Caffeinated musings on my place within Judaism, feminism and community. Pontification on political and social topics. Definitely not decaf.

09 November 2006

Blue Moves

…which happens to be the title of one of my favorite Elton John albums. While “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” got the most airplay, I think some of the bluesy songs (“Where’s the Shoorah?”) and the moving “Someone’s Final Song” are far better.

But that’s not the blue moves I was thinking of. And it’s not Cookie Monster dancing with the letter “C” on “Sesame Street” either.

No, I’m thinking of the blue moves this country is finally experiencing, B”H. Like Churchill after WWII, we’ve been in the wilderness years since 2001. The damage this country has experienced with the rise of the Conservative Right – the corruption, the disregard for human life, the vitrol and bile they’ve unleashed – will take us years to overcome.

Reading Dov Bear’s post on the subject, I agree that holding Democratic feet to the fire is also in order. After all, they’re every bit as fallible as the Republicans.

There’s a new wind blowing. I just hope it doesn’t somehow manage to snag that GOP sulfuric smell of taint and corruption too.

Still, whether it’s a referendum on the current administration, Iraq, Ted Haggard, Haliburton, Karl Rove (file under evil), Cheney (“Don’t you have a hunting trip scheduled?”) and Rummy (“Yes, Virginia, the war is going very well.”), I really don’t care. That Tom Friedman in the NY Times exhorted Americans to show Washington that they’re not as stupid as Shrub, Cheney and Rummy think we are, finally came out. I’d like to think that American’s aren’t all stupid or asleep at the switch. Perhaps they’re finally wakening from years to stupor to vote intelligently again – or a least not against their best interests.

So, I’m one who wants to return to discussing – and doing something about values and common decency. Gee, not only the GOP has a lock on values and being a mensch. Seems to me people of faith – whatever their religion – might just share some common views – although you’d never know it if you listen to James Dobson. I wonder what Jesus or Buddha or Muhammed would say? Maybe they’d agree with me on:
Ÿ ending the cycle of poverty
Ÿ securing a livable minimum wage that’s tied to inflation indexes
Ÿ making sure the rich don’t weasel out of paying their fair share – including estate taxes
Ÿ making sure the middle class doesn't sink lower, lose jobs and end up at the bottom of the heap
Ÿ providing for people’s basic human needs
Ÿ ensuring that all children have access to a decent daycare and education
Ÿ taking care of our planet by halting global warming and cutting the use of fossil fuels
Ÿ providing people with universal healthcare
Ÿ making our world safer by controlling who gets to have and use guns

OK, there might be some differences in the religious philosophies, but I doubt you can judge any religion by the extremists who think they have a lock hold on what’s right and their G-d on speed dial. Last time I checked, most religions had some sort of “do unto others” policy. Now’s a good time to remember this commonality that we share. It’s time we, together, aim to restore respectful and civil discourse.

Aside from politics (ok, thinking about politics), work and graduate school, there’s not much time for anything else. I'm not cooking or baking all that much these days but I did just make pretty decent tandoori chicken. How to make it kosher you ask, since it usually calls for butter and yoghurt? Mix the paste and spices (whatever your recipe calls for) along with parve margarine and Tofutti parve sour cream in a plastic zipper bag. Let it marinate for a day or so in the fridge. Then when you put the chicken in the pan, all you have to do is toss the bag and no mess. Serve with some basmati rice and something green (got to be healthy after all) and you have a rather nice and Internationally-inspired dinner.

As for family, the DH, Mr. local head of a Jewish organization, is getting flack, pushback and too much tsuris for being too Jewish – or trying to take the organization in that direction. Don’t even get me started on the whole embarrassment or self-hating thing that some people feel. Get over it. The role of a Jewish organization is to be…Jewish.

And #1 and #2 have no idea what’s coming (b’shaa tova) just after Pesah…#3. G-d willing the amnio will be OK. That keeps me up at night. That, at the nausea. Oh, and the fear of preterm labor and going on bedrest again...

