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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘just’

Eighteen…

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

By the time I started this blog, Elie was 19, almost 20 years old and about to enter the army. By the time I really introduced Shmulik, he was close to entering the army as well. Somehow, with the lull between Shmulik leaving and Davidi entering, I have more time to share who Davidi is, long before he will enter the army.

He turned 18 this past week (though his English birthday is actually next week), full of school and wanting to start driving lessons and one other major milestone that will change who he is. He is going to Poland in a few weeks. If you’ve never been there, you can’t imagine the impact standing in a gas chamber will have on you. You just can’t imagine seeing ashes and ashes, ovens that were used to burn the remains, cemetery after cemetery, and so much more. To go as a Jew to Poland is to focus, for a time, not on those who walk the earth today, but those who are buried beneath it (if they were lucky enough to be buried).

Right before Amira was going into her last year of high school, she told me she wanted to go to Poland. Her school has a policy not to take students out of Israel and so they don’t organize a trip to Poland. It was something, this pilgrimage, that was very important to my oldest daughter but she was afraid it would be too much for her and so she asked me to come along, told me she needed me.

What could I do? I went. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done…for many reasons. I left in Israel, tiny Aliza – only 2 and a half years old. Amira’s son is now 2 and a half years old and I think Amira now realizes how hard it was for me. I missed the others terribly, but somehow, my arms ached to hold Aliza most of all. My husband was amazingly supportive. I wish, sometimes, I had gone with him. I felt bad crying in front of Amira and had I gone with Lazer, we would have cried together. But his parents were Holocaust survivors; he has no interest in going back to the places where they lost so much.

I dreaded the trip that would take me out of Israel, away from the others.Once I landed in Poland, I realized that it would be impossible for me not to see, not to feel. I had thought I was going to support Amira and yet, in many ways, she supported me. It was a brutal trip, agonizing in so many ways.

As I sat this week, listening to the itinerary of where Davidi will go, my eyes filled with tears. I know the route they will take, the places they will see, and the agonies he will feel. He is supposed to tell them if we had relatives in one of the cities where they will visit. My great-grandmother lived in Cracow with my grandfather’s two sisters. They will spend Shabbat there; walk on roads my grandfather once walked. I know only the names but not where they lived. My mother has copies of letters that her grandfather wrote to her father. I’ll have to ask her if she has copies of the envelopes…if she has an address. Do I want my Davidi to go there?

When my mother-in-law and father-in-law went back to the small village where my father-in-law had grown up as a child – many years after the war had ended – he was greeted with a knife by the woman who had moved into his father’s home. It seems Lazer’s father, had lent her some money and she thought his son had come to call in the loan. When my father-in-law explained he only wanted to show his wife and daughter the home in which he had grown up, the woman allowed him to enter.

Does It Bother You when your Kid Comes Home Feeling like Junk?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The talk of the town is how direct Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein was when talking at the Agudah convention about the effect our educational system is having on our children. For a long time now, I’ve been having an issue with trying to recognize where the Torah/Truth is in the way we live as frum Yidden.

If an outsider first learned the Torah and then did a study on how observant Jews live their lives, he/she would have many questions. There are numerous things that we do that not only don’t fit with Torah values but they are anti Torah values. We have systems set in place that make most of us live beyond our means. We are fiercely protecting an educational system that goes against everything we actually believe in. We put a huge amount of unneeded pressure on ourselves that literally dictates how we live our lives.

What is sad is that we all know it, we all think about it and it bothers us all. What is sadder is that it is a BIG deal when a Rabbi gets up and actually expresses what we are all thinking. What a strange thing, a phenomenon, that there exists a society that puts so much value on being truthful and emesdik, but at the same time has this vested interest in not only not expressing or talking about an entire educational system that is flawed at its roots, but even protecting it and making our own children suffer through it. It becomes this huge deal when Rabbi Wallerstein actually says something about it. We have to question our sanity and values around this.

What are we protecting? What are we so scared of? Who are we nervous about not impressing?

