Bima Bling

tallit clipsWe’ve already established that jeweler Susan Fischer Weis’ chag-inspired Yontifications are fantabulous, but her latest creations, specially-designed tallit clips for the ladies? Brilliant, completely off the hook, yo. What better way to inspire more observance in a new bat mitzvah that a bit of bling to wear to shul?

Sure, it’s a lovely piece of jewelry, but it’s so much more. Since wearing a tallis is an act of courage in itself for a woman, adding a little sparkle is downright revolutionary. Not as gender-enlightening as say, hot-gluing sequins to your grandpa’s tefillin boxes, but getting there.

I love seeing a woman in a tallis; it establishes her as a strong, committed person right off the bat. I don’t wear one. But maybe I will now that I can match it with my earrings…

Semantics, Shemantics: The Decline of Western Civilization?

When you hear someone espousing the importance of Judeo-Christian ethics, what exactly does that mean? The term “Judeo-Christian” seems like it’s become a synonym for “Western” or more specifically, “post-industrial American,” but really, how accurate is that?

Gene Expression
posts that it’s a totally bogus term, since Judaism has a heckuva lot more in common with Islam that it does with modern Christianity. A moderate Muslim, Mr. Gene Expression throws down a highly informed history of the split between Orthodox and Reform Judaism and how abandoning much of the legalities of the Talmud allowed Jews to participate more fully in Western culture while retaining their religious and cultural identities. He predicts “there is a strong chance that in this century we will see a ‘Reform Islam’ coalesce in the West which is analogous to Reform Judaism, an adherence to a minimalist Koranically inspired religion which gives short-shrift to the relevance of the Hadiths in the modern world. In this way, there will be a dyad of Judeo-Christian-Islamic and Judeo-Islamic.”

Ultimately, he admits, it’s just about language, but unexpectantly subjective subject matter for a science blog, eh?

Tooting My Horn, Twirling My Skirt

Hear that popping noise? That’s the sound of my life traveling at the speed of light — we’ve arrived back from a lovely visit to the old hometown of Fairfax, CA, where the Yenta family was treated to a delightful Shabbos meal with our former redwood-luvin’ congregation, Gan Halev, and I got to fulfill my annual booty-shaking duties in the festival parade as part of the West African Dance & Drum Ensemble. Big sweaty fun for this Jewish African cowgirl!

Now that I’m back home in Slowvannah (as El Yenta Man likes to call this fair city, currently scented with magnolia blossoms and the sulphur belches of the nearby paper plant) you might think I’d be settling down to another summer of blogging by the beach, but after almost eight years as a work/kvetch-at-home mother, things are about to change. Some might call it a job opportunity, I call it a miracle with benefits: I’ve been hired as the full-time editor for the Savannah edition of Skirt magazine, a sassy women’s monthly that I’ve been a huge fan of for years. Any mag that combines feminism with fashion is my bag, baby, and I think it’s a good match. Check out the mission statement:

Skirt is all about women…their work, play, families, creativity, style, health and wealth, bodies and souls. Skirt is an attitude…spirited, independent, outspoken, serious, playful and irreverent, sometimes controversial, always passionate

If someone asked me to describe myself in three adjectives, I’d have to pick from those. Like I said, a good match. Of course it’s not a Jewish publication per se, though y’all must check out Judy Gruen’s tantalizing essay about the smells of Shabbat in this month’s issue. So in spite of taking on the role of working mother (really, is there any other kind?) I promise to keep up with my Yenta duties of trashing the cliché of Jewish mothers and generally pissing people off (I can’t stop writing this blog now; too many of my Jewish neighbors are reading it!) Posting will remain slow for the next coupla weeks as I dial into my new professional responsibilites, but I hope to have things up to speed soon. Thanks stickin’ with me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, tomorrow’s my first day in the office and I’ve got to find something to wear. I don’t think my blogging uniform of a holey Manischewitz shirt (a T-shirt of the Week freebie from way back in the day, one of the fabulous perks of this gig), paint-stained capris, mismatched hair clips and a pair of plastic sandals (shh! don’t tell my mother!) I bought in Hawaii twelve years ago ain’t gonna cut it…

Back From Italia…

vitiana…and then right back out again. For the past while I’ve been in Tuscany, specifically the teeny cobblestoned village Vitiana, built in the 11 century atop a lush green hill, where the atmospheric charm was only outdone by the tireless attentions of our hosts. Here’s a photo and a NY Times article about the actual villa and its owner, Julie Hampton, creative financier, poet and yogi extraordinaire.

My mother brought me there so we could “express ourselves,” which should’ve made her nervous considering the incident in 1993 with the squirrels and the body paint. But under the guidance of poet Julie, playwright/author/the funniest person I’ve ever known Tania Katan, interdisciplinary performance diva Angela Ellsworth (who claimed to be able to teach anyone to draw, and whaddya know, I managed to pull off a couple of passable pencil sketches thanks to her simple directions), multimedia maven Carol Panaro-Smith and photographer Jim Hajicek, I managed not to embarrass myself (The banana slug kiss does not count. It was after hours, and I had Limoncello goggles.)

The creativity workshop activated many artistic pursuits that have laid fallow in adulthood, such as collecting flowers to dry and playing with glue (remember how in second grade you would brush your entire hand with a thin layer of Elmer’s and try to peel it off whole after it dried? Fuuun) and culminated in an original, handbound book that I will treasure forever. The rest of the workshop’s attendees came from all walks of life to form a close-knit group of friends in a just a week — summer camp for grown-ups, someone said.

Thank you, Mom. Not only was it an amazing experience, but the most one-on-one time we’ve had since I had the chicken pox when I was seven. It’s not ever mother/daughter pair that can spend nine days in the same hotel and not end up on Jerry Springer.

I know I’ve been a neglectful Yenta, and I’ve only unpacked just to repack once again to head the opposite direction for a few time zones for a visit back to the magical land of Fairfax, CA. And then there’s the matter of the full-time job I’ve just accepted as the editor of a fabulous women’s magazine…but I’ll have to catch you up when I return!

In the meantime, here the Yenta’s summer reading list: Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which is all over every airport bookstore I’ve passed through lately. I haven’t cracked it yet, ’cause what silly person travels with a hardback book, but it’s on my bedside table waiting for me to come home.

Easier to travel with and read in short spurts is Marge Piercy’s The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems With A Jewish Theme. (My mother saw her read last year and brought me a signed copy — honestly, am I the most loved daughter in the world, or what?) Following is one of my favorites:

by Marge Piercy

Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let’s say amen.

Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe out our children’s children, blessing.

Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
Blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let’s say amen.

Blessed is light, blessed is darkness,
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let’s say amen.

Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let’s say amen.

Peace and blessings to you as the days stretch into their longest possibilities!