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.

November 18, 2007

Blast from the past: Denis Leary riffing on the Mel Gibson DUI

Filed under: baseball,fun,funny,history,News,sports,television,video — howdoyoujew @ 22:27

Thank you to Phyllis & Joel for reminding me of this gem:

Back in July of 2006, Mel Gibson was famously arrested for drunk driving, and exercised his constitutionally protected right to free speech by unleashing a tirade blaming Jews for, among other things, being responsible for all the wars in the world. You can find rants and commentary on this all over the web.

But that’s not the point here. My point here is that a couple of weeks after this incident, the talented actor/comedian Denis Leary joined the Red Sox TV broadcast crew in the booth, ostensibly to plug his Leary Firefighters Foundation and raise money for New Orleans firefighters after Katrina, but really to help call an inning and do his schtick. Well, after Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis assisted on the first out, things got interesting:

Online Videos by Veoh.com

November 10, 2007

The origin of this domain name

Filed under: Blogging,Family,history,life cycle,Life Online,Parenting,Podcasting — howdoyoujew @ 21:54

When I first started posting here in April 2006, I put up some divrei Torah I’d delivered over the last few years, and then I very briefly talked about why I got the domain and how I planned to start podcasting “soon.” While I haven’t accomplished that last task, I’m still working on it, and I thought I’d take an opportunity here to mention the origin of the name.

In early 2006, my lovely wife and I began talking classes to qualify us to become adoptive parents through the county of San Diego. The classes were primarily intended to address people adopting kids coming out of the foster care system, and mostly kids who’d been in that system for several years, which didn’t apply to us (we’d asked to adopt an infant). Also, much of the information delivered in the classes (27 hours of classes) fell firmly under the “common sense” category of parenting and life with which my lovely wife and I are oh-so-familiar and to which we subscribe wholeheartedly. Of course, much of the population is averse to the practice of this philosophy, which is why the county needs to deliver it in bite-sized chunks and very simple language over several weeks to the good people who want to make the lives of children born into unhealthy situations a little bit better.

In other words, the classes bored me silly. I gathered very quickly that if I didn’t bring my laptop or some other distraction to help me get through the classes, we would become ineligible to adopt through the county altogether because I would end up assaulting someone to try and pound the stupidity out of their head (remind me to tell you sometime about the moment of enlightenment I was involved in one evening, attempting to explain to one remarkably dense individual in the class why drug use by a biological father doesn’t have the same effect on a developing fetus as use by the biological mother during pregnancy) . So bring my laptop I did, and also some scratch paper and a pen.

And so it was on one evening, shortly after the classes began, and shortly after I was inspired by a particular moment in Adam Curry‘s always evolving and always excellent podcast the Daily Source Code, that I began brainstorming with myself possible names for my own domain and blog/podcast name. I knew it would have a Jewish theme, but I also knew it would touch on myriad other topics and would itself evolve over time as my curiosity drove me and my interests meandered. I was aiming for a name that wouldn’t lock me into a particular path and would allow me to question everything, something that Judaism encourages. That interrogative and open-minded spirit caused the phrase “How Do You Jew?” to pop into my head, and I knew immediately that I had my domain name. I reserved it that night through GoDaddy, and the rest is… well, yet to be written/spoken aloud.

November 4, 2007

Parenting, literally and figuratively.

Parenting is hard. I’m not complaining, mind you, just stating a fact. Allow me to illustrate with two anecdotes.

Having a fever of 102°F sucks.
Being less than 13 months old with a fever of 102°F sucks a couple of ways. First, you have no idea why you feel so crappy; you have no life experience on which to base a conclusion. Second, you can’t communicate to your caretakers exactly what hurts or feels bad, so you get frustrated, which just exacerbates your already crappy situation.
Being the parent of an infant with a 102°F fever also sucks in multiple ways. I am cognizant of all the ways my baby’s situation sucks, which sucks for me too. Plus, when there’s no easily discernible cause for the fever, I find myself (with, since I’m exceedingly lucky, my lovely wife) grasping for possible causes, treatments and cures without getting too panicky or frustrated.

