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Learning About The Civil War While in Arkansas

5 Sep

When I woke up Sunday morning, I did not expect my day to end up focused on the Civil War. It was not even a topic that was remotely on my mind. I was in Arkansas visiting friends and we planned a trip over to Bentonville to see another friend who was busy with pet adoptions as they prepared their shelter to take in animals from Houston. 

But politics and the Civil War were waiting for us in Bentonville. 

We arrived in Bentonville exactly on time to walk to the town square and meet up for lunch at a local restaurant.  For those who have not been there, Bentonville is the site of the very first Walmart store.  There,  along the town square, is the Walmart Museum. A peaceful little park with a statue fills the town square.  I was surprised to see an abundance of American flags in the center of the square surrounding the statue. 

American flags surround the the statue in the town square.


My Eureka Springs friend said to my Bentonville friend upon greeting, “Well you have had some excitement here.”  My Bentonville friend, “Don’t even go there!” So of course I needed to know.  That lovely little statute I had seen several times was actually a monument to the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in two battles near Bentonville, the most important was the Battle of Pea Ridge. 

I  never realized what the statue was before.  We had seen it and walked past it and never really looked at it. But over the last few weeeks, quiet Bentonville had been the scene of protests over this statute.  

We left town square for lunch and all conversation turned to the rescuing of dogs from Houston.  My Bentonville friend was involved with a shelter that was receiving dogs that afternoon that were being transported up from Texas.  The day before a truckload of pet supplies had headed south. My contribution had been cat litter. Our discussion of the Civil War ended as we discussed Houston.   

After lunch we left Bentonville and headed back to Eureka Springs on a different road. As we traveled, we planned the rest of the day. My husband was checking his phone to see what was around when he came upon the Pea Ridge National Park.  We had recently purchased our life time National Park passes and were excited to use them.  We were not sure what we would see.  But were delighted.  It is a gem!

Pea Ridge Battlefield.


Who know that one of the most important and vicious battles of the Civil War took place in Arkansas?  Not me!  The battle that changed the direction of the war was here!  16,000 Confederate soldiers  met 10,000 Union soldiers on Pea Ridge in March 1862.  At the end of the two-day battle almost 3500 soldiers were dead.  Many more were wounded. This battle changed the balance of power of the Civil War in Missouri.  It was here that the Union defeated the largest Confederate army ever brought together and due to that defeat were able to keep the Confederate soldiers out of Missouri and head south to split the Confederacy in half. This battle basically set the course for a Union win. 

Elk Horn Inn was a privately own home used as a field hospital.


Here at the battle site stands the recreated Elk Horn Inn, which served as a field hospital, where soldiers from both sides were treated and many died during the two day battle. (Right in front of this building runs the Mikitary Trail road. This road was also the path of Cherokee Nation on the Trail of Tears. Over 11,000 Cherokee passed this inn between 1837-39.)

  Although many soldiers were originally buried at this site, the graves of the soldiers were disinterred in the late 1880s and moved to two cemeteries: one for Union soldiers and one for Confederate soldiers, both in Fayetteville.  But in a field near the Inn are two monuments that were placed in a plea for unification. 

The large open field where the soldiers met is reminiscent of Gettysburg.  In watching the movie at the museum and walking through the museum displays, one can feel the sorrow that this battle caused. One sign commented that local farmers could not plant crops that year due to the destruction and the blood soaked lands. Agriculture was destroyed. 

We drove the circuit around the battlefield, stopping at several key sites. This was a battle for our nation’s soul. This was a battle that changed the course of the war. And so many lives were lost. We spoke to park rangers at the Inn who explained in more detail what had happened there.  

When we drive from my friend’s home in Eureka Springs to Bentonville, we pass a house where the owner flies the Confederate flag. That always angers us. Why fly this sign of hate?  Why not honor those who died by joining together to work in unity, and as is honored at the Pea Ridge site unification. 


In the car on the way back we discussed the Pea Ridge site. The impact of what we had seen. The next day, the local newspaper, “The Northwest Arkansas Democratic Register, had an article about discussions the Bentonville  community will have in a public forum. 

