Monthly Archives: August, 2006

Preschool angst

August 31st, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

Let me get this straight. According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal, America’s preschoolers’ emotional health is being threatened by the high turnover of the staff at their schools. In other words, mothers who aren’t willing to sacrifice their own time and ambitions in order to raise their own children are dismayed that employees who are paid an average of $10 an hour won’t make endless sacrifices and totally commit to those same children.

Having decided as a society that it is o.k. for parents to walk out of full time participation in a child’s life through the medium of divorce, having decided as a society that giving birth to a child should in no way pressure a mother to stay home with that child, we are now aghast that low paid babysitters (which is what they are despite our calling them educators in order to assuage our guilt) feel no commitment to their charges even if their leaving leaves a hole in the child’s heart.

The article urges parents to try and spend more time with the child when a beloved teacher leaves so that the child will feel secure. That is of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a teacher stay around long enough to be beloved. Had parents spent more time with the child in the first place they wouldn’t have needed to pretend that a three year old was better off in “school” than in the home. Children are incredibly adaptable. All sorts of people can and do waltz in and out of their lives– grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, babysitters, – as long as their parents are an unmovable constant and present nucleus. Pretending that quality time beats quantity time or that spending a week’s vacation together can replace the hours of loving attention a child needs is a myth. Making believe that the immense amount of knowledge a two year old can absorb is best transmitted in a formal setting by a staff member is a fable. Transferring the core relationship of motherhood to a preschool employee and then feeling betrayed when that person walks away from the job, might suggest that the entire enterprise was founded on a misguided notion. Anyone fooling themselves into believing that a preschool that advertises a “loving environment” can equal the love that should be found in the home should appreciate the dose of reality supplied by the marketplace.

Professional Wives

August 25th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

There’s been quite a brouhaha going on over at Forbes Magazine. It all started when author Michael Noer published an on-line article with a pretty provocative opener.

“Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career. “

The article proceeds to list studies showing that the chances for a happy marriage are lessened when a wife out earns her husband, or even has a strong commitment to a professional career. Not surprisingly, in a world where Harvard president Lawrence Summers was ousted for a pretty innocuous statement about differences between the sexes, a fury erupted both at Forbes and elsewhere.

The article was yanked though later re-instated along with a rebuttal article by Forbes writer Elizabeth Corcoran. Now, she certainly was at a disadvantage having to write on the spot, but her article reads like it should appear in Oprah rather than in Forbes. Her arguments for dealing with what she classifies as her colleague’s “downright dangerous story” seem to fall into two categories. Firstly, she is a career woman and is happily married and secondly, men have a responsibility in marriage too.

Quite frankly, her own marriage has nothing to do with anything since Mr. Noer never claimed that studies show that 100% of marriages involving career women don’t work and as for the second point, I can’t seem to make the connection between the fact that men have a responsibility in marriage and the studies quoted.

For my own part, I wouldn’t advise anyone to marry or not or indeed to run any part of their life according to a study. It’s so terribly inconvenient when, as frequently happens, conflicting studies appear or the methodology of a study is questioned or years later it turns out that the study didn’t actually say what people thought it did. And by definition, studies deal in generalizations while people are unique

Notwithstanding that, I would certainly tell my children, who have to listen to my advice whether they want to or not, and anyone else who might ask, that marriage is a partnership with a much greater chance of success when one party, and in 95% of the cases it will work better for that party to be the wife, sees overseeing the marriage as her priority, while the other partner sees providing financial stability as his. This has nothing to do with the fact that cleaning help can be hired and meals can be eaten in restaurants. (Though there is a world of difference between a meal cooked by a stranger and a meal cooked with love.) It has nothing to do with the fact that women can be competent and succesful in business. It has everything to do with the fact that it is all to easy for the husband/wife relationship to be relegated to a back burner, whether or not there are children, and just as in any business, you want to make sure that someone is responsible for taking the pulse of the enterprise and adjusting accordingly. If both partners are immersed in outside careers, neither has the energy or time to constantly monitor and make adjustments, or arrange for the other to do so, as needed. Marriage is a career in itself.

