One month ago, when I invited the “family” to Seder, there was some trepidation.

Why trepidation at just another annual ritual?  Well, here is a partial list of the invitees:

  • Dad (who is not the man he was prior to his brain injury), accompanied by his Guyanese home attendant who had never been to a Seder;
  • Shelly who is not romantically involved with Dad, regardless of what Uncle L thinks (we will get to THAT later);
  • Our g-ddaughters, who are not Jewish and one of whom has never cracked open the Bible (but she makes amazing Kosher for Passover desserts, so go figure);
  • My Uncle L, who having recently lost Aunt R just a few months ago, wanted bring his paramour of 25 years (will someone PLEASE shoot me);
  • My Aunt R’s blood nephew and his wife, who may not be so psyched to know that Uncle L had a side gig (a shonda — embarrassment — for the neighbors);
  • FOPOB who is not always emotionally or mentally “present” and SOPOB who is not always physically present;
  • Cousin Gentle, CB, SOB and HOSOB — thank G-d; and
  • my personal trainer who gave me good arms for my wedding dress.

So, bottom line:  lesbians, their baker g-ddaughter, an uncle, his lover, a Greek Chorus and a brisket.  La follie. Madness.

Ok, by the grace of G-d, my aunt’s nephew and his wife couldn’t come so we didn’t have to create even more lies about the state of affairs (pardon the pun) of the family.

Because Uncle L keeps white wine in his refrigerator for his paramour, I bought very good bottles of various white grapes. Only to find out that she likes red wine, but Uncle L won’t buy red because he thinks it doesn’t keep for long.

Sidebar:  Really, Uncle?  Dirt has thrived in your home since 1954.  New life forms and strains of antibiotics could be discovered in your slums-of-Calcutta-apartment and you are worried about whether red wine will go bad?  I know people draw lines in the sand but, but, whoa, that is really strange.

A second sidebar:  I asked S, Uncle Larry’s paramour (and our new relative), whether she had been to a Seder before, and she said she had been to four, to which SOS exclaimed, “wow, she has more Jewish connections than we thought!!”  Oy. Oy. Oy. Out of the mouths of babes, indeed, but, sometimes, a muzzle would work just fine.

Even another sidebar:  When will I stop calling her, “the paramour”?  Check back with me in 25 years.  A generation is a biblical time period and quite possibly after 25 years we will not remember that there was an “overlap” when Uncle L was with Aunt R.

I told S she was welcome in our home as long as she could handle loving references to Aunt R.  Wow, now that was a tense moment.

And I haven’t even talked about the preparation for the Seder or the Seder itself.  More anon.  Stay tuned (with pictures from SOB).



Grateful, too, for the echoes of holidays past

This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful that my Dad is still alive, after these frightening roller-coaster few months.  Now, things are settling into a gradual, if at times still bumpy, decline.

Around our table, there were four people over 85, and all in need of home attendants (but only one, Dad (now into his 90s) has someone), 10 people near or over 50 (but younger than 60), and 2 around the age of 10.

I couldn’t help but wonder when and how all those hordes of young children, young-ish parents, grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles of past Thanksgivings vanished, as if in a flash.

Where have all the others gone?  Long time passing.  Where have all our younger days gone?  Long time ago.

But our mothers, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, great aunts and great uncles — and even the younger versions of us — were all with us at Thanksgiving, reminding us of the past, giving us perspective on the present and, maybe, a little hope for the future.

Happy Thanksgiving.




It is the year 5773 in the Hebrew calendar.  A new year.  Jews commemorate the birthday of the world (and start a 10-day introspection period culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement).  We don’t sing happy birthday to the world and there is no cake.  I don’t think G-d eats cake.  And it would have to be accessible to all, so it would be gluten-free, sustainably made and of recycled left-overs of other birthday cakes.  But sitting in synagogue makes me pretty hungry, so I would have had a piece of the cake with a cup of some tea.  Well, now that I think of it, maybe I would pass on this cake.

