabbat

Here’s the original post “Shabbos Elevator Pitch,” by Rabbi Gil Student of Hirhurim. The following is an excerpt thereof:

“In R. Yaakov horowitz's latest column (link), he quotes a woman who describes the beauty of Shabbos in that it is 1) a time to be with family, 2) a time to unwind and 3) grow closer to God. I believe that only two of these three reasons have support from medieval authorities.

R. Sa'adia Ga'on (Emunos Ve-Dei'os 3:2) lists the following logical reasons for Shabbos and holidays, which he believes is generally about obedience to God but has secondary reasons as well:

1. to rest from work

2. to spend time acquiring wisdom

3. for extended prayer

4. to meet with others to study religion

I find it noteworthy that he did not include in his list anything about family gatherings and spending time together.

. . . .

. . . a further question is whether we have the right to offer a reason that earlier authorities omitted.”

At last sighting, there were 72 comments to this post.

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s a quote from DovBear’s post in response (42 comments, last I looked):

"And finally the kicker: "Be that as it may, I prefer to stick to the reasons for the mitzvos found in the sources." Does this mean Gil will no longer allow himself to enjoy his family on shabbos? That he'll feel guilty about doing so because its not one of the benefits Saadya Gaon listed 1000 years ago?

Is this post for real??"

Here’s a peek at Ezzie’s post in response (13 comments, thus far):

“For many, rest from work is spending time with one's family. It is this family time which allows them to truly relax and enjoy the Shabbos. Moreover, as shown from R' Horowitz's piece, it is this family time which nowadays seems to have one of the strongest effects on people's strengthening of religion.”

And finally (?—there may be other posts that I missed), MOChassid chimes in (7 comments at the moment):

"Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Honestly, I can't even fathom the point Gil is trying to make. To even raise it in the context of Rabbi Horowitz's article suggests a tin-ear of Biblical proportions.

Rabbi Horowitz's whole point is that in order to battle "Walmart" (Rabbi Horowitz's mashal for the internet) we need to make Shabbos warmer, more peaceful and more attractive to our children. With all due respect, having these kinds of intellectual discussions about reasons for Shabbos is the LAST thing we should be doing.

My advice? Let's gather 'round our table on Friday night and sing a few niggunim. You don't even have to bang the table."

Amen to that! Less theory, more practice!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Links to my "matzav" ("the situation") series

The Hundred Years' Matzav

Since the Summer 2006 War, I longer believe in peace now, either the organization or the possibility. I do not believe that I will live to see peace in Israel, nor am I so sure that my son, or my Israeli nieces and nephew, will live to see peace. I believe that Daniel Gordis is right: The Palestinians and their allies have hunkered down to conduct a multi-generational war. (See his January 2, 2008 article, "Back to the Mishnah.") They certainly have the money (from oil) and the peoplepower (from the "refugee" camps and elsewhere) to do so, and have already done so for almost 60 years, or roughly three generations. As with the Hundred Years' War in Europe, this matzav ("situation") won't be over within the foreseeable future. I can only pray for peace for my grandchildren and my brother's grandchildren.

Those of us in the Galut/Diaspora who are unwilling to put our homes where our mouths are and make aliyah ("go up," that is, move to Israel) should at least put our money and our political support where our mouths are, and continue to support Israel and its people. Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, and Am Yisrael, the Jewish People, are in it for the long haul.

The West Bank: Security necessity or demographic time bomb?

Long-time readers with good memories will remember that I've discussed this before. Well, I'm discussing it again--but from a more realistic angle, unfortunately. Too many people have died in the interim.

There's an old tale told about a feuding couple that comes to see a rabbi. (This was in the days before mental-health professionals.) First, the husband tells his side of the story, and the rabbi says, "You're right." Then, the wife tells her side of the story, and the rabbi says, "You're right." The rebbitzen (rabbi's wife), who's been eavesdropping, calls her husband aside. "They can't both be right," she says. The rabbi replies, "You're right, too."

That's the way I feel about the West Bank.

On the one hand, here's what New York Jewish Week editor/publisher Gary Rosenblatt has to say about the West Bank: "We were among the last to recognize that the growing population of Jews in the West Bank and Gaza was making the separation of Jews and Arabs more difficult and hastening the day when an Arab majority in the State of Israel could end Jewish sovereignty, not on the battlefield but through the ballot box."

On the other hand, see these photos of Tel Aviv taken from Peduel. (Keep scrolling--the pictures are nearly at the botton of the page.) As Elder of Ziyon says, "Tel Aviv is a whopping 10 miles away from Peduel - easily within rocket range."

Once upon a time, before the Summer 2006 War, I was naive enough to believe that the size of the State of Israel didn't matter. After all, if Israel's enemies could target Tel Aviv all the way from Teheran, what difference did it make how much land was contained within Israel's borders?

S'derot put the lie to that. You don't need a nuke to wreak havoc. All you need is a homemade rocket launcher close enough to the nearest Israeli town to kill a few kindergarteners in cold blood.

Once upon a time, before the Summer 2006 War, I was naive enough to believe that the hitnatkut, the withdrawal from Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron/Samaria, was tragic, but necessary for peace.

I might have been at least partially right, had the Israeli government upheld its commitment to target the Gaza terrorists once the settlers were out of harm's way. But alas, 'twas not to be. So I was wrong on both counts: Not only is the Israeli government failing to take adequate measures to protect its own citizens, but, to boot, the withdrawal do not improve Israel's prospects of achieving peace with the Palestinians.

