Sunday, March 28, 2010

Words By Which to Live

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. 
~ Dr Seuss
Hat tip to @bethanyshondark

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chavi Out.

On a break until I have something worthwhile and unoffensive to say.

Peace and have a good Pesach.

VIDEO: I'm Not Judgmental, I'm Just Funny.

Sigh. Maybe I should go on Sabbatical.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Pig Called Traif. Seriously?

Not that I want to give press to folks dishing out non-kosher foodstuffs, but I can't pass up mentioning this. I'm incredibly amused about this new restaurant opening in New York, and I have to hat tip @MarkSoFla for posting it up on Facebook. I mean, the restaurant is called Traif, and I don't even want to begin the discussion on the transliteration (trayf, trayfe, traife, etc). The chef/co-owner of this establishment is Jason Marcus -- yes, he's Jewish. He admits on his blog that although he's Jewish, he's "obviously not good at it."

I'll say!

No judgments passed on observance or kashrut or anything here, but really? The most ancient attributions that defined Jews, no matter where they were living, consisted of two things: circumcision and not eating pork.

The funny thing is most non-Orthodox Jews I know won't even eat pork as a matter of principal in sticking with ancestral tradition. I don't even know when the world became obsessed with pork, but I think it sucks. Why the obsession with bacon? With pork? It doesn't even taste good and of all your meaty options, it really isn't that great for you.

And from the comments from both frum and non-frum Jews on Facebook from just having posted this link, the reaction is one of disgust. Should this be happening? Why couldn't the guy just call it the Pork House or something. Why integrate the Hebrew word? Why sort of chuck such an integral cultural/halachic no-no in people's faces and on their radars?

I mean, to each his or her own, but it just seems a little ... unnecessary. I wish Marcus all the luck in the world, but I also secretly hope people turn up their noses at his attempt at kitsch in the face of "tradition." Thoughts?

Gluckel of Hameln: The Original Blogging Jewess

Gluckel of Hameln, a late-17th century and early-18th century businesswoman and diarist in Germany, wrote her life's story down in a memoir, providing for historians and Jews the world over a glimpse at the everyday life and dealings of a simple woman going about her business. I read this book during my undergraduate career (circa April 2004; wow I'm old) and wrote a short paper on it, highlighting how focused this woman was on proper etiquette in business dealings, privacy in internal family affairs, living justly and rightly in order to obtain a place in the world to come, and other lessons on life. She wrote her memoires largely for her descendants, but what it provides us with today is an intimate look into what I'd like to call the Original Blogging Jewess.

Of course, she wasn't blogging, but reading what she has written is amusing from the perspective of a modern-day woman blogger. Here's this woman, with a bounty of children that she's worried about marrying off, talking about the people who run the synagogue, her business dealings, rabbis and how excellent they are, the internal strife of her family that must be kept private, and more. Obviously when Gluckel was writing her memoires, she never envisioned them being publicized to an audience as widely as they are today. You can hop over to Amazon and buy a copy and read the laundry list of names she provides her reader with. However, much like me, she only includes names when the topics to which they are connected are positive and praiseworthy.

It's extremely fascinating for me, especially being in an environment as a frum Orthodox woman blogger that has certain expectations and understandings of modesty and privacy, to watch Gluckel say something like the following, in regards to those battling over the spot of what essentially was synagogue president.
The community prospered during the presidency of my father ... I do recall, however, while I was yet a child, certain scoundrels rose against my father and his fellow officials, and sought to insure the community. ... Now that they are dead and stand in judgment before the Most High, I will not name them, but everyone in our community well knows who they were.
Now, if someone was blogging this today, they might suspect that no one in their community even reads their blog. The point, then, is without problem. But for those who do read the blog, they would know who she's talking about and might find it offensive or, on the other hand, amusing. Those reading the blog with no connection to the community would be completely uninformed and she's saved face by not naming them! I recall writing something like this on many occasions, such as when I wrote about a synagogue in Chicago (of the Reform slant) that was X, Y, Z. People in Chicago who had been to the shul were well aware of what shul it was. But was I crass enough to talk about the shul by name? No. I mean, come on. Privacy and respect folks!

I really think that if Gluckel were alive today, she'd be rocking a blog like myself and @hsabomilner. Talking about the tough issues of being a frum woman, talking about all the ridiculous situations we get ourselves into, raising kids and husbands (har har). She was a woman outside her age, I think.

At any rate, if you have a free moment, it's a really quick read and it will blow your mind how modern some of the situations are. There's even an incident in which the author's son, Joseph, sends his mother a letter requesting money (despite having been told by the rosh yeshiva that no money was required). At first read, it reminds me of those sneaky phishing schemes that started on phone and have advanced to emails (even Joseph Telushkin's account got hacked, and an email was sent out to the masses of his mailbox saying "help! I'm stuck in London without funds!").

Peace and good books!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh Academics, You Slay Me!

I'm busying struggling to catch up on reading and preparations for two papers and comp exams. After all, I have merely 6.5 weeks until my semester is up, and part of that will be eaten up by Pesach, so yeah. Madness is what we're looking at. I've got a binder full of about 215 pages worth of documents that cover basically all of the great academics of their subject and period (from ancient to modern and social Jewish studies) and how they felt about what, as well as another binder full of texts about Medieval versions of Tobit and a few texts on Herman the Jew (still developing this idea, concerned it's going nowhere), not to mention a binder in progress on am ha'aretz, which, let's be honest, I haven't really started on.

Heaping spoonful of sigh.

The upside is that there are lots of little amusing morsels of academic wisdom (or ridiculousness) that I get to share with my interested readership. You see, academics are hilarious. They're sarcastic and snotty and snarky at every turn, and it makes me giggle. I get it. I get the jabs, and I get the sneaky scripted way they present them. The over-arching statements that poke at revisionists or classicists ... they're beautiful. Here's a gem, from William Dever, from "The Crisis in Historiography" from John Collins The Bible After Babel.
But what if ancient Israel was "invented by Jews living much later, and the biblical literature is therefore nothing but pious propaganda? If that is the case, as some revisionist historians now loudly proclaim, then there was no ancient Israel. ... The story of Israel in the Hebrew Bible would have to be considered a monstrous literary hoax, one that has cruelly deceived countless millions of people until its recent exposure by a few courageous scholars. And now, at last, thanks to these social revolutionaries, we sophisticated modern secularists can be "liberated" from the biblical myths, free to venture into a Brave New World unencumbered by the biblical baggage with which we grew up. (p. 40-41)
Oh that was good. Do you feel the knives and jagged edges in those words? Look out revisionists, you just got your tush handed to you on a platter by Dever.

