Monthly Archives: October 2020

My Sister: A Pioneer as a Teacher in Special Education

Laura Appel, my big, wonderful sister.

As a child, I was in awe of my big sister. Eight years my senior, Laura wore the best clothes (big skirts with tons of crinolines); listened to the best songs (No to Elvis; Yes to Pat Boone and Johnny Mathis); and exuded a confidence that I lacked. It wasn’t until I was an adult, working with Special Olympic athletes, that I gained a greater appreciation for her true gift-her career as a special education teacher. Through the efforts of pioneers like Laura Cohen Appel, the world has become more inclusive and more understanding towards the education of all. The improvements have been massive over many years, as can be seen by these global education statistics here.

A Career Choice
In 1958, Laura, a junior at Keeseville Central High School in upstate New York, was thinking about her future. She knew that she wanted to become a teacher, but she didn’t want to teach “regular” kids. Somehow she knew that she wanted to work with what was then called “the mentally retarded.”

Every April, selected 11th and 12th grade students were given the opportunity to participate in “Student Teacher Day.” She requested to be placed with Alice Benoit, who taught a life skill class for low functioning students. That experience and conversations with Benoit confirmed her career choice.

On the recommendation of Dan Meagan, the guidance counselor, she applied to Geneseo State, a small college located in the Finger Lakes region, and only one of two in the state system offering a degree in special education.

In addition, Geneseo was progressive. According to SUNY Geneseo: From Normal School to Public Ivy, 1871-2007,James V. Sturges, the principal of the Geneseo Normal School, created a special education program as early as 1922. A 1920 act of the New York State Legislature stated that “[e]very school with ten or more ‘subnormal’ or ‘unusually retarded’ children was to provide a specially prepared teacher.” As a result, Sturges included special education in his teacher training curriculum.

Father Uncomfortable
Reflecting his generation’s “unease” with the stigma of “special needs” children, our father Bill Cohen was uncomfortable about her decision. “Why do you want to teach those students?” he questioned. “Why don’t you just want to be a teacher of regular students? (Interestingly, our father later served on the local school board for many years, and he was a proponent of special education programs, thanks in part to his daughter’s work in that field.)

While Laura was junior in college, President John F. Kennedy, whose sister Rosemary had intellectual disabilities, created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation, which heralded the beginning of federal involvement and fiscal aid to states. His sister, Eunice Shriver, founded the Special Olympics in honor of Rosemary, who had been hidden by her parents in private schools and, then after a lobotomy to “fix her,” placed in an institution for the remainder of her life.

Spring semester of her senior year, Laura was assigned to do her student teaching in Rochester, N.Y. Her first assignment was in a fourth grade “regular” classroom, an experience so horrible that Laura almost quit. My parents insisted she stick it out. Her second assignment in a special education class with a wonderful teacher and mentor again confirmed her career choice.

“A New World”
After she graduated in 1964, Laura took a job in Spring Valley. During that first year of her teaching, special education classes were not held in regular school building. Instead, Laura taught classes in an activities building for a nearby summer camp. A second building held the classes for the physically handicapped as well as a food service program that made student and faculty lunches every day.

Laura and her fellow teachers, left very much on their own, made the decision to divide the classes not by ages, but by abilities, thereby allowing children with similar skills to progress together. For some children, education focused on basic life skills-eating, dressing and bathing, as well as other daily living skills like shopping, banking, phone use and housekeeping. Others showing greater ability were taught skills that were part of a more standard curriculum, including reading, math, history and science.

Teaching special education was a whole new world. Before 1961, the United States did not publicly educate any children with any disabilities. If a child had cognitive or emotional disabilities, deafness, blindness or needed speech therapy, parents had to educate their children at home or pay for private education.

Thankfully attitudes to special education have come a long way since those early days, and now, children can receive help and support to overcome various issues related to speech and communication. Some of these vital services can even be provided at the home of the child. For example, check out infinitetherapysolutions.org to learn more about in home speech therapy in NJ.

