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Adventures in Mathematics at the National Mathematics Museum

29 Apr

After a losing hope about the state of mathematics in the world, I was delighted to learn about and visit the National Mathematics Museum (MoMath)in New York City. Located at 11 East 26 Street, it opened to the community in December 2015. It is worth the trip!

From the Pi symbol door handles to the hologram engraved art work, each inch of this museum is filled with interesting sites and many interactive activities! I loved riding a bicycle with square wheels. It was a little hard on the rear! But fun.

We three adults were having as much fun as the children. There are two floors of activities that parents and children can work on together. Some are math and logic problems to solve. Others are just fun activities like watching your arms branch out into fractals in a living tree exhibit.

I wish I can tell you my favorite activity, but I cannot since so much of it was great fun.

There is also a room where temporary exhibits are housed. When we were there it was unbelievable math art that has to be made through 3-D printers. And fantastic origami art.

The gift shop is packed with educational games and activities to buy. More important this museum is open every day except for Thanksgiving! Need something to do with your children school age and older, go here! There are events and activities listed on its website which I put below.

It is an easy walk to Madison Garden Park where you can sit for a bit and people watch, take great photos of the flatiron building and buy lunch or a snack.

Being there gave me hope. There are parents and children and grandparents interested math and learning. I did not see one frown while there, I just saw adults and children intrigued by what they were seeing and learning while having an adventure at the MoMath!

Www.momath.org

Finding A Charity Donation That Fits Perfectly!

29 Dec

I am a person of faith who believes in prayer.  I also believe in actions.

Some of my friends will be surprised because I also am a strong believer in science and medicine, biology and evolution.  But in my mind both work together in harmony.

What this means for me, is that when someone I love is sick, I trust the doctors, who I have researched; I trust the hospital, which I have checked out; and I pray and ask others to pray as well.

Recently, when my daughter was ill and needed surgery I went all out.  I had her name, in Hebrew, added to several synagogue mi’sheberach lists, which adds that person’s name to the prayers asking to heal the sick. These names are read during the Torah service, when the weekly section of Torah is read, and a special prayer, the Mi’Sheberah,  is read.

I asked family members to add her name to their synagogues’ prayer lists and to keep her in their prayers.  I asked several friends of mine who are of other faiths to add her to their prayer circles as well.   There is just one G-d, and he listens to all prayers in my mind.

I called a friend of mine, who is the wife of a Chabad rabbi, and asked that my daughter’s name be added to their mi’sheberach prayers as well.  The rebbizin asked that I meet with her before I left my trip to be with my daughter.  So I went.

She had her agenda as well.   She reminded me to check my daughter’s mezuzah.   There are those who believe that a damaged mezuzah could cause ill health.  She also suggested I make donation to charity on the day of the surgery, bringing a tzedakah box with me to the hospital.

These are two beliefs that I knew about.  Although I knew my daughter and her husband had a mezuzah on the front entrance of their house, I was not sure about other rooms.  And as for charity… well. I am not one to bring a tzedakah box to a hospital to ask others to give.  But I always donate to charity.  I just needed to find the right one for this specific event.  I needed a charity that would speak to a medical need.

Soon after I arrived at my daughter’s home in Israel, I realized they did not have a mezuzah on their bedroom entrance.   That I could rectify.  I specifically went shopping to find the perfect one to fit their home.  A small purple mezuzah cover fit that need.  But of course, the most important part was the kosher scroll.   I purchased both at a small store in Yafo.

As an additional purchase, because I guess I am a bit superstitious as well, was a hamsa.   A purple hamsa with the Sh’ma prayer on it.   I love the hamsa symbol, so it made sense to me.  (See my blog about hamsas with the link below.)

However, the most important for me was identifying the best charity to make a donation.  I needed to fulfill this part of my promise to the rebbizin.  But not just for her, so many people were praying for my daughter.  I needed to make a donation both to help others as a way to thank my friends and family.  I needed to find the perfect fit.

