Letters to the Editor: New Journal Layout, Prayer, and Israel


New Look, New Content

I cannot adequately express how impressed I am with the new “Back and Forth” feature. Civil but serious, it sharply helps amplify and elucidate the perspectives of the quality voices that participate and teaches us stiff-necked readers things we would otherwise be unlikely listen to. A Kiddush HaShem to the fullest — what a wonderful way to model meaningful engagement between parts of our community and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you for embodying a core Jewish value with such deep, universal worth.

Kol hakavod!

Michael Feldman via email

Kudos on the new layout and typeface of the Journal. Big improvement. But as a boomer feminist, I found two recent columns written by women personally disturbing. The first was about flirting, which I at first dismissed simply as a “fluff” piece (“Why I Miss Flirting,” Nov. 10). In the second column, a mother proudly says she encourages her son to be “strong enough to be kind” (“My Son, the Maccabee,” Nov. 10). My alarm bells went off. I personally have seen men who were attracted to a damsel in distress become physically aggressive when that same woman becomes assertive. I also know of college football players (arguably men’s men) who have been convicted of rape.

Since these Journal columns have been published, more and more influential men have been outed for their alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with young men and women. Actor Richard Dreyfuss, when recently confronted, actually tried to excuse his alleged behavior by issuing a statement of direct relevance to both of these Journal  columns. He writes: “I value and respect women. … I became … the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. … I flirted with all women. … But I am not an assaulter. … I remember trying to kiss [his accuser] as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual. … I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it.”

Women have worked too hard and too long in the fight to gain equality and independence. I hope we aren’t being asked to start all over again.

Sharon Alexander, Torrance


Building Bridges in a Time of Chaos

Thank you, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn and the Jews United for Democracy and Justice, for your inspiring compilation “After Charlottesville” (advertising supplement, Oct. 20). Not only do you bring together teachings from the vast spectrum of Jewish leaders, sages and religious persuasions, but you also include teachings from non-Jewish leaders and traditions. By doing this, you are helping us to realize the relevancy and importance of striving to sing all four songs as written by Rabbi A.Y. Kook: the song of the individual, the song of the nation, the song of humanity, and the song of all existence. In this time of chaos, we must push ourselves beyond our ordinary boundaries, build bridges and learn from each other. It is only with an open, probing mind that we can elevate our community as well as our nation.

Also, thank you, David Suissa, for creating a forum where spirituality and practical matters can attain the perfect balance!

Mina Friedler via email


Prayers Alone Won’t Cure Society’s Ills

Ben Shapiro wrote a recent column about the power of prayer in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Texas (“Don’t Dismiss the Power of Prayer,” Nov. 10). One of the purposes of prayer in such cases is to provide comfort and consolation to the relatives of the victims because absolutely nothing can bring victims back to life. No human action can do that.

The unprecedented number of mass shootings during past several years shows there is a serious problem in society. Both sides agree on that. It’s obvious from Shapiro’s words that he doesn’t understand what is causing “a tsunami of rage,” neither has he the slightest idea where to look for the root causes of those events. Mr. Shapiro, with political power and authority comes the huge responsibility of providing peace and security to millions of people. The inability to fulfill that responsibility is what is causing the tsunami of rage. Such tragic events are not part of God’s plan. Period. They’re part of society, designed by humans. One thing I know in my profession: When there’s a problem with a building, we architects and civil engineers roll up our sleeves and begin to look for what’s causing the problem. And if we find out it is in the foundation, the last thing we would do is to offer a prayer. Even the most thoughtful prayer cannot do the job. Only hard work by experienced people can.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Inappropriate Topic in Torah Portion

Rather than commenting on the parsha, the extremist Open Orthodox rabbi unleashed a screed against the Orthodox Union (OU) for not aiding and abetting his agenda to promote practices that all halachic leadership of Modern Orthodoxy agrees is out of bounds (“Parsha: Chayei Sara,” Nov. 10). May the OU find the strength to remove these heretical congregations from their midst.

Saul Newman via email


Historic Evidence of Israel’s Roots 

Thank you for Judea Pearl’s story (“The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People,” Nov. 10) lauding the declaration’s tacit recognition of the Jewish people’s status as the indigenous population of Eretz Israel.

It bears emphasis that the Jewish claim to indigenous status in Israel is not just a matter not of faith, but of historical fact confirmed by archaeology and science. The Merneptah Stele, inscribed on behalf of the eponymous Egyptian pharaoh (and son of Ramses II) around 1208 B.C.E., attests to the presence of a people called “Israel” in Canaan. The Tel Dan Stele, which celebrates an Aramean victory over Israel in the 800s B.C.E., mentions Judah’s royal “House of David.” Assyrian sculptures dating from 841 B.C. and 701 B.C.E., respectively, both on display in the British Museum in London, depict the Israelite King Jehu and the Assyrian siege of Lachish in ancient Judah. The Assyrian royal annals’ account of the siege declares Judah’s king Hezekiah trapped “like a caged bird” in Jerusalem, paralleling the biblical account. And population genetics studies confirm the connection of present-day Jews to an ancestral home in the Levant and the continuity of the Jewish people from ancient to present times.

Rome eventually destroyed the Jewish kingdom in a war from 66-73 C.E. and dispersed its people, but Jews never forfeited the right to return home or to reconstitute a Jewish state.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Israelis Trying to Do the Right Thing

I am a 15-year-old freshman at YULA Boys High School. I was thrilled to see “Teaching Math to Israel’s ‘Invisibles’ ” (Oct. 27) in the Journal because this story shows that Israel helps every race and religion — even Arabs — who constantly try to eradicate the Jewish state. This is also one of the many proofs that if any race or religion is in need of help, Israel is the first to offer its help. People who are not Jewish who read this story can see how the people of Israel care about everyone and are trying to be peaceful with everyone, even groups of people that try to terrorize the world. This story really has inspired me to be more involved in defending Israel when people accuse Israel of treating Arabs poorly. It especially bothers me when the media publish negative and untrue information about Israel. I love that this newspaper published very positive things about Israel. I hope other people get inspired like I did.

Daniel Dallal, Los Angeles

I strongly agree with what Shai Gul does and it will inspire others to reach out to people who need help. When most people run into situations like Shai Gul did, they most likely will run away from these problems. However, Shai did just the opposite, helping to educate people in that poor city. He conveyed kindness and empathy. He taught the “invisibles” to not be so invisible and to take a leap forward in life. By giving them this push, he managed to give them jobs and a basic education to build on. Shai Gul is an inspiration for people around the world. He should keep up what he does so others can be influenced and follow his tracks.

Eitan Ulitzky via email

Knocking


There’s a pounding within my chest

from the depths of my mortal flesh.

The Lord, He knocks upon the door.

His hand is hard — I want no more!

A painful pulse: “Let! Me! In!

It’s cold out here in all your sin!”

My God, I’ve all but lost the key

in the mess of my selfish greed.

These concrete walls I’ve put in place

blinded by desire. I need Your Grace!

So knock, Hashem, as hard as you must

to turn these walls back to dust.

I’ll take all the aches and all the pain

if I might be held in Your arms again.


Hannah Arin is a junior at Pitzer College pursuing a double major in religious studies and philosophy.

Friendship Goals


I am blessed to have wonderful friendships. People I care about in profound ways, who have become family. Some I’ve known for decades, and others for a short time, but they are all people I love, admire, respect, value, and depend on. They are an eclectic group and truly matter to me. They know who they are, and what they mean to me. This blog is about one woman in particular, who will be beside me for the rest of my life. I am blessed by my friendship with Gamble Breaux.

I met Gamble online about three years ago. She read my blog and sent me an email. We started corresponding, and a friendship began. In the beginning I was dealing with cancer, and Gamble was going through some stress at work. For some reason we found each other and without having met in person, became a support system to each other. I was sad, and sick, and Gamble saved me. With no hesitation, reservation, or exaggeration, I can tell you she swept into my life and saved me.

We had been writing for a few months when Gamble got engaged and was planning her wedding. I had been through surgery, was feeling nervous, and had lost my way a little bit, but Gamble would not let me feel sorry for myself and insisted I come to her wedding. It was a big decision not only because I was dealing with medical stuff, but because I live in Los Angeles and Gamble lives in Melbourne, Australia. It was a long way to travel and I wasn’t sure I could make the trip, but Gamble was.

She kicked me in the ass and would not allow me to miss it, so in an attempt to be brave, I agreed to go. I was going to fly to the other side of the world, to the wedding of a woman I had never met before. I got the blessing of my son and my oncologist, and I was going. I have never done something so spontaneous, but I felt inspired and supported by Gamble, so it was happening. From the moment I met Gamble in person and we embraced, it made sense. We were bashert.

I don’t know how it happened, but our connection was instant and our friendship goes deep. We spent five days together celebrating her wedding, then I went back to Australia to celebrate her son’s 21st birthday. When I was nominated for Blog of the Year by the LA Press Club, she came to LA to be my date to the awards ceremony. Then when my son was moving out, she came back to LA to hold my hand and wipe my tears. She is one of my best friends and I love her.

She eases my sorrow. She makes me feel better. She makes me laugh. She gives me clarity. She believes in me. She nurtures our friendship. She is like a sister to me. There is no time of day that I could not call her and she would not pick up the phone. She is my knight in shining armor and my hero. She is the kind of friend everyone deserves to a have. Thank you for always making things better Gamble. I love you very much. You are the kind of blessing that comes from keeping the faith.

 

 

Motherhood 101 – Growing Up


I survived week one in my empty nest. It was really hard, but I did it. The simple truth is I really miss my son. We talk several times a day, and I saw him during the week, but I miss having him at home. Not only do I miss him, but so does Fiddles the cat. When he came over today she about lost her mind. She followed him around like a dog and could not get close enough to him. When he left we both cried. Literally. We sat together on the couch and cried like a couple of babies.

When he said he was coming over I started to cook. I cooked as if I was having a dozen people over for dinner, even though it was just us. He walked in with a load of dirty laundry and I was so happy I thought I would burst. I did his laundry, fed him, watched Fiddles snuggle up, and stared at my grown up baby. He is a wonderful human being and I am proud of him. There is a piece of my heart that will always wish he was still with me, but a larger piece that is happy he has gone out on his own.

We are both out on our own for the first time and it has been bonding. We are going through the same changes and emotions. If you want to gage who is handling this time in our lives better, and make that decision based on the number of tears shed, I lose. He is thrilled about being on his own and I don’t think he has cried. I on the other hand still cry a lot, but for different reasons. I cried in the beginning because I was sad, and now I cry because I am so proud and excited for him.

I also cry because I am proud of myself. I have raised a good man. He is very much like my beloved father, and has all the good parts of his own dad, but at the end of the day this kid is just like his mom. I don’t have to worry about him because like me, he will always land on his feet. Maybe that is why I love Fiddles so much, we share that skill. My son is going to be fine and I am quickly realizing that so will I. My life is blessed and this time is important for a variety of reasons.

