Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Delicious Jewish Music: I Give You JudaBlue

I'm a sucker for music. I'm a real sucker for Jewish music. And I'm a massive sucker for new Jewish music. I was contacted by a fellow NYU student named Yaniv with a link to a music video for his band, JudaBlue, which is a band of guys jamming Jewish Rock. Less than a minute in to the video, I'm totally sold -- and it's not because the video is crazy professional for such a fresh band. (FYI: Yaniv is the manager and guitarist for the band.)

Want to help me make them viral? Spread it around, folks. These guys have something very good in store for them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Chasidishe Woman Waxes Frum on Fly-Aways

Just. Breathe.

It appears that 1:30 in the morning is the only time that I have to myself these days. I'm insanely busy with two part-time jobs (that really seem full-time), full-time school, full-time being a wife, and the list goes on and on. Even Shabbat doesn't last long enough. By the time I get my nap in, the day is gone, and I'm looking at my inbox and going into anxiety overdrive about how much I have to do.

Just. Breathe.

I had a great Shabbat this past weekend in Monsey for the bar mitzvah of In The Pink's beloved second-youngest son. Tuvia and I descended upon the home of good friends who feel more like family than friends these days (and this is, of course, a good thing). There was good food, good people, good accommodations, and, most of all, good simcha. There were a few anecdote worthy moments, including one that Hadassah reported on in which her youngest, who we call The Big Mo, walked up to my dear husband Tuvia and said, "Do you want me to sit on your lap so you can practice for when you have babies?" to which Tuvia said, "Um ... no?" The Big Mo responded, "Don't you remember last time?" in reference to the last time we were around for Shabbat when The Big Mo spent some quality time with Tuvia bouncin' cowboy-like on his lap. Adorable, right?

The other anecdote-worthy moment was in the vein of A Wedding and a Stylish Hasidic Woman (Er ... Me). I'm standing at kiddush with newfound in-real-life friends when a woman walks up to me asking me if I'm So-and-So. I respond that I'm not, after which she proceeds to tell me about how she's looking for a "Chasidish woman," and I looked the part. She said she'd heard that a sheitel with a headband (my style) is representative of chasidish women, so thus she saw me among the dozens of sheiteled women in the room and assumed I was the chasidish one in the crowd.

I really think that if you picked me up and put me down in Williamsburg that I would stick out like a sore thumb, but with all of this newfound information about the Satmar heritage of Tuvia's family, maybe we're coming full circle or something. Unfortunately for you all, the only picture I have of my chasidishe look from the bar mitzvah weekend are post-sheitel removal. Lame, I know.

What a family, eh?
I'd really wanted to make this post about hair covering and where I currently am at with it, as far as emotionally, but it's late, and I'm quite tired. Sunday night we went to a big dinner for AABJ&D, the big shul in West Orange that Tuvia's family helped found. I sported my sheitel in the class look then, too. I got a lot of compliments on the 'do, actually, but there was one thing that made me roll back -- "I was trying to describe you to her, but, well, without your hair ..." Or something to that effect. It's hard being easily spot-able without my traditional, spiked-up 'do. It isn't that I miss the hair or the cut or the style insomuch as I'd ever consider giving up hair covering (at this point), but sometimes I wonder if I'm still that recognizable person with only my signature glasses, which, by the way, are set to be changed this week to something more ... purple.

It used to be easy to be spotted in a crowd, the motions of spikey hair done with fingers to strangers being pointed in my direction. Spikes gone, hair grown long, I'm still figuring out what I like best. Tichels and sheitels and scrunchy knit hats. I keep saying there's a time and a place for each type of hair covering, and it's true. In Israel, I felt comfortable only in my tichel. When at weddings and party-like functions, I feel naked without my sheitel. In the winter, I rationalize a knit hat almost everyday because not only do I "fit in," but it's easy, casual, and stylish. In certain company, I would never sport a sheitel and in other company I wouldn't think of wearing a hat. Times and places, folks.

No matter what I do, I spend all day shoving my hair back in, tiny hairs that fly out and try to break free, darn them. All the pins and bobbles in the world can't seem to keep them away from sunlight and fresh air. They're jealous of my bangs, my homegrown bangs that no, are not clip-ins. My bangs that I can't seem to get right no matter how many times I cut them. But I look at the picture in my banner and think, Damn, I look good. I look stylishly frum. I'm the model frummie for the 21st century! Plaster me on the cover of Frum Yid Quarterly.