Then I saw in a newspaper article about two women in New York who had eliminated $1.5 million in medical debt for 1300 people by raising $12,500!  That looked like something that would fit my need perfectly!

They had given their money to RIP Medical Debt. This charity works to eliminate medical debt of those who cannot pay “by buying medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgive it, forever,” as the website says.  Every dollar can forgive $100!

I gave anonymously to the charity. But I am saying it here to encourage others to give to this charity as well. From now on, when someone in my family has surgery or faces a medical problem, I will be donating to RIP Medical Debt.

We are fortunate to have great health insurance and also have the finances to pay off our medical bills.  I truly believe that no one should go into debt because they could not afford the treatment!  This is one of the biggest crimes in the United State, the rationing of health care based on finances and not on need.

Luckily my daughter’s surgery was a great success.  Luckily my daughter lives in a country with universal medical care.  She will have no costs for this surgery.  I wish everyone had such wonderful insurance.  Thus for now, I will be supporting RIP Medical Debt!  A charity that perfectly fits my need to donate.

Definitions:

Rebbizin:  Rabbi’s wife

Tzedakah box:  a box to put in money to give to charity

https://jezebel.com/two-women-erased-1-5-million-of-strangers-medical-debt-1830888079

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/mi-sheberakh-may-the-one-who-blessed/

www.ripmedicaldebt.org

https://zicharonot.com/2016/01/26/mazel-and-good-luck-my-middle-eastern-hamsa-and-native-american-hand-symbol-collection/

Several Days At a Hospital Gives Me Hope For Israel

20 Dec

Sitting in a hospital in Holon has been a most eye-opening experience. The hospital sits on the border of Holon, Tel Aviv and Yafo serving an area mixed with Jewish and Muslim and Christian citizens. And it illustrates what I love about Israel.

I came to Israel because my daughter needed surgery. They day of her scheduled surgery we arrived at 6:25 am. After all the intake she was shown to her room where she would wait for surgery. Her roommate was a Muslim woman who had acute appendicitis and also needed surgery, ‘K’.

We were now linked together. They went down to surgery about the same time and returned to their room around the same time: five hours after we first went down. While we waited we sat in an area with many others: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim parents, children, spouses and friends waiting for their loved ones to emerge.

I do speak some Hebrew, but in my mother anxiety, my Hebrew left me and I mainly spoke English. Of course my daughter’s husband speaks Hebrew. But it really did not matter. Most of the nurses and aides could quickly move from Hebrew to Arabic to English and at times a Russian and Yiddish.

As patients were wheeled into the surgery area a barrage of languages wished them luck. And as families were reunited after surgery, those remaining behind sent prayers for speedy recovery to all no matter the religion; we were united in our need to comfort each other in our time of stress and anxiety.

When a 13-year-old boy was left to wait alone as his father had surgery, we banded together to speak to him and keep him calm till his much older brother arrived. It was K’s husband who told him what to tell his brother after the doctor came out, because the boy’s happy tears rendered him unable to speak. When his phone’s battery died, my son-in-law gave him our charger so he could call his brother again.

We became a team. When the nurse came in and started to speak to me in Hebrew, I responded in Hebrew, “more slowly please”. While K’s husband told the nurse to speak to me in English. When he left to walk his two young children out along with his sister, I held his wife’s head and cleaned her face after she vomited. She was young enough to be my daughter too.

At first, before the surgery, K’s husband put her Hijab over her hair when we were in the room. But after the surgery he did not bother. We were in this together. Only when visitors came did she put her Hijab on.

Later that evening, when my daughter started to vomit, I grabbed the garbage pail for her, while my son-in-law brought in another trash can. Then K’s mother began to laugh, the idea of the two of them vomiting simultaneously was just too much. I started to laugh as well. My son-in-law was a bit confused as to why we were laughing. But it was fine. We were in close quarters as the hospital was full, and we were put together in a single room.

When the nurse came, to check my daughter, we two mothers were asked to leave for a few minutes. We stood outside together and spoke about our daughters. We were together in wishing both a speedy recovery. It did not matter our language or religion, we were just moms whose daughters just had surgery.

