Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Greetings from Stern-land

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

and if your bird goes missing before dinner ...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feasting on Just Desserts

When I went for U.S. Army Basic Training at Ft. Ord, CA in 1960, there were only three Jews in the Company of 500. Schwartz, Stern and Wilson ended up (The Army did everything alphabetically) in my Squad of 12. When our Squad fell in at attention Sgt. Flores shouted in thickly accented English, “All who are Jew, raise hand.” 

In 1960 there was still far too much antisemitism and only Wilson (nervously) followed the command. Schwartz and I made eye contact and finally complied. We couldn't sacrifice Wilson. 

“All who are Jew report to base hospital chapel tomorrow night for Rosh Hashanah Services,” Flores continued in broken ingl├ęs. We went to services celebrating the Jewish New Year, followed by a fabulous feast served by the women of Hadassah in Monterrey, CA. 

Returning to the barracks, Bob Vittoria, who occupied the bunk above me, wanted to know why we were so happy. I told him about the services and the dinner. He wanted to know more about the food. So I gave him the details.

Four days later, Sgt. Flores repeated the command: “All who are Jew raise hand.” 

And now there were four. Schwartz, Stern, Wilson and Vittoria. We sat together at Yom Kippur Services (the Day of Atonement, the one day a year that Jews do what Catholics - including Bob Vittoria - do when they go to Confession).  

After a couple of hours, Vittoria began whispering in my ear. “So, when do we eat?” I kept telling him to be quiet until he kept repeating the same question a little bit louder each time. Finally I whispered back … “we don’t eat on Yom Kippur, we fast!!!"

Typical Yom Kippur Feast

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When is a Loss a Gain?

My granddaughter Izzy lost another tooth yesterday.  She wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy;

   Dear Tooth Fairy, 
   Can you give me a present and a few dollars?
   Love, Izzy

Thinking for a moment after she signed her name, she prudently added

   I love you

The last time Izzy lost a tooth I did a bit of research on what was considered appropriate compensation for little choppers.  I found a relatively new survey had been conducted by Visa.  They asked parents (via telephone) how much cash was extracted by their children (under 13) for a lost tooth.  Apparently, a baby tooth nets 23% more than a year ago and 43% more than 2011.  The survey concluded the reason for the increase is plain old keeping-up-with-the-Joneses;  "parents don't want their kids to be the ones at the playground who received the lowest amount."

According to a consumer psychologist and Golden Gate University professor, "A kid who got a quarter would wonder why her tooth was worth less than the kid who got $5."

The Tooth Fairy doubled Izzy's usual take, leaving an extra dollar in honor of Thanksgivukkah along with a little note on per diems.  

If it becomes a playground scandal, she'll just have to deal with it.

(for the record, I did NOT severely whip out her tooth - the school nurse did it)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gifilte Fish Hung By the Chimney With Charoset


A couple of years ago a neighbor asked me if I would be his guest at a Jewish networking group.

“What makes you think I’m Jewish?” I asked.

“You are, aren’t you?” he responded.

“No,” I said, “I’m an Atheist.” He was perplexed.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because God doesn’t believe in Atheists,” I replied. 

My reality is that I've been a confused Jew since birth. My mother was a major leader in our Jewish community and Vice President of the National Council of Jewish Women. We celebrated Chanukah and Christmas.  

My grandparents were Founders of Seattle’s first Reformed congregation, in 1899; my cousin Samuel Koch, was the second rabbi from 1906 to 1944. My father was president of the Board when I was Bar Mitzvahed.

My cousin, Joe Greengard, was a teacher in the religion school at TDH.  Rabbi Levine visited Joe's class to explain to the little munchkins why they shouldn’t have a Christmas Tree in their homes, then opened the floor to questions.

“I want to ask Mr. Greengard if he is going to have his Christmas tree lot this year.” 

My dear long-time friend, Samuel Goldfarb wrote the best known of all Hannukah songs … THE DREIDEL SONG. 

I had a little dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play. 

Sam Goldfarb was the music director at Temple De Hirsch in Seattle from 1930 to 1963. On February 20, 1959 Jimi Hendrix’s first gig was in the basement of the Temple and was kicked out for being “too wild.” I don’t think Sam had anything to do with that. 

One of my favorite comedians, Adam Sandler, wrote “The Hanukkah Song” with Saturday Night Live writers Lewis Morton and Ian Maxtone-Graham. He originally performed the song on SNL’s Weekend Update on December 3rd, 1994. He later included the song in some of his stand-up comedy routines.

The premise of “The Hanukkah Song” is that Jewish children feel alienated around Christmas-time, when they are surrounded by Christmas music and decorations but don’t celebrate the holiday themselves.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Greetings Delinquency and Excremental Excuses


I was recently brainstorming about a birthday card I was going to send to you, dear friend, on your birthday, but apparently my brain storm wiped out all my gray cells.  I’m going to post this FLOG today, pre-dated November 8, 2013. 

It’s a private FLOG gone public; leaked to the world media by Assange and Snowden (ok, and me).

I was reminded of my forgetfulness when my you sent me a copy of the crappy comments you sent in response to BS's b.s., thanking him for his highly personal (and in unquestionably dubious taste) birthday card, which allegedly arrived on time. 

I did warn this was a PRIVATE Flog
(be grateful it's not smell-ernet)

I am flogging myself after which I will have a brain scan to see if there is still something there.