My personal opinion: The statue of the Confederate soldier should be moved. If it was a statue honoring both sides, I would feel differently. But it is not. I believe it could be moved to the Confederate Cemetary in Fayetteville. A plaque explaining its history should be placed by it. 

I am not for destroying monuments, I am for placing them in sites where their value as a lesson could be used. We should not be honoring those who battled to destroy the United States through treason and sedition.  But we also can never forget what happened here in the Civil War. Losing that memory will also remove our collective history. And we should never forget that in slavary human beings were once treated as cattle.  And that is wrong.  

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Defacing a Cemetery and Bomb Threats Make Me Angry

20 Feb

I was not sad today when I found out more Jewish Community Centers had received bomb threats that forced evacuations.  I was not sad today when I found out Chessed Shel Emeth Cemetery was vandalized and over 100 stones were toppled.  I was not sad.

I was ANGRY! I am still angry. I am frustrated that people believe hatred wins. It does not win.

This wave of anti-Semitism has touched me on several occasions. My sister and nephew were exercising at the Tenafly, NJ, JCC when it had to be evacuated in bitter cold weather. Children and elderly had to walk or be taken to a safe place.

The Jewish Community Center in Kansas has been on high security for over two years now since a horrible instance of anti-Semitic violence led to three deaths. And twice bomb threats have been received this year. I am used to seeing armed guards at the JCC and at our synagogues.

But today was the final straw. Today the cemetery where my husband’s parents and grandparents, as well as his great aunt and uncle,  are buried was vandalized. Chessed shel Emeth in University City, Missouri, in St Louis.  I am so angry that someone thinks toppling graves is acceptable. I think my anger is intensified because so many of my family have no graves. Their remains are included in the ashes of the concentration camps and destroyed Jewish communities in Europe.

I think I am angry because by destroying graves, they– the haters– try to wipe out out memory. I am always searching in my family’s genealogy, always wondering about who came before and how are we related. So I say to the haters, “It will not happen. We carry each person’s name and memory as a blessing. ”

I contacted the cemetery as soon as I found out to discover the status of our family graves. I was surprised at how quickly I had a response. I was contacted within an hour that Our stones were not toppled.

I want to thank all those who reached out to us. I am glad that the community is coming together to help repair the damage.  Donations can be made to help pay for the damage,. (See link below.)

And I say to those making threats and trying to destroy cemeteries, You will be found. You will be punished. This is not Europe of 1939. This is the United States of America. And you are in the wrong. We stand united.

I am angry, but I believe in goodness.  And I will continue to work with and focus on those who want a better world. I think we need to spread kindness, but we also need to find those who are perpetuating these acts and hold them responsible for their actions. It is just wrong.
If you want to help the cemetery please go to this site: https://www.chesedshelemeth.org/how-to-donate.html

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

It is a GRAVE Matter…Really

6 Jan

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My parents and grandparents are all together.

Over the years I have avoided one important part of my estate planning.  Buying a gravesite for my husband and for me.

I know this is important. But the thought of buying a grave made me sad.  I do not know why. My parents planned ahead. They purchased their graves as part of a family plot in New Jersey. In this same shared area rest all four of my grandparents, my parents and my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side.  When I was a child, no one was buried there. Unfortunately, now all but one of the assigned graves are now filled. 

At the time the graves were purchased, only my two uncles’ names were placed on the contract, as the cemetery would not allow  three names to be on it.  This left my father out. It was not a big deal until my mom died, and we found out that we had no authority to open her grave.  Same thing with my dad.  Luckily we are a close family and my cousins immediately did all that needed to be done. In fact my one cousin went out of his way to help all the cousins as he not only arranged for us to purchase perpetual care for the graves, he has also kept close watch on the care.  When we suffered the loss of our parents and his mother within a year, it was this cousin who made sure the that all three stones were placed properly. We are so thankful for his concern. As we suffered multiple losses that year.

