Monday, July 31, 2006

Why I Cannot Meet You In The Lobby of the King David Hotel

Note, this is not a slam on Treppenwitz, nor is it his fault. He just happened to be the trigger for a rant of mine.

Over in DovBear's comments, Treppenwitz writes:

I'm still not sure where I stand on the whole issue of rallies. I mean, go ahead and have them if it helps solidify the community over there. But I have to agree that it does hurt when Jews outside of Israel go to a rally and think that they have done their job.


I'm not saying send your kids to join the army and fight. But what's stopping you from coming to stay in a hotel in order to keep the tourist industry alive. Why can't you and/or your kids come to volunteer in hospitals, and on army bases instead of going to Florida. Why can't you figure out a way to do something more for Israel than go out and socialize with your neighbors on some main street in yourtown USA.

And if one more person say to me "I won't tell you how much we give to Israel every year, but..." and then proceed to tell me to the penny how much they give... I will scream. Keep the money if you think that's where your obligation starts and ends. Ezra wouln't take contributions from Jews in Bavel and I think it is bad that today's diaspora Jews think thier contributions are in place of actively helping Israel with their physical presense.

Ahhhhh. Here we are again. The bombs fly, the refugees seek refuge, the world denounces Israel, and the Israelis denounce Diaspora Jews.

OK. Here goes my whimpering explanation:

I cannot go to Israel instead of going to Florida because I am not going to Florida this year. I did not go to Florida last year. It has been three years since I have last taken a vacation out of state. This is not because I have anything against Florida, or Israel, mind you (actually, both are too hot for my taste this time of year. Christmas in Jerusalem, maybe), it's because I have no money to spare. If I scrape together the money for a trip any time soon, I will probably be going to Hawaii, because that is where my machetenim live, and the fella has not seen them in five years. If you don't want the (modest)check I can write, fine, I will use it here in the Diaspora to further Jewish life. I suspect I can get some good cause to cash it, however, plus one for one of those cute ceramic clocks with the skyline of Jerusalem on it.

And honestly, I do not understand why, aside from the money, my spending time in the King David Hotel, swimming lazily up and down the big pool will be helping in any way other than my bringing dollars, and frankly, helping out in a hospital is gonna be a vanity gig for the American girl. Even if I could afford to take off right now, which I, as I may have mentioned above, cannot.

Why do I go to rallies?

1. It creates in the U.S. press a statement of public support for Israel. If you say Israel doesn't care about the U.S. press, you're lying. I read the JPost.

2. It creates a way to connect with other Jews, and share our feelings. Many of us do other work elsewhere, and yes, that includes both sending money and visiting Israel. But standing together in solidarity is worth something. Or were we wasting our time back in the old days of the Soviet Jewry movement by not taking the protests to Moscow?

3. It keeps us out of the closet and in touch with one another, in scary times. As recent news has shown, not all the jihadis bother to get a ticket to the old country either.

4. It is a chance to find out what is happening, and see what opportunities there are to help. Orgs bring their literature with them.

5. I really like standing in the sun and being screamed at by deranged Berkeley students with white-girl dreadlocks. You should try it sometime.

I am an American Jew, and I am damn proud of that. My great-grandparents went to quite a lot of trouble to create this outcome. I am not an incomplete Jew, nor am I simply part of a support system for Israel. I support Israel. I am at home in Northern California. Could that change? Sure. I want to visit some day. Maybe I'll convince the fella he really wants to live in a hot climate. But those Jews of Bavel, and the Jews of all the other great diaspora communities created a whole Jewish world, in the long time between Jewish states, and I am part of that world. I absolutely refuse to be told that anything I do at home is inherently unworthy.

And yes, this is home. I'm a tumbleweed Jew. I carry all the seeds for a next generation with me wherever I go.

You want to know why aliyah has never seemed all that appealing? Because it's never seemed aimed at me. You want to know how aliyah gets advertised for the 'anglo-saxim'? I remember the column in JPost, just a few years ago. It was addressed to 'Alisa and Josh', parents of 'Noam and Tali', or something very like that, and in the very first paragraph it talked about finding a cleaning lady and a 'good' kindergarten. And every time the bombs fall, I get asked why I don't just take a few weeks' vacation abroad.

You know, I think I WILL just send a check.

A peaceful newish week to us all...

I lack the paper-hanging gene

I'm blogging from my new classroom, where I am trying to put up bright colored paper on the corkboards.

So far it is not going so well.

There are people who seem to be able to just cut a couple of pieces of paper, slap them on the wall with a stapler, and have beautiful, color-coordinated boards up. I am not those people. ("I am not those men. I am Saleh ad-Din." Well, no, not that either, really.)

Cut, staple, crumple, cut, why didn't they teach me to do this in teaching school instead of the stupid Rachel Hunter lesson plans you never use? Cut, staple, staple the wrong side forward, crumple, mutter.

There was this woman at my old school who had the world's most beautiful classroom, I can't describe how lovely it was. Double edgings of trim, and all color-coordinated, and neat and tidy. And plants. And yes, she was also a terrific teacher, and kids all loved her. It was only a small consolation to know that she never got any sleep.

Oh well. I'm putting in another hour on cut and staple, and then I'm going home and doing lesson plans, something I CAN do well. Gaack.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Seattle News

I have a very vivid memory of one particular Rosh Hashanah when I was a little girl. I think it must have been the fall of 82, so I would have been nine. I think I had a dress I really liked, although I don't remember what it looked like. My parents would have been a couple of years older than I am now. We walked to Temple Emanu-El on Lake Street from our apartment, and the weather was incredible, perfect yontiff weather, sunny with deep blue skies, but not warm, crisp and cool. The SFPD was standing around the building, checking people as they came in.

I don't remember how old I was when it really occurred to me that Methodists don't have security in front of their churches on Easter day, that most ethnic and religious organizations don't have elaborate security measures. About the time I talk about above, one of my close friends and I used to worry about synagogue bombings all the time. It was something we'd discuss together.

So. A guy who may or may not be crazy, who probably, we think, acted alone, walks into the Seattle Federation building and opens fire at a bunch of women, one of them pregnant, working on a Friday afternoon, about to close up for Shabbos. Because he's a Muslim American, and so it follows, angry at Israel. I am reminded of something an elderly man, raised in Egypt, said once at a conference I attended: "We are all Zionists, whether we like it or not."

The Balabusta's mother works in a Jewish agency, so there's just a slight personal edge here to my anger and fear. (OK, a very sharp and serrated personal edge. How did he get past security? What was the emergency plan? How come all these Federation bigwigs were home when this happened, leaving their secretaries in the line of fire? Why the hell didn't someone hit him with a car when he shot someone out in front of the coffee shop? Do I care that the spokeswoman was making challah when she got the news? Can we ask for the death penalty? Who put this idea into his head? Where did he get the gun? Oh God.)

You know--with all of this, we cope. We speak out, we comfort each other, we plan for the future and revamp our security measures. You realize, at some point, if you're going to live as a Jew in the world, that this is the score. My rabbi, who has made it to his mid-eighties with his sense of humor and his cute German accent intact, made a point of telling the congregation after 9/11 that he was still driving the Bay Bridge--this was when the whole SF area was a little nutso about the bridges. (They attract people with problems. Most of those are self-destructive, rather than homicidal, but the bridges do seem to turn up regularly in terrorist planning stages.) He's not a fatalist, his point was that if you change everything you can think of to avoid danger, you end up boxed inside, having ceded your whole life to your fear, and those who want to make you afraid. But you know what they say. Paranoia is when you think they're out to get you. Jewish paranoia is when you KNOW they're out to get you. You live in world. You do what you can to stay safe.

And now a woman working at Federation on a Friday afternoon--safe enough, no?--is dead. Now five others are wounded. Now I'm jumpy again. No new realizations. I've lived with this a lot of years. But being reminded, especially with a death, is never pleasant.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The language of the blogs

Does anyone else sometimes look at the odd collections of letters Blogger asks you to reproduce to prove you're a real poster, and not a mailbot, and think that they must be words from some mysterious and exotic language? Not all of them, I mean zxetgds doesn't seem to mean much, but today I got:


I pronounce it rock-HOCK-oo, but obviously you might come up with something different. What IS a raqhaqu? I think it is a noun, and I think it must be onomatopoetic.

Perhaps a raqhaqu is the sound of tree braches being tapped against your windows by a rising autumn storm.

A raqhaqu could be a kind of love song.

Or a kind of dove.

A raqhaqu could be a warm, intense wind that rushes into town off the desert, and causes people to eat eclairs and take their shoes off in public.

