Tag Archives: helping others

In Honor of Our Children: Working For Safer Gun Laws Is My Personal Plan For Respecting Life

24 Feb

February 27 would have been my Mom’s birthday.  I have thinking about her so much since the latest school shooting. My Mom taught school for 30 years. Most of the time she taught fourth grade. There are some families for whom she taught multiple generations of children.

I also work in a school. It focuses on helping students who do not learn well in a traditional school setting. We have children who have anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD, extremely brilliant children, bullied children, those on the autism spectrum, gay children, transgender children, depressed children, all special, all worthy and all needing an extra boost.  And I wonder how we will continue to keep all children safe from the outrageous behavior coming from the adults in our country.

I have been wondering what my Mom would think of all this gun violence and what she would do if she was still alive. Our family nickname for my Mom was ‘Norma Rae.’ This was based on the Sally Field character in the movie of the same name. Norma Rae had enough at her job and becomes a labor activist. She makes a difference.

My Mom might not have been a labor activist, but she never stayed quiet if she saw a wrong. She also made a difference. She taught me to speak up and speak out!  Maybe it is because she knew the tragedy of mass murder, since two of her grandparents and many family members were murdered in the Shoah. Or maybe it was because she learned from example. Her parents were strong willed people who came to the USA on their own in the 1920s with nothing, and built a business, a life and a family.

I believe my Mom would not have remained silent right now. So to those who have asked me who I am working for politically. I am not working for anyone. Rather I am working for every child who goes to school. I will keep calling my legislators. I will keep supporting organizations that combat gun violence. I will keep posting about topics that upset me, that I think are wrong. And I will not remain silent.

Dante wrote in his famous poem, “The Infernal,” that the hottest place in hell is for those who remain silent in times of moral crisis.  I will not remain silent. I feel my Mom with me and I feel her fire and passion for her students.

We really need to keep our children safe and let them know they are loved, special, unique and worthy.  How do we do that?

First there are about 5,000,000 members of the NRA. But there are over 325,000,000 citizens of the USA! Easy to see that 320,000,000 Do Not belong to the NRA. The NRA uses its money to buy our legislators by lobbying and giving them so much money for their campaigns.

We, the people, need to STOP this NOW!

1. Do not buy from companies that support the NRA. A boycott has started, and I will support it.

2. Give money to legislators who promise to fight for safe gun laws and the banning of assault weapons and items that boost these weapons to more dangerous levels.  I plan to continue to do this.

3. Let us work to get a ban on ammunition used in these killing guns.

4. Do Not vote for elected officials on any level of government who is financially indebted to the NRA.

5. Reject the NRA’s messages of hatred and divisiveness. I do not dislike people who own guns. I just dislike certain types of guns.

6. We have to put our money where our heart is and use it effectively. I am for a buy back of all assault weapons. I understand they cost about $600. I will give $1800 to buy back three. This amount calls out to me because 18 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai, life. I would give a hundred times life to save one life.

7. Let us insist they tighten the laws surrounding gun sales and the raffling off of guns as fundraisers. People should not be allowed to buy guns at gun shows and privately without background checks.

8. Tighten the laws surrounding background checks. We see they are failing us right now.

9. Increase funding for mental health care. Our government is supporting a cut to health care for all. The only industrialized nation that dies not provide health care for its citizens!  Let us work to change this.

10.  Keep calling and writing my elected officials to express my views on gun control laws and health care laws.

11. Support an organization that works to counter gun violence, like Grandparents Against Gun Violence, https://moksgagv.org, Gabby Giffords group Americans For Responsible Solutions https://giffords.org, Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence http://www.bradycampaign.org.

12. Be KIND!  There is too much divisiveness and hateful speech right now.  Use your words for good.

I will be wearing this pin that says Chai to remind myself to work for life.

Working for safer gun laws is my personal plan to respect life.

In This Time of Asking Forgiveness, I Am Donating to Help Hurricane Survivors

28 Sep


We were in San Juan, Puerto Rico in June.  A lovely island for a day of sight seeing as we cruised the Caribbean.  We took a bus to the Fort in San Juan, and then a walking tour from the Fort back to the ship.   We passed beautiful flowering trees and plants, lush gardens, We toured the Fort that overlooks the ocean and once protected the island from invaders.  We looked down the coast to see the lovely beaches.


