Elmo at the Labor Day Parade?

Word is that some Elmo’s will march in the annual NYC Labor Day parade.  Some of the estimated 160 people who dress as cartoon and TV characters and collect tips in Times Square want to organize into a union and push for more acceptance by the public and police for their labors.

To me, this is like organizing bank robbers and burglars into a union and marching in a parade.  The characters might be ragged and cute to some, but they are stealing – and in most cases injuring – the brand identities and brand equities of the owners of these trademarked characters.

Imagine if you owned Elmo and Cookie Monster and spent millions to control, protect, and promote their images.  Then someone dressed as Elmo in the crossroads of the USA injures a child or does something lewd.  Goodbye assets

Good read: <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0814748368/sefersafarianonl”>Click here</a>




The Rambam and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Yes. I am a curmudgeon.

You can’t look at Facebook or TV these days without seeing the latest Ice Bucket Challenge™ by a celebrity, friend, politician, marching band, rabbi, cantor, or summer camp (Nice to see the “Challenge” has been trademarked)

Last month, few people knew about ALS – even many of those that were participating in the challenges. Some people call this slacktivism – feeling good by wearing a ribbon. Social media turned philanthropy into a game; and few connect the game to the actual cause.

I am conflicted.. or even PERPLEXED.

Is it better to just raise the money and run? Is education and engagement and advocacy necessary?

In 2013, the ALS Association in Washington DC raised $19 million. It spent about 25% on fundraising and administrative expenses, and was left with $14 million for programs to find therapies, cures, or support systems for the 12,000 Americans who suffer from the incurable, degenerative illness. (White men and veterans are far more likely to develop ALS, but no one knows why, yet.)

Fast forward to 2014. In the 3 weeks between July 29 and Aug. 20, the organization raised $31.5 million, more than 16 times the amount raised in the same time period last year. They had 70,000 new donors.

Many estimate that the ALS Association will receive $100 million by the end of the Summer, and it has incurred literally NO fundraising expenses for these dollars.

It is quite a windfall. And it has involved peer to peer solicitations, which is perhaps the least expensive and most powerfully persuasive form of solicitation.

Which makes me think of Maimonides eight levels of charitable giving. 

According to the RaMBaM, the greatest gift is to support a person with a loan, a partnership, or a job so that they become independent. The next level is to give to those in need anonymously or to give anonymously to a trustworthy fund. Neither the needy nor the giver are known to each other. The third level is to give to the needy, but the needy do not know the giver. In the fourth level, the recipient is aware of the donor, but the donor is not aware of the recipient. A lesser fifth level is to give directly to the poor, placing the gift in the recipients’ hands – having a human connection – and giving this gift before being solicited. In the sixth level, the giver donates to the poor after being solicited for a donation. A lesser seventh level is to happily give with a smile, but not give enough; and the eighth level is to give a gift unhappily (yet still give).

Perhaps a ninth level is needed? It would be to give loudly and publicly, with fanfare, after being solicited by a celebrity or friend in an Ice Bucket Challenge™, wet and unhappy, and without knowing much about the cause or its Charity Navigator rating.


For more on the RAMBAM,
read [book]

(You realize that most of those on Facebook who douse themselves are the ones who refuse to donate to ALS, but luckily, most are donating as well as dousing. We don’t want to celebrate those who refuse to give to tzedakah).


The philanthropy did not have much to do with this new largesse. It began in Beverly, Massachusetts. Pete Frates, 29, has lived with ALS since 2012, and he has worked with The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. A former Boston College athlete, Frates works to spread awareness of the illness. He and his family started the challenge and challenged Boston local athletes to participate. After several months of quiet posts on social media, the challenge hit a tipping point this Summer when celebrities and more sports figures got involved.


I imagine that every philanthropy in America is wondering how they can enlist and leverage social media and create their own viral program to generate funds… and awareness… and new brand ambassadors, of course.

