Monday, July 31, 2006

There is none else Beside him.

Right now I'm too tired to write. But I've suddenly acquired a boatload of things to say. Strange, considering my mental plate has been devoid of intelligent argument for the past few days from a lack of sleep and focus. I am, however, almost done with the Roth book (thank G-d ... it's just dragging about in my bag). But for now ...

Tisha B'av begins at sundown Wednesday. It is a full fast day, a day in which an intense period of mourning occurs. Though there have been few times of peace for the Jewish people, I have to hope that the 48-hour cease fire carries through Tisha B'av. I fear horrible things happening on that day, adding to the laundry list of history bludgeoning the tribe. The Temples destroyed, the people exiled thousands of years ago and in 1492. No food, sit low to the ground, candle-lit read from the Talmud the rules of mourning.

The Torah portion this week is Va'etchanan and it is filled with Moses foreseeing the people falling away from G-d, exiled from their land and spread among the nations -- but that they will return and rekindle the flame. The Ten Commandments (thou shalt not MURDER, folks ... it's not kill) and the Shema are recited. The mitzvot are reminded and it is decreed that our people shall bind them as a sign upon our hands and head (tefillin) and upon our doorposts (mezuzot).

A heavy day, a day where chances are good that I'll sleep. A lot. That's what smart Jews do on fast days. Meditate, sleep, meditate, sleep. But on full fast days you can't read Torah or do any mitzvot. Why? Because they are pleasurable in G-d's eye. This day is meant for mourning, the deepest mourning, for all the world and the Jewish people.

And what a time to mourn.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Books Galore. Who needs a Job when I've got books?

I went to lunch today in Alexandria with a friend at this swanky French cafeteria-style joint that was anything but cafeteria style. Though there is, indeed, no other way to describe it. The interior? Beautiful. Ambiance? Wonderful. Jam? Delish. I should have taken a picture, but maybe I'll go back and explore Old Town in the coming weeks when my time isn't so pressed with looming work. But my point: We went to this used bookstore (a small joint with swanky, raw music playing) and I picked up a book. My habit is buying books, and frankly I can think of worse things to be addicted to. The book? The Kidnapping of Edgar Mortara, a true story about a 6-year-old Jewish boy kidnapped from his home by the papal authority in the late 1800s to be baptized. Right up my alley of fascination with Sephardic culture and the inquisition's affects on Sephardic Judaism.

But I just happ'd upon a review in Moment Magazine of Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart, and although I shouldn't be procuring books actively until I finish up Philip Roth's thrilling WWII-era read, I can't help but wonder which I should read next. Absurdistan, according to the Post reviewer, "does a marvelous job of satirizing the new Russian oligarchy, as well as the American lifestyle and the two countries' shared megalomania, consumerism and appetite for exploiting small countries." I can't really describe it beyond that, so you'll have to read the info on Amazon. But evidently, according to Moment's review of it, if you are easily offended, then this book really, TRULY is not anywhere in the realm of being for you.

Books a plenty, what ever shall I do?

I was turned down today (in a letter, of course) by The Oregonian. Not only was I turned down, but I got a copy of my resume returned with several corrections. All but one, in my opinion, were unnecessary (such as putting "Colo." after "Denver" ... it isn't AP style, and frankly, there is one Denver on the map that is recognizable, no?). So not only did I feel rejected, but I also felt completely stupid. So my wonderful morning/afternoon were deflated and now I await news from the homefront on job stuff. I try not to write on career issues in here because it isn't what this blog is about. This blog is about me, my Judaism, Israel, my progression, how I feel about all things Jew.

So I'll just say this: If I don't get a job in the next month, chances are good that I'll plant my feet somewhere I WANT to live and work a pud job until I can apply (successfully) for Graduate School. I did, however, get a note from a former boss who told me that graduate school is a WASTE of time. Little does he know I want to teach, and for someone who wants to teach, graduate school is all there is.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It makes my Heart sing.

From a newsletter recieved moments ago from the Union for Reform Judaism:

“More beloved by God than all the children of Israel who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai are those who choose Judaism, who come to the Torah of their own accord.

If the Israelites had not witnessed the thunder, lightning, quaking mountain and sounding trumpets, they would not have accepted the Torah. But those who choose Judaism did not experience even one of these things, and they come and give themselves to God and accept the commandments. Can anyone be more beloved to God than these people?"

Midrash Tanchuma, Lech L'cha, Midrash 6

"Our tradition tells us clearly that those who choose Judaism have not only a welcome place in the Jewish community but an honored place."

And that is all I need to say right now.

Well, except for this: The image below is of a woman immersed in the mikvah. It looks more like she's, well, dead, to me ... creepy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'm a beautiful flower, damnit.