The possibilities, they're endless. What do YOU think it is?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

We Sweat, But We Stand With Israel

The Balabusta's report on the San Francisco Jewish Community's Israel Rally at Justin Herman Plaza today, respectfully submitted:

For me, a rally begins when you're on public transit, lurching along, and trying to figure out which of the people on the BART train are also going to the rally. Not the bike guys, they're talking about riding in the mission. The woman with the Israel/U.S. flag pin on her "Galilee Comes To The Bay" shirt? Too easy. But how about the older ladies in the sun visors over there? Hmmm...something says yes...

As we disembark and start streaming upstairs it gets easier. Conversations begin to stand out. Speaking Russian? Ours. Speaking Hebrew? Ours. Speaking English, talking about how a cousin in Jerusalem may or may not be coming to visit? Ours. Tring to convince father that they should go to CompUSA and buy the new game after the rally...and so on.

We're having a heat wave here in NoCal, and it was hot, oh, God, was it ever hot. Lots of flags, lots of signs. JCRC was selling "Pro Israel, Pro Peace" t-shirts for five bucks, so I bought one and pulled it over my own shirt, which was a mistake. Sweating through my clothes kind of hot.

The event was MCed by John Rothman, who I've known for approximately forever. Present to speak were--let me see--Dianne Feinstein, a congressman whose name I didn't catch, Doug Huneke, SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Nonie Darwish, an Israeli woman from JCRC who grew up in one of the northern towns, Danny Grossman, and the voice of the mayor of Haifa via speakerphone. Gavin Newsom attended, but did not speak. Schwartzenegger was at the LA rally, but sent someone from his SF office who gave a nice address. Some other people, who I'm sure I will remember after I post this.

Bevan Dufty got up to speak and said that with a good Irish name like Bevan Doyle Dufty, people can always tell that he's gay, but not so many realize that he's Jewish. (Gotta love the Jewish-ands. We rock.) After he finished his speech, and told the crowd a little about his soon-to-be-born daughter, I heard someone saying "who was that?" as he walked off the stage. I turned my head. "Bevan Dufty," I said.

"WHO?" Remember, this is over the roar of what DiFi guesstimated at about 700 people. I turn my head, and right there is the Balabusta's former boss for all of four months, a certain left-wing Zionist Renewal rabbi and magazine editor, with his wife. "BEVAN DUFTY," I shout.


"Supervisor Bevan Dufty, from District Eight."


Not a flicker of recognition. I guess I didn't make much of an impact in his life.


At some point I decided that I needed to move out of my up-by-the-barricades, getting grilled like a trout, location, so I wandered back to see what the counterprotest situation was. I was immediately met by a JCRC representative--crisp-shirted in the heat--who wanted us to ignore the counterprotesters, because looking at them would give them publicity, which was what they wanted. "OK," said the Balabusta, and kept heading toward the barricades.

He actually sort of got in my way, and made it clear that they REALLY did not want people going over there. I lost my temper a little. I have a rather low level of tolerance for the organized Jewish community, sometimes.

"Look," I said. "I want to see what the turnout over there is like. I have family who can't be here today, and friends in Israel who will want to know. I am not going to start a slanging match with those guys. I'm going to look and go back to the rally. And I am allowed to go anywhere I want in Justin Herman Plaza."

He did kind of a nervous laugh. "Of course you are..." he said. Anyway, dude, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. I really did just look at them and come back. Maybe I overreacted.

I don't think they had even forty, which made me feel good---we were so outnumbered last Monday. Turnabout, like they say.

Anyway, a good time was had by all. Let me close with something John Rothman said, which I'm sure I paraphrasing a little:

"We are not divided. We are Democrats, we are Republicans, we are liberal, we are conservative, we are black, we are white, we are Asian, we are Christians, we are Jews. We are here united, to stand with Israel and for peace."

Omeyn v'omeyn.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Learner! I Have A Learner!

(Sorry, I've been reading too many posts about girls who want to be kollel wives and won't settle...)

Anyway, the fella has decided to go back to school and do a bachelor's degree in something practical--computer science or engineering. He's enrolled in a local community college with an eye to transferring to Cal State in a while.

The Balabusta is kvelling big-time. So are the machetenim. He's all signed up with classes for the fall, and we're just working out the financia aid details. The place is a short BART ride away, and right in the middle of a business area, so if he wants to get a job off-campus, it won't be a schlep.

