First Person

A Willow For All Seasons

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

Merri Ukraincik

The Siren This Time

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

Linda Scherzer

The Power Of Hello

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

Tova Ross

From Russia, And Mother

A writer reflects on her version of Proust's madeleine.

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

The author's Proustian madeleine, which her family calls a Russian Tea Cake. Fotolia

Leaps Of Faith

Special To The Jewish Week

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.   

Merri Ukraincik

The Territories Within

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

Shelly R. Fredman

Higher Ground At Disney World

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

Miriam Lichtenberg

Holy Days And Women’s Empowerment


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.

Ruth Messinger

The Shtarker Image

Special To The Jewish Week

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.

Erica Brown

Rose, Adeef And Me, Graveside

Special To The Jewish Week

‘The weather is holding out on us,” an older volunteer says as he sits down.

Avram Mlotek
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