The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chaim (favorably) Reviews Eitan Katz's CD

Money Quote:

Eitan Katz writes in the CD booklet that this is a collection of rare and previously unrecorded R’ Shlomo Carlebach Niggunim. Eitan is a great choice to record such a project. R’ Shlomo’s Niggun are so special and it’s a shame to hear sometimes how they are redone. When I think about that Ohad-Kinderlach version of Niggun Neshama I cringe, it’s like drinking expensive 30 year old wine out of a blue plastic disposable cup. It’s just wrong. Eitan brings the respect and aidelkeit that these songs deserve.
(emphasis added)

I couldn't have said it better myself.


Window Seat

I almost never take the window seat on an airplane. Especially on a flight longer than two hours. If I can't get an aisle seat in advance, I usually beg the airline employees at the gate to get me an aisle seat.

Yesterday, however, on my flight back from Chicago, there I was in 14F. I had made it to the airport from downtown much faster than expected and got on to a much earlier flight. I had to take what was available. Thankfully, no one was sitting in the middle seat. That might have been too much to bear.

As it happens, the plane left on time and the flight was very pleasant.

Then, as we approached La Guardia, I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the entire length of Manhattan from the west as we flew over the Hudson River.

My, my. What a site. The view from the plane was spectacular. From the tall buildings downtown to the tall buildings in midtown, to the majestic Central Park (one of the seven wonders of the world?), it was quite a show.

Those of us who work in Manhattan take the grandeur of the city for granted. Yesterday's flight gave me a fresh perspective.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Friendly Confines UPDATED

I was zoche to attend a Cubs game last night during my overnight business trip to Chicago. I love the ambience of Wrigley Field but, l'maisah, I could barely see anything from my $45 box seats in left field. The dreadful Cubs were truly dreadful and lost 9-4. I left early, just in time to get to my hotel to see yet another miraculous Mets win on ESPN. Two balks? They are winning in spooky ways.

The reason I ended up at Wrigley Field is because my dinner plans for last night blew up at almost the last minute. I went online and, faster than you can click your mouse, I was hooked up, self-printed ticket and everything. As my father, z'l, would have said, America Gonif.

I was tempted to contact my old and apparently retired Chicago blogging buddies, Velvel and Becky, Cara and Prodly, who I haven't seen since my last visit to Chicago about three years ago, but, frankly, I didn't want them to feel compelled to see me (and, to be honest, I have no idea whether they are still in Chicago or not).

(Velvel, Cara and Prodly were three of the great original Jbloggers, when the Jblogging world was tiny in comparison to today, and I will always have a warm spot in my heart for them (even though Velvel once called me a bitter old man). Once five years passes, they should each immediately be inducted to the Jbloggers Hall of Fame. But I digress.)

In any event, it was a delightful evening of baseball under the stars.

UPDATE: No sooner did I post this than I discovered that Cara is back.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The last couple of weeks have been extremely difficult ones at my office. There were a couple of major offsites and seminars and the staff did a nice job. As a reward, my boss shut the office this past Friday, extending the holiday weekend an extra day. (Of course, I came in because I had missed the two previous days because of yom tov and I don't have the luxury of letting work pile up).

So what is our reward? All day and night yesterday I started getting "dog ate my homework" emails from staff members. ALL FOUR ADMININSTRATIVE EMPLOYEES CALLED IN SICK!

Ich kenesht.


Design Genius

When the Long Island Railroad unveiled its new cars a number of years ago, the first thing that hit me was how awfully designed they were. The seats were even closer together (and, lest you forget, a lack of leg room is generally not a very big issue for me) yet there seemed to be even fewer seats. I wondered, what were they thinking?

Well, today, the incredible thoughtlessness of the design came out for me. I am travelling later today and I brought an overnight bag. Not a huge bag, in fact, a fairly small one. Not an overstuffed one, but one that was packed tightly (I'm only going for one night). Nevertheless, it didn't come close to fiting in the overhead luggage rack. So, I had to put it on the seat next to me. (Luckily, the train was not packed so this didn't cause a problem).

