Sunday, November 30, 2008

OMG- Fake Kosher Radio Caller

(I almost deleted this post, because the events of this past week have magnified the need for kindness and solidarity versus divisiveness. But the more I thought about what I had written, the more I realized that the mentality illustrated in the story is precisely the mentality that condones the Mumbai attacks. And so I'm posting it anyway, and I hope nobody gets offended by the initially "fluffy" nature of the story. Given that I have spent the last 72 hours in a somber mood contemplating the dire state of the world, perhaps a pulse-check of the insidious lines of logic that create an environment ripe for precisely such attacks, chasve shalom, is in order.)

I was listening to the radio Friday morning while I was cleaning and waiting for my non-existent next assignment to materialize in my inbox. I generally am not a fan of radio DJs and call-in shows, since I tend to enjoy less didactic, self-aggrandizing radio. As in, just give me the music, please and cut the chit-chat. But when I tuned in to my regular station, I caught the following, and remained transfixed in horror.

As I tuned in, good ol' Elizabeth was busy telling the abysmal saga of how she had fooled her family by getting takeout from Boston Market and passing it off as her own. I was busy trying to give her the benefit of the doubt in terms of why she might have tried to mislead her extended family about her cooking, when she dropped in a most self-satisfying tone the following shocker: "And the best part is that they keep kosher!". As caller after caller told her that what she had done was deceptive and wrong, she kept saying "I just don't see what the big deal is".

Since I don't see how, living in New York of all places, she could be so put out by stopping off for 5 minutes to get kosher takeout post-Boston Market, her decision to not offer any kosher food to her guests suggests a general hostility towards religion. Perhaps she had issues with organized religion prior to getting married. Or maybe she and her in-laws don't get along. (Given her personality, I could see why that might be.) In any event, the woman definitely has issues with her husband and/or his family, and decided to address things in a most passive-aggressive manner.

Anyhow, I found myself pondering this radio roadkill. And what I found particularly disturbing was the following.

First, dear Elizabeth seems to misunderstand the basics of respect. When you get married, you need to nurture respect for both your spouse and your spouse's family. I mean, that's just a given, lady. I'm sure she would understand what the big deal would be if she served meat to a vegetarian. And, I hate to refer to Emily Post, but general etiquette does dictate that one find out if one's guests has dietary preferences and then offer a few dishes to meet those requirements. Unfortunately, it would seem that Elizabeth missed the boat completely as far as standard good graces are concerned.

Okay, so the woman has issues with etiquette. Many people in this generation do, so she gets a free pass on that one. But even if she couldn't see the problem with not catering to dietary preferences, as in the case of the vegetarian above, let's think about the sitaution from a different angle. How might she react if say, having made a choice in her life, her family consciously attempted to subvert her choice? Would she not feel as if her trust had been betrayed? That their lack of faith in her choice was condescending and/or disrespectful? But I suppose that's the point- she is obviously self-absorbed and doesn't give a flying fatouey about anyone but herself.

So the real shame is that this woman seems to believe that life is only about her and her "needs". When you get married, you're supposed to understand that you're going to have make some concessions in order to build a relationship with your spouse and their family. But the Thanksgiving episode- and who knows if this is the first such antic she has pulled?- will not only end up alienating her in-laws, but her husband and their children while she's at it. Although, to be frank, she probably would continue to shirk her role in the disintegration of respect and trust that is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Repeat after me everyone: "I don't see what the big deal is"...

As for the duped in-laws, where to begin? No matter what level of kosher they keep, the reality is that they have wanted to keep in contact with their son and consequently agreed to participate in Thanksgiving with him and his non-Jewish wife (I say non-Jewish, because even if this woman converted, she obviously did so insincerely). Imagine their dismay when, having put their trust in their daughter-in-law they learn the truth about her disgraceful behaviour. Because, let's be honest- if you're brazen enough to go on the radio to maliciously gloat about putting one over your entire family, you just know that word will somehow get back to the family. I expect Elisabeth is desperate to get caught. As for why that may be so, I'll leave that to everyone else's imagination. My concern is her moral vacancy.