When the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy was asked to reflect on the challenge, Stacy Palmer said that the generosity to the ALS Association this Summer would most likely be a one-time occurrence, and that the ALS Association would be hard pressed to develop most of these donors to contribute in future annual campaigns. She also reported that over several decades, the percentage of national income that is donated to charity in America has remained constant, which could mean that $100 given to ALS this Summer would be $100 that will not be donated to another worthy charity in 2014.

I admit that the cynic in me wonders if $100 million for the ALS Association is the best allocation of resources, and whether it could have much of a positive effect. Researchers need a steady stream of funding over several decades, and not just a one time grant.

Barbara Newhouse, formerly a regional leader in Alzheimer’s and cancer fundraising and now President and CEO of The ALS Association, said “There’s so many ways we can go with these dollars on the research front. It’s going to take some thoughtful discussion around the types of research and believe me, since this started, I’m getting requests coming in moment by moment with everybody having their own spin on research. So we’re going to work prudently through a process that gets us to what’s the right use of these dollars.”

Alternatively, Dr. Jonathan Serody of the University of North Carolina said, “If a million people would donate $100 a year for 30 to 40 years, you might get a breakthrough for ALS. These flash-in-the pan things that will go away after a few months will not help ALS in the long run. Researchers need dependable [year in and year out] money.” He added, “Right now we are leaving about half of the good ideas on the table for lack of resources.”

Here is a little Jewlicious secret: All those private donations from health related funds pale when compared to funding from the U.S. federal government. The U.S. National Institutes of Health allocate $30 billion a year for health and medical research. This is about six times more than the funds raised by charities (before their admin expenses).

If you want to support ALS, it is better to call your Congressman than dump some ice water on your head. In 2010, the NIH provided $59 million to ALS research projects. Keep in mind that the CDC says that 12,000 Americans currently have ALS. This compares to 5.2 million with Alzheimer’s and 25.8 million with a form of diabetes. In the past three years, overall NIH funding has dropped over 30%. Also, the 2013 federal sequester cut the overall NIH budget by 5%. Only 16% of research proposals to the NIH get funded; this compares to 30 percent a decade ago.



Is it good for the Jews.

Let’s go a little deeper. Most people know ALS as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and not even its more formal name: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

But fewer and fewer people follow baseball and know who Lou Gehrig was. The organization recently changed its logo and downplays “Lou Gehrig,” even though it received several hundred thousand dollars this Summer from Major League Baseball on the anniversary of Gehrig’s famous speech. Though diminishing, there remains a lot of brand equity in the Gehrig name. For the past two years, the ALS Association has been working to rebrand the disease, and like “ED,” “IBS,” “MS,” and “MD,” to just have it called an easier “ALS.”

The same may hold true for Jewish philanthropies.

Just as Lou Gehrig may not vibrate for younger Americans, the branding and messages of Jewish philanthropies may ring hollow to younger Jews. I am not saying the UJA/UJC and federations need to have a matzo ball challenge, but they need to reach out to new, younger donors via social media, and they need to crowdsource some new themes that speak to new donors. 

Carol Leifer’s How To Succeed… Should Be Read By Anyone Planning to Lean In

[book] How to Succeed in Business

Without Really Crying

Lessons from a life in Comedy

by Carol Leifer (A)

April 2014

Quirk Books

A lot of college graduates get a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” as a gift. It is about as helpful as saying “plastics.” But this book by Carol Leifer (rhymes with reefer) is the book for every college grad entering the workforce – whether it be as a writer, banker, administrative assistant, proctologist, artist, or whatever.

How should you network? How should you not screw over people? How to be nice to waiters, since one day they might be writers, producers, actors, or fans? How to approach celebrities whom you know, even if they spent the might drinking with you and can’t remember you. How to interview and ask questions, dress appropriately, write personalized thank-you notes, be reasonable, and be willing to offer assistance on scripts for free, since it might lead to a paying gig.

Carol Leifer is among those few female comedians who have blazed a trail in stand-up and sit-com writing. She joins Joan Rivers, Totie Fields, Lucille Ball, Roseanne Barr, and others.

