Monday, February 27, 2017

Our Perspective Is Different.

As of Monday, February 27th, there have been 100 bomb threats called into Jewish communal centers (JCCs, schools, and other organizations) in 33 states and 2 Canadian provinces. 

In one of my favorite morality tales, NOTTING HILL, there is a moment when, after discovering the press gathering outside Will's front door hoping for a scoop, Anna turns to him and says, 
You're right; of course, you're right. It's just that I've dealt with this garbage for ten years now -- you've had it for ten minutes. Our perspectives are different.

What we perceive and how we perceive it obviously forms the root of out daily experience. What I perceive as a typically normal day for me other people find overwhelming. But it's not. It's my day. Our perspective is different.

When I look at the news of the day and the events of the last month, my perspective is definitely influenced by what I learned as a small child. By the time I was 6, I knew the numbers on Mrs. Wendell's arm were not her phone number. By the time I was 9, I knew the words Auschwitz and Zyklon-B. And I knew what the ghettos were. 

When I was a small child, I used to wonder how people let themselves be talked into moving into the ghetto. I didn't understand how they let themselves be herded onto cattle cars. And I didn't understand how they let themselves go into those shower rooms believing they were going to get cleaned. My kiddie brain could not grok how, if I knew what was going to happen, they did not. 

When you're little and your Hebrew school teacher is reading to your class from Leon Uris's MILA 18 along with the newspaper reports on the Eichmann trial, your perspective is forever changed. Something burns a hole inside you and your arm is invisibly tattooed with the belief, "I know this happened once, and I will not let it happen again." 

Control and discreditation of the press is the first step in establishing an authoritarian government. I've said this before and I will continue to say it. We are in that period now. The barring of the established news organs of this nation from a press conference because feckless leader doesn't like them is beyond a first step. 

The ongoing terror attacks being leveled against the Jewish community is not a tell-tale is a giant flashing neon sign, one that cannot be ignored. Wanna know why? Because this is a war of attrition. The perpetrators are targeting Jewish communal locations when they are inhabited by children and seniors, the least able to defend themselves. They will continue to do this, hoping America will get tired of Jews crying WOLF! only to blow someplace up when they think we've stopped looking. 

This is all about control and terror. It's about scaring us into thinking that if we do what they want they'll leave us alone. Well, that didn't work out so well the last time, did it?

Lodz Ghetto
It doesn't take very long to decimate a community. Let me give you an example:
  • September 8th, 1939: the German Army occupies Lodz, population 672,000; 230,000 were Jews.
  • December 10th, 1939: First order established a ghetto in Lodz
  • February 8th, 1940: Jewish residence limited to specific streets in the Old City and the adjacent Bałuty quarter, the designated ghetto area. 
  • March 5th-7th: expediting of the relocation - 350 Jews shot in and around their homes for not moving fast enough.
  • March and April, 1940: wall of fence and wire established around the ghetto area.
  • May 1st, 1940: the ghetto walls are sealed; there is to be no movement in or out. Any Jew found outside the ghetto would be shot on sight.   
  • Population of the ghetto - estimated at 164,000.
8 months. It took 8 months to round up 164,000 people and seal them into a ghetto. The rest is gruesome. You can read it here: Łódź Ghetto

Need more perspective? try Warsaw. That took a little longer - 11 months to establish the ghetto, then the liquidation of the ghetto took less than a year. But there was that pesky uprising that slowed things down a bit:
Warsaw Ghetto
  • September 28, 1939:   Warsaw surrenders. 
  • November 1939: First anti-Jewish decrees include no radios, ban on train travel, blue armbands
  • October 12, 1940: (Yom Kippur) Decree establishing Ghetto issued.
  • November 16, 1940:  Ghetto sealed off.
  • July 22 - September 12, 1942: Mass deportation of 300,000 Jews from Warsaw. 60,000 Jews remain.
  • July 23, 1942:  Adam Czerniakow, head of Judenrat, commits suicide rather than turn over Jewish children to the Germans.
  • January 18, 1943: Second wave of deportations. Beginning of armed resistance.
  • April 19, 1943: Final liquidation of Ghetto begins. Beginning of Ghetto uprising.
  • May 16, 1943: Jrgen Stroop declares: "The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is no more!" Resistance actually continues sporadically.

