Monday, September 24, 2007

So, what do Britney Spears and Lee Bollinger Have in Common?

It was supposed to be BritBrit's comeback performance at MTV's Music Video Awards ceremony earlier this month, the show-stopping dance number for her new single Gimme More that would put an end to the endless tabloid trashing of the Pop-Tart.

It was supposed to be BoBo's career-making moment earlier today, the world premiere of Gimme Mahmoud, the biggest, baddest and boldest move a university president had ever undertaken, a tactic that would prove so brilliant that it would make Harvard rue the day it rejected him as president. It was a counterintuitive and thoroughly post-modern seduction strategy.

Instead, poor, incompetent Britney found herself at the receiving end of a tsunami of media criticism and ridicule and today's MTV (Meshuggeneh Talking Vile) performance at Columbia's Lerner Hall hosted by the Bo-Man has largely been hailed as an exercise in failure by bloggers, pundits, observers and journalists alike.

Yes, there are some well-scripted soundbytes delivered by the white-tressed Columbia president that will live on in cyberspace and have the ring of J'accuse. And there are those who give the Big LeeBoskie high grades for his harsh dressing down of AhmadI'msickofevensayinghisname in his introductory comments.

Still...the misguided decision to grant a public forum to a world leader who is a Holocaust-denier, has the chutzpah to claim that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran (that's right...homos are killed when they are outed), making a bizarre claim that some people blame the Palestinians for the Holocaust, chews out Bo-Bo for his lack of good manners and attempts to portray Iran as a pro-feminist, peace-loving nation is dangerous through and through.

If you think I'm being hyperbolic, read the comments on by readers or hear from some of the students at Columbia who felt that their minds were opened by coming to hear Ahmadinejad. Inviting this maniac to speak at Columbia sullies the university. It is an act akin to the desecration of a holy temple.

I have this little suspicion, though, that the judgment-impaired LeeBo is probably so pumped right now that he's camped out in the corridor of his mansion on Morningside Drive -- where we take Alfie the Pomeranian to poop daily -- just waiting for the phone to ring.

Freshly-showered. LeeBo will keep Harvard waiting when it finally works up the nerve to make the call. He will let the phone ring five, six, seven, eight, nine times. Then, just on the brink of the tenth ring, he'll pick up the receiver, say hello with studied nonchalance and pretend to check his calendar for about half an hour when Harvard asks him out.

Of course, he'll go to bed on the first date.

Well, I guess one good thing came out of the Columbia carnival today and that is that the appearance distracted Mahmadman from his To-Do list, where written in extra-big block letters are the words: Wipe Israel Off Map. For his forgetfulness, I breathe a deep sigh of relief for I am watching the Manhattan madness unfold from a quiet hilltop on the outskirts of Jerusalem, City of Gold.

Little Babe and I arrived in Israel about eight hours ago. Since that time, I have spent most of my time working feverishly, punctuating e-mail, research and phone conferences with visits to the Internet to read up on The End of Days at Lerner Hall.

When I spoke with him two hours ago, HOBB was breathless, describing the frenzy of the day... and its horror as well. A professor of journalism, he dispatched his students to cover the story of Ahmadinejad at Columbia. They created a blog for the event,

Uh... guys? A president visits? Not only is that lame but isn't that a huge insult to, like, regular presidents?

Watching Bollinger introduce today's event, I thought of Britney, tottering around on stage, lip-synching, twittering to herself, raising suspicions that she was on something.

Watch LeeBo's mouth and body-language when he lobs his Hardball questions at MahAh.

It looks like he's lip-synching.

Or hoping that Harvard is watching.

Or on something.

Coming Soon: The Leave LeeBo Alone video.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

LeeBo to Play Hardball on Mahmoud Monday

It's stupid enough that LeeBo issued the invite to MahAh to speak at Columbia. The latest idiocy can be found in the number of faculty members who actually support this move on "free speech" grounds.

The intellectual and moral dishonesty of this argument is staggering. Since when do our democratic principles demand that we give an audience to an international criminal and genocidal madman who has stated his ambition to kill us?

And by "us" I mean Jews and Americans. I am guessing that for MahAh, the two are virtually indistinguishable.

Yet Free Speech must prevail, state LeeBo's faculty supporters on campus, those staunch men and women charged with educating the next generation. Ideas must be free to be expressed in a university setting, they whine. Even controversial ones.

Oh yeah?

When was the last time Columbia gave a forum to the leaders of or Focus on the Family...with their anti-homosexual agenda? Why don't we host a panel discussion for advocates of Female Genital Mutilation? Hey, when Warren Jeffs finishes his trial, why doesn't he stop on by to chat about how amazing polygamy is? And wouldn't it be cool to have some Aryan Nation dudes come over and talk to us about why black people are inferior and should be shot?