Ultimately, parents began the process of securing public education by creating advocacy groups for their children. They met with teachers and politicians. It was not until 1965, when Laura was in her first year of teaching, that President Lyndon B. Johnson began signing off on acts designed to expand public education and its funding purposes.

Changes
Laura continued teaching special education in New York and, after her marriage, in Connecticut. In 1971, she left the classroom to become a stay-at-home mom. Five years later, the family relocated to Phoenixville, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia.

Changes, meanwhile, were happening in special education As late as 1970, United States schools educated only one in five children with disabilities, and many states had laws excluding certain students, including children who were deaf, blind, emotionally disturbed, or “mentally retarded.” In 1975, however, with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the United States voted to ensure that all children, regardless of their differences, should have access to free public school education. This act helped to bring federal funds into schools to help them create special education for children who did not learn the same way as general education students. The law also gave parents a right to have more of a say in their child’s education. The passage of the law opened the gates for more emphasis on special education.

Inclusion- The New Goal
In 1978, with both of her children in school full-time, Laura began teaching special education in the Phoenixville Area School District, first in the regional educational service agency and eventually in the middle school as a seventh grade resource room teacher.

Embracing new findings that special needs students did better when mainstreamed into classes with non-disabled students, Laura worked with teachers in her team and the administration to transition the students from her stand-alone classroom to general education classrooms during specific time periods based on their skills.

Laura said that children still experienced prejudice not only from the “regular” students but also from some of the old-school educators who believed that “retarded” children didn’t belong in their classroom. As the years progressed, however, Laura has been encouraged to see that many teachers fully embrace the idea of inclusion.

The Education of All Handicapped Children Act continually underwent change and grew into the more expansive Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004. This has become the model of public education that continues today. By the time Laura retired in 2006, most children with intellectual disabilities had been placed in inclusive classrooms where children of all abilities could learn from and with each other. “As a result,” said Laura, “students with special needs feel much less stigma for being in a learning support class.”

The United States has come a long way from locking away students with special needs into institutions, private schools and isolated classrooms. “I feel a great sense of pride that I was part of the generation of educators who helped take students with intellectual disabilities out of the closets, institutions, and isolated classrooms, and put them alongside their non-disabled peers,” Laura said. She indicated that these changes have fostered greater understanding, tolerance, and compassion not only in the classroom but also in the greater society.

Marilyn Shapiro, formerly of Clifton Park, is now a resident of Kissimmee, Fla. A compilation of articles printed in The Jewish WorldThere Goes My Heart, is available. Marilyn Shapiro’s blog is theregoesmyheart.me.

Measure for Measure: What Goes Around Comes Around?

President Trump greets supporters during a drive by outside of Walter Reed Hospital October 4, 2020.

Hindus and Buddhists call it Karma. Germans call it Schadenfreude. But do Jews have an expression to express fate or to express pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune? The closest corresponding phrase is “midah k’neged midah,” —“measure for measure.” One’s actions and they way they affect the world will eventually come to that person in ways one might not necessarily expect.

In a 2017 dracha, Rabbi David Wolfe described two Biblical passages from Bereishit (Genesis) that demonstrate this concept. In the first passage, Jacob takes advantage of his father’s age and blindness to fool Issac into believing hat he is his older twin Esau. As a result, he receives his older brother’s birthright/blessing.

Years later, Jacob falls deeply in love with Rachel. Agreeing to work for seven years for her father Laban, Jacob finally joins his bride under the chuppa. When he wakes up from the wedding night, however, Jacob realizes that under that heavy veil was Leah, the older and less desirable of the sisters. Rabbi Wolfe then calls on a midrash to explain the aftermath. Understandably, Jacob is very upset and demands to know why Leah tricked him. Leah ’s response: “You fooled your father into thinking you were your brother; I fooled you into thinking I was my sister.” In other words, what goes around comes around. 

