Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Israeli style

Oh yeah, I write a blog. Almost forgot.

Not that I am returning with anything important. Today's topic is Israeli style, of which I have become somewhat of an expert.

Here are a few of note:

Nuclear waste hair dye: Have you ever seen an Israeli woman with an abnormal hair color? Stupid question. Have you ever seen a woman with normal color hair? Yes, at some point it became fashionable for women to color their hair blood red, or neon orange, or some other color of puke. What type of place would offer these shades? Where do they get their hair done? Dimona?

Plumber jeans: Yes this one is just like it sounds. Except everyone in Israel seems to be a plumber.

Bling bling charedi shirts: But don't worry as long as they are still white.

Male belly shirts: As far as I am concerned men (and women for that matter) should keep their navels to themselves.

Face Shadow: Let's try to keep the eye shadow on your eyes (that one was from IH-- I wouldn't have noticed)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Uppa's legacy (or at least a part)

My dad posted about leaving ball games early just like my grandfather z"l would do.

I am happy to report that bnei banim harei hame k'banim.

Brad was upset and philosophically opposed to the practice, and his points are well taken.

But a few points of my (or our) own:

1. I would agree with you if the game in question was basketball or hockey contest where the experience is based largely around the excitement and energy in the arena. However baseball to me is far more about relaxation than excitement. Getting stuck in traffic after the game ruins the whole experience. And if I might miss some excitement at the end, so be it, it's not why I came in the first place.

2. The satisfaction of a clear Van Wyck goes beyond not wasting time myself. It is also about the poor suckers who stayed and will have to drive through a big mess.

3. Sorry, but there is something about leaving events early that is ingrained in the collective unconscious of the greater MoC family that you are probably not going to get no matter how hard you try.

Perfect example: This summer my wife and I took our son to a Wiggles concert. As I saw the concert winding down I said to IH "seventh inning, time to go."

On second thought, perhaps we are (or just I am) a little sick.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Orthodoxy and the field of mental health

Recently, while riding the bus I eavesdropped on a conversation between a young religious woman around my age and a woman who appeared to be an old teacher of hers from seminary. The two women, whom I gathered had not seen each other in a few years were busy catching up, and the teacher asked her old student what she was up to. When the student replied that she was in college studying psychology the teacher responded, "Oh, very nice. I have been thinking about going to college to study psychology, I think that it would help me understand my students better."

She continued, "I think that psychology has a lot to offer. Of course, anything that contradicts the torah you just have to throw out the window."

While I find this teacher's desire to improve her ability to connect with her students admirable there are two things that puzzle me.

First, her statement regarding things that she might learn that will "contradict the torah." Perhaps I haven't been looking hard enough, but no psychological theory that I have seen has contradicted the torah, and actually, I cannot fathom how it could pose such a stira.

Now, if she would have phrased her statement differently, like say, "Anything that might be improper for a bas yisroel to read I will have to avoid", I might have understood-- especially considering her desire for insight as opposed to making mental health a career. Freud himself, notwithstanding his genius, was a fairly serious menuval, so I can certainly fathom and identify with such a concern.

What really bothered me was the anticipation. This woman, who most assuredly had never given more than a glance at any of the field's literature, had already concluded that there were large chunks of it that were incompatible with yiddeshkeit.

What bothers me further still is the field's reputation as being somewhat kephiradic and in opposition to rabbinic Judaism-- as if therapists have the desire to undermine rabbanim, and change the values of the religious community. Some of the blame falls on us, as I do believe that there is an element of mental health professionals who believe that rabbanim should stay away from any type of therapy. An older woman with whom I worked last year, and who believed that the only part of the therapy process in which rabbanim should take part is the referral, comes to mind. However, in my, admittedly limited, experience these people are the minority.

I was recently asked by a young lawyer if I was worried about some of the halachically problematic situations that would arise for me in the future. When I asked for an example he responded, "I don't know, lets say someone comes in and says that he has homosexual feelings, and that he doesn't know what to do." I told him that I am not sure why that would be problematic-- that is where the work begins.

It occurred to me that I should have replied with the classic technique of responding to a question with a question. In this case how he intends to deal with his firm's not so subtle encouragement of over billing. I would assume that such a case is halachically stickier, and one that definitely occurs more often.

The point is that sure, there is always a complex interplay for the frum therapist regarding the sometimes conflicting values of the two worlds that he or she is a part. Nevertheless, this should not pasul the profession. On the contrary I believe if utilized correctly this conflict can enhance the self tremendously. Moreover, I would fiercely contend that other professions that are more business oriented pose greater halachic dilemmas for a frum Jew.

The second thing that bothered me was the fact that if she would find something that would contradict the torah she would have to "throw it out the window."

Using the assumption that nothing in psychology refutes the basic tenants of the torah, let's assume that what she meant is that anything that might stray at all from what chazal said (again, I am unsure of what that might be, but let's assume it exists) is to be immediately discarded.

I certainly understand that we must be wary when it comes to divrei chazal, but the attitude of throwing out as opposed to dealing with just bothers me. You can read any of the many things written regarding the whole Slifkin affair, as I have no desire to rehash this topic. Just wanted to mention it.

Again, from the little I have come across, psychological research confirms the teachings of our sages far more often than it attacks them. And although the tide has begun to turn within the orthodox world regarding the field of mental health, I still perceive more than a little bit of misgiving. The bottom line is that the orthodox community needs the mental health profession, whether or not it wishes to concede as much.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Jet lag and 9:00 minyanim

Flying east stinks. It really stinks with little kids.

