When addressing the subject of challenges and possible improvements to the American chinuch system, the first challenge is to identify who should be the appropriate audience. Each constituency will readily suggest another to be in need of instruction. Mechanchim tend to find fault in the bochurim, and their poor attitudes, aspirations and performance. Parents readily place the weight of responsibility on themechanchim, citing the need for improved educational skills, greater individualized sensitivity and an increased time commitment. Bochurim, of course, find both their parents and their rebbeim at fault, rarely connecting any personal shortcomings with personal responsibility. Who, then, should be addressed?
Last Monday morning at the close of davening, I received a call from my son, in tears, who told me that Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein had passed away. I told my son about his teacher what his teacher had told me about my father 43 years ago: “Blessed is the Judge of Truth, Baruch Dayan Emet.”
It is one thing to utter that phrase to someone who has lost a loved one. It is something else entirely for someone to utter that phrase to you as you are steeped in grief and shock about the loss of your own father.
And a close rebbe, or Torah teacher, is, says the Torah, like a father. So the circle closes: I had to tell my son about his teacher, who was also his father, what my teacher, who was also my father, told me on that terrible day in 1972 when I learned about the death of my father.
Walking into Goldberg’s Bagels on that first Monday, about 10 weeks ago, I was all nerves. I took a seat at one of the packed tables and, ignoring everyone, stared at my phone until the program started. Walking into the Senator Ben Cardin Junior Leadership Program (SBCJLP) with low expectations proved to be an okay move. Because as soon as I started learning with my mentor and heard the first speaker, I knew I was going to gain much from it.
As indicated in the program description posted on the NCSY website, SBCJLP is “an elite program opened to the Jewish community and public school teens designed to create the next generation of Jewish leaders through individual training and exposure to current world influencers.” As to the “influencers,” they had to be “individuals at the top of their industries and…carefully chosen to illustrate the wide ranging effects one can have on the community while maintaining a proud Jewish identity.”
Our family arrived in Baltimore in the early 1990s, and from the time we settled into our cozy colonial on Cross Country Boulevard, right down the road from Cross Country Elementary School, I regularly heard snippets of neighborhood lore from the “old timers” – like how there used to be a golf course in the vicinity before the homes were built (causing my boys to go on forays in the backyard for errant golf balls, which they sometimes found!), and how our block was built by a plumbing supply company (explaining the floor-to-ceiling tile work in most of the bathrooms) – not to mention passing comments from people who said they had played in our house when they were children, as friends of a classmate who once lived here.
One of the most treasured words in the Yiddish language is “ainikel.” You may wonder why. Is dehr enfehr (the answer is) that ainikel refers to a grandchild, and ainiklach are many grandchildren. Many moons ago, I would hear “old timers” telling stories; I don’t remember the stories, but I remember them often saying how wonderful ainiklach are.
Why? you may ask. Well, for one thing, ainiklach rarely rebel against their bubby or zaidy. As for their parents – nu, sometimes. For example, in the Tanach, there is a chapter about a Yiddel known as Avshalom. His father was the great King Dovid. Unfortunately, Avshalom decided that he, Avshalom, was more fit to be king than Dovid. If David’s father Yishai had got wind of Avshalom’s plot to overthrow his father, he would probably be the first zaidy who did not exactly cherish his ainikel!
I am a graduate of Bais Yaakov in my third year of shidduchim. Although dates don’t come easily to girls, as we all know, I have had my share. Yet I look around at age 23, still here, and wonder what might be holding me back.
I read a book that has been making the rounds of my friends. It is a secular book about how to “land a husband.” It is all about how to “market” yourself. Its advice on how to act during a date ranges from exactly how to tilt your head to ways of responding to your date’s conversation. I had my doubts about this method, but I wanted to do my best to maximize my chances.
We’ve all heard it a million times, from our mother and bubby to our doctor and government experts: Eat fruits and vegetables. Well, count this nutritionist as one more source for this time-tested good advice.
It’s easier than ever. While the seniors among us remember the limited selection of fresh fruits and veggies in their childhoods, today we are fortunate to enjoy a steady and ample supply of fresh as well as frozen and canned varieties from around the country and the globe. At this time of year, especially, warmer weather and longer, sunnier days make for ideal growing conditions and plentiful supplies. Is it any wonder that June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month?
