Nits, Rats and Poison Ivy: A Trifecta of Repugnance

Once upon a time back in 2006, I wrote a post called “Mold, Diarrhea and Escargot,” a detailed and repulsive summary of the grossest and most disgusting day in the life of any Jewish mother, anywhere, ever.

That day has now been eclipsed by a perfect storm of afflictions that probably should win some type of award except that I don’t want it commemorated in any form or fashion. However, if you want to buy me a sympathy drink after reading this, I won’t turn it down.

First, when we dropped the children off at their lovely, green Jewish summer camp, the cursory nurse check revealed three tiny little white blobs on my daughter’s heads. I mean miniscule, tiny flecks that could have been dandruff or remnants from a spitball fight she had with her brother. But when the nurse pointed at them, I knew. NITS. Lice eggs. Lousy. Literally.

I tried not die from shame since I know that having nits or lice doesn’t mean you’re dirty or that you are a bad person. It’s pretty common among kids these days, though I had never had to deal with it before my daughter’s Girl Scout troop has passed them around for an entire year (if there was a badge for nits, we’d OWN it.)

I don’t know how or where she got them this time, but I was not real thrilled to douse her head in chemicals once again. It turns out the poison doesn’t work anyway, because apparently regular lice has mutated into a super organisms that are taking over the planet. I took the nurse’s advice and combed and combed through the girl’s hair with tea tree oil under a bright lamp; I did the same to her brother just in case. And El Yenta Man’s. And mine. We were up past midnight combing through each other like baboons. I didn’t spot any bugs, and everyone got a clean bill of health the next day.

But STILL. We are the NIT family. The nurse was so kind and sweet, reassuring us that we weren’t the only nit family, and that she would quietly check Little Yenta Girl from time to time to make sure those little buggers stay away. If they don’t, I’m sure I’ll get one of those “Hello-this-is-Camp-nurse-it’s-not-an-emergency-we-just-wanted-to-let-you-know” types of calls.

In the meantime, while the kids are enjoying themselves, prayfully nitless, El Yenta Man and I have been even more revolting adventures. After enjoying a lovely childless dinner out on our first evening alone, we returned home to thinking that we would, *ahem*, make the most of our aloneness. Except we weren’t alone.

As EYM went to grab a water from the pantry, he found a bigass rat in there, that was, in his words, “clamboring all over the sugar and shit like Templeton from Charlotte’s Web.

Again, if shame could kill a person, I WOULD BE DEAD ALREADY.

How. Could. This. Happen. TO ME? My pantry is so freaking clean you can eat off the shelves. I even finally got the Tupperware tub for the dog food.

Except that there was a RAT eating the pistachios, which means I am a horrible housekeeper and all-around terrible balabusta. And basically useless, since all I could think to do was scream and swat at it with the broom.

EYM grabbed the BB gun and started shooting up the place, which meant tiny metal balls were bouncing off the tile floor like we were surrounded by enemy fire in Vietnam. Fifteen minutes later, my beautifully organized pantry lay in ruins and we’d pulled out the sideboard, the baker’s rack and the refrigerator chasing it. EYM had the gun pointed on it as we slid the wine cooler back for its last stand, but at the last minute I begged him not to kill it. I opened the door and it scuttled out, tail dusted in Whole Foods organic flour.

I had just started putting everything away when I heard my husband whisper “Oh no.” He was staring at a long cardboard tube on top of a pile of potential art supplies. The faintest of scratching sounds emanated from it. “Oh no NO NO NO.” He climbed up on top of the sideboard, peered into the tube and screamed like a little girl.

YES OMFG ANOTHER RAT.

EYM actually shot the bb gun into the tube, and this bionic rodent performed the scary ninja feat of climbing UP out of the cardboard tube, across EYM’s feet and out into the dining area, trailing tiny drops of blood on the wood floor. EYM finally cornered it in the girl’s bedroom, but not before ransacking it, pulling the mattresses off the beds, pulling out drawers, flinging finger puppets and toys around the room and turning her room—which yes, I just cleaned and made all pretty for her when she came home from camp without nits—into a war zone that looks like it had been hit with rockets by Hamas. (Oh shit, sorry. Too soon? It’s been a terrible week for so many. Prayers and blessings for safety for all.)

The second rat was not as lucky as his compadre; he died after taking about fifty bb’s (a la Willem Dafoe in Platoon) and couple of butts from the gun. Even though he kills and guts fish, regularly, EYM was terribly traumatized at the violence of it all, and I heard him apologizing the rat as he finished him off. It was really awful, y’all. I still haven’t been able to go in there and clean up her room.

