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Monthly Archives: October, 2011

Art? Don’t Be Naive

October 26th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Frankly, I can’t imagine how one makes a living peddling the maudlin outpourings of one’s diseased ego but that is precisely what many so-called artists amazingly accomplish. Back in 1987, one of these ‘artists’ produced a notorious image of a crucifix immersed in what he proudly proclaimed to be his own urine. Since then, Andres Serrano has added to his repertoire by creating ‘art’ out of feces. What is widely hailed as great art, I dismiss as distributing degrading and depraved material to the dumb and deluded. The Londoner who in 1999 paid over $100,000 for the crucifix in urine probably thinks of himself as an ‘art-collector.’

By jettisoning a definition of art, we have become vulnerable to vulgarity masquerading as art. We have no rebuttal to the self-obsessed dabbler who foists the fecal results of his dark pathologies onto our galleries and public spaces.

Civilization’s objective definition of art used to be something that lifts the observer’s heart toward God. For this reason, it was not unusual for great composers like Bach to head their musical pages with the Latin notation for, “To the Glory of God.”

People recognized as art, only that which elevated and ennobled; drawing people to God. From earliest times, most western art was church inspired. Turning to the Bible for artistic inspiration, artists saw themselves emulating Israel’s ultimate artist, Bezalel, the architect of the Tabernacle.

Moses said to the Israelites, “God has chosen Bezalel… and has filled him with God’s spirit, in wisdom, understanding and knowledge…”

(Exodus 35:30-31)

Evidently, the Ultimate Artist of Creation, God, possesses the same three attributes:

God established the earth with wisdom, He formed the heaven with understanding and with His knowledge the depths burst open

(Proverbs 3:19-20)

Wisdom means relating to the permanent principles that govern how the world really works. For instance, masculine and feminine are different and complimentary both biologically and spiritually.

Understanding means being able to apply those principles to life’s challenges. For example, men and women find life happiest and most fulfilling when in good marriages.

Knowledge means knowing facts you’d need to be taught and which would help you in the process of understanding. For instance, without delving into genetic detail, all babies in utero start off predominantly female. It requires additional energy to form a male. Thus, as any parent knows, raising boys takes more energy than raising girls.

Being an artist is not about just expressing your feelings. Even a newborn baby can do that. Being an artist does not exempt you from possessing wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; to the contrary. Being a successful parent demands no less—after all, every well-raised child is a work of art.

Furthermore, every successful business that provides what customers need or want, cares for its employees, and enriches its investors is a work of art. Every family that serves as an oasis of love and tranquility is a work of art. These institutions are works of art if they were created and are operated with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.

Success is always more assured when our family energies as well as our income generating activities are guided by these timeless truths. An additional success strategy is never to jettison definitions. Remembering the definitions of parents, employee, entrepreneur, sibling, leader, sales professional, and yes, art, can help keep us on the pathway to our dreams.

For definitions to work their magic in your life they need to be objective and true. I know of no better source for objective and true definitions than God’s Biblical blueprint. My life’s mission is to share God’s message as well as the practical and effective spiritual strategies which flow from it, which improve and bless our lives.

You might be surprised by God’s definition for man and woman which I share in my 2 audio CD program, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden, but you will be grateful for the chance to benefit by applying those insights in your own life. Re-energize your marriage – or prepare yourself for marriage – by taking advantage of this week’s sale price. It also makes a wonderful and inexpensive gift for any couple whose marriage you’d like to bless.

Dear O Magazine

October 26th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

A few years ago after visiting my daughter, I was heading to the airport to return home when I realized that I had no reading material. Rachelle’s roommate offered me her copy of O, Oprah’s monthly magazine. I probably would never have picked this magazine up on my own and I had never seen an Oprah show, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, the quality of writing was impressive and the range of topics notably wider than in most women’s magazines. I began reading it regularly. Aside from many well-written and interesting articles, I appreciated getting a window into the Oprah phenomenon which has had so much influence on our society. While many of my own views are completely opposed to those espoused by the magazine, reading it helps me understand what ideas are shaping so many women’s attitudes. I also find, to O’s credit, that it is not monolithic in its approach and sometimes unexpectedly presents views sympathetic to traditional values. Almost every issue has something which I appreciate as well as something which makes me squirm, but this October, I was so appalled at what I read that I sent off a letter to the editor. It was not published, so I am using this venue to share it.