And then there's this, which is less sarcastic than it is a brilliant approach to this question of historiography. This comes from the mouths of Iain Provan, V. Phillips Long, and Tremper Longman III, again in Collins "The Crisis in Historiography."
"Why," they ask, "should verification be a prerequisite for our acceptance of a tradition as valuable in respect of historical reality? Why should not ancient historical texts rather be given the benefit of the doubt in regard to their statements about the past unless good reasons exist to consider them unreliable in these statements? ... Why should we adopt a verification instead of a falsification principle? 
I tend to agree with these guys when it comes to the idea of revisionists that it's all a bunch of ballyhoo. I also am a big fan of the benefit of the doubt theory, because more often than not academics assume that absence automatically suggests non-existence. This, of course, is ridiculous. However, I think their statement fails in one way, because who is to say what a "good" reason really is when it comes to deciding what is reliable and what isn't.

Anyhow, those are my gems for now. Eat them up, swallow 'em down, and get your brain all juicy with smart-stuff goodness.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Passover Haikus -- An In-Transit Project

Tiny Specks of Dust
Hiding in my Books and Shoes.
Burn Chametz, Oh Burn!

Oh, Plagues a'plenty!
I Lament and Nosh Matzo.
Pass the Maror, Please.

Manishewitz, Why?
We Need More Maxwell House Now.
Product Placement; Oy.

Sea of Reeds, Red Sea,
Tambourines Shake, Ladies Dance,
Pre-Exodus Rave.

Sixth Plague, Boils and Puss.
Alicia Silverstone
Says Milk is Puss, Ew.

I've only just begun. I kind of want to write 40 of them, actually. 
Stay tuned for more (and write your own!).

Pesach Cometh, Have You Shaken Your Books?

While looking on for a place to sell my chametz (I sort of hate this ritual, but I suppose it helps cover all the bases), I happened upon a pretty useful Q&A on "Passover at the In-Laws." The particular line that I felt I needed to share?
...It is incumbent upon every Jew to drive their rabbi nuts before Pesach.
Love it! Poor rabbis, however. I've had minimal questions for my rabbi this year, and most of the questions Tuvia has passed along (e.g., what's the difference between a convection oven and a regular oven?). But I am, in a way, heading to the in-laws for Pesach. Future in-laws that is. We'll be in Florida strictly for the first two days of the chag, which means flying down, doing the seders, and then coming back. No vacation time, no time to drive down to Boca, nada. We're staying with family friends (who aren't kosher, and I mention this only because I worry about refusing something so simple as a cup of water because of issues of kashruth), and I'm hoping that things go smoothly. Last year, Tuvia and I were still getting into our observance around this time. We were still lenient on our kashrut, functioning kosher in-house and watching what we ate out of the house, so going out to eat with family or driving around on Pesach were no big thing. Now? Yipes. We're in a different boat.

I think the hardest thing about becoming frum -- or more observant/more shomer -- is how your observance comes to affect those around you and how it affects situations with friends and family. Where you can eat, where you can't, how you address the issue of food and Shabbos. Dealing with being told you've become "too religious" or the like. All ba'alei teshuvah and converts deal with these kinds of things, and the issue is very delicate. For me, I can't expect my non-Jewish family to figure out what I need or to understand next to anything that comes along with being Jewish. But with Jewish in-laws? It's a whole other story sometimes.

So we'll go to Florida, hopefully get through the seder with the other shomer cousins, and tread delicately and thoughtfully with my future in-laws. I'll sport my prescription sunglasses, a dozen books, and hopefully enjoy some R&R wandering around the golf course.

In the end, logic must always prevail (just think: common sense), and, as the Chabad website says, there is halakah and doing only what you have to do in the presence of those who are uncomfortable is probably best. And most of all? "Passover is a festival for goodness sakes! Festival=time to bring families together in harmony, love and goodtime fun. What's desperately needed here is some education, sensible priorities and common sense."

I suppose I couldn't say it better. It's difficult to present myself to the in-laws sometimes; I worry they worry that I've transformed their kin in a unique and unnatural way. My spark of influence helped spark something in Tuvia's neshama and allowed him to develop himself in observance. To the in-laws, it easily can look like I've forcibly transformed him, and that's the last thing I want them to think. After all, it's the farthest thing from the truth.

What are your tips on staying with non-frum in-laws? Or hey, those of you out there who aren't frum, what gets your goat most about your frum friends or family when they come to visit or when you organize social events? Let's dialogue this. I want to help you help me, and, you know, vice-a-versa!

NOTE: I use the term "frum" to signify individuals who consider themselves strictly shomer mitzvot (observant of the mitzvot, such as shomer kashrut and shomer Shabbat). I avoid using terms like "more observant" or "more religious," because of the diversity of my readership. I think saying "more" anything can rub people the wrong way. After all, there is no scale.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prescription Sunglasses FTW.

Originally uploaded by mobius1ski
This is me at the SXSW Interactive Kosher BBQ at UT-Austin Chabad.

I love my prescription sunglasses. Thanks for the photo @Mobius1ski!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Book Winner is ...

So I was kind of really disappointed that more people didn't enter my awesome Marc Angel book giveaway of "The Search Committee." But at any rate, the winner of the AWESOME book is ...
Email me with your address and I'll get this book sent off to you as soon as humanly possible.

Ugh. Starbucks Kosher Confusion.

I know, I know -- Ask your local Orthodox rabbi. But I like to get a feel from my readership how they roll, and I know plenty of my readers have smichah, so why not?

Here's the deal: Monday is free pastry day at Starbucks, and me being Jewish and a lover of sweets and free things and pastries and Starbucks, I want to take part. The problem? I'm getting some seriously mixed signals about kosher pastries at Starbucks! Let's begin.

The OU website says that the following Baked Goods and Mixes are kosher:

Lemon Poppyseed T & S Muffin
Blueberry T & Muffin
Cranberry Orange T & S Muffin
LF Blueberry T & S Muffin
LF Cranberry Orange T & S Muffin
Carrot T & S Muffin
Carrot Zucchini T & S Muffin
Raisin Bran T & S Muffin
Chocolate Creme Cake Base
Muffin Base Mix Starbucks
Scone Base Mix Starbucks

Okay, now that that's done, tells me that "Majority of the pastries at Starbucks are not kosher. In some Starbucks stores the bagels are under the OU, and the original packaging should be checked for a certification." This notice is followed by a bunch of pre-packaged items that do contain the OU label.

I know that for many, it's that these baked goods are placed in a display case that holds other, questionable items (you know, like that bacon/egg/cheese muffin), so asking an employee for a fresh item from the back is always an option. But is that really an option? Are there any pastries at Starbucks I can freely ask for?

Agh! I need a too-many-calories and way-high-fat muffin! Stat! It's free, you know.

New Google Group: Conversion Conversation

Just a quick note.

If you want to join the new group, you can click here and fill out the appropriate information! Here's to a lively conversation.

A Pasta-licious Shabbos Menu

My gratin didn't looks this scrumptious, but it came really close!

Another cooked-up Shabbat, and another menu to present to my readers. I like to venture outside the traditional box and mix up some milchig (dairy) treats, so this week I went the route of the cow! Its byproduct, that is.

Friday Dinner

Challah (store-bought, come on people, Pesach is coming!)
Boxed Butternut Squash Soup (I do have a life, after all)
Cinnamon Streusel Cake n' Cup kit (an impulse by at Burlington Coat Factory, of all places)

Saturday Lunch
Challah (store-bought, FTW!)
Vegetable Pasta with Trader Joe's Pasta Sauce
Sweet Potato and Butternut Gratin (Note: I obviously didn't include the pancetta!)

