Recent twitter entries...

Dancing Brings Joy... Even in the Face of Sorrow

A new Portal Manager and contributor to the Catholic Portal at Patheos, Elizabeth Scalia, writes over at the First Things site on the blog The Anchoress.

Recently she wrote a post about a Holocaust survivor who danced at Auschwitz and several other locations of horror in Europe with his daughter and three grandchildren.

There have been some broad criticisms of him as well as of his daughter, mainly accusing her of exploiting him and making claims that he "appears" to have dementia (which is false, according to his daughter). I don't feel that he is ill or sick for wanting to celebrate his life, especially in a place that knew so much death. I don't feel it is disrespectful, and frankly, I think it is wrong for us to judge this man. He lived through it, we have only read about it. If he chose to spit on the grounds or dance or cry or laugh... he has certainly earned the right to do so without the armchair critics attacking him or his family.

He seems like an incredible man who is intensely loved by his sweet family. I wish him a long and happy life, G-d willing. There are actually three videos in this series. I recommend them all. In the third, he goes back to the time in his mind and recalls the conversations they had with passing villagers while piled into the box cars, conveying them to their death.

Here are the videos:

I would like to thank the Academy...

Not really...

But I do want to thank my friend Matthue Roth for his kind words! He blogged here and here about his article on The Future of Judaism at Patheos.

And in the process... said this about me:
A few weeks ago, Talia Davis wrote to a bunch of Jewish techy and thinky folks and asked us what we thought about the future of Judaism. Talia is the force of nature behind the religion blog’s Jewish site, and when she chops down a tree, we hear it.
Aww! :) I feel special now. Thanks Matthue!


Is this the future Israeli Jewish women are doomed to live?

For a long time Women of the Wall has been a flash point in Israel and it has finally bubbled up and almost over.

Anat Hoffman, leader of the group Women of the Wall, was just arrested for carrying a Torah near the Kotel, the Western Wall.

These women have been beaten for having strap marks on their arm from Tefillin. Not even people witnessing them wearing it, just the leftover marks.

Would a stone by any other name, mean the same thing?

I was struck (no, not literally) by an image I recently came across on Flickr. It was of Palestinian men collecting rocks... well these were rocks on steroids, huge chunks of concrete, to hurl at Israeli soldiers and settlers who might wander down their streets.

Comparisons to Hitler

One of the Patheos guys has been writing a series on the Tea Party and different implications of it. (To read his great, albeit right leaning, perspectives on the Tea Party click here.)

In this last article, I was linked to some pictures of when Bush was in power. Now I am NOT a Bush fan and I did vote for Obama... It doesn't mean that I think Obama is the messiah or anything but I realized a couple of things looking at these pictures.

1. It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you are on... when your guy isn't in power and you don't like it, you get hateful (and that you is the broader "you).

2. It doesn't matter if it is 2003 or 2010... they are still after the Jews. I don't know why we have this target tattooed on our foreheads. I don't know why people who like to demonstrate hate Israel and the Jews (or why they can't learn to spell... is IsrAEl not IsrEAl) but there it is.

Recently, I did an interview with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi about the future of Judaism. Reb Bahir posed the question to him, currently Jews make up a very small portion of the population. Do you think we will grow or shrink? Reb Zalman said, "How big is your gall bladder? But you have to have it, right? What about the pituitary gland?"

Point taken. We are all vital parts to the society and trying to kill the Jews just because we are Jewish isn't right. Period.

The Bonds of Sisterhood

I don't know if I can say that I was never a joiner... really I felt like I was always on the outskirts of the groups I was in... Cheerleading, Drama Club, Youth Group... but I was always looking for some broader connection. I think a lot of this came from my family. When I was very little we lived with my grandparents but as I got older, my dad found work away from the Northeast and we were our own unit. My aunts and uncles didn't visit and my mom's family was just significantly older. My best friends were my closest family, my parents and brother. But I always wanted sisters and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me.

I just returned from the 74th biennial Gamma Phi Beta convention. There were 850 women present who were MY sisters. I didn't meet all of them but if I ended up by the pool, in an elevator, or on a bus to Harry Potter world with one (or 10) of them, we always had something in common to talk about. Not only am I a part of something bigger than my small unit, I am a leader in that bigger picture. I take pride in the women who I call MY girls. They have adopted me as a big sister, mom, mentor, and annoying adult who interferes sometimes. And I am so thankful for those women. (GO BETA RHO!) :)

I find myself still searching because I am looking for that bigger picture with my faith as well but the connection I find within Gamma Phi Beta is a special one. No matter where I go in the world, there is a good chance that one of my 170,000 sisters is probably there and took a picture with any crescent moon present!

I joined Gamma Phi Beta at Jacksonville University to connect to something bigger than myself, bigger than the theatre department. It wasn't always easy (being a collegian never is) but it has paid off in spades. Recently, I met my fourth little legacy/faux niece and we are waiting on number five any day! I have a group of women I graduated with whom I call my dearest sisters and who will serve as my children's aunties, as I never had any blood sisters. I have cried on their shoulders, attended their weddings, held their babies, and inducted their husbands into our boy club. I met women from all over the US and Canada that shared my love of pink, crescents, and carnations last weekend, many of whom I will stay in touch with for the next two years until I see them again at our 2012 convention in DENVER. Which, by the way, will be our 75th.