The problem with the fella's original line of work, administrative assisting, is that he is, by nature, not cut out to do it. Neither is the Balabusta, but being a girl, she could mimic the required behavior better. Also, I am a RIGHTEOUS receptionist.

"No, sir, I'm sorry. Mr. Donnelly is not in the office." (Mr. Donnelly is in front of me, making gestures indicating that he will shoot himself if he has to talk to the caller.)

"May I take a message? Yes, I know I took a message earlier, and I delivered that right to Mr. Donnelly's desk. Yes, I placed it very prominently. I would be happy to let him know you called again."

"No, I do not know when he will be back. No, he does not normally leave me his schedule. I really can't guess."

"No, I don't know where he is."

"No, I guess I don't know much, sir." (This is spoken without the slightest trace of hostility or sarcasm.) "May I take a message?"

The fella does not like to talk to the public. This makes being an office assistant quite difficult at times. We hope to find him a job where he solves problems in the privacy of his own cube.

I'm happy. And I think he will be happy, once he gets over the heart-pounding terror of dealing for the first time with campus bureaucracy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Enemies: This Is Not A Love Story

Reading Newsweek this week, I found a short article about how many Iraqis are now carrying two ID cards. One carries their real name, be it Shiite or Sunni. The other is a fake, carrying a Sunni or Shiite name. Hopefully, producing the right one at checkpoints will protect you from being found in a sack in the river, or dumped on the doorstep of the police station.

This reminded me of a conversation in Andre Dumas' _The Three Musketeers_. The novel is, of course, set against the backdrop of France's vicious seventeenth-century internal religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. (No one ever remembers this, they remember the swashbuckling.) One of the musketeers--I can't recall which right now--has a servant who explains that his father made a living for years as a highway robber. When he saw a Protestant coming down the road, he would be overwhelmed with loyalty to the true Church, and would rob the Protestant. When he saw a Catholic, he would be set afire by the rightness of the reformed faith, and rob the Catholic. And he baptized his sons accordingly--"I'm a Catholic," the servant explains, "but he made my brother a Protestant."

Eventually, we learn, the father was killed by two men he'd previously robbed--a Catholic and a Protestant who forgot their differences long enough to gang up on him. The sons, however, avenged their father--the Catholic killed the Protestant, and the Protestant the Catholic. Quite the little fable.

And Kohelet was, in fact, correct, there is nothing new under the sun. Worse, nothing under the sun seems to change much.

You want to know what detail from the last couple of months in Iraq really stood out for me? When al-Zarqawi was killed, they reported that one of the other people in the house was his sixteen year old wife. (One of three I understand.) I haven't been able to find a name for her. I read that he used one of his fathers-in-law as a suicide bomber, but I don't know if this was her father or someone else's. I don't know anything about her, except what's above.

But I can guess. She didn't choose him, not because she loved him, or thought he'd be a good provider, or admired his zeal. He took her, or someone gave her to him. She was sixteen. She was travelling with him (because she was the pretty young one? Because she didn't have small children yet?) when the sky fell on them.

She probably would have defined herself as my enemy. And I probably would have, given the option, taken out Zarqawi knowing she was there. But I haven't been able to stop thinking a little about her, and wishing things could be different, for her and all the other kids in the line of fire.

I keep thinking, too, about the lady who wanted me to extend the hand of friendship to the Palestinian teenagers on Montgomery Street. I've said this before--I always feel closer to Palestinian activists than to people who have no stake in the Middle East, but imagine that peace is just a matter of willpower, like losing weight or stopping smoking. We understand what lies between us, and that if we have to pick--you or me--we'll choose for our own people.

Like Alan Lupo said, I keep praying for multiple choice.

I really do have some very cheerful things to talk about--but I think I'll talk about them tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Fun Than A Land War In Asia

So now that I'm on the SFVoiceForIsrael mailing list, it came to my attention that there was gonna be a 'Jewish-led' protest at the Israeli Consulate in SF, at noon today, against, um, well, everything Israel has done for

1. The last month
2. The last forty years
3. The last sixty years
(you choose)

and that people were invited to counterprotest. So I went.

It was, and this is not exactly the word I expected to use, lots of fun. I was surrounded by upset Jewish activists, there were flags and police barricades all around, and people were yelling at us that we were enemies of peace. We sang Hatikva. It was exactly like the Soviet Jewry rallies of my childhood in some ways. I had a very good time. Is that sick? It's much more cathartic to wave a flag and scream 'Hezbollah out of Lebanon' and 'Am Yisrael Chai' than to read the papers and get more and more worked up.

