July 15, 2019

Inspiration and a Rallying Cry for Graduates

The following is Judea Pearl’s speech at the fourth annual UCLA Jewish Graduation on June 16.

Dean [Maria] Blandizzi, friends, families, distinguished guests and especially you, the graduates.

I am deeply honored by the opportunity to address this graduating class, and to speak to you on topics that are so very dear to my heart.

I know that I am speaking today to a unique group of graduates. Unique, because all of you felt the need to add a distinctly Jewish color to one of the most memorable days of your life.

And the question you are probably asking is: What is the nature of this extra color we call Jewish? Is “being Jewish” some sort of a birthmark with which one is burdened or blessed for life? A genetic incident? How can one be proud of a genetic incident? Is it a religious belief? An ethnic loyalty? A commitment to a certain mode of behavior or perspective? An attitude? Is it just a collection of sweet childhood memories, decorated with mother’s cooking? Or a language to communicate with our ancestors and decode their wisdom and experience? Most importantly, could a coherent, meaningful answer ever emerge from a community whose members view the  question through such diverse prisms?

The question is not trivial, and it shook up the core of my soul 17 years ago, when our son Daniel was murdered in Karachi, Pakistan, and his last words, facing his abductors’ camera were: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish — I am Jewish. Back in the town of Bnei Brak, there is a street named  after my great-grandfather, Chaim Pearl, who was one of the founders of the town.”

These words have since become an identity banner to every Jewish soul, to every lover of Israel and to every scholar of peoplehood. But at the time, they raised more questions than answers: What did he mean? What does any of us mean when he or she says: “I am Jewish?”

So we asked 300 people, from all walks of life — journalists, comedians, rabbis, musicians, even kids in camps — what it means to them to be Jewish, and 150 of them responded and gave honest answers, compiled in this book. The answers were as diverse as Jews love to be — two Jews, three opinions — but they have a common denominator, which can be read clearly in the essays of Shimon Peres, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, and which happen to coincide with my own answer.

To me, being Jewish means to identify with the past, present, and future of a collective of individuals who happen to call themselves “Jews.”

This might sound a bit circular, but it is not. Many definitions in logic sound circular and still convey profound meanings.

We should not beg for safe space but create one, through assertiveness and self-awareness of our just cause.

As an act of choice, I select a certain thread of history and label it “mine,” that is, relevant to me. Similarly, I imagine the destiny of other members of the collective and label it “ours,” that is, relevant to our children. This is indeed what “people-hood” means: A collective bonded by common history and common destiny.

But who are we? And how did this historical bondage shape us?

I look down the history of ideas and I find our little subculture scoring an impressive list of accomplishments. I see Jews as the scouts of civilization — the ones who question conventional wisdom and constantly seek the exploration of new pathways. Abraham questioned the wisdom of idolatry; Moses questioned the wisdom of servitude and lawlessness; the prophets questioned institutional injustice; and so the chain goes on from the Maccabees, Jesus and Spinoza to Marx, Herzl and Freud, down to Einstein, Gershwin, the Zionist Chalutzim, who created the miracle of Israel, and down to the civil rights activists of the 1960s.

As individuals, we do not consciously choose this lonely role of scouts, border-challengers or idol-smashers. It has penetrated our veins, partly from the Bible and the Talmud through their persistent encouragement of curiosity, learning and debate, and partly from our free-spirited parents, uncles and historical role models. But mostly, this role has been imposed on us by the travesties of history. Conventional wisdoms were mighty unkind to us, so our sanity demanded that we challenge those conventions and, in due course, we have learned to challenge all conventions.

Thus, is my Jewishness a blessing or a burden? Do I prefer the trails of the scouts to the safety of the bandwagon? You bet I do. It is only from those trails that I can see where the voyage is heading, and it is only from there that I can discover greener pastures. I am Jewish, and I doubt I would be in my element elsewhere.

This combination of loneliness and creativity brings me to discuss the painful situation in which we, Zionist Jews, find ourselves on this campus vilified and demonized by BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] cronies, betrayed by our longtime progressive allies, and abandoned to exclusion and namelessness by those who should promote equity, diversity and inclusion on our campus.

As many of you know, you and I were recently labeled “white supremacists” by a top BDS ideologist who was a guest lecturer at the Department of Anthropology. I repeat: UCLA Department of Anthropology — let shame rest with those who earn it. As of today, that lecturer has not yet been asked to apologize to the literally thousands of students and faculty at UCLA who are devout Zionists, champions of human rights and social justice, whom she labeled “white supremacists.”

I feel obliged to share with you my rather optimistic assessment of this situation, since many of you will be facing a similar climate in graduate schools or in industry or the business environment.

I am optimistic because we have learned to pinpoint precisely what strategy will snap us out of this predicament and, fortunately, the strategy is not unrealizable.

It involves two elements. First, recognition of identity. Second, word power.

Let me elaborate. First, we should stop using the term anti-Semitism in our arguments and complaints, because it makes us easily dismissible by anyone who wishes to take cover under the slogan “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.” Why make it easy for them? Instead, we should demand explicit recognition as “Identity Zionists.” Since Jews are a history-bonded collective, and Israel is the culmination of Jewish history, elementary high school algebra dictates that Zionism is an essential component of Jewish identity. Zionist students and faculty should therefore be recognized as legitimate participants in UCLA’s tapestry of inclusion and diversity. I said “Zionist” not “Jewish,” which is easy to pay lip service to. This means that in all matters concerning code of conduct, Zionism should attain the same protection status as any religion or nationality or identity-distinct collective, and anti-Zionism should turn as despicable and condemnable as Islamophobia, women  inferiority or white supremacy.

This idea is not mine. Such recognition was accepted by California State University in a recent legal settlement of a lawsuit filed by students at San Francisco State. It is now binding, and we should insist that an identical wording be accepted by the UCLA administration.

“For many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity.”

We should insist on it in every meeting with UCLA officials, relentlessly, incessantly, before we even make an appointment. It is a prerequisite for any discussion of our posture on campus and it is the litmus test for our inclusion or exclusion in or out of the Bruins family.

I should add that the administration’s failure to grant us this recognition is not entirely their fault — no one has asked them to do it. We naively assumed that it is self-evident so, as time passed, they forgot how to spell “Zionism.” No more! Zionism has a spelling.

Our second weapon is word power.

We should not beg for safe space but create one, through assertiveness and self-awareness of our just cause. He who does not defend his identity from slander cannot expect to be respected. Remember that, to an outside observer, silence is interpreted as an admission of guilt. The term “anti-Semitism” connotes submissive begging for protection, and should be replaced by a fighting word “Zionophobia” — the irrational fear of a  homeland for the Jewish people.” It rhymes with Islamophobia, on purpose, of course. When you call someone a “Zionophobe,” it means: “If you deny my people’s right to a homeland, something is wrong with you, not me.”

Jewish students will regain respect only when “Zionophobia” becomes the ugliest word on campus. It depends on us; if we use it often enough, it will become the ugliest.

In summary, I believe that once we insist on recognition of our identity and once we arm ourselves with a powerful fighting word, “Zionophobia,” campus climate will change dramatically, and the words “I am Jewish” will ring again as a mark of pride, creativity and accomplishment.

I wish you much success in your future careers, as you continue the long and heroic  journey of our people, a journey of dignity, creativity and excellence.

Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation and a co-editor of “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl” (Jewish Lights, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Prayer, Politics Not Enough to Unite World

Pope Francis waves as he attends the Festival of Families at Croke Park during his visit to Dublin. Vatican Media/via REUTERS

Travel brings with it the wonder of new adventures and the potential for new relationships. My recent trip to Rome provided that and much more as I shared conversation and prayer with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. I left that moving encounter more hopeful than ever that if we forge a new spirit of generous engagement, a new way of listening and a new commitment to working together, we can conquer the discrimination, religious bigotry and ideological blinders that lead to much of the hatred and violence that stains our world today.

My journey began with a trip to Azerbaijan as a member of a small U.S. delegation to meet with international political, social and spiritual leaders committed to building a world of inclusion and forging a counter-narrative to violent extremism. Our first stop was the fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, of which the motto for this year was “Building dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality and violent conflict.” Is there a more worthy goal at this time in human history?

Azerbaijan is more than 96 percent Muslim and in the great Heydar Mosque in Baku, Shias and Sunnis pray side by side under one roof. The country’s culture and political system are devotedly secular, and the sincere desire to be inclusive of all faiths and ethnicities is palpable at every level of society. Sitting at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Russia border Azerbaijan. The country’s wish to cultivate peaceful coexistence is a necessity for this small republic’s survival in such a volatile part of the world. It also is a powerful model for the region.

At the heart of this country’s quest to unify is a practical willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue with those from other religious and cultural backgrounds. The political, spiritual and social justice leaders whom I met understood that honest dialogue is not merely a step toward formal conflict resolution but is a fundamental necessity in a world in which “the other” most often is defined through third-party sources and reflexive biases.

“Honest dialogue is not merely a step 

toward formal conflict resolution but is a fundamental necessity.”

From Baku, my colleague Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez and I were off to Rome for a meeting in the Vatican and the possibility of an audience with the pope. Bishop Mendez and I were escorted past thousands to seats of honor beside the papal platform. Pope Frances addressed and blessed the throngs of people gathered and then, to my surprise, Bishop Mendez and I were invited to meet the pope.

Pope Francis and I held each other’s hands, then we drew closer, holding each other’s forearms as we spoke about a world in desperate need of unity. I thanked Pope Francis for his leadership and solidarity, especially in combating the rising tides of global anti-Semitism. Toward the conclusion of our conversation, I asked the pope if I could offer him a Hebrew blessing from the Torah. He lowered his head and closed his eyes. At that moment, my heart opened wide, I closed my eyes and spoke words said in synagogue and church for millennia: “May God bless you and protect you. May God illuminate God’s face to you and be gracious unto you. May God lift up God’s face to you and grant you peace.”

There we were, two men of faith, holding one another, heads bowed, united in body, conversation, prayer and blessing. In that moment, we stood, Pope Francis and I, as one.

That electrifying experience left me more determined and hopeful than ever that our answers lie not in praying to the heavens nor to our politicians, but in reaching our arms out to one another — just as Pope Francis and I did — and embracing each other as individuals and communities without bias. Only then can we rekindle our relationships and build a better world based on sacred and vital respect. If not now, when?

Rabbi Ron Li-Paz is the spiritual leader of Valley Outreach Synagogue & Center for Jewish Life, and is a member of the Los Angeles Interfaith Council.

Some Thoughts on Trusting HaShem

Photo by Pixabay

As a millennial Orthodox Jewish female writer living in Los Angeles, I often have struggles with money. My generation earns less money than our baby boomer parents did at our age (adjusted for inflation). It’s expensive to be Orthodox. Women earn less than men. Writing is not a lucrative career, and Los Angeles is unaffordable.  

Since moving to L.A., my husband, Daniel, and I have had our share of financial struggles. It can seem impossible to get ahead here. When will we ever be able to afford a modest, $1.1 million home in Pico? How will we pay for our future children’s annual $20,000 day school tuition? Why is the electric bill $350 per month?

This financial pressure led me to become a workaholic. I thought that if I took on more jobs and worked harder, I would be OK. I worked more than 60 hours per week at one point. My only day off was Shabbat.  

I was heading for serious burnout, and I was only 29 years old. I knew I had to make a change, and quickly. But how would we survive? My husband and I were working as hard as we could. 

I knew I had to try a different tactic. I cut back on work and created space for myself throughout the day, whether that meant praying, going on walks with my dogs, saying Shema before bedtime, taking more time to bless my food, and going on dates with my husband. I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I constantly was running around, never having time for myself or time with HaShem. After all, the best ideas I’ve ever had came to me when I was in a calm and relaxed state.

I also decided to completely trust HaShem that my new plan of action would work. I wouldn’t be spending all my time making money, so it was a risky choice. But I had to try it. 

That was six months ago. Since then, my life has completely transformed. I no longer worry constantly about money or work. I am much more focused and mindful, and I feel centered instead of anxious. I have shifted my thinking from negative to positive.

It can be really difficult to trust that HaShem is going to protect you when you’re late paying the bills, you can’t pay your credit card debt and your income is stagnant. 