I honestly don't know what Frances E. Haven, Mary A. Bingham, E. Adeline Curtis, or Helen M. Dodge were thinking when, in 1874 they decided not to be Alpha Phi's and create Gamma Phi Beta. We can guess and wonder and I am sure they could never have envisioned what GPhi looks like today but I am SO thankful for our founders.

Dear Pop. A Letter From My Father to His.


I asked my father, Rebahir Davis, to write a piece about how his father inspired his Judaism for Patheos. His response was overwhelming to me as it brought back a flood of memories of my grandfather. However, it also gives a beautiful insight into the evolution of Judaism. 

Please take a minute to read it here - - comment on the article, share on Facebook or Twitter, etc. Thanks!

My Tatti Taught Me A Little Shuckel...

Okay, I admit it... I don't have the best memory in the world but there are a few things from my childhood that stick out clearly. I have mentioned some of them before, here in this blog, but with Father's Day rapidly approaching, I have asked my team to write about their father's and how they shaped their Jewish life. And so, I thought I would talk about the memories from my childhood of my dad.

My dad and me, 1983ish... these were called "Tali-Ups"

The men in my life have always figured prominently. Not sure why. Maybe because I was the first grandchild, a little girl, and they all felt protective of me. But either way... I was always close with the men... my grandfathers and my father. I think another thing that factors in is that my men were also always my rabbis. From birth I was dressed up and my picture taken for the newspaper... in my grandfather's ark, lighting candles with my father, you know what I mean.

Gimmel Tammuz - Lubavitcher Lore and Holy Days

Today marks an auspicious day on the Chabad Lubavitcher's calendar. Today is Gimmel Tammuz (the third day of the month of Tammuz).

On this day in 5754 or 1994 in Gregorian years, the Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away. This dealt a hard blow to the community. He and his wife were childless and he did not appoint a successor. This divided the community, some believing that he was the Moshiach (messiah) and some not believing in that. It is a topic that still divides Crown Heights today.

A newly published biography of the Rebbe's life has caused a stir in the Crown Heights community as well. The New York Times touches on that today, with a nod to the holiness of the day within Chabad.

Capstone - Now I Need YOUR Help!

Hello! So I am in the data collection phase of this capstone and I need everyone's help.

I told my advisors that I have pretty good digital reach and a nice online network, now I have to prove it. I need at least 100 responses to this survey or my data isn't really valid.

PLEASE take this survey and have your friends do it as well. It isn't very long or intrusive, I promise!!! Please take it asaps!


How do you find the words when they are spit back in your face?

I am emotionally exhausted. Since the boats with "peace activists" heading to Gaza was intercepted I have fought and fought this issue round and round with my friends and acquaintances. Emotionally, I am drained. My head hurts. I can't think of the permutations any more. I want to just say that this is how it is, no more conversation.

But nothing is ever so simple or easy.

Lacking Something...

I have been a very bad blogger.

Beyond being busy with Patheos work and my personal thesis for my Masters, there have been a couple other things going on. This year the Omer was particularly poignant. The Omer is a time when you should be reflecting on your life and working on personal growth but amidst that, I was asked to pray the section Resh of the 119 Psalm. Long story short, when someone is sick you read Psalm 119 and since it is so long, you read the letters that correspond to their Hebrew name. Resh goes like this -

Pick Your Testament, It's A Fact.

I was initially struck by the URL. HATE ISRAEL WEEK?

What is the world is Hate Israel Week? As I read, the good Rabbi made some insightful points, many similar to my father's arguments.

Social Media Experterie...

Yeah, I know that isn't a word. :)

I have been working on my Capstone proposal for the culmination of my Master's degree lately. It is do super soon... and I am just about to wrap up the proposal process. (Now I just have to cut 1000 words... yeah, I'm wordy, we know that right?)

The Space In-between...

I have a blog to write... it's about intermarriage and the effect on kids and I interviewed a friend for it but really what's on my mind right now is this...

I live in a space in-between too many worlds.

National Day of (Christian only) Prayer?

What if the National Day of Prayer meant we actually came together as a country, despite our differences and prayed together? What if we lived in a country where a kid like me wasn't bullied for trying to participate with the Christian kids in the National Day of Prayer... because I think jesus was a nice Jewish kid who was misunderstood?

A Guide to the Jewish Year... and the Jewish people

My friend posted this on Facebook and I thought... damn, that's true... well, sometimes! :)

A Guide to Jewish Holidays: Purim is for alcoholics.
Pesach is for obsessive compulsives.
Shavuot is for insomniacs.
Lag B'omer is for pyromaniacs unsatisfied with Hanukkah.
Tisha B'av is for depressives.
Rosh Hashana is for those obsessed over dying.
Yom Kippur is for anorexics.
Sukkot is for the homeless.
Simchat To
rah is for those in the happy stages of bipolar…
And people wonder why Jews invented psychoanalysi

Remember the Omer!

I really love the Omer... okay, rather, I have a love hate relationship with counting the Omer. I love the spiritual lift I get, but I sometimes get annoyed at one more thing to do before sleep... hence why I need to count the Omer nightly.

Organizing Nerd Alert!

Okay, I must rant for a minute.

So my friend over at CasaCullen has gotten me all inspired to spruce up my wee home. I've enjoyed planning out many projects and (so far) executing a few.

One thing I always go round and round about is organizing my stuff... Shoes, sweaters, clothing, books, movies, etc.

And then I got an email from my heaven/hell... The Container Store.

