Tikkun Olam Tuesday

This is a difficult post for me to write, because it’s hard for me to talk about “ugly” topics. It feels … impolite. My mother didn’t raise me to be impolite. So this is where my Southern upbringing differentiates me and other Southern Jews from our Northern counterparts. My Long Island family members would have no trouble talking openly and loudly about such an unpleasant topic. However this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Remember those two little bunnies from Sunday’s post, well here’s another picture of them:

Sally & Linus

When I look at their sweet faces, it helps me remember why I must speak out against animal testing in cosmetics and beauty products. And that, friends, is what today’s post is about. I am still being a little cowardly, in that this post is not about the horrors of animal testing, but instead, it’s an excuse for me to share good news. You may not know this, but 2013 has been a good year for the fight against animal testing in beauty products!

In the first half of March, the EU law banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals officially went into effect. While there are still some lingering questions about how the Cosmetics Regulation will be interpreted and executed, this is still a wonderful step forward.

I want to believe that government regulation isn’t necessary to stop animal testing on beauty products. I wish the free market could take care of this on its own, but sadly, there is already government regulation in some countries, for example China, that requires brands to test on animals. That’s right, the Chinese government requires brands to test on animals in order to retail in China. Many companies that had been historically cruelty-free began testing their products on animals or paying for 3rd party testing in order to have access to the sizable Chinese market. See this list of beauty brands selling in China. With some governments institutionalizing cruelty, it is necessary that other governmental bodies regulate against this same cruelty.

While I applaud the EU, I also applaud companies that refuse to abide by China’s animal testing mandate and leave the market. There is much to be celebrated here. I eagerly look forward to the day when China approves non-animal cosmetic tests.

I wish I could say that I understand how hard it is to only buy cruelty-free. Many cruelty-free products are not as good as X Brand or more expensive than X Brand or harder to find than X Brand. But you know what, buying only cruelty-free products is not hard. You know what’s hard: being a slave is hard. And we Jews have spent the past 8 days remembering when we were slaves and celebrating that we are no longer slaves. At our Seders we say, “Once we were slaves in Egypt, and now we are free.” The language is clear – the Passover story didn’t just happen to our ancestors, it happened to us. That we who were once slaves would financially support a system that enslaves defenseless bunnies so that we can have better, cheaper, and more readily available mascara, is absurd, inexcusable, and – dare I say – not Jewish. We can do better. It’s really not hard. PETA has done a phenomenal job compiling lists of cruelty-free brands. I understand that many of us, and I include myself in this category, take issue with some of PETA’s methods. If you feel like some of their methods are objectionable, I’m not asking you to give PETA any money, but please take advantage of the information they make freely available. This isn’t about any one organization. It’s about Tikkun Olam.

Ok, maybe I’m not as polite as I like to think I am. But, you know what, I think my mother will forgive me for this lapse in etiquette. After all, she really loves her grandbunnies.


Jews & Food (the first of many, many posts)

Food makes a lot of people crazy, so I don’t think I’m necessarily singling out my people when I say, “Food makes Jews a little crazy.” It really does.

Case in point: I walked into the synagogue kitchen this morning. Empty macaroon canisters all over the counters. On a hunch, I checked the fridge. Sure enough, the bowl of mixed fruit was still mostly full. The floors had all but been licked clean of any macaroon crumbs during the Oneg and Kiddush over the weekend, but the fruit was practically untouched. The end of Passover is in sight, but we are so starved for any good desserts that we forget to even throw away the empty macaroon canisters after so thoroughly devouring the cookies themselves. I got a good laugh out of this one. It’s a good thing to be able to laugh at our own mishegas.

Tonight, Husband and I will have brisket. Not just any brisket, tangy spiced brisket from Smitten Kitchen. It takes 36 hours to make, so making this brisket takes more forethought than I usually have for a Monday night dinner. But oh, is it going to be worth it. We serve it with some butternut squash so that you can pour the au jus over the squash. My mouth is literally salivating. Sigh …

Well, I must get to work, but I hope everyone has something delicious to eat today!

PS. The sun is still shining! Isn’t it wonderful!


It’s Friday, y’all!

No, really it’s Thursday. However, I work Sunday through Thursday, so Thursday is the end of my work week. So in lieu of TGIF, I say TGIT! It has been a short week (I had a day off for the 1st day of Pesach), but I’m still really thankful for Thursday. Maybe I should start a series on this blog called Thankful Thursday.

Why am I so ready for the weekend? Mostly because I can’t keep eating this much matzah and butter. I have invested so much time and energy into planning and preparing delicious KFP dinners this week that I completely neglected to make breakfast or lunch for myself all week. I could have made egg salad or tuna salad or a salad-salad. But I didn’t. Nope, I just grabbed a stick of butter and a box of matzah. Who does that?! This girl! And you know what, it’s delicious. But I need to eat real food. And that unripe banana I had for breakfast doesn’t count.

