Author Archives: shapcomp18

About shapcomp18

After thirty five years in education, I have retired and am free to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a freelance writer. Inspired by my mother, who was the family historian, I am writing down my family stories as well as publishing stories my mother wrote down throughout her life. Please feel free to comment and share.

Too many questions! What I miss most during the pandemic is certainty.

This article was written in May but never got onto my blog. I am catching up with my posts now. When reading, think of where we all were before Summer 2020 started. Marilyn 9/8/2020.

Yes, I know the old adage that says life changes on a dime, and that you never know what will happen tomorrow. But now my life is filled with too many questions regarding the future. Will Larry, my husband, or I contract COVID-19? If we do, will we die? How about my children and grandchildren? What are their chances of getting the disease?

The Drill
We know the guidelines. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. Wear a mask. But will that be enough? We have gone to stores three times since March 6. The first time was to Publix, during a “senior’s only” hour. Huge mistake. The store was mobbed, most people were not wearing masks, and the wait at the checkout was a minimum of 30 minutes. We switched to Instacart. Just recently, however, we ventured out to Publix and Lowes, donned in masks and gloves, for some targeted shopping. I would estimate 80% of the people and almost all the employees (except one young woman sorting produce) were wearing masks. Were we safe? Every time we are in a public place, we reset the clock to see if symptoms occur in the next 14 days. The biggest uncertainty is “When will this end?”

End Agenda
The first thing on our end agenda will be to see our children and grandchildren.This week, we cancelled our summer plans. As we had done annually for the past five years, we had booked our plane flights and rentals in Colorado for eight weeks. Going there gave us a chance to escape the summer heat and enjoy  the beauty of the Rockies. The best part of the summer was being close to my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Along with meeting with them for dinners or concerts, we often were recruited to bring our granddaughter to pre-school or pick her up. We often watched her so that Julie and Sam could get some private time.

We have worked with our rental person so that we can use the condo at a future date. But when will that be? August? September? Next summer?

The pandemic has also put our meeting our new grandson on hold. Prior to his birth in March, we had made plans to fly out and stay at a bed and breakfast blocks from their home.

Longing For Connection
My children have been wonderful about keeping in touch through video conferencing. Adam and Sarah often arrange the screen so that our new grandson fills the picture. We have seen him poop, burp, yawn, sleep, and squirm. We have hear him cry and sigh and make what Adam calls his “pterodactyl” sounds. But we haven’t held him. When will that day arrive? Our granddaughter, with the help of her parents, also checks in often. We talk, read or tell stories to each other, and bake chocolate chip cookies together “virtually.” But—again the but—when will we be able to actually hug her and kiss her beautiful “punim” with those big blue eyes and wonderful smile?

Of course, we are not alone in this pandemic. Everyone faces an uncertain future, whether it be as trivial as getting a haircut (and a long-overdue hair color!) or as critically important as having necessary surgery. For parents working from their kitchen tables, they daily juggle their workload and their childcare and even home schooling. Will daycare resume this summer? This fall? Next January? Is it safe even to send the children?

For those working outside the home—especially those on the front lines—they wonder if they will bring the virus home with them. For those who have been furloughed or—worse—lost their jobs, they wonder when they will able to return to work. When they are, are the benefits of a paycheck worth the risk of also exposing themselves and/or their families to COVID-19? Now that Florida has eased up restrictions, a beautician told her client that her husband is battling cancer. “If I go back to work, I may bring the virus home. Do I stay safe or have money for food, rent, and other necessities?”

As most of my friends are also grandparents, they speak to me of so many missed opportunities including a Mother’s Day visit, or a high school or college graduation. Even those who live close to their families must watch their grandchildren play from10 feet away or on the other side of the fence.

What is one of the saddest parts of the virus are those whose loved ones are in assisted living or nursing homes. One friend shared with me the loss of a parent who passed away “from a broken heart” when he realized that he could not see his family in the foreseeable future. Another friend is limited to FaceTime with his wife who, even though physically two miles away, could be on the other side of the moon. My friend Allison, a member of my writing group, has her 99-year-old mother in a medical crisis in Trinidad, and she can only call her siblings to get updates. There is one certainty: many people who do not survive will die without being surrounded by their family. Many will also grieve alone.

Certainty And Control?
Before COVID-19 (BC) life had been more certain. Or was it? “The pandemic has handed out a stark reminder that the idea of us humans ever having had a locus of control is a complete myth,” Allison shared in a note to the other members of our writing group. “Now that’s a different type of loss— thinking we’ve lost something that we never really had.”

This morning’s headlines carried a glimmer of hope. The manufacturer Moderna said that the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to “be safe and able to stimulate an immune response.” Reading further dimmed my excitement. The vaccine was tested on eight healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55. Will this be the answer? Or will several other possibilities in the queue turn out to be the answer? Meanwhile we wait and hope and deal as best we can with these very uncertain times.

First published in The Jewish World, May 28, 2020.

Hairy tales from the pandemic become a focus

With all that has been happening in the world since February, the discussion of hair grooming, seems to take up a great deal of time and space.

Six weeks after our life went into lockdown, my husband Larry was looking more and more like Bernie Sanders. Trips to the barber were not an option, and he had purchased through the internet electric hair clippers. Larry could easily get the front and sides, but I was responsible for the “back forty.” As I held the buzzing clippers in my shaking hands, visions of a Big Bang Theory episode in which Penny accidentally shaved a chunk out of Sheldon’s hair flashed in front of my eyes. Fortunately, the clippers were fairly idiot proof. Five minutes later, and the job was done. Larry looked more like himself.

Larry, along with many of his friends, have resorted to do-it-yourself grooming. Others have used this time to grow beards and ponytails. In our retirement community, grayer and balder versions of their long haired, bearded Sixties self are a badge of honor. 

For my women friends, it is not so much a matter of length as a matter of color. More and more crowns betrayed the grey that years of Clairol had covered. The big question was not, “When will this pandemic end?” No, it was replaced by the more looming question: “Should I go natural? “When restrictions lifted in June, most women ran back to their hairdressers, begging them to do their magic. A few, however, used this opportunity to allow nature to take its course. One of my friends  consulted “a Silver Foxy” Facebook page 

Along with a number of less desirable traits, I did inherit my mother’s genes when it came to hair color. Frances Cohen maintained her dark hair into her seventies. One of her favorite stories was a bout a conversation her hairdresser had with another client. “I want the same color that Fran uses,” said the fifty-something from her perch in front of the mirror. “What Fran has doesn’t come in a bottle,” the hairdresser. Just before the pandemic, I decided to stop highlighting my hair and was surprised to see that my natural brown color had little to no gray. While I questioned my sanity for ‘blonde-that sometimes-looked grey’ treatments I had done for years, my friends just kept saying how lucky I was that I had not spent all the time and money many had expended for years to change my hair color.

