One Year Later – Introduction to Healing Service

A little over a year ago, we started in fear and panic.

Stores closed and those that remained open were out of essentials.

If we ventured out of doors at all, we crossed the streets to avoid faceless, 

masked strangers.

There was fear, death, isolation, desperation, and depression.

As five turned to ten turned to a hundred to a thousand and on

As numbers of dead became too staggering to seem real any longer.

And we were alone.

But we also were not.  

We created communities out of the void.

We found friends and loved ones and embraced over a thing called Zoom – 

A thing many of us had not even heard of before 

And it was now our lifeline.

Imagine if we had not had it at all…

Yes – Funerals were attended by two or three people in person

Baby namings were celebrated online. Weddings were postponed

And yet…

At those same funerals and shivas and namings we came together

By the hundreds from the four corners of the earth.

Those who could never have been able to attend in person

Were there.

They could speak and share their love.

It was a silver lining on a very, very dark cloud.

We prayed for a vaccine.  And then we feared a vaccine that came so quickly.

Every conversation began with questions

Where can you get it?

When can you get it?

Did you get it yet?

Did you react?

And the biggest question of all…

Now what?

How will we heal?

How will we return?

Will there ever be a normal again?

And what will that be?

Who are we now?

Who CAN we be?

Will we become better people?  Will we care more?

Will we help one another and support one another as we “return?”

And in Hillel’s famous words:

“If not now, when?”

My Thoughts on 1/6/21

I’ll take that flag back now

You cannot claim it anymore.

Don’t wear it on your hats, your t-shirts, your bandanas.

Don’t hang it from your car

Or in front of your home.

You have forgotten what it stands for

And your waving of it is a lie.

That flag should be freedom and democracy.

That flag should be elections won and elections conceded,

Fair say and human rights

Fighting against those who put children in cages – not sending them there ourselves.

That flag is not stop the count.

But rather – we all count.

That flag’s pole doesn’t shatter the windows of our capitol,

but shatters the tatters of oppressions once overcome

and again and again won.

We will take up its tatters now

With needles and thread and tape and glue

With angry hearts and hurt souls

And love of country – for what it could and should be

For what it will be someday…

We will weave it back together

One colorful thread at a time.

Radio Silence

This blog has been quiet for quite some time. Some of you know why. Last year I became (most joyfully) pregnant. We were very private about my pregnancy and did not tell anyone about it until I was quite visibly far along. I wasn’t talking about it, but it was ALL that I wanted to talk about, write about, sing about, dance around the room about, etc. So, the blog was quiet.

On November 20, 2012 my husband and I welcomed an amazing, sweet little baby boy into our family. Now the only thing I wanted to put on the blog were pictures, pictures, and more pictures of our wonderful son. I saved that for facebook. The blog isn’t the place. So… more radio silence. Well, work, baby, work, baby… I haven’t had much time to blog, and I probably won’t have much time going forward. The thing is, I found that recently my reason for not posting had been that I hadn’t posted a reason for not posting, and that’s just silly. I would find that I had something that I had written (for work) or wanted to write, but didn’t want to put it up without this explanation first. So, here it is. I’ll try to post every now and then going forward. I thank you for your patience!

The Third Candle


One of the main themes of the holiday season in that of “spreading good cheer.”  As we walk the public streets, malls, supermarkets, etc we hear its refrain.  “’Tis the season to be jolly…”  Now, I’ll grant that the demand for December mirth is geared toward Christmas, but Jews have joy in our holiday as well. 

The third set of synonyms for light is glowing or radiant.  Radiating light means not simply keeping it to oneself, but rather sharing it (or in the spirit of the season, “spreading good cheer.”)  It is a Chanukah imperative to place the lit menorah in the window for passersby to see.  I cracked a window once doing this because of the temperature differential between the flames and the outside winter air, so take care to insure that you give it a little space!

Chanukah is a great holiday to spread light into the world.  It is a Jewish “tradition” to spend Christmas eating Chinese food and going to the movies, but I know an increasing number of Jews who spend this night at homeless shelters and soup kitchens helping others celebrate their holiday and warming that night with the light of mitzvah.  Of course Christmas is a really popular time for volunteering, and I suspect the need for man-power may not be as high as on “normal” days.  But while you are feeling inspired, why not mark your calendar to do this mitzvah on a future evening when help is so much more needed.

We can be radiant by performing extra mitzvot.  You can donate blood (if you are able), time, money, and energy to helping the less fortunate.  I am very proud that Temple Beth Torah is housing the homeless this week (Dec 20-22) through Helping Hands of Rockland County.  This season is very important for charitable organizations.  Not only are people inspired by the holidays, but also by their taxes.  Donations rise as people remember that now is the time to write their tax deductible pledges. 

