Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bagels and Lox! Bagels and Lox!

Am I a bad Jew? I had bagels and lox -- for the FIRST TIME -- last night at Eleven City Diner here in Chicago. And I don't know if it's an acquired taste ... but ... I didn't particularly enjoy it! Ian and I spent some time discussing the finer Jewish foods. There aren't many that I am not a fan of. I live gefilte fish, kugel, hamantaschen, charoset ... you name it ... I love it. But bagels and lox -- what Ian calls the "Jewish sushi" -- definitely didn't win me over. But here are some fun photos of the experience anyway!

Eleven City Diner is now my favorite Jew restaurant ... where the meals have names like "The Schwartzy" and "The Moshe," the pickles are homemade, the bar is full of Manischewitz and the jazz and blues are always playing. Amen!

The Dad Files: I

I've decided to start a new little blog series about my father. My family doesn't read my blog, so far as I know, and if they do, well, we'll just hope that nothing I say is offensive! I want to blog about my dad in a particular way, and that is through a typical package I receive from my dad: An envelope with clipped coupons.

My connection with coupons and my father began many moons ago when I was in the 9th grade. I had to make a collage about "me" for an English class and dad had recently done his coupon clipping thing. He found a coupon that said "Expiration 9-31-1998." Of course, there IS NO September 31, we know. Dad gave it to me and I put it on the collage and for many moons after that kept it on my various bulletin boards as I moved from dorm to apartment and on.

Since I moved out of my parents house, my dad has been clipping coupons and either giving or sending to me. It's just a small white envelope with my name scribbled on front in my dad's boxy, legible-only-to-the-familiar manner. Inside is a myriad of coupons clipped from the Sunday ads -- all shapes and sizes meticulously chopped from shiny paper sheets. Napkins, deodorant, cereal ... you name it, it's in there. I've been getting these coupons for five or more years, and with each envelope I sit down with my little coupon folder and sort through the ones I'll keep and the ones that are either, well, not usable or outside of my typical shopping list. But in every envelope I receive there have been many that just make me snicker, giggle, shake my head or say "Oh, dad ... sigh."

The most common one is when I get Playtex or Always coupons. I know I'm a grown woman and that I shouldn't be "weirded" out by my father sending me feminine product coupons, but there really *is* something strange about it. It's just one of those things. Then there's those like the one's below ...If you can't tell, that's a coupon for Van Camp's Pork and Beans. It's to save 40 cents on four cans, which, truth be told, even if I ate pork and beans, I don't know why I'd need four cans at once. Secondly, as I was sifting through the most recent coupon delivery, I pulled this out and said to Ian, "You've got to be kidding me ... it's PORK ... seriously?" To which Ian replied, "Oh! I bet he sent that for me, we had a conversation about pork and beans." Strange? Yes. Ian eats pork, yes, but I sure don't, and i told them that we definitely don't keep pork in the house ...

And then there's the Hebrew National coupons. I ALWAYS get these from dad. Since years ago when I started exploring Judaism before my conversion more than a year ago, dad was giving me the Hebrew National coupons. I typically don't purchase the Hebrew National dogs, and try to go for turkey dogs, but thanks, dad :)

And here's a Schlotsky's coupon. Seemingly there's nothing wrong with this one. It's a kind gesture -- I love sandwiches! But then there's a tiny, tiny detail ...

Yes, folks. Good only in Omaha and Lincoln! I live in Chicago :)

Then finally, there's the following coupon. I live with a self-made chef, who specializes in the Italian cuisine. I love my dad to pieces, but Ian and I don't eat out all the time, and when we do, we eat local, ALWAYS local. We're not chain restaurant kind of people, especially with Ian being the self-made chef that he is!

Every month I get the special coupon delivery, as well as mail that shows up at the house for me. But I look forward to the coupons. Only recently have I really begun to appreciate that my dad takes the time to send them to me. I started thinking, Someday, these coupons will stop coming. And that made me incredibly melancholy. So I'm documenting the humor that couples these coupons. Cheers to pop!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A little of this, a little of that.

+ "My Holocaust" has me in a trance. I should be done with it by now, but transferring from bus to El to work to home to coffee shop just creates so many breaks in the flow. It is captivating in it's absolute crude and blunt approach to the Holocaust "industry," but there's also an honesty to it. I also appreciate that several characters from Mara have appeared in this book! I enjoy the flow and continuity it creates (reminds me of good ole Salinger).

