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

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Knicks

With yesterday's astonishingly bad and incomprehensible trade, the destruction of the Knicks is now complete. It's a good thing I don't care a hoot about NBA basketball or the Knicks.
Hockey II: Uh Oh Canada

Millions of people north of the border are tearing kriya today. The Canadian Olympic hockey team got shut out by their arch-enemy, the Russians, and were unceremoniuosly dumped from medal contention. Indeed, the Canadian hockey team had a very mediocre pre-medal run, as well.

(The US team also had a miserable run but, other than the parents of the hockey players, no one in America really cares).

Having worked for a Canadian firm for 9 years and having been to Toronto countless times, I can assure you that for the foreseeable future, the dismal performance by the Olympic team will be front page news. There will be analysis up the wazoo, hand wringing, finger pointing, commissions, you name it.

I did not have a chance to see them play but I just assume that with all their talent, they were not prepared to play the wide open style of international hockey.

The other thing that comes out of the tournament so far is that Ranger fans should be very pleased. Hendrick Lundqvist has been stellar in goal for Sweden and that bodes well for the Rangers.

On the local front, My Son's School had a rematch with its crosstown rival whom it beat in overtime last week. This game was held in CTR's gym, a tiny, drab, dark place where winning and losing depends as much on bad (or lucky) bounces as on talent.

(It is a complete disgrace that a yeshiva high school of this caliber has such a pathetic gym. I can understand if a yeshiva's bais medrash is in disrepair, but its GYM???)

True to form, CTR scored on a fluky, full length shot that MSS's goalie did not see. That held up until the middle of the third period when MSS scored on a power play goal (with my own son assisting).

The game was extremely physical, owing, in part, to the smallness of the gym. From the middle of the second period on, MSS dominated and CTR was lucky to have gotten away with a tie.

(IMHO, this was not an accident. The coach of CTR decided to play his top player, a defenseman, virtually the entire game, and seemed to use many fewer players than our coach. (I don't think their top player was out for more than 2 shifts and I know for sure that he played the first 16 minutes without coming out of the game.) By the time the third period came around, CTR players were sucking air).

The game did not end without some major drama. In high school floor hockey, each team plays overtime with one fewer player, i.e., 3 on 3 plus goalies. With three and a half minutes to go, MSS was called for a penalty. My son and his defenseman colleague were asked to defend a 3 on 2 power play for a minute and a half. It was wild! CTR must have taken a half dozen open slap shots. MSS's goalie was great and the defensemen did a strong job of preventing rebound shots.

Unfortunately, despite a win and a tie against CTR, CRT ended up with a slightly better record than MSS going into the playoffs, mainly because MSS sleepwalked through the first half of the schedule.

Next: the playofs.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


As if life weren't annoying enough, along comes Bluetooth to drive me even crazier.

Bluetooth is the wireless telephone receiver that you see lodged in people's ears. I have seen people sit through business lunches wearing Bluetooth. I have seen people in shul wearing a Bluetooth right through services. How rude is that?

(I think of Bluetooth as the secular equivalent of Jewish men wearing their hatzolah walkie-talkies in shul At least with Hatzalah, there is, arguably, a higher purpose.)

No doubt, there are times that Bluetooth might make sense. Driving in your car. Um....driving in your car. I actually can't think of any other time were you REALLY need to wear a Bluetooth.

If anyone ever tried to have lunch with me while wearing a Bluetooth, I would walk out (unless the person was important in which case I'd stay and stew).


Tuesday, February 21, 2006


After my father, z'l, passed away on Thanksgiving, 2004, I decided to produce a CD in his memory. He was very connected to Jewish music and I thought this would be a fitting tribute. It helped that I am connected to a number of contemporary Jewish musicians.

It didn't help that I knew absolutely nothing about producing a CD. In fact, I literally didn't (and still don't) understand the difference between a major and minor key. But I have done many things in my life without knowing what I was talking about and decided I would push on, relying heavily on my friends.

I originally targeted my father's first Yahrtzeit, mid-December 2005. That turned out to be overly optimistic for many reasons. In fact, I only really got started in earnest after the first yahtzeit.

But now I am close. The CD will have 11 songs. One from Chaim Dovid, one from Shlomo Katz, one from Chaim Dovid and Shlomo Katz, two from Aron Razel, one from Yosef Karduner, one from Avraham Rosenblum, one from Eitan Katz, one from Nochie Krohn and one, a haunting niggun performed by Shlomo Katz, was written by my Rebbe's son-in-law, Binyamin Tepfer. Nochie Krohn will also cover a very old Carlebach niggun that has rarely been recorded.

