Thursday, July 31, 2008

Notes

I'm still trying to rewrite a post I think is important, but in the meantime, I added a few pieces on the right sidebar to help guide people throughout the blog. For every series there is now a link to get to every post that has that title, including G's "The Far Side..." divrei Torah, Eliezer's Parsha Point to Ponder, Shragi's Well Waddaya Know, G's Songs, G's Speeches, Other Parodies, Quotes (most of which were from Moshe's Quotes series), Crazy Shabbos from a looong time ago, and of course, How I Met Serach.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ALERT!!! ALERT!!!

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special update on Ezzie's gmail status....


Ezzie's status: is studying. Blah.


Could this really be happening?
It's another world wonder!!!!
What's next: the Browns in the playoffs?!?!?!
Wow!

(truth is that I don't believe him...)

Living the Dream

As I sadly prepare to leave Israel after an all-too-brief trip, I'd like to point the dedicated readership of SerandEz to a blog that should not be missed.

Living the Dream: Reflections From an Olah Chadasha is written by a friend of mine who just made aliyah about three weeks ago. In addition to being an incredibly amazing person, she is also a fabulous writer, and her posts are consistently inspiring.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What A Country...

...or in the immortal words of Don King, "Only in America!!!".

Only in our fair land can a family be given a brand new house...have it done as part of a Reality TV show...have the mortgage of said house paid off as part of the "Extreme Makeover"...be handed $100,000 cash...and still be looking at real estate foreclosure 3 1/2 years later:

Extreme Makeover:Foreclosure Edition

An Extreme Home Makeover may be going bust. The first metro family who got a new home is facing foreclosure...A foreclosure notice appeared last Friday, a $450,000 second mortgage they took out less than 15 months ago was in default.

G-d Bless America...my hooome...sweeeeet...hooooooome!!!

Slow Day Milestone

I'm in the process of trying not to butcher a real post I want to write (I know, I know - once in a while, I try to write something with real content myself, too), but I noticed that sometime yesterday, this blog hit a very nice milestone: Half a million pageviews! Thank you all for continuing to come back and enjoy this blog, and I hope y'all will continue to take part in it - one of the best parts of this blog is the 'conversation' that goes on. Please always feel free to comment, e-mail, and otherwise join us. Thanks so much!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Perfect V

Submitted by reader AK, this one is perfect for California:

On Labels & Successful Aliyah

Sorry for the inundation of posts the past week or so; it happens sometimes. A couple worthwhile reads:
  • Erachet, on a roll lately, manages to tie Dr. Seuss and sneetches into a great discussion on labels. It's a very interesting and different approach to the subject in general, I think.
  • Chayyei Sarah has an excellent post about having made it through five years since making aliyah, often the mark of someone who won't have to go back.

First Class

Guess who's coming to town - and joining the SerandEz/BeyondBT Shabbaton? Come on, guess! Oh, okay, fine, you'll never guess - while neither is able to make it for the whole Shabbos due to prior obligations, both Kasamba from England and Jameel of the Muqata in Israel will be joining us for the SerandEz/BeyondBT melave malka!! It's beginning to look like we'll be preceding the Nefesh B'Nefesh-sponsored International J-Blogging Convention with one of our own by a few days. :)

Meanwhile, a number of others have already announced their plans to join us for the whole Shabbaton - we invite all the rest of y'all to do the same. We'd love to see you there, and we're really looking forward for what looks to be an incredible Shabbos, full of warmth, inspiration, and good company. It's a great price for a great Shabbos (and three catered meals, an Oneg Shabbos, and a melave malka!), and of course, Elianna and Kayla will be there.

Please e-mail BeyondBT@gmail.com to reserve, and feel free to e-mail either them or myself at SerandEz@gmail.com with any questions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Perfect IV

This one's a little blurry, but it's hard to take pictures on camera phones while driving on highways. I think anyone can appreciate this, but certain people (cough *G* cough) will appreciate it a little extra.

Well Waddaya Know XIX

Last week's Q&A:
There are about 23,000 prisoners in Israel - 14,000 criminal and 9,000 security. How many of the criminal prisoners are women?

200
5 (15%)
1000
8 (24%)
2200
11 (33%)
5100
9 (27%)
There are about 225 female criminal prisoners in Israel with all residing in Neve Tirtzah in Ramle. It is the one womens' prison in Israel and is named for Tzlafchad's daughter Tirtzah.

This week's question - in Shragi's words, a math one in my honor (and to change things up), is up to the left.

Accountant Poetry: Surprise For Real This Time

A joint-effort birthday poem by Erachet and Special Ed.

We like Ezzie 'cause he's fun
And he's friends with everyone.
He has so many friends, in fact
That peace and quiet he may lack.
On gchat's where he spends his days
To Ser's chagrin, but still he stays.
SerandEz is where it's at -
Either the blog or else their Flat.
Fantasy baseball and blogs all day
He hates NY but his friends make him stay.
Youtube videos - America's Best Dance Crew,
Britain's Got Talent - what ELSE is there to do?
It's not great to be lazy and fat
But when Ezzie's around that's where it's at.
Ezzie and Garfield are one and the same
As proven by Raggedy Andy's bandaid - it's such a fun game! :D :D
Ezzie has so many friends, we're not the only ones
So we wish him the greatest birthday, but anyone else can add on!
Being friends with Ezzie is a not-so-elite membership...
Now leave a rhyming comment to explain your friendship!



(We wanted to get you this cake but we didn't want to give away the secret location of the Blogfather so we ate it instead. We're sorry there isn't any left to share. It was yummy.)


Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Perfect III

Well, if everyone else is doing it...

While working at a job that made me a bit miserable (or a lot miserable), I found this car parked facing mine when I got to the parking lot on my way home from work one day.

I assigned it as the picture ID for the office and my boss's cell. Watching it flash when my co-workers and/or boss would call made life a little brighter :)

Top 10 Ways...

...that you know your wife is throwing you a "surprise" 25th birthday party. (I was going to post this Friday, but that would have been mean. I played along nicely. :P )
  • She keeps having to run out to buy random groceries for your neighbors.
  • The same neighbors' husband calls you from his very busy job at work in the middle of the day to randomly invite you over Shabbos afternoon - despite the fact that he usually sees you at shul.
  • A friend staying at your neighbors for Shabbos suddenly says after arriving at said neighbor "I didn't realize it's your birthday this Shabbos! Happy Birthday!"
  • Everyone at shul happens to know it's your birthday.
  • Your Friday night guests happen to know it's your birthday.
  • Your wife gets nervous when your Facebook wall fills with birthday wishes, wondering how everone knows.
  • Despite buying just a handful of items, there's a $100+ charge from the local grocery.
  • There's a $40 cash withdrawal even though your wife wouldn't have had any reason to take out cash for what she was getting.
  • It takes two hours to pick up a couple prescriptions and challah. Oh, and another mysterious run to the neighbors to drop off milk.
  • Your wife suddenly spends lots of phone calls going "Yes." "No." "Uh-huh." when she normally... well, she normally doesn't just say that. :)
...and on that note, before I get hurt...

