Shabbatoween

JTA has a piece up today called “Halloween or Shabbat: A Tricky Choice This Year,” addressing the balance between a kinda pagan, sorta Christian, definitely heretic holiday with the one day of the week God asks for a little love.

The author offers suggestions like trick-or-treating in the pre-Shabbos daylight then knocking off the sugar-schnorring to light candles and definitely advocates buying up half-price treats to use for Purim. But he makes the point that we can’t throw tradition out just ’cause it’s a secular holiday (albeit the most superfun of ‘em all): “If assimilation is the real bogeyman, we need to find a way to creatively hold him at bay.

I agree, but why’s it gotta be either/or? In the tradition of Chrismukkah, I offer to my mishpocha Shabbatoween: Tonight we will light candles, eat matzah ball soup and only trick-or-treat within walking distance.

And I’ll hand out candy dressed as a dybbuk in purple devil horns. Boo Shabbos!

“What the F*%&k?!!!!”

That was the subject line in an email from my normally refined mother. This is a woman who once grounded me for two weeks for using the F-word, so the use of foul language meant that the matter either dealt with the price of health insurance, clubbing baby seals or Sarah Palin.

You know it was the latter.

Apparently there’s a rumor circulating that Miss Super Christian Of All Time is Jewish, which made me regurgitate my bagel and lox when I heard it. This piece of nauseation is based on the “information” that Palin’s mother, Sandy Sheeran, is descended from Schmuel Sheigam, a Lithuanian Jew whose surname was changed at Ellis Island.

A likely story, right? I mean, it happened to many of our grandfolks, nu? It’s not too hard a stretch if you’re trying to go that way – the blog Meet the Real Sarah Palin published a rather dubious-looking family tree based that is now being used on WikiAnswers as the “YES” version to SP’s J Question. User-generated encyclopedia, whoo-hoo.

But before you go vomiting all over your keyboard, please note that the “NO” version is actually based on serious genealogy and ya know, FACTS. Ron Kampeas of JTA has posted a comprehensive link that proves SP is nowhere near Jewish, no matter how many Israeli flags she flies in her office. However, it shouldn’t surprise you that there may be some married cousins up in there.

So, Mama, you can rest easy that this is a complete crock of shit. And I mean that with the utmost respect, so please don’t make me stay home from prom.

A Boy and His Bling

Y’all know I’ll never win Jewish Mother of the Year, but we must be doing something right around here:

Yenta Boy, who in spite of spending a lot of time at St. Paul’s Church since his induction into the Savannah Children’s Choir has been begging for a Star of David to wear to school. (The choir does perform several songs in Hebrew, which IMHO balances out the fact that my kid now hangs out with Jesus on Monday afternoons.)

“There are like A HUNDRED kids who wear crosses in my class” (there are only 20 kids in the class, mind you) “and I just want everyone to know I’m Jewish.”

How awesome is it that a Jewish kid going to public school in the deep South wants to shout out his yid-dom?

I told him he’d have to wait until Chanukah, but last Sunday at the Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival (where El Yenta Man slaved over a vat of grease for six hours to satiate Savannah’s tremendous appetite for latkes) we found treasures at my favorite booth. Every year, the Mickve Israel Sisterhood donates all its old, tacky, unwanted jewelry and sells it on the cheap as a fundraiser – and you know NO ONE has crazy bling like old Jewish ladies, am I right?

For six bucks, I scored a three-strand, heavy gold chain locket that may have been owned by Mr. T’s grandmother, a ring designed to look like Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture but large and sharp enough to double as brass knuckles should I need to defend myself, and a silver Jewish star necklace the size of a child’s fist. Needless to say, you-know-who practically spilled his egg cream all over himself with joy.

So the boy is now out REPRESENTIN’ his peeps with the biggest, baddest piece of religious jewelry in the entire freakin’ school. He’s like a small, white, Jewish Flavor Flav, yo. Thanks to the yentas of the Sisterhood for kickin’ down!

Only problem now is that I have to come up with another Chanukah present. I really think he’ll dig this rhinestone-encrusted Israeli flag belt buckle, don’t you?

Shabbat Shoeboom

Finally, a working Jewish mother can rest: All those freakin’ holidaze are over, another issue of skirt! is in bed, and Obama’s making gains.

