I hate ends.
I don’t like when books, or series of books, end.
Ask my kids about this.
Just last week, after years of them prodding, teasing, begging and bribing me, and even going through lengths like borrowing books on CD from their school libraries. I finally, finally finished the entire Harry Potter series.
I don’t even like to eat the ends of a loaf of bread.
Even when it comes to one of my favorite activities in the world – dancing – I prefer not stay for the last dance. Call it a Cinderella syndrome, but I hate when the music ends. I leave about 10 minutes each week before the session wraps up. As the music lingers in my head while I start up the car in the parking lot, I envision my folk dancing friends dancing on into the night, so the dance is never over.
But end it did, for me, at least in Rochester.
I have been taking Israeli Folk Dancing on Sunday nights at the Rochester Jewish Community Center for about 10 years now. When I first started I knew nothing about Israeli Folk Dancing outside of Hava Nagilah. Seriously.
But Israeli Folk Dancing is not your Bar Mitzvah Havah Nagilah. Blending music with Greek, Latin, Middle Eastern and the random Irish (yes IRISH) influences, Israeli Folk Dancing has something for everyone. At every age.
And you don’t have to be Jewish to do it. There are Israeli Folk Dance sessions held the world over, including places like Tokyo and Beijing.
At first, Israeli Folk Dancing can be frustrating. All these people whirling and jumping around you are having all this fun and really know what they are doing. And the beginner, well, the beginner fumbles. And watches.
Week after week I went. I made sure I got there for the beginner hour. I watched feet. I danced on the outside of the circle not to get in the way of the experts. Then, with increased confidence that I would not crash or trip anyone (or myself) I moved in. I’m grateful for great guidance from the teacher to long timers who called out steps for me.
I have gone from stumbling through each dance, to learning the steps, to a point where I’ve actually become pretty good! Good enough to call the steps to newcomers who give it a try. Good enough to teach it to children in area Hebrew schools and camps.
Here are reasons why dance, any dance, but particularly Israeli Folk Dancing is good for you:
- It’s a great cardio workout. Dancing burns on an average of 375 calories per hour.
- IFD is also great for your brain. Each dance is a sequence of choreographed steps. All this memorization improves brain function, especially for some of us who are, emmm, getting up there in age. It takes about six lessons and going on a consistent basis to get the basic steps down. Before you know it, your feet are moving to each familiar dance without even giving it much thought, which comes to the next benefit….
- Israeli Folk Dancing is a great social outlet. While your feet are moving, catch up in conversation with friends old and new.
- If you are Jewish, or simply have a love for Israel, IFD connects your feet and ears to the Holy Land. During Israel’s peaceful times, dancing to the latest Israeli dance is a dance of celebration. In times of war or terror, the dance becomes one of solidarity.
And now, now that I am leaving town, the JCC of Greater Rochester offers Israeli Folk Dancing FREE to members, $6 per week for non members.
Last Sunday was my very last dance session, for now, with my dear friends from Israeli Folk Dance in Rochester. It was a big part of my life and brought me happiness each Sunday night.
And last Sunday, I managed to make myself stay for the very last dance:
Do you dance regularly? What does it bring to your life? Leave a comment below, and don’ t ever stop dancing.
But even if you are not Jewish, and are just curious about the daily decisions people make when they observe religious dietary laws, please do read on.
I’m always hungry for blog hits!
Tuesday night, it was time to use up the vegetarian beef crumbles. Wegmans (of course I was going to mention Wegmans in a blog about food, right?) has created this great vegan product called “Don’t Have a Cow” Beef Crumbles.
Disclaimer here: this food product does NOT have a kosher certification. However it is labeled as vegan, so this is good enough in my kitchen.
Like I said, not all would consider the way I keep kosher, kosher. But it works for our family.
Back to the main story…..
I’ve used these fake crumbles many times before with a thumbs up from the kids. It was great in vegetarian chili and Sloppy Joes. I thought it would also be great in a baked pasta dish. What could be bad???
