Musings on Jewish Education and Jewish Living

Archive for August, 2012

#BlogElul – Day 4: Counting

As Jews, we count a lot.  We count the number of days from the new moon until the upcoming holiday (i.e. on the 15th of the first month); we count the days from Pesach to Shavuot, from freedom to receiving the Torah; we count the days until Brit Milah; we count the days from Shabbat to Shabbat.  I find myself counting lots of other things these days, such as:

  • the number of days until Religious School starts (13)
  • the number of textbooks I need to order (several hundred)
  • the number of Faculty Manuals that need to be prepared (30)
  • the number of years young I turned at my last birthday (50)
  • the number of years of marriage Maury and I will be celebrating in just a few weeks (25)
  • the number of weeks until my father comes to visit us in San Antonio (7)
  • the number of months until both Kenny and Missy graduate from college (about 9)

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

We are taught to number our days.  I always thought this was a strange idea.  I have come to understand, however, that if we are cognizant of the limited number of days that we each have on earth, we can be more aware of what we do with them.  In other words, make every day count.

Please join in the conversation, commenting on my posts, or sharing your own thoughts on the theme of the day as we prepare for the High Holy Day season.

#BlogElul – Day 3: Intentions

Too often I reach the end of the day having not accomplished all (or anything, on some days) that I intended to do that day.  Perhaps there were lots of interruptions, perhaps I was too tired, perhaps I was just too lazy to get it done that day.

I always start with the best of intentions for what I hope to accomplish that day.  Sometimes I’m moderately successful, sometimes not at all.  But the intentions with which I start my day motivate me and hopefully keep me focused throughout my day.

So even though I find myself frustrated and upset with myself that I didn’t accomplish what I intended to do, I will continue to start each day with the best of intentions, and pray that this is the day/week/month/year I rise to the challenge.

Please join in the conversation, commenting on my posts, or sharing your own thoughts on the theme of the day as we prepare for the High Holy Day season.

#BlogElul – Day 2: Inventory

This past weekend was tax-free weekend in San Antonio.  Naturally, I had to do my part to boost the local economy, not to mention my wardrobe, while saving a few bucks on tax.  My practice has always been that whenever I acquire new clothes, I take inventory of what I have and what I don’t need, what I haven’t worn in a while and don’t intend to wear, that perhaps someone else can enjoy as I once did.  Three slack suits made their way into the Goodwill bag today.  Probably more to come.

Please join in the conversation, commenting on my posts, or sharing your own thoughts on the theme of the day as we prepare for the High Holy Day season.

#BlogElul – Day 1: Return

This summer, Maury and I vacationed in Massachusetts. Maury grew up in Stoneham and I grew up in Framingham.  So much has changed since we left Boston, but still when we visit, it feels like we are returning home.

There was much that was wonderful and uplifting about our trip home, such as returning to family, revisiting lifelong friendships, favorite foods, and of course, Fenway Park.  There was a little that was challenging, such as watching an elderly parent struggle and saying goodbye to a nephew about to make aliyah.  And then there was our return to the final resting places of my sister and Maury’s grandparents.  These were both difficult and enriching as we relived both the pain of loss and the joy of the blessing they brought to our lives.

And then we returned to San Antonio, to our friends and community, to our every day lives.  Preparing now in earnest for the start of the school year, I am anticipating the return of our students to Religious School.  I hope this will prove to be a year of growth and learning, of joy and celebration, and when necessary of sharing in each other’s sorrows.

There is a prayer in our liturgy that I find particularly moving.  We find it at the end of Eitz Chayim Hi when return the Torah to the ark.  It is typically sung with a different, more poignant melody at Selichot:

Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha, v’nashuva, chadeish yameinu k’kedem.

Return us to you, God, and we will return; renew our days as of old.

Whenever I sing or hear this prayer, its words call out to me.  What must I do this year so that I may return to You, God, to be a blessing to You and to Your world?


Please join in the conversation, commenting on my posts, or sharing your own thoughts on the theme of the day as we prepare for the High Holy Day season.

Remembering the Munich 11

Much has been made of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s decision not to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Munich 11 – Israeli athletes who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich – at the Opening Ceremonies.  Many called for the IOC to hold a minute of silence and petitions were circulated in Israel, in the United States and online.  I’ve even read articles alleging that this will never happen and why.

Now Canadian Member of Parliament, Irwin Cotler, has called on IOC president Jacques Rogge to remember the athletes at the London Olympics Closing Ceremonies on Sunday.  Cotler said the decision not to honor the fallen athletes with a minute of silence at the London Olympic’s opening ceremony was “as offensive as it is incomprehensible… Not only were the athletes killed because they were Israeli and Jewish, but that the moment of silence is being denied them also because they are Israeli and Jewish.”

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how I felt about a minute of silence during the Opening Ceremonies.  Had it occurred, I certainly would have honored it and participated.  However, I wonder if that would have been the appropriate time.

In fact, the refusal of the IOC to memorialize the Munich 11 has probably raised far more awareness and memory than their acquiescence would have.  For example:

  •  Bob Costas took the opportunity  to remember the 1972 Israeli athletes as the Israeli delegation entered the Olympic stadium.  “These games mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 tragedy in Munich, when 11 Israeli coaches and athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. There have been calls from a number of quarters for the IOC to acknowledge that with a moment of silence at some point in tonight’s ceremony. The IOC denied that request, noting it had honored the victims on other occasions.”
  •  Jacques Rogge led a surprise tribute to the Munich 11 in the Olympic Village on July 23, prior to the start of the Olympics.  This was the first time such an event was held in an Olympic village.
  • A memorial was held in London on August 6.  Ankie Spitzer, widow of one of the slain athletes, declared, “the dead deserved to be honored as Olympians in an Olympic context and not in the various places where memorials have been held,” including Monday’s event at London’s Guildhall.
  • Gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman, in interviews following her winning floor exercise, said, “If there had been a moment’s silence,” Raisman said, “I would have supported it and respected it.”  Performing to the music of Hava Nagila, Raisman told reporters, “Having that floor music wasn’t intentional.  But the fact it was on the 40th anniversary is special, and winning the gold today means a lot to me.”

So what are the “take aways” from all of this?  Judaism teaches us that Zikaron (Remembrance) is an important value.  We remember our dead at five specific times each year: on Yom Kippur, Atzeret-Simchat Torah, Passover, Shavuot, and on the anniversary of the death.  While it would have been appropriate and appreciated for the IOC to memorialize the Munich 11 at the Opening Ceremonies, ultimately it is not their responsibility; it is our responsibility as Jews to do so.

Also, I was so impressed with Aly Raisman’s poise and confidence as she held up her Jewish identity for the entire world to see.  I pray that our children, teens and young adults will wear their own Jewish identities as comfortably and as confidently as Raisman does and I wonder what we can do to ensure that happening.

What are your “take aways” and suggestions?

I would love to hear from you and invite you to join the conversation. If you are not comfortable responding here, please feel free to send me a private email at

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