Mahalo to Ticket Master and Bamp Project

I’d like to say thank you to Ticket Master and Bamp Project for giving us a refund for the tickets we bought to see Russell Peters on October 27. We couldn’t attend because of the tsunami warning and they gave us our money back. I am impressed.

We purchased our tickets over the phone and planned to pick them up at will call on the evening of the show. It was 7:30 p.m. and we were walking up to the will call window when the phone rang. It was our teenager calling to inform us that a tsunami warning had been issued. They were predicting a severe event. So we got  back in the car and drove home the 35 miles from Honolulu to Kapolei, just beating the traffic from all of the people who were evacuating to higher ground.

Not only did we not want our kids to be home alone at this time, but my husband is also active duty with the National Guard. He would be called to duty in the event of an emergency and we all needed to be prepared. Sure enough, his phone started ringing minutes later.

It couldn’t be helped that we missed the live performance of one of our favorite comedians. We were not expecting to get a refund, but are very pleased that we did.

It’s not like I can call any particular person on the phone and say thanks, because I don’t really know who is responsible for this reasonable act of good customer service. So I will post this somewhat public note of appreciation in hopes that the sentiment will somehow reach them–or at least linger in the universe and create some positive energy for a while.

Anybody who knows me is aware that I have strong feelings about customer service. I think that it should be good, no exceptions. I get it from my mom.

I can remember when I was a kid.  We’d be out shopping  and I’d get so embarrassed when she would sharply suggest to the teenage clerk in a retail store  to stop talking on the phone so that she can please do her job and assist us with our purchase.

That was back in the days when families had one phone at home and communication with the outside world was much more limited. It was long before cell phones and texting, so teenagers would grab any opportunity possible to chat on the phone with their friends–even at work. My mother did not approve.

Of course I can see her perspective much more clearly now that I am a mother myself. And due to my own personal mortification from the increasingly distant past, I can also feel my own teenager, by my side,  shrinking in shame at that moment when we are buying something at a retail store or ordering food at a deli counter and I freakishly morph into my mom.

That same sharp tone magically emanates from my being as I clearly delineate the service that I expect from this representative of whomever is getting my hard-earned cash. And I expect that service sooner, rather than later. In other words, “Stop texting and help me now, please.”

My friend Catherine and I often joke about starting a business and calling it The Customer Service Police. We could drive around Oahu visiting businesses and detecting bad customer service. Once identified, we could offer training for staff to rectify the problem and help their service profile.

Don’t even get me started on customer service over the phone. OMG, talk about frustrating. My experience is that I get a different answer to my customer service question depending on whoever answers the call.

I don’t really blame the people who answer those phones. Most of the time they haven’t had the appropriate training to do their jobs or they have not been granted the level of authority to address my concerns in a reasonable manner. That’s why I always ask for a supervisor.

I find that I am more likely to get a favorable response to a reasonable request when I speak with a supervisor.

With Ticket Master, that wasn’t necessary. When I called, the phone attendant listened to my story and asked me to hold while she addressed the issue. It took her a while. However, she came back on the line a few times to clarify a few details, give me a status update  and humbly ask for my patience while she looked in to the matter at hand.

Eventually she told me that it would take about ten days for a final resolution, but that she thought we were in a favorable position for a refund due to circumstances beyond our control.

It took less than ten days for the refund to appear on our credit card. Now that’s what I call good customer service.

Mahalo Ticket Master.

Aaron Rabinovitz (1932-2012)

It is with great sadness that I share with you the obituary of Aaron Rabinovitz who passed away on Saturday. It is beautifully written by his grandson Jarrod Morgenstern.

Aaron’s Obituary

Aaron was my mother’s beau. Jarrod sums up their story  perfectly,  “After a few short months of courting – playing bridge, dinner dates and giggling like a couple of teenagers, — they became best friends and romantic partners in 2004 and lived together until her death in 2010.”

One of my favorite stories is about the beginning of their relationship. My mother was visiting us from Kansas City and my daughter went to hang out with her in her hotel room while I went to do some errands. When I asked my daughter what they did, she told me, “I watched TV while Grandma talked on the phone with Aaron.”