I used to see my friends buying houses and think, “When will it be our turn?” Now I think, “If it’s meant for us, it will happen.” I would get upset when I heard that people were completely supported by their parents and didn’t have to work. Then I realized that that was their journey; I was not born into the same circumstances. When I saw Facebook friends going on fancy vacations, I would get jealous and want the same for myself. Now I know that if I want to visit some fancy destination, I will save up for it and go there one day. 

I have discovered that disappointment comes when we set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves that we cannot fulfill. We begin to feel guilty and depressed that we can’t afford something or accomplish a goal — but it was simply not meant to be in the first place. 

Since I decided to stop worrying, we have received many blessings. My husband and I unexpectedly have gotten jobs and discovered answers to questions we had been pondering for years. It seems as if the universe has opened up for us, and things are going our way.

It can be really difficult to trust that HaShem is going to protect you when you’re late paying the bills, you can’t pay your credit card debt and your income is stagnant. I’ve been there, and I know how scary it is.  

What helped me was doing a metaphorical trust exercise where you fall backward. Stop worrying. Trust that things will be fine, and just let yourself go. I promise: HaShem will be there to catch you.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a Journal contributing writer.

Pesach in Prison

Last Passover was “the season of our freedom,” as it was for millennia before, as it is today. However, last year I experienced this freedom while in the 16th year of my incarceration, an incarceration that had begun when I was a teenager. This year was qualitatively different. Baruch HaShem, this year I experienced Passover as a free man. 

The first question regarding my Jewish experience is how does a first-generation American black man, son of an illegal- immigrant Jamaican father and immigrant Sri Lankan mother, connect to a religion that celebrates freedom no matter the circumstances one finds oneself in? As a formerly agnostic gangster, inclined to rebellion and primed to approach religion with a patronizing contempt, I stumbled across my first rabbi, Joseph Hample, while I was in the maximum-security Pelican Bay State Prison. He was able to withstand my relentless probing, which was meant to disturb what I thought were other people’s fragile sandcastles of existential refuge. From that initial contact, a seed was planted. Later, Rabbi Lon Moskowitz, who for six years I would work for as the lead Jewish clerk at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, facilitated the process by giving me the room to grow into who I had always been. 

Rabbi Moskowitz was also instrumental in securing Passover donations from the non profit Aleph Institute that assists Jewish prisoners, the Northern California Board of Rabbis and other thoughtful souls. Our band of misfits, convicted felons of all stripes, managed to celebrate the season of our freedom within the constraints of oppressional forces specifically designed to restrict our freedom. We celebrated together as a community, connected to a tradition that liberated time, and with it, us. 

“Our band of prison misfits, convicted felons of all stripes, managed to celebrate the season of our freedom within the constraints of oppressional forces specifically designed to restrict our freedom. We celebrated together as a community, connected to a tradition that liberated time, and with it, us.”

Judaism was special to us and we were able to find the meaning of freedom while trapped in the narrowing straits of our own Mitzrayim, because Passover is part and parcel of what Judaism is about. It isn’t so much a faith as it is an ancestral heritage, forged from a people’s perception, connection and relationship to the source of all being. Judaism didn’t place the primacy of this living religion on theological abstractions. Its emphasis is on action; concretized rituals designed to help us transcend physical limitations. 

Many inmates scoffed at why I would want to circumscribe my freedom by adhering to an internal code of conduct at the very same time that my freedom was being circumscribed by an external force. And yet, I found more freedom in a free-will dedication to actions that connected with a higher purpose than merely trying to maximize biological drives and typical, socially constructed values; each mitzva habituating me to live up to the image of God. 

I eschewed postmodernism’s subjective refrain in exchange for an individual’s vicarious experience through the proto-Jews perspective, lost and found in the collective consciousness of a timeless people tethered to an eternal being who cares. The Exodus was not simply a “freedom from …,” but a “freedom to …” We are celebrating the Divine deliverance from oppression only in that it led to the Jewish people making a free-will choice to submit to a covenantal relationship with this ultimate higher power, to aspiringly clutch to timeless values and ethical imperatives of justice that have been relentlessly pursued across the Jewish historical landscape. In each epoch, a Mitzrayim rearing its ugly head only to become the fulcrum of God’s outstretched redemptive hand.

As meaningful as a Passover seder in prison can be, freedom while incarcerated can only be experienced to a limited extent, and only for the duration of a conscious effort that eventually taxes even the most Pollyanna-ish of prisoners. Our seder never was allowed to start on time, and it could never go past 8:30 p.m., agents of the state subverting halachah through its control of our access to utilize our time in the full exercise of religious freedom. Security checks, correctional officers’ keys jangling dissonant chords to freedom’s song; the 13th Amendment’s stigma of legitimized slavery hanging around our necks; the promise of going to sleep and waking up without our families, and without the freedom to pursue our hopes and aspirations, left chametz that a fully observed Passover in prison couldn’t completely scrub away.

However, this Passover, I learned about the luxury of liberation while drinking a glass of wine with a free Jewish community in Irvine — a cacophony of children’s laughter, and men and women covering the generational spectrum, hailing from Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and other national origins, bound together with the continuity of Jewish souls and experiences throughout the millennia, as one people, Klal Yisrael.

I drank my cups of redemption as a free man, the sweetness of the Shehecheyanu bracha infusing holiness into that moment of time, “Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, king of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.”


Omar Pryce was released early from prison in October of 2018 after serving over 16 years of a 24-year prison sentence. He is finishing undergraduate studies in sociology with an emphasis in social welfare and currently works as a program and case manager to provide stable housing for Los Angeles County’s homeless population. He is in the process of an Orthodox conversion to Judaism.

Can We Separate the Soul of Israel From Its Politics?

Several of my close friends’ children who are in their late 20s and early 30s — graduates of day schools; alums of Jewish camps, Israel trips and junior years abroad at Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities; former Birthright trip leaders; recipients of every scholarship, funded journey, fellowship and grant the Jewish community bestowed upon Generation Next — claim they will not set foot in Israel because of the Palestinian conflict, the occupation and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. My friends, who are very committed Zionists, are sad that their Jewishly educated children have become self-imposed exiles from the Zionist project, but they remain supportive of their children and the choices those children have made. 

I, too, am a liberal thinker who believes in a two-state solution and who has great difficulty with Netanyahu’s policies. I’m also sad. But I’m sad because my friends express so much understanding for and acceptance of this naive and dangerous attitude held by their adult offspring, many of whom are now raising children of their own. 

Yes, I said “naive.” Not naive politically, as my more conservative and right-wing friends like to say about my own leanings, but naive about Israel and who the country really is. 

Around our dining room table recently, when one of these friends was relating his married daughter’s position, I gave him an example of discussions I had with my Muslim students at USC. I explained that it was the same discussion I would have with my three adult children if they voiced the protest his daughter did. 

I have a close relationship with the Muslim students. A few years ago, I was the faculty representative for both the Israeli students and the Muslim students on campus. I even brought together the leaders of their respective organizations for brunch at my home. And when my father died two years ago, Muslim students came as a group to shivah one night, knowing the tradition and the right thing to do. These students knew I was a proud activist Jew and Zionist who often traveled to Israel. So every semester, a few of them, comfortable with the openness we shared, would ask how I could be such an ardent Zionist? 

“Israel and the conflict are filled with paradoxes. This conflict is exceedingly complex, rooted in and nuanced with histories, events, spiritualities, rights, wrongs, cultures, mysticisms, prayers, gods, wars, terrors, truths, lies, value systems, lands, territory, powers, money, business, hates and loves.”

I tell them that, aside from recognizing and sympathizing with their plight — understanding how the conflict has displaced them, the injustice they have suffered — my Zionist philosophy is only one of the faces of Israel. I explain that there are a whole lot of other faces of the country and Zionism that have absolutely no relationship to the conflict and exist completely independent of it. In other words, I say to them, as hard as this is to articulate, there is much that I cling to in Israel that is not all about you folks.

There is the ingathering of the Jewish people from the four corners of the Earth that has brought us back together as a family and a people, even though we are not always so good to one another. There is the re-creation of our language, which has led to a common tongue between Jews in Israel and all over the world, and hence, a new culture of music, poetry, literature, dance, food and other manifestations that we all relate to and embrace. There is the creative and business output of the country in so many different arenas. The conflict is aside from all this Jewish progress that has been made and is thrilling to us. I know they feel, how can anything in Israel not relate to them when all these accomplishments have been built upon what they consider to be the land and country that was stolen from them.

Lastly, I tell them that, as a Jew, I consider myself indigenous to the Middle East, having been taught since birth that our history and holy books tell us we are connected to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, and our liturgy and ceremonies have always talked of our return to that land. Further, I tell them that each time they invite me to their weddings, holidays, Ramadan meals and rituals, and Id festivals, I can see a connective tissue between our traditions that indeed speaks to me of how we are related to one another, emerging from the same place. 

I know all of this, when stirred together, is a great moral paradox. But nothing is black and white, and life is filled with paradoxes we have to learn to balance. When we don’t balance them, we become extremists of either right or left. And for liberals of any stripe, extremism is dangerous. 

Israel and the conflict are filled with paradoxes. This conflict is exceedingly complex, rooted in and nuanced with histories, events, spiritualities, rights, wrongs, cultures, mysticisms, prayers, gods, wars, terrors, truths, lies, value systems, lands, territory, powers, money, business, hates and loves. For anyone — including the new generation, the media, the universities and the politicians — to draw black-and-white conclusions and believe that if Israel or the Palestinians would just do “this” (whichever “this” that may be) and these deeply rooted problems would be solved, demonstrates a lack of both knowledge and the ability to deal with complexity, paradox and balance.

I ask my friends, “Are your children going to view the conflict as black and white, and hence alienate themselves from this extraordinary Jewish progress, which goes beyond anything produced in the Jewish Diaspora in thousands of years? Can they not handle life’s paradoxes? Can they not balance? Are they encouraging leftist extremism? Is their view not a naive view of the totality of Israel?” The conflict is not the only face of the country. 

I further point out that Israel has seen a proliferation of dynamic and creative social justice organizations filled with great young people committed to building a more just society. Do my friends’ children want to telegraph to these social justice activists that they don’t support their efforts and that, because the activists live in Israel, their children won’t come and work in the country with them? 

Of course, I have a bias. I relate significantly to the life in Israel. For me, Israel is an intensely riveting country — its people; its challenges; its achievements; its many cultures, including its constantly evolving Hebrew culture; its Middle Eastern atmosphere; its struggle to create an identity; its streets, markets, cafes, restaurants and festivals; its business and nonprofit sectors; its hot-and-cold relationship to Judaism as we Americans like to define it; the depth, texture and intimacy the country breeds in its familial and social relationships; its fragile democracy; and yes, even its conflict with the Palestinians and its proximity to the Arab world. Most interesting to me is when Judaism meets Israelism in all its permutations; when the constructs that Diaspora Jews brought to the country are thrown into the air and come apart, with some disappearing but with all of the remaining influences re-forming as something totally different and, for me, far more expansive. I find all of it more dynamic and engaging than anything we are building as a tiny minority Jewish community in the United States. 

My perspective on Israel doesn’t mean that I don’t find America intensely dynamic, interesting and engaging. I do. But that’s all of America, beyond its Jewish community. 

Three events I attended — two in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem — crystallized my understanding of Israel’s evolving and thrilling Jewish identity. They are like three pinpoints on a big map: 

The first event was an evening in 2013 at the Tel Aviv Opera House for the 65th anniversary of Israel’s renowned Batsheva Dance Company. Batsheva’s then-artistic director, Ohad Naharin, one of the most influential choreographers of modern dance in the world today, presented onstage his piece “Echad Mi Yodea.” Based on traditional Jewish text and melody — the same one we sing at the Passover seder — it told a Jewish, Israeli and human story. This was Judaism meeting Israeli excellence to become a world-class performance. (Indeed, the piece has captured worldwide acclaim.) Such a work of art could not be generated from American Jewish institutions (note that I am not saying from individual Jews in America, but American Jewish communal institutions), because they are not competing on the world stage, as Israel is. They are not pushed to achieve the same level of excellence as Israel is, as a country, when competing against the world’s best. I realized at that moment how Israel’s existence has presented a challenge that has elevated Jewish creativity to a level never seen before. 