The sauce with the fish was to die for. I could seriously eat that sauce ... I mean wow. It really blended well with the sweetness of the fish, too. I used Cary's Sugar-Free Syrup to help keep the badness down, too.

I was a little disappointed in the gratin, but it was my first time making something as such. I think next time I'd probably leave out one of the three main ingredients and settle for just plain potato + squash or plain potato + sweet potato. There's just too much going on in this dish!

The Guiltless Alfredo sauce, however, was a huge hit. Such a huge hit that even I, who absolutely loathes white sauces, loved it. There's some kind of special kick to it, and the fact that it's so easy and not horrible for you helped, I think. As a note, I did substitute the milk by using SKIM milk, and it turned out fine.

For both pasta dishes, I made the noodles, poured the sauce over it, put some mozzarella on top, and baked it for probably 10 minutes to get the sauces to thicken up for reheating on Shabbat purposes. They both came out amazing! The nice thing about using "vegetable" pasta is it gets Tuvia to eat his vegetables without shoving them down his throat!

Until next time ...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quick Query to my Readership!

Hey readers! Would anyone be interested in me creating a private group (via Google Groups probably) geared toward a Conversion Conversation? You could ask me anything you want in private (that is, not in the comments here if you're concerned) and ask other converts similar questions. This, of course, includes converts in training and those simply curious.

Let me know if you're interested!

Shabbat Shalom!

A Pro-Convert, Pre-Shabbos Anecdote

Shabbat cometh, so I thought I'd share a cute little "yay convert!" anecdote with everyone. ready?

While in Austin, standing in line at the kosher grill at H-E-B, a little old man, who also is a professor at the university there, turned to me, looked at my SXSW Interactive nametag, and said, "Chaviva? Are you Israeli?"

I responded that I was not, and left it at that.

He replied, "Are your parents Israeli? Such a weird name to give an American girl!" I responded, hesitatingly, "Nope, I chose this name myself, actually." The little old man grinned broadly, saying, "Ahh! A convert! I love converts!"

At first I wasn't entirely sure how to react. It was funny to me how typically I anticipate people experiencing my "I'm a convert" moment through asking me where I'm from (Nebraska, there are Jews there?!) or where I was bat mitzvahed (no where). Never before, although perhaps it will become a more regular occurrence, has my name become the topic for my "coming out." Although, now that I think about it, Chaviva is a very Israeli name. In the U.S. the names Ahava and Aviva are much more popular to express the same idea.

So the little old man went on to tell me stories about the converts he knows, how he "adopted" their children, how authentic and genuine the converts he knows are. He was giddy with love for gerim! So I stood, smiled, nodded, and was pleased to experience the happier side of convert acceptance.

Later, as I sat eating with a friend and two Israelis we'd bumped into, the little old man came over and said something along the lines of, "It was good to meet you all. But it was especially good to meet her (pointing at me); SHE is something very special."

This left me glowing, feeling special, and the Israeli guests puzzled as to what was going on (they didn't know, of course, what the little old man was so excited about). Surrounded by Israelis and kosher food and friends, I felt utterly loved and, as the little old man said, special.

Shabbat shalom, friends!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Know Y'all Love Me

I want to win some yummy tech stuff for being all silly at a SXSW Interactive party (Alltop), so do me a favor. Click on one of the photos below and VOTE for me to win. Pretty please? I'll love you forever :) Plus, the more free stuff I get, the more free stuff I give away. We all win, right?


Todah rabah!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Sabbath Manifesto

I'm a sucker for viral web projects, and I just happened upon one (okay, they started following me on Twitter) today. The project? It's called the Sabbath Manifesto. The tagline? "Slowing down lives since 2010."

Listen, when I started going shomer Shabbos, the first thing I tried (keyword: tried) to do was unplug entirely. I did it cold turkey. No internet, no phone, no tv, no iPod. And believe me, it was hell on wheels. But now? I honestly -- and I'm not trying to lift you up and drop you in the dark side of "strict observance" here -- can't survive without Shabbat. My week used to turn into another week and another and months flowed together into years and there was no break; it was a continuous flow of noise and mess and chaos. But when I figured out how to make a day of rest from technology work, it turned into a day of rest from a ton of other things, which turned into a big day of rest from all of the stuff I do every other day of the week. It allowed me to read books for pleasure, talk with people, rest, just sit, to watch life go by around me while I rested, sound and relaxed in mind and thought.

And, you know what, a sabbath -- while it has a loaded "religious" tone -- really is for everyone. I think now about people who function on a 24/7 schedule of Twitter and blogging and Facebook and their phone and text messaging and fidgeting with worthless apps and my face hurts. In a world burdened with noise, I think everyone could take a day to step back and just say "wow, there's more to life than all of this other stuff." I hear from people all the time how mystified they are at the idea of a day without technology, and then later from the same people how they sincerely wish they had the will power to do so.

Of course, the question people always ask: What if there's an emergency? What if someone needs to get ahold of you?

The answer? Nothing is so important that it can't wait a few hours. Someone calls me from Nebraska to say there's an emergency, it's not like I can hop a flight instantly and help it get better. Someone has a pressing question? It can wait. Imagine how things were a hundred years ago -- you had to wait, you didn't have a choice. Did people survive? Heck yeah!

So listen, go to the website, give it a gander, and make it happen. We all need a break; we're on overload; we're liable to implode. Give yourself new life, and wrap yourself around the Sabbath Manifesto.

SXSW Interactive: A Wrap-Up

Everything's bigger in Texas, including the fake hair on their airport bathroom mirrors!

Here I sit, coming to you live from BWI Airport near Baltimore, Maryland, with heavy thoughts on my mind. The most pressing, of course, is why on earth this airport doesn't have Kosher Vending machines. After all, the Baltimore/DC Jewish community is massive, and the kosher crowd in Baltimore alone calls for such amenities, right? Alas. I'll pull out my horribly squished PB&J (made in my hotel around 10 p.m. last night) and pray for tastiness. One thing's for sure: I can't wait for a home-cooked meal. And another thing's for sure: Next year, SXSW Interactive better prepare itself for some serious, rocking, Israeli and Jewish folks who will be chowing with a vengeance on kosher food every day of the week. Believe me, the vision is there, the passion is there, the drive is there -- we just have to start planning, and by that, I mean planning starting today. SXSW Interactive is big doins, and you have to represent early. More on the vision later, however. Right now? More on the past four days!

