Blog and News

How to cope when children seek a new faith

Posted by on Feb 19, 2017 in Faith | 0 comments

Interesting story in the Chicago Tribune in which I’m quoted. You can read the entire story here:

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Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Ancient Prayer…

Posted by on Feb 19, 2017 in Celebrities | 0 comments

…No, really. On Buzzfeed, no less. Apparently, Katy Perry threw shade at Britney Spears on the Grammy’s red carpet and made an unkind reference to Britney’s meltdown a few years back. Britney responded by taking the high road and slightly updating a biblical verse to allude to Katy’s unkind comment while appearing to take the high road. Her mouth speaks from that which fills her heart ❤️ Luke 6:45 — Britney Spears (@britneyspears) February 13, 2017 I weighed in with an interpretation. You can read more on Buzzfeed. And hey, Brit– now that you’re quoting on more biblical themes, I’d love to send you a copy of Ancient Prayer!...

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8 Things to Love about Chanukah

Posted by on Dec 26, 2016 in Faith, Holidays | 0 comments

It’s Chanukah this week, which means that Jewish people get to celebrate eight fun days and nights commemorating miracles and the victory of dark over light. In no particular order, here are 8 reasons to fall in love with this minor in designation only Jewish winter holiday: 1. Latkes and Donuts and Schnitzel, Oh My: Sitting around eating fried foods is actually considered part of the observance. Since a large part of the Chanukah miracle involved pure olive oil (EVOO, to you foodie folks) meant for one day lasting for eight, it’s customary to eat food fried in oil, with latkes and sufganiyot (a Hebrew word for deep fried donuts) topping the list. 2. Add Some Light: Lighting candles and relaxing….like Netflix and chill, only with an eight branched menorah. The notion being, that while the Chanukah candles are lit, you’re not supposed to do any work, ergo- you must relax and spend time with your loved ones (even if your loved ones include romance novels and a bubble bath). Candle light and relaxation is built in to the celebration. 3. In a word: Maccabees: The good guys. The underdogs. The small but mighty warriors that won the day and won in a big way. Arch villains vs. warrior Jews resulting in candle related miracles. (It’s like Harry Potter, only different). 4. Gifties. Lots of them, if you play your cards right….Some say 8 nights worth. If you’re still looking for gift inspiration, check out this guide I wrote for 5. 21 Up: Oh, right. Card playing. It’s also on the agenda for some of us (a very minor number play card games at holiday parties in addition to spinning the dreidel). Bonus points for milk chocolate Chanukah gelt shared and shared alike. 6. Parties. Gatherings. Time with loved ones. Take some time off and just chill with your tribe. 7. Dreidels: Chanukah has its own branded/holiday related toy in the form of a spinning top. No Mensch on a Bench knockoffs needed. 8. Eight Days/Eight Nights. Unlike some holiday madness that lasts for only a day, we get to enjoy this one for eight of...

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Leonard Cohen is Ready

Posted by on Oct 13, 2016 in Celebrities, Faith, Famous Jews, God, Holidays, News | 0 comments