For anyone looking to get married, I would suggest ignoring studies and instead looking for a few long-term, happily married couples whose lives reflect what the single hopes to have. They should then spend time with and have many conversations with those couples to find out the realities of married life really are from those who actually have managed to build a successful one.

Watching Seattle Mariners beating the Yankees

August 23rd, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet



Last night my daughter, Miriam, and I joined over 40,000 other fans of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle. We watched from the sky-suite of The Crocker Group as Adrian Beltre gave the Mariners a victory over the New York Yankees in a heart-stopping, game-winning home run in the ninth inning. Last night’s wonderful win won’t dramatically change the fate of the Seattle Mariners who have lost about 10 games in a row, but it sure uplifted the spirits of almost everyone in attendance.

The blue sky and the green grass on a balmy late summer evening with the salty smell of Puget Sound just evident, gave extra poignancy to the lusty roars of the large crowd. It was hard not to be moved by the sheer Americanism of the experience. Miriam, soon off to Bible school in Jerusalem, said, “Daddy, there are quite a few things about this event that Moslem extremists wouldn’t like.” To my raised eyebrow she explained that the effervescent cheerfulness of the crowd would surely irritate them, as would such a large number of people being able to spend a few hours in close quarters without a riot, without Kalashnikovs being fired into the air, and without a religious harangue from some mullah. (I offered one from a rabbi but there were no takers in the suite we were guests at.)

It was hard to ignore the bellows of anger and the earsplitting chorus of boos each time that Alex Rodriguez stepped onto the field. You see, he had played for the Mariners for about seven years before signing with the Texas Rangers in 2000 and moving to the New York Yankees about four years later. Seattle has never forgiven him for leaving Seattle for mere money.

Frankly, I don’t get it. Is anyone laboring under the delusion that sports is somehow disconnected from business? Do fools in Fremont feel that everybody is allowed to act in his own best financial interests except ball players? My view is that profit is not plunder and that the overall experience available to sports fans has been enormously enhanced by the games becoming business-like. There are countries in which sports is no more than an extension of government. I would much rather sports stays firmly in the private sector.

That means that fans must buy game tickets as they buy coffee, not as they try to secure medical attention or purchase stamps at the post office. As part of the unwritten contract of business that says both parties must benefit, sports must provide fans with value for their money. 42,000 joyful people in a Seattle ball park last night said they succeeded.

The Lure of the Ostrich

August 21st, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One of our daughters broke out in a pretty impressive head to toe rash a few days ago. While the likely culprit appeared to be an allergic reaction, we had helpful sibling suggestions ranging from typhoid to scarlet fever to smallpox. The banter was actually pretty funny (I realize the humor doesn’t translate to print) but only because no one seriously suspected any of the ailments they were proposing. I doubt if the mention of smallpox elicited many smiles a few centuries ago.
Yet, under the surface, while I frequently count my blessings that so many illnesses that struck fear into the lives of our ancestors are either eradicated or mangeable today, I have an uneasy feeling that in other spheres, life is moving, once again, into an era of insecurity, unpleasantness and danger.
So I find myself listening more and more to country music when I’m in the car, and much less to talk radio. Likewise, I’m more inclined to pick up a book while grabbing a snack rather than the newspaper. Because, quite frankly, real life is looking pretty scary right now.
I want to focus on the daily challenges and joys of family, work and friends, and ignore a disturbing feeling that each and every one of us won’t have the option for long of ignoring a world filled with people following an evil doctrine who have in the past and can in the future cause immense suffering with extremely low tech methods and who increasingly have access to incredibly powerful high tech ones. That our involvement is going to go beyond contributing to this political campaign or that one, or having passionate debates with friends, or feeling bad for and giving charity to people living thousands of miles away from us.
But, for today, I need to help some kids get ready for school, spend time working and try to get further down my “to do” list. On goes the country CD, which is probably as effective in warding off danger as a garlic necklace was in warding off infection.