So a post wouldn’t be complete without something food related. I did buy two wonderful new baking books recently: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my Home to Yours and John Ettinger’s Bob's Red Mill Baking Book: More Than 400 Recipes Featuring Whole & Healthy Grains. No time to try them…but I can read them and imagine what they goodies might taste like. No calories in that. Also, Claudia Roden has a new book out, Arabesque: A Taste of Turkey, Morocco and Lebanon, which is on my Hanukkah list. Anything with an eggplant on the cover is on my list.

And, here’s what #1 requested instead of a birthday cake. Smart girl. Intense chocolate served warm with freshly whipped cream. What could be bad?

CHOCO-HOTO-POTS Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Time: 30 minutes Yield: 4 generous servings.

Butter for ramekins
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
¾ cup superfine sugar (I use regular sugar and it’s just fine)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup white chocolate chips – or you can experiment…candied ginger, dried cherries, dried apricots with a tablespoon of brandy, dark chocolate chips…or even nothing and it’s just fine

Place baking sheet in 400-degree oven. Butter four ⅔-cup ramekins and set aside. (I also spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.)
Melt together the semisweet chocolate and the butter. I do this in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, sugar and flour. Add cooled chocolate mixture, and mix until blended. Fold in white chips – or other your choice.
Divide mixture evenly among ramekins and place on baking sheet. Bake until tops are shiny and cracked and chocolate beneath is hot and gooey, about 20 minutes. Place each ramekin on a small plate with a teaspoon and serve, reminding everyone that ramekins and chocolate are hot.

Since I cannot have sushi, feta or a glass of wine just now, seems to me one can never have too much chocolate...especially now.

01 September 2006

Null and Void...and Chocolate

Apologies to Step Ima for adding this to her comments and then posting it here. After I finished putting it down, thought I’d share it.

With wedding number #2, B"H nothing went wrong. (Aside from the minor b'dekin in: don't have one. Oops…didn’t know.)

  • Va'ad had no problem with the food; the menu was great.
  • The bentschers had no typos
  • My red dress was fabulous and my gold shoes were great. I could even dance in spite of having foot surgery less than three weeks before.
  • Oh, and there was even a wonderfully handsome groom.

However, wedding #1 had a massive crisis.

Not the outdoor reception a rain. Glad we had the tent. OK, that wasn't the biggie.

No, it was our ketubah. I had my heart set on working with a big name ketubah artist from back east. We were getting married on the opposite coast.

I wanted a particular style in the shape of a Sephardi amulet ringed with quotes from Shir ha Shirim.

Problem #1: we (I - since ex didn't care and didn't chip in a cent) obviously weren't spending enough because the design was whittled down and down. Can't spring for real gold, ok, I'll give you some gold poster paint. Can't do the full illumination 'cause it's not in your budget, ok, I'll throw in a couple of flowers.

Problem #2: But wait, it's Thursday before the Sunday wedding. The ketubah should be waiting, tucked in a safe place. Frantic call (first of many) to the artist. Um, he's just finishing it and we'll have it on time – he’ll FedEx'd overnight. Not to worry.


Friday – all day – nothing. Not a knock on the door from the FedEx guy. Just lots of calls to the artist.

That evening I sulked and stressed through the "rehearsal" dinner. No Shabbat dinner for my ex's family. An Orthodox wedding was bad enough for them. Notice a pattern here. I should have re-enacted that scene from "The Graduate" and gone off to find my Dustin Hoffman.

Saturday. Let's just say that the parents spent all day on the phone calling FedEx and after Shabbat dealing with the artist.

From him we got a minor apology. He marked the ketubah for Saturday delivery but Fed Ex listed it for Monday. Um. The wedding's on Sunday.

We went up the chain of command at FedEx and volunteered to pay for a first class ticket (really!) if they could find it and put it on a plane. They couldn't. This one manager understood the importance as she got a Papal blessing from Rome for her wedding and promised to move heaven and earth to get it to us. To no avail.

Saturday night my sister and I went to the art supply store. We bought a big piece of poster board, some handmade marbled paper and a length of ribbon. We then photocopied the practice text we had and made a do-it-yourself-ketubah.