With the exception of the Carlebach niggun, none of these tunes has ever been recorded. Some are new (3 were actually written in our home over the years) and some are very old (Avraham Rosenblum's contribution was written pre-Diaspora Yeshiva Band) All 11 of the songs are in one stage of completion or another. A few are finished, some need to be mixed and a couple still need some more music. If all goes well, we will start mastering in a month.

At this point, I am pretty excited. I think the CD has potential to be excellent. The net proceeds of this project will go to subsidize musical gigs at my shul (all the musicians are connected to the shul and have donated their own time and granted me a one-time royalty free right to use the songs in this CD ; they retain ownership). And, if it is moderately successful, I may try to do it again.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

"Thanks for Visiting - You Made My Day"

This afternoon I visited Fosterboy at his residence.

He was supposed to have come to us for the day. While he is no longer permitted to stay with us (or anyone else) for Shabbos, he is generally permitted day visits. In anticipation of his coming, we'd bought tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters game at Nassau Colliseum for this afternoon. Since basketball is very popular among the kids in the residence, we thought he would really get a kick out of it. (Luckily, he did not know that we were planning to take him; he did, however, know that he was supposed to be coming for the day). When MHW called the residence in the morning to confirm that he was coming, they told us he was grounded. In fact, they told us he'd been grounded (for behavior reasons) since Thursday.

This made no sense. MHW had been on the phone with Fosterboy's case supervisor on Friday and was told that he could come. His supervisor was even aware that we were planning to take him to the game. The person on duty called the weekend supervisor but she was not aware of any arrangement that would permit him to come.

MHW spoke to Fosterboy after they told us he could not come. He was very sad but would not discuss why he was grounded.

We decided that I would drive to the residence instead. We called and I got permission to come. On the way I picked up some pizza, fries and soda for both of us. Fosterboy was very happy to see me and happy to see the food. He reminded me that the food at the residence was, as he put it, "nasty". He also mentioned approvingly that his "big brother", who also visits him ocassionally, always picks up kosher Chinese. Duly noted.

After eating, he grabbed a football and we played catch for about 20 minutes. (He has gotten to be much better athletically than I remember. He caught just about anything I threw to him and was able to throw a decent spiral.)

After the catch we went back inside and he brought his Sports Illustrated For Kids from his room. He wanted to read to me. He was very proud of the tremendous progress he'd made in reading this year and wanted to show me. Indeed, it was remarkable.

After about an hour and a quarter, I had to go. He gave me a big hug and said, "thanks for visiting, you made my day".

I cried as I left the building. I don't know what the Master of the Universe wants from this poor kid.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Time to Assemble the Bike

I have not been on my bike since I finished last year's Alyn Hospital Charity Bike Ride on November 10th. (I have been spinning; I started that as soon as my tusch healed enough to sit on a seat). In fact, the bike is still sitting in its travel box.

Yesterday I received a notice from Alyn regarding this year's ride. In a twist, we are starting in Jerusalem on October 29th and ending in Eilat on November 2nd. I'm not crazy about this idea because the climactic climb to Jerusalem on the last day has been thrilling both times I've done the ride. I can't see much emotion being generated by riding into Eilat.

On the other hand, who really cares. North-South, South-North. Riding for 5 days in the southern part of Israel for a good cause is what it's really about.

The best news is that they are finally splitting off the stronger riders. There will be three separate rides. One for the off road meshuganas, one for relatively sane roadies (60 miles a day) and one for lunatic roadies, 80 miles a day (400 miles total).

80 Miles a day for five days is a lot of riding. Even for strong riders, that is nothing to sneeze at. If you ride at the relatively mellow pace of 15 miles an hour, that's a good 5.5 hours on the seat each day. Oh boy. The corollary is that there will not be a lot of sitting around waiting for slow riders at rest stops or lunches like the past two years. That has been my biggest complaint about the ride.

Only 8 months to go. Assemble the Bike! Grease the chain! Load up on the Chamois Butt'r!

I'm pumped!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Two Nations, Separated by a Common Language

I am currently on hold for a conference call to London. Conference calls in the States ask you for your pin number followed by the 'pound key' (#). On this call they asked me to plug in the "hash key". How weird.



After the astonishingly depressing posts of the last couple of weeks, I am happy to turn my attention to a topic that makes me smile. Hockey. Pretty much any hockey. NHL, Olympics, high school, you name it.

Last night I attended a very hard-fought high school floor hockey game. My son's school (MSS) played its cross-town rival (CTR). CTR team was undefeated while MSS had suffered (and I do mean suffered) a brutal overtime loss to a far inferior school (the less written about that game the better) and a tie to another school they should have beaten.

After going ahead 1 - 0, MSS gave up two late first period goals on two mistakes (one, a rare mistake by my own flesh and blood). The second period was hard fought with no further scoring. Then, with about three minutes to go in the third, my son took the face off on a power play, put it back to his teammate who blasted a shot past the goalie. The game went into overtime and just 27 seconds into the extra frame MSS won on a poke in a of a loose ball. After all the wonderful plays, great moves and excellent defernse by both teams, the game was won on a fluke play. But a win is a win and we'll take it.