For Jews, the world was born on the 6th day of creation and, soon after, G-d rested.  Let’s be honest, this is true for some Jews because, as Jews, we are genetically coded to be contrarians.  If you say tomayto, I’ll say tomahto.  And not only that, I will tell you that the Torah supports me.  It is not a Jewish holiday if there are not at least ten opposing views and interpretations.

But I digress.

During these days of awe and atonement, we celebrate the cycles of life and the blessings of the prior year.  And we pray for our lives.  Just in case that isn’t too big of a task, we also try to re-set our internal compasses for the coming year: do justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  It is hard to do in our crazy, fast-paced, instant-gratification world.

No year is ever the same as before or after.  I am a different person every year, shaped by my growth and my failings.  And the future always seems to hold different promises and lurking tests.  And life comes at you.  You just have to be ready for it.  I believe that every event offers a prism of paths a person can take.  The question is which is the best action to take, or is it inaction?  And the event isn’t always about you, but your action or inaction helps define and redefine your character.

And there are temptations and tests.  We all give in to temptation (did I need that extra glass of wine?) and we don’t always step up to the tests of our humanity and our sense of fundamental fairness (the person begging in the street).  Sometimes we take the easy way out, sometimes we indulge in pleasures to excess and sometimes we forget to notice that a friend needs help.

So, this year, as I have done for some many years before, I am looking to the New Year as a chance to discard the ruts of last year, to navigate the world as best I can with limited indulgences and maximum humanity.  And forgiveness for my frailties and those of others.

Yes, I have dumbed-down my expectations of me for these holy days.  Mostly, I just hope that I have the fortitude in the coming year to navigate the crises that lurk and protect POB and SOS and their happiness and security.  And for the happiness, health and life for those whom I love — my dear family of origin, my friends and my friends-who-are-family.  If they are ok, then I can fend for myself.

May it be a sweet, healthy and prosperous new year for all.

Seder — a chance to mourn, a chance to laugh, and yes, a chance to sleep, perhaps to dream . . . .

Passover looms large in POB’s and my life.

For Jewish women, Passover is very complicated.  And writing about it is complicated, so this blog is complicated.   So sit back and pretend it is a Fellini script.

In our house, Passover is all about MOPOB.  Why?

Passover was MOPOB’s self-designated proving ground as a Jew by choice.  I remember the Seder I attended at MOPOB’s house.  MOPOB was stressed, as if the bubbes (grandmothers) of 100 generations of Jews were looking down at her wondering if she was using the right amount of chicken fat in the matzo balls.  That kitchen was way too crowded with all those mavens; a lesser person than MOPOB would have made a run for it.

In 2006, POB and I started having Seder for both of our families.  POB was desperate to have those matzo balls float (MOPOB’s receipe; and they did).  We had a rigorous discussion (MOPOB’s form of exercise) about an aspect of the Exodus story.  Then we all ate POB’s delicious meal together with family and friends.  MOPOB pronounced herself satisfied with POB’s and my hard work and how we melded two families’ traditions.  And shortly thereafter, she died.

Sidebar:  So, really, really, MOPOB, with that as a backdrop, how could Seder NOT be about you?

MOB didn’t really like all the prayers and stuff, but she loved having people around her table eating and talking and eating and having meaningful interaction (no idle chit chat at the Seder table).  And anything that tripped off MOB’s children’s tongues were quite possibly the most brilliant ideas theretofore uttered in the history of humanity.  So, it was all good.  For MOB, the most important thing was that, regardless of how everyone came to the table, everyone left that table as family, hugging and kissing (and there were no outrageous failures of tradition that would be shondahs for (i.e., embarrass us in front of) the neighbors).

Over the years, POB and I have gotten comfortable with our mothers’ looming large on this holiday.  The kitchen, though, gets crowded, especially when POB is making the traditional foods.  Her mother’s spirit hovers and my mother’s takes a magazine and sits at the counter and reads, ready to pitch in, but not really ever knowing her way around even her own kitchen (this for another blog).

And, as the years spin by, the elders have gotten, well, even older and a little more forgetful and a little more eccentric in their actions.

Sidebar:  If truth be told, age earns our quirkiness or idiosyncrazies (no misspelling here) the more refined term, “eccentric”.

