Thursday, May 21, 2009


It's been a busy week. New project for me and Jess - came as a result of the 'on hiatus' Honey and hopefully will bring us both parnassa/a living as well as some good writing experiences. Right now, just slogging away at re-writes and edits of existing text for 2 websites. It's long and vaguely interesting and lots of back and forth between investigating facts, etc. Still, nice to make a living at doing something - Shutaf certainly wasn't going to bring me fame and fortune, especially not this year.

Ira's in the US but I'm in a good head because it's a shortish trip with him leaving on a Monday night/Tuesday morning and he'll be home next Monday. Not bad really and Sister Sarah coming for Shabbat and here it is already Thursday - he'll be home before we know it. Akiva's had a good week, with many trips to the pool - it was quite nastily hot earlier this week - and today was horseback riding. He's doing so beautifully with his riding - holding the reins (something he hates to do), standing in the stirrups and counting to 10 with Katia, his instructor, working with Katia using a lead rope (meaning he controls the horse, sort of!) and mounting and dismounting with little help. Huge things. Some weeks he's focused and some weeks he's in his own head but he loves to go and have his riding adventure.

The boys are out seeing the Star Trek movie tonight with a cast of the usual crowd. They've also been working on a song together for next week's benefit concert at the Democratic School. Children of the 70's, singing Cats in the Cradle. If only Harry were still alive to hear them. I think he died in 1979, no maybe that was Therman Munson - on the Long Island Expressway no less - what a way to go. I just checked, it was 1981, which makes sense as I was in college when it happened and Chapin played Queens College all of the time - I had friends who were huge fans. It's something to hear my two boys - Natan on piano and Gabe on guitar singing and harmonizing together - very nice. I told them now they should work on Mr Tanner but Natan said not bloody likely. I think Mr Tanner is sung by a contra-tenor.

Not too much cooking for Shabbat this week. Friday night with Jess, Daniel and boys. Saturday lunch at Miriam and Peretz. Have to make stuff but not a full complement of stuff. Natan has peach sorbet and some sort of sherbet with whipped eggwhites planned. Should be fun.

A good weekend and Shabbat to all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wedding Bells

Had a wedding on Erev Lag Ba'omer - Tova Hartman's daughter Nomi. A pleasure to be invited as part of the Shira Hadasha community and as a friend of Tova's. Then again, it was us and about 600 of their closest buddies. Welcome my friends to the Israeli wedding where everyone comes to enjoy and be happy. Sister Sarah often comments about the weddings in her neighboring community of Rosh Ha'ayin which is about 98% Yemenite - everyone is related in some way...therefore, everyone is invited. Sarah, who is included by virtue of her being an alto in the choir - it's Sarah and all the Yemenites - describes that the weddings are about 900 people and that if she doesn't show, the hostess always knows.

Nomi and Eli'ad's wedding was at Naom Kedumim, a lovely site a bit past Modiin on 443 - it's a place for wandering and doing activities of a bibilical style. That means baking the ubiquitous pitot and making herbed olive oils and whatever else stands in for biblical here. It's quite large and they often host all sorts of happy events as well. What's great is that you're not stuck in the overly air-conditioned catering hall. The evening was cool, the stars were out - talk about an 'open Huppah/marriage canopy' to the skies. Very nice.

The crowd was a young one - lots of friends dressed in that uniquely drapey style of clothing typical of a young, Orthodox Jew in these parts. Not a lot of dressing up in the usual New York wedding style, except for the immediate families who all looked lovely in their finery - the women, that is. The men wore white shirts and dark pants. No, wait, the groom wore an untucked white shirt with his tzitzit hanging out, along with khakis and sandals. Now that's an outfit. Comfortable, clean and easy. The bride wore a lovely, modest white dress that fit her beautifully and went nicely with her simply braided hair - no makeup, no jewels. She went as a bride should in Jewish custom - unadorned. It was a spiritual bunch - between the Shira Hadasher's who are always ready to break into 4 part harmony and the younger set who sang, wept, waved their hands and jumped (when the music was jumpy, shall we say). As we waited for the groom to appear before the ceremony for the Bideken (to veil the bride), 2 guitarists played and a drummer thumped and we all sang along. The groom approached and took a guitar and sang (while weeping, with his eyes closed) the brides' favorite piyut/religious poem.

