Friday, December 24, 2010

Give a little bit...

Every year I try to provide a list of not for profits for you to consider giving to before the end of the year (and the tax year). Even if you don't give to these organizations, they are interesting to learn about. I wish all of my readers a Healthy and Happy New Year. Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite not for profit. 

General Recommended Not For Profits

To Health

Many of my friends are fans of Doctors Without Borders

My friend Dana suggested this fund that helps people pay for transplants. 

My family has been impacted by Multiple Sclerosis. 

My cousin Robert Kinberg passed away last summer from a brain tumor

Friends and family have lost loved ones or a currently fighting the following diseases: 

Ten Jewish Organizations

American Jewish World Service does good work throughout the world. 

Facing History and Ourselves is a great educational organization that teaches about the Holocaust and other genocides and more. 

Mazon is a Jewish response to hunger.

Hadassah is reinventing itself. 
Love the values taught by Panim.

Good volunteer work being done by Avodah, the Jewish Service Corps and Otzma.

My youth was greatly enhanced by the South Bend Hebrew Day School, Sinai Synagogue and the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley. 

Ten  Jewish Organizations (Conflicts of Interest)

 I am happily employed by Shorashim an organization dedicated to bringing Jewish Americans and Israelis together via culturally based programs. 

Shorashim receives support from these stellar organizations JUFJNFCJP, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington D.C.

Shorashim received grants for a project I'm involved in from the ICenter and the Jewish Education Project.

Most of my work has to do with Taglit-Birthright Israel. 

I'm a member and some time employee of Anshe Emet Synagogue. I used to work at the Chicagoland Jewish High School. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Chanukah!

It’s Chanukah night four. Almost time to light the candles. And after listening to the Maccabeats “Candlelight” (2:05-2:30 is the best singing. Go Gingi!)  over and over (resistance is futile) and reading the hysterical (with a few anti-Semitic and anti-Israel) comments on Youtube, I think it’s time that a public declaration is made.

It’s time to stop being apologists about Chanukah.

Yes, you know who you are. The people who say, Chanukah is only a popular holiday because it’s near Christmas.  Perhaps the popularity part is true, but who cares? Chanukah has been an important Jewish holiday for over 1000 years. The reason the celebration of it changed in about 140 C.E. to focus on the “miracle of the candlelight” was because Judaism changed from a nationalistic religion to entirely a spiritual one. The holidays then that really mattered were the ones based on spirituality and time (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot).  The dreydel, as I learned as a kid, was created as a ruse for kids to grab quickly to play so they wouldn’t get in trouble in anti-Semitic societies if they were studying Jewish texts.  

It's the 21st century. There is a Jewish Nation State with modern day Maccabees (although most of them aren’t religious zealots like the original Maccabees. Chanukah is not just a story about fighting the Assyrian Greeks but it was also a Jewish civil war to wipe out elements of assimilation) living in Israel. We have a globally thriving Jewish community who shouldn’t feel that Chanukah is Christmas’ concubine.

Du du du du. Du du du du.

Also, the lessons from the Chanukah story are lovely. They commemorate perseverance during adversity, valuing of freedom of religion and being thankful for miracles.  And who wouldn’t mind a miracle right now with rising unemployment, two unwinnable wars, a lame and lame duck Congress, a State Department that has lost much of its international credibility, fires in Israel, etc. etc.?

So I’m going to go light my Chanukiah (menorah), say the blessings, and then limit myself to 10 more listens of Candlelight and the South Park Dreydel song (a little offensive).  Then I need to clean my apartment after last night’s work Shabbanica party because my parents are spending the night here tomorrow to celebrate Chanukah with their grandchildren, and remember my awesome Zadie who was born on the fifth candle. On the sixth candle, I hope my present is a good report from my dad’s doctor that he is three years Cancer free.

Happy Chanukah! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to keep synagogue education relevant

If you want to know the answer, or at least my opinion, check out my post in OyChicago. They titled it Synagogue 2.0

Sunday, November 7, 2010

May his memory be for a blessing

It is just shocking to me to think that he was just 27 when he was a principal at the South Bend Hebrew Day School. With the help of my dad, and other businessmen and doctors in the community, he built a Jewish Day School in the city known for Touchdown Jesus, not the 5 books of Moses.  I only knew him as a preschooler and a family friend until I was 22, living in Israel on Otzma, and being hosted by him and his wife for several Shabbat meals in Jerusalem.

He was a big fan of my dad’s and the feeling was mutual. They were two good men along with other good men and women fostering Jewish education in a community that would benefit greatly from it. He had a great laugh and a big smile.  He had three great loves: his family, Jewish education and Israel.

Recently when he reconnected with my brother on Facebook, who was a star pupil in 1982, he quizzed him on the shoreshim (roots) from the Tanakh.  My brother, at age 40, still remembered them and I’m sure Rabbi Schwartz beamed across the ocean as he did when he clicked “like” on half the pictures from my niece’s bat mitzvah a few weeks ago.

Facebook. Such an interesting place. Rabbi Schwartz would reconnect with his students from 30 years prior from South Bend, Indiana. He would see that some became ultra-Orthodox, were liberal Jews married to other Jews, some were in same sex relationships, some were married to gentiles, some were still 34 (or 39-you know who you are) and single. I wondered, as he became friends with all of these people, if he would eventually defriend them because they did not meet his Orthodox standards. On the contrary, he commented on all of our walls when we wrote something he liked or if someone had a birthday or announced the death of a parent or grandparent or the birth of a child. It’s not that I don’t think that he had an opinion on our lifestyles, but what was most important was that we were his students, his now adult children and he was literally virtually apart of our lives again.

Today in my religious school class, my lesson was from Panim and it was about the differences between Tsedek, Tsedakah and Chesed.  In summary,  tsedkah is giving, tsedek is more thoughtful giving and chesed is the giving of your time. Rabbi Schwartz definitely fell into the chesed category. Part of being an Orthodox Jew for him was dedicating his life to teaching Jewish kids from many different backgrounds without judgment of their family lifestyle or overzealous kiruv. He exemplified derech eretz - behaving honorably and because of that his impact was vast.