Protesting with Prayer

A certain so called "church" group was in Denver last weekend. I am not going to mention their name because I do not believe in giving them free publicity to fuel their hate. I was going to go to their protest and all the counter-protests and I was going to video tape it and take pictures for Patheos. And I was going to write about the experience and the hate these people spread. I was really motivated to go and write about it.

Masters Degree and Final Capstone

Hey all -

So I am in the depths of hell that is the research proposal for my Master's Capstone (kinda like a thesis).

My topic revolves around social media measurement. Currently, I am working on the proposal but once I get into the actual paper, I am hoping to reach into my digital network and get advice or opinions from you all.

Some of my twitter followers have expressed and interest in the process and so I will be blogging about it here. If you are interested in following my process, I will be tagging these posts with the tag - Capstone.

If you are not interested... well... sorry. ;) I promise to keep up my odd and varied posting.

Shoes (From

by Talia Davis

I have a closet full of them. Some people don't even think about them. Some people think about them way too much.

Shoes protect our feet, they enable us to go anywhere we want without concern for what the terrain is. We pay a lot of money for very uncomfortable ones, and sometimes our favorites are the ones we have had for years. I feel fortunate I own more than one pair.

Shoes can be easily overlooked.

Not on the bank of the Danube River in Budapest.

Looking for Personal Holocaust Stories

So I recently blogged about my experience with a Holocaust survivor as a 5 year old and that got me (and my mom) thinking...

Since we are sadly losing our connection to this actual survivors, who will tell this story to our children?

I am looking for personal experiences with Holocaust survivors and their impact on you. If you have a story like this or would like to write A FACTUAL account for me, please send me an email at taliashewrote at gmail dot com (put it all together with an @ and a . and there you go)!


Never Again...

I saw this video on Rabbi Brad Hirschfield's blog and it really touched me.

It more than touched me, it had me in tears. What a powerful piece.

The past is getting further and further away...

I remember him so clearly. This older rabbi. Mind you, most of the rabbis in my life are family members but this time it was different. My dad was the rabbi at the Hillel and we were members at Temple Sinai. So for once in my life, "my" rabbi wasn't my dad or grandfather.

This makes me nauseous...

What a horrible human being.

Counting the Omer...

Sometimes it is wicked annoying. One more thing to do at night when I am exhausted. I really just wanna read my (e)book and go to bed. But man oh man... sometimes... who am I kidding, usually the day's Omer is dead on.

Facebook Censorship

I use Facebook daily. In fact, I am on Facebook pretty much all day. That is my job. I post to Facebook for Patheos and I keep my eye out for best practices and new ideas.

Challah Baby... an update

Okay, first of all, if you haven't read Challah Baby (the original) I highly recommend reading it first. Life will make a lot more sense... trust me.

It's okay... we'll wait.

Next Year in Jerusalem... or the White House, depends on who you know...

This morning, while my friends at my neighborhood car repair shop were fixing my car to the tune of several hundred dollars (ugh), I sat in Starbucks with my Sunday New York Times.

My Daddy Always Said There'd Be Days Like This...

Just had a lively dispute on Twitter with a very conservative fella who told me I'm a Marxist because I believe in helping my fellow (wo)man.

He was kinda abrasive and rude (and I'm not gunna lie, I was rude back) but despite being annoyed and wanting to leave the convo, I stayed and chatted.

With plenty of parries and repostes, we tossed 140 characters back and forth. And I am sure he still doesn't like me and frankly, I'm not super thrilled about him but at least it was an intelligent conversation (though I could have done without him calling me all the 'ist' names in the book that he didn't agree with).

Negative Body Image and Greek Life

So many of you know that I am the Chapter Advisor for my sorority at University of Colorado - Boulder.

I really love:
  1. My girls (even though they aren't always nice to me)
  2. My volunteer role (even though it isn't always easy)
  3. My sorority & our international team of volunteers (no even though here...)

What does G-d mean?

A friend just posted on her Facebook a conversation with her almost 3 year old daughter. It went like this -

Kid: What does god mean?
Mom: Love.
Kid: If I wear my purple tights will I look like a dancer?
… I guess I passed lesson one on spirituality 101.

I love this exchange. It really gets to the heart of kids. They have ideas, they want to share ideas, and they want simple answers.

Neo-Nazi Converts To JUDAISM!

Okay... so I thought the headline might be a bit sensationalist... I was wrong.

Here's a story of a Polish man who embraced Neo-Nazi ideals with his Neo-Nazi wife, only to find out that they both, in fact, had maternal Jewish grandparents. They both converted to Orthodox Judaism.

Idiocy... even in the best of circles...

So I found this blog post MoVinG oN and was just shocked... but then I remembered that every community has their own crazies...

I really hope that my generation and the next can convince the oldies that the world truly has changed.

And so begins the rest

And I mean that both in this is the "rest" of my blog and on Shabbis, we "rest." Before I get started, since I tend to explain why certain things are while in the context of the experience, I will indent these informative sections, to make it easier to read.

So we left off with the sirens going off and Shabbis starting. What is done, is done at that point and you can't start cooking anything or put on makeup or clean the house. A sense of calm falls over this small section of Brooklyn.

Shabbis in Crown Heights

I attended a Chabad l'chaim a couple weekends ago in Crown Heights.

For those of you who don't know, Crown Heights is the World-Wide Headquarters of the Lubavitcher movement. It is as close as you will get to a shtetl in modern day America. With the main arteries of Kingston and Eastern Parkway, Judaism springs from either side. Most of the row houses shooting off these main roads are adorned with a mezuzah. If not, then they house neighbors who are generally of African-American or Afro-Caribbean decent. If you have never experienced a shabbat in Crown Heights, you must. I am serious. Email me at Patheos (tdavis at Patheos dot com) and I will help you find a place to stay. It is a must!