The good news is, barring major disease or infection, the suckiness goes away in relatively short order. And so it was over this weekend, when Hadarya developed said fever on Saturday evening, after an intense afternoon of playing at D’s birthday party. Jenn and I had one of the most difficult nights we’ve experienced as parents, up frequently with our daughter, trying to calm and soothe her. And today, other than a wacky, nap-less existence and a steady 100° fever most of the day, things were almost normal. Hadarya has tended to do these sort of things on weekends when it’s least disruptive to our work schedule, which some might see as considerate, and normal for her is so great that it’s easy to forget the tough, sleepless nights and whiny, fussy days. we’re still not entirely out of the woods, as she’s been waking up crying intermittently as I write this, but hopefully we’ll get through this night not too much worse for the wear.

On to parenting of another sort, and the letting go that it entails: Immediately upon my arrival in San Diego in 1999, I visited the Hillel house at SDSU and became active there, as I had been at UCLA, particularly on Israel-related events. Through Hillel, I connected with the larger Jewish community, including the Israel Center, the local Federation‘s Israel activities hub. (It was this connection that hooked me up with a memorable gig as a counselor on a teen summer trip to Israel. That’s a story for another time.) One of the first major events I had a hand in was the annual commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. I don’t know off the top of my head if the San Diego Jewish community held a ceremony to mark the anniversary before I arrived, but organizing this event and ensuring the participation of a variety of youth, student, and other community groups was one of my pet projects in those first years.

Since then, I’ve remained an active participant in that ceremony (and the Yom HaZikaron ceremony), whatever form it took. My participation has included MCing the event, translating songs, poems, speeches, and other readings for inclusion in the ceremony, and other duties. This year, I was so busy being a dad and dealing with other things that I didn’t notice that I hadn’t been contacted about the ceremony until I saw community-wide publicity for it. I was so impressed by the professional quality of the publicity materials and elated about the ceremony’s change of venue (to the JCC, which we’d tried and failed repeatedly to utilize over the last several years) that it didn’t dawn on me until more recently that I still hadn’t been contacted about participating.

Lunch this past week with my good buddy Ronen, the outgoing Maccabi shaliach, cleared up a great deal of my confusion, and made me anxious to see what the ceremony would be like, now that it had grown up and gone off on its own, so to speak. I was one of a couple of hundred people in the audience in the theater at the JCC tonight, and there were definitely mixed feelings, as I imagine there will be when I watch my actual children taking their first (literal and figurative) steps. Other than the jarringly theatrical biographical vignettes (performed by the J*Company kids, who are, after all, a theater group), the biggest misstep as far as I was concerned was the use of my translation of Chaim Chefer’s powerful poem Hayinu keCholmim (We Were As Dreamers) without any credit given. While I’m assuming goodwill and/or ignorance on the part of the organizers and granting that they may not have known who translated the piece, I’ll be writing the Israeli community shaliach a letter voicing my disappointment at 1) not being consulted at all on this year’s ceremony, and 2) not being recognized, even privately, for the work I did in the past, like this translation.

The ceremony wasn’t all bad by any means. Another friend, Jessie Blank, performed a beautiful, powerful rendition of Naomi Shemer’s Oh Captain, My Captain, a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking free translation of the Walt Whitman elegy for Lincoln that Shemer wrote in the days immediately following Rabin’s murder. And the always reliable Zeji Ozeri (why, yes, he’s a friend of mine too, why do you ask?) led the singing of Shir LaShalom; neither listening to that singer nor that song will ever get old. Finally, Prof. Michael Bar-Zohar, a former MK and friend of Yitzhak Rabin, who’s written biographies of Ben Gurion and Shimon Peres, shared some personal anecdotes that made me feel more directly connected to Israel and the events and personalities of Nov. 4, 1995, this year than many previous years.
***
Aside: Huh. So this is what it feels like to blog daily. I like it!

July 24, 2007

It’s the Irony, Stupid: Hospitality and Spirituality in the Middle East, Then and Now

When I started writing this (Sunday, July 15 or thereabouts) I didn’t know where it was going, so I didn’t post it. It took about a week for the realization to sink in that the thing that brought these two subjects into relief for me was the irony and sadness over the powerful positive connotations I held based on history, our sacred texts, ands personal experience, and the terrible depths of hostility and spiritual corruption we’ve reached today in the region. I am leaving much of the piece intact as I first wrote it, with the addition of the link to my friend Scott’s powerful piece at the end.
***
Two aspects of Middle Eastern culture, and how they are played out today in the Middle East and here in the US, came into sharp relief for me recently: Hospitality and spirituality.