 In an age when we talk about how to be pluralistic in the Jewish Community, Rabbi Schwartz lived it with his work at small town Day Schools across North America since the 1970s. He made an indelible imprint on my family, as I’m sure he did on so many families during his 40 plus career in education here and in Israel.

I work at a pluralistic Jewish organization that employs and teaches religious, liberal and secular Jews in Israel and the U.S. While my own beliefs are liberal, I feel most comfortable with Jews across the religious spectrum rather than in a place that disavows or embraces one dogma over the other.   I appreciate the beauty of Orthodox Judaism while recognizing that for me, it just isn’t how I want to express my religiosity. However, that appreciation has propelled me to walk to the kotel at 5 a.m. from Har Nof, visit a settlement in the West Bank, hear Hatikva at the Great Synagogue on Yom Kipur while refusing to join even a modern Othodox Synagogue because I am a feminist and support gay rights.

 I don’t know that Rabbi Schwartz would agree with my paradox, but I know he would have been happy to see me and hear about the work that I do on my next trip to Israel in December.  Sadly, he passed away this weekend.  I’m glad he was able to see what we were up to virtually, as well as many of his other students. I’m happy he saw my parents recently in a visit to South Bend, as there was much mutual admiration.

One funny thing is recently I was sent to Rabbi Schwartz’s website as a model for doing a project I’m working on. I was told that he might be a good person with whom to collaborate.

And it made me think, we don’t collaborate with projects, we collaborate with people. In the end, it might matter less how we learn or what we learn, but from whom we learn.

We were all very lucky to be students of Rabbi Schwartz, of blessed memory.

To his wonderful family, May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. 


  • Otzma: one year volunteer program in Israel
  • shoreshim (roots) from the Tanakh- The Tanakh is the Five Books of Moses, the Books of the Prophets, and the Writings of the Minor Prophets. Every Hebrew word has a three letter root. Shalom = slm.  The same is true in Arabic. Salaam- slm. They mean the same thing: peace.
  • Panim - Jewish organization that teaches about social justice among other things
  • kiruv - Jews reaching out to other Jews to introduce them to more traditional aspects of Judaism. Depending on the context and who you are defined whether it is negative or positive.
  • Har Nof- and ultra Orthodox section of Jerusalem
  • kotel- the Western Wall, wall of the Second Temple still remaining
  • Hatikva- Israel's national anthem
  • May the Omnipresent...- traditional words to say to those in mourning. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tweet Tweet

I wrote an intro to tweeting and why it can you make you a more committed Jewish person in OyChicago. Read it here:

Have a good week!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lesson plan to discuss the death of Tyler Clementi

This lesson is meant for high school students. Warning: it’s explicit and where you work might not receive it well. Also, this is for Jewish high school students, but that's just who I teach. The messages are universal.

Opening: Ask the students whether or not they have heard about the death of the Rutgers’ student.

Review what happened: This LA times story is good, but it’s better if you can use a news clip like this one:;photovideo

Like the synagogue I work at, you might not have easy access to internet, so here is the link to a print story:,0,2307696.story
Hand the students the quotes of Jewish “values” text and have them mark which ones were violated in this tragic event.

Ask the students how many values on the list were violated in this situation. The number will range, but it will be a significant percentage of the many values listed. 

Ask the students if they think the number of values violated correlate to the ultimate tragedy: the death of a human being and why or why not?

Ask the students what, if anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy?

According to the LA times article, one of the alleged perpetrators tweeted:: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Read the following from
Hakaim Takim Imo – הָקֵם תָּקִים עִמּוֹ – you shall surely lift up with him – A law designed to encourage aid to one in distress, even one’s enemy (Exodus 23:4; T.B. Baba Metzia 32a).

Halbanat Panim – הַלְבָּנַת פָּנִים – avoidance of humiliating someone in public – The loss of personal dignity at the hands of others is considered one of the gravest wrongs in Judaism, akin to murder (T.B. Moed Katan 9b; T.B. Baba Mezia 58bff.; Tractate Kallah, Minor Tractates of the Talmud).

Hochai’ach Tochee’ach – הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ – you shall rebuke – The obligation to be a social critic when you see that society or individuals are making terrible mistakes. Such criticism is viewed as an expression of care for others (Leviticus 19:17; Genesis Rabbah 54).

It is unclear if Molly was in the room, however persons must have seen that Tweet. Had they adhered to the above, perhaps something in motion could have been stopped.

Why is it so hard to stop others from doing evil?

Print this and use some of the questions: and discuss the bystander effect.  Print out this story:
If you have internet access, play this:

Ask the students when they have been bystanders, for incidents on the net or even for small off line incidents. As the teacher, you should have a story prepared to start the ball rolling. Discuss why it’s so hard to “interfere” with other people’s business. Ask the students what do they you do if they see that:

Janet has wrote on Cindy’s Facebook wall: “You are such a slut for screwing my ex.”
You receive an SMS that includes a picture of someone’s private parts.
Your friend mass texts to everyone “Jamie is a faggot.”

Takeaway: The students who secretly taped the 18 year old of having sex are easily condemnable, whatever their intentions. (I doubt they thought their actions would lead in a loss of life). Less obvious are those who knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it or to prevent the video from being disseminated. Actually, it is obvious: Judaism commands you to not be a bystander. The wisdom of our sages applies especially in the digital age:

May Tyler Clementi’s memory be for a blessing.

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.- Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I had been having a hard time getting into the Jewish Community Heroes project sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America. Then I received something on Facebook asking me to vote for my friend who was nominated: , and at first (no offense to the person, you know I love you) I was like, what makes this person a hero?

But then I thought about it, and I am happy that so many diverse Jewish people are being recognized for their commitment to Jewish life and can serve as models for the so many disengaged Jewish Americans who are like the idiot son in the Seder who can't ask a question (come on, he's an idiot. He could have asked how Matza is made.)

