Vacation 2019

It has been about a year since I last posted on this blog! In the past, I have blogged extensively about our vacations, but I did not post last year, or this year until now. Last year we went to Niagara Falls for a few days and had a great time. Perhaps I will write about that someday. This year, we traded our timeshare for a week in the Poconos. When we decided that we would go away the last week in August, we knew that we needed to stay somewhat close to home. In the past, Golda Och Academy, Noam’s and Shayna’s school had a ninth grade orientation one morning or afternoon during the last week in August. We figured we could drive back for that. So this year, they decide to have it in the evening. We did not want to drive back to NJ and then back to the Poconos at night, so we just skipped it! As I have said in the past, דער מענטש טראַכט און גאָט לאַכט, “Man plans, God laughs”.

We go away the last week in August, because Hagalil USY has their week long Encampment on the second to last week. The kids would come home on Sunday, and we would do a quick laundry and then take off for vacation. However, this year, Encampment began and ended on a Monday. More laughter from above! Since Encampment was in the Poconos, we decided that we would just go on Sunday with Avi and then pick Noam and Shayna up from camp on Monday. Of course, they were on the opposite side of the Poconos, but it was not a real issue.

In the morning on Monday, Marsha, Avi, and I took a quick trip to Hickory Run State Park, which is very close to where we are staying. This state park is more like a National Park. Very large with all of the feeling of a National Park. We took a short hike to see a beautiful waterfall called Hawk Falls, and then took a very bumpy drive to Boulder Field. This is a giant field of boulders, which occurred there naturally. It is quite awesome to see. After a quick lunch, we drove to camp and picked up the kids. Then after a trip to the laundromat, we were back in our timeshare unit.

The resort at which we are staying is called Mountain Laurel Resort. It is clearly an old place and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Kutchers. New owners acquired the resort recently, and they are trying to update the whole place. Our unit is a basic two bedroom unit with a small kitchen and a living room. Pretty standard, but in the end, we had to go through some hoops to get here. As we observe Shabbat, we always take timeshare weeks that begin and end on Sunday. A week ago or so I happened to see that the trading company gave us a Saturday start. OY! This had happened to us in the past and I have yet to figure out how. I called the resort and was told to email Christine who would be in the next day. She got back to me and said they did not have a Sunday start for a two bedroom, but did have a one bedroom (with a pull out couch in the living room) and they would provide an extra bed. We reluctantly took it and left it with her that if a 2 BR were to open up, we would get it.

We arrived at the resort on Sunday only to find that not only did they not have a one bedroom for us, they did not even have our reservation in the system! Thank God for Matthew who was at the front desk. He not only got us in the system, he put us into a two bedroom. The room is clean, but you can tell from the hallways and other public areas, that things have not been kept up by the previous owners. If the new owners can really update the place, it can be very nice.

On Tuesday, after a stop at a pretzel factory and Chocolate Candy kitchen (Yum!) we made our way (via lots of back roads with Avi driving) to Bushkill Falls. If you have not been here, it is a lot of fun, and it can be done as a day trip from central NJ. There are four different trails that take you around this private park to see eight waterfalls (I only counted six, but who is counting?) We chose to take the red trail which is the longest and takes you to all of the falls. If you go, and choose to take the red trail, go to the right when going in the park, it is much easier in the middle!

On Wednesday, we went to the town of Jim Thorpe. The town was originally two towns called Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk. They combined to make Jim Thorpe as a tribute to one of the greatest sportsmen in history. He is buried in town and there is a memorial park dedicated to his memory. There are many wonderful little shops in Jim Thorpe, but we came to take a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad. This is a 70 minute train ride around the Lehigh River and you get some beautiful views of the area. After the ride and a picnic lunch, we went to the town of Lansford to do a tour of the Number 9 coal mine. This was a very interesting tour. You take mine cars about a half mile into a mine, learn all about the history of this mine, and coal mines in general. This mine closed in 1972, but there is still tons of coal left. The guide said that if there ever was an uptick in coal production (not likely), they might even open this mine again.

That brings us to today. Today we drove to Philadelphia. In the morning, we went to the Museum of the American Revolution. I highly recommend this newer museum. It lays out the story of the revolution from the early 1700’s until the writing of the Constitution. Very informative, but perhaps TOO much information! Marsha’s mom Sue met us for lunch. We went to this place called “The Bourse” which has a big food court with upscale little fast food places. The food was great (albeit a bit expensive). After lunch we walked to the National Constitution Center. I also highly recommend this museum. After at 20-minute presentation about the Constitution, you exit to view the main gallery. You can spend hours here, so plan accordingly!

