Though I’m sitting here
at my computer, I very well could have written this blog post from the shower.
For my birthday this
year, I received a unique and amazing gift: a waterproof notepad and pencil,
designed for the shower.
I had requested this
gift from Michael and Rachel, my brother and sister-in-law. “I’d like a dry
erase board for my shower,” I told them. “I don’t know if it exists, but I
figured if anyone in the world could find it, the two of you could.”
So, they presented me
with these packs of waterproof notepad paper
I stuck the notepad and the
pencil to the wall of my shower using the attached suction cups, and I was
ready to write.
Why do I want this
unusual product? I thought you’d never ask.
ideas come while in the shower. With
the warm temperature and the sound of calming water, my mind is clear, allowing
me to let the creative juices flow without distraction. Many of the ideas for
posts on my blog originated in the shower.
list items. When I’m not thinking of exciting, creative, fresh
ideas, my mind wanders to my stress level and things I need to accomplish. My
brain is filled with “Oh no, I forgot to email my advertising rep at the
newspaper about an ad we’re running,” or “I need to buy stamps,” or “It’s been
a while since I’ve had dinner with Kayla.” I’m a much happier Lia when my
thoughts are on paper (or on pixels), and this will allow me to never be more
than an instant away from a pen. To my journalism, English, and writing
teachers, who taught me to keep a journal and a reporter’s notebook nearby: you’ve
again ruined me.
issues. Upon seeing this gift, my dad said, “Lia, either
your showers are too long or your short-term memory is not functional. Can’t
you just remember these ideas and items until you get out of the shower?” Both
may be true, but … what was I saying? Oh yeah, memory issues. I find myself
making up a song so as not to lose my new thoughts — see how long you could
survive singing “Contact solution, e-mail Rachel, blog about the vegetable
aisle in the grocery store” to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”
So, I’d like to thank
Michael and Rachel for this great gift — and actually, maybe I’ll even write
their thank you note while shampooing my hair.
In the heart of downtown Chicago, a
large party room was filled with young Jewish professionals. Candles were
radiating, wine was poured, homemade challah was savored, and the communal
companionship was felt by all. My wife and I were relieved that Shabbat
had begun and the hours of preparation in the kitchen (and on social media) had
come to a close. It was now time to disconnect, to stop and savor the
moment. It was a beautiful occasion, and it was time to take the occasion to
the next level.
I found myself thinking about a story regarding three
construction workers who were interviewed at the same construction site. The first
interviewee was a boy about 19 years old. When asked why he was there, he
responded that he doesn’t have the money for a membership to a gym; construction
work is a great work out, he gets paid to get ripped, and the chicks dig it.
The second worker interviewed was in his mid-20s. When asked why he was there,
he responded that he doesn’t have the money to get through college. He works as
a construction worker by day to pay for his college courses that he’s taking at
night. This way, he’ll be able to eventually make a living to support the
family he dreams of having. The third worker was in his late 50s. When asked
why he was there, he responded that he saw an article in the newspaper that
they were building a children’s hospital in this location. He wanted to be a
part of that.
We can’t help but feel there’s a difference between
their experiences, each one taking us another layer deeper into the
significance of the work. Although Shabbat is the
opposite of work, this particular Shabbat was unique in that 1 million Jews
throughout the world, with 1 million different stories and reasons for participating
in Shabbat, were celebrating together as part of a new initiative called The
Shabbat Project. And I wanted our piece in Chicago, the Downtown Shabbat
Experience, to reach that deeper level.
At the meal, everyone had their share of challah
and matzo balls. That was level one: sustenance and delicious food. And then as
they ate, everyone was enjoying the company around them, and we were already
getting to level two. The third level took a little more effort. Each table was
given a different insight about our heritage and was asked to discuss their
topic and then to choose a representative to present the table’s insights to
the entire group. Amazingly, everyone in the room gave each table their full
attention, listening to all the insights and wisdom. One hundred young
professional Jews sitting around the Shabbat tables sharing words of Torah and
our heritage: we were taking our Shabbat to a deeper level.
But we didn’t stop there. Around dessert time, each
table was given a list of typical items found in a Jewish home including candle
sticks, a Kiddush cup, a book about the Holocaust, matzoh balls and challah, a
Bible and prayer book, and more. They were tasked with ordering each item from
most to least important in making a Jewish home. Each shared their three most
important items – you can imagine how the room filled with debate! There was laughter,
zero agreement (we’re Jews, right?), and lots of thought-provoked faces. We
were tapping into the deeper meaning of our lives as Jews.
