Thursday, June 26, 2008

On the train to Dresden

Originally written on a train from Berlin to Dresden while in Germany a few weeks ago - I have not edited for grammar because I wanted the words (however incorrect) to remain intact.

The landscape is so beautiful, but I can’t help but think about being a Jew on a train paid for by the German government. But, more so, its about the land we are passing. Few if any of our family could have seen what was outside the cattle cars – the psychology of terror totally disorienting them as to where they were headed. As I look through the trees I see that those are the places where our family hid. While they would not necessarily have been hiding so close to the train tracks, my visual of what I imagined as I read Alicia: My Story (a book about a survivor that I read at far too young an age; and the visual that I had when I wrote Open an one-act play about two girls hiding in the woods that I wrote in college) is now so much more real. The image that I had in mid and the real beauty of the land and what I see match – as if my previous image was a black and white sketch and the reality is in full, vivid, 3-D, Technicolor behind the movie screen that is the train window.

More powerful for me being the vast fields lush and green with the beautiful growth waving in the wind. (If only words were sufficient to describe this.) When Zaidi was in the prison camp/hospital he became a part of the German and French underground. Frequently he visited the home of a wide of a German officer, known simply as “The Lady.” To get there he had to cross and open field that lay between the prison hospital and her home. These fields today that we rode past on the train must be similar to these fields. Finding a connection to these images that have filled my mind for so many years now have a physical image.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

7 Things You May Not Know About Me

I got tagged by a meme by my darling older brother... I'm not quite sure what that means, but I guess it means that I have to make this post.

1. I am my own cousin. OK, if you know me, you probably already knew that. Its something that I find amusing about myself and like to post.

2. My favorite animals (aside from my cat, Laila, of course) are koalas. I "took on" being a koala for the zoo exercise in Alan Freeman's Acting 1 class at Oxy. Good times. Did you know koalas sleep 22 hours a day?

3. I am currently writing a cookbook.

4. My older brother first got drunk on my 2nd birthday. (See his blog to verify: BillyBlog)

5. I was in a sorority for 2 weeks in College.

6. The scent of doughnuts and bacon (individualy) make me nauseous.

7. I find scent to be incredibly important to my sense of everything.

There you go... nothing too exciting...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Passover Thoughts - part one

What I did not share at the Seder on Monday in PV... didn't really seem so important...

In the Hagadah we read that G-d took the Israelites out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Why both? In a d'var torah at the Neshama Minyan, Rabbi Daniel Greyber (of Camp Ramah in California) shared that the rabbis teach us that G-d's strong hand took us from slavery and that the outstretched arm kept us from going back. Nurturing and comforting us as we made our wayt through the desert, to Mount Sinai, and finally to eretz yirsael.

But, why did G-d need to keep us from going back? My teacher from WUJS, Rabbi Aubrey Isaacs, says that one can not complain about slavery unles they are free. Our ancestors had known nothing but slavery for generations and had grown comfortable with their place in life. The work they did was hard, but they knew no other. And, at the end of the day, they had food, water and shelter. When they left slavery they found themselves in a vast, desolate space. Homeless and undertain, many longed to return to Egypt where their lives held a comfortable understanding of what is to come. In the desert they were dependent on the leadership of Moses, who often disapeared for days at a time, to relay the word of G-d. G-d consistently provided water (through Miriam's well) and a daily provision of manna, but their lives held a continuous level of wandering and uncertainty. Many must have longed to return to the "comfort" of slavery in Egypt.

In an article in last weeks LA Jewish Journal, Reb Mimi Feigelson (my teacher at Lishma) wrote that hametz (food with leavening) and matzah can be likened to slavery and freedom. The process for making matzah may take no longer that 18 minutes from the second that the flour and water meet to the finished product. One second is the difference between matzah and

The founder of the Chasidic movement, the Ba'al Shem Tov, taught that within each of us is our own internal hametz that presents itself as anger, pride, and arrogance, among other traits that we might not find desirable. The Hebrew word for Egypt - Mitzrayim - literally means "narrow place". We each have our own mitzrayim as well - the places where, within ourselves, we feel restricted.