The second event was a night at a cultural center on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, where Israel’s new generation of leading authors, poets and songwriters assembled before an audience of about 100 people. I came at the invitation of my good friend, Eshkol Nevo, one of Israel’s new generation of celebrated authors and whose accomplishments have made him my hero. (I had met Nevo about 20 years earlier, when he was a young copywriter in a Tel Aviv ad agency where I was asked to deliver a lecture. At that time, Nevo told me he would someday be a famous author.) This event was one of several times a year when Nevo and other Israeli writers came together just to tell stories about their families. That’s all.

“Three events I attended — two in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem — crystallized my understanding of Israel’s evolving and thrilling Jewish identity. They are like three pinpoints on a big map.”

As I listened to their stories, not one mentioned the word “Jewish” and Judaism was never a topic. Yet, through their tales, I recognized Jewish characters, Jewish dilemmas, Jewish values and a whole lot of Jewish hysteria. They were all Jewish stories, but I realized that these Israelis didn’t have the need to identify them as such, like we American Diaspora Jews do. These were simply the stories of their lives in the place where they lived. In Israel, their Jewish identities had melded with the fabric of the country, freeing them from a constrictive need to point it out. Their inner Jewish identity was expansive and not pushed into a box. Jewish identity was taking on a new form. 

The third event was my yearly attendance at Jerusalem’s Mekudeshet Festival this past August and September. Mekudeshet is an extraordinary, three-week cultural festival in which the most unexpected and thrilling immersive performances are presented in spaces all over the city. It can include listening to percussive sounds while lying on the floor of the Jerusalem forest, jumping into the YMCA pool at midnight as part of the conclusion to a performance, dancing on the tables of the Machane Yehuda shuk, listening to lectures in an East Jerusalem Sufi mosque, and taking in 3 a.m. concerts in David’s Tower.

I attended during the final week, which features sacred/world music and an event called Kulna, attended by thousands, that brings together Jewish and Palestinian musicians. Mekudeshet has begun to create a Middle Eastern Jerusalem culture, voice and sound that are distinctive from Tel Aviv and all other Israeli cities. It’s a fusion of Jewish and Arab; of Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Mizrachic; of Orthodox and secular; of Western and Middle Eastern; of the holy and everyday. It’s all shaken together and then poured out as something extraordinary, staged with the fanaticism of excellence.

Because the organizers are friends of mine, I am privileged to attend the small dinners and intimate discussions between the organizers and performers of every background. I listen as these integrated voices of Jerusalem share their struggles, the tensions between them, their discoveries from getting to know one another, and their joys in what they are achieving. 

I have had another exposure to Israel’s Jewish identity during the past year, helping the emerging leaders of Jerusalem’s Secular Yeshiva with their communications and marketing. From them, too, I am seeing the next stage of the evolution of an experimental Israeli-Jewish identity. These leaders are all graduates of Jerusalem’s Modern Orthodox Jewish high schools, growing up in observant families with a Torah-based Jewish identity. However, several of them have stepped away from traditional Orthodox observance, raising their own families while maintaining their love of and commitment to Jewish texts and learning.

The yeshiva’s participants are young business, academic, nonprofit and creative professionals committed to Jerusalem, who are standing up for the city’s once-again flourishing liberal, creative community, which is struggling to maintain and grow a population balance in Orthodox-leaning Jerusalem. As Jerusalemites, they realize the city’s Jewish identity is far more complex and conscious than for people living in Tel Aviv. They have become leading thinkers, with serious text background, about Jewish identity and their relationship to other Israelis and global Jewry.

Hundreds of people are now involved. But here, too, what is emerging is not the same as Diaspora Jewish identity. Its members are not necessarily seeing, expressing and developing their identity in a religious sense, but in an authentic national one from an Israeli perspective. Their central meeting, lecture and study ground is the bar at the Hansen House, a former leper colony turned restaurant and museum, that has become one of the hippest venues in Jerusalem. One of their most active members owns the bar. I am thoroughly convinced that the thirty-something founders of the Jerusalem Secular Yeshiva will one day emerge as Israel’s national leaders, as well as respected leaders of the global Jewish community. They have their fingers on the pulse of the entire Jewish world, understanding what animates Israel and Diaspora Jewry, and what the conflicts and commonalities are between us and them. 

These are the kind of examples that I would explain to my children if they had determined that, through their liberal American Jewish sensibilities and political correctness, they would not set foot in Israel now. I would ask them if their political awareness and activities were a deeper and more meaningful Jewish expression than what is transpiring in this Zionist country they want to abandon. Many of the Israelis I have mentioned share their political sentiments. But they have remained in Israel, creating as well as struggling to make change. Do they want to separate from these people as well? 

I would also ask them if their political commitments were more important than learning Hebrew to a level of excellence, so they could immerse themselves more organically into the Israel they are so passionately abandoning by attending events in Hebrew and understanding what the country is really all about. You can’t really get the depth of the place without the language. 

I know that day schools and Jewish camps have been challenged to teach American youth how to learn and use an everyday second language, in this case Hebrew. I know that our young people are angry at their day schools, camps and Birthright for immersing them in only one narrative of Israel, not exposing the realities, complexities, paradoxes and balances of its conflicts. I know they feel that in being taught how to defend Israel, they were fed lines of propaganda without considering the legitimacy of the other side. But also, they were not taught about the soul of Israel that is emerging today. A soul that has taken years to develop. To understand it requires this new generation to take up some new education and exposure to balance the time they are giving to their political activities.  

I can identify with these children of my friends. I was an early member of Americans for Peace Now and eventually became a member of its national board. I still believe in a lot of things that the organization stands for. But at a certain point, as I worked as a consultant with Israel’s nonprofit sector, I found myself immersed in an Israel with many, many other issues and efforts to build its society. I realized that political immersion and addressing the conflict was only one way to understand Israel. There was a lot more to which I was not paying attention. 

I remember these same friends of mine, during those years when our kids were little, being aghast at my political beliefs and my involvement in Peace Now. They were further taken aback that my wife and I brought our kids to Peace Now events in the United States and Israel. Today, through their children, my friends have opened their minds. But at the same time, in order to embrace their children, they are also embracing their naiveté. Abandoning Israel for committed Jews is not an option.

There is a new, captivating Israel emerging — still complex and nuanced. We all need to balance and tune in.

Gary Wexler is an adjunct professor in the master’s in communication program at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  

Portraits of Faith

Photo from Pexels.

Unexpected things can happen when you pull your back out on Christmas Eve. 

First is the acute realization of the obvious — the centrality of the spine to one’s mind, body and spirit. In some ways, the spine is a metaphor for faith: Many of us take it for granted until something goes wrong.

The pain began while we were prepping for the arrival of some special friends. Three hours later, I couldn’t lift their precious 21-month-old baby. Joy quickly turned to despair — how was I going to take care of my own 9-year-old son, Alexander?

When our friends left, I nearly passed out with an ice pack. “I’m going to need you guys to clean up,” I mumbled to Alexander and Reese, our neighbor. 

If I had been standing and smiling, I’m not sure that sentence would have elicited the same response. But I was quite literally a damsel in distress — and the boys reflexively took that as a cue to switch to warrior-cleaner mode. 

What happened next was even more miraculous: Dr. Alexander took over. He propped up my pillows just so. Suddenly, I had six blankets and something to eat and drink. He made every effort to soothe me. Essentially, he became a different person. He was in control — and loving every minute of it.

The next morning, when I told him I was feeling better, he almost got teary. “But I’m not done yet,” he said. Genderists (my new name for anti-feminists) want to turn males, especially alpha males, into females. If only they tried for a nanosecond to understand evolutionary psychology and had some faith in its ability to continue to evolve. 

My back was still creaky but I felt well enough to execute my Christmas Day plan to take our Yemenite neighbors to the Jewish Museum. 

As soon as we walked into the elegant 1908 mansion, Saya exclaimed: “Why isn’t there an Islamic Museum?” There are, of course, museums of Islamic art and design, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just down Fifth Avenue, has a magnificent collection. But when Saya was growing up, both in Yemen and the Bronx, the beauty of Islam was never focused on — it was all about the rules. I promised her this would be our next excursion.

Meanwhile, Saya was mesmerized by both the beauty and edginess of our very special Jewish Museum. It strikes a rare balance: pride in Judaism and Israel combined with an insatiable desire to show what’s innovative and brilliant. For me, the museum conveys the universality of beauty — how beauty can connect humanity. 

In the Archeology Zone, the kids donned Middle Eastern attire, sipped tea and threw fake pomegranates at each other. Saya, taught since birth to see Jews as aliens, couldn’t get over feeling so at home.

“I keep telling you, we’re cousins,” I said, as she teared up.

In 2019, I’m not going to so easily lose faith — in my friends, my family and myself. I’m going to focus on the miracles.

We were on a mission to find a piece of Yemenite jewelry when we were both struck by a large-scale triptych by Touhami Ennadre called “Prayer,” which depicts a pair of Ethiopian Jews, a Christian man at the Vatican and a Muslim woman after Sept. 11. “In a time of global religious conflict,” the text read, “the artist’s comparison of three spiritual practices emphasizes their human similarities rather than their doctrinal differences, merging into a single portrait of faith.” 

The poignant piece confirmed our plans to co-curate an exhibition. At the museum store, I bought Saya a card that said “Besheret.” We, too, are soulmates, destined to discover the many layers of our bond.

As we were about to leave, Alexander let out a “MOM!” He had found a Lego bar mitzvah boy, reading from the Torah. “Please, this is just so coooool!” I looked at the price and began to shake my head. But here is my son, whose love of Judaism tends to get hidden, calling a nerdy boy reading from the Torah “cool.” How could I say no?

I bought it for him, with a promise to myself: In 2019, I’m not going to so easily lose faith — in my friends, my family and myself. I’m going to focus on the miracles, understanding that there can be no light without darkness, that light is more apt to radiate from a strong foundation, that ultimately what connects the mind, body and soul is both besheret and very much in our control.  

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

‘Tis the Season

I have a lot of people in my life who do important work to help others, help the planet, help animals, and make a difference. I am proud of my friends for being good people and am inspired by their generosity of spirit. Life is better when you lend a hand and share your blessings. I do my best to be kind and help those who need it. Sometimes it is through charitable giving, other times through volunteerism, and on many occasions, I help people who cross my path in unexpected ways. Helping simply requires one to be kind. You don’t always have to spend money or give up your time, you just have to be willing to give with no expectation of return.


I am inspired by people who help. They make me want to help more purposefully, and that makes me happy. Rich Singer and Travon Muhammad are remarkable people who help with purpose and direction. We recently met and they spoke of how they founded and run a registered 501(c) called Sole Brothers, based in Los Angeles. They are selfless with their time and talents and make a difference in a lot of lives. They help people who need shoes, or financial assistance to help with sports and recreation activities. It is not a charity I thought would speak to me personally, until they explained the kinds of things they do. One story in particular, touched me.


Important to note I am not really a sports person and don’t follow sports unless it’s the playoffs, and even then it is mostly because I like to bet on the games, not because of real interest. I follow athletes because they have compelling stories more than their accomplishments in their selected sports. As a single, working mother, sports became interesting through my son Charlie. He played basketball and soccer as a kid and excelled at both. It wasn’t always easy to get him the shoes he needed, or get him to all the practices and games, but I did. I would save up for weeks to buy him proper basketball and soccer shoes.


When Charlie was young there were times I didn’t have a lot of money, but I made sure he had what he needed to succeed, and sometimes something as simple as a pair of shoes impacts a child. It changes their self-esteem and gives them a push that as a mother, is something we value. My son would never ask for expensive things, and I remember his face when he got the newest pair of designer basketball shoes. He looked at me with a joy that was rooted in his soul, and I will forever be grateful for that moment. He would only wear the shoes to his games and practices, cleaning them when he got home. I remember it vividly and am thankful.


I was talking with Rich and Tra and they told me about giving shoes to one young kid who was playing basketball with regular shoes. To hear them speak of the little boy crying when he put on the shoes, made me think about Charlie and his shoes. They were able to provide to this child what his parents could not, and that is an amazing gift to not only the child but his mom and dad. I can promise you the mother of that boy cried more than he did. I never would have thought an organization like Sole Brothers would speak to my heart, but it has, so I am compelled and proud to share their work with you because there but for the grace of God go I.