Again, I ask, what were they thinking?


Monday, May 28, 2007

Kavanah Deficit

The main takeaway from my extended Shavuous weekend is that I suffer from a severe kavanah deficit attributable to my obsession with nonsense.

Two examples.

A beautiful arrangement of flowers was placed on each side of the bimah for yom tov. I sit in the first row in front of the right side of the bimah. The flower arrangement included a bunch of big, colorful flowers in full bloom. And one completely out-of-place red shriveled up carnation. What were they thinking? (To make matters worse, it was only on my side that there was this out-of-place flower. The other arrangement was perfect).

Needless to say, the carnation drove me crazy all yom tov. I wanted to yank it out but, of course, couldn't. So, rather than focus on my tefilah, I thought about the carnation.

The second example happened on Friday night. The ba'al tefilah, without question one of the top three in our shul, put the first part of Lecha Dodi to Shlomo Carlebach's "Yisborach Shimcha", just recently recorded by Eitan Katz on his new CD. It really worked well and the shul was rocking.

One problem. The ba'al tefilah, and the kehilah, were getting one note wrong. They were going up when they should have gone down (in the last two words of the first stanza, to the words "L'olam va'ed").

I am already crazed by my shul's absolute destruction of Niggun Neshamah and now, another potential botch. I fear it is already too late.

I obsessed all Shabbos.

I think I need intervention.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Shlomo or Not Shlomo: The Saga Continues

I received the following email from Shlomo Katz relating to the origin of the song Ma Tovu that appears on Eitan Katz's new CD, Unplugged. The origin was first questioned in a comment by Yitz of Heichal Haniginah.

ready for this one?

My Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Brovender, gives a Thursday night parsha class in katamon. I was lucky enough to have a free Thursday night, so i went and just got home.

When i was there i noticed a hippie-ish man in the back , filming the shiur with a video camera that he had set up. After the shiur, which was very strong, someone there asked me a question about a certain 'shlomo' niggun, to which i answered the date and album the song was on. (Eishes Chayil). As i was walking down the stairs, leaving, this hippie brother comes up to me, and asks me very innocently, if i ever heard of the niggun 'ma tovu', and if Reb Shlomo ever recorded it. As i was beginning to tell him about eitan's new album, I stop and ask him why he is davka asking me about this niggun...he would mamesh be the last guy in the world I would think knows it...

So he tells me that back in the day, he and his wife used to be sort of Shlomo chevre, and this man's wife asked Shlomo to write a niggun for her husband to the words ma tovu, since this is his pasuk. His name is Michoel, which begins with mem and ends with lamed, just like the pasuk ma tovu.....mishkenosecha yisroel. So he did, he made it up for this guy.

what do we know........
Initially, Yitz thought that the niggun was written by Tanchum Portnoy. That turned out not to be the case. Then Yitz suggested that it was a very old traditional tune. According to Shlomo Katz, we have now come full circle.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fleishig Reinforcement

With Shavuos quickly approaching, it was time to take profilactic action. I stopped at Kosher Delight for lunch. I ordered a dark meat snack box (and received a white meat snack box but that's another story) and a chicken soup.

Now, I'm not one of those chevra that usually eats a massive fleishig meal on Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov; but this is different. It's the dairy holiday. Not that there's anything wrong with baked ziti, don't get me wrong. But, you know what I mean.

But, one must do what one must do and three pieces of fried chicken and soup seemed just about right.

Indeed, just yesterday, I was informed by my lovely and holy wife that, despite having just spent Sunday evening assisting her with the massive new chicken soup batch, Shavuous would be chicken-soup-less and that I would have to wait for Friday night to taste the spoils of her efforts. Needless to say, this came as quite a shock. I tried to protest but, seeing that my protest was falling on unsympathetic ears, I quickly retreated.