In the meantime, another hair-raising adventure was happening in San Francisco. My grandson Sid was born in March with a head of fine brown hair. One month later, he lost all the hair on top, which matched his father’s own male pattern baldness. Unlike Adam, however, my grandson soon recouped the hair on top but lost it on the sides. At five months, he now sports a beautiful brown mohawk. This entire tonsilatory adventure is now captured in a series of pictures chronically the ups and downs of Sid’s hair length.

My grandson may not care about the way his hair looks, but that is not the case for my five-year-old granddaughter. Two weeks ago, Sylvie, who had not gotten more than a trim since March, asked her mother to cut her hair “short like Abigail,” a character from Spirit, her favorite animated show. Julie was hesitant as the last attempt at a shorter style resulted in meltdown. But apparently it made all the difference when it was Sylvie’s choice. Julie texted her relief soon after she lay down the scissors. “I cut it once and she made me cut it again even shorter. She’s very happy!”

Following the text was a picture of my granddaughter sitting in a laundry basket with a huge smile. It was a perfect haircut.

Less than twelve hours later, we heard the familiar ding of Julie’s text message sound. “Well crap. She loved her haircut so much and was so excited… she snuck in her room and cut more off. It was so short on one side I had to shape it into short bob/pixie cut. No pictures available as she is in tears right now.”

The tears continued the next morning through breakfast and through a sad walk to pre-school. After a twenty-minute discussion on the buildings steps, my granddaughter finally was ready to show her face and bob. Unbeknownst to Julie at the time, my son-in-law Sam promised a trip to the toy store after he picked her up that night. Sylvie returned home clutching a “wish list” unicorn that thankfully ended further tears. 

A day later, we FaceTimed with my Colorado family and made sure to tell Sylvie how much we loved her short hair. When she commented that it was “too short,” we reassured her that her hair, unlike her Zayde’s and her Uncle Adam’s, DOES grow back.

Yes, between buzz cuts and bald spots and unplanned bobs, I will always remember all the hair raising adventures from this pandemic. 

First published in The Jewish World, August 20, 2020.

Chocolate Almond Heaven

My pre-birthday trial run to Abbott’s Frozen Custard in Winter Garden, Florida

How will I celebrate a milestone birthday during the pandemic?  That hoped-for week away with my family is out. A party at my home is out. Heck! My husband Larry and I can’t even head to my favorite restaurant and indulge in a filet mignon and my free birthday brownie sundae. But there is a silver lining. An Abbott’s frozen custard stand is less than 33 miles away from our Florida home!

The history of one of my culinary favorites began in 1902 when a young and enthusiastic Arthur Abbott traveled the Eastern seaboard with summer carnivals. He eventually found his way to Rochester, New York, where opened a stand across the street from Charlotte Beach on the shores of Lake Ontario and near a bustling amusement park.  

According to Abbott’s website, as word of his frozen concoction spread, people lined up from morning to night. From his newfound success, Arthur was able to buy and train his own racehorses. When he struck it rich after Blue Man won the Preakness, Abbott, in his 70’s, retired in 1957 and turned over his scoops to fellow frozen custard lovers Lenny and Tibby Schreiber. 

For many years, Tibby’s parents owned a kosher meat market in what used to be during the 1930’s, the heart of the Jewish community on Joseph Avenue in Rochester. The franchise is now run by the Schreibers’ daughter Gail Drew and her family. To this day, Abbott’s supports  the Tibby Schreiber Scholarship at the Jewish Home of Rochester for the children of employees of the skilled nursing home who are heading off to college. 

Brenden Drew grew up in the family business where he started taking out the trashing and washing dishes. He now is responsible for business development and franchising. “Every day it is an honor and a privilege to help grow the family business,” Brenden said. “Our family loves supporting our communities and making each one of our guests happy and so do each one of our local owners who truly live the brand”

It took the Shapiros a few more years to discover Abbott’s. In the early 90’s, Larry and daughter Julie went to Western New York for a track and field competition. They spent the night before the race with Larry’s sister and her husband, who lived in Rochester. They grabbed dinner on Charlotte’s Beach, followed by dessert at Abbott’s.

Larry was hooked from the first lick of his chocolate almond cone and soon introduced the rest of us to it.  Everyone who knows me knows how much I love ice cream. But Abbott’s chocolate almond frozen custard is in a class by itself. The chocolate  custard is rich and smooth and creamy and delicious. What makes it outstanding are the roughly chopped  roasted almonds that are stuffed into the custard. As one reviewer on Yelp raved, “It is like sex in frozen form!”

Whenever we went to Rochester, we made sure Abbott’s was on our agenda. Fortunately, as our son Adam spent four years at University of Rochester, so we had plenty of chances to make a stop when we were there.

Sometimes once was not enough. In 2003, Larry and I went to a wedding that was held in a church in Rochester. On the way to the reception, Larry and I stopped at Abbott’s for a pre-dinner cone. The next day, we went with the bride’s parents to another Abbott’s for a second helping. They knew how much we loved this stuff. When Larry had surgery on a torn Achilles tendon a couple of years later, they had the company ship out a couple of quarts to him. He graciously shared it with me. 

At this point, we thought Abbott’s was only located in Rochester. In 2012, however, Larry and I were on  Naples, Florida, strolling down Fifth Avenue, when Larry began running down the street. “Come on! Come on! I have a surprise for you!” And there in front of us was an Abbott’s frozen custard! Yep! Time for another chocolate almond cone.

The Naples franchise closed. Thankfully, another one of Larry’s sisters spends their winters in Vero Beach, and every time we visit her and her husband, we hit Abbott’s. They don’t even have to be there. We celebrated Larry’s 70th birthday by going to a beach farther down the coast and stopping at Abbott’s on the way home.

Vero Beach is 100 miles away, not conducive to regular visits. And we don’t get to Rochester very often. So imagine our joy in discovering that an Abbott’s opened up in Winter Garden, only 33 miles up the road. We celebrated Father’s Day 2020 with our first visit. It was almost as wonderful as we imagined, but we think they didn’t hear our request for chocolate ALMOND, as we realized halfway through our cones that the familiar crunch was missing. Two days later, we had to get a bike tire fixed, and we were only 16 miles away from Abbott’s. So what is a thirty-two mile round trip detour for the love of frozen custard? And this time we not only got plenty of almonds, but the size small was bigger than the previous Sunday’s medium. Heaven!!