Just past midnight, on Friday, October 2, President Donald Trump tweeted that he and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.The president’s diagnosis came after he spent months playing down the severity of the outbreak that has killed more than 215,000 in the United States and hours after insisting that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.” He has downplayed the virus again and again. More egregiously, this cavalier attitude has been passed on to his supporters. Republican leaders have incorporated this non-scientific approach into their politics, resulting in dismissing the need for masks and social distancing; opening up cities and states way before it was deemed safe by experts to do so; and touting the “success” of such operations that in truth do not exist.

After initially experiencing some of my own Schadenfreude, my Yom Kippur prayers of repentance kicked in. I sought out the high ground, which I saw in the Book of Proverbs: “If your enemy falls, do not exult; if he trips, let your heart not rejoice” So summoning up my best self, I hope that the president has a “Refuah Shleimah,” a complete recovery. I hope even more that this experience changes how he views COVID-19 and its impact on those not able to take a one mile plane ride to the country’s top hospital after experiencing “mild symptoms.”

My husband Larry and I have seen our lives upended, as have our extended family and our friends. Aborted trips. In person visits replaced with FaceTime calls. Cancelled bar mitzvahs, graduation parties, weddings, Zoom funerals. Limited visits with relatives in nursing homes.

But what we have experienced is nothing compared to the physical, emotional, and financial impact it has on others. On March 31, 2020, my friend Kathy, who had returned from a cruise “under the weather,” sent out a FaceBook post that she was being admitted to the hospital for what she believed was bronchitis. Within two days, she was hooked up to a ventilator. Her brother Bryan kept us informed daily on social media, describing Kathy’s ordeal in ICU in which she almost died several times. When she was finally breathing on her own, she spent several more weeks in rehab. She returned home two weeks ago, only to be rushed back to the hospital for more surgery related to complications of COVID.. As I said, I hope for the president’s recovery, but I wish he could experience just a fraction of what Kathy has been through.

Kathy has survived, but at least seven people in our community have succumbed. In the Orlando, Florida, area, thousands have lost jobs as Disney and other theme parks, Central Florida’s main employer, have seen low attendance. The ripple effect has closed many of our area’s restaurants and other businesses. 

So, I know I join many Americans who hope that the Rose Garden Debacle, which lead to innumerable cases of this fast-spreading disease, will result in policy changes from President Trump and his supporters. Will the federal government finally organize a national response? Will masks and social distancing be mandatory everywhere, even when the president and like-minded Republicans are in attendance? Will first responders be finally given all needed supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and enough tests? And will all leaders take a harder look at returning to Phase 1 protocols?

Or maybe I am just dreaming. On Sunday, October 4, I watched in disbelief as news stations covered the president’s commandeering a motorcade to greet his supporters outside of Walter Reed Hospital. Let us put this ten minute joy ride into perspective. Because of COVID, millions of us cannot see people we love. Because of COVID, thousands have had to lie in hospital beds with no contact with relatives. Because of COVID, many have DIED alone. But the president thought nothing of spending thousands of our tax payer dollars to get the adulation he cravenly requires. And he thought nothing of the danger he put his secret service staff (who were subsequently  put in quarantine) and others to pull off this publicity stunt.To use the words of a popular meme on the Internet: I don’t wish this virus on anyone. I hope the president has a speedy recovery.And I hope he gets demolished at the ballot box. That will be for me “midah k’neged midah,” the most satisfying measure for measure.

First published in The Jewish World, October 8, 2020.

Source

https://www.sinaitemple.org/worship/sermons/toldot-training-hands-esau-voice-jacob/s

Praying with my feet and typing with my fingers

I realized I never published this article, which I wrote in January 2020.. Hope you enjoy it!!

I do believe we woke up the Children. You think the Flower Children of the 1960s were revolutionary? Just wait!  Facebook Meme

Full confession. Outside of wearing bell bottom pants and trying marijuana once, I was NOT a flower child. My first vote for a president was in 1968, and I voted for Nixon. When fellow friends and professors marched against the Vietnam War after Kent State, I joined in. But during that entire day, I was more scared than passionate. Looking back, I wish I had done more. Been more. But it was not who I was at the time.

