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Posts Tagged ‘Passover’

What’s happening in the world. As Tillerson jets to Russia with a “Make my Day” kind of deal, an Asian physician is dragged off a United plane while passengers documented every minute. This morning, the United CEO has done an about face, finally apologizing for the incident; and simultaneously lovely Melissa, oops, Sean Spicer got his apology right on the third try. Yes Sean, Hitler DID use chemical weapons on innocent people, they just happened to be Jews.

The Jewish people are used to this kind of thing. In fact, a dear friend just told me that one of her son’s friends/acquaintances is a Holocaust denier. And that they actually don’t say it didn’t happen anymore, just that it was more like what we did with the Japanese internment camps…. You know, like a “Holocaust Center?!”

Over the years, I’ve met relatives with numbers on their arms. My first supervisor at an outpatient mental health clinic was a child of Holocaust survivors. One of our Big Chill friends was conceived at a refugee camp in Italy after his parents were liberated from a concentration camp in Poland. I’ve been attending Seders now for almost 40 years, and yet this was the first time I actually ran the show. I knew something would go wrong. I forgot to give everyone some parsley, so I started a new tradition of a parsley posey.

This is the first time I’m actually afraid for the survival of the human race, not just one group of people. Seriously – will Russia decide to sacrifice another pawn. Or maybe North Korea will put us into checkmate?

What kind of plagues should God rain down upon us this time? At least I didn’t poison anyone at my Seder. I’m a compulsive germaphob in the kitchen. Ever since I nearly killed my first husband with a salmonella infested sandwich I picked up at a deli in Harvard Square. I made Great Grandma Ada wash her hands all the time, and we cooperated on the prep for the haroset. Maybe Mr T will get a bad case of boils? Or locusts could infest the Rose Garden?

Our trees are greening and birds are singing. Spring is a time for rebirth, not sarin gas and armageddon. In fact Sean, you were right in one detail, Hitler did NOT use sarin to exterminate 6 Million Jews, “innocent” people, even though it had been discovered by a German scientist. Some speculate it was because he was gassed in the First World War. But most scholars say it was because Churchill would have retaliated if he tried to use gas on the battlefield or in the camps.

“War is chess. Hitler would have sacrificed a lot of pieces that he couldn’t afford to lose.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/04/11/hitler-refused-to-use-sarin-gas-during-wwii-the-mystery-is-why/?utm_term=.9dc38985fc9d

The Nazis constantly searched for more efficient means of extermination. At the Auschwitz camp in Poland, they conducted experiments with Zyklon B (previously used for fumigation) by gassing some 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 ill prisoners in September 1941. Zyklon B pellets, converted to lethal gas when exposed to air. They proved the quickest gassing method and were chosen as the means of mass murder at Auschwitz.

At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005220

6 Thousand a day, 6 Million in WWII. Holocaust centers, killing camps. Sarin gas vs Zyklon B vs chemical weapons. A gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. And this whole Trump administration is one big gaffe.

Today we rode along Skyline Drive to get the long view, the balcony shot. I wish we humans could just decide not to play chess with our lives on this planet.  IMG_0305

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Here we go again. Last night our administration did a 180 on Syria, the whole America First thing was a sham, a synonym for Wall Street First. As a famous general pointed out this morning, we are now fighting a “proxy war,” It’s happened before – a tactical missile strike – in 1986 when Reagan bombed Libya, and last night. It’s a classic “Let’s you and him fight” scenario. We are backing the royal family of Saudia Arabia in the region, as usual, and Russia and Iran are backing Syria’s Assad regime.

And this morning all the pundits are talking. On Twitter, a Brian Williams hashtag took off because it appeared as if the network couldn’t trust Rachel Maddow to report Breaking News. In this house, I was watching Huck try to escape a sinking car on Scandal. We had been under a tornado watch, so trees were still creaking and the wind was moaning. I’d been furiously cleaning and occasionally “cooking” for Passover, which begins Monday night.

Jews everywhere will be preparing a Seder and reenacting the Exodus at their dinner tables. I am a novice Seder-maker, a maker-of-haroses for many years, but never the principle player. There will be half the number of people at my Southern table, and I won’t be making certain fried delectables in chicken fat that nobody eats. Lucky for me Ada and Hudson will be here early, so I will be tutored in the art of making perfect matzoh balls for the chicken soup!

Just as we will detail all the plagues that finally convinced a Pharaoh to let our people go, to leave slavery behind and wander in the desert, let’s examine what led up to our tactical tomahawk missile strike last night.