To top it all off, both El Yenta Man and I are suffering from a wicked, weeping, itchy, full body-swathing case of poison ivy, probably from consoling ourselves with too much alone time in the backyarden.

A trifecta of the most disgusting things ever, all in one week. If you can top that, I would really, really like to know.

 

Who is like you, Friday Night Live?!

com_friday-night-light_062014_539_332_c1Y’all know I am a Craig Taubman groupie from way back, and it saddens me that the Silver Fox recently retired from leading the epically joyous Friday Night Live services at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.

I’m sorry I never got to attend, though 2007′s Hallelu in Atlanta was a small taste of Taubman’s wonderful musical and communal legacy.

By all reports, the last gathering blew off the roof, including this truly rockin’ rendition of “Mi Chamocha” featuring New Orleans clarinet riffs and a killer rap from hiphop’s Jewish heart, Kosha Dillz:

I’m pretty sure rapping would cause considerable plotzing among regular Friday night congregants of historic Congregation Mickve Israel, but maybe Craig and Kosha would consider a reunion if they’re ever down Savannah way?

Throw Out the Lox! Vita Smoked Salmon Recall

218Well, here’s every Jewish mother’s worst nightmare:

The package of lox (or as I’ve heard it referred to, “smoked salmon”) I bought at Publix last week for some nice bagel sandwiches to take to a beach picnic has been recalled for the presence of a certain vile bacteria.

According to an email from the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture received yesterday:

Vita Food Products, Inc. of Chicago, Ill., is notifying the public that it is recalling 1,878 pounds of Vita Classic Premium Sliced Smoked Atlantic Salmon due to possible contamination of Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

The email did not mention the also common symptoms of stomach cramps and diarrhea. Gross.

The product was sent to Hannaford stores in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, H-E-B stores in Texas, and Publix stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina beginning on April 7, 2014.

Yep yep, Publix. In Savannah, Georgia. At Twelve Oaks Shopping Center, to be precise.

The packages are vacuum sealed, black in color and bear the Vita logo centered at the bottom. Product from this lot can be identified by a SELL BY AUG 17 2014 date and lot number 00764B, which can be found on the right side on the front of the package. The 4oz size of this product is the only size subject to this recall.

All of the above. Darn.

Well, that sucks.

A shame this alert went out the day AFTER Little Yenta Girl and I ate the sandwiches.

After an evening of a rumbly, unhappy tummy, I managed to, erm, expel the offending Listerical mononucleuses or whatever those little fuckers were.

My girl’s digestive reaction was not quite as fast, yet she appears to be much better after a day of seltzer water and a double dose of probiotics to help her gut’s good bacteria kick out the interlopers.

Vita is offering a refund for the contaminated yuck lox if I sent it the product label, but that would have required touching it and no, just no. Anyway, the minute I got the email alert and discovered it was a match, I made Yenta Boy take it from the fridge with a paper towel, wrap it in two plastic bags and throw in the outside trash can.

But now our favorite protein snack will be tainted in my mind. Maybe not forever, but there’s something about diarrhea that turns a person off.

In the meantime, we’re going to stick to hummus. Or maybe not. Dammit.

 

Here’s Your Prostate PSA

EYM**WARNING: This post gets super personal in an Osmosis Jones kinda way.

This is El Yenta Man.

He’s quite a handsome devil, nu? Even though he leaves wet towels on the floor and still loads the dishwasher like a monkey after 16 years of marriage, I’d like to keep him around. Jewish husbands who can cook and like a zaftig tuchus are hard to find.

A couple of years ago during one of his regular man check-ups, his doctor found a lump on his prostate. (Past 40, us ladies get our boobies smashed for our yearly mammograms; the dudes get buggered with a rubber glove.)

As you can imagine, we were a bit alarmed. While a prostate is a useful piece of male anatomy that helps make the babies, much like its owners it can get increasingly irritating and enlarged as it ages. Often, as in one out of seven bodies, it can develop cancer.

Thankfully, prostate cancer is not life-threatening and easy to treat if caught early. Since it’s so common, it is a popular topic among dudes of a certain age, right behind Salma Hayek and whether goatees are still working if they’re gray.

But because El Yenta Man doesn’t do anything the normal way, his lump has to be different than all the other prostate lumps. His lump has to be special, not a regular tumor that doctors deal with decisively and swiftly and then everyone goes back to playing golf on their iPhones.

