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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mother’

We Are All Children Of One Creator

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It was the mid ‘60s and I was living with my mother and brother in public housing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We moved there from Brooklyn a decade earlier to be near my mother’s family when my father died suddenly of a stroke.

Next door to us lived an Italian family with whom I spent a lot of time visiting. The mother was divorced from a husband who preferred using his fists rather than talking to her. I played with Mary, the youngest of the children, who was my age. However, I now wonder if I really went there to hear Mary’s mother tell me stories of her life growing up in Italy. She was a great storyteller. I felt drawn into another world and could relate to those stories because they were about family life. And many of her stories had morals.

The family at the other end of the hall consisted of Mr. and Mrs. R. and their three children. I had a close friend in Rosa, the middle child; Sonya was the oldest, Paul the youngest. I had a warm and happy relationship with each one. The mother was always chirpy and smiling. I spent hours playing Scrabble with the father, a very kind and caring person. Rosa once confided that her father was concerned because he saw me spend so much time alone looking out the hall window. Sonya was like the older sister I always wanted. When some girls stole my bike, Sonya went with me and got my bike back. She was tall and strong looking, and all she had to do was yell at the girl riding my bike in order to bring it over. The girl rode over with her two friends and silently handed it back. Sonya was my hero.

Paul, the youngest R. family member, spent a lot of time in my apartment. He visited me on many Friday nights and watched my mother light the Sabbath candles. I told him that his Hebrew name would be Pinchus. As much as he tried, he could never get the “ch” sound right. Looking back, I have no idea how we had so much to talk about, but we spent lots of time exchanging ideas. Most of the time, I felt closer to Paul than his sister Rosa.

A few years passed and I was in college. Paul moved on to other friends and no longer visited me. I remembered that he dreamt of becoming a doctor.

My mother had many friends who often visited her. One afternoon I came home and saw my mother sitting at the dining room table with Fanny, her closest friend. They both looked at me as I walked in, but neither one said a word. The room was heavy and I felt uneasy. My mother’s face had a disturbed look, both troubled and angry at the same time. Fanny was a clown and loved to make me laugh – but not on that morning. She abruptly left with just a “goodbye.” Not knowing what I was dealing with, I started some small talk with my mother, but she cut me off. It seemed that the very sound of my voice was too much for my mother to bear.

What was going on? What happened to my world? My mother made it obvious that she had nothing to say, something that never happened before. The next day was just as bad, making me glad to leave for school. On my way home, I thought that things would be better. However, it was just as awful. I pleaded with my mother to tell me what was going on. Finally she told me that the day before a lady who lived in the next courtyard heard a knock at the door. She asked who it was and heard “Western Union.” When she opened the door, a bunch of wild teenage boys rushed in. She was tied up and repeatedly attacked. By the time her husband got home, she had been mentally and physically destroyed.

My mother continued, explaining that she got a call from our neighbor, Paul R. He told her that he was calling from a payphone. He wanted to give her a warning, but before he could go into detail, he said that she must not call the police or tell anyone that he had called her – because “they” would kill him. “They,” it turned out, were the gang he belonged to, the boys who had brutalized the woman in the next courtyard. It was the first time my mother heard about the horrible attack. Paul said that the gang was going to try the same thing with her. She must not answer the door.

So Many ‘Things’: A Personal Account of Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There it was, a backyard full of my basement furniture, and bags and bags of waterlogged papers. There is something very humbling about seeing your “things” laid out on the grass. Of course, my home in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, is just one of many in the region devastated by Hurricane Sandy. But since possessions are by definition personal, it gives one no comfort to know others have the same problem.

In my case this is just the beginning, because the water that flooded my house rose above the basement and came up to the first floor, causing major damage. So over the next few days my daily living items will also be making their way outside.

As I stood on my porch, many thoughts came to mind. Leaving aside the enormity of what I have to deal with, I couldn’t help but think of how much we accumulate over the course of years. I am not by any means a hoarder – but I was quite surprised to see how much I had saved. Whose lock of hair is that in the water-soaked bag? My sons are in their forties with children of their own, but I guess I couldn’t part with that little lock from a long-ago upsherin. Now I would have to.

