Thursday, September 21, 2017

La Shana Tova. This is happy new year. Honey is a metaphor for the sweetness that should fill our lives.There was an announcement made today in temple by our former rabbi, Jerry Weider. Apparently, the Council of Reform Rabbis has unanimously come out against the language of hate in our current administration. By putting the blame on both sides, by not denouncing Nazis and Confederates, Trump has placed our country in very dangerous waters. In addition, by creating challenges for the LGBTQ community, by banning Transgenders in the military, by introducing a healthcare bill-yet again-that few have read, that a budget council has not had time to assess, that leaves policy up to the states, again there is a show of unprecedented inhumanity-that is the expression used.

I am a proud Jew, but an occasional Jew, in that I rarely go to temple and do not even celebrate all the holidays, but this announcement has made me feel jubilant about the world of our forefathers. I would like to believe that when my grandfather came here from Russia-to come to a better world-his vision as an immigrant is that America would come to signify hope, a hope that has been crushed by our current morally reprehensible administration.

Yet now, Reform Rabbis coast to coast are saying, we-as a people-are not about this language of exclusion; we are about inclusion; the health and welfare of our fellow human beings. And this statement makes me feel the "honey" of this new year, even when there is other personal grief. I care about the state of my world; I am a humanist, and apparently, so, too, are rabbis who today stand at the pulpit and say (as my rabbi did) "We celebrate love and diversity. Not hate." Bravo!
La Shana Tova. This is the Jewish New Year and honey is the metaphor for the sweetness that should enter our lives. Today in temple our former Rabbi, Jerome Weider, made an announcement that the Reform Rabbis of America-coat to coast-have come out unanimously against the language of hate that has been generated by this current administration. By selecting to denounce "Both sides" Donald Trump, by not saying Neo-Nazis and Confederates are to blame, has placed us in ugly and dangerous waters. Additionally, by using hateful language against women, by making fun of the disabled, by putting our healthcare at risk(a bill that few have read and the Budget Office has not assessed), by banning the transgender population from the military, by posturing that "might is right", the office of the presidency has entered into rhetoric and policy that is morally reprehensible-something "good" Jews do not stand for.

And though I am not religious and do not even celebrate all the holidays, today I felt proud of my Jewish heritage. I can only imagine, my grandfather and his siblings who came here as immigrants who faced political persecution, how they would be appalled by what he is doing with the young DACA hard-working immigrants, all in the name of a very immoral "America first."

This is not my America; I live in a Democracy, not a dictatorship, and like the Board of American Rabbis, I applaud in the rights, dignity and diversity that is America. Today is a sweet day-maybe not in the world-but in my temple, among my people I know there is justice and goodness.And this is America, which includes all the non-Jews who have also taken an active stand against hate and injustice.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Do the Right Thing

What is the right thing? There is no objective way to define this; it is always what is right for you. But I have been thinking about this a lot lately in my observation of people. Everyone is quite at ease when things are simple. If you are fine, it is quite easy to ask "How are you?"But what about when you are not fine? What about if there is a terrible loss in your life. Isn't it more important-at this point-to ask? in my mind it is is more important. It is about common decency. And I am going to take a leap-there is something WRONG if you do not ask. I am going to take a bigger leap-it is quite indecent not to hold out a generous hand in a time of loss and grief.

I speak from experience. When I lost my Dad, when my friends knew I had a terrible fight with my Dad and how bereft I was when he had a heart-attack, there were friends right at my side. Yet, there were others, particularly when I went back to school(I was 16) who never asked, and pretended I was the same person; I wasn't. I was morbid, filled with grief, bereft. This did not mean I did not want to talk about it. In fact, talking helped ease the pain-just a tad.

I grew up motherless, in many ways; I mothered myself. And in this unusual state of being, I always knew how to help people, how to reach out, how to discuss emotional pain, how to be a friend and a good family member. And frankly, if you do not know how to do that as an adult, shame on you! There is a right and a wrong, and I will always choose to align myself with people who know how to do the right thing. And the older I get, the more I discover so many people just do not know how to be thoughtful and sensitive; in other words, a mensch! And that is something they will have to live with, but I do not need to accept.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dark Money by Jane Mayer

Just finished DARK MONEY by Jane Mayer, not a new book, but an important one. It is terrifying, in that it makes it so abundantly clear that money has shaped policy in a terribly ugly way. The subtitle of the book is the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right. Its focus is on the Koch brothers,but there are others, and their agenda is hands off business and money, so they can screw their employees,not hire union workers, taxes are tyranny, no environmental regulations-everything for the betterment of their businesses. The upshot? What is good for big billionaires business people is not good for most of America, but by employing the false rhetoric of populism, they get common folks to believe they are on their side. And they pay to get common folks on their sides-millions of dollars in districts all across America. Their  beliefs advance their personal and corporate interests. One example is the DeVos family, a billionaire family invested in shaping politics as such. They make political deals, and one was providing Betsy DeVos with a cabinet position: as Secretary of Education, a job for which she is grossly unprepared and not qualified for. She never stepped into the foot of a public school until she got this position in the Trump administration, and she is not interested in the needs of this population; hence, vouchers as a suggestion to help dismantle the public school system.

These libertarian ideas are dangerous and appalling, and here we are stuck in an America that has been manipulated by the finances of self-serving"rich" interests. This is not my America-yet how to stop this? A MUST READ book, but very depressing in its reality-based focus.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Remote Area Medical

Several years ago, my husband an I (he is a physician) did volunteer work in Wise, Virginia, for Remote Area Medical. This is a three-day event in Appalachia for people who have no insurance. People drive hundreds of miles to line up in the middle of the night, just to have an opportunity to be seen by a doctor, dentist, or just take a simple procedural test, like a mammogram (some of the women had not gotten one for decades-too expensive. I was in charge of recruiting women to take this test). It was gratifying work; I was so happy to do it, but also sad and frustrated. Sad because a basic human right-health insurance-was clearly not available to people and frustrated because (according to my husband) there was no follow up for patients once they left Virginia. Ultimately, he stopped wanting to go down to Wise, since he was not convinced this was good care-to be seen once; to get medication and never to be seen again. What is even more depressing is reading in the NYT this week that Remote Area Medical is thriving-bigger than ever. The lines are longer and there are more desperate people. This made me feel when I retire, I will go back there, even if my husband does not come with me, but also I felt so sad that the state of healthcare in our country has grown worse-not better. The biggest part of my frustration is that now the Republican majority wants to dismantle whatever little is left of a broken healthcare system, leaving millions without the proper care. Those same senators would make it their business to go down to Wise, Virginia for Remote Area Medical, and see the countless families whose children have never seen a dentist (age nine), who have never been tested for cancer or diabetes, even though it runs in their families; the countless toothless people who have never been to a a dentist. Maybe then they will give pause and say, something is terribly wrong with the heartless way we regard people's lives. Perhaps they might think to do the right thing.

What is a Hero?

What is a hero? Someone who stands by their conscience, someone who stands up against a bully, someone who dares to defy the norm. I have never been part of the norm, and revel in the fact that this feels like a good thing. I admire people who are very principled and it is their principles that motivate them. Part of the reason I do not respect our president is that he lacks a conscience and principles; this translates to being morally reprehensible. It is not about party; there are Republicans I admire, even though I am a Democrat. And this week there are three I applaud as heroes: Senator Susan Collins of Maine; Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator John McCain of Arizona. These three stood up to the bully pulpit and said NO to the Republicans who are trying to sabotage our healthcare system. They are Republican, and the senator from Alaska was even threatened by the president, who said he would withhold money from her state, something he cannot do. Bravo to these three brave souls. My only prayer is that more and more Republican senators will follow suit as 45 continues to dismantle our system, without a thought to what is fair, decent and right. MIGHT is never RIGHT. And these three people stand up unafraid. So proud to be a part of their America!