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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some Unsolicited Thoughts from an Olah Vatikah on Her First Day as a non-Olah Chadasha/10 Signs Your Klita is Going Well

[A Guest Post by Zahava]

Welcome new olim!

It is with a profound and combined sense of gratitude, pride, surprise, and joy that I spent some time this morning thumbing through the pix of today’s new olim over at the Nefesh B’Nefesh FB page. In many ways it feels like just yesterday that my family and I stood in your shoes –- feeling simultaneously exhilarated and shocked by our new reality. It was, to put it mildly, quite an emotional experience.

I well remember the charge of excitement mingled with more than a touch of nervousness. What had I done? I had thought I was prepared before we left, but upon landing –- despite the warm and sincere welcome -– I was suddenly unsure that “sane” was an appropriate description of my mental status….

10 years later, I am still exhilarated and shocked -- exhilarated because I still truly believe that living here is the best choice for me and my family,  and remain somewhat in awe that we get to “live the dream”  -- and shocked because it simply doesn’t seem possible that 10 years have already flown by!

But, 10 years have elapsed since that incredible day that we alit from our charter NBN flight and became Israeli citizens. When I take an honest look at the many memories that have been collected over the past 10 years, I realize how much we have all grown.

In no particular order, and by no means a complete list, here are 10 signs that my family and I have successfully made the transition from completely American to Anglo-Israeli: 

10. Ability to hear the breaks between the words when listening to Adi Ashkenazi! (She is hilarious, btw!)

9.   Successful anticipation/prediction of the contents of a can of tomato product BEFORE opening it and without consulting a dictionary –- and it is CORRECT! (Let’s just say we had a lot of “tomato-surprise” dinners!)

8.   Gratitude to the point of giddiness when it rains – even when you are freezing your tush off!

7.   Solid white albacore seems dry.

6.   Ability to UNDERSTAND Adi Ashkenazi! (What can I say, she is really funny – and so are Asi and Guri)!

5.   The automatic answer to any question involving directions is “yashar, yashar v’aaz tishol!” (Straight, straight, and then ask!)

4.   The ability to refrain from throttling someone whose answer to you is either “y’hiyeh b’seder” (it’ll be okay) or “aval lo kara klum!” (but nothing happened).

3.   A tourist, even after hearing you speak in Hebrew, asks if you speak any English.

2.   Your idea of “special occasion” clothing for your youngest son is a white shirt, blue shorts and sandalim – and you are genuinely shocked that your family in the States expected him to be in a suit.

1.   Your kids celebrate that day which signifies them having lived more than half their lives in Israel!

Welcome home “NBN Olim Class of July 23, 2013!” The entire Treppenwitz (NBN Olim Class of July 23, 2003) family wishes you a successful and soft klita!

Posted by David Bogner on July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lie down with dogs... get up with fleas

According to a news report, an 'observer' from the self-described Human Rights group 'B'tselem' has filed a complaint about being shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet while filming a violent confrontation between Palestinians hurling stones and Israeli Border Patrol officers using non-lethal crowd dispersal measures (tear gas and rubber bullets).

To be clear, I am all for neutral observers filming interactions between civilians and military/police personnel.  It is an extra layer of accountability, in addition to existing laws and rules of engagement, that can help reduce or even prevent abuses by government forces... while discouraging civilians and/or irregular combatants (terrorists) from filing spurious charges against official forces who are acting lawfully.

The problem is that B'tselem long ago abandoned any pretense at neutrality/objectivity.  Their cameras are invariably pointed at the Israeli military, police and settlers, while systematically editing their footage in such a way so as to only show Palestinian civilians acting peacefully, waving flags and chanting.

I've personally witnessed violent confrontations here where B'Tselem photographers stood amongst the Palestinians who were throwing stones and molotov cocktails... yet their cameras were pointed only at the Israeli's, apparently in hopes of capturing their violent reaction.  And there are countless cases of violent clashes being 'made to order' by the very presense of B'tslem cameras.

I won't get into analyzing the mindset that motivates a certain segment of Israeli society to stoop to such levels of self-loathing that they aid and abet groups that have openly dedicated themselves to Israel's vilification and destruction.

Shame on B'Tselem for abandoning their original mission which, as I stated at the outset, was not only laudable, but IMHO, essential.  Their current actions are so one-sided and biased as to be indistinguishable from acting as human shields from behind which violent and illegal actions can be carried out against Israeli government forces and citizens with impunity.