Avi went home with Sue after the Constitution Center as he had to get some things done at Middlesex County College tomorrow, and he would rather stay home for Shabbat. So the rest of us got a pizza dinner and then back to the resort. Tomorrow should be a very slow day. We might go out to see another two waterfalls, or maybe just stay in and go to the pool. We are looking forward to a very peaceful Shabbat and then we will be home on Sunday. Thank God I don’t have work on Monday! I’ll need the day to recover from vacation!

Hawk Falls

Boulder Field

Two of the Falls at Bushkill Falls

Chillin’ on the Lehigh Gorge Train

An old mine car in the Number 9 Mine

In Philadelphia City… From what movie is this line?

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I have been baking Challah for many years. I have tried many recipes, kneaded by hand, used a kitchen aid, used a bread machine, etc. I have tried sweet recipes, more savory recipes, water Challah, fillings, toppings, etc. After years of baking Challah, I have come on to what I think is the best recipe. It is a simple recipe and allows for almost any addition. Every year I get asked for my recipe and I do give it out freely. This year I have had more requests than usual, so I decided to post the recipe and let anyone get it. One note before the recipe itself. This recipe is based on the recipe for “Bread Machine Challah” in the book “A treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” by Marci Goldman. This is my go to book for any Jewish baking. Every recipe I have used from her book comes out perfect. I highly recommend the book.

One more note. I make this dough in a bread machine. You could easily make it in a mixer or by hand, but it is so easy to do it in the machine and it allows me to work on other things while it is being prepared. In my instructions I will reference the machine, but if you want to do it any other way, you can just adapt it. One totally final note (I promise). I weigh all of my ingredients. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. In baking everything should be precise and weighing takes out all the guess work. 100 g of flour is 100 g of flour.

515 g bread flour (I only use King Arthur flour or Trader Joe’s)
285 g white whole wheat flour
10 g kosher salt
15 g instant yeast
2 extra large eggs plus one egg yolk
70 g extra virgin olive oil
75 g honey
80 g sugar
328 g of warm water

  1. Weigh the flours and put in a bowl with the salt and yeast. Lightly mix and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs and add the oil and mix well.
  3. Add the honey and sugar, mixing in after each ingredient.
  4. Weigh the water directly in the bread pan of the machine.
  5. Using a nylon spatula, get all of the egg/oil mixture into the water.
  6. Put the flour mixture on top of the liquids in the bread pan.
  7. Put the pan in the machine and turn on the dough cycle.
  8. When the dough is done, transfer to a board and then weigh the mass of dough.
  9. Separate out however many pieces you need. For example, I make four small Challot from this recipe for Shabbat. I will do a braid of three for each, so I will separate out 12 pieces, weighing them all so they are equal.
  10. Roll out the pieces into strands and then braid or shape as you like.

I make four small, three medium or two large Challot from this recipe. For my raisin Challot, I do the following before shaping. First I soak the raisins in hot water to plump. Using a rolling pin, roll out the piece of dough into a rectangle. For a third of this recipe, the shape should be about 8″ x 6″. Sprinkle raisins on the dough and lightly press into the dough so they stay put. Then roll up the dough on the long end. Once the dough is rolled up, lightly crimp the seam to keep to together. Then continue to lightly roll the strand to make it a little longer. Taper the ends. Then roll up to make a traditional round challah. If you roll it up tight, it will rise up like a hat, and if you roll it up loose, it will be more flat. I like to do it somewhat in the middle.

For the holiday season, I like to do different rounds. I used to do this round braid


But lately I have been having issues with this. If you braid it too tight it will ball up. So I came up with this easy method. Take two even strands and pinch then together at one end. Twist up the two strands. Then pinch together the other ends and then taper the ends. You can now twist as tight as you like. I keep them fairly loose. Now take the twist and make a traditional round.

The one on the upper left is twisted very tight and the one on the lower right is twisted looser

However you shape, have fun and enjoy!

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One Day More

It has been quite some time since I blogged on Long and Winding Road, but I am making a significant change in my life and I wanted to post about it here. Tomorrow is my last day of employment with Need I.T. Now, my current employer. It has been almost four years since I started with NITN full time and it has been closer to 10 years since I started working with them in general.

Need I.T. Now is an IT services company whose clients are small to midsize businesses. NITN supports all of their compute needs from printing issues to complex networking problems. It has been a good four years, but life goes on and things change. I have found that I needed to move on with my career, and I have taken a position as Director of Information Technology for a not for profit agency in Newark called Programs for Parents. It is a really great agency that works to provide quality child care to those who need it in Essex County. I am excited about starting my new job and very happy that it is NOT in New York City. The job comes with a free parking space behind the office building, and a real plus is that the office is just 15 minutes from Golda Och Academy! I will now be able to get to school functions before and after work. That is a real plus. The health plan is better than what I have now, and the general benefits packing is very good too.

