Bomber mom








The Boston Marathon bombers’ mother swears that her boys are innocent. “It’s some kind of hoax,” she keeps repeating. I’m watching her words tick across the bottom of a muted television in my Dentist’s office. I can only read the larger headlines from across the room, not her actual words. Why do they silence the volume? We’re all sitting here struggling to read the small type. She is gesticulating madly and I manage to surmise that she truly believes her boys are good, solid citizens, going to school, chasing the American dream. Who could actually believe their offspring were capable of killing and maiming hundreds of people in a violent, inhumane terrorist attack?

I think I could. Honestly. I think I pretty much can assess my boys’ capabilities to do evil rather accurately. At this point in their young lives I can sincerely boast that terrorism is not on either of their agendas. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if your kid commits a heinous act of violence, your only means of self-preservation is denial.

I have a friend who takes pride in asserting that her kids are average. She says it all the time. Laughs when she tells people. “My kids are average looking, average intelligence, average in every way.” I used to think she said it to stun other parents who were gloating about their children being intellectually gifted or having some kind of superior artistic or athletic prowess. But now I think she actually believes it.

I don’t see my kids as anywhere near average. But maybe that’s my version of bomber mom’s denial. The other night we went to my 12 year old son, Levi’s, Spring Showcase at school. I can tell which teachers recognize his unique inner sparkle and which do not. Some of them see him as average and I know they are missing the boat entirely. They seem more focused on what he inadvertently blurts out in class or his messy hand-writing. I feel sorry for those teachers. They don’t see his quirky creative mind or his sunny, delightful disposition. They want him to fit in, to act like everyone else, to be…average.

I try to teach my kids how to “act” average so that they do fit in in school, with peers, in life. It’s a challenging task for a mom who believes whole-heartedly in shining your inner light and allowing the world to see you for who you really are. But the world of kids celebrates “average.” I can’t tell you how many teachers, administrators, and therapists have warned us about the ever-encroaching middle school madness where fitting in is the only way to get by and standing out in any way makes kids automatic bullying targets. I want my boys to know how to fit in.

But the more I teach them to fit in, the more I remind them that it’s only an act. That in society we all learn tools to make our lives easier, more comfortable, less stressful. Fitting in is one of those tools. But it doesn’t mean you stop thinking, acting and believing in all of the charming inner traits that make you unique and extraordinary. That’s the louder message I hope to convey. And if that puts me somehow in the same category as my pal who really sees her kids as average, or bomber mom, who’s incapable of seeing who her children have become, so be it. I’ll live in denial. Recognizing indubitably that my children are spectacularly gifted with a sense of kindness, a creative wisdom, and a flair for the eccentric that sets them apart from the pack, and that if used well, will bring them success, inner fulfillment and joy as they share it with the world.

A political diversion

Really? I kind of beg to differ.

Hard to think about anything today other than the President’s speech yesterday in Cairo. Look, I’m a Jew, first and foremost. The whole wife, mother, sister, lover thing somehow always manages to take a back seat to who I am religiously. I guess that’s because for so many centuries people have hated Jews and worked to destroy us. I’m not paranoid. I feel genuinely safe in society today. But I do worry at times, and with good reason.

Statistics show that anti-semitism is on the rise in this country and world wide. As economies continue to plummet, distraught members of society often look for a scapegoat. There are multiple factions in society who believe that the rising costs of oil today are due to U.S. support of Israel. To any sane individual, this is absurd. But that doesn’t stop masses of people from calling on the US to turn against our long-term ally and join forces instead with the Arab nations who look to destroy her.

I believe in Israel’s right to exist. Hamas, the head of the Palestinian government and confirmed terrorist organization, does not. For the President of the United States to call Israel an “occupier” and suggest that Israel give back land taken in a war in 1967 is ridiculous. Returning to the ’67 borders, as President Obama advocated yesterday, would put Israel in an indefensible position while also leaving major population centers beyond those borders.

I’ve been reading incessantly on this subject. I actually watched the President’s speech on CSPAN and heard him irrefutably say that Israel should return to the 1967 borders. But as I talk to most of my liberal minded friends, who also claim to support Israel’s right to exist, they insist that the President said nothing about returning to ’67 borders. They have emails from “reputable” leaders who assert that this is just another desperate Republican attempt to destroy the President’s credibility and weaken his ever decreasing popularity.

And you can’t argue with these people. Because they refuse to believe the facts. Look, I’m all for a healthy debate. Like most people, I support a Palestinian state. They have the right to exist just as Israel does. But time and again Israel has withdrawn from areas, offered concessions and agreed to multiple conditions in order to secure peace with the Palestinians. But the Palestinian government insists on Israel’s complete and total destruction. They refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. How can that be a recipe for peace?

I am frustrated by this. Frustrated that people wont do the research and fact-finding they need to do to understand what’s going on. Trusting anyone as your sole source of information is foolish and naive. I listen to NPR every day on the radio. But I also force myself to listen to Rush Limbaugh and a variety of other radio hosts whose opinions I don’t necessarily agree with. But if you only watch CNN or read the NY Times, or at the other end of the spectrum, exclusively watch Fox News, how will you ever know what’s truly going on?

Look, believe what you want. But be honest and thoughtful about it. And don’t delude yourself into thinking that President Obama is a friend to the state of Israel, the Jews or to true democracy in the Middle East.

