Sew What?

I was recently trying to replace that little plastic thingy that helps me adjust the ear straps on my favorite black cloth mask  to make it comfortable–secure, but not too tight. In the process of trying to shove a tiny safety pin through an even tinier hole, I found myself following a string of loosely connected thoughts.

At the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic I made my daughter come home to Hawaiʻi from N. California to stay with us in Kapolei. We had no idea what was happening and I couldn’t imagine her being stuck in San Jose and getting sick and us not being able to help her. And… I imagined everything shutting down and she and her roommates would be stuck in their house, not able to buy food or water or even a candybar. Yes, I went there. Who can blame me? March 2020 was the most surreal experience I have had in my lifetime, and I’ve had quite a few. 

I was living with a boyfriend in Israel in 1990, right before the first Gulf War. Sadaam Hussein had threatened to blast the Holy Land with Scud missiles which also included threats of chemical warfare. We had been issued gas masks and protective clothing. All US nationals were advised to return to America. My mother was frantic for me to come home ASAP. I told her to relax. We had plane tickets. We would get home. We had gas masks just in case. We left on January 16, 1991. The Scud missile attacks came the next day. It turns out that our Tel Aviv apartment was actually hit, not hard, but there was some damage. 

Fast forward to March 2020 and I became my mother. I conjured up every post apocalyptic movie I’d seen and I wanted my daughter home. So she came, somewhat reluctantly, but she came. Sound familiar? Just like my mother was frantic about me  in 1990, thirty years later, I was frantic for my daughter to be safe at home with us. To placate her young and cavalier attitude, I agreed that it would only be for a week. She could plan to go back to San Jose in time to work and play and enjoy her semester off before starting grad school.

While I had no idea what was to come and how long it was going to last, I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be going back the next week. In fact, she stayed for a month. Each week we delayed her return flight for another week. 

While she was in captivity at home, during the first shutdown, she decided to make masks. We went to Walmart just in time to grab the last scraps of material that might make a decent face covering. I had some elastic left over from an old project and some extra shoe strings that might do in a pinch. We were definitely in a pinch. She set up shop in the corner of our living room and cut and sewed for days. 

Her first objective was to make a mask for each of the four of us and one for her local grandmother. Then she set to work making masks for our extended family that lives far away. As she completed each set, I put them in the mail to make their way across the Pacific and onto the faces of Gershuns, Weisbergs, a Goldman and a Gass. Eventually, we were able to purchase cloth masks that were not made by hand in our living room, including the previously mentioned one that I was repairing last week.

Finally, I was able to let her go. Food delivery options were abundant and she had masks and some precious hand sanitizer. She was ready to hunker down with her roommates and ride the continued COVID19 shutdown wave with them, instead of her Jewish mother. Can you blame her? 

So, this is where I am going to attempt to wrap this up in a tidy-ish little  package of prose, with a somewhat thin thread that connects all of these seemingly random reflections. 

I have changed out those little plastic thingies before, with little trouble. But, for some reason, the tiny safety pin that had previously done the trick was not making it happen this time. So, I went upstairs and got the tin and wire needle threader thing from the sewing kit to give that a try. It did not work, but those details are not important. 

What is important is that, when I went upstairs to find the sewing kit, I was reminded that it had been a present to my daughter for her 7th or 8th birthday from Melody, her Girl Scouts leader. And then I remembered that I used to have one that I got for my birthday in grade school from Heidi Blank that I kept all through college and my adult life until my daughter got this one. At that point, I decided that we didn’t need two, so I reluctantly consolidated both of them and said good-bye to a small part of my childhood. Then came a connection that never occurred to me over the past 50 years. Heidi Blank’s mom was our Girl Scouts leader. Could she have possibly chosen that sewing kit for the same reason that Melody chose the one for my daughter? So we could earn the Girl Scout Sewing Badge? 

Unfortunately, I think that the sewing gene must be one of those generation skipping things, or something that my daughter got from her fatherʻs side of the family, because I’m pretty sure I never earned that particular badge. Nor did I ever learn how to use a sewing machine. Quite the opposite. My mom somehow managed to arrange for me to skip the required sewing semester of the Home Economics class at McComber Jr. High so that I could take an additional Reading for Fun class. My guess is that, if you know me, you are not surprised. My daughter, on the other hand, has loved sewing since childhood and even chose to take a sewing elective class in middle school.