For those of you who have not or could not stay in CH, let me paint the scene of my weekend in Brooklyn.

Friday morning, 6am - my red-eye flight from Denver lands at JFK in NYC. I am with the mother and two sisters of the groom and a very awesome woman who is heading to CH to teach Chabad women how to fundraise. [Background - I am very close with the sister of the groom (the chasson) and the bride (the kallah). We spent a week studying in FL together.] After we gather our luggage, we go to catch a cab. It's about 6:30/6:45am at this point. We have to wait for a cab large enough to fit luggage + people. We make the squeeze and we are off. We tell our VERY Russian cab driver that we are going to Brooklyn but must detour to Queens first to go to The Ohel, which is at a cemetery. It is the grave-site of The Lubavitcher Rebbe and his father-in-law, The Previous Rebbe or Frediker Rebbe.  Within Chabad, anytime you are in NY, you must visit. Not because you are forced to but because it can be centering and uplifting and is an important thing to do.

We tell the guy that we are going to a cemetery in Queens and he pulls out a picture of The Rebbe and says, "For this guy?" Well we were shocked! He knew exactly where to go. Turns out, the guy is Jewish, brings people to the cemetery all the time but had never gone in. Well we get to The Ohel and the cab driver wants to leave us. I know in the movies it always looks like there is always a cab when you need one but that is SO not the case. We convinced him that he should wait 20 min and come in with us. SO meter still running, we go in and start the process.

We wash our hand in the ritual manner (netilat yadayim) then sit down to write a letter to the Rebbes. You put your Hebrew name, bat (daughter of) or bar (son of), then your mother's Hebrew name. Then you just write. You can ask for a better job, a husband or wife, health, anything you want or need or need guidance on. Once you have completed your letter, you slip off your shoes (if they have leather on them) and slip on the oh-so-convenient Crocs they have provided in every size and color imaginable. (P.S. I think Chosids are the biggest consumer of Crocs... not kidding.)

Once you have done all this you trek out into the cemetery and enter the stone building (no roof) where the two graves are. You light a candle, grab a prayer book and head in. There are separate doors for men and women but it gets cramped really fast. Once inside there are a handful of prayers and psalms to read but then you read your letter, quietly outloud to the Rebbes. Once you have competed that, you tear it to little bits (see the pic). As you leave, you must be careful not to turn your back on the Rebbes, just like the Torah, and so people will back out of the area. I like to take a minute to touch each gravestone and say S'hma with each Rebbe.

Once you have completed all this, you head back to the tent that is set up and wash your hands again and head out. We wrangled all 5 of us AND we picked up another woman heading to CH so our cab was VERY full.

We got to Eastern Parkway and Kingston and all went our separate ways. Now here comes Shabbis in Crown Heights. It's still early, not quite 9am yet. I put my bags down in my friend's tiny basement apartment and I start walking Kingston, marveling at the shops we don't have in Denver (but they don't have a Target... so it might be an even trade... :)).

I had priorities. There were things I can't get in Denver that I had to get before Shabbis shuts the stores down. I hit the Jewish Children's Museum because they were open before 9am. Got some books and a set of Aleph Bet cookie cutters (VERY excited) and then I headed to Khan's Kosher Market. There are a few markets on the street but I KNOW Khan's has my Kosher gummy bears. Seriously. I can't find them ANYWHERE (see my post here about that). And finally Judaica World opened. I spent forever in there, breathing in the books, looking for new titles, I got a cd, AND (I feel very triumphant about this) a pink, soft leather siddur with the Hebrew AND the English!!! :) Very exciting! (I will write more about that later.) Kingston was full of hustle and bustle. Women getting last minute supplies, car horns, construction, men running to study or get home. Just like you imagine NYC. I headed back to my friend's apartment and took a bit of a shluff (nap). We woke up in time to prepare her place for Shabbis. You have to decide what lights to leave on and what to leave off, prep water for tea if you want it in the next 26 hours, etc... otherwise that all will become Muktza. Once that is done and about 18 minutes before Shabbis comes in, you will hear a loud siren. This is to warn you that it is nearly time. Everyone keeps running and rushing and trying to finish until... BAM candles are lit and there is silence. Significantly less cars on the road, no radios, just quiet. And Shabbis has begun.

And since this post is getting lengthy, I will break it up. Tomorrow - the start of a beautiful 26 hours.

Originally posted at - AshkanOrthoNewalForm-ish

WOW! Plane crash in Austin...

WOW! I really am at a loss of words. Wow... There was a plane crash in Austin this morning. A man flew a small, single engine plane into a building. But then I learned more.

The "man" was a human being who was much maligned and the victim of our country. He was a throw away person to our tax system. And the building was an IRS building. His name was Andrew Joseph Stack. 53 years old, I believe.

Now, please don't get me wrong, I don't approve of his methods. He has probably cost the life of many innocent people, however, I feel for this man. How could he continue to live when the greedy government attacked him. Honestly? He was small potatoes but that is what they seem to go after. Now, I know how I sound but believe me I am a Democrat and I believe in social services and everyone pitching in to support those among us who cannot support themselves. But in this situation, he followed the rules. He made more of an effort than I ever did to learn the rules...

More than anything I feel for his loved ones, because I know he had to have been loved. How sad that he was driven to this. I think our whole country needs an overhaul.

