Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Someone Else's Shoes

Too many years ago to count, I was a young working mother. I had the sweetest infant son at home, while I was racing around the entertainment industry, working as Eastern Editor of the Hollywood Reporter at 1501 Broadway in New York City. Whenever I came home at a normal time, I'd speak to my friends and compare notes.
"What did you do today?" I asked.
"Abby and I walked the babies in their strollers up the avenue. Then we went for pizza."
I was so jealous. My two best friends had spent the whole afternoon together with their babies.
"Oooh. I wish I could have been there."
"What did you do?"
"Typical day. I had lunch with one of my columnists, and we shmoozed for a while in Sardi's with Mary Tyler Moore."
"Oooh. I wish I could have been there."
I have spent a good part of my working mother life, doing incredibly exciting things, meeting fascinating or important people, and traveling to fascinating places. I have loved every minute of it. But I also missed being a traditional mother. I don't even think I'd know how to do that.
When I want to impress my granddaughters with my domesticity, I open a cookie mix, and let them put chocolate chips on top of the dough. We watch the cookies rise in the oven, and they think I'm a genius. (Well, that was the point, wasn't it?)
If they get time to spend with their other grandmother, they probably know that I am a bit different. But meanwhile they've never complained. 
Thank G-d, my kids and now my grandchildren have never said, "Why can't you be like David's mother?" They have never flinched when I answered a "Mother, can you do this for me today?" question with, "Sorry, dear, but I'm filming a movie."
But I do feel sad that I can't be more like Donna Reed or Mrs. Cleaver or even Mrs. Doubtfire, or whoever the 2014 equivalent is.
So, when a new blog came out, by Magi Sumers, called "Grandma's Girls",, I both hated and loved Magi.She's the perfect grandmotherly grandmother that I have always wanted to be. She makes pom poms with her kids on a snowy day. I went out and filmed a music video.
But you know what? She's a fabulous girl!!! She's an arts and crafts queen. She's a domestic imaginator. She has given me dozens of ideas to do with my children and grandchildren. 
I don't have to come up with ideas that will make my grandchildren think I'm a genius grandmother. I can copy Magi, and that's okay. Because if she didn't want us to copy her ideas, I do not think she would have started a blog about them.
So, I'm excited to keep making my movies, performing on stage, interviewing famous folks, and traveling on new adventures, IY"H. And I'm super excited that I can also do terrific grandmotherly things with my family, thanks to Magi Summers. Magi, whenever I can, I'm going to step into your shoes. I wear a size 8. How 'bout you?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

As Long as It Slides

Everyone knows Israel’s in the midst of a SnowZilla right now. There have been enough posts and photos to flood the internet, greater than the flood that will result, G-d forbid, when the massive white mounds melt.
There’s been a lot of bad in the snowblitz – the worst being 30,000 freezing families. (May that never happen again.) There’s also been a lot of good – kind deeds and brotherly cooperation (that’s for another blog).
Besides the life lessons and the logistic lessons of the largest snowfall in 120 years, thank goodness, we've broken through the shock of the storm with some fun, F-U-N. I bet you didn't know Israelis could get their  minds off the Iranian Crisis, the Palestinian Crisis, the Bedouin Crisis, the Economic Crisis, the Boycott-Israel Crisis and who knows whatever crisis to actually have fun for a change. Well, many of our kids may never have seen so much snow, but they were fast learners in the snow-fun department - traditional snowman building, snowball fights, and a chavaya (incomparable experience) of enjoying the immense white wonderland.
Down We Go
Across the street from my house is a fantastic hill – a perfect 45 degree angled rise – begging for skiers and sledders to take advantage of its slope. Yesterday I noticed two boys riding (or really, sliding) bikes down the hill. That was a first for me.
In my mind, that rates just about as high as watching folks "shovel" away three feet of snow with kitchen brooms. (I even offered a kid a real shovel, and he said, "No, thank you." Swish swish swish.)
I watched outside a little longer, waiting for the sledders, but not one traditional sled made its mark on the hill.
What has happened to the little wooden sled? Not necessarily Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud”, just a real sled. We had one in America. If we’d have brought it here, it would have sat for 21 years waiting for this moment. Maybe that would have been a waste. But I guess no one else brought their sled either.
Rachel Meir's rare real sled.

Except for one family that was using its uncle's childhood sled from England, the little wooden sled was mainly missing, but the sledding went on.

Esther Margolis vintage photo
Sleds from high chairs.

Ari Fuld does an "Obama selfie" while on his saucer.
Sleds from saucers.

