Archive | Columnists

Lying a sad fact of life

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

Show me a person who believes that he or she has never, ever told a lie and I will show you a very rare bird indeed — either that or a liar.
Given the fact that we are in the midst of a prolonged post-election investigation involving a foreign power and possible collusion with one or more members of the president’s staff, the subject of lies and ascertaining “truth” belches at us every time we turn on the news.
In all fairness to the politicians, the group of people generally rated high on the lying scale, the public itself is guilty of lying, no matter what their occupation.
My column today barely scratches the surface of this topic of deception. Checking Amazon’s book catalog, I found over 50 different titles before I quit counting those dealing with lies and detection techniques.
Among the many reasons people lie are to fulfill a wish, to avoid the truth, to avoid punishment, to “get back” at someone, to heighten or maintain self-esteem, to put one over, to change the behavior of others, or to be treated in a certain way.
While the study of human behavior has been investigated for hundreds of years, it has been only in the last 50 or more years that the study of detecting deception has undergone scholarly research.
Here are some of the major findings. Children start lying as early as six months, primarily to get attention. Most people assume avoiding eye contact is a sign of lying, but it is not. It is normal for people to keep eye contact for just a small percentage of time.
People are lied to as many as 100-200 times a day and fail to detect lies 54 percent of the time. One slightly positive sign is that one quarter of the time, our lies are for another person’s benefit.
Amazingly, 75-80 percent of lies go undetected. The people who really need to detect deception — juries, police, and judges — fare poorly at detecting lies. Only the Secret Service scores high on lie detection.
In addition to law enforcement and intelligence, the group most interested in lie detection, as you might expect, is the corporate world of industry, business and finance.
Much research and analysis on the subject of lying and lie detection is available for any and all liars and lie detectors to read.
Pamela Meyer, the author of Liespotting, Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, is one of the most sought-after speakers and consultants on this “deceptive” subject.
In little more than 200 pages, she describes the techniques of detecting lies from the face, body, and words of those being interviewed. A very useful read for those who need to detect lies, and, of course, those not wanting to be caught lying.
Not that you would, but the next time you consider telling a lie, remember one of Mark Twain’s thoughts on why it’s easier to tell the truth. … “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

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Read through lesser-known Holocaust texts

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

When Jews think about Holocaust writings, we often first remember Anne Frank.
That’s true for me, but never again will I count her as the only young girl who left a diary behind. I had no idea there were any others until I read Rutka’s Notebook, subtitled A Voice from the Holocaust. The cover calls it “the long-lost diary” of another young girl, and adds that some are now calling its author “the Polish Anne Frank.” I don’t agree with that; the two girls — and their writings — are so very different. But for many, their similar ages during a similar time spur the connection.
This old/new Holocaust story first surfaced about a decade ago, when, after 61 years, a non-Jewish woman — then 82 years old — finally made public that she had kept to herself, for all that time, the slim notebook a childhood friend had asked her to hold for safekeeping — just before she, Rutka, went off to die in an Auschwitz gas chamber. It was finally published as this book in 2008, with copyright owned by Yad Vashem.
As a document, this defies comparison to Anne Frank’s diary — the two are incredibly different. Anne, as we all know, showed us the interior life of a maturing teenager, defining her future hopes and dreams. Rutka left a different kind of record: of a younger but still maturing teenager’s everyday activities and escapades, very much “in the moment” of approaching adulthood. Anne’s writings might be termed “philosophical” when read next to Rutka’s down-to-earth reportage of actual personal happenings.
The difference: Rutka was never in hiding, so she had the kind of exterior life that Anne was denied. Although her small family — parents and a much younger brother — were moved several times by the Nazis into ghetto settings, she had constant open contact with her friends. Most of her notebook is frivolous, even childish. But Rutka did see the horrors of roundups and deportations, and even ugly murders, before it was her turn to experience all three of these herself. And her knowledge of reality underlies everything; she writes as matter-of-factly about watching a baby coldly killed before its own mother’s eyes as she does about wondering to whom she’d give her first kiss. Also, this is a very brief document, covering only January to April of 1943.
By itself, Rutka’s notebook would be only a pamphlet. But its finding sparked much else, all now parts of this book. Although her mother and brother perished with her, her father survived; he remarried after the horrors, had a child, and it is this daughter, the later-discovered Zahava Laskier Scherz, who introduces Rutka with a moving essay on “The Sister I Never Knew.” Zahava also writes the fascinating story of her father’s three very different life stages — perhaps the most important reading of all.
This book surprised me with a bibliography of more than a dozen other adolescent Holocaust diaries and notebooks that I had never before known existed — five young boys among the authors. And for me especially, there was also a bit of family learning that provided previously elusive information to answer a question my sister and I had asked all our lives: Her name is Ruth, but those in the generation of our Boubby the Philosopher always called her “Root.” Here, I found that this wasn’t because those elders couldn’t pronounce the “th,” but that Rutka is the eastern European diminutive of Ruth, and is often shortened in conversation to that formerly mysterious “Root”!
This volume would make a worthy addition to the library of anyone wishing to explore one of the lesser-known aspects of the Holocaust. It’s easy reading, although some of the subject matter is painful to confront and absorb. I bought my copy at a bookshop clearance for $1, but it’s still available on Amazon for less than $5. Either way: so very little for such a big lesson in our history.

