Trashed on Tybee

When you’re at the beach, you’re supposed to relax, right? Unforch, my combination of obsessive-cleaning disorder and shpilkiss (restlessness in Yiddish, but my bubbie’s translation was always “ants in the pants”) would not let me rest this Shabbat.

What I wanted was to ride my Schwinn at low tide all the way down to the north end of the beach. Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers’ renourishment project this spring, there’s a LOTTA beach these days, and it’s a beautiful thing to be speeding across the sand, wind at your back, slaloming in betweencolorful umbrellas and squealing children digging up mole crabs.

Sadly, this charming obstacle course was also peppered with a ton of garbage by 4pm. And because I saw the video below a few weeks back, I could not bear the idea of all of it being swept into the ocean when the tide came back up. So yeah, that was me, Ms. OCD in a dirty cowboy hat and mismatched bikini, picking up the trash between 12th and 8th streets on Saturday.

In four blocks I filled my bike basket with the following inventory: 5 styrofoam cups, 16 straws, 3 Caprisun juice boxes, 5 Caprisun straw wrappers, 6 plastic bags that contained plastic water toys, 2 deflated plastic water toys, 7 ziploc/plastic grocery bags, 4 aluminum cans, a bunch of candy bar wrappers and a flip flop with a bottle opener on the bottom.

And even though they’d become part of the swirling pool of garbage, too, I left the abandoned plastic shovels and buckets because a) I ran out of room and b) I didn’t want to be the crazy lady who stole your kids’ sand toys while you took them to the potty.

And while anger and self-righteousness are two very popular reactions in my psyche, I didn’t mind all that much that I was picking up other people’s trash. I’m a mom and I know that sometimes the wrapper flies away when the 5 year-old is whining that she’d dying of thirst and the wind is blowing and you’d just like to drink one beer before the ice melts and you just can’t keep track of every gawdamn piece of plastic that passes through your life. Except for being totally grossed out when part of a beer sloshed onto the shirt in my basket, mostly I was just thinking about how hard it is to get people to change their behaviors, and whether that’s going to be enough to save the ocean and our way of life.

And I think people have changed their behaviors: Since I began coming to Tybee Island 12 years ago and the “Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign, I have to say there’s been tremendously less trash on the beach. My first visit at low tide, I almost puked at the snaking line of dirty diapers, cigarette butts and beer cans on the shore – “Redneck Riviera” was clearly an appropriate nomer for this place. These days, though, there’s recycling bins at every walkway and my bike basket full of garbage wasn’t even enough to fill a bag. Closer to the Pier, of course it gets uglier, and the Tybee police could certainly do a better job of reinforcing the beach litter disposal laws rather than speeding past on their ATVs.

Getting back to my one-woman, one-afternoon, four-block garbage sweept, believe me: I know the futilty of it. But when you see this, you remember that every little bit counts – especially if we all do a little bit:

Will There Be Jesus Juice On the Other Side?

michael-jackson-2ndHe may have rocked a Kabbalah bracelet in his 2005 trial, but honey, Michael Jackson was no friend of the Jews. Even celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach distanced himself from him towards the end.

Now that he’s gone, I must admit I’ll miss him. The Undisputed King of Pop and Perversion did leave behind a musical legacy that will likely outshine his penchant for anti-Semitic slurs and plying little boys with beer, plus his wackadoodle parenting skills always made me feel superior. Also, his plastic surgery debacles deterred me from ever wanting a nose job.

I prefer to remember him like he was in this photo – the Thriller-era of bobby socks and a sweet smile, before his freakishness overwhelmed everything.

He leaves behind three children, and I wonder if the religious drama of this story has just begun – Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of Jacko’s three children, is Jewish, and Jackson’s family, including his brother Jermaine, are way active in the Nation of Islam. What will happen if Rowe pursues her wish (reported in 2004) to raise the children as Jewish?

So, good-bye to a deeply talented, flawed, strange man. I hope his soul finds peace, and that those who can copy his amazing moonwalk will always impress people at parties.

It’s Hip to Be Clay

Wow, I must’ve tapped into the collective unconscious a few weeks back ’cause it seems like everyone’s got Golem on the brain.

Check out this cheeky promo vid for The Jewish Body by Melvin Konner from Nextbook Press:

The Golem from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

BTW, is now the cleverly-titled Tablet Magazine, a “newspaper-magazine-blog hybrid” linking up Jewsy news, literature and lots n’ lots of opinions. Dig it.

Israeli Couscous And the Cuckoos of West Marin

coucousThe Family Yenta had a lovely time kicking up dirt in our former California stomping grounds, where we reveled in things that aren’t available here in Savannah, like redwood trees, hippie drum circles and our very favorite grocery store chain, Trader Joe’s.

(For the underprivileged of ye, Trader’s Joe’s has exotic foodstuffs at ungourmet prices – lime wasabi cashews whaaat? – imported from all over our grand planet, including Middle Eastern goodies like falafel, couscous and hummus.)

Of course, there are plenty of things about living in California that we never enjoyed, like searingly painful real estate prices, cold cold summers and anti-Semitic assh*les masquerading as humanitarian activists. Really, there’s nothing like drinking your morning coffee next to some douche who never finished high school wearing a kaffiyeh and ranting about the “Israel genocide” – let’s just say I ruined more than a few children’s birthday parties wasting my breath trying to convince people otherwise via facts and logic.

Driving around San Geronimo Valley on Sunday we saw a bunch of these types waving signage – I wasn’t interested in yet another fruitless debate, but El Yenta Man rolled up slowly to this group of three, gave a big smile and said “Hi! See us, this family?” He waved his hand over the children’s heads. “PRO-ISRAEL. Always. Forever.” Then he waved. “Have a nice day!” So diplomatic, my man.

Anyway, even though this little gang has been standing out on Sir Francis Drake with the same signs for 15 years, apparently this day’s demonstration was coordinated to be part of a larger boycott of Israeli products, of which the sole action was planning to have people run into – you guessed it – Trader Joe’s stores and tear Israeli products off the shelves. Unforch for the organizers of “Don’t Buy Into Apartheid Day,” their plan had the opposite effect: The Jewish Journal reports that most of the demonstrations failed to take place and that sales and requests of Israeli couscous have increased.

Look, before you go all extremist on my tush, I have no problem criticizing Israel and want the Palestinian people to live dignified, peaceful lives. But sorry, comparing this situation with South Africa, or OMG GERMANY and the Nazis (as some of these self-righteous schmuckos are wont to do, yes, TO YOUR JEWISH FACE) is just ignorant. And as says, all you have to do is listen to glean who is rational and who is simply batsh*t meshuggah.

While Israel certainly is not perfect, no amount of propaganda can convince well-informed people that Israel is arbitrarily attacking its neighbors for sport.

So those of you blessed enough to have a Trader Joe’s in your town: Go there. Buy Israeli couscous and hummus and halvah (which is totally gross but buy it anyway.) And here’s a recipe tip from The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg: “I hear the Israeli couscous goes well with grilled scapegoat, by the way.”

Goin’ Back to Cali, Cali, Cali…

closed…am I packed yet? I don’t think so.

Though I’ve been totally absorbed in completing all the August interviews and copy for skirt! and figuring out what poor soul to foist the dog onto for a week. I’ve managed to hear a couple of news items as they whizzed past:

Yesterday, a whacko white supremacist killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. while trying to enact his own mass murder of Jews. Bless the slain guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns, for heroically stepping in the path of the bullets meant for schoolchildren and visitors learning about what happens when hatred infects a society so deeply.

According to JTA
, this is the fourth attack on Jewish sites or people in the last month, and the blogosphere is raging with warnings about how not just anti-Semitism but violent racist, homophobic and other hate-inspired acts based on a lunatic “Christian” mentality are on the rise. Certainly, Dr. Tiller’s murder connects to Stephen Tyrone John’s murder in that both were committed by people who believe their ideaologies justify killing people who disagree with them. I know it’s damn near impossible to change a crazy person’s mind, but CAN WE START BY TAKING AWAY THEIR FUCKING GUNS ALREADY?