I will miss the flexibility that I have now because I work out of my house. My current commute is VERY nice and my new commute will be a 45 minute drive to and from Newark each day. I’ll miss the ability to take a break on Friday to put up the challah or get other things ready during the week. But it is time for a change and I think this will be a really good job. There is a lot to do that will keep me busy there for quite some time, and I am looking forward to the challenge.

In honor of One Day More, enjoy this video of One Day More

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Reflections on a Theme Park

Before Shabbat I posted about the beginning of our trip and our all being under the weather. I want to update on the rest of the trip and then write a little about our experiences at Disney and Universal. When last I wrote, Avi and I were planning on a second day at Universal on Friday and we did just that, and I will talk about that below when I talk about Universal. After Universal, I drove to the Winn Dixie store that we went to on Monday. Before we left, I had emailed the Rabbi at the local Conservative Synagogue asking about Kosher food. He told us about a local Winn Dixie that has an expanded kosher section. It was actually pretty nice. A lot of selection including kosher wine! Since everyone was a little under the weather, I went back to the store to get some prepared chicken soup, and some veggies. I cut up the veggies and doctored up the soup a bit. I also got a jar of premade matzah balls. They were not half bad! Of course I had to do some koshering in the kitchen of our time share unit, but it was definitely worth the work.

We had brought down Shabbat dinner from Glatt 27 so we had a nice meal including our chicken soup and chocolate chip cookie bars that Marsha baked before we left. After dinner we had a visit from a cousin of Marsha’s who lives down here and works for Disney. Rebecca is actually 3rd cousin to our kids. We had a really nice visit and learned all about her work at Disney as a character handler. One of the best parts about Shabbat on vacation is that we do not set an alarm for the morning and just get up when we want. Of course that does not stop the kids from waking us, but we did get to stay in bed much later than any other day this week. Shayna, Noam, Marsha and I played a game, went to the pool and later visited the water park that is on site here at the resort. It was a nice day and very restful. After dinner we began the process of packing. The timeshare units usually come with a washer and dryer and so we try to clean and fold everything so that we can come home and not have a ton of laundry in front of us. To make things easier, Avi and Noam went to the main building here where they show Disney movies throughout the day. Tonight they showed “Guardians of the Galaxy” which Noam really wanted to see, so that worked out well for them, and gave us time to get some packing done without them here. Now we are waiting for the ball to drop at midnight and then get to sleep before tomorrow’s long drive to Virginia.

Now to the main part of this post. The last time we were at Disney was eight years ago. Avi was eight years old, and although we knew there were some issues, things were a lot easier. He loved being at Disneyworld and we did not have super huge lines so he was able to manage pretty well. Fast forward to today and he is sixteen years old, and we are here during one of the busiest weeks of the year. We knew going in that there would be very long lines and heavily packed theme parks. So Marsha and I and found a great website called Here we learned about Disney’s “Disability Access Service” and Universal’s “Attraction Assistance Pass”. These services are very different and can take some time to learn how to use. The Disney service is definitely the better product because when you purchase a Disney ticket, you also get to use their Fast Pass plus service which allows you to have up to three fast passes on your ticket at any one time. The tickets are all electronic and tied to the Disney app so you can check your fast passes and add more as the day goes on. So weeks before we left I had already added a few fast passes on our tickets. We chose Hollywood studios because they have a lot of new Star Wars attractions there and that is what I put on the fast pass. The Disability pass allows you to go up to a ride and if there is a 10-minute wait or less they let you right in on the fast pass line. If the wait is longer, they give you a return time which is equal to half of the current wait. So if the current wait is 90 minutes, they will give you a return time for 45 minutes. You can then do something else and come back in 45 minutes or any time after that. You can only have one of these active at a time, but with some planning it will help you to see what you want.

When we got to the park, we went right to Guest Services and asked to get the Disability service. We came prepared with a letter from Avi’s doctor, but that was not needed. They trusted us that we had a child who will have difficulty waiting in line. Together with the fast pass system we were able to go on all of the rides and see the nighttime show “Fantasmic”. If you have never seen this show, you should get there and see it. It really is magical! There is also a LOT of Star Wars features at Hollywood studios. The old ride Star Tours has been updated and is a lot of fun. There are storm troopers marching all around the park and there are a number of short films that you can watch around the park. There is a small area with models of ships and props from the movies. One highlight is that a few times a day they have “march of the first order troopers” and Captain Phasma marches a bunch of troopers through the park and they put on a little show in the center. Definitely a lot of fun.