Let me ask you a question. You don’t need to raise your hand, but raise your hand if you really deep down knew what Rabbi Wallerstein was talking about. Raise your hand if these issues have been bothering you all along. Raise your hand if you are worried about your own children’s love for Torah and Yiddishkeit. Raise your hand if you think that our educational system is not giving you any fuzzy comfortable feeling that they will help your children stay on the derech. Raise your hand if you feel like you make your children do things that are absolutely ridiculous in the name of being part of our educational system. Raise your hand if this is not the system you would come up with if you were asked to develop a system from scratch. Raise your hand if you feel bad sending your children off to school. Raise your hand if you hate seeing how much homework your kids come home with and how many tests they have.

How would you do if you had a job that went from early in the morning to late in the afternoon or night and then came home only to continue working for a few more hours, knowing all along that you really won’t be paid anything extra for the work you’re doing? How long can you keep that up for? How long would we be able to keep up a real love for Yiddishkeit and learning when all it means is memorizing material long enough to regurgitate it on a piece of paper in the form of a test? We know every one of our children is different. How much does it bother you that they are all judged only by the grades they get no matter how hard or how little they try (depending on their IQ or memory).

How much does it bother you when your kid comes home feeling like junk and overwhelmed every day? Does it hurt to see your kid growing up with practically no time to actually be a kid? How natural is it for our kids to be sitting at desks for hours and hours on end learning? How well would you do with that? How many of the school rules do you really agree with in terms of tznius way beyond the letter of the law? From the way the parents dress, we know the answer to that. And I’m not talking about parents dressing un-tzniusdik. I’m talking about the parents who are dressed tzniusdik – but of course the day they left school they changed the way they dress to what was tznius and comfortable and something they actually felt good in and made sense to them.

How to Turn a Campus Into an Indoctrination Center

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

If you want to understand how the far left controls campuses, consider this story.

There is no university more supportive of the Arab nationalist (historically), Islamist, and anti-Israel line in the United States than Georgetown’s programs on Middle East studies. Every conference it holds on the Middle East is ridiculously one-sided. The university has received millions of dollars in funds from Arab states, and it houses the most important center in the United States that has advocated support for a pro-Islamist policy.

One day in 1975, not long before he died, the great Professor Carroll Quigley walked up to me when I was sitting in the Georgetown University library. Everyone was in awe of this brilliant lecturer (remind me to write him a tribute explaining why he was so great).

[In fact the  classroom where Carroll Quigley taught his main class was Gaston Hall, where decades latest Obama demanded to cover up the cross before he spoke there! What would this pious Catholic have said!]

I thought he might have remembered me from my extended explanation of why I was late for class one day because I had rescued a sparrow and taken it to a veterinarian (true).   I vividly recall that detail, because I couldn’t think otherwise why he would want to talk to such a lowly person.

“May I sit down?” he asked.

“Of course!” I said, stopping myself from adding that it was an honor. Without any small talk, he launched into a subject that clearly weighed on his conscience. “There are many who don’t like your people.”

What was he talking about? I thought, is he talking about Jews?

He explained that he had just come from a meeting where it was made clear that the university had a problem. They were getting Arab money, but on the secret condition that it was for teaching about the Middle East but none of it could be used to teach about Israel. How was this problem to be solved?

Simple. They would call the institution to be created the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. It was explicitly expressed that this was how the problem would be dealt with.  Quigley was disgusted. Ever since then, I have referred to that institution as the Center for Contemporary Arab Money.

Georgetown was the place where the university accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi–who was, of course, very active in promoting anti-American terrorism–to establish an endowed chair in Middle East studies. When the president of the university backed down due to bad publicity, the professor who had been named to the post responded by calling the Jesuit university president a “Jesuit Zionist.”

This same professor–and I am not joking in saying that compared to today, he was a fine scholar and a comparatively decent man given what goes on now–was also a personal friend of Palestinian terrorist leader Nayif Hawatmeh and an outspoken Marxist.

To his credit, he told me in 1974 on a visit of mine to Lebanon, “One day we will be ashamed of all the terrorism [against Israel].” But I don’t think he ever spoke out publicly. At my Ph.D. oral exams, he said something like this as his question: “I don’t care whether you believe it or not, but give the Marxist analysis of development in the Middle East.” He did not ask me to critique it! As a Marxist, atheist though, the son of a Muslim imam, he did participate in the traditional glass of scotch after they passed me. And they did pass me, something I would never assume might happen today. These professors really did believe in scholarship and balance in the classroom.

Another professor (you can guess I was sure he was not on my board), however, was an example of the new generation of indoctrinators. One day, I was standing in the line in the campus post office shortly after I had clashed with him in class. The two girls I could overhear were talking about the disturbing incident in class. To my relief, they took my side. I guess that, too, wouldn’t happen today.

This teacher’s radicalism and knee-jerk hatred of Israel was so terrible that we used to joke about it.  A right-wing Zionist in the class did an experiment. He wrote an exaggerated version of a Marxist, anti-Israel rant. It read like a satire. He got an “A” from this professor. In retrospect, however, we should have seen that the field was getting far worse.

How Western Intellectual Values Have Gone Haywire

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“First make sure you’re right, then go ahead.” — Davy Crockett, 1836

For almost two months I  have been talking and traveling through America trying to understand the country. Soon I will begin a dozen-part series called “Lost” about the  reminder of the Obama term in the term in the Middle East and how friendly countries and national interests can survive.

Meanwhile , though, it is adding insult to injury for defenders of the U.S. policy to claim that I or someone else would have more credibility if I didn’t write for a “right-wing site.” This is an extraordinarily important way that the debate is being narrowed and dummied up.

First, of course, I would never make a parallel argument. What matters is whether the claims have credibility. Does it make sense? Is it internally consistent? Does it correspond with otherwise known information? This is the path of logic, of the Enlightenment. Reputation of the author might be a useful factor, too.

An argument from al-Qaida can be quite correct regardless of where it comes from. Thus, this approach is part of the de-rationality of Western thought today. It is a weapon: disregard everything that comes from a source that disagrees with you on other issues.

Incidentally, while some have told me that my language is too intemperate at times in criticizing Obama, I note that they have not been any more successful in changing views or even–whenever they speak out clearly–getting their ideas (as opposed to technical expertise) to the public.

Second, if I wanted to write about the so-called demographic threat (which I can prove in five minutes is nonsense) or write that Israel must make peace right away I can publish it in the NY Times.

So first they bar certain arguments from the mass media and then they say that if you persist in making certain arguments this proves bias because of the few remaining and smaller places you are allowed to appear. In other words, first you bar people and arguments; then you say that the fact that they are barred proves that they—not you—is the biased one.

Let me tell you a story. In 1991 Senator Charles Percy, a man who was then highly regarded and considered himself something of an expert on the Middle East, said he didn’t understand why the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein didn’t withdraw from Kuwait. After all, said Percy, wouldn’t some intelligence chief or general tell him that he was going to be defeated?

This was abject ignorance. If someone had done so—told Saddam he was wrong—the man would be lucky if he were only fired, and still pretty lucky if he wasn’t thrown into prison, tortured, and had his family punished or executed.

The supposed advantage of democracy is that the media, academia, and others speak—where did I hear this before?—truth to power. If you know you are not just going to be ignored, not just that you are going to be punished, but that nobody is going to hear you that is a disincentive to doing so.

But this goes far beyond liberal or conservative, it sabotages the whole advantage of democracy. You can’t be an anti-fascist or anti-Communist in the 1930s until the elite officially accepts that? Maybe it would have been better to voice these concerns and have them heeded before December 7, 1941 or before September 11, 2001. Maybe it would have been better to have done something about it before tens of thousands of lives had been snuffed out internationally, blighted domestically, resources wasted, and society set back by decades.

Is this really the best we can do in 2013?

Personally I am a social democrat/liberal/centrist/conservative, reading from left to right. What works works; what is true is true; what is wrong is wrong. Forgetting that rather basic fact has been very bad for the West. It’s called honest pragmatism.

A Worried Wife And Mother

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I was pleased to see the letter from a reader titled “Not of This Generation” in your July 12 column, as well as your reply to her over the following two weeks.

I’m also one of those people who are “Not of This Generation.” My friends and I thought your response to the letter writer was perfect, so I thought you might just be the one to help my husband and I resolve our conflict.

We have five children who are all married with lovely families of their own. I know that is a great blessing. My friends always tell me how lucky I am, and I thank Hashem every day. But still have problems.

My husband has his own business. He worked very hard on building it and making it what it is today. In our younger years there were days he never came home. He actually slept in the office. Four years ago my husband started to turn over the business to our children. Two of my sons are professionals so they weren’t interested; our three other children – two sons and one son-in-law – became very much involved and are in the business today.

As you might imagine, there has been some sibling rivalry but my husband managed to smooth it all out. I just hope that (after 120, as we say) there won’t be any split in our family. I’m always frightened of that and my husband to some extent shares my sentiment; however, he does not think there is anything to really worry about. I think he is deluding himself because he doesn’t want to face such a possibility.

In one of our family conferences we pointed out to the children that there is room for everyone if they chose to live in peace but if they opt for acrimony and contention, not only will the business collapse but the entire family will be in jeopardy as well. They all nodded their heads and assured us it won’t happen. But I could see from their expressions that our words hadn’t penetrated.

When I mentioned this to my husband, he said I was getting carried away. Rebbetzin, I have seen families where cousins, aunts and uncles are not even invited to one another’s weddings. Several of my friends have this very problem and tell me that jealousy destroyed their families and businesses.

I have another problem. My husband is 69 and thinking of retiring and moving to Florida. I ask him, “What will you do there?” He replies, “I’ll do what other people do. I’ll play some golf. Maybe I’ll take on a hobby. I always wanted to paint but never had time for it. I’ll to the gym. I’ll play cards. I’ll go boating. I just want to relax and live my life without pressure.”

To make me feel better he tells me, “You can have a wonderful relaxing life. You’ll find many friends. You can learn new hobbies. And then there are things we can do together. We can go out to dinner, to lunch – you won’t even have to cook. There are so many great restaurants in Florida. The weather is good. We can join other friends and have a good time.”

It all sounds wonderful and under normal circumstances I’d love to move to Florida. My sister lives in Boca Raton and I could take a place right near her. Additionally, I have many friends in the area and I know I could have a nice social life. But I’m just so concerned about our children. Perhaps “children” is the wrong word because they are adults, but they will always be my children. My husband tells me I’m being ridiculous, that we can’t watch them forever.

We are not all that observant. We are not fully shomer Shabbos but we are traditional, keep a kosher home and go to synagogue. We support Israel. And we are regular readers of The Jewish Press who very much respect your views and opinions.

My husband is convinced you will agree with him. If that’s the case, I’ll accept it. My husband acknowledges that many families have become divided because of money but he assures me this won’t happen with our children. They come from a good home. Their parents and grandparents (maternal and paternal) imbued them with love and family responsibility.

The children are encouraging my husband to retire. “Dad, Mom,” they say, “just go; we’ll be okay. We won’t do anything radical without discussing it with you. And we’ll come down to Florida a few times a year and you’ll come visit us here.” And then they turn to me. “It’s not like you’re moving to a different country Mom. It’s no big deal. It’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight.”

And yet I’m still very nervous, Rebbetzin. I do hope you can address my problem and that you’ll do so sooner rather than later because my husband is ready to go ahead with his plans.

I wish you a happy and a healthy new year. Your column and books have been blessings in my life.

The Beautiful Pear

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Thank you for reading one more Style with Esther!