There were many phone calls later that night to our rabbi (who was driving 200 miles the next day to perform the wedding in my parents’ city), the artist (who really blew off that he caused such tsuris) and FedEx.

Sunday the wedding arrived.

Our rabbi brought a backup, paper fill-in-the-blank ketubah, which he ultimately used. We taped this over the decorated version my sister and I made. The whole thing was hideous and made for an interesting story – years later.

The ketubah arrived, as promised, Monday afternoon.

Now the pièce de resistance. We provided the artist with our Hebrew names, family names etc. Our rav proofed the photocopy, made corrections and we sent it off to the artist in plenty of time.
When we finally saw the finished product (nice but not what I'd imagined), my name, in big blue letters, was WRONG! I was listed as XX bat XX ha'mishphacha XX.

No Mr. Big Deal Artist. Read the photocopy. My name is XX bat XX ha Kohen.

It’s not that I was waiting for my portion from the Kohen Gadol, but there's something about having the right name on a legal document. Especially one that was to have been framed and hung prominently in our home.

Too bad when I was fighting for the divorce I couldn't have pulled out the faulty ketubah and said "See, this contract is void - it's got the wrong name."

So, when DH and I began considering our ketubah, it was a big deal. We worked with a LOCAL (AMAZING...can't say enough positive about this person) artist and spent an ungodly fortune (worth every single cent and which included free marriage counseling from the artist..."Now, you got to choose the color on that part, it's time to share. Let him pick the color on this part.")

When we went to pick it up before the wedding, we were so blown away we both were speechless and teary. It's our most prized (physical) possession and it sums up all that is beautiful and positive in our marriage.

Oh, and the other ketubah? It's still in the original FedEx container in the basement. What does one do with an unused, slightly wrong, illuminated document?

In case you’re wondering…and back on a food related note, this was our wedding luncheon menu. All the recipes came from my cookbooks are were all things I made regularly. I’d wanted to cater it myself. DH said he wouldn’t go through with the wedding if I did. Wise man.

  • Roasted vegetables (peppers, eggplant, etc.)
  • Various cheeses (including a decent kosher brie)
  • Couscous salad with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries
  • Green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
  • Breads (rustic rosemary, potato, sesame…)
  • Roasted salmon with romesco sauce (from the gotta-have NY Times Passover Cookbook by Linda Amster)
  • Basil-ricotta tart (from the amazing Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman)
  • And a tower of little chocolate cherry cakes from Gourmet Magazine. Recipe follows…

Little Chocolate Cherry Cakes Gourmet February 1996 Makes 6 little cakes. (Oh, and you can make this parve without compromising too much on the taste)

½ cup (2½ ounces) dried sour cherries (or dried apricots or candied orange or candied ginger)
¼ cup eau-de-vie de framboise or other raspberry liqueur (I use kosher brandy)
3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
confectioners' sugar for sifting over cakes
Preheat oven to 350°F. and generously butter six ½ cup muffin tins.

In a small saucepan simmer cherries in liqueur, stirring, until all liquid is evaporated and let cool.
In a double boiler or in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk in granulated sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add flour and salt, stirring until just combined, and fold in cherries.

Divide batter among muffin tins and bake in middle of oven about 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Turn cakes out onto a rack and cool. Cakes keep at room temperature in an airtight container 4 days.

Cut out a 1¼” paper heart and center on a cake. Sift confectioners' sugar over cake and carefully remove heart. Sift sugar over remaining cakes in same manner. Most importantly...enjoy!

11 August 2006

Kosher Kona Coffee

Family vacations and family dynamics don't mix. Good thing there's good coffee to numb the pain.

Topics currently under consideration: how to be a Jew in paradise? Apparently paradise is somewhere west of Yiddenville. Although the local grocery store has a kosher section (a couple of jars of gefilte fish - in the land of nothing but fish, soup mix and Kedem grape juice) and the natural food store down the way has loads of hechsered stuff, it's not like one can wake up and wander to the closest shul. Makes for a long Shabbos. And, don't even get me started when um, more intimate halachic issues are involved.

But, those problems aside (sushi is great here and the Kona coffee keeps Tall Latte fully caffeinated), it's been a nice vacation. Well...except for...