Nope, EYM’s lump had to develop within the walls of the actual gland, a condition so rare that there are only a handful of documented cases and no real treatment protocol. It’s official name is a Prostatic STUMP, as in a Stromal Tumor of Unknown Malignant Potential. Totally sounds like the RUOS in the Princess Bride, does it not?

We’re not real good at taking things seriously around the Yenta house, so we named it “Stumpy.” Of course, Stumpy the Tumor is as unwelcome a guest as a giant rat, and the extermination process is, well, radical. The problem with Stumpy is that he could get real troublesome real fast, or he might just hang out in EYM’s epithelial wall doing absolutely nothing forever. None of us want to play Russian Roulette with a quiet tumor, but since the surgery comes with risks of its own, EYM didn’t jump at going under the knife in such a sensitive area.

Thus began a journey to figure out whether–or when–to evict Stumpy. Feeling limited by the medical options in Savannah, EYM tracked down the No. 1 prostate expert in the country, Dr. Peter Scardino of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. It just so happens that Dr. Scardino is a good ol’ Savannah boy himself, and EYM was able to score an appointment in Manhattan in the summer of 2012. In spite of all the hysterical opinions both professional and amateur regarding my husband’s prostate, Dr. Scardino calmly told us to “wait and watch.”

So we’ve waited, but it takes some complicated and expensive equipment to watch a prostate. Last week we flew back to NYC for some time with Dr. Scardino’s new MRI machine (much kinder and gentler than the previous model, which makes a vaginal ultrasound look like a freakin’ spa treatment.) When the digital photos came up, we were at that computer screen like it was the Game of Thrones finale.

Our first real look at Stumpy revealed that holy cow, he’s a lot bigger than we thought. I mean, you could see him quite clearly as the tech rolled the arrow around, hanging out right behind EYM’s bladder. But here’s the good news: He hasn’t changed much since the last time Dr. Scardino checked him out.

What that means is no surgery. For now, anyway. And another trip to NYC in a year. Which is actually pretty fabulous. Thanks, Stumpy.

But the prostate, it is no joke. If you’ve got one or you love one, go get it checked.

Ten Years a Yenta

Last week marked a special anniversary here at Yo, Yenta!: A whole decade of existence under my borscht belt.

Back in 2004, I hadn’t heard of a blog until my Bro the Doc and his buddies at Primetime Amusements decided to dip their toes into the Jewish dating site pool. Turns out it was more of a lake with room for only one behemoth-sized creature, but I have Jmerica.com to thank for providing me a platform in the then-burgeoning bloggy world. The internet has gotten faster, scarier and grown up around me like an L.A. freeway, yet somehow, I am still queen of this domain. (Congrats and much mazel to my homegirl Esther Kustanowitz and My Urban Kvetch, celebrating her 10th blogiversary this year, too!)

Family Yenta, Tybee Island, 2004

Family Yenta, Tybee Island, 2004

At the time I was a freelance writer in the most expensive county in California with two small kids. (Here we are circa 2004 visiting Tybee Island, GA, the native stomping grounds of El Yenta Man. Little did I know I would be living in the deep South just a few years later.)

I was not only grateful for the gig, but for the opportunity it afforded me to explore Judaism on the Internet. At first, I did a lot of snarky J-celebrity postings (remember Britney and her Zohar?!) but over the the years the space has become more about about this thing called “Jewish” and how to do it, whether it’s a birthright or a choice, a practice or a state of mind, a people or a heritage or a religion or a recipe or all of the above.

A whole decade has passed, and figuring out what it is to be a Jewish mother still feels important and interesting. I have always been determined to raise my children Jewish on my own terms, not by blindly following laws that I didn’t really feel beholden to nor by simply dropping my kids off at Sunday School and expecting little rabbis to happen.

I’ve filled in the gaps of my suburban Reform Hebrew school education with sites like MyJewishLearning.com and Aish.com. I’ve learned about crazy traditions like kapores and discovered the wonderful world of kosher gospel. I’ve been honored to meet modern Judaism’s musical superstars and spend time with the hilarious seniors and survivors of my community. I learned how to cook shakshuka and blintzes and make mezuzot out of dry cleaner hangers (but building a decent sukkah continues to elude us.)

In 2006, we moved across the country to Savannah, GA. My field study of the particular and peculiar practices of the Southern Jew continue to fascinate me. (And y’all, I hope. One day soon I’ll share my recipe for Mint Jewleps.)