I wasn’t much of an activist in the following years. Despite my friends’s urging, I didn’t vote for the Equal Rights Amendment. I laughed it off with a popular excuse at the time: I LIKE men holding doors open for me. And I decided that Nixon was guilty later than most of my friends, not believing that the president of our country could be involved in such a cover-up. 

I still am not an organizer or a marcher. I attended Women’s March in Orlando, armed with great signs and more passion. When one of the speakers began lambasting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, however, I vowed never to go to another event held by that group. I have passed up other opportunities for public protests, including those organized to support immigrants and decry gun violence. 

That is why I am so in awe of the recent rise of our youth, specifically the March For Our Lives organizers and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg. 

Parkland, Florida, the sight of the Margaret Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School shootings, is less than 200 miles from us. Like the rest of the country, I followed the news with fear and anger. Would this be another instance where victims and survivors were offered “thoughts and prayers” but no change in the lax gun laws that precipitated this event? Would anyone stand up to the National Rifle Association and the many politicians who not only accepted their money but also bowed to their demands?

The answer was a resounding YES. The leaders of the grassroots movement were not adults, but MSD students who survived the shooting that killed 18 people, including the friends of the organizers. Their reaction was immediate. David Hogg, a senior and the news director for  the school’s news station, channeled his fury while in lockdown by taking notes and interviewing fellow students huddled around him. Less than ten hours later, he handed his footage to Laura Ingram on her prime-time Fox news show. Bristling at Ingram’s platitudinous,( “Our emotions are with you,”)  anger spilled out. “I don’t want this to be another mass shooting….something that people forget.” And in the what would be the first call to action, Hogg stated the need” to go your congressmen.”

On March 24, 2018, less than seven weeks after the shooting, March for Our Lives (MFOL), a student-led demonstration  in support of legislation to prevent gun violence in the United States took place in Washington, DC,  with over 880 sibling events throughout the United States and the world. Turn out was estimated to be between 1.2 and .2 million, making it one of the largest protests in American history.

While MFOL were organizing against gun violence in the United States, a fifteen-year-girl in Sweden was watching and wondering if she could possibly do the same to save the planet. Thunberg was eleven years old when her primary-school teacher showed a video on the effects of a warming world. That event, initially causing her an “endless sadness,” inspired her to start a one-girl campaign to pressure the Swedish government to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

On August 20, 2018, Thunberg settled in a spot across the street of the Swedish parliament building. She was armed with a sign that read “Student Strike for the climate” and a flyer that explained her purpose. It included the admonition: “Since you adults don’t give a damn about my future, I won’t either”

She sat alone on Day One. But a person joined her on Day Two, and a few others on Day Three and so on. By September she had enough support to limit her strike, which she named Friday’s for Future, to one day a week. By the end of the year, she had been joined by tens of thousands of students across Europe. By fall 2019, Thunberg had been joined by millions across the world.

In her speech in front of the UN General Assembly in September 2019, Thunberg, like David Hoggs before her, expressed her anger and disgust. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,”she stated. “How dare you!” Her wish to follow in the footsteps of the activists from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School had been realized. 

In this past year, what Time  called “the power of youth” protests spread to include  in Hong Kong, Iraq, and Lebanon. And November elections in Virginia, in which Democrats took control of both houses, was propelled by  a “younger, more diverse and more liberal” Democrat base that supported gun control, women’s rights and clean energy.

“Adults didn’t take care of these problems, said Jaclyn Cronin, the chief organizer of Washington DC event,“so we have to take care of them.” 

As an adult who feels strongly in the need for Tikkun Olam, leaving the world a better place, I believe that the battles for which the youth are fighting should also be taken up by all of us. Maybe it is time for those who were flower children—or flower children fails—need to get on board. Abraham Joshua Heschel, reflecting on his participation in the twentieth century civil rights movement, stated, “When I marched in Selma my feet were praying.” 