The table and chairs sitting outside were connected to a chesed I had done a while back. Actually, it was only the first part of the chesed. That probably is why we are told that if one starts a mitzvah, one has to finish it. I will not be able to finish that one.

I suppose some of the things in the basement were junk, but so many others were dear to me. There was the set of my father’s machzorim with larger print for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that my mother gave me after my father died, with a beautiful inscription that only my mother was capable of writing. I still remember what she wrote, and that will have to be the memory I hold onto now that I can no longer hold those machzorim.

As I stood there, another memory came to me. It was about thirty-three years ago that my dear Aunt Sylvia died, and while my mother sat shiva it fell to me to empty out Aunt Sylvia’s small apartment. Everything Aunt Sylvia owned was in those two and a half rooms. And there I was trying to figure out what was valuable and what was not. Then again, valuable to whom?

I picked some things I thought my mother and my sister would like and I took some of the things that had special meaning to me. Much of the rest I discarded. But it wasn’t easy. I was crying as I worked on it. And when I was finished I promised myself I wouldn’t save so many things. Now, all these years later, I ask myself how it is that I indeed saved so very many things.

I think the answer is that while we live, different things have meanings to each of us. I saved the little card my son Zevie made for me when he was three years old in nursery school because I never could forget the joy on his face when he presented it to me.

I saved my children’s report cards, from first grade on, even those of the daughters who are now grandmothers themselves because – well, just because. I saved some of the birthday cards my parents gave me over the years because, as I mentioned above, my mother had such a wonderful way with words. And the list goes on and on.

My husband’s medical school diploma and other items related to his medical achievements were in the basement along with some of his other things. In a strange way I would feel a sense of comfort in touching them. It will soon be his second yahrzeit, and I miss him very much.

My eyes filled with tears as I stared at what was in those clear garbage bags, but then I quickly admonished myself. How could I tear up over “things” when I have my life and my health? But I stopped beating myself up about it almost as soon as I started.

Score! Susie Fishbein Strikes Again

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Your mother may have taught you how to separate an egg and how to dice a mango, but I am willing to bet your mother never taught you to spatchcock a chicken.

No, that is not a typographical error.

And no, your mother, like mine, was not being negligent in neglecting to teach you how to cut out the backbone of a chicken and press it flat in order to produce a crispy, delicious chicken in a record time amount of cooking time.

Chances are that spatchcocking was just one cooking technique that your mother, and mine, never learned from their own mothers.

But with the introduction of her eighth cookbook, Kosher By Design Cooking Coach, kitchen diva Susie Fishbein is about to change all that, with a stunning new volume designed to turn readers into culinary stars, by teaching techniques as basic as dicing salad ingredients and as unfamiliar as spatchcocking a chicken.

While Cooking Coach continues the now ten year old Kosher By Design brand with a mouth watering selection of 120 recipes that look so good that I am practically drooling as I write this article (Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Cakes anyone?), what sets this cookbook apart from so many others is that it contains page after page of kitchen techniques, giving readers the opportunity to learn all the tricks of the trade. In fact, Fishbein herself has had no professional culinary training and she is hoping that this new book will give readers an understanding of cooking techniques and ingredients so that they can spread their own culinary wings and really fly on their own.

“If you can read, you can cook. Anyone can do this,” explained Fishbein. “My real job as a teacher is to free people from cookbooks, both mine and others, and inspire them with new ideas. By learning the proper cooking techniques, it frees you to use them how you want, with the foods and ingredients that you like.”

The idea for KBD Cooking Coach came to Fishbein while she was teaching new recipes in her cooking classes – what her students really wanted was to learn the basics.

“People loved the recipes that I demoed but it was the tips and techniques that went along with those recipes that they were really interested in,” recalled Fishbein. “I started thinking that maybe a ten year milestone was the right time to share this knowledge with the public.”

