Say It, Do It, Be It

I have lately been bombarded on social media with requests to donate to people’s various fundraisers for their cherished causes. I totally applaud the impulse and often share their passion for the cause. However, if I were to donate even $5 to each of these I would soon go broke. Maybe the idea is that if we all have different networks it will spread the pain far enough out for them to all be successful; I hope so.

And of course, social media is filled with dissent, anger, opinion and sometimes calls to action. Mostly though they are “fact” and opinion and this is the case for whatever position or affiliation is being espoused. Some of the “facts” are undoubtedly true, at least I believe them. Some are obviously false. No matter, it is irrelevant to my point here.

Most of us believe, in the the current state of affairs in this country, that some action is required. True for everyone, again, of whatever affiliation. And most of us are not shy about saying, posting, writing whatever action we think should be taken. There are very few of us who are doing what we are asking others to do.

I think there is a significant lack of doing in this country today. There are some clear exceptions to this rule. An example is the courageous teachers of the Los Angeles public schools. Many see it as harming the students but the conditions under which the students and teachers labor is not acceptable nor conducive to learning. The teachers, with the support of many of the parents, are striking for nurses, librarians, resources and a living wage – all good for their students.

The Women’s March on Washington, that I attended and that took place on the day after President Trump’s inauguration, was an inspiring and amazing experience. Now, however, it has been co-opted in many ways. Some have it as synonymous with the “women’s movement”, some with “me too”, some as an up raising of women of color. It was none of those things, it was a civil action intended to send a message. The follow up has been fractured and ineffective and does not send a useful message. I am a woman, I am me too, I believe in political action but I am not sure where to put my action.

And no matter where I put my action, it is action that is required. It is doing, it is being what you believe. I recycle although I think it is mostly useless as I am told that there is a shortage of companies buying recycled material. But I keep faith with the idea that it has to be effective eventually. So don’t just write about what you believe should happen, figure out what you can actually do, and be what you believe. Political action and social change may start on social media, but they don’t end there.

NICE!

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Beginnings &

So for us Jews this shabbat just past is a mystical thing, at least I think so.  It was a Rosh Chodesh, a shabbat of the new month and new moon, traditionally celebrated particularly by women for historically and physically obvious reasons.  This Rosh Chodesh shabbat was especially meaningful for both a communal reason and a personal reason.

Communally, this Rosh Chodesh marked the start of the month of elul the month that brings us to the high holy days.  A month in which personal reflection, the repairing of wrongs and a renewal of faith are the focus of our attention.  We are reminded to look at our physical selves, our emotional selves and our spiritual selves.  What a lovely idea, a whole month of intensive reflection and self assessment.

During this time we are reading the final book of the Torah, the book of Deuteronomy which is filled with choices of all kinds.  And we have the choice at this time, and all the time really, to engage in this kind of reflection and assessment.  In the traditional sense we choose, at this time of year, to “atone” for whatever wrongs we have committed throughout the year.  In our family we always talked about amends, about saying you are sorry, about acting differently to make up for bad behavior.  So that each year we become just a little better selves.

Personally, this was a special shabbat for me as I watched one of my wonderful students become Bat Mitzvah.  I have taught her for several years, or more accurately, we have taught one another.  She is beautiful, different, independent and smart and it gives me great joy to have learned and celebrated with her.  She made a choice to stand for herself and for those that came before.  She made a choice to share her learning with all of us and to make a public commitment to certain values and identity.

What an amazing and appropriate way to celebrate not only the Rosh Chodesh but also the start of this most personal and mystical month of elul.  Beginnings as she takes on the moral obligations of Judaism.  Beginnings as the moon begins again.  Beginnings as we review, assess and leave behind the past, starting our year anew with G-d’s blessing. Beginnings as the circle of Torah comes to a close and will begin again, reliably, just as the moon will rise again each month.

Kein y’hi ratzon – Be this G-d’s will.

Is It Winter Yet?

I was talking to a friend about making soup, about liking soup and about kale. Yes, kale.  Someone brought me what was essentially a cream of kale soup.  And in principle, I have nothing against kale.  I do, however, have something against cream of green vegetable soup of any kind.  Perhaps as a result of working in restaurants for many years in college and law school when today’s green vegetable side became tomorrow’s cream of green vegetable soup.

And kale needs tender treatment.  Too much kale is a problem.  And if you don’t massage it with salt to break the fibers, it will always be chewy and unpleasant to eat.  Or you can chiffonade it very fine to to avoid the problem, kind of.  Or you can buy baby kale, saute low and slow and hope for the best.

But this post is not really about kale, it is about soup.  I make a mean gazpacho, the recipe will be a post for another day.  But generally I don’t think of summer as soup weather.  I am not a huge soup person anyway and aside from that wonderful gazpacho taught me by my dad, definitely not in summer.  I don’t make much soup as a rule but there is one that is always required and that is the panacea, the Jewish mother’s cure for everything, chicken soup.

Now I have tried many combinations based on many cookbooks and my favorite is roast chicken leftover bones combined with a whole chicken.  Lots of carrots, onions, celery – to be removed before serving and fresh added if wanted. Cook it down a long time low and slow.  Add mixed peppercorns.  Then I chill, or freeze for later use, the fat will rise to the top and can be taken off easily.  (The picture below is before straining and skimming!) Freezing is great because you can add whatever you want when you are ready to serve; matzoh balls, rice, noodles, fresh carrot coins or other veg, etc.  Matzoh balls are yet another subject for another day.

So kale and cream soup aside, everyone needs chicken soup sometimes.  It will soothe you, it will cure you, it will make you feel better; or so they tell me. Be’te avonne (eat well)!