I had arranged to pick up an extra table from DOB’s house. on Friday  He also bought some wine for us.

Sidebar:  Dad buys wine that is, well, barely usable for cooking.  But it was such a good price that he couldn’t resist.  “And who can tell the difference?” he asks rhetorically.  Dad, I am no connoisseur(se), but you buy rot gut wine.

Sidebar on sidebar:  FOPOB is no better.  He goes for the cheapest Kosher wine he can find.  One year, he told us not to buy wine because he was bringing wine.  He brought ONE bottle and he knew we were having nearly 20 people.  Are you kidding me?  Good thing I always buy non-kosher GOOD wine.  Clearly, we only serve DOB’s and FOPOB’s wine to someone on his or her fourth glass, because that person is too shiker (Yiddish, meaning drunk) to know the difference.

I arrived at DOB’s house around 1pm.  He decided that he will just come over early and hang out with us, while we are trying to put together a sit down dinner for 16.  Oh, goody.  But DOB is such a lovely guy and very lonely, so how could I not bring him along?  I called POB, who primed SOS to read books with Grandpa DOB.  Ok, they went through a survey of American history, and the origins of the Silk Road and it was only 2:30pm.  Time for reinforcements.  I called HOSOB, who is busy working on commissioned pieces of art.  But I know SOB was working hard at the hospital, so she couldn’t stop my asking HOSOB to drop the paint brush, shower and run over to our house to entertain the “boys.”  SOB might have stern words for me later for my having taken HOSOB away from his work, but that day it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

HOSOB, a fabulous member of the clan, came over and took over, leaving POB and me to our preparations.  At one point, DOB was tired and SOS needed a little more exercise so HOSOB took SOS for a walk.  (Some days, I think we really should have a treadmill . . . .)

Meanwhile GDJOB arrived with Kosher for Passover cakes (which were indeed FABULOUS).  As she walked in, she said, “I know you thought I was probably [DOB] . . . Ummmm [as she saw DOB seated]  Oh, hi, [DOB]!!”  Ah, yes, GDJOB, careful when you walk into our house, because as DOB gets older, his sense of appropriate arrival time can make you wonder whether he thought Passover was a lunch or dinner affair.  OOOOOOOOhhhh.  The first of many, many, uncomfortable moments chez nous.  Luckily, GDJOB had to park the car and run some errands.  She exited stage left, post-haste.  And we have a memory for the ages.

Fast forward . . . .   Seder time.

Sidebar:  Elders, children and the sandwich generation. Believers in one thing or another, non-believers and people just having a power nap before dinner.  There was one moment when I looked at my assembled family and remembered when they were the giants of my youth, when they were young and strong and idolized by my sister, my brother and me.  Wasn’t that yesterday?

We all sat to fulfill a commandment that binds the past with the present and the present with the future:

We will go, young and old; we will go, bored and snoozing; we will go, Jew, non-Jew and Atheists; we will go all together to observe the Passover ritual for we shall tell our children, on that day, G-d freed us from slavery, from the house of bondage.” 

Pretty profound stuff.  That is until I noticed my 80+ year-old uncle was already napping and drooling, and FOPOB had taken the whole bowl of haroset and started eating out of it with his spoon. . . .

Also, there is a personal corollary theme: 

We were not delivered from slavery to eat turkey and drink gross kosher wine.  We were liberated to eat a lovely marbled brisket cooked to perfection and delicious Cabernet that can stand up to a Yiddisha brisket.

We don’t follow the Haggadah religiously (as it were).  I like to make the Exodus story relevant to the modern day.  I pick the passages and copy the relevant pages so we can all read together and discuss.  I find portions of the story disturbing and don’t shy away from that.  There is a reason why Jews “tremble” before G-d.  The G-d of the Hebrew Bible is pretty violent and mercurial.  But we must observe the traditions, from generation to generation, even if one year, my theme was:  Saddam Hussein and G-d, compare and contrast.”  Yep, step away from the computer, lest a lightening bolt destroy you and your family.