And I'm not even going to bother discussing the hypocrisy of barring ROTC from campus while inviting the man from Iran.

Today's NY Times magazine had an article on honor killings in Syria. The article focuses on the tragic case of 15 year old Zahra, whose crime was having been raped. Well...her brother Fayyez set that little whore straight by stabbing her to death while she slept. And he believes that Islamic law mandates his actions. Certainly, his entire village celebrated when he relayed the news, by cellphone, that he had succeeded in killing her, thus clearing the family name.

Hey, LeeBo, why not invite Fayyez to Columbia so that our minds can be expanded by his understanding of Islamic law? Maybe he can even share the podium with Mahmoud? I'll bet the two guys would have lots in common!

If there were no limits to the concept of free speech, our society -- let alone the Columbia campus -- would be a complete circus. I'm fairly certain that 9/10th of the writers/thinkers/leaders who request a speaking gig are denied one for a variety of reasons, including ideological.

Universities tend to invite A-list speakers whom they find valuable for their students and faculty. These people include world leaders, authors, performers, scientists, personalities, celebrities, inventors, businesspeople and others.

Certainly, people with controversial views have spoken before and will continue to speak at Columbia as well as other campuses.

But to call Ahmadinejad's views merely controversial is to deny a dangerous reality: his aim is to kill us.

If his long-range missiles fell on Columbia University, he would proclaim a national day of celebration. Fayyez's village in Syria would probably be celebrating as well.

There is humor in the fact that the milquetoasty LeeBo is trying to spin the coming circus as a public tribunal/Hardball episode with him as an upper-crust Chris Matthews lobbing tough questions at MahAh to get things started, putting him in the hot seat, taking off the kid gloves, turning the spotlight on, giving him the old third degree, showing him what for.

The problem is that Ahmadinejad deserves a public hanging, ala Eichmann.

Not a Q&A at an Ivy League institution.

Well...clearly, my point of view will not prevail and alas, I'm not even going to be here to watch the circus.

By the time Mad Mahmoud arrives on campus, I will be walking through Jerusalem with Little Babe. At this time tomorrow evening, the youngest Babe and I will hopefully be aloft, en route to the Holy Land for this pre-Bar Mitzvah visit that coincides with the Bat Mitzvah of his cousin.

Yet, HOBB will be here on Mahmoud Monday, as he is a prof at this noble institution across the street from our home.

He promises to call me with news from the Big Top.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Free Speech! Ahmadinejad to Speak at Columbia

You gotta hand it to the Daily News.

They know a madman when they see him.

Shockingly, the white-tressed Columbia U president, Lee Bollinger, whom I often pass on runs around the Central Park Jackie Onassis reservoir and whose manse is located down the block from my own Columbia U. apartment, lacks that good judgment.

Evidently, he has invited Ahmadinejad to speak on campus next Monday as part of the World Leaders Forum, to be held at SIPA: The School of International and Public Affairs.

Sadly, I'll miss this partay as I am leaving for Israel on Sunday night, unless Ahmadinejad succeeds in wiping it off the map, as he has publicly pledged to do.

Anyhoo...things seem to be getting more and more that break-out-into-a-sweat-and-contemplate-moving-to-Israel kind of way.

And there is a ring of deja vu to this forthcoming event, reminding me of an infamous evening in the winter of '05 when Daniel Barenboim turned a lecture on playing Wagner in Israel into a demented rant against Israel...with Bollinger aiding and abetting him from the front row of Miller Theatre.

This incident, witnessed by your own Bungalow Babe and HOBB (husband of Bungalow Babe), resulted in a sleepless night where the two of us wrote furious e-mails to Whiteylocks, resulting in a personal meeting for HOBB and a personal email to me wherein LeeBo claimed he, too, was horrified by what Barenboim had to say and deliberately did not clap at the end of his presentation.

Wow. You gotta be impressed by such a courageous act of public dissent.

This incident, incidentally, formed the inspiration for The Jerusalem Lover, a novella I recently completed. At the end of this posting, you will find an excerpt.

Meanwhile, here's how the acting SIPA dean, John Coatsworth rationalizes the school's decision:

"Opportunities to hear, challenge, and learn from controversial speakers of different views are central to the education and training of students for citizenship in a shrinking and dangerous world."

And I would have provided a soundbyte from LeeBo himself, but the Spec website appears to be currently unavailable, inundated, no doubt, by incredulous reporters, producers, editors and regular ole folks, thinking, say it ain't so, LeeBo!

