Buy It At Borders…?

hlounge
celebrateAs a committed supporter of the endangered species known as the friendly neighborhood independent bookstore, you know if I’m stumping for a big chain it must be for an excellent reason:

This season Borders stores around the country have dedicated Chanukah retail real estate (so what if it’s one table among all the Christmas acreage) featuring Yenta holiday favorites The Hanukkah Lounge and Celebrate Hanukkah, both produced by the machers at Craig N Co.

This is tremendous, people. It means that Jewish holiday music that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to play at a party attended by non-Jews is finally permeating the nookies and crannies (and crookies and nannies) of America, where it will dissolve the repetitive nightmares of “I Have a Little Dreidel” and schlocky satire with its clean, snappy beats. Alas, as there is no Borders in Savannah, I cannot run there and stand next to the pretty Chanukah table (which, in my mind, can be seen from anywhere in the store due to the 20-foot towering menorah) and proclaim in a loud voice (the one El Yenta Man calls my “Jewish mother siren”) how fabulous it is that Borders has finally caught on to the smokin’ hot trends in holiday music and that there should be three tables next year, or better yet, all year round. But there’s nothing stopping you, is there?

Back to Bubbe

bubbeI’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother this last week, and my mom wrote her such a beautiful her obituary in the Miami Herald. People even entered lovely notes in the online guest book, though she hadn’t lived in Florida for years and the notes were from people who hadn’t seen her in decades. It makes me wonder if I should start reading the obituaries in Arizona and California more regularly in case I miss someone.

Anyway, I realized I left out my favorite anecdote about her in my first memorial post:

One time on a road trip sometime in late 70′s, the family was driving through the middle of the desert with nothing on the horizon but saguaro cacti and tumbleweeds. I was squeezed in the backseat with my brother and Bubbe Reggie, grooving to Fleetwood Mac. Suddenly she turned to me and croaked “I’m taking a nap.” She blinked. “Watch my purse.”

One helluva woman, I tell ya.

It’s All About the Food, So We Must Have Invented It

punkinA couple of times this week the similarities between Sukkot and Thanksgiving have come up, and it turns out, that first feast between the Pilgrims and the Indians was very likely rooted in Jewish practice. Now that paints a different picture than a bunch of WASPy Pilgrims in their stiff clothes and nerdy buckled shoes formally sitting down with a tribe of mohawked red people with superior hunting and agricultural skills: If the first folks in America to hang out with the locals actually had been Jews, you know everyone would have been mingling and cooking and tasting and arguing and singing (but probably wearing some kind of footwear, maybe a nice suede ankle boot, because every Jewish mother knows you can get ringworm by going barefoot in a strange place.) We Jews know how to have a good time, don’t we?

Linda Morel’s 2004 JTA essay has more on the subject, and Lisa Katz nails it for all of us in her thoughtful entry at About.com:

In the long history of the Diaspora, Jews have never been as prosperous, organized, influential and accepted as they are today in America.

I am deeply grateful for my life, my family, my children, my home, my work, my heritage, my health and YOU! yes you, dear reader! Thank you for holding a place in the Jewish blog world over three and half years. That makes me, like, a really old blogger, especially since all the cool kids just do Facebook now.

I’m off on a date with El Yenta Man and to gather with the other fun young Jews of Savannah at the Sweet Potato Schmooze. Then tomorrow we’re going to cook for six hours, wolf it down in 20 min. and sleep for three days. I’ll be back sometime before Chanukah!

May you all experience warm bellies and bliss…

Borat: No High Five

boratSo I finally, finally got the DVD of Borat and after almost a year of hype and reading other people’s blogs about what a piece of cinematic genius it is, I have to say…I am beyond disappointed. More so disturbed and feeling pretty icky. I don’t deny that Sacha Baron Cohen is quite an artist in the way he shakes up the norm, but from here on out I consider him less of a comedian and more the kind of performance artist that smears poop on himself to make a statement about the disgusting state of the world.

There’s no question that this movie made an impact, but what was it? I mean, it was huge, made loads of money, everyone was talking about it forever, but I sat there and watched the “running of the Jew” bit without feeling so much as a smile crack from within. I have a sick-ass sense of humor that encompasses the silly to the sophisticated, but I found the whole anti-Semitism shtick very worrying. Even though it was meant to expose the bigotry of the igoramusi walking the Western world, it was like he took an in-joke between us Jews, who know full well there are idiots out there who would throw a Jew down a well if they thought they’d get away with it, and put it out there for those idiots to take literally. Plus, the naked hairy balls wrestling scene made my stomach churn.

Am I the only Jew who didn’t get it?

87 year-old Nazi Deported Back to the Scene of the Crime

Bet Osyp Firishchak thought he was going to get away with it after all this time, or at least someone would have mercy on a “sweet” old man. His Jewish neighbors say he’s a “victim of an overzealous government,” but the evidence is clear that he participated in horrendous activities as a member of the Ukranian Auxiliary Police. Let God decide after he’s done sucking dust for the rest of his sorry life in Ukraine.