Because of Arab Spring, SOS has become very interested in revolution and civil wars that inevitably follow.  So, in my preparation for the Seder, I read the Exodus story to find elements that spoke to heady days of freedom and the subsequent factionalism once the common enemy is vanquished.  There is a lot of turmoil following the Red Sea crossing.  The fluidity of the story is both a strength and a weakness — anyone can find something to support his or her thesis, whether for good or malevolence.

And of course, in addition to the usual “emblems of festive rejoicing,” we have our own:  (i) the Moses action figure (with detachable commandments for easy throwing); (ii) a watch symbolizing that we only have one hour before my sister takes the Haggadahs away and declares the ceremony at an end, and (iii) a bottle of the two-buck chuck my Dad will always bring and we will never, ever, drink.

We will fill in this second Seder plate as our tradition continues….

But for now, the matzo balls floated and that is indeed a blessing.


A zissin Pesach to all.

Valentine’s Day

POB doesn’t like roses (“Can you just imagine the carbon footprint expended on getting all of those roses here . . . “) and she doesn’t eat chocolate (we have to fit into our wedding dresses).  And, POB rolls her eyes at Hallmark-made holidays.

So, I did not spend a dime on this Valentine’s Day.  Not even a card.  Nothing.  Zip. Nada.

I got a free pass, even from the President of the United States.  Prior to his formal press conference today on his budget, President Obama made a public service announcement to the gentlemen in attendance, exhorting them to remember it is Valentine’s Day and “go big”.  I may be no lady, but I am surely not a gentleman.  Double exemption.  So golden.

I did come home to a home-made spicy tofu dish that POB discovered in a recipe book.  “It is just like chicken,” she said.  “This is sooooooooo not chicken,” I thought, as I ate all of it.  And I loved it, because it is Valentine’s Day and I have some Prilosec handy for the reflux anschluss.

So remind me again, what is so wrong with some empty, unnecessary calories, some dead flowers and a ten-dollar greetings card?  Going from golden (ok, smug) to dyspepsic in less than 12 hours is to experience a true a karma boomerang.

A Merry Little Jewish Christmas

Even though I believe that one respects other’s traditions by not co-opting them, I do live in the real world.

In the real world, my partner and I are lesbians moms to a boy, my sister is married to a Catholic, my Jewish cousin has secretly (all his 67 years) wanted to decorate a Christmas tree and my son thinks that Hannukah wouldn’t be Hannukah without presents.  There, you have it.  A typical American family trying to navigate the traditions without losing our minds in the process.

Friday night, we started the festive weekend at the children’s Hannukah service and potluck at our synagogue.  Our synagogue meets at the Church of the Holy Apostles (Chasidim Kadoshim, to the Jews).  As if to show me that I am not the clueless among Jews, someone said, “It smells so wonderful in here, like pine trees!”  Really?  Really?  Ever hear of “deck the halls with bows of holly .  .  . ” and the recipe, “kill a tree,  attach chachkas to them, and one week later reduce to mulch.  Repeat each year.” ??????

We also stayed for the adult service.  It is difficult to take seriously a rabbi who has a Santa’s elves’ styled hat with a menorah on it but she did take it off when she spoke some words of Torah.  It was an important drash to hear.  There were three main themes:  our viewpoint is imbued with our baggage, for every light there is a shadow and vice-versa and, finally, don’t accept the heroes of a story at face value.

First, the baggage.  The story of Hannukah is simply the miracle that oil enough for one day lasted eight days so that the Jews who recaptured the Temple could perform the necessary re-sanctification rituals.  But if it is 1948 Palestine, the story is about a military victory by a small group against mighty armies.  If it is 1498, during the Inquisition, it is about the subjugation of a people.  If you gather rabbis, it is about a miracle.  If it is 2011, you might wonder if the Maccabees were zealots somewhat akin to today’s radical fundamentalists.  (In fact, history bears that out.)  So, who you are, where you’ve come from, and who you want to be, can shade the way you tell the story, and emphasize the elements.