Thanks to all of y'all who read this and were able to make it - it was a lot of fun as always, and truly surprising to realize just how many friends we have living close by (with more to come). As I've said to many people in the past, there isn't much holding us in New York City - but having so many great friends so close by is certainly an amazing plus while we are here. Thanks again, Serach, the Raggedies, and everybody else!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Perfect II

To continue the License Plate Scavenger Hunt that seems to be going on, this car was spotted on a Friday afternoon in the Five Towns near Central Ave. Apropos, no?


Obama's Western Wall Prayer - Published

As much as this is one of those things you'd surely be tempted to do if you were there, I think this is wrong:
A written prayer that Barack Obama left this week in the cracks of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, asks God to guide him and guard his family, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

“Lord — Protect my family and me,” reads the note published in the Maariv daily. “Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”

The paper’s decision to make the note public drew fire. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, said publishing the note intruded in Obama’s relationship with God.

“The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them,” he told Army Radio. The publication “damages the Western Wall and damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves,” he said.

Maariv published a photograph of the note, which it said had been removed from the wall by a student at a Jewish seminary immediately after Obama left.
I'm not sure why the student felt that it was a good thing to do this; it's obviously something that should be considered private (even if it is in a public place), and it seems very wrong to me.

On a different note, it's a rather nice, generic prayer (could be he was unwilling to get more personal/specific, particularly when something like this could happen), and I certainly hope that if he wins, he does what is just and right while avoiding pride and despair.

Why I <3 The WSJ

...because they use their brains and common sense. Check out these pieces:
  • Batman & Bush:
    Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.
  • Economics as Metaphor:
    Although markets are volatile and segments of the country are having a hard time, the national output is up, not down, this year. How has the economy pulled this off? Is there something the pessimists were missing? ... What's excessive now is fear, not debt: Fears of insolvency and private-sector indebtedness are misplaced and harmful. They place obstacles in the way of ill-used capital that seeks to move toward safer and more profitable employment. They plunge the stock market into turbulence. They push government into hasty actions that intrude more aggressively into private choices and decisions. They undercut the market-price system, without which the economy cannot allocate resources productively. Last but not least, these fears trigger the proverbial false alarm in a crowded theater, sending everyone stampeding for the exits. ... We are not a nation of whiners, but we do have a lot of alarmists. It is becoming politically incorrect to suggest that the economy is basically sound. ... Failure to recognize this endangers the mental health of our society. We create a far bigger tragedy when we lose heart, change the rules of the game, or act recklessly with quick fixes.
  • Dumb Minimum Wage Increase:
    Only 15% of employees making the minimum wage are single earners with dependents. "A minimum wage increase today is a middle-class family entitlement," says EPI Executive Director Rick Berman, "because that's who's working at the minimum wage in second and third jobs." Repeated studies have shown that minimum-wage increases are more likely to slow job creation than reduce poverty. A large share of the costs of these mandates are borne by the same low-income families the wage hike is supposed to help. Employers inevitably pass wage increases onto consumers as higher prices for goods and services, which erodes the spending power of all consumers but especially the poor.
  • Baghdad, Berlin, Barack:

    "But in the darkest hour," said Sen. Obama, "the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. 'There is only one possibility,' he said. 'For us to stand together united until this battle is won…. The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty'." This, from a U.S. Senator whose consistent message to the people of Baghdad, a similarly besieged city, also dependent on America's protection, has been, in effect, to give up.

    Mr. Obama reiterated this view earlier in the week while traveling in the Middle East, in an interview with ABC's Terry Moran. Mr. Moran asked the Illinois Democrat whether -- "knowing what you know now" -- he would reconsider his opposition to last year's surge of U.S. troops in Iraq. "Well, no," Mr. Obama replied.

    What Mr. Obama "knows now" is that the surge he opposed has saved Iraq, much as Harry Truman's airlift saved Berlin and underlined America's intention to defend Europe throughout the Cold War. The surge has also saved American lives in Iraq, with combat-related deaths (so far, there have been seven this month) at an all time low.

Excerpts on expand; they're all 2-minute reads, check them out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

People Are Overrated*...

...part one of a soundtrack in 2 parts.

--The following is intended strictly for the private use of our audience. Any reproduction or re-use in any form or by any means without the express written consent of the NFL is strictly prohibited.--
original: Last Kiss by Pearl Jam
Oh, where oh where can my Bashert be?
When will the Lord send her to me
I've prayed to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my Bashert 'fore I leave this world.

I went out on dates in my daddy's car
I traveled places near and far
Years down the road, things had come to a head
A life was stalled, the drive all but dead
I thought "Should I stop?", "Should I move Left or move Right?"
I'll never forget the sound that night
The screamin' cries, the bustin' glass
The painful dream I thought had passed.

Oh, where oh where can my Bashert be?
When will the Lord send her to me
I've prayed to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my Bashert 'fore I leave this world.

One day I'll look up, after He's sent her 'round
There'll be people standing all around
Something warm rollin' through my eyes
Knowing somehow I found my Lady that night
She'll lift her head, I'll look at her and say
"HAREI AT MEKUDESHET LI."
I'll hold her close, and kiss her our first kiss
And treasure the love that I knew I had missed
From that day forth, every time I hold her tight
I found my love, my life that night.

Oh, where oh where can my Bashert be?
When will the Lord send her to me
I've prayed to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my Bashert** 'fore I leave this world.

Oooh~ ooooh~
**use of term does not imply popular definition of said term.
*why? let's go with a general lack of keeping track of the Big Picture (or Puzzle...as it were;)

The Kollel Life

Oy. Wolf gives a fantastic response to the following letter, which appears in the Yated, regarding the salaries of wives in Lakewood.
Dear Editor,

I must say that the salaries that women receive in the city where I live - Lakewood, New Jersey - are pitiful. It is a disgrace that they get little more than $10 an hour. I am not sure what the situation is like in other places such as Brooklyn, Monsey and the Five Towns, but in this city, where so many upstanding people are struggling financially, it is simply disgraceful that our wives can't find jobs that pay decently.

Some people now highly regret that their wives, when they were single, didn't get some sort of degree to enable them to get jobs that pay decently. I don't want to get into a whole discussion about whether a girl should or shouldn't get a degree, because that really isn't the point here. The point is that, in a city where the concept of "hashkafaToraso umnaso" can be applied to so many people, the fact that wives can't earn a half-decent salary to keep their families afloat is a serious problem that has not been discussed sufficiently. In most cases, even where the husband is the primary breadwinner, the family needs the mother to earn a decent salary to help cover ever-growing expenses.

In Lakewood, apparently, $10 an hour is supposed to cut it.

$10 an hour is what you give the guy off the street who you hire to clean your backyard.

$10 an hour is what you give Maria, your cleaning lady, for scrubbing your floors.

Because of the large number of young (and not-so-young) married wives who need jobs, storeowners and business owners can - and do - dictate how much they will pay their employees. And let me tell you, they are taking full advantage of the situtation. I know of two companies that are seriously contemplating moving to Lakewood for one reason only - cheap labor.

Not Mexican cheap labor.

The cheap labor of our neshei chayil, who can be hired for "bubkis."

It's a shandeh.

Eli Parkowitz
As Wolf responded, salaries are given based on value. A person with little formal training trying to get a job where numerous other people would be willing and able to get the same job will demand lower pay - period. It is not the responsibility of businesses to pay someone more than they are worth and cost themselves money to support the employee. If a person wants to earn more money, they should get more training, a better degree, both spouses should work, or something along those lines. If a community has established itself with certain characteristics, mainly that there are numerous young women available to work for very little due to lack of education, skills, training, and the like - and they are willing to accept jobs because they either need the money or want to work (get out of the house, etc.), that will result in smart businesses utilizing that situation to their advantage. This is not a shandeh, but reality.