Leifer grew up on Long Island. Her parents played all the important comedy record albums of the time: from Mel Brooks to Mickey Katz. They let Carol stay up late to watch the great comedians on Ed Sullivan. They once drove her into Manhattan to eat at the same West Village bistro as her idol – Soupy Sales (what kind of parents did that sort of stuff? Great ones.)

When she went to what is now called SUNY Binghamton for college, her dormitory floor-mate was a guy named Paul Reiser. He became a friend and boyfriend. They both did acting and stand-up, and came down to NYC on Route 80 for gigs. There they met two up and coming comics: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Carol’s father supported her decision to drop out of college to pursue stand-up, striking while the iron was hot.

From gigs at brick-walled comedy shops and campuses, where being a woman was a novelty, but also – as Carol explains – a strength, (but also flypaper for the heckling of drunk college guys), Leifer worked her way up the stand-up comedy ladder. She also landed writing spots. From Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live to Seinfeld and Larry Sanders, from co-creating The Ellen Show to writing for seven Oscar’s and Modern Family, Carol has written for and/or performed on some of the best TV comedies. She even got her own situation comedy which was well reviewed, but hey, it was on the WB channel, and most Americans did not even know that channel existed

In very short chapters, Carol shares her experiences and anecdotes and teaches important career lessons. She shares successes and also the errors that led to temporary downfalls. Can you ever rest? Unlikely. If The Tonight Show with Carson says “no, thanks” twenty times, should you audition a twenty-first time? Even though she has written for The Oscars more than half a dozen times, she still needs to audition for the show. Why is Larry David’s shoulder key to his liking or disliking an idea for an episode? Should you burn a bridge after getting rejected by the Larry Sanders Show? No way. Her graciousness ended up landing her a writing gig after the other finalist candidate didn’t work out.

Carol shares that no industry support passive people so you have to manufacture your own success and not lean back. She explains how her first interview in Manhattan was a failure and the silly errors she made. Learn from it. She scored a writing job on Saturday Night Live and was loved by her direct bosses (one is now a U.S. Senator), but she was invisible to the Captain of the ship, Lorne Michaels. BIG career error. Is it better to be a grunt / P.A. / Writer’s Assistant or wait for the big job? Why should you develop a professional camaraderie? I wish I had read this book decades ago, so I would have avoided some errors.

Part memoir, part guide to life, and all incredibly funny, HTSIB-WR-Crying offers tips and tricks for getting ahead, finding your way, and opening doors — even if you have to use a sledgehammer

Passover Recipe Roundup

sederplatesIt’s here. The Wednesday before the first seder, the day when countless newspapers and blogs post their Passover recipes for readers. Here is a roundup of some of the notable ones:

What is Pesach without Joan Nathan? Joan leads off The Times coverage with artichokes. I feel so Roman. Her fried artichokes are bylined from Italy and includes a slideshow with Paola Modigliani Fano

Mrs. Fano, a retired schoolteacher in Rome resides in the 16th-century Palazzo Cenci near the Jewish Ghetto. She presented Joan with a facsimile of Donatella Limentani Pavoncello’s 1880 cookbook, “La Cucina Ebraica della Mia Famiglia” (“The Jewish Cooking of My Family”) from Carucci (1982), and a coltello da carciofi, a knife for cutting artichokes.

The recipe is here.

Fried Artichokes

Fried Artichokes

Additionally, Florence Fabrikant at The Times highlights seder plates. And David Tanis, the famed chef who says he became interested in cooking due to his Jewish heritage highlights a Moroccan Fish.



If you skip over their review of a new Mexican-Taiwanese fusion restaurant in Brooklyn, you make it to Melissa Clark’s profile of Seder desserts. She asks a fifth question, Why on this night should you “make a chocolate cake with matzo flour when a flourless chocolate torte is going to be so much better anyway?”

Melissa Clark’s recipes include ones for macarons, toffee, and a hazelnut citrus torte. A link to the dessert video is here.

matzofruitOver at the Boston Globe, they picked up Leanne Italie’s Associated Press story on unique matzo. Titled “Not Just Your Grandmother’s Matzo Anymore,” the story shares ideas on new matzo recipes, such as Martha Stewart Living’s chocolate covered matzo, topped with nuts and dried fruit. Martha Stewart’s Living’s Matzo Ball Soup recipe can be found here. The Newark, NJ Star Ledger picked up the same story from the AP.