So…. it seems that in this case, the connecting thread might be a bit of a needle in a haystack. But, the simple act of repairing a mask inspired some pandemic pondering, and provided a perspective from past to present and back that weaves an amazing tapestry where I become my mother, my daughter kind of becomes like me and our shared Girls Scouts experiences tie us all together–even if I never learned how to sew.



This is for my Mother-in-Law. She asked me to write a blog post and when the MIL asks, the only appropriate response is to comply to her request.

I haven’t been going to Friday night services much lately. Kind of not much at all. Many excuses: the husband has been traveling, so have I, we are tired at the end of the week and don’t want to drive. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it when we go. I love going to services at the Aloha Jewish Chapel. We used to go almost every week. I guess I’m just a little bit lazy these days. We light the Shabbat candles at home, say Kiddush, eat dinner together and begin our rest ASAP.

I stopped going to Shabbat Torah study with Rabbi Schaktman last year when my youngest stopped her Saturday morning sailing lessons. I don’t prefer to drive into Honolulu on the weekends, but the simultaneous scheduling of her sailing and my Torah study was perfect timing. I didn’t stop because I didn’t enjoy it. Quite the opposite. She  found an alternative passion closer to home and then, so did I.


I discovered a Friday afternoon Restorative Yoga practice session and a Saturday morning Vinyasa session  at the Kroc Center nearby.  I enjoy each one very much. On Friday it isn’t really a choice of one over the other. I could go to yoga, shower and make it to services on time. I’m hoping to make that my routine one day soon. The only problem is that it doesn’t really allow for Shabbat dinner with family and that’s super important to me too.

On Saturday it has to be one or the other because they happen at the same time. Torah study or yoga. I have chosen yoga—for now. Until this weekend I reassured myself that it is a reasonable alternative. My yoga practice brings me peace. Besides the physical benefits, it can be a spiritual practice and definitely inspires me to look inward, or upside down or sideways. Today something happened to confirm the story that I have been telling myself. It opened my perspective to find many connections from yoga to Kabbalat Shabbat services.

Our teacher, Min Soo, starts with one of her teacher’s interpretations of the Yogi’s Creed from the Rig Veda. We recited it together. Well, I kind of mumbled along as I don’t really know it.

May we be protected together
May we be nourished together
May we work together for the greater good
May our practice be enlightening
And may there be no hate amongst us
Creating peace peace peace

Usually I sort of zone out at this point since I started practicing yoga for the benefits to my body and figured I’m not into the, “Mumbo jumbo new age stuff.” I went to my first yoga session about five years ago after I was having trouble water skiing and my brother-in-law, Neil, suggested that yoga might help with my balance. I truly believe he was not addressing my mental state, but over the years the breath and stillness have brought some balance to both my body and my mind. Not exponentially, but enough for me to keep practicing.

At first I wasn’t comfortable with prayer hands and bowing to say “Namaste” at the end. Then I learned that Namaste simply means, “I bow to you.” No harm in that. An interpretation I read on the Urban Dictionary website is also nice, “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.” I can wrap my head around that. We’ve got spirit.

Today I finally listened closely to the words when Min Soo was speaking and it dawned on me that there some strong similarities in these sentiments to my Jewish values. Here are a few of the thoughts that passed through my head with my in and out breath:

  • Yoga is a personal practice, but we do it together. We accept ourselves without judgment. We don’t interfere with the others on their mats, but we soak up the positive energy of our collective practice. Sounds like Shabbat (or any other) services to me—without the Kiddush, Motzi and Oneg. Oh well, nothing’s perfect. We don’t always have to eat.
  • “May we be protected together. May we be nourished together,” sounds to me like the translation of some of our Hebrew prayers.
  • “May we work together for the greater good.” Hello…..Tikun Olam?
  • “Creating peace peace peace.” In Sanskrit: Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. In Heberw: Shalom, Shalom, Shalom. Do I need to explain this one at all?

Talk about finding balance. And at this point it isn’t an act. While I don’t think my engagement in this practice will ever overshadow any aspect of my being Jewish, it can certainly enhance it. These recent observations greatly assuage my Jewish guilt. No judgment there. Baruch Hashem.

