Sunday, January 30, 2011

Haveil Havalim No. 302: A McFalafel w/Mustard

Welcome to the newest edition of Haveil Havalim, which I've hosted twice before, I believe: Once in September 2010 and once in March 2009. I recall the fondness of June 2008 when I first made the Haveil Havalim blog carnival. I was seriously kvelling -- I made it big time, I thought! And here I am, nearly three years later, still singing the praises of the awesomeness that is this blog carnival. Not sure what Haveil Havalim is? Well, I'll tell you!
Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack.
Are you ready? It's time to get your J-blogosphere love on!

Someone mentioned to me that Torah is always the last topic listed each week on Haveil Havalim, so I decided to promote it to spot Numero Uno this week. What do we have to offer?

Netanel presents Derech Eretz posted at Geshmack Torah, and also wants y'all to know that there's a new iPhone app that downloads all the Divrei Torah for you! No more excuses for not being up on the parshah, right?  The question is: When will there be one for the Android?

Kochava (aka the other Chavi, but let's call her Kochava so y'all don't get us confused) at You're Not Crazy presents Halachic Discussion: Converts Can't Be Prophets?

Adventures in Mama-Lan presents a very creative (and easy way to get your learning in) Adventures in Mama-Land: Parsha Poem on Mishpatim.

And The Gelt gives us Longhorns + Egyptians, which is a slight nod to what's going on in the Middle East right now. Short and sweet. 

It seems we're lacking in Culture this week. What's that say about us? Well, at least we have Izgad, who presents G. K. Chesterton and Jewish Hats, which is a non-Jew's take on the importance of Jewish dress.

History too takes a back seat. Luckily, I'm planning some fun Jewish-American history posts in the coming weeks. Why? Because I can! Until then? Carry on.

Next up? Israel! Israel At Level Ground presents Probe Clears Israel in Flotilla Raid (Exclusive audio report), which features an exclusive interview/report from June 2010 on the Flotilla incident.

Lady-Light presents Israel Within International Law in Actions Against Turkish Flotilla posted at Tikkun Olam, as well as Given Current Reality, Peace in Middle East is a Fantasy.

Yisrael Medad offers up How Do You Advertise a Gym in Israel? and My Right Word: Looking at the Reality on the Ground - The Topography of Judea & Samaria.

Mc anything is good for me!
Joel Katz presents January 24th's Section 1 and Section 2 posted at Religion and State in Israel. My favorite from Section 2? A piece about the McFalafel. Nom nom nom. Probably not gluten-free, but seriously.

Harry presents Religious mustard and other Hebrew acronyms, where the Israeli obsession with acronym-izing everything means that you can be a Mustard. Don't believe me? As Harry says, some call themselves "Hardal (an acronym for “haredi leumi” – for those ultra-Orthodox who also serve in the army). The funny part is that the word in modern Hebrew also means “mustard.” Loving it! Put some of that on my McFalafel, will you?! Also from Harry? Goodbye GPS, hello Comodo and Nostalgia Sunday – Jerusalem City Center -- all posted at Israelity.

Ben-Yehudah presents What's Really Been Happening To Ya'akov Teitel? at Esser Agaroth, and Cosmic X presents Rabbi Yisrael Rosen: Ban MK Einat Wilf! And, lastly, we have Rachel Barenblat, who presents On the Palestine Papers over on Velveteen Rabbi.

I don't know why, but if you search "Jewish Coffee" you get lots of pictures of cake and Jewish coffee cake recipes. What makes coffee cake Jewish, seriously? Anyway ... 
Ahh, Judaism. You are my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My coffee, too. So what do we have this week? 

On Esser Agaroth, Ben-Yehudah presents Jewish Family Planning on long engagements. I'm wholly opposed to long engagements ... but, well, that's just me. I was sort of without an option. Conversions man, they're nuts!

The lovely Kochava presents The Conversion Mikvah Visit in a Nutshell posted at You're Not Crazy. I'm really waiting for her to release her book on all things Orthodox conversion. I was never one for writing the "how to" but man alive does Kochava sock it to us. Know someone who needs info? Send them there!

Lastly, I give you Susan Barnes, who presents Is Giffords a Jew, or is She Just Jew-ish? posted at To Kiss A Mezuzah. It's an interesting testament to acceptance of converts, a topic close to my heart.

I must begin the Personal category with the illustrious Benji. Why? Just look at the post: My Apartment Burned. And How Was Your Weekend? 'Nuff said. Batya presents ... And I Walked... posted at me-ander and From The Other Side Looking In posted at Shiloh Musings.

Don't forget to read my Being Married and Finding Time post. Life hands us lemons and we put them in a box and hope to make lemonade someday. Why?

Mottel gives us a really touching daddy piece that I just have to share, called Child on a Mobius Strip.

David Levy presents My Miracle Story posted at Blogs, saying, "One of our readers blogged for the first time on our site to share this beautiful and inspiring story." I'd tell you what the post really says, but, well, you have to log-in to read it and that's not my style.

Everyone's favorite pinktastic blogger, Hadassah offers some thoughts on the 18th anniversary of her father's passing at 18 Years.

And, hopefully feeling fully better, Lady-Light presents A Rant: Sick, and Haveil Havalim #301 (not sick of) posted at Tikkun Olam

Politics ... What a week. Geez. Where do we begin? Let's just toss 'em out there. 

Ben-Yehudah presents I'm Shocked That Hizbullah Is Taking Over Lebanon! at Esser Agaroth.

Elise/ Independent Patriot presents Obama, Islamists and a New Middle East posted at Liberty's Spirit.
Batya presents Report Card: The Israeli Government, Ministers and MK's, Knesset Members posted at Shiloh Musings.

Cosmic X presents Former Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann to Obama: Release Pollard posted at ****** Cosmic X in Jerusalem ******.

SnoopyTheGoon presents The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland and Karma Nabulsi: now we know... posted at SimplyJews.