Dear O,

Over the years, I have mostly enjoyed getting O. On more than one occasion, however, I was disturbed by the bigotry which the magazine promoted. I kept letting it slide, but the October magazine moved me to write.

In the October issue Donna Brazile said, “Conservative businessmen don’t generally pay a lot of attention to middle-aged black women.” Which conservative businessmen did Ms. Brazile mean? The ones I know who use their annual vacations to help build orphanages in Africa and S. America? The ones who spearhead their local Rotary and Lion’s clubs, helping not only their own communities but ones around the globe? Perhaps she meant those who donate to and fundraise for charities such as Fisher House, which helps many middle-aged black women whose sons have been injured in military service for their country? Or the thousands of conservative businessmen who work diligently and with no guarantee of success to provide products that improve the lives of middle-aged black women and others? Was she smearing an entire group for the actions of a few men she has met? Isn’t that one of the definitions of prejudice?

This is only one example of many over the years. It is easy to call for others to be more open-minded but it is hard to see our own flaws. The liberal community in America falls prey to this difficulty. More Americans classify themselves as conservative than they do as liberal, but in some industries including much of the media and academia finding a conservative is like searching for the perfect diet – futile. Instead of trying to understand those whose political values differ, there tends to be a tendency to consider conservative voters either stupid or evil. Too often, a smug and self-congratulatory attitude predominates, which hampers us from reaching goals which would actually help everyone in society.

I am regularly appalled at the widespread bigotry against conservatives and businessmen, especially those who are Christian (I am Jewish). It would be great if Oprah magazine could examine itself, admit its own biases and commit to change.

Sincerely,

Susan Lapin

 

Speaking to Me?

October 18th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

While serving the remarkable congregation I planted in Southern California some years ago I discovered valuable insights. This one has saved me from many a serious mistake and might help you too. Here’s what happened:

By chance, one day, I overheard a member addressing his wife with loud brusqueness. The following Shabbat, I devoted my sermon to how husbands ought to speak with wives basing my words on the Scriptural text about Elkanah and Hanna (I Samuel 1) I was gratified to notice that the husband at whom I was aiming my remarks was avidly listening to my speech. Following the service, he greeted me warmly and said, “You were probably thinking of Jacob Cohen; too bad he wasn’t in synagogue. He really needs to hear your message.”

Another time, after seeing a couple repeatedly yielding to their bratty toddler I publicly addressed the responsibilities of child-raising and how parents need to be respected more than liked. I described the situation I witnessed. To my astonishment, afterwards, those parents complimented me on my sermon and told me of a couple they knew that, “really would have benefited from hearing you.”

In these examples, both the husband and the parents were quite oblivious to the possibility that my message had any relevance to them.

Ever since then, I have assumed that I am also vulnerable in the same way. Surely I am often deaf to criticism that could help me if I were to internalize it instead of thinking of others who’d benefit from hearing it.

I shouldn’t have needed these reminders from my congregants. This lesson was originally taught to us by Cain who, along with his brother Abel, brought a sacrifice to God. God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s because, according to ancient Jewish wisdom, Cain didn’t bring from his best.

God asked Cain why he was unhappy. And without waiting for Cain’s response, God continued:

If you will do good, all will be well, but if you don’t behave,
sin crouches at the door; you will feel attracted to it, but in the end,
you will possess the power to overcome it.

(Genesis 4:7)

Directly after this, we read that Cain spoke to Abel his brother, but the Torah fails to tell us what he said. (Genesis 4:8) Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches several lessons from this conspicuous omission. Today’s teaching is that Cain, upon hearing God’s admonition, assumed it was meant for Abel. After all, it couldn’t have applied to him; God couldn’t possibly be displeased with him, right?

Thus, the Torah has no need to tell us what Cain said to Abel—it’s obvious. He repeated God’s message about improvement which he assumed had been meant for Abel.

Abel rejected Cain’s suggestion, insisting that the message of moral repair was meant for Cain. Hearing criticism is so painful to all human beings that in a form of totally unjustifiable self-defense, Cain lashed out at Abel and killed him.