Every year when I go back east, my sister and I make a pilgrimage to the cemetery.  Besides visiting all of our relatives, we take a short stroll to the resting place of my cousin’s other grandparents and relatives.  They are all so close together.  Remembering to bring the correct number of stones, is the hardest part.

Across from our parents, my sister and brother have a resting spot that includes their spouses. Unfortunately one grave is already occupied.   In fact it was this death about five years ago that started my quest and my inquiries about cemeteries.  But it has not been easy for me.

It was convenient for my siblings to buy for all of them as they  live in New Jersey.  But for me it is different.  My husband is from Missouri, and we live in Kansas. We have no family here.  Our daughter lives out of the country. And though our son lives near us now, who knows where he will end up.  So we have been indecisive about what to do.

Where should we eventually be buried?  OY! The best was to ignore this nagging and difficult choice.

This fall one of my close friends, a walking buddy, spent an entire walk telling me about the arrangements she and her husband recently made for their final home.  She also wanted to be sure her children would have no worries. The decision is made and paid for in advance.  It made me start thinking about our grave matter once again.

To be honest my husband does not care where we end up.  “When we are dead we are dead,” he says. “It won’t matter to us at all.”   But I think it will matter to our children if they do not have to worry about this decision in the midst of emotional turmoil.  It is hard enough when a parent dies without having to make this decision as well.  I knew my obsession had to be dealt with when I found myself reading the cemetery plot ads in the Jewish Forward.  That was a bit too much even for me.

As I am interested in genealogy, it was important to me that  our descendants  to be able to find us. I have seen the joy of discovery as people find the graves of their grandparents, great grandparents and even further back. It is so wonderful to have these in one place. So even though we belong to two synagogues, and we could buy plots in their cemeteries,  I do not want to be alone, away from everyone. It might be crazy, but that is how I feel.

The issue came to a head this past November, when my husband’s stepmother died.  She always planned to be buried on one side of my husband’s dad.  He and his first wife, my husband’s mother, are already buried there, as well as my husband’s grandparents. But things did not go as plannned.  Even though there are four empty graves in the plot, my father in law had never designated her to be buried there.  And with my father in law and his brother both deceased, the four plots are owned by the five adults in the next generation.  Since we are out of contact with my husband’s cousins, we were not allowed to bury her in this grave. It made for a tense few days. But the cemetery’s executive director would not  allow it.  (We assume the cemetery must have had lawsuits in the past over similar issues! )

No matter,  she had to be buried in a different cemertary.   But at least it was with her family. A cousin of hers who had purchased multiple plots donated one to her.   I was glad she was not alone.

This situation, the days of trying to figure out what would happen, increased my determination that our children should not have to deal with the issue of a grave site.  I was so upset. I do not want my children worrying about where to bury me. I want it settled.

But now I had a plan.  It is stupid for us to go to New Jersey especially since there are four perfectly good plots in St. Louis.   I am on a mission.  I am working with the cemetery to track down my husband’s first cousins.  It seems we are all joint owners of these four graves. I want two of these plots. It is stupid for them to stay empty when they can be used.

Even the woman I am working with at the cemetery agrees it is foolish to leave them unused.  But she says it happens often. Families drift apart and move away.  The original owner is long dead.  And the ownership continues to pass on to the next generation involving more and more descendants. And the cemetery is stuck, unable to let anyone use the graves.

Well one thing I have learned through my interest in genealogy, and my great contacts on the “Tracing the Tribe Facebook” group, research.  The person at the cemetery told me she could not find my husband’s cousins.  I took that as a challenge.  Within 90 minutes I had their names, their spouses’ names and the names of their children.  I have sent that information on to the cemetery’s office for them to be contacted.  (My research did remind me that my father in law and his brother died just over a month apart.  Even though they had not spoken to each other in perhaps 25 years, they had this connection: One died two weeks before 9/11 and one three weeks after. )

I have another back up plan as well.  My sister in law in St. Louis also has a group plot with her brothers and parents. When I unloaded my stress over finding a grave, she told me that they had some extra plots.  “You probably could buy two plots from us, if that would make me feel better and calm you down,” she laughed as she made this suggestion.  But my loving niece understands.  She promised me that she would come to visit ” her crazy aunt” in St. Louis.

