Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to 2014

So tonight we say good-bye to 2014 and as we look back while the details are different the landscape is the same as usual.  There were some big highs and several lows.  Personally I clicked off a few more of my bucket list items.  Dianne and I found ways to find ways to create new experiences together as a couple.  I saw both coasts this year and spent time with old friends I don't see often enough.

This year saw some great moments.  Not a few friends were able to legally marry, a right that was blocked by law for them until this year.  I saw the world come together to turn a stupid challenge into a windfall for those combating the horrible syndrome of ALS.  Despite the horrible catalyst of a brutal video of an NFL player punching his fiance out the country is having a serious conversation about domestic violence.  Oh and the NFL moved into new territory by drafting an openly gay player.

We also saw low points.  The rise of ISIS, a terrible summer for Israel kicked off by the murder of a three teen-agers, riots in towns after the death of young black men at the hands of police and of course both the tragedy of Ebola and the irrational fear around it.

As all years we had a little of everything. What is important is that we try to make the next better by fixing what we can, moving on from what we can't, and acknowledging what we have.  As we say good-bye I will take note of the fact that I have a wonderful family, a smart and growing young man for a son and wonderful wife who not only loves me but gets me.  I have friends who span the globe both in location and ideology.  I have a great job, wonderful if changing colleagues, and a stronger support of fellow educators than ever before.  In the new year I turn 50 as does Dianne and Noah heads off to  college.  It will be a year of transitions.  So raising a glass to 2015.  May it bring all the joys you want and none of the travails you don't need.  May you go from strength to strength.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

So I have Christmas off and even though I don't celebrate it I enjoy the way the world slows down.  So I spent a lot of time today doing little and thinking a lot about the holiday season. This can be a frustrating time of year.  It is not the overwhelming tinsel bombing of the country, but that is a symptom of the situation I struggle with in this context.    You see most of my Christian friends are honoring and respectful of people who don't celebrate Christmas and are knowledgeable or inquisitive about that and other Jewish holidays.  So when I see something like this I shake my head and wonder:

Bud Williams, a city councilor in Springfield, Massachusetts, attended a menorah lighting ceremony with prominent Jewish community leaders. When it was his turn to speak, he lectured the group about how important Jesus was to the holiday season. According to Williams’ shaky logic, Jesus is the reason for the season – even the Hanukkah season.

Seriously, WTF?  Why would anyone say this?  Hanukkah has nothing to do with Jesus and in fact the story of Hanukkah takes place almost 200 years before Jesus is born.  Now I know that for some it is hard to understand a holiday that last year started on Thanksgiving eve and this year ended on Christmas eve.  But this is just nonsense.  Why are there some people who feel the need to impose their own religious ideology on everyone.  

Each year Fox News brings up the War on Christmas.  One of the main themes of this is that some stores do not say "Merry Christmas" but do in fact say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holiday" are somehow destroying the holiday.  What is actually happening and what Mr. Williams didn't understand is that our culture is changing.  More and more people who were invisible by design are getting a chance to be noticed.  This seems to disturb so many and I think that part is that they feel their superior position is slipping.  When others are get a place at the table, those who have been there forever can't spread out as much.  That is not a bad thing.  But people do feel hurt.  What I wonder about is how weak their faith in their faith, themselves and their tradition must be to not allow others to express themselves in public.  Especially when we think of a holiday like Hanukkah, a holiday that some see as a holiday about religious freedom. 

I have friends from many different faith traditions and they hold their faith deeply.  I can't imagine any of them denying someone an expression of their faith or trying to step on it with a trite cliche as this guy did.  

So as Christmas day winds down and the season will soon be in the rearview mirror I hope everyone continues to grow in their faith and in that growth find room to allow others to do the same in the New Year.  I hope that people will embrace the growing expressions of the diversity that has always been part of our country and not feel threatened by it.  I hope that when next year at this time when someone says "Season's Greetings" it doesn't become an opportunity for a boycott but the kind thought that it is.  Oh and I also hope that when we all share who we really are with others we can get the best out of us all.  

Happy holidays to all now and throughout the year.  Whatever holiday feeds your soul. 

I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...