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When to Out
By: Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D.

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I have never canceled my subscription to the New York Times because I am of the belief that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I also find it interesting to hear differing positions. I generally peruse the entire newspaper but only read the articles and columns that I find relevant.

The New York Times Magazine section runs a weekly column entitled The Ethicist which occasionally piques my interest. On July 5th an Orthodox Jewish woman’s dilemma was addressed in the question to Randy Cohen, the author of this column. The questioner had been dating a man she was getting to like but he was quite evasive about his past. After some serious research she “discovered that he is a female-to-male transgendered individual.” At that point she ended her relationship with him. As a member of an Orthodox community she sought the columns advice regarding how to handle the information she had about this man but her one real question was, “Should I urge our rabbi to out this person?”

The columnist responded “you have every right to talk this over with friends. We are entitled to discuss the most intimate aspects of our own lives — or what are friends for? But you may not distribute handbills around the neighborhood or ask your rabbi to announce this from the pulpit.”  Seems like a fair response, but when it comes to people, their social, communal and religious beliefs and needs there is no simple, fair response for several complex reasons.

A careful reading of the Chofetz Chaim suggests that it is not only proper to convey certain information in dating situations but it may be required in certain specific instances. In the Makor Hacahaim (6,7) the Chofetz Chaim indicates that if it is known that there are hidden but major shortcomings to a possible groom that there is no issur (law against) of rechilus, which is the prohibition of carrying tales that are true, to divulging that information and protecting someone from finding it out too late.

Of course, the Chofetz Chaim is quick to point out the ways that it is acceptable to convey the information and determining the truth even before speaking it. But, there may be no reason to speak about these types of issues with friends unless they may be dating the same individual. On this ground alone The Ethicist’s approach is seemingly different. He indicates that it is fair to speak about the topic with friends but not with someone who will announce it to the community. But, this may just be what the Chofetz Chaim implies as well. Telling a friend, a natural reaction when needing someone to share emotional pain with, may not be always allowed because of the laws of lashon hora, but telling a friend who may ultimately consider dating this person surely is allowed.


There is also the issue of telling the Rabbi. The questioner wanted to know if it is okay to tell her Rabbi “to out this person.”  The Ethicist says no. But he does not say that it is wrong simply to tell her Rabbi. My question though is what will the Rabbi do with the information?  If the Rabbi is in a position to inform people and protect them from going out with someone that is anathema for them then it is likely that he should know and tell. What happens when the Rabbi is properly informed but does not tell?

In our rush to see young people get married we tend to overlook many significant issues. I am, of course, not speaking about ignoring the inconsequential items such as table cloth color or which pre-school someone attended.

I am personally aware of instances when people who were in the know didn’t divulge very pertinent information such as whether a potential mate had a history of being abusive, or was a homosexual or had been hospitalized for a major physical or psychological illness or was a transgendered person.

In those instances which I have been involved, and they are not few, I have always asked those who knew relevant information but did not divulge why they did not properly reveal their insight. Matchmakers, Rabbis and others have inevitably responded in one of three ways. The most common response is that they did not want to “farshter the shidduch”. This excuse of not derailing the match is perhaps the most ludicrous of the three because if the information had been divulged in advance there never would have been a match to derail and the relationship would not have ended in pain or even divorce.

Some others have responded that they would never give any information out because it is lashon hora. As we have seen this excuse does not fit and may indicate a poor working knowledge of the Halacha too because even the Chofetz Chaim indicates information of this nature should be supplied. Surprisingly, I have been told this excuse not just by matchmakers but Rabbis as well.

The third most common response is “It’s not my place”. I have never understood this reaction. If someone is dating a person who has a major flaw and they ask you if you know the person and if that individual is hiding something, and you don’t tell, that is, simply stated, lying.

There are ways to say things and not every tidbit of information should be discussed but withholding important knowledge that may prevent two people and their families from being hurt may actually serve to be an accessory to the act of causing pain. It is time we got past the irrelevant issues and when they exist, discuss the more significant ones. Too many young people are being hurt.