By making this all part of one verse (4:8) the Torah emphasizes the unthinking instinct that caused Cain to react so violently to Abel’s boomeranging the criticism back at him.

Let’s recognize that our every instinct is vigorously to reject criticism. Were it not for the restraints of religion and the thin veneer of civilization that coats our egos, we’d probably kill those who criticize us.

Now, one step further:

I recommend that you positively invite criticism. Not all the time of course. Few of us have robust enough egos for regular criticism. However, seek out a work colleague or mentor (Never a spouse!) and sincerely invite a critique of your work and style. Do the same with a respected and regular visitor to your home. Sincerely invite constructive criticism of your family. Like me, you’ll be amazed at the growth possibilities.

I also recommend that you make my Thought Tool Set of two volumes part of your home library. They contain over 100 practical spiritual strategies for enhancing the quality of your life and make excellent conversation starters. They make wonderful gifts and this week the set is available for the price of one volume!

No Price Too High?(guest post)

October 18th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

Anyone who is neither evil nor wacky rejoiced at the return of Gilad Shalit to his family after five years in captivity. Anyone who is not naïve also felt emotions ranging from concern to trepidation, and even grief and anger at the release of terrorists which secured his freedom. One can wish the Shalit family well and still think that Israel’s actions were terribly wrong. Over the past few days, I have heard numerous conversations which sound something like this: “What do you think?” “Of course I’m happy, but…” Quite frankly, my own feelings were running too deep to write down my thoughts. So, I am grateful that my son wrote down some of his and is allowing me to share them. I found myself appreciating his suggestion that, for just a short while, we focus solely on the Shalit’s joy. At the same time I think he makes an important point well worth pondering.

This morning witnessed the return of a son of Israel, Gilad Schalit, after almost five and a half years of captivity. I do not want to discuss whether the exchange of one man for over one thousand terrorists with the blood of hundreds of Jews on their hands was a wise one. There will be a time for that, but today is not that day. Today is a day for Jews to unite and share in the joy of the Schalit family and of all of Klal Yisrael (the community of Jews).

But, these events have brought to my attention a disturbing viewpoint that I believe needs addressing. Facebook is currently filled with statuses such as these:

No price is too high!

One Jew is worth any number of terrorists!

Some of you are disgusting! Stop focusing on the bad implications of the trade! Our brother is coming home!

I have no doubt that their motivations were entirely pure, but statements such as these capture a fundamental problem that lies at the root of many of the poor policies implemented in both Israel and the United States.

You may have heard a similar idea expressed with regards to another policy. For example, “Even if the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers decreases to one person per year, that would still be one person too many.” Or, “Of course we should put nets up on the sides of the Golden Gate Bridge! If it stops just ONE person from committing suicide then it will have been worth it.”

The flaw in these arguments is only looking at the benefits and disregarding, or worse not even considering, the costs. If one death from drunk driving were really one too many, then I have a very simple plan that could be implemented to guarantee an end to all motor vehicle related collisions: Ban motor vehicles. Or, if you’d rather, install speed governors on all motor vehicles in the United States limiting their speeds to 5mph. Think of the benefits! No deaths from motor vehicle collisions (the leading cause of death in the US for people 5-34)! Reduced carbon dioxide production! However, no one in their right mind would implement this, because…wait for it…THE COST IS TOO HIGH.

All suicides must be prevented? How much are you willing to contribute from your paycheck to erect nets at every elevated point in your city? $10? $100? $1,000? I’m not sure what the point is, but I guarantee you that at a certain point it is no longer worth the cost to you. Especially considering that the money could also be spent in another manner, perhaps a more effective one, to prevent suicides. Once again, THERE IS A COST.

When seat-belts and airbags were made standard equipment, required by federal law, in all cars in the United States, the motivations were pure. After all, who could possibly be against saving lives? But did anyone consider the corresponding price increase of those cars? Did anyone consider the newly arrived, poor immigrant who would be more than happy to drive a car without airbags that fits his budget? Or the tax increase needed to pay for the new airbag inspectors and the bureaucrats needed to implement the new policy? Honestly, I don’t know. But the point is, that THERE IS A COST.

