Jew By Voice

A monthly column on Jewish community dynamics by teacher and scholar Erica Brown.

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02/02/2016 - 11:36
Special To The Jewish Week

Rashi’s wife came home one day from the market. Rashi, the 11th-century scholar from southern France, asked her why she had chosen to wear a particular dress and told her what he did not like about her outfit. She was offended: “Rashi, do you always have to comment?”

Erica Brown

This New Year’s Un-resolution?

12/29/2015 - 12:59
Special To The Jewish Week

That gym membership that you used twice? Those 10 pounds you swore you would lose in 2015? The garage you were totally committed to cleaning? Ouch. It’s almost 2016. Looking back is not looking good. According to the website Statistic Brain, the top 10 New Year’s resolutions are not surprising: lose weight, get organized, spend less and save more (why is this counted as one?), enjoy life, stay fit, learn something, quit smoking, help others, fall in love and spend more time with family. Wouldn’t life be grand?

Erica Brown

Overheard In A Restaurant

Where's the kosher customer service?

11/30/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Thanks for the amazing responses to last month’s “What NOT to Say” column. It simply confirms that foot-in-mouth disease travels far and wide as yet another Jewish genetic disorder. Oy. As a subset of your comments, I learned that there is a special category of what not to say if you are the owner of a kosher restaurant. Here are a few exchanges that don’t seem to work:

Erica Brown

What Not To Say

It's time for Jewish sensitivity training.

11/02/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

‘When you’re ready, I have a great guy for you.” I ask you, does any recently bereaved wife need to hear this when sitting shiva? No. The runners up in the Jewish foot-in-mouth prize for shiva awkwardness are those who say that the recently deceased is happier now or that the suffering is finally over. For those in the low chairs, the suffering has just begun. It got so bad that a friend reported that a bereaved woman sitting shiva in her own home silenced the chatter when she challenged a visitor, “Do you think it’s appropriate to say that?”

Erica Brown

Do You Know Who I Am?

09/29/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

One of the questions that rankles me most is “Do you know who I am?” I’ve heard it enough in my career. The website Subzin, that gathers and shares famous movie quotes, claims that the expression “Do you know who I am?” has appeared 1,093 times in 1,016 movies, most popularly — and not surprisingly — in “The Godfather.” It’s the kind of line that people with big egos or large machine guns and cannolis like to throw around to instill fear or awe in others. This arrogance reminds me of a bumper sticker I recently saw: There is only one God. Quit applying for his job.

Erica Brown

On Causes And Causality

08/31/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Soon enough, we will stand in synagogue hungry and self-deprecating if we are doing our jobs correctly. It will be Yom Kippur, and we will raise a closed fist to what we hope is an open heart and say words of contrition, apologies to those we love and hurt. We will think about the long and non-linear path to repentance. For a moment, please personalize this Al Chet: “…for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.” What comes to mind?

Erica Brown

What Are You Waiting For?

08/03/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

What are you waiting for right now? About this time of the year, a whole lot of parents are waiting for school to start. A whole lot of kids aren’t. We might be waiting for the exact right time to start a project, start a diet, get really serious about dating, moving, finding a job — the list goes on. Voltaire once said, “We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.”

Erica Brown

Writing The Great American Novel

06/29/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

A friend was just telling me a personal story that ended with, “It would make a great book.” No comment. Let’s face it. Most of us do not have book-worthy lives, but many of us would like to believe we do.

Erica Brown

The Big Question

06/01/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

In this past month’s Atlantic Monthly, “The Big Question” for June was: “Which Current Behavior Will be Most Unthinkable 100 Years from Now?” Melinda Gates said there would be no more birth control pills. Daniel Dennett said there would be no more unsupervised home-schooling. Rebecca Silverman wrote that there would be no more football, and Katie Rophie said there would be no more sadness.

Erica Brown

A Voice For Jewish Singles

04/27/2015 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

I’m about to enter a parking garage. The static is just starting on the radio when I put the car into reverse and park. One of my favorite songs is on, and I wasn’t prepared to lose it in a car garage: Freddie Mercury’s “Somebody to Love.” I cannot actually write those words without hearing his unusual, high-pitched, magical voice singing the lyrics. Because I stopped just to listen to the song, I heard it with increased intensity.

Erica Brown
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