Israel withdrew first from the "safety zone" in southern Lebanon, then from Aza/Gaza, and the only thing it got in return was the dubious privilege of being shelled from those same locations. The only thing that territorial concessions seem to bring is a demand for more territorial concessions. Israel's enemies see compromise for the sake of peace as a sign of weakness, and target Israel accordingly. (See Daniel Gordis's January 2, 2008 article, "Back to the Mishnah.")

Still, what about the demographic problem? Is it possible to keep Israel Jewish with so many Arabs within its borders?

I'm e-mailing a link to this post to West Bank Mama as soon as I publish it--I think that, as a resident of Peduel, she should be among the first to see it.

Update, from West Bank Mama:

Shira - please tell your readers who click on the Elder of Zion link, that although the picture was taken with a telephoto lens, the entire coastline, from Hadera down to south of Tel-Aviv is visible from Peduel with the naked eye.Anyone living on the coast should be grateful that I live in this yishuv - and not a terrorist with a rocket launcher.


Palestinian "refugees": Prisoners of their own people

Boker Tov, Boulder wants to know, "Where has all the money gone?" (Hat-tip: This edition of Haveil Havalim, hosted by Soccer Dad.)

Almost 60 years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel. In that time, Israel has settled thousands of refugees from Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, from the former Soviet Union, and from Ethiopia.

Yet, a third generation of Palestinian refugees is still living in camps. Why? Why have they not been resettled in Arab and/or Muslim countries? Why do the Palestinian so-called-refugee camps still exist? Do the Arab and/or Muslim nations of the Middle East consider these people humans, or are they mere pawns in a propaganda--and real--war, hostages of their own brethren, imprisoned and brainwashed to be used as cannon fodder?

It's high time that the Arab and/or Muslim nations of the Middle East, the United Nations, and the world at large gave the Palestinian "refugees" the opportunity to lead normal lives. (Hat-tip: This post by West Bank Mama). These people should be re-settled among their own, and the Palestinian so-called-refugee camps should be closed, once and for all!

Daniel Gordis is pessimistic about peace's chances

Daniel Gordis, in "Back to the Mishnah," his January 2, 2008 edition of "Dispatches from an Anxious State," gives us a heavy dose of Middle-East realpolitik. (Hat-tip: Jack of the Shack's post "Time To Stop Pretending- Peace Talks Are Not Based Upon Fairness.")

Monday, January 07, 2008

Recent posts (with lots of photos!)

A tale of two haftarot

I learned Haftarat Vaera, the haftarah that I chanted for my Bat Mitzvah celebration, from a record. (Remember those?)

Later, in my mid-twenties, I finally learned the haftarah trope/cantillation (traditional notation for chanting). Yet later, I decided that it was high time that I relearned Haftarat Vaera “officially,” and set out to do just that. It was quite a challenge, given my limited knowledge of Hebrew. I mean, really, “b’kask’sotecha”—twice?! So I was quite proud of my achievement, and looking forward to showing it off in short order.

Imagine my chagrin when, the week before Parshat Vaera, I heard the chazzan/cantor intone, in the course of Birkat HaChodesh, the following: Rosh Chodesh Sh’vat yihye b’yom Shabbat Kodesh . . . (rough translation) The First of the Month of Sh’vat will take place on the day of the Holy Sabbath . . .”

Holy Moses, I’d spent months learning the wrong haftarah!!!!!!!!!!!

In a feat of self-discipline never before attempted and probably never to be repeated—at the time, I was childless and almost 30 years younger than I am now—I practiced Haftarat Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, the special haftarah for a Rosh Chodesh that falls on a Sabbath, six times every day (three times in the morning and three times at night) for the entire week, and somehow managed to acquit myself decently the following Shabbat. So I can say, in all honesty, that I learned Haftarat Shabbat Rosh Chodesh the hard way.

As for poor Haftarat Vaera, it remains the most challenging of all the haftarot that I know, not only because the Hebrew is quite difficult to pronounce in some spots, but also because, since it’s so often superseded by Haftarat Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, it’s the haftarah that I chant the least often. I’m happy to report, though, that, with only one major error (which I corrected after it was pointed out to me by some of our more, um, vocal congregants, my husband among them) and a few hesitations, I managed to pull it out of my hat again this past Shabbat.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A photo for Friday*: Roof topper

*Excuse me while I borrow an idea from Trep. :)

See also here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Eek!!! Bass-player's car gets "accordionized"

One of the Jewish blogosphere's musician-physicians nearly ended up becoming a patient (or worse, heaven forbid) when his brakes failed to stop his car in a snowstorm. For once, a patient is giving a doctor a prescription: At first sign of snowstorm, remove car from street and leave in garage until snowplows clear the roads!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Do I have some views for you!

See update below!

Original title of this post: Starting 2008 with (sigh) a request for tech help (sorry)

Occasionally, I take a photo that, for anonymity-maintenance reasons, I can't display visibly on my blog. How do I post a link to a photo? I can't figure out how to do this using either Kodak Gallery or Flickr. As a reward for your kind assistance--not to mention your tolerance of my technological cluelessness--I'm posting this photo for your entertainment.

Under a Central Park bridge (Sept. 2007)
(Click for a better view.)

Update--experimenting at home: Lobby offers fancy welcome.

Ah, so I have to click on "All sizes"--that's where Flickr hides the URL. Thanks, Red! As you can see, it worked!

Here's some more fun: You won't see a view like this from just any sukkah!

And here's a station with a nicely-designed exterior.

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