Hair. I longed for the day that I would cover my hair and not have to worry about putting it away and styling it and blow-drying it. Yet, I stress about it morning, noon, and night. Is it falling out? Do I look good? Do people know I'm Jewish because of my head-gear?

Over the weekend, while I was at Starbucks (I'm holding by the OU, folks), a very frum woman made her way to me -- of all people in the store, including the employees -- to ask where a certain street was. I was wearing a tichel, and clearly she knew I was a yid. It made me smile inside. She felt more comfortable asking me than anyone else. It was a hair-covered connection.

Just. Breathe.

It's late, and I should sleep. This chasidishe woman who battles with fly-away hairs needs her beauty rest. Time to recoup and refresh and figure out what the weather's going to be like and whether the day will call for a knit hat or something more, something less. And since I'm a month behind in laundry, well, our options for clothing to pair with covered hair are limited. Am I kvetching? Probably, maybe. I don't do much of that here on the blog, so pardon the tone if this post is a little ... morose. It's not meant to be, but it's one of those stream-of-consciousness posts in the wee hours of the morning and thus you get what you get. But seriously ...

May these be the worst of my problems. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: Our Jewish History

Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the worst industrial disaster in New York City history: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The fire resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in United States History.

Do you know about it? Did you know that most of the 146 victims were Jewish? Women? Did you know that the owners of the tenement factory also were Jewish? And that they got off scott free?

I'm guessing most of you said no. I'm writing about this because we spent an entire class period in one of my courses devoted to the fire and its role in Jewish education and whether it has a role in Jewish education.

I learned about the Triangle Fire way back when in history class during discussions on labor law and tenement factories and the immigrant experience, but it didn't have a Jewish angle (and it wouldn't have, me living in Nebraska at the time). But I'm surprised to meet so many Jews (my dear husband Tuvia included) who have never even heard of this horrible event in Jewish history.

A mockup image of where the fire started.
What happened? In a nutshell, young girls were the most common figures in shirtwaist factories in the early 1900s. Many of these young girls were Italian and Jewish immigrants who were the first and only members of their family to come state-side. These girls would work in sweat shops, 14 hours a day or more, in order to save and send money back to bring the rest of their families to the states. So many of these girls were Jewish, because many of these tenement factories were in Lower Manhattan, near the Lower East Side, which was a hub of Jewish life in the early 1900s. Most of these girls left shtetls and traditional Jewish lifestyles and were forced to work on Shabbos. It was the great compromise of many Jewish immigrants, and it changed forever the landscape of religious Jewish identity.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was located on what is now the NYU Campus in New York City at 29 Washington Place. The building still stands and it is the Chemistry Building currently, and there are three plaques on the building memorializing the event -- have you seen them? On Shabbos, March 25, 1911, the sweatshop was full of workers, someone dropped a cigarette into a pile of cloth, and a fire blew up on the upper floors of the building. The doors were locked, the fire ladders only reached the eighth floor, and 40 people ended up leaping from the building to their death (and a comparison was drawn on 9/11 to this very event). The death toll was 146, and most of them were Jewish young women.

After the event, there was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, and the labor community was changed forever -- labor laws were enacted, and the fire went down in history as a turning point in U.S. Labor Law. And then? Poof. We forgot it happened. We forgot it was a Jewish disaster, and we forgot that Jews helped shape labor law in the U.S. through a horrible loss of life.

There were stories reported in the Yiddish newspaper after the event that an adjacent floor had negotiated with their floor boss to leave at noon before Shabbos each week, and so they were saved from the fire. There was another story about one of the worker girls who felt like she was betraying her family back in the Old Country, so she skipped work and watched the building burn from the street, in horror. Miracles? Coincidence?

Seeing the pictures is horrifying, because I walk on that street, where those bodies fell, at least four days a week.

Here's my point: This event was huge and so important in American Jewish history. I think, too, that it is possible that it impacted the worldwide Jewish community in an untold way. Just think: More than 100 young Jewish girls, working to send money to their families in the Old Country, die in a fire. The flow of money stops. This means the families of a 100 or more girls do not make it to the U.S. as soon as they would have -- or, possible, ever. I wonder how many families perished in the Holocaust who would have made it to the U.S. otherwise? This hasn't been studied, at all, and I wish someone would look into the impact this event had on the worldwide community.