We made our third trip up a couple of weeks later. Another bike tire blew, and did another detour. I am sure we will squeeze another visit before my Labor Day weekend birthday. We are running out of bike tires, but we can find another reason.

When we make our trip up for my birthday cone, I will pack a cooler and plenty of ice and we will bring extra home, including a quart for friends in our community who previously lived in Rochester.  It may not be the celebration for which I hoped to kick off my eighth decade. But it’s a sweet start!

First published in Jewish World, August 6. 2020

I have had enough. Black lives matter.

In 1994, I attended, along with a number of my colleagues from the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center, an Office of Special Programs (OSP) conference in downstate New York. After the opening night’s dinner, I wandered over to  venders’s tables that had been set up in an adjoining room.  The items included many  that reflected the African-American population which OSP served: Kente cloths, African artwork, Maasai beaded bracelets.

I also saw books including The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Black Like Me.  I stopped dead in my tracks, however, when I saw The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. A quick scan through the thin volume told me all I needed to know: it was an sickening, highly exaggerated  claim that Jews had a disproportionately large role in the black slave trade relative to their numbers.

Livid, I raised my voice to the vendor. “How can you sell a book filled with  anti-Semitic lies and garbage?” I demanded. “This is a New York state-run conference!” 

The vendor told me it was his right to sell anything he wanted. I marched back into the dining room, found our EOC director, and expressed my anger. When he downplayed the situation, I blew up. “If you don’t find a way to get rid of that book, I will walk out of this conference, get a bus home, and contact everyone I can in New York State to tell them that the OSP is condoning anti-Semitism,” I said.  “I won’t stay here if that vendor remains under this roof!”

Seeing not only my rage but also my determination, the director brought me over to the woman who ran the conference. She said, “I will take care of it.” The vendor wasn’t asked to leave, as I had hoped, but the book was no longer on his table—or any other table at that conference.

I later learned I was not alone in my reaction to the 1991 Nation of Islam publication. When Dr. Tony Martin, a black professor at Wellesley College, assigned the book to his introductory African-American history class soon after its 1991 publication, Jewish students protested and four national Jewish groups recommended the professor’s job status be reviewed. [He remained on staff as a controversial figure until his retirement in 2017.] Both the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith have published rebuttals comparing the book  to “the most infamous works of antisemitic propaganda in the 20th century.”Most importantly, the book’s thesis has since been refuted by mainstream historians, including the American Historical Association.

I had forgotten about that incident for twenty-six years. But when I saw the video of  George Floyd dying under the knee of a callous, arrogant white policeman on May 25,  I felt that same rage—and more. And I understood the incredible anger and massive protests that followed. If I could be so vociferous about a book, African-Americans, Caucasians, Asians—the entire world —had every right to say, “I’ve had enough. Black lives matter.”

In the weeks that have followed Floyd’s killing, I have become even more “woke.” Through discussions with friends, participation in newly found groups on social justice, and through voracious reading of both books and articles on the topic, I have learned that my empathizing with those who are the victims of systemic racism falls deeply short of fully experiencing their pain and anguish. It is time for me to speak out with the same voracity for George Floyd and against 400 years of systemic racism in our country.

I have always felt that as a Jew I understood discrimination, racism, and prejudice. Hadn’t I had students in my first teaching job draw swastikas around my picture in the school yearbook? Hadn’t I been  told that I was good at “wrangling a bargain” because I was Jewish? Hadn’t I read hundreds of books and articles bout the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust and attacks on Israel?

But I started to listen, really listen and reflected on my life as a privileged white person. When my son was home from college on his summer break, Adam used to go for his run at night to avoid the heat. I worried that he would be hit by a car. But I never had to worry that he, like Trayvon Martin, would be stalked and even killed because he was “in the wrong neighborhood.”

I reflected on s my Upstate New York neighbors, a bi-racial couple, had experienced. Their son was pulled over by the police because he was driving his father’s red sports car. The same young man was almost arrested when he was locking up his family’s restaurant, as the police thought he was breaking in.

The first week of the protests, I stopped by to chat with my Florida neighbor and just blurted out, “I am so sorry for all you have been through as a Black mother.”

“I know you have a good heart, Marilyn,” she told me. “But we’ve been fighting this battle for 400 years.”  One of her battles: When her family was living in Philadelphia, her son was asked to visit some of his white friends in their neighborhood. “I sat him down and told him no,” she said. His being in that section of town was too dangerous for a young Black man.

My friend Mayra opened up to me about her life as a Hispanic woman married to Robin, a Black man. Her family wouldn’t talk to them for years. Meanwhile, Robin, who had a very successful position as a supervising editor for a major network, had been pulled over and slammed against walls more times than he could count as police had questioned why he was driving in his own neighborhood.  Another time, Robin and Mayra were guests at a large party  of one of the network executives. Robin was talking to a co-worker close to the front door of the large home.  Incoming guests assumed he was the hired help and kept handing them their coats and pocketbooks

Another friend shared her story of how her husband Bill* was the victim of road rage, an encounter that began on a toll road ended just inside their community’s security gates. The car with a white man at the wheel drove through a parallel gate, pulled along beside him, and cut him off.   The man then jumped out of his car, berating Bill for passing him on the parkway ,and demanded to know why he was in the 55+ community “You obviously don’t live here,” he was told. The driver’s wife, who was in the passenger seat,  offered to get out their gun. Fortunately, the incident ended when Bill drove away.  Because it was captured on Bill’s dashboard camera, it is being investigated as a hate crime. But I know that his residency would never have questioned if Bill were white. 

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that before May 25, I didn’t “get it.” But I am trying to catch up. I feel like the demonstrator at a June 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Bethel, Ohio, who held a sign reading, “I’m Sorry I’m Late. I Had a Lot To Learn.” May the memory of George Floyd be a blessing to his family and our country. And may we all continue to learn and move forward to a more equitable world. 

*Not his real name.

SOURCES

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1993/10/17/half-truths-and-history-the-debate-over-jews-and-slavery/6b2b2453-01da-4429-bd50-beff03741418/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1994/02/11/farrakhan-101-at-wellesley/6e55eea2-e9f1-44b9-8dd5-d2bfd36d3fbf/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

The_Secret_Relationship_Between_Blacks_and_Jew

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Martin_(professor)

Looking for the Silver Lining

Glass half full!