There was a chemical attack on innocent people, and we saw the pictures in living color. Civilians have been dying and fleeing Syria for years now, but the immediacy of watching “beautiful babies” suffer must have been Mr T’s red line. And he is a knee-jerk reactor as we know from his Twittersphere.

This last week we discovered more connections linking Trump with Russia:

  1. Eric Prince (founder of Blackwater and brother of Betsy DeVos) met a Russian official in the Seychelles with a crown prince of the UAE;
  2. Jared Kushner met a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, in NY, and hey, he’s willing to talk about it;
  3. Carter Page (ex-policy advisor on energy to T’s campaign) met a Russian spy, Victor Podobnyy, in NY.  http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/politics/trump-associates-russians-meetings/

But let’s not forget that St Petersburg was recently the target of terrorism…and that Secretary of State Tillerson is cozy with Putin…and that we called Russia to let them know we were going to strike that air base. Is that something you would do to your enemy? I can’t help but think that behind the scenes, even though Putin must publicly decry our actions, something else is going on in this proxy war. I wonder if Mr T asked his “friend,” China’s Xi, down at the Florida palace what he would do now? #WWXD?

What we know is that instead of talking about trade with China, this airstrike has taken precedence. “One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device. It fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of launches.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39517569

I wonder what North Korea is thinking this morning. That is truly our existential crisis. I’m living in a whirlwind of Seder preparation and packing, sometimes it feels like I’m sinking inside that car Huck was trapped in, bleeding and hallucinating. I wanted to wake up this morning and think it was all just a nightmare…what US president would bomb a country without notice against international law? Like Asia and Kim Jong-un, we are dealing with an unpredictable leader who travels from the Hill to the links at his Mar a Lago resort, treating his presidency like a lark.

I can only hope for our sake that Tillerson and Putin are fighting a fair proxy war, and that chemical weapons will never see the light of day again. Ask yourself four questions, Mah Nishtanah – 1) How was last night different from 1986?  2) Why did we only warn Russia of the attack? 3) Why is a chemical attack worse than a bomb? 4) Is this just another ploy to distract us from the Russian Connection?

And will somebody tell the South that a Passover section in the grocery store should NOT contain anything with flour! I’m going to try and make kugel muffins, with matzoh meal or potatoes. Wish me luck!  wide-spinach-kugel-cupcakesjpg

 

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What is it about this time of year? I realize it just recently snowed some up North, but traveling from VA to TN yesterday Bob and I witnessed Spring in all her glory. White Bradford pear trees are in bloom, and forsythia are bursting into their yellow coats. Last night birds were trumpeting us into the Music City; later, we played on the front porch with the Love Bug and said “Hey” to neighbors walking children and dogs.

Great Grandma Ada and Hudson will arrive today with Uncle Jeff for Friday night’s seder. With Cousin Sue gone, it doesn’t make sense for Ada to slave away in the kitchen for days just to celebrate a holiday about leaving slavery behind. In her 90th year she deserves to relax, it’s about time the younger generation took over. This year we skipped the Blue Ridge mountains   because the Groom is on call in the MICU. For the first time in 36 years, I bequeath the haroses to the Bride!

Here is my recipe:

Mix together 2 or 3 chopped apples with chopped walnuts, raisins, dried apricots and dates. Add a smidgen of Kosher wine and honey and voila, you have the condiment of condiments. The stuffing for your Hillel sandwich.

I brought along my seder plate from the Berkshires. It was thrown by a friend’s husband, Thomas Hoadley, http://thomashoadley.com/bio an exceptional potter. I remember when Bob was chasing after a cat and accidentally knocked it off a shelf in Windsor, MA. I was so heartbroken because it was the very first piece of real art I had ever picked out myself, and it was someone we knew, someone we sat with on a blanket at Tanglewood. Luckily, his wife Stephanie supplied me with another! https://www.hoadleygallery.com

We won’t hide eggs, but we will hide matzoh for the children. Cousin Jenny’s new baby girl will have to wait to meet the Love Bug’s now 5 month old brother. I am always surprised to think that right at sundown, all over the world, Jews will be sitting down to this dinner theatre. The equivalent might be if Christians everywhere sat down to dinner at the exact hour all over the world on Christmas Eve, but before they ate someone would recite the story of how they managed to survive all these years. No junior, no food for you until we recite all the saints and what they had to endure to remain Christian.

