First Person

01/15/2013 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person

My grandmother never owned a smartphone. Yet she worked full-time, raised a family and always remembered our birthdays.

12/18/2012 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person

We’re the only Jews in Pennypack Woods, Pa. We exchange gifts on Christmas with our neighbors and each other, but have never had decorations that look or smell like Christmas.

Except once — when I’m 5.

“Can we please, please have a Christmas tree, Mommy?” I sob. “I’m the only one in our whole neighborhood without Christmas and I feel so left out. We don’t have any holiday, and Christmas is so beautiful.”

My parents finally exchange that look.

“OK, we’ll have a tree — a Chanukah bush. And Nana and Poppop must never know.”

11/27/2012 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person

I am standing by The Western Wall in Jerusalem, a place I have stood many times before. I have prayed here, I have cried here and — God forgive me — I have mingled here. 

11/13/2012 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person

On Friday at dusk, I’m walking down Columbus Avenue on my way to my friend Eva’s house for Shabbat dinner, carrying a bottle of wine to give her. A woman pushing a toddler in a stroller passes me. Recognizing her as someone from my synagogue, I wish her a Good Shabbos, and she smiles and wishes me the same.

10/16/2012 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person

I’m standing in a song-leading class at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Cantor David Tilman is leading us in “Ozi V’zimrat Yah” (“You are my strength and my song”). My body is beginning to relax. Natural concerns of middle age — “All four kids will be home for Shabbes, I have to order the chicken, pick up the bok choy” — are beginning to recede. We’re belting it out. The sounds are reverberating with wonder. I am beginning to breathe. The Hebrew word to breathe is linshom. Neshama is at its root. The soul. To give life to the soul.

09/24/2012 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person

Philip Roth has apparently discovered the Internet.

In an open letter posted on The New Yorker website, the novelist explained that he recently visited the Wikipedia page dedicated to his novel The Human Stain, finding it factually incorrect.