So there I was in the kitchen, using up a two boxes of pasta, a jar of tomato sauce, some mozzarella cheese and good, FULL FAT ricotta cheese from my fridge… my Italian neighbors back in the old neighborhood in Staten Island would be so proud of me. Then, defrosted from the ever-increasingly-empty freezer, I added the fake beef crumbles.
I mixed all the ingredients together and popped them into the oven. The cheese melted so dreamily, a wonderful smell filled my kitchen.
I am going to win the kids over with this creation, I thought. My kids will gobble this down, I mean, it’s pasta covered with CHEESE!
With “meat” in it. It’s like we’re being baaaaad!
Dinner time. Baseball game rained out. No rushing. Perfect. I spooned out plates of baked pasta. I awaited upon their approval.
“Mom, what’s IN this pasta?”
“The texture is WEIRD!!!”
“Even if the meat is fake, it just doesn’t feel RIGHT to eat this!.”
My first reaction was to get really mad. And feel completely unappreciated. But on further examination of their reaction to this meal, I realized that I have raised truly Kosher eating kids.
From their earliest ages, of asking which forks need to be used with which meal, I have raised children who will go even into adulthood that what they eat reminds them of who they are. Even if, every once in a while, they screw up by setting the table with the wrong set of silverware, or ask if pepperoni can be picked off the last piece of pizza in the public school cafeteria, the level of kosher observance we have instilled in them will remain long after they leave our family table for tables of their own.
In our house, the kitchen has become our test lab for being Jewish.
Question for you: If you are Jewish and keep kosher, at any level, what eating choices have your kids made, inside or outside of the house, that make you realize you’ve done a good job in instilling Jewish values in their eating habits?
A very long time ago, in a New Jersey city far far away, a young girl dressed in all black stood pressed against a mob of other darkly clad classmates waiting for the Smithereens to take the stage. In one hand was a pen. In the other a skinny reporter’s notebook. She was covering the concert for the daily student newspaper for Rutgers University. Her very first concert review. She wondered: could writing for Rolling Stone be far off?
She didn’t have to pay because she had a student media pass. She felt so COOL!
Her date, well, he had to pay.
Fast forward, em, several decades later.
She can’t even remember who her date was that evening or who ditched who.
That student reporter jumping up and down in the Rutgers Student Center while covering that great local New Brunswick band? The band she loved so much she played a tape recording (yep, tape recording) of their album Especially for You in her dorm room until it broke?
That would be me.
I’m all grown up. But I still love the Smithereens – the honey smooth baritone voice of lead singer Pat DiNizio. The timeless garage band sound.
So when I learned the Smithereens were playing the Rochester Lilac Festival for free, I thought:
“I’ve GOT to go!”
Then I checked on the date.
Hmmm. Being Jewish, practicing Judaism makes you make some tough choices.
I really wanted to have my eardrums blown away by this band who got their start in my college town. But you see, it was Friday night. And the grown-up me — the wife and mom with three kids — has a rule. Friday night is Shabbat. Friday night is family night.
And for nine years now, my family has spent every other Friday night celebrating Shabbat with a chavurah, pretty much a circle of friends who has served as our extended family in a city where we have no family. And with the move coming, we really only have three more gatherings like this left.
Now, our communal Shabbat celebrations start at 7. And, the host’s home was a hop skip and a jump through the lilacs from the stage where the Smithereens would play. And on such a beautiful Rochester night. And who knows if or when I would ever get a chance like this?
I’m a grownup, right? I can make my own decisions, I could have just walked over to listen to one of my fave bands to take me back to my college days, right?
But I made my decision. To set an example for my kids, who have sacrificed many a social outing to be together to celebrate Shabbat.
And, to see my teen kids leading our prayer services with the other teens in the group….
To hear them sing the prayers for years I had begged, prodded and NUDGED for them to follow along?
As I sat and listened to my kids lead the adults in prayer, I knew I made the right choice.
To Pat and the rest of the Smithereens, I’ll have to catch you another time. And in the meantime, I promise to buy your latest stuff.
This time, I’ll just download it.
