Rendefining You

We change.  I am very glad I am not the same person I was when I was 10, although my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sweatsuit would probably be considered cool vintage.  My point is, we change.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to wake up one day and realize “I’m not that person anymore.”  It’s hard to let go of something that may have identified you for many years.  It’s also hard for the people around you to accept your change.  Sadly, you will lose friends, people close to you may soon seem a world away.

Change in coming (in my best Game of Thrones voice).  Many will be small changes, but there will be big ones.  My most recent change was my job.  I spent 12 years as a Journalist.  I love everything about being a journalist.  So why did I leave it?  Why did I walk away from a big job offer in Washington, D.C.?  I am married to the military and it’s a career killer, I was sick of starting over every time we moved.  I would not be staying in D.C. forever.  Wherever we went next, would be a step back in my career.  So, I went for the government job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my new job.  I am finally getting paid what I am worth, I work normal hours, I get holidays off… all things I didn’t get as a journalist.  I will say this, journalism is not about money.  It’s about getting to the truth and holding those in power accountable for their actions.  That’s not what I was doing anymore.  So I changed.  I am back in grad school and now working for the government in Public Relations.

Now I am redefining myself.  How do I want to spend the next 5, 10 years of my life?  What are my new career ambitions?  New goals?  What is important to me now.

What is your change?  What is holding you back from the new you?  How do you want to redefine yourself?


Goodbye (sorta) Facebook 

You can’t make a comment anymore without someone getting on your case.  As if your comment is the result of exhaustive research and analysis… someone gives you the third degree.  For crying out loud, I just wanted to post a feeling… make a comment… express myself without getting attacked.  Good luck with that these days.  

Facebook has become a place for faceless abuse.  You will never see me… so why not get nasty? Go ahead, I can take it.  Well not everyone can, and frankly, I’m over it.  I found myself complaining about the social media wonder…then I realized…I can simply log off.  So I Uninstalled Facebook from my phone.  While I still subscribe, I have cut one of the major arteries.  Facebook itself has a lot of great qualities… I can’t say the same for everyone I have encountered on the site. 

So what’s the point of my rant? Be nice. It’s just Facebook.  So relax everyone.  If you find yourself getting fired up about something… log off, have a cup of tea and watch Game of Thrones.

Friends with the enemy?

Throughout history, Jews and Muslims notoriously do not get along.   Even today, it’s a major issue.  Look at the attacks in Paris, the constant fighting between Israel and the West Bank.  Maybe it’s because I am a convert, that I don’t understand this hatred.  Recently I have acquired a new friend.  She is a good friend.  She is a great friend.  She is Muslim.  We talk about religion.  It’s always an open, understanding, accepting conversation.  Isn’t that the way it should be?  Why is it that two women in a small North Carolina city can figure this out, but world leaders cannot?  I guess my point in writing about this, is that, it amazes me how two people who are supposed to hate each other- don’t.  It’s because we don’t let history speak for out future.  Mutual respect.  That’s what we have.  And that’s what we can be friends.

Being Jewish In America When Everyone Has an Opinion on the Israel-Gaza Conflict

It’s hard to be Jewish anywhere in the world right now. I have basically kept my mouth shut. There is so much to the story of Israel and Gaza. It is quite literally biblical. Israel isn’t fighting the children of Gaza. Israel is fighting the Hamas. A terrorist group. A group that sets up its rocket launchers right next to U.N. school, who little use the children as human shields. It’s ok, there is evidence out there to back me up on this. Guess what. Jews feel for the Palestinian children too. At Temple, for the Mi Shebeirach, we pray for healing for both sides of the conflict. Most people outside the Jewish community probably don’t know that. I don’t have the answers, and I certainly don’t pretend too. Don’t take everything on Facebook at face value. Do some research. Educate yourself. There have been so many anti-Semitic things that have happened. It’s scary. Rabbi’s getting killed in Florida…. Swastikas burned into hamburger buns at McDonalds…. Graffiti with hate speech in cream cheese. Open up your hearts, your eyes and your minds.