When you’re chewing on life’s gristle….Always look on the bright side of life. Monty Python

If these were normal times, my husband Larry and I would have already flown out to San Francisco to meet our new grandson. If these were normal times, I would be writing this column in Colorado, where we would have settled into a summer rental close to our daughter, her husband, and my four year old granddaughter. These are NOT normal times! Because of COVID-19, Larry and I are staying in our home in  Florida for the first time since we moved here five years ago. 

The two of us are both very disappointed, but we are finding  silver linings. We are healthy, we are safe, we are in a community that offers walking trails and swimming pools. We have discovered tree-lined streets, serene ponds,  and quiet trails that we had not explored before until we began 

And we have re-discovered each. We have never in our 46 years of marriage spent this much time together, and we are loving it. We walk or bike together almost every morning and then cool off in one of the neighborhood pools. In the afternoon, we sit on the lanai, where we work on crossword puzzles and read books. After dinner, we play three games of Yahtzee  (I won the championship in May; as of this writing, Larry is  in the lead for June.) Then we settle onto our couch to watch shows on Amazon Prime or Netflix. In some ways,  I feel as if we are on some type of extended honeymoon.

Many of our friends, who are like Larry and I are fortunate enough to be retired and not dealing with health or financial issues, have shared with me how sheltering in place has resulted in hidden blessings. 

My cousins Ruthie and Yaacov Kiflawi, who live in Washington State, have found joy in their own surroundings. They spend hours on their deck, which overlooks the Little Spokane River. Teri Chaves, who would normally be up and out of her home at 9 am, now sleeps in and then takes a leisurely walk. She then enjoys her morning coffee on her screened-in porch while watching the abundant Florida wildlife.

Teri is also using this time for intellectual pursuits and learning.  In anticipation of a 2021 post COVID 30th anniversary trip to Italy with her husband Mike, Teri is learning Italian with the help of a phone app. Susan Hoff-Haynes  is learning Spanish with the same app and has also taken several Great Courses. Michelle Moriya has audited free on-line courses from several prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. 

Others are testing out their green thumb. Sarah Rubin designated a corner of her lanai for an herb garden; Susan sent me pictures of her raised garden beds behind her home in Upstate New York. Virginia  Allain, who is complete her family’s genealogy research, is also working on establishing roots into the soil by planting  her 2020 Pandemic Victory Garden. “It serves as an affirmation that I intend to be around for months to come despite this virus,” Virginia wrote in her blog.  https://findingmymom.wordpress.com/…/the-victory-garden/.

 Candace Thompson stated that the months in quarantine have been the best months of her life, giving her an appreciation for little things “A simple ride in the car really brings me joy now where it would’ve been nothing more than something else to do prior to the pandemic.”  In what she calls a  “true sense of agency and empowerment,” she planned ahead of the curve by stocking up on foods, creating reading and movie lists, subscribing to streaming services, and downloading workout videos on YouTube. Since sheltering in place, Candace has also joined several community-based advocacy groups that hold Zoom discussions on topics including COVID-19, racism, and the upcoming elections. 

Zoom and other collaborative technologies, are being used to make closer connections with friends and family. Her friend Marilyn Tayler, who also is participating in the advocacy groups, is using the collaborative technologies to connect with old friends. Naomi Biderman Allen FaceTimes daily with her grandchildren, talking to them about their day and reading them bedtime stories. 

For some families, the pandemic has meant even more time with their extended families. Since Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, Howie and Sandie Vipler have stepped in as the full-time day care providers for their two granddaughters, age 1 and 4. “Time—especially with our grandchildren— has become more precious since this virus has struck,” said Howie.

The pandemic has also brought the-strangers-who-live-next-door together. In March, Joy and Ross Aronson are enjoying  sidewalk chats—while social distancing—with people in her community whom she had never met as they all take their daily walks. An animal lover, Joy was also pleased to meet up with people who were walking dogs that they had rescued from shelters, another positive result of sheltering in place. 

In some cases, unexpected illnesses have resulted in life-saving interventions. While vacationing in South Carolina, Ira Smolowitz complained of COVID-19-like symptoms. His symptoms of dizziness and  shortness of breath, they soon learned, were signs of a heart attack.  Emergency surgery, five days in ICU, and three months  of virtual doctor visits later, Ira feels blessed to be on the road to recovery. Ira’s wife Judy has been his rehab coach and number one cheerleader.  “It’s a tough time to have medical need,” said Judy, “but we made it.”

In a similar situation, Richard Porter, a friend from Texas, had triple bypass on March 13. The day after he was released, Dallas issued a shelter in place order and the hospital that was to provide follow-up services closed its doors to non-COVID 19 patients,  His wife Betsy, who spent her career as a nurse, willingly took over Richard’s cardiac rehab. Neighbors helped by providing meals and dog walking services. On May 13, Rich celebrated 60 days of recovery by completing a 3.5 mile walk. “We saw the silver lining in the slowing down of our lives that helped in Rich’s successful recovery,” said Betsy.

Sunny Hersh rediscovered—“for the umpteenth time”—how much she respects and loves her family. Her husband Scott has been painting the house and cooking wonderful meals. Her children are doing an incredible job of balancing their parental and career responsibilities. Even though her attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter, Sunny said still “has enough bandwidth to dream about the future and appreciate all of the above!”

Others, are creating their own “silver lining” scenarios. Becky and Mark Silverstein, who have cruised 47 times in the last 20 years,  re-imaged their shelter-in-place experience as SHIP (Shelter-In-Place) life. Their bedroom is now their cabin and their lanai as the balcony They watch television and listen to music in their  “entertainment venue.” They enjoy breakfast and lunch at the “buffet” at the kitchen counter and dinner at their dining room table. 

Only one week into SHIP life, the Silversteins hit-err— an iceberg. That first Friday, they dug into their weekly pre-Shabbat house cleaning, which included changing the sheets, cleaning the toilet, and “swabbing the decks.” “We were rudely reminded that we are not just passengers,” Becky said ruefully.“We also are serving as the crew.” 

Okay, not totally smooth sailing. But Becky and Mark, as many of us fortunate enough to be healthy and financially able to cruise safely through this pandemic, can always find a silver lining.

First published in (Capital Region New York) Jewish World, June 25, 2020.

Challah–A Delight for the Soul

Every Friday afternoon since the corona virus has turned our world upside down, I have been baking fresh challah. I revel in the process: the measuring, the gradual rising, and especially the eating. But it has become so much more. As Roche Pinson wrote in her book, Rising: The Book of Challah, “We make challah from a place of commitment to nourish ourselves and our families in a way that goes beyond mere physical feeding and watering.”

