Sunday, August 19, 2012

L'shem Shamayim

L. Newmark

I could win $10,000. I really could. All I have to do is put a ticket in the box. A ticket to the tune of $50. 2 hours of work down the drain. But the payoff will be so great.
And Hashem probably does want me to win. This is His way of giving me parnassa. I just have to do my hishtadlus. Anyway, tzedaka is a mitzvah.

Whoa. A custom sheitel. I have two already, but this would only be $35! That's like one tenth of the going cost. It's a bargain!

Nice. A leather sofa for $25. I can imagine it now. Perched in the corner of my living room, inviting me to curl up on its welcoming cushions with a good book. Yeah, that's calling my name.

And those seforim shelves! Every good Torah home needs proper shelves to make an honorable place for the seforim kedoshim. Hashem really does want me to have those. It's for a mitzvah!

Where should I place that hi-riser I KNOW I will win. I mean, I need to be machnis orchim, don't I? Would it fit better lengthwise next to the closet, or would it be better positioned under the window?

Wait, what's that? I didn't know they came out with a new Canon. I'm like 5 years behind. My camera can't zoom ten times. I really should get this one; it's practically free. My parents will just love seeing clearer images of their grandchildren.

Oh, if I spend $150, I get an extra $25 of tickets? I've always wanted to go to Switzerland. And this would be absolutely free. I'm not even spending any extra money. The kids would love to go there for Sukkos! They're going to be so excited!

That was exhausting, but worth it. Look how much I am going to get. And it's for a good cause.

Ah, they're announcing the winners. Hmm, the camera went to a young high school girl. Oh well, I didn't really need it anyway.

They announced the hi-riser already? But I didn't hear my name. Didn't I need it to be a better Jew? Maybe next year.

That's cute: the newlywed couple next door got the seforim shelves. That makes sense; they could use it more.

But that couch? That was supposed to be for me! I know, I know, it's because I'm going to win the grand prize that I'll be able to buy all these things myself. So I didn't get the sheitel. I understand. Yeah, that trip to Switzerland would have been a hassle...I'm ready for the grand prize to be announced.

And the winner is...the Goldsteins?! Why do THEY need the money? They have plenty of it already!

I just don't understand. I donated $150 to tzedaka. Where is my schar? I did this all l'shem shamayim... didn't I?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Principal

I bumped into a demon from my past the other day.
It’s funny, the twists that life throws your way. I was taking a route I don’t usually take to the store when I rounded a corner, and there it was. My elementary school loomed in front of me. I could almost retrace every cranny on the red brick walls from memory; I even smelled the slightly sour odor of school lunch. Memories assaulted me and a bitter taste rose up in my mouth.

I was the girl who had inserted chalk into the eraser as revenge for a wrong the teacher had perpetrated. I was the girl who had been suspended, and then grounded for a month when my parents found out what had occurred. I was the archetypal “problem child”.
Every year the teachers started out with optimism, certain they would inculcate me with some sense of obedience, responsibility, or participation. But school wasn’t my thing; I couldn’t care less. And this particular school was absolutely not “my thing”; elitist, old-school stronghold that it was. I just didn’t fit the mold. In their minds, a smart child should be a studious one. Period. I eluded this stereotype, baffling them with my interest in learning but total apathy for anything school related, my desire to know coupled with lack of structure.
They wanted to change me without knowing which parts needed change, why I was so troubled. Because troubled I was. Life was no bed of roses in my family, and I suffered from undiagnosed ADD. So sooner or later I would inevitably end up in the principal’s office.
Ah, yes, the principal. Many were the encounters I’d had with this venerable individual. I bitterly recall the time another girl and I had been successfully dared by a third classmate into raiding the teacher’s secret prize stash. The principal was infuriated. When I told him of the girl who had dared me, I was told, “You liar. That girl comes from a respected family. She would never do such a thing.”
My punishment? Docked from the class field trip. My partner in crime’s punishment? Let off scot-free. Not to mention the original darer, she of the “respected family,” who also escaped any rebuke whatsoever. A child’s sense of justice had been irreparably betrayed.
Then there was the time he’d actually threatened me with corporal punishment. “Do that again and I’ll give you a slap you’ll never forget.”
This, in a Bais Yaakov!
After years of good behavior I was called into the lion’s den once more, sometime in May of eighth grade. “We’ve decided to accept you to our high school,”  my nemesis revealed with condescending grace. How sweet. My classmates had all gotten their acceptance letters months before, while I was left in limbo.  “But only,” he continued, “because you seem to have left your bad ways, and only on condition that you give your word never to repeat them.”
I gave my word. Even better, I went to a different high school. I didn’t need his favors.

