3.29.2007

Digging Up Diamonds with Tears, Trapping Viruses, and More

I learned how to find "permalinks" for New York Times articles, so you don't need to read the following articles this week! They'll be available forever!1 For your Shabbat/holiday reading enjoyment, or as a way to procrastinate from doing work, I offer you:

"Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don't Read This in Traffic" (NYT; Sunday, March 25, 2007): I've always been proud of my ability to multi-task, but this article says that I shouldn't. Or, rather, can't. While it is true that I can fold laundry and talk on the phone at the same time or do dishes and talk on the phone at the same time, that's because one of those tasks requires almost no attention. When I have tried to instant message and talk on the phone at the same time, it's a complete disaster. I mean, I can pretend to pay attention to both things at once by interjecting "uh huhs" and "yeahs" at the right time or letting the instant messaging slow to a crawl, but I can't really do two things at once. The proof is in the fact that when our Internet and our phones were down at work one day, I got a lot more than usual done. There were no distractions! It was amazing. It also explains why I often stay at work late, after everyone has gone and nobody is e-mailing me. I get more done in those few hours than I would all day from 9-5 if I worked those godforsaken hours. (Godforsaken because 9 am is far, far too early to start working productively. 9 am is a great time to get out of bed. 8:30 also works for me.)

"Diamonds Move From Blood to Sweat and Tears" (NYT; Sunday, March 25, 2007): I've always been wary of diamonds, even aside from the very significant "blood diamond" issue. They're not that rare and their value is almost completely controlled by a few very wealthy families. It seems crazy that we appear to measure love by such a dishonest measure. The way to lower the value of diamonds is to not buy into the myth that diamonds = love (either of a man or of oneself, see new "right hand diamond ring" ad campaigns orchestrated by DeBeers). If you must have a diamond, you can avoid diamonds that directly fund conflicts, but this article shows that the people who dig the diamonds up out of the gravely earth still have pretty sucky lives. Of course, not buying diamonds won't help them much, but neither will buying diamonds, and not buying diamonds will save you money that can be put to better use elsewhere.

"Scientists Explore Ways to Lure Viruses to Their Death" (NYT, Tuesday, March 27, 2007): Very cool article from Science Times about new ideas for eradicating viruses (viri?). It looks like there is a lot of work to be done before this particular idea works, and it's not even clear that it will ever work completely, but it offers some new hope for the AIDS virus and others.

"Income Gap is Widening, Data Shows" (NYT, Thursday, March 29, 2007): This sucks.

Real estate again... "Behind Foreclosures, Ruined Credit and Hopes" (NYT, Wednesday, March 28, 2007): This sucks more.

"Losing Faith: How Scholarship Affects Scholars" (Biblical Archeology Review, March/April 2007): [Hat tip to Greg at Presence.] Fascinating! Totally up my alley! I especially love Dr. Lawrence Schiffman's take on the matter, about the strong non-literal tradition in Judaism. Great interview. This could have been a whole blog post of its own, but that would leave me precious little time for all of the other things that I have to do. And I wanted to mention it before I forgot about it. At some more leisurely point in my life, I may come back to this topic. I did touch on it, a bit, in the latter parts of this previous post.

On a less serious note... "Say Everything" (New York Magazine, February 12, 2007): The lead (is that the right word?) says the following, which makes me feel inexplicably old: "As younger people reveal their private lives on the Internet, the older generation looks on with alarm and misapprehension not seen since the early days of rock and roll. The future belongs to the uninhibited." Indeed! I guess I do reveal my private life on the Internet. Maybe it should bother me. I certainly don't do anything like what these...harumph!...young people are doing, revealing all of their sexual exploits and such. I don't think that most of what I write today will embarrass me in 20 or 30 years. I don't think I would really care if a graduate school admissions counselor read the blog. And, yes, I don't blog with my real name (though my identity is hardly concealed) to avoid the sort of Googling in which I know all potential employers and dates engage. So, eh, I guess I feel old--positively stodgy!--about protecting my privacy in these minimal ways.

Finally, a more personal real estate update. A private update, if you will. A peek into my secret life as a flesh-and-blood person. I just got a letter about our new lease for next year, and they want to raise the rent of my apartment 27%. I won't tell you what I'm paying now (because you would mock me for paying this outrageous fee to live in crowded, smelly, materialistic New York, even though I would counter that I have a great job, friends, and a two-mile commute to work that I walk on most days), but trust me, it's no bargain.

A 27% increase in utterly untenable, so I shall be moving, hopefully to a place where I can pay what I'm paying now. It will probably be a lesser apartment in some way, but at least I'll be paying what I can afford. The only real luxury I feel I can't do without is laundry in the basement of the building. I hope I don't have to give that up. Speaking of privacy and the Internet and my youthful generation of tell-alls, I don't want to have to air my dirty laundry on the street...

-----------------------------
1. I'll let you in on the secret. First of all, you have to blog about the article while it's still available for free online for this to work. Once you're at the article, click on the "share" link, which is under the "save" link near the top of the article. The last choice under "share" is "permalink." Voila! You can also e-mail your friends these links and they'll be able to read the article after the free week is done. After a week, most New York Times articles are archived and only accessible with a TimesSelect account or for money.

3.28.2007

Choking game makes front page of New York Times

The "choking game" made the front page of today's New York Times. It's about time.

As most of you probably know, my cousin likely died this way last March, two days after his bar mitzvah and a day after the dedication of a sefer Torah in my grandfather's memory. I've been thinking of him lately, since it was just about a year ago that he died. In early March, I realized that his yahrzeit must be coming up, but I avoided looking up the exact (Gregorian calendar) date because it was just easier, less painful somehow, not to, and then I realized that it must have passed. After I read the article in this morning's New York Times, I felt I had no choice but to look up his yahrzeit. Indeed, his first yahrzeit was Shabbat, March 17, Shabbat HaChodesh, the 27th of the month of Adar.1 I feel bad that I didn't at least try and commemorate my cousin's life on that day. I wonder what his father, mother, and sister did on that day. I wonder what my grandmother, who is also his grandmother, did.

I don't really have much to say about my cousin's life, death, or the choking game. I said everything I had to say last year. It's still all so sad, and nothing ever stops making it sad. The only thing that has changed is that I think about him, my cousin David, much less than I did a year ago. That, too, is sad.

The only hope (and it's hard to call this a hope) in this agonizing mess is to educate oneself and others, especially kids between the ages of 9 and 17, about the choking game and the fact that it can kill you. Or, rather, as the NYT article advises, quoting Dr. Macnab, a professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia:
Mentioning specific, narrow risks from the game, he said, like brain damage, medication and physical disfigurement can be even more powerful disincentives to adolescents than the idea of dying, which can seem theoretical or abstract.
Sigh...

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1. David's second yahrzeit will be on April 3, because of Adar Sheini.

3.27.2007

Pre-Pesach Food (and Links and Song) for Thought

Food?! The idea makes me anxious right now. Finishing up chametz [= containing leavened wheat products, mostly, plus general fridge leftovers of the kitniyot variety] food, buying kosher for Pesach food, hoping that the six handmade 100% whole wheat shmura matzot that I'm bringing from NY to CA won't break during the flight (or before or after it). Who wants to place bets? I just need three of them to make it across the country unbroken. Before that, though, I need to bring them across town on a bus and a subway. It's not clear which is more dangerous for fragile matzot.

Before I link to some interesting blog posts and online haggadot, I just wanted to pass on this information, generously compiled by Kehilat Hadar as part of their extremely informative annual Passover compendium:
Ma'ot Chittim
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty runs a special program to get kosher for Passover food to needy Jewish families (as well as food to all families in need throughout the year). You can donate on-line through Network for Good (under designation, write "Passover Food Program"), or by writing a check payable to "Met Council" and sending it to:

Met Council
Passover Food Program
80 Maiden Lane, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10038

Donations can also be made on-line to Yad Chessed, an organization that runs a Ma'ot Chittim program and provides food and other assistance to needy families.

