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.


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.

CNN Blog about Thanksgivukkah

I had the pleasure of being interviewed for CNN’s Beliefs Blog. The writer, Daniel Burke, called me last week after I essentially answered an request for information on Facebook. Working in the news business, I knew it would be a long shot to get a reply. Sure enough, a few weeks later, Mr. Burke dropped a line. We chatted about Thanksgivukkah and what we did at Temple Israel in Columbus, GA to celebrate. He spoke with a wide array of people to write his blog. Here is the result of his work. You can follow Daniel Burke on Twitter @BurkeCNN

My Jewish Home

My Jewish Home

There are many things that make a home a Jewish home. It will vary from home to home. Some will be modest while others will be decked out in all things Jewish. In my home, I would like to think I am somewhere in between. There is often the aroma of Challah on Fridays, a mezuzah greets you at the door, our Ketubah is hanging in the living room. Recently I was asked to put together a collage of the tangible Jewish things in my home. My collage is not exhaustive. I forgot a few things, but seeing that it is almost midnight, I am too tired to redo it. I hope you enjoy a glimpse inside my Jewish home.


Welcome to Tattooed Jew

Thanks for stopping by the Tattooed Jew!  I am working on new material for my new blog.  I promise to have it up and running soon.