The festivities continued throughout
the entirety of Shabbat. We were blessed with the last sunny day of the year to
have our Prayer in the Park workshop on Shabbat morning, with chocolate cake
and all. (What’s a Prayer workshop without chocolate cake?) That was followed
by a luncheon replete with good food, good company, and meaningful
conversations. Many people stayed to play games, chill out, and relax for the
rest of Shabbat. As Shabbat concluded with guitar and song, we said goodbye to
each other and Shabbat with a hope to reconnect with both again soon.
The Downtown Shabbat
Experience was a project of Chicago YJP in partnership with JCC 20s & 30s,
Masa Israel Journey, The Center for Jewish Genetics and Jewish Singles Social. A
special thanks goes out to Becky Adelberg, Tovah Goodman, Leah Steinberg,
Elisha & Jordana Fried, and Tehilla Fried for all their help in putting
this event together, and to a number of YJPers who helped finance the event, especially
Louie Whitesman for hosting. To find out about the next Downtown Shabbat
Experience and other upcoming events with Chicago YJP, you can like Chicago YJP on Facebook.
My grandpa has no
patience for impatience. He’s usually a pretty excitable person, but he
positively boils over when it comes to the subject of how my mother and I need
to control our tempers.
“I have never raised
my voice in my LIFE!” he declares, his voice gradually rising to a shout with
each word. As he’s speaking, he cracks his cane against the floor and stamps
his foot. In fact, I’ve hardly ever heard him speak without raising his
voice. But in his eyes, he has a perfectly patient and calm personality.
To tell the truth,
I’ve never been much of a patient person either. I’m hardly even able to pop a
Lifesaver into my mouth without immediately sinking my teeth into it like a
stick of gum. And although he suffers from the same problem I do, my
grandfather is completely right. Being impatient and losing my temper has only
made me, and the people around me, miserable.
There’s an old
anecdote about patience, regarding Hillel and one particularly pesky student.
This student agrees to a bet to put Hillel’s renowned composure to the test. He
shows up to his house and begins firing off round after round of useless
questions. He leaves, only to return with a new batch of dumbfounding queries.
Hillel calmly answers each one, until the student erupts and blames Hillel for
making him lose the bet. Hillel responds, as tranquil as ever, that it’s better
that the student lose his money than Hillel lose his temper.
Recently, I’ve been
teaching English at a Jewish primary school in Buenos Aires. After two months
on the job, it’s pretty clear that I’m no Hillel. I always imagined that while
I might not have patience for people in general, I’d scrounge up some sort of
tolerance for a group of kids who are just trying to learn. But to my utter
dismay, it’s been harder than I imagined.
The other day in
fifth grade, 9-year-old Dara strolled up to me with a question. ¨Que
significa ‘size’?” she inquired, pointing to the word in her workbook.
“Tamaño,” I translated. She nodded and walked off.
A few moments later,
she appeared at my side again. “Size?” she asked, her brow furrowed in
consternation. “Que significa?”
“Tamaño,” I repeated, a little baffled that she was asking again,
and went back to helping another student.
Several minutes went
by. I felt a tap at my shoulder. It was Dara. She was pointing at a word in her
workbook, completely lost on its meaning. The word was “size.”
``Tamaño,” I replied, unblinking, resisting the urge to flip a
table. Tamaño. Tamaño. TAMAÑO! Why couldn’t she understand?!
Of course, my skewed, heavily accented version of the word “tamaño” probably meant as little to Dara as the word “size”
itself. But I couldn’t help it. My impatience, which is usually simmering
beneath the surface, was dangerously close to bubbling over.
In truth, I know that
my temper is always much more my fault than whatever is bothering me. After
all, why am I getting worked up about someone walking slowly on the street in
front of me? Maybe they sprained their foot earlier this week and every step is
a strained and concerted effort. Why do I get irritated when my mom drives over
the curb? I do that sometimes, too. As for Dara, she wasn’t even trying to
irritate me. She was just asking a question.
My mom and I almost
always get annoyed when my grandpa accuses us of being impatient. The fact is,
patience is something all three of us need to work on. Maybe next time Dara
asks me for the definition of “size,” I’ll just calmly respond instead of
developing an eye twitch. If nothing else, my grandpa will most certainly be
This feels all too familiar. Coming off of his second major knee surgery
in as many seasons, Derrick Rose is having trouble staying on the court yet
again. Two ankle sprains and now a hamstring have kept Rose out of half of the
Bulls’ first 10 games this season. The buildup of minor injuries such as these
is exactly what led up to Rose eventually tearing his ACL during the 2012
When Rose has been on the court he has been good, showing flashes of his
former MVP self. He’s put up averages of 18 points and 5.5 assists per game,
and displayed the same speed we always remembered. While the Bulls are taking a
much more conservative, cautionary approach to his injuries this year, I cannot
help but wonder if we are watching the beginning of the end for what was once a
very promising NBA career.
