Saturday, December 16, 2006

On my new dilemma

Well, it's the second night of Chanuka, and I am trying to decide whether I want to go to school on the West Coast.

I'm an East Coast kind of gal, but I have a good chance of getting into my second-choice school. The question is, is it my second choice , really? My first choice is obvious: it's in New York City. It has everything I want. The people I most want to be among have gone there. But the school in California will accept me.

I'm applying ot other schools as well, of course. I'm applying to education programs, secondary ed and special ed. If I don't get into my first choice, I can always become a teacher. But the question is, do I want to hold out for the perfect school?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Summer Rec

Oh, what a summer. A long, hot, muggy summer on Eastern Long Island, and man, I am glad it's over.

Not that I was looking forward to school starting. Okay, I might have been, a little, but it wasn't classes so much as seeing my friends, having my own apartment, being busy, being active, you know what I mean. But this summer...Boy, I'm glad it's over.

Why? Well, imagine you had had the same job every summer for the past five years--say, as a special education aide--and you love it. And then they move you to another building. One where you have no supervision, no assistance, practically no coworkers. No cooperation from the other "adults" in the classroom, no scheduling or coordination from above, no one even officially telling you what these kids need!

Look, one of the reasons I love this job is the kids, of course, but what makes it a good job is the support and cooperation from the teachers, counselors, and coordinators. My first year, I was at the special ed summer school, where I worked in a classroom under a teacher. Then they moved me to half-day camp, where I worked as a one-on-one aide to autistic kids for three years. We were in a mainstream camp, and my job was to facilitate my kid getting along with the "typical" kids. The camp counselors were very cooperative, and there was a fantastic resource room teacher who coordinated everything and gave each of the aides a heads-up about their kids' particular needs. And also is generally an awesome person.

Then they moved me to full-day camp. This, I must confess, was my own fault. The new special ed principal this summer was my sister's old teacher, so I called on that relationship to try and get more hours. I was angling to get back to the summer school, but I landed in full-day camp. Where there was no special ed supervisor, and the camp counselors--mostly under-experienced, irresponsible, and/or teenagers--had no clue how to accommodate our kids. Or that it's a bad idea to leave the room whenever you feel like it, leaving the kids unsupervised. Or that the aides are not there to do your job for you. Or that making the kids sit against the wall while you play dodgeball against the other counselors is not fun for the kids.

Little things like that.

Okay, I waited too long on this post. I forgot I was working on it, to be honest. I'm not as mad as I was. Maybe I'll work on it more later, if I feel mad enough...

Monday, June 26, 2006

On Immigration

See, this blog was started to keep me from stomping around the kitchen and yelling, especially in the summer when I am often home alone with my sister (fourteen years old) who only looks up from her computer and says “You are talking to yourself and I think you should stop it.” Except what with the routine I’ve fallen into with the work on my book, I’ve been finding it difficult to change modes and fly into a rant.

Ah, but then I read the paper over breakfast. And every so often, I read about someone who makes me jump up from the table, brandish my orange juice glass at the newspaper, and yell, “I have to share an island with him?”

“Sister, you are yelling!” No one understands why she calls me Sister.

“I know I’m yelling, Bird! I’m yelling because people are mean to each other!”

“Well, you need to stop it! I am playing a game!”

“You play your game, I’ll yell at the newspaper.”

“Stop yelling at the newspaper, Sister!”

So I took her advice. Hi, blog-world.

So this guy claims he’s doing this out of compassion. Compassion for the people he’s having kicked out of the home they’ve lived in for seven years, who now have to find a new home where they can find care for their disabled daughter (as I type the world “disabled,” my sister yowls, “Sister, are you using your computer?” Yes, I am, Little Miss Psychic). Compassion, for the “multiple immigrant families” he imagines to be living in the house he glares at through the windows of his S.U.V. (ooooh, don’t get me started on the S.U.V.), where it turns out one perfectly legal family with several children live and play. Hispanic children. But he’s not racist. No one is ever racist.

But what really got me about this article was the following:

Carolyn Gilbert, a retired secretary who advocates an electrified fence at the Mexican border, said he had no conscience. "People forget the human dimension," she said.

The article artfully exposed Mr. Nicolosi’s hypocrisy, but that line gave me pause. Ms Gilbert sees herself as a friend to Mr. Nicolosi’s victims, yet her solution isn’t much more compassionate than his. Which reminds me of a poem by Taylor Mali (from his book, What Learning Leaves):

The Problem

You’re the this that somebody ought to do something about

--Jeffrey McDaniel

The guy in front of me trying to get on the subway

who is blocking my way onto the subway

is not the problem.