The owners, both Jewish, were acquitted. No one ever truly paid for the murders.
Here's my question: Did you learn about this in your Jewish education? Whether at Sunday School or Yeshiva or day School? Do you think this is relevant to the Jewish educational experience? Should this even be taught through a specifically Jewish lens? And, most importantly, do you think this event can be categorized as a uniquely Jewish event?

Food for Thought: Someone mentioned to me that because the fire happened while Jewish women were working on Shabbos, Yeshivot might not be willing to teach the topic. However, wouldn't the fact that so many were saved by making the choice not to work be a boon to teaching in an Orthodox, Shomer Shabbos environment? 

Also: The previously unknown names of six of the victims have been released. Several of them were engaged to be married. One of them was a man. 

Mah Nishtanah? Don't Ask.

Yes, we've already started buying Passover groceries (it was completely unplanned, we just happened to be at the grocery store, and we just happened to walk down the right aisle, and I just happened to freak out and buy gobs of gluten-free food), so I think it's time to start posting Passover videos.

This one, in particular, is hilarious, and it features the illustrious @benjilovitt. I sure hope this year's seders to more smoothly than this one ... (h/t to Batya at me-ander)

Also: My post about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is coming up, I promise. And stay tuned to for a gluten-free Passover piece by ... me!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Fiery Tragedy

TRIANGLE: Remembering the Fire from Blowback Productions on Vimeo.

The Road to Destruction

The Jewish blogosphere exploded with posts about the slayings of Mishpachat Fogel in Itamar more than a week ago. I say slayings because these weren't simply killings. It wasn't murder. Humans kill, humans commit murder. Slayings are committed by monsters, inhuman creatures that are not of the same dust as the rest of us.

The weird thing about this horrible event -- and that's a really weird statement to make -- is my initial reaction to reading about the slayings. In the deepest, most anguished parts of my guts, the depths of my everything, I had a feeling. A sensation. A yearning.

In that moment, I wanted to move to Israel, to the settlements, to set up shop, to plant my feet in the ground and have children. To say to the world "I am here!" In that moment my neshama was there, in Israel, screaming at the top of my lungs for the loss of precious, young life.

It was a bizarre feeling to have, largely because after three trips to Israel, my pull to Israel has waned. Birthright left me hungry, my second trip in 2009 pushed me further, and I began pleading with Tuvia to consider aliyah, and then, out of nowhere, on our trip in 2010 ... I felt funny. I didn't feel that spark. I even wrote about it here on the blog.

So where does that leave me? Frustrated. Angry. Watching footage from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and consider the destruction in the Middle East and the slayings of an innocent family, I'm frustrated. I don't know where we're going, where we've been, or how we'll pull ourselves out of the mess we've put ourselves in. What I do know is that Mother Nature conquers all and that when we're done destroying each other with our man-made weapons and hatred, HaShem will know what to do with us.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll be in Israel to see what HaShem has in store.

You can donate to the Victims of Terrorism Fund on the OU website. May the Fogel family and all Israel be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

More Redesign!

Hello faithful blog readers. Yes, I'm fudging around with the blog design again. What do you think? I'm struggling with it, although I love it, because some of the Blogger Main Page Options are being trampled by the code, which comes from a Wordpress theme. If I can get it fixed, this will stay as is, otherwise? I might have to search out something new.

Let me know what you think. I don't want to keep changing, but ...

Chag Sameach!

While at SXSW Interactive this year, I had the option to play Live Action Angry Birds. Yes, I know what you're thinking, and no, I'm not an Angry Birds addict. My dear husband Tuvia, however, is addicted (disgustingly so), so I decided to hit up the Angry Birds room in order to make him brim with jealousy. The whole schtick was to dress up in these ridiculous life-size costumes, use the gigantic slingshot, and fling a red, plush Angry Bird at a real-life stacked structure. You got three tries to knock down as many things as possible, and I happened to smash the structure to bits in ONE fling of a plush bird! People were hooting, hollering, and one guy was even bowing down to me. It was ridiculous, and I'm still not interested in playing Angry Birds, but out of it I got two items for our Purim costumes -- the plush red Angry Bird and Tuvia's green T-shirt. I made the rest. Aren't I crafty?

