Thursday, March 31, 2005


Sorry I haven't written anything new since, what, yesterday? I have been keeping such odd hours I hardly know what day it is anymore. I still am not completely over the jetlag and have been falling asleep at 2 or 3 am and waking up at 10 or 11. It's really bad. I'm having a hard time getting work done. I think people with "real" jobs get over the jetlag faster. By the way, I found out the Hebrew word for jetlag. It is yah-efet. From the same root as ayaif, which means "tired," or so I was told. I notice that the "yud" and the "ayin" are reversed . . . but perhaps that is an onomatopeiac way to indicate that a person's hours are all mixed up! At least, that's the mneumonic that I'm using to remember the word.

Also I am obsessed with this Nice Jewish Girl blog. I keep re-reading her posts and the comments, and then think about them for the rest of the day. Also very bad for my work ethic. I can't wait until I get these assignments in so I can relax a little bit. I've decided to wrap up the work I've got and then, when I go to the US, to make a real vacation: no working!

That's it for me. Nothing exciting to report. As you were.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Via Renegade Rebbetzin, there is an extraordinary new blog called Nice Jewish Girl, by a 34-year-old woman in the US who has always been shomer negiah (that is, she does not touch men who are outside her family). I read the entire blog and all the comments today and am dumbfounded, partially because the amount of material there that I relate to is a bit frightening (and that is all I'm going to say about that). Before you go over there, be forewarned that the blog is excruciatingly personal, to the point of being a little more sexually explicit than most blogs by frum people. But it's certainly thought-provoking and an important counterpoint to the recent discussions (see Bloghead, for example) about premarital sex among otherwise Orthodox Jews. I have no further comments right now because I'm still trying to process (and because I have three articles to write today and it's almost 5 pm and I haven't started! Ach!)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Thoughts on Disengagement II

As I’ve written before, I happen to be thinly pro-disengagement. Meaning, whereever the line is between “pro” and “anti” the disengagement from Gaza, I’m just barely on the pro side, having gotten there based on a combination of the information I have at my disposal plus my intuitive sense of what would be better for Israel in the long run. Of course, intuition is based on information, and I admit there may be holes in my knowledge*, which is why I’m not prepared to say that people who are anti-disengagement are dumb. Perhaps they know more than I do, or perhaps they know different things than I do. I suspect, though, that (as I’ve written) it’s mostly that they consider different things important than I do.

Be that as it may, before I left for the US, two things happened that highlighted how complicated this issue is, even for someone like me who has (so far) made up her mind.

First, I went to a meal hosted by a native Israeli man in his mid-thirties, who serves as a tank gunner when on army reserve duty. He is an extremely quiet, soft-spoken, person. I suspect that he’s one of those “still waters run deep” people who have very strong opinions, but he mostly keeps them to himself. He’s dati leumi (national religious- and strongly both) and very intellectual and educated. Overall, a sweet guy (and a good cook, too. No, I am not interested in dating him. No, I will not give further details).

One of the other guests asked him what will he do if he is called up to help remove Jews from Gush Katif? And he said “I don’t know. Probably refuse to serve. I don’t know.” He said it very quietly, and looked troubled. At that point the other guests dropped the topic.

Now, I am a big fan of the IDF in general, and a believer in the importance of obeying army orders. I don’t like the idea of the army falling apart at the seams because of conscientous objectors. However, this guy is my friend, and he may have friends in Gush Katif, and even if not he certainly would feel like a low-down dirty scumbag, pointing a tank gun at other Jews (if such a thing became necessary, I guess, to complete the evacuation. One hopes it will not and that, having exhausted all legal avenues available to them, the Jewish residents of Gaza will not do anything that involves gunfire.) I couldn’t blame him.

It’s easy for me to say that I’m pro-disengagement. It’s a lot harder for me to look my friend the tank gunner in the eye and say “how dare you refuse to serve?” Would I go ahead and do my soldierly duties in his place? Would I be willing to put my tank where my mouth is?

I don’t know.

