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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Big Apple’

A Morah’s View from Out-of-town

Friday, March 30th, 2012

When you‘re here, over the rainbow, it is different. Being out-of-town is not about living in some neighborhood of Brooklyn (other than Boro Park, Williamsburg, or Flatbush). Living out-of-town also does not mean living in other parts of the Big Apple, like Manhattan or Queens. It doesn’t even mean living in the suburbs – like the Five Towns or Great Neck. Being here, over the rainbow, means living away. Now, don’t even think its like living in New Jersey, Los Angeles or Chicago. Try to imagine a very small community – one with less than 100 shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant) families. A place that is miles from any kosher restaurant, where one can be served by eager-to-please waiters on real plates. It is a place devoid of kosher pizza shops where one can grab dinner on a Thursday night or even a small bagel shop to run into Sunday morning. And one cannot buy The Jewish Press at the local newsstand.

Which of course begs the question: Why would anyone choose to live out-of-town, particularly someone born and bred in New York City? The answer is not that complicated. The move was based on a dream. It wasn’t actually my dream, but it was my husband’s. He desperately wanted to move out-of-town to teach. He really wanted to make a difference somewhere else – to go to a community unfamiliar with Orthodox Jews, and to contribute to that place through the teaching of Torah in its (only) day school.

When the plan to move was announced, and sometime after I stopped crying, people quietly warned us of its perils. “Your children will become korbonos (sacrifices),” they whispered. “They will never find shidduchim (marital matches),” some mumbled under their breath. But most just shook their heads, wondering how we could possibly give it all up – the shiurim (Torah classes), the yeshivas, the schools, the friendships, and of course the restaurants. How could we sacrifice our proximity to the great ones: the Rabbonim (rabbis), the Rebbetzins (rabbi‘s wives/teachers), the ehrlicher Yidden (Jews of integrity and stellar character) that we had become so accustomed to seeing? Wasn’t it ridiculous to move to a place where it was impossible to find the latest sheitel (wig)? Though valiantly trying to be brave for my husband, I too wondered if this was not a ridiculous plan.

For a long time I could not “get comfortable” living out-of-town. I missed reading The Jewish Press, which I had enjoyed over Shabbos morning coffee. When I was out in the car, I kept looking for women in snoods, for others to join me as I frantically shopped erev Shabbos (Sabbath eve) or erev Yom Tov (before a Jewish holiday). I kept longing for my old life. It took me eleven years (this is not a typo) to enthusiastically join the forces of other klei kodesh (literally “holy vessels,” those in Jewish education) in out-of-town chinuch (education).

And a funny thing happened when I finally did adjust. My friends from New York no longer pitied me. In a way, I think they began to envy me. Though we do not have so many choices for our children – in friends, and in learning opportunities – we were spared from dealing with the deluge of issues that had begun to arise in the in-town Jewish community. The at-risk teenagers, the fear of kids appearing one way but believing another, the yearning for designer clothes and vacations, the academic pressure, those issues were now the unfortunate realities to which our friends’ kids were exposed. It is true that our kids are less able to compete on the Torah level of our friends’ children. Yet our children are confident as Jews and Yiddishkeit (Judaism) is not a burden to them. For us, the way of the world is not so foreign. Our kids attend day school and are always around some children who do not keep mitzvos (commandments). They are accustomed to seeing homes with varying levels of observance, too. It could be that being brought up out-of-town removed the novelty of the outside world.

But of course all children, in the end, have free choice. We cannot stop that from being true. As my husband wisely says, all children must eventually choose for themselves if they want a Torah life. The choice could be when they are teenagers, or it could be years later. No one can choose for their kids, though as parents, we wish very badly we could.

It’s been over twenty-five years of living over the rainbow and we’re still doing it. We are living and teaching in a small out-of-town community, while raising our family. There are times we question our sanity, and there are times we sigh in relief. It’s sometimes very hard and frustrating here, and other times it is pure joy and delight. But all these years later, one thing we do know: we are helping build Torah in a place where we make a big difference. And for that, we would not trade places with anyone anywhere else.

Apple Country

Monday, November 14th, 2011

One of the cool benefits of living way north of the GW Bridge and the Big Apple is that we are in real apple country.  On a whim, we can take the kids to a local orchard not ten minutes from our house, and become one with nature.  It feels just like the olden days – only back then, the farmers would pay hired hands to pick the apples, while we actually pay the farmers to please, please let us harvest their fruit.