A) When I'm having an intelligent discussion, don't dare toss in something about my faith and religion and beliefs and lifestyle because it's a "thing to do" or it seems like a "quirky way" to win the fight. It kills a discussion becuase I have to defend myself, when I shouldn't have to. In fact, I'm going to stop defending myself because anyone who thinks this is just a "phase" or thinks that I'm young and will "grow out of it" or that this isn't who I "used to be" ... isn't worth my time. OK?
B) I'm not morbidly obese. Don't ever tell me that I am.

I don't feel like I should spend my entire life defending who I am. I know that because I'm "different" it means I'll be "resident expert" on the topic. It's a reason I sort of hope to make aliyah. I don't want to have to explain myself anymore. Not only to nonJews, but to Jews as well. The rabbi and I never got to talk about these things. I read the books, I read online. My confidence is solid, but sometimes ... sometimes I lose myself when people tell me it's a "hobby" or that it's "just a phase."

FERSHTAY? -- In Yiddish, "do you understand?"
Hineni! -- In Hebrew. Moses said, "Here I am."

I made two videos today. Silent videos set to musical backdrops (including Rilo Kiley's "The Frug" and the theme to Triplets of Belleville) that includes a wacky homeless man dancing to some big band music. They can be found on my YouTube account. I also found my new haunt (which is mentioned in the video, though I just realized I neglected to include the photo in the video ... bollocks!). It's a cool joint open super late and is right on the D2, which goes all day from Dupont to Glover Park (where I reside). I only wish I had found it sooner. I realized while sitting and reading, people around me were sitting at tables covered in papers and books and I remembered what I want: Education. I want to be busy and full with work and school again. Indefinitely, preferably. I just need to get there.

(Oh, and that flower photo was taken by me, two days ago on Tunlaw Road.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A minor Chord.

The sensation of blogging. Topics and nontopics.

I tried to explain to my editor at work that there is, in fact, a difference between the folks who use LiveJournal and the folks who use Blogger. He looked at me strangely and I explained that folks without a focus use LiveJournal -- it's just journaling. Folks who use Blogger write with a purpose, a topic at hand (however broad it may be). It seems there are few people who just rant and moan on Blogger, whereas my 5+ years spent on Livejournal saw a lot of "Today I woke up and went to the market, then I sat with Susie and we drank sodas, blah blah blah." Just a thought.

I've decided I need to re-center myself. Not having my Friday nights to break in the Sabbath is hurting me, but at this point, I need to work around it. I don't know if it's something I can throw on a bargaining table and demand (though it should be). I need to refocus myself and decide who I want to be within my Judaism, and how strong a role I want it to play in my life. I have my books, my prayers I hum and chant throughout the day. I thank G-d while washing my hands and wake up praising the fact that I actually woke up. Shamayim, aretz, Shamayim, aretz, ba lev. I haven't been to the mikvah and I haven't been going to services on Saturday mornings. I haven't been really giving myself what I need. And I feel it. Maybe it sounds silly, but everyone has that thing they do consistently that gives them structure. STRUCTURE! And I? I seem to be losing that thing.

So I'll finish my Philip Roth book and throw myself into something semi-educational. I'm THIS CLOSE to considering calling up a NYC Jewish rag to see if anyone needs a copy editor. I suppose it's most sensible to place ourselves in papers and positions that mean we are able to completely be who we are, without the worry of losing ourselves, no? I also discovered yesterday after having smoothies with a friend that I really, desperately want a life with someone as empassioned as I am. It's hard to find in my generation of Jews, it is. But, well, it can be done, I believe.

But until then: A meeting on my day off and a luncheon on my day off -- both at work. It seems unfair, and maybe I shouldn't complain since I'm merely an intern, but damnit, I'd prefer not to spend every day of the week at my place of employment.

Monday, July 24, 2006

All this time, Lots of Pillows, and now I know why.

It's late. But
We want peace on Earth and equality to fill our pre-dinner plates,
And Dinner, of course, is falling in love and feeling free. So for
Dessert we dine on Dreamscapes and candle-lit lakes.

See, the
Princes and paupers we are, when we disappear we All go
Along with the plan, no matter how hard we fought -- fists
In the air and feet fitted into roots 'round trees.

That our meals make us full and our beginnings and ends
End up the circle we pushed our creaking carts around The
Whole time.

I want love, strength, stability, maturity, a supporter, a giver, a lover, confidence, assurance, trust, as much as forever as I can be given, independence. Simple things, someone who will take care of me so I can start to think about more than just everyone else for once.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Read a book, Read THIS book.

First, a quote from George Orwell that I cherish and find incredibly amusing and depressing:
If you want a picture of the future - just imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.
Secondly, I've been thinking about books. Books that people should read. Books people should be REQUIRED to read for the betterment of themselves and society. Books people NEED to read, because without reading them, ignorance will flourish. So I've decided to start catalouging books that I've read that I think that the world would be a much, much better and longer-lasting place if everyone were magically requird to read said books.