I am no longer he young girl who stood on the sidelines. Like many of today’s youth, I am passionate about issues that impact all of us: Gun violence. Climate Change. Immigration policies. Women’s rights. As we head to the November 3, 2020, elections, I will be calling my legislators, writing my columns and letters to the editors, and joining people of all ages toto effect change. And who knows? Maybe, like Greta and Dave and Jaclyn and Rabbi Heschel, I will start praying with my feet. 

The youth have taken the lead. It is our responsibility to them to follow.

Sources:

Alter, Charlotte et. al. “The Conscience.” Time Magazine. December 23/30, 2019.

Cullen, Dave. Parkland: The Birth of a Movement. Harper, 2019. 

Palmer, Joanne. “Praying with Their Feet.” https://jewishstandard.timesofisrael.com/praying-with-their-feet/. September 3, 2015. 

Scheider, Gregory and Laura Vozzella. Democrats flip Virginia Senate and House, taking control of state government for the first time in a generation.https://www.washingtonpost.com/polls-open-in-virginia-balance-of-power-in-state-government-is-at-stake/2019/11/05/bdb57972-ff5b-11e9-8501-2a7123a38c58_story.html

Wikipedia

Why I am not voting for Donald Trump

Marilyn Cohen Shapiro reciting Kiddish at Congregation Shalom Aleichem, Kissimmee, Florida

This article is in response to “Donald Trump: Social Justice President” (Rabbi Sanford Olshansky, Heritage Florida Jewish News, Aug. 28, 2020). 

The High Holy Days will be very different this year for all of us.

Rather than meeting fellow congregants in our synagogues, we will be Zooming. As the first day falls on Shabbos, Reform Jews will have to wait until the closing moments of Yom Kippur to hear the sound of the shofar over the Internet. Holiday meals will be lonely affairs as most families are practicing social distancing. Fasting on the holiest day of the year will be made even more difficult when people are not sharing the experience with others.

It did not have to be this bad. Other countries are opening up. Because of this administration’s failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic and — worst yet — its attempt to call it a “hoax,” the United States has over 6 million confirmed cases and over 189,000 deaths as of Sept. 4, with an upsurge expected this fall. Employment is at 8.4 percent overall (compared to 4.7 percent under Obama) but much higher among Blacks (13.0 percent), and Hispanics (10.5 percent). Both small businesses and large corporations are facing closures or uncertain futures. 

The president and his followers have made a health issue a political issue. The country has been torn apart on the issue of wearing a piece of cloth. “The dispute over masks embodies the political dynamics of the campaign,” writes Tara McKelvey in a BBC news article. “It also reflects a classic American struggle between those who defend public safety and those who believe just as deeply in personal liberty.” Meanwhile, all respectable medical personnel view masks as our first defense against the virus.

For those fortunate enough not to have suffered devastating health or economic effects, the impact of the pandemic still has been emotionally difficult. Parents of children fear sending their children to school. Nursing home residents cannot see their families. Grandparents cannot see their grandchildren. Six months into the pandemic, people are feeling lonely, isolated, depressed. 

Meanwhile, since George Floyd’s murder, the United States has come face to face with its long history of systematic racism, and the president has only fueled the flames. His comments and policies have impacted Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, Dreamers, Africans (“shit-hole countries”), Asians (“kung fu” flu), and Jews. Even the disabled — including those who suffered physical or emotional injuries as a result of their military service (“losers” and “suckers”) — have been the target of the president’s disrespect and scorn. 