Cleaning out the Christmas closet

So we just moved.  I have discovered, yet again, that we have a ton of junk!  We have pending house guest next week, so we have been working extra hard to get things put away.  Goodwill will be getting another visit from me tomorrow with an assortment of cloths, blankets and other odds and ends that we just don’t need.  Among those goodies… Christmas stuff.  I never had tons of Christmas stuff.  I am more of a Halloween girl.  Today I sorted out a box with a lot of my old Christmas items that were stored in a closet.  Some of the items are gift baskets and things like that.  Donate, Donate, Donate.  I can hear my mother having a fit right now.  I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore really.  Obviously, I will probably got to Christmas parties for friends and family.  But in this house, we just don’t celebrate. 

Recently I have decided that I am not going to celebrate an event based on the other people I am with.  Let me explain: Recently a friend of mine got married.  I wrote “Mazel Tov!” on her card.  My husband said “She isn’t Jewish”.  So?  Dozens of people gave us Christian themed cards at our wedding, with writings such as “We will pray to Jesus for you” (not even kidding).  So why on earth should I lessen my beliefs?  Why should anyone?  We will no doubt get a slew of Christmas cards.  I will be sending out Chanukah cards.  When the holidays roll around, I will receive Christmas gifts, and I will give Chanukah gifts. 

And no one seems to care.  Wishing someone happiness is always a good thing.  Regardless if it come in wedding card with a cross on it, a Mazel Tov written in it, a Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah.  We can embrace our own beliefs and still respect others

Anti-Semitic fliers in eastern Ukraine denounced

Link to CNN video report

(CNN) — U.S. officials Thursday denounced what one called a “grotesque” leaflet ordering Jews in one eastern Ukrainian city to register with a government office, but the Jewish community there dismissed it as a “provocation.”

The fliers were handed out by masked men in front the main synagogue in Donetsk, where pro-Russian protesters have declared a “People’s Republic,” Jewish leaders there said. The document warned the city’s Jews to register and document their property or face deportation, according to a CNN translation of one of the leaflets.

Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that a respected Jewish leader in Ukraine showed him a photograph of one of the leaflets. He called the document “chilling.”

And in Geneva, where diplomats held emergency talks on the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the leaflets “grotesque” and “beyond unacceptable.”

But the Jewish community statement said relations between the Jews of Donetsk and their neighbors were amicable, and the self-proclaimed head of the “People’s Republic,” Denis Pushilin, denied any connection to the fliers.

Pushilin told CNN the handwriting on the flier wasn’t his, and the title attached to his name was not one he uses. It wasn’t clear who had distributed the leaflets, but the chief rabbi of nearby Dnipropetrovsk said, “Everything must be done to catch them.”

“It’s important for everyone to know its not true,” said the rabbi, Shmuel Kaminezki. “The Jews of Donetsk will not do what the letter says.”

The reports come as Ukraine’s Western-backed interim government has been struggling to contain uprisings by pro-Russian political movements in several eastern cities, with both sides invoking the historical horror of Nazism in their disputes. Pyatt told CNN that radical groups may be trying to stir up historic fears or create a provocation to justify further violence.

“It’s chilling. I was disgusted by these leaflets,” Pyatt said. “Especially in Ukraine, a country that suffered so terribly under the Nazis, that was one of the sites of the worst violence of the Holocaust. To drag up this kind of rhetoric is almost beyond belief.”

The leaflets were handed out on Tuesday, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Jewish community statement said. They stated that registration was required because Jewish leaders had supported the “nationalists and bandits” in Kiev, where a popular revolt ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

“All citizens of Jewish nationality over age of 16, living on territories of Donetsk People’s Republic, have to register with DPR commissioner of nationality before May 3rd, 2014 at the Donetsk Regional Administration, room 514, registration fee is $50,” read a photographed copy of the leaflet translated by CNN. “Must have in person $50 cash, passport, all available IDs, and documentation of ownership of real estate and transportation.”

The men also hung posters with the same message, it said.

“Who is behind this is an open question,” Rabbi Pinkhas Vishedski said in the statement. But he said the act was a provocation “and should be treated accordingly … full stop and end of topic.”

Provocation or not, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League condemned their distribution and what it called their “cynical and politically manipulative” exploitation of anti-Semitism.

“We are skeptical about the flier’s authenticity, but the instructions clearly recall the Nazi era and have the effect of intimidating the local Jewish community,” ADL Director Abraham Foxman said in a written statement.

Pyatt said that in Kiev, where the Jewish community is a vital part of political life, there is “no sympathy for this approach.”

“It’s almost inconceivable that this kind of thing could be happening in the 21st century,” Pyatt said.

And Kerry said all parties at the Geneva talks unanimously condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance.

