The Tragedy in Newtown: When are we going to start having an adult discussion? Hatred isn’t going to get us anywhere.


Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, I went to a temple service. I am a regular participant, but today I was going to find some answers to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  I like the Rabbi, and I like the services.  Today, it was a small gathering.

During Jewish services a part of the morning is devoted  to discussing the Torah . While discussing the Torah, the conversation got around to those killings in Connecticut. This event was on everyone’s minds.

All of these recent shootings weigh heavily on me, as they do on everyone else.  Something has to be done. There has to be a defense against these sick sad people.  What can be done?  I don’t have the answer to this question. But I’m certain making the schools armed camps isn’t the answer. I spent a considerable amount of time working in the schools, elementary, middle and high-school. I had a chance to see what really goes on there. It is a complex place, and talented educators should be admired. It’s an important job.

People have to get real
This is going to get worse before it gets better.  It’s lovely to think we don’t need to protect the children. It’s great to think we can go shopping, to the movies, and to hear political leaders speak without some nut coming out and wiping most of the people away. Unfortunately, while we’re all getting angry at each other, another sad insane person is probably plotting the next catastrophe.

I hope we all find a way to come together and act like responsible adults.

Why?
I guess we’ll never really know the answer to that question.  Some people make simplistic guesses, but that’s not satisfying to me. I was impressed with what the Rabbi read to us just before the service ended.  He read the eulogies  Noah Pozner’s  mother and uncle made at his funeral. These were published shortly after his funeral.

By The Associated Press 12/17/12 09:57 PM ET EST
From mother, Veronique Pozner:
The sky is crying, and the flags are at half-mast. It is a sad, sad day. But it is also your day, Noah, my little man. I will miss your forceful and purposeful little steps stomping through our house. I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes, framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of any lady in this room.
Most of all, I will miss your visions of your future. You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favorite food, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos.
You were a little boy whose life force had all the gravitational pull of a celestial body. You were light and love, mischief and pranks. You adored your family with every fiber of your 6-year-old being. We are all of us elevated in our humanity by having known you. A little maverick, who didn’t always want to do his schoolwork or clean up his toys, when practicing his ninja moves or Super Mario on the Wii seemed far more important.
Noah, you will not pass through this way again. I can only believe that you were planted on Earth to bloom in heaven. Take flight, my boy. Soar. You now have the wings you always wanted. Go to that peaceful valley that we will all one day come to know. I will join you someday. Not today. I still have lots of mommy love to give to Danielle, Michael, Sophia and Arielle.
Until then, your melody will linger in our hearts forever. Momma loves you, little man.

from his uncle (this is only part of it….)

t is unspeakably tragic that none of us can bring Noah back. We would go to the ends of the Earth to do so, but none of us can.

What we can do is carry Noah within us, always. We can remember the joy he brought to us. We can hold his memory close to our hearts. We can treasure him forever. And all of us, including the family, the community, the country and the world, can honor Noah by loving each other and taking care of each other. That’s what Noah would have wanted.

Noah, we love you so much, we miss you dearly, and we will never, ever forget you.

I got some of what I was looking for when I walked in the temple today. But not close to what I need to understand this.

Your thoughts?

The Harmony Project Singing as One Voice


The Harmony Project.  We are singing Beth Neilson Chapman's "There is no darkness."  Photo by Paul Feeney

The Harmony Project. We are singing Beth Neilson Chapman’s
“There is no darkness.” Photo by Paul Feeney

I’ve been in choirs all my life. I remember how happy I was the first time I officially belonged to a choir. I was in the 5th grade at Rowland Elementary school. I even remember some of the songs we sang for our program.  Miss Titus, our devoted teacher, would probably be thrilled that I remember the words to “The Erie Canal.”

I’ve been in many choirs since then. Singing makes me feel good. I like the social aspects of it too. It’s just plain fun. The Harmony Project, one of the choirs I sing in,  is something special. It’s a philanthropic group that sings and shares. Good works have been done in Columbus, Ohio, under the banner of the “Harmony Project.” We raise money, and get to give concerts too.

Choir Directors always talk about “singing with one voice.”  That is a hard thing to achieve. Sometimes, you have some frustrated singers, with better than average voices, over-singing. At times, what you end up with is  different voices, not blending at all. Sometimes, it reminds me of a competition.  If you have a skillful musical director, they won’t allow this to happen.

