June 26, 2019

It’s a Mitzvah

All my life I have wanted to be loved. I was demeaned and diminished by my parents for as long as I could remember. 

Although my parents weren’t religious, they knew a few Hebrew words and used them to underscore a point. In response to someone’s good fortune, but especially if a friend’s daughter were getting married, they’d exclaim, “It’s a mitzvah! They’re going to give Beatrice and Ralph grandchildren.” I heard this often and wondered if I would ever hear the words, “It’s a mitzvah” for an accomplishment of mine, particularly if it meant I was going to marry (and marry a Jewish man).

But I had a problem (or two) standing in my way when it came to the opposite sex. I was attracted only to non-Jews, but way down deep, I knew I had to marry a Jew. That’s what my parents wanted, and no matter how hard I fought to free my thinking about what they wanted and think about what I wanted, I knew my fate.

Nevertheless, I fell in love. With Steve. Steve was sexy and fun, and the weekends we spent together were never long enough.  But Steve was Catholic … or Protestant — but he definitely wasn’t Jewish.

Why did I always fall for a gentile? I realize now it was an unconscious intention to avoid marriage altogether. My parents’ suffocating relationship terrified me. It may have worked for them, but it would never work for me. And I seemed determined not to do what my parents wanted me to do. Their words, messages and judgments were crippling me. And although I didn’t see it then, part of me was angry as hell at everything they had put me through. Would I really give them the satisfaction of marrying a Jew?

By the time I was 36, I started to wonder if I would ever get married. Almost all of my girlfriends had said their “I do’s.” Like many young women of my generation, I dreamed of a beautiful wedding, a dazzling gown, and me, glowing and radiant like never before. Was I going to be alone for the rest of my life?

One night I went to the restaurant at the Marina City Club in Marina del Rey to meet some friends. I had to make my way around a crowded bar to reach them. An attractive man caught my eye. Tall, dark hair, chiseled cheekbones. I made some memorable remark like, “Hi,” and we started talking. Within the first few minutes, I found out his last name was Rosenberg.

I could have run. But he had a beautiful smile, a great personality and seemed to like me. I went over to my friends and tipped them off that my evening was booked. I returned to Mr. Rosenberg and we chatted and flirted and, after a while, decided it was time to leave. I knew my friends wouldn’t miss me; after all, they’d invited me for the purpose of meeting someone. When we got to my car, he asked if he could stay on my sofa that night because it was too far to drive back to his place. What?

What a lame pass. I would have liked him better if he’d said he’d wanted to have sex with me. Not that I would necessarily have agreed to it but I figured at least it would have been honest.

Then he asked for my number. I gave it to him but hoped he wouldn’t call. And he didn’t.

I told my parents I had met a real jerk.

And that was that.

A week passed and a close girlfriend flying back from New York asked me to pick her up at the airport. 

Would I really give my parents the satisfaction of marrying a Jew?

I decided to stop at Donkin’s for a drink before picking her up. Donkin’s had been a popular singles hangout in its day. In fact, two of my girlfriends had met their future husbands there. I figured, what the heck. Maybe it’ll work for me, too.

I entered the bar and found the place empty except for two men at a high table. Not wanting to sit alone, I walked over and asked if I could join them. They were very gracious, and invited me to sit down, and we all started chatting right away. One of them looked vaguely familiar. He was good looking and very nicely dressed. I wondered if I had met him before and, if so, where. Then it dawned on me. The Marina City Club. It couldn’t be. That guy I remembered as a creep was now a perfect gentleman. Only a week before, I couldn’t wait to get away from him. Now I was really enjoying talking with this man.

They said they were going in to have dinner and invited me along. I didn’t have dinner but stayed for a drink. 

Jerry Rosenberg called me the next morning asking to take me to breakfast. I found him charming and funny and he liked that I laughed at his jokes. And I loved that he came from a large family because I was an only child. Rosenberg. A Jew.

We dated for about six months, fell in love, then he moved in with me. He bought me a pair of roller skates. My father complained, “I’d rather it was a diamond ring.” Rosenberg and I skated on the Venice Boardwalk and got to know each other better. It was clear to me that he loved me. I had become deeply attached to him, his light spirit and his lovable, affectionate ways.

A few months passed. And then one night at home, while snuggling on the sofa, he asked me to marry him. I made him repeat it.

I had the wedding I had dreamed of, and married a man who adored me. I found my home with Jerry Rosenberg, in no small part because he was Jewish. We had that bond. That history. That innate understanding. 

And although I had waited decades for it, and my relationship with my mother and father was still rocky at best, I finally heard the words I had so longed to hear from my parents. But I already knew it. It was a mitzvah.


Lynn Brown Rosenberg’s memoir is “My Sexual Awakening at 70,” and is available on Amazon.

The Jewish Stars and Stories of Summer Cinema

“Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” Photo courtsey of Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films

Documentaries, foreign films, superhero flicks and animated favorites for kids are on the summer movie menu.

‘Fiddler’ on Film
Fifty-five years after it first opened on Broadway, “Fiddler on the Roof” is more popular than ever, with a U.S. national tour, a hit Yiddish production in New York, and international incarnations playing all over the world. Now the iconic musical about shtetl life in czarist Russia is the subject of “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles,” a documentary that tells its origin story but also connects it to relevant themes that resonate in 2019. 

“Yes, it’s about something so specific, Jews in the Pale of Settlement in 1904,” Valerie Thomas, who co-wrote and produced the film with director Max Lewkowicz, told the Journal. “But it’s also about families and traditions, female empowerment, displaced people and refugees, and that resonates particularly today.”  

Tracing its roots to Sholem Aleichem’s stories and its origins with songwriters Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, director Jerome Robbins, producer Hal Prince and many former cast members, the film features new and archival interviews, animation and scenes from productions around the world and the 1971 film version to analyze the “Fiddler” phenomenon. 

“It has this enduring quality that never seems to stop,” Thomas said. “It continues to give meaning and joy and resonance to generations. I think we get to the heart of it in our film.” (Aug 9)

Barbara Rubin: A Woman Ahead of Her Time
Unlike her friends Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and other male figures of the New York underground art scene in the 1960s, experimental filmmaker Barbara Rubin isn’t nearly as well known. Chuck Smith’s documentary “Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground” seeks to amend that, using archival footage, home movies, interviews and Rubin’s radical, often shocking avant-garde films to celebrate a woman who was ahead of her time. The story takes a surprising turn in the end, when the teenage rebel, in her quest for meaning and spiritual connection, turns to kabbalah and then ultra-Orthodox Judaism in the years before her death. (June 14)

“Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Leonard Cohen’s Muse
The lifelong love story between writer/poet/singer/composer Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the woman who became his muse, plays out in Nick Broomfield’s documentary “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love.” Soul mates since they met on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, they remained connected even when personal upheavals and relationships with others separated them. They died less than four months apart in 2016. (July 5)

