Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Match Made in Heaven

By the beginning of my senior year in high school my mind was made up. I would go to the University of Colorado for college. It had a large Jewish population, a good social work department, and a beautiful campus nestled among the Rocky Mountains. My acceptance letter came in October and just as I was poised to send in the registration forms and check, the winter weather began in Kansas.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It Might Not Be Politically Correct

It was a typical sweltering Phoenix afternoon when my husband entered our apartment on August 11th. He’d just heard a breaking news story on the car radio that he needed to share with me.

“There’s a sniper on top of the Holiday Inn in downtown Wichita and he’s shot several people.”
Skyline of downtown Wichita with the Holiday Inn in the center

I was horrified. Not so much by the news but by the fact that my husband was telling me about it without even knowing if my father was okay.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I love the world when the wind blows…

So began the rhyme emblazoned on the stationery my cousin had given me when I was a pre-teen. There was a picture of a young girl with her hair blowing in the breeze. I loved that picture and I loved those note pages because, like the girl, I loved the blowing wind. But I don’t love the howling wind that is blasting outside my house this morning. Its cry sends shivers through my bones, probably bringing back dormant memories of tornado weather from my childhood.

Monday, December 29, 2014


More than forty years have passed and I can still subconsciously hear my shriek of pain as I spilled hot oil down the front of my body. I still remember my fears of scars, my impatience of being bedridden, my slow recovery, and finally the incessant itching as the burns healed. For they did heal, leaving me with only one hidden scar the size of a fingernail. My burns, unlike those of Ayala Shapria, were only second-degree burns and not near any vital organs.
The Shapira family car following the attack: Team Tzachi Shomron First Response

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

One Family, One People

Year after year the Torah portion, Mikketz, ends with a cliff-hanger. And year after year the mysteries are cleared up in the portion Vayigash. As the truth is revealed it touches our hearts. The tears that come to my eyes, though, are not just from the chanting of the Torah. They also come from a memory of my father from eight years ago.

For those not familiar with these Torah portions Yosef was sold into slavery, falsely accused of attacking his master’s wife, spent twelve years in prison, was released and taken to Pharaoh’s palace, and then became second-in-command to distribute food during the seven years of famine. At the zenith of his career, ten of his brothers, the ones who sold him into slavery, appeared before him. He was gruff, hid his identity, and put all sorts of harsh conditions on them. At the close of the Torah portion he accused Binyomin of stealing his goblet and demanded that he become his slave. No one else, he declared, could take the place of his youngest brother, the beloved son of his father’s old age. How could the brothers leave Binyomin behind in Egypt? How could they go to Yaacov, their father in Canaan, without him? How can the portion end with such tension?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jewish Pride

Even in Phoenix the evenings can get chilly during Chanukah and I was cold as we stood by the huge menorah at the city hall plaza. The Chabad rabbi lit the candles with a torch while a handful of Jews and dozens of vagrants looked on. There were some holiday songs and then volunteers handed out warm potato latkes to all. That’s why the vagrants were there, free food. One of them, obviously more than slightly inebriated, stood to the left of me waiting for his handout. This man was twice my width and a good head and a half taller than me. His breath stank of alcohol and he began swaying slightly. As he swayed farther and farther to the right I envisioned him collapsing on top of me. There was no escape so I quickly I gave him a shove to the left, stabling him, and then grabbed my husband.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remembering Pearl

She was born on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, and they named her Pearl, but it wasn’t because of the naval base in Hawaii. She was born eleven years before the attack on America that heralded its entry into the Second World War. I met her some thirty years after that attack when I was a college freshman.

At that time there were basically three families in the observant Phoenix community who invited Arizona State University students from Tempe into their homes as Shabbat guests.  Pearl, her husband, Zalman, and children were among them. They possessed a talent to make guests feel immediately at home. Pearl was different than any of the women I’d known in Kansas. Besides being observant she spoke with a strong New York accent peppered with Yiddish words like tacha, mamaesh,  and oy abrach. I had been in her living room less than a half hour after candle lighting that first Shabbat and she already had me, a shy eighteen-year-old, talking as if I’d known her for years. Among the details she discovered was that I was three days younger than her oldest daughter. That piece of information characterized the relationship we would have for the following decades. Sometimes she was my surrogate mother and sometimes she was my friend.