I hope you all have a meaningful Purim. I, of course, am obligated to mention that y'all should check out Greek Esther if you've never read it before. It's starkly in contrast with Hebrew Esther, in that the former is filled with HaShem and the latter is, well, not. You have to search for HaShem. I can't decide which would be better for us -- lots of HaShem or searching for HaShem, but I'm feeling like the latter allows us to see the true miracle in the events of Purim.

Stay tuned for most posts the senseless killings in Itamar, my experiences at SXSW Interactive, hair covering (yes, that again), and more. Chag sameach!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jewish Synergy: Social Media & The New Community

If you couldn't make it live online for my SXSW Interactive core conversation "Jewish Synergy: Social Media and the New Community," you can catch it online on UStream!

I'd love any feedback or comments. My plans for camera setup failed miserably, so we came to you live from @susqhb's laptop (even my laptop was hating on me).

If anything, zip to the end and catch the amazing, beautiful, bouncing baby boy, Baby Boo!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

AirTran, You Suck.

Well, SXSW is over, and I am exhausted. The trip is always just long enough to wear me out, but not too long to make me regret taking the time and energy. Overall, I think I got a lot more out of this trip than I did last year because I was more focused in picking panels, and I also didn't kill myself trying to make it to everything. I would say things were chill, and I met a lot of really interesting people. This will probably be a muli-part post, because I have some kvetching and some kvelling to do. First, of course is the kvetching.

Tuvia dropped me at Laguardia at 5:45 am last Friday for a 7 am AirTran flight, and the day just fell apart from there. Why? It began with security. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt with a zip black hoodie/cardigan thing and a gray knit hat. The woman at security asked me to remove my "jacket" and hat. I told her I was an Orthodox Jew (I can't even count how many times I said this phrase during my trip) and that for modesty purposes, I couldn't remove them. She was zero tolerance and called for a full-body pat down. The woman who checked me out went quick, but moved my hat around, which upset me. I was upset that they even asked. It's New York. There are lots of Orthodox Jews. Did Dallas ask me to remove my hat on my way back? Nope!

I got to the AirTran gate with plenty of time to spare and grabbed a seat. As 7 neared and no plane was at our gate, people started to get antsy. Then, finally at 6:50, they decided to tell us that our plane was having difficulties and told us to go to a different gate. So evryone went to that gate, but there was no explanation of what was supposed to happen. Then, after people started asking, we found out that none of us would make our Atlanta connections, so we had to get into a line to rebook our connections. It being Friday, I was worried about making it to Dallas in time for Shabbat, so I went to the front of the line and explained to the conter guy my situation. Hs reaction? Tough luck, you have to wait in line like everyone else. I turned to the people in the front of the line and explained my situation, asking if I could hop in the front of the line to secure something ASAP (before any spare seats got eaten up). The girl in the front of the line looked at me and said, "Are you kidding? No way. Get in line like everyone else." The people behind her iterated something similar. The attitude, the snark, the scowls on the faces shocked me. No sympathy, no understanding, nothing. I wasn't asking for a hand-out, but I was in a serious bind. 

I went back about five or six people to a group of women and explained my situation and asked if I could cut them in line, and they were more than willing. They were incredibly sympathetic and felt really horribly for me. I got up to the counter, to the, pardon my French, jerk of an AirTran employee and, once again, explained the situation. "I have a 5 o'clock flight that will get you in at 6:30, but I can only put you on standby," he said, completely unsympathetic. I begged, I pleaded, I explained that my husband had looked online and found five open seats on a 3 something flight. "Nope," he said, as he printed me out a standby ticket for a flight that was completely worthless anyway. I was almost in tears. This guy didn't get it. I asked if they'd transfer my ticket to another airline if someone had a flight, and he said they could refund me if I found something. I asked him to check his computer for other airlines with flights, because they'd announced that a new plane was coming to take the 7 o'clock passengers, so I had minimal time to figure something out. "We don't have that information on our computers, you have to go check with each of them," he said. Stunned, I walked away, and then ran away, to the Southwest counter, where they were boarding a flight that would get me to Dallas -- however, it was $600, they wouldn't be able to transfer my luggage, and, oh, right, the door was closing. I asked the guy if he could access other flights with other airlines on his computer, and he did, meaning the jerk at AirTran was too much of a jack*** to help me out of my bind. 