Shanti Shanti Shanti
Shalom Shalom Shalom






Just my type

When my friend Paula told me that I can send a recipe in the original handwriting of my mother, or grandmother, or other beloved person to be transformed into a dish towel that is a replica of that particular recipe card or scrap of paper, I thought that sounded pretty cool.  I imagined sending my mother’s chopped liver recipe and ordering dish towels for me and my sisters for Chanukkah. My mother’s chopped liver resides in fond memory for us three Gershun girls (more than washing dishes) and I continue the tradition of  “chopping the liver” each year for our holiday celebrations. The dish towels would be a nice gift.

I went digging in my recipe drawer to look for the index card sent by my mother almost 25  years ago, when I first moved to Hawaii and wanted to make chopped liver for my local friends. I knew I would recognize her handwriting in an instant, the long slanted lines, often all capital letters, boldly stating the directions or her purpose. I remember quite distinctly the notes I would find on the kitchen counter after school: “Lorrie, I went to the store. The dishwasher is clean.” Translated: “EMPTY THE DISHWASHER.” My mother was a librarian-back in the days when they had card catalogs. Her notes and To Do lists  usually came with a title, on the back of a discarded catalog card or index card. At least she listed my chores in basic numerical order and not by Dewy decimals or the Library of Congress.

I rifled carefully through the drawer, but couldn’t find the chopped liver recipe. I came across another that she also sent many years ago. She called it, “RECIPE OF SOUP WITH WHATEVER YOU HAVE HANDY.” It is her directions for using the Manishewitz soup mixes that come in the long packets with barley and beans or peas, another delicious childhood food memory. As soon as I saw it, I was disappointed and thrilled at the same time. The recipe was typed, on an index card of course. It wouldn’t make for a very memorable dish towel, but it served as a reminder  that she used to type EVERYTHING –and brought back so many more memories, making it totally worth leaving the dishes on the rack to dry.


Not only was she famous in our family for her chopped liver, she was also renowned for her typing prowess. My mother typed fast–over a hundred words a minute…before the electric typewriter. We had one of those  black, cast iron, heavy old things settled on an old metal typing table and the rhythm of the tap, tap, tap of her fingers on the keys and the ding of the carriage return were the late night lullabies after bedtime for much of my childhood.

Untitled-2My father earned his law degree while I was in elementary school and she typed his papers for him late into the night. When I was in the sixth grade, she went back to graduate school. Once again, she typed late into the night, her fingers dancing on the keyboard, as she pursued the master’s degree that led her to become a librarian and plague me with those notes so carefully crafted on the backs of catalog cards. She deftly used correction fluid  and those small slips of powdery white tape to correct her mistakes and carbon paper so that there were duplicates of their work.

Typing was big in our family. During the summer before ninth grade, each Gershun girl took a keyboarding class so that we could appropriately turn in typed essays and term papers during our high school careers. My parents’ Midwestern upbringings influenced their commitment to proper form in our casual Southern California surroundings. Handwriting was fitting for thank you notes and To Do lists, formal communication needed to be typed.

My mother even typed the excuse notes that I’d take to school after an absence. Don’t tell my kids this, but it made it easier for me to cut class once or twice in high school, before I got caught. I typed the note and scribbled her name in cursive and was good to go–or leave–as the case may be, until the excuse slip actually slipped out of my backpack, onto the floor of the dining room at home, and my mother found it. There was no excuse for this kind of behavior. So much for my clever plan.

A lot of kids in my high school senior class received cars or trips to Hawaii for graduation gifts. I got a typewriter–electric. It was a state of the art model that had a correcting tape cartridge that interchanged with the black ribbon cassette for speedy proofreading and editing. Just as college bound kids take laptop computers with them today, I marched off to the dorms with my typewriter in hand, ready to pound out prolific term papers and essays late into the night. It also served as a source of income as I typed others’ papers, charging a dollar a page.


Over the years, my mother evolved with the technology. She pursued her PhD with an IBM Selectric with that ball instead of type bars, so that she could whiz about the keyboard even faster.

th-3 She kind of slowed down when the word processor was introduced and never quite got the hang of her Apple computer, cursing that *!!$% thing as it posed one challenge too many. Not to mention the #$#@$ printer.