Last night, we ventured to H-E-B, a grocery store in Austin that touts a little kosher grill (something we don't even have in West Hartford). These folks, in addition to having a crapton of kosher goodies (again, more than we have in West Hartford), they have a grill where you can order fries, burgers, chicken wraps, pastrami, and more. It's like an actual restaurant in the grocery store, and there's even seating! What a novel concept, right? So I opted for the Spicy Buffalo Wrap with some Spicy Fries. Stay tuned for a Yelp! review. The coolest thing about eating there, however, was running into some Israeli musicians who also were getting dinner. They sat down with us, and we ate together, talking about SXSW and those darn dairy Wal-Mart bread crumbs (no good for schnitzel, you know). The funniest thing about last night eating there with them, however, were two things they said. One was that my Hebrew accent is French, and the other was that I don't look outright Orthodox with my "Sex and the City" haircut. That made me want to roll on the floor giggling, but I maintained my composure. I'll be honest: No one has EVER told me my haircut is Sex and the City. What do you guys think?

Yes, I was at a party with Ashton Kutcher, Evan Williams (of Twitter fame), and Gary V., and yes I missed the "secret" U2 concert that was played at a local bar (I don't even like U2, sacrilege, I know). I met longtime friend (FINALLY) @caro, and I spent a great deal of time at the @FourSquare party with Dave Weinberg and Leah Jones, among others, sipping mojitos (which some Israeli friends told me actually is pronounced "moCHito" with a chet) and talking aliyah and the height of Mr. Kutcher. I dropped names to get into parties, enjoyed my VIP status and the stack of free t-shirts I picked up, not to mention stickers and pins and free Starbucks VIA coffee mugs and free Skype goodies ... but is that why I went to SXSW Interactive? To get free schwag and party with celebrities at branded parties?

I met folks from Stickybits (software doesn't work on my phone), folks from Grizzly and StumbleUpon. I talked to folks at the Google booth and at Glass, and I even walked past the PayPal station to express my disconcern about my account issues (resulting in free beer). My time at SXSW Interactive was peppered with a mass of THINGS and STUFF and PEOPLE, all selling themselves and their brands. It was a big love fest of tech startups and tech giants. So?

I think it was the moments like those at the H-E-B grill that really stick with me. That and some of the panel moments. I was thinking in the shower the other night that what I learned in the community management session was true: You have to talk to your customers. Even I was saying that, but from the viewpoint of the customer, not the producer. So I realized something: I produce a product every week, and sometimes every day, that consumers -- that's YOU guys -- buy into. I've gotten kind of bad in the past about not responding to comments, and I realized that's bad customer service. I've taken months to respond to emails, that's also bad customer service. So I learned something: I gotta care more! I also came into contact with some amazing people with amazing ideas. We had Microsoft Israel in our Judaism 2.0 panel (check out more on that at, I met a social media god at HP, I listened to Gary V. preach the good word of customer service and building relationships and doing what you love. I met (finally) two rappers who schlepped around SXSW seriously rocking and making their presence known, simply by rapping questions!

Although SXSW Interactive was a flurry of STUFF and THINGS, it was also incredibly powerful in the way that it brought more than 15,000 people into a space and made them interact, whether on the web through Twitter in sessions or face-to-face in core conversations like ours. A lot of people call it a big circle jerk, big dogs like Evan Williams and Gary V. tooting their own horns, but isn't that what we can use as a model? People from nothing turning into something in a thriving world of Social Media and Web 2.0? Aren't they our role models for success in business and e-creation? I think so.

Overall, however, the thing just wore the heck out of me. I didn't go to the closing party last night because I was spent. I felt really old, really lame, and really tired. I don't know how some of these people do it; many of these tech folks are very married and very much parents. I walked away from the entire thing invigorated, excited, and ready to do more. Gary V. says don't quit your job and think you're going to change the world with your tech and social media, but I don't know how every person that listened to him talk couldn't really want to do that.

I know I did. (Thank HaShem I'm a student for life!)

So stay tuned for LOTS of photos, including probably my most favorite panel at SXSW Film, and the only Film one I went to, which included the cast of the NEW MacGruber movie. Seth Meyers showed up (awesome), and I have a picture with him. I'm such a Midwestern girl, unexposed to stars and stardom and celebrity. I'm a sucker for a picture with someone famous and hilarious. Oh, and Val Kilmer? Yikes. He's gone downhill, a lot. The upside? He's hilarious.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Watch Judaism 2.0 LIVE!

We're LIVE streaming our Judaism 2.0 core conversation at SXSW Interactive at 3:30 p.m. CST! Check us out below, or on the website (

Live video chat by Ustream

KoshaDillz Drops a Beat at SXSW

I didn't get a chance last night to blog about the day's events, but they were aplenty, fascinating, and exhausting (but in a good way). The pinnacle of the day probably came in the evening, however, which started with our big Kosher BBQ at the Chabad House at UT in Austin. We probably had 15 people show up, including a bunch of Israelis (which gave me a chance to show off my mad Hebrew skills), and we noshed on hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and Shiner. The best part of the BBQ? KoshaDillz, the illustrious Jewish rapper, showed up with his cohort and they dropped some serious rhymes, kosher style. You need to watch this entire video to get the full effect, and listen closely for my name -- yes, I am in the rap. Ahh, to be rapped about. This surely will be the first of many rap inclusions, of course. So enjoy the video!

More about the evening, including an encounter with the one and only Ashton Kutcher (okay, he was like, five feet from me, but I got a picture), the party where I name-dropped, and more!

Monday, March 15, 2010

SXSW: One Big Party Palloozah!

What a day, what a day. There's so much to say ... yikes. From PETA girls walking around in nothing but lettuce to experiencing the weirdest party bus EVER (I was surprised something wasn't being passed around, you know) to buying rolls, turkey pastrami, mustard, Gatorade and chips for dinner (real food is better than fake La Briute any day!) ... this day was unique. I can't say I got a lot out of the sessions, because it was almost impossible to get into the really interesting sessions that I sought out. So tomorrow? Starting anew.

And also? I'm charging the heck out of my phone. It died around 9:30 tonight, which left me without photos or Foursquare or Twitter or any kind of communication, period. For someone like me, at something like this, it was devastating to say the least.

But one thing is for sure: I am far too old for partying all night, not sleeping all day, and relying on free beer from the Paypal lady and overpriced coffee to get me by. Maybe this means I'm entering lameness. Maybe it means that someday I'll want to relive my early years (like a lot of the "adults" here are seeming to do). Who knows. But this chick is going to bed

Live Bloggin SXSW: Part II, Oh to be Kosher

My mind officially has been blown out of the water. I never expected as much as I got here. I've spent the bulk of my time at the Interactive Trade Show, scoping booths by Google, Bing, and a ton of little startups whose names I subsequently have forgotten. I've got the stickers, however, so don't worry, I'll list them all and issue them their due credit in no time. But I am exhausted, running on a free cup of beer from Paypal for my recent woes with their purchasing system and third-party accessors, as well as an overpriced Starbucks latte that, interestingly, was totally worth it because it tasted about 30 times better than the kind I get in the store. Could the reason be that, well, I'm running on about 1.5 hours of sleep?

