Archive for December, 2009

Happy Whatever

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People are really jazzed up about the blue moon occurring on New Year’s Eve. What is a blue moon, you may ask (besides a song that was featured in the movie of Grease, but not the Broadway production?) It’s the second full moon in one month.

I must admit, this hullaballoo reminds me that I find the Gregorian calendar just, well, stupid. There’s not much about Judaism that strikes me as logical, but the calendar? Very much so. Marking months by the phases of the moon — new moon means a new month, full moon means the middle of a month, and once again, back to a new moon and a new month — is so darn grounding in its predictability.

If I were going to make a New Year’s resolution (and how can I do that with my head held high after deriding the Gregorian calendar??) it would be to start following the lunar cycle with my girls – going outside, looking at the moon, and recording what we see. Make a fuss over rosh chodesh. (Currently, I make hard-boiled eggs. Really.)

Stay tuned to see if I keep the resolution I’m not making for the holiday I’m not celebrating.

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year.

shaken, not stirred

shaken, not stirred

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I’ve written before about my attempts to engender a sense of social responsibility in my daughters. We donate bags of food and clothes, as well as tzedakah money, to our local food bank, and they’ve helped distribute bags throughout the neighborhood for the annual “Stamp out Hunger” food drive. We’ve talked about poverty and homelessness as pressing, and very local, issues, but at the same time I’ve always reassured them that papa and I have  good (enough) jobs, and that we have lots of friends and family who would help us out if we were ever in trouble. I don’t think talking about those in need has ever caused them to worry about having a roof over their heads or food to eat, and I consider that a good thing.

A few days ago, our small community was hit with a tragic wave of arson – nine or more fires were set in a neighborhood a stone’s throw from ours (pretty much all neighborhoods here are a stone’s throw from each other….) – 2 people were killed, and several families lost their homes. One of those families is part of the Jewish community, and I taught with the mom at the Hebrew school last year.

I’ve been riveted to my computer, trying to find any information I can about what I can do to help. I’ve gathered up a bag of clothes for my former colleague, who wears about the same size as I do, and am awaiting more lists of what is needed. The community is working impressively hard to gather and disseminate information about how we can help one another.

I’m torn about whether or not to share any of this with my daughters. On the one hand, I want them to see how people reach out and band together when a neighbor (or entire neighborhood) is hurting. I want them to see that their parents are a part (albeit a very tiny part) of this effort. I want to do all I can to make sure this kind of response becomes second nature to them as they grow up. At the same time, I don’t want to scare the crap out of them. Because of course, this could happen to them. That is, to us. And because we’re all a little on edge around here, I’m not prepared to field their possible questions with the breezy confidence I feign in the face of queries about other, less imminent, threats.

So far, I’ve mentioned that someone we know had a house fire. I added quickly that no one was hurt – and exclaimed something really stupid and cheerful like “It’s so great that we all have smoke detectors!”

A little later in the day, Ella caught me alone in the kitchen. “You know that fire that happened to your friend?” she asked quietly. “How did it happen?”

I thought for a moment about what to say. “I don’t know,” I lied.

But on second thought, I have no fucking idea how something like this could happen, so I guess I wasn’t lying after all.

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Announcing a contest!

red rabbi and his lulav

My dear friend Danielle had a great idea for a blog post. As it happens, I’m not nearly creative enough to pull it off myself. The idea came from a conversation we were having this morning on the phone, in which she asked me if I had a Christmas tree cookie-cutter. I joked that I didn’t, but I had a Tu B’shevat cookie cutter that I thought would do the trick.

Her suggestion: write a blog post about how to use clearance Christmas merchandise to celebrate Jewish holidays. It reminded me of a story I once read (can’t remember the source) about an insulated community in Israel where the children decorated their sukkahs with santa claus ornaments. When asked who the bearded fellow was, they excaimed delightedly “It’s the red rabbi!”

Prize for the most creative answer – a set of 10 beautiful alef-bet postcards designed by my first grade students:

Entries due by Jan 1 – good luck!

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Limmud NY

For the first time ever, I’m going way for a long weekend. Without my kids. To learn Torah. I am so, so, totally excited.

I’m going to Limmud NY, a “gathering, a festival, and a retreat from daily life. Over MLK weekend, January 15-18, 2010 hundreds of people will be studying, eating, singing, praying and relaxing together in one of the most diverse Jewish communities in the world.”


Any readers going to be there? (Oh, and anyone need a roommate?)

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Jewish. Goyish.

Let me start by saying that I love my in-laws. They are wonderful people who have been not only tolerant, but supportive, of our Jewish family. They send high holiday and Hanukkah cards, prepare vegetarian meals for us, and attend grandparent events at Ella’s Jewish Day School. They even offered to make a donation to her school this year.

With this in mind,  allow me to comment on our choice of holiday gifts for one another.

In Laws’ Hanukkah gift to me:

these long-burning jars provide hours of true fragrance enjoyment

My Christmas gift to them: soup.

Really. Three half-gallon containers of homemade soup. I’m making the chicken soup right now.

Jewish. Goyish. And never the twain shall meet.

(If you don’t already know the Lenny Bruce monologue by heart, you can read it here.)

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From another former Mosh-nik, David Sokal. Thanks, Judi, for the heads up about this worthy project. (Oh yeah Mosh, you look so good to me…..)

I sell a very special olive oil for Jews and anyone else who cares about peace and Israel: Peace Oil.

Read my Hanukkah web page at


Make sure to turn up your speakers to hear the hanukkah music. The music is part of a Flash presentation that appears at the top of the page. The whole idea behind the page is to show how olive oil is a link between Jews and Palestinians, between Judaism and Islam.

Explore the website to learn more about this one-of-a-kind project and product. Let me know what you think:dsokal@peaceoil.net.

I have been selling Palestinian olive since Sept. 2006. I buy it from three fair trade groups two of which are Israelis working with Palestinian farmers. See http://www.peaceoil.net/html_1/israeli_groups.html.

The third group, Canaan Fair Trade, is owned and operated by Palestinians in Jenin. They buy olive oil from 1700 West Bank farmers. They are now the largest exporter of Palestinian olive oil. See http://www.canaanfairtrade.com.

There’s still time to order for Hanukkah (or for gifts for non-Hanukkah celebrating friends, family and co-workers).

Happy Hanukkah!


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