Luckily, by then, her girls had long since graduated from college, women earning their own degrees, well adapted to whatever keyboard might come their way.  She didn’t really need to type very much at this point and had basic email skills. I can’t even imagine what she would say about text messaging.

I wish I could find the original chopped liver recipe on that index card that she sent to me. I’ve done it by heart for so long that I lost track of the directions. I made one last-ditch effort to see if it was nestled in the box that holds the hand-held meat grinder that she also sent for optimal liver chopping. The recipe wasn’t there, but I was cheerfully greeted by her hand writing on the top of the box, true to form, in all caps: “PARTS FOR MEAT GRINDER.”

photo 3

I’m sure my sisters won’t mind that I don’t have dishtowels to send them for Chanukkah, as none of us particularly enjoys doing dishes and neither did our mother. We are just not that type. It’s nice that it led me to this memory to share, a holiday greeting from our mom, both handwritten and  in typeface–proofread and edited for perfection–just for us.



Orange you glad I didn’t say banana

My mother was a bright woman, both figuratively and literally. While it might be impolite to comment on her figure, I intend to discuss an aspect of such–without disregard of how incredibly brilliant she was too.

At some point during my childhood in the late 1960’s, she redecorated the house in which I was raised. While I can’t remember the exact year, the ensuing results among which I lived  until I left for college in 1980, shine like a beacon in my memory.

The front of the house was painted half black and half goldenrod. The front door was bright orange. That’s how we’d tell people to find our house, “5081 Somerset Street–with the orange front door.”  Neighbors called it “The Halloween House,” not ‘cuz it was spooky, but because of the thematic colors. It certainly was not because they thought that any of us resembled witches or pumpkins or ghouls.

Gershun girls with ma in front of somerset house2

A favorite spot for family photos, our orange front door is the backdrop for this portrait of me and my sisters posed with our paternal grandmother, Selma Gershun.


What became increasingly apparent  upon  entry into our humble abode is that my mother loved the color orange. The wallpaper in the front entry could only be described as a refined version of some far out, stained glass pattern in bright oranges and amber tones with black borders.

entry way

Further inside, above the bookcase that held the beginnings of her nutcracker collection, along the far wall of the  family room, next to the T.V.,  was a poster that said, “Peanut Butter is Love. Spread Some Around Today.” The font was that groovy, bell bottoms 60’s style and the letters were browns and tans and (you guessed it) orange.

Peanut Butter is Love

Beckoning from the center of the room was the main attraction,  the piece d’resistance, the family room couches. These famous, orange vinyl sofas flashed prominently right in the middle of the parlor as well as sparkle somewhere in the center of my childhood memories.

As I hinted earlier, my mother was smart. As a decorator she was able to combine practicality and style.  She liked to keep a reasonably orderly and clean-ish home. She had three children who trooped in and out of the house with neighborhood friends on a daily basis. Our small hairy dog was a beloved family member, allowed on the furniture and in our beds. Vinyl was the perfect answer to her sofa decorating needs. If we spilled milk, smeared peanut butter or left cracker crumbs, she could wipe down the couch in an instant with no stain left behind to tell the tale.

Kelly, our dog

Kelly, our dog, on the famous orange vinyl couch.

When the dog did her circus trick by walking along the upper edge of the back of the couch, perfectly balanced on the narrow edge, it was no big deal. My mother’s carefully appointed decorating scheme was designed to be comfortable, easy to clean as well as an expression of  her original and lively spirit. Orange was her spoken color.

table cloth

Notice the orange table-cloth!

Little Lorrie

She even picked orange for our clothes!

Her habit of applying lipstick at the end of every meal that used to try my patience and annoy me to no perceivable end has transformed into a fond memory, a family joke between me and my sisters. Even as adults, long finished with our own meals, her daughters were expected to wait until she was done with hers. We knew that the meal was finally over when she took a last sip of coffee, opened her purse and pulled out the orange lipstick. She applied it with careful precision, readying her otherwise clean aspect to be seen in public.


While not in color, you can see that from a young age her bright smile lit up her beaming countenance.

My mother didn’t wear make-up, but she did not step outside of the house with bare lips. Her bright smile was the shining feature of her open and cheerful face and the lipstick outlined her vivacious and animated grin.