The uprising lasted a month. Not very long. 

After the Kiecle pogrom - 1946
Nor sure you've had enough perspective? Try Kielce. That ghetto was established on March 31, 1941...and liquidated in three killing operations, the first one on August 20th, 1942, the last on May 23rd, 1943, when they rounded up the last of the children, 15 months to 15 years, took them out to the cemetery...and shot them all. But Kielce wasn't done. In 1946, after the war, they had their very own pogrom, on July 4th, 1946, when they rounded up Jewish refugees, killed 42 of them outright, and wounded another 40+. 

My perspective has been shaped by those facts. Those are real, well-documented, well-photographed facts. Those things happened in Poland. They happened in Germany. They happened in Austria, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania...... Because they were Jews. That is not perspective. 

And you're gonna tell me I'm paranoid?

We all know what the German Jews did/did not do in the 1930s. We know that the rest of European Jewry did not believe Hitler would roll across the continent unstopped. 

In these here United States, no one thought feckless leader could win a primary, much less a presidential election. No one thought he could install a white supremacist as a senior advisor. Nor did anyone think he would have a national security advisor who told us feckless leader's authority is not to be questioned. 

Here's something you might not know: I was hopeful Trump would surprise us and become a president. I did not expect to agree with him about everything but I truly wanted to believe that once he was in office he would at least attempt to represent this country in a moral and adult fashion. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

I am not gonna sit around waiting to find out if I'm wrong about the other stuff. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It is our civic duty and responsibility to question any and every elected leader of this nation. This is why democracy is so hard. Hell, if it was easy, every country would be a democracy.  But it's not. 

Monday, February 20, 2017


I suppose I could write about the ridiculous rally on Saturday in Florida, or the new Secretary of Education's inability to spell or punctuate properly, or even the sham health care plan that would cost far more than ACA while providing a fraction of the services. 

But I am not.

By the time you read this, I will have discharged my last daily duty as a daughter. This morning at minyan, I will say the last Kaddish for the 11 months of mourning a parent. That does not mean I won't ever say Kaddish again, in fact, I will on Mom's first yahrzeit that will take place on the 24th day of Adar, which happens to begin at sundown on Tuesday, March 21st, and continues until sundown on Wednesday, March 22nd. I will say Kaddish for her and everyone else at yizkor on all the appropriate  holy days. But today will end the requirement to be at daily minyan to say Kaddish.

Not too many people do the daily minyan thing anymore. On rare days, we don't get the required quorum of 10, but most days we have more than that.This time, however, I was already doing it for my Dad when Mom died. That means I've been going to daily minyan for not 11 months, but for 15. You'd think I'd be ready to stop.

And in some ways, I am. In other ways, not so much. 

My days, for the last 15 months, have all started with prayer. I missed a handful of days along the way, but always made sure Kaddish for the folks was covered...usually by cousin Perdie in Brooklyn or RabbiT here at Beth Jacob. I was acutely aware of the days I missed; my goal was not to miss any. That does not mean I was fully engaged at all times; lots of mornings I stood staring out the window more than seeking that moment of kavanah we're supposed to be striving for. But I was there and the words were said, and I was doing not only that which was expected of me, but what I expected of myself. 

When I was saying Kaddish for Ziggy, I was more focused on that which was going on around me...mostly FIL, who had no system of mourning, no tradition he chose to fall back on to help him heal. That probably bothered me more than him. When Dad left us the day after Thanksgiving, I was more focused on Mom, making sure she was getting through this and not just lying down to die. Supporting her was hard work...and I was damn thankful I was physically present to help her. I learned a lot about Mom during those last four months...some good, some not so good, but it was what it was. It was good to share that transition with her. 

Did it help me when she suddenly took her leave? Sorta. Kinda. What I understood was the comment she made to me at Grandma Bessie's funeral in 1977: "I'm an orphan now."