Spring Cleaning

Once a year we clean out our kitchen — whether it needs it or not. No, seriously, it’s Passover time for us Jews and we take spring cleaning to a whole new level. At my house, we pack away our everyday dishes and replace them with our mismatched melange of well worn Passover tableware. We reclaim our pantry by purging every half-eaten box of Wheat Thins, stale stuck together bags of marshmallows, and near-empty jars of Trader Joe’s peanut butter. e scrub down the fridge, empty the freezer, wash out the silverware drawers. It’s a massive undertaking.

Passover has a lot of rules — what you’re allowed to eat, what you’re not, how you’re supposed to rid your home of “chametz” (the name given to all non-appropriate Passover food), your requirement to tell the Biblical story of Exodus to your children. It’s a heavy responsibility holiday if you try to follow it according to “Halakhah” (Jewish law).

And we do. At least we try. My kids eat special food, off of special plates, prepared in special pots and pans. I end up cooking almost non-stop for the entire weeklong festival, a task I’m not generally accustomed or predisposed to. The Passover story tells how the Jews left Egypt and were freed from decades of slavery. I sometimes wonder if my culinary servitude isn’t God’s way of offering me experiential understanding of my ancestors’ plight.

But in spite of the hard work and requisite effort this holiday demands, I love it. My fondest childhood memories are of Passover. I remember the mini
matzah-meal pancakes my mother used to make, the special Seders that lasted till midnight over which my grandfather, and later my beloved father, presided, the delicious fruit shaped jellies I craved all year long that now define the holiday for my two little boys. There’s something deep that connects me to my family, my community, and my past each spring when Passover arrives.

So I clean my cabinets, pack away my Blender, and get out my grandmother’s old recipes. I cry a lot too, remembering the innocence and wonder of those childhood years. I miss the people who make up my memories, and I feel sad that these joyous times will one day be merely a part of my kids’ recorded histories, like old home movies or a treasured tattered tablecloth.

I’m grateful that they will have the memories to connect them to me, to my husband, to their grandmothers. But the somber realization that time passes extraordinarily quickly these days is one that occupies my thoughts almost obsessively this time of year. It reminds me of an ancient bit of Jewish folklore that tells how King Solomon asked his wisest assemblymen to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad and sad when he is happy. They created the ring with a simple saying etched into the gold: “Gam zeh ya’avor” or “This too shall pass.”

I wish you a meaningful Passover and Easter and wish for you the joy of good times and the melancholy of beautiful memories.

The newest “bridge” to nowhere

mosque to nowhere

The mosque to nowhere

Call me crazy. But if a bunch of American militiamen wanted to erect (pun intended) a jingoistic skyscraper at the site of the Hiroshima nuclear blast, I’d say they were wrong. How about a German patriot with a yen for a Nazi memorial at Bergen Belsen? Bad idea. Maybe a tribute to Slobodan Milosevic at the University of Prishtina in Kosovo? A Jackie Mason roast at the Arab Hotel Association’s annual banquet in Ramallah? What, you think I’m being ridiculous?

A Sufi Imam, who said publicly that the US deserved the destruction wreaked upon us on 911, wants to build a mosque at Ground Zero and anyone who thinks that’s a bad idea is a racist pig who is not only bigoted, but also some kind of twisted, red-neck ethnocentrist who opposes the principles upon which this nation was founded.

I am fed up with this debate. I’m sick of Katie Couric and Chris Mathews and the liberal chicks on The View. I’m not buying the “bridge building” b.s. coming out of the media. And who in their right mind is suggesting that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is some kind of impingement on religious freedom? Of course Muslims have the right to practice their religion. But their rights don’t exclude them from having to practice common dignity for their fellow Americans. The mere insensitivity of proposing this religious icon on a site where thousands of American civilians were slaughtered in the name of that same religion’s supreme spiritual leader, is so absurd that it belongs in a Saturday Night Live skit, not in the center of a National debate.

Rights in this country are not absolute. We have freedom of speech. However, try yelling the word “hijack” in a busy airport terminal and see what kind of reception you get. We have the right to bear arms too. But it might work out poorly if you send your 5 year old to school with your AK47 for show and tell. Likewise, we all have the guarantee of religious freedom. But with that freedom comes responsibility.

If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is such a “bridge builder,” why not start by constructing his idealogical viaduct somewhere other than Ground Zero? Over 70% of Americans oppose the idea of this mosque at this location. That’s not bigoted. The fact is, Feisal has set off a divisive, emotional powder keg. Wouldn’t the better “bridge building” technique be to find a location that respected all people?

If Feisal truly wanted to spread the peaceful word of Islam, why would he choose to alienate three quarters of the people to whom he is supposedly reaching out? Am I to believe that there is no other appropriate site in all of New York city for this mosque? Well, here’s an idea. Since I want to be part of the solution and not part of the unending, idiotic debate, I’m going to start a coalition to locate a more suitable mosque location in the Big Apple.

I’ve got some great ideas. Very out-of-the-box. For example, why not add a quaint little black box theatre and put the mosque in Soho? Or even better, we can reach out to the latino community and build the mosque in Spanish Harlem. Maybe Feisal should consider attracting more discreet, upscale parishioners and moving the mosque to Park Ave. It could have a charming little tea shop or cappuccino bar within its confines. There’s Wall Street, China Town, Gramercy Park, Brooklyn…The list is truly endless.

Let’s make it a contest. I know you native New Yorkers will be all over this. Send in your proposed NYC mosque locations by September 5th. We’ll pick a winner, award some meaningless prize and then send the entire list off to our beloved Imam.

How’s that for some good old American ingenuity?