Sunday, December 31, 2006

On Israel and Victoriana (or, my latest article)

Here it is, in the new issue of the World Jewish Digest, my story about Israeli jewelry designer Michal Negrin, whose work is one of Israel's biggest fashion exports.

I'm curious to know: After reading the article, what do you think that I think about her jewelry?
Need computer help? We got that.

So sorry I haven't posted for a few days. I have a sick amount of work to do. (Thank God. Mostly.)

And in the middle of all that work, my computer stopped connecting to the internet.

Let me say this again. My computer would not connect to the internet. Not to wireless, not by cable. Not at my house, not in an internet cafe. Not with Firefox, and not with Explorer.

Disaster! Utter, complete, professional disaster!

Luckily, there were three companies that quickly came to my rescue. And I mean QUICKLY. Took my phone calls and helped me right away, in English. Paid house calls. Worked with each other to make everything go faster. They were a dream. So I'm going to tell you how to reach them, in case you ever need their services.

My first call was to Daniel Zahavi-Asa of Zahavi Net, Ltd. Daniel set up my at-home network many months ago, and when I called to tell him what was happening, he walked me through various tests on the phone. As always he was very professional and thorough, and though he couldn't fix the problem this time, he's always a pleasure to talk to. And he recommended that I call Judah at Laptop Center (see below). Daniel can be reached at 057. 726. 5175.

Judah Hauser is the Sales and Service Director at Laptop Center Computers Ltd ("Parts, Repair & Upgrade services for Laptop Computers"). He charged me a very reasonable price for fixing my computer's problem, which turned out to be corrupted software. He also tweaked a few things that helps my computer run faster now. But best of all, when he heard where I live, he arranged for Yair at IL Wireless (see below) to come get my computer for me and bring it to Judah's office, so that I wouldn't have to shlep to Har Chotzvim. And, when he was done fixing the computer, he personally brought it back to my house! And he was so nice! Thanks, Judah! 1-700-50-00-60.

Finally, we have the truly awesome Yair Solow of IL Wireless ("communication solutions"), who rented me a laptop PC to use while mine was in the Hauser Hospital. Yair lives nearby and came over to bring me the rental and take my broken computer, so he could give it to Judah the next day (apparently their offices are next door to each other - how convenient). The rental terms were very reasonable, and Yair proved to be both flexible and professional. The next time you are in Jerusalem and want to rent a laptop, call Yair. 052.384. 0257.

It's such a pleasure to reward good service with a little publicity on my blog. I sincerely was amazed by the extra lengths all three of these people go to in order to please their customers. Kol hakavod to all of them.

Monday, December 25, 2006

To all my Christian readers,

Have a very joyous and serene holiday!

Chayyei Sarah

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You Heard It Here First

This is definitely about to be the most inappropriate thing I've ever blogged about. Those of you who are very very frum, or who wish to maintain your image of me as being the picture-perfect Nice Orthodox Girl, please, look away now. I thought about waiving the opportunity to post about this, but . . . hey, it gives me a little thrill, to subvert people's images of me. And besides, if this doesn't earn me a link by Esther Kustanowitz, I'll eat my hat.

About 5 years ago, I attended an event at my alma mater, Barnard College, about women in the print media industry, or, more specifically, how to become a member of the print media industry. There was a panel of three Barnard alumnae, each at a different stage of her career, each representing a different sort of media and different experiences getting to where they were. They spoke in turn about what they'd accomplished and how, and then during the Q&A the 150 or so Barnard students and graduates in the audience asked for insights and advice.

I was struck by one of the panel members, an alumna by the name of Ronnie Koenig. I'd never met her before, though apparently she graduated from the school around the same time I did. She was smart and polished and funny, confident yet self-effacing, and she was on the panel because she was the editor of . . . Playgirl.

I suspected that with a name like Ronnie Koenig, and her brown hair and petite frame, and her self-effacing humor, that she might be Jewish. I was the New York correspondent for the Jewish Chronicle of London, and was looking for interesting New York Jews to profile. So a few days later I called Ronnie, confirmed that yes she is indeed a Jew, and we set an appointment to do an interview.

There she is. The text is hard to read, so here are highlights (as an extra prize you get text from the version I sent in to the paper, which was cut from the printed version):

Ronnie Koenig grew up in a stereotypical Jewish home - but that didn't prevent her editing Playgirl, the female version of Playboy, until a few months ago.

