Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Justice

A strong believer in the critical importance of international standards of law and justice in the wake of the travesties and human atrocities committed against the world’s most vulnerable citizens during the twentieth century, I follow seriously any attempt to bring individuals and entities to trial before the International Court of Justice. And so it was, with that perspective in mind, that I was amused by the story in this morning’s Jerusalem Post, about a Kenyan lawyer attempting to bring the State of Israel to the Hague for the death of Jesus.

The case is, obviously, absurd by almost any measure of the word. The Bible is a book of meaning, not a court document. Ignoring the fact that the Church long ago gave up on the theological presumption that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, suggesting culpability through to the modern state of Israel (or Italy!?) is nothing short of ridiculous. And any assertion that some lawyer from Kenya in 2013 has grounds on which to sue, makes the recent California debate vis-a-vis Proposition 8 and alternative claimants look like an open-and-close case.

But none of that has me itching nearly as much as the fact that, even assuming a crime was committed in the crucifixion of Jesus, and assuming that responsibility can and should be levied at modern Israel, and that this lawyer has grounds on which to sue and make this case, seemingly lost in this episode is the fact that there is no statute of limitations placed on the crime, no ability to realize that, two thousand years later, it might just be time to move on and forgive.

That should not mean forget. We Jews, after all, are the most successful rememberers on this planet. But no one would ever suggest – honestly – suing Italy for the destruction of Jerusalem, Iraq for the destruction of the First Temple, or all women for our banishment from the Garden of Eden.

The fact is, as important as justice is, as crucial as it is to hold people responsible for their actions and, in our modern world, ensure that the most vulnerable are protected from those with power, we cannot allow such systems of accountability distract us from our own needs to let go and move on. Otherwise, we all have claims on someone else. Each of our peoples have been wronged by history, cheated, destroyed, swept aside.

But how long do we hold on to past centuries’ curses, letting that hurt prevent us from celebrating this century’s blessings?

We are closing in on the High Holy Days, a time when we will ask for forgiveness, from our friends, from ourselves, from our God. We will try to let go of all the pain we have caused in this last year.

But how much time will we spend letting go of the pain others have caused us?

The reality is that, in focussing, endlessly, on the wrongs committed against us by others, the only person we hurt is ourself. The wrong-doer has likely moved on. Continuing to wait for an apology, continuing to feel hurt and cheated, continuing to wait for justice to be meted only keeps us on and endless merry-go-round of pain and longing, when sometimes it’s just time to move on.

Who cares if they righted their wrong? Are you going to let your life continue to be destroyed by the pain they have already caused, or are you going to move on, go forth, and grow, despite, or to spite them?

Justice is important. Crucial, in fact. And no one can be expected to come to terms with the pain caused to them, just because.

But sitting around and waiting for an apology, or searching for it so long after the fact that all the players are long since gone, is a waste of your own life. And certainly a waste of the good that universal understandings of justice can do for this world.

Kozy Shack

Last night, Danielle and I came home with a couple of bags of groceries in hand. As we began to unpack them, she looked at me and said, “I bought you a present. Look inside.” She motioned toward the remaining bag.

I peered inside, and tears filled my eyes before I could even vocalize what she’d bought. There, sitting alone on the bottom of the grocery bag, were four small plastic containers of Kozy Shack Rice Pudding. My mom’s favorite.

I cried a good cry, tears of happiness at the beautiful gesture and tears of longing for the woman who would eat those treats, rather than the remnants of those things she most adored on this earth.

When it came time for dessert, I moved with glee back to the kitchen and pried open a container. Spoon in hand, tears in my eyes, I scooped a delicious scoop of that white delicacy into my mouth.

And then I spit it out.

Kozy Shack Rice Pudding is disgusting. Tasteless, mushy, with the aroma of chemicals. Way to go Lori.

I don’t know what she saw in that (Or, for that matter, half the other foods she most loved. An aside: last November, after Thanksgiving, we brought her into the ICU. We did not know it at the time, but this was the beginning of the end, when cancer started winning. Once she was settled in her room, she made us leave to go get her two tacos from Taco Bell).

But as I reflect on the putrid dessert-that-Lori-loved, I focus more on the smile that beamed from her face as she ate it, not the taste of the food itself. And the thought of that smile makes me smile, until it makes me cry.

Yesterday marked seven months since she left this earth. More than a year ago she began fading away into the realm of disease, pain and suffering. Out of nowhere. She was fine until she wasn’t. At the height of her life – her son was ordained, her two daughters married – she did not get to live any longer.

It was cruel. Unfair. There is no sense in it. None to make, at least.

So I still mourn.

And then, in a few months it will no longer be time to say Kaddish. Eleven months and one day ends on November 11, Veterans Day. Then, I pray, we can stop being so hurt by the war that we fought and lost, by the battles and the scars and the destruction and the PTSD.

Then, I pray, we can just start to remember that smile, that small clear smile that spoke volumes. I miss that more than anything.

And then, never again will I eat Kozy Shack Rice Pudding in an attempt to remember it.

Freedom

Since coming here a year ago, I have delighted in learning about the unique history of Dallas’ Jews, so many of whom immigrated more than a century ago through a route quite different from my own ancestors, who entered America through Ellis Island.

In fact, it was 113 years ago this very week that the first Jewish immigrants arrived on the shores of Galveston, Texas. They disembarked the S.S. Cassel, the first ship of many that ferried thousands of Jews from Russia to this New World as part of the so-called “Galveston Plan.”

Departing the arrival facilities, the 87 new immigrants were greeted by Galveston Mayor Henry Landes. A representative of the group, speaking in Yiddish, responded to their welcome, saying, “We are overwhelmed that a ruler of the city should greet us…although we have heard of the land of great freedom, it is very hard to realize that we are permitted to grasp the hand of the great man. We will do all we can do to make good citizens.”

There is something almost magical to be viewed in the appreciation this representative expressed on behalf of his fellow immigrants. For those of us who are second, third, fourth, even fifth-generation Americans, it may be difficult to comprehend the amazement felt by Mayor Landes’ welcome of the new Jewish arrivals. But this was an experience previously unheard of in the Jewish ethos, to be so welcomed into a new land. The professed dedication to becoming “good citizens” is inspiring.

A century later, the profundity of what these initial immigrants built is striking. This representative’s dream has come true. We live in a world-class city with a top-rate Jewish community. We live here not as tolerated guests but as equal citizens, able to ascend the highest reaches of power, influence and decision-making. The freedom that this land affords us has enabled us to become very good citizens of this great city, state and country. The promises of freedom and liberty have allowed the Jewish people to flourish in ways never before imagined.

As we celebrate our independence this weekend, let us reflect on the wonderful gift that we have been given in this great nation that we call our home. Let us dedicate ourselves this Shabbat toward ensuring that, a century from now, our descendants will be inspired by the multitude of ways that we manifest our freedom to further better our people and our nation.

For more information about the history of Galveston’s earliest Jewish immigrants, and for the source information mentioned above, visit Ha’aretz.

Monuments

The grass slowly grows back as the approaching summer heat dries up the surrounding California chaparral. Still no marker to tell the passerby what happened there, it is unmistakable that a coffin was once lowered into this earth, that bones, remnants, the physical vestige of a human being lies six feet below.

She has a new neighbor. Was he old? Was she young? Do they get along?

I do not know.

But there, on that partially regrown earth, atop the patches of whispery grass, sits a dying pink plant brought a week ago for Mothers Day, some more flowers perhaps a few weeks old, and a program from the graduation ceremony she never attended. All monuments to a woman we cannot yet say goodbye to.

It seems that the whole of the land cries out in testament to the horrors of the year that has passed. There is the bed where my mom should be lying, smiling, so happy to see me and give me a hug. There is the grocery store where she should be shopping, wearing old grey sweatpants and a black waffle tee. There is the hospital where I was brought into life and where she, thirty years later, was brought out of it.

But that walkway, I remember it! She’s standing there smiling, with her husband, on their anniversary, going in for Day 2 of chemo. This won’t be that bad. We can get through this!

And that sanctuary, where nine new rabbis are about to be ordained, isn’t she sitting there, beaming, as her son enters the rabbinate?