Some Notes:

1. In theory this protest was a brainchild of Jewish Voice for Peace and some outfit called Jews for a Free Palestine, who do not seem to have a website. Clearly, there were some other people involved. Many of the protesters were waving A.N.S.W.E.R. signs. Palestinian flags, and one or two Lebanese ones were being waved vehemently. There was only one sign bearing JVFP's name.

2. This group may want to get together more to discuss their agenda more clearly. One sign demanded a return to the pre-67 borders, but during the chanting there were several rounds of "From the river to the sea..." Also the thing about redeeming Palestine with blood and fire, which is the only nonreligious, nonfood piece of Arabic I understand.

3. The media were being dopes. One woman snarled something about killing all the Arabs, and was immediately descended on by Channel 7, and miked. Channel 7 was then surrounded by non-homicidal protestors demanding a chance to speak and balance the homicidal protestor. Then the non-homicidal protestors were descended on by the JCRC representative, who wanted to be the voice of the community, although this was not actually a JCRC demo. Tohu vavhohu, LIVE!

4. A sweet older lady walked up to me and started to talk about how the two flags should be together, for PEACE, and how I just needed to cross over and extend the hand of peace and friendship to the kid flapping his 'I voted for Hamas' shirt at us. I expressed some doubts, and she told me that if I thought like that, then of course it wouldn't happen. Wished to hammer her on head with flag, but was better brought up than that, also Channel 7 still lurking.

5. What is it with very pale white girls with scary intense eyes wearing khaffiyehs? There were a couple of Arab guys wearing them around their shoulders, and one girl who had something in a check pattern tied over her hair, under her scarf. Then there were the very very white kids, mostly female, all with mad, staring eyes (I'm not making this up, it was sort of frightening) wearing khaffiyehs wrapped around their heads, in that sort of mask style you see stone-throwing types wearing it in photographs, but bare-faced. (The better to yell.) I couldn't help but wonder what the hell this meant to them. Combining cultural appropriation and cross-dressing seems particularly odd. Nowhere did I see a Palestinian man wearing a khaffiyeh on his head, which I think is what it was originally for, and which looks a darn sight more normal.

6. I discussed with the person next to me what the equivalent for our crowd might be of the insane khaffiyeh style. The only thing I could come up with was the silly kibbutznik hats (tembels? timbas? urkels?) and they're not flattering. I suppose the exact equivalent would be for me to wear a black fedora, Somehow I don't think so.

7. Lots more happened.

I don't know if this did any good in the world, realistically speaking, but it felt right.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I got the job I got the job I got the job

I was offered, and have accepted, a job teaching English, religion and PE (Maybe I can get enough credit for #2 that Herself will offer me some help with #3) at a small Catholic school in Oakland.

Now, I am still a little black and blue from the last two hideous years, and I am very, very nervous about buying too wholeheartedly into anything but THIS ROCKS! I have a sweet principal, keys to the building, the ability to teach from novels, and a big room. With individual little desks. Next week I'm going to start going in a couple of times a week and getting my room ready for the coming year.

As for the Balabusta teaching religion in a Catholic school--yeah, go ahead and laugh. I'm reading the textbook now, and I think it will go fine. About 40% of the students are not Catholic either, and the same principles that apply to creating a good lesson in anything else apply to teaching about the Eucharist. We'll be all good. I'm planning a snappy little bit where they make poster-cards of sacramental symbols.

Now comes the intense nervousness, though. I interviewed really well, and I think I've made a great impression--now all I have to do is teach well enough to match that impression. Oy, that's the catch. But I am a good teacher (I know this when I'm in my right mind) and I'm going to work my tuchis off. I'm doing my best to NOT THINK about the last two years. I know my classroom management skills have improved dramatically under fire. I know that I can (per my BTSA mentor, too) plan a really good lesson. I'm smart. And I talked about what I believe and what I know in the interviews, and they responded to it. I can DO this. The teachers talk about the kids and parents with a lot of enthusiasm, and OHHHHH, this is just great. Bounce, giggle, rub hands together gleefully.

And yes, I've been reading the news. NOT bounce giggle there. Crud, there. More to follow.