I do, however, recall reading shizz earlier where LeeBo promises to hit up mah main man Mahmoud with difficult and challenging questions during the course of this circus...uh, event.

Too bad I can't be here to lob my own question at the madman. It would be:

"Could you stand really still so I can wipe you off the map?"

Giving up the fight to convince LeeBo of the error of his ways, Columbia/Barnard Hillel's Israel Va'ad sent around this emergency memo last night:

Ahmadinejad’s views on Israel, Women, homosexuals and his denial of the Holocaust have been called “repugnant” by many leaders, including our own President Bollinger.The event is surely a contentious one and pressing for the entire Hillel community. We wanted to alert you to this and give you the opportunity to register for the event so that we can all be there to challenge Ahmadinejad on his objectionable views.

And here you have it...another reason why it's increasingly hard for Jews to look inward this Yom Kippur.

The madman of Iran is coming to town. Speaking at the Columbia University campus, directly across the street from the Urban Bungalow. At the special invitation of President Lee Bollinger.

Looking inward at such a time could be harmful, or fatal to one's health.

I'd like to conclude today's post with the aforementioned excerpt from The Jerusalem Lover, coming soon to a bookstore near you. You will recognize Bollinger as the inspiration for the fictional character of Martin Holloway, Columbia U president.

And with a reminder that the root of evil is not supernatural.

Evil happens because otherwise good people allow it.

From The Jerusalem Lover

The line outside of Miller Theatre snaked up Broadway, ending at the tip of West 118th Street. Holding a ticket and shivering, Dan Seligman wondered why the theatre’s public relations office couldn’t get their act together. It was ridiculous, really, how they had failed to furnish press tickets or a press kit or even answer his e-mails or phone calls. The entire episode was either an exercise in stonewalling or sheer incompetence. Perhaps both.

Appearing tonight at Miller Theatre was controversial Columbia professor, Elisha Rosensweig. His subject for the evening was “Israel/IsNOTReal.” The copy on the fliers, posted all over the campus, promised a “provocative evening from a provocative thinker.” One week before the appointed evening, the event had sold out.

Dan, who was on assignment from the Columbia Spectator that evening, was three months into his college career, a wide-eyed freshman hailing from Oakland, California, madly in love with New York. One year earlier, he had traveled east with his mother to see twelve campuses forming a protracted triangle from Maine to Chicago to Maryland. Columbia was the first stop on their trip. After spending six hours on the campus, Dan declared the college tour officially over. He would be applying only to Columbia University, he informed his mother. If he didn’t get in, he would apply for a job there and spend every waking hour on campus, auditing classes.

An exceptional student, Dan was admitted to Columbia on early decision and granted a freshman dorm in Carmen, the ugly-as-sin building fronting West 114th Street, designed for first-year-students. His roommate was the son of a folk musician from New Hampshire and the roommate’s friends became Dan’s surrogate family. He loved every one of his classes, including the First Year writing seminar, considered a deadly requirement by every member of the student body. Following the recommendation of his writing professor, he joined the Spectator as a feature writer.

This Monday night’s event constituted Dan’s fifth assignment for the Spec. His beat was loosely defined as cultural events that fell outside of film, dance, music, theatre or art. Though the staff argued at some length over whether Professor Rosensweig’s lecture was culture or news, the assignment was unanimously handed to Dan, who had been hearing wildly conflicting reports about him since virtually his first week on campus and had been curious to hear the man and draw his own conclusions.

The night was icy-cold for early November and Dan could have kicked himself for running out of Carmen dressed only in a t-shirt, jeans and thin blazer. On his feet were his over-worn and much-loved Birkenstocks, bought in Berlin the previous summer. When a matron joined the line, wrapped in a fur coat, Dan forgot his anti-fur sentiments and coveted the dead animal with all his heart.

After an interminable crawl towards the entrance, Dan was inside Miller Theatre. He strode to the staircase, scoring a front-row seat in the balcony. On his way, he passed the audio-visual crew setting up their recording equipment. Stepping gingerly over the wires, he patted his microscopic tape-recorder, nestled in his breast pocket next to his thin reporters’ notebook.

A flow of humanity filled the theatre. Seats were snatched like life rafts on a sinking ship and students sat on steps and lined the back walls. In the front row orchestra, Dan made out the form of university President Martin Holloway, the provost Marlin Jennings and numerous faculty members of the university. Opening his notebook, he began taking notes.