On the 24th day of Adar II (yes, she died during a leap month; leave it to mom to be complicated) I became an orphan. There would be no more wacko calls to my cell phone during the day. Although the Friday night phone calls that started the week they dropped me at college stopped when they came to Minnesota, that was the moment I began to miss those trying, frustrating, and loving calls in earnest. I would no longer hear Mom's voice asking if I remembered what she did with that piece of pink paper on which she'd written Ruth's daughter's phone number in New York. I knew I shouldn't miss those questions, but the truth is that I do. 

So this morning, around 8:00 a.m. Central Time, the last Kaddish of 11 months will be in the past.  I am no longer "Snusie Snitting in the Snun" (mom's joke), nor "Hey, Sue Alou!" (Dad's joke.)  I will continue on as kid sister to my big bro, Mam to the kids, and Savta to a precious little girl who yells, "BUBBE!" every time she passes the picture of her and mom that hangs on the wall upstairs. 

But I am no longer a daughter. I am an orphan. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Rites and rituals have a purpose:
they exist to help guide us through transitions.
They are not meant to be answers in and of themselves. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

An Open Letter To Senators Klobuchar and Franken

Dear Senators Klobuchar and Franken

In the last few weeks, it's become increasingly clear that this nation is now under total Republican control and as such, we can only stand down on some of our more liberal ideology. I'm of the mind that perhaps it's time to think in the same direction as the GOP legislators. We must address equal rights in reproductive activity.  I know this is an issue dear to all our hearts, and perhaps it's time for us blue-niks to come around to red-state stands.

Would you be so kind as to draft a bill addressing the immorality and illegality of masturbatory emissions? Masturbation is a voluntary action that leads to life-giving sperm dying horrid deaths without completing their mission to fertilize an egg. 
9 And Onan knew that the seed would not be his; and it came to pass when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother. 10. And the thing which he did was evil in the sight of the LORD; and He slew him also.                           Genesis, 38:8-9
This intentional slaying of the unborn, even in the semenal stage, cannot be ignored. No man has the right to decide which child will be born, just as no woman has the right to determine which of her children shall be born.

This is an equal rights and gender equality issue at its very core essence. 

In the spirit of protecting those equal rights, it's time to defund any office, institution, or health care provider that prescribes Viagra and Cialis as aids for recreational sexual intercourse. Providing those drugs encourages indiscriminate sexual relations outside those permitted by marriage. Additionally, condoms should no longer be sold OTC. A prescription for male contraceptive must be obtained from a licensed physician, and dispensed in monthly packets, four condoms in a pack. More than that might encourage reckless behavior. 

Just as the Bible says, sexual relations are for the advancement of humankind. Men who perform sexual acts must fully accept the outcome as desired by God. Preventing conception by condom or early withdrawal are on par with masturbatory emissions. 

Your records on equal rights are well known and well admired. It would be wonderful if you would put your weight behind a bill that would, once and for all, demand equal treatment in reproductive health. 

[You think I'm kidding?...only partly. We need a bill like this read into the record. What's good for the goose....]


SJ Schwaidelson
the wifely person

And yes, I have sent this to both senators. 


Meanwhile, back at the ranch....I spent the afternoon at a rather peaceful demonstration at the local office of Jason Lewis, our newly minted 2nd District CongressClown. Not that I had any high hopes for the guy after he answered my first letter to him with a stream of nonsense, but all we've been asking for since the election is a public Town Hall meeting. Clown Kline used to hold them on the phone where, if you asked a question that they vetted before you could ask it, he would give an answer to a completely different question, or he would hold public hearings on weekdays between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. always at a senior center someplace remote. So, knowing that dog wasn't going to hunt again, we began asking for a public meeting the day after the election. He didn't win by a great margin, and yeah, the Independent candidate was the spoiler, but he won the election. 