Her father, a judge, and her mother, a full-time mum, enrolled her in Hebrew school and took her to synagogue on High Holy days. She had a bat mitvzvah and joined a Hillel while she was getting her Master of Fine Arts degree . . . [S] he went to work for the magazine having answered an advert in the New York Times reading: "writer/editor. Must be comfortable with male nudity."

During her job interview, she recalls, she had to look through a copy of Playgirl with minimal flinching, and was asked to write accompanying text for a pictorial of a man running through a sand dune with only a spear and his birthday suit.

Her rise was rapid -- the magazine has a high turnover rate. . . . by the age of 26, she was editor-in-chief.

“My father has been very cool about it,” Ms Koenig told the JC.

“My mother says she’s OK with it. But one time I gave her a copy of the magazine to show her articles I’d written, and the next time I came home I found that issue in a drawer under my bed. She keeps a folder with all my certificates and prizes, and I guess Playgirl didn’t make it into the folder.”

Her fiancee, luckily, has been quite understanding, though according to Ms Koenig, he is uncomfortable -- for two reasons.

“First, he doesn’t like that I’m looking at naked men all day,” she said. “He doesn’t believe that I don’t go to work to be turned on. But of course I can’t get turned on at work. How could I have gotten anything done?”

Besides, she added, she was not attracted to the type of men featured in Playgirl. “I like skinny artist types,” she remarked.

Less seriously, her fiance complained: "I can never run for President now. You can't have a First Lady who was the editor of Playgirl."

That bothered him for a day, she said, smiling. Then he came to realise that he probably wouldn't run for President anyway. "He's a writer and an actor," she noted. . . .

After two years at Playgirl, an experience she described as a “crash course in running a magazine,” Koenig is focusing now on playwriting and screenwriting. . . .

But she’ll always have Playgirl on her resume. It’s a great conversation-starter. “People assume the magazine is run by gay men,” she said, “or by housewives with dyed red beehives and housedresses, or by sexpots with male servants in fig leaves feeding us grapes. They are very surprised to see I’m this little Jewish girl.”

Well. That was, um, nice, eh? I really enjoyed meeting Ronnie. I think in general I enjoy meeting women who are intelligent and fun . . . and, yet, so not like me. It's like entering another universe where things are upside down, and a witty, sophisticated graduate of Barnard College can spend all her time editing photos of men without their shirts . . . or their pants . . . except . . . this is not science fiction. It's real.

A few months later I got together with her again. The Barnard archives had given away some very old yearbooks, which I'd nabbed, and Ronnie came over to drink coffee and look at pictures from the 1920's and 30's. She told me that she was in the process of writing a one-woman show about her experiences as a pornography editor.

Jump ahead half a decade. I recently received this in my email:

Horse Trade Presents: A Firecracker Production
Dirty Girl
Join us this January at The Kraine Theater for the world premiere of a play that dares to ask the age-old question:
How does a nice Jewish girl from Long Island
navigate her way through a world of oily, naked men
in an outfit that's dry clean only?!
Based on the real-life experiences of playwright Ronnie Koenig (who was the editor of Playgirl magazine from 2000-2002), Dirty Girl is a multimedia extravaganza featuring Koenig as Dori Richter, a girl whose life is forever changed when she answers an ad in the newspaper for a “writer/editor" who “must be comfortable with male nudity."
A cast of talented young actors take on multiple roles to accompany Dori on a wild, comedic ride, from the offices of the fictional Loverboy magazine to steamy photo shoot locales, in her quest to find a woman who actually likes the beefcakes in the magazine.
Featuring Corrie Beula, Bridget Harvey*, Ronnie Koenig,
Michael Littner & Jesse Teeters
(*appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association)
Directed by Robert W. McMaster
Costumes by Krista Thomas
Design by Edward Hodge
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street, NYC
January 4 - 6, 11 - 13, 18 - 20, 25 - 27 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $18
For more information visit or
Purchase tickets through SmartTix at 212.868.4444 or
Sponsored by Secrets in Lace

What can I say? I don't exactly want to encourage my friends to see the show, though Ronnie assures me there is no nudity in it, male or female. (I did not ask how close to nudity they get, though.) On the other hand, I like Ronnie a lot, and I'm proud to have a casual acqaintance who is coming out with her own show. And, it sounds like it will be really funny.

So, there it is. I have a friend who used to be a porn editor, and now she's written and stars in a new show about being a porn editor. And she's Jewish. And she's very sharp and talented. But you should not see her show, because it's inappropriate.