I also give credit the the Jewish Federations of North America for coming up with something innovative and grass roots. Nice work. It's also great to see so many people working so hard for Jewish causes, both meta and micro.

So who did I vote for? A bunch of different people. Two I know, the rest I don't.

I'll tell you who I think should be on the list next year:

1. A Congregational Rabbi (NYC)
2. A woman who is the Executive Director of a Jewish Federation (IN)
3. A guy who runs an organization devoted to Mifgash (Chicago)
4. A woman who started a center for Israel education (Chicago)
5. A woman who works her tush off for Taglit-Birthright Israel (LA)
6. My dad
7. A former principal of small city Day Schools (Israel but much of career in U.S.)
8. A principal and Rebbetzin (IN)
9. A great teacher with her PhD (Chicago)
10. A great MD who studies Jewish ethics in the realm of the world of OBGYN  (Chicago
11. Another Congregational Rabbi (NYC)
12. A great informal educator (Boston)
13. A asst VP at a Jewish Federation who is awesome and energetic (Chicago)
14. A young woman who brought a hip Jewish publication to fruition (Chicago)
15. Jewish Educator (FL)
16. Holocaust Survivor who tells her story (Chicago)
17. Founder of Clinic to provide affordable health care for the poor (IN)
18. A woman who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for not for profits (IN)
19. An assistant basketball coach for an NBA team (Boston)
20. Jewish Educator (Chicago)
21. A Veteran of the Iraq War (DC)
22. Congregational Rabbi (Deerfield)
23. A young woman battling MS  who started a fund to battle the illness(CA)
24. Founder of program that empowers teens to get involved politically
25. history professor/minyan starter (CA)

But that's for next year. Go vote here: Jewish Community Heroes . It's motivating to read through the nominations and gave me a push that I can always be doing a little more...

Friday, August 27, 2010

An author offered to become a parrot and perch on my shoulder

His name is Etgar Keret. If you want to know about the parrot, read here. More importantly below I have a link to his short stories that are translated and online. You can buy his anthologies online translated into English. (Except for the most recent one, it's only in Hebrew). 

If you are still reading, something awesome happened besides the parrot thing. This year when I was teaching high schoolers about Israel on Sundays, I brought some of his short stories to class and we read them during one of our last sessions. None of the students had ever heard of them.

Last night I saw one of the students at the reading. She was first in line to buy a copy of his book and get it signed. I was so happy, but too shy to say hello to her. That kind of happiness lives in the fourth dimension that Keret talked about last night.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Man by the Lake

On a balmy Saturday night, August 7, 2010 the city of Chicago was a flurry of activity. With at least three street festivals, Lollapalooza. and a major league baseball game, the glory of summer in Chicago was palpable. And of course what has become sadly norm, there were murders in the City on Saturday as well, which will be followed by wailing mourners at funerals this week proving the Great Gatsby is alive and well in the Midwest.

But something spectacular happened on Saturday night that has nothing to do Green Day’s epic concert, a woman making potato pancakes at Retro on Roscoe, or even a boater saved from drowning.

Cindy Friedman, a Lakeview resident, met up with her friend Betsy at Fullerton and the lake to watch the Navy Pier fireworks. Several other people were there, too, taking in the bright flashes in the dark summer sky above Lake Michigan. Cindy and Betsy were chatting when they noticed a man and woman walking South on the lake front path. Both women noticed that the man was wearing an air cast, but seemed very uncomfortable and was walking with a heavy limp and his foot was going off to the right.

Shortly after he passed them, one of the fireworks spectators started running to the man with the air cast. He yelled, “Sir, hold on, wait, your boot is on backwards, let me help you.”

The man with the air cast said that he had been shot, and this is how the cast was put on.

The fireworks spectator “took off the man’s sock and boot, completely redid it for the man, twisted the boot the right way, spent time with the guy, explaining what was wrong,” Cindy said.

When the man and his friend continued walking south, it was evident that his foot was straight and he was limping much less and looked much more comfortable.

Cindy and Betsy lauded their fellow fireworks spectator. He shrugged and said, “This is what I do when I see a boot not fitting the way it should.”

The good citizen fits children for leg braces for a living.

“It is a beautiful thing to be able to see a good Samaritan at work,” Cindy said. “There should only be more people like the man by the lake.”

written after seeing Cindy's posting on Facebook!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Children's Literary Journal

My friends have kids who are very creative and amazing. After talking to a friend today, I decided to start an online children's literary journal for 7-17 year olds.

If you know of a kid, tween or teen who likes to write or create art and would like to publish their work, check out the guidelines for publication.

Why am I doing this? I remember being a kid who liked to write, and it would have been nice to have something like this.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where the author left me

Recently I’ve been thinking about a book nonstop that I finished several days ago. This happens to me from time to time. However, usually I don’t have the opportunity, as I did this evening, to attend a reading and meet the author of a book that holds hostage my brain for days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes years at a time.

It’s not always an entire narrative that captivates my unbridled interest. Sometimes it’s just a scene, a paragraph or a character. In addition, what captivates me need not contribute significantly to the plot. For example, the last scene in “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” has stuck with me since I read it over a month ago.

The novel currently occupying my brain cells is “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper, and what I haven’t (until tonight) been able to resolve is how I could enjoy the journey and the persona of the protagonist, while at the same time loathing his misogynist and superficial summations of women and what a man wants in a women.

In fact, Judd Foxman has confirmed what I’ve suspected men think all along: if you aren’t a woman who looks like a model, you aren’t much of a woman at all.

But still, despite my disappointment in Judd, I still adored him. It reminded me of my favorite quote from Eat, Pray Love, a book that I initially loved and then wanted to burn at the end of reading it: “I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential...I have been a victim of my own optimism. “

Could Judd possibly as big of an asshole as he seemed? Is this really how men are? How they think?

Mr Tropper answered my question. He said, there is a part of all men that are like that. However, Judd is wearing the lenses of a man (and this is on the back of the book so I’m not ruining anything) whose beloved wife has slept with his boss for an entire year and he has just found out about it. He is emasculated, humiliated, and devastated. Of course he is going to look at women negatively.

So Mr. Tropper has rented some sympathy for Judd. But then I realized that had Judd been a woman whose husband had cheated on her, I would have no problem with the male depictions in the book. It is just jarring to read it from a different perspective. The female characters include three adulterous women, a therapist engaged to her patient, and a mother more eccentric than the Barbara Streisand character in Meet the Fockers.

What left me thinking is that despite how empathetic I may think I am, I will inevitably jump to the wrong conclusions sometimes about what motivates people and characters to do what they do and think what they think.

It reminds of a story of when my friend Scott dropped me off at synagogue before Sunday School and I was fretting.

“There’s no way the receptionist actually made the copies or made them correctly. I’m going to just have to do it myself and I’m going to be rushed. I just know it.”

And Scott wisely told me, “Sharna, you don’t know anything.”

And more often than not, he’s right.

Just like, in what I think was the most poignant part the book, Judd realizes what he has thought all along about his relationship with his brother is inaccurate and skewed. I too frequently fall into that pattern and think most of us do.


At the book reading I asked Mr. Tropper if he is Jewish. He said that he is and that it would have been really gutsy for someone not Jewish to write a book about a family observing shiva. Then he went on to dismiss the notion (which I didn’t suggest but many other have) that this is a Jewish book.

Mr. Tropper, this is a Jewish book and on your tour you should consider going to Temple B’nai Beth Israel Shalom Emet Sinai Hillel Tikvah. It’s not just the setting that is Jewish, but the conflicts faced by the characters are Jewish problems. It doesn’t mean that the book is not appealing to all audiences, but “This is Where I Leave You” deals with Jewish apathy, identity problems, intermarriage, faithlessness and dysfunctional relationships between parents and their children.

Besides, the spread that they will have at the JCC will probably be better than that ice coffee you drank at Borders.


And one more thing. It is clear that your characters were not very good Hebrew school students as there is a major theological flaw in your entire Shiva premise. Do you know what it is?


New York Times take on the book


Author's Web Site

Saturday, July 3, 2010

4th of July Reflections

Sorry I haven't been writing much lately. It happens. Here are my last two articles that I blogged for oychicago.

Reflections on the 4th of July:

Moses couldn't but you can

Enjoy and have a Happy 4th.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Help a 27 year old beat cancer

Elissa Froman, 27, lovingly called "Lissy" by her friends has beaten cancer twice.

With your help, she will beat Hodgkins Lymphoma a third time.

I've written a lot about signing up for the Bone Marrow Registry, and maybe you didn't have time or just had too much on your mind.

Don't worry. You have another chance to save someone's life and be treated to brunch if you live in the Chicago area. To sign up, all you do is fill out a form and get your cheek swabbed. It takes about 10 minutes including filling out the form. How slow you eat your breakfast depends on you. If you have any questions contact Beverly Agdern or 773-807-2388.

When: May 23
Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Place: Anshe Shalom
540 West Melrose Street

Chicago, IL 60657-3752
(773) 248-9200

(If you don't live in Chicago, you can click here to get a kit mailed to you )

To read more about Lissy, check out her blog.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scarpeta launches word game

Scarpeta will post a new word of the day and 10 words that you can't use to describe it. Your goal is to get 3 people to guess it without realizing that they are playing a game. Or make it a ritualized car pool or lunchtime game. All words are to be about something going on in the daily news. For example:

Icelandic Volcano

Any country in Western or Eastern Europe
Atlantic Ocean
Any word that does or can start with the word Air

Reaction to the Million Dollar Bat Mitzvah

Today on my way to work listening to WGN, the morning show was reading from the New York Post about million dollar bar and bat mitzvah parties.


Bar and Bat Mitzvahs began their out of control spiral in the 1950s when American Jews, during the beginning of national consumerism as we now know it, began celebrating the children’s rite of passage (more boys than girls at the time) with lavish parties to mark not only a Jewish kid’s entry into adulthood, but the fact that Jews finally found a country that, besides a few drinking fountains, park benches, fraternities, sororities and country clubs, let its Jewish community succeed and thrive to be full members of society.

As I listened to the outlandish Bat Mitzvah story, I wondered if there is a defense of this. One of the bat mitzvah parental sponsors said the Bat Mitzvah cost the correct percentage of the family’s income.

Alright, creative answer.

In my attempt to look at the other side, I thought of all the people who are employed because of a lavish Bar or Bat Mitzvah: catering, servers, dancers, choreographers, security, tailors, Jon Bon Jovi (he has a lot of kids!), band members, janitorial staff, florists, dry cleaners, babysitters and plastic surgeons, hair stylists and makeup artists.

After all the Talmud says,

"Give someone a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach someone to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Another reason is that in a religion that marks so many tragedies, Jewish simchas (happy occasions) are notoriously lavish (especially in the Orthodox community) because it’s important to give it your all during the good times. In fact, Jewish people don’t have double weddings, because it’s not right to do a 2 for one party, because you short the community one party.

So then why is the million dollar bat mitzvah so distasteful, more so than a big wedding? And why can’t Rabbis stop one from happening?

The second question is easier than the first. It’s hard not to stop your congregant from throwing a big party when 1. It’s a free country 2. It’s not prohibited by Jewish law 3. The new wing is named after the bat mitzvah girl’s great grandparents, may they rest in peace. The greater good of the new classrooms to teach Jewish values outweighs the problematic pageantry.

One argument is that a big party takes away from the point: a bar or bat mitzvah is a time to enter the covenant as an adult. The celebration detracts from the ritual.

This is true, but it needs to be tweaked.

The ritual is not necessarily so important or meaningful. Ask any kid who tries to draw meaning from a Torah portion about leprosy or archaic sacrifices. Ask the kid whose voice is changing and has to sing in front of 300 people. LOVE THAT KID.