Jews and non-Jews alike have questioned why I don’t support Trump as he is “good for the Jews.” His history of anti-Semitic comments prove clearly to me that he is not. In 2017, the president stated soon after the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that there was “good on both sides.” His inability to denounce neo-Nazis demonstrates to me that the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust mean nothing to him. Later that year, after the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, Trump’s initial reaction was to criticize the synagogue. “If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple … maybe it could have been a very much different situation.” In August 2019, he accused American Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. In December 2019, speaking at the Israeli American Council referred the dual loyalty cliché, and then went on to call Jews involved in real estate “ brutal killers, not nice people at all.” As recently as last week, Mary Ann Mendoza, a Trump supporter was pulled from the RNC line up after protests of her promotion of anti-Semitic and QAnon conspiracy theories on her Twitter Feed. 

The president is the antithesis to every moral tenet of Judaism. He is a bully, a liar, a cheat, a womanizer, and a self-absorbed, unempathetic narcissist who has no respect for anyone who does not fawn over him — unless they are despots. 

His June 1, 2020, photo in front of what is considered the “Church of Presidents” is one the most egregious example. In the middle of peaceful protests, law enforcement officers used tear gas and other riot control tactics to forcefully clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square and surrounding streets, creating a path for the president and senior administration officials to walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Reverend Gini Gerbasi, the rector, had helped organize more than twenty priests and lay volunteers to provide water, food, and hand sanitizer as a “peaceful presence in support of protesters.” As they were packing up before the 7 p.m. curfew, armed riot police carrying riot shields entered the churchyard, forcing everyone to evacuate. Minutes later, the president and his entourage entered the square. Brandishing an upside-down, back-facing Bible, Trump posed for photographers for what he perceived was his “law and order” demeanor.

The publicity-stunt-gone wrong met with overwhelming condemnation. Rev. Gerbasi’s comments reported in the Washington Post were especially hard hitting. “People were protesting the fact that their government had been enslaving, incarcerating, overlooking and brutalizing them for generations — and the government brutalized them again,” she stated in a Washington Post article. “Religious people, who were literally wiping away the protesters’ tears, were driven off the church property with brute force and fear. All so that Trump could use the church as a backdrop and wave the Bible like a prop. It was beyond offensive. It was sacrilege.”

“We need our President, and all who hold office, to be moral leaders who help us to be a people and nation living these values,” stated Bishop Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. “For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be ‘one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.’” Donald J. Trump is not that president. The only path for our country and democracy is for the overwhelming numbers of Americans to recognize this failure and vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. Then, and only then, can all of us sound the Shofar in the future with peace, joy and hope.

Marilyn Shapiro lives in Kissimmee, Fla. This article was first published in the (Orlando) Heritage Florida Jewish News on September 18, 2020

Honor the Memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. VOTE!!!

I will never forget where I was when I heard of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing.

My husband Larry and I were in front of our computer, chatting with our fellow Congregation Shalom Aleichem members before our Rosh Hashanah Zoom service was to begin. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away,” interjected a member who had just gotten the breaking news on his phone.

All chatter stopped. Then there were murmurs of “Oh No!” “Oh my God!”

I was devastated. My heart turned cold as I thought about what will happen to our Supreme Court if the current administration pushed through another Conservative, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights individual. Larry saw my face and knew what I was thinking.

Impact
“It is Rosh Hashanah. For the next 24 hours, we take time to celebrate her life,” he told me. “We will worry about its impact later.”

Within hours of the announcement of her death Friday night, an outpouring of affection for the first Jewish woman appointed to the country’s highest court had already begun. People spontaneously gathered on the front steps of the Supreme Court building, where she had served as a judge for 27 years, bearing candles and singing Amazing Grace. In other places in the country, crowds gathered to say Kaddish, and to remember her. At Central Synagogue in New York City on Rosh Hashanah morning, Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl spoke at the virtual service from New York City’s Central Synagogue. She honored Justice Ginsburg in an eloquent spoken and musical tribute to “a real tzaddik, a woman of justice.” As pictures of the late justice’s life were displayed on the screen, the rabbi sang a beautiful rendition of Psalm 150 (Halleluhu / Praise God in His sanctuary) to the melody of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I cry every time I watch it.