The first book is A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power. The book highlights the great and overlooked genocides and holocausts of the 20th century and discusses the how and why of American inaction in all of the incidents. It's tragic and telling and probably the most frustrating book I've read -- the book itself isn't frustrating, the truths it holds are frustrating. Power made me want to start a revolution, and I passed the book along to friends and coworkers because I wanted as many people as possible to read the book. If you want to talk genocide and Darfur or Rwanda, and you haven't read this book, then don't talk to me. The all-encompassing look at genocidal incidents and the world's action and inaction is telling, and it says a lot about our government and why it does the things it does. At the same time, Power uncovers a lot that probably 85 percent of the world population is ignorant of. This book won a Pulitzer and if you WANT to GET IT, and you DON'T ... if you THINK you understand genocide and ethnopolitical conflict and you haven't read this book, then do.

When I have more time later I intend on discussing whether Mein Kampf is a book that everyone should be -- one of those books that should be read purely for understanding. I was looking over a few lists of Must-Read Books and it hit a lot of them. I, myself, have never read Mein Kampf and I don't know that I'd feel comfortable doing so. But at the same time, how is one supposed to understand Hitler and the psyche behind the man who nearly wiped out an entire people while touting world domination? There have been few great madmen with the power he had, so how did he get it? What makes him tick? I'm curious. But curious enough to read his book? I don't know.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Well, for anyone who wants to comment and doesn't have a Blogger account, my apologies, but I've been spammed to the nth degree. Thus, no comments unless you're a Blogger user.

Christopher, I'm sorry!

As for me, I spent my evening at the Embassy of Israel listening to His Excellency Ambassador Daniel Ayalon speak to about 100 interns and myself about the events in Israel and Lebanon. It was brief and he only took a few questions, but it was pretty stellar to be in the embassy. I also ran into a group of interns with Sen. Ben Nelson's office, one of them a friend from high school who suffered through three years of French with me. It was pretty great to run into someone randomly in a place like this. So I was at the briefing with my Nebraskans and my tribe. Nice feeling. I don't feel like I got much out of it, only because the same things are being said over and over again. It's hard to get out of the scope of it all and get new info. It's quite frustrating. But anyhow, a stellar time. And that photo is of me outside Jerusalem Hall, where the briefing was. Thanks to Abby, an intern on the Hill, who took the photo for me. I look wretched, but so would you after standing in the D.C. heat for 45 minutes.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All the, small things.

I walked to the bus stop at 12:45 a.m. A woman sat down next to me, makeup neatly placed and a large bag at her side. She got up and walked to the street, looking for a bus in site, but there was none. She sat back down and picked up two pennies off the ground and said "good luck, yah?" And I explained the whole "the penny has to be heads-up" thing. She smiled and nodded, and I couldn't figure out if she spoke English fluently. She talked about how Lincoln was her favorite president -- her mother's favorite president. Then she said she wanted to buy a tie with Mr. Lincoln all over it, because, well, he was her favorite.

We sat in silence for a few minutes and then a guy rode by on a motorcycle and just as he got to us did a "no hands" stunt and waved goodbye. She said "your friend?" and I, of course, had no clue who the guy was, but it made my night. We sat some more and then she asked the most random question, "What church do you go to?" I smiled and said, "I go to synagogue, I'm Jewish." She looked uncomfortable for about five minutes, and then said "Jews believe kind of like Jesus, right?" And then I explained the fundamental bit about Jews and Jesus. Then she said "but they're not that different, right?" And we talked about the similarity of our G-d. Then, right before the bus arrived, she said "Judaism was the first, yes? Then Christian and Muslim?" I smiled, said yes, and to have a good night. I got on the bus and as we pulled away, I waved, and she smiled and waved back.

It's the simple moments I appreciate, and this woman made me smile. I was worried about sitting at the bus stop alone, but thankfully this woman was there. I wanted to ask her what she did and why she was out so late, but I didn't. We had our motorcycle man and our talk about our respective faiths. These are the people and things we overlook. I, however, sit and wait for these things. Because they make me breathe slower and enjoy life more.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stop, bring it back. Art.

There is art. There is art that some find offensive. There's art that's fun and religious and passionate. There's photography. There's pictures my friends take and there's me looking a little crazy, but having fun. There's me with a menorah, a symbol in Judaism. A light, a memory. And this? This is not offensive. It's fun. It's creative. And it was a piece in a series of portraits where each person had a cigarette used in a different way with a symbol of something that represented themselves. Me? Menorah. Cigarettes? For the series. I don't smoke. I smoked once and it made me gag, for I have asthma. But for the series, I represented. Ignore how crazy I look and how long my hair is, mmk?

I think my face looks super pudgy in this photo. Whatever, I love it anyway. Maybe I'll write a book and it'll be the photo on the sleeve, eh? Thanks Kris and Alyssa (and also here) for the stellar work.

Adventures in Georgetown.