Dr. Salamon, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, is the founder and director of the ADC Psychological Services in Hewlett, NY. His recent books include, The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures, published by Urim Publications and Every Pot Has a Cover: A Proven Guide to Finding, Keeping and Enhancing the Ideal Relationship, published by Rowman & Littlefield.

 

             


Of Rights and Right
By: Prof. Alan A. Mond

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Against the backdrop of the raucous debate over what has come to be known as the “Ground-Zero Mosque” another, quieter, debate engaged the Jewish community in recent weeks. And it is this latter debate that has powerful lessons for those on both sided of the mosque issue, and for the community as a whole.

The tragic and untimely loss of Yoseph Robinson presented the potential for a conflict no less dramatic than that playing out in downtown Manhattan. Cut down in the prime of life, Yoseph left no instructions or indications about his preferences regarding passage into the next life; what 34-year-old does?  Because those involved – rabbis, friends, community leaders and family – all understood a fundamental truth that has escaped those battling over the mosque, Yoseph’s passage into the next world became a matter of pride to all involved, and a Kiddush HaShem to our community.


What family, friends and community leaders understood is that it matters not what the letter of the law permits or disallows. What matters is that we learn to treat each other with consideration and respect. Often, that requires that we choose not to enforce our “rights” and refrain from imposing our will on others. And that is precisely why, as we mourned Yoseph’s passing we could also take pride in the Kiddush HaShem wrought by creating a framework that allowed all who loved him to participate and find comfort in the way he was escorted to his final rest.

Unfortunately, the parties involved in the “Ground Zero Mosque” dispute have taken the opposite tack.  Rather than consider the feelings and sensibilities of the majority of the community, they rigidly insist on asserting their rights. And in mobilizing support for their rights, they have launched a juggernaut of opinion that trumpets their righteousness, in the name of religious freedom, but in fact only serves to exacerbate tensions and hostility.

To be fair, it is not entirely their fault. American society has always been highly legalistic and focused on rights and obligations rather than civility and reason. Hence the old joke about the accident victim who calls his lawyer before asking for an ambulance. Anyone with a modicum of legal knowledge will acknowledge the legal “right” to build a mosque in what was once a former manufacturing loft and store. We Jews have ourselves fought hundreds of legal battles over the decades to assert and protect that right in cities and suburbs that sought to bar synagogues and schools. In most cases, we were successful, because the law was on our side.

At the same time, anyone with a modicum of reason and common sense will also acknowledge that in this situation insisting upon the right to build is generating ill-will rather than support, and is damaging to relations between the ethnic groups involved and to the overall civic culture.

At times like this it is perhaps relevant to ask cui bono, who benefits?  Surely the sponsors and supporters of this project must be aware of the negative impact it is having on the body politic.  Is it possible that that is their underlying objective?

Prof. Mond is Deputy Chair of the Political Science department at the Lander College of Arts & Sciences of Touro College, and consults on public affairs.








Feel Better – Look Better: The Perfect Nose For You
By: Dr. Sheldon Genack, M.D., F.A.C.S.

No single feature affects the way you look quite as much as your nose. A nose that is too long, too wide, or too big can seem to dominate your face. A nose that is crooked or humped may similarly detract from otherwise pleasing facial features. Perhaps you have broken your nose or the tip projects too far, or appears big and bulbous. No matter what the specific problem, one thing is clear: nothing has a greater impact on how a person looks than the size and shape of the nose. Because of its central location on the face even a slight alteration can greatly enhance one’s appearance.

Rhinoplasty is the name of the procedure designed to improve the appearance and function of the nose. The operation generally consists of carefully removing any excess bone and/or cartilage while reorienting or reshaping the remainder. Often, cartilage must be added to build up and support deficient areas. The goal is not to create the perfect nose but to create the perfect nose for you. No two noses are exactly the same and each operation must be tailored to meet each person’s unique individual needs.

Many plastic surgeons would agree that rhinoplasty surgery is the most complex of all cosmetic procedures that are performed. Contemporary rhinoplasty involves modifying the nasal structures with intricate suturing techniques as opposed to the more destructive excisional approaches of the past. Over excision of cartilage and bone often results in an unnatural “operated look” that becomes more apparent as swelling resolves. Every rhinoplasty procedure is unique and requires exacting analysis and planning by the surgeon. Patients should understand the surgeon’s thought process especially how he or she intends to approach your individual operation.

