Thursday, July 24, 2008


In another couple of weeks I will be heading to my youngest nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. I am certainly looking forward to attending the event. Still, this is bitter-sweet. When my oldest nephew was Bar Mitzvah, both my parents were alive. My Mom had passed away by the time my middle nephew’s Bar Mitzvah rolled around but my Dad was still alive. Now, as the event closes in on my youngest nephew, neither of my parents are alive.

While I miss them all the time, it is at the joyous events like this that their presence is missed the most. They enjoyed these events and it meant a lot. It would only seem right to be able to look up and see them kvelling , see their smiling faces and being able to watch the schep nachas.

It is times like these that the stories come rushing to mind. For instance, when my middle nephew’s bar mitzvah rolled around, my sister, who lives in an Orthodox community, made arrangements for family and friends from out of town to stay by congregants nearby. Knowing that my dad (her’s too) had trouble with his legs and with walking, she made arrangements for him to stay by a family just down the street from the shul. My dad, a Reform Rabbi, indicated that he would prefer driving (a 15 minute trip by car from his house to the shul where my sister davens) but my sister told him it was important to her that he didn’t so my dad went along with it.

My family was staying with someone else but after service Friday evening I went with him to walk him to where he was staying. I followed him, assuming he knew where he was going. As we kept walking and didn’t see the house, he asked me to check the street sign and, you guessed it, we were on the wrong street, and we had walked pretty far.

Dad was done and unable to walk much further. He said to me, “I told your sister I should drive. I know who I am and what I am”. He then went to call a cab on his cell phone to take him to where he was staying.

As my dad is calling the cab company, I hear him say to the dispatcher, “I am a Reform Jew stranded in an Orthodox community”. He said it with such seriousness and not in a demeaning matter but more a matter of fact tone. I found the whole thing quite amusing.

Of course, the cab company got there and got my Dad to where he was staying and the rest of the events went fine. Those are the stories, the memories, that will certainly be treasured.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Upcoming Haftorah

I am curious to find out if I will be chanting the Haftorah before Tisha B’Av this year. I have done this for the past number of years and I enjoy it. It is not such an easy Haftorah to chant as the trope, the melody, switches back and forth four times between what is traditionally used on Shabbat and what is used for Tisha B’Av.

Normally, by this time, I have already been asked to do it since I have done it in the past and it is difficult for a new person to learn the switches. Obviously, it can be done as I did it for the first time once myself. In fact, it was not even that long ago, it was about eight years ago.

If someone else wants to do it, that is fine. I have done it for a number of years and do not mind letting someone else have a turn. If they want me to do it, again, I am fine with that as I have done it in the past. Still, if I am doing it, I want to look it over ahead of time. I have a feeling that a couple of days before it is time for the Haftorah to be read, someone is going to say something to me, as though it is a forgone conclusion that I will be chanting it.

As a result, I will probably look it over, just to be on the safe side. Still, it would be nice if I actually believed that I would get advanced notice if they wanted me to do it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Are You Trying To Tell Me Something?

I think the gods are trying to tell me something. For the past two years I have taught in the Computer Lab of a religious school. I enjoy this and have posted blog entries about my experiences. I expect to be teaching in the computer lab again next year, at the same religious school.

It should come as no surprise that what this school does is set up appointments with the teachers over the summer and have the individuals sign letters of intent and discuss and changes or any issues that need to be taken care of. The school contacted me to set up such a meeting about a month ago and we found a mutually acceptable date, or so I thought.

A couple of days before the scheduled meeting I got a call from the administration that they needed to reschedule as something had come up for one of the people I need to meet with. We rescheduled the meeting only for me to get another call a couple of days before that we needed to reschedule once again.

This time, I had something come up and a couple of days before the meeting, I called to reschedule. Again, we found a mutually acceptable date. Two days before that meeting I got another call and guess what? Yep! We needed to reschedule and we did.

I was so excited when I did not get a call two days before this meeting, asking me to reschedule. I showed up to this meeting only to find out that the secretary did not have me on the calendar and one of the people with whom I need to meet was not there. So, we have rescheduled once again.

It is a good thing that I know they like me there and that I cancelled one of these meetings, otherwise, I would be wondering (or be getting set to start wondering) what they are trying to tell me.

I actually have no doubt that I will be back there come September but honestly, it is getting a little frustrating.

