Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Need a Name

After three and a half years of frustration at the lack of meaningful pathways into the New Jersey Jewish community, I have finally reached the point where I've both realized that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself AND I have the time and inclination to actually do it.

While it may mean I neglect this blog even more, I think starting a volunteer/activist group for young Jewish people (25-45) living in Northern and Central NJ will bring a tremendous amount of meaning to my life. I've conducted some informal conversations and have recently launched a survey to assess interest among my peers about volunteering - when, where, why, etc.

Now all I need is a name.

I'd like to avoid anything with too much Hebrew that might alienate less affiliated/Jewishly knowledgeable folks, and besides the Hebrew word for volunteer doesn't roll trippingly off the tongue. Likewise, I don't want anything too hokey or limited just to volunteering, just in case I ever want to expand into social activities or fundraising.

Leave any suggestions on the comment page here and if your name wins, I'll do my best to bestow upon you a worthy prize.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today is Veterans Day and aside from enjoying a random mid-week day off from school when I was a kid, I can't truly recall any other celebration or commemoration of this day. Here in the Tri-State area, apparently Veterans Day means a day off from school AND a parade in the City. Good to know. Unfortunately, for most of us, not going to work or school means that any significance of the day is obliterated by the mundane details of our lives or a great White Sale at Macy's.

While Veterans Day began its life as Armistice Day when World War I ended and switched over to Veterans Day subsequent to WWII in the States. Everyone else in Europe stuck with the original and if Wikipedia is to be trusted, they celebrate it in much the same way we do - lots of official ceremonies and general pomp in honor of military fallen.

Meaning absolutely no disrespect to our honored veterans, but how is this different from Memorial Day? Memorial Day has been around since the end of the Civil War and all too many of us commemorate it in a similarly superficial fashion.

If we really want to honor veterans and make them special, maybe they should be the only ones to get Veterans Day off from work! I mean, really post office, bank and municipal government workers - you just got Columbus Day off and Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. Unless you held an M16 on the beaches of Normandy or the deserts of Fallujah - Get your ass back to work!

Of course, I'm also unclear as how we judge who qualifies as a veteran and therefore worthy of our adoration and respect. Friends of mine who have recently returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan get my vote. As do my rabbi who currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and all those National Guard members who helped everyone from victims of Katrina to racial line walkers in Little Rock.

But what about someone like my dad? He joined the Guard and trained to be a medic to avoid going to Vietnam. I never heard a single story of demanding basic training officers or heroic feats. Hell, he might have had it easier than Bill Murray in Stripes! Does he count as a veteran? What about ROTC members?

Lest anyone get offended, I absolutely admire the dedication, sacrifice and courage displayed by our men and women in the nations' armed forces. At times, I wish I could feel that sense of patriotism and belief in America's rightness enough to consider getting a paper cut in her defense, let alone dying.

So before you head out to buy that new percale sheet set or snooze a little longer because you don't have to work in the morning, take a minute to thank our veterans and be glad that because they still care - we don't have to.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Farewell to a Hometown Favorite

Yesterday, the East Valley Tribune, my hometown paper, announced it will be closing its doors and ceasing publication in December. I first learned of the Tribune's fate from the news source that appears to be leading the way in thoughful journalism across the Valley - Heat City. Despite winning a Pulitzer Prize just a few months ago, the Tribune could not sustain declining subscriptions and could no longer hold off the behemoth Arizona Republic from becoming the only newspaper in the Phoenix area.

The editorial staff of Arizona State University's State Press ran this thoughtful tribute. They make a very valid point that with two Arizona newspapers closing in the past year (in May the state's oldest newspaper, the Tucson Citizen shut down), jobs in journalism are even scarcer. Why should students explore degrees in a field that has all but failed to turn any kind of profit?

I remember going to the Trib as a kid for Take Our Daughters to Work Day and I had many friends in high school and college whose parents worked there. I was so proud of Ryan last year when he won the Polk and then the Pulitzer and it's just entirely too sad to see the paper fail now.

As an avid NPR listener and member, I always wonder what would happen if newspapers went in that direction and explored a not-for-profit model. NPR offers free content, always has, and they provide some of the best investigative and non-sensationalist journalism anywhere. Hang in there newspapers of America - be creative and think beyond your bottom line.