The Perfect

...license plate for New York, I must say. Much thanks to Erachet!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Holy Hyrax - American!

Congtratulations to Holy Hyrax on receiving his citizenship!! It only took him 23 years... He probably kept spelling his name wrong. But in all seriousness, congratulations. :)

While we're at it, a belated mazel tov to: Amishav on his wedding, Jewish Atheist on getting engaged, and I can't even remember half the rest of the celebrations from around the blogosphere.

And if you're looking for a good read, read Erachet's post on Israel and SoccerDad's post on Obama and foreign policy. Money quote:
If you had to do it over again, Moran asked, knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?

"No," Obama said. "These kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. Hindsight is 20/20. But I think that what I am absolutely convinced of is at that time we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with and one that I continue to disagree with is to look narrowly at Iraq and not focus on these broader issues."

Who Knows Their Money

From this post, which is really a must-read, is a quiz that I thought would be good for SerandEz readers. I'm going to place it above to the right.

Please answer ALL three questions!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Music Of The Three Weeks

It's our favorite song but with an added surprise twist:

The Jewish Clause...

..."In the first case of its kind ever heard in an Illinois court, judges decide whether someone can disinherit his grandchildren for marrying a non-jew" [Chicago Jewish News]

received via e-mail:
I thought you might be interested in a recent decision by the Illinois Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, in which the court, in a 2-1 decision, voided a will provision that barred a trust distribution to any grandchild who married a non-Jew (unless the non-Jew converted within a year of the marriage). One of the grandchildren sued. Upholding a lower court decision in the grandchild's favor, the court found that the provision was "against public policy." This was a case of first impression in Illinois; however, similar provisions in Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts have been upheld. The dissent was written by a Jewish justice.

The majority opinion seems to rely primarily on precedents that voided clauses requiring an intended beneficiary to divorce a spouse for one reason or another and on a scholarly document known as the "Restatement of Trusts, 3rd ed." Restatements of law in different fields do not have the force of law but are often relied upon by courts to help reach a decision in matters which are uncharted territory for that court.

http://www.chicagojewishnews.com/stories.htm?sid=1

Untitled

Hat tip: Non-commenting friend.

When we were in high school, my friend Groovin' used to wear a T-shirt that said across the chest: Unsponsored. That always seemed quite clever to me. I wish we had something similar when it came to Judaism.

I was talking with our non-commenting friend earlier, and she was noting some of her frustrations with a frum women's forum she is a part of online. There was much discussion about being "yeshivish" and the like, and while she was getting fed up with it, she was very inspired by the following story (reprinted with permission and slightly edited to clean up the grammar et al). It occurred in a school in Flatbush.
My little sister is in 6th grade, and her class was fighting the "yeshivish" girls clique - where all the fathers are still learning - refused to have anything to do with the "modern" girls who they said were modern because their fathers work. Well, the teacher overheard them, and one of the yeshivish girls came over and asked, "Are you gonna teach us next year?" to which the teacher said, "I doubt you will want me as a teacher." The girls said "Why not?" The teacher said to them "Well I'm not yeshivish, and you aren't accepting of others who aren't like you." The girls said "Well your husband is a rebbe, so you are yeshivish", and the teacher said "No, I'm not, I don't have a label across my front that says I'm yeshivish. So I feel I'm just plain frum." My little sister came home so happy - she was like "See, I don't have to be yeshivish to be frum!"
We need more teachers like this.

Sometimes We Need to Cry...

Another attack. The text message I received said 12 injured, one seriously. Another news source said 16. (i'm sure there will be at least 3 comments correcting this fact).

As I put my phone back on the passenger seat of my car, something caught my ear. I turned up my fake '3 weeks' music - "Umacha Hashem dima’ah meial kol panim" ("may Hashem wipe away the tears from every face").

Yeh, sounds about right...

In December 2001, the Aish.com featured article really moved me. It was written by Chezi Goldberg, hours after the triple bombing in Ben Yehuda. Maybe it gave me some inspiration, or clarity, or maybe it was hope. But every few weeks I would go back and re-read the article. (7 years later, I still do.) Two years after he wrote the article, Rabbi Goldberg was killed in a terrorist attack.

I walked into work this morning, and my co-worker asked me how I was. I shrugged and said I was fine. I now shrug to myself. Am I 'fine'?

I hope that posting the article below will provide something to at least one person out there....
IF YOU DON'T CRY, WHO WILL?

7:30 a.m. Israel time, Sunday December 2, 2001. Eight Hours after the triple-terror attack on Jerusalem's popular Ben Yehudah pedestrian mall.

He walked into shul. I nodded my acknowledgment like I always do. He made some strange gesture, which I couldn't understand. I went on with the business of the prayer service.

A few minutes later, he walked over to me and said, "Didn't you hear?"

"Hear about what?"

"Didn't you HEAR?"

I understood that he was talking about last night's terror attack on Ben Yehudah Mall.

I assumed that he obviously intended that someone we knew was hurt or killed.

"About who?"

He looked at me as if I had landed from another planet. "About who? About everyone who was attacked last night."

I nodded, "Yes, I heard."

"Then why aren't you crying?"

His words shot through me like a spear piercing my heart. Our Sages teach that "words that come from the heart enter the heart." He was right. Why wasn't I crying?

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

He pointed around the shul. "Why aren't all my friends crying?"

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

"Shouldn't we all be crying?"

He was right. What has happened to all of us? -- myself included. We have turned to stone. Some would call it numbness. Some would call it collective national shock. Some would say that we all have suffered never-ending trauma and it has affected our senses.

The excuses are worthless. All the reasons in the world don't justify our distance from the pain that is burning in our midst.

When an attack happens, in the heat of the moment, we frantically check to see if someone we know has been hurt or killed. And then, if we find out that "our friends and family are safe," we breathe a deep sigh of relief, grunt and grumble about the latest tragic event and then, continue with our robotic motions and go on with our lives.

We have not lost our minds, my friends. We have lost our hearts.

And that is why we keep on losing our lives.

IF NOT ME, WHO?

When I left the shul, my friend said to me with tears dripping from his bloodshot eyes, "I heard that the Torah teaches that for every tear that drops from our eyes, another drop of blood is saved."

We are living in a time of absolute madness. And yet, we detach ourselves and keep running on automatic in our daily lives.

Last night, 10 people were killed and nearly 200 were injured. Even MSNBC referred to the triple terror attack as a "slaughter."

And still, we are not crying.

Perhaps my friends, we are foolish to believe that the nations of the world should be upset about the continuous murder and slaughter of Jews -- if we ourselves are not crying about it. Am I not my brother's keeper?

The most effective way for us to stop the carnage in our midst is to wake up and to react to it from our hearts. How can we demand that God stop the tragedy, when most of us react like robots when tragedy strikes?

If we don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If you don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If I don't cry about what is happening to us, who will?

Maybe our salvation from this horrific mess will come only after we tune into our emotions and cry and scream about it.

NUMB TO THE PAIN

My friend walked into shul this morning and from the looks on his friends' faces, he could not tell that they had heard what had happened on Ben Yehudah Mall.