Baltimore is a town where the entire Jewish community is truly generous in its tzedaka and ma’aser giving. But, while it’s easy to write a check or drop a quarter into a pushka, deciding how much and to whom to give one’s tzedaka dollars is complex.
Many of us know the general priorities. Causes like pidyun shevuyim (rescuing a captive) and the needs of the yesomim (orphans), almanos (widows), and the aniyim (poor) of one’s own town take precedence. After that, one should give to worthy local mosdos (institutions) in need, and then to Eretz Yisrael. Building a mikvah is the first priority in a new community. Expressions of hakaras hatov (gratitude) in the form of donations to an out-of-town Bais Yaakov or yeshiva that one attended may also rank high.
Whenever I drive down Greenspring Avenue, past the Sinai ER, on the way to the zoo, I glance to the left to see the old Bais Yaakov high school building, and say to my grandchildren, “Look, that is where I went to school!” The old mansion that housed our high school, built at the time of the Civil War, is still standing, though hard to recognize because the surrounding area has changed so much. The driveway that led to the school is no longer there, and the elementary building has been knocked down to make room for a housing development.
Since my daughter is finishing Bais Yaakov this year, and we are immersed in the rituals of graduation, I started reminiscing about the school I attended more than 40 years ago. Bais Yaakov has been established in the community for so long that some of its graduates have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren attending the same school they did. Sometimes they even have the same teachers. I spoke to women who attended Bais Yaakov High School in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s to hear about their memories of high school life.
When I was a yeshiva student, the attitude at one yeshiva I attended was, “Don’t read newspapers; they’re a waste of time.” At another yeshiva I attended, the attitude was, “Read newspapers; you’ll be informed.” Forty years later, I do read newspapers, but I sometimes feel like I’ve wasted my time.
Israel has just completed another democratic election, and the Right and religious parties won, 67 seats to 53 (the latter including 13 Arab mandates), even if the Left-leaning Israeli media did not want them to. Their victory is not really news, in the man-bites-dog sense. For 38 years, since Menachem Begin’s victory in 1977, the Right wing, supported by the religious, have dominated Israeli politics. Even in the Oslo “victory” of 1992, the Right and religious won in terms of the popular vote. Politically, as far as our relationship with our Arab neighbors goes, the fact is that fewer and fewer Israelis are seeking for us to commit suicide or dig our own graves, and religiously, the majority of Israelis are supportive, or at least not “anti.”
When Elena Tal was single, living in New York City, and just beginning to become frum, she auditioned for a prestigious opera company. After anxiously awaiting the results, she found out that she had been accepted to join the company and be a part of this amazing opportunity.
“I figured I could be one of the first Jewish professional artists in the secular world who would be able to keep Shabbos and kosher while simultaneously having a successful performing career,” reminisces Elena. “After all, how hard could that be?”
It was very hard, as Elena soon discovered. Although she had always been nervous to stand out or make waves, Elena forced herself to speak to the non-Jewish director immediately. “I explained that I was religious and observed the Sabbath, and I would not be able to rehearse or perform from Friday night to Saturday night.”
It was dinner hour that hot summer evening: my mother, father, and I gathered around the black-and-white TV – there was no color television back in 1965 – watching the city burn. The Watts Riots lasted five days, and my father would emerge from them a changed man.
Los Angeles is huge geographically – and Watts was an hour away by car – but I, an eight-year-old little girl, was terrified.
“Don’t go!” my mother cried to my father.
When people set a goal which they fail to achieve, they sometimes experience a sense of failure – unless, of course, they can see the silver lining. Perhaps it is the silver lining that was supposed to be the goal in the first place, but due to our limited understanding, we don’t realize it. About seven years ago, my husband and I put tremendous effort, energy, and resources into a community project that didn’t turn out the way we had envisioned. However, we realized there was a silver lining. Her name was Anne.
Some of you might recall Anne. She was an older woman with shockingly white, shoulder-length hair. As she carried her belongings with her, she could be found waiting at bus stops, walking on Park Heights, or in the shuls. Anne generally kept to herself, rarely speaking to others unless they spoke to her first.