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.

August 21, 2017

Has the day come?

Filed under: Family,history,Israel,News,Politics,religion,travel — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 17:44

For the second time in about a week, I’m sharing something written by my friend and teacher, Rabbi Daniel Gordis, which pretty perfectly encapsulates and captures my feelings and reaction to the current political and social climate in the United States and beyond. It bears mentioning that I have had no illusions about our situation since the fall, before the election, and of course well before the horrible events of the last couple of weeks. The fact is that on Nov. 9, 2016, I downloaded and completed the forms needed to obtain my American-born kids their Israeli passports. Just in case.

Watching Charlottesville From Jerusalem

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 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.

October 6, 2008

Debates? Who needs debates?

Filed under: Commentary,history,Politics,technology — howdoyoujew @ 14:33

Too many words. You know what they say about pictures…
The 2008 candidates as trains

September 7, 2008

Someone please tell me again why anyone would vote for this guy or anyone in his party?

Filed under: Christianity,Commentary,Family,history,Politics,television,video — howdoyoujew @ 20:36

Also, how much do you think the Obama people would have to spend to buy this from The Daily Show and use it as the basis for their ad campaign from now until November?

and

July 17, 2008

A Day In Israel: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 – 13th of Tamuz, 5768

0830 We got up and started getting ready for our day. This included a light breakfast for us and Hadarya.

0900 My friend, roommate, and rabbi Scott, called to tell me that Channel 10 News was covering the prisoner exchange in the north, in case I was interested. I was, of course, so I turned on the (fancy flat panel) TV in our flat and started watching.
Within a short time, the feed switched to the Lebanese side of the border, where the Hizballah spokesman began his remarks in preparation for the exchange. With the posturing typical of Arab representatives of years ago (and still all too common today) when the Arab leadership spoke of pushing the Jews into the sea, he spoke in grandiose and pompous terms about the “war of aggression started against” Hizballah by Israel in 2006, and the “intense international pressure” Hizballah withstood regarding the prisoner exchange. Despite the pressure, he said, on their own schedule, his organization was now ready to turn over the captured Israeli soldiers, Ehud “Udi” Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (he of course did not use Goldwasser’s nickname).

A bit of background is appropriate here: the 2006 Lebanon War was in fact instigated by a Hizballah ambush on the convoy Goldwasser and Regev were part of, along with a Katyusha rocket attack on northern Israeli civilian targets timed to coincide with the ambush. The IDF operation in Lebanon to try to neutralize Hizballah, which lasted just over a month, cost hundreds of lives on both sides of the border, and failed to accomplish its secondary objective, returning the kidnapped soldiers (I will not address here whether the primary objective of neutralizing Hizballah, was accomplished or not).
Israel’s policy and military code has always held that we do not leave a man in the field of battle, be he wounded, dead, or otherwise, so the only kind of negotiation Israel has ever undertaken with terrorist groups has been in the form of prisoner exchanges. These deals have historically been ridiculously lopsided, partly because it is rare for Israeli soldiers to be captured by the enemy in any condition, and largely because Israel places such a high value on the lives of its soldiers and citizens. Thus, we have in the past released dozens, sometimes hundreds of prisoners in exchange for one or two or three missing or captured men.
Two things stood out about the deal for Goldwasser and Regev: First, we didn’t know for certain whether our men were dead or alive. We knew from forensic evidence at the scene of the ambush that they’d been seriously wounded, enough that IDF officials publicly stated that they needed immediate medical attention in order to survive. We obviously had no way of knowing if Hizballah provided any, let alone adequate, medical care to our men, so the nation, and the two families, were left mostly in the dark these last two years, although IDF Intelligence had told the families that the two were “most likely” dead.
More significantly, the second thing that made this deal different is that, for the first time, Israel had agreed to release a captured terrorist with blood on his hands, that is, one who had murdered Israelis. This had always been a well-defined and well-known line that Israel didn’t cross in prisoner exchanges with any party, but our position in this case was weakened by a variety of factors. Thus it was that in exchange for the two soldiers whose fate we did not definitively know, we agreed to release Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze terrorist directly responsible for the deaths of four Israelis, including two children, in an attack on the northern coast city of Nahariya in 1979. In addition to him, four other Lebanese prisoners and the remains of 199 Lebanese killed in fighting with Israel were included in the deal.

