Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dear Mormon Church, stop the proxy baptisms and we are totally cool with your religion!

This is my attempt to explain to the Mormon Church (LDS) why baptizing deceased Jews is so offensive.

When I was little I remember being confused when my Bubbie would say that she was going to “visit her mother and father” at the cemetery.

Before I understood what death meant, I actually thought that my great grandparents lived there, and I just did not have the opportunity to meet them, yet.

Eventually, I came to understand that my Bubbie was visiting graves to ensure that they were properly kept to honor her parents.

Honoring the dead is an important value in Judaism. A candle that burns 24 hours is lit on the anniversary of a loved one’s death as well as on specific holidays.  There are points in the morning, evening, and afternoon prayer services to say a prayer in honor of the deceased.

In order to say this prayer, the tradition states that you need a quorum of 10 Jewish men. (Today in most Reform and Conservative Synagogues women are included in the quorum). My father goes to synagogue 6 times a week to ensure that there are 10 people in case anyone is in mourning can say the prayer.  My dad often is the one standing reciting the mourner’s prayer for deceased loved ones who don’t have anyone else to say it for them.

During the most important holidays of the year, there is a service specifically for people who have lost loved ones.

Jews take the responsibility of honoring the dead extremely seriously by commandment and by custom.

One might ask, who cares if a Mormon baptizes a Jew posthumously.  The person is dead; they don’t care.

To say nothing is to condone it, and this would be a violation of our duty to preserve and honor the memory of the deceased.  

(Not to mention that it’s distasteful given the centuries of forced conversions Jews faced to avoid further persecution).

Instead of apologizing, the LDS Church should rescind the baptisms (if you can baptize dead people, you can unbaptize them, right?) and stop any future baptisms of Jews like Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl, and others who lived as Jews, died as Jews and whose memories deserved to be honored as such. 

For more articles about this issue: 

Friday, February 24, 2012

LA Fitness Intervention

Yesterday, the LA Fitness in Morton Grove, IL was closed by the health department for being unsanitary.  The news was not shocking to anyone who works out there or the LA Fitness where I work out on Clark and Diversey.

At the end of 2011, LA Fitness took over all of the Bally Total Fitness clubs in the Chicago area and many other places.

At first I thought the takeover might be good. Over the years, many of the Chicago Bally Total Fitness clubs had become more and more dilapidated. The club on Clark and Diversey stopped offering basic services like anti-bacterial hand wash or an easy way to clean off the machines after usage. The lockers are rusty and the toilets are often disgusting. I wondered what happened to the gym that I joined 10 years ago (at that Morton Grove location) that was a decent, affordable place to work out.

And while I didn’t expect miracles when LA Fitness took over, I also didn’t expect it to get worse. But it has. On one recent weekend, there was no toilet paper. They put industrial paper towels in the locker room (which certainly wasn’t probably good to the already deteriorating toilets.) I saw a woman ask the manager why he didn’t go to Walgreens across the street and purchase toilet paper. His answer was that they were expecting a shipment on Monday.  

The saddest part has been the rapid exit of the club’s friendly employees due to firings and the reduction of pay and benefits.

Here’s the conundrum.  In the vicinity, this is the closest, most affordable gym to probably tens of thousands of Chicagoans. You can just go in, work out, and try not to think about the deteriorating conditions or join a more posh gym for more money which many people can’t afford.

It’s like working out at Walmart, but Walmart has higher standards.

To be fair, I’ve never been in an original LA Fitness Club. It might be very nice. But working out at the clubs that they have taken over feels more like being at colonized gyms where the conquerors don’t care about the country’s infrastructure or citizens.

I think LA Fitness should address all of its “new” members via email and explain what its plan is for the clubs that they have taken over. Is it to run the clubs into the ground so people have to work out at their other facilities or are they planning to renovate and when will that happen?  We just want to know.

Personally, I would like them to renovate. These clubs employ so many good, decent people and offer an affordable place for people to take out their stress, lose weight, and prevent obesity.

In the meantime, I heard there is a sale on toilet paper at Walgreens.