Twelve Months of Mensch

Oh, the boys are back and they’re nicer than ever:

The 2012 Nice Jewish Guys Calendar is out and ready for you to take it home, pin it up and knit it some socks. You can spend a whole year with these mensches who love their mothers and always wipe down the toilet seat.

Of course all the important (and not-so-important) Jewish holidays are marked—so sweet to be reminded of Tu B’av by a smiling hipster wielding a spatula!

As an added bonus, you can bring in the first three months of 2013 with some Nice Jewish Girls, either for your single brother or maybe you swing both ways; who am I to judge?

My favorite is Pete here, who likes hardcore hiphop and describes his ideal woman as a “yenta.”

So sorry, babeleh, I’m already taken. ;)

Buy it at ModernTribe.com.

So, like, do you guys really have horns?

I suppose it’s inevitable that the “Sh*t Girls Say” meme infected the Jewish world.

It is not, kinehora, in the form of a wince-worthy Jersey girl spouting stereotypes in something tagged “Sh*t Jewish Girls Say” (though I’m sure it’s being produced somewhere as I write.)

No, it’s in the form of “Sh*t Christians Say to Jews,” and it’s wince-worthy nonetheless:

While I think the actress’ delivery is perfectly dopey, it’s obviously cribbed from “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls“, but not quite as funny. Then again, I snorted tea through my nose when “Your mom converted? So you’re half Christian. Omigod, you’re half saved!”

I have far too many lovely, intelligent Christians in my life to be posting this video with unchecked ribaldry, but I have experienced a few moments like this over the years. Such as “So, are you guys, like, sho-MAR fuckin’ Shabbosh?”

There also may have also been a time when some blond girl asked me how many days were in a Jewish year in eighth grade, which many years later I realized was NOT an insult but a perfectly valid question.

Of all of them, nothing’s ever topped the time I ran into one of my son’s classmates and her mother in the toy aisle of Target a few years ago. We were chatting amiably about the holidays, when suddenly she hit me with this:

“So if you don’t have Jesus, what do you call God? That’s right, you people don’t believe in God.”

I choked for a sec and very calmly said, “You might want to check your sources, because according to the them, my people actually invented God.”

Haven’t seen her since.

Imposed Yawn of the Slacker Mother

Well, lookee here, it’s halfway through January and I just cleaned the menorahs.

I count this is as healthy, as I tend to be rather OCD about undone chores (El Yenta Man calls it “naggy freak syndrome.”) So far in 2012, I have been experimenting with defying my natural neuroses in order to live a more relaxed, enjoyable life. So if you happen to stop by, please know that it is this honorable attempt at self-improvement and not laziness as to why there is a pile of dirty towels threatening to sprout mushrooms in the hallway.

But I’ve got another source of hyperventilation for a Jewish mother: Since winter break, Yenta Boy has found himself completely without any extracurricular activities.

Soccer season ended in November, and Wednesday Hebrew group lessons disbanded before Chanukah as the pre-bar mitzvah kids study their Torah portions with private tutors. We’re even between piano teachers at the moment, which is somewhat shocking since the kid was practically on his way to the “X Factor” this time last year.

Of course, this is unacceptable. As every Jewish mother knows, a child cannot possibly succeed in life without weekly formal training in a sport, multiple instruments, a foreign language and possibly chess. As I understand it, large amounts of unstructured time after school cause brain rot and may possibly lead to fast-food jobs and meth problems.

Since I became a mother, I have been quite zealous in the educational enrichment department. Starting with phenomenally expensive KinderMusik classes where toddlers gleaned the basics of musical theory by bashing each other over the head with frog-shaped tambourines, and moving on to gymnastics lessons, composed of toddlers bashing into each other on room-sized trampolines, my children were enriched to the gills during the all-important 0-5 developmental stage.

Team sports and music and dance lessons came once they hit school, along with mid-week Hebrew for the big one. At one point last year, both of them had an activity every single day, resulting in a logistical conundrum that had me driving all over town and having nightmares about forgetting someone at ballet. In a weak moment, I was tempted to post a dorky “Mom’s taxi” stickers on the back of the Absurdivan.

Make no mistake, I’m no Tiger Mother. Each kid asked, nay, begged, to participate in everything that piqued their interest (such as the year my little yiddishe sweetheart was swept away by the Riverdance) Thanks to the Bubbie Scholarship Fund, they were able, and I, wanting them to follow their idiosyncratic hearts, chauffeured.