The first and most important step, other than surgery itself is the consultation. As with all plastic surgery, it is important that your chief motivation is to improve yourself and not to please others. After discussing what you wish to achieve, a comprehensive examination of the internal and external aspects of the nose will be performed. Photographs showing the nose from various angles will be taken. These photographs will be reviewed with you and modified with computer imaging software to help communicate what changes are possible. The alterations recommended are determined by many factors, including your height, age, skin thickness, ethnic background as well as the configuration of other facial features such as the forehead, eyes and chin. If your initial evaluation reveals obstruction in your nose that is causing difficulty breathing or chronic sinus problems additional procedures to address these problems may be recommended.

Rhinoplasty is the most common plastic surgery procedure performed on teenagers. Girls are generally physically and emotionally mature enough by age fifteen to have surgical correction. Boys are usually ready by eighteen. Age alone, however, is not an absolute guideline as some boys and girls mature earlier. From a psychological standpoint, teenagers have been shown to experience dramatic improvement in self-esteem and self confidence from early correction of unwanted nasal deformities.

Many rhinoplasty operations are performed on patients over the age of forty. These patients often remark that they have disliked their noses “all their life” and have now decided to have corrective surgery. It is never too late to have a rhinoplasty providing you are in good health. It is sometimes performed as part of a facial rejuvenation program including face-lifting and eye-lid plastic surgery to improve undesirable signs of aging.

Rhinoplasty is most often performed on an outpatient basis in an ambulatory facility or hospital.


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This 34 year old woman is shown before and seven years following rhinoplasty. A combination of building up the nasal tip with cartilage grafts and reducing her bridge was necessary to achieve this pleasing result.



To maximize safety and comfort, the surgery is often done with the patient asleep under general anesthesia administered by a certified anesthesiologist.

Contrary to public belief, there is absolutely no pain during the surgery. The surgery is performed through small incisions inside the nose which are invisible. For complex deformities and major tip reshaping a small external incision is made on the skin separating the nostrils. Through these incisions the skin is gently elevated off the underlying bones and cartilage which are then sculpted to create the desired shape. The incisions are then closed and a splint is applied to protect the nose and help the skin adhere to the new shape. When the splint is removed, in one week, the nose will be somewhat swollen and there may be minor bruising around the eyes. Most patients report   minimal pain after nasal surgery, and any discomfort is easily controlled with mild pain medication.


Insurance does not cover surgery that is for cosmetic reasons. However, surgery to correct or improve nasal functions such as obstructed breathing due to a deviated septum or traumatic injuries is often reimbursable in whole or in part. It’s good to check with your doctor to determine your degree of coverage prior to scheduling surgery.

 If you are unhappy with your nasal appearance and have been thinking about a change, learn what can be accomplished with today’s state of the art rhinoplasty techniques. There’s never been a better time to have the natural results you’ve been thinking about.
One of the nice things about nasal surgery is that your nose continues to improve for several months after surgery. It takes at least six months for most swelling to subside. Deeper healing of the nasal tissues takes even longer, and subtle refinements may still occur a year or more after surgery. Unlike many other plastic surgery procedures, the results usually last a lifetime.

 
Dr. Genack is double certified in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. His office is located at 1728 Broadway Hewlett, NY 11557.

Accountability for Non-Accountants
By: Harvey Stober

In ancient times when the boss or even a high level employee embarrassed his constituency, the breach was taken quite seriously. In fact, if he happened to be Japanese, he often said good bye to the wife and kids and “offed” himself rather than being forced to live with the shame. My, have times changed.

For a few months before his public “execution,” most people expected BP’s embattled CEO Tony Hayward to take a more modernized hit for the home team.  After all, Obama wanted his pound of flesh, and a public execution helps focus the voting constituency on who the really bad guy was. While we are sure the explosion on the Horizon was not the fault of Mr. Hayward, BP did seem to have a culture of cutting corners at the expense of safety and he was at the helm when disaster struck. This modernized reflection of the Japanese tradition of Seppuku is worth applauding despite the fact that Tony will get his life back while being shuffled off to a cushy job on another continent.  