Ach, I'll let Esther figure it out.
Funny Dads Behind the Camera


Monday, December 18, 2006

Tremendous Opportunity for Someone

The blogger known as "MOChassid" and his family have been fostering various Jewish kids for years. Now, one of the children with whom they have the longest and deepest relationships is up for adoption. He's 12 years old, Orthodox (in practice and belief, despite the fact that his upbringing certainly is nothing anyone would call "traditional"), and is looking for new parents in the New York metro area. If you have room in your family for this amazing, complicated kid, contact MOChassid.
Next UYO in Jerusalem - Save the Dates!

I'm pleased to be able to announce that the next UYO course in our beautiful capital will be held February 21-24 (Wednesday evening, all day Thursday, all day Friday, with an optional Shabbat dinner during the course), once again at Livnot Ulehibanot on Rehov Ben Zakkai.

Here is what students had to say about the November class:

"It was a very intense weekend with a lot of emotions and opportunities to explore people really deeply, without the masks they wear in normal situations. This made closeness very easy, and very soon I had new friends . . . But the most interesting person I met during the course is myself. Hopefully it will be the start of a new friendship between me and myself, and this time based on truth." - Avi T.

"What I gained from the course has already made me a better parent. I'm more patient with my children now, and with myself, when we make mistakes." -- Sarah S.

"I felt pretty cynical coming into the course. But I have to admit that I learned tools that I not only use, they are extremely important to me. And now, a month later, I find that I really miss the people I met in the class. I can't wait to see them again." - L.

"I want to thank my daughter for encouraging me to attend, and the instructors for their encouragement and support . . . I learned that I have a lot of anger in me, but you sparked a light in me, to use my own inner wisdom at my own pace. It was a great experience to have met all of you. The connection was awesome. Thank you for including me in your efforts to know oneself and others." -- Jeanette P.

If you live in Israel and want more information about the February UYO course, just send me an email at chayyeisarah at yahoo dot com, with your name, email address, and phone number. As soon as the enrollment forms are available I'll send them to you.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Proud to be a reader of the (winning) Sandmonkey and Treppenwitz

Well, it sure is nice to know that my opinions have gone mainstream! (?) Two of my favorite bloggers, the snarky and courageous Egyptian Sandmonkey and the coffee-loving, elipsis-addicted, not snarky at all Israeli Treppenwitz, have come in first and second place, respectively, in the 2006 Weblog Awards for "Best Middle East or Africa Blog." Congratulations to both of you! Yes, I'll admit to having split my votes between you.

Apparently, Sandmonkey was not using up all his good ideas to rake in votes, because since winning the competition, he has put up two must-read posts back to back:

1) Very important news-related post about the efforts of the Bahai community in Egypt to win the right (which they used to have, but it's recently been revoked) to have their religion put on their ID cards, death certificates, etc. At the moment, the only religions which an Egyptian may list on official documents are Muslim, Christian, or Jew (which I guess applies to the 80 or so old Jewish ladies who are still living in Egypt). Unfortunately, the court struck down their case, and Sandmonkey reports, through a friend who attended the judgement as a gesture of solidarity with the Bahai, that one of the judges cited Bahai's not believing in Jihad as a reason that Egypt cannot recognize it. Nice. Real nice.

I like the suggestion by one of Sandmonkey's commenters, to the effect that the Bahai should just start picking Judaism as their falsely-adopted religion, in protest. Cute, but probably not safe.

2) And next, Sandmonkey's post about the chances of Israel posing a real nuclear threat to its neighbors is a must-read. I admire this guy's ability to make me laugh while reading about a potential nuclear holocaust.

I've been thinking a lot lately, maybe too much, about the very real possibility of Iran dropping an atomic bomb on . . . me . . . and what that means. And what I believe. And what I'm willing to die for. And what I want to live for. Another post for another time . . . but meanwhile I am truly freaking out. I'm seriously starting to function under the assumption that I have about 18 months to live. Another post for another time. And maybe it's time to call my therapist . . . because either there is going to be a nuclear holocaust, or not. If I believe not, then no problem. If I believe there will be, or might be, then I just have to decide whether to stay or run away. I'm not running away. So, if I'm going to stay, there's really no point in freaking out, because freaking out won't cause the Boogie Man of Iran to not try to wipe me and everything around me off the map. But, see, the mind might say "there is no point in freaking out, I'm not going anywhere no matter what," but the survival instinct is saying "living in the Middle East is definitely the most illogical thing I've ever done. And that's really saying something."