An all-star caliber player with a unique skill set, an NBA lottery pick out
of Memphis with potential to be one of the greatest point guards ever. Sound
familiar? That’s because we’ve seen this before.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was selected third out of Memphis in 1993 by the
Golden State Warriors and later traded to Orlando for the top pick, Chris
Webber. During the 1994–95 NBA season, the Magic won a franchise record 57
games while Hardaway averaged 20.9 points, 7.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.7
steals per game. He started in his first All-Star game and was named
All-NBA First Team. The next season, Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal led the
Magic to the Eastern Conference Finals, only to lose to Michael Jordan and the
Chicago Bulls. O’Neal left Orlando for the Lakers the next season; Hardaway was
finally the lone star and leader of the team but failed to lead the Magic
to another playoff win.
The very next year, Hardaway suffered a devastating knee injury and was
never the same. His unique size and ability helped him still achieve some
success, but his numbers dropped drastically. Hardaway couldn’t stay healthy
for a full year after that, battling foot and ankle injuries causing him to
miss time until two micro fracture surgeries put him out for the season. He
battled back and returned again, but he was a shell of the player he used to be
in stints with the Suns, Knicks and Heat. Yeah, it’s starting to sound like the
Derrick Rose story.
But could Rose’s story have a different ending, perhaps a more positive one
involving the NBA title Hardaway never received?
The similarities of a year-by-year stat comparison of the two players in
their first four years are mind-blowing. The fourth year for both players was
strike-shortened and they both missed most of the following year with a
career-changing knee injury.
||Round 1 Loss
||Round 1 Loss
||Round 1 Loss
||NBA Finals Loss
||East Finals Loss
||East Finals Loss
||Round 1 Loss
||Round 1 Loss
Are we seeing another story of a potential NBA star’s career cut short? The
similarities are eerie and hard to ignore. For Bulls fans, you just have to
hope this is not the case. The Bulls this season could be special and make a
real run at an NBA title – but I don’t believe that’ll happen unless Rose is on
the court, something we’re starting to see as more of a challenge than I think
he, or anyone, expected.
It’s hard to imagine Rose ever returning to MVP form, and while Hardaway
did develop into a quality role player, his career arc was riddled with injury.
Maybe these little early season nicks are nothing, dealing with the rust of
sitting out two years in a row. But it’s hard to ignore that Rose’s style of
play is not built for a career of longevity. Players who move like he does and
hit the lane with that amount of power and quickness don’t play very long
without making significant adjustments to their games.
Then there is the mental aspect, which is clearly starting to take a toll
on Rose. A constant hot topic in the media, and understandably so, Rose is
becoming more defensive all the time. On top of the fact that he has to
continue playing knowing that any wrong turn on the court, any awkward landing,
could spell the end for him.
In this week’s parsha, Toldot,
we learn that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for red lentil soup. He was
famished from working all day and he needed food so Jacob tricked Esau into
selling his birthright for a hot meal. We also learn that Esau was a hunter and
Jacob a learned young man. Another way of looking at this is that Esau was yang
and Jacob was yin. Yang represents physical strength and yin mental strength.
Esau was easily tricked because he needed his physical strength to survive,
while Jacob could be patient in order to achieve dominance through his wits.
Jacob probably knew that lentil soup can make a person feel fuller in a shorter
amount of time and used that to his advantage. I am assuming that Esau also
knew that lentils made him feel stronger. So what is in lentils that makes them
so good for us?
Lentils are legumes and they are packed with folate. Folate is an
important nutrient because it may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, depression,
and osteoporosis. It also helps promote healthy red blood cells to prevent
anemia. Most commonly, folate is put in women’s prenatal vitamins to prevent
neural tube defects in developing babies. One cup of lentils contains 89.5
percent of the recommended daily intake of folate.
Legumes get some negative attention because they make people gassy.
Lentils are no exception because they contain soluble fiber, which slows down
digestion, keeping a person fuller longer but also causing gas. Lentils also
contain insoluble fiber, which allow a person to be more regular. In general,
fiber helps us clean out our colons the natural way. A cup of lentils contains
62.5 percent of our recommended daily intake of fiber. The trick to avoid
passing gas from lentils it is important to soak the lentils in warm water at
room temperature for at least 48 hours before cooking and eating them. This
process will allow the lentil to sprout, which will make it more digestible.