They moved in together soon after that trip.

Through their relationship, Aaron became a part of our family, blending ours with his as these modern arrangements tend to do.

My daughter has said on more than one occasion that he is like the grandfather she never really had. She asked him to be the one who presented  her Tallis at the beginning of her Bat Mitzvah Ceremony a few years ago and he told the congregation the story about when he met her and the first thing she asked him was, “Are you Jewish?”

Aaron made my mother so happy. We should all be so blessed to find such love.

I told my husband to “Take a hike…”

With me, please.

When we have a day off with no commitments I like to be outside. My two favorite things to do are go to the beach or go on a hike. I’ll go to the beach by myself, but I don’t like to hike alone. I usually wait so that my husband can join me. That way I can make it through the hard parts.

We usually take the girls, but one Saturday a few weeks ago found us with and entire free day-no commitments and no children. Woo hoo. We were livin’ large.

At my request, we went to “Mariner’s Ridge” in Hawaii Kai as I had been wanting to go on that hike for a while.

A few weeks later our older daughter was home and asked if we could hike “Lanikai Pillboxes” in Kailua and we agreed to go there.

Before we go on a hike I look up the reviews on the internet. The rest of my family can handle most of the challenges that local hiking offers, but I am not a very skilled or confident trail blazer, so I like to find out what other people’s experiences have been. I usually go for the easy to moderate ratings and avoid trails that are described as slippery or super steep.

Mariner’s Ridge was right up my alley. There were a few challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle and it was a pleasure from start to finish. I won’t go into all of the details. You can look it up the world wide web and there is enough information that anything I have to say would only be repeating other reports.

Pill Boxes was another story. It was hard for me and not worth the effort. This is the type of hike one does for the view at the end. For me it’s about the journey. This journey was hot and steep and dusty and difficult. Luckily it was short. Shorter even for me as I quit before I got to the top. I sat down and waited for my husband and daughter to go up and come back. I waited only about 20 minutes, so I guess I was close. I do not regret my decision–I saw a beautiful view right where I was sitting and waiting!

Mostly I just want to share the beautiful pictures from these beautiful places and you can figure out if either one of these is the hike for you!

Home of the free and the brave

When I was transporting my teenager to the beach on July 4 to drop her off at a party, I heard the DJ on the radio say “Independence Day” and it struck a chord. I thought about how important it is to celebrate our independence, especially for a teenager who is in the process of developing hers.

Of course her budding independence is kind of an oxymoron at this point as it is often dependent on  to my willingness to drive her to all of the places where she has arranged to experience it, thus making me somewhat of a slave to this process! Oh the irony.

I am not complaining. Mostly I am happy to facilitate and enjoy every opportunity to bond in the car that I can get–when she isn’t taking a quick nap or sending a text message to a friend that we are on our way. We definitely do good car. And I am thrilled at her independence. She wears it well and with honor.

The 4th of July turned out to be one of those days where her transportation sort of dictated our schedule. But my husband and I managed to enjoy the day anyway.

It’s hard to think of celebrating this important American holiday without being outside: at the beach, at a park or in somebody’s backyard. The 4th of July commands an outdoor celebration.

We left her at the beach with her friends and decided to go out to lunch. Our criteria were that it needed to be somewhere that had outdoor seating, a good view and did not require driving too far from our home in Kapolei.

There’s always Ko Olina–but we thought it would be pretty crowded there on a holiday. After much thought and deliberation we remembered that there are four golf courses right in the vicinity that all have club houses that serve lunch. A veritable buffet of choices. (I have to mention that since the 4th I have looked on the internet and it turns out that there are eight!)

I remembered that my friend Catherine said that she likes to go to the Barbers Point Golf Course to eat, so we decided to go there. I happen to know that Catherine has a knack for finding good food and hidden gems.

She was not wrong. We had a wonderful lunch. Located in Kalaeloa, right near the former gate of Barbers Point Naval Air Station that closed in 1999, this golf course feels like a getaway to the past. It is quaint and cozy and quiet and beautiful. We are not golfers, so I can’t tell you anything about the course. I can only tell you that it was busy, is easy to access and Nana’s Cafe serves some delicious club sandwiches and awesome beer battered onion rings.