The next morning, a guest rabbi at my synagogue, visiting from the US, said in his speech that he will not address the disengagement; he feels that, as someone who does not live in Israel, he does not have the right to publicly argue against the plans of the Israeli government. The woman next to me, a close friend who happens to also be a right-wing activist (as in, civil disobedience), quietly started to cry. I asked her what was wrong, and she said “how can he talk about it so calmly, when this is going to be one of the biggest tragedies ever to befall the Jewish people? This is a catastrophe. How can he just smooth over it like that?”

Well, what was I going to say? She herself said “I know this is awkward, because we disagree about it.” I thought for a moment and replied “But what we have in common is that we both passionately want what is best for the Jews. We just disagree about how to get there.”

What else could I say? I certainly couldn’t start arguing that disengaging isn’t a catastrophe (though, given Jewish history, I doubt sincerely that it could be “one of the biggest”), because maybe it will be. It’s just that I’ve come to the conclusion that not disengaging would probably lead to a bigger catastrophe.

In 1967, Israel was handed a gun. The gun had crazy glue all over it; there was no way to get rid of it without an operation. The intifada caused that gun to start glowing red hot. It’s burning our hands. The pain is agonizing. And the only way, it seems, to cool down the gun is to shoot it at ourselves (just stick with me here; obviously this analogy requires some stretching).

Do we let our hands continue to burn? And thereby invite not only indefinite pain but also a large chance of infection and therefore possibly death? Or play Russian roullette, betting that instead of blowing our heads off, we'll be removing the gun, the pain, and the chance of infection, and be able to move on - with scars, and more weariness about the gun next door, but with more freedom to live gun-free?

I vote for Russian roullette. But can I blame people for preferring to be burned slowly rather than to take a risk, however small, of shooting oneself in the head?

* Here's an example: in my last post about disengagement, I wrote "every home-owner in the territories signed a contract acknowledging that they will leave if politics forces them to do so." I based this statement on information provided to me by a couple of settlers I've spoken with in the past. After that post, a friend of mine who recently (as in, the week before) bought a home in the West Bank called to tell me that she didn't sign any such thing. There was nothing at all like it anywhere in her contract. What does that mean? That my information was wrong? That it applied only to certain settlements and not others? That it used to be correct and is no longer? I don't know. I'll try to look into it and get back to you.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I'm Back

Sorry that I worried people there with my long absence. I really appreciated the emails and comments expressing concern. As you can see, I'm still alive, thanks be to the Lord.

I actually don't want to get into too many details about why I took a break from blogging. Suffice to say that it was a combination of two things. First, I've been feeling pretty "down" lately about some stuff, and didn't know how to address it in my blog, or whether to address it, or how I could pretend to be all happy when I wasn't. I realize that I don't "owe" you guys anything, certainly not to be "happy happy joy joy" all the time, but I do feel a responsibility to deliver the truth as I see it, and to keep blogging as if I was all OK, when I wasn't, just didn't feel right to me.

And then, just as I was starting to feel better about aforementioned "stuff," my mother got sick while in Boston, and was hospitalized. Since my father works in Ohio and my sister lives in California, it was a tough situation. So, I was in Boston for 10 days, keeping my mother company and making sure she got her meds on time, got her switched to a private room, etc. She's a lot better now, and in fact came home today (and my father is with her now), but it was a tough experience. Spending two Shabbatot in the hospital is so not fun. And now the jetlag is killing me. Last night I fell asleep at 4 am and woke up at 3 pm. I feel like the walking dead.

The good news is that prior to my trip, I took the plunge and bought a laptop. Please, no comments about how ridiculous it is that I, a freelance writer, did not already own one. I know, I know. I'd been planning to buy one in a few months, but with all this traveling, sped up the process. I'm now the proud owner of a Dell Inspiron 1150, with wireless internet. So I guess in a way I got a consolation prize in exchange for playing Florence Nightingale. Goodbye apartment, hello Cafe Faza!

The other good news is that I learned that my neighbor in Boston, Craig, is a tzaddik. He is the Ferris Bueller of the Bay State. A righteous dude. I cannot list all the ways that he made this trip 1000 percent easier and less stressful for me, because he is a modest tzaddik and would kill me. I exaggerate not when I say that without Craig, I would have lost my mind last week. Go check out his coffee site, or his home page, or hire his company to debug your computer, or check out his tutorial in deep frying a turkey. Or donate money to his non-profit organization. Tell him Chayyei Sarah sent you.