Since then, I’ve shepherded five classes of kindergarteners for Shalom School. I’ve been lucky enough to gain an amazing sister-in-law, who’s only been Jewish for a year but already cooks way better matzah brie than me. My mother-in-law still continues to exist on this side of God’s delineation between heaven and earth, reminding me how strong the desire to live is and how every day is a blessing. Last year, I reached a huge milestone in the life of a Jewish mother, our son’s bar mitzvah, and I was so humbled by the genuine joy of celebrating with our family and community.

The past decade has all added up to a messy, loud, unorthodox Jewish life, full of contradictions and new twists on tradition and the occasional piece of bacon. I may not look or act like any other Jewish mother anyone else has ever seen nor any rabbi would probably approve of, but I think I do my ancestors proud by lighting candles on Fridays and shepping nachas when the kids make poetry out of the Yiddish refrigerator magnets. The Yenta house may not be close to kosher, but it’s full of love and faith and laughter, and I really do think that counts.

Of course, one of the hallmarks of being Jewish mother is a sense of low-level, residual guilt about all the things that still need to get done. I still haven’t written a book or memorized the Havdalah prayer or um, put away the Passover dishes. You should see the pile of laundry rising behind me like a hungry golem.

But I have no plans to go anywhere, even though I really do need to update that photo up top. In the next ten years, I hope Yo, Yenta! will continue to be a place for all the Jewish and “Jewish-ish” mothers and fathers — the ones by birth and ones by choice, the interfaith ones, the straight the gay, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi, all of the colors and all of the stories, the ones looking for wisdom and those with wisdom to share.

It’s about bringing as much neshamah (soul) and ruach (spirit) to this party on Planet Earth, to raise our kids to be mensches, to shine our God light bright.

I may be no closer to defining what a Jewish mother is supposed to be, but it’s been a real gift to keep making it up as I go. I do know that there’s room for all kinds of rituals and beliefs, and I hope to show in my own bumbling way that a family doesn’t have to practice Judaism perfectly — or even exclusively — to have a vibrant, joyous, Jewish home.

Much mazel, nachas and love to you and yours ~ Yo, Yenta!

Lebos_4-HI_RES

Earworms = #EleventhPlague

Oy, remember those cute yeshiva boys with the nice voices who brought us this catchy Pesach ditty to the tune of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” last year?

C’mon, sing it: “Changin’ my pots and pans…gotta have Manischewitz for my prophet…I got haggadehs, lookin’ for the chametz…we’ll be munchin’ matzah…”

Well, the men of Six13 are baacccccck, this time changing up the lyrics to everyone’s favorite animated Oscar-winning animated movie (though personally, I didn’t think it lived up to the hype.)

Here’s your “Chozen” mash-up:

Little Yenta Girl is already driving us batty caterwauling “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build A Snowman” a hundred times a day, so I guess she can entertain the seder guests with the kosher versions.

Naughty or Nice, Everyone Loves Some Jewish Boys

Y’all know I just love the Nice Jewish Boys calendar. Who can argue with 12 months of mensch?

slide_341952_3532570_freeBut there are some who like their tribal dudes with a lil’ more…naked. That’s the concept behind Naughty Jewish Boys calendar, billed as “an unorthodox idea whose time has come.”

I’m about as unorthodox as it gets, so I’m full ON BOARD with “the desire to see Jewish men regarded as sexy instead of merely as a good catch cuddle-buddy.”

Playwright Duncan Pflaster (himself not Semitic in the least but a true appreciator of the sexy Jewish men, according to the New York Post) has already cast a slew of Hebrew hotties from an ad placed on Craig’s List, but I can think of a few others, not to mention my own verrrry wicked El Yenta Man.

Except we may never get to usher in Chanukah with this bare-chested bearded babe or any of the others, ’cause the Nice Jewish Guys have sent the Naughty ones a cease-and-desist letter for copyright infringement. Nice Jewish Guys calendar founder Adam Cohen charges that the naughty version confuses consumers; Pflaster says he’s just trying to break down the stereotype.

Boys, boys, boys! Can’t we all just along? Eye candy for everyone!

The Rotten Tooth in Emory’s History

Dr. Howard Black

Dr. Howard Black

Dr. Harold Black talks about the rotten tooth in Emory’s history (Reposted from connectsavannah.com):

There it is again, the stabbing nerve pain.

I’ve got this crabby molar in the left side of my mouth that I’ve been ignoring for some time. I find myself avoiding hot and cold liquids, meats that require more than cursory mastication and anything with seeds. My diet has basically been reduced to white wine and baby food.