The Boston Globe also features stories on Passover Profiteroles, Passover Apple Pie, Liora Kushner’s Moroccan Mufleta, and Gefilte Fish in gleaming glass jars. Debra Samuels quotes Rick Taylor, a fish monger. He says that half of Brookline, Massachusetts is searching for fresh whitefish and carp. Samuels rates six brands of bottled gefilte fish and rates Meal Mart Kosher Gefilte Fish in Jellied Broth as the winner. Rokeach got a “feh.” Manischewitz was rated as pretty in appearance, but bland in taste.

Speaking of Man, Man, Manischewitz… a Bain affiliated private equity fund has purchased the 126 year old brand. Good luck to Sankaty Advisors. (Sankoty is a Nantucket Indians word for “highlands”)

Karaite Matzo

Karaite Matzo

In the Beltway at The Washington Post, they bypass the Jewish recipes and go FULL KARAITE. Yes, Remy Pessah of Mountain View, Calif., tells The Washington Post that Karaite seders have no “Four Questions,” and they eat a lot of lamb. Their recipes are for lamb, maror, keshk, and Karaite Matzo. (The seder recipes are after the recipe for Clams with Israeli Couscous) The Washington Post also recommends Recanati Yasmin White 2012 from Israel, and Ella Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, also from Israel.

The Los Angeles Times highlights bread this week. Seriously. Their Passover recipes probably get published later this week. In the interim, check the Jewish Journal for their drunken Passover grilled cheddar cheese recipe.

The UT (Union Trib) in San Diego offers a five page primer on Matzo Balls, and a recipe from chef Bobby Flay and the Dallas based chef Tina Wasserman (author of Entree To Judaism).

Flying over to Chicago, Phil Vettel of The Chicago Tribune makes dining recommendations; Peggy Wolff explains kitniyyot and her longing for corn, rice, millet, sesame and poppy seeds, and legumes such as lentils, chick peas, fava beans and edamame; and a recipe for lemon bar matzo is explained. The also explain why quinoa is Kosher for Passover. If The Chicago Tribune is blocking you, screw them, and check out the salad recipes at The Chicago Jewish News.

The Miami Herald provides a recipe for Brisket made with Coffee and a Kosher for Passover Cream of Zucchini Soup.Over at The Gainesville Florida newspaper, Orly Padawar shares her family’s North African Passover traditions. She serves green peas, fennel and meatballs, which her mother would make for her growing up in Israel. The Sun Sentinel in Florida steals the recipe (not really) from a Boca Raton resort of a Kosher for Passover potato salad. It uses sweet potatoes, almonds, mustard, and apples.

marthastewartlivingmatzoballsoupABC News, along with the Tasting Table, goes south with Passover Brisket Tacos. here is the recipe for Kosher for Passover Tortillas. They also make a mash-up of Matza and Lasagna, called MATZAGNA.

Shhh… speaking of Matzagna, Pastry Chef Rinat Tzadok has shared the macaroon recipe from Breads Bakery in Manhattan. Rinat came to NYC with owner of Breads Bakery Uri Scheft. They run the Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv.

The Baltimore Sun recommends 2011 Hagafen Cellars Estate Cabernet Franc, Napa, California, and the linked recipe for Pikesville Maryland Chocolate Covered Matzah.

The Detroit Free Press has a chocolate matza layered torte recipe; and @SamanthaMelamed at The Philadelphia Inquirer covers several chefs as they make matza balls with more variations than Goldberg. Recipes includes ones for Avgolematzo Soup, Not Exactly Aunt Lil’s Matzo Ball Soup, and Mushroom-Matzo-Ball Celery Root Soup. Melamed has one of the best stories of the roundup.