So, that's it. I'm back in Israel now, for 3 weeks. Then I head back to the USA again for my crazy long Passover vacation. Meanwhile I have a ton of assignments (thank God!), and a UYO seminar to plan for July (more about that later!), and errands to run (taxes, taxes), and of course now I have a 3-day Purim holiday because I'm lucky enough to live in Jerusalem. I'm hoping that Purim will work its magic on me and I'll feel more like myself again soon. But even if not, don't worry; bli neder, I'll keep blogging.

PS. Glamour. April issue. Page 58. Top left-hand corner.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I love you, but . . .

I know, I said I won't be blogging for a few days. I'm just coming out of temporary retirement to make a request to those friends who know who I am and are in the habit of calling me on the phone. It's easier to do it on the blog than to make individual requests, and anyway the original purpose of this blog was as a means to communicate with friends back home!

I love my friends. Dearly. I do not know what I would do without you.

But . . . in the last week or so, hardly a night has gone by that my phone hasn't rung after 11 pm. A couple of times, I got calls after midnight. Different people every time!

Now, each person who called is very close to my heart and I'm so happy to talk to you. I'm happy that you are thinking of me. But . . . . I'm tired.

So, please no calling after 10:30. Even though we all know that I stay up much later than that, the night you want to call might be the night that I've gone to sleep already. Of course exceptions can be made if we made an appointment, or if there's a medical emergency, or whatever. But in general . . . please . . . just because I work for myself doesn't mean I have no reason to get up in the morning!

Thanks for understanding! XOXOXO


Ten minutes after midnight. Just got a phone call.


People! Just because I have a VOIP phone with a New York area code does not mean I live in New York! The time difference is seven hours, OK? And I'm tired.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


I'm still alive, don't worry! But I'm busy with some other things I need to do. There may not be any new posts for several days. Sorry! Check back again, in like a week. I hope you'll miss me as much as I'll miss you. :-)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Manolo and The Miuccia and The Manolson

Manolo has posted this blog entry, with exerpts from an interview with Miuccia Prada, the world-famous designer of very beautiful and very expensive clothes and accessories. For those not in the loop, Manolo the Blogger is a very big fan of Prada's simplicity and elegance, both in her designs and in her personal style.

Amazing how two very influential people in the fashion world (yes, Manolo the Blogger very much matters; the man moves shoes) sound so very much like a Gila Manolson lecture or book. This blog entry is basically about tzniut!

I'm not going to blog at length about this because I've got other stuff I need to be doing right now. My only immediate thought is that I think there would be fewer misunderstandings about what tzniut really is if, instead of translating it as "modesty," which doesn't truly capture what it's all about, we translated it as "dignity." I think "dignity" is a more honest representation of the idea of tzniut, and more understandable to the world at large.

I've got a whole host of other things I could say about tzniut right now, both lofty and vent-y, but perhaps I should be writing articles so I can pay my bills . . . .
Thanks to my readers

Sometime last night, my sitemeter hit the 50,000 mark!

Thanks to all those of you who keep visiting Chayyei Sarah, and especially to those who leave all the wonderful, respectful, thought-provoking, or just funny comments that make blogging such a great experience for me. It's YOU who make Chayyei Sarah that much nicer, and also you who make the Chayyei of Sarah that much happier.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

I'm a Gali Girl, Living in a Gali World

I know I'm supposed to make fun of this. I know that the idea of frum dolls, complete with long skirts, Shabbat candles, and shule outfits is supposed to make me gag and scream "what? now the toys have to frum out?"

That was the gist of the post about these dolls on some other blog (I don't remember which now. Dov Bear? Allison? I can't remember) a couple weeks ago, and it's the gist of this post over at Town Crier.

And it's how I felt when I first heard about them. The 32-year-old in me thought "Time to put the finger down the throat."

Then I went to the site and saw the dolls.