I've drained my phone twice today, checking in on Foursquare, taking photos and Twittering them, and trying to figure out where @Mottel is. So now, I'm hanging out in the "Chevy" Recharge Station where there are boatloads of little docks on tiny tables and around coffee tables and couches for people to sit, chill, drink free Sobe (not kosher) and hang. There is a crapton of free food here, and the bummer is that I can't eat any of it. MY hopes got up when I walked in and BAM, instantly there were free health food bars of some kind that happened to be OU-D; more on those later. And then? Everywhere cake and chips and salsa and candy and cookies and ... everything. Lots of beer. The amount of beer these people are drinking is insane! Oh, and hot dogs. And I've been craving hot dogs. What a wretched situation to be in!

I think next year I should push for some KOSHER vendors. I mean, how many Jews are here? Observant Jews? Probably not so many. I wonder if SXSW Interactive does any kind of demographic study. If not, they should. Heck, I'll do it for them.

So far, one of the most interesting things I came across was AOL Seed. Now, I hate AOL with every fiber of my being, but the Seed thing seems pretty gnarly. They outsource articles to people and average Joes can write for them, they pick the stuff, and ship it off to whatever vendor has requested it (Engaged, among them). So of course, being an editor, I had to ask -- Who does your editing? Bangalore, he said. BANGALORE!? Outsourcing your editing to foreign countries? Really? That's what really gets a copy editor down. Maybe I put the fear of G-d in him and he'll look me up, who knows.

Okay, I'm off to another adventure. The parties begin soon, and it's a million degrees outside. I'm praying it cools down ... this is no climate for a frum girl! Check out my Twitter stream for lots of fun photos, including a giant floaty Google box, half-naked cheerleaders, and MORE!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Welcome to Austin, TX ... and Smoking Food!

Check out my delicious La Briute meal a'cookin! It's smokin!

UPDATE: Okay, so it tasted just like the Sizzlin Cuisines version. Listen, beggars can't be choosers, so I'm cool with this. It tasted pretty good after having eaten bagged chips all day. And the cookies that come with it? MAGNIFICENT! And now? I'm off!

I'm Famous! Sort of ...

I always dream of being interviewed by newspapers on topics of Judaism, religion, and blogging, and I'm halfway there! Yes, I was tapped to talk about Toyota and the (sort of ) possibility of buying a Toyota. I mean, listen, I probably won't buy one, but if I do buy one, it'd be a Toyota. Why? Read the interview in the LA Times from yesterday! ;)

Oh, and I just bought an Apple (going to pass my lappy off to Tuvia because I'm so over it), and I'm heading to Austin, Texas in not so many hours ... color ... me ... STOKED!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shabbos Menu a la Chaviva, Part Deux

I was tasked with making Shabbos lunch this weekend. Me being a perfectionist/worry wart, I have no idea what the friends we're eating with will think. I can only hope that it'll be delicious. It quickly turned into a big, fat Asian Shabbos meal, but I'm okay with that. Who doesn't dig some yummy Asian goods!? Here's the menu:

Pull-apart Challah
Carrot Muffins
Asian Noodles
General Tso Meatballs
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

For the Asian Noodles, I did this: Cooked spaghetti, threw in some soy, some honey, some sesame seeds, and some garlic. BAM! Asian Noodles. For the meatballs, I used a basic baked meatball recipe with some Asian glazes/sauces to kick them up. I think I've posted the Carrot Muffins recipe before, but it's pretty simple (baby food carrots, honey, flour, vanilla, oil, and a few dashes of salt). And, of course, in the desire to clean out the cupboard pre-Pesach, the Chocolate Cake is Duncan Hines (parve) and the Cream Cheese Frosting is the yummy parve in-a-can stuff!

I find making lunch more difficult because you really have to be careful about liquids in your dishes. On Friday night, you can bake up to the point that you're food is hot right before Shabbos and you're set. But when you're reheating foods, the liquid thing can be a serious issue. So I'm a little distressed and worried I'm going to screw up, but thank G-d for wonderful friends who will tell me if I did something wrong. I just like being able to finally cook for friends -- I LOVE TO COOK. I used to hate it, and now I love it.

I'm such a Yiddishe Mama! Shabbat Shalom!

Note: If you're looking for posts with more substance, stay tuned. I'm probably going to blog about some of the research I'm doing, and as of Sunday I'll be in Austin for SXSW, so there will be oodles of good on-location posts!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If Jews Ruled the World ...

It occurred to me, just a few days ago, long after I booked my flight to SXSW Interactive, that big Music, Interactive, and Film festival in Austin, Texas every year around this time, that Daylight Savings is going to rain on my parade. My flight, at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday, will really be more like 5:45 a.m. on Sunday. This means that I'll have to be at the airport around 5 a.m., which is really more like 4 a.m. This means I'll probably, if I'm lucky, get something along the lines of four hours of sleep, before flying off to three days of interactive, social media awesomeness and geekatude in one of the nation's greatest (and most humid) cities.

Sigh. So much for planning well.

In a perfect world, with the time change, there would be more late motzei Shabbos flights. Then again, "if only Jews ruled the world!" Yeah, if we ruled the world there'd be late flights everywhere! Especially time zones behind the East Coast, because, well, they're behind us in time. Wait, don't Jews run the world? Isn't that the rumor/stereotype?

All I'm going to say is, if that rumor were true, I'd be flying to SXSW on Saturday night, not Sunday morning at the tush-crack of dawn.

For those of you planning to be at SXSWi, check out the Judaism 2.0 panel at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Come and partake in the goodness hosted by myself and Mordechai, and meet the awesomest of attendees, including Leah Jones and others. Also, if you're in the Austin area but NOT attending SXSW, let me know and maybe we can do a meetup.

OU Cabot Cheese!? Hallelujah!

I'm not sure why Cabot doesn't suck it up and go OU Kosher year round, especially after my horrifying incident with their hashgacha, Tablet K, over the summer in Middlebury, Vermont, but at least they have the decency to run a limited production of OU Kosher for Passover Sharp Cheddar Cheese once a year. ONCE a year, folks. One of the local shuls is doing a fundraiser, and on the Cabot website they even tout the option of selling their cheese as a fundraiser.

Anyhow, I just thought I'd rock out this public service announcement for some delicious Cabot, OU-approved kosher for Passover cheese. After all, no Passover meal is complete without a big brick of cheese with some ... matzo?

So go buy some. And then write a letter to Cabot begging them to sell the business of kashrut to the OU permanently!

Gotta Love the Stuff You Find on the Web

I was browsing something on Wikipedia and came across this stellar Google Sketchup image made by some fellow named Gabriel Fink of what the Tabernacle probably looked like. Of course, I don't have the specs here with me, but I think it's a pretty convincing portrait. Now if I could master the art of Google Sketchup!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Giveaway: Books A-Go-Go

I've come upon an extra copy of Marc Angel's "The Search Committee," and because I love you guys and the past month has been a big ole' month of giveaways, I thought I'd keep things rolling. I want to leave this giveaway open until I get back from SXSW Interactive next week, so the official drawing for this book will be on Thursday, March 18, 2010. How can you enter the contest? Comment on this post with the best book you've read -- fiction or nonfiction -- in the past few months.

