Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Time Warp

I just met a real, live Karaite. He was sitting at the table next to mine at Tal's and we got to talking.

The animosity between Karaite and what they call "Rabbinite" Jews (which would be me) goes back thousands of years. I wouldn't call it a rivalry because basically the Rabbinites won that one a long time ago. Today, there are only 30,000 Karaites in the entire world. I already knew that they exist, but I've never met one in person.

So, part of me was thinking/feeling "oh, my God, I'm talking to a real, live, heretic! Should I be talking to him? Is this OK? This is so weird! It's so . . . Talmudic era . . . what century am I in?"

And the other part of me was thinking "wow! I'm talking to a real, live heretic! That's so cool. I wonder what they do at their Seders?" (Yes, I asked.)

We talked about how he became Karaite (he "converted" from secular Judaism), why he moved to Israel, who he dates, why he thinks that mainstream Jews are the true heretics (especially Reform - apparently the Karaite and Orthodox ideologies agree on something), and what cafes on Emek Refaim Street have the best internet connections.

Nice guy ( ... for a heretic?).

Such a weird feeling!

He said that usually he can't talk about his beliefs because it freaks people out. Seemed to be grateful that I didn't try to burn him at the stake.

First of all, stake-burning isn't so practical in the middle of Emek. :-)

Also, I'm not threatened. I know what I believe, and I know what I don't believe, and I know what I'm confused about, and I already know I'll be confused about many more things during my time on this earth. Thank God (and my parents, and teachers) I'm pretty educated about Talmud (for a woman, anyway), and nothing he said shook my religious foundations any more than the Talmud itself does. The Sages themselves had some pretty hefty ambivalence about their roles vis-a-vis the future of Judaism; that's not a secret. Confusion is cool. Guilt and confusion are part of the Jewish condition.

So, no Karaite can make me question things that I wasn't already questioning myself, or shake my love for things that have meaning for me.

It was just really interesting, and really weird!

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Book about Passover (in Hebrew)

A relative of mine, Shimon Corsia, has recently published a book (in Hebrew) about Pesach (Passover). He previously published Orot Hachag - Sukkot, and this one is Orot Hachag - Pesach.

It's a nifty little book that essentially brings together a lot of classical Rabbinic literature about the meaning of the holiday: Why were the Jews brought out of Israel? What is the nature of freedom? Why can't we eat hametz on Pesach? Why did the Jews merit having the sea split for them?

It's about 100 pages but has lots of material that would make for great divrei Torah at the Seder and beyond - and the price is extremely reasonable.

If you want to buy a copy, here's information about how to do it.

If you live in Israel: send a check for 25 nis (if you can pick up the book from Bais Yisroel, Jerusalem) or 30 nis (if you want it mailed to you), to:
Shimon Corsia, 5 Zaks Street, Jerusalem 97351. Phone: 972-2-582-8837

If you live in the States: Send a check for $8 (if you can pick it up from Brooklyn) or $11 (if you want it mailed to you) to: Genut Family, 586 E. 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11218. Phone: 1-718-871-3050

Please note: I am not making any money from the sales of this book. I'm just doing a favor for a family member. And it is a nifty little book.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Tonight, Israelis move their clocks ahead one hour. Therefore we will once again be 7 hours ahead of EST, and 10 hours ahead of PST.

Have a Shabbat shalom.
News Flash

I'm not chronically late anymore.

Turns out that I'm not "on the ADD spectrum" or disorganized or feeling time passing differently.

I just wasn't sleeping.

In fact, according to my sleep lab results, I was waking up an average of 27 times an hour.

No wonder I was scatterbrained.

Now I'm being treated, and guess what? I hand in assignments on time. I can focus during the day. I Get Stuff Done.

I'm not late for appointments anymore. Nothing. I even get places early.

It's a different world when one is well-rested.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yet Another Jewish Week Story (and a tangent that got a little involved)

This one is in the just-uploaded "Catered Events" supplement, hitting newsstands tomorrow.

Unrelated thought:

I had a weeeeeiiiiiird dream last night involving He Who Must Not Be Named. (I'm not talking about Voldemort, but rather a Person From My History. He cannot be named because privacy is way more important to him than to me - perhaps one of the many, many reasons we are not dating. But anyway, the least I can do is not toy with his identity on the internet.) In the dream I was in the market either for a new house or a new pet, I'm not sure. But anyway this woman was selling both her house and a litter of puppies/kittens (it kept changing). And while I'm there, He Who Must Not Be Named shows up with his fiancee (I don't think in real life he has a fiancee. Please tell me if he does so that I can outwardly voice my happiness for him while inwardly consider slitting my wrists.) She was, of course, much taller and much more beautiful than I am, because isn't it always so, and very nice and I had to be nice to her because she'd done nothing wrong and she's really nice and I hate this urgh. Anyhow, they are house shopping, isn't that nice? And then He Who Must Not Be Named asks why I haven't been in touch for so many years, and I say that it's because it made me really uncomfortable, and he says (as he might in real life, come to think of it) "that's disappointing. I would have expected you to be more reasonable." Which, now that I'm awake, is a really logical, cold thing to say, but in my dream I was, like, so ashamed, and fell all over myself assuring him that of course we can be friends now. And the next thing I know I'm at a wedding, and He Who Must Not Be Named is sitting at the reception with his fiancee and I'm seated next to them and I have to make small talk with both of them, and I don't know if she knows about The History and the whole thing is really uncomfortable, but I'm thinking "I've got to learn to deal with this, because we are going to be friends now. Must. learn. to. deal." And I woke up thinking damn. damn. damn. damn. damn.

[pant, pant]

OK. Seriously? There is a logical explanation for this dream. I had been at a wedding the night before. And I've been thinking about this post at another blog. And I would really like a pet (my roommate refuses, though soon we will be foster-parenting her friend's cat, Shpitz. I'm excited.) Oh, and also? I miss being friends with He Who Must Not Be Named. And there's nothing I can do about it. Nothing that's good for me, anyway.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Latest Articles

I've got two stories in this week's New York Jewish Week, in the "Israel Travel" supplement.

One is about various water parks in Israel, and the other is about places to go if you want an interactive Bedouin experience or a simulated Biblical experience.

I love my job.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Movie Night

Last night I saw a 10 pm showing of "Slumdog Millionnaire" with Chava.

I felt like such a party animal, leaving my house at 9:30! Whew! :-)

The movie was intense. I see why it won Best Picture, but it was disturbing.

I went to sleep around 2 am (party animal!) and woke up at 1:15 in the afternoon (teenager!)

I had nightmares about babysitting for an adorable baby, and it disappears mysteriously while I'm brushing my teeth and dies, and I'm guilty of negligent homicide. Like I said, the movie was quite disturbing. Also I think my mind is still processing that horrible article about how easy it is to forget a child in a car.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Quotes of the Day

#1: "I'd rather be paid to write drivel than to be poor and become posthumously beloved by millions." (Sarah)

#2: "I'm sure if I were surrounded by rich, handsome men they would all be attracted to me. But, alas, I'm not." (Liza)

Sarah to students: "I'm sorry I don't have your papers graded yet."
Student: "It's OK. We give you an extension."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Then and Now


This magazine cover graced the inside of my high-school locker

I'm not embarrassed to admit this because, seriously, who knew back then just how strange he was, or would become?


If I were 17 again, this magazine cover would totally be in my locker, twice

because, you know, pretty men with tousle-able hair, an intense gaze, and. those. eyebrows. never go out of style. To 17-year-olds, anyway.

However, this does not bode well for Robert Pattinson's sanity or image. Yes, he's very pretty, but whose couch will he be jumping on in 20 years?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Post I Feel Like Writing This Morning

Happy Purim! This is such a great day. I love Purim. The birds are singing, there are musical vans driving around the streets, people are giving me cookies and cake, and later I'm going to see my cute little haredi cousins and have more cookies and cake. Yay!

And, I just drank a VERY BIG cup of coffee. I feel so alive! Life is fantastic!

The Post I Felt Like Writing Last Night

Four worst holidays to be a single, childless Orthodox adult:

#4: Chanukah. It's 80% a children's holiday.

#3: Purim. See above, but without the pretty candles.

#2: Yom Kippur. Same prayers every year. Every. year.

#1: Rosh Hashanah. See above, but without the fast and holy white clothing to elevate the day.

Best holiday to be a single, childless Orthodox adult:

#1: Passover! Cleaning goes smoothly and then you just show up at someone else's Seder with a bottle of wine and a box of matza, ready to be religious. Meaningful and pretty easy!

God, I love coffee.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Crazy-scary article in the Washington Post, about the phenomenon of perfectly competent, loving parents forgetting their children in the car.

A tip from a New York Times reader:

"When you are strapping your child into his or her carseat, place your wallet, office/house keys, or purse onto the floor of the back seat with him or her."

Monday, March 09, 2009


I've been teaching now for several weeks and am starting to get to know the students better.

One of them, J., is a kid who, from the first day, set himself apart as a visual artist. He draws all the time, everywhere, on his notebooks, on t-shirts, on little slips of paper. Give him a pen or pencil and within seconds pictures will come out of it. And he's not bad at it, either.