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God guides our choices through blessings, curses

Posted on 17 August 2017 by admin

This week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, has a dramatic beginning that always surprises me: “See, this day I set before you blessing and curse…” Well, if you’re going to put it that way, I guess the choice should be easy — choose the blessing! Yet surprisingly, the choice isn’t always easy. Why? Why is it that when we are faced with blessings and curses, the choices don’t seem so clear-cut?
Sometimes the answer is pure and simple: human weakness. I should exercise more because my doctor is always telling me I should. And on those rare occasions when I actually do, I feel better, so I know I should. Yet the pain of exercising is concentrated in those few minutes, while the benefits, the blessings of exercise, are diffuse. And I am weak, choosing the path of least resistance, a path that inevitably leads to a worse outcome.
Sometimes the answer is neither pure nor simple. Sometimes the difficulty in choosing between the blessing and the curse lies in our difficulty perceiving when a blessing is disguised as a curse or a curse is disguised as a blessing. Today, it is the rare person who has never lost a job, and losing a job is a painful experience that feels like a curse. Yet there are times when the job you lose is the job you’ve hated but have been afraid to quit. Losing that type of job can be a blessing in disguise.
Many people fantasize about winning the lottery and never having to worry about the lack of money again. Yet history shows us time and again instances where sudden wealth — winning the lottery, a large inheritance, a poor country discovering valuable natural resources — can lead to devastating results. What normally is, and should be, a blessing can in actual fact become a curse.
Hardest of all is when blessings are mixed with curses. Modern medicine is a miracle and a blessing, extending our lives when in previous centuries we would have died. Yet sometimes, artificially extending our lives also lengthens the suffering we can experience at the end of our lives. Sometimes the blessing is mixed with a curse, making our choices neither simple nor pure.
Why is it hard to choose between blessings and curses? Because our choices aren’t always black and white and are, in fact, usually in various shades of gray. So how should we choose?
I am reminded of a teaching by the great 20th-century scholar, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, who taught: “When I pray, I speak to God. When I study, God speaks to me.” Personally, God speaks most clearly to me through the prophet Micah (6:8) when we are told to do justice, love kindness and walk modestly with God. How do we choose the blessings? We choose blessings when we are honest and true and seek to create a more fair and just society. How do we avoid the curses? We avoid the curses when we act kindly and embrace mercy. And while we seek to walk in God’s ways, we must do so with a sense of modesty and humility. Because when we study God’s word and God speaks to us, it is in a still, small voice that we fallible human beings might mishear.
Blessings and curses are set before us. Let us do justice, love kindness, and walk modestly with God to make the better choices.
Rabbi Ben Sternman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Adat Chaverim in Plano.

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‘Balloon people’ filled with more than hot air

Posted on 10 August 2017 by admin

I have a lot of “theories.” One of them is that there are only two basic types of people in the world: balloons, and stringholders.
Balloons are full of ideas; stringholders rein them in, putting dampers on things that will never fly.
By definition, I’m a balloon. Anyone who has been writing personal opinion columns for as long as I have must generate many ideas in order to meet deadlines (the hardest part of being a balloon). Stringholders are the people we balloons count on to tether us to reality: accountants, attorneys, and — especially for me — editors. And there are important others …
My newest stringholder is an archivist. She has taken over a good bit of my office in order to make order out of about 60 years of my published work, most of it “preserved” (some of it barely) as old, now yellowed and brittle, newspaper clippings. The piles and boxes and bags finally had to come out of the closet, either to be saved or tossed. And I hated to part with all of them — there were memories I wanted to keep (although I didn’t know where most of them were…).
I’m not the only one who hates to part with things. In a back corner of the closet was a box I had never even opened. In it, on top, was a note from someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in many years. She may even be gone from this world; the last time I tried to contact her, my letter was returned for a wrong address, and I couldn’t find any other. Her simple message read “I couldn’t bear to throw this out.”
The note was dated 2008. In the box were the “leavings” of a massive party I had engineered in 1979! It started out to be a simple get-together of others from the south Chicago area who, like me, were ex-Pittsburghers with a love of the old hometown. It wound up to be an extravaganza: more than 150 people in Fellowship Hall of a local church, each bringing some “artifact” he or she had carried around for years as a talisman, “native” food and drink items (including Klondikes, which were then exclusive to Pittsburgh) flown in for us, historic home movies and — here’s the big, important part — an informally formal collection of materials related to words and phrases that are idiomatic to western Pennsylvania and define its speech. In this latter, I was cooperating with the late Dr. Robert Parslow, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh; our findings were instrumental in his successful effort to have “Pittsburghese” officially declared as a recognized subset of American English!
Everything was in that box! Word of our party got much advance publicity in the daily papers of both Chicago and Pittsburgh; four Pittsburghers actually got into a car and drove 500 miles to see if this could possibly be “for real”; we even got a telegram from the then-governor of Pennsylvania, Richard Thornburgh, reminding us that his surname — like that of our beloved city — ends with an “h”!
My archivist dropped her work on my personal writings and began to codify this collection, which I will take with me on a forthcoming visit to the old hometown, where I will meet with the acquisitions and archival staff at Heinz History Center for a potential exhibition! A balloon’s dream come true, made possible by the work of a standout stringholder!
And there’s also this: The museum is considering two of my party-unrelated documents for permanent display in its Jewish section: the ketubahs of my Boubby the Philosopher and of my own mother. The back of the first was used by Zaidy Dave to record the birthdates of their 12 children; the second was printed locally and clearly displays its Pittsburgh origin. And I have wedding pictures of both couples to go with them!
One never knows where a balloon might fly!

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Wisdom involves thinking about own, others’ actions

Posted on 10 August 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
Most of us cannot imagine studying Talmud but it really is possible (you can even find a study group online). The best tractate to study is Pirke Avot, Chapters of the Sages.
Pirke Avot is comprised of six chapters and over 150 mishnayot or teachings. Each mishnah has many lessons on how to live an ethical life. It would be wonderful if we could just read the “saying” and then know what to do. However, it takes a little more work and study, but each of us can do it — even our youngest children.
Spend time each Shabbat talking about the mishnah, using the questions below as guidelines. Begin by reading the words, then breaking down the parts, and trust in the fact that even young children can add their thoughts to the discussion. Remember that after we have begun to understand the mishnah, we must then work to understand how to apply the learning to our lives.
Pirke Avot 4:1 Ben Zoma says:

  • Who is wise? He who learns from every person.
  • Who is strong? He who controls his passions.
  • Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.
  • Who is honored? He who honors others.

Questions to talk about:

  • What does it mean to be wise? Is being wise different from being smart? How? Do you need to be old to be wise? Why or why not?
  • How can you learn from everyone? What if they are younger or not as smart or very different from you?
  • Why does learning from every person make you wise?
  • What does it mean to be strong? Is it about having strong muscles or something different? What?
  • What does it mean to control your “passions”? Why does that take strength? How do you use your inner strength to control yourself?
  • How many different ways are there to be rich? What does it mean to you to be rich?
  • Is it easy to be happy with what you have? Why or why not? Why does that make you rich?
  • Finally, what does it mean to be honored? How do you honor other people? How do they show they honor you? Why does honoring others make you honored?
    Is one of these qualities more important than the others? Why are they in the order above? Which is most important to you?
  • How can we apply this mishnah to our lives every day?
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Unexamined religious practices as dangerous as ignoring unhealthy living