The Jewish people are supposed to be a “Light Unto the Nations.”  It seems to me that the “Festival of Light” is a good time to get moving on that lofty goal.

Happy Chanukah.

To G-d’s Ears

The trailer for the documentary about the Vatican trip is out and you can tell already that this is going to be a beautiful, meaningful, and inspirational film.  Here is the trailer:

If you want to have a part in the making of this historic film, you still have a chance.  Here’s how.  In a letter from the production company, they wrote:

We urgently need your help to complete the documentation and editing of these projects, as well support for post-production and distribution. Every donation—whether $50, $100, $500, $1,000, or more—will contribute to ensuring that this interfaith event can reach a very broad audience. We are working in conjunction with the McBride Foundation, a non-profit association, and seek your generous tax-deductible contribution. In addition, we have been fortunate to find an “angel” who is willing to match all contributions.

Please help us realize our hopeful vision: to convey a message of interfaith tolerance and dialogue, and to do it through the extraordinary power of liturgical music.

Want to contribute?  I knew you would!  Make your checks payable to The McBride Foundation and send them to:

McBride Foundation, LLC
c/o Francis Hoffman
9454 Wilshire Blvd., #600
Beverly Hills, CA 90210


And thanks!

A Stitch In Time…

Photo Credit: Microsoft

As part of my continual effort to rid my life of clutter, I decided it was high time to get rid of any vestigial organs I might have lying around. At least that’s how I would like to think of it!

Last Saturday I had surgery to remove my appendix. I found myself on the other end of congregational Mi Sheberachs, as I let someone else take my place on the bima at the Bar Mitzvah of a student when no pleading with the surgeon allowed me to be there.

The pain started on Wednesday, and when it had not improved by Friday, my father urged me to see my doctor. The doctor didn’t like what he saw and he sent me to get a CAT scan. Barium. Yuck. The CAT scan technician didn’t like what he saw and he sent me to the emergency room for a surgical consult. By now, it definitely looked like I would not make it to services on Friday night. My symptoms were somewhat atypical, but the CAT scan did show some swelling in my appendix. The surgeon decided that he wanted to observe me overnight.

Surgeons have a reputation for being uncaring and cold. Some say they have to be that way, they cut people up for a living. This reputation is unfair however, at least based on my experience with my surgeon, Dr. Gordon at White Plains Hospital. He was kind and gentle. He held my hand when he saw I was upset. And… weirdest of all, he made a deal with me. Unheard of! He knew that I wanted to be at the Bar Mitzvah in the morning. He said that he would order my labs for 5am, and would be in to see me by 7, so that if there was any chance of avoiding or postponing surgery, allowing me to attend the Bar Mitzvah, he would make it happen.

True to his word, he did all of those things, but unfortunately, there was no improvement by morning. He felt that it was in my best interest to get the appendix out, because there was always the possibility of it rupturing, the consequences of which would be dire. The surgery was scheduled for that day, and the Rabbi’s wife, Naomi Adler, stepped in for the Bar Mitzvah, filling in for me, beautifully.

I’ve never been under the knife before and I was terrified. But, with a caring surgeon, a wonderful husband, and my amazing parents at my bedside I had to believe that I would be okay. I have been home and recovering since Monday afternoon. I still have some pain and am overwhelmingly tired all the time, but it is amazing how much better I am each day than the one before. The body is a miracle in its ability to heal.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Gordon for his incredible kindness and skill, my husband for his never ending patience and support, my parents for their love, advice, and all of the driving to and from the hospital, my community for their patience and their continual Mi Sheberachs and, last but certainly not least:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ רופֵא כָל בָּשר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשות

Someone Caught a Video!

This is the piece that is partially in Latin and partially in Hebrew. It’s an amateur recording caught on a phone or something, but it gives a good basic idea. Congratulations to Cantor Contzius on the composition of such a beautiful, ground breaking piece!

To G-d’s Ears – Part I

What an unbelievably moving and inspiring evening tonight was! Since it is now after 1 in the morning, Rome time, and I need to be up early for our papal audience, I will divide the post into two parts.

We rehearsed this morning in our hotel and then headed to the Basilica for a few hours of rehearsal in the performance area itself. It was a huge and magnificent space. This basilica is where all of the official state functions take place – events like state funerals. It was so beautiful that I snuck off every chance that I got to take pictures! But there weren’t many chances.

I have sung in many large churches in my life, but nothing compared to this. The space was just so humongous that I worried the entire program might become lost in echo!

