Sunday, June 27, 2021

Zoom participation via index cards!

There I was on the "Dreaming Up 5781" group page on Facebook, when Aviva Fellman asked (on June 21), "As we are coming back to "normal," what changes have you made to the service (Shabbat morning specifically) that you are wanting, trying, or will maintain?"

Part of my response was that our congregation is too small and broke to continue to pay a non-Jewish staff member to host a Zoom for the handful of people who might still want it.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a Direct Message on Facebook inviting our congregation to join another small congregation and create a joint Zoom service on Friday night.  When I replied that we couldn't be of much help because we rarely got more than three people, including the cantor (which is why we didn't set up a Friday-night Zoom service), my correspondent graciously invited us to come anyway.

So there were my husband and me, enjoying the Zoom hospitality of Rabbi Winston Weilheimer and Congregation Beth Shalom of Orange City in Florida when we saw something we'd never seen before in over a year of Zooming into other synagogues for services--the congregants had index cards with words from the prayers already written on them, and the rabbi was encouraging them to show their cards onscreen.  When he sang "Lecha Dodi," they held up cards saying "Lecha," then other cards saying "Dodi."  There were lots of "Shabbat" and "Shalom" cards, even the occasional "Hashkiveinu," and, of course, a whole pre-printed choir of "Amen."  :)  

The rabbi even gave us a special treat--since his synagogue is near Orlando, he sang Adom Olam to the tune of the Disney World song, "It's a Small World After All."  :)  Many thanks for a delightful Erev Shabbat service.

Sunday, June 20, 2021


I'm 72.  When I was a kid, and well into my twenties, if not beyond, almost no one was out of the closet because it was too risky--and probably still is--to be known as a homosexual, or anything other than "the usual."   The Stonewall Riots helped change some of that, but we still have a long way to go.

One thing that I haven't seen discussed, though, is the way in which denying differences in sexual orientation and/or gender identity left many of us ignorant.  I was literally in my early twenties before I first heard the word "bisexual."  I was probably in my forties or fifties before I first heard the word "transsexual."  And I first heard the term "gender non-binary" so recently that I can actually tell you exactly when and where I first heard it--it was in the course of this discussion, "What Feminist Torah Needs to Look Like," at which one of the panelists was Laynie Soloman.  Check the date on that--it took place in the summer of 2018.  Which means that I was 69 years old.

I'm trying very hard to get used to the fact that there are circumstances in which trusting one's eyes and/or ears can result in serious misunderstandings.  A person with long hair, wearing make-up, women's jewelry, and a dress may be a female despite appearing to have a body that was labeled "male" at birth, having a male-sounding voice, and even using a male name.  Similarly, a person dressed as a male may be a male in spite of appearing to have a body that was labeled "female" at birth, having a female-sounding voice, and even using a female name.  Or they might be neither of the aforementioned genders, but rather, might identify themselves using a term that, as far as I know, didn't exist 30 years ago.  It's a lot to get used to at 72.  But I'm doing my best.

P.S.  Speaking of terms that, as far as I know, didn't exist 30 years ago, here's a story to amuse you.  A few years ago, I was at a Salute to Israel Parade when I saw a banner that said "Bears for Israel."  Well, obviously, they weren't talking about polar bears!  I had to look it up.  :)

A request to use a face-mask results in murder

Read here.  

So let me get this straight--it's an infringement on someone's freedom to ask them to wear a mask, but it's not an infringement on someone's right to life to murder them in cold blood?! 😡 What kind of world are we living in now, that people are losing their lives because they're trying to save lives? 😥

Friday, June 18, 2021

A pandemic paradox

I remember all too well what it was like last spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the country and the world.  I was terrified that my entire family was going to die--living in an apartment meant that, if one of us caught the Novel Coronavirus, all of us would get it.  My husband, our son, and I took turns shooting each other in the head--we bought a no-touch thermometer and were constantly aiming it at one another's foreheads, obsessively checking for fever at least once a day for months.  

Pesach (Passover) this year was Z'man Cheiruteinu, the Season of Our Freedom, for more reasons than one--not only had we been liberated from slavery in Egypt, we'd also all received our second COVID-19 vaccination shots by the middle of the holiday.  Two weeks later, we returned to in-person grocery shopping after shopping exclusively online for months, and we're now saving a fortune in delivery fees.  😀 

But, strange as it may sound, a few things will be lost in the return to "normal."  Much as I've sorely missed being able to sit in a room with a few people--or a few hundred people--and sing harmony, I'll also miss being able to go to a concert anywhere in the world.  This is also certainly the first time in my life that I've ever gone to two concerts in one night, or, in celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day), two concerts in one afternoon.  It's likely that the current practice of presenting so many concerts on Zoom or in a livestream will simply disappear as it becomes possible to attend in person--it's easier and cheaper to ditch the camera.  And I don't know whether the wonderful multi-part musical collaborations, with each musician (from whatever state or country) in their own Zoom box, will continue, either.  See below.  The musicians in this video are from all over the United States (and Canada?) and Israel.


