Monday, August 12, 2019

I Ate Lunch With History

I recently had lunch with Rabbi Sally Priesand.  Rabbi Priesand was the first woman ever to be ordained by any Jewish seminary.  And there I was eating lunch with history.   By the time she was sixteen years old this teenager decided that she wanted to become a rabbi.  When she was still in high school she applied for admission to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. The letter she received from the College did not deter the determined high school student: "We are pleased to learn of your interest in our college. ... Since you state in your letter that your interests lean specifically to the rabbinate, we would have to inform you candidly that we do not know what opportunities exist for women in the active rabbinate, since we have, as yet, not ordained any women."
Rabbi Priesand is soft spoken.  I asked her if she knew as a rabbinic student that she was making history.  She replied that she was well aware of her historical role and added that the College set up many interviews for her.
After her ordination she served first as assistant and then as associate rabbi at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York and later at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, New Jersey.  She was the senior and only rabbi of MRT from 1981 until her retirement in 2006.
She created the path for all future women rabbis.  Without Rabbi Sally Priesand and her determined courage there would be no other woman rabbis.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

I'm just trying to right a terrible wrong

Rabbi Leslie Bergson and I spent this morning in Newark protesting the inhumane treatment of immigrants in the detention centers. The event was organized by Bend The Arc.  Twenty-Four immigrants have died in ICE custody.  That is 24 too many deaths.
Part of today's program featured readings from testimonials written by interred children:
"About three days ago I got a fever.  They moved me along to a flu cell.  There is no one to take care of you there.  They just give you pills twice a day.  I also am having an allergic reaction all over my skin.  My skin is itchy and red and my nose is stuffed up.  Two times they gave me a pill for it but not anymore."  Written by an 11 year old boy.
"I'm hungry here at Clint (detention center) all the time.  I'm so hungry that I have woken p in the middle of the night with hunger.  Sometimes I wake up from hunger at 4:00 AM., sometimes at other hours.  I'm too scared to ask the officials here for any more food, even though there is not enough food here for me." Written by a 12 year old boy.
"We are in a metal cage with 20 other teenagers with babies and young children.  We have one mat we need to share with each other.  it is very cold.  We each got a mylar blanket, but it is not enough to warm up.  There are benches but we cannot sleep here.  Sometimes it is so crowded we cannot find a place to sleep, so they allow a few of us to sleep outside the fenced area.  The lights are (on) all of the time." Written by a 16 year old girl.
"They took us away from our grandmother and now we are all alone.  They have not given us to our mother.  We have been here for a long time.  I have to take care of my little sister.  She is very sad because she misses our mother and grandmother very much.  We sleep on a cement bench.  There are two mats in the room, but the big kids sleep on the mats so we have to sleep on the cement bench."
Written by an 8 year old boy.
This cannot be just a political issue.  This is about how we treat people who have come here to escape the terrors of their homelands.

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Back in the day there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get an LCCN (Library of Congress Cataloguing Number).  One of the hoops involved verifying that the book was not self-published nor were you the author.  Also with the old system passwords had to be changed every 90 days which involved counting the days and marking the calendar. Now all of that has changed.
To obtain an LCCN simply click on https://loc.govpublish/prepubbooklink/ and register as a new user either as an author/self-publisher or as a publisher.
If you identify as an author or self-publisher, approval is immediate.  Once you create your account you can then apply for the LCCN.
If you identify as a publisher, the process takes a bit longer because your application has to be approved.
And that is it.  Thank you Library of Congress for making life much easier.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Torah Thoughts on Chukkat