Life changes when you are not cleaning up after someone. I don’t have to pick up clothes off the floor, because I never throw my clothes on the floor. I never find dishes in my sink, because I put them straight into the dishwasher. I don’t have meat in my fridge, which as a vegetarian matters. Important to note I cooked a vegetarian feast for my boy on Sunday and he loved it. This are all really good things. Plus, there is the joy of walking around naked, simply because I can.

I am ready to shake things up. It is time to live my life out loud in new and different ways. I am going to slow things down so I can properly enjoy everything that is happening. My Rabbi taught me to meditate and I am going to implement her teachings into my everyday life rather than just my religious life. It is time to not only take a deep breathe, but listen to the air going in and coming out. I want to live a purposeful life, all the way down to my breathing. Listening to not only people, but things, matters.

The truth is I am lucky my son stayed at home as long as he did. He was ready to move out a long time ago, and only stayed to take care of me when I got sick. He did more than was required or expected, and I will be forever grateful. His leaving means not only have I done my job, but I have kicked cancer’s ass. I look forward to seeing my boy embrace all life has to offer. We are both growing up. It is time to count our blessings and focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Naked in an Empty Nest


After living together for almost twenty-two years, my son has moved out of our home. The countdown to his leaving was long, and though I tried to write this blog every day for two weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it as I felt that if I didn’t post a blog about it, it wasn’t true, and therefore he wouldn’t leave. Genius thinking really. It has been very difficult for me to accept he was leaving, and even harder to understand why he would want to. I cried more in the past month than my entire life.

I am not ashamed to tell you I would spontaneously burst into tears daily since he started to pack. I would start crying for no apparent reason. I didn’t have to be talking to him, or even thinking about him, I just started crying. Not a pretty or ladylike cry either. A snot pouring out of my red nose while I was heaving cry. It wasn’t cute. I’m sure people thought I was not well as I looked truly horrible. If I saw myself on the street I would cross to the other side. I was scary and found myself talking out loud to myself quite often.

I was 18 when I left home, and beyond ready to go. I cannot imagine what my mother thought sending her baby away, and she did it with four children. It has just been my son and me so there is the additional bond of being a single mother to an only child. We are connected in special and important ways. We take care of each other and his fear and nerves are the same as mine. He was nervous to leave home and worried a lot about how I would be on my own. He is a wonderful human being and I am a lblessed mom.

In anticipation of his leaving, I purged my home. For every box he packed, I got rid of two. Each day I would take a load to Goodwill and they’d ask me how I was doing since I turned up with swollen, red eyes. It was rough and an aching I had not ever experienced before. I love this young man more than anyone or anything, and aside from knowing I would miss him being in my home, I have never lived alone in my entire life. It is the beginning of a new and unchartered life for me, which is both exciting and scary.

When he left last weekend I cried like a baby, but each day since Saturday has been a little bit easier. I find myself wondering where he is, and if he is home safe, so I haven’t been sleeping very well. Yesterday was a turning point for me. As I was sitting in his empty room, wondering if I would ever get used to his not living with me, my girlfriend called to check on me. Before I told her what I was doing, she asked if I was sitting in my son’s room crying. She knows me well.

I told her I was whimpering not crying, which was a big step. She told me I needed to snap out of it and the first step to embracing this stage in my life was to get naked. She pointed out I had a child in my home for over two decades and with him out on his own, it was time to be a grown up in new and exciting ways. She insisted I take all my clothes off and walk around my home naked. I told her she was nuts, but I did as instructed, mostly to be able to mock her stupid idea. I was suddenly crying and naked.

I then spent the next hour walking around naked. I made a cup of tea, straightened up, had a chat with the cat, organized my closet, and chose a new paint color for my room to brighten things up a bit. There was something very liberating about being naked in the comfort of my own home. I felt like a grown up in a whole new way. It was great. Really, really, great. It was also the moment I stopped crying and started to appreciate what an important time in my life this is. Stripping down put things into perspective.

I have raised a man all by myself. He is funny, smart, rooted in his faith, compassionate, empathetic, and supporting himself financially. He is almost 22 years old, working, pursuing his passion, finding his way, and unaware that the last three times we spoke on the phone, his mom was naked. My nest may be empty, by I’m naked, and it is all very exciting. I am embracing being alone. By embracing, of course I mean I am trying really hard to embrace being alone. Change has begun.

I will worry about him every minute of every day, but the truth is that I would worry the same way even if he still lived with me. That is how motherhood works. I love him and am blessed that he loves me back and left because he wanted to spread his wings, not flee the nest. We are close and his leaving will only make us closer. Important to note I did hire him to help me with something at work so I get to see him during the week. Don’t judge. I really needed the help and why not him?!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this blog while naked. I am in my bed, naked, and it is fabulous. I put a chain on my front door so should my son come by unannounced, I can grab a robe. You think of these things when you begin a naked life. This has been the hardest two weeks of my life. I honestly did not think it would hurt so much to have him go. I have put all my energy into preparing him to leave, but never prepared myself for the day he would go. Motherhood is tricky like that, always throwing surprises your way.

This weekend I will paint, reorganize things, and turn his room into a guest room/office, rather than the shrine it has been since he left.  I will always have a room for him, and he will always know he can come back any time he wants. He just needs to call first because chances are I will be naked. I am happy today. Happy with my accomplishments as a mother, happy my boobs look so good at 51, and hopeful that one day I will have a great man here with me, naked, and keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Einstein and the Rabbi is a Must Read


I am a woman of faith and one of my favorite things about the religion I practice, is that my opinion is always okay. I am allowed to be Jewish at whatever level of observance I want. I do not feel judged by God or my faith, and can embrace Judaism in a way that makes me comfortable. I am Jewish, and that is enough. I don’t think about being more Jewish, or less Jewish, I am simply happy to be Jewish. It is good to be a Jew and I have found my true Jewish self, the part of me I love most, through the teachings of Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva Temple in Los Angeles.

When I went through a traumatic time a few years ago, I reached out to Rabbi Levy for help. I didn’t know her well, and had only been going to her temple for a short time, but I was seeking help and turned to her with a desperate need to manage fear so I could sleep. Rabbi Levy taught me how to breathe and I found my soul through her teachings. I pray with her, meditate with her, am quiet with her, am happy with her, am sad with her, and most importantly I am never frightened with her. She is my safe place, teacher, and hero.

Rabbi Levy’s latest book, Einstein and the Rabbi, is a must read for anyone who is searching. Regardless of what you are searching for, you will find a path of understanding through this book. It is about finding your soul, which I don’t think we are even aware we are out of touch with. You don’t need to be Jewish to understand or appreciate this book. What you need is to be is open and searching for clarity. Listen to your heart, trust your gut, be quiet, speak up, know everything is going to be okay, and see that life is grand.

I have purchased 6 copies and given it to friends and family. I will also give it out for Hanukkah because it is a profound gift to anyone who reads it. You will learn something through reading everything Rabbi Levy is bravely sharing. You will laugh, cry, think, and feel her words. Read this book. I have read it twice and am excited to share it with you. It is a book I will turn to for the rest of my life to lift me up and light my way. I learn something new each and every time I pick it up. I love this Rabbi and cannot wait to hear from you when you read it. Let me know what touched you.

We all have things going on in our lives, and everyone has their own relationships with faith and God, but I cannot imagine there is anyone, of any faith, that will not benefit from the wisdom and stories Rabbi Levy has shared in this book. Be kind to yourself and read this book. It will change your life. I am certain of it. Thank you to the inspiring and remarkable Rabbi Naomi Levy for teaching me to see my soul and giving me the strength and desire to always keep the faith.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrim blows a shofar, near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, Sept. 21, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

What I Learned From Rebbe Nachman and Mr. Miyagi


I thought I understood the power of prayer, until I went to Uman.

Long before I reconnected with Judaism, I felt connected to God. It made no sense to me that a whole universe popped into existence out of nothing for no reason. I wanted to know our Creator. I tried many paths: philosophy, meditation, endurance sports, trance music, martial arts.

Here and there I’d catch hints of the Divine, but prayer was rarely part of the picture.

Twenty years ago, I returned to observant Judaism. My connection to prayer grew more solid as I put on tefillin and prayed every morning. But the moments that most moved me came when I was part of a rowdy congregation, especially with groups that danced and sang in the style of Reb Shlomo Carlebach.

Then, this fall, I traveled to Uman, Ukraine, to pray at the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. And I experienced another level.

Many people pray fervently, but the Breslovers, Rebbe Nachman’s Chasidic followers, add a personal component: hisbodedus. In short, they pour out their hearts as if they’re talking with a best friend. They do it out loud, every day, often with tears. Watching this, some people think they’re nuts. I don’t.

The gathering in Uman has been likened to a Jewish Burning Man festival. There’s certainly creativity, but the decadence and mind-altering substances are mostly limited to single-malt scotch. The Uman experience is intermittently loud, holy and contemplative.

Two moments stood out. Around the kever, the grave, of Rebbe Nachman, there’s a large synagogue where people pray around the clock, individually and in small groups. You hear cries of wrenching sincerity. I’ve visited the tombs of many holy figures in Israel. Each has its own energy. Rebbe Nachman’s was electric. At the tomb itself, I felt a rush of light coursing through me, and when I asked for guidance in knowing what to pray for, the answer came immediately.

As the Accidental Talmudist, I share what I love about Judaism with a large audience on a daily basis. So I prayed fervently that I should be a clean conduit for God’s light, neither obscuring it nor limiting it from a place of ego. This prayer now gives me strength before every live webcast.

The second moment was in a huge tent, singing a nigun (wordless prayer) with 2,500 guys in a tribal roar that must have pierced the firmament. It was ecstatic, rejuvenating, and I wanted it to go on forever. Every guy around me was my brother, and we were hugging strangers all day long.

Together, those moments aroused a sense of clarity.

In Uman, I didn’t just pray for life, health, love and success at work. Those blessings are crucial to everyone, and it’s good to ask for them, but all too often they are out of our control.

What I prayed for was clarity of purpose, strength to achieve it and open-minded humility in place of arrogant certainty. And as soon as I asked for help with those qualities, I felt the physical sensation of having my prayer answered.

In the 1984 film “The Karate Kid,” a bullied teenager asks a maintenance man and karate master, Mr. Miyagi, for a karate lesson, only to receive a can of car polish and a sponge.

“Wax on, wax off. Left hand, right hand,” Mr. Miyagi tells him.

The kid thinks he’s being bullied again, until those circular motions deflect an incoming punch. Then he realizes he’s been training all along, and that he can now protect himself with force and grace.

Prayer is like that. Our words and motions can easily become rote. We fulfill the commandment, but it’s only in moments of intensity that we feel its power. I experienced that intensity in Uman.