Within minutes, the program began, with an introduction from President Holloway about the value of an academic institution such as Columbia hosting events wherein controversial views were to be aired. “What is a university, if not a universe of forces and ideas, often colliding?” he asked rhetorically and rather moronically, thought Dan. The mike was handed over to a young girl whom Dan recognized from the spate of anti-Israel protests on campus that fall. She was fair skinned, freckled and tall…saved from boring Mid-western wholesomeness by the ratty black kafiyeh wrapped around her curly red hair.

“I’m Claire Bernstein?” she squeaked into the microphone. “As founder and president of CSAZO? -- Columbia Students Against Zionist Oppression? – it is my great pleasure to introduce to you a modern hero? a man who is not afraid to stand up to the fascist regime of Israel? a noble truth-seeker who has risked his life to transmit his message and hope for peace? an important thinker who will reveal the racist policies and programs of the country that is the worst violator of human rights today?…Dr. Elisha Rosensweig!”

Dan swiveled his head around, eager to catch the audience’s reaction. Claire Bernstein seemed to him a caricature of an activist, light on the facts, heavy on the moral outrage. Last year it was Take Back the Night, this year it was The Unpardonable Crimes of Israel. She probably spent her school breaks denouncing her parents’ Zionism to their faces, screaming at them for being such hypocrites. Next year she might be marching with PETA and pouring buckets of red paint on fur-wearing women. Who could take her seriously?

“Free Palestine!” screamed a girl directly in back of Dan. The theatre reverberated with lusty applause as Claire Bernstein sashayed off the stage, passing the lumbering Elisha Rosensweig who paused to hug her before assuming the podium himself, powerful, erect, electric. He gripped the sides of the lectern as he scowled out at his audience. Learning over the railing, Dan saw President Holloway, returned to his front row seat, clapping vigorously, his face frozen in a mask of sheer and abject terror.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Return, O Israel! (But Don't Forget to Watch Your Backs)

Honestly, I had about ten other, more compelling things to write about today instead of the latest lies from the enemies of Israel. There were lofty yamim noraim (Days of Awe) musings, for instance, and thoughts about repentance, renunciation and what this period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is all about.

Instead of writing about yet another group hiding their hatred of Jews behind the noble principles of peace and within the socially-acceptable framework of political discourse, I would have preferred to devote my post to something diverting such as that wonderful/horrible experience shared by observant Jews, known informally as the triple whammy.

And since you asked, a triple whammy occurs when Shabbat precedes or follows a two-day festival. It is a three-day tower of time wherein you eschew travel, communication, commerce, work and other trappings of the real world.

While it's great to have all this downtime to chill with the family and friends and read the New York Times in hard copy and catch up on your New Yorkers and even finish a novel or two and take long walks and have lots of festive meals with the aforementioned family and friends, there is also a weird time-out-of-time aspect to these three days, a forced separation from the world of commerce and communication that we depend on, the growing, panicky awareness that stuff is piling up while you close the door to this world....and that when the door is opened, you will be buried beneath the avalanche.

(Not to mention the fear that clients or co-workers or bosses might perceive of your observance as a religious form of slacking off.)

So, before I saw the press release about a particular forthcoming conference in Boston dedicated to "exploring" the ways in which Israel was just like South Africa (hint: apartheid!) and featuring South Africa's own Desmond Tutu plus the usual assemblage of anti-Zionists, some of them psychotic Jews, I aspired to write about embarking upon the arduous task of introspection that the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur demands.

Like the conference planners of this group called Sabeel, I wanted to explore the process of taking a candid look at myself in order to identify what I need to change in order to become a better person. This inward gaze is the first step of teshuva, returning to the path of righteousness.
If Sabeel was a person, I might recommend the following steps along the path to personal teshuva: stop scapegoating Israel, start caring about the Palestinians instead of using them as pawns, drop your mission to slander the Jewish State out of existence and try dedicating yourselves to the stated goal on all of your press material -- peace.
In fact for all the people currently affiliated with Sabeel, I heartily recommend an ecumenical exercise since they do indeed have the word "ecumenical" in their title, as in Ecumenical Liberation Theological Center (pssshhh!). The exercise is easy and doesn't even involve loss of work time because Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday this year.
It begins like this: go to shul. Find a local synagogue. Stand among the Jews you regularly slander, reading through the pages of personal confessions in the Yom Kippur liturgy. Search your soul and ponder the depths of your stated beliefs. Ask yourself if the things you say, write and promote about Jews and Israel are true. Seek the truth on your personal motivations for the work that you do or the cause you support. Ask yourself if it is really God's work or a perversion of religious principles.
Spend a long time thinking about the real way to bring peace to the Middle East. And then, just before the Gates of Heaven close at the end of the ne'ela service, with the blowing of the shofar, repent. Let the clarion call of the ancient ram's horn compel you to turn back from your sinful ways.