Remembering Anton Yelchin
Best known as Chekov in the “Star Trek” movies, prolific actor Anton Yelchin made 69 film and TV appearances before he died in a freak accident in 2016 at the age of 27. Few people knew that the Leningrad-born son of Russian-Jewish ice skaters suffered from cystic fibrosis, but it didn’t stop him from carving out a lauded career that was cut short far too early. Through scenes from his films; his writing, music and photography; and interviews with his family, friends and co-stars, “Love, Antosha” paints a loving portrait of a unique young talent. (Aug. 2)

“Leona”; Photo courtsey of Hola Mexico Film Festival

Hola Mexico
Taking place May 31-June 8, the
Hola Mexico Film Festival will showcase films by three Jewish directors. Isaac Cherem’s “Leona” is a coming-of-age story about a young woman (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) who is torn between her desire for independence and honoring the wishes of her religious Jewish
family that disapproves of her non-Jewish boyfriend (June 3, 4). “If I Were You” is a comedy-fantasy from Alejandro Lubezki about a husband and wife who switch bodies and learn what it’s like to walk in the opposite sex’s shoes (June 6). In Sergio Umansky Brener’s drama “Eight Out of Ten,” a man whose son was murdered and a woman fighting for custody of her daughter forge a dangerous alliance as they seek justice and revenge. (June 2)

“Spider-Man: Far From Home”; Photo courtsey of Sony Pictures

Gyllenhaal Meets Spider-Man
Jake Gyllenhaal joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” playing Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, a magician who becomes the young web-slinger’s (Tom Holland) ally in a story set in Europe. (July 2)

Animated Actors
This summer’s animated offerings feature familiar voices that you, if not your kids, will recognize. Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate and Lake Bell supply the voices in the “The Secret Life of Pets 2” (June 7); Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner team up as Pumbaa and Timon in “The Lion King” (July 19); Josh Gad and Rachel Bloom take wing in “The Angry Birds Movie 2” (Aug. 16); and Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Lambert take on the toy-inspired “Playmobil: The Movie” (Aug 3).

What’s Happening: Yom HaShoah Events, Film Fest, Sephardic Shabbat

“The Passengers”

FRI APRIL 26

T’Marim Sephardic Shabbat 
Enjoy Mediterranean melodies and sunset breezes when Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Musician-In-Residence Asher Levy and Cantor Phil Baron lead a T’marim Sephardic Shabbat service at VBS. T’marim means “dates,” signifying the fruity sweetness of the praying and singing. Levy, 23, plays an oud, which resembles a lute, and sings traditional chants of his Syrian ancestors’ Aleppo Halabi community. Congregants typically sway and clap when they hear traditional Jewish music from Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Morocco and Greece. 6 p.m. mezze. 6:30 p.m. Sephardic Shabbat service. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, Sher-Lopaty Chapel, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

Rabbi Zoe Klein Miles

Green New Deal
After Jazz Shabbat services at Temple Isaiah, three veteran climate activists sit down with Rabbi Zoe Klein Miles and examine the Green New Deal, a proposed stimulus program that theorizes humans must take drastic measures in the next dozen years to reduce carbon emissions to counteract the effects of global warming. The speakers are Joe Galliani, organizer of the South Bay Los Angeles Climate Action Group; Russell Greene, who serves on the advisory board of Climate Mobilization; and Kathy Seal, chair of the West L.A. chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. 6:15 p.m. Jazz Shabbat services. 8-9:30 p.m. program. Free. Temple Isaiah, 10345 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-2772.

SUN APRIL 28

Holocaust Survivors
In observance of Yom HaShoah, a family community service at Valley Beth Shalom, co-organized by the Mati Center, commemorates the last living survivors of the Treblinka death camp. 3:30 p.m. doors. 4 p.m. family community service. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

Yom Hashoah Commemoration
Six decades after the inaugural Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) took place in Israel, the Los Angeles community gathers in Pan Pacific Park to honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in partnership with more than 50 organizations and synagogues, the public event features survivor testimonies, music and fellowship. 2-3:30 p.m. Free. Pan Pacific Park, 7600 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. Street parking available on Beverly Boulevard near the park and at CBS Studios, located at Fairfax and La Brea Ave. (323) 761-8000. For information, contact rzaiden@jewishla.org or visit the website. 

5K Walk For Families
The San Fernando Valley branch of Na’amat USA, which serves poor and vulnerable women and children in Israel, holds a five-kilometer walk. Adults are encouraged to attend along with their children and pets. 9 a.m. $25 per walker. Lake Balboa Park, 6300 Balboa Blvd., Encino. (818) 995-4035.

“Forgotten Communities”
“Forgotten Communities: The Holocaust of the Greek Jews,” Sinai Temple’s Holocaust community memorial program for families with children ages 9 and older, recalls the lost and the rescued. The program is co-organized by the Mati Center. After the memorial ceremony, guests are invited to the “Legacy Café” to meet with survivors and hear their stories. 11-11:45 a.m., memorial ceremony. 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Holocaust survivors. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 351-7021. For more information, email maticenter@gmail.com. sinaitemple.org.

“Homeward LA”
“Homeward LA,” a 10-day, citywide event continuing through May 5, features monologues based on stories of homeless people. At Temple Adat Elohim, 18 community members share stories, with Leasa Shukiar directing the readers, who are backed by a six-person musical ensemble. Denise Cortes, executive director of Harbor House, opens the evening with an introduction about Conejo Valley homelessness. 6:45 p.m. $20. Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-7101.

“The Wall”
To commemorate Yom HaShoah, a staged reading of “The Wall” will take place at the Pasadena Playhouse. The play recalls the heroic resistance and fighting by desperate Jews in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Nazis entered the ghetto on April 19 to deport surviving Jews, and for 25 days Jews fought back until being overcome and sent to death camps. The play is read by the JFed Players of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. 8-10 p.m. $22. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena.  (626) 356-7529.  

TUE APRIL 30

“The Dig”

“The Dig”
Written and performed by Stacie Chaiken and featuring original music written and performed by Yuval Ron, the one-woman play, “The Dig: Death, Genesis and the Double Helix,” follows an American archeologist seeking to discover the truth about an artifact in Israel, one that could have transforming effects not only on Israel and the Middle East but on the entire world. 7 p.m. Free. UCLA Glorya Kaufman Dance Theater, 10367 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646.  

Trump Aide At Sinai
Jason Greenblatt, assistant to President Donald Trump and special representative for international negotiations, sits down for a discussion with Sinai Temple Senior Rabbi David Wolpe. Although there is plenty about Trump to analyze, including the recent release of the Mueller report, the two likely will discuss Greenblatt’s work crafting the highly anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The son of Hungarian-Jewish refugees, Greenblatt, the father of six children, worked as Trump’s real estate lawyer before Trump’s presidential victory in 2016 resulted in him joining the president’s administration. 7:30-9:30 p.m. $18 general. Free, Sinai members. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3228.

