Thursday, January 28, 2010


Apple has unveiled their new iPad Tablet. Finally. I have been waiting so long for this. And . . .


I need a new computer anyhow. Mine is definitely in its twilight years. (Months. Weeks.)

As soon as that baby is upgraded to be able to play Flash, I'm getting one. That very second.


In cars.

Waiting at the bank.


And it's only 1.5 pounds.

OMG. OMG. This is a dream come true.

I'm switching to Mac, Baby!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two Quick Things

It's almost 2 am here, so this will be short.

1) If you were interested in the recent Science Times story about pediatric strokes, you might be moved by the latest blog post by a close friend of mine. Background for those who have not been following her blog (even though it is on my blogroll and you really should be): In November of 2008, her daughter almost died from a raging pneumonia. Then in July 2009, the same daughter had a stroke; she was six years old. Go read.

2) I got into Fiddler! Not any sort of speaking part -- I'm in the "troupe" aka "one of the townspeople" -- but it's good enough for me. Given that 165 people tried out, and there are maybe 50-60 people who got in, and I'd never sung at any sort of audition before, and I haven't been in a play since 10th grade, I'm feeling lucky just to be part of it. I'm happy because my friends R the Female and R the Male also got in (and R the Female actually has a spoken line! Just one, but still!), so I'll know other people at rehearsals.

And, hearty Mazal Tov to my friend Gila, who will be Frumme Sarah!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two Articles

FYI, I have two stories in the current issue of The Jewish Week, in the Education supplement:

Is Education in Israel Really Free? (of interest to potential American immigrants with kids)


"Shalom Sesame," Updated and Interactive (about a new Sesame Workshop project aimed at American Jewish children and families - I loved the interviews for this story. The people I talked with were so passionate and articulate.)

If you like these stories, please feel free to write to the editor, letting him know.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Check it Out

The New York Times has a feature called "Talk to the Times," in which different editors take turns answering questions from readers.

Recently, the Aviation correspondent took questions, and mine was answered! Check it out here, under "Worthless Vouchers."

This is Lila. She's about 4 weeks old.

Two weeks ago she was found on the street, abandoned and weak. My friend Leah has been nursing her to health. Lila's been eating and growing like a banshee, and is active and playful. She's starting now to eat solid food. My roommate and I babysat her this weekend, and she prances around the apartment and is generally adorable.

Leah cannot keep Lila, because Leah's son is allergic to cats. If you would like to adopt Lila, or know someone who would, have them email me at chayyeisarah [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Exciting Week

At last, I actually have some interesting things to talk about. It's been a great week!

But first, remember the controlling jerk I wrote about last time? It actually got worse. The day after I posted, he sent me an email that basically said "So, Sarah, have you decided? Can we start with a clean slate, turn the page, take a chance on love?" (Gag.) There was more, but that was the gist of it.

I responded "No. I'm not interested in drama. Good luck to you."

His reply?

"Well, if you aren't interested in drama, maybe you'd be interested in getting together sometimes to f*ck?"

::blink, blink::


Right. On to my much-better-week-THIS-week:

1) Things My Shaliach Never Told Me: For an article I'm working on, I visited Sussya, a fascinating archeological excavation in the south Hebron/ north Be'er Sheva hills (about 3 miles over the Green Line), which does not seem to have a website in English. Until 1967, it was known that there were many ruins in the area, but everyone assumed that this ruin was an old church, just like all the other ruins around it. But after 1967 the Israelis started digging it up, and discovered old Jewish homes, including many lintels with menorahs engraved into them, over 30 mikvaot, and a large synagogue facing Jerusalem with a mosaic floor depicting images from the Second Temple.

Turns out that after the Romans made it illegal for Jews to live in Jerusalem, almost all the Jews went north, following the Sanhedrin, who moved around to Tzippori, Tiberias, etc.

But some Jews moved south instead, presumably so that they could be closer to Jerusalem. (The enormous number of mikvaot and the synagogue mosaics suggest that they were exceptionally keen on maintaining Temple-era customs.) At its peak, between 400-800 C.E., Sussya appears to have been the home of 3,000 Hebrews, who were surrounded first by Edomites and then by Christians.

I'll try to devote more to describing the site later -- it depends also on what I put in the article, and when it's published -- but for now... just, WOW!

2) Michal Negrin Factory Tour: For another article, I took a tour of the Bat Yam factory where designer Michal Negrin creates her hyper-feminine jewelry, clothes, and home decor. For 15 shekels, one sees where the items are assembled, gets coffee and (cheese!)cake in the gallery, watches a short film about the growth of Negrin's empire, and has access to the factory store, where many items are 30% off. It was interesting and fun and extremely sparkly and girly.