So, sadly, I was reduced to settling for the KD chicken soup which, truth be told, is pretty good 'though barely in the same class as MHW's splendid brew.

So, having fortified myself with the Final Fleishig Meal, I boldly leap into Shavuous.

Cheese Blintzes anyone?


Monday, May 21, 2007

OOS Clarifies Things

OOS has been getting grief for making fun of the silly PC nonsense that passes for education at his masters program at Wurtzweiler.

He responds here and here.

It is of course patently ridiculous to suggest that someone can or can't be an effective professional on the basis of his political views or sense of humor. It is even sillier to suggest that one can assess someone's potential based on one post on a blog.

L'maisa, having raised him and knowing who his mother is, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that OOS will be a great therapist.

Israel is lucky to have him and could use a whole bunch more just like him.

And that's all I have to say.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Chaim Busts MBD

Not only does his music stink, it's stolen.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stinky Smokers

While I almost never discuss politics on this blog, those who know me know that I prefer that, to the greatest extent possible, the government stay out of our hair. So, for example, I favor low taxes and detest stupid regulation (like banning aluminum bats or trans fats).

Having said that, it is my humble belief that the government can't tax cigarretes enough. I say, impose a new $10 federal tax per box. (Of course, I don't really say that because I know that imposing such a tax would result in the development of a huge black market; but you know what I mean).

What has raised my ire so much? A few things.

Yesterday, a woman on the LIRR platform was smoking a cigarette as the train approached. Having no option to move, we were forced to inhale her disgustring second-hand smoke. Yech.

Today, I attended an all-day seminar. Unfortunately, sitting next to me was one of my colleagues, an otherwise fine young man whom I call Mr. Ashtray. He went outside to smoke after every single panel and I was forced to sit next to him and smell his stinkiness for the next forty five minutes until he could refresh the stink.

(Indeed, I love all aspects of my job except the fact that four of my twelve colleagues are human chimneys. I constantly have to attend meetings in smelly rooms.)

So, bring on the tax. Who says I have to be consistent?


OOS Visits..

Social Work Land

[ed. note: I take judicial notice that OOS has been posting a lot lately. Either his client workload is down or the kids are going to sleep more easily]


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Traffic Jam

At Shalom Falafel


Monday, May 14, 2007

Bad News Hockers

Every shul has hockers of various madreigos. There are stam hockers and then there are those who are gedolei hador when it comes to knowing the hock. These people know about events before they happen.

And then there are what I call Bad News Hockers.

They are the ones who are sure to rush over to you the second you walk into shul to tell you about the latest community tragedy. It doesn't matter what type of tragedy or whether you even know the person or people who are the subjects of the bad news. It's like they get their kicks from giving you bad news.

Yet another thing I don't quite get.


Going to the Dogs

Another sign that The Toddler is not one of our biological children is that she loves dogs. MHW and her progeny were never particularly fond of dogs. In fact, most of them would rather walk on hot coals than hang out with a canine. (OYD has come around lately but when the kids were small, fuggedabodit).

TT is really funny when she's with my sister's two dogs. They jump all over her, lick her in the face, lick her juice cup, and all but knock her over, but she keeps coming back for more. She is fascinated by one of the dog's tails. She tries to grab it no matter how many times we tell her that doing so is not a particularly good idea.

I don't know how to break it to my sister but TT is more excited about the dogs than she is about visiting her.


Weird or Not Weird?

Yesterday for lunch, we went with my in-laws to a restaurant to celebrate Mothers' Day. While we are seated at our table, in walked a large group of people including a woman who had just celebrated her graduation (presumably from College or graduate school). How did I know she had just celebrated her graduation? She was still wearing her cap and gown. In the restaurant.

I thought that was weird.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

A New (Old?) Approach to Learning Chumash

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz has posted a 56 page pre-production Chumash Workbook sample and a letter explaining what it's about. He is very interested in as much feedback as possible prior to final production.

This effort is all about teaching skills to our children, something that has been sorely missing in Jewish education.