  • DH's phone and email going constantly thanks to the ongoing problems at home - and a few new anti-Semetic incidents to keep him on his toes.
  • Sunburns, sun rash, and too much sun
  • Tons of research for my paper not getting done
  • Overtired kids
  • And the piece de resistance: family mishegas

This trip was to celebrate my parents' big anniversary. Rather than a party, they brought all the kids and grandkids to the tropics for a get-together. They rented a lovely house which accommodated everyone and they paid for the flights. Now, I get to pay for the therapy.

It’s tough when parents play favorites. It’s tough when it’s so obvious when they praise certain grandchildren and not others or all equally. It’s tough when they express appreciation for everything for some of their kids and in-laws and not others.

There’s something about hearing your spouse being criticized for working too much. “Why can’t he let someone else do it? Why can’t he unplug? Why is he always working?”

Um maybe because people are counting on him – the Jewish people are counting on him – and because he’s dedicated to what he does? Gee, a little praise for all that he’s doing rather than kvetching might be a start.

There’s something about hearing that one sibling is “more Jewish” so any questions have to be asked only of that one sibling. DH is wearing a hat to cover his head and that’s too affected. Other members of the family are wearing kippot – but that’s OK.

There’s something about hearing another grandchild referred to as “my special one” in front of your own child, who then turns to you and says, “I used to be the special one.” It breaks your heart.

So, what have I learned from this experience?
1. No more family vacations with the ganse mishpocha…the psychological damage is just too great for those in MY family – DH, kids and myself. I cannot allow my family to be subjected to passive aggressive BS, favoritism and constant criticism. This was supposed to be a fun family vacation not a gripe session.
2. Time vacations better to minimize personal halachic concerns…but then, I said this last year, too…
3. Enjoy paradise (snorkel gear, check; sunscreen, double check; aloe for the sunburn, triple check) but figure out how to balance the tropical life with the Torah life.

01 August 2006

But I play one on TV

So if I want to see DH these days I have to log on to the ‘net, read the paper or turn on the TV. While it’s great that he’s bringing attention to the very real issue of security for our Jewish institutions, it’s not so great in terms of being a spouse and parent.

Example: tomorrow we’re all supposed to leave for a family vacation. It’s been planned for a year. The siblings, nephews and parents are all converging in a tropical locale for some togetherness, R&R and cousin bonding time. I’ve even prepared in advance of said family time by scheduling a session with my counselor upon my return. How’s that for planning.

Example: grad school doesn’t stop in the summer. I have a major theory paper due at the end of the month. So much for collaboration as my topic as discussed before. It was back to the drawing board and on to leadership, since that’s the topic I’m teaching in October. Made sense to “double dip” vis à vis the research. Plus there’s this new book I really wanted to get on Jewish approaches to leadership. Since I was originally interested in the topic of servant leadership, as one theory, here's my chance to look for Jewish alternatives and approaches to leadership.

Example: bedtimes. #1 and #2 would stay up all night. Only Abba can get them into bed before midnight. But if Abba isn't around, some how threatening, cajoling, bribing and pleading doesn't seem to do the trick. I can't convince either #1 or #2 to get some sleep so on the morrow they won't be threatening, cajoling, bribing and pleading with me on every single subject.

Now looking at our community...

Tragedies have the potential to bring out the best in people – and the worst. You read about these situations (hopefully more good than bad) each day in Jewish press. No surprises there. We all know the media will drop a story as soon as something more flashy or sordid comes along.

But, back home, we're all left holding the bag – and each other. I can only hope that in the days, weeks and months ahead our community can reassess and reprioritize. As I sit here, on the cusp of Tisha B'Av, I remember some childhood stories: Kamsa and Bar Kamsa and the one about feathers and lashon hara. I also comfort in the tale of two brothers. Obviously the first two are cautionary tales: don't do this at home folks. The third illustrates and reminds us of our potential. It's how we should act – even if, too often, we miss the mark.

Even though we're tired here, stretched thin and doing our best to pull together, may we focus our efforts on acting like those two brothers. If we have any hope of achieving peace and learning to understand each other, this is the only way.

