Monday, March 30, 2020

Welcome to the current Coronavirus epicenter :(

We live in the Borough of Queens, New York City, within walking distance of Elmhurst Hospital, currently one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the United States, with 13 deaths in one day.  A local rabbi and family are currently recovering from COVID-19 after self-quarantining for the requisite 14 days (or perhaps longer--I think they waited until the last family member no longer had a fever).  Even going out for a walk is scary, but our Physician Assistant friend advised us that we need the "sunshine" vitamin D to help us stay healthy.  And grocery shopping online is becoming more and more difficult now that far more people than usual are relying on the internet for food deliveries.  We're literally afraid to rent a car to go shopping in a Jewish neighborhood for kosher-for-Passover food, and we don't know whether our online matzah order will arrive in time for Pesach.  If we have to make a seder with nothing but our current single bottle of kosher-for-Passover grade juice and whatever food we can buy in our own neighborhood, then that's the way it will have to be.  Under the current circumstances, and given our location, we consider ourselves fortunate that we're currently healthy.  Stay safe and be well!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 update:
We are happy to announce the arrival of three boxes of matzah and six cans of macaroons--three coconut, three chocolate chip--ordered online directly from Streits!  With this and our current single bottle of kosher grape juice, we can make some semblance of a seder!

Sunday, April 5, 2020 update:
The good news is that, upon checking, I discovered that we'd received five boxes of matzah from Streits, even though I thought I'd ordered only three.

The bad news is that I saw this notice on the Gluten Free Shoppe's website:  "Due to the circumstances we cannot guarantee that all orders will be shipped out on time. Thank you for understanding."  At this point, I don't expect to receive anything from them before the beginning of Pesach.  :(


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ordering kosher for Passover food (including gluten-free!) online

It was our son who suggested that, rather than trying to buy everything on Amazon (to avoid renting a car to shop in a Jewish neighborhood), we check the original manufacturers/businesses for matzah, informing us that he'd already found Streits matzah on their own website.  Sure enough, we were able to order matzah (and way too many Streits macaroons) here.  Hmm, could I find gluten-free oat matzah by searching for the Kestenbaum brand that's usually the only gluten-free matzah available?  Yep, here's one website that sells gluten-free kosher-for-Passover matzah and other gluten-free kasher l'Pesach and other food--since we can't buy kosher meat locally, we also bought a few Meals on the Go because they don't need to be refrigerated. (We've never tried them, so we don't know how good they taste, but at least we'll have something to eat other than eggs.)  It's possible to buy gluten-free kasher L'Pesach food online, but you probably shouldn't wait too long.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Plugging the leak in the boat, by whatever means necessary

There's an old story about a couple of people who are riding in a small boat when it suddenly starts to leak.  One person tries to do something to keep the boat from sinking, but the other refuses, saying that the leak isn't their fault.  The fact that the boat is going to sink with them in it and that they're going to drown, no matter how the leak originated, doesn't seem to occur to them.

I'm reminded of that story by what's going on in Washington, DC now.  Call me a cynic and I'll plead guilty as charged, but I'm convinced that the only reason why Trump, Pence, and the Republican-majority Senate have finally gotten off their collective duffs and actually begun to do at least something about the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is that they were losing a fortune on the stock market.

At this point, I don't care.  Some government officials are devoid of compassion and think their job is to crush the competition, and if the only way to convince them to do something for their country is the loss of cold cash, I'll take it.


Friday, March 20, 2020

One "place" still has open borders: "headband nation" :)

A few days ago, someone on Facebook joked that, within about three weeks, we'll know everyone's real hair color.  But it didn't really register with me what that meant until the following day, when an old friend called and said that she'd been warned not to get a haircut.  Yep, it's literally impossible to practice social distancing when sitting in a hairdresser's or barber's chair.  And hairdressers and barbers will probably be closed :(   Guys may have some luck using home trimming kits, but if not, well, just think of that ponytail as the "retro hippy" look.  :)  Most of us women, though, won't have the "home-haircut" option.  I haven't had long hair in probably over thirty years, but, on the plus side, I don't think my husband will complain.  :)

"Headband nation, " here I come  :).


Sunday, March 15, 2020

My heart goes out to parents of young (& "young-ish") children during this pandemic

How do you tell a seven-year-old that they can't have a birthday party?  What happens if that Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration has to be held by livestream and even the grandparents can't attend?  If I could figure out how to help, I would, but I'm so tech-challenged that I can't even figure out how to set up a Zoom meeting and pay a video visit, and being probably as old as the grandparents (and therefore, in the high-risk category), I certainly can't pay a *real* visit.  So sad.  :(


To halachically-observant musicians, a word for these times

"Let me hear your voice."