I also want to preserve his final words for all to see because undoubtedly his website will be ripped down when they get wind of it. The website is ... oh and as I write this... it has been removed by the FBI. Here is what it says now -

"This website has been taken offline due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI.  Regards,
T35 Hosting"

Here is the text of his manifesto after the jump.

Who knew blue denim could throw your life into such turmoil!?

No, it's nothing major... just... well... how do I say...

I feel guilty when I wear jeans.

Yup. I said it.

So here's the story. About 10 years ago I started my transition from hippie, Indigo Girls lovin', free-form Friday night services followed by going out for ice cream Judaism that was mainly focused on social action (aka Reform) to a skirt wearing, long sleeves in the summer, Baruch Hashem sayin', Kosher keepin',  shomer negiah, shomer shabbis, "Flipping Out" "Baal Teshuvah." (Though I slightly object to being called a Baal Teshuvah. I have always been a religious Jew but my observance has just been different... like wearing tzitzit and a kippah and laying teffilin... In fact, I started a group called Frum From Nifty because there are so many former Reform kids goin' Ortho these days!)

So I went from one end to the other... then I found my way to a middle ground where I felt comfortable with a foot in both worlds. I understand the WHY of why we do certain things and make (Torah) educated decisions in how I live my life.

<--- To the left = tznius               To the right = not tznius --->

What does that mean? Well, it kinda means that I have my own Talia sect of Judaism. I am fairly sure no one else out there is just like me in my observance and that makes life hard. I am just as comfortable on the streets of Crown Heights as Denver. I'll drive on Saturdays but I try not to spend money. I (try to) davven every morning and evening and say my brachot over food and drink... okay, I'll admit there have been many shehakols tossed in over the last bite as I kick myself for forgetting. Clearly, I am far too "religious" (really, I prefer the word observant) for the Reformies and not quite there yet for my Chabad family of friends. Anyway... this is starting to get long winded for a blog. :)

So here is my dilemma... I found the ideas and ideals of tzniut fascinating. I did the full on long sleeves, long (not so fashionable) skirts, high necks, etc for about two years until I realized that while it had helped me rediscover my femininity, break the jeans cycle (you know what I am talking about... nothin' but jeans because they are comfy and easy), and realize that I can dress for myself and not for anyone else... the severely restricted nature of the 'uniform' I adopted was certainly not me. SO, I decided to keep the skirts in the wardrobe but not deny myself the joy of jeans. However, I would still dress in a modest fashion even while wearing pants. Not kidding, folks, this took me years to figure out...

So, fast forward through the awkward parts, today I wear skirts (modest skirts - knee length or longer) at least five days a week. Allowing for the need to feel a good fitting pair of jeans on myself once or twice. The added impetus for this is that I live in Colorado. Don't know if you know this but... uhm... it snows here... and gets cold... a breeze up a skirt (even with tights) ain't fun in 3 degree weather. Today is one of those days. I mean it isn't 3 degrees but it is forecast to snow and be kinda crummy and I am just going to the gym, work, home, and doctor's appointment... damn you rationalization!!! Point is, sometimes it feels more high maintenance to wear a skirt. I have shoes that look great under pants that I can't wear with a skirt. Even a long jean one. Anywho... I've noticed, increasingly, as I wear my pants the few days a month that I do, I have more and more quilt about it.

I mean, I have friends in Crown Heights (aka the worldwide headquarters of Chabad) that wear skirts rain or shine, snow, sleet, hurricane, blizzard... why do I have such an issue? Well clearly, they were raised that this was the thing to do and pants aren't really an option. Not me... my mom STILL to this day remarks when I wear a skirt, "Oh, you're wearing a long skirt, huh?" or "You look so Frummy." And I used to get defensive... like I didn't want anyone to notice that THAT was exactly what I was going for. But now, now I just say, "Yup, I do. Thanks." :)

Another point of contention with my mom (who was raised in the Conservative movement) is that I want to cover my hair when I get married. We haven't had the convo outright but I know she doesn't love the idea BUT she is happy when I am happy. On one hand it gets to be an outward sign of your Judaism but on the other hand, it truly is something you do for yourself... like the laws of taharat mishpacha which I find essential.

I think it is through education and really understanding the laws and traditions and making up your own mind that helps you stick to your choices. And this jeans thing, I think I'm just being a wuss... either throw out the jeans or suck it up and embrace my decision... yes, I know, I answered my own question.

Check out my blog at - AshkanOrthoNewalForm-ish

An Open Love Letter

A friend/colleague/partner in Jewish fun crime wrote this open love letter.

It is just so sweet. I think we spend so much of our time worrying about control that we forget to let go...

I really hope he does find his beshert soon. He certainly deserves it!

Brotherhood Postponed

Brotherhood Postponed

This is the sermon my grandfather (ZT”L) wrote after he marched with Martin Luther King from Selma, Alabama. Being MLK day, I thought it was appropriate and you might enjoy reading it!


Brotherhood Postponed ©
The March from Selma, Alabama
Sunday, March 21, 1965
Indianapolis, Indiana
March 26, 1965
Rabbi Maurice Davis

Rabbi Maurice Davis in his office

My dear friends, it was precisely one month ago tonight, the 26th of February, that we had chosen for the event, which takes place this evening. We called it a “Bring-Your-Neighbor” Sabbath. The thought behind it was to break through the formalism of group and category, and meet, rather, on a person-to-person basis.