Ground Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ground Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Long Island, NY Newsday shares Rabbi Jonathan Waxman‘s Passover recipe for turkey and quinoa stuffed bell peppers. Rabbi Waxman serves Beth Sholom of Smithtown, NY. His wife, Sarrae Crane, makes her own gefilte fish from scratch, as well as chicken soup from her mother’s recipe. They also share a recipe for CURAÇAO HAROSET BALLS (take that! Meatball shop), and CHICKEN BREASTS WITH SHITTAKE MUSHROOMS AND TOMATOES, and a BEET-CUCUMBER SALAD that Rabbi Waxman serves during the Karpas portion of his seder.

The Globe and Mail in Ontario prepares Lucy Waverman’s Passover Florentines. I am not a fan of meringue, but you might be. @LucyWaverman also shares her recipes for Matzo Brei and Dorie Greenspan’s Cured Salmon that her daughter Emma has adapted to fit a seder as an alternative to gefilte fish.

The Toledo Blade focuses on gluten and Passover. It shares some gluten free, hametz free recipes for Pesach. Along with a recipe which they mention is not kosher for passover. Okay. They tell the tale of Mrs. Greenblatt who is hosting seders on the first and second nights of the holiday; she expects 21 at the table. She will serve gluten-free matzah balls in soup, gluten-free macaroni and cheese, and also a vegetarian lasagna using gluten-free matzo-style squares and Kestenbaum’s Oat Matzos from the UK.

The New Haven Register, home town of Yale University and New Haven style pizza, features UNSTUFFED CABBAGE. Author Stephen Fries made it for his mother in Florida and it impressed her. The recipe is from “A Taste of Pesach: Trusted Favorites, Simple Preparation, Magnificent Results,” a project of Yeshiva Me’on Hatorah (ArtScroll). Their BABY BELLA AND CRANBERRY BRISKET uses Chicken Broth as a base for the brisket. Who knew?

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette shares chef Wolfgang Puck’s recipe for BRAISED VEAL SHANKS WITH DRIED FRUIT AND ALMONDS AND RED WINE SAUCE.

The Village Voice shares a recipe from Dan Cohen’s Macaroon Bible And unfortunately The Times/Picayune in New Orleans shares a yeast cake for the holiday they call “Passover/Easter.”

Thankfully up in Baton Rouge at The Advocate, they have a real Passover recipe for a Roasted Chicken. But good luck finding Kosher for Passover Brown Sugar

Individual Kugels

Individual Kugels

In Austin, Texas, four food bloggers (Floggers) got together to share some recipes. The Austin Chronicle shares some recipes from their ebook. The four bloggers are Whitney Fisch of Jewhungry in Miami; Liz Rueven of Kosher Like Me in New York City; Sarah Lasry, aka The Patchke Princess of New Jersey; and Austin’s Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat. Amy Kritzer’s recipe for Individual Potato and Zucchini Kugels (Pareve, Gebrokts) is highlighted.

San Francisco? Nothing. No new recipes yet. We did miss The Downtown Seder at the San Francisco JCC An import from Manhattan). It featured Napa winemakers Ernie Weir of Hagafen Cellars and Jeff Morgan of Covenant Wines who poured their premium kosher wines; a kosher vegetarian menu by Milk & Honey, entertainment by 20 artists and thinkers, including Israel-born singer David Broza, and the world premiere of Lewis Black’s video “Plague.”

Wait. I lied. The San Jose Mercury news snagged a recipe from the Wise Sons Deli. The Red Wine & Onion Braised Brisket is courtesy of Leo Beckerman of Wise Sons Delicatessen I suppose it is appropriate to dine at a place called Wise Sons and not a place called The Child Who Did Not Known Enough To Ask A Question. (And what about the Fifth Child? The one who did not even come to the seder?)

Adriana Janovich of Spokane’s Spokesman-Review writes that kosher for Passover can be easy. Her Yerushalmi Kugel
is from Jamie Geller’s “Joy of Kosher”, and it substitutes KP noodles for egg noodles.

Balaboosta in Manhattan is hosting a Passover meal of shirt ribs followed by a milk chocolate but flourless torte. Only $125. You sure she is from Israel? And Louisa Shafia is hosting a rice filled Passover dinner in Manhattan, plus you get a copy of her cookbook, The New Persian Kitchen. It is only $85 plus taxes and fee (or a nice round $100).