Now that they’re eight and almost 12, and I’m a working-outside-the-house mama again, we’ve lost momentum. Gone are the fanatic hopes that we have birthed genius prodigies or and Olympic ice skater. Little Yenta Girl takes violin on her brother’s hand-me-down fiddle on Thursdays, only because lessons are in the band room right after school. She’s also a Girl Scout because the leaders are rockin’ post-feminist moms friends of mine who let her tag along to their house after school. Slso, we’re in it for the cookies.

The boy, for now, has yawning chasms of afternoons to do his sixth grade homework, fold towels at his dad’s gym or plunk around on the piano when he feels like it instead of throwing artistic tantrums over the evil syncopation of “Maple Leaf Rag.”

Even though there’s been far less stress in the house since we’re not rushing all over town and being subjected to the same Handel arpeggios for hours, it’s hard for me to let him have this downtime. I’m worried that he’s falling behind, or worse, that this ridiculously articulate and talented ‘tween will end up selling 8-balls out the back door of Taco Bell.

And yet like the stinky pile of towels in the hallway, maybe this free time is the lesson in itself. Yesterday, we walked dog aimlessly for an hour, pointing out strange-shaped leaves and chatting about whether humans will make it Mars in his lifetime. After we shook the mud from our shoes, I noticed his foot is almost as big as mine. Later, after he’d putted around on Facebook and read a couple of chapters of the new Christopher Paolini novel, he wandered over to the piano and began sightreading “Stand By Me,” which I’d placed there hoping he would do exactly that.

Of course, the minute I suggested he add the left hand, he fled for the bathroom to fix his hair. For an hour.

Still, I’m going to ignore the neurosis and relax, because I know it will end soon: Middle school track season starts in March, as does his nose-to-parchment bar mitzvah training. And if anyone knows a Savannah piano teacher who can inspire a kid to love Chopin as much as he does Lady Gaga, let me know.

Beit Shemesh Booty Shake

As promised, the women of the beleaguered Jerusalem suburb responded to the issue of gender segregation by gettin’ all footloose on Friday to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”:

Of course, a bunch of Orthodox women dancing together isn’t exactly provocative, as many bloggers have already pointed out (including 972’s Roee Ruttenberg , who called the effusive performance “antagonistic and counterproductive.” Dude needs to relax–tefillin too tight, bro?)

Still, it made a statement heard ’round the world that not all observant Jews are psychos who expectorate on little girls or make women sit at the back of the bus. But a protest that included a penis would have been much more effective.

*sigh.* Why does life always seems to be one drag queen short of a revolution?

Puttin’ the “Dick” In Chasidic

So, this may be soooo 2011, but maybe some of you haven’t heard about the ultra-Orthodox a-holes the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh who spit on an eight year-old girl last week…for going to school.

Oh, and they also called her a whore.

Seriously, look at her. It’s not like this poor child was dressed in those horrid pink velour kiddie sweatpants with “Juicy” emblazoned across the tushie. Her mother covers her hair and wears long skirts; only a freakin’ burka could be more “modest.” Perhaps that explains the riotous reverb from mainstream Israelis, who are sick of being bullied by extremist peyes-sporting sociopaths. These are the same sociopaths used Nazi costumes to draw attention to their victimization of being subjected to seeing a woman’s actual hair on the way to the grocery store.

See, in Judaism, much like in any other religions, there’s observant, where you have certain people who follow the laws and keep women separate in synagogue and do their best to emulate God. In my experience, observant Jews are good peeps who do their thing and don’t try to make you feel bad about being a heathen who dances around drunk in a bikini on New Year’s Day eating bacon. (Who did this? What? Shut up.)

Then there’s batsh*t fundamentalist, where no matter what religious background you think you identify with, you have crossed into the psycho cesspool where the Taliban wacks and the child-porn selling Christians all pray to the same phallic Deity of Misogynistic Pigginess. Anyone who spits on a child (or stones a woman, or harrasses anyone who doesn’t comply with their particular brand of religious crazy) is in the wrong. Few things are really that simple.

As if Israel doesn’t have enough problems, it now appears that it’s headed for a culture war between the fundamentalists and um, the sane people.

But the true ruach of creative independence remains alive and well: A group of ladies who live where the riots broke out have organized the ultimate protest: A pre-Shabbos booty-shaking flash mob. Add in some singing, and those creepy haredi men might dissolve into the spittle-covered pavement. I’ll post it here when it goes live.

Good luck, and bring those umbrellas, Beit Shemesh ladies!