Our chant: This is what democracy
looks like
That said, he has a duty, an obligation, a requirement to represent his entire constituency. If he chooses to continue to run away from the obligation, we will continue to stand in front of his office asking for nothing more than a town hall meeting. We're not asking for anything extrordinary; we are asking for a conversation. He's new at this job. We need to hear what he has to say as much he needs to hear what we have to say. He's Republican, but he's new and there is every possibility, however slim, that he is a centrist and will be interested in actually representing us. I'm not willing to give up on the whole process until we see how he acts and votes once he's doing real work. We are watching. 

Here's the real bottom line: we need to find the moderate Republicans and nurture them to stay at the center. We need them to know we won't skewer them if they show up and act like our representative and not some lock-step member of the Bannon Brigade. We're not asking them to change their stripes, we are looking to them to recognize the rest of us exist and we most certainly do have a voice....and a vote. 

Congressman Lewis, if you or your staff are reading have a chance to redeem your disappearing act. That's all we ask. Talk to us.  We are your constituents, too.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Nothing make you feel younger or better than 
protesting at a peaceful demonstration.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Jew....or Not Jew

Are you a Jew?

Most of us who consider ourselves Jewish are born to Jewish parents. Some of us converted to Judaism. Some of us are Jewishly educated, others are not. Some of us are Orthodox, Masorti (Conservative...not to be confused with a political position) or Reform. Some are Hassidic, some are Renewal, some are Humanist. Some consider themselves "culturally" Jewish, others say they're "food Jewish," some say they are unaffiliated Jews. Some are agnostic Jews, others are atheist Jews. 

If one parent is a Jew, you're a Jew.

For the record, Jewish law requires that a Jew by birth has a Jewish mother. Jewish fathers are not required. We argue amongst ourselves about this, by the way.

If 2 grandparents are Jewish, you're a Jew.

But here's the thing: it doesn't matter.  Even Ivanka, Jared, and the kids fall into the same hopper. And that hopper leads right to something unpleasant. A concentration camp...or, as one of my readers suggested, right into the ovens. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.00.

If you're affiliated with a Jewish community entity, you are a Jew.

You probably want to read up on Mischling. The statute that will be used to segment us will resemble the Nazi version. Two parents: Jew. One parent: Jew. Two grandparents: forth and so on. Even if you go to church and take communion, you might be a Jew. 

If you're married to a Jew, you're a Jew. 

Apparently Ann Coulter has done her homework. Back in November, she tweeted an odd statement, a bit of a harbinger. What is she hinting at? That only real Americans are born in America? I guess that makes my kids American, but not me. The Pew Foundation, on the other hand, recently released a poll showing 60% of Americans don't think you have to be born in America to be or become a "real American." Nor does that same 60% believe you have to be Christian. But turn the statements around, and suddenly, 30% think you do...and that number may very well be growing. 

If you are the offspring of an extramarital affair with a Jew, you are a Jew.

Call me whatever you want.... but sticking your head in the sand isn't going to change how they label you when the time comes. And the time is coming when Bannon and his buddies are going to try. 

If you are a Jew who converted to Christianity, you are a Jew. 

So let me make this short and not-so-sweet. If you are Jewish and never considered yourself Jewish, get used to the idea. You are Jewish. You will be targeted as Jewish. 

Nice people don't take to the streets. Nice people don't get involved. They have their own families, their own livelihoods, their own safety to worry about. They are not going to be on the front lines with you no matter what you think right now. But that's getting ahead of myself. 

How New Yorkers Deal With Swastikas
On The Subway
Here's the thing: if you are considered a Jew, be prepared. That means if push comes to shove, you will be harassed, bullied, or threatened. Figure out what you're gonna do when you are confronted on the subway by a group of people who suggest your place is not on the subway. Figure out what you're gonna do when that bagel shop you frequent suddenly has graffiti on the front window. Your non-Jewish neighbors are unlikely to come to your matter what they say now. 

Now is the time to start getting used to your new reality. You might want to learn something about who you are...or who they think you are. Grok the idea. Talk it over with your family. 

Jew or not Jew. It probably doesn't much matter if you're Mischling.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Do not run out and buy a gun. That's really pointless.
Instead, go get yourself a copy of The Constitution.
Know what you're fighting for.