This is neither surprising nor unusual in the private sector. Consider the fate of other CEOs that have flown into the gun sights of the public’s wrath (did I say public’s? I meant politician; they claim to act on behalf of the public). Those who have walked recently down this path include Richard Fuld (Lehman), Angelo Mozilo (Countrywide), James Cayne (Bear Stearns) and Rick Wagoner (GM) but there are many more.


As bad as this may seem (for them) and as bad as their hands in the financial crisis were (for us), consider that their “aggregate sin” pales in comparison to the pain caused this country by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. More distressing is that their protectors, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd saw their power increase by the collective panic. As punishment for their mismanagement, they were granted the task of rewriting the rules of Finance for all of America.  


The irony seemed to be lost on America (and the media) as banking CEO after CEO was dragged before the Senate.  The real villains sat across from the CEOs and were given the opportunity to publically humiliate them for the misdeeds that they (the Senators), in fact, were far more responsible for.


In the end, Mr. Hayward got what was coming to him. What a shame that there is no similar mechanism of accountability that can be applied to politicians. In Russia or China, Mr. Frank would have been marched in front of a firing squad and gotten his gory reward for making homeless hundreds of thousands of people and nearly bringing down the global economy. In America, he gets to see if he can do it again.


Harvey Stober is the Managing Director Investment Banking at  Axiom Capital Management with an M.B.A. from Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.



Yom Kippur - Purifying the Mundane
By: Moshe Stempel  

The Torah tells us, "You shall afflict yourselves; it is a stature forever” (Leviticus 23:32).  From this verse we derive that it is a mitzvah to eat on the day before Yom Kippur. The question is obvious: How is eating before Yom Kippur a form of affliction? Rashi interprets this verse to mean that the Torah gives us credit for eating before Yom Kippur as if we had afflicted ourselves.

In his commentary on Mishlei, the Vilna Gaon explains this concept as follows: Every mundane activity that we perform in this world can be elevated to a spiritual level. Therefore, when a person eats in order to have the energy to perform mitzvos, his very act of eating is a mitzvah. Everything is dependent on a person's intent.


The Vilna Gaon embodied this idea in his own approach to life. The story is told of a dibbuk (migrant soul that randomly possesses living people) that was terrified of appearing before the Gaon. The dibbuk explained that the Vilna Gaon's eating was tantamount to the consumption of offerings by the fire of the altar. That was the source of its fear.

The Gemara (Avodah Zara 11a) records that Rabbeinu HaKadosh always had radishes and celery on his table. In the time period that he lived, it was rare to have seasonal foods year round, since it was very expensive to have them imported from all over the world. However, due to the demands of Rabbeinu HaKadosh's royal status, the money was always available.


At the end of his life, Rabbeinu HaKadosh declared that he did not derive enjoyment from this world even with his pinky (Kesubos 104a). This declaration appears to contradict reality: Rabbeinu HaKadosh clearly did enjoy this world, since he always had delicacies at his table!


The Vilna Gaon explains that while Rabbeinu HaKadosh did enjoy this world, every act of enjoyment that he had was for a mitzvah purpose. Therefore, Rabbeinu HaKadosh was justifiably able to say that he didn't derive any personal pleasure from this world.


With this explanation of the Gaon, we can understand why we scream the words "Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever" in the Shema prayer on Yom Kippur night. While our stomachs are full, our minds are concentrated on thoughts of teshuvah. Thus, we scream these words in imitation of the angels in Heaven. On the night following Yom Kippur, however, we read these words quietly. While our stomachs are empty after a day of fasting, our minds are focused on what we will be doing to satisfy our hunger after the fast.


