Friday, March 8, 2013

Is it maybe time to retire or rename this blog?

I started this blog as my kosher journey. The end result was supposed to be living a more orthodox lifestyle including proper observance of Shabbos and the laws of kashrut. However, we pulled into the "more observant and in touch with our faith, but keeping kosher only in the house" station and it seems that is as far as this train travels. It's a nice place, and I can see making this my final destination. I've visited the areas around the more observant stations and for the most part, they are all very nice. But I haven't actually found a "home" in any of those places. Here, for now, I'm comfortable. I'm looking to learn more about my faith and study the Torah more to discuss the parshas on a weekly basis. I'm happy with my "kosher-style" kitchen. I'm a little more lenient than I was and much more lenient outside than I was previously (my daughter ordered shrimp on our trip down to Florida and I kept my mouth shut).

I'm back to wearing pants and uncovering my hair. I've lost touch with the rabbi who was helping me with my learning.

I remain forever changed by my trip to Israel last year. I will always be changes by my experiences there. And by the lessons I learned. I have become more tolerant of people in general because of the "Chapter Three" lesson I learned in Israel.

But considering I'm no longer on this journey, or at least, have found a way station i am happy at, is it right to continue blogging about it?

Is it, maybe time to focus my energies on something else?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What my Grandmother's Passing Taught Me

Saturday morning, January 26, 2013, my beloved grandmother passed away in her 103rd year. On March 24, she would have turned 103.

I learned some things over the next few days.

I learned my grandmother's maiden name was changed when her parents moved from the Ukraine to Canada. I figured it must have been, but didn't know what it was.

I learned my great grandfather was born in Bulgaria. No one is quite sure how they met, as my great grandmother was born in Kiev.

My grandparents lived with my grandmother's family for 10 years before they bought their first home.

My grandmother never went to high school but she did go to Business college and did the bookkeeping in my great grandfather's produce store.

If my great grandfather had any sons who were interested in business, you could be shopping at Marlow's instead of Longo's. or Loblaw's. Alas, none of my grandmother's 3 brothers were interested in the business.

Thinly veiled hostility has no place at a shiva house. And I witnessed a lot of VERY thinly veiled hostility between some family members.

The ones who truly care go out of their way to comfort you.

I really, really, really miss my grandma.

Monday, December 17, 2012

An Open Letter to Ryan Lanza

Dear Ryan:

I can not even fathom what you may be going through right now, nor what is going through your mind at this time.   But I feel that as time goes on, you will fall by the wayside, and those who do remember you, will remember you only to blame you.

The next few days and weeks are likely going to be the hardest you have ever faced.  Along with losing your mother, you have to deal with the fallout of how you lost her - who killed her and why?  You're dealing with the loss of your brother too, and on a much greater scale, you have to come to terms with the fact that you lost him to suicide after he let loose on 20 young children in a classroom and 8 adults, including your mother, though she was killed at home, the rest at the school.

People will probably want to know from you why Adam did what he did.  Do you know?  If you do, please help the people who are looking for answers get some of those answers.  If you don't know the answer, be prepared for people to respond with anger.  How could you not know? How could you not see signs?  Well, Ryan, the parents of the boys at Columbine didn't know what their plans were that morning. 

I don't have any children at Sandy Hook.  I don't even live in the US, but this news is international.  Friends of mine in Israel have commented.  So why am I writing this?  I have two small children of my oen.  Nine year old twin girls.  The thought that someone could get into their school and wreak the same kind of havoc your brother did, is not far from my mind.

But what I want you to know, is that as a parent, who like every other person in the world is asking "why?", I don't blame you.  I suspect you may be faced with months and years of people treating you with hatred and anger because you are the only person that people will be able to lay blame on, simply by the fact that your parents had two sons.

It's unfair to blame you for what your brother did.  I hope that as the days, weeks, months and years pass, as people learn to cope with the tragedy, that you are also able to find some peace.  We may never know the whys, and I hope we never have to live through this again, but for you, your family and the familes of Sandy Hook, this will always be on the surface.

Reach out to people if you need help dealing with your own issues that come from this tragedy.  And when  you start  hearing people blame you for your brother's actions, remember that not everyone does.  We're all trying to come to terms with this

I wish you nothing buy peace and the ability to move on from this tragedy. 