I ran back to the AirTran gate, figuring that if I at least took the plane to Atlanta, I could find a place in Atlanta to stay for Shabbat and maybe find a flight that would get me to Dallas before Shabbat. And then? They started to prepare to board the 8 o'clock flight to Atlanta. I walked over, begging for a spot on board. The flight would get in in just enough time to give me to transfer to my 10:15 to Dallas. And then? The woman at the counter said that because my luggage was already set for the 7 o'clock flight, I couldn't get on board. Why? WHY!? Both planes were going to Atlanta! My bag had to be transferred anyway! So I waited. Angry. I waited. The plane didn't come until ... I don't even remember when. Everyone boarded, we took off, and on-board, with free Twitter access, I started crowd-sourcing Shabbat plans in Atlanta. I was still holding out for the plane to seriously gun-it and make it in for my 10:15 a.m. flight. While in-flight, someone let me know that the flight had been delayed to 10:30, I was still hopeful. 

The worst part of all of this was that they didn't communicate with us, it took forever to get a new plane, they didn't offer any kind of compensation for the CRAPTASTIC way they handled things, they were rude, and ... I mean ... you had an entire plane of people that you screwed over and you didn't follow-through with good customer service. AirTran, you followed-through with radio silence and rudeness. Way to #fail.

And then? We landed, I ran out of the aircraft, only to discover that the flight had just left. Half of the 10:15 flight was on my plane, so I guess there were a lot of people on standby who got really frakin' lucky. I walked to the gate attendant and told her I was having a serious emergency, so she sent me to a counter to rebook. The woman at the counter told me she had nothing, but to go to "The Specialist" Ben down at the main gate. I ran, I booked it, to this specialist guy. After all of my troubles, and explaining my story to five million people, most of which were unsympathetic and didn't give a crap, all it took was me telling Ben that I was an Orthodox Jew, that I needed to get to Dallas by 5 p.m., or else I was screwed. He tapped at his computer, printed out a pass, handed it to me, and said, "Don't go flaunting this around, there are a lot of people from your flight on standby for the 3 o'clock flight, but I squeezed you in, a window seat is okay?" I wanted to kiss the man. Like, fly over the counter and just hug him. It would be pushing it, but I was on the flight. Luckily, the seat was in a cushy space with lots of leg room and the flight was smooth. My luggage arrived (I was really worried about that), and I was picked up by @ravtex, schlepped off to his and @susqhb's place in Dallas, I hopped in the shower, hosed down, got dressed, and bam, it was Shabbos. 

Luckily, my trip back has been smoother. I know that I'll never fly AirTran ever again, because their customer service is horrible, save for the amazing Ben in Atlanta. When I checked my luggage this morning in Dallas, which I paid $20 to do online, and it was weighed, it was 9 pounds too heavy. I looked at the pricing chart, and it looked like an overweight item was $49. So, I assumed, I would only have to pay another $29. Nope, the lady says, it's $20 and an additional $49. What the hell? Seriously? $69 to check a bag? You've got to be kidding me. I paid it, because I didn't have a choice, but this means that AirTran is on my you-know-what list, and I will never, NEVER fly them ever again. 

Thank heavens Southwest Airlines is now flying out of Newark (well, starting late March). I hope that Southwest knows that they bought a dud when they bought AirTran. Maybe they'll rub off on AirTran and make them suck less and not rip their customers off so horribly. Oh, and maybe teach them some sensitivity training. 

I love travelling, I love flying, and most of the time, I don't have problems, as an Orthodox Jew, but man this time killed me. Next year? I'm flying direct to Austin like I did last year, and I'm going to make Shabbos there, too. Why? It'll make life so much easier. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friend Heading to Israel Needs Advice!

Hello faithful blog readers! I have a request and need your advice for a friend.

She's planning on a trip for her 30th birthday. Can you give her some advice on good options? Here are the specs:

  • Travelers will be ages 60, 50, 30, and 18.
  • One person is very interested in religion, and three people less so. 
  • All are interested in art and culture and food.
  • Two people are interested in being active (a modest hike, dead sea).
  • Hotel doesn't have to be kosher.
    • Not five-star, but nothing slummed out.
  • Planning a seven-day trip. Maybe 10 days. 
  • Important: No one speaks Hebrew, and two people read it only so-so. 
    • Would you recommend a tour guide?

So? What's your advice? My only major tip is to devote a ton of time to going to The Israel Museum. It's *amazing.* Oh, and go to Papagaio, it's deliciously meaty and amazing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SXSW Interactive: It Begins!