I'm not in a mood to rant about things of consequence. The reasons being (some of the links may make you giggle):

1) I woke up at 6 a.m. to take my car into Arlington to be worked on.
2) I decided that going home and going back to sleep would ruin my day, so I stayed up and pranced around Georgetown and the C&O Canal through Georgetown, of which the pictures below are of. Around 10 a.m. I was exhausted and hot, so I went home.
3) I got home with hopes of napping, and there were three Hispanic men in my bedroom drilling a very large hole in the wall with loud machinery. They were replacing the A/C unit and I couldn't take a nap there or in the living room.
4) They busted a pipe (much like when they busted the pipe upstairs and flooded my apartment) and thus it took them even longer to finish installing the A/C.
5) I went into work at 2 p.m. tired, irritated, angry.
6) The car guy didn't call me (after 4 calls, 1 message) until 5:15 to tell me my car wasn't fixed and wouldn't be till sometime tomorrow because they didn't get authorization on my warranty to replace my transmission computer (big doin's, folks).

And that brings us to now. I'm feeling better now that there is working A/C, my bed is just inches away and I can sleep in tomorrow (barring a call from the car place saying my car has blown up). And then Wednesday and Thursday are off -- Wednesday with a dinner and Thursday I'll be visiting with other interns at the Israeli embassy to talk to the ambassador to the U.S. from Israel. But anyhow, enjoy some of the photos, the youtube silent video link of me walking down the canal in Georgetown and perhaps I'll take a jab at something tomorrow when I'm in happier spirits.

The top photo is just a really cool door I found in a sidestreet. The next photo is one of the boats that traverses the C&O canal. Below there are some photos of the canal and buildings built into the walls along the canal, and the bottom photo is of an alleyway between the two connecting buildings of the Ukrainian embassy in Georgetown. The embassy is housed in the Marbury building, named for the famous gentleman from Marbury v. Madison, if you know your cases. The building was built in 1788, and I, I stood on the stoop ...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I'd give it all for just One moment.

I'm tired. Exhausted even, but I have a few things. Morsels. Tidbits. Words.

+ I hate driving down Embassy Row. I hate that all these nations have brick buildings with fancy gates and security posts right along next to one another on sovreign soil in the "home of the free world." It's a tease. They're so close, and yet so far. Inches, blocks apart and yet they can't seem to figure it out on a national level. Neighbors, they are. They could borrow a cup of sugar, if they wanted, and it wouldn't matter if war was on the front lines at home. And I hate it.
+ After Embassy Row, near the Naval observatory, there's this long curve lined with trees, lots of trees, because Rock Creek Park is on the east side of the road. And every night when I drive home, there are deer. Standing on the side of the road, poking their noses around in the grass, waiting to hop along across the street, hoping not to get hit. They're so calm, so near traffic, and so calm. And I'm jealous.

+ I want to wake up next to someone. I want to be held when I feel unsettled and hugged when I feel upset. It's selfish and needy, but there are too many hours in my life that I have gone without affection and tenderness when I most needed it. Those are the fleeting moments I can't take back, but can try to remember. And I'm alone.

+ Finally, a quick ditty. Written from a blur of frustration and curiosity and tired. And I am lacking.
you have your gates so near one another, but gates is all they are.
inches you live, so close together, but nations afar you fall apart.
and who are the reckless and lifeless and lean? your diplomatic murder machine.
so stand tall and seek answers, make gates into gardens and war into weeds.
because everyone knows words may only be letters, but peace is poetry.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Spend a Minute in my Shoes

So I like Klezmer music. Now, I hadn't really listened to much Klezmer before, and I was pretty sure all Klezmer was the same. But after listening to a station with tags including a variety of "Jewish"-related terms, I've happ'd upon some interesting groups. So I listen to this station that tosses around Matisyahu, Zohar, the Klezmer Conservatory, Black Ox Orkestar, Adam Green, Bob Dylan and other groups/singers that fall under something "Jewish." But the Klezmer, it gets me boogying and grooving. I'm a fan.

I'm going to sit on my Israel/Lebanon/Hezbollah/World War III/Meeting of the Religious fanatics rant. Only because I spent all day on a secular forum with friends "discussing" the topic. All was well till I had to defend myself (my Judaism) . Sometimes I just want to talk, not defend. I can't defend the killing of civilians in the pursuit of disarming a terrorist group that wants to wipe us and Israel off the face of the planet, but I can defend Israel and what it stands for. Adonai, Adonai, Adonai ...

I've decided that when it comes to bargaining for a job, I need Fridays off. I can't not have my Shabbat, and it's driving me nuts. My week neither ends nor begins, and I need the fluidity of shul and study. Thus, when it comes to negotiating for a new job, that will be requirement number one. I'll take split days off if needbe. I just need my Shabbat! Aye!

I wish I could read what the next few months hold for me. My path could lead me just about anywhere at this point. It's exciting and scary. I wanted to be without ties any one place, and now I'm realizing that it can create a big ball of "what now?"