The American Prospect notes my TBN tv appearance

August 19th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The American Prospect— “An authoritative magazine of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics” founded by former Clinton administration official, Robert Reich, among others, commented on one of my Trinity Broadcasting Network appearances. They dislike Pastor John Hagee whom I regard as an American patriot, a great Christian leader, and an esteemed friend of all Jews, particularly me.

On Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the day Queen Esther saved the Jews from annihilation, Trinity Broadcasting Network’s flagship talk show, Praise the Lord, featured an appearance by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. A politically conservative Orthodox rabbi, Lapin is best known for crusading with the Christian right against “anti-religion bigotry” and, more recently, for his close association with the convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he was not invited to a nationwide telecast to discuss such topics as the trumped-up war against religion or the better nature of his fallen friend. He had been asked to explain the significance of Purim to Christians, and particularly how the Old Testament’s Book of Esther “serves as a roadmap to reality,” which pinpoints where the next world “hot spot” will be.

That soon-to-be-flaming location is where the Book of Esther was set: namely Persia, or in modern parlance, Iran.

Seated beside Lapin in the ornately gilded Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) studio was Pastor John Hagee, the author of an incendiary new book purporting to show that the Bible predicts a military confrontation with Iran. By then, Hagee’s book, Jerusalem Countdown, had sold nearly 500,000 copies. It had occupied the No. 1 position on the Wal-Mart inspirational best-seller list, showed up on Wal-Mart’s list of top 10 best sellers for seven weeks, and made the USA Today top 50 best-seller list for six weeks. (more)

Honored to be guest speaker for Senator Rick Santorum

August 18th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet


Last night, at a beautiful home on the shores of Lake Washington, deeply committed leaders of the ‘faith and family’ community, a few dozen couples, gathered to raise funds and offer encouragement to Senator Rick Santorum (R) Pennsylvania. The senator is facing a difficult challenge for his senate seat. Not only is he a passionate defender of traditional values, but he is passionate about winning the war being waged by part of the culture of the Koran against the twin civilizations of the Bible.
In my speech I pointed out how every miracle recounted in the Torah required a seed. God never delivered until someone had put out effort himself. I found it quite reasonable to ask those of us whose economic efforts had been blessed to support a candidate whose beliefs and policies encourage the very values that ultimately contribute most to a healthy economy. That’s right, children being brought into the world and raised with the self-discipline and persistence common in traditional families do more to assure economic growth than subtle fiddling with interest rates or money supply figures. If you doubt this, just take a look at the stipends and benefits being offered by European and some Asian governments to women as inducements to have children.
It is always heartwarming and uplifting to spend relaxed time with like-minded and good people. Between the fine wine and the glow the setting sun shed on the lakefront, Susan and I found it a beguiling evening.
Well, it is almost time for the sun to set now today which means that Shabbat is about to begin. The Jewish Sabbath runs for about 25 hours starting just before sunset on Friday evening. No phone, no car driving, no fax, no radio or television–it’s a blessed oasis in time for me. No email or blogging either. That is a little bit of a hardship! (Just joking).
Make it a great weekend.

A Safer Society for All

August 17th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The words “A safer society for all” aren’t my own. They are quoted by the Seattle Times as being said by Dayna Klein, one of the women shot at the Jewish Federation building of Seattle about three weeks ago. I certainly am sorry for her suffering and share her goal of having a safer society. I’m afraid however, that what we don’t share is a common vision for reaching that goal.
I was upset, though not surprised, that a mentally disturbed individual would act on hateful impulses that may well have been stoked from many different directions. Likewise, I was upset, though not surprised a few years ago when a knife wielding man attacked and killed a retired firefighter who was leaving a sports stadium downtown. The list of upsetting but not surprising assaults is, I’m afraid long and shows no sign of lessening.
What I do find shocking is that, knowing how many unbalanced people there are in the world, let alone how many evil people with evil intentions there are, anyone would believe that our society can successfully keep weapons, or anything that can potentially be a weapon – in other words any and everything – out of their hands. My solution for a safer society, is diametrically opposed to Mrs. Klein’s. I wish that she or one of her co-workers had had a gun on hand and the training to use it, just as I wish that some teachers in Columbine, CO had been so armed. Fairy tale dreaming may suggest that gun control reduces crime; unfortunately down to earth statistics show the opposite result. History also shows that governments that enforced strict gun control, like Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, were frequently pretty unhealthy ones for Jews among others.
I wish having a safer society could be brought about by something as simple as passing stricter gun control laws. My concern is that while emotional, passionate, and mostly well intentioned arguments can be made for that being the case, reality reveals otherwise.