Donating Hametz before Pesah
The West Side Campaign Against Hunger has a food pantry and accepts donations of unopened food. The address of the pantry is 263 West 86th Street (in the basement of St. Paul's/St. Andrew's church; enter at 86th and West End using a ramp). Open Monday nights, closed Tuesday, and closed every day from 12-1. For other hours and more information, call (212) 362-3662.

Donations of opened and unopened food can also be made to the shelter at the Broadway Presbyterian Church at 114th and Broadway. Call (212) 864-6100 for more information, as well as to arrange evening drop-offs.
Note that the Broadway Presbyterian Church's Broadway Community Incorporated program also accepts toiletries. One year, before Pesach, I finally gave them all of those mini toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste from international flights that I never use. (Because I travel with my own, not because I don't brush my teeth. Just in case that wasn't clear.) They were very grateful. I also have this ridiculous habit of collecting shampoo and conditioner from hotels, even though I don't really end up using most of it. Or if I use it, I don't use all of it, so I have many half-used mini bottles of shampoo and stuff lying around. I shall try to gather it together and bring it to Broadway Presbyterian this week, along with any chametz that's still lingering.

There! Whew! Food-related stress now greatly reduced!

And now, without further ado, some interesting posts from other folks, while I sit here handling (or not-handling) typical pre-Pesach anxiety. It's really more about the anxiety than the actual tasks at hand, which really aren't that onerous.
And some online haggadot:
  • The Open-Source Haggadah. A cool idea. I haven't played around with it enough yet to know how well it works or what kind of sources are available on it.
  • Absolut Haggadah [PDF]. I know nothing about it. Maybe you'll find it interesting. Josh Waxman, about whom I also know nothing, introduced it and gave a short review here. I liked what he said, though, so I downloaded it. I haven't had a chance to look at it in depth yet, though. Who has time? Pesach is coming!
  • The Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach, v. 5.0 [PDF], by Rachel Barenblat. Ditto. Looks really cool. Downloaded it. Haven't had time to read it.
The weather outside this morning reminded me of this Israeli song, which was part of my regular pre-Pesach repertoire as a child.

Aviv higiyah, indeed! Although I did see one remaining pile of snow this morning, I've also seen lots of crocuses and it hit 70 degrees (F) here today. Yesterday, Central Park was full of a gaggle, a flock, a veritable fleet of robins digging up worms and gulping them down. Did any of you grow up reading The First Robin of Spring? I could have sworn we had a book with that title as kids, but I couldn't find it on Amazon. Anyway, it was nice to see the birds feasting. I couldn't believe how many there were.

Happy Pesach, everyone!

3.25.2007

Survey on Shmirat Negiah and Taharat HaMishpachah

I received this e-mail last night. I wonder how many other bloggers received such an e-mail and what kinds of readers Mark, et. al., thinks my blog draws. (Oh. Here is an answer to my first question.)

I am only too happy to pass it along, although I imagine that most of my readers who would be eligible to fill out this survey already have or don't plan to.

ShamirPower
blogged about this on JewSchool this past January, and there are some interesting comments there.

I am curious to hear what Mark and Orit's results are, and hope that they will share the final report with the blogging world as they have the survey. (I often take interesting surveys and subsequently e-mail the survey's creators asking to be included in updates about the study or its results. I have yet to hear back from anyone. Maybe the studies just take awhile to complete.)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mark (JewishSurveys.org)
Date: Mar 24, 2007 7:02 PM
Subject: Your Blog (Abacaxi Mamao)...
To: abacaximamao@gmail.com

Hello,

My name is Mark Guterman. I am a Clinical Psychology PhD student working with Orit Avishai of the University of California at Berkeley. We are doing an Internet survey of Jews of all denominations. The survey is for both singles and married couples. The survey is online at: http://www.JewishSurveys.org

I was wondering if you could allow post a link on your site for our research? I ask you, because your blog draws readers of a type that we may not be able to reach through any other means. Please help us out. We are not making any money on this; we are simply trying to learn more about our community. Your cooperation in this would be greatly appreciated, and you would be doing a service to the Jewish community at large.

More info on the survey:
The study looks at issues regarding Negiah (premarital touching) and Niddah/Taharat HaMishpachah (family purity). Niddah and Negiah play an important role in the every day lives of Jewish men and women. The collection of handbooks on this topic grows from year to year, yet we know very little about how Jewish couples, men, and women experience and observe Niddah and Negiah. Anecdotal evidence and our previous research have led us to conclude that many couples and individuals are experiencing difficulties with this aspect of the Halachah. We are inviting the Jewish community at large to participate in this important survey to shed light on these difficulties and explore some ways to address them. Given the intimate nature of these matters, this brief, online survey is totally anonymous, and no identifiable information is collected.
Thank you very much for considering this,
~Mark Guterman

3.24.2007

Motzai Shabbat sloth and guilt; my 100 favorite songs

It hits me almost every Saturday night that I don't have plans, and some Saturday night when I do. When I don't have actual fun, social plans, my default plan is to go to the gym and do a load of laundry, if one needs to be done, which it inevitably does. If there are leftover dishes from Shabbat, they also join the list.

On this particular Saturday night, my default plan was to go to the gym, do laundry, and start cleaning for Pesach. Specifically, going through the kitchen pantry from top to bottom, even though that does not need to be done before Pesach since we're closing it up and selling its contents. However, it is a task best done at least once a year, to toss or donate things we don't need or use, and it's a good thing to start with since it doesn't require restricting use of refrigerator shelves or the stove, oven, sink, microwave, or countertops.

All of this is besides the point, though, since here I am in bed in my flannel pajama pants and ringer T-shirt, blogging instead. Oh, is it raining outside? Then there's really no reason to leave my flannelly bed behind.

I don't know what it is. As soon as Shabbat ends, this combination of dread and exhaustion overtakes me. The exhaustion seems, paradoxically, to happen most often when I've slept through mincha, usually unintentionally, and thus had a rather lengthy nap. In recent weeks, I've been having a hard time falling asleep on Friday night, so I don't end Shabbat as rested as I normally would. This Shabbat and last, I've been battling a cold (I am, thank God, winning!), so there has been that dragging me down, as well. Also, this bone-tired feeling, this you-couldn't-convince-me-to-get-up-and-do-something-productive- for-any-amount-of-money feeling, has been happening more often than usual lately. It's usually only when I get home from work at 8 or 9 or 10 pm, but it also happens in the morning sometimes. For example, I was entirely planning on going to shul this morning but, instead, after I had breakfast and made a tasty bean salad for a potluck lunch, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, willing myself not to fall back asleep. I was just so tired. But I wanted to go to shul! Eventually, it got late enough that going to shul was an impossibility. Maybe I should go to the doctor. Or maybe I should go to the gym more.

That's the exhaustion. The dread comes from a specific place: All that stuff that I didn't need to think about and wasn't supposed to plan for because it was Shabbat now comes crashing down on me: pre-Pesach cleaning, organizing 2006 papers, taxes, cleaning up my room, the guilty siren call of the gym, etc. I think it was worse when I was in school and had the constant guilt/pressure of undone school work to contend with.

That's the down side of Shabbat. The up side is obvious: 25 care-free hours! Woo hoo!

Hmmm... This post is something of a downer. To balance it out with something happier, here is a list of what I have decided are my 100 favorite songs, as of right now, 11 pm on Saturday, March 24. The list could change by tomorrow. They're in alphabetical order because, well, I decided it would be more fun that way. And we all know that I am nothing if not fun!

