Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nobody Laughs On The Subway™

On the 1 train coming home from work today, I burst out laughing. I had just read a very funny passage in The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs and it literally made me laugh out loud.

At which point, I realized something fascinating.

Nobody laughs on the subway.

That sounds like the title of a book, which is why I have trademarked it. Nobody Laughs On The Subway™ is my own discovery. No one will take it from me. The subway, you see, is a joyless place. Panhandlers, crying children, wailing babes and irritated commuters galore exist. Overloud music that spills out of adjacent people's (or in bad cases, even those across the car) earbuds and earphones adds to the atmosphere. So do the conductors, who can at times be extremely amusing (think today, with the man who hollered 'Y'all gonna just stand there or are you gonna stand clear of the closing doors?') But there is no laughter. None.

It was only once I laughed that I realized how the sound of unbridled joy disturbed the hush of the otherwise air-conditioned air whose silence is disturbed only by automated voices and dirty looks.

And so I have come up with a brilliant initiative. It is so brilliant that Improv Everywhere should have thought of it.

The idea is to spread joy on the subway. In short, to laugh. Not just smile but laugh! Infect fellow subway goers with cheer. Make people's lives happy!

And we can have laughter sightings on the subway!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Guide to Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds

"In Search of the Real Deal" who has the tagline "Cuz Princess, You Ain't In Disney Land No More" is probably one of my favorite bloggers. She wrote a fantastic, informative, hilarious and yet entirely accurate post entitled "A Guide to Unofficial Shidduch Breeding Grounds."

Of these, my father was part of Bnei Akiva and worked at Moshava Wildrose. My brothers did Snif, I went to Camp Stone, I do NCSY and I know people involved in every other 'unofficial shidduch breeding ground' she mentions (from Aish to HASC to the Mt. Sinai social scene). Humorous, entertaining, lighthearted and true. Give it up for our coral blogger.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Hard Work (And You Might Die Trying)

And all at once the crowd begins to sing
We'd never know what's wrong without the pain
Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same

~"All at Once" by the Fray


Many of us have experienced loss. And if we haven't yet, it's probable that one day we will. We lose friends and family to devastating illnesses. We lose people whom we thought were our entire lives. We lose precious possessions. Perhaps, as we age, we even lose memories. And when we lose something, our entire being craves to get it back, to hold onto it. We've often been told that time will help us get over our loss, that with the advent of time, pain will go away.

Well, that's not true. I've written before about how that isn't true.

Nothing will make our loss hurt less grievously if we are unwilling to let it go. All the time in the world will not help so long as we cling to our corners of the altar, thinking in this way that we can escape the death penalty. We don't realize that King Solomon is standing by and he will order Joab slaughtered nonetheless. We have confused ourselves with Adonijah and think we may be shown mercy.

Some people, perhaps those who grieve less fiercely, may indeed be pacified by time. Their hurt will be ameliorated. And for the rest of us? What shall we do?

Well, we shall work.

It is hard work. It is painful work. It is work that may involve cutting connections with all that reminds us of our loss. It is work that may have us doubling over in pain and choking on tears. It is work that may involve spending time in a therapist's office. It is work that may have us shouting in anger at God, our parents, our friends, anyone and no one. It is work we desperately want to avoid and want to pretend isn't necessary. It is not forgetting- for who can forget that which made them who they are? It is assigning it its proper place, refusing to allow it to murder our chances for a future.

And Satan insidiously whispers in your ear, telling you that this work is a desecration, a trampling of all that you had and loved. He wants you to remain in this pit of gloomy darkness, lost within the caverns of your mind forevermore. So long as you are there, you cannot be elsewhere and so long as you are there, you can do nothing but mourn. You are paralyzed by your mourning, living your life in homage to this shrine of memory, caught fast within bonds that you lovingly kiss.

You may even believe that to leave this cave, to choose not to live your life in homage to memory, as a sacrifice to what was, you are acting in a cowardly fashion. You have chosen something lesser, something less meaningful and valuable instead of that godliness you had once known.

But that's a lie.

It will not feel like a lie. Indeed, your body will scream, protesting the betrayal you advance by bending it to your will, by making those feet step out into a terribly uncertain future. It will feel like a truth and only your mind and the strength of your will can assure you that it is a lie.