As I remember Lebanon, well, Christian Lebanon actually.

August 15th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

While I was a young student at the yeshiva of Kfar Chassidim, a 45 minute bus ride from the Haifa railway station, back in the 60s, Lebanon played an important role in the most cherished of all student pranks.
Pranks for me carried a high price at this famed yeshiva because the elder eminence at the academy was my great uncle. That more was expected of me inhibited me in undesirable ways. Nonetheless, I pranked away with the best of my fellow students. The most outrageous of pranks were generally executed only by those students whose academic performance provided them with adequate cover against severe penalty. In my case of course, family connection served the same purpose.
Of all our pranks, none was more taboo than illegally sneaking over the border, not too far north of our school, into Lebanon.
The idea was to hike to the nearest road and hitch a ride into Beirut. It was considered good form to take along a fellow student who spoke French or Arabic.
Beirut deserved its reputation as the Switzerland of the Mediterranean. It was an efficient, cosmopolitan city populated by well dressed people who seemed to work hard and play hard. During the day there appeared to be a bank on every corner, while at night, the banks subsided into obscurity and now there appeared to be a glittery night-club on every corner. The beaches and cafes were delightful and the people friendly. Oh! Did I forget to mention that the dominant influence in Beirut in those days, was Christian and not Islamic?
I am not the only one who forgot. Apparently most of the media either suffers from amnesia or considers it impolitic to mention that while Christianity dominated Lebanese society, the place functioned. And it functioned well. It was actually a wonderful place to visit.
When Islam began to flex its muscles and Lebanon basically allowed the PLO (which had been expelled from Jordan) to set up shop in 1971, things began to go downhill. Barbarism reasserted itself.
Evident even to surreptitious yeshiva students, the decline was painful to watch. Bikinis gave way to burkhas, haute couture gave way to rags, street cafe patrons vanished before roving street gangs, and sparkling nightlife quickly retreated before a flood of sewage in the streets. During my student years, Christian civilization ended in Beirut and the era of Islam began to bring destruction just as surely as it did thirteen centuries ago.
How did we students prove our illicit escapade? The preferred evidence was to purchase and bring back an item of stylish clothing with the Beirut department store label still intact. To us students, there was never any doubt that Christianity created and maintained civilization in Lebanon just as Judaism did the same in Israel.

Why mostly Muslims seem to kill over cartoons, or pretty much anything else

August 14th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Callers to my radio show www.ksfo.com frequently ask me why Muslims are so quick to kill. Before anyone knew that the name of the pistol-packing shooter at Seattle’s Jewish Federation building on July 28th was Naveed Afzal Haq, it was not hard to guess that he was a son of the desert.
If one hears that someone slit the throat of an airline stewardess while screaming “god is great” it is not too challenging for most people to make a guess at which god the murderer had in mind.
It is not only infidels getting killed by Muslims. There is no shortage of instances of Muslims killing Muslims. It is not only killing but general brutality.
Cutting off the hand of a fellow who stole a loaf of bread is not routine in London or Boston. If one hears of someone sentenced to death for adultery, it is a fair guess that it didn’t happen in a district court in Wichita, Kansas. If an execution is carried out by beheading before an enthusiastic audience, it is a fair guess that it took place under Moslem law, Sharia.
So what is going on?
Could this help us understand?

—oooOooo—

Abraham had two sons, Yishmael and Isaac. (In Hebrew, Yishmael is spelled, like all Hebrew words, without vowels. Yi-SH-M-L . In Hebrew there is only one letter for the sounds SH and S. Thus, we have Abraham’s first son’s name easily becoming Yi-S-M-L. Then with the passage of time and journeys through cultural time/space, the M & L metastasize into Yi-S-L-M, or pronounced correctly, ISLM or Islam.)