Truth be told, I have nothing to complain about-- my kids were angels on the flight here. Once we arrived though it was a bit of a different story. I hate jet lag.

The first few nights my wife and I were up until 3:00 in the morning trying to convince our kids that they were tired (and yes, I hear all you parents who've passed this wonderful stage snickering in the background).

Hence the 9:00 minyanim part of the title. As an early riser, my experience davening in this type of quorum is limited.

It seems to me that there are two types of people who go to these minyanim on a consistent basis: A. People with nothing to do who enjoy davening, and B. People with nothing to do who want to get davening over with.

The best comparison I can make to the former is the proverbial Uncle Ned who surfs, plays video games with you, and is generally quite a hoot. Its always great spending an hour or two with Uncle Ned, but soon his antics become tiresome and you lose patience (I never had an Uncle Ned, which is too bad).

Sadly, this type of 9:00 minyan guy is probably the majority here in Israel, and trust me, there are a LOT of 9:00 minyan guys in the holy land. I was so far ahead that I found myself reading those corny intros to the artscroll siddur.

If you go to the shul down the block from me on a Friday night you will find a great deal of these holy yidden, bless their souls, inspiring me to name them "Kabbalas Shabbos Jews." KBJ are an interesting phenomenon-- I hope to write a more in depth post about them one of these days. (I don't mean to criticize (especially during Elul)(well, maybe I'm criticizing a little). The backgrounds of these Jews are often not your typical FFB, and the mere fact that they are somewhat in the fold is a neis.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Going back home

America has been great, but its time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Father daughter bonding

On the way back from Philly where we saw the Phillies get crushed.

My strange and twisted brain was only about 75 percent invested in the game. The other quarter was busy observing my surroundings-- mostly to poke fun.

The topic for today is fathers taking their daughters to games.

Generally these dads fall into three categories.

1. Dads with daughters who are knowledgeable or at least interested in baseball. Lucky for my dad his two daughters fall into this category. Still, let's be honest guys. Even if a girl knows that there are three outs in an inning or even that A- Rod is having a fantastic year you can't argue the merits of the double switch or whether the pitcher should bunt with one out and a runner on first with a chick. There are very few women who won't spend a good amount of a baseball game thinking about whether David Wright would look better with his socks pulled up. Consider yourself lucky if you are a dad who falls into this category.

2. Over intense good dad with disinterested daughters. The first two innings are spent trying to explain the difference between a fastball and change up until he realizes that Sally and Jill are more interested in why the players slap each others butts. He then gives up and just buys them lots of cotton candy. Despite the sweets he is forced to leave his seat and go exploring for half the game, and, being a good dad, he is generally able to keep his emotions in check.

3. Over intense bad dad. See 2 except he sends his daughters exploring on their own, and, being a bad dad, is mostly unable to keep his emotions in check.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Today's random wikipedia search

Yes, the fact that I perform random wikipedia searches makes me only slightly less nerdy than the guy who wrote this article.

10 points for anyone who can get through it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Research tells us that among fathers who are highly involved parents there exists infinitesimal difference between them and their wives in terms of parenting capacities (Ninio & Rinott, 1988).

The research failed to take me into account.

It has been less than a week since I finished school, and it is clear that I can't even come close to my eishes chayil.

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids more than anything in the world, and I know that I am a good dad. But the whole stay at home abba thing is not for me.

I think my problem is that, being a disciplined person, I can't deal with the times that my two and a half and one year olds act like two and a half and one year olds. My brother- in- law once actually said to his son who was two at the time and throwing a nasty tantrum, "stop acting like a two year old!!!"

Oh... the other problem is that I am a moron, and any decisiveness or common sense that I might display outside the house is lost once I step through the door.

A typical scene IH encounters when she returns from an errand that took 20 minutes:

Two and a half year old is gouging out his one year old sister's eyes while she desperately clings onto a block he is trying to wrestle from her. I sit on the couch reading.

IH: What's going on?
Me: They're playing.
IH: They're not playing, they're killing each other.

I'm fairly certain that had Ninio and Rinott observed me they would have quickly revised their work.

Ninio, A., Rinott, N. (1988). Fathers’ involvement in the care of their infants and their attributions of cognitive competence to infants. Child Development, 59, 652- 663
(if anyone is interested)

Monday, July 30, 2007

A new kind of discrimination

Social workers are compelled to seek and destroy discrimination and injustice. We fight for the rights of the underprivileged and battle for the oppressed.

Most social workers find their calling in the advocacy of the same old demoralized populations: The poor, the elderly, minorities, blah, blah , blah. How cliche.

As a social worker with true idealism I aim to go beyond ordinary oppression, and find discrimination in new places.

And I believe I have found my calling: Nusach sefard siddurim.

Anyone who davens Ashkenaz can go into a nusach Ari shul and easily find a siddur of their nusach. These nussach Ari shuls have the consideration to place a few siddurim for the minority in their midst.

Can the same be said for nusach ashkenaz shuls??? Nooooooooooooooo.

Go into any Young Israel and find me a nusach sefard siddur. Go ahead. I dare you to try. You'll be searching for a long time.

Is this fair? I SAY NO!!!!

Join me brothers as we combat this nusach Ari discrimination, and then we can all live in peace.

(By the way, the stuff about ordinary oppression at the top of this post is a joke. It is kind of sad that I need to spell that out, but from my minimal experience blogging it is clear that I do.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What it takes

A and B, recent American olim, walk into the misrad hapnim in order to fill out some routine paperwork. Both get the necessary forms from the front desk, take numbers, and wait. And wait. And wait.

