Friday, September 30, 2005


kugel has mystical powers

see, i always knew that kugel was special... from the nytimes:

Allan Nadler, a professor of religious studies at Drew University, studied references to kugel in Hasidic texts and ate it in Brooklyn and in Jerusalem at about a dozen rebbes' tishes, or tables, where male followers of a Hasidic rabbi gather to eat, sing and study the Torah.

According to Hasidic interpretations of Kabbalah mysticism, he said, kugel has special powers.

"Clearly the spiritual high point of the meal is the offering of the kugel," Professor Nadler said. At that moment the rabbi has the power to bestow health and food, and even to help couples conceive.
makes me look forward to erev rosh hashanah in cleveland. my mom's kugel is the best.

Friday, September 23, 2005


a selection of curses

in honor of this week's torah portion - ki tavo - which includes all of the creative biblical curses of chapter 28 of deuteronomy (such as ... the Lord will strike you with the egyptian inflamation, with hemorrhoids, boil-scars and itch, from which you shall never recover....ouch) here are some poignant yiddish versions, use them in the best of health.
a selection of curses - from nahum stutchkoff's thesaurus of the yiddish language

Ale tsores vos ikh hob oyf mayn hartsn, zoln oysgeyn tsu zayn kop.
All problems I have in my heart, should go to his head.

Zol es im onkumn vos ikh vintsh im (khotsh a helft, khotsh halb, khotsh a tsent kheylik).
Let what I wish on him come true (most, even half, even just 10%).

Eyn imglik iz far im veynik.
One misfortune is too few for him.

Finstere leyd zol nor di mama oyf im zen.
Black sorrow is all that his mother should see of him.

Khasene hobn zol er mit di malekh hamoves tokhter.
He should marry the daughter of the Angel of Death.

Shteyner zol zi hobn, nit kayn kinder.
She should have stones and not children.

Azoy fil ritzinoyl zol er oystrinkn.
He should drink too much castor oil.

Oyskrenkn zol er dus mame’s milakh.
He should get so sick as to cough up his mother’s milk.

Oyf doktoyrim zol er dos avekgebn.
He should give it all away to doctors.

Zol er krenken un gedenken.
Let him suffer and remember.

Zalts im in di oygen, feffer im in di noz.
Throw salt in his eyes, pepper in his nose.

Shteyner af zayne beyner.
Stones on his bones.

A kramp (a kram, a kortsh) im in layb (in boyakh, in di kishkes, in di gederem, in di finger).
A cramp in his body (in his stomach, in his guts, in his bowels, in his fingers and toes).

Trinkn zoln im piavkes.
Leeches should drink him dry.

Lakhn zol er mit yashtherkes.
He should laugh with lizards.

Meshuga zol er vern un arumloyfn (iber di gasn).
He should go nuts and run around (through the streets).

A meshugener zol men oyshraybn, un im araynshraybn.
They should free a madman, and lock him up.

A hiltsener tsung zol er bakumn.
He should grow a wooden tongue.

Krugn zol er di (town name here) brokh.
He should get the (town name here) hernia.

Gut zol oyf im onshikn fin di tsen makes di beste.
God should visit upon him the best of the Ten Plagues.

Fransn zol esn zayn layb.
Venereal disease should consume his body.

Farshporn zol er oyf(tsu)shteyn?
Why bother getting up alive?

A kleyn kind zol nokh im heysn.
A young child should be named after him.

Vi tsu derleb ikh im shoyn tsu bagrobn.
I should outlive him long enough to bury him.

Er zol altsting zen, un nit hobn farvos (mit vos) tsu koyfn.
He should see everything, but have no reason (with what) to buy it.

Got zol im bentshn mit dray mentshn: eyner zol im haltn, der tsveyter zol im shpaltn un der driter zol im ba’haltn.
God should bless him with three people: one should grab him, the second should stab him and the third should hide him.