Because anything which holds you hostage, which forbids you a future, which consigns you to a life lived only in pain, a life of loss and unhappiness, cannot be what God wishes for you. Instead, your mandate is to work harder, to attempt to overcome, to move forward. And you must do this of your own will- not simply stepping onto the rollercoaster- but building your vehicle, engine by wheel by accelerator.

It's hard work and you might die trying but at least you died reaching for the light.

The bravest people you'll ever meet- and there are none braver than these- are the ones who do what must be done even though they are scared to death, even though they don't want to do it, even though they aren't even sure if the results will be worth it. They're the soldiers who walk into battle, the firefighters running into a burning house, the people who override their internal scream for self-preservation with their minds and insist that their task is more important than their fear. And you don't have to be a soldier or a firefighter to be one of these.

Choosing to move forward beyond what you know and crave, what is safe and familiar and loved, loved sometimes even if painful, is the choice to reach for the light. It's the hardest thing there is.

And you are stronger than you know.

Siyum Time!

Mazal Tov to my brother Taran and his chavrusa Aaron on their making a siyum tonight on Masechtes Shabbos, which comprises 157 blatt. This was their summer project and they learned 3 blatt a day.

Mazel Tov to my esteemed compatriots The Shipper & Joseph the Dreamer on their completion of the entire Shulchan Aruch on Hilchos Nidah.

So exciting to have all these siyumim happening. *smiles*

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sword and the Pen

There is something deeply affecting, deeply haunting in this song by Regina Spektor.

How can one song concurrently serve as a love story, lament, protest and yet reveal an exquisitely controlled pain?


"The Sword and the Pen"

Don't let me get out of this kiss
Don't let me say what I say
The things that scare us today
what if they happen someday
Don't let me out of your arms
For now

What if the sword kills the pen
What if the god kills the man
And if he does it with love
Well then it's death from above
And death from above is still a death

I don't want to live without you
I don't want to live without you
I don't want to live
I don't want to live
Without you

For those who still can recall
The desperate colors of fall
The sweet caresses of May
Only in poems remain
No one recites them these days
For the shame

So what if nothing is safe
So what if no one is saved
No matter how sweet
No matter how brave
What if each to his own lonely grave

I don't want to live without you
I don't want to live without you
I don't want to live
I don't want to live
Without you

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Strange & Perplexing Incidents of the Day

- I have a wondrous pack of cheese that I keep in my refrigerator. I keep it within a plastic Ziploc bag, completely covered. Alas, I have discovered it is growing mold. But I simply don't understand- how did the mold spores insinuate their way inside the plastic-covered domain of the cheese?

- Is there nowhere in Manhattan where I can purchase white satin shoes? The selections at the bridal gown stores are not particularly vast. Oddly- and fascinatingly- did you know Payless offers dyeable satin shoes?

-This is a shoutout for Heshy: Yoeli's house, Yanky's house, Moishe's house and several waitresses get together...and maybe the old men come along, too. Perhaps we should include various unpronounceable varieties of French and Italian foods when rewriting the games as well.

-Who wants to recommend places where I can get pretty Sheva Brachot clothes? I prefer gowns/ dresses to suits.

-Does no one else find it deeply disturbing that the young teenagers nowadays talk about 'raping' each others' Facebook walls? Egad. So tasteless. And unrefined. I'm having trouble swallowing my honeyed tea with lemon.

-This lady actually called me a princess. She did! And she lives in my building! Well, what really happened was that I knelt on the floor to open up my mailbox in my building and I was wearing this pink flowy skirt. So this woman says, "Hey, I really love how you look in that skirt kneeling on the floor- you look like a princess!"

-I saw this man on the subway today who was just awesome. Basically, it was incredibly stifling on one of the cars on the 1 train because the air-conditioning had broken down. So this guy (who incidentally was wearing a t-shirt that read 'What I really need are minions') was talking to the lady in the elevator about that and said, "I was sweating through my man-boobs!" And goes, "I believe in calling them what they are- and besides, I got a chuckle out of you and laughter is what the world is all about." And basically he was a really nice guy in New York and funny and just had a really positive attitude toward everything. And I wish he was my friend.

-And I would just like to say: I really need minions.

Peace out, world; we're going to paint rainbows on The Truman Story's set's ceiling tomorrow.

Love At First Site

Turning the clock back a couple of weeks, let me tell you what I saw when I first arrived at work.
In the cubicle adjacent to mine, a man was surrounded by lots of little colorful scraps of paper. Scraps of paper which, upon further perusal, turned out to be minute Facebook images that had been scaled down, painstakingly cut out, then organized upon the rather ugly green carpet. He had a camera with him and was snapping lots of pictures of the forlorn, shipwrecked Facebook images.