Two hours later both A and B have their numbers' called. They sit down facing irritable agents who chew gum and talk on cell phones to their boyfriends. A and B both hand over the filled out forms, both are told that the documentation that they have brought with them is insufficient and that they must go to office X located in Y, get the necessary documentation, and
then return.

Both A and B had taken the morning off from work to come to the misrad hapnim in the first place and neither of them have the time to go running around to different offices. Both A and B had called ahead to make sure that the documentation they had was sufficient, and both were assured that what they had was fine.

A and B walk out of the building. A wears a look of anger/exasperation. B's lips start to curl upward, he looks to the heavens and says, "You gotta love this place."

A and B both call their wives. A says to her, "I hate Israelis." B says to his wife, "I love Israelis."

Every single American oleh can identify with the above case. The experiences of A and B were identical and not abnormal. That being the case, what made the two react so differently?

When we first planned our aliya the advice I was constantly given was, "Have a sense of humor about everything. You'll have good stories to tell."

This is good advice. There is no getting around the fact that Americans and Israelis are different. Every American will encounter situations that will evoke feelings of aggravation, and the key to getting over these feelings is having a good support system and a sense of humor.

But having a sense of humor about it all is not as easy as it sounds. Some of these things can really tick you off, and its not as simple as "just get over it."

But what is that nekuda?

Jay Belsky wrote a book called The transition to parenthood (a must read for new parents by the way) in which he talks about how the arrival of a baby impacts the relationship of the parents. He looked into positivity in parenting, and his research shows that parental optimism correlates strongly with marital satisfaction.

One thing in particular intrigued me. Belsky found that some parents who are not optimists by nature can nevertheless increase their level of positivity by the mere presence of the baby. In other words, the love these particular parents feel towards their babies negates any irritable feelings they might have at a particular time.

I find this amazing, because I think we can extend this to other areas of life.

Like aliya.

I think the key to staying positive about Israel is having something to be positive about. It is kind of amazing what parents put up with from their children, yet in healthy families they do just that because they love those kids.

You would also be amazed what people with a true love of Israel will put up with. Like the parents in Belsky's research they gain positivity from their love of the land. It allows them to smile in the face of enormous irritation.

But how to acquire this love?

For me, the only way to love the land is to know the land. To understand what Eretz Yisrael means to me as a Jew. In order to do this it is important to learn about Israel. Read Rav Kook, Rav Teichtel, Rav Yehudah Halevi-- Jews who really had a thirst for the land. Whose every waking moment was devoted to it. Read the history of the land-- from Avraham through the meraglim, through Greek and Roman times, through modern Israel. Learn about what we have given up for this little piece of earth. Hang around individuals who love Israel-- it will rub off on you.

I get scared when I hear of people making aliya for external reasons. Yes, the learning is great here, but you can learn well in the States too. Yes, we don't pay for health insurance, but the money you save on that will be lost elsewhere. Simply put, the only reason to live in Israel is to live in Israel.

And when you understand that you can smile.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Am I a kvetch?

I get easily annoyed in elevators.

The topic for today is something that I probably have no right to get upset about, but it annoys me nonetheless, and I want to get some feedback about it.

I get ticked off when I am on an elevator and I have pushed a high floor, say number 10. Another person gets on and pushes 6. A third person joins us, he is young and able bodied. He sees that floor six is lit up, and then pushes 5 or 7.

This annoys me, because he is wasting my time. Whenever I see that someone has pushed the floor directly above or below my floor I just get off with that person and either go up or descend a flight.

Am I just being a kvetch?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Something about this...

...doesn't make sense

Does anybody remember the uproar last year? I don't think the eida hacheredis has suddenly become multicultural.

What is really going on behind the scenes here?

Can anyone make sense of this?

Help me out here.

Home? Or just back?

The outbreak of Oleh Self Righteousness Syndrome has some interesting ramifications, particularly in the way Americans perceive olim. The guilt that I have spoken about is evident in the way I am spoken to now that I am back in the States.

Usually what happens is this. I see Old Friend Or Acquaintance, and go over to say hello. With a big smile they say, "Hey OOS great to see you. Welcome home."

Then suddenly a look of the deepest fear/worry/shame/guilt (and perhaps just a touch off annoyance) overtakes their faces, and they quickly exclaim, "I mean welcome back. Of course, welcome back. Not home."

To anyone who thinks that OSRS is harmless these exchanges are exhibit A. Why have we undergone this uncomfortable way of greeting? Why the quick and nervous clarification of their salutation? Is it because they truly believe that America is not home?

Of course not. The awkwardness is a direct result of having been corrected countless times by smug olim who either say, "Back, not home" or portray an expression of the deepest loathing at the nerve of these Americans to equate the U.S. with home.

In fact, for numerous reasons I make an effort to repress my instinct to call America "home." But please, if you OFOA see me in the street don't be scared to call this country what it really is.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

People I admire

I can't help but be awed by the numerous Israelis in my graduate program, or for that matter, American students in Israeli schools, and marvel at the work they put into studying in a foreign language. I was recently speaking to an Israeli classmate and we were lamenting the fact that we were required to read what amounted to over 90 pages for just one of our six classes. However, what emerged were two very different stories. What had taken me an hour and a half to read had taken her 4 HOURS!!! I can't even imagine what it must be like.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Everything in moderation

Going to the "matzah minyan" in the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills is sort of like getting drunk: Fun and interesting once a year, but debilitating on a regular basis. If you have never experienced this phenomenon I strongly recommend doing so. It is marvelous.