As we end another week in this endless circuit around the sun, I am pondering two things: Is it kosher to just have wine for dinner? And, would this fashion-forward menorah will upstage my precious new boots?

Let me know on either. Or Both.

Thanks to all who commented (online and in person) on El Yenta Man’s Aliyah post. To my happy dismay, I was called to the Torah myself this week along with the other women present this week at Agudath Achim’s Simchah Torah celebrations. Which I found ironic until it occured to me that maybe that’s just what happens when you actually attend synagogue regularly.

Oh, and if you’re close enough to these parts, I hope to see you noshing at the Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival Sunday in Forsyth Park. Stop by the latke booth and say hello to El Yenta Man – he’s the one with the big spatula ;).

Everybody Dance Now

Tonight begins Simchat Torah, the holiday where we take the Torah out for a spin and do the jitterbug with it (or dork out with disco moves or even thrown down a little krump action if that’s your scene), and Chabad distills its true spirit in these tense times.

*sigh* If only the election could just come down to a dance-off.

Speaking of which, thanks to Hannah Banana for sending this:

El Yenta Man’s Spanish Aliyah

Maybe it’s because he’s gettin’ religion, or maybe it’s just because he knows I think he looks sexy in a tallis, but my dear husband researched and planned for us to attend Shabbat services during our 10th anniversary trip to Puerto Rico.

Sha'are Zedeck sanctuaryLike Savannah where all three major Jewish denominations have dug roots in a little city, eensy-beensy Puerto Rico is the only Caribbean island to host Judaism’s top three flavors: Sha’are Zedeck, the Conservative synagogue, is the oldest and wealthiest; Temple Beth Shalom caters to the Reform crowd, and there’s a small but popular Chabad House nestled in between resorts along the beach. Even though he’d never set foot in a Conservative shul in his life, El Yenta Man thought we’d check out Sha’are Zedick for the historic factor, though compared to our own Mickve Israel (founded in 1733) it’s a baby: Jews weren’t welcome in PR until it became a U.S. territory in 1952.

We arrived too late last Friday in Old San Juan to find our way back out again through the charming, steel-blue bricked streets, but we arose bright and early Saturday to catch a short cab ride to the more modern part of the city and being us, still managed to be late. We ducked into the foyer, grabbed prayer books while a man on the bima spoke in spitfire Spanish. Mi espanol is about as good as my Hebrew, which is to say I read it okay in a certain context, understand a little when someone’s talking and embarrass myself wildly when I try to have an actual conversation, but I understood that we were just in time for the Torah service. EYM slid a tallis off the rack and swung it around himself; I resisted the urge to smooch him (I don’t know why it makes me so crazy when he dons religious garb, but if he ever starts laying tefillin, I’ll never let him leave the house.)

We plunked our tushes down in a pew towards the back and I had barely scoped out that there were about 60 or so people there, that the sanctuary was modern with clean lines and that we were on page 426 of the (thankfully) English siddur when a woman in a sharp suit and hip glasses came over and whispered “Leviokhain? Leviokhain?” EYM’s lovely brown eyes lit up like panic pinball, but because I had recently attended the Conservative shul at home with our son, I knew she was asking if he was a descendant of the priestly Levite or Kohanim (better known as Levi and Cohen) tribes, making him a preferable candidate to perform certain tasks during the service. (There was a friendly gentleman at the Savannah service doing the same thing, orchestrating who was going to open the Ark and carry the Torah, etc.; as a visitor I felt very honored to dress the Torah at that service and thought it quite democratic of the Conservative folks to get everyone involved. Those in the know: Is this a universal practice?)

Since our last name is a derivation of Levi, EYM shrugged and kind of nodded. Next thing we knew, the woman was dragging him by the elbow up to the bima and waving at the rabbi, yell-whispering “Psst! Levi!” while pointing and poking at my husband, who I hadn’t seen look so pale since he tagged along with me when I went to interview a bunch of female mudwrestlers for a column I was writing and I bought him a lap dance as a joke.