But Hurricane Maria has devasted the island.   So many millions without food, water, housing.  Searching for a way off the island, tourists who live elsewhere are stuck, stranded away from their home.  While those whose home is Puerto Rica are afraid of the future.  When where the power grid be repaired, when will the water and the food be available again. When will the roads be fixed.  When will medical care and schools be able to return to normal.


Puerto Rico is one of many islands that faced destruction in the way of Hurricane Irma and Maria, while Florida and Texas also suffered horrors during to hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey and Irma impacted these areas.  Connected to other states and cities,  Florida and Texas are fortunate in that help can come more quickly for these impacted areas, where as the islands of the Caribbean are isolated.

Cruise ships are cancelling vacation cruises in order to help evacuate the islands and bring supplies.  But in reality, there is no tourism or vacation in some sections of the Caribbean now as the destruction of the islands’ infrastructures make tourism impossible.

I cannot go there to help.  But I can donate. I can provide tzedakah to those in need. I chose the “oneamericanappeal.org” that was endorsed by and set up by our five former presidents: Bush, Bush, Carter, Clinton and Obama: Republicans and Democrats coming together to help our citizens in need.

I know that not everyone can help financially.  But those of us who can, must.   The island of Puerto Rico will never be the same.  But perhaps it can even be better as the power grid is rebuilt and the water supply fixed…as it will be updated and modernized. The Virgin Island of St. Thomas was also devastated.  These islands are our responsibility.  The citizens of these islands are citizens of the United States.

It has been a difficult time for many.  Fires in the west and northwest are causing destruction and health issues.  The many hurricanes have devasted areas with their high winds and flooding rains. I also sent sent a donation to help with these disasters as well through the Jewish Federation.

With this season of asking for forgiveness, the time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, I think that doing good for others ,  tzedakah and gemilut Chasadim, shows my commitment to tikkun olam.  As I ask forgiveness for all that I might have done to hurt others during the year, I send donations to help those in need. 

Trouble with the Office: An American Bialystoker Story

21 Mar

The following is a report my Great Grandfather, Louis Goldman, made in a 1937 issue of the Bialystoker Stimme. It explains the reason why the Bialystoker Bikur Cholim decided that the organization needed its own offices. It seems asking for help from the community was just not working out. It gives the history of the decision to rent its own office. I think this might have be the precursor of the Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which was built over two years in 1929-1931.

Here is his article, as translated by my friend Blumah and edited a bit by me for clarity.

“The Bialystoker landsman in that time mostly lived in the East side (of New York City). The Bikur Cholim decided to put in that neighborhood a place for the sick people to receive help without difficulty. So they would be close to their neighborhood.

They arranged for a doctor and arranged for a pharmacist to get them medicine.

It was decided to give to the poor sick people a free pass to see the doctor and also pay for the medicine.

A certain landsman, who had a hot dog /salami store on Essex Street, gave his store for the sick people to come to receive these passes and papers. This became the office where they could get the papers. But there was a problem: The store keeper would give out these free passes like a prize to his own customers who would buy meat from him. (This was not what was intended so,) It was decided to rent a place somewhere else.

Next they found a butcher store from one of the landsman, Philip T. However there was not very convenient for several reasons.

They moved the office again to a new place. To “Fisher” who had a printing shop on Clinton Street. But Fisher started asking every month for new ‘additions’. (Not sure if he wanted more money or what he is wanting. Probably more money.)

So the Bikur Cholim decided once and for all to rent a permanent office for themselves. It was decided that this office could also act as a club for the active members. Also there would always be a secretary who would be paid and who would take care all of the cases for the Bikur Cholim.”

As my great grandfather, or the editor of the Bialystoker Stimme, entitled the article, “Trouble with the Office,” I think that was a fine assessment.  Personally I loved how the store owner gave out free medical passes to his customers.  One way to build a clientele, even though it was not ‘kosher.’  I know that they were trying their best to help their landsmen in need, without using the money needlessly.  Building an office might have seemed that way to them.  But eventually, having a paid secretary made more sense.

The history of the Bialystoker Home For the Aged and the Bialysotker landsmanshaft, immigrant organization, can be found in the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission Report of May 21, 2012. See link below:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/2529.pdf

The part of this story that impacts my great grandfather’s article, is this small section from the report:

“In its first year of existence the Bialystoker Center was located in an old building at 228 East Broadway just few houses down from the basement location of the Bikur Cholim. In 1922-23 it replaced the aging structure with a new five-story headquarters, which included office space not just for its own use but also provided meeting rooms for affiliated associations.”

