Carried in His Hands

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"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  (The only reason I did not put the Hebrew year is that I can never remember which Hebrew year it is!)  Last year, I decided I wanted to do more to observe the day.  I decided I wanted to fast, then learned that, paradoxically, Holocaust Remembrance Day falls in the one Hebrew month when one is actually forbidden to fast! So I set aside one of my black velvet kippot for this day.  I wanted to wear it more than one day a year, so I also wear it on Yom HaZikaron (Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers), and on fast days; however, today is very special to me because it is the original reason I set aside this kippah, and this is the very first time I am wearing it for that reason.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (assuming you have read my previous Yom HaShoah posts), I wish to reiterate my connection to the Holocaust.  I have the same connection as every other Ashkenazi Jew in America today (Ashkenazi Jews descend from Eastern Europe), but mine goes beyond that.  In the records room at the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC, I looked up two last names: my actual last name (censored from this post for internet safety reasons) and Dafner (relatives a couple generations back on my father's side).  In the Warsaw Ghetto alone were approximately three hundred people with my last name.  I would never say they were all related to me: among other reasons, there were several spellings.  Since those branches of my family who survived had the spelling of their name changed when they came through Ellis Island, I did not even know which name to be looking at first!

So honestly, with all that said, it should be no surprise that the Dafners hit me harder.  Dafner is an uncommon enough name that Every. Single. Dafner. who was killed was related to me.  They all came from a single town: Wolbrum (pronounced with a V sound, not a W), Poland.  It's not a long list--fifteen or so names--but again, that's fifteen relatives of mine who perished.

When I was in middle school, my local university always did a 24-hour vigil on Yom HaShoah, reading names aloud from the Auschwitz death lists.  My school used to take the middle school students in the afternoon, to take turns reading.  One year, I happened to be standing up, waiting for my turn to read, at a good angle to see over the shoulder of the person reading before me.  I  heard them hit the "D" section of the list, and I knew they were coming to Dafner.  (It was not a foregone conclusion that my relatives would have died in Auschwitz, but it was very possible, given how large Auschwitz was and the fact that it was in Poland.)  I peered over the shoulder of the reader.  I only managed to see one name, but so that she may never be forgotten, here it is: RUTH DAFNER.

Remembering the victims is so important that I think you all should see her name a few more times.
RUTH DAFNER.
RUTH DAFNER.
RUTH DAFNER.

I wish to end this post with hope.  May we never forget the Holocaust, but may we also work to make this world a better place today.  That is what I am going to do now.  Here is a Reece's Rainbow child, "CULLEN."  (Forgive me if I've posted him before; I'm starting to lose track.)  "Cullen" is diagnosed with DOWN SYNDROME; he is aging out NEXT YEAR (maximum EIGHTEEN MONTHS.)

Cullen Apr 2014 (1)

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Very Special Gift



The above kippah was crocheted for me by my friend Sami, who did most of the work on it while I hung out and watched.  You may recall that we did a kippah trade: I gave him one of my embroidered silk ones (the white one with gold and silver branches), and he made me the one above.  I did not have a yellow one yet, nor a green.  Now I have both in one!

While I was with him, Sami asked me to pick four colors for another one.  I encouraged him to wait till my birthday, so he had a reason to make it.  He looked at me pleadingly, and said, "C'mon, I like crocheting projects!" So I picked out two shades of purple and two shades of pink, and he is going to make me another one.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

And...Purim!!!

--So today is Purim, a wonderfully fun, one day holiday.  Allow me to tell you more about it.  First I will summarize the story, which comes form the Biblical book of Esther; I have told it here before, but that was a couple years ago, and I don't expect everybody remembers.  After I tell the story, I will share how I personally am celebrating this year.