I went with my friend Beth and her daughter Neshama, who was allowed to play hooky from school and come with us because it was her 8th birthday. She was a very good girl, didn't touch anything she wasn't allowed to touch, asked intelligent questions. At one point Michal Negrin herself came through the gallery, and agreed to have her picture taken with Neshama.

Neshama decided to use her birthday money to take out her mother and me for lunch. Isn't that adorable?

3) Family Lost and Found: So, I don't have a lot of close family members. There's my sister and 3 first-cousins. After that, I've got third cousins in Petach Tikva and here in Jerusalem. That's it. I don't have any second-cousins to speak of, really, because most of my grandmother's family was killed in the Holocaust, and on the other 3 branches of my family tree people either just didn't have a lot of kids (if any), or they became estranged from each other. (Though I guess I could track down some second-cousins I have on my father's side. Something to think about.) I've always been envious of people who have lots of cousins.

I've become pretty close with my third-cousin Shimmy's family here in the capital, even though they are Haredi and there are Things We Do Not Talk About. Anyhow, one of Shimmy's (11) children celebrated his bar mitzvah this week, and two nights ago I went to the Bais Yisroel neighborhood for the party. As I was trying to figure out how to enter the building, a young woman -- about 18, or seminary age -- approached me, expressing confusion similar to mine about the location of the entrance. As we walked around the building, I asked how she knows the family. Turned out she is also related to Shimmy... also related through Shimmy's mother's mother . . . also Shimmy's third cousin ... and she's MY THIRD COUSIN TOO!!!!!

It would be difficult for me to put into words how much it meant to me to meet this young lady, Shaina. I've invested some time in constructing my family tree, and so I've heard of her family's existence -- she comes from a prominent family of Lubavitcher chassidim, and I've been thinking for a few years that maybe the next time I'm in New York I'll make a stop in Crown Heights to meet them -- but until this week she was listed in my family tree documents as "at least 10 children of Avraham *****." We sat together at the bar mitzvah. She's a very bright young woman studying in Tzfat, planning to attend Touro College next year toward a career in the allied health professions (maybe nursing, maybe pharmaceuticals), or maybe math. Or maybe history. :-) We agreed to get together again the next time she comes to Jerusalem.

If you have a lot of cousins, or if you don't have any family who were murdered in the Holocaust, it might be hard to understand why this makes me so happy, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

4) Auditions! Despite the fact that 25 years ago I wanted to be an actress, I have not been in a play since 10th grade. Lots of reasons for that, including the whole kol isha thing. Lately I've been realizing how many things I've avoided doing in my life because I wanted to maintain a certain kind of reputation in the Orthodox community, for "shidduch" purposes, etc. Well, hello. That's really been working for me, right? [Insert ruefullness here.] So, when I heard that a local English-language theater company is putting on Fiddler on the Roof, I decided I was trying out for that show no matter what, because I love this show. I must be in it.

Ironically, I decided to try out for -- wait for it -- the matchmaker, Yente, since I'm neither experienced enough nor talented enough for a main role, and I'll be lucky if I just get a part in the chorus. I was one of over 130 people to audition for this production. I'm also too old to play any of the daughters and too young to play Golde. Besides. I know Yentes. It is not hard for me to imagine Yente.

The director and musical director were very nice. I belted out the chorus from "If I Were a Rich Man" and read one of Yente's lines. They had me follow along with some scales to see how high I can sing (not very). They asked if I'd still be in the show if I didn't get the part I want. Heck, yes. I just want to be part of this. I was told later that after I finished, the theater people spent 5 minutes deliberating over me, which is a good sign. I feel pretty good about the whole thing; if I don't get a part (which is very likely), it won't be because I messed up in any huge way. I gave it my all and didn't embarass myself, so I feel good about trying, regardless of whether I make the cut.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dating Whoa

On Friday I rejoined Jdate.

On Saturday night, I checked the messages that had been piling up for me in the 2 years I hadn't been a paid member, and replied positively to 5 men and initiated contact with a 6th. (Of whom two have read their message, and no one has responded.)

On Sunday, someone IMed me, and I took a deep breath and "accepted" the IM, so we could "chat." He told me his name is Guy and sent me his picture. Frankly, for various reasons (cultural, religious, linguistic) I couldn't imagine this going anywhere serious, but here I'm 37 and a really hot 29-year-old was telling me he doesn't care about my age, because I'm cute. What would YOU do? "Serious" has not been working for me, obviously. Why keep banging my head against a wall when a hot 29-year-old wants to talk to me? Have I mentioned that he's hot? We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers.