Another post for another time.

Anyhoo, I had a very nice Shabbat at the home of my friends Ari and Sarah Beth. You know, it's Chanukah. And they live in Chashmonaim. How could I not go? It was a veritable UYO reunion, too, with 5 of us staying in the house who had been to the course, and another who lives down the street who came over for dessert on Friday night. That was really nice. And I have to say, being at Ari and Sarah Beth's home always lifts my spirits. I had sort of a cruddy week last week, so I needed it.

Hopefully, what with chanukah and all, this week will be better. I also have a LOT of work, thank God! In the next 4 weeks I have 7 large stories due, plus a corporate writing assignment (helping a company write a business plan. Yes, I understand market analysis-ese, though not as a first language by any means). So, 'tis good.

Happy Chanukah.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


After years of being told "But you don't have a Boston accent!" I've been caught (does NOT sound the same as "cot") by an internet quiz.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Boston

You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine.

The Northeast

The Midland

The West


The Inland North

North Central

The South

What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz


Later . . .

Oh, my God! It did it again!

Dude! You're 68% from Massachusetts!

Okay, either you come from the western half of the state or from the Boston area. Still, it's not bad, so I'll give you the thumbs up. Cool!

How Massachusetts are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz


Later . . .

Thought I'd do a "control" test, to make sure the Massachusetts thing wasn't a fluke, or that everyone gets the same answer.

You Are 23% New Jersey!

You are not New Jersey, based on this score. You're probably not from this great state. And if that is true, then you are missing out, my friend!

How New Jersey Are You?
Make Your Own Quiz

Wo! It did it again!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

By the way . . .

My Shabbat lunch at the home of my Chareidi relatives went quite nicely. None of the kids said that I do anything assur, maybe because their mother spoke with them, or maybe because I was wearing long winter sleeves and did not mention anything about learning gemara. Everyone was very nice to me, and we had a good time laughing over the Jeremy story.

Watching how the parents are raising their kids, though, is a fascinating sort of sociological study. It's fascinating how they are in tune with broader society in some ways, self-aware and perfectly reasonable, and yet so close-minded and racist, in others.

On the "OK, my relatives are fairly normal" side, at one point the children started talking about some older kids they know who make a habit of going to Route 1 on Saturday afternoons to yell "Shabbos! Shabbos!" at the passing cars. My young 3rd cousins once removed were very excited about this idea and wanted to go too. To teach the chilonim about Shabbos! To which my cousin Shimmy replied "No way. Absolutely not. This is not something you should do." The kids said "But Abba! It's a mitzva to give mussar!" and their father replied "Not if the people will not listen. This is not an appropriate way to give mussar. No way. You are not going. End of story." Chevy also told me a story about a neighbor "who is very normal" whose son went to the highway to yell at the cars, and the neighbor leaned out the window and yelled at him: "If you don't stop that right now and come home, I'm going to lock the door and you're NOT coming home." Perhaps not effective parenting (especially since the kid didn't listen), but I'm glad that in Chevy's book, NOT wanting your kids to yell "Shabbos, Shabbos" at the cars qualifies as "normal."

Of course, I would have liked for them to go a step further, to tell the kids "if you really want the chilonim to keep Shabbos, the best way is to invite them over and share Shabbos with them, so maybe they will see how wonderful it is to keep Shabbos." But they didn't. No explanation of WHY yelling at cars is not effective mussar. Just that it's not. Some of the kids were certainly more than old enough to understand.

But it goes back to the question, I guess, of how much you can blame a group for not speaking up more against the flawed behavior that comes out of their communities. Is it enough to simply not engage in that behavior? To tell your kids that they can't, when clearly they are picking messages -- probably from their friends -- that the behavior is not only OK, but laudable?

Food for thought.

Anyway, the main reason I visit these relatives as often as I do is that, with the exception of my wonderful (chiloni) cousins in Petach Tikva, Shimmy is the ONLY blood relative I have in Israel, that I know of. I settled with them a long time ago that I don't sleep over at their house for Shabbat, because staying in a 3-bedroom apartment with them and their 9 children is way too intense and noisy for me. So I walk over for lunch, and then either walk back later or take a taxi home after Shabbat ends.

But the walk is getting old. It's an hour and 15 minutes, uphill all the way, to get to them. If any of my readers know people in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood or its environs, who have room for a guest, or if you know of a bed and breakfast or something, I'd appreciate having someplace to sleep closer to my cousins. The walk from my house is getting really annoying.
For your viewing pleasure

I introduce THE SHORT CIRCUS!!!