Sleds from oven pans.
April Selditch, "Yonatan Abrams swapped his luxuriously comfortable beach-boogie-board-garbage-bag sled for his friends roasting pan which does 360's at light speed."

April Selditch, "Maayan Abrams  (5yrs) of Efrat in Park Asor sledding on her boogie board/garbage bag combo."

Sleds from boogie boards and garbage bags.
Tamar Rund and her kids hit the slopes with agricultural plastic in Pnei Kedem.
Sleds from agricultural plastic!

Judy Rosenstark's kids on today's version of a sled.

Sledlike knock-offs.

Rachel Meir snaps a sledless sledder.

Sledless sleds.

(Plastic sheet sledding in Pnei Kedem, courtesy of Tamar Rund)

Menachem Begin might have wanted to “conquer the mountain or die”. Not today, baby! Folks all over Israel’s snowy hilltops are conquering the mountain and living it up on whatever slides. SHWOOSH! And that’s okay too.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The ONENESS of Israel

Israel is a place of ONE. 
We've got One G-d. One Torah. One Land. One People.
One, that's how we like it.
So, we're thrilled on those years that we get ONE day of snow.
It's enough for us. We go outside and make our snowfolks. We have a snowball fight. We take enough photos to fill facebook and overload all our email carriers.
One day of snow.

The kids are so happy, they talk about it for a whole year until we're possibly lucky enough to get another day a year later - even a few flurries are appreciated.

But this year, Mother Nature over did it. Mothers usually know what their children want and need. And Mom, we didn't need this:

"From Wednesday night through Saturday afternoon, approximately 80 centimeters of snow fell in Efrat, 50 centimeters in Safed and 60 centimeters in Har Bracha, near Nablus in the Samarian mountains, an Israel Meteorological Service weather forecaster told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
Areas in Jerusalem ended up receiving between 40 and 50 centimeters of snow, despite predictions that the capital would get up to 1 meter." (Jerusalem Post)

Okay, we had a lot of snow on Thursday. Fun, fun, fun. See our snowmen. See our snowball fight.
But then when it snowed again on Friday and Shabbat, that was too much!!

Besides the fact that there was no transportation, and folks were stuck wherever they are, the electricity went out in 35,000 homes (1.4% of the country). Three of those homes belonged to my own children, who were freezing INSIDE their homes with their babies bundled up as much as possible.

I don't blame Israel Electric Corporation, and I know they were working around the clock to restore power. I don't even mind (now) the two six hour black-outs we had, but I can't stop thinking about all the children and senior citizens and ill and well, everyone, freezing in their homes, apartments or caravans.

Mother Nature, we thank you for wanting to give our children a little bit of excitement. I thank you for the beauty of the wadis and hills blanketed in white. I thank you for the opportunity to see the smiles on my granchildren as they made snow angels. I thank you for the walk I took with my friends in the stillness of the white night.

But for future reference, here in Israel, let's keep with the theme - ONE. Only ONE day of snow per year fits in just fine. That's the way we like it.
(My thanks to all the emergency workers and government/ electricity/ hospital/ security folks who tried to keep us all safe over these days. May you be blessed.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Efrat and Chanukah

My hometown of Efrat is especially connected to Chanukah. We’re like this! (Okay, I know you can’t see my fingers, but they’re as close together as they can be!)
Yes, I know all of Israel loves Chanukah. I know we are all proud of the bravery and faith of the Chashmonaim. We all tell their stories to our children, and marvel at their victories. Everyone in the world knows the miracle of the little jar of oil.
But Efrat puts its “money where its mouth is” where Chanukah and the Holy Temple are concerned.
Our Zayit hill is packed with references to both Chanukah and the Temple. I know that many folks head to Modiin to uncover our connection to the Chanukah story, but I invite you to join me in a walk around Efrat.
In Efrat, Rechov Matityahu HaCohen honors the father and founder of the revolt against the Syrian-Greeks.
Rechov Yehuda HaMaccabee and Rechov Yonatan HaChashmonai recall two of Matityahu’s five sons who led the Jewish people in overthrowing the occupying forces of the Syrian-Greeks. (Who were the other three? Yochanan, Shimon and Elazar.) The Chashmonaim dynasty ultimately lasted for 100 years. (It ended when the megalomaniac king Herod “killed every member of the house of the Chashmonaim in order to claim the throne of Judea for himself.”)
Rechov Menorah commemorates the menorah that stood in the Holy Temple – first the golden menorah, then the simple menorah of the Chashmonaim, and one day, IY”H, the magnificent menorah of the Third Temple.
Rechov Zeit Shemen reminds us of the oil that was used daily in the Menorah. (And also the little jar of pure oil that Yehuda HaMaccabbee found in the Temple.)
And Rechov Nataf and Rechov Tziporen stand for two of the spices used in the Temple’s holy of holies. In Efrat today, as in Jewish history, Nataf and Tziporen are attached Rechov Ketoret, the incense offered twice a day on the Temple’s Golden Altar. The incense with its eleven very-varied spice ingredients parallels the unity of the Jewish people in serving G-d. We hope Efrat is a place that promotes that unity.

