My Shero: Rabbi Susan Silverman

021113_rabbi_Silverman_Mideast-Israel-Wester_Webf_16x9-690x388Look, Susan Silverman already had me at “Hello, I survived the same screwed up childhood as my sister Sarah and instead of growing up and talking about shaved tuchus puckers, I became a rabbi.”

But Rabbi Susan has earned even more of this Yenta’s mad respect for her delightful act of civil disobedience at Jerusalem’s Western Wall last week. To protest the gender segregation at one of the world’s holiest places, she and her oldest daughter, Hallel, along with eight other women, donned tallit (prayer shawls) and sang prayers to heaven. That’s against the law in Israel — for women. Mother and daughter were arrested and escorted away, banned from even setting foot at the wall for 15 days. Something tells me they’ll be back.

Rabbi Susan is also deeply involved with American Jewish World Service and has adopted two orphans, evidence of how she puts her rachmones where her mouth is. But I really admire her willingness to stand up to the Orthodoxy and its monopoly on what being Jewish really means.

An excerpt from a recent blog post (highlights are mine:)

Some Jews will prioritize care for the orphan and the stranger, and ignore Jewish ritual practice. Some will keep kosher and the Sabbath to varying degrees and in various ways, while seeking justice in society. Some will take the smallest, most extreme and skewed rules and make them into the whole of Judaism. And everything betwixt and between. It is an endless variety, as it should be.

That is the democratic power of Judaism that somehow and eventually manages to allow the highest ideals to gain momentum.

Here’s to the high ideal of egalitarian prayer — including happy acceptance of women’s voices at the Wall — rising to the top.


Noshin’ Hamantaschen with Bubala, Please

Remember Luis and Daquan, the Chanukah gangsters?

Well, they’re back in all of their cringeworthy-but-weirdly entertaining stereotypical glory with what is perhaps the most obscenely-translated Purim shpiel since Mamoud Ahmadinejad taught Persian history.

Also catch a cameo from Suburban Homeheeb Eric Schwartz shtuffing his punim – good to see you, Smooth-E!

Be forewarned, this is Not. Safe. For work. Or children.


Savannah Bar Mitzvah Bonanza!

It’s been a week and half since the big BM, but I’m still digesting, figuratively and literally. I wrote a bit about the wonderful local businesses who helped make our magnificent weekend:

From The (Civil) Society Column in Connect Savannah this week:

I strive to be the best party guest on the planet.

I’ll bring the champagne. I’ll wear a costume. I’ll dance with your Aunt Gladys. I’ll listen raptly, cocktail in hand, to your boring co–worker wax on about Estonian wool felting.

However, when it comes to actually planning the party, I get a little overwhelmed. Just planning tea and snacks for my daughter and her stuffed animals stresses me out. (Really, the damn cow puppet has to be a vegetarian? The elephant won’t sit next to Polly Pocket because of “family issues”? Mommy’s just going to add a little slosh of grown–up juice to her tea, m’kay?)

In the months leading up my son’s bar mitzvah last week — an intimate affair of every single blood relative residing in the Western Hemisphere — it was very tempting to lock myself in the bathroom and read back issues of National Geographic. Fortunately for me and my weak constitution, one of the high points of living here is that Savannah already knows how to throw a party — all I had to do was show up.

Read the rest here….

John Galliano’s Fashion: Anti-Semitic Absolution?

image640x480Remember ol’ Mr. Mean and Nasty John Galliano? You know, the fashion designer who was on top of the gilded world until he was caught on video gabbling about how much he loves Hitler?

Well, he’s a Chasidic Jew now.

No, not really. But to make his grand public reappearance at the Oscar de la Renta show at Fashion Week, he donned the garb of a Flatbush yeshiva student — complete with peroxided peyes.

WTF, you may wonder, as you should. As many did. However, there are some who believe Galliano is just misunderstood.

New York Post fashion editor Serena French defended Galliano, writing that he draws inspiration from the world around him. She pointed out that in 2000, the white hot designer launched a line based on the homeless people he observed having a wonderful time eating out of garbage cans and otherwise freely gallivanting around Paris.

“In his own way, he was attempting to show sympathy and a connection with the very people he has offended,” explains French, with the same logic one might use to justify the presence of little girls’ panties in the possession of a child molester.