Back to the morning of the exchange: After the Hizballah rep announced they were returning the soldiers, a reporter shouted out, “Are they alive or dead?” and the terrorist representative said, “You will see in a moment.”
It was then that a couple of goons pulled a black coffin out of a waiting vehicle and laid it on the ground in front of the assembled media and Hizballah and Red Cross personnel. Then they brought out a second coffin.

The Israeli commentators on television who were narrating and translating the action were noticeably moved and shaken by the revelation that the two reservists, who were just 31 (Udi) and 26 (Eldad) when they were kidnapped, were dead. Among other comments, they pointed out that it was impossible to tell (at least at that point) when the soldiers had actually died, but that hardly mattered.

I sat and watched the coverage for over an hour: I saw the same footage over and over again of those coffins being laid on the ground by people unfit for the task; I watched cutaway live footage from outside the home of the Regev family in the small town of Kiryat Motzkin; I listened to the commentators and pundits talk until they had nothing more to say; and I cried.

I started crying very unexpectedly (at least I didn’t expect it), and very hard, and I kept crying for several long minutes as that footage of the coffins played over and over again in the living room of our rented flat in Jerusalem with my wife and toddler daughter watching me. My lovely wife brought over a box of tissues, and my darling daughter noticed rather quickly that something was wrong and began saying, “Aba…Aba!” in a plaintive, sympathetic tone that made me fall in love with her all over again for the umpteenth time this week. (I wrote out a draft of this entry in longhand before typing it, and choked up as I wrote that last bit, and I just got teary AGAIN typing it in.)

1030-ish We left the flat and got a cab to the city center, where the Jerusalem office of the Ministry of Interior is located, to begin the process of registering Hadarya as an Israeli citizen and applying for her passport. We got new passport pictures taken at the kiosk (the Hebrew word for bodega) next door to the office, and went upstairs to wait in what I was sure was going to be the first of many long lines that day. My suspicions were not helped by the receptionist, who told me that we’d first have to go to one office for the citizen registry, then go to another area entirely for the passport application. But I knew the nature of the bureaucracy we were dealing with, so I went along with it, knowing we could always split the two tasks up and come back if it took too long.

We got into the first office after a not-too-long-at-all 10 minutes, and sat down to explain to Malka the clerk what we needed to do. While she remained somewhat surly throughout the process, I’ll just say that we left Malka’s office less than half an hour later, with my new Israeli ID card supplement papers listing my correct and current marital and parental status, and with Hadarya’s passport application already in the pipeline, with the passport expected at my aunt’s in Ra’anana (the only permanent address I can reasonably claim in Israel) within a week – that is, in time for us to get it before we leave back for the States. Malka didn’t HAVE to process the passport app in addition to the citizen registration; she chose to help us out, I know not why. But it is not my place to question such acts of charity; I merely accept them when they are given.

Around lunchtime We walked the block and a half to the Ben Yehuda promenade and enjoyed lunch at McDonald’s, a singular pleasure we can only partake of in Israel. We then walked up and down the busy shopping thoroughfare and did what tourists do, but with the added flavor and advantage of some authentic Middle Eastern bargaining and haggling over prices. This helped us complete much of our gift shopping for family, friends, and ourselves without feeling like we spent too much money.

1530 After yummy frozen yogurt with mix-ins, we headed back to the flat and met up with the Meltzers for a trip to Malha Mall for dinner (and a movie for the Meltzers; Hadarya can’t sit through a feature film yet) and some more shopping. Jenn scored a couple of beautiful new hats for shul, we had kosher KFC for dinner, and Hadarya cavorted with a couple of dozen other kids at a little play area in the mall before we left to go home for bedtime.

I realized on the way home (and on the nightly stroll through the neighborhood putting Hadarya to sleep) what a powerful, emotion-filled, fun, difficult, hot, typically Israeli day it had been, and I felt so at home.

May 20, 2008

Punchline looking for a joke

Yeah, yeah, so I’m a parent now, so that’s supposed to make me all “mature” and “grown up” and blahblahblah?!

HA!

We took our daughter to the doctor yesterday, as she’s had a rash on her torso for several days that turned out NOT to be heat rash; she also displayed a decreased appetite over the last couple of days and was sneezing a lot, so we thought it was time. The nice people at Kaiser agreed it was time, but exactly WHAT time was still a matter of some argument (they gave me a 7:15 PM appointment, neglecting to mention that it was actually a 7:30 appointment and that they ask you to check in 15 min. ahead of time. Really? My daughter is 19 months old and we’ve made every appointment the same way for the last year and a half; I KNOW about the 15 min. rule, jackass. Thus we were at the clinic 30 minutes early instead of just 15, and the doctor still didn’t come in until after 8 PM, but who’s counting?).

Anyway, our angelic daughter again behaved perfectly and amazingly well for a toddler well past her bedtime and in a foreign environment, and when the doc (a very nice man with three names AND a roman numeral after his name!) finally checked her out, he quickly (after a peek at her rash and down her throat) diagnosed “hand, foot and mouth disease.”

I’ll let that sink in.

This is the same girl who’s had not one, but TWO perforated eardrums in the last month or so, as well as a bout of roseola. She can’t just get a common cold. No, she has to pick up the virus that sounds a lot like the one that causes Mad Cow Disease (it’s not the same; I’m just sayin’…).

The doc gave us this news with the sort of demeanor that kept me somewhat calm despite myself. He said it’s a viral infection and will go away by itself. Then he identified the virus by its official name, and I… well, I immediately knew I’d be blogging about it, for one thing.

Coxsackie.

Come on! Really?! Cock-sacky?

Now I don’t want to make fun of historically significant place names (OK, maybe I do, but let that go for a minute), and I understand that it’s derived from a Native American term, but there are limits to my restraint, people! I’m only human.

It strikes me that my generation of geeks is going to run into this more and more – life situations that make us giggle inwardly (or out loud) because of some pop culture association we make with an otherwise innocuous word, phrase, or visual. For me, it’ll usually be a Monty Python scene or line that’ll come up, or something from HHGTTG, Star Wars, or one of the other big- or little-screen or hardbound companions from my childhood/adolescence. But other times, like last night at the doctor’s office, it’ll just be a silly-sounding word that’ll make me turn into one of the boys from South Park, forever laughing at bathroom humor.

Coxsackie.
Coxsackie.
CoxsackieCoxsackieCoxsackie.

Heh.

December 18, 2007

I find your lack of attribution disturbing

Filed under: Art,Commentary,entertainment,history,movies,sci-fi,technology — howdoyoujew @ 10:42

I was happy to catch this interview with Ridley Scott on NPR yesterday afternoon on the way home from work. Today is the release day for Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Scott’s latest (and allegedly last) reworking of his 1982 classic, so he talked to Michelle Norris about the movie and his inspirations for it. I was extremely disappointed that he never mentioned the source material, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, or its author, sci-fi master Philip K. Dick. I actually haven’t read that novel (I have a few PKD volumes at home, I have to check if it’s in any of them), so I don’t know how much of the visualization of 2019 LA is in it, but I would have expected Scott to at least give credit where it was due. Anyway, I’m still looking forward to revisiting the movie and seeing how it holds up.

One good anecdote from the interview: Norris asked about the point that Deckard (Harrison Ford’s character) was originally supposed to wear a hat, probably a fedora, in Blade Runner, and why he ended up without it. Scott said that when he first met Ford for the Blade Runner project, Ford came directly from a late shooting day on Raiders of the Lost Ark, still wearing the full Indiana Jones regalia. Knowing Ford would be sporting the wide-brimmed hat in that movie, Scott dispensed with it in his film. Good choice. The gumshoe effect in Blade Runner is still pronounced, without being overdone.

November 27, 2007

Professional development/putting myself out there

Filed under: education,history,humor,Israel,SDSU,technology,UCSD,work — howdoyoujew @ 23:48

Last week I participated in an IT Careers Panel organized by our colleagues across town at the UCSD Career Services Center. There were three other panelists (all UCSD alums), and a whopping TWO students attended. So, yeah, it wasn’t a resounding success in terms of attendance, but the two students who were there sure got lots of personal attention and customized advice from all of us. I was honored to be included (thanks, Bobbie, Craig, etc.!)

This afternoon I taught the second-to-last session of my University Seminar, an introduction/orientation to Career Services, and this evening I taught my Hebrew High class, the 12th Grade Seminar (we began a unit on dealing with Israel issues, anti-Zionism, and the like on college campuses).

