How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

March 10, 2008

Lovely and talented people I know

Filed under: entertainment,Family,Good News,music,tikkun olam,video — howdoyoujew @ 10:36

The lovely and talented Hazzan (Cantor) Alisa Pomerantz-Boro, who just happens to be the person responsible for introducing me to my lovely and talented wife, conducts the children’s choir at her shul, Congregation Beth El in Cherry Hill, NJ (her lovely and talented daughter, Rebecca, is third from the right in the top row):

December 20, 2007

Give away something you don’t need

Filed under: environment,Good News,Life Online,technology,tikkun olam,tzedakah — howdoyoujew @ 15:16

If you get a new cellphone this holiday season, why not donate your old one to Secure the Call Foundation? They’ll pay for shipping your old phone to them and turn it into a 911-only emergency phone for people in need. Simple and effective way to 1) help someone in need and 2) keep old but functional cellphones from ending up in a landfill.

December 17, 2007

Can you tell it’s a slow work day?

Filed under: Commentary,fun,funny,Good News,News,Politics,productivity — howdoyoujew @ 12:37

Best news about Ann Coulter so far today (hey, the day is young, she could still get run over by a truck, which would eclipse this story):

direct lift from the Subversive Cross Stitch blog:

Seems that some truly subversive and possibly off-balance soul hand-delivered a card to Ms. Coulter’s mailbox in Florida and, according to police reports obtained by The Smoking Gun, the card they chose to express themselves with was our very own “Go Fuck Yourself” card from the set by Chronicle!

I love the NY Magazine piece’s title: But Ann Coulter Always Seemed So Nice! Bwahahahahaha!

edited to add: I looked at the police report at TSG, and was delighted to see the evidence photo showing the “two words unclear” on the inside of the card mentioned by the cop. “They” are easily (to me) discernible as the single word “solipsistic” (adj., one who holds that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; also : extremely egocentric). It gives me hope and cheer to know that someone with the kind of vocabulary it takes to use “solipsistic” correctly in a sentence took the time to compose this card to Ms. Coulter and hand-deliver it. Thank you, my friend, and Merry Christmas to you!

Post-Chanukah good news reporting

Filed under: Family,Good News,Jewish holidays,News,religion — howdoyoujew @ 11:14

Thanks to Joel for passing this along:

Arkansas Menorah in the Baghdad Palace

Celebrating Chanukah 2007 in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace, who would think? Yet tonight inside a marble encrusted hall in Baghdad, we lit the eighth light of a hand-made, 6-foot tall menorah. We prayed in Hebrew, joyfully sang a medley of Chanukah songs, ate latkes, and best of all, we were Jews together in the land of our earliest forefathers.

Read the rest…

November 24, 2007

My amazing offspring…

…except that, well, you know, she isn’t my offspring in the literal sense of that word. Regardless, she IS amazing, and I happily take credit for her attitude and disposition, seeing as how I’ve been co-responsible for her since the moment she was born. She had a rough night last night, up a few times to eat, crying, not her usual self. She woke up for good at 5 AM, hung out with us in bed for a while, then participated in our morning routine getting ready for Shabbat at Ohr Shalom, where both I and my lovely wife were scheduled to read Torah, so we were obligated to go. She didn’t go down for a nap before we left the house, rested in the car for a short time on the way down there, remained awake the whole length of the service, and maintained her standard good mood throughout.

She catnapped on our way out to Coronado to hang out with Doda Shlomit and Dod Dave and Ben Dod Jonah, woke up promptly after we parked the car, and was up the entire afternoon and evening until about 6 PM, again, with a smile on her face the whole time. She ate like a champ the whole day, and that, in combination with how long she’s been awake, plus the fact that we’ll be keeping the house a little warmer tonight than it has been lately, makes us hopeful that she’ll sleep through the night, as was her habit since the age of 3 months.

All I want to do now is sit and veg in front of the TV. It’s rare that I get like that, but tonight is one of those evenings. If we can’t find anything good on live TV (we only have basic channels) we’ll certainly find something online.

Oh, yeah… This morning at shul I delivered an oral version of the drash I wrote up the other day, and it was well-received. Good times.

November 22, 2007

On giving back, giving thanks, and not giving up

We got up bright and early this morning to walk 5K in downtown San Diego to raise money for Jewish Family Service and the San Diego Food Bank. Felt good. Ran into many people we know, and saw the power of grassroots passionate politics in action: two Ron Paul supporters I saw walked the entire route with extra promotional material showing their allegiance.