Our sense of taste is only one example of a physical faculty that we need to elevate. On Erev Yom Kippur, we recite the Tefillas Zakkah prayer written by R' Avraham Danzig, the author of the Chayei Adam. In this prayer, we confess that we have used our G-d-given faculties for the wrong things. However, our prayers and afflictions on Yom Kippur are supposed to atone for those sins. For example, fasting on Yom Kippur atones for eating forbidden foods. Not wearing leather shoes atones for running to do sins. Abstaining from marital relations atones for the misuse of our reproductive organs. The five prayers that we recite atone for the five parts of the mouth that we improperly used to engage in forbidden speech. Finally, the tears that we shed on Yom Kippur atone for looking at forbidden images.

The purpose of this prayer is to make us aware that our faculties should not be taken for granted. Rather, G-d renews them for us every moment. All too often we are reminded of this phenomenon when sudden illness strikes. The fact that G-d miraculously gives us the ability to function every moment despite our sins should motivate us to want to purify our deeds.

When Chanah the mother of Shmuel the Prophet was childless, she prayed to G-d to give her a child. The Gemara (Berachos 31b) records her prayer as follows: “Master of the Universe, of all that you created in woman, You did not create anything for naught. Eyes with which to see, ears with which to hear, a nose with which to smell, a mouth with which to talk, hands with which to do work, feet with which to walk, and breasts with which to nurse. These breasts that You placed on my heart—what for? not to nurse from them? Give me a son and I will nurse with them!”

R' Elyah Lopyan asks why this prayer isn't effective for all women. Don't they have the same claim? R' Elyah answers that Chanah was unique in that she used all of her faculties for their intended purpose. Therefore, she was justified in demanding that she be given a child so that she could use her reproductive organs for their intended purpose as well.


Not only must one use all of their faculties to serve G-d but they must try to fulfill their mission in life. This message is ensconced within the story of Yonah that we read on Yom Kippur, which according to the Vilan Gaon also serves as a metaphor for the soul’s experience in this word.

Yonah the Prophet was reluctant to obey G-d’s command to warn the people of Nineveh that their city would be destroyed if they didn’t repent for their sin of rampant theft. Therefore, he tried to flee to the land of Tarshish on a ship. G-d caused a powerful storm to threaten the ship, which ultimately led to Yonah being thrown overboard. Yonah was swallowed by a large fish and lived in its belly for three days and three nights. That miserable experience motivated Yonah to finally obey G-d’s command. Similarly, the soul often has to experience great suffering in order for it to acquiesce to G-d’s Will and to perform its mission in life.

Mr. Stempel received his B.S. in Accounting from Touro College. He helped edit Great Jewish Letters by Rabbi Moshe Bamberger.



The Intricacies of Quail
By: Rabbi Chaim Loike

There are more than four dozen avian species which are identified as quail. While some of these species are closely related, others have little in common. The anatomical structure of the button quail (turnix) is drastically different from that of the common European quail (coturnix). The crested mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus) doesn’t resemble the turnix or the coturnix.

Of all the species of quail, the only common denominator is size, and even in this regard they range from a few ounces to just under a pound. The origin of many of the quail names is not clear. The most recent quail designates are the New World quail (known collectively as Odontophoridae) a family grouping which includes almost three dozen species. The New World quail were identified as such, when the European settlers where traveling through the Great Plains of the United States. These early settlers noticed small birds which were similar to the European quail (Coturnix coturnix) with which they were familiar.


Infatuated with the idea of the manifest destiny, they called these birds quail. These settlers identified America as their promised land. They believed that just as the Jews were given quail to sustain them during their journey to Israel, so too would the settlers be given quail in their trek across the Great Plains.

The Latin name for the New World quail is Odontophorine, which is derived from the Greek word, odonto, teeth (Roberts, 1999). One of the major, and halachically significant, differences between the coturnix quail and the New World quail is the construction of the beak. While the beak of the coturnix quail is clean and smooth, the lower beak (known as the mandible) of the New World quail is serrated. The difference in the construction of these two beaks indicate that the eating habits of the New World quail is different from that of the European coturnix quail. As such these two cannot be from the same species, and the New World quail cannot be included with the tradition of permissibility which exists for the kosher quail from Europe.

The multitude of species classified as quail, has made it impossible to identify the kosher quail by name alone. Many commercial strains of kosher quail share their name with species which are not accepted as kosher. As such the only way to identify the kosher quail is as dictated in the Talmud (Chullin 63) to learn from a rabbinic expert.

The only quail which are known to be consumed among the Jewish people are the European coturnix quail. There are a number of strains of this bird which are accepted as kosher. However, not all coturnix quail have a tradition of permissibility. There are some species of coturnix quail, such as the Chinese painted quail (Coturnix chinensis) and the Harlequin quail (Coturnix delegorguei), which are similar in appearance to the kosher quail, but are not accepted as kosher.

Both the Chinese painted quail and the Harlequin quail are sold as pets in the United States.

With the exception of the European kosher quail (Coturnix coturnix) and the bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus), no other species of quail is raised or harvested specifically for their meat. The bobwhite quail is of particular kashrus concern. It is approximately the same size as the kosher quail and costs about the same, depending on the season. Many breeders will freely substitute one for the other, as will the merchants at the meat market. Similar confusion surrounds the quail eggs, since the eggs of the bobwhite may be substituted for those of the kosher quail. A person should not consume quail eggs or slaughter the birds unless they are able to differentiate between the kosher and non-accepted species.

The European or coturnix quail, the species of quail which is accepted as kosher, migrate annually from Africa to Europe and Asia and then back. Prior to their migration, the quail gather in great flocks, sometimes numbering in the millions. The birds are not very strong fliers and when they land, they are exhausted from the ardors of the journey. These small exhausted birds are easily collected, often unable to muster the energy to flee.

In ancient times, the migration route led through Egypt, where the Egyptians would set nets and other devices to harvest these birds. The quail were still harvested in Egypt as late as 1908, when it was recorded that 1,000,208 quail were harvested and exported to England, France and Germany. It is possible that many more quail were eaten locally or exported to other markets.

The symbol of the quail had special significance to the ancient Egyptians. A hieroglyphic element which approximated the letter w, was the quail. Similarly, there are a number of pictures found in the ancient pyramids, which clearly depict the quail. While most of these depictions are in stone, there are a few in full color, leaving little doubt as to the bird being depicted.

The fact that the European quail was known to the ancient Egyptians of the biblical period, does not indicate that the quail were the birds consumed by the Jewish people. Though Exodus 15:13 and Numbers 11:31-32 details the consumption of the slav the Talmud (Yoma 75b) explains that there are four different species of slav. While it is now assumed that the slav mentioned in the Torah is the European quail, this is not the view of Rashi who identifies the phisioni or partridge as the bird consumed by the Jews at the time of the exodus (
Yitzvhak Einiei YD 134:16).

The European quail, (Coturnix coturnix) are accepted as kosher in America, and have been served in a number of kosher restaurants. The considerable expense involved in cleaning the quail, combined with the miniscule amount of meat produced have generally forced the bird off the menu.

Most of the quail slaughtered in America were certified by Rabbi Shlomo Zweigenhaft ל’’ז. His family had slaughtered quail for various communities for the last one hundred and fifty years. In order to understand the scope of the tradition of permissibility, an OU delegation went to visit Rabbi Zweigenhaft with a dozen varieties of kosher and non-certified quail, and a film was made of the methods through which the kosher quail could be distinguished from the non-certified variety. Although the video was destroyed (due to a technical error) a letter from Rabbi Zweigenhaft was obtained by Rabbi Weinberger and republished in his work A Practical Guide to the Mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan. In the letter, Rabbi Zweigenhaft testifies that the European quail were consumed in Radzin, Radomsk and other parts of Poland. Among the quail breeds presented and accepted were the Japanese, Tibetan (also known as the Brown), Tuxedo, and Pharaoh quail. Despite the exotic names, all of these quails are varieties or regional variations of the common European quail. Rabbi Zweigenhaft explained that the quail could be identified by its body structure as well as the feathers on the top of its head, which are distinct from those of other species of quail which are not accepted as kosher. There are additional breeds of quail which are pure white (they are similar to the more common Texas AM) quail and blond (sometimes called Manchurian quail). These have been raised and observed by the OU. There is no doubt that these are color strains of the permitted common Europea