What is important is that the child becomes a full-fledged member of the community and is the best way to teach a kid to enter a communal setting, and Judaism is supposed to be about the community and less about the individual, through extravagance when there are people who have nothing to feed their children or the ability to pay for basic necessities?

It’s just not. I’m sure the same people who spend a million dollar on a bat mitzvah, donate that much or more to charities. And that’s wonderful. But your 13 year old needs to understand, and you have the obligation to ”teach them diligently,” that happiness does not emerge from grossly lavish celebrations, but from the open arms of a community that (should) welcomes you because of who you are, the values you commit to and not the number of ice cream flavors you have on the sundae bar.

The New York Post article

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tea Party's Kettle has finally boiled over

Scarpetta has uncovered shocking news that the Tea Party movement is not filled with sore loser Republicans who still haven’t gotten over the 2008 election. Rather it is the work again of greedy corporations trying to take advantage of a divided country by promoting their products.

A source who asked to be called “Lief” said the CFOs of Argo Tea, Tazo, Republic of Tea and Lipton will be called before Congress to testify about this unfair scheme to change Americans into tea drinkers to reap profits.

It is no secret that all of the listed companies endorsed John McCain except Celestial Seasons who donated money to the Obama campaign.

The Tea Party Movement came under suspicion when Glenn Beck wrote on his chalkboard:: Everyone needs some honey in their tea. Male bee + female bee = honey. Two male bees = no honey/Nutrasweet.

When a blogger pointed out to Beck that honey isn’t made through reproduction, Rush Limbaugh jumped to Beck’s defense saying that the “honey smear” campaign was just part of the Homosexual agenda and if gay bees start making honey, "I'm moving to Costa Rica."

Meanwhile the Tea Party movement is beginning to splinter. A fascist group called “White Tea For Me” wants to cut the black tea production and ban the sale of Wissotzky tea in the United States.

On the left are the Green Tea and Herbal Tea movements. It is unclear if they are pro environment or pro marijuana or both or too high to know for sure.

Tea Party supporters were hoping to have “tea time” every day to protest the Obama administration, but once dudes tasted tea sandwiches and scones they asked for real food because as Lief said, “That stuff tastes like crap and everyone just pretends to like it so they don’t look uncultured.”

The Tea Party movement has spread to average corporations. A blogger by the name of Beansforever is asking the ACLU for help.

“One day, I got to work, and the only Keurig single cups left were Keurig English Tea. I tore apart the office, and there was no French Roast Keurig to be found,” Beansforever wrote. “Also those weird tea ball strainer things were around the office placed on all our desks. I don’t want to strain stuff to drink it.”

However a coworker of Beansforever discredited him when he posted a picture of Beansforever’s first generation hybrid with bumper stickers of, “Al Gore is my President” and “Kerry/Edwards” still prominently stuck to his car.

Folgers is riding out the controversy. “Yeah, we’ve survived Starbucks, we will survive this, too.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Defense of Men

Boys, I am here to defend you.

You have been attacked in a national magazine by an MD, PHD. And although Dr. Sax is far more qualified to speak on most any matter than I am, it doesn’t make his recent article in Psychology Today entitled “Why are so many girls lesbian or bisexual?” any less sexist (against men) .

Sax’s “wonders ” if more girls are lesbians or bisexual now than ever “because that's truly who they are - or because the guys are such losers?”

Look, I know this hasn’t been a Golden Age for male behavior with Tiger Woods and Jesse James having sex with any woman with a tattoo and a cell phone camera. However, perhaps I’m naive, but I can’t believe all men are dogs, or men turn women gay because of their behavior.

Sax correlated the “Boys are Losers” theory with the rise, access and availability of porn. I agree that porn has a negative impact on boys, but it’s not making them losers who turn women on to other women.

Porn is problematic, as I’ve written about before, because it creates unrealistic expectations for everybody, including girls. The men in porn look and typically perform, um, differently than average guys. Some women enjoy sex less than female porn stars. If anyone expects their sex life to follow the script of a porn, he/she will never have a fulfilled sex life. There is some good news. Probably the music on your IPOD is better than in XXX movies.

However, I don’t think most boys are trading in girls for porn therefore causing girls to turn to each other for love and companionship. I think today it is safer for women to be lesbians or bisexual and therefore they are. There is also societal forgiveness so a woman can be with a female partner one year and a male partner the next, and no one really cares. They just want her to be happy.

My single friends and I joke, “one more bad dating experience and I’m going to switch teams.” But the thing is, we don’t switch teams. Why? Because we don’t want to. Or if someone does want to, they do. Trust me, I have a lot of single friends who are women, if they could be gay, they would be. Being gay is not something a guy can do to you no matter how repulsive a man’s behavior is. You need to be attracted to women to want to have sex with them. Many of us aren't therefore:

Boys, I don’t think you are losers. I do think your dads might need to talk to you more about acting responsibly and ethically in terms of sexuality and not to objectify women as celebrities do. However, you aren’t to blame (or some would say to thank!) for homosexuality. Now get off the computer and go on a real date. Be safe!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Women's Health Article

It's published in this week's Oy Chicago. Might make your head spin a little.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Endings

I don't really believe in the adage "things happen for a reason." However, the last several days have really been fascinating in terms of their orchestration by whomever, whatever, or just by coincidence.

So last I wrote, my purse was "stolen" and Wrote some top 10 list about it to be witty and try to cope with being very upset about my trip being delayed and losing so much money, although my parents generously offered to help me recoup it.

After posting I decided not to mope. I went on a long walk in the 30 degree weather. I called one of my best friend's, Amy, who I never talk to because when I'm out of work is her busiest time with her kids. We talked for about 30 minutes about our lives and did some nice catching up. I also talked to my friend Suzanne and saw her son Gabriel. When I came home I called the contractors who redid my kitchen and asked them to come over to see my place and maybe will finally move forward with some much needed work on my condo. That night I went to my brother and sister in law's and hung out with my nieces and just enjoyed being with them immensely and felt exponentially better after I walked in and Ava gave me a huge hug.