The teams play again next Tuesday night and the winner (all other things being equal; i.e., no further silly losses) gets home court advantage in the playoffs.

What's great about these games is that these kids know each other very well and have played together and against one another for years. They play very hard and very physically but when the games are over there are no hard feelings. (I don't mean to suggest that the losing team members are happy; they are just not sour towards the other team).

Tonight starts the Olympic hockey schedule, perhaps the best hockey the world gets to see. The US has virtually no chance but it is awesome watching the wide open, skillful play of all the great teams.

Many of the Olympic teams are represented by members of the New York Rangers. The Rangers, after being horrible for most of the past ten years, are having a wonderful season, based mainly on stellar goaltending and the amazingly talented Jaromir Jagr who is a joy to watch. And, fimally, after importing a raft of over the hill, overpaid underachievers, the Rangers have surrounded Jagr with a cast of hard working overachievers. They appear to be on the right track.

All in all, a great year for hockey.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

MHW Makes the Big Time

Ok, not really the big time, the Jewish big time.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fosterboy: Slip-Sliding Away

The situation with Foster Boy is terrible. He is a mess. The residence at which he has been living for the past 18 months has largely cut us off, despite the fact that we are all the family he has. They have their own sefarah and I think they couldn't be more wrong. (This is reminiscent of what happened a few years ago when Fosterboy was hospitalized at a local hospital psych unit. The idiots at the hospital wouldn't let us visit or call because he would get upset after we left. Duh!)

They also don't 'get' Yiddishkeit at all; they are chocking off his connections. And, they still haven't properly diagnosed him (I'm not suggesting that that is such a simple matter). Despite valiant efforts, OHEL has almost no influence on the case. Apparently, possession is 9/10ths of the law in foster care and the residence has possession.

If OHEL has little to say, we have absolutely nothing to say. In fact, the residence wouldn't even allow me or MHW to attend the last group conference discussing Fosterboy's case.

All we can do is stand by and watch as this 11 year old boy self destructs. What is happening to Fosterboy is very, very sad.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Trippin' With the Baby VIII: Meeting the Aunts

On motzai Shabbos two weeks ago, MHW called the Baby's great aunt, a woman who lived in Tel Aviv. This was not so simple because while, like me, MHW's understanding of Hebrew is pretty good, her facility with the spoken language reflects her 1970-era yeshiva high school education. Nevertheless, between broken Hebrew and broken English, MHW was able to communicate that we were in Israel and we had the Baby.

Early the next morning, I got a call from the Baby's aunt. Could we come over today? I said sure, and at 11 a.m. they showed up. They being the Baby's two maternal aunts and her charming 18 year old first cousin (whose English was excellent and allowed us to bridge the language gap).

The aunt's were out-of-their-keilim crazy about the baby, hugging her, kissing her, making silly faces and noises and doing all the other things you do when you want to express your love.

The morning was filled with mutual feelings of relief and joy. We had been mystified why no one from the Baby's family had showed up to take her when it became apparent that the mother had issues. Now we understood. One of the aunts had been in New York for the Baby's birth and had actually offered to take the Baby to Israel but was turned down by the state authorities. We were so happy to discover that there was capable, balabatish (not frum, balabatish) family in the picture who cared.

The aunts on the other hand, were thrilled to meet us and discover that the Baby was in good hands and was demonstrably happy and thriving. They had heard about us but had no way of knowing who we really were. They were genuinely grateful to us for caring for the Baby.

After a couple of hours, they left, after leaving some very cute outfits and a couple of stuffed animals. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

We don't know exactly how, but MHW and I both feel that this meeting changes everything.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Interview UPDATED

My older daughter and I did an interview on the JM in the AM program this morning. The topic was, of course, being a foster family. I have to admit that I have never once listened to the program nor met Nachum Segal before today. He was very gracious and an excellent interviewer.

The truth is, everywhere we go, people are fascinated by the idea of fostering. This is particularly true when they see MHW or me with the Baby. Nachum's questions reflected this fascination.

My take is that many people can't envision themselves fostering so their questions often focus on that: How can we do it? What's it like? How much time did you have from the time OHEL called and the children arrived?

My goals were to try to explain how much we've gained (rather than given) from fostering, how profound an experience it has been for our children, and how important OHEL is to the Jewish community.

We were on for a full half hour (between 8:15 and 8:45 a.m.). I think it went pretty well. Our daughter, despite being very nervous (and, to her credit, waking up at 6 a.m. in order to get to Jersey City on time) was great; honest and compelling.

All in all, an interesting experience.

The interview is archived here.