30 July 2006

No Words

People say all the time, "I thought it could never happen here." And then it does.

I'm left in that painful, speechless, clueless zone. I'm standing there now, trying to make sense of what happened just before Shabbat here in Latteland. If you haven’t heard what’s happened, read here.

It was one of those crazy afternoons. DH, child #1 and I were just at my office ready to collect child #2 from daycare across the street. We were heading out of town to go 200 miles to the south to be with family for Shabbat and the weekend.

And then DH – the Jewish professional – got the call. He swore and paled. I heard the words "shooting" and "Federation." And I just assumed it was in some other city.

It was in my town.

Of course we headed back to his office, our phones immediately ringing off the hook. The press, both local and national, other community leaders, rabbis and more. He fought to keep up and keep abreast of the developing tragedy. The person was still at large and the scene was unfolding.

So what does one do in this situation? DH held up multiple phones and sat at his desk (when not pacing) emailing and answering the deluge. I put my PR hat back on and wrote up a press release based on the little I knew. Oh, and I found candy and chocolate, dried fruit and soda and tried to ply the kids and keep them quiet in the chaos.

DH joined community leaders to stand vigil. He was just having lunch with two of the victims only a few hours earlier at the site. We knew each of the victims and he was especially close with several.

Shortly after candlelighting – at least I think so since time became a blurr – I dropped DH at the hospital and took the girls home. We didn't bring in Shabbat as we normally do but somehow, just being together, sitting on the bed reading stories and letting them know that we were going to make sure they were safe felt right.

DH stumbled in at nearly 4 AM and the media and community leaders began calling at 7. National officials, major networks, local reporters. It was a zoo and DH stepped back into it an hour later.

I attempted to keep the children focused on our regular routine. We had our cereal and got ready to walk to shul. Child #1 kept asking all sorts of questions, which I tried to answer in an age appropriate way and child #2 just kept calling for "abba."

Shul was, understandably, packed. We were supposed to be having a celebratory kiddush luncheon. Instead people huddled together and spoke quietly about the victims. In a small community, and amongst my friends, everybody knows everybody.

DH continued to work like a maniac all day and into the night. If he got more than three hours' sleep over both nights I'll be surprised.

I've tried to do my best to help him field press inquiries, read over and rewrite statements he's drafted, run interference and pass him notes and make hand signals to keep him focused and on point when speaking to assembled crowds and reporters.

And now what? We wait to make sure those injured have a complete recovery. We gather on Monday to say goodbye to one of the victims. We begin to think about our community’s healing – and our longer-term plans for our collective security.

As we struggle through these next few days that are "within the straits" (bein hametzarim), what else can we do? Should we do?

We should hug our children, grasp the outstretched hands of our friends and look to the future. What else can we do? Sadly, we must recognize that it can – and it does – happen here – and we must work together to do our best to ensure that it won’t happen again. It’s important to remember Kol Yisrael aravim zeh bazeh.

Hamakom yinechem otam.

27 July 2006

Hazek Shalom

Watch this video. (Here's the link to Voices for Israel in case you need to plug it in...

Grab a tissue and be stregthened.

26 July 2006

Lavender Shortbread

Remember that old Burl Ives' Disney song "Lavender's blue dilly dilly...?" Somehow whenever I think of lavender, that childhood memory comes to mind.

I made this shortbread for Shabbat to serve with sorbet. DO NOT MAKE THIS PARVE. There's just no point as shortbread is all about the butter. I found this recipe online from the Herbfarm cookbook.

2 sticks unsalted chilled butter
4 tsp. fresh lavender, or 2 tsp. dried
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour (spooned and leveled, not tamped down)

Remove butter from fridge 15 minutes before starting.

Use a blender or clean coffee grinder to blend lavender and sugar until fine.

Transfer the lavender sugar to a mixing bowl and add butter. Beat on low until you can't feel any lumps of butter when you roll some of it between your fingers, but DON'T beat till fluffy. Add the flour all at once and beat on low just until it forms a cohesive dough.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, press into rectangular shape, and dust top with flour. Roll into 12 x 9 inch rectangle. (You can roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper.)