Dicing, mincing, making a chiffonade – Fishbein gives clear step by step illustrated instructions, as well as an overview of kitchen knives. No need to spend large sums on an endless array of knives when, according to Fishbein, just three well chosen knives – a chef’s knife, a serrated knife and a paring knife – will suffice. The book includes an illustrated guide to three different techniques for knife sharpening. Fishbein also offers practical guidance on buying pots, pans, baking equipment and kitchen appliances including food processors, blenders, mixers and immersion blenders.

Each chapter is preceded by a “Game Plan,” an informative prelude detailing fundamental cooking techniques, advice and other tidbits, designed to help the reader better understand their ingredients and hopefully hone their own cooking instincts. The chapter on meat contains not only a full guide to the different cuts of meat and the best cooking techniques for each cut, but also explains how to tell when meat is done, how to properly slice it and how to create grill marks on steaks and hamburgers. The fish section teaches readers how to tell if a fish is fresh, the advantages of fresh versus frozen and how to pin bone and skin a fish. The side dish chapter gives a quick primer on storing fresh produce as well as an introduction to chili peppers.

All of the above adds up to not only better kitchen skills, but some serious savings of both time and money on several different levels. Learn how to dice an onion properly (Fishbein admits to wearing goggles while performing this task in order to prevent tearing up) and you may be surprised how much easier and faster the job will go. Learn how to sweat vegetables for a soup and you will maximize their flavor, getting the most bang for your buck. Learn how to zest a lemon with a microplane and you will never overpay for dried (and less flavorful) lemon zest ever again. Learn the best place to store nuts (in the freezer) and your days of dealing with rancid (and extremely unappetizing, trust me on that one) nuts will finally be over.

Nazi Leader’s Sister Hid Jews Near Brussels

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

The sister of a Belgian Nazi leader hid three Jews in her home near Brussels during the Holocaust, according to one of the survivors.

Hanna Nadel, now 86, said she, her mother and her niece were rescued by M. Cornet, the sister of Leon Degrelle, who, as leader of the Belgian Nazi Rexen movement, was responsible for deporting Jews to their deaths during the German occupation of Belgium.

Nadel’s account, related to historian Jan Maes, appeared earlier this week in the Belgian-Jewish monthly Joods Actueel,

The three, having escaped deportation orders, wandered  with their suitcases around the town of Sint-Genesius Rode, where they happened upon a help-wanted sign on Cornet’s door.

The mother rang the doorbell and Cornet, without asking many questions, hired the mother as cook and Nadel and her niece to work as chambermaids.

Cornet knew the three women were Jewish and promised them they would survive. Visitors associated with the Flemish Nazi movement would routinely dine at the house , while the three Jewish women hid in the basement.

Nadel’s mother would sometimes cook gefiltefish, which the lady of the house advertised to her guests as “oriental fish”, Nadel recalled.

Nadel immigrated to Israel after the war. Leon Degrelle left for Spain, where he died of old age in 1994, escaping the death sentences that his Nazi associates received back home.

On The Interface Of Science And Torah Ethics Human Genomics: Scientific Achievement and Ethical Dilemmas

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“G-d formed man from the earth and breathed into him a living soul.”

The greatest achievement of the biological sciences since that moment in creation has been the Human Genome Project, a massive effort by thousand of biologists, chemists and physicists who isolated and identified the 24,000 genes that Hashem placed in Adam and Eve, and through them in each of their descendents. These genes direct the formation of all our physical and mental attributes. Despite having the same genes, however, we are not all identical. When compared to the genetic make-up of the “reference human,” whose gene sequences were published at the completion of the Human Genome Project, every individual’s genome has about four million variations, some of which predispose to disease or determine response to a specific treatment. “Personal Genomics” is the goal that medical geneticists hope to achieve under which specific treatment for a disease would be determined by studying the whole genome sequence [WGS] of a patient.