In the days that followed, I read many Jewish interpretations of the timing of Justice Ginsburg’s death. One midrash stated that Jews who dies between Rosh Hashanah is fast-tracked to heaven as they are true “tzaddikim,” people of great righteousness. With the fact that Rosh Hashanah fell on Sabbath this year, the significance is deemed to be even greater.

Replacement?
As  many Jews and non-Jews celebrated her life, however, Republicans were already planning her replacement. This incredible woman was not even cold when Trump announced that he would name his pick. His sycophants quickly fell into line. Forget that in 2016, President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland was blocked by many of the same Republicans. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” stated Mitch McConnell in March 2016. “Therefore, [Justice Anthony Scalia’s] vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” This did obviously did not hold true for the current administration.

What was even more disturbing to me was the president’s attempt to besmirch her legacy. Clara Spera, Justice Ginsburg’s granddaughter, had asked her ‘Bubbe’ in her last days if there was anything wanted to say to the public that hadn’t been said. Ginsburg stated, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” President Trump publicly suggested that the Democrats had fabricated Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish. “It sounds so beautiful,” said the president in an interview on Fox and Friends,” but that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe Pelosi or Shifty Schiff” (There is no limit to the depths of indecency this man can go.).

This afternoon, while I was writing this article, Senator Mitt Romney signaled that he is on board with the Senate’s taking up a new Supreme Court nominee during the current election year, an announcement that almost ensures the president’s pick will be confirmed. The news has hit me as hard as when Nov. 9, 2015, I learned that Donald J. Trump was to be our new president.

What Shall We Do?
“I am so, so sad,” I shared on my Facebook page. “Women’s rights will be gone. The Affordable Care Act will be on the chopping block. The election may come down to the Conservative, Trump-leaning Supreme Court. Goodness knows what is next.”

My daughter Julie Shapiro wrote a letter to her to her Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. By supporting another Trump-appointed justice, she told him that he and his cohorts are stealing the rights and protections of Americans, particularly those of women, immigrants, minorities, elderly and other vulnerable populations. Accusing him of being on “the wrong side of history,” Julie voiced her concern for her five-year-old daughter.“ It may take a generation or more but I hope someday my daughter’s daughter will live in a country that defends rather than undermines its democratic principles. A country that looks back ruefully but with relief for having overcome this chapter in which people like yourself snatched power from the deserving and flattered yourselves in your delusion that you were helping those that you continuously hurt.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a legal pioneer for gender equality and the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, has died. The possibility of a Supreme Court with a Conservative majority is becoming more of a certainty. Where do we go from here?

November 3 is coming quickly. Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Keep hounding your representatives, even if many don’t appear to care for anything beyond their own self-interests. Work to get out the vote. Write postcards and letters. Participate in phone banks and texting sessions. And on November 3, vote as if your life and the lives of our children and grandchildren depend on it. And then on January 20, you can share my joy as we welcome a new, better day in America.

The Jewish World, September 22, 2020

Being Born: The World, The Jewish World, and me!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to The Jewish World! And Happy Birthday to the World!

It was Labor Day—how fitting!  On Sept. 3, 1950, as my mother’s doctor had a noon golf date, Frances Cohen accommodated his schedule by delivering me a little after 9 a.m.

The Jewish World came along 15 years later. Inspired by Jewish community leaders with the idea that a newspaper would strengthen the community, Sam Clevenson published its first issue for Rosh Hashanah 5716 on Sept. 23, 1965. He believed it would help unify the Jewish communities of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and the surrounding area. After his passing in 2008, his children, Laurie and Jim, took the helm, packing the paper with more local news, adding a dynamic web site and weekly e-newsletter to expand the readership.

What’s in the ‘World’
The bi-weekly covers local religious events and a wide range of local, national, and international news that impacts and strengthens our Jewish community. It is also a valuable source for happenings in the world of art and culture. Over the years, I have clipped recipes, jotted down the names of books and movies, and have learned much about the world through a Jewish lens.