When our enemies pound us and we fail to react because we no longer feel the pain, we are truly in a precarious position in the battle to survive.

I know a woman who has no sensitivity in her fingers. When she approaches fire, she doesn't feel the pain. That puts her in a dangerous position because she might be getting burnt and not know it, because her senses don't feel it.

If we are being hurt and we don't feel it, then we are in a very risky position. A devastating 3-pronged suicide attack on Jerusalem's most popular thoroughfare should evoke a cry of pain and suffering from all of us, should it not? Unless of course, we have lost our senses.

And if we have lost our senses, then what hope is there?

I turn on the news to hear of more carnage in Haifa. Sixteen dead. Sixteen of my brothers and sisters.

King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything." Now is the time for crying.

May God protect each and every one of us from our enemies so that we will not have to cry in the future.

What About ALL Of Us?!

After spending the last couple of hours watching the latest Nefesh B'Nefesh flight (and occasionally commenting back and forth with Erachet, who relived Camp Moshava watching the goings-on), which included the best friends and neighbors of my sister and brother-in-law, I was a bit overwhelmed and posted at the Muqata:
We just spent the last two hours watching [also known as crying while watching] the latest NBN flight arrive, including my sister and brother-in-law's best friends and neighbors from Baltimore. Apparently my nieces cried the whole Sunday night... but they'll be using their webcam to stay in touch all the time.

A former co-worker of mine is going next month (maybe Jameel will help him pack!), too. Actually, our whole lives, close family and friends have been taking that leap and making Aliyah... if you're from Cleveland, you know what I'm talking about. Hopefully soon my sister's family will be able to fulfill their dreams and make Aliyah.

...and then us, too. Hopefully soon...
Wherever I am, my HEART turns towards Eretz Yisrael

We miss it sooo much.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jailhouse Rock

My husband showed me this video last night...

An article about the dancing inmates can be found here. Some excerpts from the article:
"Hundreds of inmates at the prison in Cebu, Philippines, have taken to performing large-scale dance numbers to such classics as Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Queen's "Radio Gaga" and several songs from the "Sister Act" films to help pass the time while serving sentences or awaiting trial. "
"Melita Thomeczeck, the Philippine's deputy consulate general in New York, is not surprised by the prison's unconventional rehabilitation regimen. "It's probably like some kind of 'ra-ra' event. Probably something the warden set up to pull their minds off other things.""
"Filipino detainees try to make their life less difficult by engaging in such activities," said a Filipino police officer working in New York. "Music and dancing is so much a way of life in the Philippines, and Filipinos have this tendency to sing and dance their way out of even the most complicated situations."
"Rather, Latessa argued that more appropriate rehabilitation programs, like substance abuse or family reunification programs, should be implemented with such coordination and vigor.
But the Filipino police officer believes such group song-and-dance programs are not a distraction from rehabilitation, but an integral part of it. "It combines the need for physical exercise and their love to sing and dance. In more ways than one, it contributes to their rehabilitation and eventual reintegration."
Thomeczeck sees the possibility of an even greater positive effect: "It's a way to put themselves together physically and probably spiritually."


More videos of the 'dancing inmates' can be found by searching inmates dance or any other combination of similar words....

Well Waddaya Know XVIII

Last week's Q&A:
How many prisoners are currently in the Israeli prison system? Approximately:

15,000
3 (10%)
23,000
6 (20%)
32,000
8 (27%)
45,000
12 (41%)


Votes so far: 29
There are about 23,000 prisoners in Israel - 14,000 criminal and 9,000 security.

This week's question is up to the left.

First International J-Blogger Convention

Well, this is certainly exciting...

On August 20th, after a very cool lead-in project, Nefesh B'Nefesh will be hosting the first international J-Blogger Convention in Israel. In the middle there will be two panel discussions, and the panelists include some of the biggest and best Jewish blogs out there - R' Gil Student of Hirhurim, David Bogner of Treppenwitz, Jewlicious, Israel Matzav... there's even going to be a comedy performance by Heshy of Frum Satire.

On top of that, NbN is sending a few J-bloggers, including our good friend Jameel, to the United States to do something exciting right before the conference:
Nefesh b'Nefesh has offered to send me and other JBloggers to the US (and return back) on one of their aliya flights -- to accompany an oleh family and blog their experience before leaving, during the flight, and at the welcome-home reception at Ben-Gurion airport.
They should arrive the day before the convention. (For those interested in seeing the welcome-home reception of a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight, my sister called earlier and said there should be one tonight at 12:40am EDT, including their best friends and neighbors who made aliyah today from Baltimore.)

Meanwhile, for anyone who is interested in attending the conference, you can register by clicking here; if you're interested in taking part via a live feed they'll be having, you can register there as well. I've already registered for the online feed, and if you won't be in Israel, I recommend doing the same.

Between the Shabbaton the Shabbos before and the Convention, it will certainly be quite a week in the J-Blogosphere...!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

YU Forces Out Professor

This is certainly going to get interesting. Much to the consternation of numerous students at Yeshiva University, the University asked Professor James Otteson to resign from his position as the director of the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College.

To sum up the story as best as I understand it at this point, Prof. Otteson was hired last year to run and revamp the Honors Program at YU. Everything seemed to be progressing well, and Otteson was quite popular among the students at YU, as his plans for the school were approved and he raised funds to support the program. However, other professors were apparently unhappy with Otteson, apparently primarily because of his political beliefs, and pressured the school to get rid of him; YU asked him to resign, despite a signed letter from over 50 students supporting Otteson. When questioning the school, the students were informed that his blog - Proportional Belief - played a sizable role in the decision.

One can read the blog and determine for themselves whether there is anything remotely controversial; I did a quick scan of my own and saw nothing that is even close to "over the line". He is discussing rather typical political and sociological issues and giving his own conservative viewpoint - nothing stronger than what one might hear on a typical radio talk show. Obviously, this Proportional Outrage blog is meant to play off Otteson's blog's name while demonstrating support for him; it has excellent links detailing much of the official correspondence and discussion regarding Otteson. It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out, especially considering it is at YU.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What Happens When I'm Alone In The Kitchen

My mother told me to make two simple things for Shabbos. Pasta and this cranberry/apple/mandarin orange thing (you kind of just put them all in a bowl and mix them together - er, but not with the pasta). Sounds simple enough, right? Pasta I know how to make, of course, since it's only my favorite food. The other thing really is easy, but count on me to mess it up. Well, okay, I guess it's not really messed up, but in order to make it, you have to first grate an apple. And before you grate the apple, you have to peel it. Peeling apples is very tricky - at least, for me. I don't know how to peel anything with a knife because I just know that would end up in slicing off my finger. So I used a peeler. Safe enough, right?

Right?

WRONG!

Peel, peel, peel, peel, over the garbage can, peel, peel, peel, peel, OUCH.

I peeled a little bit too far and that could almost have been very painful and bloody.

So after getting over the shock of peeling off part of my finger (well, the nail, mostly, but it could have been so much worse!), I decided, shakily, to try again. Except at that point I was too tentative to actually peel anything.

I stared at the apple, wondering what to do. Most of it wasn't peeled yet but I was just too afraid to peel any more. Should I grate it with the peel on? Hmmm...

"You know what?" I thought to myself. I opened the cranberry gel stuff and the mandarin oranges and mixed them together. They looked good enough to me.

