Summer

As I have said before, this year it has been difficult for me to find time to blog once a week. Because I don’t have a lot of time. finding topics is harder. Unless I am writing a more personal post like this one, I do have to spend some time  researching and preparing the topic.

Already this summer I have been to New York a couple of times for Yankee games, stayed over for a few days once, gone to a  Jewish retreat and next weekend I am going to an adult skating camp. I also work one day a week at the Take Back the House office in Northampton where I am the office manager. Besides all this, there have been social engagements, regularly scheduled meetings as well as a demonstration against Trump’s immigration policies. I have been making slow but steady progress on my book which is good. In other words I have been living my life rather fulsomely.

Aleph sponsored the Kallah which I went to last weekend. Aleph is one of the branches of Judaism in the United States. It is Jewish Renewal which is a mixture of Kabbalistic or mystical and Hasidic traditions with music and dancing thrown in. The Kallah was a week-long but I only went for Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. Spending Shabbat at Kallah was really a unique and very lively experience.

The Take Back the House office is a coordinated campaign which a coalition of groups is sponsoring. The groups include Swing Left and Indivisible. We are focusing on two races in nearby states: NH2 where there is a Democratic incumbent, Annie Kuster and we are trying to help her hold her seat.

The other race is NY19 where there is a Republican incumbent, John Faso who it would be great to defeat. His opponent is Anthony Delgado. The TBTH office is having its grand opening, July 19 from 5-6:30. It is at 18 Center Street, Northampton. It would be great if any of my local readers  showed up.

The Adult Skating Camp will also be a rather intense experience since I will be doing hours of both on and off ice work. I’ll write more about it after I get back.

 

Black Friday

This Facebook post by Robert Reich  https://www.facebook.com/RBReich about all the stores that will be open on Thanksgiving made me reflect on how I have spent Thanksgiving and the day after over the years.

Before I  was a nurse, I briefly had a job as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army.  People didn’t call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” then but it was a huge  shopping day and  the kickoff for the holiday season.  Now the holiday season starts before Halloween which is one sign that our economy is not doing great.  It felt funny to me, as a Jew, to be ringing the bell for this Christian organization but people didn’t realize that I was being paid and thanked me for my service.

Once I became a nurse I often worked on Thanksgiving. If I was working a 7-3 shift when I got home we would go out to eat. One year my husband and one of my sons cooked dinner which was a real treat. When I worked 7-7 my family met me at the hospital and ate in the cafeteria with me.

This year my Thanksgiving  and Hanukkah will be spent with family and not shopping. Thanksgiving is a nice holiday because it is non-denominational and a time to relax. In our 24/7 society we need days of rest and no commercial activity.

 

A Time To Break Silence

I have been doing research on Anne Bennett, wife of John Bennett, president of Union Theological Seminary from 1963-1970. Anne was a committed anti-Vietnam War activist. Her husband was a founding member of Clergy and Laity Concerned. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a founding member.

In 1967 he gave this speech to a meeting of the group at Riverside Church, New York City. The speech is amazing and makes me realize, once again, what a great man he was and what a loss his assassination was.

King showed tremendous courage in speaking out against the Vietnam War. I wonder where such a leader is today. We deeply need someone who can connect the issues of militarism and imperialism to issues of social justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Space

We did go back to the Rockefeller Chapel today for the organ concert. The biscuits were only store bought cookies but the tea was strong and the music was glorious. The chapel is awe-inspiring; the ceilings are so high that you feel like you are outside while inside.

I forgot to mention that the day we were at the game was the fortieth anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 space mission. The Adler Planetarium has an exhibit on it and Jim Lovell, the commander of the mission, was at Cellular Field. Tom Hanks played him in the movie.

On Sunday night after the game and dinner, we went to hear jazz at a church. The Hyde Park Jazz Society usually has jazz on Sunday evenings at a different venue. For a few weeks they will be at the church instead. A group of high students performed and were very talented. The headliner was the Tammy McCann quintet. She is local and had a lovely voice.  The crowd was diverse although not particularly young.

Beer Summit

This evening, President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, and Sgt. Crowley will all have a beer together at the White House. Apparently there is not much other news – I guess there is nothing going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy or health care and OctoMom’s reality show hasn’t started yet. Because of this dearth of news, newspapers and online news sites have  had a lot  to say about the beer summit. Much of the discussion has focused on what type of beer the three men will drink. Some American craft brewers are apparently offended that no domestically produced beer will be available. I think this is manufactured news and somewhat silly. Since this tempest in a teapot  or beer stein hasn’t generated much buzz, some news sources are trying to suggest that people will care about the President serving alcohol. Towards this end the Wall Street Journal spoke to the national president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Even if the WCTU was solely responsible for Prohibition as the article wrongly implies, is it still a relevant organization? I could not find out about membership figures for the WCTU  and it has affiliates in only five states. American society is not anti-alcohol and the number of people who totally abstain from drinking is a minority. To imply that President Obama will suffer a dip in his popularity because he drinks and serves beer is ridiculous.

Counting

On Monday the Congress voted to appoint Robert M. Groves as the director of the Census Bureau. (See New York Times )The upcoming 2010 Census has become very political. Republicans are worried about the use of sampling and ACORN workers to conduct the census. In 1988 I worked as Field Operations Supervisor in preparation for the 1990 census.