There has been much recent livestreaming by non-Orthodox musicians, especially this past Shabbat, after the coronavirus pandemic closed so many synagogues.

No, I certainly don't expect you to violate halachah (Jewish religious law) by livestreaming or telecasting on Shabbat or Shalosh Regalim.

But you might wish to consider "broadcasting" Kabbalat Shabbat services, turning the camera off after L'cha Dodi--the (Orthodox) Hampton Synagogue does that.

Or, if that's not an option, livestreaming Havdalah and/or a Malavah Malkah would be delightful.  You could also include a link for donations at that hour.

From what I've read, many musicians are watching their livelihoods vanish as classes, religious services, concerts, music lessons, etc. are cancelled.  I hardly think that I'm the only one willing to pay for an online performance, as I would if attending in person.  I've already paid for one performance this morning by a non-Orthodox musician.  I hope you'll jump on the online bandwagon, because I'm looking forward to listening to your music.  In tough times like these, we need all the chizuk (strength, encouragement) that we can get.


Many thanks to Jewish musicians for strengthening us with song

We'd barely gotten through our synagogue's Megillah readings when the bad news reports began to pile up--Coronavirus, or COVID-19, was not only not going away anytime soon, it had become a worldwide pandemic.

My evening-after-Purim class at the Jewish Theological Seminary took place online.

I was comforted by Eliana Light's online Shacharit on Thursday morning.  Thank you so much for making my day!

My Thursday afternoon class at Hadar turned out to be the last in-person class for this semester--all other Hadar classes and events will be online.  But the bottom really fell out on Friday, when our synagogue was officially closed for all services and just about everything else.  :(

I spent a good chunk of Friday afternoon listening to the videos that Chava Mirel (with Josh Niehaus) posted on Facebook with a side order of Nava Tehila.  They were a great comfort.

With so many of our usual Friday-night-services favorite synagogues closed, my husband and I decided to cheat a bit on our usual practice of turning off all "screens" before Shabbat--we decided to catch a livestreamed Friday service.  We started with Central Synagogue's livestream on television, and I found, as I expected, that the "almost-a-performance" nature of their service that made me a bit uncomfortable in person worked quite well onscreen.  In fact, having sung alto in my former synagogue's choir for well over a decade, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rabbi (/Cantor) Buchdahl and Cantor Cadrain weaving harmonies around one another.  Since Shabbat had not yet officially begun, we kept one eye and ear on the screen while running around making our final Shabbat preparations, then lit candles and sat down to watch and enjoy for a while.

At just about 7 PM, we changed "screens," moving from the TV to my computer to watch the "Quarantine Shabbat" service with Noah Aronson, Josh Nelson, Chava Mirel, Rabbi Josh Weinberg and Rabbi Leora Kaye.  I must confess that I always get a kick out of watching musicians playing "switcheroo"--first, Noah Aronson played guitar, then he kicked Josh Nelson off the keyboard and took over.  Josh took it in stride, disappearing off-camera for only a few seconds--and returning with a double-bass.  :)  Later, Noah brought a bongo into the mix.  As for Elana, she'd brought everything but the kitchen sink, and spent the entire service going from guitar to mandolin to violin and back.  At one point, with Josh and Noah both playing guitar and Elana playing mandolin, Rabbi Weinberg swiped Elana's guitar and joined the fun. Did I mention that the singing and the harmonies were wonderful?  Because they certainly were.  Noah, Elana, and Josh sang both music that they had written and other songwriters' music.  What an oneg (delight)!  I did decide at the last minute, though, during Kabbalat Shabbat when we were singing along without siddurim/prayerbooks, that I really shouldn't post any comments because I was already violating Shabbat enough by watching a livestream.  A bit later, during Maariv/Arvit/Evening Service, when my husband and I, in full "prayer mode" with siddurim in hand, were praying along, we appreciated the fact that the service was a smidge more traditional than those at Central--they actually recited the first two b'rachot/blessings of the Maariv/Evening service in their entirety.  The divrei Torah ("sermons," if you will) by Rabbis Kaye and Weinberg were meaningful.  I'll leave you with the amusing image of a former Central Synagogue musician showing up to co-lead a Shabbat service barefoot.  :)

Tonight, we watched Rabbi David Ingber, of the Romemu congregation, lead havdalah from his home with his family.  Then we had the pleasure of "attending" a Malaveh Malka led by Joey Weisenberg, Yosef Goldman, and Deborah Sacks Mintz, of Hadar's Rising Song Institute.  What beautiful music!  It was fun listening to them switching harmonies and even, at one point, completely switching parts, with Deborah and Joey taking turns singing lead.  My husband, having returned to his own computer, even spotted a little "after-party" video of Joey playing clarinet, which neither of us even knew that he could play--Joey is just full of pleasant surprises. 