With our toddlers in tow, it took the better part of a leisurely hour and a half to collect our bushel’s worth.  There were all kinds of folks up in those trees.  You can easily spot the real apple connoisseurs:  they come equipped with a knife and magnifying glass – and they taste each variety, talk about it, inspect it, thumb their noses at subpar apples, and toss them to the ground disdainfully.  I think they had fancy foreign accents too, but that could be my imagination working overtime.

Then there were plenty of families like ours.  Our apple criterion was not quite the same as those snooty gourmets, but it was based on our own very strict checklist.  To get into our basket, the apples:  1) must be reachable by someone smaller than three feet tall (there are only so many times Mommy and Daddy can pick you up), 2) must have no soft spots, and 3) no worm holes.

So we picked our Granny Smith and Rome, our Cortland and Macintosh, and we were on our way.  It cost us 25 bucks for the experience – but honestly, I think we wound up with 50 pounds of apples.  Back home, I started unpacking our produce and panic struck.  HELP!  What’s a gal who never baked an apple pie in her life to do with oodles and oodles of apples?  OK – I can make Puff Pastry Apple Purses, and even my 4-year-old can help.  Great!  The Purses were super.  Only 88 apples left.

I remembered that as a kid, one of my favorite treats was a caramel apple.  (I discovered a rocky road version – almost too fab for words.)  I was all ready to fire up the caramel, when my other half interjected that it would be such a waste — he doesn’t like caramel apples.

I should have been able to predict this impasse.  Since the day we got married and discovered that I’m into fish and salads and he’s all about meat and potatoes, we rarely relished the same meals.  Why should we agree on apples?

The man wanted candy-coated apples.  He yearned for candy-coated apples.  It had something to do with his childhood, a day at the beach, or the circus or something, a fight with his brother, a gift from his sister, I don’t know.  All I knew was that a candy-coated apple would resolve a long-standing ache in his heart.

I put away the caramel.  After all, I’m an adult.  I can give up my caramel apple if it means that much to my husband.  You know, I never thought I would enjoy the process, but we had such fun.  I discovered that making candy-coated apples is a great activity to do with the kids, and we munched and crunched our way to family bliss!

 

Candied Apples

Prep: 10min

Cook: 30 min

Cool: 5 min

Total: 45 min

Yield: 15 Candied Apples

 

INGREDIENTS

15 apples

2 cups white sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups water

8 drops red food coloring

Addressing the ‘Beef’

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

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.

Recently, I received a somewhat irate letter from an indignant reader who took issue with some of my opinions regarding problems in the community. In the article titled, “Putting a Stumbling block in Front of the Blind,” (Magazine, 09-04-2011), I stated that when there is a rabbinic call for teshuva, the focus is usually on shmirat halashon (guarding what we say) and tzniut (modesty). While improvement certainly is needed in these two areas, I felt that they were just two components of a much bigger problem in our community, that being a seemingly epidemic apathy to the biblical injunction to not put a stumbling block in front of the blind. The commentator Rashi concluded this was a heavenly admonishment to refrain from taking advantage of those who were naïve, weak, trusting, unaware, gullible – the “blind” so to speak -for financial or social gain. I stated that unfortunately, the pursuit of money often caused otherwiseehrlich Jews to stray from their Torahdik values.

With her permission, I am printing the letter below with my response to her tiynas, (beefs).

Hi Cheryl,

You made a statement in last week’s (Sept 4) paper about a frum female real estate agent-purposefully lying to a buyer about a non-existent higher offer. I am a frum female real estate agent and I and others I know have actually asked rabbis questions about how to proceed. As do all frum people in many, many different lines of business.

So my question is-since you made a statement/a fact –I’m concluding you were told this by an “out of towner” as something that happened to them. I’m sure you wouldn’t just make up this scenario or voice an unspoken fear that you/people may have. Correct? I mean, even if it happened (G-d forbid) how would the buyer ever find out such a thing? Was the house actually sold for an equal or lower amount of their offer? Any agent would know that this fact would come out in the end and therefore I presume-would never do that–even without being concerned about halacha. Jewish, observant (modern Orthodox through chassidim) are truly being maligned by this article. We work very, very hard and don’t make that much money (most of the time commissions are split 3 ways).