Sole Brothers not only provides shoes to kids, but they provide gift cards for groceries, so they can have lunches and snacks. They help kids and their parents with kindness, and that is both powerful and important. These men are parents and coaches, and Sole Brothers is their passion. They have propelled kindness into action. These two lovely friends, a Jew and a Muslim, could teach a few things, to a few people. At a time of year when we often hear “‘Tis the season,” this is a reminder that kindness is always in season. Thank you Rich and Tra for what you do, and thanks to everyone who is showing kindness. We are all in this together, so be kind and remember to keep the faith.

Dating 101: An Update

While at the movies this week, I met a lovely woman named Ida. She is an avid reader of mine here at the Jewish Journal, and shared she was wondering how my dating life was since I had not written about it lately. I appreciate her for not only reading, but for being in my corner and wishing the best for me. Ida said she was certain I was going to meet my bashert, which was nice to hear. Since I know you are reading Ida, you are fantastic and I loved meeting you.


I’ve been writing here for almost a decade, and to be honest with you, I sometimes forget anyone other than my family is reading! I have met wonderful people through this work, and have built a community of friends though the Jewish Journal who are kind, funny, wise, opinionated, political, compassionate, and loving when it comes to not only what I share about my life, but in how they share their lives in return. Having you read is a blessing I am deeply, deeply thankful for.


As for how my dating life goes, I love it that so many people are interested. I have shared the good, the bad, and the ugly here, and am always comforted by your kindness. Over the years of my sharing all the details of my dating life, we have laughed together, cried together, shook our heads together, got angry together, were heartbroken together, and rolled our eyes together when we discovered we dated the same men! It has been both glorious and tragic to be single with all of you wingmen by my side.


As I told Ida, I have met someone, we are dating, and it is new. He is kind, funny, and Jewish. That however, is all you’re getting. I’m not going to share anything else because I want to keep it to myself, and also because he is a private person. The truth is I don’t know what I’m doing when dating, and never really have. What I do know, is that as complicated as dating can be, it is even harder when you write about it, so I won’t. I am blessed to be more hopeful than jaded, which is why I keep trying, and why I am keeping the faith.

An Afternoon with Medium Thomas John

Thomas John is a celebrity medium who communicates with dead people. I had never heard of him before, but over the weekend I went to a group reading. There were about 120 people at the reading, all hoping that someone they cared about and lost would come to let them know they were okay. I was skeptical, but hopeful, as I silently prayed my dad would reach out to me. It was an interesting group of people. Young, old, men, and women, all united in prayer that they would be chosen. We all looked at each other with a silent wish of good luck, hoping we would be the lucky ones, and also feeling a little nuts we were actually there.


I had never been to a reading, so was unsure what to expect, and I was surprised by Mr. John. He was young, unassuming, caring, sympathetic, empathetic, and responsible. He stood on the stage and waited for spirits to come and talk to him. He would say who he was talking to, and with each new detail of the spirit, we were eliminated until he zeroed in on who the spirit was connected to. I initially thought there were shills in the audience and he was pulling a fast one, but he knew too much to have memorized it, and I quickly became a believer in his process. I found myself hanging on every word, happy for those who were contacted.


When he was talking to a man named Robert, who hated to be called Bobby, my heart skipped a beat as I thought it might be my dad. In the end it wasn’t, but the few seconds were it might have been, were emotional. I went back and forth between believing what was happening, and feeling like an idiot for believing it. Mr. John was meant to be with us from 3 until 5, but went past 5:30 because he was in the middle of a reading and didn’t want those people to have their experience cut short. Whether you believe in what he was doing or not, you could not help but think Thomas John was an inherently kind person who wanted to help people.


Important to note I am now aware of Mr. John’s colorful past, and while quite fascinating, I do not think it plays a role in what he is doing now. If I could talk to dead people, I might not immediately think I can make a career out of it and support myself. I would try a lot of different things before I settled on letting people know about my ability to contact the spirit world. Perhaps he had to go through what he did when he was younger, in order to harness his gifts now. In fact, isn’t that true of all of us? Did our pasts not set the stage for who we are, and what we do now? I don’t know, and honestly don’t really care. When I  was with him I was a believer, and that is what ultimately matters.


My father didn’t come to speak with me, and my friend didn’t get to connect with his loved ones, but we left feeling it was possible, and wanting to come see him again so we would have another chance. Thomas John has monetized his gift, and that is cool. A ticket cost fifty bucks, which is what we pay for a movie and dinner, so it can be viewed as simply another form of entertainment. In fact, I went to see the movie Ben is Back this evening, along with a quick bite, which cost the same as the reading, and I will say the reading with Thomas John was much better.  I left with a good feeling for the people who spoke to the spirits, whereas the movie just left me depressed and stressed.


It turns out Thomas John has been able to speak with the spirit world since he was a little boy. It is a gift, or perhaps a burden, but he is using it for good. He made people happy. He gave people closure. He gave people hope that they would see their loved ones again, and that was the best part. I am not convinced it was real, but in the end it doesn’t matter. I would go to another reading, and am actually looking forward to it. The truth is that I would pay to go every week for the chance to hear from my dad. It could be I was swindled, but when it comes to seeing my dad again, I will forever be keeping the faith.


Chanel No. 5 and Butter Tarts

My mother just went back to Toronto after visiting for nine days. When I dropped her off at the airport, for the first time in 27 years of visits, I didn’t cry when I said goodbye. I gave her a kiss, hugged her close, and waved goodbye. She cried, but I didn’t. I went back to my car and burst into tears.  I wasn’t sure if I cried because she left, or because I didn’t cry with her, but I wept uncontrollably. I simply could not stop crying.


My mom on the other hand, actually starting crying the moment I picked her up at LAX. When I asked why she was crying, she said it was because she was sad to leave. She was sad to leave the second she arrived, which is classic. I love her very much and we had a great visit. She spent a lot of time with Charlie, which is important to both Charlie and me. She also cooked for us like it was her job.


After she left I could still smell her in my home. Her perfume lingered and I found myself crying as I went room to room to find where the smell was strongest. Today as I drove to work, excited my housekeeper was coming, I started to cry as I realized the lingering smell of my mother would be gone. I will go back to a spotless home, but no smell of my mom, so wish I would’ve pushed the cleaning.


I’ll be with my mom in February, when we celebrate her 75thbirthday. I am going to make a note to take some pillowcases with me to Canada so she can make them smell like her, so I can bring the smell home.  It is a mixture of love, Chanel No. 5, and butter tarts. If I could bottle it, I would, and when I get home this evening I am going to desperately try to find something that still smells like her.


If I can’t, I will simply make butter tarts, spray Chanel No. 5 all over the place, and hug Charlie while crying, which is what I think allows the smell of love to come out. My mother speaks of waving goodbye to her mom when she left Israel, promising to come back, but my grandmother passing before she could. I remember telling my mom I would be back when I left Canada, but I never did move back.


I often wonder where Charlie will make his home when he has a family of his own. I pray I am close by and able to see him more often than I see my mother. Important to note that when I say I hope I live close by, of course I mean I hope I live in his house, taking care of his kids, and get to see him every day. While I am quite certain that is a nightmare for Charlie, I am keeping the faith.

Home with my Mama

My mother came to visit me from Toronto on Thanksgiving day, which was my beloved dad’s birthday. We raised a glass to Bobby Angel, and are having a wonderful visit.  She will be staying until Saturday. I love her very much. I sleep better when she is close. I definitely eat better when she is close. I see Charlie more often when she is close. My heart feels full when she is close. She is fun, and funny, and lovely, and frankly the most annoying person I know.


She likes to freeze everything. Everything. She will buy a fresh loaf of bread, still warm from the oven, and freeze it so it stays fresh. She will bake a cake, then freeze it so it stays fresh. It is truly fascinating, and I have never seen anything like it. She is quite certain freezing things keeps them fresh. Bless her. I am not big on freezing things, other than vodka of course. I like things fresh, and organic, and never frozen, but my freezer is now packed full of food.


She likes to talk over the television. She asks a lot of questions, and likes to ask them over the person who is actually providing the answer to her question. She watches CNN all day long, thinks Anderson Cooper is wonderful, Don Lemon is everything, and Chris Cuomo is her friend. She also thinks everything said on Entertainment Tonight is true. She speaks about celebrities like she knows them. She loves Jennifer Lawrence and Khloe is her favorite Kardashian.


My mom will be 75 in February, which means Charlie is the same age now, that my mother was when she had me, which is crazy. My mother had 4 kids by the time she was 28. I had my only child when I was 30, and it was hard, so I cannot imagine what she went through having 4 at such a young age. Not only did she have all her kids young, she left Israel with my English dad and raised her family in Canada, arriving without knowing how to speak English.


She is a remarkable woman and I will miss her when she goes home, but look forward to seeing her again soon. By Thursday she will start picking a fight with me, so on Friday we are angry with each other, so on Saturday she can leave annoyed with me, which will make it easier for her to leave me. It is hilarious, and tradition. We will fight so going is easier than goodbye, then cry like babies that we will not be together.


I came to Los Angeles 27 years ago for a vacation. Neither one of us could have imagined things would end up as they did, and I would stay here. She thought I would be home in a few weeks, and in the end I made LA my home, and never moved back. I have now lived in the United States longer than I lived in Canada, but Canada is always home. For this week however, home is Los Angeles because both my mom and son are here with me. It is perfect.


I am currently sitting on the couch, while my mom tells me what a nice guy Eddie Murphy is, and how wonderful Jennifer Lawrence is, while I eat her delicious rice and beans, knowing that tomorrow she will make her world famous butter tarts, and Charlie will once again find his way home. I am blessed to have such a wonderful mother and can’t help but wonder if I am annoying to Charlie. Probably, but at least I don’t freeze everything. That could change, so I am keeping the faith.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018

Today is not only Thanksgiving, it is also my dad’s birthday. He would have turned 80 today, and my heart remains broken by his passing. My dad died when was only 63 years old, never having had the opportunity to be old. He was only ten years older than I am now when he got sick, and passed away only months after being diagnosed with cancer. It is a sad day for me because I think about everything he’s missed over the past 17 years. It is tragic, but I also feel blessed to have had 35 years with my beloved dad. Happy Birthday Bobby Angel. We love and miss you.

I have never really celebrated Thanksgiving, and think I have been to less than a dozen Thanksgiving dinners during my 27 years in the United States. I got divorced when my son was a baby and since my ex-husband was from LA and had a large family here, Charlie would spend Thanksgiving with his dad and his family, and I would have Charlie with me for the Jewish holidays. I have generally spent Thanksgiving at home, resting and being reflective, or shopping and pampering myself. For the past few years I have written down things I am thankful for, so since I am 52 years old for Thanksgiving 2018, here are 52 things I am thankful for.

  1. Memories of my dad
  2. Seeing my dad in my son’s eyes
  3. Having my mother come visit me today
  4. My brother Mark and his family
  5. My sister Roni and her friendship
  6. My mother Rena
  7. My son Charlie
  8. Every single thing about Charlie
  9. My friendship with Charlie
  10. My job
  11. My assistant Jordan
  12. Fiddles the cat
  13. Fiddle’s boyfriend, Gopher
  14. Manicures
  15. Pizza
  16. Dr. Donna Cashdan
  17. Synthroid
  18. Cosmopolitans
  19. Red wine
  20. iPhone
  21. The Jewish Journal
  22. Vodka
  23. My car
  24. My bed
  25. My Oncologist
  26. My cancer free life
  27. My entertaining dating life
  28. My belief I will find love
  29. My sense of humor
  30. My kind heart
  31. Kleenex with lotion
  32. Bacon made from soy beans
  33. Rabbi Naomi Levy
  34. Nashuva
  35. Prayer
  36. Laughter
  37. My son coming home
  38. Scented candles
  39. Potato chips
  40. Chocolate
  41. Therapy
  42. Forgiveness
  43. Being a mom
  44. My blissful pregnancy
  45. My healthy child
  46. My health
  47. Idris Elba
  48. Celine Dion
  49. Trips to London
  50. Time at Beckham Manor
  51. Vegetarian options
  52. Writing

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you will take time today, even for just a minute, to think about what you’re thankful for. Make a list. It is important to acknowledge your blessings because life is short and there are no guarantees. Writing down what you are thankful for gives those things life. Be safe. Be kind. Be grateful. Know that I appreciate you for coming here and value our friendship. As I head to LAX to pick up my Mom, please know that I wish you joy, health, and happiness. I am thankful we are all keeping the faith.