But the most shocking defender of Galliano’s painful sartorial choices last week had to be ADL president Abe Foxman. I would have expected ol’ Foxy to snatch the hat off Galliano’s head, smack him in a face with a glove and shout “Shanda!,” but no — apparently, the Super Stylish Anti-Semite and the Man Who Is So Sensitive to Jewish Stereotypes He Lambasted Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi Character are BFFs now:

“[Galliano] has spent hours with me and with others in the European Jewish community, including rabbis and Holocaust scholars, in an effort to better understand himself and to learn from his past mistakes,” Foxman said in an ADL press release. “He is trying very hard to atone.”

Fine, Jonny. But atone by writing a check to the ADL and fasting with the rest of us at Yom Kippur. And leave the blue ascot at home, nu?

A Blessed Simcha…And Life Goes On

Well. It’s over.

The Torah portion was chanted, the bagels were snarfed, the chairs were raised. For the blessing of a boy becoming a man, tears were shed. For the joy of a family surrounded by loved ones, hugs and handshakes and happiness abounded.

photo(11)The nachas I am shepping cannot be contained. I have much more to write and reflect on about this weekend, bookended by rain but stupendous and sunny on the days that mattered and accompanied by spring’s first blooms. I’m still decompressing, but I am so full of gratitude for everyone who came from near and far to witness our blue-haired boy on the bima. (Yes, he specifically requested a black tallis.)

The stress and confusion leading up to it all had me worried that the meaning would get lost in the last-minute menu planning and finding a minute to paint my sad smashed fingers and their bruised nailbeds. And El Yenta Man’s home improvement tear that was well worth the effort but had me in gastric distress when he suggested we retile the bathroom three days before everyone arrived (he settled for new hand towels.) Oh, and the bar mitzvah boy’s refusal to put on the black dress pants bought for the Friday night service because they were too “blousy.”

But the moment I stood with my mother, my new sister-in-law and my daughter to light the Shabbat candles, I felt deeply connected with our Jewish faith, heritage and family. I think everyone there would agree that it was a holy event, especially when the kid accidentally skipped a stair while carrying the Torah down from the bima but magically missed falling on his face. If that’s not a testament that God was on the guest list I don’t know what is.

The rest of the guests have gone home now, and the bar mitzvah boy and his sister are back at school (both with newly-pierced ears, could be a new neo-Judaic tribal tradition, nu?) and my work week is in full swing. But looking out into the pews into the faces of our community this past Shabbat, I understood more than ever before what it means to be a very lucky and blessed person.

Being a Jewish mother is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t take a minute of it for granted.

The Final Countdown…

ShabbatHere we go into the last Shabbos before what has become known around these parts as “The Big B.M.”

Yes, total blasphemy to mix the sacred with the scatalogical, but the Yenta family has always met overwhelming circumstances with poopy humor. Sue us.

I love this painting by Yemen-born, Boca Raton-based Chaim Parchi because it really captures the colorful chaos of our home. Thank God for Shabbat, for a day of rest, for a weekly piece of the sacred in the shitty.

It’s been a difficult week preparing for the big bar mitzvah, and I find myself wound up pretty tight. There are still hospitality bags to stuff, service booklets to staple and haircuts to wrangle. RSVPs are still trickling in from invitations sent in NOVEMBER. The party menu has not been finalized. The next person who tells me to “Relax and just enjoy the process” is going to get a rotten banana in the ear.

I confess to yelling, crying, pacing, hissing, moaning, sighing and basically spazzing my way through the last few days. I also crushed my fingers in the new garage door, likely due to my unmindfulness around the “the process.” Surely I won’t be the first mother of the bar mitzvah to only have seven fingernails, right?

But today, while I was suffering over how to make a two-sided copy come out kosher-style (that would be backwards, like a prayer book) I came across this quote from the Talmud:

May you live to see your world fulfilled, may you be our link to future worlds, and may your hope encompass all the generations to be. May your heart conceive with understanding, may your mouth speak wisdom and your tongue be stirred with sounds of joy. May your gaze be straight and sure, your eyes be lit with Torah’s lamp, your face aglow with heaven’s radiance, your lips expressing words of knowledge, and your inner self alive with righteousness. And may you always rush in eagerness to hear the words of One more ancient than all time. ~ Talmud, Brachot 17A

Sums up what I have been missing as the bar mitzvah boy’s mother, and all and everything I want my dear son to know and feel with all his heart.

While I’m still rushing around this afternoon, it is with eagerness that I look forward to sundown, to break challah quietly with my dear El Yenta Man and our unbelievably beautiful children this evening before next week, when we will celebrate raucously and joyously with our beloved extended family.

I am so incredibly proud to be a Jewish mother, and every ounce of effort we’ve put into the upcoming simcha is worth it, bruised fingers and all.