Last week after a piece of hard candy practically sent me into convulsions, I bit the bullet (oh god, it hurts to even think that expression right now) and made an appointment with the dentist.

Though I’ll have to wait until next Friday to sit in the reclining chair of Dr. Harold Black, I have high hopes that he can wrangle my dastardly denticle into submission. After all, he’s been practicing dentistry in Savannah longer than many of us have had teeth — 55 years, in fact, and yes, he still has all of his. The walls of his practice at Morrison Dental Associates teem with certificates and fellowships, and he’s a coveted speaker at professional dental societies all over the southeast. (I hear those Southern Academy of Periodontology seminars are epic.)

Like many Jewish young men of his generation, he was strongly encouraged by his parents to go into medicine, which combined service to others with a nice living to support one’s elders.

A star student at Savannah High and at Emory College in Atlanta, the young Dr. Black was inspired go into dentistry by his Romanian grandmother, who witnessed some terrible dentures in her Old World shtetl and used to admonish him in Yiddish, “You need to make the teeth!”

But this Savannah-born master of the mouth mirror might not have donned his white coat at all. Black entered Emory’s dental school in 1955 under the heinous tenure of dean John E. Buhler, who cultivated a climate of anti-Semitism so pernicious that 65 percent of Jewish dental students were either flunked out or made to repeat years between 1948 and 1961.

Though racial discrimination ran rampant in all corners of the South, Savannah’s historic Jewish community was mostly protected from prejudice suffered by their Northern and Midwestern counterparts, or, God forbid, their persecuted Eastern European brethren. Even in the years after the Holocaust, young Black couldn’t understand what was happening, let alone why.

“Growing up, we didn’t even know what anti-Semitism was,” shrugs Black, whose father was one of the founding members of Savannah’s Bnai Brith Jacob synagogue.

During Buhler’s “reign of terror,” prospective dental students had to check a box on their applications categorizing them as “Caucasian, Jew or Other.” Buhler and cohorts hurled epithets at the Jewish students and told them “they didn’t have it in the hands” to become dentists.

One semester, Black was accused of misplacing a tooth model and stayed up all night to carve another one — only to find the next morning that the missing tooth had magically reappeared.

“We were harassed on a daily basis,” remembers Black, now a vivacious white-haired gent who will celebrate his 79th birthday this year.

Because not even Führer Buhler could argue with his stellar grades, Dr. Black was one a handful of Jewish students that graduated in four years. But many of his other Jewish classmates, all at the top of their undergraduate classes, received expulsion letters for failing marks. And because of the shame of failing out of a heralded school like Emory, none of them shared the injustice with each other, allowing the abuse to go unchecked.

“I never spoke of it to anyone,” confesses Perry Brickman, who was kicked out of the dental school in 1952. “I didn’t even tell my wife until many years later.”

It wasn’t until Brickman attended a retrospective of Jewish life at Emory (which, apart from the decade at the dental school, appears to have been incredibly diverse and vibrant) that he realized his suspicions that Buhler had strategically tried to push Jewish students out were real.

The Anti-Defamation League had documented Buhler’s evil shenanigans for Emory’s administration, and he quietly resigned from Emory in 1961 — though he likely continued his bullying behavior through the next decade as dean of the Medical University of South Carolina dental college.

In spite of the ADL’s triumph, there had been no recourse for the students he’d affected; most of them still didn’t realize they had been victims of systemic and strategic bigotry. Brickman began tracking down his former classmates in 2006, filming his interviews with them about this little-known scourge in Emory’s history. His footage inspired the 2012 documentary “From Silence to Recognition: Confronting Discrimination in Emory’s Dental School History,” screening as part of the Savannah Jewish Film Festival this Sunday, Jan. 26.

He found that though burdened with such humiliation in their early careers, the accomplishments of these men are, as my own yiddishe bubbe would put it, nothing to sneeze at:

Brickman—*ahem*, Dr. Brickman—went back to his home state, enrolled in the dentistry program at the University of Tennessee (where he graduated fourth in his class) and enjoyed a long, happy career in Atlanta. Some, completely disenchanted with the discipline, went on to law school at Harvard and Columbia.

Others went into traditional medicine, like Savannah gastroenterologist Dr. Bucky Bloom, who will join Drs. Black and Brickman at the Q&A after the film screening.

“They told Bucky he didn’t have the dexterity to be a dentist,” scoffs Dr. Black, shaking his head. “Can you believe that? He was offered a surgical residency in Miami!”