Have you ever had to make a choice because of the religion you practice?
This gallery contains 6 photos.
Rochester is now starring as the stunt double for New York City in Spiderman 2. And it’s making some Rochesterians as mad as the Incredible Hulk
In my blog posts, I am trying to avoid having a bitter tinge in my writing.
I’ve heard advice to avoid politics in my blog, unless I want to have a political blog.
I want to write about happy things, like the anticipation of spring in this very cold corner of New York.
When you live in Western New York, winter can drag on until mid April.
When you live in Western New York, you hang on to your “sleeping bag” puffy black jacket until Mid-April.
“Spring” sports have begun in school.
Youngsters at this very moment are at an ultimate frisbee match.
Outside temperature right now is 28 degrees.
And it’s still snowing.
And when you are a Western New Yorker, a yearning for spring makes beautiful, sweet bouquet at Trader Joes – prices at $1.49 for 10 flowers – extremely hard to resist.
So I picked two bunches and carefully placed them in my cart, as to not crush their happy yellow heads.
As I got on line, I happened to check the label of the flowers.
“These flowers were proudly grown for you in England.”
England. A product of England, eh?
Nope. I put them back.
Wanna know why?
Because my love for Israel is stronger than my desire for a floral impulse buy.
The UK, in the past decade, the anti-Israel atmosphere has only thickened and intensified.
In the UK, it is just fine and socially acceptable to call upon the boycott of Israeli products, Israeli-created technology, and even Israeli intelligence all under the guise that Zionism= racism.
Zionism, by the way, is no way related nor does it ever condone discriminating one because of one’s race, religion or sexuality. Zion comes from the Hebrew word “excellence” which is what Theodore Herzl dreamed about – the creation of a homeland that would be for the Jewish people but would also serve as an example and a resource of excellence for the rest of the world.
At Oxford University, students are set to vote whether or not the university should boycott all products and companies that have ties to Israel.
In the UK, academics at top Universities call for a boycott of collaborating with universities in Israel. At one point, there was a petition to arrest any Israeli academic visiting England upon landing for war crimes.
And finally, I thought about England’s Chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks address at last month’s AIPAC conference, which he referenced how anti-globalisation protests in England quickly devolve into anti-Jewish protests. You can check out the video here:
All these thoughts swirled around my head as I admired the daffodils.
i didn’t start a protest to boycott Trader Joe’s, as many Arabs have done outside TJ’s around the country for daring to carry Israeli products.
No. I just had my own personal boycott.
No England. You can keep you daffodils. I’ll boycott you back. And I’ll wait for my own flowers to pop up in a few weeks, thank you very much.
You know that piece of furniture in your kitchen, the one with the round or sometimes square flat surface? How many times do you eat at it with all family members present and accounted for?
I’ll fess up: Now that my family is in transition, it’s boiled down to the weekends.
In American culture, the days where families gather at the table to eat dinner on a nightly basis are going the way of Saturday mail delivery.
Eating on the fly, wherever and whenever, has become the norm, right? We eat walking, driving, or even standing up at elevated tables because we didn’t get a table with seats at the mall food court.
We can go on and on in school about nutrition, but often our kids are rushed through their meals at their lunch period, that’s if they HAVE a lunch period. My high school daughter eats lunch in class nearly every day. She can’t fit in lunch because of her electives.
The proof in the pudding (a food substance I would highly implore be eaten at a table) is a conversation I had with a bunch of my 7th Grade Hebrew school students as we prepared to study the Birkat Hamazon. This is a long Hebrew blessing known as Grace after meals, but it actually translates to: the blessing of nourishment.
I think that hundreds of years ago, those wise rabbis who constructed this prayer were onto something: eating together and then SINGING together at a table gives us nourishment that goes way beyond the physical.
Before we got into the nitty-gritty of the Hebrew vocabulary of the prayer, I asked a general question that can be asked to any kid regardless of their faith:
How often do you eat together as a family?
The general response was, “not much.”
“Everyone has sports so people eat at different times whenever.”
