Nov 30, 2013


Someone in her forties said: When we were growing up, the Holocaust was very much a part of our lives.  We were children of survivors and survivors lived all around us.  My children have no particular interest or involvement in the Holocaust. 

We were also very aware of the plight of Soviet Jewry.  We read stories about life behind the Iron Curtain in Olomeinu and sang songs like JEP's "Dear Nikolai" and "Let My People Go." Then Russian Jewry began to come out of Russia and they were all around us.  We saw them babysitting, taking ESL classes and we invited them for Pesach.

The person I quoted earlier bemoans the lack of idealism in her children.  Their concerns and involvement include doing well in school, getting married, having a family, and paying the bills.

That's not to say there is no idealism in our youth, but it is not within her children's world.  It gave me pause for thought.

Nov 25, 2013

"The Boys in the Boat"

I just finished reading this wonderful book, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics.  I was impressed by the writing from the very start and even though competitive rowing is not something that interests me, the author wrote so beautifully that I was kept enthralled. 

It was interesting to read his descriptions of life in the 1930's such as life on a college campus.  Just the description of how teenagers dressed back then drives home how distant we are from those more moral times.  The book focuses on one of the boys in particular.  He went through a very difficult childhood and he handled it with such resiliency, working extremely hard to support himself and get himself through college. 

The story of the college rowing team is interspersed with the rise of Hitler's Germany.  The Berlin Olympics were designed to fool the world into thinking Germany was civilized at the very time that they were actively preparing for war and persecuting and murdering Jews. 

It was fascinating to read how this kind of rowing requires not only tremendous strength but great intelligence too.  They all had to keep up their grades and the crew athletes were known to have the highest GPA in the university.  When they finished college they went to work in impressive jobs and all but one married and had families. 

There are parts that describe how the boats were made and what it takes to have a perfectly coordinated team of rowers, which can serve as life lessons and as wonderful mashalim (analogies).

I highly recommend it.

Nov 18, 2013

Kudos to Kedem?

The founder of KosherFest was asked whether there was anyone who has been part of KosherFest since it began twenty-five years ago.  His response, printed in Mishpacha magazine, was "There are two handfuls, I would say.  Kedem is a big one, and kudos to them.  We weren't a wine drinking community, it was just a cup of sweet wine for Kiddush, but Kedem educated an entire generation.  Now there are more than 1000 different bottles of wine at Kosherfest.  It's really, 'My, how they've grown up!'"

This is a good thing? Good for the wine manufacturers and distributors who make money on it, but who else is it good for? Is that what we were missing all this time, an education in how to drink? Previously we were immature? Presumably this is why I have been reading many articles in recent years about the out of control drinking going on in within frum communities. 

I found the articles showing pictures of KosherFest unappealing.  It looked to me like KosherFress.  I understand the need for those in the kosher food and beverage industries to network, and I understand the need for new products to alleviate the situations of those with allergies and illnesses that do not allow them to eat normal foods.  But do I think our increasingly obese and struggling with limits frum community needs even more food products than we already have? No.  Was I lacking anything very important twenty-five years ago when it came to food? No.

“Every day is a new adventure,” said EF of --- which has been producing bakery items for 52 years. “It isn’t just keeping up with the times, it is staying ahead of the times that is what really has to be done, although there are classic items that are tried and true and people never get tired of those.”

I must be missing something major since I don't understand why we must constantly come up with new culinary items.  But as long as we say the words "I'm eating this l'sheim shomayim," we're okay, right?

Nov 17, 2013

Consider Yourselves Warned

I've been thinking intermittently about the disaster in the Philippines.  Major loss of life, misery and devastation.  How everything that happens in the world happens for the sake of the Jewish people.  The following was written by R' Mendel Weinbach a'h:

When news of an earthquake in Japan a century ago reached the Radin Yeshiva in Poland, the sainted Chofetz Chaim assembled the students and delivered an inspiring mussar lecture.
This lesson was delivered millennia ago by the Prophet Tzephaniah who declared in the Name of G-d:
"I have cut off nations; their pinnacles are desolate; I have made their streets waste so that none passes by; their cities are destroyed so that there is no man, there is no inhabitant. I said, surely you will fear me and will learn a lesson." (3:6-7)

The words of the Prophet are quoted in a lecture written during the Middle Ages by the great Talmudic commentator Rabbeinu Nissim who points out that when people fail to learn from the disasters which strike others, they cause such tragedy to come closer to them. One who fails to see natural disasters as a Heavenly warning and fails to make any improvements, he concludes, is comparable to one who has sinned after being warned and thus exposes himself to retribution.

I have a hard time with this, specifically with the making improvements part.  I get as far as remembering everything that transpires happens for our sake and that they are supposed to be calls to teshuva.  I wonder if others are more successful in taking this to heart.

4th Anniversary!

Just to mention that I posted my first post in November 2009, so this is my 4th anniversary of blogging!

Nov 9, 2013

The Incredible Shabbos Project

I am so impressed and moved by what I've been reading and seeing about the special Shabbos initiative a few weeks ago in South Africa.  It took place on Shabbos parshas Lech Lecha and Yonoson Rosenblum described it as, "An experiment that has no precedent in modern Jewish history. It was called “The Shabbos Project.”
"The idea was simple: Encourage every Jew in South Africa to celebrate one Shabbos. And not just a friendly Shabbos dinner where nonreligious participants would be welcomed even if they drove to their host’s doorstep. Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, 42, who has led the South African community since 2005, decided early on that the Shabbos must be observed in its entirety."
“Keeping Shabbos completely was crucial to the success of the Shabbos Project,” explains Rabbi Goldstein. “The kedushah, energy, and emotional power of the experience depends on doing the mitzvah exactly as Hashem instructs. When Torah is diluted, it loses its spiritual power. South Africans like a challenge, and responded to my call to keep Shabbos in all its details accordingly.”
To get some idea of the magnitude of this project see this: The Great Challa Bake about how thousands of women and girls gathered to bake challa.  And take a look at the website with all the information and resources that were made available to South African Jewry: here and be sure to click on "Our Stories" to read the reactions of those who participated, many experiencing Shabbos for the first time.