+ "The Con" -- Tegan and Sara's new album -- is pretty flippin' amazing. "Are You Ten Years Ago" makes me want to just move ... I think it's the raw nature of their voices that just gets to me. I have yet to hear a T&S song I don't love. That doesn't make me want to claw at my skin and scream and just feel alive. Check it out. If you don't know their stuff? Check it out anyway. It's on the iTunes! Free previews are a girl's (or mensch's) best friend!

+ Rilo Kiley's new album is coming out next month. I'm not going to lie ... I'm not looking forward to it. I feel about it as I did about Weezer's last album. Fearful. Full of dread. The album is "Under the Blacklight" and they have their single, "Moneymaker" on iTunes. It seems really divergent from the RK I know. I approve of evolution, all great bands evolve, but it doesn't even FEEL like Jenny Lewis. The other single out for a listen can be found here, and it's "Silver Lining." It's more bearable, and has a definite retro feel with sort of a gospely roller-disco quality. But it just feels overdone, excessive, disappointing. I'll buy the album anyway, but I might regret it ... EDIT: Okay, the more I listen to it the more I dig it. It's just so different!

+ I didn't get to Torah tonight, and I might not. After fasting for Tisha B'av and staying home from work, I had so much to do today that it was non-stop. I didn't get to hit my regular work-trafficked websites (Yelp, facebook, COG,, etc.). So I've spent my regular Wednesday night coffee/tea shop time mulling about the web, playing catchup. Doing my facebook scrabble games, etc.

+ Ian and I finalized our hotel/flight plans to Italy for the end of September/early October. How amazing to travel the world on someone else's dime. Oh academia, I love thee so. I do need to start working on preparing the paper though ... turning a PowerPoint presentation about a topic I'm not completely familiar with into a paper should prove to be quite the challenge, I think. But I'm a writer/editor. It should be sort of easy to pull off, nu?

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's a business.

Firstly, tonight begins Tisha B'av, a fasting "holiday" of mourning over the fall of the Temples, not to mention countless other tragedies over the past several thousand years. As such, I'm really stoked that my synagogue is actually HAVING something for the holiday. However, I'm not exactly sure I agree with the text of the spiel about what it will entail:
Today, we have a modern Jewish state in the Land of Israel. So, why on Tisha B'Av do we mourn the destruction of the Temple and a way of life we no longer want? Join us for a thoughtful and lively discussion as we use excerpts from Rabbi Irving Greenberg's controversial article in The Jewish Way along with traditional texts to try to answer: Should Reform Jews commemorate Tisha B'Av?
More specifically, I don't know that it isn't a life we don't "want" so much as a life that we have evolved from and grown from as society and culture have expanded. If the Temple still stood today, I imagine that animal sacrifices would not be standard, regardless of the Temple laws and Temple Judaism. Anyhow, I'm intrigued and am looking forward to the discussion. I just hope people actually show for it! I, for one, will be fasting, refraining from work, and will spend most of tomorrow resting and examining Lamentations, in the same way I have the past few years.

Secondly, I'm knee-deep in "My Holocaust" by Tova Reich. I still am not over Friday's encounter with Hitler man on the street. The book is definitely tough, and it isn't as smooth as "Mara," though I feel connected to my previous read, as there are overlapping characters, which I admire. I imagine I'll succeed in passing through it this week. I was forced to buy the hardcover, as that's all the Borders had.

Nothing like spending $80 on books :) Of course, part of that was guidebooks for Venice, where I will be traveling in September over my birthday weekend! It's an "academic" trip in part for the professor I work for, and the honeymoon we'll never be able to afford in the other part. It's my first international trip, and I couldn't be more excited. I'll be spreading U.S. academic glory with early childhood education as I enjoy the sites and sounds of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My first stop in Venice? The Jewish ghetto!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A "I can't believe this just happened to me" Moment

Place: Chicago, IL; Addison Red Line Stop
Time: 6:08 p.m.
Scene: Reading "My Holocaust" by Tova Reich outside the station while waiting for Ian to arrive so we can go to shul. I have just taken my head phones out in anticipation of Ian's arrival. I return to reading "My Holocaust," which I had just purchased and was very involved in. A man, smoking a cigarette, wearing an old cap, a screen-printed T-shirt and jeans, looking very ... well ... not Chicago, walks near me, crosses to the other side, and gazes at the book I am reading.
You read that stuff, eh?
Yes ...?
Ever read the 'Third Reich'?