So I assume the offices that my great grandfather is writing about was this office on 228 East Broadway. Eventually, definitely by 1937 when his article was written, the Bikur Cholim offices were included in the beautiful building that was finished in 1931.

As I have said in earlier articles about my great grandfather,  I am so proud to be his descendant.  Each of these articles brings him to life.

 

Why I Have to Write About Gun Control

3 Sep

It has been a bizarre week in Kansas.   First has been the trial of the man who killed two people at the Jewish Community Campus and one at Village Shalom in April 2014. I know his name, but it is not worth saying. He wants the publicity. He is a sick demented man who was able to get guns and act out on his baseless hatred.

Second it is the anniversary of the killing of five innocent people in a quiet cul de sac. I knew one of them. I saw her brother and sister in law when they came to our synagogue to say Kaddish for her yahrzeit two weeks ago. Her death was shocking, happening just five months after the JCC shootings. I think the entire Kansas City metro was in shock after these two mass killing events.

Finally, it is something her nephew posted. Saying that his aunt was an activist. She was. And she would want us to do something about the gun problem in the United States. And I believe she would.

So I will say something.

I have used a M-16 during target practice. It is a gun meant to use to kill.   I have walked a path along the dorms at Mount Scopus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, holding an Uzi. I was taught to hold it to my hip and spray in a half circle if I needed to shoot. In was 1974. The Yom Kippur War was still on everyone’s mind. And those of us who lived in the dorms had to do guard duty once a month. Usually I held the lantern. But we had to know how to use a gun, just in case the other person was injured or killed.

I know that guns can be used for protection. But I also know that guns can be used to kill. And I do not believe in senseless killing.

I do not think anyone in the 1700’s thought that one day there would be guns that could shot out multiple rounds of bullets in seconds. I do not think that they imagined a nation that exists now. When people do not have to have guns to provide food for their families or that militias no longer are needed. They wrote the Constitution in different times

I believe that people are misinterpreting the Second Amendment because they are unwilling to accept what is needed: stricter gun laws.   The Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The right to bear arms is tied to the need for a militia. We have no need for a militia now. There is no need for all these guns to be out in the public.

I am not against people owning guns for sport, although it is not a sport I am interested in. I do not think that all gun owners would kill innocent people. But we see time after time, guns getting into the wrong hands.

I am sick of the NRA’s intense lobbying of our legislative representatives. And how their gun money is swaying the votes to go against common sense. They do not want regulations; they do not want more background checks; they do not want licenses.

To drive a car in this country, you have to have a license and insurance. You have to pass a test to prove you know how to drive. You should have to take a test to prove you know how to use a gun before you are allowed buy one!!!

To move into an apartment for the first time, you have to have a background check. My son did: to rent an apartment, not even to buy a gun.

But to buy a gun in some states people can just go into a store or go online or go to a gun show and buy a weapon of death. It has become too easy to kill in the USA.

We have seen time after time innocent children and adults going to school, or going to the movies, or perhaps shopping at a mall, or to the gym, or in the case of Susan C. just standing in her driveway at the wrong moment.

When will it stop?

When will we say to the men and women who serve in our state and national legislatures that we will not vote for them if they take money from the gun lobbies?

That is what I plan to do.

I think that enough is enough. Every one of us must make a stand and no longer remain silent. The NRA and gun owners should not be running our Congress. WE, The PEOPLE should be running Congress.

Aging, Wisely and Joyfully

21 Feb

I spoke to my daughter a few days before her 29th birthday (yesterday). She lives in Israel and I live in the Kansas, so we spoke through a video chat. (Always makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the astronaut calls his family from space.) My daughter was bemoaning her advancing age.

“I am going to be old!” She cried. “I am almost 30!”

“That is not old!” I insisted. “Look at me, I am 60. I am not complaining about being old.”

“Well once you are old, you are old!” She said. “I am not old yet, just getting there.”

We both laughed. But the truth is, I do not feel old. I feel pretty wonderful.

I recently participated in a two-day workshop on “Wise Aging” presented by instructors from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Although it was presented in Kansas City, there were participants from through the Midwest. We all learned how to be facilitators in this new program to help people transition in to the next stage of life.