Monday, July 10, 2006


The Balabusta's mother walked into the neighborhood burrito place apparently just as Italy finished winning the World Cup.

They made her a burrito anyway, but she describes it as being slightly off in proportions, and she went so far as to unroll it before eating to doublecheck it had not accidentally had some carnitas or somethng similarly trayf rolled into it as the guy behind the counter tried to make a burrito by the burrito equivalent of touch-typing, with his eyes glued to the TV.

There is massive rejoicing happening at the Italian deli, too, and they have hung up a big blue flag with gold stars.

The Balabusta celebrated by making spaghetti for dinner.

Separation of Church and State (Commie Plot?)

Republicans are super-weird people. If my chance I have any Republican readers, I do apologize for being so blunt, but truly dudes. You're super-weird. Or at least you share a party with some who are.

The cause of the Balabusta discussing Republicans, is that a few nights ago, she and the fella attended a party at the home of friends where she ended up talking to a couple of Republicans over Guinness and cheese and crackers for about an hour. It began when they started discussing the persecution of Christians in the United States, and ended, at least for me, when they started talking about the feasibility of the Chinese landing troops on American soil. (I slid out at that point and joined the group talking about Batman movies.)

Sections of the conversation were quite civilized, although somewhat hindered by the fact that I like to know what the hell I am talking about before mouthing off about specific topics. Sections were weirder. Three things stood out in particular:

1. The tendency to tell me, when I said that something was not true--for example, that you cannot be forced to let your kids sit through any form of sex ed, at least here in California--that whatever it was was the case in New York. At one point, one of the Republicans apologized for referencing New York so often, but 'everything comes out of there and spreads'. I was almost tempted to say "Yes, my grandparents, for example'. Alas, I was too entertained by the fact I didn't really think he quite understood the subtext he was invoking to get a good hot fight going there.

2. A weird moment when the other Republican started trying, I think, to assure me that I would get the picture someday. The phrase she insisted on was that "If you are not a Democrat at twenty you have no heart, and if you aren't a Republican at forty you have no brain." She paused. "I just went straight for the brain," she said. I think I was expected to applaud. I believe the real phrase is: "If you are not a communist at twenty you have no heart, and if you are still one at thirty, you have no head." Also, I can't imagine making a sweeping statement like that about Republicans in a social conversation with one, and was greatly intrigued that she apparently did not think that she was insulting me, or that I should mind if she was. ("Hey, I just met you, but I think you're a moron. Let's hang out.")

3. Then we got to the separation of church and state exchange. This happens when a Republican asks you if 'separation of church and state' is in the Constition. This is a trick question, although I'm not sure it's meant to be. They mean NO, because those words do not appear. However, some people who know perfectly well the words don't appear will say YES, meaning the establishment clause establishes the concept. Anyway, I've been put through this one so often that I can't even be bothered anymore, so I said "No, that phrase does not appear," which led to the canned response about how no one knows that. (Anyone who's had to have a long conversation with a Republican at a cocktail party lately knows that.)

"Do you know what it comes from?" comes the next question. Now I've been told by Republicans before, but I couldn't remember for the life of me what it was supposed to be, and while I was trying to recall, he announced that it's from the Communist Manifesto.

"Oh my," I said. "Reeeeeellly?" And the conversation wheeled away to the evils of something else--Bill Clinton, or clean needles, or some damn thing.

Anyway, this is the third or fourth time I've been through this shtick, and my bullshit detector has always gone off big-time each time I hear about separation of church and state being a Commie import. For one thing, it has the ring of something thought up by someone who really, really, wishes that the establishment clause be made to go away, or at least hit really hard with a hammer until it got woozy.

So I looked it up. (Yes, I'm a moron for not having just known the source. And yes, let this be a warning to people who hear stuff that suits their political ideology and don't look it the hell up on the Internet.)

OK. Here we go. Please feel free to pass the word along, regardless of your party affiliation. This is what I've found:

Briefly, the phrase appears to enter the common American political usage through a majority opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson vs. Board of Education (1947, the year the Balabusta's father was born.) Black wrote:

"Neither a state nor the Federal government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against the establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State'."

Jefferson? Oh, yeah, the phrase ORIGINALLY comes from an 1802 letter of Thomas Jefferson's to a committee of Baptist leaders in Connecticut. Communist Manifesto...BLEEEEEEEEP.

