Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Ugly Word, Prejudice


I am not going to pretend that racism and prejudice disappeared, although there were SOME (not enough) strides being made. The "closet racists" seemed to be keeping their heads down (mostly) and I guess too many of us let down our guard THINKING things had gotten better.


But in the past few years some folks seem to think it is not only alright to be prejudiced, but it is now perfectly fine to shout it to the world. It's disgusting. People of color, females, LGBTQ, religious targets, and immigrants (even legal) have been targeted in both subtle and out-loud obnoxious words, acts and violence. There has also been a heightened suppression of freethought where real-life topics are considered taboo.


A few months ago, parents in a North Carolina school district complained and had a very favorably reviewed book pulled from the school's curriculum because they felt the content was too ugly instead of recognizing it as a story of moral failure and coming of age. Quite recently another North Carolina school district banned a book about racism and a black teenager trying to follow the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. And these incidents are not limited to the deep south… Just this past week some Indiana parents were given the option to take their children out of Black History Month lessons. Meanwhile in NYC, Asians are being targeted for attacks.


I was recently intrigued by a notice of a church group in the Midwest that offered use of their database to search genealogy and ancestry. Since this is a topic I am very interested in, I thought I might sign up, however I took the time to read their "terms of use". Imagine my surprise when I read "You should not submit… those names gathered from unapproved extraction projects, such as Jewish Holocaust victims". I did ask rather pointedly if this group was "Holocaust deniers". I did get a replay saying "Not deniers… just you should only use names from those you have permission of" and that doesn't include deceased.

Yes, I took umbrage at that explanation, my family history includes those who were exterminated in the Nazi camps, and yes that also means many links to other relatives were lost as well. Since most genealogy searches include the past generations, many of whom are not living, maybe I am being sensitive, but I felt the comment was a direct hit on Holocaust victims, aka, Jews.


Growing up I was very aware that many of us practice different faiths even within the same family — and I was aware that we still could love and respect each other. Why is it so hard for others to accept the differences among family members, friends, neighbors, and our society as a whole. Why should the congregants of synagogues, black churches, and Islamic temples have to fear going to their house of worship? Why should the skin color(s) of a couple mean more than how they treat and respect each other? Why should women and men have pay disparities, or the wealthy be treated with any more respect than other incomes. Why should sexual preferences be a target of so-called moral outrage?


People are people. All hearts are red.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022



Growing up in a Jewish Bronx (NYC) household, it wasn't unusual for my mom to light two candles to welcome the Sabbath on Friday evenings. We really weren't that religious in our observance (although my mom was raised in an Orthodox household), but we always practiced some of the traditions. Friday night, erev Shabbat, was more than just the beginning of the "Day of Rest", it was also the end of the workweek for my dad. He was a hard-working man who relished his family time and he devoted his weekends to spending time with his wife and his daughters.


For so many reasons I adored the flickering lights of the Shabbos candles. Candles in many ways, represented so many happy things like birthdays, Chanukah, and wonderful festivals that always included special family time. My mom always kept what seemed to be a never-dwindling large box of "licht bentschen" in the kitchen cupboard. The towering candlesticks she used each week were heirlooms from her maternal grandmother and then her mother and represented more family connection.


In 1965, shortly after we had moved from a three-room to four-room apartment on the other side of the building where my parents were raising their family, there was a tremendous, and very frightening, blackout. The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 (Tuesday, November 7th to be exact) began around five-thirty in the afternoon. I remember my mom had sent me down to the local newsstand to buy the newspaper when the streetlights began flickering. People started to panic. It was the middle of the Cold War and I remember one woman on the street started screaming that we were "under attack".


Scared, I ran home and up the three flights of stairs in the semi-darkness. Mommy soothed my fears. My sister had been studying at a friend's house and she came home shortly after. When the lights went out, my dad was ending his workday in New Jersey; he drove home over a dark George Washington Bridge. The first thing he did when he arrived home was to check on his family and after assuring himself that we were okay, he donned his Auxiliary Police uniform and responded to our local police station to help wherever he could — he wound up being one of the volunteers to walk on the elevated train tracks to safely escort trapped commuters to the nearest platform.


In the meanwhile, my mom (who was disabled) assigned a task to my sister and me. She instructed us to stay together and to knock on every door in our apartment building to make sure that everyone had light for their apartment. Handing us each a large box of candles, it was our job to hand out candles to anyone who needed. There were a lot of thankful neighbors that evening. My mom placed a chair by the door so she could listen as we went through the building.