Even though I can’t remember ever baking a challah before,  two recent encounters with fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves motivated me. Last August met my future daughter-in-law’s parents in their home at their weekly Shabbat dinner. Along with the candle lighting and the kiddish, we all joined in the prayer over Carol’s freshly baked challah, a tradition she has maintained for decades. The taste of her delicious bread stayed with me throughout the coming months.

On one of the last services at our synagogue in Kissimmee before services were suspended, we congregants enjoyed home baked challah made by Liz Ross. The daughter of a Jewish mother and an Inuit chief, Liz had discovered her spiritual roots as an adult. As the only Jew in  Unalakleet, Alaska, her only choice was to make her own challah to accompany her holiday meals. Years of experience yielded a wonderful, sweet bread. 

On that first quarantined Friday, I decided a home made challah would be a perfect comfort food.  I pulled out my friend Flo Miller’s challah recipe that I had stored in a recipe file for years and gathered all the necessary ingredients: yeast, flour, sugar, butter. I mixed and kneaded the sticky dough with my KitchenAid’s dough hook and covered it with a cloth tea towel. After it had risen, I shaped the dough into three challahs, brushed on the egg wash, and let it rise again.  Once out of the oven, Larry and I dropped one of the loaves over on the doorstep of a friend who was spending Shabbos alone in  as his wife was in isolation in the memory unit of a nearby nursing home. 

As the two loaves waited under my mother’s challah cross stitch covering, I lit the Shabbat candles that we had placed in my Grandma Annie’s brass candlesticks. Larry recited the Kiddish over the Manischewitz wine, and then we both recited the HaMotzei over the warm braided bread. We sat down to our first Shabbat dinner in quarantine. 

The following week, Larry and I headed to Publix at 7 a.m. as part of a “seniors only” shopping trip. I immediately headed to the baking aisle to stock up on my bread making supplies.  I obviously was not the only one baking. Yeast, like toilet paper and hand sanitizers,  had completely disappeared from the shelves, with flour, sugar, and eggs in short supply. We grabbed what we could and headed home.

Fortunately, the flour, sugar, and egg situation improved. Initial attempts on purchasing yeast online, however, were miserably unsuccessful. Amazon offered a three-pack of Fleischmann’s for $25, price gouging at its worst. I sent out an all-points bulletin on FaceBook, and three friends dropped off some packets they had in their cupboards. They each got a challah in return. Soon after, Amazon offered a one-pound bag of yeast. Despite the fact it was twice the normal price, I snapped it up.

Thus began my Friday ritual of making the bread and giving one or two of my loaves to others. As a thank-you for two homemade masks. As a “Mazel Tov” on finishing chemotherapy. As a wish for safe travels to their summer home.  If the bread came out of the oven too late for delivery before sundown, we dropped it off the next day with a suggestion to warm it up, toast it, or make it into French toast.

Each week, I tweaked the process. Too much flour made the bread tough. An extra egg yolk made for a richer taste. Covering the bowl with a tea towel and then loosely wrapping it in a garbage bag helped in the rising. Slamming the ball of dough on the counter a few times removed extra gases—and relieved tension! Raisins were a wonderful addition. Creating a challah with six braids or more will take more practice.

One night, when an afternoon nap killed chances for my normal bedtime, I went on YouTube and found a series of  challah baking videos made by Jamie Geller, the “Jewish Rachel Ray.” An Orthodox Jew who made aliyah to Israel in 2012 with her husband and six children, Jamie’s  demonstration added a spiritual component that touched me. Although she is a professed “shortcut queen,” Jamie said she eschews a dough hook in favor of kneading the bread by hand to infuse her love into the loaves. She uses that time to pray for her children, her family, for people in need of r’fuah sh’leimah [complete healing].” 

The  next Friday, I used an electric mixer to start the process but then turned the dough onto my floured countertop and began kneading. Like Jaime, I prayed for my children and grandchildren, who are physically so far away but always in my heart. I prayed for the wellbeing of my friends and family. I prayed for my friend Kathy who is on her way to recovering from COVID-19. I prayed for Minnie, a beautiful baby born at 29 weeks who will be spending her first weeks of life in a NICU unit. I prayed for Jesse, who just lost his wife Heddy to cancer. And I prayed for all those impacted by COVID-19, the sick, the grieving, the lonely, the unemployed, the hungry. Was it my imagination, or did the challah taste especially sweet, especially delicious that Friday night?

This week, the need for prayers is even greater. Along with the pandemic and devastating unemployment numbers, our country is marked with racial strife and protests—both peaceful and violent. So this Friday, I will knead my challah dough with additional prayers —for George Floyd (May his memory be a blessing) and his family, for our country, for the future of democracy. And as the beautiful, sweet braided loaves rise for the final time, I will call my elected officials to repeat the words of Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, “We stand in solidarity with the Black community as they yet again are subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system…. Systemic injustice and inequality calls for systemic change. Now!” Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who brings forth bread from the earth. Amen

Marilyn Cohen Shapiro, a resident of Kissimmee, FL, is a regular contributor to the (Capital Region NY) Jewish World and the Orlando Heritage Florida Jewish News. She is the author of two compilation of her stories, There Goes My Heart (2016) and Tikkun Olam: Stories of Repairing an Unkind World. (2018). Both books available in paperback and e-book format on Amazon. You can read more of her stories on her blog, theregoesmyheart.me. 

Mulling the Essentials While Sheltering In Place

Some day—hopefully in the near future—the COVID-19 pandemic will be behind us. Medical interventions to those infected will alleviate  the pain, suffering, and deaths. A vaccine may be developed that can prevent others from becoming ill. Social distancing will no longer be necessary. We can go back to our lives, our jobs, our schools, our vacations, our celebrations.

Larry and I have been sheltering in place since March 10, leaving our house only for daily exercise and essential outings. We consider ourselves very fortunate.  We still get our pension checks and our social security. Even though we are  considered more vulnerable because of our age, we are—so far—not dealing personally with COVID-19 illness. We are not trying to balance working from our kitchen table while home schooling our children. We have few appointments and fewer deadlines. 

These past few weeks have given us a perspective as to what is important in our lives. Once we have the required essentials such as toilet paper, masks, disinfectants/hand sanitizers, and a well-stocked kitchen, what do we deem necessary to get through the COVID-19 pandemic? Here is my own Top Ten List.

  1. Real News

Larry and I have gotten a newspaper delivered to our doorstep since we bought our first house in 1976. When we moved to Florida, we immediately subscribed to the Orlando Sentinel. I can’t imagine my morning coffee without the news, and our life would be a little emptier without the comics and puzzles. In the same way, I look forward to getting the Jewish World  in my mailbox every two weeks to get the Jewish perspective. We have on-line subscriptions to the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. They were invaluable to me before the pandemic but even more important now. 

