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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 an ordained rabbi, teacher, mother, and self-described wordie. An inveterate Scrabble player and New York Times Crossword Puzzle fanatic, she credits her love of words to her third grade teacher and her parents, who encouraged her to develop her vocabulary through reading and using the dictionary...

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Overcompensation

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I’m looking out the window at mostly empty streets. The air temperature is not yet above freezing, but there are now puddles where there was ice overnight. Schools are closed again today; Ms. Ginger will not need to maneuver her bus through these hilly streets, holding her breath and praying for the safe delivery of her cargo, our children.

winter storm 2015

The dog goes out to take care of her business and I stand at the front door, examining the thin layer of wet snow and remembering last year. The crunching noise her paws make as she runs to her favorite spot are a faint echo of the sound of D’s van rolling into my neighbor’s SUV, parked there because even drivers of heavy cars and trucks found the hill impassable.

five collided cars street view webI remember D describing his desperate attempt to drive past the wreckage on my lawn. After hours of crawling through highway traffic, he arrived at the top of the hill at 11:00 p.m. and stopped the car. His 2-year old daughter was still at school, less than ½ mile away, waiting for a parent to take her home.

Seeing the abandoned cars lining both sides of the street and believing he could slide between them, he eased his foot off the brake pedal and began to coast. D knew his daughter was already asleep; he wanted to be there when she woke up the next morning.

I remember D’s friend telling me that D stayed in his car for about an hour after it slid to a stop and hit the SUV on my lawn. He didn’t want to ring our doorbell and disturb us so late at night.

When it got too cold to wait any longer, he walked the last leg of his journey—stopping at The Home Depot for several hours to get warm—to be at school before sunrise to greet his daughter.

Last year, the city, county and state officials underestimated the weather.  To our peril.

This year, they are likely overcompensating—closing school at every prediction of snow—to ensure our safety. I’m stymied by the angry response to this overcompensation. Why would I complain or condemn school officials on Facebook? I would rather watch the snow melt while my kids sleep, safe and warm in their beds, knowing that a few miles north of here D is probably doing the same thing.

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SOJOURN with me

Having a sojourn (noun, temporary stay) at the SOJOURN blog this week, where I share some thoughts about parenting, personal growth and prom dresses.

3littleblackdresses

For those of you who don’t live in the southeast, where school ends in the middle of May, you’re probably surprised to learn that shopping for prom dresses is a February activity in Atlanta. This ordinary experience sparked a conversation with my daughter and this reflection on our relationship.

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sojourn squareComing Out, Again: “Of course our relationship hasn’t changed. I haven’t changed. I was always this person, you just didn’t know it.”

We are shopping for a prom dress—something simple yet elegant—when she says this to me. We are having no success finding her a dress, which is frustrating but not causing any conflict. Our mother-daughter relationship… Read more →

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Let There Be Light

From the narrow place of despair I cried to You…

It was inevitable. We discuss the events of the day around the dinner table. There was no way to avoid telling our son, who turns thirteen this week and assumes the obligations of Jewish adulthood. One of those obligations, surely, is sharing in the repair of this broken world.

There was no way to avoid telling him that three more souls were taken by force. There was no way to avoid telling him about the senseless violence, the suffering, the sorrow in this broken world.

I turned to my spouse, who so evenly explained what had happened, carefully articulating what details we knew to be accurately reported. Grateful that he stepped into the breach, I told him of my despair.

What does making friends in different faith communities accomplish? What good is it to bake bread and brew coffee, and make prayer beads and praise the Maker of Peace in the Universe? What words and deeds of compassion can counteract such hostility?

He was quick to remind me that every single act of kindness, every single moment of connection, matters. He offered me a lifeline, pulling my faltering faith toward a wide-open space, where it has room to grow.

Suzanne Barakat shines a light on the essence of her brother: “He was happy in everything that he did. He made it light.” She reminds me that, even in the narrowest place of despair, there is still room for the light.

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