My teenage rebellion appeared in many forms, my refusal to wear lipstick among them. Instead, I experimented with eyeshadow and foundation, mascara and eyeliner, but left my lips bare–much to my mother’s chagrin.

As most young, impetuous women of my generation, I was determined not to be like my mother. Of course we all know how that story goes, famous last words. Little did I know that I was kind of putting my foot in my mouth, or maybe hers.

I did not see even a faint resemblance to her in my penchant for choosing bright colors when I decorated my own room, painting the walls “Lemon yellow and lime green,” later picking bedding and curtains with rainbows and wearing my favorite red, cowl neck sweater as often as possible. I couldn’t help being outgoing and animated, just like her.

Little did I know that it was the beginning of my inevitable transformation. I have become another version of my  mother in many way. Lately you can spell it just like the color: O R A N G E!

It started innocently enough. I went to Target to get a bath mat to match one of the colors in our shower curtain and there it was-bright orange and fluffy and soft. Perfect. After that, orange hand towels appeared on each of the racks in both the master and guest bathrooms.

It has spiraled from there. If you take a peek into my closet, it seems that I have adopted the phrase from that Netflix show “Orange is the New Black.” Many of my dresses and shirts and shoes and even purses have a touch of orange. My iPhone case is orange as is the sleeve in which my Kindle rests. I did not do this on purpose. I swear. It just seems to have happened that orange has become my “Go To” color.

  IMG_0606 IMG_1595

IMG_1549 DSC_0358

As cheerful and smiley as I tend to be, I still don’t wear lipstick, except for on special occasions. I rarely reapply. But it’s been years since I’ve gone without a pedicure. My toenails are always decorated. In Hawaii, we wear sandals all year long. One simply must put her best foot forward. For the longest time I only used a natural color, but lately I’ve changed. You guessed it, I choose a bright orange polish, kind of making me like my mom from head to toe.


While writing this blog post I did a quick search of the internet for what a favorite color choice says about a person. What does orange say about me? my mom? I was pleased to read the descriptions and found myself comfortable with the adjectives: social, adventurous, warm and cheerful, outgoing and kind. Sounds good to me.

If it is inevitable that I am going to be like my mother, at least it turns out to be generally bright and sunny. Orange you glad? I certainly am.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray that I get in to a good college

When I think back to my childhood and the lively conversations around the dinner table or the intimate moments when my parents tucked me in at bedtime, I don’t remember many deep discussions about G-d. The almighty HaShem, blessed be (s)he, was not a major player in the lessons taught by my parents almost half a century ago.

We did talk a lot about education. My mother often intimated that of all the Jewish “Values,” education is one of the highest. Like many a nice Jewish girl of my generation, I was practically nursed and weaned on the words “When you get to college.” Academic achievement was top priority in the Gershun household.

Forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, but education was kind of the god in which my parents believed would make all things right in our lives. It was the key to our success.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a diatribe against the value of education on which I was raised. I’m just trying to give you an idea of how important it was in the house in which I was grew up.

My parents were the first generation of Americans in each of their families to go to college. Of course they believed in the power of a good education.

So do I. I was a high school teacher for 20 years, for goodness’ sake (I decided not to write the real phrase that I might say here as it is just not appropriate in this blog.)

When my sister and I stopped by last month to take pictures at Charles G. Emery Elementary and Sunny Hills High Schools in Southern California, my memory was aroused.

I have not been back to Sunny Hills since I graduated in 1980. I have certainly changed a whole lot more than the campus has since then. It actually looks a bit newer and cleaner than it did in the late 1970’s. The Performing Arts Complex (PAC) and the classrooms look pretty much the same. The quad is a bit smaller due to a few classroom additions and there is no longer a line of pay phones near the front office. No need for those any more.

We drove up “the hill” of our teens, the entrance to the school, and parked in the student  parking lot for a self guided tour.

We saved the best for last–Room 7.

Room 7 is an icon in Gershun family lore, it’s enchanting spell lasting long after graduation ceremonies. Each Gershun girl spent a significant portion of her high school days (and nights) in this classroom, learning about journalism: how to write a news story, how to edit a caption, how to produce a high school newspaper and so much more.

Under the brilliant direction of Mrs. Carol Hallenbeck, we became writers. She is  somewhat of a goddess in the annals of our family’s educational history. We worshiped her.

