Who says all politician are only out for themselves?

Of late I’ve become cynical and have started to believe all politicians are morally bankrupt and just get in office to enrich themselves.

Until I read about Representative Cory Mills of Florida.

Over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, this politician and army veteran helped rescue 13 Americans from Haiti.

He had was a member of the 82 Airborne Division when he had served in the U. S. Army.

As reported in the news, armed gangs have taken over Haiti, leading to the resignation of the island’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry.  They have forced the country’s international airport to close, over 4,000 criminals have been let out of jail, and many businesses and schools are now closed. The gangs are entering neighborhoods and killing people while leaving thousands homeless. The gangs are breaking into hospitals and looting their medical supplies. Many hospitals are actually boarded up because doctors are afraid to go to work. UNICEF reported  armed groups are looting containers filled with medical supplies at the seaport.

To date they have 80% control over Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The officers making up Haiti’s National Police cannot maintain order. Haitians are saying they have never seen violence on such a large scale.

While the U. S. government deliberates on how they are going to respond to the Caribbean island’s violence, Rep. Cory Mills took action. He paid for the rescue operation and took part in the flight.

That was his second rescue mission to Haiti.

Earlier this month, author Mitch Albom, who was visiting his orphanage, Have Faith Haiti, was trapped with his wife Janine and eight other volunteers. He contacted Michigan Representative Lisa C. McClain, another politician who is actually dedicated to public service. trapped in the island country. Rep. McClain contacted Rep. Mills and he organized his first Haitian rescue.

And these are not the only rescue missions he took part in.

Back in 2021, while he was initially running for Congress, he helped to evacuate 4 Americans from Afghanistan when the United States withdrew their troops. Mills also helped evacuate over 100 Americans from Israel when Hamas attacked  the country on October 7.

For people like myself who are disillusioned with the governing bodies in Washington, I am deeply heartened there are still politicians who are actually working hard to serve the people they represent.

Who says all politician are only out for themselves? Read More »

A Caribbean Cruise for Enjoyment and Soul Renewal

Like many people, my husband and I have been working hard, shouldering many responsibilities and completing long list of tasks. For good or ill, we are also news junkies and have watched and listened to the heartbreaking reports of the Israeli hostages still held in Gaza while accusations fly that Israel is committing genocide (Who else wages war and then uses their own citizens as human shields?). The combination of our monotonous routine and demoralizing news stories was leaving us exhausted and demoralized, so my husband decided to take action. He booked us an 11-day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean, and since it was yeshiva week, he made an additional payment for kosher food.

We obviously can’t change the world, but we needed to take steps to renew our spirits.

The vacation was expensive but it was well worth it.

Not only did we visit five Caribbean islands but we also joined a community of other observant Jews on the ship, mostly from the New York- New Jersey area. We live in a town with no kosher conveniences and are always on the run and pressed for time. I often end up eating dry cereal and milk for meals, so the three daily gourmet kosher meals were heavenly. There was always a wide array of delicious dishes to choose from. We agreed it was like going to a five-star restaurant every day. My favorite time was Friday morning breakfast when the women and girls gathered around a giant challah and each took out a portion of dough and recited the blessing. At home I pick up store-bought challah so I appreciated having the time to perform the mitzvah. Then we took turns reciting the names of anyone needing a refuah shalamah (healing) or a shidduch (finding a spouse). At the end we said aloud the names of the remaining hostages in Gaza and prayed for their safe return.

The daily minyamin (prayer) and Shabbas services infused our relaxing vacation with spiritual energy. We met wonderful, like-minded people from all walks of life –something we rarely do in our busy lives.

And the islands! Our excursions included a day trip to a festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico; a visit to a beach with clear blue water in St. John’s, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands; a bus tour of St. Maartin’s mountainous countryside; walking around and buying gifts at the shops in the St. Lucia port; and enjoying another exceptional beach with more shopping in St. Kitts (We’re just starting to get the bills now, and oh boy! We can’t do this too often).

A lot of fun, right? But that’s not all.

I haven’t even mentioned the events aboard the ship. Daily musical concerts, dance performances, and other shows like an illusionist and a comedian. We particularly enjoyed a guitarist who flawlessly performed the work of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, among others. We worked out in the gym, played ping pong and rode bumper cars.  My husband played basketball. I always need a book on Shabbos and the ship provided a library. And the cruise had many more activities (too long to list all of them).

The vacation was over in no time but the good memories will stay with us as we re-acclimate to our everyday routine. I highly recommend taking a cruise vacation or any vacation to get a break from worries, work, and stress. There is more to life and every once in a while, even adults need to feel like kids again and just enjoy.

And as observant Jews, the kosher accommodations added to our ease, enjoyment, and spiritual renewal.