We even ordered a few beers and sat out on the lanai to enjoy our serendipitous celebration.

And now we have a plethora of choices when we want to go out for a bite. There are seven more golf courses in the Kapolei/Ewa area to explore, leaving lots of time for driving teenagers and celebrating all of our independence together!

My husband’s childhood comes to life at Ko Olina Resort and Marina

Last night we met Ruth and Steve Levine at Longboard’s in the Ko Olina Resort and Marina. “So what,” you say, thinking that every detail of our social life is not really interesting enough to share on Facebook, let alone in a blog post. And I would usually agree with you. But not this time. This time I will share.

Ruth and Steve Levine lived next door to my husband in Monsey, New York where he grew up in the 1970’s. He ate at their dinner table, played ball in their backyard and road in the back seat of Ruth’s big black Cadillac to Hebrew School when she drove the carpool.

And that’s where this story gets interesting.

I often write about our Kapolei Hebrew School Carpool. It has been the saving grace to transporting our children several times a week to and from Temple Emanu-El’s School of Jewish Studies. This is especially true on weekdays when Honolulu’s dense traffic can trap us on H1 for almost an hour in each direction, turning what should be a simple 20 mile commute into a demanding and grueling journey for both driver and passengers alike.

My friend, Laurie Hanan, and I started carpooling over 5 years ago when our older daughters were in grade school. We have continued with our younger kids, adding in other West Side Jewish families including the Gottlieb’s and the Stiglitz’s, as schedule and convenience have allowed.

For me, driving the Hebrew School Carpool has turned out to be more than just convenience. It has become a rite of passage as I have embraced the tradition of Jewish Mothers before me, my mother and mother-in-law included.

Thus, meeting Ruth Levine and her husband last night was more than just being nice to dear old friends of my husband’s mom. It was like meeting an icon. I was in the presence of a super star, the Real Deal:  The Carpool Driving, Jewish Mother from New York who had survived driving my husband in their Hebrew School Carpool of the 1970’s. I was not going to let this moment pass.

We have heard the stories from my mother-in-law of how he used to hide in the back seat when other mothers dropped off the kids at the shul in the afternoon to try to get out of attending classes. We have laughed together at anecdotes filled with his antics that caused so much tsorres for these moms, knowing that the stories have happy outcomes. He became a Bar Mitzvah, he went to college. He grew up, married a nice Jewish woman (eventually) and is an officer in the army and doing quite well, thank you very much.

Meeting Ruth was the opportunity to hear these stories again–her voice adding color and depth to bring alive these beloved tales of my husband’s childhood.

With a serious face she told us hilarious stories of a neighborhood of boys, leaving their bikes on her front porch, playing ball in her backyard, breaking her windows, grabbing corn and cucumbers from her garden to take home to their mothers. She called my husband by his childhood nickname, “Henry Pippenpo,” which was bestowed upon him by Ruth herself. And  she shared with us the story that we came to hear: the day that he hid in the back seat and tried to ditch Hebrew school. Of course she caught him.

She counted the boys as they exited the black Cadillac and noticed that all 6 did not disembark. (How she fit 6 kids in the back of her  Cadillac was not revealed, but I assume it was in the days before seat belt laws such as “Click it or ticket.”)

Aware of his hidden presence on the floor of the back seat, she exited the parking lot. Instead of turning left to go home, she turned right. She returned to the Synagogue, leaned into the back seat and grabbed him by the neck. Nothing got past the keen radar of this sharp and experienced Jewish Mother.

Caught in the act, he had no choice but to do what she said, get out of the car and go learn some Hebrew, “Like a good Jewish son should do.” While he did learn Hebrew, I’m not so sure that he learned his lesson right away as I hear he tried it in another mother’s car along with a plethora of other antics. But eventually he must have.

Ruth Levine was clearly happy to see him. She warmly told me that he has mellowed over the years and I had to agree, praising my wonderful husband to the highest degree.

This is why it meant more than just aloha and hospitality that we went to meet Ruth and Steve last night at sunset. It’s one of those moments that brings us full circle– or at least in the vicinity.