Actually I really enjoyed listening to all the conversations, not to the words, but to the switching in one sentence from Arabic to Hebrew to English. The cadence of the melody changes with each language like a symphony of sound. At times I would be confused as to what language I was hearing, as the speakers would switch so fluently from one to another.

My daughter told me that Arabic spoken in Yafo is filled with Hebrew expressions.

Late that evening, after I had spent over 15 hours at the hospital, my son-in-law and I went back home. K’s husband spent the night. In the morning we found out that my daughter had been sick and he helped her after she threw up.

I felt terrible that I was not there. That she had not told us to return. Her answer when we asked was the room was way too small for us all to be there. Also in the morning before we came, it was K who told the nurse who came to check on her that my daughter had been sick during the night; that she needed to be checked as well.

That morning I purchased tulips for both of them because they were going to have to spend another night in the hospital. Yes being sick at night landed both of them another night in the hospital.

My daughter and K are now home. Their room is empty and being readied for the next patient.

In all I spent parts of four days at Wolfson Medical Center. While at the hospital I felt a sense of companionship. People working together to help everyone else. I get so sick of hearing about hatred and bigotry and stereotypes. At Wolfson we are one people. That is the Israel I love.

I am aware of what is happening elsewhere in Israel. At the borders and in the West Bank. But when you are at the hospital you know that the everyday people can live together and wish each other well.

Doctors, nurses, aides; patients and families; Jewish, Muslim, Christian; all together in one purpose: to help everyone feel better. At least that is the impression I had at Wolfson. That feeling is what gives me hope for Israel.

My Hanukkah Bear Envy

9 Dec

On the third night of Hanukkah I realized I have a problem.

As I have stated before, I love to decorate for Hanukkah.  Among my collection of dreidels, decorations and a few hanukkiahs, is a collection of stuffed animals. I now have almost 20 creatures that I purchased over the years.

As I prepare for the holiday, I search stores and synagogue gift shops to find a new animal or two to add to my collection. Some years I am feel fortunate because I find one.  Sometimes I have an excellent year, like this year, when found two animals I did not have. That balances the many years when I cannot find a single one.

So, what happened on night three? I saw a Hanukkah bear I could not have! I went to a meeting, where we lit the Hanukkah candles. That was fine.  But among those present was someone I knew, who brought along a Hanukkah bear clutching his own hanukkiah.  I do not have that bear!  I said nothing.  I did not touch it.  But in my heart, I felt a bit of bear envy.

I am sure that I have many bears he does not have.  My collection includes two Pooh Bears and two Mickey Mouse dolls with driedels produced by the Walt Disney Company.   I have two bears made by TY 13 year ago.  These “Happy Hanukkah” bears have an official birthdate of December 25, 2005, which amuses me just a bit. But it makes sense because in 2005, December 25 was the first night!

In the past two years I have purchased the animals produced by the Mensch on A Bench company.  My little Dreidel Dog was the first. This year it was Mitzvah Moose!  I had to get it as my son-in-law is Canadian.

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I have what I call my Father/Son white bears, and two lovely bears, one blue and one purple, that have dreidels on the soles of their feet.

I have a musical bear.  And I have two trolls that were once my daughters, which have become part of my Hanukkah decorations.

I have a friend who also likes Hanukkah bears.  When she first saw my collection, she asked where I got them.  She declared her intention of collecting them as well.  Now whenever I see a new one, I send her a text message, after I buy mine (lol), telling her where to go to purchase a new one for her collection.   But come to think of it, she has never called to tell me about a new Hanukkah stuffed plush fluffy!

She at least has an excuse for her collection, she has little grandchildren.

To be honest, and I can finally admit it to myself, I collect these stuffed plush animals for me.  At one time, I purchased two of each.  Telling myself I was buying one for each of my children.  But my children are adults now, and I am yet to become a grandmother.  But I am still searching for these Hanukkah toys!