Then I ate the apple.

I'm sure no one'll notice, right?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BeyondBT/SerandEz Shabbaton - Details

Mark Frankel has posted some details about the Shabbaton at the end of a very good post about "Appreciating Our Differences Together". Toward the end:
At the two past Shabbatons we gave everybody the opportunity to speak for a maximum of 10 minutes. In Passaic, somebody commented that this was a brave thing to do given that we hadn’t heard the people speak before- how would we know if they would be good? As it turned out all the speeches were good. Why? Because everybody shared a little about themselves. Not necessarily their “story”, but something personal, something unique, something that let us understand and appreciate them a little better. ...

Some people have asked why we’re doing this Shabbaton jointly with Serandez. The main reason is that participants in both communities* share the common focus of discussing important topics, improving ourselves and improving our communities. That’s the tie that binds and those are the ties we need to continuously strengthen. ...

With that being said, here are some details about the BeyondBT/Serandez Shabbaton:
  • The Shabbaton is being held on Shabbos Nachamu, August 15-16 in Kew Gardens Hills, with the meals being held at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel.
  • The cost of the Shabbos is $50 per person for 3 catered meals, an Oneg Shabbos and a Melava Malka.
  • Family discounts and special situation discounts are available.
  • We will find accommodations for those who live outside of Kew Gardens Hills.
  • Please RSVP us with your email and cell phone at beyondbt@gmail.com if you are hoping or planning to come so we can plan appropriately. Also email us with any suggestions.
* - "FFB" and "BT".

I really think that a lot of the readers of this blog will get a lot out of coming to this Shabbaton. We wouldn't be a part of it if we hadn't enjoyed it two years ago or if we didn't think we'd gain from it this time as well, and I wouldn't be pitching it here if I didn't think many of you would, too. Whether you live in Kew Gardens Hills and want to join in (y'all know who you are!) or want to come and join us all for Shabbos, we'd love to see you there. I know a lot of you are on the fence about it - come. You'll enjoy it - from the food to the speakers to most importantly, the company.

I'm even considering speaking (!!), which should give you enough to laugh at to last for quite a while, and of course, Elianna & Kayla will be there, too! E-mail Mark or David at beyondbt@gmail.com or myself at serandez@gmail.com for more information and to sign up.

The Adventures of Super Baby: Cockroach Repellent


A comic starring Elianna and Kayla for your entertainment! And to cheer Ezzie up while he has no computer of his own :(

This is my first ever attempt at drawing a comic strip so I apologize if it's really unclear (and if the drawing and coloring is pretty bad - oh well! I never claimed to be an artist :P). If you click on the picture, it makes it humongous and then you can actually read what's written there BUT, in case you, for some reason, can't read anything even once you make the picture ginormous (and then I suggest getting either really strong glasses or repeating first grade), it says:

Frame 1: Elianna yelling because there's a cockroach on her dress
Frame 2: Baby Kaya (aka Kayga aka Kayla) - "Super Baby" - hears a cry of distress!
Frame 3: Super Baby uses one of her many secret weapons - spit up! The cockroach gets grossed out and runs away! Hooray! Elianna looks puzzled - which is worse? A cockroach on your dress or spit up?
Frame 4: It's all in a day's work for Super Baby!

You Know....

You know it's time to make a trip to the grocery store when:

  • you defrost a non dairy creamer to use in a coffee you don't actually need to be pareve
  • your husband comes home from yeshiva with a tray/carton of tradition soups (okay, really he stopped at the store first..)
  • all you have to take for lunch is a tube of saltines and winkies (which are not actually a filling candy)
  • the saltines & winkies lunch follows half a bag of graham crackers & winkies lunch
  • your co-worker sits down to meet with you and your stomach starts verbally threatening her.
  • you start a post about grocery shopping...

Somebody Call NBC...

...because I got the Next Big Thing to hit the airwaves come the new fall season.

***For anybody out there who is even thinking of making an anti-TV comment:
Please save yourself the trouble and partake of the sage advice of the late, great Archibald Bunker (a great man with an even greater easy chair) and by all means...STIFLE YOURSELF!!!***

>>Intro - replace current voice-over with intro below to be followed by classic musical theme<<>

In 2002, a crack Chabura unit was sent into exile by a Yeshiva court for a chumra they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security BeisMedrash to the Kollel underground. Today, still wanted by the Mashgiach, they survive as Yungerleit of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire...The J-Team:

B.A Baruchs
H.M. Mordechai
Templeton “PonimBesht
John “Maccabee” Stein

Orders from Ezzie

Conversation with Ezzie this morning.

me: gimme an idea for my next post
though i think ill let this one sit for a bit

Ezzie: what's up with you writing a lot all of a sudden?
you should link it at least if not repost it on mine
not like i have time to post you should link it at least if not repost it on mine
not like i have time to post

me: Yeah, maybe ill link it

Ezzie: and it's that good
excerpt some of it
otherwise ppl don't nec go

So here’s an excerpt. Read the rest here:

I was totally unprepared.

There were jokes about Vivian in the staff room. We should “pawn her off to Dr. Bill” said the chief nurse. I didn’t understand. Why would they pawn her off? What did it mean to be pawned off?

Of all of today’s patients, Vivian’s was the only one whose chart I hadn’t read prior to entering the exam room.

And because I should have, I was totally unprepared.

I followed Dr. Howie into exam room #2. Though the room was well lit, it felt so terribly dark. I could feel the tension, sense the tangible and intangible pain, experience the suffering, and even –for a brief moment – see the shadow of the Angel of Death in the corner.

I slowly closed the door behind us.


Pain

Not having a computer of our own (for a week and counting now) is one of the most painful experiences of my life. (Thank God.)

I want y'all to try and imagine going that long without one - and I don't mean voluntarily, I mean when you need one but don't have one. Grr.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Feel Like Crying?...

...you picked a good day.

In addition to the tragedy that was the deaths of two Israeli IDF soldiers as part of a "prisoner swap"...

Take a gander at another truly tragic situation and its various levels of media coverage.

New York Magazine


Escape From the Holy Shtetl:
Gitty Grunwald fled the pious world of her mother to return to the secular city of her grandparents. There’s only one problem: The Satmars kept her daughter. A family saga of four generations of American Jews.

Vos Iz Neias?(Yiddish for What's News?)


Yet another hate-filled, biased and anti-religious article appeared in the New York media this week— under the headline 'Escape From the Holy Shtetl' one that for obvious reasons was not reprinted by VIN News but which stoked a firestorm of controversy. A young woman still finding her place in the world tears her beautiful daughter between father and mother and the stable and shifting lives they respectively live
(source:The Wolf)

--So much sadness, in so many ways, on so many levels, from so many places.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Price of Marriage

Long post ahead for everyone bored at work....


They say marriage isn't simple. It may be simple for guys, but us women over here go through a lot to change our names! I had a slight idea of what was needed. A marriage license? Is that the same as a certificate? Social Security, DMV....




(disclaimer: each state has different processes for marriage licenses, certificates, name changes, etc. this is just what I went through)


To begin with, you need to obtain a marriage license. This is your "permit" to get married. The law in most states is that you need to apply for a marriage license EITHER in the town that your wedding takes place, OR in the town of the Bride's residence. You both need to be present, and you need to bring your passport.