Holiday Dating

Dating is hard on any given day, but it can get strange during the end of the year holidays. Today I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a man I have never met. His first interaction with me was to say he had a busy week since it was only three days, and would I like to join him and his family for dinner on Thursday night. It was very sweet, and very weird. I would never go to Thanksgiving dinner for a first date.


New Year’s Eve is looming and the truth is that I am not big on going out for the New Year. I am happy to be home with take out, warm and cozy pajamas, a fully stocked bar, the cat, and someone to smooch at midnight. If there is nobody to kiss, other than the cat, I am probably asleep before the clock strikes twelve. New Year celebrations are for the young folk and I am blissfully old.


The holidays should be an easy time to date, but in the end there is pressure, so I tend to not date in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and the two weeks leading up to the New Year. Christmas has never been an issue because there’s always Chinese food and a movie. Hanukkah is eight days so at least one night can work for a date. There should be no holiday dating pressure.


Some daters are lonely and think about how wonderful it would be to have someone for the holidays, so they are driven by the fear of being alone. I believe people are inherently kind, which is why I was invited for Thanksgiving dinner on a first date. Important to note you can be both kind and weird. I am not afraid of being alone, and am blessed to want someone more than I need someone.


I hope the man who asked me to Thanksgiving dinner with his family will ask another woman, and I hope she says yes. There is someone for everyone, and he’ll find a lady who is at the same stage he is, and they’ll live happily ever after, forever telling everyone how thankful they are to have met on Thanksgiving. It could happen, and will happen, as long as he is keeping the faith.

My Jewish Mid-Life Crisis

By definition, a mid-life crisis is an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. I am 52 years old, so likely past middle age, but I think I am having a crisis of some kind. I am questioning everything, and while I am confident I am clear on who I am, I am struggling to figure out what it is that I want, specifically in my personal life. I should know, but I don’t.


I used to think I wanted to get married again, but the older I get, and frankly the longer I am divorced, I’m not sure I want to. It has been 22 years since I was married and so it could be that I have just given up on the idea. I simply don’t think about it anymore, and I used to. I can barely muster the strength to go on a second date, which makes the chances of my getting married quite slim.


I have always been a woman of faith, and define myself as a Jew, but I am feeling a heightened sensitivity to everything Jewish. Ever since the murders in the Pittsburgh I have been on edge. I make a concerted effort every day to shake the uneasiness I feel, but I can’t. I got upset about something stupid someone I care about said about being Jewish, and I completely overreacted. Or did I?


I am not questioning my faith, but I am questioning how I view it and if I want it to be public versus private. It is bizarre. I had a bout of anxiety last week when I said Good Shabbos to someone, worried I had said out loud where people could hear me. The feeling I had then made me feel not only more anxious, but ashamed that I panicked about something to do with my faith.


Ugh. I am boring myself with this already and need to figure it out because it is effecting how I live my life. I am struggling. My life is markedly different with this crisis hanging over my head. I am questioning everything about myself, which is unfair to me, and I really need to be kinder to me. It can sometimes be easier to be kinder to others than to ourselves, and that is a real shame.


I need to cut myself some slack and I need to sort this all out. I have changed and I am sad about it. I hate that I second guess myself on things that shouldn’t be given any thought or attention. The back and forth in my own head is exhausting. Is anyone else going through something similar? I imagine there is, but I feel alone and am suffocating from all the questions with no answers.


My mother is coming to visit next week, and will surely provide clarity and comfort, but I am really the only person who can answer my questions. The most important question I have is when will I feel safe? When will I freely embrace my faith without fear? When will I stop second guessing everything? When will I date with an open mind to match my open heart?


I am going into Shabbat today with a real desire for peace. I want to quiet my mind and stop overthinking. I want to be free of worry. Impossible for a Jewish mother to be worry free of course, but you know what I mean. I am a good person and a proud Jew and I know this uneasy feeling will pass. I am blessed, and a little crazy, but everything will be okay as long as I am keeping the faith.

Remembering Alfred Wright

It has been five years since Alfred Wright went missing. I am reposting three pieces about Alfred with the hope that someone who knows something, will say something. This young man was murdered and there are people who know what happened to him. I pray for justice for Alfred and his family. Rest in peace Alfred. 


I am haunted by the death of Alfred Wright. The stories of his murder, and the mystery surrounding the details, have not received the attention it deserves. This young father of three was, in my opinion, lynched, and I am of the belief the Sabine County Sheriff’s Office knows who did it and is protecting the killers, who may include one of their own. Mr. Wright was murdered because he was black and we must demand answers.


Fifteen years ago James Byrd, Jr. was murdered in the same area. Three men, known white supremacists, dragged Mr. Bryd for three miles while he was chained to their truck. Mr. Byrd was conscious during the brutal killing and died when his head was severed. Once dead, the men dragged him another mile and dumped him in front of an African American cemetery. He was killed because he was black.


One of the men who murdered James Byrd, Jr. was executed, one remains on death row, and one is serving life. When Mr. Byrd died my son was 2 years old and I was shaken to my core. Today my son is 18 and again a man has been tortured and killed for being black. I know bad things happen everyday and I am not naïve enough to think this is isolated, but this is 2014 in America.


It is not enough to be angry in my small corner of the world. I have a voice and a platform, so for my son and the sons of Alfred Wright, I am writing.  I want these killers to be prosecuted. I want Alfred’s family to get answers. I want the killers to know we are watching and this man’s life and death will be remembered. Any rational human being can see this killing was racially motivated.


Alfred Wright, a physical therapist, was on his way home from work when he got a flat tire. He called his wife from his cell phone asking her to come get him. She was home with their children and said his parents would come. When they arrived they found his truck, but he was gone. His wife called him and could hear him breathing, clearly in distress. That was the last contact she had with her husband. It was Nov. 7, 2013.


The Sherriff’s department looked for Mr. Wright but called off the search after 4 days and the case was closed. Alfred’s parents continued to search on their own for their beloved son. 18 days later, and only 25 feet from where he was last seen, their own search party found Alfred’s body. He was wearing boxer shorts and socks. His cell phone safely tucked into his sock. The police ruled the case an accidental overdose.


Alfred Wright was not a drug user and it is important to note that after missing for almost 3 weeks, his body was not decomposed and he appeared to not have been deceased for that long. His throat was slashed, he was missing his front teeth, eyes, tongue, and part of his ear. (When lynching was a common occurrence in America, Klansmen would cut off the ears of the black men they killed as souvenirs.)


There were trace amounts of drugs found in Alfred’s body, which is why the Sherriff concluded drugs were the cause of death after the autopsy they had done. A second independent autopsy found Alfred’s eyes were gouged out, tongue was cut out, throat was slashed, teeth were knocked out, and his ear was cut off. This man was tortured and died a horrific death, then left where he was taken from like an animal. Why?


Why didn’t the authorities interview Alfred’s family? Why did the original autopsy rule out homicide and not reveal the severe trauma suffered? Why have the original autopsy photos not been shared with the doctor who did the independent autopsy? There are countless unanswered questions. This man was murdered and law enforcement did not and is not doing their job properly.


I am Jewish and know the history of hate towards my people.  I am educated on the Holocaust and the history of blacks in America. A part of me is scared writing this article as hate doesn’t like when you disagree with it. There is also a part of me that knows when we don’t speak out against atrocities we give hate power. I am scared but my heart must embrace my mind and speak out for Mr. Wright because he can’t.


There are people who speculate the Sherriff is involved. Some say Mr. Wright had a relationship with the Sherriff’s daughter. Some say his family did not know about his drug use. The truth is I do not know many things about the case and what I do know is simply from different news sources and other writers. What I do know is that an accidental drug overdose does not cause the damage that was done to this young man.


Alfred Wright was tortured, mutilated, and discarded as if he had no value. He had his life and dignity taken away because he was a man of color. His kids will grow up without a father. His wife will have to explain hate to her children. His parents have buried their baby. His siblings have lost part of themselves. There are people in Jasper that know who did this but they remain silent


Today I am thinking about Alfred, James Byrd, Jr., and the young Emmitt Till. I am thinking about the countless men and women of color who were killed in America because of hate. I am thinking about people in the world who at this exact moment are suffering because another human being hates them just because they are different from them in some way. I think of them now and I feel brave.


I feel brave enough to tell you that I believe Alfred Wright was murdered by stupid, cowardly, racist white men who are filled with hate. I feel brave and I feel proud. Proud to have raised my son to not see color, judge faith, or value a person based on beauty or wealth. My heart is broken and my faith is shaken but I will not be silent.  We cannot make the world better if we turn away from the ugliness without speaking.


I know what hate looks like. People take time out of their busy lives quite often just to let me know they hate me. Some people hate me simply because I am Jewish. Others hate me for having an opinion, and many hate me for no other reason than somoene else told them to. Hate is a powerful force and while I like to think I handle it well and it does not effect me, the truth is that it truly shatters me.


To Alfred Wright, I want you to know that you have value and you matter. I pray you will rest in peace and I take comfort in knowing you will watch over your three beautiful sons. As human beings it is our responsibility to view more than just our own little corners of the world. We are all in this together and hate can be stopped if we speak up. Be aware, be brave, be strong, be kind, and remember to keep the faith.

Please Vote.

I don’t know about you, but I am stressed out about Tuesday’s elections. I am excited at the prospect of change, and terrified at the possibility that nothing will change. There is turmoil every day and our country is still unsettled by what happened in the last election, so there are no excuses this time around. It is not enough to say you are not happy with things. You have got to vote for change. It is so important.


Fool me once and shame on me, fool me twice and shame on you, is for every person who drank the Kool-Aid and voted for Trump. There are so many important things and important jobs on the ballot. You still have time to research the options and make the right choice. This is important and if you think your vote won’t matter in the big scheme of things, you are wrong. Every single vote matters. A lot. Use your voice. Be heard.


Look at the last two years and ask yourself if this is the America you want. Think about the next two years and how America will look at the end of that time without change. Think about your kids and the America they will inherit. Think about the planet and what we are doing to her. Set aside party lines and vote for what is best for America, not what is best for your party. This is the time to be brave and do what is right for all of us.


Vote not only for yourself, but for everyone who is worried about their job, trying to feed their kids, sick, want to control what happens to their bodies, and those who have been touched by gun violence. Vote for those who are desperately trying to hang onto their piece of the American dream. Vote for your kids, your planet, your health, and your conscious. This is not reality television, and we are not voting on who stays on the island. We are voting for our future so get out and vote. We are all counting on you and  keeping the faith.

How Jewish do I want to be?

I was born in Israel to two Jewish parents. I speak Hebrew. I sent my son to conservative Jewish Day School for ten years. He had a Bar Mitzvah. I light candles every Friday night. I go to temple regularly. I observe high holidays. I make what can only be described as the world’s best matzo ball soup. I am divorced and made sure I also received a gett. I not only consider myself to be a practicing Jew, but define myself as a Jew. I am Jewish in my soul. I am Jewish by birth and by choice. I spent a large chunk of my adult life working in the Jewish community. I write for a Jewish newspaper. All that said, I woke up this morning and wondered, how Jewish do I want to be?


I’m not sure what inspired the question, but I can’t shake it from my mind. It’s all I can think about and do not know what the answer is. Perhaps it is the murders in Pittsburgh that have left me with this painful question. I have been unsettled since the horrific attack and can’t seem to quiet my brain. I live my Jewish life out loud so there is part of me that wonders if I need to change that. There is another part of me that wants to scream from the rafters that I’m Jewish and defy anyone to say anything. I am stuck between wondering how Jewish I am, and if I am Jewish enough, and that is a very odd feeling.


I am scared by what happened, but also angry. I spent many years working in Holocaust education and to have people killed this way, in 2018, is frankly debilitating. I feel sick about what happened in Pittsburgh. I am stuck and unsure what to do or how to feel. I was not alive during the Holocaust, but I heard countless firsthand stories during the years I worked at Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, so for people to be killed again, just for being Jewish, is terrifying. I have personally experienced anti-Semitism, but this is different. This is murder of Jews for being Jewish and I simply cannot comprehend it.


I am a hockey fan and this week when the Pittsburgh Penguins put “stronger than hate” patches on their uniforms, I thought it was a wonderfulI display of solidarity. I was also offended that the Jewish star on the patch was done partially in yellow.  I get that black and yellow are their colors, but the Jewish star should not have been yellow in my opinion. Important to note I understand how ridiculous that will sound to some people, but it bothered me. It was a custom made patch and easily could have been another color. I sound like a crazy person but like I said, these killings are debilitating and all my senses are heightened when it comes to my religion.