(Oh my God! I totally remember that song!)

And for your reading pleasure . . . my profile of Israeli model Esti Elias is finally up. Click here, and scroll down to page 12 (the story is written under the pseudonym I sometimes use, Rachel M. Sprintzer)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Appreciation Wednesday (on Thursday)

So, appropo of nothing, lately I've been thinking of how lucky I am to live in a time and place where painkillers are available. No, I haven't needed them -- was never much of a painkiller type of gal -- but . . . just imagine, when we've got an ache or a cramp or a scrape or a bump, relief is often just a little, widely-available (for us) pill away. Even for bigger stuff like surgeries, there are narcotics. Yeah, they come with their own risks . . . but I have to say, I remember the exact moment when I woke up from the anesthesia after a (relatively minor) surgery I had, and was in a lot of pain, and from out of the hazy fog a nurse stuck a syringe in my leg and gave me an injection of codeine, and, I promise, ever since then I consider codeine one of God's gifts to humankind. (No, I never had any more after that. I'm appreciative, not dumb.)

Speaking of surgery, excuse me, but how lucky are we to live in the age of anesthetics? Hello? If something in your body needs to be fixed, they can put you to sleep, and you don't wake up until after it's over. Wow. I am so glad to have been born when I was born. That is just incredible. It's like magic.

Believe me, I know that painkillers are not always magic. My mother has a chronic illness and has a long-term relationship with a Pain Specialist. Sometimes the answers are not available. But just think: There are enough options for how to manage or eradicate pain that there are Pain Specialists. Wow. Not so long ago, a person in pain just had to live with it. Now, so many of us don't, not usually. We live in a privileged time and place.


I was looking around at some Chanukah videos on YouTube, and you know, I appreciate Adam Sandler. His movies may be insulting to one's intelligence, but I just love his Chanukah Songs. He went out there and said "Yeah, I'm a Jew, and that's cool with me. Cool for you too. Let's make up a funny song about it." Meanwhile the rest of Hollywood tries to downplay their Jewishness, in ways that are so Jewish you gotta wonder who they think they are kidding. So I appreciate that Adam Sandler just walked away from that game, picked up his guitar, and told millions of people "hey, hi, being a Jew is OK, man. And, yeah, there are a lot of us in Hollywood. So what? It's just about entertainment, folks. Nothing more, nothing less. You feeling out of place, maybe a little uncomfortable about being a Jew? Hey, if looking up to Hollywood superstars makes you feel better, way to go. We're just going to have some fun, OK, and not take ourselves too seriously during this Christmas season. We're just gonna be laid back and be ourselves. So get out your harmonica, 'cause it's time for hanukah. Tell your friend Veronica, it's time for hanukah."

Adam, thanks for the laughs.

And while I'm at it, the other notable "hey, hello, I'm Jewish, big time, and I'm in Hollywood, yeah. Your point being, what?" actor I appreciate is Natalie Portman. Natalie Portman isn't just totally up-front about being Jewish, the girl took time off to spend a semester at Hebrew University a couple of years ago, and gladly praises Israel's virtues during her interviews. When her college newspaper ran a story critical of Israel, she went out of her way to send a rebuttal to the editor, which of course was published, and made headlines around the world.

I'm not saying that either of these actors are Jewish role models. Natalie, for example, dates non-Jewish men all the time. And they are actors, for heaven's sake, not rabbis or great thinkers or scientists working on a cure for cancer (though Natalie happens to be exceptionally bright in general). But I appreciate them, because Hollywood isn't very supportive of getting out there and saying "I'm Jewish and I love that." Adam Sandler and Natalie Portman are up-front about who they are. That's so worth appreciating, in anyone, but especially for people for whom any perceived media faux pas could cost millions of dollars.


And, finally, I appreciate the people who made this video:

Happy Chanukah to all my Jewish readers.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dialogue with My Chareidi Distant-Cousin

Sarah: Hi, Chevy. It's Sarah!

Chevy: Sarah, how nice to hear from you. How are you?

Sarah: Doing great. [Small talk commences about UYO, how are her kids, how is she doing, etc] . . . I was wondering if we could schedule a time to see each other?

Chevy: Sure! When do you want to come?

Sarah: How about lunch this Shabbos?

Chevy: That sounds great. We'd all love to see you. The kids get so excited when you come.