Hearing her tell the tales in the setting of this gorgeous leeward resort, accompanied by the  breeze of our local trade winds, both transported me back to our childhood carpool days and joined us together in the present. It somehow magically connected our west side carpool with their East Coast original as tradition has the power to do.

And it further installed me among the legions of Jewish Mothers from recent generations who have carpooled through the antics of their kids and the frustrations of traffic to provide every opportunity possible for their children, driving them on the journey to success.

.

Remembering my mother on Memorial Day Weekend

Today I am thinking of my mother, Gloria P. Gershun, who died suddenly two years ago today. I think about her every day, today is just a little bit more out loud. I miss her very much.

Two days before she died, she had lunch with her friends and went shopping for a purse at Nordstrom. She was only sick for two days and very alive and kicking every single one before that.

On Thursday, I went to the Searider Productions Awards Banquet at Wai’anae High School and presented a scholarship in both my parent’s memory to a wonderful young man, Mr. Michael Gooch.

On Friday, my family went to Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu and said kaddish.

Tomorrow Rabbi Schaktman is participating in the Lantern Floating Ceremony on Sunday at Ala Moana Beach Park where he will be floating a lantern on behalf of our congregation which will carry a yahrzeit list. I have added both of my parents’ names. It is a beautiful ceremony and a deeply moving way to remember our loss.

Tonight we have invited a few friends and neighbors over for a barbecue that has nothing directly to do with my mom. We always have a party on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and after thinking about it a bit, I decided that just because it is the anniversary of her death does not mean we have to be sad on purpose. She certainly would not want us to change our plans.

I lit the yahrzeit candle this morning when I got up. Somehow the twinkling flame brings the feel of her presence just a bit us closer to us on this day. I wouldn’t want her to miss the party.

May her memory be a blessing and inspiration to us all.

I would like to share the bio that my youngest sister, boo, wrote about my mom.

Gloria Polsky Gershun, b. August 28, 1929, d. May 27, 2010
Gloria Polsky grew up in the small town of Marfa, Texas with her parents Blanche and Walter Polsky and her younger sister, Barbara. She graduated from high school in Omaha, NE at the age of 16 and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1952. She met Theodore Leonard Gershun at her best friend’s wedding in November of 1947 and Gloria and Ted were married on June 20, 1948.

Gloria and Ted moved to Southern California in 1961. They lived there for nearly 30 years, where Gloria kept their household, volunteered with many community and school activities, and raised three daughters — Martha, Elizabeth (Betsy) (boo), and Lorraine (Lorrie) — in a happy, suburban Jewish home filled with books, food, friends, laughter, an orange player piano, and a ceramic lion’s head which lived in a birdcage.  When the girls grew older, Gloria returned to school, pursuing her lifelong love of books by earning a Masters in Library Science from California State University at Fullerton in 1975.  She re-entered the work force, first as a school librarian and then as a public school administrator for nearly 15 years.

When Ted passed away in 1990, Gloria retired and moved to Kansas City, where she made many good friends and built a full and satisfying life as an active participant in the Jewish community, a committed volunteer, and an avid shopper. In 2004 Gloria met Aaron Rabinovitz, who became her second life partner until her death in 2010. She is remembered for her optimistic approach to life; her lifelong willingness to try new things; her generosity to her community, family, and friends; her deep commitment to sharing her love of books; and her unfailing ability to find the right outfit for every occasion and the right gift for every person.

Airing our dirty laundry

Being Jewish in Hawaii is not very fun right now. In fact, on some levels, it kind of stinks.

Our congregation is going through a terrible time. Meshugas. We are fighting about the Rabbi. Shame on us. Ahana kōkō lele –or should I say “Halala ukulele?” Much of the behavior has been quite childish.

Our Temple Board has voted 8:5 to recommend not renewing his contract. They have called upon the congregation to vote on the matter and they have not provided any reasonable or substantial information as to why we should follow their suggestion. They just want us to vote.

I hear this kind of situation is not unusual. Many congregations are afflicted with similar woes. That does not make it okay.

My family is upset. That’s kind of the reason I haven’t posted on this blog for a few weeks. I have been distracted.