The JDC (Joint Distribution Committee) is sharing three unique Passover recipes from various countries. They are Kazakhstan:
Chicken Kotletky (“A La Migdal”)from of Svetlana Nezhinskaya; Uzbekistan: Mazurka courtesy of Alla Krichevskaya of Tashkent; and Kyrgyzstan: Green Borscht with Matzah courtesy of Valeria Khaimov-Levitsky.

Northern New Jersey’s Bergen Record profiles some area chefs that are preparing Passover desserts. Mark Roth, a Teaneck resident and former owner of Evviva in Manhattan’s East Village, started Tova’s All Natural (named for his 6 year old daugher), a Passover dessert business. He is busy making 10,000 macarons, which will be available in 15 kosher food stores in New Jersey. Also profiled is Israeli-born chef Tomer Zilkha, of Patisserie Florentine in Englewood, NJ. He is also baking for Passover, but his treats will be “kosher style.”

spongecakeFurther North and East, in Calgary, The Calgary Herald has a recipe for a light sponge cake, made with matzo meal and potato starch that is sure to evoke memories. This recipe, from master baker Annette Lerner, appears in The Holiday Kosher Baker, by Paula Shoyer. Unlike many sponge cake recipes, it doesn’t call for the eggs to be separated. Shoyer was skeptical initially, she writes, but found that the recipe produces “a tall, light sponge cake that tastes as if you have incorporated beaten egg whites.” With less work.

On that note. rest, relax, have less work, and have a good Pesach

bronfman1The late philanthropist, author, and business leader, Edgar Bronfman, with his wife, artist Jan Aronson, created the Bronfman Haggadah last year. It is now available as a downloadable app for the iPad and other platforms.

Imagine sitting at your seder, paging through the hagaddah on your iPad, letting it lead you through the songs, listening to actors read from the telling/story.

Jan Aronson said, ‘We were able to add some animation, which adds surprises every now and again as you turn the virtual pages. It also includes a glossary of terms. Edgar used many Haggadahs over the decades and mixed and matched, and he would add commentaries and stories, so he decided to write his own, in a way that was open and inclusive to all Jews and all parts of Judaism, for believers and non-believers… Edgar and I also made some changes. For example, why do we open the door for Elijah and strangers at the end of the meal, when all we have are leftovers. Our haggadah opens the door at the start when the children are most alert and learn the most important lesson. Also, Edgar did not stop the story at the Red Sea. He wanted the story of wandering to be part of the telling. We also added an illustrated map of Goshen ,a biblical map, and also five possible locations (or non location) of Mt Sinai.’

bronfman2Do iPads and iPhones belong at a seder? Aronson said, “It is a non issue.” She added, people check their phones, texts, and e-mails at seders and dinners anyway. This app will give them a reason to use their devices. It’s an option.

We get a sense of just how monumental it was that this baby was saved,” Dana Raucher, the executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, told JNS.org. Edgar Bronfman and Aronson wanted “to get this app out to audiences that are not necessarily visiting bookstores or buying hardcover books,” according to Raucher.

The leaders at Bronfman Associates said that they were mostly thinking of younger audiences, to which this app is geared – people who are transient, on the move between cities, residing in college dorms, and not necessarily lugging haggadahs and books around with them from place to place. Dana Raucher, the executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation said that the app appeals to those who are not visiting bookstores, but are curious about Jewish tradition and contemporary rituals.

A burning bush, or perhaps a bright sun behind a bush that gives the appearance of burning

A burning bush, or perhaps a bright sun behind a bush that gives the appearance of burning

The app was designed by RustyBrick, based in West Nyack, NY, the designers of Shul Cloud, OnlySimchas, the Android Siddur, and more. (they are hiring). Bronfman Associates is reportedly spending $100,000 to advertise the app over the next month on Facebook, Google, Kveller, MyJewishLearning, Tablet, The Jewish Week and Beliefnet.

