Thursday, August 28, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Telling The Other Side Of The Story

There are so many column inches being used, and words being written, about the dire situation that Israel finds itself in these past months, and about the anti-Semitism that is spreading around the globe at frightening speed. 

Some of those column inches and words have been mine.

But lost in the fear and anger, the debate and the fight is another story. A story about a people that perseveres and survives against all odds. About a people that takes care of its own. That ensures that no one is ever alone. About a religion that provides safety, security and community around the world. About the time and time again in its history that it has fought and won.

Without a doubt, the fight for Israel's survival and the struggle against anti-Semitism are of utmost importance. But also of importance is the story of this people. Our people.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Because Survive We Will

In May, four people were killed in a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussles, but this post isn't about that.

Over three thousand rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel since June, but this post isn't about that.

Last month, pro-Gaza demonstrators in Frankfurt chanted "Jews to the gas," but this post isn't about that.

A few weeks ago in Berlin, a pro-Hamas demonstrator broke away from the large protest and physically assaulted an elderly man who was standing on the street-corner saying nothing, but holding an Israeli flag, but this post isn't about that.

In mid-July Parisian Jews were trapped in a synagogue by pro-Palestinian rioters and police had to be called to rescue the congregants, but this post isn't about that.

The hashtag #hitlerwasright has been trending on Twitter for weeks, but this post isn't about that.

Also in France, other pro-Palestinian demonstrators have broken windows on and set fire to Jewish owned businesses, and firebombed synagogues while yelling things like "death to the Jews" and "Hitler was right," but this post isn't about that.

In Antwerp, Belgium, a Belgian doctor refused to treat a Jewish woman, telling her son to "send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she'll get rid of the pain," but this post isn't about that.

Also in Belgium, a cafe posted signs in Turkish and French on their windows that read, "Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not under any circumstances," but this post isn't about that.

At the end of July in Rome, signs were posted urging the boycott of a large number of Jewish owned businesses, but this post isn't about that.

In North Miami Beach, swastikas were spray-painted on an Orthodox synagogue, but this post isn't about that.

In the United Kingdom, 40 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery were pushed over and smashed to pieces, but this post isn't about that.

Two weeks ago Rabbi Joseph Raskin, an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn, was shot and killed in Miami while walking to a synagogue. The Rabbi was in Miami visiting his daughter and grandchildren, but this post isn't about that either.

No, this post isn't about any of those things.

This post is about the three hundred people who attended the funeral of Rabbi Raskin, many of whom had never met him.

This post is about the twenty thousand people who attended the funeral of Sgt. Sean Carmeli, a soldier in the Israeli army who was killed in Gaza. Sgt. Carmeli came from the United States to serve in the Israeli army and did not have any family in Israel. The Maccabi Haifa Soccer Club sent out a message to its fans saying, "Sean Carmeli was a lone soldier and we don't want his funeral to be empty. Come and pay your last respects to a hero who was killed so that we could live. This is the least we can do for him and for our nation." And the fans answered the call.

This post is about the thirty thousand people who attended the funeral of Max Steinberg, another American soldier in the Israeli Army without any family in Israel. Most in attendance didn't know Max, but came to pay their respects to him and to thank him for his bravery and sacrifice.

This post is about the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people all over the world coming together at solidarity rallies in support of Israel.

This post is about the synagogues around the world that were filled to capacity the night that the Israeli Army started its ground offensive in Gaza; Jewish people gathering in droves to pray for the safety of the soldiers.

This post is about a yishuv in the West Bank of Israel that, with just an hour of notice, fed 100 soldiers who were taking a break from their exhaustive search for Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in June, and then sent those soldiers back into the field to search some more.

This post is about my synagogue in White Plains, New York that sent out an email welcoming a new family who had just moved to town, so that they wouldn't feel alone during their first week in a brand new city.

This post is about four families we didn't know who made dinner for us for our first Shabbat in our new house because our kitchen was under construction.

This post is about my good friend - the very first friend I made when we moved to town almost two years ago - who dropped bagels off at my house two weeks ago for Tisha B'Av break-fast because she knew I was coming home from a trip that day and wouldn't have time to make it to the grocery store.

This post is about my grandmother holding my sister's new baby girl - my grandmother's third great-grandchild - at my cousin's wedding last weekend and four generations of Brinn women standing together, shoulder to shoulder.

This post is about my family of five that, in eight short years, has become a family of eleven.

This post is about lighting candles on Friday night to welcome Shabbat - the moment in time where I feel most acutely the link to the generations of Jewish women who came before me and the ones who will come after

This post is about my great-grandmother's challah recipe that was passed to my grandmother, and that now lives in my kitchen, my mom's kitchen, my sisters' kitchens, and the kitchens of my aunt and all of my cousins.