How does all of this tie into the Mumbai attacks? First, Elizabeth is unequivocally an anti-semite, as demonstrated by her blatant disrespect for Jewish "traditions". Secondly, call it a stretch, but the same intolerance for anything but one's own ideology is at the heart of all extremism. By disrespecting other people's way of life, Elizabeth is perpetuating intolerance. And it is precisely such intolerance that finds a way of targeting minorities, such as us Jews. For those of you who don't believe Jews are minorities by the way, you'll have to wait for a future post; suffice it to say though that all you need to do is google countries by population and demographics, then do some rudimentary math, and you'll see that, all the propaganda to the contrary, Jews remain a minority.

What else can I say? In a perverse way, her call was fitting given the events of last week. It helped explain why, in the aftermath of Mumbai, the media coverage minimized the terrorist link by referring to the terrorists as "hostage-takers", "external links", "Pakistani Militants", etc. In a world where a Chabad family and their guests gave their lives in order to provide kosher food for people who might or might not have otherwise kept kosher, this woman's joyous celebration of mocking her in-laws traditions is a sad, chilling reminder that we only exist due to Hashem's protection and Divine Mercy.

May His Protection and Mercy never wain.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baruch Dayan Emet

My husband just called me from work to inform me that Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg perished in their Chabad House in Mumbai. He did not have any details, which will hopefully come to light in the next few hours or days.

To all those who knew Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg, I offer my hearfelt condolences. They seemed to be a fine example of people who accomplished much during their tragically short time in this world. We can all learn from them. As for their young son, may he grow up to continue in their footsteps and make them proud.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hostages in Mumbai

Unfortunately, these are the times in which we live.

I received two emails today from friends of mine in Florida, who are Chabad shluchim, and know the Chabad Rabbi in Mumbai, Rabbi Holtzberg. Sadly, the Rabbi's family, as well as potentially 5 other Jewish families, are being held in the Chabad House in a hostage situation. I heard that their son, Moshe Tzvi, has by all accounts been released from the hostage situation, but his parents remain unconscious, and the state of the other families in the Chabad House is currently unknown.

I ask everyone to please daven or do mitzvahs in the merit of the yiddin in Mumbai who have been impacted by yesterday's terrorist attacks, including those remaining hostage in the Chabad House. The names of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg are as follows:
  • Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma
  • Rivka bat Yehudit
May Hashem merit a blessed, peaceful and swift end to this situation.

And the verdict is in

I picked up my sheitel!

Hashem decided to throw a bone my way; the "spa" took it upon themselves to set the sheitel despite my having requested only a colouring. I must say though that I would definitely consider using this place as backup in case my regular woman is unavailable. They made the sheitel look stylishly modern- and I'm not someone who feels that following fashion is wrong, in case you're wondering. The only snafu was that the receptionist is far over on the rude side. What can you do? Life is about navigating compromises.

But back to the sheitel. :=)

I keep picking up the head and looking at it from all angles. If I hadn't dropped off my "Shabbos" sheitel to be washed today, I would probably have avoided wearing this one on Shabbos in an attempt to revel in its beauty a while longer. They managed to make the back fall straight and even, despite being layered. Quite the feat. The main reason why I *love* my current woman, aside from the fact that I happen to find her a hoot and like her immensely as a person, is the fact that she has thus far been the only person who has been able to keep my sheitel from looking matronly. So if any of you need a reference for a good place here in Flatbush, just let me know.

As for the colour! While I had been wanting something in a light brunette, and this is definitely a medium dark blond, the colour is a warm caramel with hints of strawberry. Beautiful. I mean, I seriously would *eat* it if I could; it actually looks that appealing.

Now that I have two "good" sheitels though, I find myself begging the question: do I bite the bullet and get myself a winter coat with a hood? I notice that on Shabbos, none of the ladies wear a hood over their sheitel, so I am wondering how wrecked one's sheitel becomes from being exposed to snow. Of course, on the warmth front, I must admit that a hood is an asset in New York weather, especially since it does tend towards precipitation around these parts. Nothing like winter sleet! Feel free to post your suggestions on the matter.