My oldest sister, Martha, was the first to discover the magical and inspiring world behind the door of what is now the attendance office (so sad).

Martha was editor-in-chief (her junior year, I believe) of the award-winning newspaper The Accolade and later the magazine, Excalibur. She filled our dinner table with stories and gossip, painting a vivid and exciting picture of life on a high school newspaper staff. Boo, my other sister, also served her stint as editor-in-chief (was it also in her Junior year?) and I couldn’t wait for my turn.

Alas, I was not selected to serve as Editor-In-Chief of the Accolade. That honor went to my friends Jennifer Lorvick and Julie Wilson (it was well deserved.) I eventually shared the editorship of the Excalibur, with John Yoon and was content.

While not the protege each of my sisters proved to be, I thoroughly enjoyed my own tenure in room 7.

When I joined the faculty at Wai’anae High School in 1991, it never occurred to me that I would become a journalism teacher in the footsteps of Carol Hallenbeck. It happened in 1998 when I agreed to advise the school newspaper, Ka Leo O Wai’anae.

I taught my SP students what I had learned in Room 7 over 20 years before, finding  in it the power to transform an ordinary classroom into an extraordinary setting. Turns out that I am a way better teacher than I ever was a student.

To my pleasure, I saw Mrs. Hallenbeck at a Journalism Education Association convention when we took a Searider Productions trip to California in 2001. I proudly introduced her to my students and colleagues and I bought a book that she co-edited, Practical Ideas for Teaching Journalism. It guided the lessons I taught for the next eight years. Talk about influence.

I later met A.J. Nagaraj who joined the Wai’anae High School faculty in 2006. I was pleased to learn that he is from my home town and  his sister is a former Accolade editor.

I was looking online for information about Mrs. Hallenbeck. I found many stories of the honors she received for her excellence in teaching before she retired a few years ago. I also found a wonderful story from 2005 of another teacher who was honored in Southern California. She mentioned Carol Hallenbeck as a teacher who made a difference in her life.

And now it is time to tie this all together and I’m not sure how.

Back to the Jewish part: I think that we have more conversations about Tikun Olam and Tzedakah with our kids than my parents did with me. I am also trying to add in some blessings and conversations about our beliefs.

I’m not saying that we don’t value education or believe in the power of a good one (just ask my kids how often we bug them about their grades and talk about college). Nor am I saying that my parents did not believe strongly in doing the right thing. I do think that our children learn as much from what we don’t say as what we do, so I try to say it all to avoid confusion (just ask my husband!)

Finally, I discovered that when I look back through the door of Room 7 to the 1970’s at Sunny Hills High School, I still feel the amazing power of that one simple classroom.  I can see the row of manual typewriters along the back wall with several long tables in a parallel line just a few feet away. On the other side are the student desks arranged in three groups, facing each other to facilitate discussion. I also see the magical world that blossomed within, led by one mighty teacher from her podium at the front, and how it developed into a colorful thread woven through the fabric of my family’s story, touching us in the past, present and future.

What does Knott’s Berry Farm have to do with being Jewish?

Not much generally, but it played a surprisingly strategic role in my formative years. That’s why it was a poignant stop on our recent visit through time to important landmarks of our hanabada days, growing up in Orange County, California.

My parents sent us to Religious school on Saturday mornings at Temple Beth Ohr, about a five minute drive from our house in Buena Park. Before I was of school age, I’d go with my father to drop off my older sisters and while they were learning the Shema or how to make Hamantashen, we would enjoy a few hours at nearby Knott’s Berry Farm.

In those days, Knott’s was not a major amusement park, but a small town attraction. We did not have to pay an entrance fee and there were only a few simple rides near the famous Ghost Town and Independence Hall.

He would get some coffee and lift me up onto a colorful horse for a spin on the merry-go-round. Later I’d sit in a nearby electric car and he’d drop a coin in the slot. I would jiggle the steering wheel back and forth, pretending to drive while the car shook me back and forth enough to thrill my four-year-old sensibilities.

Every so often, we walked over to the other side to the semi life-sized cars that we could  really drive along a track (like the Autopia ride at Disneyland.) They aren’t there anymore. Soak City now occupies that spot. He pressed the gas pedal and let me steer as we zigged and zagged across the track. I’d squeal with delight. It always felt like an extra special morning when my dad and I would go for a ride in those cars.