Last night at the Harmony Project, everyone was singing enthusiastically while they followed Musical director,  David Brown. In the middle of it all, I said to myself. Wow, this is a once in a lifetime moment. Stay  in the present, listen, to your neighbor, blend in and forget yourself.

It was one of those magical moments. One I’ll always remember. We were all one voice.

Members of The Harmony Project singing with heart and soul!  From the Bill Pearsol album

Members of The Harmony Project singing with heart and soul! From the Bill Pearsol album

Intervention: The TV Show: A Review


Meghan in jail.

If you think you’re family is bad, watch the TV show “Intervention.”  It has to make you feel better about yourself and your family. Unless, of course, you have terrible parents, and because of them, you are a hopeless drug addict.

Tonight I watched an episode about “Meghan.” When the show opens, she is walking around in jail in a yellow  jump suit. Her straggly hair is pulled back in a wild hairstyle and she looks pathetic.

Why is she in jail?  It’s because this sweet looking 24-year old girl with manacles around her feet, and hands is a heroin addict.

The person who put her in jail is a family friend who she calls “Aunt” Jan. You can’t really blame “Aunt” Jan because Megan stole her jewelry worth $5,000.00. “Aunt”Jan, who is about as warm and cuddly as a Mac truck wants to teach Meghan a lesson.

Meghan’s been arrested 24 times in the last few years for stealing and drugs. You know she’s gotten on her friend’s and family’s  “Most Wanted  List.” Apparently, she’s not as innocent as she looks.

The judge decides to give her one more chance and suspends her sentence. (As long as she stays away from drugs.)  It takes Meghan about 2 days to meet up with her drug dealer. She talks about how excited she is about her “fresh veins” because she’s been in jail for a while.  She sounds like she’s auditioning for “The Twilight” series.

The most compelling part of “Intervention” is when they give each drug addict’s biography. We learn how Meghan went from a sweet little baby to a pathetic drug addict. Meghan’s mother was a good mom until Meghan was about 13. She got angry because her husband was working all the time, and made her raise 3 kids on her own.  In order to get even with him, she left home, and she left her kids with her unfeeling creepy husband .

“Aunt” Jan stepped into help. (We don’t find out why or where she came from.)  Meghan’s mom  figured it was time for her to “get a life.”That’s bad enough, but what comes next is even worse.

Meghan’s mom finally finds the man of her dreams, and comes back to town. Meghan starts visiting her and her boyfriend. By this time, she’s 15.  Her boyfriend gets very cozy with Megan. As a matter of fact, he rapes her, then has a sexual relationship with her for 4 or 5 months. Meghan’s mom finds out, decides it’s  all Meghan’s fault,  and skips town with her boyfriend.  (What a mom!)

Megan decides to cope, the good old American way. She gets into drugs, and eventually becomes a heroin addict.

So what does Megan’s Dad do? Nothing. He doesn’t even talk about it with Meghan. (What a dad!)

The Intervention
Finally, we have “The Intervention” All these self-involved people apologize to Meghan for being so mean to her. They tell her they love her, and want her to get help. Of course, the Interventionist had to tell them to say this. They are about as loving as sticks of furniture. (Except for one of Meghan’s brothers who seems really concerned, and puts his arm around her while they are all “acting”  human).

Meghan’s father blames his parents for his creepiness. He  says “ they weren’t very emotional.”  Meghan’s mother apologizes, but it doesn’t seem genuine. She still  seems irritated at her daughter for ruining her love life.

Meghan agrees to go to treatment. What other choice does she really have? Jail or a Rehab Center? ( I doubt that her parent’s professing their love to her made much of an impression.)
.
Poor Meghan only lasts in treatment for 9 days, goes home, moves in with her charming mother,  and gets in a methadone program. Now she is addicted to methadone instead of heroin.  At least it’s legal. .

I would think this is all made up except I worked  part-time in a drug and alcohol facility for several years. I know it’s real.

There really are misguided people out there who mess up their kids. Some people do get involved with the wrong crowd and it’s totally their fault. But I heard a lot of stories about unusual caregivers.  I’m convinced bad parenting can result in drug and alcohol addiction.