Well, I had moved back home until the wedding, and my husband wouldn't be in town on any days that we could go to City Hall (coming in town for a Shabbos didn't leave any work days), and our wedding was in a location we wouldn't be at until the wedding.


We weren't so sure how this worked, but on one trip to [current town of residence] we almost headed downtown to 'get married' - which doesn't work how we thought it did. We thought we could just get married that day. But we ended up skipping it because then we weren't sure what would happen with our taxes, health insurance, etc. until the wedding.


So of course, we waited until we were married nearly 3 months.

You can't just go downtown and get a paper signed that says you're married (well, if you have an appt with a judge, etc etc you can). First you go down to city hall and fill out paperwork -which includes your parent's SSNs and place of birth. You learn some interesting things filling out these forms, for example, my fathers in law's country of birth doesn't even exist anymore. It split into two countries. But which current country was the actual location??

[The Dept of Vital Records is only open until 3:40 M-F, I work until 2 and don't back it back to town until 3:40, and my husband has yeshiva at 3, so it took some time to get down there. Plus parking is impossible, but we found a lot and parked there ($7). ]

Once you fill out that paperwork, you hand it to the lady behind the counter in the ancient building, along with a drivers license, a passport, and a check or money order ($40). She then uses a typewriter and prints up a form with three signature locations.

1) Officiant or Clergy member - is it a civil or religious ceremony? (sig, name, address)

2) Witness 1 (sig, name)

3) Witness 2 (sig, name)

After you get this license, it is valid for 3 months, and you can use it at your religious or civil ceremony (even if you go down/up to Atlantic City you need a license).


So we head down to yeshiva after Maariv and ask the Rosh if he can sign the paper. I wait in the car just in case I'm needed. I am. So I head into the building, and we grab two yeshiva guys from the hallway. The Rosh tells us that the State doesn't recognize our chassunah as a valid ceremony since we didn't have our license yet (yeh, we understood that) So, he preforms another wedding, with the two bochurim acting as witnesses and aidim (which i know are the same thing, but technically here they weren't). I even got a new ring out of the deal. I also got married in a slinky skirt and a snood. Then the Rosh and two guys sign the license (in black pen only), and we stick it in an envelope and send it back to City Hall.

But then you need to go downtown to pick up the Marriage Certificate, so you need to give things a few days because you had originally mailed it back, then i'm sure there's processing time involved.... Meanwhile, we weren't sure if we were legally "married' yet or not without the certificate. But again, Dept of Vital Records is only open until 3:40... Plus, the SSA office is a few blocks away, (open til 4), and I wanted to get both things done at the same time. Parking downtown is a big pain, most spots near the buildings are 15 min parking, or Permit Only (government ppl) and the meter maids stalk the meters. Many cars have orange tickets on their windows...

So I decided to drop my husband off at Yeshiva on Tuesday so I could run downtown and take care of everything. Of course we got a late start, and I left yeshiva around 3:15, but decided to go for it anyway. That morning at work, i printed out all of the forms I would need (available online) and filled them out a head of time.

I drove downtown, tried 2 diff parking spots with unclear "parking/no parking" signs, and finally got a 30 min spot right across from City Hall at 3:20 ($0.50). I ran inside (literally), and filled out the request form. Luckily there was no line, so i went up to the counter with my passport and license and another check. Each marriage certificate costs $20, but if you take more than one at a time, its $20 for the first, and $15 each additional. I took two copies, so that I would have one to send off to the Passport people. ($35).

Then I walked across the street to where I thought I saw the SSA building on a previous trip. I was wrong, so I quickly walked back to the car. I found the correct building (further than I thought) and actually found parking close by! ($0.50). (3:45 p.m.)

The building was a Federal bldg, so when I entered I had to go through security, I felt like I was back in Israel. I took the elevator up to SSA and walked into a huge room with about 2 other people waiting and a few "tellers" open. I took a number and was called right away. I walked up to the counter and handed her my marriage certificate, completed name change form, license, and passport. I learned the lingo by this point, I was applying for a "name change due to marriage". I also asked how the name change worked, could I keep my maiden name intial as a middle name? No problem! Within minutes, she had printed out my receipt and told me I would receive my new card within a few weeks. (FREE) I asked if I had to wait for the new SS card and bring it to the DMV but she said as long as it was after 24 hours, I didn't need it.

I was out of there by 4:00. While I waited in the car to pick up my husband from Yeshiva I called all of my credit card, insurance, etc companies to notify them of my name change, and request any necessary paperwork that needed to be completed.

Now I needed to change my drivers license and passport. The DMV here is open until 3:30.

Thursday I was off work because of July 4th weekend (and we don't work Fridays in the summer), so I decided to take care of everything then, since it was all closed on Friday due to the holiday. I had to be somewhere by 3:15, so I decided to leave my house no later than 11. That left an hour for passport pics, an hour at the dmv, and an hour to get to the post office and send in the application (that's how my mind works, i think too much ahead, and my day is split up into hours instead of 15 min increments or anything else).

I got to CVS just before 11 to take new passport pictures, which of course the passport agency had issues with because they were partially yellow in the background. ($9)


Then I went to the DMV. Which wasn't listed in my GPS, so I called a friend of my husband who had a local license to find out where it was.

Where I'm from, our DMV was a pretty small room... A "long" was was 30 min, and there were 2 lines - license new/renewals, and plates/registrations. The MAIN DMV office that you take your exam and road test at was a bigger building, not HUGE but still big, the main office, etc. with maybe 5 orderly lines and a room in back for exam takers.

This place was GIGANTIC!!!!!!!!!! they had a million different counters for different actions. Plates, Licenses, Exams, CDLs, Camera, Handicap Permits, and I can't even remember what else.

You walk in and "check in" at the information desk (and it's not obvious that you need to check in). The Info Guy hands you a ticket with your number.

So I go to check in and the guy asked what I was there for. Very officially I answered, "Out of state transfer with a name change due to marriage". I present my certificate, license, etc. and he asks if SSA gave me a print out with my new name and #?

I replied that no, that did not, I only received a receipt (without name and # on it) and they told me as long as it was after 24 hours I was fine to go to the DMV.

But this wasn't "fine" to DMV Info Guy, so he sent me (on foot, specifically) about 8-10 blocks away to the closest SSA office, where i took #66 (they were on 58 i think) and waited on the chairs next to a bunch of legal or illegal immigrants without their proper paperwork.

Finally I got my little paper - which wasn't even a print out - it was hand written!!! -- And walked back to the DMV. I checked in with Mr Info Guy again, and he handed me my ticket with my # on it.


Here, the tickets worked differently. You were assigned a letter as well as number.

A B C D E or F followed by ###. Then you sit (or stand, as there was no room) and wait.

Apparently F stood for one thing, A's were written exams, C's might have been CDLs, etc. B was license renewals (including "out of state transfers with name changes due to marriage").

I was B179. But they don't call B100 then B101, then B102... instead D and B (maybe other letters too) shared a few counters. So they would call out C242, D453, B165, F243, D454 .... you have no way of knowing how long its gonna take! For an hour no B's were called, and the last B was B155 or something.

I was there for 2 hours.

I finally get called after some D's and F's and it went quickly from there. I handed in my old license, marriage cert, SSA 'print' out, proof of current address, and check ($31.50). Then he directed me over to the camera lady, where I wanted briefly until she called my name.

Unfortunately, i didn't get to keep my old license :( sniffle. They gave me a temporary license, a computer printout with a pic.

Of course, instead of expiring in 5 years or whatever the usual expiration date is on a 21+ license, it expires same time as my old license since that one hadn't expired yet - 9/5/2009 - that means in a year i have to deal with going back to the DMV and renewing! I hope its a different city at least!!

I left at 1:30 and drove to the post office to deal with my passport.

I had already filled out paperwork and printed it out, but I wasn't sure about attaching the pictures and if I should send it express mail since the next day was a legal holiday anyway, but on the application for expedited service it instructs the applicant to send it express, to a 2nd address for expedited service.

Regular applications/renewal have an expected 6 week wait period, but there has been a backup with all of the new travel laws and we were considering a summer trip to Canada so I wanted to use the expedited service, which was an expected 3 week wait. ($149.85)

After waiting at an empty counter forever the lady shows up and criticizes CVSs bad photography skills (or lack there-of) but says we will try it and see if they accept the pictures. She stuck the pictures in a little jacket made for passport applications (and not included online!) and said to mail it Priority ($4.80) instead of Express, since they wouldn't work on it until Monday anyway, and address the application to the main address since it wasn't being sent by Express mail, but to purchase delivery confirmation since it contained my passport, etc. ($0.75)

Then she sealed the application, pictures, old passport, check, and marriage certificate in a Priority Mail envelope, and stamped it.

When it came time to pay, i used a credit card. She looked at the back of my card and asked to see my ID "since the signature is worn off."

I said "uhhh, well... i have this temporary ID from the DMV, but it has the NEW last name, and my only other piece of ID with my old last name is my passport which you just sealed in that Priority Mail envelope... "

She laughed, and let it slide (especially since she just saw my passport), but it was pretty ironic...

Wednesday I received an express mail envelope and got worried that my passport was returned to me because of the pictures, or it was sent to the wrong address, or I didn't really exist....

But inside was my brand new passport!!!! They had Mon/Tues to work on it, and it had to have been mailed (express obviously) by Tues to arrive on Wednesday! I guess the $150 was worth it.

About $300 later, I'm officially a married woman with a new last name.

I have no idea how everyone does this - especially those that get married and move to Israel right away.



(for Serandez:)

Hours Spent: 40*
Money Spent: $300
Being Married: Priceless.

*i dont know if it was 40 - serandez made that up.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A List Letterman Won't Be Doing Anytime Soon

A little while back I discussed my "affinity" for the educational value of Gedolim Stories. Regardless, some of these stories are positive (some are even true... [I kid!]), but either way they have been a constant presence throughout my years of formative education and probably yours too.

That is why I began to attempt a compilation of The Top Ten Most Over-Told Gedolim Stories.

Thus far I have only thought of my top two; bear in mind this is based solely on my own personal experience (I don't have the patience to reproduce entire stories; it is my hope that these stories are well-known enough that a brief allusion will do the trick. Failing that, perhaps some intrepid commenters will help out.)...

#1) The R' Yaakov Kamenetzky story on the airplane where his children/grandchildren tend to his needs, while his secular seatmate's do not; to which R' Yaakov attributed the belief in evolution ("they think you are closer to a monkey, rather than closer to Sinai").

#2) The R' Sampson Raphael Hirsch story where he travels to the Alps towards the end of his life. Upon being asked why, he explained that he didn't want to approach his Creator and hear, "you learned my teachings and fulfilled my commandments, but did you see my Alps?!?" [granted, this story's spot on the list probably attributable to a Modern Orthodox schooling].

#3)...

I throw it out to the reading/commenting public to help me complete this list.

Ugly In Print...

...isn't it? Yet, as best as I can tell, everything contained in The Wall Street Journal article below is true.

Then again, would expect anything less on this topic from an Old Gray Lady?**rimshot** - thank you, thank you...I'll be here all week...

HOUSES OF WORSHIP

Single Jewish Female Seeks Stress Relief
By TAMAR SNYDER
July 11, 2008; Page W11

People often compare dating to interviewing for a job. In the Orthodox Jewish world, this notion is taken almost literally.

Upon returning from post-high-school studies in Israel, young Orthodox women (such as myself) meet with recruiters, commonly known as shadchanim (matchmakers). After determining whether the young woman wishes to marry a "learner" (a man studying full time in yeshiva), an "earner" (a professional) or a combination of the two, the shadchan collects the prospective bride's "shidduch résumé," detailing everything from education and career plans to dress size, height, parents' occupations and synagogue memberships. The shadchan then approaches a suitable single man or, most likely, his parents -- who add the woman to their son's typically lengthy "list."

Before agreeing to a noncommittal first date, the man's parents begin a thorough background check that puts government security clearance to shame. Phoning references isn't enough -- of course they'll say good things -- so they cold-call other acquaintances of the potential bride, from camp counselors to college roommates. The questions they ask often border on the superficial: "Does she own a Netflix account?"; "Does she wear open-toed shoes?" (The correct response may vary depending on how Orthodox a woman the man is looking for.)

Just as the economy is headed to recession, the shidduch system is in crisis mode. Or so the rabbis moan, noting the surplus of women eager to marry and the corresponding shortfall in the quality and quantity of available Jewish men. It's not that there are more Orthodox women than men out there; experts instead attribute the shortage to the broader sociological trend of postponing marriage, which works to the disadvantage of women looking for spouses their own age or just a few years older. Men who are 30 will date women as young as 18 and may turn their noses up at dating any woman past the age of 25. The 20% or 30% of women who don't get hitched right away begin to worry they'll be left out in the cold for good.

Sensing this shift of power, mothers of sons who remain in the matchmaking system increase their demands: Any prospective daughter-in-law must be a size two, or a "learner" son must be supported indefinitely by the girl's parents. For men, "it's a buyer's market," says Michael Salamon, a psychologist and author of "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (2008). "And the pressures of dating are creating all kinds of social problems, such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders. It's frightening."

I used to shrug off this talk. Genocide in Darfur is a crisis; being single at 23 is not. But the communal pressure is hard to ignore. Orthodox Judaism, like most traditional faiths, is geared to families; singles lack a definitive role.

Then there's what social worker Shaya Ostrov calls the "popcorn effect." During the first two to three years following high-school graduation, 70% to 80% of Orthodox women get married; weddings then peter off.
"The system works for a very limited period of time," says Mr. Ostrov, the author of "The Inner Circle: Seven Gates to Marriage." Friends of mine compare dating to musical chairs; nobody wants to end up an "old maid," and so they get engaged, hoping doubts will prove unfounded. "Young women," notes Sylvia Barack Fishman, professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University, "are often made to feel that they are damaged goods if they have not married -- and married well -- by their early 20s."

Part of the problem is the increased number of "serial daters" who, as Ms. Fishman says, are "shopping for perfection." When Mr. Ostrov runs workshops, he asks male participants in their early 30s how many girls they have dated. "One hundred seventy-five is not an unusual number," he says. "Dating" in these cases usually ends after just one or two meetings with each girl.

Many men admit that their refusal to commit themselves to a woman stems from fear of making a mistake. The only thing worse than being an "older single" male, it seems, is being a 25-year-old divorcé with two children. It is women, though, who are usually more stigmatized by a split. Indeed, one big problem in the Orthodox community is the "Post-Shidduch Crisis."

"We're seeing more and more recently married, young Orthodox Jews getting divorced," says Mr. Salamon, who estimates that the divorce rate among the Orthodox has risen to an alarming 30% in the past five to 10 years. (Hard data are difficult to come by, Mr. Salamon says, because the Orthodox shun research studies for fear of harming their own or their children's shidduchim.)

The core of the problem is that young marrieds don't know how to accommodate each other, says Mr. Salamon. And singles need to start asking the right questions. "Family history has nothing to do with whether you'll make a good husband or wife," he says. The rigid, interview-style questioning is only wreaking havoc: "They're looking for some sort of guarantee. But who can guarantee happiness?"


As I have said before, much of this should be attributed more to how people have been using The System recently than to The System itself.
The more and more that I hear of what goes on frequently in this process I fear that, as a group, we are becoming that most horrible of all things...we are becoming (in my humble, unwarranted, flawed and most probably self defining opinion) a nation of hypocrites.
A phalanx of "do as we say but not as we do" soldiers. Who keep to the Godly ideals when it suits us but as soon as the stakes are raised begin playing the odds better than the most accomplished Vegas card-sharp and working the angles with the tenacity and unapologetic passions of a polished Washington politician.

This is what we (those who live in the shadow of The System) have turned into, facts are facts...one only wonders what we will become going forward.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Well Waddaya Know XVII

Last week's question and answer:
Max needs to perform two tasks: Juggling 7 balls and reading the Dick & Jane primer out loud. Will he perform better with an audience or worse?
Both better
1 (3%)
Both worse
6 (19%)
Equally well for both
0 (0%)
Juggling better, reading worse
13 (41%)
Juggling worse, reading better
11 (35

Shragi says: Simple tasks are done better with an audience and complex tasks are performed less well with an audience. Therefore the juggling will be worse and the reading better.

[Ezzie: I thought the opposite - simple tasks, under pressure, you'll fumble because you are thinking too much about them. Harder tasks you are forced to focus on and tune out the audience. Interesting.]

This week's question is up to the left!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

BeyondBT/SerandEz Shabbaton

It's official:
You are cordially invited to the Beyond BT/SerandEz Shabbaton in Kew Gardens Hills on Shabbos Nachamu, August 15-16, 2008. Please join us for a full Shabbos program including relaxed, catered meals and personal thoughts on the themes of Integration, Inspiration and Individuality. There will also be a melave malka with the BBT Jam Band (in its newest incarnation).

Pricing to follow. We will find accommodations for those residing outside of Kew Gardens Hills on a first request - first serve basis. Please e-mail us at beyondbt@gmail.com with questions, comments, or to rsvp. We look forward to seeing you all there.

Two years ago, BeyondBT had their first Shabbaton, and it was really a little bit of everything: Interesting, relaxing, fun, inspiring, moving... I glanced back at the post I wrote immediately afterward, and it talks about how we stayed far later than we planned at the melave malka despite having to drive to Monsey that night and wake up just a couple of hours later. That weekend drew just over 100 people - some for the whole weekend, some like us who came for some parts of it.

Serach and I are sure this Shabbaton will be a great success as well, and we're really flattered that BeyondBT asked us to take such a nice part in this. If you're interested in joining us, please don't hesitate to contact them at the e-mail listed above, or if you'd prefer, you can contact me at serandez@gmail.com and I'll help you as much as I can.

We look forward to seeing/meeting all of you!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Charedi Community: The Good & The Bad

The following slew of posts pretty much sums up both the good and the bad of today's religious community, particularly in the Yeshivish/Charedi world.

On the one hand, there is Chana's excellent post which essentially tries to describe the Charedi philosophy and notes its positives - an admittedly difficult but mature recognition for Chana considering her past, negative experiences.

On the other, there is the difficulty of balancing theory and practice. Chaim has a post today decrying the fall from the Rabbonim of the last generation to the ones of this generation, in discussing the 90-minute delay of an El-Al flight for the sake of a Rebbe [who apparently sat down and stated "every delay is for the best"]. Wolf has an open letter he either wrote or would like to write to his son's camp Rebbe who told the class that anyone who intermarries will burn in Gehinnom (hell) forever. He had a post last week noting a brochure given in the Bais Ya'acov system in Israel touting exactly the opposite of the post below this, calling chumrahs about riding separately on buses "halacha".

One of the most interesting aspects of this is the commentary some people have on these stories and others. Some of the commenters on VIN about the Rebbe delaying the flight say that the flight only travelled safely because the Rebbe was on it, or that it would have crashed if not for the delay, etc. A friend told me this morning that a friend she went to seminary with felt that the terror attack last week was because of the light rail the city is trying to build (Jerusalem is too holy for such a thing). [Note: The attack started from a construction site that is for the sake of the light rail.]

It is becomingly increasingly difficult to shrug off such actions and opinions as atypical and coming from extremists. More and more often, we see complete abuses of power, disregard for people's incomes, rather off the wall opinions and explanations of events, and ridiculous theories and twisting of stories to fit them into a specific worldview. As my friend said to me this morning, "It's things like that [the light rail comment] that keep me from embracing charedi ideals - I am just really turned off a lot by a lot of the attitude." When I noted that I know plenty who are not like that, as I added "but they seem to be in the minority, and that scares me", my friend said simultaneously "but they seem to be the exception."

It is scary. The problem is not the Charedi outlook per se, but the practice of it - the question is whether this distorted practice is an outgrowth of the outlook and education or not. More importantly, if it is, what can be done about it, and if not, where is the disconnect and what can be done about it.

Oy.

Not On Each Other's Backs

An excellent post at BeyondBT, putting chumrahs in perspective:

A couple of weeks ago in my Gemorah shiur we got into an aside about Chumras. The Rabbe mentioned that he had once been approached by a gentleman who was asking for Tzedeka to help him buy a set of Tefillin for his grandson. As the discussion unfolded it turned out that this grandfather was seeking assistance in buying a $1500 set of Tefillin! The Rebbe, originally inclined to assist, declined to contribute. He said that it’s one thing to help with a mitzvah, but this gentleman should not be asking others to support his chumra.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine shared a D’var Torah with me at a Shalom Zachor. It was around Parshat Vayakel. He started by posing the question, “What was the difference between the Keilim (vessels) that were in the Beit Hamikdash vs those in the Mishkan”? The answer is that in the Mishkan there was only one of each vessel and they were smaller than the ones in the Beit Hamikdash. This was so in spite of the fact that the B’nei Yisrael offered Moshe enough to have larger and multiple vessels in the Mishkan. In fact the B’nai Yisrael were offering so much of their possessions that Moshe had to tell them to stop. Why did he stop them? Surely, he knew that their destiny was to build a Temple large enough to accommodate whatever they wanted give. The answer given was that since the Mishkan was portable and carried by men, Moshe did not want the B’nai Yisrael to think that they could satisfy their desire to do extra (be Machmir) on their brothers’ backs.

We've discussed this concept here before, not just in terms of chumrahs, but any personal choice that places a burden on the community. One is allowed to take on any lifestyle or choice for themselves, so long as that does not cause a burden to others - the other story the writer cites about his daughter sacrificing on her own standard for the sake of her grandfather is exactly how such a situation should probably be approached, and they should all be commended for it.

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