Song Name, Artist, Composer, Album, Genre, Year
  1. Abide with Me, The London Philharmonic Orchestra And Choir, Hymns Triumphant, Vol 1, Religious, 1980
  2. Adelaide's Lament, Faith Prince, Frank Loesser, Guys and Dolls, Soundtrack, 1992
  3. Adon Olam (Faith), Mizmor Shir, Mizmor Shir: Six Days Working, Jewish A Capella, 2001
  4. Adon Olam (Master Of The World), Abayudaya, Abayudaya - Music From The Jewish People Of Uganda, Jewish / World, 2003
  5. After the Pain, Betty Wright, The Slow Jams Collection Volum, Blues
  6. Ain' Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round, SNCC Freedom Singers led by Cordell Reagon, Voices Of The Civil Rights Movement, Disc 2 (Ensembles), Folk
  7. Aishes Chayil, Mizrach (The Weinbergs), Mizrach, Jewish
  8. Amazing Grace, Mahalia Jackson, Gold Collection, Gospel/Spirituals
  9. Amazing Grace, Ray Charles, Folk
  10. Bad Day, Daniel Powter, Daniel Powter, Rock, 2005 [I know, I know, I'm embarrassed but I'm also honest, and dammit, I like this song.]
  11. Beautiful, Christina Aguilera, Stripped, Pop, 2002
  12. Bereshit, Moshav Band, Return Again, Jewish, 2002
  13. Blessed Be Your Name, Matt Redman, Blessed Be Your Name: The Songs of Matt Redman, Vol. 1, Inspirational, 2005 [This is a totally Christian song, but I love it anyway.]
  14. Boker, Achinoam Nini, Achinoam First Collection, Israeli Pop [For awhile, I set my stereo to wake me up to this song. It's a nice song to wake up to.]
  15. Boys Don't Cry, The Cure, Classic Rock
  16. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon, The Best Of Simon & Garfunkel, Folk, 1969
  17. Brown Eyed Girl, Bob Dylan, Folk
  18. By Way of Sorrow, Cry Cry Cry, Cry Cry Cry, Folk
  19. B'Yado, Debbie Friedman, Renewal Of Spirit, Jewish
  20. Chofshi Ze Legamrey Levad, Yehuda Poliker, Yehuda Poliker, HaMeytav (Disc 1), Israeli
  21. Day Is Done, Peter, Paul & Mary, Peter Yarrow, Peter, Paul And Mommy, Folk/Children's, 1969
  22. Devorah's Song, Mizmor Shir, Mizmor Shir: Six Days Working, Jewish A Capella, 2001
  23. Efer Ve'avak, Yehuda Poliker, Yehuda Poliker, HaMeytav (Disc 1), Israeli
  24. Entr'acte; Take Back Your Mink, Faith Prince & The Hot Box Girls, Frank Loesser, Guys and Dolls, Soundtrack, 1992
  25. Esa Einai: Quartet, Mizmor Shir, Shir Delight, Jewish A Capella, 1999
  26. Every Day I Have The Blues, Count Basie, Jazz
  27. Everybody Hurts Sometimes, REM, Rock
  28. Face Up And Sing, Ani DiFranco, Women in (E)motion Festival, Alt-Folk, 1994
  29. Feel Home, OAR (Of a Revolution), Folk
  30. Fever, Ray Charles & Natalie Cole, Cooley, Eddie & Davenport, John, Genius Loves Company, R & B, 2004
  31. Fight Fiercely, Tom Lehrer, Comedy
  32. Fighter, Christina Aguilera, Pop
  33. Galileo, Indigo Girls, Rites Of Passage, Alt-Folk
  34. Girls With Guitars, Wynona Judd, Country
  35. God Said No, Dan Bern, New American Language, Rock, 2001
  36. Hachayim Yafim, Achinoam Nini, Achinoam First Collection, Israeli Pop
  37. Hands Of God, Mahalia Jackson, Gold Collection, Gospel/Spirituals
  38. Happy Feet, Kermit And The Frog Chorus, The Muppets, Best Of The Muppets Featuring The Muppets Wizard Of Oz (VA), Children's, 2005
  39. Hashkifa, Kol Achai, Hashkifa, Jewish [A favorite song in high school. I went out and bought the CD to replace the ancient tape a year or two ago and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I still really liked this song.]
  40. Hey Girl, OAR (Of a Revolution), Folk
  41. Hit the Road Jack, Ray Charles, Davidoff, Jazz
  42. I Am A Rock, Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon, The Best Of Simon & Garfunkel, Folk, 1965
  43. I Am Not an Angry Girl, Indigo Girls & Ani Difranco, Alt-Folk
  44. I Feel Beautiful, Fantasia, Fantasia, R&B/Soul, 2006
  45. I Feel The Earth Move, Carole King, Tapestry, Folk
  46. I Want To Break Free, Queen, Greatest Hits, Disco
  47. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor, Rock
  48. If I Had a Hammer, Peter, Paul & Mary, Best Of Peter, Paul, and Mary, Folk
  49. I'll Be Your Shelter, Taylor Dane, Women for Women, Pop
  50. Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby, Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, Broad Casting, Blues, 1990
  51. It Takes a Mighty Good Man, Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, Ain't Gonna Hush!, Blues, 2001
  52. Kansas, Ashanti, The Muppets, Best Of The Muppets Featuring The Muppets Wizard Of Oz (VA), Pop, 2005
  53. Kapayim, Yehuda Poliker, Popular Greek, HaMeytav (Disc 1), Israeli
  54. Keep On Dancing, The Gentrys, Greatest Hits of the 60's, Oldies
  55. Learn To Fly, Foo Fighters, There Is Nothing Left To Lose, Alternative, 1999
  56. Liknot Lach Yahalom, Eyal Golan, Chayal Shel Ahavah, Israeli [I just listened to the actual words of this song for the first time last week, and it quickly became a new favorite. It was constantly playing on the bus one summer when I was in Israel.]
  57. Losing My Religion, REM, Blues
  58. Mi Adir, Aspaklaria (including Yoni Weinberg), Aspaklaria, Jewish
  59. Mi Shebeirach, Debbie Friedman, Renewal Of Spirit, Jewish
  60. Midabrim Basheket, Idan Raichel, Idan Raichel's Project, Israeli/World, 2002
  61. Muchrachim LaHa'amin, Rami Kleinstein, Kol Mah Shetirtzi, Israeli Rock
  62. New York City, They Might Be Giants, Alternative
  63. Not Gon' Cry, Mary J. Blige, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Reflections - A Retrospective, R&B/Soul, 2006
  64. Not Ready to Make Nice, Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way, Country, 2006
  65. Rainbow Connection, Kermit, The Muppets, Best Of The Muppets Featuring The Muppets Wizard Of Oz (VA), Children's, 2005
  66. Redemption Song, Indigo Girls, Alt-Folk
  67. Respect, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding/Ronnie Shannon, The Very Best, R & B, 1994
  68. Rosh Chodesh Sivan, Ben Dreyfus, Jewish
  69. She Moves in Mysterious Ways, U2, Rock
  70. Shirat HaSticker, HaDag Nachash, Chomer Mikomi, Israeli Hip Hop/Rap, 2004
  71. Sh'ma Koleinu, Debbie Friedman, Renewal Of Spirit, Jewish
  72. Silent All These Years, Tori Amos & Ani Difranco, Alternative
  73. Silver Threads And Golden Needles, Peter, Paul & Mary, Folk
  74. Some Days You Gotta Dance, Dixie Chicks, Marshall Morgan/Troy Johnson, Top of the World Tour Live, Country, 2003
  75. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, U2, Rock
  76. Song for the Dumped, Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen (Remastered Edition), Alternative, 2005
  77. Strong Enough, Sheryl Crow, Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrell, David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert, David Ricketts, Brian MacLeod, Tuesday Night Music Club, Rock, 1993
  78. Superman, Five for Fighting, Pop
  79. Teach Your Children, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Folk
  80. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day), Louis Armstrong, Beasley Smith-Haven Gillespie, The Best Of Louis Armstrong: 20th Century Masters, Jazz, 1999
  81. The Book Report, Company (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), Clark Gesner, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Soundtrack, 1999 [This is an absolute must-hear for anyone who has ever procrastinated doing academic work. It's the best song on the album, although there are other good ones as well.]
  82. The Pachelbel Canon, James Galway, Pachelbel, Greatest Hits, Classical, 1988
  83. The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed, Dar Williams, Mortal City, Alt-Folk
  84. The Sadder But Wiser Girl, Robert Preston, The Music Man - Original Broadway Cast Recording, Soundtrack, 1958
  85. The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas, They Might Be Giants, Alternative
  86. There'll Come A Time, Betty Everett, There'll Come A Time, Blues
  87. These Boots Are Made for Walking, Indigo Girls, Full Metal Jacket, Soundtrack
  88. This Little Light of Mine, Betty Mae Fykes, Voices Of the Civil Rights Movement, Folk
  89. Tza'ir Lanetzach, Rami Kleinstein, Ha'osef, Israeli Rock, 1996
  90. Ve'Ayrastich, Kol Achai, Hashkifa, Jewish
  91. Walk On, U2, Rock
  92. We Shall Not Be Moved, SNCC Freedom Singers led by Rutha Harris, Voices Of The Civil Rights Movement, Disc 2 (Ensembles), Folk
  93. We Shall Overcome, SNCC Freedom Singers, Voices Of The Civil Rights Movement, Disc 2 (Ensembles), Folk
  94. When I Was A Boy, Dar Williams, Dar Williams, The Honesty Room, Alt-Folk, 1993
  95. Wide Open Spaces, Dixie Chicks, Susan Gibson, Top Of the World Tour-Live (Disc 2), Country, 2003
  96. Yihiyeh Tov, David Broza, Zilzul Elei, Israeli
  97. You Are Free, Indigo Girls, Alt-Folk
  98. You Raise Me Up, Josh Groban, Closer, Religious
  99. You'll Never Walk Alone, Elvis Presley, Gospel/Spirituals
  100. Your Racist Friend, They Might Be Giants, Alternative
As may be obvious, I have somewhat ecclectic taste in music. When people ask me what kind of music I like, I mostly say, "Um, I dunno, anything that isn't too loud?" It seems easier to define my tastes by what I don't like (i.e., music that hurts my ears, gives me a headache, or gives me cause to worry about hearing loss) than what I do like.