Posted on 10 August 2017 by admin

“I know rabbis that are quite obese, and I just don’t get it. I mean, doesn’t the Torah command us to be healthy?”
I’ve heard and have been asked versions of this question many times over the years — and the answer is not simple!
First and foremost, it is improper to judge any individual case of obesity as self-inflicted, as one never knows another’s health particulars. As a doctor recently shared with me, you can, in fact, be naturally obese. From congenital leptin deficiency (leptin being the “satiety hormone” that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger) to disorders like Prader-Willi syndrome and the insatiable hunger and chronic overeating (hyperphagia) that follows in its wake, to genetic predispositions to obesity and other environmental factors, obesity occurs in the general populace for a variety of different reasons other than lack of personal discipline and will.
In the end, it is the obese individuals alone who can honestly answer if they are actively doing everything in their power to get their weight under control. We, then, do not stand in a position to judge.
That being said, there is a perfectly fair question that lies at the heart of the aforementioned query. How are we to reconcile the fact that there are individuals, whether overweight or thin, who are scrupulous in the minutiae of Jewish law, and yet seem not to care about their health?
I have no study data to back up my thoughts on the matter, but I do believe I have a pretty strong theory: Humans do better adhering to carefully detailed laws (like those codified in Rabbi Yosef Caro’s definitive and extensive code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch) than ethereal religious ideals (all those sacred constructs left out of the Shulchan Aruch).
And while guarding oneself from potentially life-threatening situations may be of Biblical origin (derived from the verse “and you shall carefully guard your souls,” Devarim 4:15) and finds itself codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 427:8), the general admonition to maintain a healthy lifestyle is conspicuously absent from the Shulchan Aruch, seemingly consigned to the sea of Jewish values.
Maimonides, plainly omitting any Biblical or rabbinic citations when describing personal health, seems to similarly concur that keeping healthy, while of supreme Jewish value, is not technically law. Here are his words upon the matter: “Since having a healthy and whole body is integral to Divine service — as it is impossible to understand or know anything about the Creator when one is sick — one must stay far from things which destroy the body and accustom himself to things which preserve one’s health” (Mishneh Torah – Hilchot Deot 4:1).
For better and worse, the detailed observance of Jewish law often evolves into daily habit. The bright side: We are creatures of habit, and halachic habit forming is crucial to creating Judeo-centered lives. The dark side: If we’re not careful, our practice of halacha, the beating heart at the center of our Jewish practice, can descend into mitzvat anashim m’lumdah, the ritualistically unconscious routine that the prophet Isaiah decried many moons ago (29:13).
Unlike the well-practiced observance of halacha, the infusion of Jewish ideals and values into our lives requires a kind of proactive, zeal-like consciousness and a sacred determination.
It’s about looking beyond our technical, limited duties and into the world of spiritual possibility. It is to care to become the kind of person the Torah wants us to be, something much more than the sum total of a lifetime of halachic works.
For those to whom the practice of Jewish law is more culture than mission, more habit than calling, it is the spirit of the law and our hallowed Jewish ideals, both areas that are not and cannot be codified in law, that are most likely to become the first casualties of unconscious Jewish practice. Sadly, this is a Judaism full of body but bereft of soul.
It may surprise you that the practice of unconscious Judaism endangers the fulfillment of certain laws as well, many of which comprise the heart and soul of the religion. You see, laws like loving and fearing God revolve around emotions and matters of the heart and spirit, areas in which no corporeal actions or religious habits suffice. Similarly, laws like “you shall be holy” (Vayikra 19:2) and “you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord” (Devarim 6:18), both of which command us to go beyond the letter of the law in both our divine and interpersonal relationships, cannot sprout in a mind that perceives law as the end-all.
Don’t get me wrong: A strong commitment to a halachic lifestyle is the backbone upon which all else rests. But if we cease imbuing it with kavana, conscious intention, we may find ourselves in the predicament of Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof, a man deeply convinced of the importance of passing on the faith, but unable to meaningfully explain to the next generation why it meant anything more than mere tradition.
Rabbi Yogi Robkin is the director of outreach at DATA of Plano. Rabbi Yogi lives in Plano with his wife Shifra and their five children.

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Comfort found when we trust Master Plan

Posted on 03 August 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
Can you please explain the meaning of Shabbat Nachamu? I heard in a class that there are three weeks of Haftarah portions leading up to the day of Tisha B’Av and then seven weeks of portions of comforting, starting with Nachamu.
Why would there be so many more weeks of comforting, and how could we be comforted immediately after the destruction of our people? Could you please provide some explanation or meaning to this period; it would be appreciated!
— Rhonda W.
Dear Rhonda,
You are referring to the Haftarah from the Book of Isaiah (40:1-26), which commences with the famous prophetic phrase, “Be comforted, be comforted My people, says God!”
Isaiah, one of the prophets who prophesied the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people, exhorts the Nation to not give up hope. They need to know that despite the dismal times ahead, there is destined to eventually be a better future.
Still, despite knowing there will be a bright future, it is quite difficult to be “comforted” when we are surrounded by utter darkness and everything is caving in around us. It takes a lot more thought, trust and contemplation to get to a level of comfort with that than it does to focus upon the impending destruction; hence many more weeks of introspection and meditation were instituted; the seven weeks of consolation, than the three weeks established to focus upon the destruction itself.
We can take this a step deeper. The word “nachem” is usually translated as comfort or consolation. In fact, these translations are not precise; the literal meaning is to be able to take a different look at the same set of circumstances. It is a paradigm shift in the perception of what has transpired.
The Talmud relates the story of Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues confronting the place where the Temple once stood, after its destruction. The Rabbis, upon seeing a fox walking on the spot of the former Holy of Holies, burst out crying, while Rabbi Akiva laughed. Shocked, they inquired as to the reason for his laughter; he asked them why they are crying. Why are we crying?! This is the holiest spot in the world, where even the holiest Jew would not have permission to enter it besides the High Priest on Yom Kippur, and now a fox is walking there, why shouldn’t we cry?! Rabbi Akiva went on to show them that it was precisely that fox which was the fulfillment of the prophecy of destruction that leads to the next prophecy of the eventual redemption and rebuilding of the Temple; hence it’s a reason for him to rejoice. The Rabbis told Rabbi Akiva that he has brought them to Nechama; to see what is a tragedy in a different light, though the lens of the first step of redemption. This was a paradigm shift of the highest order.
There are many examples throughout rabbinic writings which teach us how to look at this tragedy through both lenses; the lens of the tragedy that it is, and, concurrently, through the lens of the silver lining and the revelation of God behind the scenes even when He seems to be completely hidden. The second lens teaches us, and comforts us, with a new depth of perception as to the deep, unbroken connection between God and the Jewish People.
Many scary things happen around the world. It is easy to lose hope. Yet the Almighty sends signals from time to time. He is waving at us and letting us know that He is fully aware of what is transpiring; this is the next big step in the Master Plan of history being led from Above. This is our Nechama, our paradigm shift, to join Rabbi Akiva and know that we are in Good Hands.

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Fairness key component in our Jewish lives

Posted on 03 August 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
When working with children, we often hear, “That’s not fair!” It is a hard concept for kids and often for adults. Fairness is a word that is really about justice or mishpat. Judaism has the message of justice deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah is filled with laws and examples of how to make a fair judgment and the importance of being fair and just.
You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus)
Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah)
Rabbi Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” This is a very easy way to understand how to treat others. However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple. Fair doesn’t always mean the same! Here are some good questions to have with your family and friends (no matter the age – you can adjust the situations).
Have you ever been treated unfairly? How did it make you feel?
Do you think it is fair that older children get to stay up later and do more things than younger children? Why or why not? Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do? Why or why not?
Some families have a rule that if there is a piece of cake to share, one person gets to cut it and the other gets to choose the first piece. How is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?
Here is a story that also leads to thinking and talking: A young boy came to a woman’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the berries he had picked from his father’s fields. The woman said, “Yes, I would and I’ll just take your basket inside to measure out 2 quarts.” The boy sat down on the porch and the woman asked, “Don’t you want to watch me. How do you know that I won’t cheat you and take more than 2 quarts?” The young boy said, “I am not afraid, for you would get the worst of the deal.” “How could that be?” she asked. The boy answered, “If you take more than 2 quarts that you are paying me for, I would only lose the berries. You would make yourself a liar and a thief.” Talk about the meaning of this story with your family.
Laura Seymour is the director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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Sweet, bitter memories intertwined