Well, it's that time of year again, and I'm at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX. (If you recall, I was here last year on the "Judaism 2.0" panel.)

I pitched a panel, as many of you might remember, called "Jewish Synergy: Social Media and the New Community" and it got picked and I picked @susqhb to co-panel with me. So here I am, after an interesting and sort of horrible flight in from Jersey to Dallas (will blog about this later, watch out AirTran) that almost got me in too close to Shabbat. There are gobs of awesome folks here, including @mottel and @wifeofmottel, and I was talking to the awesome folks @yoogot -- a new site coming up that is better than eBay and everything else, because it helps you figure out what to do with your stuff: repurpose, sell it, donate it, etc. (and one of the founders is a super-tall Jew, so, relevant) -- about a Conan O'Brien spotting last night at a bar. I'm praying I'll run into him ... that tall hunk of Irishman that he is. Last year it was Ashton Kutcher, this year, I'm shooting for CoCo.

I haven't been to the Apple Pop-Up store, but I've heard the store itself isn't very impressive. But still, I'm going to get me an iPad 2, no matter what it takes.

Stay tuned for stellar updates, a blog post about AirTran #failing, and more. Until then, just ruminate on how disgruntled I am that the Trade Show doesn't open until tomorrow. There will be good stuff about keeping kosher, meeting strange and new people, and, well, like I said, more. Like trying to figure out how to balance work and fun at the same time, when they're all happening on my computer.

Time for caffeine!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Drool, Swoon ... Maccabeats!

I'm such a sucker for handsome faces and amazing voices (sorry Tuvia, you've got the former, but the latter we both know isn't your strongest point), and I'm in love with the new Purim Song from The Maccabeats. I might have to go to one of their concerts soon ...

My favorite line? Around the three-minute mark: So raise your glass if see G-d in hidden places, he's right in front of you! (To the tune of Pink's "Raise Your Glass.")

Preach on, Maccabeats!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No More Starbucks, It Seems.

Hi, my name is Chaviva, and I am freaking ... out. Freaking. Seriously. Y'all know I live for coffee, right? That my "office" is Starbucks, right?

Well, evidently Starbucks is not recommended anymore ... in most cases. Why? Things get washed together, that's why. Sigh. Just ... just read what the cRc says in their obnoxious chart.

EDIT: Food for thought on a few sites -- looks like this is an OU vs. cRc battle. Some links:

Looks like it's not so clear. I'll keep going ... until someone gives me a reason not to, it seems. 

EDIT TWO (03/08/2011): From my rabbi I received this, which makes me happy. I hold by the OU, so I feel RELIEF!

The kosher status of beverages at Starbucks is a constant topic of inquiry. The following list of approved beverages, compiled by the Orthodox Union (OU), provides the guidance that can avoid the confusion and answer most questions. 
All Plain Brewed Coffees 
Café Latte 
Café Misto 
Clover Brewed Coffee 
Decaf Pike Peak Roast 

FLAVORED LATTE (hot or iced) 

Irish Cream 
Caramel - regular and sugar free (not the topping) 
Cinnamon Dolce- regular and sugar free (not the topping) 
Cinnamon Syrup 
Classic/Simple Coconut 
Dark Cherry 
Hazel nut – regular and sugar free 
Natural Almond Peppermint - regular and sugar free 
Raspberry - regular and sugar free 
Toffee Nut 
Valencia Vanilla - regular and sugar free 

Whipped cream at every store needs to be checked by the consumer.

(H/T to Shades of Grey)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Babies Are Happiness

Seriously. Especially this one. I adore this one.

Think about babies, and smile!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Response: Dating During Conversion

I've been pondering a response to Kochava's Why You Shouldn't Date During Conversion blog post, and I think I'm finally in the right mood to write it. In short, I almost completely disagree with just about everything she wrote (but I do adore her, so it's no personal :D).

The long-dating couple before my first beth din meeting in NYC in November 2009.
As you all know, I converted Reform in 2006, many moons before meeting my now husband Tuvia. I started attending an Orthodox shul in Chicago in 2008, many months before meeting Tuvia. I moved to Connecticut, and almost instantly I met Tuvia, who at that time was in a sort of religious oasis -- he'd grown up in a religious community, gone to a Conservative day school for 15 years, been incredibly active in Hillel during college, and after college even attempted to find a Conservative synagogue, but with no luck. When I met him, he was in what I like to think of as an "either way" kind of space. But in one of our first conversations, I told him plain and simple: I'm a Reform convert going Orthodox, and if you're not going in that direction, then let's not waste each other's time. Tuvia was willing to go on the journey with me, and that journey had a lot of challenges, but none that I regret.