I was surprised when I was called by our rabbi’s wife and asked to participate on behalf of our congregation. But she told me that she thought of me immediately when she realized she could not attend, as I was aging so wonderfully. That was two weeks before my 60th birthday, and I will admit to a bit of concern. But okay, I would do it.

The two-day workshop was intense and exhausting. Fourteen hours of learning and interacting with the other trainees as we attempted to learn about the Wise Aging program, bring this program to life and learn to teach it to others.

I loved the idea of helping people see themselves as elders as opposed to elderly. As we age, we have so much to give to others. We can mentor and teach from our experiences.

There was one part of the program I found distressing. There was much discussion about teaching people how to let go of bitterness and learn to forgive those in their past who might have hurt them. It seems many people, as they age, hold on to old hurts and real or imagined insults.

I say, “let it go.” As does this program. Let go of these feelings because bitterness only makes you feel worse. I am a firm believer of the rule of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur to say I am sorry to any one I might have hurt and to forgive anyone who has hurt me. It is so much easier than carrying all that baggage around. And it makes life so much more joyful.

This workshop opened my eyes to how others see themselves as they age.   Whereas my husband and I are really enjoying our lives as empty nesters, others seem to have a difficult time.

So I say. Go to a lecture. We try to go to a program at least once a week.   There are many free lectures and programs available. Go to a concert. Take a weekend trip if you can. Get a kitten. Having a pet does wonders for people as they age. Travel with friends.

Yes the body starts to give out a little. But exercise is wonderful for keeping your body healthy. You do not have to run marathons like my meshugganah husband. But you can walk. I walk two to three miles almost every day.

Soup

Do something different. Yesterday, in honor of my daughter’s birthday, a friend of mine and I went to the new IKEA store in Kansas. I had not been there yet. We walked all around the showroom and the marketplace and the warehouse. I got lots of walking in and bought a few accessories. Then we went out for a bowl of chicken noodle soup and shared a black and white cookie at a deli. Happiness can be a bowl of soup and a cookie!

Find things that make you happy. And be happy. You have so many experiences to share and so much good to do. Volunteer for an organization you love. Meet new people. Keep being curious. My curiosity has led me to investigate further into my family history and I have found cousins I did not know I had. I love a mystery and solving it. Now I am focus on the mysteries of my family.

There is so much to do and so much more time to do it, now that I no longer have children at home.

So I plan to continue to age wisely and joyfully. I hope my example will help my daughter accept her almost 30 years and age joyfully as well.

Is Lassana Bathily, The French Hero, a Lamed Vovnik?

16 Jan

Since I was a teen, I hoped that I could be a Lamed Vovnik, one of the 36 righteous or just people who keep balance to the world. Of course in Jewish mysticism, the 36 are men. But in my modern mind, I believe that a woman has just as much chance of being one of these 36 special people as any one else.

I first learned of the Lamed Vovnik legend when I read the Holocaust novel, The Last of the Just, by Andre Schwarz-Bart. This book had a tremendous impact on my life. As I read about these two just men and the trials they suffered, I felt a kinship. I felt a need to bring good into the world.

The important belief about the Lamed Vovnik is that these righteous people do not know they are part of this elite group. So I thought, “What if everyone acted as if they were one of the Lamed Vovnik? What if we all practice looking for the good? What if we all do good deeds?”

And that is how I live my life. I try to find something good in everything that happens. Every event is a learning experience. Every one I meet teaches me something.

I focus on the positive, just as I think a righteous person should. I focus on the spark of God that is inside each one of us. I try to do gemulat chasidem, good deeds. I try to work on tikun olam, repairing the world. Just as I think a Righteous Lamed Vovnik would work.

That there are 36 righteous people is important. Each Hebrew letter has a number attached to it. The letters for the number 18 are Het and Yod. These two letters together form the word, Chai, or Life. So many Jewish people present gifts to someone in multiples of 18. There are 36 righteous Lamed Vovnik, which is twice Chai, twice life.

As I watched the events unfolding in France; when I heard of the wonderful deeds of Lassana Bathily, the Muslim worker in the Kosher market, I thought “Could he be a Lamed Vovnik? Could he be bringing balance to the world?”

Think: upstairs in the grocery as Black Muslim man was shooting and killing Jews just because they were Jewish.   He killed four. But two stories below a Black Muslim man was saving Jewish people, hiding them in a freezer. Balance!