Only eventually Christians became the dominant religion in the West. After reading the Atlantic’s front page article, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/is-it-time-for-the-jews-to-leave-europe/386279/ about the rise of hatred and anti-semitism, I feel bereft.

The previously canonical strain of European anti-Semitism, the fascist variant, still flourishes in places. In Hungary, a leader of the right-wing Jobbik party called on the government—a government that has come under criticism for whitewashing the history of Hungary’s collaboration with the Nazis—to draw up a list of all the Jews in the country who might pose a “national-security risk.” In Greece, a recent survey found that 69 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views, and the fascists of the country’s Golden Dawn party are open in their Jew-hatred.

Is it possible that in the future the only safe place to be Jewish will be in Israel? The ratio of Jew to Arab in France is 1 to 10. Instead of saying Je Suis Charlie, one commentator said, we should be saying, “Je Suis Juif!”

And instead of fighting over which Islamic sect has dibs on their prophet, has dominance and power in the Middle East and Africa,, maybe Muslims around the world should begin to remember their shared values over dinner at Ramadan. I’m pretty sure they would not include flying planes into buildings or suicide vests.

When we break bread together, or matzoh, we can see into each other’s souls. Have a peaceful Easter/Passover weekend. I can only wish that my grandchildren – that ALL our grandchildren – will be able to live without fear. To not always have a bag packed.     IMG_2398

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Do you take offense easily? Are you wedded to being politically correct in everything you say and do? A few years ago I took a course on Buddhism at UVA. The first project our instructor asked us to do was to write down a list of words to describe ourselves. You can imagine when we gathered them together on the blackboard what that list looked like – lots of “mothers,” “fathers,” “friends,” and family ties and occupations galore. I probably added “writer,” and “wife” to the mix. The purpose if I recall correctly, was for us to banish all those words from our consciousness, words that separate us into different groups by clan or class or religion or education, and think in terms of a more universal, inclusive identity. We are all human, deal with it.

Now I’m not writing this just for Bob, who absolutely hates political correctness. He has since the term first appeared. I have to admit that what first attracted me to him was his iconoclastic nature, so even when I’m disagreeing with him about something, I understand his position, for the most part. So when I read this essay in The Spectator by Nick Cohen, I immediately forwarded it on to him. Can we really change the world simply by changing the words we use? I grew up when “mental retardation” was considered a birth defect, and calling someone “retarded” wasn’t cursing, it was just a fact. These children were not mainstreamed and so we knew very little about them. Then later we used words like “intellectual disability.”

Worry about whether you, or more pertinently anyone you wish to boss about, should say ‘person with special needs’ instead of ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’ instead of ‘mentally handicapped’ and you will enjoy a righteous glow. You will not do anything, however, to provide health care and support to the mentally and physically handicapped, the old or the sick. Indeed, your insistence that you can change the world by changing language, and deal with racism or homophobia merely by not offending the feelings of interest groups, is likely to allow real racism and homophobia to flourish unchallenged, and the sick and disadvantaged to continue to suffer from polite neglect. An obsession with politeness for its own sake drives the modern woman, who deplores the working class habit of using ‘luv’ or ‘duck’, but ignores the oppression of women from ethnic minorities. A Victorian concern for form rather than substance motivates the modern man, who blushes if he says ‘coloured’ instead of ‘African-American’ but never gives a second’s thought to the hundreds of thousands of blacks needlessly incarcerated in the US prison system. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2014/04/you-sexistracistliberalelitist-bastard-how-dare-you/

Cohen believes the right and the left are equally responsible for pitting one group against another, and fighting pretend wars so that all that exists really is the argument. Think about that video of Obama saying something about the middle of the country, or was it PA, “…clinging to their religion and their guns.” Think about that leaked video of Romney at that $50,000 a plate dinner where he said it wasn’t his job to win the 47 percent of voters who were committed to President Obama, because they are “dependent on government” (and he will) “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” That pretty much deep-sixed his campaign. And I think it’s true. The media is always making it about us and them, except every now and then when a clear voice cuts through the rubble.

“As the late and much-missed Robert Hughes said, ‘We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism’.”

Words of course can hurt, and they can heal. We returned last night from Great Grandmother Ada’s Passover Seder. We read through a whole book of words in English and Hebrew before a dinner filled with symbolism and meaning. It’s meant to recall our journey from slavery to freedom, to cement our Jewish identity, and it happened right after some KKK nut job in Kansas yelled “Heil Hitler” after killing three people. He will be charged with a “hate crime.” But Jewish people everywhere know it was so much more than hate. We remembered the six million in our reading of the Haggadah. Until we can break down the mental barriers that divide us, by race or sex or religion – and not just with words but with real legislation and dialogue devoid of political semantics – what should we expect of our politicians.