And as far as I'm concerned, this B'tselem 'observer' put herself in harms way and got exactly what she was looking for; harm.

If you align and embed yourself with people carrying out illegal/violent acts, you can't cry foul when you get winged by one of the non-lethal tools at the disposal of the military and police forces whose job it is to confront such acts.

As Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard's Almanac, "qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent" ("He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas").

Posted by David Bogner on July 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, July 19, 2013

She hasn't lost her shine

I was basically useless at work yesterday. All I could think about was Ariella being bounced around the IDF processing center like a shiny silver ball in a pinball machine. I knew she could hold her own and stand up to most any abuse. But I didn't want it to be at the cost of the light that shines from within her.

Finally at the end of the day when I was on my way home from work, a single photo hit my cell phone.

I needn't have worried.

Shabbat Shalom.



Posted by David Bogner on July 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 18, 2013

We dropped off our little girl today...

I feel like my whole life has been spent dropping Ariella off.

I can still remember dropping her off at nursery school, kindergarten and grade school.  We dropped her off at youth group events, at friends' houses and at the mall.  We dropped her at high school, at her navigation and survival courses and at her mechina (pre-military academy).

What every one of those drop-offs had in common was that no matter what... no matter how focused, excited, frightened or ambivalent Ariella might have been about where she was going... she always looked back... just as she had on that first day of nursery school... and smiled.  Some kids look back to seek reassurance and courage from their parents.  Ariella always seemed to peek back over her shoulder in order to reassure us... as if to say, "Don't worry, I'll be just fine."

But nothing prepares a parent for dropping a child off at an army induction center.

This morning at 7:30 AM, Zahava and I dropped our little girl off on Ammunition Hill, to begin a challenge/adventure that will last two years, perhaps more.

When we arrived, there were dozens of other families already milling about outside with their draft-age children.  And although many of the 'kids' knew each other and spent a lot of the time hugging old friends and trying to act like this was just another day, all the parents could do was look at one another and smile with our hearts in our mouths.


After about half an hour (after all, the army is all about waiting, right?), a voice came over the loudspeaker telling everyone to come inside.  As we filed inside, the 'kids' were asked to show their teudat zehut (national I.D. card) and tsav giyus (draft notice) to a Sergeant stationed at the entrance.


Ariella's name was duly checked off on the list, and we went in and stood around waiting for her name to appear on a big electronic board.

Like all the other families, we took photos of Ariella... as if by capturing her image at this place and time we could somehow keep her in our pockets and by our side.

Before long, we heard Ari's name called over the overhead loudspeaker, and her name, along with several other soon-to-be soldiers, flashed up on the electronic board.  


We took our little girl through the crowd to the end of the large hall where her I.D. and draft notice were checked once more against a list, she was handed a small book of Psalms and a wrapped piece of candy... and ushered through a door to a curving outside walkway.  And although we knew that up that walkway waited the beginning of the rest of our little girl's life, we couldn't join her... she had to go alone.

As I said, nothing prepares a parent for such a moment.  How could it?  

But as my heart was both breaking and bursting with pride, just before Ariella turned the corner and was lost from view, she looked back just like she always had... just a little peek to reassure us that she'd be just fine.

Looking back

Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trying to stay out of this

Even though I still pay taxes (and vote) in the US, since I no longer live there I should probably refrain from weighing in on current events there.

However, I have to say I am non-plussed by the demonstrations taking place in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.  A demonstration/protest usually has some goal in mind... some expectation of a changed outcome. 

Yet here is a jury verdict at the end of legal proceedings and trial that were conducted under a media microscope.  That's the nature of the beast.  That's the horse race.  The police, prosecutors, attorneys, and judges (and let's not forget the media) all did their utmost to influence the outcome of the trial.  But in the end, the decision was left in the hands of a bunch of people too dumb to get out of jury duty.  I kid.  Sort of.

Seriously, it's an imperfect system.  But it's better than most.

But I just wish that the public would grow up and realize that the time to examine (and perhaps change) the rules by which this game is played happens in the voting booth.  Sure, some pressure can be brought to bear on elected officials.  But for the most part, you ask the policy questions before you vote for someone... not after.  Otherwise it just seems like silly buyer's remorse to protest that the race was run according to rules you approved of by voting for this stiff over that one.  