A Caribbean Cruise for Enjoyment and Soul Renewal Read More »

A Difficult Year

As we all know, 2023 was a hard year. Runaway inflation, the likes of which we haven’t seen in 40 years; undocumented migrants pouring into the country, the intentions of many are not yet apparent; and the Russians massacring civilians, raping women, and torturing prisoners of war in their invasion of the Ukraine. Communist China is eying to take over the tiny country of Taiwan, a democracy. The opioid crisis is shattering families, and the deep-seated corruption of the U.S. government is now on full display.  Then, a few months ago on October 7, during the Jewish festival of Shemini Atzeret, Hamas terrorists from Gaza infiltrated Israel and massacred over 1,200 Israelis, which included raping women, burning whole families alive, decapitating babies, and taking Israelis and foreigners from multiple countries as hostages. Taking in all these horrific events, I have felt disoriented thinking about all those suffering worldwide. At this moment, my heart is aching just imagining the fate of those kidnapped in Gaza. But my sadness reached a personal level when my writer friend Jacky passed away in November. She spent 38 days in the hospital become she succumbed. It seems a short while ago I saw her lively and busy, sharing her medical articles for her community newsletter and her poetry for special days on the calendar.  Now she is gone.

Jacky did more than write medical articles and poetry. She was a nurse for 55 years and a beloved mother and grandmother. She had many good friends because she was a good friend. I knew her for about 8 years as a member of the Word Lovers writing group. After I wrote and published my first novel, Jacky invited me to discuss it at her community book club. I’ll never forget her kindness and support.

My parents passed away five months apart in 2020.  I felt lost and adrift then, and it’s the same feeling I have now. A lifelong news junkie, I now have trouble watching the news and hearing about all the everyday horrible events. It seems as if evil reigns. Many feel the evil winds are similar to when the Nazis came to power in Germany. Forces of hatred have been unleashed.

But I have to tell myself that it’s not all darkness. I still meet many wonderful people. I was also gladdened Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Claudine Gay of Harvard were forced to resign for tolerating antisemitism on their college campuses. Major donors to these schools are pulling out and large corporations will not hire graduates with a history of supporting hate. News is swirling that pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Biogen Inc are preparing to introduce a drug to finally put an end to Alzheimer’s, which would save so many people and their families from the anguish of a cruel disease robbing people of their minds. And of course, babies are still being born, a sure sign that life must go on.

And we have elections in 2024. It is my fervent hope and prayer that the American people elect wise leaders who put the citizens of this country before their own self-interests so the United States can once again be a beacon for good in the world. For the world desperately needs it.

Unfortunately, tragedies and senseless violence will not automatically end, but what the world needs is a reason for hope and optimism that life can improve for all.

A Difficult Year Read More »

Elvis-Jewish connection

Book Review: The Jewish World of Elvis Presley

TITLE: The Jewish World of Elvis Presley

AUTHOR: Roselle Kline Chartock

ISBN: 979-8-6866-0444-5

PUBLISHER: McKinstry Place Publishers, November 24, 2020

Elvis Presley and Jews. Whatever is the connection? Lots, according to author Roselle Kline Chartock in her book The Jewish World of Elvis Presley. OK, you may say, there were many Jews in Hollywood and in the rock and roll world. That’s true, but his connection actually began long before that. Elvis developed close relationships with Jewish people while he was growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, the Deep South where Jews were not always welcome in the 1950s.

Consider these little-known facts in Chartock’s book:

  • At one time, a Rabbi Fruchter and his family lived upstairs from the Presley family for over a year. Elvis was in high school then. Jeannette Fruchter, the rabbi’s wife, described the Presley’s as “very poor but very refined” (p.16). She and Elvis’ mother were as close as sisters. When the Presley’s couldn’t pay their utility bills, Jeanette would loan Gladys money and she always paid it back. Once a month the Fruchter’s had the Presley’s over for their Friday night Sabbath meal. Elvis particularly loved the challah, the matzoh ball soup, and the tzimmes. During those meals, Elvis would wear a yarmulke. He also was the family’s Sabbath helper, turning on lights or making phone calls for them as needed. It was customary to tip the Sabbath helper, but Elvis would never accept a tip, telling them “It was his pleasure” (p.18).
  • Bernard Lansky, whose family were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, owned the Lansky Brothers clothing store in Memphis.  They dressed many of the local Black entertainers. The story goes that Elvis, who worked as an usher at the Loew’s State Theater nearby, would stand in front of the Lansky Brothers store and stare at the clothes in the window. One day Bernard invited the teenage Elvis into the store and asked if he would like to try on one of the outfits. “No, sir. I ain’t got nothin’. But when I do, when I save up some money, I’m gonna come in here and buy you out.” Legend has it that Bernard answered him, “Hey, do me a favor, don’t buy me out. Just buy from me” (p. 60).  And Elvis did for the rest of his life.  When he became famous, the Lansky Brothers would advertise they were the “Clothier to the King.” Whenever anyone asked Elvis where he got his clothes, he would always reply, “I bought it at Lansky’s on Beale Street” (p. 64).
  • Hal Levitch owned a jewelry store on the same Beale Street where the Lansky Brothers had their clothing store. Levitch, who grew up poor in Memphis, was a big fundraiser for those in need. He even set up a fund to provide new shoes for students from poor families. He helped many of Elvis’ friends and possibly Elvis himself. When Elvis became famous, he bought jewelry from him, including the wedding ring he presented to Priscilla. Levitch also custom-made watches, one with a Christian cross and a Star of David on the face. It was a symbol of brotherhood and Elvis gifted this watch to his friends. They were lifelong friends, and at one point, Levitch wanted to stage an intervention with others to get Elvis to enter treatment at the Mayo Clinic when they saw him getting sick. Unfortunately, they weren’t successful.
  • Dr. Lester Hofman and his wife Sterling were close friends of Elvis. They visited him at Graceland when Elvis’ mother passed away. They were invited to the reception that Elvis made for his Memphis friends when he got married and to a special buffet when Lisa Marie Presley was born. He bought the Hofman’s Cadillacs and gifted Sterling a TLC (Tender Loving Care) necklace that he gave to women friends. When they once visited Presley at Graceland, Dr. Hofman admired his organ, so later that night, Elvis had it packed in a truck. The truck followed the Hofman’s home where the organ was installed in the dentist’s living room.

There were other Jewish people who were close to Elvis before his career launched into superstardom. And there were many in the music and movie businesses when he became famous. Even his entourage, known as the Memphis Mafia, consisted of many Jews. But I found those friends in the early years to be particularly touching. Everyone interviewed said he was polite, well-mannered, and never forgot a kindness. But Chartock’s book also contained a shocking revelation that may be true but is little known: Elvis Presley’s great great grandmother was Jewish. Nancy Burdine lived in Memphis in the 1800s. Her family came from Lithuania. She converted to Christianity when she married and had a daughter, Martha. When Martha grew up, she married and had a daughter, Octavia. Octavia married and had Gladys, Presley’s mother. If this lineage is confirmed, Elvis is Jewish by halachah (Jewish law).

As the reader can see, there are indeed many connections between Elvis Presley and Jews.

Who would’ve thought?

Book Review: The Jewish World of Elvis Presley Read More »

Man crashing his head on his laptop

Welcome to the Simple, Stress-Free World of Technology

Today I am digressing from my usual topics of books, writing, and causes to share my thoughts about our wonderful world of advanced technology.

Whenever I call any type of company or organization now, there are no longer live human beings to communicate with. Instead, a recording informs me to choose from a list of options and press the number that applies to my request. After I press the designated key, the recording then instructs me to wait for my turn. This wait can be anywhere from five minutes to 40. I’m just outta luck if I happen to be in a hurry, but this is our new world of advanced, sophisticated technology.

Being middle-aged, I am used to conducting my bank business by physically entering the bank and speaking to a teller. But those days will soon be gone—a bank representative recently told me that the bank will be doing away with tellers sometime in the near future. If I want to do bank business, I will have to do it on my cell phone, home computer or through their automated tellers. Just think what fun that will be when I may have an urgent question or issue?

Seeing fewer cashiers at the stores? Who needs people working for a living when there’s self-checkout! Load all your overpriced items yourself and follow the automated machine’s instructions to complete the transaction. At my local supermarket the other day, a few of the cash registers were open and they had long lines, so I used one of the automated machines. I encountered a problem and had to hunt down a store employee, who was busy helping another patron. I stood waiting until she was free. That certainly made my shopping experience easier and more pleasant.

Isn’t it so much easier now to look for a job? Downloading your application often doesn’t work the first time and if there’s a required question you don’t understand or doesn’t apply to you, that’s just too bad. Even better, many of the job ads are not even worth the time crafting a cover letter for because they only land in cyberspace and is seen by no one. Just think about all those hours wasted.

On my street young children often gather to play ball in the street. What a pleasure it is seeing children meet together for actual human contact. Most are holed up in their homes communicating via cell phone or playing fantasy video games that encourages social skills (I’m being facetious here.).

And don’t forget the social media giants who are now controlling what we are allowed to say and think. Who needs independent thought and opinions in the age of technology when if you voice a statement that does not align with the powers that be, you can get canceled and ostracized?

Yes, we are so lucky today to be living in our great sophisticated world of technology. Who needs the old days when people were treated like human beings, more people were employed, and you could express your own opinion?

Welcome to the Simple, Stress-Free World of Technology Read More »