Within the last few days, with weeks of summer still ahead of us, I have read and seen news reports regarding very young children who tragically drowned in backyard swimming pools, despite being in relatively close proximity to parents and other adults.
It was the Thursday before her daughter's wedding and Chana Bendiner had so much to do, so many minute details to attend to. Yet here she was in her attic, blowing the dust off a photo album that had remained buried, but not forgotten, for over 20 years. She stared at the leather-bound cover, gently caressing the embossed gold lettering, unable to open it, yet unable to put it down.
By now just about all of us are in summer mode, and Yom Tov cheesecake and blintzes are out of our minds - though not necessarily off our bodies. Nonetheless, the topic I am addressing is tied to the festival of Shavuot, as I wrote it just after the holiday had ended. (This time warp often occurs when addressing deadlines ahead of time, a necessity when I know that visiting a near minyan of pre-school grandchildren in three cities will make writing a coherent column rather challenging).
I am on a bus as I write this article and the ride will be at least 11 hours. For me, one of the big draws of traveling in a manner most would feel is quite tedious, is that several long distance bus companies offer free WIFI service. This allows me the opportunity to possibly enrich myself financially (by watching the ebb and flow of the stock market); educate myself (by reading various online newspapers, including The Jewish Press); entertain myself (downloading the many humorous, sometimes witty, satirical articles/photos/cartoons available to brighten a person’s day) or write a column, (and for a change not have the pressure of stressfully productive hours before my deadline) – all time consuming activities that should make time pass quickly.
Earlier this month, members of the Toronto Jewish community were given a rare opportunity to be visually transported back in time. The film, filmed in 1922, is called Hungry Hearts, and is based on the short stories of writer Anzia Yezierska, a Jewish woman born in Poland in the 1880s whose family immigrated to New York. Many of her writings are centered on her experiences and those of other immigrants living in the Lower East Side. Like all movies made at that time, it is silent, with dialogue conveyed by cue cards.
"In every generation they try to kill us, and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, rescues us from their hands." Every year, for centuries, Jews the world over say these words at the Seder. I paid particular attention this year as this phrase was sung by the golden-voiced Dudu Fisher, a chazzan and Broadway star, who led sedarim at Kutcher's Hotel in the Catskill Mountains.
A recent article in The Jewish Press (Purim And The Tyranny of Beauty, Family Issues, March 16, 2012) written by writer and author Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum generated, and continues to generate, quite a buzz.
The fact that you are reading this article can only mean that the gut-churning, frantic, multi-tasking marathon known as getting ready for Pesach is behind you;
Every Friday night at the Shabbat table, Jewish men display their hakarat hatov for their particular "woman of valor", by singing an ode to her that describes in great detail her many meritorious attributes and activities.
When people hear the term "lashon hara", they automatically associate it with gossip. Speaking about someone behind their back to others, usually in a manner that is denigrating and unflattering, often describing alleged activities or doings that put the subject of the discussion in a rather negative light. This is the ultimate interpretation of lashon hara.
Purim is just a few days away, and Jews young and old are gearing up to celebrate this most festive of holidays, during which all will eat, drink and nosh merrily and in great relief over our come-up-from-behind triumph against a vicious Jew hater whose goal was to annihilate the Jewish people, but who instead had the tables turned against him in a dramatic and unforeseen manner. Sadly, bullying is alive and well in the 21st century afflicting all societies and the individuals that comprise them. For those who think that our heimishe communities have been spared the scourge of bullying - it's time to get their head out of the cholent.
If certain elements of the charedi community have issues with the way women dress, let them figure out a way to alleviate their obvious spiritual and mental distress in a way that does not encroach on other people’s rights. It's their problem - they need to resolve it, instead of demanding that a huge segment of society change their lives and the way they do things just to accommodate them.
A friend of mine recently came back from visiting her son and his family in Israel. As a bunch of her friends joined her for coffee and an update – several of them also have children who made aliyah - she shared with us her frustration at not being able to communicate with her school-age grandchildren.
Every Friday evening, in Jewish homes across the world, the question is asked, "Eishet chayil mi yimtzah – The woman of valor, where can she be found?"
Charedi rabbinical leaders in Israel, and I imagine globally, are greatly perturbed, even horrified by the “chumrah” some Orthodox Israeli women have taken upon themselves – that of covering their bodies up in a manner similar to traditional Muslim women, who wear head to toe, shroud-like black burkas.
As Jewish festivals go, Chanukah is one of our favorites – it is quite “user-friendly.” We get a rare green light to travel and cook with no restrictions. We can drive back and forth (no need for our hosts to find sleeping accommodations) and feast with family and friends as we gleefully celebrate the miracle of a rag-tag band of heroes beating the odds. We rejoice over the improbable reality that a few overcame the many; of a bit of burning oil lasting way beyond its “shelf-life.”
In my previous column I mentioned that a matchmaking initiative called the NASI Project was generating an avalanche of discussions, debates and disagreements regarding its value in effectively dealing with what is referred to in Orthodox communities as the shidduch crisis.
A new shidduch initiative has created an ear-deafening buzz in frum communities across North America and beyond.
Dear Readers, Over the long stretch of Yom Tov, I spent a lot of time in the park (in three different states) while enjoying the antics - some of them hair-raising - of my grandchildren as they swung, slid, jumped and hid. As you can imagine, the park was full of heimishe men, women and children, happy for the opportunity, after three days of being indoors at shul and at the dining room table, to work off excess calories (the adults) and excess energy (the kids).
We have just completed three sets of three-day Yom Tov/Shabbat combinations, and now with some sadness (tempered with a dollop of relief) we return to "normalcy" and our daily routines.
During Yom Tov, the great majority of Jews are surrounded by family, friends and neighbors. Whether in shul or at the table, we share the holiness and festivities that define our holidays with the ones we love and are connected to. The hours fly as we daven, and later feast on a succulent variety of fish and meat dishes, kugels, salads and desserts. The day is full of warmth, color and noise as adult banter mingles with children's chatter.
Dear Readers, From time to time, members of The Jewish Press community take the time and trouble to write or e-mail me sharing their feelings regarding something I wrote. Most of the comments are supportive and encouraging - and some are not. Either way, I appreciate all reader input, negative or positive, as it lets me know that my thoughts and observations are having an impact.
In my previous column, I noted that the typical response to a tragedy in the heimishe community is a call forteshuvah. Almost always, the two "culprits" singled out for the cause of our misfortunes and in most need of repair are shmiras halashon and a lack of tznuit. I stated my belief that these are just two of the many components of a more insidious behavior that is pandemic in our community - that being the wanton, often deliberate action of misleading and fooling people into doing things that ultimately are detrimental and even ruinous to them.
It seems that whenever there is a tragedy in the heimishe olam, almost always the horrific, premature loss of life due to a car crash, a drowning, a freak accident or mindless violence/terrorism, it immediately is followed by a chorus of anguished voices screaming out the need to do teshuva.
Dear Readers: Everywhere you turn, it seems that people are beset with so many problems and worries; some are financial in nature, some revolve around social issues like shidduchim and marriage, some involve setbacks and losses, and the non-actualization of the vision we had of how the days of our lives would play out.