This week’s Torah portion, Chukkat, (Num. 19:1-22:1) tells of the death of Moses’ sister Miriam.  Immediately afterwards, we are told that there was no water for the Israelites, and that they rebelled against Moses and Aaron.  God tells Moses to take his rod in hand and speak to a rock and order it to produce water.  Instead of speaking to it, Moses strikes the rock with his rod.  Water pours out of the rock anyway, but God says to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” (Num. 20:12)
Commentators on the Torah have struggled to explain why this seemingly minor infraction should cause such a harsh punishment.  Some suggest that Moses’ statement to the people implies that it is he and Aaron, and not God, who will bring about the miracle.  Some say that Moses loses his temper and becomes visibly impatient with the people, citing the Talmudic statement, “When a prophet loses his temper, his gift of prophecy abandons him” (B.T. Pesahim 66b).  But I find most persuasive Rabbi Harold Kushner’s remarks in Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary:  “One might conclude that God’s decree of death in the wilderness for Moses and Aaron was not so much a punishment as a recognition that their time of leadership was over…Moses and Aaron were not sinners; they were the right leaders for the Exodus, for Sinai, for establishing the tabernacle. They were not the right people to lead a younger generation into battle.”
It is hard to give up doing what we love when we become too old or too infirm to continue it. Even a person as great as Moses had a hard time handing over the reins.  Yet, a new generation of leadership arises, and carries the tradition on to this day.  As hard as it may be, we must learn to trust in the future.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The First Word Is The Hardest Part

It doesn’t matter if you are using a pen and paper, a pencil and paper, a typewriter, a computer or your phone you’ve still got to come up with that first word.  I suggest you not spend too much time worrying about whether or not it’s a perfect first word. Just do it.
My brother and I used to write letters to each other so when I found myself struggling with that first word I would use two first words instead:  Dear Tom. Because we wrote so many letters back and forth those two words would get me started.  After that I would just start telling him my story. My brother died several months ago and I still start my stories with ‘Dear Tom’. It feels comfortable and continues to effectively get me going
Find something that effectively gets you going and then use it because, after all, that first word really is the hardest..

Monday, May 27, 2019

We Honor Our Fallen

My uncle, Jerry Walker, never made it home. He served as a belly gunner on a Flying Fortress and died in the South Pacific. He was 19 years old.  I never met him but I grew up with this picture.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Let's Enjoy Success

From Stick With Us And We’ll Get You There by Mary Walker Baron and Jeff Baugh

Let’s take a minute to consider those New Years’ resolutions we make every December 31st.  Just about every year we make the same resolutions.  The number one resolution for most of us is to go to the gym or at least join a gym.  Have we ever kept that one long enough to even begin working out more often?  How many times did we go to the gym before tossing in the towel? I’ve got nothing against gym memberships, but I think gyms make most of their money from people who join in late December or early January, go a few times, and then never go back.  Somewhere there is a huge stack of towels from all of us who have tossed it in.
            Write down a couple of resolutions for change that you made either recently or quite a while back.  Go on.  We’re not looking.  We’re certainly not judging, either.  We have lists of things we meant to change or start or finish so long you wouldn’t believe we even thought of that stuff.  In fact, I’ll write down a couple of my annual resolutions just to help you feel less silly and also to remind you that we all go through this.
1.  Lose weight.  2.  Write more.  3.  Do more serious reading.
            How did your plans for change work out?  I can tell you that mine didn’t work out and now I know why.  They were not clearly defined.  They tried to accomplish too much and/or they were generally completely unrealistic.
            Take another look at the resolutions I made this year and every year for a lot of years.  At first glance they seem like perfectly fine resolutions that focus on improving body and mind and career.  So, what happened?  First of all, they are really vague.  How much weight do I want to lose?  How much more do I want to write?  And what on earth is my definition of serious reading?  Also, how much is more?  See?  I wouldn’t even know if or when I had met those goals but instead of calling myself a success after one pound lost or one word written or one page read, I’m going to call myself a colossal failure because I didn’t lose or write or read enough even though I never said how much would be enough to begin with!
            Okay, so if you want to make changes try to be as specific as possible.  For example, let’s take my second resolution.  What would have happened if I had written it like this?  “For the next thirty days I will write a minimum of three pages per day on any project.”  That’s pretty specific.  And I could actually probably achieve that goal and finally be able to scratch that resolution off the endlessly repeating list of resolutions.
            Let’s make our resolutions specific, time bound and attainable.  Success is built on success. Let’s enjoy success during this new year.