A friend,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sandy Hook Tragedy... My Take

These 15 faces are the faces of the victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Remember these faces.  Find out the names and remember the names (I  have listed them below).  We, as a society, have spent far too long immortalizing the names and faces of the people who perpetrate the crimes that take innocent lives.  Everyone remembers the names of the two boys responsible for the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado.  Everyone remembers the name of the man who shot up a movie theatre at a midnight showing of the new(ish) Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.  Everyone remembers the names of the evildoers, but no one remembers the names of the victims.  We have made the perpetrators the stars.  But maybe, just maybe, if we sensationalize the victims, if we show the number of lives lost, and changed forever, someone won't be trying to be the next "Newtown Shooter" or whatever "name" he winds up getting.  You will notice, I did not mention the names of the perpetrators.  I know them.  If I didn't, I could look them up.  But I won't.  I don't want to remember them. I want to remember the victims.

Remember the names. 

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6

Rachel Davino, Teacher, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, School Principal, 47
Nancy Lanza, Teacher, Mother of the Shooter, 52
Anne Marie Murphy, Teacher, 52
Lauren Rousseau, Teacher, 30
Mary Sherlach, School Psychologist, 56
Victoria Soto, Teacher, 27

These are the names I want to remember.

And don't blame the victims.  Don't blame the mother of the shooter, regardless of the fact that she died along with the rest of the victims.  It's not her fault she had a son who may or may not have had a mental illness.  Though the likelihood is that he did indeed have some sort of mental illness, I will not say one way or the other because I don't know. I won't listen to the news reports that discuss him at all.

Whether or not he had a mental illness, should he have been held responsible for what he did on Friday, December 14, 2012 in a small, safe town in Connecticut?  Of course.  But this is not a post about gun control, politics or what should be done with a man who broke into a school and shot innocent people.

Let's look for the people who helped.  The teachers who did whatever they could to protect their students - even at the risk (and loss) of their own lives.

Let's look at the teacher, who got her entire classroom into a small bathroom, managed to move a bookcase in front of the door and locked them all inside, telling them she loved them and wanted to keep them safe, hoping her words wouldn't be the last they would hear, but hoping if they were, they would hear words of love.

Let's talk about the heroes of the day.  Let's remember the victims and their legacies.  Let's remember that the shooter's mother was a victim, not a perpetrator.  Let's talk about the important issues.  Let's talk about a society that treats its mentally ill - or rather doesn't treat their mentally ill - until they do something like this.  Unfortunately, more often than not, when they do, they take their own lives.

Let's talk about why people with mental illness aren't able to easily access healthcare.  Why do so many people with mental illness go untreated?  Why is there such a stigma?  It's time to take the stigma away and get help, so we don't have another Sandy Hook or Columbine.

But most importantly, it's time to remember the victims and pray.  Hug your children a little tighter.  Whether your child is your 38 year old daughter or son, or your 9 year old children.  We are all someone's child.   Let's be lights.  Let's show the world love.  Let's let the Sandy Hook families know they don't mourn alone. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bill 115 for Dummies

I realize this blog is supposed to be about my transition to a more kosher life, however, as my journey has somewhat come to a bit of an end (let's call it a waystation), I'd like to visit what is important in my little part of the world these days.

Bill 115 was passed in Ontario, and this week, teachers are taking their job action to the street. They are staging a 1 day strike.

I have been very open about the fact that I am not a union supporter.  As a matter of fact, I plan on specializing in Labour Relations when I finish my HR certficate.

But I digress.

I don't support unions - I do support employees.  So in this case, I am on the teachers' side. 

What does Bill 115 do?  What does it mean?

Well, first and foremost, it takes away the union's right - and therefore the teachers' right - to strike.  "But that's a good thing" some might say.

Well, no.  As Danielle S. McLaughlin said in an editorial in the Huffington Post it's like telling children that they can't go out to play at recess, because they might misbehave.  It's punishing them for not doing anything.  It's punishing the teachers before they've had a chance to exercise their rights.