I was supposed to call him last night at 10. At 9, I wrote him an email (and sent a follow-up text message to make sure he got it on time) saying that I'm really, really sorry, but I have an article that MUST be given in by midnight, and I'm still not finished, and can we please postpone until tomorrow? I really do want to talk to you, so sorry, etc etc.

This was his response (my translation in parentheses):

אני מציע שתדברי איתי מחר.
I suggest you speak with me tomorrow
הבנתי את מה שאת אומרת ודי קשה לי לקבל את זה.
I understood what you said and it's hard for me to accept this.
יש לי הרבה מה להסביר לך לגבי התנהגות שלך מולי ,
I have a lot to say to you about your behavior toward me.
אם קובעים לא מבריזים , הפעם אני מוותר . יותר זה לא יקרה.
If you set a time, you don't blow it off, this time I'll let it pass. It won't happen again.
מחר אני רוצה לשמוע ממך. ברור?
Tomorrow I want to hear from you. Is that clear?


Controlling, much?

I told him that, yes, it is very "clear" -- that continuing this would be a bad idea. I tried to be as polite as possible, but yes, the words "controlling jerk" made their way into my email, a few lines before "b'hatzlacha in your search for a life partner."

I'm glad I can recognize an abusive ass when I see one, and stay away (lesson hard-learned from my relationship with R), but still, this hurt and was very disappointing. I admit to doing a little crying in frustration . . . and not finishing my article.

Today he wrote back with a lame excuse ("Your email was very apologetic and I thought you wanted me to be tough with you. I would never act like a controlling jerk unless someone requests it." Right. I ASKED FOR IT.) and apologies. He also admitted that his name isn't really Guy, and this is his first time on a dating website, and he doesn't know why he tried to "be someone else."

I seriously do not need this drama. I am done with drama.

What is appalling to me, though, is that I can feel in myself why so many women would stick around with a guy like this. There is something compelling about drama, and about apologies that sound sincere, and about a man who says "I hope you will contact me again, because I think there is potential here, and that you could be someone I'd like to have in my life." Like riding down Niagara in a barrel, it sounds romantic and exciting . . . until you stop to think about it.

Monday, January 04, 2010

My Name in Books

I keep forgetting to tell you all: I'm in two new books!

1- The good folks behind Taglit-Birthright partnered with Nextbook (the folks behind Tablet magazine) to create an Israel Travel Companion, an untraditional guidebook which will be distributed to Taglit-Birthright participants. The book assumes that the reader does not need information on hotels and restaurants, since they are being taken around by tour organizers, but that they DO need contextual information for the sites they see. Too many participants were coming back to their hotels at night and asking "What was the name of the king who built that site we saw today, again?" or "That site we're seeing tomorrow ...what is it, and where is it in relation to where we are now?"

So the book contains maps and a historical timeline. For each region of the country, there is an introduction to that region (written by Yours Truly) about the area's climate; population; historical, religious and/or economic significance; and other interesting facts that differentiate the area from the rest of Israel. Then there are pages devoted to the sites that are typically included in a Taglit-Birthright itinerary; a profile of an Israeli who lives in that region and represents its zeitgeist; an exerpt from a piece of literature connected to the area; and some sort of vocabulary guide (for example, names of the historical figures after whom large streets in Tel Aviv are named).

I personally think this book should be marketed to any and all new tourists to Israel. It's an excellent tool for putting Israel's sites into their respective geographical and cultural contexts. I'm very proud to have been part of this, and hope that the Taglit-Birthright participants enjoy it.

2- The Targum Shlishi Foundation in Florida recently published a book containing profiles of Jews from around the world who, in various ways, have impacted the Jewish world for the better. From rabbis to artists to activists, these are interesting and inspiring people worth knowing about. I was assigned two of the profiles, about Dr. Avivah Zornberg and about Rachel Azaria. These are two fascinating women with compelling stories, so I enjoyed this assignment thoroughly.

Unfortunately, the book has one of the most. specious. titles. evar. It is called Jewish Sages of Today.


Now, the people included in this book are indeed extraordinary. Rachel Azaria, for example, is a driven activist who put the issue of mesoravot get into the consciousness of many Members of Knesset, and helped change Mavoi Satum from a social services organization to one that is also driving political change. She's now on the Jerusalem City Council.

But is she a sage? I think she'd be the first to say that she's not. Even Dr. Zornberg, who is one of the few profilees who is actually a Torah scholar, expressed major reservations with the title. And Gary Rosenblatt? A terrific editor, yes (disclosure: also a client of mine). A man holding a sensitive but important role in the Jewish world, yes. A good guy? Yes. A sage? No. Who knows what the publishers were thinking.

But anyhow, it's an interesting book, if you can get your hands on a copy. It's already out of print, but you can get one through various sellers at Amazon, and I see that a few copies are up for auction at eBay right now.