Vifil yor er iz gegangn oyf di fis zol er geyn af di hent un di iberike zol er zikh sharn oyf di hintn.
As many years as he’s walked on his feet, let him walk on his hands, and for the rest of the time he should crawl along on his ass.

Tsen shifn mit gold zol er farmorgn, un dos gantse gelt zol er farkrenkn.
Ten ships of gold should be his and the money should only make him sick.

A groys gesheft zol er hobn mit shroyre: vus er hot, zol men bay im nit fregn, un vos men fregt zol er nisht hobn.
He should have a large store, and whatever people ask for he shouldn’t have, and what he does have shouldn’t be requested.

Hindert hayzer zol er hobn, in yeder hoyz a hindert tsimern, in yeder tsimer tsvonsik betn un kadukhes zol im varfn fin eyn bet in der tsveyter.
A hundred houses shall he have, in every house a hundred rooms and in every room twenty beds, and a delirious fever should drive him from bed to bed.

Ale tseyn zoln bay im aroysfaln, not eyner zol im blaybn oyf tsonveytung.
All his teeth should fall out except one to make him suffer.

In di zumerdike teg zol er zitsn shive, un in di vinterdike nekht zikh raysn af di tseyn.
On summer days he should mourn, and on wintry nights, he should torture himself.

Got zol gebn, er zol hobn altsding vos zayn harts glist, nor er zol zayn geleymt oyf ale ayvers un nit kenen rirn mit der tsung.
God should bestow him with everything his heart desires, but he should be a quadriplegic and not be able to use his tongue.

Migulgl zol er vern in a henglayhter, by tog zol er hengen, un bay nakht zol er brenen.
He should be transformed into a chandelier, to hang by day and to burn by night.

Zayn mazl zol im layhtn vi di levone in sof khoydesh.
His luck should be as bright as a new moon.

Er zol hobn paroys makes bashotn mit oybes krets.
He should have Pharaoh’s plagues sprinkled with Job’s scabies.

Er zol kakn mit blit un mit ayter.
He should crap blood and pus.

Heng dikh oyf a tsikershtrikl vestu hobn a zisn toyt.
Hang yourself with a sugar rope and you’ll have a sweet death.

Es zol dir dunern in boykh, vestu meyen az s’iz a homon klaper.
Your stomach will rumble so badly, you'll think it was Purim noisemaker

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


waiting for the rainbow

sorry, i'm reading Noah in class today... i had to go with the obvious imagery...

GULFPORT, Miss. -- A casino barge was taken inland. (AP Photo)
"at the end of hundred and fifty days the waters diminished, so that in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of ararat" - genesis 8:3-5

Thursday, September 15, 2005


bush's promises

all in all, i have to admit, it was a good speech. let's take a closer look:

"we will work to bring your family back together and pay for your travel to reach them."

"we will have a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures."

in other words, watch out haliburton...
"Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."
nice words. let's see some action to back them up

"I propose the creation of worker recovery accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work. Under this plan, the federal government would provide accounts of up to $5,000, which these evacuees could draw upon for job training and education to help them get a good job and for child-care expenses during their job search."
not bad, but this doesn't negate waiving prevailing wage protections for construction workers in the region...

"I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity."

assuming the federal government is not going to invest massive amounts of money in affordable housing, this isn't a bad idea

"I have asked USA Freedom Corps to create an information clearinghouse, available at, so that families anywhere in the country can find opportunities to help families in the region or a school can support a school. And I challenge existing organizations -- churches and Scout troops or labor union locals -- to get in touch with their counterparts in Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama and learn what they can do to help. In this great national enterprise, important work can be done by everyone, and everyone should find their role and do their part."

with the assumed federal government role as "coordinator-in-chief," and the reliance on private/charitable responses, this also makes sense

"The United States Congress also has an important oversight function to perform. Congress is preparing an investigation, and I will work with members of both parties to make sure this effort is thorough."
what no independent counsel?