The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 lasted less than twelve hours, it darkened more than a handful of northeast states and part of Canada. News reports estimated approximately 30-million people were affected. People who couldn't reach home slept on the floor at Grand Central station, local airports and office buildings. Planes were grounded without runway lights and control towers. There were no traffic lights, television, trains, elevators, or local shops open.


For nearly twelve hours people were in the dark worried and wondering what had caused this horrendous event. But in one Bronx apartment building, every apartment had light, many from the flickering light of Shabbos candles.


To this day each time I light my own Shabbos candles, I remember the night my parents taught my sister and me about caring for our neighbors. I can still picture the joy in the faces of folks who were trying to manage through the darkness as they were handed candles to help them light the way.


Wednesday, February 9, 2022



         In a "long-ago past", I was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). One of the first things we were taught was scene and personal safety. If we went running into a situation such as an unsecured domestic violence situation, we ran the risk of being a target and getting hurt, or worse, ourselves. The basic lesson was that if we allowed ourselves to get hurt and need help from other emergency personnel, we would only complicate and tax the situation.


Yes, in many ways it sounds selfish… and yes, there were times many of us ignored that part of the training. Sometimes the victim we needed to reach seemed too vulnerable, sometimes we misjudged the danger, sometimes we just got lucky… and sometimes WE became a PART OF THE PROBLEM.


In our lives, even out of emergency service, we need to judge our safety whenever we hear the call for help. It is especially difficult to turn our backs, because sometimes that is what it feels like, when we see someone who needs help. A parent will often, most times ALWAYS, do whatever they have to for their child, spouses, partners, friends, family… we all try to take on whatever we can. And sometimes giving EVERYTHING we've got will break us. I know when it comes to my husband and offspring, I will do and give everything I can. I think most of us will admit to that.


Sometimes though, as in EMS, running in without regard for our own safety will put us in a position of needing help and, in the long run, not being of any help to anyone. Most of us, thankfully, will never turn our backs, but we need to find a way to manage without destroying ourselves and becoming unable to help the ones we love.


When you find yourself challenged like this, don't be afraid to ask for help from others, family members and friends alike. Sometimes bearing the brunt of responsibility will prove to be too much. There are programs, outside of your family and friends, that might be able to assist in the care of your loved one — look into them. Don't turn down helping hands when they are offered. Make sure you have someone(s) to lean on for emotional AND PHYSICAL support when needed. And you are really NOT letting your loved one down just because you allowed someone to help you bear the burden.


So while you are loving and keeping busy to take care of others, be loving and caring about YOUSELF as well — because, simply, if YOU go down, who will pick up the slack?


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Touching Base


The past few years has been a challenge for many of us. The pandemic, no matter which way you feel, has shut down many of our lives and cut down on social activities and family togetherness. I couldn't imagine having gone through something like this even 30 years ago before the age of computers, cell phones, and VISUAL communications. The Spanish Flu and the Polio outbreaks must have been unbearable even if one didn't get sick without the plethora of communication devices we have now.


When my husband and I made our move to our retirement home, it was a move about an hour and a half from where we used to live which was not too far from our children and their spouses. Even with their busy schedules, drive-by visits (even at a distance) were easy. We made our move for our needs, the area, economy, an easier life… and our offspring remained where they were for their jobs, their friends, and their homes.


In the beginning the distance didn't seem so great. If none of us felt like making the drive, or didn't have enough time, we could plan to meet at a mutually convenient restaurant or other venue. When the pandemic began everything closed and it's only recently that places are opening up — and even then, there are still restrictions. We have seen each other, but it certainly has been less often than we had hoped.


I've gotten used to a life of "video visits" and text messages, and I consider myself quite fortunate. Our kids have kept in touch with us and several times a week we get to "communicate" — sometimes it's not even in real time. I'll pick up my (cell) phone to open a message, sometimes two, from one or more. Sometimes when I am thinking of them I send a message out, or if I have something newsy to share, I can jot a note on my phone.


I also have nieces and nephews that I get to keep in touch with, most of them are not local enough to do a day trip. Sometimes we'll gather on ZOOM for holiday dinners. This past New Year's I got to ring in 2022 with my son and daughter-in-law, through the airwaves, and then we spent some time with my nephew and his family 1300-miles away.


I remember as a child mailing letters to my grandmother and receiving letters back. It was indeed contact, but the rare long-distance phone call when I got to hear her voice was so exciting. So, for now, I will certainly enjoy my electronic visits with my kids and seeing their faces and hearing their voices. Who knows, hopefully SOON we will have the time, safety and convenience of actually seeing more of each other in person.