Not to imply that introspection cannot take place at other times of the year. I've noted in the past that for people who are plagued by the constant need to self-examine and self-flagellate (f'rinstance, me), Yom Kippur can often feel just a tad redundant. Yet even if it doesn't, one might ponder whether it is really effective to examine one's soul whilst battling low-blood sugar and the bad breath of people who are fasting within an enclosed area.

Going to shul on Yom Kippur is the ultimate paradox. On the day we are called upon to do the most personal act of worship -- confession of our sins coupled with the resolve to repent -- we leave our private abodes and come together in our places of prayer.

Engaged in our private tete-a-tete with the Almighty, we nevertheless remain opaque to the Jew in the pew beside us.

Yet we come together because there is power to being in proximity to all of this God-wrestling. And for those who are having trouble getting started, a perusal of the plaster or wooden reproduction of the Ten Commandments -- usually hanging helpfully over the bima -- can produce the desired effect.
Our frenemies at Sabeel might do well to ponder the commandment -- Do Not Bear False Witness. And if that fails, there is always the unambiguous Do Not Kill.

As for the rest of humanity, four out of five rabbis surveyed recommended directing one's attention towards the inescapable tablets as a way of jumpstarting the act of introspection: Taking the Lord's name in vain? Guilty as charged. Stealing? Check. Remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy? Hey...that trip to Woodbury Commons was an emergency! Honoring thy father and thy mother? Yikes...I never did return mom's call from, like, five months ago. Adultery?....uhh...

While teshuva can happen anytime, Yom Kippur helps us by making it a must-do item one day of the year. And, as a special, limited-time bonus, the Gates of Heaven are open for the entire 25 hour period.

Which leads me to contemplate those folks who are headed straight in the other direction...not that Jews really believe in hell, y'all.

I am referring, of course, to Sabeel and Co., the loose confederation of anti-Zionists, Israel-bashers, Israel-dissenters, Israel-deniers, Israel-slanderers, scapegoaters of Jews, phony-baloney crunchy granola peaceniks, promoters of lies about Jewish control, whisperers about Jewish cabals, printers of canards, pseudo-political theorists, revisionists, rewriters of fake narratives, Israel-hating academics, intellectual terrorists, lying racists and various and sundry others whom I shall simply refer to as Anti-Semitic Scum, or ASSes.

The problem with ASSes is that they are numerous and widespread and gaining popularity and not raising the alarm level high enough within the majority of the organized Jewish community.

The danger posed by ASSes is that they are devious and dishonest and there is an alarming public appetite for the terrible things they say about Israel and the Jewish People...witness the sales figures for Walt and Mearsheimer's new book, The Protocols of the Elders of the Israel Lobby.... I mean The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

The ASSes are enraged by the notion of Jewish power and self-determination. The only good Jew for them is a Shoah-victim Jew, although increasingly, some of the ASS literature is pointing towards the Holocaust as being God's will. In the case of Sabeel, there is a bizarre casting of the Palestinians in the role of Jesus, suffering at the hands of guessed it...Jews.

Quite stunningly, the masterminds at Sabeel, committed to peace, blah, blah, blah, don't find it problematic to revive the ole notion of deicide.

And though it is preposterous to allege that Israel is South Africa, ASSes like Sabeel cannot stop gnawing at this bogus bone, insisting on trumping up charges of Israel abuse against the Palestinians, never letting the facts get in the way. At the same time, they accept terrorism against Israelis as an acceptable act of resistance by an oppressed and desperate people.

ASSes have a relative sense of morality. Killing people is bad, of course, except if they are Jewish. Then, they probably deserve it because they are occupiers and oppressors. Even when they are four years old and eating pizza in Tel Aviv.

And ASSes always have compassion for Palestinian refugees but are strangely deaf to the news that there are over a million Jewish refugees of Arab lands, driven out by a concerted campaign of racism within countries where Jews have few, if any, rights to this day.

The ASS cause is aided and given some kind of inoculation against the charge of being anti-Semitic owing to the Jews they attract to their camp, pathological yiddin like Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein or most disappointingly, Tony Judt, who cannot stand the sight of their own Jewish faces.

Almost hilariously, ASSes focus their ire on Israel while ignoring places like the Sudan, like North Korea, like Arab countries where girls are killed by their fathers and brothers, often on imaginary suspicions of minor sexual offenses. Their so-called critique of Israel is actually a demonization, with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of Palestinians or their leaders.

And most unforgivably, ASSes often posit themselves as promoters of peace.