The organ in the church is, according to the man in charge, “one of the most wonderful in Europe.” It certainly was beautiful, and huge, but what would it sound like? Would it swallow the voices completely on those few songs that we had decided would be accompanied with organ? We wouldn’t know. The capelmeister in charge of the organ wouldn’t be in until 5 and we could not turn it on without him! He arrived during our dinner break. We heard the organ for the first time at 7:05 pm, or so… When we were singing the second piece in the concert program! It sounded… Perfect! But, I am getting ahead of myself. This post is only supposed to be about the time leading up to tonight’s concert.

Our dressing room was an exquisite mini-chapel with an amazing acoustic all its own! Once we were dressed in suits and tallit, ready to go out, we sang shehecheyanu, the prayer that thanks G-d for bringing us to this special day. We then lined up and processed into the basilica. As we stood in the back of the room, listening to the Monsignor introduce us in Italian, I suddenly felt my eyes fill with tears. G-d was smiling.

To be continued…

Knitting Love…

I knit for a lot of reasons, but the knitting that is the most important to me, is knitted love for those I love.  When I take on those projects, I knit my feelings into every stitch.  The appearance of the final product doesn’t matter much.  I hope that they love it though, and that a little bit of the care gets carried on in the finished product.

When R*  became pregnant with her first child, I was thrilled!  I immediately began work on a blue crocheted baby blanket.  I was quite proud of the finished product.  It was large and very warm.  R thanked me, told me that it was perfect for the stroller, but I didn’t hear much about it after that.  I did know that it got passed down to the next sibling, when little brother was born.  I didn’t photograph it new.  This was before the days of Ravelry, and I don’t think it occurred to me to photograph it.  R sent me a recent picture of it now, though.  At over 7 years old, it still looks pretty good!

When another beloved friend, D*, became pregnant, R asked me if I would be crocheting a blanket for her.  I hadn’t planned on it.  That first blanket took me forever and I felt like everyone gives blankets to new babies.  I figured I’d do a sweater.  But R told me that I really should do the blanket.  She said she loved that blanket, that she always got comments on it, that it was the best one.  So, off to the yarn store I went!

I bought yellow yarn because D didn’t want to know the gender of the baby.  I decided to do the same pattern than R had liked it so much.  I worked fast, but almost not fast enough.  D’s baby was born premature and very, very sick.  She was in the hospital for the first five months of her life.  I knit furiously for her.  I finished the blanket and started knitting preemie hats, socks, everything I could think of to keep this poor, tiny, desperately sick baby warm and covered in love.

I have a picture of her that that D asked me to describe rather than post because it is so sad and so painful to see.  In the picture, the baby is in an incubator with a nasal canula in her nose.  She is tiny, sick, and swollen.  At that point, we didn’t know if she was going to make it.  On her head is a pink hat that I knitted for her out of precious silk yarn – the softest I could find.  On top of her is that yellow blanket I had begun before she was born.

D’s baby got out of that hospital eventually and is now an amazing, strong, happy, beautiful almost 4 year old girl.  She has chosen the blanket that she sleeps with each night.  It’s yellow and it has been with her since birth.  Here she is today:

When people find out that I knit, they often tell me about the aunt or grandmother in their family who knit them so many intricate things with love.  Often those things were totally hideous.  But, 9 times out of 10, they still exist in a closet somewhere as a concrete thing that helps them remember their loved ones.  Will my creations become heirlooms?  I hope so, but I won’t ever know.  If they do, I would have the rare opportunity to give love to a descendant that I may never have the chance to meet.  I cannot imagine anything more special.

Here are some samples of the love that I have knitted or crocheted for friends and relatives:

*Names and relationships hidden to protect the innocent!

Soon, Soon…

Hi folks. I want to apologize for not posting in a few weeks. I have been quite busy with preparations for the High Holy Days and the start of the year. Back to School is also Back to Shul and we are getting ready (not that we ever really left…)

I am hard at work on my annual selichot sermon-in-song. This year’s sermon will be co-presented with Cantor Sergei Schwartz of Temple Beth Sholom. The topic is, “Lifting the Sparks: Redeeming the Profane, Recognizing the Holy.” I will be speaking about the ways in which secular or gentile melodies have been incorporated into the Jewish musical canon and why that is considered by some an act of redemption. What does all that have to do with the High Holy Days? You’ll just have to come to find out. Or wait… I’m sure that sermon will end up here in some form or other!

One other thing… A little crowd sourcing? I am working on creating a “Friends of the ACC (American Conference of Cantors) page.” What kinds of things would you enjoy reading on a page like that?

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