I had used census material from the nineteenth century in my research and was excited to help with the compiling of contemporary data. My experience doing this job for about six months made me much more skeptical about the validity of the statistics .

Groves’ appointment reminded me of this work and also of the d’var torah we heard while we were in Israel. We attended a Reconstructionist minyan on Shabbat and one of the rabbinical students spending a year in Israel gave a talk on the Torah portion for that day. It was from Numbers and had to do with the counting of the Jewish people. The person talked about what it means to be counted and if there are time when we would not want to be counted.

Another day on our Israel  trip we spent time with Daniel Rossing, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. He discussed the minority status of Christians in Jerusalem. All of this has made me realize that we hold a multiplicity of identities at the same time. We can be the person with power in one situation and completely powerless in another. When it comes time to be counted what position you are in could make a big difference in how you would feel about being counted.

Peace

At the end of our meeting with the Sufi Sheik, Abdul Aziz  Buchari, in his lovely and historic home, he said he had a website. I asked him if he was on Facebook. He replied, “Yes.” Twitter? “I am  working on it.”

Almost everyone we met had email and a website. The Arab merchant we bought our game table from said he was trying to develop a site. When the world is that interconnected can getting along be far behind?

We read and discussed a Yehuda Amichai poem, that, in part said:

“Why is Jerusalem always two, (Jerusalem) Above and (Jerusalem) below while I want to live in Middle Jerusalem.” (I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the poem.)

The Internet and the world wide web also occupy both high and low spaces.Would the middle be a better understanding of other cultures and more peaceful ways to solve problems?

The Jerusalem Syndrome: Shopping

Jerusalem 2009
Jerusalem 2009

On our tour we went at a pretty fast pace. Lee, our amazing tour guide, kept us in line. Because we had so many appointments, leisurely strolling through a market was not often an option.

On the last day, the tour was officially over and we did not have to leave for the airport until 8:30 p.m. Aaron and I walked to the old city, first going through an artist colony. In those shops the wares were fairly expensive and we were able to restrain ourselves. When we got to the Arab shuk, (market), it was a different story. Everything was so colorful and looked so nice. With no time limit, it became almost hypnotic. Eventually, after we bought a game table and had tea in an Arab shop, I realized we had to leave or we would keep shopping. Maybe Lee moving us along was not such a bad idea.

The Jerusalem Syndrome is a phenomena that occurs when someone comes to the city and starts believing that they are some kind of messiah, prophet, or religious leader. The cure is to leave Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Syndrome: Shopping

Lee implores, cajoles, commands
This way, this way through the shuk
We walk quickly
Looking straight
Our eyes sometimes stray
No stopping
No shopping
We complain
We want to shop
It is our right

Today, no Lee
No directions
No instructions
Plenty of time
The shuk is open and inviting
We are pulled in and in
So entrancing
So appealing
Come in and see my shop
Just for a minute

We cannot stop
We need
Or at least want everything
If we do not stop now
We never will.

Steps and Stones

This is another poem I wrote while in Israel. The session at Elul unleashed a creative spurt that is very interesting.

A few days later we met with David Ehrlich, an excellent writer of short stories. He spent over an hour with us, talking about his writing and the creative process. He said that sometimes ideas are in his mind or in the air and they float by. This is similar to what I have been feeling lately.

Jerusalem is a very different and interesting city. All the facades, by law, have to look the same, which is a beige Jerusalem stone. The Old City is very winding and up and down, but other parts of the city are as well. Jerusalem perches on a mountain with hills and valleys around it. You are always going up or down, often on paved or cobble-stoned paths.

Another aspect of Jerusalem is the intense tourism since so many different people and faiths feel the city belongs to them. When ever I travel overseas I like to buy things that are actually made in that country. Of course in many parts of the world the tourist items are made in China.

Steps and Stones

Everything in Jerusalem is
Steps and stones
Steps and stones
Up and Down
Up and Down

Buy/Save
Spend/Don’t Waste
Made here
Made there

Jerusalem 2009
Jerusalem 2009

Justina

We got back from our trip to Israel on Thursday May 28 after being up for about 26 hours. We  had a wonderful time but it has taken a few days to decompress and resume my everyday life. For one thing the weather was fabulous and the plants and flowers were so beautiful. It is not quite as pretty here at home. I plan to post a few entries about the trip, hopefully with pictures. Some will be about beer and alcohol while others will just be about the experiences I had while there.

One afternoon we walked on the rooftops of the Old City of Jerusalem and looked at churches and other buildings. We also went into some of them. One place we visited was the Syrian Church. A woman named Justinia is in charge. She was from Iraq and had been a math teacher. To say she was strict would be an understatement. She made clear that we were to sit properly and not cross our legs. Justina was also devout. She speaks English but prays in Aramaic which was the street language of Jews and early Christians. She spoke to us about a miracle that had occurred at her church and then sang the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 150, the final psalm, both in Aramaic.

The next day we had a teaching about Jerusalem and its many varied meanings for different people. Our teacher, Yardena,  was excellent and she had us each write something about Jerusalem. I wrote the following poem. I haven’t written a poem in probably twenty-five years.

Syrian Church Jerusalem 2009
Syrian Church Jerusalem 2009

At first Justina seems strange
Even crazy and very strict
But as she talks
She almost glows
Exuding her faith and certainty
When she sings
She is whole and holy.