They couldn't care less about peace or even the Palestinians.

The name of their game is pulling the plug on Israel.

And now Sabeel has roped Desmond Tutu into their ranks so I guess that the good Archbishop is an ASS as well. Even former US president Jimmy Carter shied away from making in the Israel-South Africa direct analogy despite the unfortunate presence of the word "apartheid" in the title of his recent and deluded book. He is therefore only a half-ASS.

"Yeah," confirmed Hillel Stavis from the David Project during our phone conversation this morning. "Sabeel will be the most overtly anti-Semitic conference in the Northeast."

Just to share the bulls$%&, here is a portion of Sabeel's release for the October rally in Boston:

"Participants will discuss the moral issues of confronting and dismantling apartheid-like policies Israel administers in the occupied Palestinian lands and the emerging role of social movements and the U.S. government in addressing injustice. The conference will culminate in a peace rally in Copley Square organized by the Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. Sabeel is a Palestinian Christian international grassroots peace movement based in Jerusalem which promotes nonviolence, human rights, international law, democratic principles, and Gospel teachings on justice and peace-building."

Blah, blah, blah.

So...where does this leave me -- and the world at large -- three days after a triple whammy and with another three days to go until Yom Kippur?

I admit that it is hard to look inward when you feel like you need to watch your back. The problem with anti-Semitism (in our country! in our time!) is that it is time-consuming to monitor. Being an anti-Anti-Semite necessitates research and networking and conversations and mobilization and action.

It cannot be left unaddressed because stuff like this doesn't just go away.

While I turn to the liturgy of Yom Kippur as I seek to repair my relationship with God, myself and my fellow humans, I also invoke the words from the Passover Hagaddah (liberally translated), which were composed for times just like these:

O God, pour out your wrath against the Anti-Semitic Scum who seek to harm us....for we have seen their brand of hatred before and it has devoured the Children of Jacob and laid waste their dwelling places throughout the Diaspora, wherever Jews have fled to escape persecution.

Pour out your indignation upon them and let your wrathful anger take hold of them and their lies. Destroy them in anger from under your heavens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007




The sticky, sweet, golden, dripping delight associated with both Rosh Hashana (apples and honey) and Israel (the land of milk and honey).

And current events as well. Wasn't there a major archaeological discovery this week about bee-keeping in the Holy Land?

Last night, as I joined the Upper West Side Jewish cocktail party that was Fairway, I chose two jars of honey for my Rosh Hashana table: a overpriced number from Spain via San Francisco and an overpriced number from New Zealand, whipped to a buttery consistency and color.


Everyone knows that Jews dip apples and challah into honey on Rosh Hashana so we will have a sweet year.

Shana Tova, Shana Metuka
, we wish one another in the days leading up to the festival.

A good year. A sweet year.

We Jews believe that you are what you eat.

You eat kosher, you lead a kosher life.

We stay away from eating animals that are predators, for instance, for we do not wish to become predatory ourselves.

Naturally, not all kosher-eaters lead kosher lives.

And not everyone who dips their apples in honey has a sweet year. Jews have known many bitter years, bitter decades, bitter centuries.

The taste of Rosh Hashana honey is tempered always by Passover's salt water in our yearly rituals.

Still, we give sweetness a chance. Especially at the start of the year, ten days before the gates of heaven open on Yom Kippur and we get a chance to petition God on high.

So, if there is any mystical power to honey, I say -- bring it on!

Increase the dosage.

Make honey a habit.

Welcome honey into your life.

Let honey drip from the walls of your home, from your door-posts, between your eyes and down the length of your body.

Honey belongs not only on your dining room table, but in your bedroom as well. Shana Tova u' Metuka!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September Eleven Again

It is pouring rain in New York City.

Outside the Urban Bungalow, Columbia students race across the campus in an effort to keep themselves and their books as dry as possible.

The weather is one of those eerily appropriate details of today - the sixth anniversary of September 11.

During the memorial program held at Ground Zero (which I viewed on local television) the tears of relatives and friends merged with raindrops, watering the mass graveyard that is now lower Manhattan.

The reading of the names is always moving but today's performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus sent me over the edge. With wind whipping their hair and rain streaking their faces and soaking their clothes, the low-key rendition by these NYC teens left me wailing on my couch.

Hard to believe, but one week ago, we vacated the Love Shack and returned to The City. The sun was shining -- even glaring -- and the smell of our country cabin was still in our clothes as we drove towards Manhattan.