With regards to Gilad, once again, there is a point at which the price is too high. I do not know what that point is, perhaps this deal is beyond that point, and perhaps it is not. For the purposes of this piece, it is irrelevant. However, every decision has a cost, and unless that cost is truly considered and weighed against the benefits, a wise decision cannot possibly be made.

 

 

Jobs Well Done

October 11th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life” said Steve Jobs during his 2005 Stanford Commencement address. I am not going to eulogize the recently deceased technical visionary. So many excellent celebrations of his life have been written. However, his quote is a segue linking him to the year’s most joyous Biblical festival which starts with sunset tonight.

Six months ago, the Passover Seder meal opened with our inviting real live hungry people to join us. However, before the Tabernacles meal in our sukkah tonight, we will invite seven dead people to join us. They are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. Sounds a little like Halloween dinner at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, doesn’t it?

Sukkot, which is set by an exquisitely precise lunar calendar, always occurs in the fall. That time of the year as the leaves fall and the days get colder and shorter, can feel quite lifeless. Hence Halloween’s frivolous mocking of death. But what links Sukkot and death?

Sukkot is commonly called the Festival of the Gathering, because of this verse:

Observe the Festival of Sukkot for seven days
when you have gathered in your grain and your wine

(Deuteronomy 16:13)

Yet it could also be known as the festival of dying. You see, in Hebrew, the word for ‘gather,’ ASaF, also means dying, as we see in these examples:

Isaac…died, and was gathered to his people…
(Genesis 35:29)

When Jacob finished commanding his sons…(he)was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 49:33)

Die on the mountain where you go up, and be gathered to your people;
as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people.

(Deuteronomy 32:50)

As Thought Tool enthusiasts already know, Hebrew words which seem to mean two separate things or ideas are really closely related. Thus ‘Festival of the Gathering’ also means ‘Festival of Death’. But why would the most joyful Biblical holyday carry even a hint of death?

For a clue, we need to examine an incident late in the life of Moses.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Avenge the Children of Israel from the Midianites; afterwards shall you be gathered to your people. And Moses spoke to the people saying, ‘Arm yourselves for war and go against the Midianites…
(Numbers 31:1-3)

A lesser man hearing that this would be his final mission might have dawdled in launching the war. He might have described the delay as necessary for adequate military preparation. But ancient Jewish wisdom observes that though Moses clearly knew that after this mission he would die, he nonetheless wasted no time in carrying it out.

This final opportunity for Moses to obey God carried a special quality which it wouldn’t have possessed if there would be countless future such opportunities. If great wine cost a dollar a bottle, it would soon lose its specialness. The value of any limitless commodity is zero. Without death, there can ultimately be no life. A life lived forever would be diminished and perhaps this is exactly what Steve Jobs meant in June 2005. The words he uttered resonate. This is why Sukkot, the holyday of joy, must contain within it some small elements of death.

It is vitally important not to allow yourself to become emotionally depressed by painful circumstances of loss or disappointment. Each of these carries a small whiff of death, whether of a dream or a reality. My audio CDs and books contain hundreds of insights and inspirations about dancing back from defeat and despair.

As a joyous holiday special before our store closes Wednesday night for Sukkot, the two Library Packs (see details) are available at a special price. These are regularly great buys; for this short period they are even more so. I honestly believe them to be life transforming resources which I encourage you to own and gift to others.

Just remember what I told you the last time I discussed Sukkot in the Thought Tool of September 22, 2010: Every pain possesses the promise of pleasure; poverty promises prosperity; sadness contains the seed of happiness. The distress of death presumes the joy of eternal life. Now go and draw energy from the Bible and ancient Jewish wisdom.

Duh! Moments

October 11th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

Every morning for the last few months, I gingerly sidled around my desk to reach the window blinds. Frequently, I knocked over one or two items on the way, since the path to the window is narrow. This morning I realized that if I moved my desk back by about an inch and a half, I wouldn’t have to suck in my breath to access the blinds. Duh!