Friday, July 14, 2006

A friend posted very recently on a message board that when his mother was in Israel in the 70s, she "saw how the Israeli troops were always on the edge of their seats, ready to go out and kill." He's neither Jewish or Israeli, and neither is his mother. And that statement offends, offends, offends. I know people who have served with the IDF and I'm pretty sure that they don't have the "kill, kill, kill" like a lot of U.S. testosterone-fueled army folks do. Sigh.

Can't anyone see the positive side of invading Lebanon? Can't anyone see the destruction of the hub of Hezbollah as a GOOD thing? Maybe the threat of boming normal locales isn't the best of ideas, but damnit, there are nations who are letting terrorists sit pretty and aren't doing a damn thing about it because they're scared. Isreal is speaking. Why can't anyone else speak? Sigh.

I'm so frustrated. And no one seems to understand.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I fast, you fast, and then we Remember.

Somehow, I've managed to remain sick. Summer sick is never good, winter sick seems appropriate. But despite taking all my meds and sleeping and drinking lots of fluids, I have managed to stay sick. It's quite unpleasant.

Tomorrow is the 17th of Tammuz. For many, it means little. For most, Tammuz is probably an uber foreign word. Tammuz is a month in the Hebrew calendar and the 17th marks the beginning of three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the first and second Temples in 586 BCE and 70 CE, respectively. The 17th of Tammuz is a fast day, one of four mentioned by the prophets, but it's a fast that lasts from dawn until dusk. Thus, no drinking or eating, though many of the restrictions for other fast days (like on Tisha B'av or Yom Kippur) aren't enforced on this fast day. The three weeks lead up to Tisha B'av and there are a boatload of commandments on what to do and what not to do during the three weeks and the final nine days leading up to Tisha B'av. Most don't adhere to the restrictions, though some hold to some.

As for me, I adhere to the fast days. Thus tomorrow is a fast day for me. I could get up before dawn and eat something, but I believe that would only make me more hungry throughout the day, and I'd lose focus. Interestingly, there's a luncheon and talk with the Isreali ambassador to the U.S. tomorrow. A LUNCHEON. Hear me? A LUNCHEON on a fast day? Now, I'm not one to be all huffy puffy, but chances are there'll be a lot of Jews going to this, and while I'm not saying that every Jew in the D.C. metro area is fasting tomorrow, I'm sure quite a few are. In fact, I know quite a few going are. I e-mailed the office and asked about it and the director assured me that she, too, was fasting and that I may be happier to just come to the talk and not the lunch. Thus, that is what I shall do.

These words are more menat for Tisha B'av specifically, but I think they encompass the three weeks, the nine days, and both fast days.

Recognizing the empty space that can't be filled with distraction or replacement is one of life's most profound experiences. There are losses so devastating that words, no matter how carefully selected, are cheap and banal at best and patronizing at worst. When there is nothing to say, nothing is more eloquent than silence.

There are losses that not only defy any lexicon, but they are so enormous that even our minds cannot grasp them, and we find ourselves in emotional denial. When we realize that the life of any Holocaust survivor has chapters that can never be digested, let alone expressed, we can begin to understand the awesome silence of loss. (from aish dot com)

I'm sure I'll write more on the mourning days as time moves along and as Tisha B'av closens. Why fast and mourn when something like the destruction of the Temple is so far removed, you ask? Some may disagree with my feelings about the Temple, the Beit HaMikdash, but without it, the Jews are a diasporic people, wandering in the face of persecution without the comfort of a place to call our own. We have Israel, our nation for our people. Most Reform Jews don't necessarily believe in the necessity for a Temple to be built. But it's a dream that I cannot live without. The magnitude of such a place mystifies me, really, and is alluring.

And also, there are more reasons than purely the Temples falling. Modern events that shape our lives and how we look at our history and other peoples. Tisha B'Av is also the day in which the Inquisition edicts were signed over 500 years ago. The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and the first killings at Treblinka happened in 1942. It is also the fateful day in 1914 that started the World War One, which inevitably led to the Holocaust.

Another interesting tidbit to leave you with: Some believe the Jewish messiah of the Davidic line will be born on Tisha B'av.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Come, my hippie brethren, PEACE and LOVE!

I've never heard of this movement, but on a message board a fellow claims to be a member of the movement, which he associates with Judaism. As a "branch" of Judaism. This "branch"? Raelian. The basic belief is "that scientifically advanced humanoid extraterrestrials, believed to be known by our primitive ancestors as Elohim (or "those who came from the 'sky'"), synthesized life on Earth through mastery of genetic engineering.

You can visit their Web site here.

Intergallactic visitors? I don't think so. Their official symbol is pictured below. The first is the symbol previous to 1991, and the other is post-1991. I can understand, well, you know, why they changed it.This guy says he was visited by folks from another planet in the 1970s and was told to set up an embassy to welcome these fellows back. "Raelians believe that only love can stop war and injustice that currently persists in today's world. The form of love Raelians are interested not only includes emotional intelligence, but the also the science of the future that will enable mankind to reach a stage of bliss, in a unified world that embraces science and the many potential pleasures and solutions it may provide to remove suffering. For Raelians, happiness and love are the key to success."