WED MAY 1

Past Meets Present 
On an evening when the worst tragedy in Jewish history is remembered, Matthew Friedman, senior associate regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, discusses how anti-Semitism has become ubiquitous again. The program is a joint effort of Shomrei Torah Synagogue and Temple Aliyah. 7:15 p.m. minyan. 7:30 p.m. Friedman speaks. 8:30 p.m. memorial service. Free. Temple Aliyah, 6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 346-3545.

“The Strength to Tell”
The Yom HaShoah community-wide program at Beth Jacob Congregation features the screening of a film about the trial in Israel of Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann, a major organizer of the Holocaust, who was hanged in 1962. “The Strength to Tell” is about at-risk Jerusalem teenagers who interview the final surviving witnesses of the Eichmann trial. The teens create a play built around the stories they were told. 7:30-9 p.m. 
Beth Jacob Congregation, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911.

THU MAY 2

“Love, Life and Paint!”
The latest “With Daniella” event, featuring psychotherapist and relationship coach Daniella Bloom and leading networker Avital Khazanov, is an adult paint night — without brushes and without fingers. Curious? Join single-and-ready-to-mingle Jewish professionals from ages 30 to 50 for “Love, Life and Paint!” Bloom talks about the heart of creativity with the goal of helping guests visualize the kind of life and love they desire. Wine, cheese and painting aprons provided. Kosher options available. 8 p.m. $39-$59. San Fernando Valley Art Center, 18312 Oxnard St., Tarzana. (818) 697-5525., daniellabloom.com.

“Menashe”

“Menashe”
A screening of “Menashe” — a 2017 drama that tells the story of a recently widowed Chasidic grocer in Brooklyn who struggles against tradition to gain custody of his son — concludes Kehillat Ma’arav’s Jewish Film Series. The Yiddish-language film was shot in secret within the Chasidic community. 7 p.m. doors open. 7:30 p.m. film. $10. Kehillat Ma’arav, 1715 21st St., Santa Monica. (310) 829-0566.

“The Passengers”

L.A. Jewish Film Festival
The 14th annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, a weeklong celebration of Jewish film, features 27 screenings at 11 theaters and venues from Beverly Hills to Santa Clarita. The opening night celebrates the pioneering Hollywood filmmaker Carl Laemmle, who, affectionately known as “Uncle Carl,” founded Universal Studios and helped rescue 300 families from his native Germany. The 2018 documentary “Carl Laemmle” screens tonight and Hollywood director Peter Bogdanovich receives the Marvin Paige Hollywood Legacy Award. Additional films playing through May 9 include “Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog,” the personal story springing from when Nazis barred Jewish ownership of pets; culinary comedy “Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal,” and “The Passengers,” about the history of Ethiopia’s Jewish community. The Jewish Journal co-sponsors the festival. Opening night: 7:15 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. program begins. $40 opening night. For other films: $15 general admission, $13 students and seniors. For more information, call (800) 838-3006 or visit the website.


Have an event coming up? Send your information two weeks prior to the event to ryant@jewishjournal.com for consideration. For groups staging an event that requires an RSVP, please submit details about the event the week before the RSVP deadline.

Here Comes the Judge

Everyone hates to be judged, yet most of us do it. 

Hillel wrote in “Ethics of Our Fathers”: “Do not judge your fellow, until you have reached his or her place.”  

My cousin Sarah recently died five days short of her 34th birthday. She left behind a 12-year-old son, the father of the boy, and her divorced mother and father. She had a brother who killed himself a few years earlier, another brother with heart issues and a close family member who is a pill addict. Sarah’s life was not an easy one.

When Sarah (technically, my first cousin once removed) was around 9 years old, my wife and I offered to have her mother — my first cousin —  and Sarah fly out from Long Island all expenses paid to sunny California and stay with us for a week. Just come and have a good time. The plan was Sarah would go to Disneyland and see a taping of a TV show. The works. When Sarah and her mom exited the plane, I noticed that Sarah was holding a small bag over her face — an airsick bag. Her mother said Sarah had been sick during the entire flight.  

Heading to our house, she just sat with the bag over her face in the back of the car. When we got home, I showed Sarah to a guest room, where she immediately went to sleep. A few hours later, we woke her for dinner. Still carrying her airsick bag and a little doll, Sarah said she wanted to go home. The rest of the night she sat watching TV and holding the bag and the doll. 

The next morning, Sarah’s mom told me Sarah didn’t want to do anything except go back to the airport and go home. After trying to talk Sarah into staying, we all agreed it would be best if they headed home. A part of me was glad to be rid of them. And as soon as Sarah heard I booked them a return flight for that evening, she perked up and had her first meal. She seemed like a completely different person. That’s when my judgments of Sarah really began.  

After sending them home, all I could think was how ungrateful she was. And what a little brat she was. I made those judgments without knowing anything about what her life was like. I was convinced she was just a spoiled, ungrateful kid. 

Over the next few years, except for sending her a birthday card with $15 in it, I don’t remember much communication. When Sarah got older and Facebook became ubiquitous, I read some of her very dark and depressing posts. She seemed like a very sad person. Once again, I judged and I decided to stop following her on Facebook.  

A few years later, her brother came out to Los Angeles and stayed with us for a few days. I helped get him into rehab at the Salvation Army. A few months later, he blew his brains out with a shotgun in a motel room. I phoned Sarah to express my condolences and didn’t talk with her much after that.

Then I found out that she, my Jewish cousin, had found Jesus and was attending church regularly. Her Facebook posts were filled with crosses and Jesus quotes. More judgments on my part. I thought this girl must be so lost even though, admittedly, I knew very little about her. I thought if only she had stayed Jewish blah blah blah blah blah. More judgments. 

Then about two years ago, I heard Sarah had cancer. At this point, I had almost zero communication with her, but I did have a trunkful of judgments and stories I had conjured up about her and her life. I thought I knew everything. 

I happened to be heading to New York, so I thought, “Why not call Sarah and ask to visit?” Isn’t it a mitzvah to visit sick people? So I phoned and told her that I wanted to visit. She was thrilled. She said, “I’d love to see you.” It had been at least 20 years since I’d last seen Sarah. And so, I rented a car and drove out to Long Island. 

“About two years ago, I heard Sarah had cancer. At this point, I had almost zero communication with her, but I did have a trunkful of judgments and stories I had conjured up about her and her life.”

Sarah was living in a tough neighborhood known for its MS-13 gang members. After my first visit, something happened to me. Most of my judgments seem to fall away completely. After visiting with her, I realized how sweet and wonderful this young woman was. She was a beautiful young person with a great smile and a heart of gold. Her friends loved her. Her religion was giving her strength. She had a huge poetic heart. She even had a motto, “Save the world.”  

I realized how wrong I had been about her. How so much of what I thought about her was based on misinformation. I made it all up. We visited with each other many more times and spoke on the phone and exchanged email and Facebook messages. She was always so kind and so loving and so fragile. Never ever did she guilt me with, “Where have you been for the past 20 years?” or “Sure, now that I’m sick, you drop by.” Zero. She was just happy to see her cousin, and I felt the same. 