Alas, such heights are short-lived, and I have to pray regularly to keep developing those much-needed qualities. Yet, a trace of the Uman energy returned with me. I feel it now as I write these words. I feel it more when I pray.

That kind of prayer is action. It heals. It repairs. And it increases peace in the world.


Salvador Litvak shares his love of Judaism with his followers every day at facebook.com/accidentaltalmudist.

Dating 101: Don’t Give Up


If you saw the men who have been asking me out lately, you would understand why I have not been dating. I seem to be quite popular these days with crossdressing men. Bless them. When one dress wearing man asked me out I thought it was sweet because he said my profile made him feel safe to share. When the second man asked me out, I was fascinated because it was interesting two men in makeup would interpret my profile the same way. When the third man asked me out and suggested dating him would allow lingerie sharing, I was done.

It is hard to put yourself out there, and some days it is simply too exhausting to even bother with. I date because I want to meet someone to share life with. I am seeking companionship, intellectual conversation, and an active and healthy sex life. I like a man who is educated and articulate. He doesn’t need to have gone to school for his education either. I know many people who never went to college and are brilliant. I value opinions and am drawn to people who have faith. Not necessarily religion, but faith. I’d also like him to not wear dresses.

In an attempt to not visit an animal shelter, I decided I was going to write to someone online. It took me a while to find someone I thought sounded interesting, but I did. He had a good face and I felt drawn to him, so I sent him a note. My mom was visiting so I couldn’t make plans, but I decided to get the ball rolling. He responded, we texted for a quick minute, and made plans to meet for a drink. I met him last night and I was happy to see he looked like his pictures, knew how tall he is in real life, and was easy to talk to. It was a good start.

We met for drinks at 5:30, ordered food at 7:00, and were making out to like teenagers by 9:00. It was the kind of date you hope for every time you put yourself out there. He was charming, funny, handsome, and sweet. He is built like a linebacker and I felt like a ballerina when he embraced me. He is a great kisser and as soon as we started making out I regretted having three cocktails as I worried my judgment would be off. Oy vey with the vodka. I opted to not overthink things and enjoy myself because smooching is great.

I went home happy to have met a man who didn’t make my lower back spasm. There are times when I’d rather stick my hand down my throat and remove my own kidney over dating, but then something or someone comes along to show me I must not give up. When you have a bad date it is hard to get excited about dating again, but when you have a good date, it erases the disappointment of the bad ones, especially if he isn’t wearing a bra and panties under his clothes. (Yes, I checked.)

I am lucky girl. I am also 51 years old and dating, which is both sad and entertaining. It is what it is and I am here to tell you not to give up. For every ten nightmare dates you have, you will have one good one. In my case ten is more like fifty, but it just makes the good ones stand out more. Be brave and keep trying because life is meant to be shared. Go on a date! The only expectation to have is that good or bad, it will get you closer to a keeper. Value yourself, don’t overthink, open your heart, and keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motherhood


I am blessed to the mother of a wonderful human being. My son is a remarkable young man and I love him very much. Every mother thinks she loves her kid more than every other mother on the planet, but I’m certain I do. I adore this kid and am proud of him on all levels. He makes me happy and I don’t remember what my life looked like before he was in it. He means the world to me and I love watching his life unfold and his dreams come true.

I am blessed to the daughter of two wonderful human beings. I lost my dad quite a few years ago and miss him a little bit more everyday. My mother is amazing and has been visiting from Canada for the past couple of weeks. She will be in LA for another 3 days and the thought of her leaving makes me cry. I literally start crying if I think about taking her to the airport. She makes me happy and loved in a very profound way. She is both fun and funny.

It is an interesting revelation when you realize your mother loves you in the same was you love your child. I have had many revelations about my relationship with both my mom and my son this week, and with the clarity comes deeper levels of love for my mother. My son is moving out of the home we have shared for almost 22 years in 17 days. I am anticipating his leaving with pride, fear, happiness, and sadness. The countdown has begun has put me on edge.

My mother had four children move away from her. I don’t know how her heart handled it. I feel sad about his going, and she felt that sadness four times. I feel worried about what his life will be like without me there. My mother felt that worry four times. I have actually never lived on my own in my whole life. I went from home, to school, to a roommate, to a husband, to my son. He has been my roommate for over two decades.

There is joy of course because this is the natural progression of life. I am blessed to have a healthy and accomplished child. I suppose one could look forward to walking around home naked, not having to do another person’s laundry, and not having to clean up after anyone but myself. I may get to a point where I enjoy those things, but all I can do now is cry at the thought of them. I don’t want him to go, but at the same time I am ready for him to go.

He is my only child and I raised him on my own, so there are multiple levels of connection between us, which makes it all just a little sadder and harder.I will be sad when my mother leaves this week, and sad when my son leaves at the end of the month. I will wonder around my home, probably sleep in his room for a little while, call him nonstop, worry nonstop, and call my mother for comfort as she has been through it all herself, four times. It will be a challenging couple of weeks.

I am emotional on a normal day, but every emotion is now on high alert. I am willing myself to not lose my mind when I get home and see moving boxes everywhere. I am praying that when he walks out the door I don’t grab onto his legs and beg him not to go. I am hopeful that not only will he spread his wings and fly, but so will I. Motherhood is my greatest blessing. Being a mother and loving my mother combine into true happiness. Everything will be okay if I just keep the faith.

 

 

"Prayer" is now part of the "Passage to Israel" international exhibition (passagetoIsrael.org).

ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Laura Ben-David


“Prayer,” Laura Ben-David

“On a photo tour of a community of recent Bnei Menashe immigrants from India, I happened upon an elderly woman who was absorbed in prayer. The lines in her weathered hands, perfectly in sync with the lines in the well-worn prayer book, were mesmerizing.” Laura Ben-David

“Prayer” is now part of the “Passage to Israel” international exhibition (passagetoIsrael.org).

Keeping the Faith


I am a regular temple goer throughout the year, but there is something about the high holidays that brings me peace I don’t know how to properly articulate. I love my faith and could listen to my Rabbi give a sermon all day, every day, but there is nothing better than Kol Nidre with Rabbi Naomi Levy.  It is a moving service and I feel like I am in the presence of God on this particular day. Perhaps it is because I am surrounded by such a large group and we are all in prayer together, or maybe it is just because my heart is completely open on this day. Open to joy and sorrow, happiness and heartache. It is a day that matters to me.

I am going into Kol Nidre this year with both relief and fear. Relief to unload the weight of so many things on my soul, and fear about what my life will look like without so many burdens pent up inside me. After a year with so many unanswered questions and trials and tribulations, I have no expectations, but real hope when I go to Kol Nidre services. I simply want to be free. Free of my demons, of which there are many, and free of the busyness in my mind that prevents me from sleeping. I want my choices to be unaffected by cancer, and I want my future to become clear. No guarantees, just clarity after foggy days.

I am not the type of person who looks for guarantees in life. Things happen, both good and bad, and I am a roll with the punches kind of girl. I will think about the last year, thank God for holding my hand through all of it, and pray for the strength to be always be brave, even when I don’t think I can. I shall search for forgiveness, knowing it will come. I shall search for clarity, knowing it will come. I shall ask for sleep, knowing it will find me. I shall envision all of our names being inscribed in the book of life, and I will focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

New Year, New Everything


As I start writing this I am on a plane, flying from London to Los Angeles. After a sunny morning on the drive to Heathrow from Beckham Palace in Chigwell, clouds have rolled in and it would appear I am taking the sun back to California with me. I land in LA at 4:00 pm, home by 5:30, out the door for Rosh Hashana services by 6:00. I’m already tired so I will be exhausted by the time I get to shul, but I am looking forward to beginning a new year.

It has been a busy time with a lot of things going on personally and professionally. I am being forced to reevaluate things, and while I certainly feel pressure about a lot of things, I have decided to embrace it all and rather than stress out, enjoy a mid-life crisis and go a little crazy. If I can’t throw caution to the wind at age 51 and roll with it, when can I? I am diving into the new year with an almost desperate desire to be brave and bold.

When my son was born I began to worry about dying. I was terrified something would happen to me, so I became painfully cautious. So much so that in retrospect I think I limited how I lived. Of course one could attribute it to simply being a Jewish mom who worries too much, but the bigger truth is once you become a mother you live your life for someone else, and that causes fear to creep in. You want to be there for your child, so you live in fear.

When I was told I had cancer my fear became consuming. I was so scared of what it could possibly mean to have cancer, I didn’t pay attention to what it was doing to me emotionally. I was unsure what I was supposed to do and was paralyzed with fear because my father died of cancer. I wrote my own story and focused on things that didn’t matter and weren’t even necessarily true.  I was lost and stayed that way for a long time. I have finally cleared the fog.

A few weeks ago a transformation began and I can say with real conviction that my mid-life crisis is proving to be a great thing. After being at my day job for over 9 years and countless trips back and forth to London, I up and quit. I bought a new car, colored my hair, ended a relationship with a man I was certain I would love one day, but also certain I would never respect. I pre-ordered Hilary Clinton’s book, and found myself a new job. It is time to start living again.

This new year matters to me. It will be the year I listen to my own advice. I always say we need to be brave, not only follow our hearts, but not settle for the things we get because we believe they are what we deserve. Instead I am going into the year knowing I deserve it all. I am going to kick ass at my new job, and find a man I want more than I need. A man who gets how fantastic I am and is strong enough to let me be me and be himself.

I am now safely at home, reunited with my remarkable son, and ready to live out loud in ways I never have before. The new year has begun and I am hopeful, certain things will be great. I am also wise enough to know there will be bumps in the road, but I am a great driver so it will all be fine. I have a date this weekend and start my new job next week. I also have what appears to be the beginnings of a cold and jet lag, but I welcome all of it.

I wish you all a happy and healthy new year. I hope your challenges are few, but when you hit a bump, and you will, know I am there cheering you on. Be brave. This is your life and only you can live it. Do what makes sense to you and what feels good to you. Have some fun. Have more sex. Have really good sex. Laugh out loud. Resist. Make a difference. Inspire change. Speak out. Go out. Everything is possible if you believe, so keep the faith.

 

 

Keyes of Van Nuys Disappoints


Oy vey with these people already. I know I wrote about my unfortunate car salesman experience, then how Keyes stepped up to the plate and got me into the car I wanted with a great deal, but I simply have to write about them again because I’m angry and frustrated. In the grand scheme of things, it could be viewed as unimportant, but this is bad business and I am calling them out.

I have personalized plates on my car. I have for about twenty years. I love my plates and they matter to me. When I bought my new car, I told them a dozen times about the plates. They assured me it was not going to be a problem and they would be reassigned from the old car to the new one. I asked and nudged over and over again. I was assured each time the plates were taken care of.

When I was done with the paperwork and was being shown the car, I again asked about the plates. They showed me my personalized plates had been put on the new car, then covered with a Keyes sticker. I was instructed to keep them covered until the new registration arrived, then take the sticker off and enjoy my beloved plates on my beautiful new car. It was a done deal and I was very happy.

You can imagine my surprise when last week I received not only my new car registration, but new plates. Run of the mill, random numbers I will never remember, plates. I called the finance guy at Keyes who did the paperwork and he had the chutzpa to tell me he did not remember my having personalized plates. Really? I then called the sales manager and he said he’d call me right back.

When he called days later he told me he didn’t know how the mistake happened, but not to worry as he would fix it. Then I didn’t hear from him for days. Then he called and said there was nothing they could do, but If I went to a AAA office, they would fix it in five minutes. Really? I was annoyed. They screwed up, they lied, and I needed to fix it myself

I went to AAA and my five minute visit took over an hour. Why? Because my personalized plates, the ones I love so much, had been reported stolen to the DMV, who then reported them stolen to the police department, and if I were stopped for any reason with the plates on my car, I would be arrested for theft. Really? Yes, really. Keyes of Van Nuys is now officially back on my shit list and I’m over them.

Turns out that when I bought my new car, and they promised me up and down the plates were transferred over, they never actually did the paperwork. When they sold my old car, my personalized plates went with it. When the new owners of my old car drove went to the DMV, they were told my personalized plates were still registered to the car, and so the plates were reported stolen.

So……… the DMV lets the police know the plates have been stolen, and my new car is now cruising around with stolen plates, which are actually my plates, but still stolen. I leave AAA and go to the DMV thinking they will fix the problem quicker than AAA. Two hours later I was told I need to come back first thing in the morning so they can get Sacramento on the phone to unravel the mess. Dear Lord.

So after a day of running around, a week of chasing Keyes for some help, I have my stolen plates in the trunk of my car, the new plates I will never remember on my car, and will need to devote another couple of hours to trying to get my plates back. Important to note that the sales manager sent me an email that was bullshit, and the owner never bothered to reply to my emails at all. Fascinating.

At the end of the day it would appear that once I left the lot they stopped being concerned with customer service. It will take a investment of time to try and get back my plates. I’m on my own because Keyes of Van Nuys is nothing but a bunch of car salesmen who cannot be trusted. Take your business somewhere else, be sure they transfer your plates, and please pray the DMV gives me back my plates. I am keeping the faith.

High School the Second Time


High School is a tough time. Kids can be mean and it is stressful to be both a leader and a follower. When my son started high school I was a mess. I worried about him every day. My son attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. It is located on the campus of California State University, LA. That posed an entire new list of worries as he would be surrounded by college kids, but was my 14-year-old baby. On top of all that, it was miles from our home and he needed to carpool or take the subway. Oy vey with this school!

My son has wanted to be an actor since he was five years old. He never wavered. He went to a performing arts middle school, then LACHSA, and is now a working actor who has just produced and appeared in his first movie with his best friend since childhood. He is talented beyond measure and I am proud of him. He takes his job seriously and I support his pursuit of his chosen profession. It is not easy, but it is all he has ever done, or wanted, so it is what it is. My son looks back fondly on high school and I am blessed as his mom to say I do too.

LACHSA is a very special place. It fosters independence and individuality. It nurtures talent and builds confidence. They taught my son to keep his feet firmly on the ground while reaching for the stars. There are a lot of people there who deserve thanks for helping me raise my son. It takes a village and when you are a single parent, sending your child off for hours every day, the people at school become important on a lot of levels. My son has his favorite people at LACHSA, as do I. Mr. Chris Krambo made my second high school life a pleasure.

This remarkable man passed away this week and it is devastating to a lot of people. Chris was funny, smart, devoted, talented, and focused on his students in a way that made me grateful he was helping raise my son while he was at school. This is a man who worked hard, used his own money to make costumes, never complained about being tired, or unappreciated by kids who were too young and inexperienced to understand everything he did for them. He was a wonderful man and I will miss him, but always smile when I think of him, which I will often.

I am sad we had not spoken in so long. I am thankful however that he knew how important he was to me and that I loved him very much. Everyone has a story to tell and Chris had many. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. If you have a teacher in your life who is making your time in high school as a parent better, tell them thank you. If you love someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while, reach out and say hello. Rest in peace Chris. Know that you mattered to a lot of people. Thank you for always keeping the faith.

Online Dating 101 – Oh. My. God.


My dating life has always been interesting. From my first date with my ex-husband, to all the men who have wandered into my life since, it has always been… interesting. I don’t know if that’s because I’m interesting, because I really am, or perhaps it is simply because I am brave and willing to put myself out there. But interesting is a good thing.

Until it isn’t.

This week my dating life was interesting for a lot of reasons, but I am left exhausted and wanting to get another cat.

I went back online this week, because how else do you meet anyone? I looked around on Match.com and JDate, and was not even a little surprised to see it is all the same people, with all the same photos, saying all the same things. I updated my profile, and put up new pictures, because it has been several months since I was dating online. I don’t think the majority of men got the same memo. Would it kill them to change it up a bit? Ugh. I am back where I started. Whatever.

I got a notification on Wednesday that I received an email through one of the dating web sites. I was happy that he wrote a proper note and didn’t send a passive aggressive wink or simply “like” one of my pictures. I logged in to my account and found the following message, which I have read at least a dozen times to make sure I understood. Important to note I’ve blurred his picture and name, but he wears glasses, is losing his hair, and his name sounds like Barvey.

You really must read it a few times to get exactly how gross this email is. He is 66 years old and his photo is as creepy as his note is. I think it may be in my best interest to get another cat and call it a day on my dating life. I will never understand how someone could possibly think this email is cool to send to a stranger. In what world does this man think this is okay? He is repulsive, and I am offended by his note. It has also somehow managed to hurt my feelings.

Of course, that is silly, because I don’t know him, and he is just a freak on the internet, but it is sad to me. I suppose I could adjust my thinking, view it as funny, and wish this man luck on his search for the woman who will float his boat. But I can’t get there. There is no world where his note to a stranger is acceptable, and there is no world where I would find it funny. Dating is tough, but I am tougher. Usually. It is taking a minute however, to shake this one off. Barvey is a pig and now blocked.

My dating life is always interesting and occasionally sad, with just a pinch of pathetic thrown in this week for good measure. I told my son I was going to die alone with 18 cats. He told me if I have 18 cats I won’t be alone. Why stop at 18 is the bigger question.

I am going to services tonight to pray the stink of Barvey’s email off of my dating life. As we enter the month of Tu B’Av, the holiday of love, I remain hopeful. My remarkable Rabbi, Naomi Levy, will bless me, and that blessing will guide my search. I am blessed to have a lot of love in my life, and am certain I will meet a man to share my journey with. Anyone with the name Harvey is now sadly out of the running, but he is out there and there’s a chance our paths will cross, so I am keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

Mind Blowing Sex – Muslim Style?


Sex is wonderful, and when you’re old enough to not only know what you like but empower yourself to be bold, it can be a great thing. When we are inexperienced we don’t know what good sex is. Considering how long I have been single, I have not had a large number partners. I got a relatively late start as I was 20 when I lost my virginity, but at 51 I now know what is good, what I like, and what I do well. Jewish men are my preference. They are known for girth, amen, but also known for their inability to tell the difference between 5 inches and 8 inches. Bless them.

I never had a heart to heart talk with my mother about sex. I watch porn and don’t read books on how to have good sex. I have spoken with my girlfriends about sex, but it more about how our partners are at it, then how we are. In our 50’s, my group of friends understand the importance of sex, the power it wields, and that most anything can be made better with a blow job. It’s not scientific, it is just one of those things we all know. Men like to receive oral pleasure, probably more than women, but only because women are better at it than men. Know it gentlemen.

I’m not writing about my own sex life right now, although I think you would find it both inspiring and depressing. Instead I am writing about a book that was sent my way called The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex. It struck me as interesting for a couple of reasons. 1) I was curious as I never really thought of Muslims as being particularly sexual, which I suppose is a stereotype, but still my truth. 2) What was most interesting about the book was not that it can guide me to mind blowing sex, but that it can do it in just 65 pages. Mazel Tov!

This book was written for Muslim women who are looking to have good sex lives with their husbands. It speaks of foreplay, which is a lost art to be sure. It covers kissing, which can immediately tell you whether you want to have sex with someone. It even discusses sexy texting, which is a sign of the times. There are chapters about positions and doing it in the shower. Bravo to author Umm Muladhat for putting it out there. Not only for Muslim women, but for all women. Umm is an American born Muslim woman who wants Muslim women be sexually satisfied.

Amen sister. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of. It should be enjoyed by all women and I applaud Umm for sharing the message that it does not have to be looked down upon. Muslim or not, sex can and should be enjoyed without fear or shame. I’m guessing many Muslin women are rocking it between the sheets. I think Jewish chicks are known to like sex. By like of course I mean as long as it doesn’t ruin our hair and there’s nothing good on TV. Again, stereotypes. Sorry. Not sorry. If you have great sex, and can help other women have the same, then you should.

I think there are a lot of women in the world who believe they are having great sex, but aren’t. Women who want to expand their horizons and get a little wild, but are too afraid of what their partners will think. That is not a Muslim thing, that is a chick thing. Umm is brave and I love her. From describing positions from Cowgirl to Amazon, she goes there. She also doesn’t shame anyone for sticking to the missionary position. There is nothing held back. She simply has a real desire to help the women of her culture with sex, but all women should be reading this book.

She does draw a line of course, because it is based on her faith. No anal, no porn, no period sex, and no sex outside of a marriage. Since writing and self-publishing her book, she has had a little push back from within her faith, which she knew was coming, and therefore why she made up a name to publish under. Her husband knows about the book of course, and even helped her with it, but nobody knows who the real writer is. To this woman, I say you did a lot of good for a lot of people. Her next book will be geared towards men, but I’ll be reading that one too.

I actually have a sex list. Things I’ve done, want to do, hope to do, and will never do. It was fun to make the list and I have been checking things off and adding new things for years. I recently took something off the list because having it there implied it could happen, and it is never happening, ever, so it’s gone. I might add couple new Muslim items to my list now. Inshallah they happen. Women must think outside the box we build for ourselves to make our sex lives better. We are glorious and sexual creatures, no matter how we are keeping the faith.

 

New car gift. Clipping path included.

My Mid-Life Crisis


A few weeks ago I decided to buy a new car.  I have had my car for 10 years and even with 115000 miles logged in, she had plenty of life left in her. I am not really a car person, but it was time for me to do something special for myself, so I went with a new car. I found the perfect little car and ordered it exactly how I wanted. I hit a rough patch with the first car salesman I met, but I was set on getting a new car, so when the dealership called to right his wrong, I appreciated the effort and listened.

After going back and forth on the car, I eventually decided against it. I figured the glitches were a sign I wasn’t supposed to get it. I was going to set the car aside for a bit and revisit it another time. Then on Thursday I went to see my doctor, and two and a half years after my cancer diagnosis, there is a little situation that needs to come out. I cried for five minutes, then I sent an email to the owner of Keyes of Van Nuys, Mr. Howard Tenenbaum, who had reached out the week before.

I let Howard know what I needed to be able to pull the trigger on the car. I heard back from him the same day, letting me know he took care of everything. The Sales Manager, Lewis Cook, went above and beyond for me. He worked with my schedule and budget, making it a priority to show me the customer service Keyes strives to provide. I was treated with respect and kindness, and left the lot on Saturday with my new baby. She is beautiful and made me happy on a sad day, which is good because I ain’t got time to be sad.

Louis Venegas the Finance Manager walked me through the process quickly and with expertise. Lewis Cook kept an eye on my signing of the papers and ensured I got VIP treatment. Even Howard came in to thank me for my business. It was a great experience and I will now remember the day because of the car, not because of the medical update. The gentlemen of Keyes were wonderful, having no idea what I was going through, simply wanting my experience to be a good one. Bravo.

Tomorrow I will hit the ground running on my medical situation and get it sorted. There will be tests, and surgery, and God willing many more anniversaries to celebrate. I am fine and my life is blessed. If you pray, throw my name in if you wouldn’t mind. I will keep you posted on what is happening. I am looking forward to driving to my appointment tomorrow in my fantastic new car. It is important to look cute while you kick some ass, and I look super cute in my super cute new car.

Please note I reserve the right to continue my midlife crisis after I deal with the current pain in my ass. Surely a new car won’t be the only thing I do. Maybe I’ll jet off to Australia for dinner. Again. Maybe I will change my hair color. Again. Maybe I will adopt a dog! Maybe I will find the man of dreams. Maybe I know him already! At the end of the day I feel good and my life is blessed. I am thankful, grateful, hopeful, and keeping the faith.

 

Brother can you spare a dime?


I give money to homeless people who ask me for it. Always have. I figure if someone has the courage to ask a stranger for help, I will help them. I always keep cash in both my glove compartment and my wallet. A day does not pass where I do not help someone. Sometimes I buy people food, or toiletries. One time I bought a lovely man a pair of shoes. I think kindness matters and when I give someone money and they offer me a blessing, it makes me happy every single time.

Last week I was asked for some help from a man on the street. I gave him a dollar and wished him well. He looked at the dollar and asked me, “Is that all you’ve got?” I was startled for a second and didn’t understand what he was saying. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Is that it?”. I told him to have a good day and left as my chin started to quiver and I burst into tears. It hurt my feelings and made me sad. It was as though the man felt disrespected, which wasn’t my intention.

I have had people ask me why I give money to those who are going to use to get high or drunk, but I never wonder what they’re going to do with the money. I can’t give them money with restrictions on what they can do with it. It is not personal, political, or judgmental. It is simple kindness. Who am I to judge anyone? I help when and how I can, so when this man asked if that was all I could do, it made me wonder if I should maybe stop giving money and instead just look away.

My friend George deals with homelessness every day as he works in law enforcement in an area of the city where there are a lot of homeless people. He has seen it all and helps save a lot of people. Not give them a dollar save, but actually get them off the street save. He thinks it is sweet I give everyone money, but feels it is only a matter of time before someone responded like this man. He never tells me not to do it, just to be aware not all people will appreciate it.

We view homelessness very differently. When I see a kid asking for money I want to invite them over to have a shower, get some clean clothes, and feed them a home cooked meal. George wants to find out why they’re there, investigate if they can go home, then give them tools to get off the street. For me, I want to put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound to fix it, while he wants to perform emergency surgery to stop the source of the bleeding. Both ways are valid to me.

How do I not help someone who asks? Even the guy who sits at the freeway off ramp wearing Beats headphones gets a dollar from me on occasion. He sits for hours in temperatures over 100 degrees, so why not give him a dollar? I am angry this one person could make me rethink giving money. He shouldn’t have that power over me. In all the times I have given out money, this is the first time I can remember experiencing something unpleasant in response.

I will continue to give money to people who ask me for it. Whether they spend it on food, a bottle of water, or drugs, if whatever they buy brings them a moment of happiness, or comfort, or quiet, then God bless them. There but for the grace of God go I. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone can appreciate a Band-Aid when it is offered to them. To the man who was unhappy with my gesture, I hope someone else gave you a bigger Band-Aid and you are keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dating 101: Soulmates


According to Wikipedia: a soulmate is somebody with whom one has a feeling of deep and natural affinity, love, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, and  compatibility. A related concept is that of the twin flame or twin soul – which is thought to be the ultimate soulmate, the one and only other half of one’s soul, for which all souls are driven to find. Another theory of soulmates, presented by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, is that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them.

Some people believe souls are literally made and/or fated to be the mates of each other, or to play certain other important roles in each other’s lives and according to theories popularized by Theosophy and in a modified form by Edgar Cayce, God created androgynous souls, equally male and female. Later theories postulate souls split into separate genders, perhaps because they incurred karma while playing around on the Earth, or “separation from God”. Over countless reincarnations, each half seeks the other. When all karmic debt is purged, the two will fuse back together and return to the ultimate. If that is true, then we each get only one.

There is just one person out there who is destined to be our soulmate. When you think about how many people there are in the world, how are we ever expected to find that one person out of billions? Are there different levels of soulmate? My son’s father is not the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with, but we have a remarkable son who completes my life, so could it be my son is my soulmate and that is the great love of my life? Can you go through life constantly searching for a person you will never find? Could it be they got tired of searching for you and are with someone else who is perhaps good enough? What if you panic and don’t realize you actually found the right one?

Is finding an almost perfect match a more realistic look at love? If you do find an almost match, do you shut off all parts of you that look? Do you keep one eye open just in case? I always believed in the theory of a soulmate, but to be honest I never took the time to look up what the true meaning of it was. Now that I have, I’m thinking it may be near impossible to find. I will keep looking of course, but I must say it is a little discouraging. Searching for love is draining, and waiting for it to find you, is exhausting. When you add in the desire for a soulmate, where do you draw the line between a perfect match and a good enough one? What is

At the end of the day I put faith in God there will be guidance on the path to my Beshert. I pray that not only will I have the strength to keep looking for him, but that he won’t stop looking for me. Just as important, when I do find him, I pray I am not too scared to actually see him. May I please be brave enough to not sabotage things because I am spooked, and not spook him so badly he becomes uncertain. Through good dates and bad, a broken heart and a heart that sings, I remain hopeful that each day brings me closer to what I want and deserve. My fingers are crossed, my heart is hopeful, and I am keeping the faith.

The Art of Customer Service


I have been trying to buy a car for a couple of weeks and it has been more stressful than anything else. I honestly thought it would be fun and was looking forward to it. It is my first new car in a decade and I was excited about the whole thing. I set an amount to spend in my head, researched cars that fit within my budget, and narrowed it down to three choices. Last weekend I test drove my options, made a decision, and was proud of the work I put into the process.

My joy was quickly squashed by a bad experience at a car dealership. The gentleman assigned to help me was simply not good at his job, and the result of his being inept resulted in my not having fun. Not only did I not have fun, but I changed my mind about the car. I figured if some moron whose job it is to sell me a car didn’t care if I bought it, maybe I just didn’t need a new car. The joy was gone and that is a shame because it started out being quite a big deal to me.

Keyes of Van Nuys failed me, so I started my search over. I blogged about the experience of course, because that is what I do, and was comforted by many of my readers. I was reminded that nobody is allowed to take my joy and I simply needed to shake it off and find someone who understood what the process is supposed to be like, and would be focused on my being happy with my purchase. I needed to hear it and was immediately reminded how much I value my readers. Thank you.

It took your responses to my blog to snap me out of the funk created by a massive failure in customer service. I started my search again, only this time instead of looking for the right car, I was looking for the right salesman. I called around to different dealers, as well as calling a few salesmen friends and readers had suggested. It was nice that people cared and I was motivated to find my joy and get the car I wanted from someone who was interested in selling me a car.

In the midst of my new search, I got a call from Howard Tenenbaum, who is a Vice President at Keyes in Van Nuys. He had read the blog about my experience at his dealership and reached out. He was apologetic and said he was mortified by my experience, assuring me it was not the type of customer service his dealership provides, and he wanted an opportunity to make the situation right and get me into the car I wanted. He seemed sincere and I appreciated the call.

He was actually on vacation with his family and took time out of his trip to call me. He told me he would call again when he returned from holiday. Between the time Mr. Tenenbaum called last week, and yesterday when he returned to work, he had his associate Ramin Hakakian call me two times to check in. Mr. Hakakian was lovely and these two gentlemen worked hard to change my experience with Keyes of Van Nuys. They valued me and understood buying a car was a big deal.

Mr. Tenenbaum called again yesterday, answered all my questions, and told me he’d find exactly what I wanted. By lunchtime the car had been located and was being sent to Van Nuys. I felt excited again about a new car. It is a little bit above my budget, but I have two options from two dealerships so I’ll figure it out and have a new car this weekend. At the end of the day I simply wanted someone to value my business and share in my joy. I wanted a mensch not a putz.

I want to thank both Mr. Tenenbaum and Mr. Hakakian for reaching out. It mattered. It mattered to me as a shopper, and as a writer who shares her truth, it matters that I tell you these gentlemen from Keyes of Van Nuys did the right thing. Whether or not I get the car from them, I appreciate all of their efforts to make things better. They made customer service their focus and are taking care of me. While it is a shame my experience started off as it did, I am grateful for the turnaround.

Whether buying a new car or a cup of coffee, the desire to be respected is the same. I want the person providing me with customer service to have a smile and engage with me as if my choosing their business is appreciated. I want kindness. I want there to be actual service. It’s not too much to ask and should be provided from everyone who works in customer service. If you’re not a people person, maybe rethink your path, find a new job, and start keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Glover is Childish Gambino?!


Earlier this week I was driving to work when a song I had never heard came on the radio. I found myself moving with the music in the car and immediately fell in love with the singer, even though I had no idea who it was. The song touched me in a way I can’t really explain, other than saying it spoke to me. It made me happy and I didn’t want the song to end. I asked Siri who was singing and she told me it was Childish Gambino.

I felt like I had discovered something new and immediately called my son to let him know of my fantastic new discovery. I let him know my new favorite song was Redbone by a great new group, Childish Gambino. My son started laughing and it actually took him a minute to stop. He let me know Childish Gambino was a man not a group, and he had been listening to him and a fan of his work for several years.

He thought it was hilarious I had “discovered” someone who was so famous. He was impressed however with my taste in music. I decided to Google Childish Gambino to see if there were other songs I would like or if it was a one song kind of love. It was then I discovered Childish Bambino is also Donald Glover, who is a comedic genius I love. Am I the only person who did not know they were the same person?

Donald Glover wrote for one of my favorite shows, 30 Rock, and I knew of him as a writer first. This man is an artistic genius so it makes sense Redbone would speak to me, because Donald Glover’s work has spoken to me before. I am amazed however that loving his work the way I do, I never knew Donald Glover and Childish Gambino were the same person. This man’s talent is layered and everyone will love at least one layer.

I feel like I’m rediscovering someone I already know, and that is a wonderful feeling. I am impressed by this young man and find myself feeling proud of him, which I suppose is ridiculous, but I want good things for him. He has made me happy over the years, so I want happiness for him. Redbone is a brilliant song and I must look insane grooving to it in the car like I’m home alone in front of a mirror singing into my hairbrush.

While disappointed to not have discovered a new artist, I am thrilled to have come upon this layer of his work and have no shame in sharing I listened to Redbone 11 times on my way home last night. I feel like one of the cool kids and am looking forward to spending the weekend with Childish Gambino. Give him a listen. Redbone, Sober, or Baby Boy may help you to keep the faith.

God Bless America & PS, Trump is Mentally Deficient


As a little girl I used to dream about living in the United States. I grew up watching American television, trying very hard to lose my Canadian accent, and would always tell my parents I was going to live in Los Angeles one day. I have now lived in Los Angeles longer than I lived in Canada. This is where my son was born, where my dreams came true, where I found peace, and where I have built my life. I love the United States, I love California, and I count my blessings each and every day.

For the first time in my 25 years here, I feel uneasy. I am embarrassed by the President of this beautiful country and have said I am Canadian more in the past 9 months than I have in my entire life. I am sad and scared about what is happening here. Trump’s America is dark and depressing. The Fourth of July is a special day for everyone who is fortunate enough to live here, but with each day Trump is President we become a less fortunate nation because he puts us at risk.

On this Fourth of July I will pray. Pray for each and every one of us. Whether or not you support the 45th President of the United States, you should be afraid. Afraid of not only what you know he is doing, but more importantly, what you don’t know he is doing. He is making a mockery of his job and putting us in harm’s way. From healthcare, to being in charge of the military, to cries of fake news, our futures are in jeopardy. Important to note this is not about our political affiliations.

I know many great Republicans and there is a difference between a Republican and a Trump supporter. Republicans believe in different things than I do, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad, just different. A Trump supporter however, is just as dangerous as their leader. I have yet to meet a Trump supporter who can articulate why he a good President. They can’t because they are mentally deficient. Is that mean? Sorry, but it is time to get real and sometimes that can be mean.

I am exhausted by all the fake kindness and political correctness. I believe Donald Trump is dangerous and mentally deficient. Those who support him, by association, are also dangerous and mentally deficient. Too harsh? I don’t think so. It is my 1st Amendment right to say what I think so I will say it again. Donald Trump is mentally deficient. That feels good! Have a happy and safe 4th. God Bless America, and PS God, sorry about Donald Trump. Don’t give up on us because we are praying.

As I read this I know it will upset a lot of people. It is a politically charged time and there are lines drawn in the sand, but that does not and should not change how I write. I have never worried about what people will think about what I write, but rather worried about how I would feel about myself if I was not honest in my writing. So now it is out there. No tiptoeing, just honesty. I am scared, but I am hopeful. He got lucky when he won and we will be lucky when he is impeached.

May God Bless America. I am sending prayers and good wishes to all those who are serving in the military and putting their lives on the line for our freedom. To the military families, thank you for your sacrifices too. I am blessed to live in America and I pray for her safety. I pray for all of us actually. I hope we make it through this difficult time and come out the other side united and strong. Wishful thinking to be sure, but it is possible. All it requires is for all of us to keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

Worshipers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Jan. 17. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

L.A. clergy respond to the Kotel controversy


We have seen the selling out of the Jewish people for crass political power.  However, it isn’t usually done by a prime minister of Israel to Jews around the world. Benjamin Netanyahu’s crass political move to renege on the compromise reached with the Reform and Conservative Movements and Women of the Wall on appropriate egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel is alarming and shameful.

The plan to build egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall was negotiated by the prime minister’s own representatives. His representatives Natan Sharansky and now-attorney general Avichai Mendelbilt were the ones who spoke for the Israeli government. It was hailed as an historic agreement by the prime minister’s own office. Netanyahu came to the U.S. and himself addressed American Jewry about the importance of this.

I sat across from the prime minister a year ago February in his office when he assured me and rabbinic leaders of the Reform Movement, “It will happen.”  Following the meeting at the annual convention of the Reform rabbinate in 2016, we held the first services in what was to eventually become the new space. It was a spiritually uplifting and moving experience to pray with my fellow rabbis next to the ancient and historical symbol of our people’s continuity, men and women together as is our authentic Jewish experience.

The prime minister, who claims to speak for all Jews, has betrayed a significant portion of the Jewish people by giving in to Charedi demands.  He is not a man of his word or a man of honor and he is leading the government of Israel to act immorally.

The sacrifices of the ancient Temple were designed to restore wholeness and holiness to individuals who have sinned and to the Jewish people. Prime Minister Netanyahu instead has sacrificed the majority of American Jews on the altar of his political expediency, reinforcing the very sin that destroyed the ancient Temple: sinat chinam, the hatred of Jew against Jew. This is the sin our Talmudic Sages teach destroyed the Temple. Netanyahu’s actions further alienate American Jews from finding a place and connection to the Jewish homeland. As a Reform rabbi I try to build up that connection and help Jews find their way home. The prime minister has increased the distance and removed the welcome mat from the doorway.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger, Congregation Kol Ami


I am saddened, of course, that things had to come to this point, and that no effective compromise was brokered that could avoid the considerable pain experienced on both sides of the divide. I cannot say that I understand what happened.

I am saddened by the hype and the untruths that are being spread. While I can understand some of the feelings of let-down in the non-Orthodox world, I cannot understand charges that this move is a repudiation of their Jewishness. It is rather, for better or worse, nothing but the affirmation and continuation of a long-standing policy recognizing the holiness of the Wall as defined by halachah. No one — no one — is barred from participating in prayer there. The leaders of the movement to carve up the Kotel were not motivated by lack of a place where they could pray according to their fashion. Robinson’s Arch would have been more than adequate. The word that they have used has been “visibility,” i.e. they wished to make a statement about the legitimacy of their beliefs in high profile. Let’s at least be honest that this is not about equal access. It is about marketing.

Mostly I am saddened that the rift between Jewish brothers and sisters has become so cavernous that people speak of “rethinking” their commitment to the State of Israel. Do we support it because of what it can do for us, or because of its centrality in Jewish thought? Could it be that lots of non-Orthodox folks in Israel sense this wavering commitment, and are therefore prepared to listen to the Orthodox position, recognizing that only a halachic tradition will be a guarantor for the Jewish future?  I suspect that the heterodox movements have lost far more through this than a place at the Southern Wall.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Co-founder of Cross-Currents, an online journal of Orthodox Jewish thought


This is a triumph of expediency and fear over principle and unity. We all understand the political calculation involved, and the need for the prime minister to keep his coalition happy. But as Harry Truman memorably said, sometimes you have to put your principles aside and do what’s right. This betrayal tastes bitter in the mouths of those who love our people and our land.

Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple


This move by the government of Israel reneging on the Kotel agreement and promoting the conversion bill that would disenfranchise 500,000 people in Israel and around the world is a violation of the trust of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has allowed a small group of religious extremist fanatics to separate the Jewish people from the State of Israel so that he can remain Prime Minister regardless of the importance of maintaining the unity of the Jewish people.

Jews everywhere should insist that the Prime Minister withdraw the conversion bill from consideration in the Knesset and reverse his government’s decision to ignore the Kotel agreement. The Prime Minister should also apologize to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who at the Prime Minister’s request five years to find a compromise agreement on the Kotel that unifies the Jewish people, did so and then Netanyahu dismissed the compromise agreement without even informing Sharansky in advance. Netanyahu’s decision humiliated one of the great heroes of the Jewish people.

Rabbi John Rosove, Temple Israel of Hollywood


In December 1988, I was a first-year rabbinic student living in Jerusalem when the first group of women naively took a Torah scroll to the women’s side of the Kotel and held a prayer service. Their heartfelt offering did not sit well with many who witnessed it. I was not among that original group, though several of them came to our living room later that afternoon to debrief and cry.

That year brought new meaning for me to the terms “hard rock” and “heavy metal,” for in the months afterwards I served the newly forming women’s group as a shomeret (a guard). The guards formed a ring around those praying, and faced the angry ones so the others could turn inward, trying to worship.

We tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to protect those praying from the vitriol, spittle, tear gas canister (thrown at us by one of the Orthodox men who picked it up after the police threw it at them), and one heavy metal chair that suddenly came flying through the air in our direction, injuring one of the women as she prayed.  It was the first year of the first Intifada, but the rocks coming over the Kotel from above made more sense to me, and were in some ways less frightening, than the weapons and words thrown by Jews at Jews.

The soldiers who protect the Jews at the Kotel were as taken aback as we were.  On a later visit a woman carried a Torah scroll on loan from the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in a baby blanket through the ever-tightening security: “Oh,” laughed the guard as he peeled back the blanket, and waved us through, “beautiful baby.”

No one is laughing now.

Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Beth Chayim Chadashim


We Jews must surely be the laughing stock of the world! Even as the United Nations actively delegitimizes our connection to the Temple Mount and ancient holy sites in Jerusalem and Israel, we are busy fighting with each other as to who can pray where and how, as if any of this really matters.

Both sides in this dispute ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Do any of the protagonists really think that they are making God happy by fighting with each other? The Talmud tells us that the Temple was destroyed and the exile was decreed by God as a result of the endless pointless squabbling between Jews. And yet, almost 2,000 years later, we are still squabbling! How pathetic.

Instead of fighting each other, we need to be joining forces and together fighting our real enemies — those who wish to deny the Jewish connection to our holiest site — not the Kotel, but the Temple Mount, where our Temple once stood, and will stand again, but only if we can focus our energy on making it happen, instead of wasting energy point-scoring against each other, pointing fingers, and creating ill-feeling.

In this fight, no matter who prevails there are no winners. Instead of this nonsense, our goal must be to protect Israel from its enemies, and to create a thriving center for Jewish revival and triumph in our ancestral homeland.

Rabbi Pini Dunner, Beverly Hills Synagogue


That the Israeli governing coalition reneged on its own agreement to provide a separate, cordoned off area, discretely to the side and far from the postcard courtyard that we all think of as the Kotel can’t really be a complete surprise. Politics is politics, and all politics is local. Most Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal and nondenominational voices will decry this short-sighted and discriminatory decision (as do I); most Orthodox, Charedi, and Chasidic voices will support and celebrate the power to impose their monopoly. Obviously, this has a lot to do with pluralism (which some see as a threat), and with women acting with authority in public (which even more people see as threatening).