From different points on Efrat’s Zayit hill, we can see the site of the Holy Temple. One day soon, IY"H, we pray we will be able to stand on our hilltops and see the Temple itself and the light emanating from its golden Menorah. Until then, our longing for it continues to grow as we drive upon our streets, and raise our children in the legacy of Yehuda HaMaccabee, Matitiyahu HaCohen and our Holy Temple.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

CONGRESS, what did I do to you?

Yesterday my daughter and I flew to America to visit our loved ones. No specific events planned here.
Total vacation, IY"H. Total visit of togetherness, friendship, love, discovery and fun.
No news.
Nothing heavy, with G-d's help just a real traditional family vacation. 
Although we hadn't really planned out the week, on our New York itinerary included only three specific musts: buy new tap shoes, see a Broadway show, and visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
During our flight to the US, I was faced with a million entertainment choices. Everyone around me had screens tuned to movies, cartoons and sporting events. I turned to Fox News, and discovered that for the 18th time since 1977, the American government is shutting down over failure to pass the budget. 
Well, I'm sorry, and I hope it can be worked out. I'm not into politics, but even I understand that a budget impasse is very dangerous to the whole American people.
But this budget shutdown seems aimed at me!! And I don't even know President Obama or anyone else in Washington!
Fox explained the shut down's immediate consequences - all National Parks are closing. Well, sorry for the folks hiking in Yosemite, but thank G-d I wasn't
planning any nature walks this week.
Then I saw it - the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island will be closed.
Are they kidding?
Those were the top items on my MUST SEE list.
And I realized that thousands of other tourists probably had those landmarks, as well as others on their lists too. And those folks in Yosemite might have been dreaming of visiting there for years.
Perhaps closing national parks and landmarks is a better choice than firing thousands of workers, but America's landmarks are not only about fun and photo ops.
They're about the spirit of America, the pride of its great nation, the face of courage that the United States put forth to the world.
Ground Air Force One for a week.
Stop this week's funding rebel insurgents wherever.
Save money this month not trying to topple some foreign regime.
Buy less nuts and bolts and supplies at inflated prices for government offices.
And I won't even mention Obamacare...
But reopen the national parks and landmarks!
The boat to Liberty is waiting for me and thousands others, as well.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What will be our children's memory?

On a road trip this week, we listened to a children's CD - Uncle Reuvain (not the Simcha Train, but I'm sorry I don't know the name). It was full of fun kid's songs that delighted our passengers.
We sang and laughed throughout our long trip. Then suddenly one song brought great tears to my eyes, and I noticed that those old enough to understand were teary-eyed, as well.
The song told a little boy's memories of the Friday night candles in his home.
It is the warmest and most loving Friday night song I have heard in a long time. And perhaps it was more meaningful to me, because it described Friday night in the eyes of a child.
This little boy explains that throughout his entire life, he will never forget how his mother lit her candles - her quiet tuneless hum, her embracing of the Shabbat, her lingering by the lights (in prayer).
It made me think, "What do my children and grandchildren see? What memory will they hold in their hearts from my Friday night 'licht bentschen'?"
And what will my grandchildren remember from their mothers?
I am decades older than the little boy in the song. My children are older as well. But I still hold on my own heart the sight of the Friday might lighting by my forever-beloved grandmother, of blessed memory. The same memory is reenacted every Shabbat by my own dearest mother, may she live and be well until 120.
Their candle lighting was no match, match, wave, wave, wave, Shabbat shalom.
Even today, although standing is difficult for her, my Mother takes every moment of her special hi/gh with G-d and shares her every thought and wish and worry. As with her mother before her, I watch her lips move as she prays for every loved one and Am Yisrael. I watch as her burdens (at least temporarily) go up in the flames of the Friday night lights, and the Shabbat serenity that envelopes her with love.
Every Friday night we pray, "...bless us with great blessings; make our household complete, crowning our home with the feeling of Your Divine Presence dwelling among us."
The little boy in the saw did not call the Friday night candles, Shabbat candles. He called them, "my mother's lights"
IY"H, as I light my Candles on this first Friday night of the new Torah cycle, I will try to make the candles my own, and bring my personal heartfelt prayer and love to my lights, so they can be remembered with happy warm tears by my own children and grandchildren for years to come.
This Shabbat, you can do the same.
Become your child's Friday night memory. It will hold him for his entire life.
Shabbat shalom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hidabroot Women at Rachel's Tomb

I love going to Rachel’s Tomb (the burial place of our Biblical Matriach Rachel, wife of Jacob). Like Jewish women from throughout the centuries, when I have a problem, I unburden my heart there. Sometimes I go just to visit my “grandmother”, and sometimes I go to pray for the nation.
Usually, I concentrate on my family – each member, asking for that when s/he needs. Today I went to pray for myself. I talked to the “charity lady”. We’re old friends. We share with each other our thoughts. She's very wise. I think the Ministry of Religion puts wise women in key spots in the country in order to give good advice to people like me.
I was standing near the Kever Rachel memorial stone when it started get crowded – very crowded – and suddenly I felt myself pushed into a corner. I turned around and there were dozens, then hundreds of women behind me and beside me. Women dressed modestly. Women not. Women with their hair covered. Women not. All sorts of women. They studied the names on each of the books on the bookshelf (they more or less all said, "Psalms") and carefully picked one, leafing through its many mysterious pages. They began reading. Maybe had "instruction sheets", following what was written to a tee. Some had lists of people to pray for - for good health, prosperity, a spouse. They pushed forward toward the large stone in the middle of the room. Not many could reach it, but as many as possible did their best to touch it. Some cried. Some whispered. They had clearly never seen anything like this before.
I finished my prayers and wiggled my way out.
In front of the building, I asked a cigarette-smoking blonde woman where she came from. She said, “Hidabroot brought me from Beersheva.” Wow.
I asked two Ethiopian ladies, both of whom were dressed very nicely, where they came from, “Hidabroot brought us from Ashdod.”
There were more with doilies on their head from Ashkelon, slacks-clad ladies from the Krayot, Haifa, north, south, east, west.
Ten buses. Five hundred women – the majority of whom were secular and assimilated.
They spent the day – this Elul day, three weeks before the High Holidays – on a trip to discover what preparing for the holidays spiritually is all about. They traveled to Chevron, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and witnessed a giant shofar blowing ceremony there; Beitar Elite in order to perform a favorite women’s mitzvah of dividing the dough (hafrashat challah); and then they came to Rachel’s Tomb.
All of the women (most of whom had never been to these places before) that I had spoken to, said that this was the most amazing day of their lives. They had never felt so full and complete before. Their excitement about our Jewish roots and all they had learned about our heritage in one day excited me as well. I also felt proud of the Hidabroot organization,, which introduces Torah and mitzvoth to the most uninitiated Jews around with video clips, lessons, learning partners, weekends, events, etc.Sometimes you wonder if these organizations succeed in their work. I saw their success right before me!
As the buses lined up to pick up the women, I was moved beyond words. I was so stunned, I didn’t even take a picture (and for me, that says a lot). Good for you, Hidabroot!!!
The Hidabroot site is in Hebrew, but there are also lectures with English translations. Try them:

Make the most of the next three weeks before Rosh Hashana. Happy new year.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rediscovering Efrat's Past with a Living Museum

Naomi and Ruth tell of their trials upon their return to Bethlehem from Moav
My hometown of Efrat has just celebrated its 30th anniversary on these rolling Gush Etzion hills. So, it's natural that we look back at our beginnings three decades ago, and at at the growth of our town, our population, and even our positive influence on Israeli society. Efrat residents have many reasons to be proud, B"H.
Efrat's story, however, did not begin 30 years ago on these hill, or almost 100 years ago when Shmuel Holtzman purchased land here. 
Efrat in Jewish History
Abraham and Sarah
Our Jewish presence on these rolling hills stretches back to our patriarchs and matriarchs, Ruth and Naomi, King David, the Chashmonaim, Bar Kochbar, and yes, forward into time to the modern Jewish resettlement of this area, Shmuel Holtzman, Moshko (Moshe Moskowitz), Rabbi Riskin and our residents today.
An exciting way to teach residents the history of their town is through a Living Museum. A Living Museum portrays life and historical events through performance.
I proposed one last year when we began planning Efrat's 30th Anniversary. The Living Museum would make Efratians more familiar with their note-worthy history, and foster in our residents an even great connection to our beautiful city. 

Boaz, Naomi and Ruth
This year's Efrat's 30th anniversary celebration was a perfect time to launch Efrat's LIVING MUSEUM. The Efrat Community Center's director Neta Magen and Local Council staffer Keren Claster were very supportive of the project, and helped make it happen.

Our Patriarchs Slept Here?? 
Jacob, little Benjamin and Rachel
This year's living museum explored our earliest roots here through conversations between Abraham and Sarah; Jacob, Rachel and Benjamin; Ruth, Naomi and Boaz. Hundreds of adults and children were able to meet our historical ancestors, hear their stories and even photograph with them. It was a humongously fun part of our celebrations.
I was excited to write, produce and direct Efrat's Living Museum program. Our Living Museum performers were Abraham - Betzalel Yablochnik, Sarah - Aviva Danziger Cohen, Rachel - Noa Choritz, Jacob - Brian Choritz, Benjamin - Akiva Choritz, Boaz - Peter Abelow, Ruth Bati Katz and Naomi - me (Sharon Katz).
Costumes were provided by the collections of the Raise Your Spirits Theatre, Noa Choritz and Sharon Katz.
Everyone wanted photos
with our Biblical figures
This year's Living Museum is only the beginning. IY"H, I hope we'll be able to expand it every year, introduce new Biblical and historical figures, and include more Efratians in this exciting program, where history and creativity come together. IY"H, I'm hoping its success will one day encourage communities throughout Israel to show their pride and their deep roots in their own towns.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What's Up, Efrat? Israel's Independence Day 2013

There's so much  going on in Efrat and Gush Etzion on Memorial Day and Israel's Independence Day. Find out all about it here on What's Up, Efrat?

On Sunday night, lail 5th of Iyar, Matnas Efrat presents its Yom HaZikaron Ceremony in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. 7:50 in the Ulam Sport. This will be followed by appropriate activities for the youth in the Ulam Rakefet.

On Monday night at 7:30 PM, there will be community tefillot in synagogues all over Efrat to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut.

Then at 8:30 until 10, we’ll join together at Park Asor for the greatest Yom HaAtzmaut Celebration ever – with a special 30 year torch lighting ceremony, a special spectacular program, local entertainment, honored guests, fireworks.

At 10:30, the party continues on with youth bands taking the stand after the main ceremony ends.

There’s more happening on Monday night, as well. At 10 PM, we’ll be SINGING YOM HA’ATZMAUT in Shdema. Gush Etzion Mayor Davidi Perl, as well as other dignitaries will be present. For more information 050-550-0834.

Also Monday night 11:30 PM, Matnas Gush Etzion is continuing its tradition of Singing Songs of Yom HaAtzmaut. Come on down to the Matnas Gush Etzion Lobby and join in. For more information 993-7999.
On Tuesday, Yom HaAtzmaut, the Pina Chama is hosting its annual Yom HaAtzmaut Barbecue in honor of all those soldiers who stay on duty that day. Thousands of burgers and franks – with all the toppings – will be handed out to our chayalim.

Thanks to all the good folks who work so hard from morning until night on this barbecue. This is your opportunity to bring over large salads, cakes, sodas to add to the menu. And your monetary donations are welcome too. Please call 050-8434797.
  Also on Tuesday from 10 AM to 3 PM – Efrat’s Most Spectacular Yom HaAtzmaut Picnic and Celebration Ever!!!
As Efrat turns 30, we’ll be celebrating with a giant Carnival and Street Fair. It’s so massic, it will stretch from Park Asor all the way to the Matnas.
Excitement EVERYWHERE!!!! Activities for the family: inflatable, mats and cushions, Fair Sales, stage and music festival, activities recreation and picnic areas, A LIVING MUSEUM, quizzes and all kinds of fun activities.
There’ll be food booths with everything for a hungry family – both dairy and meat - at affordable prices, tables and chairs, plus barbecue grills for free.
Plus exciting youth activities, like paintball, climbing wall, archery and more...
Admission is free. It's going to be a great day for Efrat, its residents and Israel!!
Also Tuesday, Yom HaAtzmaut, drive out to Nokdim from 9 AM to 4 PM for Gush Etzion’s Chanyon Tzahal, IDF Parking Lot.
 Not only will Nokdim be the base this year for many IDF vehicles of all kinds, but there’ll be state of the art surveillance and warfare equipment, and all kinds of special safety and emergency equipment. Plus inflatable castles, a petting zoo and a Military Band performing at 2 PM. Admission is free.
For more information: 050-2639549 (Rotem)

Happy Israel's Independence Day #65!!!
Happy Birthday Efrat #30!!!


First ever trip in a series of trips for Efrat’s 50+ Club.
Save the date – 23/4/13 to the Judean Plain!!
It’s going to be fantastic. For more information - 9932936