As her cancer progressed, she never complained. It just made her sad that she would soon have to leave her son, her friends and family. She said she knew she was in God’s arms and would be protected. Although she told me she didn’t exactly know what that meant, it still gave her great comfort. 

Little by little, as her pain increased, communication became less frequent. When she could talk, she apologized for not calling back sooner. I can honestly say that I felt nothing but love for Sarah since reconnecting with her. Without knowing it, she taught me that I needed to be much less judgmental, and that what you think you know about someone is not the whole picture. Sarah was deep.  

Then one day I got a call from Sarah’s mom. She told me that according to Sarah’s doctor, Sarah had six weeks to live. I immediately made a plane reservation to go to New York the following week. I figured I’d see Sarah one more time. I figured wrong. Sarah died a few days later.

After her death, I asked one of my cousins about the funeral. He said there would be a wake and then a funeral the next day. I asked if she would be buried. Then I decided to shut my mouth before I started judging all over again because her burial wasn’t what I would choose or how Jews would do it. 

Sarah was buried on her 34th birthday. I love you, Sarah. Please forgive me for judging you.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

Actress Rafaëlle Cohen Explores Israelis’ Love of Berlin

The “Cities of Love” film franchise showcases great metropolises around the world. “Berlin, I Love You” features 10 vignettes set in the German capital, introduced by the Israeli character, Sara, played by Los Angeles-based French-Jewish actress Rafaëlle Cohen. However, it’s easy to miss Cohen’s name in the marketing materials, especially alongside some of her famous co-stars, including Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Luke Wilson and Mickey Rourke. 

The film was released in the United States in February to lackluster reviews, many of which blasted the vignettes for barely scratching the surface of what makes Berlin so lovable. It only received a two-star rating on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) and a one-star rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film can be streamed now on Amazon Prime.

But the story of an Israeli singer (Cohen) and her German love interest, a street performer named Damiel (Robert Stadlober), frames and anchors the film. A review in Variety said, “But at least these two characters offer a semblance of continuity, against which the shorts serve as variably amusing digressions.” 

Brushing off critics, Cohen told the Journal at a restaurant in West Hollywood that she would rather focus on the film’s beauty as well as her good fortune in being cast in a tale that resonated with her as a Jew who periodically visits friends and family in Israel. 

Having spent several weeks living in Berlin in the summer and fall of 2017 to film the movie, Cohen said she sees Israelis’ attraction to Germany among third-generation Holocaust descendants as a unique, postwar act of German-Jewish reconciliation. 

While the Israeli Embassy in Germany has no official statistics on how many Israelis currently live in the German capital, NPR’s Daniel Estrin reported that according to Tal Alon, the Berlin-based editor of the Hebrew-language magazine Spitz, at least 10,000 of them are estimated to have moved to Berlin in the past decade.

“I know there was a movement of Israelis for many years to Berlin, and it fascinated me to see that the flower that blossomed out of the crack of the war was coming back to meet its root.” — Rafaëlle Cohen

Of her time in the European hot spot, Cohen said, “First of all, I felt the presence of Israelis in Berlin who had true open minds. And I know there was a movement of Israelis for many years to Berlin, and it fascinated me to see that the flower that blossomed out of the crack of the war was coming back to meet its root. I found that so beautiful.”

Berlin, Cohen added, is “the only place in Europe that I felt was really willing to seek forgiveness and ask for forgiveness, and realize the harm that has been done.”

Cohen was born in Paris. Her mother is from Tunisia and her father is from Morocco. The family moved to London when she was 3. Cohen originally became an engineer in London but abandoned the profession in 2011 to follow a career in the performing arts. She landed the role in “Berlin, I Love You” just two months after moving to Los Angeles from London in 2017. 

“I believe in divine alignment and divine timing,” Cohen said. “I believe I create my own reality and I came [to Los Angeles] to create what I was here to create, and I see the magic every day.”

She also described meeting the director of “Berlin, I Love You,” Josef Rusnak, as one of those magical moments. “I was told he met many celebrities, but he really wanted to find someone who could sing and have this Israeli feel,” Cohen said. 

With her long curly hair and olive skin tone, Cohen certainly looked the part. But more importantly, Cohen found the Israeli character intriguing. In the film, Sara takes her German beau on a mini-journey from the home her Holocaust survivor grandmother was forced to flee, to the steamy dance floor of the famous Berghain nightclub and the beloved public outdoor karaoke extravaganza at the Mauerpark Sunday flea market.  

“It was a dream to be able to interpret so many different aspects within one character,” Cohen said. “There’s this angelic kind of innocent being who wants to enjoy life. There’s the peaceful being. There’s the raw woman who has sensuality who wants to eat [Damiel] up and to give him so much pleasure. There’s the singer, with the ability to sing in front of 2,000 people and share music.” 

These days, some Jews look askance at Jews who make their lives — and loves — in a capital stained by its attempt at Jewish genocide. Sara, Cohen said, captures that third generation who find healing in returning to Germany. It’s part of the process of forgiveness, she said. 

“There is no resentment to be had. There is only now,” Cohen said. “Sara’s grandmother is proof of that. If there is one thing that the Shoah survivors teach us, it’s let’s be grateful for the life that we have. And let’s not darken our days with resentment.”

Cohen notes the contrast between Berlin and Paris, where today, bubbling anti-Semitism is making headlines in the French capital. She said she believes these expressions of Jew-hatred come in part from a lack of honest confrontation over the past among descendants of French Nazi collaborators, and she would rather they express their frustrations, however negative, and begin to heal.

“Anti-Semitism is mostly unspoken, precisely because it is so shamed, so people don’t even want to go near their thoughts on the matter, let alone express [them],” Cohen said. “They use the conflict in Israel, which is talked about on the news, to express their hidden frustrations against Judaism; hence the many amalgamations between French Jews and Israelis or French Muslims and Palestinians.”

Cohen still regards Paris as one of the most beautiful cities in the world but said she is now falling for Los Angles. And since shooting the film, Berlin has given L.A. some competition. 

“I sensed the same sense of freedom that I feel [in Los Angeles in Berlin],” she said. “The freedom [to become] who you want to be. And it’s the only place I felt that way in Europe. I think it’s totally linked to the fact that Berlin is the only city that really faces its darkness. I fell in love there.”  


Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin. Her second novel, “Underskin,” is a German-Israeli love story. 

Poem: Love, Technically

Now that life’s all 1’s and 0’s,
our separate snowflake selves
reduced to helixed A, T, G and C,
where’s the romance
that once sweltered under lifeguard towers,
salty kisses doo-wopped sweet by gulls?

Where’s the Motown lilt
now Tinder’s tasked with tenderness
and smartphones flick emojis
with impatient thumbs?

Where’s the fire
that warmed dark basements with its crackle pop
now chats are frozen
into cool blue YouTube light?

Where’s Coppertone-stiff towels,
long hot summers sealed with a kiss?

What happened to forever-after
on a bended knee?

Where’s love?


Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has spent the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations.