Our members would participate personally, informally. They would invite friends – or neighbors (hopefully overlapping categories!) to share the Sabbath with us. And I would preach on some nebulous subject having to do with brotherhood, for that is the custom we Americans observe during the third week of the second month of the year.

Well, the snows came, and brotherhood week was postponed. Now, a month later we meet for the program scheduled for February 26. I realize that it is a dangerous practice, perhaps even subversive, to talk about brotherhood in March. It is the kind of un-American activity that could lead to a breakdown in our entire national way of life. Someone may begin to love his mother on a day other than the second Sunday in May or eat turkey on a day other than the fourth Thursday in November, or worship G-d on a day other than the Sabbath. I suppose, however, that these fears of mine are unrealistic, and I should renew my faith that we shall once again return to normalcy.

I cannot recall what it was I planned to say last month. Too many events have happened too rapidly and too enormously in the past two weeks. Whatever it was that I might have said would be tonight something less than relevant. During the past week alone we sent two men into space where they guided their ship, changed their course and their orbit, circled the earth three times, and then apologized for landing 60 miles away from their target. During the past week alone we watched live television shots of the moon as Ranger 9 plunged into that increasingly abused star at the precise area planned for impact. And, during the past week, we witnessed in Alabama a scene more stirring, more filled with signs and portents for our world than any of our engineering feats of science.

Last month, when the snows came, I jokingly announced that I would speak tonight on the subject, “Brotherhood Postponed.” All I had in mind was the snow, but that was a month ago. Last week I announced from this pulpit that I would go to Selma, Alabama, and it was there that I witnessed the results of “Brotherhood Postponed” in a way I never before quite fully comprehended. I should like to talk to you this evening about that trip. It would make the title “Brotherhood Postponed” more accurate than I had planned for it to be. I should like to talk to you this evening about Alabama for many reasons. First of all I speak in the name of a great many rabbis and ministers and priests, members of whose various religions are present here this evening.

Your ministers, and your priests were there in Alabama. If not your own particular clergyman, his colleagues were. And those that went were not more noble than those who stayed at home. They just were luckier. In the life of a clergyman his first responsibility is to his congregation, and there are many events that should and must take precedence. There are commitments that would have kept anyone of us at home.

I was fortunate to have had no such crucial commitments for Sunday, March 21. David Goldstein accompanied me, and we flew to Atlanta on Saturday night. We spent the evening there, and Sunday at 7:00am we flew to Montgomery. It was a flight filled with clergymen. Rabbis, and ministers, and priests took almost every seat. Seated next to me were Rabbi Wolf Kelman, and Rabbi Abraham Heschel, both of the Conservative movement, the latter a former professor of mine at the Hebrew Union College. At Montgomery we were met by Brant Coopersmith of the American Jewish Committee, and a Negro physician from Birmingham, Dr. Upshaw, who drove us to Selma.

Dr. Upshaw drove very carefully. It is not wise for a Negro to speed on the highways of Alabama. As we approached Selma we saw the Army begin to position itself. Jeeps and trucks filled with soldiers, hospital units, and communications experts clustered along the way. Arriving in Selma, we headed for Browns Chapel Methodist Church where services would take place. The road leading to the Church was lined with National Guardsmen, recently federalized. As we turned into that road, six of them stepped out in front of our car holding their rifles in a position of readiness. One approached the car, stared in at us, but said never a word. In a very polite and subdued voice Dr. Upshaw asked, “How does one get to that church?” The guardsman turned his back on us, waved a hand to those that blocked the way, and we drove through.

It was 8 o’clock in the morning. Services were scheduled for 11:00am. On the steps of the church and in the streets were a thousand people already waiting. From 8:00 until 11:00 they kept streaming in, with never a pause. Many of the people there were friends of mine from other cities and other states. A holiday mood was in the air. From the stone steps if the church various people went to the microphone, and took turns leading the group in song.

They sang such songs as:

“Freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me!
And before I’ll be a slave
I’ll be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord, and be free.
We shall overcome. We shall overcome.
We shall overcome some day.
Deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome some day!”

There were other songs of less somber note such as:

“I love Governor Wallace in my heart.”

After a while I left with some of my friends to visit the Negro homes in the neighborhood where they had stayed the past few nights. One rabbi said to me, “You can’t buy any food in the Negro neighborhood in Selma. You can’t buy it, because they give it to you. You can’t pay for lodging, because they give it to you.” Tiny houses had opened wide in wondrous hospitality.

An elderly Negro lady and her grandchild approached me to say, “In all my life I never dreamed that such a day as this could be!” I talked to a Negro teen-aged girl, and asker her if she planned to march. She shook her head no. I asked her if she resented our being there. She shook her head no. I asked her if she thought any good would come of this. She said. “Maybe, but after you leave they’ll still call me the same names they called me before you came.”

We returned to the church, and I noticed that all the Reform rabbis were wearing yarmelkes. When I questioned this, I was told, “It is our answer to the clerical collar.” Clergymen of every denomination, from Roman Catholicism to Unitarianism were wearing clerical collars to show they were clergymen. Rabbis of all branches of Judaism were wearing yarmelkes.

I tried to get one, but I could not. I learned later that they sent back for a thousand yarmelkes but all the Civil Rights workers wanted to wear them. Negro children and white marchers were all sporting yarmelkes.

The five Rabbis who had been jailed on Friday had held services in prison. When they were released they announced that on Saturday night they would hold a Havdallah service and were given the use of Browns Chapel. When they arrived there on Saturday night they found 600 people waiting. Negroes and white, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews were waiting for that religious service which marked the close of the Jewish Sabbath. That is where all the yarmelkes went!