I stare blankly at the man. With a slight, irritated grin ...

I assume it's about Hitler, yes?
Sure is (he says with a large, toothy, satisfied grin).

A long pause. I fiddle with my necklace, a star of David.

I'm Jewish.

He looks at the book again, tilts his head ever so slightly and takes a puff off his cigarette.

Oh!!! It says ... what's that ... Jo ... Jova Reich?
It's Tova Reich. She's a Jewish author.

Ian walks up.

Hey, how's it going?

The man, who must be in his mid-20s, takes one look at Ian and stops speaking and walks away. I am in dismay. Irritated, frustrated, appalled. It was brief, disturbing, altering. This man visibly digs Hitler. This man visibly thought I, too, dug Hitler. He wanted to share his shit literature with me, because I guess I looked like someone ... someone who would cut a crown out of construction paper just to place it on the fully-haired head of a tyrant of modern times and indescribable proportions.

What the hell?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Random Jewish Stuff ...

So I've decided I just can't do the Solonica book right now. It's sort of schizophrenically written, and it's absolutely difficult to read right now. So while running out the door this morning I grabbed Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother by Marnie Winston-Macauley, which Ian picked up for me at his last job. It's incredibly quirky and amusing. Here's to hoping I zip right through it. I'm trying to work up the strength to buy and read My Holocaust: A Novel by Tova Reich. From what I can tell, it isn't for the faint of heart or the easily offended. Essentially it's a book about marketing the Holocaust (by Jews!). She's written several other books that are considered pretty heavy, but I have yet to delve into her books or to take on her style of writing. That's for (not so far away) future times.


Here at work, while the big man is gone, I've been taking the time to be leisurely ... and in the process have been examining the various podcasts iTunes has to offer. Additionally, I've perused the web for some, and came across Israel National Radio (sort of like NPR). I was listening to today's podcast and it was a conversation between the host and Shmuel Sackett about the upcoming Likud election (sort of like the primaries, I guess) for the prime minister of Israel. Shmuel was talking on behalf of Moshe Feiglin, the favored candidate (from what I can tell) among the Likud party. Something that caught my attention was that Shmuel was talking about how Moshe wants to build a stronger Jewish Israel, but that they don't want to become the "Jewish Taliban" by using religion ... rather the intent is to approach and work with all Jews, no matter the affiliation or practice. Interesting ... but probably just words! They're big move is to turn the State of the Jews into the Jewish State ... returning the state to its true Jewishness. They claim to not want to turn it into a "halakic state," but ...?

He also cited this week's parshah (Ma'sai) and talked about the initial, biblical promise of the boundaries of Israel. As it turns out, it's about four times larger than the current state. Then came the shocking statement ... he basically said that under Moshe, they want to settle Jews wherever they can in that original, biblical land area. Curious and a little ambitious, I think. Probably too ambitious.

Just some interesting thoughts anyhow. And I'm bored at work. So there we are.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Vayedaber Adonay el-Moshe lemor...

I'm not going to lie. My love affair with this website is deep, passionate and full of all sorts of educational enlightenment. It not only offers Torah, the transliteration and the translation, but also sound clips of the portion! Did I mention that the Hebrew appears both WITH and WITHOUT vowels? Talk about brilliant. There's a wealth of knowledge here beyond this, though. Within the translation of the text, there are words that are linked to mini-commentary/details at the bottom of the page. Just click and bam, you get some nice tidbit. I suppose I should also mention that the site *is* a bar/bat mitzvah tutor, which is probably why it's full of all sorts of genealogical, reference and help material! The genealogical portion of the site is pretty snazzy ... you can find out the immediate "relatives" of any of the names in Torah! How cool!?!?!?!?!? Now the commentary isn't as detailed or extensive as my Etz Chayim, but it's a pretty stellar way to get the parshah done.


This week is a combo of Mattot and Ma'sai, which finish up Numbers. The first portion is dedicated to the "holy war" of sorts on the Midianites in order to "avenge" G-d after the events at Baal-peor. The second portion is mostly a recap of the years wandering; that is, where we camped out and what happened.