And you know what my inner five-year-old little girl (of whom I take especial care) thought when she saw those dolls? This was the immediate reaction of Little Sarah:

"Those dolls are so cute, Mommy. Look, there are three. And three outfits. Can I have three, Mommy? During the week I'll dress them for school and they'll have school on my bed, and on Shabbos I'll change them into their Shabbos clothes and they'll play Shabbos groups and I'll invite over my friends and their Gali dolls and we'll all play Shabbos group, OK? Can you sew a flower in my skirt, Mommy? I want a blue skirt like that with a flower, just like that one. And when you light Shabbos candles, my doll will light them too, OK Mommy? And when we have Shabbos meals, Gali Girl will sit with us at the table in a special seat and SHE'LL make hamotzi TOO! Just like me! I'm going to wear my Gali Girl bracelet every day, and on Purim I'll be Queen Esther and my doll will be Queen Esther, and we'll go around and give out mishloach manot and everyone will see!"

In other words, if I were five, I'd be coveting these dolls, the way I used to covet Barbies.

And why not? Why not let little girls play with dolls who dress like they do and have activities like they do?

You know what my friend and I used to do with our Barbie dolls? Granted I was a little older, like eight -- which these days is too old for Barbie, who caters more to the 3-5 set. I used to go on Shabbos afternoons to visit a friend who was lucky enough to have TWO Barbie dolls and a Ken. Sometimes we'd play Fashion Show. But more often, we enacted stories -- week after week-- in which Ken was married or engaged to one of the Barbies, and having an affair with the other. Most weeks, one or both of the Barbies was pregnant, and either miscarried or went into labor when she heard that Ken was sleeping with someone else. I was eight. And this was back in 1980, before Monica Lewinsky. Before little girls started wearing skin-tight leggings and bare midriffs and halter tops that say "Juicy," before the standard age to start giving boys oral sex was twelve.

If there are little girls out there who want to dress up a little-girl doll in little-girl clothes -- one set of outfits for weekdays and one for Shabbos-- and play Purim and Birthday Party or whatever, and have their dolls wear matching Magen David bracelets, then I say: Bless you, little ones.

Enjoy your childhood while you still have it. Chayyei Sarah will not make fun of you for it. In fact, scoot over. I know a five-year-old who wants to play.
Sarah's Absorption into Israeli Society, Step #4,019

(This is a long post, probably interesting only to those contemplating Aliyah. Otherwise, don't complain if you think it's too boring. No one is forcing you to read my blog!)

I mentioned in my last post that when it comes to things like booking plane tickets, my philosophy is to call a few experts, and make a decision when you see that any further research would not yield enough monetary savings.

When I made aliyah, I applied that philosophy to my "immigrant rights," and had a much easier time than some in furnishing my apartment. You see, under certain conditions, new immigrants can have the customs taxes or the VAT (Value Added Tax) waived for home furnishings and appliances. If you buy something in Israel like a refrigerator or a couch, then you get a special form, take it to the tax authorities, take that BACK to the store, and get your item without paying the taxes. There are a lot of limitations, such as if you buy the item in Israel, it had to have been MADE in Israel. Also, not all stores are part of this system, so if you want to take advantage of the "right," you can't necessarily do it at any store.

I realized very early on that since I'd imported all my furniture in a "lift," live in a studio, and needed to buy only a few things -- most of which are not made in this country, and that I don't have a car in which to easily get myself to stores that provide the tax-free service, that it was not worthwhile to pay attention to this "right" (or, better translated, "privilege") that I have. The only things for which it may have been worth it for me were my desk and my fridge. But I fell in love with a German-made desk I found at Office Depot, which smartly doubles as a Shabbat table in my tiny apartment. And I bought my fridge used from an Ulpan classmate. While everyone else who had just made aliyah was taking copious notes and getting gray hairs over how to get a cheaper toaster oven, I was smugly sipping some Tapuzina and saying "screw it, I'd rather spend an extra 20 dollars on my microwave than spend a whole day running around the city to deprive the government of their VAT."

Were I furnishing a 3-bedroom apartment, and had thousands of shekels at stake, I would have approached this differently, of course. But I wasn't. So I didn't.

The key is to have as low-stress a klitah as possible, and that meant, sometimes, completely tuning out the avalanche of information being exchanged on the immigrant Yahoo groups, because most of it was irrelevent to me anyhow, at least for now. And sometimes it meant spending an extra few shekels here or there, because spending half a day going across Jerusalem on a bus in the July heat to save 35 shekels, when really you should be in Ulpan learning how to say things like "bank deposit" and "job interview," simply is not worth it.