Sarah: I look forward to it. Look, there's something I want to ask you, a favor. It's hard for me to say this because sometimes it's hard for me to ask for what I want, but I figure I'll tell you what I want and then you can do whatever you want with it . . .

Chevy: Okay . . .

Sarah: The last time I came, I was playing with Rachelah (age 5), who I love. Rachelah is my baby doll. And it was summer, so I was wearing sleeves to my elbow, you know? And she said 'why are you wearing short sleeves?' I said 'because it's the summer.' And she said 'but you are over bat mitzvah. It's assur (prohibited) for you to wear short sleeves.' And one of your boys told me it's assur for me to be learning gemara.

Chevy: [unreadable tone] Mmmm . . .

Sarah: And, you know, I understand that in your neighborhood it is assur to wear elbow-length sleeves. I would never, for example, tell Rachelah that it's ok for her to wear sleeves to her elbow to her school, because your community has standards, and you have to meet those standards.

Chevy: Yeah, mm hmm . . .

Sarah: But I'd like the kids to know that there are frum rabbis who say that wearing sleeves to your elbow is OK. They aren't the rabbis you follow, but I'm not doing anything assur. I'm just following rabbis who are more meikil (lenient). The same with the gemara. I know it's controversial. But it's not assur. There are many frum rabbis who support it. I'm not doing an aveira (sin), I'm just following a different opinion and a different outlook. I'm not going to be judged negatively in shamayim (Heaven) for it, I'm following rabbanim who say it's OK.

Chevy: For sure. I understand. I'll talk to the kids.

Sarah: I don't know how you feel about it yourself, but if nothing else, it's not polite for the kids to tell a guest that they are doing something assur.

Chevy: No, for sure, you're not doing anything wrong. You're just in a different group. It's a different hashkafa. I'm glad you said something. It's important for us to know if the kids do something that makes you feel bad. I'll talk to them.

Sarah: Oh, thank you so much. Do you want me to bring anything for lunch? Like, before Shabbat?

Chevy: Nah, why should you? It's not like you live next door. We'll just be happy to see you.

Sarah: Well, I'd like to help you. If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know.

Chevy: OK, good. How about noon, then? See you on Shabbos.

Sarah: Great. See you then.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A few tidbits

Thanksgiving dinner was amazing. The food was delicious, if I do say so myself. The turkey was golden and yummy. Mmmmm . . . . until next year . . .

Still thinking about the people I angered last week. It's a funny thing, making other people angry. I can go through all the thoughts about "why did I word my post the way I did" and "how could I have said this more clearly" and "how much did I intend to anger other people" and "is there a more constructive way I could have gone about this" . . . but even with all the self-reflection in the world, there is still a point after which it seems to me that other people are choosing to read things into my post which simply are not there, and how much responsibility can or should I really take for other people choosing to be insulted for things I did not say? When the line between "my fault" and "not my problem" is blurry, I feel sort of complicated about it. Food for thought . . .

I haven't made a chance to mention this yet, but if you follow the weekly parsha or just like Bible stories, get thee, quickly, to the site of the Maggid of Bergenfield, where Teaneck's Larry Stiefel churns out highly entertaining weekly stories that connect -- somehow -- to the parsha. For me the drama comes from trying to figure out how in the world he'll connect, say, a stylist named Claire at Supercuts to Parshat Toldot, or how Mirriam Margolis might try to re-create Avraham's tests in Lech Lecha. The connections are often suprising and unexpected, the stories humorous . . . all in all, it's worth a weekly check-in!

And speaking of other blogs, my lovely Kinja account informs us that Nice Jewish Girl has updated her blog! Good to see she's alive and well!

In a few days (b'H, bli neder) I'll be announcing the dates of the next UYO course in Israel. If you live here and would like to attend, drop me an email letting me know your email address and phone number, and I'll email you all the registration materials as soon as they are ready to go.

It's getting chilly in Jerusalem. I have my heat on pretty much 24/7, and choosing to stay inside with a cup of hot cocoa as opposed to going out.

Speaking of hot cocoa, the New York Times had a recipe online today for a drink called "Hot Dominicana," invented at a cocktail lounge in Manhattan's trendy meat-packing district. It sounds yummy . . . if only my kitchen were not all fleishiks . . . I'm thinking about trying to convince some establishments on Emek to start offering this . . .