 

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Kugels are being frozen, matzoh balls rolled, and families are getting ready to gather again for their annual Seder. It’s been a rite of passage for me ever since I married into my husband’s huge Jewish family. Don’t get me wrong, my stepfather was Jewish, but the Irish Flapper didn’t do Passover. This holiday is unlike anything else, it can’t be compared to Easter, because Easter was a direct result of the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder, if you get the drift. This is more like a Jewish Christmas. Everybody has got to get home for the Seder.

We sit around a large table and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and our path to freedom. There are prayers and songs and finally food. Every single Jewish family around the world is going to be doing this in eight days. My specialty, as you all know, is the haroses – a delicious condiment of apples and dried fruit meant to symbolize the bricks and the labor that was used while our people were slaves. It happens to be the star attraction on Grandma Ada’s Seder plate.

I remember my first Seder with the Baby Bride, 1980, like it was yesterday. Driving from the Berkshires back to NJ. All the relatives cooing over her, holding her, giving her presents. A great tradition was being passed down and I knew it was important to pay attention. Bob would one day lead the Seder, recline at the head of the table, and ask questions just to keep us on our toes. Last year the same rituals were repeated, only the Love Bug stole the show.

But this year we’ll be missing our north star. Judith married Ada’s nephew after a long and hard divorce. She brought him back to us, a happier healthy man. She was a counselor, whose smile could light up a room. A devout Jew, her parents had survived the Holocaust with numbers on their arms to prove it. It was the first time I had ever seen that horrific symbol, alive on a real person, not in a history book. And yet, somehow, they raised an angel of light.

Judith, the woman who brought a profound sense of meaning to our gathering every year, died yesterday. Her Hebrew kept Bob on track during the Seder, she would be the one to lead us through long passages, to sing without having to look at the words. Her Judaism was a living breathing tribute to her parents. Her loving spirit a balm to her husband and her son, her stepdaughters and her grandchildren. And I can’t tell you how many times she took me aside at the Seder to reassure me on my road through this long and winding family dynamic – to tell me that everything will be alright. These are just rough passages, we’ll plow through.

She battled cancer with the ferocity of her Biblical namesake. She was too young, too kind, it was too soon. And this Seder, along with all the rest to come when the Love Bug brings her baby to meet the  family, Judith will always be remembered.

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Why is tonight different from all other nights? This is one of the questions we must ponder at Great Grandma Ada’s Seder. Jewish people everywhere will recall their exodus from bondage in Egypt while eating matzoh and other ritualistic food. This holiday is equivalent to Christmas in terms of importance, only without all the gifts.

Since the dinner begins at sundown Monday night, we are traveling back to NJ today. In the past, I would drive up to help out early, being a kind of kosher sous chef to Ada and cousin Sue. We’d dice and slice, polish silver and set the tables. There were usually 30 odd family and friends expected.

I remember the first Seder with my baby Bride. It was her introduction to cousins that felt more like sisters over the years. Now it’s the Love Bug’s turn. She’ll meet her NY and CT family. Can we all sing The Circle of Life.

So tonight (Monday) will be different. Chopped chicken liver will probably be on your list of new foods to try baby girl. And Nana will make haroses just like I’ve been doing for 33 years. Maybe it won’t be so different after all.

20130324-055059.jpg

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Today is a day of travel. It’s time to wipe the yellow pollen off the car windows and set our GPS north, to Grandmother’s house we go! Once you marry a Jewish doctor man there are 2 things that will reoccur every year: 1) the Passover pilgrimage to his Mother’s house for a seder; ie ritual, ancient foods (like chicken soup and matzoh) that you must smell for hours before you can actually eat since everyone has to wait for the sun to go down. Oh, and you all have to read this book about being slaves in Egypt, while sitting at the table, waiting for the food…and the sun….What do we learn besides our Jewish history? Patience, and how to make a great chicken soup, which will cure anything btw. 2) He will always be working on Christmas.

So goodbye Bean:

Goodbye flowers blooming:

Goodbye mountains

I’m packing my knitting and wishing you all a peaceful and serene Passover and Easter holiday filled with chocolate bunnies, happy colored eggs, and coconutty macaroons. Let’s dream about SCOTUS upholding the Affordable Care Act for all Americans. I know I am.

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