Mama Goes To Work…Maybe

I had the distinct pleasure of working in the J. (short for the Jewish weekly of Northern California) offices last week in downtown San Francisco as an interim copyeditor. Some of you might already know that most of my time is spent at the kitchen sink, at the playground or in front of this screen; even if you don’t you can probably imagine that putting on lipstick and riding the ferry to the Big City for work that doesn’t require filling requests for sippy cup refills and matching socks is like a spa day times 10.

I rarely get to spend non-family, non-religious time with other Jews, which was a huge amount of fun. The copy room is run by a kind-but-slightly-manic older gentleman surrounded by a cabal of smart, young-to-middle-age writers and editors; read through the latest issue to find out why it’s one of the best regional Jewish publication of our times.

There’s permanent part-time position open, and I want it. It’s the perfect job for me: two days a week using parts of my brain that had atrophied like grapes left too long in a lunchbox, having a place to wear the Kenneth Cole mini-blazer I got on sale at Nordstrom’s last summer, realizing the glamorous San Francisco working-gal fantasy at last. I think I made a fairly good impression with my skills and presentation, except for the morning I slogged some coffee down my shirt when the boat teetered and I had to wear a lovely stain all day.

Of course, there’s a catch. The weekly publishing world is a minute-to-minute drama of ad space vs. editorial copy, meaning if pages get added as the deadline approaches, that space has to be filled fast. It may not sound like an emergency, but if you’re an editor and you need a story about Rosh Hashanah recipes to go opposite the full-page Oakland Kosher ad and one of your full-time copyeditors is out with the flu, you need that Monday/Tuesday copyeditor to get her tuchus into the City on Friday morning stat. Which, because finding a babysitter for 7am on an evening’s notice is impossible, I cannot do. Unless I want to trust the five year-old to take care of his baby sister, make his own lunch and drive himself to school.

I tried to let him know that with just a little more notice I could most always work things out, but he’s still not sure about me. At least he assigned me a book review in the meantime.

The Chosen Champion

shofarA hearty congrats to Kalman Feinberg of Teaneck, N.J., who wowed the judges with his “smooth tone” at the Great Shofar Blast Off this weekend in NYC. He won a trip for two to Israel; a true mensch would take his mother, who kvelled in the audience for him. ( reports that all 10 finalists, all men in their 40’s and 50’s, brought their mothers. Are you surprised?)

The Blast Off was conceived by the National Jewish Outreach Program, who have generously posted some of the finalists’ video entries. The first two are pretty dry, but Contestant #3 brings a bit of excitement to the task.

On the whole the clips are equally as entertaining as this animated parody, which seems to be deriding the the Blast Off for a turning a sacred ritual into a silly contest. Yo, if it’s good P.R., it’s good for the Jews, right?

Hold On Tight, Houston

saved torahsWho can believe that less than a month after these New Orleans torahs were rescued from the wrath of Katrina, Houston’s Jewish community would have to prepare for Rita? These images of Isaac Leider wading through the Beit Israel santuary are quite powerful, hearkening back to the days our ancestors had to carry the Torah on their backs as the pogroms raged; here’s more.

Even though it looks as if Unlovely Rita may be slowing down, a deep prayer will be said ’round the Shabbat table tonight for the protection and safety of anyone and everyone in the path of the storm.

Everyone Loves Jewish Geography

Jewish Population Map…and now there’s a game board. This is a map that shows the percentage of Jews in the entire population separated by county, care of the Geography and Meterology Department at Valparaiso, Indiana (where, you will notice, it’s mighty blank.) *Bigger version*

Lotta dark spots (places where Jews make up over 10 percent of the total residents) near NYC, LA, Vegas, Miami and Atlanta, natch, but who are all those Jews in the middle of Idaho?

Thanks to burgundy at Weird Jews for the tip.

Yo, Yenta Advice! Love, Loss and Love Again

Yo, Yenta! AdviceYo, Yenta!
I wonder if you or your readers could help me with what I call Adult Separation Anxiety.