If you’re immature and selfish, or are a drug or alcohol addict, do everyone a favor. Use birth control and don’t have kids.

Does this show exploit people or help them?  If somehow it reaches out to others, it’s not a total loss. It might also show a person, who is fooling themselves about their addiction,  how pathetic  they look to others.

Has this show helped you or anyone you know?

What do you think?  Do these shows have any value at all? Are they dragging down society instead of lifting it up?

“Esther and Me” at the CJFilm Festival Inspired Me


I’ve been attending the Columbus Jewish Film Festival for the past few weeks. I’ve really enjoyed all the films. I think independent movies are the best movies being made today.

Today I saw a short little film that really spoke to me. It is called  “Esther and Me.” It was directed by Lisa Geduldig. She made a little film about a very charismatic woman that she met in a Jewish nursing home in New York.

Geduldig meets Esther, a resident of the nursing home, when she runs an activity at the nursing home. . She strikes up a friendship with Esther, who is in her late 80’s.  She used to be a gorgeous fashion model, and then had a career as a stand-up comic. The pictures of her in her youth are particularly striking. Even in her old age,  Esther still looks pretty good.

Her marriage, if she had one, is entirely left out of the film. There is a mention of her daughter, but we don’t meet her. We do know that she has grandchildren because they make an appearance.

Why I liked this film

Although Esther has been sick, and has a shaky hand, she is still vital. She cares enough about herself to still put on makeup everyday. She still makes jokes, and is the life of the party. She enjoys going to the theater and staying up until 11:00 talking to Geduldig.

It reminds us that just because you’re getting old, you’re still a human being who wants and needs recognition, and has something to contribute. Esther seems like she’d be fun to be around. She still has style, and likes to go out. She hasn’t given up on life, and is a fighter, not a complainer!

The most exciting part of the film was when Geduldig gives Esther a chance to do her stand-up act in front of a crowd, and she gets a standing ovation.

Esther gives me some hope

The one message I got out of the movie is you’re not out of the picture until you take yourself out. Although I’m not close to being 89, I am getting close to 65.  It is a little daunting. I always do have the security of knowing I’m not alone. (The Baby-Boomers are quite a presence.)

It also served as a reminder to really talk to the people you admire while they’re still on this earth. Better yet, use your expensive gadgets to document them

Are there older people in your life who inspire you?

Lisa G & Shelley Berman

Lisa G & Shelley Berman (Photo credit: lisagsf)

Go See “Liberal Arts” the Movie: Filmed at “Kenyon College”: Starring Bexley native, Josh Radnor


English: A profile shot of actor Josh Radnor a...

English: A profile shot of actor Josh Radnor at “An evening with the cast of How I Met Your Mother”, January 27, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the movie, “Liberal Arts,” Jessie Fisher ( Josh Radnor) plays a 35-year old college admissions counselor who is facing middle age. He is living in New York city, and life doesn’t seem to be going his way.

We learn that Jessie is a sensitive type who savor books, poetry, and classical music.  He goes back to attend the retirement party of his college professor Professor Peter Hoburg (Richard Jenkins).  He is attracted to Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) who is fresh-faced   sophomore,  who lives in a dormitory. Jessie is longing for the campus life anyway, and is attracted to her.

They have an old fashioned romance. It starts out with her giving him a CD of classical music. They correspond via the US mail. How sweet is that?

The movie is about accepting life, and the aging process. You can’t go backwards, you have to move forward.

The retiring professor, (Hoburg)  tells Jessie, “we always feel like we’re 19 although we may look different on the outside.”  (Being a baby boomer that particular line resounded)

Nat (Zac Effron) plays a new age type who is past the college age, but at least is enjoying himself.  Jessie  and Zac befriend each other. Their scenes provide a little comedic relief. Effron does a great job.

There is a troubled college student (John Magaro)Jessie befriends who is just plain unhappy with everything, and bi-polar. Maybe he represents a lot of people who just don’t try to look at what they do have, or easily fit in to society.

Professor Judith Fairfield( Allison Janney) is Jessie’s former romantic literature professor.  Janney plays her to the hilt. Her performance is one of the best in the movie. She is also aging, and maybe not adjusting in the best way.

