I have been swallowed whole.

Okay, really, I’ve been swallowed in pieces. Work is swallowing part of me, and my kids (all home for the summer) are swallowing the rest. There apparently isn’t much left for blogging.

One little bit of nifty news is that I started occasionally guest posting for Jew in the City. My first two posts went up last week and the week before. You can find the first one, “When The ‘Less Religious’ Woman Was Frummer Than Me,” here; and the second one, “A Kiddush Hashem In A Most Unexpected Place,” there.

Between swim lessons and jaunts to local museums, I have editing and writing to do. Thank G-d, have four writing assignments to squeeze in the next few weeks. Between this, that, and the other, I’ll probably be blogging infrequently throughout the summer, but hopefully I’ll be back in good form in the fall.

Advertisements

Writing for Children: not for those who want glory, fame, or big bucks

Last week’s Hamodia/Inyan Magazine had an article by one of my favorite columnists, Rabbi Fishel Schachter entitled “Guided by Tale Winds.” While today Rabbi Schachter is well-known in the Torah world for essays and presentations for adults about the weekly Torah portion, parenting, and other subjects, he first gained popularity¬†as a rebbi and storyteller to students in Jewish day schools.

Rabbi Schachter explains in the article that one of the adults in his audience told him many years ago that he had to choose between teaching grown-ups or kids — and he indicated that the natural choice for a man of Rabbi Schachter’s talent and intelligence was to teach adults.

Turning to his own rebbi for guidance, Rabbi Schachter asked if teaching kids was really beneath him? Were all the silly voices and so on undermining his stature?

Continue reading

How you should read a personal essay

The subtitle to this essay should read: the post in which I vent about people being mean to writers other than myself

I don’t just frequent Tablet as a writer, I frequent it as a reader. So, when an article went up today by someone I’d heard about earlier this week (thank you Pop Chassid for your link to Altar online), I decided to read it.

It was an essay by Tova Ross about why and how she stopped covering her hair. Now, anyone who has bothered to look at my photo to the right of this post will have noticed something: my hair is covered. I have covered my hair ever since my marriage and do so joyfully.

Reading a personal essay isn’t about judging, it’s about considering a different viewpoint

For Tova Ross, this mitzvah was not so joyful. If you want more details, go read her essay.

The story almost immediately went viral, but not for good reasons. Continue reading

Fans, friends, and trolls–publishing my first piece on Tablet

So, Tablet published a piece of mine this week. It’s been a crazy experience.

In the first place, writing the piece was a bit out of my comfort zone. While I usually write fiction, this is a personal essay. In brief, the story is about confronting my inner teenager as I’m approaching 40 and relates an episode where I thought a younger man was checking me out in a cafe.

Troll

Trolls don’t only live under bridges.

The subject matter was outside the editorial policies of the chareidi magazines that comprise my usual stomping grounds, so I had to find an alternative publisher. Afraid I might embarrass my husband, I almost decided not to publish it at all, but he assured me that he didn’t mind. And when I shared an early draft with writing friends, the strongly positive reaction encouraged me further.

Tablet accepted my query, then the completed essay. They had it up in a matter of days. Whoa. It didn’t leave me much time to prepare myself. And, boy, did I have to prepare myself.

You see, there’s a lot of differences between a Jewish, but broad-spectrum, online magazine like Tablet and print magazines in the chareidi world. The biggest difference is the comments section.

In a print magazine, there is no comments section. Continue reading

Cold shoulder or pit bulls? On Peter Beinart, the Atlanta Jewish Book Fair and how to act when you disagree with a writer

I don’t often comment on news items, but this one is both Jewish and book-related, so I thought it would be worth mentioning.

Earlier this year, Peter Beinart–blogger and professor–wrote a book blaming the lack of peace in Israel on the Israelis. Even to someone whose politics are somewhat atypical for an Orthodox Jewish American, I found the premise of Beinart’s book both offensive and intellectually flimsy.

Should we set the dogs on ‘im?

This week Atlanta’s JCC hosts 10,000 visitors at its annual Jewish Book Fair. Initially, Peter Beinart was scheduled to appear there to promote his book. But, due to the outrage of many Atlantans who disagree with his public attacks of the Israeli government, Beinart will no longer be welcome to speak at the book fair. Instead, he’s speaking this evening at a different venue. (For more coverage, see here.)

Was this the right reaction? Continue reading

10 Ways to Use Your Words to Spread Love and Peace

This time of year is known on the Jewish calendar as the Nine Days, which culminate in the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av. This fast day is the anniversary of many tragic events in Jewish history, the most important three being the evil report given by 10 out of 12 scouts sent into the land of Israel by Moshe; the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians; and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans.

Two out of three of these events are blamed by the rabbis on the use of words to harm others. By improving our speech, avoiding gossip and hurtful language, we can help bring the Moshiach and his reign of peace. If we build people with our words instead of destroying them with our words, we are adding bricks to the Third Temple.
In this digital age, we use words all the time. As a writer, I’m practically obsessed with them. But the more you use words, the more you must be careful with them. It is truly shocking how often we find people online misusing their words. People insult, use profanity, spread xenophobia and hatred with aplomb. People spread hurtful and offensive comments based on hearsay, rumor, or untruths and act like they’re doing a public service.
The amazing thing is that a level-headed comment that respectfully disagrees is more influential, and a kind word or compliment makes people want to hear more of what you have to say. The more you use your words for good, the more blessing G-d gives them. If more people used their words to spread love and peace in the world, the world would be that much of a happier place to be.
Here are some positive ways you can use your words:
1) Apologize in a more meaningful and detailed way than a simple “I’m sorry,” to someone you harmed.
2) Write an affectionate letter to a spouse, parent, child, teacher or friend.
3) Thank someone you haven’t seen in years for something they did to help you a long time ago.
4) Write a positive review of a book or product.
5) Write a recommendation for a person to get work.
6) Write a letter complementing a company on the fine qualities of their product, or…
7) on the excellent service you received from an employee.
8) If you feel you must disagree with someone, make the comment respectful. For example:
“With all due respect, I must disagree with the idea that…”
“I’m not sure that the evidence supports your comment…”
“You make an interesting point. Can you defend it with some evidence?”
“I’m impressed by your…, but think your statement that…requires more thought.”
“While I think that…is a wonderful…, I have to respectfully disagree with their notion that…”
NEVER insult a person, even if you must attack their ideas. (And, frankly, you usually don’t really need to do that, you’re just itching to.)
9) Leave a note in your spouse’s or kid’s lunchbox with a funny joke or mentioning something you look forward doing with them when they return home.
10) Write a (true or not) story or poem that reflects gratitude to G-d or to a person for the blessings they have brought into your life.