- 10 oz high-quality chocolate, at least 60 percent cocoa content
- 2 cups milk
- 3 oz rum (the Times specified a brand, but we keep kosher here, so use what you can)
- 3 oz coffee liquor (ditto regarding the brand)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream


1. Heat up the milk. Once it is scalding, pour it over the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate melts.

2. Put the coffee liquor and the rum into a metal cocktail shaker, and heat it quickly with the steam nozzle of a cappucino machine

3. Pour the hot liquor into the chocolate mixture (in the video on the Times website, they poured both mixtures simultaneously into a glass mug)

4. Vigorously shake the cream in a squeeze bottle for 45 seconds, and gently pour it onto the chocolate so it sits on top.

5. Optional: Garnish with chocolate shavings and a family hug.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Overall, a good week

Despite having pissed off some people, I've had a pretty good week.

On Monday, with the help of a nice Machon Gold girl, I completely cleaned my apartment, something that hadn't happened since before UYO. All the dust is gone, the dishes are not only clean but also reorganized in the cabinets so that I can find them more easily, I gave the bathroom a deep scrubbing, and I am so relieved! Having everything clean at once is such a great feeling.

Monday night was the follow-up meeting for UYO, and almost everyone from the course came, and almost everyone had really positive things to say about constructive changes they'd made in the past week in their lives as a result of the course. It feels good to know that I provided a program that helped not only the participants, but many of those with whom they interact.

Tuesday night, I went out to dinner with my friend and former roommate Rivka K, who was in Israel this week scoping out various girls' seminaries as part of her job as Israel Guidance Counselor at a girls' high school in the States. It was very special, talking and laughing with her. I learn so much from her. Rivka K is my hero!

Wednesday night, three soon-to-be-new friends came over to watch Galaxy Quest. These are three geek friends I recently met, people with deep interests in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and none of them had ever seen this comedic classic, which pokes fun, brilliantly, at Star Trek fans! I couldn't believe it! So, they came bearing pizza, and we rectified this glaring hole in their education. I've seen the film, like, six times, but I still caught new jokes . . . and it was such a pleasure listening to the other three laughing hysterically.

And last night, I started cooking for Shabbat. I'm making Thanksgiving dinner tonight. Yeah, a week late, I know. Basically, I didn't make Thanksgiving last week because, what with UYO and all, I hadn't had time to think about it. But last Thursday I felt sad about missing it. So I'm serving Thanksgiving favorites tonight for a few friends. On the menu:

1) Beth's pumpkin and carrot soup, made with the immersion blender I just bought! It came out delicious!

2) Eight pounds of turkey, which I specially ordered at my local supermarket . . . and had the guy cut the bird in half for me, since I can't fit a whole turkey into my counter-top oven. It is baking as I write this. MMmmmmm . . . . .

3) Stuffing. Mmmmm . . . .

4) Cranberry relish. Mmmmmm . . . .

5) A guest is bringing a sweet-potato dish

6) Corn on the cob

7) A guest is bringing Apple Crisp for dessert. Mmmmm . . . .

Starchy, but so good!

AND, Michael Gibson finally finished the last episode of "Ambition," this interactive Mystery Game, so we finally found out who really killed Angie! Finally! Now I can sleep!

Have a Shabbat Shalom.
No Applause Necessary

Wow. It's amazing when I am faced with physical evidence that my journalism work results in actual change.

Especially as the result of an article about weddings styles in The Jewish Week's "Catered Events" supplement.

Less than three weeks after the appearance of this article, with the accompanying photo which I myself took, Claire's has taken down the posters advertising the skeazy dresses from outside their store. Where the skeazy dresses used to be, are now empty metal frames. I never called the dresses "skeazy" in the article, I just quoted wedding planners as pointing out that, compared to what American brides like, Israeli wedding dresses tend to be "full full full of glitter" and "unbelievably revealing, so revealing there is nothing left to glitz on." But it's easy to put 2 and 2 together.

It will be interesting to see what they replace the old posters with. Who knows? Maybe they didn't see my story at all, and they took the posters down for cleaning or something.

Or maybe they realized that their location in "Little America" necessitates some lessons in American wedding aesthetics. (Which are not "better" than Israeli ones, just different . . . and yes, Americans often find Israeli wedding dresses to be skeazy. Probably the Israelis think we are quite Puritan and boring.)

Anyway, now I'm afraid to go in there to get a manicure or whatever. If I say my name, will they be all "Oh, you're the woman who called our posters 'skeazy'"?

