Boys to men: Jewish education helps prepare kids for life

Raising three boys to be well-rounded, menschy men isn’t easy, and I admit to making one or two mistakes (per hour) in my efforts to guide my sons toward actions that reflect soulfulness, integrity and compassion.

As my children grow, so do my expectations of their accountability for their decisions. However, there is much that I — that all of us — can do, as our sons lurch toward manhood. In partnership with their educators, we can make a difference in helping them become stand-up young men.

Seeing the impact of an ethically based Jewish high school, both as a parent and as a professional in the school, I’ve witnessed much to give me hope. This is in spite of all the news spotlighting boys walking onto campuses to vent rage and fear with bullets, and young men at colleges assaulting women.

As an educator, I’ve witnessed how much of an effect the parent-educator partnership can have. I’ve seen boys who have reacted in anger to classroom situations learn to recognize the triggers and articulate frustration productively. I’ve seen young men poke fun at weaker kids on one day, then, weeks later, encourage those same kids when they’re teamed up on a soccer field. I’ve seen shy freshman boys who tease girls at the lockers later become superb co-leaders with young women in student government. 

All of this requires parents to engage with educators, giving context to the students’ situation, expressing hopes for their children’s maturation and staying consistent on a plan of action. Meanwhile, teachers, deans and administrators must spend ample time talking, setting boundaries and goals, and following through with the young men and their parents.

I do not profess to have easy answers. Negative things can happen in spite of all the right efforts. However, I do believe in the power of a parent-school commitment to painstakingly and repeatedly teach our boys values and behavior that help them navigate their emotions and the expectations placed on them by a society that too often rewards aggression.

One of my conclusions: Leading by example trumps everything. So many times, I have lectured my boys with a torrent of words, only to realize they don’t hear much of it. What they do gather are my actions. When they’ve seen me disagree with their mother, they’ve watched me listen to her side as much as argue my own. And when I’m wrong, I admit it (even if it’s long after the argument). When greeted by a homeless person asking for money, they’ve witnessed how I say hello and often give something, usually a food item, because I want to stress that ignoring someone in need is a missed opportunity to have a direct impact. 

I’ve also discovered that there may be no skill more important than communication. Being able to articulate an idea, concern or feeling can make life much easier in everything from business to personal relationships. This is especially important for guys to learn because, even in this more egalitarian age, males still find it difficult to express their emotions and needs, which sometimes results in the building up of tension that gets released negatively.

As an educator at a Jewish high school, I’ve noted how role modeling and communication can be addressed through tradition and text. This is why we commit a year’s worth of assemblies to hearing senior students give presentations, called drishat shalom (messages of peace and wholeness). The students each summarize a piece of Jewish text, explaining what the text has taught them about particular values and recommending ways younger students can apply the values. 

It is also why we gather our entire school for a yearly off-campus Shabbaton. Some of the programming is led by kids from all grade levels and allows them the time to value their relationships with one another and with their teachers. Because faculty often bring family with them, students see first-hand how these adults model the values they espouse.

Of course, teachers and pupils need to notice when students seem upset. When necessary, an experienced school counselor and the parents must be brought into the loop.

I feel so fortunate to raise my boys in partnership with an ethics-based Jewish school. Although I am still ultimately responsibile for rearing my children, I don’t have to be the only role model, and I don’t have to do all of the complicated explaining of why character counts so much. In these ways, I am more confident that my boys, and the many others who are educated similarly, can become the kind of role models and communicators who will make the world a little safer and better.

Do men and women matter?

Most Americans do not realize that, as large as the issue of same-sex marriage is (and it is very large), there is an even larger issue at stake in the same-sex marriage debate.

That issue is whether gender matters: Do male and female, man and woman, matter?

In the brief span of about 40 years, a war against the male-female distinction has been waged. And it has been largely successful. 

This was unforeseen and unforeseeable. Had anyone living in 1975 (or, for that matter, anywhere in the Western world for the previous 2,000 years) been told that Western societies would one day seek to erase the most basic and important innate distinction between human beings — the man-woman distinction; that the best educated would deny that men and women were different in any meaningful way; and that the two sexes would be regarded as completely interchangeable — that person would have thought he or she was talking to a madman.

Yet, that is what has happened at the social equivalent of the speed of light.

It began with modern feminism, a movement that has influenced vast numbers of men and women born after World War II. It was the movement’s goal of women’s equality that led to its denial of innate male-female differences. First, feminists feared than any acknowledgement of male-female differences would lead back to male-female roles. Second, they increasingly tended to equate “equal” with “same.”

Feminism convinced a generation of men and women, especially those attending college and graduate school, that (to cite one well-known example) the only reason boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls and tea sets is due to a sexist upbringing. Without sexist assumptions about boys’ and girls’ alleged differences, boys would just as happily play with dolls and tea sets and girls would just as happily play with trucks. 

That this was nonsense didn’t matter. When that is all you hear from your teachers and read in your textbooks, you begin to believe it. It was believed, for example, by a major intellect, Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University and Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton. He told a story about “giving his daughter two trucks as an effort at gender-neutral parenting. The girl soon began referring to one of the trucks as ‘daddy truck’ and the other as ‘baby truck.’ ”

The next societal force working to erase the significance of the sexes was the gay rights movement. The very premise of the movement is that the only thing that matters in sexual relations is that consenting adults engage in it. Whether men and women make love to one another or to members of their own sex makes no difference. Gender doesn’t matter.

And if gender doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter with regard to parents: It makes no difference whether children have two mothers, two fathers or a mother and a father. Schools such as New York’s progressive Rodeph Sholom Day School, in 2001, even banned any celebration of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day among its elementary school students.

Catholic Charities, the nation’s oldest ongoing adoption services, were forced out of the adoption business in states like Massachusetts and Illinois — because they placed children for adoption only with a married man and woman. Progressives consider such a sentiment — that, all things being equal, it is better for a child to have a mother and a father — as bigoted and absurd. Since the sexes aren’t different, a mother provides nothing that two fathers can’t provide, and a father provides nothing that two mothers can’t provide. 

Young people in America and elsewhere are increasingly experiencing the results of this denial of male-female significance. 

• Harvard University appointed its first permanent director of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and queer student life. The individual, Vanidy Bailey, has asked that he/she never be referred to as he or she, or as male or female. Harvard has agreed.

• Each year, more and more American high schools elect girls as homecoming kings and boys as homecoming queens. Students have been taught to regard restricting kings to males or queens to females as discrimination.

• When you sign up for the new social networking site, Google Plus, you are asked to identify your gender. Three choices are offered: Male, Female, Other. The same holds true on applications to American universities such as New York University.

• The left-wing French government announced that in the future no government-issued document will be allowed to use the words “mother” or “father.” Only “parent” will be allowed.

• In Rhode Island, at least one school district canceled its father-daughter dance after the ACLU threatened to sue the district for gender discrimination. Only parent-child events, not father-daughter dances or mother-son ballgames, will be allowed.

• More and more schools now feature cross-dressing days for all their students.

• In Sweden, some parents now send their children to at least one school that does not refer to children as either a boy or a girl. 

Same-sex marriage is both the culmination of this erasing of male-female significance and its most powerful expression: Society has declared that marrying someone of the same sex is no different from marrying someone of the other sex.

The Torah went out of its way to assert the monumental importance of gender distinctions. When God created the first human beings, the Torah tells us, “Male and female He created them.” Only of humans does the creation story make this statement; gender distinctions don’t matter among animals except with regard to procreation. And the Torah prohibits men from wearing women’s clothing and women from wearing that which represents manhood. But how many Jews really care what the Torah says? Like the American Constitution, the progressive regards it as a deeply flawed text written by deeply flawed sexist, homophobic and racist men. 

In negating the man-woman distinction, we are bequeathing to our children a Brave New World. Time will tell whether they will thank us. I don’t think they will.

Thou shall not have images … on buses … neither men nor women

Fearing costly vandalism aimed at buses carrying advertisements that include images of women; to avoid legal issues of discrimination if only images of men appear; and to side-step head-on collisions with Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community; Egged, Israel’s public bus cooperative has ordered the company handling its on-bus advertising to stop running ads with pictures or representations of either men or women. As of August 1, a “faceless” policy was put into effect.

Vandalizing public advertisements bearing women’s pictures is not a new issue. Bus shelters, for instance, were frequently damaged or destroyed going back decades. More recently, issues of discrimination against women in the capitol have become headline affairs. The present issue came to a head eight months ago when the Yerushalmim organization – an NGO advocating for a pluralistic city of Jerusalem—sued in the High Court of Justice to force Canaan, the exclusive ad agency for the Egged bus company, to run its campaign featuring “The Women of Jerusalem.” Its legal effort was supported by the Ministry of Transportation, which submitted a brief objecting to any censorship of photos of women. According to Yerushalmim CEO Rabbi Uri Ayalon, at that point it seemed that the matter was solved and the ads, replete with photos, would be running on Egged buses.

According to Ayalon, the apparent understanding fell apart when the discussion turned to the specifics of the images submitted by the NGO to the ad agency for the buses to carry. At issue was the length of the sleeves the models were shown wearing. Yerushalmim insists that when it agreed to the sleeve issue, a new request was made to replace T-shirts with long-sleeve blouses.

While the back-and-forth was continuing, Egged decided to change its policy and ban advertising in the Jerusalem market that contained any human images at all. Canaan told Yerushalmim it would honor its commitment for a ten day period, after which time the agreement to run its ads would lapse. Ayalon told The Media Line that his organization did, indeed, submit its ads in a timely manner, but Canaan differed, saying the NGO failed to get the ads in before the contract expired.

Yerushalmim was established in 2009 by Jerusalem residents advocating a pluralistic city. Opposing the exclusion of women from the public sphere, the organization kicked-off its campaign one-year ago in response to the censorship of an ad campaign of women. It included ads displayed on balconies and street stands throughout the city of Jerusalem that featured images of women. Yerushalmim claims bus ads have been free of female images for the past eight years; and five years in the case of posters.

Nissim Zohar, director of marketing for Zohar advertising company, told The Media Line that “for years” his agency had been trying to place ads in Jerusalem that included images of women.  Zohar credited Mayor Nir Barkat with raising the issue six months ago, resulting in media coverage of the issue and subsequently, more than 500 posters were displayed around the city.

Advertisements that feature women have found a home on Jerusalem bridges, though.

Uri Neter, CEO of Rapid Vision, franchise-holder for billboards affixed to bridges in Jerusalem, told The Media Line that, “We divided advertising on bridges in large formats across the platforms. Currently we don’t have any ads with women, but [when we did] we didn’t have a problem because it is hard to get to the bridges and cause damage because of the height.”

Canaan CEO Ohad Gibli told The Media Line the “faceless” policy instituted by Egged and prompted by the Yerushalmim fracas has cost him his Jerusalem offices which he recently closed, citing a loss of more than $60,000 month. Gibli said for Egged, it’s just a business decision stemming from the financial costs the bus company has sustained in the past due to acts of vandalism.

A spokesperson for Canaan said that there is a lot of provocation around this story,  but since there is no problem of discrimination now, no decision is expected.

Ayalon, though, disagreed and told The Media Line that not publishing any human images in Jerusalem while allowing it everywhere else is also an act of discrimination, and that Yerushalmim will continue to pursue the issue. The group’s attorney, Aviad Hacohen, told The Media Line that, “It’s not only an act against women, but it’s an act against men – it’s against freedom of speech and equality.”

My Single Peeps: Lynn R.

Lynn has been a widow since 1996 and is doing her best to fall in love again. But she’s finding the world of online dating difficult to navigate. On one date, she told me, “I found out the guy was a bookie.” He was in a bad mood because he had just lost $8,000. “There was one guy on the phone — every time we talked with each other, it was fun and great. Then we got together, and he was way overweight. I mean way overweight — which wasn’t disclosed in the profile. There was absolutely no chemistry — nothing. You can’t let yourself be seduced by the voice, because the pictures they put up aren’t representative of who they really are. That’s online dating.”

Lynn’s originally from Los Angeles. “I grew up in the Valley. I was a Valley Girl before the term was created. The last several years, I’ve been writing screenplays, which doesn’t differentiate me much from the other people out here. But I did have a short film made, and one of my screenplays is in the hands of a London producer who’s trying to find a director for my script. So that’s hopeful. That’s what I spend a lot of time doing.”

“I started out as a secretary, but I hated it. I took a Greyhound bus around the Western states when I was about 22 and wound up in Sun Valley, Idaho, and I thought this could really be fun working here in the winter. So I tried to get a job as a maid, which I would have failed at miserably — my parents had a cleaning girl.

“At the last stop before the bus came, there was a coffee shop, and I heard a piano player next door — and he was so bad that I thought I could do better than that. I used to play as a kid. If she had asked me to audition, I couldn’t have done it. But she didn’t.”

Lynn made a deal that she’d work at another bar they were opening if they would send her the train fare. “I went back to my old piano teacher, and I took three lessons a day and practiced 16 hours a day for two weeks and took my first job.  I got fired a week later.”

But that led to a job at another bar and, soon, a singing and piano career.

[For other Single Peeps, visit]

Although Lynn, who’s in her early 60s, is officially retired, she puts in two to four hours a day on her writing. “I hate the word retired. You see it on profiles and wonder what they’re doing with their lives. I like being productive, and I like for other people to be productive. If he is retired, at least he wants to do other things, like travel. [I want] a man with a good heart, a good mind and financially stable. I don’t mind dating men who are younger than me. It just depends on the man. He could be older and could be a terrific guy.”

