Monthly Archives: April 2015

To Miriam, My Adult Daughter– by B.J. Yudelson*

“Mom, cheer up. You’re still here. Cancer is just a word, a scary word, but just a word.”
On her plane ride from California, Miriam had started reading the library books she had brought for me. Neither of us had ever heard of Dr. Bernie Siegel, but we quickly found out that he specializes in helping people who face imminent death from illness to live fully and to die in peace.

As Miriam and I hugged tightly, I took a deep breath and tried to stanch my sobs. A week earlier I had received the definitive cancer diagnosis. Only hours after that phone call we had begun the first Passover Seder. Instead of being in California, as planned, with Miriam and her children, my husband and I were home in Rochester with understanding friends. Throughout, one thought hounded me: this, and tomorrow night’s, could be my last Seders. I hadn’t yet had all the diagnostic tests that would show where the cancer was, how much it had spread, where exactly I was affected. But I was frightened and shaky throughout the supposedly festive meals. read more

To My Grandchild–by Barbara D. Holender

Little snail,
Can you hear me
with your new earbuds?
You wear my lifeprint sealed
within your see-through skin.

Your father scares your mother
with his anatomy book.
Next week you will be
big as my thumb,
all heart and brain.

What will you take of me
to ripen in your shell?
So much depends
on your selection.

You are bearing me
beyond my time alive

“I’m Losing My Breath”—by Ayala Emmett

Last week a friend and I met for coffee. We haven’t seen each other for a couple of weeks and we talked about the recent killings of black men by police and brought up the 73 year old insurance executive who mistook his gun for a Taser and killed Eric Harris a 44 year old black man on April 2. I said to my friend that I wanted to understand the allure of guns for white men who at that age choose to join a police chase that unnecessarily ended with killing Eric Harris.

The coffee place where we sat was humming with patrons and a man who sat at the next table must have been paying close attention to our conversation since we talked quietly. The man, who was large and looked in his 60s got up came over to us, leaned into our table and said, “You should look at the NFL.” Given that both of us are rather small women this was clearly an intimidating invasion of our space. We were both stunned. We frequently meet at that establishment and it was the first time that anyone invaded our conversation. read more

To Save a Life—by Ahavya Lauren Deutsch*

Photo by Teo Siguenza
Photo by Teo Siguenza

So, how to describe Dilley? It is a small town, whose main industry is prison. Very few people live there, but Corrections Officers on contract come for 3 and 4 months stints to work in the correctional facilities in and around town, generating a surprising number of motels in the area. About 1.5 hours from San Antonio, it has a number of small, folksy restaurants (The ‘Swamp Shack’ and it’s vaunted ‘crawdad coffee’ come to mind), and one large General store.

How to describe the South Texas Family Residential Facility? A place where desperate, hopeless, women are incarcerated, despite having committed no crime, or the minor regulatory infraction of entering the country outside of a border checkpoint. read more

“Woman in Gold”—by Richard Rosen

“Woman in Gold” is an important motion picture, which some reviewers are selling short. A plot driven movie that brings to life aspects of the holocaust ought to survive, to be seen by future generations. Documentaries don’t get much attention when first released, and don’t attract viewers generations later. Creating a movie that will have broad appeal decades from now assures today’s remaining survivors that future generations world-wide will grasp the magnitude of what European Jewry experienced. Directorial skill requires incorporating not only top acting talent but fidelity to the documented history, great visuals of important places not commonly seen, dramatic archival footage skillfully interwoven, and a window into deeply felt emotions by believable protagonists of heroic stature. These are the cinematic elements that create a great movie with broad appeal: an artistic creation. read more

Shadow Play At The Western Wall–by Barbara D. Holender

Caperbushes sprout through dry crevices, spattering shade
on stone eighty feet above the congregation.

One chassid among the flock of crows–that one–
dances with himself in prayer,
sways left, now right seven times,
forward thirteen, now seventeen short bows,
again and again, pliant as a lulav,
his shadow advancing, earlocks matching
flying curl for curl, even the fringes
of his tallit, almost even the stripes
sharp in shadow, so clear the light,
so light the air, ah that Jerusalem air. read more

And Aaron Was Silent—by Matia Kam

In memory of our late father Meshulam Zishe Langerman, who died on the seventh day of Passover, 1973

And Fire came forth from God and consumed them and they died at the instance of God
And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what God meant when He said: through those near to Me I show Myself holy and gain glory before all the people.”
And Aaron was silent (Leviticus 10:2-3).

Aaron by Giovanni Maria Morlaiter 18th century
by Giovanni Maria Morlaiter
18th century

On the eighth day, at the height of the ceremony of sanctifying the Mishkan, a mishap happened and it was followed by tragedy. Aaron’s two sons, the priests Nadab and Abihu, transgressed when they brought forth “before God an alien fire which God did not enjoin upon them”—and the outcome was, “a fire came forth from God and consumed them and they died at the instance of God.” The two priests who brought “an alien fire” died by fire. Measure for measure, they brought (the wrong) fire and died by consuming fire. Torah does not specify the meaning of “alien fire;” there are numerous commentaries on the words “alien fire” “esh zarah” in Hebrew, but the text is quite clear that it was not holy fire, and not in accordance with God’s instructions. read more

What a Little Moonlight Could Do—by Peter Eisenstadt

The two greatest American popular singers of the 20th century, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, were both born in 1915. Billie is up first. This week, on April 7th, she would have turned 100. Of course, she got nowhere near that, dying in 1959, aged 44, her body worn out after a life of hard living, and dying miserably, in police custody for a narcotics arrest. There are so many Billie Holidays; the young singer, all effervescence and charm, plucked from obscurity from an already hard life, who before she was twenty was recording with many of the greatest jazz musicians of her time; the tough but incredibly vulnerable Lady Day, with the gardenia in her hair and her lousy choice in men, her addictions, and multiple run-ins with the law; and the singer in her last years, her voice reduced to whispers and shards, her singing haunted and on the outermost limits of sublimity; the woman who has, in many legends, has become as mythological as Zeus. read more

Pesach 2015—by Doug Gallant

To quote the Passover Hagaddah: “In every generation each individual is bound to regard himself as if he had gone personally forth from Egypt.”

At Passover Seders each year, we recite these timeless instructions to regard ourselves as having personally lived through these events of the Exodus. The Seder itself is designed to help us envision our participation in the story. We dip parsley into saltwater to remember the tears we shed in Egypt, and we munch on spicy, bitter horseradish in an attempt to replicate a little of the misery we experienced as slaves. read more

Thoughts About the Iran Agreement—by Peter Eisenstadt

What was the most important thing to happen in the world in the last 50 years or so? There’s a case to be made that it was the Iranian revolution of 1979, a violent and unexpected swerve from which the world has yet to recover.

It is hard to remember back when Iran was America’s closest ally in the Middle East (and the US government was helping Iran build nuclear reactors for the peaceful use of atomic energy.) But the change of Iran from US’s fast friend to its fierce foe set in motion a chain of events that include the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the rise of Al Queda, the rise of Hizbullah, the Iran-Iraq War, the first Gulf War, 9/11, the US Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring and its failures, the collapse of Syria, the war in Yemen, and a major reason for the lack of progress in Israel Palestinian peace efforts, and starting with the election of Ronald Reagan, a major boon to the success of right-wing politicians worldwide. read more