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American Guild of Judaic Art New Vision. New Website. New Year. This new “virtual” home for the Guild was created by dedicated  members from all over the country with different talents and skills, who worked diligently to make the site easy to use, informative and—most importantly—the best venue to display AGJA members’ art.  I stand...

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Neshama Interfaith Center Marian Monahan, a founder of the Neshama Interfaith Center, speaks in the voice of a prophet. She preached these words on Mother's Day at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, and has graciously allowed me to share them here: Those of you who know me are aware that I'm quite involved in the interfaith...

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Encountering Angels: Reading Genesis with my Children In this book, my children and I blend traditional Jewish learning and personal experience in our commentary on Genesis, making it unlike any other book written about the biblical text and rabbinic literature related to Genesis.  Like most books of biblical commentary written by rabbis, it examines the text through the...

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Pamela Jay Gottfried is a rabbi, parent, teacher, artist and author. An inveterate Scrabble player and New York Times Crossword Puzzle fanatic, she credits her love of words to her parents, who encouraged her to develop her vocabulary through reading and using the dictionary at an early age. Since her ordination from...

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Grandma’s Wisdom Redux

“If it was a funeral, you’d go.”

Last week I shared this plain-spoken wisdom of my Grandma Minnie, who always encouraged us to make the effort to attend celebrations. I wrote about how I’d been to many funerals and houses of mourning lately, but I didn’t reveal the other reason I’ve been remembering this life lesson I learned from my grandma.

A long-time friend from college and his partner of 25 years will be celebrating their anniversary in June. I was beyond honored to be invited to serve as an officiant at what they’ve cleverly dubbed a “wedniversary.” While marking 25 years of love, commitment and devotion to one another, they are also going to make it legal, which same-sex marriage is in their home state.

love cant wait cover pic

There were a few logistical hurdles to my attendance, all easily surmounted thanks to Grandma Minnie. Last week, I booked my flights. This week, I learned that our entire circle of close-knit friends from college will be there to celebrate together, some with spouses and children.

Grandma Minnie died a few months before my spouse and I were married, shortly after our engagement party and tenaim ceremony, nearly 24 years ago. She probably never imagined her wisdom about being present at happy occasions would continue to guide me for the rest of my life. She probably never imagined my application of her life-lesson to a wedniversary.

I think she would agree: Love can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grandma’s Wisdom

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“If it was a funeral, you’d go.”

I don’t doubt my grandma’s wisdom anymore. I know she was right; every single time we questioned whether it was feasible to attend a birthday party, Bat Mitzvah or wedding, she would insist it was worth the effort. We always shore up our sense of obligation to pay our respects to the dead and support the grieving mourners, so why not share in the joyous occasions?

with grandma on 80th

Lately, I’ve attended more than a few funerals and visited more than a few shiva homes. One friend told me that, while she was mourning her mother’s death, her home was jam-packed with visitors from across all denominations of Atlanta Jewry, prompting another visitor to remark, “If we can come together under these circumstances, why can’t we come together other times?”

Why, indeed?

The Jewish community is often fractured; we argue across religious and political divides, placing physical and emotional distance between us. Except, it would seem, when death unites us. Maybe it’s because we recognize that the death of our parents is inevitable, that sitting with grief is something we will all do.

Simply being present for friends who are mourning, letting them know that they are not alone, is now a priority for me. Particularly as I reach an age when the Facebook posts of my friends are equal parts birth and death announcements.

It bears mentioning that I learned of every one of these recent deaths from Facebook, from threads filled with comments of condolences. It was natural to add my words to the page, and I could have easily considered my obligation fulfilled after hitting “enter.” But I thought to myself, “what would Grandma do?”

I baked. I went. I prayed. I listened to stories about the deceased. Driving home, I imagined time when my friends would be there for me—on Facebook and in person—and my sorrow abated.

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Listen. Learn. Lead.

New Tech City has just kicked off a month of podcasts about kids and technology. This week’s episode, Being 12, is a must-listen for all adults who care about children. It features the story of Dierdre Shetler, a middle school tech teacher in Phoenix, Arizona, who has a unique approach to teaching technology to more than 800 kids in a lower-income, immigrant-heavy district. She employs what I might call the 3 L’s of Teaching: Listen. Learn. Lead.

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Perhaps the thing that is most striking about Ms. Shetler’s story is her method for eliciting her students’ opinions and encouraging their active participation in discussions. She asks them questions and she listens to their answers. She doesn’t presume to know or prejudge their online behavior. She recognizes the need to engage Middle School students in the process of identity formation, to make explicit to them that their online or social media identities need to be as carefully considered as their online safety.

This podcast is a must-listen for parents and teachers of adolescents. It is up to us, the adults that are immigrants to technology, to bridge the generation gap with our kids, the digital natives. Ms. Shetler and New Tech City provide models and tools for building bridges. Check out the New Tech City blog for links to lesson plans and survey template.

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