I haven’t been posting much, and after a year(s) of tremendous personal loss, I’ve intentionally tried to avoid posting about only darker topics, so most of the time I didn’t end up posting. But I was by turns comforted/devastated to read that in an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, the 82-year-old Leonard Cohen declared that he’s ready to die. When asked about completing works in progress or possibly touring, Cohen said: “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish those songs. Maybe, who knows? And maybe I’ll get a second wind, I don’t know. But I don’t dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I don’t dare do that. I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.” In his new single You Want It Darker Cohen wields his trademark growling rasp like a light saber to deliver lyrics that seem to accuse an impossible to please God of forcing his faithful into cruel and torturous positions to prove their steadfastness. He seems disgusted and world-weary, but there’s a tiny playful spark there as well- perhaps shared only in the way of a believer who’s had his heart-broken once too often by his sometimes unrequited faith. Cohen’s no stranger to using biblical or liturgical themes or references in his music including , The Story of Isaac echoed in the refrain here with “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my Lord,” the words spoken by Abraham when tested and asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. While it’s tempting to pull in the recurring theme of the sacrifice of Isaac as referenced in the name of the Hineni center founded by the recently departed Esther Jungreis, or Matisyahu‘s own riff on sacrifice, Akeda*, for now, let’s go back to Cohen’s living legacy.  I was in shul (temple/synagogue) yesterday on Yom Kippur. And while I tried my hardest to keep my mind on the prayers in my machzor, after nearly 25 hours of fasting, my mind wandered. It was during the final prayer of the day, the Neilah service (the closing prayers for the High Holy Days) that I simply listened to the exquisite imperfect singing of the entire congregation that felt almost palpable in the enclosed space. Or maybe it was just my extreme hunger that made me feel the prayers in addition to hearing them. At one point, a young boy’s voice rose above the rest, pure, sweet, clear, full of hope and fervent belief. And I felt my eyes welling up for so many reasons. I thought about my late father’s experiences during the Holocaust as a young boy, and the millions of Jewish lives deliberately snuffed out in the concentration camps. I thought about the virulent anti-Semitism in the world today and I truly felt baffled by the hatred directed at us century after century. And I thought about the years that I was quiet and did not discuss my own faith, flawed as it is. There was something else, but that’s a bit raw, so I’ll leave it for a later post. Inexplicably, I was filled with hope, the kind that comes after pouring one’s heart out in prayer and wishing every secret wish. Today, I’m trying to ease...

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Do Something AKA the Anti-Kvetch Kulture

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Faith, God, Holidays, Politics | 0 comments

There’s been much talk about how the internet seems to have inspired a sense of outraged apathy with people tweeting or posting about various causes, but not actually doing much of anything. And unlike the protest marches or sit ins that were prevalent in the 1960s and ’70s, people might post a meme or share a tweet and think they’ve done their part to further a cause or combat a dangerous political agenda. They haven’t. But there’s still time to start. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and holiest day of the Jewish calendar, begins at sundown tonight. It’s a time of fasting and prayer and contemplation. The notion being that we may have been inscribed into the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, but on Yom Kippur the book is closed and one’s future year is theoretically sealed for the year ahead (there’s much discourse about always changing one’s fate, but that’s a long post for a different time). In preparing for a talk about the Jewish High Holy Days, I reread a portion of my book Ancient Prayer in which I wrote about the Shema prayer and something struck me. While reciting the prayer on a daily basis (and before bed) part of the prayer is whispered: Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever. As I wrote in the book, “as children, we were taught that this particular prayer was a private one said by the angels directly to God, and that we say it quietly so as not  to  anger them or infer that we are on their level. The only day that this prayer is said out loud is on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jewish people fast and pray, and are considered on the same level as angels.” The political climate feels by turns like a punchline or a punch in the gut, depending on who’s saying what. The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, around the world, locally and on-campus is depressing and terrifying, with all too disturbing echoes of Nazi Germany, according to my relatives who are Holocaust survivors. Instead of feeling helpless though, I feel as though there’s so much that we can and should be doing. I know that I’m trying and will continue to do so. After years of speaking out privately and in small groups about the injustices perpetrated on Holocaust survivors by groups claiming to serve their best interests while in actuality mostly serving their own, I finally published an essay that was syndicated widely nationally and internationally. It isn’t that I didn’t try to write articles on the topic, but the groups in question have such huge influence and spending power, that they mostly shut down (or sue) anyone who speaks out against them. I also previously hadn’t been publicly vocal about my absolute support of Israel, most especially in light of the BDS movement which claims to be about sanctions against Israel, but is an unjust cause and barely veiled anti-Semitic movement. I wrote about being inspired by actor Joshua Malina’s own support of Jewish causes on his social media. But it isn’t just my support for Jewish causes that I’ve been more public about. I’m a proudly staunch feminist who feels queasy at the...