Personally, I feel the need remind us of three simple truths: First, an Israel that circles the wagons and enacts religious policies that sound like they could have been proposed in Teheran or by the Westboro Baptist Church reveals itself to be motivated by fear and considerations of power, more than by faith and wisdom. That’s not good for Israel in the long run.

Second, if we are going to make the Wall into a locus of Jewish faith, then there has to be room for us all, each in our own way, or the imposed exclusion will itself become a justification for those marginalized and slighted to walk away from Judaism and from Israel, and that’s not good for Israel in the long run.

Third, nowhere in the Torah does it suggest that God is accessible at that Wall more than anywhere else. The portability of Torah, the insight that holiness is to be found in acts of tzedek (justice), shalom (peace) and chesed (lovingkindness) remains Judaism’s greatest insight and core conviction. So, by all means, let’s fight for our space at the Wall, but let’s remember that we show real love for God and Torah, and real solidarity with Israel, when we work for a Jewish community — here and there — that observes mitzvot, loves the stranger, learns Torah, and pursues peace.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Abner and Roslyn Goldstine Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University


I can pray at the Kotel, but my wife cannot. I can hear the Torah read at the Kotel, but she cannot. If she dons a tallit for private prayer at the Kotel, she will be arrested. If she prays aloud, she will be shouted down or escorted away.  Her spirituality, her voice, is deemed an affront to the Kotel. The great symbol of our collective destiny has become a political token, a tool of division. And sinat hinam, unbounded rivalry, our inability to embrace one another, the very reason we lost the city twice before, burns once more.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Valley Beth Shalom


I have been spat and yelled at (and worse) while davening at the Kotel.  I stand behind the efforts to bring egalitarian services there.  I am a supporter of Women of the Wall.  And I am pained (but somehow not surprised) by the recent reversal by the government, which does feel like a betrayal, and which stymies admirable efforts to open the Kotel to the full array of Jewish religious expression.  And at the same time, I choose not to wring my hands or wallow today.  I choose to celebrate, and thus identify with Rabbi Akiva in the famous story from the Talmud in which his rabbinic peers tore their garments upon seeing the ruins of Jerusalem.  They see the moment frozen in time, a destruction prophesied by a particular Biblical verse. Rabbi Akiva smiles, however, reminding them that the end of that very verse also prophesies redemption.  Now that the nadir envisioned by the verse has come to pass, the eventual ascension/aliyah is also inevitable. 
 
So why do I celebrate today?  Because even though the Charedi hold on Israeli politics is at times painful and corrupt, as the Kotel fiasco attests to, for me redemption is not tied to a particular wall. I am sometimes bemused by the fact that so much focus is put on prayer at the ruin of the Temple by the very Jews who least ache for that spot to re-emerge as the center of Jewish spirituality.  For the progressive-traditional Jew, who sees rebirth of meaningful and resonant Judaism within Israel as one of Zionism’s greatest contributions and challenges, what transpires at the Kotel may be symbolically important, but pales in comparison to the evolutions transpiring throughout the land—the mash-up of secular seekers and traditional liturgy at various Kabbalat Shabbat phenomena that are growing; the strength and vitality of Masorti and Progressive synagogues and communities despite the infrastructural challenges which inhibit them; the will exhibited by myriad Israelis to reject the authority and monopoly of the rabbanut by making decisions (which, yes, they ought not have to make) to marry creatively rather than under near-theocratic conditions.  Last summer I attended a cousin’s wedding on an Orthodox kibbutz, where the officiant was female, and at which the hordes of sweaty, tzitzit-flying, tichel-wearing celebrants saw no conflict between traditional Jewish rituals and practice on the one hand, and female religious leadership and party-style mixed-dancing on the other.  This same cousin, who helped found yet another Orthodox/egalitarian minyan in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem, recently posted on Facebook wishing a mazal tov on the recent wedding…of Moshe and Eran, two of his closest male friends and fellow B’nai Akiva alumni. 
 
I’d tear a tiny thread in my clothes, as I really do wish that on my next visit to the Kotel I, and my daughters, can pray in the manner we find sacred.  But this symbolic setback is dwarfed by the extraordinary successes we see playing out in spots that are, indeed, more important to the Jewish future even than those venerable stones.  I honor the leaders of WOW and wish them strength.  And yet I know we will not win every engagement.  And the perfect is the enemy of the good.  And Robinson’s Arch is a beautiful place to hold egalitarian prayer (and a bit shadier, too!).  And if we scope out beyond those square meters, and if we are witness to (and financially contribute to) the efforts to egalitarian-ize and modernize and evolution-ize the many Judaisms of modern Israel, then we can stand with Rabbi Akiva, and celebrate the burgeoning redemptions.
Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Temple Beth Am

I stood at the Wall in 1967, having returned “home” on Aliyah with my husband, an Israeli officer. My eyes filled with tears as I approached the Wall which I could only see from the top of the Mt. Zion hotel when I was a young student in Jerusalem in 1960. I prayed and cried tears of gratitude at the open Wall.

I returned to the Wall for the Bar Mitzvah of my son in 1986. There was a mechitzah, but it was low, and no one seemed to mind when I held on to his tallit and prayed out loud, as I draped myself over the barrier from the woman’s side.

A decade later, things had changed. The mechitzah was now a wall itself and the woman’s section became smaller each year. The “Fashion Police” at the entrance to the woman’s section were more insistant, and I was chastized when I gathered my congregants near me in prayer as we visited the holy site.

By the year 2000, the Kotel area had become a war zone, not only for the intifada, but the epicenter of Jew against Jew. Rocks were thrown directly at me. On Rosh Chodesh, the catcalls and whistles grew louder and louder until the level became deafening. The Schechinah decamped elsewhere.

Robinson’s Arch was to be a worthy compromise that honored the unity of the Jewish people. I was lucky enough to lead a Shabbat servce for my congregation in the proposed Plaza area, and it was one of the holiest moments of all of our lives. Swallows flitted in and out of the crevases, the sound of the Arab call to prayer intertwined with our “mixed” daavening as the holy silence of Shabbat decended on Jerusalem.

Today, there is no holy silence. There are only tears for the pain of the Jewish people, and the opportunities we have lost.

Rabbi Judith HaLevy, Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue


Israeli media is full of news, debates and analysis regarding the recent religion/state battles. While many of you may think that what Israelis are focusing on are the security threats from the outside and terror with Israel, you would be wrong. The war over religious freedom and equality is clearly a key component in shaping Israel’s path.

One cannot over exaggerate the serious nature of the current conflict, by just noting the fact that the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors, convening in Jerusalem, decided to cancel a festive dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset and to replace its normal schedule with deliberations regarding the recent government decisions. It never happened before!

Understandably, the non-Orthodox movements (along with the Women of the Wall) put the emphasis on the collapse of the Kotel compromise and its underlying reason: the triumphalist threats by the Charedi parties and the Chief Rabbinate, delegitimizing Diaspora’s major Jewish streams. However, this would be both a narrow focus and a misunderstanding of the larger picture that Israel is facing as it is attempting to forge its Jewish and democratic identity. The three current battles, regarding the Kotel, conversion and Shabbat, are interrelated.

The first of these targets non-Orthodox Jews, the second widens its scope to include Modern Orthodox Judaism, and the third hits the broadest swath of Israeli society — in Tel Aviv and beyond, aimed at blocking municipal ordinances that allow for opening of convenience stores, and preventing public transportation on Shabbat. It should behoove Diaspora Jewish leadership and the streams to focus solely on the affront done to them and lose sight of the larger battle over Israel’s character.

All three initiatives are in direct opposition to the will of the overwhelming majority of Israelis, as repeatedly demonstrated in public opinion polls, such as Hiddush’s own systematic polling.

The recent actions of the government cause severe damage to Jewish unity and the fundamental values of Judaism and democracy. It is time to move beyond niceties, resolutions and verbal expressions of dismay. The time has come for American Jewish leadership to state publicly, loudly and clearly, that all Israeli politicians who vote for these reprehensible laws and policy decisions, are not welcome to your communities so long as they undermine the Jewish People and erode Jewish unity.

Rabbi Uri Regev, President of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel

Happy Father’s Day


Happy Father’s Day to new dads, old dads, estranged dads, moms who are also dads, dads who are also moms, men about to be dads, and dads who have passed away.

I miss my Dad.

Everyday.

All day long.

I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day and may you all be happy, healthy, kind, blessed, and appreciated.

Keep the faith.

Ransom Call Alert


The other day I was in my car with my son when my phone rang. It showed a call coming in from Mexico, which as odd as I don’t know anyone who lives in Mexico, or was there in holiday. I didn’t answer the phone figuring if it was a call for me, they would leave a message. A minute later the phone rang again from the same number, so I answered it. On the other line was a woman who was crying. I was confused at first and simply said hello. The woman was whimpering, and asking me to help her. I put the call on speaker so my son could hear and I asked what to do.

He was also confused and we were unclear what was happening. I said hello and asked who it was, then a man got on the phone and told me if I hung up, or contacted the police, he was going to shoot the woman in the head. My heart was now racing and I was scared. I muted the call and asked my son what was happening. We were in a bit of a panic and I didn’t want to do the wrong thing. The man was screaming at me to talk to him and with a shaking hand I accidently disconnected instead of unmuting. I started to cry and the phone immediately rang again.

The man was now screaming profanities, telling me he was going to kill the woman, and if I thought he was kidding, he would kill me too because he knew where I lived. He told me I needed to give him all the money I had access to or she would die. It was terrifying, and too unbelievable for me to comprehend. I told him I didn’t understand and he told me where to meet him. I was to go to the bank, get money, then trade the money for the woman, who he said I knew. In a moment of sheer panic, I drove to the police station. We had been on the phone for 15 minutes at the point, and it was torturous.

When we got to the police station, my son ran in to get help and I kept the man on the phone, telling him I was going to get him the money. The police officer came out and listened in on the conversation. I muted the call and she told me to hang up. I stared at her in disbelief, telling her the woman would be killed. She looked me in the eye and told me to hang up. I did. She explained that it was a hoax, there was no woman in trouble, and it was a scam that happens many times each day. People were giving money left and right, getting duped by these callers.

She said he would call back and when he did, I was to say I would not give him any money unless I could speak to the woman. He called, I asked to speak to the woman, and he put her on. The woman was pleading for help and the police officer put the call on mute, asking me to listen carefully to the voice because the man demanding the money was the same person pretending to be the woman in trouble. I listened and it was suddenly clear they were the same person. I started to cry again, this time with relief that no one was about to be shot. I almost fainted.

The officer disconnected the call and told me they would call back three or four more times, and I was not to answer it. The first call came in. The officer explained that these people do this and are making a lot of money from innocent people who think they are doing the right thing. People have emptied out their bank accounts to save people, never to see their money again. She said it was good we came to the police and to not worry about the call. Nobody was watching us, or following us, or going to come to our home. We were not in any danger.

It was a shocking and exhausting experience and I share it here as a cautionary tale. Be very careful. It is fascinating what people will do for money. This is an evil scam but as we all know, the world is dark and scary and this happens in real life, to real people, with real consequences all the time. If you get a similar call, try to remain calm, go to the police, and get help. Easier said than done in the moment, but try. I am grateful to my son for being a pillar of strength, and for the LAPD for helping us. We are shaken, but keeping the faith.

 

My London Life


I have been spending a lot of time in London over the past year and I love it here. I am sitting in my room, looking out the window as the sun is desperate to break though, watching people walk past, and feeling very happy. This city is alive and hopeful and even though there is palpable stress and fear, my soul is at peace here. On many levels, and for many reasons, it feels like London is home.

To clarify, home is ultimately where my son is, so with him in London with me this week, it truly is home. We have had a terrific time and he feels the same way in London that I do. It is a great city, with great people, namely our friends J and S, who I have written about often, and call Victoria and David Beckham. They are wonderful human beings and we truly love them and their children.

We spent last night at the Beckham Castle and I slept like a baby. I have not slept well since I got to Engalnd because internal clock has been screwed up due to all my traveling. I went from Los Angeles, to London, to Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to Toronto, to Los Angeles, to Melbourne, to Los Angeles, to London, all in 10 days. Sleep has been elusive, last night however, I slept like a baby.

I went to bed at 10:00 pm and was Sleeping Beauty for a divine 9 hours. I don’t worry about anything when I am there, and that peace invites sleep because I’m very comfortable and happy there. Today my son is at Wembley stadium with the oldest Beckham son, watching two football teams compete to get into the Premiere League. It makes me happy when these two young men hang out.

My son spent the past week on holiday in Greece and Italy. He went on his own and it was a great adventure. It takes courage to travel on your own and his bravery inspires me. (To be clear, it also scares the crap out of me!) I am seeing my son in a new light following his trip. He has grown up somehow and it is exciting. He is 21, and will always be my baby, but he is also an amazing man.

Tomorrow I am going to take my favorite person on the planet to Paris. We’ll spend a glorious day walking around, seeing the sights, and eating the perfection that is French cuisine. It has been over 30 years since I was last in Paris, and to take my son there for his first time is special. We’ll be there for 28 hours, so will jam pack as much as we can into our day and I hope it doesn’t rain!

I love my London life and being here has allowed me to have my son come over and see parts of the world he has wanted to visit since he was little. He always wanted to see the world and it is an honor to watch his face as tells me about what he has seen and done. He is a remarkable child and being even a small part of his dreams coming true is the greatest gift I can receive as his mother.

Israel is home because I was born there and it is where my parents met and fell in love. Canada is home because it is where I grew up and where my family is. Los Angeles is home because my son was born there and it is where he is building his life. London is home because it makes me comfortable and happy. I’m a lucky girl to feel connected to so many places. I’m grateful and keeping the faith.

Prayers for Manchester


Last week I flew to London with my son, where we spent a day together, then he left on a wonderful adventure. He is spending 6 days on a whirlwind European trip. It freaks me out of course, because the world is scary, but I am happy for him. He is travelling alone so he can make his own schedule, see what he wants, and do what he wants, when he wants.  I am thrilled he is brave, and very proud he gets that quality from me.

Following the attack this week in Manchester, I feel frightened all the time. I walked to the market in London today and was so nervous I went home before making it there. I watched kids on scooters, enjoying a sunny London day, and I wanted them to all go home and stay safe. It is horrible to be on edge like this. I worry about my son being on his own, but am thankful he’s not here, where we are on a high terror alert.

Last time I was in London there was an attack on Westminster Bridge, and now innocent children have been murdered in Manchester. My heart is broken and I want to look away, but find myself unable to turn off the news. I am on edge, which makes me angry. The attack in Manchester makes me really angry. The targeting of children is beyond horrific and my heart breaks for the families who have been touched by hatred in this way.

From the mothers who were killed while waiting to pick their kids, and the kids who saved up money to see their favorite singer, I am unable to process what it was like for them. The world is dark and I am seeing it from a scarier perspective in London. There are police and armed guards everywhere, which is comforting, but they are in the same danger as those of us they protect. How can we feel safe when these attacks come with an element of surprise?

We are living in a time of great unknown and it can be paralyzing. I want to empower myself to be brave and not let terrorism dictate how I live my life, but I am a mother and so it does. My son has been checking in every few hours while he is on holiday, and it is keeping me sane. In the end he does it as much for his sake as mine. He is worried about me being in London when there is so much going on. The communication matters.

My boy will join me in London on Saturday and we will spend another few days in Europe together before returning to Los Angeles. It will be wonderful to be in London with him as this is my favorite city and he is my favorite person. We will be cautious, and we will be together. Life goes on, but we must never forget these attacks and never forget the souls who were lost. To the amazing people of Manchester, my prayers go out to you. I am holding you close and keeping the faith.

Childhood Dreams


Have you ever loved something you have never seen in real life, only photographs? Convinced that if you were to ever see it, you would plunge into depths of joy that engulf your entire being? Scared that if you did see it, you would somehow be disappointed and your dreams crushed? Over the weekend a dream of mine came true and I was profoundly moved by it. I spent the weekend in the English countryside and was transported to my childhood dreams.

I have always wanted to live in the England countryside. I would have a grand, old home with lots of land, magnificent gardens, and tons of animals. I’d spend my days walking through fields and forests, cooking glorious food, with a door always open to family, friends, and strangers. Anyone who had a story to share. I’d have a massive dog and an English husband. As I’ve grown old the dream remains the same, only now there is a pub in town that makes a great Cosmo.

Adam Ant was the first man I ever fell in love with and he was the husband of my childhood dreams. I thought he was the most handsome man in the world and I’d listen to his records endlessly. I thought we’d get married and live happily ever after. I was certain if given the opportunity to meet me, he’d fall instantly and desperately in love. Every minute I spend in England is with the hope I’ll see him, our eyes lock, and our lives entwine as they were always destined to.

I stayed in a magnificent home and as I wondered into each room it took my breath away and required all my strength not to cry. I stood in my sprawling bedroom as the sun was setting, looking out onto the Isle of Wight in the distance, and I was mesmerized. It is not often someone’s dreams come true and I was emotional. I felt as if my beloved English father was looking down on me, thrilled the dream we had spoken of so often had come true. It was magical.

The rooms were romantic and historical. The fireplaces held stories of so many who sat in front of them. There was so much to see one could spend days in each room and constantly discover new treasures. The home was grand and important, yet warm and welcoming. You could feel happiness contained in the walls and while I’m certain a home so old must be haunted, the ghosts were simply happy to have company and enjoyed the merriment. I loved every moment.

On Sunday, pretending that I actually lived there and Adam was on his way home, I went to the pub and raised a glass to my dad, who’s stories of his childhood in England became my dreams. I took lots of pictures with both my camera and my mind’s eye, so I could come back to the exact moment we walked through an enchanted forest with deer running between 2000-year-old trees. It was a spectacular weekend and I am once again dreaming of a life here.

Sidebar: The pub didn’t make a Cosmo, so I requested the drink I invented in my country home. The “Fallen Angel” is now a favorite and I’ve had a couple since the weekend. The drink is fizzy elderflower, a shot of vodka, and a splash of grenadine, over ice. It is sweet and light and the perfect substitution to my believed Cosmo. I’m not sure how easy it will be to find sparkling elderflower in LA, but I will, and Fallen Angels will be a go to beverage for the summer. Try it!

It is quite spectacular to be transported to your childhood at the exact moment you see a vision of your future. This piece of heaven made this angel very happy. Thank you to my lovely hosts for a wonderful time. From the walks, to meeting the animals, to the Yorkshire pudding and blackberry crumble, it was all perfect. I felt lucky to be included in the weekend and look forward to one day being your neighbor. I am looking out for Adam, and keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying in London


I have spent much of the past six months in London. It is my adopted home and I love it here. I have a tight group of friends and colleagues in this wonderful city. I enjoy every minute that I am blessed to be in London, a city my father loved so much. I walk every day and my favorite route is to walk is across Westminster Bridge then across to the Tower Bridge, passing Shakespeare’s Globe Theater along the way. It is about a 5 mile walk and a treasured part of my time here. I listen to the soundtracks of Bridget Jones movies and am happy.

I do my walk three days a week. Yesterday however, I didn’t go because I was busy and didn’t have time. I never walk at a set time, so it is impossible to know if I would have been on the bridge during the terrorist attack, but I am shaken. I am sad for those who lost their lives, those in the hospital, and the witnesses of this cowardly attack. I am thankful for the first responders who bravely helped. I am also worried for my Muslim friends here, who feel this attack on levels I won’t ever understand. The world is dark and hate is truly powerful.

It is exhausting to hear the hate. It chisels away at my heart and I hear it every day. People in line at the market, on the subway, having coffee. Everyone speaks freely and loudly about how all the problems in the world are because of Muslims. They say it in front of Muslims. They speak of how every terrorist in the world is Muslim and they must all go. I’m not sure where exactly they want them to go, but as a Jew, and an intelligent human being, it breaks my heart and frightens me to hear of the persecution of a group of people based on faith.

I walked again today, but chose a different route, mostly to stay out of the way. I walked through London this morning because life goes on. I am praying for this city and her people as I count down the days until I go home and hug my son. I’m thankful for my amazing readers, who immediately upon hearing of the attack, reached out to see if I was okay, knowing I am often on Westminster Bridge. I felt embraced and comforted. I am grateful for the opportunities that brought me to London and I hope all of us here can keep the faith.

 

Photo courtesy of Women of the Wall.

Women of the Wall in petition to Israeli Supreme Court demand right to pray undisturbed


The Women of the Wall filed a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court demanding the right to pray undisturbed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The petition, filed Tuesday against the Israel Police, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Western Wall’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitz, also asked the court to order the police to ensure that the women are safe from physical and verbal violence while praying at the holy site.

It requested a temporary injunction requiring the respondents to explain their failure to ensure the legal rights of the Women of the Wall to pray in the women’s section of the site without disturbance, according to a statement from the organization. The petition also demanded an explanation for the respondents’ failure to implement the necessary measures to halt those who regularly attempt to disrupt their prayer services with physical and verbal violence.

Women of the Wall said in a statement that during monthly prayer services, its members are exposed to “curses, incitement, spitting, ear-piercing whistling, intense and continuous shouting and bottles thrown at them. Despite this egregious conduct, including criminal offenses, their repeated pleas for protection are met with indifference by Israel Police and by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s ushers and guards.”

In January, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of women being allowed to read from the Torah in the women’s section at the Western Wall and declared that an egalitarian prayer area set aside at nearby Robinson’s Arch does not constitute access to the holy site.

The January ruling was in response to a petition by the Original Women of the Wall, a breakoff of the Women of the Wall group, who want to pray in the women’s section and reject a compromise, still to be implemented, that would expand an alternative prayer space at Robinson’s Arch.

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