  1. Exercise

Now that the pickleball courts, the pools, and the gym are all shuttered, Larry and I alternate between riding our bikes and taking long walks every morning. We get some fresh air and have the opportunity to wave and say hi to  friends and neighbors.

  1. A Sarong

If we were up north, we would probably be living in sweatshirts and pants. As Florida’s temperatures rarely go below 75 degrees, I love my sarongs.They are comfortable and no-fuss and keep the laundry to a minimum.

  1. A Kindle

Through the miracle of modern technology, I have access to public library with just a few clicks of the computer. If the book isn’t available, I place a hold and get an email telling me when it is available. Best reads so far: The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes and She Said; Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Help Ignite a Movement by New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

  1. Amazon Prime and Netflix

We can’t go to the movies, and every live performance has been cancelled. But we finally have the time to watch all those series that were on our to-do list. Larry and I can recommend Unorthodox, Schitt$ Creek, and Bomb Girls. I also have The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Crown in my queue. 

  1. My Writing

Our calendars are pretty bare, but I still have my deadlines for the articles I write for the two Jewish newspapers.. Writing gives me a purpose. Recently, my articles about COVID-19 have helped me cope and put things in perspective. Once the article is published, I put it onto my blog and my FaceBook page. I love the sense of accomplishment I get from completing an article and love the feedback I get from those that follow me. (Hint! Hint! theregoesmyheart.me)

  1. Dinner

With all the restaurants closed and take-out options few and far between in our area, dinner is a main event. We even have a nightly happy hour with homemade hors d’oeuvres  Every Friday, we have a Shabbat meal complete with a kiddish, candle lighting, and a homemade challah. Ironically, along with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, yeast has also been in short supply. I finally bit the bullet and overpaid for a pound of yeast on Amazon so I don’t have to worry about finding it in our supermarket. I make three or four loaves a week and drop off one or two to neighbors who need some cheering up. 

  1. Our Lanai

Our lanai, which looks out on a small pond and a heavily wooded area, is our favorite place in our home. We are entertained by Florida wildlife, including a resident alligator,  an assortment of birds, and a rare bobcat sighting. It is where Larry and I spend our afternoons, reading  our books and doing  our puzzles. The lanai table is my office, where I do my writing. And it is where we eat dinner every night. 

  1. Video Chats

The hardest part of our quarantined life is not being with family and friends. Our trip to California to see our grandson and our summer plans for Colorado are on indefinite hold. At least four times a week, we FaceTime with our almost five-year-old granddaughter. We read her books, tell her stories, and watch her play. We usually end the call with her “reading” a book she has memorized to us. Holding our grandson is impossible, but my son and daughter-in-law are good about setting up the camera so we can watch him for a chunk of time. We Skype with Larry’s side of the family on Sunday morning and Zoom with my side of the family on Monday night. 

  1. 10.Our Support System

Absolutely nothing that I listed above would not be possible without those who continue to work. People still deliver our newspaper, our mail, our packages we have ordered on-line. In our community, people still mow our lawns and pick up our trash and recyclables. Those who work in essential businesses— pharmacies, supermarkets, gas stations— still  fill prescriptions, stock shelves and run cash registers. A delivery service drops our groceries on our front porch. Most importantly, our first responders and all those who work in the medical field put their own lives on the line every day to try to save the lives of family members and friends who have been infected. I am so grateful to every one of them. We can best show our appreciation by doing whatever we can to prevent further spread of this epidemic. Stay safe Stay healthy. Stay home!

“This too shall pass.” Meanwhile we sit tight and alone.

My friend Kathy in happier times. May she be writing again soon!

As we tread  carefully through the fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic, the emotional and physical devastation this plague has caused is felt acutely by so many. As our days of sheltering at home continue, it has become much more real, much more personal, much more frightening.

My husband Larry and I are feeling the impact, as I suspect many of you are. Our community already has had two confirmed deaths from the virus. Kathy, a friend from my writing group who had been sick with bronchitis, posted the following message on a on March 30 on her Facebook page: “I have pneumonia and am in the Poinciana Medical Center where I am getting fantastic care. Take care. Be well.” Two days later, her brother Brian Joyce posted that she had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was on a ventilator. His daily updates report the news that she is still fighting for her life.

Friends and family are all sharing stories of people they know who have been diagnosed with the corona virus and those who have lost the battle. A longtime congregant of our synagogue in Upstate New York succumbed to the virus this week. My son’s brother-in-law’s grandfather in California died after contracting the virus from his daughter. Each day the numbers continue to climb.

Although most of my friends are retired, many have children on the front line as medical staff or first responders. They post and text pictures of their son or daughter in full protective gear or—worse yet—reused masks and garbage bags for scrubs. Originally, it was believed that the virus mostly attacked the elderly and those with underlying conditions. That “reassurance” no longer works, and my friends are worried that their children or grandchildren will contract it.

Any medical procedure becomes a cause for serious concern and even panic. A friend scheduled for cancer surgery was terrified that he would develop the virus and would be told he must cancel. Meanwhile, his wife had to drop him off at the hospital and pick him up two days later. She couldn’t physically be there for him.

Another friend, also diagnosed with cancer, was told by her Florida doctor that the surgery would be postponed until the pandemic had subsided. Fortunately, she was able to find a doctor in her home town of Pittsburgh who could operate within the week. She and her husband made a hasty trip up for the procedure. I am happy to report that her surgery was a success.

Last week,Larry was involved in a bicycle accident when he slipped on some wet pavement. His primary physician insisted Larry go to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and for potential stitches for the gash on his elbow. I freaked out, fearing he would contract the virus in the waiting room. “Please don’t go,” I begged. “Stay home. I’ll stitch it up myself.” That freaked him out. Wearing a surgical mask, he left for the hospital, where he was immediately ushered into a sterile examining room. He came home two hours later, tetanus shot administered and wounds bandaged—none requiring stitches. He had only the highest praise for the medical staff.

Two days after Larry’s ER visit, friends were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first grandchild. The impending delivery had made more stressful as it was uncertain whether their son could be in attendance as some New York City hospitals were not allowing any partners in the delivery room. Everyone was relieved to learn that he could accompany his wife during delivery, but the planned birth was still fraught with worry. If either the expectant parents had symptoms, would she have to deliver alone? And would she or the baby contract the virus while in the hospital? Thankfully, the baby was born without complications. The proud grandmother sent me a picture taken in the hospital of the father dressed head to toe in scrubs and a surgical mask gingerly holding the swaddled baby in his gloved hands. All that was visible were the father’s proud eyes. 

