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Yo, Yenta! Jewish Blog, News, and Advice

May 20, 2012

Sunday Morning Sniffles

Today was the last Shalom School session of the year, and though I am verrrry much looking forward to spending my Sunday mornings contemplating the ladybugs on my favorite dahlia plant instead of herding a gaggle of 5 year-olds into submission with promises of challah and stickers, I sure am gonna miss those little kinders.

I’m feeling fairly farkelmpt about it, in fact. No more “David Melech Yisrael” handjive or knocking down the Tower of Babel made of wooden blocks. Or giving in to the roaring hilarity that, yes, Adam and Eve were in fact, NAKED. And where else can a grown woman hoard glitter and crayons without attracting the attention of the authorities?

One of my favorite parts of Shalom School is coming up with crafts made out of cheap (ahem, free) everyday objects. Last week we learned about Shavuot a little early with some brown lunch bags and what I consider to be the best invention given to humankind since the Torah: Glue sticks.

First, we crumpled up the bags to make them look really, really old. Then we cut them into tablet shapes, just like the ones Moses shlepped down from Mount Sinai, only much lighter. Then everyone had to glue down the 10 Commandments in order, which sounds easy but you’re not in kindergarten, are you?

Anyway, I had a great time with these, talking through the commandments and finding a child-friendly translation for adultery (let’s just call it “Do not cheat,” ‘kay, kids?)

Another one of my favorite projects is making mezuzot out of tongue depressors and cardboard tubes that come from the bottom of drycleaner hangers that I filch from the dumpster. This may sound sacreligious, but when all is said and done, these Jewish kids have a mezuzah for the doorposts of their bedrooms, which everyone knows keeps out the monsters.

The scroll gets tucked in the top, see? Even though the prayers are only copies, not the fancy kosher parchment kind, I still counsel the kids that the words are precious and should be treated with respect. Unless they want the monsters to get them. Just kidding. Maybe.

I’m sharing these with y’all in the hopes you’ll pass them on to Hebrew school educators everywhere, as I don’t foresee supervising these projects anymore as I am officially retiring from teaching kindergarten. If anyone’s interested, I also have cheap-n-awesome seder plate craft that I’m happy to share.

But just because I’m hanging up my rounded scissors doesn’t mean I won’t be teaching Shalom School come next fall. I will be–to the seventh graders. A bunch of brainy, too-cool-for-shul, b’nai mitzvah know-it-alls.

Sure, they may read Hebrew way better than me and can talk d’var Torah like other kids analyze their friends’ Facebook updates.

But if they think they’re too old for glue sticks and glitter, they don’t know the Yenta, yo.

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May 09, 2012

For the Yiddishe Mamas

Nu, such a lovely tribute to the Jewish mother, acknowledging the endless chores and sacrifices of motherhood. Even if the serene mother in this video has not a hair in her sheitel out of place nor does her frying pan contain a speck of stubborn cooked-on gristle.

And nevermind that it’s basically a promo for Israeli company Wissotzky Tea. Though the lady exudes the calm that I couldn’t achieve even with a column of Xanax, the low-pro product placement keeps it classy:

Tea makes a nice Mother’s Day present, no doubt. I loooooves me some tea. Every day. With milk and honey.

But, as I argue in this week’s Civil Society Column, there is no greater gift to the modern mother than…birth control.

Read it here.

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May 03, 2012

Holocaust education: You're doing it wrong

This week in wacky Southern public school news: A seventh-grade social studies teacher has been indicted for assault and battery after calling a student “a Jew” and dragging him under a desk.

Witnesses told police that Patricia Mulholland grabbed the kid by the collar when he got up to sharpen his pencil with the command “Come here, Jew.” The she lugged him under a table and said “This is what the Nazis do to the Jews!”

Sound like someone mixed some Percoset with her morning coffee after staying up too late on WorldNetDaily.com. But Mulholland’s lawyer claims she was just employing a creative lesson about the Holocaust.

“What was a demonstrative attempt to teach about World War II and the Holocaust has been taken to mean an anti-Semitic rant and it was nothing like that,” said her attorney, Robert Ferguson.

Hmm, noting that she was quoted as declaring what Nazis do in the present tense, I’m gonna have to go with the Percoset defense.

Police haven’t released the information on whether the student was Jewish or not; if he was, he’s going to have a helluva bar mitzvah speech.

Isn’t middle school awkward enough without your teachers going batsh*t?

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April 26, 2012

Not-the-T-Shirt of the Week: Badge of Dishonor

Last week the world went apesh*t over this t-shirt on the Urban Outfitters website, for damn good reason.

The Anti-Defamation League came out with its usual “strongly-worded” chastisement of any use of a six-pointed star that could be construed as offensive, demanding an immediate apology from the so-hip-it-hurts clothing purveyor. Considering last week was Yom Ha’Shoah (that’s Holocaust Remembrance Day for the rest of y’all), it was a prime time callout.

Urban Outfitters (heh, I was going to write UO, which so super close to OU, standing for the Orthodox Union that would certainly NOT place a kosher hecksher on this shirt, or on this blog, for that matter) has removed the shmatta from the site and replaced it with a plain yellow shirt of a similarly hideous hue.

The Danish designer of the shirt promises that the star wasn’t intended to evoke a anything about “judaism, nazism or the holocaust” (do they not use proper nouns in Denmark?) and that “the graphic came from working with patchwork and geometric patterns.”

The designer, Brian SS Jensen, who should really ditch those middle initials if he doesn’t want people to think he’s a Nazi, claims the shirt on the Urban Outfitters site was an early prototype and they were never actually for sale in the first place.

Fine, I believe you, UO and earnest Danish t-shirt person. You didn’t mean to be assh*oles by unwittingly marketing Holocaust swag to hipsters. Which leads us to the true outrage: Why in the world would a barf-colored t-shirt cost A HUNDRED DOLLARS?

Either its woven with tail hair from a unicorn or Mr. “SS” Jensen is raising funds in anticipation of more legal battles with the ADL.

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April 20, 2012

Getting Dirty with Jane

I want to be Jane Fishman when I grow up.

A few weeks back I had the delight of spending a morning with the writer and gardener known and loved around these parts for her funny, thoughtful prose in the Savannah Morning News and her whomping bi-yearly plant swaps, where last October I picked up some kind of overachieving looping-leafed lily that’s giving the fig ivy a run for space.

(Yes, we just missed the April swap, dangit. I must’ve been at a kid soccer game, or at synagogue, or most likely, digging around in my own cucumber seedlings and chasing the chickens away from the kale.)

Jane’s as hilarious and unpretentious as they come, cheerfully admitting to lackadaisical watering and writing habits. Still, she manages to grow a whole lot of food and flowers and a weekly column to boot, so she can’t possibly be as lazy as she claims. She also recently published a book, The Dirt on Jane, so actually, I’m not buying the slacker routine at all.

I first met Jane at synagogue probably 17 years ago, which she will tell you must have been some special occasion since she’s not much into organized religion. It was my first visit to Savannah to see the boy-who-would-become-my-husband’s hometown, and of course, the nice lady-who-would-become-my-mother-in-law wanted to show me the gorgeous historic temple where she served as a docent. For whatever reason, Jane attended the same Friday night service, and when my future MIL saw her at the kiddush, she insisted we be introduced because we had much in common since back then, as now, I was a newspaper columnist myself.

I wasn’t so young and arrogant that I couldn’t tell there was no way I was in this lady’s league, and I felt a little shy when I came face to face with that saucy smile and twinkling eyes.

She looked me up and down and said, “San Francisco, huh?” and then just laughed and patted me on the shoulder. We toasted bagels.

Years later, after my MIL got sick and it was time to move ourselves to the deep and dirty South to help, I consoled myself that any place where a Jewish pot-growing lesbian wrote for the daily paper couldn’t be too backwards.

Ms. Jane was entertaining some out of town guests when I stopped by Foxy Loxy; that’s Jane in the middle, surrounded by old Arkansas pals Rae Hahn (left) and Elaine Burks. Foxy as the sign says, right?

It got funny fast. Rae, whose been a hippie longer than I’ve been alive and I am NOT so young, and Jane were batting old stories about living at the Eureka Springs, AK commune back and forth when I noticed Rae was wearing a chai.

“Many Jews in Arkansas?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes and said, “You know what the dental hygienist said about my necklace the other day? ‘What a cute little dog!’ Can you believe that?”

We all cracked up. A chai as a little dog? Only Jews could belly laugh over this. Then the subject of making homemade lox came up, and I was about to share my recipe when Rae interrupted with “First, you get a boat…”

More cackling. I wanted to go home with these women, but I had to get back to work. If I keep on writing and gardening and smoking a joint or two (btw, Happy 4/20, y’all!) maybe I’ll earn my place.

Before I left, Jane kindly signed a copy of her book, which I read over the weekend instead of turning the compost and thinning the beet seedlings.

Bearing a picture of the author as the Collard Green Queen wearing a boa of leafy greens, The Dirt on Jane is an “anti-memoir” about life in Savannah’s not-so-enviable neighborhoods and shlepping to Detroit to visit her ailing mother, who was deteriorating from dementia, much like my MIL is now. I shed tears over a few chapters, but mostly laughed and nodded my head, murmuring “Say it, sister.”

Buy it locally (at The Book Lady and E. Shaver’s Booksellers) or if you must, online.

Then, VOTE for it for “Best Local Book” in Connect’s Best of Savannah poll. (Do it, for me. I want to party with Jane at the awards ceremony.)

I never did get around to giving Rae my lox recipe, so here it is:

Cover a nice fillet of wild-caught salmon with two parts kosher salt, one part brown sugar and some chopped dill. Stick it in a plastic bag and chill it overnight in the fridge, maybe to the next afternoon. Rinse off and pat dry. Serve on bagels or eat forkfuls plain, depending on your munchie intensity.

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