I ask Lynn what she likes to do with her free time. “I like to go to movies, I like to read, and I love to swim. I love to travel. My last major trip was to Africa on a safari. [It was] the most amazing trip of my life, seeing the animals in person. I traveled with a girlfriend. Another favorite place I went to is Bora Bora. I went there with my [late] husband.”

“How’s single life?” I ask. “It’s fine. You know, I certainly adapted to it. But I think life is better when you share it. I do.”

Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site,, and meet even more single peeps at

Promoting men’s Jewish engagement

Rabbi Charles Simon, a recent visiting lecturer at American Jewish University (AJU), asked rabbinical students how they would deal with a future intermarriage. One young rabbi-to-be said he’d welcome the couple … then tell them that, unfortunately, he couldn’t marry them. Simon, clearly taken aback, answered quickly: “No, don’t tell them that. Don’t ever approach things from a negative point of view, especially with a couple who want to be part of your synagogue. … We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we’re a diverse community united in a common goal — to find meaning in Jewish life.”

Simon is executive director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC), an auxiliary arm of the Conservative movement, and he talked about intermarriage because it’s a key element of his overriding concern: how to increase men’s involvement in synagogue life, including men who are intermarried. Simon, who’s 62 and lives in Manhattan, became head of FJMC more than 30 years ago, after receiving his rabbinic ordination from New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary.

During his recent swing through Southern California, in addition to talking with AJU students, Simon also met with several rabbis and their staffs, discussing the changing nature of men’s place in society, the effects of that change on Jewish institutions, and offering his suggestions about how to try to reverse what to him is a worrisome trend. In a monograph called “The Diminishing Role of Jewish Men in Jewish Life: Addressing the Challenge,” Simon’s conclusion, based on studies as well as anecdotal evidence, is that “Jewish boys and Jewish men are drifting to the fringes of the organized Jewish community and are beginning to disappear on its borders.”

Simon points out that the decreasing role of men in Jewish life parallels what’s happening in American secular life, and it’s “not an encouraging picture.” Women are more engaged in academia than their male counterparts. They “study longer and harder [than men] and … are becoming more successful in the workplace. Women study [while] men play video games. Men are rapidly becoming the second gender.”

Synagogues are experiencing a parallel phenomenon: a growing gender imbalance, as evidenced by the declining rate of male volunteerism in synagogue institutions. He urges synagogue leaders to take steps to try to correct that situation, such as by getting men to join a synagogue-affiliated men’s club in order to “engage men more actively in Jewish life.” 

“We’ve intensified our reach-out to our clubs and encourage the men’s clubs to hold what we call ‘Hearing Men’s Voices’ sessions,” Simon said in an interview. In these events, topics have included men’s spiritual lives, their health issues, men’s role in the Jewish family, and the place of work in men’s lives.

“While one of our primary goals is to service and build men’s clubs in Conservative synagogues,” Simon said, “we’re beginning to serve as the voice of Jewish men.” Simon added that FJMC now has 350 men’s clubs, with some 30,000 men participating.

Simon believes synagogue leaders need to “engage men at any age, whether married and with infants, or whether they have adult children who are no longer living at home.”

He listed some ways to reach out to men at these different stages. The father of a young toddler often feels the urge to put the child over his head and throw him or her around. “The mother’s instinct,” Simon said, “is to say, ‘Don’t do that, you’re going to drop them.’ ” But, Simon said, the father’s behavior is not only wired into men’s DNA, it’s also useful. “When a toddler is picked up, what the father is teaching the child is how to become comfortable with their bodies and how to take risks.”

Simon’s point is that when a wife warns her husband about holding a child aloft, this shouldn’t necessarily be the cue for him to stop the activity, but rather an opening to engage his wife in a discussion. “The husband can say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to drop her.’ ”

This kind of advice is normal in any men’s group — Jewish or not — where men assure one another that their male instincts, in spite of what women may say, are natural and healthy. Whether this strategy draws men into synagogue life remains to be seen.

Another example has to do with men who have adult children. “I have a bunch of 50-, 60-year-old men right now, who six months ago started texting their adult sons and daughters, adult children living all over the place, ‘Shabbat shalom’ on a regular basis. Never did this in their entire life, and all of a sudden, they’re getting responses. And when the kids say, ‘Why are you doing this, Dad?’ And they say, ‘Because this is important for me,’ at that point the fathers realize that they still have influence in the Jewish decisions that their children will make.

“The connection of Jewish men to Jewish life is loosening,” Simon said. In the future, “There is an increasing risk of fewer men identifying Jewishly.” By using the men’s clubs to provide men with helpful strategies, with welcome information about important issues like intermarriage, with a forum where their voices can be heard at every stage of their lives, Simon hopes to “alter the current trend of diminishing male involvement.”

FJMC’s current outreach initiative, Simon said, “is really in the start-up stage. For years, people have been saying, ‘Where are the men? What’s going on with the men?’ But no one’s come up with a constructive way to understand what’s going on with the men, generally, and how to motivate and attract and engage men so that they can make more conscious decisions in a Jewish way at any stage in their lives.”

Israeli study: As negotiators, man smart, woman smarter

Forget the men when it comes to business negotiations. Women may be more skilled than their masculine counterparts, according to a new study by an Israeli researcher.

The doctoral study, by Yael Itzhaki of Tel Aviv University (TAU), indicated that in certain groupings, women offered better terms than men to reach an agreement and were good at facilitating interaction between the parties.

“Women are more generous negotiators, better cooperators and are motivated to create win-win situations,” Itzhaki said.

Itzhaki, an adjunct lecturer at TAU’s Faculty of Management at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, carried out simulations of business negotiations among 554 Israeli and American management students at Ohio State University, in New York City and in Israel.

The simulations, which were designed to examine how women behave in business situations requiring cooperation and competition, involved negotiating the terms of a joint venture, including the division of shares.

During the course of her research, Itzhaki discovered that while women in mid-management positions are often held back from promotion for being too “cooperative” and “compassionate,” men have begun to recognize the skills of their female colleagues and are now incorporating feminine strategies into their negotiating styles. “The men come in and use the same tactics women are criticized for,” she said.

Although both men and women can be good negotiators, Itzhaki emphasizes that there should be more women in top management jobs. Women have unique skills to offer, she said: They’re great listeners, they care about the concerns of the other side, and they’re generally more interested in finding a win-win situation to the benefit of both parties than male negotiators.

woman smarter william shatnerThese are especially desirable traits in today’s business world, which is calling for service improvements for customers and clients. Women today are earning more top positions in banking because of this trend, Itzhaki says.

In part, she says, women don’t reach CEO positions because they lack the right professional experience for the job and never enter the pool from which top positions are drawn. Managers commonly choose successors and colleagues who are most similar to themselves, Itzhaki explains. As a result, men are more likely to promote men.

Itzhaki, who is the founder of Netta, a nonprofit organization that promotes the advancement of women in the workplace, is currently advising Israeli companies on how to take affirmative action. Enforcing equal opportunity laws is one concern, but her advice also responds to concerns beyond the law. Are women being heard in corporate boardrooms? Does the company have policies that measure the amount of work accomplished and not merely hours on the job?

A lot of women don’t want to “fight” to be recognized, she said, preferring cooperation over competition. But more women in management can translate to a healthier bottom line, Itzhaki said.

“Businesses need to develop an organizational culture where everyone is heard, because women’s opinions and skills can give businesses a competitive edge,” she said.


Women keep out — this seder’s for men only

“Avadim Hayinu,” one of the first refrains of the Passover seder, usually refers to the fact that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. “What enslaves us as men,” is another interpretation — this at The Man Seder, the third annual men-only pre-Passover gathering, which takes place at American Jewish University this year on April 13.

This is where the Ten Plagues are not blood, frogs, boils and the killing of the firstborn son, but prostate cancer, heart disease, weight gain and hair loss. The Four Sons are not the smart, the wicked, the innocent and the one who does not know how to ask, but parenting/fatherhood at different stages. Halach Ma’anya, the bread of affliction, represents a fear of poverty and earning a living.

In a city where many niche groups seem to have their own Passover seder — from the feminist seder and the green seder to the sober seder and the Muslim-Jewish seder — it was only a matter of time before one oft-forgotten group decided to gather on their own: men.

“When we first began to discuss the idea of a men’s seder, some questioned the very premise of the idea. Many argued, not inaccurately, that for centuries, the seder was dominated by male themes, symbols and language and to create a men’s seder was both redundant and a step backwards in the development of Jewish identity,” reads the introduction to the men’s haggadah — the guide to “The Man Seder,” written by seder leaders Rabbi Perry Netter of Temple Beth Am and Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Judea. “Where does a contemporary man go to find male bonding? Where does a man go to find a relationship with other men that is not competitive, that is not comparative, that is not threatening and dehumanizing?”

A man’s seder. “It is the ideal structure for exploring those issues which pertain specifically to men, to be discussed by men, to be wrestled with by men, to be shared by men.”

The gender that presumably runs the world increasingly seems to need their own space these days. There are men-only outdoor adventures, weekly workshops and support groups and separate schooling. In the Jewish arena, brotherhood groups, such as the Men of Reform Judaism, have emerged. Although it sounds like a counterpart to the age-old synagogue sisterhood, instead of giving voice to the women who often were left out of a male-dominated synagogue life, men’s groups, which exist at egalitarian synagogues, often give a place for men to be men — alone.

“I have to be honest. I was inspired by women’s seders,” said Rabbi Dan, as he is called. Temple Judea had a women’s seder for 20 years. “It’s fantastic, with the women singing and connecting to each other, and celebrating what it means to be a Jewish woman and a feminist.”

Moskovitz wanted to bring men into synagogue life in a similar way. About five years ago, he created a men’s group that met once a month at his synagogue.

“Whereas women would talk about menopause, we talk about sexual dysfunction,” said Jon Epstein, a father of two from Calabasas who has been partaking in the men’s groups, retreats and The Man Seder. “The whole thing shouldn’t be embarrassing, but it is. It’s something we all go through — this breaks those boundaries and makes it a safe place to discuss those things which by a societal standard are embarrassing.”

“There can be a boundary of barriers that go up when women are present in a discussion,” Moskovitz said. “It adds to it, but maybe something is also lost — some freedom to be honest, some sense of the showmanship that men have to put on, the machismo to not look vulnerable, to not look weak.”

That’s why, he said, men were traditionally separated from women, because it was distracting to men. “If we remove women for a moment, we can talk more honestly about our fears, true experiences of pride, the challenges we face in our work environment with other men or other women.”

Netter adds: “There was a time when boundaries between men and women and their roles and the expectations were very clear. We now live in a time of permeable boundaries. And we are all, men and women alike, trying to fit in the boundary-less world. There are issues that pertain only to men, and that’s what we try to explore in the men’s seder.”

The seder, which attracts some 100 men from the city and Valley, follows the format of a seder, focusing on asking questions about what it means to be a modern Jewish man. At tables of eight, men do some creative exercises, such as writing down answers on a card to questions such as: “When was the moment I first realized I was a man?” and “What is some advice you wish you’d been given?” Then they discuss the answers.

Gary Bachrach has attended The Man Seder for the last two years. “I never have a man’s-only environment,” he said. “There are a lot of issues as a man — dealing with pressure to make sure there’s money and food on the table and things are under control,” he said. Discussing these issues with other men helps him. “It allows you to realize you’re not alone.”

The third annual Man Seder meets at American Jewish University, April 13, 6 p.m. To register online for the event, visit http://

Men: the ill topic of choice

It happens to the smartest and most beautiful of women. Enter Ms. X. We run into each other four years after we were friends in college and decide to meet for dinner.

Ms. X is skinnier now, wears a lot more makeup and is no longer all about T-shirts and jeans. She is high-style and her breasts are way bigger than I remember.

I order a burger, and she orders a salad. I order a drink, and she abstains due to a recent discovery of what alcohol does to her.

Ms. X and I get to talking. Her eyes are heavy; they look a little pained, a little tired. She is all clinical in her language, minimal in what she has to say and often refers to her many therapist friends who allow her to speak and speak and speak without an end in sight.

She also pulls the age-old trick of a depressive. The “you know, people like you and me” trick, where she refers to her neurosis and then to you, bringing you down into her deep, dark cave with her.

What happened to Ms. X? Life. What does she claim happened? Men.

Men are the scapegoat for lost and neurotic twentysomethings. Men and women and the dating scene really are the ill topic of choice for so many of my otherwise smart friends.

This is not to say that I haven’t been plagued by obsession as aversion from existential crises. I’ve been Ms. X beforethe eyes, the eating habits, the aversion to all toxins.

I was there, too, terrified about my futureterrified, really, about my pastand all I could do was obsess interminably about the boy I loved. I may even be there again one day.

This “love” can be another word for insanity, compartmentalization of self and the neurotic anxiety of any generation. Further, it gives us someone else to blamefor everything.

This is what happens: Issues of God, of death, of life, of marriage and career are so overwhelming that we 20-something genius people fall in love with the worst person possible or grow tirelessly obsessed with the dating scene. We fall in love or cry over not falling in love and then tumble so deep into that lair of emotion, revolving completely around our desirability, that we are blind to the things we actually once cared about.

And we grow, suddenly, very, very boring as all we are capable of speaking about is the boyfriend/girlfriend, the ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend or the potential boyfriend/girlfriend who just won’t rear his or her God-given head. Rather than attempt to learn how to live with and to love ourselves, rather than discuss the taboo topics of the horrors your 20s throw at you, we hunt for someone else to be our mirror, to do the dirty work of self-discovery for us.

Ms. X, when she got to talking, had found a passion. It wasn’t music or art. It wasn’t ideas or fashion. No. This woman’s passion was the man who did not love her.