I'm copying and pasting below what I wrote in September 2008 about my having read this book, so if you're interested, comment and wait! Here goes:

As if we ever talk about anything at else around here anymore? Books are my joy, my life, my livelihood! As evidenced in my bookworm/bibliophile post of recent. I'd wanted to do this in a vlog, but I'm just not in the mood, and I'm in desperate need of a haircut. So for now, this is how we'll roll.
I've been meaning to write about Rabbi Marc D. Angel's new novel, "The Search Committee," for about three weeks now. The rabbi was kind enough to send me a copy of whose words I devoured quickly and with delight. To be honest, the book is an incredibly quick read. I do find it interesting, though, that his name appears on the book as "Marc Angel" and not "Rabbi ..." But maybe I'm just nitpicking! So first, some background on the rabbi.
Rabbi Angel is the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City (a Sephardi congregation), and is the founder of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals -- a group which I highly recommend you look into. They put out oodles of interesting papers and responsa about issues facing Orthodox Judaism, not to mention the greater Jewish community. Rabbi Angel is the author and editor of more than two dozen books, and this is his first work of fiction! How exciting for him and for us, eh?
So where to begin? The story revolves around a series of testimonials issued to the search committee at a prominent Yeshiveh. The most recent rosh yeshiva has died, and his replacement is to be made by this search committee. There are two rabbis in the running -- one the son of the former head of the school who is essentially staunchly similar to his father and maintaining the present order, and the other a younger rabbi who comes across as very modern in his Orthodoxy. We hear from each rabbi, their wives, students, philanthropists who give to the school, yet interestingly -- we NEVER hear from the committee itself. What a juxtaposition for the book to be titled as such and yet the committee never graces our presence.
Many of the characters are entirely believable, their testimonies sounding as though they were truly coming from the mouths of real individuals. Other characters, including (in my opinion) the deceased rosh yeshiva's son, seem almost unreal in their outrageousness. I do appreciate that the characters -- both those believable and perhaps not so much -- are deeply encamped in their Jewishness. As characters are giving their backgrounds and how they arrived at the present situation, we get long, meandering stories with often unnecessary details -- I can picture the traditional rabbi and his wife at the meeting, as if standing at the pulpit, carrying on and on with over-emphasizing hand gestures and a deep accent. The book is written very much so that we can sympathize with one party over the other, I think, and it is quite obvious that there is a message here about the old versus the new, tradition as it evolves, and the world of the yeshiveh and Orthodoxy in general -- as it accepts outsiders, new ideas and approaches, and makes decisions about the future of how it schools its children.
But to be honest, the book's outcome absolutely surprised me, and I think that for those who take the chance to pick the book, you also will be surprised. The book seems to lean one way -- it is cut and dry that there are two definite sides of Orthodoxy here -- but the outcome chosen by the search committee left me feeling perplexed and almost uncomfortable. But perhaps that is Rabbi Angel's intention, and if so, then I applaud him for a well-composed book that questions what we know and what we think we know.
I think anyone and everyone should pick up this book. I imagine Rabbi Angel has unique experiences that allow him to assist us in delving into the world of the yeshiva and the schisms between more traditional Orthodoxy and more modern Orthodoxy. It is, as I said, an incredibly quick read. So nu? Pick it up already!

I've Got Questions, You've Got Answers!

From my questioning brain to your eager eyeballs, I have a question. Are you ready?

On which hand/finger do you wear your wedding band and/or engagement ring? 

I think it's interesting that the logic behind the left-hand-ring-wearing tradition is partly due to the fact that most people are right handed and thus the ring might become busted up if worn on the dominant hand. I do, however, appreciate the idea (shared also by the Eastern Orthodox Church) of using the right hand. Why? The right hand resembles oaths, at least traditionally. Think about when you go to court or swear an oath, you're always asked to "raise your right hand." This also was a Roman and biblical tradition, that is to use the right hand. If you want to get more sticky, you can also reference the fact that the left hand is viewed as evil or sinister. Interestingly, there was a long-standing belief that people who were left-handed were somehow defective or damned. In many cultures, children were trained (I even know someone who had to deal with this in the not-so-distant past) to write with their right hand, just in case. It's just a hand people!

Anyhow, feel free to answer. I know the traditional way is to wear the wedding band on your right finger, and only much later did Jews start wearing the band on their left finger in the Protestant fashion. I'm also curious how other folks roll -- Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, etc. Different people have different traditions, so fill me in!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Arts & Crafts with Chaviva & Tuvia!

I've been dying to do something crafty, and because my crocheting skills have fallen very much by the wayside, I decided that motzei Shabbat Tuvia and I needed to go to one of those "paint it yourself" shops. Unfortunately, because we lollygagged so much after Shabbos ended, we were left with a mere hour to paint our masterpieces! I talked Tuvia into painting one of those things you put your rings on when you're doing the dishes or washing your hands, and I, inspired by the Gefilte Fish Plate in Judaikitsch, decided to mimic the design to the best of my ability. Here are some photos of the experience, and stay tuned for the finished, glazed and fired products (due to be picked up on Friday, March 12). Thanks to the kind lady at Claypen in West Hartford Center.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Some Light and Fluffy Jewish Folklore

I give to you, some hilarious little Folktales from "A Treasury of Jewish Folklore." Why? Because after that last post, I need something amusing.
Strictly Kosher
The teacher of Scripture in a little Polish town got sick and tired of his drudgery and of suffering cold and hunger. He decided to become a robber. 
One day, he took a knife from the kitchen and went into the woods. Hiding behind a tree he lay in ambush for passersby. At last he saw a rich lumber dealer of the town trudging along unsuspectingly. Without a word, he threw himself upon him and raised his knife as if to stab him. Suddenly, he seemed to recall something and let the knife drop to the ground. 
"It's your lucky," he muttered. " I just remembered that this is a milchig knife!"
This is particularly funny to me because Tuvia and I actually were discussing whether a knife becomes unkosher or whether it must be a fleishig knife if you use it to stab a human. Yes, we think these things. Moving on!
A poor Talmud student was making the rounds from one householder to another. each one, out of the goodness of his heart and as an act of piety, gave him food and lodging for several days. In one of these homes, however, he was treated with ill-grace and in a perfunctory manner. Three times daily they gave him only one dish to eat -- potatoes.
One day, when he saw the platter of potatoes being placed before hijm, he shuddered and asked his host, "Tell me please, what is the benediction that is said over potatoes?
"What a question to ask!" exclaimed his host. "You're a Talmud student, aren't you? Why, even the most ignorant man knows that you say: 'Blessed are the fruits of the earth,' over everything that comes out of the soil."
"This may be so," retorted the Talmud student, "but what should I say when the potatoes are coming out of my ears?"
Oh *giggle, giggle* and *snort, snort!* And lastly, I give you the plight of the Yeshiva Bochur made for a shidduch.
A remedy for ugliness
A Talmudic student was engaged to a very ugly girl; his father had forced the match on him. He therefore took the matter very much to heart and went to talk it over with the rabbi.
"Really, Rabbi," he complained, "she's so ugly she'll make me miserable if I marry her!"
"My son, use your head!" rebuked the rabbi, with impatience. "Now let's examine the problem at issue. All right -- she's ugly. Nu, so what? Just answer me: when you're in the House of Study all day -- will you look at her? No! When you come home for meals -- will you look at her while you eat? No! When you go to bed at night -- will you look at her in the dark? No! Furthermore, when you are asleep -- will you look at her? No! Finally, in your leisure time -- will you want to look at her? No! You'll go out for a walk. So I ask -- waht's all your excitement about? When will you look at her?"
Again, *giggle, giggle* and *snort, snort!* This simple folktale would solve the shidduch crisis, no? 