He’s my problem,

but even I am not so self-centered as to think that my problem

is THE problem.

Besides, he’s trying to do what I’m trying to do:

get on the subway.

I recognize him as my brother in transit.

No, he’s not the problem.

Nor is the woman in front of him,

nor even the people in front of her.

None of us is the problem,

we few, we happy few,

we band of transit brothers.

But there’s this guy inside the subway

with nothing but empty space to his left.

You know who he is? He’s the problem.

I wish he would look my way and say

“What’s your problem?” so I could say

“Don’t you mean, who?”

All he would need to do is step aside

and we could all get on.

But does he realize this? Noooo.

Does he know he’s the problem? Noooo.

Do problems ever realize that they’re the problems?

That’s why they’re problems.

Which makes me think,

am I anybody’s problem?

Am I keeping anyone from getting somewhere?

Not out of calculatedly malicious intent

but unwittingly lazy complacency.

If I knew where to look, would I see someone pointing at me

angrily trying to get me to do something

that might not occur to me otherwise?

New life resolution:

try to be aware of the problem.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s probably you.

So step aside.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

On Morning Minyan

I love shacharit. I didn't realize this before, because my life has for several years been full of bad shacharit experiences. But there's no reason for that. The world is full of good shacharit experiences, if you're willing to go out and look for them (at 6:30 in the morning). It's not like the NSJC morning minyan is so brilliant or full of kavana or anything, but at least it's a minyan, and not only a minyan but one that includes me, and that puts it above anything I've been part of since...USY Encampment? And it's reminding me why I started putting on tefilin in the first place. Standing in a room with a handful of men and women all getting up at the crack of dawn to come together and wrap leather thongs around their heads and arms is some experience, let me tell you.

I got to feel extra-old today, though. When I was twelve and thirteen (or thirteen and fourteen?) I volunteered with the preschool camp at NSJC. Today, a girl who was in one of those classes had her first aliyah as a bat mitzvah (and brought bagels--yay). The party's next week; my sister is invited. I hope the kippot are a color I don't already have--my collection is too full of repeats!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

On Religious Persecution

So I'm not sure, but I think that this unreadable article actually sums up pretty much how I feel on the subject...only badly. The headline, at any rate, is totally awful. But the point is, it's not my problem, it's our problem. Sort of along the lines of that "When they came for me" poem, really.

The headline (and to an extent, the article) makes it seem as though Jews are opposing anti-gay ammendments because Jews believe in marriage equality. But of course, Jews don't agree on that any more than on any controversial issue since, say, destruction of the Temple--pro or con. The problem is, if you allow a precedent for the government to make laws based in religion or discriminating against the practices of a certain religion (and there are many religions that do approve of--and sanctify--marriages between adults of the same sex), what is to prevent the government from later making laws that target certain religions in particular? If we allow this, could we really prevent future laws, say, banning brit milah (circumcision), for instance?

Yeah, I'm getting extreme and jumping ahead, but if voters have no compassion for others, let them look out for themselves. This is not an attack on the LGBT community alone.

On a completely unrelated note: if you're bored and need something to pray for, Arona bat Chana could use a good thought now and then...

Friday, May 12, 2006

On DovBear and the Orthodox community

Can I just say how much DovBear rocks my socks? It's the wonderfully clear-headed way he has of criticizing his own community from within, and not feeling compelled to abandon that community because of the problems he sees in it. You've got to respect a guy who can put together such a clearheaded "list of things every Orthodox Jew should know." It's satirical, but not out of malice or resentment. It's religious, but not led by blindness or hate. Here is a man who, as Judah Who Always Said NO puts it, knows how to think.

Don't get excited, Mom, that doesn't mean I'm going Orthodox any time soon. But this guy has my respect.

I have to address number 25 on his list, though, from the point of view of someone whom he would not consider "frum" (although I've been told by not a few people, almost in so many words, that I am the frummest person they know outside of the relatives no one talks to from insert-name-of-town-with-high-Jewish-population, which still weirds me out a little).

A few weeks ago I got in a random conversation with a stranger (this happens when you're a chick in a kipa), and he turned out to be an Orthodox rabbi. I had to explain to him that I don't do the things I do "just to stick it to the Orthodox," but because I personally feel that they are right. This was both a relief and a surprise to him.