Five Ways Social Anxiety Sufferers Can Succeed In Finding Their Bashert  

Photo provided by Pixabay

You know that inner critical voice that spews out a slew of negative thoughts? It’s that Cruella de Vil voice that tells you “You’re not good enough. You’re not skinny enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not smart enough.”

It’s that nagging voice that beats us down, scolds us and talks us out of doing the things we need or deep down want to do. It’s a voice my grandmother begged me to turn off. The voice was loud enough for her to take notice. It’s a voice that for many of us overpowers our daily lives and spirals us into developing social anxiety.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, social anxiety is the paralyzing perception that there is something embarrassing or severely deficient with you. In her book “How To Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic And Rise Above Social Anxiety,” Hendriksen explains that those struggling with social anxiety believe they have to work extremely hard to hide their perceived deficiencies or else they WILL be revealed and then they will be negatively judged or rejected.

It’s, therefore, no surprise that finding a soulmate seems especially unattainable to the socially anxious.

But, no need to worry social anxiety patriots! Here are some pieces of advice from five experts on how to succeed at finding a soulmate while overcoming social anxiety. 

Accept Your Authentic Self
Think about who you are when you’re in your most relaxed state of mind. Perhaps that’s when you’re sitting on the couch eating ice cream with your bestie while casually chatting about the new episode of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Love that YOU. Nurture that YOU and channel that YOU when you’re off into the realm of dating.

 

According to Spiritual Intimacy expert Londin Angel Winters, ditch the presumption that you need to hide your social anxiety or the feeling that you need to pretend to be someone you are not. “Own every part of you instead,” the co-author of “The Awakened Women’s Guide to Everlasting Love” says.

“You don’t have to do this in an awkward way where you give low self-esteem disclaimers such as ‘Hey, warning… I’m really messed up.’” Instead, Winters recommends allowing yourself to be seen for who you are and to state what you need without shame. By following through with this, you allow your vulnerability to shine through. For instance, Winters suggests that you can say something like, “I tend to be more on the shy side of the spectrum and appreciate when someone can make me feel safe and protected in social situations.”

This is a great way for your potential match to help step in and contribute as the appeasing force in areas of your life you may need support in. It also opens the doors for your date to match your level of vulnerability by sharing his/her wants and needs.

“Own who you are and you just might find someone who cannot wait to make your social life a much more pleasurable situation for you,” Winters concludes.

Take Baby Steps When Exposing Yourself To Social Situations
When you’re working on managing and ultimately overcoming your social anxiety, it’s important to start exposing yourself to small social activities and to slowly build up to difficult social scenarios, says Dr. Ashley Hampton, licensed psychologist and entrepreneurial coach.

Specifically, Hampton recommends to start off by practicing to chat with people you see in regular, everyday conditions. “For example, at the coffee shop, ask the person helping you how he is doing. If you go to the gym, talk to the person at the front desk when you are checking in. Practicing small talk with people that you see regularly helps build communication skills in a non-threatening environment, which convinces your brain and nervous system that talking with others in small doses is not threatening or harmful and should not activate a nervous response,” Dr. Hampton explains.

Once you feel comfortable in these social situations, it’s time to kick it up a notch.

Hampton recommends kicking off small steps that lead toward dating by first starting to go out to dinner by yourself. The next step could be sitting at a bar having dinner, and engaging in small talk with the person sitting next to you. “It doesn’t matter initially if the person is someone you’re attracted to. Becoming more comfortable engaging in conversation about something like the food, the beer on tap, or even the sports game on television is important in making improvement in social anxiety symptoms,” Hampton emphasizes. Once you are comfortable with these steps, then Dr. Hampton recommends trying engaging in similar conversations with people you find attractive.

“After you can have conversations with people you find attractive and you are not anxious, then move into pursuing dating, whether it be through an app, blind dates set up by friends, or meeting people through work.”

Although Hampton does mention that these steps may take months to work through depending on your specific social anxiety triggers, she indicates that “The key is to start and try not to be upset with yourself if you have a bad encounter or don’t feel great about your performance. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about trying and making progress as you move forward.”

Tame Your Inner Critical Voice To Overcome The Power of Anticipatory Fear
“Often times, people with social anxiety experience a lot of anticipatory fear about social situations, says Matt Hiller, a licensed clinical social worker at Wellington Counseling Group.

People with social anxiety worry about being awkward, seeming stupid, or not having anything to say, explains Hiller. However, “A person doesn’t have to be perfectly charming or a master conversationalist to find love,” Hiller stresses.

This anticipatory fear stems from an overpowering inner critical voice that spews out negative thoughts like “you’re dumb,” “people won’t like you,” or “you’re not lovable” etc.

It’s important to remember that these are simply thoughts not facts. Instead of shutting out your inner critic, make friends with it. Thank each thought for its intention and for trying to protect you in some way, and encourage it (the voice) to find a new uplifting way to help you.

Once you’ve mastered this new way of approaching your inner critical voice, it becomes

helpful to commit to doing at least one small social activity that causes anxiety each week, with the goal of overcoming the power of anticipatory fear in order to gain control over your life and to ultimately find love. 

In particular, Hiller states: “I advise going to structured activities you enjoy that provide things to talk about and help facilitate introductions. For example, classes, book clubs, volunteering events, or religious/spiritual groups are all great options.” These structured situations offer easier opportunities to strike up conversations with a potential suitor who shares a mutual common interest.

Embrace The Positive Attributes That Come From Social Anxiety
There are a plethora of characteristics associated with having social anxiety that really help propel you forward in dating and instantly make you the perfect CATCH.

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen writes in her book “How To Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic And Rise Above Social Anxiety,” that social anxiety comes bundled with strengths like having high standards, being helpful, empathetic, and altruistic.  

Having coped with social anxiety herself, Dr. Hendriksen notes, “We’re often good listeners, we’re conscientious, and we work very hard to get along with our fellow humans.” These positive attributes don’t go away even after working on your social anxiety and your social fears begin to fade.

It is these strengths that will help ignite your dating life. For example, you can leverage your good listening skills while on a date. Hampton suggests that “When talking with people that you may be interested in learning more about to date, start asking the other person questions. Most people are interested in talking about themselves. Asking questions of the other person gives you time to ease into the conversation.” You show you’re interested in getting to know the person, while your date gets to talk about his/herself. It’s a win-win situations right?! So, sit back, relax, and use your extraordinary listening skills while your date chatters away.

Talk To Yourself As You Would A Best Friend When Prepping For A Date
Once you understand that your social anxiety does not detract from your ability to be a great partner, it’s helpful to talk to yourself as you would to your best friend to help change the way you think and behave in social situations, says Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist.  

“If your best friend was experiencing cognitive distortions that was holding him/her back from dating, such as they keep telling themselves they’re not good enough, they insist that the date will be a failure, they’re fearful that no one will be interested, what would you say to them? How would you reassure them? Speak to yourself in a similar fashion. We’re much kinder to others than we are to ourselves” O’Reilly advises.