Without giving too much away, I would suggest you see this movie if you like too think  and reflect about life. Also, see it, if you value good writing, directing and acting. Radnor did all three. Don’t go see it, if you’re the type of person who likes action, blood and guts.

Maybe it is a little too wordy in places, but

Allison Janney at The Heart Truth Fashion Show...

Allison Janney at The Heart Truth Fashion Show 2008 (cropped) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People of all ages should be able to  relate to this movie.  I found it Intelligent, charming,  and sweet.

Remembering my grandma and grandpa : Their Special Gift to me


 

I’ve been thinking about my grandparents lately.  We have just celebrated the first of the Jewish holidays and my grandparents centered their lives around the Jewish calendar.

My grandmother’s father was a lumber salesman somewhere in Poland.  All I know about him is that he gave her a pair of shiny blue opal earrings when she was a little girl. I remember seeing those earrings every time I saw my grandma. They are still in the family.

Unfortunately, when Grandma’s father was off selling lumber, her step-mother was abusing her, so she decided to go to America where her sister was already living. Like many Jewish immigrant women of the time, she was a seamstress.

Grandpa’s story was different. There was a famous pogrom in Kishinev, Bessarabia— a part of the Russian Empire — in 1905. Periodically, the locals would blame the Jews for something they didn’t do, and go on a murdering rampage. My grandpa hid in a hayloft so he wouldn’t get conscripted in the Tsar’s army. Fortunately, they didn’t find him. His father wasn’t so lucky. He hid too, but was killed by a pitchfork.

My grandfather knew it was time to go to Cleveland, Ohio, where relatives could take him in. He didn’t waste any time leaving Kishinev. Somehow he got to Belgium, and took the ship, called  “The Hamburg.” I still have a record of that boat trip.

My grandparents met through friends, and got married when they were still young.  They had five children in quick succession.

Although my grandparents immigrated in their teens, their English wasn’t always easy to understand. My mother often spoke to them in Yiddish, their native tongue. I always found their speech bewildering because I couldn’t really understand it. They both referred to our car as “the machine.”

My grandpa worked as a painter, and was a proud member of the Painter’s Union.      Grandma and Grandpa never owned their own home or car. They did the best they could raising their family.  They were proud that all their children became solid members of society.

We used to visit them every Sunday. Grandma used to always offer fruit carefully arranged on a plate. “Have an apple, orange or banana” she’d suggest.

I remember putting my arms around her soft ample waist, and giving her a kiss.

Gifts from my Grandparents

It liked it when Grandma reached into her black purse to get out a package of Dentyne gum.  I liked to watch her carefully unwrap a single piece from the red and white wrapper before placing it in my little outstretched hand.  I knew this was her way of telling me she loved me,

Grandpa was a proud man who stood up very straight. He was only about 5”3” tall, but his  children treated him like he was a towering figure. They carefully listened to whatever Grandpa had to say.  He loved to sing, and I can still hear his voice when I think about him.

He was more outgoing that my grandmother. He did an old Russian dance at one wedding —he crouched down in a sitting position  and kicked his legs—signaling a playful side I’d never seen before.  I remember my aunts and uncles excitedly gathering to watch “pa” dance with his older brother.

As a young man in Kishinev, my grandpa  learned how to draw special stencils for walls of churches and buildings. He worked for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the Great Depression. He painted in gold leaf inside the downtown theaters in Cleveland, painting vines and leaves freehand on the walls surrounding the stage.

I learned to expect a special drawing every time we’d visit. It always featured one character with a long flowery vine like body.  Every picture was a little different.  Even though I was young, I knew Grandpa was sharing his greatest talent with me.

I was around 16 when both my grandparents passed away. First my grandma, then six months later my grandpa. I was surprised to see my mother cry at my grandparents’ funerals. She rarely shed tears in front of me.

The Best Gift

Now, I wish I could go back in time, and tell my grandparents I loved them and  respected them.

Coming to the United States was the biggest gift my grandparents could’ve given me.  It took courage to start a brand new life.

Sometimes at family dinners, my grandfather would state his importance,  “if it wasn’t for me, none of you would be here now.” We’d all laugh, but the man knew what he was talking about.

I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now.

“Thank you Grandma and Grandpa,

English: WPA poster 1935 USA, color photo

English: WPA poster 1935 USA, color photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)