One of my more frustrating kitchen moments comes when I hold a dirty plate and can’t figure out if the dishwasher ran. Is it full of clean dishes or did I just do such a good job of rinsing that they look clean but aren’t? For $4.98 I purchased a panel which sticks on the appliance. It has a sliding door which, when moved, uncovers the words, “dirty” or “clean.” When I remember to use it (o.k., the system isn’t perfect) it eliminates needing to carefully peruse each item in the dishwasher trying to determine its sanitary rating. Duh!

Over the years, I have lost a fair number of my favorite earrings. These weren’t expensive jewelry, but earrings that I particularly liked. They shared a common component. They all had an open back. It is embarrassing to say how recently I discovered that for a few dollars, I could buy a package of plastic rings which fit over the back of these types of earrings, stopping them from accidentally slipping off. Duh!

Life is full of these “duh” moments. Sometimes you see another person doing something clever. Sometimes you hear an advertisement for exactly what you need. Sometimes, a light bulb goes off in your head as you look around you with fresh eyes. The solutions are usually inexpensive; they are frequently free. They often make you metaphorically slap your forehead in dismay at your prior obtuseness.

Sometimes companies have a Duh! moment. If you are above a certain age you might remember when the Hershey’s baking cocoa box had a ridiculous circle through which you were supposed to spoon out the product. Invariably, the powder spilled and you could never get the last bit out of the container. One day, that hole disappeared and under the lid was a completely open top. The new design probably even cost less to manufacture. Duh!

Frequently, pronouncements of academics sound like Duh! statements. This morning’s Wall Street Journal had two doozies. The editorial summed up the ideas of one of this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Economics, Thomas Sargent, as, “…people do not respond passively to changes in economic policy or circumstances. They anticipate future conditions and adjust according to their best interests.” I am sure that Mr. Sargent, and his co-winner Christopher Sims, have done worthwhile work. But, really, are you shocked to hear that the idea that people change their behavior in response to economic reward and punishment? One can only say -Duh! Another article proclaimed, “Tots as young as 3 can be generous while others are inclined to hog.” Children’s personalities aren’t all identical? Duh!

All in all, I prefer my own Duh! moments. I cannot exaggerate the pleasure I get from opening my blinds, knowing when to run the dishwasher or confidently donning my earrings. As an added bonus, no tax dollars were involved in my epiphanies and no animals or people were harmed in the process.

Elijah and Electronics

October 4th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

My wife and I love making ancient Jewish wisdom accessible, helping everyone understand how the world REALLY works. We do so with personal appearances, our radio and television shows, and through the books and audio CD programs we publish. Soon, we hope to use podcasting and video. We are wedded to the idea, not the technology.

Unfortunately, it is easy to link ourselves to objects rather than to ideas. Fastening your future to the material rather than the spiritual, limits your life.

Here’s a tale of two companies. Hewlett Packard makes printers. They also make computers. They buy other technology companies like PC pioneer, Compaq and PDA pioneer Palm. You probably haven’t heard much of either lately. Hewlett Packard is not doing well. Its stock hasn’t been as low since 2004 and it fired its CEO, Leo Apotheker, after only eleven months’ tenure.

By contrast, IBM, which celebrated its 100th birthday this summer, is doing very well. Its stock is about as high as ever and Sal Palmisano, CEO for the past nine years, is only the eighth CEO in IBM history. IBM successfully went from punch cards to mainframes to PCs because they are always selling services rather than technology. While the underlying technology changes as necessary, the spiritual idea of helping people do their work more easily remains constant.

At a critical point in his life, even the great prophet Elijah missed this point. After executing the false prophets of the Baal, Elijah fled for his life from Queen Jezebel. He fled to Horev where he remained for forty days and nights without food. (I Kings 19:8)

God asked him what he was doing there and he replied:

I have been very zealous for the Lord, God of Hosts, because Israel abandoned your covenant; they destroyed your altar and they slaughtered your prophets by the sword and I alone remain and they wish to take my life too.

(I Kings 19:10)

God sent a hurricane, followed by an earthquake and then a firestorm. God was not in any of those mighty destructive forces, but He was present in what came next… “a still quiet voice.” (I Kings 19:12)

After this demonstration, using exactly the same words that He used in verse 9, God again asked Elijah what he was doing there.

Elijah, responded in verse 14 to God’s repeated question with exactly the same answer as he gave previously. He missed the message of the “still, quiet voice.”

