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.
I’d known Joel since I was 14, when we bonded over golf, skiing and baseball. Over the years while he was married to my sister, our relationship ebbed and flowed, as is often the case with brothers-in-law. Since their divorce I ran into him once at a local golf course where I ended up playing with him, and saw him once again at my niece’s wedding.
Driving through the California farmland near my home, I was listening closely to an interview on National Public Radio with Michael Pollan. He’s a hero in these parts, and I was really surprised to hear him say that he’s had to eat restaurant food while on tour for his new book, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.”
I am the eldest of four siblings. I was 10 when my Grampa died. Larry was 8; Eddie was 4 and Ronnie was not yet born. So I am the one who carries the memories, of which I have only two, and those are more impressionistic than they are specific.
I’ve never been one to hide our son Ben’s diagnosis. I’ve always spoken openly about the difficulties that Asperger’s can create for him as he navigates a world rife with bumps at every turn. But what I did conceal for many years was the pain I felt — the sometimes-oppressive nature that an autism diagnosis can foist upon all the members of a family. The isolation. The depression.
I hid behind my work. I hid behind the tasks I had been called to do when I was ordained as a rabbi. I shielded my son from much of the public aspect that comes with being the child of a congregational rabbi. I shielded my California congregation from seeing the sometimes-ugly aspects of a complicated and misunderstood disorder.
I live on the tiny island of Okinawa, Japan, but it often feels like much of my life is still taking place in the States. I have worked hard to create a life for myself in Okinawa, but — even after living there for almost 18 months — it’s still sometimes surprising to me how little I have in common with the majority of military spouses.
At Fenway Park, with Bostonians celebrating the end of their excruciating, week-long siege, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz wrapped things up in one brief exclamation. "This is our (bleeping) city!" he cried, and the crowd went wild, while in bars across America, millions of people turned to total strangers and asked, "Did he just SAY that?"