Tag Archives: hamsa

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.


Rebbizin:  Rabbi’s wife

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





Mazel and Good Luck: My Middle Eastern Hamsa and Native American Hand Symbol Collection

26 Jan

I have always been a bit superstitious. Perhaps it is because my grandparents had little things they did to keep evil away and bring good luck. Their Eastern European/Jewish roots had me putting red ribbons or thread on my children’s cribs; saying Yiddish phrases that warded off the evil eye whenever someone said something nice about my children; and learning about the power of a name.

When I went to Israel as a college sophomore, I came in contact for the first time with the hamsa, the palm-shaped, Middle Eastern sign to keep evil away. Specifically, a hamsa usually has the symbol an eye in the middle of the palm to ward off the evil eye, the “ayin hora.”


The first hamsa I purchased.  It is not totally traditional because it depicts a true hand, not the three finger/two thumb usual hamsa.

On the “My Jewish Learning” website it states that the hamsa has been seen by different groups as a Jewish, Christian and Islamic amulet, and even a pagan fertility symbol. But in now it is recognized as a “kabbalistic amulet and is an important symbol in Jewish art.”

I became intrigued by the hamsa and its ‘magical’ powers to bring “mazel,” good luck, and keep evil away when I was a college student. The first hamsa I purchased was for my parents. This wall plaque adorned the wall near the entrance to their home for over 35 years.   When they passed away, I brought it to my home, where it now hangs near my front door.

I wish I could say that is the only hamsa I have purchased. But it is not. For years, it was very difficult to find one. Occasionally an artist would draw or design a hamsa. Then, about 10 -12 years ago, hamsa art went crazy. I started seeing them in stores and catalogues that had a Jewish base. But I even found them in regular gift stores.

I purchased hamsas to bless new babies and homes. They are made of so many different materials: metals, ceramics, glass, pottery, clay, fabric. Each artist has his or her own vision. They can be wall hangings, picture frames, designs on tzedakah boxes, trivets, jewelry. I even have a hamsa mezuzah! That must have double positive energy!

I have seen necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins made in the shape of a hamsa. I admit I own some.


Left: The Middle Eastern Hamsa; Right: the Native American Hand Symbol

About six years ago I found out that the hand symbol for protection was not just a middle eastern amulet.   I was in Arizona on vacation, in a ‘western’ store, when I came upon a hand with a circular spiral design in the center. This hand symbol, I found out “represents spiritual power, strength, domination and protection” for Native American warriors, according to the Warpaths2Peacepipes website.

So, of course, I purchased some of these hand symbols as well. They are different. The Native American hands actually look like hands, whereas the hamsa usually has a large center palm and three normal fingers, but what looks like two thumbs one on each side.

For me, their similar designs which provides the same message of protection for those who wear them makes sense. How many times to we hold up our hand to say, Stop!” And so with the hand we ask people to back off, calm down and stay away.


Top two designs are hamsa, the bottom one is a hand symbol.

Thus cultures in two distant parts of the world created similar symbols for protection. I love it. My hamsa/hand symbol collection is intertwined with art from both displayed together.

But I must add that one type of Native American hand symbols is actually called the Hand Eye symbol. This symbol looks remarkably like the hamsa. This symbol was used by a group of Native American called the “Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders.” It was an important symbol for them but there is a belief that it related to entry to heaven and a solar deity. (According to the Warpaths2Peacepipes web site.)

Although it is not a protection amulet to me it seems to still send out positive energy with its relationship to heaven.

Perhaps my collection cannot truly do anything for me. But in my mind, it cannot hurt to have these symbols of protection and love and strength scattered throughout my house.








My Refrigerator Holds Memories in its Magnets

12 Mar

My refrigerator drives my husband crazy. Not the appliance itself, but rather the hundreds of magnets that have been placed on it over the years. Many of my friends have switched to stainless steel refrigerators, but I cannot do that . What would I do with my magnets?

When I see my magnets, I have memories. Many of these magnets I purchased on trips or at events. Some were gifts from a friend. But most hold special memories for me.

Thanks to a chance trip to an IKEA store and a wonderful magnetic board on which I moved many of my magnets, my magnet collection has areas of themes. Instead of a mishmash of magnets all over, I was able to make montages and delineate sections.   Well I think I have.


There are the three magnets from Kauneonga Lake, NY, that highlight the Woodstock concerts. The oldest I bought at Vassmer’s when they had a little Woodstock museum set up in one of the storefronts.   One is from 1994 and the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. And the final one came from the BethEl Woods Museum, which celebrated the 40th anniversary in 2009.

I close my eyes and I am in Kauneonga Lake reliving that summer. Close to these magnets I keep a photo from the Catskills that includes my grandmothers and great aunt. There are other magnets near by, but it is the Catskills memory that stands out in this montage.

On the front of my refrigerator are all sorts of magnets.   Some from musicals I attended, others from places I visited. Some show sayings that I think are important.   My magnet collection seems very organized now. And it is.   Most of the magnets you see there are square or rectangle in shape creating organized lines upon lines of magnets.


When I see a magnet from a favorite show, the music runs through my mind. I see the action and dance and the people who attended the show with me. Great memories.  My magnets hold up important notes and pictures written or drawn by my children or a special child friend.  These need a place to stay, and the refrigerator is that place.

In another corner of the freezer door, I keep my lucky magnets. Hamsas of different shapes and other magnets that I found on trips to Israel and Greece adorn this space.


Interspersed throughout the magnets and all over the refrigerator are the photos of important people and children: my children, my nieces and nephews, my grandparents, cousins. The magnets hold up the photos, and in some cases the pictures are within magnet frames. All of these pictures hold a special place in my heart.


The magnetic board I purchased at IKEA contains over 100 magnets from some of my favorite places: Disneyworld, Prince Edward Island and the Anne of Green Gables home, Bahamas, New York City, Aspen, Lego Land, New Orleans, Seattle. Looking at this board gives me joy because I remember so many wonderful places I traveled to with my husband and my family! I can remember the excitement in visiting each new place.

My husband did not appreciate my efforts of magnet organization. He thinks the refrigerator is still overwhelmed by magnets. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps I need to go back to IKEA and buy another magnetic board. The magnets will not disappear. The memories stored in my magnets are too important to me.