Really, why should this be a surprise? Just because I do something you don’t understand doesn’t mean I’m doing it to bug you. I mean, by wearing a kipa, putting on tallit and tefilin, I am of course making the point that I can and may. But that’s not why I do it. If that were my entire reason then I should make a career of storming Orthodox synagogues’ morning services and insisting on putting on my tefilin in the men’s section. If that were my entire reason, then I may as well give up, because one meshuggenah lady is not going to change Orthodox Judaism.

I don’t want to change Orthodox Judaism. I have no beef with Orthodox Jews. I have no problem with the frum (okay, I’m lying, I can’t stand campus Chabadniks, but that’s their fault). The things that I do, the commitments I have made in my life, the “extra” mitzvot I make an effort to obey, all come from a deep place of self-examination. That a way of life that came out of an eleven-year-old Schechter kid’s impulsive defiance has continued eleven years since shows that I’m not doing this to bother or insult anyone. This is between me and me, between me and God.

And just to round out DovBear’s list to thirty, I might point out that “God” is not the name of God, and therefore doesn’t really need to be written “G-d.” But That’s just my pet peeve. Who am I to say what every Orthodox Jew should know?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On College Republicans

Does anyone understand this?
What are they trying to say?
Was this supposed to be irony?
Did they not understand?
Is this some tricky setup by some secret underground Anti-Republican Student Association?
What's going on in this picture?

Look, College Republicans have a right to free expression. And goodness knows, I have no problem with them making fools of themselves. But I'm curious. I'm dying of curiosity. What were they thinking?

Let's put this in context. Ten feet to the left, Matt Schwartz and a group with a very long name (see image) are distributing shirts in the school colors that say "gay? fine by me." Other groups are tabling as well. I wish I remembered which. In the midst of it, this table.
This was in mid-April. I didn't have a blog then. What I had was a disposable camera and an impulsive nature. I walked up to the Republican table.
"Hey--can I take a picture of your sign?"
Not "Hey--what are you tabling for?"
Not "Hey--why does your sign say 'Let them eat cake?'"
Not "Hey--what in the name of all irony do you think you are saying?"
Sometimes I can be pretty dumb.

So. "Hey--can I take a picture of your sign?"
The tablers were delighted, and posed with the sign, as pictured above. I snapped the picture, then headed along toward my class. I didn't think of it much until I got my pictures back, and found myself staring in bewilderment all over again.

But here's the thing that really gets me: the College Democrats tabled the next day. And I was no more impressed with them than I was with the GOPjr. The Dems tabled with a nice red-white-and-blue sign that said "College Democrats" and a table full of giveaways. The angriest giveaways I've ever seen (outside Israeli politics).

They had anti-Bush buttons.
They had anti-Bush bumper stickers.
They had anti-Bush posters.
They had anti-Bush pamphlets.
They had signs showing a donkey assaulting an elephant with the slogan, "Do it DONKEY style."
They had everything except --
The Issues.

Shock. Gasp.

I said it. And I'll say it again:
The Issues.
With a capital I.

Now don't get me wrong; I hate Bush as much as the next college-age feminist liberal lesbian hippie-chick. But I know why. I never forget why. The College Dems have become so wrapped up in their war against Bush that they've lost track of why they're doing it. They've let their anger rule them. They've fallen to the dark side.

This is the problem with politics on campus. No one talks about the Issues.

I don't have a scan of the political cartoon that appeared in the Spectrum (UB's student newspaper) recently, attacking the Justice for Janitors rally staged by UB Students Against Sweatshops. It showed students (not personally resembling any actual student leaders) saying "oh no, we've run out of things to protest!" Then it shows the students protesting (presumably their own) excessive fliering. Not brilliant, but it makes its point. UB SAS is being ridiculed as having nothing left to protest. Apparrently, we live in a perfect world.

I'll admit it, I chose homework over attending the latest rally (against anti-immigrant legislation) on South Campus. Maybe that makes me part of the problem, I don't know. But I'm not forgetting that there is a problem, and I'm not forgetting what the problem is.

It's not Bush. He's just a symptom. Anti-Bush bumper stickers are great, but it's like taking an aspirin for cancer. Get to the cause. Get to the reasons. Get to the Issues.

Get grassroots. We want politics to stay in Washington. Albany is too close. Buffalo is out of the question. The Student Association? Forget it. Me? I'm not an Erie County voter, and I feel guilty about that. But I'm working, bringing the political back into students' lives. A growing number of students are shrugging off the apathy of the endless Buffalo winter, using the optimistic summer months to plan. Harnessing now to give later meaning and direction. Maybe by the time I leave UB, I'll leave behind me an LGBTA I can be proud of. If that's all I accomplish, let me accomplish that.