When you start communicating to yourself with the love and compassion you use to speak to your bestie, you’ll free yourself from negative self-talk and enter dating situations in an uplifted state of mind.

How many times have you told your bestie “You’re a catch and you need to know it?” Apply this motto to yourself. Repeat it to yourself until you feel every inch of you believes you’re a CATCH.

And, so, dear social anxiety warriors, the next time that inner critical voice tells you you’re not good enough to find your soulmate, encourage that voice to speak to you in a way that leads you toward cultivating self-worth, acceptance, and the love you deserve.


Berenice Famli is the CEO and founder of the Jewish emoji app Shalomoji and a Los Angeles based writer who covers lifestyle, health, and entrepreneurship. 

Orthodox Union’s ‘Torah LA’ Spotlights Strengthening Family Ties

Attendees at the Orthodox Union’s second annual Torah LA project

At a Dec. 14 Friday night tisch at Young Israel of Century City, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, N.Y., emphasized the need for people to devote more time to face-to-face encounters: between spouses, between parents and children and between individuals and God. 

Weinberger made his comments as part of the Orthodox Union’s second annual Torah LA project, held over the Dec. 14-16 weekend at synagogues throughout the city. The event culminated with a series of classes on Dec. 16 at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School (YULA). 

This year’s theme was “Strengthening Our Families.” Steering Committee member Yaakov Siegel said of the theme, “We are all very focused on improving our family relationships and our best resource is guidance from Torah leaders.” 

Highlights of the day included Stern College for Women professor Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, who spoke about achieving peace within marriage. The author of  “Will Jew Marry Me? A Guide to Dating, Relationships, Love, and Marriage,” Hajioff said the mindset of our disposable culture contributes to unhappy marriages.

“The three things that keep a marriage strong are healthy self-love, commitment and trust,” he said. “Strongly connected couples show ‘intentionality,’ so that instead of hugging for only two seconds, they hug for 10. Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.”

In a session titled “Save a Family — Save a Dynasty,” Geraldine Weiner taught a section from the Book of Samuel, focusing on Avigayil, the wife of the cruel Naval, who refused to give the secretly anointed David and his army provisions as they ran for their lives from Shaul. When David vows to kill Naval, it is Avigayil who stops him. Avigayil also goes on to marry David. 

“[Avigayil] successfully used her many talents to negotiate a balance between the two conflicting sides of loyalty to her husband and family,” Weiner said. “She helped David succeed in his kingship and preserved his dynasty.” 

Addressing the subject of “Raising honorable menschen,” Dr. David Pelcovitz, the Gwendolyn & Joseph Straus Chair in Psychology & Jewish Education at Yeshiva University, listed three keys to success in parenting: letting children learn from their mistakes, keeping expectations high for moral and ethical behavior and conveying our values through our emotional reactions to things.  

“We are all very focused on improving our family relationships and our best resource is guidance from Torah leaders.” — Yaakov Siegel

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Pelcovitz said. “We rob our children of the ability to grow unless we let them fail and learn from their errors. Our children’s moral development depends on it. Saying, ‘You’re better than this,’ with calm and gentle disappointment but not anger, helps them develop morally.”

Parents should also convey confidence that their children can succeed, he said, noting, “If you believe in somebody and believe they have the ability to act a certain way, it can become self-fulfilling.” 

Pelcovitz also discussed helping children “build their ethical decision-making muscle” by talking with them about halachic and ethical dilemmas they have faced. He said doing so with his children and grandchildren has brought him closer to them.

Pelcovitz was also one of the presenters at a special session for rabbis’ wives on combatting spiritual apathy. He suggested rebbetizins could act as mentors by standing by a person, not over the person. “True connections grow between people when we allow them to be imperfect … and allow ourselves to be imperfect too,” he said. They do not grow if we seem to be trying to “force” spirituality on them.

Rabbis’ wives, who perform double and often triple duty with their own jobs, as mothers, and as unpaid counselors for their congregations, also need to carve out time for themselves. Said Pelcovitz, “Stillness and tranquility lead to spirituality.”

In summing up the theme of  “Strengthening Families,” Pelcovitz perhaps said it best when he spoke about fostering strong relationships with your children from an early age.

As a kid, Pelcovitz said he always was embarrassed when he won the “good middos” (character) award at camp, when most of the other kids valued the awards for sports.

“When my parents saw my reaction, they held up the award with tears in their eyes and told me, ‘This is everything to us.’ If parents show more emotion over material prizes than spiritual ones, they are sending the wrong message.” 

To watch videos of the presentations, visit ou.org/torahla.


Judy Gruen is the author of “The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love With Faith.”

‘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.

Sharsheret Gala, Multifaith Celebration of Israel

From left: Sari Abrams, Stephanie Bressler, Abbi Hertz, Lisa Hofheimer, Shuli Steinlauf, Alexandra Avnet, Courtney Mizel and Jenna Fields celebrate “Love, Light and Life Under the Stars” with Sharsheret California. Photo courtesy of Sharsheret

About 160 people gathered at the Hancock Park home of Lisa and Josh Hofheimer on Dec. 1 for “Love, Light and Life Under the Stars,” Sharsheret California’s second annual celebration. The event drew supporters and friends of the national nonprofit, which provides assistance to young Jewish women and their families after a diagnosis of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. 

The program spotlighted the stories of survivors who had been supported by Sharsheret after diagnosis. One survivor, Laura Osman, had found out through a genetic test that she was positive with the BRCA1 gene, which has been shown to increase the risk of cancer. 

“I knew that fear and feeling sorry for myself was not an option,” Osman said, noting that during her treatment and recovery she was “surrounded by an army of friends, family and Sharsheret.”

Jenna Fields, regional director of Sharsheret’s Los Angeles office, shared Sharsheret’s origin story, noting that its late founder, Rochelle Shoretz, started the organization so that Jewish women would not have to face breast or ovarian cancer alone. This year, 100 educational programs across California were held with Sharsheret’s help. 

Courtney Mizel, a member of the Sharsheret board of directors, who was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago, said the L.A. office had fielded 303 callers this year, up from 60 in its first year, 2017. 

“Think of how much we’ve done and how much more there is to do,” Mizel said. “The evening not only celebrated the achievements of the California regional office, but allowed people to experience what the organization’s founder intended when she chose the name Sharsheret” — which translates to “chain.” “We are inextricably linked as a community that is directly affected by breast and ovarian cancer.” 

“I like to take something positive from every experience,” said Lisa Hofheimer, who received vital support services from the organization after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. “Sharsheret is definitely one of those things.” 

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


Members of the Iglesia Evangélica Latina church in downtown L.A. proudly blow shofars during their celebration of a “Night To Honor Israel.” Photo by Karmel Melamed

Blasting shofars, waving flags and joyfully singing Israeli songs, close to 400 local Latino evangelical Christians and Jews gathered at a downtown L.A. church on Nov. 29 to celebrate a bilingual “Night to Honor Israel.” 