And Everything Else is just what you think it is: The hodge-podge of randomness from some of our favorite J-Bloggers.

Yisrael Medad presents  Herb Zweibon z"l, posted at My Right Word. Also from Yisrael is  Who's that knocking on his door? posted at Yes Hillary, There Is A Congress

A blog I've never seen before is Ingathered by Leah Aharoni, who this week presents Does Jewish Feminism Empower Women? Thought-provoking and very well written.

Risa presents One Melody - Two Renditions posted at Isramom, saying, "The real thing?" and Mrs. S. presents Borei pri ha’etz posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress.

Mordechai Torczyner presents Jewish Honeymoons? and Why it comes out backwards posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Yisroel presents The Perils of Facebook (Is Aliyah Really a Good Thing?) posted at Artzeinu. Very, very interesting post here folks. Read it!

And, our last piece of Haveil Havalim goodness comes to us from Chabad who offers Places: Krak√≥w Then and Now posted at Chabad-Lubavitch news site.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalimusing our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Volunteer! I promise it's totally gratifying ...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's SNOW Good!, I love you.
I love snow. I really do. Growing up, we lived in Southern Missouri where snow wasn't a huge thing, but Tornados and violent thunderstorms were. I also lived in Iowa as a very young child, which meant crazy snow and being bundled up in snow suites. And then? Nebraska. Talk about frozen tundra. The thing about Nebraska and winter is that it's completely flat and mostly tree-less, so covers from snow drifts and wind are nonexistent. I learned to love snow, to drive in snow, to really rejoice in the still and beauty of a slow snowfall. And now? Living in New Jersey, and with the most recent perpetual snowfall (19 inches in Central Park?!), I continue to love snow. It's a pain to drive in, especially with my little Toyota Yaris with its tiny wheels, but it's a trooper and it gets the job done. I love walking in the falling snow, schlepping through the piles, dreaming of snow ice cream, flying through stand-still snow falling on the highway, and relishing over a hot cup of coffee while it falls still outside. Call me nuts, but snow is part of what makes me most happy. Most get stressed about it, but I don't. (Okay, except when Tuvia is forced to drive to work and spins out on the highway and ... grrr ... )

So here's to snow, beautiful, fluffy, everywhere-all-the-time snow! (Which, I might add, we schlepped around in around midnight tonight on our way back home hanging out with the awesome Modestly Fashioned and Mr. Modestly Fashioned. We were blown away by how much snow was out there ... )

A Historical Minute

The hat tip on this goes to my Uncle David, who sent this to me via email today. It's an interesting look at some important historical moments in Jewish history. Enjoy!

American Minute with Bill Federer
Ferdinand and Isabella sent Columbus on his voyage in 1492 after they liberated Spain from occupying Muslim forces.

Spain's policies then forced Jews to flee, first to Portugal, then to Amsterdam, where some sailed with Dutch merchants to South America.

When Spain attacked there, they fled again and 23 refugees, on the French ship Sainte Catherine, became the first Jews to arrive in New Amsterdam in 1654.

Governor Stuyvesant tried to evict them, not letting them worship outside their homes.

In 1664, New Amsterdam became New York, where the first synagogue was built in 1730.

Jewish population in colonial America grew to 2,000 in 7 synagogues from New York to Savannah.

Beginning in 1830, Ellis Island had 250,000 Jews immigrate from persecution in Bavaria.

Starting in 1881, over 2 million Jews fled Russia's pogroms to America.

By 2006, Jews comprised 2 percent of U.S. population.

President Woodrow Wilson wrote:

"Whereas in countries engaged in war there are 9 million Jews, the majority of whom are destitute of food, shelter, and clothing; driven from their homes without warning ... causing starvation, disease and untold suffering. Whereas the people of the U.S. have learned with sorrow of this terrible plight, I proclaim JANUARY 27, 1916, a day to make contributions for the aid of the stricken Jewish people to the American Red Cross."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Being Married & Finding Time

It's accounting season -- and it has been -- around these parts, which means that Tuvia is working 12-14 hour days, coming home late at night and diving straight into bed. I've had the past month (and then some) off from school, and working part-time has actually been a little less than part-time, meaning I've had a lot of time to frequent coffee shops and futz around at home not really doing anything in particular. I have been sick, which takes up a lot of unnecessary energy, but overall, I've sort of been twiddling my thumbs.

Tomorrow I start my second semester at NYU with some fun classes on Israel in the 1960s, Jewish education, teaching a second language to college students and adults, and a Hebrew course that's really geared toward undergrads (homework and tests are more my speed). That will put me in NYC four days a week, one of those until 9 something at night. Tack on the part-time work, the commute, and, well, I won't be home much.

So here's what I'm wondering: Tuvia and I have been married nearly eight months and it seems like after those first few months our time has become monopolized by work and life and everything else, so how do you keep connected to your significant other? Do you set time aside to do things? Do you plan grocery trips? Do you set date nights? How do you maintain your sanity and that connectivity? There's always Shabbat, but it seems like by the time we get to Friday, our interests are sleeping, eating, and sleeping some more.

That first year is killer, we all know that. Chuck your wisdom at me, married couples!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Parshah Yitro

This week's parshah is one that always brings me back to the same question. I can't even consider the rest of the parshah, because my mind is always floating on one man: Yitro, Moshe's father in law.

Did Yitro Convert?

If you google yitro convert, you'll notice that (beyond my blog) a lot of things come up, citing Yitro as the first convert and as being, plainly and without explanation, simply a convert. But was he? What language dictates this? Why do we count him among the converts like Ruth? And how do we define, in the Tanakh makes a convert a convert? A ger in the Tanakh is simply a stranger, someone sort of floating along with the Israelites. The Rabbis later used and understood the term ger as convert, which is how we understand it today. But the great converts of the Tanakh, like Rahab and Yitro and Ruth, what made them converts?

I know what I think -- what do you think?

Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creating an Army of Kindness

I'm not one for strict copying and pasting, but this came through my email and I'm a big fan of what does, so I thought I'd share. Enjoy!


New York - It was flexing it's muscle that set a kindness train in motion that was just as powerful as the mega blizzard that blew through the New York area this past Sunday night.

Benzion Klatzko, the founder of was at JFK Monday morning, along with 225 students who spent nine hours on the tarmac Sunday night after their El Al flight was unable to take off or return to the terminal. Many of the students who were traveling to Israel on various programs to experience their Jewish heritage in the Holy Land learned a great deal about what it means to be part of the Jewish nation well before they ever left the ground.

Klatzko used to message every host on the website who lived within 20 miles of JFK airport asking them to please lend a hand, by either taking some of the students home for a meal and a hot shower or to bring food to JFK. In no time at all the message was forwarded around and the Five Towns community immediately swung into action buying food, getting into their SUVs and heading to JFK.

While many of the students elected to stay at JFK, others took advantage of the opportunity to find refuge in the Five Towns, with boys heading to Shor Yoshuv and girls enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the Wolfson, Safier and Stahler families. Yanky Brach of Brach’s Supermarket, a mainstay of the Five Town’s community, put together a full breakfast for all the students in their various locations, personally delivering breakfast to the students who were still at the airport, along with Eli Shapiro of the White Shul and Phil Goldfeder, a friend who works for Senator Schumer.

“My phone kept ringing while I was at the airport,” said Brach. “People kept asking if they should bring more food. I kept getting calls from the store, hearing how people were leaving donations to help defray the cost of feeding all those people.”

Other Five Towns residents brought bourekas and twenty pizzas from David’s Pizza in Cedarhurst. Supper was a joint effort, with so much food delivered to the airport from both Brach’s and Carlos and Gabby’s in Cedarhurst that Brach said they literally walked around the airport terminal offering food to any Jewish person they saw.

"When you galvanize the collective good will of the Jewish people, miracles can happen" says Klatzko. "And that's why is such a revolution. It is the facebook of Jewish kindness where our true colors proudly shine."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ups, Downs, & Tu B'Shvat

It's been an amazing week for me, although it's been capped off with the flu. First there was the launch party at which I found out I was the winner of the position as the amabassador and some nice winnings. Then, yesterday, I got an email from SXSW Interactive letting me know that my panel was chosen as a Core Conversation, making it basically the same thing that it was last year, but with a different type of focus. So yes, I'll be going to SXSW 2011, and the illustrious @susqhb will be my co-panelist to discuss "Jewish Synergy: Social Media and the New Community." It's one big happy Social Media week for me. The bummer? I got a flu shot on Monday and it's given me the flu. Yes, it can happen. This is why I haven't gotten the flu shot in probably six years. Growl. (November through May are pretty much a lost cause for me -- it's one sickness after another.)

So, because I'm not functioning at 100 percent, I'll let the folks at G-dcast do the Tu B'Shvat goodness for me. I really love this video because I studied Honi the Circle Maker while studying at the University of Connecticut. The Rabbis appropriated Honi, who was a magic worker of his time, and called him "rabbi" in the midrash. In my studies, we discussed why the rabbis did this, and our discussions were quite interesting. I hope you enjoy this little video! Also, check out my brief blog post from last year, which is one post for I'm particularly proud.

And now? For the video ...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Long-Promised Slam Video

I was elated to win the ambassadorship with my words of poetry, so, inspired by that, I decided to hit up a local slam poetry thing in Teaneck that I happened to spot on Twitter of all places. It turned out to be more of a poetry "reading" than a slam, but the girl before me did the serious memorized slam thing that I'm used to, and I got up and did my paper-read slams the best I could. I did two poems, and I give you one here. I used to have the first one I did memorized, and this one, in the video, as I mention, hasn't been read before. This is probably the fifth incarnation of the poem, but I think it went really well.

My next goal? Hitting up some slam poetry venues in New York City, where slam has been alive in well since 1989. Wish me luck!

Chavi Goes Slamming from Chaviva Galatz on Vimeo.

I'm an Aunt (Times Two)!

Yes, it's true. Twins have graced my life in the form of nephews in Nebraska, and I'm happy as a clam! My mom let me know on Friday that my sister-in-law was going in for a C-section, so to stay tuned. As the day rolled on and Shabbos grew closer, I heard nothing. Finally, my mom texted to say to check Facebook. Frantically, I headed to Facebook and saw ... nothing! Minutes before Shabbos, I called my mom -- no answer! I texted her, and then called her again, and left a message urging her to call our home phone, only realizing that she didn't have the number! Ach! Luckily, Tuvia's mom stepped in and let my mom know when and where to call: around noon on Saturday, because we could listen to the message as it recorded!

Thus, around noon today, while we sat at our Shabbos table with two other couples, my mom called and I relayed the names and weights to our guests and Tuvia. Our family welcomed to the world the most lovely of baby boys, with more hair than I'd expect on twins born early. Here they are!

Mazal tov to parents John and Jessica Edwards! I can't wait to buy these kids TONS of clothes and toys ... I'm going to use and abuse the title of "aunt." I'm toying with having the kids call me Aunt C or Aunt Jo. What do y'all think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Your Friendly Parshah Thought

This week's Torah portion is Beshalach and includes that fateful moment of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and Israel's redemption from the Egyptians, as well as the subsequent rave on the other side led by none other than Miriam and the ladies (did you remember you glow sticks?). I could say a lot about the portion, but I'll merely share the following. It's food for thought, delicious, nutritious, sustaining thought.

On Ex. 14:14: "The Lord will battle for you; you hold your peace," the notes in the Etz Chayim Tanakh offer a poignant interpretation of this line saying, "G-d will support and defend you -- but only when you stop quarreling among yourselves. A united people merits G-d's intervention." It's that second line that strikes me, particularly. It takes a people united to gain intervention of G-d, obviously. Is the intervention an allusion to Moshiach? But is this only the peace of the Israelites that grants intervention? G-d intervenes, saving the Israelites, but the rest of the world (assumingly) is not at peace. Is this a selective thing?