I was definitely most impresses with how the Disney cast members were able to be helpful for all kinds of disabilities. They were kind and understanding. They treat every person the same as any other person and that was very nice to see. They also understand what social anxiety means and are really willing to do what they can to make sure that every person has a true Disney experience.

We had originally planned on two days at Universal and this had to change somewhat. So we went there on Thursday and spent the entire day doing the Harry Potter experiences. Universal’s “Attraction Assistance Pass” is similar, but since Universal does not have a fast pass system like Disney, everything works differently. Universal does have an express pass system, but they charge and there are different versions with different prices attached to them. They are expensive so that option was really out. The disability pass here works basically the same. If the ride has a 30 minute or less wait, you go in the express pass line right then. If not, they take 15 minutes off of the wait time (30 minutes during less crowded times) and you come back. You also can only have one out at a time. This is where the problems show up. At busy times, all rides have more than a 30-minute wait, so if you get a return time on one, there really is no time to go and do anything else. So this is where the Guest Access Pass comes in handy. If you push when you are at guest services, they will give you this pass which is an express pass that is complementary for guests who have difficulty waiting, but they do not advertise this pass. You really have to know it is available and sometimes fight for it. I did not have to fight, but I had to ask a few times until they said yes.

Express pass is not accepted for any Harry Potter attraction, so we used the other pass for this, and it worked ok. We got to go on both the Gringotts ride and the Harry Potter ride at Hogwarts Castle, as well as ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions. You need a park to park ticket for the train since Hogsmead is in the Islands of Adventure Park and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. We got that ticket and although the train ride is great, I do not know if it is worth the extra expense. Despite friends telling me they got sick on the Harry Potter rides, I thought they were amazing. Most of the rides at Universal are simulation rides, where you don’t move a lot and the movement is through movies that make you think you are. The Harry Potter rides do move, in that they spin and pivot, but I did not find them difficult. We spent the entire day between Hogsmead and Diagon Alley, including purchasing the wand that you saw in my last post. I was totally amazed at the Harry Potter world at Universal. It looks just like the movies and was a lot of fun. And contrary to what some told me, I did a LOT of research including many emails with the food services department at Universal and found that Butterbeer, which not hechshered, has nothing treif in it. It was worth the price!

For the second day, Avi and I went back and used the Guest Access Pass cards and went right in on the express lines for all the rides we wanted and got to do Minion Mayhem, Transformers, Men In Black, and Spiderman all by 2pm, including a ride on the Hogwarts express to go between the parks.

So while both Disney and Universal understand special needs, I will have to say Disney has the better service because you have to know about the second level of assistance at Universal.

Tomorrow we do the 11-hour drive to Virginia, and then on Monday the shorter drive to my Brother’s house to celebrate the 9th day of Hanukkah (the extra day for outside of Israel perhaps?)

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Vacation 2016

As many know, we decided to take a vacation this year during Christmas week rather than in the summer. This was mostly because we had an unused week from our timeshare that we tried to use in the summer and failed and we were finally able to get a week in Orlando during Christmas week. We even got lucky to find a week at our own home resort where we own our timeshare. My Mother-In-Law Sue booked onto a cruise with a bunch of friends for just after the week, so she decided she would come down with us and stay for the first few days. So far so good. The plan was set that we leave right after Shabbat on December 24, stay at a motel in Fredericksburg VA, and then drive the rest of the way on Sunday the 25th. But as the Yiddish expression goes, דער מענטש טראַכט און גאָט לאַכט, “Man plans, God laughs”. The week before we were scheduled to go, I realized I had a kidney stone. Now I have had stones before, and generally, I can tolerate them, but this one really hurt. I finally went to the hospital on Tuesday, found out I had a 6 mm stone, went to the urologist on Wednesday, got scheduled for surgery and had the stone removed on Thursday. WOW! So aside from a little discomfort from a stent that was left in and will have to come out later, so far so good.

Fast forward to Saturday. I am in Synagogue and Marsha comes in much earlier that she ever would generally come, and tells me that Avi has a 104 fever! UGH! I bring him to an urgent care clinic and he tests positive for flu. Oy! So the doctor says that as long as he is fever free, we can travel with him, and by later that afternoon, he had been fever free since we were at the clinic. So we decide to go. I decided that perhaps I should get a flu shot just in case, and I went to a walk in place in town and got the shot.