Rabbi Chaim Loike, Rabbinic Coordinator at the Orthodox Union, teaches Shechita at Yeshiva University and advanced Kashrut at Touro College. He is a frequent lecturer and leading expert in all kashrut questions relating to Birds.
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Bookshelf/Editor’s Pick
"My Chocolate Year: A Novel with 12 Recipes"

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This neatly packaged book of fiction (based on real life events of the author) whose storyline begins on Rosh Hashanah, can be read by children and adults alike. Its universal themes will catch the interest of your children, their friends and your friends. It’s very possible that this charming book will become the topic of conversation at your table. Besides capturing the imagination of its readers, the book lays out 12 succinct recipes for baking anything with chocolate. 

The story takes place in 1945 at the close of World War II. The main character, Dorrie, is an 11 year old schoolgirl that’s entering the 5th grade. Dorrie is excited because she is beginning “The Sweet Semester”, a semester where the children compete in a baking contest to produce the sweetest and tastiest cake which must be accompanied with a short essay surrounding any story that’s related to the baking of the cake. The teacher reveals to the class that there will be a new feature added to this year’s contest. A reporter and photographer from the Chicago Daily News would be present to document the story and take a photograph of the winner which would then be inserted into the newspaper.

Dorrie decides that her cake will be made of chocolate. Dorrie is confident in her chances of success due to having a mother that’s a world class baker. She’s reliant on the fact that her mother would ultimately help her in winning the contest thus securing her the coveted photo in the paper.

During the story, we are introduced to Dorrie’s Bubbie (grandmother), Uncle Jack, who has a dog named Buddy (that is caught locking its jaw on the pot roast that was prepared for Rosh Hashanah) and the rest of the family.

We are forced to identify with Dorrie’s difficult predicament of not having her mother’s full attention, as her mother is constantly preparing the holiday meals, worried for others or attending to needs of an immediate or closely extended family member. Dorrie always hears her family talking about Victor, her Bubbie’s sister’s grandson (tantamount to a second-cousin), someone who apparently survived the war and was stuck in a DP (Displaced Persons) camp. She knows it’s serious, but doesn’t understand what the great fuss is.

Dorrie, who had one focus, to win “Sweet Semester,” begins to wonder whether there are other things in life that have equal or more importance than a baking contest which earns her a picture in the Chicago Daily News. Slowly she starts to catch onto the serious implications that WWII had on survivors like Victor.

Finally, the family is told of Victor’s release from the DP camp and upon reaching America, he moves in with Dorrie’s family. After Victor comes to reside at the house, Dorrie begins to build a relationship with Victor even sacrificing her own bed to ensure that Victor can feel what it’s like to sleep in comfort.

At the end, we revisit the baking competition and it seems by then that Dorrie’s “life experiences” puts “Sweet Semester” in perspective.

The story’s allure is based upon the simplicity of the writing. The reader is taken into a story of one family’s bonding over the course of the holidays spanning from from Rosh Hashanah to Pesach. Though food is usually the uniting theme, many larger issues are at stake.

As a bonus, one is given 12 genuine recipes for baking anything with chocolate in it, whether it be chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, chocolate pudding, chocolate nut clusters or chocolate caramel apples. 

It’s the perfect book to pick up for the new year as it contains themes of Rosh Hashanah, remembering Yom HaShoa, the importance of family and the introduction of the younger generation to the generations of past.


Poetry
On Grandchildren

a hidden treasure

that awaits


these precious gems

 

they glow and glitter

never to be sold

 

a gift for the price

of growing old

 

let go of youth

it’s a trade

not to be made

 

we have a special place

in the hearts

of our blessings

 

of which

each year

there is so much gain

 

who would have known

we own

so much love

to give

 

we live

to watch them grow

 

their being

like petals

unfold

 

water them with love

and they bloom

 

there are no words

for these pearls

of joy

 

our childrens’

baby girls

and boys…

 

                                                                                                a Reva collection

                                                          ©2006

 

Notable Quotes

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Samuel Goldwyn


"To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first."
Shakespeare


 "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."
-- June 1968, Ted Kennedy eulogizing his brother, Robert F. Kennedy