He's also just as mellow in class as one would expect a visual artist to be. He is one of the most laid-back kids I've ever met. Nothing fazes him. It could also be that he's been sick - or depressed? - and tired all the time, which I've brought to the attention of the administration. But anyway what it all boils down to is that he sits quietly in class, looking always like he's on the verge of falling asleep. A nice boy -- the other kids seem to like him, and one of them once mentioned that she knows J. from camp and he's one of the nicest people she knows -- but with an air about him that says "I'm currently sitting in English class, but I'm not here, here."

Anyhow, most of my students have been experimenting with different forms of poetry, and keeping journals, which I get to read. And over the last few weeks I've noticed something about J's creative writing: it is truly creative. It is intense without being cliched. What I witness when reading his poetry is a level of originality and depth I've never seen before, not from a student. It's not hackneyed teenage angst. He's the real deal. There is a lot going on inside this kid, and he's got the actual talent to represent it in words. I read his work and think "My God, this kid could be the next Bob Dylan, or Allan Ginsburg."

I figured he must know already that he's good, so for a while I just wrote encouraging comments on his work and gave it back. But today I decided to make sure he realizes that he's at least at good at poetry as he is at drawing. So, even though he was complaining of feeling a little sick, I asked him to stay for a minute after class. Of course the first thing he wanted to know was whether he's in trouble. :-) Definitely not.

During class, my students gave presentations in groups. I don't know what J had done to his nose, but apparently it was bleeding and he spent the class sticking little pieces of paper up it. Ah, the glamour of teaching teenagers.

After class, he sat down with me and I started telling him that ... well, first I had to ask him to remove the piece of paper in his nose, because it's distracting, and he was like "aw, yeah, I guess it's hard to take me seriously with this"... and I told him that I think his writing is truly unique and special, and I wish I could help him mold his talent, but poetry isn't my "thing" as much as journalism, but I hope he continues writing and developing it, and maybe try songwriting -- and finding a mentor of some kind.

His mellow response? "Tell my mom. She'll figure something out."

I asked him if poetry is one of his "things" as much as drawing, and he said he'd never written poetry until this class. I've discovered a talent! Me! I discovered someone!

Meanwhile, the news that his English teacher thinks he's super-talented did not faze him, of course. I had to ask him outright if he's pleased to hear this. He said "yeah. It's cool..." and went on his way.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


The United States has set its clocks ahead one hour.

This means that there is now a SIX-hour time difference between Israel and the East coast, and a NINE-hour time difference between Israel and the West coast.

Have fun setting up phone appointments . . . .

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our Paths Meet

I think I may have crossed paths with Hillary Clinton yesterday. I was taking my ride to one of my teaching jobs, and, coming from Azza Street, we stopped at a main intersection. There were policepeople keeping traffic held up, and Hazzaz Avenue was empty.

"Someone important is coming," the driver said.

Sure enough, after about a minute -- which is a long time for traffic to be held -- a long motorcade come down from Hazzaz, turned around us and went up Azza street.

"The prime minister?" mused one of the other teachers.

"Nah, it's someone foreign," the driver said. I don't know how they can tell these things, or whether he was right. I did notice a couple of vans in the motorcade, full of people. Journalists?

Anyhow, that was my excitement for the day. Move along, move along.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

We're Saved!

I can't tell you how depressed I've been the last few days, trying to work out where I'll live next month. Since the landlord was raising the rent by 300 NIS - waaaay above market rate -- and doing it primarily to force us out because he doesn't like us, we were all set to move out. Well, Liza was. If she was moving out anyhow, she wanted to go to a neighborhood that had more of the bus lines she needed. Unfortunately, none of them are neighborhoods I'm willing to live in, if I can help it. So it meant splitting up. In fact Liza went today to see an apartment in another neighborhood, and had decided that unless our current landlord changes his mind in the 11th hour, she would call tomorrow and take the other place. She'd then move out in a few days.

I'd been afraid of this: having to choose between finding a new roommate (AGAIN), who may or may not turn out to be very annoying ... or living on my own (AGAIN) which we've already established isn't so healthy for me. I did research about rents in my area, and as I'd feared, the most I could afford, if I live on my own, is a studio (AGAIN) which would mean hosting Shabbat meals in my bedroom (AGAIN).

I walked around all day today with a feelings of dread and helplessness.

And then, finally finally, our next-door neighbors, whom we like a lot, and who own their apartment, called the landlord and told him that we are really nice people -- good, quiet, friendly neighbors -- and they strongly suggest that he not raise the rent by so much that we have to move out.

I guess the idea that we are nice people was new to him, and gave him some pause, because he called me up and said that he'll raise the rent by 100 nis, not 300 nis. Liza and I agreed that it's worth paying 50 nis more per month each, to avoid moving out.

Thank God Thank God Thank God Thank God Thank God Thank God!!!!!!!!



The forces of reason have triumphed over those of small-mindedness! Whoo hoo!!!!