Shabbat Shalom!

Have I Become a Monster?

This post has been stewing for some time now. I feel really uncomfortable writing it, to be honest with you, but I feel like I need to write it. Maybe I should really look into a therapist, seriously. I think if I did do this, however, I'd run out of the stellar content I have. I have to precursor this by saying that those of you who know me will read this post with my voice in mind, not to mention my evolution and experiences. Whatever you do, please don't read only this post and attempt to pass judgment on me; you've got to know the whole story. So here goes nothing.

I converted under Reform auspices in April 2006 (wow, I'm almost four years out from that) after about 3 years of personal study, as well as studying with a rabbi. Flash forward to January 2010, and I've become more frum, keeping kosher, maintaining a shomer Shabbat lifestyle, and observing shomer negiah (much to the shock of some friends in the community). For all intents and purposes, I'm a modern frum Jew. Along with this evolution has come many other, small things, that I don't necessarily think about on a day-to-day basis. How I carry myself or the things I say. Saying modeh ani in the morning and the shema in the evening has become old hat for me. It's a reflex, if anything. And that's probably teh most appropriate way to relate these things: They have become reflexes.

Every now and again, I sit back and think, "Wow, I remembered to do this or that," and it makes me smile to know that I'm conscious of living in the manner that I do. But there are some things, some reflexes, of which I am not so proud. They're things that make me cringe and make me wonder whom I'm becoming.

My community, for example, is wonderful; I love my community. It's incredibly modern and the paths of Conservadoxish and Orthodox and Hasidic and other flavors of Judaism cross. But for the most part, if you asked anyone in my community, they would tell you that the number of families that keeps strictly shomer Shabbos is small, and the number of families that keep kosher both in and outside the house is even smaller still. I could count on probably two hands and a foot the number of families/couples I know that understand what it means to be a modern, frum Jew in a manner that is on par with Orthodoxy today, and I'm talking modern Orthodoxy, nothing Haredi or hard-line. Just your run-of-the-mill modern, Orthodox Jew.

At first, I was fine with this. I mean, I pride myself on being non-judgmental. My policy, as it always has been, is that what you do is what you do and it's your relationship with the Big Man Upstairs. I can't say whether Christians or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Scientologists have it right -- it's impossible, I repeat INCONCEIVABLE -- to say "I have it right, and you have it wrong." In my mind, you do what's right for you, and you call it a day. For me, Judaism is right. For others, Christianity is right. The problem comes when you look at those who are rocking the same thing. And I never thought I'd feel this way, but good lord. I think I'm becoming someone I don't like.

Within Judaism, you have Reform, Conservative, Humanist, Reconstructionist, JewBu, Hasidic, Chabad, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Secular, Cultural ... the list goes on and on. If they thought they had it rough back in the day with the Essenes, Sadducees, Dead Sea Sect, and Pharisees, they were just tipping the iceberg. When I was Reform, I was sort of at the "bottom of the rung" as far as the evolution of Judaism went. It was probably the most progressive and most new, and I felt the same -- fresh and new. Then I started picking up more mitzvot, and then I ended up here. Shomer mitzvot, plain and simple. The result, however, is that I look at Jews who aren't shomer mitzvot and wonder, "Why do you NOT want to be shomer mitzvot?" This happens less so when I look at my Reform or Conservative brethren than when I look at those who flatly and boldly identify themselves as "Orthodox" Jews.

I'm coming to realize that I'm not comfortable eating at the homes of people I've felt comfortable with before, because our views of shomer mitzvot are not the same. I find myself looking at friends and scrutinizing how they run their households and the choices they make. I find myself critical of those around me, how they dress and how they observe tzniut. In the beginning I thought, "I'm trying to help figure out who I am and how I'll do shomer mitzvot." And then? I woke up one day and realized that I wasn't doing that. I was doing more than that. I was noticing how frum and un-frum all of these people around me were. It made me uncomfortable, it made my stomach turn.

How do you look at a friend and say, You make me uncomfortable, over something like religion? Or not even religion, but observance of that religion. And like I said, I'm less concerned about those who aren't Orthodox than I am for those who are Orthodox. After all, if you say that you think the mitzvot aren't binding, then they aren't binding to you. Stand proud in your understanding of your chosen path. But if you say, I'm Orthodox, and the mitzvot are binding, then how can you turn around and break Shabbos or go out to eat non-kosher or any of a number of things that most people -- even people in past generations -- never thought twice about.

Who on earth am I becoming? Or have I become. I would like to think the problem is the problem of the people who say one thing and do another. But, as most psychologists would say, there's something I see in these people that I'm deflecting, it's something I don't dig about myself. But I think that's only half the battle. Perhaps the zealousness of the convert in my neshama is just frustrated, extremely frustrated. I look at every Jew and think, "You! You were born a Jew! Stand proud, stand tall, love who you are and observe the mitzvot with the passion and fire that your ancestors surely espoused!" There are those of us who fight, out of nature, to be frum. Not as a competition or because we feel like we need to be MORE Jewish or MORE observant than others, but because our neshamot are insatiably hungry. We need the mitzvot. 

I don't know. This is something that's been eating at me for a few weeks now. I go through these phases of feeling like a horrible person because I don't feel comfortable being around people that a year ago or even six months ago I was completely comfortable around. Is this the ebb and flow of a convert? Do baalei teshuvah go through the same thing? Is this natural? It feels uncomfortable, but expected.

Sigh. Mah la'asot?

Have I become a monster? To look at my fellow Orthodox Jew and think, Shame on you. Stand firm in what you firmly believe is true, no matter what that belief is. Just, be honest with yourself and those around you. Do not be two-faced, do not be double-sided, do not be someone that you truly are not.

Is that so wrong?

I've Got MORE Big News!

I have big, gigantic, amazing news. Are you ready for more good stuff in 2010/5770 for Chaviva?
I got into NYU!
Yes, I have been accepted for their Dual Degree in Education/Jewish Studies and Jewish Studies/Hebrew. Color me stoked. I also am happy to report a scholarship for tuition and fees! At NYU, that's big doings. Now, there are those of you who are thinking, Why on earth are you getting ANOTHER MA? At that, why TWO more? Well, the answer is really long and complicated, but let's just say that although I love the program here at UConn, it's not doing what I need it to do, and I wasn't qualified on paper to compete with PhD students for the caliber program I would like to be in. I'm short on language, teaching experience, you name it. Sure, I've given papers and taught classes and stuff, but it's bigger picture things that matter. There's one main professor in my program, and while he is the most awesome professor out there, he's holding the program on his own. Thus, I'm off for more academic pursuits, in the hopes of becoming a Jewish educator of tomorrow. I'm going to light all sorts of fires, darn't.