The recollection of the exodus from Egypt is a time to also reflect on the plight of those who are enslaved around the world, as well as the enslavement that we feel from within ourselves and to our responsibilities. Too often we find ourselves caught up in the commonplace and routine of our own lives. We may - with our best intentions - strive to free ourselves of the chains that hold us to that which we feel confuned by. At times we are able to begin to take the help of a strong hand to break out of the slavery that we each feel - but it is so much easier to retreat back into the familiarity of that restriction than to truly free ourselves fro it. We need to remember that there is also an outstretched arm pulling us along as we journey through the desert in search of our own promised land.

Hag Sameach!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

thinking not studying...

So, theres a lot of thinking thats been happening today - but most of it stems from this:

Uma was a theatre person at Oxy. I was never close to her, but was always amazed by her immense talent and her vibrant personality. I'm going to copy from another Oxy theatre person, Erik's (I believe that is who wrote this) to really get the message right here:

Uma is a smart, mischievous, funny, irreverent, snarky, deeply passionate 27-year-old woman. On Tuesday, January 30, Uma flew out to New York City to visit her fiancĂ© John, a musician who was in New York for a gig and who had proposed to Uma on Christmas eve. Uma's usually the type of person to take her time before making any big decisions—if you watch "Grey's Anatomy," Uma is very Cristina Yang—but this was a moment that I think Uma was secretly hoping for, waiting for, ready for; she said "yes" to John immediately and then started calling her closest friends. I've never heard her sound so happy. John has been by her side at the hospital since this happened and he will be with her every step of the way as they continue on this journey.

Early in the morning of Wednesday, January 31st, Uma had a series of seizures. Fortunately, she was with John and he was able to get her to St. Vincent's Hospital, where they discovered she had a brain aneurysm, which had burst. By that afternoon, they had coiled the aneurysm, but Uma was in a Stage 5 coma and the doctors told John that Uma was probably going to die or remain in a vegetative state the rest of her life. That was a scary freaking day. BUT:

That was 27 days ago. And Uma has repeatedly confounded her doctors (in a good way) since that scary freaking day.

Uma has had many ups and downs this past month—including a stroke—but despite what the doctors told us on that first day, her health and neurological condition continues to improve. On Day 13, she opened her eyes for the first time; on Day 15, she started focusing her eyes on us and really waking up. Since then, she's been trying to talk (the tracheostomy in her throat prevents her from making any sound, but she is TRYING), she's been trying to move the right side of her body (this is the side of her body that was affected by the aneurysm and has shown only limited movement, but there is SOME movement), she's been smiling, she's been frowning, she's been rolling her eyes at us when she gets annoyed, and she's been laughing at (some of) our jokes. She's also been getting frustrated at her inability to communicate as she becomes more aware of where she is and the journey ahead of her.

She is showing us many signs of Uma-ness. Every day is like a little miracle. The doctors are weaning her off of her ventilator, as well as weaning her off of all of the other tubes and machines that she's currently connected to. This is all very exciting.

To get an idea of how much love is out there, look at In less that 3 days, over $13000 has been raised to help cover the costs of Uma's medical expenses and, more specifically, to be able to fund the medical helicopter ride that she'll need to get to rehab in LA as soon as she is stong enough. Theres more info on the Uma Fund blog, and I now have links up for Erik and Erica's blogs, which are updated regularly with more info.

But, more than that, I was driving home today and thinking about how amazing it is that not only has Uma's fiance and father been at the hospital with her, but there is a constant flow of friends in and out of New York, from Boston, and from LA that have been there. It got me to thinking about how amazing that love of friendship is, and how I hope that if, G-d forbid, something terrible happens to me one day that the same will be true.

Also, in my life, there are others in need of our prayers and thoughts and good vibes. There is a 2nd year UJ Rabbinical student who was recently diagonsed with lukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Although I have never met Joel, his wife, or his young children, I am inspired by the community around him and all of the support that has been outpouring.

Unfortunately, the third person who has been in my thoughts prayers, my friend Brian's brother, lost his battle yesterday. He lived a full life, and fought with everything. Now my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the rest of the family as they struggle through this difficult period.

And so, to borrow from some of the great thoughts I've read from those who are closest to Uma and are putting out "requests" to the world: take the time to contact the people you love. Those who you talk to regularly and those who you haven't spoken to in a long time.

Take care of each other. Make sure those that you love know that you love them. Keep sending good and vibrant and happy thoughts out into the world.

lots of love.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


DISCLAIMER: This may be only interesting to me, but I've been wanting to write it down since it happened this afternoon...