What's that?  You didn't vote for the people who wrote / upheld the current laws?  Well, guess what?  The majority of your neighbors did.  Welcome to democracy!  Better luck next time around.

If you think a law is unjust and should be changed... or there is some gap in the legal code that needs filling... by all means try to elect people who feel as you do, or at least do what you can to influence those already in office.  That is an excellent reason to hold demonstrations and do other things to express your outrage.

But to protest the outcome of a jury trial is just childish.  It is like calling to rerun the horse race after the last horse has crossed the finish line, just because your horse didn't finish in the money.

And one other thing that troubles me deeply:  There is, in my humble opinion, an unmistakable racist element to these sort of protests.  After all, I didn't see anything of this sort after the OJ verdict; a flawed verdict if ever there was one!  

I guess when the flawed system lets your horse win, you shut up and count your winnings.

But as I said... I'm trying to stay out of this.

Posted by David Bogner on July 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ever wonder what happened to the Blue Meanies?

Yellow Submarine fans can rest assured that the Blue Meanies are alive and well... and living among us.

I present as proof, this photo of a recent European protest surrounding the Snowden affair: 

Do you see her?

protester upclose.JPG 
Look closer

I rest my case, your honor

Posted by David Bogner on July 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I love when a plan comes together!

A few days ago I wrote a post about a ten year old girl in Missouri who had had her toy scooter stolen... and how, upon reading about the incident, the crowd from the scooter forum I frequent had stepped up to try to make things right.

Well, here's the end result.  I pixelated her face because I don't have her parent's permission to post her photo online.  But trust me when I tell you she is smiling ear to ear!


Scooter are expensive, and like any valuable commodity, attractive to criminals.  So, naturally, a reoccurring theme on the scooter forum is the near universal problem of theft... and what kind of punishment those who steal scooters deserve.  

But of all the stolen scooter threads I've read where we fantasized about the revenge we'd take on the thieves if we could ever catch them... I think this one collective triumph of good over evil is, by far, the best revenge imaginable.

Posted by David Bogner on July 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The unbearable strangeness of... wanting

I must be wired strangely.

Because I can't find a reasonable explanation for why certain things bore me to tears... while others fascinate me to the point of sleeplessness and obsession.

Take, for example, a little factoid I recently read about an element called Gallium.

Gallium is an unremarkable element but for the fact that this shiny silvery substance begins liquefying at 85.85°F. 

Which means that holding a chunk of Gallium in your hand for a few minutes will allow you to watch it turn into a quick-silver-esque puddle of kewlness... without any of the health risks associated with, say, Mercury.

Oh, and did I mention that you can pick up a nice chunk of Gallium on Amazon for a song?

To be clear, there is absolutely no practical reason I can think of for owning any Gallium. And yet...

Must. Resist. Temptation.... 

You secretly want to do this...
... you know you do!


[hat tip:  Book of Joe]

Posted by David Bogner on July 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I love the smell of altruism in the morning...

I may have mentioned on one or two occasions that I frequent an online scooter forum for Vespa enthusiasts (although the forum's international membership consists of scooterists and motorcyclists of myriad stripe and brand allegiance).

Aside from the pleasure I get from sharing scooter-related opinions and advice with like-minded people around the world, there is a very satisfying sense of community and civility in this little corner of the Internet that is sorely lacking in most other parts of the online and offline world.

While this forum certainly has a clear set of posted rules governing the behavior of the participants, there are also unwritten rules - an oral tradition of sorts - that has developed organically, which deplores bad behavior in general... and larceny in particular. 

When one of the members has a crash as a result of a careless or aggressive motorist, the forum rallies around the member with soothing words of sympathy, advice and 'care packages' of chocolate and such.

And if a member's scooter is stolen (something that happens with alarming frequency, despite security precautions such as alarms and locks), a network of members springs into action to offer advice on dealing with insurance issues, as well as passing around regional lookout notices to help try to recover the stolen property.

But at the end of the day, everyone is expected to be responsible for their own safety, as well as for the security of their equipment.  Which means that while we may sympathize with an injured rider and commiserate over a stolen scooter.  As adults, everyone is expected to play the cards they are dealt... and, where necessary, ante up.

This past week, an unusual, but heartbreaking photo was posted on the forum by a member.