The WGS is a non-invasive test requiring only some blood or saliva. Such testing now exists for analyzing fetal DNA from pregnant women. Unlike amniocentesis, which needs fluid removed from the sack (amnion) that surrounds and protects the developing fetus and may cause a spontaneous abortion, these new tests need only a few drops of blood from the mother to isolate fetal DNA, and a swab of the father’s saliva. Three commercial labs launched versions of this test in the past twelve months and last June, researchers at the University of Washington used this non-invasive test to “read” the entire genome of an 18 week fetus.

This magnificent advance in the study of the human genome poses an ethical challenge to all who are guided by Torah law. Even our current primitive ability to study the genetics of a fetus, to determine if it carries the genetic Down’s Syndrome, has resulted in the abortion of 90% of those so identified. Testing 24,000 genes for “normalcy” will surely result in a massive increase in abortions. Current obstetrical practice routinely includes an ultrasound scan of the developing fetus. Under instruction from their liability insurance company to avoid suits for “unlawful birth” doctors must report to parents’ every minor deviation from the idealized norm. If such deviations are reported, worry and fear supplants the joy of pregnancy until, as almost always, a normal, healthy child is born.

What will be the decision of young parents who planned on a family of three children- two of whom are home in bed and one in utero? Why risk the tragedy of a genetically defective child being born? Cancel this one and try again in a few months!

Torah Law is unambiguous! Aborting even the earliest pregnancy violates biblical law. Some who follow the dictates of halacha are misled by the reference in the Talmud to an embryo before 40 days of gestation as “maya b’alma,” which they translate incorrectly as “merely water.” The reference is to the unformed stage of development (like water without form) and is not intended to impugn the embryo’s claim to life. When the health of the mother is endangered, the halacha differentiates between a pre- or post-40 day gestation. The halacha, however, defends the implanted embryo’s claim to life even if it requires transgressing Torah Law, come the Sabbath, to obtain medical care that would prevent the termination of the early pregnancy.

There is another ethical dilemma to evaluate. Is knowledge an absolute good? Must everyone be aware of every potential mishap that may occur because of some genetic flaw harbored in his genome?

Indeed, most would agree that it is better not to know of the presence of a catastrophic gene such as the gene for Huntington’s Disease which destroys the brain by age 50 and for which there is no cure. But there are many who prefer to have a life of simple faith in Hashem knowing that His kindness will protect from all evil. They do not want to know—hence the dilemma. When one member of a family undertakes a WGS study, it reveals information about every other close relative. To tell them the test results imposes the burden of knowledge that they prefer not to bear. To withhold genetic information such as the presence of cancer genes which predispose to the disease prevents them from taking necessary precautions such as frequent medical examination or early pharmacological or radiological intervention that be life saving.

A Labor Of Love

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I recently interviewed Mrs. Tziporah Lifshitz of Maaleh Adumim, Israel about the posthumous publication of the book A Day Is A Thousand Years, Human Destiny and the Jewish People, authored by her late father, Dr. Zvi Faier, and edited by Tziporah and her mother, Chaya.

I knew Tziporah as a young child when our families lived around the corner from each other in Far Rockaway. I had not seen her for many years and I was looking forward to this interview.  I also remembered her father, whom we called Herschel, all those years ago.  He was a “scholar and a gentleman,” brilliant, but warm and approachable.  I was saddened when I learned of his death and thankful that with the publication of this book, his thoughts would remain for posterity.

Tziporah, please tell me a little about your father.

My father was born in pre-war Poland. His family fled Nazi occupied Poland and lived in Southern Russia. In 1948 through the help of an aunt they immigrated to Montreal, Canada where he attended yeshiva and received a Bachelor of Science degree. He then moved to Chicago where he received a PhD from Northwestern University, in theoretical physics. In Chicago he met and married my mother, Chaya and also met his mentor, Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman, who was the head Rabbinic scholar at the Hebrew Theological College.

In 1973 our family made aliyah. My father maintained his Talmudic studies with Rabbi Zimmerman at the Harry Fishel Institute, where he received Smicha in 1976.