As for me, I think I need to go look at my sheitel one more time before I shove it on my head and go out the door for some dinner with my husband. That is, if I can bear mussing up the coiff. ;=)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I managed to sleep in until 9:30 this morning, despite the daily din of the downstairs children and the blast of sunshine that shone through my bedroom window. I knew however that my supervisor wouldn't be sending our next assignments before 9:30, so I figured I was still in decent shape. I quickly davened (sorry Hashem), and then logged on to see what awaited it.

Turns out not a heck of a lot. After about 3 hours or so of work, suddenly the place was shutting down for Thanskgiving. They may be sending some work my way Friday morning, which carries with it the usual set of problems, but it would seem that between now and then, I'm pretty much off-duty. I say pretty much because there does seem to be a slight chance that the Senior Manager may be sending some work to me at some point this afternoon. One thing about my current job, which seems to be slowly but surely winding down- they tend to keep you hanging over assignments, since they are dependent on the client, and the client is kind of indecisive. It's trickle down economics at its best.

The day is whizzing by for some unknown reason, possibly because I'm so exhausted these days that most days either drag on or pass with lightening speed. But I find myself beginning to decompress a bit with the happy thought that for the next 36 hours, I'm basically a free agent. I have a gazillion errands that I'm running tomorrow, mainly because it feels like a special treat to be able to do them on a "regular" weekday, although businesses will be either closed or closing early. The one item on my "To Do" list is to pick up my sheitel from the salon. I am *so* excited to see how it came out, and I'm telling myself to remember when I see it that I still need to take it to my sheitelmacher to have her set it, i.e., I should reserve judgment until I see the final creation in all its glory.

Until then (in case I don't feel inspired to blog tomorrow), to everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving, Happy Turkey Day! I hope everyone's cranberry sauce turns out...

Monday, November 24, 2008

That's ridiculous...

It's a funny thing. If you contrast our lives in this generation to life even 3 generations ago, you would be forced to admit how luxurious life nowadays is. Only the very poor go without heat, air conditioning, hot water. Foods from around the world are readily available in most supermarkets. Clothing is cheaper to buy in shops than to sew. Many families have multiple cars, computers, cell phones. The list goes on and on.

Contrast that to my youth, when my Aunt did most of her laundry by hand in either her tub or her sink, when we lived without air conditioning (and I'm sorry guys, but it gets very hot and humid in Canada in the summer, all stereotypes to the contrary), when we got a replacement car (every 15 years) only once the thing conked out, when we wore third-generation hand-me-downs, when getting a toaster oven was a **major** event years in the get my point.

In my 20s, I lived overseas in a developing country. There, laundry machines were a luxury most people did without, and even when you located a machine, it was so wonky that it hopped around like a kangaroo and ripped your clothes. I was consequently introduced to doing laundry on a washboard, which was quite the eye-opener. I can honestly say that since then, I learned that undoubtedly the cleanest laundry is the laundry done by hand on a washboard. Is it a pain? Definitely, but believe me, you'll have a new understanding of the term "clean clothes".

What brought these thoughts (and this post) to mind? For the last 6 months I have avoided going to the laundromat down the block by hand-washing everything. And I mean everything, including sheets and towels. My strategy started out innocently enough: it was summer, the laundromat is narrow, crammed, dirty and without air conditioning, the machines do only a fair job on a good day, and I didn't have the patience in such an environment to deal with the jockeying for a machine and/or guarding my clothes from people who seem incapable of waiting for my spin cycle to end before dumping my stuff and starting their load? Why torture myself?, I decided. I'll just hand wash stuff until after the summer. But then I started appreciating the convenience of doing laundry whenever I need, not to mention being able to perceptibly discern the difference between items washed at the laundromat versus by hand- the latter were unquestionably spotless.