Cut into squares or other shapes. Put cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1/2" between them. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to let dough rest.

Bake at 300 until cookies are lightly colored, but not browned, 22-25 minutes. Let cookies cool completely on pan before storing.

Cook's Notes: You can make this with other herbs such as rosemary or lemon thyme. And considering my absolute love of rosemary (and that there's lots growing in a pot by the front of the house), that's next on the to-try list.

Serve with sorbet and some fresh fruit and call it good.

Flags and Straps

So, last Sunday’s Support Israel community-wide rally was not as good as I hoped. But, since I’m married to the rally’s main organizer, perhaps I’m a tad too critical.

First a beef about professional Jewish organizations, their structure and their management (or lack thereof). In a nutshell, most Jewish nonprofits in this community are poorly organized and bloated. They run on past glories and the pocketbooks of a few key players. Of course, since those powerful few hold the purse strings, well, you can fill in the blanks.

The annual big-deal events may bring out the dressy duds and diamonds, there’s still a vacuous quality to the interaction. I know, ‘cause I used to attend those fancy-schmancy parties. And, I quit. And, basically quit giving my money to an umbrella organization.

Why, you might ask.

Because there’s something inherent in Jewish organizations that related to being Jewish, living Jewishly, doing Jewishly and knowing shtickel of something about being a Jew.

I got burned out trying to coordinate Jewish consciousness and education from the inside of a major organization. People wanted to party, write a check and pat themselves on their backs. I’m convinced you need to have a basis in who we are as a people and what are our core beliefs before you pull out the checkbook.

True, there are many local, national and international organizations – large and small – that play a role in this community. But is there a single organization that speaks as the voice for the community. Apparently there is…and it does a lousy job.

Our local Jewish newspaper is improving. Thanks to JTA, our paper is now a step above a Federation rag. But, considering its small circulation, it’s not the singular voice.

There are several big deal organizations in town (the group formerly known as Aish, the ADL, Chabad, etc.). They all do tremendous things and provide immeasurable benefit to the community as a whole. Yet, they do not speak for everyone.

And, since we all know that two Jews = three opinions, of course there's no way in the world a single organzation can be the voice of an entire community – no matter how much any one organization wishes to take on that role.

So, where does that leave me? As an individual I struggle with finding my place in the community and building my own community within the larger one.

But where does this leave the broader community? Somewhere slightly west of nowhere. I mean, here there are something like 45,000 Jews. And how many are affiliated? Less than half.

Why is this? Demographers (pundits, voices of gloom and doom and naysayers) of many stripes, watchdogs and outreach groups (e.g., JOI) have all sorts of reasons. Some communities – Atlanta for example – are growing and affiliation is being strengthened. It seems like in many places – outside of the mainstream Orthodox communities – opposite is true

OK, I'm probably doing a disservice to gazillions of R and C Jews out there. But, the numbers (à la Neusner's Jerusalem Post article), intermarriage rates and shul membership stats speak for themselves.

I way digress... Let's get back to the topic at hand: the recent Support Israel rally.

When the first bombs started falling and we glued ourselves to our televisions watching with concern and horror, my DH, as a professional Jewish professional stepped up and said we – the community – needed to come together. A rally. That’s what we needed, he said.

And, so, since others in the community were slower on the uptake, DH took on the task – nearly single-handedly. Working nights until 1 and 2 AM (I know ‘cause I was up doing OT for work and research for school), being bombarded on Shabbat with calls and emails…he made the calls, coordinated with the press, got the speakers and much more.

Honestly, while I was/am tremendously proud of him, I was also pissed. He was nearly completely absentee for a week, scattered, over worked and non participatory.

And then…

Next thing we know, the 1,000 lb. gorilla (AKA the federation) took over, took the glory and took the credit. Anyway, he was the one doing some serious negotiation between the various factions (Brit Tzedek on the far left, AIPAC as well as other groups on the right). He was the one going into the office right after Shabbos ended and working like a dog until after the rally.