Sprouting also increases the vitamin and mineral content of a lentil.
Lentils also contain iron, protein, zinc, and vitamin B6. A cup of
lentils is basically a little multivitamin that doesn’t taste like a fake fruit
and isn’t hard to swallow. The iron in lentils can help replenish energy
especially after a long day, so it is understandable that Esau craved the
lentil soup after a long day of hunting. Also, because they contain protein,
Esau was able to stay fuller longer and build muscle. From lentil soup, Esau
was able to get everything he needed to stay strong.
Esau and Jacob were a yin and yang symbol during delivery. Jacob held
onto Esau’s leg perfectly intertwining yin and yang. Their differences led them
to needing different things to survive. Esau needed strength and Jacob needed
to lead the Jewish people. Lentils were a way for both of them to get what they
needed. I understand; I would give up my birthright (as the younger and cuter
sibling) for some of my cousin’s tomato-lentil soup.
This year, as the festively familial holiday known as
Thanksgiving comes closer, I know I’ll have a Turkey Day unlike any other I’ve
known. I know this because I will be spending it with my baby daughter, Emma.
Now, while she does manage to spit up all over the place and make
weird noises – I mean, alien-type weird – I can’t help but think about how
unbelievably blessed I am. The nice thing about being Jewish is that I’m used
to thinking about all the things I am thankful for nearly all the time. It’s
mostly because of all the prayer hours I’ve logged, but it’s also because my
parents chose to raise me to show gratitude, that there’s always something to
share with those that are less fortunate than us.
When I look at my baby daughter’s beautiful blue eyes, I can’t
help but think about the staggering multitude of events and experiences that
led to her miraculous deliverance into this world. Suddenly, being thankful for
a plasma HDTV or a brand new car doesn’t cut it, nor does it even seem right to
hold these things in such esteem. People are right about the world changing
around you once you have a child, or is it your view of the world that changes?
Or both, simultaneously? Everything is put into perspective once you become a
parent, not because you’re getting older (which is true), but because it’s
tough to see the world with just you at the center.
Now bear with me while I get a little philosophical and
existential: A little while ago, I was teaching a group of students about
Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charitable Giving. I know, I know, I am not a rabbi
and I’m not about to give a d’var, but hear me out. One of the
lessons the students learned was that the highest level of charitable giving
was, “... to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or
entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order
to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others ...”
One of the students thought for a bit, then asked me, “if this were to happen
to me, how could I ever reciprocate this thankful act? And if I wanted to give
charitably like we are commanded, how could I ever repay this person for what
they’ve done for me? It’s almost impossible to measure.”
I thought to myself, Wow,
he’s got a point. That’s when even I began to understand how the impact of
giving and of gratitude can profoundly affect us and the lives of those around
us – strangers, brothers, sisters and more. In that moment, I truly learned
that we are all connected to each other in such a special way, that when we do
good deeds for others without expecting a “reciprocal act” we begin to realize
the beauty that we’ve just delivered into the world.
This is what I truly believe G-d did for me when Emma was born.
My wife and I were given this precious, beautiful, sacred miracle that we could
never fathom to repay or reciprocate. How could we ever repay our very lives to
our parents? I know I’ve tried to show them how much I have appreciated
everything they’ve ever done for me, how much they’ve sacrificed of themselves.
For me, it’s amazing to think that we have the power within us to not only be
thankful in a meaningful way, but to profoundly affect others in such a way,
they feel the gratitude that we ourselves have acquired. I cannot begin to put
into words how grateful I am for Emma; I only hope to pass this very idea along
to her someday.
So, wherever you may be carving the big turkey, shoveling
stuffing, sweet potatoes and pies past those pearly whites, and getting those
cheeks pinched, remember what brought you there in the first place. Look around
the table and I’ll bet you can feel the thankfulness in the air. Now, I dare
you to take that good feeling with you when the inevitable food coma has past,
and pay it forward to someone else. Who knows what might happen?
L’Chaim and Happy Thanksgiving!
Israel’s hit movie of 2014 is an American must-see
Nelly Tagar as Daffi in Zero Motivation
It took me five years to finally get to another screening at the annual
Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. Talk about Zero Motivation.
