It snowed something fierce on the night we closed on our home. My mind, distracted by the weather, quickly leapt from talk of escrow to the fact that we did not own a shovel. I also thought of the future, when our sons, then all under 5, would set up homes of their own and leave us behind with echoes of their childhood in these halls.
I was watching my children chase fireflies when the siren from a local New Jersey firehouse put my body on full alert. The plaintive wail, eerily reminiscent of a siren’s call from another time and place, seemed to emanate from the heavens, rising and falling. I closed my eyes and let the sounds transport me back to a cold Jerusalem night when sirens signaled existential threats and fears of poisonous gas, not emergency calls to the volunteer fire department.
After I park my car and head to my desk at work, I always pass by the same six or seven parking garage attendants and security guards. I smile warmly at each of them and offer a simple hello, sometimes stopping to ask about their morning, and continue on my way. Initially, some looked startled at my greetings — most New Yorkers are instantly wary of affability, since it usually precedes an attempt to sell something — but now they all return my smile, sometimes even beating me to it. These brief exchanges never take more than a minute or two, and it makes for a better start to my day.
A writer reflects on her version of Proust's madeleine.
Fredricka R. Maister
Special To The Jewish Week
Story Includes Video:
Butter, flour, vanilla, powdered sugar and chopped walnuts. Add to the mix my time, patience and delusions of grandeur as a pastry chef. Even I, a culinary flunky, can bake my way into dessert bliss with this surefire recipe.
There was never even a discussion. We just knew that our boys would attend Jewish day school. But when our youngest, a self-determined soul from the very beginning, needed something different from what the yeshiva system could provide, we as his parents found ourselves staring down the tough decision we never thought we’d have to make. It’s been seven years since our son began kindergarten at the local elementary school, named for a Supreme Court justice, not a codifier of Jewish law.
As the summer Sunday of ArtsFest drew near, apprehensions about the solo journey to the country and not knowing anyone else who was going got the best of me. At 12, I failed at Camp Sabra — my best friend, Diane Greenberg, took up with her new set of friends from her new junior high. I was left alone.
The first half of the holiday morning service concludes. In accordance with tradition, many congregants exit the shul sanctuary and mingle outside for a few minutes. The Yizkor books containing the short memorial service are distributed. No one thinks to hand one to a teenage girl. A few understanding glances come my way, but those who don’t know me just stare. I feel out of place. I don’t belong here; I am too young for this. I feel alone.
Each year when I sit in synagogue during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, I’m struck by the complex stories we read about biblical women and by the wisdom these stories offer about ensuring the dignity of women and girls today.
It’s high time for a Jewish innovations catalog, and I have just the one: “The Shtarker Image.” In Yiddish “shtark” means strong or powerful, smart, tough-minded or hard-hearted. But for my purposes, shtark refers to terrific Jewish items you thought you could live without until you actually owned them.