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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, May 21, 2004

Happy Thoughts

I feel like I have been posting thoughts on the negative side lately, and the truth is, I have been having a fabulous week off from school, so my posts have not really been terribly representative of my life. I was at home yesterday, after a great workout at the gym (it is amazing what I have time for when I don't have school), and there was a knock on my door. It was one of my neighbors, she wanted to invite me for a Shabbos meal. Unfortunately, I already had plans for my Shabbos meals this week. But it struck me how amazing the frum community is when it comes to hospitality and taking care of people. I moved to Baltimore two years ago, and I have never once had to make a Shabbos meal myself because I could not find a place to go for a meal. Usually, I have several options, and families invite me along with several of my friends. Within a few months of moving to Baltimore, I didn't necessarily feel like I knew a lot of people, but I definitely felt welcomed into the community and I felt that people sincerely were happy that I chose to move here. My apartment complex has a list with everyone's phone number on it that they give out, they welcome new arrivals with balloons and door signs, and they host speakers periodically. If someone is in need of a Shabbos meal, there is a person designated who you can call who will find a host (though I am lucky to have never needed this service). I find this to be a huge difference from moving into a community at large. When you move into a Jewish community, you have a network of options to meet and build friendships that I don't think you find elsewhere. I think this is the reason why people are so attached to their jobs, because that is the place that they find human connection, it is hard to find it elsewhere, it is difficult to break into a social circle and develop contacts randomly. I am extremely grateful to the amazing show of hospitality that is extended in the frum community. It made my transition to Baltimore so much easier than it would have been otherwise. And I don't think this is specific to Baltimore - I think that is what is so incredible about being a part of the great nation that is Judaism - you are part of a worldwide community.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I don't get it

I don't want to make this a blog focused on complaining about dating, but I just don't get it. People I know are constantly telling me how much they would like to see me get married, soon. But when it comes down to actually giving me the opportunity to meet single guys, the Orthodox world seems to make it incredibly difficult. How am I supposed to find guys I am interested in when I am not allowed to sit at a Shabbos table with single guys? Why must I only be invited alongside other girls? What is wrong with single men and women having a nice meal together at the house of a married couple? Recently, some people here in Baltimore started an organization, Segulah, with the mission of bringing marriage-minded singles together at a Shabbos table. The thought was that if you met someone you were interested in, great! If not, you could always keep the people you met in mind for your friends. I thought it was a great idea. Unfortunately, those who put Segulah together are leaving Baltimore, and as far as I know, no one has stepped in to take their place in coordinating the program. What I don't understand is why it takes an organization to do something like this. I assume that most couples, being made up of a male and a female, know both singles guys and girls. Why don't they invite them at the same time? At 26 years old, I think I am mature enough to sit at a table and carry on a conversation with a male, whether I am interested in him or not. I think I know better than any shadchan what I am looking for in a guy, and I will probably recognize it when I see it in person, rather than during a conversation with a reference who is undoubtedly going to give me a description of the guy that makes him sound like every other guy out there. I think it is time to give singles who are assumed to be ready for marriage a little credit for being able to handle being in the same room with people of the opposite sex. Instead of worrying so much about setting up two people you barely know, go ahead and introduce them and see what happens! Okay, ranting over. Sorry about that.

Humanistic Judaism

Protocols has been inviting a series of guest bloggers to post their thoughts for the past few weeks (some have been better than others, but that is a different story). The current guest, Daniel Radosh defines himself as a Humanistic Jew. I don't know very much about Humanistic Judaism, and I am not endorsing it, but I thought that something Radosh said was interesting. He wrote: "God does not care what we think about him, he cares how we treat each other." I am not sure how I feel about that. I think treating others with respect should be a high priority, and unfortunately, I believe that it is one that often gets hidden behind concern about bugs in water or particular forms of dress. I wonder, however, if the second half of Radosh's statement is viable without some kind of belief in Hashem. If we show a blatant disregard for the laws Hashem gives us, many of which correspond directly to how we relate to others, then what gives us a basis for treating others well? Radosh also writes about building bridges between the various denominations of Judaism. I would love to see this also, I have always felt that strengthening our Ahavas Yisrael is the best way to encourage more Jews to love Torah. Though, again I do not propose to know the best way to balance between being accepting of all Jews and telling those Jews that it is okay to not follow Hashem's laws. I was once asked what would change in my life if it was proven that there is no G-d. Would I act differently or live my differently, and in what ways? My quick answer was that it would change a lot - how I dress, what I eat. But beyond that, I am not sure that the way I treat others would change tremendously if there was so G-d, or halacha. I think this is the point of humanistic Judaism, though I am not exactly sure why they choose to emphasize the Jewish part, if they don't accept Hashem. I hope that my actions towards others would be just as kind, and compassionate as they are now if there was no G-d. But I have to admit that I like having the backing of halacha, and Hashem, behind me to confirm that I am acting correctly. And whether Hashem cares what we think of Him or not, treating others well as being a part of serving Hashem, makes sense to me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I miss George!