The coronavirus has taken much from us, but the inability to congregate, to be with those we love, to hug one another in times of joy or sadness, is the most painful. In normal times, we come together to celebrate the birth of a baby, to support ill friends, to say goodbye to a beloved friend or relative. During this time of a “new normal,” grandparents cannot hold their newborn grandchild. Friends and family cannot celebrate birthdays, weddings and bar mitzvahs. High school and college students cannot celebrate graduations. Jews cannot gather around a huge table or meet in a large room to hold a seder. Most tragically, family and friends cannot even help those who lost a loved ones to grieve, to offer hugs and human touch. 

One day, in the unforeseeable future, the corona virus will be behind us. We will gather together and hug each other tightly and even plant kisses on each other’s cheeks that are wet with tears of joy. We will hold our friends and family not only in our hearts but also in our arms.

On Friday, March 20, for the first time since serving as our spiritual leader, Rabbi Karen Allen did not conduct Shabbat services at Congregation Shalom Aleichem in Kissimmee. The synagogue, like thankfully churches, mosques, and other religious meeting places, were closed due to the pandemic. In a letter sent to the entire congregation, Rabbi Allen suggested the following:  At 8:00 p.m. that evening, “when we would all prefer to be together in the sanctuary, let’s do two things that are emblematic of the worship service:recite the Sh’ma and Mi Shebeirach prayers.”

Like Rabbi Allen, Larry and I could not be together with other members of our congregation.. Instead, we set the table with white linens and good china and crystal wine glasses. We lit the Shabbos candles, said Kiddish, and ate the delicious warm challah I had made from scratch. We recited the Sh’ma. Then we prayed for all of those—too many to even count— in need of healing.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu, m’kor ha-bra-cha l’avoteinu./Bless those in need of healing with r’fu-a sh’lei-ma./The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit,/And let us say Amen.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay home.

Published in (Capital District) Jewish World April 16, 2020 and in (Orlando) Heritage Florida Jewish News April 17, 2020.

Why Is This Passover Different Than All Other Passovers?

One of Judaism’s most important holidays officially begins with the first seder onApril 8. Pesach in the Time of Corononvirus, however, will be very different.

During these difficult times, I think of my parents, Fran and Bill Cohen. .As did many of the Greatest Generation, they went through several challenging times.In 1919, the Spanish flu was raging throughout the world. My mother, born in 1917, fell deathly ill. The family doctor saved her life by making a deep incision into her right lung to drain the fluid. 

To help in her recovery, my grandmother Ethel left New York City with her daughter for Alburgh, Vermont. They stayed for several weeks with Ethel’s brother Paul and his wife Bertie at their home on Lake Champlain. One of their visitors was Ethel’s step-mother’s sister and her grandson Wilfred Cohen. Fran and Bill didn’t meet again until their blind date in 1939. They were married in August 1940. When anyone asked her as to how she got the huge scar on her back, she loved telling people how she survived the flu and met her future husband—all before her second birthday.

Several other cataclysmic events shook their world. The Great Depression, World War II, news of the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Cold War I am sure at times they were afraid—for themselves and later for their children and grandchildren. 

As I write this, we are in the second week of our own national crisis. Larry and I worry about our friends and family—especially our own children.Thankfully, my daughter-in-law delivered our grandson days  before the mass shutdowns in San Francisco were enforced. Adam, Sarah, and the baby are now “sheltered in place” in San Francisco. My heart broke when we had to cancel our trip out to meet the baby. It broke even more when I realized that Sarah’s parents, who only live a mile from them, have only seen him through a window when they have dropped off supplies, including a fresh baked challah for his first Shabbat. 

Summit County had the first case of the virus in Colorado. A young man who had skied in Italy before his next planned trip to the Rockies recovered in a hospital only a mile from my daughter Julie and her family’s home. They returned from a week’s vacation with us to closed resorts, schools, and businesses. They too are in mandatory “shelter in place” mode. They are telecommuting between keeping our granddaughter busy with both educational and fun activities, including learning about the height of a giraffe, the life of a butterfly, and the hands-on steps of baking a challah. 

As residents of Florida, Larry and I are not yet under the same mandatory restrictions as California, Colorado, and other areas of the country.  But restaurants, non-essential businesses, then even DisneyWorld and Universal are now closed down.In our fifty-five plus community, all activities and events have been cancelled or postponed.Most of the people here are respectful of the six foot distance rule, which we practice on our frequent bike rides, walks, and conversations with friends from one end of a driveway to the other.We give each other virtual hugs and then head home.

For the rest of the day, we do what we can to keep busy. Larry and I often sit on our lanai, reading books doing the puzzles, and watching birds dive into the pond behind our house. Larry spends a great deal of time Googling great moments in sports and watching reruns of his favorite shows. I spend an inordinate amount of time on FaceBook and watching Great Performances on PBS. We call and text with friends. We watch television. On the first Friday of the “new normal,” I made a Shabbos dinner, complete with wine and a delicious freshly baked challah—my first since moving down her from New York.

The best part of every day is FaceTiming with our family, an almost daily treat that began on March 10, just before the world changed. Larry and I were planning to go to a play that  was being put on by our local theater guild—what was to be our last outing before our own lockdown. Julie, who was very worried about our contracting the virus, begged us to stay home. She must have shared her fears with her brother. Shortly before Larry and I were to leave. Adam FaceTimed with us and offered us a sweet deal: If we didn’t go out, he would keep the camera on the baby. For the next hour, we watched our six day old grandchild poop and pee and eat and sleep and poop some more. With all due respect to my friends in Deathtrap, it was one of the best performances we had seen by a leading actor in our lifetime.

Despite the impact the pandemic has had on our lives, I feel very grateful. Grateful for good health with no underlying conditions. Grateful for the current health of extended family and friends.Grateful for our life in Florida with its abundant sunshine. Grateful for modern technology that allows us to connect with our family and friends, to stream shows and movies, to download library books onto our electronic readers. Grateful that we are retired and not dealing with working at home or—worse yet—possible unemployment.

We also feel grateful to have a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry, as not all people have that luxury. Those individuals in our surrounding neighborhoods who are losing income due to the shutdowns could especially use some help. The refund we received from the cancelled Shalom Club seder went to the local food bank. As our synagogue had already deposited the check, the board called everyone who was attending to ask if their money could go to the same place. Scott Maxwell In a recent column in the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Maxwell offers many other ways to give to veterans, hungry school children, and the homeless. My favorite of his suggestions: “Did you hoard? Pay it forward.” And we call all follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines and STAY HOME.