When I recounted these episodes to my husband he detected the note of bitterness in my voice and interrupted my litany. “Enough! Just forgive him already. Does the old man have to roast in gehinnom because of you?”
“Whatever,” I casually responded. “It doesn’t really matter anymore, right? I just think these stories are cute. Little me, the troublemaker.” I broke into an impish grin that fooled no one.
Indeed, I had put it all behind me. After excelling in high school I went on to a top seminary in Yerushalayim. I graduated with honors, came home, got married after only a short wait to a serious masmid of a kollel husband, and was now involved in raising my beautiful yiddishe family. I had better things to think about than my bumpy lift-off in elementary school. After all, I had long overcome all that.
Or so I thought.

My pace slowed as the wash of unbidden memories came in torrents. I could almost picture my old principal stepping out to imperiously summon me to his office. I blinked and shook my head to clear it. Could it be? Yes, there, clear as day, was the man himself walking along!
The years hadn’t changed him one bit. He still wore that painstakingly benevolent, saintly look on his face. As he neared, I thought I perceived a change of expression, a faint smile playing beneath his patriarchal white beard. “Ah, yes,” he seemed to be thinking. “I dimly recognize that face…must be another student whom I gently guided through the elementary years, setting the stage for her to become the fine frum woman she is today.”
Hypocrite! I wanted to scream. It’s no thanks to you that I am who I am! I felt an extreme urge to erupt at him, to wipe that smirk off his face.
I was stunned by the intensity of my reaction, frightened of the hatred—yes, hatred—that so overwhelmed me. As if propelled, I let my gaze slide coolly past his and fix itself aloofly on some point above his head. Nose in the air, I marched past with an expression of the utmost disgust on my face, as though he were no more than a speck, or perhaps an object with an unpleasant smell that had gotten in my way. I saw his smile falter, become uncertain.
Good, I thought savagely. Take note that this former student is not gushing over with thanks. Let’s see you feel a little uncomfortable for once.
Once home, I paced the floor in a turmoil. The incident had disturbed me to the core, and I wondered what kind of person I truly was. Was I really so vindictive? Was I unable to forgive?
The feeling of pride still lingered, though. In a way I almost wished I had said those words: “Look what I have become . It’s not because of you, it’s in spite of you. I am a self-made woman.”


Chocolate Chip Cookies

My family always had a soft spot for chocolate chip cookies, so I was always on the lookout for a yummy, soft chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tried many recipes and played around with them until I finally hit upon this winner.
1/2 c. margarine 
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg c.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream margarine and sugars.
3. Add vanilla extract and an egg. Mix well.
4. Slowly add flour mixture until combined.
5. Add chocolate chips. Stir until just combined.
6. Drop by teaspoonfuls and bake @ 350 for 10 minutes.

Freezer tip: Roll the batter into balls. Freeze on a cookie sheet for an hour. Place the frozen cookie dough into a freezer bag and refreeze.