Light of the Hannukah candles casts a shadow.   For advance, there are detractors, some of whom are merely engaging in a power struggle.  The shadow can be dangerous and it can be restful.  The light can be the path but it can also burn.  Light and shadow need each other.  Success lies in the right balance.  And that is the greatest challenge.  The rabbi told us of settlers in the Israeli occupied territories who, whenever there is a threat to their settlement or way of life, burn down a mosque inside Israel.   (Israel immediately rebuilds the mosques and other Jewish organizations provide Qurans and prayer rugs.)  In the light of peace there is darkness.  Darkness of zealots who use the cover of Judaism to perpetrate atrocities.  Have they forgotten their parents’ and grandparents’ ordeals in Europe?  How could this be?  The light needs to shine a light on this darkness.  These “Jews” do not deserve a place in Israel or anywhere in the quasi-civilized world.

For the first time in a long time, I was glad to to synagogue and learn about things that the mainstream media doesn’t cover.  It made me think, rather than go to synagogue again, I should visit a mosque, Sikh temple or a church and listen.

After leaving synagogue, we looked up at the Empire State Building.  Blue and white adorned two sides, and red and green, the other.  I love New York.

Saturday, the Blogger family gathered with assorted cousins and in-laws to celebrate both traditions.  In my sister’s house was a small Christmas tree decorated in blue and white with a rabbi as an ornament.  Cousin Gentle was so excited because he thinks ornaments are sooooooo adorable that he wants to decorate the tree next year.  I told Cousin Gentle that it had to have an irreverent theme, like that the Hasidic rabbi and the dreidel that was at the foot of the tree.  He had a look of total inspiration that I believe he may have been visiting after-Christmas sales these last two days.

I LOVE how politically and religiously incorrect it was.  And, of course, there was a Yahrzeit candle burning for my Catholic brother-in-law’s father who recently died. And my brother-in-law made the latkes.

Saturday night, everyone was Jewish and Christian and all was good with the world.

A Traditional Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, we gathered the usual suspects around the table.  We also had two new people, a young girl from Paraguay and a colleague from Zurich.  SOB (sister of blogger) thought I should issue a disclaimer to my foreign colleague that this was not a “traditional” American Thanksgiving.  Clearly, we are not traditional.  No, sir.  Evidentiary exhibit no. #1: we have brisket instead turkey.

Then, more food than anyone should eat in a week covered the table, and there was more waiting in the kitchen.  I sighed.  SOB and I looked into each other’s eyes and we had to acknowledge that our Thanksgiving is as traditional and American as anyone else’s.

In truth, SOB and I feel best when there is so much food that no one could possibly go away hungry.  First, if a guest had a “clean” plate, that meant there wasn’t enough food and the neighbors would whisper that we didn’t come from a good home.  Second, my grandmother always said if the Russian army showed up at your door and you had plenty of food, they would leave the women alone.  Coincidentally, these precepts handed down from generation to generation drive us to mimic the conspicuous, over-consumption that is our American Thanksgiving.

We were, in fact, sooooo American that, even though it was brisket and not turkey, DOB (Dad of blogger), like so many patriarchs hating to turn over the reins of family celebrations, muttered “under his breath” (but so loud that the neighbors could hear), “I could’ve done a better job of carving.”  Gee, thanks, Dad.

SOB, we have arrived.  We are no longer an immigrant family.  We ARE America.


The Albino Peacock

On Yom Kippur day, POB (partner of blogger) took sick and I was recovering from my contagion and we were clearly not going back to synagogue. I rallied SOS (our son, source of sanity) to take a walk with me, but first he had to have a meltdown about not be able to take his scooter with us.  I had to draw a line, such as it was, since it WAS the holiest of holy days after all.

We ambled up Broadway.  In fact I dragged SOS up Broadway.  “Penance,” I whispered quietly, “for the sin that I have sinned against G-d by . . . .”

No, dear SOS, we weren’t going to browse in Bank Street Bookstore. Nope, no ice cream either. We are just walking.  Now imagine the response:  silent treatment from hell interspersed by whiny demands for better parents.  Obviously, I didn’t self-flagellate enough during these Holy Days.  I obviously needed this for true atonement.  I had thought to look around for broken glass and hot coals so I could walk on them.  But, no need, I had my child to torture me.

