Advice for the mature or befuddled...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turning to Tech to Explain the High Holidays

If you're Jewish like me (more cultural than religious), or are a non-Jew who wonders why your Jewish coworkers disappear on various September days, today's post turns to technology for enlightenment.

iPhone users can download a $0.99 App titled, "Jewish Days." This application can help you remember when the Jewish holidays occur and what each one means.

Here's their quickie explanation of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper, which are commonly referred to as the High Holidays or the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of Sept. 8, is the start of the civil year in the Hebrew calendar. It is a new year for people, animals, and legal contracts and it commemorates the creation of man.

Yom Kippur, which begins the evening of Sept. 17, is also known as the Day of Atonement. According to the Jewish Days app, it is the most solemn and important of the Jewish holidays. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

For many children, the most beloved portion of the synagogue service during the High Holidays is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram's horn. An iPhone App, also priced at $0.99, called "Shofar Hero" contains the four kinds of ritual blasts. FYI: The blowing of the Shofar is the only specific commandment for Rosh Hashanah. Just as trumpeters announced the presence of their mortal king, the Shofar is used by Jews to proclaim the coronation of the King of Kings.

Another $0.99 App, called "Synagogues Finder" uses your current location to identify houses of worship nearest your home. So if you haven't gotten a seat lined up for the High Holidays, check out this helpful listing.

Not to worry if you're sans iPhone. You can turn to the Internet for even more information about the High Holidays. outlines "entertainment and some fun Holiday things for you and your family." The site includes stories of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a Shofar to blow, some holiday recipes, and even pictures for the kids to print and color.

JewishFaq provides instructions (when to light the candles and when to drink the wine, for instance) and prayers for the holidays. The website includes both the Hebrew and English wording for each prayer.

MyJewishLearning is a great site for All Things Jewish. Here, you can explore more about the High Holidays and read an article written by Rabbi Shimon Apisdor, called "Making Synagogue Meaningful Or, How to survive High Holiday services."

I hope all of the above clears up some of the mystery about the High Holidays. But, if you're still fuzzy, and want a deeper investigation, you could point your mouse to where you'll find a thorough listing of Jewish books.

And while you're on that site, don't forget to check out "The Division Street Princess," a sweet memoir about growing up in Jewish Chicago during the 1940's.

You didn't think you'd get away without a commercial, did you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Very Long Distance Birthday Greeting

It was an unfamiliar ringtone. I was expecting two early morning phone calls. From my daughters, Boston and Los Angeles. I knew when I picked up the phone, instead of “hello,” I’d be treated to choruses of “Happy Birthday To You.”

But this ringtone announced neither my daughter Faith (Piano Riff) or Jill (Pinball). It sounded familiar; something heard long ago. From my childhood?

Yes, that was it! “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” being sung in Yiddish by the Andrew Sisters. A 1940s hit for Jews. I certainly hadn’t assigned that ring to any in my contact list. It wasn’t an option on my iPhone and the tune wasn’t listed in my iTunes library, so how could it attach itself to a caller?

And then I remembered my iPhone’s special abilities. It could relay phone calls between Heaven and Earth. Sure enough, calling me on my phone’s Conference Call feature, were my long-deceased parents, Irv and Min Shapiro, major characters in my memoir, “The Division Street Princess.”

I put my ear to the phone and as the Andrew Sisters wound up, I heard my mother and father belting out, “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you.” They weren’t half bad.

Before I could respond, my mother jumped in, “We knew you’d be up early, so we wanted to be the first to call.”

“Hi Princess,” it was my dad. “Surprised?’

“That’s hardly the word,” I said. My delight prevented tears.

“We’re so proud of you,” they said in unison. To myself I thought, how nice to hear them agreeable. When alive, their frequent tiffs made the child I was quite unhappy.

“First it was the memoir,” Dad said. “And now your retail job. Just like at Irv’s Finer Foods. Remember your cigar box register?”

“How could I forget?” I answered. “I was so full of myself waiting on customers in my sundries section. I can still see little me holding that box as if it were a treasure chest.”

“I wish you didn’t have to stand on your feet all day.” It was Mother. I recalled she hadn’t been that crazy about wearing an apron or standing behind a counter in our grocery store. She believed the stained cloth disguised her glamour. But that could never happen. Not with her blue eyes, raven hair, costume jewelry, and high-heeled shoes.

“It’s not so bad,” I said. “I can wear my running shoes.”

“Hmmph,” from Mother. “You look like a kid in that outfit,” she said. “They couldn’t let you wear a dress? Why a t-shirt?”

“It’s all about the logo and a feeling of casual and comfort in the store,” I explained.

I couldn’t see her expression (FaceTime was still being worked on up there), but I imagined a roll of those beautiful blues.

“I see how you ring things up on that gadget you keep in your pocket,” Dad said. “Quite impressive.”

From Mom, “It wasn’t impressive I could pencil a customer’s order on a brown paper bag? Add it up in my head? That wasn’t impressive?”

“Sweetheart,” Dad started.

I interrupted. “No, no, of course. You were amazing, Mom. I remember standing at the counter next to you, wondering if I’d ever be as smart as you.”

“And I never went beyond Tuley High School,” Mother said. “Imagine if I had your education, Elaine.”

“What about me?” Dad asked. “Grammar school was it. I had to go to work…”

I felt those old vibrations and jumped in. “You were both spectacular,” I said. Now came the tears. “I can’t thank you enough for all you've given me. You made me who I am today.”

Calm on the other end. Then, together, “And, it wouldn’t hurt your daughters to give us a call now and then. They’ve got iPhones.”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “The minute I hang up, I’ll let them know the lines are open. Expect their calls.”

“Don’t forget Princess,” Dad said. “Have a Happy Birthday.”

“Of course,” Mom added. “Why does she think we called?”