Because I like folk music, clearly, and Israeli music, some Jewish music, some rock, showtunes, indie, gospel/spirituals. I attribute the outrageous number of Debbie Friedman songs on this list to the fact that I never, ever heard any of her music until I was about twenty-four, so I have no youthful/youth group associations with it or with her. I just really like some of her songs. (This is one of those things that makes you realize how culturally bifurcated the Jewish people are in terms of the music that their children listen to. I listened to a lot more Uncle Moishy and 613 Torah Avenue than my non-Orthodox friends did as children, and I think that some of their music was pretty good, too! But it would never go onto a list of favorite songs as an adult.)

I also like jazz and some classical music, although I don't think any jazz or classical is included on this list, which was created by exporting all of my "five star" songs from iTunes and many of my "four star" songs. When I'm listening to my iPod, and I hear a song I really like, I give it a four or a five. That doesn't really happen to me when I listen to jazz or classical music, which is probably mostly indicative of my still somewhat undeveloped taste in/knowledge of jazz and classical music.

I was originally (like, over a year ago) planning on writing extensively about each of these songs--what it means to me, what I associate it with, why I like it--but, you know, that motzai Shabbat sloth is overtaking me. So...uh...maybe another time.

3.23.2007

Subways make you slimmer and nostalgia for playgrounds of yesteryear

Read all about it here or in the original press release from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. I've blogged about this before, and about how I must live in a city where I can be car-free if I want to be.

Active Living Research
appears to be an organization and grant-giving institution that studies the relationship between architecture/urban planning/design and healthy living.

Active Living Leadership tries to act on that research by working with governments, programs, planners to encourage healthy living. The intersection of public policy, public health, urban design, and environmental science is all very interesting to me.

I was not an active child--far from it. All I really ever wanted to do was read (and sometimes write). One could argue that that is still the case. Nonetheless, because we had only one car and because we never used it on Shabbat, I got out at least a little bit. I also used to walk or take public transportation to school until I was eight and switched schools. I think I had many of the benefits of urban and suburban living. In addition to living about a mile away from school, I also grew up with a large backyard and a playground down the street.

Regarding the playground: When they replaced the old metal playground equipment with newer, plastic equipment in 1988, the fun level definitely went down. I couldn't find good photos of all of this stuff online, but do you remember the old metal-animals-on-springs? (In particular, I remember a horse that looked like this. It's from a NYPIRG website about toxic playground equipment.) Long metal slides? Metal climbing structures? Jungle gyms? That merry-go-round thing that, unfortunately, some poor kid's head got stuck under somewhere, rending them obsolete nation-wide? I also remember this metal thing that we used to play in as if it were a train, but I think it was really an old planter that didn't have any plants in it. I think that all of the metal playground equipment, prone to rust as it was, was removed right and left. I also remember the concrete playground equipment from childhood summers in California, the disappearance of which this person laments.

Compare, for example, the sheer exhilarating fun of this climbing structure:


With these newer climbing structures:


What's the point of going to the playground if there is no chance you'll fall through the jungle gym and crack your head open? I mean, seriously! The new equipment is so safe! I remember when they replaced the hard dirt under the local swings with wood chips. Now, I think there is probably some kind of black plastic or rubber mat under them.

Also, I think that the first kind of structure lends itself to more imaginative play. It could totally be an airplane, pirate ship, school bus, house, monkey cage, or almost anything else you could think of. Personally, we used to turn the local jungle gym into a convenience store and have my father purchase things from us.

But maybe that's just me, being nostalgic for a time when I could have fun in this way without, well, looking like a weird grownup.

3.20.2007

Separate Entrance For Poor People? (Real Estate Ramblings)

It's funny how our interests change once we start paying rent, isn't it?

This is an interesting article from Friday's New York Sun. I never read The Sun, but I saw the article over someone's shoulder on the bus on Friday morning and it looked interesting. (I managed to read most of it during the bus ride.)

It discusses a residential building to be built on and over the West-Park Presbyterian Church at W. 86th St. and Amsterdam. The building would have 50 affordable-housing rental units (for tenants aged 55 and over) and 27 market-rate condos. Sounds good so far, right? I mean, maybe it's sad that they're ripping down part of a 19th century red stone church to build residential units, but it seems necessary to save the rest of the church, and surely more affordable housing in Manhattan is a blessing! The catch? The renters and condo-owners are going to have separate entrances. They will live on entirely separate floors, and only condo-owners will have access to amenities like the gym, playroom, and media room. The title of the article is "Critics See Signs of Segregation In a Proposed West Side Tower," and it's pretty clear why. Without the separate entrances and separate floors, actually, I'm not sure that there would be much of a story. The final quote is, "a spokesman for New York Acorn, an affordable housing advocacy organization, Jonathan Rosen, said the proposal 'brings a type of social exclusion that really has no place in the city in this day and age.'"