I knew about the complications of dating while in-process, but after speaking with a lot of people and doing my own research and soul searching, my conclusion was that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I frequently tell those in-process that this is how it works:
If you're dating a Jew while in-process, the community and rabbis will think you're converting for marriage. Some will be okay with that, some won't. If you're not dating anyone while in-process, the rabbis will be highly concerned over how on earth you'll ever land a husband, being a convert and all, and post-conversion will insist on setting you up with other converts (which is fine, but it pigeonholes converts, much like the Jews of Color community, which often gets set up with other Jews of color -- again, fine, but pigeonholed). Catch 22!
Tuvia and I started studying with a rabbi for my Orthodox conversion in January 2009. It's funny how it was all a review for me, but it was largely new to Tuvia, who really enjoyed learning. I struggled for many months with whether Tuvia was doing Orthodoxy for me or for himself, and I didn't want there to be a developed resentment in our relationship where I became the religious zealot of a convert and he became the unwilling participant in a love conquers all situation. (This falls under what Kochava wrote as "if your new partner isn't orthodox but you're in the orthodox conversion process.") We had a lot of discussions about it, and Tuvia assured me that he was doing it because he wanted to -- not for me. And things moved forward. (Although, let's be honest, this still haunts me, and Tuvia knows it.)

Perhaps we were blessed, but our community had zero problems and didn't react negatively at all to our situation. In fact, many people in the community thought that Tuvia was the one going through the conversion process -- not me. The decision to start observing shomer negiah was largely mine, but Tuvia understood the importance and was more than willing to go along with the observance. Was it easy? No, but for us, it was a powerful mitzvah to take on in our journey together. Many in the community were actually impressed/shocked/flabbergasted that a young modern Orthodox couple would even observe shomer negiah, believe it or not. But we held to it, because it was powerful spiritually for us (well, at least me).

We never faced chastisement, and we were upfront and honest with the beth din about everything.

The only major problem that ever came up, in the entire time of our dating and studying and going from community to community and Israel and to the two beth din meetings I had leading up to my Orthodox conversion on January 1, 2010 was the following question, posed by my beth din during the first meeting.
If you knew you were going to convert Orthodox, and you'd decided to do so before moving to Connecticut, why on earth would you join JDate (that big, ugly, non-Orthodox dating service) with the intent of meeting someone? 
Talk about a great question. Mad props to my converting rabbis. This is a great question, and the funny thing is, I really don't have a good reason. I hadn't been on JDate for probably a good two years, back when I was living in Washington D.C. from 2006-2007. But there was this funny feeling I had, especially after my good friend Reuven visited the Lubavitcher rebbe's ohel and davened (prayed) for me to make a shidduch (match) with a nice fellow. I moved to Connecticut mid-August 2008, and I joined JDate almost instantly when I arrived. Within a few days, Tuvia had contacted me, and the rest is history. It just felt right, oddly enough.

When I explained this to the rabbis, they sort of cocked their heads sideways at me. But they understood. If anything, they understood that I'd helped bring one Jew -- Tuvia -- closer to mitzvot and observance through my own actions and passion for Judaism. I think that this, above all else, allowed my beth din to see that I wasn't doing this for marriage, and that if anything, I was bringing a little light into the world through Tuvia. They asked Tuvia, many times, what his background was and how he'd arrived at Orthodoxy, because they also wanted to know that he was truly into Orthodoxy and not just along for the ride with me. But neither of us had a problem with this. (This also falls under what Kochava wrote as "if your new partner isn't orthodox but you're in the orthodox conversion process.")

All this being said, I understand where Kochava is coming from. It doesn't always work out so swimmingly. Plenty of people drop out of the process, plenty of people intermarry when they get fed up with the process, and yes, it happens. But, and I believe this firmly, if you meet someone while you're in-process, and you fall in love, and you know that this person is your one, then the passion that existed before you met that person will shine through, and your beth din will be beyond cognizant of this. It's all about planting your feet firmly and saying, "I am a Jew, I am meant to be a Jew" and your story will tell itself.