--The story:

  1. The Purim story takes place in the lands of Persia and Media.  King Ahashverosh (as I said yesterday, this is a transliteration of his Hebrew name, because I can't spell the English version) has a party which lasts for 180 days and nights.  After a while, he invites his queen, Vashti, to join him; legend has it he wants her to come naked.  For whatever reason, Vashti refuses to come, and the king has her banished or beheaded, depending whom you ask.
  2. After a while, the king is lonely and wants a new queen.  He decides to hold a beauty pageant.  A Jewish maiden named Esther is living with her uncle or cousin (the Hebrew wording is ambiguous) Mordecai, who encourages her to go try.  However, he also cautions her not to tell her Jewish identity.  Esther follows Mordecai's instructions faithfully, and wins the contest. She is now the queen.
  3. There is in the land a wicked man named Haman, an adviser to the king.  Haman wants all the people in the land to bow down to him, but Mordecai refuses because he is a Jew and bows only to God.  Haman's anger flares up until he wants to kill not only Mordecai but all the Jews of the land.  He gets the king to sign off on it, and a date is set for the massacre.
  4. Upon hearing this news, Mordecai turns to Esther and pleads with her to go before the king.  Esther at first responds that nobody can go before the king without an invitation.  Mordecai then tells her that perhaps she was placed in the palace just for this.  Moreover, if she does not help the Jewish people, help will arise for them from another corner and they will be saved, while Esther herself will perish.
  5. Esther responds "if I perish, I perish" and appears before the king uninvited.  The king grants her request for him and Haman to appear at a dinner party that evening.  At the party, Esther invites them to a second party, and at that party, she reveals Haman's plan to the king.
  6. Haman is hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordecai, along with his ten sons.  The Jews of Persia and Media are allowed to take up arms and fight back on the day of the "massacre"...and they win.
--How I personally celebrate:
  1. I went to synagogue last night to hear the reading of Esther.  One is obligated to hear every word, but I quickly gave up because there were so many children running around making noise. Sami came dressed as "the Broadway version of Peter Pan" because his costume was brown, not green.  Creative, Sami, very creative...so creative, in fact, that he won the synagogue's "most creative" award.  I went wearing my gay pride kippah...Purim is the only night/day I feel comfortable in it.
  2. Today when I get dressed (I let myself sleep late because I got home late, and now I'm doing this blog post) I will wear a ladies' tallit katan, my fancy bobby pins, my gay pride kippah, and my rainbow flowered skirt.
  3. I am taking a day off from graduate school applications and looking for work.
  4. Several people at the synagogue gave me mishloah manot, gifts of food items, mainly hamentaschen (special triangular cookies with various fillings) and candy.  I have been allowing myself to enjoy them, on the understanding that this is all the junk food I get this week.  During the reading of Esther, I ate all my hamentaschen (remember, I had been fasting all day) and most of Sami's.  Sami is vegan and doesn't eat sugar, and offered me whatever I wanted from his mishloah manot; I took the hamentaschen, and not much else.
  5. I plan to read the Book of Esther again, in English, as my Bible reading for the day.
--And...there you have it! That's Purim.

--And...please meet "BAYLEE," aging out in JUNE.  Her birth date says 2004 but that must be a misprint; they must mean 2002 or she wouldn't be on that page.  "Baylee" is dealing with meningocele.

Baylee (1)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ta'anit Esther

--(No, I didn't get the job yesterday; I just didn't think that was worth a whole separate blog post.  And, yes, I can replace the strings on the damaged tallit katan.)

--Today is ta'anit Esther, the fast of Esther, the day before Purim, which starts tonight.  (I love Purim; watch for a delightful post tomorrow.)  The following is how I observe fast days:


  1. Obviously, I am fasting.  This one is sunup to sundown, so I actually got up way early (4:45 am) to eat something, then went back to sleep for a while.  Because of my medications, I have to keep drinking, but I only drink water and I fast from all food.  I will break my fast tonight after the reading of the Scroll of Esther in the synagogue.
  2. There is a special prayer called Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, our King) that is recited on fast days and the Ten Days of Repentance.  When I pray today, I will recite it.
  3. I am wearing my special kippah that I save for fast days, Israel's memorial day, and Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It is the more somber looking of my two black velvet ones.  I originally bought it to thumb my nose at the ultra-Orthodox (it is the style their men wear); now I have it for a more important reason.
--And there you have it! That is how I observe ta'anit Esther.

--EDITED TO ADD: I really like including a picture with each entry, at least one, now that I've gotten in the habit of it.  Usually that picture is a Reece's Rainbow aging-out kid; often that one picture is enough.

Today's child, "Fritz," however, does not have a picture, most likely because he is from a country that does not allow pictures to be shared publicly.  (I know Latvia is such a country; that's the only one I know for sure, but I'm certain there must be others.)