First of all, what is he talking about? Social exclusion is the calling card of Manhattan! It's just usually the case that poor people are so socially excluded by rich people that the two groups hardly ever have to meet, I mean really meet (not be asked for money on the street or in the subway). In my neighborhood, for example, there are housing projects and expensive high-rises right across the street from each other. Do you think the tenants of the two buildings party together? Do their laundry together? No. Social exclusion is what happens when people of different social statuses (stati?) live in the same neighborhood or in abutting neighborhoods. It happens in New York all the time, and probably in other cities as well. So I'm not sure the proposal brings social exclusion as much as highlights existing social norms. I'm also not saying that social exclusion is okay, only that it is sort of inevitable in an economically stratified society such as ours. And if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. So I am part of the problem. Although, if you compare the salaries of all of my friends, from undergraduates and graduate students through i-bankers, my social circle(s) probably has (have) a wide range of incomes.

As far as the proposal itself goes, it seems reasonable that affordable-housing residents would not have access to the amenities that million-dollar condo owners do. Separate entrances, though, pisses me off and reeks of, I don't know--something. Segregation, I suppose. Disgusting.

$ $ $ $ $ $

Bonus real estate links:
  • "Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons," New York Times, Friday, March 9, 2007

  • Washington Heights: the next victim of rising rents? See this NYT article from Sunday, March 4. I'm sure that some people are being pushed out of Washington Heights already, and will continue to do so, because of the yuppification or hipsterfication of Washington Heights. First the immigrants will get pushed out, then the students and non-profit professionals. Sigh...

  • "Buying With Help From Mom and Dad," New York Times, Sunday, March 18, 2007. I do know people whose parents bought apartments for them. Like, maybe two people. They work the same kinds of non-profit jobs that I do, but they wear nicer clothes and seem less stressed out. Oh, well. I'm not complaining about my own situation, which is just fine and dandy, only expressing some jealousy over those whose parents choose to invest in NYC apartments in which their children then live, rent-free, in the meantime. (It's probably a smart investment. I don't see rents or property values on the UWS crashing anytime soon, especially if you buy in the currently-gentrifying-formerly-drug-infested areas.)

  • I'm not about to move to the Midwest over it, even though I'm sure I could get a nice house there for what I currently pay for a bedroom in an apartment with two (and a half) roommates. Heck, I could move to plenty of other nice cities and probably get a nice one bedroom for what I currently pay for my room. Oh, I could also move to Queens, Staten Island, or even many parts of Manhattan or Brooklyn and get a nice studio or possibly even a one bedroom for what I currently pay for my room. It's just that right now, I don't want to live there. Or in the Midwest. Neither do a lot of other people, which is why rent is so high here in this part of Manhattan and in the parts of Brooklyn where hipsters want to live, and lower elsewhere. What am I ranting about, you say? Gawker gets all snarky about this personal narrative from the Sunday, February 25 New York Times. Gothamist agrees. And I, more or less, do as well, although I'm not quite as prone to snarkiness and personal attacks as some of the Gawker and Gothamist commenters.

  • This isn't exactly about real estate, only something to possibly consider when you think of safe vs. unsafe neighborhoods in Manhattan. [Hat tip to Cyburbia.]

3.15.2007

Orthodoxy, Feminism, and Me, 1997-2007

At long last...

This post has been much harder to organize and write than I initially anticipated. I had to excise huge chunks of it and set them aside for a later post. Many of the paragraphs that escaped the chopping block could be their own posts. This post feels more personal than many others that I've written, and also more important. I do not even attempt to hide my disappointment in various facets of Orthodox Judaism. I'm not so comfortable with publicizing some of these views and decade-old disappointments, but it seems like the right time in my life to start vocalizing these concerns. So, here goes nothin'.

But, first, I want to state that I reserve the right to change any opinion I express here or have expressed in the past. I'm not a terribly wishy-washy person nor do I make 180 degree changes overnight, but I do relish the process of remaining open to changing in response to life experiences, so if you want to know what I think today, ask me today.

* * * * *

Whether I currently identify with JOFA or not, without JOFA and the vision of its founders, the phrase "Orthodox feminism" would probably still draw the blank stares of miscomprehension that it drew in 1997. It is hard for me to evaluate whether Orthodox feminism has changed drastically over the past ten years or it is merely I who have undergone changes. Over the past ten years, I went from being a self-righteous, indignant, naive, idealistic (typical) 17-year-old to a more relaxed, cynical, and probably jaded 27-year-old. Yet I also have the sense that over the past ten years, Orthodox feminism has also matured and mellowed a little bit for the better. Maybe some of you who live outside my head can help me make the distinction.


I. JOFA 1997

As mentioned in this post from February, I went to my first JOFA conference as a senior in high school. At that time, I had only been to women's tefilla a handful of times for bat mitzvahs and wasn't sure how I felt about it. (That is, I was either indifferent or anti. The girls I knew who had women's tefilla bat mitzvah services seemed to be doing so because that was what their mothers wanted.) I was very into learning, and had been for close to two years. I was adamantly Orthodox and would not consider egalitarian practices that were not accepted as halachic by Orthodox Jews, specifically Orthodox rabbis, as authentic in the least. Almost all of my limudei kodesh teachers were male.1 I had been committed to political and some forms of social feminism since around 8th grade. I struggled valiantly with religious and theological issues great and small. I read Blu Greenberg's On Women & Judaism, and, although I appreciated it, I felt that it was written in a different time and place and for a different audience. I was pretty sure that nobody in the history of the universe had been as conflicted about Judaism and feminism as I was. What can I say? I was 17.

And then I went to the first JOFA conference and I felt like I had come home! I had never met so many learned women! I had never met so many adults who seemed to struggle as I did! In my real community at home, I felt like everyone around me had it all "figured out," but here, very few people had it "figured out." But I was very frum, and very defensive against anyone who so much as insinuated that Orthodox feminists wanted to change halacha in any meaningful way. No, I insisted, all they wanted to do was be able to learn and maybe pray together without having to stand behind a mechitza. They just wanted to do what was allowed. Was it too much to ask of the rabbis?

In 2002, reflecting on my experiences at the 1997 JOFA conference, I wrote:
I would characterize my seventeen year-old self as idealistic. I knew that there were problems with being a feminist and a Jew committed to traditional halacha, but I also felt that by learning Torah and becoming enfranchised, as it were, through the ability to give psak, women could rectify all the inequality that generations of male poskim had bestowed upon us. I wholeheartedly accepted the premise that since Torah was true, it could not ultimately conflict with other things that I knew to be true. Time would heal all wounds inflicted by the clash between Torah and feminism.

The [first] JOFA conference strengthened these views. It was the first time I was somewhere with other people who knew of my wounds, who understood the apparent conflict between feminism and halacha and weren't scared of discussing it. I was awed to be in the presence of so many learned women. I was gratified to be able to learn some Gemara from a [woman] for the first time in my life. The conference opened up entire vistas...for me, and stirred me to write earnest essays [that move] me to this day.


II. JOFA 2002

I wrote the following in response to the 2002 JOFA conference a few days after I attended it. It sums up how I changed in the first five years after the first JOFA conference better than I ever could today. I wrote:

[Between 1997 and now, I] spent a glorious post-high school summer learning Torah at Drisha, followed by a disheartening year of learning Torah [elsewhere].2

It was so hard to accept the blatantly unequal and inferior education offered to women at [elsewhere] as compared to my [co-ed day school]-educated peers at [any of several hesder yeshivot they attended]. I couldn't believe it. I spoke to my male friends who were at yeshivot that I had been told would be somewhat comparable to mine. When they were unhappy in their shiurim, they could switch into more serious, more challenging, or more articulate ones. It was accepted as a given that they would learn Gemara five times a week and study Tanach and halacha and whatever else they wanted in the afternoon or evening. It was a given that they would always have more learned people to turn to when they stumbled upon some inexplicable line in whatever they were learning.