My new year’s resolution for 2017:  I am focusing on resolving this grave matter.   I hope to find my husband’s cousins and come to an agreement about the graves.  Or purchase two plots from my sister in law’s family.  It is my resolution to buy two graves…   NOT that I want to use them anytime soon.
Update: we have two graves with my sister in law and her family in the St Louis area. I am at peace. My children will have an easier time with this knowledge. 

A Chair, A Baby Grand Piano and Yiddish Songs

2 Aug

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As the oldest granddaughter, my grandmother made it clear that I would inherit my grandparents’ cherry mahogany bedroom set. The most important pieces of furniture that came with it were my grandmother’s vanity and the small chair that goes with it.

The swivel chair is covered in a gold silk fabric. It is now a bit tattered, but I will not change it. In this chair my grandmother held me at night and sang Yiddish songs to me before I went to sleep.

She usually sang “Oif’n Pripetshik,” a song about children learning in their alef beiss, the alphabet. Even now, over 50 years later, listening to this song calms me. I feel my grandma’s arms around me; I smelled her scent; I feel the softness of her hair and her breath in my ear as she sings and slowly spins in the chair.

If one song did not get me ready to sleep, she would start singing, “Rozhinke Mit Mandlen.” I tried to stay awake so she would have to sing me both songs before I got into bed. When I was very young I slept with my grandmother.   I loved being with her in the winter under the big feather bed! I still have the one pillow left that was made from that giant duvet over 50 years ago. (See link to blog below.)

My grandparents kept the traditions they grew up with in Europe: Two twin beds, always. Grandpa would get up very early in the morning to go to their bakery and make the fresh bread and pastries.  Their apartment was on the top floor of the building that housed their bakery in West New York, New Jersey, right on Palisades Avenue.

Grandma would stay in bed with me a bit longer. Before she left she always whispered, “Remember, when you get up, get dressed and come down to the bakery.” Then a soft “Geh shluffen.” And she would be gone as well.

My grandfather also sang to us in Yiddish. He had a beautiful voice. Among his favorites to sing were “Tumbalalaika,” “Eli, Eli,” “Die Greene Koseene,” “Belz, Mine Shetele,” and “Wus Geven is Geven Un Nitu.”

Sometimes we would sit with him and sing together. Other times we would just listen. Occasionally, at a synagogue dinner in the Catskills, he would sing his Yiddish songs for the congregation. I remember once for my parent’s anniversary he sang several songs. But my Mom got very upset when he say, “Wus Geven is Geven un Nitu.”  I honestly do not think he meant to hurt her feelings.  He just loved to sing that song.

My grandparents had a beautiful carved walnut baby grand piano. The keys made of ebony and ivory. It was my Mom’s piano. She studied as a special student at Julliard when she was in high school. And even though she loved to play the piano, she went to college to learn to be a teacher instead of continuing at Julliard.   My grandparents felt teaching was a much better professional for a young woman in 1947.

I also learned music on this piano: years of lessons. I was never as good as my mother. But I did learn to love it. My teacher was kind. He let me chose the songs I wanted to learn. It was obvious that I would never be a concert pianist.

When I married, the piano and the bedroom set moved to my home. When I was pregnant with my daughter I would play the piano every day. I often played from a book of Yiddish music: “Jewish Nostalgia For Piano/Guitar/Organ/Accordian” published by the J & J Kammen Music Co. Sometimes I could feel my daughter kick within me as I played her favorite songs.

I know that she heard the music! After she was born, when she was fussy, I would bring her into the music room and play “Oif’n Pripetshik” for her. Within minutes she would be calm listening to the music.

My grandfather, Papa, lived until she was 3 ½.   He would sing to her in Yiddish as well. She does not remember much about him. But he would hold her close to his face while he sang.   What she remembers is that “Papa had a scratchy face.” He did not shave as often when he was in his late 80s.

When she was old enough, my daughter also took her first piano lessons on our family’s baby grand piano. Like me, she was not meant to be a concert pianist. But we both learned to love and read music while learning to play piano. I would often play music for my children when they were little. I often would play the Yiddish music of my childhood.

Over the years, many people have come to visit and would play the piano.   One childhood friend came to visit several years ago.   She asked what happened to my Mom’s piano.   I took her into my living room to see it.  She cried as she stood in front of it.  There was so much love invested in my piano.

I am so fortunate.  I have a chair to sit in to remember when my grandmother sang to me; a piano to play the music that my grandparents taught me.  I have the  Yiddish songs that I continue to hear in my mind and sometimes still play on my piano. Amazing memories and sounds of Yiddish songs from just looking at a chair and a piano.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/why-i-love-my-pillow/

 

Why I will Keep Ranting Against Gun Violence

13 Oct

Dr. Archer presents at the

Dr. Archer presents at the Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence Community Forum.

As I stated in an earlier blog, the death of Susan Choucroun, a friend who I met through the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Kansas City Section (NCJW), was my final straw in gun violence and needless deaths.

I made a promise to start advocating to work to stop gun violence. Yesterday, October 12, 2015, I continued that promised by going to the Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence second community forum: “Gun Violence: A Public Health Issue.”

I belong to two organizations that helped to sponsor this event, NCJW and Grandparents Against Gun Violence. I felt that since Susan had been a member of NCJW, in fact had served with me on several committees, it was only right that I attend this event in my efforts.

Listening to Dr. Rex Archer, the Director of Health for Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, strengthened my resolve.   He spoke of violence as a contagious disease that causes not only physical injury but moral injury as well. He stated that we had to stop it as we reverse an epidemic. And he stressed the new models of dealing with violence by creating new norms.

He stressed also that gun violence is usually not an action by people who are diagnosed with mental illness. Instead people who are mentally ill are the least likely to do violence to others. He called it a “side-tracking issue, because without a gun you cannot do mass murder. Guns are the issue.” He continued by saying that weapons manufacturers fund the NRA. The NRA is a front for the gun industry to lobby.

The audience was told that easy access to guns is the major issue, not mental health.

I listened to lectures by Kansas and Missouri state legislators: Barbara Bollier and Judy Morgan; by a Children’s Mercy Emergency Room physician who has seen children die as a result of gun violence; a psychiatrist; members of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime (including Al Brooks), Aim4Peace and the Kansas City Missouri Police NoVa (No Violence Alliance).

All the speakers were excellent, explaining in detail what happens to those people touched by gun violence and those who suffer mental health issues. Sixty-one percent of all gun deaths are suicide; and gun suicides account for over 90 percent of people who commit suicide.

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, parents of one of the 12 victims in the Colorado movie theater slaughter, was the most important presentation. I learned more about the PLCAA Law that was signed by George W. Bush on October 26, 2005, just ten years ago.   A Law that MUST be repealed!!!

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act makes it impossible for any American citizen to sue a firearms manufacturer and dealer, or ammunitions manufacturer or dealer, for negligence when a crime has been committed. That’s right, they cannot be sued.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips tried to sue the ammunitions dealer who sent the murderer of their daughter 4,000 ROUNDS, 4000!!! Of steel sided bullets; these same bullets that were shot six times into their daughter, Jessie. Killing her! They hit her legs, her abdomen, her clavicle and one to the head that blew off 4 inches of her face. Sorry. But is it true. When they tried to sue, not for money, but to get the dealer to have to do background checks, the case was dismissed because of the PLCAA Law and they are held liable to pay for the $200,000 in attorney fees for the ammunition dealer. This is insane!

I came home from the conference to see on the news that two Milwaukee police officers are suing a gun shop for negligence in selling the weapon as the man who shot them was only 18 at the time and not of legal age to buy a gun. This case is also pivots on the PLCAA Law. (Today, October 13,  the jury found the store liable and negligent! )

The other important information I learned is about the Kansas Law that will go into effect in July 2017 that allows guns on college campuses. Oh My God!!! Do you remember last year when Johnson County Community College was on lock down? My son was there. Locked in a room with his professor and other students. Hiding in a darkened room sitting quietly but texting. My son came home after that experience stressed and saddened.

I asked Barbara Bollier, a Kansas State Representative. What happens after the law goes into effect if the school security sees someone with a gun? Well there will be no lock down, and no effort to stop the person with the gun until the person fires the gun! That is right. It will be legal to carry that gun on Campus! Insanity!

But it is more than that. Dr. Archer told us that 40 percent of all guns sold are sold without a background check because they are sold through internet, gun shows or personal sales. FORTY PERCENT. The background check loophole must be changed!!!

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I learned that we must all take action. WE must repeal PLCAA. WE must repeal Kansas Law, The Personal and Family Protection Act!!! We must vote to get the background check loophole repealed!

Our Vote is our weapon against the public health issue of gun violence. We used our vote to stop smoking in public places. We used our vote to impact drunk driving.   Now we must use our voices and our vote to end gun violence.

Do not be silent!

As Lonnie Phillips said” “If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.”

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/why-i-have-to-write-about-gun-control/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/what-a-week-a-murder-and-a-campus-lock-down-impact-my-life/

What I Learned in My High School Typing Class Has Helped Throughout My Life

24 Sep

When I attended North Bergen High School in the 1970s, I took both a typing class and a short hand class. I did not want to. Typing and short hand classes were for the students who were not going on to college. And I knew that I would go to college. But my Mom made me take them.

“You never know when you might take a job that requires typing,” she said, and added: “These are good skills to learn.” I argued back, but obviously I lost.

My MOM insisted. So I took those two classes when I was a freshman in high school. I think one of the teachers was Miss Wirt. It was not the most exciting class for me, but by the end of the semester, I could touch type to the required words per minute without too many errors.  Being in class with good typists was a bit intimidating (As my friend Shashi reminded me). I will remind everyone that typing on a typewriter was much different than typing on a computer keyboard.  First there was the click clack of the keyboard.  You could tell how fast someone was typing by how quickly the clicks and clacks came together.

I did use these typing skills when I was on the staff of Paw Prints, the school’s newspaper. We had to type all of the stories into columns for them to be put into the layout and then copied and printed. I learned out to measure the space and fit the letters/words into the space correctly. A skill that came in handy much later in my life.

I have to say that my Mom was right. I will tell you that the skills I learned in the typing class have stayed with me forever. It is almost as if my Mom had telepathy and knew that eventually typing would be a much appreciated and required skill for college students.

Thanks to my typing classes, I excelled in my college and graduate school classes in the sense that my typed papers had very few typos and/or needed corrections. While I had friends who often had to hire someone to type their papers, I was set with my little typewriter.

In fact, only once in all of my undergraduate college career did someone type a paper for me. But there was a reason. My very last college paper at Drew University was due when I had an accident involving one of my eyes. After a long visit in an emergency room, I realized I could not type this paper since I had a large patch over my eye. Luckily for me, I had a great friend, Shari, who lived in the same dorm and was my savior. She typed the entire paper that evening in time for my morning class.

Later when I went on to graduate school, for journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, my parents bought me the most wonderful gift, a self-correcting typewriter. This was the best typewriter available with a second ribbon of white out, so you could just back up, lower the white-out ribbon, and then cover the error and then retype. Amazing what was wonderful in the days before word processors and computers.

My typing class made it possible for me to complete my master’s degree exam in plenty of time. We had to answer four questions and had one hour to write the answer essays. They had to be typed. So as we thought out our answer, we had to actually type instead of write. I came to the exam with my typewriter and ribbons and succeeded.

This typewriter was also an important part of my Master’s Thesis, as I could easily correct mistakes.     Writing a thesis before computers was a nightmare. You had to estimate how much space to leave for footnotes. Getting everything perfect took experience and spatial coordination. As I said earlier, many people had to hire someone to type their thesis. But not me, as I knew how to type and I knew how to make words fit. Thank you Miss Wirt! Thank you Mrs. Whitehouse and my Paw Prints work!

The short hand class taught me the basics of taking quick notes using some symbols. Knowing a few of these symbols came in handy when I did an interview. I could write quickly by not writing all the words and using short hand instead.   Thanks to my Mom insisting that I take this class, my interviews as a grad student in journalism were always accurate. Yes I had a tape recorder as well. But some people did not like to be recorded. So accurate note taking was important.

I will admit that I have forgotten most of these symbols. And when I look at short hand symbols today they look like hieroglyphics. But when I was in graduate school I was so happy that I had an advantage.

Although I do not use the short hand, my touch typing skills are something I use every day for work and for pleasure. I am using those skills as I type and write this blog!

With the advent of computers, everyone needs to know how to use a keyboard.   Today touch typing, or as it is now known – keyboarding — is a skill that children are taught in elementary school. If you cannot type, you cannot use a computer successfully. Although probably in a few years, people will just talk to their computers and to have their thoughts put down, just as we talk to our smart phones to type a short message to someone.

It is amazing what a good teacher can help a student learn. I went into my typing class with a chip on my shoulder, not wanting to take it. I came out with a skill that has been with me for over 40 years. What I learned in typing class has helped me throughout my life.

Honey for Rosh Hashannah and a Sweet, Wonderful Year!

11 Sep
Honey, apples, serving dishes, flowers and my kitten make the holiday sweet and happy.

Honey, apples, serving dishes, flowers and my kitten make the holiday sweet and happy.

We must have honey for Rosh Hashannah: honey for our apples, honey for our challah, honey in our cakes. Honey brings the knowledge that the year will be sweet. And even in times of sorrow, we must think of the happy sweetness of honey.

For over ten years my local section of National Council of Jewish Women has been selling honey for Rosh Hashannah. A dedicated group of women organize this fund raising mitzvah. We enjoy the camaraderie of packing the honey and signing cards. Each year we send out almost 1000 boxes of honey throughout the USA to family and friends.

I enjoy helping with this fundraiser both as a volunteer and as a contributor. It is one good deed, one act of Tzedakah, that I truly enjoy. Each year it seems that I send out more and more honey to my family and friends. Most of the honey I send out goes to people who live far from me. It is a way for me to be part of their holiday experience.

It is a joy to know that these people/families will have honey for the holidays. And they will know that my husband and I are thinking of them.

For many it has become a tradition. I get phone calls and emails asking me if the honey is still coming. Of course it is. I will continue to buy honey as long as NCJW has this fundraiser.

I love getting the thank you emails when the honey arrives. One friend even sent me a photo of her honey in her thanks. Another cousin in California told me that she would definitely be using her honey. From New York I heard “We got your honey! Thank you!” A friend in Massachusetts sent a note that just entitled “Sweetness,” because getting honey is that!

I know getting honey makes people happy, which makes me happy. The recipients know my family and I am sending them love as well as sweetness. We are helping to make their holiday and New Year as wonderful as can be. And sweetness from honey helps.

When my daughter was in college, I sent honey to her and her friends, some who were not even Jewish. They called it the ‘holy honey’ and used it not only for Rosh Hashannah, but also whenever they were feeling sick or blue. Tea and ‘holy honey’ cheered everyone up! What a way to make a year sweet and healthy!

On Rosh Hashannah I take out my special honey and apple set. I actually have several now. The one I used when the children were little looks like a bee hive. They loved it.   I also have the honey bowl my parents used for their holiday. Each year I use them as we dip our apples and challah into honey.

The holiday is soon. My raisin challah and honey cake are ordered. My NCJW honey is ready to be opened. My holiday meals are planned. Whenever I get ready for Rosh Hashannah, I remember celebrating the holidays with my family, with my maternal grandparents.  My grandfather was a baker and his special, round Rosh Hashannah challahs were delicious.  So sweet and so wonderful dipped in honey.

As we celebrate I try to think of all the joy and happiness that is in the world, and block out the sadness. Although we cannot forget what is happening, for this moment in time we celebrate and prepare for the time of forgiveness and repentance. But for now:

L’shana tova u metuka! May you all have a good and sweet year.