Bill 115, has removed a significant measure of dignity from our precious resource, our teachers. Rather than offer these important people the respect that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees people under section 2 (d), Ontario has shown such disrespect that teachers have not even been given a chance to do what each of the children in the groups above have been prepared and expected to do -- negotiate and find a workable solution to their conflicts. (Danielle S. McLaughlin, Huffington Post)

Add to that that the teachers have lost their accumulated sick days.  "Awww, poor them.  I don't get any sick days" some of you may be saying.  Well, yes.  Poor them.  Because when your kid is sick, but you send him to school because if you take time off to take care of your child, you don't get paid, so you decide to send them to school, where they infect their classmates and their teachers, who are then exposed x20, they deserve the time off.  They NEED the time off.

As for having time off to take care of their family responsibilities?  Well, I don't know that I agree with 20 days total to  use for this sort of thing.  No one else does get this. 

But so many people say they don't have sick days, 20 days paid a year to use and roll over if needed in the future, or anything even remotely similar.  Well, maybe instead of asking why the teachers get it and why they're fighting for it, you should be asking yourself - why don't I get these benefits?

And don't get me started on the "2 months off every summer".  Teachers don't get PAID for those 2 months "off" where they are thinking about what to do for your children come September.  "Oh yes they do" you may be thinking.  Only because they are getting pro-rated salary.  Why prorate their salary?  So they can't claim EI during the summer months.   EI is for people who are truly unemployed.  Though fishermen and farmers and other seasonal workers can claim EI when their industry is "off" for a season.  So maybe teachers should be able to claim EI over the summer.  September to June is their "season".

What other industry delegates when their staff can take holiday?  Teachers can only go away during the  most expensive times of the year - when their students are also off.  Christmas, March Break and the summer.

Do you go away any other time than then?  Possibly not, because your children are in school, right?  I know some people take their kids out of school to go away (I've done it - the week before a holiday).  So because most of us take our kids away during the holidays they're off from school, it drives the prices up.  Therefore, the people who educate our children can only go away during the most expensive travel times.  Boo hoo, you say?  Well, if you can go away any other time of the year, when it's cheaper, why don't you?  Oh, right, your kids are in school.

So, this Thursday, when the teachers are picketing at my children's school, I will not send my children to school to cross the picket line and sit in a classroom watching movies all day.  We can do that at home.  We'll be out, possibly walking the line in solidarity with our teachers, and if not, making a big pot of hot chocolate and bringing it by the school.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy Hannukah!!!

Or Chanukah, or Hanukkah, or Channukkah or Chanukkah, or Hannukkah. Or Hanaka.(okay, not Hankaka).

It's the most wonderful time, of the year., la la la la la la la la!!

Some people call this the "Jewish Christmas".  Why do we call it this?  Well, we don't.  Sometimes it's what people use to explain it to people who just won't understand it any other way.   People who are too ignorant to actually learn the true meaning of the holiday, in my opinion.

Chanukah was established to commemorate the very opposite of cultural assimilation. It dates back nearly 22 centuries, to the successful Jewish revolt against Antiochus IV, one of the line of Syrian-Greek monarchs who ruled the northern branch of Alexander the Great's collapsed empire. Alexander had been respectful of the Jews' monotheistic religion, but Antiochus was determined to impose Hellenism, with its pagan gods and its cult of the body, throughout his domains. When he met resistance in Judea, he made Judaism illegal.

Sabbath observance, circumcision, and the study of Torah were banned on pain of death. A statue of Zeus was installed in the Temple in Jerusalem, and swine were sacrificed before it. Some Jews embraced the new order and willingly abandoned the God and faith of their ancestors. Those who wouldn't were cruelly punished. Ancient writings tell the story of Hannah and her seven sons, who were captured by Antiochus's troops and commanded to bow to an idol. One by one, each boy refused -- and was tortured to death before his mother's eyes.

The fight to reclaim Jewish religious autonomy began in 167 BC. In the town of Modi'in, an elderly priest named Mattathias refused a Syrian order to sacrifice to an idol. When an apostate Jew stepped forward to comply, Mattathias killed the man and tore down the altar. Then he and his five sons took to the hills and launched a guerrilla war against the armies of the empire.