In 2009, I made the mistake of going too heavy for my first CFIC
experience when I saw Ronit and Shlomi Alkabetz’s Shiva. Zero Motivation
proved infinitely more accessible, especially as a young adult. When it stops
playing festivals and gets wider distribution (I hope) in the U.S., it’s
can’t-miss stuff, especially for young adults who have connected with Israel or
Israelis at some point in their lives.
The film focuses primarily on two young women in the IDF who work in the
administrative office at a military base in Southern Israel. They are
essentially pencil-pushers and coffee-runners put in charge of oddly specific
mundane tasks, such as paper-shredding or snail mail. Daffi (Nelly Tagar)
dreams of being reassigned to Tel-Aviv, whereas her best friend, Zohar (Dana
Ivgy), aspires to set Minesweeper records on all the office PCs and lose her
virginity to the next willing soldier. As they try and maneuver around the
annoying girls in the office and their rigid commander, Rama (Shani Klein), a
few brushes with reality test their friendship to the extreme.
Dana Ivgy (left) and Nelly Tagar play best friends at odds in Zero Motivation.
The best way to describe Talya Lavie’s film to American audiences is to
imagine if Juno writer Diablo Cody
wrote a movie about the Israeli army starring Girls star Lena Dunham and Ellen Page. Lavie’s script is razor
sharp and hilarious, but also a little dark and unsettling. It touches on a
couple mature and heavy issues within the context of wit and satire, which though
uncomfortable, is the good kind of uncomfortable, and it lends a certain
gravity to the movie, which otherwise would be a noteworthy comedy but little
Neither Daffi nor Zohar are particularly loveable, but they are easy to
identify with. Today’s American 20-year-olds might not have to go through the
army, but they know plenty about doing dead-end work, pondering their direction
in life and fighting their inclination to merely entertain themselves. That’s a
universal sentiment, and what ultimately makes Zero Motivation worthy of its 12 Israeli Film Academy nominations,
half of which resulted in wins, including Best Actress for Ivgy.
Balancing out the movie’s delicate fusion of satire and important issues
is the friendship dynamic between Daffi and Zohar. It is this grounding, human
component that helps the film resonate across cultures and languages. Even
though the film is really about them reconciling their own personal desires
with their friendship rather than the friendship itself, social dynamics really
provide the emotional fuel of the story.
Could Zero Motivation hypothetically
be remade in another country such as America, taking place at an office with
interns instead of a military base? Perhaps, but the army is a rite of passage
that most other countries don’t have, and it’s so formative of the identities
of Israeli young adults. Anyone who has spent time with Israelis and met a few
whose job in the army was not all that glorious can at least grasp the
importance of this setting in Lavie’s film. There’s also clearly a much deeper
layer of satire that will only play effectively to Israeli viewers, but you can
sense the richness of the dialogue that could be had about the issues
Although not approached head on, there’s an undercurrent that addresses
women perceiving their self-worth based on their relationships with men. Anyone
can enjoy this movie, of course, but the talking points for women are important
ones that again, transcend cultural boundaries, even though there are sure to
Films that are genuinely funny, relatable and thought-provoking are rare
as it is, let alone when it conveys those things despite being in a foreign
language. It’s unfortunate that Zero
Motivation won’t be Israel’s submission for the Academy Awards because it
would really play well here and probably spark dialogue with regards to the
perception of Israel and its military in the West.
Motivation is also a reminder that as the market for
independent film grows in the United States, so does our ability to appreciate
foreign films. The two go hand in hand. Young adults in Chicago should be aware
of the quality of Israeli filmmaking and beret’s off to the Chicago Festival of
Israeli Cinema for securing this newer movie for this year’s slate.
Sites We Like
Sheraton Chicago, 301 East North Water St.
Saturday, December 13 | 8:15 p.m.
Featuring an evening of standup comedy with SETH MEYERS
Emmy award winner and host of Late Night with Seth Meyers
8:15 PM – Doors Open, wine, beer & concession snacks at your table
9:00 PM – Program Begins
AFTER PARTY immediately following Seth Meyers
Bigger and Better This Year!
Head downstairs for two hours of open bar, late night food and DJ
Big Event is YLD’s premier fundraiser. Your attendance requires a gift to the 2015 JUF Annual Campaign and reflects your commitment to building a stronger Jewish community in Chicago, Israel and throughout the world.
Learn more and register now at www.yldchicago.org/bigevent
November 23, 2014 - January 8, 2015
Join TOV to make a difference in your community this holiday season! Winter Mitzvah Mania offers one-time volunteer opportunities during the holiday season of November 23, 2014 - January 8, 2015. Space is limited; sign up today.