In the 1970s and 1980s, if someone referenced “The Wall” they were likely referring to the Berlin Wall (or the Pink Floyd album). Today, mention of “The Wall” likely refers to the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem. While walls of the security variety have been much discussed lately — from Israel’s security fence to the billion dollar one Donald Trump wants to erect in America to keep out Mexicans — the Kotel’s gender divisions have been a divisive issue for the Jewish people for a very long time.
It is easy to be dismissive of any grand significance to New Year’s. Sure, it is fun–an excuse to gather together with family and friends, drink copious amounts of champagne, and watch others freeze outside of Times Square waiting for the ball to drop while you sit cozy and comfortable in your own home. But we all know that any deeper meaning in New Year’s, as epitomized by our resolution-making, is shallow to the point of insignificance. Every year, we channel our inner Sisyphus and lug our resolutions up the hill of aspirations only to watch them quickly plummet back down. A quick Google search for “new year’s resolutions fail” yielded 7,450,000 hits. Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week in February.
What question will guide your New Year’s resolutions this year? What will be the focus of your self-improvement plan?
I’ll be honest. I am both fascinated and horrified by many of the daily updates in these still early stages of the presidential election season. Take the last few days’ news cycle. There were some pretty substantive debates that took place onstage at Saturday night’s Democratic debate. Anyone paying attention would have heard some quite important differences of opinion on the strategic approach to tackling ISIS, and the role of the United States within a larger international stage.
Dear Max Chan Zuckerberg,
“You have to watch this show.” A friend told me. “There is a woman rabbi character. It is called “Transparent” about a Jewish family whose father becomes a trans-woman.” OK, I thought, this sounds interesting. There are not too many female rabbi characters on TV. In fact, when I say the word, “rabbi.” What comes to mind?
One of my favorite poets, a slam poet named Vanessa Hidary, asks, in one of her remarkable pieces in which she confronts stereotyping of Jews: “What does Jewish look like to you?” Last week, the idea of what Hanukkah looks like was changed forever by the improbable confluence of one young Israeli man, three Romanians, two French women, one young man from Washington and his not-yet-Jewish partner, an older Jewish couple from Miami and their six gentile friends, eight or nine children of mixed ages and their parents, and 20-some adults of all ages from all over the U.S. and many from farther afield.
In the last few weeks, we have seen the ugliness of racism in politics, with campaigners using prejudice and fear to gain what they hope will be votes for themselves,while demeaning our Muslim neighbors and fellow-citizens, and inciting against them; we have seen fear of Syrian refugees and people hoping to protect themselves by closing the gates of this country against them.
With the new Star Wars movie premiering this week, social media has gone into full spoiler prevention mode. People are pledging on Facebook not to reveal the secrets and imploring others to do the same. Google has even released a plug-in for its Chrome web browser that will block websites if it detects that there are Star Wars spoilers on it.