I love an audience, but public speaking engagements depend a lot on the audience’s reaction, and I’ve had very different responses along the way (tonight’s Hebrew High class was great; the University Seminar class, not so much). For me, the more reactive and participatory the audience (whether they’re responding to my questions or laughing at my jokes), the better. I still remember the first time I got a feel for working a crowd, delivering my bar-mitzvah speech. I had some native Hebrew-speaking guests, and I inserted a section of Hebrew into the middle of my speech. When I switched back to English, my first words were, “Hi! I’m back!” and I got a nice laugh (which I wasn’t really expecting, frankly). I got such a rush out of that, and have used that as motivation in driving my public speaking ever since. I fed off the energy of my audiences in high school speech & debate (and yes, I’m aware that the people in the photo banner at the top of the page look like they’re in a SNL sketch), and I continue to do so these days, when I present at the occasional conference or speak about Israel or other topics I’m passionate about.

I’m available for weddings, birthdays, and bar-mitzvahs. Thank you, thank you… try the salmon!

November 22, 2007

On giving back, giving thanks, and not giving up

We got up bright and early this morning to walk 5K in downtown San Diego to raise money for Jewish Family Service and the San Diego Food Bank. Felt good. Ran into many people we know, and saw the power of grassroots passionate politics in action: two Ron Paul supporters I saw walked the entire route with extra promotional material showing their allegiance.

One carried a “Ron Paul – Hope for America” preprinted cardboard sign, raised in his right hand, the whole length of the walk/race, during parts of which he faced runners coming the other way. A few people offered cheers in response as they ran by, and one lady came up to him and asked him who Ron Paul was while I was walking next to him. In my opinion, he got into way too much technical detail and talked too much, and possibly lost the lady by the time she managed to extricate herself and walk on, but that’s the risk you take with a candidate who doesn’t have a well-oiled campaign spin machine with professionally distributed talking points, etc. This guy turned out to be a very recent convert to the cause (like one month ago recent), which also explains the rusty preaching. If it were me, the spiel would be something like:

  • He’s a strict constitutionalist
  • He’s the most principled, honest, straightforward congressman on the Hill
  • He wants to end the war in Iraq/bring the troops home immediately
  • He wants to reduce the size and power of the federal government, and
  • He wants to increase and protect your personal freedoms and liberty (by, among other things, repealing the Patriot Act)

But that’s just me. I’m not even sure I’m going to vote for the guy.

The second supporter ran the entire race while towing a Radio Flyer wagon plastered and stacked with Ron Paul stickers and signs. I didn’t talk to him, but seeing both these guys was eye-opening. No other candidate was visible in the race – I don’t recall ANY t-shirts, let alone anything more visible like what these guys did. It’s amazing to me how passionate Dr. Paul‘s supporters are, and it makes me sad that the entire electorate doesn’t share this passion.

Most people vote for one of two reasons, I think: 1) for convenience (how I used to vote), or 2) for who they think will win, as long as the candidate is within a very broad margin of where the voter’s interests lie. I decided several years ago to stop voting for convenience and start voting my conscience. I’ve thus technically “wasted” my vote a few times, voting for libertarian and other independent and other party candidates who have very little chance of winning the seats they’re running for. But I recognized at the time I made this decision that my vote is not really wasted – in fact, I’m getting more value out of my vote than most people, because… I was going to say because I can sleep at night, but I’m sure most other people don’t have sleeping problems based on their voting record, mostly because they’re too complacent and content to feed on the bullshit that the political machine and mainstream mass media feed them. They also probably think that, in the few cases where they actually do care about something and it’s not going the way they want, they can’t make a difference, so they don’t try, and resign themselves to the status quo. I want to raise my daughter to be a true critical thinker with advanced analytical skills applicable to all aspects of life, and to always know that she CAN, in fact, make a difference, so I will not be one of the mindless masses meandering about making do with meaningless materiality.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the 5K walk… Anyhow, after that we went home and all three of us took a nice nap, then got our day going getting ready for the family-and-friends feast at the Meltzers’, which didn’t disappoint. Among the highlights of the afternoon/evening was finally meeting and getting to know Rav Menashe East and his wife (and their adorable infant daughter). We’ll be spending a considerable amount of time next summer with them in Israel, so it was good (not surprising, but still good) to discover they’re cut from the finest quality menschlichkeit cloth.

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