No Competition

jibsThere must be some mistake — The Third Annual Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards just finished up the first round of voting and Yo, Yenta! was nowhere to be seen on the list of candidates.

It’s okay, I forgive you. I’m so out of the JBloggy loop I even forgot to nominate myself. The truth is, besides the biggie blogs like Jewschool and Jewlicious, I don’t read most of the nominees on a regular basis, though I recognize some names. The sheer number of Jewish bloggers is staggering — the blogroll at JRants seems to have doubled in the past year! Wonderful that we all have so much to say.

Yet as usual, I feel myself on the fringe of the Jewish “in crowd.” I don’t live in New York, don’t have much to add to Torah discussions or Israeli politics and am far too overwhelmed by family life to get really serious about saving Darfur. Yet here I am, still tippity-tapping away after three years (The day after the second seder marked my third blogiversary.) Not that I think I deserve a place among the best JBloggers; I’m just sayin’, I been around for awhile, even if these days I barely have time to post, let alone answer back all you dolls who leave nice things in the comments section (and I’m way behind on that, too. If they gave out an award for personal tsursis, I’d be a shoe-in.)

The weirdest thing is that the more removed I feel from the whole JBlogosphere at large, the more local people seem to be reading this blog. In California, not one person in my congregation ever had anything to say about my rants, and I kind of liked the anonymity. Here in Savannah, I’m outed at almost every Jewish function I attend, which is gratifying or terrifying, depending on whether I feel strong enough to take a little Southern gabbing behind my back.

S’long as you keep visiting once in a while, I’m cool with being a small (gefilte) fish in the big (aspic) pond. Y’all go vote for some of those supersmart, articulate Jewish bloggers. I’ll always have 2005, yo.

A Colorful Shabbat to You

shabbatpaintingA little something from Texas that uses more than red, white and blue: Dallas artist Debbie Richman has a whole smorgasbord of Judaica-themed paintings that I’m adoring at the moment, and it’s not just because we share the same taste in green.

It’s electrifying to see a Shabbat table that so much resembles my own; I’ve never been a lace-and-doily kinda gal. I find Debbie’s work whimsical yet strong in its traditional content, and I like the way themes like b’nai mitzvot and holidays are given a happy vibrancy without detracting from the seriousness at hand.

In her own words:

I approach my paintings with bold contrasting colors, unusual perspectives and design elements which create energy and excitement. Most of my work integrates a single 3-dimensional object into the composition providing a unique depth and “I Spy” conversation. My influences include Vincent Van Gogh, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol.

(Methinks I see a little Romero Britto in those colors, too, but whaddoo I know?)

Her holiday art is fabulous, too.

As we all go in to this day of rest, let your table reflect exactly who you are. Shabbat Shalom!

Contention, The Spice of Life?

ellies‘Cause of the move and BellSouth’s inability to send me the correct modem (instead of the fabulous wireless freedom to which I’ve become accustomed, I am now chained to the wall next to the only modern phone jack in this charming pre-1950’s house) as well as the general stress of living with two small children, El Yenta Man and I have been sniping at each other lately. Or as the boy puts it, “You guys are really ‘yelly’ lately.”

Point taken, kid. We’re both really loud people (this appears to be hereditary — our 3 year-old can outshout all of us) and while we can bicker vehemently about anything — where to put the couch, whether the kitchen is too green — we usually kiss and make up over popsicles in the backyard a few minutes later. I cannot imagine being married to someone who didn’t argue back: if he just sat there silently, leading me to believe he agreed with me but was really stewing in passive agression and resentment and was actually still mad days later after I’d forgotten all about whatever it was, I’d go craaaaazy. At least everything is on the table, dealt with and done, right? Although I apologize again for calling him an a-hole in front of the kids. Bad form, I know.

Y’all know I don’t love stereotypes, but it seems like a lot of Jews are yelly. Maybe it’s just the ones that I know (I’m telling you, the Senior Yenta Lunch is one cacaphonous event, enhanced by the fact that most everyone is at least half deaf) but I had many dinners over at my Mormon neighbors’ growing up and no one ever seemed to raise their voice or stalk away from the table or slam doors. My Italian friend tells me her family yells a lot, too, even screams and throws food, so we know it’s not exclusive. But Sue Eisenfeld knows that Jewish women love a good argument, and writes writes at Interfaithfamily.com that arguing with a non-Jewish spouse can be a challenge, especially a quiet, non-confrontational non-Jewish spouse.

I defend the rambunction of my home as healthy, though I humbly accept Eisenfeld’s point that there’s something to be said for learning how to reign in the temper, navigate the emotion and slow down before you set someone or something on fire, and possibly — oh wow! — avoid the fight altogether. Certainly for the sake of children, who might actually grow up and discuss things maturely with their respective spouses instead of informing the entire neighborhood about how much they despise the red velvet ottoman.

UK Uproar

unionjackWhat the dickens is going on over there across the Atlantic? Laura Harris tells me that last week an email circulated claiming that the United Kingdom has banned the teaching of the Holocaust in school to avoid “offending some Muslim communities.” Fortunately, it was just a rumor, but it was based on a report that British teachers are reluctant to educate their students about the historical horrors because they don’t want to “challenge contentious or charged versions of history taught to children at home.” Which is a veiled way of saying the British Muslim kids are getting major doses of Holocaust denial (and presumably, hatred against Jews) with their tea and crumpets and they’re bringing it to school with them.

England’s Department of Education assures that nothing in the curriculum has changed and that Holocaust education is “compulsory” for 11-14 year-olds, not an age group known for its maturity. Though JTA reports that $3 million has already been earmarked for more teacher training, but it’s going to take a lot more than dollars to change the minds of angry junior high schoolers steeped in passionate ignorance and puberty’s juices. Though perhaps when confronted with the photos and the stories, perhaps some of these youngsters, who live in a free, democratic country, will crack under the weight of the truth.

Also last week, Britain’s National Union of Journalists passed a resolution to boycott Israel products, partly as a way to “reward” Palestinian journalists for their help in freeing BBC reporter Alan Johnston after he was kidnapped by terrorists in Gaza. Fair and balanced, my tuchus!

“It is astounding that British trade unionists should seek to ostracize the one country in the Middle East where trade unions enjoy freedom of association and expression while uttering not a peep against those regimes which really do suppress trade unions and intellectual inquiry,” wrote Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail. “But this is now the madness of Britain.”

A mad, mad, mad, mad world, indeed. Maybe we could get wildly popular British babe Amy Winehouse to clean up her act and start representin’?

Not The T-Shirt of the Week, Ever

nazishirtMan, first it’s the Canadian ferry, now it’s a t-shirt — even closer to home:

Consumerist.com reports (via Jewschool) that Wal-Mart is continuing to sell a t-shirt silkscreened with the insignia of Nazi Germany’s 3rd SS Division Totenkopf, the battalion that committed the largest number of war crimes out of all the German SS divisions — in spite of receiving letters from Congress asking them to pull them from the shelves six months ago. Just proves Wal-Mart is supremely evil, above the law and Congress’ power is about as effective as one of their $.99 flyswatters. *sigh*

What kind of ignorant schmuck would design a shirt for mass production with Nazi symbolage in the first place? Um, a Jewish insensitive schmuck, unfortunately. Scott Deutsch, president of Miami-based Orange Clothing Company, found the skull in a “European trend book.” Der, dude.

If you saw someone wearing one of these, would you say something, like “Excuse me, did you know you’re wearing a Nazi symbol?” I definitely would, though I wouldn’t be surprised to get a completely apathetic response. Young dudes wearing skull shirts aren’t known for their historical awareness and social outrage. In which case I should be prepared with one of those pink paint guns PETA activists carry around in case they see someone wearing a fur coat, dontcha think?

Calling All Poets and Artsy Folk

mimaMy inspiration has lain fallow this year and I haven’t produced a new poem in ages, but for those of you with time to scribble away in coffeeshops and fill up journals with spiritually-themed prose and artwork, here’s an opportunity to bring it to an audience:

Mima’amakim
, a fabulous journal of Jewish art and culture out of NYC, is seeking submissions for their 2007 journal. I’m telling you, you should totally submit something, because you need to get over being shy about your art. C’mon, break out! Even if they don’t publish it, it’s good experience for you.

The editors took last year off, but I submitted this poem in 2005. They had me do quite a bit of editing for the final version, which kind of annoyed me, but I was honored to be included for sure. Go for it!

*Painting “The Third Day” by Shlomo Rydzinski originally published at Mima’amakin.org.

Canadian Ferry Fuss

imageBritish Columbian commuters are ecstatic (well, as ecstatic as Canadians get, ay) about their new Coastal Renaissance ferry currently under construction. The German-built barge boasts a super-efficient engine, rainwater collection and waste composting capabilities as well as tony lounges with wireless and gourmet treats, but in spite of all the fancy-shmanciness, the symbol emblazoned on the propeller is making some folks uncomfortable:

B.C. Ferries has received about 10 phone calls from people who think the “international prop symbol” looked a little too much like a swastika. While maritime law requires that ships have symbols marking the location of the propellers, other B.C. ferries have only three blades and are more rounded. The fact that the Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft shipyard, where the ferries are being built, constructed U-boats during the Second World War isn’t helping the paranoia. A spokesperson from the company assures that the symbol has already been altered to something “significantly different.”

Of course, the symbol is on the part of the boat that’s in the water, so few will know about this small victory for Canadian Jewish commuters. But as they’re gliding along, sipping their mochacchinos and playing sudoku online, they can rest a little easier.

Carpool Chat

minivanI’m going to miss the 25-mile commute to school now that we’re almost moved into the two-and-half minute zone, and here’s why:

Yesterday I had my son in the front seat (yes, I know that it’s dangerous because of the airbag, but I had to separate him from his sister, Little Miss Pincher Claws, and the third row of seats was folded down because the trunk was full of stupid chozzerai from the storage unit that we shlepped across the country for no apparent reason other than nostalgia — like I couldn’t buy a moldy wicker chair at the Goodwill in Savannah? — so I drove very carefully, I promise, but go ahead and call CPS if it makes you feel better about yourself) and out of nowhere he asks me why I get upset when people talk badly about Israel. I think he was remembering one of my neighborly tiffs in California because I have the only upsetting encounters I have about Israel in the South are with Christian evangelists who love Israel — a little too much.

He seemed so grown-up sitting there in the passenger side, so I began a thoughtful, honest interpretation of the facts of the Middle East as I understand them, starting with how the Jews lived in Israel after Moses got ‘em most of the way there, the diaspora and how Jews scattered all over the world after the Second Temple was destroyed, the Spanish Inquisition and the Russian pogroms and a few other examples of how we’ve been chased, forcibly converted and killed but still managed to keep our traditions alive, all the way up the through the Holocaust and Hitler and six million — he’s learning fractions in school, and when I said that was a third of the entire global Jewish population, his eyes got very wide. Then the birth of Israel in 1948 — when grandma was a little girl, right? — and how the Jews could finally come home if they so chose after all that time. That took about ten minutes. I’m no history professor like some smart people I know and I’m sure I left some major things out, but I was trying to make a point, and he’s only seven. He’ll get better details later on, I hope.

So then I explained that there were other people living in the land we call Israel, only they called it Palestine, and they weren’t Jewish. After WWII we tried to split up the land to give them their own state, but they decided they’d rather have nothing than share, and so have been “refugees” ever since. I told him what about the amazing transformation the Jewish settlers of Israel have created in the desert, of the beautiful forests planted, the busy cities, the strong military, the thriving science and technology sectors, the political freedom to be who you are. I also explained that Israel has its problems, too, and one of them is that some Palestinians are still very unhappy with their situation and do horrible things like blow up busses and restaurants, and that’s called terrorism. The Israeli government sometimes bulldozes Palestinian houses to find the people who do those things, which hurts people. I said that the Palestinians and many other people have been told lies, like the Jews stole the land from the Palestinians. Many people who want to stand up for what’s right in the world feel sorry for them and want to help them, and they have a very negative perspective of Israel’s government and army. I told my son that I have a lot of compassion for the Palestinian people, too, especially the mothers and children, but blowing up innocent people is not the way to get what they want. I told him I pray all the time that everyone who lives in Israel will see their other choices, seek peaceful solutions and not use violence against each other.

All of this led up to trying to answer to his question as to why it is I get so upset when people start shit-talking Israel. Part of it is that even though I’m positive they don’t have their facts straight, I end up sputtering. I’m far too emotional for rational debate and again, I’m no history professor. Everyone is entitled their (idiotic) opinion, but I get so frusturated with myself that I can’t defend her better. It was an incomplete lesson, for sure, but I ended it with the admonition that we love and support Israel, imperfect as she is. I figured he’d at least have something to say when — yes, when — it’s his time to stand up for his people.

Feeling pretty good about myself as a Jewish mother and thinking that maybe I had made up for not sending him to Shalom School this year, I looked over at him. He hadn’t said a word in many miles and was staring out the window, apparently deep in thought. Then he shouted and pointed. “Look, Mom! A vulture!” I deflated like a sad balloon, all that hot air wasted. “Did you hear anything I just spent the last thirty minutes of talking about?” I wanted to ask, but we were already at school. He hopped out with a smile and a wave, as untroubled and innocent as he should be.

Later that day, however, while we were picking up his sister from preschool, we noticed the “Letter of the Week” display featured “P.”

“Okay, ‘P’ is for…” I prompted my moppets.

“Pizza,” said the small one. “Play. Party.”

“Platypus,” said the big one. “Popsicle. Pepper.”

“Poop.” That was me. Can’t help it, we’re a “poop-is-hilarious” family. Same goes for farts.

We stood around for a few more seconds, shouting out “P” words. Then my son yells loud over the din of that only forty three-year-olds hopped up on Juicy Juice can create: “I know! Palestinians! You know, Mom, those lying terrorists you were talking about this morning!”

Oh Lord. What have I done?

Anyone with an actual lesson plan about what to teach children about this stuff knows where to find me.

Home Sweet Yenta

House!As promised, a photo of the family in our front yard. Thank you all for your blessings! We’re moving in this week, which means new technology and a newfangly internets system I have to figure out, so forgive me if posting gets slow.

In the meantime, you should check out Yenta fave Smooth-E skewering Sanjaya mania:

Whacked, yo.

Forgetting to Remember And Other Sins

yomhashoahFirst off, I need to admit here that Yom Ha’Shoah should have been a more thoughtful occasion around here, but we’ve been so preoccupied with the new home (I’m painting the kitchen a cheery shade called “green herb” — El Yenta Man thinks that’s just hilarious) that it sort of fell off the radar. Although I did walk through the rather gory multimedia exhibit at the JEA by the some of Savannah’s mostly non-Jewish high schoolers last week, dozens of dioramas of barbed wire and Jude stars and old photographs. As much as the public school system lacks, they’re teaching the Holocaust, bless their hearts.

Strangely, I don’t recall Rabbi Belzer mentioning it all at services Friday eve, though maybe he did when I was outside disciplining Little Miss Shpilkiss for sailing her brother’s yarmulke across the sanctuary like a frisbee. In any case, yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day on which we are implored to “never forget.” Which, of course, I did. So I’m saying an extra kaddish this morning for the six million and all the other souls who died unjustly, without mercy, in Europe under Hitler’s evil reign. Heck, let it be said for everybody killed out of senseless prejudice, wherever and whenever.

Moving on. Many of you may be relieved to know that I got my mezuzah queries answered by a young rabbi visiting the Senior Yenta Lunch last week. Actually, it was his wife who told me to go ahead and place it between the screen door and the actual door into the house, because her husband wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Must’ve been the bare shoulders. Wish I could say it was the cleavage, but I don’t have any. His disregard kind of annoyed me, since here I am attempting to a mitzvah the right way instead on my usual slap-dash-God-forgive-me style, and this rabbi’s shining me on instead of providing guidance. His rebbitzin was maybe all of 20 or 21, really smart and adorable. I wanted to ask her all kinds of other questions about her frum lifestyle, like Is your hair really that red under the sheitel? Is your husband always so talkative? Do you ever put bubble bath in the mikveh? but I still felt like her old man was giving me the stinkeye. But I tend to be intimidated by the Orthodox, so maybe he was just shy, or just super into eating his chicken.

The good news is that the gorgeous turquoise enameled mezuzah I found online was twenty bucks cheaper at the syngagogue gift shop. It hasn’t gone up yet, since we’re still weeks away from moving in completely. Gotta wait for the green herb to dry.