i guess when the bar has been set so low, there's nowhere to go but up. it's so sad when "barely adequate" seems like a giant leap into the future.

and now that bush is wading into the moderate center, will the democrats actually become progressive? only time will tell...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


working families deserve a pay raise, too

our back story is that the pennsylvania state legislature voted themselves a questionable 16% pay increase at 2am on july 7. this action has been universally derided due to the lack of debate on the measure, the lateness of the vote, and its classification as "unvouchered expenses" - which provided a convenient loophole from which legislators could immediately receive these benefits; otherwise they would have remained "forbidden fruits" until the next legislative session.

up until now, the grassroots conservative groups have been much more vocal and organized in their "let's vote the bums out" reaction, while the democrats have been asleep at the wheel.

apart from this article in the inquirer, the coalition to raise pennsylvania's minimum wage had yet to overtly link this vote with the legislature's failure to vote on an increase in the state's minimum wage (still set at $5.15/hour) before adjourning for the summer.

but now, things may be starting to change, as rendell seems to have leaped onto the bandwagon....

Flanked by local labor and political leaders, Gov. Ed Rendell yesterday proposed increasing Pennsylvania's hourly minimum wage to $6.25 in January and $7.15 a year later, with subsequent raises to reflect increases in the cost of living.

The Democratic governor outlined the proposal at a rally outside the United Steelworkers Building after attending the city's Labor Day parade.

To an audience of labor union members and supporters, the governor noted that nearby states already have taken steps to implement increases.

"Pennsylvania has to join the club," he said, to loud applause.

Rendell, who approved a pay increase in July that state lawmakers voted for themselves, said then that he would push to raise the minimum wage, currently $5.15 an hour.

If lawmakers can get a pay increase, so can the "poorest working Americans in Pennsylvania," Rendell told his listeners yesterday. Statewide, about 254,000 workers would benefit, he said.
i feel the tipping point approaching. it's time to organize...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


a new jewish ritual is born...

so exciting! an idea for my life cycle class ... i can create a ritual for the "rescue of a Torah after a hurricane" ...
Katrina leaves Torahs untouched; rescuers take Jewish texts to safety (excerpted):

The sacred word of God -- lovingly hand-inscribed in classical Hebrew on scrolls of parchment -- was rescued Saturday from Jewish synagogues in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. "Leaving them alone in an empty synagogue is an unbearable thought," Zamek said.

Because the scrolls also contain the name of God, worn Torahs must be buried, not discarded. "They are representations of God's love," Bergadine said. "It's important for the congregants (of those synagogues) to know that the Torahs are safe. It's that emotional connection."

So emotional that Bergadine broke into tears as she recounted how she carried a small children's Torah from the day school. "It was like carrying a child."

None of the Torahs, including those that had survived the Holocaust, were damaged or destroyed. Damage to the synagogues was minimal, Saperstein said.

Some of the Torahs will be stored at Beth Shalom and B'nai Israel synagogues in Baton Rouge; others will be sent to Houston, where many of the Jewish residents of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish have sought refuge.

When asked if there is a special prayer to be said for rescuing a torah, Zamek and Saperstein were stumped. Somehow, they said, the shekhekiyanu -- the prayer commemorating new beginnings and joyous occasions -- seemed inappropriate.

"I somehow missed that class in rabbinic school," Saperstein quipped.

good thing i'm taking that class now...

Monday, September 12, 2005


bye-bye brownie

i guess it wasn't such a "heck of a job" after all

Sunday, September 11, 2005


what you can do to help

other places to give money (from the shalom center):
1) Saving ACORN: Tides Foundation Rapid Response Fund -- One of the country's best progressive foundations is Tides, through which wealthy people who have progressive political visions have for decades banded together to fund decent grass-roots social change. And one of the country's most serious grass-roots community organizer groups is ACORN, which has led many successful campaigns for living wage laws -- and which was both headquartered in New Orleans and organizing local folks there. Tides has worked with ACORN for years. Now it has set up an emergency response fund for ACORN and other grass-roots groups in New Orleans and the surrounding region so that they can help grass-roots people.