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Some Dogs Go to Heaven

Posted by on Sep 26, 2016 in Faith, News | 0 comments

Some Dogs Go to Heaven

Though prayer can have universal themes and language, sometimes it’s less about what you say or who you’re saying it to, and more about the universal language of connection and compassion. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, there’s a therapy dog named Lulu “who comforts mourners at Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services in Westchester County, N.Y. ” by putting her paws up onto the kneeler and tilting her head down.” According to the article, Lulu was taught this “praying trick,”and “she’s an added source of comfort’’ to mourners of all ages. The owner of the funeral home says “She has a calming presence. She’s a social dog who loves people and has great instincts. She’ll curl up into a ball and lay down next to an older person, or jump around with kids. She especially helps the children, since not all of them understand death.’’ I’m not sure any of us actually understand death, though we do understand the need to take and give comfort at the most difficult times. So is mimicking the actions or motions of prayer while genuinely comforting those in the deepest throes of grief a trick, or true cross-species act of compassion? In Ancient Prayer, I discuss Pitzi, my late father‘s childhood pet, who waited faithfully at the train station in Hungary every single day for over two years for my father to return from the Concentration Camps. Pitzi wasn’t trained to love or be loyal, it was just who he was intrinsically. So back to the dog trained to mimic the actions of prayer; is pretending to pray actually prayer if it helps those around you? Lulu, the dog in the story can’t read the liturgy, nor can she express words of comfort, but she can form a deep connection with those actually praying, and she can certainly comfort those needing it the most. When the words elude you or the idea of prayer seems too far away, sometimes simply being with those needing your presence can help them through the toughest times. It isn’t a party trick and you don’t have to fake it, but even if you don’t have the words, even mirroring the physical actions that offer them solace can help....

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The Non-Controversy of Donald Trump and a Tallit AKA Wrapped in Prayer

Posted by on Sep 22, 2016 in Faith, News | 0 comments

A few weeks back there was some controversy surrounding Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump donning a traditional tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl made in Israel, and gifted him by a pastor during a visit to a black church in Detroit. I kind of shrugged and saw it less as cultural appropriation (though the part about the pastor fasting over it, while also handing Trump a Jewish prayer book gave me pause) than jumping on a particular evangelical approved bandwagon. I wrote about the concept of prayer shawls being embraced in many faiths in Ancient Prayer on page 317, and you can read it...

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Bono and Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Faith, God | 0 comments

I have to rewatch this video before I can better comment. I’d also love some background on the series and Eugene Peterson in general, but as Peterson says prayer/the psalms isn’t always pretty. The longer version is below. Meanwhile, oh, how I’d love to get a copy of Ancient Prayer to Bono!  ...

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Prayer is What You Believe It Is

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

An interview with me about Ancient Prayer on Garnet News.

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Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Starting on February 29th (Leap Day) and for next 30 days, I invite you to challenge yourself and your perceptions of who you are and take a leap of faith with me. Over the years, I’ve met and/or interviewed hundreds (though at this point it’s probably more like thousands) of interesting people from all parts of the globe and spanning all walks of life. I realize that of all their amazing accomplishments or impressive achievements, they shared a common quality– a deep abiding faith. But despite sharing this one quality, they never expressed it in exactly the same way. For some, it’s a lifelong deep abiding faith in a higher power; for others, it was the unwavering belief in their own abilities. Some of the people I most admire make their art their business, while others make business an art form. In honor of Leap Day on February 29th, 2016, I’m starting A Leap Of Faith Challenge. I’m going to profile, interview or feature some of the people I most admire across a variety of disciplines and ask them about their own leap of faith, and how the rest of us can find inspiration in their achievements. Either that or I’ll be sharing some of my favorite resources and books, movies or websites that have inspired me to take a leap to the next big thing when I felt more like crawling under the covers. I’m also going to send out a daily prompt and challenge and invite you to sign up and participate — well, that part is probably a bit overly optimistic, but you can sign up here. Questions? Comments? Tips and tricks of your own? Feel free to drop me a line using the form below. And if you’re socially inclined, please use the hashtag #ALeapOfFaithChallenge so we can better find each...

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