Recently, when I asked a relative how he would best describe my father, he said, “ He was always striving towards deeper understanding and truth.” My father was above all, a man of Torah, but he was also a man of science.

What was your part in this book?

I was very close to my father. He wrote and then we discussed many pieces together, especially during the last three years of his life. Upon his death, I assumed the editing of the manuscript, together with my mother. But he completed the manuscript. On the one hand the book is very personal and yet it is a book of lofty ideas.

What is the theme of the book?

I think I would say, what being “the Chosen People” means and what it implies for non-Jews. My father believed in the goodness of mankind. He wanted this book to be read by Jews as well as non-Jews, because what is at stake is nothing less than the future of mankind. He relates his own life experiences, the Holocaust, because this tackles the question of the relationships of Jews and gentiles. He also discusses Christianity and anti-Semitism. A key word in his world is striving. Man at full stature, is a being that strives higher and higher. Not only mundane everyday survival and managing life, but striving to reach deeper truths and new horizons. This was how he viewed mankind and history and this is how he lived his own life.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a mother of 8 children, all born in Israel. I live in Maaleh Adumim, which is about 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem. I teach Jewish philosophy at Ulpana Tzvia, the local girls high school and I am studying for my doctorate in the Talmud department of Bar Ilan University.

You mentioned Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman as your father’s mentor. How does this relate to the book?

Rabbi Zimmerman was a part of the Brisk dynasty, and was considered a giant in Torah. My father was his student for many years and he had a profound influence on his life. Some of the concepts explored in this book are things that my father discussed with Rabbi Zimmerman and he is mentioned often in the footnotes.

Tell me a little more about the book.

My father quotes Chazal, offering his own analysis and illuminating a new dimension, especially to those who are not so familiar with the words of Chazal. He brings new insights suitable to a broad educated audience, Jew as well as non-Jews.

This book is not a coffee table book, nor is it a quick read. It can be picked up often to read a few pages and then put down, but come back to again and again.

Chabad Women Rocking in ‘Bulletproof Stockings’ (Video)

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Rocking custom sheitels and opaque tights, and walking the sidewalks of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Dalia Shusterman and Perl Wolfe have the Hasidic world talking – and singing along to the tunes of their Hasidic alternative rock girl band, Bulletproof Stockings.

Featured in the New York Post and the Times of Israel in the last month, Shusterman, the recently widowed mother of four boys under the age of 8 and Wolfe, a young divorcee, appear the picture of Chabad normalcy.

But while their influences are rather “unorthodox” – Radio Head, Jane’s Addiction, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they are not.  While they do not appear to fill the conventional roles typically adhered to by the women of Chabad Lubavitch, and have raised concerns that they may be poor role models to young Jewish women, Shusterman and Wolfe maintain their commitment to doing things Torah-style.

Their soulful crooning is women-only, in accordance with the rabbinic prohibition of “kol isha”, making live singing performances by women off-limits to men.  They said they don’t view the restriction as a limitation, however, viewing it rather as an opportunity for women to commune in an environment of free expression.

In their interviews, the duo said they hope other Jewish women will get musical, and shed the misconception that Jewish women do not sing or perform.

Shusterman is a veteran percussionist on the indie rock scene who found Chabad Lubavitch in September 2001, when a chassid handed her a flyer for a Sukkot event in Crown Heights.  She fell in love with Jewish spirituality, and a man she met that night, and ended up the wife of a rabbi and mother of four boys.  Her husband passed away in the spring.

Wolfe was a rebellious teen who left the Chabad path her music-loving ba’al teshuva parents had forged for her. She came back to observance after a year in Israel, and ultimately returned to Crown Heights in 2008 after her marriage fell apart.

Wolfe, the singer and song writer, says her songs are inspired by the Torah and by her Lubavitch faith.  She says she prays before she writes lyrics, asking God to inspire her with messages which will be meaningful to her audience.

Listen to Bulletproof Stockings on Myspace.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/chabad-women-rocking-bulletproof-stockings/2012/10/28/

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