For the car ride Avi was planning to be in the third row in the car anyway by himself, and he kept basically to himself. We checked him a few times and no fever. We left at about 7 pm on Saturday evening and with only one stop in Maryland we pulled in to the lot of the hotel in Virginia at about 11:45. Got up in the morning and started on our trip south at about 8 am. First great thing of the trip. NO ONE DRIVES SOUTH ON CHRISTMAS!!! We had absolutely no traffic anywhere and we hardly even saw a police car! We decided to stop at South of the Border to eat our lunch that we packed. South of the Border is all closed on Christmas! If you ever want to stop here, don’t go on Christmas! Near us were cars of Hindus, Muslims, and Jews! We found a picnic table and had our lunch. At this point I was developing a bit of a cough as was Avi so we stopped at a CVS for some cough medicine. Within hours, I was already starting to feel a little worn down, and it became clear to me that perhaps I should not have taken that flu shot! Anyway we pushed on, and with only a few more stops, we made it to our resort near Disney at around 11:30. We checked in and went right to bed.

We planned Monday to be not very busy. We went to see Rogue One in the morning. First real surprise. As a treat, we pre purchased the tickets for the AMC theater at Universal City Walk. If you ever to go to Universal, don’t go to the movie theater there unless you are already there, either at the parks or at one of their hotels. The website indicated that parking was only $5 for the movies. We quickly found out that this was only after 5 pm! So we paid for parking and went to the theater. The seats were nice recliners and the movie was fantastic! Lesson learned. We then spent the rest of the day buying supplies and groceries for the rest of the week.

By now, I am still not feeling 100% and Sue is coughing as well. She hardly slept and in the middle of the night got the phone number for a doctor service from the resort. A doctor came to see her Tuesday morning and said we need to go to the ER. Our plans were to go to Universal, but we took her to the ER and after a few hours she was diagnosed with Bronchitis. WE brought her back to the unit for rest and the rest of us went to Disney Springs. This used to be called Downtown Disney, and it is a fun place to walk around and see shops and such. Kind of like a boardwalk. A real highlight was when we went into the Star Wars store. They have an area where you can build your own light saber and the kids had a blast! Walked around, had dinner and then back to the unit.

Wednesday’s plan was Disney Hollywood studios so the kids could see the new Star Wars stuff there. We had a great time for sure. It was a long day but generally worth the time. Over the weekend I will blog about our specific experience here, especially about the Disney disability pass that they offer. Sue stayed back again so she could be well to go to Universal on Thursday and see the Harry Potter stuff. We all went on Thursday and again, I will write about that over the weekend. The park was great and there are many high points to mention and to talk about Universal’s disability pass.

Now it is 11 pm on Thursday. Sue is spending tonight through Sunday with friends in Boynton Beach and safely made it there. Shayna was a little under the weather this morning, but she had a great time at the park, but Marsha and she decided to not do another day tomorrow. Noam decided he did not want to either. He saw Harry Potter world and that was it! So we got refunds for their second day, and Avi and I will hit Universal tomorrow to do some rides that we did not get to hit today.

Despite some health issues and other setbacks, the trip has been ok. I will never plan another trip like this during Christmas week, but we are making the best of it. WE will have a nice quiet Shabbat and on Friday night, a cousin of Marsha is going to visit. And then Sunday it is the drive back home.

Here are a couple of photos from today.

Posing with our new wand!

Shayna at the home of Sirius Black!

Guess where we are going!

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Why do Jews Vote Leftist?

A few weeks ago I read a blog post (and watched a video) by a guy named Ben Shapiro titled “Why do Jews Vote Leftist?” In this blog post, the author spells out his thesis as to why Jews tend to vote leftist and then tries to systematically quash these reasons. I watched his video and I became angry at what I was hearing. I felt the need to refute some of his statements. While my blog on the Times of Israel may have more visibility, that blog is meant to be about the Conservative Movement, and I do not want to break my own rule, so I am writing here again.

He spends his first few paragraphs tying President Obama to anti-Semites. I am not going to spend time refuting this, because some of it is correct. However, you can look at many different campaigns and administrations and you will find plenty of anti-Semites there as well. So I find these paragraphs inflammatory and of no real use.

His next argument is that most Jews don’t care about Judaism. He brings numerous polls for his proof text. I cannot refute the polls, and I am not going to try. However, I wonder if Mr. Shaprio would be surprised to learn that many of the people who don’t seem to care about Judaism, DO seem to care about being Jewish. Now, I don’t have polls and stats to give other than what I can see around me. I have met Jews who feel very strongly about their Jewish heritage. Here is an example. In a past job, there was a gentleman who was 100% assimilated. He was married to a non-Jewish woman. He ate non-Kosher food. He hardly ever celebrated a Jewish holiday. By all accounts, this person, whom I will call “Joe”, would be a perfect candidate for the vast majority of Jews who do not care about Judaism. However, Joe was more than happy to talk about his Jewish family, his Jewish upbringing, and his fond feelings for his Jewish heritage. A far cry from someone who does not care about Judaism. I have met numerous people like Joe, and I will hazard a guess that many Jews in America feel the same way. I recall once suggesting to someone I met who was just like Joe, that he was not “really” Jewish. His reaction was one of shock and brought him to tears! Polls can tell us a lot, but I think they miss this aspect of “feeling Jewish”.