Most importantly, does it imply that perhaps when there is peace within the Jewish community that intervention will arrive? Perhaps G-d isn't just sitting idly by, perhaps he's waiting? "A united people merits G-d's intervention."

Indeed. (This was adapted from a blog post, B'Shelach: The Parting of the Sea of Reeds.)

Note: Thank you to everyone for your support on the Battle of the Bloggers competition -- I won! I'm now the Ambassador 2011! Stay tuned for awesomeness

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Your jDeal Ambassador!

For those who missed it, I blogged about this whole shibang here. Watch the video (there's poetry), and give me some love :) Battle of the Bloggers! from Chaviva Galatz on Vimeo.

COMMENT! Love me, please?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Slouchy, Jeweled, and, Yes, Modest

It's been quite a while since I posted a tzniut (modest) fashion post, unless you count my vlog about modest fitness fashion, in which case it hasn't been long at all. At any rate, this is a simple outfit that I wore today, just to go out to my "office," which actually is simply the local Starbucks. I wanted to look good, so I could feel good, and that's what this outfit did for me.

I'm a huge fan of jewel tones, and I love living in my jean skirt. So that's what this outfit is: simple, casual, comfortable.

The Jessica Simpson slouchy gray hat I purchased at Century 21 (where the clothes are expensive and the accessories are perfect), and the necklace I got at Old Navy of all places (they have an amazing jewelry selection these days). The necklace has a beautiful pair of matching earrings, but in the spirit of my Let's Bring Back series and book, I opted for this philosophy today:

The "Take One Thing Off" Rule | There can be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to accessories. Interior decorator and social powerhouse Elsie de Wolfe always used to make herself take on item off before she left the house: a bracelet, a necklace, whatever; it could have been a headband with a huge tulle bow in her case. This sage practice remains a good rule of thumb today; unless, of course, you are only wearing one thing to begin with.

The jewel-tone blue shirt is long-sleeve, soft and comfy as can be, and it's from Lands End. It's honestly my most favorite shirt on the planet (and I have it in every color to prove it). The dark gray cardigan I purchased at Nordstrom Rack, and the jean skirt, well, you can't see it, but it's floor-length and I got it in Israel. The brand is "pink," and, unfortunately, I can't seem to find it anywhere online, which bums me out.  You also can't see my boots, but they're straight from Payless Shoes and are sort of slouchy ankle boots. Oh! And the belt? It's from Target, super "on the cheap."

So get your fashion on. Be casual, be modest, and, most importantly, be beautiful!

Reliving the Bible Slap

I posted last week, not to mention in late 2010/early 2011, about this search I'm having for who I am and how I got here. This is another installment, sort of a follow-up to that post, as well as a pairing to go with my Don't Forget to Review the Conversion Manual post, that got a lot of mixed reactions. That post, of a little old man bringing into question my Jewishness, came about in December of 2007, whereas this post came about a year after my conversion in April 2007. From this post below to the one in December, I think I'd been through a lot. The pairing here is that in my Conversion Manual post, it is a Jew that challenges me. In this post, it is a Christian who challenges me (although without knowing that I am a convert). 


Date: April 6, 2007
Post title: A Challenge 

I'm sitting in Argo Tea near Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Just by Water Tower place. I'm at a table among tables crowded with people, headphones in, listening to Explosions in the Sky (my Torah music). My Etz Hayim is open to Ezekiel 37:1-14, reading between talking via GChat ...

An older man with bad teeth appears over my shoulder, and with a thick British accent says, "Greek?"

I pull off my headphones and show him the cover, "No, it's Hebrew ... Torah."

He responds very quickly, as if waiting to quiz someone -- anyone -- with, "Ahh, how many Sabbath days in Passover!?"

I, taken aback at his random quizzing because it doesn't appear as a friendly exchange, but rather a challenge of "what do you know there little Hebrew girl?," respond with, "Well, the first two and last two days are treated as holidays." I, being Reform and in the Diaspora, know there are differences in the traditions. But this is the first thing I say, of course.

Wrong! He chides me, says "look it up! look it up!" and points me to Leviticus. There are TWO days, he says. And of course, in tradition, yes, there are. He then retrieves his Christian bible and reads the verses to me. I respond by mumbling the Hebrew translations and he continues to correct me when I say that the harvest was 'raised up' ... in the Christian bible it says it was waived about, I guess.

Then, almost as an insult he says, "You must be Reform, eh? Maybe someday you'll become Orthodox and really know your stuff!" He then talks about Easter and the crucifixion and blah blah blah. A barista approaches, mouthing "Are you okay?" The guy eventually shuts up and walks away.

It was like he was challenging me. Like he could see a sign above my head that says "Pick on me! I'm the Reform girl reading Torah in a tea shop! Please, quiz me!"

But it's bigger than that. He stood above me and I sat. I was below him. He reciting words from his Christian bible proving he knows better than I about the tradition. But I knew. Why didn't I just say "Listen man, this is the Diaspora, we do things differently. Not everything in the bible is word for word nowadays. It isn't the precision that matters, it's the passion." But I didn't. Why? I felt intimidated. Unprepared.


It's Good Friday. Beware one and all. These used to be the days when the Jews got nervous and skittish. Blood in matzo and all that. Mrph.

What a day. Chunks of meat in my ranch and getting lectured by the Christian on my own holiday. Slap! Slap! Slap!

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Oldie, But a Goodie

And by that, I mean, indeed. What is the secret?

"...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

-- Mark Twain in "Concerning the Jews," Harper's Magazine, 1899

A Yiddishe Kupf -- A Jewish Head

In the eternal struggle, at the age of 27, to know who I am, who I was, how I got here, and -- I hope -- where I'm going, I've been digging through an old LiveJournal, old poems, things that smatter my hard drive from years gone by, things I'd probably attempted to forget for one reason or another.