You can make an instant online donation to the fund by clicking the DonateNow button at --

2. Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of progressive organizations throughout New Orleans, has brought community members together for eight years to discuss socio-economic issues. They have been communicating with people from the Quality Education as a Civil Right Campaign, the Algebra Project, the Young People's Project, and the Louisiana Research Institute for Community Empowerment (RICE).

They have set up a People's Hurricane Fund that will be directed and administered by New Orleanian evacuees through the Young People's Project, a 501(c)3 organization formed by graduates of the Algebra Project. (The Algebra Project was founded by Bob Moses. Moses was the extraordinary SNCC organizer in Mississippi in the '60s who more recently decided knowledge of algebra is crucial to Black equality today, and set up a very effective teaching program in Boston that he has spread into the South through his old connections.) Donations can be mailed to:
The People's Hurricane Fund
c/o The Young People's Project
99 Bishop Allen Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139

3. LEAN -- Louisiana Environmental Network, 162 Craydon Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70806 -- LEAN members provided an airdrop of food, water, and medical supplies to the trapped residents of St. Bernard, Plaquemine and Washington Parishes. LEAN is also working hard now to raise more funds to allow local people, working with local government leaders to provide direct, immediate assistance with all the efficiency that comes from not being a bureaucrat or an outsider. LEAN won't just leave the area when the immediate crisis is over but will work to address the toxic cesspool and chemical contamination that will be left behind 'when the water finally recedes.

"At this time, the most needed items are tetanus shots, insulin, IV fluids, as well as financial resources to purchase and transport medical and food assistance directly to victims."

4. Local religious & community spaces -- You can mail or ship non-perishable items to these following locations, which local sources report are REALLY delivering services to folks in need:
  • Center for LIFE Outreach Center,121 Saint Landry Street, Lafayette, LA 70506, atten.: Minister Pamela Robinson, 337-504-5374;
  • Mohammad Mosque, 2600 Plank Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70805, atten.: Minister Andrew Muhammad, 225-923-1400; 225-357-3079;
  • Lewis Temple CME Church, 272 Medgar Evers Street, Grambling, LA 71245, atten.: Rev. Dr. Ricky Helton, 318-247-3793;
  • St. Luke Community United Methodist Church c/o Hurricane Katrina Victims, 5710 East R.L. Thornton Freeway, Dallas, TX 75223, atten.: Pastor Tom Waitschies, 214-821-2970;
  • S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, 3815 Live Oak, Houston, Texas 77004, atten.: Deloyd Parker, 713-521-0641.

  • Saturday, September 10, 2005


    what's God got to do with it? (part 2)

    apparently the nytimes and i are on the same wavelength... i swear i wrote mine first...
    How could God have allowed this to happen? ... Writing in The New York Times on Thursday about theodicy - the effort to reconcile the existence of an all-powerful benevolent God with the occurrence of horrific evils - Edward Rothstein described the tendency born in the 18th century to dismiss God as an actor in catastrophes and focus instead on human responsibilities.

    As Adam B. Kushner, who hails from New Orleans, writes in the latest issue of The New Republic, his hometown "met its demise by an act of man, not an act of God." The man-made dimensions of this catastrophe have wholly overshadowed the natural ones. How can God be implicated when elaborately contrived human systems prove fragile?

    In theological terms, of course, this only pushes the issue back one notch. For believers, humanity, with all its faults and contrivances, is no less God's creation than hurricanes and ocean surges and the law that water seeks its own level.

    So one might logically step back from asking how God could allow the brimming Lake Pontchartrain to break the levees to asking how God could allow self-interested or shortsighted politicians to put off reinforcing the levees or allow enterprising engineers and developers to decrease the capacity of the environment to buffer storms.