“Any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities — from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of — there is no place for that,” he said.

CNN Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Happy Jew-nnivarsary to me!

As I am sitting here thinking about what to write… I realize that I have officially been Jewish for one year.  With the excitement of Seder and my husbands birthday, I completely forgot about my own little milestone.  On April 14, 2013 I converted.  A friend of my husbands handled my conversion.  It was nothing short of amazing.  It happened in San Diego, California.. on the beach… my mikvah was the ocean.  My ceremony was like many others, including a panel of three Rabbis: Rabbi Newman, Rabbi Josh and Rabbi Gabriella.  Rabbi Gabriella sang.  I can’t remember the song, but it was beautiful.  After the ceremony on the beach, I headed to the ocean,  My husband came with me.  The water was freezing.  It had been a cold miserable weekend in San Diego.  The waves hit me hard and cold, nearly knocking the wind right out of me.  It was amazing.  You are only supposed to go under 3 times.  I went under 4.  Why?  Well because during one of my dunks, I wasn’t sure if I went ALL the way under.  Guess I just wanted one to grow on.  I came out of the ocean and the Rabbis signed my “Welcome to the Club” certificate (relax, I am teasing) and my husband gave me a beautiful necklace to commemorate the day.


   So a year later, I spent my milestone day with young soldiers going through basic training at Fort Benning.  Before you ask, No I did not take any pictures.  I was even asked by the Rabbi to read a little during the service.  The irony of the evening wasn’t lost on me.  There I was talking about the freedom of the Jews from Egypt… sitting among young men who will fight for my continued freedom. 

   So what have I learned this past year, my first as a Jewish woman? Well I am still learning =)

Happy Passover!


World’s Oldest Known Holocaust Survivor Dies at 110

(CNN) — The world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor has died at age 110, her grandson told CNN Sunday.

Alice Herz-Sommer, a talented musician and pianist, lived alone in her London flat, according to a 2014 Oscar nominated documentary about her extraordinary life.

“My world is music. I’m not interested in doing anything else,” she said in “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.”

Originally from Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia, Herz-Sommer was imprisoned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II. It was music that saved her. She and others performed concerts that entertained the Nazis.

“I knew that we will play,” Herz-Sommer told the filmmakers. “And I was thinking when we can play it can’t be so terrible. The music, the music! The music is the first place of art. It brings us on an island with peace, beauty and love.”

Theresienstadt was a ghetto-labor camp to which the SS deported and then incarcerated certain categories of German, Austrian, and Czech Jews, based on their age, disability as a result of past military service, or domestic celebrity in the arts and other cultural life, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Herz-Sommer “grew up in a cultured and loving family which was part of the German-speaking Czech-Jewish assimilated society,” the documentary’s website says.

Her mother was a playmate of composer Gustav Mahler and as a child Herz-Sommer often played with German-language novelist Franz Kafka who came to her home for Sunday lunch.

Herz-Sommer was living in Prague when she received her deportation summons from the Nazis, the documentary site explains. Her mother and husband had already been transported to Auschwitz where they were gassed, the site says. Both Herz-Sommer and her 5-year-old son, it says, were sent to the Theresienstadt camp.

“As an adult Raffi had remarkably few dark memories of the camp,” according to the filmmakers.

The son said that his mother somehow “managed to protect him from the worst realities of life at the mercy of the Nazis.”

Herz-Sommer and her son returned to Prague after being liberated by the Soviet Army in May of 1945, according to the film.

A clip on the site shows Herz-Sommer laughing, something she did a lot of in her later years.

Her family surrounded her at her bedside before she died Sunday, her grandson Ariel Sommer told CNN.

“Much has been written about her, but to those of us who knew her best, she was our dear ‘Gigi.’

“She loved us, laughed with us, and cherished music with us,” he wrote. “She was an inspiration and our world will be significantly poorer without her by our side. We mourn her loss and ask for privacy in this very difficult moment.”

CNN’s AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

Jewish Actress Tops List of Most Generous Celebrities

Forbes: The 30 Most Generous Celebrities

Thanks to a record donation of $10,569,002 to the Ressler-Gertz Foundation, actress Jami Gertz and her husband, Anthony Ressler, top the list of the 30 Most Generous Celebrities compiled by The Giving Back Fund, a non-profit organization that tracks philanthropic giving worldwide. Although not exactly a mainstream actress, Gertz’s deep-pocketed donation has much to do with the fact that Ressler is the co-founder of Ares Capital, a Los Angeles investment firm that controls more than $40 billion in assets, which has also recently expressed interest in buying the Dodgers.