Posted on 03 August 2017 by admin

My son turns 61 tomorrow. On a recent morning, as I wrapped his gift for mailing, I realized the nightgown I was wearing had a connection with his bar mitzvah 48 years ago, early in August 1969.  I had postponed vital surgery because of it, but would enter the hospital two days later — after the out-of-town family had left. I had told none of them about it.
The evening after the bar mitzvah was also Selichot. I excused myself from the ongoing conversation and went to my synagogue, to sing the start of the High Holy Days liturgy with our volunteer choir.  I’d been involved in choral work since elementary school and loved Jewish music best; I had no idea then that I would never sing with any choir again.
A tumor had grown around the facial nerve behind my right ear.  The surgeon cut a flap that enabled him to remove the entire parotid gland, reroute some salivary glands, and scrape the nerve clean.  I awakened with a Bell’s palsy that lasted for many weeks.  But even afterward, fully normal facial motion could never be restored.  I had bought that nightgown to take to the hospital with me…
My face was horribly deformed.  No one, including me, had been prepared for this. The children came to visit; my son was stoic; my daughter, at 9, was not: Tearfully, (sadness? fright? anger?) she averted her eyes, crying out “That’s not my mother! Take her away! Bring her back when she’s my mother again!”  The last thing I cared about then was a nightgown…
After weeks of daily electric shocks to my face, the damaged nerve finally responded — but only partially. To this day, my right eyebrow and eyelid cannot rise to the level of my left. If I’m not judicious about the spicy foods I love, I still salivate outside, on my right cheek.  I don’t smile much, and the old habit of keeping a Kleenex balled in my right fist, to quickly cover my crooked mouth when I laugh, still persists. My “revised” face is why I resist being photographed; when it’s in motion, most people notice nothing.  But a camera catches the whole truth, every time.
And the scraped nerve vibrates — so much that I cannot sustain a note when I try to sing.  This has stolen the joy of choral participation from me forever.
About that nightgown: like so much women’s personal wear then, it is made of pure nylon.  Garments like this — ankle-length, with delicate neckline floral embroidery — are long out of fashion. But they never wear out; they are the clothing equivalent of iron. I’ve worn and washed this nightgown so often all these years, and it still looks new; I’m sure it will outlast me!  And it’s forever locked into my memory of that bar mitzvah and that Selichot, my final songs with any choir…
People who didn’t know me before the surgery don’t know that this is a different face than I had for the first 35 years of my long life, while the others continue to remember me as I was. My daughter never got her same old mother back, but as she grew older herself, she accepted me as I was. As most others also did. However, my first husband dissolved our marriage soon afterward.
Fred, my dear second husband, was a “widowered” old friend from long before the operation. When we came back into each other’s’ lives so many years later, the first thing he did was touch my right cheek, ever so gently, and quietly say, “It must have been terrible for you.” That was when I knew I would marry him…
As I look backward, the bitter and the sweet mingle inextricably, as things in life so often do. This weekend, I will be remembering my son’s bar mitzvah, my last Selichot song…and Fred, while I observe his third yahrzeit on our forthcoming Shabbat.

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Good gun clubs teach safety, too

Posted on 03 August 2017 by admin

It all started innocently enough when I read the latest TSA’s report of a record 89 concealed firearms discovered in carry-on bags in one July week at airports around the nation. Most of them were loaded and one was even “hidden,” sewn inside a wheelchair cushion.
While some of those gun-owners obviously knew what they were doing, the majority claim that “they failed to check their bag before packing, having forgotten that they had left their weapon inside.”
Violators can be arrested and fined up to $11,000, poor memory notwithstanding. “So irresponsible,” in my opinion. Perhaps if gun-owners belonged to gun clubs, firearms safety would improve as well.
Since it seemingly would be impossible to learn how many Jews own guns, I did learn that there are Jewish gun clubs around the country.
On the West Coast (LA area), there’s Bullets and Bagels (with a good schmear) which welcomes Jews and others monthly at an Orange County firing range. Strict adherence to safety rules and a love of bagels is a requirement. Their training emphasis is on defensive use of their weapons and safe gun handling.
While firearms safety is always a consideration, other gun clubs, such as the Las Vegas Jewish Cigar and Shooting Club, also promises social and educational opportunities. Cigar smokers have their events separately, of course.
A growing, active firearms group in Texas is the Jewish Rifle and Pistol Club of Central Texas, meeting monthly at a shooting range in the hill country, near Austin.
In Teaneck, New Jersey, the Golani Rifle and Pistol Club meets on Shomer Shabbos and serve strictly kosher food at all its events. It promotes responsible firearms use by its 50 New Jersey and Pennsylvania members.
Other Jewish firearms and marksmanship groups can be found in other states, as well. Not all Jews, however, support gun ownership.
Various Jewish organizations, such as the ADL, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America have taken positions in support of banning assault weapons and discouraging any gun usage for sport or recreational purposes.
These groups do believe that gun ownership should be allowed, but for defensive purposes only. A problem with this position is that a gun in the hands of someone who does not practice firing and is not familiar with proper usage, handling and maintenance is a danger to himself and others nearby.
Another safety concern is that of children at the homes of gun owners, yours and others which your child may visit. It is a good idea for parents to learn which homes have guns. If their guns are not locked up, keep your child away.
Good gun clubs teach gun safety, not just shooting accuracy. If I chose to own a gun, I would join a good gun club, preferably a Jewish one, offering bagel and schmears.

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