Tag Archives: #theregoesmyheart

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

From Diaries to Blog Posts

When I was fifteen years old, a friend and I attended a writer’s institute at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburg. That week was to change my life. It only took me fifty years to see it through to fruition.

Chris was my closest friend. She was a year behind me in school, but we were soulmates. Chris was brilliant, insightful, and understood me. We spent innumerable hours listening to Simon and Garfunkel, taking walks near our homes in Keeseville, and talking about life and our future.

In the spring of 1966, we found out that SUNY Plattsburg was holding a one-week writer’s workshop on its campus. The college was offering scholarships to local high school students. We both applied and both were accepted.

Our parents took turns driving the fifteen miles each day up to the campus. We took classes in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Chris gravitated towards poetry. I was more interested in personal essays and fiction, similar to what I had written for many years.

Since I could remember, I had kept a diary or journal. My first was a little blue book with a lock and key where I kept my innermost thoughts. I am sure my family, especially my brother, read it while I wasn’t around. Our cat thought it was a great chew toy, as the ends were shredded with teeth marks. I doubt if I had many profound insights as a pre-teen. It must have been important to me, however, as I kept it tucked away in my night stand for decades. It finally got tossed when my husband Larry and I did “The Big Dump” in our 2015 move to Florida.

After the first diary was filled, I replaced it with a marbled composition book. Although my actual life in our small town was fairly tame, my narratives were filled will angst and passion. Directly across from my “No Trespassing!” warning on the inside cover, I wrote my first entry dated November 15, 1965. “Life can be cruel at times. It can be bitter, unhappy, and unstable. What you once enjoyed becomes boring; what you thought becomes childish and immature.” Many of the entries dealt with my poor body image. “I weigh 127. I have to weigh 115! Breakfast: 1 egg, 1 toast 1/2 orange.” (“Oh Marilyn,” my adult self says. “Why were you so hard on yourself?”)

A few pages later, the journal recorded one of my first crushes: “I met Jim on the white hills of Paleface Mountain when he was in my ski class.” His face, which I thought would “always burn brightly in my memory,” is a complete blur.

Along with the self-condemnations and the crushes were also attempts at short stories. Most of them revolved around adolescent self-discovery. A teen and her family deal with a sick grandparent. A young man finds the shadow of a mustache. A sensitive soul experiences hurt when a three-sided friendship becomes two-sided, and she becomes the outsider.

One of the longer works was a story about a girl who spends so much time on hair, make-up, and clothing for a dance she forgets the important things—like how to talk to a boy. “Maybe if I had worn the blue dress,” says the first-person narrator as she gets ready for bed after she comes home, “someone would have asked me to dance.”

This was the story I worked on during our week at the workshop. The day before it ended, I shared it with my instructor and the class. After I finished reading it aloud, there was silence follow by loud applause “Please meet our future writer,” said my instructor. “She has a great deal of talent for a fifteen-year-old.”

On the last day of the conference, all the attendees met on a beautiful green lawn on the campus. Awards were given to the adult attendees for best fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. I was given an award for best young writer.

Chris was thrilled for me, and she encouraged me to continue writing. That fall, I entered my junior year reassessing my future career goals. I had always wanted to be teacher, but this experience made me rethink that path and consider getting a degree in creative writing or journalism. My parents, however, strongly encouraged me to major in education. “Become an English teacher,” my mother told me. “You can still be involved with writing, but you will have your summers off. And when you have children, you will be off when they are on vacation.”

Feeling the pressure, I took the safer route and enrolled in the English education program at University at Albany. Chris was disappointed that I didn’t pursue creative writing. Her graduation gift to me was a large blank journal with a black cover. “For your writing,” she penned into the inside cover.

During my four years in college, I wrote innumerable essays for my coursework. For whatever reason, I never took one creative writing class the entire time. After I graduated, I taught high school for a short time. After I finished my masters in reading, I taught adult education classes, preparing people to take the exam for their GED or to have the reading, writing, and study skills needed for college. My favorite part was teaching how to write essays.

In the 1990s, I wrote a few articles for Schenectady, New York’s The Daily Gazette. It wasn’t until I retired that I started writing again. A chance meeting with the editor of the Jewish World led to the opportunity to spread my wings and write personal essays.

To my delight, Chris and I recently reconnected. We shared memories of the summer workshop, which for her provided a “long burning ember from the spark of the experience.” She journals, composes haiku, and develops resources for social workers. Meanwhile, she is thrilled that I am finally following the path we started together fifty years ago this summer.

Barbara Kingsolver, award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist, stated, “There’s no perfect time to write. There’s only now.” And now is perfect for me.