I watched President Trump visiting Pittsburgh with his wife and I was enraged. I am offended by everything lately, which is not who I am as a human being. I want so much to understand, but am not sure what it is I am expecting to understand. If someone asks me if I am Jewish, do I say yes? If someone says something unkind about my faith, do I speak up? If someone writes me an anti-Semitic comment on my blog, do I report them? Am I supposed to just accept that people hate Jews and that is the world we live in? I am struggling not only with how to define myself within my faith, but whether to share it with the world or keep it private. I am educated and awards this shouldn’t be a struggle, but I am struggling.


It will pass of course, but I don’t want it to pass without understanding my feelings. I do not want to be afraid. I want my anger to become action. I want my disgust to empower me. I want to be free to live my Jewish life in whatever way I want. At the end of the day I am proudly Jewish. I am comfortable in my practice and nobody can judge me on how much or little Judaism I practice. I am Jewish enough and God knows me. I will not allow fear to make me question my faith, but it has been a stressful week.


As I read back what I have written I am not sure it will make sense to anyone but me. I am questioning whether or not to even publish it, which is crazy. I have written my truth here for almost a decade and have never regretted anything I write, so to be questioning myself now is very sad. I have openly and honestly shared all aspects of my life here and have been blessed with loyal and wonderful readers. There are haters of course, which is always fun, but I have never been stuck like this. I will publish this because that is what I do, but today just feels off. I am hoping someone will read it and share their own experience, which always happens and always helps.


I am thinking about all Jews around the world today and know we will get through this. We are united. Orthodox, conservative, or reform, Jews are the same and together we are strong. There are enough good people in the world to help lift us up when darkness comes, so while it is of course important to be careful, fear does not need to control us.  I am one day closer to understanding, so am taking it one day at a time. I am trying to be brave and hope to go into Shabbat today with some peace. I may never understand the world we live in, but I am still keeping the faith.

Murder in Pittsburgh – My Jewish Family

Whenever there is a mass shooting in America, I watch the news in horror and cry, unable to turn off the television, naively hoping the number of dead will somehow go down instead of up. I wait for the names to be released. I want to say their names out loud and learn who they are so I won’t forget them. Whether they are Black, White, young, old, Jewish, Catholic, gay or straight, I want to know who they are. They are important to me. Sadly, we live in a country where there but for the grace of God go I. We never know when senseless killings will happen, or if they will touch close to home, to people we know.

The murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 28 hit close to home. As a Jewish woman of faith, when the 11 people in Squirrel Hill died, they died in my home. Synagogue is where I worship, so to me all synagogues are my home. A house of worship is a wonderful place. It does not matter what religion is being observed, because I respect all houses of worship the same. I am at peace whether I am in a synagogue or a church. We pray to the same God, so voices united in prayer are very powerful. For anyone to be attacked while in prayer is something I will never be able to understand.

As we learn about those who died, my heart aches so deeply I feel a physical pain. I keep thinking about the victims: 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, a vivacious regular at the temple; Cecil and David Rosenthal, inseparable brothers who had worshiped at Tree of Life since they were children; Bernice and Sylvan Simon, who married more than 60 years earlier in the same temple where they were murdered; Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who helped AIDS patients when the disease first appeared in America; Daniel Stein, president of New Light Congregation; Joyce Feinberg, a fellow Canadian; Richard Gottfried, who respected faith and was to retire soon; Melvin Wax, always the first to arrive at temple and the last to leave; and Irving Younger, who always spoke about his daughter and grandson. I also think about Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who heard his congregants being slaughtered as he rushed others out of the sanctuary.

I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but as Jews they are my family and I mourn their passing. 

There are fewer than 15 million Jews in the world, and we are all connected. This was an act of hate against my people, and therefore against me. When I think of the 11 people killed in Pittsburgh, I think about the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. I think about how it is possible for one human being to try to erase another one, just because they are different. We cannot allow anyone to be erased. We must speak up. We must say their names because these lives cannot and must not be erased. As human beings we must be outraged by this hate and look out for each other.

I am scared, but not so scared that I will be quiet. This is a time for action. These lovely people were executed because of hate, and this kind of hate — whether directed at people of a different religion, color or sexual orientation — runs deep. So deep that I can feel the shooter’s hate in my soul. But I must not think about that now. Instead, I must turn my fear into strength and fight for gun reform. I must say their names and continue to practice the religion I was not only born into, but choose for myself and share with my child. I am Jewish and these people were my family. It is in times of pain and sorrow that we must focus on keeping the faith.

Ilana Angel writes the Keeping the Faith blog on jewishjournal.com

Dating 101 – Bald is Beautiful

Last night I went out with friends for drinks. On my way home I spoke with a man who had emailed me online, and in a moment of unusual spontaneity, I agreed to meet him for a drink at a bar in my neighborhood. I went to the bar, didn’t see him, so I sat at the bar and waited. When he was ten minutes late I decided I was going to wait five more and head home.


Just before I hit the fifteen-minute mark he called me and strangely asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine, but had waited fifteen minutes and was going to head home. He then told me he was waiting for me at the bar and had been on time. I felt bad and told I was there too and didn’t see him. He laughed and said he was coming to find me. We stayed on the phone as I looked around.


A man from the other side of the bar approached on his phone and laughed when he saw me. He hung up his phone, gave me a hug, and said he was sorry we missed each other. He then told me I was more beautiful than my picture and shared that I had beautiful hair. I looked at the man, smiled, thanked him, and wondered how quickly I could leave without being rude.


Over the next 45 minutes of getting to know each other, I found out that his inline photo is 15 years old. I also discovered that he had three patches of hair which he appeared to have grown out, and then carefully wrapped around his head. I am not sure if it was taped, or perhaps glued, but he had fashioned himself a helmet of hair. A helmet of strategically placed hair. Dear Lord.


I stared at his hair as it was a great wonder of the world. I listened to him tell me how he couldn’t find a more recent picture of himself, how his wife left him for another man, how he had not been on a date in four years, how he had not spoken to his son in three years, and how he had to medicate after his divorce. I listened, distracted by hair, then politely wrapped up the date.


He didn’t seem surprised when I told him I didn’t; think we were a match and declined a second date. I felt bad and almost explained what went wrong on the date, but quickly changed my mind. There will be a woman who finds him handsome, charming in his honesty, and want to be with him. I believe there is someone for everyone, which is what keeps me hopeful and dating.


I didn’t find him attractive, or particularly interesting, but someone will. It is not my job to tell anyone what I think unappealing, as what is unappealing to me, might be sexy as hell to someone else. I happen to think bald is beautiful and helmet hair is not, but that’s just me. My dating life continues to be interesting, tragic, and funny. It is also exhausting, but I am keeping the faith.


Happy Birthday Friend

It has been nine months since my friend Alli passed away, and today is her birthday. I went to visit her yesterday and at the risk of sounding like a crazy person, we had a nice visit. I told her what was going on in my life and the world, and I felt comforted to be at the cemetery. I miss her in ways that nobody will ever understand. I worked for Alli for ten years and we went through a lot together. Even though I met her when I was in my forties, I grew up under her watchful eye and caring heart. Outside of my son, she has been the most important person in my life for a very long time and my heart remains broken by her passing.


Alli knew more about me than any other human on the planet. She was my friend, boss, teacher, spiritual guide, therapist, doctor, mother, daughter, and financial advisor, to name a few. I don’t remember what life was like before I met Alli, and I can’t quite figure out how life looks without her. She held my hand through a lot of things and I am better for having had her in my life. We experienced highs and lows together. We loved hard and fought harder. To mark her birthday I am going for drinks with people who loved her so we can raise a glass in her honor. I miss you Alli. Rest in peace Friend. I miss you and will forever be keeping the faith.

The Art of a Dinner Party

Last week I met a friend for dinner. Siggy was visiting from New Jersey and whenever she is here, she gathers her LA friends for a meal. It is wonderful and I have met some really great people over the years at her dinners. She is funny and smart and kind, and so are her friends, who have become my friends. Siggy’s visits are not as often as I’d wish, so each one feels special.


We met this week at Craig’s in West Hollywood. Sitting a couple tables away was Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio, JLo and Arod, but our table was the fun one. We ate, drank, laughed, drank, caught up, and drank some more. It was fun and this time there was someone I hadn’t met before. Joey is a longtime friend of Sig’s and may be the kindest and most peaceful human I have ever met.


Within a minute of meeting Joey, he said he was having a dinner party at his home the following evening, and I needed to be there. He had an inviting and open energy, so I accepted an invitation to the home of a stranger. By the end of dinner however, he was not a stranger. He was my friend Joey, and I was loving being at his dinner party, especially since Joey is a talented chef.


The food was guaranteed to be delicious, and I had trolled his Instagram so knew I was in for a treat. There is an art to a good dinner party, and the truth is we don’t have dinner parties enough. By we, I mean my circle of friends. I cannot remember the last time I went to a dinner party. It is a lovely way to spend an evening and can be made even better when you attend with people you do not know, which is exciting.


There are not a lot of opportunities in the course of a day to chat with strangers at length. Important to note I actually do it all the time while dating, but that is different in that it is more like a job interview than a comfortable conversation. I love a nice dinner party, particularly when I am the only woman in a sea of attractive men, which was the case at Joey’s house. It was fantastic.


Joey’s home is fabulous and I felt embraced by my surroundings. He is newly married, but his husband was still at work so we began without him. Joey’s best friend Phillip was there, and trust me when I tell you this man needs his own show. There was a kind couple, two delicious and charming men, who just celebrated 18 years together, as well as a gentleman who came without his wife, who was traveling.


Liquor flowed, food was abundant, and the conversation was interesting, fascinating, compelling, and entertaining. This group of men have known each other for decades and you could tell. They have shared memories having been witnesses to each other’s lives for decades. To be invited to the table took on greater meaning once I understood the history they all shared.


As I sat at the perfectly set table, eating the perfectly prepared dinner, listening to the perfectly timed stories, I felt happy. It was a pleasure to simply be at a dinner party with interesting people. Writing is very solitary, and my day job is also solitary, so I tend to be a solitary person who chooses to stay in rather than go out, but I found myself being very pleased I accepted Joey’s invitation.


This dinner party brought to life a part of myself I have left alone for too long. It was wonderful to sit at a table of grown-ups and share stories. We didn’t talk about politics, or the epic problems of the world. Instead we escaped into the perfect dinner party talking about food and movies, sharing stories and history. It was a perfect evening because Joey mastered the art of a dinner party.


Joey is a wonderful human being. He is inherently kind, eternally optimistic, generous of spirit, and has not one drop of bitterness about anything that has crossed his path. He’s special and I’m honored to have been invited to his table. I love him, and his friends, and look forward to seeing them again because his dinner party reminded my jaded and bitter self to keep the faith.


Dating 101 – Laughing and Crying

My dating life is pathetic. I could try to sugar coat it to make me look better, or make me feel better, but the simple truth is that my dating life is pathetic. I want a man more than I need one, yet I don’t have one. I am in my sexual prime, yet not having sex. I have a blessed life to share, yet I am alone. It is pathetic, tragic, strange, unfortunate, and frankly unbelievable. I have been divorced for 22 years, my last relationship ended a year ago, and here I am, alone. Not for a lack of trying. I don’t date to date, but rather with the hope of meeting someone special.


I went on three dates last week. None of them went as expected, and I spent the weekend trying to figure out why. One has led to friendship, one was doomed from the beginning, and one was a surprise. All three have left me with questions. Sadly, the questions are more about me than them. What is it about me that attacks who I attract? I am very aware of what I put out into the universe, and so what comes back to me is confusing. I am a patient and kind woman who wants to love someone. Some of the men I dated were unworthy, while others weren’t attracted to me.


I am clear on what I want in a partner, just unclear on what he looks like. That is a good thing because it leaves my options open, but I am surprised he has not turned up yet. I have had long term relationships since getting divorced, and was even engaged a decade ago, but my choices have been right for me and my son. Charlie is now 22 and so my options have grown. I never wanted to have children from different fathers, so now that I am older and children are not on the table, it helps to narrow down the men I will date. I can’t imagine raising a baby now, plus my eggs are poached!