This is something I wrote on April 25, 2006, as part of a final paper for my Jewish-American Fictions course, which was one of my favorite courses of my undergraduate career. It was, also, the last class I attended as an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I wanted to create some poetry for the class, even though the course was on fiction, prose, not poetry. I am also trying to track down a sort of heart-wrenching poem I have about the Shoah and being a convert.

So, until then, here you are: A little piece of me, right around the time of my conversion to Judaism under Reform auspices.

Jewish-American fiction puts pen to paper, making an image of who 
we are and where we've been. It's Tova Mirvis making my heart bleed 
at the makings of a family figuring out when everything started changing 
and Jonathan Safran Foer making "small prayers to G-d" out of 
memory and religiosity. Jewish-American fiction places faces and makes 
a mosaic out of the grab bag of the things that mean "Jewish." Turning 
tradition into struggle, love and survival into the trappings of figuring out 
what modernity means to the tradition of remembering. Jewish-American 
fiction is a window to the outside world, as Jews and nonJews, and characters 
kept inside story forms make it possible to peek outside and see what we do to 
be Orthodox, Reform, lapsed, born again, a believer or dreamer, secular, 
sane, insane, in love and out of love, living, dying and surviving. 

But above all else, when we are bound to a book below lamplight,
it’s easiest to say that Jewish-American fiction is the definition of humanity.

I ended the paper with the following, If anything, [Bernard] Malamud is using Jews as the example: Humanity at its core is Jewish. It is survival, perseverance and remembering so as not to repeat. By saying “all men are Jews,” Malamud creates a most-powerful metaphor, and an example, for all religions, races and nations. He simply is saying “here is the beginning, here is who you are, don’t forget it."

In response to my final paper (which is much longer than these two excerpts), my professor gave me one of the greatest compliments I've probably ever received from someone, and this was just as I was converting the first time around! He said, "Jewishness, Jewish culture, is a matter of putting pen to paper – you’ve got that down, too. You have what my mother would have called a Yiddishe kupf – a Jewish head. You see the subtleties, the nuances in things. You see the humor that’s enveloped in tragedy, and the tears hidden inside the laughter." Here's one Jew who knew.

A sampling of some of the amazing things we read that semester, which I definitely need to revisit are:

And, if you know what's good for you, you'll purchase Bad Jews and Other Stories by Gerald Shapiro. Would I lead you astray? 

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Gluten-Free Challah Worth Screaming About

I know, I know ... this blog is about all things Jewish. All things gluten-free belongs over at, but that is just how excited I am about this. Watch the video, love it.

PS: Tuvia and I agree ... if you threw some salt on these, it would be akin to eating soft pretzels. I don't know why, but this recipe screams "pretzel challah," and that is a-okay with me.

Best Gluten-Free Challah ... Ever from Chaviva Galatz on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Designers at the Ready? Project Frumway is On!

I always get excited when I see a Jewish person on reality TV. I don't know why, but for some reason I think hope that they'll do some sort of good for the Jewish cause. Crush the stereotypes and perform in excellent and unique ways. Don't get me wrong, sometimes they do, but sometimes it's just a disaster.

Bravo Irina!
There are always a few Jewish chefs on Top Chef or Next Food Network Star (my favorite cooking Jew was always Evangelos "Spike" Mendelssohn -- he's part Greek, part Jewish, and that name is amazing). There have even been a few spotted on the popular and addictive Project Runway, who touts its season six winner as Irina Shabayeva, a Georgian Jew.

But there's something missing from these shows. From the cooking shows, it's kosher food. From the fashion shows, it's modest fashion. So what's a Jew to do? I enjoy these shows as much as the next person, but you sometimes have to wonder, "Well, that's great, but what about me?"

Enter New York NCSY with "Project Frumway," a charitable fashion show and fashion design competition for women of all ages. The project was created and will be run by both yeshiva and public high school girls, and it promotes "positive body image, fashionable modesty, self-confidence, and self-esteem." The project allows for women to learn about the importance of tzniut, or modesty, while creating a fun and glamorous atmosphere in which to learn about it! But it's more than just a project, it's a fashion competition, which engages girls and women to compete in creating the most fashionable, modest outfit. The winner's design will be produced by a Jewish clothing designer in the New York area (how. cool.) and it will be featured on the "Project Frumway" catwalk on March 1, 2011.

The overarching goal here, which I think is quite admirable, is to teach girls that it's possible to be fashionable and to respect one's body at the same time. Amen! Especially considering that mainstream media picked up on the connection of Orthodox Jewish girls and eating disorders. It's time to teach girls what feeling beautiful and being beautiful really mean!

Want to enter the competition? Here are the details:

  • The competition is open to girls and women of all ages. 
  • Designs must be modest (3/4-length sleeves, neckline, below-the-knee hemline) and reflect a Spring-line, casual wear.
  • All submissions must include:
    • Sketch of design.
    • Detailed paragraph describing design including materials, colors, lengths, neck lines, target demographic.
    • Your contact information: name, phone number (home and cell), email, school (if applicable), and age. 
  • Submissions are due no later than Friday, February 4th, 2011.
  • The cost to submit a design is $5 (talk about inexpensive!). Each additional design will cost $3, and you may submit as many designs as you like. 
  • Note: NCSY reserves the right to change the winning design's color and/or patterns, depending on availability.
  • The top design chosen will be made by a local dressmaker and featured at the fashion show on March 1, 2011 at Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence, NY. The winner may elect to model the design herself, or she may choose someone else to model it. 
Need more info? Check out the NCSY website! Good luck, and happy designing!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let's Bring Back: M-Z

Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone ByWelcome to Part Two of a two-part installment on the book, "Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By" by Lesley M.M. Blume. The first part, letters A-L can be found here. This installment includes the letters M-Z.