So why is this Passover different from every other Passovers? We certainly will not be emptying our house of chometz, as we have stocked up on many dry goods that certainly don’t follow strict Kosher guidelines. Community, seders have already been cancelled. Relatives and friends who usually have a houseful for the holiday will have only two or three at the table, possibly enhanced virtually thanks to FaceTime or Zoom.

No matter, I will make a seder for the two of us. In the days that follow—if we can somehow get more than the two dozen eggs per family limit at the local supermarket—we will feast on sponge cakes, matzoh brie, and Passover popovers. Most importantly, we will FaceTime with our family and give each other virtual hugs. And Larry and I will pray that the coronavirus will pass over all of our homes and leave us, like our ancestor, safe, healthy, and free from fear.

First published in Jewish World, April 2, 2020

Mulling my Hebrew and Yiddishkeit…

As I now write for Jewish newspapers in both New York’s Capital District and Central Florida, my articles often include Hebrew and/or Yiddish words. Understanding that people may not be familiar with these languages, I have made a concerted effort to make sure that I defined those words in the context of the sentence. 

I thought I had done a good job until a friend told me that she had difficulty with some of the “Jewish” words in my first book, There Goes My Heart. She especially was puzzled by one of my food references. “You talked about your husband Larry enjoying a Jewish drink at an Upstate New York deli..something called a Fribble.” I smiled and ,explained a Fribble was extra thick milk shake, one of the specialties served at Friendly’s, a Massachusetts-based restaurant chain famous for its ice cream. Nothing Yiddish about it, unless you consider it as dairy, not meat!

What is Yiddish? Yiddish is the historical language of the Ashkenazi Jews. With roots dating back to the seventh century, it is a mixture of high German as well as Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic, and even Romance languages.I recently read an article in  The Forward that the Oxford English Dictionary has released its new words and phrases for this quarter, and no less than 71 are Jewish related. Some will make you cheer: Bialy, hanukkiah, and my favorite, Jewish penicillin. 

Some, however, will make you jeer. One of the controversial choices is a variation of Yid—Yiddo— which is defined as “fans of the British Tottenham Hotspurs soccer team.” Responding to debate, the dictionary’s compilers said they judge proposed additions by their significance, not whether they offend.In an interview on NPR, television writer Ivor Baddiel called the entry a “step backwards,” especially in light of the increased anti-Semitism in Europe. 

My own introduction to Yiddish came early in my life. My maternal grandparents, who immigrated from Russia circa 1900, spoke Yiddish in their home their entire lives. Their English was weak and heavily accented, and their chief source of news was Yiddish language paper,The Forward. My mother spoke fluent Yiddish when she was with her parents, especially when it provided a way for them to gossip about family and friends without worrying that we would understand. My grandmother called me her sheyn kleyn meydl  (pretty little girl), and we were all encouraged to Esn, esn meyn kinder.” After my grandparents passed away, my parents did not speak conversational Yiddish (My father didn’t speak it fluently), but they continued to intersperse their conversations with expressions from the Old Country Foolish people were schmendricks. When one wasn’t kvetching (complaining), they were knelling  (expressing delight) about their children. And we had to be careful about falling on our tuches (rear end) as we could hurt our keppie (head).

Larry and his siblings, had a similar experience as their maternal grandparents were also Russian immigrants.“Bubbie Rose and Zayde Moshie always spoke Yiddish—especially when they didn’t want me to know something,” recalled Larry’s older sister Anita. “When their friends came over  to play cards or Bubbie took me to play bingo, there was always Yiddish interspersed with the English.” There was always a Jewish newspaper in the home. Although Moshie passed away when Larry was young, he remembers Bubbie Rose and his parents speaking Yiddish to each other until her passing soon after we were married. As a result, Larry’s parents also peppered their speech with the same expressions my parents used. And even when Larry was in fifties, Larry’s mother Doris still called him her boychik.

With this background, I enjoyed using Yiddish to spice up my language, especially since many words in Yiddish cannot be replicated in English. The nuances were often expressed through jokes. One of my favorites is  one that defines chutzpah. Yes, it may mean “nerve,” but nothing catches all the layers than the old joke about the kid who killed his parents and then pleaded for mercy in court because he was an orphan. Another is the difference between a  schlemiel and schlimazel: The former is the one who drops his soup; the latter is the one on which it lands. Perfect!

Our  vocabulary and understanding improved after Leo Rosten published his classic, The Joys of Yiddish.  I knew few Jewish homes that didn’t have a copy of the instant classic on a bookshelf. My husband Larry kept a copy of it in his office desk to assist well-meaning co-workers who would use Yiddish terms incorrectly in their speech or writing.

I also love the beauty of Hebrew words, especially those associated with kindness and compassion.I have used Hebrew expressions Tikkun Olam, the principle of making the world a better place than when we received it, in public speeches, numerous articles, and even the title of my second book, Tikkun Olam: Stories of Repairing an Unkind World.  Meanwhile, I had learned my lesson and included a glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew words. 

At times, it is not the written word that trips people up. It is the pronunciation. Recently, a group of us were talking about how we met our spouses. I shared how Larry and I met at a Purim party in Albany, New York. My contribution was met with dead silence, followed by the comment, “I can’t believe you told us this!” “What do you mean?” I asked. “You met a porn party?” they asked incredulously “Oh no, I responded, “It was a PURIM party!” After that, I always make sure that I say the name of the Jewish holiday v-e-r-y slowly and clearly!

Larry had no problem deciding that our grandchildren would call him Zayde. His father held that moniker, and Larry wanted to continue the tradition. The term Bubbie, however, reminded me of little old lady in an old-fashioned dress. With the help of my granddaughter, I became Gammy. But I tell her to watch her keppie, and I will kvetch when she asks me to schlepp too many things home when I pick her up from pre-school. And she will always be, like I was to my own grandmother, my sheyn kleyn meydl. 

As I was writing this article, my daughter-in-law went into labor. As the hours awaiting the news of the birth of our grandson passed excruciating slowly, Larry and I texted Sarah’s parents that waiting was tough !” Dave texted back, “I’m having schpilkes! [anxiety)” Thankfully, all went welll, and Adam called us at one a.m. our time to give us the wonderful news. The Nathans, who live near the new parents headed to the hospital the following day to meet who they called“our little boychik.” Life for us Yiddishkeits has come full circle.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish

https://www.npr.org/2020/02/16/806536059/-another-backwards-step-oxford-dictionary-expands-definition-of-yid

First published in Jewish World, March 18, 2020