Yet whenever I inform anyone of this latest tactic of mine, while they can understand my logic, they undoubtedly utter the same phrase when I mention that I launder my sheets by hand: "That's ridiculous", "That's crazy", etc. etc. But I remember back to my Aunt, to that washboard overseas, and I wonder which is more ridiculous- to deal with sub-par laundering or take matters literally into my own hands and do things the "old-fashioned" way. Regardless, it being winter, even I may draw the line at laundering my mattress cover and blankets by hand. Because while my tolerance for the ways of yesteryear seems much higher than most, sometimes you've just got to give in to a little modern convenience. Besides, when you schlep your laundry to the laundromat in the winter and open those doors after being out in the cold, that blast of heat can be oddly welcoming.

In any event that's the current plan. Whatever works, as they say...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tale of Two Sheitels

Up until I lived in one community down south, I always covered my hair with a hat or tichel. That's what my matriarchs wore, and that was good enough for me. More to the point though, my preference aligned with the various rebbeim I had come into contact with over the years, whose preference is for women to cover their hair with a snood, tichel, hat, and so forth. If you must wear a sheitel- and they recognize that many women have an emotional need to wear sheitel in order to feel adequately feminine- then a synthetic is the primary choice. Look attractive, but not too attractive; look like you have hair, but let it still be obvious to the trained eye that your hair is covered.

But then I moved to the said community, where every woman but me wore a sheitel- even the young Israeli girls. Suddenly I found myself sticking out like a sore thumb- exactly the opposite of the meaning of tznius. So I bit the bullet, sucked it up, and drove an hour and a half out to the mall to buy a synthetic sheitel. Suddenly not only was I adequately tznius, but I was more readily accepted; I started getting invited to this shir, that coffee hour, etc.

Around here, the head covering of choice is the human hair sheitel. After I got engaged to my current husband, my Rav informed me that I had to return to covering my hair. I consequently started to trot out my two synthetics. However, one of my dearest friends here in Flatbush happens to be in the sheitel business, and she was *horrified* by my head coverings, although to her credit, she didn't let on the degree of her loathing. Anyhow, not only did her shop arrange for me to get a short sheitel as a kallah gift, but she gave me a second short blonde sheitel that she rarely wore to tide me over in the interim. As I have previously stated, it's good to have friends like mine! I am so very blessed...

Despite having the two human hair sheitels, I continue to wear primarily hats or tichels during the week, and I have been keeping at least one synthetic sheitel in my collection for weekdays. I just find them more practical, since I can wash them myself and I don't have to worry about them getting wrecked due to rain, snow, or my shoving them on my head layil Shabbos while my hair is sopping wet. Overall, very good to have for day-to-day. But the main downside that I have been experiencing with them is that they tend to only last a few months. So when all else is said and done, you're spending a good $100 minimum each year just for synthetics.

I came to the conclusion last week, when I saw the sad state of my current synthetic and went to find a replacment, that it might actually be more economical if I just wear my human hair sheitels for the time being. Since I'm paying to maintain them as it is, why not just make use of them? Given the frequency with which I wear my sheitels, synthetic or otherwise, the extra amount I would pay to have my sheitels maintained would probably run roughly equal to the costs associated with getting new synthetics. The main problem facing me, after I made my very Yekki decision, was that the blonde sheitel is not the right shade of blonde for me. I need something warmer, less ashy. What if I dye the sheitel, I figured? Wouldn't that make the sheitel "new" for me?

I called around, and found a place right near me that came highly recommended. After ruling out my usual sheitelmachers (my friend was kind enough to imply in her tone when she quoted the price that she understood it was a lot of money, and my usual sheitelmacher said she doesn't do blonde sheitels because they never turn out like the client expects), I trotted over today to drop off the sheitel and hit upon an appropriate colour.

When I walked into the place I was shocked. The place was nothing extraordinary- great lighting, a vaguely clinical look similar to what you would find at the Clinique counter in your local department store, perfectly placed racks of products - and yet something about it screamed "decadent". I was entranced. Given that dying the sheitel is the most extravagant thing that I've done for myself in the last ten years (seriously), I was thrilled that I had a hit upon a place where I felt pampered just by entering their doors. The feeling continued as I was lead to the back and consulted with the colourist. He was amazing. He barely looked at me, but understood immediately that the sheitel had too many green tones for me, and that I needed something warmer but not excessively golden. We settled upon a medium caramel shade. I left with a goodie bag full of brochures for spa treatments, and a sense of relaxation simply from having spent five minutes in the shop.