The good news is that there can’t be that many more Nazis to hunt, and the ones still alive can’t run fast.

Jewish Mother Gone Viral

Smart Jewish mama/professor Sari Gilbert commanded her students to create a “viral video” (one that is so clever and funny that lots and lots of people pass it around and post it on their blogs.) She decided to try her own hand with After Effects software and ended up turning out the best one in the class.

Watch and join us: Just say NO to plastic chozzerai for Chanukah!

In Memorium: Bubbe Reggie

Regina BlumenthalMy bubbe, Regina Blumenthal, passed away Tuesday night at the age of 85. The lovely Romanians who run the small Scottsdale residential facility where she’s been living for the past few years say she ate her dinner, let out a big sigh and gently left the dimension. May we all pass so easily.

She was born Regina Dines in Warsaw and came to New York as a child after my great grandfather sniffed something ugly in the Polish air during the mid-1930′s. She married my piano-playing grandfather, George Blumenthal, towards the end (?) of WWII and lead a bohemian life in Coconut Grove near Miami. She had my mother in 1945; she had a son a few years later who died of cystic fibrosis at four years old. She never mentioned my mother’s brother to me; I only know because my mother told me.

I don’t know when she began to paint, but I have several giant, abstract canvases in dark, complex colors that I never get tired of looking at. She contracted rheumatoid arthritis at some point before I was born and never painted again, but she always talked about art. She and my grandfather knew more about classical music that anyone I’ve ever met to this day.

I don’t remember her as being anything other than old, but these last five years she reached a zenith of cronedom, sitting like a Buddha on her couch, her big dark eyes blinking. I wish I could post a photo of her when she was young, ’cause Here she is the summer before my mother was born – (muchas gracias, Pepe Pringos!!) she was a real knockout. My mother, her only child, and my father devoted so much time and energy to her care – they’ve set a very high bar for honoring one’s parents. When it became necessary to move Bubbe and my grandfather to Scottsdale from the Miami home that they’d lived in for over 50 years, my parents spent weeks sorting through piles of junk Bubbe insisted were treasures. When my grandfather became ill and couldn’t care for himself anymore, my mom and dad bore the brunt of Bubbe’s hysteria with much grace.

Regina BlumenthalBubbe could be difficult and dramatic, especially as my grandfather was dying. She also had a great sense of humor and deeply appreciated beauty in all forms. She truly loved my grandfather; when El Yenta Man and I went to visit with our then-2 month-old son, she showed us recent photos of them skinny-dipping in the pool. What kind of 70-somethings are still hot for each other?

She was not religious at all. Her father was hyperobservant and mean, mean, mean, so I think she associated Judaism with her negative upbringing. She didn’t attend my mother’s bat mitzvah a few years ago, and she wouldn’t come to the synagogue for my grandfather’s memorial service. She requested to be cremated, and we’re planning to spread her ashes in Miami’s Biscayne Bay, the same place my mother spread my grandfathers’. I guess this isn’t necessarily kosher, but it’s what that side of the family has always done. I told this to a frum woman I know and she was horrified. But what difference does it make to God if a body breaks down in a gust of flames versus decomposing slowly in a box? Doesn’t it all end up as dust on the shelves of heaven?

Even though I can picture her shaking her gnarled index finger at me, I’m going to say the Mourners’ Kaddish for her anyway. I’ve always learned that we say it for ourselves, the living, because the dead have already returned to the loving arms of our Creator, so she can just ignore me. In fact, I hope she’s too enthralled to be sitting at my grandfather’s heavenly piano once again.

Rest in peace, Bubbe Reggie.

Like Martha , only Jewisher

jewish living magazineWhen I got the email announcing the birth of Jewish Living, “a smart, stylish and thoroughly modern magazine” celebrating Jewish culture “without religion or politics,” I almost gagged on my kreplach. (Fine. So it wasn’t kreplach, it was lasagna. And I was already gagging on it was because I made it almost two weeks ago. I am a good Jewish mother and I hate wasting food, but even I had to admit that brown spinach means it’s time to let it die already.) The cover smacked of the generic commercial exploitation of every women’s magazine I pretend not to read in line at the grocery store, and I’m so tired of the “We’re just like the goyim, except for the Jesus part” shtick.

But this rag ain’t half bad, even with glitzy graphics and glossy celeb photos: There’s a long article by Jonathan Safran Foer and guest editorials from everyone’s favorite Jews, from Bette Midler to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to Ben Stein. The masthead boasts a staff of real machers, including editor-in-chief Liza Schoenfein, who served as executive editor at Saveur and was the founding editor of Parenting.com. There’s your basic Judaism 101 info, fun projects to do with the kids, news about Jews around the globe and of course, a requisite chicken soup recipe. It’s definitely something I’d like to read while taking a long, hot bath while someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning.

It’s on the stands and online as of today; peruse it for yourself and let me know what you think.