What's this all about? This is an entire book devoted essentially to kitsch, the days of yore, and traditions and ways of living that are lost on many of us today. The great thing about the book, however, is that I realized that many of the things that Blume longs for are things that are alive and well in the Jewish world. Blume lists a variety of things from A to Z with quirky notes about each. Here are my notes to sort of "respond" to her quips on these lost arts/items/ideas/words/foods.

Marzipan Eggs on Toast, anyone?
  • Maps | Okay, I'm not saying this is a hard-and-fast rule, but I'm guessing there are more Jews with maps than non-Jews with maps. Why? Let's say you're discussing something on Shabbat and trying to prove where Nebraska is. You need a map. Technology on Shabbat is a no-no!
  • Marzipan Fruit | Have you been to a kosher confectioner? Give a try. They sell them in all sorts of fun fruit shapes and others, too!
  • "Mind Your Own Beeswax" | Please don't tell me I'm the only person who still says this ...
  • The Moon | The great thing about the moon in Judaism is that we get to sort of honor it every month. It's phases are important to our calendar. The moon isn't dead in Judaism. It's crazy important.
  • Naps | I don't think these are dead for anyone, but the Shabbat nap is a highly usual occurrence (nay, requirement) for Jews everywhere. 
  • Newspapers | Again, I would venture to guess that, along with paper books, newspaper subscriptions are high among Jews who observe Shabbat. How else is my husband going to find out who won the Yankees game?
  • Porcelain Skin | If there's one thing I'm incredibly proud of, it's my pasty-white skin. I'm not going to lie, in the Jewish community, the un-tanned skin is more the norm than not. It's the stereotype, after all, that Ashkenazi Jews are pale white skinned and curly black haired. Unless, of course, you live in certain parts of Jersey. 
  • Postcards | These, surely, are not dead. I just mailed some from Israel! Come on, now.
  • Separate Ovens | I haven't seen these in a ton of kitchens, but I think if they're alive and well anywhere, it's the Jewish kitchen. My husband's grandmother has two ovens in her kitchen (although they're both meat), and I think it's brilliant. I'd kill for a two-oven'd kitchen!
  • Simple Wedding Rings | Required by law, Jewish wedding bands have to be simple. No jewels, no engravings, nothing. Of course, you can go all out for your engagement ring, but I know plenty of ladies who don't have engagement rings, just the wedding band. 
  • Turbans | I insist you walk around Monsey, NY. 

Then, of course, there are those things that I also lament the loss of, including ...

  • Milk Toast | Okay, I've never even heard of milk toast, but it sounds easy enough. Ingredients: 1 cup whole milk, 2 slices white bread, butter, sugar, and nutmeg. Directions: Butter the bread. Put in a heavy skillet over medium heat and toast until light to medium brown. (Could you just toast it in the toaster?) Heat milk in a small pan on low heat. Do not boil. Put toast on a plate, sprinkle well with sugar and a couple dashes of nutmeg. Pour hot milk over toast.
  • Murphy Beds | So, I once lived in some apartments above a Spaghetti restaurant in Lincoln, Neb. They were lovingly called the "Spaghetti Works Aparments," and every studio apartment (which was all of them) had a murphy bed (that's the kind you pull down from the wall). A lot of the apartments' mattresses and murphy beds were removed and/or nasty, but mine was amazing. I slept on that bed with pride for an entire year. I truly adore the Murphy Bed -- in small spaces, it's the only answer. 
  • Poetry | Is it really dead? I don't think so. I feel like all the signs point to me picking poetry back up. After all, I once-upon-a-time was a Slam Poet.
  • Reporter's Notebooks | Gone the way of reporters, I fear. 
  • Scarves in Dressing Rooms | This is probably the coolest thing I've never even heard of. According to Blume, "Elegant retailers used to have a silk scarf hanging in each dressing room; you'd put it over your head as you tried on clothing, to protect your  hair and makeup and keep your lipstick from soiling the clothes." Of course, with things like bed bugs running rampant, I can see how this isn't so practical. 
  • Sealing Wax | I've been tempted to buy one of those envelope sealing kits for a long time. I saw some at Barnes & Noble during the holidays, but, alas, held back. 
  • Tailoring | If there's one thing I can recommend y'all look into, it's a tailor. I had one for my wedding dress and another formal dress I have, and she worked amazing wonders. In fact, if you're in the West Orange area, tell Melize Couture I sent you! But seriously, buy something you love, and then get it tailored. It's so worth it. 
  • Telegrams | One of my favorite family heirloom items is all of the telegrams my grandparents sent back and forth while my grandfather was stationed in France during WWII. They are truly prized and one-of-a-kind items. So why not revive the telegram culture over at Telegram Stop (I sent a friend one recently!). 
  • Themed Rooms | Back in college, in the honors dorm, we had a big room called the "Blue Room," because it was ridiculously blue. There was also the "Sunroom," which I dubbed "The Great Gatsby Room" because it made me feel very light and period-piece. Everyone should have a themed room ... because "dining room" and "living room" are just lame. 
  • Thick Walls | Because hearing our neighbors yell "Here comes the choo choo!" isn't my idea of a good time. 
  • Ziggurats | Okay, this one just gave me a laugh. Think about the last time the Israelites made one of these. How will did that go? 
Oh, and then there are things I am glad are dead, like
  • Phone Conversations | Today, I got so flummoxed during a phone call that I wished the person on the other end a "good weekend." It's Tuesday. I hate the phone. I always have. I'm horribly phone shy. And by that, I mean I get anxiety about making a phone call. Am I nuts? Probably, but I surmise that at the advent of the telephone, I probably would have run for the hills and not returned until the creation of the internet. 
With that, I guarantee you, this is not even a sampling ... this book is huge and full of soo many laughable and interesting goodies. So, to finish off this awesome book that I insist you go buy, I give you a quote of wits (one of the Blume's laments that is lost) from Oscar Wilde that couldn't be more witty or accurate!
A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kosher Fitness Fashion

I'm gym-going now, thanks to some good deals on some good gyms, and I'm hoping to get over this plateau'd weight that I've been at for nearly three years now. I know, I know -- it's healthy, right, to have a consistent weight. Or is it? I think three years at one weight is a little, well, weird. So I'm going to try to really tackle it. The big issue here, however, is what to wear to the gym. There's a recent post up at In The Pink about what folks wear to workout, so consider me inspired.

