How to stay (relatively) sane during #covid crisis.
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Things are definitely different here in Washington state. If you follow the news, you will consistently read about Seattle as one of the strongest and fastest growing Jewish communities in the country. I have little reason to doubt this fact. Except that unless I’m at our wonderful new temple in North Seattle, I could swing dozens of dead cats and never hit a single member of our tribe.
We currently live about 20 minutes North of the city in a suburb at the tip of Lake Washington known as Kenmore. My kids have no Jewish friends at school, I haven’t seen a single home with a Mezuzah on the doorpost in our neighborhood, and I can’t find a decent challah within 20 miles of my front door.
I’m not exactly complaining. But it’s awfully weird for this North Shore Chicago girl who spent the last two decades in Los Angeles and Scottsdale surrounded by plenty of Jewish brethren to be living amongst all of these lovely people, most of whom have never even met a Jew. My oldest son, Levi, who is deeply entrenched in Judaism, torah and spirituality has mentioned to me several times that he feels kind of weird even telling kids at school about his Judaism because he’s always met with strange looks and perplexed stares whenever he mentions his religious heritage.
Please understand that we have in no way met with unkindness or religious intolerance in any way. Our neighbors are civil and have spoken to us on at least one or two occasions. But they’re not busting down our door with plates of great Aunt Sofie’s mandelbread or a sample of Grandma Sarah’s famous rugelach.
That being said, Levi loves his new High School. In part, this is due to the outstanding culinary arts program that he managed to earn a spot in as the only sophomore ever admitted. His culinary arts teacher is an amazing chef, teacher and yes, Iron Chef America winner. We’ve even talked about having her and the students cater my younger son, Eli’s, upcoming Oneg Shabbat Bar Mitzvah luncheon at the temple this March.
But the other day, Levi came home in a state of utter delight and could barely contain his excitement long enough to tell us why he was so elated. He explained that there was a new class competition in culinary. Each student would get to choose one kitchen appliance for the upcoming challenge and would have to prepare a specified dish with their appliance. Levi immediately began gunning for the food processor. But after picking numbers from a chef hat, he ended up being the last student to choose his appliance. “I knew there was no way I was going to get the food processor,” He told us sadly.
The other appliances included a blender, a Kitchen Aide, a waffle iron, a deli slicer and several other typical kitchen helpers. “But somehow,” Levi offered, “No one picked the food processor. I was absolutely last and I got it! Can you believe that?”
“No one picked the food processor?” I asked incredulously. “That’s really bizarre. That doesn’t make any sense. I would’ve thought the food processor would’ve been the first to be snatched up.” “I know,” he said with a huge smile plastered across his face. “I never knew I was this lucky. And guess what else? You will never believe what recipe I got with it.”
“What?” My husband, Mark, asked with intense curiosity. Levi cheerfully replied, “Dad, it’s our favorite thing to make in the food processor! You’ll never believe it. Guess! You have to guess.”
“Our favorite thing to make in the food processor?” repeated Mark. “Um…potato pancakes?”
“Not just potato pancakes,” chirped Levi, “But latkes! Actual latkes! That’s what the recipe said. Isn’t that amazing!”
Now comes the moment where I regret lacking any internal editing programs to stop my mouth from speaking exactly what my brain thinks up. “Well, obviously you got the food processor because no one else even knew what a latke was.”
Both Levi and Mark looked at me in horror. “Mom,” Levi said, “That’s ridiculous. Who doesn’t know what a latke is?” Mark was smiling a knowing smile, “Yeah hon, who doesn’t know what a latke is?”
“Um…you’re right, Leves,” I stammered. “Forget I said that. You just got…lucky, incredibly lucky!
I love Lulu Lemon. Not because I’m some peace-loving, zen yogini or anything even close. I just love the style, fit and feel of their clothes. Plus the whole vibe of the store makes me happy. But do you know what I really love most about the place? The bags.
Come on. You love them too. They’re cute. They’re uplifting. They’re the perfect Trader Joe’s reusable grocery bags. But here’s the moment of truth. What do the bags actually say? Don’t look! This is a challenge I’m putting before you. Everything on those bags is thoughtful, philosophical, and inspiring. But I bet, no matter how many tata tamers you have, you can’t come up with 10 phrases that adorn that bag. Too hard? How about five? Three? One?
I wouldn’t ask you to attempt anything I wasn’t willing to try myself. So here goes:
1. Listen intently…to someone?
3. Friends are more important than money.
4. Something about sweating every day.
5. Do something every day that scares you.
6. Life is a journey, not a destination. (Okay, I’m stumped and this was the first generic philosophical phrase I could think of. But It could be on the bag.)
I have now retrieved one of the many red and white sacks I possess and am moderately horrified by my performance. I got 4…sort of. “Breathe” is actually “Breathe Deeply.” But I think I deserve at least a half point for my effort. It’s “Listen, listen, listen and then ask strategic questions.” But who would ever remember that? I didn’t get “Love,” which is so blatantly obvious it’s almost embarrassing. I missed “Dance, Sing, Floss and Travel,” “Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment,” “The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.” I could go on. But instead, I’m just going to encourage all of you to step away from your computer and go into your bedroom, closet or the trunk of your car and pick up one of your Lulu bags. Then grab a cup of tea or a mug of French press coffee, sit down and really read what’s on that bag.
It’s kind of nutty to think that a tote from a retail establishment could honestly change your life. But I really think this one can. Because it’s true, “Friends are more important than money,” and “Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.” The bag is like a modern day totem pole, celebrating today’s overwhelming obsession with spiritual enlightenment, and saying to the world and generations to come, “This is who we are. This is what we believe. This is what we are striving towards.”
It’s actually kind of cool to think about this as an emblem of our people. Probably a little kooky too. I doubt that the marketing guru who came up with the bag design considered herself a modern day messenger of current societal standards. But who knows. Maybe Sarah Palin, in one of the upcoming Republican primary debates, will cite Lulu as her favorite political philosopher, just as George W. did in the now infamous 1999 debate when he chose Jesus Christ as his. WWLD?
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.
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?