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“And for your years of service to OWU Hillel….”

May 13, 2012

“…we present you with this cat menorah.”

That line, delivered by OWU Hillel President Tammy Winkler, was among the most unforgettable delivered at the 2012 Ohio Wesleyan University Baccalaureate Service last night.  I truly appreciate the thought that went into this gift – made from up-cycled materials and Cora-friendly.  As you can see, she and Ketzel that Kitty are already getting acquainted.  Elsa, our dog, is still not sure what she thinks…

This is my final post as OWUJew.  I had three and a half great years advising Jewish students at Ohio Wesleyan.  I am glad for the experience and grateful for the opportunity.

The following are thanks I offered at the farewell lunch held in my honor on Friday, May 4th.   They seemed worth repeating here.

“I want to offer thanks to Hillel leaders part and present.  I especially wish to thank the presidents with whom I worked most closely: Michael Cohen, Lily Strumwasser, Lizzie Rubenstein, and Tammy Winkler.  Thanks to Richard Elias for being the Hillel handyman every Sukkot, lending his power tools and pick-up truck.  Thank you Bob Gitter for posting this job listing on the Little Minyan listserv and then being an excellent guide on the side.  Thanks to Michael Flamm for ongoing support, institution memory, and advice.  Thank you Karen Poremski – One of the few faculty members I got to know.  I wish we’d been able to take that trip together to the Lakota Reservation, but I’m happy to have gotten to know you and share stories of spirituality and motherhood. (NOTE to students: Karen has been one of Challah for Hunger’s best customers.  Be sure to let her know when you’ll be baking!)

Thanks to all my colleagues in the Chaplain’s Office.  I learned so much from you all.  Your questions about Judaism, knowledge of theology, dedication to social justice and the students of OWU, challenged me in unexpected ways.  I especially want to thank Sarah Dubois for responding to all my questions and executing my off-campus requests.  I couldn’t have gotten things done without you.  Finally, I would like to thank Jon Powers for his endless support and accolades which I am still trying to live up to.

Like most students, I came to Ohio Wesleyan a seeker.  I was looking for a way to reconnect with Jewish traditions and Jewish people.  I found that at OWU.  However, just as the usefulness of students’ time at the university is limited, my time here as reached its end.  Thank you so much for welcoming me into your community.”

So, what’s next for OWUJew?

This summer and into the fall, I will continue to teach Art Education in the online master’s program for the University of Florida in addition to some adjunct teaching for The Ohio State University.  I’m interested in doing some research on Jewish picturebooks as a medium for cultural preservation, using the P&J Library program as a primary example.  This parallels my primary focus which will be raising Cora, along with her big sister Rosa and brother George, to be a mensch.




Note of Thanks to an Unnamed Adviser

May 4, 2012
Many of you will know to whom this note is intended.  I hope that he reads this and appreciates my heartfelt message.  I hope everyone reading it can learn something from my reflections.
Dear Unnamed Adviser,
I wanted to apologize for not formally thanking you today during the luncheon.  It was not deliberate, but I was thinking a lot about it on my way home seeing as you were at the lunch when others I thanked were not able to be there.  It meant a lot to have you there.  I did, of course, think of you as I was writing up my talking points, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.  I think I’m more clear now.
I have appreciated your perspective on Jewish Life at OWU the past year and a half.  Just like the professor who gives you trouble when you are in his class but you really respect in retrospect, you sometimes challenged me in ways I did not really want to be challenged.  Your traditional views forced me to recall my own conservative upbringing and some of the things I am leaving out and leaving behind in my own life and in my work.  While these have for the most part been conscious choices on my part, I sometimes feel a void and a space of longing in my spiritual core as a result.
So, I wanted to thank you more formally and apologize if I didn’t always seem eager for your input.  Know that it was indeed valuable and appreciated.

Reading for Yom Ha’atzmaut

April 27, 2012

While President Shimon Peres celebrated Israel’s birthday with a warning to her enemies, Israeli and Palestinian children were busy working through their differences.

Passing over the past on my way to the future

April 7, 2012

Passover Seder. Miami, Florida (circa 1980). The author is the young girl on the right.

The older Cora gets, the more thought I am putting into how I will raise her to have a strong sense of Jewish identity.  Living in Central Ohio presents certain challenges to this goal that my parents didn’t face while raising me, my brother, and my sister in New York.  Being the parent of a new child and contemplating how one will pass on their traditions is hard enough to do; doing this in a new land, somewhere other than where one grew up oneself, is an even greater challenge.  During the major holidays, especially those like Chanukah and Passover which coincide with Christian holidays that dominate the cultural landscape of the Midwest, I feel what it means to be a stranger in a strange land.

My mother came from a BIG family – her mother was one of four children, her father one of ten.  So, as the photo above illustrates, when I was a kid, we had BIG seders.  Everyone new all the songs and we sang late into the night.  My great-grandpa Victor nestled into his perch at the head of the table and didn’t leave until we had sung “L’Shanah H’Baah B’Yirushaliym.”  (This made finding the afikomen easy; it was always buried in the pillows beside him.)  I was pleased to have Cora attend the Interfaith Seder at OWU with me last year, so she knows what a BIG seder is like too.

For the past four years, I have been in Ohio for Passover so I could help host the seder at OWU on the second night of the holiday. On the first night, I have hosted seders at my home.  My husband, step-children, and friends have gathered around the table with me.  We read from a Hagaddah I made that is humanistic in nature and makes connections to events and figures we can all associate with the Passover story.  I have been proud of these seders and enjoyed sharing my traditions with everyone, but  I wonder what kind of Jew Cora will grow up to be if she doesn’t grow up with more Jews around our table.