"Wow," I marveled to myself. "He has an insane amount of patience. If I had to sit in a cubicle, cut out snippets of paper, pin them to the wall or tape them to the ground and then arrange them and rearrange them in various patterns, I think I would go mad. It seems like a particularly refined form of torture."

At some point, since he's friendly, the man introduced himself as Chaim Gross. I told him my name was Olivia and asked him what in the world he was doing.

"It's called stop-motion photography," he explained. Basically, the way that it works is that he takes something like 15 still frames per second, makes very slight changes between shots, puts them together and makes it seem as though the pictures are animated. I was skeptical until he pulled up some YouTube examples and showed me how cool the finished product could look.

With that in mind, all you Facebook and NCSY lovers should watch "Love At First Site." Premiering for the first time ever...right here. Alternatively, like the NCSY page on Facebook and watch it there.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Well of Her Heart

A story


Credits: Dream is Collapsing from "Inception"

BHJCC: The Bachelor, Greg, Dodgeballs & Chaia Being Fabulously Insane

So you're not going to understand this unless you've worked at the Bernard Horwich JCC, but for those of you who have...it's time to party.

Tolstoy Writes About Shidduchim

The following is an excerpt from Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata, a book he wrote after he had his religious experience and decided that sex was awful and everyone should be virgins.

Leaving that aside, his depiction of the world in which women lived then is pretty accurate as far as the shidduch system goes.


Chapter VIII

"Well, so my rank, my fortune, my good clothes, the excursions in boats did the job. Twenty times it did not succeed, but this time it succeeded like a trap. I am not jesting. You see, nowadays marriages are always arranged- like traps. Do you see how natural it is? The girl has arrived at maturity and must be married. What could be simpler when the girl is not a monster and there are men who wish to get married? That is the way it used to be done. The girl reaches the right age; her parents arrange a marriage/ So it has been done, throughout the world, among the Chinese, the Hindus, the Mohammedans, among the common Russian people- among at least ninety-nine per cent of the human race. It is only among a small one per cent, among us libertines and debauchees, that this custom has been found to be bad, and so we have invented another. Now, what is this new way? It is this: the girls sit round and the men come, as at a bazaar, to take their choice. And the girls wait and wonder and have their own ideas, but they dare not say, "Dear sir, take me!" or "No, me!" or, "Not her, but me!" or, "Look at my shoulders and all the rest!"

"And we, the men, all walk around and look them over and are quite smug. 'I know a thing or two; I won't be caught.' They go around, they look, they are satisfied that this is all arranged for their specia pleasure. 'Look, but don't get taken in!' "

"What is to be done then?" I asked. "You would not expect the young women to make the offers, would you?"

"Well, I can't say exactly how; but if there is to be equality, then let it be equality. If the system of the matchmaker is considered humiliating, this is a thousand times more so! In the first case the rights and chances were equal, but in our method the woman is either a slave in a bazaar or the bait in the trap. Tell any mother or the girl herself the truth, that she is only occupied in husband-catching - my God, what an insult! But that is the truth and they have nothing else to do. And what is really dreadful is to see poor innocent young girls involved in all this. It wouldn't be so bad if it were done openly, but it is all deception. "Ah, the origin of species, how interesting!' 'Lily is greatly interested in painting.' 'And will you be at the exhibition? How instructive!' And the carriage rides and the theater and the symphony. 'Oh, how remarkable!' 'My Lily is crazy about music!' 'And why don't you share these views?' And the boat rides. And always one thought: "Take me!" "Take my Lily!" "No, me!" "Just try your luck!" Oh, what vileness and falsehood!' he exclaimed, and swallowing the last of his tea, proceeded to put away his utensils.

-pages 20-21

Your Magic Has Been Sent

I was sending a Gmail Message today and instead of reading "Your message has been sent" after pressing "Send," I read "Your magic has been sent."

And then it occurred to me- how beautiful- I like that.

My magic has been sent. ;)

Friday, August 13, 2010

He Took My Heart

One of my best friends wrote an exquisite piece entitled "He took my heart and in its place he put a stone" that everyone, everyone should read. No matter who you are, if you've ever wanted not to have to feel, if you've ever felt shattered, if you've ever met the cold people whose blood used to burn with fire, then you'll want to read this.