Happy post-pre-dated Birthday, Ell Cee*
(I assume everything came out alright - Alka-Seltzer on the way)

*See?  I told you, names changed to protect the dubious innocent

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Venezuelan Uno-Upsmanship (it wasn't enough for El Presidente to just merge holidays)

just ask Edward Snowden

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in a blatant but effective abuse of power, declared November  1st as the arrival of “Early Christmas” in Venezuela, “because we want happiness for all people.”

I am a people.  Sometimes I’m a whole crowd (or so I’ve been told).   Having an Early Christmas doesn’t really hold any thrill for me, even if I weren’t Jewish.   It just means I have to listen to countless renditions of Frosty the Snowman and Santa Baby for an additional month.

It has been officially decreed that Early Christmas brings Early Christmas Bonuses (paid by the government?) on December 1st.    

The timing of this is not suspicious – it’s glaringly obvious.  December 8th is election day in Venezuela and Maduro, who took over after the death of Hugo Chavez last March, is the buck-stops-here guy for a country with problems that make the roll-out seem like the most brilliant success ever.

Maduro has even designated a Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness.  I wonder if there will be a tax credit if you attest you and the members of your household are happy.  I wonder if there will be a fine if you are not happy.  I wonder, in a country where there are food and toilet paper shortages, what the fine might be.

He knows if you’ve been happy or sad, so be happy for … um …

Well, suffice it to say you should just be happy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Hybrid Holiday

One day only!!! Never again for anyone currently on the planet (except maybe Joan Rivers, assuming she doesn't deplete the Earth's supply of silicone and D-batteries before then).

This year, by coincidence, the Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah and the American Holiday of Thanksgiving fall on the same day. Never happened before. And won’t happen again for more than 77,000 years. So we Jews have to make the most of it.

Yesterday I wrote about the 9-year-old in Brooklyn making the most of it… $48,000 so far selling his Menurkey, a cross (pardon me) between a Menorah and a turkey. 

Today we’re going to merge a little Hanukkah Gelt and a little Jewish guilt on the Gitell girls who are promoting something called “Thanksgivukkah,” and giving a poultry - uh - paltry 10% of the gelt from the Thanksgivukkah-wares to MAZON, a Jewish anti-hunger group in keeping with Thanksgiving’s emphasis on thankfulness, and the Jewish requirement to give “tzedakeh” (Hebrew for charity).  That leaves 90% of the tzedakeh going elsewhere. 

Dana Gitell of Boston conjured the concept last year as she drove to her marketing job at an elderly care agency and began brainstorming ways Thanksgiving and Hanukkah could be melded. 

“There are so many interesting and playful cultural juxtapositions that come to mind,” she said. With her sister-in-law, Deborah Gitell of Los Angeles, she created a Thanksgivukkah Facebook page, trademarked the word, printed T-shirts and enlisted artist Kim DeMarco to draw a “Happy Thanksgivukkah.” Kim knocked off Grant Woods famed 1930 painting, American Gothic – not the first remake of this particular artwork, but perhaps the first to convert the cheery couple to Judaism…  

The sisters-in-law are also throwing a Thanksgivukkah party in Los Angeles on Nov. 29. (You may be invited).

According to Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, the self-described “pope of basic cable”…

“How dare you, Hanukkah!” he mock-protested.

“Pretty soon school kids will think Thanksgiving started when the Wampanoag Indian Tribe sat down with the Maccabees and the yams lasted for eight nights.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fire this baby up!

While perusing the amazing cookbook that is the Internet, and contemplating the convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving this coming November 28th, I came across a news article about a nine-year-old Brooklyn kid who envisioned a “menurkey” (a combination turkey and menorah).  His mother trademarked the name and with some artistic assistance, the Menurkey was hatched, manufactured and sold via the web (with some financial assistance from Kickstarter).

According to the story, the pint-sized entrepreneur’s company mission is to help bring creative projects to life and is selling plaster and ceramic versions for fifty bucks. The kid is CEO, Creator and Designer. His parents are Co-Presidents and Co-Parents. His seven-year-old brother is Vice-President and Chief of Quality Control. And sixteen untitled friends and associates are included in the Company.  

On Facebook … October 31
Now you won't have to go anywhere without your Menurkey!! We are hitting the app store! Check out the iMenurkey now-- Special thanks to our pals who created the original iMenorah!

This is obviously a capital idea and the last thing I want to do is rain on the kid’s parade.  I don’t want to sound like sour grapes or sour cream.  

But it seems to me that the Menurkey, although clever, has a shorter shelf-life than William Hung’s music career.  The next time it will have a practical use (under the current marketing plan) will be more than seventy-seven-THOUSAND years from now (the next time Hanukkah and Turkey-day collide). 

In my opinion, the Menurkey should be edible – and made from the Twinkie recipe, so it could be passed on to future generations and nibbled on now and then over the centuries.  Thus a new cottage industry could be born – Menurkey serve-ware, wines and cheese crafted specifically to pair with vintage Menurkey, the Tupperware Menurkeeper, themed lottery tickets (Menurkey Mania!) … the possibilities are endless. 

It's no more awful a tradition than drinking Manischewitz.  Although I suppose seventy-seven thousand years from now, folks might not agree.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An All Hallows Eve Haul

I went to a Halloween Party with my grandchildren last night. Kaz was somewhat puzzled by the festivities but Izzy accumulated an impressive inventory of cavity-nurturing treats.  I was proud that before we went home she distributed a significant amount of her sweet treasures to others - although I wouldn't have minded if she passed off the Red Vines to me.  Alas.