Important to note I am not passing judgement on women who have different children from different relationships, only that it was not something I wanted for myself. It was a personal choice, not a judgement, and while I would have loved to have had more children, it was the right decision for me. Now, back to my pathetic dating life. Let me tell you about last week. I laughed. I cried. I cried some more, and now I am laughing again. I am laughing because at the end of the day it is funny. My life is blessed and dating is not ever going to change that.


I met a man last week for a drink. He is 58 years old, Jewish, divorced, has 2 kids, and is a cancer survivor. He might be the funniest man I have ever gone on a date with. He seriously needs his own HBO special talking about his view of Donald Trump. He had me in stitches from the first minute we said hello. He was not only funny, but gracious, and had lovely manners. We shared two cocktails together and it was great. He had interesting ideas and views and we both spoke openly and fearlessly. He was wonderful to be.


When we wrapped up the evening I was unsure if we had a friend vibe, or a romantic one, but I thought it might be good to go out with him again to see what it was. He truly was a pleasure to be with and I wanted to be attracted to him because his personality was so terrific. Here’s the thing though, I don’t ever want to talk myself into someone, or feel like someone is talking themselves into me. There doesn’t need to be love at first sight, but there needs to be something that compels me to see them again. I am looking for a partner not a friend, so I try to tune into it so I am not wasting my time or theirs.


So, as I thanked him for a fabulous night, he took my hand in his, leaned in to kiss me on the cheek, and told me that while he thought I was a magnificent woman, he did not feel there was any sexual chemistry between us and he thought we should end up being the best of friends, and perhaps starting an I Hate Trump club. I started laughing and told him I was just wondering if I was attracted to him as a man, or just thought he had the best personality. He accused me of being desperately in love with him and making it all up.


He walked me to my car and we talked about how weird it was to love being in someone’s company, yet not being attracted to them. It was a fascinating conversation and when we got to my car, decided we should talk about it some more. We went into another bar, had another drink, and talked about relationships. He has been divorced for ten years and had one long term relationship that ended about 5 years ago. We spoke of being lonely and wanting to share life with a partner. In the end he was a male version of myself.


We were having the best time. We engaged the bartender and the other people at the bar, and it occurred to me we were experiencing something special. My heart did not flutter, and there was no flirting, but something special was happening. We hung out for another hour and then I needed to get home. He again walked me to my car and asked if a spark had been lit for me. I told him it had not, and he agreed. It was hilarious. He asked if we should kiss, and I was game, so we kissed, but nothing. There was no spark.


The good news is we’ve spoken every day since our date and met again. He’s a wonderful person and it is nice to hear a man’s perspective. There is no explanation why we’re attracted to some and not others. Perhaps I would’ve been attracted to him had he been attracted to me. I don’t know, but he is a keeper. He will be my friend and I truly hope he meets a wonderful woman. I genuinely want him to be happy and she will be a lucky girl. I can’t explain why that girl is not me after such a great time, but it just isn’t me.


My second date was with a man who I had people in common with. When he told me of the people we mutually knew, my gut feeling was to cancel the date. I have strong feelings about certain people and the mutual person we know is someone I love very much. He spoke unkindly about her and I wasn’t interested, but he assured me he knew her for a short time, a long time ago, so we made plans to meet for drinks. He is Jewish, divorced, again not nearly as tall as he thinks he is, and quite entertaining. He was handsome and interesting, but came with an agenda.


He wanted to speak about our mutual friend and was not flattering in what he said about her. When I didn’t want to talk about it, he pushed ahead to keep talking about her. He was yelling at me to listen to him, and I started to cry. It was awkward and uncomfortable. He was a bully and I did not appreciate how aggressive he was. He clearly had a plan to talk about our mutual connections. They were people tied more to his ex-wife than himself, and he spoke a lot about his ex-wife, so clearly there are issues he needs to work through.


After our rather abrasive exchange, I left and he told me to let him know I got home safely. I sent him a text letting him know I was home, and he sent a rather provocative and sexually charged text in return. It was very odd. This man was, for lack of a better word, broken. I am a nurturing soul and am attracted to things that are broken. In the words of my beloved Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” I welcome cracks, seek the light, and will try to help. This guy however was not cracked, he was crushed.


It has taken me a few days and a therapy session, to understand our exchange.  I’m not even sure I understand it, but I’m not crying about it anymore. It was hurtful and in retrospect felt mean spirited. He used a weak connection we had to vent issues with his ex-wife, and that is shitty. I could be trying to blame him to help me recover from a rather embarrassing breakdown, but I don’t think so. He was unkind in his choice to discuss his issues on me. He doesn’t know me, he doesn’t really know my friend, and should have spoken to a therapist.


Three dates with rejections, laughter, and tears. I’m still standing, still hopeful, and thankful for vodka. Yesterday I had a date with my son. We went to see A Star is Born, (go see it) then had a fantastic lunch at Petit Trois Le Valley, (delicious and the Beauty School Drop Out cocktail was fantastic). Whenever I have a bad date, he restores my faith. He reminds me I am a good person and deserve one in return. He is also the designated driver so mommy can have a cocktail. Now I sound like a drunk. Which I’m not. Just a drinker!


I wrote about the third date yesterday. You can read it here.


I appreciate the kind replies I receive about my dating life. I have the best readers. You are in my corner and when you write with similar stories, I am sad for you, but thrilled to know it is not just me! I read every one of your emails and messages. You hold my hand when I am in the dark, and lead me to the cracks so the light can come in. I am thankful, grateful, and inspired by you. I am clearly aware that all of you are the reason why I am literally and figuratively keeping the faith.


Is age just a number?

I went on a date last night with a man who is 15 years older than me. He is charming, funny, handsome, young at heart, active, and has a Jewish sense of humor, which I find to be so attractive. He saw my profile online, said hello, I said hello back, and we chatted on the phone. From our first phone call he was concerned about the age difference. I assured him it wasn’t an issue for me and reminded him we were meeting for dinner not getting married, so we made a plan.


I was to meet him at the restaurant Saturday night, and come Saturday morning, the texting began. He was funny and playful and I found myself liking him before we met in person. By the time I got to the restaurant I was comfortable and looking forward to spending time with him. He looked like his pictures, which is always a good sign when online dating, He is a handsome man and has great teeth. He’s not quite as tall as he thinks he is, but was lovely, and a true gentleman.


We had easy conversation and he was open and honest. We talked about our children, past relationships, and the world we live in. He made me laugh, and think, and I found myself relaxed, which I rarely am on a date. Dinner was a couple of hours, then we decided to go out for frozen yogurt. He lives in my neighborhood so we picked up his dog and the three of us went for dessert. In the interest of full disclosure, there were two times I plotted about how to steal the fabulous dog.


Those who have been with me on this journey for the past decade know I am the queen of first dates. You also know I am really good at dating men who are strange, or perhaps should be in prison, but this date was different. I liked him. I felt like secrets would be safe with him. I felt like he would be a good man to have in your corner when chips are down, and the perfect man to have in your corner to witness the joyous things in life. He made sense to me, which didn’t really make sense.


I felt happy, and nervous, but mostly hopeful that I had met a person I would want to spend time with and get to know better. He drove me home, thanked me for a lovely evening, and hugged me goodnight. I kissed the dog, and went inside. I sent him a text to thank him for a lovely evening, and told him I would like to see him again. Sadly, he didn’t feel the same way, and said the age difference would be an issue for him, and ultimately for me. Of course he could have been using age as an excuse for just not wanting to see me again, but either way my heart sank for a second.


On a good note, I went out with someone older and it was a great date, so that is a lesson in terms of opening my mind and heart to finding love in unexpected places. On a sad note, I can’t help but feel I missed out on something with this gentleman. I am never, and I repeat, never, relaxed on a date, so this was a pleasant surprise. One I hope I experience again with someone wonderful, who feels it back. I wish this man the best of luck on his search and am sure will meet someone great Old and great.


I had three dates last week. One was with a man who is not even worth mentioning, one was with a man who made me cry, and one was with a man who felt I was too young for him. To clarify, the one not worth mentioning is totally getting a blog, I just need to stop laughing first. The one who made me cry is also getting a blog, I just need to stop crying first. The one who was worried our age gap was too big, well it’s a shame he didn’t figure that out before asking me out.


Sidebar: I appreciate he could have blown me off for reasons other than my age, but he just didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would lie. If he thought I was unattractive or not interesting, he would have ended the date after dinner, instead of suggesting we continue on. I like to think the best of people, and want to believe people are inherently kind, so I am choosing to believe he didn’t want to see me again because I am younger, not because I am too ugly, too fat, or too stupid. Thank God I remain more hopeful than jaded.


I suppose becoming jaded is to be expected when one has been dating as long as I have. The good news is that I am miraculously not bitter.  I am however tired of the process, and if I am going to be completely honest, which I always am, it makes me kind of sad sometimes. My life is blessed and wonderful and I’d like to share it. It is a shame it has taken so long, but I remain hopeful. I am off to the movies and a lunch date with Charlie, so it is a glorious day and I am keeping the faith.

The Beckham Hotel, Essex

After five glorious days in London, I have arrived in Essex at Hotel Beckham. I love it here and sitting at the kitchen table with Victoria is one of my happiest places on earth. Victoria and David are as hilarious as ever and their three boys are divine. Growing up very fast, and all still very funny. These are my people and coming here is like coming home. I am sad to only have a couple of nights before we make our way to Scotland, but I will take what I can get.


Important to note, because I always get asked about it, I am not actually with the Beckham family, but rather with my friends Jenny and Spencer, along with their kids. They are my personal Beckhams in that they are the perfect couple, and being at their house is like being at a hotel. Better actually. They take very good care of me. There are slippers, room service, two snuggly dogs, a loving cat, endless bags of Skips, and the perfect cup of tea whenever I want it.


It’s been a year since I last checked in, and there have been a few changes. There is a new pool, oldest son can now drive, middle son has embarked on a modelling career, and youngest son is studying for his Bar Mitzvah. Still the same are Jenny and Spencer, the cutest couple I know. By cute of course I mean they’re so sweet that prolonged exposure can give you a cavity. I wish we were neighbors instead of being on opposite ends of the world, and I’d move tomorrow if I could, and seriously think about it often.


Today Charlie is going into London to tour a museum and see a play, while I hang out with Victoria. We will go grocery shopping, get our nails done, be ladies who lunch, visit her mom, pick up the kids from school, and go out for dinner. It will be a day spent as if I actually lived here and were her neighbor. The perfect day. I’m sitting at the kitchen table, having sent off the kids in their Harry Potter worthy school uniforms, having a cup of tea, looking at the English sun, counting my blessings, and keeping the faith.




‘Manifest’ Mixes Mystery, Drama and Spiritual Questions

Josh Dallas, Melissa Roxburgh, Jeff Rake, Executive Producer at the 'Manifest' Press Room (Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC)

An airplane encounters severe turbulence midflight and lands safely. When the passengers disembark, they’re astonished to discover that five years have passed. This intriguing scenario is the premise of the new NBC drama “Manifest,” but it’s only one element in a series that creator, executive producer and showrunner Jeff Rake likens to “Lost” meets “This Is Us.” 

“It’s a serialized event mystery but also a grounded relationship drama,” Rake told the Journal. “I think people will see elements of both in ‘Manifest.’” 

Rake came up with the idea 10 years ago while on a family road trip. “I thought, ‘What if a family was traveling in two separate planes and one of them disappeared?’ I pitched it around town. Nobody bought it,” he said. Six years later, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, “and my idea didn’t seem so outrageous after all.” When his series “The Mysteries of Laura” was canceled, he re-pitched the idea.

Although the pilot centers on passengers Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh) and her brother Ben (Josh Dallas), “almost every episode presents a window into the life of a passenger we may not have met before,” Rake said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we meet some Jewish characters along the way.”

Michaela and Ben also represent opposite sides in an age-old debate: faith vs. science. “She believes that faith explains the mystery of the disappearance and return and the inexplicable things that are happening to them,” including the voices they hear compelling them to act, Rake said.

“Ben, on the other hand, is a mathematician, a man of science and is convinced that there must be an earthbound explanation for everything. In a very organized fashion, he starts breaking down who is and isn’t experiencing these callings, how they’re experiencing them and if there are similarities and differences. It’s one of the puzzles of the show but that question will be answered.”

