Sunday, March 30, 2014

Toes Out of Shoes in Ramat Beit Shemesh

The culprit.

We haven't spent many Shabbatot outside of Neve Daniel since Ash was born, which means my consideration for the diversity of communities and their expectations is a "head in the clouds" kind of situation. When friends invited us to Ramat Beit Shemesh for Shabbat, I'd forgotten that there's just a certain way things are done in those parts. 

Yes, Mr. T packed his suit because colorful shirts and Chuck Taylors just don't fly, but I didn't think twice about packing my open-toed shoes because the weather was toasty and warm and my feet are my traveling air conditioning units. 

So after the gents went to synagogue, Ash and I went for a little walk up and down the road in an (futile) attempt to get him to rest after a few days off schedule thanks to movers coming and packing up our apartment (it takes 6-8 weeks for stuff to transit to the U.S.). 

As we walked near the park, I noticed little girls staring at me funny. Yes, I was wearing a tichel (head scarf) in a very wig and snood heavy area, but it wasn't completely abnormal for Ramat Beit Shemesh. I considered my outfit as we did another round, and despite my long black skirt and simple blue top with a black cardigan over it, one girl made it painfully obvious what was resulting in the funny looks. 

Open-toed shoes. 

Yes, I was exposing my toes. What's more, I was exposing toes without any kind of pantyhose or tights (which, let's be honest, would have masked my naked toes anyway). 

Naked toes! May HaShem strike me down. 

Truth be told, they don't know any better. They're told not to wear open-toed shoes, so seeing someone with them must be like someone walking down the street in a burqa, I guess. They can't help but stare. 

I'd forgotten that there are places like this. They didn't throw rocks at me or say anything rude to me (that I heard anyway). They didn't go to my  hosts and demand they never invite me again. But when we're back over Passover, I'll remember to pack the black shoes and maybe, just maybe, some stockings. 

Note: The most beautiful thing about RBS is the sound of singing, children running around through the streets without a care in the world, families gathering and moving about at a slow and comfortable pace. Sometimes I'd like to take the people from my community and embed them there, mix it up, and see what kind of community I get. I think it might be the perfect community -- for me anyway. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Going to America

With a heavy, heavy heart and the anticipation of assumptions, we're moving to the U.S. for a few years to be near my family. I'm not going to go into the details, but your thoughts and prayers are always welcome.

We're heading back after Passover, where we'll be stationed in Colorado with very frequent trips back and forth to Nebraska (the drive I've done 1 million times).

Stay tuned for more details. It's all happening very fast. This approach is like a bandaid, folks.

Note: We're coming back to Israel as soon as we possibly can. Most definitely by the time Ash hits school. Never fear. Eretz Yisrael hasn't spit us out for good. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Did You Know? I'm Rocking

I can't believe I didn't post about this here yet, but big news: I'm the Judaism Expert!

Yes, I'm rocking the Judaism page with new and updated articles, blog posts, and weekly newsletters about all things Judaism. So far, topics have included

  • Asara b'Tevet 
  • Yom Yerushalayim 
  • Ezra the Scribe 
  • Jewish Holiday Calendar 
  • The Fast of Gedaliah 
  • Passover Fun for Kids 
  • What is the Talmud? 
  • Judaism and the Environment 
  • The Jewish Divorce 
  • What are the 613 commandments?  
  • The Difference: Menorah versus Chanukiyah 
  • The Four Mitzvot of Purim 
  • Hair Covering in Judaism 
  • Who was Rahab? 
  • What are the Noahide Laws? 

If you never thought you'd need the Judaism page, think again! Please give my articles a read, comment, share them wherever and whenever you can, and please feel free to send me article ideas that you think are missing from the site.

My greatest success will come from providing you all with fascinating and informative information about the religion of the once-Israelites and now Jews!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Doing Good: The Michael J. Fox Foundation Requests

Note: I was tapped by the Michael J. Fox Foundation to get the word out, and I love helping amazing causes change the face of disease, so please, if you can, spread the word, too. 

Needed: Clinical trial participants for a large-scale study.

Like HEXA in Tay-Sachs and BRCA in breast cancer, research suggests that a gene called LRRK2 is responsible for an estimated 15 percent of Parkinson’s disease cases in people of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish ancestry. Because of this, the foundation recently launched a clinical study focused on Parkinson’s disease and genetics. 

The study, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is seeking individuals who meet either of the following criteria to complete a brief survey:
  • People with PD who are of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish, North African Berber, or Basque ancestry
  • People without PD who are related to someone with PD AND who are of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish, North African Berber, or Basque ancestry
Just click on this survey to see if you can help! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Listen, It's [Dot] Complicated

"A successful woman is one who can build a firm
foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her."
[modified from an original quote by David Brinkley]

Several months ago the amazing folks at Zuckerberg Media contacted me about reading, reviewing, and offering up a giveaway of Randi Zuckerberg's Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives. If you're not sure who Randi is, but you recognize that obviously recognizable last name, yes, she's related to the illustrious Mark of Facebook fame. What you might not know is that Randi was the mastermind behind some of Facebook's most amazing and groundbreaking live streaming initiatives and relationships with big dogs like CNN and ABC.