Narration is by Doug Shapiro and Rachel F. Hirsch. Hirsch is a singer and actor in New York City with the warmth of Anne Hathaway, the classic grace of Jackie Kennedy, and the sweet mature voice of Kelli O’Hara. She likes turtles. Shapiro is a Baritone (Bass Low C to E above Middle C), career coach, and teaches drama at Pace University. He played a “very Jewish passerby” on HBO’s Sex and the City.

A ShaPiRo By Any Other Name…

shoshanna_shapiroShoshanna Shapiro, the character on HBO Girls, spells out her name to a snarky NYU Junior working the graduation desk at the Kimmel Center in the closing episode of Season 3. Shosh, as played by actress Zosia Mamet, pronounces her name as Sha Pi Ro, with a long “i”, and not the more NYC-style of Sha Pier Ro. She is more pie dessert than shipping pier.

But a Shapiro by any pronunciation still sounds and smells sweet. (Oh, a shoshanna-rose joke, I see what you did there)

What is up with Sha Pi’ Ro? A Camp Ramah affectation? The late Pennsylvania Governor, Milton Shapp, was born Shapiro and shortened it to Shapp; it helped him to to win elections. But Sha Pi’ Ro? National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro is a Sha peer ro, as are PBS’s Neal Shapiro and the late Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro. Baseball manager Mark Shapiro is a Sha pi’ro, however. Is the character Shoshanna from Boston? I don’t think so.

No worries. I wish the character, her friends, and @campsucks well in Season 4.

A Jesus book that offers a unique perspective on traveling through Israel

006202423XFather Martin tells a great and personal story in JESUS: A PILGRIMAGE.. And he sure does pray a lot. It appears as if he stops and prays and meditates at each historic site. A former GE financial analyst and Wharton grad, he is now an editor at large of America magazine, a popular media commentator, and a religious commentator for The Colbert Report.

Father Martin travels through Israel and Jordan (with another Jesuit, George) and areas in between and gives their perspectives on the locations they visit, his faith, and prayer, and adds in lighthearted moments. His pilgrimage has ‘produced good fruit’ for us in the form of this book. In addition to the spiritual travelogue and educated discussions on things like Greek phrases, I like the zingers, such as “After a series of improbable detours that took us to the desert… , to a lonely monastery, and ‘to the edge of heat stroke'”

In Bethlehem they visit a site that Catholics find holy, but Russian Orthodox say the site is a few blocks away; in instances like these, I enjoyed his travel realities. Or the reality of traveling with a friend and the stresses that might develop no matter how close people are, such as the time he and George and an empty listerine bottled glowered at each other at the River Jordan in a ‘suddenly seemingly smaller’ car (note to file: do not splash a guy with water in the polluted Jordan River). I also relished his insights into “baggage” (and how a baked good can recall a memory) as he recalls his college years and what he thought was unholy sillyness but actually not devoid of spirituality (“sometimes we close the door to our past, thinking that we have progressed.”) Also, at a dreamy Capernaum, Father Martin asks why Jesus moved to Capernaum and not Jerusalem? (maybe he liked the beach?); and he shares the lesson of Bartimaeus ben Timaeus (which reminded me of Kotzker Rebbe query on preaching and ministering to a person: you need to personally know the person / study partner.

If you liked this, you might also like, Israel: A Spiritual Travel Guide: A Companion For The Modern Jewish Pilgrim by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, which includes space for your recollections of each site

Buyer and Cellar – The Streisand Companion Book

0670022136The one man play, Buyer and Cellar is being performed in NYC at least through AUgust 2014, and is now on the road with its original actor, Michael Urie.

The hilarious play tells the story of an underemployed actor in Los Angeles. Having been let go from his retail associate job, she applies (or auditions) for a position as a retail mall clerk. The only twist is that he is the only employee in the mall; there is only one customer at the mall; and the location is the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu-area estate. Like the Smithsonian, Streisand has built a mall-like creation in her basement where she stores her collections. Urie is amazing, and throught the show, I naturally thought he was all the chatacters, including Streisand.