I had no such options. I was at the only post-high school program where women could learn Gemara seriously at all. Perhaps I wasn't forthright enough in my complaints, but when I expressed dissatisfaction with our measly thrice-weekly Gemara shiur, I was told that the world wasn't ready for women to learn more Gemara. [I wanted it five mornings a week instead of three, because between Wednesday and the following Monday, I'd forget things and have to do so much review on Monday that it was like I only had two actual gemara shiurim/chavruta periods a week. I was recently reminded that about five of us in the top shiur wanted Gemara to happen five mornings a week instead of three, and we were collectively turned down and told that if stayed for shana bet (a second year), maybe we could do that. None of us stayed shana bet.] When I felt that the person teaching my Gemara shiur was not taking my questions seriously or was unable to answer them, I...moved into a lower shiur where I was able to learn more.

It was also at [that institution in Israel] that I was first forced to come to terms with the inability of women to form a self-sufficient prayer community. I had loved davening since sometime in the fifth grade; I had been davening daily since sometime during high school and...three times a day since sometime in the eleventh or twelfth grade. I had been lucky to be able to easily attend daily minyan two or three times a day whenever I was at school. When I was at Drisha the previous summer, I sometimes went to morning minyan at the local shteibl, [and] usually davened mincha in the non-minyan in the Drisha beit midrash. It didn't really bother me then, but when I got to [seminary in Israell] and realized that I would not be able to daven with a minyan unless I trudged up the street to the local shul, where I could daven on the side of the room behind a thick mechitza, it began to sink in. When selichot were said in the shul, the first minyan wasn't done in time for the second minyan to begin, so the men davened in the shul's beit midrash and the women davened outside. I was one of two or three yeshiva3 students who continued to attend minyan regularly once Yom Kippur was over. I went two, three, or four times a week.

But I was always on the outside, looking in. It wasn't my community, the one that I trudged up the dusty street to. My community couldn't really daven together, as a unit, unless we convinced some of the rebbeim to come and daven with us, as was often done on Rosh Chodesh....A community that learns together but does not daven together is less of a community. After that year was over, abandoning the [Orthodox] community in which I had been raised seemed like a live option to me in a way in which it had not before.

...Wholehearted faith in the promise of Modern Orthodoxy—that conflicts could be resolved in time and that wounds could be healed—was replaced by a mixture of repulsion and cynicism towards the movement that had so soundly rejected my youthful idealism. It had always been important to me to be part of a faith community, a community that believed in something larger than itself, larger than fashion and movies and football. But if the community didn't want me, and it didn't seem to want me, I didn't know if I wanted it. It will never again be clear to me that I belong in Orthodox Judaism at all. [Part of this was youthful angst, but part of it was definitely a rational disappointment in the institutions that had raised me up as a model of what Modern Orthodoxy was supposed to be and then cast me down when I asked for more Torah. Perhaps if I had been raised to expect less, I would have been less disappointed.]

It just became clear to me that I will have to write a separate post about the post-high school year in Israel, possibly in reaction to this Jewish Week article, covering Emily Shapiro Katz's session at the 2007 JOFA conference that I unfortunately missed, and this blog post in response. It--the post-high school year in Israel--is lunacy on several levels, and I don't see the situation improving any time soon. I did, overall, enjoy myself tremendously, though, and I don't regret going. (After reading this post, whether my parents regret sending me, at great expense, is another story.)

Then I came to college. It was at college that I discovered that serious intellectual stimulation was possible outside of a blat Gemara, that there were people entirely outside of the Jewish community who embodied the values that had always been important in my life, and that one could live a long time without ever considering a halachic question at all. I experimented with going on a davening diet, reducing my prayer intake to a few short occasional mincha-moments. I dispensed with brachot and strict adherence to kashrut. A friend of mine died during my junior year and that was what finally pushed me to the limits of my abandonment of Judaism.... During my freshman year, when I still went to [shacharit at the] daily minyan, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and the distinct impression that Orthodox men identified no more strongly with the values important to me than did my Christian lacrosse-playing classmates in my expository writing class.4 The only emotionally and intellectually-stimulating conversations that I was having were outside of the context of Hillel, far away from shul and beit midrash.

And that was where the essay ended, there at 1:53 am, in November 2002.

Something that I didn't mention there at all, but that I think is and was a very important part of my growing disenchantment with Orthodoxy, were my academic studies. Through them, I learned to read texts critically, which I don't think was ever a part of my Jewish education, since reading texts critically opens the possibility for doubt, and doubt is antithetical to the Orthodox educational system. Of course I had developed my own private doubts in high school, but when I took them to teachers I respected, I was promised that I would eventually figure things out and that learning would help. In my academic studies, I was also exposed to a framework for thinking about gender outside of a Jewish context really for the first time in my life. This is also probably a separate post.5


III. JOFA 2004

I half-heartedly attended the 2004 JOFA conference, but I joked with a friend that as a post-Orthodox person, I didn't really belong there.6 The phrase "Orthodox feminism" seemed irrelevant to me, but not because feminism was irrelevant. Orthodoxy, as currently practiced by most Orthodox Jews, just seemed so...passe? Retro? Silly? Short-sighted? Cruel? Myopic? Pick your own negative adjective. I knew that Torah was bigger than Orthodox Judaism, and pretending otherwise seemed sort of silly. I was also tired of this business of begging the rabbinic establishment to let us do things, as if they held exclusive keys to the kingdom of God. We all spoke to God every day. Why did they have the monopoly?

I had also come to the conclusion, at some point in college, that Judaism was so inherently patriarchal and unfair to women that it couldn't be fixed. We could accept it as patriarchal or we could chuck it, but putting band-aids on a religion revealed through/developed by (pick your hashkafa) exclusively men by letting women lead davening seemed, well, like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound.

I didn't really have a solution, though. I went through most of the motions of Shabbat and kashrut, but I won't say I was really into it.


IV. JOFA 2007

In the three years since then, mostly as a result of having left college behind for good, grown up some, and come to terms with the difficulty of creating community in a world full of busy, autonomous adults, I've sort of come back into the Orthodox fold, although I doubt I'll ever be overly-enamored of the community.

Someone I dated once observed that fitting into the Orthodox world is not high on my list of priorities in life, and I agreed wholeheartedly. If I have a religious, communal priority in life, it is to become integrated into a community of religious thinkers, seekers, believers, prayers, learners, and doers that welcomes me as a full-fledged member and a thoughtful human being. That has not been my experience in any Jewish community populated exclusively by Orthodox people. I feel lucky to live in a somewhat post-denominational world city community on the Upper West Side, where one can be "flexidox" or "observant" or "religious" without feeling straight-jacketed into an Orthodox way of viewing Judaism and the world.

I will say, though, that minyanim like Darkhei Noam and KOE have made it possible for me to continue davening with Orthodox (though not only Orthodox) people. Getting back into the old joie de learning first by taking a gemara class at Drisha and more recently by learning Masechet Makot with BZ and blogging about Torah has helped me feel more kindly towards Torah.

So where does this all leave me?

Well, it leaves me having wanted to go to the 2007 JOFA conference, to the extent that I was willing to get up at the ungodly hour of 6:3o am to get there in time to volunteer to register people. It left me truly wanting to attend many of the sessions that took place at the conference. (One day, please God, I will be a millionaire, and I will be able to attend the entire day, rather than volunteering for the first half in order to go to the second half for free.)

Refreshingly, the topics covered at the 2007 JOFA conference accepted as a given that:

  • there are going to be lots of smart women learning lots of Gemara
  • qualified women are beginning to give psak. Maybe only one or two now, maybe only in specific areas (niddah, medical ethics), maybe only for their own students or congregants, but more soon enough, and eventually on a communal level
  • men are interested in women's equality and active participation in Jewish communal life (I think that this--"Feminist Sensitive Education for Boys in Israel," with Rabbi Jeremy Stavisky--would have been unheard of in 1997, but there are many other examples)
  • philosophy of halacha and what gives halacha authority are important (possibly more important than ritual changes, which I think were much more of the focus in 1997)
However, I no longer think that the growing number of women who can give psak is going to solve the inherent gender imbalance (or hierarchy) in traditional Judaism, an imbalance that is probably felt more by single, child-less women such as myself than by women at other stages of their lives.