Anyone else thinking about the comit people here? You know, the ones who drink Kool-Aid and such?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sometimes we're All right.

So I've figured it out. Jews can assimilate all they want, but they can never acculturate. It's impossible and against the grain. It's unnatural and unkind. And damnit, it makes sense. All the assimilation in the world can't destroy the Jews, at least that's what I'm hoping.

Now, tell me why it is that the many branches of Judaism can manage to get together to fight the crazy proseletyzing Jews for Jesus, but we can't seem to stand still together for a moment on anything else? Only when we're fighting the Jesus Jews are we truly a nation, eh?

I'm going to the Holocaust Museum tomorrow with a fellow, and while I'm excited about seeing the museum again after four years and after so much has happened to me, I'm nervous. Several years ago I spent some time helping a group that was documenting survivors of camps in Europe. They would send me a scanned sheet from an old, old book. I would type the names and the camps they survived out in an Excel sheet and ship them off. I desperately wish I knew how the project turned out, and whether my meager efforts were a help. So many names, so many places. It's quite overwhelming.

Just call me Hopeful.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jew Force?

I can't help but be amused by this. I was sitting in Starbucks, sipping my tea when I saw this New York Post cover:

The story can be found here: Hasidic Cop

The Mechitza, the Mikvah and Me

I'm listening to Koby Israelite's "The dance of the Idiots," and I'm enchanged. A song that makes me want to travel roots I'm growing now, but feel so deeply seeded. And now I write.

I've been doing a lot of online reading lately, trying to broaden my Web experience. Up on my web site I've put a lot of new links to news outlets, blogs and other sites, which I suggest you check out. A simple click'll do ya. Then I suggest you create a page, too.

An interesting article I came across on the mechitza has me thinking. When I went to the Chabad house in Omaha, I felt completely uncomfortable with the mechitza (curtain or other item that sets the women and men apart during services), mostly because I couldn't see the rabbi or anything else that was going on. We (the womanfolk) largely sat there and attempted to keep up with the haste of the reading. The article talks about prayer, and needing complete focus during prayer -- for men AND women. She talks about a couple that holds tight to one another while praying, and how she worries that their prayers won't be answered because of the distraction of each other's closeness. For a while while reading I found myself agreeing with the writer, which has me wondering about a lot of things. Most logical of all, in some weird way, to me was this quote:
But all mechitzas hold us back from one another and group our prayers by gender rising heavenward. Perhaps this helps G-d hear us, too; perhaps we sound clearer, are more ourselves, unmediated by our opposites. Judaism loves categories and celebrates them every way – night and day, milk and meat, Sabbath versus holidays and ordinary days – and gender's no exception.
It is interesting the focus on the seperation of things and days. But this is something I cherish in my Judaism, and something I want to enliven and observe. Now I'm all verklempt about it, and I'm not sure how to view the mechitza. I do, know, however, that I like seeing the rabbi during the service. It's almost unnatural, though, I'd say, but community prayer can be a mitzvah and the rabbi can offer to guide such prayer. When the rabbi is out of sight, I understand my personal prayer time, but I need the community prayer as well. Comprende?

Secondly, I think I may hit up the mikvah next week. I was reading this article, and while I understand rabbinical worry about the dilution (no pun intended) of the mikvah's purpose, I also know how I felt in the mikvah (both times, as via an accident by the rabbi). The mikvah is the ritual bath used in cleansing by both men and women, though largely for women, and has been built the same way for thousands of years (same number of steps, size, etc). There are many commandments that advise on when to visit the mikvah, and in my communities the mikvah is an incredibly busy place. Most mikvahs in the U.S. probably get a lot of converts coming to their mikvahs and little more. The article, however, talks about a resurgence and reclaiming of the mikvah by women who once saw it as demeaning (the most well-known commandment for mikvah-ing is after a menstral cycle). But it's really a calming experience, it's an experience that I can't put into words, and those of you who've read my past blogs, you probably read about my experience. Immersion is intense, quiet and still, like being rolled around in the water with the hands of G-d. Kind of powerful, really. I discovered that there is a mikvah in D.C., which has me psyched.

I find myself throughout the day reciting prayers. Sometimes I don't even notice that I'm singing or chanting them, it's so bizarre, yet calming. I wish I could describe how I feel sometimes, and it's so hard. My stress level is exceedingly high right now because of car problems, but I'm trying to stay focused and centered. First comes strength, then peace. And I think that applies to the self, as well. I have to be strong to find my peace.

In the meantime, check out this band: Oi va voi ... I guarentee you'll dig them.

Saturday, July 8, 2006


I'm still collecting thoughts. Actually, that's a lie. I have a lot of collected thoughts, I just haven't had the time to sit down an organize them. Some are below this stellar video of some Jews loving the "Numa Numa" song ...