The Yeshiva-Queens Question

Enrollment at Yeshiva University is down.

This is not surprising, given the following numbers. A male student can choose between attending Yeshiva College and paying tuition of $44,915 dollars per year (I added all the costs under the Full Time Students slot) or attending Queens College for about $4,838.25 dollars (I added the cost of two semesters for students who live in New York plus the Activity Fee.) It's true that YU gives generous scholarships (generally anywhere from $2000-full tuition), but even so, it can't compare to the cost of Queens.

You caution me, however, what about the ability to spend part of one's day learning in yeshiva with Rabbanim? What about the shiurim and programs YU offers? Can a Queens College student get that?

The answer is yes. There are a lot of Queens College attendees who learn at YBT or other Five Towns yeshivot and in this way balance their Judaic and secular commitments in the same way that YU students do. There's a large Jewish community and plenty of kosher restaraunts in Queens. In short, what's not to like?

So let me ask you, in your opinion, what's the draw of a Yeshiva University education over a Queens College+ Yeshiva Of Your Choice (YOYC) education? How is YU to continue attracting students? And if you are a college-aged student, or the parent of one, where would you send your child?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tales of an Entertained Bride

So folks, I'm a bride! Yes, a bride, a maiden soon to be wed, which is variously exciting and fascinating and peculiar. I have discovered wonderful artifacts of clothing that are sold specifically for brides and find myself wishing I could own them. I have talked to pretty salesladies of every age and ethnicity, conferred about shoes and pranced about endlessly. That's the way my cookie crumbles, after all!

Some intriguing observations:

Invariably, every single bridal store I enter informs me that I am the rare exception to the rule because I am happy. Yes, happy to be wed to my soon-to-be husband. It seems their normal clientele is stressed to the point that they forget this is a joyous occasion. I refuse to be stressed to that point by simply ignoring whatever needs to be done. An amusing, if flawed strategy.

I have been offered every method known to man to slim down before my wedding. Facebook tells me about diets and women in stores try to sell me all sorts of contraptions. Does it occur to no one that if the man asked to marry me knowing my size and weight he hardly wishes me to go on some sort of crash diet for his sake? He did use his eyes, now did he not?

In any case, my particular life is such that I chose my bridal gown and selected our lodgings exactly two days prior to my flying out to camp. It was complicated to attempt to offer my say on wedding decisions whilst being forbidden to use a cell phone openly, but I managed it. (Doubtless my years of Bais Yaakov training, with cell phones hidden in bathrooms, aided me.)

In terms of what I do with my everyday life, let us just say that in large part it is completely unconnected to my status as bride, and it makes me laugh when people assume that brides are incapable of using brain space for any other projects during their career as Lady in White. Speaking of which, I finished reading The Woman in White and enjoyed it very much. I'm on a bit of a classics kick; anyone have some new ones to recommend? (Beware, I've read most of them.)

At some point I should detail for you the extremely unique dates that Heshy and I have embarked upon. They range from attending shechitas to wandering through Pomegranate in Brooklyn (it was an exploratory date, and as there were no rain forests, this was considered a good second choice), hanging out with homeless people on the subway, arguing about "Inception," getting arrested (or rather, summoned to criminal court) in Central Park, taking standardized tests and all manner of fun peculiarities that confuse others and delight us.

In any case, onward bound to argue with credit card companies and claim that yes, I do exist, and yes, this is in fact my address.

Have a blessed day, as Jay the Subway Preacher would say.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Drug & Alcohol Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community

Less than a month ago, I opened up my email to find an extremely powerful essay authored by Rabbi Dr. Gershon and Kirbie Pincus, Rabbi Dr. Elie and Aliza Feder, Noah and Nava Pincus Greenfield, and Chaviva Pincus about the life and loss of their beloved son and brother, Avi Pincus. This essay has been published online by the Orthodox Union under the title "Dying to Recover: The Life and Loss of Avi Pincus." He died of a drug overdose. Unlike others, who desire to cover up this information, the Pincuses and Greenfields wanted to share their story in the hope of helping others "to be more caring of others, more sensitive to the pain around us, and more appreciative of the difficult circumstances in which so many find themselves."