There was a little light yesterday, however: In his superhot Rolling Stone article , Glamerican Idol Adam Lambert finally comes out…as Jewish. Like I said, if my son wants to bring him home, I’ll have a rhinestone-studded yarmulke waiting.

See y’all in a couple of weeks!

Yo, Doll!

Little Yenta Girl isn’t so much into playing with dolls as she is attacking the dog with swords, plucking the heads off of all my zinnias and harassing her older brother. Once in a while she’ll duct tape a hand-me-down Barbie to a plastic pony and drag it through the vegetable beds for a game of Pioneer Woman, but mostly the dollhouse we bought her for Chanukah serves as a storehouse for other toys.

So you can understand that the thought of purchasing her a $95 collectible American Girl doll is ridiculous. I can only imagine what she’d do to Rebecca, American Girl’s brand new Jewish offering to its veritable UN (seriously, what took so long?)

Rebecca, who comes with her own set of historical books, is the daughter of Russian immigrants. Since AG is ALL about the accessories, her matching swag (purchased separately, natch) includes Shabbat candlesticks, bagels and a dill pickle.

In spite of those last two, Rebecca has been met with wholehearted acceptance by the Jewish community, including ADL director Abe Foxman, who would LET YOU KNOW if Rebecca’s creators crossed the line in any way.

“It’s not offensive. It’s sensitive,” Foxman told a reporter. “How about that. Most of the time these things fall into stereotypes which border on the offensive.”

According the to Rebecca’s bio, she’s a little girl growing up in the Big City, with lessons to learn about respecting tradition and navigating a new world.

She sounds so sweet. If she lived at my house, she’d be probably end up sharing a filthy bucket with a frog, and I just couldn’t bear that.

“Pretty Woman” Has Its Roots In Judaism and Other Awesomeness

Not since Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Sex has Jewish hanky-panky gotten so much play.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (I met her before she was ordained at a San Francisco signing of her first book, Yentl’s Revenge, collection of deliciously edgy feminist essays) has just released The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism. While it’s unlikely than no one’s going to be using this new anthology as hot foreplay on a Shabbat afternoon, it does promise to challenge our notions of what it means to be a sexy Jew:

Covering topics such as monogamy, inter-faith relationships, reproductive technology, homosexuality, and a host of other hot-button issues, these writings consider how contemporary Jews can engage themselves, their loved ones, and their tradition in a way that’s both sexy and sanctified.

In this interview with Mandy Van Deven for Religion Dispatches, Reb Danya discusses the story of spy-lover Rahab and how she’s inspired the “hooker with a heart gold” archetype, as well as how feminism can reconcile Judaism to its highest potential.

It may not be erotica, but it’s interesting stuff.

I Probably Would’ve Showed Up To Sinai Late, Too

I’ve just returned from my 20th high school reunion to find I totally and completely missed Shavuot.

I mean, yes, I missed it because I was the only Jew representin’ on the dance floor (just like high school, yo!) but I mean, I totally forgot about it. Bad, BAD Shalom School teacher! Usually when I skip Jewish holidays, it’s out of laziness, not senility.

It’s a really good holiday, too – Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai and is generally celebrating by staying up all night partying with rabbis and dairy products. But while I was certainly up all night this weekend, I wasn’t studying Torah so much as old yearbooks and how the crow’s feet around my eyes fared to everyone’s else’s two decades later.

I suppose if Shalom School hadn’t ended for the year two weeks ago, I’d have had Shavuot much closer on the radar, but it sort of fell off the end of the schedule. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever celebrating Shavuot in high school with my Reform congregation. Then again, I don’t recall a whole lot of things about high school, and maybe counting the Omer down to Shavuot would’ve kept me out of trouble.

Maybe it’s not too late. I’ve got a cheesecake in the freezer; it’d be exactly Yo, Yenta! style to break it out a few days late and talk some Book of Ruth with the yeladim.