Drawing a Blank

I have not had even one interesting thought cross my mind today worth posting about. Just thought I'd let you know.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Public Speaking Training


As readers of this space know, I do a lot of public speaking. I speak in front of crowds ranging from 40 to 1000 people. I speak here in New York, in many cities across the country, in Europe and in Asia. I'm actually not too bad at it, if I do say so myself. And, since people keep asking me to speak, I suppose my self-assessment is more or less correct.

Nevertheless, management has decided that the executives in the firm should all undergo public speaking training. Hey, I thought, there's always room for improvement. Bring it at me!

What I wanted to do is have the trainer attend my next live gig, videotape it and criticize me based on my actual live performance. Makes sense, right? (Especially since my next gig is next week only two blocks from my office). A big part of my success as a public speaker is my ability to assess the crowd and draw energy from it. This would capture me in a realistic setting and would really be helpful.

But, of course, that's not what's going to happen. Instead, the trainer is coming to our office and will tape me giving a presentation to no one! I am quite sure that I will become all self-conscious and will be a disaster. There will be absolutely no value in this exercise.

I could be wrong. But I don't think I am.


Mercifully, my training session scheduled for tomorrow was postponed. With any luck, this will never happen.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dragon Air?

In mid-June I am doing another big trip to Asia for work. I just got my itinerary. I am flying from Hong Kong to Beijing on Dragon Air. Somehow I don't take much comfort from the name of that airline. Is it me?


Happy Anniversary Joe

The Great Joe Schick is celebrating his fourth anniversary of blogging at the Zionist Conspiracy. He is one of the earliest of the great JBloggers and one of the few who is still around, albeit he doesn't crank out the posts as frequently as he used to.

Chazak V'amatz, Joe.


The Grasso is Greener On the Other Side UPDATED

Dick Grasso, former head of the New York Stock Exchange, won a stunning victory in an appeal of a lower court ruling in a case brought by former Attorney General Spitzer to recover much of Grasso's $178MM deffered compensation.

I've never understood this case and I always thought that Grasso, who refused to settle, would win. While I haven't read the opinion yet, it appears that he is on the way.

For losers like me who are actually interested in reading this junk, the Appellate Division Opinion (which I haven't read yet) can be accessed here


On Fostering Part IV: The Nature of Fostering

This past Shabbos marked The Toddler's second birthday. I have been writing a few posts about fostering to mark that occasion.

Ohel is always looking for additional foster families. This may seem strange because the population of kids "in the system" is, today, relatively small. But it's not strange. It's not about the numbers, it's about the fit. Most kids in the system need just the right situation to thrive and Ohel needs to be able to choose from among as many families with diverse strengths and situations as possible in order to be able to make the right placement.

So, the question is, what is the nature of fostering? Could it be for you?

It depends. Perhaps our experience will be instructive.

We became certified about 8 years ago. In the years since, we have cared for three children on a long-term basis and have provided respites for a handful of others. Each of the three long-term children has been completely different (even though two were brothers). Our first fostering gig lasted a bit more than a year. For 8 months we cared for two brothers, ages 4 and 5. Then the younger boy went to another home (a pre-adoptive home that did not work out) and we cared for the older brother, "Judah", for another few months until he re-joined his brother. After a sad journey through numerous other homes, Judah came back to us for another extended period of time, but that, too, did not work out. He has been in group residences for the past three years (but he is ready to be placed in a pre-adoptive home). For the past 22 months we have been caring for The Toddler, who celebrated her second birthday last Shabbos.

(It is worth pointing out that contrary to most people's perceptions, in almost every way our first fostering gig was much more dificult than our current situation. While changing diapers at our ages is not necessarily what we had in mind (other than grandchildrens'), raising a baby, even at our age, is much easier than dealing with kids who have endless baggage. (Of course, now is a good time to point out that whatever I do is absolutely nothing compared to MHW; she is the one who bears most of the responsibility).