The event, held at the Iglesia Evangélica Latina church was organized by the Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a national pro-Israel nonprofit. The gathering was CUFI’s inaugural Southern California event rallying support for Israel among their Latino members.

“Without a doubt, this event will go down in history as one that lifted up Israel and the Jewish community for years and decades to come,” CUFI National Hispanic Outreach Coordinator Peter De Jesus said.

In addition to CUFI leaders addressing the crowd, local Jewish community speakers included Daniel Gold, vice president of Israel education and advocacy at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe; and Eitan Weiss, deputy chief of mission at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, who praised CUFI members for their support for Israel.

“Tonight is also special because it is the 71st anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly voting for a resolution to create the modern state of Israel,” Weiss said. “We know that a large part of our survival all of these years would not have been possible without the help of you in the Christian community. And on behalf of the State of Israel, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.”

Those in attendance not only prayed for Israel but also vocally pledged support for L.A.’s Jewish community, which in recent weeks has encountered various anti-Semitic attacks.

“It was essential for us as Christians to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters here in Los Angeles at a time now when they are facing an increase in anti-Semitic attacks and let them know they are not alone,” said CUFI National Diversity Coordinator and Pastor Dumisani Washington.

The event’s organizers said they were planning additional pro-Israel events in the coming year in an effort to bring together Jews and Christians.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer


From left: ShareWell Gala honorees Barry and Andrea Cayton, Sandra Stern and Craig Erwich. Photo by Rich Polk, Getty/Wire Images

The nonprofit organization ShareWell celebrated a significant upcoming event at its 18th annual Discovery Award Dinner at the Skirball Cultural Center in November. The organization’s Zimmer Children Museum will relocate in early 2019 from its current home at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Grove to a 21,000-square-foot space atop the Santa Monica Place shopping mall in Santa Monica. The new facility will be renamed The Cayton Children’s Museum in honor of a gift from Barry and Andrea Cayton.

“The Caytons have a long, philanthropic history of giving back to the community, and we are thrilled they have chosen to champion our transformation,” ShareWell founder and CEO Esther Netter said in a statement. 

Barry Cayton is founder and president of Audio Command Systems. Andrea Cayton, his wife, is vice president of the board of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and is active in Jewish philanthropy.

The Nov. 7 event’s approximately 600 guests included Netter and Courtney Mizel, vice chair of the ShareWell board of directors. Comedian Demetri Martin emceed the evening, which raised $750,000 for the organization’s mission of providing programs and experiences for youth. 

Along with the Caytons, the event honored Craig Erwich and Sandra Stern for their contributions to ShareWell. 

In addition to the Zimmer Museum, ShareWell operates youTHink, which empowers middle school and high school students to embrace social responsibility.

— Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer


Supporters of the Ovarian Cancer Circle gathered for the group’s seventh annual luncheon on Nov. 15 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Courtesy of Ovarian Cancer Circle

The Ovarian Cancer Circle, inspired by the late Robin Babbini, held its seventh annual fundraising luncheon on Nov. 15 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Woodland Hills. 

Ovarian Cancer Circle founder and President Paulinda Babbini, Robin’s mother, welcomed a sold-out room of more than 200 guests, including L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz.
The guest of honor was Sanaz Memarzadeh, a gynecologic oncologist and the director of the Gynecologic Oncology Discovery Laboratory at UCLA. 

The Ovarian Cancer Circle dedicated all of its fundraising to support Memarzadeh’s research lab. As of 2018, the group had raised approximately $500,000 in donations benefiting the laboratory, Babbini said.

In her remarks, Babbini spoke about her daughter, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 17 and died three years later, in 2006.


Harriet Rossetto, founder and clinical director of Beit T’Shuvah and Annette Shapiro, president of Beit T’Shuvah’s board of directors, prepare for the catwalk at the organization’s Haute Couture High Tea and Fall Fashion Show.

Rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah held its Haute Couture High Tea and Fall Fashion Show on Nov. 11 at its Culver City campus.

The event showcased the talents of Beit T’Shuvah’s residents, alumni, community members and volunteers and featured designer clothing from the organization’s thrift store.

 Among those in attendance were Harriet Rossetto, Beit T’Shuvah’s founder and clinical director; and Annette Shapiro, its board president.

Pat Train Gage and Heidi Bendetson co-chaired the event; and Shapiro, Cookie Miller, Sharon Polansky, Virginia Maas, Tiffany Calig and Barbara Tell served on the event committee. 


Paul Koretz speaking at IsraAID’s event. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

IsraAID held an event on climate change Dec. 11 discussing what’s next for California at a private residence in Holmby Hills.

Seth Davis, IsraAID CEO, shared the organization’s current work in Paradise and Chico, as well as other disaster areas. Los Angeles councilmember Paul Koretz was in attendance and said that “IsraAID is more critical than ever, in California, U.S. and around the world.”

Tel Aviv University atmospheric physicist Colin Price also spoke,  previewing the disaster-response training series that IsraAID will launch in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in January. IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), will equip professionals with the skills and knowledge to deploy on relief missions or respond to local disasters.

For more information about IsraAID visit their website.

— Erin Ben-Moche, Contributing Writer

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.

The Nearness of You

The author and his father.

“It isn’t your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation, oh no
It’s just the nearness of you”  — Hoagy Carmichael

A few weeks ago I was at the  funeral of a good friend. His wife and three children got up and spoke about their husband and father. It was a truly beautiful and moving event. They spoke of how much he meant to them and how he was a friend to all who met him. They spoke of his unwavering support for them and their dreams in life. They spoke of how they would not be who they are today without him. They spoke about how much they loved him and how much they missed him just one day after he was gone. They already missed not being near him. Almost everyone was crying.

My father died when I was 36 years old. He died before he met my future wife. He died before I got married. He died before he got to see his grandchildren. He died before he got to really see the type of husband and father I was to become. He died not really knowing who I was or what I was capable of.

Did I really get to know him? No. I had only a few facts about his childhood and adolescence. My father was a quiet man with a quiet soul. He didn’t say much and he didn’t get involved in any big events. He worked, came home, ate dinner, watched a little TV and then went to sleep. He did that five days a week, 50 weeks a year until he died.

“The main reason I go to the cemetery to visit my parents is to try one more time to be near them. Try all you want, it’s not the same. Do it now while you can.”

When I was a kid, I saw him only for about 1 1/2 hours a day. Sometimes we’d both sit in bed in our boxers and polish off a pint of ice cream while watching some TV. I felt so protected. Any time spent with him was very valuable to me. We really didn’t need to talk. He was Dad and I was Mark. That’s it. We just needed to be together. We needed to be near each other. My leg over his leg watching the tube.