The recent rise of Jew-hating has made our local newspaper even more important. “For 54 years The Jewish Worldhas monitored perils to your existence,” Jim Clevenson recently said. “We finger the foes of freedom, the nemeses of peace, while celebrating the successes of our crusaders for justice, black and white, Jewish and Gentile.”

‘There goes my heart’
While my husband, Larry, and I had been longtime subscribers and readers, my personal connection to The Jewish World began in 2013. While covering the Capital District Hadassah’s special events banquet, I visited the office in Schenectady to speak to Jim Clevenson. In my pre-retirement life, I had worked in public relations as both a volunteer and as part of my job at the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center, a division of Hudson Valley Community College. Jim asked if I would be interested in writing news articles for the paper. I countered with an offer to write personal columns based on my many years as an upstate resident. My first article, “There Goes My Heart,” was published Aug. 15, 2013. Laurie and Jim (and readers) must have liked it. Over the past seven years, I have published 148 articles in Sam Clevenson’s brainchild.

Since Larry and I moved to Florida in 2015, I have expanded my horizons by becoming a regular contributor to the Heritage Florida Jewish News. My articles have been posted on numerous websites, the Jewish War Museum, Growing Bolder cancer survivors website, the US Pickleball Association, and most recently the Australian-based Jewish Women of Words (I have gone international!) I have compilations in two books, There Goes My Heart (2016) and Tikkun Olam: Stories of Repairing an Unkind World (2018). Two books are in the queue: Keep Calm and Bake Challah, a third collection of essaysand Fredyl’s Stories, family stories that I co-wrote with my mother, Frances Cohen (Of Blessed Memory). My blog, theregoesmyheart.me, presents my stories as well as articles about my writing adventures.

My articles, books, and blog would not have been possible without the help and support of Laurie and Jim Clevenson. They have provided the space in the paper plus advice and guidance.

The lonely ‘Zoom’
This month, The Jewish World and I also share our birthdays with the world. Rosh Hashanah 5781 begins on Friday, Sept. 18. Of course, the High Holy Days will be very different this year for most of us. Rather than meeting fellow congregants in our synagogues, we will be “Zooming.” As the first day falls on Shabbos, Reform Jews will have to wait until the closing moments of Yom Kippur to hear the sound of the shofar over the Internet. Holiday meals will be lonely as most families are practicing social distancing. Fasting on the holiest day of the year will be made even more difficult when we are not sharing the experience.

But I will still celebrate. I will bake round challahs, roll matzoh balls and drop them in simmering chicken soup, and cook up my traditional chicken, roasted potatoes, and candied carrots. Larry and I will do a brachah over the wine asking for a sweet, better year ahead. After we have finished our Zoom service, I will pull out the most recent Jewish World and catch up on what is happening from the only local paper that focuses on Jewish news—what you need to know.

It’s not just the virus
Before Corona-19 we were already a polarized nation crazed with resentment of blacks, Jews, and foreigners. Now we’ve heard echoes of ‘The Jews have poisoned the wells’! The Jewish World promotes Jewish life and culture, and stands for Jewish traditions of rationality and love. We believe good people must stand together to encourage and facilitate light. This is our mission and duty as Jews.

What you can do
To celebrate The Jewish World’s 55th birthday, I ask you to support the paper you are holding in your hands or reading on-line. Renew your subscription. The Clevensons shared with me that a new office staffer is managing the database, and non-payers may find their mailboxes a little emptier on every other Friday.

Give subscription gift certificates to your kids and friends! To carry on the Clevenson legacy call Cynthia Traynahan in the office, (518) 344-7018. She knows all the special discounts.

With Corona-19 disrupting most businesses, The Jewish World needs extra help: visit GoFundMe at gf.me/u/xunxx5.

I also request that you keep in touch with me! I love to hear from readers. E-mail me at shapcomp18@gmail.com , via my Facebook page at Marilyn Cohen Shapiro, Writer, or on Twitter at @shapiro_marilyn. Thank you!

The Jewish World, September 15, 2020