I sound cynical but I have to tell you that as I think back on the evening, what I'm reminded by is the enjoyment and meaning of the event to the participants. For me, it was so far removed from the New York Jewish Wedding - translation, fancy dress for all, fancy caterer and fancy price, top drawer band, photographer/video, fancy wedding hall/shul/other fab venue...meaning, big bucks meted out.

The bride and groom, if one knows them are dedicated to a host of good works - from volunteering at a great place, Beit Hagalgalim where they befriend a young person in a wheel chair and do activities with them (there were about 10 young guests at the wedding in wheelchairs, having a great time) to other local good works. Nomi, is Tova's daughter and Tova exemplifies being dedicated to community, to people, to making people feel important. As a woman, I am welcomed on the women's side at SH by Tova herself most Shabbatot - with a hug and a kiss and a smile. This past Shabbat, I was there with Akiva which is always hard - Tova took the time to tell me how Akiva's noises/sounds/excitement are important to her and that she'll kill me if I dare to leave because I'm worried that someone is irritated by them. As a matter of fact, her mother Bobby took a moment to tell me the same sort of thing the night of the wedding, a few moments after the ceremony when I was trying to tell her mazal tov.

I degress but my point was that to the bride and groom what was important were the rituals of the day - sharing it with friends and family, experiencing it spiritually and emotionally and clearly making it an important moment to remember. (And let me tell you that they spent a long time in Yichud while friends hung outside waiting for them to come so that the dancing could begin). So, if you ask, how was the prime rib, I'll tell you that it was bagels and salads and not even a schnapps to drink. How great is that? Who remembers the food at weddings anyway and with so many mouths to feed, does it really matter? There were some hot dishes too but essentially it was a modest meal and although we laughed about it a bit, nobody cared.

Mazal tov was all we needed to say to each other - to the families and to ourselves.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Mother's Day today worldwide. Can't get into it too much in these parts but it was nice to consider that it was Jess's first Mother's Day. I always felt that Mother's/Father's Day never reverb'd for us too much as a family because Ira couldn't pay too much attention to it. This made sense - with both parents dead by the time he was 26, the day would have understandably lost its luster. As well, this focus on the day means that you have to badger your children to remember and honor the day since your husband shouldn't have to do it - you're not his mother, or whatever reasoning can be applied here.

So, imagine my surprise when in the middle of a marathon Skype session - first to friend, Jo in LA with her girls onhand to play with her hair and annoy her and then to Jo and Charlie in Merrick, NY, the boys appeared to chat on the computer and present me with a lovely homemade card. It reads 'here's to the most imitatable mommy out there.' Do you think they meant inimitable? I'll have to ask at some point.

Many teens onhand in the house over the past few days. Maybe that's the Mother's Day gift. To see your kids getting older and bringing their friends by who seem to like hanging by you, laying on your sofa (so that you are banished to the bedroom) and making lots of noise (that you get rid of by watching television or whatever you can do) and eating you out of house and home (but what's some pita and humus).

Happy Mother's Day to all of us out there.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Great meeting tonight with our Shutaf social worker, Binyamin Rose. First of all, he's a Brit (I know they hate been called that but...) and that means he has all sorts of charming turns of phrase like 'whilst' and 'shedloads' but that aside, he's smart, savvy and knows how to write a great evaluation.

The upshot, is that Binyamin thought we ran a good Pesach camp. We set out to professionalize and develop the program this year and we've met many of our goals. That said, there's work to be done and the question is how to do it, especially this year when we we're struggling just to come up with the funds to make camp happen.

That's the painful part - how to make camp happen when all we've received are rejections to our grant proposals this year. We know we're not doing anything wrong, just have fallen on hard times but it's not easy to feel that we can't really serve our population of kids if we don't have the funds. We're probably planning 2 weeks of camp at most this August and while I'll personally miss the 3rd week - what will I do with Akiva - it's probably for the best. We're already making hard decisions on what to cut from an already skinny budget - probably my fave, the food program - and how to make camp as good as we can make it without spending a lot. Mind you, it's not like we were spending a lot given that Miriam and I are still working as volunteers 2 years later.

So, dear readers, help me think about how to reach out to others and ask them all to help make Shutaf possible. Every bit helps, every bit matters - have a bake sale, do a stoop sale, save your quarters for Shutaf. Help us continue to help our community of children. Help us meet that special person that could really help fund the program - now.

I welcome all ideas.