17 Sep 2012 10 Comments
It is not news that much of Oahu’s Jewish community has been in turmoil lately. The Honolulu Star Advertiser covered some of it in stories that were published last month. As with any conflict, there is a lot more to it than the newspaper reporter can capture or communicate in a few articles.
Recent events have made a huge impact on our family. While my husband and I have much to say and this topic tends to dominate our dinner table discussion and other daily conversations, I am conflicted about what to post. My personal perspective and disappointment leave me feeling a bit paralyzed–not for action, but in finding the right words.
Our actions certainly speak for themselves. We quit our membership at Temple Emanu-El Honolulu. For us, it’s about the process, which was anything but transparent.
It’s about the disparity between control and leadership. It’s about the fact that the leadership made their decisions based on only one perspective and completely disregarded any sense of compromise with or consideration of ours. It’s about zero tolerance for leaders who resort to bullying and physical abuse to get their way.
The Sunday School deteriorated from bad to worse and they refused to address the issue in a timely manner due to their single-minded agenda in regards to getting rid of the Rabbi. It has not been as amicable as some might suggest.
We will not be a part of the Temple Emanu-El congregation for the beginning of 5772. We will attend High Holy Days services at Aloha Jewish Chapel where my husband and I met over nine years ago. Our courtship was spent celebrating Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the seats of this congregation. We have returned each year for Shabbat services and holidays. Our family will reflect on the past year and welcome in the new one from those same seats.
I will embrace this time for t’shuvah (repentance,) t’filah (prayer,) and tzedakah (justice.)
I found some cool thoughts on this in “The Torah In Haiku” on an RJ blog and am happy to share it with you.
My friend Toby sent a link to a You Tube video that is worth sharing. It’s a nice new year greeting and the sentiment is warm.
L’shanah Tovah U M’Tukah.
09 Sep 2012 3 Comments
For my parents, the question was what were you doing when you heard the news that JFK was shot.
For my generation, it is about remembering where we were on September 11, 2001 at those awful moments when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, or during the ensuing destruction and horrible aftermath that were all caught on video.
My response to the question is a confession. I was asleep.
In the spirit of T’shuvah, I must ask for forgiveness. Not from one particular person, per say. Just forgiveness. And of course it comes in the form of a story.
Last July, my husband and I spent a few days in New York City. We have both made many trips to the city before this one, playing tourists, taking our kids to Broadway plays, standing in line for the elevator to go to the top of the Empire State Building, visiting the Museum of Natural History and indulging ourselves at Dylan’s Candy Bar. We’ve also taken both kids to Ground Zero. We’d pretty much covered most of the main landmarks, until this summer.
This summer we visited the 9/11 Memorial.
And this is where my words fail me. I can only share vain attempts at capturing what it felt like to be there. While I have rave reviews in appreciation for the logistics of its design in terms of accessibility and crowd management, I’ll save that for another post.
For some reason I keep thinking of Percy Shelley’s poem, “Mont Blanc,” that I studied in high school and college and haven’t thought much about since then. The feelings that nature inspired him to write about in that poem, are similar to the feelings that the memorial inspired in me. The memorial is awe-inspiring, deep, untouchable, sad and beautiful. All at the same time.
I also had a revelation, which leads me to the confession part.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep when the phone rang at about 5:30 a.m.. It was my mother. She had called to ask me if I knew what was going on and to tell me to turn on the T.V.. I got mad at her for waking me up. I watched for a few minutes and went back to sleep and did not click the T.V. back on until later.
The morning of September 11, 2001 was in the middle of one of the biggest personal crisis of my life. I was in the throes of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad divorce.
I had recently evicted my first husband from our house. I was afraid for my safety. Armed only with the meager protection of a restraining order, I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep and was generally a mess. My daughter was only four years old and the tension and change in our home put her in a constant state of distress. All of my energy was spent taking care of her.
I had taken off work for a while to get our life together. From my perspective at the time, my mother, who knew that my life was in shambles, chose to wake me up on one of the few mornings that I had actually had a chance to get a bit of sleep and she pissed me off. My feelings were hurt that she had been so inconsiderate.