Suffice it to say, I can't wait until Thursday when I go pick it up. If my regular sheitelmacher is available, I'm going to drop it off with her so that she can set it in time for Shabbos. While I'm not a girlie girl by nature, my penchant for eyeshadow and 3 inch heels aside, I must admit that I am very excited by the whole thing. If it turns out really well, I may just have to post a picture of me on this blog. Then again, that might be quite some time in the future, given that I loathe having my picture taken. In any event, wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

Last month I had a wonderful surprise. Almost three-quarters of the way through the month, I received a letter from my COBRA Third-Party Vendor notifying me that my ex-employer had changed plans, effective October 1st. So suddenly there I found myself without coverage until my elections were processed. To add insult to injury though, I went from a Class A PPO plan for $430/mo (not bad by NY standards) to a Class B HMO plan for (brace yourselves) $584/mo. So not only was I now dealing with being sans coverage, but I was paying a lot more for an HMO. Drat.

Fine, I figured, I have no choice. I called the TPV to confirm which forms I had to complete and return, wrote the painful cheques to cover the difference for October and the full November premium, and sent them off with my completed election form. Weeks went by and no word. Then suddenly I got a call from the Benefits Administrator from my old company. Turns out the COBRA TPV had messed up and there were additional forms that were required. It took until last week for my enrollment to process and display in the new provider's system. Unbelievable.

Since I do primarily contract work- not because that's my preference but rather that's what's available for my line of work- I find myself in this situation frequently. I mean, this is the fourth time in 2 years that my provider has changed, and so during that time I had effectively paid for 6 months of coverage during which I couldn't use my insurance because forms were being processed. I decided to try and improve my lot, and sought the counsel of my good friend, who works as a lawyer in the medical field. She told me that I should try to find an association to join in order to obtain group coverage.

I took the advice to heart and spent the last couple of weeks researching potential associations to join. Unfortunately for me though, these associations only offer group insurance if you are a 1099 or small business owner. For poor sobs like myself, the only option seems to remain only COBRA or individual health insurance, neither of which is a really decent option. Sigh.

What brought this to mind? I went downstairs earlier to collect the mail and lo! there was my premium notice waiting for my next cheque. Sometimes you've just got to wonder why there isn't a better way...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Canadian Secret Services???

So, tonight I got treated to the new James Bond flick. Since I **adored** Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, I have been officially in countdown mode leading up to this weekend. I was a tad worried however, since the early reviews were mixed and only gave the film 2.5 stars. But more to the point, I figured that since the only two actors I consider watching as Bond include Sean Connery (duh) and Daniel Craig, I was probably setting my expectations neck-breakingly high. Whatever.

Some black licorice, a bottle of water, and the last two seats left in the whole theatre and I found myself watching the film on opening weekend. While the credits and theme song were boring (who could've believed that Alicia Keys would produce such a snoozer of tune, or even chosen to continue to associate herself with it once she heard the master?), and I found many of the key chase scenes edited too fast (I like to actually see a bit of what is going on versus only feeling the chase if you will), I felt the critics were unfairly harsh. Yes, if you hadn't seen Casino Royale, you would probably be muttering "What the heck is going on"? But I felt the film was long enough (versus Casino Royale, which should have ran at least an extra 15 minutes), and I personally liked having a pair of Bond girls. To the reviewer who said that actress Olga Kurylenko slept-walked her way through the film, recognize that at least her character was given a back story and a mission of her own. And *hello*- all Bond got from her in the end was a kiss. The woman has backbone. You gotta respect that. Despite Gemma Atherton's character barely appearing onscreen long-enough to count as a Bond girl at all, I appreciated that she managed to create an endearing character, not to mention the homage to Goldfinger with her method of demise. Very au courant, albeit terrible to contemplate.

Speaking of girls, I had to tip my hat to the jab they made at the end to my fair country. In the final scene, the female character is a member of Canadian Secret Services. As she scurries out, she makes sure to give a quick "Thank you" to Bond. Always polite, us Canadians, LOL. I say, give her some credit though- she was smart enough to believe Bond whereas some other woman would've been stupid enough to "believe in her love". Sometimes the most important thing, after all, is to recognize the truth of the situation and act accordingly.