“My mom doesn’t make dinner so i just grab something from the fridge and eat it in my room.”
“My dad works late so we eat without him lots of the time.”
I listened to these honest yet sad confessions just one week after hearing a recent report on National Public Radio of the demise of family time around the table.
On a positive side, because of Jewish camping, some of my students were quite familiar with the Birkat Hamazon. And in the summer, they do sit and eat meals with others and then sing this prayer together, complete with all the campy hand motions. Thank you camp!
And even if we ARE around the table, we often bring some kind of electronic device with us to further distract ourselves from the people in our lives who really count.
As Passover and Easter approach, who will be around your table?
I recently returned from a great vacation visiting the family and many close family friends in Florida.
Yes, it was nice to get away from the snow and cold for a bit. It was nice to feel the warm sun on my skin.
But I couldn’t help notice when I got back north, most everything in Florida feels fake. I’m using almost as the operative word, because we did take in some great wildlife in the Everglades, which faces one more challenge to its survival now that the government is in sequestration. More on that in a future post.
So there I was about to get on line at a Boca supermarket when a Boca Babe cuts in front of me, seemingly clueless of her offense. I stood in stunned silence.
She had to be at least in her mid 50′s but she was trying to pull off 22.
Her highlighted hair was pulled into a pony tail and bangs curtained her forehead.
She had a tuck. She had some nips. Clearly some collagen had been injected into her puffy lips. I could not see her eyes, which were hiding behind a pair of huge sunglasses.
She casually and slowly talked to someone on her phone bedecked in a jeweled skin as she pilfered through a purse, which, if it wasn’t hot pink, could have been mistaken for a small long-haired lap dog.
Meanwile, an older gentleman, balding and shorter than I, spoke the thoughts that I dared not say.
“Unbelievable! She should get off the phone. I’d like to crack her over the head with it, don’t she realize other people behind her would like to get out of here?” He mumbled to me.
Then, he went ahead in a much louder voice to give her a piece of his mind.
“Hey lady, get off the phone and do your business, will you? You’re holding up the line!”
Boca Botox Babe had a quick retort: “Excuse me, but I am doing my business. Unlike you, I can do TWO things at once!”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry but you gave me the wrong change. I need five more dollars,” said the equally stunned cashier woman.
“Oh, you’ll have to forgive me, I just got back from Vegas.” And then to the man behind me:
“Hey, what are you from New York?? You sound like you’re from New York, so RUDE, like a boyfriend I had once.”
Hey. HEY, I thought as Boca Babe and Baldie fought over my head. I’m from New York!!!
But my natural lips stayed silent.
After Botox Babe left, I don’t know why but I apologized to the cashier for her behavior. I told her I would never talk on my cell phone when someone was waiting on me packing my groceries because it was very rude.
And yes, I am from New York and proud of it.
I left the store back into the February Florida warmth just laughing at this state with its Botox babes and perfectly-manicured golf courses.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
My latest student sat before me sullen. Sad even. Completely disengaged. The chid complained of a headache, even a stomachache and could NOT find the strength to sing.
The child had not a chance to review the sentences given to it to study months ago. The child’s iPod had also mysteriously stopped working, so he/she could not listen to the melodies of the chanting either.
I get it.
To many emerging young Jewish adults, studying for one’s B’nei Mitzvah may not be your thing. You’ve got a life, for gosh’s sake! That life is full with homework and friends and sports and has nothing to do with chanting a strange language in a building you hardly go to!
And what does all this Hebrew mean that I can barely read and hardly understand?
And how am I going to find the time to study?
When it comes to hunkering down and preparing for one’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, many obstacles can get in the way. In a recent post on the Jewish culture blog Kveller, a rabbinical student even honestly put it out there: why put your kid through the motions of having this Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony if it is devoid of meaning, when a small percentage of Jewish adults even volunteer to read from the Torah after they reach that milestone day.
Here is why.
Like it or not, kid, you are the next link in this 5,000 year chain that cannot be broken.