Of course, by later in the day I was much more coherent and realized why she had called. I began to pay attention to the events that played out on the television in my remote Wai’anae Valley home on the leeward coast of O’ahu. But not really.
Over the course of the next months I was vaguely aware of the course of the historical events, but it seemed so far away. I cared, but not with my heart. I was so selfishly wrapped up in the details of the most terrible thing that had ever happened to me and distracted by the tasks of putting life back together for both me and my daughter, that I never made an emotional connection to the horrible magnitude of 9/11.
Not until this summer. Not until I visited the 9/11 Memorial.
Standing with my second husband next to the deep well of the memorial, reflecting on the names inscribed around it and absorbing the profound spirit that the quiet space evokes, I filled with regret.
I should have paid more attention….with my heart. I am sorry.
When we took photos at the memorial I couldn’t bring myself to smile for the camera. It felt disrespectful. I needed to assume a solemn pose, one that reflected in my demeanor the heaviness that I felt inside. I needed to honor those that were lost and those that were heroes during this grave moment of our history. I am sorry that I didn’t do it sooner.
During the same trip, I visited my friend, Anne Blumenstein, in New Jersey. Her grade school aged son was obsessed with the construction of the “Freedom Tower” and all factual information surrounding it, as some boys that age can be. Anne told me that the father of one of her son’s classmates had died in the World Trade Center while his mother had been pregnant with the boy at the time. Thus Anne’s son’s keen interest and empathy. A whole new level for his generation’s questions and stories.
Which leads me back to where I started and so I ask again, where were you on 9/11?
25 Aug 2012 2 Comments
A lot of people who do not go to our Temple have asked me for updates since I posted about our turmoil last spring. All I can say is that the situation has not improved and it is very tumultuous and stressful, thus not easy to write about. So I haven’t–and won’t—for now.
I will post this beautiful photo that my friend Linda sent me.
She took it during Shabbat services last night at Kakaako Waterfront Park where Temple Emanu-El Honolulu holds Erev Shabbat Services several times during the summer months. We weren’t there, but are happy that Linda shared this wonderful piece of Shabbat.
It reminds me that peace is within our reach and is offered to us every week. I hope that all of our community are embracing it today and thoughts of tomorrow are in prayers for future Shabbat Shalom and L’shanah tovah u’metuchah, not a Temple in pieces.
14 Apr 2012 2 Comments
When I heard about the concept of Aloha Friday soon after I moved to Hawaii over twenty years ago I said to myself, “You gotta love a place that has a special name for the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend.”
I was even more enamored of my new home when I hear Kimo Kahoano’s song, that celebrates the idea of “No work ’til Monday.”
It wasn’t until recently that I made a connection between Aloha Friday and Shabbat. No wonder I had such an immediate affinity for the concept. It fits right in with my Jewish upbringing for Friday to be the beginning of a time for rest.
Local people in Hawaii wear Aloha attire to work on Friday. Jews dress up and often wear white to celebrate Shabbat. Hawaiian food is often on the menu for Aloha Friday. We come together for a special meal on Friday for Erev Shabbat. I have found a way to manage to do both: Hawaiian food for Shabbat dinner. Why not?
I made rice and we had a few other things on the side. I skipped the lomi salmon due to the ironic fact that I don’t like salmon in any shape or form-massaged, steamed, smoked or raw.
We lit the Shabbat candles, said the kiddush and a motzi and ate our dinner.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Aloha Friday—no work ’til Monday.
08 Apr 2012 8 Comments
My husband and I set the table this afternoon for our second night Seder. When we finished I realized that we were both wearing our bathing suits. He was still in his board shorts from his morning surf session and I had just returned from the neighborhood pool after swimming some laps. “Now that is being Jewish in Hawaii I thought.”
Chag Sameach to all with aloha from our Seder table to yours.
06 Apr 2012 5 Comments
in Food, Hawaii, Holiday Tags: brisket, Good Friday, Hawaii State Department of Education, horseradish, mince meat, Passover, Pez, Safeway Kapolei, Six13 Jewish Acapella, Temple Emanu-El, The New Yorker, Times Market
Because Good Friday and the first night of Passover fall on the same date.
It has always been a complaint of mine that Good Friday is a state holiday in Hawaii. It seems odd to me.
When I taught at Wai’anae High School as an employee of the Hawaii State Department of Education I did not complain. I was always willing to take a day off, even if it isn’t my holiday.
When I enrolled my kids in a private school that promotes itself as non-sectarian and that administration continued to schedule Good Friday as a school holiday year after year, I began to get a bit ferkrimpt (that’s Yiddish for annoyed).
A few years ago somebody told me that the legislature has it off to prepare for Easter. Huh? Prepare? What do they have to do? Could they possibly be spending an entire day dying eggs in pretty colors? or putting together baskets of candy? or do they have to catch up on their sleep so they can make it to an Easter sunrise service a few days later?
Forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, but from my perspective there is not a lot of formal observance of Good Friday. Easter Sunday is already a non work day and most of the people I know are pretty pagan about their rituals.
Which brings me to my next point. Good Friday and the first night of Passover are on the same date this year–today. Yet few in this wonderful state of aloha have the slightest notion that Jews in the islands, and around the world, are preparing for one of most important holidays in our heritage.
Why can’t it be a state holiday for us too? We actually have a lot of preparing to do.
Admittedly, some things have changed since I moved to Hawaii over 20 years ago. Local grocery stores such as Safeway and Times Market carry traditional Passover foods such as Matzah and gefiltah fish, even in Kapolei.
I no longer have to order it months in advance at Temple Emanu-El to have it shipped in for us.
When I went to Kapolei Safeway the other day to purchase matzah I was pleasantly surprised. They have come a long way.
Of course the Easter merchandise bombards you as soon as you walk in the door and I did have to walk around a bit before I could find the Jewish food section. But it was there. And it was decently stocked. Just as are we Jews on the island of Oahu.
They are set up for Jews all year round which is kind of nice since we are not just seasonal residents. I noticed that they sell Yahrzeit candles which means I don’t have to order them on eBay from now on.
I can’t quite figure out why they have included mince meat and Thomas the Tank Pez in this section. If anybody has any insight into this choice, please let me know. But I have decided not to complain, it seems fairly harmless.
I’ve been enjoying all of the Facebook posts from friends and family near and far about their Passover preparation. The brisket is cooking at my sister’s house. A local Jewish woman is looking for fresh horseradish and another woman in Honolulu posted that her house smells like Passover–yum.
It makes me feel like a part of a larger Jewish community.
What many people don’t realize, is that it takes days to prepare a Passover seder meal that tastes like Bubbe used to make. We should get a day off too.
Our Rabbi posted a fun article on the Temple Emanu-El Facebook page that was published in the New Yorker that I thought was hilarious. Here is the link.
And while I don’t always enjoy the You Tube videos people post, I really like this one that Lisa Block, my Temple Beth Ohr Hebrew School classmate who lives in California, shared.
And here is the Passover greeting from my friend Beverly who lives in South Africa.
While the State of Hawaii might not realize that our holiday is important too and that many of its local community are celebrating a holiday other than Easter, perhaps the enticing smell of the chicken soup simmering on my stove on this Good Friday and first night of Passover and all of the Facebook posts from Jews around the world might influence just a bit.
We always have room at our seder table for one more guest.
A zissin Pesach to all and Shabbat Shalom.
12 Mar 2012 2 Comments
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I don’t eat a lot of candy and I can usually pass up dessert. I am more of a savory kind of gal and I prefer salty and crunchy when it comes to snacks.
But I LOVE Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I am hard put to pass up one of those chocolate and peanut butter delights. While I would not describe myself as a glutton in this arena, you could say that they are one of my guilty pleasures. And only Reese’s will do, other cups do not make the cut.
After my kids go trick or treating for Halloween and they leave those bags of candy in the snack drawer for weeks and months, it is not the Sour Patch Kids or the Laughy Taffy that sense my weaker moments and call me to the kitchen. I am not drawn to the Nestle’s Crunch or even the M & M’s. It is only the Reese’s that entice me.
I confess that I have been known to sneak a few from the kids’ bags on an occasion or two. They are used to it and forgive my minor transgression. While I can’t really repent, I do tell them to take the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to school and share them with their friends. I must be saved from temptation.
What is most interesting about my predilection for this divinely scrumptious confection is that my favorite form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is the Easter egg version. I can’t tell you why. It’s just better. As it happens, my second favorite is the Christmas Tree. Oh the irony.
Maybe it is the shape that affects the flavor. Or perhaps it has to do with the size that creates a different chocolate to peanut butter ratio. I’m not really sure. I know it is not a simple matter of volume because my least favorite is the King Size version and my third favorite happens to be the minis. You can pop those in your mouth almost mindlessly while watching TV or writing a blog post. More dangerous than Halloween Candy.
Maybe it’s because they are made in a special way for a holiday that I like the Easter eggs and Christmas trees so much, even if it’s not my holiday. I only get to eat them each once a year–or more considering they start featuring them in the stores months before their respective holidays actually occur.
I’d be happy to embrace a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup dreidel. If they applied the egg to Passover and changed the packaging, I’d be totally okay with that, except for the kosher for Passover part. Maybe they could try a shofar for Rosh Ha Shanah. Now that would be a sweet way to bring in the New Year.
Bottom line is that when it comes to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I am not picky about the holiday. I’ll eat them in pretty much any shape, size or form.
24 Jan 2012 Leave a Comment
I can’t resist a new year’s celebration. Today is the celebration of Chinese New Year, the year of the Yang Water Dragon. I don’t know a whole lot about it and the explanations that I read online are way too complicated to relate here. I encourage you to check it out.
I do know that I am a tiger. I also know that everybody is eating Gau today so I am too. I think that is a good start. I’m pretty sure that’s how my kids’ classmates feel when I show up to their classes and bring apples and honey for the Jewish New Year! It takes a while to understand.
Kung Hee Fat Choy
01 Jan 2012 2 Comments
I decided that I need to write one final blog for 2011. It has been a good year. As my friend Candy says, “We are blessed.”
Thank you to all of those who have clicked somewhere or another and found yourself reading about Being Jewish in Hawaii. I look forward to your comments in 2012 and enjoying the conversation together.
While the East Coast is getting ready for the “Ball” to drop, we are just making dinner and settling down to an evening at home celebrating with our small family (extra small as teenager is not here.)
We invited friends to join us, but they declined. We understand. They also prefer to be at their own homes. I don’t like to go out on New Year’s Eve. It is too dangerous. I am happy in my humble abode, safe and in comfortable clothes (notice the lack of photo.)
The star attraction of this evening is the food. Husband is at the barbecue and there will be meat to eat: chicken, ribs, and lamb (must pronounce the b.) If we don’t eat it all, no big deal, we can have it tomorrow for leftovers and you are invited (but please let us know that you are coming so we can make sure that we have enough paper plates.)
At Erev Shabbat services last night, Rabbi Schaktman mentioned recent efforts our congregation has embraced in regards to what I have heard in other arenas called “Food Justice.” We are translating it tonight by eating the peppers we grew in our yard and several other local products.
The meat we bought at Costco.
I am not in the habit of bragging, but I can’t help myself tonight. With our wonderful dinner we will be serving fresh, local, ripe Makaha Mangoes. It is the miracle of New Year’s Eve as even this transplant knows that mango season was over months ago.
But when I went to visit my friend Candy today to talk story for a bit and to share the holiday fudge that I only make once a year, along with her annual Chex mix that I love so much, she sent us home with several beautiful ripe and delicious mangoes.
Months ago, tweenager planted various seeds in the pots we have stored in the front yard. She has diligently watered them daily and the fruits of her labor became available this month. She was sure that she planted snow peas, but when we went to harvest it became apparent that they were peppers. Another miracle.
My husband picked a few of them today and mixed them in the sauce for the ribs. There will be mild, hot and fire hot on the dinner table tonight. Yum. Once again, if you will be joining us for leftovers tomorrow, just let us know.
As for the salad, I made sure to buy local. The Manoa lettuce was not cheap, but also worth it.
That’s about it: meat, mango, poke and salad.
I can’t imagine a better way to ring in the new year: safe at home eating right.
Happy New Year to you and your family with wishes for all good blessings.