This post is about three boys who most of us didn't know, but who became "our boys" anyway.

This post is about a people - my people - that takes care of its own, because really, we all belong to each other, and we know it.

This post is about having a place to call our own wherever we go, because wherever there is a Jewish community, there will be a place for us, and no one ever has to go it alone.

This post is about more than 5,000 years of history that binds us together.

This post is about saying "never again" and "never forget" and meaning it and believing it to the very depths of our soul.

This post is about our future.

This post is about survival.

Because survive we will.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Getting Fancy

One upon a time when we first started dating we went to a wedding together.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On The Early Morning Bandwagon

After a kind of long break, I'm back on the early morning bandwagon.

6am never, ever gets easier, but it's worth it for sunrises that look like this.

Stay tuned for more early morning musings, coming right up.

Monday, August 18, 2014

City On The Soles of My Shoes

I don't miss living in Manhattan. Really I don't.

When we first moved to the suburbs I missed it a lot. That's probably an understatement. What I really meant to say is that I missed it like one would miss her right arm, if she suddenly found herself without it.

But time moves on and things change and so do people, and one day you wake up and you realize that thinking about your life in the city isn't painful anymore. Instead, you think of it like you would a fond memory, while at the same time remembering things like carrying heavy bags of groceries 10 blocks home, getting stuck in the elevator of your very tall apartment building, shoving yourself into packed subway cars just to get to work, and paying $2 for an apple. All the things you conveniently forgot when you suddenly didn't live there anymore and spent your days thinking about staking a "for sale" sign in your brand new front yard and heading straight back to the urban jungle that raised you and made you into exactly the kind of person who would be brave enough to leave the life she knows and loves for a life that is an utter unknown.

But then it's not an unknown anymore. One day it becomes a life you love and a life you want and a life you are happy to be building in this moment, in this place.

But on a Sunday morning in August you wake up and you find yourself missing the rush of the city on a summer weekend. So you get in the car and you head south. You meet your best friend for brunch at that place you both love in the neighborhood you used to rule and you eat cinnamon toast with strawberry butter and drink cocktails and you do Sunday the way that Sunday in the city is meant to be done. And you wander into boutiques and try on dresses and buy a gold bag and purple eyeshadow because you're there and it's there and it's a Sunday in the city so why wouldn't you? And you sit next to each other in pedicure chairs and you talk about life before husbands and houses, and about how much this neighborhood has changed since you left and how that's sad and not-sad all at the same time. But then you find out that the nail place you've been going to for ten years has been sold and has a new owner and a new name and you are both stunned because for some reason your nail place is the one thing that isn't allowed to change. Ever.

And when afternoon becomes evening and it's time to go you turn on some music and point your car north. And you drive down your street and wave to your neighbors and open the door to your house that was once new but isn't new anymore. And you settle into the quiet that is so different from the wild cacophony of Manhattan but you realize that you need the quiet to recover from the noise and you have both now and that's kind of miraculous.

Because you may live in the suburbs, but there will always be some city clinging to the soles of your shoes. 

Exactly the way you like it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What Will Your Verse Be?

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?' Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" 
- Robin Williams
Dead Poet's Society

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Throwback Thursday: My Favorite Running Home

When I first moved to New York, almost nine years ago, Central Park was intimidating. Its winding roads were unfamiliar to me, and I lived in fear of getting lost in its woods. I didn't understand the walkers, runners and bikers that would circle its paths, and tried to stay away from it as much as I could.

But then something happened.

It started when David and I met. He loved Central Park and exploring it alongside him, the Park became a little less of a scary place.

And then, I learned to run.

If you live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and you run and you don't like stopping every two minutes for traffic lights and dodging sundry pedestrians, you really only have two choices. You can run the path along the Hudson river or you can run Central Park. Preferring to not run on a path that also borders what passes for a major highway in Manhattan, I chose the Park.

That choice started a love affair with Central Park that lasted until we moved out of Manhattan eighteen months ago, and continues today.

And lately, for some reason, I've really been thinking a lot about my old running home and my early morning Park excursions to greet the day with my habitual three mile loop.

In honor of the place where I learned to run, and learned to love to run, here are my three most favorite Park pictures.

I miss you, old friend. I hope I'll be seeing you again soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Writing Process: A Blog Hop

Last week I was asked by the lovely and hugely talented Christine Organ to do a blog hop with her. The rules were pretty simple. Answer some questions and write a little bit about my writing process, and what I'm working on right now.