"In life you have 3 names: The one you inherit, the one your parents give you and the one that you make for yourself"
Abraham Lincoln

Interview with Goldy Krantz
Author: Best of My Worst

Q. What inspired you to write your book, The Best of My Worst?
A:  There are numerous books on the market that offer advice that are repute with DO’s and DON’T’s regarding shidduch dating. My goal in writing my book, The Best of My Worst, was precisely NOT to review the quote unquote rules and regulations of shidduch dating, but merely to write a comfortable fun, relatable book of dating experiences--- something that I was unable to find in Judaica stores. I have gone out with many fine and good young men, but the ones that I wrote about were out of the ordinary and in many ways I felt that others would be able to relate because while speaking with my friends and cousins who are also in the shidduch parsha, we find that we share many similar experiences. It may be a different name or venue, but there is a running thread of similarity in the stories that we share about our dates. If our stories are relatable, chances are my stories are relatable to the larger public.

Q: Are there general principles that can be extracted from the book?
A: I pride myself that this book IS NOT a book of advice. It is a recounting of my experiences and sharing them with the reader. I offer no advice whatsoever. If someone gleans something from reading my book, it was not done on purpose! If anything, I hope that my book sends the message that if a date was boring or if you feel that it was a bad experience that this too shall pass. As it states in the last line of my book, “Please stay positive and always remember to pack your sense of humor along with your lipstick while running out the door for a date.” If that date isn’t your bashert, hopefully the next one will be, so just enjoy yourself and don’t take yourself so seriously. Everything will happen by Hashem’s will—b’sha’a tova and not a moment before. So just enjoy the ride.

Q: What was your worst date?
A:  To make a very long story short, my worst date involved the man telling me in the restaurant as we were being seated, “You took the better seat, now I have to look at you all night rather than look at others in the restaurant.” Later in the date, he started to sing with a homeless man. Then, while visiting a Barnes & Noble, my date and I were asked to leave because my date was dancing and making the other customers nervous. During the ride back to my house, my date told me that I was “okay looking, but not HOT!” These are just a few of the highlights of my worst date.


Q:  Does this book apply to girls in their twenties, thirties and forties or beyond or is it for a specific age range?

A:  I would not give my book to a girl who has never been on a date before. My book is geared towards anyone who has ever experienced a bad date. I have received many e-mails from very satisfied customers of all ages saying that they really enjoyed reading the book and it brought back memories that they had thought were forgotten. Many even ask if I can divulge the true identities of specific men in the book because they had such similar experiences that they think it is the same fellow that they had dated.


Q: Are you thinking of writing another book?

A: For the time being, I have walked away from my lap top. If I ever write another book, it will be after I become a kallah. I didn’t write this book as a start to a literary career. I wrote it to help everyone who is dating laugh at their situation and to turn what some people may think of a negative into a positive.


Q: Is it comforting to know, as you referenced in your book, that your cousins have had similar experiences?

A: Truthfully knowing that someone else has experienced a bad date is not a comfort, but what it tells me is that I am not alone and neither is anyone else. I know that a bad date can happen to anyone no matter who they are or what they are looking for. It also tells me that my experiences, as well as my cousin’s and friend’s experiences are relatable.


Q: Much has been written about the "shidduch crisis." Please share your thoughts on its main causes and any possible solutions.
A:  I really feel that the thrust of focus should be on the individual single person and their character, not on, "What color tablecloth do they have on Shabbos?" and "What town in Europe did the grandparents come from?" or "Does the family eat Snackers or Tam Tams?" There is no right answer to any of these questions and we have thousands of singles-- both men and women, sitting at home because someone didn't care for the color of a tablecloth. The questions make no sense. Don't ask a third grade teacher about a former student who is now 30. Ask a current co-worker or a current friend of the single about the person, not someone who knew the single ten years ago. Everyone must do their hishtadlus, but never lose sight of that fact that shiduchim are ultimately made by Hashem.


Ask Goldy any of your shidduch questions at bestofmyworst@hotmail.com.

 
Goldy Krantz, LMSW, is the author of The Best of My Worst whichcan be purchased at Judaica stores and online at www.bestofmyworst.com.