Tonight at shul, Dr. Ra'anan Gissen,the top adviser and spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, spoke to the congregation at Washington Hebrew about the Israel situation. His fervor and faith excited me, but some of his comments about Palestinians frustrated me. "They" are a very particular way in his eyes, eyes that spent many, many years as an IDF soldier and top chief. After the service I stopped him to talk about humanitarian issues, mostly because friends on another forum are stricken with the question of "why don't the Palestinians have basic human rights?" I asked him this and his hands flew in the air and the melon in his mouth moved in chunks to his lip and onto the floor. He went on about the Palestinians and how they treat their own people. How Hamas and the other terrorist groups USE their people in a fight of pure hatred. He talked about how Palestinians don't know how to live without occupation, citing the removal in Gaza and how it still pissed them off. "They need a reason to continue to fight us!" he said.

But I agreed with him strongly when he discussed what it will take for peace talks like there were in the 50s and 60s. It will take a man who loves his people, he said. A man who cares more about his people than about hating Israel. That's the problem with Palestinians, he added. They live for hatred, and they are a smart people, but consumed and living on hate.

In a Season 6 episode of the West Wing, one of the characters said, "You know, the Jews and Muslims are so much alike" and the other character said "How so?" And she replied with something along the lines of "No one has ever wanted either of them."

The speaker ended his talk with an oft-quoted biblical phrase -- "May God grant strength to his people, and bless them with peace." He pointed out that peace isn't merely granted, it doesn't fall down from the heavens. Strength must first exist for there to be peace. The translation for the word sounds most like "oz" and can mean strength or courage. May we find both so that peace is more than just a dream we all want desperately to have.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

C'est la vie, non?

Because I'm too flustered about the recent news events that seem to be overwhelming my senses (think Israel, North Korea, Ken Lay), I've decided to gather myself before going on a diatribe about any of them. It's safer that way. And I'm in the middle of conversing with a brilliant friend, Chris, on the Israel-Palestine conflict. And while I'd like to think that N. Korea was celebrating July Fourth in our honor, we all know that isn't true.

So instead, I shall provide you with a photo of the lock to the old-school gate outside the Georgetown Public Library (my library) where I got my very own D.C. library card today. Now, they let you CHOOSE your own library card, which I thought was a pretty sweet deal. So I picked this one instead of the other 4 options.

Other than that, I'm rolling through my days waiting. Not sure what for. Though I am sending a portfolio out to Oregon to see what happens. I should probably sit down with the boss and see what they're planning for. Rumor has it there's 7 open slots they don't plan on filling before the intern work is up. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Bill O'Reilly, why do you have to be so ignorant?

This is worth your time, so watch it, mmk?

It's a little old (a month or so, whatever), but wow.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Whisper Louder.

What dreams are made of: Last Kiss

I work with a girl who, whenever we have not-at-work time, repeats the phrase "Yah, I just don't know what I want to do with my life." We talk about how everyone we know is content with leaving their work at work. You can do that with copy editing. You can walk out the door after your 7.5 hour shift and go home and not have to consume yourself with commas and dangling modifiers, unless, of course, that's your greatest passion and all-consuming desire. I've always been passionate about editing, but I think it's because it comes naturally. It isn't, however, my greatest desire. This girl I work with always says, "I want something that I'm passionate about, that I CAN'T leave at work." And I agree. She asked me tonight, "So ... you don't care where you end up anymore? You don't care if you don't know anyone where you go?" And I answered, "no." Sure, I'd love to go someplace with a built-in social circle so I don't feel tired and idle as I do here, but what's the point? How do you learn to make do? Things fall into place, they always do.

Anyhow, she's like a verbal echo of what goes through my mind every day. "I want something that I'm passionate about, that I CAN'T leave at work."


Becoming Gay

I think this article is really fascinating. And I hope you do, too. It's coming out in the July 10 issue of TIME, so this is just a sneak, but I think it's interesting. Maybe people will stop being such assholes about "gay" being a choice. Though I suppose this may ruin the argument for lesbians ...

From the article: Anthony "Bogaert believes the answer may lie in the mother's immune system. Mothers' bodies naturally recognize boy fetuses as slightly more alien than girl fetuses, since all of us carry sex-specific proteins in our bloodstreams. Some mothers may develop antibodies to those male proteins. In subsequent boy pregnancies, Bogaert theorizes, the antibodies may cross the placenta and affect regions of the fetal brain that determine sexual orientation."

Fascinating, don't you think?