I sound mean. I sound harsh. But this syndrome once swallowed me, and now that I am panting on shore, thanking God I survived, it is swallowing my woman friends left and right. Is it a life-cycle imperative to lose yourself in love before finding yourself?

I want to yell to all my crying female friends who are so sure that “a man will fix it all.” “It” being a deep well of loneliness, lack of self- and world-knowledge and confusion over what to do with this world/self/country. “It” being “I don’t know what to do with my life,” or “I don’t know what to do about my depression,” or maybe, “I don’t know what to do about George Bush.”

I don’t know either. All I do know is that a man won’t make it all better. Not without a lota whole lotof personal work on my end.

We need a new language, one of the 21st century that will allow people in their 20s to articulate their anxiety not as neurosis, particularly about the conundrum of finding love in the eyes of another, but as intellectualism. We need the permission in our friendship relationships to speak of what is truly wrongor right, for that matterrather than using dating as life-defining conversation filler.

Someone needs to start throwing you-just-made-it-through-an-enormous-life-crisis parties or he’s-out-of-your-hair-and-you-can-be-with-yourself-again parties, instead of just engagement parties. Sobriety parties,
never-had-an-addiction-to-begin-with parties, I-finally-found-a-passion-in-life parties, I-survived-a-year-on-my-own parties.

Congratulations need to be doled out where they are truly due.

New commentary looks at Torah from woman’s point of view

How many people know that when the Torah describes Abraham mourning the death of Sarah, it’s the only time in the entire text that a man mourns a woman? Or that Adam and Eve were equal partners in crime? Or that women most likely were instrumental in constructing the Temple?

Too few. That’s why the Reform movement will soon publish a commentary on the Torah that gives the woman’s perspective.

“The Torah: A Women’s Commentary,” a project of Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), the movement’s women’s division, is a collaboration of 80 biblical scholars, archaeologists, rabbis, cantors, theologians and poets from across the religious spectrum — all of them women who came together to present a new perspective on the Bible.

“The goal of this is to bring women’s voices to the forefront,” said Shelley Lindauer, WRJ’s executive director. “History has been written by men; men were the ones who wrote the history of the Torah, and women’s voices got pushed to the background. We want to hear more about what the matriarchs said, some more about the women characters in the Torah.”

The volume won’t be released until the WRJ Assembly and the Union of Reform Judiasm (URJ) Biennial conferences in San Diego in December 2007. However, the Reform movement will introduce a chapter from the book next month. During the week of Nov. 18, when Parshat Chayei Sarah is read, about 250 Reform congregations — approximately 5,000 people in all — will participate in a study program based on the “Women’s Commentary.”

WRJ and URJ Press, which is publishing the book, have released the chapter from the 1,500-page volume for congregations to use during Shabbat services or other study sessions, along with a list of suggested talking points, to give a taste of what the commentary will offer, said Rabbi Hara Person, URJ Press’ managing editor.

The commentary will be laid out differently than many others. Each chapter will offer an overview, followed by Hebrew text and a linear translation, along with a central commentary from one of the 80 contributors.

After the central commentary, another woman will give a short countercommentary, offering a different viewpoint on each chapter. Then another woman will give a post-biblical interpretation and another a contemporary reflection on the parshah or weekly portion. Each parshah also will be followed by a selection of creative writing, most often poetry, that reflects the themes that were just read.

More than traditional commentaries, the new volume will focus on women when they’re in the text of the Torah — and also when they’re glaringly absent, editor Tamara Cohn Eskenazi said.

For instance, Chayei Sarah deals with the death of Sarah and the courting of Rebecca. Abraham’s slave finds Rebecca at a well, where she offers him water, and he asks her family if he can take her back to Canaan to wed Abraham’s son.

The women’s commentary is careful to point out that Rebecca gives her consent. Rebecca is an active, not passive, character from her very introduction in the Torah, the commentary says.

Though he hasn’t seen excerpts of the book, the notion of a women’s commentary garnered praise from Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

“Commentators have traditionally been male, so I think the women’s voice and perspective certainly can help to add and interpret and bring the message of the Torah in a way that may be different than a male’s voice,” Epstein said.

But he was a little wary of an exclusively female commentary, just as he said he would be wary of an exclusively male commentary in this day and age.

“We need commentaries that speak to all people and that have male and female voices blended together,” he said.

Differences between the women’s commentary and traditional commentaries start at the very beginning, with the story of creation.

The creation of woman is one of the most misinterpreted passages in the Bible and is fraught with cultural bias, Eskenazi explains in her interpretation, which will be published in the “Women’s Commentary.”

While the description of Eve being created from Adam’s rib is commonly taken as a sign of Eve’s inferiority, it’s more a statement of their equality, she says. They’re described in Genesis 1:26-28 as being of the same flesh, both “created in God’s image and blessed with fertility and power.”

They later are described as partners. And when they sin by eating the apple, they do so together — yet it is Eve who often is perceived as the evildoer and the one who was the impetus for the expulsion from Eden.

An essay by Elizabeth Bloch-Smith in the volume discusses Parshat Trumah, which describes the building of the Mishkan, the portable temple the Jews built in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Although the gender of the artisans who built the Mishkan isn’t clear, it’s often assumed that they were male.

But based on archaeological evidence from the time that shows women heavily involved in weaving and spinning, Bloch-Smith suggests it was women who provided the yarn for the temple’s Tent of Meeting, according to Rabbi Andrea Weiss, the commentary’s associate editor.

Weiss, an assistant professor of Bible at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, said she’s now teaching a class based on the “Women’s Commentary.”

The volume has been in the works for 13 years, since Sarah Sager, a cantor, challenged the movement to undertake the project in a speech to the WRJ assembly in 1993.

“We’re not trying to make this midrash. We’re not trying to make the text say something that it didn’t say,” Weiss said. “We’re trying to read it closely and to pay more attention to parts not found in other texts.”

Dear Mr. Sensitive

Jokes survive on the Internet like Styrofoam in a landfill. Perhaps you’ve already read these “Actual Personal Ads in Israeli Newspapers”:

  • Professor with 18 years of teaching in my behind wants American-born woman who speaks English very good.
  • 80-year-old bubbe, no assets, seeks handsome, virile Jewish male under 35. Object: matrimony. I can dream, can’t I?
  • Sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide in me. I’ll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.


So I laughed. Silly yet funny. Until the last one came true for me on JDate.

I don’t usually contact men first. No matter how brief or cheery, my message signals, “Hey, I’m interested.” And for some reason, men like to feel that they are the hunters. Or perhaps they want younger women who can still give them babies. That’s fine — but that’s not me. I’ll be 50 soon, which I’m not afraid to admit in print. Not many men seem willing to date women their own age.

But Mr. Sensitive’s ad was different. His opening line, if true, sounded good (“Wanted: romantic partner for an exciting yet sensitive man of brains, wit and integrity”), even if it was arrogant and earnest. No wit to be found, even with a magnifying glass. But if he had the goods to back it up, what’s wrong with a healthy ego? OK, he mentioned “fit” in his profile, and though I am — blood pressure’s great, doctor’s actually concerned that my cholesterol is too low, I try to exercise every day — I’m not the conventional skinny/active type.

However, his last line convinced me: “If you are funny, brave, sexy, super-smart and self-aware, what are you waiting for?”

So I responded:

“I am (or think that I am) all of the above, but it depends on your definition of ‘fit.’ Is that code for thin? Or code for “climbs Kilimanjaro without getting winded”? Neither applies to me. I’m voluptuous in the true meaning of the world — an hour-glass figure, more Jayne Mansfield than Kate Moss. I’ve climbed Chichen-Itza but I’ve never skied in my life. So take a look at my profile, maybe I’ll hear from you. If not, good luck on Jdate.”

Yes, I heard back. Mr. Sensitive wrote:

“Your profile is extremely well-written, as is your note. You are clearly very, very bright, as am I. That’s why I can’t understand why you’d be in such absolute denial of a clear reality.

You didn’t fill in your weight in your profile because you’re not happy with it. If you were, it would be there and you wouldn’t be writing all that senseless crap about Jane Mansfield, with whom you have absolutely nothing in common.

Look in the mirror, see the same thing anyone can see in your photos: You are soft, untoned, out-of-shape and, yes, fat. Then, either fix it or accept it, but don’t try to make believe you’re not. And certainly don’t try to convince others you aren’t because it makes you seem absolutely crazy.

Now go do the right thing.”

I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. His e-mail was breathtaking in its cruelty.

Of course I wanted to argue, it’s Jayne, not Jane, you idiot! No, I’m not blonde like Jayne, nor dead either. I meant only that I have curves, and I’m buxom. Jayne was actually not that busty; she had an extremely large rib cage, and she….

Oh, me? Defensive? Apparently. Jayne is beside the point, as is my body. The issue: Whatever happened to personal ad etiquette, to kindness, or at least civility? Whatever happened to the short, sweet brush-off, “Thanks for writing, but I don’t think we’d be a match”?

How can a man consider himself sensitive, a person of integrity, yet write a note like that? For all its glories, the Internet allows people to be anonymous and unaccountable. Mr. Sensitive forgets that I, too, am sensitive, and he turned personal ads into impersonal attacks. Let’s be honest. Most people on dating sites are essentially saying: “I want love. I want intimacy. I want to be wanted and need to be needed.” So why trample on someone who is fragile, open, reaching out?

Why be gratuitously mean?

I didn’t ask for a critique; I asked if he were interested in getting to know me. Mr. Sensitive basically answered, “How dare someone like you have the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to even say hello to me?” Navigating dating after divorce is hard enough without being terrified of potential Mr. Sensitives lurking behind every personal ad. How does one maintain dating vulnerability, while developing a thick skin so that such attacks no longer hurt? How does one maintain the tension between cheerfulness and cynicism, between hopefulness and experience?

I don’t have the answers. But I’m still searching; I’m still on JDate. I refuse to believe that all men (or women) are like Mr. (In)Sensitive. And if you’re not interested in me, all you have to say is, “Thank you. But no.” I’ll understand.

Diane Saltzberg lives in Los Angeles, and can be reached at


‘Talk to You Soon’

For the record, not all men are creeps. Sure, some creep along to get things done, but most don’t mean harm, and there are some really, truly terrific guys out there.

And get this: Not all men (particularly those who dump you) are idiots.
In fact, they know exactly what they’re doing or not doing.

A short time ago, in a galaxy all too familiar, a smart, adorable guy I’d been chatting with for months faded — like one too many others — into oblivion. The red flags were raised from day one.

It started with one great conversation and ended with an….

There were an intense series of exchanges: He’d IM, I’d text. He’d leave a message apologizing for not calling every … say … week and a half; I’d return the call shortly thereafter, maybe send an e-mail response. We’d call at odd hours, occasionally meet up and enjoy our rendezvous.

We were both very, very busy people (apparently), and our relationship was ill-defined. But, at least it was ongoing, which is occasionally better than nothing (I had thought). Plus, I liked the guy.

The strangely intriguing interactions lasted about two months, until I actually noticed the waving red flags as he’d inevitably close our conversations with “talk to you soon….”

I’d sort of say, “OK,” and trail off, left to ponder.

I suppose I could have been pumped that “I” and “talk” and “you” and “soon” were in the same sentence, since to me, soon means soon.

As it turns out, though, “talk to you soon” meant “buh-bye.” Period.
Now, I do realize that stupidity runs rampant in the journey to Loveland — we hear what we want, anticipate what we shouldn’t and expect — perhaps too much. It’s also difficult to bid adieu — sometimes you don’t want to speak soon (or ever) but don’t have the cojones to admit it; sometimes you shouldn’t speak soon. And sometimes things are best left as is.

But with all our advanced means of communicating efficiently (if only occasionally effectively), courtship coding is still way off.

Today, a blind date is never blind — you’ve met them on Google. Calling may mean an IM or text; making plans may mean meeting up at a mutual friend’s party or after hours; goodbye often means you’ll still e-mail for weeks/months/years until someone finally puts his or her keyboard down. And, I guess tomorrow may mean “soon,” while soon may apparently mean never.

I should get this stuff (I think). After all, I have a Treo I can sort of work.
Dating, however, is primal. Regardless of how you hear it, there’s something nice about: “I will call you on Tuesday to see what’s cooking for the weekend.”
Meaning: I am interested in seeing you again to pursue the notion of dating you. I. Will. Call. You. Tuesday. Easy.

Not interested? Click unsubscribe. No mentions of future contact. No “Let’s be friends.” No random texts (unless you’re really, really drunk or have a friend to set up). It’s rough, but the wishy-washy, unsure, flip-flopping that’s plagued even our country’s leaders is simply a waste of time. And, it’s annoying.

Admittedly awful at severing ties, I’m also increasingly challenged to find something less frustrating, irritating and uncomfortable than unmatched expectations.

Was a time, after my now-ex-boyfriend and I had split, we would (stupidly) chat for hours — laughing, catching up and flirting (I thought, dumbly) harmlessly. Habitually, he’d sign off with “Talk to you soon.”

Note: I didn’t want to get back together. Also note: Boys and girls cannot — I repeat — cannot be just friends.

Still, I’d bite my tongue and hang up/leave feeling befuddled and agitated (see above for severing ties habits.)

This silly game continued for months. We spoke often, until after a long, flirty brunch, he mentioned his “new” girlfriend (we’ll save his tactics for another time). He tilted his head, claiming he wanted to remain friends — for brunch and whatnot.

“Of course,” I said, clenching my teeth, and sort of meaning it (as soon as I poked his eyes out and got a new boyfriend). We joked about never being able to replace me, and as we parted ways, he hugged me. Then, per usual, he said, “Talk to you soon.”