It is also not clear to me what will ultimately happen with partnership minyanim.7 Are they a stepping stone to fully egalitarian davening or are they just going to make me and all of my co-daveners no longer kosher to most of Orthodox Judaism? I will admit that I don't really care if the latter happens, since I don't have a strong sense that they consider me one of their own anyway.8

Most importantly from my perspective, I think we're finally starting to recognize some of the severe limitations of our revered Modern Orthodox institutions--day schools, seminaries, and yeshivot--in terms of what they're teaching girls and young women, and boys and young men.

I think that there is less anger and more learning now, as well as a broader range of halachic and sociological possibilities. Anger has a useful place, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if we will someday have to reach back into that pot of seething rage to get to a place of greater equilibrium in the constant balancing act between Orthodoxy, which prides itself on being hierarchical, and feminism, which is based on a model of collaboration, cooperation, and consensus-building.

Overall, I feel that things are heading in the right direction, although the farther we travel along this path, the more work we see ahead of us.

JOFA, chizki v'imtzi!

___________________________________
1. Thus, I didn't really have any religious female role models at school. From 7th-12th grade, I had one female Navi teacher and one female Chumash teacher for a total of three classes out of at least eighteen limudei kodesh classes--I'm not counting Modern Hebrew.
2. I have replaced the names of any institution that I had anything negative to say about with generic descriptions in brackets. I don't wish any harm on any of them, and I don't want people Googling them to end up here. Maybe they have changed for the better. I also broke up some chunky paragraphs, but otherwise, everything remains the same. As is customary, anything in brackets was added by me and in some cases, replaces what was there before.
3. I referred to seminary students as yeshiva students, and still do, but mostly only in my head these days, since most people hear "yeshiva" and think "male."
4. We sat and ate breakfast together and learned a perek of Tanach every morning, but soon talk turned to jokes of "co-ed naked davening" and insinuations about freshman women being fresh meat, ripe for the taking. It wasn't all bad--there were moments of great supportiveness from the Orthodox davening community in college. But there were also a lot of moments of great irritation.
5. I'll just say that when I went to a brief women's learning program in Israel the summer after my freshman year in an attempt to revive the joie de learning that I had enjoyed earlier in my (young) life, I realized that everything they (they = the ones pushing shana bet and Stern) had said was true: Going to a secular college would ruin your view of the infallability of Torah. My conclusion, though, was not that I should stay in a cloistered religious setting forever, but that I should seriously question any belief system that could not stand up to freshman-level college courses. Many of you will be happy to know that Torah (ultimately) mostly withstood the test of a joint degree in History and Women's Studies. (The attempt at reviving joie de learning, however, did not work. All I remember from the learning program that summer was that the Rambam says that it's assur to hug your brother (negiah issues).)
6. I really like the term post-Orthodox. Don't get me wrong--I'm still pretty frum. But I will never again be frum in quite the same way that I was frum as a fire-and-brimstone 17-year-old high school senior, and I mostly think that's a good thing, but all of my current beliefs are predicated on having once been that way. Hence the significance of being post-Orthodox as opposed to just post-denominational or non-denominational or observant or whatever other label you want to slap on me. I feel sad that a lot of post-Orthodox people have given up on Judaism as a religion altogether. Torah is great, and Orthodox Jews don't have any kind of monopoly on it, regardless of what they might tell you.
7. I think that this is sort of a stupid term, no offense intended to its originator, but I don't have anything better unless you think chatzi-egal is better. Some people I know call them that. Or quasi-egal, but the half-Hebrew, half-English term is more fun.
8. Dude, I wear pants, might not cover my hair after marriage, have read the Christian Bible, and minored in Women's Studies, a.k.a. how to tear down the supporting structures of the world as we know it--the All Powerful Patriarchy. (I only stuck the Christian Bible bit in there because I once met some Orthodox people--Modern Orthodox, on the Upper West Side--who were shocked--shocked!--that I had read it. They were also, oddly enough, apparently jealous. So I let them borrow my New Revised Standard. We no longer call it the New Testament in academic circles, by the way, since that implies a Christian-centric view of the Bible. We say Christian Bible or Jewish Bible.)



Appendix A

I drew up this quick list as an exercise when I was struggling to articulate and organize this post. Although I didn't end up organizing it along these lines, I still find the list interesting.

How Orthodox feminism has changed since 1997
  • women's tefilla is no longer cutting edge
  • women's learning is seen as a beginning, not as the end of anything
  • "parternship minyanim" exist
  • women have positions of religious leadership in halachic contexts that were unthinkable five years ago
  • more thought is being directed at how young girls and boys are taught
  • feminism is being seen as a force for good outside the walls of the shul or beit midrash; the discussion has broadened to include other pedagogical issues and political issues, as well as more theoretical issues such as the nature of halakhic authority
  • Orthodox feminists aren't the only ones publicly decrying the agunah situation
  • more men are speaking up as supporters of women's learning and leadership
  • there were a lot more younger women teaching and leading sessions at the JOFA conference than there were ten years ago (younger = within ten or fifteen years of my age, i.e., women in their 20s-30s)
  • it is no longer greeted with a hue and cry from the roshei yeshiva of YU (maybe because they are no longer paying attention, not because they are complicit, but why aren't they paying attention?)
How Orthodox feminism has not changed since 1997
  • agunot are still a burning problem
  • people (by which I mean Orthodox Jews) are still reluctant to call themselves feminists
P.S. This is my 300th post, and just about the second anniversary of my blog. My first post was on March 18, 2005.

P.P.S. Other bloggers' reactions to the 2007 JOFA conference can be found here and here. Probably in other places, too.

3.13.2007

On and off my bookshelf

I have to update those reading lists on the side. In the past few weeks, I've finished five books, three of which I read so quickly that they never made it onto the list of books currently being read at all. I started these between December and a few days ago, so don't go thinking that I read the entirety of each of these books in the past few weeks.
  • Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, by Stephen J. Dubner
    I enjoyed this. It was a little bit slow going at first, but once I got into it, it was a quick read. I remember that when I read Herman Wouk's This is My God as a teenager, it reminded me why I like being Jewish so much. Turbulent Souls had a similar effect. I've also long had a soft spot in my heart for autobiographies and other stories that people choose to tell about their lives. When they are good story-tellers, I find it fascinating. Stephen Dubner is a good story-teller. (I went through a phase when I was 7-12 or so where I mostly read autobiographies and biographies. I went through the whole stack of kids' biographes at the library1 and then moved on to Candice Bergen's autobiography and Katharine Hepburn's autobiography. That's how I originally got into her movies.)
  • Freakanomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    You probably know all about this book already. Once I got into it (recurring pattern here?), I read a chapter every night until it was done. Then I read through the appendices. It was fun. If you liked this, you'd probably also enjoy their blog. I find that it's volume is too high for me to keep up with, so I usually don't read it at all, but if I had unlimited time, I'd read it!
  • The Glass Lake, by Maeve Binchy
    This is the kind of fiction that I really love reading. Some people might find that surprising (since I use big words and don't own a television? I dunno). I used to even read proper romance novels, but they lost their, um, novelty after awhile and got boring and repetitive. I think of trade paperback fiction like they're my soap operas or something. I get really into these sorts of books very quickly and rip right through them, reading at least 100 pages at a sitting. This one was 750 pages and I started it at 6 pm one Friday night and finished it by 8 pm the next evening. Ah, Shabbos! I used to do this all the time when I was a kid and decided I no longer liked shul--read straight through Shabbat. Now I'm mostly more responsible and community-oriented, so I do things like make meals, go to meals, go to shul, etc. Once in awhile, though, when I'm exhausted, this is a delicious luxury. Yum. Read, eat, read, sleep, read, eat, sleep, read...
  • The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve
    I picked this up on the "hefker table" in my building's lobby. People leave books that they no longer want, and that's my main source for junky fiction. (I usually put the books back after I'm done reading them, since I am unlikely to reread these kinds of books.) This wasn't a trade paperback, so maybe it can be considered less junky than The Glass Lake, but it also wasn't high fiction or, well, hard on the brain. It was okay and fine entertainment, but I didn't enjoy it as much as The Glass Lake.
The other books that are on my "currently reading" list (see right sidebar) will probably be there for awhile, as I work through them slowly or not at all. Like the vegetable book. It really was interesting for the first few pages, but I think it might be more happily used as a reference or cook book. And both books on women and Judaism. There's only so much of those books that I can take at a time.