So while I think Casino Royale deserved its 4 star rating, and while the current film is more of a sequel to its prequel, I did enjoy the film very much. Which means nobody should be surprised when I go for a repeat showing again this month. :=) As a footnote worth noting, as we exited the theatre, a bochur came over and asked if we had seen the James Bond film and what we thought of it. Only in Brooklyn could you find a theatre packed with Yeshivish types all trying to get in to see James Bond opening weekend. Sometimes I've got to admit it: Brooklyn can rock!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Gestapo Officer's Girlfriend

First, I apologize for not posting this on the anniversary of Kristallnacht proper. However, given the importance of Kristallnacht to my family, I figured that a belated post was in order.

In any event, this week marked the 70th anniversary of the night that really marked the "beginning of the end" for not only German, but all European Jews. For my family, Kristallnacht was the event that precipitated their fleeing first to other countries in Europe before being smuggled into Canada. Yes, smuggled, since Canada had its "One Jew is Too Many" policy. To be precise, the story goes that a Gestapo officer's girlfriend, who was fond of my grandfather, convinced him after Kristallnacht that things were going to get very bad for the Jews. After being briefly detained by the Nazis, he caught up with his wife and children, as well as the brothers and their children who chose to leave. Of the remaining brothers and their families, only one cousin survived the camps. She joined the family that was already in Canada after the war.

So, here is a tip of the hat to that girlfriend, who saved countless generations through her kind-heartedness. And here is a moment of silence for those unfortunate enough to have believed in their native lands and lost their lives as a result. As we say "Never Again" for yet another year, the lessons that can be learned from our fallen brethren should remain in the forefront of our minds.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Post-Flood World

I'm a little behind on my learning, partially because I decided that this year I would finish each parshah's notes, etc. before moving on to the next week's. So my thought is actually from parshah Noach. Better late than never, I figure.

The pre-flood world was one that provided an easy existence: the climate was temperate year-round, food had to be accumulated only once every 40 years, and people were imbued with tremendous strength and fortitude. The end result though was that people took their cushy existence for granted and felt little gratitude towards Hashem. To prevent man from making the same mistake in the post-flood world, Hashem decided to make life much more difficult.

Yet in a sense, the post-flood world is no better at showing gratitude to Hashem or to keeping its focus on the Creator. Instead, while we are forced to acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on Hashem, we choose to stray by rationalizing our over-emphasis on material matters as necessary. Because we now have to exert ourselves tremendously in business, at home and otherwise in order to survive, we feel justified in putting Hashem on the "back burner" in order to devote our time and energy to material pursuits. To be frank, most of us, if deciding between spending 5 minutes on Torah matters versus 5 minutes on material matters, find it easier to focus on the latter.

However, by recognizing that our current preoccupations are as inherently flawed as those of the pre-flood generations, perhaps we can begin to shift our focus. That is, by turning our attention to what we choose to focus on and deciding to move Hashem up from the background to the foreground throughout our day, we can learn to prevent ourselves from following down the path that our pre-flood ancestors walked.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Important Note from Our Sponsor

This weekend I'm on strike. Well, except for the half hour I spent this evening checking my work email and downloading some documents for my next assignments, seriously- it's the first weekend since I started when I will not be working. Being Yekki, my striking is kind of revolutionary. I finally realized though that because I'm so crispy-fried, if I don't devote this weekend to trying to unwind, I won't be physically able to put in yet another 50 hours come Monday. So I actually have a few minutes to blog. :=) (And search for a teapot. Seems like Brooklyn only contains tea kettles, which begs the question: What do all the communities who drink tea do when their teapot breaks? Someone please fill me in on the mystery...)