Interested in the book that is mentioned in the play? It is MY PASSION FOR DESIGN By Barbra Stresand (2010). In it, Barbra Streisand reveals the taste and style that have inspired her beautiful homes and collections. It focuses on the architecture and construction of her newest homes, the dream refuge that she has longed for since the days when she shared a small Brooklyn apartment with her mother, brother, and grandparents. The book contains many of her own photographs of the rooms she has decorated, the furniture and art she has collected, and the ravishing gardens she has planted on her land on the California coast.

Auditory Hallucinations on RadioLab

ImageOn National Public Radio today RadioLab featured a repeated story on auditory hallucinations including an interview with the late Leo Rangell, PhD.

The takeaway is that after surgery, the 94 year old professor and clinical psychologist heard musical hallucinations.  They began with Hebrew cantorial chants, and continued on to popular music for about two decades.  As a Psychologist, Dr, Rangell felt that his mond was communicating something to him subconsciously through the song selection.  I tend to agree with him, since when I start humming a tune, I also try to examine why my mind has selected that song.

A book on his experiences is called MUSIC IN THE HEAD: LIVING AT THE BRAIN-MIND BORDER

Leah Vincent: Memoir and Memory and Condensed Memories

leahvincentHow do we approach memoirs when some accuse it of not being accurate. I think all we can do it accept it as the author has packaged it, read it, and then make our own conclusions. Some readers saw the author, Leah, on Katie Couric and say her comments on the show contradict the words in her book, and are being said to promote sales. Others take issue with the promotional blurbs that say she was cut off from her family. If she was cut off, then why did her mother pay her rent and find her a job in NYC? If she was cutoff, why do her parents refer to their 11 children and not just ten?

These are tangential to the story, I think. Primarily, we have the memoir of a woman who as a teen found her ultra Orthodox life confining, and ended up making poor decisions, based on her education and desires, that led to sexual abuse, prostitution, illness, Harvard grad school, and mental illnesses.

Cut Me Loose
Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood
by Leah Vincent
January 2014
Nan Talese

In the vein of Prozac Nation and Girl, Interrupted, a memoir about a young woman’s promiscuous and self-destructive spiral after leaving her Yeshivash ultra-Orthodox Jewish family.

You can read it as memoir or semi fiction. Events have been compressed or changed to make it a better read. The fifth of 11 children, she says she was cut off from her family, but yet it also appears her other sent her funds and help, etc. etc. There are two sides to the stories, and of course, we are only reading one side, but nevertheless, it is an interesting, lurid, sex filled, triumphant memoir, but if you are planning to comdemn her family, you better read between the lines carefully.

Leah Vincent was born into the Yeshivish community in Western Pennsylvania. As the daughter of an influential rabbi, Leah and her ten siblings were raised to worship two things: God and the men who ruled their world. But the tradition-bound future Leah envisioned for herself was cut short when, at sixteen, she was caught exchanging letters with a male friend, a violation of religious law that forbids contact between members of the opposite sex. He was cute and the brother of her friend, and she had romantic and sexual desires that a 16 year old woman could not suppress

Leah’s parents were unforgiving. Afraid, in part, that her behavior would affect the marriage prospects of their other children, they put her on a plane and cut off ties. (note: the book’s description says they cut off ties, but the book itself says her mother got her a job, a room, sent her extra money. She wanted to be independent, so now she was independent. Also, her older sisters were sent to NYC too, so it is not as if this was unusual)

In New York City, Leah writes that she was unprepared to navigate the freedoms of secular life. She spent the next few years using her sexuality. One bf was a Jamaican drug dealer. Another liked too much porn, so she broke up with him. She gets a painful STD and is hospitalized. She also is hospitalized for a mental health issue. Fast-paced and mesmerizing, she gets a GRE, a college degree at Brooklyn College, and is admitted to Harvard, Cut Me Loose tells the story of one woman’s harrowing struggle to define herself as an individual. Through Leah’s recollections, we see what she found to be an oppressive adolescence and a world of religious fundamentalism, but also the broader issues that face even the most secular young women as they grapple with their sexuality, use of sexual intercourse for acceptance, and identity.