And that’s what my friend’s wife and kids were saying at the funeral. That’s what I’m saying. The bottom line is sometimes you just need to be near the people you love. When one of my kids calls and asks me to go for a ride with him to get a haircut, I go. When the other kid asks me to go to a ballgame, I go. When my wife asks if I want to go to Ralphs with her, I go. Not because I think any huge event is going to happen or I’m going to get an answer to one of life’s problems that’s been plaguing me for years. Not because I need to find out anything new or different about them. I go for one reason and one reason only: I go just so I can be near them. I go so I can be the first to see the new haircut. I go to share a bag of peanuts at the ballgame. I go so I can hear a question like, “Do we need pickles?” I go because one day I won’t be able to go anymore. I know it and they know it. We don’t talk about it, but we know it.

The main reason I go to the cemetery to visit my parents is to try one more time to be near them. Try all you want, it’s not the same. Do it now while you can.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

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.

Response to Pittsburgh? Let’s Go to Shul This Shabbat

A view of the KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue in 2013. Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

What is the proper response to Pittsburgh? Grief, yes. Sorrow, yes. Anger, yes. Resolve, yes. Unity, yes.  Surprise, no. Fear, no. My dear rabbi, Rabbi David Wolpe, likes to say that we in America live in a golden age of Judaism after 2,000 years of persecution, fear, torture, murder, hiding and being on the run from land to land.  Now we are living in a country where we are generally treated with warmth and respect by our Christian, Muslim and other non-Jewish neighbors, friends and strangers. We need to be grateful for this.

During the martyrology service this year on Yom Kippur I reflected on how our forebears dared to worship in public, despite Roman orders not to, and paid the ultimate price for it, sometimes in unbelievably cruel ways. Yet the synagogue I attended was nearly empty. It’s a funny thing about freedom — some things we just take for granted. I do. We all do.

Two other prayers stood out for me during the same service. One prayer was for our fellow Jews in other places who are being persecuted. Miraculously, I could not think of one country where this is systematically occurring on a daily basis. Anti-Semitism, yes. But active persecution –even in countries that don’t particularly like us — no, partly because we have been driven out of many countries and are choosing to leave others, because finally after 2 millennia we have a choice. Perhaps it is because we have the United States on our side and countries would face sanctions and far worse. Perhaps because we ourselves have the will and means with which to fight back.

The other prayer is that we should be in Israel next year. But how many Jews have never been to Israel, actively criticize it, don’t support it or don’t stand up to the insidious anti-Semitism that is the BDS movement or to the bullying of our children on their college campuses? As I said, some things we just take for granted.

“By going to synagogue this Shabbat, we can show our resolve and we can thank God for living in such a wonderful country.”

I do not mean to imply that I am saying I am “religious.” I am not, by standard measures, but I am proudly a Jew. I was reading the Wall Street Journal Saturday morning when I happened to see a friend’s text about “what happened in Pittsburgh.”  So the first thought I had, after I had the chance to digest the news, is that I should have been in synagogue that day and I vowed that I would next Shabbat. I texted my kids and told them they should go, too. My brother asked me if we had armed security at our synagogue. The answer happens to be yes, but I go to a high-profile temple (I do not wish to get into the politics of that whole issue except to say that I think we could all agree that no one needs a personal arsenal of military assault weapons). Not every synagogue might make this choice, and law enforcement has vowed to increase its presence. The good news is that 99.99% of Americans are not sociopathic anti-Semitic killers with personal arsenals. So our response shouldn’t be fear.

My suggested response to Pittsburgh? Let’s go to shul this Shabbat.  Let’s fill up ALL the synagogues this Shabbat. Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, LGBT, it doesn’t matter. If you normally go to synagogue, bring your children. If they usually go, have them bring their friends. Bring your friends. Bring your neighbors. By going to synagogue this Shabbat, we can show our resolve and we can thank G-d for living in such a wonderful country. By doing so, we can exercise our precious First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly all at the same time.

G-d bless America and the Jewish people.


Dr. Joel Geiderman is the former vice-chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is the California chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

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.

 

Staring Rage in the Face When Tensions Rise

Photo by Thomas Jahn

I am not proud of this, but last week I lost my temper at a stranger.

I very rarely lose my temper at anyone. I have to be pushed hard to explode but when I do, it’s not pretty.

I had just put down my yoga mat at the outdoor fitness area by the beach in Santa Monica. Next to me was a personal trainer, a big, muscled guy in a tank top and baseball cap who was chatting with his client. The two were animated.

“… I mean 35 years later and we’re supposed to believe her? Gimme a freaking break … Ruining that guy’s life.”

I didn’t have time to think. I turned around, my eyes blazing and said:

“You don’t know about how trauma works. Why don’t you educate yourself about how trauma works before spouting off?”

My voice shook. I wanted to roar but did not come close. Instead, I trembled like a leaf.

But I still said it.

The trainer and his sweaty client looked at me, as astonished as if a cat had just spoken Hebrew. Neither said a word.

“Have a nice day.” I told them.

They stared at me, still silent as I picked up my mat and moved away.

I was still shaky when I ordered a coffee at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf an hour later.

“How is your day going so far?” said the professionally upbeat barista, who wore a polo shirt with a nametag that read “Zooey.”

I looked at her for a second longer than was comfortable for either one of us. I would have liked to have sobbed on Zooey’s shoulder, or asked her if she felt as betrayed, as sick to her stomach and in her heart this past week as I had. I would have liked to have asked if she felt her own dark memories bubble up like sewage this week as I did, looking on helplessly and amazedly as a shrill and shrieking prince of privilege essentially lied his way onto the Supreme Court.

I wanted to ask her if she, too, had watched as an admitted binge drinker deliberately misled the Senate about the nature of his drinking, and then screamed and jeered at a female senator who questioned him about his drinking habits. Did Zooey watch as a quiet, intelligent, thoughtful woman was disrespected and patronized by the Senate, then mocked by the president of the United States and thousands of his supporters? Had Zooey seen red from rage on the day the sham of an FBI report came in?

“I want to believe that my government has not drowned in the blackest kind of evil and corruption.”

I looked at Zooey and thought all of this and remembered that, in Los Angeles, “How are you?” is more of a greeting than a question. In Berlin, the equivalent “Wie geht es dir?” is not something that strangers ask each other, and if you do utter it, they might laugh awkwardly and say “Warum — why do you ask?” From there, they’ll launch into their recent problems with indigestion or divorce or cystic acne or finding gnats in their kitchen.

“I’m actually really not doing so good.” And as soon as I said it, I realized I had breached the protocol. 

Maybe because this was Los Angeles and not Berlin, or maybe just because Zooey was busy juggling other coffee orders and had a long line behind me, she just nodded and smiled, exactly the same as if I had said “I’m doing great, thanks!”

I want to believe my country gives a damn about my physical autonomy. I want to believe that my government has not drowned in the blackest kind of evil and corruption. I want to believe that it’s all going to be OK. I want to believe the adults will get here soon and fix this. But I cannot now.

In the meantime, I will have a bowl of chicken soup with challah and pet my sweet miniature schnauzer’s soft head and try to focus on what a pretty day it is outside. And I will vote like my life depends on it, because it does.


Sara Hershkowitz is an opera singer, writer, activist and teacher. Born in Los Angeles, she currently divides her time between Berlin and L.A.

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.