The move itself was more harmonious than any I can recall. Probs because part of the work was already done the night before but probs also because we didn't do the ultra-wrenching act of actually closing down the cabin -- emptying and unplugging the fridge, filling the empty drawers with mothballs, putting Clorox in the toilet, wiping down counter-tops, flipping the mattresses on their sides to prop up against the walls.

I know it's a mental trick, but we left the cabin sorely in need of our return.

If I'm lucky, we might even have to go back twice before we close it up for good.

Perhaps if I spend some time in the Love Shack, the sad/horrible news of the world will seem slightly less so.

Last week, I recall being grateful that we didn't have the equivalent of a Hurricane Katrina or a war in Israel to watch in horror over this past summer. The summer of '06 was overshadowed by the terrible drama of the Second Lebanon War and the previous summer was colored by the fiasco of FEMA and our Federal government's non-response to the disaster in the Gulf Coast.

In the absence of these dramatic events -- and in the face of mostly-glorious weather -- I got lulled into a false sense of security, leading me to ignore such serious developments as the stunning rise of global anti-Semitism and the proliferation of anti-Zionism in academic circles, which might kinda be the same thing, after all.

Yeah, I knew that the Protocols of the Elders of the Israel Lobby was about to be published, in fact, I've blogged about the canards of Walt and Mearsheimer, et al in the past. And I've been reading the same Haaretz, Jpost and JTA dispatches as everyone else. I've even had the pleasure of getting up-close and personal anti-Zionist rants from JOURNALISTS to whom I have sent press releases regarding a current project that critiques Walt/Mearsheimer's point of view.

Still...being back in Manhattan, just across the street from the Columbia campus, which is just across the street from the Barnard campus where professor Nadia Abu El Haj's tenure might get derailed because of a book she wrote that has been accused of being an anti-Zionist polemic, cloaked in (pseudo) scholarship...some things seem more glaringly horrible.

These things are both Jewish in nature and universal, such as the beating death of theatre impresario Mark Vail in Tashkent this past weekend and the stabbing of a rabbi in Frankfurt last week and the recent acknowledgment that there is a HUGE problem with anti-Jewish attitudes in England and the revelation that Madeleine McCann's parents are suspects in her murder and the rising incidence of elder-beatings and stunning acts of child abuse and the heightened security at Jewish schools and synagogues this holiday season.

Locally, I am shocked to return to the public menace posed by NYC's pint-sized gangstas riding the rails. I am depressed by the cowardice of grown men who can, in my opinion, open their mouths and tell the kids on the subway car where to go. I hate the fear in the eyes of senior citizens and young mothers and little kids. I am afraid I might lose it one day and get all Bernie Goetz on the high school hooligans.

I am angry at these kids and want to know why they have decided at such a young age to give up. I want to know why they are choosing this route while the Brooklyn Youth Chorus kids are choosing another.

And it might sound trivial, but I am also disheartened by Sarah Silverman's shockingly nasty attack on Britney Spears and her kids following Britney's uber-embarrassing "comeback" performance at MTV's VMA's this past Sunday night, which I'm not afraid to admit to having watched in real-time while HOBB looked on in horror.

The meanness of Silverman's banter quite took my breath away. While I usually applaud her nerviness, this was something else. It was not funny and it was not clever. It was a public whipping of someone who has already fallen and cannot raise herself up.

In the course of her frankly stupid riff, Silverman alluded to her own Jewishness, as she often does, mixing up references to heroin-addict/singer Amy Winehouse's yiddishkeit and the obviously Jewish punim that both women share.

In this week before Rosh Hashana, known as a time of introspection, I doubt that many members of the tribe are proud to count Sarah Silverman as one of their own.

But I digress.

It is now the afternoon of 9/11...six years after our collective mental landscape changed. The rain has turned into drizzle and I haven't changed out of the Old Navy baby doll nightie I slept in because I haven't left my computer desk and phone since 7:35 am when Little Babe left for school.

Yes, I feel somewhat dysfunctional in my nightie but that seems perfectly fitting for the dysfunctional reality of the world beyond the Love Shack.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bye, Bye Bungalow Summer

My heart is going to break.

It is 12:03 am and I am sitting on the screened porch of The Love Shack, listening to the crickets chirp in time with the steady breathing of 12-year-old Little Babe and HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe), suitcases standing like a mini Stonehenge on the floor of my bungalow.

While visiting news sites and answering e-mail, Labor Day quietly passed away.

That exquisite creature -- Summer 2007 -- has officially departed.

It is Back-to-School, nearly Rosh Hashanah, The Party's Over.