What I like best about that minyan is the guys who leave early. I'm not talking taking your tefillin off during alienu early. These guys are out by the beginning of tachanun.

I know that most of them run supermarkets or other shops that need to be opened very early, but still, it requires a certain type of azus only frum Jews can muster in order to leave halfway through an eighteen minute minyan.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Kinda Creepy

What kind of individual would perform this google search?

And what does it say about my blog that I am the first result?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Joys revisited

One of my favorite pastimes pre- aliya was tuning in to the sports radio stations after a local team had lost, and listening to the callers lament their teams, their lives, and the tragedy in Darfur. Woops, nope, they don't really care about trivial matters like that.

A general example:

Radio jockey: Looks like our next caller is Jim from Kanarsi. Jim, what's up.

Jim: Mike, I have had it. I have had it with this team, with this quarterback. I, I, I just don't know what to say.

RJ: Yeah, I feel you Jim, that was a pretty dismal performance.

J: Someone's gotta go Mike, I mean this is crazy already.

RJ: Yeah, I feel you Jim. That was a pretty dismal performance.

J: I mean, the pass rush wasn't there, that freakin quarterback kept throwin interceptions. Someone's gotta go Mike.

RJ: Yeah, I feel you Jim. That was a pretty dismal performance. Okay, who do we got next? Jonny in Queens your up...

Actually, reading this over I think Carl Rogers may have come up with the formula for client centered therapy from WFAN. This ranting does seem therapeutic.

In any event I am busy making up for lost time.

Oops, gotta go. Yanks just lost another one.

I hate Israeli banks

Enough said

Monday, May 21, 2007

Leavin' on a jet plane

On Sunday the OOS family will b"h be flying back to New York so that I can attend (amazingly productive, interesting, efficient, motivating, and mind blowing) classes, which will bring to a conclusion our first year in Israel.

It has been an amazing ride that brings new experiences daily, and often ends up with me looking foolish.

There are two things that I can state clearly. One is that Aliya is not easy-- at least for us. Two, if taken with a bit of humor aliya can cause one to grow in ways unimagined.

I do not know if I will get a chance to post before I get to the States, nor do I know how much time I will have once there.

In any event I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my mindless blabber. I hope you got something out of it.

And please come back for year two.

Another Clarification

I know that the smart thing would be to ignore all of this, but for some reason this whole social work kerfuffle (is that a word?) is annoying me.

There have been questions as to whether I am cut out for the work, given the feelings I expressed in a recent post, which I have since deleted. There are those who feel that I am insensitive to the struggles of minority groups, or perhaps that I am even a bigot.

I am not.

No self- respecting mental health professional would ever make an assessment without having first met the individual being assessed. I find it absurd that someone would diagnose me as a racist based on a few words posted to a weblog. I can't convince anyone of anything that they do not want to believe, but the words that were written in that post-- although perhaps reckless and definitely ill- advised-- were not intended to be insensitive. I have already apologized for writing that post.

I would like to make a few points of my own.

The two people who responded (or is it one person?) seem to be troubled by my entry into the field of social work. Based on my comments "it makes no sense" that I would want to pursue this degree.

Well, I have a confession to make: I didn't want to go into social work originally. In fact, I used the MSW to get a degree that would allow me to become a therapist. You see, when I was in the States I had a decision to make. I wanted both a doctorate in psychology, and to make aliya. The doctorate would take around six years, and I didn't want to wait, so I chose to get a degree that would allow me to make aliya immediately, or in your words a "degree that any idiot can get over the summer."

As it happened, through my reading, I became somewhat enamored with many of social work's distinct characteristics such as its emphasis on empathy, systems theory, and de-emphasis of the medical model, and I came to realize that my sheltered upbringing shielded me from true suffering that many populations are exposed to.

However, just as I accepted many of social work's theories I reserved the right to reject some as well. For example, I patently reject as absurd the notion that perpetual poverty is solely a result of oppression. Don't get me wrong, I am not a Charles Murray guy either, and welfare is an enormously positive thing when used correctly, but c'mon, let's get real here guys.

If the field of social work can't tolerate professionals whose views don't correspond exactly with the greater profession than it will receive morons. They will indeed be asking for "low rent therapists." I for one will not apologize for holding on to my individual views. While I understand the need to be sensitive I won't conform to the PC obsession that grips my profession. To suggest that "it makes no sense" for me to be a social worker given what I wrote truly makes no sense.

One more thing: I still cannot grasp the commenter's obsession with my "frum colleagues." What does being frum have to do with anything? Or are you guilty of the same discrimination of which you accuse me?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A clarification