Monday, July 21, 2008


This past weekend, the family was invited over to some friends for a barbecue. The friends were not Jewish. That, in and off itself, is no big deal. The problem is the food. I will eat dairy food and fish out of the house, as well as Pareve food (food that is neither meat nor milk), unlike some people who keep kosher who insist that all the food must be certified kosher (and that is fine and even makes a lot of sense).

Before the first time we went over, my wife indicated to our friends what I would and would not eat. She said nothing meat or poultry but fish was fine, macaroni and cheese was fine, as well as some other items. Our friends ask my wife about chicken and she told them “no”. Naturally, when I went over, what did they have for me?—Chicken?

This past weekend it was a similar situation. Again, they made chicken for me. I thought it was thoughtful that they went out of their way to do something special for me, but in this instance, it is not like we have not discussed this issue with them.

Hopefully one more conversation will clear this up. I am not sure but I certainly hope so. I would like to avoid a situation where other I am eating food I am not comfortable eating or avoiding eating food that was especially prepared for me.

We’ll see what happens!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stem Cell Research

One issue that has been controversial for some time now has to do with stem cell research. Certainly most people do not argue that we should try and find cures for such terrible illnesses as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Still questions arise, especially out of certain religious circles, as to whether or not one is taking a life in order to perform stem cell research.

There is now a belief that stem cell research can be performed using a woman’s menstrual blood because there are stem cells in a woman’s blood. I am not sure how far along this process is and I am not certain if those who oppose such research would still object from a religious perspective. Still, the idea that this could happen is fascinating and, I think, gives no hope to the reality of all sides finding an agreeable solution to conduct stem cell research

There is more information about this process available on CNNMoney
I am fascinated by this process, especially seeing my grandfather suffer through the Alzheimer’s disease during the later years of his life. Hopefully articles like this can give hope to those who are currently watching loved ones suffer and in the end make it so many less individuals need to see it.

No New Job

A letter came in today’s mail in regard to the computer position I applied for at the Jewish Day School. The letter was a format letter and basically said “Thank you but no thank you”. The rejection letter indicated that they found someone more qualified than I for the position.

I wish it had not been a format letter. I know the school was under no obligation to higher me and I don’t mean to sound arrogant or egotistical but I honestly believe for what they wanted, there was no one more qualified.

I am not claiming I am the smartest person ever when it comes to computers, far from it, but in terms of running a computer lab, having a background in the products they wanted to teach and working with teachers who are assigning work to their students on the computer, I have a strong background.

Certainly the school was under no obligation to higher me. They let me know from the beginning that if they found someone from within, it would make it easier than having to work around another person’s schedule from the outside. Again, I am fine with this; it makes sense. I just wish the letter would have told me that this is in fact what happened. Now, I am wondering if I did not get the position because they decided there was someone more qualified or if it was due to logistics. That is annoying.

I will probably call to find out as knowing, regardless of the outcome, would make me feel better.

The Right Stuff

Teaching in the computer lab at the religious school where I work is a lot of fun and I appreciate that those in charge have always done what they kind to get me the necessary equipment (which is not always the newest).

For example, I prefer XP to Vista for an operating system. It is also important to be able to see the computer screen. As I get older, I know the type of glasses I wear are important. Sites like zennioptical.comhave made it easier to find the right glasses.

Whatever your needs for whatever the task, make sure you have the proper equipment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

I was recently at a barbecue and I witnessed an unusual site. In fact, I even commented on it only to learn once again that things are not always what they seem.

There were a number of Jews and non-Jews at the barbecue. Some of us there kept kosher so they had kosher chicken available in addition to hotdogs and hamburgers. A friend, Jewish, took a piece of chicken but also grabbed a couple of pieces of sausage from a nearby pasta salad.

I am not one to preach to other what they should and/or should not do. This is a personal decision that is between each individual and his/her own G-d. Still, upon seeing this I teased my friend. He teased back about some of my own inconsistencies (don’t we all have them).

I explained that I was not being critical because he was eating Traiff (unkosher) food but rather because it was on his plate with kosher food as well. He explained that he was being careful with what he ate, healthy eating, and chicken was healthier and a better choice than hotdogs and hamburgers.

In fairness, I did see him calculate how many people there needed kosher food and count the number of pieces of chicken to make sure that there was enough for everyone. So, sometimes it is better not to start teasing until you have all the details. Still, it was humorous to see someone take a piece of kosher chicken and put it on the same plate as food that came from a pig.