Next up? Maybe The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom, edited by Daniel Jones. Lest you find that title offensive (and you may be right to find it so), there is also a book called The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage, edited by Cathi Hanauer, who also wrote the foreword to The Bastard on the Couch. I think they were published as a pair. (Update: Bitch in the House was compiled by Cathi Hanauer first, and Bastard on the Couch was put together by her husband.) I'm less interested in Bitch, though, since I already know what women think. Or at least what one woman thinks. Also, I'm sort of tired of reading about motherhood in the media. What about fatherhood?

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1. I think they were something like these, but not this exact series. I remember reading about George Washington Carver and Betsy Ross, and they aren't included in this particular series. Oh, and I think Abraham Lincoln, too. My mother once told me that I didn't learn anything in school in 2nd grade, but it was okay because I read a ton of books that year. I'm sure some large percentage of the random stuff that I know today, I learned from reading those easy reader biographies in second grade and from watching 3-2-1 Contact.

3.12.2007

agita, boredom, desire for high drama

I can't really explain this current restless feeling. I even feel too restless to write at the moment, which is very unusual for me.

If I didn't have to be here at work for another 3+ hours, I would go for a long, brisk walk. (Don't feel too bad for me. I got to work late, too. I work funny hours.)

Alternatively, I feel like I need to either go running until I feel like my lungs are going to burst (shouldn't take long in my current state of athleticism or lack thereof) or be party to some kind of high drama. Preferably some kind of high drama directly involving me.

Do you know what? I'm in the mood for someone to fall head over heels in love with me, or me with them. Preferably, each of us with the other. I'm ready for someone to come along and sweep me off my feet in a stereotypically gendered way. Anyone want to audition for the role? I'm even prepared to swoon, should the occasion call for it.

Or maybe some unknown, long-long relative would appear and agree to finance me for a year so I could stop working and figure out what I really want to do with my life. That would be some high drama!

Or I could find a really cheap, centrally-located two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side, available August 1, that doesn't have peeling paint or leaking walls. That would also be some unexpected high drama!

This is not such a usual occurence for me, this craving of emotional excitement in my life (a.k.a., "high drama"). Life often provides enough of its own, natural, organic high drama, and when it doesn't, I am usually happy to sail along on the calm seas until something exciting happens of its own accord. I'm certainly not one to purposely pick fights or manufacture high drama on my own.

At the moment, I'm sort of tired of writing to guys on Frumster, but my current undiagnosed itchiness for high drama won't let me stop. I'm corresponding with someone who told me that our goals in life don't match. But he seems so nice, thoughtful, and interesting that I wrote back anyway. It's extremely unlikely that anything will ever come of it, because he lives far away, both geographically and, I think, probably, also religiously/culturally. He keeps writing back too, though, which is neither here nor there, but definitely not an indicator that he is smitten with me.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm ready for some euphoria, and it doesn't look like anything that I have planned for the next few weeks (or months) is going to provide it. My to do list includes: do load of laundry, unpack from recent trip, organize papers from 2006 (and some last holdouts from 2005? ack!), do taxes, clean room, clean for Pesach, pack for Pesach, and other assorted non-euphoric activities. Work is providing the usual set of relentless tasks, except possibly in a more compressed time period than usual. That's not euphoria-inducing at all! To compound the lack of euphoria in my life, I had a depressing conversation on Saturday night with a (single female) friend of mine over the difficulties of finding a man when you're a smart woman. I'm in no mood at all to bitch and moan about this particular topic (perhaps another time), but the fact that a serious selling point of someone I once dated briefly was that he genuinely respected my intelligence does not bode well. I mean, shouldn't everyone I go out with respect my intelligence? Why is that a plus rather than a given?

In short, what I'm trying to say is, Does anyone have any euphoria to spare? And would someone please come along and sweep me off my feet?

Waiting (im)patiently,
ALG

3.09.2007

Sibling abuse bibliography

See previous post (and post from last March) for background.

American Psychiatric Association. “Authorities Should Increase Vigilance for Sibling Abuse,” Psychiatric News, October 2, 1998.

Asherman, Lee I. And Ellen J. Safier. "Sibling Incest: A Consquence of Individual and Family Dysfunction." Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. Summer 1990. 54(3). 311-322.

Ferrer, Millie and Sara McCrea. “Sibling Rivalry.” Document FCS 2132, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, June 1999. [The 1999 version is no longer available online, because it was reviewed and updated in June 2002, after I wrote this paper. See the 2002 version at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HE/HE11000.pdf.]

Frazier, Billie H and Kathleen C. Hayes. "Selected Resources on Sibling Abuse: An Annotated Bibliography for Researchers, Educators, and Consumers." University of Maryland, CES. October 1994, http://www.cyfernet.org/research/sibabuse.html.

Gelles, Richard J. Intimate Violence in Families. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 1997.

Green, Arthur S. "Child Abuse by Siblings." Child Abuse and Neglect. 1984. 8: 311-317.

Iowa State University, "Understanding Abuse: Sibling Abuse," University Extension: Ames, Iowa, Reprinted October 1994, http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1478X8.pdf.

Kiegelmann, Mechthild. Coming to terms: a qualitative study of six women's experiences of breaking the silence about brother-sister incest. Thesis (Ed. D.)--Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1997.

Kiegelmann, Mechthild. More than just playing doctor: a review of psychological literature on women's experiences on [i.e. of] brother-sister incest. Qualifying paper--Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1995.

Kochakian, Mary Jo. "How to Spot and Deal with Sibling Abuse." Palm Beach Post. October 22, 1992, Section: Accent, pg. 3D.

Pfouts, J.J., J.H. Schopler, and H.D. Henley, "Forgotten Victims of Family Violence." Social Work. July 1982. 27(4). 367-368.

Rayment, Susan and Nicole Owen. "Working With Individuals and Families Where Sibling Incest has Occurred: The Dynamics, Dilemmas and Practice Implications." A paper presented at the Children and Crime: Victims and Offenders Conference convened by the Australian Institute of Criminology, Brisbane, June 17-18 1999, http://www.aic.gov.au/conferences/children/owen.pdf.

Snyder, Howard. "Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics: A Statistical Report Using Data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System." National Center for Juvenile Justice. July 2000. NCJ 182990.

Steinmetz, S.J. "A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Sibling Violence," International Journal of Family Psychiatry. 1981. 2 (3/4): 337-351.

Strauss, Murray A. and Richard J. Gelles, eds. Family Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8, 145 Families. New Brunswick, NY: Transaction Publishers, 1990.

University of Michigan Medical School, "Sibling Abuse." Your Child: Development and Behavior Resources: A Guide to Information and Support for Parents, http://

Wiehe, Vernon R. Sibling abuse: hidden physical, emotional, and sexual trauma. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, c 1997.


These are the sources that I found useful when writing my paper in 2002. It looks like there is a much more extensive bibliography here.