I have deleted my previous post after a commenter responded with this:
A few points:1) So what is a smart person like you doing getting a worthless degree from WSSW?2) I wish frum guys would get over the idea that social worker is the pc term for "low-rent therapist" and "degree that any idiot can get over the summer" and seriously consider the history and goals of the social work
movement before embarking on a career in the field. 3) If you really think that all homeless people are "lazy good for nothing psychos" you should seriously consider a different career. Or is "lazy good for nothing psychos" just the non-pc term for victims of domestic violence and sexual and emotional abuse and sufferers of severe mental illness?4) Yes, social work is at odds with most social-conservative (hence Republican)values. Social work believes in social engineering and the government's responsibility to aid certain underprivileged
classes of people. Was this very basic idea lost on you when you enrolled?5) I'm glad your MSW class stressed those ideas of social inclusion. Why? because even though they are little more than the touchy-feely ideas you get from public television shows for preschoolers, they run counter to the deeply held bigotry that you implicitly express (and is shared by many of your frum colleagues) in
what you havewritten:"We hate Homos.""We hate shvartzes.""We hate Spics""We hate those dark-skinned immigrants who bring disease, crime, and smelly food to our wonderful country.""We hate homeless people who are really nothing more than 'lazy good for nothing psychos'."Well, at least you will be practicing in Israel and come to the realization that a country full of Jews suffers from the same social maladies as the goyishe velt.Disclosure: I am affiliated with YU, but not WSSW in particular.
There is a great deal that I would like to say, but this is not the forum. For now let me leave it at this. I never meant "We hate homos, schvartzas, and immigrants." I definitely do not believe that homeless people are "lazy good for nothing psychos." However, after reading the post again I see that one could easily have gotten that impression from what was written and I apologize for that. If the commenter who responded would like to pursue this further I can be contacted at

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Seminary Girls

Ben Chorin recently mentioned his less than riveting experiences with Seminary girls who come to visit for Shabbos.

Being a firm believer in the merits of piling on I present the following story, which affirms about 500 different stereotypes regarding Seminary/Stern girls.

During Simchas Torah of my second year learning in Israel, there was talk of a airport workers strike in JFK, and rumors floated around that the motzai yom tov plane that would be carrying many Americans back to the States would be forced to land and stop over in Europe. I was sitting with my future wife in a hotel lobby when I heard the following conversation between two seminary girls:

Seminary Girl 1: Did you know that we might need to stop in Europe?
Seminary Girl 2: Yeah, that really stinks.
SG 1: Well, maybe we can go shopping.
SG 2: Yeah, but with our luck we will probably land in a bad European country like... Saudi Arabia.
SG 1: Yeah, I know.

(This story is true. I could not have made this up if I tried.)

B'inyan falafel

I have some serious thoughts on my mind that I will bezras Hashem post about in the coming days, but for now more shtuyot.

I love falafel. Especially Shalom falafel. I can't say that I have any insight into the nature of the geula, but I know that Shalom falafel will play a role.

That is why it pained me to such an extent when in the begining of the year my son refused to eat it. My son doesn't like falafel?????-- impossible. He might as well not keep mitzvot (not really-- but kinda). He loves it now so we're good.

A story that kind of sums up Israel: Shalom falafel is located on Rechov Betzalel, which is a fairly busy street. Because there is nowhere to park cars often stop in the right lane while their owners go and purchase a falafel. Usually, the owners buy the falafel and get back in their cars so as not to block traffic. However, one night while I was buying a falafel, a man pulled over to get a bite to eat. The street was busy, and his parked car started to cause a traffic jam. Seemingly oblivious, he took his time making his purchase while horns blared in the background. After his falafel was ready, instead of running back to his car and apologizing to all of the people stuck in the jam he created, he ordered a coke, sat down and leisurely ate his meal. This country is great.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

OOS weighs in on Winograd

Boo!!! Hiss Hiss!!!

Olmert stinks!!!

Just the type of savvy political insight you have come to expect here at the OOS weblog.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The real reason we got out of there part II

Right Here

Over the past week I have found that a serious fringe benefit of Aliya is not having to listen to countless mindless morons spewing endless nonsense about the NFL draft.

For those of the female persuasion let me explain what this event is. The NFL Draft is basically a competition between over sized, girlfriend beating drug addicts to see who can have the most money thrown their way in order to buy the biggest and most blinged out Lincoln Navigator one can possibly imagine.

In order to explain to us poor fools what is going on behind the scenes in the "war rooms," legions of illiterate "insiders" continuously break down each players performance since 3rd grade.

The fact that they are middle age men scrutinizing 2o year old kids doesn't seem to phase them. The fact that only 25% of the drafted players will still be playing in three years doesn't seem to phase them either. And, amazingly, the fact that spending all of this time on such a wasteful endeavor is a clear sign of how far our society has fallen seems to be lost on them as well.

My favorite draft story: When I was in high school I was watching one of these draft specials. One of the segments was a feed from the home of a college tight end who was expected to be drafted at the end of the first round. When he was drafted there was a big celebration. Immediately after all of the hugs and kisses he said to his mother (who seemed to be wearing dollar sign contact lenses), "O.K., lets go get the car." And off they went to their local Lincoln dealer and bought the requisite blinged out Navigator. As this young man stepped into the car he said to the camera, "This is the reward for all of my hard work."


Hard work?!?

Sorry buddy, cheating your way to a 2.45 GPA is not what I call hard work. Getting free cars and other expensive toys from psychotic boosters is not hard work. Hard work is the guy who gets up at 5:30 in order to learn for a few hours before catching the 8:02. Hard work is the kollel guy putting in 18 hour days in the beis medrash for 500 bucks a month. Hard work was that guy sitting next to you in Survey of European History who delivered pizza in his spare time in order to put himself through college.

Playing a game for millions of dollars will never be hard work in my book no matter how much you sweat.

But now I am here-- I don't have to deal with that anymore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

OOS makes a big announcment

The OOS blog has been waaaaaaaaaaaaay too serious over the past few days. It is time to get back to our bread and butter, i.e. nonsense.

Anyway, if you can remember back before we made Aliya I wrote about my love for Heinz ketchup, and wondered if I would be able to live without it.

Well, I have an announcement to make:

OOS officially sanctions OSEM brand ketchup.

It happened over Pesach when we had to take a break from Heinz. I know it is a shocker, but it's true.