Kosher Fitness Fashion from Chaviva Galatz on Vimeo.

Now to go ice my knees ...

Prepare to Microwave Your Chicken

The greatest thing I miss about not being kosher is the convenience of many heat-and-eat products (after all, I once upon a time wrote food treyf-style reviews for I also was able to lose a hefty amount of weight by subsisting on Lean Cuisines, which are, from my memory, absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, being kosher means very few healthy, heat-and-eat options. Among the available options is probably the only healthy one, which is Garden Lites, but it's all veggies, all the time. You have to be a real lover of things like zucchini to take those on. But there's nothing like those giant family-size frozen options that I've found that are both gluten-free and won't clog my arteries on first-bite.

What if, say, you want a full-size chicken. And you want it in 20 minutes. You want it delicious. You want it moist. And? You want to make it in your microwave.

Tuvia got really excited. And he wanted to do the "Susanne Face."
I know, it's crazy. I thought it was crazy. When a rep with Empire Kosher called me about this new product -- the Ready to Roast Garlic and Herb Seasoned Chicken, I seriously thought he was insane. You can't buy un-kosher chicken that you can cook in 20 minutes in your microwave, so why on earth would the kosher market produce something?

There were some juices leaking from the bag, but otherwise? Ready to cook.
In my mind, all I can think is that the folks at Empire realize that we're busy -- all of us, not just Jews -- and having a fresh, delicious, kosher, seasoned chicken ready in 20 minutes is the best thing since sliced bread. The directions couldn't be more simple [this is my take on them, actually]:
Open the big bag. Inside is another bag. On one side it says "This side up" or something to that effect. Put the bag of chicken on a plate with the right side up. Cut two holes. Put in microwave. Cook for 20-22 minutes. Eat delicious, moist, seasoned chicken. Be happy. Use the time you could have used waiting for your chicken to be done to eat some delicious dessert or go for a walk or snuggle with your sweetie.  
He's got a knife! Steam.
My dear husband Tuvia described the chicken as "moist and flavorful." To which I responded, that's it? And he responded, "sure thing." Okay, so he's not one for words. The great thing about this chicken is that the seasoning really permeates throughout the bird. Oftentimes, as I've noticed in my own imperfect cooking, the seasoning I put on the skin sits there, and a lot of people don't eat the skin, so the flavor is lost. Empire did a great job making sure the flavor was throughout, and that the bird stayed super moist, even in the microwave.

I will say that the perfect cooking takes a bit of tweaking, and you have to check the packaging with the wattage of your microwave. We cooked ours initially for 20 minutes, then for another 2, and there were still a few spots we weren't sure about, but the thermometer (our's) showed us otherwise. We devoured the chicken, leaving just enough for me to take on a Chicken Taco Salad tomorrow. Leftovers are wonderful (and that shows you how plentiful the chicken is).

Yes, Empire gave me this bird to try. Yes, I'm happy that it was free. But seriously? It was at Glatt Express here in Teaneck for about $15, which is nothing for a meal that with some potatoes and veggies could easily feed four people. But those of you who've read me for a while know that I'm honest in my reviews. If you don't believe me, check out some of my honesty over on my Yelp page. So go out, buy a delicious Empire Kosher Chicken, and be prepared to kick back and have dinner in no time at all.

Happy eating! (PS: I'm pretty sure this is NASA technology ... what else could it be!?)

The delicious, well-seasoned, moist as a summer night in Washington D.C. chicken. B'tayavon! (Bon appetit!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Wanted to Be a What?

February 17, 2007
Post Title: Biggidy Bam (a meme)

And I quote ...
67. If you could have any job (assuming you have the skills) what would it be? rabbi or judaic studies professor.
WHAT?! Okay, this journey back in time is going to be much more interesting than I anticipated ...

A Perplexing Place in the Jewish World?

I have a question that I'm hoping my faithful readers (and maybe a few rabbis) can chime in on. The topic?

Celibacy & Judaism

How does Judaism view those who choose a celibate lifestyle? On that same note, how does Judaism view those who simply do not marry -- either by choice or circumstance? What is the approach of the Jewish community to such individuals?

Note: I know that Judaism doesn't endorse celibacy. The idea has always been that a rabbi needs to know how to advise those who ask him questions, so shouldn't he be married and experienced and able to answer questions via personal experience and a sense of empathy and/or sympathy? I know I'm simplifying here, but please discuss!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Friendly Reminders

For your (and my) viewing pleasure ...

Haveil Havalim is up on Jack's "Random Thoughts -- Do They Have Meaning?"

Be sure to sign up for a Kosher Advantage card for three free months when you use code "kvetching."

Also, head over to jDeal NY and "like"  my comment for the second week of the Battle of the Bloggers competition. Someone just took the lead from me ... HELP!

When Did You "Know"?

It's 2011. It's still 5771, but welcome to 2011. It's a prime year, you know. Enjoy it while you can!

Taken August 18, 2004 in my old room at my parents' house. Yes, that's a Fiddler on the Roof shirt.
Feeling nostalgic and trying to really map out my Jewish journey, I turned to my LiveJournal. Yes, I had a LiveJournal. It started way back in 1997 or 1998, I forget, and had several different versions before it settled into its most recent embodiment, which was live from 2002-06 when I started this blog, although since 2006 it's had some odds and ends posts, and most recently is my depository of dreams. The important thing about this journal is that it (should) chronicles my journey into Judaism period. It was of the Reform variety by the time I converted in 2006, but was it always like that? It's funny how we remember our own histories in a very specific way, and how written, historic facts can sometimes change what we know.