Well they say knowing you have a problem is the first step. But to be honest, I do not think there is a cure for this.  I will continue to collect and display my fluffy Hanukkah friends.  And I am sure I will continue to feel a bit of envy when I see that someone has one I do not own.

How The KinderTransport Touched My Family

5 Nov

I have always been intrigued by the KinderTransport that saved 10,000 Jewish children during the Shoah as they were transported out of Nazi territory and on to England by train and then across the English Channel.  In my mind I imagined the heaviness of heart of the parents as they put their children’s safety first and sent them to live in a foreign country with people they did not know.  What brave parents they were to know they might not survive, but to give their children a chance no matter the peril!

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My interest sparked me to read books about these trains.  And even brought my attention to the orphan trains that brought children from the east coast out to the middle of the country on Orphan Trains. In my mind the two were linked together.  The KinderTransport children were not yet orphans, but many would be by the end of the war.  The Orphan Train children were often in orphanages or living on the streets when they were sent away.

But I did not know of anyone who actually rode the trains to a new life brining the children to safety away from the horrors of Europe, except for a man I met on a cruise several years ago.  (See blog below.)

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The sisters,  Martha and Rosa, who I now know survived thanks to the KinderTransport.

However, recently that all changed.  I now know that two of my relatives survived the Shoah when their parents put them on a train to England from Breslau, Germany.  Their mother was my grandmother’s first cousin.  These two girls were around the age of my mother, their second cousin. Except for a photo I found and wrote about, we would not have known about the sisters.

Their mother, Celia, perished in the Shoah.  I thought they had as well.  All I had was a photo of two girls and a brief inscription on the back.  But from that inscription, I was able to find out that at least one of the girls survived.  I did not know how she survived, but I knew she lived and wrote a Yad V’Shem testimony for her mother.  From little information I had,  I wrote a blog (see below) about a year ago, wanting to know more.

Recently that blog was read by someone in England, who gave me the news that both girls had survived and had come to England on the KinderTransport.  That one girl, Martha, had lived with this person’s in-laws during the war. The families had been in touch until Martha’s death.

Now I have new wonders.  Did my grandmother know that her cousin’s children had survived?  Did anyone know?  The testimony was not written until 1999 from Australia.  So perhaps not.  Perhaps the sisters had been lost to the family forever because of the Shoah. I think this is a question that will never have an answer as anyone who might have known is long gone.

I wish I knew more.  I have reached out to the person who contacted me to see if she has more information.  I have not heard back.  But I thank her for contacting me at all and helping to solve another Shoah mystery for my family.

My searches continue.  I must admit, that this one at least gave me some hope and some joy. The KinderTransport touched my family; saved two lives.  That is the best knowledge of all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/06/cruise-conversations-that-linger-in-my-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/26/amazing-what-information-two-photos-can-provide/

 

A Burst of Emotion: Kukaniloko Birthing Stones Sacred Site

13 Aug

(We recently cruised around the Hawaiian Islands.  This is the first of five blogs about my favorite spots.)

Fertility, pregnancy, healthy births, all topics that are important even today.  Childbirth is, at times,  life threatening for the mother and for the infant.  In ancient Hawaiian times, women went to sacred spaces in an effort to safely give birth.   In Oahu, there is such a space dedicated to the women of the royal family.

Fertility for those who cannot conceive is also a painful topic.   At the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones Sacred Site, these two quests: a safe and pain free birth, and the request for a pregnancy come together.

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Before we arrived at this sacred site, our guide pointed out part of the Wai’anea Range on Oahu.  As you drive along the Kamehameha Highway, part of this mountain range looks like a giant sleeping pregnant woman,  the “Wahine Hapai.”  You can see her head, then breasts then pregnant belly rising to the sky.  She embodies fertility and health.

He told us that Wahine Hapai overlooks a sacred site that many tourists do not go to but thought we would like to see.  (Perhaps because my husband is a pediatrician.)  The  Kukaniloki Birthing Stones Site is unmarked and is not easy to find.  There is just a small indentation of an  entrance off the highway, with a gated road.