Last night, after my student left and after dinner and dishes, I watched a PBS special: Space Shuttle Columbia: A mission of Hope, about the 10th anniversary of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. What made it all the more tragic was it was the first time an Israeli, Ilan Ramon, son of Holocaust survivors, took a trip to space.
And on this unique mission to space that bonded this unique multicultural team of astronauts was
a tiny Torah.
A Torah that survived the Holocaust.
A Torah that had been used to prepare a boy for his Bar Mitzvah in the hell of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. A boy that survived and grew to be an old man living in Israel still in possession of this tiny scroll.
A Torah that, when Ilan Ramon heard of its story, he knew it had to accompany him in space.
For all of the Jewish people.
I’m not going to retell the story here. I won’t do it justice. But if you can, watch with your family Mission of Hope, and you will understand the Big Picture of why joining the Jewish community as a fully participating adult is an incredibly precious honor.
If that’s not inspiration enough, then look at this photo below:
this is a recent picture of men, Holocaust survivors, who never got to be Bar Mitzvah boys. Until today.
Now, stop kvetching, stop whining, and go study.
In this week’s photo challenge, bloggers were asked to present a photo about “beyond.”
To many this conjured up images of city and bucolic landscapes.
For me, I thought of the beyond as the Great Beyond.
This fall, a few days before Halloween, I visited Boston and walked the Freedom Trail. Along the trail is the Granary Burial Ground, the ancient cemetery where many of this country’s earliest patriots are buried.
Perhaps she was not a patriot, but it is believed that this cemetery is believed the final resting place of Mary Goose.
Though she rests in the great beyond, Mother Goose’s poems have been read to children through the centuries, to the present and beyond.
These were the words of my son petitioning me this morning from his bed. These words came from his mouth, which was attached to a head, a head as hot as coal. A head which could not be lifted from his pillow.
“Just give me some Advil, and I can go!”
His concern: An overdue tech project that needed to be completed in school. A CO2 car he has designed and engineered that still needed to still be sawed, glued, and painted.
This project counts as 60 percent of his grade. How do I know it is 60 percent of his grade? He has told this to me at least 10 times since coming down with the flu.
He is also worried, of course, about falling behind in math. And Science. And how will he ever catch up and HOW he will get ready for midterms.
He puts this pressure on himself to not to stay home and recover from the flu but to GET TO SCHOOL no matter how he feels. No matter the consequences to his own health or those around him.
My son is not yet in
Harvard college or even in high school.
He’s only a 14-year-old kid.
He’s only in the 8th Grade.
If you can’t even stay home and rest up from the flu in the 8th grade with a clear conscience, then what does that say about our culture? Is there any wonder we are in the midst of an influenza epidemic?
Now, we all think we have THE most important jobs in the world.
Unless we are at death’s door, don’t even think about skipping work or school.
Even I have come under this delusion of mind over virus.
Last week, in I went to teach afternoon instruction because I felt I HAD to be at work to show my commitment. I was not hacking and coughing. I HAD a prescription for an antibiotic in hand (seems like, if you have flu symptoms and don’t rest them, the darned germs morph into something else, wouldn’t ya know?).
I was just a little stuffy.
And my eyes were sunken in because I had barely slept for two …. no three nights because my sinuses were killing me but
Life goes on and we muddle through.
At the copy machine my boss asked.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m just making copies for this afternoon. Then, I’m going to take my antibiotics. Then I’m going to teach. “
Fortunately, I have a boss who does have the voice of reason.
“You will do no such thing. You look like hell. I appreciate you want to work but you shouldn’t be here. Now go home and get some rest.”
So rest I did and I am better now, a week later. Even so, my energy is not fully back.
So, when it was my son’s turn to fall ill, I did not let him succumb to our hyper-achievement culture.
He’s home. He has a fever that spikes back as soon as the latest ibuprofen dose wears off. But he is resting and doing his work and playing his guitar when he feels up to it.
Will he go back to school tomorrow? Don’t know. We’ll just have to see.
Fess up: have you ever went to work/school when you know you were too sick?