Does this work for everyone? No, but I'm not a believer in sacrificing your happiness for an assumed opinion of the institution of Orthodox conversion. Believe it or not, conversion still works on a case-by-case basis (except maybe in California, but in all things, exceptions exist ... it is Judaism after all). To write off your happiness for fear of chastisement by a rabbi or the community just means you're letting yourself be bullied. Be happy, be confident. It can be worth it.

A Perfectly Purim Giveaway!

With Purim right around the corner, I'm sure you're all stocking up on delicious sweet treats for your mishloach manot baskets (and, of course, some for yourself), so here I am with another giveaway -- this time from the amazing folks at Oh!Nuts.

If you're not familiar with Oh!Nuts, they're purveyors of all things salty and sweet, chocolatey and healthy, fruity and gummy. I even sent a box of chocolates to my parents for the holidays in December! (And, of course, they loved them.) My dear Tuvia loves their Sweet 'n' Salty Cashews, and I'm a sucker for Koppers Coffee Cordials (alas, not gluten-free so I don't eat them anymore) and Mocha & Coffee Lentils.

Are you ready? Here are the details on how you can get a delicious Purim Basket!

To enter and win here on the blog:
  • To win $30 gift certificate to use on Oh!Nuts choose your favorite Purim Gift and leave a comment with the name and URL of the gift you like the most.
  • A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, March 10, 2011, at 10 p.m.
To enter and win with Oh!Nuts directly (they will pick the winners):

Good luck, everyone! I can't wait to share some sweets with you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cheese Basket Winner!

I am ever-so-happy to announce the winner of what has been called the Best Giveaway Ever, a basket of delicious kosher cheese from Anderson International Foods. The winner's recipe will appear on March 10 on the Sincerely Brigitte blog, too!

So, without further ado ... the winner of this amazing giveaway is ...

And the great thing about Drew's recipe? It's straight up Passover! Yes, it's a Passover Frittata. Thank you to everyone for entering -- I wish you ALL could have one. Stay tuned for the next giveaway, which will be an Oh!Nuts gift certificate, just in time for Purim!

Enjoy the cheese, Drew. Can't wait to see the recipes with which you'll come up!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's a Negative Mitzvah to Not What?

Concise Book of Mitzvoth (The Torah Classics Library) (English and Hebrew Edition)There are a lot of really horribly written and poorly edited pieces of Judaica out there. I've kvetched about plenty, including one that was required reading for my conversion that was more confusing than it was worth (don't use your oven on Shabbos! okay, you can use it, but only in this way! did we mention NEVER to use your oven?). But this one, folks, takes the cake for ridiculousness.

The book? The Concise Book of Mitzvoth.

The translation on this is horrible. Horrible to the point of being absolutely blasphemous. The problem? In Hebrew, double-negatives are the norm. For example, to say "No one was there," you would say אף אחד לא היו שם. Translate that into English literally and you end up with "No one wasn't there," which means people were there. Thus, well, just ... look at this.

No! That doesn't give you right to start oppressing me, just because a book compiled by The Chafetz Chayim says so. But reading all of the negative commandments gave me a huge laugh. If a non-Jew picked up this book, they'd probably have some serious material to work with (of course, until they read the Hebrew, which is clear as day). I'll leave you with this one, which is just downright disturbing.
This is when literal translation goes wrong, wrong, SO wrong. Oy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Passover Opportunity for Students

The folks at MatzaFun Tours contacted me about promoting this contest, and I think my readership is the perfect target. 

Have a high schooler? In college? We want to hear what Passover means to YOU and why!

Here are the rules:
  • In 500-750 words, please tell us what Passover means to you. It can incorporate a personal experience, a historical event that inspires you when celebrating Passover, text from the Hagaddah that stands out to you, or an idea totally your own!
  • A strong command of the English language will be a factor in the decision.
  • If you have been to our program before, incorporate that experience into the essay.
  • The deadline for the essay is Friday, March 18, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.
  • Part of the contest is to update your Facebook status, invite at least 10 friends to the Facebook Page, and Tweet (if applicable to you) about the contest, helping to promote Matzafun’s program. 
The special prize is to get your piece PUBLISHED in a well-respected Jewish newspaper! To submit your work and to ask questions about the contest or Matzafun Tours, please e-mail us

Good luck everyone!