Before we walked down a bright red dirt road to reach the site, we read the warnings that this was a sacred site and we should respect it. “Do not sit on the stones. Do not move or wrap the rocks. Do not trample the plants.” These were the top three rules.  I thought I was ready to visit.  But in reality, it was much more emotional than I thought it would be.

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It is a quiet spot, an oasis of trees and stones in the middle of a field. The first indication that you are entering the sacred site, is two stones standing by the entrance.  These were two of the birthing stones: One to sit on and one to lean up against. They have been moved from their original place in the grove of trees.  Just past these stones are two parallel lines of smaller stones, leading to the tree-shaded main site, where the trees surround a group of large stones.  Behind the site, watching from above is the Wahine Hapai, the pregnant woman, helping those in labor.

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In my effort to know more, I looked up information on line when I returned to the ship.  I read that the two line of stones were for the chiefs to sit on, while a royal woman gave birth.  The chiefs came to help her through this time. It is also said that women who gave birth here felt no pain.

My husband and I were not alone in our visit.

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Walking along the two lines of stones, I noticed a woman squatting by each stone, touching her forehead to the stone and praying.  She went down each line, holding the stones between her two hands, resting her head, then moving on.   I was not close enough to hear what she said. I tried to give her space, but I knew in my heart what was happening.  I could almost hear her prayers for a pregnancy and for a child of her own. And my heart opened.  I began to pray silently with her.  Sending my positive energy to comingle with hers.  Hoping perhaps a stranger who knew her pain could add to her prayers.

Do Not tell me this is a ridiculous quest. 

I too suffered from infertility and prayed to become pregnant.  I spent days, weeks, months and years wondering why everyone else was able to get pregnant but me.  I hated family gatherings, where all the new babies would be the center of attention and people would ask me when I planned to start my family.  Little did they know of the emotional pain I was in just being there.  I lost my faith for a time.  At the high holidays when we read about Hannah, I left the service.  It was just too difficult to bear.

Although I am now way past the age of giving birth, and I do have two children, I carry that black hole of pain in my heart.  I keep it covered.  I try not to visit it.  I moved on, I believed.  But watching this woman in her prayers removed the cover I keep over this abyss of pain, and I felt tears rise to my eyes. No one could truly help her.  No words can ever make that pain go away.  Watching your friends and relatives get pregnant is a slap. Each month a new cycle is just a reminder that you failed once again.  It is an enormous, deep black hole of grief.  And I saw that grief on this woman’s face.

She was not alone.  A young man squatted close to the square enclosed area where the trees and many birthing stones were assembled.  You cannot enter this sacred area.  But he sat just outside the roped off area, watching.

I felt the spirit of their prayers around me.  It would be hard not to feel it.

We did not spend too much time at the site.  I took a few photos, and then told my husband it was time to go.  I wanted to give them the privacy they needed. (I learned later that although tourists might not visit it, the site was well visited by locals who celebrated the birth of their children or who were wanted to have children.)

As we walked away, my memories and my prayers rose up.  I hope that the Kukaniloko Birthing Stone Sacred Site, and the energy of life and birth within it, helped her move forward.

This was my most memorable spot in all of Hawaii.

Reading Obsession Comes From My Mom

21 Apr

Reading Is my passion.  I cannot imagine life without a book by my bedside, magazines by my chair and my IPad with its digital books with me when I travel. If I love to read, then my Mom needs all the compliments.  She was an elementary school teacher, who believed books and reading were the best gift to give to a child.

Mom taught fourth grade for most of her over 30 years teaching career.  She taught as a young woman after college, while my Dad was in Korea.  Then stayed home with three young children.  She started back to full-time teaching when my sister was in first grade.  From then on, Mom’s life was split between us and her students.

Each summer when she went shopping for our school supplies and clothes, she also went shopping for her classroom. It is true that teachers spend their own money for their classrooms.  But this is not a new phenomenon: Mom was buying things for her classroom in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Throughout the year, whenever her students had a Scholastic Book order, Mom would order books for her classroom.  Some were free, some she purchased.  But the good part, for us, was that we got to read these books as well.