Now, the exact meaning and context of both Jefferson's letter and Black's opinion can be argued till the cows come home. That is not the point. The point is that it is an American concept of honorable age and precedent. And the Communist Manifesto thing is bull.

Where does the version I keep hearing come from? According to Snopes, Article 124 of the 1936 Constitution of the USSR states that 'the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church'. In Russian of course. I'm guessing that's the only connection here. But Communists are always a good scare tactic.

And this from a woman trying to get a job at a Catholic school. ;) God bless Google and the United States of America.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Ups and Downs


-I turned thirty-three yesterday!
-I went to get my nails done with my mother, and had them painted a cool shade of orange. They look very nice.
-The new Janet Evanovich book is out, and I've borrowed my mother's copy.
-My parents got me a cell phone as a present, which is going to make life a whole lot easier.
-I went to a 2nd job interview this morning, and think I did really well. Whether they hire me or not, I made a great case for myself.
-I have lit for Shabbos, this made possible by the incredible cleaning work I have been doing this past week. The dining room table is not piled with junk.
-I had rosewater ice cream from the Persian grocery place earlier.


-I went to another job interview after the first one, and it was a wipe-out.
-My feet hurt.
-I was tired and hot and stressed, so I ate an entire pint of rosewater ice cream. I didn't really notice it happening, I just kept reading DovBear and eating ice cream. Back to the gym.

I think the pluses are winning.

Thirty-three. It sounds good, doesn't it? Mature. I found my first gray hair some weeks ago. I could only find it once, and then lost it in the rest of the hair, but the fella saw it and confirmed its silveriousity. I've even got some tiny wrinkles developing around my eyes.

Mostly, though, thanks to being chubby and round-faced, I apparently look about twenty-four half the time. This may sound great, but it is not. People talk down to me. They assume a job is my first, or maybe second. This is getting better, but it's slow. And the general trend is the reverse, you want to look as teenybopperish as you can. Last year when I went to get work clothes, the lady at Chicos started showing me how if I did this, or that, I could look a LOT younger. All I could think was "What about older? Do you have any suggestions for hairdos or accessories that could make me look forty-seven?" I teach. All teachers are old ladies. Those of us who are actually not-quite-middle-aged ladies have to do the best we can with what we got.

I think next time I will try the rosewater saffron ice cream with pistachios.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


OK. On Sunday, I am taking the BART to Oakland, and as I am boarding the train, I am approached by a man who has a question about my sweatshirt. (It belonged to the fella's mom, so I know nothing at all about the team it relates to. Not even what sport they play.) We continue to talk on the train, and discover that both of us write historical fiction. He is pleasant, maybe a generation older than I. He asks if we could 'continue our conversation', and I give him my e-mail address.

He promptly writes, asking if we could go and see a movie, or watch fireworks, or etc. I write back saying that I enjoy talking to other writers, but prefer to keep it online unless I know them from 'real-world' contexts.

He writes back, saying that he thought we had met in the 'real world', and is sorry if he made me uncomfortable. He does not respond to the question about his work I had included.

Now I feel irritable. Is it time to buy that chador? Go everywhere with headphones on? Erk. Erk.

Glorious Fourth

When I was a small kid my parents and I would go down to the Presidio wall on the Fourth of July to watch the fireworks over the trees. Later on, we'd go to the lookout point in the park, up near the Legion of Honor. On a clear day, you can see straight out across the ocean in one direction, and the Golden Gate Bridge in the other.

On a foggy July night, you can see--nothing. Absolutely nothing. Most years it was so socked in with fog that you only knew the ocean was below because you could hear it.

We, and all the other people from the neighborhood who'd come out, would stand in our coats and hats and mufflers, and wait. After a while, we'd hear the booms coming across the bay that assured us that the fireworks display had indeed started. Occasionally, a high shot would make the clouds flash briefly green or red.

"OOOOOOOOOHHHHH!" everyone would gasp, giddy with irony and slightly numb from the cold. "AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!"

And then after a while, the kids who'd climbed down into the brush around the rocks at the bottom of the cliff would start to set off cherry bombs down there.

Ah, the damp, chilly summer memories of a San Francisco childhood.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Twenty Years to the Day

So I went and heard Korach, and it was fun. (Many simchas, lots happening, and I got to hear those fateful words again..."Vayikach Korach...")

I'd have worn the dress I had for the original event, but it no longer fits. I did have the same tallis though.

Twenty years. WOW.