A few hours later we would return to the Temple to pick up my sisters and head home, where I suspect that my mother was cherishing the last few precious moments of peace and quiet and a break from her three Jewish daughters that Religious school, my father and Knott’s Berry Farm offered on a weekly basis. Believe me, I can relate.

That’s why, when I was talking to the guy sitting next to me on the plane ride to LAX and he said that the first place he goes to eat when he gets to Southern California is Knott’s Berry Farms’ chicken dinner restaurant, I knew that we had to go there too. Besides the fact that I know my sister loves fried chicken, the park itself holds memories for all three of us Gershun girls.

We took the Beach Boulevard (Hwy 39) exit from the I 5 Freeway and headed south. My father’s law office used to be on Beach Blvd. and Orangethorpe Ave.. We had a fleeting  hope to catch a glimpse as we hurried towards our destination. But alas, it is now just an empty lot.

Luckily, some things never change. As we approached the intersection of Beach Blvd. and Knott Ave., and the berry farm itself, we laughed that the kitschy stretch of road doesn’t look much different.  I was surprised to learn later that the Movieland Wax Museum closed in 2005 and is now the Movieland Plaza. It was not apparent from our quick glance as we drove by.  I never went there or to the California Alligator Farm that closed in the 1980’s or Medieval Times that popped up after I left for college.

After dinner we walked over to Virginia’s Gift Shop, which evokes clear memories of our mom.

My mom LOVED to walk through Virginia’s Gift Shop for what felt like hours looking at every single item on display to her heart’s content. It did not matter that her tired, youngest daughter (that’s me) had not an iota of interest in the china and crystal and tchachkes that went on for display room after display room. She had spent the day letting us do what we wanted and now she would have a moment of her own pleasure.

I gotta say that, after all these years, I was still not very interested in the amazing array of gifts the shop has to offer, but it was a very nice memory.

On a side note: when I was in high school and our Temple youth group planned social activities, we did not go to Knott’s Berry Farm. We went to Disneyland and Magic Mountain, but not Knott’s. Walter Knott was a known member of the John Birch Society. In those days it was said that they were anti semitic. Thus, we did not patronize the establishment as a Jewish organization.

Another change surprised us and also gave us a new connection to Knott’s Berry Farm. They now have a Pink’s hot dog stand that replaces the same cafe where my father used to buy coffee on those Saturday mornings over 45 years ago.

Ironically, we are related to Pink’s on my mother’s side by marriage. My Great Aunt Shirley Freidman’s maiden name is Pink. She was married to my Great Uncle Eli  and  was the sister of Paul Pink who started the dogs in LA in 1939. They were both the greatest aunt and uncle you could imagine.

My Uncle Eli was my mother's great uncle, brother of her mother.

I am sitting with Aunt Shirley and my maternal grandmother Blanche Polsky, Uncle Eli's sister.

Aunt Shirley (right) and my Uncle Eli on his 80th birthday sitting with his sister, my Great Aunt Tee (Frank)

I remember driving in to L.A. to visit them and on several occasions, stopping at Pink’s for a dog. There were also many late night visits when I was in college, but that’s a different story.

That’s the end of my story about Knott’s. I have to thank my seatmate on Hawaiian Airlines flight 10 from HNL to LAX on January 11, 2012. If he had not mentioned his affinity for a chicken dinner at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, I would not have thought to add it to our itinerary. We would have missed a plethora of wonderful memories and a chance to write this blog post.

I sure hope that Walter Knott wasn’t really an anti Semite and that he is not rolling over in his grave about the fact that Knott’s Berry Farm plays a supporting role in my memories of growing up Jewish in Buena Park, California.

Let’s talk about the F word…

Every where I go I bump into people who are doing it, on street corners, at the local supermarket, at my kids’ school.

It’s hard to turn around these days and not find somebody asking for money in support of a program or a cause or a trip to the mainland for a championship game. The F word of which I speak has more than four letters. It has 11–FUNDRAISING. But the sound of it is becoming just as distasteful as the vulgar term that usually comes to mind.

I am not unwilling to support a worthy cause. On the contrary. I am an enthusiastic supporter of all causes worthy. I just don’t agree with the  plethora of methods employed to garner my precious support and am not sure that other people’s definitions of worthy match mine.