The way I tell it -- and the way I remember it -- is that sometime in 2003 (even this is fuzzy), a friend and I were talking over religion in what I like to call the Great Gatsby Room of Neihardt Hall in Lincoln, Nebraska. It's the Honors Dorm, and conversations tended to roll around religion and politics and the typical geekwad stuff you'd suspect. That night, as it was a night, amid studying, it turned to religion. I had a lot of new friends who were very seriously religious Christians (as many of my high school friends had been), and many of them were more of the proselytizing bent than I was used to. Thus, we talked religion. For me, at that point, I'd already stepped out of the role of a Christian and had turned toward being agnostic with my own "subset" of beliefs about the world, religion, and G-d. Having explained all of this to this friend, he suggested I look into Judaism and the rest, as I tell people, is history.

But is that how it went? Well, I can't peg the moment, unfortunately, when the light of Judaism was turned on, but I can peg some other significant moments. I want to blog about these over the coming days, weeks, months, whatever, in order to piece together perhaps how I got to where I am and perhaps shed some light -- for you and me -- on how I ended up an "Orthodox Jew."

Consider this Phase 1. A note about this post below. This was well over six years ago, and probably more than a year after I'd discovered and fell in love with Judaism. It took me a long time to get to a synagogue because I had ZERO Jewish friends and no direction in which to go. It took me a long time to even realize we had a synagogue in town. What I don't remember about this time, however, is struggling about what type of conversion to have. Evidently, I was cognizant of this before I even started studying for conversion. I'm going to insert some comments as I go, so look out. Man, I wish I could go back and talk to 2004 me.

Date: August 14, 2004
Current mood: Grateful
Post title: First time at Synagogue!

OK. So Temple was amazing. I went last night to 7:45 service, hung around for the Oneg, chatted with many of the members, then got up this morning and went for the 9:30 service and stuck around for Torah Study which lasted till about 12. Then I went to lunch with J and D (a convert) at Open Harvest. Talk about a delicious meal with good Jew-related conversation.

The service began and I felt terribly relaxed. I had no problem reading the prayer book (as it went from back to front, you know) and sounding out the words was no problem. There was a lot of people there last night because Rabbi Stiel was in town, so tons of people came. There were children wandering around, and men had on their head attire. The songs were beautiful, and the Hebrew flowed so fine through the synagogue. The windows had beautiful, colored stained glass, and the ark with the Torah was a beautiful wood. The star of david was everywhere and the candles were lit. But the building was completely, and utterly simple. It was beautiful, but in the most simplistic of ways. During silent prayer, the building was echoing of thoughts, it was the strangest thing. Everyone was so still, so silent, but there was this constant echo. I felt so at ease reciting the verses and singing the songs. And I loved the old-world feel of the voices singing ... it was so ... historical and omnipresent.

Afterward was the Oneg. We ate challah and chatted over fruit and nuts and other things. B, this little 4 year old, was running around all over the place and his sister was chasing him. Their father introduced himself to me and shook my hand. He was VERY Jewish. [I wonder what I meant by this exactly. Then again, I'd encountered around 2 Jews at this point, so ...] There was an old man who had a button that said "Cancer Sucks" and lots of other children and families. Not as many as I was hoping though ... and not as many yarmulkas as I was hoping for either. But I reminded myself it was a Reform Synagogue. And this, is something I struggle with. [I wish I had elaborated here. I don't remember being frustrated -- at that time -- with the observance or numbers or anything. How bizarre.]

Last night I came home and went straight to bed at 11. I slept and was going to go to the Farmer's Market, but slept in instead. J picked me up 'round 9:20, so we were a little late for service. There wasn't enough for a minyan, which stunk, but it was a nice intimate service. Afterward LOTS of people showed up for Torah Study. There was 2 other people there who are in the conversion process, E and J. E had her husband J with her -- and he was a hoot. We were reading something from Deuteronomy today ... and I kept fairly quiet. Though I wanted to speak up when Rab. Stiel mentioned Maimonides and while we were talking about Orthodox Jews. But we had good laughs. [Wow. Huh? Orthodox Jews and what? Why laughs? Where were the details!? I'd slap me in the face if I could.]

After the study we went to lunch at Open Harvest for lunch. It's a grocery store/co-op/deli, and it was delicious. I bought some overpriced vegetables and fruits, but damn they looked good. I intend on going back to Open Harvest to buy produce when the farmer's market closes for the year. I'll probably become a member of the co-op ... 10 bucks a year isn't much for the good food. AND ... they sell a LOT of kosher items, which rocks.  ... [I don't remember kashrut even being on my radar at this point. I'm kind of proud, but upset I didn't embrace kashrut until nearly four years later.]

But one last thing ... I can't explain how connected I felt last night. It's amazing how at ease I was with the people, with the prayerbook, the words and the space. And this morning I made myself at home in the kitchen making coffee for everyone. I just felt ... like I belonged there. It wasn't a you and them thing, it was an "US" thing. And that is how I know this is for me. Now it just sucks because I have a whole week till services again ... but the problem is this: Friday night I said I'd help out at the stadium for this STUPID stadium walk they're doing. So I could go to Saturday service and torah study ... but I enjoy Friday night service. It's a nice culmination to the week.

So I think that the change in my priorities will be set now, changed and set. And I'm completely, COMPLETELY, happy with that. Now I just have to figure out ... do I want to convert Reform? Or do I want to convert Conservative/Orthodox where there is more halakic focus. Le sigh. This is a huge consideration, folks. [Hold the phone. What? I recall wanting to visit the Conservative shul to figure out whether that was a better route, but I don't remember *seriously* considering it. I also remember the huge turnoff the Conservative shul was for me. I guess the deal was sealed, but I'm happy to know that I was trying to educate myself on all avenues.]

OK. Time to walk ...


Looks like I'll have to go farther back in time. Clearly by August 2004 I was well on my way to converting. Heck, I was battling over what derech and thinking about kashrut and Shabbos observance as serious things. I give me some props for being aware. But "when" is the question here. So back to the annals ...