No, I haven’t heard from him since.

I guess for all the communication mayhem of my smart, adorable guy, his lack of clarity was actually quite clear.

Yes, “talk to you soon” is a bit smoother than “best of luck” or, worse, “have a nice life.” But losing faith in people — or a gender as a whole — seems even worse than hearing the truth.

Because, ultimately, making no plan means having no intention. And no call/text/e-mail means he’s not thinking about you.

Not now, not tomorrow and not soon. Period.

A Super ‘Schmooze’ Move

The unforgettable superheroes of comic strips became the stuff of endless Hollywood big-budget sequels. But more often than not, they began in the fevered imaginations of struggling young Jewish guys, whose wildest dreams could be hemmed in only by four panels and black ink.

“In June 1938, Superman appeared,” Michael Chabon writes in his 2000 novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.” “He had been mailed to the offices of National Periodical Publications from Cleveland, by a couple of Jewish boys who had imbued him with the power of a hundred men, of a distant world, and of the full measure of their bespectacled adolescent hopefulness and desperation.”

It’s not an insurmountable leap from those days to these, from the pioneers like “Superman’s” Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel to masters like Art Spiegelman, to the talented Jewish comic strip artists of today.

In that spirit, we premiere this week, “Schmooze or Lose,” our first, weekly serialized comic strip. Read more about the creators, writer Jake Novak and illustrator Michael Ciccotello at, and follow the further adventures of their very L.A. Jewish characters in this space each week.


Dating Creeds

Believe it or not, I’ve never felt quite as valuable, attractive and desirable as the times I’ve gotten dumped. Well, sort of.

According to some once-doting men, I’m terrific. I’m also beautiful, talented, smart, sassy, funny, dynamic, cute and sweet. To make matters worse, I’d make a fantastic mother. And the final blow? Apparently … I’m a catch.

I listen intently to my lover-gone-evil dumper’s compliments — and cringe. Somehow my fairy tale has gone awry.

See, trailing the flattery describing my laundry list of potential partner credentials — the same saccharine methods that wooed me into that first kiss — lay an inevitable “but,” and some rambling, seemingly canned, statements.

In reiterating his appreciation for me, his desire to spare me pain and reasons why we — theoretically — should be together, suddenly my dumper’s not good enough, (“it’s not you, it’s me”), and reeeeeeally wants me to be happy (and move on). “I’m amazing, but [insert canned line here].”

Now clearly not everyone is a match. But instead of feeling empowered and desirable by my heartbreaker’s sweet lines, I am condemned to doubt not only him, but also our time together and, regrettably, my wonderful self. If I were a complete loser, I’d understand. But if I’m so swell, well … seems like I’ve been dating some — literally.

Take “Bob,” the professional with political aspirations. He fell quickly for me; we enjoyed each other, shared similar values and a distinct joie de vivre. He claimed I was everything he looked for in a woman. We talked about the future. And, importantly — we both loved sushi.

When I sought more “us” time to determine our true compatibility, Bob, the great orator, eloquently expressed his feelings for me: He relayed my wonderful attributes, my incomparable spunk and wished upon me the greatest happiness (without him). Apparently, he didn’t want to waste more of my (or his) very precious time (with me).

Guess my joie didn’t match his vivre.

“George,” a younger man (and baseball enthusiast) said I was the most beautiful, hilarious woman he had ever met. He’d gaze lovingly at me over dinner, swoon when we danced and high-five my ball-tossing ability. He reinforced my goodness and thought I’d make a beautiful bride.

Six months into it, when gazing, swooning and high-fiving left me out of a family gathering, I questioned my ranking. George stumbled to the plate, uttered something witty and reinforced my beauty. After two weeks of overtime? He was still charming and I was still “gorgeous” — just not for him.

I suppose even a great lineup can’t win a series without chemistry.

While a canned phrase certainly trumps a “fizzle,” where phone calls stop or rumors start, what if — instead of this PR-driven, cautious fantasy — we just said it: “You’re attractive, but I’ve found someone more so,” “Your neuroses were endearing; now, they’re just annoying,” “I wanted someone motivated and sassy; turns out I’d rather have a trophy wife who’ll focus more on me, ” “You’re incredible, sexy and I just don’t want to marry you.”

It may hurt, but you’ll at least have something to work with (and keep some shrinks in business). And after building your “qualifications,” seeking the “perfect” match (when perfection simply doesn’t exist), you’ve paid your dues. There’s got to be a takeaway. Otherwise, the faux-ex-fan club seems vacuous and wasteful, which simply seems frivolous.

So post-George, I reflected on men I passed up: “Jim” was great (but I wasn’t attracted to him), and “Josh” was terrific (but too goofy for me); “Brian” was really unique (but too scattered for me); “Ian,” while just OK, had amazing potential (just hadn’t gotten there yet); “Dan,” was the entire package — I just hadn’t reached the right place in my life.

So in full disclosure, I complimented my soon-to-be-ex-beaus like heck, and then dumped them. Not in a swift, clear way, but in some rambling, incoherent way. I explained issues as I saw them: “It’s not you, it’s me,” “You’re terrific, but I’m not in that place.” “I just don’t think it will work out. I can’t say why.”

Oh, no. Am I just as bad as Bob and George? Yikes.

I (and many like me) probably won’t and maybe shouldn’t ever know the whole story. But we should know something: Heartbreakers, while sometimes a fairy tale’s villain, were indeed “good” credentials. And with them, I not only learned to enjoy good food, follow baseball, work a room, and to appreciate cl-ar-it-y, I also learned “what I do/don’t want” and, importantly, to care.

I’ll absolutely take those lessons and since it’s ultimately (supposedly) worth it, I’ll tirelessly plug along in pursuit of my perfectly imperfect match. As for my ever-growing list of selling points? I’ll happily add “strong” and “wise” to my register of attributes. It’s — and here’s the hard part — adding “frustrated” and “cynical” that I’d like to avoid.

After all, I’m a catch. As-Is. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Dara Lehon, a freelance writer living in New York City, can be reached at


Lift The Ban on Gay Blood Donors

When students arrived at Milken Community High School on the morning of Jan. 10, they were confronted by a large banner reading: “Did you know homosexual males cannot give blood?”

That was the start of a student-led Equal Blood Campaign to press the FDA to lift its blanket ban on all gay blood donors.

Day One of the campaign sparked some initial shock. The ban came as news to many, and the campaign rapidly gathered more and more supporters. In addition to posters around campus, the school’s bulletin, which is read daily in small advisory groups, featured campaign related statistics and facts.

The FDA developed its initial policy regarding gay men in 1983 because at that time there was no technology to screen blood for the HIV virus, which was then known as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). Since the ’80s, the disease GRID has been renamed AIDS and is seen as an epidemic affecting millions of people of all ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Yet today, in 2006, when all donated blood is tested for the HIV virus, the policy remains the same — excluding homosexual males from donating blood.

The campaign ended with a bang when on the day of the blood drive, Jan. 12, more than 250 students and faculty sported stickers reading: “I don’t discriminate against blood.”

The petition to the FDA was signed by 270 people — almost half of the high school student body. It is important to understand that the nature of the Equal Blood Campaign was in no way against the blood drive. The campaign in fact was in association with the blood drive.

Students decided to support the Equal Blood Campaign because they agreed that the FDA policy is outdated and reveals the stigma that AIDS is a “gay disease,” and until this policy changes, the dangerous assumption that all homosexuals have the HIV virus will remain. In addition, we feel that the FDA is ruling out a source of potentially life-saving donated blood.

Blood products in short supply, and many favor lifting the ban. According to the FDA, an estimated 62,300 homosexuals would donate blood if the ban was lifted.

The FDA policy arises out of a fear of passing on infected blood. Of the 12 million units of donated blood each year, 10 HIV infected units slip through, accounting for two to three cases of donor transmitted HIV infections per year.

The main reason that HIV positive blood slips through is because there is a window of up to three months after a person contracts HIV where the virus is not always detected.

But while banning gay men, even those in long-term monogamous relationships, the policy says nothing about heterosexual men and women who have unprotected sex with multiple sex partners and who have unknown HIV status (rigorous questionnaires at blood donor sites do take these factors into account).

We feel even if not completely abolishing the gay ban, the FDA should change the policy from banning all men who have had sex with men, to banning any person who has had unprotected sex with any person within the past three months. Not only would this weed out promiscuous and more likely infected individuals from giving blood, but it gives the opportunity for gay men having safe sex to give blood.

In its most recent evaluation of the issue, the FDA narrowly voted to maintain the ban on blood donations from homosexual men. The vote was 7-6 to maintain the ban, which states that any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 may not donate blood.

I, along with my campaign co-leader, Amanda Meimin, truly feel the Milken Equal Blood Campaign — one of the first of its kind in a high school — was a success. We turned heads and not only changed views but also helped people to find a view. Ultimately we would like to see other schools adopt the Equal Blood Campaign and we’d like to see the FDA change its policy.

The past has taught us that we can generate tolerance through destroying generalizations. Our battle begins with the stereotype that AIDS is a “gay disease.” We want to make people understand that just because they may not be gay, the issue still pertains to them. Discrimination exists everywhere and has touched everyone at one point or another. The Milken Equal Blood Campaign is about raising awareness, making change, and empowering youth to make their peers aware of homophobia in our society.

Lisa Hurwitz is a sophomore at Milken Community High School. To get involved in the Equal Blood Campaign, contact her at

Gifts for Your Honey Too Large to Wrap

Those eight crazy nights are coming up fast. Still stumped what to get your sweetie? Think outside the giftbox and give your loved one a gift certificate for an experience. Whether it’s a pampering, an adventure, or just some much needed help, Los Angeles is loaded with services that will make your Chanukah honey happy.

Eight Gift Certificates for Him:

The Shave

Help your man show off his punim with an old-fashioned straight razor shave (starting at $45) at The Shave of Beverly Hills (230 S. Beverly Drive). This barbershop retreat for the urban man offers up hot towels, ESPN, shoe shines, and a shot of whiskey. ” target=”_blank”> or (323) 468-9395.

Sports Package

He’s gonna watch sports whether you like it or not, so make yourself look like the most amazing babe and buy his sports for him. DirecTV offers an NBA Pass, MLB Extra Innings, ESPN’s NCAA Full Court, even a Mega March Madness Package. Starting at $109, these packages will make you his MVP. ” target=”_blank”> or (323) 465-7148.

Race Car Lessons

Does he feel the need for speed? Give him a day at Performance Race Training Center in Irwindale. Classroom instruction is followed by NASCAR-style stock car driving on a half-mile banked-oval speedway. Put your honey in the driver’s seat for $199. ” target=”_blank”> or

Eight Gift Certificates for Her:

Closet Organizer

How many times have you heard your wife say “I can’t find my black purse!” or “Have you seen my red jacket?” Give a gift certificate to In Perfect Order. They’ll organize her closet, clean her garage or assemble her photo albums. “We embrace all aspects of clutter,” owner Jessica Duquette says. ” target=”_blank”> For gift certificates, call (323) 653-2062.


Could she use help assembling furniture, installing an appliance or hanging a picture? Call on Mr. Handyman. No project is too small — a service technician will arrive at her home and take care of all her home maintenance and repair needs. A gift certificate will come in handy when those stressful, unexpected home repairs pop up throughout the year. ” target=”_blank”> or (818) 506-7848.

Straighten Her Out

Jewish girls got curls, but sometimes we like to wear our hair straight. Give her the gift of smooth, shiny locks at Umberto Salon (1772 S. Robertson Blvd.) Straight Blow-Dries range from $18-$37 depending on the stylist and the length of her hair. It’s a gift she’ll use to look hot for you on a special night. (310) 204-4995.

Tech Support

Has she ever called you crying because her computer crashed and her thesis paper/production report/script draft is due? Geek Squad to the rescue. The squad is an elite tactical unit of highly trained and highly mobile agents, who seek out and destroy villainous computer activity. They even make house calls. Geek Squads are located inside Best Buy stores (West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Glendale) and there’s a freestanding store in Santa Monica (2800 Wilshire Blvd.).

Skip the Tsuris of Chanukah Shopping

With Chanukah coinciding with the rush for the “other holiday,” why spend unnecessary time hunting for parking at the mall or waiting in line? We’ve surveyed some of the hottest catalogs and Web sites for eight nights of creative gifts. Best of all, you can order in a hurry online or by phone.

For Kids

Busy little ones with activity books, postcards and more all packed in a box of 101+ Things to Do on Chanukah. Or just keep it simple with a roll of 168 Chanukah stickers, $4+, ” target=”_blank”> or (866) 567-4379.

Keep kids in touch with walkie-talkie wristwatches within a range of 400 feet ($30 for two). ” target=”_blank”> or (800) 547-1160.

For Her

Warm her up with stylish sweaters and an Oprah favorite: shearling lace-up Uggs ($180). For casual times at home, comfort her with ultrasoft Wooby sweats, hoodies, hats and more ($14.50+). ” target=”_blank”>

Tummy control knit pants ($59) and a “wearable art” Mirror Lake silk shirt make for easy wash and wear ($69). ” target=”_blank”>

Treat him to sand-washed silk or silky microfiber shirts ($60 each). And splurge on high-tech, moisture-wicking Ex Officio’s knit boxers that double as travel gear by drying within two to four hours ($25). ” target=”_blank”>

For Travelers

Gift a friend with IOU a Trip, complete with leather world travel atlas and a “let’s take a trip” postcard. Your friend fills out the postcard with a date and time for your future get-together and then mails it back to you ($55), ” target=”_blank”>

Can’t sleep in-flight? Convert your coach seat into a much more comfortable ride with a remarkable, inflatable seat cushion. It really works! ($40). ” target=”_blank”> or (800) 846-3000.