We congregate outside my sister’s graduation hall. The family has another Doctor Singer. My mom’s girlfriends file out. One. Another. Another. She’ll be just behind them, tears in her eyes.

But she’s not.

I sit down on the couch one night, and say to my girlfriend, “I want you to meet my mom.” And then we press play on the DVD. She looks more alive than anything, so few short months ago, but she’s stuck behind the glass of the television screen. I can’t get her out. What happened happened.

The monuments haunt me. I close my eyes and I still see them all.

But the worst one, the one that hurts the most, is the Shabbat table filled with a patchwork of family, a man, his wife, his ex-wife’s widdower, the family that she built, that she brought, she forced together, the testament to her life’s work. It hurts not because she’s not there, not because of the empty seat to my right, the loud silence devoid of her annoying persistence – “What are you doing tomorrow? At 10? At 11? At 12”; “Did you call your grandparents? Call them again. Do you love them? Do they love me?” – but because the obvious reality manifest in the love shared at this meal is that her life did have meaning, despite ending early, that she got all she wanted, even if we couldn’t fully appreciate it until she died.

The tragedy of a death too soon and too fast is not the dead part. We all die. There’s no escaping that without not being born.

The tragedy is coming to terms with the fact that all you’re left with is monuments, an earth filled with stone pillars attesting to what was someone you love’s life, and all you can do is try to forget all the monuments to pain so that all that fills the landscape are statues, fountains, and little pink flower beds of love.

Lori’s Line

Since the day mom died, one date on the calendar has loomed big, bold and daunting: March 19.

Next Tuesday is the birthday that mom never got to celebrate, the day we should be eating cake, not missing someone we love so much.

Has it really been almost three months since that horrific December? It seems like years, like I haven’t seen her, talked with her, held her hand in forever.

Death sucks, to say the least, it sucks for the dead and for the living.

We all miss her so much. The time between the painful moments grows, but the pain does not dull. Just starting to write some of these words whips me out of a normal day in the office and back into the reality of loss.

But let’s also be honest about all that mom accomplished. Her greatest treasure, for her the proof of her life’s worth, were me and Shanna. She loved her husband(s), she loved her parents more than anything (except for when she worried whether they were nice or not), she was proud of her work and all she gave to her community. But her identity was in us. Lori was the mother of David and Shanna, the rabbi and the physical therapist.

This is the line of Lori, Lori begot two children: David and Shanna.

It reads like a verse from Torah. That’s no coincidence. So many sections begin their description of a person’s accomplishments based on their lineage. “This is the line of Noah – Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age.” “This is the line of Isaac, son of Abraham…” The list goes on.

Our greatness is not always in what we do, more often it is what we leave behind.

Which is not to fill this page with a gloating of my sister or myself. To the contrary. Mom’s failure was in not realizing that she left this world so much more than just the two of us. She left a city changed, a community inspired, friends moved, a family built.

Lori’s line is more than her two kids. Lori’s line is a fundamental gift to the community, a new lens through which we can understand what it means to believe that there is right and wrong in a topsy turvy world, to believe that we have an obligation to do good, to believe that there are things you do because your gut says you’re supposed to, that we with abundance must give to those without, that our worth in this world is discovered through the most unintentional ways in which we create meaning, find purpose, give back.

Lori’s Line is about more than one person, two people. Lori’s Line is about a community better because of someone we knew and loved. Someone who filled this world with more good than we ever could have known while she was here.

And Lori’s Line, as it should be, is about clothing, the one thing Lori may have adored more than life itself.

Today, the Jewish Gift Closet – San Diego Community Community G’mach – with the help of my family and Hillel of San Diego dedicated a special line of upper end clothing in my mom’s memory. Lori’s Line will help those in need find clothing for job interviews and special occasions, to be dressed properly to help turn their lives around during their most trying and important moments.

Lori’s Line will wed high fashion with acts of righteousness. I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to my mom. I cannot imagine a better birthday present for her.

Just this morning, the line collected 5 racks filled to the brim with clothing, shoes, purses and cosmetics. Contributions in the form of lightly used items or money can be made directly to the G’mach, through there website here.

Happy birthday mom. I miss you.

601432_10200343792854069_1066028585_n