Also, we have a problem with people using our street parking who are visiting nearby businesses. The police are working with us to ticket those car, while not ticketing our members who are using the parking spaces for their intended purpose. This morning there is a car parked outside of our building with out-of-state plates that received a parking ticket.   I have had no fewer than 10 separate conversations with 10 different individuals about this car. We are a vigilant group! Sigh …

Add to that a lot of end-of-the-month bookkeeping and I am beyond ready for 5 o’clock! Also, tonight, I will start making our favorite brisket. It takes 36 hours or so to prepare and man, oh, man is it worth every hour. Husband and I go crazy for this brisket. It should be made with a side of butternut squash over which you can pour the extra sauce. So what am I thankful for this Thursday: brisket.

Good Shabbos, everyone!

The sun is shining!

OK, so this post is going to be super cheesy (and now I’m wondering to myself how many blog posts are going to start with, “Ok, so …”).

The Seder last nice was lovely and a lot of fun, but I woke up with a big ‘ole chip on my shoulder about something that happened at the Seder. One of my synagogue-employee pet peeves is that when I am at a holiday celebration with the congregation and, it never fails, someone comes up to me to talk about business – synagogue finances, upcoming scheduling, the number of trash bags remaining before in our supply closet. I have heard of other Jewish professionals who wear t-shirts that say, “REMEMBER: It’s my Shabbat too,” or something to that effect. I’m not so bold/passive-aggressive to wear a t-shirt to express these feelings, but I definitely share in the sentiment! So I woke up this morning still stewing about those folks who wanted to talk business last night during the Seder meal.

Yesterday, I was all like, “I’m not going to blog because it’s Pesach and the synagogue is closed and I’m not going to turn on my computer because that’s work and I don’t have to work tomorrow so I’m not going to work tomorrow.” (And now I’m pondering my overuse of run-on sentences). And then when I woke up with this annoying chip on my shoulder, I thought “Well, you should definitely not blog about this.”

And then I went out on a quick errand this morning in the early a.m. and was so very pleasantly surprised to find out that … the sun is shining! Most of the country has been experiencing a longer than average Winter. Poor Punxsutawney Phil has been on the receiving end of a lot of complaints. Many of us in the South, who expect Winter to end in late February, were treated to some snow three days after the Spring Equinox. I prefer my temperatures in the high 80s and Summer is easily my favorite season, so this snow storm was most unwelcome. Yesterday was rainy and cold. But today, the sun is shining. Really, this weather is gorgeous. I wouldn’t mind if it were about 30 degrees warmer, but I’m going to take what I can get.

And as my attitude improves to match the lovely weather, I’m making plans to get outside and take some portraits. Because such a pretty day should not go to waste AND when you are doing the things you love, it just doesn’t seem like it’s work. And it occurred to me that this blog is quickly becoming one of those things that I love. So I turned on my computer and here I am writing this post.

As I was driving home, I was rethinking through some of the #blogExodus posts and what sticks with me is this quote from the Velveteen Rabbi:
“That’s part of the gift of the Exodus. Once we were slaves, unable to bless, unable to access blessing in our own lives or to articulate it for others. The spiritual constriction of slavery precludes blessing. But now we understand ourselves to be freed from that constriction. We are free to enter into relationship with the Holy Blessed One — to sanctify every moment of our lives — and to channel divine blessing for those we meet.”

Yes, indeed.

I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying some sunshine and divine blessings too!

Chag Kasher v’Sameach!

Tonight, Jews all over the United States – all over the World – will sit down together to a Seder to celebrate the first night of Pesach.

This is unquestionably my favorite night of the year. I love this holiday. Last night, my husband and I watched Prince of Egypt, a tradition in our home to kick-off the holiday. The beautiful soundtrack really gets us excited for the Seder, particularly the Maggid section – the Telling of the Exodus Story. Tonight, my husband and I will join the congregation at the community Seder. Singing Dayenu with 100 other Jews is a particularly wonderful experience. I miss the small family gatherings of my childhood, but am thankful for the chance to celebrate with a congregation that has become like family.

If you need any help getting into the holiday spirit at the last minute, I highly recommend you check out the Velveteen Rabbi’s daily posts from the past two weeks for #blogExodus.  During these past two weeks there has been a lot of busy work getting ready for Pesach. I find that I can easily get caught up in the chaos and lose sight of why I am doing all of this hard work. #blogExodus has been a wonderful daily reminder of blessing in and of the Passover story.

Chag Sameach, everyone!