The seder at OWU is also an Interfaith affair.  I have enjoyed this event and came to believe, as I will tell those in attendance tonight: “Being here is now a part of my holiday tradition.  There were traditions established before I got here that I look forward to and others I have helped begin.  Tonight we will add something new to the mix and I hope you’ll share your traditions and hopes for this seder with me and members of Hillel over the course of the evening.  That way, with each year that passes by, this seder will feel more and more like home.”  Even as I speak these words, part of me will miss my family and long to sit around the table with them again to recall the Passover story and eat matzoh ball soup.

Passover Round-Up

April 2, 2012

From The Brick Testament: Exodus (

As I prepare for seders at home and with all of you this weekend, I came across some fun resources to help us all find ways to get into the spirit of holiday.

Seder: The Movie – The story of how one woman’s family tradition, in which the children tell the story of the Exodus, has evolved over the years and now involves her children writing, directing, and staring in their own film version.

The Brick Testament’s Exodus – The story of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt formatted for Lego lovers of all ages.

Innovative Seder Ideas – Some more innovative than others…

Matzoh Brei with a Twist – If Passover leaves you craving a bagel and lox, this recipe is for you!

Chametz Hunting – A way to making the hunt more meaningful.

Purim: Jewish Halloween

March 5, 2012

When I was a kid, Purim was a holiday not to be missed.

The megillah reading at Temple Israel in Great Neck was a spectacle.  The synagogue was raucous, for a change. The kids were happy to be invited to make as much noise as we could to blot out Haman’s name.  Rabbi Waxman wielded a grogger so large it could have crushed that villan.  We got to stay up late, no matter if it was a school night, and eat Hamantaschen and candy until our stomachs ached.

This was the 1980s, long before the Disney princess marketing explosion, so we little girls made our own costumes in honor of Queen Esther.  Why would you want to be anyone else?  Of course my brother was more partial to the male roles…  My mom made us crowns out of cereal boxes covered in aluminum foil and beards out of poster board and cotton balls and, for that night, we were Jewish royalty.

Then came the Purim Carnival at the Hebrew High School which was housed in its own building known as The Youth House.  The teens put on a great party that day.  As a young child, I remember I always wanted to play whatever game could win me a live goldfish to carry home in a plastic bag.  As a teen, I remember the fun-filled frenzy of working the balloon shaving station or the room where people traded paper tickets with drawings of hotdogs and hamantaschen in for food.

While the details of these memories are fuzzy now, the spirit of the holiday is still strong.  As I sit in my house embraced by the smell of fresh Hamantaschen, looking through photos of my new family – who never miss an opportunity to play dress up – I look forward to this week, and to the day when Cora will look forward to this holiday we used to call Jewish Halloween.

Everest: A Climb for Peace

January 21, 2012

After two years of talk, we’re finally bringing the film Everest: A Climb for Peace to OWU.

Mark your calendars for January 31st at 7PM (Corns Hall Room 312)

Past Hillel Vice President Sally Elkind-Goldstein brought this film to our attention upon returning from a college leadership convention.  It “chronicles the spectacular journey of 9 ‘peace climbers’ from different faiths and cultures as they climb to the summit of the tallest mountain in the world.”  Since the focus of the film is on a pair of climbers one of whom is Israeli the other Palestinian, we thought it would be an excellent piece to bring to campus.  Sometimes we struggle to talk about the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.  This film will give us a glimpse of what is possible when people from these groups work together for a common goal.

A discussion of the film will follow.  And, filmmaker Lance Trumbull might even join us via Skype!

How do you Spell (C)Hanuk(k)a(h)?

December 7, 2011

Last year around this time, I addressed the question: “How do you spell Chanukah?” (Note: This is my preferred spelling as I explained in a 12/2010 post.)  This year, I offer The LeeVees’s response to this persistent query.  Those of you who were with us for our Chanukah party in 2009 may remember The LeeVees from a CD I of holiday music I passed around.  There are links to more of their songs on the link I provided.  Hope you enjoy.

Chanukah Oh(WU) Chanukah

December 3, 2011

The bad news: The OWU Men’s Soccer screening party stole the thunder from our Chanukah party this evening.

The good news: The team is advancing to the final round of competition in the Division Three National Finals.

The other good news: Those of us who were in attendance had a great time catching up in the kitchen, making and eating some damn good latkes, and listening to some rocking tunes on Pandora’s Klezmer Conservatory Band’s holiday channel (Dr. Elias’s brother-in-law is a founding member of the KCB).


In the tradition of OWU Hillel, we read a story to mark the holiday and get us thinking about what it’s all about.  The Dog Tag Dilemma is a perfect story for Chanukah, a story about embracing one’s Jewish identity when circumstances suggest it would be easier to blend in with the crowd.  If you’re looking for a way to reconnect with the spirit of the holiday, check it out.

As we move through Chanukah, from 2011 to 2012, consider how you will rededicate yourself to Judaism, and OWUHillel.  We’ll be selecting new board members in January and we could use a few good folks to lead us.

A Life for 1,027 Lives?

November 18, 2011

I spent my entire time on the elliptical machine at the gym yesterday working through a VERY detailed report on the history behind the trade of Gilad Shalit for 1,027 Palestinian soliders which was published in this past Sunday’s Magazine section of The New York Times.  I highly recommend it.  It’s left me with a lot of questions about the value of one life over another, our expectations of soliders, and leadership in Israel.  I’d love to hear what you all think about it.