Never stub feet again with rubber reinforced toes and unparalleled comfort soles from Keen Footwear ($80+). ” target=”_blank”>

Capture time worldwide via radio signals with the self-adjusting Atomic Travel Alarm Clock ($39). ” target=”_blank”>

For Home and Hearth

Grow Israel-inspired Inbal paper-white flowers ($35), burn a romantic bouquet of carved waxed poppies ($20) or cultivate a wish with “magic beans” that grow imprinted with inspirational messages, such as “heal,” “faith” and “love” ($15). ” target=”_blank”> or (888) 717-2284.

Lavender-scented eye masks and hot/cold heart-shaped pillows filled with whole buckwheat seeds ease tensions ($18+).

JDate Welcomes Gays

For all the nice Jewish boys looking for other nice Jewish boys, has come to the rescue.

The popular Jewish online dating site expanded its search capabilities this month to allow gay men — and also lesbians — to seek matches. The Web site now asks people for their gender and the gender they’re searching, allowing men to search for men and women to search for women.

When his sister didn’t marry a Jewish boy, Gary Pinsky was told by his mother that he had to. Pinsky, 32, joined JDate several weeks ago, after returning to New Jersey after living in South Africa for several years. He said he thinks he can find more serious suitors on the Jewish dating site.

“I’ve gotten three responses since I’ve joined,” said Pinsky, a production stage manager. “They’ve all been very nice and seem to have a good head on their shoulders.”

That’s a big difference from other gay and lesbian dating sites, he said, where potential matches are less serious, and largely not Jewish.

“I didn’t find a lot of Jews out there,” Pinsky said.

Gail Laguna, vice president for communications at Spark Networks, JDate’s parent company, said the Web site’s revision came at the request of many Jewish singles.

With more than 600,000 active members, JDate has become one of the standards for niche online dating sites. The profiles of two Jewish congressmen have even been spotted on the site.

JDate officials say the original Web site did not intentionally exclude gay searches, but there was not a demand for it when the site was unveiled in 1997.

The new site includes other requested features, including a better system for identifying non-Jews. The site has become popular with non-Jews seeking Jews, and non-Jews now can express a willingness to convert as part of their online profiles.

But the expansion to gay searches has had the most immediate impact. In less than a month, 700 members have registered for same-sex searches, Laguna said.

She added there are no plans to market to the gay community or to include gays and lesbians in JDate’s current media campaign.

The Jewish world’s policies on gay rights and gay marriage vary wildly. Reform rabbis may perform gay unions, and the issue has been a hot topic within the Conservative movement, which unlike the Reform movement, does not permit the ordination of openly gay rabbis.

Orthodox groups oppose homosexual acts. The struggle of gay Orthodox Jews was the subject of a 2001 documentary, “Trembling Before G-d.”

Straight people will not receive profiles of gay members or vice versa. But, alas, there’s not yet a filter for screening out members of Congress.

Sense and Sensitivity

If you spend much time looking at online dating profiles — and admit it, you do — you’ll notice that the No. 1 characteristic men seem to be seeking in a potential match is “attractive.” We women (attractive or not) are overwhelmingly in search of “sensitive.” For us, Mr. Right is Mr. Sensitive.

And we mean it.

Self-described sensitive men, though, will tell you that we’re full of it. My guy friends come armed with dating war stories about being dumped after crying too many times in front of their girlfriends — although the girlfriends invariably say it’s not because of the crying, it’s just that “something’s missing.”

Usually my guy friend starts tearing up when he gets to this part of the story.

“I just don’t understand what’s missing,” he’ll say, his voice cracking, his face reddening, his nose beginning to run into that little crevice above his lip.

Hello? What’s missing is your masculinity!

You see, the problem lies not in women misrepresenting what they want, but in the gender-specific definition of the word “sensitive.” Sensitive women cry. Sensitive women are emotional. Sensitive women have lots and lots (and lots) of feelings.

A sensitive man, on the other hand? He doesn’t have feelings … he understands our feelings. He doesn’t act emotional. He empathizes with our emotions. He doesn’t crank up Sarah McLachlan and spill tears onto his journal. He sucks it up and goes out to shoot hoops with the guys. He’s stoic in the face of our meltdowns. He listens, he soothes, he assures us everything will be OK. Heck, he’ll even give us an extra-long backrub.

Women don’t want to play this role for men very often. Seeing our boyfriend cry is creepy. It’s like walking in on your parents during sex: We’re aware they do these things, but please do them when we’re at sleep-away camp.

Granted, we’ll watch our man cry. We won’t sprint out of the room. We may even feel flattered that, if push comes to shove, he feels close enough to be vulnerable with us. But we’ll only do it once a year or so. Like a birthday. (Only our birthday wish is, “Please God, not for another 364 days.”) Because vulnerable can turn into pathetic if he becomes a blubbering mass of tears as often as we do.

It’s OK for me to cry if my boss yells at me. But it’s just … icky … for him to cry if he gets fired. He can yell, he can scream, he can curse the heavens, he can blow things up in his video games, he can pop an extra Prozac. But he shouldn’t break down and cry. Double standard? You betcha. Men don’t want dumpy women and women don’t want wimpy men.

Take Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend Aidan on “Sex and the City.” Mr. Sensitive, right? Lasted a season and a half. But the stoic Mr. Big — who caused Carrie to cry instead — made cameos from the beginning to the very end.

Women, on the other hand, usually get the guy because they’re crying. In “When Harry Met Sally,” Meg Ryan’s a balling mess — snot pouring out of her nose, mascara trickling down her face — when she calls Billy Crystal to come over to comfort her.

“It’s not that Joe didn’t want to get married,” she whimpers through hiccups about her ex. “It’s that he didn’t want to marry me!”

They kiss, they make love, they (eventually) live happily ever after. Had Billy Crystal’s character been the gushing faucet, would Meg Ryan have slept with him that night? Not a chance.

There’s only one time when a woman likes — in fact, desperately wants — to see a man cry: after they break up. She wants to know that he cares, that he misses her, that he has feelings for her. She wants to know that he hurts as much as she does.

She’ll call him late at night (sobbing, of course), and when he betrays no emotion about the breakup, she’ll ask indignantly, “How come you’re not crying? Didn’t I mean anything to you?”

“Um, I gotta go,” he’ll say in a neutral tone, which only makes her cry harder. Then she’ll tell her friends what a heartless jerk he is. And when she finally comes up for air, she’ll emphatically declare that next time, dammit, she’s going to make sure she finds a sensitive guy.

Lori Gottlieb is author of the memoir, “Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self” (Simon and Schuster, 2000), and has an essay in “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt” (Dutton, 2005). Her Web site is


Strasser – I Wanna New Hug

Back in the primitive days of male hugging, my dad was what trend watchers might call “an early adapter.” When few of the other Little

League dads hugged their sons, my dad clutched my older brother any chance he got, Mr. Focker-like, at the drop of a bat.

My brother appeared to hate the whole experience, which didn’t deter my dad at all. He didn’t get hugs from his dad, and his son was getting hugs, like it or not.

Now, it seems the rest of the world is catching up. For the American male, it’s never been cooler to show affection toward other guys. Or, in the great words of sleazy agent Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage,” to “hug it out.”

You might think Jews, like the fictional Ari, have long been more comfortable with warmth and physical affection between guys, but I posit that even for ethnic groups considered on the cuddly side of things, acceptable male hugging is only now coming into vogue.

Once, it was reserved for guys who scored a last-second leaning fade-away jumper or pitched a no-hitter. If you wanted a bunch of guys hugging you, you had better be in the end zone spiking a pigskin. Aside from sports achievement hugs, a son might get an embrace from his dad, but only on special occasions — weddings, graduations, funerals, before or after a stint in the military. It would be a constrained, starchy sort of hug, its awkwardness exceeded only by its brevity.

That was before hugging became the new handshaking, on screen and off.

Today, you can not only watch the macho, Queens-bred guys from “Entourage” hugging and back-slapping their way through Hollywood while easily retaining their masculinity, you can also witness the man who may have single-handedly revolutionized the world of straight, male affection: Vince Vaughn. He’s white, he’s white bread, he’s all-American and if he’s coming your way, look out.

Sure, he was chummy and demonstrative with his male buddies in “Swingers” and “Old School,” but in his current hit, “Wedding Crashers,” the 6-foot-5 actor doles out more bear hugs than an addiction counselor on chip day. In this romantic comedy, the most effecting and loving relationship is between Vaughn and his best friend, played by Owen Wilson. Vaughn not only frequently hugs Wilson, but also kisses an elderly gentleman right on the lips. There is nothing even remotely sexual or uncomfortable about this kiss; it is just one man’s way of expressing his joie without even a fleeting concern about whether or not you think he’s straight.

Seeing a man hug another man makes me feel fuzzy inside in a way I can’t explain. It conveys a Vaughn-like self-confidence and swagger. Maybe on some deeper level, it suggests that the males in my pack are at peace and won’t start brawling over resources. I don’t know. Who am I, Margaret Mead? I just think it’s sweet.

There are still limitations to public displays of male affection, subtle rules that must be obeyed, styles of embrace that are acceptable. When I polled my male friends, who likely comprise the first generation of true huggers, I learned some specifics.

There’s the “‘Sopranos’ hug.” This is an embrace that includes two to three burly back slaps (given with enough force to dislodge food from a person’s gullet) followed by a double shoulder squeeze and the simultaneous uttering of an affection-neutralizing epithet. I asked for a demonstration of the “Sopranos hug” and found the whole thing unpleasant. My friend Ted’s handprint still stings on my back, but I got the idea. You throw in a little muscle with your affection, and badda bing, everything is OK.

This leads me to the less painful “high-five hug,” which as you would imagine, begins with a sporty, introductory high-five, and folds into an upper arm pat or in some cases a full embrace. The inclusion of the high-five negates any feminizing effect of physical affection.

The most common male hug seems to be more of a handshake/hug hybrid. You reach out for a handshake, await some non-verbal signal that more is welcome, and let the momentum of your hand pull you into a one-armed embrace.

While hugs are quickly becoming standard, they are not for strangers or acquaintances. Hugs between men are earned, and in many cases signal an upgrade in the friendship.

As women, we’re expected to hug. If you are female and we’ve met before, I’m pretty much going to have to touch you in some way to convey that I like you, or that I’m not a cold, unfeeling snob. It’s a given, which is what makes male on male affection even more irresistible. Guys don’t have to hug each other. In doing so, they risk looking foolish. Still, the male hug’s time has come, and there’s an embrace for every guy’s comfort level — from the handshake hug to the full Focker.

Teresa Strasser in an Emmy Award- and Los Angeles Press Club-winning writer. She’s on the web at

First Person – Death by Oprah

Oprah Winfrey is doing a show about “Ethnic Men Who Reject Their Own Women.” I am invited as an expert witness because I speak and write about the ugly stereotypes Jewish men have created about their wives and mothers.

You’ve all heard the jokes: the nagging wives, the frenzied mothers and, worst of all, the Jewish American Princesses. I am not amused by stories about JAPs who are spoiled and whiny and can’t cook and hate sex. I mean, no fair. I love sex — well, at least I did until I got Tivo. And I can cook very well, thank you; I just prefer not to. So what if I’d be willing to pay extra for a house without a kitchen?

Anyway, courtesy of Oprah, I now get to speak out on behalf of maligned Jewish women. And, courtesy of Oprah, I’m going in style. Her staff flies me to Chicago, first-class.

This turns out to be a big mistake — though I suppose I should resist blaming Oprah.

You see, I’ve got this problem with food. If someone else is paying, and I can have whatever I want, I just lose all control. It’s like there’s this tape in my brain that keeps playing over and over from my immigrant mother: “Finish your plate! Little children in Europe are starving!”

My friend Sandra’s mom had her own version: “Eat whatever you want — and the rest put in your mouth!”

So I’m on the plane, and the chirpy stewardess says, “Hi there! For your hors d’oeuvres, would you care for smoked salmon, caviar or paté?”

And what do I say? “Yes!”

I follow that with a stuffed Cornish game hen and a hot fudge sundae. Oy!

I wobble off the plane and a limo whisks me to my luxurious hotel just in time for dinner. Oprah Winfrey is trying to kill me — or is this an initiation rite or a test of some sort? Or maybe it’s like a drinking game where the winner is the last one to fall under the table. Didn’t Oprah have an eating disorder at one point? She ought to know better.

I don’t feel so good. All my body really wants is a nice cup of chamomile tea, but I tell my body to mind its own business. I sit down for a five-course dinner with beef Stroganoff. (I don’t usually eat red meat, but it’s the most expensive thing on the menu.) My body is angry with me. But the starving little children in Europe must be so happy!

Hours later, I am seriously unwell. I can’t sleep. What am I going to say on the show tomorrow? How can I convince people that Jewish women deserve respect? As I toss and turn, I indulge a favorite fantasy about a Jewish woman president. She would trim the budget by asking everyone to “Please bring a dish to the Inaugural Ball.” She would exchange guns for violins, and shut down prisons because they attract a “criminal element.” She would practice tough love, and demand social activism with the motto, You live here, too: I expect you to help with the housework!

I finally fall into fitful sleep, and at 5:30 a.m. I get a wake-up call. I’m sicker than ever, but unfortunately breakfast arrives. I force down eggs Benedict and a stack of buttermilk pancakes. Hey, it’s paid for. At 6:30 a.m., the limo arrives to take me, sick and nauseous, to the studio.

It’s showtime!

I’m ushered into the Green Room (how appropriate) with other guests, and introduce myself to another woman.

Me: “Hi, I’m Annie Korzen.”

Her: “How do you do, my name is Dr. Judith Cohen.”

Her mother named her “Doctor?” I think not.

There’s also a Chasidic rabbi: “Hello Rabbi, I’m Annie Kor….”

He pulls away like I’ve got leprosy: “Excuse me! But the only woman I am allowed to touch is the mother of my 24 children.”

We enter the studio. Lights, camera, action!

The first speaker is a single Jewish professional man: “I never date Jewish women. They look alike, they think alike, the only thing they’re interested in is the size of your wallet!”

It’s my turn; I want to bury this jerk with cutting wit and irresistible charm. But, it seems, clumps of Stroganoff in Benedict sauce are clogging my esophagus. I think I’m running a fever, and I am about to represent Jewish women by vomiting in front of 22 million people. With wit and charm in digestive cardiac arrest, pure animal venom takes over: “Same to you and double!”

The day after the show airs, I hear my son talking to one of his friends on the phone: “No way, that wasn’t my mother. I mean, not my real mother. Duh, you didn’t know I was adopted?”

My husband makes a feeble attempt to console me: “Don’t worry about it. Who watches Oprah anyway?” Yeah, right.

I guess the old saying is true, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

For information about Korzin’s Aug. 13 show at Steinway Hall, see calendar

Annie Korzen is a writer and actress best known for her recurring role as Doris Klompus on “Seinfeld,” and her humorous essays on NPR’s, “Morning Edition.”


Not-So-Nice Jewish Boy

When Israeli producers came to America to audition Jewish men to star in “Nice Jewish Boy,” their upcoming Bachelor-type reality show, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. After all, who better than me — a commitment-phobic, ardently secular, anxious, heavily medicated, pale glass of short Jewish water — to represent the American way?

This could be a chance for me to make a real difference in Israeli-American relations. I began to fantasize about my very own harem of glistening Israeli chicks in sweaty army fatigues, and all that we could do to and for one another in the name of world diplomacy. I’d learn invaluable lessons that only these gorgeous Israelis could teach me: how to shoot an Uzi, how to chain smoke and how to have zero respect for someone’s personal space. I, on the other hand, would pass on such valuable American skills as: driving a block away to Starbucks to spend $3 on a cup of coffee, how to say the words “excuse me” and, most importantly, how to apply underarm deodorant.

So, after my initial inquiry and some e-mail exchanges with the producer, I received a phone call from the show’s production coordinator in Israel at 6 a.m. No. You heard that right. Six. In the morning.

So anyway, in my groggy, disoriented state, the production coordinator (who we’ll call “Galit”) gave me my flight information. Coming to, I finally asked Galit, “So, who’s picking me up from the airport, and where will I be staying?”

There was dead air on the other end of the line. Then Galit responded: “Emmmmm, you can take a taxi, no? And, emmm…. We cannot put you up. OK?”

The thought of being stranded in Queens at 1 a.m. had me suddenly wide awake. Galit sensed my panic, and said that she was going to check with the producers, and that she would call me back in a half hour (read: 6:30 a.m.). Before getting off the phone with me, however, she asked if I could call some people in New York and see if they wouldn’t mind putting me up. I told her that I’d call everyone I knew. She hung up. I went back to sleep.

A half hour later, the phone rang. It was Galit: “Did you find anyone to put you up?”

I deadpanned, “Nope. I called 20 of my closest New York friends. Everyone’s all booked up for the summer.”

This clearly went over her head as she pushed on: “Not to worry, because I am a magic worker! I got you a hotel to stay! I work magic, no?”

Now we were talking! Clearly, all that needed to have happened was a little negotiation on my part. It looked like my American capitalist negotiation skills had trumped her primitive shuk haggling.

Galit said cheerfully, “We’ll put you up for one night at the Howard Johnson. This is good, yes?”

Emmm, no! Any hotel that is more famous for its flapjacks than it is for its, well … hotel, I’m gonna have a problem with. I don’t care how good their breakfast is — 11 hours of flying for six hours in New York was a deal that I was not going to make. There was some more dead air on the other end of the line.

“Hello?” I asked.

And then, out of the blue, Galit said six words that absolutely floored me: “C’mon, what angle can we work here?”

Angle! What angle can we work here? I was appalled. How about the angle of human decency? Or, an angle that doesn’t involve maple syrup and butter? I told Galit that either they were going to fly me out, pick me up and put me up for two full days, in a non-pancake-themed hotel, or I wasn’t coming. Period.

Well, my good-old American tenacity worked, because she finally acquiesced. Well sort of. Because when I landed at JFK on Friday night, there, of course, was no one to pick me up. The next morning, after showering, shaving, gelling, and sucking in my gut, I was off to meet the producers of the show.

The questions were probing and personal, and mainly focused on my past relationships. Here is a quick sample:

Israeli Producers: What sorts of things do you do to relax?

Me: I like to drink a little.

Israeli Producers: (Blank Looks)

Me: Um, well, okay, more than a little. Oh yeah, and I frequently like to get in touch with myself….

Israeli Producers: (More blank looks. And then….) What’s the most expensive gift you’ve bought one of your past girlfriends?

Me: You’re supposed to buy them gifts?

Israeli Producers: (Additional blank looks.)

Me: Does dinner count as a ‘gift?’

Israeli Producers: (See above.)

Me: (Slightly uncomfortable, and then taking a bold swing.) I gave them the gift of … the joy of being in my company?

That’s about where they wrapped up my audition. The next day, I flew home to L.A. with a promise from the producers that they’d let me know the following week if I made the cut. A month has passed since, and I still haven’t received any 6 a.m. telephone calls. Not that I’m waiting by the phone for an answer or anything. I mean, who’d want to be on some stupid reality TV show where 20 women fight over you? Not me, that’s for sure!

God, I’m pathetic.

Anyway, a week ago, I read in the Jerusalem Post that a “nice Jewish boy” had finally been chosen. Apparently, his name is Ari Goldman, and he lives in Manhattan where he runs a highly successful vintage comics enterprise. In other words, I lost out to a guy who collects comic books for a living. I always knew I’d rue the day my mom threw out my Green Lantern collection. I hope you’re happy, mom. The Green Lantern could have gotten me some serious tuchus.

Jonathan Kesselman created and directed “The Hebrew Hammer.”


Father’s Day Fix

Several years ago, my wife, Linda, and I attended a conference of psychotherapists and sat next to a recently divorced female therapist who said to us, “Next time I’m going to marry a Jewish man.”

My wife asked, “Oh, are you Jewish?”

The female therapist replied, “No, but I’ve always heard that Jewish men make the best husbands and the most involved dads for their children.”

This wasn’t the first time we’d heard someone insist that Jewish men were the “chosen” husbands. But my wife and I weren’t sure if she was correct. Should we have told her about certain Jewish men (including some in our extended family) who are quite frustrating for their wives and frequently unavailable for their kids? Or should we have let her go on believing the stereotype?

As a Jewish psychologist counseling couples for more than 23 years, I wanted to find out the truth about “The Myth of the Menschey Jewish Husband.” So, for the past few years, I have been collecting data. I’ve surveyed several hundred couples in my counseling office and several thousand more at workshops nationwide. I’ve interviewed individuals and couples at men’s club programs, sisterhood events, federation gatherings and temples nationwide where I’ve been a guest speaker or instructor. I’ve also talked to friends and colleagues. Based on this sizeable but unscientific sampling of over 2,700 Jewish men from 22 Red states and Blue states, here’s what I found:

Good News: Almost 34 percent of Jewish husbands and fathers seem to qualify as a definite mensch.

Slightly more than one-third of the Jewish men I was able to assess in these surveys fit the criteria for a great husband and father. These individuals are able to work hard at their jobs and still find time and energy to be involved in household chores, child-care, shared spousal teamwork and family activities. On Father’s Day 2005, these multitasking and compassionate men deserve something a lot nicer than another department-store tie. They deserve our heartfelt thanks because their kids are growing up with great role models and their wives know the joy of having a true teammate in life.

Sad News: Almost 29 percent of Jewish husbands and fathers are emotionally unavailable to their loved ones.

Despite the stereotype that says Jewish men are great catches, in fact, there are a sizeable number (some with high incomes) who don’t seem able or willing to be good listeners or helpful partners at home. They don’t tend to pitch in much with child-care or family activities. His wife and kids typically complain that, “When he’s finally at home, he’s either cranky and short-tempered or he’s obsessed with golf or video games or watching his favorite shows on television while tuning out the rest of us.” Or he’s described as, “A bit self-absorbed and even though he does some good volunteer events for the community, he’s always got an excuse as to why he won’t do his fair share regarding the kids or the chores.” It’s almost as if the kids are being raised by a single mom.

Mixed News: Approximately 37 percent of Jewish husbands and fathers fluctuate between sometimes being a caring family member and at other times being too stressed or unavailable because of other priorities.

This group fascinates me most as a psychologist. More than one-third of Jewish marriages have occasional tension because a husband/dad, who deeply desires a peaceful and involved family life, gets pulled away by stressful work demands, sporting events, volunteer commitments or hobbies that eat up most of his free time. Most, it seemed, didn’t grow up with good modeling from their own dads or from other adult males in their lives. These dads are appreciated sometimes by their wife and kids and resented at other times for failing to follow through on family commitments.

There are remedies, and the problem is obviously worth addressing if you are a Jewish husband and dad (or if you know one) who needs either a minor tune-up or a major overhaul. The first place to start is early in the week when you carve out sacred family time. You should make sure nothing will disturb a beautiful family Shabbat dinner, and you should plan some enjoyable, connecting family activities on the weekend. You also should set aside time for one-on-one conversations during the week. And you should volunteer to share the load of weekly tasks with your spouse rather than waiting for her to plead or get fed up.

To do this, it helps to carry in your wallet a “Kavanah Note Card” stating your good intentions. You can pull it out and reread it just before entering your home each night. The note card that you write in your own words should say something like: “The precious souls I am about to listen to during the next few minutes and hours are more important than any customer, boss, or colleague I’ve spoken to all day. They deserve my most compassionate and helpful self, not my crankiness or my criticism. Don’t take this for granted, because the emotional and financial costs of doing a mediocre job with my family life will be enormous.”

Collectively, we Jewish men still have some inner work to do. Father’s Day 2005, possibly, will inspire each of us to make improvements and learn what they don’t teach in high school, college or even graduate school — how to be the involved, deeply caring husband and dad that your kids and truly deserve.

Leonard Felder, a licensed psychologist, has written 10 books. His newest is “Wake Up or Break Up: The 8 Crucial Steps to Strengthening Your Relationship” (Rodale, 2005).

Jewish Sportsmen?! No Joke

Why sit home and watch “SportsCenter” on TV when you can take part in a local sports highlight?

On Sunday, June 6, the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame will hold its annual induction banquet. Yes, there are enough extraordinary Jewish sportsmen and women in the Southland for a hall of fame. So wear your tux, but leave your Jewish sports jokes at the door.

To be held at the JCC at Milken, the black-tie optional affair will feature a silent auction and kosher dinner. The event will honor athletes, coaches, media personnel, officials and executives who have made significant contributions to the wide world of sports. Inductees are nominated by the public and selected by the Hall of Fame board of directors.

“We’re proud of this year’s inductees. They’ve each played an important role, not just in the sports community, but in the Jewish community,” said board member Jeff Marks.

The 2004 inductees include:

Sheldon Andrens (USC and silver glove-winning minor league baseball player), Jerry Simon (pro basketball player in Israel, earned college and Maccabiah honors), Anne Barber (world, national and Maccabiah lawn bowling champion), Bill Caplan (renowned boxing publicist and promoter), Dr. Ira Pauly (UCLA football star) and Bobby Frankel (Eclipse Award-winning, multichampion racehorse trainer).

Others are Stan Cline (celebrated sports artist), Marc Dellins (UCLA sports information director and associate athletic director), Derrick Hall (former Los Angeles Dodgers senior vice president of communications), Steve Hartman (radio and television sports reporter and host), Barry Lorge (former San Diego Union sports columnist and editor, named Tennis Writer of the Year), Ken Schwartz (national and Maccabiah fast-pitch softball champion) and Dara Torres (nine-time Olympic medal swimmer).

Also included: Stacy Margolin (Potter) (ranked college, national and world tennis player-turned coach), Carl Earn (top junior tennis star, pro player and head pro at Hillcrest Country Club), Richard Perelman (track and field event manager, reporter and statistician, ran press operations for 1984 Olympics) and Leland Faust (high school, college and Maccabiah water polo and swimming champion, currently in sports management).

The 2004 Pillar of Achievement award will be given to Dana and David Pump (owners of Double Pump basketball camps and clinics) and posthumously to Bill Libby (sports biographer, reporter and national Magazine Sportswriter of the Year).

Harvard-Westlake senior and school paper editor Steve Dunst will receive the Alan Malamud Scholarship for sportswriting. Dunst will study communications at Cal next year. Taft High School point guard and UCLA basketball recruit Jordan Farmer will be named Jewish High School Athlete of the Year.

In addition to sponsoring the JCC at Milken’s permanent Hall of Fame exhibit, the organization is in the process of creating a traveling exhibit to be displayed in local synagogues. The Hall of Fame also supports the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, JCC Maccabi Youth Games, Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles’ sports programs, as well as the Malamud scholarship.

“We look to support programs that use sports as a vehicle to build a Jewish identity in our community,” Marks said. “We’re always looking to form new partnerships and identify additional programs we can help.”

For more information on, go to

Like a Jew in a Bagel Store

I’m no longer a virgin. To Israel, that is. This single babe just returned from her maiden voyage to the land of milk and honey. And all I can say is — there were a lot of honeys. Jewish men everywhere.

In the restaurants, on the streets, in the shops — I didn’t know where to flirt first. Forget a kid in a candy store, I was like a Jew in a bagel store. I’ll take a dozen — hot ones if you have them. Israel is a single Jewish girl’s fantasy.

Take one of my Tel Aviv adventures. I was downing a Maccabee Beer in a disco on the pier when it hit me: Every guy in this club is Jewish — they’re all fair game. The cute guy in the corner, the tall guy drinking Goldstar, the fine guy who asked me to dance and the young guy who could not ask at all. Every man here has a "for sale" sign. This must be what the rest of the world feels like — everyone they meet is a potential mate.

In Los Angeles, it’s all about the Jew-crew prescreen for me. When I get to a bar, first thing I do is a lap. OK, first thing I do is a shot. Second thing I do is a lap. Once I locate the hot guys, the real fun begins. Will the real Slim Schwartzie please stand up? OK, it’s not that bad. But without a secret password or members-only handshake, I have to do some fast detective work to uncover the boys’ roots. I open with subtle overtures like, "Where’d you go to school? When’d you graduate? When was your bar mitzvah?" Sometimes I slip in the, "Hi, my name’s Carin. What’s your last name?" or the ever-popular "Can I buy you a drink? Are you circumcised?" We even turn it into a drinking game, "Name That Jew." Every time you correctly ID a Jew in a bar, you pound a beer.

Some guys pass the Tribe test, but in a room of 100 random American men, statistics say I’ve narrowed my options to 2.2 of them. One of them is probably hitting on the 21-year-old blonde who’s up for a WB pilot and the other is usually a band geek without an instrument.

By dating only Jews, I really limit my pool. We’re not talking Olympic-size pool or even kiddie pool. Picture the small plastic pool you can purchase at Toys R Us. No — picture a bathtub. That’s my sample size.

So why put myself through that? Why restrict myself to .02 percent of the single men in the world? I haven’t always. In college I dated and fell love with an incredible Catholic guy. I told myself we’d work the religion thing out, we could compromise. But eventually I realized I didn’t want to compromise. Not about this. Judaism is an essential part of my life, it’s Carin to the core. I’d be lying to myself if I said it wasn’t. So now I only pick up Jews. Cuz’ you never know when that flirt’s gonna lead to a date, and that date to a relationship and that relationship to a puffy white dress and a drunken wedding hora. So for me it’s Heeb or nothing.

It’d be easier if I went outside the Jewish circle. I’d meet more men, I’d go on more dates, I could be married by now. But not under a chuppah. And there’s the snag. Dancing in that Tel Aviv club, I realized what it feels like to have my choice of any man at the bar. It feels amazing — I love the multiple choice. But more importantly, I realized what it feels to be in a bar packed with fellow Jews. The connection I felt to the people in the room — these were my peeps. And my future husband, he’s gonna be one of us. While dating only Jews limits my choices, it’s the only choice for me. Which is why I loved Israel’s all-you-can-date buffet. I was dancing on a platform in that Tel Aviv club when my friend, Amy, introduced us.

"Carin, this is Eli."

I owe Amy big time. In the movie of his life, Eli was hot enough to play himself. He had a cocky smile and a tight little Israeli boot-camp bootie. I didn’t have to hunt for the hecksher before we started kissing. In Israel, you know the guys are kosher.

If only it were that easy in Los Angeles. I’m back in Hollywood and trawling the scene for Jewish men. It’s frustrating, looking for mensch in a haystack. I miss my Israeli all-access pass. When a date goes poorly in Los Angeles, we say there’s always more fish in the sea. But in Israel, there’s a whole sea of Jewish fish waiting to be caught.

Carin Davis is a freelance writer and
can be reached at

Where Are High EI Guys?

Dating is not brain surgery, but for some men it is more difficult. I think I’ve discovered why. The current thinking on intelligence is that people have several types of intelligence, which may not be equally developed.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman coined the phrase “emotional intelligence” or EI. He defined EI as “knowing one’s emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships.” Goleman and others have found that EI has little correlation with IQ. They are on to something.

Arnie, a Jewish doctor, and not an “ordinary” one — rather a professor of neurosurgery, tumor specialist and brain surgeon (I am not making this up) — contacted me through Advanced Degrees Singles. Oh, he also is a pilot and owns a plane. My grandmother would be kvelling. But after speaking with him, I do not share her enthusiasm.

Among all the men I have spoken to on the telephone or dated, Arnie has the lowest EI. Like all Internet daters, we exchanged the perfunctory pleasantries by e-mail and then exchanged telephone numbers. After a round of telephone tag, he found me at home. Immediately following the “How are you’s?” he suggested that we meet for dinner.

Gosh, doesn’t he believe in foretalk?

I explained nicely that I would feel more comfortable if we spent a little time getting to know each other. He then told me that he is not a “telephone person” and that, having recently arrived from London, where he held a number of prestigious positions, he had only a cell phone and it would cost him 65 cents a minute to talk to me. Last I checked, neurosurgeons were fairly well paid.

There’s more: Besides my wanting some foretalk, I also was up against a project deadline, which I explained to Dr. Doctor.

In response, he said, “I am sure that you can spare a half hour to meet me at the marketplace for coffee.”

I thought, well maybe I can; the marketplace is only a mile from me. But then it occurred to me that he was talking about the marketplace close to him, which is nearly a half-hour from me.

Math was one of my best subjects, so I figured this out: 30 minutes to drive there + 30 minutes for coffee + 30 minutes to drive home. That equals an hour and a half. Of course, he couldn’t know this. He didn’t bother to even ask where I live.

So, I said to him nicely (I’m not sure why I was so nice), “I would rather meet you when I can give you my full attention and not have my mind on my work or my eye on the clock.”

There’s even more, but I think we have enough here to score Arnie’s EI. Here’s how it works. EI is scored similarly to IQ, with 100 as the norm. Every 15 points represents a standard deviation above or below the mean. Two standard deviations above the mean (130) is “emotionally gifted” or “socially sensitive” and two standard deviations below the mean (70) is “severely socially challenged.” For EI, everyone starts with 100. You can earn 7.5 points for each socially sensitive statement and lose 7.5 points for each faux pas or socially insensitive statement.

Let’s do the math: 100 — (4 x 7.5) = 70 or “severely socially challenged.”

The next day, I opened my e-mail to find Dr. Doctor’s CV. He wrote, “Hi, here is a little overkill on meeting me. Maybe it will save some time.”

Well, I’m no physicist, but I do know that Einstein believed that time is relative. Relatively speaking, I’ve wasted enough time but, in the process, I have done research on Goleman’s concept of EI. My findings indicate that, among some highly intelligent men, IQ and EI have an inverse correlation: as IQ goes up, EI goes down. It’s another form of “Women Are From Venus” and “(Some) Men Are From the Dark Side of the Moon.”

Sharon Lynn Bear is a researcher, writer and editor living in Irvine. She can be contacted at

Hair Club for Jews

Hi. My name is Carin and I have a Jewfro.

Heeb hair. A Moses mop. A latke lid. I’m down with my fun
girl curls, but I can’t say the same for the men I meet. My big hair is the Mason-Dixon
Line of my L.A. dating life. Some men love the untamed, wild, bed-head look of
my natural waves. But many men prefer I play it straight.

Take lawyer dude Rich, who I picked up at The Arsenal on Pico
Boulevard on a Saturday night. I was wearing my jeans low, my heels high and
my hair straight. Rich grabbed my digits and we went out on two successful
straight-haired sit-down dinner dates. For our third date, he suggested Cabo
Cantina, margaritas with salt and the Sunday night football game. Since we
decided to skip formalities, I decided to skip the blow dry. Poor play call on
my part. I threw open my door and surprised Rich with my long, flowing,
sandy-blond curls. He gasped, grimaced, then covered his eyes.

“What happened to your hair?”

Apparently Jewish men like blow dries. And not just Rich.

One date asked me, “What’s with the curls?”

Another asked if I wanted to finish getting ready.

A third offered me the scrunchie some JDate left on his
stick shift. Great, I have bad hair and you’re seeing other women. I’d cry but
the moisture might make my hair frizz up.

I’m not alone in this hair crisis. Thousands of Jewish women
just like me face similarly challenging locks. I’m talking big, puffy,
out-of-control, coiled bird’s nest curls. We’re asked to sit behind the
mechitzah because our big hair blocks the men’s view of the bimah. Coveting J.
Crew catalog-straight hair, we brush and comb and mousse and spray. We steam
and set and wrap and treat. But we still show up to parties looking like the
Bride of “Welcome Back, Kotter.” That’s why I started the Hair Club for Jews.
Where I’m not just the hair club president, I’m also a member.

My teenage years were a blur of bad hair. I spent high
school as a frizzy triangle head with flip-up/flip-down bangs. Moviegoers
behind me switched seats and the yearbook photog took my pic with a panoramic
lens. When I hit college, I straightened my mane with a smokin’ hot flattening
iron. I blew my book money on hair spray and scorched my forehead twice, but
hey, I love the smell of burnt hair in the morning. Now, with heightened
self-confidence and a bathroom overstuffed with hair products, this Jewish babe
swings both ways.

But which do I do on a first date? One wrong tress can send
a fine man running. Do I rip off the Band-Aid and open with big curls? Should I
ease my man into the fro? Is straight sexier? Do curls have more fun? And
what’s the deal with the babushka? Curly. Straight. Curly. Straight. No wonder
Jewish women give up and wear a sheitel.

Perhaps this hair dilemma has deeper roots. Talmudic
scholars might argue that by wearing my hair curly, I am broadcasting my Jewish
pride to the single men of the 310. The great Rabbi Abraham Paul Mitchell might
argue that by straightening my hair, I am denying my Jewish heritage. I am
turning my back on a hairstyle passed down by The Matriarchs. I say anyone who
spends 10 minutes with me knows I’m a Member of the Tribe — no matter how I
wear my hair. I also say men tend to spend more than 10 minutes with me when I
wear my hair in pigtails.

Speaking of men, Rich apologized as we waited for our table.

“The curls aren’t that bad, C, I guess I could get used to
them. I just like your hair better straight ’cause I can run my fingers through

Then he gently brushed the hair out of my face, kissed my
forehead and all was forgiven — until he broke down and offered me the Yankees
hat off his head halfway through our date. But who could fit his tiny
peanut-head cap over my gargantuan hair? Things didn’t really work out between
Rich and me. And not just because he’s a Yankees fan.

When it comes to my guy, I need a man who’s in it for the
long haul, who’s up for any hair catastrophe. If a guy’s not there for me on a
bad hair day, he won’t be there for me on a bad work day. He won’t be there for
me when I spill red wine on my wedding dress, when I lose my keys, when I burn
dinner, when the kids get the flu, when I’m 75, less flexible and my hearing
aid whistles. I need a man who’s in it for richer or poorer, for curly or for
straight, who can laugh with me through a hair disaster and any disaster.

As president of the Hair Club for Jews, I urge other Jewish
women to stand up for their locks. If you embrace your big hair, you can get
ready for a date in five minutes, you can get your hair wet at the beach, you
can live in a humid climate. And, as far my dates go, I’m taking a “love me —
love my hair” attitude. Single Jewish men shouldn’t be so quick to judge my
Jewfro, ’cause I know they carefully position their kippot to hide their bald
spots. Â

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at

Divorced-Dad Dater

For the past two years I’ve been swimming exclusively in the dating pool of divorced dads (DDs). This makes me a Divorced-Dad Dater (DDD).

I love DDs because they will always make sure you’ve had enough to eat and have gone to the bathroom before long car rides. To me, DDs are more colorful than single men, with greater complexity to their lives, navigating sanity, maturity and alimony coupled with the juggling capabilities of a high-wire performer.

My first date with a DD usually begins with his “last marriage soliloquy” delivered with a frown. Then that face transforms into beaming delight as he shares the names and ages of his kids. I always ask to see a photo, because I can see how proud he really is of his offspring. Also, when I see his children’s faces I get an idea of how pretty and/or non-Jewish his ex-wife is. I ask a DD a lot of questions about his kids, because how he treats his children is a lesson in how he’ll treat his date — namely, me. This I learned from my rabbi and Dr. Phil.

Last summer I was seeing two DDs, eager to choose one. Dad A said, “My son came home from summer camp crying because he didn’t have his bathing suit today. It was drying at his mom’s house, so I sent him without it.”

“Why don’t you get your son another bathing suit?” I asked.

“I pay enough child support so that she can go out and get him a swimsuit,” he groused. I felt sad for Dad A’s son.

I called Dad B and said, “How many bathing suits do your kids have?”

“I think they each have five. But today my youngest was pulling at her suit like it was too tight for her. So we ran to the store and got her a new one,” he explained. “It took five minutes and 10 bucks.”

Dad A was history.

Don’t get me wrong, being a DDD is quite complicated, and not for everyone. Many DDs have shared custody of their kids, which includes a major part of every other weekend. That means you’ll have dateless nights and weekends without him — unless you date two DDs who have custody on alternate weekends.

Another downside to DDs is they have other mouths to feed besides yours. Money (and the lack of it) is a frequent topic of conversation, as well as the reason for less-extravagant dates around holidays, birthdays and the back-to-school season. Also, newly DDs often live in small cramped places, where a child may share their bed on custody nights. In the past, when I’ve slept over at a single guy’s house, I’ve turned the pillow on occasion and found another woman’s thong. As a DDD, I’ve turned the pillow and found their 5-year-old daughter’s drool.

Every Sabbath and Jewish holiday that I sit in synagogue with dear friends but without a life partner, I’m reminded that I’m an only child with deceased parents who is alone way too often. What better way to fill those empty places than with the laughter of kids I never diapered?

The allure of DDs for me is that their life experience is more multifaceted than carefree, never-married single men or childless divorced guys. Some of their emotional baggage can walk and talk. I like the thought of getting close to children after they’ve been toilet trained. Having a relationship with a DD gives me the opportunity to build a loving relationship that could lead to a full family, instantly: a loving husband and children to share nightly dinners, summer vacations, Rosh Hashanah, Passover and everything in between.

Still, DDs have just as much dating anxiety, fear of commitment and intimacy issues as single men. One twice-DD canceled a New Year’s Eve date stating, “I can’t get too close to anyone while my kids are still young. When I look at you I see alimony in your eyes. Three strikes and I’m out.”

Yet DDs work hard, play hard and try to please everyone. At the end of the day DDs need an adult to curl up to. According to my guy’s child-care agreement, this Saturday and Sunday is a nonparenting time. I look forward to my visitation weekend.

Arlene Schindler is a writer for numerous national publications and was a relationship expert/guest guru for AOL’s Love-on-Line.

The Guy Clock

Ryan and I did the L.A. supercasual thing for six or seven months. When I tried to rev up our relationship from supercasual to just plain casual, he freaked. I’m talking full-on, take-it-to-Dr. Phil meltdown:

"I haven’t dated enough women."

"I haven’t seen enough of the world."

"I haven’t seen enough of the world’s women."

"I’m too busy with work."

"I don’t have time for anything serious."

"I’m not ready for a commitment."

Ry got engaged to the next girl he dated. Just the word commitment scared the tzitzit off this boy, and now he’s registering for sage bath towels. When he called to spring the good news, I asked him why I got the brush-off and she got the rock.

"What was wrong with me?"

"Carin, you weren’t wrong. You were early."

I should have overslept.

"Seriously, Car, it had nothing to do with you. It’s timing. I was so not ready then. Now, I’m ready. And this chick Lisa’s pretty cool, so I just figured…."

So he "just figured?" Funny thing is I never would have headed to the chuppah with Ryan. He wasn’t the fireworks in my head, stars in my eyes, stop, drop and roll one for me. But for Ryan, it wasn’t about chemistry, it was about timing. In addition to getting engaged, Ry recently got promoted, bought a house and turned 30. And while girls wait to settle down until they meet Mr. Right, guys wait to settle down until it’s the right time.

So when is the right time? When does a Jewish boy become a man? Technically — his bar mitzvah. Realistically? It takes more than a Torah portion, a Men’s Wearhouse suit and an $18 check from Aunt Pearl to make a guy feel like a man. It takes success, stability and accomplishment. So take a guy’s bar mitzvah date, add 20 years, then subtract six months for every year he’s been out of grad school, owned a house or felt good about his job; add three months for every year he spent in debt, worked in a cubicle or slept on a futon; subtract two months for completing a marathon; add one year for every major career change; add three years if he still does laundry at his mom’s; and add 20 minutes for Jewish Standard Time. So, he’ll be ready about a year and half after you’ve given up on him.

Your biological clock ticks faster than his sociological clock. And there’s no speeding up his second hand. You can’t convince him to commit. You can’t persuade him to propose. If Peter Pan feels he sacrificed his career, his fun or his freedom for you, it will haunt your relationship for anniversaries to come.

"Well, Carin, I was going to take out the garbage last night like you asked me to, but I didn’t date enough women before we met."

"What? That doesn’t make any sense."

"Exactly, settling down with you too soon didn’t make any sense either."

And so we women wait. And wait. And like Cubs fans, we’re still waiting.

But for how long? At what point does a guy stop getting his life in order and start making his life happen? Carpe diem, guys. Seize the day! Seize the moment! Or just seize the chick! To be in a successful relationship, you don’t have to have all of your ducks in a row. You just have to know that you’re striving for a row or that you’re looking for some ducks or that you’ve found a good egg. It’s OK if you haven’t reached all of your goals; you just need to have goals. And be passionate about them. And, of course, be passionate about the girl.

C’mon boys, it’s time to make the donuts. Don’t put off dating that girl until you’ve earned a corner office, trekked through Nepal and won a triathlon. Celebrate the promotion with your girlfriend, climb the Himalayas with your fiancée or get sweaty with your wife. Forget about the right time, it’s go time!

We all have times in our lives when we want to focus on ourselves, our careers and our ambitions. I know because I’m a type-A overachiever who has her eyes on the prize. I’m also a one-of-a-kind babe who doesn’t understand why the right woman can’t inspire a man to settle down, even if it’s the wrong time. Or why a man would marry the good-enough girl he happens to be dating at the right time. Maybe "pretty cool" Lisa is good enough for Ryan, but when it comes to marriage, "I just figured" isn’t good enough for me. I’m not settling when I settle down.

I believe there’s a Mr. Right. I believe I’ll find him. And when I do, he’ll have me at "shalom." Now, life isn’t perfect and love doesn’t check my schedule. So I might not meet my man in the right place or at the right time, but if he’s the right guy, I’ll figure it out. Which most likely means — hold on — 13 plus 20, minus 12 months, plus nine months, plus two years, plus three years, plus 20 minutes — it means he’ll keep me waiting for years. And men think women take a long time getting ready….

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at

Sorry for the Sin

Yom Kippur’s on deck, boys — so you better bust out your little black book. No, not the machzor. Your other little black book — the one where you keep all your digits.

Pull out your PalmPilot, run through your phone sheet, sift through the scribbled notes on the back of crumpled coasters. It’s time to scrounge up all your numbers and call all your babes.

Yom Kippur is a booty-free zone, so you’re not calling to schedule a mid-Mincha make-out session. You’re calling to apologize.

You’re calling to say you’re sorry for being such a guy. You’re calling to repent for being such a jerk. And you’re doing it all before sundown this Sunday. Because in Judaism, there’s no get-out-of-jail-free card. Before you ask forgiveness from God for sins you committed against another person, you must first ask forgiveness from the person whom you sinned against. And I don’t know a single single who hasn’t sinned against a chick or done his date wrong.

In fact, the Hollywood bar scene on Saturday night is like the L.A. shul scene on Kol Nidre — packed with sinners in Armani suits. Single men, by nature, are men behaving badly. It’s like transgressions earn men double points in the frequent-flirting program. Men sin when they forget to tell their date they have a girlfriend. And men sin when they forget to tell their girlfriend they have a date. Men sin when they tell a girl they’ll call, but don’t. And men sin when they say they’ll show up, but won’t. And the tekiah gedolah — men sin when they dip apples in honey all around town. Men commit major sins and minor sins, intentional sins and accidental sins. And men should be calling to apologize for all of them.

Yet, once again, I’m left waiting by the phone. I’m shampooing with the water off, so I don’t miss a ring. But like a shofar on Shabbat, my phone is silent. Ring. C’mon. Ring. Where have all my suitors gone? Why aren’t they calling to apologize? They should be begging for my forgiveness. I want you on your knees, boys.

Perhaps they’re waiting for me to call them. Maybe they expect me to initiate the apology. After all, when it comes to dating, we single women have more than few a sins up our sleeves.

We Act perversely. We Blame it on beer goggles. We Cheat. We Dump you over voice mail. We Expect you to read our minds. We Fake it. We Google our blind dates. We’re High maintenance. We Insist you change your shirt. We Juggle multiple men. We Kvetch about your boys’ nights out. We Lie about our weight on JDate. We Mess with your heads. We Noodge you about a ring. We Order just a salad — then eat all your fries. We Play hard to get. We Quit when we should we commit. We Read the letters from your ex you keep hidden in your desk. We Stuff our bras. We Talk while you’re watching the game. We Use our curves to get what we want. We’re Vixens. We’re Yentas. We Work it. We booty call our eX-es. We Zone out when you talk about keeping things casual.

Dating is like fasting — difficult. But of course, dating often involves food. And fasting never involves food. So my analogy — like most of my relationships — doesn’t work. Which brings me to my point: Dating rarely works. Dating is really hard. So why do we make it harder? Why do we fill our dates with scams and charades? Why do we follow random rules and play foolish games? Because we’re trying to cover the relationship spread. We want to be devoted, but not smothering. We want to be engaging, but not aggressive. We want to be challenging, but not difficult. We want to seem interested, but not desperate. We want to be friendly, but not just friends. But by working every angle, we only work over each other. Dating in Los Angeles is an extreme sport, but we don’t have to play dirty. OK, we can play dirty. But we should also play nice.

What singletons fail to realize is that when we’re sinning against other singles, we’re also sinning ourselves. When we play all these games, we’re not being honest with ourselves. We’re not being fair to ourselves. We pretend to care less than we do. We pretend to hurt less than we do. And in the end, we get less than we want. Silly daters, games are for kids. So this Yom Kippur, let’s repent our mistakes, review our relationships and renew our approach.

In that spirit, I’d like to ask for forgiveness. I want to apologize to all the men I dated this year. Right now. Publicly. In front of 200,000 readers. To all the boys I’ve liked before: I’m sorry if I manipulated, mistreated or deceived you. I’m sorry if I was annoying, aggravating or just a frustrating tease. I’m sorry I played games. I’m sorry I talked too much. I’m sorry you thought you were going to get some. I’m sorry I kept your red sweatshirt as a trophy. I’m sorry I hogged the blanket. I’m sorry I didn’t give you your space. I’m sorry I drank all your beer. I’m sorry I never told you how I really feel. I am truly sorry for all the sins I committed against you. And I deeply regret all the sins I committed with you. Well, actually, those I kind of enjoyed.

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at and will be speaking with three other Journal Singles columnists on Oct. 10 at Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.

Right Place, Right Time

It was Sunday afternoon, July 6, 2003, and I was approaching the end of a successful three-week mission to Israel dedicated to responding to a new wave of missionary activity. In addition to lectures, news interviews and meetings with government officials, my colleagues and I distributed thousands of copies of a new Hebrew version of Jews for Judaism’s counter-missionary handbook “The Jewish Response To Missionaries.” That day I was traveling by car, with my wife, Dvora, and our son, from the northern town of Tsfat to Tel Aviv.

Around 4 p.m. we decided to take a rest stop. Just before the Zikhron Ya’akov interchange, we exited Highway 70 and pulled up to a small restaurant located about 50 feet from the highway. As we exited our vehicle we heard the sound of screeching tires and turned toward the highway to witness a horrific accident. A white taxi traveling at high speed ran straight into a pedestrian who was walking along the side of the highway. I saw and heard the impact, and watched as the pedestrian was thrown into the air and did a complete somersault over the car, landing on the pavement headfirst.

I’ve been police chaplain for more than 10 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Airport Police and the LAPD and have responded to numerous crisis situations. I’m also trained in first aid, CPR, crisis counseling and advanced critical incident stress management. Within seconds, my years of training kicked in and I helped take control of the situation.

People around me were staring in shock and disbelief. I yelled to them to call for help. My command shook them out their stupor and some immediately ran inside the restaurant and called for emergency services.

I turned my attention back to the highway and ran the 50 feet, jumped the guardrail and kneeled next to the victim. The 14-year-old girl was lying motionless on her side with blood pouring from the back of her head and mouth. I was joined by Danny Eitan, a retired paratrooper and officer of the Israeli army, who had been driving in the opposite direction when he witnessed the accident. Together, we checked for breathing and a pulse. Once we realized both breathing and circulation were absent, we started CPR. Danny opened the airway and handled the breathing and I started chest compressions.

Each time I finished the chest compressions I shouted “od paam” (“again”) to Danny, indicating that he should give her two breaths. This continued for about four repetitions until we revived her.

I did a physical assessment for additional body damage and did not notice any other major external bleeding. A doctor visiting the country arrived on scene. I then turned my attention to the victim’s three friends who were standing by the side of the highway, shaking uncontrollably and crying. I removed them from the accident scene and took them inside the restaurant, had them sit down, supplied them with cold water and offered words of hope. After finding out the victim’s first name, “Hadas,” I offered a brief prayer and left her friends under the supervision of my wife — a licensed therapist.

Since it was extremely warm outside, we wanted to shield the victim from the sun. I requested that some form of material be brought to the side of the victim and a makeshift canopy was erected out of a large cardboard box.

Returning to the victim’s side, I held her head in my hands to prevent further trauma. She kept trying to pull my hand away, but with the help of several individuals who held her arms I stabilized her head and neck. Using her first name we spoke reassuring words of encouragement until the ambulance arrived.

Hadas was taken to a hospital in Hadera where they treated her internal injuries. She was then transferred to a Tel Aviv trauma center for her head injuries. After four days of treatment, she was listed as “out of danger” and is expected to make a full recovery.

Thanks to my training I was able to react professionally, but it was more than training that saved her life.

After the ambulance took Hadas to the hospital, Danny turned to me and said, “I wasn’t supposed to be in this spot at this time.”

I told him that in a million years I wouldn’t have expected to be here either — the “shortcut” given to me that morning took me on nine different highways until I reached the accident site.

I shared with Danny – who is not religious – the words of the Baal Shem Tov,
concerning divine providence and how “the footsteps of men are established
by God.” As we embraced in the middle of the road, we cried knowing that God
had directed us to this spot to save a young life.

I helped Danny put on tefillin in the merit of Hadas’ complete and speedy recovery and we pledged a bond of brotherly friendship for the rest of our lives.

Divine providence put us in the right place at the right time. I thought I
was going to Israel to save Jewish souls, but little did I know that I was
sent to help save Hadas’ life.

Rabbi Ben-Tzion Kravitz is the founder of Jews for Judaism International. He can be reached at