So stay tuned. We'll be talking new jobs, moving, not moving, me commuting five million hours from Connecticut (listen: this isn't an option), etc. We'll figure something out, just stay tuned. It's going to be an interesting few months!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Getting Serious With Stand With Us & IDF

I spent my evening over at the UConn Hillel for an IDF Soldiers Speak Out presentation, hosted by Stand With Us, the outstanding group that hosted my Birthright Trip back in 2008. The illustrious @YeahThatsKosher schlepped two IDF soldiers (Yoav and Avi, I believe it was) up to UConn (aka middle of nowhere) to talk to Hillel members about what it's like to be a soldier, the perception of the recent missions, the priorities of the IDF and Israel, and more. Although not too many people showed up (after all, there are more than 2,000 Jewish students on campus), it was a fairly good showing and the talk was interesting (I'm a sucker for an Israeli accent, too). Curious about Stand With Us? Here's the "About Us" from their website:
StandWithUs is an international education organization that ensures that Israel's side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and churches through brochures, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and thousands of pages of Internet resources.
StandWithUs was founded in 2001 in response to the misinformation that often surrounds the Middle East conflict, and the inappropriate often anti-Semitic language used about Israel and/or the Jewish people worldwide. StandWithUs has offices and chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Michigan, Chicago, Seattle, Orange County, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, the UK, Australia, and Israel.
They have oodles of information on their website, and this week being "Anti-Israel Apartheid Week" on so many college campuses, the website might have plenty to offer those of you out there looking for some good facts. One of the most shocking questions asked was by a much older gentleman who asked "Do you know what Israel is doing with the 3 billion dollars that the U.S. gives Israel?" The man went on and on about how Israel should be doing good things with "our" money -- after all, we want peace, so Israel should be using that money on peace. He also asked an asinine question about why Israel can't make a two-state solution out of making Gaza and the West Bank the Palestinian State.


Been there, done that. No sale. For those who aren't in the know, it's an all-or-nothing with the opposing parties. In the Hamas doctrine, in fact, it says flat out that peace doctrines or policies for peace are not part of the Islamic Hamas charter. Thus is thus. Now, I'm not saying the people talking peace with Israel are all Hamas, but you see what these Palestinians (who want peace) have to deal with.

My message? Read your materials, get your facts straight, know your history. Be an informed, global citizen! And most of all? Support Israel. Just do it!

And now for some post-IDF talk bus-waiting photography.

These couches look on-fire!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You Have Entered the Stress Bubble!

I'm fairly close to 1,000 posts (which I'll probably try to hit precisely around my four-year blogiversary in April), I've got about 70 followers through the Blogger follow function, and I receive about 150 visits per day and 200 page views per day. I'm not tooting my own horn, I'm just laying out the statistics here on Just Call Me Chaviva. What does this mean? This means I spend a lot of time blogging, people actually dig what I write, and it provides proof that this blog is sincerely an important part of my everyday life. I often tell people that this blog is my therapy, and it really is. For some people, running or knitting or crocheting help to get the body focused and balanced. Well, for me it's writing. I'm lucky that I have an audience to which I write. So let's talk.

I just finished editing those 80-ish undergraduate exams last night, this morning I finished up the last few bits of editing for a freelance editing project that's been in my lap since around August last year, and now I'm able to really focus on my schoolwork 24/7. I realized that yesterday I was up from about 9 a.m. until 2 a.m., and every waking minute was spent doing SOMETHING. I didn't stop and rest for a single moment. Here's what my day looked like:

  • 9 a.m. Woke up, showered, ate, packed up, headed out
  • 11 a.m. Hebrew class
  • 12 p.m. Spent an hour reading for class, while waiting for class to start
  • 1 p.m. Palestine Under Greeks and Romans course
  • 2 p.m. Worked for an hour and a half, inventorying old books donated by a recently passed rabbi
  • 4:30 p.m. Went back to my dorm, spent about 30-45 minutes working (HARDCORE) to Biggest Loser Bootcamp DVD
  • 5:15 p.m. Walked over to grad mailboxes to cool down, checked mail, bought some milk and tea
  • 5:45 p.m. Spent the next 6+ hours grading exams (I did break for dinner for about 10 minutes ...)
  • 1 a.m. Figured out what I needed to do for Tuesday, packed my bag, cleaned up a bit
  • 2 a.m. Went to sleep

So, you know, I'm in constant go-go-go motion. How on EARTH do I have time to blog? I have no idea. I just do it. It's necessary. It's like breathing or eating. Sometimes I have to stop and just do it. It destresses me. So here I am, blogging, about nothing in particular, because once again I'm stressed. Sure, I got exams graded and the editing finished, but now I've got something new that's eating at me: Admissions Responses for my Graduate Applications to NYU and University of Maryland!

At least I know that I won't hear from the Wexner Foundation about my possible Fellowship until the end of March, but knowing when I'll get a "REJECTED" or "ACCEPTED" from these two schools is a little bit out in the ether. I know that NYU is meeting this week to discuss, so that's a little ray of hope. But now I'm thinking,  by this time next week, I could be depressed as all get out. I've wanted to go to NYU since I was in high school. I remember getting the NYU catalog in the mail, sifting through it, dreaming of my life in NYC, living in coffee shops and schlepping dirty city streets. It's always been my dream to live there, before I was Jewish, before I had even visited -- I was going to be a city girl. So even getting the chance to go there, well, that'd be awesome. It'd be a full-circle, life-fulfilled kind of thing. And the program is perfect for what I want to do! Jewish education and Judaic studies. They might as well call it the "Chaviva Edwards Program for Awesomeness in Rocking the Jewish World."

Anyhow, I just want to thank everyone for listening to me kvetch and lament, as well as for listening to me go on about simchas and happy moments in my life. You guys are my family, and I love you for that. The continued support means more than you can possibly understand!

Stay tuned for a future blog post (hopefully) on how becoming more observant has made me more judgmental. Giveaway Winners!

I really wanted to make an awesome video of me picking the winner of the drawing, but, well, I've spent the past six hours grading exams, so I'm a little pooped. You'll have to forgive me, but I opted for the lovely Random Picker website, which will pre-randomize and pick as many random items from a list as you want! So wahoo for that!

And now for the best part, the winner! The lucky duck winner of $25 in Hair Accessories from, is ...
Mazal tov for being my lucky winner!

And, because I'm feeling so very giving, I'm giving away another hat.The winner of the Cute Woven Hat (in brown, of course) is ...
Again, mazal tov to you both. Can you both CONTACT me with your mailing information so we can get your respective winnings sent speedily! Sometime in the not-so-distant future, I'll be rocking a book giveaway. I'll probably make it my pre-Pesach giveaway. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Now to go mark all the grades down. Oy. Being a graduate student for a class of some 80 students is murder!