Like a mama bear protecting her cub, I was pissed. Here he was taking time from the family and from all of his other responsibilities. He was destroying our Shabbat with his crushing workload. And he was busting his tuches for someone else to take the communal kudos. It probably didn’t help that I busted his chops because I was upset for him but too it out on him.

Here’s my post-mortem assessment of the + and ∆ (delta or improvements needed).

First the positives:
+ Wet. Lots of cold water was passed out for the crowd. Constantly. It was over 90F, bright and sunny.
+ Religiously connected. Rabbi XXX from one of the main O shuls ROCKED!!! An amazing talk tying the three weeks and being “in the straits” to the current situation. It was emotional, had gravitas and made me want to say “amen” at the end.
+ Positively political. US Congressman Dave Reichert showed up and spoke... other elected officials didn't
+ Peaceful...the far left had their signs, banners and slogans but police kept the various groups separate. There was no violence like there was 4 years ago.

Now the let’s-do-better-next-time:
∆ Size:
Crowd was too small. Police estimate 2,200. What's the excuse people?! You have nowhere else you need to be on a sunny Sunday other than at the rally! I mean this town has 45,000 Jews – and 2,200 show up? A shonda.
∆ Speakers: Were lame and too wordy. Even the Jewish organizational folks the so-called planners (read: not my spouse) lined up and touted as “great speakers” were nebishy. Feh. One interfaith speaker is exempt from my scourge.
∆ Ending: Weak. Weak. Weak. When it was all said and done, I shared my assessment with DH. I said we needed to get someone to grab the mic (a group of kids, maybe?) to say "repeat after me: Am Yisrael Chai!" or something to pump up the crowd and send them off home feeling energized, connected and personally committed to taking a stand. Instead it was “blah blah thanks blah blah” and the crowd petered out. OK, so we couldn’t sing Hatikvah since we’re in the three weeks. But we could chant, clap, pound our feet, pump it up and get people motivated. Take a stand people. Write your elected officials. Show your support visibly. Get on a plane to Eretz Yisrael. Read a blog. Buy Israeli products. Eat a falafel…whatever it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder and in solidarity with Am Yisrael.

But, to end this rant on a positive note…here's the most amazing thing that happened at the rally.
Earlier that morning, DH and I were sitting on the stairs for a brief moment. We were trying to connect between the mishegas of planning and frantic emails. Anyway, we (I) started to discuss tefillin. I said I wanted to buy him a pair and DH said he's not ready.

Here I am, much more observant than my ex (who said he was going to be shomer mitzvot with me...and didn't...which explains the ex factor). Here I am, somewhat more observant than my DH. What’s up with me and partners who are not on my level?

Why, you might ask, did I not marry someone within the mainstream O community?

I ask myself the same thing. But the pool was small and the people I met were politically and socially very different (i.e., they were somewhere to the right stuck in 1954 and I was a million miles to the left.)

When I met DH, it was a real "click." And he has moved way closer to where I stand...He’s moved from being a lawyer and civil rights activist to business person to a high techie and now to "professional Jew."

But, even though he’s a “professional Jew,” he’s still not a full-time, shomer mitzvot professional Jew. And he tells me he’s not ready to go there yet. (Which explains some of my synagogue and observance related travails. But, again, I digress.)

So at the end of the rally I gathered water bottles, snacks, flags, kids and sunscreen as DH walked across the lawn to meet one of the new Chabad rabbis in town. He'd wanted to make professional contact anyway. The were closing down a table where they were helping people lay tefillin.

I said to dear DH, “Hey we were just talking about this. Why not go do it?” His response, somewhat based on embarrassment was a mumbled “another time.”

Of course, being the nudgy Chabad rabbi that he was, he managed to coax, guilt, entice and cajole DH into rolling up his sleeve.

The funny thing was that DH put out his arm and I called out stop: wrong arm. The rabbi looked up and said that he was a lefty too. Probably kinda weird for the wife to butt in here but…

How meaningful it was to watch DH lay tefillin for the first time since his bar mitzvah. At least I think he lay tefillin for his bar mitzvah. I looked over and the girls were also watching. Now, that was a high after the rally. That made it all worthwhile.