My husband created an acronym that aptly relates to the title and shares the sentiment. In order to avoid being accused of using profanity, I will spell it out for you: Fundraising Using Children and Kids.

Yesterday I went to the Kapolei Safeway and met a group of cub scouts who were set up next to the entrance. I approached their table without being asked, eager to support an esteemed organization such as theirs. They were selling popcorn. I like popcorn. I was ready to buy. The smallest bag was $10. TEN DOLLARS for a bag of caramel corn? I couldn’t believe it. The one that had nuts was $20. That’s nuts!

That’s what got me thinking about how fundraising has become big business and that too many people besides the actual beneficiary are out there  making money off of my support.

Raise your hand if your kids have had to sell Zippys chili tickets, huli huli chicken tickets or some other kind of tickets for their school or sports team? Then raise your hand again if you ended up buying those tickets, picked up the said chili or chicken and applied it to the next potluck invitation you received.

Or maybe you paid for an entire box of  48 bags of M & M’s because you and your kids ate them over the course of the past month.

I would rather write a check than sell all of those tickets and candy. It is cheaper, so much easier and I can write it off as a charitable donation.

I would also rather support a car wash. That seems like good value for my money and reasonable return for effort.

I wonder how much money each of us spends buying snacks and candy and magazines from every kid that comes knocking on our wallets. What if I applied the money that I spend on your kids to my own and you kept yours to yourself and we all stopped asking everybody to support each other and simply took care of ourselves?

At least these young peddlers  are selling something. I have ranted before about the groups who stand on street corners with scoop nets asking me to drop some cash from my car window so that they can travel to the mainland for “The most amazing opportunity ever.” Usually it is a sports team that has qualified for a national tournament. It looks like begging to me: Children standing on a street corner asking strangers for money so that they can go on a trip to play a game. I say, if you can’t afford it, don’t go.

I also think that these leagues should provide a viable way for their teams to garner support. Find sponsors for these kids. Apply for grants. Give them jobs.

We have come to think of so many luxuries and privileges as necessities for our children and then ask other people to spend money in support of them. Let them concentrate on school and local activities, earn a scholarship for college, get a job and then travel to their heart’s delight.

Please do not misunderstand me. I know that there are many children in our community and beyond that cannot afford even the basic necessities. I am not talking about them. I am the first in line to organize a school supplies drive for these students and to donate money to organizations that feed and clothe and house them. I also think that they deserve the opportunity to participate in extra curricular activities and sports. I am willing to make a donation in support of that too.

I also know only too well that our public schools are under funded and in dire need of support. That is an entirely different blog post.

I just think that our community fundraising efforts have evolved in a  direction that ends up using our children as a means to a somewhat capitalist end and in the process we end up selling ourselves and them a little bit short.

Jewaiian Time

I grew up with Jewish Standard Time. That’s the way most Jewish social events don’t ever start on time. If you tell people to come at 7 pm, they show up around 7:20 and you don’t get started until after 7:30.

People have busy lives with jobs and kids and responsibilities. They try to fit in as much as they can. If  Synagogue life cannot be at the center of their lives, at least it is a part. They will get there when they get there and do what they can.

Then I moved to Hawaii. Here they call it Hawaiian Time. Same concept. Most things start late, but for slightly different reasons. Hawaii is “Laid Back.” Not in a lazy sort of way, but with grace and ease. What’s the hurry? We have plenty of time. Just as the tide rolls in, so do the people. And then they stay.

And then there’s being Jewish in Hawaii.

I recently heard the combination of  Jewish Standard Time and Hawaiian Time referred to as “Jewaiian Time”–a powerful combination–certainly in terms of scheduling.

With these two cultural idiosyncrasies working together, it is almost completely impossible for anything to start as scheduled.

Luckily, they create a compelling synergy. The laid back nature of the island culture has definitely had an effect on the local Jewish Community, softening an underlying edge that I might have felt in other places.

Some might come a bit late, programs and meetings may not begin exactly on time, but nobody minds and they certainly stay, transforming our Shul on Oahu into at true Beit Knesset, place of assembly, gathering place.

It’s this sort of “Go with the flow” kind of lifestyle that makes being Jewish in Hawaii such a unique experience, certainly one worth writing about.