In response God tells Elijah:

…appoint Elisha the son of Shafat of Avel Mecholah to be prophet in your place.

(I Kings 19:16)

I am sure you have noticed the similarities between Elijah and Moses. Like Elijah, Moses fled for his life and ended up at Horev. (Exodus 3:1) Elijah spent forty days and nights without food just as did Moses. (Exodus 34:28)

But there are contrasts too. Moses moved easily between displaying firmness and anger when the children of Israel sinned, and pleading with God to be compassionate and forgiving to them. (Exodus 32: 19-32) His service, defending God’s honor and elevating His glory always stayed the same; his methods changed as needed.

Elijah wasn’t able to let go of the firmness and anger. He missed God’s message that his task needed a quiet voice rather than large, dramatic rumblings, and wasn’t able to adjust.

Do you have the agility and durability that comes from spiritual focus? Amazon doesn’t sell books—it sells a convenient and pleasant way of buying almost anything. Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee—it sells a predictably pleasant experience. Parents don’t give punishments and rewards–they mold and guide their children. True statesmen don’t dogmatically support or oppose individual legislation–they sustain a vision for their country.

Understanding the difference between the material and the spiritual enables one to focus on what truly matters. It allows one to be more successful in one’s personal, business and civic life. I explore this idea, and many other vital ideas, in great depth in my 2 audio CD set, Tower of Power. We are making it available at a substantial discount this week (online orders only) so you can more easily share it with others.

Neighbors

October 4th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

For most of my childhood, my grandparent, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived in the same, general area. Even those who moved “far away” were usually within an hour’s drive. Family relationships were augmented by neighbors who became friends, the relationships often emerging more from proximity than from shared interests. One of my closest companions from before my memories start was JoAnn, who lived down the block. We had a lot of fun, but we didn’t have a lot of choice. It would never have occurred to our mothers to make play dates and arrange transport for little girls. They unlocked the door in the morning, expected their daughters back for lunch and supper, and assumed that they would find companions without leaving the block.

My friendship with JoAnn was a weekday one. Saturday was my Shabbat and Sunday her day for church. I went to a Jewish school; she to the local Catholic one. Our differences went beyond religion, though. I was an avid reader while JoAnn’s mother had to coerce her into reading anything at all.  She enjoyed fixing hair and trying out new styles while I wasn’t terribly interested in fashion.  Had we met in the classroom or at a camp, we probably never would have gravitated to each other. But for those many years during which we were too young to venture far, we played hopscotch and stoop ball, and spent many summer days splashing about in her four foot deep plastic pool. We rode endless circuits around the block and if memory serves me right, were intrepid spies who more than once saved civilization from utter destruction.

We knew each other’s families. JoAnn and her siblings rotated spending evenings with her grandmother, and I joined her in visiting the black-clad, elderly widow who knew as many words in English as I knew in Italian. I knew more about communion and convents than most of the kids in my class and JoAnn knew more about less popularized Jewish festivals, like Shavuot or Shmini Atzeret, than the majority of Jews.

All the families on our block were either Italian-Catholic or Jewish. Across the street lived an older Jewish couple. For many years their youngest daughter was a favorite babysitter for many of the families on the block.  After her marriage, this young woman and her husband took an apartment next door to her parents.  A few years later, we were all shocked when her father died suddenly.  Jewish burials take place as quickly as possible, and within 24 hours matters were arranged. I was considered too young to go to the funeral with my mother, but old enough to stay home alone. Our ex-babysitter’s toddler was sent across the street to JoAnn’s house.

About two hours after my mother left, JoAnn came running down the block. Their young Jewish charge was hungry and her mother, knowing that it was Passover and how the food restrictions on that holiday are extremely serious, was hesitant to give him as much as a fruit from her kitchen. I solved the problem by sending over kosher for Passover food, but it wasn’t until years later that I recognized and appreciated the sensitivity and respect which JoAnn’s mother exhibited.  

People endlessly talk about multiculturalism and the need for valuing all ethnicities, races and religions as if America in decades past was a hostile and evil nation for all but a select few. To speak that way is an insult to so many who, like the people on my block, treated each other with dignity, were quick to help one another, and who created safe and secure neighborhoods for their children.