One carried a “Ron Paul – Hope for America” preprinted cardboard sign, raised in his right hand, the whole length of the walk/race, during parts of which he faced runners coming the other way. A few people offered cheers in response as they ran by, and one lady came up to him and asked him who Ron Paul was while I was walking next to him. In my opinion, he got into way too much technical detail and talked too much, and possibly lost the lady by the time she managed to extricate herself and walk on, but that’s the risk you take with a candidate who doesn’t have a well-oiled campaign spin machine with professionally distributed talking points, etc. This guy turned out to be a very recent convert to the cause (like one month ago recent), which also explains the rusty preaching. If it were me, the spiel would be something like:

  • He’s a strict constitutionalist
  • He’s the most principled, honest, straightforward congressman on the Hill
  • He wants to end the war in Iraq/bring the troops home immediately
  • He wants to reduce the size and power of the federal government, and
  • He wants to increase and protect your personal freedoms and liberty (by, among other things, repealing the Patriot Act)

But that’s just me. I’m not even sure I’m going to vote for the guy.

The second supporter ran the entire race while towing a Radio Flyer wagon plastered and stacked with Ron Paul stickers and signs. I didn’t talk to him, but seeing both these guys was eye-opening. No other candidate was visible in the race – I don’t recall ANY t-shirts, let alone anything more visible like what these guys did. It’s amazing to me how passionate Dr. Paul‘s supporters are, and it makes me sad that the entire electorate doesn’t share this passion.

Most people vote for one of two reasons, I think: 1) for convenience (how I used to vote), or 2) for who they think will win, as long as the candidate is within a very broad margin of where the voter’s interests lie. I decided several years ago to stop voting for convenience and start voting my conscience. I’ve thus technically “wasted” my vote a few times, voting for libertarian and other independent and other party candidates who have very little chance of winning the seats they’re running for. But I recognized at the time I made this decision that my vote is not really wasted – in fact, I’m getting more value out of my vote than most people, because… I was going to say because I can sleep at night, but I’m sure most other people don’t have sleeping problems based on their voting record, mostly because they’re too complacent and content to feed on the bullshit that the political machine and mainstream mass media feed them. They also probably think that, in the few cases where they actually do care about something and it’s not going the way they want, they can’t make a difference, so they don’t try, and resign themselves to the status quo. I want to raise my daughter to be a true critical thinker with advanced analytical skills applicable to all aspects of life, and to always know that she CAN, in fact, make a difference, so I will not be one of the mindless masses meandering about making do with meaningless materiality.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the 5K walk… Anyhow, after that we went home and all three of us took a nice nap, then got our day going getting ready for the family-and-friends feast at the Meltzers’, which didn’t disappoint. Among the highlights of the afternoon/evening was finally meeting and getting to know Rav Menashe East and his wife (and their adorable infant daughter). We’ll be spending a considerable amount of time next summer with them in Israel, so it was good (not surprising, but still good) to discover they’re cut from the finest quality menschlichkeit cloth.

November 21, 2007

It feels like Friday

Which means that since it got dark a few hours ago, I’ve felt like it’s Shabbat and I shouldn’t blog until after… but it’s not Shabbat, it’s Erev Thanksgiving, and there’s nothing to prevent me from writing, using the computer, etc.

Jenn spent much of the day cooking and baking for Thanksgiving, which we’ll be celebrating at the Meltzers’ with a bunch of extended family and friends. I successfully lobbied one of my favorite community organizations (in this case, Ohr Shalom Synagogue) to send out an email to the membership about the Give One Get One program I wrote about yesterday. Phyllis & Joel commented on Jenn’s post about the Bone Marrow Donor Appreciation event. Hadarya had a great day and a good evening, including when we went down to minyan.

This week’s parasha is Vayishlach, which includes the story of Yaakov’s struggle (commonly translated as “wrestling”) with… well, with someone – the Hebrew is ha-ish = the man, but this is usually understood as an angel of God. Tonight, though, we looked at four possibilities of who the struggle could have been with:

  1. God
  2. An Angel/messenger of God
  3. Yaakov himself
  4. Esav (Esau, Yaakov’s twin)

The discussion that ensued about each of these was the richest exploration of this story I’ve ever engaged in. My contributions included the following:

  • Assuming the struggle was with God, I thought of the conversation God has with Moses later in the Torah (verse 20) when Moses asks to see God’s face and God tells Moses that “no man can see my face and live.” That said, Yaakov may have gotten so close to God by engaging in this “struggle” that he came away with a physical wound (the hobbled leg, the limp).
  • If it was an Angel (and somewhat spanning the possibility of a struggle within himself): Yaakov remembered, of course, the dream he’d had some 20 years before of the ladder with angels climbing up and down. This time, rather than remaining passive and simply watching, he tried to engage his visitor. He was more mature, more ready this time, but it was still a serious spiritual and physical challenge, and he came away changed (spiritually with the name change, physically with the limp).
  • If the sparring partner was Esav, the thing that struck me most was the parallel of lower limbs in their history: at the beginning of their lives, Yaakov grasped at Esav’s heel, then engaged in some rather unsavory behavior to usurp his brother’s birthright. Here, decades later, HIS leg is injured, mirroring his brother’s “wound,” and the very next day, Yaakov and Esav meet and reconcile.