—oooOooo—

Abraham worked on synthesizing the two characteristics of human social interaction–justice and mercy, or if you wish, rigid discipline and compassionate tenderness.
Obviously things work best when both are applied in a unified fashion. For instance, one reason that children do best when raised by both a mother and a father is because in general, most women tend intuitively toward the compassionate tenderness side of things while most men tend toward the tough and rigid discipline side of things. (That is why one long standing tradition in American families is the mom saying to her rambunctious brood, “Just wait till your father gets home!”)

—oooOooo—

Jacob later inherits from his dad, Isaac, a fastidious emphasis on blending the two into Jewish culture. Thus Judaism is disciplined and rigorous about the many rules surrounding kosher food, (not even a milligram of cheese on an otherwise kosher burger) and the exact time when Sabbath begins (18 minutes before sunset on Friday, not 17 minutes) yet also merciful and compassionate in all matters like the treatment of women in general, and widows and divorcees in particular, treatment of animals (don’t allow a mother bird to observe you taking an egg from the nest) and many other examples.

—oooOooo—

Could it be that Christianity took away from Abraham slightly more emphasis on love, mercy, and compassion while Islam took away from Abraham, through Yishmael, a lot more emphasis on judgment and rigid discipline? Thus many of the rules that inflexibly circumscribe Jewish life do not exist in Christianity. Similarly, one might be able to observe, many of the gentle allowances for human nature found in Judaism have vanished in Islam.

—oooOooo—

Ancient Jewish Wisdom records how Yishmael taunted his half-brother, Isaac, saying “You just couldn’t take the pain!” He explained that he, Yishmael was circumcised when he was 13 years-old, and he lay there and took it. However, Isaac was circumcised when he was but 8 days old–too young to protest. So emphatic is tradition about Yishmael’s courage about allowing an operation upon his most delicate organ, that he is given great credit for this. Furthermore, it is my belief that this deeply embedded cultural locus lies at the heart of that strange and ubiquitous feature of Islamic architecture, the minaret–surely a phallic symbol.

—oooOooo—

That ability to take pain, as well as enduring the pain of inflicting pain could be an enduring legacy of Yishmael’s embrace of half of the Abrahamitic equation. Uncompromisingly harsh application of justice is an unmistakable characteristic of Islam. It is perhaps not an accident that the geography of Islam, the deserts and dunes of Arabia and Afghanistan, is a harsh and desolate place. (think: Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 film starring Peter O’ Toole with its overwhelming impressions of the harshness of the desert.)
Nothing could be more different from the green fields of England and western Europe where Christianity shaped the culture.
One could perhaps suggest that Israel, with its orange groves and tree-lined streets best represents the blend.
In these meanderings, I am not excusing Haq or any homicide bomber, I merely suggest that there may be more spiritual consistency than meets the eye.

—oooOooo—

Israel comings and goings

August 11th, 2006 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Our son, Ari, arrived home Wednesday night after six weeks of being a volunteer EMT working as part of an ambulance crew for the Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross. We have yet to hear his stories, but I will admit to joy at having him at home, where I can more easily live under the illusion that I can keep him safe. That gave me two days of breathing more easily, until I received an e-mail from our daughter, Rachelle, telling me that she plans on leaving tomorrow night on a volunteer mission where she will be part of a team providing trauma counseling in Northern Israel. At least Ari wasn’t where the rockets are landing.

I’m a mother and worry is part of the job description. My concerns are certainly nothing compared to those of my friend, Cindy, whose son has been a Marine in Iraq for what feels like a very long time. Yet, at the same time as part of me wishes that we were having a boating vacation this summer, where I get to have everyone under one (relatively) small roof and in sight most of the day, I am grateful for seeing our children grow into adults who feel a pull towards giving of themselves and standing with the beleagured Jewish nation. I know that like many other mothers, if given the choice, I’d have to opt for children who, if they can, step forward when needed rather than ones who can’t think of any greater cause for which to devote their time and energies than themselves.