There were four or five men up there already, and they opened their ranks and brought him into their circle. One leaned over and said something into his ear and he brought a corner of his tallis to where the rabbi pointed. I saw him inhale, kiss the cloth and then, as if the same DNA that had been present in some holy Levite standing in the Temple of Solomon had been activated in his blood, he launched into the blessing in a clear, unshakable tenor: Baruchu et adonai ham’vorah…

Well. I found this incredibly impressive and quite awesome. From where I was sitting, it seemed like my guy had been doing this every Shabbat his whole life, but I happened to know he had not stood in front of a Torah since his bar mitzvah 25 years ago. The rabbi read the Torah parsha (portion) and I watched EYM’s brows furrow in concentration as he followed along in the scroll. After the end of the reading, he delivered the post-Torah blessings in the same warm, confident tones, and I could see even from the back that he was enjoying himself. He came back to our pew with his face glowing” I don’t know where that came from! Did I sound all right? There wasn’t even a transliteration!”

I could have jumped him then and there but, y’know, that would have been really inappropriate. Still, we held hands all through the sermon, listening intently even though it was in Spanish.

After the service, several of the congregrants clustered around us, asking where we’re from, how long we were in Puerto Rico, to stay for kiddush lunch, which we did (saffron couscous with pomegrante seeds and dill tuna salad, mmmm….) Everyone was kind and mostly spoke English, and we learned that the congregation was in between rabbis and the service had been led by its community leaders, most of whom are of Cuban descent. Sha’are Zedeck also serves as Puerto Rico’s Jewish Community Center and on a short tour I got to see their brand-new, ginormous social hall that was built to inspire families to hold b’nai mitzvot, weddings and other simchas on site rather than local hotels. It hasn’t been working yet, one member confided, and the project had left the congregation several million shekels in the hole, which sounds like familiar story for a lot of American synagogues, nu?

The day took a decidedly downward turn when one of the men offered to take us to a gallery at a university where his art was showing; he dropped us off and sped off, and being us, of course, the place was closed. The rest of Shabbat was spent walking around in circles and finally hopping on a public bus back to our hotel, The Gallery Inn. In fact, the rest of the trip was something of a clusterf*ck, what with Tropical Storm Omar baring its fangs off the coast and sending out bands of rainrainrain for days (I would regale you with tales of the overflowing septic systems on another little island where we spent two sodden nights, except I’m not quite over the smell) but whenever we were tempted into sniping at each other out of the uncomfortable, out-of-control feeling when travel plans get changed, we would talk about EYM’s aliyah, and how marvelous it is to be a Jew and go very far from home and find the same prayers, the same traditions, the same Hebrew language. Even if it was lightning-fast with a Spanish accent.

Wink Not Included

Hope y’all had an easy fast – s’sorry I’ve been MIA, but El Yenta Man and I celebrated our 10th anniversary of marriage by NOT putting up a sukkah and jetting off to Puerto Rico.

Don’t ask where my tan is – it rained the whole time. But we had some close encounters of the Jewish kind, which I promise to fill you in on after I’ve caught up at work and uploaded photos.

In the meantime, please entertain yourself with the perverse knowledge that someone has come up with even worse headgear than the Croc Kippah: The Sarah Palin Sheitl.

(Tip o’ the doily to Adam at the JEA.)

Funny As Hell … ‘Cept We Don’t Believe In Hell, Do We?


If you read the YouTube comments, you’ll see that most people found this viddy in extremely poor taste. They’re probably right, seeing as these are the Days of Awe and we should all be down with the serious business of atoning instead of finding a cynical giggle in a skit about selling tickets to High Holidays services like they were front row seats to a Hannah Montana concert (though it must be noted that the synagogue I attend may be the only one in the world that doesn’t.)

But it’s my birthday and I’m feeling SASSY.

The Great Debate


That Jewish Robot dude sure knows how to make me laugh while my stomach is in knots.

I always get like this during the black days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – all my sins of the year seem to collect around my head like a nasty storm cloud, and ten days of repentance doesn’t seem like enough.

Fortunately, I have our country’s economic train wreck to distract me from my self-loathing, and tonight’s debate between Joe “Insert Foot Here” Biden and Sarah “I Read ALL The Newspapers, ALL OF THEM” Palin should be good for a few moments of relief.

Hat tip to El Yenta Man, who I hope is online, planning a fabulous vacation for our 10th anniversary next week.