We started fostering because we thought we could be pretty good at it. We had a pretty structured (albeit flexible) home life and we had senses of humor. But mainly, we thought that it would be good for our kids. We were right. Much more than we could ever have imagined. And we had no idea how important and rewarding it would be for us.

To me, the key elements for being a good foster parent are structure, humor. love and patience. Did I mention patience? The overwhelming majority of kids who come into foster care come from disfunctional family situations or worse. They crave structure. (All kids do). They need to be able to depend on a routine. They crave attention. And you need a sense of humor. And did I mention patience?

Fostering can also be very time consuming. With the boys, for example, MHW spent a lot of time simply scheduling the various therapies that they received (and then driving them back and forth). They also demanded a huge amount of attention. And this brings me to the next, very important point.

Your kids need to be with the program. Because they will sacrifice. They will sacrifice in terms of your time and attention. You will be pulled in many more directions. The foster kids may also drive them crazy. Your kids will need patience and a sense of humor.

(You also need to exercise good judgment in accepting kids. You must determine whether a child suggested by Ohel works for your particular circumstances. You need to be able to say no where it isn't appropriate or if you think it won't work. You can't allow yourself a guilt trip. Some kids make sense. Others would be disasterous.)

Looking back, despite the extremely difficult circumstances we often experienced with the two boys, we are happy that we did it. We feel we helped the boys and we know we grew tremendously from the experience. We often think back on those days and laugh at the craziness.

(There is nothing to talk about when it comes to The Toddler. We have been blessed. We have been privileged to care for the sweetest, cutest baby one could hope for.)

So, is it for you? That depends entirely on your circumstances. But if you think it is, you will be rewarded by the experience. Ohel awaits your call.


R. Shlomo or Not R. Shlomo...That Is The Question

Yesterday I posted a review of Eitan Katz's new CD, "Unplugged". The CD purports to be a compilation of ten Shlomo Carlebach niggunim that are not well known by the general public, or, in the case of a number of tunes, never before recorded by anyone.

In response to my post, a commentor, Yitz, cast doubt on the origins of one of the songs, Ma Tovu. Based on a conversation that he had with Itzik Aisenstadt, an old friend of R. Shlomo and an expert on his music, Yitz said that the song was composed by Tanchum Portnoy.

I happened to be seeing Shlomo Katz at a wedding last night and asked him what he thought. (Shlomo was the source of most of the songs performed by his brother Eitan). He was very intrigued. He promised to go back to his source materials (he has countless cassettes of unpublished Shlomo music) and try to figure out the scoop.

If anyone can ask Mr. Portnoy himself, that would obviously be helpful.


Monday, May 07, 2007

I Miss OOS

I was never one to get all weepy-eyed at departures and I didn't change that when OOS and family left for Israel on Aliyah last September. Of course, I knew then that I would be visiting a mere two weeks later and that I would likely be in Israel frequently. (L'maisah, I was there in September, November, January and March).

It is now a couple of months since my last visit and I have to admit that I miss OOS, MHDIL and the two grandchildren terribly. Although I speak to OOS frequently, it is simply not the same. And, of course, the grandchildren are growing up without us and that is hard to take. (I think it's actually made worse by the fact that we see The Toddler growing up and realize very keenly what we are missing).

The good news is that the OOS family will be coming back to galus for the summer as part of OOS's master's program. Less than three weeks to go.

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Eitan Katz Unplugged

I just picked up Eitan Katz's new CD, Eitan Katz Unplugged. It is a compilation of ten Shlomo Carlebach niggunim that were either never recorded by Reb Shlomo (albeit most were recorded by others after his petirah), simply not well known, or well known but not associated with Reb Shlomo.

The CD is beautiful. Very mellow and laid back. Beautiful vocals by Eitan, nice additional vocals by Eitan himself, Nochi Krohn, Shlomo Katz and others, and very fine arrangements. The percussion work by Shaya Lieber is particularly noteworthy.