    How could God allow the negligence, racism, indifference or hard-heartedness that long gnawed at the social fabric of New Orleans - or the blindness or incompetence of officials who should have understood the brewing human storm, as well the meteorological one?
    Peter Steinfels, NY Times, (excerpted)
    interesting questions indeed. any takers for some answers?

    Friday, September 09, 2005


    what's God got to do with it?

    i'm intrigued by public pronouncements of personal faith at a time of tragedy. where does God fit in? how does a person's theology affect their actions?

    often, one's faith is expressed as a personal relationship with God; as a potential source of comfort. God is in control of things and is all-powerful...
    "I was not crying in anguish because the home that I walked out of with my children was gone - I knew it would be gone when I left," she said. "It was an anguished cry of plea to the only person that I thought could hear, and that was God himself. And I think he has heard, because the people of my state have cried out to him for now over a week and a half. But as he gives us the grace and the wisdom to do our job, I hope we can do it well."
    - Sen. Mary Landreiu, in the NY Times
    but, if God is all-powerful, then maybe the hurricane is a result of God's vengeful wrath...
    "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge."

    "We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God."
    - repent america
    "It was God's retribution - God does not short-change anyone. [Bush] perpetrated the expulsion [of Jews from Gaza], now everyone is mad at him. This is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too."
    - rabbi ovadia yosef, israeli spiritual leader of shas party, also quoted in jewschool.
    obviously, this "vengeful God" doesn't quite do it for me. folks who know me won't be surprised that i have affinity with those who relate to God through a "call to service" ...
    Many local pastors are encouraging their congregations to do something -- even if it just means giving a few dollars. "I said to them try to taste the agony of those who are suffering and to try as much as possible to put themselves in the position of those who are affected," says the Rev. Belfield Castello of Easton's First Moravian Church.
    new jersey express times
    and as a directive toward acts of social justice:
    "It is not enough for some of us to do well. Unless we all have the opportunity to succeed, none of us are a success. We've got to stop destroying the notion that we are all responsible for one another. Katrina taught us that lesson."

    Dean urged the lunch crowd of 150 to revive the social activism of the 1960s, to combat what he saw as a failure in "moral choices" by current national leaders. Both government and churches, he said, need to play a role in fostering social justice.

    "When you look at Christianity, it is in fact about social justice. Jesus walked among the poorest and the lowest. We ought to put that up on every church door."

    Howard Dean

    Blessed are you, Source of Life,
    Who helps us to bring
    Light where there is darkness,
    Healing where there is brokenness, and
    Peace to all of the earth's inhabitants.

    B'rukhah at Yah, M'kor Ha-chayim,
    ha-tomekhet banu b'haviyenu
    Or l'choshekh,
    marpei l'shever,
    v'shalom l'khol yoshvei tevel.

    - Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women's and Gender Studies

    Thursday, September 08, 2005


    progressive jewish groups respond to katrina

    now we're talking...

    PHILADEPHIA & NEW YORK --- In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath, two national Jewish organizations dedicated to anti-poverty and low income community development are collaborating to bring immediate and long-term assistance to effected communities.

    Today The Shefa Fund and Jewish Fund for Justice (JFJ) announced the creation of the joint JFJ/Shefa Hurricane Katrina Relief and Redevelopment Project. The project will immediately establish a fund administered by The Shefa Fund and will subsequently include other efforts to engage Jews in support for low-income residents suffering from Katrina. The fund will provide essential and immediate assistance to Katrina refugees and will invest in the long-term redevelopment needs of impacted low income residents.

    The Jewish Fund for Justice and The Shefa Fund are national 501(c)3 non-profit organizations; the former focuses on supporting anti-poverty organizing, the latter on redevelopment in low-income communities.

    "All communities in Katrina’s path suffered," said JFJ executive director Simon Greer. "But they did not suffer equally. Low income communities in the Southeast were neglected before, during, and immediately following the hurricane. Those who had little before Katrina now have nothing. We have created this project to acknowledge that reality and to help focus some Jewish giving on the long-term redevelopment needs of the disaster’s most neglected victims."