The hospitality I’m referring to is the “open door” policy extant in many Arab and Israeli homes – whereby friends, family, and sometimes even strangers are welcomed with open arms and well-stocked pantries, often with no advance notice. Last Sunday, after a lovely late morning playdate and light picnic at a park near our house, we invited a couple of the friends we were with back to our place for lunch. Eric & Shauna said they had to run a bunch of errands so they would take a rain check. Half an hour later, as we were noshing with Tamar, the one friend who’d come over initially, they called and said they were done, and would we mind some company. Without hesitation, we added two place settings to our dining room table, and our impromptu gathering lasted until the late afternoon. Once we’d started feeding them, Eric admitted that he’d only called because Shauna thought it’d be weird to just show up on our door unannounced. I assured her that it would not have been weird at all and that they are encouraged to do that sort of thing any time they feel like it. Jenn isn’t Israeli, but her subscription to this same philosophy is entirely unsurprising considering our compatibility with each other (which we discovered very early on – like on our first date).

When Jenn and I were looking for our first house together a couple of years ago, we walked into the abode we now call home and fell in love with it, largely because of the layout of the dining room/living room, which is really one enormous room divided only by the entryway from the front door, with no steps or walls separating the space. We immediately realized that this room could hold more than two dozen people at a festive meal, a scene we hoped to see brought to life in our home as often as possible.

Later that same night, as I was rocking Hadarya to sleep, I recognized (in the truest sense of that word: I revisited the knowledge, or cognition, of) the blessings she has brought into our lives. We are committed to giving something back in acknowledgment of and gratitude for those blessings. On her birthday, we want to do something to honor the sacrifice and bravery of her birth mother; and we also will continue to recognize the role my bone marrow donation played in the cosmic balance of our lives and our struggle to expand our family.

I don’t believe in an active God of history, a literal being of some sort that has a hand (outstretched or otherwise) in everyday events. My conception of a “higher being” is much more along the lines of a shared human trait of Godliness, a spark of divinity that each of us carries. The more people recognize that spark within themselves (and choose to follow its guidance rather than ignore it), the more God is present in the world.

All of these thoughts and experiences got me thinking about the geographical region where I was born, and the one I now reside in, and whether there’s some qualitative difference in how people relate to each other and to God in these two regions (and elsewhere). The whole cradle of civilization thing, and the old joke about the God hotline being a local call from there, make it clear that other people have thought about this before me (I’m not claiming originality here), and I don’t have any answers, but I’m thinking about it.

Modern history, unfortunately, puts hospitality and spirituality in a different light: A recent scene from the West Bank where the open door is specifically shut in the face of a neighbor (92 MB WMV – even with broadband, it’ll take a while, but it’s worth it here it is on YouTube), and the centuries of religion-based hostility and violence in the Middle East (um, read/watch the news?), highlight only the differences between the peoples and downplay (if not outright ignore) the positive aspects of these qualities.

I was aided in my move forward to post by this gut-wrenching recollection by my good friend Scott of his visit to Hebron. I was in Hebron for a couple of months – including the High Holy Days – while serving in the IDF in ’92, so I can sadly say that his characterization of that place is spot on.

Now I just need to figure out how to react and work for change.

May 7, 2007

Dig this archaeological news from Israel

Filed under: Good News,history,Israel — howdoyoujew @ 16:10

Herod’s tomb and grave found at Herodium

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Monday night that it has uncovered the grave and tomb of King Herod, who ruled Judea for the Roman empire from circa 37 BCE.

The tomb was discovered by Hebrew University Professor Ehud Netzer, who is considered one of the leading experts on King Herod. Netzer has conducted archeological digs at Herodium since 1972 in an attempt to locate the grave and tomb.

April 11, 2007

Nancy Pelosi comes from good stock.

Filed under: Arab-Israeli Conflict,history,Israel,News,Politics — howdoyoujew @ 12:14

The JPost tells us about Pelosi’s father and the Holocaust. I look forward to seeing good things from her and her colleagues in terms of foreign policy this term.

April 4, 2007

Jewish Education, the Simpsons Way

Filed under: funny,history,humor,Jewish holidays,television — howdoyoujew @ 12:01

Thanks to Counting the Homer, I found out that this year’s Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (the Halloween special show) included this segment:

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