I was impressed to discover that this issue had formerly been addressed in Issue 278 of Mishpacha Magazine, the Mega Succos Edition, published on September 30, 2009. The article there was entitled "Drinking From the Cup of Bitterness: A Family Cherishes the Legacy of a Beloved Son" and was written by Malki Lowinger. Yehuda Mond z"l passed away at the age of 19 from a drug and alcohol overdose.

The Mond family decided to take their tragedy and turn it into a powerful effort to raise awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse within our world. They started a foundation, the website of which is YehudaMondFoundation.org. What is more, they created a DVD which includes personal testimonials, endorsement of rabbis such as R' Twerski, a dramatization telling the everyday story of yeshiva bochurim and alcohol along with the Mond family speaking directly into the camera and speaking very movingly about their son. You can watch the DVD here or below:

The dangers and pitfalls of alcohol from Yehuda Mond Foundation on Vimeo.

I think it's fantastic this issue is being discussed in the Orthodox world, and I'm glad people are taking measures to spread awareness and combat the cavalier, dapper, unconcerned attitude many people feel on both sides of the spectrum.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Elegance of Understated Cinematography

Something which truly impresses me about Swedish filmography- or perhaps it's only that of directors Niels Arden Oplev and Daniel Alfredson, as I'm not that familiar with Swedish films in general- is the understated simplicity and elegance with which it tells its story. The film versions of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire" are simply exquisite because they do not fall prey to the maudlin sentimentality and looming soundtracks that often characterize Hollywood blockbusters. Salander is not sexed-up; her awkwardness, innocence and frightening violence are all represented matter of factly. This fact struck me most when watching the torture scene in "The Girl Who Played With Fire." It is not night outside. It is not thunderstorming. There is no sense of classic horror to the scene. The scene is kept the same as it was in the book; Salander is simply a girl going about her business, acquiring the information she is looking for. It is the fact that there is no clashing crescendo of trumpets or instruments, that her predicament is not weirdly exaggerated but is presented as a simple truth, that affects us so powerfully. We relate to Salander because our emotions have not been manipulated at all. The film tells a story but it doesn't tell us how to feel about it. While in Hollywood, Berger's open marriage and her affair with Blomkvist would have been played up big time, it's hardly mentioned in the Swedish film at all. And Lisbeth's violence is not glamourized- it's not action-popping glorious and therefore unbelievable- but is factual.

Here's the torture scene I am referring to:

See how factual, clean and clear that scene is? Notice the sunlight, the lack of terrifying music, and the simplicity with which Salander goes about her task. That elegant and horrifying truth gets to us because it is presented so honestly, without any glamour or any dressing it up.

Compare to the scene where we see another painted face talking- compare to Hollywood.

There's good reason that The Joker is a comic book character whereas Lisbeth Salander can be seen as a real human being. Notice that the Joker needs to be in a background suitable to his violence- in a bare prison cell, with harsh fluorescent lights upon him, and eerie music building up to a feverish pitch- in order for us to take the scene seriously. Not so with Salander.

Here's an excellent example of where America gets it terribly wrong:

This film should have been the story of the horrors of physical abuse. It should have been simple, understated, elegant, featuring Rihanna and Eminem with Rihanna as the abused victim and Eminem as the abuser. Instead, we get pretty people trying to act out some sort of love story- Megan Fox and Dominic Fee- which is patently absurd and not even remotely true to how domestic violence actually plays out. We get Rihanna in reddish-pink hair and pink claws baring a lot of skin outside the artfully designed burning house. We get Eminem in some random field in the middle of nowhere. And what they've done by presenting this travesty, this utter mockery of a music video, is killed the power of the song. They've alienated the listeners. The reason we were interested in "Love The Way You Lie" was because we felt that the people who were singing it really knew what they were talking about. Anyone who has listened to Eminem's "Kim" knows that he has the vicious feelings of a potential abuser. And we all know about Chris Brown and Rihanna. It should have been them acting out this video- and acting it out in a way that left us sickened, disgusted and horrified by the trauma and pain of domestic abuse. It should have had the understated elegance of the scenes in Daniel Alfredson's movies, not the blowsy color of a whore decked out in cheap polyester, rayon and a thick layer of clown makeup.

Alas, here in America, we've been given this arty, pathetically inaccurate portrayal which makes domestic abuse look kind of sexy- and which makes houses burning down kind of cool.

Way to go, Joseph Kahn. Great job directing a film that's going to make every girl in America wish she were abused- as long as it's the abs-baring Dominic Fee who wanders around punching the odd mirror and mournfully consoling her with rose-bearing teddy-bears.