And there were some "privileges" I paid some attention to, in the hopes I'll need them someday, but since I didn't need them now, I tried not to get too crazy about it. I paid only a little attention to what my "privileges" are in getting breaks on mortgages or the taxes on cars, because I can afford neither a mortgage nor a car right now, regardless of how much taxes the government might waive for me, a poor, helpless new immigrant.

Those first few months after my plane landed, I was dealing with moving into an apartment, breaking the lease on it (long story), finding another new apartment, learning my way around, getting a bank account, getting phone service, unpacking my lift, learning to pronounce my street name with a rolled R so that taxi drivers would understand which street I'm talking about, signing up for health insurance, getting ADSL and internet service (not the same thing here), getting a cell phone, replacing the small appliances I'd left behind because stuff here works on 220 V, learning in Ulpan, checking out shules, trying to remember the names of all the new people I was meeting, and getting frustrated because I -- the English teacher Journalist writer -- did not know how to express the most simple of thoughts in Hebrew.

One thing I did NOT accomplish during that time was getting my Israeli driver's license. Again, many of my friends had to do it, because they live in the suburbs with kids and needed a car right away, and therefore needed an Israeli driver's license immediately. But I have no car and no desperate need to rent one. I get along just fine with taxis and buses. I simply made sure that before my right to use my American license expired, I filled out the necessary paperwork with the Ministry of Transportation so that later, when I was ready, I'd have to take only one or two driving lessons, rather than the 30 (I think) or so required of new drivers here. Once that paperwork was done, I then had two years before I had to think about getting the license. I figured "I'll get settled in my new country, and then I'll worry about the driver's license."

Well, a few weeks ago, I finally realized that I have few excuses anymore not to get this done. I finished all the "urgent" stuff long ago, and feel a lot more settled and much lessed stressed, so it's time to think about the not-so-urgent stuff. I called a driving instructor and took a lesson (in mostly Hebrew!). He let me drive around for 45 minutes, and said all I need to do to prepare for the test is to learn the street signs and remember to keep both hands on the wheel at the exam; otherwise I'm ready (who knew that in Israel, the One Way sign is a blue square with a white arrow pointing up?). The way it works here is that the instructor applies for a test appointment for you, and calls you to tell you when it is.

Well, he called today. I might have my driving test tomorrow morning! Egads! I unburied my English-language Israeli driver's manual that I oh-so-intelligently bought many moons ago, pulled out the poster with all the road signs, taped it to my wall, and have been standing in front of it for the last 30 minutes, memorizing the signs for "no parking" and "no entry" and "reduction in number of lanes ahead," etc.

I'm not embarrassed about announcing here that my test is tomorrow, before knowing whether I've passed, because everyone knows that the Transportation Ministry is in cahoots with the instructors, and the whole system is corrupt, and if I fail it is not a personal comment on my driving abilities.

Anyway, all that was just to say that the next step in my klitah happens tomorrow. It only took me 19 months to get to it!

Au Revoir, Paris. Bonjour, car rental and the Galil!
What I did (update to yesterday's quandary)

I want to thank everyone for their suggestions of other travel agents, Orbitz, etc. Here's what happened:

1-Rivki, the travel agent, should win an award for patience in the face of adversary in the form of a very annoying client (me). She found me a very cheap flight to New York and back so I could research my Orbitz options, which I did. In the end, while Orbitz was a bit cheaper, the scheduling was ridiculous for various reasons (ie flights with a 34-minute layover in Phoenix and therefore a 90 percent chance that I or my luggage would miss the connection; arriving in California at midnight, necessitating my sister having to wait up for me; getting to Cleveland at 6 am, which is a pain for my parents, etc.) Meanwhile, Rivki had formed an itinerary for me that avoided both Miami and Paris, and has more acceptable connections than before.