There was some very nice input (not mine; I think it was Rabbi Scott’s) on this last option, raising the possibility that Yaakov and Esav had to have a physical confrontation, a cathartic wrestling match, to get out their aggression and relieve their longstanding animosity, and that only after this fight could they embrace and kiss and weep.

All in all, a nice lead-in to the holiday. Tomorrow first thing in the morning we head downtown for the 5K Walk for the Hungry, then relax and eventually head to dinner to give thanks ourselves. Happy holiday!

Yay! Another easy way to reduce waste

Filed under: environment,Good News,technology,tikkun olam — howdoyoujew @ 14:27

Catalog Choice is an awesome site where you can sign up to opt out of getting all those junk catalogs you don’t need in your snail mail. This is very much on my mind, as we just got TWO copies of the Uno Alla Volta catalog the other day, and even one of them is too many. I’ve signed up, and I’ll fill out the details as soon as I get home and fish those puppies out of the recycling bin.
(thanks to MH)

November 20, 2007

Two things that could change the world

1. I’m on Rabbi David Wolpe‘s weekly d’var Torah email list. He can say more with fewer words than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Anyway, a few days ago I received a special message from him:

Below is a mitzvah of worldwide significance. This program, which involves all faiths and nations, is an attempt to bring computers, curricula, and education to the very poorest parts of the world. By purchasing one remarkably inexpensive – yet remarkably effective – computer – you will enable a poor child to receive a computer as well. If you decide simply to donate both, or more, that would be an even greater mitzvah. This is limited; we have only two weeks to act. Let us join people from all over the world seeking to help those who crave knowledge, information, connection. These computers work without electricity and are specially designed to enable the poorest children to benefit. The Talmud teaches that Jews are rachamim b’nei rachamim – merciful people and the children of merciful people. Please show your mercy to children all over the world.

The program he’s referring to is the Give One Get One promotion of One Laptop Per Child, which I’ve been aware of since its inception several years ago by Nicholas Negroponte. I’m hopeful that Jenn and I can find the extra cash somewhere to get involved directly, but I wanted to put it out there for you to see as well, so you could decide if it was worthwhile.

2. In the news over the last couple of days is the recent discovery by Japanese and American scientists that they could essentially transform human skin cells into stem cells. This, too, could change the world, in entirely different ways than OLPC, but I love the thought that some kid with a laptop from OLPC could one day contribute to the effort to treat or cure a major disease using stem cells because he was given a window to the rest of the world by this program.

November 15, 2007

Surprise! You’re the guest of honor/keynote speaker tonight!

Filed under: education,Family,Good News,Health,life cycle,tikkun olam,UCSD — howdoyoujew @ 23:48

When we walked in to the UCSD Faculty Club tonight for the San Diego Blood Bank‘s Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Donor Appreciation Dinner, we were excited to be back at this moving event, this time without our daughter, who was with us last year at the tender age of 6 weeks. Little did I know that my name appeared on this evening’s program as the featured speaker, with Phyllis’s and my story the central donor-recipient story. The staff at the donor center had called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to be their backup speaker because they were having some trouble getting someone, and I agreed, but they never called back, so I assumed they’d found someone else. Imagine my surprise when Maria ran up to me tonight and sprung this surprise on me! Well, never one to turn down a gig, I had a Heineken, wrote a few notes down, and took the mic when it was handed to me.

After it was all over, it took us about 45 minutes to get out of there for all the people coming up to commiserate and compliment me and share their own donor/recipient stories. Mine, as I said in my remarks, has TWO happy endings (Phyllis’s survival and then Hadarya’s birth), but not all bone marrow donation stories end so well. In some cases, the patients succumb despite a matching donor being found and a transplant being carried out, but in far too many cases, patients die for lack of a donor. This is where you come in. Open a phone book or a new tab in your browser (what, you don’t use a tabbed browser? OK, open a new window, then) and look up your local bone marrow/stem cell donor center (likely affiliated with your local blood bank). Call the center, and make an appointment to register with the National Marrow Donor Program. It’ll only cost you a small blood sample, but the difference you may make in someone’s life is immeasurable.

Also, you may get to correspond with a rock legend.

But that’s not the point. The point is you could save a life, and the person whose life you save may have undoubtedly has other people who care about and love him/her, which means you’ll have changed their lives too. The collateral benefits add up, which is why the Talmud teaches us that “One who saves a life, it’s as if he has saved the whole world.”

Do it. Do it now.

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