It's about as tasteful as pretending rape is fun.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Invincible Innocence: The Haredi World as Wharton's New York

I recently reread Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. It struck me that the book is an excellent metaphor for the Haredi world as a whole. While the work actually speaks of the elite crust of society in New York during the 1870s, it seems that much is the same in the Haredi enclaves that exist today.

Those families that boast yichus (pedigree), wealth and have Rebbes in their lines can be equated with the upper echelon of society.

Those families where the parents work or the children are 'working boys' rather than those who choose to spend their days in Kollel are considered lower class.

And those who are in-between (not blessed with an excellent pedigree or wealth but striving to be accepted by that upper class) are the middle class.

As to the women, they are as sheltered as ever they were in 1870.

The Age of Innocence stars Newland Archer, a wealthy young man who is engaged to the pretty maiden May who is related to the unusual Countess Olenska, a woman who dared to flee from her colorful husband. Archer is dissatisfied with his world and his life and feels a vague, directionless ache and desire to search for an alternative. The Countess unknowingly provides that alternative since she does not conform to society's mores until she is taken in by Newland's noble talk of living for society's mandates and values, preaching such virtues as selflessness, honor and nobility. In this case, the selflessness takes the form of not breaking the engagement with May even though he is hopelessly in love with the Countess and she with him. The Countess, in turn, does not divorce her husband due to the scandal it would cause and the shame that would be cast upon her family, to whom Archer will soon be related. Their high-minded consideration of others ends in tragedy; the two of them are made to part by a civilized dinner that ushers the Countess away.

There are several scenes in the work where Archer's perception accords entirely with the state in which Haredi women commonly find themselves. Here's one such excerpt:
    Archer had reverted to all his old inherited ideas about marriage. It was less trouble to conform with the tradition and treat May exactly as all his friends treated their wives than to try to put into practice the theories with which his untrammelled bachelorhood had dallied. There was no use in trying to emancipate a wife who had not the dimmest notion that she was not free; and he had long since discovered that May's only use of the liberty she supposed herself to possess would be to lay it on the altar of her wifely adoration.
Archer believes that women ought to be allowed the same opportunities as men, yet he faces a peculiar situation: his own wife would not accord with him as she does not feel herself to be constrained in the least. The well-brought-up Bais Yaakov attendee would agree; she does not perceive herself as lacking freedom.

The innocence which Archer hopes his wife May will not possess is exactly that innocence which is so carefully cultivated by insular communities:
    "Poor Ellen--she was always a wayward child. I wonder what her fate will be?"

    "What we've all contrived to make it," he felt like answering. "If you'd all of you rather she should be Beaufort's mistress than some decent fellow's wife you've certainly gone the right way about it."

    He wondered what Mrs. Welland would have said if he had uttered the words instead of merely thinking them. He could picture the sudden decomposure of her firm placid features, to which a lifelong mastery over trifles had given an air of factitious authority. Traces still lingered on them of a fresh beauty like her daughter's; and he asked himself if May's face was doomed to thicken into the same middle-aged image of invincible innocence.

    Ah, no, he did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!
And yet it is precisely that form of invincible innocence which the Haredi community strives to cultivate, mistrustful of the outside world and of anything secular, condemning imagination as a tool of Satan.

The stigma of divorce and the shame the entire family faces is also paralleled in the Haredi world, where children whose parents are divorced are considered to come from 'a broken home' and their shidduchim are therefore affected negatively.

There is much more within the book that accords with that world but it is not polite to note it. What I enjoyed was realizing once more that literature never ages.

The Ladies' Auxiliary

The Ladies' Auxiliary is like Stargirl for Jews. Worth reading, vividly written and certain to make the outcast Jew feel at home.

Batsheva is a convert who joins the Memphis Orthodox Jewish community. Her emotionally heartfelt service of God is pure and honest, but the community prefers rigid strictures over true connection. In a clash of small-town scruples and a desire to uphold the way things were, tradition wins over innovation, exacting an iron price. But in Batsheva we find a heroine- someone pure and free, willing to look at the world and still open her eyes with wonder upon discovering its beauty.

Your Most Difficult Moment

What was the hardest thing you ever did in your life?

When I ask this I refer to the emotional side of the spectrum, not physical labor. What was the most difficult emotional experience you ever voluntarily (or involuntarily) chose to experience and why did you choose it? What made you do this very difficult thing?