As the master of her own company and life now, having written this stellar read about her experiences at Facebook and how she got out and launched herself, she's also a published children's book author. Her first masterpiece? Dot., a book for children about putting down the tech and enjoying life. In this children's book, the flutters and noises of technology are found outside, too, whether it's surfing down a hill or listening to the twitter of the birds. It's a beautiful pairing with her Dot Complicated book for adults. I envision myself sitting down to reread Randi's book someday with Ash sitting next to me with Dot. Sort of a his and her's experience, except in this case, it'll be a tech savvy mommy's and a tech savvy baby's experience.

In Dot Complicated, Randi is casual and paints one of the most vivid pictures of a life experience I've read in recent years. As a work of nonfiction, her honesty and candid reflections about being "Mark Zuckerberg's sister" and her breaking point when she realized that she had to get out and do her own thing in a big way. Her narrative is inspiring and I have no doubt in my mind that she's paving the way for future generations of women -- both through her children's book and her book for more adult-like individuals.

I also have to applaud her realistic approach to technology and how it is shaping our lives in positive and negative ways. Early on in the book she says the following:
The famous science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." He was right. New technology is a kind of magic and today we can do things with ease that were impossible just a few years ago. Like magic, each new innovation has advanced our society and our potential. Of course, the seductive glow of these magical devices can also blind us to some of their downsides and effects." (57)
Her jaunts into her journey took me back to the days of AIM and the melancholy of being a teenager and college study.
Remember the effort you'd make to choose the perfect IM profile picture, or the time you invested in crafting the perfect "away" message? I admit that I spent way too much time selecting vague but meaningful lyrics from the latest song I was obsessed with. Plenty of times I would announce my presence online with "I believe I can fly," "I saw the sign," or "I get knocked down." (71)
Yes, I used to have "Sleep, those little slices of death" (a la Edgar Allen Poe) as one of my away messages. I was the original when it came to super vague and sometimes frightening posts in the "social" sphere.

Randi's take on the merging of the public and private spheres also had me rolling my fist in the air Arsenio Hall style.
"It can't be that we're going to have to adjust to a world where we cannot share anything but our utmost public and sterile information. Sharing the personal stuff with others is an essential aspect of what it means to be human. If our online lives are to be as fulfilling as our offline ones, and if those two lives are to be fully integrated, then as we go forward we need to find a way to bring back personal information online. We must be able to post some pool pics without the whole world finding out, even if one of our friends is feeling a little overenthusiastic with the share button that day. (80)
Preach! Now that's a manifesto. As someone whose life is very public by my own choice, I can't say enough about the truth in Randi's sentiments. I don't believe in separating the two, and neither does Randi. Huzzah!

I will say that one thing that slightly bummed me out, although not in a big way, was her reflections on being a Jewish woman and mother. A quick reference to Chinese food on Christmas a Jewish woman entrepreneur does not make.

That aside, probably the most valuable piece of actionable advice Randi dishes out is that everyday, you have to pick three from the following and that's it. You can't do it all, so pick three and make them work. And don't feel guilty about it either.

  • Work
  • Sleep
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Fitness
I remember reading this before Ash was born and thinking "YES! What a great approach to life." Have I enacted the "pick three" philosophy? No. But guess what? Starting tomorrow, I'm going to because, let's be honest, I've been trying to pack four of those into every day (sorry, fitness). And maybe, maybe someday we'll all work for a company like FullContact in Denver, Colorado, which pays their employees $7,500 bonus if they don't take their phones with them on vacation. A girl can dream, right? (168)

Oh, and I don't forget: 
"The more successful you are and the more you have to say, the more people will be mean to you on the Internet. The only way forward is to embrace your haters. Don't be afraid of the keyboard cowards. Engage them." (237)
Have I sold you yet on Dot Complicated? If you haven't read the book already and are seriously jonesing for some mind-blowingly awesome writing, storytelling, and inspiration, hold tight! It's time for a giveaway. 

To be entered to win:
  • Comment on this post and you'll be entered to win a copy of Dot Complicated!
  • Share this blog post to Twitter and/or Facebook for an extra chance to win. You must include in your comment that you've posted on these social sites for the extra chances (i.e., "I'm commenting on your blog post to win this awesome book, and I also shared on Twitter and Facebook.")
  • Contest is open to U.S. residents only.
I'll draw a winner at random on Wednesday, March 19 at midnight (EST).