Today we will talk about some tips and guidelines that could help a lot the pear shaped women. But keep in mind that these guidelines are not the ultimate truth, nor should they limit your fashion creativity. The body type guidelines serve as an invisible friend, they can help you in those moments you feel fashionably lost or overwhelmed.

I must confess that if you need to buy a new garment or are rushing to dress up for a party, using these guidelines can be very handy. Yet, as I said above, they’re not written in stone. So, it’s OK if you want to be adventurous and try something that is actually listed for another body type. After all, most women are a combination of two body types, so why not have fun with it and try something new? If what you’re wearing makes you feel empowered and happy, you’re probably making the right choice—but a small dose of good sense also helps.

THE BEAUTIFUL PEAR

If your hip measurement is larger than your bustline, you’re probably a pear shaped woman.

Since the attention on your figure is concentrated in your hipline, it will be a step toward harmony to distribute that attention to your upper bodice. The basic idea is to dress up your upper bodice and go simple with the lower. Easy, right?

How to bring the attention up?

By the use of pockets on your shirt, details on lapels, collars (have you seen some wonderful fake collars lately that work as a necklace?), shoulder pads, embroideries, studs, yokes, draped tops, exquisite brooches, ruffles— the list of embellishments goes on and on. If you’re in a rush and have no time for all these details, just choose a top with a stronger color or one with beautiful prints. They’re the fastest ways to bring the attention upwards.

If you like jewelry, that’s another good reason to wear big pendants or necklaces made of beautiful stones.

Also, knit tops will help you define your waistline, especially if they have a V-shaped neckline, because it will elongate your neck and bring the attention up to your face and to your tiny waist. U-shaped necklines work just as well.

What about sleeves? Give preference to sleeves with details. It could just be a knit top with small pleats on the sleeves, created with the help of an elastic, ¾ length bell sleeves or sleeves with cuffs that will bring the attention upwards and balance your look.

When wearing jackets, give preference to tailored ones, since they will define your waistline. The jacket length should reach at least 1 inch below your hipbone. If a jacket ends exactly at your hipbone, it will make your hipline look larger than it really is. Wearing cropped jackets is also OK, since they end exactly at your waistline. Just keep in mind that cropped jackets are not the rule for all pear shaped women. They could look great for some but give too much of a boxy look to others. You just have to ask yourself how you feel about that cropped jacket when facing the mirror. Listen to your heart.

When wearing dresses, give preference to wraps or fake wraps that have an A-line, semi-flared, or flared skirt. Besides the comfort, they will enhance your waistline.

A-ha! We have finally arrived to the skirt identity crisis! Many beautiful Pears have asked me about the logic of wearing A-line and flared skirts.

The answer lies not only on the skirt shape but also in the fabric being used. A flared skirt made of a lightweight, soft fabric that falls naturally, such as knits, silks and many other types of light weight fabrics, will create a really beautiful look!

On the other hand, an A-line made of a tough denim or any other heavyweight fabric will need some time for reflection upon its usage. It will look good for some and not so great for others. Keeping that in mind, go for A-lines, flared and semi-flared skirts made of lightweight fabric with confidence, as they will dress you well and look great. Another great reason for you to wear these styles is that they will fit your waistline perfectly without interfering with your hip measurement.

Fighter Jets…

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Every once in a while, we hear fighter jets flying over head. The first time I came to Maale Adumim – over ten years ago, I heard the jets soaring over the city and thought – wow, not just the beauty of the desert, not just the beauty of the city, but this too? I love the sound of the F15s flying low.

It was only after I moved here that I realized this wasn’t a daily occurrence. The Israeli Air Force is charged with protecting our skies. To do this, they have to fly the length and width of this land (which actually doesn’t take to long).

So they don’t fly regularly over our skies…or maybe they do. I remember friends who had just moved hear hearing them fly low over head. They called me thinking that perhaps war had broken out…

No, no war – just our sons flying our skies and protecting our land!