And it fosters mistrust that is not warranted. I’m not sure what makes you think that you are an authority on advising the entire Jewish Press community on their behavior concerning greed, arrogance, jealousy, apathy, indifference and placing stumbling blocks. I advise you to consult a rav before scolding us all and making factual statements about our behavior. Perhaps just encouraging good behavior would be better than assuming the absolute worst of the community. In the end you are very guilty of loshon hora on a grand scale. I would appreciate a retraction or the publication of this letter.

Be well.”

To be honest, my initial response was that this person “doth protest too much,” but I now believe that she must be a very honest businesswoman, hence her rather emphatic indignation over my statement regarding a real estate agent who misled the buyer regarding a higher non-existing higher offer. I never said that this is the rule, rather than the exception in this profession, just that it does happen.

How do I know? I have heard several stories of people being misled by realtors as to bogus offers or the integrity of the property. To their deep chagrin, buyers ended up paying more for their property, and/or found that there were structural problems that they (deliberately?) were not told about in order to make the house more sellable. How did the buyers find out? They asked the seller or found out after moving in!

Out-of-towners who did not have the time or money to scope out real estate in the city they were moving to were especially vulnerable.

I can tell that the writer assumed that when I wrote out-of-towners I meant non-New Yorkers moving to the Big Apple and that I had maligned New York realtors. That is not the case at all. By out-of-towner I refer to people who live in one geographical area and are moving to another. If you live in Cleveland and are re-locating to Atlanta, for example, than you are an out-of -towner. Everything is relative, and there are heimishe communities beyond New York that people actually move to.

I was also rather perturbed by her claim that I am, “very guilty of loshon horaon a grand scale.” Nowhere did I name a specific person or place – and I am confident her rav would agree that a general observation does not translate into loshon hara. If that were the case, rabbanim sending out a kol koreh before Pesach forbidding unreasonable price gouging by food retailers are conceivably guilty of loshon hara, as their proclamation implies that an unethical practice is taking place; ditto for community activists and heads of social services who claim there are frum pedophiles, abusive husbands, people with unsavory addictions, etc. – as well as most of the op-ed writers and columnists in The Jewish Press.

I was also confused by her conclusion that I had set myself up “as an authority on advising The Jewish Press community on their behavior.” Huh? I simply made some observations based on the reality of human nature, and incidents experienced first-hand and or shared and related to me. Am I acting as an “authority” if I see a child wheezing and coughing and “advise” the mother that he is sick and should be evaluated by a doctor?

Sometimes the facts are in front of you and not pointing them out or sweeping them under the carpet ends up tragically backfiring and harmfully counter-productive.

Please accept my bracha that this new year bring with it a heightened awareness of ahavas Yisrael, of putting the other’s best interest before your own, thus hastening the coming of our final redemption. To that end, may you all have a successful davening!

Fishl’s Footrace: An Interview With Fred Lebow’s Biographer

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005
Fred Lebow, who died in October 1994, took a small race that had been held in Central Park and turned it into a Big Apple spectacle – the New York City Marathon, the world’s greatest footrace. Ron Rubin, a professor of political science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and a six-time Marathon participant, has written an entertaining and inspiring biography of Lebow titled Anything For a T-Shirt (Syracuse University Press). In a recent interview with The Jewish Press, he shared some thoughts on his book and on the life and legacy of Mr. Lebow.

Jewish Press: How did you get involved writing a biography of Fred Lebow?


Rubin: As I write in the book’s preface, I was one of the “shleppers” – the ordinary, middle- and back-of-the-pack, “grassroots” runners convinced by Fred Lebow that they could go the distance. I was a firsthand recipient of the gift he created. I am one of those who ran the race and made it to the finish line in Central Park – and the experience was so rewarding, I went on to do it five more times.
Shortly after Mr. Lebow’s passing, I began doing research into his life. What I found was a story that embodied almost all of life’s most important themes: surviving adversity; rising above challenges; overcoming humanity’s worst nightmares and reaching for our individual dreams; working hard to achieve our goals or volunteering to help others accomplish theirs, etc. And the story was chock full of fascinating people and places, politics, hype, shtick, competition and controversy.

How long did it take to write the book?