Keep your eyes on your computers to see how we can support Jewish musicians as they support us.


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Rabbi Emily Cohen: "I’m Done Passing as a Matrilineal Jew." But what about the rest of us?

You can read Rabbi Cohen's article here.

Then you can go back and read this post of mine, as well as the follow-up post.

How is a Conservative synagogue to grow and thrive in an era in which so many folks who walk in on a Shabbat or holiday are either "patrilineal" or not Jewish by anyone's definition (because neither of their parents is Jewish and they haven't converted to Judaism)?  It's a fine line, to try to be welcoming while maintaining Conservative standards.  This is all the more "fun" if one doesn't have a rabbi to consult.  Wish our synagogue luck.

The courts can no longer protect the U.S. from a dictatorship :(

Trump weaponizing DOJ is worst case scenario envisioned by Obama officials

Rachel Maddow shares that outgoing members of the Obama administration told her that their biggest concern was Donald Trump weaponizing the criminal justice system for his own personal and political advantage, and wonders who can stop that now that reporting suggests that even SDNY has been compromised by Bill Barr enacting Trump's bidding.Feb. 18, 2020

Keep going--this is from the same telecast:

DOJ memo shows Barr's lid on reported Giuliani investigation

Rachel Maddow looks at a newly released DOJ memo that shows all Ukraine-related investigations being consolidated in such a way that even investigations already in progress, like those the SDNY is reportedly conducting of Rudy Giuliani now have to be processed through Main Justice.Feb. 18, 2020

I had assumed, apparently too optimistically, that President Trump would eventually suffer the same fate as gangster Al Capone, who literally got away with murder but was convicted of tax evasion.  But it appears that Attorney General William Barr won't allow even a friend of Trump to be investigated for possible commission of a crime.  So laying the fate of the United States at the feet of the courts of the Southern District of New York, who might have been able to charge Trump with tax fraud if there's evidence that he committed any within the statute of limitations, no longer appears to be a realistic option.  If the Senate (part of the Legislative Branch of the United States Government) won't act, and the Department of Justice (Judicial Branch) is now under the thumb of someone who appears to be conforming to the President's wishes rather than following the law, is there any other branch of the U.S. government left that is both willing and able to hold Trump responsible for, essentially, anything?

Monday, March 02, 2020

Davvening decisions

[Davening decisions. Whatever.  Transliteration is often a case of guesswork.]

I should have blogged about this right after the Hadar National Shabbaton, but better late than never.

My husband and I and another Shabbaton attendee took the hotel shuttle bus to the train station together, and on the way, she and I commiserated with one another about being slow daveners/pray-ers in a speed-daveners' world.  It turns out that her approach to davening/ is much like mine was about 10 years ago.  (See Near tears at morning minyan.)  At that time, I was as strict as she is about saying all the required words despite being far behind everyone else, while responding "amen," when it's permissible, to the prayers of those ahead of me.   Now, I take just about the opposite approach.  I've concluded that, since I rarely have the opportunity to pray a weekday service with a minyan, it's more important for me to try to keep up with the minyan than to say every word.  So I try to follow some semblance of Sephardi (Sefardi?) tradition, in which the baal tefillah (prayer leader) leads the entire service and the congregants fulfill their prayer obligation by responding "amen" to each b'rachah (blessing).  Nowadays, I just pray as much of a b'rachah (blessing) as I can, but stop when the baal/baalat tefillah approaches the chatimah shel b'rachah ("seal" of the blessing), say "amen," and assume that I've fulfilled my chiyuv (obligation).  There are only two sections of the service that I never skip no matter how far behind I am:  I always say all three paragraphs of Sh'ma and the entire Amidah.  As for the rest, I can daven every word when I'm praying bi-y'chidut (alone) at home.


See also: Learning the hard way, or learning from the inside out: An Am HaAretz teaches herself to pray 



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