SOS’s mood did brighten considerably when I said that we would cut through the Columbia campus to Amsterdam and then walk home.  You could see in his eyes that he knew liberation from the cruel bondage (of walking ten blocks) was within reach.  “E-mom, is the DVR recording on Yom Kippur?”  I looked at him.  “I withdraw the question.”  Wow, that gene replacement therapy is working.

As we walked through the Columbia quad, I felt like we stepped outside Manhattan and onto any non-urban campus. I don’t think I have been around that many 17-22 year-olds since I left college.  My initial thought was that I could just naturally blend into the scene.

Then reality hit:  I see me when I look at them and they see a middle age women when they look at me.

[For those of you who know Fiddler on the Roof, join me:   When did I stop looking so youthful? When did I start to act so old?  Wasn’t it yesterday when we were at the mall? Sunrise, sunset.]

Back to reality (after a fashion).

As we were walking down Amsterdam, SOS interrupted my self-pity about wasted youth and asked if we were permitted to go to St John the Divine on Yom Tov.

Really? I panicked because I was so sure that, on this clear day, lightning was about to strike.

SOS interpreted my panic as disapproval. “It’s ok, E-Mom, we don’t have to go into a church. I just wanted to see the albino peacock.”

“The whaaaat?”

“Eeeeeee-Mom,” SOS said in that way that was accompanied by a you’re-so-stupid-how-do-you-manage-to-breathe eye roll, “albino means all white and the albino peacock lives in the garden. It’s sort of like a refuge for it.”

No joke:

“Oh, ok, buddy, then it is ok if we go to church,” I said as I readied to throw my son out of the way of the thunderbolt or flood that will whisk me away to hell.

My grandmother used to kiss the mezzuzah and put money in the pushke (the charity box) to get around minor infractions of Jewish kosher laws so her children could drink milk before bed if bedtime was less than six hours after a meat dinner.  Would this work on the holiest of holy days?  My mind was going through all of the usual arguments for the KM/MP (kiss mezzuzah/money in pushke) panacea as we were getting closer to St. John the Divine.  Would we have to go in the church to get to the garden where the peacock lives?  Churches are beautiful but still . . . .

Luckily we didn’t have to go into the church to reach the garden.  Phew.

The garden where the peacock lives is set very far back from Amsterdam and so quiet and lovely.  SOS and I held hands and watched the peacock in the hushed quiet of this little garden that seemed miles away from the pulse of the City.  It is an extraordinary bird. I bet that there are swirls and patterns on the feathers but we can’t see them on the white-on-white feathers.

And those moments were exhilarating and transcendent.

Yes, Yom Kippur 5772, the day that two wandering Jews found beauty in a rare creature on the grounds of a church.  And it felt like a blessing.

And the Best Daughter Award Goes to . . .

SOB (sister of blogger)!!!!!!!!!

Yes, SOB wins for endurance beyond the mortal realm.

[POB (partner of blogger), SOS (our son, source of sanity) and I were in various states of contagion and nursing various infections and maladies, so we really couldn’t risk getting DOB (dad of blogger and SOB) sick.]

Yesterday, SOB sat with DOB in synagogue for the last 3 hours of Yom Kippur, enduring his endless commentary while trying to shoosh him because he no longer whispers and has old-person-yell-in-quiet-places syndrome.

SOB even sat with DOB through Yizkor (the service remembering dead loved ones) as DOB flipped through the prayer book and pronounced the service (using his old-person-yell-in-quiet-places voice) “a bunch of crap”.  (In truth, he mourns my mother every day and says Kaddish for his parents and brothers, so he doesn’t really need a special service to remember.)

I get DOB’s point.  I can’t sit through Yizkor because it doesn’t reach my abiding pain.  I am a little like DOB that way. Except I don’t go to the service and whisper at the top of my lungs.

After three hours of DOB containment, SOB, together with HOSOB (husband of SOB), took DOB out for Japanese food.  He complained about the food and the service.  In his later years, he has become even more impatient about service, and his previously polite manner has become rude when trying to get the attention of the waitstaff.  SOB is the picture of calm in these moments, as I have witnessed in the past.  I am not.