    "This fund represents a continuation of work we've been doing for years," said Jeffrey Dekro, executive director of The Shefa Fund. "While the devastation is unparalleled in scope, The Shefa Fund has considerable experience targeting Jewish giving to help low income communities get on their feet. This expertise will help guide The Shefa Fund in our administration of the Hurricane Katrina Relief and Redevelopment Fund."

    The first local group to receive support from the Fund is the Jackson, MS-based Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD), a local community development financial institution (CDFI), and its New Orleans-based Hope Community Credit Union (HOPE). ECD/HOPE has twelve years of experience in strengthening distressed areas to help residents rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and communities, and currently holds a $100,000 investment from Shefa Fund’s TZEDEC Economic Development Fund. The TZEDEC program pools low- and no-interest loans from Jewish philanthropic investors and reinvests those funds in CDFIs to serve individuals, businesses, and nonprofits typically neglected by mainstream banks.

    To distribute these and other funds, EDC/HOPE has set up the ECD Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. They describe their giving strategy as focused first on "community partners who are providing food, clothing and shelter’’ for those displaced, before shifting to support "payment deferrals, provide down payment assistance, establish loss reserves, and otherwise extend a bridge to those recovering from this tragedy."

    "ECD/HOPE is a local organization with a stellar reputation," said Dekro. "We have been rewarded by our support for their work in the past and believe their local expertise makes them an excellent group through which to direct initial contributions from this new Fund."

    According to Greer, the Fund is only the first of a series of initiatives to focus the attention of the Jewish community on the needs of low-income victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    "The victims of Katrina need food, clothes, and shelter," said Greer. "But they also deserve justice. Over the coming months and years, we are committed to leading a Jewish response to the injustices suffered by those without income and influence. Creating this Fund for directed relief and redevelopment is an important first step."

    Contributions to the fund can be made by visiting Additional information about the JFJ/Shefa Hurricane Katrina Relief and Redevelopment Project will soon be available on The Shefa Fund website and at


    "the test of a people is how it behaves toward the old"

    "the test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. it is easy to love children. even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. but the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture."
    apparently we're not quite there yet.

    "to grow in wisdom," is an amazing article that was written in 1966 by rabbi abraham joshua heschel, towards the end of his life. it's a profound reflection on the role of the elderly in our society ... urging us to change our perception of seeing "becoming old" as a "problem" to be solved. instead, we should embrace the potentialities of a full and vibrant life as we advance in years.

    "most of us to do not live in time but run away from it; we do not see its face, but its make-up. the past is either forgotten or preserved as a cliche, and the present moment is either bartered for a silly trinket or beclouded by false anticipations. the present moment is a zero, and so is the next moment, and a vast stretch of life turns out to be a series of zeros, with no real number in front."

    "blind to the marvel of the present moment, we live with memories of moments missed, in anxiety about an emptiness that lies ahead. we are totally unprepared when the problem strikes us in unmitigated form."

    "time is the process of creation, and things of space are results of creation. it is the dimention of time wherein man meets God, wherein man becomes aware that every instant is an act of creation, a Beginning, opening up new roads for ultimate realization. Time is the presence of God in the world of space and it is within time that we are able to sense the unity of all beings."

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005


    new orleans vs the sudan

    for a sense of perspective on the massive relief operations now finally underway for the "internally displaced persons" from new orleans (they're apparently not refugees, since the term "refugee" implies a border-crossing), check out sleepless in sudan, a fascinating blog written by an anonymous 30-something aid-worker at a refugee camp in the darfur region of the sudan.

    (also see here and here, for more on the "what's in a name" refugee/survivor/idp debate)

    although initially things seemed a little too close to call, i'm now confident in saying that the conditions for the new orleanians in the houston astrodome are better than those of the refugees in the kalma and al salam refugee camps.

    if you don't believe me, just go ask barbara bush...

    Monday, September 05, 2005


    is it time for a second line yet?

    after hearing harry shearer's le show on npr sunday afternoon, i discovered that besides being a wry political commentator and the voice of half the characters on the simpsons, he's also a long-time resident of new orleans.

    his recollections had me thinking about the distinctive traditions of the second line (surprisingly left off this otherwise right-on list of new orleans favorites).

    As you already know, New Orleans is a parading kind of town. Think of an occasion, and we celebrate with a parade. The folks in the parade are considered the "first line," and the groups of dancing spectators who follow the procession are the "second line." Now, that's a very simple definition because "second line" also has other meanings. Second lining is also a special kind of street dancing that came from traditional African-American parades.

    After the Civil War, it was easier to get musical instruments, so African Americans began to form brass marching bands. Throughout the city there were fraternal groups and burial societies who often competed with each other to see which group could send off a member in the greatest style. When the service was over, and the procession moved from church to cemetery, the band played sad hymns and dirges. On the way back, the music became more joyful. The band played high-spirited tunes such as "Didn't He Ramble," and the second liners danced with wild abandon. The second line, usually sporting umbrellas and handkerchiefs, became traditional at these jazz funerals.
    even when someone dies, in a time of extreme sadness and grief, it is just as important to celebrate that person's life, as it is to mourn their passing.

    if this is true at a jazz funeral for one person, is it even more necessary at a time of national mourning?

    with this question in my head, i read the following account in the sunday ny times:

    In the midst of misery in New Orleans, there were lingering signs of a fading vivacity. About two dozen people gathered in the French Quarter for an annual Labor Day gay celebration, the Southern Decadence Parade. Matt Menold, 23, a street musician wearing a sombrero and a guitar, explained: "It's New Orleans, man. We're going to celebrate."
    is it ever too soon for decadence in the big easy? and how about celebrating that some of the animals in the audubon zoo and aquarium have so far managed to survive the ordeal?

    rays of hope within the darkness

    Saturday, September 03, 2005


    anya kamenetz

    i just discovered the village voice blogs of anya kamenetz (daughter of rodger, of jew in the lotus fame, and a good writer in her own right). her reflections on the situation, grounded in her time growing up as young, progressive jew in new orleans developing a sense of class and race consciousness, echos my experiences at tulane. so far, her three posts are when the levees broke, my flood of tears, and by the waters of babylon (which brings in psalm 137, and the book of lamentations as tools for responding to collective tragedy and trauma). i now have the bob marley version running through my head...

    the descriptions of the 2-tiered class society of new orleans, that only gets mixed up into a big pot of gumbo at jazzfest and mardi gras, are also very accurate:

    But in the end I am ashamed, once again, to be from this city. The people who have suffered the worst, the people who died for a lack of basic compassion, are my neighbors. And the same factors that trapped them—being poor, being black, having no other options, no way out—are the forces that make the city what it is.

    I lived in Louisiana from the age of one till I left for college. It’s no surprise any conscious white person feels guilty growing up there. Our grade school field trip was to Nottoway Plantation, where a young docent in crinolines pointed out the “servants’ quarters” back behind the big house. The first time our state comes up in the big social studies book is when they explain the expression “sold down the river.” (It was a common threat, since it was known that the work on Louisiana’s cotton plantations was the hottest and the masters the cruelest.)

    But the guilt doesn’t just come from history. It comes from enjoying the spoils of history today, as every visitor and every resident inevitably does. You can see it when you stroll beneath the scrollwork in the French Quarter; it’s written in every column of every mansion on St. Charles Avenue. You can feel it when you clap your hands to a young man tap dancing for change with bottle caps in his shoes on a square of cardboard, or throw a quarter to a transient blowing a saxophone on a cobblestone street. As Faulkner put it, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    Because here’s why I feel so bad right now. I’ve chased the Mardi Gras Indians when they’re stepping out in their peacock jewels under the expressway, and I’ve shaken my ass at a thousand
    Rebirth Brass Band shows, and I’ve eaten a pile of red beans and buttermilk biscuits and yelled till I was hoarse for a Zulu coconut, and I’ve been fed all my life in the bosom of this culture made up of people who have been kept down by the weight of poverty and misery and the whole American trip. That’s the wellspring for all of us in America, really, the dark roux. Race is the central dynamic of American history. Jazz and blues, it’s unbearably trite but true, are the American art form—the jazz of New Orleans and the blues of the Mississippi Delta.