So I went with the slightly more expensive, but moderately more convenient, option, and paid Rivki $1585 (for the ticket, taxes, and fees, only, not the other stuff like cab fares) to go like this:

  • Tel Aviv-Paris-Dallas-California
  • California-Chicago-Cleveland (so much more normal than going through Miami! Oh my God!)
  • Cleveland-Boston
  • Boston-New York
  • New York-Zurich (for 2 hours, not a whole day. Thank God!)- Tel Aviv
For those who believe I could have done better with more research: Perhaps. But after a certain point, the savings outweigh the research time. Time, too, is money. If I spend 5 hours contacting travel agents and doing dozens of searches on Orbitz, and I save $200, I've just made $40 an hour. But if I spend an additional 5 hours and save only another $100, my profit-per-hour has decreased by 50 percent. My philosophy: Call three places (ie two travel agents and Orbitz), get the best offers you can, and then make a decision based on the information you have. Going crazy to save another $50 just isn't worth it. I could be writing articles or watching Battle of the Planets during that time.

2- I got the most incredible call last night. I'm not writing too many details because I'm not sure of them. But basically, 3 of my friends in New York, upset that I was planning to spend only 1 night there (because, after all, Chayyei Sarah kind of has to work sometimes to pay her bills, and the trip just to see family was already almost 3 weeks long, which is financial suicide for a freelance writer, but she wanted at least one evening to see her old buddies), made up some sort of arrangement and one of them called me and offered to pay for a huge chunk of my ticket, on the condition that I'll stay in New York for a few extra days.

You cannot fathom how amazing it felt just to get that offer. The idea that there are people who love me so much that they are willing to pay to have more time with me is just . . . well, I cried, actually.

At first I refused, because how ridiculous is it to accept money from my friends? It's so gauche. And she said "You have to take it, because I promised my kids that you were coming for Shabbos, and because I'm going to spend it on you anyway. If you don't accept it for the ticket, I'm going to buy you a fancy cherry bowl or something."

Well, what would you rather have? A few days with a friend like that, or a cherry bowl?

And also, I was crying because I was so moved, so I wasn't really thinking straight enough to come up with a good enough reason to refuse.

Then I realized that by extending my trip those few days, I'll be able to attend the upcoming New York wedding of acquaintances of mine who met at my Shabbos table. To which my friend responded: "And that's a mitzva, so it's really so you can do a mitzva."

This friend, by the way, is the "former Lubavitch" friend hailed by Miriam and me as "Orthodoxy Done Right." Note that I felt that way about her even before she offered me a plane ticket or a cherry bowl. (And Miriam, of course, is one of the "posse" members who apparently is making this possible, the third being Jessica Q.)

::sniff:: sniff:: I'm the luckiest person ever.

Au revoir, Pierre. Bonjour, New York!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What to do? What to do?

So, I'm coming to the United States for Pesach. [Note to potential burglars: A wonderful young couple studying here for the year will be living in my apartment during that time - their landlord is kicking them out for the holiday. I can only assume that his right to do this is in their lease. I sure hope so.]

Anyhow, I called my travel agent, Efrat at World Class Travel, who got me a price quote on a ticket that would give me a day in New York (friends), a week in California (sister), Pesach in Cleveland (parents), and a couple days in Boston (grandmother). Total cost: around $1750, plus of course all the other costs of the trip (taxis, etc). OUCHORAMA.

Then Yael told me she'd gotten a great deal for a similar itinerary (ie East Coast, California) through Rivki at Big Ben Tours. So I called Rivki and got another possible itinerary -- this one several hundred dollars cheaper. So I called Efrat again to see if she could beat Rivki's offer. I increased my flexibility, and she found better options.

With all the other hidden costs (such as cab fares, car rentals, etc) added in for each option, here are my two choices:

Rivki's offer: For a total of $1625 (again, including taxes, cab fares, etc), I can take American Airlines from
  • Tel Aviv to California via Paris (5 hour stopover) and Dallas (3 hour stopover). Stay in California for a week.
  • Then fly to Cleveland via Miami (total travel time from California to Cleveland: 12 hours, the same as the flight from Tel Aviv to New York. Ridiculous! But actually shorter than going through Dallas, which involves a very long stopover. Sucks!). Spend Pesach in Cleveland.
  • Then fly to LaGuardia and have 1 evening with my friends in New York, where I'd stay overnight.
  • Then take a bus to Boston and see my grandmother, and spend the night there.
  • Then, fly to Tel Aviv via Paris, where I would have an entire day (7 am to 10:30 pm minus a few hours to get back to the airport) to go into the city and see some sites (I've never been to Paris). I allowed $100 for having a fun "Springtime in Paris" day. You think that's enough? I don't know how much things cost over there. You think I'd meet a gorgeous Jewish guy named Pierre who would fall madly in love with me and follow me to Jerusalem, where he would whisper sweet nothings to me in a French accent and ply me with excellent wine, crusty breads, and steaks in yummy sauces? OK, fine, whatever.
Summary: Sucky, counterintuitive connections adding an entire day and a lot of exhaustion to the trip, and I have to spend 4 hours in a smelly Greyhound bus, but the price is better by around $250 (which is a lot for me) and I'd get to see Paris.

Efrat's offer: For a total of around $1880 I can take Continental from . . .
  • Tel Aviv to California via Newark. I would be stopped in Newark from 5 in the morning until 5:45 in the evening (minus a few hours to get back to the airport), so I could, theoretically, go into New York and have a lunch date with some friends. But basically my friends work during the day so I'm not sure who I'd get to see. Then, spend a week in California.
  • Fly to Cleveland via Washington (weird and counterintuitive, but less time consuming, by a few hours, than going through Miami as Rivki's offer has me doing. 1-hour stopover.). Spend a week in Cleveland.
  • Then from Cleveland to Boston, where I'd see my grandmother and spend a night.
  • Then fly from Boston to Newark, and have 1 evening with my friends. Spend the night in New York.
  • Direct flight from Newark to Tel Aviv.
Summary: Costs an extra $250 or so (which I can't afford), but the connections are nicer: my flight to California is broken up by a day in New York (though I'm not sure who I'd get to see during the day), I don't fly through Miami to get to Cleveland, and I totally avoid Greyhound. I also avoid encountering anti-Semitic French people, but miss the chance to get some culture and meet Pierre.

Decisions, decisions . . .

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What does "Orthodoxy done right" mean to you?

In the last couple of days, two bloggers whose work I enjoy very much have referred to the idea of "Orthodoxy done right."

Mobius (aka Orthodox Anarchist, aka Dan Sieradski) wrote in his wonderful "Becoming Shomer Shabbos" post:

. . . Esty is amazing. She makes me want to be frum. She's seriously my favorite frum girl in the world (like I said), and I have the utmost respect and appreciation for her and everything she's about. She consistently amazes me and just makes me feel very good about Orthodoxy and Orthodox people, because she's so emblematic of what happens when Orthodoxy is done right.

The same day, Da'as Hedyot, in a post about Wendy Shalit's "Could all the fiction writers please only write basically positive things about frum people" piece in the New York Times, wrote:

Orthodoxy done right can be a wonderful, inspiring, fulfilling lifestyle. I truly believe that. But not everyone has a great Orthodox experience. Not every Orthodox person is so wonderful. And not every Orthodox experience is so inspiring.

Here we have two people -- one who is on a very individualistic path toward traditional Orthodox observance, the other trying to extricate himself (herself? Do we really know?) from the Haredi lifestyle in which he (she?) grew up -- both indicating that when Orthodoxy is done "the right way" it is inspiring to others who may have negative feelings or just ignorance about it.

So I'm wondering -- and I'm hoping that, in particular, people who are not Orthodox will answer this question -- what does "Orthodoxy done right" look like? What kind of Orthodox person is it whose personality or lifestyle or approach makes other people think, if only for a moment, that being Orthodox might be meaningful or worthwhile? What are those people doing that make you say not just "oh, that's a nice person" but also "if Orthodoxy produces someone like that, then Orthodoxy must have something meaningful to offer"?

In other words, what does "Orthodoxy done right" mean to you?


Just to be crystal clear: I'm asking for character descriptions of Orthodox people you find inspiring, or what traits in Orthodox people you find inspiring. I am not providing an excuse for people to vent about Orthodox people they do not like. Not here, not on this blog, not now. Any comment that I deem to be more about venting than about answering my question will be deleted. Period.

As you were.
"Miss Natalie Portman"

Funny song here.

This post dedicated to Judah Kaplan.