Upstairs and man was hiding from the police. Downstairs, a man made the decision to go to the police to tell them about the Jews hiding downstairs. Balance!

He left the building. It took time for the police to believe. And thanks be to God, they did.

With him was a key to the metal gate, as well as in his mind a key to the layout of the store.

Lassana Bathily brought balance, love and righteousness to a horrible situation.

To me he is a Lamed Vovnik, a righteous man. A guttah neshumah, a good soul. And a mensch, a man of high standing.

Baruch Dayan haEmet . May the names of those who perished always be for a blessing. But the name of Lassana Bathily is also a blessing because he provided safety for those who lived. The spark of God within him shines!

Giving Tzedekah is Entwined In The Essence of My Soul

22 Dec

For the past week I have been writing checks. It is the time of year when every charity I have ever donated to sends me reminders. Many of them I give to throughout the year. But at the end of the year, as much as my husband and I are able, I give more: to Harvesters, the food bank; to domestic violence shelter, to organizations that help children; to Jewish charities, to schools. The list goes on and on.

I was taught that you have to give to others. Not just money but time. Volunteering is an important part of my life. In the years when I was not working, I volunteered so much that it seemed I had several jobs. Yes I do have favorite organizations I for which I do most of my volunteering. But there are many that I do one-time events when asked by friends.

My favorite volunteer job is chairing a scholarship committee for the Greater Kansas City Section of National Council of Jewish Women. I became a member of NCJW because of scholarship, and I recently realized that I have been on this committee for almost 30 years. WOW.

As chair, I keep my committee going. Our numbers had fallen. But over the past three years, I have been able to have six or seven new members join. And this past year, I have gone after even younger women. We need continuity. Keeping the scholarship committee alive and well is important to me.

Each year we provide college scholarships for almost 30 students. They come to us first as high school seniors. And if they get our scholarship, they can continue it for all four years of college as long as their grades are relatively good and they still have financial need.

Over the years we have provided many scholarships for students who are the first in their family to go to college. And many have had hardships that make the committee members want to cry. As chair I am fortunate to read all the thank you notes that they send. And see the difference we have made in the lives of these students.

I often wondered when did the importance of volunteering and helping others first become so important to me? I honestly cannot remember a time when I was not involved in something. In high school I was a Candy Striper, a hospital volunteer. In college, I chaired and served on many committees to help others, including the first ever Orientation Committee.

Even my jobs have focused on not for profit work. It is in the essence of my soul.

My father was the president of his synagogue for 11 years. I think this has to be a record! My parents helped people and taught us to care for others. It was important to them that we had a ‘gutah neshama,” a good soul. It was important to be a mensch.

A favorite saying of my Dad’s was “You have to be able to get up in the morning at look at yourself in the mirror, and like what you see.”

Giving to others; understanding Tzedakah, righteousness, was important.

My Grandparents in the Catskills in July  around 1954. It was my Grandma's birthday.

My Grandparents in the Catskills in July around 1954. It was my Grandma’s birthday.

Today I received an email that shook me up in a way and made me realize that the need to do tzedakah came not just from my parents, but also my grandparents.

Through this blog I am in contact with several people who I knew as a child in the Catskills. Several have reached out to me over the year and asked if I remember certain people or places. One reached out to me in the past week. It is someone we knew not only in the Catskills, but in New Jersey as well. His mother is still alive. And he sent me this message:

“…she (his mother) was always grateful to your grandfather for helping my parents out when my brother and I were babies:  Even though the rent on the bungalow was ridiculously cheap, my parents were broke and Mr. Amsterdam (as she still calls him) let my parents pay out the summer rent through the entire winter a little bit at  a time. Otherwise we would have been stuck in steamy Hudson County.“

I have to be honest, I cried.   My grandparents were very quiet people. But I already knew that during the Great Depression, they allowed many people to buy groceries and bread from their bakery on credit, even though they knew they would not be paid. My Mom told us the story of people coming back years later to pay their debts.

But I never knew that they had allowed people to pay off the summer rent during the year. This was a major mitzvah. The cities in the early 1950s were not safe for children in the summer time; it was the season of polio.

I always knew my grandparents were righteous people.   And I know now that giving tzedekah is entwined in the essence my soul from my parents and my grandparents.