    New Orleans, the City that Care Forgot, has stood out more and more from the rest of the country in past years because of the number of people who don’t leave it, who stay generation after generation. You could say that’s because they are kept down, or because they’ve put down roots—that’s what keeps the city what it is, a little out of the mainstream of time.

    Now we who dance and drink and play together forgot to stand up when it counted. We were waiting for the big storm, and we knew our city was full of people who had no cars, who were living in the same old
    camelbacks and shotgun shacks for a hundred years in the poorest part of town, and we didn’t send buses and we didn’t send vans and we didn’t stop our family SUVs on the way out of town to let in a single mother and her child.

    and this picture is worth 1000 words:

    An aerial view of flooded school buses in a lot, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in New Orleans, LA. The flood is a result of Hurricane Katrina that passed through the area last Monday.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)

    Friday, September 02, 2005


    shabbat shalom... i hope...

    i hope this is the first glimmer of light .... (and let's ignore the rescue bus that overturned full of people, after leaving the superdome - can't anyone do anything right?)

    may the new week bring us all some good news. including my marching in philly's labor day parade on monday. woo hoo, labor solidarity! el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido...


    i only have a used prius

    ok, here's the official order. all you soccer-moms with minivans and suvs, all you nascar-dads with pick-ups, and especially all of those ugly hummers patrolling the mean streets of suburbia - it's time for a citizens' caravan down south. let's load that $5/gallon unleaded and get a move on.

    if only my parents had hung onto that classic 1976 blue station wagon... any old VW vans lying around?

    Thursday, September 01, 2005


    Where the hell's the cavalry?

    so this is how the rest of the world feels...

    The slow response to Katrina and poor federal leadership is a replay of 1992's mishandling of Hurricane Andrew, said former FEMA chief of staff Jane Bullock, a 22-year veteran of the agency. Bullock blamed inexperienced federal leadership. She noted that Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael Brown had no disaster experience before they were appointed to their jobs.

    The slowness is all too familiar to Kate Hale. As Miami's disaster chief during Hurricane Andrew, Hale asked: "Where the hell's the cavalry?" "I'm looking at people who are begging for ice and water and (a) presence," Hale said Wednesday. "I'm seeing the same sort of thing that horrified us after Hurricane Andrew. ... I realize they've got a huge job. Nobody understands better than I do what they're trying to respond to, but ..."

    good question... i'm about ready to commandeer a school bus and drive it down to new orleans myself. how can our government be so asleep at the wheel? and why do we need to rely on the "grumpy old men" team of clinton and bush senior to convince us that the solution is our giving more charity? isn't that what our tax dollars are supposed to do?

    let's have some more government of the people, by the people, and especially right now, for the people.

    in the meanwhile, the third world is closer than it seems...


    the good folks at move-on have started a website to match people who need housing with people who have housing. sounds simple enough.

    let's spread the word.


    Getting Assistance from FEMA

    i worked in the social service world in nyc during and after 9/11, so i am very familiar with the FEMA application process. Info on how to apply for assistance is on FEMA's website here.

    begin the process by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). give your name, your previous address in the disaster area, the place you're living now, contact phone number, etc, and you'll be assigned a FEMA identification number. It's important to do this as soon as possible, so that FEMA can begin hooking you up with available services.

    Some things to ask about, which were eventually available through FEMA and local agencies for folks affected by the WTC:

    Also call the hotline for the Red Cross - 1-866-GET-INFO