Sunday, November 10, 2013

You say Thanksgivukkah, I say Chanksgiving

This year, for the first time since 1888, Thanksgiving will overlap with the first day of Hanukkah, and I for one am excited to smother latkes with cranberry sauce. But even as I scour the Internet for pilgrim-themed dreidels and a turkey-shaped menorah (You’re welcome, Etsy shop owners), I’m feeling kinda sad.

According to, the happy convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will not likely occur again for another 77,798 years. And since kale and Botox will only take me so far, I doubt I’ll be around to celebrate this ever again.

How to fill the void left by the fleeting Thanukkah? I propose we alter the Jewish and Gregorian calendars every few years to pair other holidays, and I know just the ones to link. The following are some suggestions that I think would go together like gelt and gravy:

New Year’s Day and Yom Kippur: On which holiday do you wake up feeling awful and repentant about recent indiscretions, resolving to change your behavior from here on out?

Exactly, both!

Imagine reciting Kol Nidrei to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.” Or popping a few corks with your pre-fast meal. And how much more interesting would the Amidah be if it were recited on a Rose Parade float?

Mother’s Day and Pesach: An interminable, bland and overpriced meal in which you rehash a litany of past misdeeds suffered at the hands of a tyrant. Does this describe: (a) Mother’s Day brunch or (b) the first night of Pesach? If you answered both, you are correct!

Why is this brunch different than all others? Because it features poached eggs on matzah and chametz-free mimosas. Dayenu!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter

Dearest Sivan,

May your intellect and humor propel the human race forward. May your kindness inspire nations to beat swords into plowshares. May your beauty dazzle brighter than all the stars in the sky.

But, most of all, may you be a colossal pain in the ass.

The women who came before you – who dug, pounded and paved the path to your existence – these women were giants. They didn’t do what they were told. They didn’t make the easy decisions. They didn’t shut up when shutting up would probably been a pretty good idea. You wouldn’t be here if they had.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Remembering Ann

Her name was Ann Chervin.

I don’t know much about her. I don’t know which concentration camp she and her husband, Marion, were in or how they got out. I don’t know how her husband and their adult child, Eve, preceded Ann in death. Or why Eve was childless when she died.

But I do know Ann liked red roses. I know she custom ordered her oak veneer kitchen cabinets from a place in Torrance in the 1970s. I know she let her ficus trees grow rampant and that she must not have been very tall, because her bathroom sinks were installed slightly lower than you’d expect.

I know all these intimate details about Ann because I live in her house. People say it takes six months for a new home to feel like your own, but it’s been three years and I still sometimes feel like the caretaker.

For one, I still get her mail. Mostly stuff from survivor groups and Shoah foundations, particularly at this time of year. More deeply than that, though, Ann’s spirit is still here. I don’t mean that in a haunted house kind of way; just in the sense that the touches she put in her home are still very much present: The mezuzah she kissed every day is still here, tucked in a drawer in my living room.

Her red rose bush is still here, too, the only plant that survived the year between her death and the time her home went on the market. I have a strict policy for my garden: I’ll only plant you, if I can eat you. But I made an exception for Ann’s roses. A survivor’s only surviving plant deserves love.

Then there are the intangibles. I think about her when I chop vegetables at my kitchen counter for my family. I am certain Ann did the same for hers. Did she roll up her sleeves the way I do? Or did she keep them down to hide the numbers tattooed on her arm?

And what about the fact that her daughter died? I think about that when I read about the Six Million Coins project. It’s a program in Los Angeles to collect money for Holocaust survivors in need. As part of the project, Jewish leaders in L.A. plan to read the names of all 6 million people who perished in the Holocaust.

According to Rabbi David Wolpe, who gives the intro on the project’s Web site, the reason given for reading the names is not to remember that these people died, but that they lived. We say a person’s name to remember them.

Ann Chervin may have survived the Holocaust, but there is no one left to say her name. She has no grandchildren to fuss over her rose bushes or to keep her mezuzah safe. She survived, but it’s unlikely she will be remembered. Maybe that’s why I still feel as though I live in Ann’s house – because it is my duty as a Jew to remember that Ann lived at all.

And so I remember this stranger. This person whose house I inhabit. I remember Ann Chervin.

As Yom HaShoah approaches this month, I hope you will, too.