After his time at Emory, Dr. Black returned to Savannah to marry the lovely Charlotte, with whom he raised five children—all successful professionals, though he is especially proud that they’ve produced 12 grandchildren between them.

“The experience made me a little bitter, but it did make me stronger,” he says, though there is not a trace of acrimony in his twinkling eyes.

Emory issued a public apology for Buhler’s actions at an emotional event in 2012, acknowledging this stain on its otherwise exemplary history of tolerance. Dr. Black reports that many of the men—now in their 70s and 80s—cried, lamenting that their parents weren’t there to hear their sons vindicated.

When it comes to Dean Buhler, I’m reminded of an old Yiddish curse: “All his teeth should fall out except one—so he can have a toothache.” Who knows if that came to pass, but he was reportedly forced to retire in 1971 for health reasons and died in 1976.

As for my own maligned molar, Dr. Black assures that he can take care of it but chastises me a little for waiting so long to see him.

“You’ve got to catch decay early or it can cause big problems,” he scolds good-naturedly.

Sound advice from someone who speaks from experience on so many levels.

What Does Your Jewish Last Name Mean?

1389196581.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeOh, I am ALL OVER Bennett Muraskin’s Jewish Surnames Explained on Slate.com.

In it, he explains how the mass-naming of Eastern European Jews began under Joseph 11′s Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 “so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance.”

Before that, you were the “son of” or “daughter of,” so everyone in the shtetl knew whether you were the kid of the prosperous merchant or the village idiot and treat you accordingly. Besides providing more shekels for the Czar’s coffers and bodies for his army, the Great Naming of the 18th Century also gave Ashkenazic Jews—with our curly hair and funny noses—yet another characteristic that set us apart: Long mouthfuls of surnames that to this day, sound distinctively—and definitively—Jewish.

Muraskin masterfully breaks down the roots our Ashkenazic sobriquets by occupation, place, religious roles and other categories, including those totally misinterpreted by immigration officials over the centuries. It didn’t take me long to find my maiden name, Feinstein, among them: Someone up in my father’s family tree must have been a jeweler, though “Feldsher” might be more appropriate these days for our two generations of surgeons.

When I got married, I adopted my husband’s ethnically-mysterious “Lebos,” which alternately gets “So, what is that, Greek?” or becomes the Mexi-exotic “Lobos.” We’ve always batted around the theory that it somehow came from “Levi,” signifying ancestors with special roles in the ancient temple proceedings and making us feel doubly guilty for not attending enough Shabbat services.

But here I’ve just read under “other Hebrew- and Yiddish-derived names” that we could be perpetuating the line of Judah:

Lieb means “lion” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names, including Liebowitz, Lefkowitz, Lebush, and Leon. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for lion — aryeh. The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah.

Judah was the meanie who suggested to his brothers that they sell their daddy’s favorite, Joseph, into slavery, but he also had a bunch of kids made from hearty stock (how else do you make your own tribe?) King David also descended from Judah, and thereby, apparently, Jesus.

Frankly, it confirms my suspicion that everything just comes back to Bob Marley. Iron like a Lion in Zion, indeed.

Kvells, Bells and Hallelujah

On this last post of 2013, it’s all about the kvelling:

Last Sunday, Young Yenta Man (*formerly Yenta Boy* I began this blog when he was four but he’s got this deep baritone voice now. How can I still call him a boy?) finally completed his mitzvah project. Around these parts, when a young person becomes a b’nai mitzvah, they are supposed to show their commitment to their community by raising money for a charity.

YYM’s bar mitzvah was way back in February, and homework and summer camp and general adolescent surliness postponed his fulfillment of the mitzvah, but I threatened to bury his iPad in the chicken coop unless he got his tushy in gear to get it done by the end of the Gregorian year.

It was worth the wait. He and his piano teacher came up with a playlist, and he performed a selection of classical ditties and some favorite songs that showed off that new baritone of his. Around 60 people came to Temple Mickve Israel to hear him, and over $700 was collected for the Hearts and Hands Clinic in Statesboro (founded by his bar mitzvah tutor, Andres Montes) and American Jewish World Service to aid victims of Typhoon Haiyan. (In his introduction, Rabbi Robert Haas called AJWS “the Jewish Peace Corps.”)

Apart from a few minor flubs and a small pre-show tsimmes that involved El Yenta Man giving up his socks because YYM chose to wear no-show athletic footies with his dress shoes, it really went beautifully.

Here’s the whole 18-minute megillah:

Here’s to many hallelujahs, halos and imaginings for a spectacular 2014!