When Mattathias died, his third son, Judah Maccabee, took command. He and his band of fighters were impossibly outnumbered, yet they won one miraculous victory after another. In 164 BC, they recaptured the Temple, which they cleansed and purified and rededicated to God. On the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, the menorah -- the candelabra symbolizing the divine presence -- was rekindled. For eight days, throngs of Jews celebrated the Temple's restoration. "All the people prostrated themselves," records the book of Maccabees, "worshipping and praising Heaven that their cause had prospered."

In truth, though, their cause hadn't prospered -- not yet. The fighting went on for years. It was not until 142 BC that the Jews regained control of their land. Geopolitically, that was the moment of real triumph.
The Maccabees' war against the Hellenists was ultimately a war against a worldview that elevated the physical above all, that venerated beauty, not holiness; the body, not the soul.
But Chanukah isn't about political power. It isn't about military victory. It isn't even about freedom of worship, notwithstanding the fact that the revolt of the Maccabees marks the first time in history that a people rose up to fight religious persecution.

What Chanukah commemorates at heart is the Jewish yearning for God, for the concentrated holiness of the Temple and its service. The defeat of the Syrian-Greeks was a wonder, but the spiritual climax of the Maccabees' rebellion occurred when the menorah was rekindled and God's presence among his people could be felt once Chanukah Story

It's said that when the temple was rebuilt, a small vial of lamp oil was found.  Just enough to light the lamp for one day.  A miracle occured and the oil burned for eight days.

For more information and to read interesting essays, click here

Happy Chanukah!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The State of Palestine?

Well, it's happened. The UN voted overwhelmingly to upgrade Palestine's bid to be considered a non-member observer state.  In a vote, 138-9 with 41 abstentions, Palestine is now recognized by the UN.  And that means they now have access to the International Criminal Court, where they can attempt to bring Israel in answer to charges of war crimes.

War crimes?  Really?  They send rockets into Israel unprovoked, and they want to accuse Israel of war crimes?!  Sigh.

So now the international community has recognized a country (or "country") whose main purpose is to destroy the Jewish state and the Jewish people.  To wipe any sign of the Jew off the map.  Essentially, a world-wide holocaust and ethnic cleansing, if they were to have their way.


So what does that mean to the peace process (HA!! What "peace process"?)

Well, in terms of Canada - one of the 9 dissenting votes - Foreign Minister John Baird is recalling all ambassadors to Palestine, Israel and in New York as well as UN envoys - those closest to the issue, back to Ottawa temporarily.  He wants to know what's really happening "on the ground".  And the next question - will Canada stop aid to "Palestine"?

John Baird says that Canada is "considering all available steps" in terms of what has happened at the UN this week. What the Minister calls "utterly regrettable".

And it is regrettable.  Binyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel has said that in order to move along the peace process (to which, again, I say HA! What "peace process"?) Palestine should not take a shortcut by going to the UN to get statehood recognition.  Unfortunately, that's exactly what they did.  And they won.  Palestinians in Ramallah took to the streets last night in celebration of the results of the vote.

But will this bring Abbas and Netanyahu to the barganing table again?  Will this foster the peace process or instigate further hostilities such as the ones we saw just a couple of weeks ago? 

Jonathan Kay of the National Post feels that going to the UN to get their status updated was a good move for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.  Sorry, Jonathan, but I'm not sure I agree with you.  I guess time will tell, based on what Palestine does now and in the near future.  After all, once again, they are a nation whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jews and the Jewish State. 

Here's the thing that gets me, religiously speaking.  It is my opinion that the Bible, the Torah and the Koran (and other religious writings) are the interpretations of the person who wrote them.  Therefore, the Christians interpret the Bible one way, the Jews interpret it another way (and call it the Torah, the old testament in Christianity is the same as our 5 books of Moses) and the Muslims interpret it yet another way (and I'm not getting into any other religions, so please don't flame me for not discussing how the Pastatarians interpret it).

I'm seriously considering getting an English copy of the Koran and reading alongside my copy of the Chumash (the 5 books of Moses - the Old Testament - the Torah).  I'm sure I could get it from my library.  It would be interesting to see whether or not our religions are similar in any part.

As a matter of fact, I think that will be my next project - to compare Judaism and Islam, and perhaps Christianity through the Bible.