 Also, I am wearing my favorite tee shirt today, because yes, the weather is warm enough for tee shirts, in March! I got this one from my college's Hillel.  It is red and black, my college colors, with the name of my college in Hebrew; those who read Hebrew will now know where I went to college.  I do try to keep my whereabouts private on the internet, but since I'm no longer at that school, I think showing this shirt is OK.

 I tried to take the shot from above, to include my fast day kippah; I took three shots, but it just wasn't working, so I gave up.  If you go back to the post with the kippot grouped by color, it's the one on your right in the picture of the black ones; I am using plain black clips with it, first because it's black, so the clips match; and second because it is thick and heavy, and needs strong clips, which my fun weekday ones aren't.  Anyway, here's today's photograph.


--EDITED A SECOND TIME TO ADD: I literally just realized, after writing the first "edited to add," putting in the selfie, and proofreading, that I forgot to include the reason we fast today! We fast today because in the Book of Esther, when Queen Esther commits to going before King Ahashverosh (not how he's referred to in the English, but I can't spell the way he's referred to in the English, so I am transliterating the Hebrew) uninvited, she announces: "if I perish, I perish."  She then commits to three days of fasting and prayer, and asks that all the Jews of the kingdom fast with her...and they do.  We fast today to remember their fast.  My father's attitude is "I'm not fasting for a fairy tale" (direct quotation).  I definitely respect that attitude, because I believe the Book of Esther is a fairy tale, too, and in past years, I have not fasted on this day.  However, this year I am obsessed with doing every possible Jewish thing I can, so today, I am fasting.


--And, please meet "FRITZ," aging out NEXT JUNE, and diagnosed with Down syndrome.  "Fritz" has no picture.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Semi-Devastation and my Brilliant Fix-It Idea

--Just enough time to blog before I leave for a job interview (watch for a post later today or tomorrow about that), so I will tell this story.

--First, the semi-devastation: I was at the laundromat yesterday, doing my weekly load that does not go through the dryer.  In that load, I always have my tallitot k'tanot.  They are supposed to go in some sort of bag so the strings don't tangle.  I use a pillowcase and tie a big knot at the top; normally this works fine.  Even if it opens up a bit, the garments usually stay inside.  Well, yesterday, my pillowcase opened up, and all the tallitot k'tanot came out.  When the washing machine finished, I was faced with one big tangle of string.  While I was standing at the counter in the laundromat, carefully and patiently untangling, a string broke off in my hand.  It wasn't just any string, either; that's a relatively cheap and easy fix.  No--you guessed it--this was a special blue string.  When I got back, I looked for where the string had broken off.  I was prepared for the worst, because I was holding an eighteen inch or so piece of string in my hand, which meant there couldn't be much left on the tallit katan.  And I was right: not even all the wound-around part of that string is still there, let alone any hang-down.  It's obvious that this set, whose kashrut was really always in doubt because the blue was not from the right source, is now definitely pasul, not kosher, not wearable.

--Now, here's my brilliant fix-it idea: a new tallit katan, the cheapest I could find, would cost about 14 dollars plus shipping.  That's not horrible, but my family doesn't have a lot of money right now, so any money I can save them is a good thing.  I do need to somehow get another wearable tallit katan, because right now I have exactly seven including two ladies' sets, and I like to save the ladies' sets for dressy occasions and Rosh Hodesh only.  But I had this wonderful idea: what if I untie and remove the current strings, and just replace them with all white? New, real blue strings cost upwards of 50 dollars, and now that we've seen that these strings can break in the wash, I wouldn't want the expensive kind in case this happens again.  But I can get a good set of 16 (four for each corner) wool (required material, unless you know what material the garment is, in which case you can use that too) plain white strings for four dollars plus shipping...under ten dollars total.  While I absolutely do not trust myself with the special blue strings, I know how to tie the plain white, I've done it four times in my life (tallit katan in high school, tallit gadol in high school, corner repair for a tallit katan whose string I accidentally snipped to thumb length while working on a sewing project, Hannukah gift tallit katan last winter), and I am absolutely prepared to do it again.