The CD is worth the price just for the first two niggunim, Yisborach Shimcha and Shuvi Nafshi, tunes that I fisrt heard on a live recording of one of the Shlomo Yahrtzeit concerts at Binyanei Ha'umah. The third tune, Al Tirah (Utsu Eitzah), is one of those tunes that I can't believe I didn't realize was a Shlomo niggun. The seventh tune, V'sechezena is a tune that I never heard before and includes uncredited vocals by Eitan's brother Shlomo. Awesome.

The rest of the tunes are also very sweet. (The only thing I would have left out is the tenth song, a mellow version of Niggun Neshama. Not that it isn't done beautifully; I just think the song is overexposed).

All in all, I really excellent CD.

(Full Disclosure: Although I had nothing at all to do with the production of this CD, I still get a shout out in the CD jacket. That doesn't change the fact that it is still an excellent CD).


MoC: Halachic Decisor

During sefirah, I made a halachic decision regarding music.

Whenever you take The Toddler in the car, she immediately requests (ok, demands) that we put on music. She does this by waving her right fist left and right, like a good Chassid. And, since she is basically running the show, we usually (ok, always) comply.

So, what do we do during sefirah when we are prohibitted from listening to music? Well, MHW came up with the idea of purchasing *gulp* an Uncle Moishe CD and *gulp, gulp* a Marvelous Midos Machine CD.

MHW asked whether I thought this was halachically permissible. I ruled emphtically that it was, indeed, permissible. In fact, I ruled that, since listening to these CDs is actually painful for adults, it was in the spirit of sefirah to listen.

Problem solved.

Thankfully, with the coming of Lag B'Omer, we are back to our regular collection of CDs.

(The truth is that the Uncle Moishe CD, in particular, is very cute and The Toddler is very into it. Just don't keep sharp objects around when I am in the car and that CD is playing).

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Hancock: Drunk, Doped Out And On The Phone

The police are reportng that Josh Hancock, the St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher who died in a car crash this week, was legally drunk (twice the legal limit in fact), had dope and a pipe in his car and was talking on the phone when he crashed into a tow truck and died instantly.

All I can say is I'm glad he only killed himself.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

On Fostering. Part III: The Baby Changes Everything.

This Shabbos marks The Toddler's second birthday. I will be writing a few posts about fostering to mark that occasion.

It's July 10, 2005, at 2 p.m. I'm sitting at my desk at work. The phone rings. I recognize the number displayed on my phone. It's MHW's cell phone.

"Hi, MHW. What's up?"

"Ohel called. They need to place a ten week old baby. A girl."

"What's the story?"

"The baby is fine. Her mother is in the hospital. Post-partum depression. Ohel's desparate. They called a few people and couldn't get anyone to take her."

"How long?"

"Ohel said probably at least a couple of months but it's unclear."

"What else do you know?"

"Pretty much nothing. What do you think?"

"It's much more on you. If it's ok with you, it's ok with me."

"Good. 'Cause I already told them yes. The baby's coming this afternoon."
We had no idea how profoundly our lives would change forever. Almost two years later we still don't.

Next: Changing Diapers at 50.

Part I and Part II.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Absence of Shame

That is what I'm struck by more than anything in the wake of the interim Winograd report. The absence of shame by the pathetic leaders of Israel. Had they the least bit of it, Olmert and Peretz (and the entire government for that matter) would have resigned long ago but especially after the release of the report. It is very sad and, potentially, very dangerous to the country.

Are they so hungry for power that they can't see what 97% of the people of Israel see? They are finished. Kadima is finsished. As it should be. It's only a matter of time but much damage can be done during that time.

(Keep in mind that the interim report does not even address the last few days of the war when the incoherent leaders finally gave orders for an expanded ground campaign (in which 30 soldiers were killed in the last two days) when it was already too late).

It is time for Olmert to finally do the honarable thing. But he is not an honorable man.


On Fostering: Part II

This Shabbos marks The Toddler's second birthday. I will be writing a few posts about fostering to mark that occasion.