Lets see if I remember any of my script writing skills...

Administration office of HUC. Alicia sits at the crappy computer moniter, although, we're told its the better of the computers open... Steven (the Dean) comes out of the Development Office and then goes to his office. Seconds later he comes out.

SW: Don't you need to go somewhere?

AC: (looking bewildered at him) uuuhhhh

SW: Don't you need to go to Starbucks?

AC: uuuuuhhhhhh....

SW: Yeah. You need to go to Starbucks.

AC: Steven, do you want me to go to Starbucks?

SW: (loudly) NO. Of course not!

AC: Oh, sorry. Yeah, I'll go to Starbucks.

SW: (takes out his wallet) What are you drinking?

AC: Not sure...

SW: (handing Alicia a $5) Well, I want a tall coffee, with milk. Whole milk. Thats $1.55. Use the rest to get whatever you want.


Meanwhile, Freddie is looking going a little crazy at his desk. Shaking his head. Steven goes back to his office. As he gets to the door:

SW: Don't tell Marla.

Steven goes into his office. Freddie goes over to Marla's office and gets her. She comes to just outside her office door.

MA: Whats going on out here?

FT: mumbles something to Marla as Alicia approaches then returns to his desk

MA: You're not going to get him coffee are you? You can't get him caffiene.

AC: I know.

MA: Get decaf and tell him its regular.

AC: Thats my plan.

MA: Have you seen him on caffiene? It makes the ADD turn into ADHD. we can't handle that. He goes crazy. And he (pointing to Freddie) will have to take the wrath of it.

AC: I know.

MA: Especially at this hour. (Looks at watch)
Michelle will kill us. If he has caffiene at this hour he won't sleep.

AC: He doesnt sleep anyway.

MA: No, but imagine him on only 2 hours.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm in Israel

A quick - or maybe not - post from Tel Aviv...

I've arrived safely, and must say that the non-stop flight from LA to Tel Aviv is great. The flight itself is longer (obviously) however, it is much more exciting than having to stop in Toronto and hanging out in that holding cell for a few hours. There were also lots of well behaved, cute little ones on the flight. Turns out that the one sitting across from me is the niece of a classmate at USC. Small world, no? I successfully managed to get the train from the airport to Tel Aviv and a cab to Elisabeth's apartment... Not that I'm surprised by my ability to navigate transportation in Israel (although it was my first time on the train), but happy that I was able to do so in the fog of having just come off the flight.

I spent most of the afternoon hanging out in Elisabeth's apartment while shes been at work - I watched a lot of TV and read magazines. I made a trip down the street to the grocery store, which was great - I miss Israeli grocery stores. And this one was much calmer than Elat Market at home... Althougth I did not buy much, it was exciting to see the familiar products, and it was hard to resist buying my favorite goat cheese, but I really have no use for it...

As I walked to Elisabeth's office (where I am abusing the computer now) I was taken aback by Tel Aviv. I have never spent much time here, so its exciting to see everything. All of the store look so nice and fancy adn boutique-y. Not really my scene, but thrilling at the same time. Tel Aviv is so different - more modern than Jerusalem, more inhabited than Arad. In some ways I feel that I should have gotten out more, but I needed to relax and adjust.

Tomorrow will be more adventurous - we're going out for breakfast and maybe a craft fair in the morning, and in the evening we'll be celebrating Tanya's birthday! I'm so excited to see her, too!

I know its sounds slow, but this is a great way for me to come back here - I can't imagine getting off the plane and jumping right into the seminar on Wednesday night like so many of my classmates are. However, I am so excited for them to come and for us to have the next few weeks together.

If you're in Israel contact me - I can't wait to see everyone!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Food for thought...

I came across this in a book I'm reading (FOR FUN) and find it incredible striking... I know I have real posts to be doing, but I want to share this...

Writers on health and happiness have suggested that there is a basic human need for intimacy, that our souls are emotionally starved when we deal with strangers all day long. We need people in our lives who know us throrughly and care about us. Dr. Dean Ornish writes, "Our surivial depends on the healing power of love, intimacy, and relationships." We nee dto feel loved. We need people to tell us that we are special and irreplacable, people who will tend to our needs and banish our fears and insecurities the way our mothers did when we were infants. But we also need to give love, to make a difference in someone's life.

from Living a Life that Matters by Harold S. Kushner