Mr. Shapiro then begins his real thesis. He posits that “Most Jews aren’t Jewish in any real sense beyond ethnic identification.” That they don’t care about Torah or Mitzvot, and polling Jews is no different than polling Catholics. Since Jews don’t care about Judaism, according to Mr. Shapiro, they don’t care about what the Torah has to say. He then goes on to say the most surprising thing to me. “The Torah is not a left-wing document.” WOW! That is some statement. He continues to say that Jews who vote leftist are betraying “Torah Judaism.” I think the term “Torah Judaism” is a horrible term and perhaps in another post someday I will explain that comment, but I am here to say that voting left does not betray the Torah. In fact, I am here to say that the Torah is, in fact, a leftist document! By FAR!

Mr. Shapiro’s evidence that the Torah is not leftist is that “It opposes abortion and opposes same-sex marriage. It does not believe in a grand welfare system, but in private charity.” First off, the Torah does not oppose abortion. In fact, the Torah never mentions abortion. Most post biblical sources, including the Talmud see a human fetus as a potential life so abortion in general is not permitted, however, in a case where the pregnancy or birth will be dangerous to the mother, abortion is not only permitted, but required! This has also been interpreted to mean even for mental health reasons one abort a fetus! As for Same Sex Marriage, the Torah also has nothing to say. The Mishna, Talmud, Codes, etc. also have nothing to say about same sex marriage. These documents never even consider the possibility of a same sex marriage! So to say that the Torah opposes these concepts is misleading at best, and just plain wrong at worse. To suggest that the Torah does not believe in a grand welfare system, almost suggests a total misunderstanding of what the Torah is teaching! Judaism itself is a “grand welfare system” where we are told that we are to take care of the poor.

So his “proof” holds no water. But is he still correct? Is the Torah a right-wing document, or can it be shown that it is in fact, what Mr. Shapiro calls a “leftist” document? My thesis is that the Torah, is a “leftist” document. While the Torah is filled with ritual Mitzvot, it is also filled with many ethical Mitzvot. We are taught to treat the stranger with respect. We are taught to feed the poor be sure that the orphans are cared for. The Torah is easily a manifesto for social Justice. In fact, at the literal center of the Torah is the verse “Justice, Justice shall you pursue”! Not only that, but Jews are told that we are to be an “Or LaGoyim”, a light unto the nations. Our most important role in the world is to bring justice to the world! If that does not make the Torah “leftist” I don’t know it is.

This is then almost self-explanatory as to why Jews vote liberal. Many Jews are brought up within a culture that not only praises social justice, it is a culture that requires it! Mr. Shapiro’s final statement is “Jews who care about actual Judaism don’t vote leftist. And those who prioritize leftism don’t vote Jewish.” Well, Mr. Shapiro, I care deeply about “actual” Judaism and I am proud Democrat and a proud “leftist”! In November I will be voting for the candidate who will advance the ethics and morals of the Torah, and I can promise that that candidate will not be a Republican.

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Facebook and Global Warming

A few years back I posted in Facebook that I would stop posting about politics on my Facebook page. In that time, I think I may have broken my general rule once or twice, but for the most part I have kept to it. The reason I did this was to avoid the arguing that ultimately leads to name calling, foul language, and even major Lashon HaRa. I want to keep away from that for many reasons, not the least of which is that you are in my friends list for a reason. Either we are good friends, or we have known each other from some part of my past, and want to keep in touch at some level. Everyone I have “friended” or from whom I have accepted their “friending” is someone that I like and respect.

In all of my time on Facebook, I have “unfriended” only one person and it did ultimately come from nasty political postings. That is not why I am on Facebook. I am on Facebook for three major reasons. First, I want a place where I can easily update friends and family on the goings on in my life be they good or bad. Second, I want to be able to hear about what is going on in my friends and families lives. Third, I find Facebook a forum that can stimulate me, move me, and yes, entertainment.

As we move into the Presidential election season, there are more and more posts that I wish I did not have to see, and for the most part, I can just ignore them. I have been seeing a few posts from people that are outside of politics that are really bothering me. These are posts skeptical of global warming. I use the term global warming here rather than the more “au currant” term of Climate Change because most skeptics do not deny that there is climate change, they just seem to insist that we are not to blame. A friend told me recently that throughout the history of the world there have been warming periods and cooling periods and now we are in a warming period and eventually we will be back in a cooling period.

My friend is correct to a point. There have been warming and cooling periods in history. The ice ages were the two coldest periods, while today we are in one of warmest periods. Where my friend is wrong, and was is bothering me, is that global warming skeptics refuse to accept that Homo Sapiens, the dominant species on our planet are contributing to the current warming period and unless we make major changes, we will never make it to the next cooling period. The world will likely make it, but we will not be here to see it!

I don’t often say that people are “wrong”.  I often disagree with people and think that I am right and they are wrong, but I rarely will tell that to a person’s face. This is a case where I want to proclaim to all of my skeptic friends, that they are just plain wrong. Global warming is real and 97% of all scientists who have written about it agree. Heck, all the nations of the world agree! The bottom line is, that if we do not make major changes in the way we are living in this world, our children will inherit a much different place than was bequeathed to us.

If you want the evidence for my two truths in the last paragraph, here they are. On May 15, 2013 a paper was published in Environmental Research Letters, Volume 8, Number 2. In this paper the authors analyzed the evolution of scientific consensus on global warming. From about 12,000 papers they found 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. This paper was not taking a stance on its own, they just showed that out of 12,000 published papers, 97.1% of them agreed that we are causing global warming.

As for all the nations of the world agreeing, you can see that from the Climate Accord that was signed in Paris on December 11. I think that this may be the most important headline in the NY Times since its founding.

So why do I bring all of this up? Most of my Facebook friends will agree with everything I have said. Unfortunately, I know that there are some people in my friends list who just won’t face up to reality. I am tired of seeing posts that deny global warming. I know, I can just ignore them too, but for me denying global warming is 100 x worse than being on the other side from me in a political argument. So I have decided to take a big stance here and say that this will now be my litmus test. I cannot keep a relationship on Facebook with people who cannot believe that we are ruining our world despite the massive amounts of evidence that is put in front of them. If you cannot work to help fix this issue, then you have to be part of the problem.

I end with an apology. I am sorry if I offend anyone with what I have written and what I feel I have to do. However, it is time that we all most start to think about our part in safeguarding our planet and ensuring that our children and our children’s children will have a safe place to live. So I end this year with the promise to try to do more in my life and with the hope that everyone else will try to do their part as well.

Best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Safe 2016.

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Israel, days eleven and twelve

Sunday and today were both very busy days. Avi needed another “chill” day so he stayed behind while Marsha, Noam, Shayna and I went first to Beit Guvrin National Park where we were met by someone from Archeological Seminars and we went down into one of their caves and dug. We found many bones and pieces of pottery. Someone in the group even found a metal hook which was a very rare find and went in a special place to go straight to the lead archeologist! After we dug for a while we also went spelunking through a cave and then saw another cave that was totally excavated. All the caves in the area were dug by volunteers and in this one cave they found an entire olive press! Unfortunately, our finds were a bit more mundane, but we still had a great time.

The entrance to our cave

After the dig we had a quick lunch in Beit Shemesh and then on to Latrun to see the Tank museum. Actually we never really went into the museum. Shayna had a blast climbing on the tanks. Noam like seeing the tanks, but did not want to climb.

Shayna on a tank

After Latrun, we went to perhaps the most interesting stop on our trip. In the years just before the war of independence the Haganah secretly built a bullet making factory in Rehovot, just outside of Tel Aviv. It was underground, covered by a laundry and bakery. The Laundry helped block the sound of the machinery and the bakery helped mask any smells. The tour is fun and informative and if you ever go to Israel, you really need to see this place.

The secret entrance under a laundry machine

Then we made a quick stop at the Knesset to see the iconic menorah and take a “family” photo.

Today we all went out and our first stop was Kehillat Moreshet Avraham where we had a Shaharit service at which Noam read from the Torah again. We were a nice little group of people I have not seen in a while and a few people who helped put together our trip.

Noam putting on Tefillin

Noam reading from the Torah


We’re from HAGALIL!

Our next stop was Yad Lekashish were we had a chance to do some shopping at the shop of this wonderful place. Here, retired men and women can come each day and work. They make all kinds of crafts that are then sold in the shop. Noam got a Tallit bag and we got a new Challah cover.

Then we drove to Har Herzl. We parked and then took a short shuttle to Yad Vshem. The children are too young to go into the museum, but we went to the grove for the righteous gentiles and David told Noam and Shayna about these people. Avi stayed in the visitor’s center. We also walked through the children’s memorial. Then we walked the path that connects Vad Vshem to the Military Cemetery at Har Herzl. This is an amazing placement where you go from the lowest point to a place where we honor Jews who fought for the Jewish state. We saw a few special graves. First Hannah Senesh who parachuted into Hungary during WW II to try and rescue Jews. Then we saw the grave of Yoni Netanyahu who led the mission to rescue the hostages at Entebee. Finally we saw the grave of Michael Levin who was a USYer who went on Nativ and then made Aliyah. He died in Lebenon and was buried at Har Herzl. His death brought to the forefront the group of lone soldiers, people from all over the world who come by themselves to fight for the Jewish state. His grave is visited by every USY group in Israel and as you can see has become a sort of shrine.

Michael Levin’s grave

Then we saw Herzl’s grave and those of the Prime Ministers who are buried at Har Herzl. After a quick lunch we also saw the Herzl museum which is a great museum. Rather than just look at artifacts, you get to see a movie throughout the museum about Herzl’s live. Another great find that should not be missed.

Finally we ended the day at the Israel Museum. We saw the model of second Temple Jerusalem, the Shrine of the Book, a very interesting exhibit about the Nano-Tanakh, the world’s smallest Hebrew bible and ended with a walk through the archeology wing of the museum. Avi loved this part and went right for the Roman period pieces. He recalled everything we had seen throughout the trip that had to do with the Roman period and this was definitely a highlight of his day.

Shayna in the Ahavah sculpture

Almost a full family photo!

Finally, we went back to the apartment for dinner and packing for our trip home tomorrow. All total, I think we are happy we brought the kids to Israel. Shayna clearly had a great time and loved every bit of the trip. Noam had his ups and downs, but mostly ups and he too is happy we came. Sometimes it is hard with Avi, but there have been moments where we are certain that he really did get something from this trip. Whenever he would also questions about things having to do with the ancient Israelites or Jews, he would also use “we” to talk about it, not them. To me this is very significant and shows me that Avi knows who he is and that he is part of the Jewish people. Other times, like today in the Israel Museum, he shows us that he heard everything that was said when we visited sites around the country.

We are all happy and excited to be coming home tomorrow but sad at the same time to leave Jerusalem. I hope it won’t take us 15 more years to get back!

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Isarel, days nine and ten

As I said in my last post, Friday was a total “chill day”. We woke up late and Marsha, Shayna, and I walked over to the Hadar Mall to buy food for Shabbat. This is an amazing thing, that in Israel, on Friday morning, many of the malls will have booths set up with vendors selling Shabbat foods. There were so many choices, and we got chicken, yerushalmi kugel, vegetables, etc. We could have gotten Challot, but we decided to go back to Marzipan in the shuk for that.

The food booths at the mall

After getting the food in the refrigerator, the three of us took the bus downtown to do a little shopping. We ordered a necklace with Shayna’s name, got a replacement chain for one of Marsha’s that broke and I got to have my second Shwarma of the trip! We got Noam his own Hebrew siddur and then went to Marzipan to get Challot and Rugelach for Shabbat. Finally we took the bus back to the apartment. We were definitely tired from our shopping!

At five the three of us drove to the Jerusalem First Station. This is the old train station in Jerusalem that was renovated about three years ago. Now there are shops and bars and I understand a very nice nightlife. Every summer at 5:00 pm there is kabbalat Shabbat live at the station. Each week, one of three different groups will perform and sing the Kabbalat Shabbat with instruments and people sing along and dance and have a great time. The idea is to have people from all walks of Jewish life, secular to Orthodox come together and celebrate. It is over at least 45 minutes before Shabbat begins, so people who are shomer Shabbat have time to get home and finish preparing for Shabbat. We had a lot of fun and even Shayna sang along!

Kabbalat Shabbat at the First Station.

Shabbat was wonderful. We went to our friends Marc and Ellie for Shabbat lunch and had a great time. After lunch we had time to rest at the apartment before we went back to shul where Noam read Torah for the first time as a Bar Mitzvah! His Bar Mitzvah in the states is next Shabbat, and the Torah reading for Minha, the afternoon service, is always the same reading as the following Shabbat. So Noam was all prepared and he did an amazing job! The Monday and Thursday readings are also the same as the coming Shabbat, so he will be reading again on Monday morning at the Masorti Synagogue in Talpiot Mizrach, Kehillat Moreshet Avraham.

Tomorrow we are going to an archeological dig and the Ayalon Institute Museum which houses a bullet factory that was built by the Jewish people in years prior to 1948 to make bullets to prepare for the upcoming war.

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