To say that we didn't know what we were getting into when we agreed to foster might be the understatement of the century. It took us about an hour to realize that.

We had been certified for only two weeks when we took in our first kids, two brothers, ages 4 and 5. The first thing we found strange was how easy it was for the previous foster parents to give up the boys. They arrived at our house on a Sunday morning, dropped the boys off and walked away. I distinctly remember seeing a big smile on the face of the foster mother as she walked back to the car. Uh Oh.

We took them to the pizza store. We had always been proud of how nicely our own kids behaved in restaurants so we were not prepared for the bedlam that ensued. The boys were almost literally climbing the walls. Oh boy.

This was only a tiny hint of what was to come over the following year. Our lives were turned upside down and inside out. Our home at times resembled a loony bin. Our kids did not know what hit them.

And yet...

Anyone who has raised kids knows that children do not often confide their innermost feelings to their parents (In fact, teen aged boys in particular become cavemen from 9th through 11th grade; if you can get more than a grunt you are ahead of the game). So, it was difficult to gauge how the kids were feeling about this experience. We knew it was hard on them but were not sure to what extent. We also knew that they were growing and maturing from this experience. But we weren't sure to what extent.

And then, OOD wrote this essay for school:

"Judah" joined our family when he was five years old. He arrived at our door with three garbage bags and five years of baggage. How frightening it must have been for a small foster child, having to pack up his life in a split second. Judah wasn’t the only frightened one, however.

There I was, a 14 year-old high school freshman adjusting to twelve new classes, ninety new classmates and embarking on a new stage of my life. Escaping from a demanding day at school was no escape at all. Although at home I did not have notes to write or tests to take there was much learning to do and perhaps coming home was the biggest test of all.

Feelings of confusion constantly overtook my thoughts; who was this child? Was he my brother? Why didn’t he hug, smile or cry? Why did my parents suddenly have less time for me? I viewed him as a stranger, taking over my territory. Suddenly, there was one more place to set at the Shabbos table, one less seat in our car. When asked how many siblings in my family, I would hesitate – only because I myself did not know the answer. Judah was taking something away from my life. There were times when I couldn’t empathize with his tragic life because I felt too angry. Later I would be disappointed in myself for not sympathizing with the poor little boy living in our home. Some nights I would sit by his bed and watch him sleep. I thought of my mother who buttoned up his shirt every morning, and then of his mother who couldn’t button up her own son’s shirt. I thought of my father who taught him with patience and dedication how to ride his bike, and then of his father who didn’t have patience or dedication; but more so - he didn’t have his son.

We had his son. Very slowly, “his son” became “our son”. I began to understand the depth of our chesed and the impact my family was making on one life. Over time Judah became more receptive to our affection and our affection became more natural towards Judah. Perhaps it was the thirst for love that I detected in him, that motivated me to suppress my frustration, swallow my pride and provide Judah with what he yearned for. Eventually I understood that Judah didn’t need me to button up his shirt or teach him how to ride. He needed my love and I was finally prepared to give him that. He was my brother.

Today Judah smiles and cries. Sometimes if I’m lucky I get a hug. There are still nights that I watch him sleep and think about all we have given him, but more importantly, what he has given us. Judah has taught me the value of family. Each time I look at him I am reminded of my life of blessings. I think about Judah every day. I worry about his needs, insecurities and future. Judah is one of the most special people in my life. I know he may not be with us forever, but I also know that I love him and he is my brother.
("Judah" left our home after a year to go to what we hoped would be a pre-adoptive home. He came back for another 8 months a few years ago when he was about 9. He has been in and out of a number of homes and in a residence for the last three years. IY'H, he will be walking down the aisle at OOD's wedding next month).

Next: The Baby Changes Everything (Part I is here)


Ben's Take on Winograd

This one is serious.


The Wall Street Journal Reads MoC

The Wall Street Journal, obviously influenced by this post, has today published the following editorial on New York City's idiotic "wood bat" law.

Reasonable people can disagree on the relative merits of wood versus aluminum, but leave it to New York City to conclude that government should decide this issue for everyone else.

The City Council recently outlawed all metal bats in the city's high-school baseball games come September. Proponents of banning metal, which has become something of a national movement, claim that balls go faster when hit with metal bats. But this hasn't caused more serious accidents: Studies from the American Legion and Consumer Product Safety Commission found zero reason for alarm.

As for New Yorkers, the peril of getting beaned with a line drive is hardly the most pressing concern for the city's kids. Little League Baseball leaves the choice of wood or metal up to its local chapters because it says "there are no facts -- none at all -- to support" the claim that aluminum bats are more dangerous. Even at the college level, where metal bats are common, baseball is among the safer sports, with serious injury rates roughly on par with women's volleyball.

The current campaign is headlined by a couple of sad accidents, but these cases were literally less than one in a million. Legislation by anecdote is a good way to end up with minimum sentencing guidelines for swimming after eating a sandwich. Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the measure sponsored by Councilman James Oddo, who convinced fellow members to override the veto. Then Mr. Oddo got out his stationery to urge other cities to ban aluminum bats too.

You can guess which kind of bat -- metal or forest-grown -- is more politically correct. But fortunately the World Environmental Organization has an eco-friendly plan for recycling old aluminum bats: "Use it for a plant support," the site advises, or "keep in your bedroom in case of an intruder." Now there's a safety tip.
We are pleased that the Journal has followed our lead.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Insightful Political Commentary From OOS

On the Winograd Report


On Fostering: Part I

This Shabbos marks The Toddler's second birthday. I will be writing a few posts about fostering to mark that occasion.

Over the years, I have done a bunch of things for community and other Jewish institutions of all kinds. I have written checks, delivered food for Tomchei Shabbos, served as chairman and/or president of a school and a shul, ridden my bike over 1,000 miles and attended countless parlor meetings, breakfasts and dinners.

But there is one thing I've never done and will never do under any circumstances. I will not do a taharah for the Chevra Kadisha. I just can't do it.

I have heard from many who've done taharas that it is an amazingly spiritual experience and that they feel that they gain so much from participating in this incredible mitzvah. I marvel at their mesiras nefesh. Nevertheless, it's not for me.

You may be wondering what this has to do with fostering. I can't count the number of times people have come over to me and MHW and said how inspired they are by what we do, how they have so much respect for what we do, etc., etc., but that they could never do it themselves.

I get it, and I respect it, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Perhaps part of the problem is that people don't fully understand what fostering is about and what it can do for your family. Fostering has had and continues to have a profound positive effect on our family. It is something that cannot easily be replicated. I will develop these thoughts next post.


On A Roll

Perhaps I should buy a Lotto ticket. I did the 24 hour trip thing to Miami starting Sunday night. Got there about midnight, did my gig at 1:30 p.m. the next day, hung out for an hour and headed for the airport.

I got there early and, because the 5:00 p.m. flight had been delayed to 5:30, was able to get standby on that flight.

There were 25 people on the standby list but because I'm AAdvantage Gold with pretty good zechuyos, I went to third on the list.

By 5:15 the two people ahead of me got cleared.

Everyone was told to try the next flight (for which I was still confirmed). I stayed.

At 5:25, I was cleared. I walked onto the flight. Not only did I get a seat, I got an aisle seat and was able to store my bag without a problem.

When I landed, the car picking me up was waiting for me on the road. Highly unusual.

No traffic, so I was home in half an hour.

I guess this makes up a little for all the aggravation I usually get.


Eitan Katz and Nochi Krohn on Lag B'Omer

This motsai Shabbos at 10 p.m. Nochi Krohn and Eitan Katz will be getting together for the fifth straight year to join Rav Weinberger for AK's annual Lag B'Omer hilula.

$10 suggested donation at the door.

Aish is at the corner of Woodmere Boulevard and Woodmere Place in (you guessed it) Woodmere. One block from the Woodmere LIRR station.