When I first moved to Baltimore, my maintenance man was George. We loved George. He was extremely nice and effecient and he even cleaned up after himself. Then the apartment complex decided that George needed to work on the other side of the complex and the powers that be took George away from us (I still haven't gotten over it - can you tell?). Since George was stolen away, we have received a new maintenance man. He is okay, but not as quick, or friendly, or effective as George was. But he generally does fix what we need fixing without too much of a problem. Yesterday, I called maintenance and asked them if they could fix my showerhead, which was spraying water up onto the ceiling rather into the shower where it should have been going. No problem, they would fix it. After work, I actually stopped at the gym and worked out for the first time in ages. When I got home, all I wanted was to get clean in my newly fixed shower. I get to my bedroom door, which is what lies between me and my refreshing shower (my bathroom is inside my bedroom), and it is locked. This is odd, because in the two years since I moved to Baltimore, I have never once locked my bedroom door. Since it is after hours, I call the maintenance emergency line. After waiting on hold for five minutes, they inform me that they charge $25 for lock-outs. I patiently explain to them that I will not be paying a maintenance man to let me into the room that he locked me out of. They tell me they will see what they can do. While waiting for them to call me back. I come to the realization that I do in fact own a screwdriver and am perfectly capable of taking the doorknob off all by myself. Which is what I do. And I put it back on without breaking it. Who needs maintenance anyway? Maybe I should become a maintenance man! Anyway, moral of the story is, I still miss George, who would never have locked me out of my room to begin with.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Thinking For Oneself

In talking to a friend recently, she made a comment regarding the difficulty of being taught to think for yourself and be an individual. She said that it is both one of the greatest gifts to be given and one of the hardest burdens to hold at the same time. I totally agree with her. I sometimes wish I could just go along with the crowd, accepting what everyone tells me I should think, doing what everyone says I should do. Maybe life would be easier that way - but maybe not. When you try so hard to fit in, I think you often feel as if you will never live up to whatever standard you are striving to emulate. So is it better to be an individual or better to not be? I think that in striving to be an individual you often find out who you are more clearly than someone who tries to fit in. But the problem with that is that you often figure out that you are not like others, and that can be extremely lonely. When you try to fit in, you will find yourself surrounded by others who think similarly to you, and hold similar thoughts as yourself. But you might also find yourself to be hollow, and devoid of an opinion of your own, of a knowledge of who you really are. And when the tide turns, you better be ready to turn with it, or else all the effort exerted in fitting in has been wasted. I see people who try incredbly hard to fit into a group or situation that is not really who they are, it is simply who they feel they should be, and this ends up being a great source of frustration. Can you have both? Can you both be an individual and find a place to fit in? I don't know. I hope that those who choose to be individuals, even if they don't ever feel like they fit in, can at least find a group of people to surround them who support them in their efforts to be true to themselves, even if those efforts are not the popular route. And I hope those who do strive to fit in feel they are at the same time being honest about who they are. I don't believe that there is a right way for everyone, I think each person needs to figure out which is best for him or herself. And I think personally, I need to work on accepting everyone for the decision that he or she makes in this endeavor.