We have a wonderful relationship with our Rabbi and are agitated that we even have to address this issue.

He married me and my husband almost five years ago, bringing us together as a family.

Our teenager studied for and became a Bat Mitzvah with him. She is devastated at the prospect of going to shul without him. During Erev Shabbat services last week she whispered the announcement in my ear that if he goes….she is not coming back to Temple.

Our younger girl is currently in the midst of the Bat Mitzvah process. She asked to study with him and enjoys their weekly sessions.

It’s not just about a contract, it is about relationships. I am being asked to consider severing a very important personal and family relationship because other people are mad about something and won’t even talk about it with me.

This is like a bad divorce where the adults are fighting and taking sides and don’t even consider how the potential loss affects the kids.

It wasn’t until I was reading the debut issue of Mana Magazine this morning that I wanted to write this blog post.

Mana is “published by a jointly owned subsidiary of The Kālaimoku Group and Pacific Basin Communications.” According to an article in Hawaii Reporter, co-publisher John Aeto said, “We hope to inspire serious exchange, sharing contrasting opinions and ideas on the hard-hitting topics such as governance, education, health, income and more.”

Let’s learn from the Hawaiians. We live in Hawaii. I enjoy the unique and wonderful choice of being Jewish in Hawaii and I won’t let it be spoiled.

“Mana” in the Hawaiian language means power or authority, sometimes spiritual or divine power. I think that our Temple’s mana needs some reorganization.

The magazine mentions kukakuka-talk story and discussion. Yes. We need that.

An article that covered the recent visit from the Dalai Lama deeply moved me. We should take a step back and learn from his message. “He spread his message of compassion, trust and human oneness, and absorbed the intricacies of the meaning of aloha.”

Exactly–the meaning of aloha. How about Shaloha?

He is quoted in the article, “Century of peace does not mean there are no longer any problems among humanity. Problems will be there, even increasing. So, the only way to deal with the problem? Not through violence, not through using force, but through logic, through reason, on the basis of mutual respect, dialogue. This should be the century of dialogue.”

How can I teach my children about peace when they can’t even find it at the Synagogue?

Hawaiian culture engages in the practice of Ho’oponopono – reconciliation and forgiveness. That’s what we need.

And we need a lot of practice.

It’s Aloha Friday and Shabbat Shalom

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?

Tonight we had an Aloha Friday Shabbat meal. I bought lau lau and poke at Costco.

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.

Second night and we are ready to rock

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.

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Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Please forgive my absence and interruption of the new weekly blog features so soon after they began. I was away for two wonderful weeks of vacation with my family and embraced the art of relaxation.

We had a great time and I am happy to be back and blogging ahead.

Perhaps it was coincidence when I started a weekly book review that  at the same time my sister was co-hosting a book event in the Kansas City Jewish Community  in memory of my mother Gloria P. Gershun who started the Jewish Book Fair in that area many years ago. But I think not.

Divine intervention? intention? Or maybe it is my mother’s influence ever in our hearts and spirits.

I certainly did not see a connection on the timing when I began, but I do now. Among other things, my mom was a librarian, a children’s librarian. My sisters and I grew up with books as an integral part of our daily lives. All three of us love to read. We had a mini library in our house when we were growing up–these days they call them book shelves!

No wonder my sister and I were doing book stuff at the same time.

Hers was more directly related to my mom, of course. Thus I have decided to share the book that they featured at the event last month: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

While it does not have  a Hawaii connection, the author is Jewish (which I did not know until recently) and I LOVED this book as a child. I still have my copy from way back when that my younger girl enjoyed reading a few years ago.

And now I have a copy signed by the author thanks to my sister (and the author). Mahalo.

This is less of a review and more of a recommend. Perhaps my favorite places that the characters Milo and Tock visit are the Doldrums and Dictionopolis, especially the Doldrums. To this day I can feel the images and mood that Juster creates just by the mention of the word Doldrums.

You are never too old to read The Phantom Tollbooth. Perhaps on the 50th anniversary of its debut is a perfect time. And if you want to borrow a copy, if you promise to be very careful with it, I might lend you one of mine.

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