Rake pointed out that although Michaela’s spiritual reference is the New Testament, “we’ll discover other people from other cultures and different faiths have their own explanations of what is happening to the passengers of this flight. Everyone in the series asks themselves the same question: how and why did this happen? We are not presenting one religious point of view, but offering the idea of faith in the most universal sense. It’s my intention that any person of faith has a way into this conversation,” he said.

“As a Jewish writer, I’m inspired by Jewish themes of redemption, second chances and tikkun olam,” he continued “We come to discover that the characters are flawed human beings who’ve been given a second chance, an opportunity to redeem themselves.”

Rake grew up in a traditional Jewish home in Los Angeles and hit the typical Jewish milestones: bar mitzvah, United Synagogue Youth, Camp Hess Kramer as a camper and counselor. He and his wife, Paulette Light, are founding members of IKAR, where her brother David’s wife, Sharon Brous, is the rabbi. Their four kids go to Camp Ramah, and the youngest will celebrate his bar mitzvah in February. “Judaism is a very important part of my life,” he said.

“I’m inspired by Jewish themes of redemption, second chances and tikkun olam. The characters are flawed human beings who’ve been given a second chance.” – Jeff Rake

Involved in speech and debate and drama in high school, Rake put creative interests aside to go to law school. Working for a law firm, he realized he’d made a mistake. He’d written a hip-hop musical about Elvis Presley and took a leave of absence from his job to mount the play at a theater in Hollywood. Soon after, “I quit my job and figured out how to write screenplays.”

He currently has a pilot in development with Warner Bros. for a Freeform show about a female assassin. “I’d love to get back to the theater some day,” he said. “I have a musical that I’d love to get off the ground. But right now it’s all ‘Manifest,’ all the time.”

Intricately plotted, high-concept shows are often hard to sustain and viewers are wary about getting attached to them. Rake acknowledged that fact but believes that “what ‘Manifest’ has going for it is it’s a triple hybrid: A combination of serialized event mystery, grounded relationship drama and procedural because there are closed-ended elements in most episodes that I think the audience will find satisfying as we inch along the mythology,” he said.

“Because we give a lot of real estate to emotional drama and procedure, it allows me to not have to burn through mythology so quickly. I think the serialized mysteries that haven’t worked petered out because they were so reliant on mythology that they had to burn through a lot of story very fast. That’s one pitfall we’ll be able to avoid.”

While the central mystery of the plane’s disappearance and return won’t be answered right away, “you have to turn cards over throughout the course of the series in order to make the audience feel rewarded,” he said. “A big card will be turned over in episode 13.” 

The initial order is for 13 episodes, with the option for nine more. “There will be goal posts along the way where we’ll make major revelations, but in every episode, there will be kernels of information,” Rake promised. “Putting aside the seemingly supernatural elements, I think the emotional drama is very compelling and reason enough to watch, but with the mystery, the procedure and the mythology, there’s something for everyone in this show,” he said. “I hope people will give it a watch and decide for themselves.”

“Manifest” premieres at 10 p.m. Sept. 24 on NBC.

Yom Kippur 2018

There is something about high holidays services, especially Kol Nidre, that brings me peace. I am a woman of faith and could listen to my Rabbi give a sermon all day long, but I feel like I am in the presence of God on this particular day. Perhaps it is because I am surrounded by a group of people and we’re all praying together, or maybe it is because my heart is open on this day. Open to all my emotions. Kol Nidre feeds my soul in important ways.


I like the cleansing that comes with Yom Kippur. I may not always be able to forgive those who hurt me, but I’m able to forgive myself for hanging onto the hurt, which then allows me to let go. If I have hurt anyone, I ask for your forgiveness and offer you a sincere apology. This day is not only about seeking forgiveness from others, but offering forgiveness to yourself. I go into Kol Nidre with an open mind. A mind that tells me I am starving and the fast hasn’t even started yet, but  know it is coming!


Yom Kippur is the one day of the year I feel completely free. Free of my demons, of which there are many, and free of the chaos that has been known to dance in my mind. I am able to tune out the noise, permit myself to have honest self-reflection, and simply be quiet with God. I will think about the past year, thank God for standing by me as I went through it, and pray for the strength to be brave, even when I don’t think am. It is a very important day to me.


I am not the type of person who looks for guarantees. Things happen, both good and bad, so I’m a roll with the punches kind of girl, but tonight there will be guarantees. Tonight I will search for forgiveness and it will come. I will pray for clarity and it will come. I will count my blessings, hold my son’s hand, pray out loud, and allow my faith to embrace me. May all of our names be inscribed in the book of life, may we have health and happiness, and may God guide and bless us. Thank you for being here and keeping the faith.



London Wedding Bells



A few years back I was lucky enough to cross paths with a lovely Scottish lass named Suzi. I loved her from the moment I met her. She is young, pretty, funny, kind, caring, and more than just my friend, she is my family. Suzi and I met while working for film producer Allison Shearmur. I was Alli’s personal right hand, while Suzi was her professional right hand. Suzi, Alli and I were the three musketeers and have a history that keeps us forever connected.

My wonderful sister/friend Suzi is getting married this weekend in London, and I am thrilled to be heading across the pond to watch her marry her beloved Fraser. Her happiness matters to me and I am happy to be sharing in her special day. We heartbreakingly lost our friend Alli in January, so I am taking all of Alli’s wishes for Suzi with me. Alli will be watching over our Scottish beauty on her special day and will be happy I am going on behalf of both of us.

London is my favorite city and this is the first time in years I am going for pleasure and not work. I cannot wait to be there and am excited my son is coming with me.  After all the wedding festivities, me and my boy are heading to Scotland. Neither of us have ever been, so to honor the bride we are going to visit her motherland. If Suzi is representative of what Scottish people are like, then I’m certain to fall in love with every Scot who’s path I cross.

I am very happy for my friend. She deserves nothing but joy. She is selfless and even though we live on opposite sides of the world, she has always made me feel like she is close by. She has lifted me up when I was low, and reminded me to count my blessings when I struggled to see them. She loves me, which makes me a very lucky girl. I cannot wait to hug my friend and see her dream come true. I love you loads Suz and cannot wait to see you in your wedding dress.

I remember sitting with Suzi and Alli in a pub in London, wondering when she would get engaged. To clarify, Alli and I wondered, and pushed, and obsessed, but Suzi was cool and entertained two crazy yentas. I am honored to be included and look forward to being in London I hope there is no rain. I also hope there is a ridiculously attractive bartender. A few drinks and he will be, so let the festivities begin. I am excited, happy, and keeping the faith.hope


Motherhood 101: Kvelling

My son told me he wanted to be an actor when he was four years old. He is now twenty-two and in the past eighteen years he has never wavered. Not one time. He has been focused on his goals and worked hard. There has been success and failure. There has been joy and disappointment. There has however, never been doubt. Being an actor is all he ever wanted to be.


It has been challenging as a mother to watch my child pursue a career in the entertainment industry. The highs are high and the lows are low. My son sees each booking and each rejection as a lesson. He’s stayed on his path with a slow and steady stride. I’ve thought his life could be easier if he made a different career choice, but I’ve never discouraged him from chasing his dreams.


He works hard and supports himself. He is motivated, dedicated, driven, and ridiculously talented. This week he accomplished two things he’s been working on for a very long time. He submitted a film he produced and co-stars in to the Sundance Film Festival. He also took a giant step forward as a comedy performer. Both accomplishments leave me keeling. I am very proud of my son.


He is a wonderful actor and can make me laugh like nobody else on the planet. The kid is not only funny, but has perfect comedic timing. He is kind and sweet, handsome and charming. He speaks of his successes not in money or praise, but in how he wants to take care of me. It is lovely and makes me proud of not only him, but myself. We are very close and I appreciate our relationship.


He’s been working hard to get to where he is and we’re celebrating and going on holiday. We leave Wednesday night after Yom Kipper for our favorite city of London. We will also visit Scotland for the first time, and I cannot wait. He is my favorite person and I treasure time with him. It is an exciting time in his life and having a front row seat is a blessing that comes from keeping the faith.



Lunch with Leann Rimes

Last weekend while my son was in Calabasas for work, he went out to lunch with a friend. I was hoping to join them, but couldn’t make it out there in time, so they went out to eat on their own. This is the text thread between him and me from that day.




Charlie – You’ll never guess who is eating lunch at the next table.

Me – Who?

Charlie – Guess

Me – Tom Cruise

Charlie – Really mom? Tom Cruise is eating in Calabasas?

Me – It could happen.

Charlie – It’s not Tom Cruise

Me – Oprah!

Charlie. Wow Mom. Oprah is not here.

Me – Who is it then?

Charlie – Guess

Me – Oh. My. God. CELINE DION!

Charlie – You’re not even trying

Me – Who is it?

Charlie – Leann Rimes

Me – Glad I’m not with you or I’d be arrested

Charlie – Hahaha

Me – Give her my love

Charlie – Love you

Me – Love you too


Cut to two days later when I had dinner with Charlie. We were chatting and he said he was surprised I hadn’t asked if he took a picture of Leann. To be honest, I had forgotten about it. Now that I no longer write Keeping it Real, she is not someone I think about. I wrote about her when it was my job, then when it wasn’t my job, I moved on.  He showed me a picture he took and she looked like she always looks, not particularly good.


My son then told me she must simply not be photogenic, because in person she was very pretty. He said she was tiny and pretty, while Eddie was tall and handsome. He called them “two good looking people”, and when he looked at Leann and she looked back, she smiled. He said they seemed like normal people, out to eat just like him.


I have never met Leann. We certainly have a long history together, but do not know each other. I wrote about her because it was my job, not because I was particularly interested or invested in her. On the flip side, she became very interested and invested in me, going as far as to have me escorted out of a concert by armed sheriffs because she felt threatened. Bless her heart.


At the end of the day I wish her well. I still think she is bat shit crazy, but I wish her well. I appreciate she smiled at my son and think it is sweet my boy thought she was pretty. I’m certain that had I been with my son at lunch, she would have had absolutely no idea who I was. I was never anything to her but someone to focus her crazy on while her husband focused his energy elsewhere. At the end of the day, if I was willing to write about her craziness, I have to be impartial and also write when there is good stuff.


So Leann Rimes is a pretty girl, married to a handsome man, living her life. Good for her. I am now, as I have always been, writing about her because I get paid to. I have no skin in the games she plays. I’m just doing my job, and when this blog is posted, I will stop thinking about her again. She will read it and of course obsess about me, which I think is fascinating, but that’s to be expected from someone who isn’t keeping the faith.


Curse of the Common Cold

My son was sick over the weekend and called to say he wanted to come home. I immediately made enough matzo ball soup for an army, and happily took care of him for 3 days. I laid down with him to watch TV, picked up all his used tissues, and sat with him as he ate soup while sneezing like it was his job. While I was of course sad he got such a bad cold, it was my pleasure to take care of him.


I love it when he comes home. I sleep better when he is here. Food tastes better when we are eating together. I laugh nonstop when he is here. I love him to bits and now that he is older and out on his own, I miss him so much it hurts. Do I sometimes sleep in his room just because? Yes. Yes, I do. He is my favorite human being. He is also the person who has now left me saddled with a cold.


He is thankfully now feeling much better, and by the end of the week will be back to 100%. I on the other hand, am sick. I cannot breathe out of my nose, and when I do manage to clear it enough to breathe, it feels like the breathes are firing straight into my brain. My throat hurts, I am achy, and I just want to sleep. That is sadly not an option until the weekend, so I am pushing through.


When my son got sick he received 5 Star treatment. I’m sitting on the couch, in the clothes I wore to work, wrapped in a blanket, trying to muster up strength to heat up a can of soup. I will end up passing on the soup, falling asleep on the couch, waking up in the middle of the night, eating crackers, making a cup of tea, having a little cry, falling back asleep, then getting up for work.


I’m hoping it’s a 24-hour-cold-not-really-a-cold-just-a-smidge-of-a-bug situation, but I fear I won’t get lucky on that wish. I have a cold, feel like crap, and have been unable to train the cat to make me soup or get me tissues. This too shall pass, but it’s rough. Being sick on your own is a blessing and a curse. There is nobody to judge my pathetic self, but also nobody to take care of me.


I wish my mom was here. She takes good care of me. She’d cook for me, play with my hair, draw me a bath, and tell me I look beautiful, even though we both know I look like garbage. I need to drag myself off the couch, take out my contact lenses before they permanently attach to my eyeballs, get a fresh box of tissues, and go to bed. I may be sick, but I am still keeping the faith.