Saturday I went to the gym, had a great work out with Chris, then the manager at Bally's gave me a new card, told me he'd pray for me given what happened to my purse, and I saw my old trainer Bart and gave him a big hug. (I miss you so much!)

Afterwards I talked on the phone to another one of my oldest friends, Jeff, and had probably the first serious conversation we've ever had in our 30 year friendship. We spoke about how you can find value and truth in so many belief and scientific systems: medicine, psychology, homeopathy, and then we questioned whether there is value, given all of the fighting, hate, pedophilia and battles in religion.

We agreed that in religion there are truths and there are values that can, at times, be good. I'll get back to that later.

Saturday night I went out on a date. I won't say more about that, but sometimes I am too busy/too discouraged to date, and I went and it was good/maybe I'll never see him again. Don't ask me about it, please.

Sunday I went to Florida. I was welcomed with open arms by Melody, Dalia and her friend. We had a nice afternoon and evening. The next day was also great, although rainy, and I got in touch with another old friend Lisa, and chatted for a while, although we didn't end up seeing each other in Miami. Sunday night, Melody and I met a couple of nice guys from Spain who we hung out with and I spoke broken Spanish to.

And then Monday I got the call.

A woman in Bartlett, IL found my purse. The phone call was shocking because my purse had disappeared on Friday. I didn't ask her how she found it or why she waited four days to call me. I called my parents and brother to let them know and then I posted on Facebook about it. I wasn't sure how I was going to get out to Bartlett, IL, and was a little wary of going to some one's place, when my friend Heather, who I met sophomore year at IU and reconnected with several years later in Chicago, said she worked in Bartlett and would pick up the purse for me in the mobile home park where the woman lived.

On my way home from the airport, sunburned, I picked up my purse from Heather (Heather gave the woman $100 at my request) and was reunited with the money, the purse and my driver's license. (The credit cards were there too, but I had already cancelled them).

The woman gave Heather a card to give me. It had a picture of an angel and a quote on the back of the card by Billy Graham (!!!) that said, "Look up, take courage, the angels are nearer than you think." Inside she wrote me a note that said:

I found your purse at the airport - I pray you didn't have a delay because of it - I am returning it to you because the Lord says "Do unto others as you would want them to do to you." I love my Lord and hope you can trust in him also - He is faithful-

Best wishes from a friend.

Thank you to this friend and to the many others and my family who get me through each and every day. And whatever you believe or don't believe, it's nice to know how much good there really is out there.

Happy Passover, Easter and Spring to all of my Scarpeta readers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Good My Purse Was Stolen From O’hare Today and I lost $400 and can’t go to Miami until Sunday Morning

10. Too much sun is bad for your skin and I burn easily.
9. I probably would have gone out tonight and tomorrow night, therefore my liver will be in better shape.
8. The road to the airport is so nice that I get to see it more.
7. I got to file my first police report.
6. I confirmed my policy never to carry cash.
5. 30 degrees is the new 80 degrees.
4. I can now just bring a carry on bag.
3. Maybe I'll hang out with Ava and Lila.
2. I had to renew my license in June anyways.
1. That purse was so last season.

Thank you to the lady from United who sat on the phone with me for about an hour and rebooked me for Sunday morning. Thank you to Melody for being friends with me and listening to me sob. Thank you to my brother and sister in law for loaning me $80 and listening to me sob. Thanks to Marisa for handing me the $80. Thanks to Ravit and Gabe for sharing a cab with me this morning and to Gabe for getting Lady Gaga in my head. Thanks to the cab driver for listening to BBC News so I heard about organic farming in Gaza. Thanks to the Chicago Police at O’hare for being nice. Thanks to Visa and Citibank for cancelling my stuff. Thanks to the thief for not using my Visa.

Off to get cash and a new driver’s license. Hope you too have a good day!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wrigley to host concerts on Yom Kipur; I'm already hungry

According to media reports, this September, Wrigley Field will host two concerts: one will begin on the eve of Yom Kipur and one after sundown (when the holiday is over). They are the only two planned concerts of the season.

About a mile east of Wrigley Field sits two of the biggest synagogues in Chicago: Temple Sholom and Anshe Emet Synagogue. Slightly farther south is the smaller, but vibrant Anshe Shalom. The main concern with the concerts has been over parking, with the Cubs offering to open some lots for the synagogue goers who drive on the holiday.

However, no one from the City cares that I can’t go to the damn concert or that it will distract from my spiritual cleansing. Just kidding. I don’t really care. If I did, I’d live in Israel.

Because although you won’t be able to hear the concert from Temple Sholom or Anshe Shalom, Anshe Emet, where I attend services, is a different story. It will be weird going from Kol Nidre to walking home on Broadway to hear “Eat, Drink and be Merry, for tomorrow we die.”*

Dave! We can’t eat, drink or be merry. Way to rub it in. Maybe he can change the song to, “Fast, pray and atone, or this year you will die.” Not as catchy, but Jewish holidays rarely are.

The artists that might be playing include Phish, Dave Matthews Band, and Paul McCartney.

Although Phish should not play on Yom Kipur (the night of the 17th). Mike Gordon(bass) and Jon Fishman (drums) better be in synagogue. What would be cool is if they sang Kol Nidre at one of the synagogues and performed their show the next night.

The show could start with Havdallah and the blowing of the Shofar.

*Coworker Gabe Axler helped with this joke

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Too Much? Not Enough?

This is an Israel Advocacy Campaign. Watch it and comment on what you think.

What do you think?

Here's an article about it, and another one.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

10 resolutions for 10 days Feb. 15-25

I am anticipating an incredibly stressful week and although I can't control what comes at me, I can control how I respond to it. Here is my plan to stay calm and cool.

1. Eat right
I will not skip meals. I will eat at least one healthy snack in between meals. I will eat enough protein, vegetables and fruit and not carb out because I'm stressed.

2. Go to the gym
I will hit the gym at least three times between Monday and Saturday for an hour each time.

3. Caffeine intake
I will not have more than 2 cups of coffee every day.

4. Posture check
I will make sure that I'm sitting at my desk in an ergonomically correct way so I won't have neck, shoulder or arm pain.