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Am Yisrael

A. B. Yehoshua said recently to a delegation of American Jews that secular Jewish identity outside of Israel is meaningless. He said, in fact, that for him "there is no real alternative ... I cannot keep my identity outside Israel. Israel is my skin, not my jacket. You (Jews in the Diaspora) are changing jackets ... you are changing countries like changing jackets." This, of course, is interesting considering the recent discussion of secular conversion. It makes me want to ship Yehoshua, a brilliant and acclaimed Israeli writer, a letter asking him how he feels about in-Israel secular Jewish conversion. Perhaps he'd approve? But he definitely would not approve of a former Catholic converting to secular Judaism in Davenport, Iowa, would he?

Point: Before Zionism, secular Jews identified largely with being Jewish as an ethnicity, a race perhaps. This, also, of course was before the psychological revolution that began to rip apart at the fabric of identity, creating layers of race, culture, ethnicity and other identifiers. With Zionism, secular Jews found a home in the idea of being the member of a "nation." There are religious Jews, ethnic Jews, Jews of the nation. But aren't they all still Jews? And wasn't the ideal of the "nation" that which encompassed ALL Jews in all spaces, giving them a PHYSICAL nation in which to "return" to? There is the nation and then there is the land with nation. Yehoshua doesn't believe in the idea of a nation -- the people with a common thought spread throughout many lands. Then again, many Orthodox Jews I've spoken with lately also don't agree with that idea.

So where do I fit? I find it hard to wrap myself up in a bow of one color these days because it seems like my Judaism is challenged. Too Jewish, not Jewish enough. Judaism light. I can't haul my ass out of bed on Saturdays to go to shul, but every Friday night I have off I schlep myself to the Temple up the street. I converse with Jews of the male persuasion and dream of settling in a community where maybe I can teach at religious Sunday school. I read Philip Roth and dream of becoming a Jewish scholar, speaking the finer languages of Hebrew and Yiddish and Ladino. I'm trying, but I worry that until I leave my country, marry a man strictly of Torah and gather up three sets of dishes I won't be okay. I worry that my past will become more important than the choices I made and the passion I have for who I am now.

But I refuse to humor Yehoshua's idea that the Jew is a Jew only in Israel. Secular or not. Identity is more than where you plant your feet and the thought of becoming a nationalist with blinders is not something I smile at. (Not that Israelis are nationalists, not all of them, but let's be honest, sharing isn't in the list of specialties.) Anyhow. That's all for now, I think.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

I never meant to Feel like this.

I am, someone I don't know these days. I find myself longing for family -- my own family. Children and soft sheets, linens on baby beds and handsome hugs at the ends of long days. I see myself in the shoes of people I know, people who I so often look at and say "we are so young!" But for some reason, it makes a sick sort of sense, this monogomy. I think I'm just tired of standing on city streets with headphones and a book. I appreciate my idle time, but my eyes move so quickly about me wondering. And now, a random lyric break from Imogen Heap (Hide and Seek), because the poetry is brilliant ...
ransom notes keep falling out your mouth
midsweet talk, newspaper word cut outs
speak no feeling
no, i don't believe you
At work tonight I had some good laughs with my cubicle mates. Our "pod" if you will. It's Joe, Joanne and ... Leslie? Anyhow today is Canada Day and while reading the story and the startling statistic of exactly how BIG the border between us and them is ... I stopped, startled, and said "Do you guys think it's weird at all that we're so ... you know ... at peace? Not worried at all? I mean, what makes Canadians such a peace loving people?" They all kind of laughed and Joe proceeded to make comments about Canadians (Joann has family from Canada and threatened to toss ice his way). I suppose it makes sense. No one wants to battle it out in the tundra of Western and Northern Canada. But why? Even the French-influenced (and still speaking) areas don't want to hand our asses to us from the North. Yet for some reason we seem to not get along with those dirty, stinkin' folks from the South (sarcasm, here). Just think about, what's the deal? There are contested borders all over the world, even in the most developed countries, yet we seem to be complacent with our neighbors to the north. Why does it work? I'm just ... honestly it seems silly, but it's really mind boggling. I think I'm going to have to grab a book on U.S. and Canadian complacency. If you have suggestions, do let me know.

I stopped in at my favorite bar/restaurant/cafe/bookstore tonight and picked up a new book. I'm still getting through The Bone Woman, but I'm worried I will quickly lose interest (after having read the Rwanda section, I'm worried Bosnia will be the same gripes over politics and tribunals). Anyhow, I picked up The Plot Against America, a fiction piece by one of my favorite Jewish writers, Philip Roth. My first exposure was in my Jewish American Fiction course, when we read Goodbye, Columbus (a brilliant story). The man is a great writer and I got through 15 pages while standing waiting for the bus. The book's premise? Lindbergh is elected president of the U.S. in 1940 and goes into cahoots with Hitler, creating a very different dynamic in the U.S. than that which existed. After years of reading and hearing about the struggle of American Jews in dealing with the distance from the Holocaust, the inability to help and feel what their brethren felt, I think it's brilliant that Roth is taking this route to discuss how it COULD have been. At least that's what I'm hoping he does. It's reconciliation with tragedy, and damnit, that's what we do. Expect to hear more ...