The real loss for me, though, will be the loss of access to synagogue services in other synagogues.  I belong to a tiny congregation where there are rarely more than 18 people at services even when we're  holding them in person--when we hold our Zoom services on Shabbat (Sabbath) mornings, we usually get 12-15 people.  We're lucky if we get a minyan on Festival mornings, whether on Zoom or in person.  It's been a real pleasure to be able to davven (pray) on Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve/Friday night) anywhere in the Eastern Time Zone--we even have our favorites.  :)  We've even gotten daring a couple of times and gone west to Seattle.  :)  But our favorite minyan in Brooklyn has now returned to in-person-only services, so we can't attend anymore--the subway ride is about 1 3/4 hours each way.  :(

Odd as it may sound, COVID closed the doors to our homes but opened the doors to the rest of the world in ways that had never happened before.  Many new opportunities that we found online will vanish as the world returns to normal.  And I'm going to miss them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A bald-faced truth :)

Yesterday, Gov. Cuomo re-opened the State of New York based on the state's 70% vaccination rate,  removing all COVID-19 pandemic restrictions except for three:  face-masks are still required in health-care facilities, in schools, and on public transit.  Last night was the first time since April 2020 that I walked down the hall to the compactor room without wearing a face-mask.  It was a literal breath of fresh air.  :)

I may continue to err on the side of caution, though, when I'm in a public indoor space for more than a few minutes.  I might keep wearing a mask in the laundry room and when shopping, just to be on the safe side.

Other decisions await.  Should we continue to shop online for most of our vitamins and gluten-free goodies just because we can get them delivered to our door for free?  It's bad enough that we have to schlep to Manhattan or Eastern Queens to get kosher meat.  Why not make our lives easier when it comes to other foods that we can't get at the local supermarket?

Then, of course, there's our synagogue.  The president is calling board members to ask them when she can  schedule a meeting--we have to decide when we're going to start having services back in our building, among other things.  We're far too small a congregation (with rarely more than 15 attendees at Shabbat morning services) to be able to run hybrid/all-access services--we can't afford to pay a non-Jewish staff member to host a Zoom service on Shabbat for the few folks who'd still prefer to stay on Zoom.  That's a shame for our favorite 99-year-old, who's been a regular on Zoom, but probably won't be able to join us for many services next winter.  :(  And there's also the interesting question of what we're going to do about High Holiday services, given that we can't afford to hire a second cantor to lead some of the services.  We gave our cantor a break last year by scheduling a half-hour break between the various services on Yom Kippur day.  I'm not sure how well that would work in person.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Happy 44th Anniversary to us!


Here I am with my favorite punster.  I keep him around for the entertainment value.  😀💓

Thursday, June 10, 2021

An older adult's adventures in eating

One of the most reliable ways to figure out that one can no longer eat a certain food is to eat that food and see how badly one's body reacts. 😮

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Upsetting but true--for many Jews, Judaism is a cult of the dead :(

 This afternoon, we ran into another member of our synagogue, and they were very upset about the fact that we still haven't gone back to praying in our synagogue building.  They won't use Zoom (for reasons that they did not explain), and complained bitterly that they'd been unable to say the Mourner's Kaddish prayer for over a year.  "You know that I'm only a member of the synagogue because I need to say kaddish for my loved ones."  They wouldn't accept anything we said about our sanctuary being too small (and poorly-ventilated) for us to be able to safely separate those who'd been vaccinated from the few "anti-vaxxers" in our synagogue.  Nor would they have been interested in knowing that one of our "regulars," a health-care professional who wears a mask for at least eight hours every workday, refuses to return to in-person services until they can pray in synagogue without a mask.  This congregant wouldn't accept anything other than the resumption of in-person services in our synagogue building at the earliest possible date--so that they could drop in once every few months to say kaddish.  They seemed to be blissfully unconcerned about the needs of the congregation as a whole, whether those needs were to try to ensure the health and safety of all or to make sure that there'd be a minyan for the *rest* of the congregation.

How is one supposed to respond to Jews whose only connection to Jewish ritual observance is to recite prayers commemorating the deceased?

Monday, June 07, 2021

Dan l'kaf z'chut (give the benefit of the doubt): I may have been too mean to Zoom davveners :(

In a recent post, I complained that some folks davvening (praying) on Zoom " . . . just stare at the screen and don't follow the usual Jewish tradition of moving their lips when praying--they look as if they're watching a television show."  It occurred to me later that there might be logical reasons for this non-participation.

One might be that people are disheartened and/or depressed about praying on Zoom instead of in their synagogue building with other congregants.

Another reason might be that, particularly among non-observant Jews, many folks simply don't have enough of a Jewish education to know how pray in Hebrew.  Let's get real--how many people are willing to spend literally decades teaching themselves to davven (pray)?  In addition, it may well be that Jews who pray largely, or entirely, in English (or whatever is their native language) simply aren't aware that most Jews have a custom of moving their lips when they pray.

Bottom line:  Stop being so judgmental and hold the criticism, Shira.

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