I am a widowed father of three great children ages 9, 12 and 13. My wife passed away to illness about two-and-a half years ago. Since then I have put my life back together and made my children the most important things in my life.

I have since for the last year have met this wonderful Jewish girl. Our relationship is very strong and we are very committed to each other I am planning on proposing around Chanukah time.

Here is my problem: Just recently she took a trip to England with one of her girl friends. I was so happy for her to go away and have a good time, but I also felt abandoned. Ever since she returned home I can’t stop thinking about her or wanting to be with her nonstop. I know that it is not good for our relationship or my relationship with my children. I felt like I was a rock before she left, now I feel like the foundation under my feet has been weakened.

I love my her and my children very much. But I feel like my insecurity of not being with her every second of the day or thinking about her is driving me up a wall! Please help….

—Drowning in Insecurity

Yo, Drowning! First of all, mazel tov on making a new relationship with a woman who supports Jewish family life. It must have been extremely difficult for you and your children to adjust to life without their mother; I imagine that it is a continual process to create happiness and a feeling of safety for your family.

You have lost one partner to the unknowable and unfair web of God’s will, and your fears of abandonment by this new woman are understandable, even justified. You want reassurance that she’s going to be there if you’re going to commit again. You likely worry that your family could not sustain another great loss, so you need to be in her presence or be thinking of her in order to make sure your world is intact. You’re clinging hard. Continue reading

Why Are We Here Again?

One of my favorite Jewish learning sites is for the way it interprets tradition to apply to daily life. Many people don’t find Judaism (and religion in general) relevant to the reality of bills to pay, houses to keep clean and difficult relationships to navigate, but if you want to find that relevance in the ancient texts, it’s certainly there.
Aish’s one-minute films are a shortcut to inspiration to a deep (not necessarily “observant”) Jewish life and the latest, “Starting Over: Rosh Hashanah and Katrina,” is no exception.

Simon Wiesenthal 1908-2005

Simon WHe knew the horror of the camps and the Holocaust; he understood the reality of SIX MILLION. He was there, and he survived.

After it was over he could have moved to America, moved on, like so many European survivors who rose from the ashes, and began a new life. But he didn’t. He set up shop and went after those Nazi motherf*ckers. His work led to the capture of dozens of murderers, most notably Adolf Eichman, and declared two years ago that he had done his best to bring as many as he could to justice.

“I found the mass murderers I was looking for, and I have outlived all of them,” he told an Austrian magazine. “If there’s a few I didn’t look for, they are now too old and fragile to stand trial. My work is done.”

Certainly he is the inspiration for the aging Nazi hunter in Walk on Water who explains his tenacity by saying “I want to get them before God does.”

Even more important than his detective work, he fought for the dignity of all people, and leaves a legacy of conscious humanitarianism and righteous action. He tirelessly implored us to “never forget.” Let’s make sure we don’t.

He was 96. (Excellent biography here.)

Ach, may he finally rest.

Handbasket, Anyone?

washinton nationalsThe Washington Nationals baseball organization has suspended team minister Jon Moeller for counseling outfielder Ryan Church that his Jewish ex-girlfriend and the rest of us Jews are going to hell.

JTA reports that Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld met Tuesday with Nationals President Tony Tavares and stated:

“What happened in the locker room was hatred. Everyone’s allowed to believe what they want, but the moment that hatred comes into the locker room, it’s a source of divisiveness.”

This story reeks of University of Georgia cheerleading coach Marilou Braswell, who denied a Jewish sqaud member varsity status because she refused to participate in Braswell’s creepy Christian prayer circles. UGA fired her immediately and Braswell made a huge ass of herself by filing a lawsuit, which exposed the large sums of money she still owed the school for camps she’d hosted. These days she’s probably coaching a neo-Nazi Pop Warner team somewhere in Podunk, GA.

It’s admirable that these organizations act swiftly to remove these people from their jobs — and frankly, if hell is wherever they’re not, we’ll all be just fine.

Hat tip to Stairmaster Scott Steinberg at J.