I once tried with my silly phone to capture it. I got the sound, but couldn’t get the image and then I thought…duh…YouTube. This morning, the jets have been flying and, child that I am inside, I keep going to my balcony and watching them.

There is such joy in seeing them, hearing them. They fly for the purest of causes – defending our land. It’s a beautiful day in August in Israel. I hope as they fly, the pilots are smiling and enjoying the most amazing view (as I am).

May God bless the Israel Air Force – fly safe! – 2 videos – one the sound I am hearing this morning and the second – an amazing, nearly impossible feat…an Israeli pilot – landing with just one wing. The manufacturers of the F15 didn’t believe the Israelis when it was reported. They insisted on seeing the plane for themselves. The proof is in the video. Enjoy.



The Advantages of Being in the ‘Israeli Bubble’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

The Forward has an article claiming that our “Israeli Bubble” is dangerous and shields us from reality.

Ironic, but also predictable. The effectiveness of the barrier is twofold: It has stopped terrorist attacks, and it also has made it possible to live in (West) Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv and pretend that the Occupation doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, this is a delusion — a bubble — with severe consequences. South Jerusalem, after all, is home not just to the German Colony’s liberals, but also to the neocons at the Shalem Center, now Shalem College, who for decades have peddled the idea that there is no hope for peace with the Palestinians, and (in the words of Daniel Gordis, one of Shalem’s most articulate spokesmen) we should settle in for 100 years of occupation. Regrettable, Rabbi Gordis says, but inevitable.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course. Claim that there’s no Palestinian partner, undermine those Palestinians who are, and lo and behold, soon there will be no Palestinian partner. If you will it, the 100-year war will be no dream.

But the real delusion is deeper still: that somehow, the rest of the world will sit idly by and allow this situation to worsen, year after year, decade after decade, without finally turning on Israel. In the bubble of southern Jerusalem, Israel is a complex but miraculous place where kids can play in the street, the Jews have a home and bus drivers read Shakespeare. The matzav, the “situation” with the Palestinians, is an unfortunate side-note to an otherwise complicated, fascinating, problematic, multi-faceted, beautiful, tragic enterprise in Jewish self-determination.

Outside the bubble, however, the Palestinian “situation” is not a side-note but the primary tune. It’s everything else about Israel that is merely secondary. To most of the world, Israel is defining itself by the Occupation, and all the rest is commentary.

I disagree.  I think we see things much more clearly from here.  There are no distortions.  When you look into a “bubble” from the outside you won’t get an accurate view.

Over twenty years ago, when one of my daughters was looking for a place to do Sherut Le’umi, National Service, she and a few friends went to a city they considered far from the then intifada and politics of the yishuvim (Jewish communities in YESHA, Judea, Samaria and Gaza) they lived in.  They just wanted what they imagined to be a “normal” place.  Imagine their surprise when the greatest topic of conversation at the Shabbat table was  happening in YESHA.  At home they didn’t hear as much.

Here in Shiloh we go on with our lives.  The parents of young children are worrying about who will be teaching their kids next year and rushing around to buy books, clothes and school supplies, just like everyone else.

In Yafiz, (and Rami Levy,) Sha’ar Binyamin, where I work, Jews and Arabs are jostling around together shopping.  We’re living proof that people like Jay Michaelson who wrote the Forward article haven’t a clue.  They’re letting their ideology distort their vision.

The calm here isn’t a lie.  The Left and all those who claim that the Arabs will explode in violence aren’t objectively predicting.  They are instigating and encouraging Arab violence by making excuses and rationales for the Arabs.

I’m on the inside.  I work with Arabs.  And if the world, including Israeli Leftists, media, politicians, academics and community workers would just leave things alone we would eventually achieve a true peace.  It will take a long, long time, but it can happen.

True peace can’t be negotiated.  True peace comes from the inside and works its way out.  Faux peace, implemented by “treaties” is external and wears off, like the “democracy” of the “Arab Spring,” which has been proven a deadly farce.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

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