A musar haskil: We can all make changes in life. Sometimes we just need the right circumstances.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is Aliya the only way? Part II

Note: In order to fully "get" this post you must read this one first.

Now that you have seen it you have read about my distaste for Oleh Self Righteousness Syndrome, and its product-- guilt.

It is abundantly clear that not everyone is chayav to move to Israel. There are innumerable factors that must be weighed before making the decision to go, and those that do not weigh them do an enormous disservice to themselves and their families.

However, this has a flip side too.

The problem is that most people never reach this first step of even considering whether to move. Despite whatever lip service they might pay, most American Jews-- orthodox Jews-- view Eretz Yisrael as a cross between a nice tourist destination and fodder for interesting debate at the Shabbos table.

I am not pulling a J. Kerry here. I still believe every word of what I wrote a few days ago. America is not a warehouse of evil, and nobody should feel guilty about living in the States. But Israel is where Jews belong. How can it be that for so many Jews Israel is not an option?

There are many factors that have caused the current state of affairs, but I think that the core issue at hand is a lack of understanding, and perhaps a lack of belief.

A core theme in the sifrei chassidus is that if Hashem's presence was with us at all times we would be unable to stray from His derech. It is only because His presence is not felt at all times that we act the way we do. We can rectify this situation by striving to achieve a truer understanding of Him, and how He impacts every second of our existence.

I would like to connect this to the matter at hand. There are many Jews who feel that Israel is important and they do many good things for it congruent with where they stand politically. Some donate, some volunteer, some learn etc. But the importance of the land is to so many people skin deep. People who live here will tell you that this place penetrates the soul like nothing else can. Israel is not just a place, and when you get that understanding it does not leave you-- and not considering aliya becomes inconceivable.

Israel is not a blue and white cupcake.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I cannot condemn those who don't consider moving. I think it is unfortunate and I think that parents and schools have failed miserably in teaching its importance, but I do understand where this failure stems from. A true love of Israel-- the type that makes one consider moving here-- is something you either do have or you don't.

P.S. I know I sound self- righteous. Never said I wasn't a hypocrite.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yom Hazikaron

Having been here less than a year there is very little that I can say about this day. In many ways Yom Hazikaron makes me feel more like an American than ever. However, there is something that I would like to share.

It is hard for Jews to be awed by numbers, because we are inundated with one big one: 6,000,000. Quantities lose meaning, and therefore seeing the number 22,500 really doesn't hit me.

There are three ways that I can connect to this day.

The first is watching videos like this in order to gain an understanding of what those 22,500 lives meant.

The second is a point that I heard this morning from a friend who pointed out the irony of the day. It is a day of remembrance, and for far too many families, a day of sadness. However, at the same time it is an incredible day of achdus. I know that the "real" Yeshivas are not doing anything practical to commemorate the day and I have no taina with them. But, unfortunately, their is no concept that brings people together like nonexistence. Death somehow has a way of making us forget our shtuyot. And that is why I get ticked off when I hear small minded people complaining one way or another about the practices of the day. This Yeshiva had a commemoration, this one didn't. Who cares. Get over yourselves and realize that what we do is not the point-- its where we are at. Today, other than a few psychos, we are all in the same place. And that is special.

The third way that I connect is through the understanding of what I have done to my family as a result of making aliya. At this point I cannot have a true understanding of what Yom Hazikaron is. But I will. Hopefully in as distant a way as possible.

The things we do for this crazy place.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is Aliya the only way?

A little while ago my dad posted about the difficulty of making aliya with teenagers. Someone named Gabi responded with this. An I added my two cents:

Careful Gabi, you seem to be suffering from an acute case of Oleh- Self- Righteousness Syndrome. To begin with I would ask you why there is a need for an organization like this or this... (ayen sham for
the rest)
I feel I must elaborate-- not only regarding the notion of moving with teenagers (which, by the way, I recently heard from a member of the NBN social services department is being unofficially discouraged by her organization), but the concept of Aliya.

Allow me to be more specific. The real question that I would like to deal with is this: Is Aliya for every Jew?

Truthfully, for me to address the issue is somewhat disingenuous. It is a halachic question and, as anyone who has read this blog can likely tell, I am very much unqualified. However, as a recent oleh I believe that I do have insight into this topic that I would like to share.

Let me start by saying this. Aliya is great, and many, perhaps most olim make it work. Making Aliya has changed my life for the better in more ways than I can articulate and I am grateful to the Ribbono Shel Olam for placing me in the position to make it happen. The timeless words of the Kuzari seem appropriate here.
It is not difficult to accept the assumption that one land is set aside from all other lands. Do you not see with your own eyes that a place is better than all other places for a specific plant, a specific mineral, and a specific animal... The Chosen People are not able to cleave to the Godly matter in any land but this one. (Kuzari, B: 10- 12) (My own very poor translation)

Jews belong here. The Land of Israel is where we thrive. As my friend Hooie (once again name changed to protect the innocent (actually this time it really is changed. Oh well.)) succinctly put it, "Israel is a really, really great place."

That being said I think it is preposterous to posit that every Jew must make aliya, or even that every Jew should make aliya. Moving here is hard, and it is not for everyone. My wife and I did it by the book-- we moved while we were young, arranged our schooling around the assumption of moving, etc., etc. etc. It has still been difficult in ways we could not have anticipated (more on that later).

To most people the notion that aliya should be a cautious decision is not a chidush. But there is something that I detect in the voices of Americans who wish to make Aliya that distresses me because I am fairly certain of what its source is. That something is guilt, and its source is us- and by us I mean olim.