You can also substitute 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour for some of the white flour.
Yield: Approximately 30 cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 c. margarine
2/3 c. peanut butter
1 T. corn syrup
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 salt
sugar and chocolate chips

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat margarine until fluffy.
3. Add peanut butter, corn syrup and brown sugar. Mix.
4. Add egg and vanilla extract. 
5. Slowly add flour mixture and mix well.
6. Roll cookie dough into balls and then roll into sugar.
7. Bake @ 350 for 10 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and immediately place 1 chocolate chip in the center of each cookie.
Yield: 45-50 cookies

--Rena Stern

Friday, August 3, 2012

Village of the Dead

Uncle Stanley at a Family Barbeque

In Memory of Stanley Rosenberg

So, Kaila, did I ever tell you
About the time I almost met
Ingrid Bergman?
Yes, Stan, but you can tell it again.
We were stationed in ______ during the war.
There was a USO show starring Jack Benny and
Ingrid Bergman.
(She wasn’t a big star yet, so most of the boys really just went to see
Jack Benny.)
Who else was performing in that show?
Martha Tilton and Larry Adler.
Right, right, but no one really went to see a big band singer and a harmonica player.
Anyway, after the show we went to get the stars’ autographs.
(Each of them autographed the corner of a German mark for me, and years later I sent the mark to Ingrid Bergman.  She never responded.  I wonder if she ever got it?)
I went with my friend, Sergeant Liff, who spoke some Swedish.
“Excuse me, Ms. Bergman, do you speak Swedish?”
That was his opening line.  He knew she spoke Swedish.
“Well, of course, Sergeant, I was born there.”
And they started speaking Swedish.
It sounded like this:
Ishki biddi hede, burda bede…
They spoke for a while.  Then Sergeant Liff turned to me, and said,
“Ms. Bergman, this is my friend…”
And do you know what happened?  Jack Benny prevented me from being introduced.
He came out of nowhere.
“Come, Ingrid, we have another show to do!”
And I never got to speak to Ingrid Bergman.
I was mad at Jack Benny for weeks.


Kaila, did I ever tell you about why I don’t like
Well, we were stationed in _______,
On this man’s farm.  It was pretty cold over there, and we used up the farmer’s supply
Of firewood.  We got into trouble for that one.
We had to chop him a whole winter’s supply of firewood after that.
The farmer had a large flock of geese, which were pretty tame.
The gander, on the other hand, was a monster.
He was huge, overprotective, and he hissed.
We were generally armed with rifles, and
My first instinct was to shoot the gander. 
He was really scary.
But then I thought of the firewood,
And I had no way of getting the farmer a replacement gander.
Any time I passed by the flock of geese,
The gander was there to chase me away.
He was a mean old gander.
Well, he used to chase me pretty far.
A few times he chased me up a hill.
Until one day an army buddy of mine said,
“Rosie, why are you running away from the stupid gander?”
“Well, I can’t shoot him.  So I run.”
My buddy burst out laughing.
“Why don’t you just swing the rifle butt at it?  That’s what everyone else does.”
Somehow that had never occurred to me.
And that’s why I don’t like geese.


Kaila, you know about “shoot ‘im, Rosie,” right?
Well, we were transporting a Nazi prisoner for questioning.
 It was just the two of us in the truck with him.
He was unarmed and frightened.
We were driving along, when suddenly, my friend hit the brakes.
He leaned over to me, and said,
“Shoot ‘im, Rosie.”
“Whaddaya mean, shoot him? And stop talking like that.
You’ll frighten the prisoner to death!”
“Aw, he doesn’t speak English.  Go ahead, shoot ‘im!”
“You’re crazy.
We’ll be court-martialed.”
“Don’t worry.  We’ll say he escaped and we had to shoot him down.”
“I can’t shoot him.”
“Come on, Rosie, you’re Jewish, aren’t you?”
“After what his people did to your people, you have to shoot him.”
“I can’t shoot him, Joe. I’ll feel like a Nazi then.”

Well, we delivered the Nazi prisoner alive.
I couldn’t figure Joe out until later. 
It turns out that Joe had gone to liberate one of the camps the day before. 
I never saw the horror of the camps.

             --Kaila Iserovich