About 10:15 in the morning the Reverend Martin Luther King, and his assistants, Reverend Young and Reverend Abernathy, climbed the steps of the church. Beyond the steps the entrance to the church was cleared except for dignitaries. Rabbi Raiskin of California asked if I would represent the U.A.H.C. When I agreed, two men lifted me up by my arms above the lecturn with its many microphones, and literally pulled me up to the platform. I chatted briefly with Reverend King, and the service began.

It was a deeply moving, deeply religious, and totally non-sectarian service. Rabbi Heschel read from our Bible, a Protestant minister read from the New Testament, and a Catholic Priest offered a beautifully moving prayer. Then Reverend King began again to weave his magic spell. Nothing but the word “magic” can quite describe what it is he does to so many. When King speaks, you are not an audience. You are participants. And when he finished we were ready to march.

Reverend Abernathy announced the order of the march. The several thousand people would march in rows of 8, and the first three rows would be lead by men and women chosen by Martin Luther King. He read off the names, and I was thrilled to hear my name called out as one of the leaders.

We twenty-four entered the chapel, were given our assignments, and then marched out. On the street we formed three rows of 8, locked our arms together, and started to march. Behind us the thousands began to follow. In front of us the television camera men, the news photographers, and the reporters walked backwards, facing King, and trying to press in on him. Finally 12 workers locked arms in front of the first row to keep King from getting crushed.

We came to the bridge which had marked the terminal point of two previous attempts. On one of those attempts, King had turned his people back at this spot. On the other attempt, the state troopers had ridden into the crowd with clubs, and bullwhips, and tear gas. We paused there a moment, just to remember, and then we moved out on the highway. It was a divided highway, and the North side was reserved for us. Every few yards a soldier stood with a rifle and bayonet. Army cars drove ahead of us and behind us. In the air five helicopters circled endlessly, occasionally swooping down just above a clump of trees or bushes. Radios and walkie-talkies crackled orders back and forth. State troopers drove by in squad cars, two to a car. One drove, and the other quite ostentatiously took pictures of the marches. This is an Alabama form of intimidation. I kept remembering that these were the same state troopers who had two weeks earlier had ridden mercilessly into a defenseless mass of people! I marveled again at the power of the federal government whose presence stood between us and another massacre.

We kept on marching; on my left a Catholic Priest from San Antonio, on my right, a young girl from the staff of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In the first row were King, Abernathy, and Young, Ralph Bunche, whose doctor had ordered him not to march, Abraham Heschel, whose white flowing beard stood out in contrast, and Deaconess Phyllis Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of California.

Along the road were groups of people standing. Negroes waved, wept, prayed, and shouted out words of encouragement. There were whites who taunted, jeered, cursed. Other whites just stood with stark amazement at this incredible site, for which they could find neither rhyme nor reason. On the other side of the divided highway there was a parked car, a Volkswagon, painted with many signs. Six of us broke rank, and went over to the car. The signs were signs of hatred and of filth, taunting even the death of Reverend Reed. We stood there taking pictures while those inside glared and cursed.

Sown the road a bit the scene was repeated. We passed a charming white house, on the lawn of which a kindly matronly white woman sat with her children and grandchildren. It was the picture one associates with the story-book South. And on the side of her house were signs which read, “Dirty communist clergy go home,” and “Integrationist scum stay away!” The contrast was shocking, but the people who marched were merely amused. “Somebody tell her,” one of the marchers said, “We hadn’t planned to stop there in the first place.”

There had been much singing at the church, but on the highway there was very little. One of the reasons might have been that the rows stretched out in endless array. More significant, however, was that our thoughts had turned inward. Everyone seemed to be asking his neighbor two questions, “What are you thinking?” and “What do you think they are thinking?”

Some of them were dressed as beatniks, some were dressed as day laborers, some were dressed in the vestments of the church, and most were dressed in their Sunday best. A seven year old boy joined my line. I asked him, “What are you doing?” He said, “Marching.” I asked him, “Why are you marching?” He looked up at me and said, “For my freedom.”

After about five miles, we took a 10-minute break. I used that time to go back through the crowds for pictures, and then the march continued. At one point I left the march entirely, and stood on the divider strip. I thought to take movies of the entire group as it passed me by. I could not. The film ran out long before the lines did. But standing there almost as if in review, I saw the enormity of it all. I saw friends I hadn’t seen for years. I saw strangers who were no longer strangers. I saw a group from Hawaii who had travelled 5000 miles just to march. They carried a banner that said, “Hawaii Knows Integration Works!” I saw a man with one leg. His right leg had been amputated at the knee, but he marched right along with the rest on crutches. I ran back to catch up with my line at the front. Finally after about 13 miles, and about 5 ½ hours of marching we approached the camp site. The helicopters hovered a few feet above our heads in stationary position. The road was lines with people who cheered and waved, and there were tears in the eyes of many.

Once we stopped at the camp site several things began to occur to me. The first was that I had neither eaten nor drunk anything for more than twelve hours. I had not even sat down once in those twelve hours. My left foot had blistered painfully. And I had experienced a religious exaltation which I had never witnessed before.

An hour later we were in a car headed for Montgomery. Only 300 were permitted to remain. We prayed for their safety, we hoped for the best, and we feared the worst.
That night instead of returning to Atlanta, I got on a chartered plane to Cincinnati where my father-in-law lay ill in the hospital. I arrived there at midnight, and spent what was left of that night with him and my mother-in-law. At 7:00 A.M. I flew into Indianapolis.