During the few times when I dragged my lazy, anti- social behind out of Yeshiva for Shabbos, I had the pleasure of staying at the houses of various olim, new and old. What I remember most about these visits was returning to Yeshiva feeling guilty. Guilty that I was still an American, and that somehow, without a teudat zehut I was living a meaningless life. This was not my experience with the most of the olim I stayed by, mind you-- but too many.

Guilt should not be a factor in aliya, and those who don't make it should not feel guilty. Yet, the self- righteousness of so many olim is enough to make one sick.

Let's make two things clear, despite the fact that they are not points that should need clarification.

1. It is entirely possible to live a meaningful life outside the Land of Israel.
2. It is entirely possible to waste one's life inside the Land of Israel.

Making aliya is not a free pass, nor is staying in the States a death sentence.

Reasonable people act reasonably when making big decisions. One would be hard pressed to find a much bigger decision than whether or not to make aliya. To ask people to turn off their intellect and make rash decisions regarding aliya, is to me, unconscionable.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A weird place

I am always struck by the absurdities of this strange place that seem to fly right over the average Israeli's head. I am sure that if I sat and thought I would be able to come up with a list of over one hundred odd things that go on in this wacky place, which the average Joe misses because it is so, well... normal.

For now let's settle for one such topic: Motor scooters. Yes, these contraptions are everywhere in Yerushalayim- which makes sense considering the abundance of simtaot (alleyways), one way streets, and roads leading to nowhere that are a staple of Jerusalem life, and which can only be navigated by these nifty machines.

That is not what's funny. What makes me laugh is that one can find every type of person riding. Young or old, chiloni or charedi, male or female, it does not matter. Everyone and their grandmother rides them-- and I use that phrase very literally. Grandmothers do ride motorbikes here in Israel.

The first time I saw this phenomenon I was stunned. Walking down Rechov Yaffo I see a woman dressed in the usual motor biking attire: leather biking jacket, leather pants, a helmet painted in wildly clashing colors. She pulls off the helmet and... Is that you Bubbe?!? Well, not mine but surely someone's . I look around to snicker with my fellow pedestrians who must also be astounded by this absurd sight, but no, everyone else seems to think that it is perfectly normal.

Experience would tell me that it was normal. And I too have learned to keep a straight face.

But inside I am still smiling.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dov Bear misses the point

A few days ago my dad wrote this:
2. OOS called from Yerushalayim on Acharon shel Pesach to rub it in. He left a message on our phone that he and HHW were eating both pizza and falafel (Shalom's falafel, at that) at the same time. I guess we deserve it.

To which DB responded with this:
What's so hot about chometz? I never understood the rush to fres.
To which I must respond:
DB you just don't get it. It's not actually eating chametz (although chometz is pretty hot after seven days of matzah with cream cheese) it's the fact that we can eat chametz if we so desire. When I called I was actually lying about eating both pizza and falafel at once-- although I did eat both in due time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

People I want to kill

Lets start with the guy from the following story:

This morning, as is my minhag, I went to the 6:45 minyan in the shul across the street. This shul is, hmmm... how should I put it?... interesting (Yes, interesting is a nice word for a shul that is in a bunker, and which gets over 100 people for kabbolos shabbos, yet struggles mightily to get a minyan for shacharis on a weekday. But I digress).

We are almost always able to get a minyan, but unfortunately today was an unlucky day, and at 7:15, with only eight men the decision was made to daven b'yichidus. At 7:25 a ninth man entered. At 7:35, yes SEVEN- THIRTY FIVE!!! No you are not reading that incorrectly a full FIFTY MINUTES!!! after davening was scheduled our asiri (tenth man) (lets call him @&%*) entered (this is not strange for @!*&, he never comes before 7:15).

Seething, I ripped off my tallis and tefillin, and headed for the exit. As I left, @#^% turned to me, and in a reproachful voice says, "Ma zeh? Yeish lanu minyan. Assur lecha la'azov." (What is this? We have a minyan. It is forbidden for you to leave)

A word of advice Mr. @#$%--- watch your back.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Biur Chametz-- Israel Style

The Mishna in Pesachim (21a) brings down a machlokes regarding whether biur chametz min hatorah may be done only through sreifa (burning) or if it can also be accomplished through mefarer v'zoreh laruach oh matil layam (crumbling and throwing to the wind or dropping into the sea).

It seems that here in Yerushalayim a fourth method has been invented: zorek lachatulim (throwing to the cats).

Throughout the month of Nisan Yerushalmi felines feast on the discarded chametz of Yerushalmi Jews, enjoying the benefits of our labor. Anyone who has ever lived in the holy city knows that when throwing out trash one must be wary of these small creatures jumping out of the dumpsters as the garbage gets thrown in. However, before Pesach extra caution is necessary, as one bag of trash can cause the hasty retreat of five to six mangy cats. Helping their cause is the minhag in Israel not to sell chametz gamur.

Cats benefit after Pesach as well. There is a kindhearted soul living on my block who takes it upon himself to feed the cats that call it home. In the mornings he puts out cat food, a tin full of milk, and four or five opened yogurts for his little friends to dine on. It must be that this Pesach he miscalculated his matzah consumption and bought too much because this morning, in addition to their regular meal, the cats were given a tin full of crumpled up matzah. Now, I cannot claim to have any knowledge regarding the inner workings of the feline digestive system, but if matzah has the same effect on their stomachs as it does on mine than I think I will be forced to reassess how kindhearted this man really is.

As an aside: If anyone has any idea of the history of the cat epidemic in Israel please enlighten me in the comments section. I have heard that cats were specifically brought in to take care of the mice, but I don't know that for sure.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How quickly things change

One year ago yesterday I was celebrating the second day of yom tov in America. And that seemed normal and good to me. After all, yom tov is synonomous with two days, isn't it?

When we decided to move to the holy land I was struck by how weird it would be to celebrate only one day from now on. After all, yom tov is synonymous with two days isn't it?

Yesterday, while still getting over the, um, excretion system predicament that comes with drinking four cups of wine and 781 kzeisim of matzah in a single night, I thought to myself, "My God I can't imagine doing this again tonight. How are my parents going to get through it? After all, any idiot knows that yom tov is only one day. Right?"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stick a fork in us

We are done

It's official. Israel has become a watered down, highly pathetic, and very poorly dressed copy of Ameropue.

I get the whole celebrity obsession thing in America. In the States, if you can't find something to excite you then life gets boring. Some people get excited by fishing, others learning, and some people (O.K., just women) get their kicks out of flipping the pages of PEOPLE.

But in Israel you don't need to look far for excitement. In fact, life would be a whole lot better if it were a tad more boring. Shouldn't nonstop violence lend some perspective?

Somewhere in shamayim the Satmar Rebbe is telling Ben Gurion, "I told you so."

p.s. I know that I am a bit behind the times with this story. Gimme a break. I got two babies.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

On Jaywalking and Other Pointless Topics

A few random thoughts from the holy land:

1. When it comes to jaywalking Israelis just don't get it. Memo to Israelis: When there are no cars coming down a narrow street it is o.k. to walk to the other side. CROSS THE STREET!!! You are blocking my way.
Actually, some Israelis take it to the extreme and decide that they have nothing to fear from multi- ton vehicles hurtling their way at fifty miles an hour, and cross right in the middle of oncoming traffic. Let's find a happy medium guys.

2. Yes, I know that my son/daughter is dressed too warmly/not warm enough/too girly/not feminine enough/ and is leaning out of the stroller/walking when he should be in the stroller/poking his sister's eyes out/pulling her brother's hair or is lagging behind developmentally/too developed (???)/not talking enough/talking too much, but thank you random stranger for pointing that out.

3. My Hebrew officially stinks and I am awful at learning languages.

4. Apparently, my community's idea of a beautification project is creating intricate patterns of dog excrement on the streets and sidewalk. This type of creativity soars way over my head, but then again, I have never been a big fan of modern art.

5. The human ego's desire for cheap feelings of superiority knows no bounds. In my case it is Israeli self righteousness syndrome (which I am hoping will be inserted into the DSM V). It is so incredibly easy to fall into this trap, which I vowed to avoid. However, I occasionally catch myself looking at a group of American tourists and saying to myself in a sinister voice, "Ha, ha, ha, those foolish, petty Americans." Which is exactly how every real Israeli looks at me.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Things that annoy me.

This annoys me.

Is Early Childhood Too Early for Hebrew?” This was the question posed by Tani Foger, EdD, a 2006 graduate of Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and a school psychologist, at the inaugural colloquium of the new Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies at Azrieli Graduate School on Dec. 5...

Dr. Foger, a special education expert, focused her presentation on the immersion method of teaching Hebrew to preschoolers.

“Hebrew immersion programs in early childhood education will ensure that our day school graduates have a vibrant, facile and working relationship with the Hebrew language,” Dr. Foger said prior to the colloquium.

I really don't have anything useful to say about teaching American preschoolers Hebrew. It might be a good idea or it might not (all I remember from my preschool yeas was that I could master nuclear physics if cookies were involved).

What ticks me off is that there is a need for this. What ticks me off is that a conference needs to held in order to determine why kids can't speak Hebrew. What ticks me off is that after ten years of Hebrew classes I still futz around in the language. "Um ani rotzeh, I mean ratziti, I mean... Do you speak English?"

I have a question for the panel. How can it be that a day school student goes through ten years of Hebrew classes, gets straight A's, and cannot put together a coherent sentence? Forget about me for a second-- I was an awful, lazy student-- but I had friends who actually cared about school and got good grades. Their Hebrew is no better than mine.

The title of the conference should have been, "Why do our Hebrew classes stink?"

In my opinion there are two reasons. First, the stuff that is being taught has virtually no relevance to the actual spoken language. Kids come into tests knowing how to differentiate between poal and nifal, but really have no grasp of their practical ramifications. The second reason that the classes stink is that usually the teachers stink. When I was in school Hebrew teachers were almost always the rabbis who either did not speak enough English, or were not charismatic enough to give shiur... or both.

What we have here is ambivalence. On one hand modern orthodox schools are tied down to their bread and butter. We love the state of Israel, it is reishit smichat geulateinu, go buy Israel bonds, yada yada yada. Consequently,it would follow that it is pretty important to learn Hebrew. On the other hand there is still a small voice inside of them that cries Torah shebeal peh has been our legacy for two thousand years. Let's concentrate on that." So what then do we focus on? Learning Hebrew, or being Jewish? The answer? Neither.

The school that isn't concerned with this dilemna(and most of you can figure out which I school I am referring to) has no problem teaching their students Hebrew. They are quite certain which is more important. Ambivalence is the greatest obstacle to achievement. Take away the ambivalence and their is no problem achieving.

I am in no way suggesting that this school should be the model. However, if the modern- orthodox schools believe that learning Hebrew is important than what is needed is not to teach Hebrew in preschool. What is needed is Hebrew classes that don't stink.