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My Mom’s library system.

Mom built up quite a library in her classroom.  Bringing in bookshelves from home to stash her class’ reading choices.  Mom would make them as NF, non-fiction, or F, fiction.  She numbered each book and wrote her name inside.  Whenever the school purged old readers, my Mom would take some for her classroom as extra reading for her students.

She also would bring one of each home for me. Personally, I love old readers.  Whenever  Mom brought some home, I was delighted. Even when I was in college, I would curl with a reader just for fun.

When my Mom retired, I took at least one of each of the readers she still had.  I even have original Dick and Jane books from 1946-47.  Three to be exact.  One is quite decrepit, but I do not have the heart to get rid of it.  Those were actually being thrown out by the school. She asked if she could take a few for me.  And the principal said yes.  I still thank him, Mario, in my mind.

I know exactly which books were in my Mom’s classroom, as I still keep the numbers taped to the front of those books.  Inside I see my Mom’s handwriting and I have a bit of her with me.

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Some of my readers.

But my love for readers created a bit of an obsession for me as my children were growing up.  I often went to garage sales to find books and toys for them to play with.  Among the books, I often found readers.  They were sold for anywhere from a quarter to a dollar.  I then went big time: I started going to library books sales and I would pick up a few readers there.  These were a bit more expensive.  Then came the big book sales in the local convention center.  Yes, they had readers as well. This were even more expensive … three or four dollars!

I now have over 50 early readers and other school books.  My oldest school book is from 1914.  Many are from the 1940s and 1950s.  A few from 1960s.  But I did not stop at readers, not me.  I have science books, math books, language art books. I have readers that were published by the state of Kansas (where I live.)! I even have some very old story books. They are quite fun to read.

In my collection of books, I have an early Disney true life book; an early Nancy Drew; and much more.  My children learned to read with these readers.  Why not!  My daughter was reading the early Dick and Jane books when she was not quite four.  My son a bit later.  Those pictures draw the children in!

I happily passed my love of reading onto my children.  Each summer I would enroll them in the local library’s reading program.  For every five books they read, they got a prize. If they reached a predetermined number of books, they got a really special prize.  I did not have to do that for long for my daughter. She is an avid reader. She learned to read before she even went to kindergarten.  It caused a few problems because her ability to read was a much higher than her maturity.

I have some favorite reading memories.  She loved this scary series, Goosebumps.  One night she was reading a book in bed, way past her bed time.  I guess a thunderstorm was going on in the book, when a thunderstorm started in real life.  She threw the book across the room as she screamed in fright.  We loved that. Her favorite book for the longest time was Pippi Longstocking.  My husband actually hid it.  Many years later, when she was in college, we were cleaning bookshelves, my daughter found the book.  She knew instantly that he had hid it, as it was very high on a shelf.

In fact, in seventh grade, when the English teacher started a reading contest, my daughter blew everyone away.   I don’t remember how many books she read, but her list was extensive.  The teacher even called me into the room to make sure my daughter was really reading that much.   I realized she was not even telling the teacher about all the books she read!

My son was not as avid a reader as my daughter.  He has some dyslexia.  However, he also loved reading from my collection.  He loved the stories about the Spot and Puff.  He moved on slowly to riddle and joke books, then to the Bailey School Kids books. He loved these. His memorable moment was actually meeting the co-author Debbie Dadey and having books signed by her.

He moved on to more ‘boy’ books with time.  Animorphs were a favorite. But then he focused on graphic novels: manga.  The middle school librarian told me of his love, because, of course I volunteered in the school library.  As I re-stacked the books, I also read.  One day she informed me that I had to buy him some manga, as the school library was not carrying that many then.  I am sure there are many more now than in the early 2000s.

I am so glad that my Mom was a teacher.  Her love of books and learning, led to my love of books and learning.  I am glad I was able to pass this joy on to my children.  And whenever I want a little time reminiscing about my Mom, I just pull out a reader, settle into a chair and read.