I know, I know, he is 91.  But this is not his last glass of wine or piece of sushi.  I have faith that he will be at SOS’s Bar Mitzvah in 4 years.  And at the very least he will hang around for POB’s and my wedding in 2012.

How do I know all that happened yesterday?  Because SOB and I spill our guts to each other and give each excruciating play-by-plays so that we have a collective memory.

But the real reason that SOB gets the Best Daughter Award?  Even though she was pushed to the limit of sanity, she did not yell, “Ok, Dad, if you don’t like dinner or the service AT THE RESTAURANT YOU PICKED, either be quiet or stick a crow bar in your wallet and pay for it!”

And SOB had lunch with him today, too.

Yes, she is a saint.


Al Chet

The “Al Chet” is a commual confessional said ten times during Yom Kippur.  (There is also the silent, personal confessional said ad nauseum, so it isn’t as easy as it sounds.)

For the Al Chet (guttural “ch”), each line starts with:  “For the sin we have committed before [G-d]” and then gets pretty detailed:

under duress or willingly; by hard-heartedness; inadvertently; with immorality; openly or secretly; with knowledge and with deceit; through speech: by deceiving a fellowman; by improper thoughts; by verbal [insincere] confession; by disrespect for parents and teachers; by using coercion; desecrating the Divine Name; with evil inclination; by false denial and lying; by a bribe-taking or a bribe-giving hand; in business  dealings; by eating and drinking; with proud looks; with impudence; and on and on.

After every few, we Jews ask: V’al kulam Eloha s’lichot, s’lach lanu, m’chal lanu, kaper lanu (For all of these things, G-d of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, let us atone.)

Generally, I really dig in deep when it comes to the sins of pride, speaking ill of someone, improper thoughts and eating and drinking.  Ok, impudence, too.  And, ok ok ok ok, taking G-d’s name in vain.  But as a general matter, I am comfortable that the other sins are not mine in particular although on Yom Kippur we stand as a community and “own” these sins as a group.

Still, while the confessional is detailed but it is easy not to connect with the words on the page.  So, at our synagogue, during Selichot (the prep holiday for the Ten Days of Sorry), our synagogue congregants write down sins for which they seek atonement.  [a side note:  just the “Ten Days of Sorry” comment is going to be a BIG issue for 5773 if I last so long.]

Some of the “al chets” were: littering, not recycling, abusing substances, infidelity and unprotected sex.  While this may be ground-breaking in an Orthodox shul or a church, in our synagogue serving the gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, queer-identified community, their families and their friends (the printing is getting soooo expensive) with a social justice mandate (as if being home to everyone and literally his or her Jewish mama isn’t social justice enough), these “al chets”, too, have become rather mundane over 20 years.

But there was one “al chet” that stuck with me:  for the sin that I have sinned against G-d by maligning Orthodox Jews.

Whoa!!!!  That stopped me in my tracks.  I used to greet Jews with a kippah (skull cap) or a sheidl (wig) as fellow travelers seeking a good, meaningful life.  I learned over the years that one doesn’t inherit religious or ethical principles.  So, a child with a yarmulke can be as good or as evil or as somewhere-in-between as the rest of us.  Yet, they wear a costume of piety.  I have learned first hand about how some kosher, Sabbath observing, “pious” Jews are not ethical, moral or righteous. 

I have been crushed, disillusioned and personally harmed by the nefarious, immoral and dishonest deeds of those parading as pious, even those who are called “rabbi”.  And not because they object to my sexual orientation (there is no prohibition against lesbians in Torah).

As a result, I do deal with Orthodox Jews with greater suspicion than I do others.  And that is wrong.  The good and right thing is to assess each person according to that person’s merits.

It all comes down to a derivative of the golden rule: Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

For the sin that I have sinned by maligning all orthodox Jews on account of a few pretenders AND wanting to rip off their Yamulkes or sheidls, Eloha s’lichot (G-d of forgiveness), pardon me, forgive me, let me atone.  But if the person deserves it, I want the Heavens to clap with thunder and the angels to blow those crazy little bugels, ok?
Wow, Yom Kippur is over by less than two hours and I am soooo cooked for next year. .  . . . . .