--And...please meet "TARA."  She's from my "Jacob's" country (I have a soft spot for these kids, both for the obvious reason and because they age out two years younger than kids elsewhere), and she is aging out in SEPTEMBER.  "Tara" has Down syndrome.  I am doing something I have never done before.  "Tara" has two pictures posted.  I can't decide which one is better, so I am posting them both.  Here they are:

Tara (1)Tara (2)

Monday, March 21, 2016

My New Plan

I feel the need to blog a third time today, even though that means my World Down Syndrome Day post will get "sandwiched."  So be it.

I have been, as my Christian acquaintances would say, convicted recently.  (That's so not a Jewish term, but I don't have a better one!) In particular, the Maxwell family, who blog at www.titus2.com, have convinced me of something.

I need to be reading my Bible daily.  Period, no argument, this is something Christianity got right that most of Judaism did not.

I thought long and hard before I made this decision.  I also pray three times daily (well, most days; I don't usually manage Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings, but I do usually manage all the other times), and I am committed to reading a psalm, and a segment of a work of Jewish theology, every day as well.  I do not want to give any of that up.

So.  This is the plan: I pray three times a day, and I have three "extra" readings.  I will simply correspond one of each to one of the other.  In the mornings, I will pray, then read a psalm.  In the afternoons, I will pray, then read my Bible.  In the evenings, I will pray, then read theology.

I am unsure yet what I will do when/if I miss a prayer time, if I will do the reading associated with it later, or skip that for that day, too.

Oh, and I will once again be embarking on reading the Bible cover to cover, Genesis 1 to 2 Chronicles 36.  And, yes, in English.

Now, this is "CHAD."  Just to be different, I had wanted to grab a boy without Down syndrome or HIV this time, but I can't say no to this sweet face.  "Chad" will age out NEXT APRIL, and is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Chad02-207x300-2015

A Very Important Post (World Down Syndrome Day)

I didn't notice this until I went on Reece's Rainbow to grab "Adam's" picture (see previous entry), and then I decided this topic was so important it deserved an entry all its own, so I am posting again.

TODAY, MARCH 21st, IS WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY.

I'm not really sure what to say about that.  I've seen Down syndrome up close and personal twice in my life.  "Emily's" younger sister (let's call her "Jordan") has Down syndrome and autism; the Summer that "Emily" took me and "Julie" home with her every Sabbath (because the college was basically closed, and "Julie" lived about two and a half hours away, and I five hours), I interacted a little bit with "Jordan."  I definitely have one very sweet story.

I was alone in "Emily's" bedroom, sprawled across the very big bed, reading a book, and "Jordan" came in.  Very vaguely, she said, "Hi."  Naturally, I turned around and responded, "Hello."  Jordan then kissed the back of her hand, saying "Mwha," and laid it against my cheek.

The other sweet story comes from when I was in high school.  My high school always hosted the local Special Olympics because we had good athletic facilities, and all the students volunteered.  One year, I think my senior year, my job was to put the medals around the necks of athletes who had won medals, and hand ribbons to the others.  (It was guaranteed that there would be enough medals/ribbons for every athlete who competed to win something.)  It was after a competition with five athletes; I had put the first, second, and third place medals around the necks of the corresponding athletes, and handed ribbons to the other two.  I was about to turn away when I noticed the boy who came in fifth holding his ribbon against his chest, and trying to get my attention.

I turned back and asked if he would like me to pin the ribbon on his chest, and he puffed up with pride and nodded.  Gingerly, very carefully (remember this was my first ever up-close experience with Down syndrome), I pinned the ribbon to his shirt, and he just looked so very proud of himself! Naturally, then, I was proud of myself.

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, it goes without saying that I now consider myself close to Down syndrome.  Three out of my four Reece's Rainbow assignments have had it! ("Grady", my first, is the only one who didn't.)  I am committed to one day adopting a little girl with Down syndrome; she will need me, and in some way, on a gut level I don't understand, I will need her, too.

So that's my connection to Down syndrome.  Sorry this is not a more universally meaningful post; it's the best I could come up with.

Now, to share a Reece's Rainbow aging-out girl.  For this entry, I had wanted to choose someone with Down syndrome, to fit the theme of the day.  However, I can find no more girls with Down syndrome on the aging-out page, and this beautiful child is calling to me, so to speak. So, please meet "ALISSA," aging out in the next EIGHTEEN MONTHS, HIV+ and no other disabilities! HIV is so very very manageable; please someone see her, and take a leap of faith!







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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!