It seems a ten-year-old little girl in Missouri had been given a mini-electric (rechargeable) scooter, and had parked it for safe-keeping on the front porch of her family's home.  This wasn't a real scooter, mind you.  It was just a sophisticated electric (albeit, rideable) toy meant to be used in parking lots and on sidewalks.

In spite of the precaution of placing it on the porch, some miscreant stole the little girl's scooter.  The next day, the girl made up a large sign which she placed in a prominent spot near her house... and a picture of the sign was posted to the forum:

Stolen scooter

Something about the sign seems to have struck a note with the members of the forum.  Maybe it was the fact that the little girl was responding to her loss in such a positive and mature manner.  Maybe it was because of her excellent spelling, grammar and penmanship.  Maybe it was just a basic, 'There but for the grace of G-d, go I...', sort of thing.

Whatever the reason, forum members started asking questions such as, "What kind of scooter was it?"... "How much did it cost?"... "Can you show us a picture of what it looked like?".

Apparently the scooter was still so new that the family hadn't had a chance to photograph the little girl riding it, but they posted a picture they found of the exact model and color along with an estimated replacement cost (according to Amazon) of about $250:

Electric scooter
Without anyone actually issuing a call to action, one by one many of the hundreds of forum members around the world started chiming in to pledge a few dollars towards replacing the little girl's scooter.

After it quickly became clear that we were well on our way to covering the cost of the stolen scooter, the owner of a (real) scooter dealership in LA, who is also a forum member, stepped up and promised to provide the balance of whatever was needed to replace the little girl's scooter.

All of this took place in the course of just a few days.  And ironically, it wasn't even a 'real' scooter that was stolen... just a battery powered, rechargeable sidewalk/parking lot toy.

It made me feel proud to be part of such a community.  And it warmed my heart to see that the instinct to perform 'Tikun Olam' (repairing the world), crosses religious, racial, political and geographic lines.

I love the smell of altruism in the morning.  It smells like... kindness.

[I hope to post a photo of the little girl on her new scooter once this small corrective action has run its course]

Posted by David Bogner on July 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, July 08, 2013

Giving our Teachers What They Deserve

[Here's a little something that I thought was worth sharing.  Maybe you know a Jewish teacher worthy of recognition...]

"Jewish Continuity" has become a byword for the concern that many people in the Jewish community feel about the future of Judaism in the diaspora. The subject is particularly important to Jewish educators who feel the weight of the community's alarm because, whatever solutions are proposed, they all point to Jewish education as the core element that will ensure a strong and vibrant Jewish society of the future.

Countless Jewish organizations and institutions devote themselves to the question of how to educate upcoming generations of Jewish leaders, activists, and members in a way that will inspire them to become active members and leaders in the Jewish world. Some of these organizations identify with a particular stream or philosophy of Judaism while others promote a specific educational mode, project or framework for Jewish learning.

As Jewish leadership focuses on Jewish education, a few groups have decided to focus on individual Jewish educators. A creative and effective Jewish educator can make all the difference in a young person's life, inspiring, motivating and modeling behavior that the student will, hopefully, wish to emulate in his future life. To address the importance of Jewish educators in creating quality diaspora Jewish education, several Jewish educator awards have been established. These awards aim to acknowledge the work of effective Jewish educators and set a higher standard for all Jewish teachers nationwide.
Grinspoon-Steinhardt Awards
The Steinhardt Foundation, the Grinspoon Foundation and the JESNA forum for Jewish Education have partnered to create the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education.  This award was created to acknowledge the influence of classroom-based teachers on the Jewish lives and future community involvement of their students. Grinspoon-Steinhardt award recipients are recognized for their demonstrations of exceptional achievements in the field of Jewish education as well as for their service as effective Jewish role models for their students.

Milken Educator Awards
Lowell Milken from the Milken Family Foundation created the MFF Jewish Educator Awards as a forum that recognizes the work of outstanding Jewish educators. The award is nationwide and is presented annually to deserving Jewish educators as a way of acknowledging their efforts in support of their students, their professional leadership and their relationship with the families and communities that rely on their teaching skills and their devotion to their work. Lowell Milken who also created a a number of non-Jewish education projects including TAP and the MEA, hopes to strengthen the moral of Jewish teachers through the award.

Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education
The Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education presents an annual award to K-12 Jewish classroom-based educators who teach in the San Francisco Bay area. The award recognizes effective Jewish educators who transmit Jewish values and knowledge to their students through innovative and creative classroom approaches and strategies. Recipients of the Diller Awards do not need to be Jewish but are recognized for their demonstrated commitment to providing their students with a strong Jewish foundation within the Jewish educational system.

Association of Orthodox Jewish Teachers Awards
The Association of Orthodox Jewish Teachers presents its annual award to teachers who work within the New York Public School System. The award aims to recognize the efforts of educational personnel who strive to sensitize the school system, including New York Public School administrators, teachers and students, to the special concerns and needs of the Jewish community. The Association award emphasizes the activities of teachers and other educational professionals who present Jewish concerns and Judaism to the non-Jewish community.

Covenant Awards
The Covenant Award is awarded annually to three outstanding Jewish educators whose innovative educational models and practices have influenced their students' Jewish lives. Covenant Award honorees are recognized for having distinguished themselves in their classroom teaching skills, professional development, the arts, family education, storytelling, curriculum design, Tikkun Olam, adult education, leadership and other relevant areas of Jewish education.

Stuart I. Raskas Award
The Stuart I. Raskas Award operates out of the St. Louis branch of the Central Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE). The Raskas Awards recognize Jewish educators in the St. Louis region who have exemplified proficiency in subject matter, their dedication to Jewish education and their commitment to their students and families. Recipients of the Raskas Award automatically become that year's St. Louis nominee for Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Posted by David Bogner on July 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Instead of rushing to judgement...

Within hours of the first reports of this weekend's Asiana (South Korean) 777 airliner crash in San Francisco, the news and tweet-o-sphere were crowded with people making grand pronouncements as to what went wrong.

One commenter observed that "It was pilot error...the plane came in low and slow and hit the breakwater before the runway".  Another shared that she saw the plane coming in "fast and heavy".  Countless others have weighed in with pseudo-technical jargon to express their own views on how/why the scheduled flight from Seoul to San Francisco broke up upon arrival rather than touching down smoothly and taxiing to the terminal as one would expect.

What all of these pundits share is a dearth of solid information, and a  complete lack of background in aeronautics, engineering or accident investigation.

At this point, the pilots of the ill-fated airliner may have some clue as to why things went pear shaped at the end of their long international flight.  But even they will have to wait for the black boxes and other data to be compiled and examined by the folks in the white lab coats who actually look into this sort of thing for a living, before knowing the full scope of what happened.

My point being: will the pundits, media talking heads and their ill-informed 'experts' please STFU?!

If you have to fill the news cycle with something, why not focus on something that can actually be quantified and parced: the number of survivors and the reason there were so few causalties in what appears to be a devastating event.

My guess (and, I stress, it is only a guess) is that the credit for the mostly positive outcome can be largely attributed to the cabin crew... the underpaid, under-appreciated and frequently abused flight attendants.

I fly... a LOT.  I admit that like many passengers, I tolerate, rather than listen to, the safety briefing at the start of each flight. Truth be told, I could probably give the safety briefing if they asked me to, having heard it so many times.  But if push came to shove, I doubt I could carry out the instructions without the close supervision of the cabin staff.

Think about that for a moment... if most people are like me, that means that but for a few random interested souls, the entire responsibility for making sure everything goes correctly in an emergency falls to the poor woman you watched being verbally abused because she didn't bring the pillow or scotch fast enough to suit the traveler seated in 13C.

Whether the crash ends up attributed to mechanical failure, pilot error, some combination thereof, or something else completely... looking at photos of the burned-out plane reminds me just how important the overworked cabin staff are to the safety of travelers.

That there were so few fatalities, and that everyone was evacuated from the shattered and burning aircraft, is worthy of note. I hope the cabin crew gets some sort of medal and/or recognition... but they probably won't.

These people spend most of their time handing out snacks and drinks... but we allow ourselves to forget that their real function is to make sure scores of inattentive, uncooperative, and ultimately terrified people get off the plane quickly and safely in the event of an emergency.

That's no small feat.

So as we enter peak vacation season, I'd like to suggest that we ALWAYS treat the cabin staff with deference, and try to make sure they feel appreciated rather than harassed.

Next time you fly, make sure to say thank you to the flight attendants when they bring you that extra blanket... and as you leave the plane. You don't have to be exiting on an inflatable slide to recognize the selfless heroism of their service.

Posted by David Bogner on July 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack