OyChicago blog

Jerusalem Goes Gaga

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08/18/2009

A major international crisis was nearly averted yesterday by Lady Gaga when she, in a sweeping gesture of respect for her more conservative Israeli fans, covered her skimpy attire by donning a black leather jacket adorned with a Star of David made of silver spikes on the back.

Quick—what do you think the top of her Dead Sea bathing suit will be?  Two kippot strung together?

(I would caution her against wearing fringes on the bottom—bad tan lines.)

Forgive my snarkiness today.  Maybe I’m old, maybe I’m jaded, maybe I’m just grumpy (or all of the above), but I fail to grasp what makes this tidbit interesting and why it was widely covered in the Jewish news.

Frankly, I—along with tween boys throughout Israel—would have been more interested if Lady G didn’t cover up.

As a woman who has been the recipient of piercing glares and negative verbal comments made by Orthodox men while walking through Jerusalem, who dared to touch the small sliver of the Western Wall allowable to women in pants, let me be the first to say that I’m disappointed in Lady G’s choice to present a more modest version of herself.

We could use more boundaries in this area pushed, and not just in the Middle East.  I find it incredible that, in the year 2009, there are still some United States Senators who require their female staff workers to report each day in a skirt, heels and pantyhose.

(My husband would argue the equality issue here with me, pointing out that these Senators require their male staff to wear ties.  My response is the same dress code should apply to all.  If I want to wear a pantsuit, then I would be required to also wear a tie.  And if my husband wants to wear a skirt, then he would wear the required heels and hose.  Damnit, he looks better in a skirt than I do anyway.)

Or maybe we should change the conversation entirely and talk about why female performers continue to almost bare-it-all– including 16-year-old Disney pop tarts.  Somehow I doubt most of these woman are true feminists embracing their sexuality.  At what point do we, as an intelligent society, decide that talent, not sex, should be what sells?

But I digress.  Back to Lady G, who does deserve some props for performing in Israel, and making an obvious effort to relate to her Jewish fans.  In what feels like an increasingly anti-Semitic world, I for one appreciate the gesture, even if it’s linked with a questionable fashion choice.

Lady G: coming from someone who also has gotten drunk in Jerusalem, I raise my glass to you.  I, too, am more excited for you to see Jerusalem than I am to “get drunk in a bar.”

I just can’t wait to see what her note for the Western Wall says.

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Go Green with No Foam

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08/18/2009

No Foam Chicago logo

I’m not a hard line environmentalist, but I try to do eco-friendly things like support local agriculture through a CSA share, bring my own bags to the grocery store, and recycle. I know these small things are important, but my motivation to be green pales in comparison to the environmental passion of my best friend Erin.

Sometimes it feels like too much work to wash the moldy leftovers out of the plastic container so it can be recycled. It is much easier to just throw it away. “Lazy!” My head screams as I toss it in the garbage. “At least Erin isn’t here to see you,” it says next.

I feel a little guilty that I don’t share her level of passion for the subject, but I’m always interested in learning more. Erin has taught me that putting your TV and other appliances on a power strip saves power. She’s shown me that organic cottons can be fashionable. She’s warned me that clean water is rapidly becoming our most endangered natural resource. Most recently, Erin introduced me to this organization called No Foam Chicago, which is working to encourage the city of Chicago to join the 100 plus cities that already have a ban on Styrofoam food packaging. There are some striking facts about polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam) on their website. Here are three examples:

-­ Styrene, the basic building block of polystyrene, is a large environmental health concern as toxic chemicals leak out of these products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave). These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems. (Protect The Winks of the world!)

- Americans use and discard over 2.5 billion Styrofoam cups each year. That’s more than one cup for everyone living in India and China combined. These cups are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource.

- Chicago Public Schools serve school lunches on Styrofoam trays, endangering students to these harmful chemicals while choking our landfills with unnecessary harmful waste. 400,000 trays are discarded every single school day, never to biodegrade. Ever. That’s more than the entire population of Minneapolis.

And if Styrofoam isn’t your green cause of choice, how about water? I recently heard that it takes 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans. Two thousand! And that a normal toilet uses 3-5 gallons of water per flush. Whoosh, it’s gone. I won’t go into the details of the composting toilet I recently heard about, but apparently people are having them installed in their homes right here in the city.

Whatever eco-cause you take up, Judaism is there to back you up. Here’s a little story I like about our responsibility to take care of the environment.

Two people were fighting over a piece of land. Each claimed ownership.  To resolve their differences, they agreed to put the case before the rabbi.  The rabbi listened but could not come to a decision. Finally he said, “Since I cannot decide to whom this land belongs, let us ask the land.”  He put his ear to the ground, and then straightened up. “My friends, the land says that it belongs to neither of you – but that you belong to it.” (Jewish Folk Wisdom)

For more on Judaism and the environment, check out the JCRC Environmental  Initiative  and Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life ( COEJL ). To find out more about No Foam Chicago and how you can help, check out their  website  or stop by their  event  next week Wednesday, August 26 at Joey’s Brickhouse.

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