Monday, May 17, 2004

You Get What You Give

There has been a lot of hype over the past week about wigs made with Indian hair and how Jewish women should not be wearing them because the Indian women cut their hair off in an act of avodah zara (idol worship). Regular wig-wearers have been frantic trying to figure out whether their wigs are made with Indian hair, rumors have been flying, and there has been major commotion made about this situation. I was told that some rabbeim are saying that if your wig comes from a non-Jewish source, then you can not trust that they are telling the truth about that hair not being Indian. You should assume that the non-Jew is lying and you are not allowed to wear that wig. If the source is a Jewish one, then it is fine to trust them. I have a major problem with this. It makes me start to understand why the world hates Jews. If we look at everyone else with suspicion, why should they not look at us with the same suspicion? I have heard many times that you should always be careful about accusing someone of a flaw, because when you point with one finger, you have four fingers pointing back at yourself. I don't blame Jews for Anti-Semitism, and I definitely don't in any way justify the atrocious acts throughout history which so many nations have used to pour their wrath upon the Jews. But I have to think that in some ways, we make the situation worse for ourselves. I have sat at many tables where I am embarrassed to listen to the beratement and negativity thrown toward non-Jews as a lump group not distinguished individually in any way. And I have to wonder why the rest of the world shouldn't do the same to us. I often see Jews assuming the worst about those we don't even put an effort into finding out about. What right do we then have to expect that those same people should give us the benefit of the doubt, or put any effort into finding our positive traits? I believe that you should strive to give as much or more as your expect from others. And I think that the attitude that one personally exudes in turn is reflected back. I would rather people not assume the worst of me, so I want to strive for the same about others.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Semester is Over!

Yay! I survived another semester of school. A review of some of what I learned (including a few I learned in class): My social life is important. No matter how busy I am, I need to make time for my friends, to keep me sane. Working full-time while going to school is hard. Sometimes, I can't read every single word I am assigned and that is okay as long as I am doing the best I can. I do not have to be perfect. A few kind words can make a huge difference in a person's day. From my counseling class - I do not want to be a therapist, though I can develop my own approach to counseling fairly effectively, at least well enough to write an A paper. I can't control what others do, and how honest other people are. I need to focus on being the best person I can be. Asking for help is not a bad thing. From my writing class - Titles of papers should be interesting. In each sentence, pronouns should singular or plural, not a mixture of both. From my Research Methods class - I have learned the rules of APA style in and out, along with the capability to use the APA manual. This will definitley be a huge help when I leave Pscyhology as soon as I finish my BA. The people who surround me are proud of me and believe in me. And that is a great feeling.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

There's Always Hope!

For all of you "older" singles out there, don't lose hope yet - apparently it is never too late: Yahoo! News - Aging Octopus Finds Love at Last

Simple Pleasures

I just had the best 45-minutes of my week so far (yes, I know I am lacking that thing most people call "a life"). Today, instead of eating my lunch in our breakroom like I usually do, I walked across the street and spent my lunch break in my newly-formed ritual - now very affectionately known as "Sunbathing at the Inner Harbor" (extremely loosely disguised as "studying for my final exam tonight"). Basking in the sun, feeling the warmth of its rays, the cool, light breeze flowing past - that's what I call a lunch break.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Bad Week

You know it's a bad week when the least of your stresses is the fact that you are in the middle of finals (only one more to go!).

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Sometimes I wish I cared a lot less about doing what is right. I also wish people wouldn't tell me about their ethical dilemnas, subsequently making me a part of them, though I guess I should feel honored that these people trust me enough to talk to me. I wish I knew where to draw the line between what is an okay breach of ethics and what isn't. But I have a feeling that the line doesn't really exist, that you have to take each case on a step-by-step basis. I am glad that I have people who I can trust to talk to and advise tell me as to what is the right thing to do with these issues. But unfortunately, having an answer and coming to a decision about how to act doesn't necessarily make things feel better, it only outlines the action that I am planning on taking. I guess that's life.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Face Lift

Yay! Blogger has new templates and one of them, as you can see, is my favorite color - blue! So now my blog has had a facelift that is not dependent on me, and it looks so pretty. I had an incredible weekend. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so I spent the majority of the time outside, enjoying it before the cicadas come. I went on a hike that was a great workout, then I had a barbecue, hibachi-style, with some friends in honor of Lag B'Omer, and I ended the weekend with a nice walk through my neighborhood. It was sad that the weekend had to end, but I am glad that I got the opportunity to make the most of my weekend. Wish me luck on my finals this week - I'm almost done!

Friday, May 07, 2004

Being Saved

Another anecdote from my past… From the time I was 7 until the time I was 13, my family lived in Oklahoma City. The Jewish community there was very small, and not especially centralized. There were Reform and Conservative shuls, and a Solomon Schecter day school, but absolutely no Orthodox influence in the community. My family lived in an area that afforded us a very good public education, and I usually one or two other Jewish students in my grade. However, my friends tended to come from religious Protestant backgrounds, and were primarily Baptist. Being open-minded and liberal, my parents would let me go to church with my friends when I was invited, which wasn’t especially often, but did occur occasionally. Several of my friends were very active in their churches, and spent one or two evenings during the week there, participating in the youth groups that were offered. Each year, the main Baptist church that my friends were associated with held the “Crusades” – a week-long effort to convince as many people as possible to be “saved,” or to accept Jesus as their savior. After the services, pizza was served to everyone and a band played for the enjoyment of the crowd. Being a naïve 11 or 12-year old, I accompanied my friends one year to their “crusade.” It sounded like fun – who turns down free pizza and music? I didn’t know what the word crusade meant, I had no idea what being saved symbolized, and to me, it was an opportunity to hang out with my friends. Sitting through the preaching, watching many people approach the altar to accept Jesus into their lives, I watched with fascination. It seemed to be such a spiritual moment for so many, a spirituality that I had never experienced. I whispered to my friend next to me, asking her if I should go up and be saved. She encouraged me, but cautioned that it wasn’t a decision I should make lightly. I didn’t really understand what was going on, what it meant to be saved, but there was something about it that seemed very appealing. I wasn’t saved that day. Something kept me from walking up to the front of the church, probably something to do with the fact that I didn’t fully understand what it meant. And after that day, despite my friends’ periodic pleas with me to save my soul from being doomed to an eternity in hell, I never again had the compulsion to be saved. Years later, reminiscing on that evening in the Baptist church watching other people being saved, I can only draw a comparison to what I feel was my spiritual awakening approximately 7 years later - steps away from the Kotel, watching the sun set as thousands of Jews sang in the beginning of my first traditional Shabbos ever.

Thursday, May 06, 2004


So, for the past few months, talk has been floating around about cicadas that apparently infest and inflame Baltimore every 17 years for six weeks in the most beautiful part of summer. These large insects with red eyes that devour the landscape and torment those of us with low tolerance for anything yucky are scheduled to appear any day now. Which of course, leads me to ask myself, "Why did I move to Baltimore?" Since I have lived in Baltimore, we have experienced a few natural disasters - a record-breaking blizzard my first winter living on the Eastern Seaboard, a spectacular hurricane that left me without power for an entire week, and of course, the impending cicada invasion. Several people have tried to blame me for the recent disasters that have stricken Baltimore, and while I feel guilty for a few seconds, I try to reason that they would have occurred whether I was living in Baltimore or not. I try to accept responsibility for those things that I am actually responsible for, but weather crises and insect infestations, I just cannot claim that I have control over. I guess I will never know why I moved up the coast right before some of the worst calamities that Maryland has seen, but I guess I have been duly inaugurated to living in a place where anything can happen. I just hope that the cicadas are the last thing I have to live through for a while!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Chanukah season

Being one of the few (or only) Jewish students in my classes growing up, it was always deemed my responsibility to educate my classmates about Judaism. Whenever any Jewish holidays rolled around, and actually, when non-Jewish holidays arrived also, I got lots of questions. Lots of contrasts were drawn between Jewish and Christian holidays. Traditions were traded, presents were compared and stories were told. The time of the year when these education sessions became the most prominent was always around Chanukah. Chanukah was always a hard time of year for me. When young, the hard part came in feeling left out when we inevitably made Christmas projects to take home. I was either left to make whatever kind of project I desired, or made exempt from the project. Whichever choice I made, I couldn't fit in with the rest of the class. Christmas songs were sung in choir, the better years the majority of the songs revolved around winter rather than Christianity, a token Chanukah song sometimes made it into the rotation. But this time of year also held a fun element. Each year when I was in elementary school, my parents would come in during Chanukah, sometimes with the one or two other Jewish parents of students in my grade. All the students in my grade would get together and my parents would tell them the Chanukah story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil in the Beis Hamikdash. My parents would bring in menorahs to light, dreidles to spin, and would fry latkes for everyone to taste. I always felt special during this presentation, because I knew the information that my parents were presenting, and I often got to help in the demonstration. I always got positive comments from my classmates about how interesting the story was, and how lucky I was to celebrate eight nights of Chanukah rather than one day of Christmas. To me, it was about being proud of my difference and sharing it with my classmates and friends. For an afternoon during that winter season, I didn't feel left out, I felt honored.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Growing up Jewish in the South

Ok, so at the suggestion of a friend, I have decided that I am going to start writing a bit about what it was like to grow up Jewish in the South. In thinking about the places I've lived and the Jewish communities I have been exposed to, I don't know that my experience is even representative of what most other Jewish Southerners find, but I feel like I do have some interesting stories to tell, and I guess it is time to start sharing. First a bit of background. Growing up, my family moved around a lot, not always in the South. I was born in El Paso, Texas, and before the age of 13, my family moved to Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and then we finally settled in Birmingham, Alabama. While these cities are very diverse in location, they all have one thing in common - they are home to small Jewish communities. The only places I really have strong memories of living in are Oklahoma City and Birmingham, both of which can be considered to be part of the Bible Belt. The reason we moved around so much is not because we are a military family, as most people assume. My father works in the Jewish communal services field - he is currently the Executive Director of the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham. We moved around as my father changed positions within the Jewish communal services field. Moving from community to community, I knew few others Jews well, and had even fewer Jewish friends. The schools that I attended could claim anywhere from a few Jews to only one, me. The truth was, I always felt I had more in common with my non-Jewish classmates than I did with the other Jews I encountered. The Jews I knew growing up were largely materialistic, snobby and focused on appearance much more than substance. Though it is a great possibility that I didn't give a lot of them enough of a chance because I simply wasn't around them enough. Forced Sunday School classes doesn't really give you a great forum for getting to know people. My family always affiliated with a Reform congregation, I went to Sunday school for years (against my weekly protests) and we attended services on High Holidays or for simchas. My Jewish education was pretty weak, though I did learn to read Hebrew and had a Bat Mitzvah where I read from the Torah. Often being the only Jew in my class or even in my school gave me a unique perspective on being Jewish. I guess I always had the choice of whether to be embarrassed or proud of being Jewish. But I think the fact that my family was so involved in the Jewish community, with my father being a spokesperson for whichever community we lived in, led me to feel that my Jewishness was a unique aspect of me that many others couldn't boast. I always saw it as something that made me who I was, even if I didn't have a clear understanding of the history of the tradition of Judaism. It was something that I was taught to stand up for and represent proudly and I strove to do that. I think that my choice to be proud of my difference is what gave me the foundation to eventually learn more about what that difference meant. And I will always be grateful for having that foundation.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Odds and Ends

Lately, I have been compiling a list of people who I really like, and Greg and Peninah have definitely been added to that list. It was great to spend Shabbos with them, and I hope to see them a lot in the future! Rabbi Gottlieb gave a great drasha this week. I know I am not going to give it justice, but I want to try. Rabbi Gottlieb spoke about being a kiddush Hashem to those around us. He specified that he was speaking about those who are not only a part of the Orthodox community, or even a part of the Jewish community, but everyone, Jewish and non-Jewish. He said that a part of bringing kedusha into our lives is to live it and project that example onto others. He emphasized the necessity of not sheltering ourselves from the outside world, because if we keep only to those who are exactly like us, then we are not leading by example. In not leading by example, there is then no way for others to be inspired by the holiness that we strive to embody. I thought it was an important message and I hope that I can internalize enough kedusha myself to be a kiddush Hashem and inspiration to those whom I come in contact with. We had an interesting discussion in my Counseling class the other night. The topic was Feminist Therapy, which is one approach to counseling that has developed fairly recently in response to the increasing dissatisfaction among women with the role that society tends to enforce. It was an interesting discussion, if a little one-sided (being a Psych class, we only have one male in the class). The basic premise of the theory is that women (and men, to an extent) have been repressed by the gender roles that society says men and women need to fit into. The therapy instructs the client that it is not necessary to fulfill these stereotypical gender roles and that problems that they may feel they have are often due to the messages society sends rather than with the client herself. I brought up the point that many women are very happy, and choose to live, within the traditional gender framework that society holds. And the point that a woman who is happy within the traditional gender framework who comes to therapy may be very turned and unhappy with a therapist who tells her that her problems are due to the messages that society has been sending her about her gender role. Also, I don't believe that someone who chooses to live within a traditional role should be made to feel bad about it, she should be supported in whatever choice she makes for her life. I am still a bit torn about where I stand on the issue of Feminist Therapy, as I do believe that women should not be told that they should not strive to achieve. But on the other side, I don't agree with the concept that a traditional role should not be respected as a legitimate choice either. And I think that a Feminist orientation to therapy unfortunately only supports a woman who rejects traditional roles, which I believe is antithetical to the basis on which the theory was built. I guess I am not going to become a Feminist Therapist any time soon!