And in six hours, HOBB and I have vowed to return to our packing marathon, planning to be on the road by 10 am so that we can salvage the majority of the work day in Manhattan and help Big Babe as he prepares to leave, on Wednesday, for a half-year in Berlin, get Little Babe ready for life as a seventh grader, which commences on Thursday.

The sane thing, of course, would have been to leave yesterday or today (like most of the inhabitants of our summer community) but neither of us had the ability to wrench ourselves away, craving a day filled-to-bursting with our country adventures, craving one more night in the too-small bed of The Love Shack, craving one more morning in this little kuchalein by the edge of the woods, decorated now with the kitsch and memorabilia of innumerable summers.

And so, we orchestrated a memorable farewell to summer. We paid homage to the goddess of consumerism and spent a frenetic hour at Woodbury Commons buying underwear and school clothes while waiting for Big Babe's bus to arrive from New York. Dropping Little Babe and HOBB back at the bungalow, Big Babe and I headed down to Sterling Forest to relive a sacred rite from his childhood -- the annual visit to the NY State Renaissance Festival.

I am especially pleased to report that after a hiatus of many a year, the fair seemed to me -- and Big Babe -- virtually unchanged. In a good way. We came craving a connection with the sweet memories of our shared past and were not disappointed. Nearly everything was as we remembered it: the shoppe with the wooden swords and shields; the alley of tarot readers and soothsayers; the spontaneous folk-singing duos; the abridged Shakespearean performances; the face-painting and hair-braiding; the sparkly magic wands and crystals; the jousting contests; the bawdy cammaraderie of the workers; the archery game; the hordes of fair-goers dressed as wizards and ladies and lords and dragons and fairies and ninjas and vampires and other inexplicable characters.

We waited on a too-long line for underwhelming Middle Eastern salads and drank water and hard cider and searched for bathrooms and rolled our eyes at the abundant display of pushed up bosoms and peculiar garb. Crossing over the kissing bridge, Big Babe spontaneously gave me a peck on the cheek and I felt a tug backward, recalling the tiny, wide-eyed child with blond curls clutching his wooden sword and shield with proprietary joy, now seeing the graceful young man with a straight dark locks wielding a professional camera, snapping images of the day, capturing scenes straight out of his youth.

It was so perfect that I could barely speak. I felt nearly selfish for engineering this day's journey to provide me with tangible memories to hold close while my eldest child is gone in Europe.

Later in the afternoon, after we returned to Rosmarin, I stood on the shores of Walton Lake with HOBB, watching the sun glint off the water, slipping lower and lower over the trees. "It's so beautiful," I whispered, afraid of the floodgate of feelings about to overwhelm me. A million memories from the thirteen years that we have come to this summer paradise danced around me. I tried to recall the glorious return to the lake this past May, the joyous reunion with summer friends, the walks with my children on the shore, our Scrabble games, conversations on blankets, songs in the water, kayak rides, snacks and meals on picnic tables, the amusement of watching Alfie the Pomeranian race madly through the grass, owning the moment, owning the world.

"The summer's over," moaned our New York neighbor Brian one month ago, as we bumped into each other dog-walking outside our building. It was early August and the words shattered like a broken window pane around my ears.

"No!" I protested, loudly, hauling Alfie into the apartment. I had just come back from a week-long trip to St. Louis for a client's convention and felt gypped of The Love Shack, bereft of NYC. I was back and I still had a solid month left of summer. No way was it over. There were still reams of days to dance through.

Each day this summer was its own world. Each morning had its own flavor. Each evening its own magic. We were here at the Love Shack, but also elsewhere-- there were trips to St. Louis and Hartford and Maryland and the Hamptons and upstate and, of course, the Urban Bungalow back in Manhattan.

There were movies and day trips and parties and conversations and books and magazines and weekend guests and visits from my sister from Israel and my nephew and a Shabbat with my parents and hot-button issues and fights and day camp for Little Babe and returning from Israel and then leaving for college for Middle Babe, our only daughter.

With Middle Babe now completing her second week at college in Maryland, I hold dear the memories of her visits to the Love Shack, wish to wear my recollections like a locket against my heart.

Artifacts from my past wink to me from the combination kitchen/living room of my tiny bungalow. My Grandma Dorothy's challah plate, now hanging on our wall. An oil painting by my mother. Caricatures of my three children, drawn by an artist at my Israeli nephew's Jerusalem bar mitzvah, two years ago. Camp pictures stuck in drawers. The Happy 4th of July streamer from two years ago. The 2007 schedule from Rosmarin's Day Camp, still affixed to the side of our fridge by magnet.

For lo, the beautiful summer is past.

Sadness mingles with gratitude, for it was as full and memorable as I could wish.

My cup and my heart runneth over.