Reporters and television men interviewed me most of Monday. Monday night my life was threatened. Not in Selma. Not in Montgomery. Not in Atlanta. In Indianapolis. Protective measures has to be taken for my children, and my home. On Tuesday night the phone began to ring at 2:00 A.M. Each time I answered it, I was greeted with silence, until I took the phone off the hook and fell asleep. Some of the mail I have received is filled with unbelievable filth, ugly statements, and – interestingly enough – disclosing knowledge about my life, including my previous pulpit in Lexington, Kentucky.

Some of the letters I have received are beautiful beyond the power of words to describe, and some of the phone calls have been so moving that they brought tears to my eyes.

Brotherhood postponed. Dear friends, brotherhood has been postponed for a very long time. Not by the coldness of the weather, but by the coldness of the heart. The task of religion, your religion and mine, is to practice brotherhood, not talk about it.
People keep asking me why I decided to go to Alabama. I’m not sure that even now I know the answer. I think I went to Alabama to worship God! I know that is what I did on U.S. Highway 80, along with 6,000 men and women, boys and girls, each of whom in his own way was doing the same thing.

Last night we learned that one of us had been murdered on that highway. I think all of us died a little bit at the news. This morning the President announced that four members of the Ku Klux Klan had been arrested, and he added these words: “If Klansmen hear my voice today, let it be both an appeal – and a warning – to get out of the Klan now, and return to a decent society – before it is too late!”

Brotherhood postponed. The time has come, and it has been a long time in coming. The time has come to worship with our lives as with our lips, in the streets as in the sanctuaries. And we who dare to call God, God, must begin to learn the challenge which that word contains.

“One God over all” has to mean “One brotherhood over all.” And I know a bunch of anonymous people for whom it means precisely that. Brotherhood postponed does not mean brotherhood destroyed. It is for us to see that it never, never does! Amen.
Rabbi Maurice Davis with his wife, sons, daughter-in-law, and first grandchild (me!)

Bathroom Habits... RESULTS!

Thanks to everyone who took my bathroom habits survey. I was bummed that I didn't get more of a response but here is the data...

empty bathroom by limonada.Demographics -
54 respondents

70% were women
30% were men

76% were between 19 - 29
22% were between 30 - 39
2% were between 40 - 49

40% from the Southeast
35% from the Central US (Colorado, Kansas, etc)
11% from the Southwest
7% from the Northeast
4% from the Mid-west
4% from the Northwest

Bathroom habits -
When asked what stall you go to, it was an even split between the first, middle, and last, as well as other. Some responses were -
"Disabled/handicap stall"
"Closest one to a solid wall"
"At least one away from other people"
"The one where the door swings out"
and the best of the group - "There are elaborate man rules about this"

When asked about a bathroom you frequent (i.e. work) a trend did emerge. 69% of respondents always tried to use the same stall every time. As one person put it, "there's no place like home."

This survey also dispelled a rumor about stall selection when others are in the bathroom. There was a pretty even split here too.
39% said they skipped one stall
33% said "who cares, I have to pee!"
28% said they pick the furthest from being occupied.
Responses? "Cleanest always wins!" "I'm a guy, so it all depends. #1, skip a stall. #2, find another bathroom or wait until later. I'm not pooping next to anyone."

public bathroom by herbstkind.The next question asked for their response on the question "why do you pick the stall you pick."
  • "Handicap stalls usually have more room to maneuver, are more private, and have taller toilets"
  • "i pick the ones with the best doors"
  • "I've heard that people tend to use the middle or last stalls most often; therefore, the first stall is usually cleaner. Also, I've noticed that people usually don't go for the first stall, so it's kind of like an act of bravery to go into the first one."
  • "Don't want to be too close to 'my neighbor's' sound effects :)"
  • "I've always thought (for no rational reason) that the ones closest to the door are the least I use those"
  • "It's a combination of I feel tall at the little urinal and I feel its always cleaner"
  • "Generally because somebody is always in the first stall, or the first stall is usually clogged. Odd but true."
  • And the ever useful - "Just cause"

We also asked - "Do you take longer to "finish up" if someone else is in the bathroom to avoid seeing people?"
46% said yes!
35% said no
and 20% said other
"Yes, at work, because there aren't separate staff stalls and I don't want to run into patrons."
and "It depends. Public restroom I take longer. A more familiar restroom (like work), I might try to finish sooner to see who it is I can talk to for a few minutes."

Lastly, I asked the age old question... did you wash your hands! :) I don't know that people were entirely honest but I hope so, because that means we have some clean people out there!!
57% said all the time
24% said 75% of the time
15% said 50% of the time
4% said 25% of the time
and no one said never... whew!
Some responses -
"3 A.M. not so much -- too sleepy"
"sometimes at home I just do a quick pee and have to run. always in public because i have been near other people"
"Always in a public restroom"
"But I don't always use soap (I have very sensitive skin, so I can't use some of the cheap bathroom soaps without my hands turning bright red and itchy.) Sometimes I just rinse, dry and use hand sanitizer later."
"110%, and use a paper towel to open the door."
"Always when in public, rarely at home."

Very interesting responses. It has showed me that we all have a lot of unsubstantiated ideas about the restroom and the first stall may not always be cleaner... since we all saw that news report that it is less used. :) And a lot of people don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom at home... interesting.

Thanks for playing along kids!