Sunday, February 21, 2021

No baking required :)

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

Cut off the ends.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Start here.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, February 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songleader Boot Camp post #6: My final sessions

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

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


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

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


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

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

February 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

February 13, 2021

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

Sunday, February 07, 2021

"Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

"In the meadow we can build a snowman"


Artist at Work

Chilling Out :)

"Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

Monday, February 01, 2021

City Snowscape


Neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Borough of Queens, in New York City.  We don't have landscapes, only fire escapes.  :)


Today's my birthday

I'm 72

I made it this far

Woo hoo!

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