Coming in second was musician Herb Alpert, who gave $9,104,829 to the Herb Alpert Foundation, which focuses on the arts, compassion and well being, followed by Mel Gibson, who signed a check of $6,853,020 to the AP Reilly Foundation, which he started to support the Holy Family Church.

Authors, actors, artists, comedians, and supermodels were among the celebrities who made this year’s list, which takes into account the largest donations to charity made by them in 2010, according to public records and interviews with charities known for their celebrity affiliations. The data was also compiled by interviewing publicists, attorneys, agents, agencies, and managers for information about their clients. (Donations made by a celebrity’s foundation were not included on the list, since there’s no way to track the source of that money, which could be money raised by the public and not necessarily donated by the celebrity.)

“Encouragement by example is the main reason we compile this list,”said Marc Pollick, president and founder of The Giving Back Fund. “One cannot help but be influenced by the generosity of his or her peers.” Pollick continued, “We are also often asked by the media and the public about which celebrities actually give the largest donations to charitable causes, so we decided it made sense to publish the research for all to see.”

It’s no surprise that celebrities like to have their name associated with good causes. It’s good PR, and the more good they do, the more the public loves them. Because of that, they have often being accused of using charity work only to improve their “brand.” Truth be told, charities also rely on celebrities to get press and help raise awareness. In other words, it is a virtuous (vicious?) cycle.

The question is — does it work both ways?

“Never say never but, in my experience, the fabled benefits of celebrity support have rarely lived up to the hype,” says Peter Stanford, a British journalist who’s on the board of several charities in the UK. “I have lost count of the number of charity chief executives and chairs who’ve told me that they pinned their hopes on a bumper payback because they had a famous face at a fund-raising event, or fronting a campaign, and then been disappointed.”

Justin Forsyth, the CEO of Save the Children, believes otherwise. “In my experience, the benefits of celebrity are not fabled but real – and can produce very concrete results. Without the campaigning energies of Bono, Bob Geldof and Richard Curtis, for example, I don’t believe 46 million more children would be in school today in some of the world’s poorest countries,” Forsyth countered, remembering the success of the Make Poverty History and Drop the Debt campaigns.

The book Exploring Public Relations, written by public relations and communications experts Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans, attributes the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement to ‘credibility’ and ‘attention.’ The authors go on to say that celebrities can attract attention and this is the most vital ingredient of success in a world saturated with so much noise generated by media messages. If celebrities are fully informed and engaged with the cause they are promoting, the message can greatly influence the process of persuading others to support the cause.

An example of that premise is the collaboration between the late actor Christopher Reeve and the American Paralysis Association (APA). After Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident in 1995 he became connected with the APA, which over the next three years saw its revenue double to $5 million, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. In fact, the results were so positive that the charity was rebranded as Christopher Reeve Foundation.

Lance Armstrong has had similar impact on cancer awareness. The famous US cyclist, a seven-time Tour de France champion and a survivor of testicular cancer, is the founder of the LiveStrong anti-cancer foundation, which annually helps millions of sick people, although critics have leveled charges against it for spending much of its budget on buffing Armstrong’s personal brand. Besides the financial support of its founder, the foundation also raises funds through licensing arrangements with companies like Nike, Bayer and Oakley. Today, Livestrong has an yearly revenue of around $48 million.

Combined, the 30 Most Generous Celebrities donated nearly $64 million of their personal wealth to a variety of charities. Either for doing the good deed or simply for other reasons, these people certainly cannot be accused of not giving back.

Check out who made the 30 Most Generous Celebrities list:

1. Actress Jami Gertz and her husband Antony Ressler — $10,569,002

To the Ressler Gertz Foundation. Grants from the foundation include $1.7 million to the LA County Museum of Art, $400k to Cedar Sinai Medical Center.

2. Musician Herb Alpert –$9,104,829

To the Herb Alpert Foundation, which focuses on the arts, compassion, and well being.

3. Actor Mel Gibson — $6,853,020

To the A.P. Reilly Foundation, which he started to support Holy Family Church.

For the full article:

Being Black and Jewish

Hopefully you have a sense of humor with this one.

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