It took almost nine years to put together all the information from more than 120 interviews and 27 quoted publications and to get the first draft manuscript written. Another year was spent working with an editorial consultant who polished the manuscript, contracting with a publisher, going through the publisher’s proofing and editorial review, checking the typeset copy, and going back to my editorial consultant for indexing, all before going to print. With just a little juggling at the end, the book wound up coming out in connection with the tenth yarhzeit of Fishl Lebowitz, better known as Fred Lebow.

How did Judaism influence Fred’s life?

Fred, or Ephraim Fishl Lebowitz, was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in pre-war Europe. As a child he attended cheder, and Yiddish and Hungarian were the languages spoken at home. He observed the main Jewish holidays, such as fasting on Yom Kippur and attending a Passover Seder. During his tenure, a pre-race Marathon minyan was launched, attracting some one hundred participants. This prayer service remains the only such minyan in the world. It is housed in a tent, passed by tens of thousands of marathoners, near the entrance to the race’s staging area at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island. He made sure the marathon never took place on any of the Jewish holidays in the fall. In designing the marathon route, he insisted that the race pass through Williamsburg along Bedford Avenue. “Lama heren” (“Lets hear it”) were the words Fred shouted to the chassidim as he led the runners through Williamsburg.

When did Fred begin re-exploring his Jewishness?

From the information I was given by those I interviewed who had a connection with Fred’s Jewishness, he began his re-exploration on the day he was told he had terminal brain cancer. In the spring of 1994, when he sensed his impending death, he dramatically showed just how far his religious transformation had gone. His club, the New York Road Runners, put out a press release saying that he wanted to be known by the Jewish name he’d been born with. On April 28, 1994, the New York Daily News reported that Lebow had “started the process of reverting to his original name.” Explaining his move, Lebow said, “I’ve always observed the Jewish holidays and always been proud of my heritage and it’s time I return to my original name.”

In your book you write that Fred’s Jewishness informed his vision of a people’s marathon.

As a child he was taught that a Jew, rather than lead a status quo life, must continually shteig, which means climb, or strive, in order to justify his very being. From there came the idea that a non-athletic type should not be discouraged or look for excuses for not trying to cross the marathon finish.
The second major influence was the Holocaust. Elite categories or any type of exclusionary standards held a hollow ring to anyone such as Lebow who had to do all sorts of maneuvering during his formative years just to stay alive. Thus, he developed the vision of an inclusionary marathon with all members of the human race doing their best to go the distance.

What was his relationship with city officials, and how much of a help or hindrance were they in setting up the marathon?

Fred’s relationship with city officials varied widely, depending on what he or they were looking for and where they were along the timeline of the marathon’s history. At times they were a great help, at other times a hindrance, but they were critical to the success of his show so he used his chutzpah, his skills – and T-shirts! – to win them over time and time again. The politics of the marathon are covered in depth in my book.

How was he able to secure corporate backing?

In 1973, Kathrine Switzer, who in her review of Anything for a T-Shirt points out that the book “is a case study in sports marketing, event management and psychology,” was instrumental in helping Fred secure Olympic Airways as the first sponsor of the New York City Marathon, which was then a small race held totally within the confines of Central Park. Throughout the years, others came forth to help Fred get sponsors, but in the long run, as indicated by the title and subtitle of my book’s chapter about sponsorship, it was a matter of “Squeezing Money from Sponsors: Like squeezing juice from a Big Apple, having the right handle helped eliminate any need for pressure.” Lebow simply created a show that companies wanted to sponsor.

Explain the title of the book.

Simply said, Fred Lebow used T-shirts from the very beginning to draw runners and volunteers and to make friends with politicians, the police and fire departments, etc.

What are your plans for the book now?

At this time, my editorial consultant and I have been busy working to keep Fred Lebow’s memory alive during this 10th yarhzeit year in as many marathons and runners clubs as possible. For example, we arranged to present the book in Fred’s memory to the recipient of a special award given by the Carlsbad (CA) Marathon to a person who overcame great obstacles to be there – the kind of person who would not have even considered doing a marathon before Lebow created and promoted what I refer to as the “people’s” marathon.
In March we’ll be at the Los Angeles Marathon. Beyond that, only time will tell.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/fishls-footrace-an-interview-with-fred-lebows-biographer/2005/02/16/

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