Really, they should thank me for saving them. They are located in an Anglo enclave. And to American tastes, those posters were awful. The next time you are on Emek Refaim Street, if you are American, you can thank me for the absence of those posters, which would otherwise burn holes in your eyes.
Soooo not in the mood for this . . . and an apology

My commenter Ilan of 3:57 explained it best. My post (two down) was NOT about Bnei Akiva, it was about the National Religious movement in GENERAL, of which Bnei Akiva is one piece and I was using a small piece of a small piece as an EXAMPLE. My example was a bad one (more about that later), but I stand by the main thrust of my post.

Furthermore, the entire point of my post is that Religious Zionists (if not Religious Zionism) DO IN FACT have so much more to us than just issues pertaining to settlement, and therefore the movement could be so much more powerful and influential and impressive than it is. I'm not saying that Religious Zionists are bad. I'm saying that the movement of Religious Zionism is not representing itself as all it COULD be and is SUPPOSED to be. The people who identify with Religious Zionism (such as myself) value Torah and social justice and all sorts of good things, things which the secular-left would love to hear about more from us, if we bothered talking about them more AS A MOVEMENT.

WestBankMama- You said that in the paintings at your local sniff, the war in Lebanon and Gaza "took precedence," so I went with what you wrote. If the theme was overwhelmingly about chessed and ahavat yisrael, why didn't you say that? Indeed, your comment to my post proves my point: That, when having to choose just ONE way to help Israel, tens of thousands of Religious Zionists, goaded on by 30 years of investment by the Religious Zionist organizations, have chosen settlement over being involved in other issues -- and, though you didn't say it, tens of thousands more are spending their money and political clout on that one issue as well. Not all their time and thoughts, but their political clout and PR opportunities. That's not an invalid choice, but then you have to accept the ramifications of it. In the larger sense-- NOT just about you, but about the movement IN GENERAL -- if the National Religious movement (a movement with which, remember, I closely identify) chooses to focus on settlement as their main national policy issue, then there are going to be negative consequences in the minds of Israelis who otherwise have no way of understanding what Judaism has to say about education or health care or anything else.

(By the way, West Bank Mama really is one of my favorite bloggers, and you should read her response to me.)

I care not a whit how many secular Israelis isolate themselves from other secular Israelis, nor am I talking about what Torah Judaism IS, but rather about the terrible PR problem that Judaism suffers from in this country. The fact is, the two issues most equated with Religious Zionism are settlement and the army, NOT chessed and NOT mitzvot.

If that statement insults you, then you have our politicians and the PR people for our organizations to blame, not me. I never said that we don't do chessed or mitzvot. My point is that we're not investing whatever clout we have on making this country a better place, only on keeping it a bigger place. And therefore, the secular community knows much less about our chessed and about Torah than they could know.

Jameel has posted beautiful photos of Bnei Akiva walls from HIS local sniff, showing that in fact the kids there overwhelmingly chose to depict their concern for their fellow human beings and for a wide variety of religious and national issues. When I have time I'll bli neder more fully translate the text painted on those walls, because it is even more beautiful than Jameel's notes indicate. These kids did a tear-jerkingly beautiful job.

So, I admit that the EXAMPLE I chose is a bad example. I should have focused exclusively on political issues, rather than use an example from an individual community. I'm sorry that, by choosing this shoddy example, I created a reason for people to think that I am ignorant of what good people they are. I do think that people read more into my post than what was there, but I can see how that could happen, especially since the example veered so far from my actual point, and I am truly sorry.

But I stand by my criticism that Religious Zionism at the political level has become a one-issue movement, and that by allowing that to continue -- by keeping our concern for social justice on sniff walls and not promoting it in ways that actually effect widespread social change -- we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Secular Israelis increasingly have absolutely no way to know just how generous and caring we religious Jews are, because increasingly we move away from them, and increasingly we make our public face about nothing but Yesha and (our ideas about how to maintain) security. The statement coming from our communities, loud and clear -- whether this is how we live our private lives or not -- is that we care more about the land than we do about our fellow Israelis.

If you think that message is wrong, then stop wasting time pointing fingers at me, and start making phone calls to the heads of the organizations you belong to, and tell them that public safety and the environment and education and the economy are just as important to you as any decisions about the future of Yehuda and Shomron. And, while you are at it, you can ask some of the kids who made the beautiful paintints in Jameel's community to put up similar banners in the German Colony and in Tel Aviv. They shouldn't be hidden where only their parents will see them.