It occurred to me today as I was talking to my friend that as much as I have what to say about living in Brooklyn, and much of it is of the "WTH"-kind, perhaps the problem actually lies with ME. I mean listen, I wasn't born and raised here, so I don't find life here to be remotely normal. But for 90% of my neighbours, Flatbush and/or Boro Park is all that they have known. This is LIFE for them, the only one they can fathom living, and just because my life lies in stark contrast to theirs doesn't mean that the problem is them or Brooklyn for that matter. Rather, the problem seems to lie with me and having to adjust to an existence that flies in the face of all I have previously known and cared about. In other words, their life is normal for them, and that's 100% valid. I consequently either have to learn to suck it up or move elsewhere.

While I may not love Flatbush then, not to mention some (ok, a lot) of the stuff that goes on here, since I choose to live here, that's my problem, not anyone else's.

Good Voch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008

Voting day!

Back in Canada I used to be so happy on Election Day, and why wouldn't I be? During any given election you're deciding between candidates from a dozen parties, so you're generally able to find a niche that precisely reflects your given political bent. More to the point though, since one often winds up with a minority government, you generally have a good chance of having your view actually represented in Ottawa. So it pays to vote, so to speak.

Since moving to the US, my voting experiences have been a mixed bag. I have generally found it to be more challenging, since there really are only two viable parties, and I cannot stand firmly behind either. The end result is that I generally cast my vote based on which candidate is most aligned with my beliefs, i.e., I take a "lesser of two evils" approach. Not that my vote has counted for much: in the first election after my arrival, I wasn't registered because I hadn't gotten an American driver's license yet. Then, in the second election, after 4 hours and a dent inflicted to my car in the polling station parking lot, my vote was discarded due to a clerical error- as reported to me a few months later via post.

To set the record straight and ensure success this time around, I awoke bright and early this morning to grant myself enough time to put in a full work day and get to the polls before they closed. When I arrived at the polling station, I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet and orderly the place was. Row upon well-marked row faced me, and it took less than a minute to locate my row, have them find my name and sign, and then escort me to the booth. I was very thankful when the proctor asked if it was my first time voting. I was taken aback for a second, since nobody had ever asked me that question before, even when it was indeed my first time voting at the tender age of 18. But then I figured that's their way of asking if you're familiar with their polling system. So I said it was the first time I was voting in New York, and she told me to come with her.

Boy, was I glad that I replied like I did, because when she pulled back that curtain, I was so surprised by the old-school machine. Every other time I've voted, it was either on a paper ballot (yeah, I'm that old) or a touch screen. Yet there I was, facing this huge wall of levers. She explained that I had to pull the handle to the right, then turn the lever that correlated to my selection to the left, and when I was done, to return the handle back to the left to record my answers. Then she went out, and I found myself mesmerized by the wall of levers. I began to clue in that the same candidates were reiterated across parties, so I could choose them for one party over another; I had never seen that before. I also noted that while I could make up to 8 selections for Senate, there were only 10 candidates in total, so what was the point of that?

Anyhow, I was almost done when my proctor called over the curtain whether I needed help because there was a time limit. Time limit????? Believe me, you can't tell a Yekki that there is a time limit and not have him/her panic. Thankfully I was almost done, and just had Proposition 1 to finish. After quickly deciphering Proposition 1 I became vaguely alarmed; how is it that a proposed amendment that impacts disabled veterans didn't make it into 10 seconds of the news during the entire campaign? I mean, here I was voting on a bill that could change the lives of those who fought to defend the rights, freedoms, and safety of Americans and paid with their health as a result, yet nobody had bothered to educate the public about the bill! Thinking about how important Remembrance Day was in my youth, I couldn't shake the feeling that I must be really old-school, because I was bothered by the lack of media coverage. When did people stop caring about those who took duty seriously? I cast my selection, flung open the curtain (hey, people were waiting), and exited the booth.

And felt a wave of happiness that I had fulfilled my civic duty, a feeling that I haven't experienced in a very long time.

This morning during davening, I asked Hashem to please elect the candidate who would be best for yiddin both here and world-wide. I then asked that if that candidate should not end up being elected, that Hashem should please protect us from persecution, discrimination and any of the other items on the long laundry list of measures that have been implemented against yiddin throughout history- or any newly devised plans/measures...

It should only be so, bli ayin hara!