How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

February 19, 2016

I Won a Grammy

Filed under: children,Family,Good News,Health,life cycle,mitzvot,Parenting — howdoyoujew @ 18:32

And I bet you didn’t even know I could sing or produce records or anything. Well, I can’t and I don’t, but anyway my Grammy was way better, if only slightly taller, than the award they give out.
I found out about my Grammy, Phyllis Hersch, the way I’ve heard people find out about winning the Nobel Prize, from a phone call at an odd hour that originally went to an old number then got forwarded. I was told that I was nominated as a potential bone marrow match for a patient with some kind of leukemia, and would I mind getting tested to see if I was a true match. I barely remembered signing up for the National Marrow Donor Program (Be The Match) several years earlier while in grad school, at a random student registration drive on campus.
Probably about 10 days after that initial inquiry, I was told I was a winner perfect match! Then followed a few weeks of vetting, getting my bona fides checked out, and being asked about a thousand times if I was SURE I was willing to go forward and donate and did I remember that I could back out at any time. At this point all I knew about the patient was that she was a she who was 63 years old. That made her about the same age as my own parents, which made it logical that she had grown kids, probably grandkids (I was late starting a family, that didn’t mean everyone else was), and therefore it was clear I would do this. If I had even a chance to give someone a little extra time with her family, who was I to deny it? Based on the high accuracy of the match, it was also likely that she was Jewish, which made it that much more of a mitzvah.
I did a little acupuncture to prepare my body, had the surgery, and eagerly awaited the tiniest bit of news that trickled in over the next several months. First the transplant grafted, which was good. Then nothing for a while, then a general “she’s doing OK” message. Finally, as the mandated year for keeping the identification of donor and recipient confidential from each other neared its end, I called the NMDP and authorized them to release my information to the recipient and her family.
As I remember it, it was the day after the year was up that I got the phone call from the Grammy herself. We talked for quite a while that first time, exchanging information about our respective families, finding out wonderful shared joys like her birthday being the same day as my wedding anniversary, and trying to figure out how we were now related. I implored Phyllis not to take up a life of crime, since we now shared the same DNA and I wasn’t ready to take the fall for her (did I say I’m not a singer? I’m also not a genetic scientist).
Less than a year after that first phone call, I became a father for the first time, and less than a year after that Grammy and Papa came to visit and celebrate life and love with us in San Diego. In the subsequent decade, we saw each other a few more times (one or two planned occasions and one surprise visit), spoke numerous times, and shared loads of family simchas (mostly by mail, Internet, phone, etc.). Births on our end, bar and bat mitzvahs on theirs, and grown-up birthdays all around. I reminded my kids over and over how lucky they were to have an extra set of grandparents, and Grammy and Papa never failed to pick the perfect birthday and Chanukah presents even for kids they’d never met.
Grammy Phyllis is gone now, but it is all that time over the last 11 years that I’ll continue to draw strength from. All that love, all that life.

May 2007, Children's Pool

May 2007, Children’s Pool


Santee, CA 2007

Santee, CA 2007


Shot on Coronado

Shot on Coronado


At Heaven Sent Desserts, North Park, San Diego

At Heaven Sent Desserts, North Park, San Diego

October 8, 2015

Like it was yesterday

Filed under: children,Family,Good News,history,life cycle,Parenting — howdoyoujew @ 06:29

I remember laying awake in bed the night that our daughter came home from the hospital. She was in a bassinet at the foot of our bed, and Jenn said something like “What if she stops breathing and we can’t hear her?!”

What was I worried about? Boyfriends. College tuition bills. The overwhelming responsibility of raising a decent human being.

And here we are, 9 years later. I’m still worried about all those things, but I’m confident that we’re heading in the right direction. At least as far as the decent human goes.

newborn baby held by father

This was shot by my amazingly talented sister the day H came home from the hospital

baby sleeping next to father

Peaceful, easy feeling

closeup of baby face

Those eyes are still amazing

June 1, 2013

The Israel Conference in LA

Filed under: Good News,Israel,productivity,technology,work — Tags: , , — howdoyoujew @ 22:48

I attended the Israel Conference in LA this past Thursday (it continued into Friday but I had other commitments), and wrote up this reflection for publication. I’ll be doing reviews of several of the startups that exhibited there in the coming days and weeks, and, as referenced below, I’ll also be reviewing The Unstoppables, a new book on entrepreneurship that heavily draws on the Israeli startup spirit and culture (the book’s author, Bill Schley, and Graham Weston, who wrote the foreword, spoke on a panel at the Conference, hence the connection).

***
There’s some inherent risk to getting any group of hundreds of people together for a conference at a boutique hotel in Los Angeles. All sorts of logistical snafus could arise with the meeting spaces, Internet connectivity might be slow, traffic could of course be a problem, causing speakers or vendors to be late to their sessions, and on and on. But make this a gathering of people who tend to talk with their hands as much as Israelis are wont to do, and you’d just be asking for trouble. Or so it would seem if you only knew The Israel Conference on paper.

In practice, the fifth annual such meeting, which took place at West LA’s Luxe Hotel on Sunset Blvd. May 30 & 31, was a dynamic and injury-free event, featuring hundreds of attendees and representatives of dozens of Israeli and Israel-facing companies doing what people who love to talk do best – networking, making deals, and sharing ideas. The businesses included brand new to mid-stage startups, more established companies, and venture capital firms, all looking to be or be behind the next big thing. The driving force behind The Israel Conference is Sharona Justman, managing director of STEP Strategy Advisors, a business advising firm focusing on improving their clients’ profitability and market position through acquisitions. After being in Sharona’s presence for just a few minutes, you can’t help but be swept up in her positive energy, secure that her smile would light the way forward even if the electricity went out.

If you weren’t as immersed in both the Israeli economy and technology tools and toys as I am, you might be surprised at the plethora of innovative ideas coming out of Israel. You’d be less surprised if you’d read Start-Up Nation, the 2011 book that opened many people’s eyes to the remarkable success of the Israeli high-tech sector and broader economy (with its consistent growth over the last decade, even as countless other global economies have stagnated, shrunk, or utterly melted down). And you’d get completely over your surprise and just move into being inspired if you’d read The Unstoppables, the new book by Bill Schley (with a foreword by Graham Weston, founder of Rackspace). Schley and Weston, having read Start-Up Nation but with no previous experience in Israel, wanted to follow up and get another perspective on Israel’s entrepreneurial engine, so they did something incredibly Israeli: they flew to Israel with no agenda, no meetings set up, and no idea if they’d succeed. Of course, this being Israel, one contact turned into eight, which turned into dozens more, and by the end of the week, they had enough material for a book (a formal review of the book will follow). They shared the story of the genesis of the book and some of their impressions of Israeli ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit that imbues the Holy Land on a panel at The Israel Conference moderated by the conference’s co-chair, Yossi Vardi (known as the Godfather of Israeli high-tech).

Other panels at the conference covered topics such as cyber-security (particularly in the mobile device space), fundraising for startups at various stages of product and capital development, gaming, emerging sustainable energy solutions, and other areas where Israeli companies are on the bleeding edge of innovation. In between the panels, conference organizers built in plenty of time for attendees to network, schmooze, and – this being a Jewishly informed event – eat. The conference’s Pavilion of Companies featured some remarkable products and services offered by companies in varying stages of the startup cycle (some seeking funding to come out of limited beta testing, others that were just there to build awareness and maybe score additional clients and customers; I’ll review several of these individually in subsequent posts). But as often happens, some of the most interesting (and profitable) conversations happened off the beaten path, at small tables with three or four people who may not have known each other before this event. Arguably the greatest value in an event like The Israel Conference is to provide a space for people to find common ground and mutual personal and business interests that lead them to collaborate in ways that not only benefit them financially, but in many cases, in true Israeli and Jewish form, make the world a better place.

The next Israel Conference will take place in Los Angeles on May 29 & 30, 2014. Information is at http://www.theisraelconference.org/.

June 20, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

I just successfully upgraded my WordPress installation, which powers this blog, to the latest version (3.0, called Thelonius – see the complete list of major WP releases, all named for jazz musicians). I did this with nary a bump, very few changes in settings, and everything seems to be right.

My first activities with the new version was changing the theme of the site (the look & feel theme, not the content theme) to WP’s default for this version, called Twenty Ten, then changing the header image that appears on each page. While the default image is nice, I wanted 1) to test the waters and modify something and make sure it worked, and 2) to personalize the site imagery. To that end, you’re currently enjoying a (cropped) view of the Brandeis Bardin Institute, home of BCI, the summer camp for Jewish young adults that I attended as a camper (’95) then returned to as an advisor/counselor (’98). This small image hardly does the place justice, but it’s indicative and evocative of the campus’s beauty. I’ll write and talk more about this place another time.

For now, I’m going to call it a night. The plan for tomorrow is to begin documenting my participation with a good friend in The Jonah Project.

Edited on 6/23 to change post title. Because I can.

January 31, 2010

We must be doing something right.

Earlier this evening, after a terrific day that started with our amazing music class with the fabulous Ms. Laura and continued with a fantastic get-together with our awesome chavurah (including you, Bernsteins! See you soon!) at Fanuel St. Park, my beautiful 3-year-old daughter, of her own volition, helped clear our dishwasher (she did about half of the top rack while I was on the phone). I briefly thanked her, but I owe her a bigger show of gratitude tomorrow (for the help in the kitchen and for the fact that she was asleep before 8 PM).

It made me think of this beautiful drash by R’ David Wolpe that I received just the other day as part of his Off The Pulpit series (highly recommended subscription; some of the drashot are even shorter than this one, but they’re always thought-provoking, often profound, and ever relevant; I’m including the signup info at the bottom so it’s easy for you):

For My Daughter

By Rabbi David Wolpe

This past Shabbat I had the great joy of addressing my daughter on her Bat Mitzvah. I pointed to the phrase in her parasha (Torah portion), “… a night of watching.” (ex. 12:42) It occurs twice in the Bible, both times in the same sentence. The first time it refers to God’s watching; the second to the Israelites watching.

What were the Israelites watching? It was the eve of redemption and they had to protect their children as plagues ravaged Egypt. Parents do many things — we dream and disappoint; we hope, we advise, we criticize, we draw close, we puzzle, we praise. But mostly, we watch. We watch as our children grow and change. We watch as they listen to our stories and create their own stories. We watch as they become not who we plan for them to be, but who they truly are; as they step from our vision into God’s.

My wife very beautifully said that when she looks into my daughter’s eyes she sees not just where she is, but all the phases of her life. The parallelism in the verse makes sense: as God watches us, when we see a child flourish, we get a glimpse of God.

We hope that you will email these words to a friend, and encourage them to sign up by e-mail so they will be able to receive similar articles as well as updates in the future. Together, let’s create a virtual community of modern Torah for the 21st century!

Author’s note: Yes, I’m very aware of how long and full of adjectives the first sentence of this post is. It’s MY blog. I’m my own editor, and that’s how I like it.

January 1, 2010

Starting the new year with a surprise

Filed under: Family,fun,Good News,Health,life cycle,mitzvot,travel — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 22:27

Now that the surprise has been sprung, I can reveal the details and dispense with the mystery.

This morning I posted a new year’s greeting on Facebook from “an undisclosed location,” predictably prompting some of my friends to make veiled (or not-so-veiled) Dick Cheney jokes, which is what I expected. I couldn’t be more specific, because I was on my way to spring a terrific surprise on some very special people, courtesy of another very special person (I’m surrounded by very special people, can you tell?). Here’s the deal:

My kids have an extra set of grandparents – Grammy Phyllis and Papa Joel – due to the successful transplant of my bone marrow into Phyllis’s leukemia-racked body four years ago. Grammy has been cancer free ever since, and is therefore able to help her husband of nearly 50 years, Joel, celebrate his 70th birthday this weekend. They are, obviously, very special people in our lives.

We were of course invited to the birthday party, but the cost to travel to Florida was so prohibitive as to prevent any of us, even I alone, from attending. Enter the other very special person, our friend Brett. I referred to Joel’s birthday in passing in a conversation with Brett a couple of weeks ago, and before I knew what was happening, he presented me with a ticket to fly to Florida and attend the festivities.

At this point, I realized that it would be way more fun to show up unannounced than to tell Phyllis and Joel I was coming, so I initiated a conspiratorial plot worthy of the best spy novel (OK, maybe worthy of a mediocre spy novel, punctuated by bursts of slapstick and silliness, near-miss almost-spoilers, and other elements only found in a Jewish story). I recruited Grammy & Papa’s son Craig, who in turn enlisted the help of Joel’s brother and sister-in-law. Using a combination of HUMINT (pestering Joel & Phyllis for the name of the restaurant they were all going to dinner at tonight) and SIGINT (text messages), we were able to keep them completely in the dark about my arrival, and the reveal was, as the kids say these days, choice. (Do the kids still say that? It’s a new year, who knows?)

I arrived at the restaurant moments after they sat down, walked up to the table unobserved, and dropped the code phrase, “Do you think you have room for one more?” with devastating effect. They both turned toward me, Phyllis’s jaw dropped (and stayed agape for quite a while), and Joel, recovering rather quickly, threw his arms in the air and got up to hug me. The relatives at the table (all in on the surprise, remember) broke out into cheers and laughter, with Joel’s brother Warren dutifully recording the moment for posterity with a digital camera. (There may or may not have been a reshoot of The Hug at one point, but historians will have to examine the records to determine if anything looks manufactured.)

The rest of dinner was a blur of laughter and conversations of acquaintance (I’d never met Joel’s siblings or Warren’s wife Patti before, so there was a bit of “getting to know you” to get through, made easier by Warren’s interrogatory ways). We then took over Craig’s basement entertainment lounge to watch the first half of the Sugar Bowl, which, with a room full of rabid Gator fans, was a whole lot of fun (final score, Florida 51, Cincinnati 17. Ouch).

Tomorrow night is the big party; I’ll spend the day getting to know Craig and his family, who opened their home to me sight unseen, and hanging out with Grammy and Papa to make my presence as real as possible for the short time I’m here. I return to San Diego on Sunday, and go back to work and the usual routine on Tuesday after a two-week break.

Pulling this off has been incredibly fun. May the rest of the year be as enjoyable and filled with reasons to celebrate.

July 31, 2008

Hope for humanity

Filed under: entertainment,fun,Good News,Israel,music,travel,video — howdoyoujew @ 13:08

I refuse to admit that I’m overstating things when I say this makes me feel better about the human race, at least for four and a half minutes:

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Spotted in the comments:

my son died in iraq 7 weeks ago, and this video allowed me to sleep through the night for the first time. i was able to let go of my anger for just a few hours. unfortunately, it’s back – thank you mr. bush.——tisa

June 22, 2008

High time

Filed under: Blogging,Good News,Podcasting,webcomics — howdoyoujew @ 22:38

It’s high time I updated my theme anyway.
It’s high time I went to bed for the night.
It’s party time because I recovered my blog!!! Hooray!

Coming up: Official posting of HDYJ podcast episode 1, to be followed shortly by episode 2; review of Beards of Our Forefathers; a new theme for the site; and news about our exciting summer.
Stay tuned!

June 5, 2008

Kaiser Temperamental

Filed under: Family,Good News,Health,Parenting,video — howdoyoujew @ 21:37

There’s that Kaiser joke I was looking for the other day…

Anyway, I realized I forgot to post the proof of my daughter’s cuteness from that visit, so I needed to come back here, and I also got some more information about the reasoning behind her not getting the shot a day early.

First, the cuteness (with apologies for the low quality; I took this with my Treo 650):

Now, the reasoning, which still is irritating but at least makes more sense than the “she might be given an extra shot because no one would know she got this one” explanation I got on Tuesday.
A nurse who heard me talking about Hadarya’s ordeal at the doctor’s office the other day was quick to explain that the CDC monitors vaccinations and levies fines on clinics/doctors that violate the timeline. Thus, it would have cost Kaiser $10,000 if they’d violated the timeline (and gotten caught, I guess). All this is one nurse’s version, of course, and I took it with a dose of salt, but it was certainly more satisfying than the first excuse I heard.

Oh, and the follow-up appointment with the shot today went fine. Barely a flinch, and we’re good until the 2-year physical/checkup.

May 22, 2008

Earth Israeli Girls are Easy?

Filed under: entertainment,Good News,Israel,News,travel — howdoyoujew @ 08:48

I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed

“courtesy” of Reuters Oddly Enough, emphasis added:
Wolf whistle works, woman strips

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Road workers in a small New Zealand town got their wish granted when a woman stripped saying she was fed up with their wolf-whistles.

The Israeli tourist was about to use an ATM in the main street of Kerikeri, in the far north of the country, when the men whistled, the New Zealand Press Association reported.

She calmly stripped off, used the cash machine, before getting dressed and walking away.

The woman told police she didn’t take too kindly to the whistling from the men repairing the road.

“She said she had thought ‘bugger them, I’ll show them what I’ve got’,” Police Sergeant Peter Masters told NZPA.

“She gave the explanation that she had been … pestered by New Zealand men. She’s not an unattractive looking lady,” Masters said.

“She was taken back to the police station and spoken to and told that was inappropriate in New Zealand.”

Really? Stripping in response to wolf whistles and catcalls is inappropriate? How about being a lout? Is that appropriate? Morons.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress