trying to connect

September 11

I ruminated over whether I should post about September 11. Do I really have anything new to add? Some bloggers have chosen to commemorate this day; others have not.

The easiest part was to decide on an image. Black. It is a day of mourning, is it not? There is a Jewish tradition to leave one part of one’s home unbuilt, to commemorate past tragedies, especially the destruction of the Temple and the scattering of the Jewish people. In that vein I leave you a big square where I might normally place a joyful image.

9/11. I was at the dentist that day, in East Brunswick. Some 9/11 widows live there and became famous a while back. I’m not going to link to that story. Back to the dentist…my dentist plays the radio in his office. When I heard the first plane crash, I thought, a fluke. When I heard the second one, I got scared. Deliberate? Could it possibly be terrorism had struck New York? This was only a month after the Sbarro pizza bombing in Jerusalem, where 15 people where killed, including young children. Anyway…fast forward a few hours, I’m back in Highland Park and hanging out with a friend. She nicely offers to turn off the tv. That was the last time I watched tv news. The previous time was in the first Gulf War, when Sadaam Hussein was pointing his nasty scuds at Israel, including my little cousins (who are now grown up with kids of their own) huddled in a sealed room with gas masks. Aside: do you understand why I didn’t want to write this post? All these yucky memories.

OK, so my friend and I wander the day together, listening to U.S. fighter jets flying above our heads in the direction of New York City. My friend in Ma’alot, Israel emails me to make sure we are OK. We leave our kids at school; it turns out, the kids are comforting the teachers, who are the scared ones. We later hear stories about the lucky in our area who did not go to work because of taking care of a child’s cast or some other reason. We also learn of the many who did go to work and did not come home.

Enough of the bad news. I can’t concentrate anymore on this. I have a great Sky Watch post coming soon… enjoy it!

Thanks for the Beets

beets watercolor by Leora Wenger

"See that woman walking down the street
Don't you know she brought me my beets
She brought me beets,
She brought me beets,
Yeah, we got some beets."

When my daughter was six months old, we had a family crisis. I won’t go into the details, in order to protect family members who aren’t anxious to tell the whole wide world all about our lives. However, there were many friends, acquaintances, and community members who helped us, as well as two superb New Jersey surgeons who performed two separate operations on two different patients.

I would like to highlight one person in particular. At the beginning of the crisis, she discovered through a friend that I liked beets. So every week before Shabbat she brought us a different dish containing beets; some had pickles, some had onions, some lemon, some potatoes. But it really wasn’t the beet dishes themselves that struck the chord for me; it was her understanding that our crisis did not end in a few weeks. Indeed, it was difficult for almost six months. But she brought us beets for at least four months, and then she said: it’s time for me to help another family. That was more than fine with me; I was happy to let our mitzvah lady help another family. I want to stress how thankful I was that she got the lengthiness of the situation and how it went on beyond the first few weeks of help. Getting that extra piece, that meant a lot to me.

She now lives somewhere in Jerusalem; on our last visit, we saw her daughter, and through her daughter I thanked her once again. But for someone who understood difficulty and pain, it’s always good to thank her again.

Purpose of a big brother

What big brothers are for




Ah, siblings. Sometimes they get along. Sometimes they squabble. Sometimes one helps the other out, like my Eldest Son did as he carried my daughter through the Old City of Jerusalem on our way to visit the Kotel. I really appreciated his offer to carry her.

Anyone got a good sibling tale to relate?




Earthquake Anxiety

Tsefat, in the Galil in Northern Israel
Tsefat in the Galil in Northern Israel suffered an earthquake in 1837

or, this could also be titled:

How do you talk to someone who expresses a lot of fears?

I was thinking of subtitling this: ‘How to talk to an elderly person.’ But the truth is, it could be a child who is very anxiety-prone. And for some elderly adults who have seen so much over their lifetimes, anxiety over an earthquake is not a big issue.

When I visited with my aunt who is in her eighties, she told me she is glad she no longer lives in Jerusalem, because the people who live there are going to be in trouble. At first, I thought she meant they were in danger for spiritual reasons. No, she meant for physical reasons. She had seen a television show that stated an earthquake is due to come to Israel, and Jerusalem is going to be one of the harder hit places. She said the Arabs (generally speaking) tend to build their homes on rock, and the Jews (generally speaking) built homes on sand. So the Jewish homes are more at risk in an earthquake. How structures are built can determine who lives and who dies in an earthquake. For example, in the recent China earthquake, sadly, some children died at school while their parents at home survived.

In responding to my aunt, I mostly listened, trying to echo what she said (what I would call “active listening”). I asked my cousin what he thought of his mother’s earthquake anxiety. She does have a point, he responded. However, he figures the earthquake isn’t due for another ten years. So for the next nine years, he tells her, don’t worry about it!

Do earthquakes cause you anxiety? Or maybe you get concerned over global warming? When I was a kid, the thought of nuclear war used to scare me.

Expressions of Anger

anger dudeYesterday, I started posting about anger.

My intention had been to write about every day anger and how various people handle it. However, a horrific tragedy gave me pause to focusing at present on the every day. I feel fortunate to have wonderful neighbors here in Highland Park of many different backgrounds. But the close neighbors of Sderot, Israel, where people have been under daily rocket threats, celebrated yesterday’s massacre. CELEBRATED! How could one not get angry?

Some responses of bloggers:

Finally, getting back to Highland Park, as I originally meant this to be a blog about Highland Park, I just want to mention with sadness and some anger that Michelle Reasso will be leaving the Highland Park Public Library. At whom do I direct the anger? It can’t be at Mayor Meryl Frank; she gave the library a large donation recently. And not at the other librarians. And not at the taxpayers of Highland Park, we pay too much already. So I’ll direct it at the ridiculous politicians of Trenton who messed up the State budget. Michelle deserves her own post, so I’ll write one soon.

It’s OK to be angry. Really.