5. Stretching breaks
I will take three breaks during the day to stretch and do three poses each time from here:

6. Sleep
I will sleep for at least seven hours each night.

7. Humidifier
I will not be lazy and use it every night.

8. Obstacles
If something happens that messes up my week, I won't catastrophize it, I will take things as they come and do my best.

9. Temper
I will remember to not take others frustrations personally.

10. Temper
I will not interrupt, even if I know what someone is going to say. Instead I will breathe through it.

What are your tips for dealing with a stressful week?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love letter to Jon Stewart

Dear Jon Stewart,

I love you. Every night that you are on television is a day that the world is a bit smarter and a bit funnier.

You inspire me because you are a voice for my politics, you are advocate for critical thinking and you are sometimes just off the wall hysterical.

The political responses to the problems facing America today frequently leave me befuddled, and when you are flabbergasted you voice and affirm my own frustrations.

You are smart and delve into an issue and assess it using higher level thinking skills. While others claim to be fair and objective, you draw conclusions using logic, unfortunately a rare commodity in editorial television media.

I believe that you are owed some credit for Generation X, Y and Millenials even caring about the news anymore. Your insights are not taken as gospel, but at the very least they motivate the three “whatever” generations to learn more and for even some of us to stand up to inaccuracy and propaganda. When you took on Jim Cramer, it did make me cringe a bit because I felt bad for him, because you are smarter, but you showed all of us the importance of righting wrongs, and on that day you were the guardian, or maybe guard dog, for the common person.

You delve into controversial topics with an openness needed to properly address them. I don’t think anyone addresses the issues of racism and provides the American Jewish and American Muslim point of views as articulately as you do.

You are the Oprah of nonfiction books and I have read many of the ones that were featured on your show. One time I suggested to a large book chain that they put a Daily Show/Colbert Report display with books featured on your shows, and they looked at me curiously, so I never brought it up again.

I also admire how you embrace and make fun of your Jewishness. I wouldn’t call you a Jewish comedian per say, but a comedian who embraces his Jewish identity. Your background is always with you, even if you aren’t particularly religious. And although you are on the left, you haven’t jumped on the anti Israel bandwagon like other Jews have. In fact you defend Israel, in your own way, like when you show the Hamas children’s cartoons to show the world why peace in the Middle East is not an easy task.

I used to feel ashamed for feeling this way about you. I thought it demonstrated my frivolity. Why didn’t I feel this way about Wolf Blitzer or Katie Couric or Brian Williams? But your recent appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” inspired me to come out to the world, or at least the 25 people who read this, (Hi, mom and dad!) and declare my love for you.

Happy early Valentine’s Day. Thank you for keeping America sane.



Here are some of my favorite Jon Stewart moments. Submit yours, mostly because I want to see them and crack up.

Jon on the Factor

Best Hannukah moments

Jim Cramer slam down

Cross Fire

Reaming the Democrats recently

Hamas Cartoons

Hamas vs. Fatah

Obama isn't magic

Monday, February 1, 2010

What killed Jennifer Lyon?

Meet Jennifer Lyon, age 37. She died a couple of weeks ago. Her killer: not having health insurance.

How can I know that? You are right. I don't. But she made a decision as so many people do, not to go to the doctor because it's too expensive, because they don't have insurance. She found a lump and didn't see a doctor until another one appeared.

I guess we'll never know what would have happened had she seen a doctor right away, had she had health insurance.

Tell your U.S. Senator, in Jennifer's name, to pass health care reform.

Click here for your Senators' contact info. And they do take every email into account.

Thanks to Marisa Sanders who passed this on to me. It's about an actor who didn't seek proper treatment because he didn't have health insurance.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Love letter

You stand, remaining upright. You weigh as much as 3 pounds or less than 9 ounces. You are held up by others like you, so alike yet so different, shoulder to shoulder, a mismatching line of colorful beauty.

I grab you, feel you. Initially, there’s a softness to your texture; as I continue through you become rougher, but still nice to touch.

Everytime I'm with you, I have to return to the beginning. The images, or lack thereof, the colors, the shades, inviting me to make assumptions that may be true or false. Every time I want you, every time I must put you down and then pick you up, I must look at the beginning and question or laugh at your original impression.

Suddenly you are colorless: black and white transforming into complex ideas, people and emotions. Inevitably a challenge: enter or break from your world. I usually can’t stop and I barely try. Perhaps sleep will force me to cease. Perhaps responsibilities. But when nothing else matters and I can resist you no more, sometimes for hours, I complete you, and you complete me. And when you finally end, I hold you, maybe tightly to my chest, contemplating how good you are, thinking about who else I would like to share you with, or rarely, how I want to share you with no one, because no one will love you like I do, like I did.

Sometimes I am angry at you. You wasted my time! And I maybe even throw you. But I will never put you in the garbage. I may resell, regift, or donate you, but never toss or burn.

I may have you sit by my bed for a while, until it is time to bring you back to the others, where you will stand proud, perhaps a little worn because you have been trudged in purses or backpacks, in the car and on the bus and train. And as I put you back, I say goodbye to the gifts that you gave me.

And after a day or so, I will find another one, and begin again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hope for Haiti Telethon Performances

Some of the performances on Friday night's Telethon were incredible. They are all on youtube, but I thought I'd make it easier for you to find the ones I thought were the best based on no real authority except my musical taste.

I didn't donate to the causes in the telethon. I gave money about a week ago to an organization I know well and trust to do good work (not that I don't trust other organizations, I just haven't done my homework on them) on the ground there.

Anyways, here are the links to the performances.

10. Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban and Kid Rock: Lean on Me

9.Matt Morris and Justin Timberlake: Hallelujah

8.Madonna: Like A Prayer

7.Beyonce: Halo

6.Alicia Keys: Prelude to a Kiss

5. Cold Play: A Message

4.Springsteen: We Shall Overcome

3. Stevie Wonder: When will there be a time to Love? and Like a Bridge over Troubled Water

2.Jennifer Hudson: Let it Be

1. Mary J. Blige: Hard Times Come Again No More

Monday, January 18, 2010

Need your help with a lesson plan I'm doing on poverty

New lesson based on everyone's feedback

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for a family of four (2009) is $22,250 ( If minimum wage in Illinois is $8/hour, a person could work every single day of the year, seven days a week, eight hours a day, and barely make more than $23,360 which is considered above the poverty line. Do you know anyone who works every day of the year 8 hours a day? Probably not.
Imagine, you are one of two parents in a household or even 1 of 1 parent in a household with three children. How far can $23,360 go?

Let’s use the $23,360 number and even round it up to $24,000. Now YOU are the head of the family. Your family of four has to live on $2,000/month. The average rent in Chicago for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1,000 a month (not in Lakeview or Lincoln Park- it’s about double that) What do you do?
So now you have $1000/month to use for the basics: food, clothes, gas or CTA passes, electric bill, etc.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 12.5 percent of the average family's spending goes toward food, while the Department of Agriculture puts the figure at 9.8 percent.

One thing that is for sure: Grocery prices jumped sharply in recent years — up 4.2 percent in 2007 and 6.4 percent in 2008, according to BLS. USDA projects they'll rise as much as 3.5 percent for the year.” Source:

For our project, you will use the 10 percent figure, which would mean $100/month on groceries to feed your family of four. That is about $3.33 to spend on groceries per day for a family of four. You have $30 to spend, so that would be about 9 days worth of groceries. Please by this family of four 9 days worth of groceries with your $30.

We will be donating this food, so please make sure that it is food that you would actually want to eat, that it has some diversity (don’t buy 100 boxes of Mac & Cheese), and that it’s non perishable.
Good luck!

Follow up questions:

What kinds of food were you able to buy? What foods did you want to buy and couldn’t?

Would this be enough to sustain your family for four days?

This family would probably qualify for food and housing subsidies from the government. Should they use them?

How much money do you spend on food for a week?

What did you learn from this activity?


This is a lesson I am going to do this Sunday with 12 eighth graders. I am asking for your feedback to make sure that my math is correct and if I should add or subtract anything to or from it. For the record, I did not come up with this idea (young people going to a grocery store and buying food with a limited amount of money, seeing how expensive things are), but I did research these statistics and came up with this particular lesson plan. Your feedback is encouraged.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for a family of four (2009) is $22,250 ( If minimum wage in Illinois is $8/hour, a person could work every single day of the year, seven days a week, eight hours a day, and barely make more than $23,360 which is considered above the poverty line and therefore qualifying for fewer government aid services.
Do you know anyone who works every day of the year 8 hours a day? Probably not.
Imagine, you are one of two parents in a household or even 1 of 1 parent in a household with three children. How far can $23,360 go?

Not very far.

Let’s use the $23,360 number and even round it up to $24,000. Now YOU are the head of the family. Your family of four has to live on $2,000/month. The average rent in Chicago for a 2 bedroom apartment is $2,000 a month (including water and electricity). What do you do? Live in a 1 Bedroom apartment and have your kids sleep in the living room and pay $1,300/month (including water and electricity).
So now you have $700/month to use for the basics: food, clothes, gas or CTA passes, etc.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 12.5 percent of the average family's spending goes toward food, while the Department of Agriculture puts the figure at 9.8 percent.

One thing that is for sure: Grocery prices jumped sharply in recent years — up 4.2 percent in 2007 and 6.4 percent in 2008, according to BLS. USDA projects they'll rise as much as 3.5 percent for the year.” Source:

For our project, you will use the 10 percent figure, which would mean $70/month on groceries to feed your family of four and you are still not considered poor. There are four weeks in a month, so that means $17.50 to spend on your family of four per week. You and your partner are going to have $30 to spend. With that $30 you are going to need to buy 12 days worth of food for your family of four. You have 30 minutes to do so.

We will be donating this food, so please make sure that it is food that you would actually want to eat, that it has some diversity (don’t buy 100 boxes of Mac & Cheese), that it’s non perishable, and by the way, this family keeps Kosher! So everything has to be kosher with a kosher symbol.

Follow up questions:
What kinds of food were you able to buy?
Would this be enough to sustain your family for four days?
What did you learn from this activity?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Anne Frank on Miep Gies (1909-2010)

The best example of this is our own helpers, who have managed to pull us through so far and will hopefully bring us safely to shore, because otherwise they'll find themselves sharing the fate of those they're trying to protect. Never have they uttered a single word about the burden we must be, never have they complained that we're too much trouble. They come upstairs every day and talk to the men about business and politics, to the women about food and wartime difficulties and to the children about books and newspapers. They put on their most cheerful expressions, bring flowers and gifts for birthdays and holidays and are always ready to do what they can. That's something we should never forget; while others display their heroism in battle or against the Germans, our helpers prove theirs every day by their good spirits and affection.
quoted from The Diary of Anne Frank on the Yad Vashem web site

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

TSA praises Victoria's Secret

The world’s leading fashion lingerie house has announced the production of a new line entitled “Body Scan by Victoria.”

The latest lingerie is in response to body scans, set to enter airport screening areas across the world. This latest screening device is causing panic to both privacy advocates and private parts advocates.

“If the scanners are going to show us naked, we should look our sexiest,” said Victoria’s Secret Spokesperson Samantha Smythe.

Victoria’s Secret has purchased a body scanner so that designers, working side by side with scientists, can best create lingerie that offers the most flattering optical illusion.

The Body Scan line will include push up bras, minimizers, body shapers (gurdles), control top hose, and tape to cover any flaws (stretch marks, discoloration, etc).

The news of the new line was welcomed by the Obama administration.

“Body Scan by Victoria is not only innovative, but it is also patriotic,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitan. “The women wearing these undergarments will brighten the days of our hard working TSA force.”

Body Scan by Victoria should be available in stores, the catalogue and web site in time for Valentine’s Day.