Though there wasn't a lot in the portions that struck me as intellectually divisive, there was one bit that struck me as relevant. In Ma'sai, there's a portion (Num. 33:53) that reads Vehorashtem et-ha'arets vishavtem-bah ki lachem natati et-ha'arets lareshet otah. In translation this basically is saying that we must clear out the land that G-d has given to us, because, well, G-d gave it to us. I think this is interesting, and the comment points out that this is often cited as evidence that the whole of the land is ours, and probably is where radical Jews get their view for much of the tussle over who Israel truly belongs to, and why some will stop at *nothing* to return the land fully and completely to the tribe.

The other thing I found interesting actually has me backtracking to Mattot. While in the heat of battle, the heads return to Moses and he's all up in arms because the fighters neglected to kill all of the women of sexual maturity when it was they who had seduced the Israelites (Num. 31:14-17). As such, Moses has them return to kill all of them women who were sexually mature (i.e. not virgins). What I'm wondering is how the troops knew who was sexually mature and who wasn't ... what type of test do you formulate to acquire such knowledge of a woman's sexual experiences? I imagine this is something in the Midrash, and perhaps I'll get to looking someday. It seems curious, though, that such large numbers of people would have to be examined in some way to deduce sexual maturity ...

And finally, as I pondered perhaps the difficulty Moses might have had in the demolition of the Midianites because his wife, Tziporah was a Midianite, and after doing some looking and examining, I'm drawn curiously to the long-standing discussion about Tziporah and whether she was a Midianite or a Cushite. I guess that makes me wonder whether Moses would have been upset about it at all, seeing as how it's undecided whether there were two different women, who was a concubine, what Tzippy was, etc. The reason this struck me is because the commentary in Etz Chayim Numbers 31 cites that Moses might not have participated in the physical killing because of his sympathy and concern due to Tzippy's being a Midianite and all. Puzzling!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Books! Oh books, how I love thee.

So I finished Rachel Biale's book on women in Jewish law. I can safely say that it is probably one of THE most well-written books I have read to date. This can be summed up simply by saying that she takes often complicated or convoluted text entries (beyond Torah into Talmud) and decipher them in a way that makes the text accessible, but not dumbed down. Her detailed explanations translated and explicated the precise words of sages throughout the centuries. Biale allows the reader to actually understand and feel a part of Talmud! It makes me want to truly throw myself into study, but I know that not all texts are as accessible as Biale has made them.

Perhaps the most touching point of her book came in the epilogue. There were many interesting discussions of abortion, contraception, marriage, the duties of men and women and more ... but in the epilogue Biale discusses the importance of understanding and developing Halakah. Though I don't have the book in front of me, her basic sense is that by leaving and diverging from Halakah, Jews (the secular, reform, etc.) are not *helping* Judaism, but are in fact hurting it. You cannot develop, effect change, explore, and grow Halakah if you merely deny it. Instead, the study of Halakah means room for discussion and the chance for considering an evolutionary process. She emphasizes the importance of understanding Halakah in order to evolve it. Her point is absolutely on point. Jews who deny or speak against Halakah do little to effect change. It's like making a pot of soup and insisting that there is not enough salt, but instead of adding more salt, you merely cast the entire pot aside.

This might make me a hypocrite. I, myself, do not adhere strictly to the Halakah, of course. I identify with Reform Judaism and although I attend shul each week, avoid shellfish, pork and mixing beef with dairy, and do weekly Torah study on my own ... these are but a mere few -- and not even strict adherences -- to Halakah. I do not, however, deny the importance of so many of the mitzvot. Additionally, I think it safe to say that many are uneducated about so much of the Halakah that it's hard to accept or reconcile something you know little about.

Regardless, if anything, Biale's message is pertinent and worth considering. Ignorance is bliss is the popular saying, but that ignorance often results in the loss of something beautiful and worth investigating and developing.

The next book in my hands: Solonica, City of Ghosts: Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 by Mark Mazower.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Here are a few photos from Fourth of July/Baby Reilly festivities in Oak Park at one of the bandmate's house. It was a stellar time. So here's some of the baby photos! Hoo-rah!

This is baby Reilly.

Me with baby!

Ian with baby! But it's going to be six to eight for us :)

And finally, a hilarious commercial that I'm going to send to one of my rabbis because his sermon two weeks ago was all related on the iPhone. SCORE!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's a holiday!

Happy Fourth of July, friends and readers! Feel free to get a little meshuggah! (But play it safe, all the same.)