Yes. Yes I can:
In honor of this Season of Joy and New Beginnings, I offer this free read and song to you, my all my Best Belovéd Readers.
UPDATE: OMFG! In late December a frozen tardigrade became the first ‘quantum entangled’ animal in history (researchers claim). If you’re a child of the 1970s, you no doubt appreciate the fact that this is the first ever successful creation of artificial extra-sensory perception (ESP) in an animal!!!1!
(Meanwhile, if you are a scientist or someone who read the entire article, you more likely appreciate that these researchers “did not entangle a tardigrade with a qubit in any meaningful sense”—but it’s still neat that they took a tardigrade down to nearly absolute zero and successfully revived it. Hearty lil fellas, right?)
I probably can’t tell you anything much, but I can show you the work of sculptor Ronit Baranja, which I love.
The looks on these Québécois’ faces tell me that they do not have a strong command of the English language.
Strike that: the Mike Pence-looking Midnight Cowboy furthest to the right? I think that mofo 1) speaks serviceable English, 2) selected this song, and 3) told the rest of the dance team that it’s about competitive swimming.
I had no idea they even had free feature-length movies on YouTube. Anyway, go watch Monsters. It’s just as good as I remember it being in the theaters; back then it felt like it was mostly about U.S. foreign/immigration policy with a smattering of Chernobyl anxiety (this was back in 2010). Now, in the midst of a plague year, it feels like it’s sort of about a lot more.
Also, are you finding that, when watching old movies now, you’re often distracted by how close people stand to each other, how blithely they enter each other’s homes or push into crowds, maskless? How we used to live was crazy, right? 😷
I’m a Jew—born and raised—but I come from a “mixed” family (they say “interfaith” now). My dad is a Jew, but my mom was raised Christian. Both my maternal grandparents—with whom my sisters and I spent a lot of time—were practicing Christians. Interfaith families are really common now (my wife and I are mixed), but were much less so when I was young.
As you’re likely aware, back when I was a kid there weren’t a lot of Xanukah songs for us Jewish kids. But there were absolutely zero songs for mixed half-a-Jews with an Xmas tree and a Xanukiah and a cat that managed to catch fire in the Xanukah candles every year and Xtian grandparents who came to town on Xmas Eve specifically to partake in the Jewish tradition of Xmas Chinese food.
There weren’t many mixed kids like us—and there weren’t any songs or holiday specials or children’s books that reflected what we saw and felt and loved about wintertime.
So these are my songs, for all the little intersectional mixed kids out there, who don’t have any holiday songs to sing.
(N.B. I originally wrote this for my congregation, but I figured some of the rest if you might benefit from the message, too.)
You almost certainly heard about the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids shortly before the election,“TRUMP” and “MAGA” spray-painted over the names of the honored dead.
Maybe these pictures worried you. Maybe they frightened you. Maybe they embarrassed you—because, let’s be honest: it’s shameful to be bullied, to get the “Kick Me!” sign pasted to your back again and again, century after century.
Or maybe you didn’t feel much of anything. Maybe you’ve grown numb; one more slap in the face at the tail end of four years of unprovoked suckerpunches, it can all sort of blur together. I get that.
I don’t exactly have words for how it made me feel.
I saw these pictures of the Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, and I immediately thought back to the swastikas spray painted on Temple Jacob last winter, way up in the Upper Peninsula town of Hancock. And I thought about the dozens of swastikas and slurs defacing our local skatepark back in 2017.
(I go to that skatepark a lot. It was hard not to take it personally.)
And I thought about the increase in anti-Jewish hate-crimes here in America over the past four years. I thought about the increasingly violent nature of those crimes.
I thought about the bomb threats. And the synagogue shootings. And the stabbings. And the rallies. And the men with guns in the capitol.
And so on.
And I felt hopeless. And I was afraid.
So I emailed the rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Israel (who maintain the cemetery in Grand Rapids that was desecrated on election’s eve). I wrote to voice our support and solidarity, and ask what they might need to restore the cemetery.
Rabbi David J.B. Krishef replied almost immediately:
“Hi Dave — the cemetery was cleaned by a small group of people who live around the corner and took it upon themselves to clean the stones without even letting us know what they were doing, and a few other people, including one from Ann Arbor, who drove in and decided to wash the paint off. We are grateful for all of the love and support and positive notes we’ve received.”
It dawned on me that this second half of the story is rarely reported, but often the case:
A lone jackass skulks around smearing his petty foulness in the dark; the whole community—not just Jews, but people from all over the community unwilling to let ugliness linger—return in the light to set things right.
That’s what happened in the cemetery in Grand Rapids. And when I went back and checked, I discovered it’s what happened at Temple Jacob in Hancock.
And that’s what happened here in Ann Arbor, too; I know, because I saw it: I went to the skatepark the day after it was tagged. The city had already power-washed away the paint. And unknown members of the community at large had come through with colored chalk and, evey place where there’d been a symbol of hate, replaced it with a message of welcoming and love:
What I saw in Ann Arbor was not the exception; it was the rule, even now, in this time of widely reported “unprecedented division and unrest.” And maybe it feels like we’re mired in a time of unprecedented division and unrest because we only report the first half of the story—the smeared paint, the thrown punch, the shots fired—and then move on to the next catastrophe, without checking back to see what comes after the paint and the screaming: a nation of folks ready to take it upon themselves to fix whatever any single angry loner chooses to break.
… so I made this:
Building this didn’t make me feel better, per se, but it’s giving my mourning a proper place to latch onto things. z”l
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