I have gotten to know Christine over the past couple of years in this strange and beautiful blogging world, and I knew right from the start that she was a kindred spirit. Her writing about faith and family, and about keeping our eyes open to the world around us, is gorgeous and is some of my very favorite on the internet. We have shared stories of life, love and tradition, and when I was going through some tough stuff this past spring, she recognized it and over a few days we exchanged a series of e-mails that went a long way towards healing my soul.

There is an incredible magic in meeting someone you connect with so quickly. Someone who understands you and your experiences and who can say "me too" when you tell your secrets; those things that you may not be able to write about yet but that you desperately need to share. Someone who reaches across the vast ether of this digital world and who takes your proverbial hand and tells you that it is ok to share. That your secrets are safe with her.

So thank you, Christine, for your friendship, and for inviting me to be a part of this blog hope.

Here we go...

1. What Am I Working On/Writing?

It has been an interesting few months in my writing world, mostly because it has been an interesting few months in my life. I have a drafts folder littered with sentences, half-formed thoughts, and pieces of blog posts that I am not quite ready to share yet, but hopefully will be one day. Going back and looking over it all a few months removed from some pretty big events has been eye-opening for me, and I hope to put it all into some coherent pieces. I really believe that there is a hugely important lesson for me to learn from this little slice of my life, and I know that the past few months are ones I definitely will not want to forget, even if I am not quite ready to remember them in living color just yet.

The other pretty exciting thing going on is that I recently started writing some pieces for a blog called The Times of Israel. I was a little hesitant at first about sharing my thoughts and feelings on Israel, and my fervent belief in its existence as the Jewish state, but once I started writing, the result was two pieces of which I am incredibly proud. I am in the middle of working on a third that I hope to have finished by the end of the week.

Lastly, I just started working on a complete re-design of my blog. It might take awhile, but I started the process and am really excited to see where it ends up.

2. How Does My Work/Writing Differ From Others of Its Genre?

This is a funny question for me, because I am not so sure that my writing falls into any particular genre. I have written about everything from my love of TV and romance novelshome and family, and friendship and tradition to politicsgun control and current events.

In a way, I see this blog as a collection of memories. A place where I put things that I don't want to forget, and a place where I process things while they are happening to help me sort out and understand the things that sometimes seem so complex and inexplicable.

It's a mixed writing bag, this blog, but that kind of describes me too. I have a lot of pockets and interests, and I think my blog reflects that. I have been at it for almost three years now, and I can say absolutely that I have created something here that I am immensely proud of, and something that I hope to stick with for a long, long time. It will evolve and change as I do, and I am thrilled with that.

3. Why Do I Do What I Do?

I started this blog on a whim one gloomy Friday afternoon when I didn't have anything else to do. What it has become is something I couldn't even have dreamed of. Writing has allowed me to see myself and the world in a very different and satisfying light, and processing my life in words has made that life richer and more meaningful than I ever could have imagined.

I think that is the core reason I do what I do. Because writing - and sharing what I write - satisfies a part of me I didn't know existed. Putting my words and myself out there for others to see and to read is akin to inviting people into my life, to stay awhile. There is a potent magic in sharing stories; in saying "this is me," unapologetically and in connecting with people through writing words.

And through those words, I have met people who I am lucky to call my friends. Some of them I have met in person and some I haven't, but that doesn't make the friendships any less real and true. I have found myself a writing community - a blogging tribe if you will - and it keeps me coming back, each and every day.

4. How Does My Writing Process Work?

I'm not sure I have a real "writing process." Ideas for stories and things to write come to me all the time, usually when I'm in the shower or on a run. I usually open up an e-mail and send myself some half-formed thoughts and sentences, and then when I'm in front of my computer I pull those thoughts and sentences together into a cohesive piece.

I generally need a whole morning and part of the afternoon to write a blog post. I start early in the morning, and come back to it multiple times through the day until it's ready to be published. Small bursts of writing with breaks for other things, like my actual job, work best for me.

There are times, of course, when entire pieces just tumble out of me in no time at all. This piece was one of those. So was this onethis onethis one and this one. But more often than not I need a little time to get my thoughts in the right order and to get the words to cooperate.

Monday, August 11, 2014

These Are My People

One of my cousins got married yesterday.

It was a beautiful day, and a special one. Because in my family I don't really have cousins on my "mom's side" or "dad's side," but rather just lots and lots of cousins who care about each other, support each other, and love each other, even where there is no blood between them. And yesterday, everyone was there to celebrate and to watch my cousin Julie marry her man.

I could write and write about how I am so incredibly lucky to have the family that I have, but I think it might be better just to show you.

These are my people. This is my life.

Grandma and Grandchildren

My family, before there were three weddings and three babies


A brand new fam


My parents

4 weeks old and she did this wedding like a champ


Friday, August 8, 2014

What Makes You Happy

It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy"
-Lucille Ball